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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:14 AM   #1

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Make Egypt Great Again: Waking up as Cleopatra VII Philopator

Make Egypt Great Again

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Chapter 1: She of the Sedge and the Bee

It’s hot, horribly, awfully hot. It’s not supposed to be this horrible, but it is. The bed I’m on seems to be moving, a bit like a ship in the water, this isn’t normal. Not normal at all. I yawn, stretching myself before opening my eyes. I appear to be in a room, brightly coloured and with beautifully painted walls. Briefly, I rub my eyes, is it just me, or are they a little larger than they should be? I don’t know, but the image becomes clearer. I’m not alone. I see several women, dressed in flowing white dresses. One of them bows towards me, holding a golden goblet. I immediately take it into my hands, grasping for it. I’m so terribly thirsty and hot. It is heavy, heavier than I would have expected, but still I manage to bring it to my mouth, drinking the comforting cool water even if some flows right past my mouth. It doesn’t matter; I’m wet with sweat anyways.

Finally I can think a little more, taking in my surroundings, which still seem to be moving. I don’t recognise this place, not at all. Slowly, I raise myself a little, onto my elbows. Strangely enough, I don’t seem to be wearing my glasses, but can still see clearly. And these strangers, I don’t know any of them, in their long dresses. My eyes wander down, towards myself. There is something wrong. I appear to be wearing what looks like gold. I never wear that; it is gaudy. I’m not a rapper or something. But then I notice, my feet. They are different. My toes aren’t like that. Not at all, I never had such a pedicure, and the arrangement is different too.

Another of the strangers leans towards me, whispering: “Your Holy Majesty, your father wants you to know that we have entered the palace.”

“Thank you,” I mutter, feeling tired and weak. Why is it so awfully hot here? I don’t want to know what it is like outside, in the sun. I notice surprise in the woman, shouldn’t I have thanked her? I don’t know, but my mind starts to race. Where on Earth am I? And what has happened? The last thing I remember was a nice night out, which might have involved a little bit too much in the way of drinks, and I recall going home with someone. She was nice and pretty. The perfect combination. But she wasn’t any of these women, and she also isn’t here. My mind goes to a silly little story I was writing, about a... Oh my God! I know it. I must have been taken to some other time and place. Please, don’t let it be Westeros or anything to do with that awful world.

I will have to find out, I have to know. But how can I do it? I will have to ask carefully, the right questions. But not to these strangers, they seem too much like servants, too surprised even by gratitude. I can’t talk with them. Instead, I slowly sit up, looking at my bare arms. Although, bare is a bit of the wrong word, with all the jewelry around them. The skin is pale, but otherwise looks good, much better than mine. If only because there are no freckles everywhere.

I look down at my dress, it is not gold, there simply are many golden decorations on the purple, the pure purple. I recall it being a very expensive colour in the ancient world, which must almost certainly be where I am. I can’t think of anything more recent where anyone would be called holy majesty. I am obviously travelling with my father, which means that I am either a princess of some sorts, or that I am married to a king. The fact that I am travelling means that I am either on a boat, or on a cart of some kind. Unless I am being carried of course, but that seems a little over the top really. The pilasters or columns in the walls point to something classical, but I can’t quite place it. Of course, being a holy majesty means some sort of claim to divinity, which points to the east.

My thoughts are disturbed however when the motion suddenly stops, and worse still, it feels like the whole world is lowered. Luckily, I wasn’t standing. One of the women heads to what looks like the door, right in front of me, and slightly opens it. I can hear voices, but don’t understand what they are saying. The door is closed again, and she returns to me, bowing: “Your Holy Majesty, we have arrived and your father requests your presence.”

I sit up, and another of them puts sandals on my feet. I really don’t have to do anything at all. A third places something on my head, but I can’t see it very well. What I do see are feathers, along with what looks like golden horns around a golden sphere. I can feel fabric by the sides of my head, but don’t dare to bring my hands up. There has to be a reason to my appearance.

When everything seems ready, I stand up, swaying a little. It remains very warm, and I get the feeling that I might faint. Luckily, I don’t. I walk towards the door, which suddenly opens. It is light, very light and bright, temporarily blinding me. But despite that, I keep walking, even though I am blinking against the sunlight.

After some time I can see again, making out the shapes of people around me. I descend from several steps, from my travelling home. The first thing I see is the colour. The whole place is brightly coloured, depicting human forms, men and women both. The style is familiar, very familiar even. Egyptian. I swallow, I know only a little bit about Egypt, I haven’t even been there. But then, as my vision clears some more, I notice people. All sorts of people. But the most common seem to be men with tall, oval red shields and all too familiar helmets. I swallow, Romans. Other than them there are many others, most of them men.

And right in front of me, a slightly older man, dressed in what seems to be some form of armour, and wearing a crown. A red crown with something white in the middle. And gold of course. He looks more than a little overweight, but I know the crown. I have seen it a depicted a dozen times at least, and strangely enough, I even recall the name. The Pschent. The crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The crown belonging to the Pharaoh. He turns slightly towards me, extending an arm. I guess that he must be either my father or husband. Whatever happens, it’s better to not offend him too badly, so I take the arm. It feels warm and moist.

I notice a smile, and he speaks: “Finally, after all these years, home again. It feels good doesn’t it?”

“It certainly does,” I reply, feeling shy in front of all these people.

The man leads me into the palace, accompanied by armed men. Most of them Romans. I try to remember what this could be, which Egyptian king worked with the Romans? It has to be one of the Ptolemies, but I can’t remember any in specific. Just that they all had that name. The inside of the palace is beautiful, and I find myself looking at the hieroglyphs, painted onto the walls. Somehow, I notice that I can read them. It makes little sense, but still, more sense than waking up as someone else.

In places, I notice slight damage, but much remains hidden. We reach a grand room, with a pair of golden thrones placed onto a series of steps. The taller of them also happens to be placed one step higher, presumably to show who is the really important one. The fat pharaoh waggles up the steps, surprisingly, he manages to make it to the top. I follow of course. He turns around, and one of the first things to strike me about him are his bulging eyes, closely followed by the fact that he seems to be trembling. He whispers: “Kneel.”

I of course obey, kneeling before the standing king. I don’t know what is supposed to happen now, but luckily he continues talking, now with a more powerful voice: “In the presence of all the gods, of our divine ancestor Osiris or Dionysos, we present our daughter: The great Lady of perfection, who is excellent in counsel. The great one, sacred image of her father, She of the Sedge and the Bee, the goddess Cleopatra who is beloved of her father. She is the Queen of Upper and Lower Egypt, to reign by our side.”

(What is this?

It is something that you might ask, or just something that I want to give an answer to, even if it remains unasked. The basic idea of this is something that has been going through my head for some time now, as I really wanted to do something a bit more historical than all the fanfic stuff I normally write. I wanted to write an interesting female character, preferably in Antiquity, a period I have a bit of an interest in. But at the same time, I have to admit that I'm not the number one expert on the period, so I settled on a slightly more peripheral location than the Eternal City. Unfortunately, I don't have very many sources, so if I make any errors, please, let me know so I can change things around.

In this story, we have me (without the recent reading spree on this topic of course), waking up in the body of Cleopatra VII Philopator, better known as just Cleopatra, the famously beautiful one. Even though part of the being so attractive might have had to do with the simple fact that she did have Egypt, which was far from poor. I hope that you will enjoy this story, and look forward to any sort of criticism to improve it.)

Last edited by Raunchel; February 23rd, 2017 at 01:25 AM.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:14 AM   #2

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Chapter 2: Epiphaneia

After the brief coronation, I sit on the smaller throne, next to the Pharaoh. I suppress a shudder, recalling something about incest in the dynasties ruling Egypt. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the details of it, but as far as I know, it was mostly between brothers and sisters. But I can’t be sure. I should really have read more about this. In front of me, I see dozens of people, perhaps even hundreds. All of them standing. I can easily pick out Roman soldiers, even I know their dress, and from what I can see, all of them are officers. One of the most notable of them is a broad-faced young man with curly dark blonde hair. I can almost feel him looking at me, a look I know all too well but certainly do not like. Not at all.

He stands with the other Roman officers, who mostly look at my father or at each other. Aside from them, there are a few men in what looks like more Greek military garb, and then there is a whole bunch of men who seem more like civilians. A fair few of them are in fact rather tall, with small heads and smooth faces. There is something eerie about them, but they seem important.

“Bring in the prisoners!”, the Pharaoh almost shouts, and a little later side doors open. Armed men, Romans soldiers, push in well-dressed men and women. I see a smile form on my father’s face, a smile that I don’t find myself liking. I don’t like this situation at all, something is wrong with all this. There are dozens of them, all of them seemingly important people, judging by their clothes. People step away from them, as they are driven forwards, connected to each other by ropes. Behind them walks a man dressed as an Egyptian, armed with what looks like an axe, he is flanked by two younger men.

“Put their heads at our feet.”, he commands. The soldiers force the first of the prisoners to the ground, in a row in front of the throne and the axeman prepares himself, raising the weapon. I don’t want to look; I shouldn’t look; but I do look. I can’t take my eyes away as the weapon swings down at the kneeling man, and I see his head falling to the ground. He was bald and small-headed. But now he is no more. I see the blood gushing from the neck, and feel cold in my whole body. But it’s not the cold that I would welcome. It is one of horror. I look on with wide eyes, not saying a word, not even breathing anymore as one of the young men takes the head, and walks to the throne. He kneels, placing the head in front of the first step. I look into the dead eyes, feeling distant tears well up.

To stop myself from doing anything, I grasp the sides of my throne, holding them with strength. I can’t show anything, I might be seen as one of them. Another has his turn, he looks up to the king, begging: “Please, Holy Majesty, I did not belong to them! I swear it on the tombs of my forefathers. I had nothing to do with this! Please!”

But to no avail. One of the men pushes him down, and again the axe swings, and a second head falls. It rolls away, almost in a comical manner, but I don’t laugh. I can’t. I only look on as the boy races after it, before delivering it to the throne. I suppress a shiver at the sight, but again, I keep looking. I don’t want to, I try forcing myself to look at the back wall, at the murals and statues worked into it. It is beautiful, but my eyes are drawn downwards, back to the sight at my feet where a third victim, a rather old woman is forced to her knees. She shouts: “You are no Pharaoh! The gods despise you! You betrayed them to these barbarians!”

The axe comes down again, and a third head joins the others. More and more follow, and I see all of them, dying, placed at my feet. I glance sideways, seeing my father. He smiles, this gives him joy. I don’t know what to think of this, but I feel fear, true fear. This man is mad. I feel something clenching at my throat, but remain still, I can’t move, I can’t run like I would want to. All I see are the heads, more and more of them. More prisoners are led into the throne room, with clear fear on their eyes. Some go bravely, others have to be forced. But all of them die. There are shouts and screams, but nothing helps, it seems as though they only give pleasure to the Pharaoh.

I see soldiers carrying away the bodies of the dead, removing them, but leaving a trace of blood. So much blood. The smell alone is sickening, it is overwhelming. The court keeps its distance, physically away from the slaughter in front of them. I can understand it, if the city was just retaken, I wouldn’t want to be associated in any way with those who are murdered. The Romans stand in their gaggle, looking on passively. They are used to this sort of thing, while I am not. I don’t even want to be.

Finally, one of them approaches the throne and the king, whispering in such a way that I can hear it: “Your Majesty, this should be enough slaughter for the day, wouldn’t you agree? We can’t drown your palace in blood, and the foremost of your enemies were the first led into this place. Simply put the rest to work somewhere, to show some mercy.”

Another man falls in the meantime, while my father remains silent. Oh how I hope that he will just agree to this, that he will stop this. The Pharaoh smiles: “We have decided to extend mercy. These prisoners will not die. They will go to the mines in the Dodekaskoinos instead. But one will not go. Bring in the great prisoner.”

The relief on the faces in front of me is all too clear, but then one prisoner is dragged in, she is dressed in gold and purple, like myself, but her hair is different. It is thin and patchy, almost as though she is balding. She looks like my father, she has the same bulging eyes and appears sweaty. I wonder who she is, but the Pharaoh speaks again.

“Berenice. Daughter of our divine flesh paired with that of the goddess Cleopatra, our sister. You have revolted against your own father, you have betrayed your siblings and your gods. For that, there can be only one punishment. But, our heart remains filled with tender feelings., I see the look on her face, and it is all too clear that this is a lie, “and so, we will not have you, the murderess of your own mother, suffer the tortures that accompany the punishment you deserve. Instead, I will merely have your life taken.”

My sister. She’s my own sister and this madman is going to kill her. Just like all these other people, and for what? The princess looks at me when she replies: “Cleopatra, if you have any wisdom in you, you will kill this traitor with your own hands. He sold all of us to foreigners, he destroyed the kingdom for his own vanity. This lute-player is no true king, no heir of our great forefathers. He is nothing, and soon, when his foreign men are gone, the people will rise up again. Avenge my mortal flesh, sister. Be a goddess like I am.”

I look at her, with wide eyes. I don’t say a word, it would be madness. In a way, I agree with her. I think. My father is a madman, unsuited for the throne. But he is the one in power now, and I think that I am more than a little afraid. The king however interrupts her words: “Silence! Or we will inflict horrors on you that you can scarcely imagine. Bring us her head.”

Berenice is forced to her knees, her head held in place for the axe. But still she shouts: “I curse you, all of you who murder my divine body!”

And then the axe comes down, severing her head. The boy again takes it, but this time, he does not place it with the others. On his knees, he wobbles up the throne, never looking up, but holding out the head with his hands. I watch it approach, bile rising in my throat. I don’t want this, I want it all to stop.

Finally, he reaches the king, who gladly takes the head, turning it around in his hands. The sight is ghastly, but then he turns to face me. “Cleopatra, our divine daughter, I grant this to you as a gift, so you may always know that justice will protect you.”

Hardly noticing what I’m doing, I extend my hands, and the bloody head is placed in them. I don’t want to look at it, but I have to. I mutter: “Thank you.”
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:14 AM   #3

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Chapter 3: In the Purple

The rest of the day passed me in a blur, the petitions, the proclamations. I hardly saw a thing, only poor Berenice’s head, held in my bloody hands. When the court session was finally over, a servant took it from me and I was escorted through these hallways, which should dazzle me with their beauty. But I hardly notice, I only see the blood on my hands.

I don’t know where I’m going, I hardly even know where I am now. I only know that this is the palace. Luckily, I don’t have to walk, I am being carried. In a way, I know that it should make me feel bad, but it fails to do so. I don’t really find it all that unpleasant, I don’t even feel sorry for the carriers. Their walking has a soothing effect, a bit like being on a boat. One of the aspects of being queen that I could like, but soon enough my thoughts wander back to what I just saw.

As I leave the terrible scene behind, I finally manage to get some sort of order into my thoughts, to evaluate my situation. I am a queen, the daughter of a madman who just murdered one of his children, and got away with it. I was basically installed by the Romans, but I don’t know who in specific. What I do know however is that they are the ones who are really in charge, their army took the city, their army captured Berenice. Apparently, Berenice overthrow our father, and our mother died sometime in between. Either killed by her, or from another cause. There is no reason to not blame an enemy for such a thing. She called on me to overthrow the Pharaoh, I think that it would be a good thing, but I don’t dare to. He would murder me.

Instead, I have to think. I have to find out more before I can make a true plan. And most importantly, I have to avoid being brutally murdered. I see armed bald men standing by what looks like a gate, it is opened, and my chair is put down. Four bald men emerge, just like the guards they are tall and have small heads; they pick me up, and carry me through the doorway. It almost seems to be a different world. It is more colourful, even if there is less gold. And, strangely enough, the servants are different as well. More women, and the only men I see have these strangely small, bald heads and long legs. Most of them also seem to be rather fat, except for the carriers of course.

People bow as I pass them, but there is a wariness about them. It makes sense, I think. This palace was just taken by an army, and lots of people, people they might very well know, have been murdered. Finally, I am put down again, and girls approach, they seem shocked. After a few moments I understand, my hands are bloody, as are my clothes. It is downright sickening. They bow: “Holy Majesty, your bath is ready.“

I see one of the women who accompanied me before, looking on from a distance. She presumably is the one giving the instructions here. As I step down, I see a woman who walked behind me all the time. She carries the head on a plate. Immediately, I feel the colour drain from my face again. She bows as well: “Holy Majesty, where should I place this?”

I swallow. I have to say something. But what? If I say that she should take it away, my father could be offended, and I would end up like my sister. But I don’t want it around me all the time; that would drive me crazy. More crazy than I already am that is. These two feelings struggle with each other, but I have to reply, even if it is with a quivering voice. “Stay with me.”

I follow the girls, I could use a bath. Not a warm one though; even though the palace is cool, I still feel warm. But I want to wash, I want to keep washing until there isn’t a hint of all this left on me. I want this blood off my hands. It’s not that it’s blood that sickens me, it’s the memory of what caused it all to flow. I normally wouldn’t believe in curses, I am a scientist, but this is different. I mean, I also can’t explain how I ended up here. Somehow, I am afraid of that as well, but those thoughts are again drowned by the memory of what happened. All the blood.

The bath is not a simple tub, it’s more like a swimming pool. I can see mosaics on the bottom, I guess that they represent goddesses, but I see something else as well. My own reflection. I can’t see much, but I look thin, very thin even. And I can see that I have a round face. The girls remove my clothes, and I gladly step into the water. It’s lukewarm at best, and I find that I like it. Somehow, a hot bath would have been horrible. The water smells of flowers, and I can see red spreading away from me, diffusing away from me. It is an oddly hypnotic sight, and I feel a silly smile on my face.

I force it away. I have to be a strong queen, not a weak one. For a moment, I close my eyes, to think, to let it all flow away. But then it all changes. I feel a touch, on my back. My eyes flare open and I look back, seeing one of the girls. She bows her head: “Holy Majesty? Did I do wrong?”

She is with me, in the water, wearing her long white dress. I feel myself blushing: “Not at all, please, continue. But first tell me, what is your name?”

Her eyes widen, shocked by being spoken to like this. I’m messing up, I should be a cold and harsh queen. Not a friendly one. Not to the staff at least. “Apama, Holy Majesty”

“Have you been here for a long time, Apama?”, I ask, I have to know more. And perhaps this can even be a good thing.

“Yes, divine majesty. I was taken here as a child.”

“And where did you come from?”

“Dioscurias, Holy Majesty. It lies in Colchis.”, she replies softly. Unfortunately, I know neither of those names. Admitting it however could be a mistake, for all I know, it’s the name of a region just outside the city. I should have paid more attention to ancient geography. I might have heard of Colchis before, but wouldn’t know where it would have been. I guess that I can’t really ask about it, that would give away that I know nothing at all. And added to that, it might be painful for her to be reminded of her hometown.

It feels strange, to have someone wash me, but at least I can treat Apama as an actual human being. I can feel myself reacting to her touch, but I can’t. It would be dangerous. And worse, it would be wrong to use my position like that. Instead I just ask: “And how long have you been here?”

“Ten years, Holy Majesty”, she replies, sounding shy. I guess her to be about sixteen or so, so she must have come here as a child. I want to ask about her parents, but I can’t. Something might have happened to them. Or rather, it probably has. The touch on my back feels wonderful, and I feel a tingle spread through my body. The water is amazing, and no trace of the blood remains, diluted away. But in my mind I can still feel it sticking to my fingers.

I feel the sponge moving towards my front, and see Apama in the water with me. She is pretty, she has large dark eyes and black hair tied into a bun. She just wears what appears to be some sort of bikini of some white cloth. I don’t want to look at her, afraid that my eyes might betray something. There are so many questions, but so few that I can actually ask. “Do you have much experience with this?”

“No, Holy Majesty, I do not. Do I displease you?”, it seems like there actually is a hint of fear in her when she gives her answer.

“Not at all, you are doing very well. I was simply curious if you had ever done this before.”, strangely enough, I even see sadness in her poise. Not in her eyes, she keeps them averted, constantly looking down and never stopping her work. Some understanding dawns, she was here already. She must have served Berenice. Almost all the servants here did. Everyone who was even moderately important was taken to the throne room, and the most important of those were murdered. Apama’s predecessor must have been among them. Perhaps she even was her mother. I have to be more careful with what I ask. “Do you have many tasks?”

“My task is to wash you, Holy Majesty. There are no others.”, Apama seems a little calmer now, even as her hands move lower. I look down at myself, I am not at all like I would have imagined the famous Cleopatra. But then again, it could be that there were several, all the kings did have the same name, so why not the queens? It might be an earlier period then. I am thin, skinny even. My skin is pale, stretched around bones and perhaps a little muscle. If I am honest, I have to say that I am far from beautiful, but perhaps it is because I seem to still be a teenager. I look back on those days with dread.

“And I am glad that you do it well. It feels good to be here again.”, she finishes, submerging herself in the water to wash my lower legs and feet. The urge to embrace her is there, she is pretty, but it would be absolutely wrong. When she comes up again, she grasps for air. I don’t really know what to do, so I offer a smile and a few words. “Thank you for your help.”

I look behind me, seeing two other girls standing there with what looks like towels. I suppress a sigh, I will have to submit to it, and leave my nice cool bath behind. It’s strange, normally I always preferred hot baths. But the idea of hotness or warmth alone is something I find abhorrent now. It must be this awful weather. I walk up the steps that go into the bath, leaving Apama behind. She is pretty, and I hope that she will be there again. Even if it is wrong to have people do this for me.

And then I see it again. The poor woman still holding the plate with Berenice’s head. It seems like she is looking at me, but that’s impossible. I feel my stomach clenching, I have to find a way out of this all. The drying is tender, much more so than my usual experience when others dry me. But that might just be my luck. They seem to take extraordinary care with my hair, but still, what I see shocks me. There is a fair bit of hair in the towel, thin blonde hair. More than there should be, and more than there was before. I swallow, they weren’t rough. Perhaps I hadn’t washed in some time, as we travelled?

Afterwards I am dressed, again in purple and gold, even if the patterns are different. The clothes are nice and soft, and relatively cool too. The crown isn’t placed back on my head, in its place, there is a much simpler and lighter diadem. I stifle a yawn, feeling more and more tired from the day. But I don’t want to sleep, I know that I will have nightmares. I need to find something to do.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:15 AM   #4

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Chapter 4: Flutes

Almost immediately, I fall asleep. But it is an unpleasant sleep, I feel hot and constantly awake, despite the best efforts of those who keep waving cool air at me. On one hand, it makes me feel better, warding off at least sime of the heat, but on the other, they are people, human beings who should not have to do so much work for the slight comfort of just one.

By the time that morning has come, I feel even more exhausted. I don't want to rise, but it appears that I don't have a say in such regards. Several women enter, amongst them two of those who travelled with me. They bow, and one speaks: "Holy Majesty, the Pharaoh commands you to rise and attend him."

Immediately I sit up, incapable of banishing the image of those two dead eyes, staring at me all night long. I see them again, wondering for a moment how long it will take for decay to set in. My heart beats faster, I would rather never see that awful man again. But I can't avoid him, I have to be brave.

When I stand up, I feel dizzy. Somehow, servants catch me immediately, as though this is normal. They take cloths dripping with cold water, and wash the sweat away. With that done, I am dressed in purple, and hung with jewelry and my crown. I can feel my face being painted, but can't see what they are actually doing. I will have to trust in their competence.

As soon as I leave the bedroom, the litter is there again. It feels decadent, but I gladly recline as these men carry me. Peculiarly enough, their strange appearance is the only kind of men I have seen beyond the gate to this wing. Given that these are my chambers, they must be eunuchs.

Again I pass through the beautiful hallways of the palace, again going through the gates, but the rest is different. I take in the surroundings, with much more clarity than yesterday. The head hasn't come with me, and that is a true relief. Everyone I pass bows, and all avoid my eyes. So many of them, it is wrong.

Finally there is another set of doors, guarded by men in gilded armour, they are tall and have tall plumes on their helmets. They do not bow, but merely open the doors while bowing their heads. They appear like soldiers, but the appearance is disturbed by the slouchy way they stand. I might not be much of a military person, but even I can see that it's not what a royal guard should be like.

Inside, the first thing I notice are the large windows, overlooking the sea. But my eyes are drawn away from the blue, to the purple garb of the Pharaoh, and the source of soothing music. He is reclining, playing a gilded flute. He actually is good at it, and I start to wonder why Berenice used it as an insult.

At his side, there is a boy, I estimate him to be around eight, but I tend to be horrible at such estimates, so he could be any age really. He looks like my father, and like Berenice, so I guess that he's a brother. Not a very beautiful child, but he has a striking, pointy nose. I resist the urge to touch mine, although I am curious about it.

"Boy.", Father begins, "Where are your manners? You might be a prince, but your queen has just entered."

"She's not my queen. And she's just a girl. I don't bow to a girl, Berenice made me, and she was mean.", he replies, with a hint of anger.

While he speaks, I stand up, even if lying down is so much more comfortable, and I bow to the Pharaoh: "Father."

"Not now. I'm teaching your brother to behave.", he replies before turning back to the boy: "Ptolemy, you are my son, and your sister can tell you that I am loath to hurt my flesh and blood, but don't force my hand."

"Hmf, I don't wanna.", he crosses his arms in determination.

"Son, she is to be your wife, to bear your children and to rule by your side, like she rules by mine. Show her the respect she deserves. You have to live with Cleopatra."

"No. She is stupid, and when I am pharaoh, she will have to do what I want her to do." For some reason, I start to really hate him, and I fear that I can't hide the feeling from my eyes. If only looks could kill, that would be easier than finding a way to poison the brat.

“That’s not how I would say such things“, I reply with more than a hint of hatred in my voice, “I am your sister, and as our father says, I am the queen. Our father is a kind and forgiving man, and he is generous too. Yesterday he gave me a special gift, you should take care that another will not become deserving of such a present.“

My words seem to have some effect, and his large eyes widen, while I see a slight smile forming on the pharaoh’s face. I force myself to smile, saying: “Of course, I would much rather have a sweet brother for to be my husband and king when the time comes.“

Finally, the boy bows his head. I feel bad for making such threats to a child, but I saw no other way. And it seems to be working. Maybe I can spare him after all, after a bit of a re-education. The pharaoh breaks off the conversation: „Good, that’s the spirit. Now, go, I have things to discuss with your sister.“

The relief on my brother’s face is all too clear when he darts off, through the doors and towards what I hope to be tutors, even if they must be terrible to allow such behaviour. I follow him with my eyes, noticing that my carriers have also departed, leaving me alone with the king. His face hardens when the doors close: „Try to be kind to your brother, he has not seen you in years. But that’s not why I called you here.“

“What do you wish to discuss then?”

“Sit down, I know how exhausting it can be to stand all the time.”, I obey, glad to take an easier position. Something is wrong with me, that even standing up for any length of time is too hard. I will have to do something about that. “I am happy that you could come with me, when I was driven into exile, but it was not only the machinations of one traitor that did that. The same people still dwell in this city, they still are the army, and they still work in the palace.”

“So, they have to be reformed.”, I guess, I can’t really think of another solution.

“If we could, it would be perfect. But, as you know, we had to make arrangements to allow us to return here. Expensive arrangements.”

That must point to the Romans, I guess. And if it is called expensive, I guess that we are practically bankrupt. “We need income then, to pay for these?”

“Yes. And our present incomes are not enough. Many people do not like me, I know that all too well. They think that I am a bad king for not standing up to the Romans like they would have wanted. But that would only lead to war, and that in turn would mean defeat, and the end of our whole kingdom. The kingdom that I intend to pass on to you and your brother. And you should pass it on to your children in turn. The only way to do that, is to not fight the Romans, and if it comes at the price of a rebellious island, it is no true price.”

“I understand. There is a reason why one of their armies stands here, and they were not repulsed.”

“Yes. We do not have their strength at arms.”

“But we have our wealth, and we have our lands. Egypt is rich, and it can be strong enough to not be conquered.”

“I would agree, but the people do not love me. And they do not know you.”

“Perhaps they could come to like me, and they would be willing to help with our other needs. Our pecuniary needs.”, I suggest, even though I have the feeling that it might be dangerous.

Father however smiles again: “Yes, that’s what I mean. You learned their language, you might go to these barbarians, and go through their dreadful rites. Your ship will depart when you are ready.”

“I am ready when I must be.”, I say, “but there is one question I have. About the gift you gave me, how should I keep it? I do not want to dishonour you by casting it away, but I fear that it might become putrid.”

“Just have servants strip off the flesh, then it no longer smells.”, the creepy smile returns, the one I saw yesterday.

“I will do that then. Other than that, I should be ready to depart.”

“Excellent. Get to what those old priests keep hidden from us, I know that they have plenty of gold somewhere.”
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:15 AM   #5

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Chapter 5: Canopic

There is something soothing about the movement of my ship on the river. It is big, at least, compared to most of the traffic, all of which moves aside for the galley. It should be easy for everyone to understand that this ship is important, the whole prow is covered in gold, shining brightly in the morning sun. The oars, which are in three layers but which I still have to count, are silver in colour. The carried room I arrived in stands on the deck, but I decided to lie outside, under a canopy of cloth of gold. I want to see my surroundings, this country, and I want to be seen. On the deck, there are a few dozen servants, and the music of a flute sounds continually from below it, in rhythm with the strokes of the oars. They appear to be widely spaced, and I get the idea that part of the rowers might be resting. Behind us, two more ships follow, they are of similar design, but don't have as expensive decorations as mine.
As we pass through the harbour, I see dozens of ships. And this isn't even the great port, which I assume to be in the distance, near the massive tower that must be the lighthouse. It can be seen even over the walls of the city. I'm not much of an expert on walls, but it looks like they have seen better times. There are cracks in the stone and parts are covered by plants.
On every ship we pass, all the passengers and crew bow to me, to my golden ship. On the shores the same happens, and I wonder if I should wave. I guess not, but I can't stop a smile from forming, this feels good. Almost as good as being away from that madman in the palace. 
I always wanted to sail up the Nile, to see Egypt, but I had never imagined it to be like this, with servants waving cool air at me, surrounded by gold and other signs of wealth. And especially not as the queen of Egypt. I wonder when and where this is, I know that the last queen was a Cleopatra, but there were many of them, and she is supposed to be beautiful, quite unlike the present me. It can't be later, but, as there are Romans here, who are very strong indeed, I think that I would either be the direct predecessor, or the one before that.

My thoughts however don't get me much further, especially because the landscape draws all of my attention. There are fields everywhere, and ever more ships, ranging from small boats to massive ships sailing down the river. To Alexandria. I can't take my eyes off them, until I see something in the water. I almost gasp, a hippo. The first time I ever see a nile-horse in the wild. It swims away from my galley, even such a beast knows better than to be in the way of such a vessel.

The journey continues all day long, causing me to wonder how the rowers can keep going, without any breaks in the pace. Nothing disturbs the journey, although I keep looking around, and thinking. Night starts to fall, but not even that slows my journey down, somehow, all three ships keep going, even after I withdraw to my little room, after having finished a dinner of something that looks like a fine paste, cut into the shapes of animals. They all look identical, but each has a different taste, one that I can't quite place, but which I find myself liking. There is a sweet wine that goes with it, but I don't have much, I should prevent brain damage.

The night frightens me, I slept poorly the previous one, and the only thing keeping my fears and thoughts under control was the presence of others. Only, now I no longer am in the palace, amongst the servants. There are only a few with me, and I fear that they will also have to sleep. I wish that I had a larger ship, with the space for people to watch me all night long. I need the idea of people around me.

Despite my fears, I allow myself to be undressed, and put abed for the night. One of the servants places herself on the ground, to stay in case I need her. But she will sleep. I try to force my thoughts to simple things, things that might distract me in some way. But nothing works. Every time I try to focus, I see it all again. The deaths, and everything else. I have to sleep, to escape into oblivion, but I can't catch it, and the harder I try, the more I remember, and the more awake I feel. I hear the beat of my heart, it seems fast, very fast even. I try listening to it, but once I do, once I follow the rhythm, I find that I can't. The timing between the beats is wrong, it keeps changing. And that in turn increases my fear. I touch my throat, it feels moist, and try to feel the beat. It is easy enough, but the frequency remains inconstant.

With a startle, I return to my senses, bathing in sweat. It's so hot, and pieces of images remain in my eyes. Heads. Just heads floating in a sea of blood. Heads with familiar faces, my mother. Each and every one of them is my mother's. Kind and harsh at once, her pleasant voice still echoes in my head. "God's punishment of you is just. You deserve this, sweetie."

Over and over again I hear it, while I try to force the memory away. But it won't go, it only becomes stronger. Until a voice breaks through it all: "Holy Majesty, is something the matter?"

I swallow, my throat feels so dry: "I had a bad dream, that's all."

"We will call a seer tomorrow, Holy Majesty, and he will explain this then. Do you wish for me to write it down?"

Argh. Normally I can get away with just some vague lies. But not now, some charlatan needs the details and for all I know, Father will hear it too. Or they'll use it to predict the future. It will be a bad omen for tomorrow at least. But I don't know if I can refuse. I have to, I need time to think: "That can wait until the morning, for now, I wish to sleep."

"As you command, Holy Majesty. Is there any other way in which I can serve you?"

"Yes, could you get me something to drink? I feel thirsty.', I reply, feeling pangs of guilt.

Mere moments later she gives me a goblet, and I eagerly drink the cool water. For a moment I wonder if it is safe, but it's better than nothing, and it seems unlikely that they would give impure water to the queen. Maybe I should demand all my water to have been boiled first. The water seems to be absorbed by my dry lips and mouth, but it does make me feel better. "Thank you."

She is silent, and for a few moments I wonder if I did something wrong. Maybe I shouldn't have thanked her? Luckily, she soon speaks again: "Is there anything else you wish, Holy Majesty?"

"Yes", I say without thinking, "could you come here, to lie by my side? It is bound to be more comfortable than the ground, and I feel lonely."

I feel myself starting to blush. This is stupid. I should have more self-control, and certainly shouldn't be doing this. Again she is silent, I want to take back my words, to get myself under control. It's wrong to even think of something like this. Finally, hesitating words come, spoken almost as a whisper: "Thank you, Holy Majesty."

The girl lies down next to me, but still at a distance. I don't know what to do, it reminds me of the horror of the slumber parties from when I was a teenager, in bed with other girls, but mortally afraid of showing even a hint of my feelings, my desires, and most of all, what I would do while I would be asleep. I feel the same way now, only there is a second source of shame. I made this happen, with my own empty mind and stupid words. There are plenty of dangers without making more myself.

I turn to my side, facing her. I don't even know her name, or even if I should know it already. It might not be the first time, but that doesn't make it any better. Her breathing is tense, this is far from normal then. I messed up. She is pretty though, from what I can see, with a round face and large dark eyes. And her dark skin is so smooth, it makes me feel that all too common mixture of jealousy and admiration. The urge to put an arm around her rises, but I force it down. I have done enough to mess things up already, and what I just did is simply unacceptable, I shouldn't do anything more.

But still, she has such beautiful lips. It's shocking, I don't even know what my own look like now. I must have looked thoughtful, because she asks: "Is anything the matter, Holy Majesty?"

"Oh no. I'm fine. I was just thinking. Please, make yourself comfortable and go to sleep."

"Yes, Holy Majesty.", She shifts a little, and closes her eyes, leaving me with my thoughts. I feel lost, even my body isn't mine anymore. Even when I couldn't do anything in the hospital I wasn't this alienated. I don't know anything about my body, except for the little that I have seen. I wouldn't even know my face from that of a stranger. I presume that I look like my relatives, but that's far from something hopeful or good. But at least I'm not fat, quite the contrary. I don't even know how old I am. At least a teenager judging by my body, and younger than Berenice was. But that's all I know, all I can be certain of.

Again I feel hungry, I almost always am, but I think that I have to be careful with my food. I might be skinny, but I can't build up bad habits. Even if I could do with some chocolate, preferably in the form of ice cream. And I remember. This is Egypt, at least fifteen hundred years before America will be reached. At least fifteen centuries before chocolate. I am no longer home. This is no game, this is reality. I am in another world, one without all the things I care for. A tear wells up, no longer restrained by anything.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:16 AM   #6

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Chapter 6: Djedefre's Starry Sky

The next day the journey continues, and I start to get horribly bored. After some time, I start getting the feeling that I've seen everything there is to be seen, everything looks the same. For the return trip, I will demand something to read. They are bound to have something in the towns, and I would honestly consider going for bad poetry, everything is better than the boredom. I was told that a priest will be brought aboard at the next port, where supplies will also be taken on, which at least gives me some time to work on a dream.

Suddenly, I notice something on the horizon, a dune rising from the desert, but without curvature. It is angled, and almost immediately I know what it is. The thing everyone associates the most with Egypt. A pyramid. It is beautiful, even if it looks like the top is missing. Perhaps it has partially collapsed. Some time later, more come within view, all on what to me is the right side of the Nile. More and more branches come together, and the river becomes ever wider. It doesn’t look like the river is flooded though, there are fields by the side, filled with growing crops. If my mind doesn’t fail me, this means that it isn’t summer, despite the awful heat.

Finally, the ships move to the shore, near a walled town of some sort. It looks like the whole local population has been gathered there, and they bow once they see me. I decide to stand up, despite the exhaustion that hasn't left me during the terrible night. I have to look like I care.

Men quickly move amphoras, and carry on new ones. The amount of water that will be needed for the rowers alone will be enormous. The same happens on the other ship, with the exception that a man in white steps from one of them, and heads towards mine. He is led towards me, and a man declares: "Lysimachos, the priest of Apollo Loxias approaches!"

I turn towards the priest who immediately bows: „Holy Majesty, I was told that you desire my services?“

"Yes. I do."

A moment later, I am back at my usual resting place, surrounded by servants, and the priest. He asks: "I beg of you, so I may use the wisdom granted to me by my studies in the temple of the Delphic Apollo, tell me what you saw in your sleep, Holy Majesty."

I take a sip of water before I reply, ordering my thoughts. "I saw an elephant, flying through the sky. From this elephant, blood rained down on the earth, and wherever it hit, plants withered and rotted, animals died and turned to bone. And the same happened to people."

Lysimachos pulls his beard, looking thoughtful. "The elephant’s blood can be split into to parts, the first of pity, the second of appearing. So the elephant is the appearance of pity or compassion. It flies, so it is over the lands, meaning that all experience this appearance of pity. But, the pity is harmful, it is too large, as is shown by the elephant. That causes suffering to spread. Holy Majesty, I believe that that is what your dream means. You must not let the pity of your womanly heart overcome your queenly duties, or disaster will follow."

I feel a little relieved, this looks like enough of a safe interpretation to me. I nod: "Thank you for easing the burden on my heart."

A short while later, the small fleet departs again, and the priest has also left. I fear that he might send a message to Alexandria, but there is little that I can say. I will have to think of more dreams in advance, just in case. There is no reason to not do so.

With the music of the flutes the galley keeps going, until the sun starts to go lower again. We pass by many small towns and hundreds of villages, but then I see something else. A city. Not as large as Alexandria, but with white walls and tall obelisks rising above them, along with other structures. The architecture is completely different from that of Alexandria, and it almost breathes age. At the walls, I can see tiny people, presumably looking on at my arrival. I sit upright, feeling the servants applying fresh colours to my face. I must look perfect here, even though I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Hopefully, I will be given an explanation.

The rowers seem to slow down as we approach the port, and the other two ships pass mine, racing for the shore. I see men on the decks, armed men with helmets glittering in the sun. They dock first, around where I suppose I will have to get off, and the men march off, forming up around the central pier. It is busy, I see men dressed in white there, some of them around what looks like another litter, coated in blue and gold, with a chair, so I will have to sit up. The armrests are shaped like winged sphinxes, which flow into the back. There is no covering, so I will be in the full sunlight. The soldiers form up around it, presumably to protect me. I don’t know if the priests here are loyal to Berenice, so I will have to be careful.

As the galley touches the shore, I can hear cheering and music. This is a festive occasion then. I briefly wonder how much it will cost, because the debt situation is rather horrible. But maybe the priests are paying for this. I stand up, walking towards the plank that is readied for me. Naturally, I try to stride, to look important and confident, unlike how I am feeling. I feel my heart clench, I can’t mess up, I can’t ruin this.

The moment I step onto the ancient stones, I see them bow. All of them, thousands and thousands of people, all going to their knees before me. I force myself to smile, to at least appear happy. But not too much, I don’t want to look like some sort of fool. It is frightening, so many eyes on me. This is different from a conference presentation, here people actually pay attention to me, instead of sitting there, pretending to listen while waiting for food. Here, I am the main attraction.

I go slowly, heading for the nearby chair. Several bald men, dressed in white and gold, and wearing ornate headpieces, bow their heads as they stand up. The man who I assume to be their leader, he stands in the middle wearing a panther skin and what looks like a wig with a side lick, speaks solemnly: "Holy Majesty, we welcome you to this ancient city. We take great joy in standing in your radiant presence, o goddess."

He speaks Greek, of course he does, Father essentially said that he doesn't speak Egyptian, but I do. I guess that I can, I could read the hieroglyphics. I can even formulate the words in my head, even though I never knew more than a few very basic things. It takes mere moments before I decide to reply in the tongue of this land: "We are most pleased by the sight of this great city and the faithfulness of its people."

A gasp passes through the crowd, and I notice a hint of shock on the faces of the welcoming committee. Good, that should give me an advantage. It is silent for a few moments, until one of them, an old man with very bushy eyebrows asks with some hesitation, in Egyptian: "Divine Majesty, may we address you in the tongue of the gods?"

"Your doing so would bring great pleasure to our heart," I reply, feeling some sort of confidence, but also the all too familiar self-loathing.

The central one, who is a bit younger, around thirty-five I'd say, and rather short, just a little taller than I am continues: "Divine Majesty, we beg of you, grant us the honour of your presence in the holiest and greatest of the temples of Ptah, the creator."

"We would gladly enter the temple of the great god," I reply, hoping that I haven't mixed up my mythology.

"We humbly beg Your Divine Majesty to seat yourself, so your loyal servants may bear you into the home of the god," he declares, looking at my feet. No one looks into my eyes I notice, as though it's not allowed. Not in public at least.

Naturally, I do as they ask, I sit down on the throne. It is awfully decadent, but it's better than having to walk. It is well-made, I have to admit that, but I get the feeling that it's rather old, even though it is well-maintained. The wood creaks as I am lifted up by a dozen strong men, but the sound is drowned out by the music of flutes and drums.

They carry me up a slope, rising towards the walled city, which lies high above where the river should rise in the summer. As I come closer to the actual city, I hear more and more cheering, which soon almost drowns out the music. The few soldiers don't look like they're at ease, they won't have a great opinion of the natives. But they are important, they must still form the vast majority of the population, and that means that that's where my chance lies. Even if I am Greek.

By my side, the priests walk, along with musicians, soldiers, and what look like lesser priests. We pass through a white gate, which gleams in the sun. From atop it, flowers are thrown, adding to the festive atmosphere. I knew that royalty is important, but this seems like it is a bit much really.

Inside the city, I can see many simple houses, but everything that faces the wide street is painted white, or with simple figures. Ahead, I can see a massive building, with two obelisks by a large doorway. The roofs are filled with people, as are the sides of the road, which actually is paved. My carriers slow down, slowly passing the crowds. I smile at them, looking at the people, rich and poor. But mostly poor. They bow at the moment I pass, and they cheer. This must be a true spectacle for them, even if I don't know how to react, so I remain as I am, sitting, smiling and looking. It is hot in the sun, I can feel it burning in my skin and the sweating worsens. I start to long for the inside again, even if I don't allow myself to show my discomfort. I will have to force myself to get used to this, even if it's far from pleasant.

Finally, after what seems to be an eternity in the centre of attention, I am carried up the marble steps of the temple, and into the shadow of its gates. I am lowered to the ground, and the priests again kneel in front of me. The wigged high priest speaks again: "Divine Majesty, as the Greatest of the Masters of the Craftsman it is my honour to invite you to enter the temple of Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertem to unite your divine glory with theirs."

I assume that this is my cue to follow them, and I stand up. The priests rise, one of them, one carrying a golden staff, remains facing me, the others move to the sides. As I step forwards, the staff-bearer walks backwards and the others fall in behind me. After we pass under the gates, which are carried by statues of what look like kings, I hear a soft commotion behind me. Strangely enough, it's in Greek.

When I turn around, I see the leader of my guard arguing with some priests who are apparently trying to prevent his entrance, and that of his men.

"What is the meaning of this?" I demand.

All of them speak through each other, clearly offended. "The captain of my guards will speak first."

"Thank you, Holy Majesty, your father, the king, gave us the command to never leave you, and so we must follow. And now these barbarians are stopping us," He speaks quickly, and not just with anger. There also is a hint of fear.

"And why are these men stopped?", I ask next.

"Divine Majesty, your guards are not inducted in the mysteries, and only those who have been ordained, who have said the prayers, and who have made the sacrifices may pass through the doors of the Temple-South-Of-His-Wall."

Darn. I either have to insult my guards, or I have to insult the priests. I think for a few moments, if the priests want me dead, the few guards can't save me. And so the decision is made. "My father intended for you to accompany me to this place, and to accompany me when I go outside, where threats may lurk. This is a temple, and none will dare to bring violence into the home of such an ancient god. I ask of you, to await my return here, to rest from your journey until your services are needed again."

He bows his head, even if some anger remains: "As you will it, Holy Majesty."
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:16 AM   #7

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Chapter 7: The Chamber of Tutu

The shade of the temple is comforting, it is much darker than outside, and when the great doors are closed behind me, it almost becomes hard to see, despite all the lamps around me. The cheers can no longer be heard, and instead I hear a droning sound of singing voices, but the words remain indistinct. I keep following the backwards-walking priest, feeling a little afraid. I don't know what is to happen, only that it's secret.

After what feels like minutes we reach another chamber, with painted walls in the Egyptian style. Some of the gods are easy to recognise, just like figures representing kings. They are shown making sacrifices, passing decrees, and once even striking down a man. Curiously enough, no queen is shown.

I hear something like the ringing of dozens of small bells, and enter behind my guide, feeling a little amazed that he manages to walk this whole way backwards without ever even looking. Once inside, I can't stop myself and look around. At the wall behind me, there are women, about a dozen. Some of them are shaking metal, I would guess bronze, hoops with rings around them, the sources of the sounds, and all of them intone prayers. The air is heavy with incense, making it a hard to breathe. I never liked the smell, but I can't really complain to anyone.

I start to feel thirsty, almost wishing to be back on the ship, if it weren't for the striking beauty of this place. I have the feeling that I should already know what will happen, what I'm supposed to do, but frankly, I don't have a clue.

There is a strange structure in the middle of the room, like a bed resting on the legs of what looks like a bull. But it is slanted, with a plank at one end, and what looks like a small, but soft, table on the other. One oft the women bows: "Holy Majesty, we beg you, position for rest, for taking of augurs."

I do feel tired, not that that says anything, I constantly feel tired. I can hardly sleep, but still, I want nothing more than some rest. But then it strikes me, the priestess used Greek. She doesn't know yet. I reply in Egyptian as I lie down: "I am ready."

I suppress a smile at her startled reaction. At the same time, I feel a little sorry. She is so young, and doesn't seem too intelligent even. Hence the poor Greek. But still, she seems to hold an important position. I look closer, she's barely a teenager! What is wrong here? She shouldn't be taking such a role. But then I remember. The positions in the priesthood were inherited. I'm lucky that none of the important roles are in the hands of a toddler.

The air is heavy, filled with incense. I close my eyes, it seems that I have to sleep. It seems a little strange, but one never knows. If only it was allowed to sleep through services in church, that would have been so much better. I hear them all leave, the chanting and ringing die away, leaving me all alone. I can't resist the temptation, and open my eyes, to take in my surroundings. I always loved to see pictures of this style, and of course, often went to various museums to see them. But this is different. There might not be very much light, but still I see the beautiful paintings on the wall. As though they were made only yesterday. I take in the scenes, all the kings and their triumphs. The moment is disturbed by one little thing, I feel my stomach growl, and I wasn't given any kind of food.

I don't understand, one moment, I was all alone in the painted room, in the sparse light of the lamps, and now I am, I don't know where I am. It is light, in a way, but still I can't see far, all the light is blocked by a thick dark fog. But around me, everything is clear. There is no sound, not even that dreadful singing. I can't even hear my heart or my breathing. Nothing at all. I look down, and hear my first sound, a scream. My scream. It comes before I even understand what I see. My body. It's gone. Or, rather, it's wrong. Horribly wrong. I see feathers, and looking further down. No. The legs of a bird. I turn, to get a better look. Am I a bird? No. That's impossible. But, I can feel it. I stretch my arm, or what should be my arm at least. I see a wing, covered in white feathers. What's wrong with me? This can't be acid or anything, I took nothing at all, and even then, I wouldn't see this. This makes no sense. A dream? That has to be it, but I've never felt, well, this thoughtful in one. Of course, I've read about lucid dreaming, but this feels different. Or maybe I finally succeeded in it? This simply can't be real. But then again, being an ancient Egyptian queen also doesn't seem that realistic. But even then, compared to this that at least is completely sane.

Unsure of what to do, I move my arms. I don't know how they should work. I don't fall, but nothing changes, until I bring them back to my sides. Suddenly, my surroundings change.

I stand in a chamber of gold, surrounded by hundreds of gold-faced figures. I look at them, at the cloth that flutters in the soft breeze. They don't move, but they watch. They look at me, through dead painted eyes. I know that they do. I can feel the stares. They scare me, and I look down. No longer a bird, I am me. The real me, dressed in white. I hate wearing white, it just doesn't fit with my skin, but here I am, with shaking legs and weak knees.

Again I hear the ringing of bronze on bronze, and a figure appears, at the far end of the room. On top of a staircase. It's a woman, but also not a woman. She wears a long red dress, even though her belly is uncovered. The skin seems to radiate, but my attention is drawn to her headpiece. It looks like a tube, red as blood. On the top, it splits into two curls. I don't know how it remains balanced in place, it just stands on her head, on her beautiful black hair.

And she beckons me, with her hand. Without a word, I know that I have to obey. Somehow, I don't feel the ground, I feel nothing at all. I walk up the stairs, or rather, I glide, glad to leave the dead eyes behind. I don't dare to look back, and instead follow the woman. If she isn't more than just a human, she is bewitching in her beauty, and I can't look away.

I blink, and her body turns into a stone, a brick, while her head remains and she keeps going forward. I however stop, refusing to believe my eyes. Somehow, she turns around, looking into my eyes. Her face remains serene as she speaks: "Daughter of drowned lands, do you not know? Have time and distance wrought such destruction? Follow, and everything will be illuminated. Do not linger in the passage of birth, it brings great pain to my heart."

Her voice, it is magical, beyond any I have ever heard, pure and filling. I want to say something, but can't. I only obey, and follow, convinced that all sanity has left me. After some more steps, she is human again, walking but never touching the ground.

The hallway ends, and my guide disappears. She just isn't there anymore. One moment she was, and the next she wasn't. Above me I can see the stars, below me, the ground looks like it is made of crystals, endless crystals, scattering the light all around them. It is endless, stretching as far as I can see. There is no sign of life, no clouds, nothing at all. Just me, the crystals and the sky. I kneel down, looking. The crystals are large, if they were protein that is. They would be small for everything else. I see them, knowing the familiar and oh so elusive shapes. There is no sound, not even a crunch as I kneel, until there is a sound like thunder, and I am blinded by light. I raise my hands, to shield my eyes, but the radiance passes right through them and my eyelids. It is like looking into the sun, and there is no escape from the light.

But despite that, I see shapes, dark, like an oasis of respite. They seem human, in a way. But I can't see clearly. I hear voices, echoing through my head. The first is deep and fatherly: "Rise, scholar."

The second is a growl: "Rise, harlot."

But I can't, I can't move as more and more voices add their commands: "Rise, daughter."

"Rise, scribe."

"Rise, virgin."

"Rise, conqueror."

"Rise, unbeliever."

"Rise, priestess"
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:17 AM   #8

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Chapter 8: Passing through Duat

Rubbing my eyes, I force myself to my feet. I feel heavy, much heavier than normal, but at least I get the idea that I can see. Just vague shapes in a far too bright world. For the first time, I feel something below me, the ground touching my bare feet. It feels like sand, but it’s not burning hot like it so often is at the beach. “Who, who are you?”

“We are those who are present in the world. We are the foundations of all that is. We are the order that pervades. We are justice.”, the booming voice replies. It comes from right in front of me, from the roughly human shape there. My whole surroundings smell like incense, that awful sickening smell.

My head is still spinning, and I struggle to keep myself coherent. Despite that, I have to continue, to find out what this all is. “You are gods?”

A woman replies: “In a way. We are those who are, who have been, and who will be.”

“But we have dreamt”, another adds, “and we saw our blessed land, bowing to the worship of foreign gods.”

“The Black Ground taken from us, from the proper rituals of our worship.”

“The ka of Kesmet fades, to be ridiculed by foreigners.”, the growl adds.

“And with it, we are no more.”

They must be gods then, there is no other explanation. Or, actually, there is one. I am going crazy. It might explain this quite well. I am mad, and all of this is just a hallucination. I try to focus my thoughts, it’s useless if I just lose myself to my mind, and forget my surroundings. Gods. Actual gods. It explains how I got here at least. And that I should be very careful. “I understand. Were you, ehm, were you the ones who brought me here?”

“Your ka was called, to serve.”, the growling voice replies, “Your heart is heavy with sin and evil. You deserve to be devoured, purged from the mortal and the immortal worlds.”

“But that was not decided.” the fatherly voice adds, “You bear wisdom within you, besides your evil. Wisdom that is needed.”

“You were chosen, daughter of a priest.”, a woman cuts in, “You must be the queen. Do not fail, you may still be devoured.”

“But, how?” I ask. “I’m just a girl.”

“Do not make us doubt.” The growl becomes fiercer, almost hateful. I feel fear well up in me, but somehow remain standing as I was. “You were chosen, and you will perform your task, or you will feed Ammit.”

I have no clue what he’s referring to, but it sounds bad. Better not to ask more about that. “I, ehm, I will do my best. I promise. But, could you do a little something to help out?”

“This task was set to you”, a higher-pitched woman replies, “And it is for you to complete it.”

“You are Cleopatra, you are the queen of Upper and Lower Egypt. That alone must suffice.”

I want to deny it. It isn’t enough. I need some sort of help. But I find that I don’t have the courage to go against them. In fact, I start having the idea that they are rather unpleasant beings, making me live like this. “I understand. But why did you bring me here? I mean, to this place and time, meeting with you.”

“So you may know that you were called. That you must serve.”

“And that you may never fail.”

“And do not choose death, it will offer no relief, you will be devoured.”

I swallow, feeling the little bit of courage that I had gathered fade again.

“Be the queen. Show our people the way, and you will be rewarded. You will be one of us.”

The last words echo through my head as I feel myself waking up. Something is wrong. My head feels like it is about to burst open, my eyes are on fire, and there is this terrible noise in my ears, like a whistle that never stops. I try to think, but it’s hard. Harder than it used to. I just can’t focus, my thoughts keep turning to all sorts of things. Things that I honestly didn’t know that I knew. Faces, connected with names. But I shouldn’t know them. I don’t know them. Animals too, ones that I was unfamiliar with.

I want to shout, to scream, to make noise. But I don’t dare to. I’m in the temple, in this room. All alone. I have to endure this night, to be the true queen. Argh, I want to think, I have to make a plan. They want me to, and those thoughts alone frighten me. Was it even real? Or am I simply insane, or did the incense go to my head? It almost has to be. There are no gods. The world won’t make sense with them. But then again, it also doesn’t make any sense that I ended up here.

It’s still dark, and I presume that it’s still night. I can’t have slept for very long, but I feel too awake to stay resting. My body might be weak, but I can’t sit still. I stand up, and start to walk through the room. Things make more sense to me now, I know all the figures somehow, I know their meaning, the individual gods and ancient kings. As I walk, my head starts to feel better, the pain subsides, and I can think. I try to make a plan, but suddenly, I find that things become more and more difficult. Names race through my head, ones that are familiar, but which I’d swear that I never knew at all. Always when I try to focus, there are more. More people to take into account if I ever want to make a plan. Why is this so complicated?
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:17 AM   #9

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Chapter 9: Off the Bed of Dreams

In the distance, I hear voices. It must be almost day then, but I fear that I’m not yet ready to face them, or anyone for that matter. I need some time on my own, more than some actually. I have to put some order to my thoughts, I’m not a computer where you can just put things in and it will cope. I’m a human being. Or at least, that’s what I thought. I’m not so certain anymore. I have all these things in my head, facts, and more. Facts are easy. They are just knowledge, there is no emotional baggage to them, nothing at all. Just naked knowledge, the kind that I have always liked.

But this is different. I have started to remember things. Things that I can’t know. Memories of places I have never been, people I have spoken to, but have never seen. I wish that I could shut it out, but I can’t. I remember more and more. It works its way into my consciousness, worming through my thoughts. I need to focus, but I can’t, my head is filled with distractions. I blink, and I see fragments in front of my eyes. Foreign streets, strange places. I see things I wish I would never see, and tears well up again. This is too much. I can’t stand it, the smells, the sights, the sounds.

The singing comes closer, I have to do something about this. I can’t be seen as some wreck. If only I had a mirror, then I could do something about my face. Not much, but now everything feels smeared by the tears and sweat. I feel my hair, and quickly move it into some semblance of order. I have to be presentable. I don’t want anyone to know what I saw. What I still see. All these awful memories that aren’t mine. That can’t be mine.

With my hair a little straighter, I sit perfectly upright. Waiting. I focus on my breathing, it has helped me before, to calm myself before speaking to people. Breathing in and out, the sole focus of my mind. Slowly, I regain some measure of control, and close my eyes for a moment, putting a smile on my face, and into my eyes. I touch my lashes with the tips of my fingers, breathing a few more times. Finally, I move them to my sides, seeming what I must be. Happy and calm, even if I am neither.

I open my eyes, forcing myself to not look at the entrance. There is no need for that, I am supposed to be the queen. They can come to me, even if I would rather be polite. I can’t. I have to be regal and arrogant, it’s what is expected of me. Somehow, I know that too. The newcomers bring more light with them, and it burns through my head, as though it will split open. I need water, at the very least. At long last, there is a voice, a woman’s: “Divine Majesty, we bow to you, and beg that you will receive these offerings of bread and water.”

Finally, I turn to face them. It is a group of women, some of them carrying bowls, others carry candles, and others still carry cloth packages. The speaker however carries nothing. All of them are on their knees, and look up towards me. I still smile and reply: “We thank you for your hospitality, and will gladly partake of bread and water.”

Speaking hurts a little, my throat is far too dry. I also have to go to the bathroom, but unfortunately don’t really see an opportunity for that. Instead, I push my legs together, hoping for the best. But at the very least, I can finally drink a little. Only when the cup reaches my lips and the first water feels like it’s absorbed by them does a thought rise in my head. What if it’s poison?

It doesn’t matter. If it is, I am doomed anyways, and I cannot just refuse to eat and drink. It would only kill me faster than any poison would. But I have to get a taster. I should have one. Or multiple. But, they wouldn’t taste the poison, and just end up dying later, alongside me. It’s not like they would just drop dead after the first bite. That isn’t how it works.

My mind wanders again, and I focus, drinking a little more of the water. A bit too eagerly, the cup is drained. I should show more control. I take some bread, the loaf is shaped like a man, and is quite heavy for its size. It is rather thick, not very airy or fluffy, and tastes very nutty. It’s still warm, and given the texture, I suspect that it becomes hard and crusty very fast. Which I somehow also already knew. I feel like hitting my head, but that would look wrong. Instead, I just keep eating.

Earlier, I felt hunger, but now I feel how bad it actually is. I have to force myself to eat calmly and slowly, I want to devour the bread. At the same time, I feel a little sick, sick with hunger. Somehow, I think that I manage to hide it all, but I can’t be sure of that. All I know is that no one gives any sign of knowing. But, that could also just be because they aren’t supposed to show anything.

When I am finished, most of them bow and leave, and only one woman stays. The leader of this group, the speaker. “Divine Majesty, it is my honour to hear your words for the portents to be read by the Cheriheb. How did the Ba travel while you came awake?”

Somehow, I have some idea about what she means. She asks about my dreams. I remember that I should have said a prayer before sleeping, which I naturally didn’t. Having no clue about it. And of course, my ancestors probably also didn’t, and just made up a few things. Which I will also have to do. I remember a few things about omens, and so I begin: “I dreamt that I soared in the form of an eagle, flying over the sea, before reaching the coast. I could see the land approaching, with the widely-branching river. I followed it, seeing the cities and ships. I went further and further south, passing fortresses too, before turning around, and landing on a pyramid-shaped stone.”

The woman nods attentively, I still don’t know her name, but she does seem important. I don’t know what my predecessors made up, because they were bound to do that. Unless they actually believed in prophecy. I am doubting it, but don’t dare to tell the truth. I’m not that insane. At most, I’m just hallucinating all this.

“What did you see, Divine Majesty?”

“I can’t explain it, or even describe it. But I saw that the land had changed from when I flew over it before. From what I have seen on the ship here. There were more ships, and not only those carrying goods. There were great ships with wheels by their sides, where the grain was taken to be crushed. There were other ships as well, ships of war driven by many oars. There were so many things, and there was a voice, speaking in a way that almost was beyond me.”

She looks confused, but notes down what I’m saying. I think that I should have left out the voice, in hindsight. “What did the voice say?”

“You are Cleopatra. And to you I grant this land, its enemies will not prevail against you.”
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 01:18 AM   #10

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Chapter 10: Two Powerful Ones

After taking down what I told her, the priestess departs, to be replaced by another pair dressed in white linen. One of them is just a girl, at most she’s twelve, and the other looks like she’s her mother. They both bow deeply, before the older one speaks: “Divine Majesty, we beg of you, accompany us for the final cleansing.”

I suppress a shiver, the word final puts a doubt in me. I don’t recall anything about sacrifice or anything like that, but one never knows. It’s better to be careful, even if I don’t think that my father will have me murdered. Not yet at least, but he will do it should I prove dangerous. I might have to be first then. Hopefully, I will manage to do it, or to have someone do it for me. That would be better, I don’t want to take too much in the way of risk.

But despite my thoughts, I stand up, following the two. It makes me aware of just how young I am, only just fourteen. I try to remember recent events, which I somehow know now. Caesar is in Gaul, and has been there for a few years now. That means that I have at most six years before the civil wars start. Probably less than that. But at least Crassus is still in Rome, so there is some time left.

As soon as we leave the room, more priestesses join, singing and playing instruments. The smell of incense washes over me, and I start to feel weak again. I hate that smell. But still, I walk, I wish that I could be carried, that’s so much more comfortable, at least it’s not sunny inside. We reach something like a courtyard, and as soon as I am outside, I can feel the heat. It’s downright terrible. The sun hasn’t been up for that long, I am still in the shadow, but it is warm. I can see it burning on the walls, and if it would have been later, it would have been burning on the sand of the floors. There are statues at the wall, and engraved and painted writings. They are all about purity, purification, and cleanliness. I merely glance at them, my eyes are drawn to the centre. There are basins, and one in particular stands out. It is made of black granite, set with gold and what looks like blue glass. More priestesses stand next to it.

I quickly look around, and relax a little. There are no eunuchs or men around. I can do this. The two who accompanied me pull off my clothes, leaving me almost naked here, in front of all these strangers. Luckily, it’s something that I am at least a little used to.

“O Divine Majesty”, a priestess starts, “we invite you to wash off the impurities of the world, to be cleansed for the presence of the gods.”

Naturally, I walk forwards, towards the basin, wearing only my sandals. I can feel the eyes on me, on my thin body. I know that I’m ugly, a freak almost. But given my age, that doesn’t say too much. I myself also changed significantly. But still, I feel the looks, the silent judgement. This will be a topic, like in the dressing room at school. I always hated that, the other girls, looking at me, while I tried to avoid looking, and of course, hoped to avoid showing any kind of sign of myself.

This is different in a way. They hold power over me, but I also hold a power over them. Not over the collective. I can’t do anything to the institutions of the priesthood. But if I ever manage to take the throne for myself, then each and every individual is but an insect. They already are. If I tell my father that one of them insulted me, she will lose everything. It feels strange, they know it. They judge, but at the same time, they fear. They fear my words, my position. But most of all, they fear my father. He started his return with blood, and that must already be known here. He killed his own flesh and blood. Such a man doesn’t hesitate when it comes to others.

When I reach the basin, I am helped from my sandals, while priestesses sing, play music and dance around me. It must be quite a spectacle for observers. I am helped into the water, it’s a little warm, but not too unpleasantly. They lower me, luckily, I don’t weigh too much, but it’s deep, and I shiver when it reaches my lower parts, I always hate that, and I sink a little deeper before touching the bottom. It is clean, very clean even, and I almost feel bad for polluting it with my presence. But that’s the point I guess. I shouldn’t be smelly and sweaty.

I don’t want to go deeper, but feel a slight force on my shoulders. I have to, and so, I go through my knees, slowly, I can’t do it quickly or I’ll scream. Or so my body tells myself. It brings a slight smile to my face, I know that it’s not true. In fact, I generally find that going quickly is better, just like with band-aids, only, no one ever does it. Only my head remains above the surface, and the priestess speaks again: “Divine Majesty, you must be fully submerged.”

I swallow, knowing how short of breath I am, but I close my eyes in preparation. After a deep breath, I allow myself to be pushed under. I feel a sudden fear. What if this is a trap? What if they try to drown me? I can’t trust them. I can’t trust anyone. But then I am pulled up again, not hearing much at first, only vaguely that they are chanting. I would kill for a Q-tip, my ears itch on the inside, but I can’t get them here.

A little later, I stand on the sand again, into fresh sandals and wearing pure white linen. I was washed, and now I am here. I don’t wear a crown however. None at all. It seems that I knew quite little about the Egyptian rituals, as though it was never considered to be important. That will have to change. I need the people, if I want to avoid what happened. I remember the night all too well. The words, the commands. It almost has to be at least a little bit real. And that has enormous implications. I could use help, but can’t count on it. And how is it possible that gods with actual power allowed such things to happen. Unless, of course, unless they don’t actually have that much in the way of power. Or worse, they were struggling with other gods, which means that I have to be very careful.

Dressed in white, accompanied by the singing and music, I head back into the temple complex. Once the doors open, priests join the procession, and the high priest, the one with the strange haircut, who I now know for sure to be the Sem Priest of Ptah, the high priest, walks by my side, or rather a little bit behind me. He seems a little nervous, he must have been told about my dream. And that means that I made a mistake. I went too far. I shouldn’t have said anything about being destined to rule, to be invincible. Or, perhaps, perhaps I should just talk to him. Start working on getting some support, so I can be rid of the knife on my throat.

I barely listen to the chanting, constantly remaining in thought. And, of course, observing people. Who looks important, who seems to be close to whom. All the things that are actually important. Not the religious chanting, the empty words and gestures. None of them truly matter. It’s about what they hide. For a moment I wonder if any of these priests have ever been in contact with the gods, they would say so, but I can’t know it.

We reach another set of gates, and a far smaller party continues. Somehow, they are the ones who seem to be of a higher rank. Only one of the priestesses remains, the one who spoke to me earlier. It only strikes me now, but she has a really wide mouth, it looks a bit strange, and far from pretty. Especially because she has such awfully small teeth. More like those of a child than of an adult. She speaks softly: “Divine Majesty, he who is great at directing the crafts begs you to come to hear his words, I shall, if it pleases Your Holiness, accompany you.”

I don’t fully understand, it might have been a bit silly of me to start speaking Egyptian while I don’t know everything yet. Especially where titles are concerned. But I presume this person who wants to talk to me to be an important priest of Ptah. “We shall hear his words.”

Two more gates later, more of the priests leave, and I am left with the three priests who welcomed me the day before. Not even the priestess remains with us. I presume that she isn’t important enough to be allowed to witness this.

One of them, the old man, opens another set of doors, made of bronze and gold. He bows deeply to whatever is inside, as do the other two. I however don’t follow their example. I don’t recall having to bow to any kind of god. I am the daughter of the king, and soon to be the queen. I simply stand there, until they move again. Then I enter.

The room is vividly painted, and in the center, there is a small statue, around two feet tall. Made of solid gold. I recognise who it depicts, Ptah. This is the heart of the temple, the secret place where none may ever come who have not been initiated. And me. The high priest starts to speak from behind me: “It is the king who sent me, O great god who created the land. I present your daughter, the goddess Cleopatra who is beloved of her father. The great lady of perfection, sacred image of her father, excellent in council.”

He then turns his words to me: “O Divine Majesty, great one. Let me initiate you into the presence of your father Ptah, creator of all that is.”

From the corners of my eyes, I notice that the other two are on their bellies, prostrating themselves. The Sem priest remains behind me, invoking: “O greatest of the craftsmen! O Ptah! Behold, your daughter, the pure one, the father loving and brother loving goddess, the lady of the land, the manifest goddess, great queen of the upper and lower lands, the divine Cleopatra. May she live forever.”

The final bit stirs a hope in me, perhaps... I feel something being placed on my head. It’s light, but I can’t see it. I only see hints of gold above my eyes, but I can’t see it clearly. The three priests now say in unison: “I worship your majesty with the chosen words, with the prayers that increase your prestige.”

I realise that I have to say something, but not even the new memories give any hint. I fear that my predecessors just mumbled something here, or didn’t even understand. As far as I know, none of them even spoke the language. But I can’t stay silent. I have to make an impression: “I am Cleopatra. The queen of Upper and Lower Egypt. I am the daughter of the god Ptolemy and the goddess Cleopatra. I will bring order where there is chaos, both within, and outside the borders. I shall erect temples for the worship of the true gods, shall defend the customs of the land, and bring prosperity to all. I shall heed the words that you have sent me, and will strengthen the kingdom.”
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