Stairway to Eternity
The day when Nefertene would give birth drew near. She felt the child move inside her womb, and knew that in a few days time she would be a mother. What she did not know was the grave danger she would be in if the child was born a girl. Harkhuf, her guardian was also a very worried man. He had been ordered to do the dark deed but he had other ideas. He knew that if he kept Nefertene alive, and Snefru and Cheops defeated Kagemni, then in all probability he would be named high priest of Egypt.
His reasons were to a degree selfish but he had also become fond of this young, pretty, pregnant girl and they had even struck up a reasonable relationship. How could he put her to death?
The Great Egyptian army was nearing home; it had passed Tidikett and had been trekking across North Africa for over two months. Midsummer was near, May-time temperatures were high and as June came they became higher.
Kagemni had set up a line of scouts to the west of Egypt to catch first sight of the royal expedition as it returned home. One day in late June, a scout based in the Siwa oasis rode into Memphis with news that the king and crown prince ere now only a few days from reaching Egypt. Kagemni ordered the garrisons of Lower Egypt to prepare to attack their fellows as they regained their home land, tired, hungry and thirsty.
He managed to gather around him over seven thousand fresh fighting men. Against them would be three thousand tired troops under Snefru’s command. The king had also sent scouts ahead to advise the royal court that they were near. These had returned with the news of Kagemni’s treachery. Snefru and Cheops could not believe how in eight months the evil priest had taken over their beloved kingdom. However, Snefru prepared his forces, even training his camel-drivers, cooks and animal herders in the arts of sword-fighting and archery; he now knew that he had one fighting man to Kagemni’s two.
The two armies met on a hot summer day in the area of Damanhur, only twenty miles from the sea, in the Nile delta of Lower Egypt. The battle was long and bloody; many men died and were badly wounded. The army of the king put up a brilliant fight but their opponents were fresher and double their numbers. Kagemni watched his plans working out perfectly; he would win the day and rule Egypt for many years to come.
Snefru’s army that had marched nearly five thousand miles to Tarfaya and back with no great problems was now to be decimated on it’s return. What a homecoming!
But suddenly, when all seemed lost, a rider on a heavily sweating horse pulled up by Pharoah’s side! He had ridden from Raqote, Mediterranean port of Egypt. His news was gratifying and a great relief. The fleet had arrived home, and at this moment the royal guard, numbering over four hundred of Egypt’s best men, was fast marching south to reinforce Pharoah’s army! On their way they would be joined by numerous peasants, so glad to know that Snefru was home at last and that the terror and uncertainty of the last months would be over, if only they could win the battle!.
After hearing this welcome news Pharoah’s weary men found new impetus; the army of the high priest was surprised by the violent change. And then at last the royal guards arrived on the field, led by Harmhad. On seeing the red battle helmets of these elite fighters, Kagemni’s forces broke and ran.
Snefru had won the day. Cheops was overjoyed. The good news ran down the length of Egypt like magic fire. The followers of Kagemni tried to flee or hide, but they were soon stopped and arrested. Then trials for high treason were held and the rebels were beheaded in the main square of Memphis. The bodies were thrown to the desert jackals, and the crocodiles of the Nile feasted that day.
Nefertene had her baby son just as Cheops arrived at the palace of Harkhuf. He was named Chefren (Khafre) and would become a great Pharoah like his father and grandfather. Nefertene pleaded for the life of Harkhuf, explaining to the crown prince that the priest had protected her and saved her life and that of her son. Harkhuf was a lucky man; he was not only allowed to live but also named high priest of Egypt.
Snefru was so happy to be back home in this palace of Memphis that he decided to organize a festival of ‘sed’, that is, a festival used to renew royal power in the eyes of the people. It went on for days. There were special ceremonies in the temples, Pharoah sailed up the Nile so all his people could see the ‘son of Ra’. Beer was freely circulated to the people and there was much merrymaking and happiness in the land of Egypt.
Part I of Chapter IX to follow in our next edition.