Read Slayer of Gods Online

Authors: Lynda S. Robinson

Slayer of Gods (5 page)

“I’m well enough,” Meren said, trying to hold his temper. He was sick of everyone treating him like an old man. “The journey
is necessary, and I must speak with you before I leave.” He glanced at Abu. “Is everything ready?”

“Yes, lord, but the Lady Bener isn’t pleased. She says—”

“Abu, please refrain from telling me what she says.”

Unperturbed, Abu nodded and left.

“Aren’t you curious about why you were summoned home?” he asked as Anath bent to touch the petals of a cornflower. Once again,
he admired her exotic beauty and confident manner.

“The king said you would tell me, and he instructed me not to ask Ay, so I know it’s a grave and secret matter.” She held
his gaze. “The Divine One seems much troubled, distracted even, though he tries to hide it.”

“I know that all too well.”

Anath suddenly dropped to the ground, crossed her legs, and straightened her skirts. She patted the earth beside her and grinned
at him.

“Sit down, Lord Meren, Friend of the King, Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh, and confide in me.”

Giving up the effort to impress his guest with the gravity of her position and what he was about to impart, Meren sat.

“My tale begins in Horizon of the Aten. You will remember the last years of Akhenaten when his hatred of the old gods increased
with each circuit of the solar boat of Ra.”

Anath’s merry expression vanished, and her tilted eyes darted around the garden looking for eavesdroppers. “Your father was
killed, and so were your cousin’s wife and child.”

Meren’s heart pounded against his ribs, and his mouth tightened. “I speak of the days after. When I served under Ay.”

Her brow furrowing, Anath said softly, “I remember. You were often at the palace of the great royal wife, or on some mission
of diplomacy for Ay. I was studying the language of the Asiatics.”

“You were quite diligent, as I remember,” Meren said with a brief smile. “You turned up in the most unexpected places—the
royal granaries, the office of correspondence, the barracks.”

“I went where there were people who spoke Babylonian.” Anath drew her dagger and began tossing it, catching the hilt and tossing
it again. “You’re greatly troubled, or you wouldn’t avoid telling this tale by discussing my activities. Go on, Meren.”

The flying dagger was distracting. When Anath threw it into the air again, he snatched it and kept it. “Very well. I’ll tell
you what I know, and what I have guessed.” His memories were so clear, they could have been recorded on papyrus…

He remembered the day he and Ay returned from a journey to Thebes only to hear appalling news. Horizon of the Aten was abuzz.
From the house of the master sculptor Thutmose, to the great Riverside Palace of pharaoh, people spoke of nothing else. When
Ay heard the rumor, he dropped his wine goblet. Meren had been sitting with his mentor in the antechamber before the throne
room of the Great Palace, and jumped to his feet startled. Courtiers and ministers stared at them. Oblivious, Ay rushed out
of the ceremonial center with Meren close behind. Jumping into his chariot, Ay ordered the driver to the Riverside Palace,
the private residence of the king and queen. Meren drove after them down the long Royal Road that stretched across the city.
Dust flew in his face, and Meren glanced to his right. Behind the perpetual haze of suspended dust he glimpsed the horizon
formed by the cliffs to the east. He dared not take more than a glance, though, because Ay was charging toward the battlements
of the palace as if a desert fiend were after him.

He caught up with Ay at the soaring golden gates in the perimeter wall. Hurrying to catch up with his mentor, he had no time
to catch his breath as they raced by royal guards, the queen’s steward, Wah, and a shocked chamberlain who tried to announce
them. He finally drew even with Ay as the older man threw open the doors to his daughter’s reception hall. They halted on
the threshold, stunned.

Surrounded by servants and priests, standing in a shaft of light shining through one of the high windows, Nefertiti turned
to face them. Ordinarily her appearance was startling because of her beauty—those enormous eyes, fragile jaw, and hollow cheeks,
that long and graceful neck mirrored in even more elegant legs. But what brought them to a standstill was the crown she wore—the
double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, the crown of a king.

Meren glanced at Ay. The older man’s hands were clenched at his sides as he stared at the sight. Upon Nefertiti’s brow rested
the red crown of Lower Egypt, wide and flaring out to hold the inner white crown of Upper Egypt. Ay made some kind of sound
only Meren heard, then walked up to his daughter. With a jerky motion of his hand he dismissed the attendants and priests
standing around the queen. Nefertiti hadn’t spoken. She swallowed hard, lifted the crowns from her head,and set them in a
box held by her chief priest, Thanuro. He hesitated, as if he was considering staying, but Meren jerked his head toward the
door, and the priest left. In moments they were alone with the great royal wife of Akhenaten.

Ay stared into her eyes and hissed. “Set and Anubis protect us. Are you mad?”

“Do you think this is my idea?” Nefertiti retorted, her voice rising. She pressed her lips together as if to suppress the
violence of her emotions. “This was only a fitting. The crowns aren’t finished.”

“You’re going to let him make you pharaoh?” Ay’s voice cracked. He took a deep breath and began again. “This is madness.”

Throwing up her hands, Nefertiti walked away from them as she spoke. “He says the idea came to him in a vision from the Aten.
I am to become king jointly with him. That way he can entrust the daily business of government to me and concentrate on his
reformation. You know how he hates diplomacy and administration. It’s almost impossible to get him to make decisions about
who is to fill various posts or about distribution of grain supplies, much less deal with foreign kings.”

Ay stalked over to Nefertiti and grabbed her arm. “You can make those decisions without becoming pharaoh. Women don’t become
kings. Kings are men, the sons of the great Amun, king of the gods.”

“If I’m pharaoh I can make decisions without bothering Akhenaten, which means he won’t have to tolerate as many interruptions
in his campaign to establish the Aten as the only true god.”

Nefertiti gently disengaged Ay’s hand from her arm, and Meren saw the glitter of unshed tears in her eyes. “Don’t you see?
He didn’t ask if I wanted to be pharaoh. I have no choice.”

Across the gulf of years the words echoed in Meren’s mind as he sat beside Anath.
I have no choice.
Had Nefertiti ever had a choice in what befell her?

He glanced at Anath, who had taken back her dagger to polish it with a length of her red robe. “A little more than a year
later, she was dead.”

“A great pity,” Anath said, the dagger resting in her motionless hands. “And a tale of great evil. Akhenaten perverted the
rightness of things, Meren, but that’s hardly a secret, even if no one speaks of it openly.”

“I told you about it because you were too young to know how things were back then. I felt—most of us felt that chaos ruled.
Akhenaten was driving Egypt away from harmony and balance, abandoning all that was right and true. In those final years, Nefertiti
was trying to bring him to see reason. It was slow, and she had to go carefully, but she thought she could bring about reconciliation
with the old gods. She was working with the priests of Amun.”

Anath scooted around to face him and whispered. “Do you mean she was actually speaking to them? If the king found out…”

“He didn’t,” Meren said. “But all her work came to nothing because she died.”

Nodding, Anath said, “The plague.”


Her eyes became slits as she regarded him silently.

“She was poisoned by her steward, Wah. He supplied the poison, and her favorite cook used it over a period of time until she

Anath said a spell against evil under her breath. “By all the demons of the underworld, Meren, what are you saying?” The color
ebbed from her face while her breathing sped up. She darted more glances around the garden, then lowered her voice to a whisper.
“How do you know this?”

Meren told her about accidentally discovering the truth from Wah before he was killed. “Since then I’ve been trying to find
out who ordered Wah to kill Nefertiti, but every time I come upon someone who might be able to help, they’re murdered.”

“This is impossible,” Anath muttered.

“I assure you, it’s not. I wish it were.”

Anath stared into his eyes for a long time, as if she could read the truth in their agate darkness. Finally she nodded once,
and Meren knew she had accepted what he’d said. She would never question him again.

“I’m going to Syene tomorrow to find the bodyguard Sebek, but I’ve put it about that I’m sailing for my country house to complete
my recovery.”

“Send someone else,” Anath said with a frown. “You’re not strong enough for such a long journey.”

“Yes I am, and besides, the matter is urgent. You were right when you said pharaoh is troubled, Anath. He loved Queen Nefertiti
as a mother. His ka suffers great torture knowing that she was murdered and that her killer has gone unpunished for so many
years. The idea that her majesty’s spirit cries out for vengeance torments him. Anyway, I must go because there’s no one else.
Kysen must remain here to conduct business with the king and to keep an eye on those who may be involved.”


“There are several, but two are Asiatics, so I thought you’d know more about them than anyone here. A dealer in weapons called
Dilalu, and a merchant named Zulaya.”

Getting to her feet, Anath dusted off her gown and leaned against the tree trunk. Folding her arms, she cocked her head to
the side in her characteristic gesture and regarded him solemnly.

“Dilalu is loyal only to himself and to gold. Riches are his only lust, except for his cat. He’ll cast his own father into
the Lake of Fire if paid enough, but he’s a coward. That’s why he surrounds himself with mercenaries. I can’t see him ever
having the courage to carry out such a blasphemy.”

“And Zulaya?”

“Zulaya has no interest in the affairs of kings except when they touch his own dealings. I have had business with him often
in Babylon. If threatened he’s capable of killing, efficiently and without remorse.”

“Has he ever mentioned Akhenaten or Horizon of the Aten?”

Anath shook her head. “He comes to Egypt for trade, Meren. He has a house here, but he spends more time abroad than in the
Two Lands.”

“Someone ordered the queen’s murder,” Meren snapped in frustration.

“Isn’t it more likely to have been an Egyptian?” Anath asked with eyebrows raised.

“That’s what I assumed until I received information that pointed to three men—Zulaya, Dilalu, and Yamen, who is dead.”

“Yamen? An officer in the army. A corrupt officer, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve heard complaints about him from some of the Canaanite

“He was murdered before I could fully question him. He was still alive when I reached him, but what he said made no sense.”

Anath’s gaze fastened on him, and she raised her eyebrows in inquiry.

Meren sighed. “He babbled something about the one who killed him. Yamen said his killer would destroy me as he had him, that
all perish who threaten him. He said no one else knew the killer like he did. A familiar refrain. I’ve heard such claims before
from the companions of men of great evil. I hope he wasn’t right, or I’ll never find the bastard.”

Anath shoved away from the tree trunk. Head down, hands clasped behind her back, she walked in a circle without speaking.
Then she stopped and looked directly at him.

“Let me think for a while. I might remember something about these men that will help. You’ve looked at the royal records and
questioned the queen’s former servants, I take it.”

“Those that are still alive. Some are dead. There is no record of what became of many others. With the passage of time many
moved around and the royal records don’t show where they went. That’s what happened with the queen’s guard, Sebek.”

“Of course.”

Anath resumed her slow walk. Meren got up and brushed himself off.

“I have it!” Anath exclaimed.


“On your way to Syene stop at Horizon of the Aten and look at the records there.”

“Horizon of the Aten is almost completely abandoned. Many of the brick buildings are falling apart.”

“But outdated records were left behind in places like the overseers’ offices, the royal granaries, and the office of the king’s
correspondence. I know where a lot of things were kept. I was there often enough. I’ll come with you and help you look in
the right places.”

“I can find them myself,” Meren said. “After I see Sebek.”

“If I go with you, we can stop on the way to Syene because it won’t take as long to search.”

“I don’t want to take the time.”

Anath rolled her eyes. “You can’t be certain whether it’s more important to see Sebek or find records at Horizon of the Aten.
If you’re worried about him, send someone to Syene to guard him until you can talk to him.”

“I don’t see why—”

“Ha!” Anath clapped her hands together. “Now I remember. I knew there was something important about going to Horizon of the
Aten. Do you remember old Hapimen, chief scribe of the office of royal records? I used to visit him at his work because he
had an assistant, a former slave who could read and write. I would practice my foreign languages by conversing with him while
he worked.” She drew nearer Meren, her eyes gleaming. “Do you know what he worked on? The queen’s correspondence. And I remember
where he kept his records, and where he dumped the notes he took when he no longer needed them.”

Hesitating, Meren weighed Anath’s words.

“We can stop at Horizon of the Aten, pick up the records, and be on our way in a few hours. If
find any important documents we can return on our way back to Memphis.”

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