Flight of Destiny
Akhenaten could not get to sleep by his own accord the night before he was to be coroneted. Ksunamun spiced a goblet of wine for him, and at length, he began to feel a little less energetic. Come midnight, he was still wide-awake, and this frustrated Ksunamun.
"You do realize that if you do not sleep tonight, you will more than likely fall asleep during the coronation tomorrow, right?"
"Aye, but I cannot help it!" Akhenaten exclaimed.
"Well, we'll just have to find a way to tire you, won't we?"
Akhenaten liked the idea. He nodded vigorously, thinking he knew what Ksunamun had in mind.
A fresh goblet of spiced wine was handed to Akhenaten by Ksunamun. "Here, drink this."
Akhenaten drained it gladly. "Thanks, Ksun. You are a goddess, you know that?"
Ksunamun sat on Akhenaten's lap and draped her arms around his neck. She kissed his cheek, "If I am a goddess as you say, than which one am I?" She asked in a hot whisper.
"You are my personal goddess," Akhenaten answered, "My goddess of love. And soon, you shall be the guardian of Khemet."
A tear leaked unbidden from Ksunamun's eye. "Oh, Akhe. I do not want that. I do not mind having to help Khemet; it is the fact that you will be absent when I do it."
"If it is any help, I can train you, so that you can defend yourself if anyone tries to hurt you."
Ksunamun sighed, and kissed Akhenaten's cheek again. "You have not the time. You will be coroneted in the morning, remember?" she sighed, "And by nightfall, you will be away from me."
"I can teach you a little something tonight, I think." Akhenaten said pensively, "I will teach you how to handle sai."
"Aye, Ksun. Sai are a weapon from the orient. They are not an offensive weapon, and it usually takes people a long time to learn to use them properly. However, I know some tricks. My father taught them to me. I can teach you the basics of using them in an hour or so, I bet."
"I do not know, Akhe. Weapons?"
"Weapons can be useful when you need to defend yourself," Akhenaten insisted, "I'm no fan of violence or war - you know that - but knowing how to use weapons has advantages."
Ksunamun stiffened. "You really think I need to know how to use weapons?"
"Nay, not exactly. I think you need to know how to defend yourself. I have seen the way many men's greedy eyes devour you. You need to know how to defend yourself. I mean, you wouldn't want some pervert to overpower you - to have some vile man try to have his way with you - would you?"
Ksunamun's eyes revealed to Akhenaten that she was becoming frightened. "Do they really look at me like that?"
"Aye," Akhenaten answered with a heavy heart, "They do. They look at you as though you would make a nice meal."
"Don't be so shocked, Ksun." said Akhenaten, "You are a rare and lovely flower. Many people think I am undeserving of you. I know this, for after they see you, if their eyes meet mine I always see the same emotion. The same unspoken words."
"Why did you say nothing of this before?" Ksunamun was becoming suspicious.
Akhenaten sighed. "I didn't tell you before because I didn't want to alarm you. However, now that I will be forced to leave you alone here, you need to know. You need to be prepared for anything."
"You think I shall be in danger, then?"
"Then why can I not come with you?"
Akhenaten chuckled ruefully. "I wish you could. Oh, I could let you come with me, goodness knows I'd want that, but you'd be in more danger if you were with me than if you were here."
Ksunamun shut her eyes and exhaled noisily. "You're not serious."
"You paint a bleak fresco, my Prince."
"I know I do. But it is the truth. If you wish, I can take you with me. But if things turn really nasty, you must come back to the safety of this palace without a fight."
Ksunamun nodded fervently. "Alright. You can teach me to defend myself if you think it is so important. But not tonight."
"Why not?" Akhenaten beseeched.
The Princess looked away, contemplating her answer. "I do not want to use weapons, Akhenaten. Surely there must be a way around it -"
"Aye, there is."
"Tell me then, what is it?"
Akhenaten collapsed on the bed, pulling Ksunamun with her, so he lay on his back, and she lay atop him. "If I have you protected by bodyguards."
"Akhe - aren't these extremes? Weapons training, bodyguards?"
"Ksun, you are my most precious jewel. I will not let any harm come to you. Not as long as I can do something to prevent it."
The Princess teasingly untied the front of Akhenaten's tunic. "Aye?"
"Aye." Akhenaten settled.
Ksunamun kissed Akhenaten's exposed collarbone. "I cannot tell if you want to protect me out of jealously or out of love."
"Perhaps it is a bit of both." Akhenaten said in a rasp as Ksunamun's warm fingers drifted over his chest. "What man wouldn't do anything in his power to gain and keep you?"
"I do not care, Akhe. Just so long as you love me, then to the bloody Underworld with the rest of the Earth!"
The Prince smiled mischievously. "Ah, Ksun, you say I am hopeless, but you are, also."
"I won't deny it. I'm also helpless without you, Akhe. I cannot bear the thought of having to dwell here without you."
"With Atem-Ra's blessing, it won't come to that."
Akhenaten meant to say something else, but all words fled him when Ksunamun melded her lips to his, so hungrily, for at that moment she wanted him to give her his very soul.
The messages had been delivered to all of the generals in the vast army of Thebes. The generals had then gathered their troops, and marched to the palace, where they grouped and camped on the palace grounds.
Physicians and surgeons had been called, as well, to tend to any soldiers who suffered injury. There were twenty of these, each with unique areas of specialty they could use to aid those valiant soldiers that would defend their borders.
Almost every cubit of the palace grounds were covered with tents, and tiny campfires that lit the soldiers' way as the ones who could not sleep trained at this late hour.
There were sixteen generals, each with one hundred soldiers in their troops, who when they marched, marched in sub-groups of ten. The generals were veteran warriors, each with ten or more years of experience on the battlefield. Most of the lesser soldiers in the battalions were young, some only fifteen or sixteen years old. For a great number, this would be their first battle.
There were many who answered the call to gather here for one reason: they knew Prince Akhenaten would lead them as their new Pharaoh. Almost all wanted to see Akhenaten in person, and to see if he was a warlord as his father before him.
Atemakhu was praying fervently, sweat drenching his robes. The only light in his bedchamber was that from his oil lamp, the only sound besides that of his movements and prayer was the delicate breeze that floated in from his window, toying with the curtains.
"Why must his reign begin this way?" Atemakhu wailed, "He's so young and inexperienced!"
He'd been praying all night. He felt terrible. He felt sick in his spirit. The coronation tomorrow was supposed to be a joyous occasion, not be the signal for the beginning of a war!
The High Priest sat at the side of his bed, curled almost in a fetal position. He was embracing his knees, keeping them tucked under his chin as he rocked back and forth. He felt responsible for this, but deep down he knew it was unavoidable. The Nubians must be confronted and stopped.
Atemakhu decided he'd ride with the army when they left to go south. He'd pray with the soldiers and offer sacrifices for them. Hopefully he could be a source of solace as a representative of Atem-Ra.
"Oh, most holy Atem-Ra!" Atemakhu cried out, "Let it be your will for Akhenaten to rule for many years. Do not let this battle claim him!"
The Nubians were a brutal people, with legions of vicious armed forces. Their militia was renowned for slaughtering enemy armies. However, Khemet's own wartime legacy was just as good. It would be a terrible fight, definitely not an easy one, but it was one that could be won if the gods willed it.
But Akhenaten was not fond of battle. He hated to even train. This was troublesome. Atem-Ra would have to give Akhenaten a Spirit of Battle to see his first war through, and then every one would have to pray that he'd not see another one.
Atemakhu himself had led a rather simple life. Nothing had really become complicated until he'd been elected as High Priest. Before then his only concern was trying to have a good day, or not making a fool of himself. Now he was trying to pray to the god he'd dedicated his life to, to protect the pharaoh. According to what he'd been taught, his faith could tip the balance, and keep favour with Akhenaten. When he'd been a simple priest, he was a man of the cloth, aye, and his faith was still important, but he was praying for ill people to regain their health, for good crops for farmers, relatively simple things.
Atemakhu continued to pray, whispering his words to Atem-Ra, begging for the safety of the Prince. The safety of the Prince was the safety of the nation. If the Nubians managed to get to Thebes, they'd pillage and plunder until nothing remained save countless bodies and the charred remnants of the city.
For now at least, there was peace. And as long as there was strong faith in the gods, and strong armies to fight, there was hope.
"Oh, Prince Akhenaten." Atemakhu whispered as he trained his gaze on the moon, which he could just see through his window, "Enjoy this night, my Prince. You are young. Eat, drink, sleep with your wife. Do what any young Prince should be free to do on the eve of his coronation."
Akhenaten had indeed, lain with Ksunamun. The Prince had then fallen asleep with Ksunamun beside him. She was still wide awake, and alert. Being with Akhenaten always made her feel this way. He made the blood pound in her veins, her heart hammer somewhere in the region of her throat.