Friday, July 22, 2011

"The Wrath of Amun" - Fifth Installment

Another installment of "The Wrath of Amun." Hope you are enjoying the posts.
After the preparation of the unguents and the noon ritual, Thanuny and Qaa retired to their private quarters. Qaa took out a new scroll and wrote notes about his observations of the poisoned wine and what the priests had told him. When he had finished, he secured the reeds in the palette, took the scroll and palette with him, and crossed the corridor to Thanuny’s room.
“Thanuny, may I speak plainly? The king has appointed me First hem netjer; I need to know if you had hoped to gain the position.”
“I am quite content with my duties here at the temple. I often have to act on behalf of the First hem netjer, but without all the political intrigue that comes with the position. I do not envy you your task. I shall serve you well, just as I did Raneb. Harkhuf, Weni, and I are the only permanent full time priests here, as was Raneb. I shall notify them of your appointment. Whatever you need, hem netjer, I am at your service.” Thanuny bowed to Qaa.
“I would prefer informality from you and hope to count you as a friend, Thanuny. I have spent much of my life in military service, never settling in one place very long. My previous appointment, Viceroy of Kush, required my dedication to protecting our southern border. I hope to settle in Waset and would enjoy the company of my fellow priests.”
“You may depend on me, Qaa, if I may address you as such.”
Qaa smiled for the first time in the presence of the priest. “Yes, Thanuny, you may. There is much I need to know, and you are my eyes and ears. Please sit and we may begin.”
Thanuny sat on his bed and Qaa sat on the stool at the writing table. He spread the scroll on the table, set the palette next to it, prepared the inks, and consulted his notes.
“Thanuny, do you have the bowls and vessel? I think I would like to examine them first.”
The priest motioned to a side table. Qaa was able to reach them from his position at the writing table. The bowls contained some sediment, but it was difficult to determine if it was from an herbal mixture or just from the wine itself. The vessel, however, was much more informative. Just looking down the neck, Qaa could see a great deal of “mush” in the bottom. He gently tapped the clay vessel on the edge of the table to crack it. With his large hand, he grasped the neck and broke it off, to expose the inside. The first item of note was the unmistakable odour of lotus flower. It was often used for pain or to quiet those suffering from demons, but in large doses it could lead to unconsciousness and death. The plant material looked like it had been filtered through cloth; there was little that was recognizable. From the smell, however, he suspected one of the ingredients could be monkshood or henbane. He placed the broken vessel on the table, scribbled some notes on the papyrus scroll, and then turned his attention to Thanuny.
 “You and Raneb carried Iput into the preparation tent, after the hemet netjer had been settled in her quarters. Tell me what he said of his observations, as well as what you observed. No detail is unimportant.”
“You should know the weapon was recovered. It was found next to the body. Raneb directed me not to wash it until he examined it. I placed the dagger on a piece of linen cloth and brought it into the preparation tent for him.”
“Tell me about the dagger and, if it is still in the preparation tent, I would like to examine it as well.” Qaa picked up the reed, dipped it in the ink, and took notes as he listened to Thanuny.
“It is an unusual dagger, foreign; I have seen daggers like that being traded in the marketplace. Many of them come from the Near East. Rather than describe the dagger, I shall show it to you when you have finished your questions.”
“Thank you, Thanuny. Tell me what Raneb saw when he examined the body.”
The older priest shifted uncomfortably on the bed. He had been troubled greatly by what he had seen.
“Take your time. I know this has been a very unsettling event. I have seen men killed in battle, but I have never seen anything as brutal as this.” Qaa looked sympathetically at Thanuny. “I would not ask for such information if it were not necessary.”
“I have been greatly affected by this murder; even sleep offers me no solace.”
“Then tell me, Thanuny, and allow me to carry the burden of this crime.”
The older priest took a deep breath and commenced his narrative, as Qaa made notes.
“Raneb examined her body thoroughly, just as you did. He also spread her legs and examined her genitals and rectum. Aside from the wounds you see, her attacker used an object on her, tearing her open in both areas.”
Both men sat for some time in silence, Qaa trying to understand how a person could do such a thing, Thanuny struggling with the horrors he had seen inflicted on Iput.
“After Weni helped Raneb pack the body cavity, Raneb dismissed the other priests and asked me to remain. He told me he was troubled by something he had seen and asked me to assist him. We removed some of the natron packets from the body and Raneb examined other organs.” Thanuny’s face was ashen, his voice quavered, and he looked quite ill.
“Let me get you some wine. We can speak of this later, when you are feeling up to it.”
Qaa exited the room and crossed the corridor to his room. He had a vessel of Kushite wine in one of his traveling chest. He extracted it from the chest and found the two new drinking bowls on a shelf in his room. He brought the bowls and vessel to Thanuny’s room, poured him a generous amount, and held the wine out to the older priest. With hands shaking, he took the bowl and drained it straight away.
“Qaa, you must not reveal what I am about to tell you. Only Raneb and I knew what he had found when he again examined that poor woman.”
Qaa poured more wine into Thanuny’s bowl, poured himself a bowl, and sat down again. When they had both drunk, Qaa spoke to the priest.
“Raneb was the Chief Medjay in charge of the investigation. It now falls upon my shoulders to complete his work. I need to know what he knew.”
“Iput was with child when she was killed.” Thanuny buried his face in his hands, trying to erase the scene from his memory.

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