Leg Post 100 opens back in the palace in Thebes and the night time corridors are filled with ghosts, especially many cat ghosts. Tey, first wife of the recently appointed pharaoh, is unable to sleep because of one such ghost cat that freezes her skin when it tries to snuggle with her. She is jealous of Ay's new, much younger, wife, Ankhesenamun. She asks a ghost builder, who has a caved in skull, to remove the ghost cat for her. As he gets the cat, he reveals his name is Jazz and that he died when the last brick of the palace fell on his head - his unfinished business. He tells her he saw her daughter, Mutnedjmet, with a man, sparking Tey's overprotective nature. She marches to her daughter's room, accidentality disturbing Ankhesenamun on the way, but finds it empty and demands that Jazz tell her where he saw her. Mutnedjmet was outside, meeting with her friend, Paramesse, as they discussed a mutual friend that she was interested in. She went back to the palace and was careful to avoid her mother, who was searching for her, and managed to get back to her room - though she overheard Ankhesenamun inform Jazz that she could never love her new husband. Later, Paramesse would help her secretly meet with her lover, Horemheb, and get married. At a state dinner, Ay meets with several important Egyptians and introduces them to his idiot son, Nakhtmin. Nakhtmin is a great disappointment to Ay, but he appreciates his Ethiopian wife, Sauda, for her cunning and political nature. Because of the murder of his son, Zannanza in Leg Post 98, Suppiluliuma I of Hattusa attacks the Egyptian lands of Canaan but finds an unnatural, seemingly magic, plague upon the people that spreads throughout Hattusa. The king, and his family, contract the same disease and the old king marks that this is the beginning of the end for the Hittite Empire. Sometime after the party in Egypt, Sauda came to Ay's office to ask for information. She wanted to know how Aten was risen to become the monotheistic god of Egypt, as she knew it was done with the help of Ay himself. He decides to take her as his apprentice due to her cunning mind, which he admires, and tells her it requires magic. She reveals to him that she is secretly a mage. Much later, a funeral is held for Nakhtmin, who died under mysterious circumstances. When Ay meets Sauda at the tomb, he initially suspects her but she affirms this is not good for her position and that she needed Nakhtmin for security. Without him, however, Ay is too much of a threat to her and so she uses magic to obliterate the old king. As he had married Mutnedjmet, Horemheb becomes pharaoh and he begins to expunge the worshippers of Aten from the record. He distrusted everybody, but in particular he would have to kill Tey. He also knew the threat that Ankhesenamun posed to him, however he was in love with her. Mutnedjmet becomes aware of this and their marriage becomes strained. Horemheb rules for a long fourteen years, during which time Tey is murdered and Ankhesenamun kills herself with poison. Horemheb, incapable of love or affection for Mutnedjmet, has no children and appoints his vizier, Paramesse, to become his successor. When he becomes pharaoh, he is titled Ramesess I.
A breeze blew down the corridor to the wives’ rooms. Torches burnt in their holsters and the patrolling guards would relight them whenever they wandered past. The night was dark and full of terrors.
And by terrors, I mean ghosts.
Unfortunately, none of them were very malevolent or intimidating and none of them were of truly important people. One ghost admitted he was the gardener from a few generations ago. Another ghost said she was one of the cook’s helpers. Another of the ghosts was a random thief that managed to get himself flambéed by a well-placed fire trap.
There were also hundreds of ghost cats.
One good thing there was that they couldn’t pee or shit on everything. So, no little ghost poops to step on.
Their mewls had a hollow timbre to them, which would send creeps down the spine when they were ‘singing’. They were always trying to steal the body heat of those still living too. It was awful to be spoken up with a freezing cold lump under the blankets.
Tey tried to shove the ghost cat away, but her legs passed straight through the wretched beast. Weren’t there any ghost cat busters out there?
Tey slipped from the bed. The ghost cat complained over the loss of heat and rolled onto his belly for a rub. Tey ignored him and went to the bowl of water to give her face a quick wash. She had forgotten to wash her makeup off from the night before.
She hadn’t worn makeup in years and she felt she was very rusty at it. But the pressure was on. She now had a rival. The young and very pretty Ankhesenamun, second wife of the newly appointed pharaoh. The girl was sweet, if dour, but she was also young and had the natural beauty of youth to draw the attention of Ay. Tey felt hideous when stood in comparison to the girl. She had over a decade on her and it showed.
Nicer clothes, pretty makeup, expensive jewellery. The girl had no interest in any of these things, and yet Tey still felt like the inferior beauty.
Ay was eager to converse with Ankesenamun, constantly trying to win the girl over, to the exclusion of his old, tired wife. At least she saw it that way, she ignored him when he told her she was his true love. If that was true, why did he have a second wife. It may have been his key to the throne, but why hadn’t he sent her to the harem yet? He wanted the girl to love him, she was certain of it. Tey splashed more water on her face. She wanted to throw the bowl across the room, but that wasn’t going to help anybody.
She opened the door to her room to peek outside. Nobody was about that this hour, not even one of the patrols. Only ghosts. One ghost, who happened to be floating by, gave her a wave and sheepish grin. Looking at him, she guessed he was probably a former slave. The crushed skull, the result of a falling rock. He may have been here when the palace was first constructed.
Tey: “Hey ghost.”
Builder Ghost: “Me, ma’am?”
Tey: “Do you see any oth—”
She stopped and looked around. There were a lot of ghosts about actually.
Tey: “Yes you. Can you… touch other ghosts?”
The ghost man looked horrified.
Builder Ghost: “I’m not that kind of ghost, ma’am!”
Tey: “I don’t want you to touch girl ghosts!”
The builder looked even more shocked.
Tey: “I want you to remove this damn ghost cat from my bed!”
The former slave sighed with relief and nodded slowly.
Builder Ghost: “Yes, yes, I can help you with that my lady.”
Tey stepped aside the builder looked at her and the door.
Builder Ghost: “How courteous of you!”
She remembered he could have walked straight through it, and her. The ghost floated across the room towards the cat.
Builder Ghost: “Here, puss, puss.”
The ghost-cat trilled its hollow mew.
Builder Ghost: “There’s a good boy, yes he is!”
Tey: “Have you been haunting these halls for many years, ghost?”
The builder glanced up, surprised at the civil question.
Builder Ghost: “I have, ma’am! I’m not really sure why I didn’t pass on. They say ghosts are here because of unfinished business, but the only thing I left unfinished was this building!”
Tey: “It seems pretty finished to me!”
Builder Ghost: “Ah, yes, well, you see. You probably won’t even notice it. Nobody else ever has. There’s a single brick missing. Right up at the very top of the throne room, in the back corner. There’s a brick missing. You won’t see it, because it’s normally so dark up there. But that’s what done me in. I must have put it in loose. I got down from my ladders and WHAM!”
Builder Ghost: “Game over, Jazz.”
Tey: “Jazz? Your name is Jazz? That’s peculiar.”
Jazz: “Perfectly common name in my time!”
Tey: “Not sure I believe that, but I’m not very… educated, I admit.”
Jazz: “I did hear tell, ma’am. You and your husband were born a commoner?”
Tey: “That’s right. Not a slave, mind. Not like you. What are you by the way?”
Jazz: “A ghost, I think. I could be a poltergeist or something, but I’m not sure what the difference is.”
Tey: “I meant who are your people?”
Jazz: “Well, my dad’s name was Jazz and my—”
Tey: “Your race, man! Your lineage!”
Jazz: “Ooooooh. My grandparents were taken as slaves in Canaan. I was born just down the road, though.”
Tey: “Canaanites. I do detest your people.”
Jazz looked down at the cat in his arms, as though it were his only friend.
Tey: “Nothing personal. But you have to consider that you slaves often take the jobs of us, hard-working, common people!”
Jazz: “All due respect, ma’am, but that’s hardly our fault. Blame the masters!”
Tey: “Fair point. Sorry, Jazz. Thank you for dealing with that little bugger.”
Jazz floated towards the door with the ghost-cat in his arms. The cat peered at Tey from over his shoulder, with big ghostly eyes.
Jazz: “I saw your daughter earlier this evening, by the way.”
Tey: “Oh? On her way to bed, I suspect?”
Jazz: “Oh, no. She was meeting that young man from the army.”
Tey’s “mummy-senses” were suddenly on fire.
Tey: “What man from the army!?”
Jazz looked back at her, now realising he might have landed the poor girl into a pot of trouble.
Jazz: “Nothing to worry about, ma’am! They meet quite often!”
Tey: “That’s even worse!!”
Jazz: “They’re not--! I mean, I don’t think they’re… They seem to be good friends. They talk for hours.”
Tey: “Who. Is. He?”
Jazz: “I think he’s a tactician…”
Jazz saw the fury within Tey’s eyes.
Jazz: “Uh, I have to go now! There’s some nice corridors that could use a good, uh, spooking. Bye now!”
Tey marched out after him.
Jazz: “I’m pretty sure I can spook the corridors by myself, ma’am.”
Tey: “I’m not following you, fool, I’m going to find my idiot child.”
Jazz: “Ah, that would make sense.”
Tey tried to push past him but fell through him. She then straightened herself, trying to muster a little dignity back, and started down the corridor.
Jazz: “Do you need help?”
A door opened to her side and Tey leapt into the air in fright.
Ankhesenamun: “Oh sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you!”
Tey’s hairs were all on end and she had to smoother her own fear as she saw the girl. She appeared haggard thanks to sleep deprivation.
Tey: “It’s fine. Why are you awake?”
Ankhesenamun looked down at the ground.
Ankhesenamun: “I can’t sleep.”
Tey: “The cats?”
Tey: “You can’t sleep because of the cats? They keep waking me up too.”
Ankhesenamun: “Oh, no. Not them. It doesn’t matter. Sorry I bothered you, I just heard some noises.”
Tey: “It’s Jazz.”
Ankhesenamun: “Jazz? Music?”
Jazz: “No, no! She means me!”
Tey jumped again and spun her head to glare at the ghost, who had appeared behind her. He was still holding ghost-cat, who was very exciting to have two living bodies before him.
Ankhesenamun shrank behind her door a little, not that it would make any difference to a ghost.
Ankhesenamun: “Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to bother anyone.”
Tey: “Go to sleep then.”
She turned and started down the corridor again but overheard the girl speak to Jazz;
Ankhesenamun: “Where is she going so late at night?”
Jazz: “To find her daughter. She’s been seen with boys!”
Ankhesenamun: “Oh dear.”
Tey tried to ignore them, and the gossipy tone of Ankhesenamun in particular, as she strode down the corridor. She soon found the children’s chambers. Her daughter, of course, was no child - she was even one year older than Ankhesenamun – but she was still placed in these chambers so that Tey could keep an eye on the troublemaker. The girl had a penchant for doing things that Tey did not want her to do. Including talking with boys, especially military boys.
Tey hammered on her daughter’s door.
There was no answer.
Tey pushed the door open and found an empty bed.
Tey: “I might have known.”
She marched, rapidly, back to the wives’ corridor where she found Jazz petting ghost-cat and still gossiping with Ankhesenamun.
Tey: “Where is she!?”
Tey: “Where did you see her last?”
Mutnedjmet got up and bowed her head to the tactician. He was tall and handsome, and over a decade her senior. She liked that. She had no time for boys, only men. He, however, was not her love interest but a means by which she might procure one. A great one.
Mutnedjmet: “Goodbye, Paramesse!”
The man bowed, even more deeply, in return. He wore expensive clothes, but they were very sombre and practical with little ornamentation. His hair was turning grey at the temples and his beard was already full-blown salt-and-pepper. He always wore a particular fragrance of musk that got her excited to be in his company.
Paramesse: “Goodbyw, Mutt.”
She pointed a long-nailed, and highly decorated, finger at him.
Mutnedjmet: “Don’t call me that!”
He laughed, but it was a very controlled, low rumble that seemed to suggest he was allowing himself to be amused. He turned and walked away. He had a firm saunter to his movements, even his walk, that was so assured and confident that nothing bad would ever happen to him.
Mutnedjmet wiggles her fingers in excitement as she turned and skipped down the street. She just right next to the palace, she wouldn’t dare go too far so late at night, but even as close as she was, she felt like she was on a daring escape mission. Defying her overbearing mother and engaging some in illicit night-time activities. Not that she was actually doing much, aside from gossiping with her best friend.
She started humming to herself as she entered palace grounds and eyed the stoic, silent guards. They were watching her, without watching her. She often wondered what they thought of the royal family and their comings and goings. Were they ever judgemental? Did they ever laugh at things going on?
Mutnedjmet’s father, Ay, was the son of a powerful courtier but her mother, Tey, was daughter of a Priest of Mout. This particular god was essentially known as “The Mother” and considered to be the god that birthed the planet Earth. Importantly to Mutnedjmet, it is where he name derived.
Mout’s son, Khonsu, was high in the sky this night. She wondered if Khonsu’s father, Amun, could sleep along with his city. She saw some guards patrolling the streets in the distance. They were not like the stoic palace guards, so she could them laughing and joking.
Despite the more humble origins of her mother, Mutnedjmet took after her father in her taste for fineries, especially silks. Her dress was lovely, with patterns of peacocks all over it and she wore a silk bandana that held her well-oiled hair in place. Her nails were very long, manicured and decorated, not just with paint, but also tiny gems that glittered in the fiery torchlight.
As she neared the palace’s side-door, she overheard voices from within. She disposed of all grace and flung herself behind a statue. Tey, her mother, stormed out of the palace with several guards in tow. Mutnedjmet bit her lip and watched them troop past with the old lady at the head of the parade, like a generalissmo.
Once the danger seemed to be passed, she slipped back into the building and skipped down the corridors, very pleased with her mischief. She came to her room but heard some voices further away. Curiosity got the better of her and she peered around the corner to inspect. There she saw her father’s second, and prettier, wife, Ankhesenamun. She was quietly talking with one of the ghosts, a grotesque figure with his head caved in by a brick.
Ankhesenamun: “I don’t know what I will do, Jazz. I cannot love him, but I am afraid of what he will do to me if I don’t, at least, pretend to.”
Mutnedjmet was initially angry that the girl would dare not love her father. But she had to admit, she held no love for him either, only she didn’t have to sleep with him.
Jazz: “Can you run away?”
Ankhesenamun: “He would find me, and then he would undoubtedly have me murdered. Or even executed as a traitor to Egypt. He found my secret paramour and killed him and he killed my husband and my…”
She broke down and started to cry.
Mutnedjmet became aware that she was intruding on a very private moment and, despite her burning curiosity, she decided she should show some respect for the poor girl.
She realised that Ankhesenamun did not have the same spunk that she, Mutnedjmet, had. She was cowardly, shy and afraid. She speculated it was because her husband had been a weak man too. Weak men held no appeal for Mutnedjmet and, as she closed her door and removed her ornaments, she thought of her soon to be lover. His strong physique and manly presence! She tittered to herself as she jumped on the bed and tossed the bedsheets over herself haphazardly. The future, for Mutnedjmet, was going to be explosive!
A state dinner was an important affair, where the elite politicians and courtiers could mingle with the royal family. During the afterparty, the pharaoh himself, stylised as Kheperkheperure when king, was sipping wine with a few guests.
Ay: “I have been considering who shall succeed me as pharaoh.”
The men all around him were suddenly on alert, but desperately trying not to reveal their excitement.
Ay: “Of course, I think it is only natural that a pharaoh should be succeeded by his own progeny.”
The men all deflated.
It was expected, but they all lived in that brief flickering moment of hope.
They all turned and saw the back of man.
Ay’s finger tapped irritably on his goblet.
The man slowly turned, a piece of bread sticking out of his mouth. Ay didn’t bother to hide his groan. Nakhtmin pointed at himself.
Ay: “Is anyone else here called Nakhtmin!?”
There was a faint voice from the back of the room that was stifled by his friend.
Ay: “Come here, Nakhtmin. Say hello to your future subjects.”
Nakhtmin obediently trotted over. When he reached them, Ay snatched the bread from his limp mouth.
Ay: “Introduce yourself.”
Nakhtmin looked at the other men with Ay.
The men all glance at each other.
Ay realises, far too late, that he should have been educating the idiot child rather than focusing on his own ambitions so much. He wondered if there was some way to jolt his brain into action, so late in development. Nakhtmin was already past thirty and had done nothing with his life.
Ay: “Where is your wife, Nakhtmin?”
The man shrugged.
Nakhtmin: “In here somewhere.”
Ay looked around and finally spotted her. She was with another politician and appeared to be getting very, very friendly. Tey might have rushed over there and beat the woman to death with a parchment of papyrus, but Ay’s eyes glowed with pride. That was a woman who knew how to earn power. Hopefully she would get pregnant with someone’s baby and give him an heir, even if it was one not of true blood, because his own idiot son was never going to be capable.
Sauda was a princess of Sheba, otherwise known as Ethiopia, and came to Nakhtmin recently to secure a non-aggression pact with Seba, who lay to the south-east of Egypt and next to Nubia. She was smart, insightful, cunning – everything Ay could want in a successor.
She was, however, also keen on prying into his business too. Poking around his origins, his rise to power and his work under previous pharaohs. He wasn’t sure why. Sheba would have no interest in such machinations, surely? The one thing that really concerned him was her interest in the ancient pyramid of Giza where he had once used the magic aura to…
He sucked on his teeth and turned his head back to his audience, and stupid son.
Ay: “You should probably go and find her, Nakhtmin. Make sure she isn’t bored.”
Nakhtmin: “I dunno how I’m supposed to do that. I’m bored!”
Ay narrowed his eyes at his son. The man was too stupid to even know when he was in danger of being battered by his father. Clearly Tey had been too soft with the child, not that she did much to raise him either. Tey had been wet nurse to Nefertiti shortly after Ay and Tey were married and she bore Nakhtmin. Tey spent all her time taking care of Nefertiti and her sisters that she had no time for her own child.
Mutnedjmet had come decades later and had fallen upon them by complete surprise. They barely had time for sex, leading such busy political lives, so one quiet night they had conceived the wonder baby. Tey had been more involved this time around, which meant Mutnedjmet was a far superior child to the first. It also meant that Mutnedjmet had developed a bad attitude and especially she took delight in provoking her mother. Ay didn’t mind much, he thought it was a good way for her to use her brain in outsmarting her mother, but he did worry what she might get up to.
Ay gave Nakhtmin a shove in the direction of Sauda and resumed talking with the elites before him.
Mutnedjmet: “Come on, Paramesse! Hurry!”
The gentleman strode towards the temple without changing his pace, despite the eagerness of his young friend. Bringing people together was a nice thing, but getting himself a guaranteed promotion in the process was all the better. Although Mutnedjmet asserted she knew exactly what she was getting into, and displayed not a single sign of remorse, Paramesse did wonder. He tried not to feel too guilty about using her to further his own ambition, though he had always been open and honest about everything with her from the beginning. He wasn’t sure if he could have been any clearer on the matter, so he tried to accept that she was smarter than her youth and exuberance would suggest.
Unlike most Egyptians, Paramesse had ventured out of Egypt thanks to his role in the military. He had witnessed other cultures and how they handled such things as marriage, sex and divorce. Foreigners valued such a thing as ‘virginity’, which came as quite a surprise to Paramesse. To the men and women of Egypt, this wasn’t a consideration and most of them were promiscuous enough to have sex as soon as they were able to find someone to do it with – married or not. There were contraceptives available to women and abortions, should she become pregnant with an unwanted foetus. Marriage was also simple. Two people agreed to marry, signed a contract and it was done. Should they desire to end it, divorce was easily achieved and the wife would receive half of the attained assets so she wasn’t left destitute. He hoped it wouldn’t come to any of these problems, but at least Mutnedjmet wouldn’t be bound by silly rules should she decide she made a mistake.
The most peculiar thing that Paramesse had ever come across were ‘prostitutes’. Women who were paid for sex. He couldn’t think of why a man would need to pay a woman to have sex with him if there were plenty of women willing to have sex with him for free. He assumed it was something to do with rules. Rules on sex. He could hardly understand such an idea.
Luckily, Mutnedjmet wanted her handsome, strong man and it served her whim to piss of her parents. There was nothing more complicated for her, though he hoped her parents wouldn’t go too far in their vengeance for her actions.
The chapel, attached to the temple, was open. Inside were statues of Hathor, the god of sex and love. At the far end was another statue, this time to the god Isis. Isis represented marriage.
The priest was ready to bind the two and write up the contract on a sheet of papyrus.
Stood with the priest was Mutnedjmet’s new husband; Horemheb.
The general grinned as he saw his young fiancé approach, but Paramesse wasn’t certain if he was smiling at her, or the prospect of stealing his rival’s daughter.
In the Hittite Empire, King Suppiluliuma I was finally ready. Ready to enact his vengeance upon the cruel and insidious Egyptians that had lured and murdered his precious son. The boy was a fool, certainly, but he was a beautiful soul and one that the old man cherished.
He had known the letter was a trap but he allowed Zannanza’s naivety to warp his judgement. He would now allow this crime to go unpunished. He would smash Egypt into the dirt. His mighty army was gathered and, together with his dozen other sons, they marched into the Levant. They tackled the sparse Egyptian defenders and barged their way into Canaan.
Victory came with little cost and they took many slaves, both Canaanites and Egyptians. Hattusa swelled with slaves and diplomatic captives, who they could trade for gold.
However, something seemed to be wrong. The truth became apparent much too late. Canaan was rife with an unnatural plague. It was unknown to any of the doctors and mages claimed they sensed an air of magic to the disease. Many tried to flee the city, only to spread the contagion to other cities of the empire. Hattusans fell in droves, like wheat cut down by the scythe. Many of the kings own sons perished and, finally, Suppiluliuma I caught the illness.
As he lay dying, he questioned his actions in seeking vengeance. Had he let it go, the plague would never have reached Hattusa and his sons would all be alive. Instead of losing just one, he had now lost many. His younger sons were now in line to become king, rather than those he had groomed for the roll. They would have to deal with a weakened city, a destabilised empire and an angry, dying populace. He envisioned that his empire would become divided and split and not be strong enough to maintain its own integrity. He was certain that this plague was the beginning of the end for the Hittite Empire.
Had he, and his people, been cursed by the Egyptian Gods? No, he was certain, this was not the work of gods. This was the work of evil men.
Ay: “What are you doing out there?”
There was silence.
Ay: “I know you’re there. You are not nearly so stealthy as you think you are.”
A moment followed and Ay was sure she was weighing up her choices. Ultimately the ajar door was pushed open with a creak and his son’s wife poked her head inside. Her skin was so brown, it was almost black. Yet her hair was styled as with most Egyptian women, in neat cornrows, with a delicate gold tiara.
Ay: “I would love to know what you thought you’d find in here, Sauda.”
He was seated in the room he considered a study. It was where he stamped and sealed official documents, mostly executions for criminals and permissions for new construction. Egypt was in a perpetual state of construction. Every city was constantly expanding with bigger, better buildings. Most of them were mud huts for the commoners, but there were many temples and tombs always in development. His own tomb was being worked on too. He had had his predecessor, Tutankhamun buried in a small plot and, instead, he would use the plot designed for poor Tut as his own. It just had to be expanded and the murals designed.
Sauda had the decency to appear shy and uncertain, though he knew she was acting. He could act too.
Ay: “My dear! There is no need to be so shy with me!”
He beamed at her sweetly. He had learnt that smile many years ago. He had practised it over and over until he knew he could melt hearts with it. She fell for it and slinked into the room.
Sauda: “I confess, I’m… curious about you.”
Or not. She was trying to play him now. She hadn’t done enough research if she thought he was going to be unfaithful to Tey. Fidelity was the most important component of an Egyptian marriage and he wasn’t going to let a warm vagina ruin his marriage.
He looked down at his papers, feigning disinterest so that she might get the message.
Ay: “Indeed. What can I do for you?”
He heard a small tut of annoyance but held back the amused smirk. She approached the desk.
Sauda: “I am interested in… magic.”
Ay looked up again and wore a bright and open expression on his lined face.
Ay: “Well, who isn’t interested in magic, hum? It can do wonders for anyone who can wield it!”
Sauda: “In Sheba, we have no little magic. Nobody practices the craft. But here, in Egypt, I know you have a great well of the magical force!”
Ay: “Some call it a well. Someone even called it a nexus once. Not sure what that really means. But either way, yes. It ebbs from the ancient Pyramid of Giza. The magical force, as you put it, drifts through the land from there.”
He wiggled his fingers like aether swimming over Egypt.
Ay: “If you want lessons, I’m sure we can arrange it.”
Sauda: “From you?”
Ay: “What makes you think I can do magic, Sauda?”
She wore a stony face. It was the face worn in that card game everyone and their mother seemed to play. Poke Her. Why it was called that, he had no idea.
Ay: “Well, if you were to listen to every rumour about me, I’m probably a deity, the father of over a hundred illegitimate children across Thebes alone and I worship devil geese in the cellars.”
Sauda gave a giggle but it was far too hollow to be genuine. He was almost tempted to give her genuine lessons in acting, it would improve her political game to get a genuine-sounding giggle. Many men liked to think they were funny, so a good giggle was an ambitious woman’s greatest asset in this political world.
Sauda: “But, I’m sure you must know something. They say that it was you who helped give birth to the great Aten that was worshipped by your predecessors.”
Someone had been talking after all. He wasn’t sure who it could be. He thought he had murdered them all.
He did notice that his face had dropped involuntarily and that was as good as openly admitting he was guilty as fuck to a woman like this. There would be no masking it, she had seen it. He could just deny it anyway and she would continue to coyly pry into his business until, one day, he would have to have her cut served on a platter. However, he recognised her skill and ambition and he was bound to give him an heir sooner or later, whoever the father happened to be.
He might value his own fidelity, but he was blazingly grateful that she did not. Should his son have been capable of getting it up enough to give her a child, the baby probably would have been another brainless moron that drooled on himself at thirty-seven years of age. Just because the grandchild didn’t share his blood was irrelevant, nobody would ever know that and appearances were far more important than truth.
He drummed his fingers on the wooden desk.
Ay: “What, exactly, do you want? You say you want to know about magic, but what use will that be to you? It’s not learning magic you want, or you’d have taken my first offer. Now you talk of my dabbling in magic and the god Aten. What do you actually want? Come clean with me and we may strike a deal.”
Sauda was clearly taken aback by the frankness of the pharaoh and seemed uncertain whether to oblige him or continue her ruse in some way.
She then leaned on the table. Her dress was cut so that the view he was suddenly granted went straight down her cleavage. He might have thought she was trying to seduce him again, but her face was intense and burning with passion.
Sauda: “You brought about the elevation of a god, Ay. I want to know how you did it!”
Ay was amused that she suddenly felt she was on first-name basis with the King of Egypt. But he liked her enough to allow it. For now.
Ay: “But why? What does it matter? Aten is gone now. The old gods returned to power.”
He leant back in his chair and shrugged his shoulders apathetically.
Sauda: “I want to do it again.”
Ay: “You want Aten to return?”
Sauda: “No! Not Aten! Another!”
Ay: “Who? Why?”
Sauda: “I won’t tell you unless you tell me what I need to know.”
Ay drummed his fingers on the table again. Repeatedly.
He felt as though he had been seduced by this woman, but it wasn’t her sex he wanted. He wanted her conspiracy. All his life he had been a conspirator of one form or another. Whether it was a conspirator to the atrocities in elevating Aten, or the murder of his predecessors, the manoeuvring to make Ankhesenamun his wife, or manipulating Horemheb out of power. He was always causing some mischief. But now, there was nothing to do. He had won. All enemies defeated. This woman embodied everything he sought when he was her age and he longed to be a part of that thrilling life again.
Sauda: “You don’t trust me?”
Ay: “Of course not! I’m not a moron, like your husband! The apple fell very, very far from the tree with that one.”
Sauda: “That’s your son, you’re talking about…”
Ay: “I know. The little dipshit can languish in his petty little frivolities. I don’t care. Why are you surprised I would admit this? In front of you, I see no need to keep such a secret. You know he’s an inept moron, I know he’s an inept moron. Frankly dear, I hope you find someone else to keep your spirits up.”
She was shocked that he would approve of such actions, but realisation eventually swallowed her and she believed she had an ally in this political world after all.
Sauda: “If you’re willing to be so candid with me, and want me to be candid with you, why won’t you tell me what I want to know?”
Ay leant his elbows upon the desk top and folded his fingers beneath his chin as he tried to compose his next words carefully. She sat upon the desk, her skinny body clearly visible beneath the tight silk she had chosen to wear. He admired how much effort she had gone to in her attempts to seduce him, even if there had been no hope of it.
Ay: “Murder is easy. To snuff out a life is… trivial, to me. After all, what does it matter? They go on to Osiris, so why should I hold any qualms of ending them? But one of the hardest murders I had to commit was against my wife.”
Sauda: “Queen Tey!?”
Ay: “No, no. Never! I value her trust too much to betray it. I meant my new wife. Ankhesenamun.”
Sauda: “You mean that Hattusan prince? I thought it went quite well, in the end.”
Ay: “Of course not. I am referring to her stillborn babies.”
She did seem uncomfortable at that one, as he did.
Ay: “It wasn’t just an abortion. Medicine to cause that is easy. But it would have been detected. I had to use medicine that would kill the baby, after it was formed, so it would be born dead.”
He tapped his fingers, rather than drummed, as he admitted those words. He only ever spoke about his nefarious plots to his wife, who disapproved of many of them but opted to shoulder the burden of his crimes with him.
Sauda: “So you do have a heart.”
He grinned, though he wasn’t sure how genuine it appeared.
Sauda: “But what does this have to do with Aten and the magic you used?”
Ay: “If I am willing to share this painful experience with you, but I am not willing to share that experience with you… imagine how much worse it could be than the murder of two, innocent babies…”
He did see her black skin turn a little whiter, as though a ghost crept upon her. There was a little hesitation within her, but she was young and still burning with passion for her ambitious goal of a new god rising.
Ay: “Are you certain of this? Just knowing what we did would turn the stomach of anyone with half-a-heart…”
Sauda: “I have wanted it my whole life. Gods should be commanded by humanity, not the other way around.”
Ay didn’t want to revisit that dark time, but just discussing the very topic was bringing back the smell of decaying bodies. Mountains and mountains of bodies. Naked men, women, children and, most importantly, babies. The greater the magic, the greater the sacrifice it required.
He cleared his throat, trying to distract himself from the horror that visited his mind. He wet his lips with trepidation.
Ay: “Fine. I shall teach you want you wish to know in time. First, you’ll need to learn some magic for yourself. How much of the scheme you want to perform yourself depends on how good at magic you become…”
She grinned. He had thought he had seen through all of her lies, tricks and entrapments and that she had been allowed to continue on as she had done with his blessing. But her smirk revealed that she had an ace up her sleeve that he had not seen coming.
She opened her palm and a ball of green fire lit up the room, casting her face into a sinister, sick glow.
The funeral had been a long one. The pharaoh wanted it that way. The only people not in attendance were his daughter and her hated husband, Horemheb. Ay, still king, had now lost his idiot son. The boy was as dumb as a goat’s arsehole, but he was still his son and not old enough to have died.
Now he was in the burial hall alone, with his son in bandages – wrapped up warm and tight for the afterlife. Osiris had better be merciful with Nakhtmin, or, god or no, Ay would be down there soon enough with righteous, fatherly fury.
He heard footsteps behind him
He had become well acquainted with them in the past two years. His secret conspirator.
Ay: “Did you do this?”
Sauda: “Me? Kill Nakhtmin? Why would I do that?”
Her voice rebounded from the walls, doubling up.
Ay: “Because he was ugly? Because he was an idiot? Because he wouldn’t know your vagina from your nostril?”
Sauda: “No I did not. I had a very comfortable position with Nakhtmin. His death is a frustration for me, actually. It puts me in a dangerous position.”
Ay: “I won’t dispense with you, if that’s what you’re afraid of?”
Sauda: “I’m more worried about who you’d marry me of to.”
Ay: “I wouldn’t marry you off to anyone. Unless you want to become my third wife? Not that that would mean anything. I only lie with Tey.”
Sauda laughed. Her fake laugh was much improved these days.
Sauda: “Not a bad offer, honestly.”
Ay: “Oh? You’ve had another?”
Sauda: “Yes. The thing is, I have all I need from you and you know too much about me and my plans.”
Ay: “Oh… clever girl.”
Sauda smiled sweetly. It was his own smile on her lips.
Sauda: “I learnt from the very best. At least you’ll be reunited with your son.”
She wasted no more time as the room was suddenly blasted with a torrent of magic that ripped the old king into shreds. He wouldn’t have felt anything, she owed him that much.
The funeral had not even happened.
Pharaoh Kheperkheperure, Ay, was denounced as a worshipper of the false idol Aten. The statues dedicated to him, and his family, were broken and dismantled in their droves. The remains of his body were too few to desecrate, but every reference to him was painstakingly scrubbed from the records. Details were erased and the new pharaoh was determined to ensure that the bastard was lost to all time.
By extension, he rounded his religious fury upon Akhenaten, only referring to him by his original name of Amenhotep IV whenever necessary, as well as Nefertiti. It was easiest to erase Smenkare, Meriaten, since she had been pharaoh for such a short reign. The settlement of Amarna, the home of Aten, was abandoned at last, with the pharaoh forcing people out of their homes there and smashing most of the city to rubble.
The only one to be spared was the young King Tut. He had been wise enough to see the return to the old gods and, he had to admit, the people loved him too much for him to deface the boy’s legacy.
Now, Pharaoh Horemheb sat upon the throne of Egypt. He got there with zero complaints from adversaries. Aside from everyone now too afraid to become pharaoh, Horemheb had a legitimate claim; his wife was daughter to the deceased pharaoh and Ay’s intended heir was also dead. He had ensured Nakhtmin’s tomb was broken, destroyed and his body thrown in the Aegean Sea.
There were, however, several loose ends that he had to deal with. To do that, he instantly promoted his friend and advisor from the military, Paramesse, to vizier.
The biggest problem was Tey. She was very much infected with the disease that was Ay’s essence and he didn’t want her stink around his palace. Then there was the wife of Nakhtmin, the foreigner Sauda, who seemed to be extremely ambitious in her own right. There was also Ankhesenamun. He was surprised she was still alive, having expected Ay to have her murdered one night. He quietly thanked the gods that his love was still breathing. And then there was his own wife. Mutnedjmet may claim loyalty to him and even helped him murder her own father, but she was still spawn of the devil.
He wouldn’t be able to kill his wife, at least not for many years, he knew. His legitimacy rested with her, as his wife, and so he was stuck with her. He hated her. He hated her ugly face. He hated her behaviour, the way she always beautified herself and pranced around in expensive dressed. He hated the way she desperately clawed for his affections. He hated that Paramesse was her friend and kept begging the king to make children with her. As though he could ever touch such a rank creature.
Paramesse hinted that she might file for divorce should he not fulfil his duties to her, but Horemheb didn’t care. He would kill her first, if necessary.
He was hesitant to kill Sauda too. Although he was sure nobody in Egypt would register the loss, she was a princess of Sheba and they would come with questions. Fortunately, he was well aware that she had never even slept with her former husband and he wondered if she was like him; trapped in an unwelcome marriage. In that, he felt she would be more of an ally than enemy. He also heard a tale that she was the last person to meet with Ay when he was alive and her overtures of loyalty to him were intriguing.
Tey would have to die.
There was no doubt about it. She had to go, one way or another.
But what was Ankhesenamun?
He loved her dearly. Most would compare the girl with his wife and wonder at his choice, he knew that. His wife was more to the tastes of most men in Egypt, but he loved the shy, demure girl. He was trapped in eternal longing. He could not have her and he would not force her, that would not be the same. Worse still, Mutnedjmet had become aware of his feelings for Ankhesenamun and was growing increasingly annoying over it.
He wished he could ask Paramesse what to do, but his vizier was not in the habit of murdering his political rivals. He was happy to manipulate the law, manoeuvre people around and probe for opportunities, but he was not capable of criminal act. Horemheb hated that, but he adored the man. His only friend.
Fourteen years passed under the rule of Horemheb. People admired him as a protector of the old gods, and they took great relish in destroying all vestiges of the crazy Aten religion.
Tey, wife of the previous king, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Some said she was locked within the tomb of her deceased husband when he last visited and was left inside. Others said she was thrown from the balcony of the palace.
Ankhesenamun, second wife of the king, was found dead in her chambers. She had taken poison to kill herself. At least that was the common belief, though many suspected she was forced to drink the poison and murdered by King Horemheb’s envious wife, Queen Mutnedjmet.
She lived on, even past her husband’s end. Yet she was eternally unhappy. Never did they produce a child and she grew bitter and spiteful ever since the death of her mother.
Sauda had been an odd ally to the king and often acted as a mysterious advisor when Paramesse was unable to provide the king of council that King Horemheb desired. Many thought the king would wed her and make her his second wife, but the king seemed unable to love any woman save the one that took her own life to escape him.
With no heirs, Horemheb designated who should become king after him. His choice was obvious to all, long before he declared it.
Paramesse rose to become Pharaoh of Egypt and donned the new royal name styled ‘Ramesses I’.
"The reference to 'mummu-senses' is a pervasive expression referring to the 'Spidey-senses'[Ext 1] of Spider-Man[Ext 2] that has entered common parlance. Of the Egyptian posts, this is the least tethered to reality in terms of the story, though Jazz is the only entirely fictional person in the cast. Sauda is largely fictional, though there was a wife of Nakhtmin[Ext 3]. Due to Horemheb's[Ext 4] actions in erasing the previous dynasty, little to nothing is known of the real woman. I decided to develop her so that she can be used as a character later on. Suppiluliuma I[Ext 5] did attack Egyptian lands in retaliation for his son's death and he, along with the people, did contract a plague as a result - this would lead to the eventual demise of the Hittite Empire[Ext 6]. Horemheb did die childless and appointed his vizier, Paramesse[Ext 7], to become pharaoh." ~ Britt the Writer