Queen Maati woke up screaming; her handmaid, Simset, coming as usual
thinking when is this going to end. It would take almost the rest of the
night to get to her back to sleep. But his night Maati would not go back
to sleep. Instead she arose and want to the temple to pray. She entered
through a private entrance and into the inner chamber, which only the royal
family or high priest-priestess were allowed. After putting her special
powder (her perfume) into the fire, she knelt before Isis to pray.
For two hours she stayed in the temple and left to go back to her room. Along the way she happened to look up to the sky and saw a shooting star. This was nothing unusual to her as she has seen them before, but this one was very different. It's tail was very long and firey red. Rest did not come. She had business to take care of as diplomats were coming to see her, but she couldn't think about that; the dream occupying her thoughts. All she could think about was that a man with long firey red hair would invade Egypt.
Maati began thinking back to how it was before she became queen. She had loved her parents very much. Everyone in the kingdom had loved them. They had ruled firmly but with love. No one was ever turned away. If a problem arose, it was dealt with fairly. But there was one with a deadly ambition take over the throne. A high priest - Sinuhe - wanted the throne for himself. He had a tasteless poison slipped into their wine (as was their custom before retiring). He would have succeeded in siezing the throne only one of his henchmen became greedy and informed on Sinuhe. General Ammuhtep, loyal to the royal family, arrested Sinuhe. After what seemed a lengthy trial, Sinuhe was exiled to the desert, never to set foot in Egypt again.
Her parents were buried according to the ritual. The countless hours of mourning were almost too much, as was the procession to their final resting place. Their deaths were felt over the whole kingdom. Imhotep, her father's loyal vizier, helped her get through the endless days of visits by those who attended the funeral. It had so upset her that she ordered her parents' rooms sealed and forbid anyone to enter. Seven days later she was crowned queen at the age of 15 and thus for 15 years she ruled, doing what she felt her parents would have done.
Her father had seen to her education as there were no sons. She could speak at least 5 different languages - among them Greek, Latin, and Mascedonian. She had also mastered the art of sanskrit - an ancient form of writing. Her knowledge of Egyptian history was amazing, going back to the time of the first Pharoah. She was well-versed in the fine arts and knew mathematics (unheard of for a woman).
Her handmaid, Simset, entered and said her morning bath was ready. It was the Queen's custom to bathe every morning in a special oil. How it was made was known only to the Queen and Simset. Simset was the only one who could be trusted to brush the Queen's hair, as her mother had done, brushing it with long even strokes til her dark hair shone. Her skin was like porcelain and very soft. Maati was built like her mother who had been a bit on the plump side, but still had a nice shape. There was something though that Maati had that was very unusual - her yellow eyes. It was said that when she looked at you it was Bastet herself, her eyes piercing through you to your very soul.
Her mother had come from another country far away, having met her father on one of his journeys. It was rumored that she had the power to cast spells, but Maati never looked at them as spells. She looked at them as just a natural part of her mother, who taught her all that she knew. Maati was always warned never to use them in anger as they were meant to do good.
When she was ready, she had Simset call in the vizier. It was time to get on with the business at hand.
Marcus Cassius made an intimidating figure, standing head and shoulders above the tallest Roman. People would say it was like seeing a god, such was his build. His hair was unusual for a Roman - red, long and straight. When a breeze blew his hair it was like seeing tongues of fire from his face. His eyes were a piercing green and when angered was said to shoot daggers of lightning from them. He was a fair man to both friend and enemy, but when crossed showed no mercy.
He was only in his mid-30's but already had conquered Spain, Gaul, and most of the eastern countries. He had risen through the ranks to general, having entered the army when he was only 15. His father, a prominent Roman senator, was bitter that he had chosen the army instead of being a senator. Marcus had no time for politics. He preferred the enemy on the battlefield to the senate. He was well known for his bravery and cunning on the battlefield. His brother, Caliecus, a captain, was also well known for his bravery and cunning. Together they were unconquerable.
Marcus had just received word that he was to set off on another conquest. This time Egypt. Lately he had grown weary of fighting. He was tired of seeing his men shed their blood merely because the Emperor wanted something else. He had had premonitions that all that Rome had would be lost one day, but he was a soldier, and his duty was to obey his Emperor.
He had been given reports on Egypt and its many riches - jewels, precious metals, enough to keep an army going. He had placed spies in Egypt to let him know what was going on. He had known for sometime that Egypt had been ruled by a young queen. But they had reported they did not know what she looked like as she never left the palace. It was also a known fact that Egypt had many beautiful women. He had the reputation of being able to get any woman merely by looking at her. Since his spies had never seen the Queen, he assumed she was ugly and not too intelligent. He knew he could take Egypt by force with no problem. Although Egypt's army could fight, it still was no match for the Roman army. He decided on another tactic instead; one which would gain him Egypt without possibly shedding any of his men's blood.
Queen Maati was busy settling an argument beween Simset and the head
stewart over what was to be served at the banquet that evening. It was not
a formal affair, as those in attendance were friends of her parents. It
had been a while and they were like family. She grew weary of hearing them
argue as she did not get much sleep the night before.
Imhotep was worried. With the dreams the Queen was having, it was wearing her down. He was only too happy to handle any minor problems that always arose. At least things were peaceful for now. She was like a daughter to him, as he and his wife never had children. The years when she first ruled he treated her as his daughter. Thank goodness she was resting. He went to attend to business in the throne room.
Maati had to admit she did feel somewhat better after having rested. She started getting ready. She always took her time for she always wanted to look her best. Simset was very adept at applying the Queen's makeup. Maati always left her hair straight finding it much more comfortable. Simset used cobalt to bring out the color of her eyes and lined them with black kohl, giving her eyes an even more cat-like appearance. The powder the Queen used was sprinkled with minute flecks of gold. Her lips were colored with crushed pomegranite seeds, which made them look full and sensuous. Tonight she wore a long simple linen tunic trimmed in gold with a gold rope tied at her waist and simple gold sandals.
The guests were already in the banquet hall waiting. As soon as she entered and sat down, waiters appeared to serve her and her guests. From what seemed like nowhere music was heard and dancers appeared. There were endless varieties of fish, fowl, breads, and fruit, plus endless quantities of beer. Maati was not very hungry, but slowly ate a few bites to appease Simset.
At that moment barges were entering the mouth of the Nile. These barges though were not Egyptian, they were Roman, on their way to Memphis and the palace. On board one of the barges, Marcus had just gone over his plan with his brother and two trusted aides. It was decided that he would pretend to come on a diplomatic mission. The main thrust of troops were to disembark during the night at the shore, so as not to alarm the population. Only when he had sent word were his troops to march on Memphis. Given his reputation with women, and the fact that he assumed the Queen to be ugly and naive, he was sure that Egypt would be his in a matter of hours.
One of the guards told Imhotep there were visitors outside from Rome saying they were on a diplomatic mission. They had not given their names.
Imhotep went in to the dining hall and informed the Queen. She excused herself and went to the throne room. Before they were allowed in she made herself presentable and sat on the throne. She gave word to have them shown in.
Imhotep brought them in. Marcus had not seen the Queen yet, not wanting to be repulsed. When he saw her, he saw not one who was ugly, in fact, the exact opposite. He saw eyes the color of the sun, lips full and sensuous. He also saw that although a bit on the plump side there was promise underneath her dress. Her hair framing an oval face. This was not what he had expected.
Maati saw how tall the stranger was, but her eyes grew wide as she saw the red hair. The stranger in her dreams. She was determined not to let him intimidate her. She put on a haughty air as if he did not matter.
Usually Marcus would have been pleasantly surprised to see how he intimidated someone, but this one did not show even the slightest hint. This miffed him. He was used to being the one that did the intimidation. She had acknowledged him as nothing more than what he said he was. This was something new, to have someone look at him as if he were nothing. She asked if they would care to join in the banquet as they may be hungry and thirsty after such a long journey. Imhotep made room for them at her table.
She proceeded ahead with the party coming behind. Maati was shaking but
was determined not to let him see that. Where were his troops? They had
to be close by or he would not have come with only him and three other people.
He was beginning to see she was more than just a mere woman. She was
intelligent enough to know there was more to this mission. He was
determined to throw her off track.
She had him. He hadn't counted on her being this intelligent. It was
evident she knew what she was talking about.
After they left she breathed a sigh of relief. She hoped her nervousness wasn't evident. There was something about the way he said the word "protection."
"She's a lot more intelligent than I gave her credit for. Those eyes. It was like she was looking into your soul." He told his aides, "See what you can find out about her. There's a lot more than meets the eye."
He had been outsmarted. The first battle went to her. Tomorrow will be a different story. he retired for the night with visions of yellow eyes all night.
Maati was wide awake. She was still thinking about what he had said. That Rome would give them protection. From what though? There was more to this. She decided to go for a walk in her private garden. Maati often went there to meditate. It was filled with flowers of all kinds, some native to Egypt and some that were from other places. But her favorites were Lotus, Hibiscus, Lily and a flower that her mother had brought with her - a flower with petals as soft as the night breeze. She had a small bench that she sat on, which was near a small fountain. The sound of running water walways relaxed her.
She had been there only a few moments when she felt a breeze on her
face, but none of the bushes or flowers were moving. A misty cloud formed
and took shape. Maati recognized the shape, it was her mother.
Maati woke up in her room. She did not remember leaving the garden, but the words her mother spoke left her mystified. She would have to dwell on them later. For now she needed rest as she was very tired.
Marcus had not rested well himself having visions of yellow eyes in his dreams. His aides had not found anything yet. There had to be something he could use to his advantage.
They entered a small dining room off the main banquet hall. Imhotep and
Simset stayed to one side. They did not want her alone with them.
Marcus agreed. He wanted to see how she handled everyday business. Maati excused herself to prepare for her entrance. Marcus and his party went on. Thirty minutes later she entered the throne room. Marcus couldn't believe the change. She was wearing a gold tunic that showed her body to her advantage. Around her neck was a sun burst necklace with the symbol of Ra in the middle. She was wearing a double crown with the symbol of Isis on top. Her sceptre also bore the symbol of Isis. She looked like the daughter of Ra.
Today was the day for those of Egypt's rule to bring tribute. Imhotep would call out the name and their tribute. Marcus hadn't realized just how large Egypt's rule was. From the south to Punt, west to Wast, and east to Mascedonia. Tributes of wheat and cattle, cloth so sheer it looked as if it would float away. Also jewels such as rubies, diamonds, amythests. Precious woods such as cedar, balsam and ebony. Then came oils, wines and spices that Rome had not seen yet.
Then came time for the last tribute, which was to be from a tribe of Shiites, a very fierce warrior tribe to the east. They informed her they were not going to pay tribute to anyone, especially a woman.
Marcus smirked to himself. Let's see how she handled it.
"Since you don't want to give the agreed upon tribute, then you shall be the tribute. Imhotep, see to it that the punishment for failure to bring the prescribed tribute is enforced. But, allow one to return to inform them of what happens when they fail."
She got up to leave. The whole room bowed until she had exited. Maati took Marcus on a tour of the palace. He was amazed at the amount of limestone and marble used. Gold and ivory were used as part of the wall and also to make the carvings of various animals native to Egypt and the gods. Marble was used for the flooring and was kept clean and shining every day. Drapes made of linen and a cloth called silk were artfully hung. Everywhere there were flowers of all varieties in vases of all sizes in hallways and rooms. In some places there was the smell of incense such as sandalwood and frankincense.
Maati took him outside to the palace garden. They walked on a path of
limestone, with ferns and palms all around. It was very peaceful and
quiet. They were in the center now, under an arbor that had a small bench
underneath. Marcus was enjoying himself, which was different. Most of the
time he would have been bored by now, but she had a way of making the most
minute item interesting.
He was surprised at the variety of bushes and flowers there. He may be a
soldier but he did appreciate beauty. She was by a flower he had not seen
before. It looked so delicate that if one were to touch it, the petals
would fall. He couldn't help but compare her to its petals.
He suddenly found himself wanting to get her alone in such a place, the
moonlight shining on her face, her full lips being kissed by no one but
him. His arms holding her body close. The thought made him heady with
Maati saw something in his eyes. She started to shake. It was something she hadn't see before. They went back to the palace. Back in his room, Marcus was surprised by what he had thought of in the garden. This was not going to be easy. He was experiencing something new.
Maati was still trembling. She had seen something in his eyes, it was not intimidation. It was something else.
After the evening meal, Maati went to her little place in the garden. She was still thinking about the look in his eyes and wondering what it would be like to be alone with him, to feel his arms around her. Her body was feeling the first pangs of desire. This surprised her. She had never felt like this before.
Something made her turn around. It was Marcus. He had seen her leave and had followed her at a discreet distance, watching her. There was a full moon out. The light caught her eyes, giving them an eerie glow. He walked up to her and looked into those eyes. It just seemed natural. He bent and kissed her. It was a light kiss, but the effect was devastating none the less. Again he kissed her, this time pulling her into his arms. Her body molded itself to his, a natural fit. He moaned as the kiss became deeper. All she could do was hold on to his vest to keep from falling. Then he walked back to the palace, visibly shaken. Maati was not much better. This was new for her, having never kissed a man before.
The next morning, Marcus was still feeling the effects of last night.
Caliecus noticed how his brother was. Something happened last night. He
had never seen Marcus this way.
"Your majesty, do you hear me? Your majesty!" Maati looked at Simset, who was trying to let her know her bath was ready. She followed Simset, not fully aware of her undressing her or that she was being bathed. She was thinking about last night. She could still feel his lips on hers, his arms molding her body to his. She again felt the pangs of desire course through her body. She wondered had he stayed what he would have done next.
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