Herodotus Tells Tales From Egypt’s Hoary Past! Today’s installment: the Cleverest Man Who Ever Lived (Part 3: Good to His Mother)
Picking up from the last entry: the morning after the thieves’ final visit to the treasury, the king enters to check out the results of his trap-setting. He finds that none of the traps he’s laid in the hallways and passages and secret galleries have been sprung. All the traps he placed along the gauntlet leading to the inner vault remain undisturbed.
But within the vault, one trap has locked around the leg of a headless corpse.
“I’m baffled by this turn of events,” the king muttered to himself. Let’s just assume the king had taken to talking to himself, for exposition purposes. “Seriously this was not what I expected.”
The king’s first thought, that his treasury had been robbed by the undead, was quickly put to rest when he considered it a little longer. The thief had an accomplice. The accomplice had severed the thief’s head to prevent identification.
“Darn the fact that this is ancient Egypt and there’s no fingerprinting or genetic database!” grumbled the king.
Still, the corpse was a lead of some kind. The king hauled the body out of the treasury and stuck it up on a pike outside his palace.
“Not only is this super rude to the deceased, who was a filthy robber, it might draw out his accomplice,” the king said. He stationed a ring of guards around the body, with instructions to arrest anyone who came by to claim the corpse or even mourn.
The surviving brother, who incidentally is the hero of our tale, was totally prepared to walk away at this point. He and his brother had stolen a small fortune from the royal treasury, and he’d paid the price. As far as he was concerned, he was out of the game.
But our hero’s mother was not so easily quelled! She knew all about the secret passage and the brothers’ theft. She knew that one of her beloved sons had died, and that his corpse had been placed in a position of shame. She went to her son and demanded he recover his brother’s body.
“But Moooom! There’s guards and stuff!”
“I don’t care. A good son would make sure his brother received an appropriate funeral. We’re ancient Egyptians, need I remind you? Funeral junk is super important to us.”
“Moooom!” our hero whined.
“Just do it!”
Our hero kicked the dirt and got all stiff. “Fine. Whatever. I’ll go get the stupid body.”
“Don’t get me any of that attitude, mister! Your father or your brother, God rest their souls, would easily have been up to this task! Are you or are you not the cleverest man in Egypt, now that they’re both gone?”
Our hero nodded sullenly. “Fine.”
And so our hero embarked on his plan to recover his brother’s body. It was a nine-step plan, as follows.
1) Take some of the cash you stole from the king and buy a mule and a bunch of wine, in skins. Load the mule up with wine, like you were taking your wine to market to sell.
2) Use an awl to poke holes in like half the wineskins. Little holes, so that the wine dribbles out slowly.
3) Lead your mule, bearing your leaky wineskins, around for a while so the wine leaks out.
4) Lead your mule past the spot where a bunch of guards are standing around your brother’s body.
5) Stop there and notice, as if for the first time, that your wine has leaked out. Throw a little hissy-fit about how nothing ever goes your way.
6) When the guards laugh and make fun of you, get all huffy, but in a useless, inept kind of way. Warn the guards against stealing your remaining wine.
7) Get beaten up by the guards, who steal your remaining wine.
8) Cravenly appeal to the guards’ sense of their own importance, flattering them for their skill at mugging a helpless wine merchant. Encourage the guards to get drunk on the job.
9) Once the guards have all passed out, pull down your brother’s body and escape!
“There. Done,” said our hero, at his brother’s tiny and very private funeral. “And all I had to do was get the crap beaten out of me and humiliate myself by kowtowing to a bunch of idiot guards.”
“You’re a good boy,” said his mother. “And you were very clever. The clever man beats the strong man every day, that’s what I always taught you.”
NEXT: AND THE KING WAS LIKE, WTF? AGAIN!