It was a glorious evening in the land of Egypt. Ra's bright orb was just
rolling below the horizon, starting His nightly journey into darkness and
throwing crimson patterns across the bright, clear, lapis lazuli sky and
back-lighting the crystal-clear water of the Nile. In the rich, dark,
fertile soil on the banks of the river stood proud stems of golden wheat,
blue flax flowers and green stalks of barley, rustling slightly beneath the
farmer's hoe and a slight river-side breeze. Somewhere in the luscious
reed beds a wild fowl cried out, shattering the fast-falling silence of
The priestess stood near the bank of the Sacred River, her hands clasped
over her stomach as she stared out at the boats; built of the same reed
stems used to make the coveted papyrus paper; skating across the mirror
like surface of the water and casting their nets to ensnare unsuspecting
fish in the depths.
On the opposite bank a farming community was tending to the crops on the
floodplains, working together to tend to the maturing plants and to pump
water up from the river with the aid of counter-balanced water lifts and
"The Nile is the veins and blood of Egypt," the priestess told the girl
standing next to her, "It gives life to the land and to the people. But at
its centre are the gods ... the ones who make the blood and pump it through
the body of the Twin Lands. It is the gods who are the heart of Egypt, the
gods who are the centre of our existence!"
"My father says that Pharaoh is the heart of Egypt," the girl replied a
little fearfully, as if she suspected that someone would leap out from the
reed beds and reprimand her for daring to believe otherwise.
"On a lesser level, Pharaoh is," the priestess agreed, "But even he must
bow before the gods ... even he must be subjected to the Weighing of the
Heart at the end of his reign and be judged just as all others are judged.
We are all treated equally in the Field of Reeds, Ammutari. But come, we
must serve the gods here before we must face them in that other country ...
Isis will be expecting her devotions."
She turned and moved, with an elegance that made her seem as though she was
gliding rather than walking, into the temple with Ammutari following close
The interior smelled of incense - the lotus flower and cedar wood - and the
air pulsed with energy and the magic invoked there. Behind a long altar,
laden with offerings of food, pottery and scented oils, knelt a statue of
the goddess Isis. She took the form of a woman, kneeling with Her arms
holding out protective wings, as if to shield all those who followed Her.
Both priestess and charge knelt before Her, bowing their heads.
"Isis, wife and sister of Osiris," the priestess intoned reverently, "We
ask that you restore the faith of the land just as you restored the life of
"Great Mother," said Ammutari, raising her eyes imploringly to the statue,
"We need your help."
The air before the statue, laden with the smoke from the incense censors
and the fat-fuelled lamps on the altar, wavered slightly and it almost
seemed as though the goddess blinked and smiled.
Ammutari felt her skin prickle and her senses heighten. The temple
dissolved around her - clouded not by incense smoke but by the onset of the
Sight - and suddenly she was watching strange images as they flashed
briefly across her vision.
She saw a strange man, his features distorted and oddly feminine; elongated
face, wide hips and a swollen belly and breasts and slanting almond-shaped
eyes. He was wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt and the
ornaments of Pharaoh. He was lifting his arms in salutation to the sun,
which in turn reached many arms down to him.
Beside the Pharaoh stood a woman - the most beautiful woman Ammutari had
ever seen. She also raised her arms to the Solar Disk, but even as
Ammutari watched she began to fade - becoming more and more incorporeal
before vanishing entirely into obscurity.
Then Ammutari sensed a growing anger - like bees that feel threatened by an
animal that has wandered too close to the hive. She saw the people of
Egypt wailing, saw the bodies of the dead increasing in number and sensed
something malignant in the air, like the very winds themselves were
carrying death. She saw two sarcophaguses being borne from a palace she
did not know and sensed that the Kas that had once resided in the girl's
bodies lay very close to the odd Pharaoh. She saw statues and idols of her
gods sinking beneath sand and dust. Then the strange Pharaoh vanished and
was replaced by another - a boy. He was no more than a child, perhaps not
yet in his teens, and he was leaning heavily on a staff, his legs buckled
and twisted beneath him.
And yet, despite his youth and his disability, Ammutari sensed the
beginnings of greatness, of a powerful and immortal spirit stirring within
And then he, too, was gone - lost beneath the shifting sands that, sooner
or later, came to cover all the Pharaohs. The mighty sphinx, too,
succumbed to the ever-expanding desert, to be buried for centuries before
once more raising its head into light. The pyramids lost their limestone
coatings when some distant generation stripped them down to rebuild Egypt -
but the buildings themselves remained, as did their splendour. The
settlements up and down the country had gone, the granite obelisks fallen,
the paint on statues and temples faded, chipped. Tombs were lost,
rediscovered, robbed ... and Egypt was reborn as the memories of the people
Ammutari gasped and, suddenly, she was back in the temple, kneeling before
Isis. She blinked and looked around her. Selketamun, the priestess, was
kneeling before her, her hands on her shoulders as if she had trying to
shake her charge into wakefulness.
"What did you see?" the priestess asked.
"Terrible things," Ammutari trembled, "Pharaoh will rename himself as
Akhenaten and he will tear the religion of the old gods asunder!"
The priestess seemed to double in height and her features darkened with
"He wouldn't dare!" she said, her voice thundering around the temple.
Ammutari let out a little gasp of fear ... she could hear the force of the
gods behind her mentor's words.
"What else did you see?" Selketamun demanded, "What wrath will the gods
bring down on him for such an outrage?"
"Disease will whirl through the Twin Kingdoms like a great sandstorm,"
Ammutari was trembling worse than ever, "The plague will strike down many
lives, including those of two of Pharaoh's daughters. Nefertiti, the
Pharaoh's wife, will disappear and her body will not be discovered for
centuries after her death. Pharaoh, too, will be struck down by followers
of the very gods he sought to suppress and he will also vanish into
"And what of our gods when he is gone?" Selketamun pressed, "Will they
"They will never leave," Ammutari replied, "For they are immortal and will
survive through the many years of Earth's existence, even if people should
come to forget about them. After Akhenaten's death his co-regent,
Smenkhere, will reign for a while. Soon, however, he too will pass into
shadow and Tutenkaten will wear the double crown. He is the brother of
Akhenaten and his name will be the first to spring to the minds of all
those who think about Egypt, even many centuries after his death."
"Tutenkaten?" Selketamun frowned, "I have heard of the boy . he is
crippled, is he not?"
Selketamun knew that even people with physical disabilities could usually
perform many actions as well as - and in some cases better than people who
were able bodied. But the idea that a crippled boy could rise to
the greatness Ammutari had foreseen seemed almost impossible to her.
"He is crippled," Ammutari agreed, "And his reign will be short. However,
he will be the most celebrated Pharaoh of all time!"
"Tutenkhaten - or Tutenkhamun as he will be known - will restore the old
faith. Alas, all great kings have their enemies and he will be killed at a
very young age. He will be buried in a tomb not meant for a Pharaoh, a
tomb far less elaborate than those of his predecessors, and yet he will be
the one who is most remembered."
"And Akhenaten?" Selketamun asked, "What do you see of him?"
"As far as I can see - and in the long years of Earth yet to come, it
wasn't far - his tomb had not been discovered. Perhaps his body will not
survive through the ages, but everyone who will know about Egypt will know
"Impossible!" the Egyptian culture taught that the soul needed the body to
survive in order to achieve immortality - that Akhenaten's mummy could go
missing and for his name to still be remembered was not a concept
Selketamun, even with her training, could easily grasp.
"Even if the Ka doesn't live on," Ammutari replied, "The memories do. The
pictures painted in the tombs, the hieroglyphic records we write in stone,
the sphinx, the pyramids - they will survive the ages that will bury Egypt
in the sands of time. Our descendents will see these things; they'll see
the monuments built for the Pharaohs, unravel their past and remember..."
"Then what they see are shadows only!" but that wasn't entirely true,
thought Selketamun upon reflection - all they had of the gods were statues
and paintings, and yet they knew they existed, remembered the great things
they had done.
"Akhenaten, for all his madness, will do great things. He will build a new
capital, change the entire religion of Egypt - terrible, but great.
Tutenkhamun will do little during his reign save for restoring the faith in
the old god, but he will be remembered for the shortness of his reign, for
the authority he had despite his youth - for the power he will hold despite
Would Akhenaten, Selketamun wondered, be remembered despite his peculiar
physical appearance and his tyrannical reign - or perhaps because of it?
And Tutenkhamun - a crippled child - could he really become the most
remembered and celebrated Pharaoh of them all?
Both of them disabled, both of them achieving greatness, both of them
reaching the Egyptian ideal of immortality through their memories.
Immortal memories ... she liked the idea.
Selketamun looked over at Ammutari, who was rising to her feet - with
difficulty, due to the absence of both her arms. Ammutari had been born
with both arms deformed and obviously useless and they had been amputated
soon after her birth. Ammutari, too, was proving to be in possession of
great power, great potential.
"Despite her disability," Selketamun mused, "She could become a priestess
to rival any that have gone before her - or any that will follow. I
wonder, do the gods give power to those with physical difficulties to make
up for the skills they have lost and the things they can never experience?
What is Ammutari destined for that people would remember in years to come?"
Ammutari had gone, probably to her bed; the Sight could be tiring.
Selketamun glided back to the temple entrance, moved once more to the bank
of the Nile and gazed out at the now-quiet landscape. The full moon
flooded the farmland and the river itself in silver light, illuminating the
green band of fertile land that wound alongside the Sacred River through
the Land of the Pharaohs.
The moonlight heightened the magical presence around the temple and filled
Selketamun with an indescribable sense of peace.
"Perhaps," she thought, "There is some truth in what the people say about
Pharaoh being the Heart of Egypt ... if the memories of Pharaoh live on,
then so too will the memories of the land he ruled. Through
Tutenkhamun and Akhenaten, we will be remembered."
Immortal Egypt - immortalised by Her memories. Selketamun sensed that,
through the temples, tombs and idols they would leave behind, some of
Egypt's magic would survive. Perhaps, in centuries to come, people would
remember the Egyptian way of life and the names of their gods. Perhaps,
even when the sands had come to bury the Twin Lands, the wonder that was
Egypt as Selketamun knew it would remain.
That was indeed comforting.