Amenhotep was certain that he didn’t like to find her in the secret chamber, especially when the entire greater chamber was made accessible to her. He didn’t think she would be comfortable in a place so dimply lit.
When he returned to the chamber, he noticed that the food that was left for her remained untouched and Nefertiti was nowhere to be found. He felt a great deal of disappointment, his heart heavy with the thought that she had left. But his spirits improved when he found her in the secret chamber. However, he was not happy with what he saw. Nefertiti had lost a lot of weight since last he saw her, obviously from not eating, and she looked more fragile than any living human should be. Nefertiti sat crouched against the wall with her arms around her knees and her gaze locked on the small window above her, when he walked in. She was void of emotion and expressionless, like a soulless empty shell. She looked like the living dead sitting there all alone with her thoughts. He remembered how she looked when they first met; and he definitely didn’t like the way she looked now. Why would she choose to treat herself like this? He thought, no living soul should ever treat the body God has given them like that.
Amenhotep returned to the great room and brought food back with him. He sat down in front of her and tried to feed her like a mother feeding a small child. This startled Nefertiti. She wasn’t aware he was even there, and she definitely didn’t expect him to feed her. She was more confused than surprised. A prince of Egypt should never feed a lowly servant like her.
Amenhotep was pleased to see a reaction on her face, and he smiled. “You need to eat something,” he said.
Eat? The word sounded so foreign to her. “I am not hungry,” she replied. She had not eaten in so long she forgot what it was like to be hungry.
“It’s not an option.” Amenhotep’s smile widened on his face. “But I will give you the choice of me either feeding you by hand, or by mouth.”
Nefertiti frowned slightly, not sure what he meant by that. Then she saw a smile creep into his face in response. Amenhotep scooped some food into his mouth and, in the next second, he leaned forward bringing his face close to hers as if he was going to kiss her. This took her by surprise, and she quickly straightened her arms against his shoulders to block him from getting any closer, to stop him from trying to kiss her.
“I…” The dryness in her throat made it difficult for her to talk. She grabbed the plate from his hand and said, “I will feed myself.” He seemed so determined to put food into her mouth; it would be best if she fed herself.
She locked her eyes on him, worried that he might attempt to kiss her even now that she was eating as he instructed. Every bite of food felt foreign in her mouth and she had trouble swallowing. She forced the food down her throat just so he would not get any closer to her again.
Amenhotep tried very hard to suppress the laughter building in his throat. It was silly that she would rather choke herself to death than being kissed by him, which made him believe that he might not be as attractive as he thought. But over all, he was happy that she had finally eaten some food. He would hate to see her die from starvation, especially since she was by far the only person he had ever been comfortable with.
He swallowed the food that was in his mouth and eased himself backwards to sitting position. He noticed her expression relaxing somewhat and she ate at a slower pace now. Her reaction had amused him and although she clearly demonstrated that he was not her type, he was too pleased to be insulted by it.
“If you promise to keep feeding yourself, I promise I will not try not to kiss you again.” He joked, never thinking he would use that as a threat one day – although, he did feel a bit of disappointment that she had chosen food over kissing him.
Nefertiti kept consuming her food, maintaining a close watch over him. She couldn’t figure out if he was joking or not, or how to react to what he suggested.
“Do you know Isis?” he asked when she settled into a steady eating pace.
Nefertiti shook her head, wondering why he brought up the name as if it was someone everyone knew.
Under normal circumstances Amenhotep would probably be shocked that someone did not know Isis, the most important Goddess of Egypt, but somehow, he was not surprised that that someone was Nefertiti. “Of course,” he laughed. He expected her to be different. He paused momentarily and continued, “Isis is the Goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility.”
Nefertiti did not know what Isis had anything to do with her, but she did enjoy the sound of his velvet voice. It soothed her like a spring breeze over an open field – smooth and warm. He continued, “Isis loved her husband, Osiris, very much. When Osiris was brutally murdered by Set, Isis was determined to find all of his body parts and swore that she would seek revenge against Set for killing her beloved husband. When she finally collected all of Osiris’ body parts, she realized that she was with child and soon gave birth to Horus, rebirth of Osiris. Isis then helped Horus build the great kingdom of Egypt and assisted him to bring it to glory.”
Fascinating, Nefertiti thought. No one had ever told her a story like that before. With his magical voice, Amenhotep seemed to bring the story to life. Nefertiti kept her attention on him, worrying she might miss anything if she even blinked.
“People in Egypt believed it was her desire to seek vengeance on Set that led to the miracle of Egypt becoming such a great kingdom and why the throne for Horus has been sustained,” his tone had indicated that he believed otherwise. “It was actually Isis’ motherly nature that made it all possible. Isis was able to overcome her sorrow and she helped create a brighter future with her son. Isis let go of the past and as a result, she recreated a brand new future filled with hope. She believes, therefore it becomes.”
Amenhotep looked into Nefertiti’s big brown eyes. He seemed pleased by her rapt attention. His lips curled and he remarked, “we will always lose someone we love at some point in life. Death is inevitable and although we may feel desperate or even hopeless at times, we shall never give up what we truly believe in. It was Isis’s strong belief that brought back the love of her life; it is in everybody’s power to bring back the ones they loved as long as they believe in themselves. Belief is what allows miracles to happen and dreams to come true.”
Nefertiti was speechless. No one had ever taught her wisdom like this before. Servants weren’t given the right to believe in anything, nor could they ever make miracles happen. What was confusing her the most was why would Amenhotep bother to explain this to her. Nobody cared whether a servant decided to live or die.
Amenhotep smiled. He seemed to see the questions behind her eyes. “You are no different from me. I am as equal to a servant as you are to a prince. We are all given bodies in order to fulfill our destinies. Eventually, our bodies die, then our souls move on. If you chose to give up on life, you have failed no one but yourself. Your soul will be lost and confused, therefore your loved ones will not know how to find you for many lives to come.”
Many lives to come… she never thought it was possible. Life after death was a privilege reserved for royalty, not a humble servant like her, but he made it sound like it was available to everyone and that everyone deserved that chance to be reborn. If this was true, she wondered, how deeply did she have to believe before a miracle would happen? How deeply did she have to believe in order to bring Thutmose back, her mother and the unborn child she lost? When would she be able to compensate for the crime she committed and be released from the guilt she held?
She felt like crying, but the tears wouldn’t come. They had dried up long ago. She could only stare into his eyes, looking for comfort to ease the millions of questions that built up in her mind.
Amenhotep felt a sharp energy in his chest, something he had never felt before. There was definitely something about Nefertiti that made it feel as if she was part of him, as if they were meant to be one; but that, he would keep to himself for now. He smiled brightly and continued, “none of us know what our future holds. Life was not meant to be an easy journey. Instead it is full of obstacles and riddles to overcome so that we’ll learn from it. Things may not seem ideal right now, but if we keep our faith and beliefs, we will live long enough to see where our destiny will lead us.” Realizing she had finished eating all her food while they talked, Amenhotep threw her a satisfied smile and commented, “if you keep yourself fed and stay alive for me, I will keep telling you stories.”
“Would you?” Nefertiti replied so quickly that it took her by surprise. She lowered her eyes, and felt ashamed for asking such a favor from a prince. She wanted to know more, to learn – desires brewed inside her heart; no one had taken the time to tell her any story before.
Amenhotep smiled to himself. He had never enjoyed talking much, but he definitely enjoyed talking to her. For some reason, his spirit was freer when she was around, and so he made her a promise. “I will, as long as you keep yourself alive for me.”
Though she was ecstatic to hear that, she kept her eyes down to conceal that very emotion. Knowing what he expected from her in return, she offered quietly, “I will eat, if that’s what you ask of me.”
“Very well.” He was pleased. “Then I am sure we will work out just fine.”
As he stared at her beautiful face, confusing signals swept through his mind. But he had not yet figured out what his instinct was trying to tell him. There was one thing he knew for certain: Nefertiti had an ability to change his life in ways that he couldn’t foresee…
* * * * *
Lying in his bedroom chamber at the Palace, Amenhotep’s mind was miles away. There were so many things that happened in the past month and he hadn’t adjusted himself for all of the changes taking place.
He was raised to be the highest priest in the temple, and therefore, he was never comfortable in the palace. He liked the simple things in life, like solitude, and he was pleased with the destiny he was born into. But that all changed after Thutmose died. His world had turned completely upside down, and he was thrust into a position that was meant for Thutmose.
As time passed, he began to wonder about Thutmose’s death and why no ceremony was held for his funeral. Moreover, there was no body to be mummified. Why had Tiye ordered servants to burn Thutmose’s body and all of his possessions, as if Thutmose had been infected with a contagious disease? Tiye chose to keep only the records of his youth as if he had never grown into adulthood. But even if he did have some terrible plague, history should not forget him since he was not only the crown prince, but also the Pharaoh to be.
On top of that, Tiye showed no remorse towards Thutmose’s death. She seemed more eager to marry Amenhotep off to Kiya than to mourn for the death of her son. She also sent all of the royal guards in search of Nefertiti without a clear indication as to why. The questions kept adding up, and nothing seemed to make sense at all. Then again, he thought, Tiye never needed a reason to kill anyone. She could kill someone for stepping in her way or by simply irritating her. In Nefertiti’s case, he believed Nefertiti had a look that intimidated Tiye enough to cause her death.
Lying on the bed in the Palace, Amenhotep realized that there were definitely a lot of things he needed to get used to. Regardless of the opulence the palace had to offer – its servants, the guards and the decorative chambers, the conflicting energy in the air was what bothered him the most, not to mention he now had a wife he hardly knew. He turned his head and saw her lying next to him.
Kiya, who was supposed to marry Thutmose, had now become his wife. It seemed like Tiye was extremely fond of her and determined to make her the Queen. But, since a Queen couldn’t be announced until the Pharaoh was crowned, Kiya would have to settle for being a royal wife for now. If he didn’t find another, more suitable candidate to be the Queen, then the royal wife would get the position by default.
Amenhotep looked at Kiya and understood exactly why Tiye was so fond of her. Not only was she the first daughter of Ay, but she was also raised and trained to be a royal wife since the day she was born. She was a pretty woman who had big brown eyes, silky hair and milky skin; much different from the typical Egyptian women he had ever met. She carried her noble manners flawlessly, and served her husband to perfection. She would never go against his will, nor give up her obedience to Tiye. She has everything any man would want in a woman, except a personality, he thought. And that was exactly why he couldn’t see himself with her, but saw himself with Nefertiti instead.
Amenhotep smiled whenever he thought of Nefertiti. He had a hard time keeping her out of his mind, and became more and more attracted to her the better he got to know her. She seemed interested in his stories, although he thought no one would be, and her absolute attention showed. Nefertiti ate her food as promised. Eating again brought back her curves and made her more irresistible than ever. He realized that he couldn’t wait to see her again whenever he left the temple and came back to the Palace…
“There’s something that is pleasing you,” Kiya said, noticing him smile.
Kiya’s quiet comment brought him back to reality. Amenhotep turned his head and saw Kiya’s innocent eyes looking at him. He continued to smile and answered “Indeed.”
Amenhotep could tell that Kiya was curious about what was on his mind, but instead of simply asking him, she preferred to remain silent. As the loyal wife she knew she should never have any doubts about her husband, or never to question him about anything. He found that very irritating. He wished Kiya would be more like… He paused and knew there was only one name in his mind: Nefertiti. If only his royal wife could be more like Nefertiti…
Alas, he thought, Kiya could never be like Nefertiti. He laughed over such a crazy thought. Amenhotep watched Kiya put her thoughts away as he predicted, but then pause momentarily before she continued, “I have news for you.”
“News?” he repeated with confusion. Kiya had never said much to him, let alone to announce any news, so he stared at her and waited for her to continue.
It took a really long time before she finally said, “I am pregnant with the child of royal blood.”
Pregnant? The word sounded foreign to him. Frowning he asked, “Child of royal blood?”
“To be more specific,” she rephrased, “your royal blood. I am pregnant with your child.”
This news staggered him. He was speechless. His face looked grave and his mind grew cloudy. He seemed to have a hard time comprehending what she said. She is pregnant with my child? A feeling of agony pressed deep into his chest,. He was disgusted by the news. He knew this was exactly what Tiye wanted of him, and he realized that he did not want Kiya to conceive at all. He did not want to grant Tiye’s wish by bringing a child into her destructive world.
Amenhotep was filled with disgust at himself for what he had done to Kiya- who was too naive to have a mind of her own. Though he knew Kiya’s emotion depended upon his approval, he couldn’t give it to her. He had already felt sorry for her and didn’t want to have anything to do with his unborn child. He was not happy for the news at all. They were both living a life that neither of them would ever really enjoy. At least, he knew he wouldn’t…
Amenhotep felt the urge to leave, as fast as he could. He sat up abruptly and jumped to his feet. He needed to get away from Kiya, the Palace, and this person he was being forced to become. He grabbed the kilt from a servant, and quickly wrapped it around his waist and rushed outside the chamber, leaving Kiya bewildered, lying alone on the bed.
I need to be alone, he thought, alone in a place where I feel comfortable and where no one can disturb me. He had too much on his plate right now, and the last thing he needed was a child born of his blood – a child born into this awfully twisted family.
* * * * *
“You still can’t find her?”
Tiye was lounging on her sling chair while she questioned Jared. She eyed him suspiciously, inspecting every movement on his face, judging whether he was telling the truth or not.
Jared kept his facial expression flat, carefully concealing all the emotions inside. After everything that had happened to him, he had learned to bury his feelings deep inside where no one could reach them.
And that was exactly how Tiye felt. Jared seemed to have a shield that blocked her from reading his thoughts. He had shown no feeling or emotion ever since that servant left the Palace, and now he had changed back to how he was before – submissive. She didn’t know whether he still had feelings towards that servant, but she assumed that he must have accepted his new post rather than to pursue some useless ignorant love. After all, what would he need with that servant, when Tiye could give him everything that servant couldn’t?
More than a month had passed since Thutmose died. There was nothing left of him other than the memories of his youth. Tiye was pleased with that. She never wanted to relive the memory of having an ignorant son who once tried to turn a servant into a Queen, thereby nearly destroying the Egypt she spent years to build.
After dealing with Thutmose’s death, she still needed to put all of the pieces in the right order. She had brought Amenhotep IV back to the palace and prepared him to be the next pharaoh. She had arranged his marriage with Kiya and desired a prince before he was crowned. She secured Kiya’s position as the next Queen. Though Amenhotep IV was raised to be the High Priest, Tiye had also planned to combine both positions in one – for the Pharaoh to hold ceremony rituals, to represent the spiritual leader as well as the physical one.
As much as Tiye wanted that servant to disappear forever, a low-class servant’s life was definitely the least of her concerns. “Maybe she left Thebes,” she murmured with a casual tone.
Jared didn’t comment on Tiye’s speculation. Instead he bowed and suggested, “would you like me to search outside of Thebes?”
“Don’t bother,” Tiye decided. “She is not a threat to me as long as she is not in Thebes, but I want her put to death the moment she dares to set foot back in Thebes.” Kiya had already conceived Amenhotep’s child, so Tiye was content that everything was exactly where she wanted it to be…
A hint of disappointment flashed through Jared as Tiye was deep in thought. He thought there would be a chance for him to go outside Thebes, to find Nefayiati and even to escape with her, but it was definitely not happening if the Queen wanted him to remain by her side.
The whole city celebrated the royal wedding, cheering the future rulers of Egypt, and Thutmose’s death seemed to be insignificant and completely forgotten. The Queen had tried hard to erase all evidence of his existence, but Jared knew that the Queen would never be able to erase Nefayiati from his heart. Though his feeling towards Nefayiati remained strong, he knew he would never deserve her love and forgiveness after what he had done to her.
Maybe this is for the best after all, he thought. Everything returns to where it begins. If Nefayiati had escaped Thebes, maybe he should stay in the palace as punishment and make sure Nefayiati would be free and live safely outside the Queen’s control.