Homeland
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I have carried many names. For a time, I was Hemaka, and I held the Seal of Den. I have been called Sabef, Ankhefensekhmet, even Amenhotep, though not the one you're thinking of. But you have asked me for my memories. What name I held during that time is almost unimportant.

What matters is that now I hold the name Issa Antar, and I am a Priest-Scribe of the Goddess Neith, may Her Name never be forgotten.

My home is a land of vast emptiness. The endless stretches of sand and desert rock are broken here and there with withered pillars of stone. Icons of a lost civilization, crumbling to dust with the relentless movement of wind and sand. Rolling dunes, eternal in their languid assault on desiccated stone palisades that are faithfully standing guard over cities now populated only by ghosts and fading memories.

This is my home, an ancient land of forgotten majesty and fallen empire, a place where even the wind whispers lost secrets.

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Time eventually wears down even the greatest of empires, and the empire of my homeland was no exception. Great in its time, it slowly succumbed to an inner rot, its smooth veneer of polished stone worn away by sand and neglect. Some of us wish for our ancient empire to rise again, but I gave up that dream with Setepenre-meryamun Alexander.

I have seen the empire at its greatest, huge armies of warriors sheathed in bronze marching forth to trample everything in their path. I watched as Nꜥr-mr Heru stood triumphant over a land, unified. I was there when Menkheperre Thutmose raised the standard of Empire above city after city. I raised the burning incense to bless the endless Temples that the Pharaoh built to honor our ageless Gods. I stood and wept when Kleopátra Philopátōr sold the scraps of what was left to Rome.

Sometimes, in my more feverish moments, I wish those Gods were still ageless. But, then I remember that even the most revered deities can sometimes slip away. Slip away ours did, along with the immortal power of the Pharaohs and their invincible empire of stone and magic. They built their power on the belief that worked stone could not be worn away by sand, and magic could not be undone by the simple act of disbelieving.

They could not have been so wrong. But, as I think on it, that hubris still has merit. The Empire was a beautiful and living thing, and I know that there are many more like myself who remember those days with pride. Even today, with all the chaos and strife that has torn across all of Africa and the Levant, the monuments to our past still stand. Eternal.

We were many peoples, but we were all children of the kemet and the deshret, the lands of black and red. The hekau khasut, the Hykos ruled, the Persians, the Greeks, and then the Romans. But always, Iteru drew us into one People, regardless of whence we came. For over three thousand years, no matter who ruled, the unified land that was the dream of Nꜥr-mr Heru, the First King, persisted.

But eventually, even the greatest dream cannot remain eternal. Eventually, even it faded away to becoming nothing more than glimmering memories and ruined temples.

Yes, those same temples that hosted thousands upon thousands of rituals designed to please the immortal Gods and their undying Pharaohs. Even now, I still remember Ankhersheretef waving his pot of smoking incense, blessing the tools of ritual. I remember the movements and words spoken over the remains of the dead, the glorious rituals blessing the new God-King in his immortal rule.

It is funny, in a way. As I look back over the lives of those I knew, I realize that the immortality that the Pharaohs tried so hard to achieve turned out to be the same immortality that they have all grown to resent. I am glad I was never Pharaoh, for those spirits that were are always doomed to forever remember their lost greatness, always pining for a past that will never come again.

I wish I could show you how those temples were truly a marvel to look upon. From the immense statuary of Abu Simbel to the endless precincts of Karnak. Huge stone sculptures that dwarf even the tallest of men, massive pillars of stone that fifty men could not encircle with hands clasped together. Impressive, yes, and beautiful in that state of impregnable power.

Some people say that the ageless aspect of those Temples were to bring honor to the Gods that they were dedicated to, and in most respects that is true. But, I still remember the pride in my own heart as I looked upon those Temples that I helped to build with my own hand.

I could not help but feel my own heart swell as I watched those massive columns reach into the sky. Even as those same columns collapse into sand, I can still feel that pride. Yes, the Temples were built for the Gods, but they were built by our own, much less divine hands. An accomplishment worthy of the Gods, worthy of the pride we took in it.

You might be tempted to compare the temples of our workmanship to the gaudy and delicate temples of Grecian and Roman make, and I would agree only in that those temples were beautiful. That the decoration and gilding made for a pretty sight, but nothing more.

Those temples were built for Gods that never walked the land as a mortal, they never knew what it was like to live and die. The Gods of my people lived as we did, they worked the fields and raised censures above funeral processions. They were Gods, but they were given ascension by the will of our people, the love of those they ruled. Our Gods were swift and terrible in their anger, but were also wonderful and majestic in their love.

Thus, when you compare the glory of Rome to that of Kemet, I cannot help but remember walking the ancient halls of Karnak, enveloped in the warm embrace of the Goddess. In those moments, I knew I was loved, and I knew that I would never be forgotten. The priests of those temples never knew the touch of their gods. Never walked, arm in arm, with the living incarnation of the reason for that temple being built.

That is why you can never truly compare the two. One is nothing but a pale imitation of the other, if not in form, definitely in spirit.

My homeland was a place of matchless beauty and endless wonder. An empire built on the unforgiving sands of a wilderness cared little for those who lived in it. A place built when the world was new, when the Gods still walked among us, lived with us, breathed with us.

My homeland will live forever, even if it is only in the memory of those of us that still walk this aging earth.

So, I leave you with this final thought. Imagine, for a moment, endless stretches of sand finally giving way to the busy streets of a dusty city. Hear in your mind the cacophonous sounds of vendors calling out their wares to the passersby, children running through the streets, their happy voices singing soprano songs of joy and merriment among the stone houses. Then lift your gaze from the city, to the shining majesty of the Palace, wondrous in its magnificence. Guards in gold shone upon the walls, their stony gaze only softened by the light of the Pharaoh's pleasure.

Then, travel with me beyond even the magnificence of the Palace, back to the earth to walk the grand precincts of Karnak. Massive even when compared to the mighty dunes of the desert, or the valley where we buried our kings, the Temple seems to stretch for miles. Row upon row of columns stretching into the darkness of a shadowed chapel, lit with flickering torches and the warm glow of endless braziers.

And finally, breathe deep the lingering scent that fills those smokey vaults, of the precious incense burned in countless ceremonies. Breathe in, and hold it for just a moment, long enough to let the vision start to fade into shadow. To feel the gentle pain that comes from needing to move on, to let it go.

My homeland is a land of Gods and mystery. The Undying dwelt here and perhaps they dwell here still, their faces forgotten, even if their Names live on.

I am Issa Antar, and I am a Priest-Scribe of the Goddess Neith, may Her Name never be forgotten. This is my memory, and when I am gone, it will remain here until the Library itself is dust.

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