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I woke up to a note attached my door. Whoever had left it there must have had great stealth because I hadn't seen anyone. The little kitty Aya hadn't even moved the entire night. How could it have been possible for someone to sneak into my room in such away.
I had told Heb of it as soon as he came in that morning.
"We must talk to the King to tighten security around you. If someone could leave this note they could also do you harm."
"Who do you suppose it's from?" I said.
"Probably that King Mursili, he's completely obsessed with you. I had to hide all the huge gifts he'd sent you before the king got hold of them. Do you want to be the sole cause of friction between nations?'
Taharqa is too busy with his Fatine.
Besides it's not from Mursili anyway."
"How do you know..."
He knew I wasn't supposed to read. Commoners were taught how to read.
"The smell...it smells like my mother."
"Why would she write you a note knowing you couldn't read it?"
"Because she knew I had access to someone who could," I stated.
"I can't read."
"The king already gave you away Heb," I replied, "Aren't I your master now? You don't treat me like it. You just lied to my face Heb. You can read! I want you to read me this letter and let me know what it says."
Heb gave me a hard look, "You knew this whole time I could read?"
"Even when that woman was found in your house."
"I supposed it then," I stated, "I don't suppose you'd like to also tell me what was on Aya's body when you found her?"
He shook his head, "How about we agree to something?"
"I read this letter to you if you don't ask me about that one..."
He was so strange. What was on the letter on Aya's body that he was trying to hide? What could it have possibly said? I looked at him and nodded however. I was in no position to bargain. I wanted him to be truthful and offer to read it himself. I wanted to know exactly what the letter said. I wanted to make sure that I understood everything that my mother could send me.
"You're right it's from her."
"I knew it...what does it say?"
"The golden arches have bowed...the clouds have separated. I am safe. Don't worry about me. Lead with your heart my young prince. There are many threats to you within those walls. I watch on you forever. I see you with the King. I hear his words to you. You have done your job well. Trust in Nyla. She will give you good advice. Beware the beauty of the Fatine. Beware the betrayal of all men. I will return. I am watching until then."
My eyes circled around the room. How had my mother been watching us? How had she been watching me? How did she know about Nyla? Where was she? I needed her now more than ever and instead of coming to see me she was sending a note. It was so short as well. Heb had finished reading and laid the paper down. I wondered if maybe he kept something out?
There was nothing I could trust. I looked at the note hoping to see if I recognized any figures, but I didn't. She wanted me to join forces with Nyla to get rid of Fatine? Was that part of her plan? It had of course seemd the obvious thing to do but I still wondered how my mother was able to tell that I was talking to Nyla about the issue.
I couldn't believe Fatine could be such a threat...
"I need you to find a way to get me audience with the King."
Heb nodded and walked away to go see that it'd be done. I had to talk to the Taharqa and see exactly where I stood with him. I didn't want to be territorial. I understood he had duties to the country as a man but I had become mad with jealousy.
Fatine's presence was the big "TALK" in the palace. I was surprised that I was included in the talk. Nobles who had once ignored me while seeking counsel in the palace walls were now privy to stop and converse. They all acted like we old friends who had known each other for years. They gossiped about her in the most sly of ways. None of the Nubians trusted her. It was clear that Nubia had found something much more interesting than me to talk about. My spotlight had been completely robbed.
It was the midday. The African sun shone bright on the courtyard. The courtyard was a massive rink where festivities were held daily. Today charioteers raced along the King's gardens contesting their respective village's reputations for strong stallions.
I joined relatively late. I usually had not been invited to such things. I hardly even heard of them...but I got a personal invite today...from Nyla.
When she saw me her handmaiden came to grab me. Nyla sat on a balcony under heavy shade and above the other onlookers who basked in the sun fanning themselves with palm branches. Nyla laid herself out on a chaise while her servants tended to her with fruit and wine.
"You've missed most of the games Menice," she stated, "Were you busy?"
sought counsel with the King."
"Did he answer?"
"Haven't you heard, he's been busy with Fatine."
Just at that moment Nitokare joined in the conversation. She was annoying woman. She was somehow a noble related to the family in some way. Her voice was annoying though. Nitokare always seemed to be around. She always seemed to be head of the gossip. Maybe that was why Nyla kept her around so closely. She seemed to know everything.
"I heard," she started out again, "Fatine is a witch. The palace handmaidens say she often times talks to herself. They say she strange. She wakes up and walks the halls naked with a lost look in her eyes. They say she doesn't even remember who she is or where she is at. The spells usually last for hours."
I shook my head, "That is even less reason for her to be a big concern. She's crazy..."
Nyla smiled, "You are wrong, Menice."
"Yes," Nyla stated, "You saw her face. You saw the beauty that I saw. You cannot deny it. Didn't it shake you up a little bit? She isn't crazy. I believe the talk. She's a witch. How could one woman be so beautiful? The gods would not be so unfair."
The more desperate she sounded the more I realized that Nyla was trying to use me. It was so clear to me that she was. I didn't even want to give her the attention that she was so needy of.
"So you think she is the reason he doesn't see me."
"Of course. It'll start with his eyes wandering. Soon enough he will begin to see you less. Then he will begin to spend more time with her. He will disappear more and more often while you stare in your vanity wondering what is wrong with you. You'll notice everything as well. Maybe your skin should have been darker and maybe your eyes rounder. Maybe you should have been more polite to him. Maybe you should have been more observant to your needs. Everything will fall on you but in the end you'll notice it has nothing to do with you. He simply fell for someone else. He simply got bored. Your conversation no longer was enough for him because he was in love somewhere. Then what will you do Menice? Will you hide behind your hope? You still refuse to take action. Maybe you will wait until it's too late. Maybe we both will wait until you are back on the streets and Fatine is the Great Consort before you notice that you are threatened. "
Just at that time Heb walked up to me from inside the palace.
"The King graciously refuses your audience. He's...busy..."
"Yes...Menice...Menice! Where are you
I didn't stop to listen to Heb warm me against it or see the smile on Nyla's face when she knew that she had really gotten to me.
I stormed through the palace thinking of nothing else but Fatine. Her beauty was the thing of legend. Even I found it hard not to stare at her when she was near. I could only imagine how it could have been for Taharqa. The temptress was owning him. I could imagine how she tempted it. I could imagine how she was probably undressing him even now. I could see it all. I knew where to find the king at this time of the day. He was in his study where he spent most of the early afternoon with scribes and other things reading many tales to him. There were times where he `d take me into the study and just talk to me.
The guards had grabbed me before I even got anywhere close to the study. They pulled me back and wrestled me into the corner.
I turned around to see Chief Si Ren. He was walking past me and grabbed me away from the rough guards. He looked surprised to see me but not in an unpleasant way. He managed to even work up some sort of smile as he greeted me.
"Menice, what are you doing here?"
"I want to see him."
I had demanded it more then asked it. I may have been way out of line but it seemed like this Si Ren had some sort of respect for me. He at least seemed to for the most part. He was the Chief of the Royal bodyguards and he seemed to take his job seriously and I'd think a part of that was knowing who posed a real threat to the king. I had a feeling he didn't think I was going to hurt Taharqa.
He guided me into the great room where I saw Fatine. She was standing against the wall but she was aside. In the middle of the room was Taharqa. He wasn't paying too much attention to Fatine but he was talking over maps with several scribes and advisors around him.
Amongst the people present was the long faced Vizier. I was surprised to see Baraka there as well beside the Vizier. He didn't acknowledge me at all. Other high figures were about as well including Chenen and two other princes of Nubia that I had not been properly introduced to.
"Menice?" Taharqa asked confused.
"He has a taste for showing up to places unannounced," the Vizier took note almost immediately in a sharp and crisp distaste.
I shook off the resentment the Vizier was putting my way. I was simply hurt. Why was Fatine here in a war meeting? Taharqa put his hand up as though telling them to go on without him as he quickly came towards me. He rubbed his hand on my arm and I felt the comfort that I longed to feel for so long now.
"What are you doing here?" he asked me.
"I came to see you," I stated, "They said you were busy. I...I know I shouldn't be acting this way."
"You miss me?" he stole the words out of my mouth.
I expected him to be angry or annoyed but he seemed somewhat relieved. He had a huge smile on his face and he moved closer to me. He pushed his chest up against mine. He was so heavy and he was so important but even now I felt like there was some part of this great powerful man that was still so shy around me.
"Of course I miss you. Why wouldn't I have?"
"I had decided to give you space. I didn't' want to seem like I was forcing you to stay with me. I heard of all the gifts King Mursili had been sending you. I suppose I wanted to make sure you were here because you wanted to be..."
Was that the reason? My heart kind of danced a little bit. Was that the reason he had been so distant with me this entire time.
"My king... you are needed," The Vizier took pleasure in announcing to break up our little reunion.
I didn't even look back over at the group of men, "I'll just leave."
"No wait...over there...I want to see you afterward."
He seemed anxious. I guess he did miss me as well. I nodded and smiled at him. It wasn't until I turned and went to wait for him that I was reminded of why I angrily pummeled my way into the room in the first place. There she was standing there, Fatine. She looked at me with a curiosity. Maybe she wondered how someone could look so plain compared to her.
She moved her hair away from her face gently and crossed her arms as I stood beside her waiting for the king to proceed with his plans.
It was the most awkward thing.
We waited in complete silence. Neither of us acknowledged one another. Neither of us even paid the other any attention and yet I was SO fucking aware of her presence that my mind felt like it would explode.
That was until I heard what they were talking about in this meeting.
It was Prince Chenen who was presenting something, "The Egyptians are becoming unruly. My biggest fear is they will organize and start building their strength."
The Vizier argued the point, "We possess their Navy and have put a clutch on their monetary stock. The Egyptians pose no threat to us at this time. Let them be unruly."
I saw the argument was thick between the Vizier and Chenen. They had been going back and forth about the issue for a while. Taharqa just stood back and let them argue about it. H e didn't really say anything. He seemed to be listening to both sides. A part of me wondered if he was even listening at all. Chief Si Ren several times had to hold Chenen back when he got into his passionate flairs. It seemed like the debate was heavy.
"We CANNOT bet our future on that fact!" Chenen stated, "Allow me, brother...to go into Egypt and to be your ambassador. I can control the Egyptians."
The Vizier shook his head, "This may be seen harshly by the Egyptians. We should just wait until the capitol is moved to Thebes."
"The capitol should NOT be moved to Thebes. Our home is in Nubia. Our CAPITOL should remain in Nubia!" Chenen argued.
The king just stood there. I didn't know whether he was confused or just not interested. Either way he hadn't spoken a word for it or against it. I watched as they had all just allowed this thing to keep growing and making him look more and more of an idiot. I knew Taharqa wasn't an idiot. He was a smart man but he didn't' that that persistency of a king. He didn't seem even slihglty interested in the polotics.
I couldn't help but to lay a hand on his shoulder, "You can have as much time to think about it as you want. Don't let anyone rush you."
At that moment I knew I had made a huge mistake. I knew immediately by how he pulled away from me. The second way I could tell was the smile that spread across the Vizier's cheek. Yeah, something I had said was completely wrong. Taharqa semed offended and I was quickly starting to realize why. I was just trying to support him but once again I had confused him as a man when he wanted to be so much more.
"Are you saying that I need extra time to deliberate...that I am...slow..."
The way Taharqa asked me led me to believe that others may have gotten that impression too. It really wasn't what I meant. I hadn't meant anything like that. How could one deny it though. Maybe that was what I was thinking but it wasn't what I meant by the comment.
I tried to reach for his arm but he shoved me. He shoved me hard. I staggered back into the wall.
"Chenen you will go to Egypt. You will act as my ambassador and each month you will send a status report on Egyptian moral under Nubian rule. Chief Si Ren, ensure that Chenen had full access to the Egyptian army and make sure that he is secured with enough Nubian forces to help him force the Egyptians into submission if necessary."
The men quickly went onto do as they were told. Most begun to leave the room as soon as the King dismissed everyone but I watched the Vizier linger around. He whispered something to the king that cause the King to seem like he had some sort of headache. That was when the Vizier himself walked way leaving nothing behind but us.
Chenen nodded his head, "Thank you sir. I will send word to the Egyptians and depart immediately. My only concern is...the Hittite King."
"The Hittite King?"
Chenen looked at Taharqa and then looked at me. What the hell did Mursili have to do with Chenen going to Egypt and making peace?
"The Hittite King has been in Egypt. He been talking to the Egyptians and word has it that he has in his possession a member of the old Dynasty of Egypt. This can be a major threat to you."
"Why would Mursili side with the Egyptians?" I asked.
"Learn your place!" Taharqa barked at me.
The way he said it shook me completely. I didn't even understand why he would say something of the sort. I backed off. Was he getting annoyed with my presence? He had never spoken to me in such a way before. For a moment I could see the Vizier almost delighted and I was embarrassed. I was so embarrassed. My place? My place...
There was an awkward silence after he barked his command. I moved away. I backed off until I was near Fatine again. I guess that was my place. That was where I belonged with his other UNWED whore. I could feel the anger building in me. I wish I had the power to say something. I wish I had the strength but I didn't have anything.
"I'll excuse myself," I stated.
"You'll stay right there," Taharqa stated.
"Well done sir," The Vizier replied almost immediately.
Had the Vizier put him up to talking to me like this? Taharqa had never done it.
Learn my place.
Even the word sat heavy on my chest.
Taharqa then continued to ignore me and looked over to Chenen, "Why is King Mursili siding with the old Egyptian Pharaoh. My father conquered Egypt. All of the Egyptian Dynasty was put to death. My mother was the last remaining member of the Old Egyptian Dynasty."
"It seems a young prince is still alive. He is barely a child. He's maybe 5."
Mursili protects him?"
"It's just a rumour."
"Why would he?"
At that point all eyes turned to me. It was almost immediate. It seemed like they knew something that I didn't know. I just stood there completely confused. King Mursili wouldn't do something like that. Even the servants seemed to be in on the joke. They all just stared at me as though blaming me for something that I probably didn't do. There was silence again. As though it wasn't enough that he had embarrassed me now I was being blamed?
The Vizier stared dead in my eyes, "Personal reasons..."
Chenen added to it almost immediately, "Brother, I believe he is upset that you denied the caravans of gifts he sent Menice."
"He's mad?" Taharqa stated.
"He sent me caravans?" I asked, "You denied my gifts?"
I was surprised and a little hurt. I had received some gifts but I hadn't known Mursili had sent me whole caravans of gifts. When had that come about? I could see Taharqa getting red in the face like a kid. He was allowed to have as many lovers as he saw fit and I couldn't even entertain someone? He was a king and I was...I was nothing.
"It was necessary," Taharqa stated, "You are mine Menice. If Mursili thinks sending his sister here for me to marry is going to change that he must be mistaken. We will act immediately. Chenen you'll leave for Egypt. You will rule under my banner. Egypt is mine. Search for the child and kill him. Do not return until you have done so."
Chenen seemed excited as he nodded.
The Vizier's face got red, "Sir, it isn't worth it. The Hittite are one of our strongest allies. We also have a blooming trade route with them. We shouldn't cause any more tension."
"He will not better me!"
"Is Menice worth it?" The Vizier asked at that moment.
He was asking it as though I wasn't even in the room. He was asking it as though I had left or something. I guess he didn't want to hold it in any longer. I wanted to know the same thing. If Chenen went to Egypt looking for a young prince of an old dynasty that could post a threat to Taharqa he'd have to go through Mursili. That was a huge disrespect.
Tensions would rise. It was inevitable.
"He's mine," Taharqa stated bluntly.
"Is that all?" I asked.
Again I had spoken out of pocket. I couldn't help it. I couldn't help being thrown into the conversation. I could see the angry faces of the advisors as they saw how I spoke to the king when he didn't address me. Some people could be put to death for it but I still kept getting away with it. I didn't feel like holding back any longer. I wouldn't remain silent.
"Excuse me?" he asked.
"You address me as yours. It is as though you own me. Shouldn't we own each other? Maybe that isn't enough for you. Instead you have Nyla and Fatine and the other wives you probably take on soon enough. All I am is yours. What exactly does that mean though? Am I your property like jewelry? Am I something you own like you own Egypt? Like you own Nubia? If I were such an inanimate object it would be a shame because I'm warm if you would hold me. If you'd kiss me I'd make you feel good. I am more than your necklace. I am more than your country but you don't even give me a chance to be that."
He reached out for a minute.
"Menice," his lips parted...
For a brief minute I saw something in his eyes that actually wanted me to be more than just his property. For a brief minute I think he wanted me to be his lover and for a moment I think he was mine.
We had switched it all up and I owned him.
That was quickly cut short however.
"My king," Fatine stated, "This is a strange thing to me. Is he asking to be your consort. In my country men do not love other men. This is strange to me, please explain."
The stupid girl had interrupted something that was going to really define my relationship with the king. She had on her clueless face as well. It was almost as though she had just stumbled into interrupting us. Or had she done it on purpose?
"Oh they don't? In your country? You'd be surprised how many men love other men in YOUR country. Your brother King Mursili definitely seems to..."
I had spoken too early.
I wanted to catch my tongue just as it leaked the words. I turned around to see Taharqa. There was silence in the room again. I could see his jealousy boiling up without him even speaking. I could see it building it and bubbling. Damn it. Why did I have to let Fatine get to me?
Taharqa shook his head, "You are MINE!"
"Wait...wait..." I started out.
It was too late. Taharqa's face was intense with anger, "Scribe! Scribe come here!, send message to the Hittite King Mursili. Tell him I am very particular about what I own. I will own his sister. I am marrying her as he liked but that does not mean Menice will be open for him. I will have his sister AND Menice AND Egypt! Tell him he will give up the child prince as soon as Chenen arrives in Egypt. Warn him. No THREATEN HIM! If he is to ever coerce Menice again we will break all ties and alliances. We will have an all out war. Let him know after it all that I am a very possessive King...And what's mine is mine."
I looked over at Fatine.
What had she just made me do?
What had just happened? I could feel a thump in my heart all of a sudden. Something big was coming. Something huge.