I am the King of the kings, I am the son of the falcon-headed Horus, I am the beginning, I am the end, I am the one who will live forever, I am the personification of the King of Gods, Amun-Re, I am the greatest warrior who defeated the armies of thousands, who put the barbarian princes of Kush and Wawat on their knees, forcing them to accept the law of Kemet’s gods. I am the one who is raising the biggest temple in honour of my divine father in the sacred city of Abdju. I am the ruler of ancient Niwt-Imn, the house of Amun-Re. I have hundreds of names, but only three of them can be pronounced by mortals. I am Nimaatre Smenkhare Meriamun, the live god of the land of Kemet.
The golden boat of Re has finished its way in the waters of sky’s Nile and submerged into the darkness of Nun. I found myself wandering around the tombs of deceased kings who have already met Osiris in the Afterlife. I try to remember what I’m doing here in the middle of the night, but fails. The night is dark and quiet, Khonsu’s crown is shining brightly and lighting my path by its cold silver light.
My thoughts are interrupted by quiet voices. They sound from the one of the tomb. Coming closer, I can see the dim light of torches, the voices sound louder. There is no doubt; I’ve met the tomb’s robbers.
Disgusting thieves, sons of dishonoured Seth, doomed to be punished in the Afterlife; their ba will be eaten by Apophis, the gigantic serpent, and will be condemned to eternal death. They are who dare to steal from the kings, deserve nothing, but a miserable death without a burial.
There are three of them on the doorstep of the underground tomb, ready to enter, to disturb the king’s eternal peace, ready to touch and grab, and smash everything, taking gold and jewellery and all other of the king’s belongings, throwing the mummy out of the golden coffin in their disgraceful passion for profit.
I’m going to call my guards to arrest the robbers. Instead, my mouth produces a weird, heart-stopping scream. This scream can belong neither to a man, nor to an animal. What is wrong with me? I can’t recognise my own voice.
One of the robbers turns around. His face becomes pale like linen, his eyes stares at me in horror; he drops his torch and runs, leaving his peers and screaming like a lunatic. His friend shouts at him, but noticing me just petrifies.
‘The king….The spirit of the king,’ he mumbles in shock.
‘How dare you, the son of a jackal, to touch the royal tomb?’ I shouts full of anger, trying to grab his shoulder, but my hand goes through his body and catches the air.
I see the thief falling down, his eyes are wide opened. I lean over him, trying to have a closer look. He doesn’t breathe anymore…He is dead!
I have no chance to stop the last one as he disappears in the darkness, following his friend.
I sit down on the ground in front of the tomb, examining my hands and wondering what has happened to the robbers, where my guards are, and what, for all gods’ sake, I’m doing here at night.
Struggling to follow the flow of my own thoughts, I start to read the writing on the tomb, guessing whom it may belong to.
It is a traditional plate with the name of the pharaoh on the door’s seal.
Oh Thoth, the Adviser of the kings, give me all your divine wisdom and knowledge! The king’s name on the plate is…. Userkaf Smenhkare Meriamun, the name of my brother.
And straight away, I see the face of Userkaf in front of me. He is the exact copy of me. Even our mother, the Great King’s Wife, queen Nefriru couldn’t recognize us. We are the same height, the same short black hair, the same big black eyes, the same straight long nose which we inherited from our great father.
We were born together, but still I was the first who came out of the queen’s blessed belly. I was the one and the only heir to the throne. My brother, Userkaf, was brought up to become Chief Priest of Amun-Re, but he always desired more…Always jealous, always despising me, always wanted to be the first.
He’s been waiting, waiting for the whole life, for twenty five long years, when finally his time has come.
I remembers his face, but it’s blurry…it’s under the water. I feel the cold water fills my ears and mouth, I can’t breathe, I try to break free, but my brother’s hand is squeezing my throat tighter and tighter. I try to push him, to call for help, but my efforts are getting weaker and weaker. I’ m not a good swimmer. I’ve never been.
The grimaced face of my brother, like an agonizing blurry reflection of myself…and then…here I am. I am dead.
I’m crying, I’m cursing Userkaf who, like a shameful Seth, killed his own brother to usurp his power.
Oh immortal gods, I call on you! Let me take my revenge, let me free the throne of Isis from the usurper, let me be judged by Osiris in the Underworld, let me travel together with Amun-Re in his golden boat in the skies and let the name of my brother, the cold-blooded murderer and traitor, be forgotten forever.
This is very late in the evening. The light of oil lamps and torches is shading, and the whole palace is going to fall asleep. Only the heavy steps of the night’s guards in the corridors and the quiet murmur of the fountains in the gardens break the silence of chambers.
I don’t remember how I appeared here. I think I just wish to come back home to my palace in Niwt-Imn, to see my wife, young and beautiful Mutnefert and our son, my only heir, Senenmut. I wish everything that has happened to me was a dream, a bad nightmare sent to me by the demons of the night. I wish to wake up. I wish….to be alive.
Unnoticed, I enter my chambers and…oh Seth, pull my eyes out as I can’t bear to see my beloved wife in the arms of my brother, the murderer Userkaf.
Using our similarity, he took my throne, my name and now…he’s lying in my bed with my wife! She has been fooled as all others; she believed that it was Userkaf who drowned in the river, not me. It was an accident, the will of Hapy, the river god who took Userkaf to his underwater palace. That was a lie she’s been told.
My Mutnefert, my great queen, my little sister, my only love… I always loved her. I’ve been in love with her since I was ten and she was only eight, but our brother desired her as well.
When our mother, the Great King’s Wife, died, our divine father took Mutnefert as his new Great Wife. The crown of Kemet should have been secured within the family, but he was too ill and too weak. As soon as he joined Osiris in the Underworld, I and Mutnefert got married. Userkaf, the crafty son of dark demons, couldn’t control his passion though. He tried to seduce our sister a few times, but she loved me, she has always been my most loyal wife.
I see her now, kissing him, embracing him, petting him, groaning in passion, giving him pleasure she used to give to me.
Oh Atum, the creator of the world and all people who arose from the waters of the chaos, give me a body and I will claim everything back from my brother. I will take my revenge!
I’m only ten, but I can read and write fluently. I’m short, but strong quick and agile. My father always took me hunting lions and panthers. I’ve even caught one for my own little zoo. My father told me that I was born to be a warrior, I was born to be a king, but…I’m preparing for the life of a scribe.
The almighty gods have sealed my voice inside my throat, so I never could speak. I never could tell the truth. I never could tell that my uncle, nasty and crafty Userkaf, drowned my father and took his name and his crown.
I’m only a boy now. My life is under threat. I’m scared to death. Why, oh almighty gods? Why have you given me this body?
I’m sitting now at the reception chamber amongst three other pharaoh’s scribes and writing everything that is said at the king’s presence.
‘…And you are informing me about that only now, Great Vizier…’
The king is sitting on his golden throne. His head is crowned with a high fancy headdress. Tiny golden bees, colourful butterflies, and lotus’ flowers made from lapis lazuli with agates and emeralds move with each head’s movement. Long golden earrings shine in his ears; heavy wide bracelets are on his wrists and ankles. A golden balm is on his lips; he smells of lotus and rose’s oils, he is wearing my long robe and richly decorated sandals. He doesn’t hesitate to take everything from me.
Ineni, the Great Vizier and the major of Niwt-Imn, is on his knees. He is leaning lower and lower until his forehead touches the floor. Ineni is fat, old and coward. His bald round head is shining of sweat. He is afraid to make his lord angry, but he believes in rumours.
‘I didn’t want to bother my king with the information that hasn’t been proved yet. I just wanted to wait to be sure that…’
‘To wait? To wait for what? When the prince of Kush and his allies will summon a new army? When their barbarian soldiers will stay at the city’s gates?’
The pharaoh is furious.
Ineni crawls on his fat belly, coming closer to the king, kissing his toes with gold covered nails.
The ruler only grimaces. The smell of sweat irritates his majesty even more than the bad news from the boarders.
‘Do the prince and his chieftains remember that their sons were brought in Kemet by my father during his last campaign and have been living here since? Does he remember that his oldest daughter is one of my wives?’
‘It is something else, my lord, you should know,’ the vizier whispers barely audible, looking behind his back at me and other scribes.
‘What is it? Speak!’
Userkaf is impatient as usual.
‘I’ve heard that the rumours were spreading out in the city, Your Majesty. People keep talking…’ Ineni stammers.
‘What? Speak! Your king orders you.’
He presses his sceptre to the vizier’s head and then raises his chin, looking into his eyes, looking for the answers.
‘My sources reported me, oh ruler of two worlds, that some of the high priests are involved as well. I’ve been informed that the kushite’s prince has offered a deal to the priest of Sobek, the governor of the South who believes that…that you, our divine Nimaatre Smenkhare Meriamun who shall live forever, have been killed by your own brother, the Great priest of Amun-Re.’
The pharaoh only laughs, but I see his face is getting paler.
‘Tell the priest of Sobek, honourable Hapuseneb, that his suspicions are absolutely baseless, and that I would like to talk to him regarding all these nasty rumours he dares to spread out about me. As for Beja, my kushite’s father-in-law, I think I need to remind him to whom he should be grateful for allowing him on the kushite’s throne.’
He smiles, and I feel a chill running down my backbone.
I’m following the king to his private chambers, trying to be as quiet as possible. Nephthys, the goddess of the night, covered me with her dark veil, and I became almost invisible, hiding behind the wide lotus-shaped columns of the halls and corridors.
Tiyu, my kushite wife, has already been brought here and waiting for him. He comes into the room and nods to the guards to leave them alone. I have no choice, but to cringe behind the nearest column. If somebody notices me, I will be beaten fiercely, but I don’t hesitate.
‘Ah, my gorgeous wife,’ the pharaoh grins, making circles around her like a kite around its prey. ‘I’ve never been with you after our wedding. I think that must be changed… ’
She looks different from all other queens. She’s got very dark skin and deep black eyes. She’s taller than women from Kemet, and her long hair is curly. She was brought here during my last kushite’s campaign as a guarantor of peace between my country and Kush, and I took her as my wife.
I’ve never met Tiyu since the day of our wedding. I love my Mutnefert and I’m not interested in other women. I’m not like my lascivious brother who’s obsessed with sensual pleasures. He has lots of women, spending almost every night with a new one…or sometimes even with two.
Tiyu has been living peacefully in her part of the palace, always quiet and shy. She doesn’t know the language very well, so she doesn’t talk much. I neither like her, nor dislike. Sitting here, behind the column in the corner of the chamber, I feel really sorry for her.
‘Life, prosperity and health to Your Majesty, shall you live forever. I’m happy to serve you, my lord,’ she whispers barely audible, all her slim body is shaking.
‘If so, you need to give me the heir, a child who will sit on the throne of Kush instead of your father, the traitor!’ he shouts these words in her face.
She closes her eyes; her body starts to shake even more. Userkaf rages as a panther, blind and deaf in his hate and fury.
‘My lord, my divine husband, I’m sure you’ve been mistaken. Whoever told you this about my father, told you lies,’ she’s falling on her knees in front of him and starts to cry. ‘My father is the most loyal servant of yours.’
He doesn’t want to listen to her anymore. He grabs her long curly hair and almost drags her to the low sofa in the corner.
She screams and jerks, and cries, and begs him for mercy, but he’s determined. She tries to break free, scratching his naked back to blood, but he’s unstoppable.
It’s unbearable to hear her screams. If only I could help, could stab a sword between his shoulders’ blades. But I’m only a little boy and I’m scared to death. I hold my breath, trying not to cry, not to show my presence.
He slaps her face, when it’s all over.
‘Now, you can write to your father how women in Kemet’s villages felt, when kushite’s soldiers raped them,’ he puts on his clothes ready to go.
She’s lying on the sofa without a movement, ashamed, wishing to be dead.
I’m leaving my hiding place and hurrying to my chambers.
I’m lying in my bed and staring into the ceiling. My private chamber is richly decorated. There are colourful paintings on the walls with the scenes of hunting. There are ducks and fancy pheasants in the bushes, there are fat hippopotami and crocodiles in the river, there are spotted leopards on the trees behind the branches. The lotus-like columns hold a ceiling painted with golden stars.
It seems like everything is moving and breathing, and the chamber is filling with the sounds of the nature. My mind is emerging into these sounds and smells, and feelings. I can’t think of anything else apart from this magical forest, it is swallowing my mind, and I can’t move or get up from the bed.
I can’t feel my body. It disappears as well as my bed, my chamber and the magic forest. I find myself in the pharaoh’s dinner chamber.
I can see the whole scene very well, but it seems like nobody can see me. I’m a spirit, an incorporeal being, something that doesn’t belong to the world of men.
It’s an evening, and the king has his dinner, surrounded by his cupbearers, musicians, half naked dancers, fan bearers and all kind of other servants and slaves. Ineni, the Great Vizier, is also presented.
Userkaf half lies on a low sofa, a golden band in a shape of a cobra crowns his short black hair, smothered by coconut oil. He wears a long white kilt. One of the slave’s girls is massaging his naked shoulders and neck.
The Great Vizier is filling his goblet with wine instead of a cupbearer, whispering the latest gossips in the king’s ear. I know what is in his mind; I can read this shameful plotter’s thoughts.
My father, the divine impersonation of Amun-Re, gave the title of the governor of the Southern Land to Hapuseneb, the man of the greatest wisdom, experience and honour whose family has been loyal to our house for so many years. Ineni couldn’t bear such a turn. Addicted to limitless power as well as my brother, he’s been trying to overthrow Hapuseneb many times, but failed. He feels like his time comes now.
The musicians are playing a simple quiet tune, and the half naked dancers are twisting and bending in their fancy dance.
The pharaoh is stroking his favourite cat, a live personification of love and joy. This image of the great goddess Bast is purring happily. Its huge ears are decorated with golden earrings; golden bracelets are put on its all four paws.
Ineni tries to say something else to the pharaoh, but the appearance of the guard’s chief interrupts him.
‘Life, prosperity and health to Your Majesty,’ the chief starts, kneeling in front of the king.
‘Speak in the presence of the immortal god,’ Ineni waves to the guard, waddling and puffing on his sofa like a hippopotamus on a river’s bank.
‘Forgive me my intrusion, my lord, but Harmachis, the chief of Your Majesty’s chariotery, begs to see you now.’
‘Harmachis? Harmachis, the son of Hapuseneb, my wisest and the most loyal governor?’ Userkaf chuckles mockingly.
‘His Majesty is relaxing, don’t you see? How dare you to interrupt the rest of the god?’ the vizier gets up from his low couch. ‘The audience time is tomorrow in the morning. You know that…’
‘Bring Harmachis to me,’ Userkaf doesn’t let him finish.
The vizier only grimaces, but comes back to his couch.
The guard bows and opens the door, letting the young man in.
‘Speak in His Majesty’s presence!’ Ineni proclaims loudly from his place to kneeled Harmachis.
‘Life, prosperity and health to Your Majesty, shall you live forever,’ Hapuseneb’s son starts barely audible.
Userkaf makes an impatient gesture, ordering him to be as brief as possible.
‘I beg you, my lord, for my father, Hapuseneb. He’s been ordered to come here, to the capital. He is kept under home arrest in his villa on the west bank. He’s…’
‘Your father is accused of treason and sabotage. Tomorrow, he will be questioned by my chief of security, and this shameful case will be investigated. If you believe that he hasn’t done anything wrong, if you don’t question his loyalty to the throne, why are you so worried? I’m sure if his heart is clean, he will be able to prove this to my investigators,’ the king is making a circle around the young man and gestures him to rise from his knees.
‘My lord, I don’t question your fair judgement. I know that Maat herself advises you, your voice is the voice of Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. She can’t be mistaken; she can’t accuse an innocent servant of Your Majesty in treason. But there are so many people, my lord, who are jealous and sneaky. They are pulling a veil of lie in front of your divine eyes, trying to distract you from Maat’s wise advising…’
All Harmachis’s wordy speeches are in vein, my brother doesn’t listen. He circles around the young charioteer, staring at his longish golden hair, his pale skin, being bewildered by his big blue eyes.
‘You look different,’ he says finally, paying no attention to Harmachis’s words.
‘My mother, my father’s second wife, was from the Sea People’s country. I inherited her features, my lord,’ Harmachis looks completely confused.
‘I hope you inherited from her such features like loyalty and honour, and integrity, because none of them I can see in your father.’
‘My lord, I…’
‘It’s enough speeches for today,’ Userkaf interrupts him abruptly. ‘I question your father’s loyalty, not yours…at least, at the moment. Take a seat, have a dinner with us, tell us how dedicated you are to your duties and your king.’
A mysterious smile appears in my brother’s lips, I know this smile very well.
Harmachis takes a seat on the floor, next to the pharaoh’s sofa. Userkaf makes a gesture to his slaves, and they fill a goblet with wine for the king’s guest.
The fluffy servant of Bast, unhappy of being disturbed, jumps on its previous place next to his owner and starts to purr again, begging for food.
Userkaf smiles again, giving the cat a piece of a roasted duck. It’s purring even louder, enjoying the bit, licking the king’s fingers in gratitude.
‘You see, he knows who is in charge,’ the pharaoh nods to his favourite. ‘He’s loving and loyal to his owner, but sometimes he’s like my people—forgets his place and starts to bite and scratch the hand which feeds him, strokes him, and gives him shelter. When he does it, I need to remind him who is his owner, and he becomes pleasant again.’
Harmachis swallows his wine nervously; his eyes look at the pharaoh’s with hope, ready for everything to save his father’s life, title, and the honour of his family.
‘Why don’t you eat your meal? These duck and figs are delicious,’ he takes one of the baked figs and offers to Harmachis. ‘Try it. Don’t upset your pharaoh even more.’
‘I’ll do everything to please you, my king,’ he whispers barely audible, taking a fig from the pharaoh’s hands with his lips and licking king’s fingers.
Userkaf raises his eyebrows.
‘Leave us alone,’ he orders loudly to everybody, waving to slaves and musicians.
One by one, the servants leave the chamber. Ineni is puffing disapprovingly, but doesn’t move from his low couch.
‘You’ve heard me, Great Vizier,’ the king doesn’t even look at Ineni, he stares at the young charioteer like a snake at a rabbit, being amazed by his eyes which are blue like lapis lazuli, by his golden hair, by his big lips…
(The last part of the Firth Papyrus is ripped off which makes it unreadable.)
I’m sitting on a low bench together with two other scribes and watching the pharaoh, reinstating the priest of Sobek in his duties.
Hapuseneb is on his knees in front of my brother, his Chief of security and Ineni, the Great Vizier. His body is shaking under the long white robe, all his jewelleries were taken from him in the first day of his home arrest and given to the king’s treasury, and his shaved head is covered by ashes in a tribute of grief and obedience.
‘His Majesty the king, shall he live forever, honours you with his forgiveness,’ Ineni proclaims loudly, and the scribes starts to scratch on their papyri, trying not to miss anything.
I’m starting to write down as well, but instead of words I’m drawing. I’m drawing what I can’t say, I’m drawing my plan…the plan of my revenge.
‘The mercy of our lord is truly endless,’ the vizier continues. ‘He deigns not only to save your life and honour of your family from the greatest shame, but also he leaves you to perform your duties as a priest of Sobek, the lord of all waters. However, taking into consideration all the charges against you, His Majesty orders to suspend you from the post of the governor of the Southern Land for the time being…’
‘Remember, Hapuseneb, I’m watching you,’ Userkaf nods in support of his words.
‘I’m grateful to His Majesty for his mercy. I know that Maat, who always judges fairly, advises my lord that there is no guilt on me. I know, oh the greatest of the kings, that the Eye of Re guides you through the darkness of lies to the light of truth, that it shows you, my king, that my soul is clean and my loyalty is undoubted,’ Hapuseneb raised his eyes to the pharaoh.
Userkaf gestures him to rise from his knees.
‘I’m very pleased that you finally understood the seriousness of the accusations against you, wise Hapuseneb,’ my brother smiles his crooked smile. ‘Try not to disappoint me again.’
He makes a step closer to the priest.
‘Next time, even your son who is very sweet to me won’t be able to save you.’
He turns around and leaves the chamber. The Great Vizier, the Chief of security, scribes, fan bearers and all other servants are following their lord.
I look at Hapuseneb. He stands without a movement, his head is bowed, his eyes are full of tears. He’s humiliated and ashamed.
I’m coming to him and taking his hand. I’m giving him my drawings; I’m looking into his eyes.
I’m showing him how I was killed by my brother, how he took everything from me. I’m showing him the future. He knows now that love of the pharaoh will cost dear to his son, he knows the country will be at war, he knows what to do…He accepts his fate. He is ready for revenge as well as I am.
 Kush and Wawat-countries situated on the south-east of Egypt. Kush- ancient Nubia.
 Abdju- an Egyptian name for Abydos
 Niwt-Imn- an Egyptian name for Thebes
 Kemet-an ancient name for Egypt
 Ba-in Egyptian mythology-a soul of a deceased