River of the Sun, chapter 16 – Old Friends, New Dangers
“Forgive me, high priest,” said Menascare. “Times have changed and we live in a dangerous age! Had Rameses – or anyone else here, known that we were friends of old, the situation could have moved beyond my control!”
Sitting on the curved chair in his chamber, Anzety massaged the back of his head. The blinding headache that Menascare’s carefully delivered blow had induced was still taking its toll.
“We were hardly friends, Menascare. You were my least favourite teacher in that far-away temple, I was terrified of you. We called you the ‘Eye of the Cobra’. Did you ever know that?”
“Yes,” said the elder man, smiling ruefully. “thank you for that. The name grew in the fertile soil of the royal palace and is used today when I am not listening–and increasingly, when I am… Nevertheless, you learned from my teaching, while others did not…”
Anzety shifted in his seat edgily, and not because of the pain in his head. “I have barely had time to think since the Royal assault on us! This situation is getting more complex every hour! Am I to take it that things are not well between you and the King-in-Rising?”
“I have been Rameses’ mentor for more years than I wish to remember… I thought I had passed to him some of the moderation of my years, but there is missing in him a foundation of kindness, a basic trust of the rest of his world. It is a trait that his father feared also. I worry for those in his way! His father was Seti: Man of Set – Beloved of Ptah! Imagine a life lived with the spirit of wildness dominating your soul, but shared with the God who gave the heart a tongue and a pen!”
Anzety stood and tried to stretch some of the tension from his frame. “But, my sister and I do not act against the King-in-Rising. We have merely adapted the old ways and merged them with a rebirth in the worship of the divine feminine. Our goal is to show that all such Goddesses are aspects of the One – aspects of the original Isis, mother of Horus, herself. We believe that the right new rituals will release great powers of healing into the Black Land.”
Menascare reached for his wine and drained the glass. He didn’t often resort to the grape, but this was no ordinary circumstance.
“And that is a noble goal, high priest. But Rameses fears the new. He loves it only when he is the source of it! Take care, for you are both in great danger. The Heretic King still casts a long shadow, and Rameses explodes with rage if anything brings that dark time to mind… His father may be fired from kinder clay, but his venom for the self styled ‘Son of the Sun’ is as acute as that of Rameses.”
Despite the fact that the temple was in the middle of a cycle of initiation, Anzety poured them both some more of the rich, red wine. Temple protocol had been cast aside, and not by them… “The Talatat scare me enough!” he said.
“The Talatat!” Mensacare spat the words. “Those bricks of harsh uniformity. But you heard Rameses’ words, no doubt?” Menascare looked up at the ceiling, cursing quietly.
“That you were their creator? I could not believe that. I assumed they were forged by Rameses himself?”
“No,” replied Menascare. “They were my creation. I engineered their minds to show how dangerously fanatical the pursuit of pure knowledge could be. I trained them in the inner ways of the mind so they could provide us with a living tableau of the outer parts of ourselves.”
The older man suddenly looked very sad. He hung his head and sighed, before continuing, “But Rameses became fascinated with their ‘purity of purpose’. Together with Obion, he warped them so that they emerged a fearful machine.” Menascare drank deeply from his glass. “Beware them, Anzety – they are not like others; the edges of their ruthlessness have never been found…”
The high priest registered the deep lines on the face of his former teacher and decided to move the subject on.
“What will the King do now?” he asked.
“I dread to think – but I had better go and find out – assuming he is not sharing his bedchamber with your sister!”
“I think she will have skilfully avoided that…but the price may be high. Anyway, shouldn’t you be guarding someone young with a sore neck?”
“It was time to show our King-in-Rising that there are limits to my obedience! Storming your temple was his idea and the bile still sits in my throat.” He coughed and shook his head. “In truth, your young priest lies on the temple floor getting the rest he needs. Besides, Rameses will not be checking him – he’s too busy with your sister!”
“But Obion might,” said Anzety. “From what I’ve seen, he is no friend of yours!”
“That is certainly true,” Menascare smiled. “But then, he only seeks friendship with the King – something he will never have! Besides,” he chuckled. “He sleeps the sleep of the drugged–he will need his rest, too!”
Anzety looked at the older man and wondered about the resourcefulness needed to last this long under the eyes of a tyrant like the young ruler…
Menascare looked up from studying his hands; still thinking deeply. “Your young priest-to-be is a brave soul, too. I expected him to weep under the royal pressure, but he remained calm and resolute. He will make a good priest…”
“We hope he will be more than that…” Anzety risked much in saying it, but felt the time was right. But the look the other returned him carried a warning.
“Then you walk a very dangerous path, Anzety – one I would be a fool to be party to!”
“We are not devious,” said the high priest, trying to recover lost ground.” “we simply want to protect the glory of Egypt’s soul at a time of strife.”
“Egypt thrives on strife! Did the Kingdoms not roll on through the Wheel of Neheh despite the many catastrophes in between?”
The Eye of the Cobra finished his wine and stood to go.
“Beware the price, Anzety, beware the price…”
With that, he left…
Index to previous chapters:
Chapter One – Gifts From the River
Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset
Chapter Three – The Dark Waters
Chapter Four – Touching the Sky
Chapter Five – The Fire Within
Chapter Six – The Wide Waters
Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air
Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness
Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls
Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door
Chapter Eleven – Inundation
Chapter Twelve – Above and Below
Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices
Chapter Fourteen – The Flood
Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies
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 period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. 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 in the Spring of 2016.
River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.