Waking up this morning I glanced at my phone and saw a Facebook notification. The brief blurb mentioned that it was Friday and I was shocked. Friday? Already? Where had the week gone? So I thought how about an excerpt from The Beautiful Woman has Come? Sounds good to me!
Just a short lead in. Helen, now called Nefertiti, has been taking her evening meals with Great Royal Wife Tiye at the new royal palace across the river from the main town of Waset (I know, everyone calls it Thebes, but that's a Greek name and the Greeks only got to call it that when Alexander came and made Ptolemy Pharaoh!). In this excerpt, we will see SitAmun, eldest daughter of NebMaatRa and Tiye, and Auset, SitAmun's sister.
The Beautiful Woman has Come
by Debra Giuffrida
copyright 2016, all rights reserved
My days spent here in Waset were long, hot and devoid of entertainment. Auset had not requested my company nor had anyone else of the royal family, for that matter. So I sat either in my bedchamber or under the sunshade within the family garden.
The evenings I shared my meal with the Great Royal Wife in her garden within the House of Rejoicing. Tiye had taken it upon herself to be my educator in all things political. Some nights Auset and her companion Ana would join us. These nights were some of the most pleasant. Tiye would always request Auset sing for us. I had been correct. Her voice was lyrical and with good range and power when needed.
All the women in attendance would fall silent listening to the King’s daughter sing of unrequited love, new love, lost love, and gods and goddesses. Ana would accompany her on the lyre and the two made a pretty pair sitting within a circle of lamplight.
One evening Sitamun came. Accompanied by several young girls and an older woman, she walked over to one of the couches and sat. Immediately two of her attendants ran and fetched their mistress a golden chased goblet and filled it with wine from off Tiye’s table. This elicited a shocked reaction from the Great Wife’s table servant. The young girl sucked in her breath and her eyes grew round and wide.
“Em hotep, daughter,” Tiye said walking into the room. Sitamun watched her mother sit on the largest pillow-strewn couch.
“I was lonely and wanted company for the twelfth-hour meal,” Sitamun replied to an unspoken question.
“You are always welcome here, Sitamun.”
“Nefertiti,” Sitamun turned her kohl-rimmed eyes in my direction. “Do. You. Understand. What. I. Am. Saying?” Her staccato words were punctuated by a brief tight smile.
“She is very conversant, you may be assured she understands you.” Tiye took a long drink of wine from an offered electrum goblet all the while looking at Sitamun over the cup’s rim. “Now, what really brings you here?”
“I told you, mother, I was lonely. Moses is still in MenNefer and I needed some entertainment. Is Auset joining us? I do so enjoy her singing.” Another tight smile but this time she ended it with a sip of wine. Sitamun’s girls bustled around gathering plates of food for their mistress. The older bent back woman stood at the King’s daughter’s elbow and glared at each of the girls, occasionally pointing a long nailed finger by way of direction.
“Auset is in the middle of a new weaving and she declined my open invitation.”
“Oh. Nefertiti, do you sing?” Sitamun took a piece of roast duck from an offered plate and tore tiny pieces from the slice, putting each into her mouth, chewing slowly, her unblinking eyes staring at me.
“No, I am afraid that my voice is far from sweet. My talents lay elsewhere.”
“Then where do your talents lay...cousin?” She tore another piece of duck and popped it into her mouth.
“I enjoy athletic games, running the stade—,”
“Stade? What is that?” Another piece of duck disappeared into Sitamun’s mouth.
“That is a distance, I am not sure of the Kemeteyu equivalent. I run with other girls. The fastest wins. What are your talents...cousin?” I felt no familial love for this Aegyptos King’s daughter. Tiye sat quietly listening to our exchange. I glanced at her and saw her bite her lip and sniff, possibly to cover a smile.
“My talents?” Sitamun raised an eyebrow, then ran a hand down her sheer linen over robe, “I am King’s daughter, beloved of my father, wife of the iry pat Djehutymose, my talent will be to provide the next son to sit upon the throne of Heru.”
This statement caused Tiye to glare at her daughter. What was it that elicited such a response from the Great Royal Wife? Surely she knew that Sitamun was to be a royal broodmare.
“You will have ample time to accomplish that feat, my dear. My son’s barge was sighted and should be at the water steps some time after Ra is born.”
Sitamun stood up and dropped the remaining tiny piece of duck.
“How long have you known? Why did you keep this from me?”
“Are your spies lacking, daughter? I would acquire new ones if I were you. Your father’s new Royal Wife from Naharin is aboard.”
Sitamun’s eyes grew large, narrowed into slits, and she glared at her mother. Without a word she turned her back and walked out of the room, her head high, shoulders square, her followers hurrying their steps to keep up with their mistress.
“Well, now, Nefertiti, how have you been occupying your time? Are you learning some of our old stories? Is Huya still teaching you?” she took a sip of wine, then handed the goblet to the girl close at hand.
I looked from Sitamun’s retreating back to Tiye.
“Close your mouth, my dear. Sitamun is a jealous girl. NebMaatRa’s new child bride will keep her busy and out of your business. You can thank me later.”
“I am not sure I follow, why is Sitamun possibly jealous of her?”
“The concubines and wives of the Son of the Sun will become those of the next Son of the Sun. The younger and prettier ones are a threat to my daughter. Do you understand?” Tiye took a rolled lettuce leaf from an offered platter. She eyed it, turning it about. “Where is the boy?” All was quiet for several beats of my heart. A small boy was brought forth. Tiye smiled at him and handed him the lettuce bundle. The boy looked up at his nurse who nodded her head and also smiled. Only then did the boy take the offered food from the queen.
The child was a poison tester.
I found myself holding my breath, waiting, as we all were, for the boy to live or die. He did not die, this time. When the nurse made to take him away Tiye shook her head and motioned for him to sit beside her chair. Tonight he would test everything for the queen.
Perhaps she felt ill at ease due to Sitamun’s unannounced visit? Or were there others that wished this Great Royal Wife ill? My stomach clenched and I thought better of eating here in Tiye’s garden.
She must have felt my trepidation. Tiye only allowed me to eat after the boy had tested the food upon her platters. Even so, I ate very little but drank far more of the Per A’a’s wine than I should have.
Have a lovely weekend. See you back here Monday!