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To his people he was half man, half God.
I walked through the steps as I approached the garden. I was escorted by an assistant to Heb. I guess with Heb's promotion he became the commander of many slaves below him. She spoke very little and guided me to the front of the garden that over looked the Pharaoh's palace.
I got to the top of the steps and the assistant nodded to me, "Heb will be with you in a minute."
She had a strong Hittite accent. She didn't look in my eye as she quickly ushered me to stay in place before she walked away. The garden was more like a large field of flowers. I looked up at the palace where it was attached. There were men there talking by the palace gates.
I made my way to of the royal palace. It was only a small section of the palace detached from the royal palace and the pharaoh's palace. There were several steps that led up to the palace and of course I couldn't go much further up the steps. There were guards of course. I wasn't sure exactly what was being guarded but as I got to the steps, I seemed to have a clue.
Chenen was there. He was a prince of Egypt. I was surprised to see him standing there with Heb and another. The other was the same advisor to Taharja. I got a better look at his face now then I did when in the room the night before. He was a man with a very long and skinny face. He wasn't very attractive at all. He looked like a skeleton almost. He was very skinny and very sickly looking especially when compared to the youthful and muscular Prince Chenen who stood next to him. Who was this man...and why was his face always showing up in places for only brief moments before disappearing?
The secret advisor was the one who noticed me first.
His eyes seemed to say it all. My eyes were unwelcome to their little meeting.
The others quickly noticed his diversion. Chenen was the first to leave. He only looked my way. He didn't even spend time to really evaluate who I was. I wondered if it even mattered to him. He seemed in a rush all of a sudden. He called for all the guards and him and his escorts disappeared into the palace.
The strange man remained for a second. He said something to Heb and gave him a stern look before looking back at me. Then he walked away slowly...through the gardens. He was in no rush at all.
have to come again the next day," Heb stated as he looked at me, "The king has
"But he invited me here."
"And he's been called away by duty. The first hunt of the Pharaoh is today. Or do you think you are more important than generations of tradition?"
I turned to walk away but quickly I felt Heb's hand grab my arm. He was abrasive. I could feel the threat as I turned towards him knew his aggression was no accident. His eyes were full of such aggression.
"Who are you boy?"
"And who is Menice?" he asked me.
I looked at him. It was such a strange question. It was as though he wanted a title. I could have said many things. I was a servant, but not a slave. My mother served as a priestess in a shrine. I was her only child. None of these things would have made any difference to him however. He was looking for another answer.
He was looking for something more.
I shrugged my shoulders, "I'm a nobody..."
"For your sake, I'd hope so."
He seemed satisfied with my answer and let me walk away. I watched Heb's eyes burning into my back however. I was sure they were still there staring. Why was he so suspicious and what exactly did he see in me that was causing him to feel so threatened?
For 12 days I went back to the palace gardens and for 12 days I wasn't even allowed past the steps of a smaller section of the palace, let alone the Pharaoh's palace. I was always received with denial. The king was always hunting or at war counsel or meeting with his administration. He simply didn't have the time for me.
"How is he like?"
The voice came from Aya. She was my nurse and my mother's closest friend. It was a unexpected dry day and a good day to wash clothes because the sun was high in the sky. Her children and other villagers were around. They all seemed to be budding into our conversation. They were amazed that I had spoken to the King. Half of them hadn't believed it and the ones that did were only expecting something horrible to happen to me.
I smiled, "He was kind, but that is what I can remember. Tomorrow will be my 13th day trying to see him."
"You should be careful," Ozembu replied, shaking his head, "These people are not like us. They are not common. Their minds are not simple minds."
Ozembu had been a friend from my childhood. That was when Ozembu's mother came into the conversation. Her name escaped me, but she never really treated me with a kind word. She spoke ill about me not being as tough as her son and the other boys. She hadn't taken the news of me going to the palace lightly.
I immediately grabbed for clothes knowing that she would be at my back. Aya and I exchanged looks. We already knew what type of conversation Ozembu's mother brought with her.
"You all believe this nonsense?" she stated, "Menice keeping the attention of the Pharaoh Emer? Have you all lost it? Look at you Menice you haven't had a clean shawl in weeks. The king has horses whose shit smell better than you."
I ignored the stab even while several others laughed including Ozembu until I shot him a deathly stare that made him stop right in between a chuckle.
"You'll see," I replied.
I walked away immediately.
Ozembu called back, "Menice where you going? Oh come back! You are made of tougher stuff, don't let the old lady get to you."
It was too late. She had taken stabs at me for years. They were the realists. They accepted their life dodging flies and fighting each day to avoid starvation. I removed myself from them and started towards the end of the my own hut. I was stopped however by Aya.
"You can't be so sensitive," she stated, "I always told you that."
not her. It's mother.
There's something I don't know Aya," I explained to her, crossing my arms and sitting on
the steps, "There are some things that I am not sure about.
How much do you know about my mother."
Aya didn't look me directly in my eyes, "You shouldn't worry about things like that. Why don't you tell me more about the King. When you talk about him your eyes light up..."
"Are you avoiding my question Aya?"
I looked at her sternly because I knew her enough to know that was exactly what she was doing. I thought I had an ally in trying to unravel the truth but I knew now even Aya knew more than I did.
"There are some things better not to know," she stated and looked at me, "Look at your face. You are so handsome but I'll tell you that we must do something with this hair of yours. The festival of Min is coming. It's fashionable for men to cut their hair and wear the noble wigs. I have one. And I'll show you how to mix blue lotus petals with your wine. The king would like that..."
She went on and on.
I stopped listening to her as she continued on ways to help me improve. I didn't want to even hear any of it. These people were different from me. They were lucky if they could get an appearance with the local scribe and I had managed to get it with Pharaoh who was above all.
I would do whatever she said. It didn't even matter. Slowly I wondered what would happen. I grabbed my wrist remembering what Heb had told me.
He said I'd better hope that I was nobody.
What did that mean?
News had gotten out that the Pharaoh was not in blood related to Emeric Dynasty. I wasn't sure from where but supposedly the word had come directly from inside the palace. He was the blood relative and an Egyptian Pharaoh of the Dynasty before. In the first weeks it was just a quiet rage with people whispering and spreading their anger. Soon things the bubbles began to boil. Kerma had begun to change all around me. I had never been a political soul but the politics were all around me. Kerma was a large city. In my knowledge the only city who contested it was Thebes in Upper Egypt. Almost two months had gone by since the last time I saw the Pharaoh.
I'd tried to move on with my life. My mother hardly spoke to me about it. I didn't know if she blamed me for not doing as I told her or whether she was convinced that he would come around sooner or later. She didn't talk about it at all. She barely spoke about anything. I was afraid to ask her the questions I wanted to ask her. My mother wasn't the one to be questioned. I knew how she would react and it wasn't in a positive way. She had disappeared a few nights ago. I had no idea where she went. I rarely did.
"Ozembu and the others are outside already," Aya told me.
The festival of Min was a huge one. The great festival was an Egyptian one. With Nubia and Egypt sharing so much culture it wasn't surprising that the festival had reached all the way down to Kerma. An Egyptian Pharaoh was on the throne but from a Nubian Dynasty. The cultures had merged and many people didn't like that.
Aya had warned me there would be resentment in the streets. There would be resentment towards the new Pharaoh. As she grabbed my hand and led me through the streets it seemed like almost immediately what she was saying came into manifestation.
"Stay close to me."
We had turned the corner to where the festivities were. The beer hall leaked with drunkards who took to the streets with flames in hand. The streets in Kerma were narrow but frequent. Peopled treaded through them screaming insults to the new Pharaoh and to Egypt in general.
"Down with Egypt! Down with Egypt!"
I looked over to my right to see the people running through the streets. Those who had come to celebrate the festival were being trampled over by protesters who took to the street. They were angry. "Come on Menice," Ozembu said passing me and grabbing me immediately away from Aya.
Aya screamed out for me but her screams were trampled by the sounds of the crowd. I held tighter onto Ozembu who seemed just as excited and frenzied as everyone else. It was funny because he had never held a true hatred for the Pharaoh, but now he was screaming just like the rest.
"Down with the king!"
It was crazy how political views formed so instantly. Maybe many had felt this way but they had always been so afraid to speak out on it or maybe they had just made up their mind to fit in. I knew to speak out against the Pharaoh was treason and it was punishable in the harshest ways. However with so many people, the Pharaoh would have a hard deal singling the source of his issues out to a seldom few.
We were many miles away from the palace gate however it seemed people had gathered to create rally in the streets.
"—they makes us think Nubia is not good enough! They taint our land with an Egyptian king!"
The rally had continued on when I felt Ozembu pull me. He was distracted by someone. That person quickly pulled us away from the crowd toward a dark alley. I could see the person's face was completely covered and when we got into that dark alley the person revealed themselves to be none other than my mother.
mother looked me up and down before quickly stating, "You should know better
than to be out for something like this..."
"It's just a festival. At least that's how it started," I retorted.
I could tell she was disappointed.
Ozembu immediately butt in, "It's good for Menice. He should be
proud of his culture. We conquered the
Egyptians. The Egyptians did not conquer
us. There should not be an Egyptian on
My mother grabbed me away from Ozembu. Her eyes lit up. It was times like that that I turned back into my scared young self. My mother had a way with her. She had a ferociousness that was unlike any I'd seen in many women. She grabbed Ozembu by his face, putting her entire palm across his mouth. She pushed him back and he took several steps before hitting the wall behind him.
Then she leaned forward and snapped with her palm again almost reminding me of some type of cobra. She didn't touch him again but he jerked afraid that she would.
an idiot boy," she stated, "You think this is a democracy?
You think we are the Greeks.
The Pharaoh is a god.
Right at this moment the Vizier has sent the
king's Medjay to regulate the crowd.
He will squash his opposition like insects."
"The Medjay?" Ozembu stated, "I have to warn them..."
He ran into the crowd. If the Medjay were really on their way he'd be too late. The Medjay were the King's muscle in Kerma. They enforced the laws that he created and they were especially known for their brutality. Of course that was under an old king. I had not seen the Medjay in my particular province since Taharja had come to power.
My mother snapped for my attention, "There's someone there...he's waiting for you to take you to the king."
"Who is he?"
"He is a confidant I have in the palace. He can get you in. I don't know how far. Security is tight and you'll be stopped but you must see the king tonight. You understand? That is your mission. No matter what you at least must been seen by his eyes.
I looked over to my right. There was a man there. He was riding on a horse.
I turned and obeyed my mother. I knew that when she got like this I didn't have much choice. I looked over at that man on the horse. His skin was bronze instead of copper. I wondered if he was Egyptian. I couldn't tell though. He reached out his hand to help me on the back of his horse.
The man had a scar on his face. He was very handsome. He looked down at my mother waved at her and then looked back at me, "My name is Baraka."
His right eye had a scar on it.
That was all he got out as we quickly sped away. We took the back way out of our province away from the crowd. We headed towards the hills. It definitely would be longer this way to get to the center of Kerma where the royal palaces were but Baraka seemed to know what he was doing.
"How do you know my mother?" I asked him.
"We are old friends."
I knew I wasn't going to get an exact answer. It was as though my mother has sworn everyone to secrecy that ever crossed my path. I knew he wouldn't give me any more of an answer than that even if I begged him. I didn't even try. Instead I looked back at my province. From the hills I could see the cascade of horses descending onto the city. My mother was right.
The Medjay had come to my city.
I finally figured out where my mother had been disappearing to. I noticed by how Baraka snuck me first into the palace walls that this was a well planned out job. The guards had been paid to keep their eyes on the road while I snuck into the palace. Baraka had stayed with me as we crossed through these dark tunnels. The tunnels were long and seemed to on forever. We walked in complete darkness. If he wasn't in front of me I wouldn't have been able to know where I was going.
Baraka seemed to know exactly where he was going though. It was almost like he didn't need lights at all. He followed the path directly until we got to a place and then he stopped me.
"Wait here. Don't make a noise."
I waited in the darkness thinking about my mother. I waited in the darkness thinking about how much money it could have possibly cost to pay for some sort of scam like this. Why did she always leave me in the dark? Why didn't she tell me about this? And how did she know this man Baraka enough to trust him to take me on this type of mission to see the king?
After several minutes Baraka opened up a wall and signaled me to step into the light. I did as he said stepping into the light and realized I was in a long hallway.
We were in the palace. I could only tell because the large pillars and roofs that seemed to reach to the sky only meant we had to be inside the palace. By the grandness of it all I figured we must have been in one of the main corridors of a particularly important palace.
We continued down this hallway waiting in the shadows of huge pillars every time a servant walked by. The king changed his servants frequently and randomly as to avoid the chance of someone plotting against his life. It made sense. It also worked in our benefit because Baraka seemed to know the palace a lot better than these people.
"Go there..." Baraka stated, "At the end of the hallway you will make a right. The hallway will be heavily protected. If you can make it down that hallway you will see the king. I can only take you this far. The rest is up to you."
He nodded and bent over before disappearing back into the darkness.
He was strange man and very stealthy. My mother trusted very few people. I knew she didn't even trust me completely. The fact that he had gained so much trust from my mother went a long way.
I did as the man said walking down the hallway and turning to see the long hallway in front of me. It was illuminated by huge statues of jackals and the jackal-headed god. I counted 40 men and they all were probably among the best.
I did the only then I could do.
I started to run.
There spears were out immediately but I wasn't trying to get my body past them. I knew that. I was trying to get far enough to get my voice past them.
Right before I could finish my sentence I could feel the huge spear against my esophagus. I knew if I made another sound the king's Medjay would drive that spear through me. I wouldn't have the slightest chance of survival.
"Very dramatic aren't you."
I turned to my side to see someone. Someone had heard me. I saw who it was. It was Nyla. The sister of the Pharaoh. She was standing with her handmaiden who was just as lovely and grand as she was. Nyla was a tall woman...extremely tall. She was the tallest woman I possibly had ever seen with my naked eye. I had seen her when I served under Queen Amanirenas. I hadn't noticed her height before. She had a shawl which was pleated decadently with a long sash in the front that almost came down to the floor. Her neck and arms were heavily accented with heavy golden jewelry. I had only seen more jewelry on the king himself. She had a silk cape that was knotted around her shoulders as well.
I bowed down immediately, "It's an honor your highness."
She sighed deeply, "Don't be so happy. You are my prisoner. You, Medjay, bring the boy ...he is my captive."
She didn't return another glance at me. She spoke so well. I understood immediately why so many would have preferred her to be Queen. She was the pride of Nubia. Many had already referred to her as Kandace or Warrior Queen, even though she had no such title. However the way she moved and walked with such a passion of a queen made me think of her as one. I honestly was honored to be in her presence even though I was greeted by her cool and aloof demeanor.
The guards had opened the door to the king. I realized now that this was a den sort of area for the king. There were scrolls lined up and scribes reading scrolls out loud to the Taharja who was standing at the foot of the a long table overlooking a map with Heb by his side.
"Sister you grace me with your presence," he stated not even looking up from his map.
"How did you know it was me?"
the fifth time today alone you've attempted to seek audience with me.
I think I can tell your footsteps by now."
He still didn't look up from his books. I could feel the cold tension between the two. While he didn't look at her, the Kandace had her eyes set firmly on him.
"I came to bring news that your city is in turmoil king. The Vizier has confirmed 92 men...92 who will be put up for crimes of treason tomorrow."
"Thank you for your news sister. Now you may be excused."
"What do you plan to do about this?"
"When I figure it out you'll be the first one to know."
"Taharja could you at least look me in the eyes and take this seriously? These aren't child's games."
"You will address me as your highness...woman..."
To hear the legendary beloved Kandace Nyla of the Nubian people be referred to simply as "woman" was a sound to me that I couldn't even notice. Yet again I had been in the King's presence and he hadn't noticed me. I could tell the shock was just as big for me as it was her for the Nyla.
"Well your highness you need to first learn to be well aware of your surroundings," she stated with an annoyed vision etched up across her face, "You owe me your life brother. You see? Look, if it weren't for me you would have fallen victim to this assassin..."
She moved her cape to signal the Medjay to bring me closer. He did bring me closer into the light where the king saw me.
I could see his eyes were no longer set on maps and scrolls. They were looking at me. They were stuck on me as well. His mouth parted slightly as though to say something but nothing came out. I knew Nyla noticed. I knew she did because she was making an impatient grinding noise that got more and more annoying every second he stared at me.
"It seems I may have come too late," she vaguely stated and then turned around, "I'll send my eunuchs to the outer provinces to supervise the festivities...no need to thank me."
She left the room immediately closing the door behind her.
The king seemed to come to life after Nyla left. He walked up to me without any sort of caution at all. I could see his guards getting restless as he openly embraced me with his hands wide open. He put his arms over me picking up me up off the floor. His skin felt so much like my skin. I spent 2 months trying to get to him again. Two months trying to just see his face and by the way he was looking at me...I could tell I wasn't the only one.
always pop up at the most unexpected times," I stated, "What if you were an
"Don't worry. I would have been killed. Your men wouldn't have given me the chance. I assure you that much."
Our eyes locked. Awkward silence.
"You never came to me," he stated, he said smiling and then laughing a little.
I looked at Heb who didn't return my gaze. Why hadn't he told the king that I had come to see him? I had come to see him countless times.
"I did every chance I got."
He looked over at me with angry eyes, "Stopped? By who? I put in strict order that if ever you were to show up on palace grounds that you should be escorted directly to me no matter where I was. Didn't I put in those strict orders. Heb! Heb where are you! Heb, I put in strict orders did I not?"
remained silent, "I would have done what you said your highness.
However the Vizier
"The Vizier? The Vizier! I AM PHARAOH!"
His voice was like a storm that immediately caused Heb and everyone else for that matter in the room to drop to their knees...including me. We bowed before the king. I knew he probably wouldn't have minded if I stood but I didn't want to be in the line of sight for him anger.
"I beg forgiveness."
"I simply just wanted him around. Did I ask for so much? Our countrymen aim at me just as hard as our enemies and I can't even get a simple request! A simple request! I just wanted him around. How hard is that? Heb maybe I didn't command it with the voice that you anticipated. Maybe I didn't command your respect and for that I apologize. Unless you want to spend the rest of your days trying to climb out of ditch in the oasis, you'll do as I say from now on regardless of any else's instruction."
"Too many people run this country. The Kandace Amanirenas, Princess Nyla, Chenen, the Vizier, the priestesses of Isis all believe they run this country. There is only one pharaoh. Is that understood? One man will feed this country. There will not be multiple cups. Scribe! Go tell the Vizier I will have an audience with him in the morning. And as for you Heb..."
"Yes your highness?"
"You will take 10 men to Menice's home. You will escort him back to the palace with his family from wherever he lives. You undersand Heb! If he lives across the Red Sea...you will do the same. You realize I do not ask Menice's permission for him to leave his home and come here. I am king. I do not ASK for your help to move him. I am king. You will do everything as I say, like I say it...within a timely manner as if your life depended on it. Because it does Heb. And when you are done, you will appear before me and announce who the supreme ruler is. You will tell me whether it is I or the Vizier..."
Secretly under the darkness a smile spread across my face.
No wonder why my mother risked it all.
I ignored the hard looks I was getting from Heb or the attention that I had stolen from Nyla earlier. I was not concerned with those things. The king wanted me around. The way he said it brought shivers to every part of my body.
He not only wanted me around, but he demanded me around and he was taking me even if it was against my will.
But it wasn't against my will. This was exactly what I wanted.