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Part One: The Book of Bakenranef

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Thud-thud-thud.

Bakenranef's feet slapped against the ground as his legs churned out power. He was running along the streets of Akhetaten, following the same path as before, although later than normal; one of the guards had been awake, so they'd chatted while he squirmed inside. Finally, he'd moved off for a piss then gone back to his pallet; and finally, finally, the man nodded off. Bakenranef had slipped out; and once out of range, had soared flying to make it to the Atenist's spot before Amon-Ra did.

Amon-Ra meets the Aten. Now there's a combination.

The itch had died down to a dull hum. Exercise has been doing me good. Bakenranef intended to keep it that way.

His strides were now full and reaching, eating up the ground at full strength. He felt like now he could outrun even Pharaoh himself during his heb-sed festival. And there was the temple wall, and now he was running alongside it, and up ahead he could make out the field. Here came the palms:

Three thud-thud-thud two thud-thud-thud one...

The field was bare.

Just then, the sun broke over the tops of the eastern cliffs.

# # #

"That's the third time, mate. Okay - what spear has worked its way up your arse?"

Bakenranef abruptly looked up to see Ramose glaring back at him, obviously annoyed.

It had been five days since the Atenist Idu had last appeared at dawn. Bakenranef was sure the man was gone; he'd gotten out and checked the field each morning, with no success.

But he couldn't tell Ramose that.

Deflect, deflect, deflect.

"No idea what you mean," he deadpanned. "Why should anything be wrong? We're just in the middle of fucking nowhere, with nothing to do. That's why I joined Pharaoh's army; what, that's not your reason?"

"You're bitten off the proprietor's head twice, you haven't tried to sweet-talk his wife at all, and - worst of all - you haven't touched your duck. That's a sure sign of serious trouble. What happened? Some local girl turned you down?"

It suddenly occurred to Bakenranef that he hadn't even noticed any of the local girls in the months they'd been there.

Damn heretic. Probably's put a hex on me.

"It was you who was going on about avoiding the locals, in case it came back to bite us. I realised you were right, though no way I was going to tell you that. Your head's big enough now."

Ramose ignored the barb. "And now you're so on edge that even Tchay the trainer doesn't want to face you in hand-to-hand combat practice. What the hell has crawled under your skin?"

"Nothing's wrong. My skin's tough as an old sandal. Why should something be wrong? Even this place turning everybody stir crazy isn't exactly 'wrong'. Really not that much different from our old duty postings."

"You were always bollocks at lying. Look, Bakenranef. I get that this is an odd, abnormal posting. And you've always been your own man. But don't get brought up on insubordination charges. Took me long enough to get you trained; don't want to have to do that all over again."

"Aw, didn't know you cared. I'm touched," Bakenranef quipped flatly.

"I'm serious, Bakenranef. This is a dangerous world; more politics at a much higher level than we've ever faced before. And it could all go belly-up at any time. Find a girl looking for a bit of fun, and have that fun. But don't place yourself in the middle of anything bigger than yourself."

"As if I would," Bakenranef replied. But a curl of fear rippled in his stomach.

# # #

As the days passed, Bakenranef found himself rising earlier and running farther and farther. He would make his way beyond the city outskirts into the desert, following the extension of the wide boulevard which wended its way towards the eastern cliffs.

He wasn't sure which was more distracting: the restlessness driving him into the hills, or the anger at Idu the Atenist for disappearing like that. And truthfully - why should he care if the idiot fell off the edge of the earth into the Underworld? Everyone eventually ended up there, anyway.

No skin off my nose.

Just then, something shot through his foot and he crashed into a sprawl in the dirt. There were several seconds of pain until he wrestled the sensation into a focused, manageable point.

First, the wound. He probed around his foot and ankle, and hissed at the sensation on the side of his joint. After a few deep breaths, he dared to stand. Fortunately, he was able to put his weight on it, although there was great pain.

Not broken, then. At least there was that.

Next, he gazed around at this surroundings, figuring out how far he'd made it out of the city. Surprisingly, low scrub and rocks, rather than cultivated plants or even sand, dotted the landscape. This was far from the edge of town, farther than he'd been before, farther than he'd planned on going.

He'd made it as far as the base of the cliffs.

All because he'd been so absorbed in his thoughts.

Shit. Need to go back. Pronto.

A snort cut across the night's silence.

Lion? Hyena?

Coming across a lion or jackal in broad daylight was bad enough. Coming across a pack of hyenas on a moonless night was much worse - the pack would attack as one and slowly eat you alive.

At least he had his dagger. He wasn't going to go down without a fight.

The snuffling was getting closer; he was now at least able to better pinpoint the direction the danger was coming from. It would be a matter of staying alert, looking and listening for signs of attack.

The sounds were close, but not getting nearer. About to attack, then.

He thought he could see a dark shape beneath a bush.

He held the knife at the ready, keeping alert.

The dark shape launched itself, paws extending forward -

And another shape intercepted it mid-flight, barreling into it and bringing it down.

It only took an instant for Bakenranef to absorb the shock; but he almost instantly noticed that the other shape was human, which was more than enough for him to leap into the fray as much as he could.

The creature was fighting back, large claws scraping the air for something to latch onto. The attacker had stretched himself out over the creature, able to avoid the deadly swipes, and was heavily leaning a forearm against the neck, slowly choking the life out of the beast.

"Don't mind me," he grunted at the other man, and slipped in below the arm, to lend his own weight and draw a dagger across the neck.

Within a few minutes, the creature was dead, muscle spasms dying off in the prone body. The other man slowly eased off the form.

"You have impeccable timing, Sunshine. What the hells are you doing out here?" It was Idu.

"I could ask the same thing, since you seem to have disappeared," Bakenranef replied diffidently.

"I'm not out trying to get killed by lions, either."

"Well, that wasn't the intent," Bakenranef pointed out. "Wasn't intending to go out this far, period. Though I definitely appreciate the help. How did you learn to do that? And where are your clothes?"

For the man was absolutely, gloriously naked.

"We Atenists have many talents. And clothes? Didn't need them at the moment, did I? They are safe and sound - and clean, unlike me at the moment. Or you."

"Clothing and you, they don't exactly agree, do they?" Bakenranef persisted. Letting on a bit more than you probably should with that comment, Bakenranef.

"What exactly does that mean?"

"You seem to be quite the naturist, for a priest."

"Never mind what I am, I would expect your commanding officers would be none too happy to find you AWOL when they get up off their palettes. About time you head back home, innit?"

"No rush. Sun's not up yet." He wasn't looking forward to limping his way back to the barracks.

"It will be soon." The blue-green eyes looked him up and down. "Will you be able to get back like that? Can't exactly carry you myself."

"Don't have much of a choice, do I? Have to get back regardless. Though I should be able to make it; m'not completely out of sorts."

"Not convinced of that, but it's getting late." The man looked unsure for a minute, then apparently made his mind up about something. "Well, the impossible is our stock in trade. Wait here, I'll be right back." He headed off up the slope, then turned back to quip, "And try not to get eaten this time." He then headed away.

Curious, intrigued, Bakenranef pulled himself together and followed after the man, albeit slowly. It wasn't particularly difficult; he'd only gone off a short distance, around a boulder. Bakenranef pulled himself alongside the boulder and watched the other man, who stood poised, ready.

Just then, the sun peaked over the top of the cliff, to hit the valley behind them. The man unfolded and began his chant.

Bakenranef watched the body: the shape, the movements, the deep tones of the song resonating from the lips. They awakened a longing, a yearning, a desire in his soul for this body before him.

And Idu seemed to be one with his god; oblivious to all beyond the words issuing from mouth, the act that he was a part of.

He wanted to soar was well, fly into the sky, though the pain in his ankle kept him tethered.

Finally, the song ended, the sun now fully bathing them in this spot. And the man turned around.

Bakenranef was struck by how Idu's worship practice always made him seem almost otherworldly, another being, part of the ceremony he'd just created. Alive, electric.

He seemed to barely notice Bakenranef, but moved closer to stand before him.

Bakenranef stared back at him. I could just reach out, touch him -

And he did, gently swiping the tips of his fingers over the golden skin and the ridge of the cheek.

Idu stood, looking back at him.

He leaned in and brushed his lips against the others, then drew back a bit, afraid to break the spell.

The lips leaned forward and met his again.

And it was as if a dam had broken.

The gentle touches because harder, then a mashing of lips and teeth together, as if they were about to consume each other, get underneath each others' skin. Bakenranef's hands frantically played over the warm body beneath them, mapping out and memorising each muscle and ridge and whorl. He felt other hands in similar exploration over his, traversing his arms and shoulders and back quickly, as though they were about to lose the opportunity.

They levered themselves onto the ground, where the frantic exploration continued, and he felt the need grow in his loins.

But - there was an answering hardness against his leg, while hands scrambled at his loincloth. And then there was nothing between them, not a scrap of clothing preventing them from lying skin to skin, and heart to heart.

His hands found the other's buttocks, which he began to knead, a soft but sustained grunt his answer.

He then slipped between the legs, which easily opened for him, and started to rub with his urgency.

The other body matched his, stroke for stroke, and then set a furious pace, which it would have been clear couldn't be maintained - had they been sane. They moved as one, and electricity crackled between them. Bakenranef felt like he was climbing, climbing, up towards the sky, his skin on fire. He was just there, just there -

And then he was crashing down, a wave cresting over him, his essence spewing out, his mind clear of everything beyond the feeling soaring from his breast.

He rolled onto his back, and looked into the sky. And knew a peace he'd never experienced before.

# # #

Of course, Bakenranef had a difficult time of it once back at camp.

Naturally, there were expected questions about where he'd been and how he'd been injured. But compounded on top of that were queries about why he was absent from camp without permission.

Idu had helped him as far as the boulevard where the barrack lay, the two of them silent though companionable as they covered the ground. Bakenranef appreciated the solid feel of the body propping him up and missed the warmth once they'd parted.

But they spoke not a word. And he had no idea where the priest had taken off to.

Once back at camp, Bakenranef described a full night of carousing in the village which then fell afoul of a pothole, forcing him to hobble his way back. The explanation did seem just this side of plausible for the bangs and bruises; and he ended with little more than a stern reprimand, a remit to the camp doctor, and extended kitchen duty once he had healed sufficiently.

It had been a delicate balancing act to craft the story; he hadn't been sure he'd pull it off. But he escaped having to bring up either the Atenist or his trip to the cliffs.

The days went by as his body mended; but being confined to camp didn't put him as on edge as he'd thought it would. The healer prescribed various unguents and spells, the other men made jokes at his expense, and he wasn't able to move nearly as quickly as he felt he ought to. But he'd gotten off lightly and he knew it.

No, he felt a kind of contentment. And the Atenist hadn't disappeared, after all.

Ramose gave him the occasional side-eye, as though he suspected something else. But he did not directly ask anything, and Bakenranef didn't volunteer it.

 

 

# # #

Once Bakenranef was sturdier on his feet and working off his punishment in the kitchens, he started plotting his next moves.

As aware and focused as ever, he kept an eye out, still waking early enough before Amon-Ra started his journey across the sky to stare at the stars and wonder if the Atenist was once again in the field starting his devotions.

He had to talk to him, find out what exactly was going on. Oh, something was going on, he was sure of it; but it didn't seem as cut and dried as he'd once thought. It would have been easy enough to let me die from an animal attack, easily explained, no witness left.

Or maybe I was too close to whatever it is he's doing that they wouldn't want attention brought to the area.

And the sex had been... another dimension.

His commander was quite the strategist, but Bakenranef found doublethink just plain annoying.

He looked up at the cliffs looming to the east.

I need to get back up there, find out what's going on.

Kitchen duty would end soon enough. And then nothing would keep him off the cliffs.

 

# # #

"So - where to today, mate?" Ramose glanced down the boulevard, squinting in the midday sun.

Bakenranef looked in the same direction, discouraged by the few people out on the boulevard - and the man seemingly attached to his hip.

"Could go to the House of Beer. You have a fondness for the duck morsels - and the wife of the proprietor," Ramose suggested.

"Nah, the village isn't so attractive since," and Bakenranef waggled his fingers in the air.

"I would think that your miss would want to see how you're doing."

"Thinks I'm an idiot, more like." He's not a miss, and he's not in the village, but the 'thinks-I'm-an-idiot' part probably applies. "Nah, would like to stay here today, work on strengthening the ankle a bit more."

"Sure?" Ramose looked closely at him.

"Sure." Bakenranef didn't like the scrutiny, but didn't flinch.

"Okay, maybe tomorrow, then."

"Maybe." Bakenranef moved off to work on his ankle exercises.

 

 

# # #

It was maybe a fortnightly later that white sails were spotted bobbling along the waves, coming from upstream.

The barracks operated under smooth efficiency - war games were cancelled, and a quick round of policing soon had the camp in tiptop shape and the men lined up in ranks.

Whoever they are, must be expected, then. Bakenranef mused, though he refused to speculate what the ships brought with them.

The soldiers marched from the barracks down to the pier they'd landed at months back. The white sail had resolved into a messenger boat, of Pharaoh's fleet, which now manoeuvred alongside the dock in preparation of landing.

Once the ship - a swift, sleek craft, built to cut through the waves at speed - was secure, figures began to ceremoniously disembark and regroup on the dock. The barracks commander and a few of his lieutenants made their way forward to greet the figures amor the ship.

"Welcome to the Khnum Battalion, stationed at Akhetaten," the commander bowed, then gestured in welcome to the visitors. He was completely at ease with the appearance of the delegation.

What happened to 'Chariots of Khnum'? Bakenranef thought, irked, though he supposed he shouldn't be terribly surprised.

"We welcome your welcome," responded one of the visitors, presumably their spokesman. "We come bearing the word of Pharaoh Horemhab, Holy are the Manifestations of Re - Life! Prosperity! Health!" The man struck his breast fervently, reverentially.

"Life! Prosperity! Health!" the men shouted back with one voice.

There was just the right pause, and then: "Please honour us by joining us, and partake of our refreshments," the commander continued. "Thus we may rejoice in the news of Our Majesty's Word, and give it the honour it deserves."

"We would be honoured to do so," the main emissary replied.

The welcoming ceremony over, the visitors then mounted their own chariots and took position between the commander's small group and the unit. The procession moved towards the barracks.

His feet kept in step with the men around him, but inside Bakenranef's mind raced. He had known this day would eventually arrive, when they would finally learn why they had been posted here. He had his own thoughts on what duties they would be eventually given; but now that the day had arrived, he felt ill at ease.

Thoughts of the Great Temple of the Aten - dark and terrible thoughts - danced at the edges of his consciousness, refusing to make themselves clear.

There was no sign of even the few civilians who would normally be out on the boulevard at this time of day, and definitely no priests of the Aten. Bakenranef had no doubt that they were well aware that new visitors had come to Akhetaten.

Once inside the gates, the men pivoted to stand in formation, as their leaders and the visitors stood at the platform before the commander's tent.

"Please, enter and be welcome here," the commander gestured, and the party entered the tent.

# # #

"Battalion, fall out!"

The men were given leave for a quick meal of bread, onions, and beer. Bakenranef grabbed his ration quickly and found a space to the side, eating as he played out scenarios in his head.

They'll want us to move the priests. They'll want us to guard the place. They'll want us to...

He wasn't sure what else they'd want them to do, wasn't even sure who 'they' were, didn't want to think the worst, but there was one overriding thought: Must get to Idu.

But when? And how?

A mat fell to the ground next to him, a small jug and loaf finding their places on it as a form sat on the earth. "Ramose," Bakenranef said, keeping his voice even, although he would have preferred being alone.

"So, my friend, now it comes. We finally find out what the past months have been in service to."

He grunted and took a bite of a loaf and an onion.

"I, for one, am happy. Means we can get out of here soon. This place is too quiet. Not good for any of us."

"Mrumpf," Bakenranef mumbled around his full mouth.

"Doubt that we'll leave without some sort of action, though it should be quick," Ramose studied Bakenranef for a reaction. "Wouldn't want to be with that lot at the temple. Oh, excuse me. Forgot that your food comes first.'

"Mmm uuuf." Bakenranef flashed a look, hoping it would get Ramose off his back.

"Well, eat up, my friend. We won't have long for this."

Bakenranef knew his friend was right.

# # #

Their brief meal over, the men had moved back into formation, awaiting the reemergence of their leaders and the visitors from the commander's tent.

The heat shimmered up from the dirt, and the wind carried some snorts and neighs from the visitors' horses; but overall, the grounds were silent as the men waited.

For Bakenranef, the wait was excruciating. But he used the time to sort through possible actions - none of which seemed possible.

The impossible is our stock in trade. He smiled to himself.

The tent flap moved a bit, and then then leaders emerged from the interior to stand officiously before the soldiers. "Loyal soldiers of Khnum Battalion!" the commander shouted.

"SIR!" they responded as one. Each man stood, proud, as much part of the ceremony as their commanders at their head.

"We are honoured that Pharaoh - life, prosperity, health! - has chosen to send his representative to spread his word and his commands. Please," and the commander gestured to the messenger, " honour us with the Word of Pharaoh."

The man stepped forward, sure, self-possessed.

"I come as the Representative of Pharaoh, and I bring his word." He drew up a scroll, and carefully unrolled it.

 

The Heretic is no more, his voice rang out.

 

He who denied the gods, and brought woe upon the land, has long sailed upon the Solar Barque of Ra to the Underworld, to his meeting in the Halls of the Two Truths. He has stood before Ma'at in judgment.

 

He, and his fate before the Forty-Two Assessors, are beyond us. They are not of our concern.

 

But even after the Heretic attained his horizon, the land has continued on in sorrow. The crops have failed, the Great Road does not flood as it should, and the people cry out in hunger.

 

The poor man aims to provide his obligations to Pharaoh - Life! Prosperity! Health! - and yet Pharaoh's administrators steal food from the people's mouths and keep the earnings for themselves.

 

At our borders, the barbarians, unchecked for years, threaten us. The Asiatics freely attack our outposts, and kidnap and murder our allies.

 

And even the soldiers sworn to protect the land have stolen the cattle of their very livelihood from the people.

 

The hand of Isfet spreads decay and threatens our existence.

 

We have not done enough; the evil of the heretic's time has not been sufficiently exorcised and remains among us still.

 

His majesty took counsel with his heart on how he might expel the evils heavy upon the land and deliver the people from the oppressions among them. He has searched the land for instances of oppression. And then he called his scribe to take note and record His Majesty's decisions.

 

The Pharaoh has thus decreed:

 

Justice shall be brought unto the people. For those who unlawfully take the honest labor of the people, he shall have his nose cut off and shall be exiled to the land of Tharu.

 

For those citizens of the army, who should steal from the people, the law shall be executed against him, by beating him a hundred blows, opening five wounds, and taking from him by force that which he had taken.

 

As for any official or any priest who declares he sits to execute judgment, and yet commits a crime against justice therein, he shall be judged to have committed a capital crime.

 

Behold, my majesty has done this, to improve the laws of Egypt, in order to cause that another of his subjects should not be harmed in any way.

 

Those who shall disobey, they shall be dealt with accordingly.

 

My majesty has sent men throughout the land, to enforce his word and restore Ma'at to the land.

 

This I declare in the name of Horus and the name of my majesty!

 

Decreed on this third day of the month of Paremhat, in the Peret season.

 

Strong bull, whose plans are clever

Great of marvels in Ipetsut

Pleased with Maat, who re-created the Two Lands

The sacred one of the manifestations of Ra, chosen of Ra

Horemhab, Horus is in jubilation!

# # #

"So that's what it's all about."

The heralds were gone, having returned to their ship on the way to their next stop, and the battalion was back in the barracks. The men milled about, in a haze of preparations for specific orders. Ramose was inventorying his few items in preparation for whatever next step they would be give. - they still weren't quite sure.

"They won't tell us exactly what until they're ready to move, but it sounds like we're be clearing out the Atenists, maybe do a little housekeeping against the temple. Should be glad you didn't get too tangled up over there."

"Right." Bakenranef was going through the motions, getting his kit together. "Maybe we'll then get back to what we were meant to do, hop on the chariot again."

"You didn't, did you?"

"Didn't what?"

"Get too tangled up, Bakenranef."

"Why would I do that? Pharaoh Horemhab, Life Prosperity Health, certainly has gotten strict. His punishments sound more like the Assyrian barbarians' playbook than anything traditionally Egyptian. Why would I stick my neck out for that? I for one, like me nose - figure it should stay on my face."

"Good; was getting a little concerned. Woke up one night, you were gone, no explanation." Ramose stared directly at him.

"Just a bit of fun. Kept it quiet, because I didn't want any relatives after me. You saw what happened with my ankle; I'd say that was more than enough punishment."

"Do I have anything to worry about with you?"

Just mind your business, and you won't. "No. Not that you would anyway."

# # #

It was a risk - especially now since Ramose was watching his every step - but he had to do it.

Bakenranef arose from his pallet and strode over to a guard, making just enough noise that Ramose would have noticed. He quietly strode to one of the guards and engaged him in a bit of talk, then quietly noting that Ramose had changed position so that his head was facing the right direction. He then wandered further off, pissed appropriately, and wandered back to his pallet.

Ramose seemed motionless, and Bakenranef settled himself in further.

After about three quarters of an hour, he rose again and, holding his stomach, wandered back to the latrine area, stayed for a few unites, then returned.

After another quarter of an hour, he arose again.

"You okay?" came from the other mat.

"Yes, probably a bad onion or such. Will just stay out there a bit, try to empty it all out."

"Be my guest." Ramose sleepily turned over in the other direction, and Ramose moved off towards the latrine.

 

Once there, he skirted around the back, and then took off for the Great Temple of the Aten.

# # #

"Idu."

Bakenranef spoke quietly, not sure if anyone else would be present.

"Idu."

A figure emerged from the shadows of the temple and stealthily made its way over. "Bakenranef?" whispered from the darkness.

"Need to talk to you."

"I'm here."

They moved over to stand together. Bakenranef ached to kiss the man, but this was important.

"Idu. The word has come from Wastet. We will start moving against the temple, and possibly more, very soon."

"Tomorrow?"

"No, I expect they will call in a few more reinforcements before moving. But it shouldn't take more than a fortnight or so for that to happen."

Idu stood quiet and contemplating.

"You'll have to make arrangement to leave, you know. Few places around here to hide once they've come."

"Shhh." Idu briefly placed his finger against Bakenranef's lips. "Not yet, we have things yet to do."

"But soon! You can't stay here. Tell your people, gather your things -"

"Shhh. It will not be tonight, and we have not be unaware of this possibility. We have time."

Idu took him by the hand and led him to a simple mat in the moonlight. They sank down to kneel upon it.

They paused, looking at each other; and then Bakenranef and Idu leaned together just close enough to kiss.

Kissing the man was always the most joyous thing that Bakenranef could have imagined. The mouth was moist, and dark, and full of promise. He could spends days just exploring it and be completely satisfied.

The mouths moved apart for a second, for a quick breath, and Bakenranef drew back to see the blue-green orbs open and completely focus on him.

He could swear the eyes smiled back at him, a little crinkle to the sides, and then he heard a low murmur, breath ghosting against his cheek.

"Eh?" Bakenranef asked, and was then unceremoniously shoved onto his back. The man put a finger to his lips, a crafty smiling framing it, as he made himself comfortable sat on Bakenranef's hips.

Bakenranef shrugged slightly, smiling back broadly, as if to say, do your worst. He then relaxed all his muscles, waiting to see what the other man would do.

The curly head dipped reverently; the full lips took a few swipes at Bakenranef's partially opened ones, reverentially and then engaged his mouth in an intense battle.

He then pulled back, the storm abating, and whispered, "I breathe the sweet breath, which comes forth from thy mouth."

He then leaned forwards, and proceeded to consume Bakenranef's skin. Starting from his face, he slowly licked across the expanse of skin, every so often taking a quick nip. Each touch electrified Bakenranef, went straight to his groin.

The man stopped just before the thick patch of public hair, Bakenranef's member jutting, straining up. He couldn't remember being this much in need before.

The man stared at Bakenranef's cock.

"I behold thy beauty every day."

And then he fell upon it.

Bakenranef nearly shot straight up from the mat.

All sorts of things streamed through his body - the hot moisture of the air, the chirps of the crickets, the scratchy reeds of the mat beneath him; the moist, kind warmth of the mouth, the quiet slurping, the low hum - he's humming? vibrating against his cock.

It was all too much; his heart raced and he could feel his completion coming, wouldn't be able to last very much longer -

Then the mouth stopped, and a cool hand grabbed the base of his cock.

Bakenranef's heart wanted to give out. He heard a distant moan, which he realised had come from him.

But slowly, slowly, his heart slowed down. Though his cock lost little enthusiasm; indeed, it had lost almost none at all.

The hand slowly released his cock, and the other body drew back. In his fevered state, Bakenranef tried to make his limbs obey his command and find out what was going on.

A "hush" sounded somewhere, and he felt some shifting, and some cool unguent slid along his cock. He realised there had been little change down there, and a quick hysterical laugh burbled from his lips.

He opened his eyes I'd closed them? and the man crouched above his cock, one hand on his torso, about to impale himself on Bakenranef. They locked eyes, and then he said,

"It is my desire, that I may be rejuvenated, with life through love of thee."

And then he slid carefully down Bakenranef, inch by inch, until he was fully impaled.

Bakenranef felt that the tales of the Underworld and the Afterlife had gotten it wrong, were pale imitations of reality. His reality was in the hot clench around his cock, uniting him with this other soul, the temporary act branding him for all eternity. He had just enough presence of mind to focus on the other man, who - although now looking almost as fevered as Bakenranef felt, still had enough self-control to wait and adapt to the shaft buried in him, then to lean slightly forward and grab both Bakenranef's hands in his own.

He grinned - which once again went to Bakenranef's groin, which in turn made the other man gasp a bit - and then he leaned forward.

"Give me thy hands, holding thy spirt, that I may receive it and may live by it."

And then he started to move.

Incredibly, all that had proceeded this act was just a prologue. Bakenranef was now on a level he had never experienced before. He felt himself to be a virgin to something he'd done multiple times before; floating above in the heavens, among the gods, this wonderful creature his companion. The delays, the holding back earlier; if anything it may have served to help build his stamina at the crucial juncture, so that he could complete this act in full.

Bakenranef brought his knees up to steady the other man; then swiftly, deftly, he quickly flipped the two of them over, just managing not to break contact between their hands. Taken off guard, the other man was surprised but followed Bakenranef's lead, letting him take over with a salacious grin.

Though Bakenranef was sure that this ceding of control was only for the moment.

Nevertheless, he got to work, setting a whirlwind pace as he drove into the other's body.

On they went, feeling the threads of their pleasure intertwine, as the pleasure itself built more and more. Bakenranef slightly changed his angle, and was more than a little smug to hear a low moan of pleasure from the other man. Hit just the right angle. He was nothing if not conscientious in his lovemaking, and he'd be damned to the maw of Ammit if he didn't take his partners' pleasure into consideration as well.

Plus he wanted to bring Idu along on the river of pleasure that he sailed. If the response was any measure, the man was well along himself.

But it was close now; he could feel the conflagration building in his loins, read to explode. Just there, there, there - and he was lost in it, his soul mindlessly bursting forth, a blaze brighter than a thousand suns bursting before him.

When he came back into himself, he was laying atop the other man, who was pushing at him to move. He seemed slightly annoyed at the weight atop him; but, if the wetness between them and the lazy smile around the edge of the lips were any indication, was more than a little pleased.

Bakenranef obliged and shifted; they rearranged themselves until they lay, exhausted, side by side on the mat. Bakenranef sleepily turned towards him; the other man yawned, then turned and snuggled against him.

Just as he was nodding off, he heard softly, "Call thou upon my name unto eternity, and it shall never fail. And this is how we worship the Aten."

If this is how the Atenists worship, Bakenranef's thoughts drifted, then consider me a convert.

# # #

A few days later - too soon, to Bakenranef - a cluster to ships came upstream from the direction of Wastet. There wasn't a man in camp who didn't know what this sign meant.

Ramose and Bakenranef focused on readiness - making sure their kits were at hand in case they were needed in a hurry; continuing on with the square practicing war games. The daily march was no longer as necessary, and was conducted only every few days.

Their task now was to be prepared.

Bakenranef ached to see Idu, but knew that the man was more than able to take care of himself. He just wanted to know that the priests - really, Idu himself - were preparing to leave and taking the threat seriously.

So when the ships appeared, Bakenranef's battalion - Former Chariots of Khnum, he ruefully recollected - was ready for anything.

Except Bakenranef had to check on the Atenist, one last time.

It's late in the day, these troops will need to disembark and settle down. There should be one more day, before any actions are taken.

At least he hoped so.

# # #

Bakenranef slipped out from the barracks and ran to, and then down, the path to the village. By now, it was common belief that he'd found a village girl and had gone to burn off every last bit of energy while he could; even Ramose was fairly convinced of it. He felt no compunction to let any of them know otherwise; it suited his purposes very well.

Village: a bit of fun. Temple: traitor to the land. So the village it was. He just had to be sure no one was following him.

They'd agreed to meet in the tent the evening after any ships had arrived; the time had come.

Idu turned to Bakenranef, his face glowing in the reflected moonlight.

I have to save him.

"The reinforcements are here. You have to leave. Now."

"No." Idu looked almost sad.

"What do you mean, 'no'? They will be looking for you. I can't guarantee what will happen, but it won't be pretty."

"Can't, Bakenranef. Too many obligations. The village will collapse without us."

"The village will be without you anyway! Don't be daft - they don't give a fig about you. We - you - can come back later, whenever the operation is done." He wasn't sure how 'we' factored into this.

"Made a promise, Bakenranef. Have to carry it out."

"You mean the stupidity about the Heretic?"

Idu made an exceedingly exasperated face. "Told you - made a promise."

"Told you - if you don't shift your ass, you won't have to worry about keeping anything."

"Bakenranef," Idu turned fully to him, put firm, warm hands on Bakenranef's biceps. "Told you I was a foundling. The Temple took me in as a sprog. Should tell you the rest.

"Pharaoh and the people of Akhetaten had a close bond, even more than the average village of Khem. Our purpose was to build, harvest, support. Well, the people served Pharaoh - but Pharaoh served the people. It was He who created the work that kept everything running and the people fed. And when Pharaoh passed on and the Court moved away to gain the graces of the new Pharaoh, taking all who could leave -"

"You took the place of the Court, and kept the villagers from starving."

"Yes, but not just that. We made a promise, to look over the well-being of those who had gone ahead."

"And you have," Bakenranef pointed out. "You seem to stay hidden behind your temple walls; but if you're any guide, your lot must sneak out all over the place when no one is looking."

"Yes, to make sure that the village has what we can give them, and that we ensure by any means Pharaoh is undisturbed. But this - this," he gestured with his broad hands, that Bakenranef was learning to love, "this is beyond anything that we can guard against. If the troops desecrate Pharaoh's tomb, we can't stop them."

"So what do you intend... Oh, no, no," Bakenranef looked probably one hundredth as shocked as he felt.

"Yes - we need to move him to a place of safety. Pharaoh Akhenaten, Life Prosperity Health, will have to be moved from the hills of Akhetaten."