Queen of the Nile
Chapter 5 - Pharaoh's Lotus Flower
Quatre and Shebenet arrived at the city, late in the afternoon. The streets of the city had almost been deserted; the populace was taking their afternoon rest. They headed towards the royal palace, an imposing collection of buildings surrounded by thick walls, and laying close to the banks of the Nile. Two guards were in attendance on the front gate, they did not have to be told to open the gate, one look from Shebenet was enough. They entered the courtyard and Shebenet bade his farewell, Quatre went in search of his rooms.
In the Royal Palace lived all those who belonged to the Great House, Pharaoh's immediate and extended family. As the son to the sister of Pharaoh Thutmosis II, Quatre had permanent rooms in the palace, but he rarely used them; he usually stayed in his own house in the outskirts of the city, or more frequently in his home in Avaris. This time it couldn't be avoided, Pharaoh had sent for him, and required his attendance. But by the gods, he wished he could have avoided this, he knew Wufei was residing in the Royal Palace, and felt unsure of their meeting.
As he walked towards his rooms, that which he feared, came to be.
"Lord Quatre, I see you have decided to join us."
Quatre froze, unsure of himself. He was tired, hot, covered with sand, and tense.
"Well, have you no greeting?"
"I'm sorry Wufei, I've just arrived and I'm too tired to remember my manners."
Wufei gave him a small smile and lifted his right eyebrow, "I never thought I would see the day when you forgot your manners, my Lord Quatre. Well, I must be off, I'm to lead a raid to the east, the city of Tamis is once again under siege."
"Again? Can't those fools hold the city for more than a month?"
"Apparently not. Let's see if Pharaoh's new strategy works."
Silence ensued, both waiting for the other.
"Take care my brother, Wufei."
Wufei searched his face, "Would you really care?"
Quatre felt the stab of guilt, "I would."
Wufei nodded and turned to leave, but then hesitated and looked back. "Quatre, I just wanted to say I understand why you supported her. Your feelings for her have been evident since we were children. I guess you're used to defending and protecting her. But I also want, no hope, that you understand that what I do, is not to spite her and much less hurt you, but for the good of Egypt. Goodbye Quatre and watch your back, there are traitors among us, my brother."
Quatre started to undress, discarding first his sandals and then the linen robe that had protected him from the sun and sand. He was interrupted by the arrival of the servants, carrying his luggage.
"Prepare a bath for me," he ordered to one of the servants. He couldn't wait to feel the cool refreshing water.
Before the servant could answer a messenger arrived, Pharaoh commanded his presence immediately. He wished he could stall, wanting to bathe and dress properly, but he knew it was useless, Pharaoh could not be kept waiting.
He followed the messenger impatiently, wanting the meeting to be done with. He was surprised when the messenger guided him to the Royal Water Room; the main feature of this room was the water canal that ran through it. The water came from the Nile, and its use was reserved for Pharaoh, who used it partly as a way to worship the Nile, and partly to bathe in leisure.
Pharaoh Dorothy awaited him there. She was reclining on a high leopard-fur covered pedestal. Her maids flanked her, moving the air with their feathered fans.
He bowed before her. "Greetings, O Mighty Pharaoh, may the strength of Amun-Ra be yours. How may your faithful serve you?"
"Do you wish to bathe?"
Quatre stiffened, feeling the subtly insulted. "Forgive me, if my present state offend you. I have just arrived."
Dorothy smiled, "I mean no offence, my prince. I know that you have just arrived. My invitation was meant to give you the pleasure of bathing in the river's waters."
Quatre felt thankful but was shocked when the maids, after being signaled by Dorothy, started to undress him. They pealed away all of his garments, and left him only with a small loincloth. They eyed the loincloth too, and made an attempt to take it off, but he stilled their hands with a rough, "Enough!" They laughed and led him down the stairs and into the water.
They took turns pouring water over him, and washing his skin with soft cloths. They giggled as he felt half a dozen hands touching and rubbing his skin. Dorothy watched him with gleaming eyes, as a tried to remain still under the onslaught of women; his eyes staring intently back at her. His attention flickered away when he found himself catching one of the maids, which had slipped on the steps. She laughed and thanked him flirtatiously.
"Leave us!" Dorothy stood, trying hard to conceal her annoyance. The maids hurried to do her bidding, giving the guilty maid accusing glances, which she ignored.
After they left, Dorothy started to feel foolish from her outburst, but there had been to many things lately to keep her on edge.
"Now that you've chased my helpers away, whose to help me bathe, Pharaoh?" Quatre sounded amused. Too amused for her taste.
"Stop calling me Pharaoh! We are alone."
"I thought, Pharaoh was the name you wanted."
There was hurt in her eyes, and he regretted his words.
"I will bathe you." Came her soft reply, making him feel even more unworthy.
"You? I don't think that's such a good idea."
"That's what you said last time, and ended thinking it was great," she taunted him.
"What do you want from me now?" He would not forget, how she had used him before.
Dorothy advanced into the water and slapped him, hard. He did not resist.
"How dare you, speak to me that way! You stupid man! You think I need to sleep with a man to gain his loyalty?"
"You tell me?"
She screeched in outrage, and went for his face again, but this time he caught her hand and held it.
"I know you don't need to sleep with a man to gain his loyalty, you already had mine but then why did you sleep with me?" He released her hand, and it slipped back to her side.
"Is it so hard to understand? Do you find incomprehensible that I might desire you? That I might look for you, the only man who has defended and protected me, not out of duty of fear, but from his own volition?"
Silence ensued, while Quatre tried to sort out her words, but she was not finished.
"I saw it in your eyes, in the throne room, you thought I had allowed you to love me, just so you'd defend me there. But you were wrong. Now, it's my turn to ask where your words then some kind of payment or did you mean what you said. Do you truly believe me to be the rightful Pharaoh?"
He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her towards him. " I have never paid a woman for sex and I don't make it a habit of saying what I don't mean. You are Pharaoh."
She lifter her face towards his, her lips almost touching his. "I'm glad to hear that, because I've heard you say, that you are my humble servant, that you will serve me, that you love me. Now, prove your words." Her lips finally met his, silently searching for her answer.