Authors: Pauline Gedge
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical
THE TWICE BORN
is the award-winning and bestselling author of eleven previous novels, eight of which are inspired by Egyptian history. Her first,
Child of the Morning
, won the Alberta Search-for-a-New Novelist Competition. In France, her second novel,
The Eagle and the Raven
, received the Jean Boujassy award from the Société des Gens des Lettres, and
The Twelfth Transforming
, the second of her Egyptian novels, won the Writers Guild of Alberta Best Novel of the Year Award. Her books have sold more than 250,000 copies in Canada alone; worldwide, they have sold more than six million copies and have been translated into eighteen languages. Pauline Gedge lives in Alberta.
Also by Pauline Gedge
Child of the Morning
The Eagle and the Raven
The Twelfth Transforming
Scroll of Saqqara
House of Dreams
House of Illusions
The Hippopotamus Marsh:
Lords of the Two Lands, Volume One
The Oasis: Lords of the Two Lands, Volume Two
The Horus Road: Lords of the Two Lands, Volume Three
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published 2007
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (RRD)
Copyright © Pauline Gedge, 2007
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
Publisher’s note: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental
Manufactured in the U.S.A.
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Gedge, Pauline, 1945–
The twice born / Pauline Gedge.
PS8563.E33T94 2007 C813’.54 C2007-903776-3
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THE BOOK OF THOTH
was purported to contain all knowledge regarding the creation of the cosmos, gods, and men as well as the laws relating to magic, nature, and the afterlife. It was dictated by Atum, the creator-god, to Thoth, god of writing, the sciences, and time, who set down the information on forty-two scrolls, which were divided between the temples of Ra at Iunu and Thoth at Khmun.
It survives in fragmented form as the so-called Pyramid Texts, found on the walls of the burial chambers of pyramids of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, at the temples of Esna and Edfu, and in certain coffins, where it is called, of course, the Coffin Texts. Pieces of it also appear in “The Book of Knowing the Modes of Existence of Ra and of Overthrowing the Serpent Apophis” and “The Book of Coming Forth by Day,” commonly known as the Book of the Dead.
According to Egyptian legend, before the reign of King Menes of the Protodynastic Period, the country was ruled for 13,420 years by the Servitors of Horus, the Shemsu-Hor. The Book of Thoth was said to predate the Shemsu-Hor by over 20,000 years.
The Greeks identified Thoth with their god Hermes. Hence the Hermetica, a collection of modernized writings attributed to Thoth.
HUY SON OF HAPU
, later known as Amunhotep son of Hapu, was born of a peasant family in the modest Delta town of Hut-herib, yet became a very significant figure in Egyptian history. Although much is known of his great achievements, everything inscribed refers to his public accomplishments. His private existence remains blank. In
The Twice Born
, I have attempted to solve the puzzle of his early years.
in his bedroom, his mother Itu beside him, looking with dismay at the toys laid out so carefully on his cot. Although the day was bright with heat, the breeze wafting through the window and lifting a corner of Huy’s linen sheet still held a little of the previous night’s coolness. Huy did not notice. Hands behind his back, he stared mutinously at his treasures. His mother sighed.
“It must be something you value, Huy,” she prompted him gently. “Something the god will know you did not really want to give up.”
“Why?” Huy burst out. “Why must I give him anything? I haven’t given him anything before! We haven’t ever gone to his home before!”
“Because tomorrow is the anniversary of your Naming Day. I’ve already told you that. Tomorrow you will be four years old, and you and I and your father will go to Khenti-kheti’s shrine to thank him for your health and safety. Make a choice, Huy. What about your paints?”
“No. Uncle Ker and Aunt Heruben gave them to me. They would be upset if I gave them away. Unless they brought me some more?” He turned an anxious face up to Itu. “You love to see me paint, Mother. You would be upset as well if I couldn’t paint anymore.”
The whitewashed walls of his house offered a dazzling surface on which to create fat brown hippopotami, yellow boats sailing on a hectically blue Nile, portraits of himself as a warrior with spear in hand, and he had no intention of relinquishing that heady pleasure. No, the palette must go back into his sycamore chest.
“Very well.” Itu’s tone was faintly disapproving. “Something else, then.”
Huy considered. Well, what of his wooden dog on wheels? He had towed it about the garden many times, its jaws opening and closing rythmically while he barked for it, because it was dumb. But Hapu, his father, had spent hours carving it, and would be even more upset than Uncle Ker if he gave it away. Did gods play with toys, anyway?
That left the skittles, the leather ball, and the spinning top. Definitely not the spinning top. Chasing it through the house as it teetered this way and that and then whipping it into a fresh whirl of speed when it began to falter was the very best way to spend the boring summer afternoons that never seemed to end. The skittles, then. They were fun to play with, but the game soon became boring and the wooden ball never would roll quite straight to the pins. His big leather ball, however, needed someone to catch it and throw it back to him. It made Mother or Hapzefa give him all their attention. Not the leather ball either. Khenti-kheti would understand. Being a god, he might even decide to make the wooden ball perfectly smooth and then invite the other gods to play with him.
“Seeing that you are making me do this, the god can have the skittles,” Huy said. “I really do love my skittles, Mother.” He tugged at the linen bag in Itu’s hand. She relinquished it without another word and left the room. Satisfied but guilty, Huy returned everything else to the chest and thrust the six skittles and the offending ball into the bag, dropping it by the door on his way out.
In the passage his best papyrus sandals sat neatly waiting for tomorrow morning and out by the kitchen Hapzefa was washing and starching the little kilt he would wear. Huy grimaced as he ran towards the dappled sunlight of the garden. Sandals and an itchy kilt. But he knew that when he returned from the temple his favourite food would be waiting for him and his aunt and uncle would offer him new and exciting gifts to mark the solemn occasion.
He was a spoilt child, the only darling of a doting family. His aunt was barren in spite of repeated pilgrimages to the temple of Tauret, goddess of child-bearing, and to the tomb of the mighty Imhotep, who could heal any infirmity if he so wished, and all her needy affection was poured out upon her brother-in-law’s little boy. Huy divided his time between his own home and the comfortable estate owned by his uncle, a place he much preferred, for his uncle was rich, being a famous maker of perfumes worn by the King himself, while Hapu, his father, simply tended the plants that Huy’s uncle and his staff turned miraculously into the oils adorning the most powerful people in the world.
Not that Huy disdained his own modest home. He adored his parents with all the selfish unreflectiveness of the young child, but there was always something new to do and see on his uncle’s estate, and he was never bored there as he often was in the quiet of Hapu’s domain. Intelligent, curious, and sure of himself as the centre of the universe, having suffered no hurts other than the inevitable tumbles and mild indispositions inherent in his natural development, with the stamp of a future handsomeness already on his face and emerging with the harmony of his healthy body, he was suffused with the unconscious certainty of his own immortality.
The garden was empty and quiet in the heat of the afternoon. Huy trotted past the fishpond with no more than a glance at its border of untidy sedge and its tiered terraces for lettuce, onions, garlic, and other vegetables. He knew that until sunset the fish would be lurking deep down in the water where it was cool and dark, and even the frogs would have taken refuge beneath the spreading green pads of the water lilies whose waxy blue blooms had closed until the following morning. His mother had added white lilies to the pool so that there would be flowers floating on its placid surface at every hour of the day, for the white lilies opened their petals just as the blue ones folded in upon themselves, and would remain so until the following noon.
Such aesthetic niceties were of no concern to Huy. All he knew was that the frogs seemed to prefer to squat beside the blue flowers, where they could be easily caught and held, spreading a delectable coolness over his palms before he placed them gently back on their lily pads and watched them spring offendedly into the depths. His mother had warned him to treat them with respect. They were symbols of resurrection, she had said, and as such were regarded as holy. Because he could not imagine death, the concept of resurrection meant nothing to Huy, although Itu had done her best to explain it to him; but he handled the frogs with care anyway. He loved them, loved to lie on his stomach over the silent protests of crushed lettuce and cabbage nubs and slender shoots of leek, with the wet earth slick against his skin and his face inches above the mysterious, silent life of the green water, watching unnameable things flow and flicker below him.
More than once Hapzefa had lifted him onto the warm grass and scolded him mildly. “You’re hurting the vegetables, Master Huy,” she had said. “If you keep lying on them, they’ll die. Besides, what if you fell into the pond and drowned? I can’t watch you all the time. I’ve too many other things to do.” It seemed that being drowned was a way to be dead, and as being dead, according to his mother, seemed to involve lying still with your eyes shut and not being able to move anymore, Huy had pulled up the vegetable seedlings in his way and had continued to wriggle into the soil and gaze into the pool. He had understood no more than the connection between lying on the vegetables and falling into the water; therefore, removing the plants would ensure that no matter what he did he could not possibly end up headfirst in the pond. It must have been the right thing to do, because he was not reprimanded for it.
But today he sought the shade cast by the high wall that separated the grounds of the house from the vast orchards and gardens where his father and the gardeners tended the crops that his uncle used to make the perfumes. Huy had been enveloped in the aroma of the countless blossoms wafting over the wall ever since he was born. He only became aware of it by a lessening of its intensity when he was taken into the town, and even there the mingled flower odours continued to hang over the streets and mud-brick buildings of Hut-herib. It was thick today with the increased humidity the rising Inundation always caused, but Huy, oblivious, sat down with his back to the sheltering wall and picked his clay soldiers out of the grass where he had left them yesterday. His uncle’s chief gardener had made them for him, a small battalion of brown men with white-painted kilts and corrugated heads to represent the short black wigs worn by military men. Some held pieces of whittled twig in their stiff hands for spears and some clutched clay swords. All had tiny pieces of leather moulded into their arms for shields. One, the most prized, had a yellow kilt and a blue helmet with a snake rearing above his forehead. That was the King himself, the mighty Men-kheper-Ra Thothmes, the third of that illustrious name, who had marched his army into Rethennu as soon as he gained the Holy Throne and had not stopped until he had forged an empire for his beloved Egypt. For seventeen years he had battled his way through the petty kingdoms of the East, conquering and forcing treaty on lesser states, so that tribute of every kind had begun to flow steadily into the royal coffers from obedient vassals, and Egypt herself was slowly becoming rich. That was twenty-six years ago. The Son of the Sun was now in his forty-third year of godhood and his seventieth year of life, closeted in his palace far away to the south at Weset, where the air was dry and scentless and the desert rolled in great yellow dunes to the very edge of the fields beside the river. So Huy had been told. Reverently he set up his model of the Good God and ranked his guard behind him. The enemy was hiding in the bushes not far away, but with his all-powerful ears the King could hear them rustling and whispering, and soon he would charge them and put them to rout.
The rustling grew louder and Huy, lying on his stomach in the grass, his nose level with the army, began to be annoyed. “I know it’s you, Ishat,” he shouted. “Go away. I don’t want to play with you today.” The command was ignored. Ishat emerged from the shrubbery and squatted beside Huy. A grubby little hand reached out to pick up one of Huy’s men. Huy smacked at it and sat up.
“You can still have the King,” Ishat said. “Come on, Huy. I’ll be a general again. You can give me the battle orders.”
“No.” Huy began to gather up the toy soldiers. “You’ll make them dirty if you touch them. I have to go in now.”
“No you don’t. You only just got here. I was waiting for you. Why won’t you play with me?”
“Because you’re a girl and girls can’t be soldiers,” Huy said nastily. “I let you be a general before and you didn’t do the right things.” He stood and she rose with him. They glared at one another, the scrawny girl with her mud-caked knees and matted black hair and a considerably cleaner Huy, who was trying to keep his army from falling out of his grasp.
Ishat took one step towards him. “I know something you don’t know,” she half sang in the mocking voice that always infuriated him.
Huy shrugged. The King toppled onto the ground and he bent to retrieve him. “I don’t care. You’re only just three and I’ll be four tomorrow. You know one thing, but I know lots and lots.” She was smiling at him in the superior way that always made him lose his temper, but having been forced earlier into parting with even one of his toys, and his mother’s unspoken but obvious disappointment with his choice, made him feel suddenly lonely. “Tell me, then,” he finished lamely. “But I bet it’s nothing much.”
“Yes it is. It’s about you. If I tell you, will you let me play armies?”
“About me?” Huy tried to hide his sudden interest. Dropping his men, he sat back down nonchalantly. Ishat, wriggling with pleasure, settled herself beside him. “If it’s good, I suppose you can be a general.”
“Promise?” He nodded. She began to pick the pieces of grass out of the dried mud between her toes, making him wait, her eyes on the toy soldiers scattered about. Then she relented. “I heard my mother tell my father after I was in bed. They thought I was asleep. You’re going away to school, Huy. That’s really why you have to take a present to the god tomorrow. It’s so that he’ll look after you while you’re gone.” She glanced at him to see his reaction, but he just seemed puzzled.
“School? You’re lying so that I’ll let you play with me, Ishat! Only rich boys go to school.”
“It’s true. My mother said your uncle Ker is going to pay.”
“Hapzefa is a servant and my mother says that she gossips.”
“Gossip isn’t like lying!” Ishat responded hotly. “My mother doesn’t lie! Go and ask your father if you don’t believe me.” Deliberately she picked up a soldier. “Now you have to let me play. You promised.”
Furious at being tricked, Huy could only nod dumbly. Not for the first time, he wished Ishat were a boy. Surely boys didn’t have to think up silly lies to get their own way. Snatching the toy out of her hand, he pinched her hard before throwing it back to her. “You can play, but only because I promised. Hapzefa loves me and you heard it wrong.”
Ishat rubbed her arm. “No I didn’t. Now give me a general.”
They played more or less amicably until Hapzefa called Huy to come in for the afternoon nap. At once Ishat disappeared in the direction of the orchard and Huy gathered up his men. He was tired but refused to admit it, and once washed and laid on his cot he only had time to consider calling out for a cup of water before he succumbed to the soporific quiet of the house.
In the evening, while Huy played with his lentil stew, his mother told his father Hapu what gift he had decided to give to Khenti-kheti. The three of them were sitting on cushions around the low central table of sycamore wood Huy’s father had made. Mosquitoes had drifted in through the open door of the one room where the little family both ate and received their guests, and were whining above their heads. A long shaft of late sunlight lay across the beaten earth of the floor, its warm length reaching for Huy’s toes. He took a clove of roasted garlic, dropped it into his stew, and mashed it down with one finger, glancing sideways to see just how close the sun’s ray was. If he let it touch his skin, then that would mean he would be burned by his mother’s anger. Or his father’s. He eyed Hapu briefly. Hapu was watching him over the rim of his wine cup, both eyebrows raised.