UPDATE 1/3 - Look for A/N at the end of today's update!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The High Priest of Egypt paced his chambers like a caged lion. A black cat with gleaming green eyes watched, head moving back and forth with the man’s steps. The cat watched as the priest’s mind raced as he replayed the past months moment-by-moment, looking for signs missed, or clues ignored that would have alerted him sooner.
The Vizier had always been a hateful man. Power-hungry, greedy, spiteful and jealous, men like that were not a new phenomenon. Wherever there was power, there would be men who would stop at nothing to acquire it. The signs were there, subtle, but present. The hunger in Ghebnut’s eyes, the wicked determination, the supernatural hold over the Pharaoh and his unrelenting passion and devotion to the New Gods, it all made sense. Aksept had not paid attention to the man as he should have. It was his own arrogance that made him blind. It was not until the Vizier put his hands on the strange girl that he truly gained Aksept’s full attention. That was when Aksept sensed it. As he touched the Vizier’s chest, he felt a familiar malevolent presence. It was him.Egypt was in the worst kind of danger. The kind that came from within.
Aksept ceased pacing and looked over his chambers. His items were already packed by his servants, leaving an already sparse room looking almost completely bare save for one feline companion. Aksept’s eyes landed on the cat that was watching him with keen interest. He sighed deeply, as if he understood what the animal’s intense gaze meant. He should head to the docks to board the boat undoubtedly waiting for him…
“The time is coming soon. I feelit.”
The cat blinked slowly,and rolled onto its back. Aksept approached the resting animal and stroked it’s back lightly.
“How could I have been so blind? How could I have not seen such danger approaching?”
Contrary to popular belief, prophecies were not rare. Any person claiming to receive a message from a God or a Goddess with enough believers could be a prophet. The times were ripe for new prophecies; Plagues, new Gods, and the moving of the capitol had split Egypt into two. Those who devoted themselves to the Pharaoh and his commands without question and then there were those who were too fearful of the old gods, those who whispered of blasphemy, fearing the plague was retribution for the King’s Proclamation.
However, Aksept was the High Priest of Egypt. He knew the prophecy that mattered. He had waited for centuries for this moment. Had he become lazy in his efforts? Too comfortable. Distracted.
Suddenly, Aksept’s thoughts turned to a certain woman with haunting eyes.
“Wekha! Shit!” Aksept jumped as the animal’s sharp canines’ bit into his finger.
He glared at the cat who was licking its back as if nothing had happened.
Aksept picked up his sword, a thick golden blade. Encrusted with rubies and opal, the sword looked like art it glistened brightly in the sun, often emitting a glare. As ornamental as the golden blade was, its razor-sharp edge and lightweight feel made the weapon deadly. He sheathed the blade in a plain scabbard, camouflaging its splendor.
The man made his way to his wardrobe, donning a sand colored overcoat. It was the kind worn commonly amongst Egyptian men while traveling through the desert sands. It was thick to protect the wearer heat from the heat of the sun yet it’s lightweight linen would allow for comfort. He wrapped his head in a deep purple turban, leaving enough of the silken material to hang loosely over his shoulder, should he need to cover his face in a sand storm.
He decided that he would travel with the servants, for they would know more about the Vizier’s plans than anyone else.
The thought that he may happen to run into a particular servant did not cross his mind at all.
“Jordan, I swear to the gods if you do not leave me alone, I will feed you to the crocodiles myself.” Rhapdosis huffed.
“If you would just talk to me, I would not have to bother you so.” He rolled his eyes at her with a gentle smile on his face.
Rhapdosis cut her eyes at Jordan. She used to find his boyish charm amusing. Now, it simply felt childish to her.
His carefree attitude made her resent him. In the recent days, all she felt was a slow anger growing in her chest. She tried to squash the feeling down with a deep breath. Anger wouldn’t help her here. Lately, she seemed to be angry constantly. Jordan’s intentions were honorable. They were just two days into a week’s journey.
She found herself idle for the first time in her lifer during this trip. The Architect told her to stay close however, there would be little to write during travel. For the past two mornings she would wake him to get the same response.
“Go enjoy yourself.” He would laugh, handing her chocolates as he waved her out of his tent. “Its too early for work.”
“Enjoy myself?” she repeated the strange words. Never had she been given those orders.
When they were travelling, Rhapdosis rode alongside a silent grey man who was pulling at the reigns of the camels pulling the Architect’s carriage. He made no attempt to speak to her and she returned the favor. When they camped, Rhapdosis enjoyed her own tent. Small, yet private, she enjoyed the space and the silence. Yet, she grew bored quickly. They rested twice a day the first would be at high noon, when the sun shone to its fullest, scorching the earth. The stopped to avoid sun sickness and to make sure none of the valuable animals they were transporting fell ill. She began to busy herself with nothing, eventually deciding to walk around the camps to see if anyone needed aid.
She wandered aimlessly. No friends, no acquaintances save Jordan. After the first day, Jordan noticed her directionless wandering while they camped waiting for the extreme heat to pass. He approached her as she sat astride the Architect’s carriage and appointed himself her companion.
Jordan easily fell back into conversation as if no time had passed. As if nothing bad ever happened to him. His enslavement was a thing of the past. His future was promising.
Rhapdosis’ own bondage was in her past, present, and future. Briefly, her mind drifted to thoughts of escape. However, the Road of Kings was dangerous and if the bandits, thieves, or slavers didn’t get her the weather surly would
“What would you like to discuss, Jordan?” She replied evenly.
He answered her with a dazzling smile, “What is the Pharaoh like?” his voice filled with excitement and wonder.
His happy demeanor and child-like joy brought to mind someone else, for they were polar opposites.
Her mind began to drift to the Priest. She hated herself for it. Her mind would start to compare Jordan with the man. Whatever feelings she may have had for Jordan paled in the visceral reaction she had to the man. She had barely spent any time in his presence. Rhapdosis did not understand her mind’s obsession.
She glanced at the man next to her, wondering how much attention he paid to her. She could never speak freely in fear that his loyalties may reside with someone else. If he had loose lips, any words that she spoke could travel to the wrong ears.
“The pharaoh is a great King.” She spoke, eyes gazing at the horizon. The sands looked endless.
“Come on,” he grumbled, nudging her softly from the camel he rode on, “What is he really like? Does he look like the statutes?”
Rhapdosis was able to look upon the busts and figurines that the Pharaoh commissioned. In seeking to fully establish a new era, he ordered new renderings of the royal families image. Gone were the realistic, colorful, clay figurines of Pharaohs and Queens past. Now, solely black granite was used to carve their vision. Their eyes were wide and tapered like almonds. All angle’s of their faces were drawn to a sharp plane. It was unsettling. Yet, they were sent to every place of worship in the country. The unfamiliar style and appearance shocked many. Some immediately fell to their knees in worship. Others were deeply unsettled by the striking images.
Again, Rhapdosis glanced to the man to her left. His eyes never wavered from the beasts he steered through the dessert.
“He is a God-King… in human form.” She sighed, looking at Jordan reluctantly. Hopefully, he would understand her reluctance in speaking on the Pharaoh.
Jordan studied her with one eyebrow raised. A quirk of his she always found endearing. His eyebrows always rose when he was concentrating. She, gave him a true smile.
Jordan blinked in surprise at her sudden change in demeanor. He was beginning to believe the girl he grew up with was long gone but when she smiled at him, he sensed her again. He smiled back at her.
“Fine, I’ll leave it alone. How have you been? What is life like in the palace?”
As quickly as it appeared, her smile vanished instantly. Again, the cold woman was before him, a stranger in his friend’s body.
“I am a slave in the palace Jordan, how do you think it has been?” she glared at him, anger returned. Would she ever stop being so angry?
A horn sounded in the distance, indicating that they would be resting for the night, it also saved Jordan from a response.
“I’m s-sorry.” He stuttered “I have duties to attend to.”
Rhapdosis watched him turn his camel to an unknown destination, unsure if he was apologizing for leaving or did he just feel sorry for her?
Rhapdosis brought her attention back to the road, understanding why they had chosen this spot. A small outcropping of palm trees could be seen in the distance, indicating water and shelter. They would set the higher ups in the shade while the rest of the servants, livestock, and guard would surround it. They were half way through their trip to El-Armana.
She clenched her hand over her stomach as she felt the steady pull of hunger. Again she would have little to do while others made camp. Her own tent was set up by others. Her stomach making the decision for her, she decided she would attempt to assist the cooks if for nothing more than a few extra scraps.
“1, 2, 3!” Rhapdosis shouted to the sound of giggles.
She removed her hands from her face and looked at the suspiciously empty clearing she was in. A few tents were scattered about, as the smell of roasting goat lingered in the air. She took a few exaggerated steps towards a particularly large bundle of cloth near the tent closest to her.
“Ah! Oh!” she sighed, louder than any person would ever sigh.
She smiled as the cloth began to wiggle, indicating it was more than today’s laundry.
“The heat, Gods!” She dramatically cried.
A few women looked up from their various tasks. Some women were chopping vegetables, while others plucked small birds. A few older women sat in the shade, sewing clothes and weaving.
Rhapdosis followed her nose the moment she detected the smell of cooking meat. The women seemed well staffed, so her original plan went out the window. Then, she saw a woman struggling with her tasks due to two very energetic twin boys latched around her ankles. They could not have been more than 4 harvests, yet the poor mother could not manage.
Relief filled her eyes when Rhapdosis offered to take them off her hands. The woman thrust a roll of bread in her hands immediately and hugged her tightly. She could see many of the Egyptian women eyed her warily, so she stayed close to avoid more suspicion.
“I can’t take it! Anubis take me now!” she fell onto the cloth heap lightly as the children inside erupted in laughter.
“Ice! Ice!” they screamed her name as she wrapped arms around them as they attempted to flee.
“I win!” she laughed. Feeling genuine happiness as the kids laughed with her. Children always made her happy.
“Here, thank you.” The children’s mother was now above them. A bundle of cloth in her hand released a delicious smell.
Rhapdosis stood, helping the children to their feet. She eagerly took the bundle of food. Most people in the camp would be waiting hours before they ate.
“You are welcome back here anytime, Ice.” The woman said as she lead her grumbling children away.
“Come back and play!” One of the twins shouted as the other nodded in agreement.
“I will! Thank you for your kindness.” She nodded to their mother as she began to make her way back to her tent.
She strolled in the direction of the Architect’s tent. Weaving through the scattered tents and informal paths they created. She knew the Architect would be towards the center of the camp. A man of his station would receive the best camping spot and he would be surrounded by the guard for his safety. She was currently on the outskirts of the makeshift town created by their stop. Here were the servants cooking, cleaning, taking care of animals. It was an area full of servants focused on their various tasks. Those that were not working, were resting in the shade, some eating food, talking and laughing with one another. Everyone was relaxed, enjoying the freedom of the road. Few masters would travel this way. Very few people looked up from their tasks as she treaded through. She watched the interactions, jealous. All of her friends were long gone, sold away or released as a part of her first master’s estate.
Now, she searched for her new temporary master’s tents. They would be distinguishable by the royal blue colors of his emblem. As his scribe, her tent would not be far from her master’s.
Rhapdosis undid the bundle of food, her mouth watering instantly as she took in the aroma of lamb, carrots, and bread. She bit into the juicy lamb, grease running down her chin. She would be embarrassed normally, yet no one was paying her any. mind and she was hungry. Who did she have to empress?
So lost in her food, she did not notice a black cat studying her intensely. Suddenly, the animal darted in front of her. Running lightly over her sandaled feet.
“Ahh!” She screeched!
On instinct, she shot out her wrist to catch her fall. A sharp pain raced from her wrist to her elbow as it caught her body weight in the sand. Several heads turned in her direction curios about the loud noise.
Rhapdosis ruefully sat on her knees, clutching the throbbing limb to her chest. Her cheeks burned in embarrassment as a middle-aged woman rushed to her side.
“Are you hurt? Let me see.” The woman cooed gently, fingers dancing softly over her arm.
Avoiding the kind woman’s eyes, she scanned the area, eyes settling on a black cat, lazily licking its paw. As the woman touched her aching wrist, the creature looked up from it’s bath, staring pointedly at Rhapdosis. A brief moment passed and the animal switched paws, continuing it’s cleaning.
“Bastard.” She spat at the animal that she now knew ran in her path. She looked down at her wrist. Though her skin was dark, she could see the purple bruise beginning to form and she felt the swelling as the woman tenderly poked it.
Rhapdosis hissed at the prodding, a fresh wave of pain shooting through her arm.
“You should seek a healer.” The woman told her with a tsk.
The woman helped Rhapdosis to her feet. Once she was steady, the woman picked up the bundle of food Rhapdosis was carrying. Tiny bits of sand reached the food yet, not enough to make it inedible. She would dust it herself, later once regaining some pride and privacy.
“There is a healer here? Seeing slaves?” Rhapdosis asked timidly. Healers were not known to see servants in households. Unless of course there were grave conditions. Seeing one on the road to attend to slaves seemed unlikely. Not even the Architect was traveling with a healer.
“There has been a healer visiting us. He is a very kind man. I will take you to him.”
She awkwardly balanced the bundle with her good wrist as she followed the woman to the healer.