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"The Vizier has been very sneaky about the palace. Since his men have come to power strange things have been coming," Chenen stated, "I know I'm a strange friend but I don't do it for any reason. The Egyptians have had a long history of Viziers taking over the thrones, but the Nubians do not."
"What are you saying?"
I was sitting in the prince's chambers. We are absolutely alone and that was strange for the royal family. There were usually guards, escorts, servants all around a king of the Pharaoh. This meeting was organized completely by Chenen and I could see that. I could see it down to the how the room was so dimly lit and no one even seemed to be walking by.
Chenen crossed his arms.
"Every moment the king spends with you he becomes more and more rebellious. He denies ignores his advisors only when it comes to you. The Vizier could not have this around."
Chenen was so broad of a man. He stood up from a colossal seat that seemed like it was carved to fit his prowess. Everything about him meant power but his eyes. His eyes were full of something else. It was something much softer. He came forth with his broad chest. He also wore much less jewelry then the other nobles, especially ones as high as him. He had a headdress and oily silver paint around his eyes. The only thing that seemed to express his position of royalty were the armlets around his hand.
"My lord..." I asked taking back my sight of him to be presented with the reason why I brought him here, "Was it the Vizier that killed my mother?"
"How are you sure of this?"
"Her body was found. They had slashed out her organs. It was such a brutal thing. The same day the Vizier came to me, you would leave and he announced that I need not worry and that Egypt would be stronger than ever. You see he CONFESSED this act. However you see our poor idiot Vizier made one foolish decision. Our Vizier called my land Egypt."
"It was a mistake?"
"Yes I am Nubian.
The Vizier is also Nubian but he has always been obsessed with the
Egyptians. He has caused their culture
to completely take over ours. He is the
great cause trying to move the Pharaoh's capital to Thebes."
could imagine the way he looked at me. I
didn't know he would jump to such lengths so quickly however.
Had it seriously been so important to keep
the Pharaoh away from me? What could I
possibly do to harm him?
"Wait...you said they found her like her body?"
in your home."
They people believed my mother was Aya. I crossed my arms and hung my head. I couldn't let him see that I was confused. The Vizier had meant to kill my mother. Why? And how come they hadn't known who it was. Couldn't' they send his own man to do it?
"She didn't even stand a chance," I shook my head thinking of Aya instead of my mother.
"Your mom will be blessed by Anubis. The Vizier's assassin never misses. I will tell you to beware of him. He announces his name before he kills. He is a man of stealth. He moves in silence and kills in the same. His name is Baraka."
Baraka was the same man who had snuck me into the palace.
I was more confused than ever.
Baraka killed my mother?"
"I would assume it. I have been around to see how the Vizier causes people to disappear. I felt like it was best to tell you."
"What do you get out of it?"
I looked at him in a strange way. My eyes dug into his. I wanted to know why it was he was telling me what he was telling me. It seemed all these royal figures had an intention of their own and I wasn't going to blindly look past Chenen.
Chenen nodded, "I'm hoping you can convince the King."
"Convince him to do what?"
"Not to leave for Thebes. If he leaves...we lose everything. If we move the capital out of Nubian Kerma and to Egyptian Thebes we will lose all our culture. The Nubians will rally against the Emeric Dynasty."
"How can I have such sway?"
"Because believe it or not to the king you and the Vizier are the
only ones that matter. The Vizier
never had to competition over the king's attention until now. Do this and I
will find Baraka for you and I will bring justice to him."
I got up off my feet. The confusion was sinking in more deeply than ever now. Sweat was beginning to fall from my forehead. I couldn't think anymore. Chenen put all this pressure on me as though hoping that I could perform better with it. That wasn't the case. All I wanted to do was retire to my bedroom and watch stars with the King. My mind wasn't on politics. My mind wasn't on the fate of Nubia. I just wanted stars. Why was that so hard?
"I must be going sir and I thank you for your words."
"It's up to you," Chenen replied as though he hadn't pressured me enough before.
"You don't have to do that," I told the slave boy.
The king had sent someone to scrub my body as I bathed. I didn't know why. The boy was an older adult and he hadn't asked any questions before quickly taking up a brush and scrubbing me. I had asked him to stop but he wouldn't hear of it. The king have given him his order and he couldn't stop. He had took the razor to me and removed all my hair after the scrub and then he rinsed me with warm milk and dried me in silk linen.
After it was all done he oiled me with thick manly smelling oil that no doubt would protect me against the sun.
All I could really think about was what the King had told me.
"Don't you ever get lonely here?" I asked the boy.
I felt lonely. I felt so alone. I had never wanted my mother's advice so much as now. However now I didn't even know for sure if she was alive or not. I would have done anything to have her by my side just even if for a brief moment.
Every moment I was along I would hear her voice and her confident words were just so empowering but in this palace I was too afraid to move around. In this palace I felt like bait.
"Where are you from?"
"I am Hittite."
"So many Hittites are in Nubia. Why? What happened to your land...your family?"
"The Sea people..."
The sea people.
I almost laughed when he said it. In my sector of town the peasants told their kids horror stories of the sea people who would sail from the bigger oceans into Nubia and would destroy everything. I laughed at the thought of it. No one could destroy Taharqa and yet even the sound of it made this little boy tremble.
"The sea people took from you everything did they?"
"Relax. You have the blessing to be in the company of one so adored by the King. Taharqa will dry the people of the Sea like a drought. If ever they come to our shore just come running on my bedroom. I'll go grab our Pharaoh and once they see his might with their own eyes they'll drop their weapons and they'll run away like mice."
Just like mice.
He smiled a bit almost seeming like I warmed him, "Praise Taharqa."
I smiled back. The people should fear their king. It was what was lost in Nubia. They didn't fear him any longer. Rumors of Taharqa's might hadn't spread but only the fact that he was born of Egyptian blood. The Nubians looked at the Egyptians as inferior in strength, but it was just a myth. I had seen powerful Egyptian men with my own eyes. Taharqa hadn't been able to cease his fear from his people.
I shook my head. Why was I worried about politics again?
"You make me jealous with the servant boy..."
The king had managed to walk into the room. He wasn't alone this time as I wished. He was accompanied however only by three or four men. This was progress on his level to find the time to see me in the middle of the day and only have three or four bodyguards. They seemed among the best though.
The servant boy seemed terrified. He bowed down to his feet immediately and held on to his body tightly as though he was going to be lashed. I had seen how they lashed the young boys that were sold for ownership. It wasn't a rare thing.
"Forgive me," I stated, "If our gaze was long, it was because of you."
He walked up to me and hugged me. I had waited so long to smell him. He had such a familiar smell. It smelled the same way the Nile did in Spring. The King grabbed me by my arm and continued to pull me to the balcony. It was a beautiful day.
"Why are you so locked away?"
"I wait for you."
I could have told him about my fears. I could have told him about Aya's death and my mother's disappearance but I preferred not to. There were so many things that he had to worry about. There were also so many questions that he could ask about my mother. Some of those answers I was forbidden to tell and some of those answers I didn't even know myself. I wanted to avoid negativity as much as I could.
"I don't want you to spend your day waiting for me," he replied, "You should have summoned Heb. He could have taught you horseback riding...fishing..."
"Heb?" I asked, shaking my head, "Heb hates me."
"Why do you say that?"
I shook my head, "I think just about everyone in this palace hates me."
looked up at me and grabbed my hands with his before bringing them down, "No
one hates you. I promise you that.
And he will do as I say.
So whatever your query...call
Heb and he will grant it to you. Why
don't you go to the giant pools out the basin?"
"I'd love to do that."
"Then what's stopping you..." he stated and shrugged his head, "I've granted you free movement as you please. All my servants have been instructed to serve your every wish. You are free with no burden. It's not like you RUN a country or anything."
My face shot red. I knew I should have laughed to his joke like my mother had taught me but right now I was flushed with embarrassment. I tried to change the subject but every subject that came up just caused me to turn more read. It had gotten to the point that his facial expression seemed to think I was in some sort of pain.
"I can't swim," I finally admitted.
used to have dreams of swimming in the great Nile.
She is a goddess.
I felt maybe I'd wash away the years of my
mother forcing me to become a certain way.
I'd wash that off and maybe be myself."
"Nothings stopping you..."
I said I can't swim. And the things she
taught me is the only thing connecting me to my mother
I had walked away. I didn't mean for my tone to sound so somber. Damn what was I thinking? I knew I had messed up as soon as I saw the concerned look on his face. This isn't what I was here to do. I was not here to make him feel bad about himself.
"Where is your mother?"
Fuck a difficult question.
"She's gone travelling," I lied shaking my head.
"You miss her don't you?"
"More then you could imagine."
"When she returns she will stay in these quarters with you. If that is what you like or maybe we can give you something grander if that is what you'd like. What do you like?"
"Right now just to know how you really feel about me..."
"What do you mean?"
"Why do you keep me around?"
"I told you. You make me feel powerful. I stand up for you. I want to rebel because of you," he continued.
"And when you've rebelled...when you've won your conscience war, what would you do with me?"
I couldn't believe I was asking the king these things. I didn't think he'd believe it too. It had just been bugging me and I needed to quickly take the topic off of my mother. He was nervous I could tell. I could tell by the way he didn't look in my face when he talked. He just was scattered. I had flusttered the king of Nubia and Egypt.
"I'd still want you around," he continued.
I bowed my head.
"It'd bring me great honor to be the king's... motivation...until death. Excuse me your highness..."
I started to walk away. He grabbed me by my hand in a brief move of desperation. I could see the desperation in his eyes as he didn't want me to just walk away. All this talk about my mother made me think just like she would. I was gaining his trust and his adoration. I needed to start building a commitment.
I thought he'd give one when he stopped me, but instead his face seemed completely blank like he had all of a sudden been too much of a coward to speak.
"You aren't supposed to leave the presence of a king without being excused."
"Ok. Am I excused?"
There was an awkward silence before he nodded his head and let me walk out of the room. I wouldn't say I was angry at him but at the same time I realized his stature more than ever. Even though I enjoyed his visits I knew that I'd never be more than motivation to him. I was a toy.
be like that," he continued dragging me close to him to him.
He leaned over and kissed me softly on my
lips, "There will come a time when I can really express how I feel to you.
Now isn't the time however."
"I see...so am I excused?"
"Yes, your highness."
"I'm giving you Heb..."
"Heb is yours. He is my most trusted slave. He was with me since childhood. However I feel like being the man servant to a king goes over his head. He messes on simple orders. And I've been hearing whispers around the palace."
"What kind of whispers..."
He shook his head, "Nothing you need to worry yourself over. Heb is trained in combat though. He can watch you."
"He hates me..."
"Why would you think that?" the King asked.
"Can Heb read?"
"Yes. How did you know. I trained him on it myself."
I shook my head. Heb...of all people! Why would he stick someone so spiteful at my side? I crossed my arms. I didn't like this. Mother wouldn't like this. I knew she wouldn't have. I couldn't refuse the king though.
"He hates me..." I repeated hoping that Thararqa would listen. He didn't though. He just walked past me with his long flowing gown. His skin was the most beautiful when it hit the sun because you can see the true shade but even indoors it was like silk crossing the room. That aloof nature was so alluring. I couldn't deny it...but I'd be nothing more to him.
"He is my childhood protector and I want him to keep safe my most sacred childhood memory..."
I didn't look back to see if he was staring at me. I didn't care whether or not I hurt his feelings. I just wanted to be away from him. It seemed like he wouldn't care but who knew.
I wasn't going to call him by a casual name. He was who he was and I was who I was. I was just a common boy. Is this what my mother wanted? Had she not assumed it that I wasn't of royal blood and even if I was, I was a man. I couldn't have any ties to besides a casual friend to the king.
The next day I went in front of the mirror and I brushed my entire skin with gold dust powder. I could see Heb watching me from the distance. He didn't speak. This arrangement was awkward to say the least. I was sure I had been tortured with his presence just as he had been with mine. I put green and black around my eyes. I wanted to look like I belonged as a member of the palace not as though I was cleaning it.
"Where do you think you're going?" Heb asked me.
"I am to keep you save. And trust me this may be prove a more complicated task then you'd think unless you stay locked away in your chambers."
"I want to explore the palace."
Before he could finish his sentence I skipped through the door. The guards hadn't stopped me. They did continue to look at me but I knew they wouldn't just stop me from moving freely. I managed to make it into the hallways where there were monumental statues of the gods. The halls were something unimaginable really. The simple lengths that the Nubians went to be like the Egyptians were amazing. They had worshiped the same gods and adopted the same architecture. It was sometimes impossible to tell the two cultures apart...saving skin tone. Was it that big of a deal? All the hate between the two sides because one race was a little darker?
"This isn't the scribe's palace or some library or civil hall. This palace is sacred. You don't just explore. I assure you that you may not always like what you see..."
We had gotten to a most beautiful place. The décor here was set apart from the halls with the giant statues of gods. This place was decorated with live plants. Light had rained in from an open ceiling. From the garden let some stairways.
"What leads down there?" I asked Heb.
"You are under me. You are MY servant. Or would you like me to have a few words with the king. Not only do you fail him as a servant but you also fail me..."
Heb gave me a hard look. I could tell I had hit a sensitive cord with him. I smiled. That was exactly what I had meant to do.
"Fine," he stated, "Down those steps is the courtyard. The king watches from his balcony as the Vizier mediates disputes amongst the highest of nobles who have the pleasure to come to the palace to settle their disputes."
"Sounds so boring..."
people are the wealthiest people in the Nation," Heb said shaking his head, "The
money that the nobles provide keep the country stable.
Any quarrels can cause economic
unease. Mediation is required for The
Vizier. The king's presence helps to
humble even the most powerful of men."
"Well how do I get to the balcony?"
"How do I get to the balcony that the King is in?"
"He didn't summon you. It is forbidden."
"Do I need to remind you once again that now I am your master?"
He pulled me further down the hall where there were steps covered with armed guards. He quietly shook his head and pointed, "The Medjay will stop you before you even get to the door."
I began to walk past the Medjay who all gave me a questioning look. They immediately stopped Heb by pointing their swords and aiming their arrows, but they just let me pass. I could see Heb's expression as I left him behind. He was speechless.
I remembered what the king had said though. He said he had instructed everyone in the palace to let me pass anywhere with ease. He wanted me to get out of my room.
I wondered if this is what he meant?
Either way I refused to be a caged puppet only meant to be visited when the King felt like having some "free time".
I entered the room to see them. The royals...
They all looked at me. For some reason I felt like I had just opened the doors to the Underworld. They were shocked to see me there. These people were beautiful too. They were the lifesize versioins of the gods that they praised. They were the blood relatives of the Emeric Dynasty. They were the cousins, lesser brothers and lesser sisters of the Pharoah. I could see Queen Amanirenas. Even after serving her for so long, she still didn't recognize my face as usual. Now however she was looking. Now I was someone.
They were all assorted on the balcony. Some drank but most of them had just been watching the court from below. The court was far down but could be seen and even heard from this height. The court was beautiful as well. The disgruntled looking Vizier had a throne where he sat. He also had his advisors scattered around and everything looked very official and serious.
I could imagine the nervousness the nobles must have felt with the Emeric Dynasty above them watching like gods as their subjects below.
Chenen was the first to break the silence with an intimidating laughter, "This is priceless."
Amanirenas wasn't Taharqa's mother. She was Chenen's mother. Taharqa's mother had been the first wife at one point, but she passed away of sickness. Since then Amanirenas had been the matron of the country, taking on the role of first wife. She adopted Taharqa as her own child. She was still a very powerful force in the empire even with her husband dead just based off her position as first wife and Overall Royal Consort. Of course the old King had many other wives and many other children. All the princes and princesses were present.
Amanirenas spoke quickly to Chenen,
"Turn your attention away from this self-proclaimed attention seeker and to the
court case. That goes for all of you."
Most of them listened to her. The way she dismissed me made my heart burn. It was almost as though I wasn't worth it. I felt as though it would have been better to have been scolded or even kicked out. It would have been better to be punished but instead I was just ignored.
The opposite of love was indifference.
Taharqa moved himself from his position though causing some people to start whispering to themselves almost immediately. He crossed the room. I could tell in his eyes I probably made a mistake coming to see him at this time. He wasn't smiling. He wasn't showing any sort of expression honestly. None that I could see.
They were making him more and more like them. They were making him more and more to a painted face structure that didn't move. They were removing his soul and his passion.
"Menice you shouldn't be here."
"I didn't even recognize you," I stated.
"You mean the headdress and the jewels," he stated, "It's part of attire."
something else is different. You're
right...maybe I shouldn't be here."
"No...wait...listen Everyone turn to him."
At this moment Taharqa did something that I never imagined he would do. He demanded his family to turn to look at him. Even the court below us had been disturbed.
Now they looked at me. Now they all stared at me and this time I could see the hate. This time they were one step closer to loving me. I basked in it now more and more. It seemed like in order to survive in this palace I'd have to like it. I'd have to like how Amanirenas keeled her skinny neck over to Chenen to say a word or two. She seemed annoyed when Chenen just laughed. He found this to be comedic. He was enjoying it. It was different expression from everyone else however. I loved how the old princes crossed their arms no doubt feeling like they'd be a stronger and wiser king than Taharqa.
"Many of you have not been formally introduced to him," Taharqa stated, "This is Menice...he is my most dear childhood friend. I loved him once dearly and I think...maybe again..."
Love... he had said `think...but still it meant something. The whispers were growing ghastly. I smiled as the Nubians began to whisper amongst themselves.
Just at that moment Nyla walked through.
Her tall elegant stature was somewhat shocking as she made her way over to me. She must have been sitting in the back which is why I didn't notice her.
Nyla bowed to me, "I'd have to admit this is a strange thing. Taharqa is full of surprises. However a `friend' of Taharqa is a friend of mind. As a friend I would love you to be close in attendance at our marriage."
All of a sudden everything seemed to slack. I faded away. It seemed like something they all knew however. It hadn't come to a shock to them. It was something expected.
And I should have expected it.
I turned away and I started to run.
I didn't wait for the king to excuse me. I just started to run. I heard him call out to me. He called out me to so desperately that the guards started to chase after me as well. I didn't care though. I didn't care if they took off my head.
Where the hell was she? She had to see this coming. Of course Nyla would be the first one up for marrying the Pharaoh. She was a daughter of the past pharaoh. Inbreeding was heavy enough in royal family. It was necessity that they keep the bloodline. The only thing was Taharqa wasn't part of the bloodline. He was the son of an Egyptian Pharaoh. So it wasn't just a necessity to keep the blood line. It was nearly law that in order for him to maintain his position he'd have to marry a child of the past Pharaoh.
And who better than Nyla?
Not even me...
A month later...two months...t