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 dusk.

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 irrigation ditches.

"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 behind her.

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 the god."

"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 him.

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 were reawakened.

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 anger.

"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 obscurity."

"And what of our gods when he is gone?" Selketamun pressed, "Will they return?"

"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!"

"How so?"

"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 his name."

"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 his disability."

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.