Author: Marxbros

Title: The Ends of the Earth: Seti

Rating: PG-13

The Ends of the Earth is a series in four parts told in the present tense by Seti's mistress Anck-su-namun, the princess Nefertiri, Seti I the Pharaoh of Egypt, and Imhotep the High Priest. These stories take place in the weeks before Imhotep and Anck-su-namun betray and murder their Pharaoh. What drives them to sacrifice everything for love? What is the nature of their relationship, and their relationships with the people around them? Told in a series of interlocking vignettes.


The Ends of the Earth

Seti: The Sun King

I am woken by the sun as it rises over Thebes, bright sunlight spilling into my rooms, painting my walls with gold. I refuse to allow the servants to draw my curtains shut at night. The one thing I love more than anything is rising with the sun, watching Thebes awaken slowly in the dawning light. The sun is whole and round as a fruit, ripe on the burning horizon. I watch the streets slowly fill with the bustle of people, the muted sounds of merchants and laborers drifting to my ears. I feel like their father, opening and blessing each new day.

It is the only moment that I ever feel like the God's messenger on earth, the sacred being I am supposed to be. Sometimes I feel dirty and shameful, because I know I am not truly holy or good. But it is for those few instants in the early mornings, when the sun is full in the east, pale in the newly made sky, that I feel a Pharaoh, that I truly feel divine.

My daughter and my future wife do not understand my love of early rising. My daughter is too young to understand the majesty of what she sees. And Anck-su-namun likes her privacy, keeping her long golden curtains drawn through most of the day.

I know that there are secrets in her, things that she will never tell me and perhaps will never share. She is furtive, quiet as she assesses the situation before her. I know I will never truly understand her, but with time, perhaps, she will learn to love me. There are times, when I gaze into her deep black eyes, when a minute fear stirs in me, warning me. Sometimes her coldness toward me induces a sinister chill down my spine, and parts of me are afraid of her.

But she is nothing but obedient and faithful, and I know my discomfort to be nothing. She is a good teacher and friend to Nefertiri, who needs such a thing right now. Anck-su-namun will make me a good wife. Neither my daughter nor Anck-su-namun herself know that I will soon take her as my second wife.

Merely the sight of her fills me with lust.

I watch the sun rise for many minutes, standing on my balcony bathed in light. These few moments allow me to believe that anything is possible. I marvel at how each day the world is lit anew, how the sun can fall and rise again, and make the earth fresh in its wake.

The Nile sparkles below, winding around my palace and running next to the city until it fades into the morning haze, far in the distance. I can see fisherman several miles away, wading into the slaking current. Each morning I am filled with hope. My personal problems seem shallow and insignificant in comparison to the greatness of this city, this Egypt.

The servants draw my bath, heating the water over a kitchen stove and carting it into my chambers. I bathe quickly. I contemplate how I should break the news to my daughter and to my mistress.

As I am dressing, Ardeth, the head of the Med Jai, is announced and enters my chambers. He gives me a full report of yesterday's events and any schedule changes. He is as always cautious, respectful, and guarded.

"Thank you, Ardeth," I say, essentially dismissing him. He bows and turns to leave but I speak, forcing him to stop face me again.

"Do you still disapprove of my actions toward Antef?"

Ardeth pauses, carefully weighing his words and assessing the situation. "You are divine, my lord. Your word is my command."

I admire his skill at deflecting a loaded question. "Ardeth, that is not what I asked."

He hesitates. He has, over the last fifteen years as the leader of my bodyguards, been forced to be honest with me, sometimes brutally honest, and I have always appreciated his candor.

"I think the matter could have been handled with a bit more...consideration."

I reflect, and he stands there, waiting for my words. I had one of his men killed, Antef, because he was looking lustfully upon my Anck-su-namun. He was assigned to protect her, and I personally warned him that if I found anything wrong with his behavior towards her his life would be forfeit. I saw burning lust for her in his eyes, and I ordered his death.

"You think I acted too quickly?"

Ardeth considers this, phrasing his words with care. "I think it is possible that another, more lenient solution could have been reached." Ardeth followed my orders, but I know it hurt him to do so.

"Yes, perhaps you are right," I admit. "But," I add, my face darkening slightly, "you know how I feel about Anck-su-namun."

"Of course, my lord." He hesitates again, wishing to speak.

"Yes?" I ask impatiently.

"My lord, it will be difficult to find a man who does not find your mistress...appealing."

I smile, a smile of pride for my beautiful concubine and admiration for his diplomatic tongue. "Thank you Ardeth," I say, dismissing him again. I know I must be careful of my bursts of jealousy.

I eat my breakfast quickly, excited for a new day. As I eat, the Med Jai at my door announce my daughter, and she floats in, lovely as a spring day. What a beauty she is growing up to be!

"Nefertiri! My dear, come sit by me," I say, gesturing towards the sofa I am sitting on. As a slave gracefully removes two of the pillows, making room for her, I look carefully into her face. With a pang I recognize traces of her mother-traces in the arch of her eyebrows, the strong and proud nose. My eyes mist slightly as she bends over and kisses my forehead.

I offer her food, but she declines, and we settle into the cushions. I eat with gusto, swallowing the lump in my throat as quickly as it formed.

"Your brother continues to do well," I say, knowing that she misses him.

"So I have heard," she replies calmly.

"Rameses says he will be ready to lead the first raid," I continue.

"I hope it brings him honor," she says.

"Your brother is strong, he will make me proud." I say this to comfort her, because although I miss him too it is a necessary part of his training to guide and lead troops, to become a man outside of my shadow. I hope she hears the words implicit in that statement-that she is strong too, and I know that she too will make me proud.

"When will he be able to come home?" she presses. I hear the slight quaver in her voice. Hearing the emotion so present in her voice forces my emotion to the foreground. I miss my son. But there is nothing I can do about it, I have sent him away, and it must be so.

To cover I laugh jovially and slap her leg. "Nefertiri! We have discussed this! His training is long and arduous. You do want him worthy to become Pharaoh, do you not?"

I stand up and brush crumbs from my robes, carefully hiding my face from her. Slaves immediately rush in to remove the dishes and plates. I cannot look at her young face, full of innocent suffering.

Later in the day I approach Anck-su-namun's quarters. Wordlessly, the Med Jai open the heavy wooden doors. I move slowly through the sunlight. I pass through her outer rooms, pushing aside curtains to reveal her, draped over a couch in a seductive pose. She is eating, she places a grape in her mouth as I watch. I stop several feet from her, admiring her lithe body. She is the solution to all of my problems. With her, I can forget how I miss my children, my jealousy, my sense of inadequacy.

Nefertiri is so innocent, so good, so full of wonder and awe. She is too good for me. Under her gaze I feel guilty for my past actions, for my acquisition of a mistress, for the way I have forced away the memories of her mother, for the way I have forced away my son. Even without knowing all of the facts, I know Nefertiri is evaluating me, silently reproaching me for my actions. I cannot bear her oppressive, wordless disappointment and sadness.

Anck-su-namun, slender and alluring, is the opposite. She beckons me forward, entices me, bewitches me into sin...

With her I have no obligations. I owe her nothing, and she will not judge my soul.

Anck..." I breathe, and I move behind the couch. I place my hands on her shoulders, let them trail up to feel her smooth black hair, then down her back, tracing her spine.

"I think I shan't ever tire of you," I murmur, learning forward and grazing my face on her dark tresses. She remains still. I take a deep breath, caressing her. I wait for her to respond.

In those seconds I wonder what she is thinking, for she never reveals any true emotion to me. Does she ever break down, cry, scream, lose control? Sometimes she seems like the perfect statue. It seems impossible that she is a person with her own dreams and desires, although on some level I know she must be.

Her scent is spicy and erotic and it fills my nose and my body with passion. A possessive smile flickers over my face. She belongs to me.

She lifts one arm up over her head and touches my cheek with her hand.

After my noon meal I have my regular meeting with Imhotep, my high Priest. He often comes to the palace to say prayers or to discuss important matters. Recently I have been asking him to come to visit Nefertiri, who is all too depressed of late. They have been friends since she was a little girl, and I know it pleases her to see him.

Our business concluded for the day, Imhotep stands and stretches. I secretly admire his fine physique, I do not get enough exercise. He turns to me with a rueful smile on his face.

"I must confess something," he says. "I promised Nefertiri I would come watch her practice her fighting lessons."

I laugh. "Imhotep, my friend, I am glad. You know it cheers her to see you."

He smiles with genuine pleasure. "The Princess has great spirit."

I laugh again. "Yes, indeed." I pause. "But you know, that since her mother's death, she has been in need of a companion. That is why I hope Anck-su-namun will fill part of the void in her life."

Imhotep nods seriously. "It would be a great thing." He smiles again. "Well, I am off to see her now."

I watch him leave. He is a great Priest and invaluable to me. I do not know what I would do without him.

Several days later, after a long night spent with Anck-su-namun, we are sitting in my chambers eating breakfast. Suddenly Nefertiri walks into the room unannounced and stops, staring at us.

There is silence. I do not know what to do.

"Nefertiri," I say unsteadily. She has never seen me with a woman in my chambers before and probably had not realized the extent of my feelings for her teacher. Anck-su-namun lowers her head and looks at the ground.

Nefertiri abruptly turns and walks quickly back to her rooms.

"And so I would like you to preside over the ceremonies," I finish, explaining to Imhotep his role.

"It would be an honor, my Pharaoh."

I sigh. Nefertiri has been avoiding me all day, and I know I must go talk to her. I do not feel like having this conversation with her. She can sometimes be difficult.

I consider telling Imhotep my worries, but that would involve telling him all about Anck-su-namun, which I am loathe to do. I want to keep her all to myself.

"Imhotep. I must again encourage you to visit my daughter," I say.

He pauses. "I would love to, my Lord, but I find little time for socializing with so many official duties."

I clap him on the back. "I am sure you can find a few moments for the little girl you used to hold on your knee!"

Imhotep smiles, but we are interrupted by the banging of a wooden door. It is Anck-su-namun, looking particularly stunning. She walks in a few steps and then stops, surprised to see us.

"I am so sorry," she begins, but I am happy to see her at any time so I beckon her inside.

"Come in my dear," I say. "What do you need?"

"I left my wrap in here," she says, walking to a table and picking up a pile of sheer and gauzy fabric. She holds it uneasily in her arms.

I wonder why she is so ill at ease until I see the look she gives Imhotep.

It is nothing, a quick glace, a movement of the eyes. But in them I read a mixture of tenderness and fear.

For a minute there is nothing I can say. I am silent in shock and outrage. Then I remember Antef, and I calm down. I trust Imhotep and Anck-su-namun more than any other people. Imhotep has been my High Priest for twelve years and has served me faithfully. Why should I suspect them of any misdeeds? In fact, they barely know each other. When have they had an opportunity to even speak together?

But still, suspicion lingers. Why would she look at him like that? But still, perhaps again I am reading too much into a simple look. Antef looked at her and lost his life, and even now I am sure that he never touched or said anything inappropriate. But the jealousy flames up in me, hotter and hotter...

No, I tell myself. Calm down. I take a deep breath and smile at them as though nothing is wrong.

"Well, my love, I have to finish this business with the Priest," I say, dismissing her.

She nods, turns, and leaves, walking quickly out of the chamber. I am caught in a turmoil. But looking at Imhotep's serious face helps dissolve most of my doubts. I am just a silly jealous old man, I tell myself, and Imhotep is the Priest of the Dead. He just told me that he has no time for socializing and spends all his time preparing dead bodies. He is a man of religion.

But still, I leave him with a warning.

"Imhotep, you know you are the man whom I trust above all others," I say carefully, watching his face.

"Of course, my lord," he says.

When I finally find Nefertiri, she is in her outer rooms, reading. I stand in front of her, waiting for her ladies to give us privacy.

"Nefertiri, my dear," I say, sitting beside her. I put my arm around her shoulders and pull her towards me. I want her to know that I love her, but the words are awkward in my mouth. "Do not be upset by what you saw this morning. You knew that Anck-su-namun was my..." I pause.

"Mistress?" she says it bitterly.

I look at her closely. "Yes. You knew that she was my mistress."

"She is my teacher!" she says childishly.

I sigh. "Yes, but she is only that because I trust her."

For a minute my daughter says nothing. She stares at me with wide, luminous eyes. "You trust her," she says flatly.

"Yes." I hesitate. "Do you not like her?"

Her eyes mist over with tears, and I am afraid that I will not be able to bear her crying. "Yes, I like her! But now that Mother is gone-"

No! We will not speak about that. "Your mother has been dead for three years," I say sternly. "You cannot expect me to remain alone."

The moment the words are out of my mouth I am sorry for the way that I said them. I cannot bear the unhappiness of my children, especially when I am the cause of their misery. But I will not speak about my wife. It is hard enough practically looking into her face every day through Nefertiri's young eyes. I will not allow myself to grieve any more for her passing. It is done. And I have to move on.

Tears threaten to spill down her face. And her next words break my heart. "But I am alone," she whispers.

That very afternoon I decided that it was time I announce to the court that Anck-su-namun is to be my future wife. It is time to move on and time to start my life over.

That night, I enter the main hall, and in front of all the powerful nobility I finally speak my intentions. "In honor of my wedding I will have days of games and celebrations. On the last day I shall present to you a fight between Anck-su-namun and my daughter, her student, the princess Nefertiri."

They applaud and clap, glad for any celebration. I look over at Anck-su-namun, who is stiff with shock. What young girl does not dream of becoming the wife of the Pharaoh?

But then I glance across the room to Nefertiri. She smiles and accepts the challenge, then turns to look at Anck-su-namun. In her gaze I see jealousy and anger. Why does my daughter suddenly hate her teacher? I never thought that I would see hate in her eyes.

But I know the answer. Me. I have alienated my daughter by wishing to marry the woman I love. I love them both, so why must I choose? I swear to myself that I will soothe and make up with my daughter. I cannot bear for her to be angry at me.

I should be happier at the announcement of my own wedding, but somehow much of the joy is gone. Anck-su-namun sits in her gold chair, silent in her surprise. Nefertiri will not even look at me. And I can feel the tension between the two women in my life, taut as though I could pluck it with a string.

I decide to make Nefertiri the protector of the Bracelet of Anubis on my wedding day. It will cheer her up. It will also give her a purpose in life, a purpose she seems to be lacking. Perhaps it will return some joy into her life. And thinking upon it, I trust her to protect it. She is good and strong.

That night I return to my chambers alone. For one night it appears that my appetite for Anck-su-namun has been depleted.

I sleep restlessly and without peace. I do not wake until the sun is high in the sky.

It is the first morning I have not woken with the east and blessed the land and the new day.



Read the rest in the series:

Anck-su-namun: Shadows and Moonlight ...

Nefertiri: Princess of Egypt ...

Seti: King of the Sun ...

Imhotep: Together for Eternity ...