The Village: Chapter 1.3

“A black Pharaoh? Such a ruler had never been, even in the oldest and most ancient of texts! All the names of all the Glorious Rulers of Kemet, may the gods be with them in the Afterlife, be it found in the old world or this new one, have we been taught and never have I heard nor read of a black Pharaoh!” exclaimed Lumeri.

“Hush. There are matters beyond your ken. Or mine. But Henunu froze at the sight. Painful became his tight grip on my arm and his muttered prayers became faster in their pace. We were escorted to a bench at the back of the congregation. I noticed Turo and some of the older priests leave us and enter a chamber off to the side of the ceremonial hall. In the meantime, most of the other priests removed themselves from our sides and reverently abased themselves before the idol. By then, I was immensely curious. But the priest-mage averted his eyes from the sight. The scribe was furiously writing in his papyri. I could imagine his glee at the new and strange experience. A young and enthusiastic man, that Meren. Never a complaint throughout the journey. Though in hindsight, his unwed status served him well.”

Lumeri stayed silent. Allusions. Hints. Insinuations. These marked the old man’s fanciful tale. The scribe had questions but he remembered to be sparing about asking them. He didn’t want a repeat of Khamet’s mad and disturbing cackle.

“After a while, Turo and the other priests rejoined us. Robes of fine but unusual make did they wear. Leather it appeared, but of mixed colors of tan, dark brown, and a shade of black. Of no discernable pattern were the various hues, it merely looked like patches melded together. As Turo sat beside me, the priest noticed my interest in his robe. He smiled and mentioned it was indeed made from different skins, delicately woven together by threads of women’s hair. Once the pattern was finished, a simple magical spell merged the pieces, leaving no discernable trace of the weave. As I examined the hooded robe, it was undeniably of the finest quality, rivaling the heralded cotton cloths of Kemet. Permission to touch and scrutinize the material was granted and I marveled at the smoothness of the leather. In contrast to the crude hides worn by the villagers, this material was beyond belief. No trace of the original owner’s fur could be seen. I did notice very fine pores on the skins. And an inexplicable revulsion when my fingers touched it.”

For some unknown reason, the scribe could feel his skin crawl. An instinctive loathing arose from the deep corners of his mind. He couldn’t understand why it was happening. The old man continued.

“The ceremony was long and boring. The usual chants, priests continually bowing and prostrating themselves before the effigy, incense burnt. They did a short ceremony for us. The aroma coming from their gold thuribles wafted and surrounded us. A sickening scent that reminded me of flowers, rotting meat, and sulfur. Upon my inquiry, Turo assured me it was to bless and thank us. He repeated the woman’s belief that our arrival had brought good fortune to the village. Hunting had been good and meat was plentiful, according to him. But all throughout the interminable proceedings, Henunu had his eyes closed, the whispered prayers and invocations that poured from his mouth became a torrent. His painful grip never slackened in that chamber. I suffered it not wishing for the mage to make a scene and insult the worshipping villagers to our detriment. The bizarre ceremonies concluded and we made our way back to the settlement. The damned aroma never left me since then. I could smell it from time to time, a faint scent reminding me of what I am.”

“Even now, great one?” ventured the scribe.

“Especially now, scribe. It has become stronger.”

The scribe was horrified. He desperately wanted to stand up and run away. Far from the god-forsaken room where a cursed old man lay dying. Around him, he could witness the ominous spectacle of the darkness in the room slowly creeping towards the bed. He saw the eerie sight of shadows changing shapes in mocking disregard of the illumination given out by the candles. Yet, still he continued to sit, his will gone, and driven to write the dying man’s narrative. A strange coldness had invaded his body though sweat started to form on his brow. His writing hand moved to the papyrus. The old man looked at him with eyes tinged with a sickly shade of green and smiled.

“Write, scribe.”

Lumeri felt himself nod. Tentacles of horror invaded his mind. He wanted to scream and yet all that came out of his mouth was a respectful acquiescence to the order.

“Of course, great Khamet, messenger of the Pharaoh of Darkness.”


Chapter Note:

There is a black Pharaoh in Lovecraft’s writings.