Monday, June 24, 2013
The Madness of King Cambyses
My plan was to make Cambyses mad, as I had his father, Cyrus the Great. It began with his obsession with Egypt, one of the Persian satrapies.
“What do you think?” Cambyses asked Mihr, his advisor, cocking his head as he studied the map. Mihr opened his mouth, but Cambyses said, “Hmm, yes, I think so too.” He stroked his black beard contemplatively. Mihr did not move. The emperor cocked his head, as if listening and nodding his head slightly.
Suddenly Cambyses turned and glared at him. Cambyses opened his eyes wide in a look of indescribable hatred and began to stalk towards Mihr. Cambyses began to reach for his dagger, but Mihr reached for his holy kusti string and shook it.
“Your Majesty, I... I have answered your summons!” Mihr said in a trembling voice. The emperor stopped. Mihr’s voice had ended the trance I had placed on him, hoping to have him kill that gnat of an advisor.
His stance relaxed and he smiled at Mihr, gesturing him eagerly to follow him to the wall map of Egypt. He began to talk excitedly.
“... my destiny! I can feel it calling to me! I want to go to Egypt to conquer that ancient land. Maybe I’ll even set up a capital there eventually. Mihr, I want to become a real pharaoh. I want you to get all the information that you can on their customs and religious practices.”
“Uh, yes, at once Your Majesty,” Mihr said.
“First, however, I will begin to treat my magi more like the pharaoh treats his priests. They are landowners and nobles under Pharaoh. In exchange, they will think of me as god on earth.” Cambyses smiled slowly, his eyes taking on a far away look. “A god on earth,” he repeated, seeming to taste the syllables. He turned to Mihr, his eyes bright and intense with his passion. “Mihr, you must help me with this, I need that information! I need to become a god!”
Mihr bowed his head in reverence. “Oh King of Kings, I sense that there is already divinity in you.”
Cambyses’ eyes lit up in triumph. “You are a smart one, Mihr! No wonder my father had so much faith in you. Do you know that my mother was actually an Egyptian princess, the daughter of the great Pharaoh Ahmose, who rules Egypt? Pharaoh Ahmose has been ruling for forty years now. He is old, very old.”
Mihr made a sound of agreement, but the emperor had already turned and was studying the map of Egypt with rapt attention.
When he returned the next day, I, Gaumata, smiled. I imagined what he was thinking as a guttural voice in a strange language greeted him. There was no one else in the room but Cambyses, who sat upon his throne as straight as the depictions of the pharaoh he had seen. He wore a short skirt of golden material and was holding two strange looking scepters.
The emperor just sat there, looking straight ahead and Mihr looked as though he didn’t know whether to stay or to leave.
Finally Cambyses spoke. “Pharaoh Ahmose has just died. He came to me in a dream and told me to set out for Egypt to claim my throne.”
Everyone had already heard about the death of the pharaoh. However, the emperor wanted people to believe that he had seen it in a vision. So Mihr made the appropriate expressions of joy and wonder.