They knew each other as they participated in the war together, where Sihathor was the Quartermaster. Unable to refuse him any further, Hardedef finally relented and took his carriage back to see Amon.
Amon laughed when he saw Sihathor: “Why have you become fatter again? You can’t always indulge yourself, you need to do some exercise as well. Thinking back, you were such a hardworking merchant. If you did not make your way through the desert personally to collect debts in Bablon, we wouldn’t have gotten to know each other.”
Sihathor bowed. “It was because I had overworked myself during the war. I was tanned and I lost a lot of weight. When I returned home, my family was shocked and they kept telling me to rest and eat more. In the end, I overdid it and became even fatter than I used to be.”
Hardedef took a friendly jab at him: “You call that overworking?”
Then Amon asked Hardedef: “How did the matter go?”
Hardedef: “It has been done.”
Amon nodded. “Please tell Lady Misphi to come here, I have something to say.”
Misphi came to the hall and kneeled down when she entered. Bowing to Amon, she said: “Supreme General, I do not know how I can express my gratitude. Not only did you and General Hardedef give that man the punishment he deserved, you also exposed the truth to the public. I once vowed before the gods that I would use my life to achieve what you have done for me. It seems that the legends spreading among the people are true, you are indeed favored by the gods!”
Amon quickly gestured to Hardedef to help her up, then sighed and said: “I feel very guilty when you say that. Mahu was a brave warrior who went to the war with me. Even though he sacrificed himself on the battlefield, I failed to ensure the safety of his family. When I knew what happened, it was too late already. If you really have to thank someone, you should thank General Hardedef. He is the one who carried out the investigation at the farm, and he is also the one who brought charges against Sabaf.”
Misphi was about to kneel down in front of Hardedef, but he quickly stopped her. Looking at their posture, it looked like he was going to embrace her, and his face turned slightly red. Seeing the two of them like this, Amon asked: “Lady Misphi, Hardedef has redeemed you from the brothel today, and since you have taken your revenge, what plans do you have for the future?”
Tears streamed down Misphi’s face. “I originally thought that my fate was to perish together with Sabaf, but thanks to you, I’m still living in this world. My life belongs to you, and even if I become your slave for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t be sufficient to repay you.”
Amon waved his hands. “Don’t say that, you did not do anything to deserve such a tragic fate. Since that’s the case, I have something to ask you, the rest of you please leave the room first.”
Hardedef continued standing there in a daze, and Sihathor grabbed his arm and dragged him out while smiling with a knowing expression. They waited outside, and after a while, Misphi came out. Her eyes were red and her face was also red. Throwing a glance at Hardedef, she said to him: “The Supreme General wants you to go inside, he has something to say.”
After a short while, Hardedef also came out. It was his turn to throw a glance at Misphi, and he did so while smiling foolishly. This confused Sihathor, and he asked: “General Hardedef, why are you smiling like a fool? I have never seen you like this, is there any good news or happy events?”
Hardedef continued smiling and did not answer. Just then, Amon walked out and said: “Of course there is. For so many days, we have encountered nothing but trouble, but today, something good finally happened. Since Lord Sihathor is also here, please join us for dinner and drinks tonight. Tomorrow, we will go to the Hapisidis together.”
The annual Hapisidis was finally here. This year, the event was particularly crowded as people from various cities nearby came to participate. Furthermore, with what happened several days ago to Supreme General Amon, there was plenty to talk and gossip about.
Tens of thousands of people gathered on the gigantic square, but under the command of the guards, everyone moved about in an orderly manner. When the ceremony started, no matter where one stood on the square, the light from the blessing would fall upon each and every person’s body. Amon held a spear and wore an armour just like every other ordinary guard standing on the square, and he was in charge of keeping order in this section of the square. All the people looked towards the tall platform before the shrine, not knowing that the famous Supreme General Amon was just standing beside them.
Warriors wearing distinctive armor formed a semi-circular formation in front of the steps of the shrine, and within the formation was where the tall platform was located. This platform was where the Adoratrice conducted the ceremony, and behind the platform was the magical formation created by the priests. Nobles who were particularly influential were located on the steps of the shrine. Maria wore a golden crown and held her staff while she ascended the platform. The bells of the shrine sounded, and everyone knelt down while facing the platform. Amon did the same and placed his spear on the ground by his side.
He did not lower his head to kiss the ground. Instead, he raised his head and looked towards the Adoratrice. Maria slowly raised her staff, her eyes scanning the people on the square, as if she was looking at each and every one of them. When her eyes came to a particular spot, they met another pair of eyes staring at her from afar. Giving a brief smile, she then slowly closed her eyes and started chanting.
Amon did not know what Maria was chanting as she was located in the center of a powerful magical formation, so his detection magic did not work, but he could feel it in his heart.
The God’s Tear on the staff radiated a faint golden light, which became stronger and stronger, but not to the point of blinding, and spread towards the surroundings and the sky. The magical formation began channeling, and the golden light gathered in the sky before forming a bright beam which shot towards the sky, turning the entire sky golden in colour.
The beam disappeared, and the sky above Memphis seemed as though it had always been golden in colour. Along with the tolling of the bells, white motes of light resembling silk, snowflakes and feathers descended soundlessly. This was the blessing from Isis, and everyone in the crowd felt consoled, including Amon.
Everyone lowered their heads in earnest prayers, and Amon was the only who had raised his head to look at Maria. Standing in the center of countless people, she radiated a holy light. Amon did not pray or had any thoughts in his mind, he just looked at her. The white lights fell on his body, and it was as if they were accompanied by the soft chanting of magic, as if Maria was answering the question “What is the meaning of Hapisidis” back at the shrine:
“…not turning a blind eye to her believers. She sees both evil and good. In her eyes the honest will find affection, the selfless will find peace. Thus the inner peace will come along with the harvest of the land. It is both a bestowal and a judgment, and that is the true meaning of Hapisidis.”
If it was truly as Maria said, then Amon shall offer his body and mind with utmost sincerity, that is Maria’s god, the god that she worships! Under the comfort of the light, in the midst of all the people, Amon felt very vulnerable, like a newborn baby who possessed nothing, but had a brand new life and future waiting for him.
This vulnerability is not weakness, but a pure and vigorous growth of life. Amon had forgotten whether he had lost his power, he no longer thought about it. He simply let himself feel the blessing, and being the only person in the square who wasn’t praying, he was also the one who was most focused on the ceremony.
Assassins appeared during the Hapisidis two years ago, and a war broke out last year. Would there be any unforeseen circumstances happening this year as well? Many people were much more alert and vigilant as compared to usual. Just when the ceremony reached its climax, the ninth-level supreme mage Wadj-hotep who was overall in charge of supervision suddenly frowned. This was because he heard sounds resembling the rumbling of thunder.
Amon awoke from his trance, and he also heard the rumbling. But the rumbling did not come from the sky, but from the eastern side of the ground, and it was accompanied by slight tremors. The entire ground beneath the city was trembling, but it was unnoticeable by the ordinary civilians.
What was happening? Too late to think about it, Amon instantly channeled his magical power and cast spatial magic to stabilize the ground below him as much as possible. His magic spread out, and he immediately sensed several other powerful magical forces merging with his own. That was the result of Wadj-hotep and several other supreme mages doing the same thing as himself.
The greatest force stabilizing the ground naturally came from the magical formation behind the platform. The primary purpose of this formation was to assist the Adoratrice in completing the ceremony successfully and prevent any external interference from affecting the ceremony. The people on the square neither heard the rumbling nor felt the tremors in the ground and continued to be immersed in the light of the blessing.
But it was a completely different experience for Amon and the other supreme mages. The tremors were extremely minute, but the force causing it was incredibly powerful and nearly irresistible. Even though so many of them cast spatial magic at the same time, they were only able to barely stabilize just the area below the square. The magical impact which they felt was so intense that they felt as though they were like a small boat being tossed around by huge waves in the sea.
The trembling did not last for long and stopped before the end of the ceremony. Amon sighed a breath of relief. In the legends of the continent, it is said that the trembling of the earth was the gods’ expression of anger towards the mortals’ sins. But it didn’t make sense for it to happen during the Hapsidis if that was the case.
Amon lightly wiped the sweat on his forehead, but he suddenly stopped moving. He had only just realized that he had regained his power! If not, how could he have used spatial magic a moment ago? But it had happened without him knowing, and he had used his power without even thinking about it.
Amon had finally passed the test, so did he now possess the eighth-level of the power of two sides? Checking the condition of his power, he realized that he did not completely recover his power. Although he could use magic again and felt stronger than before, his body did not feel any different, so it meant that he was roughly equivalent to an ordinary eighth-level mage currently.
Closing his eyes to check himself more thoroughly, he suddenly smiled. He finally found the key difference: his power could continue to grow further. Like a baby growing into an adult, time was needed for his power to grow to its peak at the eighth-level. Furthermore, he could no longer distinguish between his magical power and physical power. The power of two sides had finally merged into one.
Maria also felt the trembling of the earth from the platform above, but she continued conducting the ceremony until the end calmly. After that, the masses sang praises of Isis while Maria led the priests and the officials into the shrine to make offerings to the goddess.
However, there was an ominous hunch in the hearts of all the supreme mages present. Something major must have happened far away. That night, Maria sent messengers to various cities to inquire whether any strange event had recently occurred. On the second day, all the important officials were gathered in the shrine. Amon had also stayed back to wait for news instead of returning to his territory.
It turned out that something incredulous really did happen, and not just one, but three at the same time!
The source of the earthquake was located in Cape. The exact point was the location where Amon had fought against the Uruk legion, the town of Khenmet. The entire Lower Ejypt experienced tremors, but it did not cause too many casualties.
According to a soldier who was on duty at the east gate of Khenmet at that time, it had been a bright sunny day, but the sky suddenly dimmed. When one looked up, there were no dark clouds to be seen, only a blanket of darkness covering the sky, and not even the stars and moon could be seen. All the residents of Khenmet came out of their houses, and the soldiers in the barracks also came out of their tents.
The people’s hearts were shrouded by a powerful and unknown fear, and they gathered in the town square to pray to the gods. Just as everyone looked up at the dark sky, various lights appeared, resembling colourful flames flickering and circling in the sky, accompanied by the sound of crashing, roaring and exploding. Then the earth began to shake, and out of four city towers in Khenmet, three of them collapsed. More than half of the houses were also damaged, but fortunately, all the people had left their houses to gather at the square.
According to the memory of a boatman who was at the beach dozens of miles north of Khenmet at that time, he was repairing a broken boat on the beach when the sky suddenly darkened. The sea turned choppy even though there was no wind, and the dark sky reflected in the waters appeared to be dark red. There was a bright beam of light flickering in the sky, and a ball of light high up in the sky burst into sparks. After that, the earth began to tremble violently, and it was as if the rocks under the ground had become monsters colliding and biting each other. The water receded suddenly, exposing a large portion of the seabed, leaving many fish stranded behind.
The boatman ran towards a high place on the shore while stumbling along the way. He felt the ground moving, and when he looked back, he was so horrified that he sat on the hillside and could take a step further. The seawater which had receded roared and transformed into a high wall of waves which crashed onto the shore and swept away the boats on the beach. Not far away, the coast was torn apart by an incredible force during the shaking, and the seawater rushed into the depths of the inland through the opening in the coast.
It was as if a gigantic blade of epic proportions had hit the ground, creating an opening by force. The land shifted to both sides along the edge of the Khenmet defense line once held by Amon, and the sea water poured into the north to form a fissured bay shaped like a dagger on the land. The seawater engulfed the battlefield where Amon once fought with the Uruk legion. After passing the eastern gate of Khenmet the seawater traversed nearly four-fifths of the land, leaving only a narrow passage at the southernmost end.
A narrow and long inland sea was thus formed within the borders of Cape. When the sky was clear again, the seawater under the sun was slightly reddish like the colour of blood. Later on, this long and narrow inland sea would be known as the Red Sea. The main city of Cape was located forty miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. It was the nearest large city and it was where the tremors were the strongest. Many deep cracks appeared on the city walls while many houses were damaged to varying degrees, and hundreds of people were injured or killed.
However, the most serious accident occurred in the shrine. The shrine itself was not damaged, but the statue of Horus enshrined in the middle of the main hall had its right wing broken. The huge stone wing fell from a tall height and broke into many pieces, causing panic in the priests.
If the vibration was too strong and had caused the entire shrine and surrounding buildings to collapse, it would be inevitable for the statue to be damaged. However, all the buildings including the shrine were still intact. Only the most important statue of Horus had one wing broken. This was a sign of disaster, and the consequences could be very serious.
The statue in the main shrine was not an ordinary thing. From the mining of stone to the cutting of stone slabs, transportation into place, and the carving of statues, the entire process was strictly supervised. The names of all participating craftsmen were also recorded. This huge statue was built more than a hundred years ago and had always been majestic and sturdy, without so much as a crack. Why did one of the wings suddenly break?
According to the rules, responsible craftsmen would receive the most severe punishment, but the craftsmen more than a hundred years ago could no longer be held accountable. Rod Drick organized manpower to investigate the disaster while also sending an urgent report to both Memphis and the capital.
News from elsewhere quickly returned, making Rod Drick feel a little relieved. The same thing had happened to the statues of Horus in the shrines of various cities across the Empire. All the right wings of the statues had broken and fallen onto the altar.
This can only explain one thing. The destruction of the statues had nothing to do with the craftsman who built it, and it did not just happen in Cape. It was only in some small private temples that the statues remained intact. What did such an event mean?
The earthquake formed a long and narrow inland sea within the territory of Cape. Mourrin once told Amon that this was the boundary of the divine realm of the Ennead. All the statues of Horus in the shrines of various cities across the country had their wings broken and damaged, and it was no exception even in the distant capital of Thebes which did not experience any tremors.
According to legends since ancient times, this probably symbolized not only the anger of the gods, but also the fall or injury of the gods. The Pharaoh who claimed to be the human incarnation of Horus should be the one who is most frightened and worried, but there was a need for him to make an appearance and appease the people to maintain his divine status. But Ramsess II no longer had to worry about it, because the third major event that occurred at the same time was his sudden death.