Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Historical  ➡  Ancient

Interviews of Kephrath - Hekanefer

[]Interviews of Kephrath


[]~ from ~

[] The Flame Before Us

Richard Abbott


© Copyright 2015 Richard Abbott.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author.


[]Publication details

Matteh Publications


For Roselyn, for family

[]Also by the Author

Historical Fiction set in the ancient near east

p.   In a Milk and Honeyed Land
p.   Scenes from a Life
p.   The Flame Before Us

Short stories:
p.   The Lady of the Lions
p.   The Man in the Cistern

Science Fiction

p.   Far from the Spaceports (in preparation)

[]Cover information

Cover artwork © Copyright Ian Grainger www.iangrainger.co.uk
Original Matteh Publications logo drawn by Jackie Morgan.
Original photographs taken in Israel and elsewhere.
Cuneiform tablet jointly produced by the author and Ian Grainger.
It reads:
[_    If the strong attack your strongholds –_]
[_      warriors your walls –_]


Interview – Hekanefer

Extract – The Flame Before Us


About the author

About Matteh Publications

[]Character interview – Hekanefer, Mitsriy scribe

&The foreigners plot& in their islands,[ **]  scatter in war all the north-lands.[ **]Khatti and Kode, Arzawa and Alashiya:[ **]  desolate as if they had never been.[ **]They came towards The Beloved Land,[ **]  the flame was before them,[ **]  their hands and hearts raised,[ **]  high and boastful –[ **]but the heart of this god was ready.

&This is one of a series& of character interviews of individuals and couples from my works of fiction.

In this case we meet Hekanefer, formerly a Mitsriy scribe attached to a military unit stationed in Gedjet and part of the army responsible for defending the province. He is now living in Shalem. The story of his journey may be found in The Flame Before Us.

The Scene

&I find his house& amongst a maze of similar ones, in a street just inside the city wall. He has just arrived there at the end of the day. His hands are spotted with inks of various colours, and after inviting me in he disappears briefly to wash his hands. I look round while waiting for him. The tools of his trade are arranged neatly on a table, topped by a bundle of pens and brushes tied with cord.

He comes back into the room with two beakers of beer and passes me one.


The Conversation

“My thanks for your hospitality.”

“The pleasure is mine, and you honour my house by your visit.” We both drink. “Is the beer to your liking?”

“It is very good. Your own brew?”

“Surely not. I have no skill at that. My brother Ramose brought it from the Beloved Land recently. I have learned to enjoy the wine of this land, as I cannot usually get good beer. This is now only a rare treat.”

“Your parents sent it?”

“Oh no.” He laughs shortly. “Ramose acquired it somewhere in the sedge lands on his journey here. Neither of my parents has spoken to me since I decided to stay in this province, and broke off the marriage promise they had made for me when I was a youth. Look.”

He points to an irregular scrap of papyrus which he has attached to a wall. There is a very short line of writing near the top, too small to read at this distance.

“They were outraged at my decision. If I do not submit to their will and return by the end of the year, they will deny that I am their son.”

“And will you go?”

“No. Too much is happening here. I will not go back there.”

He stands up again and prowls around the room, full of energy.

“I have joined a group of craftsmen here in the city. Another Mitsriy man leads us. We support each other, train one another with new skills, commend our colleagues’ work to attract new patrons. It is good. It is what my people should be doing all across this land.”

He sits again, leaning in close to me to impress his meaning.

“Look now, take the field of war as example. I was with our soldiers, you know. Our chariots – the best men in our detail, chosen for their skill – were defeated by a gang of youths with javelins. It was the end of a way of life. Now, our great king took the lesson into his heart, and he ordered us to learn to fight in the new way. Do you follow?”

I nod, drawn in to the tale by his intensity.

“When we learned to fight like that, we started to find victory. But some of the men shrank back. They preferred to keep to the old ways and die, rather than reach for the new ways and live.”

He sits back, and his voice returns to its original measured tones.

“Well, my parents still cling to the old ways. They would have me hide away beside the River, marry a dull girl for some minor social advantage, and be head scribe for a local farmer, recording weights of crops and the punishment of slaves. I would have none of that.”

I knew a little of his background already.

“So you left your position as army scribe and settled here in Shalem.”

“I resigned on the day we heard of the battle along the coastal plain between my people and these newcomers. But it was not the battle that persuaded me: it was the treaty settlement which did that. We were abandoning the province, in all but name. My people should be out here, leading and inspiring the lands around, not shrinking back behind the Reeds and waiting to see what happens.”

“Are you happy here?” I gesture around the little house and its contents. “With your work? Your life?”

He gets up again and shows me a sheaf of partially finished items. There is a mixture of papyrus, wood, and clay, and a quick glance shows me that his writing spans several different formal styles.

“My work is appreciated. I am commissioned by the great ones of this city and the towns around – they call them daughter towns out here. My skills are in demand.”

“Tell me what you do?”

He pulls out one after another of the items as he replies.

“This is the written form of an oath granting title to land. This is a route itinerary going from Shalem to the holy mountain Tsaphon. Here, I am particularly proud of this one: it is the family record of one of the noble houses of the city, counting back eight generations and telling the tale of each. You will see that most of these items are written in the Kinahny signs. From time to time I still use the true writing, but not very often now.”

As he sips at his beer, I decide to chance the question.

“And your personal life? Now that you have broken off your family’s arrangement.”

He laughs.

“There is a man and wife who fled from Ikaret, who have a daughter. She is pleasant enough, but the parents make it very difficult for me to be familiar with her. And they insist on delaying matters beyond all reason. She and I have been very secretive, and I am fortunate that she was angry with her parents.”

He waves a hand dismissively.

“Some event or other on their journey here: I do not know the details. I treat the affair as a game; otherwise I would have abandoned the pursuit long since. In any case, this is a city, and I was with soldiers when I first arrived. There are other ways to find entertainment.”

He replaces the work in progress on its table and arranges the pots of ink in a neat row, colour by colour.

“This life is exhilarating. My heart is content with all that has happened. This time last year I lived in a narrow place, with the rest of my life planned out. All that has changed. I cannot imagine going back to the Beloved Land for many years yet.”

He pours us both another beaker of beer, and he tells me of his home, far away in another land. For all his bold words, the awareness of loss hovers always in the background.

[]The Flame Before Us – Extract

&The foreigners plot& in their islands,[ **]  scatter in war all the north-lands.[ **]Khatti and Kode, Arzawa and Alashiya:[ **]  desolate as if they had never been.[ **]They came towards The Beloved Land,[ **]  the flame was before them,[ **]  their hands and hearts raised,[ **]  high and boastful –[ **]but the heart of this god was ready.

&A son addresses his father&.

Hekanefer, scribe appointed to carry messages for the military commander in Gedjet, in the Kinahny province, to Nesamenopeh, scribe of the great and noble city of the dead outside Min-Nefer, greetings and blessings to you. I write from the garrison building in Gedjet.

I pray daily that all the gods keep both you and the lady Hemesherit, the best of all mothers, in good health. Every day I am cast down in my heart because of being sent out here into the Kinahny province. Of course to be serving the Beloved Land is all one should wish for, but my body and breath yearns to be back in the land of my birth, and to be surrounded again with the loving arms of my family.

I have been garrisoned here at Gedjet these many weeks now. Gedjet is a large town, and our people have made it a worthy place to see. The great king User-ma‘at-Re Mery-Imun, who lives in prosperity and health, has commanded the building of a great house of mysteries, sacred to all the gods. It will be magnificent. In his great wisdom, and to show the superiority of the divine lords and ladies of our own land, he has also ordered that ceremonies will be held in the name of the Kinahny goddess Anath on her sacred days.

But the work that I am doing here is also a mystery, and not in a sacred sense. The tasks I am given could be adequately carried out by a junior in training. I must be patient and humble and accept the instructions that I am given, but every day I long to hear that I have been transferred to another place of more importance.

Now, I am honoured that the military commander knows me and greets me by name each morning. They tell me that he is a man of skill and sound judgement on the field of battle, though I have yet to see this. He has trusted me with personal messages as well as orders and commands to his junior officers. I have been given a bodyguard of three runners and a fully-equipped chariot and its crew of two for the times that I am sent out of Gedjet to the outposts along the Sea Road. It is a generous allowance, and a recognition of the important place of the scribe in the army of the great king, who lives in prosperity and health.

But it is also a reminder that this land seethes with unrest. When we were last together, drifting downstream on the greatest of all rivers, on the little skiff which your father liked so much, we read together the advice that the advice that the scribe Hori gave to his friend. Do you remember? That wise man wrote of how perilous the roads and hill passes of this land can be.

Every word is true, and my bodyguard, stout warriors all, have assured me of it. I have not seen the Shasu robbers that Hori described, but that is surely because my guardsmen scatter them in fear before I come to the turn in the road. I would also like to say that I have not succumbed, in the way that Hori’s foolish friend did, to the allure of the breasts of the women here. I have taken your sound advice into my heart, my father, and have reflected upon the prudent course of action on every occasion.

It is altogether disappointing, father, to witness first hand how the inhabitants of this region disrespect the Beloved Land these days. How short are their memories! All the benefits that we have given them are so easily forgotten, and they imagine that being their own rulers will bring so many advantages. We have given them the security of our overlordship for many generations, but it is all so quickly set aside. I read about the proud days of the past, when our authority was without question, and I long for them to return.

Another thing. Messengers have reached us here in Gedjet speaking of troubles in the Khatti-lands. They say that the King of the North has been at war with a lawless rabble who have come into the west of his land. That must mean they crossed the sea, for as you remember there is no land adjoining him on that side. There are tales that cities have been burned somewhere in the lands under his authority.

If this is true, then it proves beyond doubt what you have always said. The soldiers of other places are weak and without courage compared to those of our own Beloved Land. They are like a little puddle of water shrivelled up by the sun at noon in the depths of Kush. Had our own armies been there, this would not have happened. But the King of the North will not humble himself before our great king, the great sun of our land who lives in prosperity and health and sees all that happens in every land.

Now we have in former years sent great ships full of grain to the help of the King of the North’s ancestors, on a day when his gods were angry and his crops failed. Perhaps on this day we will send ships full of chariots and riders to help him. But first he must learn to submit himself and fall seven times and seven times again at the feet of our great king who lives in prosperity and health. In the past the ancestors of the King of the North mistook the kindness of our generous hands for weakness. That will not happen again.

Another thing. Speak gentle words for me to the lady Ankhiriyt, chantress of the great god, and promise her that I have been faithful of intent in my betrothal to her daughter Nodjmet. Tell her that I have not looked idly on the body of another woman, nor entered a house where a woman is alone. I will not do this until that happy day comes when Nodjmet and I can be joined in marriage at the gates of the holy place.

Remind her that I am gaining a good name out here in this rough province, and that every day I long for the word of release. When that comes, I shall not hesitate, but will speed back to the Beloved Land.

Father, may the lord of all the gods look favourably on you. I speak of you every day to every god that I know.

[]Notes and Background

[]About the author

Richard Abbott has visited some of the places that feature in this story and others set in broadly the same region. As well as writing fictional accounts of the period, he has also participated in the lively academic debate surrounding it.

Richard now lives in London, England. When not writing he works on the development and testing of computer and internet applications. He enjoys spending time with family, walking and wildlife – ideally combining all three of those pursuits at the same time.

Follow the author on:

  • Web site – www.kephrath.com
  • Blog – richardabbott.datascenesdev.com/blog/
  • Google+ – google.com/+Kephrath
  • Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/In-a-Milk-and-Honeyed-Land/156263524498129
  • Twitter – @MilkHoneyedLand

Look out for his other works, which include the following.

Fiction – full-length novels:

  • In a Milk and Honeyed Land, available from most online retailers, and general booksellers in
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-1-4669-2166-5
    • hard-cover ~ ISBN 978-1-4669-2167-2
    • ebook format ~ ISBN 978-1-4669-2165-8 In case of difficulty please check the web site www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.

Feedback for this novel includes:
the author is an authority on the subject, and it shows through the captivating descriptions of the ancient rituals, songs, village life, and even a battle scene… the story grabs hold of the imagination… satisfies as a love story, coming-of-age tale, and historical narrative…” (Blue Ink Review)
…The lives of these ordinary people are brought to life on the page in a way that’s absorbing and credible. The changes that are going to take place in this area are quite incredible… a wonderous land that seems both alien and yet somehow familiar…” (Historical Novel Society UK Review)
  • Scenes from a Life, available from most online retailers, and general booksellers to order in
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-0-9545535-9-3
    • kindle format ~ ISBN 978-0-9545535-7-9
    • epub format ~ ISBN 978-0-9545535-8-6 In case of difficulty please check the website www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.

Feedback for this novel includes:
The author is extremely knowledgeable of his subject and the minute detail brings the story vividly to life, to the point where you can almost feel the sand and the heat…” (Historical Novel Society UK Review)
…lovely description – evocative sentences or phrases that add so much to the atmosphere of the book” (The Review Group)
The striking thing about ‘Scenes’ is… its sensitivity: its assured, mature observation of people” (Breakfast with Pandora)
  • The Flame Before Us, available from most online retailers, and general booksellers to order in
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-1-3
    • ebook format ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-0-6 In case of difficulty please check the website www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.

Feedback for this novel includes:
…A surprising tenderness in the face of brutality, loss, and displacement is the emotion that underpins the action…” (Breakfast with Pandora)

Fiction – short stories:

  • The Man in the Cistern, a short story of Kephrath, published in ebook format by Matteh Publications and available at online retailers, ISBN 978-0-9545-5351-7 (kindle) or 978-0-9545-5354-8 (epub).
  • The Lady of the Lions, a short story of Kephrath, published in ebook format by Matteh Publications and available at online retailers, ISBN 978-0-9545-5353-1 (kindle) or 978-0-9545-5355-5 (epub).

Science Fiction – full-length novels:

  • Far From the Spaceports, in preparation for release later in 2015
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-4-4
    • ebook format ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-5-1 In case of difficulty please check the website www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.


  • Triumphal Accounts in Hebrew and Egyptian, published in ebook format by Matteh Publications and available at online retailers, ISBN 978-0-9545-5352-4 (kindle) or 978-0-9545-5356-2 (epub).

[]About Matteh Publications

Matteh Publications is a small publisher based in north London offering a small range of specialised books, either in ebook or softback form. For information concerning current or forthcoming titles please see mattehpublications.datascenesdev.com/.

Interviews of Kephrath - Hekanefer

This is one of a series of character interviews from The Flame Before Us. This interview is with Hekanefer, formerly a Mitsriy scribe attached to a military unit stationed in Gedjet and part of the army responsible for defending the province. He is now living in Shalem. If you like the interview and extract, The Flame Before Us is available as a full-length novel. The Flame Before Us: Conflict and commitment in the shadow of a city's downfall The raiding ships have come before, but this time it is different. This time the attackers are coming to stay. The great kings and their vassals collapse as the newcomers advance. Walk with refugees, migrants, and defenders of the land alike, as they struggle to create a different way of life beside the ruins of the old. Can alliance, commitment and love survive the turmoil?

  • Author: Richard Abbott
  • Published: 2015-11-03 13:05:15
  • Words: 3216
Interviews of Kephrath - Hekanefer Interviews of Kephrath - Hekanefer