Fine desert sands swirled up behind the swiftly moving, royal state chariot. The midday sun reflected off the chariot’s gilded surface. Hooves of a pair of nearly identical white horses pounded the sand as the animals pulled the chariot at a breakneck speed. Tutankhamun, the young Pharaoh, rode alone. Behind the monarch a score of soldiers on chariots tried to keep pace with their king, but they were not driven by as much intensity as was he. He lashed out with a whip, encouraging the horses to pick up their exhausting pace. The beasts had little remaining energy within them to surrender to the demands of the king. A young man of eighteen, Tutankhamun was strikingly handsome, strong and wise. His torso was well toned and bronzed by the sun, the same sun he worshiped as the mightiest of all the gods, Re. He liked the feel of the sun against his naked flesh. When he became too heated, he enjoyed swimming in the Nile River. Tutankhamun ruled a country made weak under one of his predecessors, King Akhenaton. But great changes were afoot within the kingdom. Tutankhamun was slowly rebuilding Egypt, restoring banned religions, rebuilding temples. He was hearing the voices of the people and was much in their favor. The day was supposed to have been one of pleasure, meant to relieve the young king of his building anxiety as he awaited the impending birth of what he hoped would be an heir. He was set to enjoy a day of ostrich hunting, do some swimming in the Nile, and perhaps spend time playing the game senet with his friend Ki. It was to be a day of doing anything but governing. The farthest thing from his mind was that he was the ruler of the land. For that day he just wanted to be a young man enjoying life. How quickly his plans changed with the arrival of a messenger. He took a piece of papyrus paper from the messenger, read what was written on the paper, sighed and looked down at the genuflected man at his feet. His face had suddenly twisted into an anguished grimace, signaling troubled thoughts. “Say that which is written here is not true,” Tutankhamun commanded. The messenger remained silent. He knew if he said what the king wanted him to say it would not be the truth. “I command you to say it is not true,” the king bellowed. The messenger trembled as he backed away from his angry king, all the while remaining on his knees with his head bent. Tutankhamun kicked at the sand in front of him and walked past the messenger who had truly begun to believe he was about to feel the blade of the pharaoh’s gold dagger. A soldier on the king’s chariot raised the horse reigns in anticipation of the king’s orders to drive on. “I ride alone,” Tutankhamun said as he stepped upon the rear of the chariot. The driver quickly leapt from the chariot, making way for his troubled king. To the palace the king raced. As he drew closer to the palace, his heartbeat quickened. His anxiety was raging. He whipped the horses yet again. For the moment he forgot his true love of the animals, a love that seldom saw the use of a whip, and always the affectionate stroking of a hand against their bodies following a hard ride. It was a several minute ritual that served as a reward to the well-worked animals. The palace was close yet to him it seemed at an endless distance, and it was taking an eternity to reach it. He pulled back the horse’s reins, bringing them to a stop close to the entrance of the royal palace. Quickly a servant ran up and grabbed the bridles, preventing the animals from moving. The servant bowed as Tutankhamun leapt from the chariot and hurried to the palace entrance, incognizant of a short flight of steps he bounded over. He was met at the entrance by his vizier, Ay. The elder man was dressed in bright robes signaling his honorable status. A crafty man, Ay had been Tutankhamun’s mentor and guide through the young royal’s life. Now he often felt put aside as the king increasingly made more of his own decisions. But the king was being no more than the youth he was, testing himself and his boundaries, though no one, not even Ay, was setting boundaries. He was no longer a child, growing and learning, but in times like these he still leaned on his vizier for support. Ay bowed as the king stood before him. No need to genuflect, thus was his position with the king. He could even look directly at the king, something few others could do. “Your Majesty, Queen Ankhesenamun gave birth to a second stillborn daughter,” he said softly, daring to speak before the king had spoken. Tutankhamun grimaced at the emotional pain he felt. “Stillborn? Daughter?” he questioned, his voice quivering. He looked down and shook his head slightly. Though he was king, living god on earth, he was still human, still able to experience the same heartfelt pain as any man. He felt a knot in his chest as if his chariot horses had kicked him. He looked at Ay. The old vizier could see the pain felt by the king. Tutankhamun had no clue, no reason to suspect Ay was inwardly pleased by the anguished look upon the youth’s face. “I am still without an heir? How so have I offended the gods, Ay?” Ay knew to pick his words carefully. He knew his monarch was dealing with unstable emotions. There were times when even a vizier’s life could be in jeopardy. “Your Majesty, I am without an answer.” Tutankhamun placed a hand upon Ay’s shoulder. “You are my vizier,” he said. “I have grown through the years hearing everything you have said to me. Speak to me now that I might know my faults.” He trusted the man who had been at his side since the day the pharaoh’s crown had first been placed upon his head at the age of nine. There were times when he resented the old man’s advice but realized with age came knowledge, knowledge the king gathered and built upon. Even with his faults, Ay was irreplaceable to Tutankhamun. “You are pharaoh, without fault,” Ay said. He didn’t dare say he found plenty of faults within his sovereign such as his reckless abandonment, his growing lack of respect for the vizier, and least of all being the king’s age. “You are Son of Re. Son of Amun. Pleased are the gods.”
The Gods. What have I done to so anger them? “Not pleased enough I fear,” he said weakly. “I wish I knew what I have done so wrong to be cursed by such fate as this.”
I can think of many things, young fool. “These are words meant as comfort, Your Majesty. You are a young king who is destined to rule Egypt for many years. At some point the Gods will surely see the time as right to bless you with an heir. Be patient, sire, for the time of such happening is not within your power to control. Have faith in the Gods. For now, put this sadness behind you and go, be with your queen.” He had almost choked on his own words as he mentioned the many years the king would rule. He wondered how much more of the young king’s foolishness and immaturity the kingdom could endure. The king’s insolent disregard for past history was leading the country toward troubling times. Instability at best as Ay saw it. But he saw things quite differently than Pharaoh.
Tutankhamun regarded Ay. He nodded slightly, once again taking solace in the vizier’s words as he had done countless times before. He tapped the wise man’s shoulder, drew in a deep breath and headed into the palace. Through an entrance foyer lined by thick white painted columns he hastily walked, emerging in a spacious openair courtyard where the water of a large pool reflected the sun. So many times had he sat in the pool with his queen, talking about anything except the affairs of the kingdom, more often the affairs of the heart. Without slowing he hurried past the pool, removing his leather gloves as he walked. He tossed the gloves to a servant without looking at the genuflecting man, who, even though his head was bowed, made every effort to make sure the gloves did not land upon the stone floor. With quickened steps the king barged through a narrow hall where numerous decorative columns nearly filled the shallow expanse. Nobles standing about quickly genuflected at the sudden, unexpected appearance of their king. Where there had been conversation and even heated debate, there was instantly dead silence. Only the king’s footsteps could be heard. Guards hurried to push open thick, ten feet tall, double doors as he approached the entrance to the main throne room. His constant paced stride took him through the room swiftly, past a dais where his gilded throne stood in splendor. He never took notice of a dozen more officials who had quickly genuflected in homage as he unexpectedly passed them. Another set of guards quickly opened the double doors leading to the Pharaoh’s state apartments. He entered the royal bedroom and stopped just inside the doorway. Almost immediately his keen sense of smell detected the sweet-smelling redolence of burning incense. He drew in a deep breath through his nose, taking in much of the savory scent that was an odoriferous reminder to him of his queen. Regardless of wherever he was within the palace, one whiff of the incense tinged air immediately caused him to think of her. Several scantily clad maidservants were gathered around a gilded cheetah shaped bed where Queen Ankhesenamun lay, covered by white linen with a gold embroidered edge. Her head rested on a padded curved wooden headrest. The servants, upon their king’s entrance, promptly dropped to their knees and bowed until their foreheads touched the floor. They stretched their arms out before them in the direction of Tutankhamun. Only four burly male slaves standing in the four corners of the room remained standing with heads bowed as they swept back and forth large handheld fans made of ostrich feathers. The fans were the only means of air movement within the room. Every hour of the day there were slaves with fans waving, at night, while the royal couple slept, even while the couple enjoyed intimacy. To look up would have surely cost a slave his eyesight at the very least. “Leave us,” Tutankhamun ordered as he stepped quickly up to his queen’s bed. There was a hurried exodus from the room. The slaves remained, their fan waving continued. “Everyone,” Tutankhamun shouted. Immediately the fan bearers hurried out of the room. Now alone with his queen, Tutankhamun removed his headdress and dropped it without concern. He stood at the edge of the bed, took up one of the queen’s hands in his, and gently, lovingly stroked her sweated forehead with his free hand. He drew in a deep breath, filling his lungs with air, and smelling the pleasing scent of perfume. The perfume, which she often used knowing how her husband enjoyed its aroma, had been rubbed upon the queen’s body. “My Pharaoh, I displease you,” Ankhesenamun said weakly, looking up at her young king. “I have failed you yet again.” Tears ran down her cheeks. Tutankhamun shook his head. A pained smile parted his lips. “No, my queen,” he said softly. He wiped away some of her tears. “You fail no one. It is not time for the gods to bless us with a child.” “You are still without an heir,” the queen quavered. She had begun to doubt her own fertility. Would the king displace her with a second wife, one able to bear children for certain? She wondered what was to become of her. She loved Pharaoh as sure as any love she had ever felt. Even more so since Tutankhamun truly displayed his deep love of her. But could that affection exist without an heir given to him by the queen? “But I am not without a queen,” Tutankhamun said composedly. “A queen I love more than all else within Egypt and beyond. You are what matters to me. When the gods see fit to bear me an heir, blessed will that time be. All of Egypt will share in our joy. A huge celebration to be sure. And I, a proud father, will present the heir to the people. But that will be then. My love for you is now, is real, is without end, my queen.” The queen smiled weakly. “I love you, my husband,” she said. She tried to rise up and throw her arms around him as she so loved to do. But, the birthing had drained her strength and she was unable to manage. “Do not try, my love,” Tutankhamun said. He wished he could take her suffering from her, order it out of her body and out of all Egypt. “When time allows you will be strong enough to rise and be close to me again.” “You will still want me?” Ankhesenamun asked mildly. She feared the king would look without favor upon her. Tutankhamun shook his head. “Do not think as such,” he said brightly. “I will want you to the end of my days. Someday you will give Egypt a great gift.” Ankhesenamun smiled and lifted a pale hand to stroke Tutankhamun’s face. She moved the hand to his chest and playfully toyed with a nipple. “I will do my best to please Pharaoh.” Tutankhamun kissed his queen’s forehead, smiled and stood. “There will be much time for the pleasure of flesh against flesh. But for now, my queen, my love, you must rest. I will see to it your servants do not disturb your rest.” Tutankhamun walked slowly from the bedchambers. “Allow only the fan bearers within the bed chambers. No one else is to disturb the queen,” he directed as he passed the guards at the doorway. The guards signaled the four slaves to quickly enter the room. The guards followed them and saw to it they took up their former places in the corners, then exited. They closed the double doors quietly so as not to disturb the queen, then took up a position to prevent anyone from entering the room. Ay and a host of court nobles bowed as their king passed them without pausing. “Ay, have my chariot readied at once,” Tutankhamun ordered. He snatched his riding gloves from the servant to whom he’d thrown them earlier. The servant hadn’t moved from the spot, as if to do so would have cost him his life. Ay raised a hand and signaled to a soldier. The soldier raced ahead of the king, exiting the palace barely a minute before Tutankhamun. But it had been enough time for the
king’s chariot to be positioned and for a driver to take his place at the reigns of the gilded vehicle.
“I ride alone,” Tutankhamun said, waiving off the driver, who bowed and hurried out of the king’s way. With a shake of the horse’s reigns Tutankhamun sped away, followed at a distance by several ever-present soldiers in chariots, again unable to keep up with the young king.