Outside the palace, life went on. Farmers set up stalls in the market, and people milled about, grateful for the clouds.
Alanna glanced wearily at the darkening sky. Previous experience told her a storm was coming, and recent events told her it wasn't natural. It seems Ra lost his battle today. The myth of Ra and nightly battle with Apophis popped up in her mind. Every time Set attempted something, it was in the form of a storm. Which meant the sun couldn't shine. To the Egyptians, it was a sign that Ra was defeated by Apophis, an evil snake he fought nightly in the underworld to bring the sun back up in the morning.
Did that have anything to do with what was going on?
She shook her head as she neared the temple. Thoughts like that would only lead her in circles. Her questions were more likely to be answered by searching the temple.
A young acolyte bowed to her at the entrance, but didn't stop her. Grinning, she nodded to him and continued on. Passing through the gateway, a wave of nausea halted her in her tracks. Pressure in her head prompted her to rub her temples, and she darted her gaze around in curiosity.
The throbbing in her head increased.
Then it was gone.
She turned to face the voice, standing up straighter. Her breath caught in her throat.
* * * * *
Pacing up and down the hall, Khep held his hands tightly clinched behind his back. His brows were furrowed, in frustration and mounting anger. Twirling on his heel suddenly, he stopped before the crouched Ramla.
I told her to stay here.
I know, the girl said patiently.
Growling, he reached a hand up absentmindedly to tug on his hair. Well, it's been too long. She should've been back by now.
Ramla rolled her eyes. Okay. I get that. Telling me does no good.
The king nodded, and his feet took up their pacing once more. He'd chosen this hall for his watch because it overlooked the bustling city below, and he had a clear view of the palace entrance, through the long line of columns. The clouds had covered the sky from horizon to horizon; Khep estimated the sun would be nearing it's highest point soon. The fifth day was moving into afternoon.
And his fiancée was nowhere to be seen. Her friend-Valerie? He wasn't quite sure how to pronounce it-had rushed into his room, alerting him of Alanna's absence early in the morning. He'd been waiting since.
The clapping of approaching slippers on stone echoed in the halls, hurried and chaotic. Khep looked up from his stride.
Your Majesty! Majesty, the Lord Ay requests your presence! He has an urgent message from the Hittites! The servant scrambled to come to a stop, bow, and relay his message.
Khep grimaced. Sending a quick prayer to Osiris, he left. Please not more bad news.
The old lord was seated at his desk, his forehead wrinkled with age and irritation. He nodded in acknowledgment to his king, and motioned for him to sit. Your Highness, I'm afraid the Hittites are aware of the Queen's passing, and of our latest military attempts in that region. They have demanded you take an Hittite princess as your Great Wife. Also that we back down from our campaigns or they will declare war. I would suggest doing as they ask. We cannot afford the cost of a war at the present time.
The pharaoh rested his head in his hands. Deep, full breaths did little to sway the rising of hopelessness in his chest.
Alanna still had not returned.
* * * * *
The worst part of all this, Rashidi mused, was not his lack of control over the situation. He could accept that. It was the inevitable conclusion, and the consequences awaiting his Sanura.The orphans were panicked. They hadn't seen Alanna in a week and a half, the longest she'd ever been away from them. It had been his own challenge to keep them occupied and as far from the palace as possible. Khep informed Rashidi of the situation, and the two deemed it a wise choice to prevent the children from delaying, stalling or otherwise distracting Alanna from saving her brother.
He rubbed his jaw. Surely there was something he could do to help.
Meskhenet asked hesitantly. Her hands were clasped down in front of her, and she took small steps to his side. Rashidi, there's something I need to speak with you about.
His eyes flicked to her and back. Oh, of course, sorry. I've been thinking about Sanura is all.
That's fine. She smiled, a bit strained. I know you love children, that is evident. But have you considered ever having children of your own? Sometime? We are married now, and I was just, she paused to chuckle nervously, curious. I understand Nefertari's situation is very urgent at the moment, so obviously you would not want them now. Children, I mean, you would not want children now, given the circumstances.
The mention of children reminded him of his earlier promise to teach Haji and Kafele, twins, to play Senet. They were growing older, and would, in a few more years, be marrying off and be on their own. Children? I'd love to have children once all this blows over, wouldn't you? He smiled down at her, There's nothing to worry about. Now, if you'll excuse me, I promised the twins I'd teach them Senet.
Watching his retreating form, Meskhenet sighed. Turning to the window, she followed Rashidi's earlier gaze, to the palace. Oh Nefertari, I hope you're all right. I'll need your help.
* * * * *
Hotep drew her deeper into the temple, away from the lingering priests. Tari, there's something I must speak with you about. He paused, nervously glancing around. His feet shifted, settling his weight on one leg. The knowledge of what he was about to do drove his stomach in circles. I'm doing the right thing, there is no other way. He told himself. Tari, you can't go back to the Pharaoh.
Alanna blinked. After everything that had occurred, that was the last thing she expected. I'm sorry, Hotep. I thought you understood. But I think that I love Khep-the Pharaoh-and I know that I care for him. I'm really sorry if I've led you on.
That's not it. I'm not jealous, he hardened his voice, pronouncing carefully, Ah-lah-nah. You do not know the situation and to remain near the Pharaoh would be suicide. He cannot be trusted, and he will be removed, whether you love him or not. Egypt needs a strong leader, one to bring honor back to the kingship.
Khep has honor! was her initial cry. Then all at once, she couldn't breath; as if the hands, which had been steadily tightening over the last few days, closed in around her throat. Tutankhamun was murdered, and her trusted friend was one of the conspirators. It might've been him who killed Ankhesenamun. Taking a step backward, she raised her arms between them. Hotep! You can't kill him! Who's idea was this? Who is in charge of this coupe d'état?
His brow furrowed. Coupe de what?
Coupe d'état-overthrowing of the government. Nevermind that! Answer me, Hotep!
General Horemheb is. He feels that-
For a instant, her heart ceased its beating. Horemheb. He's the one who tried to kill me! Hotep! Horemheb is the one who kidnapped me, who threw me in the river! And you're working for him! Were you in on that? Have you known all along that Horemheb tried to kill me? Tears pooled in her eyes, and she let them fall. She'd had enough.
He what? He's the one who did that? Why didn't you tell us if you knew? Are you just saying that to turn me against him? He cursed, his fist slamming into the wall beside him. Don't play games!
I'm not playing games! He tried to kill me! I didn't tell because I thought it was over and done with! she shouted. The winds picked up in the temple, emanating from her small frame, and blasted her hair back from her face. I trusted you, damn it! I won't let you kill him! Her voice trailed off in a shriek, eyes glowing in the darkened temple. Candles and incense flickered. Raising her hand, palm forward, she pushed. The wind slugged Hotep in the gut, launching him far into the wall.
Ragged breaths tore through her throat as she tried to calm down. Tears trickled down her cheeks unchecked and she could feel the need to sleep creeping in. Her knees giving out, she succumbed to the darkness building behind her eyes.
* * * * *
Khep eyed sun through the hemp curtains hanging at the entrance of the balcony. It was a mere glow through the ever darkening clouds that gathered in a blanket of grey above the city. And it had begun it's descent in the sky. Midday was over. They were still no closer to retrieving Alanna's brother, nor defeated Set.
Where in the seven hells was Alanna?
Your Majesty, I have brought the Princess Damayanti of the Hittites, daughter of King Suppiluliumas I. She was brought here as soon as we were notified of the Hittites' demand. Lord Ay entered his rooms without knocking, his small, frail form followed by an even more fragile, timid young woman. She couldn't have been older than twelve. The old man grinned, more an ironic smirk like teen caught sneaking bread, acknowledging their punishment for being selfish and disobedient. It seems the Hittites were quite confident on our response.
The Pharaoh growled inaudibly. Was his Egypt truly that weak?
He stood from his elegantly carved, golden chair, a miniature throne adorned with scenes of himself hunting or sailing. Dipping his head, he welcomed the young girl. Welcome, Damayanti. I'm not certain you will become my Great Wife, but you will be taken care of.
The girl kept her eyes on her feet, clad in jeweled slippers. Thank you, Your Majesty.
A tense silence swept through the room. The princess shifted her feet, a slight scuffing sound on the smooth stone. Steady breaths echoed in the large, open bedroom, too loud suddenly.
Heavy, golden doors slid open, a delicate, pale hand peeking through. Furious, green eyes met Khep's from the doorway, framed by tangled, wild red hair that moved on it's own from an unseen torrent of wind. she whispered, her usual voice masked by a more ethereal presence that nearly dripped with fury and blood. You've been too lenient. It is time for me to intervene.
Okay, sorry for the wait. I was gone to the theatre camp thingie for two weeks. Then I was totally uninspired for a week. Finally I just plopped down and stared at the screen until words formed. It took forever. That's why this chapter is so crappy. But it moves the action much further along. And I think I should mention that I doubt very much this will be finished by the end of summer. Highly doubt. It's only a little more than halfway done. Lots more to go. And more of the plot is revealed next time. . . so review cause they-the reviews-are the reason this chapter got out today. It could've potentially been weeks but I sat down, read over my reviews, and was encouraged to forge through and keep going. So PLEASE REVIEW! And this hasn't been beta-ed yet cause I wanted to just get it out. I'll repost it once it's been edited. Ciao!
And I think I should mention that I doubt very much this will be finished by the end of summer. Highly doubt. It's only a little more than halfway done. Lots more to go. And more of the plot is revealed next time. . . so review cause they-the reviews-are the reason this chapter got out today. It could've potentially been weeks but I sat down, read over my reviews, and was encouraged to forge through and keep going.
So PLEASE REVIEW!
And this hasn't been beta-ed yet cause I wanted to just get it out. I'll repost it once it's been edited.