Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today's Spoiler: The Secret Prologue

As promised earlier, today I am posting part of my "Secret Prologue."  The secret prologue contains some vital back story to some of the most important characters.  This part introduces one of the major baddies in the first book.  None of this is exactly critical to the story, but it does reveal the identity of one mysterious figure you meet later on, and it helps explain the character's motivation, so it is slightly spoilerish.  You have been warned. 

As usual highlight the text to read more.  Hope you enjoy it.

The Secret Prologue
The House of Hokharty-Ra

Hokharty-Ra gently caressed the cheek of his young boy and only child, Hotep.  The five year old was still sleeping in the arms of his mother on their bed.  The boy stirred, and shooed away the hand as if it were a fly and then snuggled back into his beautiful mother’s shoulder and fell back asleep.  The Horus Lock, a long lock of hair on the right side of the boy’s otherwise shaved head fell across his eyes.  Hokharty smiled and gently lifted the lock from his son’s face and laid it neatly to the side.  As he did so he said a prayer. 

“Horus far-sighted, protector and savior, protect my son by this lock of hair.”

He gazed at them both lovingly a while longer then kissed the foreheads of each and got up tied his kilt around his waist and slipped on his sandals.

It was not yet dawn, but the house had to be blessed every morning.  The Chief Magician to the Pharaoh Djoser could of course have servants attend to it, but he never let anyone attend to the important matters.  It was his way.

As he entered the courtyard he passed a cot lying behind some drapes to one side.  Hokharty did not mean to wake the elderly occupant, but he was sitting up from his bed all the same.  Hokharty gently put a hand to the shoulder of the old man, to plead with him not to trouble himself but to rest instead.  The old man only smiled and shook his head, and placed his hand on the hand of Hokharty, his eyes wet.  He would not rest while his master was up.  It was better to be a servant in the house of Hokharty than it was to be a master in the House of Pharaoh.  No slave was ever whipped here or parted from their loved ones, and all who lived in the House of Hokharty-Ra knew that their master would one day be chief amongst his ancestors in halls of the blessed and justified dead.  The old man stood up.  He would be at his master’s side this morning and every morning as long as he was alive.

Hokharty smiled.  The two of them had performed this silent ritual every morning for the last thirty years.  The old man went right away to light the fires before the gods’ statues for burning the incense.  As Hokharty began his prayers, the old man was right there with a tray, holding the precious and fragrant spices and all that they required for the pre-morning blessing in the courtyard.

First they blessed the north and invoked the Goddess Nut, the sky, and Geb, her brother, the earth.  They looked to the Imperishables, the immortal stars that never set beyond the horizon, and said prayers that their house and its occupants would be likewise ever-lasting.
            Then they turned to the east, and offered prayers to a trio of idols, Asari, Usa, & Haru-Ra, The Father, the Mother and the Son, gods of the underworld, life and light and the sun, protectors and saviors.  They asked them to make their house prosperous and safe.
            Then Hokharty turned south and said his own prayer to Set.  His servant never joined him in this prayer and many in his house thought it odd that Hokharty-Ra bothered with the god of destruction and darkness at all but Hokharty was meticulous in all things and never let anything go undone.  The prayer was short and begged that no one in the house today would cause the god any offense.  The old servant held the tray and wrinkled his nose at the idol of Set with its large ears and ponderous long snout, but Hokharty had already turned to the west and the jackal-headed statue of Apnu.
            The statue of Apnu was the largest and most magnificent in his house.  Hokharty smiled.  He always left the god of the dead to the very last, because of all the gods, he was the only one he had ever met.  Hokharty knew that when he died, Apnu would come for him and guide him to the halls of his fathers.
            Hokharty reached for the incense on the tray but the tray was not there.  He turned to see the old servant, but he wasn’t there either.  Hokharty walked to the center of the courtyard.  There in the entrance to the house, the old servant was standing, trembling, shaking his head from side to side while slowly walking backwards.  Hokharty almost went to him, but then he heard…voices,  rough angry voices.  The old servant’s eyes darted to his master and his face implored him to run.  Hokharty didn’t know what to do.  He went to the edge of the courtyard and crouched low beside a pillar out of sight, and pulled the curtains around him. 

From behind the curtains he could see what was happening.  Rough men, low men, filthy and brutish and carrying improvised weapons had entered the house.  Thieves. The guards at the gate were being thrown to the floor.  The old servant was pleading with them.  They were asking for the gold, and the women.  Then they asked about the master of the house.  They were looking for ransom as well.

The old servant told them that the master and his family were gone on a boating trip and would not be home for weeks.  He tried to direct them to the storehouse, stables and kitchens, anything that might divert them from the bedchambers. 

The old servant was loyal to the last.  A sharpened pruning hook struck him in the chest.  The tray hit the floor, its contents spilling everywhere.  Hokharty nearly went to him, but then remembered his wife and young son.  He stayed still and watched them kill his servant, his friend and cursed his cowardice.  The guards were killed as well.  The men pressed on deeper into the house.  They left.   Hokharty ventured forth into the courtyard, staying low and came to the servant’s side.  He was still alive. 
            Hokharty tried to lift him, but the old man resisted.  He was trying to speak, but all that came out of his throat was bloody gurgles.  He could barely move, but his rapidly clouding eyes were frantically darting to one side.  Hokharty couldn’t understand what he was trying to say with his last moments, until he saw the reflection of one of the rough men in the dying man’s eyes.  Hokharty turned just in time for the sharpened hoe to strike his heart.

Dragging his body across the floor Hokharty didn’t know how long he had been unconscious.  The curtains of the courtyard were on fire.  The furnishings were all overturned.  In the distance he could hear the screams of women and children.  For the last several minutes as he clawed his way towards the statue of Apnu, he had been pleading with the god, imploring him to help him, but there was no answer.   The world around him was getting dim.  Why wouldn’t the god answer!  From his earliest days the god said he would never abandon him, but now it was too late.  His strength had left him.  As he stared at the statue of the god he fell face first to the floor, certain he would never get up again, and as his breath left him, he turned his head to the left and looked up into the dark and empty eyes of the statue of Set.

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