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Even when you smile back __________________________________________________________________________
I was in competition for his attention. He didn't come to my bedroom every night any longer. Yet he still came and when he did I'd almost forget that he'd probably spent the whole day before with her...Fatine. Rumor had spread quickly among Kerma that she had put a curse on him. She was always so kind and polite. She seemed so innocent but in the most deceitful way. It made me respect Nyla a lot more. At least you knew Nyla's personality the moment you met her. Fatine was sneaky. She was a seductress and a witch...
And he'd kiss me and I'd forget Fatine.
I'd forget that he had probably just kissed her before.
His kisses were so soft and I didn't own them. His lips didn't belong to me. When I kissed him, I was kissing her. We shared him.
A year had passed since the Pharaoh threatened King Mursili. Things had quickly begun to change. Tension was in the kingdom and everyone seemed to be on edge. Everyone was preparing for the worst and I was no different.
I had begun selling a lot of the gifts that Mursili had gotten me. He'd sent me fine cosmetics, expensive jewelry and stocks of gold. I had begun to make a small fortune for myself. It was enough to get independent. Of course I had to keep it all a secret. I didn't want Taharqa to know that I had actually received some of the gifts that King Mursili had sent me. I needed him to think that he sent them all back. It was important to protect his ego and when it came to me and his so called "property" he was very egotistical.
I had made enough money to hire a few more servants around my quarters. It seemed the worth of someone in Egypt depended on how much you owned. That included servants. I made sure they were all young boys. I didn't females too much and I didn't trust older people. It just seemed easier. It was a demographic that I understood and that made sense.
"Master, a visitor..."
It was Heb who came to me with news. I was sitting in my room by the balcony playing with Aya when they walked in. Heb was followed by my newest servant. He was a young servant boy that I had gotten on a discount from the market. He was handsome when I first met. I was struck by how beautiful his face was and how focused his eyes were. His name was Chek and he was a pure darkskin Nubian with flawless skin.
"Heb, lock the doors and
make sure no one interrupts us."
Heb nodded and walked to the door to do so. He came back when it was secure and offered Chek a drink but Chek immediately refused the drink.
"I have done what you asked me," Chek stated.
"You have gathered up news of what's going on," I stated and crossed my arms, "Quickly tell me everything that you know. I have to find out what's happening."
It was important in these days to have ears. For some reason I felt that Taharqa had been secretive about things. It was forbidden for me to intrude on his "political" business. He had sent a messenger to me to tell me that. He couldn't even tell me to mind my business to his my face. He sent a messenger. Then Taharqa went on to being busy again. It was so easy for him to be busy. Fatine was always close at his ankles nowadays. They had a relationship and it definitely seemed somewhat more romantic than the relationship he had with Nyla. He seemed interested with her. Still he hadn't married her though. It was strange and I wondered why but I didn't question it. Time was ticking though. What if he did marry Fatine? What if he made her his first wife? She'd have power in the palace and power over his consorts. She could influence him to get rid of me.
I shook my head at the thought of being left out on the street, "Heb, bring Chek some food and wine. He's had a long journey from Egypt."
Heb walked away.
Chek nodded, "You are far too kind. I don't deserve it however. I fear the information I gathered may not be enough. Thebes was very busy you see and some of the information I found was hard to gather.
"Tell me what you know."
"The Royal Prince Chenen of the Emeric Dynasty arrived in Thebes as commanded by the Pharaoh. He came with an iron fist however because the Pharaoh had provided him with a large army and had given him complete control of the Nubian forces already stationed in Egypt. Chenen seized the young prince of the old Egyptian Dynasty away from King Mursili who was supposedly in Egypt for personal reasons."
turned. God...I couldn't believe Chenen
"How did he seize them?
stormed Mursili's palaces when the King Mursili
returned to the Hittite capital Hattusa.
He ravaged Mursili's palaces looking for the
boy and found him. The Egyptian people
were in an uproar as you know they adored the young prince of the old dynasty.
The young prince was a symbol of Egypt.
It was advised to the Pharaoh to return him safely here to Kerma. That way he wouldn't pose much of
a threat under the watch of the Pharaoh himself."
"When will he be here?"
"His caravan arrives in two days."
My heart stopped. The Egyptian prince would arrive in two days? The idea of it stirred me. Yes, he was a HUGE threat to Taharqa. He was a threat in Egypt because the Egyptian people wanted to be ruled by an Egyptian.
"What is the boy's name?"
"His name is Prince Kerheb. He will arrive and be placed in the temples of the High Priests of Re and Amun. That way he will be under the watchful eye of the Pharaoh while still being able to be alive and be a symbol for his people."
"The Egyptians will be satisfied with that right?"
The way my servant looked at me made believe there was clearly more to the story. I could see even Heb had intently begun listening to the conversation. This Prince Kerheb was major. I had just assumed that him being in Kerma would be better for relations with the Egyptians. To have their prince in Kerma would have symbolized clearly that they were under Nubian rule.
"It's Prince Chenen..."
"What about him?"
"He' s ruling Thebes with an iron fist. I believe he is afraid that the Egyptians will unify and take back their country. He had sanctioned a curfew for the people and has begun a ban of huge gatherings. I been to the streets, sir and this is not a good thing. The people think the Nubians are Tyrants. There is even more animosity than before the Nubians army inhabited Egypt."
"I was afraid of that."
I shook my head.
Why was Chenen treating Egypt with such a military hand? I didn't understand it. I just assumed he had been sent to secure Egypt's place in a positive way. We had already conquered them by force? Why did he have to rule them by force as well?
I had been invited to drink alcoholic drinks with Nyla. It wasn't completely uncommon for her to invite me somewhere. Most of the time I took the offer. Nyla wasn't as bad as I believed she was in the beginning. She was a woman of purpose and strength She loved Nubian and maybe that bothered me the most. She seemed sometimes not to be human. It was as though sometimes she'd rather speak for the majority rather than speak for herself. I found it hard to see her as a person.
"And Chenen is ruling with an iron fist huh?" she asked.
I had told her what I heard. It was an extremely hot day. I had told her what I heard because I was sure Taharqa had been keeping her in the dark about it as well. It was important for me to share information that I got with her because she had begun to share information that she got around the palace with me. And if anyone knew what was happening around the palace that would be Nitokare. Nitokare would report it to Nyla and I'd have a little lunch date with Nyla confirming everything.
That is how I found out how close Fatine and Taharqa had been getting. They had kissed. They had caressed but no sex. That was important.
"Yes, do you suppose Taharqa instructed him to do so?"
"No," Nyla stated, "Prince Chenen has always been a hothead. He's always been very stubborn."
"Really he seemed so sweet?"
"Sweet?" Nyla asked and cleared her throat, "You are a bad judge of character my friend. Chenen is jealous of Taharqa. He probably was kind to you because he knew it'd make Taharqa look even worse to people if he continued a public relationship with you."
"God, is everything a plot here?"
"No, Chenen isn't smart enough to plot."
"What do you mean?"
"The Pharaoh didn't instruct
Chenen to go into Egypt and cause even more tension with the Egyptians.
The only one that can talk him into doing
anything is the former Kandace Amanirenas.
I bet this is all her doing. She's probably
just trying to make it difficult for Taharqa and he's
too blind to see."
"What? Why would she do that?"
Nyla shook her head, "I've said too much..."
She took a drink. I could tell she wasn't going to press on the issue involving Amanirenas in particular any longer. At that point I knew there was more going on in the palace then she had let on. There was more going on the palace than any of us had planned on being a part of.
Nyla leaned into me, "This palace is a dangerous, dangerous place Menice. You are wise to be as you are and stick to yourself but even in silence you can be a target. It is possible that the Egyptians may organize. If they do, the Egyptian navy is without comparison. We'd need the Hittite army as an ally. With tension being what it is, it is important for Taharqa to marry a Hittite Princess. Menice you know that we can't let this happen..."
"I told you I'd think about it."
"While you think they get closer and closer. We must act now. Think POLITICS!"
"You don't know how it is do you Nyla," I stated, "You don't know how to love. The extreme foolishness you feel when you are drifted in it. The feeling that pisses you off. You want to shake it but it doesn't go away. I wish you knew, you've always been too concerned with your pride and your business. You've been too concerned with politics. This has nothing to do with politics when emotion is involved. He looks at you and everything he's done goes away. He's so innocent and you wonder how someone with that special stare...that special...listless...stare can HURT YOU! Look at me, I can almost bring my tears now. And I tell myself be strong because you know what is going to happen. He is going to hurt you. You knew he was going to hurt you even when it started back then, but for some reason you stuck with it thinking somehow it'd be different. You figured somehow it'd be worth it. However at the end of the day all you'll have is pain. You know it all along. You know when he smiles at you today he is going to rip out your heart and replace you with someone better, younger and more beautiful. You know that he'd never take you serious. You know that this smile won't last forever. This is just something he is going through. Maybe it's just a phase or a temporary distraction. And you know that. You know that when he smiles at you but for some reason...for some strange...stupid...insecure reason...you choose to smile back."
The softness in Nyla's face sealed up. I could see she was even uncomfortable talking about emotion. She didn't live like that. She was so different from me. She was such a different kind of creature.
"Those things don't mean anything to me. I need her gone. For the Kingdom and you need to make up your mind sir and put all this emotion behind you. The king is coming."
She was just like my mother. She was all about business. How could she be so cold? I saw how she took her posture standing from her seat. The smile that spread across her face almost hid the impression behind it. Yes she didn't care about my emotion. No one cared about my emotion.
Still it didn't hide the fact that we had something in common.
The other woman.
King Taharqa had joined us at this time. He had come with his Medjay and Fatine. She was dressed richly today. It was clear that he had been giving her new gifts. I saw around her neck a huge necklace made out of jade. The stone was so rare around these parts. I knew Nyla noticed it as well because she gave me look that stated the same. It was almost like she was telling me, "Look fool. This goes to you wasting time." She was right.
"No need to stand," Taharqa stated, "As you were."
Nyla smiled immediately, "My husband, it's nice to finally
meet your acquaintance. I haven't seen
you in forever."
I could see he didn't even seem to notice much of Nyla and quickly added, "Have you attended to the High Priests Nyla? They needed a royal figure for their ceremonies and I just haven't had the time."
She was moved aside to business. She nodded though. It was her place as the Queen. It was what she had married him for wasn't it? She wanted to serve her country.
Then his eyes had wandered to me. Why had he kept me around? It was so awkard with Fatine there and him. I could tell it was awkward for him to.
"Menice I didn't expect you here," Taharqa stated, "I had no idea you and the Queen were associates."
"Not many people here willing to associate with me I guess. Really, I figured I come to this patio often. It is a good view of Kerma. The city is endless from here it seems. I don't have anything else to do anyway."
"Really?" Fatine stated, "In all of Kerma you couldn't find any place you'd be of use?"
Any place I'd be in use.
"I was going to call on you this morning," Taharqa replied looking at me.
"You don't have to say that," I replied.
I moved away. He was right there. He let her disrespect me and he said nothing. It was like he didn't care about my emotions. And I was an emotional creature.
"Menice, I'm not saying anything to cope to your feelings," he stated, "I just...I just have been busy. You know I'd come see you if I had the time. It's just things are really complicated and I don't want to complicate them any further. Something is happening..."
"Chenen...he has gone to Egypt and he's changing things. He's not following my instructions. He has stopped sending messengers back to me several weeks ago."
could feel my anger building up. So what
did this mean?
"You can control Chenen," I stated.
"What if I can't? He has half of my navy. This leaves Kerma vulnerable. If I continue this spat with the Hittite it can put us at risk for war. We have assumed this isn't the wisest action for us to take."
"We? Is it her?"
I looked over at Taharqa. I couldn't help but to get angry.
"Let me finish my explanation."
"Explanation that will lead to what.
Exactly what are you saying?"
All of my tact had gone out the window. What was scary was that he hadn't possessed me. He hadn't screamed out that I was HIS and I'd obey his rules. Taharqa's face just looked sad. It was almost like he was giving up on me or something. My stomach began to turn. All of a sudden I saw those streets again. All of a sudden I saw the rats and the dirt. All of a sudden I saw me struggling each day to find food for myself. I would be a disappointment to my mother.
I'd kill myself before I went back to that.
He answered me swiftly, "We may not be able to continue our relationship at this specific time. It'd be too risky in public."
"Taharqa...what are you saying."
"I love you but it's politics. Nubia demands I sacrifice our relationship for you. Mursili would go to war for you and there was a time that I would as well...but with Chenen going astray there is no way I can do that. You don't understand..."
"So am I tossed out on the street."
"Of course not. You can stay in the palace as long as you want. I would love to maintain you as a friend but until I can recall my navy from Egypt and until I can regain peace with the Hittite, we are going to have to be just that..."
Nyla was the quick to speak, "My king..."
"CAN'T YOU SEE WE ARE BUSY!" He barked at her.
She quickly withdrew. I could feel him walking up to me but my eyes were on the ground. I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry so much but the anger was just building up in me. Had he just abandoned me?
He walked up behind me and grabbed me. In the middle of the garden I could feel his embrace and I felt almost a minute like every word he just said was a lie.
"You promised me you'd find my shooting star," I said.
"I will. It will just be for a while and just to the public. You know how I feel about you," he replied his voice getting softer as though he was trying to ease the blow.
"King Taharqa, you have a messenger," Fatine interrupted.
I hadn't even known what she was talking about. Taharqa's grip didn't loosen of me though. It wasn't helping though. It was making me actually cry now. Why couldn't he just do it in a cold way? Why was he leaving me to think there was hope between us? Why did he have to be this cruel? It hurt because I knew deep inside his crooked mind he actually believed his soft words. He actually believed we'd come back to each other. Or at least I thought he believed those things.
"I'm busy Fatine," he stated.
My heart warmed up a little bit as he dismissed her. He was stroking me by the hair. He was squeezing me. I was telling he didn't want to let me go.
He continued to whisper softly in my ear, "They want me to send you to Hattusa as a gift of peace to King Mursili. I can't though. I won't let you go. Will you wait for me..."
"Tell me you'll wait for me...promise me," he continued.
Fatine's voice grew louder and more urgent, "My king it is an emergency. It is urgent news. The messenger states Chenen has declared himself...Pharaoh of Egypt..."
His grip loosened. It didn't even loosen but he walked away from me as though I didn't even matter. The shock had come to me as well though. Chenen had declared himself Pharaoh? Was that his whole plan this whole time? He'd convince Taharqa to give him backing to go into Egypt so that he can take it away from Taharqa? No wonder he was so heavy handed in Egypt. He was building a fortress for war. This had to be his plan this whole time.
Taharqa went away with the messenger and his horde of followers. All of a sudden I didn't matter. He didn't even say goodbye to me. He didn't even give me another look. I had been replaced again by politics.
He walked away into my memory.
All this because of politics.
That left Nyla, Fatine and I with Nyla's slew of handmaidens all around us.
I looked at Nyla in a strange way. No she wouldn't do anything in such a public place. Plus she stated she needed me for the plan she had. She wouldn't dare. Fatine was completely comfortable however. If only she knew what type of plans Nyla had for her, she wouldn't have the grin on his face that she did now.
this ridiculous?" Fatine stated, "Prince Chenen has betrayed us.
Our alliance with the
Hittite are falling apart."
"OUR alliance?" Nyla laughed, "Amazing that you stay here a year and you consider yourself a Nubian. Aren't you a Hittite?"
"I love Nubia and when I am married to the King..."
"Oh you believes you'll marry him?" Nyla asked shaking her head and smiling, "Darling, I believe the King has only one in his mind and that isn't you. It's that boy over there. Don't you know that yet?"
Fatine smiled, "I have no problem with his relationship with Menice. Menice, I can assure you...I don't. He is a king. I am his lesser. I will please him in any way he sees fit and allow him pleasures in anyway he seeks.
She had put all her pride aside. She was so beautiful.
A regular Egyptian would kill for a wife who was so passive and so soft on the eyes.
"Kandace... let her leave, I'm done," I stated.
A part of me didn't want Kandace Nyla sticking up for me anymore. I didn't want to owe her anything. A part of me felt like Fatine was probably just as dumb and clueless as she was letting on. Then there was still that part of me that wondered what Nyla would do with all her servants around. We were outside though. It was the middle of the day. Just how desperate was Nyla to have Fatine gone?
Nyla was still there though with her head shaking
"He doesn't prefer women. You come over here thinking you can claim everything. You play so innocent girl but I see that look a mile away."
"Oh he has no problem with women," Fatine stated, almost dropping the innocent look, "He proved it the other day when we made love. I thought you of course would know that, my Queen...being his wife and all. I suppose not."
With that Fatine smiled and started to walk away. It was just like that. She had just walked away like she hadn't said anything. My heart had broken into pieces. I didn't need to hear this. He hadn't even touched me or Nyla but he had already made love to Fatine? He'd had sex with her already? What did this mean?
Nyla waited until Fatine had cleared the courtyard before she came up to me. I was surprised to actually see her lend me a towel to wipe my tears. I was surprised when she looked down on me with sympathy. I had misjudged her I figured. She wasn't the heartless politician that I thought her to be. The Queen actually seemed to care...
"He is yours...emotionally and mine politically," Nyla stated, "Even if he is hers physically, that may turn to something else. That girl isn't as innocent as she puts on. Admit it you may not have another year. You may not have another day..."
My mother had trusted Nyla in that letter.
It was time that I did as well.
I nodded my head and crossed my arms. I had to do it. I had to take things into my own hands.