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Unsurprisingly so, there was a line of people outside of the healer’s tent. Mari, the kind woman that led her to the tent left her almost immediately. She still had work to do. Rhapdosis thanked her, understanding her position came first.
She was frustrated, having food in her hands that she was unable to eat for she could not both balance her food and eat it whilst standing. Her stomach began grumbling almost immediately. Thankfully, she would be next to see the healer. Sighing deeply, she tried to relax and ignore the hunger pains. A bad mood surely would not be helpful to the healer. She would be grateful for the treatment.
She breathed in and out, trying to force her mind to better places. Rhapdosis turned her mind to happier thoughts. This truly was the most freedom she had ever enjoyed in her lifetime. No master, no chores. Yet, she was lonely.
Just as she began to again turn to darker places in her mind, the healer’s tent flapped open. A mother held a small girl, no older than 3 summers slept gently in her arms. Rhapdosis watched the wonder on the woman’s face as she peered at the sleeping child’s face. She looked the picture of serenity. A faint pull deep in her chest surprised her. Would she ever have a child of her own?
She dashed the thought immediately. Any child of a slave, would be a slave. Her own child would not be hers, only her master’s. It sickened her to her stomach. Her child would belong to the Vizier, in more ways than one.
That would never happen, she vowed. She felt a fire of determination flare in her belly as she prepared to walk into the healer’s tent. .
Rhapdosis strode confidently into the tent. First, she would get her wrist attended to, then she would begin planning her freedom. A brief stomach rumbling reminded her to add eating to her agenda as well.
The tent was dim, a sharp contrast to the bright sunlight of dessert. Rhapdosis’ eyes adjusted slowly. She did not see the healer immediately.
“Hello?” she spoke softly to the dark tent.
Blinking rapidly she began to see details of the rather large tent. Infront of her was a table covered in boxes and glass jars. The tent was rather bare besides that. A wooden chair and bench sat to the right, a large, rather comfortable resting pallet to the left. Two large chest sat locked next to the entrance.
Motion caught her eyes as the tent opened before her. She had not seen the second entrance. Sunlight hit her eyes from behind the figure, casting him in shadows. She squinted to improve her vision yet it proved futile.
“You have found me.” A familiar deep voice grumbled smugly.
Rhapdosis’ eyes widened. The flap closed, again casting the tent back into shadows.
“You!” she sputtered, the High Priest of Egypt stood across the tent. She instantly flushed as she felt that familiar energy he cast onto her. He was dressed like a commoner. Yet as she inspected his clothes closely, she could tell the fine material it was made of. He still took her breath away. He was painfully handsome. His well built frame was covered in a russet overcoat.
She stood awkwardly as he approached her. With every step he took closer to her, she felt her heart beat quicken. Why did he make her so nervous?
“Me.” He said with a stern face, yet the hint of a smile peaked through his dark eyes.
“Why are you here to see me, little one?” he asked. An unfamiliar pleasure rushed through her as he ceased his approach.
Rhapdosis paused for a moment, gathering herself. Would this man always send a wave of confusing emotions to course through her? She was no longer a young girl mind lost to sense over attractive men.
“I must be mistaken. I was told I would be seeing a healer at this tent, not a priest… my lo-“ She began to bow to him yet he caught her gently by the shoulder forcing her upright.
“No, no, none of that here.” He said, “I am just a healer, Aksept.”
She frowned at him. Why would the High Priest of Egypt be amongst slaves and servants, masquerading as a regular healer?
“They do not recognize you here?” she asked, stepping away from his distracting touch. It sparked a warmth she did not want to think about while she was still in his presence.
“There are many who would not recognize me dressed like this. The servants here are not the ones from the palace. “
He looked at her through dark eyes, taking in the servants wig she wore. She was dressed in longer robes, fit for desert travel, yet she still wore the headdress.
Rhapdosis subconsciously moved to finger the wig she saw him stare at intently. She hissed as the momentarily forgotten reason for her visit throbbed. Reminding her what brought her here in the first place.
“Let me look at you.” He spoke, leading her to the wooden bench. Aksept removed the package of food she carried from her good hand and walked to his work table.
Rhapdosis tried not to stare at his broad shoulders and back as he tinkered with objects outside of her vision.
Her efforts were futile. Was she going insane?
The priest turned, catching her stare. His gaze darkened as they locked eyes. Neither looked away as he returned to the bench where Rhapdosis sat, cradling her wrist in her lap. Aksept reached for her wrist. The connection broke as his touch caused the injured limb to throb anew.
“Is the High Priest truly a healer as well or is this just a part of this deception?” she hissed at him.
She bit her lip as soon as the words left her mouth. Once again, forgetting her place in front of someone who could easily have her punished.
The priest barked a laugh at her wide-eyed expression, his gaze focusing on her plump bottom lip in her mouth.
“You have quite a mouth on you.” He said with a smile. “Does it seem so strange that prayer is so connected to healing?”
Aksept tinkered with a small jar in his hands, releasing a strong, sweet-smelling scent.
“Are we to pray to your gods over my wrist?” she asked skeptically.
Again the priest chuckled, sending chills along her spine. She enjoyed the sound more than she should.
“The gods, the spirit, the mind, the body” he whisked a glance over her that settled back on her suspicious eyes, “They are all connected. Are they not your gods too?”
Rhapdosis took in the raised eyebrow on his handsome face. She slipped back into her stoic demeanor, reminding herself that she should choose her words carefully. No matter who he was dressed as, he still was the High Priest of Egypt and she was just a slave in the palace.
Aksept noted the change in her immediately. Steel settled in her gaze as she pulled her ocean colored eyes away from his.
“My master’s gods are my god’s, forgive me. I spoke out of turn.”
Aksept reached for her wrist, drawing her eyes back to his own. He began lightly applying the sweet-smelling substance around her swollen wrist. His touch cast a warmth through her skin. Beginning at her injury and travelling through her whole body. She became more sensitive to her beating heart, hearing each beat through the rushing noise in her ears. He was looking down at her wrist as he massaged it lightly, the pain fading almost immidiately.
From this angle, she could see his long eyelashes and tufts of dark hair peaking through his turban. She wondered what his hair looked like. She touched her wig self-consciously, thinking about her own wild curls. Would he find them attractive or did he prefer the thick, long locks of Egyptian women?
As he finished applying the ointment to her skin, he sat back. She quickly averted her eyes back to the ground. Resuming her mock obedience. Aksept knew there was a fire burning in her. She was not as innocent as she wanted him to believe in that moment. He found himself annoyed that she was attempting to hide her true self from him. He wanted, no needed her to be herself around him.
“You may speak freely with me for here I am simply the healer, Aksept. You are the Architect’s Scribe Rhapdosis.”
She again looked at him through narrowed eyes. She paid no attention to the way her heart skipped a beat as he spoke her name.
“I am not sure that is appropriate, my lo-“
“Aksept.” He interrupted firmly. “You will call me Aksept while we are here.”
Blue eyes sparkled with a familiar anger as he interrupted her. It must be nice to have to opportunity to play below your station, knowing you would safely catapult back to comfot and luxury once they arrived at the new capitol.
“If my lord commands it.” She responded through tight lips.
Her defiant gaze returned to his, igniting a fire inside of the priest.
“I command you to do nothing, I may only ask this of you. Help me keep my identity concealed here.”
“To what end….. Aksept?” His name exited her mouth on a whisper, making it sound much more like a question.
He grinned satisfied at the sound of his name on her lips.
“I am… seeking information on Ghebnut.” Aksept spoke carefully, undoing a small roll of bandages, “Servants usually have the most information on their masters. They tend to speak more freely to healers than they would a High Priest.”
Rhapdosis was surprised by his answer. He did promise to help her, was this all for to aid her escape? She snuffed the small feeling of hope in her chest. Men made promises all the time and broke them just as frequently.
“Why would you need to do such a thing?” she questioned. Was he speaking truths or falsehoods to her?
Aksept began wrapping her wrist lightly, leaving the unanswered question lingering in the air.
“It is just a bruise, you should be fine in a day or two.” He responded, his voice sure in his diagnosis, “Try not to put it to use for at least a day.”
After knotting the bandage tightly, he sheared away the acess material with a small dagger from the inside of his coat.
Rhapdosis inspected it wrapping closely. He indeed bandged it neatly and whatever he put on her skin numbed the pain greatly. She was impressed, though she would not speak it aloud.
A rushed apology escaped her lips, “Thank you my, l- Aksept.”
Noticing her did not answer her question she stood to exit this tent and get as far away from this man as possible. Whatever he had planned for Ghebnut, she hoped she would end up free or forgotten.
“Do not leave yet. I wish to speak with you longer about your former Master.”
“Former? I am simply on loan to the Architect, I shall be back in his service again once construction is underway of the new temple.”
Rhapdosis already vowed that she would not return willingly to his service. One way or another she would be free of him. The Priest was proving to be deceitful in his appearance at least. There was no way she would entrust her freedom to him.
As if was reading her thoughts he spoke to her, rising gently from his seat on the bench.
“I haven’t forgotten my promise little one, everything I do is connected.” He spoke to her calmly as if she might flee from the room at any second. He was not far from the truth.
“Everything is connected, huh.” She repeated his words back to him, facing him fully now. “Twice you have said that to me. Rhapdosis made her way to a chair across from Aksept, who was still standing. She sat gracefully in the chair nonchalantly, she dusted an imaginary smudge off the him of her traveling robe. It was longer, with a much more modest neckline and hemline to protect her from the dessert heat while providing a breathable fabric. She hoped her calm demeanor would protect her from her abnormal attraction to him. She decided to speak with the man. After all, Ghebnut was no friend of hers. It was in no way related to spending more time with the handsome, mysterious priest.
“What would you like to know? I am unsure that I will be much help. I have not truly spent much time with him.”
Aksept sat down on the bench. He reclined into the bench, relaxing fully. He draped a muscular arm over the back of the bench. Rhapdosis watched as his muscles flexed with the effort. He was in full display, stretched across the bench, the picture of comfort. Yet, he watched her with a predatory gleam in his eye. As if in any moment he could attack. Reminding her of a certain cat.
Aksept opend his mouth to presumably respond to her question but he found himself interrupted by a loud strange noise.
Rhapdosis, who had moved from skillfully dusting imaginary dirt of her dress to picking at imagninary threads froze, eyes wide. Her stomach reminding her of her uneaten food with a thunderous growl.
She flushed, thankful for her dark skin as the priest chuckled.
“When was the last time you ate?” he asked through amused laughter.
“I was on my way to eat when I was sent here.” She spoke tersely, leaving out how she received the injury that led her to his tent.
Aksept noticed her omission and proceded to question her on it.
“How did you receive that injury little one?” His dark eyes gleamed in the dim light provided by various candles and small torches in the tent.
She huffed through her nose, still pointedly ignoring his eyes that she could feel on her body. If she looked at him, she might lose the ability to speak completely to his dark gaze.
“I was attacked by a jungle cat while I was eating.” Countered Rhapdosis haughtily, crossing her arms across her chest.
“And your only injury was a bruised wrist? You are quite the warrior.” He teased, standing up. The movement finally brought her eyes back to him.
He stretched, flexing his muscles, again making him appear decidedly feline. Deadly, yet beautiful, like a leopard.
He strode to his table, gathering her cloth pouch. She watched as he poured water from a brass pitcher into a matching cup that she had not seen on the table earlier.
As he untied the food, he froze, “There is sand in this food,” he spoke with distaste.
Rhapdosis stood, and joined him at the table. In the candle light she could see the dand sprinkled atop her food. It was more than she originally thought but still, edible.
“It is fine!” she hissed embarrassed, reaching for the bag of food. He held the package just out of her grasp, above her head. She placed her injured wrist on his chest lightly for support as she tried to reach it on her tip-toes with her good hand. He wrapped his large hand just under her injury as he lightly pulled her away.
Suddenly, Rhapdosis was hyper aware of their proximity to one another. Finally, he gazed at her round chestnut colored face. Her bewitching eyes arrested his breath, her full lips had him subconsciously licking his own.
A rush of heat pooled in Rhapdosis’ stomach as she watched his pink lips become wet with moisture. She bit her lip, slowly coming down from her toes.
“You are injured, let me take care of dinner for you. I am receiving information from you, I can provide you with food.”
Aksept’s words broke the spell that fell upon her from his touch. He released her at a slight tug from her.
He held the cup of water to her face. She grasped the cup with her hand, careful to avoid touching his fingers. She took a deep gulp to avoid responding. Satisfied at her compliance, Aksept treaded to the entrance that he first entered the tent from, her soiled food still in his possession.
Rhapdosis quickly downed the water, coughing when in her haste, water traveled through the wrong side of her throat. Thirst overtook her the second the water hit her lips. She recovered quickly, placing the cup on the table. Picking up the Priest’s pitcher, she refilled her now empty cup. She sipped slowly, surveying the various jars on the table. Now that she was close she could see some jars were labeled, others had strange symbols on them in a language that she did not recognize. One jar in particular contained a familiar herb, one used to induce sleep caught her attention.
The tent flapped open, revealing Aksept with two steaming bowls of soup. He approached her as she watched him silently.
“This will be easy to eat.” He motioned to the bowls in his hands. “We can eat here if you are comfortable. Aksept pulled a stool from under the table and motioned for her to sit. She did as suggested. As she settled in her seat, Aksept placed the bowl on the table as he remained standing. Gazing softly at Rhapdosis. She again avoided his gaze, it made her uncomfortable not understanding her own body’s emotions and reactions to him. Never had a simple look caused such a reaction in her.
Aksept watched her eat silently forgetting his own food. Her quiet slurps were the only noise that filled the room. She paused her eating and reached for the water, sipping quietly. After what felt like ages, she finally surrendered her gaze back to Aksept.
“Why do you look at me like that?” she spoke finally, her confusion turned to frustration. What was he doing to her?
“How do I look at you?” He asked, voice deepening with an unknown emotion. His eyes seemed to darken impossibly. A candle on the table cast a shadow across his face, lighting one side completely leaving the other in darkness. He was so beautiful, yet the energy that radiated off of him felt dangerous and powerful. The air became heavy as her breathing picked up. He placed his forgotten bowl on the table and got closer to her. Aksept leaned against the table, his stare never leaving hers.
“Likethat.” She breathed helpless to his enchantment. “Like you know what you are making me feel. I don’t understand it.”
Rhapdosis spoke freely, surprised that the words that she thought were safe in her head tumbled past her lips. Truly her sense of control slipped in Aksept’s presence.
He reached for her hand, removing the now neglected spoon from her fingers. Instantly, her skin burned everywhere his skin connected with hers. His hand swallowed her tiny wrist as he knelt before her.
She gasped. The scandal this would cause should anyone see the High Priest of Egypt on bended knee before a slave.
“My lord!” She protested.
Her objection was cut short by the Priest pressing her hand to his chest. Though covered, she could feel the warmth instantly. He studied her wide eyes as she took in what he intended her to feel.
His heart was beating rapidly. Neither spoke as the air charged with energy between them. Rhapdosis grew uncomfortably warm, then she felt it. Their heart beats both raced in time with one-another. The impossible flutter in her chest was mirrored in the man before her. She could feel the beating of his heart through their palm, in time with her own.
“Everything is connected.” He said firmly as if he had proved himself right with his infuriating saying.
Then, his lips crashed down onto hers.