When the young woman betrothed to Pharaoh Atem suddenly elopes with another man mere weeks before the wedding, her desperate parents have no other choice but to send her younger brother in her place. Blindshipping Drama/Fluff/Smut.
The day my sister ran away was the day my life changed forever…
It was like any other day; the sun peeked over the horizon, staining the sky a beautiful, hazy gold. From beneath his covers, Heba stirred, rubbing still tired eyes. The sun was almost too bright now that he sat up, mussed bangs stuck with sweat to his forehead.
It was silent. Too silent. Not even the faint smell of Mama's cooking to rouse him. The creeping silence lured him out of bed and out of his room, to face his father sitting still as a cadaver in a chair.
"…Papa?" Heba said, reaching out for his father in trepidation.
Heba pulled his hand back, bowing deeply. "Good morning, Father."
He regarded his son with an affirmative hum. Papa was normally a man of few words, but he seemed too deep in thought. The eerie silence returned once more, Heba stammering for words.
"W-where is Mama? And Fatima?" asked the boy.
Papa scoffed before answering. "Your mother is resting." He seemed content to leave it at that. Heba took note of his hesitance.
It seemed his son was going to force his hand. "She is gone," he finally replied.
Eyes widening in surprise, Heba toyed with the hem of his tunic.
"Gone? Gone where, Papa?"
"She has eloped," replied Mama from the doorframe.
Mama weakly made her way to a chair beside her husband, folding her hands neatly over her lap.
"As you know, Heba, Fatima was set to marry the Pharaoh in a fortnight in exchange for my treatment. However, your father found that she had begun to spend time with a stable hand outside the city. The two have eloped," Mama explained.
"But, what about the Pharaoh? How will he get a bride if we haven't one to give him?" Heba asked desperately.
"Your father suggested taking another girl and having her take Fatima's place, but it is too cruel to take a man's daughter and barter her off. We have no other options-"
"We have one," Papa said, cutting his wife off.
Mama turned to him, eyes searching for an answer. "We do?"
Papa rose from his seat, placing his hands on Heba's shoulders.
"As our only son, you are to protect the family in the event that I cannot," said Papa, voice wavering.
"So, it is with a heavy heart that I ask you to take your sister's place as the Pharaoh's bride."
Mama gasped and launched herself from her seat in a surprising show of strength, throwing her arms around her son.
"No! You cannot send Heba! I will not allow you!"
"We have no other choice, my love! How are you to receive your treatment if we do not give the Pharaoh a bride?" cried Papa.
Her grip tightened. "I would first lie down and die before I give him away! If he is found out, the Pharaoh will execute him for his deception!"
Heba unwrapped his mother's arms, then cast his eyes in determination. "I will do it."
"…What?" Mama asked, eyes welling with tears. "No, Heba…you cannot, my child!"
"Mama," Heba began, gripping his mother's hand, "your health means more to me than my life. I would lay down my life if it meant that you and Papa and Fatima could live happily. I will marry the Pharaoh in Fatima's place."
"But, what if you are found out?"
"Then, my death will not be in vain," replied Heba.
Papa smiled, weak but genuine. "You are brave beyond measure, my son. I apologize for putting you through this."
Mama hung her head in defeat. "Please be safe, Heba. I couldn't bear it if I lost you."
"I cannot be sure what will happen to me, but I am willing to risk it, if it means you can live in comfort," said Heba.
"The Pharaoh's men will come to take you to the palace in three days. That gives us ample time to prepare your clothes. You will acclimate to the palace for seven days until the wedding. Luckily, the Pharaoh will not see you until the day of the wedding. I am placing my trust in you, son."
In three days, Mama had tailored Fatima's dress to fit her brother. Heba could mostly pass for a flat-chested woman; his body unusually supple for a young man. Fatima would tease him, saying he hadn't yet lost his baby fat. It was much less of a hindrance in this situation.
He was taught to speak softly, sit demurely, and guard his true identity. If anyone at the palace, much less the Pharaoh himself, catch wind of the deception, it could spell the end.
He was now Fatima. Heba was the life he'd be leaving behind.
Heba's reflections ended when Papa escorted two robed men inside.
"Here she is."
"She? Who is she?" Heba thought. It hit him just as quickly.
He was now her.
"Oh, right. Me."
One of the robed men stepped toward Heba, gently pulling the veil from his face. A bit of captivating eyeliner and red lip color went a long way in convincing him.
"She is a beautiful woman. The Pharaoh will be pleased to take her as his wife."
"We certainly hope he finds favor in her," Mama said, wrapping her arms around Heba.
The man stood upright, arms folded behind his back. "I will allow you goodbyes." He waved his hand, the other man following him out of the home.
Mama placed the veil back over Heba's face and smoothed his dress.
"Please be safe. I know that the Pharaoh will protect you as long as we can continue this. Be a good boy, Heba."
"Do not do anything that would lead them to question your identity,' said Papa. As serious as ever.
"You should not keep them waiting any longer."
With tears in his eyes, Heba turned slowly away from his parents and toward his new life.
"Goodbye, Mother. Goodbye, Father."
The two men helped Heba into the carriage as he stole one last look at his parents and prepared him for the long ride back to the palace.
It was nearing sundown and they had not yet come upon sight of the palace. Every so often, one of the men not at the reigns would turn to peer inside at the Pharaoh's bride. At some point, the horses' gentle trotting and the rock of the carriage on the road lulled Heba to sleep on what was already a dull ride through vast countryside. Head leaned against the side of the carriage, he looked unbothered in rest, eyelashes resting gently on pink cheeks.
"She truly is a beautiful woman. And the Pharaoh hasn't laid eyes on her yet?" asked one of the men.
"He is not to see her face until the day they are wed. In seven days, she will captivate him," replied the driver.
Heba awoke to talking seeping through his subconscious. Surely, they must be close to the palace by now.
"It is quite unfortunate that she will marry the Pharaoh."
"Why is that?"
"Well…there is a rumor. I best not say anymore."
"A rumor?" thought Heba. "About the Pharaoh?"
"You have already put it out there, now say!"
"They…they say that Pharaoh Atem prefers the company of other men and that he has never looked upon a woman with wifely designs. What has made him decide to suddenly wed this girl is a mystery."
"That's hogwash! The Pharaoh is still young. I find it great that he has decided to marry this young woman! I just wonder why he would marry a farmer's daughter, instead of any girls in the richer districts."
Heba closed his eyes, hoping that if he pressed them tighter, he would come to rest quicker. To no avail; his heart was beating wildly out of his chest with this new information.
"No! No, Heba! It's just a silly rumor! Surely, if Fatima was really the one that became his bride, the Pharaoh would love her unconditionally! …Right?"
He came to an uneasy rest.
Finally, they arrived at the palace. Heba stepped out of the carriage to the sight of what seemed like nearly one hundred people bowing to him.
"No. Stop that!"
"Is the Pharaoh in his quarters?"
"He mustn't be allowed to see her!"
"Priest Set and Priest Mahaad are guarding his quarters."
A young woman rose from the bowed heads, stepping by Heba's side.
"I will take you to your quarters. There, you will be washed and clothed. We must go the long way. Pharaoh Atem must not see you."
Heba let the woman lead him down the winding corridors of the palace, watching men and women rushing in all directions, excitedly chatting among themselves. Some would catch his eye and bow lowly to him as he walked by.
Once they reached his quarters, the woman bowed.
"I will allow you to undress for your bath."
With that, she left, closing the door behind her.
Slowly, Heba began to undress, staring absently out the window.
"Could the rumor those two guards spoke of be true? Would Fatima still want to marry the Pharaoh after hearing such a rumor? Oh, dear sister. Please guide me. What would you do?"
"I do not see why I have to wait to see my bride. Our marriage was arranged five months ago and I only know her name. Surely I have waited long enough?" the Pharaoh inquired.
"It is only in seven days' time that you will see your new wife," Set began, folding his arms, "you can wait just a while longer."
Pharaoh Atem leaned on his arm. "I suppose so."
A smirk crossed his lips.
"I do hope she is ready for me."