For updates on these stories... Please join us at the Yahoo Group...for discussion of the story and to give some feedback about what you think about the story, as well as other stories by this author.
I hurried to through the halls and up the long side pathways.I had never been in this place before.It was a maze of grandeur.All around me was expense.All around me was signs and warnings that I was in a place I didn't belong.
Why did they have to make their hallway so long?
These long empty halls made of only marble and torches with Egyptian musk floating through the air. The statues of their gods were standing out proclaiming how great Nubia was. I was running because I was late to meet the Pharaoh.
The other boys had left me. No one had woke me up...not even Husain.
They knew what it meant to me to be near the king. They knew how important it was for me. Why would they do this?Why would they set me up to fail like this? My anger started bubbling up in me as I kept down the long hall.
I had come to the end. There were the guards there. It had to be a handful of guards but they looked very strong and dangerous.I could tell I must have been in the right place.
"Who are you boy? You realize you are running through the imperial palace. You can't proceed any further without permission."
"I have permission."
"From the Pharaoh," I stated shaking my head, "Look here is a stamp of approval given to me by the chief of the scribe school. I write the king's personal thoughts."
"Oh you are one of those boys," the guards stated shaking his head, "Those boys were here a lot earlier. Aren't you a little late?"
I was a lot late. I hurriedly showed him the papyrus which stated exactly who I was. It had an official seal on it. I knew these guards probably were dumb as rocks and couldn't read a damn thing. I just hated the fact that they were still stalling me. I couldn't stand it. How had I managed to oversleep?How could I have not heard eight other boys getting ready? It was impossible unless they intentionally snuck out of the room without me noticing. There was no other way to explain this! Why would they do this to me? I didn't quite understand but it didn't cause my anger to subside any faster.
"Please just let me in," I stated, not trying to waste another minute.
The guard nodded, "You're going to regret coming in around this time...he's at it again."
It didn't really click to me what the guard had said until after he had opened the door and let me in. It wasn't until I walked into the room that I realized exactly what the guard was telling me.I watched as the guards quickly shut the door behind him as though locking me in a tomb or something.
At that point I saw a vase being thrown across the room at top speed and it crashed against the floor almost hitting a little servant girl who just so happened to be in the way. Luckily it managed to miss her though and she ducked to her feet to take cover.I looked at who had thrown it to see Menice standing there.
The king was dressed up in ceremonial attire. It was times like this that I doubted that he was even human.He was made up and almost glowing.His skin was golden.It was almost as though his skin was flickering with light fires in every pore. It was beautiful. What amazed me the most was his huge blue crown.I had read about the crown but had never seen it. In the books I'd read they'd called the crown a Khepresh. It had a cobra at the front and the huge crown was decorated with golden and bronze discs. I wondered if It was heavy but by the way Menice flung his head around in anger I figured it wasn't.
"Someone calm him down."
The voice of reason here was Siren Boos. The general seemed the only one who was in the line of fire of the king.I wondered if all the anger was being directed at him. The thought of it kind of made me smile.I hoped that was the case.
"Calm me down? Calm me down?"Menice threw his hands up, pushing the general, "I am in no position to be calmed.I don't need therapy or advice or anything else. For years these creatures have been plaguing me and I've had enough. They are a necessity and that is the only reason I allow them in my kingdom. But they will not be in my palace. No more women in my palace!"
He was having a tantrum.
It had been only two days since the dinner at the House of Safflowers.From there I could tell Menice wasn't too fond of the female gender. I could tell he had a reluctance when it came to them. I had no idea it was so serious that he would ban them from the palace all together.
"Your vizier is a woman. Your top bodyguard is a woman."
"They will be the exceptions."
I looked over at
the women who the General mentioned.
Boxy, the king's top bodyguard stood beside him.I don't think she moved even an inch even as
the king flung décor all around the room.
It didn't bother her none the less.
Widow was smiling from the shadow of the king's throne.The throne room was decorated elaborately and
she seemed to somehow miss the most of the king's outburst.
The general was taking most of the king's tantrum. The guards, my fellow scribes, some advisors and the female servants were taking the most of damage though. The king was throwing something at anyone who was close enough to have something thrown at them. No one could raise a voice to speak out against him besides the General. Half the time they allowed themselves to be hit by the objects thrown at them by the king.
"What about the priestesses!"
"They will dress like men if they want to enter my court," the king stated, "And general you will stop moving when I throw things at you! I mean to hit you, damn it!"
The king tossed something else at the general and the general did move.It was as though he was the only one who got away with being rude to the king. He was the only one who got away with not following a direct order.Menice seemed to be getting more and more angry by the minute.
"Widow aren't you going to say something to him?" the general asked.
The Vizier just shook her head and smiled, "He is a not a man. Menice is a god.His will is law and this law is unwavering. If Menice calls for these actions then they are to be done.From this day forth all women most have special permission to enter into the king's royal palace.All women are to leave now."
At that point the wave of female servants began to leave the room.It seemed like a sad thing for them.I remember Fukayna had once mentioned that a lot of the servants in the main palace were actually born and raised to just serve that particular duty.It was there life.Still...there were other palaces they could work in. I'm sure there were other duties they could attend to without being in this particular palace. I could see the majority of them were very beautiful women as well.I noticed how the general looked at them. He was angry that they were leaving. I could understand now what Menice was so angry about.
The general seemed to be exploding. I was really trying to understand what was going on here. Why was the general so angry? Why was Menice so set on having all women not be allowed to enter the royal palace?
The general seemed to be fuming. I just knew he was going to say something. It kind of scared me to see them both so angry.
"Is this the great Menice? So threatened by women."
"Threatened?" Widow argued, "General you lose face. This is not a man you speak to..."
Menice had stopped Widow from continuing to remind the general of his status. He had done so in a way that I didn't expect. It was a silent way. He just raised his hand and his Vizier stopped speaking. By now it seemed like Menice and the General had traded emotions. Menice seemed like the more calm one now.He had mellowed out almost completely.
"Listen good. Boos.Let me enhance you with knowledge of a king. Take this knowledge and allow yourself to be inundated with it. Let my words be a confirmed as a natural science. Make this as sure as breathing itself. This is my fact. I am not defeated by anyone."
The king left the throne room at this time.
Behind him followed the silent Boxy and a host of his guards.In the room now were Siren Boos with several soldiers and Widow who remained almost gloating down on him.
"Have your men clean this up," Widow ordered.
A smile spread across her face in a taunting way and she followed behind the trail of the king. I could see Siren Boos there and he was in many ways still angry.
"DO IT!" He ordered his men before leaving.
The men he ordered listened to him and stayed to clean up after the tantrum that Menice had left in the throne room.Menice had really done a number. I had heard stories of how beautiful and elaborate the throne room of the king of Nubia was. Now the stories had all been laid aside by Menice's anger.
I walked through the room to see that the scribes had been tasked to do the work as well.I met Husain at the end of the hall.
He didn't reply. He just stood there and looked at me and then turned away. He didn't have any facial expression on his face. I didn't understand it.
"He isn't going to talk to you. None of them are."
I turned around to see Kakra standing there.He wasn't cleaning up like the others.He didn't even seem interested in trying to look like he wanted to clean up. He just had on this look like nothing even mattered. I felt a disrespect.Husain was one of the closest friends I had made since my arrival to Nubia and he just shunned me. He made it so obvious that he had shunned me as well. It didn't make any sense at all.
"What the hell is going on?" I asked.
"I heard them talking last night," Kakra replied, "It seems they don't support your new relationship with the king."
My skin seemed to get really fired up. I could tell it was anger that was making my temperature rise like this.I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"It's not hard to see that why. Some of these people spent their lives just wanting to be acknowledged by the king and here you come along, ignorant boy from the Dahkla Oasis.You aren't even Nubian.Yet you are chosen as his personal journalist."
I looked over at Husain and the other boys. They were all watching Kakra and I talking. They weren't close enough at this time to hear exactly what we were talking about but as they cleaned up behind Menice I could feel tension. There eyes were solid on me.I didn't understand it.It didn't make any sense to me at all.
I turned to Kakra noticing he was the only one talking to me.
"Is that why they
left me this morning?"
"Yes.It seems like everyone is on edge today. There is horrible feeling going around. Menice and the general arguing. I hear that's just normal business. A lover's spat."
"They aren't lovers..."
"Did I touch a nerve?"
He had definitely touched a nerve. I shook my head though. I didn't want him to let me know exactly what bothered me. I didn't understand Kakra yet. I didn't want to put too much into him. I actually preferred not to even be talking to him at this moment, yet Husain and the others were all acting so strange.
I turned away and started walking away down the hall.With the king upset there was no reason for us to really report for the day.
Kakra quickly ran up behind me and grabbed me, "Wait..."
"What is it? Clearly you are know my stupid little secret.Are you going to hold it against me?"
I couldn't read him. Everything about Kakra just seemed a little weird.
"We are a lot alike you and I," he replied which surprised me most of all, "I know people like us aren't usually friends but that doesn't mean we can't be.Listen you've already been marked.When it comes to the pharaoh people star acting funny. Everything about him is a real touchy subject. Fukayna...he told us to leave you this morning and it's because he doesn't like the fact that you've brought us so close to the king. These are dangerous times and that boy is boy poison and target.You don't want to be near him."
I turned away from Kakra and walked away.Again yet another warning was coming from someone. It seemed like all I was getting was warnings to stay away from Menice and the more warnings I go the more intrigued I got.
They were all acting funny to me later that night. It was a day after when we were all gathered in the library in our studies. I would have assumed Husain would have had a lot to say to me about the entire argument between the Pharaoh and the general. I would have assumed it would have been a big thing. Normal Nubians usually didn't have the privilege to sit on things like that.I wondered what he thought about it but I never had to ask. He was just sitting there quietly.
"Did Fukayna stop you from talking to me?"
"I don't know what you are talking about."
I looked over at Fukayna.His eyes were glaring at me from the other side of the room. Why would he care so much about the fact that the king was giving me attention?I didn't understand what was going on in this city.
It was almost like adding flame to a fire when the soldiers came into the room. They immediately got a lot of attention. There were several of them. They were all dressed expensively. It scared me a little to be honestbecause they were intimidating figures.
Fukayna immediately stopped them.
"What's going on here?" He questioned them.
"Order of the king...to get one of your boys."
Without anyone really saying anything they all knew who it was.They all looked at me and the messengers nodded when Fukayna himself acknowledged me.I could see the glares behind my back as I got up. I looked back at Husain one last time. I wanted this.Isn't it what I wanted? I just wanted to be noticed by Menice even for a second. I thought Husain would have supported that as my friend but instead he was brushing me off a little bit.
I followed the guards leaving behind Fukayna and the other boys. I retreated to a false confidence in the idea that there was something that Menice could find in me to be even slightly interesting. The truth was I just felt I would bore him.
The night was beautiful. They ended up taking me to a garden not that far from the library.It was a beautiful garden that seemed a little detached from the chains of other palaces.The garden was extensive expanding well throughout a courtyard and it seemed easy to get lost in.Though it was nice, it didn't seem like a royal place that a king would find amusement. It seemed like a nice place for maybe noblemen to take a stroll in the middle of the day. I assumed that was what the garden was usually intended for. As I got to the end of the garden though I saw him.He was sitting there and he had tears in his eyes.
I realized about a few feet away was about 5 guards and the red haired woman Boxy. His escorts didn't seem to interested in the fact that he was crying tears.I could tell they were on edge due to the fact that the King of this great empire was in a garden in the middle of the night with just a handful of men to protect him. I could see that these men were all on their guards tonight.
"You called for me?" I asked
bowed down as low as I could.
"I needed to record something with you. My feelings you know."
He whispered almost. Menice's eyes were still watery and he hadn't yet looked over to me.I luckily had come prepared with a scroll for writing. I rolled it out and put it on the ground of the garden and looked up at him prepared.
is it that's on your mind?"
That was when he said it, "I love him."
My hand shook to write the words. My heart beat faster as I thought about the words that I was just going to put on this papyrus. At this point instead of writing it I just looked up at him.
"You sure you want me to write that?"
Menice seemed a little surprised at my answer, "Of course. Why would I ask you to write that if I didn't wish you to?"
"Love is a complicated thing," I replied trying my best to change the subject.
"Don't question me! Don't you have any idea what I've gone through.You know how many days I sat up thinking about this left and right? You know how many times I put myself through the same thoughts as you?"
He was screaming nearly at the top of his lungs. I could tell it was pure emotion coming out.I watched as the guards looked at me weary that I had gotten their master upset. They didn't seem to be in the conversation and once they saw that I was not a threat to him they turned their attention back to the darkness.
"I could see that I'm upsetting you. Maybe I should leave?"
It was the only thing that I could say. Truthfully it was exactly what I wanted to do.I wanted to get up and walk out of here.I hadn't come here write about the king's love for the general. Truthfully I didn't even want to know about.
I had turned around and everything and was on my way out when I heard his voice trail from behind me speaking very softly with but with a sense of authority, "You haven't been dismissed."
I turned back to him. Dismissed? I knew his authority but somehow his forcefulness still came as a sort of surprise. I turned to him and made my way to him and stood right in front of him with the same piece of scrap paper. This time I didn't smile. Truthfully I didn't want to smile. Sitting here with him was hard enough let alone hearing about some other man.
"Fine. Sir...what would you like me to put about your love."
He seemed hesitant all of a sudden.
"Perhaps you're right. Not love.Write that I am infatuated with the general," the king stated, "I moved his quarters to my main palace. I figured we'd have time to be closer. That is what he said he wanted you know. I don't want to look like I'm crazy as though I just started this whole love affair out of thin air. He told me that's what he wanted...you know?"
He was emotional. He was shaking because he was so mad. He was so damn handsome. It was hard to quite describe how attractive I was to him.
"So everything should be fine right?" I chanted in again.
I knew I was crossing my line. I was glad that woman Widow wasn't around to hear me. She seemed to get angry when someone spoke out against the king even when he was wrong.I didn't want her to hear the fact that I was being sarcastic with the man she adored so much.
"It should be fine," he stated shaking his head and crossing his arms, "Everything should be fine, except he isn't satisfied. He always found women. And he'd chose to talk to a woman instead of speaking to me.He chose that many times.And look at me after all these years and accomplishments, I am still being rejected."
I noticed he wasn't crossing his arms. He was actually hugging himself. I could see how lonely he was as he crossed the room.
"Do you want me to write all of that?"
He paused for a minute and shook his head, "Off the record."
I nodded and put down my papyrus, "Did you want to keep talking...just for me to listen?"
He laughed a little bit. For a slight moment I felt like I was just overreaching again. Why was I speaking to the king as though I was on the same level as him? I was nothing more than a servant. Of course I was the servant that he had chosen to record his deepest, darkest secrets but I was still just a servant nothing more.
"You must find me so silly. You know I can't even write. That's why I need you here. I wasn't trained to write," he replied and laughed a little bit, "It's so embarrassing to have someone hear truly how weak I am when I put on a front of people seeming so strong."
"I don't think you're weak."
"Well you don't know me."
There was silence. It wasn't an awkward silence. Well there was some awkward feeling to it but it seemed more like a silence that was about accepting. I was accepting that fact that I didn't know him. He was completely right. I think he was also accepting the fact that he was telling a complete stranger all his most personal business.
"Would you like to talk to me?" I asked again this time with a little more assertiveness, "Or would you like to dismiss me?"
I didn't know what was coming over me. Maybe the fact that he was attracted to the general I felt like I had to be a little bit more aggressive with him. Maybe he preferred the aggressive type. I couldn't help but trying it just a little bit to see how he would react.
He nodded his head, "What was your name again?"
I almost wanted to kill myself. Here I was dedicating myself to a king and he couldn't even remember my name? I felt so embarrassed. I was way over my head.
name is Jabari."
"Well Jabari have you ever been in love?"
The question hit me like a ton of bricks. If only he knew. If only he knew how I felt about him right at this moment. He was asking me in all seriousness too.
"Yes," I replied.
He smiled back at me, "Great then you know how it is.So he made me get that feeling and he took it back. It happens to me so often. Being that I prefer men has caused me so many problems.The little bit of family I have is against me because they feel like I would be the end to the dynasty since I cannot produce an heir with another man. Then there are the priests. And then there is Siren Boos..."
"Do you think he loves you?"
I wondered if I was prying.By his smile I could see that I hadn't pushed too deep though.
He shrugged his shoulders, "I have no idea. I throw these tantrums hoping to get his attention .Just recently he came to my room to apologize. Of course I told them I didn't want to have an audience with him. He went away. I did want to have an audience with him though. I was thinking about calling him back...seeing what he had to say about the fight."
"What do you love about him?"
"What do you mean?
"I mean what is it that has you so in love."
He thought for a minute. I guess no one had asked him that questioned. I was almost positive no one had asked him that question.
"He made me," Menice stated looking into the sky above as though trying to fit his story into the stars, "He was a general and I was just a boy who happened to be born with royal blood. He used his army and his influence to win me the throne.He had no reason to do this. He did it because he believed in me."
"The Vizier believes in you but you aren't in love with her..."
I couldn't help but to laugh a little bit too. I was only laughing because I actually had been completely serious.I didn't understand these feelings he was having for the General. What had the general done to make Menice so dedicated?
"The Vizier thinks I'm a god. The General...he thinks of me as a man. Only problem is he doesn't like men. He likes women. Something about their soft curves he goes running back to them. So I banned them. What was I supposed to do?Was I wrong? Was I immature?"
I wanted to tell him no. I wanted to tell him anything that would cause a bigger rift of disagreement between him and Siren Boos. Still I couldn't though. I cared too much about him.
I couldn't believe I had just called the king wrong and immature. I watched his face closely for expression but he seemed just a curious.It was hard to explain in any other way.
"I didn't expect you to say that."
I nodded, "I have to be realistic. You are running from something that you can't change. You banning women from the palace may make it harder for him but nothing is impossible. If you were thirsty and water was a little further away, wouldn't you go to it still?"
"I think you're right..."
In the next two days the king had released his ban on women in the palace. .He didn't say it but I knew I had something to do with his decision. That was how it started that the king started to ask me to be around me more often and he started to talk in a conversational way.
That is also when the scary things began.