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I sat in the darkness hypnotized by the presense of strange figures. I couldn't tell exactly who was who. There were several of them but from my viewpoint. I only saw four of them. I saw Kakra. He was standing in the background. He seemed a little muted for the first time in the presence of all these people. For the first time he was the outspoken person I knew him to be. He was just standing there silently.
In front of him there was a table with three women. They were royalty. I could tell from their crimson slated slash. Two of them were older and they both sat off to the side. The youngest one who was also the most beautiful had a stern look on her face. It was almost like she something had caused her to lose her smile or something.
She raised her head up as though there was something wrong with her neck, "We are gathered here to discuss the assassination of Menice."
I thought to myself maybe I should leave.
I had stumbled on something I had no business stumbling on.
It was even stranger to me that Kakra would be here. I knew he hated the Pharaoh and the current position but why would he put himself in a position like this with all these strange people. I wondered who else was in the room. I wish I could somehow enter the room without being noticed and just take a look around. Who were all these conspirators? It definitely was a lot more than just three women and Kakra. There were men involved.
"Kandace Nyla...some things are impossible. Especially now with Chenen in chains."
The reply had come to the youngest woman. They referred to her as a Kandace. I had read in these parts of Nubia they referred to their Queens as a Kandace. I guess it was just the name they used for them.
She responded, "Nothing is impossible."
"Are you suggesting a coo? His defenses are unmatched by any other pharaoh before him. We wouldn't get close."
"Not unless we knew someone from the inside," the Kandace replied, "Here by my side lies a scribe student in the house of Fukayna. His name is Kakra. He has given us proof of the King's actions. According to him the King will be dining at the House of Safflowers. This is the day that the tea that he drinks must be his last."
I started to move away until I walked away.
I had gotten involved in too much and I knew I didn't need to even think about this. Why did I have to put my nose where it didn't belong once again? Why was that such a theme with me lately?
I managed to get far away enough so I could catch my breath. I wondered who the other people in the room was but I didn't want to think about it. I wanted all this to be some sort of dream. I felt now stuck in a decision. I had to act, but how? I could report what I saw but I would be putting my self at stake against people who I didn't know. There was no way to guarantee my safety.
The next day the thoughts hadn't left my head from what I witnessed the day before. I managed to close my mouth and try to remain as anonymous as possible as I struggled to decide what to do with the information. The library was buzzing with all the news that had gone on the day that the great General came down and was so impressed by Fukayna's students. Kakra and Husain's debate was the topic on everyone's lips. They were looking very popular at this point.
I wished I could be happy for them or if I could even pay attention to them. I didn't though. My eyes just turned to Kakra. How deep into this was he?
seem distant today," Husain stated, "You been writing a lot of poetry lately
"I always right poetry."
"What is that one called?"
"It's called a Deranged Lament."
"Why would you write that?" Husain said, "I want you to be careful. I heard some of the older scribes talking. They notice you do a lot of poetry but not a lot of scribe work. They might get offended. What is on your mind. Why can't you focus?"
We were sitting in the library. It was the end of the day. I hadn't said a word to Husain all day nor any of the others. I had was so lost in my thoughts. Who were these three women that were plotting against the king. Why was Kakra in that room with them?
Who were they going to send to assassinate the king on the night of at the House of Safflowers?
"I'm just thinking a lot."
I was silent for a moment. Husain would run to the highest authority with this information if I told him it. I knew for sure he would do it with hesitation. The dinner at the house of Safflowers would be cancelled. It would be chaos. And it would probably all fall on him. That would have been the smart thing to do. It would have been a good idea to just let him handle it and make the big scene that Husain seemed to like making.
He had this suspicious look on his face. It was as though Husain could read my mind. He was always a very politically correct individual and I could predict everything about him. I could tell right now he was trying to get into my mind.
"How far is the royal palace from here?" I asked.
"A few miles down. The library is connected to all the palaces of the king. It is actually a palace," Husain stated, "What made you ask that?"
His face was still suspicious.
"I wanted to do some research on the royal family. You know so we can know how to behave at in the House of Safflowers."
"What royal family? I hope you don't mean the king. You wouldn't get anywhere near him without an invite. That's suicide."
I needed to know who the three women that were called "Kandace" were. Why would they refer to them as Queens. Perhaps they were wives of the King? I had never heard of the king having wives. These women were older as well. They all seemed somewhat older than the king.
Husain shook his head, "Why? What are you looking for?"
I shook my head, "Nevermind."
It'd be impossible to get any information from Husain and I knew it. I knew that would probably be one of the most foolish quests I could possibly partake.
I got up off my seat and walked away and could feel his eyes piercing behind me. He was suspicious and he wasn't going to any lengths to hide it. I knew too much and I wasn't good at pretending I didn't. The figures at night had spooked me. I didn't know how to react to them.
On my way out I saw Kakra. He was standing by the door. His face looked the same. He studied more than all the other boys and barely spent time socializing at all. However at this time he seemed to have been taking a break by the threshold.
"Jabari," he called for my attention.
I had never heard him speak my name. I turned to see Kakra standing there with his hands crossed. He reached out and strangely he touched me on my shoulder. For a moment I was kind of confused because I knew for sure that he didn't do things like this. He wasn't a physical person especially not physical in a positive way.
"I want to thank you. I never got the chance to."
My heart beat. Was he talking about the secret that I found out about? Did he know that I had spent my night following him only to discover he was sourcing the king's assassins with information.
I was barely breathing at this point.
"You helped me up that day that soldier attacked me. I was kind of rude, but I'm assuming it was just embarrassment."
I quickly turned and started to walk away. I didn't want anything to do with this boy. He was nothing but trouble that was showing more and more clearly every day. I needed to stand clear of him and I knew it. However even as I tried to make my quick escape I saw him walking with me for a little bit. At first it was in silence but then he kind of turned to me expecting me to say something to him.
"You ok? I asked him.
He was still walking with me, "You aren't familiar with a lot of things in Nubia are you?"
"No I'm not. My village was kind of remote."
He looked at me with a strong look. Since we lived here I had never seen Kakra reach out to someone to be social in any means at all. This was a different thing for him to do. He was actually making an effort to talk to me. He was doing it in a friendly way too. A smile was across his face. You would never think this was the conspirator from just the night before.
Kakra shook his head, "You're a good man, but this isn't really a place for good man. In these times, Nubia can convert a good man...and turn him into a not so good man."
His warning was sharp and precise. He had a lingering stare as though wanting to spark up some conversation from his comment. A part of me did want to spark up some conversation from the comment but instead I just let it go.
"Are you a good man Kakra?" I asked him.
"Not so much anymore. None of us are."
I wonder who he meant by "us". Was it the men he had been talking to last night? I didn't ask. His eyes were cold distant. It made me wonder what was behind them even more. How could he hate something so beautiful as the king?
I nodded and walked away knowing he wanted to continue talking to me. I just felt uncomfortable though. There was something about Kakra that made me nervous. There was something about him that I couldn't put my finger on. It was some sort of knowing that he had that I didn't understand. I wish I could ask him all the questions I wanted to ask him. I wish I could just wonder ask him who he was and where he was from. How did he get mixed up in the things that he got mixed up in?
The city seemed so much smaller when you entered it. The ground of the library and the palaces surrounding it were all paved roads. They were all very clean with attendants constantly seeing to it. They were a metropolis of knowledge and beauty everywhere. People seemed eager to gossip in the middle of the street and debate politics. From the paved roads I could look up and see the bright sky. Highlighting that sky was the Pharaoh's royal palace. It was an immense building towering above the other palaces. Huge obelisks added to the grandeur of the palace. He was there...Menice...he was there...and it made me feel so close to him.
I started to walk to the palace like some kind of animal hypnotized by food. I don't know why I made myself suffer like this. He probably didn't never would notice me a day in his life. I probably wouldn't even get a second look from him. Still I walked on. At this point the day was in it's climax. People were busily scurrying between the many palaces of the king. These palaces were all externalities of his power I assumed. I wasn't quite sure why there were so many but I knew they were beautiful. They seemed to serve some sort of purpose and everyone seemed so busy. Besides the library, I had no idea what could be so important to the king.
"You can't go any further without a permit."
I hadn't noticed how far I had gotten. I was stopped though by someone who looked like a priest but I wasn't quite sure who he was. He was an older man and had a shawl on. He walked in slow steps like a priest and he gave me a belittling look.
"You are too close to the king."
The palace had to still be a while away. It could barely even see it. I hadn't even reached the palace gardens. Was this how hard it was to reach him?
"I'm sorry. I had a question."
"There are three queens...do you know how they are related to him and where I can find them."
He seemed unsettled by the question, "You shouldn't talk about things that could possibly get you in trouble young sir."
He looked at me with suspicious eyes. I rathered the suspicious eyes from him than from Husain though. It was exactly why I couldn't ask Husain so many questions. They were suspicious because I didn't know anything about this strange land or their customs or anything they did.
"Fine I can ask them myself."
"No you can't."
"And why not? Can I not get close to them like I can't get close to the king?"
"The Three Kandaces are taboo. The queens have been marked by the king as ghosts. No one is to communicate with them. No one is talk to them. The punishment for speaking to them can be imprisonment. No one is to acknowledge their presence until they die. They haunt the palace grounds here. They can go as they please and they are free to do so...but they are ghosts."
"Who would he do that to?"
"They are his sister, his birth mother and his stepmother."
The week had gone by quickly. After hearing about the three queens, I found myself unsteady. I wanted to talk to Kakra about what he knew but I still didn't completely trust him. I could only imagine living a life where no one was allowed to speak to you. I couldn't imagine living such a life like that. I felt the shiver come up my spine at the thought of it. They were truly ghosts. That is how that existence had to be like. They just wandered around not being acknowledged as if they didn't exist. It was a punishment almost worst then death. It was as though they were experiencing their death while still alive.
It made me wonder what I had gotten myself into and by the night that Achebe came for Fukayna's nine scholars I was more frightened and confused then excited.
"You look nice..."
I turned to see Husain standing next to me. We had all put on our finest attire. I could feel my heart steadily thumping I ignored it though. I smiled back at Hussain.
This was the day we were waiting for...
came for us and we headed off towards the outer city, away from the palaces.
I noticed Kakra was
among the front of our group. I guess
they kept him there thinking that he would be himself.
He would be the entertaining thought
provoking person that proved himself over and over to be.
It would be good for their appearance.
I could tell Achebe had no idea what the hell he was doing. What the hell was so exciting about hate? Bringing Kakra to meet the king was dumb on all sides.
We arrived at the House of Safflowers to be met with music. The music was loud as we enter the gates of the house. It was a huge house, similar to the size of some of the smaller palaces. However unlike the clustered palaces, this house stayed apart from any other plot of land around it. It was completely isolated. The front had a garden of sand and as we walked it huge torches lined the area.
I could tell by the presence of guards that the king had definitely already arrived. There were guards in every corner of my eye. They had the same eerie strength to them that made me feel uneasy and threatened. As we entered the House I was blown away.
I made my way to the front to see all these things.
"Isn't it a mess...I heard stories about this place. Who knew that it was actually true. Our ancestors are crying right now," I heard Kakra say to me.
I hadn't even noticed that I walked so far up that I was next to him. He had stepped out of my way for a second to give me a better look at the scene.
There were so many men in this place. They were all young men and they all varied but they were all very attractive. There was a smell of sex in the air as we walked in the room. What was this place? The torches had a tint of blue to them. I wondered if this was some sort of magic or something. How could torches have blue flames? At the very end of frames I could see boys...there were so many of them.
"What is this place?"
In the distance I could see two boys walking towards us. They were naked. Their bodies were muscular forming. They stopped walking about halfway and their eyes remained on us. One had long hair locked in dreds and the other had a very short haircut. Both were darker tone but they looked very similar as if they could be related. It was until they started kissing that I realized they couldn't be related. They kissed passionately. A lot of the boys from the scribe hall turned away or looked curiously on in surprise. I was one who just stared in surprise. It wasn't long before the two boys noticed they had an audience. One grabbed the other's crotch and began to tug at it. The other with the longer hair began to moan enjoying it. Their bodies were so wet as though they had been sweating all night. They seemed connected to each other and almost glued...sticking to one another.
I looked over at Kakra, "The king can't be here..."
"He likes it. He's one of them. They are Safflowers...all men who serve as the king's personal servants and bodyguards. They are sworn to him...and each other. No one else can touch them."
The king's bodyguards? I looked at several other men who came out from the shadows of the blue lights. These men were naked as well.
"I am Baba," one of the men stated.
He was tall and handsome. His face was without a blemish or a scar. His teeth were perfectly white. His eyebrows perfectly shaped and his appearance almost painted on. He was not masculine at all. He held onto his waist in a girly way and curved his hands in the same way.
"I am his brother Bubu..."another of the men stated, "We are the gatekeepers of the House of Safflowers."
They were twins. That was clear but this brother seemed much more masculine. His body was harder as well. His abs more defined. I couldn't help but compare their manhoods as they both stood there completely naked in front of us with no shame at all. My face was completely red as the feminine one Baba caught eye contact with me and smiled in a flirty way. I looked away.
"We were invited here by the General..."
know who you are," Bubu stated, "You wouldn't have gotten
this far if we didn't. Come...the king awaits."
The two twins walked over from us. I couldn't help but looking at how firm their asses were. My heart beat began to race as I heard sex in the background. I wondered if it was those two boys from earlier or maybe others as well. As we walked through we saw others. All were males. All had strong bodies. All were naked and all were undeniably attractive.
I could see Kakra was not amused. The response that everyone else gave seemed almost a little surprised. I guess it was the way to act. I hadn't known a place like this existed in the world.
We were guided to a door. At the door was a woman. She stuck out so sorely from all the rest and I could tell almost immediately she was a woman before I gotten close. She concealed her face though with some sort of strange veil. I'd seen her before. I'd seen her the night that Prince Chenen was brought in to Egypt in chains. She was standing right beside the king.
I could see immediately by how Achebe froze up and bowed that this woman was important. The others began to do the same thing all falling to one knee in her presence. Who was she?
I found myself getting to one knee as well almost automatically without even knowing why.
"I am Widow for those who are not familiar with me," she stated, "I am the Vizier of Nubia and advisor to the king. There are certain rules that you must follow in the presence of his Pharaoh. As not having any ranks, none of you are allowed to stare directly into the king's eyes for longer than 10 seconds. If you approach the king uninvited you will be struck down. If you cut off the king when he speaks, you will be severely beaten. If you leave the king's site without permission you will be scathed..."
She continued on her list. It would have been almost comedic if her voice wasn't so cryptic. She was very serious about her instructions. I knew the Vizier was the actual leader of the country even though the Pharaoh had the rank of leader. However the Pharaohs usually didn't have much diplomatic training. They were often times just figure heads of the nation who made final decisions when necessary. I knew the Vizier carried out the day to day management of the country. This woman was very important. Why did she hide her face though? I also knew Vizier's were mostly men. How come the King had allowed a woman to become a Vizier, especially one who was so strange and hidden as this one.
"You may enter," she finally advised.
I looked over at Kakra. He looked horrified. I could tell from the sweat rolling down his face. She made me nervous as well but he was on a entirely different fear level.
"Are you ok?"
"Don't let her notice you, whatever you do," he stated, "She's a witch..."
He had whispered it to me so low that I didn't get exactly what he said after that, but I knew it was nothing negative. I had got the part about him calling her a witch and everything else just kind of drifted apart. That was enough for my heart to start beating faster as well. I was an educated boy but being in this room it felt different. It felt like something I could believe. She had such a dark ominous presence that surrounded her. It wasn't good.
` "Kakra..." I called out trying to get some sort of closure to what he was saying. He had gone up ahead and I managed to lose him.
"Quiet!" Achebe stated, "We are about to be in the presence of the king.
"I'm nervous," I heard Husain whisper to me.
I hadn't noticed he was right behind me until I saw him there. Achebe shot him a vengeful stare and he quickly quieted down. Fat Achebe then started into the room with the other boys as we followed behind. We lagged in being the last only to notice that Widow was behind us.
I just managed to look back and see her presence all over me.
She didn't say anything and neither did I but the feeling wasn't a comfortable one. It was so dark and dreadful. I wanted to disappear away from it.
As I walked in the room I saw a huge table set up before a second platform base. The table on the platform base continued. There were several other guests who I didn't know already sitting on the lower levels. They all seemed just as nervous as we were and I could tell they were just as out of place once they had begun sitting down and everthing like that.
That was when I noticed the king.
My beautiful king...
He was sitting there...but he was distracted. General Si Ren Boos was in his ear saying something. I didn't know what it was because it seemed like it was whispered between the two.
Baba and Bubu came before the king bowed and turned away, "That is the last of your audience, King Menice."
I looked over at the naked boy as they exited the room. General Boos was still in the king's ear. It wasn't until the king held up his hand that the General nodded and took a few steps back. The general didn't sit at the table with the others though. He stood almost like a guard, as if the king didn't have enough guards standing around the table. The guards were heavily armed I expected them to be.
Almost immediately our eyes locked.
The king and I.
"You can sit boy," I heard Achebe say to me.
I ignored him. Everyone else was sitting now but me. I was still standing. I was still looking at the king on his golden chair. Our eyes were still connected. He had no emotion behind his glance but I wondered if he felt the emotion behind mine. The emotion rose over for me. It had never happened with anyone else before. I didn't know what it was really. It was pure emotion. Perhaps it was love at first sight. Perhaps that is what it was. I didn't know. I didn't care. I was too busy in the moment to try to explain it. Could he see what I saw?
I could love you forever if you'd let Menice.
No one would ever touch you. And when I find you I will kiss you...
For nothing else could ever distract me.
And no one else could ever love you...
Let me love you...
My love for him was a deranged anthem, stuck out in a world that I pledged out to him. I was doing my poetry again. I had spent so long just trying to see his eyes. I wouldn't just be erased like all the others.
Little did I know this night was going to be the beginning of a whole new different world for me.