The Feast of The Tail Ch. 03

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The royal family lived on the West Bank of the Nile in the largest palace complex in Egypt that had many names, the most used was Per Hay, meaning the House of Rejoicing, another was the Palace of the Dazzling Aten.

Whatever the name it’s splendour was unmatched in the ancient world, no other known kingdom on earth could match the wealth of Egypt with her fields full of wheat and mines full of gold, and the family of the eighteenth dynasty was the most rich and powerful that Egypt had ever seen.

The city alongside the palace was called Aten, or more formally, the Dazzling Aten, but the people of Egypt often referred to the city as the City of Amenhotep, King’s City, or Per-a’a which had the dual meaning of Pharoah and Great House.

Despite being named the King’s City, Amenhotep III had commissioned the royal residence for his wife, Tiye. The most powerful woman alive. Tiye may have been born without royal blood, but no one living would dare speak that truth, and those who did would not live long.

All the past rulers had married the woman who had the most ties to the throne, to solidify their position as Pharaoh by choosing the correct wife, but Amenhotep was so wealthy, so powerful, so unmatched in nobility and splendour that he married the woman of his choice, out of love.

He had commemorative scarabs made to announce the marriage to his beloved and sent them across all four corners of the earth. The opinions of mortals did not apply to him, he was a living God. The sun made flesh and blood to stand upon the earth.

The Dazzling Aten was brimming with energy. Servants had risen at daybreak, rushing through painted hallways to prepare the palace and the royal family. Goats milk and perfumed wigs were carried to the ladies chambers. Jewels were picked out, wigs put on and earrings put in. The clay ovens in the southern quarter were filled with loaves of freshly baked flatbreads, tended to by artisan bakers, mostly women with dark wrinkled skin wrapped in faded robes who had been sat on the floor kneading and pulling since dawn. Platters were piled high with pomegranate seeds, dates and fresh cut fruit. Bowls of cold water filled with fragrant herbs were brought for refreshment. The canals that ran all the way through the city connecting the palace complex with the Nile were filled with so many boats carrying goods you could hardly fit a sheet of papyrus between them.

The sons and daughters of Pharaoh also crossed the palace by water, however they travelled over their private canal system, surrounded by beautiful water gardens filled with pink lotuses, lily pads, and slender reeds. Their individual boats gliding past herons and doves, painted rushes, mosaics, fruit trees and past the statues of the Gods who smiled down upon them as the first rays of Amun-Ra warmed their faces.

As they approached the river the canal opened up into the harbour, the Birket Habu, which had two parts, one for mortals and one for Gods.

While the citizens of the city scurried around in the background of the busy harbour unloading food and spices from Thebes, Memphis and Nubia, the royal family disembarked from their pleasure boats onto the serenely beautiful harbour for Gods.

The stone steps were covered with with fragrant flower petals and lined with braziers of morning incense.

Queen Tiye was already waiting for them on the royal barque that was gently bobbing on the Nile, her gold headdress gleaming in the sun.

Sitamun led the procession and Djhutmose, the eldest son of Pharaoh, allowed it, hanging back alongside Amenhotep and Iset. Today was the day for Sita to shine, and after becoming a royal wife she would become more senior than her brother, although not quite equal to her mother who would always be Great Royal Wife.

Sitamun was dressed in silvery white which contrasted the dark, deep, rich skin that she had inherited from her mother. Her dress was almost totally transparent, the material woven of slender threads, the colour of clouds and the mist that settled over the Nile on the coldest mornings, threads that were so fine and spaced so far apart that her dark areolas and pinched nipples were clear for all to see. She had small, high breasts, long legs, a tiny waist and slender toes peeking out of silver beaded sandals. Draped over her chest was a heavy broad collar, a wesekh of faience beads of beautiful blue turquoise clasped with white gold. Over her coiffed hair was a white gold headdress of tiny links that were forged into a chainmail in the shapes of feathers that formed wings framing her face, a proud silver nekhbet vulture head sat atop her brow.

Her brown eyes were large, dark, and lustrous, lined with black kohl that swept outwards like the curve of a sickle. On her lips a rouge made of crushed beetle shells. She looked serious yet serene, unearthly and distant like the moon. Her thoughts were far away, drifting over the Nile to the Pharaoh, like the cool breeze of morning.

Crown Prince Didim Escort Djhutmose had arrived a few days before, coming down from Memphis in the North, where he was High Priest of Ptah, Greatest Director of Craftsmanship and Overseer of the Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt, and was eager to enjoy the festivities back in the company of his esteemed family.

Since he was twenty three years old he had already spent many years governing the people of Memphis and was well accustomed to being a leader, commanding the respect of the highest officials and priests of the country.

As the Sem Priest of Ptah, Djhutmose wore a short wig with a side lock of hair and was dressed in panther skins. The skins were black, from the rarest of leopards, but in the sun you could see faintly the beautiful rosettes blossoming in the fur like black roses.

His skin was perfect ebony, or like polished jet and his thick arms glistened in the sun, slick with the perfumed oils in which he had been bathed. His biceps were bound with gold rings, his wide feet shod in curly toed sandals and he stood tall and proud, aware of his own power and importance. He carried himself like a God.

He had a broad, square face with a prominent jaw and full, pillow-soft lips. His teeth were perfectly straight and pearly white, and his smile was wide and warm. His large, dark almond eyes were always creased from laughter, and despite his responsibilities he always seemed carefree.

His looks had convinced the people of Egypt that he was of divine descent, born to be a prince, and was much loved by the people, his physique resembling those well muscled statues of Horus that were scattered across the cities, yet not even the best of statues could capture the figure of a man so perfectly formed, or capture the warm expression of Djhutmose’s heart and humanity.

Djhutmose’s face strongly resembled that of Amenhotep III in his younger days: he was his clear successor, and favorite child.

Djhutmose was a dutiful son and as Crown Prince he expected soon to be named as a co-regent with his Father Amenhotep III, especially as today’s Sed Festival marked his father’s 30th regnal year.

Not many Pharoahs managed to rule and live long enough to celebrate a Heb Sed, which was celebrated after 30 years, and then every following 3 years until the Pharaoh’s death.

Naming Djhutmose as co-regent would solidify his claim as Pharoah once his father passed away, and despite his love for Pharaoh, he hoped that his father would not have many more Sed Festivals, Djhutmose did not want to ascend to the throne as an old man. Furthermore Djhutmose already had children back in Memphis, an eight year old boy named Smenkhare and a little toddler named Ahmose by his young Egyptian wife, as well as several other infants begotten by his concubines. His seed was strong and he had already proven himself to be a capable progenitor for the dynasty.

Behind Djhutmose was Amenhotep the younger, the second fully royal son of Pharaoh, for Pharaoh had many sons with minor wives and foreign princesses, but they were not usually in the company of the full blooded royals, no matter how beloved.

Amenhotep the younger was not warlike in appearance as his brother, but he was still only fifteen years old, so there was still time. He was rather feminine, his hips were wide, his arms were slender and his belly was rounded. His shendyt did little to hide his paunch, which he hoped would disappear as he aged. The Queen berated him for spending so much time playing senet with his grandfather Yuya, and so little time spent hunting or fishing, because by these hobbies he may grow out of it, but being continually sat at a table would set his spine like the blade of a sickle. Yuya would chuckle at his daughter and tell her not to worry about the boy, for he was quick witted and sharp tongued, and he enjoyed the company of his elders, showing wisdom and good taste.

Amenhotep spent so much time in the shade of the palace that his skin was much paler than all his siblings, making him look sallow and a little tired, for which he was often teased by his sister Iset.

Amenhotep, affectionately referred to as Hotep by family, had a long, narrow face, ending with a pointed chin. He possessed high arched brows, upturned eyes and sharp cheek bones. Apart from his cheekbones he did not bear much resemblance to any of the royal family except Sitamun who shared his narrow face and straight, slender nose. His face made him look quite elegant and he could almost be called beautiful with his delicate features and youthful charm.

Following Amenhotep where Sitamun usually walked, was Iset, second daughter of Pharaoh and Tiye. She was shorter and less fine-boned than Sita, and yet her presence was much greater than her sisters.

Iset’s skin was more red than Sita’s, but equally as rich and unblemished. It was a dark sienna red, and always hot to the touch, like the dunes of the Sahara. The Didim Escort Bayan bands of stretch marks on her inner thighs were like the layered stripes of a millions of years of desert sandstone, red, brown, pink and peach. She seemed lit by the sun’s splendour, emanating warmth wherever she walked.

An intoxicating presence, she left one feeling as though they’d been served just enough cups of wine to flush the cheeks and often aroused mischief among her siblings.

Iset wore intricately woven reed sandals and a dress of interlaced bead netting.

The beads were faience, jasper and ivory, threaded onto string, criss crossed over her legs and abdomen in a similar pattern to a fishing net. There were azure beads sewn into concentric circles over the nipples, and over her collar bone layers of beads arranged into rows and rows of red, blue and white that met together in a clasp behind her neck. She wore a simple wig of braided hair, held together by little gold ringlets, and left her arms bare. Her only jewellery was a solid gold necklace, a black eyed serpent eating its own tail which closed around her neck like the pincer of a crab, clipped together with a ball and socket clasp that clicked into place like a dislocated joint.

Behind Iset her two younger sisters walked abreast, hand in hand.

Henuttaneb and Nebetah snickered and giggled, sharing whispered words in confidence as they followed their older siblings. As Henu was thirteen and Nebet was eleven they spent more time in each other’s company than with any of their brothers and sisters. They were short, slender and fine boned like their mother.

Henu was the most similar to Queen Tiye in appearance, with a rounded face, a downturned mouth and big, round, heavy lidded eyes. She was already considered a beauty, but she was self conscious and shy. Overshadowed by her older sisters, she lacked their easy confidence.

Nebet was still growing and had the flesh and fat on her cheeks of youthful springtime. She, like Henuttaneb had the rich, dark skin of the Queen, although hers was a warm brown where Henu’s was cool, like the fine silt clay at the bottom of a jewelled lake.

Having both experienced their menses they were considered to be of marriageable age, although their mother was not yet willing to part with them.

Still, they were dressed finely in smooth long robes of white cotton contrasting their rich black skin, adorned with solid gold chest plates decorated with suns and scarabs and bracelets of serpents and running water, appropriately attired to dine with foreign princes and noble officials.

Ta-miu, the beautifully speckled beloved cat of Djutmose was one of the royal party. Lazily following along with graceful legs, the scarab marking on her forehead glistening in the golden rays, illuminating the red rosettes in her bronze fur. She was an honoured member of the household and she knew it. All servants had to bow their heads to her as she passed by, the same as it was to those with royal blood.

“You look very beautiful today sisters.” said Djutmose as they walked “Pharaoh will be very pleased indeed.”

“Yes,” said Amenhotep the younger, agreeing with the crown prince enthusiastically. “Especially you Sitamun, you honour the family today, and you honour the Gods.”

“Why, thank you Hotep and thank you Djutmose, loved by Ptah.” Sitamun replied, striding ahead, holding her head even higher in response to their compliments, smiling to herself.

They were all dressed in their finest clothes, except Iset who hadn’t quite dressed in her finest clothes as Queen Tiye had commanded her not to try to overshadow Sitamun for once.

Iset always captured the eyes and hearts of people. She had powerful magnetism and men and women alike were drawn to her, which she knew full well and took full advantage of.

Djutmose had joked that it was a good thing she was not a son, or he may have to slip an asp into her bedsheets so she would not take his place as crown prince.

She had replied to him that it was the wife that made the Pharaoh. Greatness is a woman’s gift.

Djhutmose regarded Iset warmly; he had missed her terribly up north.

“I say it is you who looks especially beautiful on this day.” Djutmose whispered to his sister, tickling her ear with his breath. “I thought you weren’t supposed to overshadow our poor Sita today.” he tutted.

Iset laughed, a little too loudly, and smiled one of her most radiant and charming smiles to her favourite sibling.

“Nehem, ek brother. I tried not to,” she thanked him, gently brushing her hand over his bicep which was smooth with scented oil. “But there’s only so much I can hide.”

Her white teeth were a little too perfect and her heart was full of a bit too much joy for Sita’s liking. Iset was always so disruptive. She couldn’t stand to have the attention off her for one day, thought Sitamun glancing at her sister, hoping she wouldn’t cause any mischief.

“Em Escort Didim hotep, beloved sister.” said Iset to Sitamun as they walked. “Calm your soul, enjoy the festivities, you wouldn’t want to bring shame to Pharaoh with a sour face.” she laughed.

Hotep frowned at Iset.

“Don’t listen Sita, beloved sister. You could never bring shame to Per-a’a. Isn’t that right Iset?” he looked pointedly at Iset, who chose not to notice.

“Em heset net Ra, Sita.” said Iset half apologetically, but still smiling. Be in the favour of Ra today. Sitamun inclined her head slightly, acknowledging her attempted apology, and took a deep breath.

Henuttaneb and Nebetah tittered to one another, but didn’t dare disagree with any of their elder siblings. They were just happy to enjoy the festival and be paraded around Waset where they might find handsome young noblemen who might request an audience with their parents, or recount some pretty, romantic poems to the girls. The group walked up the plank together with Ta-miu onto the barge where Queen Tiye stood proudly, smiling at all her children.

“Em hotep nefer weret, meruty!” said Tiye.”The day of the festival has come, Per-a’a has pleased the Gods and ruled well for thirty years and today we celebrate that day, and your sister’s wedding day.” she continued. “The Heb Sed! We are blessed with a beautiful day, and what beautiful children I have.” Tiye walked over and inspected them all as they stood to attention, embracing them and smelling their cheeks.

“And you too, mut. How beautiful you are today, as you are on all days.” smiled Djutmose as he embraced his mother, who was a full two heads shorter than him, and kissed her cheek.

“What a charmer Djutmose.” she laughed and smiled at her eldest.

“And Sita,” Tiye stopped and sighed in front of her daughter. “Beautiful, just beautiful, my heart blooms when my eyes rest upon you, and so will Per-a’a’s.”

The boat boys and the attending ladies set about preparing drinks, gathering oars and untying the boat, readying everything to sail across the Nile while making sure their precious cargo was comfortable.

Ta-miu leaped up onto the prow of the barge, convinced that they were setting sail in her honour as she sat regally at the front and watched the fish flitting under the surface of the water below.

“Now my beautiful beloved children, it is time for me to instruct you. After this day Sita will no longer be an egg in my nest, she will spread her wings today and become a God’s Wife, a woman with her own chambers and charges, and hopefully soon, children. She knows her duty well, and I trust her as always to honour us all. As for the rest of you, do not for one second think that today, being about Sita, means you can do whatever you wish.”

Tiye eyed all her children sternly, her eyes lingering on Iset who beamed innocently at her mother.

“None of you have experienced a Heb Sed. It is the most important of festivals, especially to us, as it is in honour of our beloved. Any disruption, any dishonour, any deviance would be a bad omen, but there will be no such thing. We will watch your father succeed in all his challenges as he displays his virility to our people of the Black Land, and we will all offer him our blessings and prayers. Then, Sitamun will be presented to Pharaoh and become a beloved God’s Wife. After offering our congratulations you will be permitted to enjoy the rest of the festival as you wish, but remember who you are and what you represent. Do not test me on this.

“Yes, mut.” they all chorused, heads bowed obediently before their tiny mother who seemed to stand head and shoulders above them all.

“You may sit.” the Queen addressed her family.

The girls flung themselves onto cushioned divans with clawed feet and lion headed arm rests. Sitamun sat straight backed, poised and alert. The other daughters languished on the soft seats allowing themselves to be fanned by their servants. Hotep was perched on the end, on the edge of his seat, gesturing to his attendant to pour him some sweet wine. Djhutmose chose to stand nearby with one arm leaning on the side of the boat where the water lightly sprayed his glossy arm as the oarsmen began to row.

Wine was soon poured and a light breakfast was placed on a table under the canopy for their pleasure.

“Tonight we will be staying in our palace in Thebes where we will be entertaining foreign dignitaries. Sitamun, as the eldest, has until this point entertained the nobles and honoured guests but on this occasion I will need you younger girls to play your part, especially you Iset.”

The Queen eyed her daughter

“Of course, beloved mother, it is my honour.”

Flocks of geese honked as the boat skimmed past them, buffeting the floating birds with gentle waves. The river was dotted with small boats of fishermen pulling up nets filled with glass eyed fish. The men who saw the barge bowed in respect as it passed them by.

Cumulus clouds were scattered over azure blue skies, the sun was high and hot, but there was a pleasant breeze blowing across the river. A little way in the distance hippos waded deeper into the water, flicking their ears and sinking wide spread toes into soft black mud.

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