“Aye, aye,” answered the Priests, Councillors, and Captains, the shrill voice of Kaku leading the chorus, still against his will, “let us go up at once, and let her Majesty accompany us.”
“Yes,” said the Queen, “I will accompany you, for though I be but a woman, shall I shrink from what Pharaoh, my dear Lord, dares? We will sail at the new moon.”
That night Abi and Kaku stood face to face.
“What is this that you have done?” asked Abi. “Do you not remember the words which dead Pharaoh spoke in the awful vision that came to me that night at Memphis, when he bade me take the Royal Loveliness which I desired to be my wife? Do you not remember that he bade me also reign in her right until I met ‘one Rames, Son of Mermes’ and with him a Beggar-man who is charged with another message for me?”
“I remember,” answered Kaku in a hollow voice.
“What, then, is this message, Man, that will come from Rames or the Beggar? Is it not the message of my death and yours, of us whose tombs were finished but yesterday?”
“It may be so, Lord.”
“Then why did you interpret the dream of the Queen in the sense that I must hurry southwards to meet this very Rames—and my doom?”
“Because I could not help it,” groaned Kaku. “That spirit who is called a Queen compelled me. Abi, there is no escape for us; we are in the net of Fate—unless, unless you dare——” and he looked meaningly at the sword that hung by Pharaoh’s side.
“Nay, Kaku,” he answered, “I dare not. Let us live while we may, knowing what awaits us beyond the gate.”
“Aye,” moaned Kaku, “beyond the Gate of the South, where we shall find Rames the Avenger, and that Beggar who is charged with a message for us.”
THE JUDGMENT OF THE GODS
Three more months had gone by, and the great host of Pharaoh was encamped beyond the Southern Gate, and the warships of Pharaoh were anchored thick on either bank of the Nile. There they lay prepared for battle, for spies had reported to them that the general, Rames, Lord of Kesh, was advancing northward swiftly, though with so small an army that it could easily be destroyed. Therefore Abi waited there to destroy it without further toil, nor did his terrible Queen gainsay him. She also seemed content to wait.
One evening as the sun sank it was told to them that the troops of Rames had appeared, and occupied the mountains on the right bank of the Nile, being encamped around that temple of Amen which had stood there for thousands of years.
“Good,” said the Queen. “To-morrow Pharaoh will go up against him and make an end of this matter. Is it not so, Pharaoh?” and she looked at him with her glittering eyes.
“Yes, yes,” answered Abi, “the sooner the better, for I am worn out, and would return to Thebes. Yet,” he added in a weak, uncertain voice, “I misdoubt me of this war, I know not why. What is it that you stare at in the heavens so fixedly, O Kaku?”