Unholy empire chronicles.., p.20

Unholy Empire: Chronicles of the Host, Vol 2: Chronicles of the Host, Book 2, page 20

 

Unholy Empire: Chronicles of the Host, Vol 2: Chronicles of the Host, Book 2
 



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  “Not go near her?” asked a puzzled Serus. “How are we to…”

  “Because the enemy would like to destroy her,” continued Romus. He pulled the angels in and spoke discreetly. “In just a few days she will give birth to the one whom the Lord will use to take his people out of Egypt. She is the mother of the deliverer of Israel! Therefore I wish you to protect her from a distance and not draw attention to her until the child is born.”

  “So the time of the deliverance of these people is at hand!” said Serus excitedly. The other angels in the group began chattering excitedly. Romus hushed them.

  “But the deliverance is at hand,” continued Serus in a more subdued tone. “So then my task is to watch over this family and keep them from mortal harm. And should anyone, be that person Hebrew or Egyptian, attempt to harm her before her time, am I authorized to remove that threat?”

  The angels looked at each other. They knew, of course, that Serus was clarifying whether or not they might take a human life—something that a holy angel could never do without proper sanction.

  “Yes,” said Romus. “All of you are so authorized.”

  They watched as the woman Jochebed disappeared down the street, carrying a small basket with a meager supply of bread and vegetables of some sort. Romus watched her until she was out of sight and then looked at the group.

  “But it is not a human threat that concerns me,” he said somberly.

  “O gods of Egypt, look down with favor upon thy servant, Seti, son of the morning and evening stars, guardian of the sanctuary of Amen-Ra, and of upper and lower Egypt, great and unconquerable king!”

  Seti looked down from his great throne as the last of the petitioners filed out of his presence. Upon their leaving, he took off the heavily bejeweled headdress that he wore when he received nobles and made judgments on behalf of matters personal to the royal household.

  He stood up and was immediately attended by several royal pages. He brushed them away.

  “Leave me,” he said. Seti walked off the polished stone dais on which stood his throne and to the royal chamber, the king’s private suite of rooms. Before he entered, he said to one of the omnipresent palace pageboys, “Summon Anipur to my chambers.”

  Seti looked about his rooms, recently installed and built onto the great house begun by previous pharaohs. The palace at Malkata in Thebes was one of the many royal residences that the pharaoh lived in throughout the year, but it was his favorite of all. He could feel the presence of the great kings who came before him in this place and it gave him comfort. He gazed at a relief that depicted a map of the great Nile River, and began to think of the heritage and the responsibility that had befallen him.

  Seti’s predecessors had precariously maintained Egypt’s great world empire, which at one time stretched from Nubia in the south to portions of the Euphrates River north of Syria. The pharaohs had consolidated their political influence by increasing the power of the priests in Egypt and had erected great cultic centers of worship, chiefly at Thebes. These kings also re-established the prestige of the traditional gods of Egypt, who had fallen under difficult times under the nomadic Hyksos invaders.

  The Hyksos had finally been expelled from their northern capitol of Avaris by Amosis some 250 years before Seti, and his successors immediately began not only the traditional gods of Egypt—headed by Osiris, Horus, and Isis, with temples built in their honor—but also the relatively newer gods of Amen-Ra at Karnak in Thebes, Ptah of Memphis, and Harkhti of Heliopolis.

  With so great a heritage, Seti had much to live up to. Someday he would have a son and heir who would carry on the glorious tradition of this great dynasty. It was the thought of passing on a great legacy that made him think once more on that which had been plaguing his mind lately—the talk of rebellion in Goshen.

  “Yes, great one, bid may I enter,” came a voice in the antechamber.

  “Yes, yes, come in, come in,” said Seti, who was pouring himself some wine. “Have some of this Minoan wine. Delicious really.”

  “Thank you, great one,” said Anipur. As you wish.”

  Pharaoh handed a cup to his chief aide and watched him drink. He then drank some from his own goblet. Seti indicated that they should both be seated.

  “How is your wine?” Seti asked.

  “Splendid, divinity,” said Anipur, who had never been comfortable with the casual relationship that Seti often brought him into. After all, Seti was a god incarnate!

  “Yes, those Cretans certainly know their wines,” commented Seti. “Undisciplined lot, though. And quite licentious. What they need is a bit of Egyptian virtue!”

  Anipur nodded in agreement.

  “Alright, alright, I’ll out with it,” said Seti. The pharaoh set his glass down and went over to a cupboard that contained all of his maps. He selected a scroll and brought it over to the low table at which they were seated. It was a map of the delta region of the Nile, principally of Goshen and the way to Canaan along the King’s Highway, which ran through Canaan to points north and east.

  He began with a recounting of the events leading to the current situation in Goshen with the Hebrew slaves. Anipur, of course, had heard all this before, and was quite knowledgeable in Egyptian history, but he listened with rapt attention. He hated the Hebrews with a passion and was jealous of the land that they occupied. Anything he could do to cause Seti to deal swiftly and brutally with Israel advanced his personal goal of becoming a governor over the rich province of Goshen.

  Seti continued painting an increasingly menacing picture: how the Hyksos had come in as part of a general migration and ultimately became an invasion by foreign peoples; how they had driven the legitimate pharaoh south and established a new dynasty that was sympathetic to the Israelites; how under Joseph’s rule and subsequent Hyksos pharaohs the Hebrews prospered; how eventually the great leader Amosis had overthrown the Hyksos and established a new dynasty in Egypt; how succeeding pharaohs were weary of the threat of open borders peopled by foreigners; and how Amenophis I enslaved the Hebrews and set them to work rebuilding the glory Egypt had once known.

  Anipur listened as Seti concluded his retelling of recent events in Egyptian history. Seti looked at his most trusted advisor, cupping the wine goblet in his hands.

  “And now, the Hebrews talk of a delivering spirit—one who will lead them out of Egypt! They have hope in such a man. A man who would destroy the hopes for my yet-to-be-born son to have a glorious reign. I am already getting older. Soon it will be my successor’s time. I want him to inherit a glorious Egypt—not one emptied of its commerce. Who will build the cities of my son if the Hebrew slaves ever rebel?”

  Anipur averted his eyes from the pharaoh and began talking. “Great one, there has always been talk of a deliverer. Every pharaoh since Ahmose has dealt with this legend. Have no fear, son of Amen-Ra. The Hebrews cling to the hope of a god who has deserted them. Perhaps in Canaan their god has power. But in Egypt, Amen-Ra has stilled the voice of the god of Joseph.”

  Seti shook his head.

  “No, Anipur,” said Seti, who was trembling. He looked around as if embarrassed at what he was about to disclose. He then lowered his voice and continued.

  “I grew up with those same tales of a deliverer,” Seti continued. “I used to think it was a tale concocted by my father to discipline me—you know—‘if you misbehave the deliverer will come!’” He smiled at his servant. “But I speak of something else—something dark, and not of a child’s tale. I speak of something that the gods themselves visited and warned me about. Something told me by Amen-Ra himself last night as I dreamed!”

  “Tell me the dream, great one, and I will try to divine its meaning.”

  Two figures, unseen, stood next to the men.

  “Yes, great one,” said Lucifer. “Tell the fool your dream.”

  “It’s very simple to work in a human mind, isn’t it?” said Kara smugly. He was satisfied with his visit to Seti the previous night. “His mind was completely open to my
suggestions.”

  “Of course,” said Lucifer. “He is deluded, like all humans.” He shook his head in disbelief. “The pharaoh hears what is in his heart to hear. But I am interested in hearing his recounting of your visit. It should prove interesting.”

  He looked at the proud Kara and added, “It will also demonstrate how effectively you rule as prince over this nation.”

  “Meaning what?” said Kara suspiciously.

  “Meaning that we rule a nation only when we rule its leaders. We must effectively become the mover behind the man—a strongman of sorts. As the leaders go, so goes the destiny of nations. Egypt is the greatest nation on earth. The gods of Egypt are feared. It would be a pity to waste such strength at such a critical time in the war.”

  “I dreamed that I was at the Temple of Amen-Ra in Thebes. As I made my way into the sanctuary, I saw all of the former pharaohs—all of my predecessors—mourning over the land of Egypt. Even my father was weeping. I went to my father and asked him, ‘Father, why do you weep?’ He answered me, ‘I weep because the greatness of Egypt is no more! The gods of Egypt have been profaned!’ He continued his weeping, and I walked on. I came to a room that contained images of all the great gods of Egypt. One by one down the line I saw their terrifying visages:

  The Crocodile-headed Nile god, Sobek

  The Frog-headed fertility goddess, Heka

  The Earth god, Geb

  The sacred Scarab god, Khepara

  The Bull god, Apis

  The Ibis-headed Thoth, god of sacred knowledge

  The goddess of the sky, Nut

  The god of harvest, Hapy

  “As I continued, I noticed that images of many of the less powerful gods stood behind these great gods. Looking upon the images, I saw that they bled from the corners of their mouths and from their eyes and ears. I was terrified!”

  Seti held his cup out for more wine, and Anipur obliged him. “I tell you, Anipur, never have I had such a dream!”

  “Continue, great Seti, that we might divine the meaning of this foreboding dream,” said Anipur, handing him his cup.

  “I ran from the room and entered the next room, the antechamber before the sacred shrine of Amen-Ra, I saw the high priest of Amen-Ra, making oblation to the great god. He was chanting sacred texts and burning magic scrolls, but the god was not responding. He wailed aloud, and I went to him and asked him what this meant. He told me that Amen-Ra was in darkness, because a darkness was coming on the land. He said the gods of Egypt bled from their eyes and mouths and ears because they no longer respond to men.

  “I then determined to approach Amen-Ra myself, and went to the shrine. When I opened the door, the shrine was empty! I began to weep. After a while a light appeared in the room—it was Amen-Ra himself—and he told me that the Hebrew foreigners had profaned the gods of Egypt. He said that they must be dealt with before the one who was foretold came and set them free. I asked him what must be done…”

  “Yes, great one,” said Anipur. “What did the great Amen-Ra tell your majesty?”

  “That the time was at hand for the rebel deliverer to be born—that the only way to save the honor of the gods of Egypt and retain the glory of the pharaohs, who were crying out from their tombs, was to destroy the Hebrew children as they are born!”

  “What?!” asked Anipur. “Destroy the newborns?”

  “Only the males,” Seti said, trembling. “Amen-Ra commanded that the newborn males be killed by the Hebrew midwives, but that the females be spared.”

  “Amen-Ra is a merciful god,” mused Anipur. “And wise, great pharaoh. For in killing the male children we will steal the hope of this foretold deliverer once and forever! We shall be rid of the threat they pose to us—and their shepherd god!”

  “It is our only hope,” agreed Seti grimly. “It is the will of Amen-Ra and therefore the will of Seti!”

  “Thus shall it be done,” said Anipur. “And the gods of Egypt will forever honor your name, great one. I shall assemble the Hebrew midwives and give the order. And I shall have the priests of Amen-Ra offer sacrifices to the god for three days!”

  “Yes, yes,” said Seti. “See to it!”

  Anipur bowed his head low, arms out front as Seti left the room.

  When he was sure he was quite alone, Anipur smiled and picked up the pharaoh’s wine cup. He held it up in the air and said, “I honor you, Amen-Ra, for your wisdom in dealing with these rebellious Hebrew slaves.”

  “Thank you, thank you,” said Kara, mocking Anipur’s toast.

  “Well done, Kara,” said Lucifer, watching Anipur drink from the pharaoh’s cup. “I would say Amen-Ra’s message to the pharaoh last night was quite clearly heard.”

  “Yes, and Anipur’s message was just as clear,” said Kara. “His hatred for the Hebrews will prove useful in the coming struggle. I believe he will make a marvelous governor in Goshen. He knows how to handle…obstacles.”

  “Agreed,” said Lucifer, watching Anipur. “Just don’t let him get too used to drinking from the pharaoh’s cup. If we have learned anything since our great struggle began, it is that ambition can be deadly.” He looked at Kara accusingly Kara nodded his head and looked at Lucifer. “For men and angels,” he said.

  CHAPTER 15

  “Go after the child!”

  Chronicles of the Host

  Seti’s Fury

  Just as Seti had commanded, Anipur told the Hebrew midwives the pharaoh had decreed that all male children born to Israel must be killed on the spot. It was a grand strategy that our enemy had concocted, aimed not at Israel, but at the Seed he so dreadfully feared.

  But the midwives feared God rather than man. Encouraged by the Spirit of God and ministering angels, they took care to hide the children rather than murder them. This only incited Lucifer’s rage further and, acting through Anipur, agents of Pharaoh began combing Goshen in the search for children.

  When they found a newborn male, they tossed the poor child into the river. Sobek, the demon crocodile god of the Nile, was drunk with the blood of the innocents, and saw the carnage as a sacrifice to himself. But what of the deliverer? Surely the time for the prophecy was up. Surely the words spoken to Abraham that his children should leave Egypt, and with plunder, were about to come true!

  Berenius, still bitter from the inability to contain Hagar years earlier, had been given the task of rooting out the child. He sent his demons throughout Goshen, and wherever a newborn male was discovered, they would get the word to Anipur by speaking through one of his priests.

  Unknown to much of the Host however, and to all the enemy, there was born to Amram and Jochebed, of the tribe of Levi, a male child whom God had selected to lead the people out of Egypt. Serus and the others watched for the agents of Berenius and knew that it was only a matter of time until the child was discovered. Jochebed knew, too, that she had only a short time with the child before she must do something desperate…and piercing to a mother’s heart. She kept him as long as she could. Then, setting him forth in a small ark of reeds onto the great river, she entrusted the child to the Most High God—never dreaming that she was not losing her son, but launching her deliverance…

  “There he goes,” said an angel.

  “Mind that ark!” came a command from Serus.

  “He’s alright,” said Alyon, one of many new arrivals sent to aid Serus in the protection of the child. Alyon had gone into the water to inspect the ark. “The ark is fine. No leaks at all!”

  Serus looked about at the swarm of holy angels.

  “Where are all these coming from?” he asked. “They are sure to draw attention to the child!”

  “Jochebed is praying to the Most High,” answered another of the new arrivals. “The archangel Michael has dispatched us to watch over the child. And Michael will be here soon himself.”

  “Keep a watch for the enemy, then,” said Serus. “And watch that child! The current is picking him up now!”

  The little ark began moving into the main portion of th
e river now, steadily increasing in speed as it drifted downstream. The angels wondered how long they were to follow it and what their mission was to be once the ark landed. Was there someone to take the child on the other end?

  Sobek, the Nile god, stood at his temple beside the river, watching his priests perform their customary act of worship to him: sprinkling the sacred water of the Nile over one of his images. Formerly an angel of worship, Sobek much preferred the adoration of these silly humans to his own humbling of himself before a God who seemed indifferent to his worship.

  The priests also cared for the live crocodiles kept in the temple pools. Sobek thought of how foolish men were to keep such creatures and call them sacred. But he was a god who was feared, and the crocodile struck terror into the hearts of the men and women who depended on the Nile to survive.

  Now the crocodiles in the great river were getting their fill of Hebrew blood in this most recent aggression on the part of Lucifer. Sobek was proud that, of all the gods in Egypt, he was the one who should be responsible for the death of the Seed.

  Lucifer came into Sobek’s temple and greeted him. Sobek bowed to his lord and welcomed him. They stood at one of the images of Sobek and looked over the river at the great structures flanking the other side.

  “Yours is a great divinity in a country that is so dependent upon this river,” said Lucifer. “You are certainly a god to be esteemed.”

  “You humble me, my lord,” said Sobek, his crocodile teeth showing in a crooked and bizarre smile.

  “I am grateful for the fact that so many of our brethren have found themselves as gods of this world,” said Lucifer. “From Egypt to the farthest span of this planet, we have set ourselves up as local deities, controlling the hearts and minds of men given to such nonsense.” He looked at Sobek. “I only wish that the gods were more attractive!”

  “Ah, my lord,” said Sobek. “One does what one must when one is a god!”

  “Yes,” agreed Lucifer, “which is why I am here. You cannot help, but know that the search for the deliverer is in full detail right now. We have killed hundreds of newborn males.”

 
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