River of the Sun, Chapter Eight
The Unchosen Darkness
Darkness had just fallen when the Beak of Horus rounded the curve in the river and fixed its course on the stone landing of the Island of Gezirah al Nabatath. The ranks of the oarsmen, led by the Obion Guard, relaxed their stroke, feathering their oars as one. Menascare, known to all as the most trusted friend and arch mage of the Pharaoh elect, strode from the raised command point at the rear of the craft and stood beside his King-in-Rising in the prow, looking at the lights of torches which ringed the fringes of the temple island.
“A welcome, Majesty?” asked Menascare, seemingly recovered from his former collapse.
“No,” said the Pharaoh elect, “they could not know of our arrival. We travel in darkness for a reason…
“Then why their lights?”
“I think we join them at a fortuitous time.”
“A ritual in progress?”
“The ritual, old mage – Akhet!” he smiled indulgently at the man to whom he had looked up for so long. “Do you think I am here, at this time, by accident?”
Rameses put the wooden frame, to which was clipped the parchment on which he had been scribbling, into the pocket of his cape and leaned over the prow of the boat, thrusting his face towards his target. “Won’t that be interesting!” he said with a cruel smile. “What a shock we will deliver! Maybe we will catch them out?”
Menascare considered his next words, carefully. “But we have no evidence against them,” he said. “The whole of the black land speaks of the excellence of their work and the discipline of their methods … ” He leaned as close as he dared to the young ruler to be. “Surely we should not judge what we do not know?”
“Perhaps,” answered his royal companion. “But my father has always seemed overly supportive of this mysterious temple; and I mean to find out why!” He pulled himself upright, resting a firm hand on Menascare’s shoulders, patronisingly.
“But that is why you are here, old friend . . . to find out the truth.”
“The truth, Majesty, can be an elusive thing… and I would not begin by suspecting the rites of Isis-Mut, carried out, by all accounts, diligently, by the celebrated high priestess and her brother”
“Is not the renowned Lord Menascare the most revered hunter of truth of all those along the great river?” It was a sly response, but it illustrated the younger man’s deadly intelligence.
Menascare thought of the twist of fate that had befallen the royal house. Initially groomed for Kingship as the eldest son of Seti, Rameses’ elder brother, Nebchasetnebet, had died in a tragic accident at sixteen years of age. The family had swiftly elevated the younger boy to the position of Regent, King-in-Rising – a role for which he seemed admirably suited. Now, with the imminent death of his father, Seti, he was on his way to Pi-Ramesse to take the twin crowns and assume absolute power.
The Beak of Horus was the fastest boat on the Nile, the Obion Guard were a hand-picked cadre of royal defenders who would, unhesitatingly, put their lives at risk to defend their King-in-Rising. They were agile, strong and fearsome, though the world along the great river knew little about their existence. “Yet . . . ” whispered Menascare, voicing the last of his thoughts out loud. “Yet . . .”
The black boat approached the deserted stone pier. Four of the team of oarsmen brought it to a perfect landing, and soon the ropes held it fast. Rameses stepped onto the island, then turned and threw the writing tablet back to his teacher. Caught off guard, Menascare dropped it, then stooped to pick it up, as the others walked past him and towards the torches. He would forget all about the unfinished piece, but the fragment would remain among his records and, long after his death, would re-discovered by scholars, rendered into stone, as a great poem, and left for those searching for clues to the motivations of the man who would become ‘King of Kings’.
It was not always like this.
There was not always a sleek-boat,
driving relentlessly along the great river,
in search of the white rats of the Sun.
Soon, I will be taken from here, made less by my duties.
Made king where once there was the brother.
Oh fate, how strange thy serpentine turns and twists,
But he is truly gone.
Now laughter in the darkness
Where stealth failed, now follows the vulture.
Horizons mourn for I shall not; but beware soft world,
Of he who was not chosen, your gentle time is gone . . .
Brave father, bold and faithful, now dying far from here.
No fault to you, no scarab walks your lies.
I will honour you before all others, as you did, lately, me
And though unchosen I will absorb your hate,
That what you feared might come to pass
Shall pass to me.
And, riding my head, when yours is deep within the earth
We shall hunt down
All the unfound traces of the Erased.
And fool who thinks it other, like women, washing waters,
who ebb and flow around what should be target of archers’ bows.
Brave island of Isis, now ahead in lanterns’ lights. Let them beware
For if, as sand-talk lies on the wind,
They hold harbour for such flights of mind
As those who, leaving, spoke, be true.
Then swift swords of Obion will prevail, and those that there survive
Will walk a different path,
When Great River’s banks again swell,
And fill with abundance
My coffers, gold and green will bloom
To protect noble Egypt, soon to be made mightier.
Weak white fool, let his despite live like lemon’s spit on the tongue
That each sad reflection on the riser over horizons come to nothing.
What matters lives and breathes,
Who rules carries a sword,
They that plough know nought of power
What does not live and breathe is a dream.
Who lives and breathes and dreams is a fool
Let those who live plough or make or take the sword
One man alone steers a boat, the rest empower
Swish, swish, the water from the oars.
No slaves here, the Obion are chosen,
Cousins to the blade, the whip, the Royal order.
The river is mine, at least that part which dares to hold me.
Mighty river, that I might fill thy length, as I do other women,
But so dares the arrogance of youth!
Yet time will not blunt me.
Now do I go to show the royal fire…
Index to previous chapters:
Introduction to River of the Sun
In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.
The 18th and 19th dynasties were a time of upheaval for ancient Egypt on many levels. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’ Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.
Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.
After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.
Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.
But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.
Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .
Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.
The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.
Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.
The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle early in 2016.
River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, is the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.