CHAPTER ONE: THE NILE GIFT
"Ramesses, will you listen to a single word I say for once!" Setau shouted loudly at me over the bustle of racing chariots. I swiftly pulled my attention from my thoughts, still not yet familiar with my title of pharaoh, even as I approached my first year of reign.
"Setau, why must you always bore me—even as my opponent? How do you expect to become high priest if the gods don't even pity your miserable cries for triumph!" I shouted scornfully at my fellow friend with a mocking smirk, pulling back the reins to my adorned champion dark stallions, curving a sharp corner. Setau, my dearest friend in all of Egypt, tried to mimic my motions though he'd preformed too slowly. Setau had always come up short in comparison to myself; despite he was a year older. Until recently Setau was the Chief Scribe of the Vizier, though he was now titled as Superintendent of the Treasury and Festival Leader of Amun. He was a childish man, evident by his side-lock of youth that was still intact, dark, thick, and utterly long yet surprisingly well kept. Once more he cursed me, quickly pulling the reins to his white pristine stallions, bringing his chariot to a near stop before whipping the reins to jolt forward, advancing to my left.
"The gods favor you, Ramesses!" The Nubian descendent cursed me, still too worried to look me in the eye, but rather keep his dark eyes on the high-speed chase. "You are no more worthy than I, but the gods play unfairly!" His chariot spokes nearly struck mine, coming closer and close in contact. I pulled the reins, trying to loose him though he copied my actions. "Tell me Ramesses, how is it that you can become Pharaoh of all Egypt yet I cannot become high priest!"
"Unlike you, my father is dead!" I mocked with a lethal smirk, curving a sharp left around a vast and elegant temple of Ra. I glanced back, humored to see Setau was too late to make the turn, cursing me from afar. Instead he would have to round the entire temple. I flicked my golden eyes ahead of myself. I advanced straight towards a large line of slaves who hauled stones to build the newest wing to the temple of Amun. I did not pull back, though I was headed straight towards the long stretching line. I snapped the reigns a second time, gaining more speed. Without a shred of doubt, I cut between the narrow path between two slaves. I glanced back, smiling cockily at Setau who shouted at me after pulling the reigns to his stallions. This time Setau had to come to a complete stop, for the narrow path between the two slaves was now filled. In either fear or graciousness, both men had fallen to their knees, thanking the gods despite being whipped by equally fearful slave drivers.
I shook my head with a fainter smile, 'Fool… Will you ever learn, Setau?' I was now bored with the chase that had come to a halt. At this point I gained a steady pace, though eager to return to my home. I wiped my forehead, more than prepared to remove the crown of Nemes – the headdress that bore the gods Wadjet—the cobra goddess, and Nekhbet—the vulture goddess on the golden band that was fastened tightly to the forehead. Wadjet signified the Lower provinces of Egypt and Nekhbet signified the upper provinces of Egypt—united as one under the reign of the mighty pharaoh. However, the sun was unrelenting and blistering in the midst of the day. It was too strenuous to think about anything other than the cool. I was parched. The thought of a cool cup of beer or wine, a bath to wash the slick sheen of sweat from my bare back and chest, or even the cool alabaster stone beneath my feet was enough to make me snap the reigns in haste.
As the royal palace came into view I felt as if a weight were lifted from my shoulders—though still heavy laden with gold and gems that was a mere custom of royalty. Upon crossing the bridge, I was home. Pi-Ramesses was built on a small island surrounded by the Nile River with a connecting bridge. My personal royal palace stood tall with elegance and sheer pride. Surrounding my royal large palace stood the temples of Amun, Set, Astarte, Ptah, Sekhmet, and the grand awe-inspiring temple of Re. Surrounding the royal palace was a smaller palace meant for the princes—home to my brothers, a festival hall, the high court, storage of royalty goods, detailed workshops, and a large barrack to the many working slaves, servants, and guards.
I sharply pulled the reigns in front of the royal palace. I was instantly greeted with two servants who held out a refreshing cup of cool beer, grapes, and bread. Two priests came running up, along with the head architect who too had questions for me. Two young boys ran up to tend to my chariot and horses, directing them back to the large horse stables at the edge of the Nile. A beautiful servant girl came with fine linens in hopes to wipe the sweat from my brow. Then a young servant girl approached, being followed by two young girls who held out fans made of fine pure white ostrich feathers, though I shrugged away from the instant growing swarm of formality.
"Ramesses!" At this time Setau pulled the reins of his horses, skidding to a final dead stop. He still had the temper of a child… That would never change. "May the gods forgive your damned attempt to kill me!" Setau threw his white linen headdress at me, which I caught without thinking. He snagged the cool cup of beer from the startled slave, too snagging the white linen rag from the lovely young servant. He muttered curses to both the gods an myself after slugging down the beer and throwing the goblet and the cloth behind himself, trudging through the elaborate entrance and past the stunned guards.
The servant girl and all others stared at me in horror, fearful of my next action. However, I instead lightly smiled with a shake of my head. "And may the gods forgive your disrespect when speaking to the Pharaoh of Egypt… After all, the gods have saved you once," I sighed nonchalantly, walking past Setau who had frozen in sudden regret and shock to his thoughtless actions. Things could no longer be as they once were, for I was now pharaoh of Egypt. We could no longer act as brothers would, though we would remain so at heart. "But I wonder, will the gods spare your ignorance a second time?" I spoke curiously to myself while leaning against a large pillar that held up the vast open entrance, pulling the headdress-crown of Nemes off my dark and sweat-soaked hair.
I couldn't help but to laugh after seeing Setau's priceless expression of disbelief and utter regret. "You are all excused." I motioned with a flick of my wrist, tossing my crown back at the blushing and attractive young servant girl. I mentally smirked to see the many curious eyes of servants, slaves, and guards scatter like rats. "However, I must speak with you privately." I gestured with my head towards the inside of the palace, following Setau who was less than happy, through the entrance of the palace.
"Setau, did you noticed the absence of guards and slave drivers?" I cocked a brow at the mindless question, confused to see Setau grunt and shrug away from me, still furious with me.
"What does it matter? It's not like we need them anyway. It doesn't take much to break slaves anymore." Setau grumbled, displeased with the frail abilities of slaves. "Ramesses, I suggest that we forget about the slaves from the north, such as the Hebrew and Babylonian slaves and focus more so on the southern Nubian slaves. They prove to be twice as hearty and do not die as easily, not to mention they do not even attempt to test the power of the mighty gods, unlike those blasphemous monotheistic pigs who tamper with the might of the gods!" Setau gave his bias thoughts on the matter.
'That doesn't explain the absence of the guards or slave drivers.' I thought to myself, rounding a corner within the elegant halls only to be pounced on.
"Brother, a gift has arrived for you!" My lovely older sister Tia purred, batting long dark lashes that perfectly framed her dark sepia eyes. I furrowed my brows at the thick sarcasm evident in her beautiful delicate features. Her skin was of a golden honey, her thick dark wig cascading down her shoulders with many of the ornaments my mother used to wear, too tightly woven into her wig. She cocked a brow noticing my hesitance and heavy eyes of annoyance. "Come quickly!" She tugged my hand, pulling me through the vast palace. For there were tall pillars of alabaster stone, hieroglyphs of every color, and fine canopies of white flowing linen that hung in the breeze of the wide open palace that lay just on the edge of the Nile. There was a large garden within the middle of the main hall after entering the palace's entrance. There was a large opening within the flat roof over the magnificent garden, allowing the rarity of rain to possibly enrich the plants, but it also allowed the sun god Ra to feed the plants as well. Within the garden one could find dates, figs, grapes and other various exotic crops that were tended daily. There was even lush grass within the garden, something that had become scarce due to Egypt's heat. There was a decent pool of water within the middle of the garden that was abundant with river reeds, swan, and even fish. The Palace was a paradise within the paradise of Egypt. This place was my home.
"Brother, you must see what the gods have brought you!" Tia taunted, tugging me firmly by my wrist as she ran towards the harem. A smile twisted my lips knowing Tia all too well. However, Tia knew me just as well as I knew her, if not more. This girl Tia spoke of must have been worthy of the Pharaoh's full attention.
I pried Tia from my wrist, only to walk straight into the harem. "I hear we have a new arrival?" I smiled with amusement after seeing my many concubines' flush or scurry about to better themselves for my presence. However, some did nothing but stare invitingly, uncaring of my interruption… even during her bathing. One girl caught my golden eyes instantaneously.
"She speaks very little of our language… but I can speak on her behalf—She wants the Pharaoh." Tia snickered playfully, causing a smirk of my own to form. Tia knew better. As pharaoh I was required to know the opposing languages, and I was well versed in all of them as well. Born as a royal and crowned at prince regent I was required to hold the knowledge of an empire in order to rule a nation—if not the knowledge of the known world.
"Who is this exotic delight?" I asked Tia mindlessly, walking straight up to the foreign girl who bathed freely before me. Her skin was lighter than the others within the harem and her eyes were a vibrant green like the lush Nile itself. Her hands moved from her long blonde hair down to her waist after stepping out of the water to face me fully. Her narrowed eyes were heavily lusty, rosy lips parted and eager, and her blushed expression was both inviting and needy.
"We have no idea where she came from, or who she came from. Therefore such a beauty could only be a gift from the gods…" Tia clapped her hands giddily seeing my full interest in such an unusual girl. I admired Tia's sharp and deadly sepia eyes.
"P-Please you?" The naked girl courageously demanded, twining her arms around me despite the many wide or narrowed eyes. Her eyes were increasingly heavy with a smirk playing on her lips. Her fingernails gripped my back firmly as she pressed her cooler wet bare body against mine. She was only inches shorter than me, very unusual.
"Tia… take this woman to my bedchamber." I motioned to my sister in amusement, avoiding pallid rosy lips though she reached out to me eagerly. Tia then pulled the girl from me, throwing linen around her bare body before directing her to my bedchambers. My eyes scanned the many women around myself—each worthy of my company, though none as magnificent as my beloved sister Tia. However, I could not yet erase the pleased smirk from my lips. I had captured the greatest gift of all, and I was sure that this exotic delight would send a message to all the others like her.
"By sunset, if I have not found the traitor who invited this Hittite spy into my harem I will have every last one of you executed until I do. If the traitor is to immediately come forward and inform me of the location of the others spies… I will show mercy and order an exile rather than an execution this evening."
THE SEA NYMPH
The sun here is unlike anything I've ever felt.
I tried not to move out of exhaustion and fear of draining myself of needed energy.
It feels as if I've been pulled to the depths of a blistering hot spring, lying on the very border of the House of Hades.
This place was grueling, even when lying under the shade of the green brush beside the river's edge.
The air is congested with the foreign smells and sounds...
I clutched the ground beneath me, still laying facedown against the hot soil beside the river. The ground was dry, though it was neither cracking nor dusty. Flies buzzed around my sticky skin. I heard faint sounds of rippling water and foreign birds. I opened my eyes with little flutter. Light penetrated my softer and lighter irises while drilling through my dark pupils like hot stakes, blinding me with the harsh striking rays of the sun. However, I suppose seeing was not of worry to me, as my vision and hearing were already tunneled.
"Hat Hemet!" Fainter yells were heard in the background.
I choked up what little water was left in my lungs as hands rolled me onto my back. After a moment of coughing I noticed the looming shadows that had grown over me. I glanced up towards the blood-red sunrise, mortified at my failing vision.
This must have been another nightmare in the fiery abyss of hell. There were charred children surrounding me, all staring down at me with wide and black eyes. There were two boys and a young girl… Their flesh was not black and charred, but of a darker tone, along with their hair, and even their eyes – unlike anything I'd ever seen. Such children were not merely kissed by the sun, but wholly engulfed by the suns tanning rays.
"Hedj irets!" They all shouted in terror, gasping. The little girl screamed loudly and bolted quickly and the little boys followed her instinctively while yelling. I tried to call out to them, but coughed yet again to rid the remaining salt and river water that seized my voice within my burning throat. In despite of the pain that wracked my frame, I had to hide myself quickly.
Mustering my strength I propped my elbows beneath myself, hoping for some leverage that would hold me up. I hissed silently, sitting up with an unsettling pain as my ribs ached intensely. There was little blood staining my garment, though the tear along my waist was far more noticeable. Once I was able to finally sit up I examined myself after allowing my aching head to settle, regaining smell, sight, and sound. Luckily, I noticed I had no serious opened wounds, though my bruises were deep enough to cause the bone itself to ache. I sighed in relief - this blood was not mine.
I shakily got to my knees after pushing away from the wooden plank that carried me down river throughout the long and stormy night. I ignored the pain within my left ankle and I mustered enough strength to push from the ground in order to finally stand. I hunched within the brush to wearily glance around myself, peeking my head above the shoulder-high brush surrounding me. However, no comfort came from the sights around me. My eyes were instantly drawn to the tanned cow across the field that contently chewed the grasses around her. I was surrounded by what appeared to be wheat and other cultivated crop. Confused and dazed I glanced back at the sound of water. I was laying only feet from a river… it made sense after washing ashore. I was also surprised to see the same green fields on the other side of the River as well. However, not only did I see the fast fields of golden wheat, barley, and millet… but I also noticed workers within the field. The men were darker than the children I'd seen, equipped with a curved and deadly sickle to slash the crop. The women, like the men, were only garments of white linen, though the women followed behind the men to pick up the crop. I quickly ducked my head in the golden brush of wheat in fear of being spotted, hiding from eyes that were darker than onyx.
"This is not Ugarit."
Author's Note: Yes, I may not always update this at consistent intervals, but I decided to update!
I wrote this chapter earlier, I just had to polish it up. As always, first chapters builds for the next!
Hope you enjoyed, and excuse the grammar. For Ancient Egyptian words please visit the first chapter!
Thank you sincerely for taking the time to read - I truly appreciate it.