Flight of Destiny
Now Dear Reader, I must speed my tale along, and so will not linger with the telling of the Forty Days after Amenhotep's death. The news had gotten out one day after the priests had carried the Pharaoh's body to the Temple of Osiris, and the whole of Khemet seemed to know by dusk the next day. The forty days were observed as tradition dictated - days of mourning.
It took all of these forty days for Amenhotep's body to be properly mummified and wrapped. Little charms were inserted in the folds of the linen wrappings to protect him from evil spirits, as well as jewels he could use in the afterlife as currency.
The Pharaoh was ready for his final journey, now all he needed was to be taken on his final earthly trip - to his tomb.
The body of the Pharaoh was to be borne upon the backs of the six priests who had escorted it from the palace to the temple. They would make sure it got safely across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings, and to Amenhotep's tomb, which was now ready to hold the deceased Pharaoh for all eternity.
Akhenaten was in his chamber on this morning, preparing for the funeral. He was getting dressed in plain robes of pale blue - he knew he'd have them shredded before the sun was down.
Ksunamun had already dressed, in a light robe of cotton that matches Akhenaten's. Blue for them was the colour of mourning. Everyone who could afford the dye would be wearing it today. Ksunamun was also wearing the diadem she had been given on the day of her coronation as Princess, and a simple bracelet of gold on her arm. Jewellery seemed a bit too tacky to her for this occasion. She would have to walk with Akhenaten the entire distance from the palace to the Valley of the Kings.
When Akhenaten had put on his sandals, he sat beside Ksunamun on the sofa. She turned to him and he took her in his arms. "We'll be alright, in time," his voice seemed to falter, "I must confess that I do really miss him."
"I know you do, Akhenaten. How can you help it?"
"That's just it - I cannot."
They broke as Adam came into the chamber.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," the slave was apologetic, "Atemakhu is here for you, to lead you in the funeral procession."
"Yes, Adam. We shall only be a moment more."
The Prince and Princess met Atemakhu in the Throne Room.
The High Priest donned his ceremonial robes of blue and white, and was carrying a staff of gold. "Hail, my Prince and Princess." He was sombre.
"Hail, Atemakhu." Akhenaten sighed, "These are grave circumstances that I do not wish to partake of."
"Aye," Atemakhu agreed, "Indeed."
Atemakhu led the royal couple out to the front entrance, where Kiya was already standing.
The Queen's eyes were red, tears silently spilling over her cheeks, and her robes were already rent, for she had been tearing them in her grief ever since she had dressed this morning.
Akhenaten could not find words to give his mother, so merely embraced her.
"My son-" she managed to choke out.
"Mother," Akhenaten replied, not able to think of anything else to say.
Ksunamun looked outside timidly. The day was a miserable grey, and she could tell that there would be rain soon.
Atemakhu placed a hand on her shoulder, "The gods will weep for Khemet today, Princess, but soon they shall rejoice."
Ksunamun digested his words. She wondered if he meant that the rain was the gods' tears. She supposed that was what he had meant. "He was a good Pharaoh, all in all."
"Aye, that he was. Your husband will be just as good, if not better." Atemakhu allowed his hand to drop back to his side. "This will be a hard day for Kiya. She knew Amenhotep when both of them were just children."
A grim nod was Ksunamun's only response.
"I think you and Akhenaten should comfort her after the funeral unless she cheers up herself."
"A wise idea, Atemakhu. She may well need it." Ksunamun agreed. "But she might need counselling from you, as well."
The High Priest of Set was riding towards the palace today, Ishza with him because she had asked to come. Sutekh was going to the palace to take part in the funeral procession, something every High Priest and Priestess had to be a part of. There would be many lesser priests and priestesses there too, of course, and slaves to carry most things.
The two were getting close, and the palace was in sight. Sutekh knew he would be needed first to talk to the Queen. He had received a message a few days before saying that ever since the Pharaoh's passing she was exceedingly depressed, and almost ceaselessly weeping.
Sutekh thought maybe Ishza would be a good person to talk to the Queen, as well. Ishza was no stranger to pain, and perhaps knew better things to say to a woman who'd lost her husband.
When Sutekh's horse entered the palace grounds, Sutekh dismounted with Ishza, and handed the horse's reins to a stable slave. He did not want to waste any time.
He led Ishza to the entrance, where he saw Atemakhu and a very pretty young woman standing, seeming to have just ended a conversation. Atemakhu greeted Sutekh, "Hail, Sutekh Seth. I hear you are now High Priest."
Sutekh stopped half way up the steps. "Aye, do not these damnable robes say it all?"
Atemakhu chuckled half-heartedly, "Aye, I suppose they do mark you."
Sutekh climbed the rest of the steep steps and shook Atemakhu's hand. "I do hope I'm not too late."
"Nay, nay. There's a while yet before the priests of Osiris will bring him."
"Alright then," Sutekh paused, and then turned his attention to the young woman. "I'm afraid we haven't been properly introduced," he offered his hand, "I'm Sutekh Seth, as you've undoubtedly just heard."
The girl shook his hand. "I am Ksunamun." her voice was mellifluous, "I'm Akhenaten's wife."
"Ah, the Princess! It is an honour to meet you, Your Highness." Sutekh nodded.
"Likewise," Ksunamun replied, "Akhenaten is just over there if you wish to talk to him."
"I will get to him eventually." Sutekh shrugged. He beckoned Ishza to come to him, and when she did, he introduced her. "This is Ishza, my slave."
Ksunamun shook Ishza's hand, "Hello there."
Ishza bowed after shaking hands with the Princess. "Greetings, Your Highness."
The sound of solemn, melancholy drums and pipes reached the ears of the people in the palace's foyer.
Atemakhu looked out. "It's the priests of Osiris."
The music ceased as Kiya ran to the priests who carried the ornate sarcophagus of Amenhotep. She threw herself on the heavy golden coffin and wept, her cries heartbreaking.
The priests merely stopped, and allowed the Queen to mourn. No one wanted to stop her, and so no one even attempted it.
Akhenaten wandered over to Ksunamun and embraced her. "My mother is not taking this well."
"I cannot say I blame her." Ksunamun murmured.
Akhenaten started to say something, then bit it back. It really did not need to be said.
It was a long time before Queen Kiya had partially pulled herself together. The High Priest of Osiris ended up gently prying her away from Amenhotep's sarcophagus. He talked to the Queen gently, reminding her that she would only be separated from the old Pharaoh for a little while.
Those words somehow made her cheer up, and she willingly stood beside the sarcophagus, seeming to be nonchalant.
Akhenaten and Ksunamun were to walk in front of the late Pharaoh, which put them just behind the High Priests, all of whom were now assembled here. Two slaves with large fans made of dyed ostrich feathers were beside, and one behind, each of the three royals, to fan them from the heat. No one really expected it to be necessary, though, for it was a grey day, and the sun's rays would not be able to penetrate the thick cloud cover easily.
Slaves were behind Amenhotep's mummified corpse, carrying the things that would be placed in the tomb with him. They carried a wide variety of things, from clothing to weapons, crowns and jewels, to food, artwork and statues to furniture - everything the Pharaoh would ever need or want in the Afterlife.
The solemn, mournful music began again, and when everyone was in his or her place in the line, the funerary convoy began to slowly head away from the palace, and to the heart of Khemet: Thebes.
As they approached the great city, people began t take notice. They watched the parade, many of them not realizing at first what it was. Long before the musicians came into view, the music reached the ears of the citizens, drawing many of them out of their houses.
If the spectators did not know what was going on, the Queen made sure they were informed. She cried out at the top of her lungs that the Pharaoh had gone to his reward, leaving his country to mourn the loss. Her voice was loud, aye, and sad, her tone still resonating of the heartbreak she felt inside, and the people of Thebes felt her pain, too. They had loved their Pharaoh, looking up to him as though he were the father of the nation.
Many of the women in the crowd tore their robes as a sign of their grief, a thing that was done whenever there was a period of sadness. They wept now for the Queen, being empathetic. Right now Kiya was surrounded by people, but was more alone than anyone could imagine. They cried also for the Prince, for he had lost his father, the one who had taught him almost everything, and had answered so many desperate questions through the years.
The men in the crowd were little more reserved. They too, tore at their robes, but instead of weeping, they prayed to the gods for Khemet to find solace in this time of loss.
Though many stayed where they were, many joined the procession at its rear, following the slaves towards the Valley of the Kings. These people would follow the convoy to its destination, and be present at the Pharaoh's burial.
By the time noon came, rain had begun to fall, more of a mist than anything. They were halfway to the Valley of the Kings, and were preparing to cross the Nile.
The heavy sarcophagus was placed in its own, opulent boat. It was a long, narrow boat, built of wood, and gilt, decorated with wide enamel stripes of red, and blue. This journey across the life-giving river was symbolic of the Pharaoh's passing from one realm to another. There was one boat that went before it, and that was a small rowboat holding the High Priests. After the High Priests had passed, and the Pharaoh's body, next came Kiya, Akhenaten, and Ksunamun, all in one small boat that was both steered and propelled by two slaves.
Second to last came the slaves who bore the material things that would accompany their Pharaoh to the next plain of existence. They were glad to have the rest from carrying their burdens, even if it was a rest that was short lived. Most of the things they carried had substantial mass, and were making the slave's muscles scream in agony, their very bones exhausted.
Some of the slaves went back in their boats to take a few of the citizens across. Any able-bodied person was expected to swim, and most did, but there were some who could not, and they were aided instead of denied. Kiya had asked that this be done, saying that it was only fair that if they came so far and were not able to cross on their own, they should be assisted.
It took over an hour for everyone to safely cross the river. Once they had, they continued their solemn march, quite the same as they had before, except now their fatigue was beginning to show.
It was a long trek through vast desert before the pyramids of Khufu, Cheops, and other pyramids and tombs became visible as small, sand coloured shapes on the horizon.
Akhenaten took Ksunamun's hand absent-mindedly. Through the whole journey to this point he had done nothing but think. Ksunamun squeezed his fingers affectionately, and the negative thoughts were wiped from his mind as though they were seeds scattered to the wind.
The music was still being played from behind them, and it's slow, melancholy melody made Akhenaten feel nothing short of miserable. It was a haunting tune, though if a few notes were changed, Akhenaten thought it might make a good lullaby.
Ksunamun gripped Akhenaten's forearm with her free hand. "I'm getting weak," She said slowly, faintly. "My legs feel like they shall collapse under me."
"It's just another half mile," Akhenaten encouraged, "You will be alright."
"Aye, I would be, were I as fit as you."
Akhenaten looked at her, "What do you mean?"
"I mean that I never walk much. I must confess, I never walked a cubit more than three leagues."
"But - if what you tell me is true - how did you ever manage to get to the oasis?" Akhenaten wondered.
"I took a small horse - a filly - from our farm, Akhenaten. I got so far away from home, and then sent her back. I didn't have the nerve to keep her."
Akhenaten sighed. "I should have guessed you'd do something like that. It does sound a lot like something you'd do." he paused, and considered her, "Do you want me to carry you?"
She looked timid. "Is that something that would go against decorum?"
"Aye, but I'd be going against it more if I allowed you to faint."
Ksunamun nodded almost imperceptibly. Akhenaten stopped walking for a second and swept her up into his arms, carrying her much the same as a groom carries his bride over the threshold. Her weight added to his own slowed him down, but not by much. The slaves that had been around Ksunamun now moved so they were around both she and Akhenaten, the large fans blocking the royal couple almost completely from anyone's view.
In a matter of moments, Ksunamun fell fast asleep, lulled by the rocking motion of his carrying her, her head nestled on Akhenaten's shoulder.
Ksunamun was roused by the sound of Akhenaten's voice summoning her. She opened her eyes slowly, and saw before her Akhenaten's face, more specifically, those piercing eyes that he possessed.
"Sleep well?" He asked softly.
"Aye, as well as if I was back in bed."
"That's good." Akhenaten sounded relieved, "We're here."
Akhenaten released Ksunamun from his arms with care, making sure she did not fall or trip on anything. When she was standing on the ground once more, he wrapped his arm around her waist and steered her towards the High Priests.
She looked around, taking in her new surroundings. Everything seemed to be the same dull grey, both sky and sand. She knew when the sun was out the sand would be a brilliant honey colour, but for now it was monochromatic, and very boring. Dunes of sand and thousands of footprints made the sand as rippled as the ocean on a windy day. She could see the pyramids, looming impressively not too far away, their level, sloping sides giving the illusion that the logic-defying structures had been carved out of the Earth, one large stone, honed to smooth perfection.
The opening to Amenhotep's underground tomb was visible, a small doorway, not even the full height of a man.
"What's going on?" Ksunamun asked through a poorly stifled yawn.
"We've just gotten here, and the priests are preparing things." Akhenaten answered, "The High Priest of Osiris will be leading the ceremony."
Ksunamun nodded wearily. She was still quite tired, and now she had hunger and desperate thirst to add to her miseries. "How are you?" She asked in a small voice, "are you not tired?"
"Aye, I'm a bit tired," He admitted, "But more thirsty. I asked mother if we could eat, and she said nay."
Ksunamun was indignant, "We've crossed what seems like the whole of Khemet!"
"Let me finish! She said nay, but with good reason. After my father is put in his tomb with all of his possessions and the doorway is permanently shut, there will be much revelry. I didn't know that this was to happen, but mother said there is always a feast, with much music and dancing after a Pharaoh is laid to rest in his tomb. I didn't believe her at first, so I asked Atemakhu. He said that same thing. He said that well over half of the food brought by the slaves was for the feast, not just for my father."
Ksunamun blinked. "A party?"
"Well then," Ksunamun settled, "I suppose we can wait."