The Judgment of the Heretics
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During the reign of Ramses III…

Two Medjay went to look for Ahmes, a scribe in charge of the logs in the granaries, saying that they were looking for him in the temple. These Medjay were black skinned and curly and reddish hair, possibly Nubian mercenaries hired to replace the troops that still remained in the delta.

Ahmes took his tools -palette, paintbrushes, pigments- and accompanied the Medjay. They did not know what they needed and that made him nervous, although there was nothing in his memory for which he should feel guilty. The hottest hour had passed, Ra's boat began to descend from the sky and the streets were filled with people. They soon arrived at the river and boarded a ferry to the other shore, in which there were many passengers but all of them prudently left an empty circle around Ahmes and his custodians, allowing them to breathe.

There was much excitement in the conversations of the people, and optimism, the war was over, had succeeded in triumphing over the monstrous legions of the flesh and the abhorrent peoples subjected to the god of Adí-üm. It was said that the war was still going on in the Udja nur, but for the land of Kemet it was over, the kingdom was saved.

Finally they disembarked on the other shore and he and the Medjay boarded a hand-pulled car, whose driver left immediately. Shortly after Ahmes saw in the distance the monumental buildings that constituted the largest complex of temples in the kingdom, there was the temple of Amon-Ra, Phat, Montu…and still saw them in the distance, they did not go towards them but they were diverted to the south.

- Where we go? He asked, already really uneasy.

- To the temple.

- Which? This road does not…

- To the temple of the cogwheel.

Now he was not scared, but surprised, really surprised. The worshipers of the gears and machineries, the servants of Mekhane, the god that is broken and can be restored, as a parody of the resurrection of Osiris. They were hardly tolerated in the kingdom, just because they were useful (their work allowed the colossi of Amenhotep III to "speak") and their war devices helped against the followers of The Meat, even some noblemen were said to have hired them to fill their underground tombs with traps. But he had no idea why they called him, in his memory he found no reason to be summoned.

They continued on a path of white stone that led them straight to their temple, and then saw the trees, planted by the side of the road. They were really strange and did not remember seeing anything similar, with leaves of colors between pink and purple, saw how slaves dragged one of them to an open hole and placed it in, taming the earth around them. Counting the planted ones and the excavated holes there would soon be a row of twenty trees creating shade on the path, and as he walked away something opened in his memory: he had already seen similar trees before, but where?

Finally they arrived at the temple of the Mekhanitas, which was totally subterranean and whose frontispiece showed a complicated design in bas-relief with cogwheels. Its entrance was also guarded by two statues covered with metal, bright in the sun and armed with tridents, and twice as tall as a normal man.

No…they were not statues, because when they approached they moved abruptly with a sharp squeal, pointing at them with their tridents, scaring him and the Medjay. Then a man dressed in a white robe with the symbol of the hammer and the anvil embroidered in black on his chest, had a square face, energetic, but despite his tanned color his features were not those of an Egyptian, nor those of an Syrian or another Asian and when he spoke his accent revealed even more his foreign origin, perhaps from the north, beyond the sea.

—Quiet, there is no reason to worry— then he spoke to the giants in a language that Ahmes did not know, these with a new squeal returned to their original position —I am the patriarch Electrión, come in, we were waiting for you.

And so Ahmes entered the temple, his heart clenched in vague fear. They passed through galleries lit by incandescent glass spheres —he had heard about such things, but he always thought that they were exaggerated fantasies— and whose walls were covered by hieroglyphs and a rare form of writing that he did not know, in addition to a symbolism totally alien to decoration usual in temples and tombs. In them the black and white lines formed complicated gadgets with cogs, abstract human or semi-human figures and with the symbol of the hammer and the anvil almost omnipresent. For a moment he heard a rumbling and muted sound, a rhythmic pounding that seemed to come from under the earth, and then it receded —or they moved away— and disappeared altogether, and then, only then did he relate it to the incessant hammering in a smithy.

Later the temperature rose, like noon in the city, and felt how the walls radiated heat and as the stone floor burned the soles of their sandals, at the same time it seemed to hear strange noises, not the same knocking as before, but something metallic and slight whistles, but that's over soon.

He wished to ask the patriarch if much was missing, but he did not dare, a friend, a scribe, told him once that the temples of Mekhane's worshipers were all circular, with their most sacred room right in the middle, as if imitating the shape of a cogwheel.

And finally they came to a room where there were other priests of Mekhane, although they wore different colored robes -he supposed they were of a lower rank- in addition to two Medjay with the anvil and the hammer tattooed on their chests. They made him sit in a chair and beside him, on a table, there was a rare device, made of bronze, copper and a silver metal that he did not identify. It was something really strange, with a glass sphere filled to half the water and tubes made of animal intestines joining different parts of the object. They tied two of these tubes in each arm -around the wrist and just above the elbow- and one around the chest, and when moving a lever felt like those tubes filled with water and swelled, adjusting even more in around his body.

Every time he was more nervous and the explanation they gave him did not help his tranquility.
 
- This is a revealer of truth and lies, a creation of the infinite wisdom of MEKHANE, much more effective than your ridiculous feather of Maat —Ahmes did not know that surprised him more, if the artifact itself or its heretical rudeness of the gods— Nothing you should fear if you are sincere of heart and if you have not been involved in heretical activities.

The first questions were easy, what was his name, his age, his profession, etc. Every time he answered there was a bubbling in the crystal sphere. And then the question came:

- Is the name Rajotep familiar?

It was like a blow, he knew then the real reason why he was there, and he also remembered where he had seen trees like those before, a long, long time ago…

The truth was his only shield, and he spoke the truth. Yes, he knew Rajotep, yes, they were friends, almost brothers, yes, he knew that he had departed from the faith of the true gods, ("Your gods are just painted puppets," Electrión interrupted him, "but that's not the important thing now") Yes, he knew that he worshiped another god, one of forests and pastures, but no, he had not seen him in a long time and did not know in what profane activities he had been involved.

If the bubbling in the crystal sphere had lasted a moment longer, or was a little more intense, that would have been the end of Ahmes, but the priests were satisfied with their answers and finally told him he could retire.

— Of this no word —was warned with severity— You are faithful and discreet, prosperity will be the payment of your silence.

The car waited for him outside and they went away by the same path bordered by the sacred trees of the Green God. And then he saw the heretics, ragged, pale, starved, with bruised faces. Men, women and children, all tied to the trunks.

"A demonstration and a punishment, all of them will burn next to the trees they idolize" was the driver's answer to his question, the joy in his voice was not perverse, it was the simple realization that everything in the world was fine and orderly.

He sank into his seat and looked obsessively in the direction of the river. He was certain that he would find Rajotep's face among the damned, and there was too much ice in his chest to bear it.

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