The seriousness of this problem could vary greatly. It wouldn’t be a problem when nobody looked into it. However, if Amon persisted in putting this on the table, there would surely be consequences, because it was about the deities. If the new Adoratrice wanted to make an example of them to show her authority, things like these would be the best excuse.
Pawara felt his seat burning. He stood up and pulled Amon’s sleeve, “Dear inspector, I sincerely beg your pardon. Please don’t take this seriously. We will do whatever you ask of us.”
Amon smiled and shook his hand, “Please sit down. In fact, I don’t have much to ask. You are devoted to your duty and I do not want to make trouble out of nothing. But, I do hope my clansmen can be treated more nicely.”
The chief manager of the mine slightly sighed with relief. He pulled Hardedef to the seat. The two sat down and proposed a toast to Amon, promising, “Please feel assured that we will look after the miners as much as we can. They are indeed an important part of the mine of Mount Horeb. We should treat them with respect.”
Amon continued, “I was injured today so I need to take a rest in the next few days. Since I was given a month to do the inspection, there’s still plenty of time. In the coming days, I would like to see some of my clansmen. I want to know what they have been through after the flood and how they ended up mining here. Would that be inconvenient for you?”
“No, of course not! As long as you don’t take them away from Mount Horeb, you can feel free to do anything you like.”
Night fell. In the bedroom upstairs, reading the documents about the art of war as was usual by now, Amon thoughtfully looked out from the window. It was a cloudless full moon night. The silver plate was shining high in the sky. Mount Horeb lay silently under the moonlight. There was a hint of liveliness hovering between the low houses at the foot of the mountain. It was the flavour of the smoke from the furnace, like that in Duc long ago…
Amon was waiting. When the moonlight reached the foot of his bed, a servant reported from downstairs in a loud voice, “Mister Amon, you have a visitor!”
The host smiled and called out, “Is it chief Hardedef? Please come in. I’ve been waiting for you.”
It was indeed Hardedef. He first apologized for disturbing the inspector so late at night. Amon laughed, “It must be something important that makes you come to visit me at this hour. Please, let’s talk forthrightly.”
“Firstly, I must thank you for not hurting me during the duel and for forgiving my mistake. I feel so sorry now, but I just couldn’t control myself back then. I was in a horrible state and I couldn’t come out of it.”
Amon nodded, “I can see that too. You are now totally different from this afternoon. If you were irascible like that all the time, you wouldn’t have achieved the sixth level. Is this what bothers you and the reason why you’ve come to see me tonight?”
The chief guard gaped at him, “You are amazing, Mister Amon! That is exactly why I am here. You are right. I have always been feeling this kind of compulsion inside me. Sometimes it drives me mad. I can’t think of anything but to vent it out. I tried to control it, but often failed. Speaking of it, I have yet to tell you about my story.”
Hardedef was born in a big, illustrious family in Memfis. His elder uncle was a chancellor in charge of the Empire’s agriculture and animal husbandry. At the age of sixteen, he was brought to the Isis Shrine for the awakening of powers. He awakened the power of bloodline and hence became a warrior. Afterwards, he learned body arts and martial arts from the best tutors in the Empire.
However, he always regretted not being able to become a mage. He would always ask himself: was it because he was detested by the gods? Why wouldn’t the gods give a chance to a noble spirit? His grandfather was a supreme mage, an honored high priest in the Isis Shrine, which Hardedef was proud of.
Persuading himself to accept reality, he swore to be the best warrior. But there was still a problem. Ever since he had awakened the power of bloodline, he became impulsive. The more he advanced in body arts, the worse the temper he had. He often got angry for trivial things, which he would regret afterwards. He just couldn’t control his rage!
Two years ago, he lost his temper in a brothel in Memfis and injured one of his colleagues and the owner of the brothel for a girl. After he went home, he was still enraged and accidentally wounded his wife. His spouse, who came from another big noble family in Memfis, left home at the outrage and went back to her parents’ home. This scandal ruined Hardedef’s family’s reputation, therefore he was punished. His grandfather exercised some influence on the Pharaoh and he ended up as chief guard in Mount Horeb. His family hoped that the rigour of the environment could temper his rough character.
Hardedef freely admitted that he was depressed in Mount Horeb. The tough life here only made him more desperate. Praying to the gods didn’t get him real peace. He was already in a bad mood when he heard that the new inspector was not even a noble, and when he saw a miner ruin an ore this afternoon, he flew into a fit of rage, lost control and took out his whip.
It was not the first time for him and even his soldiers had fallen victim to his whip. It seemed that flogging people could ease his stormy temper, but it also meant that it would be harder to control his rage next time.
Hardedef finally said, “This afternoon, when your hammer hit my knee, there was a strange shockwave that dispelled my strength as well as the fury in my mind. I calmed down at once. You were also angry at the time, but you managed to control your strength perfectly, without even slightly hurting me.”
“Was it the technique of the miners of Duc? How does it control one’s strength? The Ducians can break the skin of the ore to dust while leaving the parangon inside intact. There must be some secrets. But I’ve never thought that it would work for me. That’s why I’m here. I want to know, is there any way the technique can help me?”
Amon frowned. He remembered that he had once had similar feelings. It was the time when he had just awakened the power of two sides in Duc. He could remember that he had a desire to beat everyone he met in town. But once he had passed the first test, the feeling disappeared.
Hardedef’s case was different. The compulsion remained in his mind. It was repressed, but didn’t disappear. As the bloodline power increased, the urge to lash out increased as well. As a sixth-level warrior, he must have passed the tests. Perhaps he didn’t know quite well what the tests were about. Fortunately, he met Amon.
The young Ducian decided to help him. After all, his clansmen were still in Mount Horeb, so it was better for him to keep a positive relation with Pawara and Hardedef. He looked out the window and muttered, “How much do you know about your problem? Is there a regular pattern in your symptoms?”
Hardedef thought for a short while and answered, “Yes, there are some patterns. First, the more strength I get, the harder it is to control this impulse. What’s more, it seems that this compulsion is periodic: it peaks at full moon. I have tried to pray to Khonsu, but it didn’t help.”
Amon turned around and sat down. He looked at Hardedef and said, “It all began with the awakening rite. The power that you have awakened was not the holy power of faith, but the power inside your body. Along with the awakening of the power came the desire. They were like the two sides of a coin. But you failed to face your desire because the power you have awakened was not the one you wanted. You refused to accept it. Your heart was possessed by doubts and anxiety, therefore the desire became your inner demon and you failed to see it.”
“That’s my conjecture about the cause of your problem. I don’t know whether I’m right or not. I guess that when you are possessed by your impulses, your strength increases, but you will be weaker than normal afterwards. I can feel that you are weaker than you were this afternoon. It is not good for you nor for others to go on like this. You don’t know what you are falling into.”
The troubled chief guard couldn’t help to stand up and get on his knees, “You are so right. Even I myself couldn’t have said it so clearly! Sometimes I just feel everything is against me. And my power is not enough to break out and be free. I only feel relieved when I give up reason and lose control. But today I found hope when I was hit by the hammer. You must be able to solve my problem! Please, help me!”
Amon pulled him up from the ground and pushed him back to the seat, “I am not sure if I can help you. I cannot wait by your side all the time and hammer you every time you get mad. Still, I may have a solution. It comes from the technique of Duc as well. If you want to learn it, you have to keep it secret, for reasons you already know.”
Hardedef nodded, “Of course. I will listen to you. I don’t know how to express my gratitude, Amon. Thank you!”
Pointing at the sky through the window, Amon declared, “The compulsion seems to be influenced by the environment. So I suggest you face it by observing nature. Look at the night sky until you find peace in your heart once again. You must have faith. But it may not be the faith to a certain god or goddess. The faith is about yourself, about what you desire. You need to put yourself into a state of an empty mind. When you see light in your mind, you will know what you are looking for.”
Hardedef was puzzled, “So I just look at the stars?”
Smiling, Amon shook his head, “The stars are not in the sky, they are in your mind. You should try to look at the starry night sky in your mind and face your true feelings. Let your feelings come out and then try to sort them back slowly. Treat them like your prayers to the gods. Don’t think about your power, but think about yourself, your mind, your feelings. Let the power naturally adjust itself to the rhythm of your heart, not the other way around. Then you will have peace. I don’t know if this works for you, but I suggest you to give it a try.”
It was a special way to pray. Not to pray to a certain deity, but to pray to a starry night sky in one’s own mind. It was similar to meditation in magic practice. But it was certainly not about magic power. It took the chief guard a long time to understand it. However, Amon had no idea if it would work. If the young noble succeeded in controlling his temper, his theory about this problem would be proved to be right. According to him, Hardedef didn’t completely pass the first test.
The chief guard’s case was also a warning to Amon, telling him that he should be aware of this problem when teaching others. He didn’t tell Hardedef about the power of two sides, nor did he tell him that he was a sorcerer. His teachings were merely about the technique of Duc, and not from magic or anything else.
A grateful Hardedef left at daybreak. Amon was satisfied as well. He was quite sure that Moses and the other Ducians wouldn’t be treated badly from now on. Although they were still the Pharaoh’s slaves, it was better than before. At least he now knew where his clansmen were. As for how he could get them out of Mount Horeb, Amon still had no clue. He decided to figure out Moses’ story first.
Amon told the servants to bring Moses to his room. The young man was plump like a baby when he was still the mayor’s son in Duc. Now he was thin and haggard, wrinkled by suffering. Moses prostrated himself once he entered the room, “Dear inspector, thank you for saving me. Are you also a Ducian?”
Amon pulled him up, “Moses, it’s me! Don’t you remember? Last time I saw you, it was three years ago. I’m Amon!”
The former young master of Duc looked at Amon’s face for a good while, then burst into tears. He hugged him and cried, “Yes, you are Amon! The drunkard’s son! You’ve changed so much! I didn’t dare to recognize you! I heard they mentioning your name yesterday, but I daren’t believe it. Then again you did open the ores with the hammer! Amon, Duc is gone! Everyone’s gone! But… How are you here and become an inspector?”
Amon wiped out Moses’ tears and asked him back, “Don’t you know that I was exiled before the flood?”
“What?” Moses was surprised, “How did that happen?” Moses was not in Duc when Mayor Dusti announced the decree about Bair the sorcerer and sent Amon to chase him. He was sent to Syah City by his father to learn the hieroglyphs and the other writings. Then came the deluge that destroyed his homeland and nobody was able to tell him about Amon’s fate.
Sighing, Amon explained, “I extracted a Gods’ Tear, but Lord Drick’s clerk had taken it from me. The Kingdom was going to punish me for that. Your father found an excuse to get me out of the town so the people from the capital wouldn’t find me. It’s a long story… Tell me: how did you and the others come to this place?”
Moses’ eyes filled with tears again. He sat down and told Amon the misery they had been through.
Mayor Dusti raised Moses as his successor and managed to send him to Syah City to learn writing. As the mayor of Duc and a rich noble man, he was the only one in town that was able to do so. He even bought a big manor in Syah City for his only son, but he also knew not to indulge him. Moses lived a disciplined life in Syah City.
Being nineteen years old, Moses was two years older than Amon. When he was sixteen, Dusti brought him back to Duc and hosted the awakening rite for him, so he could start to learn the technique of Duc. As the future mayor, Moses had to master the technique although he didn’t actually need to extract ores for a living himself. When he grew older and became a mage, he would also have to learn how to host the rite.
The manor that Dusti bought in Syah City not only served as Moses’ house, but also as the dwelling for the Ducians in Syah City. The law of the kingdom stipulated that the Ducians shouldn’t leave the town without permission, but right before the flood, Dusti had sent a large group of people to transport the season’s harvest to the Syah City and buy necessities for the town. They were all young and strong miners.
After they paid the tribute, they stayed in Dusti’s manor. Since there was still time, they bought a lot of goods. But right before they started their return journey, it began to rain in Charcoal Forest and the route was blocked by the inundation. They had to stay in the city and thus became Duc’s survivors, the same as Amon. Besides them, there were several dozens of other Ducians in the manor who took care of Moses and the residence. The Ducians in the manor added up to more than a hundred people.
Under the leadership of Golier the supreme mage, the citizens of Syah managed to save the city from the flood. The town of Duc on the other hand had become a marsh, so Moses and the other Ducians had no place to go. What was worse, there were rumors circulating in the city, saying that it was the Ducians who had offended the gods and caused the cataclysm.
The natives of Duc became the people detested and rejected by the gods. They were punished by Enlil for their sins. The flood was a blessing to others but a curse for the Ducians. The power of the rumors was destructive and the former residents of Duc soon started to be the subject of hostility from the rest of the citizens. There were even several times when people tried to attack the manor.
The miners had a strong body but a simple mind. They didn’t know how to appease the angry citizens and the only thing they could do was to defend the manor with their weapons. The conflict escalated and bloodshed ensued. Some of the attackers died in the clashes, but Schmul, the governor of Syah, had no excuse to punish the miners, for they were merely defending themselves. Nevertheless the furious citizens didn’t want things to end like this.
Every day, there were people shouting outside the manor, “Burn these murderers! In the name of the gods!” There were always people trying to break in and attack the Ducians. Even the City Guard failed to stop them.
Moses and the other Ducians were targeted in other ways as well. No shop would sell food to them. When the stored food was consumed, they could hardly live on anymore. Furthermore, Golier was not in Syah, as he had returned to the capital and denied himself to visitors.
Fortunately the supreme mage seemed to have anticipated the fate of the Ducians. He had told Warret, his student and the acting high priest, to look after them. Right before the situation came to its worst, Warret visited the manor with the City Guard and had a talk with Moses. He told the young master that it was not suitable for them to stay in the city anymore, and asked him if there was a place they’d wish to go.
The miners had no knowledge of the outside world, and no more did Moses, who had only recently come of age. It was unlikely to find a shelter in Hittite and the only name came to his mind was Lord Drick. The governor of Cape appeared to have been in a good partnership with his father… The foreign empire seemed to be their only hope.
↑ Khonsu : the God of the Moon in Ejyptian legends.