Day 4 in month 3 of the Peret season, in year 17 of the reign of Ramesses III
“Merti, have you come to speak with your father?” the shadow voice wheezed from the darkness.
“My father is Weni, wab-priest of Amun. Who are you? Why can I not see you?” Though her tone was arrogant, the unknown voice frightened her.
“Your mother used to come here to pray for a daughter and she was rewarded for her prayers. You look so much like her.”
Merti backed up against a column in the First Court, peering into the darkness, listening for any sound that would indicate movement, but saw and heard nothing. “How do you know my mother?”
“It was I who gave her a daughter, not the man you call your father.”
Merti was terrified. Could this be the god Amun, having blessed her mother, making her daughter of the god? She fell to her knees, prostrate on the stone tiles. “What do you want of me, Father?”
“Iput, wife of Unas, comes here. What does she seek?” The voice was gentle, comforting, but insistent. “I need to know, my child, so I may help her.”
“She comes to speak with the hemet netjer. She asked for a protection amulet. She comes here often.” Merti trembled at the sound of the voice.
“When Iput comes again, I want you to listen. Find out when she will return. Place a reed at the base of the first column on the north side of the First Court. I will come to you and you will tell me what I need to know.”
“But, Father, I know when she comes again. She is coming to the temple this night. I heard her speaking with the hemet netjer and they arranged a meeting.” Merti looked up to the heavens and saw the sliver of moon almost directly above her. “She should be approaching soon.”
“Go to your chambers and do not return here this night. Tell no one what I have revealed to you. If you speak of this night, you will never see the face of your true father. I will watch for you and approach you again. Now go, my daughter,” the raspy voice commanded.
Merti got to her feet and, without looking any further for the voice, ran to the safety of the temple.
Iput hurried down the narrow streets of Waset. As she tried to conceal herself in the shadow of the southern wall, passing the darkened homes of noblemen and priests, she reached up to finger the protection amulet around her neck. The hemet netjer had given it to her the previous day at the temple, which is where she was now going. There was less activity on this side of the temple complex, less chance for someone to follow her.
With just a sliver of moon to light the way, she could almost make out the pylon gate rising off to her left. She would be safe when she reached the First Court. The hemet netjer awaited her at the temple; she would know what to do because not only was she hemet netjer nt Amun, skilled in magic, but also the king’s daughter. The princess would offer her protection, but Iput would have to tell her everything, regardless of the danger.
Iput stopped to catch her breath at the edge of the last house, knowing the First Pylon lay only a short distance ahead. With fingers trembling, she again reached for the amulet. She sensed movement, but at this late hour, no fires burned to chase away wild animals. Holding her breath now, she strained to listen. She inhaled deeply, summoned up all her courage, and spun around to see . . . nothing. The street behind her was empty and quiet. She exhaled with relief.
As she turned back toward the pylon entrance, she flinched from a sharp pain in her abdomen. Instinctively, she touched her side and felt something warm, wet, sticky; she knew from the smell it was blood. Before she could scream, she felt another sharp pain in her chest, making it almost impossible to catch her breath, let alone scream. She lurched forward, hoping to reach the gate, when she felt one more sharp pain, this one in her back. Iput gasped, sank to her knees, and fell face first onto the sand.
Her attacker, hidden beside the last house, stepped out from the shadows, knelt beside her lifeless body, and turned her over. After several grisly minutes of further indignities, Iput’s murderer stood up, dragged her body to the pylon gate, placed the weapon beside her, and quietly disappeared into the Egyptian night.