Queen of the Nile
Chapter 7 - Presence of the Goddess
The sand and the heat battered the soldiers, their sweat rolling swiftly down their bronzed skin. Wufei wished he could dispense with the gold jewelry that was a prerequisite of his station, the heat of the metal over his skin was almost unbearable. But relief was soon to come, he knew that an oasis waited not far. The image the shady palm trees and cool, refreshing waters, goading him to quicken the pace of the groaning soldiers.
The arrival at the oasis was a reason for celebration, but tents had to be set and animals fed. Wufei, as a prince of Egypt had no reason to wait, he gave orders for his tent to be pitched close to the waters, stripped naked, and dove into the waters. Accustomed to the privileges of a prince, he saw no wrong in indulging while the soldiers still toiled, their turn would come; the soldiers did not begrudge him this privilege, accepting their own station in life.
The cool waters did much to cool his temper, but the memories of his meeting with Pharaoh kept him in turmoil. His duty was to obey Pharaoh, anything else would disturb the balance of Ma'at.# Her ideas had merit, but it galled him to admit it. He could conquer using his own methods, of this he was sure. But should he? Would it undermine her position, making her more vulnerable to him? Or would her anger be so great, as to put his life in jeopardy?
As the glory of Amun-Ra dove into the horizon, the noises of the boisterous soldiers and the animals died down. Wufei sat in his tent with the front flap open, allowing him to gaze into the rippling water of the oasis. He decided to take advantage of the cool breeze of the night to stretch his stiffening muscles. Walking to the far side of the oasis brought him relief for a while. He leaned, relaxed on a palm tree, but stiffened when he sensed a presence behind him; with his right hand on his dagger, he turned. Before him stood a shimmering vision of a beautiful woman.
"Fear not, my brave warrior, for it is I, Sekhmet/Lady Une, your guardian."
Wufei looked unbelieving at the beautiful goddess standing in front of him.
"Do you doubt your eyes?"
"Nay, my divine lady. What mine eyes cannot believe, is that one so powerful and beautiful as you would deign to visit an unworthy warrior such as I."
"Your lips speak a lie. You are my great warrior and I will make you victorious. Tell me what is the desire of your heart, that I may help you obtain it."
"You know what my desire is."
"Do I?" She smiled knowingly. "Do you?"
Wufei remained silent, trying to understand what the goddess meant to tell him, and afraid of voicing his desire for the throne, feeling slightly traitorous for wanting it.
The entertainment began early that evening, the whole palace was bursting with excitement. Comments flew that Pharaoh would allow the use of knives in an act before her. The nobles vied for a closer placing to Pharaoh, hoping for her favor and a better chance to see any exiting event.
Quatre was in a foul mood, unable to find the humor everyone saw in the juggling act. //Allowing knives in her presence, what foolishness!// She had insisted on it, assuring him that such a bold act would enhance her image, and make the nobles forget the attempts on her life. Someone was trying to kill her and she allowed some strange entertainer to bring knives to her presence. She was probably right, everyone would see her as brave and bold, IF she survived. He searched for Shebenet, making sure that he was close to her, but the unease did not abate.
He tried to appear to be having fun and tried to follow the conversations around him. But the sight of the male nobles fawning around her just served to put him on the edge even further. That she wore thin linen strips over her breasts, was no consolation, he could still see the dark outline of her nipples. He wanted to shout that she belonged to him, but he couldn't and she didn't; it was more like, he belonged to her.
The music stopped and the dancers that had frolicked in front of the nobles stopped, bowing before Pharaoh and retiring, walking backwards as not give their back to Pharaoh. The drums started to beat and a half-wooden wall was pushed to center, facing Pharaoh.
Two entertainers, dressed in strange looking clothes, bowed before Pharaoh. The male moved to stand in front of the wooden structure, leaning against it and spreading his arms and legs. The female apologized to Pharaoh and turned, giving her back to Pharaoh and facing her partner. She retrieved various knives from a leather pouch and awaited the increase to the beat of the drums. The drummers obliged increasing the tempo and the first knife flew, striking the wood close to the right leg of the seemingly unperturbed entertainer.
The attention of everyone was riveted in the performance, everyone but Quatre, whose eyes were riveted on the moves the woman made. Not out of admiration for the act, but out of suspicion. The knives continued to fly, and the nobles gasped in excitement each time. Quatre continued watching her every move, but the unexpected move did not come from her. The male entertainer, who was now surrounded by knives, grabbed one close to his face and in a swift, smooth, movement hurdled it in Pharaoh's direction.
Gasps of shock, screams, running feet, all were drowned by the scream of despair from Quatre, who vaulted over the table and brought his dagger to the male's throat, intent on slitting it. A voice that he could not ignore stopped him.
"Stop it! Don't kill him!" Pharaoh's frantic voice penetrated the haze of anger that clouded his mind. // She is alive! // The relief he felt was indescribable but his eyes did not leave the face of his prisoner, their eyes locked in silent struggle.
The royal guards surrounded them, as Pharaoh descended and stilled Quatre's hand with her own.
The anger of the guards was enormous, a mixture of guilt and horror. Sheftu, Shebenet's nephew, stepped in front of the other guards, "Allow me the honor of killing him for you."
Pharaoh shook her head. "No, release him. He has just saved my life."
Quatre released him, pushing him back.
"What?" He turned to stare with incomprehension.
"He killed the servant that was intent on killing me." Dorothy explained. "While your attention was set on the act, the servant sought to strike me with a dagger. The traitor had raised it against me when the knife of this man struck him."
Quatre stared at the entertainer with unbelief.
"What is your name?"
"Rise Trowa, we must speak."