Flight of Destiny
The next morning Akhenaten rose from his slumber due to a rather ghastly nightmare. He had dreamt that his father had been killed, he had had to take the throne, and he was unable to find a Queen. He feared that this dream just might come true - but he prayed this chimera remained that. He decided he would head back to the oasis as soon as possible. Being there had made life seem simple again, a simplicity he had been forced to abandon at the end of his childhood.
For a long time he remained in bed, merely observing the ceiling. For the time being, he had no desire to get up. He turned his gaze to the open partition of his door, and beyond, to the corridor, and the large window opposite his bedchamber's entrance. He saw that the sun was still rising, casting rays of molten gold upon the earth, and spilling across the floor of the hallway, and into his chamber.
His conversation he had had with his father the previous night kept playing over and over in his mind. Amenhotep seemed to know he would only have a few days to put everything in right enough order for him to be able to die in peace. And he seemed at ease with the fact that he was to die. That was what Akhenaten just could not understand. Of course, his father would be going to the afterlife, and he would do all the things he had enjoyed on earth, but Akhenaten just could not understand. His youth caused him to see life in a different light than the old man. Akhenaten saw life as being precious, something he was unwilling to part with. Perhaps one day he would understand, but for now, he could not even try to comprehend.
Akhenaten languidly sat up, then clumsily got on his knees and began to pray. "Oh, holy Atem, please aid me on this day, I need your guidance for whatever it is my father will ask me to do."
What Akhenaten did not know, was that his father had managed to get out of his own bed, and was at the Prince's doorway. He had heard every word his son had said. Touched that his son seemed so committed to him, he left, deciding against interrupting his son's morning prayers.
Ksunamun awoke later than she had hoped, but still made prayers to Atem-Ra her first task. She found the tears she tried to fight coming freely now, and her prayer was of desperation.
"Oh Great Atem-Ra, please, guide me! Show me a clear path, what I am to do with my life. I feel so ... lost. You are the only one that can aid me now, O Great of Magic. I pray for your help, and nothing else. If you give me that, I shall surely be blessed."
Sobs continued to wrack her body as she held to a sturdy palm for support. Her once lovely dress was tattered, she was covered in scrapes, cuts, and dried blood, but she felt her heart lighten after her prayer. Something stirred inside her. She knew it at once, the heat that blossomed in her heart and spread - the magic. Atem's greatest blessing. Would he allow her to use it this way? She had a feeling her words had reached the Great Atem-Ra's ears, and he just might help a lowly thing like her.
"Father, I have made plans to go somewhere this morning. I was wondering if that was okay with you." Akhenaten asked off-handedly at breakfast.
Akhenaten, his mother, and his father were all eating in his parent's bedchamber. The old Pharaoh was sitting up in bed, slowly picking at a pomegranate. He thought for a moment before answering. He decided that he could postpone Akhenaten's task until later in the day. "Yes son, you may go, provided you come back here before two hours past noon."
"I swear to you, I shall return before then." Akhenaten promised.
"Very well then. You know, if it were any other day, you would not need ask."
"That I do. I just wanted to make sure that I would be free to do what I need to do myself before you send me on your errand. It is very important to me."
"Well, I won't pry. As I said yesterday, you are a man now, your life is yours to live."
Akhenaten said nothing in reply. He could think of nothing to say that seemed quite apt. he just wanted to mount Sutekh and ride out of the palace, away from his troubles. He knew he was being childish by trying to escape reality in such a way, but for some reason, he simply felt as though he was being called back to the oasis. Some inexplicable force was drawing him.
"You are very silent this morning, Kiya. Is something wrong?" Amenhotep asked his wife as he took a ginger bite of the scarlet fruit in his hand.
"You know there is!" the Queen cried, bursting into tears.
Amenhotep sighed. "If it is any consolation, you will soon join me." he watched as Kiya died her tears. He still knew how to make her cheer up. "You saw my tomb. I will be safer in there than I ever was in life."
"I suppose that is true." Kiya sighed. "Son, if you want to leave now, you may. The sooner you leave, the sooner you will return."
"Yes, mother. I will go now." Akhenaten agreed as he excused himself from the chamber, and returned to his own.
With haste, he found his leather pack that attached to Sutekh's saddle, and filled it with food, his knives, and a few papyrus scrolls for leisure reading. He took off his belt and fastened the scabbard for his sword to it, much in the same way as a bead is strung onto a necklace. He lifted the sword from beside his bed, and for a brief moment, held it in his hands. In total, it weighed about nine of our pounds, but it was balanced so well, it felt only a pound in his hand. The hilt was gold and ornate, and embellished with jewels. The blade was of white gold, mixed with other, new metals, to make it stronger, and sturdier.
Akhenaten carefully thrust the sword into the scabbard - also highly decorated - and put his favourite riding cloak on. This cloak was a royal purple. The only drawback of this, was that anyone seeing him ride would know who he was at first glance - only royalty could afford such dyes for such a large item of clothing.
Akhenaten pushed that aside and lifted the pack easily in his arms. Feeling better than he had all morning in his spirit, he left his chamber, forsook the palace, and went to Sutekh's stall.
He led the horse out, and carefully tied the pack onto the horse's saddle. He then mounted the black steed and smartly kicked the horse into a lightning fast gallop. If all went well today, he would not be at the palace very long. A gilt cage was still a cage, and he felt trapped within the palace walls. He and Sutekh flew through away from the city of Thebes, and through the vast desert. The oasis was not far away from the palace at all, only about two miles. It had seemed like a much greater distance the previous day, but that was due to the sandstorm.
Thoughts raced through Akhenaten's mind as he approached the oasis. He wished his father would stop talking about his imminent death - it made it so much harder for Akhenaten to bear. He tried to push those thoughts away as he dismounted Sutekh and led the enormous creature back to the babbling stream. He thought perhaps he would come up with a name for this oasis. After all, he could not just keep calling it The Oasis, could he?
As Sutekh settled at a spot to drink, Akhenaten released the reins and dropped to his knees. He bent over the small steam, briefly considering his reflection. His regal visage was framed by longish black hair that tumbled around his countenance in a pleasing way. His eyes were piercing, a vivid shade of amber that flashed orange or brown according to his moods. The Prince was not vain, however; to the contrary, he quite disliked his own appearance.
Akhenaten dipped his hands in the water and cupped them, lifting the vital liquid to his mouth. He drank it eagerly, and found it to be very clean and refreshing. He drank until he had his fill, and then moved so he sat cross-legged on the ground.
All of a sudden, he got the queer sensation that he was being watched. He looked over at Sutekh, but soon realized it was not the horse observing him; Sutekh was quite content lapping up water, and was not paying one iota of attention to Akhenaten.
The Prince slowly turned around. He was struck momentarily dumb by what he saw. It was a woman.
It was a beautiful woman, with long, well kept black hair, and the most striking azure eyes he had ever seen. She was standing about ten feet away from him.
"Hello, Prince Akhenaten." Her voice was sultry, entering Akhenaten's ear as a sweet caress that caused him to shiver despite a complete lack of cold.
He found his voice and tried to be polite. "I'm afraid miss, that you have the upper hand. You know who I am, but I do not believe I have met you."
"If you want to know my name, then ask like a proper Prince." She ordered teasingly. She was drawn in by his voice, so deep and resonant. It was magnetic to her. And his face was so regal. If he were a commoner, she would reach out and touch his face, maybe even kiss his cheek.
Akhenaten was more than willing to comply, "Please, tell me, what is your name?"
She stepped lightly through the grass, her silk slippers making no noise, the skirt of her pale violet organza dress floating around her ankles. She moved to stand near where Akhenaten was sitting, then decided that she too would sit.
"I am Ksunamun Ptah." She answered silkily. The magic flowed through her being. She felt that the powers must be stirring the prince to speak to her.
She was wring, the magic was merely giving her confidence.
Akhenaten took her hand, such a delicate hand, with long, tapered fingers, and kissed the back of it. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Ksunamun. I assume you are the daughter of Merit Ptah, the doctor?" He reluctantly released her hand.
"Yes, indeed I am. How did you guess?"
"You have her eyes, Gentle Ksunamun. Such lovely eyes." He said flirtatiously.
The Prince took this opportunity to look deep into those shockingly intense eyes. There was much mystery writ there - so enigmatic - and also pain, but there was also visible innocence. And a strange power - a strength he knew not. Akhenaten surmised that this was what looking into the eyes of a goddess would be like - that it would give him the same queer feeling in his stomach, the shortness of breath, the same tingle that pulsed through his every nerve, making him feel as though he'd strayed into a delicious dream.
He presumed he must have studied her for too long, for a dusty rose flush crept up in Ksunamun's cheeks, making her look even prettier to Akhenaten.
She looked away, down at the clear, free flowing water.
"I apologise, Ksunamun, I have made you uncomfortable."
"You are the Prince, Akhenaten, your eyes may behold what they wish. It is I who should apologise. I have no right to even be speaking to you."
"I'm glad you are." Akhenaten said truthfully, "My day has brightened dramatically thanks to you."
"You do not need to flatter me Prince Akhenaten, I am not deserving."
Ksunamun maintained an embarrassed silence.
"Please, talk to me a while? I do not know anyone else close to my age - please, tell me about yourself if you would?" He pleaded.
"If I would? I thought a Prince would demand information, not request it."
"Well I tend to request things." Akhenaten shrugged.
"Okay, I guess I will talk then."
Ksunamun sighed. "I came here a little while ago, because I'm running away from my mother. I'm old enough to be on my own now, but she won't willingly let me go. She wants me to become a doctor, like her."
"You do not want to be a physician?"
"Nay! All I want is the freedom to do what I want with my life. Is that so much to ask?"
"Well, I can't really say - I'm not able to just hand the throne over to anyone I want, and trust me, if I could, I would."
Ksunamun was bemused. "Why do you not want to be Pharaoh?"
"Let's put it this way: I would be far more willing to take the throne if I was older, and had more time to prepare." The quizzical look in Ksunamun's eyes made him feel he should explain further. "My father is dying." A single, shining tear slid down the Prince's clean-shaven face.
"I understand, Prince Akhenaten." She sighed as her lashes swept her cheeks, "My father died a few years ago." She turned so she faced him, and offered her hand to him, placing it softly upon his thigh.
Akhenaten grasped it in both of his, glad on a completely new level for the company of Ksunamun. "So you know the depth of my pain?"
"Indeed. My father was taken from us by a heart attack. My mother had examined him before, and knew his heart was weak, but there was nothing she could do for him." She was almost in tears.
"Ksunamun," Akhenaten breathed, gently rubbing the back of her soft hand with the pads of his thumbs, "Thank you for telling me." He drew her then into a comforting embrace, something he was forbidden by law to do to a common woman, but he did not care. Her pain was just as real as his. "I get the feeling you've been needing someone to talk to for a long time." He said at length.
She spoke through her tears slowly, and with care. "Yes, Prince Akhenaten. My mother simply refuses to talk about it, and until now I've had no one to talk to except you."
I think you were meant to speak with me, Ksunamun." Akhenaten decided, "And perhaps we have a role in each other's lives. It may be fate that you ran from your mother."
Her tears amazingly ceased. "You may be right, my Prince. Tell me, is there anywhere at the palace where I can be a slave? I'd rather live a life of servitude than have to be a doctor." she broke from him, and studied his eyes.
"I do not want you to have to be what you do not want to be, Ksunamun. And I do not want you to be a slave. It is simply too hard a life. However, I think I know a way you could stay at the palace, and be treated as a Princess - even become a Princess."
Her eyes lit up. It had to be the magic. This was impossible! But yet - it was happening. "How?"
Tonight, after sundown, I shall return. I will help you escape, that's what I will do. I will take you to the palace, and as we go, I shall tell you. Will you trust me?"
"I shall trust you with all my heart, Prince Akhenaten, for you were chosen by Atem-Ra to lead our people." And because I really, really like you, She added mentally. She just wasn't quite ready to admit how much.
"I am flattered by your trust, Ksunamun." Akhenaten confessed, feeling perhaps he might be saying too much.
"I sense that you are to be trusted, my Prince. Just do not make it so that my judgement deceives me."
"I won't." Akhenaten assured as he rose to his feet. He offered his hand to help Ksunamun to her feet, and she took it. He pulled her up to her feet, and she thanked him.
"It is nothing," He assured, almost flushing, "I was raised to be a gentleman, that's all."
"Where I'm from, that's a rarity."