Chapter 2: Red, White, and Blue
Scourge of Greece!
Even Nile, a lowly servant girl, had heard the tales of the monstrous madman warrior named Kratos who had laid waste to his own country with the magical weapons the gods themselves had forged—only to turn them against their masters in the end and bring about the close of Greece's position as a place of magic. He had been a demigod himself, son of Zeus, who he had slain in a repetition of the Greek chain of son slaying father.
But unlike all the others, Kratos had refused to try and take his father's place. Instead, Kratos had wandered off from the site of his final meeting with the gods of Olympus, leaving only a bloody trail, never to be seen again.
There had been no news of the deathly pale, red-streaked killer since his disappearance over a year ago in the foreign land across the sea. Many thought he had simply died of blood loss, but others argued that his demigod status would have kept him alive.
Nile believed the latter, secretly hoping that he would remain a generator of future tales of war and magic for years to come. Even the tales she had heard of his laying waste to Greece weren't enough for her.
But Nile knew her place, and was forbidden to ask any but Moses (and then only secretly) the truth behind the rumors that Kratos had been spotted here, in Egypt. However, she couldn't help but wonder. Why would Kratos show up now, of all times? And why here, why in Egypt?
Egypt was indeed a land of wealth and military might, even though its wars were always fought on foreign soil—protected as it was by the natural boundaries to all sides except the well-guarded Suez Peninsula. But why would that bring Kratos here? There were plenty of riches left in Greece, even if he had destroyed half of the country in his raging bloodbaths. And even if he had wanted a fight, Egypt (though still a force to be messed with in its own right), was far from the most challenging militaries in the known world. All around the sea were armies that could've whipped Egypt in a heartbeat, could they have ever made it there in the first place.
And there were legends of even stronger armies out in the distant lands of the Far East, which would surely provide all the challenge a war-craving madman such as Kratos could want.
So why was he coming here?
The question stumped Nile. She cursed herself, thinking that if only she could have paid more attention to Moses' lessons, she could perhaps learn more to the riddle in the many scrolls that the prince kept in his room.
Even if Nile could read the scrolls, though, they would have to wait. She had other duties to attend to, and the head servant was doubtlessly rounding up all the Palace staff who weren't working for the head guard to prepare for whatever important decision was being made in the high council room.
Hurrying off to the designated place where all servants in this wing of the Palace were supposed to await further instructions during special events, Nile filed the riddle of Kratos rumors away for later. Moses would surely tell her all he knew once the meeting was adjourned, and her daily duties would be done by then anyway. Of course, Nile was never truly off-duty, but for the most part the Palace kept to its routine, and there was little likelihood of her being called to do something before dawn the next day.
On her way down to the servant's quarters for this wing, Nile passed through an open hall with wide, ornate windows draped with the finest foreign silk—yet more spoils from Egypt's wars abroad. From here Nile could get a breathtaking moonlit view of the very river Moses had nicknamed her after, referencing her deeply blue eyes.
Taking a moment to gaze out at the calm, slowly churning waters of Egypt's agricultural life blood, Nile remembered the first time Moses had called her that. It had been on a night quite like this, actually, when Nile was beginning her rounds as a servant to the royal quarters of Moses, adopted prince of Egypt. Up till then, Nile had never even seen the man, but had heard of his kindness and not-too-unnoticeable good looks.
Both had been true.
Nile had been carrying a vase of the finest wine from the royal presses, passing through the same hallway where she was now standing. The wine had been sent for by Moses' adopted brother, and as his quarters were close to Moses' Nile had been rushing to get to the part of the Palace she had just now just left.
Upon seeing a lone figure standing out in the moonlight gazing at the water as Nile was doing now in the present, the young Egyptian woman had stopped, unsure if he was the one who had sent for the wine. Steeping delicately over the threshold of the open hallway and onto the soft, richly vegetated banks of the river, Nile had sat down the vase on the side of the hall and tip-toed over to the silhouetted form.
She had clearly seen that, whoever the young man was, he was well-endowed with the physique only exercise and the Palace lifestyle could provide. Hoping that it was indeed the young man who had sent for the wine and praying that she would not be punished for tardiness if it wasn't, Nile had tapped him on the shoulder and inquired "Excuse me, my liege, but—"
At this point, the youth had spun around, jumping nearly a foot in the air in surprise. This garnered two facts to Nile: the first being that this was definitely not the prince who had sent for the wine but his adopted brother, and that he was indeed handsome as they had said.
Nile only hoped he was as kind as they said as well; she had been beaten more than once for lateness, and her mistaking the man who could only be Moses for the man who had sent for wine had undoubtedly cost her precious time.
And he was.
"Who are you?" the young man had asked with a kind smile, speaking with a tenderness Nile was not used to hearing in the usually harsh commands of the royal family. "I don't believe we've had the pleasure of meeting; I am Moses."
"I—I am—" Nile had stammered, not sure how to respond to the first kind words a member of the royal family—especially one as handsome as Moses—had ever spoken to her.
"Wait," Moses had said lifting a finger to Nile's lips. "Let me guess. Your eyes are particularly noticeable—they are blue, unlike most of the ones I have seen on the Palace staff. You must be named Nile, after the river which shares your hues just as it shares its life-sustaining qualities with our land."
Nile had blushed, never having received such a compliment. She was thankful that it was too dark to see.
And so the name had stuck—Nile never having revealed her real name, and Moses had never called her anything other.
Nile sighed contentedly at the memory, smiling dreamily.
The smile disappeared instantly when a cold, deathly pale hand striped with red covered it up.