Disclaimer: I do not own RedRiver…My Imagination wouldn't have come up with such a great idea but if it had well, fanfiction wouldn't be necessary now would it?
Egypt, Just outside of Memphis
I kicked the lid of the wooden chest numerous times with my tied feet, but like each and every time before, the wooden didn't so much as budge. A sudden brake in the cart's motion had my shoulder jerk against the rough wood, wincing I maneuvered myself away from the potential splinters and infection then curled up on my side. The dark chest I had been stuffed in to was cool and airy, despite there being no holes poked into the wood like one did to ensure air for transporting animals. I snorted; an animal! That's exactly what I was being treated like, being pawned off from one owner to another in rapid succession without a qualm. Pressing my face flat against the bottom of the chest I quietly listened to the sound of the cart's wheels rolling over cracked earth and stones. I had to have been unconscious for a while if Aswad was taking me to into the desert… probably to rejoin his caravan of slaves. I shuddered, unless he had something much more sinister in mind. I shook my head, now was not the time to think about that. First things first, I had to find a way out of this stupid box and get the hell away…
Ramses groaned, rolling onto his stomach and forcing a bleary eye open. Last night's conversation had made his mind run in circles until just before dawn, when finally he was too exhausted to think over his thoughts and just sunk into a fitful sleep. Ramses kicked the tangled linens wrapped around his ankles in annoyance before pressing his head back into his mattress, already sinking back into the dark oblivion known as slumber.
A loud knocking on his chamber doors made his eyes snap open, throwing any plans of rest to the wind. "User! Son…"
Turning his head groggily, he saw his mother sweep into his bedroom with a smile of what only he could call 'pure satisfaction' on her face. He sat up slowly; taking a quick look at his waist to make sure the loose wrap around his hips didn't come loose during his night of restless sleep. The last thing he needed was his mother commenting on his preferred bed clothing or lack thereof.
"User! Just what are doing lying there?" He watched her direct a serving woman with a tray of food to the next room then snap for the others to quickly fill his tub and lay out his clothes for the day.
He rolled his eyes tiredly, fervently wishing he could sleep a few more hours, "You needn't rush everyone. In fact I would prefer to be left alone this morning, mother."
His mother hummed, "Of course I need to rush. Why, your boat for Thebes leaves today, and I want to get every possible second I can to be with you-"
"Mother, my boat doesn't leave for another two days. We have plenty of time to spend-"Ramses began to cut in.
Lady Khepri interrupted her son, "Nonsense! I've taken the liberty to prepare your boat days ago and your men informed me just this morning that they would be ready to set sail by this afternoon. Isn't it wonderful?"
Ramses frowned, "You…are happy about this?"
His mother grinned, "Why wouldn't I be sweet one? After all, his majesty is expecting you and far be it from me to keep you from his side for long."
Ramses' frown deepened, "But you hate, I mean absolutely hate, that I never stay in Memphis for more than a few days at a time. In fact, you're always trying to convince me to settle down in Memphis, complaining that a General has no place in the politics of Thebes and so on…and here I am, finally with you and your sending me off without so much as a warning?" He finished in disbelief.
Lady khepri's wide smile tightened a fraction and she quickly waved the bustling servants from the room before letting her expression falter. "I have been thinking…" She began.
Ramses groaned, "You're always thinking Mother! What have you done now?"
His mother was silent and Ramses sighed, multiple scenarios involving a possible marriage or a ship full of concubines swirled around in his head. "Just what are you planning?" He finally eked out.
His mother smoothed her sheer shawl draped over a gown of white linen down before she sat on the edge of his bed daintily. She sighed deeply before taking his large calloused hand in her smaller frail one; she stroked the smoother skin of her thumb against his rough palm, "You're just like your father. Stubborn to the bones and determined to change the world all on your own."
She let out a shaky laugh, "I remember before we were married, feeling so nervous and afraid for him. He didn't know when enough was enough and never gave in even when the situation got desperate…"
Ramses clasped his mother's hands between his own before steadily replying, his tone calm and placating, "Then…you should know that whatever you've been planning won't work. I'm not in the mood to indulge in your matchmaking games mother."
Lady Khepri flushed despite her face remaining impassive, "I'm not playing some game User! I will see you off safely to Thebes today in exchange-"
"Exchange?" Ramses lifted a brow, what could his mother possibly want from him.
"Yes. An exchange, I will see you off to His majesty with no complaints of marriage, not an ill word against your decisions or even a disapproving glance as of how you choose to live your life now and in the future, so long as you leave today, this afternoon." She finished seriously.
Ramses would have rejoiced at his forbearer's sudden decision to leave him be if not for the niggling feeling in his gut that told him something just wasn't right. "And may I ask what ungodly power swayed you enough to have you come to this decision, this exchange?"
His mother sniffed indignantly, "You needn't concern yourself over an old woman's feelings. After all a mother's love knows no bounds."
Ramses nodded, "I think we both know that greed and lust for power also knows no bounds. Tell me, what do you gain from sending me to Thebes so abruptly?"
"User! Why-? You-? How could-? To your own mother!" Lady Khepri gasped affronted.
Ramses was about to retort that he very damn well would question his mother and her motives concerning her sudden urge to give in to her 'maternal instincts' when suddenly his chamber door flew open; leaving a red faced Nefert standing inside its archway.
Lady Khepri jumped to her feet with a hand over her heart and exclaimed, "My goodness! Nefert! Dear, you're supposed to be in your chambers! Come, I will-"
"Shut your mouth mother!"
Ramses' mouth dropped open in shock. No one and he meant no one in their entire family had spoken one ill word against the matriarch of the family! Let alone tell her to close her mouth and be silent in so rude of terms. His sister was obviously angered, almost to the point of rage if he had to guess. He glared at her, carefully drinking in her disarrayed appearance. Nefert was clothed in nothing but a thin form fitting gown of white linen, all of her jewels, khol, and even black haired wig missing from her person…most likely forgotten in her hurry to show up in his suite.
Nefert nearly stomped her way into the room she was so angry. How could her mother do such a thing?! It was so despicable! It was something only an aristocrat would be capable of doing! And for once, she was truly ashamed to be counted as a part of that aristocracy.
Nefert glared down at her mother. The woman who had given her life, a daughter! How was she capable of such a thing? "Where is she?"
Lady khepri narrowed her eyes before quietly replying, "Who dear?"
Nefert's blood pounded in her ears and she ignored User's own curious glare. "Don't play with me mother. I know you had that awful slave merchant drag her from the residence last night, now where is she?!"
Ramses got off his bed to stand beside his mother, "Nefert, go back to your rooms and stay there. Your obviously to angry to have a decent conversation-"
Completely ignoring her older brother she screeched, "Where is she? Where did you take Jade?!"
Karkemish, Main Palace
Buhthah was a simple maid in Prince Juda's palace. Her day began by waking with the other servant women in the small home beside the kitchens, then deliver breakfast to the soldiers in the barracks, followed by tidying up the kitchen, then cleaning the palace's extensive hallways, picking up after any messy nobles or clumsy servants for the rest of the day until finally, cleaning up after everyone's had dinner and going back to sleep to start the day anew. Simple, just the way she liked it, even though it was boring at times... So, when she had been picked to deliver Her majesty Ishtar's morning drink she said a short and thankful prayer to Ishtar, her majesty's pre-incarnation. Only a lucky select few ever got to view the members of the royal family let alone come close enough to hand them a goblet of water. Today was her lucky day.
Marwan ran as if Nergal, the death god himself was chasing him through the palace hallways, but he was so tired. Hurriedly, he wiped the sticky residue left over from his sleep in the corners of his eyes away; he wondered how long he could fight the grogginess clouding his senses to warn Her majesty before the ex-queen's sleep magic would make him succumb once more.
Rounding a corner he almost slid and crashed into a wall, but he was able to right himself before that happened. The last thing he needed was to knock himself unconscious, at least not when the empire was depending on him. He winced at the arrogance of his words; though the idea of thousands of people depending on his timely or untimely arrival was a heady feeling he decided that he would trade the feeling for anything in the world right now. It's not like he wanted this task, far from it actually but he swore, swore to his Lord General Halma that when the time came to repay his debt came he would do so, willingly and enthusiastically. It's been so long since he swore that oath at his savior's feet, so long since he's remembered the heat of battle in that gods' forsaken desert, fighting the Egyptian dogs off and out of their borders, so long since he's remembered the man who reached out his hand and pulled him back from the dark abyss called death.
Closing his eye's Marwan steeled himself against the wave of drowsiness that beat at him like war drums. He couldn't fail his General now, not ever. Pushing himself to go faster he felt his leg muscles burn and bunch with every ground eating stride. He needed to get to Prince Juda's seraglio, the inner most rooms of his palace where he knew the Hititte King and Queen would dine privately with the Prince and his new bride. Marwan just prayed the guards wouldn't execute him before he could tell what needed to be said.
Egypt, The stone quarries of Giza
Aswad surveyed the hordes of slaves toiling away in Giza's quarries. There were only a few hundred, not even close to a thousand but still, it was enough to mine the abundant limestone from the earth near Pharaoh Khufu's grand resting place.
"Aswad!" A rotund man with a balding head and long graying beard waved him over.
"Chibale." Aswad grinned walking over to the man's shady tent, "Just the man I wanted to see."
Chibale chuckled, "What drags the ugly likes of you to Giza's wasteland?"
Aswad snorted in good humor walking over to the small wooden table near Chibale and helping himself to his half empty goblet of wine, "If I didn't know you before, I'd say I hope your luck turns and your business dries up like a small skin of water in the desert."
The elder man scowled, "You're not too far off the mark. His majesty's thrice damned officials have tightened security around the village and made continuing night shifts almost damn near impossible!" He spat, "Those old fogeys are nosy as they are greedy. Rat bastards…"
Aswad grunted in sympathy, pointing out, "The nobles have always guarded themselves well against the Palace and commoners, just as we merchants have always done the same."
"It's not a matter of guarding, but hiding." Chibale sighed picking up the jug of wine and pouring himself a generous portion of the ruby fluid.
"Those dog soldiers won't even relieve themselves unless their masters order them to do it, why kick up this fuss? Just bribe the mayor if you're so worried about His Majesty. Besides, we both know with the court feuding amongst each other a little missing stone from Khufu's quarry is hardly a pressing matter. "Aswad stated pointedly.
Chibale nodded, "Perhaps your right…by the way, why are you here?"
Aswad pressed a hand to his forehead as if he were warding off a headache, "There is a slave I'd like you to take off my hands."
Chibale frowned and stroked his beard in thought, "A slave? Hmm, I will have to see him first and then we'll speak of his price-"
Aswad shook his head, "It's not a man but a young woman. Her previous owner wasn't too pleased with her and returned her to me with a hefty sum to boot."
"Really?" Chibale eyed Aswad, "What for? And why sell her to me if she's such trouble?"
Aswad rubbed his brow as if just the thought of the young woman was enough to make his temples pound, "Apparently, she was having an affair with the grand Lady's eldest and only son."
"Oh?" Chibale was interested; it must have been some affair if the noble lady herself paid a slave trader to be rid of the girl.
He nodded and let out a loud groan, "From what I can assume of the little detail I was given and the local gossip, the son was someone high up in the government and has the current Pharaoh's ear. Obviously a slave girl for a concubine is out of the question, and the old woman must want to keep her bloodline pure and noble."
Chibale stoked his beard amused, "She must be some kind of woman if a man like that was willing to lower himself to the dirt and risk exile from the court. Come. " He gestured to Aswad, "Let me see this creature of men's ruin and I'll let you be on your way."
I struggled against the bonds holding me to the wooden post against a large rock in the desert. Earlier, when Aswad had dragged me kicking and screaming from the chest I had previously been trapped in I noticed that his caravan of women were nowhere in sight. I guess the slave peddler had sensed my mounting hysteria and had quickly tied me to a stake. With sharp orders for the two goons from the night before to watch me and 'be wary of tricks' , he gave a final glare then quickly disappeared over a large rocky ridge about a quarter of a mile away. That had happened about an hour ago…
I sighed and tugged on my tied wrists again. He obviously didn't drag me out here to kill me, but with his absent caravan and people in general also told me that he didn't plan to resell me either. I didn't understand anything going on right now, just yesterday I had been crying over Siranush and Aline's imminent trip down the Nile and now found myself betrayed by General Ramses mother, tied to a stick of wood out in the hot desert risking sunburn, skin cancer and maybe even my life, and for what?!
I growled under my breath, frustrated with the situation, with my lack of clarity on the situation and most of all for all the unnecessary dramatics. "Can't you at least cover me up here?! Sweat and sand are not a good combination you know!"
The goons hovering behind me were silent, just like they had been for the past hour. No amount of screaming, crying, pleading and persuading had made them crack that insufferable quiet they had decided was necessary. I opened my mouth to scream more complaints at them when hearty laughter and clapping had me whirl around to face the desert ridge.
"Most unexpected Aswad! Not unpleasant, but unexpected." An elderly rounded man proclaimed with a wide smile, striding up to stand before me with Aswad sauntering up behind him at a slower pace.
I raked my eyes over the old jolly stranger with detached curiosity; he could have been an Egyptian Santa Clause, well if Santa was bald and Egyptian…
He reached out and tipped my chin up with a forceful grip and turned my head side to side, his big grin widening even more. I glared, strike the Santa comparison, now he was just fat and creepy.
"Hmm, she's young and soft, with a pale complexion and red hair on top of it all." He rattled off like a grocery list before grabbing my hair and tilting my head further up, "Oh! And her eyes! What a lovely shade of green. She's absolutely enchanting Aswad…in her foreign way, I suppose." He tacked on as an afterthought.
I lifted my lip in a silent snarl, "Hey! This foreigner doesn't appreciate the evaluation or the man handling, so let go!"
I jerked my head away and the man let go, his grin slipping just a fraction. "Yes, well on to payment then." He turned to face a disgruntled Aswad.
"Forty silver deben and three of my elder women workers should do it."
Aswad scowled, "Her previous owner paid me a hundred silver for her. I'm not going less than eighty!"
The other chuckled and stroked his beard with mirth, "She's spoiled, my friend. Her aristocratic lover made sure of that. No, I think forty silver and three women is more than a generous price."
I watched their haggling silently. So, Aswad had brought me here to resell me…I eyed the stranger with a critical eye, but to whom was I being sold to and for what?
Aswad sighed and gestured to me, "She may not be pure but she is foreign and not hard on the eyes. You said so yourself. No, sixty is my price and you can keep your women in exchange for one hardy male."
I blinked, did he just say- "Well, excuse me!" I interjected before the other could retort.
Both men glanced over to me before starting to converse with each other again, "Hey! How about I settle this for both of you right now?! You can both keep your silver and your people and let me go!"
Aswad snorted, "So presumptuous…You will be silent! As a worthless slave you've no place to demand anything from anyone."
I spit at him, "Silent my butt! I'm not something you can just pick up and sell! I'm a person!"
My face abruptly met sand. Blinking out of my shock, I felt the burning sting of my cheek rub against the hot granules that made up desert floor uncomfortably against the now tender skin. Sitting up, I shook my head and rubbed the dry sand from my face before turning to glare at the round man who had slapped me.
He turned from my glare with satisfaction in his eyes and snapped out, "Fine. Sixty silver deben and one healthy male slave for this woman. My man servant will come to you with the payment before dusk."
Aswad nodded curtly and untied the rope from the stake and handed the end to the other man. The man tugged the cord sharply and I fell forward into the sand, Aswad had handed him a leash. I glared up at Aswad who was already barking out orders to the two silent goons.
"If I ever cross paths with you again, you're dead." I uttered just loud enough for him to hear as I purposely shoved past him following the stranger further into the desert.
Prince Juda's Inner Palace, Karkemish
Marwan peeked over the banister he was hiding behind with apprehension. There wasn't much time left, the evil queen knew what he was up to and was concentrating most of her power into making him fall asleep, he wouldn't be able to fight her much longer. The seraglio was just beyond those double doors across the courtyard he was in, but the pair of guards that stood at attention on either side of them would never allow him to pass. Men that weren't part of the royal family or had express permission weren't even allowed to come near the Seraglio's outer courtyard let alone the entrance! Though Marwen had never put much thought into questioning Hittite's imperial family's traditions or behavior, he did now. Why guard an entire wing filled with royal wives and concubines when they hardly ever strayed from their own gardens and bedrooms in the first place! It's not as if they were all unfaithful and willing to commit treason and adultery!
"Our people's nobles would really do well to take after the Tabarna and keep just one wife. What's the point of keeping so many women only to doubt their fidelity or your children's parentage if you haven't seen them for a while? It's hard enough to stay vigilant with just one…" He muttered to himself as he slid along the wall hiding himself from the guards view.
Marwen eyed the small window near the entrance that held a small vase of flowers and a basket of linen on it's ledge. He could make a jump for it but then the guards might catch him before he could pull himself up, then again…keeping a wary eye on the well fit men casually talking with each other Marwen knew he didn't have the energy or time for a confrontation let alone a fight. Steeling himself, he took a step back before launching himself up towards the window ledge and into full view of the men.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?!"
Marwen cursed under his breath and heaved himself up ward, swinging a leg over the ledge and knocking the vase and basket to the stone floor.
Marwen gasped as a hard grip yanked on his still drooping ankle. Clawing his fingers into the stone wall he kicked the grasping hand off his ankle and lunged himself into the small sitting room.
"Dammit! Alert the rest of the guards! We have a trespasser!"
Marwan stumbled to his feet, fumbling to the door when the world around him started to fade and go blurry. "AAAHHHHHH!" A serving woman shrieked as he barreled past her out the door and down the hall to where he guessed the inner most rooms of the Seraglio had to be.
Buhthah jumped when she heard a shriek come from down the hall. The full golden goblet and tray of fresh fruit jumped with her and she panicked to regain her balance. It wouldn't do well for her to spill Ishtar's breakfast when she just walked the long way from the Palace kitchens to the Seraglio in record time. Clearing her throat she took a deep breath before rounding the corner and presenting herself to the royals.
"I've come to deliver Ishtar's breakfast." She tried to speak loud and clear, but her voice came out thready and a pitch higher than she intended.
A brown haired maid with wild curls framing her face smiled kindly from the side of the open door, "Oh! Thank you so much! I was just about to go fetch it myself when you arrived."
Buhthah nodded meekly, "You're very welcome."
"Come on." She gestured to for Buhthah to follow, "Queen Yuri is so thankful to the cooks for understanding her need for certain foods this visit. After all, caring for a baby and adjusting her body to its needs is hard enough on a young mother without having to guess what she can and can't eat."
Buhthah just nodded, the cooks were more than understanding for their queen. After all, like all mother's that came before her everyone knew that certain foods insured the quality and quantity of breast milk. Besides even if they didn't understand, far be it from palace cooks to impede the crown prince's growth, if they did it would be equivalent to a direct attack on the crown and country.
"Queen Yuri, your breakfast has arrived." The maid announced.
"Oh, thank you Ryui. Just have her set it down there will you; I need to finish feeding Deiru."
Buhthah averted her eyes away from the Queen and her child, though there was nothing immodest about the picture the Queen and her son presented to the world – in fact Ishtar kept a dark blue wool blanket over her and the prince to preserve her modesty- but it seemed so intimate a thing…the bonding between a child and it's mother. It also didn't help that her king kept a soft gaze fixed on the pair of them as the newlywed prince and princess whispered sweetly to each other with a tray of untouched food laid between them.
Buhthah set the tray on the floor in easy reach of the Queen and bowed just before she was about to exit. What stopped her from leaving though was alarming.
Marwan could have shouted with joy when he caught sight of the serving woman bearing the cup of deadly sleeping potion entering the last room down the hall. The evil queen's plot would not prevail today! He ran hard, bursting through the room's open doorway with a heavy gasp. He ignored the alarmed voices of the room's occupants, simply diving towards the poisoned goblet and knocking it from its perch on the floor and across the room to hit the wall and spill its clear contents on the floor.
He slumped to the ground with a smile. "My debt is paid…" He managed to whisper before finally succumbing to the sleep magic pressing down on him.
Yuri clutched Deiru to her chest as the guards and Kail dragged the unmoving man from the floor and into another room. Alexandra stood behind her trembling with fright, "Is he dead?"
Ryui moved from her side to comfort the princess, "We'll know as soon as Juda comes back with the healer. Don't be so frightened princess, whatever he came to do has passed."
Kail returned and quietly shut the door to the room, "Juda is having the healer take a look at him…Are you alright?" He directed at a pale Yuri.
Yuri nodded and shifted their son in her arms, "Just a little startled and a bit scared…"
Kail sighed, "Alexandra I think it best you go back to your chambers and wait for Juda there. The guards outside will escort you."
Alexandra heisted as if she were about to disagree, but one look at Kail's grave face changed her mind and she nodded, quickly exiting the room with an escort of four guards trailing behind her.
"I don't like this, Kail…" Yuri began.
Kail held a finger to his lips walking up to gently scoop Deiru from his wife's arms and walk into the smaller adjoining room. "Kail?"
Once, Ryui firmly shut the small sitting rooms door Kail turned to his worried queen and sighed, "From what I could tell of the man, he was unconscious when I last left him. The guards informed me he was a trespasser and in a great hurry."
Yuri frowned before plopping herself in to the nearest chair, "Did they know what he was doing running around in the seraglio before he ran in on us all?"
Kail shook his head, "They haven't a clue, but…"
"But?" Yuri asked.
Kail stayed silent suddenly lost in his in thoughts, no doubt trying to puzzle out the incident before throwing out any accusations or unfounded inklings.
"The goblet!" Ryui suddenly burst out.
Yuri sighed, "Spilled water isn't going to hurt anyone Ryui. The maids wil-"
"No! The goblet, he knocked over the goblet when he dove at you. In fact he knocked it out of the way so hard that he threw it into the wall before he doubled over unconscious."
Yuri was silent. What Ryui said was true, he had dove at her but what he reached for hadn't been her but the tray laid beside her. Yuri turned to Kail and by the look he was giving her she knew he had reached the same conclusion. "What does this mean?"
Ryui bit her lip, "It can't be as simple as a crazed man knocking over a goblet and fainting right after, can it?"
Kail shook his head, "Unlikely. Hm, the pieces of this mystery are vague at best…Yuri?"
His Queen gave him an uncertain frown, "We are in Karkemish and I was going to drink water." Was all she said.
Kail's frown turned into a blank look, his Kingly countenance falling into place as easily as breathing. "We are indeed in Karkemish, but even I did not think she would…" He quieted, though the woman was exiled and had no power he was still wary of discussing such a thing so openly.
"She? You know who did this?" Ryui questioned looking between her Queen and King expectantly.
"Think about it for a moment, Ryui." Yuri replied coolly.
Ryui was silent for a few moments, "…You don't think Nak-"
"Shh, we mustn't toss any names or ideas around so carelessly." Kail advised.
Ryui face flushed but she asked, "Why? She has no throne and is exiled, surely you could just question her and-"
"We could question her but would she tell us? Not likely. And after trying to question her, what then? She's still a Hittite citizen and can't be tortured without just cause. Nor will the senate agree to move her out of the empire without proof of treasonous acts."
"We don't know that for sure, Ryui. Besides Kail is right, none of this makes any sense. The Queen I knew wouldn't have been so direct unless she was desperate…besides the man knocked over the cup. The water never touched me. And even if it had, it had come from the kitchen where only the cooks prepare everything." Yuri explained puzzled.
"Then why would…" Ryui trailed off even more perplexed.
Kail straightened, "Where is the serving girl that brought Yuri's breakfast?"
Buhthah rushed into the kitchen shaking her head as she went. That had been scary. Luckily the strange man had just decided to toss Ishatr's food to the floor and faint before who could do whatever he planned to do. She felt a small twinge of pity, it seemed there was going to be an execution in the city this day.
Buhthah looked up startled recognizing the older woman as Lord Halma's serving maid. She strode up to her not letting her silly unease of the woman make her nervous, "How may I help you?"
"Oh, no need Buhthah. Lord Halma just wishes to know if Ishtar received the sweet water he sent to the kitchens this morning."
She frowned not liking her drowsy gaze drift over her and answered, "No, my lady. Please inform the Governor that his gift was unable to be properly received."
"Oh?" The woman frowned her gaze sharpening, "How so?"
Buhthah opened her mouth to relay this morning's event, but the head cook called out for her. Loudly. "I'm sorry. I have to go, tell the Governor that Ishtar is well and would have enjoyed his gift."
The maid smiled politely and nodded, while Nakia watching through her eyes saw the serving girl run into the kitchen to prepare the mid day meal. Nakia fumed, directing the maid to go back Halma's residence. It seems her plans would need revising.
Kail paced the length the sitting room, "How could you have just let her run off?"
Ryui bowed her head, "I did not suspect her to be involved so I let her go."
"You can't just dismiss people here and there, Ryui! You might be a Queen's maid but you have no authority to-!"
"Kail…" Yuri held up her hand, "Deiru is sleeping in the next room. Do you want to wake him?"
The King of all Hittite sighed heavily; trust Yuri to argue with him through logic and with their own son no less. He waved a hand, "Juda?"
Juda stepped up from his silent corner of the room with somber eyes, "The healer has informed me that the man seems to be sleeping and unable to awaken at the moment."
"Sleeping?" Kail asked disbelievingly.
Juda nodded, "It seems so. But…"
Yuri frowned, "But?"
Juda sighed and ran a hand through his blonde locks, "He's in a very deep sleep and the healer isn't sure that he'll wake up."
Ryui's mouth dropped open in shock, "What?"
"I've never heard of someone falling unconscious and never wake up before." Kail frowned.
Yuri stood and walked to the window, surveying the sunny garden below, "In my time, we had people fall into deep sleeps and never wake up. They're called comas."
"Ko-mah-s? Is that like a disease?" Ryui questioned in alarm.
Yuri shook her head denying it before anyone could panic, "Not like that. It usually happens when a person is very injured or sick."
Now everyone was even more puzzled, "This really makes no sense!" Ryui complained.
The room went silent, Juda thought perhaps they need to think more or-"We'll let the matter rest for now." Kail spoke up.
"WHAT?!" Three voices echoed in disbelief and shock.
"How can you just decide-! Our Queen and the Crown prince were almost attacked today!" Juda accused.
"That is why we should precisely let it go."
"I don't understand." Ryui said, coming to stand beside a silent Yuri.
"We've gone over every piece of this puzzle we've been handed and still have no answers. We should just put this behind us for now and-"
"And wait until we've been handed some more." Yuri finished.
Kail smiled, "Exactly. Why try to sniff out a rat when eventually it will grow too hungry and follow our trail of crumbs on its own."
"You mean to bait whoever did this?" Juda asked skeptically, sighing when matching grins graced the royal couple's faces.
"Bait? No. Annoy? Yes. Whoever's behind this will become extremely annoyed when no news from the palace good or ill has flood the streets of Hittite. They'll want to confirm whatever they had planned to do have affected us in some way, and when they come for us. We'll be ready." Kail explained.
Juda frowned, "I still don't think this is a good idea. Can't we simply try and wake the man for answers?"
"And if he doesn't wake up?" Yuri countered, "Kail is right, it's better to aggravate the culprit by appearing nonchalant than cautious and afraid. Doing so would indicate that the he or she has power over us, and that's definitely not something the Hittite empire wants to deal with right now. We need to be more secretive and take care of this quietly. You all know Kail and I have fought for the peace of this empire and blowing things out of proportion will just jeopardize that peace." Yuri clasped her hands in the folds of her indigo skirts, hoping that going along with Kail was the right decision. She too wanted to wake the man up and demand answers, she'd do it herself if she had to, but rousing him from his coma seemed impossible right now.
She turned her head to the sunny window and sighed, her nerves were strung tight just as they had been ever since agreeing to come to Karkemish. Though Nakia was powerless and exiled, the instincts Yuri gained from battling her and every other problem that tried to tear Kail and her apart were screaming at her to take back her words and be cautious, be afraid. She turned her head to Kail who was busy going over new preparations for their trip back to Hattusa with Ryui and Juda. She watched him speak quietly about her and Deiru, making sure that Juda informed the guards that they were priority should anything happen and her heart melted, she could ignore her instincts to run and hide for this man, she would stay and fight beside him. And so with that thought Yuri silently pledged her absolute loyalty to him once again.
I blinked back my shock and tried to keep my awe from showing on my face. The pyramid in the distance stretched high in to the noon sky and was wide as it was tall, with huge blocks of stone being all it was made of. No steel, no iron, and definitely not tar or cement. I tore my eyes off the sight to set my gaze on the Sphinx and other pyramids in the distance in the surrounding area.
"Come on." The man tugged on my bindings and I tripped into the hot sand, I turned my head to get one last look at the site before following him down the ridge toward a small settlement of tents in the distance.
"You'll be staying with the other slaves until I decide what I want to do with you." He grunted tugging me along until we arrived outside a large dark tent as I scowled behind him. "The women stay in here and as soon as dawn comes they fetch water and food for the men throughout the day."
"Why can't they get it themselves?" I asked, just a hint of snark coating my words.
He ignored it, "Kesi! Kesi where are-"
"You called master?" A woman with short jet black hair and heavily tanned skin stepped out from the tent beside the one in front of us.
"Ah, Kesi, yes. Take this woman and have her changed into proper attire before putting her to work." He shoved me toward the woman named Kesi and I would have fallen if she hadn't caught me.
Before I could say something scathing the man had already turned away and begun walking father into the large huddle of tents. "Who the hell does that guy think he is?" I asked to no one in particular.
"Chibale is very gruff. You shouldn't let him ruffle you up, arguing just guarantees that you'll be buzzard food." Kesi pulled me up and gave me a once over, "Your pretty weak looking to work in the quarries, but if it's what Chibale wants…"
She tugged me into the dark tent and told me to undress. I crossed my arms over my chest and frowned, "I'm fine with my own clothes, thank you."
Kesi frowned, "Not if you don't want to bake to a crisp in the desert sun you don't."
My lips mashed together as she held out a long dark tunic, a wide piece of cloth to wrap over my head like a hood and sturdy sandals for me. I sighed and took the offered clothes and she gave me a small kind smile that made her look like a desert nymph.
I quickly turned my back and shed the light dress I was wearing and kicked off my flimsy pair of sandals trading them for the more practical desert wear she gave me. I pulled the hood into place and made sure my wild and tangled curls were tucked inside securely before turning to face her. She smiled kindly, "There, now you don't stand out as much and won't burn in the sun."
I huffed, "Thanks…so, where do I go now?"
Kesi stood up and exited the tent gesturing for me to follow her lead, "We, the women go to the small oasis near the edge of town every morning and fill the large jugs with water." She pointed to a large row of numerous jugs that could easily fit my body inside them, "Then we walk down to the quarries with skins of water and baskets of food to feed and water the men." Again she pointed, this time though it was towards the large rocky ridge stretching across a large expanse of the desert, it almost looked like a canyon but much smaller and not as deep as any canyon I've seen.
"Is that where the quarries are?" I asked.
She nodded, "The men carve out stone for trading and selling, sometimes they even find precious stones but it's not nearly as abundant as the limestone they dig out."
"The men are miners?" I guessed.
Kesi sighed, "No, they're slaves under Chibale's orders to mine. If they were miners Chibale wouldn't need to replace nearly so many of the men with more and more slaves time and time again."
I was puzzled, miners who weren't miners and had to be frequently replaced…A small shiver went up my spine, I didn't like this weird place.
Kesi must've seen my shiver because she said, "No need to be afraid. Chibale won't hurt you unless you give him cause."
Unfortunately, her words didn't bring me any comfort.
Memphis, General Ramses Residence
Nefert fumed pacing the length of her room with furious strides. She thought back to the mornings' conversation with her mother…
~"Where's Jade mother?"
Lady Khepri's eyes narrowed into slits, almost giving her face a reptilian image, "Why, I have no idea of what you are speaking of daughter."
Nefert sneered, "I know your lying mother! I know you had a slave merchant drag her from the house last night! Now. Where. Is. She."
Ramses eyes widened, "Dragged from the household last night?" He shook his head, trying to soothe his younger sister, "That can't be right Nefert. Perhaps you were misinformed; I was with her last-!"
Ramses caught himself, clamping down on his lips and quickly avoided the malicious stare his mother threw in his direction. "What is this I hear?" She hissed turning to face him fully.
Ramses carefully blanked his face, "It is of no importance-"He began.
His mother growled, "You were with the whore last night."
She stated it as a fact, not a question. She let out a hiss of air, "Until the very end you continue to betray this family!"
Ramses stood from the bed, a thunderous expression crossing his features, "I've betrayed no one! Least of all this family!"
Nefert let out a mirthless laugh, "Is that what this is?" She looked from her mother and to her brother, "You sell a defenseless girl just so you can 'protect' this family! And for what reason? Because you feel threatened?" Nefert spoke unkindly.
"You will hold your tongue, child. This is none of your concern." The Great Lady spoke icily.
"I will not!" Nefert exploded, "You've let petty concerns and greed drive you to such great lengths over an innocent girl! All for the sake of keeping a title that isn't even yours! If anyone has betrayed family it's you mother!"
Lady Khepri drew up to her full height, "Yes, greed and petty concerns have swayed this old mother's thoughts into doing a heinous act." Her voice dripped with sarcasm, "If any of my children were thinking straight they would see I'm doing what's best in everyone's interest."
"Who's interest mother? Yours or mine?" Ramses spoke up, appalled that his mother thought so little of him and his sister, thinking that they were catalysts waiting to usher in ruin and dishonor upon their family name.
Lady Khepri whirled around to her son, her face was flushed and she shook with every word, "Don't you dare! Don't you even dare question my loyalty and interests in this family! You haven't the right!"
Ramses balled his fists and stiffened his spine, "Oh? And what makes you think that?"
Lady Khepri broke. "You ungrateful whelp!" She screeched, "Who was it that kept the family strong when a thoughtless son brought a Hittite bitch into this home and fell so madly in love with her that we nearly lost everything?! Who was it that helped Nefert heal when her own brother sent her to a man that died for that same woman?! And who was it that gave every possible chance of redemption to that ungrateful whelp when he decided that taking a slave as his woman would be beneficial to his station?! Have you no pride! No shame! You dare say that I am petty and filled with greed when you ignore the destruction you bring down upon your own household for the same reasons?!"
Ramses didn't flinch, didn't even blink when his mother hurled accusations and barbed words at him. Perhaps he deserved them, but she was wrong. "You say I have no pride? When every single day of my life I live and breathe for this prideful family, dragging myself through the courts and endanger my life in battle all for the sake of glorifying our family name in Egypt's history! I have no shame?! When every single day of my life since I let that 'Hittite bitch' walk out of my life I've regretted putting not only myself, but everyone around me through that pain! I am ashamed! And I am prideful!"
Ramses let out a tense breath and leveled a glare on his mother, "Which is why I'm leaving for Thebes today."
Nefert watched her brother stalk from the room without a backwards glance then slam the suite's door with a loud crash. She turned her eyes onto her mother who wept silently, her lips compressed into a thin line. She met Nefert's gaze unflinchingly, "You can't help that child now. Aswad will have taken her far way by now."
Nefert clenched her fists, "We shall see."
She turned to leave the room but paused and tossed her final words to her mother over her shoulder carelessly, as if they held no meaning, "By the way, the person who healed me wasn't you. You have that child to thank for that miracle." Then she left the room just as quickly as her brother.~
Nefert sat on the edge of her bed, running her hands through her short blonde locks. There wasn't much she could do for Jade…Her mother had been right. Shaking her head Nefert, clenched her fists. Though she couldn't do anything, she knew someone who could.
Ramses directed his crew with haste, barking out orders and sharp reprimands when the men didn't load his boat fast enough. Agitated he ran a hand though his hair, how did his relationship with his mother end up so tattered? He knew that their relationship was hanging by a thin thread, connected only by blood and a mother's once deep and complete love. He wondered how she didn't disown him there and then, if it were his son he probably would have taken a whip to him and denounced him…Ramses sighed, who was he fooling? Even if his mother and him never had the same relationship again, he knew deep down she wouldn't go that far; just as he would never abandon his own children. That is if he ever got around to having any…The fight had ripped open the old wounds in his heart like peeling scabs off a bad scrape, leaving him bleeding -figuratively of course- and in pain.
He never wanted to think of her again. Not even mention her name or anything related to her in anyway. But his mother deliberately picked at those old wounds, knowing they would bleed as if they were as fresh as yesterday. His temples pounded, he reached up to rub them and exhaled slowly as he turned from the household to gaze at the flowing Nile. It was truly a pity that all of this occurred because of one tiny slave girl. A slave girl, who really did nothing to deserve whatever fate his mother decided to throw her to. He should have been honest with everyone from the beginning…He shouldn't have let his damn ego get the best of him when a childish retaliation started all this.
He turned his gaze towards the west, watching the sun sink behind the horizon. There wasn't anything to do now but go back to Thebes and resume his life. He sighed and closed his eyes, doing something he had never done for anyone but himself before. He prayed. He prayed that if Amun truly was listening, that he would watch over the red haired girl and guide her to whatever happiness she might find in this life.
I'm SO x1000 sorry. I was gonna post this part weeks ago but I re-read what I had written and didn't really like it so I re-wrote some parts and now I'm satisfied with it…but this also means the arc is now longer. Sobs for me and probably more cheers for you. I'm currently preparing for mid-terms so I wanted to give you guys a boost of motivation and something to look forward to after middies are over.
On another note I dedicate this Chappie to all my current/new/old reviewers, Favs and follows and perhaps my newest spark of motivation TVXQ's Catch me album. (Who else thinks that album is pure sex? Is it just me? Ok…)
Ahem! Moving on, I'm already writing the next couple of chapters and the next is almost half done! But depending on how much time I can squeeze in to write also effects the time of update…But it will definitely be up before Halloween! If not you can all send me mental hate- though I would prefer you don't to be honest…
Anywho, Please read & Review - lets aim to reach 120 reviews this time!