Chapter 2: Seti II, Pharoah of Egypt
by Ronald W. Hull
The Palace at Avaris: 1200 B.C.
|Seti was alone. The circumstances that brought him to this place
were unsettling, but the gods had ordained them. He, Seti II, Powerful
of Forms, the Chosen One of Ra, King of Kings, and direct descendent of
Osiris, was utterly alone. He could trust no one. His mind
was exhausted from thinking of ways to stave off the jackels at his door.
How would he outsmart them? He could only trust Tausert--or could
Why had the old man lived so long? His shadow, thirteen years after his death, was still long. Ramesses the Great had conquered the Nubians, Syrians, and Libyans, defeated the Sea Peoples, and appeased the Hittites. Gathering two hundred wives and concubines about him, including two of his most strong and beautiful daughters, Binthanath and Merytamon, he had fathered 96 sons and sixty daughters. Among them many dwarfs, albinos, and imbeciles--the curse of kings.
Alone? is a historical, science fiction novel of sweeping proportions. What if the most intelligent people that ever lived were shaped by evolution in the Neolithic Age? What if the pharoahs of ancient Egypt could be brought back to life as clones? What if the only known extraterrestrials are humans leaving Earth? Alone? explores these questions as the Repaul family is thrust into 21st Century events of world changing proportions. Be prepared to rethink humankind's dominence of the Earth and our very existence in the larger scheme of the Universe.
The monuments to Seti's grandfather were everywhere about. Two temples at Abu Simbel, the hypostyle hall at Thebes, a mortuary complex at Abydos, the Colossus of Ramesses at Memphis, his vast tomb in the Valley of the Kings, his additions at the Luxor Temple, and the Ramesseum were all testimony to his long life, amassed wealth, and journey into the afterlife. And his image, carved on statues and stellae throughout the kingdom, was everywhere. Seti, if the priests would permit, would have had his countenance carved over every one.
The priests were part of the problem. Beginning with Ramesses' son, Prince Kha-m-was, High Priest of Ptah and Governor of Memphis, the priests had begun to exert power over the right of the quarreling royal family to rule. Their meddling made it hard for Seti to carry out his destiny and join Osiris in the underworld. He didn't have much time.
On the other hand, if the old man had not lived so long, then Merenptah, Ramesses' fourteenth son, and Seti's father, would not have come to the throne. Seti remembered well--joining his father in battle when famine drove the Sea Peoples and the Libyans across the Egyptian borders again. Joining together, the invaders had overrun the eastern oases and soon came to threaten Heliopolis and Memphis. Hating hand-to-hand combat, it was he, Commander of the Egyptian Armies, who suggested to his father that they save their chariots and use their archers at a distance. He remembered with great pride--the stunning victory as the Libyans were skewered by wave after wave of Egyptian arrows. Those that lived and could not retreat to the desert were caught and thrown into slavery. Merenptah had come to the throne in his fiftieth year. At sixty, he joined his father in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It should have been Seti's turn to rule.
But Seti had to wait three more years for Amenmesse, seventeenth son of Ramesses II and his Hittite concubine, to die before taking his rightful place. The meddling priests, with the assistance of Bay, the Syrian butler who had worked his way into power among the weak, but rich, sons of Ramesses, had slipped Amenmesse into kingship of the Upper Kingdom and Nubia while Seti was doing his father's business guarding the Delta.
Seti loved lingering with the Nubian women of which there were many in the Army camps. If any bore his seed, he never knew. He only knew that the Nile was at flood, and, only after it receded did he learn that his father had died and he had been disenfranchised. The high priests invested Amenmesse, "Amen fashioned him, the ruler of Thebes," at Thebes and immediately began work on his tomb. While Amenmesse lived, the priests controlled Upper Egypt. Seti still controlled the Army, but he was sick and no longer possessed a zest for fighting. The brutal killing for pleasure of his youth no longer pleased him. Now, he preferred that others do it for him.
Some said that Amenmesse was poisoned. Maybe he died of his own advancing age. He was clearly a pawn, used to enrich the priesthood and consolidate the power of Bay. Before Amenmesse's usurpery, Seti had honored Amenmesse by naming his second son after him, just as he'd named his first son, Seti Merenptah, after his own father. Unfortunately, young Seti, while under his command, had died in battle, and young Amenmesse, a deformed imbecile, left him no true heirs. He had their mother, Takhat, put to death for bearing them, and sought to have Tausert, still childless, but a consort in the Court and granddaughter of Ramesses II, succeed him.
Seti was building his royal Bark-Shrine at the Temple to Amun in Thebes. The shrine would appease the gods and insure him a peaceful journey into the afterlife. Already his skin was yellow and his stomach pained him. He knew he was dying. He'd seen this disease before. But he refused to let it stop him. He surrounded himself with Nubians. He had one of them eat and drink every food and refreshment before he would touch it. He would not let the priests near his chambers. They had many ways to poison him. He had seen his favorite Nubian, a big, strong fellow, writhe and die in the time it took to cross the room--asp venom. But they had ways to kill you slow, so he had to guard against that, too.
Tausert and he had to appear at all the great festivals. He had the Nubians oil him with dark oils so that the priests and common people wouldn't see his yellowing skin. He fashioned Tausert to succeed him and be a great Queen like Hatshepsut. He visioned her having a long life. After her reign, the priests and the hyenas could take the hindmost--he'd be long gone into the afterlife. For now, he must see to it that the way was clear.
His plan was forming even while Amenmesse reigned in the Upper Kingdom. To be accepted into the afterlife, he would have to amass many monuments and riches to please the gods and sustain his akh on his journey through the underworld. To raid the old man or his father was out of the question. Since Amenmesse was of no consequence, he would immediately began having the stone carvers carve over all monuments attributed to Amenmesse. The tomb of Amenmesse was also of little consequence. It contained few riches. For what he needed, he needed a grave robber. But who? The priests guarded the tombs of the kings with their lives. He could send the Army, but he needed the gods' favor to continue.
The answer was simple. Seti had seen how Kha-m-was had looked at Tausert in the Court. All he had to do was get Tausert to seduce Kha-m-was, and the keys to the tombs would open to him.
Tausert, still young and beautiful, had long since stopped sleeping with Seti. But she was no fool. She knew that her destiny was tied to his, so she stayed close to him. They were alone on the great verandah, watching the bloody sun set over the West Nile when he proposed it to her.
"Tausert, you know I have great plans for you. But you also know that I must take my place among the great kings in the afterlife if you are to succeed me. I have prayed to Ra (he lied) and he has spoken to me. You must go to Memphis and seek the counsel of Kha-m-was. I have seen how he looks at you. I want you to give yourself to him, then threaten, cajole, and bribe him, if necessary, to get him to give us a tomb. If it is rich enough, we will have what we need to carry us beyond. I do not have long in this life. You must do this for me." He had moved behind where she sat and feigned tenderness by placing his hand gently on her shoulder.
Tausert was on the Royal Barge in the morning. The barge was fully fitted with fifty retainers, befitting a queen. Her subjects flocked to the riverbank as she passed, bowing in submission. She felt powerful. She felt, with Seti's help, she would fulfill her own destiny. It was a short trip to Memphis; she arrived at midday on the second day. The entire morning had been spent preparing her. Maids plucked her eyebrows, polished her teeth, filed her nails, then bathed her in fragrant oils. Her hair was cut, combed, and arranged to perfection. Artists painted her eyes with color to accent her beauty. The priests of the temple, led by Kha-m-was himself, lined the path to the Temple of Ptah. She took note if any were missing. They would be punished.
The meeting followed the long established ritual of the meetings between royalty and clergy. As High Priest of Ptah and Governor of Memphis, Kha-m-was was the first to greet her and escort her entourage to the Temple, then on to the governor's palace. Although their meeting was ceremonial, the looks that passed between the two were electric with anticipation. She had come to honor the passing of the great Amenmesse to the underworld, to seek the counsel of the high priest on the priests' plans for assisting him on his journey.
Kha-m-was was prepared for the Queen's visit. At the end of the day's ceremonial events, he had arranged for a private dinner with the Queen in his chambers to allow them to discuss the matters she had brought from Avaris. He could hardly contain his feelings as he escorted her to the Temple, anointed her with the sacred oils, and gave sacrifices to the gods for the successful consummation of their affairs. She saw the sweat on his brow. She saw his hands shake as he passed her the sacred goblet. She knew she had him. He had done these rituals a thousand times before. But, he'd never done them with such passion. She was so beautiful. She seemed so vulnerable in her mourning. He could hardly contain himself. He didn't care what she would talk to him about. He only wanted to talk to her, ... to touch her.
Kha-m-was allowed only two trusted Syrian servants to serve them on the balcony of the palace, overlooking his father's monuments. He had prepared rare fruits and delicacies only a high priest could obtain. He opened formally, trying not to reveal his anxiety. "Queen Tausert, I am so pleased that you have come to assist us with our duty to escort King Amenmesse to the afterlife. Such matters are so solemn. Your presence adds beauty and grace to our responsibilities." He quavered as he spoke, observing a droplet of sweat forming on her breast just above her almost transparent, flowing cotton gown.
"No need to be ceremonial, Kha. You are a remarkable man. I always enjoy being in your presence. Your mastery of the sacred rituals leaves me weak. It is though you know the gods personally." She alternately popped bird hearts and grapes into her mouth. Each movement of her lips an invitation, her eyes flashing approval.
Kha-m-was moved closer. He could feel her heat and smell her fragrance. He wanted her but didn't know how to say it. "I remember you from the Court. You were most beautiful and carefree child there. I was always so serious, always trying to please father."
"But you were tall and smart. I suffered when you entered the priesthood. And, ... cunning, too. That's why he choose you." She was glowing; her eyes fixed on his every word.
"He needed me to help control the power of the priests. I never regretted entering this high calling. I do regret the opportunity to be with women like you."
"Who's to know?" Tausert gave him one of her best knowing looks and ran her fingertips up and down the inside of his forearm. Then, she stood and, taking hold of his right hand, beckoned him to stand. When he did, she led him into his bedchamber.
Full of pent up longing and lust, they tore at each other like animals. Only the Syrians heard their cries.
At dawn, Tausert rose, slipped her gown on, and stood in the doorway to the balcony. The new sun shown through her, outlining her body within the gown. Kha-m-was rose to his elbows to get a better view.
"Did you like last night, Kha?" Her voice had a strange, interrogative tone.
"I did. It was as though I touched the gods." Kha-m-was was feeling poetic.
"You can have me often. ... Or, ... I can expose you for what you are, ... a heretic!" Her timing was perfect, her pauses dramatic. She meant to get his attention. And, she got it.
"Wha ...what do you mean?" The poetry was gone.
"A tomb. We want a tomb, or Seti and I will expose you for what you are. Do you understand?" Her voice was now rough. She turned to look at him. Her eyes were narrow and mean. "One of your trusted Libyans has been spirited away and is under the protection of my staff. She will bear witness to Seti of your transgressions before all. Your father will be labored in his journey when the gods tell him of it. Call her if you dare. She will not come."
"A tomb? What do you want a tomb for?"
"Seti is very ill. He has not long for this world. He has no time to prepare and gather the possessions he will need to carry him into the afterlife. We will honor your father, but he robbed the Kingdom of precious materials and objects in his long preparation. We need vessels from a lesser king. You must persuade the guardians in Thebes to take some from a tomb."
"But the kings cannot be violated. We are chosen to guard their journeys with our lives."
"So be it. But you will no longer be a guardian--if you live." Tausert was sinking her talons in. "Besides, who would know if a lesser king, say Tutankhamun, had lost his treasures. You priests are so good at keeping secrets. Besides, we all know that the boy was just a pawn of Ay and Horemheb. He never ruled. They just used him to their purpose. Why, do you think, he died so young? Just when he began to realize his power as Pharaoh, they killed him in his bed. One cowardly blow to the head." There was authority in Tausert's words. She commanded the doorway like the Sun Goddess herself. The sun did become her.
"All right, the High Priest of Khonsu owes me, but we will have to do everything in secret." His voice was quavering in fear and lust. He was caving in to both.
"Good, it is settled." Tausert removed her gown in the bright sunlight. Her voice softened again. She rejoined him in his bed. They did not leave his chamber until the sun was high.
A Year Later
When the river was low, the crops were high, and sailing was fair, Seti and Tausert took the Royal Barge upriver to Thebes for the Feast of Opet. Kha-m-was joined them on their journey at Memphis. The retainers whispered that the queen was in Kha-m-was' bed, but fear of death kept them from spreading it beyond the barge.
Seti was lethargic, a shadow of the warrior he once had been, and had to be carried everywhere. Still, he wanted to oversee the building of his Bark-Shrine at the Temple of Amun and his tomb in the Valley. Seti cared nothing for the deities way-stationed in his shrine and tomb, but he feared their wrath, and it was a concession that Kha-m-was granted to the High Priest of Khonsu for access to Tutankhamun's tomb. His artisans had been instructed to carve his likeness over that of Amenmesse wherever it could be done without defacing his own name. He also set about converting Amenmesse's tomb to receive Takhat and Baketwerel. Takhat was, after all, the bearer of his ill-fated children. Baketwerel was the fairest of the great one's grandchildren and consort to the Court. Seti had dallied with her in his youth but never married her. She had helped him assume the throne by seducing certain priests. Then, he had her killed, too. She knew too much. The afterlife would be better for her.
The quarrymen had carved out the well of his tomb, leaving only the chariot hall and burial chamber to be completed. With the Queen and Kha-m-was at his side, Seti was carried into Tutankhamun's tomb. Seti was pleased at seeing Tutankhamun's treasures. They would make a nice complement to what he was gathering with heavy taxes. He had put Bay to that task, no longer having the strength to oversee tax collection.
Seti was running out of skilled stone carvers. The best were working on the outer chambers of his tomb. The limestone there was pink, and bore the beginnings of fine relief of his triumphs at war. The rest of the carvers were out refacing statues and rewording glyphs throughout the kingdom. They hated such work. He had to put to death two of the best carvers who refused to do it. At the well, he had painters hurriedly paint the objects the priests would move, upon his death, from Tutankhamun's tomb to his. To please the priests, he had statues of himself, in pious postures, placed in ritual shines in his tomb. It was a false show of piety. Still, he believed that this gave him assurance that the gods would approve his actions, and that the priests would carry out his plan when he was dead.
Seti never returned to the Feast of Opet. He was too weak to travel. He spent his days at Avaris and relied on Tausert and Bay to carry out the affairs of the Court. He no longer consorted with women. He no longer enjoyed food. Except for his Nubian retainers, he was alone. He died slowly in agony. Perhaps it was just punishment for his treatment of others in his rise to power. Four years after he visited his tomb, his body was on the Royal Barge, wending its way back to Thebes. He did not hear the cries of mourning from the throngs that greeted the Barge's passing.
Bay and Tausert immediately began a power struggle for the throne. Kha-m-was, no longer in fear of Seti's wrath, joined with Bay to have Siptah, Amenmesse's son with Ti'a placed on the throne. To add legitimacy to the boy's reign, Tausert was allowed to remain as Regent. With their puppet on the throne, Bay taxed the kingdom mercilessly, enriching himself and the priests. Seti was mummified and placed in his tomb. But the vessels of Tutankhamun did not surround him. Only the crude paintings in the well chamber gave testimony to his plan.
Thebes: 970 B.C.
The priests had feared a loss of control since the death of Smedes in 1044. Every pharaoh moved the capital, disrupting the priests' controlling ties to the royal family. After Amenope wrote his Book of Wisdom, they feared they could no longer manipulate the Kingdom with cunning and deception.
Finally, Siamun was persuaded to help them save the royal mummies from desecration by robbers or future kings. He was so stupid. Throughout the history of the dynasties, mummies had been moved from tomb to tomb to thwart the efforts of jealous kings to interrupt their ancestors' journeys to reincarnation. The priests found that they could systematically rob the graves, a piece at a time, during such times, without being detected.
The plan for Siamun was grand. In exchange for a few gold pieces and a safe tomb of his own, the priests would move all of the royal mummies to a secret location, on the other side of the Nile, where they would never be desecrated by anyone bent on malice or thievery. The mummies were systematically restored and moved to safe hiding places. Eventually, they were moved en masse to their final resting place. The treasures of the kings, including Ramesses the Great, were pilfered and the treasures sold on the caravan trade. Most of the tombs were sealed or hidden by rubble. Some of the tombs remained open and were robbed repeatedly. A few were sealed or hidden well and escaped trespass.
Deir el-Bahri Escarpment, Western Thebes: 1871
"Look what I found, Daddy!' Young Omar was excited to show his find. He burst jubilantly into their darkly lit home. Everyone was eating their evening meal.
"You're late for supper. We've been looking all over for you. The goats were left unattended. You haven't been playing by the cliff again, have you?" Manqureh was upset, ready to beat his errant son.
"But Daddy, look!" From under his tunic, Omar produced a comb. This was no ordinary comb. It was carved from a single piece of ivory and trimmed with gold and inset blue stones.
"Where did you get that?" Manqureh knew what it was. He had heard stories of ancient artifacts being found around and had even seen some in the markets. This was far finer than anything he'd ever seen.
"Where you told me not to go. I've been crawling into those holes below the bank while the goats are grazing. Today, deep in a hole, I found this--and other things."
Manqureh forgot his son's planned admonishment. He even forgot that he was eating. He grew excited. "Can you take me there? We must not speak of this to anyone. Tomorrow, Omar, you will take me to this place. Then, I will see what we will do."
The next morning, Manqureh and two other sons followed Omar to where he had found the comb. Manqureh was upset when he saw Omar climbing twenty feet below the edge of the crumbling cliff to reach the small hole. He tied ropes so that he could lower himself down. When he got there, he couldn't wiggle into the small opening like Omar had. When Omar came back with a gold chalice, Manqureh could hardly contain his excitement. While he spoke sternly to the boy, he kept thinking that they were now rich. If only they could sell the pieces without being caught. They went back for shovels and pickaxes and began digging.
Each night they cleaned the objects they found and then hid them in a cellar behind their small home. They kept up their normal routine, and traded in the village like they always did. Gradually, through contacts Manqureh made in the local market, they began to sell some of the objects they had found. They didn't want to appear rich. The local government was corrupt, and the British had little patience with the antiquities trade. "Shouldn't we profit from our good fortune?" Manqureh thought. He kept the treasures a close family secret.
They had to dig a lot, but were careful not to leave evidence of all their digging. They found many jars and other vessels, baskets, and casks, filled with household items fit for kings and queens of ivory, ebony, gold, and silver. There was jewelry made from many stones, some very unfamiliar. The objects were beautifully carved and brilliantly colored. They also found mummies--many of them--deep in the hillside. It was difficult work with all the dust and lack of air. Their only light was candles. The bodies were frightening, and Manqureh prayed that his family would not be harmed.
But such riches do not go unnoticed. Eventually, rumors about the family passed from local officials to the British. When Egyptologists came from Cairo, there was nothing that Manqureh could do but show them where he had found the mummies. The searchers were stunned by the find. These were not ordinary mummies, so commonly found at the time, but the exquisitely wrapped bodies of kings and queens. They were carefully cataloged and cartoned, then transported to the museum in Cairo for identification.
Carefully, one strip of cloth at a time, workers uncovered the face of a man they had labeled, Seti II, from the glyphs on his wrappings. With cotton eyes and deep brown dried skin, he stared blankly back at them. Seti was no longer alone, but he did not know it.
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Copyright (c) 2001 Ronald W. Hull