“What have you done now?” Imhoten’s eyes glistened with enjoyment as he watched his old friend pace back and forth drinking heavily.
Imhoten sat alone at his previously occupied table. The various guests had dispersed. Some to their tents, others to fire to enjoy the feast, drink and game longer. Only the old man remained at his table with one servant to make sure his goblet stayed full. It took more drink for the old man and his companion to feel the effects that addled humans so easily.
“I do not understand myself anymore,” Aksept replied wearily, drinking down another swig, “I have a task to fulfil and have not wavered from it in ages. She appears in my temple one night and everything is turned upside down.” His voice was heavy as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“Even Gods are allowed to enjoy themselves. Even you.” The old man spoke, he enjoyed teasing his companion for it was eons since he had seen the serious God before him crack his composure.
Aksept was the name he took in this life cycle; his true name was rarely whispered as was the Architect’s. Gods among men, protecting Egypt as always. Times were changing that was to be sure. They could all feel something amiss in the air. In private, Aksept had told The Architect what – better yet whom- he sensed within the Vizier’s body. It was cause for concern, yet the older man brushed off the concern, noting that little could be done on the Road.
“We need to plan. We need to figure out what he has planned. I do not have time for –“
“You know the prophecy as well as I do. You know the goal, we just have to figure the means. Either way, it is not to be discovered here. I’m sure you have done all the digging you could already. Tomorrow we will be at this so-called “New Capitol” and we will figure it out as we have each time he has tried to rise. The girl – “
“The girl is an unnecessary distraction.” He finished soundly though the words felt wrong the second the past his lips. Something was different about her. Something drew him to her and it was more than just an attraction.
“Even you don’t believe that,” The Architect responded sharply, popping a candy in his mouth and rinsing it down with a swig from his cup. “If you have already gone this far for her, then it is already beyond your control.”
Aksept didn’t respond at first, knowing his words spoke truth. In all honesty it was beyond his control the moment she entered his temple that first fateful night. His mind drifted back to a few moments before when she asked him to take her. He drank deeply from his cup to avoid responding to the architect, though by the look in his eyes he already had his answer.
Gods, he thought. His mind going back to the moment where she offered herself to him freely. Had he been lesser, human even, he might have taken her there against the tree. He was disgusted with himself at the thought. Yet, she fled from him before he could form a coherent thought. He had a mind to chase her, yet his feet led him to his oldest companion’s table instead. He hoped for a voice of reason instead he found an enabler. He sat down his now empty goblet, his decision set like stone.
“Yes,” Aksept spoke sighing deeply. Now that his decision was made, he embraced the possibilities. It stirred long forgotten feeling inside of him as thoughts of the mysterious girl that fascinated him so filled his mind. This time he would not let her escape. His eyes hardened with resolve, “Yes, it is.”
The Architect watched as the old God stalked away, every bit the predator. Imhoten held up his goblet to be refilled. His time in this cycle would end soon and he would be back with own wife in more pleasant fields than this one. Yet Osiris, the once ruler, knew no peace. He deserved whatever serenity he could find in any plane.
Rhapdosis was sitting by the banks of the Nile on the fringes of the camp. Her legs drawn into her chest, her cheek resting on her knees, she wallowed in slightly drunk misery. The water looked still and tempting. How long had it been since she had a swim? When she lived in peace at The General’s manse, she and a few of the other women and children would take a dip and refresh themselves in the hottest months. Yet that hadn’t happened since he had taken ill.
Back then she figured her life to be simple and she missed it. Now she was lost. A slave in an evil man’s home. A scribe for an old man Architect. Now, a failed would-be whore for a priest.
Gods,she thought miserably, who failed at being a whore?
What came over her at that moment she did not know. For one moment in her adult life she wanted to make a decision about her own life. Not even her maidenhood was her own in the eyes of these Egyptians. Yet here, in the open desert, she felt like a true person. Her heart beat like these Egyptians’ hearts did. Rhapdosis witnessed slave women and royalty alike give birth, love their children, and cry when wounded. Yet and still they were true Egyptians and slaves were slaves. Was it foolish for her to act like she was not? Shame, hopelessness and embarrassment flowed through her.
Rhapdosis stared at the calm river. The full moon reflected on the glass surface surrounded by stars peacefully. She could let the Nile take her. Once before a seaman dined at the General’s house. Returned from a long voyage to the lands of the pale skins his ship was attacked by a gale. They lost half the oarsmen on the boat. When the Lady expressed horror at dying at sea, the Captain calmed her fears. He spoke of drowning as a quick painless way to go to the afterlife. It was a death that many sailors yearn for as warriors yearn for death on the battlefield. As the captain he had only on regret. That the storm overtook them before he made it back to the waters of Egypt. After all, the only thing Egyptians feared was dying outside of their anointed lands.
Rhapdosis rose to unsteady feet and tip-toed closer to the water. Unlacing her sandal, she sank her feet into the sand and mud at the banks of the small lake. The water was a refreshingly cool. She cast a furtive glance back in the direction of the caravan. The music was still going, and the fire cast a glow upon the sky. There was some distance between the closet tents. Even a smattering of trees stood between her and the rest of the camp. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the sense of freedom, maybe even the uncertain future, but Rhapdosis wanted to feel free. If only for a moment she wanted that feeling.
With a confidence she didn’t know she had she slid the dress from her shoulders. Revealing her nakedness to the moon she stepped boldly into the waters. She pulled her wig off her head and threw it blindly in the direction of her clothes and sandals. She tugged at her braids confining her hair and deftly undid them. Once she finished untangling her hair, she dived into the water.
Rhapdosis walked further and further away from the shore. Once she could no longer feel the soft mush beneath her feet she dove under the cool water. Cool fingers of water caressed her as she swam deeper and deeper into the water. Swimming came naturally to her as a young child. Rhapdosis had forgotten how much she enjoyed the weightlessness of it all. Her lunges began to burn slightly as she pushed herself further into the depths. Only when she felt the bottom did she turn back towards the surface. Kicking powerfully, she broke the surface, all her earlier troubles forgotten. Rhapdosis slicked her hair back. Now that it was wet and loose it fell down to her back in spiral curls thick and wavy. She floated on her back, stare turned to the heavens.
The stars glittered like jewels on a black backdrop, uninterrupted by clouds. The moon sat proud, round and full. A crowning glory for the sky. The Egyptians called the God of the Moon Konshu, the Traveler for he travelled the sky to bring forth the night as he protected those who travelled as well. She stared at the sky wondering if the Gods really existed. Their fabled land Kemet, the land of truth, order, and justice was said to be a paradise for those after death. Surely if there were justice the slaves would be free there and the Masters would be enslaved inIsfet, the land of chaos and evil. Yet if that were to be true, the Egyptians wouldn’t worship so fervently.
A cool wind drifted over her exposed body, causing her nipples to harden and gooseflesh to appear on the parts of her exposed to the elements. Rhapdosis again sank under the tranquil waters finding them warmer than the cools night air. When she surfaced, her hair again covered her face. Rhapdosis leaned her head back, using the water as a brush to sweep it back out of her face. She treaded the water looking at the far shore of the Nile. Rhapdosis fantasized swimming across the wide river and escaping to freedom. Though naked, wet, and with nowhere to go she kept it as a fantasy, tucked away.
Rhapdosis turned back to shore, for the hour was late and the alcohol was wearing off. She searched the shore line for her clothes and gasped aloud when she saw a figure standing where she estimated her clothing to be. She popped underwater in embarrassment and fear. A strong man could inflict unknown horrors on naked wet woman. Under the dark water Rhapdosis quickly considered her options. Would she be able to swim further down and escape? That plan would not work out. Running wet and naked through the camp would surly draw attention. A night flowing with wine and music as this would inhibit many a man’s senses.
She surfaced slowly looking to shore. The figure was clearly a man. It was obvious that he was tall and broad even from this distance. His features were washed out by the light behind him and she was too far from shore for the moon to be any help. Yet and still, the longer she stared at the figure the more familiar it looked.
She held her breath and watched as the man fiddled with his waist and she saw cloth hit ground. Her heartbeat quickened as she saw his hands remove a now familiar turban confirming her thoughts. It washim. Rhapdosis found herself wishing for another cup of the Architects’ wine. All liquid courage she had before was now gone. She had already been spurned once. What could he possibly want now? How did he find her? Why was he so damned confusing?
He stalked into the water sending ripples that danced in the moonlight towards her. Rhapdosis began to feel herself flush even though he was still quite a distance from her. What was he doing?
His approach was slow and steady. Though Rhapdosis was still treading water, when he was close enough for her to see his features, the water was barely atop his abdomen. By the time he was within arm’s reach, the water just skimmed his chest. A stab of jealously hit her as she felt her legs begin to tire from treading the water.
Her steady sway in the water contrasted with his stillness. Neither spoke.
Aksept reached out a hand and pulled at an errant curl stuck to her cheek. His face was visible now by the moonlight though only half was illuminated. The other side of his face was cast in darkness. She found it fitting for at times she felt he was one person and others completely different. To be fair, her own reactions to him often ranged greatly within short periods of time.
Desire then anxiety.
Trust then misgivings.
Happiness then Sadness.
Craving and disgust.
Excitement then anger.
Now, she didn’t know how she felt. A swirl of all emotions. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame. Her only hope to be burned.
He broke the silence first.
“This is the first time I have seen your hair.” His voice was deep, husky as he pulled at the curl fascinated as it sprang back into place.
She blinked, not excepting that. Egyptians that she met before that saw her natural hair often were curious but preferred the heavy dark locks of Egyptians to her own brown curls. Rhapdosis realized that she also had never seen his hair before. It curled more than she expected. Dark as ink and think, his loose curls rested on his shoulders. Untouched by water as of yet.
“And I yours.” She finally replied. Rhapdosis made to touch his thick locks but hesitated.
Something flashed in Aksept’s eyes as he watched her hesitate. He circled her waist and pulled her closer. Instinctively, Rhapdosis wrapped her legs around his waist and braced her hands against his shoulders. No longer having to tread the water. Her legs around his waist brought them closer than ever before. Everywhere their skin touched was set a buzz by something between them. Her heart beat quicker.
“You can touch me freely,” He said to her.
Rhapdosis didn’t respond. What would she say? Why did he come to her now?
“I offended you.” He spoke again dejectedly tightening his hold, “I meant no offense. I just – “ Aksept trailed off and stared at nothing. He seemed to be fighting an inner battle. When he returned his gaze to her, she wondered what side won. “I just do not know how to control myself around you. You scare me.”
Rhapdosis felt the laugh building inside her. It started as a small titter that eventually grew into a most unladylike chortle. Aksept watched her laughing and gave a rare smile as he enjoyed her beaming face eventually joining in with him.
Rhapdosis felt a tension that she held inside her since meeting him dissipate.
After all, he was only a man as she was only a woman.
“I,” laughter, “Scare you?”more laughter. “How ridiculous!” she snorted, overwhelmed.
He silenced her with a quick chaste kiss. The blank look on her face made him want to do it again. So, he did. Aksept was done denying himself. The second time she met him as an eager participant.
“Why are you here? How did you find me?” She bit out, resting her head between his shoulder and neck.
“You made me an offerand I will alwaysfind you.” He spoke, softly trailing his hands down her naked spine. His touch sent shivers through her and down to her stomach where the pooled.
His other arm moved from her waist to her thigh, pulling her closer against him. When she arched her back in response her breasts brushed against him. She felt something brush her bare bottom and that warmed her more. His arm that was tracing her spine moved to the back of her neck, throwing her heavy hair over the shoulder and exposing it to him. Aksept nuzzled and kissed the exposed skin. Biting every now and then, following with a searing lick in the same spot. His strong hands held her into place as she began to writhe against him.
Rhapdosis tangled her hands in his thick locks, for purchase. When she tugged harder than she meant to, he hummed in approval.
“Here?” Rhapdosis whispered passionately. The feelings that he sent coursing through her were overwhelming. She just wanted to move. Against him, on him, it mattered not. She just needed a way to relieve the pressure building inside her deep in her core before she exploded.
Aksept pulled away from her enough so that he could look into her eyes but no more than necessary for he loved the feel of her around and against him. The fertile banks of the Nile were a symbol of rebirth. Aksept could see no better place for them to seal their fates together. He knew once he took this step with her he would be forever lost to the woman Rhapdosis.
“Here.” He confirmed, sealing their fate with a passionate kiss - they sank lower into the cool waters of the rivers.