The sunset sat in the sky as the dry desert wind blew gently. The splendor of the Pharaoh’s palace stood majestically like a mighty oak tree on an apple plantation, from the towering heights of its marble balcony which overlooked the entire city and the palace courtyard which stretched to eternity, which made the noise of children playing in the street and the busy Egyptian market sound like a fading dream giving way to consciousness of a waking dreamer.
Atum was the youngest prince in the palace; his mother was the last of the Pharaoh’s wives. She was a princess given to the Pharaoh from the house of the king of Babylon as a peace exchange after both nations suffered many years of wars and bloodshed. Deciding to be allies was nothing but a sheer relief clothed in the stunning fabric of a miracle.
Amunet, as she was renamed according to Egyptian custom, was indeed the epitome of the beauty of peace. She was fondly called the envy of the Nile because her beauty was best described as unearthly. Her Babylonian heritage added more mystery to her manner of worship, royal ethics and her choice of jewelry. Her only child, Atum, was the palace favourite. His playful and constantly happy spirit which lit up the entire palace, his dreamy, mysterious grey eyes and well carved lips which he inherited from his mother, and yet the striking resemblance he bore with the Pharaoh in the time of his youth, all made him the king’s favourite show-off.
But on this day, everyone knew something was wrong.
Sitting on a balcony’s marble slab, digging his hands into the golden bowl of freshly plucked grapes, gazing into nowhere with a countenance marred with apprehension, as his hands fed his mouth some grapes, he struck the figure of a dispirited young man, not the handsome young prince everyone had come to love.
“You must learn how to wield the sword like a true king… You are too soft, young man… Do you want to become a dancing boy…?”
The roar of laughter that filled the room of top-ranking Egyptian and Babylonian lords during a summit held in the courts of Pharaoh still echoed in Atum’s head.
How dare he humiliate me in such manner? Atum thought to himself of his maternal grandfather. True king indeed. He didn’t stand a chance of wearing any of the crowns on both sides of his family. He was the Pharaoh’s one-hundred-and-thirty-seventh child and the last. Even if he was to consider his grandfather’s crown, which he would rather die than have to wear it, he knew he never stood a chance either. So why didn’t they just let him be? After all, he has no importance or significance.
The truth was violence and sword fight repulsed Atum. He loved playing the harp, taking snake charm and magic lessons from his tutor, Anatu, and participating in the belly dancing classes with his step sisters. Life was perfect for him just that way. And now, his maternal grandfather had chosen to ruin his simple life. Wielding the sword meant been qualified to go to war. The corpulent, constantly-inebriated Babylonian king had no soul and Atum shuddered at the iciness in his stare as they both locked eyes. The emptiness and certainty of been hell bound which he saw in his grandfather’s eyes made Atum wonder why the struggle and thirst for power consumed him so.
“You must learn to fight like a king… You have the blood of two great gods… It must be seen to that you be taught by the finest war lord in Babylon…”
War lord? If he had choked and had a seizure and died or something more pleasant in that instant, the world would have become a better place, thought Atum, as he held his bronze engraved cup and stared at his grandfather. What were the gods thinking to make him come from such blood line?
“You are correct,” the Pharaoh’s gravelly voice cut in, making Atum’s head whirl around to face him, and his heart to drop to the pit of his stomach. The Egyptian ruler continued, “Anything to make the boy become the best is fine by me. It will please me to have whoever you chose as his tutor come and abide in my palace during that time.”
“Seven sunsets and my finest warlord will be here,” Atum’s grandfather said.
And to Atum, this sounded like knowing the exact date he was going to die.
It was now the seventh sunset, and Atum sat at the balcony which faced the main entrance to the palace gates, dreading and expecting the man who had been appointed to destroy him. For whoever this war lord was, he was nothing, in Atum’s opinion, but a threat to the peace and wonder of his life.
TO BE CONTINUED
Written by Joe Alex