The Tale of Ramla
By Nancy Lorenz.
Rating: PG 13 / K+
Spoilers: The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.
Disclaimer: All of this belongs to Universal Pictures - except Constance.
Author's Note: This is the story of the prior incarnations of Evelyn, Rick, their family and friends. It's recommended that you read "Hello From Sunny Hamunaptra" first.
There was once a great king in the land of Egypt. His name was Seti, and he was courageous and fair. He ruled Egypt well and made it prosper, pushing forth its borders and keeping its armies strong. He was the pride of his dynasty, and his bloodline was secure for he had two beautiful children; the eldest being his son Ramesses II, a boisterous eager man, and Nefertiri, who was very beautiful and clever. He also had a very lovely woman chosen for his new main wife: Ancksunamun. She was painted gold at all times and for those other than her handmaidens, to touch her was forbidden. She was born of the day of Amun and was holy.
A GIFT FOR PHARAOH
Egypt was a land greatly revered in the world. It was a vast empire with a civillised people. Other than Greece, Egypt felt as if it were surrounded by savages, and in some lands this was the case. One land of the northern part of the world hosted a fierce and mighty race of people. They lived in small sooty villages and hunted beasts to nourish themselves, they never shaved their bodies and went without washing for long periods of time. Despite this, they were keen fishermen, proficient shipbuilders and clever navigators. They had sailed many miles in the aim to trade with the Phoenicians, and wandered into Egypt's waters unwittingly after getting lost in a terrible storm.
Egypt's good swift boats caught them and brought them to the mainland. They were taken to Thebes and were brought before Seti, and all were awed. These men had long flaxen hair, the whitest skin and bright blue eyes. All in the court were awed and wondered from whence they came.
Seti brought forth his wise men and told them to make sense of the visitor's language, and after some time they knew what language they spoke.
"We are traders," said the largest of the visitors. "I am a sea captain, by the name of Ambiorix. This here is my first mate, Dumorix."
"What business have you in our waters, Captain?" asked Seti. "And where are you from?"
"We are from a land to the north-west," said Ambiorix. "Our town is called Alauna, but we set forth from the port town of Lutea. We were heading for Phoenicia to trade our wares and a terrible storm pushed us off our course. We meant no harm."
Seti was kind and believed their tale, and let them stay for as long as they liked, and allowed them to trade in Egypt and get all they needed. The traders were very pleased, and when they decided to go they gave great gifts to Pharaoh. They gave him pots and salted boar meats, fine Lutean wine and beautiful fabrics and clothes. They also gave him finely crafted weapons and armouring, and their most coveted of cargo; a slave girl from Scandinavia.
"Rarely does one clash with the Vikings and sail away to tell the tale, but we did, and on board their ship they had this slave," said Ambiorix. "She is of little value to us. She is malnourished and weak, but she may be strange and amusing to you, so you may keep her."
Pharaoh thanked them, and let them pass through Egypt's waters if they needed to, and stop in her harbours from that day on.
A HANDMAID FOR NEFERTIRI
The king was well pleased with his new treasures from the strangers, for they were interesting and new. He was unhappy at the state of the slave, however.
"She is like a stray dog," he said. "She is dirty and unpleasent to see."
He had his best physicians look over her, and she was whole and unhurt, but very underfed. The girl had been untouched by the Vikings or the Gauls, for hurt and incomplete slaves did not sell for high prices. They spoke to this girl and found that they did not know her language, which was lyrical and lilting. They did not try to learn her language, and sent her back to the King.
Nefertiri had been very interested when the Gauls came, and the strange girl intrigued her. Seti saw this.
"You may have this slave for a handmaiden," he said, "For she is skin and bone and not good enough for Pharaoh. Perhaps after your good care she will be sightly enough for the court."
Nefertiri was glad of this as she pitied the poor girl.
Now in that court, by the thrones, stood Pharaoh's most trusted Medjai who were guards and protectors. The chief of these men was Rashidi, a dark and startlingly handsome man who was brave but also gentle in his heart. At his side was his second in command, called Yafeu, who was brash and bold - a passionate man with a lust for life. He was best friend to Rashidi, like a brother to him. Yafeu was tasked with watching over the princess and guarding her chambers, and he took this task most seriously.
Upon deciding what was to be done with the slave that stood limply before them, Pharaoh ordered these men to take the slave to Nefertiri's rooms.
Nefertiri ordered that the slave girl be treated with the utmost care, but she had no cause for concern for Rashidi greatly pitied the straggly woman and was gentle to her as a lamb.
The girl was washed and shaved on her body, but Nefertiri would not allow the hair of her head to be shaved, for as they washed it clean of grime and mud, long golden locks were revealed and it was the most beautiful hair that Nefertiri had ever seen. She had it trimmed and combed and had silver and ebony beads threaded amongst it.
The girl knew none of the Egyptian's words, but Nefertiri decided to teach her so she could speak to her. The woman was often quiet and she was afraid of those around her, except for Nefertiri, who cared for her so well, and Rashidi, who had been gentle and kind with her. She did not give a name, so Nefertiri called her Kheprilapis, for Khepri meant the morning sun, which her hair was alike to, and lapis, for her eyes were as blue as the stone. Sometimes she called her Ibe, which meant 'love', for she loved Kheprilapis dearly.
Nefertiri took great care of Kheprilapis, and every day tried to teach her the Egyptian language. It took some months for Kheprilapis was not a learned woman and Egyptian was very different from her native language.
With Nefertiri's care, Khepri blossomed. The good Egyptian food nourished her, and the fine oils and perfumes caressed her skin and hair. She was a golden beauty, shining as the sun, and Nefertiri was the dark and sultry moon. Together they were complete, as one eye to the other, sisters of the sky.
Ramesses, the lusty prince, saw Khepri's growing beauty and he desired her. He could not take her as a wife for she was common, and she belonged to Nefertiri. Nonetheless, he playfully teased her and looked upon her body, and Nefertiri scolded him. He would never harm the girl, but it became apparent to Nefertiri that others might desire her, so she should have a guard. She assigned Rashidi this task, with Pharaoh's blessing, for she loved Khepri and wanted the best of guards to watch her. He was also the only other person Khepri trusted.
Each day Kheprilapis was a friend for Nefertiri, more than a handmaiden, and during her time alone Rashidi guarded her and watched her. Rashidi guarded her as Yafeu watched Nefertiri. Khepri's strength and health fully returned and as this happened she grew more beautiful. Roses were in her cheeks and her lips were red as pomegranates. Her skin was like alabaster and her hair was spun gold. But not only was she lovely to look upon; she was meek and content with little and touched deeply by plenty. She would have given all of herself for Nefertiri and was a devoted servant, and Rashidi saw this and was moved.
He never said a word to the young woman because Medjai were forbidden to speak to their charges and only reported to Pharaoh or his children. The pain in his heart grew every day, for he was falling in love with Khepri and she was strictly forbidden to him. She spoke not to him for she was as timid as a mouse, but sometimes he saw her eyes upon him and for that alone he was glad.
He swore in his heart to always look after her, to guard her and protect her to the end of his very days and this vow was second only to his life purpose as protector of Pharaoh. Nefertiri saw his vigilance and was well pleased.
KHEPRILAPIS HAS A DREAM
Khepri now had a good life after being stolen away from her people and treated horribly. She grew to love Egypt, and loved her Princess Nefertiri. They spoke of everything together and in this disregarded Royal protocol. But Nefertiri cared not and she encouraged Khepri to be brave and bold, for she knew of Rashidi's heart, even if Khepri did not, and wished them united. Despite her efforts, Khepri remained quiet because in her life of slavery the quiet lived and the noisy were struck down and destroyed.
Khepri's new life was not without pain for not only did she miss her homeland but she began to have bad and mysterious dreams. She would wake in the late hours of the night, screaming loudly, sweat upon her brow and body. For a while she ignored such dreams; she had had such dreams many times before and they did not bother her if she did not heed them. But the land of Egypt was full of magic and her dreams grew. One night she woke with a great shout, witlessly crying out in broken Egypt:
"One holy shall fall on sacred soil! A death for Ra! A death for Ra!"
Nefertiri had Khepri sleep in a room next to hers and upon hearing the girl's cry, ran to her and heard the dream words. Egyptians were not a people that ignored dreams, and Nefertiri remembered the words as she comforted her favoured handmaiden.
It came to pass that the next day that a priest at the Temple of Ra was making an offering on the roof-top as was the custom (for offerings to Ra were presented to the sun). From up high swooped a mighty eagle and frightened the priest. He lost his footing and fell from the altar up the steps and tumbling from his high place he landed in the holy garden of Ra, and his blood stained the yellow dirt. The servants and priests of the temple cried and threw up sand and pulled on their wigs and hair. They gnashed their teeth and sobbed and there was much anguish.
News of this reached Pharaoh, and Nefertiri cried for the priest because he was a good man. She went to the king and said, "Father. My handmaiden Kheprilapis dreamt of this happening the night before!"
Pharaoh thought gravely on this and said, "It may be coincidence. If she predicts accurately two more times, so totalling three, then I will name her a seer."
Nefertiri told Khepri of this and the maidservant became distressed.
"Please, good Princess, let me remain your handmaiden, for I am happy in this task and I am good for no other!"
"This job of seer and oracle and will make you prosperous and you will be regarded as holy."
Khepri did not feel holy, and she went quiet.
Two days later Khepri woke again in the night, crying out.
"The face of Seti shall fall in the new city! He must carve anew!"
The following day in Seti's new city in Goshen, the skilled Egyptian builders prepared to lift a great statue of Pharaoh, to stand before a new Temple. Such operations were risky, complicated and dangerous and mistakes were not uncommon. It was by the grace of their Gods and the great skill of the builders that their buildings rose so high. Every time a new structure was put up, there were chances that things could go wrong. On that day, something did. The great statue of Seti did not settle into its hollow immediately and the workers did not pull quickly enough to balance it. The great mass of stone tipped over and struck the temple. The stone was split along a seam in the rock and this seam was behind the face of the statue. The face toppled and broke into many pieces, and the statue had to be pulled down and carved anew.
This news reached Seti and Nefertiri was shaken. Seti saw her face and read her expression well, for he was her father.
"Something troubles you my daughter," he said, "Speak."
"Khepri has foreseen this too in a dream!" she said. "Only last night she described this."
Seti was pleased and said that after one more prediction was fulfilled he would make her a royal seer.
That day Nefertiri spoke with Khepri saying, "From this day on I shall call you 'Ramla', the seer." And she told her trusted guards, Yafeu and Rashidi, so they knew what to call her now. They were ordered not to speak of the name near Seti until a third dream occurred and was fulfilled.
A FINAL TERRIBLE DREAM
Two nights later a dream came to Khepri and this one was more horrible than any other she'd ever had. She awoke and screamed in a voice so loud that it woke all those in that part of the palace.
"The King shall die! The king shall die! The beauty shall kill him in her lust of another!"
These words rang out through the castle and many servants and guards heard the cry. Nefertiri ran and comforted Khepri and wept for she knew her father would most likely come to harm.
As Khepri, now Ramla, sat shaking in Nefertiri's arms, she said, "Watch her, watch the gold one."
Nefertiri and Ramla did not know it, but they were not alone.
THE TASK OF NEFERTIRI
During days past the king had decided to move the great Bracelet of Anubis into a new room that had a remarkable door that locked in a way only the King and Nefertiri knew. It was a door of stone and metal, impenetrable to those that did not know the way of the lock. Nefertiri was chosen to look after its safety and all her training in defense that her father made her do in her life was geared for this one task. That day her father would make a proclamation of this task and all looked forward to hearing from their king.
BENISALAM THE RAT
Now word spread of Ramla's night time cries of terror and one servant of the King, Benisalam, heard what was said. Nefertiri had sworn Rashidi and Yafeu to silence in concern of the dream, and she said nothing to her father for to talk of the King's death was treason.
Benisalam, eager for the approving eye of Pharaoh and the riches he had, thought that if he told Pharaoh the secret he knew that the king may smile kindly upon him and reward him.
When Benisalam was about his task of pouring wine for the king, he bowed his head and said:
"Forgive me, Pharaoh, for speaking out of turn and daring to confer with your most holy personage," he said. "I have heard most disturbing things in your house. Things that cause me to fear for you life."
"Tell me these things," said Pharaoh, "Be quick!"
Benisalam grew close.
"Your most gracious majesty," said Benisalam. "Nefertiri has been heard calling her maidservant, 'Ramla', before the proclamation has been fulfilled!"
At this Pharaoh frowned and was ill pleased. "This is all the news you bring me? Speak again and tell me something worth my concern or I will make you sorry you spoke at all!"
Benisalam smiled broadly and bowed low.
"My great King." His twinkling sharp eyes met that of Pharaoh. "Last night a cry rang out in the halls of Nefertiri's part of the palace. Kheprilapis woke from a third dream, and she has spoken another prophecy."
Pharaoh Seti frowned again, this time in confusion. "Why has my daughter not told me of this?"
"She did not tell you for the prophecy concerns you, my Lord."
"Tell me," said Seti, eyes brimmed with worry and fear. "Tell me her words."
"The king shall die," said Benisalam with veiled relish. "The beauty shall kill him in her lust for another." He leaned close and eyed the Pharaoh. "Afterwards she was heard to say, 'Watch the gold one.'"
The king dismissed Benisalam, giving him no treasure or any reward for his report as Seti was troubled and unhappy with what he had heard.
He brought forth his wise men and told them of the prophecy. He asked them to decipher it, to make sense of the riddle. The wise men knew not what the prophecy meant, but fearing Pharaoh's rage, they created a false situation to fit it.
"Pharaoh," they said, "The Gold One is none other than Khepri herself, for does her name not mean 'She of the golden morning light'?"
Pharaoh was not satisfied. "Why would she speak against herself?"
"It is the Gods that speak when an oracle sees the future," said the wise men, "Not the mortal soul that channels them. I daresay she had not control of what she said."
"But how does it apply to her?" asked Pharaoh. "Who would she lust so much that she would seek my death?"
"Why, Prince Ramesses himself," said the wise men, "For he has looked upon her kindly. Should she be appointed to his harem, and he would become King. She would be able to work her way to the position of Head Concubine, and that holds more power than that of handmaiden to the Princess."
Pharaoh stared at the wise men a long moment.
"And you can think of no other 'Gold One' that would challenge me?"
"No my lord," they said, and bowed low.
"Leave me!" he told them. "I need to think."
And think Pharaoh did. For three spans of an hour he thought and finally he made his decision.
RAMLA IS BROUGHT BEFORE PHARAOH
When the hours of open court began, Pharaoh often brought forth captured criminals that had been accused of very severe and serious crimes. Today he called for Ramla.
Nefertiri did not know that she had been seized for sentencing. She sat beside Pharaoh, unaware of what would follow.
"Bring in the accused!" called Seti.
As was routine, it was Seti's Chief Medjai and his second in command that brought in the criminal. Clad in simple rough-woven linen and silver was Ramla, utter terror in her wide blue eyes. Walking beside her, clutching her arm was Rashidi, eyes red with tears, jaw clenched, and grief all over his face. His fingers trembled and moved back and forth over her arm in a stolen caress, for he knew he would have to say goodbye to her this day.
Nefertiri put a hand over her heart and cried out. She could not speak against her father in court, so she merely looked to him, her fear and heartbreak clear. Her eyes asked him, "Why are you doing this!"
Pharaoh could only dip his head in apology. He looked back to Ramla and called her by her new name to appease his daughter.
"Ramla, gift of Gaul, supposed oracle and condemner of men..." He sighed dourly. "My trusted servants and soldiers have heard you speak words of treason. You spoke words that herald my death, and insinuate some very disturbing things." He looked to Nefertiri a moment then back to Ramla. "In your ramblings you said to watch the Gold One."
Nefertiri heard a sudden quiet breath, and looking over she saw Ancksunamun shift in her place. Nefertiri, from that moment, did not trust her.
"Your name is of the golden morning, and it is believed that death brings death as blood brings blood. I will not ignore the signs. Although you have served my daughter well and tried to conform to our civilised ways, the ancient law you have defiled with your words cannot be denied. No one may speak ill of Pharaoh in this house, or threaten his death.
Kheprilapis Ramla, today you die at the hands of my bravest and most trusted men for your transgressions. May Anubis guide you safely to your judgement."
"No!" cried Nefertiri, no longer caring for court etiquette. "She was trying to save you! She would never hurt you!"
Her father placed his hand on hers, forgiving her bad behaviour.
"I am sorry, my beloved daughter. This must be done, as it always has been. It is done to serve Egypt, for it is to protect me and I am Egypt itself. The laws must be followed."
Nefertiri wept and shook, terror in her eyes.
Rashidi too wept, but only through silent tears and with a broken heart he ignored that she was forbidden to him, and spoke to her.
It was but one sound and in it he confessed all his love and devotion to her.
Ramla had no chance to speak. Pharaoh motioned to Yafeu, who obediently guided her to her knees, following his orders with a heavy heart. Ramla knew not what was happening. She was afraid, confused, hurt. She wondered why Nefertiri did not save her. She wondered why Rashidi would let this happen.
At Pharaoh's nod, Rashidi's sword swung true, despite his shaking hands, and Ramla's head was cut from her body. Her blood stained the Medjai's linen skirts, and Nefertiri's wails of grief and horror echoed through the palace.
"NO!" she cried. "Osiris take me now for my sister has been torn from my side!"
She tore at her fine garments, ripped her hair and rocked back and forth on her knees as the wailers at funeral processions, except her grief was real, raw and soul destroying.
"Nefertiri, this is not the way for a future Queen to behave. Please rise. Your brother shall return this afternoon from his trip to Nubia and you must be dressed appropriately." He clapped his hands and pointed to the body of Ramla.
"Rashidi, Yafeu... clean up this mess."
At this Nefertiri began to weep louder and Pharaoh had her taken away to her room.
Rashidi gathered up Ramla's body, Yafeu her head, and they took her away. Nefertiri demanded a holy burial for her beloved companion, and to ease her grief, Pharaoh allowed her a small funeral worthy of a good servant of royalty.
Many people had waited and threw up sand and tore their clothes as they watched the stretcher bearing Ramla's body being taken to the Temple. They wept because she was a seer of proven ability and beloved of their princess.
At the head of the procession walked Rashidi, who swore to protect her. In the temple he wept over her body, and he hated himself for bringing harm to her, swearing never to forgive himself, never to let light shine upon him for he was a criminal for breaking his vow and killing she whom he loved more than life. For many days he ate nothing and spoke to no one, and in all his days he never took a wife.
Ramla's body was dried and anointed, made whole and wrapped in fine linen. She was mummified and laid in a part of Nefertiri's tomb, in a little cache all her own, and when Rashidi died many, many years later, he was laid next to her and they slept eternally, together for the ages.
THE BETRAYAL OF SETI
Nefertiri hid in her chambers and wept all that day. Yafeu, guilty and grieved, strayed from his post and dared to try to comfort her. So agonised was Nefertiri that she did not get angry for this indiscretion, and laid her head in his brown muscled lap and wept.
The princess did not have all day to weep, for she was to be presented before court that evening as guardian and keeper of the lock of the Bracelet of Anubis.
With Yafeu's help she cleaned herself up and was resplendent in her battle garb when she entered court that night. All were in awe as she dueled with the sharp-tongued Ancksunamun, but she could not beat the older and more vicious fighter. Ancksunamun defeated her and Nefertiri felt ashamed.
She forgave her father silently by letting him embrace her after the duel, for she feared for his life and could not remain angry at him. Ramla's warning echoed in her mind, and opening her eyes she saw Ancksunamun. The woman painted gold locked eyes with the High Priest Imhotep, and they looked upon each other with lusty eyes. At this Nefertiri grew afraid, and thought to keep her eye on Ancksunamun.
Ancksunamun desired Imhotep and the desire was mutual. They yearned for each other and that night their foolish lust overcame them. Imhotep stole into Ancksunamun's holy chambers, and upon meeting her he kissed her and touched her painted body. The paint smudged amongst the kohl on her skin and became a glittering grey.
Pharaoh decided to visit Ancksunamun at her chambers, for he loved her deeply and liked to talk with her alone every night. He entered the sacred rooms and was angered for his priests dared to try to bar him entry to a room in his own palace. He approached his wife to be, ready to scold her.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, and his eyes fell up her arm and he saw the smudged paint. "Who has touched you!"
From behind him came Imhotep, who stabbed him, and upon turning to face his attacker, Ancksunamun stabbed Pharaoh too.
This was not without witness, for standing upon a nearby balcony stood Nefertiri. She cried out for the Medjai as soon as the gold blades were drawn, and as her father was stabbed she wailed and threw herself from the balcony.
But the Gods were kind to her, and Yafeu devoted to his task as her bodyguard, never strayed far from her side. At hearing her cry he ran for her, and when she flung herself forward he grabbed her legs and pulled her up. The princess was bruised and shaken, and Yafeu embraced her with relief.
"Leave us not, Princess," he said gently, "For the world needs your wisdom and beauty yet."
ANCKSUNAMUN IS SURROUNDED
The Medjai rushed Imhotep and Ancksunamun and she, knowing the ways of the Chief Priest, knew he could bring her back should she die.
Drawing a dagger from Pharaoh, she ran herself through shouting, "I shall no longer be his temple!"
Imhotep was not charged with the stabbing of the king, as Nefertiri was in deep shock and could say nothing.
Ramesses came to his Father's side and found that he was not dead.
"Father!" he cried, "You live!"
"Not for long," the Pharaoh rasped. "Osiris calls me." He coughed, blood bubbling in his mouth. "Tell your sister I am sorry. I... I thought that if I killed Ramla... my fate would die with her. I was wrong. She was a gifted seer." He coughed again. "Bury her accordingly."
"We will, Father..."
Pharaoh nodded, and spoke his last words. "My son... make me proud."
Those words stayed with Ramesses and in the years to come he became the greatest king Egypt had ever known.
THE FATE OF NEFERTIRI
In the days that followed, Imhotep was captured in Hamunaptra, the sacred necropolis, practicing a forbidden and evil magic rite. Ramesses' wrath was swift and severe, and he ordered the Hom Dai, the most painful and unspeakable of punishments. Imhotep was mummified alive, buried still living with thousands of hungry flesh-eating scarabs closed inside his sarcophagus that slowly consumed him until he was dead.
It was a long time before Nefertiri recovered from that horrible day. She stayed in her part of the house often, and Yafeu watched over her. He dared to speak to her and comfort her, and Ramesses minded not for it seemed the only thing to help his sister, and he himself had many inappropriate mistresses.
Slowly, over time, Nefertiri saw that Yafeu was in love with her, and she too grew to love him. It was a deep and binding love, and although it would never be accepted by the people and was strictly forbidden by law, it was a love quietly tolerated by the staff of the house of Pharaoh. It did not exist to Ramesses, as his own forbidden affairs did not exist.
There came a day when Nefertiri learned that she was with child, and it was Yafeu's. She came to Ramesses and told him, and feared his anger.
"Worry not sister," he said, "For I shall marry you as Pharaoh's have married their kin before, in the manner of the Gods. You will be my Queen, and we will rule this kingdom together. You will be with Yafeu as you wish."
So it was that Ramesses married his sister, and though they did not touch each other in passion or regard each other as man and wife, they were married for many years and Yafeu remained Nefertiri's lover.
Nefertiri bore a son, who was as wise, tender and brave as his parents. He was called Prehirwonmef, and he became a brilliant man, who loved to sit with the scribes and learn of times long gone. He dug in the earth and made much of the old things he found, so he could know more of the people that lived before him. He one day became Chief Priest, and he was good and fair in this role.
He never became king, for Ramesses ruled till his eighties and Nefertiri was long gone.
Still his wisdom aided the King, and he was well loved in the court, for his goodness he learnt from his mother, who in part learnt gentleness and generosity from her short time with Kheprilapis Ramla. There were a few in Thebes that from that time worshipped Ramla as a minor Goddess, and since that day girls with golden hair were considered holy.