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I was born thousands of years ago near the great ice sheets that covered the land at that

time. The hunter-gatherer life was the only life that I knew. I killed a false shaman who was endangering my tribe, by falsely manipulating them. He would send them into areas of no game and blame them for a poor hunt. He ate of the very best that we brought back to the cave. When I died, I found myself stood in a great hall before a mighty being who had horns projecting from his forehead and cloven hooves for feet. He was taller than a tree and his legs were covered in hair. There was no mistaking that he was male, as he stood naked and unconcerned. This was the Dark Lord who ruled the newly created Hell, fashioned to cleanse the souls of the damned. He also held dominion over the world of the living to an extent. His other name was the Lord of Punishment and he took that duty very seriously. He was also scrupulously fair in his dealings with the mortals who found themselves stood before him. For my sin of the murder of the false shaman he decided to make me a Ferryman to travel the Netherworld and collect the souls who dropped into the waters of that strange place. Many of them had lived blameless lives and these would scramble onto the front of my boat, but the unredeemed sinners could only climb upon the deck of the rear hold. In this place of torment they would pull the oars until my boat made it to the Final Lock and the entrance to Gaia’s realm. In gratitude for a job well done he had offered me the opportunity of going with my cargo onwards into the realm of light. I refused and replied that I was content to serve him here. When mankind multiplied, due to the discovery of agriculture and the keeping of meat animals instead of hunting, he began to build towns and cities. With time on his hands men invented Gods and persuaded others to worship them and feed the priests that organised these religions. They lived in splendour while others toiled in the fields to keep them. My Dark Lord tolerated them as they all ended up rowing the narrow boats from Hell along the waterways of the Netherworld. The Lord of Punishment summoned me after a long voyage and gave me a task that would require me to use some of his awesome power. I was sent to destroy the Twin cities of Soodaman and Gommra that practised human sacrifice and other abominations. I sank them under a flood. Hundreds of narrow boats tied up together and made a giant ark to carry all the people and their flocks and herds. Now a great lake stands where the evil cities once stood. I took the great ark through the dam I had made, by traversing the Netherworld and passed through the rocks as though they were mist. Many miles down-river the delta opened out into fertile lands and this is where we stopped to allow the living to disembark. Once that had happened, we once more did our master’s bidding and took the gathered souls to the Final Lock. The events that took place passed into folklore, as a lesson about slipping into evil and the

retribution that could come. The people spread out over the fertile areas of the delta and the margins along the river that flooded every year. The people expanded and increased their numbers. They wandered the deserts to find more fertile areas to settle. Far from the drowned cities a mighty river that rose in Africa spilled in flood across the desert every year washing the land with fertile silt. Here a civilization arose to dwarf anything that I had ever seen. The centuries passed and they learnt to build in stone and ferry the blocks along the river. Eventually they built many cities and created more gods. They did not practise human sacrifice, but the rulers became obsessed with the afterlife and planned on taking as much wealth as they could to keep them in splendour. They still dropped into the waters around my boat and most of them learnt to pull on the oars, thus learning humility! It amused my master, until they became so powerful that raiding parties brought back slaves to work on these tombs of the dead. Generations of slaves grew up in this civilization knowing only the slave-master’s lash. This angered the Dark Lord. He believed that each human being should have the choice of how he lived and the bondage of slavery made him enraged the most. I found myself once more summoned to HIS presence. “Rotan, my loyal Ferryman. I have another task for you to carry out in the lands of the living,” the Lord of Punishment commanded. “Your handling of the destruction of the twin cities was without fault and you did not yield to the fury that you kept in check. You did what was necessary to achieve my will without spite or malice on your part. Also your use of my powers was careful and not wasteful in the direction required. I need that restraint again. Will you do my will again?” I answered, “Great Lord of Darkness, master of Hell and of the world of the Living, I would be honoured to do your bidding.” “Once again Rotan I will imbue you with the necessary power to use at your discretion. Use it well and give the ruler of this land the choice at least to let these people free. Try and keep the body count to a minimum if you can,” the Dark Lord insisted. He slipped his hand underneath me and I stepped onto his palm. I was raised up to the level of his chin and he breathed over me. This was different to how he had imbued me with his power when he sent me to destroy the twin cities. He pulled out several long hairs from his head and handed them to me and I tied them around my waist. They were black and flat and as thick as a leather strap. I could feel the power flowing from Him to my very being. It would provide a connection to the two of us that would allow me to access whatever I needed to use. The Dark Lord set me down upon the flagstones of His chamber and spoke to me in gentle tones, “Rotan, you may find that this task is not as easy or as direct as the previous task I set you. Use

whatever help that chance puts your way. There are many that are embroiled in slavery to the petty ruler of this civilisation. The people have to treat him as a living god. It would be too easy just to kill him. A lesson must be learnt that will influence future rulers. Go now my faithful servant and do my will.” With that my master turned away to deal with another problem leaving me to make my own way back to the docks and to take charge of my narrow-boat. It had a new crew secreted in the hold pulling on the oars and a motley collection of sinners stuffed inside the black woolly mammoth. New liquid imp had spread over the bottom of the boat and had spread their spirits and connection to the Lord of Punishment so that the boat would be able to judge the sinners from the souls that I picked up. I led the mammoth aboard and stood it in the middle of the boat on the flatted area next to the hold. I cast off from the bollards and stepped onto the steering platform. Now was the time to get my crew organised and pulling in synchronisation. There were two levers connected to the mechanism that instructed the rowers when to pull and when to stop. If they worked well I would not release the hungry rats from their cages. If not-----! Well, a couple of days of being gnawed and eaten alive usually did the trick. We had a long way to go to reach the area that the pharaoh held sway so this time I manoeuvred the narrow-boat into the deep lock that would take us straight up to where the nether world impinged onto the real world. I would not be taking on board any of the sinners or the saved on this voyage. Things might change when we began operating in the pharaoh’s backyard. The water began to fill the lock and the boat began to surge back and forwards as the currents took hold. As the water flowed underneath the narrow-boat it would lift the stern and propel the boat towards the front gate. I would then direct the ‘crew’ to pull on the oars to keep it from smashing the nose into the solid wall. As the lock began to fill, the entry gate soon disappeared underneath the water and the boat surged back again. Now the ‘crew’ would push on the oars to keep us away from the stone wall at our back. I have lost count of the times that I have see-sawed back and front in that deep, wide lock. The darkness began to lighten as far above us a rectangle of light began to show. The change from darkness to light was welcomed and we soon popped out of the deepest lock in the system and into what served as daylight in the Netherworld. As the deck became level with the surrounding stones I stepped off and cast the rope around a bollard. Now all I needed to do was to open the lock-gates by rotating the winch. The lock-gates were too massive to be moved by muscle alone and it needed the mechanical advantage of the winch to move them. Once they were open we could get on our way. Coming towards me was a narrow-boat that I recognised, piloted by an old friend. His name was ‘Walks Far around the rocks’ and those of the

Ferrymen that had worked the canals of the Netherworld, shortened it to Arrand. I signalled him to stop and ease down as he was carried along by the current towards me. He was almost as old as I was and too came from a hunter gatherer society. He too had had an argument with a Shaman who had sent the tribe too many times in the wrong direction looking for a beast to kill. We had travelled together many times and he had been one of the rescue parties when I had drowned the twin cities. “I have been given a task by the Lord of Punishment that I feel would benefit by your company,” I called out to him. Without hesitation Arrand replied, “I’ll need to get the boat tied up first before I can transfer to yours. I’m empty of sinners so I can only ride the current. My anchor is down and I will just allow the boat to dock with the bollards by paying it out. I’ll tie up against the wharf and drag the anchor out and I’m your man!” With that Arrand sprinted along the boat and jumped to the stone edge of the lock and made the boat fast. I wound one of the Lord of Punishment’s hairs around his waist and he was immediately aware of its power! We made our way through the network of waterways until at last we could take sight of the rift that we needed to transfer into the ‘real world’ as close to the home palace of the Pharaoh as we could. The Nile was busy and full of barges loaded with stone on their way to whatever building site that Ramesses the second so desired. They were also full of slaves who were called upon to break their backs hauling these blocks of stone to their destination. The whistle of the lash was all too often heard encouraging the poor souls to put even greater effort in their labours. I had been this way before when Egypt was under the thrall of Seti the first, the father of this young Pharaoh who had also built himself a great tomb. This new ruler was determined to surpass all that his father had built. The difference between the two rulers was that Seti had built his tomb with Egyptian labour and had asked for volunteers from the people to leave behind their farms and homes for a year or two and work for him. He had rewarded those who shone in their labours and welcomed those who had renounced their old ways to learn new skills. Thus a whole new body of skilled artisans took their place amongst the populace. Young men became mathematicians and architects leading the endeavours of the newly skilled workers. A time of learning and expansion took hold. Upon the death of the old despot, Ramesses determined to outdo his father’s works and instituted an army of slave-takers that scoured the borders of the empire for fresh workers. Whole families were taken and the men put to endless toil. I had taken Seti to the final lock and sent him on his way towards the realm of Gaia. He had been sent to row the narrow-boat for a short part of the journey and had not complained at the labour that was expected of him. He was a force for good as well as receiving a measured punishment for those things that he could have done and didn’t. The Lord of

Punishment had taken into account the rise in education that had taken place under his rule and the fact that measured against some of those who had gone before him, his rule was beneficent. This being so, he set him to pull the oars for a proportion of the journey until such time that the boat itself decreed that he had done enough penance. I had enjoyed his company, when he had finally made his way towards the bow of the boat and mixed with the other ‘saved ones’ who had made their way onto the front during the course of the journey. He had been shocked to find that not one of the treasures buried with his mummified remains had been available to him after his death! It had not taken him long to adjust however to the new state of affairs. His reaction to his son’s rule encompassing the reality of slavery was disgust and scorn. The fact that it was all for nothing anyway saddened him as he realised what wonderful things could have been accomplished if the efforts of his people had been directed differently. I had reassured him that thousands of years from this moment in time, people would come from all over the world and marvel at what had been done, but nothing of the grandeur of this time would exist. He had entered the realm of Gaia without a backward glance and I had returned to the docks of Hell to begin another journey. The sinners had pulled well and we made good time as we navigated the broad stretches of the Nile. I had no need to release the rats and increase their level of punishment. As we pulled into yet another set of docks the cover of the hold peeled back as the imps that covered the bottom of the boat passed their judgement on the once wicked that were shackled to the oars. They blinked in the fierce sunlight that they had not seen since they died. I turned to them as they sat bewildered on the benches and said, “Welcome! The boat has judged you to have expiated your sins and the freedom of the boat is yours. I must warn you that you must stay on it as to walk upon the earth of the real world would damn you to an eternity of wandering the lands of the living with little chance of reaching the realm of Gaia. I have a task to perform for the ‘Dark Lord’ himself that will take me away from this mooring. I will require that you keep it safe. None of the living will be able to see you. Many of the newly dead will be drawn to this carrier of souls. Explain as well as you can to those who are accepted at the front that we are on a journey to a better after-life. The wicked will find that they will be drawn to the hold and shackled to the oars just as you were. Wait for my return!” Along the Nile we had passed Abu Simbel and the city of the dead called Rasmesseum and found ourselves tied up in the docks of the new city of Pi-Ramesses also known as Qantir. This had previously been a summer palace for Seti during his reign. It was a rich centre for trade and was very agriculturally productive. The waterways had an abundance of fish and this added to the wealth of this area. Many temples had been built exhorting the power and

wealth of the pharaoh. They were all built by the unwilling hands of the thousands of slaves who still laboured under the pain of the lash. They were a mixed lot taken mainly from the lands of Amurru, Cannan, Libya and Nubia with many others spirited away from any populated areas that the Egyptian slaving battalions had found. We unshipped the black woolly mammoth from the centre platform of the narrow-boat and climbed onto his massive neck and shoulders and made our way unseen to the palace. It was easy to see who were Egyptian and who were slaves. Pharaoh treated his people well and the prosperity of the land rubbed off on them. Gangs of slaves, semi-naked or dressed in a few rags and covered by the marks of the lash hauled blocks of dressed stone. These people existed on the fringe of starvation and only the power of the whip could have motivated them. I clenched my fists in anger and could understand why the Lord of Punishment had decided to end this state of affairs. “Arrand, this has to stop,” I grimly said to my companion. “I will not rest until I have separated these unfortunate souls from this endless servitude.” “Most powerful Rotan, I agree with all you say, but this Pharaoh will be a hard man to turn. He comes from a long line of all-powerful men who set themselves up as a living God. He will need to be broken in such a way that he is forced into submission.” “Then break him I will,” I answered and urged the mammoth onwards through the crowds who somehow parted at his approach. We were approaching the main thoroughfare to the palace that Ramesses the mightiest pharaoh of them all held sway with his family. I concentrated my will and made our steed appear from thin air some way in front of the steps leading up to his throne. Pharaoh’s face registered disbelief at what he could see approaching him. For one thing, he had seen elephants, but the size of our steed, dwarfed anything he had ever seen. The black woolly mammoth stood higher than three men stood on each other’s shoulders. He was as wide as a man laid down and his trunk was thicker than a man’s body. Inside this magnificent creature was the accumulation of the souls of the damned that powered his life-force. I controlled him absolutely and when his tasks were done to my satisfaction the souls would be released and be allowed to go on their way to Gaia’s realm. I stopped the mammoth at the bottom of the steps and the two of us were assisted down by his trunk and deposited half up the steps. The two of us had decided to be dressed simply in togas wearing our master’s strands of hair as belts. We were barefooted and carrying a stave, each fashioned from one of the netherworld hollow reeds that grew in single trunks by the side of the waterways. They were a connection into the world of the freshly dead and could easily become a conduit between the two states of being. By the time that we had climbed the steps to Ramesses throne

he had got himself under control and tightly gripped his golden staff of office. The rest of his people that were crowded into the throne room waited for pharaoh to act. Ramesses stood and confronted us and said, “What are you? What do you want that you should stand before your living God and disrupt my court?” “I am your judge, Ramesses. You have displeased a higher authority than you. He is a final judge that you will face upon your death. This slavery that you have inflicted on your neighbours has got to stop. It stops now this very day or you will suffer along with all your people a terrible curse,” I grimly stated. “Ha! You are two and I am many! Kill them now,” Ramesses replied and gestured to his guards. Spears flew through the air and passed harmlessly through our bodies and clattered against the ornamented wall at our backs. That caused a moment’s hesitation by Pharaoh and he gave another order. “Burn them,” he cried and oil was spilt around out feet and set alight. We stood motionless until the flames petered out. Around us rugs and tapestries were well alight and the guards frantically put them out. Ramesses sat down upon his gilded throne and contemplated his next step. “Bring me my magicians and advisers. I would know more about these ‘men’ who dare Pharaoh’s wrath. “I give you credence, great Pharaoh; you are a man of courage. Like your father the great Seti who also served as a humble oarsman in the hold of my narrow-boat you will ultimately row for me after you have left this world behind you! How that will work depends upon your actions here,” I replied. A look of fury crossed Ramesses face as the implications of what I said took hold and he turned to the magicians and advisers. He pointed to where we stood and shouted, “What can you do to rid me of these impertinent imposters?” “I will send poisonous snakes to bite and send them to their deaths,” a magician replied and cast a basket upon the floor. The top opened and the magician directed the writhing mass of snakes in our direction. Arrand undid one of the belts that were fashioned from the Lord of Punishment’s hair and tossed it onto the marble floor. The hair began to grow and swell until it took on the resemblance of a black King Cobra; a snake eater and killer. It relentlessly struck, seized and swallowed snake after snake. When it had finished the hood sank back and the snake made its way back to Arrand, turning back once more into one of the fibres of his belt. He wrapped it around the loose garments of his toga and waited for me to open a dialogue with Ramesses. I walked towards him and as I climbed ever closer to him I added to my size until I stood twice the height of any of his guards. I bent forward and lifted the king of Egypt by his shoulders to the level of

my face. “You will give orders now, to set the slaves free from their labours, gather what provisions that they need and allow them to trek away from this accursed place. You will allow them to take what they need of your carts, waggons and animals to set forth and settle in another land far from here,” I ordered the Pharaoh and tossed him negligently back onto his throne. Ramesses scrambled out of his thrones embrace and defiantly replied, “No!” as he stood staring back at my face. “I will not do as you order. If you could kill me, you would have done so. I will ignore your empty threats. My slaves will continue to build my monuments until they die. I am the living God of this land and my word is law!” I returned to my proper size and walked down the steps to stand by my brother of the Netherworld. I turned and sorrowfully said to Ramesses, “It will be as you wish. Instead of you suffering, all of your people will suffer until you change your mind. I will stay here in this wealth encrusted palace while my brother Arrand sets off upstream of this place and when he is above your influence he will insert his staff into the Nile and I will allow the waters of the lands of the dead to flow through the hollow reed he carries and into your river. You will then see and experience the power of the Lord of Punishment.” “Ha! Do as you please. I will not give up these people. They are mine to do with as I want,” Ramesses replied and stared away to his side. I turned to Arrand and said, “Take the mammoth and the narrow boat and do my bidding. Stay there with the reed in place until I tell you to remove it. Spread the word that I have come to deliver every slave in this kingdom into freedom. Tell them to be ready and to do exactly as I say.” I then whispered into his ear, “Tell them also, to save their water and to fill every pot and pan. Keep the water concealed and tell no-one of where it is hidden. In two weeks the Nile will be undrinkable and poisoned to every living thing. Tell them to store what food they can find, for a famine will come and to go inside their homes when the river turns red.” Arrand nodded and returned to the mammoth, climbing back onto its neck via the trunk’s help and made his way back towards the docks. He quietly applied his brother’s instructions as he went, as word of Rotan’s ultimatum spread. He then vanished from the sight of the living and returned to the narrow-boat. The Nile’s flow towards the sea did not impede the progress of the boat as the layer of liquid imp gave the waters of this mighty river no purchase on the hold. Two weeks went by and I had turned to stone to wait for my brother to insert his reed into the headwaters above the realm of Ramesses. All sorts of the Pharaoh’s wise men had tried to damage the statue that I had become. They chipped in vain with all manner of blades and hammers. Acid was tried to no avail. A gang of slaves looped chains around my waist and could not move me from my

position. When a slave-master picked up a lash I took it from him and laid it across his back until he writhed across the floor and rolled down the steps. I returned to my place standing in front of Ramesses throne. The thoughts of Arrand were transmitted through the belt I wore of the Lord of Punishment’s hair. Arrand concentrated his thoughts and told me, “I am well above the last city of the Pharaoh and the boat is anchored well and true. I am inserting the reed now, Most Powerful Rotan! Now will be the time for the next part of your curse to be shown to Ramesses.” I rose from my position in front of the throne and once more faced Pharaoh and said, “Ramesses, the beginning of great suffering is about to come to you and your people. Remember that this was your choice. Follow me to the water’s edge of the mighty river Nile and see what you have caused to be.” “I will not! You can walk to the river if you want. I shall not accompany you,” Ramesses defiantly shouted at me. “I am the embodiment of the living God and the Nile rises and falls at my command!” “Your stubbornness has gone too far. You will come with me,” and with that I went swiftly to his side and curled one of the hairs of my belt around his wrist like a flat leather strap. At the touch of my master’s hair upon his wrist Pharaoh wet himself in fear and I dragged him down his ornamented steps towards the coolness of the river frontage. Many miles above this anchorage point Arrand had placed the reed into the river’s cold embrace and at that time I had also opened the link to the waters of the dead. Through the reed a red tide was sweeping down the river faster than the river could flow, spurting out under immense pressure from the Netherworld. In front of the Pharaoh’s eyes the river became the colour of blood as it passed the palace frontage. Dead fish rose to the surface and an army of frogs left the edges of the river and migrated onto the lands. A buzzing and a whirring of hundreds of thousands of biting insects fled the poisoned waters, settling upon the naked flesh of all who were outside. I released Ramesses from his bondage and turned to point at the clouds of stinging insects and the dying frogs that were swelling up and bursting. “This is of your doing, great Pharaoh,” I said and added, “Soon all of your animals will die as the water runs out and your grain-stocks will be useless without water. A time of famine will occur and your people will die. Let them go, Ramesses or your people will suffer even more as time goes by. I will wait a few days for the impact to take hold and we will speak again.” Once more I turned to stone and left the Pharaoh to stare at the bloody river in sheer disbelief. By the time a week had gone by those who had been outside when the river turned red were infested with boils. I returned from

my stony state to walk the streets of the city calling on the people that were enslaved and giving them further instructions and telling them to be ready. All work on Ramesses monuments had stopped and the entire workforce were inside. Water had been secreted away and food had been rationed amongst the many different nationalities. It was time to rack up the suffering of Pharaoh’s subjects. I made my way back to the palace and called towards the throne, “Ramesses have you had enough of this stupidity? Will you now let the people go?” “You can rot in the underworld for all I care, Most Powerful Rotan. This will pass and all will be as it was before!” “Very well, Ramesses you leave me no choice,” I replied and struck the end of the hollow reed onto the ground before him. I opened a rift into the colder regions of the lands of the dead and caused the storms of the mountains to funnel through my staff. A howling wind full of hail and snow swept up into the skies above us turning day into darkest night. The temperature dropped swiftly and the snow began to settle. I opened another hole into hell and spread locusts from that land of the dead over the entire lands of the Egyptians where they ate every living green plant that they could find. I turned to stone for a couple of days and then closed the rifts into hell and let things settle. I signalled Arrand to remove the reed from the waters of the Nile so that the waters would run pure again. Once more I approached Ramesses. “I have returned the Nile to its normal state. The snow and hail will melt and water the land. The pests will return to the waters of the mighty river and the frogs will also return. Eventually your people will recover from the bites and stings that followed the poisoning of the river. May I now release the slaves that your armies have collected? I await your decision,” I declared and stood waiting, sure that now the mighty Pharaoh would see sense. “Most powerful Rotan, you have done your worst and we have prevailed. Take your magic tricks and return to the underworld that you say you come from and leave me alone,” he stated defiantly. “Oh Pharaoh, you have no idea of what I am capable of. Be prepared for I will come again in the morning and you will give me what I have asked of you,” I replied. Ramesses’ response was to hurl a spear through my incorporate form. I sighed and made my way to the slaves’ quarters and called the elders together. “Tomorrow be prepared to leave this place, but tonight you must do exactly as I say. Take a small pot of your own blood and make a mark upon your door so that the fiend that I will send to Pharaoh’s lands will not stop at your homes and pass over it. do not ask what is to happen, but know that this night will live in the memory of Ramesses until he dies and once more stands before me,” I said

sorrowfully. “Many innocent children will die this night so that you may take up your own lives and destinies. I ask that you remember this night and keep it in memory for I must do a terrible thing to wrest your freedom from the despot.” They did not fully understand the meaning of my warning, but had seen enough of my power to do what I had asked of them. This terrible thing would happen just before the sun returned in the sky and an awful dawn would break. The power that the Lord of Punishment had bestowed on me lay heavy upon me as I re-entered the lands of the dead. The beings that I sought were fearsome even to me, but I knew that they were the only ones to be able to do this. The Lord of Punishment sent them to me to do my bidding and I still trembled at their presence. The great wings were held open, ready to catch the winds that were at their command. Their eyes burnt with an eldritch fire and their bodies were coloured grey. They were the angels of death, but this time they would be seen on Earth as they did my bidding as they plunged their talons deep into each child’s chest to take the life-force of their heart. We returned to the city of Ramesses and the angels did their work. Each dwelling that did not have a smear of human blood upon its doorway was visited. I could hear the terrified screams from within as the fiends from hell took the life of every firstborn below the age of sixteen. It was the longest night that I have ever experienced and the most terrible thing that I had ever done for the Dark Lord. As the sun came up I approached the palace and heard the screams of anguish and fear as one of the creatures of the night took Pharaoh’s son. I climbed the steps to his throne room with a heavy heart and met Ramesses as he carried his dead son towards me. “Go! Damn you, go and take those people far away from me. GO, leave me to grieve for my son,” Ramesses cried out and fell into a squat holding his dead son close to his chest. The sounds of wailing and misery echoed through the stone buildings. I turned away from the desolate king and made my way towards the slaves’ quarters and met a mighty column snaking out of the city. They had heard the screams and had heard the stories from Egyptian lips and knew that whatever horror had visited Pharaoh’s people in the night it was the means for their escape. To my surprise they had managed to ‘acquire’ a good number of animals that they had rationed the water amongst. Waggons were hauled by strong men and some oxen were put to use. All manner of livestock had been spirited away from their masters and kept safe. It was scarcely passed dawn and already many of these people were making their way out of the city boundaries and towards open country to the East. My brother Arrand was busy ferrying them across the Nile in the narrow boat. Inside the bow there were berths for hundreds of people if necessary. The people did not question why the boat was larger on the inside than what their senses told

them. They merely continued to climb aboard, carrying their belongings and driving their animals before them. Even so it took several trips to ferry all of the slaves on Pharaoh’s side of the Nile to the other side. Never the less, by sunset the head of the column was many miles from Ramesses and his forces. My trusty boat continued to plough through the sands as the bottom of the boat stayed inside the Netherworld while the top stayed in the lands of the living. My redeemed sinners continued to strain at the oars and were joined by many of the freed slaves. I alternated those that were tired from the long trek with those who had rested on board the boat. During the night I conjured a pillar of flames that whirled and danced in front of us. When the dawn broke I turned it into a whirlwind of sand. We were heading due East and would soon make the coast of the Red sea. This would be where I would need to call on the powers of my Dark Lord and sustain equilibrium between the two worlds. It would do great harm to these people if they walked through the lands of the dead and actually touched the Netherworld. It was not yet their time and if any made contact with this other reality, they would stay and be lost souls. As we at last reached the shores of the sea I summoned the leaders of the freed slaves before me and explained as best I could without telling them the awful truth of what they were about to do. “Listen to me,” I demanded of them, “and listen carefully. You are to be blindfolded, for I am to lead you through a realm that you must never see. Your feet will be coated in something that will keep you safe and you will wade through water that is not water as you know it. I will call it the valley of death. Not all of you can fit inside the boat and that is where your animals will stay. Only man can understand that sometimes the unthinkable must be endured. You have reason and you have trust in me. So what I ask of you, you must not question. Ramesses will go from grief to anger and when he does he will renege on any promise that he made to me. We have no time to rest and must now be on our way. Prepare yourselves and make sure that your blind-folds are secure. Tie ropes to the back of the boat and wind a loop around your wrist so that all of you who are about to walk behind will not stray. Once you are blindfolded you will feel that a covering will spread over your feet. Do not move when that happens and when the rope begins to pull, walk steadily behind the boat. I will be with you. Your freedom is over the other side of that stretch of ocean. Keep that in mind as you walk.” I stood and saw only obedience on the faces of these worn out people and was satisfied that my instructions would be carried out. “Arrand, pass me your staff and pilot the boat through the channel that I will produce,” I said and took it from him. I made my way to the edge of the sea and thrust one staff deep into the shingle walking a good distance before I plunged the other just as deep. Already the strongest of the freed slaves had filed behind the boat and were all tethered by the ropes that fanned out.

Everyone was blind-folded securely, some hooded for extra security. A band of imps had oozed from the bottom of the boat and wrapped themselves around the feet and legs of the slaves. I wound a strand of my Dark Lord’s hair around the staff, just as I had done to the other. The hairs bit into the iron-hard, hollow reeds and sunk themselves into the shingle. An eldritch light began to seep from the ground and reality began to shift as the Netherworld and the lands of the living began to merge. A corridor began to form across the sea as the waterways of my adopted world began to push back the waves of the salty sea. The boat began to move forwards as the oarsmen pulled back against the resistance of both worlds. Suddenly the hull found the familiar sensation of the warm waters and began to surge ahead. The long strings of people started to walk into the embrace of my world. The fears of what they were doing, made some of them cry out, but were quickly told to be strong. “Most Powerful has not deserted us,” a shepherd called out, “Walk and keep your eyes closed. He has not failed you and he has brought us from slavery.” Other voices called out words of encouragement, agreeing with him. The waters of the Netherworld are denser than the waters of the real world and to these living people; it must have been like walking through treacle. There were things that burrowed into the silt and wriggled out from underfoot. There was the occasional scream of terror when this happened, but no-one cast off their blindfold. All kept their hands clasped firmly onto the ropes. Steadily the boat made progress towards the other side and soon the other shore could be seen by my crew of redeemed sinners. They pulled steadily at the oars even though their backs ached and their muscles cried for rest. I could see far behind me Ramesses had indeed gone from grief to anger and was fast approaching the beach on chariots. He must have scoured the kingdom to find horses that had not died of the poisoned waters. There were at least fifty chariots and many men on foot following behind. I left the boat and the people to Arrand while I used my Lord’s powers to take me back to where I had planted the staves. I stood between them and waited for Ramesses. He was in the lead and bearing down on me. I could see that his face was contorted with rage as he ploughed right through me. “Ramesses,” I said, “I am already dead. I died many thousands of years ago and have served a higher power than you could only dream about. Stop this now or you will join me in the lands of the dead for quicker than you realise.” Ramesses alighted from his chariot and advanced towards me swinging his sword. I let him cut and thrust until he dropped exhausted to the shingle of the beach. “You killed my son! There must be some punishment for that,” he cried. “You worked to death, thousands of people in servitude to your

vanity. I knew your father and his father before him. I have seen you come and go. Far from your palace, amongst the ruins of a former city long abandoned, there stands all that remains of a statue. There are just the feet protruding from the sands and underneath is written, I am Ozymandias, King of Kings, look upon my works you mighty and despair. I was there when that statue was erected, Ramesses. He worked for me on a very long journey, pulling at the oars until he was redeemed.” “My works will endure for ever, you fiend from the underworld,” Ramesses replied. I will be remembered.” Ramesses you will be remembered, but not for what you have built, although yes it will endure for many thousands of years. No, little man, you will be remembered for what has happened in the last few weeks and what will happen now. Your slaves have reached the other side and are beyond your reach. It will take you a lifetime to restore to Egypt what you allowed to be destroyed. Just to make sure that you have really learned your lesson I shall take you for a visit to the lands of the dead and show you the futility of what you plan for your afterlife.” With that I took him by the hand and walked him into the Netherworld and showed him what awaited him before leaving him sobbing on the beach. I then closed the door that I had engineered and made my way back to where Arrand had tied up the boat. An old man stood before me and said, “Great Most, what would you have us do now? I am Abram leader of many of these people. Will you lead us through this wilderness to a place of safety? Tell us what we must do and where will we find water to drink and give to our animals? We are landless and alone.” I sensed water not too far away and used my power to bring it to the surface by tapping a blocking stone out of place. Soon a small pool settled onto the rocky basin and all could drink to their content. I stared wearily at this man and said, “Abram all I can say is that my time with you is over. I have many other duties to attend to that require my presence elsewhere, so I will say this to you, go east as far as you can, away from Pharaoh and his armies. You will eventually find lands that you will need to fill. Try not to steal them from those who already live there. Learn to live in harmony with other people. Kill only if you have to, for I will be waiting for those who transgress that basic law. Do not covet what others possess for that leads only to jealousy and dispute. Be fair in your dealings with each other and do not follow false gods. Listen to your women-folk for they are wise in matters that man does not understand. Share what you have with one another and do not let the stranger go hungry when you meet him and you will prosper. Seek to do good rather than what you know in your heart to be evil. Love your children so that they in turn will love you and listen to each other. That is all that I can tell you. If you keep these laws then you will prosper and be successful. If not then I urge you to always

remember the terrible night that the angels of death passed over your homes and let you be! There is a higher authority that will judge you after you pass from this world.” I turned away and climbed aboard my craft loosening its grip upon the world of the living and passed from living sight. We continued our journey to the last lock and let our cargo of redeemed sinners enter the realm of Gaia. Sometime later I found myself once again in the presence of the Lord of Punishment. He raised me up and set me upon his desk and stared not unkindly at me. “Rotan you never cease to amaze me! Your handling of that problem was exemplarily. Not only did you irrevocably alter Pharaoh’s mind, you laid down a set of laws that may even change the way that so many of my subject think,” the Dark Lord said. I laughed and replied, “Great One you have more faith in human nature than I. Laws are meant to be broken and broken they will be. I will admit that if the multitudes do follow the practises that I set down, then perhaps a better world will occur! I have a strong feeling that Ramesses will be rowing for me in the future and I may have started off a religion in that area. It should do no harm if they keep to my strictures. How wrong I was proved to be!