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Two Princes, One Throne
My brother was always the one that got all the attention. He was the next heir to the throne and would someday rule over our great empire. And then there was me. I didn’t matter because I wasn’t the true heir. Well, if my brother died, I would take his place. But he was perfectly healthy. Father always looks at me with pitying eyes that scream, Why are you like this? Why can’t you be just like your brother, who is perfectly normal? Why are you such a freak? I hated the strange looks that seemed to follow me wherever we go. The children at the palace laugh at me constantly.
“Hey, horse-face! Can I have a chariot ride?”
“You’re never going to be like your brother. At least he gets the throne a pretty wife!”
I would always come up with comebacks, but lately, they haven’t been working. They would just use my comebacks as more fuel for the fire. One day, after painful remarks, I retreated to my brother’s garden. It was the only place where I could feel okay about myself. I sat by the pool, taking in the beauty of the garden with tearful eyes. As I heard someone come in, I didn’t bother looking up and seeing whom it was.
“Go away,” I said with malice.
“Why should I?” the voice asked. “It’s my garden, you know.” I looked up and saw my brother, Tuthmosis. He was staring down at me with false pity.
“Go away, Tuthmosis. I don’t need your company.” I stared at the pond, with its fish that didn’t have a care in the world.
“I think you do. For the past year, you’ve been estranged from the rest of the palace. You’re the son of the Pharaoh and his Great Royal Wife!”
I rounded on him. I was much taller than him and more intimidating. “Yes, I am, but don’t you see what they do to me? I can’t go anywhere without someone looking and commenting! At least when I’m alone, no one can comment on how ugly I look!”
“Amunhotep, you’re a great person, and I know it. Don’t listen to them.” I had heard that sentence a lot.
“Well, guess what? I can’t! I am so sick and tired of listening to that same sentence over and over again. I got something to say about it: it doesn’t work!” I started walking towards the door. Maybe reading a bit will calm me down. I couldn’t tell if Tuthmosis was following me anymore. Who cared anyways? I know I didn’t. As I closed my door, I felt like my life was nothing but a bottomless pit of despair and pain. I grabbed a scroll of papyrus and started to read. It was something about Father’s campaigns in Hittite territory. I wasn’t a big fan of war, but I read it anyway. When I finished the scroll, I heard a knock on the door. I looked out the window. Ra’s sun boat was very close to the horizon. The rest of the palace was getting ready for some feast my father planned.
“Amunhotep, the feast is just about to start!” a voice outside my door called. It was a female voice, and it didn’t sound like a servant that speaks in hushed tones so that her master wouldn’t beat her. I opened the door and came face to face with Nefertiti. She was my brother’s future bride, and the prettiest girl in the palace. She had the bronze skin of a Mitanni princess and hazel eyes that would stare you down from across the room.
“W-why are you here?” I asked, my stutter becoming noticeable.
“Tuthmosis asked me to personally tell you that your father wants you to be at the feast because there’s guests from Greece here,” she replied.
“Tell my brother I’m coming.” I closed the door and put on my best kilt and gold collar. I walked towards the Great Hall and saw my parents. Father looked over at me and motioned with his hand to come over. I stood behind Tuthmosis and Nefertiti and waited for the doors to open. When they did, the procession started. As soon as we were all seated, the people from Greece came in. They were shockingly different compared to us Egyptians. They had shiny black hair and olive skin. They were wearing robes of many colors; unlike the plain white sheaths and kilts we wear. Two men and one woman sat next to Pharaoh. The woman sat right across from me.
“Welcome to Egypt,” Father announced.
It was the woman who responded in Egyptian. “It is a great pleasure to be here.” She looked at me again, her ice blue eyes asking who are you? As soon as Father gave the signal, the feast began. The best hunters, including Tuthmosis, had brought down a lot of game including waterfowl and fish. There was also wine and beer, which was a favorite of my father and many of his viziers. I was glad when the feast was over because I could plainly see that the people from Greece were starting to stare. I started to walk back to my chamber when a small hand touched my shoulder. I turned around expecting Nefertiti, but it was the Grecian woman that had looked at me curiously at the feast. She smiled at me warmly.
“Are you Amunhotep The Younger?” she asked. Her voice was light and smooth. Her Egyptian was flawless, and it sounded like it had been her native language.
“Y-yes. And w-who are y-you?” I asked. Why did the gods curse me with that stutter?
“Selene,” she whispered. “I was named after the goddess of the moon, but I am a priestess of Apollo in Delphi.”
I remember that I had learned something about the priestesses of Apollo in Delphi. Only a few were chosen to become the mouthpiece of their god Apollo. “A-are you an O-oracle?” I asked.
Selene took a step closer to me. “Yes. I am the Pythia and I serve as Apollo’s voice in the mortal world.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “You future is going to be rough, Prince of Egypt. There will be many trials and troubles that will confront you. I also see a strange figure behind you. It’s like the sun, but it seems more like a disk. There is also a beautiful wife next to you and many children in front of you . . .” Her sentence faded away. She then opened her eyes and looked at me with her ice blue eyes.
“T-that was a-amazing!” I said. “How do you know that?”
Selene smiled mysteriously. “Apollo speaks through me. I’m also surprised he could be inside me when I am in a country ruled by other gods.” She looked up at a mural on the wall next to us. It showed Anubis, Thoth, Ammut, and Ma’at weighing the heart of a mortal. The Pythia’s gaze lingered on the mosaic and then she looked back towards me.
“It was nice meeting you, Amunhotep,” she whispered and she kissed me on the lips. No girl ever had kissed me and it felt . . . interesting. Selene pulled away and walked down the hall. I went back to my room, my mind racing. Her words were very confusing and most of them didn’t make sense. Why would I have a beautiful wife? I was being taught how to be a priest of Amun and many of them didn’t marry. These questions and many more were still buzzing inside my head when I fell asleep and I dreamed of strange sun disks and me wearing the crown of Egypt.
Almost a year passed. Tuthmosis became coregent with Father. They would rule together until the elder Pharaoh died. Me, on the other hand, kept learning how to be a priest of Amun. After a while, I started to hate it, and if I somehow became Pharaoh, I’d strip the priests and priestesses of their power. It was all repetition and it was plain out boring. I also pondered about what the Pythia had said at that feast. It still made no sense and I had better things to do. I spent most of my free time in Father’s Arena, where I could go for a few good hours with the chariots and the horses. I was racing some invisible person when I heard someone clapping. I halted my horses to a walk and looked at the door. Nefertiti, in a heavy cloak and shivering against the cold, stared at me with those hazel eyes of hers.
“You’re very good with the horses,” she commented. “Better than people, I believe.”
I gave her a hard look. “If you want to make fun of me, get out.” I must have said it a bit too hard because she shrank back a bit. I got out of the chariot and stood in front of her. She barely reached my shoulder.
“Temper, temper,” she said.
I laughed a bit at that. “I’m sorry, Nefertiti. It’s just that whenever anyone says something to me, I think that they’re making fun of me.”
She awkwardly patted my shoulder. “It’s okay, Amunhotep. Someday, when you’re the High Priest of Amun, those people will be ashamed that they laughed and called you names.” She smiled and walked over to the horses still connected to the chariot. She stroked them and they immediately calmed down. I walked up to her.
“They like you,” I said. “They’re really picky about people.”
Nefertiti didn’t respond right away. “Interesting,” she murmured. She then looked at me. “Can you show me them in action?”
“O-oh, yes o-of course!” I replied. I got in the chariot and flicked the reins. The team went into a fast trot. I was aiming for a full-out gallop, so I smacked them a few times with my whip. They understood and pressed onto a canter. I flicked the reins again and the horses broke into a rhythmic gallop. I smiled at my success and grabbed the bow and arrow that was in the chariot. I knocked the bow and hit the middle of the target, all while I still had complete control of the horses. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Nefertiti applauding loudly. I also saw the flicker of a shadow behind her. I stopped the horses and looked towards the entrance to the Arena. There it was again. Nefertiti looked at me with a confused look.
“Why’d you stop?” she asked.
“I-I saw s-something,” I replied a bit stupidly. I stepped out of my chariot and started to move towards the door. The shadow moved closer to Nefertiti. I kept walking, but I fingered my dagger that hung on my belt. I wasn’t a warrior, but if Nefertiti were in danger, I’d fight to the death. The shadow kept coming closer and closer. I braced myself for an attack.
“Amunhotep?” Tuthmosis asked. So he was the shadow that I had seen. How could I be so stupid? I could’ve killed my own brother!
“I’m right here,” I replied.
My elder brother finally noticed that his bride-to-be was in the Arena. “Nefertiti, what are you doing here?” he asked, looking at her with worried eyes. He placed his hands on Nefertiti’s shoulders. For some reason, I felt like I should rip Tuthmosis’s grip off of Nefertiti.
“I was just watching your brother ride his chariot. Is that a crime?” She batted her eyelashes at him.
“Uh, no. It’s not a crime to be in the Arena,” he said. “But it’s so cold out! You could get sick in this kind of weather.” He started to lead her out.
“Hey!” I called after my brother and Nefertiti. “She came here by herself and she knows that if she comes here, she may get sick. You don’t have to lead her out like a disobedient animal!” I could see my brother stop. He then turned around and stormed up in front of me.
“You will not tell me what to do,” he growled. “I am the coregent of Egypt and all you’ll be is a priest of Amun. I have much more power than you’ll ever have in your whole life! I should whip you, like a slave.” Tuthmosis smiled. It gave me chills up my spine. “But no, I won’t. You’re my dear brother.” What did he mean by ‘dear brother’? What was he going to do to me when he finally took up the full crook and flail? I was just about to say something when Nefertiti came in between us.
“Stop it,” she cried. “I don’t want you to fight. You’re brothers! Stop it!” I backed off, but Tuthmosis didn’t.
“How about a chariot race, brother?” Tuthmosis asked. His voice came out in a harsh growl. “Just you and me. Three laps around the Arena.”
Tuthmosis paused. “When it gets warmer. How about Mesore?” He was suggesting the warmest month of the year. It was Phamenoth now and the wind had a cold chill to it, instead of being a nice warm breeze.
I nodded. “Fine.” So it was settled. We were going to race in Mesore. The months that led up to the race went slow. I spent most of my time in the Arena, practicing. It was in that time when I had a dream. I was standing in the middle of the desert on a cliff. I looked down and saw a patch of useless sand. All of a sudden, the sand shimmered, like a mirage, and then a city appeared out of the sand. I just stared at it. It was a pearl in a bowl of sand.
“Aketaten,” a voice said. “It is a place where people will flock to.” I looked up at the sun and saw that it was more of a disk with multiple arms with small hands than a ball of light. Is this what the Pythia meant by the so-called ‘sun disk’?
“W-who are you?” I asked.
“I am the Aten.” The voice seemed to be both male and female at the same time. “I am the sun disk and I am more powerful than Amun, Set, Osiris, Apep, and Ra put together! No one worships me. But you can change that.” One of the Aten’s arms came down to me and caressed my face with its hand. It felt both rough and smooth at the same time.
“You will accomplish great things, Prince Amunhotep,” the Aten whispered. “Put the priests of Amun in their place and Egypt will be yours to control!” The dream was already starting to leave me. It blurred at the edges and soon enough, I was blinking at the ceiling of my chamber.
“That was strange,” I muttered to the ceiling. It didn’t reply, so I got up and got dressed. When I was done, I saw that the sun was right outside the window. I remembered my dream and kneeled in front of the window. I held my palms up to the window, as if I were trying to catch some of the Aten’s rays.
“Oh, mighty Aten,” I whispered. “Please bless me this day. Let your all-knowing rays shine upon me. Let me bask in your rays and become more powerful from them.” I then stood up and brushed the dirt from my knees. The morning meal was being served in the Great Hall and I was late. Everyone stared at me when I opened the door. Some of them started to whisper.
Just ignore it, Amunhotep, I said to myself. I sat down in my seat and helped myself to whatever they were serving. After a few hours, Father stood up.
“Today is a very special day! My younger son, Amunhotep The Younger, is getting engaged to Kiya, Vizier Panahesi’s daughter. May the gods shine down on them!” I looked down the table to one of Father’s most trusted viziers. There he was, drinking more than he can handle and laughing like a hyena. His daughter, Kiya, was sitting on his right. She was talking to some palace girls and one pointed to me. Kiya looked up. Her face was angular and she had a bit of a pointy nose. But all in all, she was pretty. Gladly, the morning meal was done minutes later. I walked out of the Great Hall alone, but Kiya’s ladies suddenly swarmed me. I tried to get out of the hoard of sheer sheaths and gaudy jewelry.
“Hey!” a voice called. “Go! Shoo! He’s my future husband!” The girls backed off. Kiya walked towards me. I had only seen her face earlier, but now I could see all of her. She was almost as tall as me and her hips were wide. She came up close to me.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m Kiya.” The sheath she was wearing was finely woven and it was practically see-through.
“I-I’m A-amunhotep.” Why was my stutter coming back? I felt like hitting my head hard on the wall and say stupid each time my head met stone.
“So, we’re going to be married soon, huh?” she commented as she took my arm.
“Yeah I g-guess.” We were heading in the direction of my private garden. When we got there, Kiya gasped. The garden was sprawling with acacia trees and herbs.
“Did you do this yourself?” she asked, fingering the lilies that were growing fast.
I shrugged. “Actually, it was Nefertiti’s sister, Mutnodjmet. She is amazing with herbs and plants.”
“Oh.” Kiya then steered me to a stone bench that was under an acacia. We spent the rest of the day there, talking about random things like things that were happening in the court of the palace and the weather.
“Do you like horses?” I asked Kiya randomly.
“Uhh . . . kind of. They’re magical creatures—don’t get me wrong—but they can be a bit scary. I was there when there was that big chariot race where there was that big crash that killed all the charioteers.” She shivered and I draped my arm around her shoulders.
“Yeah, they can be pretty deadly sometimes. But they’re loyal animals and would die protecting you.”
Kiya put her head on my shoulder. “I never heard it that way.”
I shrugged. “I know horses. I think I spend more time with horses than with people. At least they don’t care if I look ugly.” I looked down at the pond. My reflection stared back at me. It was that same long face, small eyes, and large lips that had stared back at me for sixteen years.
“You know, I never laughed with all the others girls,” Kiya said. “I felt bad for you. I had all those friends that cared about me and you had no one. I was . . . I was the one who defended you when some boy said that the gods laugh at you and asked why they put you here. Remember that?”
“Oh, I remember that all right.” I closed my eyes as the memory bounced against my mind.
Tuthmosis and some of his friends were playing a game when I came in the courtyard. Some people looked up but then looked down fast.
“C-can I p-play w-with you?” I asked quietly. It wasn’t quiet enough because everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at me.
“No!” a girl squealed. “You’re too ugly to play!” After that, the taunts kept coming and coming without any stop in sight.
“Go back and play with your horsies!”
“You’re a waste of space, looser!”
“You should be exiled to the desert!”
“I can’t believe that Pharaoh even calls you his son! If I were Pharaoh, you’d be dead by now!”
“Even the gods laugh at you! Why would they put you here?” That was my breaking point. I crumpled to my knees and started to sob violently. No one did anything, not even my brother. I could hear them laughing loudly at my misfortune.
“He’s a freak and a cry-baby!” Just then, a girl separated from the group and stood between them and me.
“Stop it!” she cried. “Can’t you see that you’re hurting him? You’re all meanies!” She then kneeled down in front of me. I had stopped crying my eyes out, but tears still ran down my long face.
“Are you okay?” she asked quietly. I looked up. She smiled kindly at me.
“I-I’m o-okay,” I replied. I looked back at Tuthmosis, who was imitating me falling on my knees and crying. She looked at my brother and got up. She got in his face and he shrank back a bit.
“First, you tease him, and now you’re imitating him? You’re cruel!” She pushed the crowned price to the floor and then held out a hand for me.
“Y-you’re b-brave,” I said, a bit shocked and a bit impressed.
“I’m probably more foolish than brave,” she muttered. Smiles broke out on both of our faces.
“T-thank y-you,” I said after a moment’s silence.
I looked at Kiya. She was the one that had said that was enough and had the courage to stand up to her friends, even the future ruler of Egypt.
“Thank you so much,” I said.
Kiya didn’t reply. Instead, she brushed her lips on mine. I returned her kiss, and it slowly intensified. Time and space didn’t matter. After a while, we separated. We both gasped for breath and smiled wickedly.
“That was fun,” I said through deep breaths.
“Yeah, it was.” Kiya’s voice took on a different tone. “Let’s retire to your chamber.” So we got up off the bench, and walked out, arm in arm. Just as we were leaving, I felt like someone was staring at me in the bushes. I looked behind me, but no one was there.
“Did you see something?” Kiya asked.
I shook my head. “No. I must be a bit tired.” But I had felt something. There was only one person that had piercing eyes in the palace: Nefertiti. It hit me that she was watching us in the bushes. What was she doing? I mentally shrugged and turned my attention to Kiya.
Mesore finally came. The race was the only thing the palace talked about. Who would win? What if someone died? People placed bets on the race, and it made some people rich. But I didn’t care. It was just a race.
“Are you ready?” Kiya asked the day of the race. She was already three months pregnant with my child, and we were both thrilled.
“As I’ll ever be.” I strode into the Arena with the courage of Sekhmet, the lion goddess of war. I looked up at the sky and saw that the Aten was there. I smiled and whispered a prayer to the god that I only knew.
“Are you ready brother?” Tuthmosis called over the cacophony of the Arena. It was practically filled to the brim and people were trying to look over one another.
I nodded. “Yes.” We stepped up to our chariots. I bowed to my brother, which was tradition. We both stepped into our chariots, and the crowd was suddenly silent. A servant stepped in front of our chariots and horses. He raised a scrap of linen. His arm went down and then we were off. I got the early lead. Tuthmosis lagged behind, but I knew that he would come back from behind. He did, and soon enough, we were neck and neck.
“Getting tired, brother?” Tuthmosis asked, egging me on.
I noticed that his horses were starting to pant in the heat. “No, but your horses are.” I smiled smugly. He hadn’t exercised his horses in months, and now they were tiring quick. My horses were barely sweating.
“You’ll pay for that!” my brother cried. All of a sudden, he pulled his chariot very close to mine. He then pulled it away, but then came back and rammed his chariot at mine. They met with a loud thunk, and many people started to scream. He repeated that stunt three times. On the fourth, one of his wheels broke and it put his chariot off balance. I stared at Tuthmosis in horror. He’ll be killed for sure! His horses had panicked when the wheel broke, and now he had no control over them. They ran in every direction but straight. They suddenly stopped all of a sudden, and Tuthmosis was flung from his chariot.
“TUTHMOSIS!” I cried as I saw his body flying through the air. I flinched as he hit the ground and there was a loud snap! I halted my team and ran up to him. Behind me, the crowd was going into pandemonium, and there were women screaming. I kneeled next to my brother.
“Are you o-okay?” I asked, putting my hands on Tuthmosis’s shoulder.
He groaned. “Yeah, but I think I broke something.”
“H-here, let m-me help you g-get up.” He draped his arm over my shoulder, and I helped him get up. The crowd was still reeling in shock that the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt had been injured. Didn’t the gods want him to be Pharaoh?
Tuthmosis hissed in pain when he put weight on his right leg. “Oh, it’s my leg.”
“C’mon, we got to get you to a physician.” An hour later, Tuthmosis was lying in his bed, his broken leg in a splint. Everyone was at his bedside: Mother, Father, Nefertiti, and me. After a little while, Mother talked to me in private on my brother’s balcony.
“Why did you do it?” the Queen of Egypt asked.
I looked at her in surprise. “What do you mean?”
She looked at me as if I were stupid enough to say that. “I know that you purposely loosened the wheels on my son’s chariot and you caused him to crash!”
I was shocked. Who would think that? “I didn’t do it. He was taunting me and I said something that made him mad. He started to bash his chariot into mine and it caused the wheel to come off. His horses spooked and they stopped suddenly and that’s why he got catapulted out of his chariot. I didn’t have anything to do with it!”
My mother’s blue eyes were like flint. “You’re lying. That’s your cover story. You caused the accident.”
“I didn’t! It was purely an accident!”
The Queen of Egypt didn’t reply. Instead, her hand flashed back and came in contact with my face. The force jerked my head back and I was surprised that Mother was so strong. When her hand drew back, the side of my face was stinging and I probably had the imprint of her hand on my face.
I stared at her with wide eyes. “Why’d you do that?”
“To show you your place. Tuthmosis is the heir and you’re the spare.” My mother walked back into Tuthmosis’s chamber. I walked off the balcony and into Tuthmosis’s garden. I sat under a tree and stared at the sky. The Aten was there, and it gave me hope. I didn’t notice someone walking towards me.
“Amunhotep?” Nefertiti asked. I looked up. Her face was red and blotchy from crying.
“I was wondering if I could sit next to you.” I nodded and made room for her. She sat down and looked at the pond.
“I don’t think you did it,” she muttered.
I looked at her in surprise. “So you’re saying that you believe it was purely an accident?”
Nefertiti nodded. “I can see your mother has other ideas.” Her gaze lingered on my cheek where Mother had slapped me.
“She wasn’t the mothering type. She doted on Tuthmosis and barely even looked at me. I still think that she would rather have me dead.”
“Really?” Nefertiti asked. Her eyes were wide.
I nodded. “I was a sickly child growing up. I’d get one thing one day and another thing the next. My parents were sure that the gods had cursed me and that I was a mistake. Tuthmosis probably told you about what the other children did to me.”
“Oh, he did. I was shocked. You’re a very nice person, Amunhotep, and it’s wrong for them to make fun of you.”
I smiled at Nefertiti. “Thanks.”
She smiled back. “You’re welcome.” We started to talk. Unlike Kiya, Nefertiti knew about politics and things that only men would talk about.
“I still don’t understand why the son of Hatshepsut would destroy her monuments after she died. She took the crook and flail for herself and how does he repay her? Destroying all that she did. I even heard that when he became coregent, he sped up her death.”
I gasped. “Really?”
Nefertiti nodded. “There were rumors going around everywhere after she died. Even the servants still talk about it today. It’s strange, because she died suddenly without warning. She was perfectly healthy.”
“So foul play could be the cause of death?”
Nefertiti shrugged. “You can’t ignore it.” She looked up. My younger sister, Sitamun, was heading towards us. Her skin was dark, like Father’s. She had gray eyes, which no one else in our family had.
“Nefertiti,” she said. “Tuthmosis wants you in his chamber.” Nefertiti stood up and walked into his chamber. Sitamun followed Nefertiti with her stone gray eyes and then turned them towards me.
“Don’t say anything to Tuthmosis,” I said, a small threat embedded in the words.
Sitamun smiled. “You know me, brother. I don’t give anything away.” She walked off. It was true. She didn’t gossip like the other palace girls, and when she did hear something about me, she told me as soon as she could talk to me. She was helpful. So Mesore came and went, and Tuthmosis got better. The bone had mended well, but there was still threat of infection. He had gotten a large scrape that was almost as long as his leg when he had been ejected from his chariot, and it didn’t want to close up.
“When the horses stopped and I flew out of the chariot, I felt like a hawk,” Tuthmosis commented one day. “I can see why Horus likes that form.” We both laughed.
“When you flew, all I could think was, he’s going to die, he’s going to die, he’s going to die. It could have been that chariot accident all over again, except one of the riders is the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt.” I looked at the table next to his bed and saw the tall, white hedjet crown sitting on a cushion. I looked at Tuthmosis.
“What?” he asked. “I’m the Pharaoh, so shouldn’t I have the crown near me?”
I laughed. “It’s a ceremonial crown. Father only wears the peschent crown when dignitaries come here.”
He grabbed the long, white crown and put it on his head. “Now I am Pharaoh Tuthmosis, ruler of the Black Land and the bed I’m laying in!” We both cracked up at that one. I stared at the crown for a few moments. Tuthmosis held it out for me.
“Try it on,” he said. So I placed it on my head. It was too big, so it slipped past my forehead and all I could see was white. I could hear Tuthmosis laughing like a drunken hyena. I laughed too, and it felt good that the laughter wasn’t about some comment against me.
“Tuthmosis?” a voice asked from the doorway. We both turned towards the door. I still had the crown on, but I knew the person’s voice. It was Nefertiti. I knew she was staring at me.
“Uh, Amunhotep, why do you have the hedjet crown on?” she asked, and I assumed that she was trying to hold back laughter.
I shrugged. “I felt like it.” The three of us laughed. Nefertiti grabbed a chair and sat down. I took the crown off and handed it back to my brother. He held it out to Nefertiti.
“Do you want to try it on?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.
“Yes.” So Nefertiti put it on, and it fell down her face like it did on me. But it stopped at her beaded wig, so she could see a little bit.
She struck a Pharaoh pose, with her arms crossed over her chest. “I am Pharaoh Hatshepsut and I am ruler of Egypt!” she said in a stage voice. Now that was funny, and we broke out in laughter once again. When the day was over, we couldn’t say or hear anything serious. Even if Mother said that Father was dying, we would still laugh.
“Prince Amunhotep,” the Master of the Horse said at dinner later that evening. “Tuthmosis’s team is having trouble settling down. Can you help us?” I glanced at Nefertiti. She met my gaze, and we started to laugh. The Master of the Horse looked at bit confused.
“I’m sorry,” Sitamun apologized while we were still laughing. “My brother and sister-in-law are having a laughing fit.” She got up. “I’m also good with horses, so you can use me.” Sitamun left with the Master of the Horse. Nefertiti and I gasped for breath.
“I can’t stop laughing,” she said, a bit breathless.
“Me neither.” Weeks passed. The gash on Tuthmosis’s leg started to finally heal. But it was still partly open and the threat of infection still lingered. In the month of Phaophi, Tuthmosis developed a fever. Then his gash started to swell and it turned a disgusting shade of green. One night, he started to sleep-walk, but he was fully awake. He just rambled around his garden, ordering his servants to do strange things. Sitamun told me that he told one of his female servants, Nebtu, to jump into the Nile while it is flooding. After they got him back into his bed, he came out of his daze and didn’t remember anything that he had done.
“I don’t have a clue what happened,” he said two days after the incident. “All I remember is a servant trying to hold me down and Nebtu crying in the corner.”
I shivered. To save the girl more torture, I brought her to my chamber and she would become the nurse of Kiya’s child when it came. “I don’t think that whatever you did has happened before.”
Tuthmosis shrugged. “I don’t know. At least it’s over with.” So for the next few days, the royal family and the rest of the palace waited in anticipation to see what would happen to the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt. Three days later, I was in my garden with Kiya. She was almost six months pregnant and still looked beautiful.
“It is a boy,” she whispered. “I can feel it.”
I smiled. “That’s great.” I looked up. Sitamun stood in the doorway. She was leaning on it as if she couldn’t stand by herself.
“Amunhotep,” she said. Her voice shook. “Tuthmosis has passed into the hands of Osiris.” My blood went cold. It could mean only one thing.
My brother was dead.
After the seventy days that it took to mummify, Tuthmosis was laid to rest in his tomb. He was buried with all the things that he would need for the afterlife: food, clothes, games, bows, and much more. After his tomb was sealed, we held a feast in his honor. Everybody was subdued and barely anyone talked. When the feast was done, Father stood up.
“I have lost my eldest son, but not all hope is lost,” he announced. “My younger son, Amunhotep The Younger will take the throne of Upper Egypt.” Was it just me, or was there bitterness in his voice?
“Also,” he continued, “Tuthmosis’s future wife, Nefertiti, will become Amunhotep’s wife in five days. May they be blessed with many children!” The feast was over, and after it, Nefertiti talked with me in my garden. Kiya was asleep.
“I can’t believe it,” I whispered. “Now I’m Pharaoh of Upper Egypt and I’m going to have two wives.”
Nefertiti’s eyes shone in the dark. “I know.” She suddenly looked me in the eye. “I’m glad I’m not marrying Tuthmosis. I have to admit that he was not my type. At least my husband is someone that has the same interests of mine.”
I brought Nefertiti close to me. “I’m glad too. Kiya only talks about women things while you dare to venture where only men dare to go.”
Something clicked in Nefertiti’s eyes. “You know, when you become Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt, you’ll have to choose a queen.”
I smiled. “I think I made my choice already.”