"No one tried to stop him. All crept away in fear. Khayman alone went into the house.
"It was pitch-black now, save for the torchlight. And this is what Khayman saw:
"The Queen lay on the floor writhing as if in agony, the blood pouring from her wounds, and a great reddish
cloud enveloped her; it was like a whirlpool surrounding her, or rather a wind sweeping up countless tiny
drops of blood. And in the midst of this swirling wind or rain or whatever it could be called, the Queen twisted
and turned, her eyes rolling up in her head. The King lay sprawled on his back.
"All instinct told Khayman to leave this place. To get as far away from it as he could. At that moment, he
wanted to leave his homeland forever. But this was his Queen, who lay there gasping for breath, her back
arched, her hands clawing at the floor.
"Then the great blood cloud that veiled her, swelling and contracting around her, grew denser and, all of a
sudden, as if drawn into her woundst disappeared. The Queen's body went still; then slowly she sat upright,
her eyes staring forward, and a great guttural cry broke from her before she fell quiet.
"There was no sound whatsoever as the Queen stared at Khayman, except for the crackling of the torch.-
And then hoarsely the Queen began to gasp again, her eyes widening, and it seemed she should die; but
she did not. She shielded her eyes from the bright light of the torch as though it was hurting her, and she
turned and saw her husband lying as if dead at her side.
"She cried a negation in her agony; it could not be so. And at the same instant, Khayman beheld that all her
wounds were healing; deep gashes were no more than scratches upon the surface of her skin.
" 'Your Highness!' he said. And he came towards her as she crouched weeping and staring at her own arms,
which had been torn with the slashes of the daggers, and at her own breasts, which were whole again. She
was whimpering piteously as she looked at these healing wounds. And suddenly with her long nails, she tore
at her own skin and the blood gushed out and yet the wound healed!
" 'Khayman, my Khayman!' she screamed, covering her eyes so that she did not see the bright torch. 'What
has befallen me!' And her screams grew louder and louder; and she fell upon the King in panic, crying,
'Enkil, help me. Enkil, do not die!' and all the other mad things that one cries in the midst of disaster. And
then as she stared down at the King, a great ghastly change came over her, and she lunged at the King, as
if she were a hungry beast, and with her long tongue, she lapped at the blood that covered his throat and his
"Khayman had never seen such a spectacle. She was a lioness in the desert lapping the blood from a tender
kill. Her back was bowed, and her knees were drawn up, and she pulled the helpless body of the King
towards her and bit the artery in his throat.
"Khayman dropped the torch. He backed halfway from the open door. Yet even as he meant to run for his
life, he heard the King's voice. Softly the King spoke to her. 'Akasha,' he said. 'My Queen.' And she, drawing
up, shivering, weeping, stared at her own body, and at his body, at her smooth flesh, and his torn still by so
many wounds. 'Khayman,' she cried. 'Your dagger. Give it to me. For they have taken their weapons with
them. Your dagger. I must have it now.'
"At once Khayman obeyed, though he thought it was to see his King die once and for all. But with the dagger
the Queen cut her own wrists and watched the blood pour down upon the wounds of her husband, and she
saw it heal them. And crying out in her excitement, she smeared the blood all over his torn face.
"The King's wounds healed. Khayman saw it. Khayman saw the great gashes closing. He saw the King
tossing, heaving his arms this way and that. His tongue lapped at Akasha's spilt blood as it ran down his
face. And then rising in that same animal posture that had so consumed the Queen only moments before,
the King embraced his wife, and opened his mouth on her throat.
"Khayman had seen enough. In the flickering light of the dying torch these two pale figures had become
haunts to him, demons themselves. He backed out of the little house and up against the garden wall. And
there it seems he lost consciousness, feeling the grass against his face as he collapsed.
"When he waked, he found himself lying on a gilded couch in the Queen's chambers. All the palace lay
quiet. He saw that his clothes had been changed, and his face and hands bathed, and that there was only
the dimmest light here and sweet incense, and the doors were open to the garden as if there was nothing to
"Then in the shadows, he saw the King and the Queen looking down at him; only this was not his King and
not his Queen. It seemed then that he would cry out; he would give voice to screams as terrible as those he
had heard from others; but the Queen quieted him.
" 'Khayman, my Khayman,' she said. She handed to him his beautiful gold-handled dagger, 'You have
served us well.'
"There Khayman paused in his story. 'Tomorrow night,' he said, 'when the sun sets, you will see for
yourselves what has happened. For then and only then, when all the light is gone from the western sky, will
they appear together in the rooms of the palace, and you will see what I have seen.
' 'But why only in the night?' I asked him. 'What is the significance of this?'
"And then he told us, that not one hour after he'd waked, even before the sun had risen, they had begun to
shrink from the open doors of the palace, to cry that the light hurt their eyes. Already they had fled from
torches and lamps; and now it seemed the morning was coming after them; and there was no place in the
palace that they could hide.
"In stealth they left the palace, covered in garments. They ran with a speed no human being could match.
They ran towards the mastabas or tombs of the old families, those who had been forced with pomp and
ceremony to make mummies of their dead. In sum, to the sacred places which no one would desecrate, they
ran so fast that Khayman could not follow them. Yet once the King stopped. To the sun god, Ra, he called
out for mercy. Then weeping, hiding their eyes from the sun, crying as if the sun burnt them even though its
light had barely come into the sky, the King and the Queen disappeared from Khayman's sight.
" 'Not a day since have they appeared before sunset; they come down out of the sacred cemetery, though
no one knows from where. In fact the people now wait for them in a great multitude, hailing them as the god
and the goddess, the very image of Osiris and Isis, deities of the moon, and tossing flowers before them,
and bowing down to them.
" 'For the tale spread far and wide that the King and Queen had vanquished death at the hands of their
enemies by some celestial power; that they are gods, immortal and invincible; and that by that same power
they can see into men's hearts. No secret can be kept from them; their enemies are immediately punished;
they can hear the words one speaks only in one's head. All fear them.
" 'Yet I know as all their faithful servants know that they cannot bear a candle or a lamp too close to them;
that they shriek at the bright light of a torch; and that when they execute their enemies in secret, they drink
their blood! They drink it, I tell you. Like jungle cats, they feed upon these victims; and the room after is as a
lion's den. And it is I, Khayman, their trusted steward, who must gather these bodies and heave them into
the pit.' And then Khayman stopped and gave way to weeping.
"But the tale was finished; and it was almost morning. The sun was rising over the eastern mountains; we
made ready to cross the mighty
the first barge of soldiers went across. He was weeping still as he saw the sun come down upon the river;
saw the water catch fire.
" The sun god, Ra, is the oldest and greatest god of all Kemet,' he whispered. 'And this god has turned
against them. Why? In secret they weep over their fate; the thirst maddens them; they are frightened it will
become more than they can bear. You must save them. You must do it for our people. They have not sent
for you to blame you or harm you. They need you. You are powerful witches. Make this spirit undo his work.'
And then looking at us, remembering all that had befallen us, he gave way to despair.
"Mekare and I made no answer. The barge was now ready to carry us to the palace. And we stared across
the glare of the water at the great collection of painted buildings that was the royal city, and we wondered
what the consequences of this horror would finally be.
"As I stepped down upon the barge, I thought of my child, and I knew suddenly I should die in Kemet. I
wanted to close my eyes, and ask the spirits in a small secret voice if this was truly meant to happen, yet I
did not dare. I couid not have my last hope taken from me."