The priest watched as the sun slowly began its descent into the west bank of the Nile. Ra was entering the underworld. The hour was approaching.
He entered the temple alone. Inside, the camphor lamps were being lit. The sacred hieroglyphs adorning the walls danced in the firelight. On the ceiling silver stars sparkled in a lapis sky. He approached the alter and held a torch flame to the pile of incense that had already been laid out. The air was filled with the magic of frankincense and myrrh. The scene was set. All he had to do was wait.
He crossed to the temple’s far wall and pressed one of the carved symbols, a dot within a circle. A door swung open and he passed into the hidden chamber. He, Djeuti, a boy priest was about to fulfil his destiny and become a god. He let his robe fall to the floor and sunk into the milky waters of his bathing pool. His assistants emerged from the shadows and scrubbed his body with boar hair brushes. His blood tingled beneath his skin and his pulse quickened.
When they had finished, he climbed the steps and stood there naked and dripping whilst he was fanned by fronds of palm until dry. Jars were brought full of fragrant oils which melted easily into his hot skin. When his was fully anointed, his body was dusted with powdered silver and he glowed like a fallen star.
A low chanting began and the ceremonial kilt was brought and fastened around him with protective pins. A beaded belt of jasper and turquoise was knotted over the stiff linen. Bracelets and armlets were closed over his limbs, binding him to the temple and his duty. The sacred mask was carried on a strecher of woven reeds and placed before him. It was shaped like an ibis under a crescent moon. The face of God. Djeuti took it in his hands and gazed long into the hollow sockets. He imagined his eyes, the colour of waxed ultramarine filling their void. He wondered what she would feel when she looked upon them.
A royal mile to the south, the final preparations were made and the princess left her chamber.Her body was weak from fasting and trembled with a mixture of fear and thrill at what was to come. She leaned on her handmaiden for support as she descended the stone steps. Her voice was whisper as she spoke, “You are married Padme. Tell me, will this hurt?”
“It is love that hurts you Princess, not the act of making it,” her servant replied squeezing her hand in reassurance.
The entourage passed through the botanical gardens in silence. The exotic plants were drained of their colour by the twilight, reduced to monochrome shapes rooted in soil far away from their original home. Soon I shall be like them, thought the Princess. A trophy flower displayed to show the might of my King.
They moved into the avenue of sphinxes and she searched their stony gaze for clues to unravel the riddle of her life. They gave her no answer. Too soon the party reached the dock where the royal barge waited upon the water. Torches burned bright along the length of the boat, their fires reflected in the black water below.
She stepped onto the wooden deck and the drummers aboard began beating a slow pulsing rhythmn. The princess took her place on the golden throne, her heart pounding louder in her chest than the men could beat on their stretched drumskins. Padme sat at her feet and the princess leant down to her. “Sing me a song,” she whispered.
“What shall I sing you?”
“The Song of the Raven”
Padme’s voice echoed in the air and as the notes floated higher, the men adjusted their beat to match her rhythmn.
The princess closed her eyes and breathed deep, letting her mind drift away into solitude, carried by the dancing words. She felt the boat move below her as it was cast off from the dock. Oars were slid into the obsidian water and they left the bank and her innocence behind them.
In the darkness of his inner sanctum, the awakening God sat deep in silent meditation. His mind projected out from his body, ascending higher and higher into the sky above. He become a bird circling in the air. He could hear the music carried on the wind and her soul with it. His eyes snapped open. She approaches
He sat motionless as the drums and song grew louder and closer. Now she was alighting the barge and entering the complex itself. He could feel her gentle vibration resounding in the earth beneath him. She was walking between the towering pillars carved to resemble papyrus and lotus blossoms. Her eyes were downcast but he could feel her awe and how her heart marvelled at the temple’s beauty. He could feel something else too: her fear. He could sense it in the hesitation of every step.
His mind stayed with her, unseen and unnoticed until the party stopped before the temple of Al-Khemia. The moon was rising behind her, its silvery light directed through a gap in the outer wall. It was tracing a path along the ground towards her. Soon her feet were bathed in moonshine, then the curve of her ankles. It was time. The ritual was beginning.
Inside the temple, in the place where the boy Djeuti had sat, the god Thoth rose and took his place.
The princess felt the blood rise in her body as the power of the moon goddess, Nut, washed over her skin. The drums and song had stopped. Everything was silent. The night was still as though holding its breath, waiting for events to unfold. The air felt heavy and tight with latent energy. She shivered.
Her entourage had disappeared into the darkness and she stood alone at the entrance to the temple, watching as her shadow grew in the puddle of light. The ethereal silhouette of a slender young woman cast upon the stones. The moon rose above her and the shadow of the princess crossed the sacred threshold. Its head lay upon the feet of the waiting God.
The princess drew a deep breath and held it as her gaze was drawn higher. She saw the glistening skin, the beaded kilt, the honed chest. She wanted not to look but she couldn’t stop herself. Black, braided hair rested on broad shoulders leading to a graceful neck. The face of the ibis shone like a pearl in the moonlight as she looked upon the eternal eyes of God. In them, a distant fire burned bright. Her heart skipped a beat.
“Come Keshet’anan. The time is now”.
Her God knew her secret name and she had no choice but to obey.