“Osiris, Lord of the dead, Pharaoh of the Upper and Lower kingdom, will honor you with his presence!” My tjati Nizam shouted. His work as a vizier was excellent.
My choice had been a good one, when I chose him. From the simple life of a worker to the closest and highest adviser of the Pharaoh. Not a bad career advancement. Nizam was faithful and devotional and fulfilled his duties conscientiously. If their hadn’t been my duties as well. As a Pharaoh you could enjoy the amenities of life, but you also had to stick to these duties. To reign a big kingdom was one of them and it was annoying and enjoyable at the same time. So my life wasn’t so different from the one I lived before and that I had left behind in that specific night many years ago. Duties and responsibilities to nourish and protect a community, unless this community now had many more heads. Thousands of them.
My strength was not comparable now with any other human being. I did find out that very quickly. A young boy alone in the desert isn’t just exposed to the perpetual, blistering heat, although it couldn’t hurt me anymore as it had done before. No, there are other threats and the biggest one was posed by something different. By humans.
Other people I had encountered, like my family, were always kind and gracious, although our father could get really angry with Jabal and me from time to time. But the people I had met in the desert were a different kind of trouble. I didn’t know how to defend myself, yet, when they captured me and sold me on an Egyptian slave market. Fundamentally, I accepted this as some kind of punishment from the gods or the one god for what had happened to us. But this punishment didn’t suffice. The deep and agonizing hunger returned to me. Several moon cycles had passed when I first recognized it. At first I tried to ignore it and it worked for a while, but then there was the time where it became too severe and I just wanted to die to be freed from my torments. But death wouldn’t come though. Another punishment for our misdeed, or better the misdeed of my brothers and sister that I couldn’t prevent. Until then I was Jubal, son of Lamesh and Adah, but this young boy ceased to exist when I gave in to my instincts. The family of the Egyptian merchant that had bought me had been nice to me, as nice as you would be to a slave. But this didn’t stop me from killing all of them in just one single night. I was in bloodthirstiness. I didn’t even hesitate to kill the family’s children. The only thing that I saw was the possibility to ease my hunger. Everything changed after that night. I felt the power again, that I had felt before. The one that made me incredibly fast and strong, it had returned. It was the power Jabal had spoken of and that he couldn’t resist to.
The rise to Pharaoh was short and quick, paved with the bodies of those who stood against me. No one would stand in my way, but at what price? When you are at the top there’s only the look down, the look at those who vegetate and drag. For the first time I felt real guilt and my thoughts were circling around one topic ‘you’re not perfect!’. Perfection couldn’t be reached on one’s self and I definitely was alone. People feared me, the Lord of so many dead. It was then, when I tried to reinvent my whole existence, a new beginning. This curse must have been good for something. It was the rebirth. To Osiris.
I looked around in my preparatory room. It had been a long journey to this. I stared into the golden bowl that had been polished to reflect one’s image. My ear long black hair was covered with the Atef crown and my eyes had only the slightest glow in them. It will be time again soon, I thought. The thirst for blood had never left me, although after all these years I was able to postpone it. I sighed. I took the crook and the flail and entered the throne room with my head held high, like it was expected from the Pharaoh.
There were already some petitioners present, waiting for me. But this was the game. They had to wait. It was the demonstration of power. You want something, so you have to wait! Fundamentally, I disliked this spectacle, but Nizam had convinced me to stick to it. Kindness also required a little arrogance from time to time. I trusted Nizam. Not only had he been a good advisor over the years, but also a close friend. And while he was aging my young appearance stayed with me, although I looked a bit older now than I had looked years ago. It was a ‘gift’ from Lilith that I could change my appearance. I was a young man now. The young man I could have become, if everything had stayed the same. Nizam knew what I was, well he knew what I did and what power I possessed, because I didn’t know for myself what I really was. There was no name for this.
“Oh great Pharaoh, Lord of the life,” I hated it when Nizam began like this, “these your humble subjects have come to ask for your great kindness and wisdom.”
He’s always talking like that to people when I’m sitting on this throne. I had to smile a bit. Nizam loved these big performances. Well, most of the time he was the one to put them on.
The first petitioner was allowed to come forward. It was a middle-aged man with a small, pudgy figure. The first grey could be seen throughout his otherwise black hair. He bowed low in front of me, what gave him the appearance of a hippopotamus. Well, a small one.
“Oh Pharaoh,” his accent suggested the Lower kingdom, “you’re generous to give me some of your precious time. I thank you for this. I’m a merchant and earn my money with the trade of goods into this city. Abydos is forsooth the great center of your regency.” I was gradually getting to the point where I wanted to know the actual purpose of his speech. This will be a long day!
“But this city is running the risk of not being provided with my goods anymore. Many of my so magnificent caravans have never reached their destination and with them also the goods were lost.” I began to drum my fingers on the throne’s armrest. I had to accelerate this audience.
“Merchant,” I began, “tell me what kind of goods are we talking about and that are, in your eyes, so important for this city? Furthermore tell me what do you expect from this audience?”
“My Pharaoh, in exchange with other tradesmen I got to know that only specific kinds of caravans have been raided, because that is what happened to them. But in my opinion these raiders aren’t some kind of barbarians, that mulct even you, oh Pharaoh, of your revenues.” Now he was referring to the taxes every merchant had to pay for the use of the market. Tricky! “No, these people pilfer the most expensive goods in the realm! Survivors of the attacks speak of monsters that come at night.” I sat up straight.
“As you know, my Pharaoh, the desert doesn’t leave an evidence behind. So I cannot prove my allegation right here in front of you. But I believe this information. They are good and honest men. Most of them are traveling on the desert’s trade routes their whole lives. What they are telling is dreadful. The attacks were combined with horrifying screams. Screams of fear and agony of those being butchered. Who can be blamed for saving one’s own life being in a situation like that?” I looked at his thoughts and saw the horror. It wasn’t something he just heard from someone else. No, he had been there. It was him who had saved his own life. Wandering around aimlessly in the desert until another caravan took care of him the next day.
“You’re right, merchant. Everybody is allowed to safe his own life, when he believes the others are lost.” The tension that was spreading through his whole body before, slightly faded away.
“You’re too generous, oh Pharaoh.” He bowed again.
“But tell me, what do you expect from me?”
His eyes got wide. “I don’t expect anything from you, my Pharaoh!” There was a slight tone of fear in his voice. “I never would dare to demand something from you.” I had to smile. “I have come here to report this circumstance, that certainly has reached your ear already, from my point of view. The income decreases, especially for me who specialized in this kind of good. Abydos is the emporium of the realm and the market should flourish. I hope, oh Pharaoh, that you in your kindness and wisdom will find a way to ensure the safety of the trade caravans.” There it was, the demand. Well hidden, but surely there. Nizam looked into my direction, raising one of his brows. He must have understood it as well. I just grinned to myself. In the end, it was all about giving audience to people’s petitions and as far as possible to satisfy their wishes.
“Be ensured, merchant, I take your description very seriously and I thank you that you took this long, exhausting way on yourself to tell me this. I will certainly attend to this topic.” I smiled. “Now you should rest and recover, because such a dreadful journey you experienced require some nights of good sleep. May my mother Nut grant you these.” The gesture of my hand showed him he was released. My words still must have echoed through his head until he had understood them completely. His eyes got wide again when they fell into place and then he understood that I knew about his experiences although he had well allegorized them as those of someone else.
“I thank you, oh Pharaoh!” His voice couldn’t resist to the hint of irritation in its tone. He turned around and left the hall.
“Oh, merchant?” I stopped him and his face slightly filled with fear looked back at me. “Unfortunately, you were not able to answer me my previous question. What kind of goods did you refer to?” My question directed his thoughts into the direction I wanted them. I got a bit angry. I knew the importance, but also thought it was an unacceptable condition in this community.
“Slaves, my Pharaoh. Young slaves, mostly boys.”
I nodded my head and released him for good. My smile and my good mood were vanished. Who raids a caravan of slaves? Those are the ones with the best protection.
“You should go to rest, Pharaoh.” Nizam took the headdress, the white crown with the feathers, out of my hands. “It’s been an exhausting day.”
I felt thankfulness for his empathy, but nevertheless the day hadn’t strained me as much as he might have observed. There was an exhaustless reservoir of energy. But somehow my mind and my thoughts were always going back to the beginning of the day, to the audience of the merchant. And I was sure this agitation could be seen in my face.
“You could be right, Nizam. It’s not only these petitioners; it’s as well people arguing like all the time. That costs time. And I get the impression that it increases from day to day.”
“Abydos is a big city with many people and where many people live together there is always dispute.”
“But the Pharaoh cannot look after all of them. After all he’s only human!” Nizam looked at me. Both of us knew this wasn’t exactly how I could describe myself. But he answered impartially “For the people the Pharaoh is a god!” Did I cause this believe? What would be after me? If there was an ‘after me’ at all.
“However, I would like you to chose trustworthy men that can administer justice in the name of the Pharaoh. That could decrease the amount of daily duties for myself and allows me to attend to major problems.” It was a thought that was on my mind for about a moon cycle now. I thought it was a good idea; particularly most of the disputes bored me to death. Well, so to speak.
“As you wish, Pharaoh. I will begin with that first thing tomorrow.” He made a slight bow. He always did this, when he wasn’t fully content with my decisions. It remained to be seen, if this shifting in jurisdiction would be effective. Everything was new at some point in time. Me as well. And now I’m a god. I had to grin because of my own thought. Time will show and I would be there to observe.
Thabit came to escort me to my chambers. He was one of the slaves to the palace, but as I had experienced this status on my own to belong to somebody I didn’t want him to experience the same. I never gave him a direct order instead I was always polite. For over a year now he was here in the palace and although he couldn’t tell his age I was sure he must have been about the same age I had been when I became what I was. He took good care of me and in return had a comparatively secure and careless life. With his black hair about chin length and his fascinating dark, almost black eyes Thabit remembered me of one of the boys of my former community, before he had died with all the others.
Thabit as well had to go through difficult times before. A young boy all alone without his parents. Maybe that was what connected me with him or maybe because his blood was running through my veins as well. He was a source of vital force for me, voluntarily, when he for the first time found out with what kind of hunger I had to struggle. Thabit was in the truest sense of his name ‘strong’. Strong for both of us.
“Was it a stressful day,” he asked with his soft voice while we were on our way through the corridors to my chamber.
“It was nothing. I had worse days in my life.” My voice got a higher pitch while I said that and made the transition to my younger self. I felt more comfortable with this younger body, although a physical appearance of a more experienced and almost grown-up man was necessary for the Pharaoh. Thabit looked at me and began to smile when he noticed the change. He obviously preferred this state as well, especially since my younger appearance corresponded with his own. Ever since he saw the change for the first time he was fascinated with it. What’s more, he could better express his thoughts and feelings when he needn’t to talk with the grown-up Pharaoh.
I had to gather my robe a bit, because it was too long for this body. That brought a smile back to Thabit’s face. He’s cute when he smiles.
We reached my chamber. Thabit must have lighted up the golden braziers, as he did every evening. Their flicker gave a pleasant light to the big room and the other bowls with softly steaming essential oils did their part to the comfortable atmosphere.
Thabit helped me to take off my robe and thereby was looking into my eyes. A sorrowful expression came to his face.
“It’s almost time,” he said while his attention was drawn back to the robe he was folding up affectionately.
“Not yet.” I looked at the floor. “I can postpone it a bit more.” I felt like a shy child. I knew what this would mean for Thabit, what he was ready to do willingly. He always was a good listener, a friend like Nizam, but in a more intensive manner. I didn’t want him to through this agony again, this torment. After I had learned to postpone the hunger as long as possible, I hoped that it wouldn’t be able to control me any longer. That was an illusion. I wasn’t perfect. And even Thabit knew what I would become if the hunger wasn’t quenched. Normal food wouldn’t help with that. That what my body wanted only could be provided by a human. A mortal. And Thabit was such a mortal.
I sat down on the bed and looked into one of the small fires close by. Despite their warmth the air in the chamber was pleasantly cool, thanks to the great open façade. It was a relief in comparison to the heat of the day. My naked skin prickled a bit in the breeze that came through the curtains. Thabit came back to me after he was finished with my clothes.
“You shouldn’t wait for such a long time… Jubal.” He had called me by this name only once before. It was the first night when I almost got insane from the hunger and illuminated my environment with crimson eyes. It was the night he made me drink from him for the first time as well. Thabit stood in front of me and looked deeply into my eyes. I didn’t know what he had seen though, but he began to remove his simple clothing. My heart began to double its beating, because I knew what he wanted me to do, but I didn’t want to give in to my instincts so easily. He completely removed the clothes and then stood naked in front of me. Perfect with his wonderful dark brown and smooth complexion.
“Thabit, I still have time,” I whispered, but I already could feel my fangs finding their way into my mouth.
“No, you don’t,” he answered calmly. He sat down on the bed next to me and reached for my hand. It was so warm and soft. I could feel the beating of his heart how it was pumping his blood peacefully through his veins. There was no fear. Somehow it aroused me. I took a deep breath and inhaled his scent. Thabit looked at me and I began to move onto the bed, kneeling beside him. Why not just let it happen? This was my thought while I observed him cocking his head and exposing his neck to me. With a gentle movement of my hand I removed a strand of his black hair out of his face. I could clearly see the two markings on his neck, where I had bitten him before several times.
Thabit smiled at me. So strong! I leaned forward and could hear how he took a deep breath. He knew it was going to hurt. I could see a faint shimmer on his neck caused by the glowing of my eyes. My fangs were ready. Coming closer I opened my mouth and let my teeth pierce through his top skin. A light tremor was running through Thabit’s body, but he didn’t make a sound. The fangs pierced deeper and I had to concentrate real hard so they wouldn’t give off the venom, because that would have killed him in a short time or would have left him to an even worse fate. Reaching their destination I could feel immediately how new life poured into my body. Thabit groaned a bit. He felt pain. Every time. How on earth could I deserve such a brave soul? If something like the immortal soul, or the ‘ba’ as the Egyptians would have called it, really existed. I drank more of his blood and knew that I had to stop soon. This was always the hard part, fighting against the beast deep within me that lusted for more of the red liquid. I managed to fight down the urge and retreated my fangs from Thabit’s neck, leaving a gel-like serum behind on his skin that closed the wound in an instant.
Thabit raised his hand to his neck, feeling the spot where my fangs had entered him. I felt guilty, when I saw his wet eyes. Did he cry? No, no tear was shed. My brave Thabit!
I reached with my hands around his body holding his chest against mine. I could feel his heartbeat through our skin contact and whispered, “I’m so sorry.” He stroked my ear long black hair. I loved it when he did that. I felt safe. He soothed me saying, “Shhh, you needn’t to be. You’ll be fine.” I held him tight next to me. I didn’t want him to go, so he stayed.
When I woke up the next morning Thabit was still lying in my arms. His sleep was calm and I enjoyed it to just watch him sleep. Somehow I really felt comfortable and secure in his presence. It was a bit irritating though, because I never had felt something like that before, anyway, not with such intensity. I looked up to the ceiling and allowed my thoughts to wander. The hunger was gone, thanks to Thabit’s sacrifice. It wouldn’t torment me for a long time now, but surely it would return as always. I sighed and could feel a slight movement next to me. When I turned my head there were two sleepy eyes that looked at me and I had to smile.
“Good morning.” I kissed him gently on the forehead. It was a gesture of deep affection und intimacy, even more, a gesture of thankfulness. I couldn’t put into words how much this meant to me. I didn’t know if he ever realized it, but with his action he saved the lives of so many others I surely would have killed instead. Thabit had to blink and smiled back at me. Then a wide yawn came to his face that made me giggle. I would have preferred to stay in bed longer, but Thabit was always so dutiful and began crawling out of the bed. I could hear his bare feet touching the stony floor and I enjoyed the view I was provided when he walked pitter-patter to his clothes. Am I in love? It was this thought that came to me for the first time and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Sure, I enjoyed it when he was around and I knew my secret would be safe with him, but was there even more after all, maybe more then I obviously would notice.
“We have to prepare you. Today there will be the envoys from Nubia for an audience.” Thabit looked at me, doubtlessly to encourage me to stand up.
“Let them wait. All of them can wait.” I covered my face with the sheet. I loved this game, because eventually Thabit would beg so sweetly. Maybe he was afraid Nizam could get angry with him if I were late. However, Nizam never got angry, especially not with Thabit.
“Osiris, please,” there it was his sweet begging, “the trade relations with Nubia are really important.” I heard him saying that, although I would have preferred him calling me by my real name, but didn’t believe my ears. I removed the sheet and looked at him irritated.
“What do you know about the trade relations with Nubia?” It was intriguing to hear this from a slave. Well, not just any slave.
“I listen when Nizam explains something to you. He is wise, you know.” I rolled out of the bed and positioned myself right in front of him. I laid my hands on his shoulders and said, “You, my dear Thabit, are full of surprises.” That made him smile again. He even blushed a bit. I could clearly see his cheeks getting a darker color. It even got darker when I began to age my appearance and the almost grown-up body of Pharaoh stood naked in front of him. As if he hadn’t lain naked in my arms the whole night. It’s hard to understand that behavior now, I slightly shook my head when he turned away from me to prepare my clothing for the day. He chose a white robe with emerald ornament. I had always liked that color and the Egyptians associated this color with rebirth. So it was somehow fitting for my person, especially since I’ve been reborn again the last night, thanks to Thabit’s blood. And with that the boundless power returned to my body. I was ready for the day.
The Nubian delegation was due to arrive in the afternoon. I took time to run over the necessary changes in the trade agreement. Actually, Nizam would have helped with it, but he was to select the new men he wanted to call magistrates that should henceforth be assigned with the duty of jurisdiction. Being occupied with my papyri it was a pleasant diversion when Thabit came to me. He brought a paring of figs and pomegranates. It was a nice gesture. He knew the food didn’t mean so much to me, but nevertheless I tasted some of them and left him the rest. He rejoiced like a small child, after all he didn’t get something like that every day. Normally there would be resentment from the other slaves throughout the palace, but that didn’t need to bother him. They knew he was my favorite and I didn’t care at all. Let them think what they want. I’m the Pharaoh and I do what I want. Shortly after the delicious meal Nizam arrived.
“They’ve arrived.” He looked at Thabit who was licking his fingers from the sweet juice. I could see Nizam knitting his eyebrows and had to grin to myself. I stood up from the table leaving the papyri on it behind. Nizam was ready to leave the room with me on his heals. I stopped at the door and looked back.
“Are you coming, Thabit?” When he looked up at me and he finally had realized what I just had said his eyes got wide. Nizam looked at me as well. I could feel his gaze, irritated because of my words.
“But…” Thabit began.
“Look, you said these negotiations are important. So I would like you to come with me. Maybe you can learn something more.” I turned my head in Nizam’s direction and cocked it slightly as though I would ask him about his opinion. He nodded to give me the sign that he had understood. He liked the boy as well, I could tell that, and he knew Thabit was an intelligent and devoting character. Although he was only a slave. A slave that helped his Pharaoh to struggle with his dark secrets.
“Come on, Thabit,” now even Nizam encouraged him. It wasn’t an order. Like me, Nizam never ordered the young boy. I reached out with my mind to read Nizam’s thoughts. I never had done that before, because I trusted him completely. What I saw warmed my heart. He really loved the boy like his own son. His own son had died several days after his mother’s death in childbed. Thabit was now in the age his own son would have been, so he cared for Thabit and wanted him to be happy. I wondered if he would ever admit his true feelings to either me… or the boy.
Thabit still hesitated, but being encouraged by both of us the curiosity must have made him stand up. His mouth was still open from the shock and disbelief we had put him in. We moved on, Thabit shyly behind us.
“Pharaoh, the Nubians definitely have to deliver more gold. Until now it’s half the amount we agreed to in the first place.” Nizam tried to rehearse the audience.
“I know that, Nizam. Believe me, I remember every word in detail that had been spoken during the last negotiations.” And I really did remember everything; another ‘gift’, like the ability to change my appearance or the fact that I was able to read the mind of the humans around me. Speaking of which, I felt Thabit’s anxiety. He wanted to be there, but he also felt like he didn’t belong there. He was too deep in his slavery. I wanted him to feel comfortable so I decreased my pace and laid my hand on his shoulder. He looked me into the eyes and I just smiled back, nodding my head to tell him it was all right.
When we entered the throne room I could feel a cold shiver running through my body as though something was going to happen. I couldn’t tell for sure what made me fell like this, but it was there. I didn’t give it another thought, though. I had to concentrate on the task ahead. The thrown room was filled with other people. Nobles and merchants who wanted to see the delegation with their own eyes. As if it would be such a special encounter. Trade talks could be boring, but these were essential to the market of Abydos where the Nubian goods were always welcomed. I sat down on the thrown, leaving Thabit in the crowd. Nizam stood next to me and when I raised my right index finger he nodded to the guards to open the heavy doors. I could see Thabit in the crowd. He was excited, craning his neck to get a look on the delegation.
It was quiet when five boys entered the room first. They had the dark complexion of normal Egyptians and must have been around Thabit’s age. They somehow looked like slaves as well and I hoped they wouldn’t be some kind of present for me. I had enough slaves I didn’t need more. The boys marched forward and stopped in the middle of the room. Something was odd with them, because they never tried to look around. Young boys would do that, wouldn’t they? But my attention was drawn back to the doors where three figures had entered. They held their heads high like a superior being would do that. Like I would have done it.
When they came closer I could make them out more clearly. There were two young men and a young woman and it was intriguing to see them being around my age. They went past the five ‘slave boys’ and moved closer to the thrown I sat on. When they stopped they didn’t make a bow. That was an insult to the Pharaoh, the attendees in the room knew that and I could hear some quiet whisper in the crowd.
I looked at the three in front of me. The men with their brown hair and dark brown eyes seemed to be everything but a Nubian delegation. Then I noticed the emerald green eyes of the woman and my mouth fell open. My heart began to increase its beating and I could see one of the men smirking before he spoke.
“Oh great Pharaoh, we have come to pay our respects to you. My name is Set and these are my sister Isis and my brother Horus.”
Thanks to Lilith’s ‘gift’ I had aged myself to an almost grown-up man to have more authority. They must have found out as well, because they looked older, too. But behind this illusion I could clearly see the three in front of me like I had seen them the last time. My brothers and sister, Jabal, Tubal-cain and Na’amah. After all these years they had found me.
I stood up from the thrown and stared down at them, those I once had called my family.
“All of the others, out!” It was an order. People turned their heads into my direction. They were irritated, I could read it in their thoughts, but they obeyed my command and began to leave the thrown room. I felt Nizam’s gaze on me and looked at him. He had the same irritated look on his face and a slight hint of concern.
“You too, Nizam. And please make sure to take Thabit with you.” He hesitated. I could tell, he wanted to say something, but then nodded and hurried away to get Thabit and leave the room with the others.
I didn’t move. Neither did them. I just waited until the big doors had been closed again. The guards were concerned to leave me behind with eight potentially hostile strangers, but nevertheless went on with their task to ensure our talk in private. My gaze never left my brothers and sister and when I heard the rumble of the doors I moved forward, walking down the few steps from the higher position where the thrown stood.
The one I recognized as Jabal gave me another smirk. “It’s good to see you, Jubal.”
“No, I’m sorry, but your brother Jubal doesn’t exist anymore since the night back then. It’s Osiris now. Pharaoh of the Upper and Lower kingdom.” My voice was cold and I stared into his eyes. It was definitely him, because I would never forget my brother’s eyes.
“Fine with me,” he answered. “As you may have noticed we evolved as well.” He raised his hand and pointed out the two others. I looked at them, especially now being so close to them I could see the change. Tubal-cain almost looked like a man, he had gained muscles and wasn’t behaving like a little boy anymore. He stared back at me, but there was no expression on his face. No fear, no anger, no happiness. Just… nothing. Nothing that allowed you to read his emotions. In fact, was he happy to see me again? After all, they came for me. Na’amah instead head a weak smile on her lips. It was so slight that normally you wouldn’t have noticed it. She really looked like a young woman to me, but her eyes were still as beautiful as they had been in my memory when I saw the young girl.
“What do you want… Set?” I asked looking back at my oldest brother, utilizing the new name he had used to introduce himself.
“Oh my dear brother, can’t we just come to visit you?” He made an inviting gesture as if nothing had happened. Nothing that has brought us apart. I looked at him suspiciously and he must have felt my resentment. Even more, I was sure he could see it on my face.
“Alright. We have searched for you. You haven’t been in touch for a long time now. We’re your family and we were worried about you.”
“Worried?” I had to put myself together to not scream this word at him.
“Jubal…” It was the first time Na’amah rose to speak. The first time that I heard her voice again. It actually was more melodious since then. Her actual age was doing its bit to this, but nevertheless I could clearly identify her with this different voice.
“No, it’s Osiris now,” I said again and turned my head in her direction.
“We really did miss you, Osiris.” She hesitated just a bit before she said the name I had chosen for myself.
“There were rumors coming to our attention. Rumors about a Pharaoh with great power. It must have been fate that we found you here.” Na’amah, or Isis however I was to call her, looked deep into my eyes.
“Fate is something I do not and cannot believe in. And if there’s something like this, it definitely likes a good laugh.” I couldn’t allow her to find her way to my emotions. I couldn’t and mustn’t forget what had happened. But something deep inside of me wanted to give in. To embrace my brothers and sister, I hadn’t seen in such a long time. There was a calm that was spreading within me. A calm I haven’t felt for an eon. I… Wait a minute!
“Is that you Isis playing with my emotions?” She looked guilty. She actually had tried to manipulate me. But it wasn’t that easy to deal with me. I looked at the three of them and my voice found back its cold tone. “Tell me, what did you do to the Nubian delegation? Or do you still pretend your diplomatic mission?” The last sentence was so ambiguous.
I could hear Tubal-cain snicker to himself. His voice had changed a lot, but also this time I could clearly identify him through its tone. “We invited them for a meal.” He grinned at me.
“Horus!” Na’amah, Isis, sounded angrily.
“Well, sister, you know it’s true. And they’ve been a good meal.” Now that was a totally different Tubal-cain who was speaking. I never had heard him saying things like that. He never had talked about death with such a lack of emotion. It sounded like he was lying down the facts and I was sure it was.
“And those?” I pointed out the five boys that were still standing emotionless on the same spot where they had come to a stop some time ago.
Set was the one who answered, “They’ve been slaves and we freed them.” He said that with so much self-assurance that it actually scared me a bit. Never before in his life, not as a human that is, my brother had done something out of altruism, ever. I recalled the audience from the day before and I got suspicious. I took another peek at them and once more couldn’t resist the felling that they were different, not human.
“From my point of view it’s like you’re raiding on the caravans of my merchants.” And reaching out with my mind in their direction I added, “And if you mean by ‘freeing them’ making them like us, then I think we have another definition of the word freedom.”
“Come on, Osiris, all of them chose this life and they are only the first ones.”
I looked at Set in disbelief. “You mean there’re more of them? How could you?”
“Little brother, you’ve got your guards and we as well have ours. But they’re more than just that. If you like you can call them our children.” I just shook my head when Set had ended talking. I neither wanted to see them as guards nor to refer to them as children. It’s not as though as we’re trying to make a full species of our kind, aren’t we? But having this thought I feared this was the point I was missing. Jabal, or Set, or however he referred to himself, he was after all my brother and I knew he would love it to be seen as the father figure, like our father had been to us. And Tubal-cain always did look up at Jabal. So Set must have brought that to another level.
I didn’t want to argue about that right now, so I just said, “Look, please behave nicely in this city. If you do, you can stay at the palace. And don’t do anything without asking me for my permission. Do I make myself clear?” I looked at Na’amah, then Tubal-cain and finally back at Jabal. I have to get used to their new names from now on. Set-Jabal bowed his head. It was some kind of a mocking gesture than an actual gesture of respect. “As you wish, Pharaoh.”
I kept my gaze on them for some moments and then turned around and left the thrown room. It was the first real gesture of power I had shown them: Leaving them behind to themselves. The day couldn’t get worse.
“You shouldn’t allow them to stay if it’s true what you’ve told me.” Nizam had always accepted my decisions and never had questioned my authority. I knew he struggled hard with the fact to allow my brothers and sister to stay in the palace. As the vizier it was also his duty to make sure the Pharaoh is well protected. This thinking honored him in some way, but I knew I had nothing to fear of them. But I wasn’t sure as far as the humans around us were concerned.
“I know your concerns. And I’m not happy with this situation either. Just make sure they have some distant quarters and during the night post guards in the corridors to the thrown room and some of the main complexes.” That wouldn’t stop them though if they were planning to sneak around, but I hoped it would ease some of Nizam’s concerns. And maybe their intentions were honest and they really came here to see me. I really hoped this was going to be the point.
“I’ll do as you command, Pharaoh,” he said bowing his head.
“No, please Nizam. Don’t do this for the Pharaoh, do me this favor, me Osiris your friend.” He looked at me, the concerns still on his face. Then he nodded, “Of course, Osiris.”
“Who were those people?” Thabit came running to me when I entered my chamber, almost making an assault with his question. He really was an intelligent boy and I had to grin to myself. I would have preferred to avoid this special topic, but there was no chance Thabit would just forget about it and move on as if nothing extraordinary had happened. Especially, when they were staying here at the palace.
I sighed and looked at the young boy in front of me. I still was more than a head taller than him in this state and I felt as if I was going to have a talk with my son. Although it seemed that my feeling had a different point of view on our relationship. I laid my hands on his soft but boyish shoulders and tried to find a way to express my worries. I didn’t come easy.
“Thabit, those three are my brothers and sister.” His eyes got wide. “Really?” he was excited and I gave him a weak smile.
“Yes they are… and, ” I stressed the ‘and’, “they are like me!” I didn’t want him to be worried about that part. Although he never had been afraid of me, I didn’t know how he would react to others like me. “You see, I think they came here to visit me, but nevertheless I want you to keep your distance from them.” Or how the others would react to him.
“No, Thabit, stay away from them…” I didn’t know what made me say the next one, “that’s an order!” I had just crossed the line I had never crossed before with him. His mouth fell open and he looked at me in disbelief maybe even shock. I’m sorry, Thabit. He moved away from my hands on his shoulders and retreated over to a brazier he must have lit before.
“As you wish… Pharaoh.” I could tell and feel that he was deeply hurt from my command. I wanted to tell him that it was only for his best, but that would have made him feel like a little child, who wouldn’t. I couldn’t argue with him on this one and what was more important I couldn’t discuss my whole life with him. Not yet, that is.
He turned around and I could see his wet eyes. He struggled to hold back his tears. “Is there something else I can do for you, Pharaoh?” Did I really hurt him so much; did I hurt his soul so much, just for trying to keep him safe? I wanted to take him into my arms, just getting rid of this appearance and turning back into my normal self. Then there would be just two boys holding each other tight. Chest to chest. But instead I just said, “No, thank you Thabit.” He bowed and left the chamber. He just left. I had been wrong; the day just had gotten worse.
I stroked my forehead. Then there was a knock on one of the double doors. I hoped it was Thabit who had changed his mind, but when it opened one of my guards appeared bowing his head.
“Forgive me, Pharaoh, but one of the Nubian delegation members is asking for an audience. I told her, that you have retired, but she insisted.”
“Let her come in.” It was the guard’s reference to a ‘she’ that made me say it. He bowed his head again and made way for my sister. She was a good-looking woman. I already was impressed when I saw her in the thrown room.
“Leave us alone,” I told the guard. He hesitated, because his orders from Nizam must have been distinctly. He still wasn’t sure, but bowed his head for a third time and closed the door behind him.
Na’amah – No, her name is Isis now – looked at the stony floor of my chamber. I moved forward to make her comfortable, talking her hands. She raised her head and looked into my eyes. I saw the sparkling emerald color, not only being illuminated from the fires around but also glowing from within.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“You needn’t to be sorry. Your arrival just surprised me, but I’m happy that you’re here… all of you I mean.”
“No, I’m sorry for what we have done back then.” Her eyes teared up and the glowing increased. “I had struggled with myself, Osiris. I wanted to forget what we had done, but I couldn’t. It’s always there. The memory.” I could feel how hard it was for her to talk about it. I didn’t know why I knew this, but I just did.
“You see, we weren’t ourselves… I wasn’t myself. When we had realized what we had done there was so much guilt. I wanted to die as well. I should have been the one to die, not them. But instead of dying their blood made me stronger.” She took a deep breath. “But the worst thing was, that I also lost you that night.” She moved away from me as though she couldn’t bear to be so close to me now. She walked over to the fire, the same brazier Thabit had chosen before.
“I always liked you. I didn’t tell you though, but you were my favorite brother. You made me laugh and you were kind to me. Kind to a girl, that is. Jabal always kept his distance. He thought girls weren’t as useful as boys were and he still thinks that, I know it. I can feel it when he looks at me. And Tubal-cain always wanted to be like Jabal. He began mimicking his behavior. You never did that, though, and I appreciate it. I never did back then, but I do now, believe me.” I walked over to her, but didn’t come to close. “When you were gone, Osiris, all that was left for me were Jabal and Tubal-cain. Maybe that is my punishment for my doings.” She turned around and I could see the tears running down her cheeks. Small drops of them falling to the ground or soaking her robe after running down her neck.
“You are safe now. You can stay here if you like. You needn’t to go anywhere.” I raised my hand and touched her face where the tears had wetted her cheek. It was warm and soft. What am I doing here? She’s my sister!
She sniffed and gave me a weak smile. “I appreciate you offer, but I can’t. I have to go. I…”
“I want you to be my queen, Isis!” I didn’t know what made me say that. It just slipped from my mouth. I saw her eyes widening and her mouth opened to answer, but she hesitated. Then she said, “I’m sorry, Jubal,” she took my hand and lowered it from her face, keeping it in her own, “but I would always remember you of the monster I became and…”
“You’re not a monster to me,” I interrupted her, but she raised her other hand to give me the sign that she wanted to finish her speaking.
“What you need is someone honest and caring, someone that would seek out the true you and who is not repelled by it but drawn to it. This someone will look into your soul and see the kindness, see the light. I’m not the one to see that light, because my soul is too dark now.” She sniffed again. “Maybe you already have met this someone.” She gave me a smile through her tears. What does she mean by that? She moved forward and embraced me. I felt a warm kiss on my cheek and then she said, “Thank you, Osiris,” now using my new name again, “thank you for being my brother. I think we won’t stay long, but I will enjoy the time we have together. When I look at you I believe there’s still hope for me as well.” She retreated and took my hand again. She held it for a short while, looking into my eyes, maybe even into my soul and then let go. She turned around and moved towards the doors. When she opened the one she had come through before I shouted, “What I said before is true, I’m really happy that you’re here.” She slightly turned her head and gave me another smile. Then she vanished and the door fell close behind her.
I laid down on my bed, arms folded behind my head. I stared at the ceiling and wondered what she might have seen in my eyes. Was there someone that fitted into her description? I only could think of one person… and I had hurt his feelings.
I wanted to apologize to Thabit for my behavior, but he didn’t show up the next day or the following. Another slave was doing his duties, but I didn’t ask him about Thabit’s whereabouts. It was a big palace, though, and if he didn’t want to be found then… yeah, well. I also had reached out with my mind but couldn’t get a lock on him. He couldn’t have run away. I hope he didn’t. He was a slave and even more, a slave of the Pharaoh. Everybody who might have captured him on the outside would have brought him back, for gold that is, and then Thabit would be in serious trouble. I didn’t want him to get a physical punishment, too. Nizam must have observed me well. My thoughts right then were wandering off the task ahead. We had to find a way to give our condolences to the Nubians for the loss of their delegation. Sand storms in the desert can be really dangerous. Well, normally this time of the year there were no sand storms, but it was a good explanation for not returning the bodies we didn’t have.
“He will be alright,” Nizam said bringing me back from my travel of thoughts.
“Huh?” I looked at him with a puzzled expression.
“Thabit.” He gave me a smile. “He will come back.”
“I hope so. You know, I care about him. More than I should.”
Nizam nodded and I knew he had the same thoughts, the same worries I had, but maybe the true nature of these worries was a bit different for both of us.
The audiences later that day were boring and didn’t interest me much. When I finally came back to the preparatory room I felt a presence hiding in the shadow behind a curtain. I felt such a relief and smiled to myself. “I’m happy you came back… and I’m sorry for what I said to you.” I turned around and looked towards the slim figure hiding in the shadow. Thabit came forward, real slow. He was looking at his feet, avoiding my eyes at any cost.
“Thabit?” My voice became higher, belonging to the young appearance he preferred. I must have looked really silly with the too big robe and the Atef crown balancing on my small head. I already had problems to wear this high crown when I looked older, but now I couldn’t help myself and took it off putting it on the table next to me.
“Thabit?” I asked again and he raised his head. “I…” I began again, but then turned around, because I felt someone else approaching. The moment I had waited for had passed. Normally I would have aged myself again, but I didn’t feel another human except for Thabit and I wasn’t too enthusiastic when I saw my brother Set. He gave me an irritated look when he recognized my younger self. Then he smirked.
“I remember that one. But a bit older suits you more.” Right then, I didn’t care what he thought. But when he turned his attention to Thabit I got nervous. “Leave us alone,” he barked at him. Thabit winced because of being addressed like that. His head span around to look at Set, his hair normally reaching up to his chin was following this movement. I could vaguely see the two marks my fangs had left on his neck. Thabit looked back at me and I gave him a nod accompanied by a soothing smile. He left with not saying a word and I looked back at my older brother. I just could get a view on one of his eyebrows moving back down to its normal position. Did he see?
“Anyway,” he began, giving me his normal expression, “I would like to give a festivity to honor you, as a Pharaoh, that is to say. Do I have your permission to do that?”
I didn’t believe my ears. Did he really ask me for my permission? He? I was stunned. Speechless. My mouth fell open.
“Did I say something wrong?” he continued.
“No, actually…” I hesitated. I knitted my brows. “What are you up to, Set?”
He put a hurt expression on his face. That was ridiculous. “How can you think that? My own brother.” He grinned. “No, to be honest you said I should ask you before I do something and I know it’s your palace. Maybe you would like this festivity, because we’re leaving after that.”
“Yet?” Why did I say that?
He grinned again. “Yes, little brother. We have to move on. And, you know… I’m sorry for the inconvenience. You don’t have to believe me, but I am. Now that we saw you’re alright we can go and maybe it’s a good idea to have another meal together… as a family.”
I was still a bit irritated, because he behaved in such a strange way, completely different from what I was used to, but I nodded my head and told him, “I would appreciate that.”
“Then it’s all set. Tomorrow then.” With that said he left me behind. I shook my head to ensure myself that I hadn’t dreamt all of this, but it was true, it was real.
I left the preparatory room and walked down the corridor to my chamber. I saw Tubal-cain, Horus, waiting for me. I hadn’t spoken to him since he was here and I felt a bit guilty. The two short sentences in the thrown room after their arrival were all I had heard from him.
“Hello, Osiris. Where’re you going?” I definitely had to get used to his voice.
I smiled at him and then answered, “To my chambers. I prefer spending the evening there.”
“Can we talk for a moment?” He seemed a bit stressed. Back then, I could always tell when there was something on his mind. And this was definitely one of those moments where he wanted to talk.
“Well, you see, we’re leaving soon and I wanted to talk to you before that. About what happened back then.” He hesitated.
“Horus,” I laid a soothing tone into my voice, “you don’t need to. I have already spoken with Isis.” That surprised him a bit. “I’m not mad at you, not anymore that is. I know you feel guilty about it, but neither you nor me can make it undone. I would be pleased if you stayed a while longer. We could live as a family again, you know.” I raised my hand and put it on his shoulder. I had to raise it higher than I would have needed to, but in my young body I was shorter than him. He never could have imagined that situation some day, could he? “I would really like that, Horus. After all, you’re my brother and you always will be.” I turned around and began to walk.
“Please wait.” I turned back to face him. “Can we just talk a bit more?” I knitted my brows.
“Horus, what is it?”
“Nothing.” Now that was definitely a lie. He had never been a good liar and his new self didn’t change that.
“Come on, tell me.” I was trying to encourage him. What is he playing at?
“Honestly it’s nothing. I just want to talk to you.” This was getting a bit weird now and it felt more and more like an artificial conversation to me.
“Tell me the truth. What is it that you’re hiding?” I wanted to tease him with that, but he got really nervous. “Horus?” He didn’t answer so I turned away anew.
“Stop!” I became a bit frustrated and angry when he said that.
“Now, would you please be so kind and tell me what’s going on with you? I’m not going to ask you again, Horus. Either you tell me now or I’ll go.”
“I can’t.” That frustrated me even more and although I didn’t want I reached out with my mind to go through his thoughts. He tried to block me as if he knew I was trying to do that, but I pushed a bit harder and his defense broke down. Then he suddenly said, “I’m sorry Osiris, he made me slow you down.”
“Who?” But I already knew the answer. I saw Set giving Horus the order. ‘I want to give him a little surprise when he comes back.’ I saw this memory as if it were my own. There was only one possibility. I felt worry rising inside me. I span around and began running down the corridor. I increased my pace until I was faster than any human can possibly be. I didn’t care if somebody saw me. He wouldn’t dare, I thought to myself, but his strange behavior before, that wasn’t him. I knew my brother. He saw it. I ran past a couple of braziers lining the corridor and the flames bowed themselves like in some kind of respect. In fact it was my velocity that made them do it. When I reached my chamber I could smell some well-known odor and my worry increased itself to infinity. I stormed through the doors and my heart broke.
I could see Thabit’s lifeless body lying on my bed. His complexion had lost its natural color. I stumbled forward. There were two fresh wounds on his neck, almost at the exact position mine were. But these were from someone else. Thabit was so pale and his eyes were giving away the pain he had suffered. The pain he must have felt before he gave in to death. I couldn’t see straight, my eyes filled themselves with tears. I couldn’t breathe either.
I looked around and could see Set through my teary eyes. He was standing next to one of the braziers warming his hands.
“Why?” I whispered. “Why did you feed on him?” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. This couldn’t be true. Not this. Set turned his head to me.
“He was a slave. I thought that’s why he’s here.”
“But he was just a young boy!” I could feel the anger rising in my body. I was sure my eyes were already glowing. My fangs were hurting my gums, they wanted to act.
Set began to grin. “Oh yes and he was delicious.” My vision got black. I jumped forward. Never in my whole existence had I been so fast. I almost flew at Set and gripped him by his neck. We both flew through the whole chamber and I slammed him into the opposite wall. I didn’t know that my velocity would allow me to do that. When I loosened my grip and saw the imprint his body had left behind and the stony debris on the floor, Set began to laugh. “Easy little brother, or else I might think you wanted to hurt me.” How can he laugh now? I regained my self-control and sank to the floor. The tears were running and I was sobbing hard. My throat already felt numb from it. I leaned forward and crawled on all fours to the bed where he was. I felt so weak and worn out when I tried to lift myself up to him. I laid next to Thabit, lying on my side and stroking his beautiful black hair. I used my other hand to close his pained eyes. It felt as if my body did this all by itself without getting the direct order from my mind.
I heard a movement, but I didn’t look up. I only had eyes for Thabit. Set was moving to the doors. “I see you at the festivity tomorrow and remember to age yourself. We don’t want them to see their Pharaoh like that.”
Without looking at him or even raising my head I slammed the door shut behind him with a single thought. I stayed on my bed. Next to Thabit. I began stroking his soft skin; it was still warm, but I knew it would cool down soon. I didn’t want to leave him. He had been strong for me, now I wanted to do him this favor.
I sniffed. “What I wanted you to know… what I couldn’t tell you was… I love you, Thabit.” More and more tears came running down my cheeks, soaking the bed sheet beneath me. I leaned forward and kissed his soft lips. I inhaled deeply as his natural, honey-like smell was already disappearing, making way for the smell of death.
I didn’t know how long I had stayed in this position. When I finally looked up I could see the open façade of my chamber welcoming the sun and allowing a light breeze to move the curtains. It was beautiful. But only to those who still had the light and hope in them. For me all of this was gone. Again. I looked back at Thabit’s body and felt another attack of tears.
There was a nock on the doors, but I didn’t answer. The nock came again, but I still refused to speak to the person on the other side. I knew who it was, but I preferred staying right here, curled up into a ball and waiting for the end of my existence. Was that some sort of plan? I could starve myself to death. It will be painful but then all of this will be over. The nock came for a third time and I got angry.
“Nizam, go away,” I shouted loud enough that my vizier could hear my voice on the other side of the door. But he didn’t just go away and leave me alone. I could hear the doors opening and then some moments later a deep breath. He must have recognized both of us on the bed.
“May the gods be with us! Osiris, what happened? Who… did this?” The tone of his voice sounded a bit like an accuse to me. I refused to look up at him with my teary eyes.
“Please tell me what happened? Did you…?”
“It wasn’t me!” I barked, louder and harder than I had intended. Nizam came closer. There was fear in him, I could feel it, I could even smell it. Am I such a monster to him? He never was disgusted of me before and he always kept the secret. He sat down on the bed next to me and reached out with his hand for Thabit.
“No.” He took back his hand really quickly as if he had burned himself. I tried to calm myself down and give my voice a softer tone. “Please, don’t touch him. Just let him rest now. I don’t want him to suffer more pain.” I raised my head. My swollen eyes tried to look at Nizam who was obviously not sure how he should deal with this. He struggled with thought after thought in his mind until he found one he was content of speaking it aloud.
“Osiris, he’s in the afterlife now. We have to honor him by ensuring his body is preserved for the life after death.” I knew the rites well Nizam was talking about.
“Not yet. Please give me some time,” I said and pulled myself up from the bed into an upright position. I didn’t want to but I had to do something. Anything.
“Who did this to Thabit? Osiris, tell me and I will make sure this villain will get his punishment for this crime.” I could see a small tear in the corner of his eye. I appreciated Nizam’s offer and his call for justice, but I didn’t believe he could have been the one to bring this justice.
“Nizam, you’re not capable of handling this. You’re too weak, you would be no match for him.” He must have guessed to whom I referred, because I could clearly hear the name he cursed in his head. ‘Set.’
“I will summon the guards!”
“No, as I said, you’re no match for him.” I was afraid that Nizam would do something stupid. He had loved Thabit. Though he still couldn’t show it right in front of me. “I will deal with this myself.” The fact was, I hadn’t a clue how I should do that, after all, Set was still my older brother. But he had crossed a line; he had gone too far. I was willing to let him live for the only reason that we were related, but he had to leave. He had to leave me and never was to come back. I wanted to use this stupid festivity of his to get rid of him once and for all time. I didn’t know what to do with Isis or Horus, though. If they had known about this, they would have to leave as well. I was going to find that out. Horus was afraid of Set and he sometimes envied his older brother. But Isis was wrong. Horus didn’t imitate Set’s behavior; he was trying to adept to it, because there was nothing else he could choose as an example. Therefore he wanted to be like his big brother, the one who was allowed to go into the desert when he himself was just a little boy. Don’t we all want to become like the ones that are out of reach? But, surely, there was still this fearful boy deep within this hard shell of almost grown-up body. I had seen him, when I had invaded Horus’ mind. He really had been sorry for slowing me down. Maybe he had had an idea what was going to happen, but wasn’t courageous enough to stop Set.
I stood up. I still wore the same robe from the day before, but I didn’t care. I aged myself to the normal appearance of the Pharaoh.
“Nizam, make sure the festivity can be held as Set plans it. Trust me, I’ll deal with him in front of all the others. He will regret what he has done.” Nizam looked puzzled at me but nevertheless nodded. He was on his way out when I added sighing, “And would you please send some priests? I would like them to commence the rituals.” I blinked away a tear. It slowly ran down my cheek and hesitated a moment on my chin before it fell to the ground. I promised myself this would be the last tear I shed on Thabit until Set was out of my palace.
It was hard to watch. The embalmers were good at their work. They undressed Thabit until he lay naked in front of them on the stony altar. It was hard but I took myself together. They opened his body taking out the innards and putting them into separate canopic jars, only leaving his precious heart on its place. They washed Thabit’s body with palm wine on the inside and outside, never asking questions about the strange marks on his neck. They were really gentle. They must have known that Thabit had been just a slave and maybe wondered why their Pharaoh wanted to give this boy the full ritual but never asked questions on this, either. The most hurting part, for me that is, was when they pierced a long bronze rod with a hook at the end into his nose to get to his brain. I wanted them to use the best linen they had, but he first there would be prayers and other preserving techniques for about a lunar cycle. Then Thabit would be ready for his passage to the afterlife. Until we see again my dear.
I went back to my chamber and prepared for the great event. I did everything on my own. I sent away the slave Nizam had ordered to assist me. I washed myself until I felt better. Feeling more alive I used a balm and mixed it with a powder of pulverized emeralds. I applied this mixture onto my face until it was as green as the emeralds had been. I chose a completely white robe to wear and finally covered my black hair with the white crown of Egypt. The one with feathers on both sides, the Atef. To wear this crown had sometimes felt like a burden, but this night I was going to wear it with pride, with my head held high. Not because it was expected of the Pharaoh, but because I wanted Set to see that I was the superior one in this realm and that he had to follow my commands. He had to obey me this time. And if he refused, I hoped it wouldn’t come this far, then I was prepared to kill him. That surely would be a battle of gods, although I didn’t feel like one. But I knew no human could deal with him like I could.
I walked through the corridors and then entered the thrown room. I could see how all the faces turned around to see me, after Nizam had shouted my name in his normal phrase. An impressing crowd, really. But not only a few were paralyzed my sight. I could see their eyes getting wide, almost forgetting to bow when I slowly passed by. I grinned, not on the outside though, but within. I had shown them a totally new Osiris, their reborn sovereign; and the green color on my face did exactly express that. This will be a festivity they’ll never forget.
I reached my thrown and could see my two brothers standing at the foot of the few steps. Horus was looking at his feet and never tried to raise his head to look me in the eyes. Set however had not the slightest expression of guilt on his face. He didn’t bow, either. I ignored this insult again. The one who wasn’t there was Isis. I didn’t know if she had heard what Set had done and was ashamed of it or if she just preferred staying away from this. Maybe it was better for her not to witness.
I sat down and waited a moment. Then I spoke, “Be welcomed.” My voice was loud and clear and I was sure everybody in the hall could hear me. “Albeit this should be a day of enjoyment for all of us there are some shadows that darken this festivity. First, there’s the sad announcement that the Nubian delegation we expected the other day met its death in the desert.” There were whispers and exchanges of views among some of the nobles and merchants in the crowd. “I thank my dear brother Set for bringing us this awful message.” More whispers. Set was obviously content with the position I just had given him. Just wait until I’m finished. “Be ensured, the trade with Nubia will go on and our market will flourish.” I paused for a short time. “And second, as thankful I am for this festivity I’m also sad that this will be goodbye for my brother Set and me. He can no longer stay with us, but he will ensure that Egypt and the greatness of the Pharaoh are represented in the foreign. I agreed that he will be our representative, our ambassador to the Nubians. I know it is far away and that there’s mostly deserted land, but I accepted his offer to go there. This will give our countries peace and prosperity.” I stood up. I could see Set hiding his irritation when I came close to him. There was light applause from the people around, but they still didn’t know what to make of this. But to the merchants one thing was clear. Everything that helped Egypt and them to earn gold was a good thing. And I just had promised them this gold. I leaned forward and embraced Set. My voice was cold when I whispered in his ear, “I don’t want to ever see you again.” He never lost the smile on his face. “You will leave my palace and you will never return.” I broke my embrace and walked back to the thrown. When I was seated I could see Set bowing his head. Yes he will obey, I thought and gave him a smile.
“Oh great Pharaoh,” his voice was as loud and clear as mine had been before and the whispers and other voices fell silent. “I hope I can prove myself worthy of your trust and not disappoint you. But before I go I would like to hand over a gift.” He nodded to the guards that watched the doors and they opened them. I didn’t know what he had planned and searched for Nizam. He was knitting his brows and had an irritated look on his face, so he didn’t know either. The crowd parted and made way for a group of boys, the same boys Set had brought with him on the first day, I could feel them. They were carrying something on their shoulders. The thing had a long form and was made out of wood. It must have been really heavy, but the boy didn’t break a sweat. The group came closer and put the wooden thing on the ground. It had nice ornaments on it. It was definitely a nice piece of work, although I still hadn’t figured out what it was. Set spoke up again.
“This is my gift. It’s a sarcophagus being created by the best craftsman in this realm. But I don’t want to give it away just like that. It will belong to the man that fits in. As it had been created at random size somebody in this room will be honored with this valuable present.” He looked around in the crowd. He never looked at me though. Nobles and merchants in the first row hesitated. Set moved forward and opened the lid.
“Have a try!” Set encouraged a chubby man with grey hair. Of course, as if that one would fit in. The man came forward and moved around the wooden sarcophagus. He must have felt awkward when he made a weak smile and retreated back into the crowd.
“To give you another incentive I will give you,” he leaned forward and grabbed something from the sarcophagus’ interior, “this sack of gold as well.” Greed took over. Many men now tried to fit into the wooden box but most of them were too tall for its size. Others were too small according to the definition Set gave them.
“Wait,” he shouted over the talking people. “As this festivity is to honor our great Pharaoh, he should have the right to give it a try himself.” He turned around and looked at me. I held my breath because I didn’t know what to expect from that. I hesitated and could feel the eyes of hundreds of men resting on me. The Pharaoh couldn’t be a coward. I sighed to myself and stood up from my thrown. I was a young man, smaller than the fully grown-up nobles and thinner than the chubby merchants. I walked down to the sarcophagus and saw Nizam, his face full of concern. I didn’t believe there was something to happen except from me fitting in perfectly. I was sure this sarcophagus hadn’t been made at random size, as Set had announced, and I didn’t know what the purpose of all of this was, either. Maybe Set just wanted to have fun, to play one of his stupid little games we used to play all those years ago in a different life.
I too a few more steps forward and then stood next to the ‘present’. Set moved away, maybe to soothe my own hesitation. I raised my right leg and put it into the case. Then followed the left. The silence was unbearable. Everybody watched me. This is the last time I have to see him so let’s get over with this and then he will be gone once and for all time. I thought at Thabit when I lay down. It was perfect. The sarcophagus had exactly been created for my size. I could hear applause and I grinned to myself. What a surprise! I wanted to raise again when Set shouted, “Now!”
I could see his figure seemingly addressing the young boys. Then the lid slammed on me and everything got dark immediately. As a matter of fact, this had been a surprise to me. “Hey!” I shouted. “Set, this isn’t funny.” I hammered at the lid, but there was no reaction from the outside. I used my strength that was normally beyond nature, but there was not the slightest movement of the lid. I heard shouting on the outside, then screaming. What’s happening there? What is he doing? The screams, before out of fear, now changed into screams of pain and horror. I had to get out of this. Then suddenly I felt something sharp piercing the flesh of one of my legs. I could smell my own blood when the object hat penetrated the skin. Then there was another one and another. More sharp objects stabbed into my body. Everywhere. I could feel the blood running down my legs, my arms and my shoulders, soaking my white robe with the thick wetness. I screamed in anger, because I had planned to get rid of him and now it seemed as if Set had planned the same thing. A pain was sent through my ear when one of these sharp objects pierced my earlobe. How could I have been so wrong?
The scream on the outside got louder. It was agony now that I could hear in my sarcophagus.
Then using my sensitive ear, that hadn’t been damaged I could hear a clear voice. It sounded agitated and I knew it was Horus speaking.
“You said it was just a game. You can’t leave him in there. He’s our brother!”
“Take it.” That is Set.
“Set, you can’t do that.” Horus again.
“Shut up, Horus.” Set.
I felt a movement as if the sarcophagus was heaved from the ground. Every little movement shot more pain through my body. I didn’t know how many of these sharp nail-like objects they had put into me, but there must have definitely been a lot of them regarding the pain.
They, whoever it was, carried me or rather the sarcophagus with me in it to I didn’t know where. I wanted to hammer at the lid again but the maybe-nails prevented my every movement. Unless I didn’t want to hurt myself, that is to say.
“I’m sorry, Osiris. I didn’t want it to end like this.”
“Let me out! Set, let me out of here,” I screamed at him. My ears hurt from my own volume. Then there was silence. The motion changed. It was as though I was carried by water. My mouth fell open in the darkness of the sarcophagus. The Nile.
I couldn’t believe he had done this to me. Not only had he taken Thabit from me but he also had stolen my peaceful life. I heard the blood rushing in my ears, my heart increasing its pace. And with every beat there was a small amount of the precious life essence pouring out of my wounds.
I must get out of here. Owww. It hurt so much. I definitely couldn’t move. I felt helpless. I tried to calm myself down. My heart rate was too high. At this pace the wounds couldn’t close themselves, although the sharp nails would prevent them anyway from closing completely. The loss of blood was the worst thing. How much was left? It’s Thabit’s blood, I thought and although I had promised myself not to my eyes filled themselves with tears. I was losing him for the second time. He had lived on in me with the blood he had sacrificed to nourish me and now this, his life was pouring out of me. I sobbed. If this is the end then please let it be quick!
Later I didn’t know how long I had lain in the sarcophagus, but at some point the dark came to me. Not the dark that had surrounded me the whole time but a dark from within myself. And the last thing before I died was Thabit’s face.
“Drink.” I felt so weak. I couldn’t move. “Osiris, you need to drink this.” I didn’t know whose voice it was that I heard, but something touched my lips. I licked it away and I knew that taste. I wanted to have more and I opened my mouth, my tongue searching hungrily for the warm blood I was offered. I heard a soft groan. It was a female voice. I drank more of this wonderful liquid; my fangs reacted automatically and pierced the flesh that was keeping more of the blood away from them. I could feel a tremor running through my body when it began refilling its supply.
“Stop.” Someone pushed me back and it hurt like death. Although death shouldn’t hurt at all. I tried to open my eyes. It was hard, but I finally gained enough strength to fulfill this task. I blinked several times until my vision cleared. I could see a familiar face in front of me… with emerald eyes.
“Isis.” My voice was rough and when I tried to breathe normally it was more like a rattling noise. I coughed.
“Easy.” Osiris, you lost a lot of blood. I gave you as much as I could from my own, but you need to feed soon.” I looked at my sister. She was holding her forearm where my fangs had entered her veins. How was it possible that she was here? I tried to speak again.
“How…?” I tried to sit up straight from my half lying position. “Where are we? How did you find me?”
She gave me a weak smile. “I’ve been looking for you for three weeks now.” Three weeks? “When I heard what Set had done I tried to find the sarcophagus.” She pointed out the wooden box that lay open in the sand some lengths away. I could see a countless number of nails that had been driven through the lid to hurt me.
“Set?” I asked choppily.
“He took over the thrown. He’s Pharaoh now.” My heart broke again from this message. “And he’s killing everybody that refuses to pledge him loyalty. Horus didn’t like that.” She sniffed. ” He ran away. He had a serious argument with Set after the so-called festivity. It was in fact nothing but a coup.”
I laid back my head and looked up into the sky and could see the countless numbers of stars. Had I been aware of the night surrounding us? I couldn’t remember. I thought at Thabit’s body. Now would have been the time to make sure it was prepared for the afterlife. Tears ran down my cheeks.
“Why, Isis? Why?” She reached out with my hand to touch me but I retreated. She looked hurt. I knew I hadn’t the right to treat her like this; after all she had saved my life.
“He’s powerful. And he doesn’t allow anybody to be superior to him. I thought you would have learnt that from your footraces.” I gave her an angry face. I tried to stand up. It was hard but somehow I managed to stand on my own feet, although a bit shaky. Isis followed my movement, still concerns on her face.
“I will never forgive him what he has done to me. Never! You hear me!” I was shouting now. More tears came running down from my eyes.
“He’s your brother, Jubal.” She stood up and came forward to soothe me. Although she used my former name I couldn’t allow her to do this. The anger was good. The tears were good.
“No, leave me alone! You’re no better than him.” That really did hurt her. I could see tears coming to her eyes as well. “He planned this all along, didn’t he?”
She didn’t answer and that was answer enough for me. I gave her one last look. “Just tell him, you found me dead and buried me.” And I turned around and began walking.
“Osiris, you can’t run away from him all your life,” she shouted but I wasn’t listening. I just wanted to find peace and kept walking into the desert. Again.
“Are you serious?” Joshua looked at me in disbelief. “I heard that story before, but you actually say it’s true?”
“Sure, it’s true!”
“And you were…”
I just grinned at him.
“No way, come on, you’re making this up.” He gave me a serious look.
“No I’m not. I swear this is the whole truth.” Ok, not the whole truth, because I hadn’t told Joshua everything I had remembered. Thabit, for example, was my secret and he was to stay in my heart until I felt the time was right to tell Joshua about him as well.
He sighed. “Let’s go home. It’s getting late,” he suggested.
Home? What is home?