Serq Neb-er-Tcher was a good man, even by slavers’ standards. For once, when he whipped his slaves raw, he would only go as deep as their bones and say dyher (the Egyptian word for sorry) at least twice a phrase. He was a great believer in second chances, Serq Neb-er-Tcher. Third chances too.
But Kunai un-Nefer was the reason humanity had lost hope in itself. Once upon a twenty-third moon, the Slave Master summoned Kunai to his tent.
‘Kunai un-Nefer... I thought you and I had an understanding,’ said the Slave Master, shaking his bearded head. ‘My good lad, you don’t go pulling when others say push!’
‘Kunai knowss! I tried to tell se ossers all morning but sey wouldn’t listen!’ Kunai said earnestly. ‘I said: halla, you’re all pulling se wrong way!’
The Slave Master heaved a deep sigh. ‘Kunai, you know what I said about second chances.’
Kunai scratched his head. By his own calculations, he was down on his third chance.
‘This is the fourteenth time you were given a chance—’
Kunai made the mental correction.
‘—not only are you the worst stonecutter west of Nile, but you make a rather poor slave too. Everything you touch turns to dust, boy – and we’ve got plenty of that going on!’ Serq Neb-er-Tcher made a circular gesture with his hand, indicating the desert. ‘You’re like a disaster waiting to happen. Even the royal crocodiles are afraid to consume you!’
Kunai lowered his head and mumbled something along the lines of dyher.
The Slave Master pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head from side to side.
‘You do understand we’re all working under a very tight deadline, yes?’ he pointed at the half-finished mastaba in the distance. ‘I’m so sorry my boy, but your ineptness left me no choice. You’re going to have to leave Abdju,’ said Serq Neb-er-Tcher in a tone of mingled relief and heartbreak.
‘And go where?’
‘The middle of the desert would be a good start.’
‘Am I b-banished from Abdju?’
‘In a completely relative manner of speaking, yes.’
Kunai pinched a zit on his chin. ‘Which manner is sat, exactly?’
‘An elementary manner of no return, I suppose,’ said the Slave Master.
To be continued...