“Kneel, young one.”
Khaba did as he was bid. He dropped slowly to his knees before bending his face to the marble floor, gently touching his forehead against the cool surface, his shadow wavering against the stone walls as the torches flickered in their iron sconces. The coolness sent a sudden chill down the back of his body, rushing from his neck down his spine. He was grateful for it. He had waited his entire life for this moment, and even naked against the cool air of the great underground room, his heart pounded and he struggled to keep his breaths calm and even. It would not do for his excitement to be seen by the priests of Ptah.
“The Lord of Eternity has received your praise, Khaba. He knows that you worship him day and night. The Lord of Truth has heard your many prayers and he has witnessed your valiant efforts in the struggle against Chaos. He has received your many gifts. Ptah, the Master of Justice, has weighed your heart and he has issued his divine decree concerning you: Khaba, it is the will of Ptah that you must die”.
Khaba’s knees went weak as he found himself unable to breathe. He had sacrificed everything for Ptah. He had entered the temple before his eighth spring, devoted himself to temple service all his youth. Now a young man, Khaba had even forsaken marriage. His heart belonged to Ptah. No one was more devoted to the god of creation. But the High Priest spoke for Ptah, and his decree was death.
Khaba sobbed quietly. He had failed. The High Priest was speaking, but Khaba couldn’t understand the words; his ears were ringing, his breaths coming in ragged spasms.
Hands grabbed him under his arms and four priests brought him to his feet. He struggled to stand. Death was not unwelcome, he thought. If, after all he had done in his life to be found acceptable, Ptah would not have him, then he could think of no reason to live.
The priests walked Khaba out of the large chamber and into a smaller room which contained a low, alabaster table in the center and a plain, wooden sarcophagus, painted white. The unmistakable aroma of frankincense filled the air.