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Ripples

By Alexis Leeper

Drama / Romance

Meeting

When young Atem took the throne after his father's passing, he wanted to make his father proud and was determined to be a just Pharaoh who treated everyone with respect and who looked past a person's status to see the real person. The priest Mahad knew that the Pharaoh would be able to do that, remembering the prince saving him from a snake bite when they were young. But one such decision would affect everyone's lives (both positively and negatively), especially the Pharaoh's future.

One day, Atem and High Priest Seth were waiting at the docks of the palace. The rest of the Royal Court was not there because Atem requested that only Seth would be with him for the meeting as he considered Seth a trusted comrade and friend. They had been waiting for a full section of a sundial and Seth was growing restless. "They're late."

Atem looked away, not happy with what was coming. "They don't need to come."

Seth sighed and looked at Atem. They were awaiting a boat that was bringing a girl from Greece that was to be wed to Atem to form a unity between the two nations. Seth reminded Atem, "My Pharaoh, you know this is important for both the Kingdom of Khment and the Kingdom of Greece…"

Before he could continue, Atem stopped him. "I know of its importance, Seth…I just do not approve of the idea."

Seth stayed silent after that. He had tried to get Atem to agree to this since the arrangement was made. Just then, the two heard two cries. Looking up, they saw two birds of legends swooping down to them. They were phoenixes and Atem and Seth were their guardians, appointed when they found the eggs in the gardens when they were young. Atem's phoenix was the yellow Tarra of lightening; Seth's was the black Itami of darkness. When Tarra was on his shoulder, Atem reached up and gave her feathery chest a scratch. "Have you seen them, Tarra?

Tarra leaned into the scratches and looked at Atem. She then spoke directly to his mind. No. They might still be out at sea.

Atem immediately suggested, "So we can leave."

Tarra gave him a look. We need to stay. It's what your Father wanted.

Atem said nothing to that, for he knew the truth. The ruler of Greece suggested the marriage between Atem and the daughter of a politician as a way to uniting the countries since the ruler did not have children of his own. Aknamkanon did not agree to it at first for he did not want his son's heart to be used like that but his royal court, especially Aknadin and the then-new priest Seth convinced him of it. Seth shook his head. 'I don't know why he's fighting this. I'd be honored to unite the countries like this.'

He then heard a voice in his head. You are such a liar.

Seth glared at Itami, the owner of the voice. Itami's eyes shined at him, as if she was smirking. Seth mentally hissed at her, Breathe another word, I'll--

Itami stopped him by saying, You know you can't hurt me.

Seth and Itami glared at each other. Even thought they were guardian and phoenix, they did not get along a lot of the time. Atem noticed the tension between them and sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "Take one more look, you two. If they're not near, we're retiring for the night."

The two phoenixes took back into the sky. Itami took great care to have her wing feathers brush across Seth's face. The priest growled in Itami's direction. "I swear, one day, that bird is going to get it."

Knowing that Seth was talking about strangling Itami, Atem murmured, "I'd rather get it than Itami."

Seth sighed, not liking that Atem was being so close-minded to the arrangement. He pointed out, "You might like the girl. After all, the wedding is 6 moons away; a lot can happen."

Atem stayed quiet to that. He knew that Seth had a point there but he did not want to accept this. He felt like he was trapped in a corner with this arrangement: he did not want this but knew that denying the arrangement would risk having Khment go to war with Greece. Just then, Tarra and Itami returned. Atem hoped and was not rewarded: Tarra told them Boat on the horizon.

Atem glared at her, as if saying 'Don't joke with me.' Tarra gestured to the horizon and the two men looked. The phoenix had spoken the truth: a Grecian boat being rowed by Greek slaves was coming over the horizon. Atem massaged his forehead a little, feeling a headache coming on. Not seeing his actions, Seth told him, "You have to accept this. Clearly, this is destiny."

That earned the priest a glare from the Pharaoh. Atem then looked at Tarra. "How many on the boat, Tarra?"

Tarra started to remember. Slaves, the girl Roxanna, and her personal servant, an older man.

Atem nodded. But he was still making it clear that he did not want to do this. Seth saw this and reminded him again, "Pharaoh, remember: Roxanna's father is of the high council in Greece. If anything were to go wrong…"

Atem held up his hand, signaling that he did not need/want to be reminded. As the boat pulled up, Seth kept stealing glances at Atem, hoping that he would not lash out at the Greek visitors. The boat was soon next to the dock and two slaves out to tie the boat to the dock. As they were working, a Grecian man with graying hair and sharp eyes wearing a red toga, white tunic, and brown sandals jumped onto the dock. The man, named Lapidos, recognized Atem and immediately paid him respect, bowing on one knee with an arm crossing his chest. "My Pharaoh, my Lady Roxanna is greatly honored to be here."

Atem did not want to hear that but he knew better than to let out his true feelings. So he lied and said, "The honor is ours to have Lady Roxanna here…"

Lapidos stayed in the bowing position until Atem told him to stand. Once the man was, Lapidos offered his hand to someone on the boat. "May I present…Lady Roxanna?"

A small hand took his and a girl of seventeen was helped out of the boat. She was about Atem's height with long black hair and brown eyes. She was dressed in a white dress that showed off her curvaceous figure. Once Roxanna had her footing, Lapidos turned to her. "My Lady…Pharaoh Atem."

Roxanna looked at Atem and smiled with a small blush. Remembering her manners, she bowed before Atem. "Pharaoh."

Atem nodded at her. However, something did not sit right him and it was not just because of the situation. There was something that did not feel right about Roxanna. Tarra noticed it as she perched on Atem's shoulder. Is it me or does she have a mask on?

Atem mentally looked at her. You sensed it as well?

Tarra looked at him. Just call it a feeling I have.

Atem looked back at Roxanna, who immediately took interest in Tarra. "What a beautiful bird! It's so nice to see a man who's so attached to his pet."

Roxanna did not mean "pet" in an insulting way since this was the first time she had ever seen a phoenix. However, it still ruffled Tarra's feathers. Pet?! How dare she! I'm your chosen phoenix!

Seth mentally sighed; if Tarra would react like this to what he and Atem could see was an honest mistake, the six months would not be pleasant. Atem turned to Tarra to tell her to calm herself when Roxanna reached her hand out. "She's so beautiful…may I pet her?"

Before Atem could tell Tarra to behave, the phoenix gave Roxanna a small static shock. Roxanna immediately recoiled, surprised that happened from trying to touch what she thought was a bird. "What kind of bird is she?"

Atem could not help but smirk at both Roxanna recoiling and at her not knowing what Tarra was. "Tarra is my lightening phoenix."

Roxanna blinked blankly. Lapidos, however, perked up, for he knew all about legends. "You mean these creatures truly exist?"

Both Atem and Seth nodded, glad that at least one person from Greece knew that they were talking about. Roxanna looked between the men and slightly glared that the attention was not on her. Suddenly remembering, she said to Atem, "I almost forgot: I have a gift for you."

Atem slowly looked at her and raised his eyebrow. He had gotten gifts from visitors before but, for some reason, this gift did not sound pleasant. "Did you?"

Roxanna smiled and clapped her hands twice. As two male slaves went below the decks for the boat, she said, "I do hope you'll enjoy it."

Soon the two men came out and joined them on the docks. Between them was a girl of sixteen, dressed in rags. She had brown wavy hair and bright blue eyes that appeared to be worn out from her slave life. The one thing that stuck out about her was her skin color: she was tanner than Roxanna but lighter than Atem. Atem was confused and immediately asked, "What's the meaning of this?"

Roxanna smiled with pride. "Pharaoh Atem…meet your personal slave."

The girl looked up at Atem and recoiled, her eyes showing sadness and fear. Atem's eyes immediately widened. Seth remained stone-faced but he did not like where this was going. Seeing the look on their faces, Roxanna got worried. "My Pharaoh…is there something wrong? Do you like your gift?"

Atem wanted to tell her no but found himself stuck on words. Tarra, however, was mentally screeching in his mind. This is cruel and unusual! We don't even treat our own slaves like this!

Tarra's feathers ruffled, catching the attention to Roxanna. Atem told Tarra to calm down and then answered Roxanna: "I didn't expect this."

Hearing this, Roxanna immediately started to tear up. "You don't like it? Oh Pharaoh! Please forgive me!" She lowered her head, both to seem like she was sorry and to keep from revealing the tears she had were fake. Lapidos did not react, used to Roxanna acting like this. Atem, however, felt stuck again. He still had his weird feeling about Roxanna and he did not like that her gift was a slave; however, he did not want her to be upset and, while he did not want a personal slave, he wanted a war even less. Swallowing his disgust, he went to Roxanna and touched her shoulder. "Lady Roxanna, it is all right. Please do not cry."

Making the tears again, Roxanna looked up at him. "Forgive me, I don't know the customs of this land."

Atem nodded. "I can teach you. First off, I don't like having a slave…"

Before he could continue, Roxanna quickly interrupted, "Then think of her as a servant."

Atem blinked at the sudden response. Mentally, he was cursing; he was hoping to get out of this situation but Roxanna kept him trapped. Tarra wanted to screech at her but Atem calmed her down. Sighing, he said, "Very well, Roxanna. I suppose a servant is better than being called a slave."

Roxanna immediately brightened. "Oh my Pharaoh! You are so kind-hearted!"

Atem tried to hide the look of disgust on his face but it was slowly showing. Seeing this, Lapidos stepped in. "May I take Roxanna to her room?"

Atem nodded, happy that this man stepped in to help. He turned and led the group into the palace. He could not believe that he was resigned to this fate and wanted to curse the gods for cursing him with this Grecian woman. At the same time, Seth asked Itami, What do you think of this?

There is something about Roxanna that doesn't fit well with me.

Seth looked at her. How do you mean?

Itami looked at Roxanna, who was looking around the hall. I cannot put my wing on it. It does seem that she is wearing a mask. Forgive me for being blunt but we must watch this girl closely.

Seth smirked, glad that he and his phoenix were on the same page. He planned on keeping an eye on Roxanna anyway because she was a foreigner. Unlike the rest of the Royal Court, he was suspicious of anyone who did not come from Khment. The fact that she was from a powerful nation and that Itami was suspicious added fuel to his qualms. At that moment, they came to a spare room and Atem turned to the Greeks. "This is your room, Roxanna. Will Lapidos be rooming with you?"

He asked since he was not accustomed to Greek ways. Sensing this, Lapidos said, "While I am Lady Roxanna's personal servant, my Pharaoh. I can understand if there is a room close to Lady Roxanna."

Atem nodded. "That can be arranged, Lapidos."

Lapidos nodded his head in thanks and respect. Feeling left out, Roxanna chirped up, "So when can we start to get to know each other?"

Atem did not want to get to know her. But, knowing that he could not tell her that, he said, "Can you wait until dinner? I have some things to do first."

Roxanna nodded. "Of course…and Tima will be there to help you."

Atem's face scrunched with confusion until he put two and two together: Tima was the name of his new slave. He looked at her, who was looking at the ground nervously. "Is that her name?"

Roxanna nodded again. "Yes. Now Tima…" Tima looked up at Roxanna, remaining silent, "…you are the Pharaoh's servant. Wherever he goes, you must follow. Do you understand?"

Tima nodded in obedience. Atem did not like the exchange between the two and did not like what he was seeing. Roxanna then smiled at Atem. "I shall see you at dinner." With that, Roxanna and Lapidos retired into Roxanna's room. Once they were alone, Atem looked at Seth. "What do you think?"

Seth merely shrugged. "I'll have more of a view at dinner." He then looked at Tima. "This one, however…"

Itami lightly pecked Seth's temple. Be nice to her. She's clearly frightened.

Seth glared at Itami; he hated it when his phoenix pecked at him. He would have started arguing with her if Atem had not given them a look. "Do not fight; that is the last thing I need."

Seth and Itami nodded. However, they were still mentally glaring at each other. Seth bowed at Atem and took his leave. Now alone with Tarra and Tima, Atem looked at Tima, who was still looking at her feet. While he did not like the fact that she was a slave that was given to him, he was stuck with her and decided to make the best of this.
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