There’s a certain guilty pleasure in thinking up something random and weird, and then taking it seriously. (The hardest part is barreling ahead and not thinking about what you’re doing.) What this bit is from is an involved story that’ll have to wait; but here’s an example of those things that explode out once you look in the mirror and say: “If every two-penny prophet and conspiracy monger can do it, so can I!”
The related lesson of “Yes, but what they produce is usually crap!” seems to have eluded me.
Also, 2700 word monster post warning!
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Moses was an Egyptian, a great-grandson of Pharaoh Ekhnaten, the luckless inventor of monotheism. Joshua had Moses and Aaron killed when he found out the God of Sinai was not Yahweh of old, but Aten.
Joshua did what he could, but he couldn’t stop the contagion — and thus the old god, once portrayed as a Golden Calf, was lost and replaced by the heartless monster of the Nile. No-one ever happened to ask why the Tabernacle of the Ark of Covenant was pyramid-shaped: why, to keep what was stored inside safe, sharp and new, as Egyptian superstition said!
And no-one at the time could notice the dimensions of the Tabernacle were exactly those of the Sacred Chamber of the Pyramid of Giza, where in a sarcophagus of pearls much like tears, and in dimensions much like the Ark, slept Cheops, the black pharaoh, wizard and god, on the arms of his wife, Nitocris the sorceress queen. Cheops was worshipped as a god below his pyramid for centuries after his death; girl after girl was clad as Nitocris and offered to flames to entice the pharaoh, dead and asleep, to come from his pyramid to rule again, but he never came.
It is said that Ekhnaten had many priests and priestesses of this cult killed; Ekhnaten, the mad pharaoh who unsuccessfully tried to end the old cults and convert Egypt to the worship of a single god, Aten, the all-devouring disk of the sun. He began his reign as Amenhotep, but abandoned that name after his betrayal; and likewise he renamed his wife, Nefertiti. He died of a fever and was succeeded by his son, Tutankhaten, who was after certain presentations convinced to start the old cults at the Pyramid of Giza and in other places, and to name himself Tutankhamun, named for Amon, one of the old gods, and not for Aten, who quickly faded out of history. Tutankhamun was killed by a conspiracy led by his mother Nefertiti, now again named Nitocris, chief priestess of the thousand-year-old cult at Giza, and by Horemheb, the former pharaoh’s chief of guards. After the boy pharaoh’s death, Horemheb took the old double crown of Egypt for himself, and offered all the surviving descendants of Ekhnaten to the god of Giza in one giant hecatomb; and Nefertiti-Nitocris wielded the firebrand that lit the fire.
Only one single boy survived this massacre, fleeing with a caretaker to the barren deserts of Sinai, carrying the remaining treasures of Aten. These included the new crown, the unified crown of Egypt, its two halves of Upper and Lower Egypt bound together by the golden chains whipping out from the sun-disk of Aten at its top, with seven prongs for seven scented candles pushing upwards from it, and the six-pointed star of Amarna surrounding it; and the Law of Aten, two stone tablets inscribed with acid and ink by Ekhnaten himself with the ten laws he had received from epileptic visions of the sun god; and a scroll with an account, written in formal Egyptian verse of incomparable beauty by Ekhnaten, of how in the beginning the earth had been formless and void, and the spirit of Aten, the sun, floated over the sea — and then separated night from day, land from sea, and made out of clay Odda-Adam, the first man, and Even-Lil, the first woman.
After Horemheb’s death the son returned to Egypt, leaving the treasures carefully hidden, but found the new pharaoh, Ramesses, even more cruel and cold than the former chief of guards. The son — whose name I do not know — challenged Ramesses’s chief of guards, a giant called Goliates, to a fight and killed him, and thus became his new chief of guards; and he said nothing of his own royal origin.
That boy had a son, Ay-Wea, and died; Ramesses did the same, and his son Seti became the new pharaoh. Seti was a lover of nights and stars, prone to shouting up at the stars and listening if they would dare to not answer a pharaoh. (There were servants hidden in the reeds that shouted the stars’ answers to the pharaoh; in the rare cases this was not so, the pharaoh pronounced a death sentence on a star, and was the next day brought the wine-pickled heart of a bull as “the head of a star”; as there were so many stars and Seti was so nearsighted, he never noticed his stellar victims still shone up in the skies.) In addition to these follies, Seti was a suspicious, mistrustful man; and when a priest of the Pyramid of Giza came to him, hooded and robed and bearing the silver chestguard with its eyes and mathematical symbols, Seti was willing to listen: and he was told of the ancestry of Ay-Wea, his chief of guards; and Seti was both wroth and horrified, and afraid for his life, and his position also, and lost his bowels, and had all then present save the priest of Giza done to death, because it is not fitting for a pharaoh to paint the throne brown.
Seti had, with great cunning and patience, Ay-Wea’s reputation ruined among the common people and in the court; and when the pharaoh’s men came to kill Ay-Wea, no-one came to the help of the loyal chief of guards, not even his own guardsmen. Ay-Wea was slain along with his family; but a single child was saved by a loyal servant, and let to the waters of the Nile in a reed basket.
Much as is related in the Old Testament, this basket was found by Seti’s eccentric wife, Ayela; and she adopted the nameless boy as a companion to her son, Ramesses, who would become the second pharaoh of that name, peerless among all the rulers of Egypt, greater in might, wisdom and longevity than Alexander, more accomplished in the arts of war and peace than the Roman Caesar; and more ruthless and driven than any red-handed villain of the latter days. And this is how the reign of Ramesses, who was intelligent, beautiful and full of charm, and intensely disliked and distrusted by his father, came to be: after many years an old, blind, foolish servant found the son of Ay-Wea, now named Moses, and told him and young Ramesses of Ay-Wea’s descent; and Ramesses thought it meet that his companion, confidante and lover was worthy of his station. Together the two conspired to overthrow Seti as soon as they could, for they were young and ambitious, and the eccentricities of Seti had grown. Some nights he muttered of murdering all there was in the skies, and building of the corpses of the stars a pyramid to climb into the heavens by, to kill all the gods and to take a throne in the place of Amon the father of gods; and the common people, hearing of this, muttered that this was the revenge of Aten, to make a pharaoh, the greatest god on earth, envy the gods in heaven.
The plan of Moses and Ramesses was this: Moses went among one of the captive peoples of Egypt, a tribe called Israel, and presented himself as one of them, taken from his parents by the cruel Egyptians and adopted by happy happenstance by the pharaoh himself. The Israelites were a hardy people that had been building the pyramids of the realm as long as they could remember; but Moses found among their legends a story of how they had come to Egypt as friends, and had been enslaved by the pharaohs; and he fed this story, and invented prophecies of escape and of a promised land to replace the Israelites’ whispers of a just pharaoh who would come, one day, to restore their position in the Land of the River; and these were not the least changes Moses made, for he had learned the religion of his great-grandfather, and in his need he put in Yahweh’s place Aten; in the guardian’s place the stern, unforgiving judge; and above all else he made the Israelites hate and fear the Egyptians, and to detest all contact with them.
There was unrest in the land, and Moses and Ramesses engineered, some say with wizardry, some say with other tricks, many accidents, disasters and bad omens, that drove the pharaoh into further madness, and much alarmed the priests, among them most the priests of Giza, who had come to whisper, as they offered girls into the flames as Nitocris, that maybe within the Great Pyramid wasn’t Cheops, the wicked king, but Nitocris his wife, who would come out when the throne was occupied by a man-god of sufficient power and majesty; and the new couple would rule all creation together forever.
Finally, one dark and stormy night, Seti’s guardsmen came to the encampment of the Israelites to arrest this firebrand speaker they had heard of, but whose name they did not know; and the Israelites, not willing to give away their prophet and leader, fell on them and killed them all. And Moses spoke to them, saying: “My people! The time is here — the pharaoh intends to kill us all! He has seen he cannot possess us; thus he intends to destroy us! His blasphemies have reached a limit, and his hand is raised against the Chosen People — but he is blind in his folly, and does not see the hand of God is raised against him. Tomorrow every firstborn Egyptian shall die; tomorrow the Nile shall run red with blood; tomorrow grasshoppers will cover the land, and the pyramids shall topple to reveal the horrors bound within! The day of wrath, the red day, the day of doom, the death-day, is at hand! Our god, the only god, is a jealous god, and he shall not see his chosen people mocked so, or see them suffering such mockery! Bake no bread, take no treasure — we must go at once! Take your children and your swords, nothing more; we must flee this accursed land before the sun comes up, or we shall we destroyed alongside all the wickedness of Egypt!”
The people of Israel listened to this, and praised their god and Moses; and abandoning even the Golden Calf that had been their most prized possession and the image of the god they had worshipped since the first of days, they took their children and their swords, and fled east, led by three men: Moses, their prophet; Aaron, an Israelite orphan he had recognized as his “brother”; and Joshua, Aaron’s guardian, a grizzled old soldier, who had returned from the pharaoh’s guard to his people after losing an arm and an eye in a battle, and receiving no recognition.
The morning came, a quiet, calm morning in Egypt: and runners came to Seti, the pharaoh, telling him the Israelites had killed his guards and had, the entire tribe, fled during the night. Seti was stricken with a violent madness, and immediately gathered his army and his chariots, and set out to pursue them; but because the encampment of the Israelites had been on the east shore of the Nile, and well away from the river, he was days behind them.
While the pharaoh was gone, Itemteb, the oldest of the priests of Giza, and Seti’s closest councillor, sat on the steps below his throne, and acted as a pharaoh; Seti had left without saying who should rule in his stead.
It was on the shore of the Reed Sea, the Red Sea, that the pharaoh found the Israelites: and his soldiers were weary unto death, and a trail of corpses stretched behind him back to the Nile, for if anyone had slowed, the mad pharaoh had had them killed. Only his charioteers were fit; and their horses were winded and sick of the desert.
The Israelites were waiting for them on a small island just off the shore, separated from it by a shallow channel two hundred paces or little more wide; and they were waiting, with hate and fear in their eyes. Their leader, Moses, came out and taunted the pharaoh; and Seti flew into a murderous rage and ordered his army to attack across the two hundred paces of water which separated the island from the shore. This the army did, and for fifty paces it seemed the Israelites were lost; but there was a sudden deep in the channel that the Israelites knew and the pharaoh didn’t, and the soldiers, weighed down by their armor and weapons, and pushed forward by those behind them, fell into the deep and died. Those few that could swim were killed by Israelite spearmen at the island’s shore. Seti himself whipped the chariots into the water; and the chariots rode over the shallow sandy bottom to the lip of the deep, and went down to the deep, never to be seen again.
When the greatest part of the pharaoh’s force was lost, many Israelite soldiers, led by Joshua the veteran of the guard, came from behind them, from hiding between the dunes, and struck them, and killed them; and Seti was trampled to death; and Joshua hacked off his head and urinated on it. Those few that fled could say nothing but that the Israelites were great wizards, and on their command the sea had eaten the pharaoh.
Moses then led his people over the sea and across the desert of Sinai, to the mountain of that land, to recover the royal treasures of Ekhnaten that had been hidden there; but while he was recovering them Joshua learned of his betrayal and imposture, and in a fit of rage killed Moses and Aaron both, and led the Israelites east and north out of the desert into other lands; but he could not speak the truth he knew, and he could not kill the legend that Moses had started, and it outlived him three thousand years.
In Egypt, news of Seti’s death came to Ramesses; and he took the guard and marched to the throne, and he had Itemteb the priest of Giza thrown down; and as the guard was loyal to Ramesses and he was beloved by the people, he took the throne and declared the priests of Giza traitorous and outlaw, and blamed the madness and death of Seti his father on them; and to make their destruction sure, he engineered for a girl to appear out of the Great Pyramid as the besieged priests prayed for help: and the girl proclaimed she was Nitocris, the queen of old, and Ramesses the Great was her chosen companion. The cult-site was destroyed, and the priests and their followers were all slain; and Ramesses, Ramesses the Second, Ramses, Ozymandias of Greek memory, made the girl Nitocris, of no former name, his queen.
And it is said Ramesses looked east, into the desert, and wondered what had happened to his companion and co-conspirator, his friend, his lover, the prophet of the Jews, the heir of Ekhnaten; but he dared not inquire, lest his patricide come into light; and it is not inconceivable that he should be glad to be rid of another with a claim to the throne better than his own; and thus the matter was lost.
But there is a whisper that when Ramesses was alone with his wife, he often spoke of how he had, when he had been young and ambitious and not yet the ruler of the world, the master of all, a living god; how he had then been willing to give half his kingdom, and his own hand in union, to a person his equal whom he had dearly loved; but Nitocris, a girl with boyish features, never knew who it was the pharaoh spoke thusly of, save that as the pharaoh’s name was Ramesses, or Ra-Moses, “born out of Ra”, the sun-god, this lover of his he called merely Moses, “the one whose birth is unknown”; and Nitocris though she must have been a girl of low birth and no significance.