Chapter 10

TJ had it all worked out. He would express his disgust at the waste of funds on such a whim. Egypt faced the possibility of facing her darkest hour yet whilst pharaoh fought for her very survival.

The village representatives would of course be allowed to try to justify their existence. The council (6 of TJ’s cronies) would then retire for a dignified length of time. On their return they would announce the closure of the village until further notice and an immediate cessation of funds. Job done.

“Do you wish to defend your position?” TJ forced a sympathetic look at Zem as he condescendingly asked the village wastrel.

Zem had never wished that the floor would open up and swallow him before today. He did so now. Feelings of dread had grown stronger and stronger in him since the little party had left the village at sunrise earlier that day.

Not one word had been spoken among the travelers during the whole journey. It had taken less than half a day, but they were all extremely hungry when they arrived at their destination.

The splendor and magnificence of the palace had gone to work on two of Zem’s children straight away. They had been greeted and shown into an antechamber where food and wine had been provided. Aby had immediately taken a shine to a tall, muscular guard, and gone all ‘butter-wouldn’t-melt’. Ky became extremely bashful and blushed uncontrollably every time a certain fair maiden served him.

Zem had been in the palace before, even though it had been a long time ago, so he knew what to expect. Anyway, he was too worried to be overly impressed.

TJ sat on a raised platform in a large ornate hall opposite the 5 members of the village. On either side of him sat 3 members of the special council convened to pass judgment on the proceedings.

Every one of the 6 council elders must have been over 80 years of age, at least. Zem had seen livelier looking dead bodies. Somehow all these years of wisdom were going to find against their interests, he felt.

“I said, do you wish to defend your position?” TJ repeated with a little more force.

“I do so wish,” Im stood up and answered loudly and clearly, to everybody’s amazement, especially Zem, who was about to answer in the negative and meekly accept his fate.

“Very well, proceed,” offered TJ.

“What arrogance,” spat Im dismissively. “You and this…” wave of his hand “…gathering, presume to know what art, truth, beauty and the needs and wishes of a living God are worth.” Im paused while he stared into the eyes of each member of the council in turn. “The mentality of your kind, only know how to destroy, criticize and devalue. Those who hone their skills through sacrifice and discipline for your pleasure, education and afterlife deserve more than you can ever give or appreciate.”

Having done well so far, Im proceeded to ‘go off on one’ (Ky’s terminology).

“It’s alright for you sitting in the stands, with a cigarette in one hand, holding a hot dog in the other, with your can of bud in at your feet, shouting abuse at the players you think,” Im tapped his forehead whilst screwing up his face, “in your head, that is, that you can do better than.”

Im paused for a moment of silence. Im looked down, then up again. “You never will, you know. You don’t have the discipline, the foresight, the wisdom or the talent. Pharaoh will return to his palace to find you have not only stolen his birth right, his chance to meet his ancestors again, but to adopt his rightful place on the other side. The jeopardy you place Egypt in by breaking the cycle of worship in order to line a few pockets under the pretence of needing a fighting fund, will not impress pharaoh. I don’t know what your excuses are for wishing ill on this country. You all must have believed sometime in the past that if the harmony between man and the gods are destroyed so is our land.”

Im paused once again. This time none of the council would meet his gaze. “Your Pharaoh knows. We know. Everybody knows. Why don’t you?” Slight pause again. “Pharaoh will return home a victorious hero. When he does and finds out about your treachery you will all die horribly. Leave us alone.”

With that Im turned and left the room.

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