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Hello! It has rained all day. Rich wanted to buy two door-mats, so off we went, me riding on Sauron, and covered with a waterproof cover and a waterproof hat, only my face open to the elements.

My face - and glasses - got VERY wet, but I like being out in the rain, if I'm not getting wet. It was fun! But, oh! How I long for a bit of sun. Not too hot, though. Warm and yellow is what I want. :D

Anyway, campers - here is this week's part. Only three left to go (four if you count the epilgue to the epilogue! ;)






Thanks as always to Lady Sunrope for beta.


Part 10


They walked in silence, Dom and Lij looked neither to the left or right, as the people lay in the dust at their feet.


Many years ago, when he had first become the beloved of Lij, Dom had wished that the people would stand and gaze at their god-king, not crouch at his feet, with their heads in the sand. After all, Lij was the most beautiful creature imaginable, and the good people deserved to see him. But Dom soon came to realise that the people needed objects of worship, and when he, too, became a god, ruling side by side with his Lij, he acknowledged the sense of this homage.


They stopped before the house of Ackon the silver merchant, where the trial was to be held. It was usual for the god-kings to pass sentence on certain serious malefactors, but that usually occurred after the trial had taken place. However, Dom knew that Lij felt very strongly about the death of Seth, and understood his desire to reveal the murderer. Therefore he said nothing as they passed through the gate, merely squeezing Lij's hand as they moved silently through the door.


Menkh walked in front of them, and the doors to a large room were flung open. He fell to his knees, as the occupants stared in astonishment, then fell on their faces, quaking, as Dom and Lij walked in to the sound of Menkh's mighty voice.

"Kneel, kneel before your Gods - Horus, the Mighty Bulls of Ma'at."

"They who are Diademed with the Fiery Uraeus. Beloved of The Gods. Beloved of Ma'at. Making Hearts to Live. Lords of the Earth. Lords of the Thousand Years. Lords of Nekhbet and per-Uarchet, Son of the Sun, and Son of the Earth. Children of the Gods. The Pharaohs Knefer-Lijedefer, Father of the People, and Payankhi-Ankh-Aton, His Royal Spouse, Never to be Sundered, for They are One. Our Gods, the Souls of the Land, Living Forever."

Somewhere, someone was sobbing, but the sound was quickly hushed. Dom and Lij went to the two chairs standing side by side before a semi-circle of seats, which were filled with those people for whom Lij had sent.

Menkh gestured for the people to be seated, and as they took their places, Dom examined them. Ramose, Tawaret, Merope, Ackon and his wife Nuit, Silos, son of the dead innkeeper, Gyasi the dressmaker, and several other men, some of whom Dom had never before seen.

Lij called a senior officer of Aapet's to him, and as the man knelt at his side, whispered, "have you ensured that no-one, neither man or woman has left the house since I sent to command it?"

"I have, Great One. All who live here are present, and accounted for by the steward."

Lij waved him away, then spoke. "Ramose the silversmith, come forward." The man did so, pale from shock, but composed.

"You are to stand beside us to witness these proceedings, and to see justice served, as I have promised you." Ramose rose, and moved to his place.

"Panshi, you are to record the proceedings of this court. Sit beside me on the floor, and write carefully, for what you write will be our will and our law, and stand forever witness to our unalterable edict. Steward, bring all that is necessary for the Royal Scribe!"

All present saw, then, the red cord of the Unalterable Edict tied about Menkh's staff, and knew whatever was decided there today, its outcome would never be changed. It would stand for all time.

Panshi, almost overcome with pride, clutched his writing materials and took his place, and with Kerasonb and Menkh standing beside Dom, and Ramose, Aapet and Panshi placed beside Lij, the trial began.

"We will begin at the beginning," Lij stated, scanning the assembly with cool, blue eyes. "And it begins with Seth sending Sese the guard home to rest, for he had been ill. Seth then went to his friend, Ackon, for a while, and after that, to meet with a...companion...at Ptolemy's inn."

"Now, Sese the guard was attacked at the stable. Is Mawe, the stable owner, present?"

A man stood up. He was short and fat, and looked terrified, as well he might, standing before the gods of the two Lands.

"On your knees before the gods!" Menkh barked, and the man knelt, trembling.

"Now," Lij continued, "tell us how the attackers knew where Sese was sleeping?"

The man stared at Lij, his lips moving, but no sound came from him. It was Dom who spoke to him.

"Tell us all you know, and we shall judge you by it." The man seemed to shrink into himself.

"Dread Lords, I told them where to find him."

"So there were three men and one woman came, and asked for Sese by name?" Lij continued, calmly.

"No, Great One - they asked where Seth's guard was lying. They must have watched him come in..." his voice trailed away as he caught the glint in Lij's eyes.

"I sent daily to your stables, unknown to you, and today were found there three men, drinking beer. Three men, dressed desert fashion, and one had this knife upon his person."

Lij reached out an imperative hand and Aapet placed the knife in it. "Ramose - is this Seth's knife?"

Ramose came forward and examined the knife. "It is, Great God! I gave it to him, so I must know," he said plainly, his voice constricted with emotion.

Lij glared at the man kneeling in front of him. "You knew these men?" he demanded. The stable owner shook his head. "No, Great One. I was paid to house them, that is all, and to tell no-one that they were staying there."

Dom fixed his cool grey eyes on the man's pale face. "Why did you not come forward when Seth was killed? Did it not seem to you that Sese's attack and Seth's murder were linked?"

The man shook his head. "No, Great One. I heard nothing of Seth's death, except that he was murdered in his bed. I did not know who did it. That is the truth."

"Sit down!" Lij ordered, and the man thankfully re-took his place.

"Now we come to Seth's murder." Lij ran his eyes along the whole row of those seated before him. "Seth was murdered in a room at the inn known as Ptolemy's, owned by Ackon the silversmith, and run by Silos the Macedonian."

His voice was firm and steady, but Dom knew that Lij had formed a fondness for the little dead man, and was furious with those who had encompassed his death. Once again, Dom marvelled at Lij's self-control.

"Silos is dead, now, and some of what he told us of the matter may be the truth - but this, in essence, we know."

He paused for a moment and asked Menkh to order him juice, and while the steward ran to obey this command, Lij sat quietly surveying the people. Tawaret looked calm, but wary, Ackon was sweating, Merope seemed puzzled, Ackon's wife mystified, and all the rest seemed on edge.

After having refreshed himself, Lij continued. "We know that Seth was left by his companion, as he had to return to his work. This he always did, so it was not unusual. We must remember that Seth was not a young man, and grew tired after...exercise."

"Silos told us he saw Seth's companion leave..."
Ramose raised his hand and Lij stopped immediately. Ramose knelt. "You need not be afraid to speak my name, Great One. I am not ashamed of my love for Seth."

Lij smiled softly at him, and continued. "Ramose left Seth asleep, as was usual, and he returned to his workshop. Then the three men and the woman came in. They left, but returned and the woman gave Silos a bag of money and told him to clean up the mess. Of this we are certain. Whether Silos knew beforehand of the murder appears uncertain - but it seems likely." His eyes rested for a moment on Silos's son, who looked shocked. It was a good thing, Lij thought, that the boy was sitting down.

"Now we come to the parts of which we know. My beloved Spouse, the Pharaoh Payankhi, otherwise known as the Lord Sen-Adom, was weary, and wished to rest. Silos had told us that the woman had paid for some drugged beer to be brought to him, so that he could discover Seth's body, which had been placed in our chamber."

"The flaw in his story is that the Lord Sen-Adom was drugged before Silos took this drink up, and then supposedly discovered Seth's body beside our bed - this is what makes me think he was involved in the murder, by foreknowledge, if not in action. I think he had tampered with the wine Lord Sen-Adom took to bed."

Dom did not avert his gaze from the assembly, but he felt a lightness in his chest. Lij was a master at winkling out minor points that turned into major clues.

"Why, you may ask yourselves," Lij continued, after another sip of juice, "was Seth's body carried to the Lord Sen-Adom's chamber, instead of being left where it was?"

"Could it be that the murderers had thought that accusing Ramose of the slaying was pointless, when he had been seen walking through the town in a clean, white gown, without a spot of blood upon him? Whereas the killer's clothes must have been drenched in blood."
Dom nodded. "Very true, my Lord." He could not help but say something. Lij's story made perfect sense to him.

"And we understand that the murderers rifled through Seth's bag - carried by Sese to the stable - for no other reason than because someone - one of the four - had seen us at Seth's stall earlier. When they had observed that I had left my love to sleep alone - as had Ramose left his love - they concluded that an out-of-town merchant would be the perfect person to accuse of a murder, for he would have no-one to stand by him, or to vouch for his character. They searched the bag to discover his whereabouts, and they found it - happily for them, not far from the place where they would slay Seth."

"Except..." thundered Lij, glowering at the assembly "...except the sleeping man in whose room they placed the corpse, and smeared with his blood, was God of the Two Lands, and his Spouse was nearby. Someone made a gross error in judgement, there - and before we leave this room, today, we shall know whom they all were."

"All were" The words hung in the air.

Lij beckoned Ramose forward, and whispered in his ear. "You are going to hear things that will hurt you, my friend - but do not be dismayed. Seth loved you above all things, as I will afterwards prove to you. Have faith in that!"

When Ramose, trembling slightly, had retaken his place, Lij called Tawaret's house-steward forward. "You will answer honestly if you value your life," he said to the crouching man. "Was Seth commanded to his wife's bed every night, and ordered to serve her there according to her whim, whatever it may be that night?"

The man raised his head to look at Lij. "He was, Great One - every night. Sometimes twice. Sometimes she had him woken after he had slept only a short while, and brought back to her."

"And did he complain of this treatment?"

"No, Lord, he said nothing, though sometimes we heard him weeping in his room, afterwards."

Lij waved him away. "Tawaret, you will come forward, and tell us why you treated your beloved husband in such a way."

She was trembling, but in complete possession of her faculties. "He liked to be treated so, Great One. It was a game between us."

Lij heard Ramose take in a deep breath, and knew what an effort it was for the big man to remain silent. He put out his hand and grasped the big man's wrist briefly, before turning his attention to the widow once more.

"So he enjoyed it, and this you swear to us?"

She nodded. "He did, Great One." She met his look, and he held it, but eventually she looked away.

Lij put out his hand, again, and Aapet placed a small piece of parchment into his hand.

Lij read it aloud...

I, Chatha, who was body servant to Master Seth, the silversmith, until his death, swear that my Master was forced to lie with his wife against his inclinations, because Tawaret desired revenge on him in the matter of Ramose, the Smith.
Many was the time he wept in my arms after he had been to her, and he said her practises were not those of a kind and gentle wife, and that she hurt him by doing things to his body which were against a women's nature. She had a stick, he said, which she used to insert...


Lij stopped reading abruptly, as he did not know all that was in the statement he had ordered Chatha to make to Aapet, and would have withheld it, had he known.

Ramose let out a loud cry and fell to his knees, sobbing with distress, and Panshi, filled with compassion, did what Dom or Lij would have done had the place been more private - put down his pen and knelt beside him, and took him in his arms, whispering in his ear.

Very soon Ramose quietened, and began to stutter a frightened apology, but Lij cut him short. "There is no need for that, Ramose. We know - believe me, we both know - how you feel."

As Panshi re-took his place, Lij turned to the widow, his face a mask of fury and distress.

But it was Dom who spoke first, seeing the haunted expression on his lover's face, and his knuckles showing white as he grasped the arms of the chair; seeing these things, he was as furious as was Lij.

"We know you encompassed the death of your husband - now you will tell us why, and with whom, or we will have the skin flayed from your body, piece by agonising piece, until you tell us all, or die screaming!"

Lij knew that Dom did not mean this. He always ordered a swift death for those deserving of it; but this, Tawaret did not know.
Suddenly she realised that there was no escape - that the two men seated before her had the power of life and death over her, whether she was innocent or guilty.

"Yes, Great Ones, I did want Seth dead. I was jealous...it took over my whole mind, in the end. It was because of Ramose." She shuddered, and looked at Lij.

Dom spoke again, to give Lij a moment to compose himself.

"We understand that you were jealous, lady, and that you wanted your husband to yourself. Ramose had been your husband's lover for many years. Why now...?"

She laughed, and the sound was not pleasant. "Because he wanted to leave Tolan - go elsewhere, to a nearby town, and start a business there. They could meet once a week, Seth said - but I could not allow it."

Dom was puzzled. "Would this not have solved your problem? If they were to be parted…"

"You do not understand, Great One. It was Ramose who wished to leave Tolan, not Seth - and it is Ramose I love, have loved since the day I first saw him, just as did Seth. I had Seth killed because of him!"

Ramose gasped, but kept his place. Dom stared at the woman, amazed, but Lij seemed not to be surprised by it.

Her eyes lowered once more. "I fell in love with Ramose the first day I met him. Look at him! Who would not love him? I was brought to Seth's house to be his wife. He did not love me - he told me this, but he needed a wife. A man in his position, he told me, needed a wife."
"I made him lie with me, and take my virginity. I knew he might cast me off if he did not, as it was obvious to me he was a man for other men."

"How was it obvious, lady?" Lij asked, deceptively cool. "Was it because you had intimate knowledge of Ptolemy, your brother?"

It was her turn to gasp. "Who...who told you?"

Lij shook his head. "No-one told me. I worked it out for myself. Continue!"
Dom had no notion what Lij meant, but he said nothing. He had no doubt all would soon be revealed.

"Yes, when first I met Seth, he had more eyes for young Ptolemy than he had for me. I knew it then. But I had to have Ramose - it became an obsession with me, of late."

"I hired killers, and went with them to the inn where he and Ramose met each third day of the week. I knew everything they did together - where they ate, where they walked on cool afternoons, and where they slept - either at the inn, or at the workshop."

"Silos showed us their room, and I identified the sleeping man, and they killed him. Slit his throat from ear to ear. I was glad of it! And that is all."

Lij shifted slightly in his chair, and took some more pomegranate juice before he spoke.

"That is not all, lady, and you know it! I think now comes the time that we meet Ptolemy. Step forward, and stand by your sister!"

A very tall man, graceful and slim, came forward, reluctantly, to kneel beside Tawaret.

"I have a very retentive memory, as a god needs must, and I distinctly remember our first visit to this house. To this very room, in fact." Lij told the assembly at large. "Just as the Lord Payankhi and I first entered it, someone swept out through the other door. Someone wearing Attar of Roses perfume, a red gown, and with gold anklets and rouged heels. I thought, at the time, that it was a very large foot for a woman."

"Now, I will tell you what happened, for you lie in your teeth, Tawaret, and from the gods you can hide nothing."

Date: 2009-08-30 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laeliacatt.livejournal.com
As much as I enjoy seeing Dom and Lij in their day to day world, free from ceremony, I adore the pomp and circumstance and the gods in their royal finery. This is a treat. :)

Yay! Panshi is a Royal Scribe after all! At least for the trial. ;)

So, Tawaret wanted Ramose! That's a surprise, though her being behind Seth's murder is not since it's clear that she never cared for Seth. But I've no idea who helped her carry out the deed. Lij knows all, sees all. He will tell us. :)

PS: it's raining here, too, and has been all weekend.

Date: 2009-09-05 09:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
Well, you'll find out in the next part. It's all go from here! I like the thought of them dressed in their best, too. They must look a picture!

The sun is shining today, but for how long? It's a darn nuisance! Rain! I've seen enough of it! ;D xxx

Date: 2009-08-30 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mews1945.livejournal.com
I absolutely loved the procession, and the ceremony of introduction. Most impressive. I'm not too surprised that Tawaret had something to do with the murder, but I'm really interested to find out helped her with the fell deed.

Date: 2009-09-05 09:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
That procession through the port town must have been something to see. Well, it was, cos I saw it!

Hope you are feeling a bt better, my dear. xxxx

Date: 2009-08-31 11:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] verangel.livejournal.com
OMG...you turned into an evil tease! Another cliffhanger moment. I was glued to what was going on. Poor Seth. What a nasty 'biache'. Oh Lij...having to read that bad part outloud. Between the shock of the people witnessing their Gods before them in their glory to the wonderful way Lij controls the court is mesmorizing. I can't wait!!! The week is too long Ru! hugs you xoxoxox v

Date: 2009-09-05 09:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
Poor Seth, indeed! She is not a nice lady, Tawaret. Lij certainly knows how to hold the reins - he's had plenty of practise, after all. :D

Tomorrow is nearly here! ;D xxx

Date: 2009-09-01 01:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janejanejane.livejournal.com
Aha, still another week until we discover the whole truth!!!

Tawaret's involvement doesn't surprise me, but I didn't think it was because of her love for/obsession with Ramose.

Maybe it was all a lie, however, from what you say through Lij at the end... What is Ptolemy's part in all this...?

Looking forward to next Sunday and more revelations! Thanks very much for posting and to LSR for beta.
XXXX

Date: 2009-09-05 09:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
Well, it's nearly Sunday, already! How quickly the weeks go, these days. I hope you enjoy the denouement. Hugses :D xxx

Date: 2009-09-05 10:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janejanejane.livejournal.com
As you say, the weeks just fly by, especially holiday weeks! ;0)

I'm sure I'll find the "denouement" both illuminating and satisfying! Not long to wait, now :-)

Btw, I'm not sure if I'll manage to ring you next Friday with Jacqui coming. I will if I can, (I love chatting with you!) but if you don't hear from me you'll know why.

*BIG hugs*
XXXX

Date: 2009-09-05 03:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
That's okay, faithful friend! You enjoy yourselves - I'm sure you will. Hugses xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Date: 2009-09-05 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janejanejane.livejournal.com
Loves you :-)

*huggles*
XXXX

Date: 2009-09-07 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] primula-baggins.livejournal.com
"You do not understand, Great One. It was Ramose who wished to leave Tolan, not Seth - and it is Ramose I love, have loved since the day I first saw him, just as did Seth. I had Seth killed because of him!"

O_O

Oh, but now I'm not sure if she's lying or not! On to the next chapter.

Date: 2009-10-04 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/tweedle_/
Wow! An eye opener and no mistaking. What has Tawaret been up to?! Could it be any worse? Great cliff hanger. :D XXOO

Date: 2009-10-04 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
Thank you! Glad you are enjoying it! Ru xxxx

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