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Nightmare In Egypt…Part 18/ Feras Werr

The Final Frontier
Ramses gave the order for his army to resume its advance to its final destination. The Sinai Peninsula was days travel from them. The influx of armed humans commenced with a one man's march. The soldiers dreamed of the moment when they would meet their families and return happily to their lives once again. The days of tension were over and they bought back victory, happiness and safety to Egypt once again. 
Its true there would be mourning and sorrow in a lot of houses when the news of their lost ones would be conveyed. Nevertheless there was no grey color in war. There was always the winner and the loser; the unfortunate that were killed and the lucky that survived. 
Ramses knew that Egypt just paid a heavy tax for its safety and prosperity. But he believed that the long years of stability ahead would make up for the losses. He dreamed of uniting with Sekhmet once again. He missed her so much. He couldn't wait to tell her about the gorgeous Moabite princess and what she did to him when he saw her. His imagination roamed at how Memphis and Thebes would hail their return and their victory. He would announce forty days of celebrations in the whole empire for the occasion. Another forty days of celebration would follow for his marriage and for the eternal pact of friendship this would initiate between the two people. His heart filled with glee at the bright future ahead. It was all over. The long years of tension and instability were over. Now he would build a stronger Egypt.  
His continuous day dreaming took him to his old age years. He most probably would have grey hair then, senile features and would also need a cane to help him walk. His heart leaped at the thought of the scores of children and grandchildren that would fill his life with happiness and joy. He would be retiring his mature years in comfort while his eldest ran the mighty empire with fairness and strength. The prosperity he was now furnishing would make it all within his grasp to accomplish. 
Isis and his father's ailment hastily woke him from his golden dreams. He was thinking of giving the prisoners with minor crimes a pardoning once he arrived. A question came to his mind, "Was Isis worth pardoning?" he asked himself. He will see her when he got back. He hoped that his father will forgive him if he saw otherwise. Hopefully his father had revived his health and was doing better. He prayed to the gods and hoped so.
      An image of a small convoy gradually began materializing in the far distance. Ramses thought it was a mirage at first as it was not more than faint shadows within the desert’s far horizons. However it steadily came into clear focus. It paralleled its path allowing the huge military march to pass by. It was made up of thirteen camels and five horses all loaded with mercantile products. Ramses reasoned it was heading towards the fertile crescent cities for trade. 
The heavy clamoring his army was causing veiled the calling at first. But it rose in the distances grabbing his attention. He looked back at Ptah and raised his hand. Ptah halted the march obediently. The voice became fully audible. It was an old woman who called in Egyptian. "Ramses son of Seti and Sekhmet! Ramses son of Seti and Sekhmet! Heed my words."
Ramses descended his horse and looked about. He caught a glimpse of the old woman who was walking towards him. Her caravan was parked at a short distance from him. She maneuvered feebly, exhausted by her advanced years of age. She leaned on a long cane as she took her careful steps. "Why was a woman of her age traveling in this treacherous weather?" he would soon find out. 
"Brave Ramses, maturing before his proper time with the burdens of ruling. You were given a new life when fate re-gave you your soul in battle. It was done for a purpose." 
Ramses looked at his subject with wonder, "It seems that your awareness matures beyond the normal person for your age. It functions better than my own younger one. To the commoners I'm only Pharaoh Ramses yet… to you I'm an open scroll. Are you a sorcerer?"
"Fear me not Ramses. I'm blessed with the visions of a prophet. The great creator of our universe revealed to me things that I should tell you. The forces of evil that have rivaled His will since eternity are thriving for your downfall. They are trying to intervene and break history to prevent the coming of the Messiah, the chosen one whom will establish his religious domain on earth with his own hands. However the downfall of your nation is not yet to come. The three great monotheistic religions of the future will not be if they succeed."
Ramses replied with curiosity, "If your God is mighty as you say, let him stop them. Why does he need me?"
"You were chosen to fulfill God's will. Question not too much. Our God will not allow the forces of evil to succeed. Whether it is by you or another person he will use one of his subjects to make them fail. He always wished to engage his human creations in fulfilling his will on earth. This has been since he created Adam and Eve our greatest grandparents. Our God chose you Ramses because you are pure at heart and will."
Ptah approached the lady and wanted to usher her aside. "Is she bothering you Ramses. Move lady, our pharaoh doesn't have time for your silly remarks." Ramses gestured Ptah to stop. That woman aroused his curiosity to a very high point. He had to understand, "What do you mean by the forces of evil, why are they rivaling your God?"
"You know well the forces that have been obstructing you and your family. The same forces that have caused Seti and Sekhmet to die…"
The earth around Ramses spun as he absorbed the remarks. He felt his soul soak with sadness and grief. He grabbed the lady with both his hands and shook her wildly, "You're lying!!! My father and mother are not dead!!! You're lying!!! If you think this is some sort of a game I will kill you…"
The lady cringed from Ramses's powerful grip and begged for release. Ptah helped her break loose then attended to Ramses who knelt on the ground in tears. The lady rubbed her aching arms. She felt her bones about to crush from Ramses's frustrated grip. She looked down at the sobbing young man and said calmly. "Don't lament too much. The future is brighter than you think. I have to warn you to be careful. Setekh is after you to kill you also. Watch."
The prophet bought her hands together and prayed softly. Her prayers were not more than whispers to Ptah and Ramses. Ramses stood back up. Short moments passed before a center spot in the atmosphere in front of them emitted circular vibrating waves. Then a vision came together. It was not more than the size of a crystal ball. Ramses studied carefully as he saw Setekh operating his magic in front of his death pot. He saw him blow at the visions in front of him and kill his father. He saw him discipline the python and kill the prisoner in the prison fortress. He saw the suffering of Isis and how she ran away from Setekh to meet her death in Memphis. Rivers of tears came to his eyes as he saw the scorpions attack his people. He saw Sekhmet get stung to death.
Ramses looked back at the prophet after the brief scenes and asked in a devastated breaking voice, "Can't you ask your God to stop this. I just saw my family and entire nation get slaughtered in front of me. Why is this happening to me?"
"You have the spirit of a lion in you. Isn't this what your mother told you in your vision in the battlefield when you were fighting death."
Ramses gazed with his tearing eyes in wonder at the prophet. He felt himself in a dream. He couldn't believe this was happening to him. What did her God mean by all this? He had to find out. 
"What is required of me? I cannot fight magic. I'm not a sorcerer. I am a stranger to Setekh's world."
"The weapons you need are bravery and love. The black spirits you are facing fear God and the love in our human hearts. The bravery and love within you will compensate your lack in faith of God. Don't coward at whatever grave dangers you see on the way to your home. No matter how disturbing or frightening they are. Face them. Be wise and take wise decisions. Take this Cross. Throw it in the death pot when you face Setekh. It will release you of the evil spirits that are after you."
"An Ankh. How can an Ankh save me from all this? This only symbolizes the rising of the bountiful sun in my nation. What dangers do you speak off? What am I going to see on the way to Memphis? Speak to me." Ramses studied the hand sized Cross that was made out of gold and that totally resembled an Ankh in its shape, "Please help me dear mother. Ask your god to have mercy on me. Let him fight this evil."
"My job is not to question the decisions of my creator but to obediently fulfill them. I'm not more than a vessel for his messages and will. Don't lament dear boy. After this is over you will be very happy. Everything that was taken away will be granted back to you. When God closes a door he always provides another way out."
The prophet placed both her hands on Ramses's shoulders. She gave him an assuring look with her wrinkled senile face and sagging eyes "Go, before it's too late. Don't be afraid of the woes you are to encounter on the way. You can win over them. Just use the courage and faith within you. You are predestined to govern great lands. Don't let any force take your rightful inheritance away from you." She turned around and headed towards her waiting caravan. "Don't lose the Cross for it will guard you always till you reach Setekh. Go and find your destiny."
Ramses raised his hand and yelled, "Wait, I feel I'm still lost."
"Our God will be with you. I will pray for you." She said as she walked to her caravan, her voice diminishing slowly, "Our God never forsakes the pure of heart."
Ramses stared at Ptah and asked, "An Ankh, The power of the rising sun? How will an Ankh help me?"
*****
Thebes knelt under Setekh and his evil rule. His magical powers persuaded the people easily into believing that he was a natural god. People slaved and worshiped at his mercy. The priests ordered statues of him and Nartor to be built and all their worship were transferred to him and his master. Upsetting sacrifices and strange ceremonies were performed in the temples. A lot of female virgins disappeared in the city and grievance spread quickly among the helpless people. It became a common occurrence to hear crying and weeping in the houses of the Thebans that once were filled with safety and happiness. 
Nobody dared question Setekh. Nobody wanted to face his wrath or his powers. He rested most of the days in the royal residence of Thebes and spent the night times giving his daily sacrifices and prayers in the temple of Nartor. Vanity and pleasure raced within his veins. He was comfortable at his achievements and prepared silently for the covenant ceremony with the king of black evil himself. He then would be impassable by any human. He would be promoted in rank to a permanent member of the black realm. Their union would be the commencement of a new era on earth.
Setekh followed the directions of Nartor and the scriptures by their finest details. It was a totally black sky aside from the few stars that shone. The moon hid itself within one of its’ periodical eclipse. The twenty four priests formed a complete circle around the table of sacrifices in the roofless temple of Nartor. Chanting and praising filled the atmosphere as they asked their lord to accept their sacrifice and bless them with his presence. Setekh carved the sacrifice's naked body with drainage channels. She was hovering helplessly over his iron death pot, arms and legs tied by a rope that hung from the ceiling, mouth sealed firmly with a piece of material that circled around her head. The eighteen year old virgin quivered and groaned hysterically as the torturing feel of the knife raged within her. Setekh heartlessly butchered the required channels from her upper body towards her legs and stepped back, watching with pleasure the agony of his victim. A great part of the blood began streaming around the pot, soaking the table and the priests as the sacrifice twisted madly with anguish. She climaxed into a series of rapid twirls and spins then slowed down after a while. Her body spasmed at inconsistent intervals for a few minutes then ceased moving. The pot filled calmly and reached a third of its fill. Setekh prayed within himself, "Great king of evil, I and my priestly members beg you to accept this complete sacrifice and bless us with your dear presence and accept us as disciples to your great cause." 
The priests continued chanting and waited patiently as their head priest filled his brass cup with a small amount of blood. They followed within his footsteps as he preached, "Today we fulfill the covenant of our king. We present to him our allegiance to establish his powerful kingdom and spread his rule on earth. We are his disciples that shall teach all mankind his will and glory. Let us drink from the liquid of life baptizing and refreshing our inner selves with our lord's sacrifice, that he may strengthen and enlighten us always. This blood that we shall drink once every month after our union with our master shall be the sign of our loyalty to our noble master."
The priests all drank with joy and continued their pleading and chanting asking their master to approach.  They all craved to see who their master was and what doctrine he shall give them. In moments the skies above them filled with grayish clouds. Blinding lightning and deafening thunder broke loose. A vigorous grand cyclone of wind and fog erupted in the skies over the sacrifice table exactly. A powerful wind system sucked the human sacrifice inside the rotating cyclone. The priests swayed vulnerably at the overpowering currents. Setekh raised his hands and announced, "Welcome our mighty lord fellow priests with worship and praise. Be joyous for our lord has accepted our sacrifice." 
The priests knelt down with difficulty and worshiped; their upper bodies fluctuating up and down while praising the sinister presence that announced itself. The lightning and thunder tore through the Theban skies. The winds picked up and stormed through the temple. The cyclone began descending slowly on the gathering.  Suddenly something went wrong. Upon its touchdown on the sacrifice table it released an enormous high pitched howl of pain. The temple quaked from the power of the howl. A second touchdown attempt caused it to release the same deafening howl. The sacrifice table shattered in half. The walls around crumbled from the mighty echoes of the shrieking.  The priests randomly ran to different corners of the spacious temple hall. 
Setekh looked up devastated and confused at the cause of the breech in ceremony. In seconds the cyclone exploded into flames and colossal beastly shrieking filled the entire atmosphere. It disappeared allowing the turbulent skies to return to normal. A thick column of fog erupted over the broken sacrifice table and vanished revealing Nartor. Setekh ran up and worshipped in front of his master who was gasping and shaking unlike the usual. 
"Master, forgive us if we did something wrong. I followed your instructions up to the finest details."
Nartor replied in a fragile voice, "These grounds are no longer ours. They are greatly sanctified by a Heavenly and Majestical Presence."
Setekh gave his master a dumbfounded look and asked, "Who dares to compete with our master. He is the master of all the known worlds?"
"I cannot stay here for long for the Holy Cross the prophetess gave Ramses is near the city. My master tried to resist but burned and trembled at the amount of Purity that suddenly spread within your city."
Setekh frowned at the new information and said with a bitter voice, "I will make him pay…"
"Stop yapping and get to work. Our powers are very weak in your cities and I can't stay here for long. You have tonight to try to stop the Cross from entering the city. If it does we will never be able to rule or come near it. This is your final task Setekh. If you fail, I will reap your soul." Nartor disappeared. 
*****
Ramses and his army resumed their march towards Thebes with sorrowful and grief stricken hearts. The amount of death and misery they saw at Memphis earlier on their way was too much for them. Crying and mourning erupted within the many ranks as the soldiers from Memphis lamented their families' loss. The deceased bodies lying in the streets without proper burial stunned them. They couldn't enter a lot of the neighborhoods as the disturbing smells still roamed potently in the atmosphere. Ramses watched his sad troops with no clue as to what could be done. Deep inside he knew there was nothing to lessen the amount of sorrow in one's heart but time. The passing days are the only true anti-sorrow remedy available. More ever this is what he found out the hard way after the shocking news of his parents.  
He clutched the Cross in his hand strongly and wished within himself that he had faith in his gods like the aged prophetess had faith in her God. She seemed so assured of herself, so strong and confident. He tried to recall her words on courage, love and faith throughout his trip and how much they were dear weapons he would need. He and the world's greatest army were treading along an unknown path into an obscure incomprehensible future. The outcome of his kingdom rests within the Cross in his hands, the human attributes she enlightened him with and the fighting will of his sorrow stricken army. They just had to resist and fight bravely, like the prophetess said. There was too much at stake in this brawl.
The walls of Thebes showed in the nearing distances. Ramses's heart suddenly glowed with rejoice at the much missed city. He yearned for every inch of Theban and Memphis territory while he was away in battle. There was still hope that the people in the city were healthy and fine. He dearly hoped that Setekh and his evil hadn't hurt them yet. His mind raced with thoughts at what would meet them there. Deep inside however the Theban soldiers shook with awe at the vague future that lied within its walls. His military would break down if another phase of demise met them. Despite this reality and miraculously rays of hope were able to seep through his heart at the sight of this dear and valuable city. There was always room for hope he thought. He finally stopped his army and gave them orders to furnish their camp. The night time was no place for any confrontation of any sort. They had to wait for tomorrow's daylight. 
The branches and leaves of the dense vegetation about shuffled together releasing a soft brushing in the backgrounds as the winds brisked by. The bonfires all around the big military camp danced in resistance but the night shifters did a good job at keeping them alive. Part of the soldiers was fast asleep while the remainder sat around in despair thinking of their families. Mentuhotep lost a father, a brother  and his love in Memphis. He barely remembers his mother as she died while he was very young upon giving birth to his younger brother. Mentuhotep sat with tearful eyes thinking of his father, brother and his once to be wife Nefertiti. Upon his maturity and decision to get married his wedding arrangements were interrupted by the news of war. He promised the bride's father marriage upon his return. Nefertit's beautiful image was still imprinted in his mind. Gorgeous black eyes, friendly beautiful face that radiated life and warmth, long black hair; she remained in his embrace for long moments before he bid her farewell and raced off to join the army. He missed the feel of her soft body between his arms, the soft touch of her hair; she was gone and never to be back. 
He and Imhotep sat down around a small fire. They were perfect strangers who had just met in need to confide in each other, to share their problem and burdening loads. 
He looked at Imhotep and said, "Do you know what hurts more than anything. It came after a long waiting. We longed for each other way before there was any talk of marriage. Her father and my father were never good friends. They never got a long well. I begged my father to go and talk to him for me. After several faulty attempts he finally gave in and allowed us to be married. The next day the court announced the war campaign and drafting begun. It seems I'm never destined to enjoy the happiness of marital life and have kids."
   Imhotep replied with tearful eyes, "Your family would have been elated, with our victory and the occasion of your marriage." 
He shook his head sideways a couple of times and puffed out some steam with an exhausted voice. His fists punched the sands underneath, "At least you know the outcome of your loved ones. I'm sitting here with choking anxiety guessing at the outcome of my family; three brothers, three sisters and my parents. I can no longer stand this."
Mentuhotep wrapped his right arm around his comrade's shoulders and answered in an assured tone of voice, "It's only a short while before sunrise. We will find out soon. Be patient." Although Mentuhotep didn't have a clue or feel as to the destiny of his friend's family he slid in a white lie, "I have a strong feeling that you will find them in the best of circumstances, just waiting for your arrival."
Imhotep's eyes lit with hope at his friends words." I hope so too." (to be continued)  

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