”What are you reading about?”
Mr. Mummific had been huffing and puffing near me for a while already. Clearly he was bored.
“I am trying to find out if king Qa’a had any military campaigns. I found this mention of an ivory gaming rod with him and an Asiatic prisoner of war. But that’s about it.”
“Aha, yes. Qa’a and war…”
Mr. Mummific sounded amused.
“Are you saying he did not wage war? Have enemies?”
“Well… Not saying that. Exactly. He did have enemies for sure. He prefers to sit at the old king’s club house in the Field of Reeds. Just like his predecessors he decided it would be a good idea to force servants and officials to be killed and buried with him. So they would serve him in the afterlife. Some of them died willingly, believing that was the only way to have an afterlife. But some would have wanted to keep on having the physical life. And they still carry a grudge against him.”
“Still? Surely after thousands of years they would have forgotten about it.”
“Well, there are some who have taken it as a hobby to wait for Qa’a outside the Kings’ Palace and throw vegetables at him.”
“Yes, the eggs and meat are too expensive to waste.”
“Aren’t they having a good time in the afterlife, then?”
“Considering how Qa’a first forced them to be killed and then made them do all the heavy work for him… At first they did not have a good afterlife. But then they went on strike.”
That was news. Now I knew of the strike of the workers of Deir el-Medina in Ramesside times. But a strike during the Old Kingdom? Or Old Kingdom afterlife… (What an odd concept)
“What exactly did that cause? The strike?”
“At first not all his retainers went on strike, but enough did so that the ones still working for the king were piled with such an amount of work the day came when they had had enough. So they went on strike too. After that Qa’a tried to talk the servants of other kings to serve him as well, but they refused. Said that “if you don’t like it, you can kill us. Oh, wait, we are already dead. So there’s nothing you can do. Go make your own dinner. Cultivate your own fields.” “
“And did he?”
“No. Because he had no idea how those things were done. He ended up selling all his funerary goods to buy services. And when those ran out…”
“We kings decided it was against the proper way of things to force a king to beg, so we took it to ourselves to make sure he got food at the club house. And a room to sleep in.”
“So you are saying king Qa’a is now sleeping in some kind of gentlemen’s club in the afterlife.”
“Kings’ club. Yes. He had to sell his palace too.”
“And the people he had buried with him still throw vegetables at him?”
“Yes. But you see, they do it out of kindness.”
“How is that kindness?”
Mr. Mummific sighed.
“I just told you he lost everything. He has no means to buy food. But as long as his old subjects feel pity for him, they bring him all those vegetables every day. Of course they have to show they are still peeved at what happened, so they make a show of it by throwing his food at him. Not from afar, mind you. Qa’a has learned to catch the food pretty well from midair.”
“I asked about Qa’a’s wars and ended up hearing how he fas fed by his former subjects by throwing vegetables at him.”
“Truth to be told, we are pretty certain his war stories are just that. Stories. But every king deserves a fierce reputation, so we don’t ask about that much. And we pretend there is nothing odd in the fact that he sleeps inside the Kings’ house.”
That was kind of touching, really.
“Now will you open the picture box for me? It is starting any moment now.”
Of course. I had completely forgotten about how much Mr. Mummific liked the afternoon’s childrens’ programs. His favourite, a grey dog hand puppet show was about to begin.
I took the remote control from the locked drawer (I had to hide it – it is impossible to sleep when Mr. Mummific - who doesn’t need to sleep – decides to watch action series in the middle of the night. Also because his hearing is not the best, he tends to put the sound so loud the squirrels fall off the trees outside out of sheer fright).
Mr. Mummific eagerly reached for the remote but I did not give it to him. I chose the channel, and put the sound on reasonable level.
“There you go.”
I left him chuckling on the sofa, watching the dog puppet and continued my search for Qa’a’s wars.