Sons of the Moon

7 Oct

The great capital of Thebes was shaken by fear and panic. What was the government of the Pharaoh going to do about the series of murders carried out on the streets late at night? Police authorities realized they were dependent on their undercover spies to find out who was responsible for the brutal stabbings, clubbings, and suffocations that had occurred as if on a demonic schedule. Only these informers could discover who was guilty.

Among the anonymous, non-uniformed agents of the law mobilized for investigation was a towering, lanky young man named Gae. His assignment involved the lowest rung of taverns in the worst slum of the capital. It was in such a disreputable dive that the professional spy made an acquaintance that provided him a key lead on the spree of murder.

Gae, without a word, took a chair across a small table from the little man drinking a cup of beer by himself. He did not order any drink yet but only sat watching him.

Dark eyes studied the face of Gae.

“I have not seen you in here before,” muttered the one already drinking. “My name is Atim and my trade is carpentry. There is not much need for what I do at the present time. Everything in Thebes has slowed down since the murders began.”

“That is certainly the truth,” said Gae with a hint of exasperation. He went on to introduce himself as an unemployed notary. “I have a lot of time available these days in which to study old manuscripts at the Theban temple of Re. That fills up most of my day.”

“The priests allow you to see what was written down in earlier ages?” asked the carpenter with unconcealed surprise.

“Yes, they are glad to accommodate those with curiosity about divine beings.”

Atim raised his cup and took a long drink. At that point, a server brought Gae a cup of brew he had ordered when he came in.

“I have heard that it is the priests of Thoth who are in charge of the written treasures,” murmured the craftsman in wood. “They claim precedence when it comes to records and documents.”

“Yes, that is so even in the precincts of the temple of all-mighty Re. It is the adherents of Thoth who supervise the archives. They believe that their patron has a monopoly over knowledge and wisdom. Their responsibility is to preserve the written sources of healing power given by the deity they serve.”

Gae noticed how the other was staring at him with intense interest.

“You must know much about the gods,” said the carpenter.”Tell me this: have you come across anything in your study that makes mention of Khons?”

The police spy tried to hide his surprise at the question.

“No, there is nothing written concerning Khons here in Thebes. He has never enjoyed connections with this region of the Nile. His importance has been in decline since the early time of our kingdom. I have to tell you that Thoth now possesses the attributes once belonging to Khons.”

“But Khons, the god of the moon, was born of Amon-Re and divine Mut,” rejoined Atim almost in anger. “His position of honor and respect was an elevated one among our ancestors up and down the Nile. What was long ago his inheritance has been transferred elsewhere. That is the truth.”

Gae frowned as he meditated. “There are no surviving temples of Khons left. I remember having heard somewhere that he was always a wanderer, not fixed in any single place. The ever-changing moon has been the symbol of Khons. Unending movement characterizes that particular deity.”

Atim looked as if he were in a trance. “His kingdom is that of the sky at night,” he said in a whisper.

The pair continued drinking in silence, speaking no more about the supernatural.

Again and again, Gae returned to the same tavern to talk with Atim. He could not have verbalized the undefinable interest that had been aroused in his mind.

They discussed many subjects, yet always came back to the gods of Egypt.

“We must accept the universal dominance of Re and the sun,” argued Gae. “Even here in Thebes, the moon’s Khons is subordinate to him in all respects. Do you dispute that?”

The other seemed to grope for an adequate reply.

“Such a conclusion is uncalled for. When night falls upon us, where is Re? The stars and the moon appear, but the gods of day are not present. Re has sailed down to the underworld and is away from us. Who, then, rules the shadowy darkness? Who is master of the night? No one but Khons, who is depicted in wall paintings as a child with the crescent moon serving as his headdress. Here and there you can find individuals who pray to him for healing cures when they are ill. In his hand he holds an emerald tablet that contains the formulas for magical medicines that cure. Those who trust in Khons are generously rewarded.”

Gae at once raised an objection. “What you describe pertains more to Thoth, though. He is, in fact, a more generous deity than Khons ever was.”

The face of Atim reddened. “Khons was earliest with cures and remedies,” he barked in anger. “Thoth was himself descended from the god of the moon.” He bent his head forward and glared at Gae. “Would you like to learn the truth about the night deity who has been forgotten today?” he asked in a whisper.

The undercover man gave him a nod.

“Tomorrow night, then, I shall take you to our group that worships Khons. I already know that the other members are willing to talk with you, because I have discussed the subject with them.”

Surprised by the invitation, Gae seized at the opportunity presented him.

“Where does the group assemble?” he inquired.

“The cottage of our leader, Xi. You and I will meet here, then I will take you there.”

The only link that Gae had with formal governmental authority was through the police spy in charge of him, a temple official named Deshir. Once a week, the pair met in an open field behind the central city market.

“I have made contact with a participant in a secret religious cult,” Gae informed his superior, a fat giant wearing a blue robe. “The group is dedicated to the worship of Khons, the ancient moon-god. I have been invited to attend their next meeting. No one can foresee what might be uncovered there. Do I have your permission to go into their midst and listen to what they say?”

“Of course,” said the other. “We must always be aware of what is going on in the shadows. There is always the possibility of connection to criminal acts like the wave of recent killings. No one can tell what they may be doing unless there is a witness on the inside. Be on the lookout for any signs of the unusual or abnormal in anything they are involved with. The capital has never been so alarmed as now, I believe. Yes, it makes sense to infiltrate any organized movement that could be termed suspicious.”

Gae promised to be vigilant and watchful, then quickly departed.

Xi was uncertain how to react to what Atim told him he had done.

“You offered to bring this stranger to our next meeting together?”

“He is interested in Khons and appears to be a likely candidate for recruitment, sir.”

The leader thought for a few seconds before he spoke. “What is done is done. But all our brothers must be informed to be careful and stay mum about our most secret activities. You know what it is I am referring to.”

“That is understood by everyone,” agreed Atim.”The man must be tested and examined carefully before he can learn everything.”

Xi frowned so that his brow furrowed. “I do not like the fact that he is an unknown stranger you met in a tavern. There is always possible danger in such places. The followers of Re do not tolerate challenges from those who prefer the moon to the sun. Do you realize what can happen to us should the authorities learn how we serve our beloved Khons?”

Atim bit his lip. “Yes, I know how perilous our activities are. But all the man has told me fortifies my confidence in him. He is a searcher for the truth, with unsatisfied curiosity. We can offer him what no official, conventional temple is able to.”

Xi looked Atim directly in the eye.

“I intend to be careful in what I say to this person until I am perfectly sure about him,” promised the leader of the secret group.

The meeting was held in an empty storage building on the western edge of Thebes. Atim brought the new acquaintance and introduced him to Xi and three others who were present. The six then sat down on stools formed in a circle, Atim and the visitor siting beside each other. Following a period of thoughtful silence, Xi began to speak.

“Why is it that the day is dominant and the night subordinate to it?

“The humans of today take Re as primary and superior to the extent that all other gods are diminished in rank and honor. Those divinities once in the forefront are somewhat forgotten and ignored. They exist as shadows of what they once had been.

“And the greatest of the demoted great ones is Khons, ruler of the moon of night. Who has knowledge or memory of him today? Where are the temples dedicated to his sacred being? Who any longer appeals to Khons for aid or protection?

“We who are here tonight are a very small group with admiration for the moon-god. We are the special Sons of the Moon who are perpetuating the old traditions tied to that deity.

“The inhabitants of the two kingdoms of Egypt know very little of what we think and do. But our aims remain the eternal ones passed down to us by our enlightened ancestors. Where can real healing of body and mind come from if not from our earliest gods such as Khons? The answer is found in the distant past and its spiritual truths…”

Xi continued much further in that vein for a time. His presentation wound down to an end.

His eyes centered upon Gae once he was done. “I would find it an honor, my friend, if you remained so that we could converse together about the future,” he proposed in a low, musical tone. His face glowed with inspiration.

When the two men were alone, Xi revealed an important secret to the newcomer.

“I and the other members are not ordinary mortals, not at all. No one can recognize our special character, as you have not succeeded in doing either. That is something that no one realizes, no one at all. For we are too different from other men to be perceived or understood.

“Through our original actions and deeds, my comrades and I have become extraordinary persons. We are moon-men, not merely earth-men. Do you understand? By the worship of Khons, we make ourselves into a different type of the human race. We transcend the limitations of the majority of the population, those who bow down before the god of the sun. Our connection is in a different direction, to Khons and the moon which is his. Our god is unique and he grants us a special power. Can you imagine what his gift to us consists of?”

“No, I cannot,” confessed the overwhelmed and confused Gae.

“In time, my son, I shall explain to you what our particular duty to Khons is.”

Gae sighed as he looked ahead to a long preparatory education in the principles of the moon men.

Half a year in the future, at the start of the month when the Nile would flood, a strangled body was discovered on a backstreet of the capital. Rumor spread through Thebes concerning the identity of the victim.

The name of that particular person was no mystery to one individual – the police spy named Gae.

Why did I have to kill my tutor, Xi? he asked himself many times each day that passed.

The night of a new moon had arrived, the time for another sacrifice to the hungry moon-god, Khons.

Xi had long since revealed the nature of the required sacrifice to him: some ordinary Theban had to be killed, in all probability an adherent of Re and the daytime sun.

Was I to allow myself to become another moon-based killer, stalking a victim in the night? wondered the undercover man.

Without Xi, the circle will be unhinged and pilotless.

The authorities who rule would never believe the story I could relate to them.

Gae became unable to sleep, remaining so even after disposing of Xi.

He worried whether he had succeeded in destroying the Sons of the Moon once and for all. It was necessary for him to keep an eye on Atim, to prevent his taking the place of the late leader, Xi.

The spy waited anxiously for the next new month to learn whether he had halted the regularity of the murders.

Would his one targeted execution put an end to the terrifying campaign of slaughter in Thebes, the new killer asked himself?

The answer was sure to come in a short time. The days to come would depend on it.

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