©Neville Goedhals 2007. Visit my site at: www.NevilleGoedhals.com

BUZUR

 

(THE GODS OF SUMER)

  

By

 

Neville C Goedhals

 

 

 

Preface – Paris, France (ca. Present day)

 

What Dr. Niles Engel had implied was amazing to say the least, and a frantic ruffle of paper ensued as many of the august audience frantically paged to the back of their handouts for references.

The renowned archaeologist and anthropologist paused, letting the rustle die down, and peered over the top of the lectern through his archaic-looking round spectacles. The delegates had filled the Richelieu amphitheater of the Universite de Paris-Sorbonne to capacity. The high-domed and frescoed roof amplified every sound, and the classic wall murals and ancient oak paneling did little to muffle the smallest noise.

One of the delegates half-raised a hand. Dr. Engel sighed softly to himself in resignation, pointed to the short and balding academic, and gave a nod of assent.

“Je vous demande pardon, Professeur Engel. Je suis Professeur Pingaud du Laboratoire d'Anthropologie Sociale, situé ici à Paris.” He hesitated as if deciding what to say.

Please continue in English, prayed Dr. Engel silently to any deities that might happen to be listening. God knows, he hadn’t used French for a decade.

“I am positive that many of my colleagues here,” the Professor continued in heavily accented English, gesturing at those seated around him, “ugh ... how to put the question ... You imply that there is a conspiracy spanning five thousand years?”

“I really don’t know about that Professor. What I am implying is that there is a consistent and verifiable trail of knowledge leading from the oldest civilization in the world, namely Sumer, through the Assyrians, Medes, and Egypt, and onto the Magi, Templars, Masonic Lodges ...” Dr. Engel’s glasses slid a bit further down his aquiline nose and he shifted them further up with a forefinger. “It pervades our modern world to this day.”

The French professor gave a broad grin, pushed his shoulders back in his seat and threw up his hands as if to punctuate his disbelief. “Monsieur Engel, this is modern civilization, we are sitting in Paris. The airplanes, they fly overhead. Where is this knowledge you speak of?”

“Well, Parisis--or Paris as we know it, means ‘near the temple of Isis’. There was a temple to Isis at St. Germain-des-Pres quite close by, statue and all. In 1612 an idol of Isis was reported in the cathedral of Notre Dame--only minutes from where we now sit. Of course ‘Isis’ was the name the Greeks gave to the goddess Aset ... which was the name the Egyptians gave to the Sumerian goddess Ninmah.”

The French Professor turned his bald head to someone in the audience, then looked back at Dr. Engel, shrugging in acquiescence. Obviously someone with knowledge of local history had given confirmation.

“Also, King Louis-Philippe I, requested that a ‘five- pointed golden star’ be affixed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. It’s interesting to note that his father was the first Grand Master of the Grand Orient, the regulating body of Freemasonry in France, and the five-pointed star is a common symbol in Freemasonry. It is associated with the star Sirius, the sign of Isis.”

Dr. Engel held up his hands in a placating gesture. “But there are more subtle signs. Just down the hall from this amphitheatre is a first-aid station. Look carefully at the symbol painted on the door when you pass it on your way out. It’s a rod with two entwined serpents ... the symbol of healing. Originally it was the Sumerian symbol for the god Enki.”

Dr. Engel was getting into his stride. He pulled back his right shirtsleeve and held his watch toward the audience. “When you next check the time, remember that we inherited the ‘sixty minutes in an hour’ from the Sumerians. If you calculate using three hundred and sixty degrees, then thank the Sumerians. If you use Pythagoras’ theorem, thank the Sumerians--not the Greeks. The Sumerians invented the written language over five thousand years ago, and cuneiform remained the major writing style until 500 BCE. The most recent document found so far was in 74 CE--”

The French Professor was waiving a hand frantically.

“Yes Professor?”

“You make it sound like ... like mankind has done nothing, nothing since the demise of Mesopotamia!”

“Oh, we’ve done a lot Professor; however, we’ve been building on the backs of giants. Europeans did not begin civilization; they merely took it from the Middle East and built on it. Tell me one major invention that the west made prior to the advent of steel ... Remember that we didn’t invent copper, bronze or iron, and that medicine went backwards rather than forwards until about four hundred years ago.”

The Doctor looked around the amphitheatre questioningly. “Well ... Anyone? It’s a difficult question ... est il pas Professeur?

“There is a reason for my badgering you with these facts. Taken singularly they mean little, and until we realize the full scope of their influence, we cannot in truth know where we ‘as a culture’ have come from, and where we’re heading. The famous historian, John Henry Clark, once wrote that, ‘History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.’

“There are times when I wonder where we would be today without those ancient inventors. Imagine a world without mathematics, or even more onerous--a fair portion of most modern religions. Much of whom we are, and most of our culture over the past thousand years, has been driven by our religious beliefs ... beliefs that are not ours by right; that we have inherited from the self-same ancients we have been discussing. The sages of old appear to have influenced us from beyond their graves, and they guide our steps even now. How can we hope to--”

A rumble emanated from the gathered academics, and the Professor rose to his feet without waiting for Dr. Engel’s assent.

“And just how do they guide us Monsieur Engel?” He looked around. “I see no ancients guiding me.”

“Influence can be a subtle thing Professor.” Dr. Engel paused to consider a viable example. “What religion are you Professor?”

“I am, how you say it ... practicing Catholic.”

“And do you adhere to the Ten Commandments? I promise not to tell your priest if you don’t.”

A titter ran through the delegates, and the professor nodded with a tight smile.

“Let’s see then ... The Commandments began, in all likelihood, with the ‘Instructions of Shuruppak’ in ancient Sumer. They were a ‘code of good conduct’, such as: you should not steal anything; you should not tell lies; you should not kill; you should not pass judgment when you drink beer.

“Their beliefs were adopted by the rest of Mesopotamia, and when the Babylonians began to get heavy-handed, many Sumerians and Assyrians left for Kemet, or Egypt as it is now called.

“We next see the Commandments in the Egyptian burial rights and instructions to the dead. There was no afterlife without adhering to certain rules ... Sound familiar? Think of Saint Peter at the pearly gates, checking for your sins in his great ledger.

“The deceased would meet with Osiris, who would be sitting on his throne. The goddess Ammut--­not a pretty sight being part crocodile, hippo, and lion--would be in attendance. A balance was placed in front of Osiris on which the deceased’s heart would be weighed against a feather of truth. The Gods Horus, and Anubis, would check the balance while Toth would record the result.

“The deceased would then address Osiris in his defense ...”

 

  

Chapters of coming forth by day

 

In truth, I now come to you, and I have brought Maat to you,
and I have destroyed wickedness for you.

I have not scorned any god.

I am pure.
 I have not killed.

I have not caused pain.

I have not copulated illicitly
I have not added to or stolen land.
I have not done falsehood against men.

I have not done what the gods abominate.
I have not blocked the God at his processions.

I have not oppressed the members of my family.
I did not rise in the morning and expect more than my due.

I am pure.

Translation from the Egyptian book of the dead - spell 125: Kemet (ca. 1550 BCE).

 

 

Era 675 BCE - Kemet

 

Chapter 1

 

Nembre had no qualms in placing lust before the destruction of the human race. He gripped the very evidence of mankind’s peril in his hand; nevertheless, he chose to ignore it. No doubt it had much to do with his youth, and the fact that he was watching Aset’s lithe form as she disembarked her barge.

Careful calculation had determined the optimum position to sit and study, just so that he would see her again ... that is, without Ahtep--the high priest of Aset--realizing what he was doing. Nembre peered carefully through the gap in the olive tree.

Aset stepped up onto the landing and her knee-length white robe parted revealing a smooth inner-thigh. Oh! To stroke that flesh. Then she was gone, her vision hidden from where Nembre sat ... to all appearances studying a cuneiform tablet.

He’d chosen a spot on the southernmost beach of the island where the boat-landing’s retaining wall blocked his view to the west, and the slope of the land to the north hid the rest of the island of Paaleq from view. An ancient olive tree eclipsed the landing itself--except for the inconspicuous gap in the branches and leaves which he kept in order with careful pruning. It appeared to be a secluded spot, with only the sluggish waters of the Iteru River and a view of the nearby island of Bigeh to disturb a conscientious student.

Nembre stared at the cuneiform in distaste. At age seventeen he’d already mastered hieroglyphics as an acolyte in the city of Waset, and now he was expected to apply himself to the written language most commonly used by administrators and merchants throughout the known world. However, the tablets he was given to read had less importance than those. They were religious texts, and he took them with a pinch of salt. Who truly believed that the Gods were alive and well and had nothing better to do than eradicate humans, he wondered. For that appeared to be the gist of the tablets--a very different story from what he’d learned back in the temples of Waset. Far better to study a dark-haired beauty whose pale countenance--

WHAM!

“Daydreaming again you useless priest?”

The back of Nembre’s head stung where the flat of Ahtep’s beefy hand had connected.

“If it wasn’t for your family’s continued service to the Pharaohs--for forty generations I remind you--you’d be a workman at a quarry! Why, if your ancestor Imhotep could see you now ...”

Gods! Not the Imhotep story again, pleaded Nembre silently. He turned and faced the high priest, whose overly large belly protruded beyond the lion-skin robe of his office. Even in the heat of the day Ahtep’s chubby face and tonsured scalp were smooth and dry, which amazed the youngster, as his own stick-thin body perspired at the mere hint of sunlight.

“... but there is little time to recount your many sins and failings,” continued a disappointed Ahtep. “You are to meet Aset.”

Nembre’s world seemed to swirl around him. “I ... me? Meet Aset?” Then reality struck. Oh no, he means I get to clean and clothe the statue. His face fell.

“Yes you! The First Prophetess is waiting for you. I told her it was too early in your training and that you were lazy and deserved a whipping; however, she has a task for you that she believes will rekindle your lagging faith.”

Nembre jumped to his feet. It was true; he really was to meet Aset. She--with the pale smooth legs and face that no mere Goddess could hope to wear. As the First Prophet she bore the Goddess’s name ... she was ‘Aset incarnate’ for many of the lesser ceremonies.

“Nembre!” Ahtep held out his hand for the cuneiform tablet that the young priest still held. “Remember, you may be a priest, but more importantly, you aspire to become one with the Buzur.”

Nembre slapped the tablet into the high priest’s hand and dashed off toward the temple.

“Don’t forget the ritual ablution!” shouted Ahtep to his rapidly receding back.

 

The High Priest smiled after the youngster and bent down to put himself at the height Nembre would have been when sitting. He shook his head in negation and moved a few inches. A broad grin creased his ample cheeks. “Amazing,” he whispered. “The gap’s only visible from that one spot--very well executed. Let’s hope that Aset can redirect his talents.”

 

Nembre rushed through the temple’s large stone entrance into the outer court, dropped to his knees at the cistern, and began wiping his arms, legs and face with the freshly laundered linen rags put there for that purpose. It mattered little if he was dirty or not--water was the cradle of life, imbued with energy and renewal ... or so the writings said.

He used the ritual cleansing to calm his mind, and considered what he knew about the first prophetess, Aset. This would be the first time he would speak to her in person, and he did not wish to create the impression that he was a naive, recently ordained priest ... which was exactly what he was.

Father used to say that the prophetess was thousands of years old, he recalled. Well, so much for father’s knowledge--nobody really believed that ... May Imeut guide you through the underworld.

His father had been a High Priest of Aset, at least until the unfortunate incident with the sacred crocodile at the Temple of Sobek in Kom Ombo. The temple attributed his death to the will of the gods, although he remembered his mother implying that it was probably a lazy acolyte who had left the sacred pool’s entrance open. The following day one of the acolytes had admitted leaving the gate ajar. He stated that Aset had come to him in his dreams, and that any punishment was better than the visions that had been visited upon him.

Nembre also had dreams of Aset; however, he would never admit to the effect they had on him--Ahtep would be livid. As to his father’s death, the priests said that Aset was angered that he had been killed, and that she always looked after her own. Still ... aside from dogma and rumor, he knew nothing of Aset.

Nembre folded the rags and used a polished-bronze hand-mirror to perform a final check. Replacing the mirror at the edge of the cistern he breathed a dejected sigh ... He still looked like an inexperienced, fledgling priest.

He stood and made his way past the Great Hall that dominated the eastern side of the stone-flagged court, and angled toward the line of engraved columns on the western side with brightly colored hieroglyphs encircling their round girth from top to bottom. All the stones, even the court’s paving was a pale red, matching the color of the desert sands. The young priest finally stopped at a small recessed niche in one of the large columns. It held a small stone statue of Imhotep. He bowed before the icon.

“Revered ancestor ...” Nembre paused to reconsider his prayer. For all his assumed lack of belief in the Gods, he didn’t want to risk angering a spirit of his own bloodline. “Your name has not brought me great joy as yet. I ask that if you do me one thing, let it be your guiding me in my meeting with Aset.”

Facing the temple to the north, Nembre steeled himself and marched forward with resolve.

the sanctuary.

Nembre halted. In his mind he could clearly see the sanctuary behind the walls of the Great Hall--even thought he’d never been there and it had never been described to him. It was where the prophetess had her private rooms. It seemed to be calling to him. He shrugged and stepped toward the temple.

His foot faltered ... It was wrong; he had to go ... he swiveled to the right. Yes, that felt right. But if he went there Ahtep would have his liver for dinner.

calm.

Without further misgiving, as if in a trance, Nembre walked up to the Great Hall. Carved reliefs of Aset and Osiris flanked the large portal, with Aset’s cartouche presiding over the entrance, inscribed in giant hieroglyphs on the center of the massive lintel. Although he’d never been in the Great Hall, Nembre ‘knew’ exactly where to go.

Aset was seated on a curved wooden stool across the hall, staring out at the slow waters of the Iteru. Nembre’s breath caught in his throat as he saw her. She was still as a statue, her pale skin showing color only against the white linen of her robe. Her hair was white-blonde reflecting golden glints of sunlight--It should have been black!

The contradiction shook Nembre from his spell and he stood rooted to the floor.

Aset sighed softly, the sound seeming to creep its way languidly around the hall, and slowly turned to face her guest. Piercing blue eyes riveted the young priest. “Come over here Nembre, where I can see you better.”

Nembre walked hesitantly over to the window and, crossing his hands on his chest, gave a deep bow. He could feel his heart beating rapidly. I’m in her hall! Ahtep is going to kill me.

“Relax my young priest; I can feel your fear. None of the Buzur will think badly of you for obeying my commands.”

Nembre’s eyes were locked on her hair. The color was amazing. Never before had he dreamed that hair could be so fair--not even the few northern barbarians he had seen in Waset came close.

“Ah, my hair!” Aset chuckled softly and smiled.

Nembre’s heart thudded even stronger. Surely she could hear it from where she sat.

“I wear a black wig in public,” she continued. “My fair hair would draw too much attention ... no?”

“It’s beautiful ... I--I mean ... Aset, my Lady ...” The young priest rubbed his hands together nervously, realized what he was doing and stopped, but then couldn’t decide what to do with them.

“Be at peace Nembre, you’re as agitated as your father was when we first met.”

Nembre started. My father? No--impossible, she couldn’t be that many years older than me.

“I’ve been talking to Ahtep, and he tells me that you’re smart, probably too intelligent for the priesthood ...”

Ahtep said that? Were they talking about the same sadistic, mean-spirited bastard?

“... which means you’ll thrive in the Buzur.” Aset half-closed her eyes as if listening to a distant noise. “But I sense that you don’t think as highly of my high priest as he does of you. Explain.”

“My Lady, I’m sure he’s a good man, it’s just ... he keeps comparing me--in an unfavorable manner--to my venerated ancestor, Imhotep.”

“Move into the light,” instructed Aset, waving Nembre closer to the window with the back of her hand. “Ah, yes--”

Her voice seemed to catch in her throat, and Nembre could have sworn that her pale-blue eyes began to glisten.

Aset remained silent for a while then: “It’s been a long time since I last saw Imhotep ...”

Nembre was sure of that--over a thousand years.

“... and then I remember him as he looked in his later years. You have his likeness, and who knows--perhaps his genius. He was a great man.”

Nembre began to open his mouth, then clamped it shut, his infatuation fast beginning to erode. He couldn’t argue with her ... She was beautiful, but without reason.

“Some might say that you lack faith Nembre; however, all you really lack is knowledge.” Aset grinned. “I know the perfect cure. Some friends of mine will be paying me a visit soon, and I’d like you to meet them.”

“Of course, my Lady.”

“If you’re going to be a member of the Buzur you should call me by my name, ‘Aset’.”

“Of course, my ... Aset.”

Her grin broadened. “Nobody can spend half a day with Ziusudra and Migru and not be affected. Not that it’s their fault mind you ... Anyway, you will collect them tomorrow evening, thirty miles due west of here, and you must go alone. Don’t bother with camping out, as they’ll want to come directly here. Ahtep will give you some money to hire camels.”

“Due west ... thirty miles?” Nembre was aghast. That was well into the red desert sands, far from civilization--right through bandit territory! Nobody traveled across the sands at night!

“Yes, they wish to avoid contact with the locals as much as possible.”

“That’s west--as in beyond the west bank of the Iteru. In Deshret?”

“That is right. I’m not sure what names they will be using now, but they’ll answer to Ziusudra and Migru.”

“And they’ll be coming from?” asked Nembre in shock, not believing that things could get worse. “No visitors come from Deshret, my Lady. None except nomads and bandits.”

“Raga.”

Raga was in the east, past the Assyrian held lands, in Medes. The realization struck him like stone--they were Magi! Probably more dangerous than bandits. Perfect! No wonder they wanted to avoid the locals. Medes was said to be in league with the Assyrian Empire. But why would they be coming from the west?

“Don’t worry about an exact spot--everything looks similar in Deshret.” Aset stared intently at Nembre’s eyes as she spoke, as if she was peeling the flesh from his skull, layer by layer, then through the bone, baring his very soul. “Just go thirty miles west and wait. They will find you.”

 

# # #

 

“That’s our fifth orbit, and not a single return,” complained Shala. She turned to face Damu, the tail of her clasped long-blonde hair swaying across the back of her seat. Damu was staring at a holo-screen, his hands flicking in the air above the desk-comp as he entered variables. He ignored her. Behind him, eternity shone through the transparent cockpit, myriads of pinpoint stars gleaming with unchanging intensity. “You’re sure that is Aar’de?” She pointed a slender finger at the swell of the blue planet on his holo-screen.

“Of course he’s sure,” growled Utu’s deep voice from the back of the cabin. “And before you ask--yes, there’s definitely more than one Annunaki mind on the planet. I felt them when we approached Aar’de.”

Shala’s deep-blue eyes locked with Utu’s. “And now?”

“I can’t feel them anymore. They’re blocking.” Utu rose and came forward, ducking slightly where the cabin ceiling curved down. At six-foot-eight he was tall, even for an Annunaki, although proportionate to his perfectly muscled body. The cabin’s micro-gravity decreased rapidly in strength the higher you were from the cabin floor, and his fine blond hair began to splay out. “They may have detected the Krat craft just as we did.”

“The Krat,” Shala pronounced the word as if she was spitting. “They don’t have the mind-power to sense us ... And besides, why would a Krat craft be transitioning into an Annunaki held system?” She shrugged and her firm breasts bounced beneath her tunic in the reduced gravity. The sight had little effect on her two male companions--physical sex was better left to primitives, and emotion was regarded as a sign of poor genometric engineering.

“We don’t know that they can’t sense us,” reminded Utu. “It’s over two thousand years since the Servants rebelled, and who knows what they’ve invented by now. We know that they tampered with their implants.”

“We created them,” hissed Shala, “and they never reached the right neural density to allow for complete elù. At most they can sense images and emotions ... limited control ... That’s all!”

Damu, disturbed by Shala’s outburst, turned to her, irritation narrowing his eyes. “You’re acting like a primitive. Cut it out!”

“Please do,” agreed Utu in a growl. He sat in the pilot’s chair, facing the flat unadorned console. No physical controls had been installed in the craft. Back before the rebellion, the Annunaki had added such controls for their servants, but then the Krat had revolted and many of the Annunaki craft were stolen and used against them. Utu tweaked a neuro-switch with his mind and a holo-screen appeared above the console. He raised his hands as if in prayer and slowly closed them into fists. Muscles twitched on his forearm as finger bones popped.

“To answer your second question,” Utu continued, “regarding why the Krat would enter this system ... Your guess would be as good as mine. I believe that it was pure circumstance that we transitioned from n-space only seconds before the Krat; otherwise we would never have picked up the signature. I’m guessing that the Krat know, as we do, that the primitives of Aar’de were one of our best chances for completing the Gishur; our great plan. They may have plans of their own for the primitives.”

Damu, the thinker of the group folded his arms and continued to stare at his holo-screen. “I worry, Utu. There were rumors that some of the Annunaki under Enki were in cahoots with the Servants. This could well be a Krat stronghold.”

“Oh, Damu,” chuckled Utu, attempting a smile. “It’s more likely that Enki’s mother was plotting against him.” The angular planes of his strong face returned to their customary emotionless state. “But something isn’t right. The Krat only hold the lead in the war by dint of numbers. A single Krat craft would be no match against an Annunaki held planet--”

“Perhaps they have the Orb,” interjected Shala, “and are completing the Gishur themselves. After all, if a race isn’t raised to elù, the Creators will exterminate them along with us.”

Damu sighed heavily and faced Shala. “Firstly, the Orb was taken by Ań. He’s probably protecting it, and we’ll find him eventually. Secondly, even if the Krat have it, the Orb has time yet to run. That gives over two thousand years to complete the Gishur before the Creators take umbrage. Lastly, if we don’t destroy the Krat, it will make little difference if we complete the Gishur or not--we’ll be destroyed anyway!”

“Which brings us back to our mission,” added Utu. “We can’t begin to put our plans in place until we understand the situation on Aar’de. Damu, find me a major city. We’ll land and I will investigate the primitives. The two of you must return to orbit--if I need your assistance I’ll let you know.”

 

# # #

 

The night’s deathly calm was punctured by the muffled splash of oars as the barge made its stately way across the short strip of water between the islands of Paaleq and Bigeh. The waters of the Iteru were still and ink-black--only the barge’s wake reflected the moon’s luminescence. A red glow infused the far banks of the wide river where dunes stood in silent vigil, their shapes broken by the deeper shadows of the many small islands they protected.

Aset stood in the bow of the barge looking toward the dark mass of Bigeh. Her shoulder-length black hair, held in place by a golden circlet, provided striking contrast to her pale skin and white robe. The six priests, rowing the barge in silent labor, were similarly attired in white.

Aset had gone to great lengths to foster rumors about Bigeh. Locals believed that the island was guarded by a giant snake, and it was understood that Hapi--God of the Iteru--lived in its caverns. It was true that the island had a tomb to Osiris, God of afterlife. But, that Osiris had been Aset’s husband was pure speculation, as was the belief that at least part of his body was buried in the tomb.

The island had gained a reputation which had been interwoven into myth and ceremony. Only the priests of Aset could visit it, which they did every ten days to make offerings to Osiris, taking the statue of Aset to ‘meet’ her husband. Such ceremonies were conducted in silence. The island had, to all intents, become inaccessible to any but members of the Buzur.

The barge pulled up alongside the stone quay and two of the priests jumped ashore, holding the boat steady while Aset disembarked. A small wave of her hand was enough to inform them that she wished to proceed alone, and she turned and headed inland along the smoothly paved path toward the tomb.

Bigeh was over fifty times the size of Aset’s island of Paaleq, where her temple stood, and a profusion of unattended growth attested to Bigeh’s isolated nature. About five hundred paces along the path, in a gully hidden from casual view, Aset turned off the trail and made her way across a flat granite outcrop, leading downwards alongside a prominent rocky hill. Sliding behind a fissure in the hill’s craggy exterior she ducked into a well-camouflaged cave.

Her hand groped on a ledge for a papyrus torch. To the right of the ledge was a fist-sized piece of flint. Striking it down the wall produced a shower of sparks that soon caught in the oil-soaked rags. The torch flickered to life illuminating the cave with dancing light and shadows, showing that the cave meandered down and to the left. Aset replaced the flint alongside the stock of torches--a long furrow of erosion in the granite wall evidenced the many thousands of times the flint had scoured its surface.

The cave roof was high enough that she could walk upright. Without bothering to look at the floor, and moving with practiced ease from one side of the narrow cave to the other to avoid uneven surfaces and rocks, Aset followed the cave down.

Two hundred feet from the entrance the cave ended in a large chamber, where soft rock had been leached away leaving flat planes of granite. A small pool graced the far end of the cavern where the Iteru River had forced its way through, and the rocky floor sloped up twenty paces to meet the roof. There, high above the Iteru’s flood level was a large granite boulder, over four paces wide, with hieroglyphs etched onto its face. Aset climbed the steep slope with ease, her feet knowing exactly which rocks to use.

The boulder appeared natural, as if it were part of the cave--a stressed rock that had fallen from the cave’s ceiling. Fracture lines ran across its face and through the cartouche that had been carved into its center. It was an altar to Hapi, from which the God could watch the rise and fall of his great river through the seasons.

Aset’s mind felt for the metal swing-latch hidden deep inside in the altar--and lifted it back. She jammed the butt of the torch between two smaller rocks, dusted her hands and then, leaning her shoulder into the rock, she heaved against the nearest end of boulder, using both the genetically enhanced strength of her body, and her considerable mind-power.

The rock swung smoothly open along one of the fracture lines. It would have taken four strong men to perform the same task, and there wasn’t enough space for more than one person to attempt it.

Reaching inside the hollowed rock Aset withdrew the kimah secreted there. It was shaped like a domed birdcage, two-thirds of a meter high and a third in diameter, while its thick base took up almost half the height. Its surface shone with a dull golden sheen, and sigils that appeared to be cuneiform surrounded colored gems encircling the base.

She carried the kimah to a flat area alongside the altar, placed it on a rock, and sat down in front of it. She pushed three of the gems in order. A faint buzzing disturbed the stillness of the cave as three of the panels enclosing the top of the kimah folded back, revealing a pale waxy-looking man’s head with closed eyes.

Aset smiled. “Adapta ... don’t play games.”

The eyes flicked open.

Aset sensed a flashed image--Adapta as a handsome priest in Eridu, giving her a crushing hug. In the vision he looked about twenty-five, in his prime, with a tonsured head and wearing a priestly skirt. His eyebrows had been blackened and joined in the centre, while Aset’s long pale hair hung over her shoulders. Of course that had never happened. Aset, or Ninmah as she was then called, was a Sumerian Goddess and could not be seen touching one of the primitives--or Gallu, as the Annunaki termed them.

Nevertheless, she understood his mental shorthand, composed of projected images and emotions. It was how those with the mind-power communicated. He was saying, [I’m very happy to see you.]

“Been keeping busy have we?” joked Aset.

[Ox manure.]

Aset laughed. That was a new image, although the connotation was obvious. “Ziusudra and Migru will be here tomorrow night. They won’t arrive in time to come to the island though, so I’m expecting them the evening after.”

[The need is urgent. The Annunaki will land. The Assyrians prepare for war. The Pharaoh will not prevail.]

“The Nubians are no better at ruling Kemet than I was.”

[Or your son.]

“You had to remind me ... It was a Nubian prince who dismembered his body and threw it into the Iteru.”

[Don’t blame yourself.] sadness.

“I realize that he started the conflict, Adapta.”

[I mean, afterwards.]

“Heru didn’t die, and I should have stopped him.” Aset’s eyes brimmed with tears.

[You were his mother.] understanding.

“Well, he’s gone now ... Haven’t felt his mind for a thousand years.” She sniffed and wiped her eyes. “You haven’t mentioned Heru for millennia. Why now ... you know I can’t forget him.”

[He was strong. Could have been used against the Annunaki.]

“He began believing he was a God, and forgot his responsibilities.” Aset shook her head doubtfully. “We would never have been able to control him. Not even you, strong as your mind is now, could have made him stick to any plan.”

[Yes, I have strength. Find me a body. I will fight the Annunaki.]

“Impossible! Look at Heru. My son attached new limbs--and he was a pure Annunaki, with the benefit of our medical nanites.” Aset’s eyes stared blankly as she recalled events that she’d tried desperately to forget. “The limbs lasted a month, and then he’d kill to obtain fresh ones. You ...” Aset pointed at Adapta’s head, “lack many of the advantages he had, and you need an entire body.”

[You had to remind me.] humor.

“One day, Adapta. It will be millennia before we have the necessary scientific infrastructure to clone you a body. But, we have done well so far.”

[Migru prophesied it.]

“So he did. Ziusudra said that he called you ‘the one who will be restored.’

[My hope, a Nephilim’s foretelling.]

Adapta’s eyes snapped shut, and a faint frown creased his waxen forehead--it was rare to see anything other than his eyes move.

“What is it, Adapta?”

[The Annunaki have landed. One close--to the North. He is strong. He will find us.] fear.