Nephren-Ka, "The Black Pharaoh" (also called Nophru-Ka) is one of the primary avatars of Nyarlathotep on Earth, although in the past it was an independent entity. Nyarlathotep often uses this "mask" for missions that require diplomacy or to recruit acolytes.
|“||Then down the wide lane betwixt the two columns a lone figure strode; a tall, slim figure with the young face of an antique Pharaoh, gay with prismatic robes and crowned with a golden pshent that glowed with inherent light.||„|
|~ HPL: Fragment of "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath".|
Nyarlathotep is worshiped in this avatar by the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh.
Nephren-Ka was supposedly the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty of Egypt. He was the one who introduced the cult of the animal-headed gods to that nation and always stood out as a sorcerer. Nyarlathotep was not long in taking an interest in him and, summoning him to the city of Irem, proposed a bloody pact: Nephren-Ka would sacrifice thousands of victims in his honor and Nyarlathotep would give him the gift of prophecy. This was done and Nyarlathotep granted him the power to see the future. He secured the Shining Trapezohedron for Egypt, but after being convinced by the resident Haunter of the Dark, he had a lightless temple created to hold the stone and the deity within. That temple became a center of abominable happenings, and the rites carried out there were so monstrous the temple was destroyed.
According to legend, when Nephren-Ka felt that his life was coming to an end, he took refuge in his own crypt and there he spent what little time he had left writing down on its walls everything that the future of the world held. It is said that the Black Pharaoh was buried in the Bent Pyramid of Dhasur, but the truth is that no remains have been found at the site. It seems that this is because, when he passed away, Nephren-Ka merged with Nyarlathotep and became one of his avatars. It is also said that, years later, Queen Nitocris had a son whom she named Nephren-Ka. According to some rumors, this could be the reincarnation of the Black Pharaoh and would therefore be Nyarlathotep himself in a new human avatar.
Long after his death, Nephren-Ka once appeared to Pharaoh Akhenaten to propose that he resume the cult of Nyarlathotep, but Akhenaten refused and, in addition to this, had Nephren-Ka's name struck out from all records and monuments to let no one remember the atrocities he had committed. For this, Nyarlathotep cursed Akhenaten, causing the collapse of his empire.
Creation and use in the Cthulhu Mythos
According to Lin Carter, his mention in The Haunter of the Dark (written in November 1935, and published in the December 1936 edition of Weird Tales) is a reference from Lovecraft to one of Robert Bloch's best story Fane of the Black Pharaoph (published only in 1938, but whose manuscript had been read by Howard Phillips Lovecraft).(EXP: Lovecraft: a look behind the Cthulhu Mythos)
- This avatar is especially active in the Dreamlands, where he acts as the guardian of the city of Kadath.
- In the Trepanations story, it is said that the Black Pharaoh received the name of Nimrod Thotep. It is possible that this is due either to the fact that Nephren-Ka used this name as a pseudonym, or to the fact that there was a second Black Pharaoh.
- For the "Fungi From Yuggoth" RPG campaign, Keith Herber introduced "Nephru-Ka" as the leader of the Brother of the the Black Pharaoh. It is believed to have been a typo corrected in future writings with Herber using "Nephren-Ka" as the former leader of this cult.
- In the comic "Fall of Cthulhu", Nyarlathotep takes the form of the Black Pharaoh.