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Heb entered the halls. He walks quickly his little feet scurrying. He was always in some huge rush somewhere. It worked for me most of the time. To have him the head of my staff was a wise decision because he was very prompt. Maybe he was trying to make up for his failure serving Taharqa.
I sat with Nyla in her halls when he entered. I'd been seen with her more often. She hadn't told me any plan as of yet but it seemed like with everything going on it was nice to have someone to at least talk to.
"Sir, your servent Chek has arrived," he stated, "Would you like me to send him away to return when you are less busy."
"No...I want Nyla to know what I know. Bring him in."
I could tell Heb was weary. He nodded however and did as I said bringing Chek in. Chek walked in immediately seeming tired as usual from a long journey of gathering information. Things were changing. There were many rumors going around in the palace and some things I knew were true.
Chek bowed between Nyla and I and quickly began his report, "Chenen had declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt. He was supposed to send the Egyptian Prince to Kerma as a prisoner to Taharqa but instead he murdered the prince in front of the Egyptian people and declared himself king of Egypt."
Nyla quickly jumped to his feet, "God...he's really done it... damn it...Chenen's really gone and done it."
She began pacing. She looked faint for a minute where she quickly sat on the stairs that led down from her chair. Her handmaidens quickly ran to her side bringing water and towels in case she felt like a faint was coming on. I had never seen Nyla like that. She seemed completely horrified. It was almost as though Chenen had taken a knife and driven it through her heart.
"He killed that boy Chek?"
"Yes, in cold
blood. He executed him in the town's
center. All of Thebes mourned the young
prince. The boy had barely turned 5 when
Chenen took his life."
"He's an animal."
I couldn't believe it. I could slightly feel what Nyla was feeling. I had so much anger towards Chenen? Why would he do that? Why would he so selfishly go create such a chaos when we had done all that to avoid it? Taharqa had missed the flame and run into the fire.
"The Egyptian people share the same sentiment," Chek continued, "He has turned into a Tyrant immediately. He has locked all trade from and to Nubia. He has secured the borders with his Navy. Egypt has become a prison. The Nubians economy suffers from this."
"And he killed that boy...that poor boy," I stated.
The boy probably didn't want anything to do with it. The boy didn't know anything about politics at 5 years old. He hadn't even lived life yet. He hadn't even begun to experience how horrible people could be before he had become a victim of it. Why did Chenen have to kill that innocent boy.
Nyla was still on the floor. Her maidens were fanning her. They have formed a stockpile around her. I wondered if she was being dramatic or if she was really having this reaction.
doesn't care. Father always thought
that. The problem is whether or not
Taharqa will have the nerve to do what needs to be done."
"The nerve...to do what?"
and Chenen grew up together. He sees him
as a brother. I picture Taharqa trying
to talk this out. He needs to destroy
Chenen immediately for his betrayal.
Chenen will not stop. He will
starve Nubia and attack Nubia
when it is weakest. Taharqa may only want to talk...wanting to reserve their
She was probably right. She sounded like she knew what she was talking about. She was good at it of course. She always seemed to have a knack of understanding things like this.
"Would you kill your brother?" I asked.
Nyla looked me in my eyes and she stated in the most cold
blunt way that anyone could state it, "Yes, for my country I would kill
I believed her too. I could see the vice in her voice. I was beginning to understand her. At first I had not completely gotten it. There was still something that told me this woman wasn't to be trusted. Something still told me that she had some selfish need behind her patriotism but there was nothing. I believed it now more than ever as she made her claim.
may not be so strong," I stated and crossed my arms, "I completely agree.
There is nothing wrong with that.
He leads with his heart.
You leading with your head makes you no
"It is flawed. My father was the Pharaoh," she stated, "But many people doubted it. You see... I just popped into existence. The Greeks had a goddess who had done the same. They call her Athena. She just sprung from her father and was born. That is how I think I was created. He just found me and claimed me. I was the perfect diplomat and raised to be such. You see Chenen has always thought too much of himself. As for Taharqa, he was always thought too much himself. I always thought of my country..."
"But you couldn't be Queen because no one knew if you were really his," I finished her story, "Is that right?"
"I knew..." she pounded on her chest in a way that was so passionate and yet misunderstood, "You could look in his eyes and see mine. Nubia knew...but the royals refused. Speaking of them...where is Amanirenas?"
"They looked for her. They couldn't find her," Chek stated.
"Most likely she is on her way to join her son in Egypt. He probably snuck her off in the chaos. Taharqa needs Mursili more than ever. He will act desperately. Menice you lose time. You must get rid of Fatine. Once she is gone I will gain more leverage over the King and so will you. We can convince him to do what he has to do to save the kingdom."
She smiled, "That is more like it."
I had no access to Taharqa. I figured he had been busy anyway but his guards wouldn't let me anywhere near him. He was really enforcing this "Space" that he was talking about. Meanwhile Fatine was allowed to freely come and go as she pleased.
It began to get to me. I knew he loved me. I could see how he avoided my stare. He meant to do it. He meant to avoid me or else he'd end up holding me for too long like last time. Had they advised him not to stay around me at all? Maybe that was true. Maybe it was the Vizier. Maybe it was Fatine. Maybe it was Taharqa himself who felt like it was best to avoid me at all cost. I wanted to cry but how much had I cried for one man already...even if he was king.
I had to get my mind off of it.
It was mid morning when I snuck out of the palace. I had taken some money and a shawl to cover my face. I didn't want to be seen. Taharqa didn't want me near him but he still didn't want me too far. I knew he wouldn't have agreed to me leaving the palace grounds. I hadn't left the palace grounds in so long. The grounds were so huge that I barely even noticed however but as I quickly looked on the streets of Kerma I realized there was so much that I had missed before.
"Where are you going?"
I hadn't noticed I had been followed until I saw the figure behind me. It was Si Ren Boos...the handsome, masculine, strong Chief of the King's Royal bodyguards. I was surprised to see that he didn't have on his usual seals and golden anklets that cuffed his muscles. He didn't have on his cape that pronounced him chief. He was a powerful man in the country and yet he was dressed very casual. It was almost as though he didn't want to be noticed either.
can ask you the same question."
"I am not one of the King's concubines," Si Ren stated, shaking his head, "I am free to come and go as I please."
The way he said it seemed as though you could replace concubine with slave...or concubine with swine. The word was so strongly used. I dismissed it however and smiled at him in the same charming way that he smiled at me. Chief Si Ren had a knack for charm.
"Shouldn't you be protecting your King?" he asked.
"The King has himself sent me on a mission into Kerma. He leaves for Hattusa tomorrow in order to mend ties with King Mursili but before he goes he needs to confirm something."
The way he said it sounded strange.
"I am not at liberty to say. However as a representative of the King's will I will have to take you back to your palace gates. You cannot leave the palace grounds without proper escort."
"Well then you can escort me."
He looked at me and smiled, "What about my mission?"
"You'll have time for it after you return me safely to the palace," I stated cunningly, "Either that or I can die in the streets of Kerma. You know the people are very resistant to Taharqa's rule. Who knows what they'd do to someone he cared about."
leaned in close, "You're a slick one aren't you."
I smiled back. The Chief had a way of speaking that was amazing. I could tell he was very smooth. A part of me wondered how someone so friendly and charming could also be a great war hero. I didn't see any ferocity in him I thought I would. He seemed kind and most of all gentle. I knew it when he helped me onto the back of golden horse. His hands were firm but still so easy and graceful. He seemed like one of those men who never lost their balance when running or missed their target when shooting an arrow. His grace was unmatched.
I hung onto the back of his horse as we headed toward the district I was born. The district was so much further out than I noticed. It seems like we were riding for hours on a paved path that led all throughout Kerma.
For the first time in so long I saw the people. It was hard to see that Kerma was suffering economically from the loss of control over Egypt to Chenen. Kerma had so much gold from the mines south of the city. I guess gold wasn't the only valuable thing however. Still...there was so much gold. Kerma was like a city made up completely of it. The markets rang with busy panhandlers. Whores took to the busy part of the streets that we made through. People seemed to notice Si Ren was wealthy just because of the strength of the stead we rode. Children followed us through the town begging. I threw them extra coins from my purse and watched as the parade grew longer.
"You don't want to bring too much attention to us," the Chief scolded me when he turned around and noticed a trail about 20 children following behind us.
"Relax," I replied, "They are just children. I envy them. They still don't know the bite of betrayal or the heartbreak of love. They'll probably use that money for something so stupid. However the thought to them is everything. I didn't toss money at them. For that brief moment, I tossed them a world. It is a quick world and a sudden world. It will live today and die tomorrow to be replaced by another thought even more grand and fantastic.
smiled. I was glad I could make him
smile. He grabbed in his own purse and
threw some of his own, "You're right. I
should never argue with you. I've
forgotten how wise you were. You proved
that when you settled the argument between Mursili and the King."
"Stop praising me already," I laughed, "Or else I may blush."
"Well then I'll have to try harder," he stated.
Our eyes connected. It was something strange and very brief but still strange. He quickly turned away from me and then said something as though bringing everything back into perspective who we were in the world, "You remind me of my brother?"
"Yes. He serves the Vizier. His name is Baraka. He is always the dreamer."
Baraka. He was my mother's acquaintance. She had hired him to sneak me into the palace. I remember. The last time I had been to my village it was him that was with me. I looked at the Chief and thought of Baraka. I could see some type of resemblance. Baraka's face a little bit rougher and he seemed a little older but they both had the same complexion and build.
"Are you a dreamer?" I asked.
"You don't want to know anything about me," He replied.
not as interesting as you. I didn't come
from the streets to capture the heart of the ruler of the country.
Your journey was long and interesting.
Mine was just a few steps.
I was raised by my father to serve the king
as he did and my father before him."
"Why not Baraka?"
did serve the king...just not this one. He
served the king's father."
"I didn't know that. I assume there is so much I don't know about people though. So much I need to learn. I'd like to start with you. But then again I ask you...are you a dreamer? You assume I don't want to know about you but for some reason I don't think I'd mind."
I noticed him blushing at that point. Yes, that is what it was. For the rest of the way to my town he talked to me and explained everything about him to me. He explained the things he liked and disliked. He had been raised in the palace. He had a sword in his hand since the age of 3. He was an accomplished war hero and had struggled his way through the past King's army.
He liked hunting at night because he felt like it was his greatest challenge.
He liked cold showers...
He liked the idea of making history.
Before I knew it I didn't have to keep asking questions. He just started telling me and I loved it and I didn't understand why but I felt comfortable around him. He didn't treat me like he owned me. He didn't treat me like property.
The Chief just treated me as though I was above him even... and I didn't understand why. He had rank and wealth probably that surpassed anything I had even if I sold every last gift Mursili and Taharqa could have given me. Still he gave me the uppermost respect.
"Here it is," I stated, "My home."
"I'll wait here and keep an eye from a distance."
I smiled back at him and walked through the streets. It almost seemed like a dream that I lived in such a place. It seemed even more run down than before. My old house had been boarded up. It seemed no one wanted to live there. A woman had been killed in it. Maat was not good. Maat was order and the order in the house had become chaotic. People wouldn't reside until a priest or priestess came and burned incense. I looked over at the house a few blocks down to see the lights were on. I recognized the house immediately. I recognized the streets. I could see the run down waterhole that always dried up several months out of the year. I could see the small bathhouse that sometimes became so filthy people took baths with their clothes on. A few blocks down was a small shrine to Goddess Bast. Mother would take me there. We would burn incense and lay flowers down at the shrine. We would pray. We would pray for ourselves. We would pray for Aya and Nubia. We would pray for the King...
Memories were all erased now. I covered my head with the shawl and moved through the streets. Some kids ran past me kicking dust up from the roads. I didn't recognize them but I recognized the parents that they ran to. The parents looked steadily on me as though trying to see past my shawl. They didn't approach me but a few of them seemed very suspicious of a stranger walking through these parts. Murder was not big in the district that I lived in but theft was.
I quickly moved to Ozembu's hut. I knocked several times on the door and I wasn't surprised to see Ozembu's mother open the door.
"Of all the things I'd thought I'd ever see again," she stated with her eyes locked on me in a most unkind way, "You are not one of those things sir."
"I didn't come here to upset you. I came to see Ozembu."
"You are not welcome in here," she stated.
She had always been cruel and rather negative to me but now she seemed completely against me. I wondered why. Her face wrinkled up in the most ridiculous way as she spoke. It was as though I had been her worst enemy. It was as though she had planned what she would say to me even though she supposedly swore she would never see me again. I didn't have time for the old woman. My eyes peered in the house but for some reason I knew it was empty. The hut was a small mudbrick house. If Ozembu was there he would have heard me by now.
"Then tell him to come out side. I have to see him. I need to ask him if he's seen my mother. It is important I find her."
"Your mother was kidnapped boy. She's probably dead now. Did n't you see the ransom note left with Aya."
"You don't know what that note said old woman," I replied quickly becoming less and less patient with her, "I need Ozembu. Where is he?"
"He joined the army," she stated, "Because of you he joined. He stated if you were going to be with the king then he would serve the king and make sure that you were safe. A year ago the King sent him into the Navy and he joined the quest with Prince Chenen. There he is now...serving under Chenen the Pharaoh of Egypt. He SHOULD be in Nubia! All because of you!"
Ozembu was in Egypt. I could only imagine how torn he must have felt to have to serve a traitor to the Nubians. Nubian men were strong but they were also very loyal. I wondered how conflicted they would be. They had pledged themselves to both Chenen and Nubia. The thought of Ozembu being out there because of me sickened me. I hadn't asked him to do it though. I hadn't asked him.
"The true Pharaoh Taharqa will demolish the traitor Chenen and regain control of both lands. Ozembu will be home soon."
I said it as though I believed it. I didn't know what to believe. It didn't matter though. Ozembu's mother shut the door in my face. It was definitely clear that I wasn't welcome there. I had fed her a lie and she caught on. I didn't know if Taharqa could challenge Chenen. He was already planning on running to King Mursili for help. The old Pharaoh was strong and mighty. Taharqa didn't want to rule. Everything in his body said that he was just doing it for duty. How could he defeat Chenen whose ambitions were limitless?
"Take good care of him," Chief Si Ren stated as he dropped me off to my room later that night when we returned from the district. Heb had guided me in the room from him. Si Ren hadn't had the time to complete his own "secret" mission but he didn't seem to worried about it. Instead he seemed happy.
I had expected happy cheers when I went back home. Instead I didn't recognize anyone. All the boys I had grown up with had been sent to the army and all the girls had been married off somewhere. I realized now for sure what I was afraid of. I didn't have a home to go back to.
If Taharqa got rid of me there was no where to go back to. All I was depending on now was his word. It seemed so fragile. He could change his mind any day now and I'd be nothing. I
Ren turned around before he cleared out the room,
"Are you going to be ok, Menice?
I can stay around a little longer and keep
you company if you like."
It wasn't just what I liked, it was what I wanted at that moment. The Chief had been the only thing that kept me even somewhat content with my life at this point. Taharqa had ignored me and the Chief was just there with his charming grin. What would him staying longer entail though? That was what I couldn't figure out. I didn't know what it meant and I was sure he hadn't thought about it either. It was a dangerous thing to do. I could not get comfortable to anyone even if I wanted to. The king had made it very clear that he would go up against an entire kingdom for me. I was sure a chief would be no big feat for him either.
"You sure," he stated taking a step in.
I smiled back, "Yeah."
He nodded and walked away. I could see he was reluctant to go. I didn't want him to go to honestly. He was so damn charming. The conversations that we struck up were so good. He could talk more than anyone I knew. Looking at him, that didn't seem the case but the more I talked to him the more it did.
I strolled into the room and went to my bath.
"Heb bring my creams. Make sure the door is locked as well. If anyone comes I am not to be disturbed."
I got naked and started towards the tub. The tub was lined up with crystals. A few of my servant boys had laid them in the water. The crystals came from the Asiatic nations up north. I loved them. There was a strange incent burning in the room...one that I could understand.
In the darkness in my bath I closed my eyes and I saw him...Taharqa. I saw his beautiful body. I wished he was with me. The idea of him being in this bath with me at this point took me into ecstasy. I could close my eyes and feel his lips against mine. I could feel him touching me and holding me. The way he claimed me was something that I could never deny. He couldn't deny me now could he? He loved me since he was a child. He couldn't deny me now.
I kept saying the same thing in my bath alone hoping that it was true but then all of a sudden I saw him...Si Ren interfere into that dream for a quick second.
"Ah!" I jumped to my feet almost splashing into the bath that was built into the ground. I looked up only to see Heb. He had brought more milk for my bath.
"Did I startle you sir?"
"No Heb," I replied, "I needed more. Thank you. It's so soothing. You make the best baths. I'm glad you are here. It seems like I can't trust anyone any longer. You seem like the only one."
"Yes," he replied, "I like to think we've gotten past the stage where I thought you were a money-grabbing harlot and you thought I was a snotty servant who was always out of place."
We laughed together at that moment. I remembered how I used to feel about Heb. It was almost like yesterday. Yet he had been the only companion that I had this entire time throughout the palace. He had been the only one that stayed on.
"You better be careful. Aya's getting bigger. She doesn't like people to be mean to her master."
I looked over at the lioness. She was still just a cub. She was laid out beside the pool on the marble stone that was below it. She was indeed growing into a creature. The trainer came over more often now because he was scared her instinct may come out. I knew it wouldn't though, at least not with me. I looked in my eyes and I understood Aya. She was just like me. We were beasts that had been tamed and lived beautifully.
"She's too big. While you were out exploring today, I had to go buy her pounds of meat from the market. The smell was hideous."
I laughed tenderly, "I wasn't exploring. Heb I went home today. Isn't that strange that I would go back there?"
He seemed confused, "Why would you go back there?"
wanted to make sure it wasn't where I was going to be," I stated and shook my
head, "Heb I hadn't been quite honest before.
My mother had always plotted to have the king fall in love with me.
It was because of her that I'm even here
today and it hurts that she can't share any of it with me."
"Wait...how did she do that?" he asked confused.
mother has many ties in the palace. I am
almost sure that she used to work in the palace before.
She knew just how I should serve
royalty. She went by Ta but her real
name was Ta-Opet but I always found it strange how
she banned me from using it."
He was frozen in place.
"Yes. Ta-Opet. You know the name? Did you know my mother?"
he nodded and shook his head smiling, "She was a servant here in the palace
with me. She was a very ...strong willed woman.
It makes sense she is your mother.
Who would have known. She was very well liked."
"Oh...I'm glad you aren't upset."
I turned away towards the water and began to soak in the water. The comfort rinsed me away. It was the first person that had known my mother. I relaxed in the water and closed my eyes to let my mother's image fill my head. She was a strong looking woman. Her face was squared and still she could be very elegant if she wanted to. She wasn't beautiful to me but she was elegant. She could be very crude sometimes however and very manly. She was not the most delicate character but she had class and position. She had posture.
"I'm happy if anything. I'm glad you didn't tell anyone though. It would have made people understand why you were in the palace more."
"Tell me about my mother. Rock me to sleep with what you know about her."
"She always seemed to be making one plan or another..."
He continued on with stories of my mother. He didn't seem to give any specific details. It was clear he didn't know her too well but maybe had run across her time and time again. Still to hear stories of my mother and home made me feel good. It made me feel like it was ok. I felt so warm and I wished she was there with me. I wished she could see me now. I wished she could feel how warm this bath was compared to the cold hard bathhouse. I wasn't scrubbing anyone else or cleaning up after anyone. I had people cleaning up after me. She would have been so proud. Isn't this what she wanted? So why did she disappear.
"Remember that letter that I found,"Heb continued, walking away to get more warm milk to fill my bath, " I hadn't been totally honest. You see I can read. The letter wasn't exactly a random note for your mother. I don't think the killer got your mother. I think she's alive."
heart got warm.
"Oh my god are you serious?"
He pourded the warm milk into the bath, "Yeah pretty sure she's alive. They didn't get here."
"So what was written on the note if it wasn't ransom request."
"They were instructions. I'm supposing the person who left it knew you couldn't read. You see Menice. They were instructions to kill you. They were written to me..."
I got up in confusion trying to figure out what he meant by that but before I could turn around I could feel my head going under the water!
Heb had jumped over me and his hands had circled around my neck!
His hands were like claws. His nails were long and sharp. They dug through the skin of my esophagus. My naked body beat up against him trying to push him away but my hands kept slipping with all the milk that was on them. I couldn't get a good hold of him. My entire body was slipping. It was almost as though he had poured the milk on purpose.
He dumped me in the water!
No I was helpless...
struggled on pushing him. Would anyone know how I died?
Would anyone even remember my name?
He dumped me in the water again. This time he was able to hold me down longer. This time water filled my nostrils. I panicked! I screamed only to be gagged by the water. My hands wailed at him. I couldn't see. I couldn't even stand.
My naked body was sitting lifeless as I watched my life drift away.
Someone help me.
No one would hear me. The darkness surrounded me.
anyone even remember my name?