Eye Gougers

30 Aug

Ihe was sent to Abydos by the Pharaoh himself to act as investigative judge in one of the cruelest crimes ever committed in the history of the Two Egypt’s. Tall, thin, and hairless, Ihe had sky blue eyes that sparkled. But his face became a stricken mask of pain when he met the three sightless priests of Horus. Empty, hollow sockets, an unearthly red, met his gaze as he examined the victims of assault. The sight was ugly and horrible. Ihe was shaken by sight of these atrocities.

The attack had happened in the final glow of dusk, as the trio had walked from the temple dedicated to Horus to their nearby sleeping quarters. “How did the horror occur?” Ihe asked the senior priest, resting eyeless on a stool. “They came out of nowhere, as if from the ground itself. These creatures possessed heads of wild pigs, of desert boars. They threw us to the earth. As one monster held me down, another scooped at my eyes with a stone instrument. What it was, I did not have time to determine. I still do not know what it might have been. My blinding took only a few moments and it was over.

”The same was done to my two colleagues, as they can themselves tell you. It was shameless and horrid. They gouged out our eyes in a mood bordering on glee. We were left on the sand, crawling about like infants. Our pain was enormous. At last, our shouts brought forth temple servants who carried us to our rooms. The physicians were unable to do anything but bind our heads with bandage cloths. There is no way to return sight to any of us.”

The judge placed both hands on the forehead of the blind priest. “I shall find what lies behind such evil violence,” he promised in a whisper. The two other victims then gave identical versions of the inhuman event that had stolen their sight.

A servant led Ihe into the private sanctum of the high priest of Horus, an extremely old man named Usam. The two men sat down opposite each other at a low mensal covered with papyri and stared at each other for a time.

Still husky and sinewy, the temple chief had a shining globular bald head. “You have seen the three who were attacked and blinded?” he began. “Yes. It was an appalling sight. I vowed to their unfortunates that I will devote myself to bringing the culprits to just punishment for their outrage.” Usam leaned forward and spoke in a lowered tone. “You are certain they were living beings? Not dead entities, beyond existing mortals?” Ihe involuntarily made a slight grimace. “I cannot reach judgments yet.” He replied with a sigh. “But tell me this: have there been troubles of any sort involving the three priests? Any quarrels or conflicts?” The forehead of Usam became furrowed with lines.

“The center of Abydos contains six sanctuaries. These are dedicated, in turn, to Re, Ptah, Amun, Isis, Osirus, and Horus. These were completed in the reign of the late ruler Seti, father of our Pharaoh Ramesses the second. “What happened was this: the departed Pharoah Seti planned a new shrine for his own special divine patron, the god Seti. But there was loud opposition to the plan by the priests of the other six gods, especially from me and my fellow servants of holy Horus.

“What were we to do? When Ramesses succeeded his father, we pleaded with the son not to build a seventh sanctuary for Seti. A bitter feud them arose with the priestly devotees who were Setians. They argued that an enormous injustice was being done to their patron god. Violent emotions were unleashed in all the sanctuaries of the temple.” Ihe thought for a time, formulating what was best for him to say. “I realize what mortal foes Horus and Seti have always been. But certainly you would not attribute such crimes to the followers of that hated god.” Usam said nothing, only giving the judge a trenchant look. “My investigation takes me next to the leader of the Setians,” said Ihe in a solemn tone. “I intend to ask him some pointed questions.”

The priests devoted to Seti did not have a shrine of their own in the temple, but had to worship and give thanks to their protector in the chambers dedicated to other deities. Work on the law of the seventh portion planned by Seti were not completed during his reign. Building had been suspended under his son, Ramesses. Nothing more had been finished.

Ihe found the high priest of Seti in a humble brick cottage on the periphery of Abydos, facing the hot, desiccated desert. There was much he wanted to ask this person who was at odds with the other priests.

Hehs, in a bright red robe, was a small man with copper brown eyes and skin. His head was an elongated and conical one, all his hair finely shaved off. He invited his visitor to take a stool, but himself remained in a standing position as he spoke to the judge from the capital.

“Let me speak to you frankly” began the priest. “The Pharaoh sent you to find the criminals who took the eyes of the attacked ones. I recognize that there are enemies of divine Seti who are scheming to place the blame for this on the followers of our patron. But all such aspersion are lies and slander. They ought to be scorned and rejected.

“In ancient times, Upper Egypt of the South worshipped Seti. When the two kingdoms united, a common ritual called the Samtaui was created. We can see the union of our two lands in the oldest wall paintings in the intertwined holy wreaths. All of Egypt prospered when these two gods lived in concord. If only that harmony had continued!” The face of the high priest made a solemn plea to the investigator. Ihe decided to take the initiative. “I will need to talk to all the priests of Seti. Can you arrange that for me?” “Of course,” agreed Hehs with a confident smile. “But they will tell you the same as I have.”

That evening a private dinner was given for Ihe by Usam in his large official apartment. After being served, the two were completely alone. “How did your session with Hehs go?” inquired the host after the food was consumed. Ihe grinned. “He was quite defensive of his patron god. He believes that the priests of Horus have been unfair to Seti and the Setians.”

“The liar speaks no truth. For generations there has been bitter contention between our two gods for dominance in the united kingdom of the two Egypt’s. We have become very bitter enemies. I will reveal to you the true character of Seti and why he had to be excluded from the Temple of Abydos.”

“Go ahead,” indicated the visiting judge.

“The conflict arose in earliest times. Finally, Re commanded Seti and Horus to stop their quarreling. Seti went so far as to invite Horus, his nephew, to stay at his residential palace. When night fell, the two even lay down together in one single bed.

“But Seti, staying awake all night, ejaculated onto the thigh of his relative. When Horus awoke in the morning, he placed one hand down and discovered what had happened while he slept. Alarmed, the god ran to his mother, Isis, for aid and advice.

“She was so scandalized that she took a knife and cut off the hand of her son, whom she now considered a self-abuser. Only after lengthy sorrow did she heal Horus, creating a completely new hand for him.

“But what do you think Seti did when he learned what his sister, Isis, had done for his enemy, Horus? That she had made a hand to replace the one taken off by her?

“He sent the evil Setian animal to take out the eyes of his foe, Horus. This is a monstrous pig with a long curved nose and gigantic ears. It is the common symbol of Seti himself, a red desert boar of unnatural ferocity. This was the beast that committed the gouging. I fear that Seti brought the beast here to carry out what the priests of Horus suffered.” Ihe, unable to say anything, kept silent a considerable time. In a short while, he excused himself and left the apartment in haste.

The quiet night drew the judge outdoors for a walk along the Nile shore. Ideas surged through his mind as he reviewed all that he had heard from each side of the feud. Looking up into the endless blanket of stars, Ihe tried to forget the tales of Seti and Horus under the eternal celestial dome, where unearthly beauty captured his mind. His thoughts began to soar above the world he lived in.

All at once, a seemingly distant voice spoke from out of the sand. He recognized it at once as that of the priest of Seti called Hehs. “Have you uncovered the truth of all that has happened? Do you know what power is responsible for all the evil hereabouts?” Ihe turned about, gradually making out the red robe and the dark brown face. What could he say to the priest, possibly involved in atrocious acts? How was he to deal with him? Ihe made an attempt to learn the truth.

“I have great interest in the wild pig of Seti, the legendary red boar. The question in my mind is whether it is responsible for the cruel, inhuman gougings that occurred just a while ago.”

“What about the beloved falcon of Horus?” fiercely countered the other. “That monstrous bird may have been used by the high priest of Horus to justify accusations against the sacred boar. The falcon is known to have carried out heartless punishment. Was it the instrument for incriminating the followers of divine Seti?”

For only an instant, Ihe considered that possibility. But in another moment, he rejected it as special pleading by the one making the argument.

“How often has the falcon of Horus gouged eyes in the past?” demanded the judge. “Has any deity exceeded what Seti did to his own nephew?” The copper eyes of the high priest flashed with fury. “You vile viper! You stupid asp!” all at once, the angry Hehs turned about with violent speed and started to slink away into the darkness. He was quickly gone.

Surprised and dismayed, Ihe failed to observe what else was happening. On both sides of him as well as his back, tall forms with animal heads emerged. He was unaware of their movements until caught in the clasping grips of these strange beings. As soon as he realized what they were and intended to do. Ihe knew the fate in store for him. There was no way for him to avert it.

Like the three blinded priests of Horus, he was to lose his sight. The pressure of stone against living flesh caused him intolerable pain. Until consciousness faded away, Ihe had an experience very few Egyptians ever had or were to have. He was losing his eye sight forever.

When the day came for the blinded judge to leave Abydos, only the high priest of Horus came to say farewell to him. Along with that, Usam brought news for the victim of demonic crime. “Word has come to me of a decision by Pharaoh Ramesses. A new sanctuary of the temple shall be dedicated to the god Seti’s memory. Under this new command, the priests of Seti will enjoy a place of their own within the temple.”

It took time for Ihe to digest the statement and its implication. He spoke solemnly. “I hope that temporary victory of the Setians means an end to their campaign of gouging. Who can say? If I had accepted the interpretation of Hehs that the guilt lay with the falcon of Horus, my eyes might still have their vision.”

“We may now have peace in the temple, at least during the years of Ramesses,” muttered Usam in a lowered tone. All at once, the man with the bandaged eyes smiled. “Does the Pharaoh know what happened to me here?” he asked. “I would think so,” was all that the priest was willing to confirm.

“Then my loss of sight may come to have some value,” said Ihe. Having no more to say, the High Priest of Horus rose and kissed the judge in the temple, then departed.

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