Friday, April 21, 2017

Story 214: I Traveled to the Land of the Dead and All I Got Was This Lousy Pun

Harkhuf took another sip of water as he looked out over downtown Duat.  It had taken some time for him to get used to the perfectly black void hanging over the city, but everything else had been a pleasant surprise.  In the distance, across the river, he could see the towering residences of the Gods - they were a bit tacky, but he supposed if anyone was allowed to flaunt their status it was an actual deity.

 Harkhuf knew he should be meeting with those Gods rather than some over-eager merchant, but he wasn't looking forward to the journey.  As if reading his thoughts, Qenna started talking again.
"So now you come to the twelfth gate, and He-Who-Dances-In-Blood finds you wanting.  You could let him dismember you and throw you into the river to be devoured by crocodiles, or you could give him an offering."
"And what is this offering you wish to sell me?"
"No!  That's the beauty of it.  I don't need to sell you anything.  You see, what He-Who-Dances-In-Blood wants is your liver."
Harkhuf glanced down at his bag, where he was currently storing his organs.
"But... I need my liver."
"Indeed!  Giving him your liver would put you in an awkward situation, as you would escape but be unable to stand before the Gods even if you passed the twelfth gate on your next attempt."

 Qenna was selling something, no matter what he said.  Harkhuf wished the merchant would just get to the point.
"What if I told you there was a way to get a spare liver?  And not just a liver, but all of your organs - save your heart, of course."
Spares? "My body has never had spare organs.  How would I get them now?"
Qenna's grin became almost predatory.  "I can teach you.  I have, in my possession, an expanded edition of the Book of the Dead with a spell that will allow you to transfer ownership of your organs to me - and I am prepared to teach you that spell!"

 "Wait." Harkhuf put his water down and narrowed his eyes at the merchant, "Did you just say the spell lets me give my organs away?"
"Just so.  In return for learning the secret of the spell, you would cast it and gift your canopic jars to me."
A chorus of gasps erupted from the streets below as Thoth, god of wisdom, thundered past in the form of a baboon.  Harkhuf and Qenna both bowed low until they felt sure he was out of sight.
"Where were we," Qenna muttered, "... you would cast it... gift your canopic jars..." he straightened up, back on script, "And then you would be free to teach this spell to others!  For each person you help to learn the spell, you would collect their four canopic jars and pass three on to me.  Then as they teach newcomers they will do the same!  Soon, you will have more organs than you know what to do with.  Imagine coming before the Gods with a wagon full of intestines, the spirits that had been guarding the gates having cast their knives aside and gorged themselves on the lungs and stomachs of others!  Truly, this would be the way to show the Gods how powerful and clever you are."

 Harkhuf nodded.  His canopic jars were not particularly ornate, either.  If he obtained some more impressive ones, surely that could help his cause.
"So... I give you mine.  Then when I get others, I give you three of the four.  Then when the ones I train get organs they will give me three, as I gave you?"
Qenna nodded, "And you will in turn pass two of the three to me, then likewise you will pass one of the two from the next source down."
"What?  Why should you get so many?"
"Harkhuf, my dear friend.  Don't you want to have riches here in the afterlife?"
"Yes, of course."
"Then you should be thrilled to give so much to me!  Whatever you give to me is what others will give to you!  You have only one Qenna to answer to, but will have multiple people gifting jars to you!"

Harkhuf thought through the process once more, but he had to admit it made sense.  Reaching out, he shook Qenna's hand.  This was going to be a very lucrative business.