Unity of Hearts and Culture
A month came and went for the kingdom and the wedding was just days away. Tima and Tikali (now promoted to Tima's lady-in-waiting) were putting on a few finishing touches to the ceremony. They were trying their hardest to make the wedding a true unity of heart and culture. Tima had a little trouble since she did not know about Khment weddings but Tikali was able to help: thanks to being with Seth, she was given access to the scroll room and do research. But, while she was helpful in that respect, she still kept the royal couple in the dark about the wedding dress, wanting it to be a surprise. Through it all, Atem kept his distance since it was the women's job to plan the ceremony; still, he wanted to have at least a little part in the preparation. Two days before the date, he figured out what he could do.
After the morning meeting and lunch with Tima, Atem visited the palace's jeweler, a middle-aged woman named Husn. Seeing the Pharaoh, she got down on her knees. "My Pharaoh."
Atem nodded to her and, once she stood, said, "I want you to make me a pair of wedding rings."
Husn lowered her head in obedience. "Yes, my Pharaoh. If I may, do you have a design in mind?"
Atem paused, having thought about that. "It has to be gold…simple and elegant…something that will make my wife happy."
Husn smiled, able to see the love that streamed from Atem's face. She bowed and said, "It will be as the Pharaoh commands."
Atem thanked her and left for his and Tima's room. To his surprise, he found her packing a small bag. Getting a little worried, he asked, "What are you doing?"
Tima looked up and smiled at him. "It's for morning. It's tradition in my faith for the bride and groom to be separate the day before their wedding."
Sighing in relief, Atem went up and wrapped his arms around her waist with his head on her shoulder. "Good. You scared me for a moment."
Tima was about to ask him to explain when she figured it out and leaned her head against his. "Oh, Atem…you don't have to worry. We will always be together…till death do us part."
Atem did not want to even think of that. The idea of Tima dead…it hurt him. Kissing her neck and collarbone, he whispered, "If you will be out of my sight tomorrow…I want to enjoy you tonight."
Tima shuddered with delight. They had spent many nights together in that special way, ever since the day that they revealed their relationship to the Royal Court. She sighed happily and looked at him. "You can be so naughty sometimes…"
Atem grinned. "I don't hear any complaints."
Tima just smiled as they kissed.
The next morning, Atem woke up to find him alone with a note on Tima's pillow. He took it and read "See you tomorrow at our wedding, my handsome lover." Atem smiled as he got up to be dressed; he just hoped that he could handle being alone tonight.
Now settled into a guest bedroom, Tima sighed and flopped down on the bed. Staring up at the ceiling, she asked, "Am I ready for this?"
Currently unfolding the crowned princess' dresses, Tikali looked up at her future Queen/close friend. "What makes you say that, milady?"
Tima hesitated a little so Tikali went up to her, taking her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. Taking a moment, the crowned princess looked up at her small friend and could not help but notice how much she had changed over the past month. After being rescued, Seth and Tikali told the Royal Court that they were in a relationship and everyone (sans Aknadin who kept quiet from both wanting his son to be happy but believing that he should find happiness with a noble woman) expressed their acceptance of this. Because of the acceptance, Tikali was able to blossom thanks to her renewed faith and love for Seth. Remembering this, Tima sighed softly. "I'm…I'm just not sure if I'm good enough to be Queen."
Tikali sat next to her friend. "What are you talking about?"
Tima wanted to open with the fact that she was not royalty but she reminded herself that that fact did not matter anymore. So she expressed another worry of hers: "What if I do something wrong?" Seeing Tikali about to ask her to explain, Tima elaborated: "I'm not like the Royal Court or like Atem…I'm different because…well, because I…
Tikali finished, "Because you are a foreigner?"
Tima looked up at Tikali, a little surprised that her handmaiden brought this up. But the crowned princess still nodded. "Well…I guess."
Tikali smiled. "Forgive me for bringing that up; I suppose I suggested that because we're the same, two Hebrews in Khment. But you shouldn't doubt yourself…you need to have faith." When Tima nodded with a small smile, Tikali nudged her friend a little. "After all…you're not going to be too scared to go to the wedding tomorrow, are you?"
Tima giggled and shook her head. "No, not all!"
Tikali giggled as well. "Good! It's the most important, most wonderful day of your life."
Tima smiled lovingly at such a statement. "I know…I'm finally marrying Atem, the man I love."
Tikali agreed. "And you're going to look gorgeous."
Tima gave Tikali a teasing look. "I had better: you have kept me in the dark about my dress." Tikali giggled mischievously in response.
When night fell, Atem was standing in his balcony. He knew that he had to get some sleep soon if he wanted to be rested up for the wedding tomorrow but he was having trouble; he had grown so used to sleeping next to Tima that he found that he was too lonely in his bed. Tarra noticed how restless her guardian so she asked another phoenix to bring her guardian over to talk to Atem. Atem did not realize what Tarra did until he heard Seth say from behind, "My Pharaoh? Unable to sleep?"
Atem sighed and looked at Seth. "I guess…I cannot help but feel this way."
Getting concerned, Seth asked, "Is it about tomorrow?"
Atem nodded and came inside to sit on his bed. "Yes. I don't see why I am nervous; this is what we've wanted for so long. I suppose it is just pre-wedding nervousness…I want everything to be perfect, especially with the rings I made for the ceremony."
Seth understood since he knew that he would be in the same situation soon when he and Tikali got married. But he pointed out, "I do not believe anything will go wrong."
Picking up on what Seth was doing, Itami agreed. If something were to go wrong, Isis would have told us by now.
Atem took that into consideration and nodded. "You're right…I guess I'm just too nervous."
Tarra flew to Atem's shoulder and asked, Are you regretting your decision?
Atem looked at his phoenix with wide eyes at the question. "Regret?! No, never! I do not regret asking Tima to become my wife and Queen."
Tarra's eyes sparkled as she nuzzled his cheek. Then you have nothing to be nervous about.
Atem nodded and looked out at the balcony again. Bowing in respect, Seth took his leave with Itami following with a glint in her eyes. Weren't you going to tell him that the priest is ill and can't do the ceremony?
Seth smirked. "No need to worry the Pharaoh over small details. Mahad and I already know how to fix this."
Sighing deeply, Atem laid down on the bed. Tarra sat next to his shoulder and looked down at him. You going to try and sleep now?
Atem sighed and reached up to scratch her chest. "If only it were that easy…I don't like sleeping alone like this."
Tarra ruffled her feathers in a teasingly-angry way. Who's alone? You have me, you know.
Atem chuckled and laid on his side, propping his head up with his hand. "You know what I mean, Tarra…I miss Tima…"
Tarra cooed softly. Tomorrow will come soon. Seeing Atem's faraway nod, Tarra got an idea. Atem…you said that, in Tima's culture, the bride and husband to be cannot see each other, right?
Atem nodded. "That is correct. Why do you ask?"
Instead of answering, Tarra flew out of the room, leaving a confused Atem in his room. After a minute of flying, she landed on a balcony and chirped, getting Tima's attention. Smiling, she came out and stroked the phoenix's head. "Hi, Tarra. What brings you here?
Tarra cooed with delight at the scratch. I just wanted to tell you that Atem misses you tonight.
Tima smiled and looked out into the night. "I know…I miss him." Looking back at Tikali, she wondered, "I wonder if all brides go through this the night before their wedding."
Tikali shrugged a little. "Who knows? I'm sure I'll go through the same thing when Seth and I marry."
Tima smiled and then thought of something. Leaving Tarra for a moment, she started to go through her bag. Tikali looked at her from the mirror, wondering what the crowned princess was doing. Soon finding it, Tima came back to Tarra and wrapped her favorite shoulder shawl around the phoenix. "Here you go. Give this to Atem; this will keep him company until the morning."
Tarra chirped a little in happiness before flying away. Tima watched the phoenix until she was out of sight and she went back to the room to go to bed. Tikali smiled. "Do you need anything else, Tima?"
Tima shook her head. "No. I'm just going to turn in."
Tikali nodded with a bow and left. After changing into her night clothes and praying, Tima climbed into bed and started to drift off when she heard Tarra fly in and felt something drape over her. Looking up, she asked, "What's this?"
As Tarra flew out, she said with a twinkle in her eyes, He returned the favor.
Tima looked at what Tarra gave her and saw that it was Atem's cape. Smiling softly, she kissed it and curled up under her blankets and cape, dreaming about the wedding tomorrow.
When morning came, the servants dressed Atem in his outfit and adorned him with golden ornaments. While he was still nervous about the wedding, he knew that it was the normal pre-wedding jitters and nothing to worry about. When the servants left him, Atem looked at the rings that came the night before. His was a simple gold band but Tima's had the Egyptian word for love engraved on it, an added touch that the Pharaoh enjoyed. Just then, Mahad came in and bowed to him. "Everyone is ready, my Pharaoh."
Atem smiled as Tarra flew to his shoulder and nuzzled his temple. I was just out there: everything is beautiful.
Atem sighed in relief; in keeping with this wedding being a combination of Khment and Hebrew customs, the wedding itself was a private affair in accordance to her ways and the coronation would be open to the high class of Khment in accordance to his ways. On his way out the door, he stated, "I am thankful that we found a priest of Tima's faith to conduct the ceremony for us."
Mahad froze, not expecting Atem to say that. Temporarily forgetting his place, he asked, "Seth did not tell you?" When Atem looked back at his comrade/friend in confusion, Mahad bowed his head. "Forgive me."
Atem turned to fully face the magician. "Tell me. What did Seth neglect to tell me?"
Mahad looked up and admitted, "The Holy Man has taken ill…he is unable to perform the ceremony. One of his apprentices came and told Seth and I yesterday."
Atem paled. The Holy Man was the only one they could find in Khment who could do the wedding the way Tima and Tikali had planned it; to be told the day of that he could not perform the ceremony…Atem turned on his foot and went to find Seth, stressing out to no end. Tarra flew off his shoulder and followed him. Atem, I'm sure it was a simple case of forgetting.
Atem glared at her; that statement did not help, especially since it seemed that Seth came to Atem last night to tell him about the Holy Man being sick and decided against it for some reason. Mahad followed and tried to cheer him up, "My Pharaoh, Seth and I have a solution…"
His stress taking over, Atem could not comprehend what Mahad was saying. "How can you have a solution? That man was the only one who can perform the wedding perfectly!"
Mahad was about to try again with explaining when, from behind the pillar, a throat was cleared and stated with a proud voice, "Not anymore."
Atem looked up as Seth came into view with Itami on his shoulder. The Pharaoh glared and demanded, "Why did you not tell me that the priest could not perform the wedding today?"
Itami looked at Atem. Because Seth can perform the wedding.
Having not heard the last sentence Itami said, Atem's stress was at its peak. His hands clenched into tight fists, he was about to yell at them when Tarra went back to his shoulder and squeezed hard enough to get his attention. Seeing his attention diverted, Seth repeated what Itami said: "That priest is not the only one who can perform the ceremony."
Tarra looked up, her own curiosity peeked. You really meant it?
Itami chirped a little in amusement. Tikali isn't the only one who benefited from the relationship.
Not wanting her to reveal too much, Seth pinched her beak shut to give her the message of keeping quiet and said, "Tikali's father was the tribe's priest of her religion. Over the past moon, I have studied the religion with Tikali's help. If you would allow me the honor…"
Atem sighed in relief, feeling his stress wash away with Seth's offer. He then nodded with a smile. "Of course, my friend, and thank you."
Minutes later, Atem stood under the left side of the canopy that was set up next to the bench where they sat and Tima revealed her life story to the Pharaoh. The bench had two golden goblets filled with wine and a red sash. Since it was a private affair, only the Royal Court, Shimon, and their closest friends Jouno, Kiko, Mana, and Tikali (having finished prepping Tima for the ceremony) were present. Seth came to the head of the canopy and looked at Atem. "It is time."
Off Atem's nod, Shimon took up the trumpet and blew hard enough to make a single, strong note. According to Tima's faith, this both signaled that the wedding had begun and signaled Tima to leave her room and come to the gardens. A few minutes later, she came into view and Atem's breath was taken away. Her dress was a combination of Khment and Hebrew: her sleeveless, white dress was down to her ankles with her feet covered with string-like fringes and her neckline was covered with gold decorations. On her head, she wore a white veil that tucked her hair out of sight and was held in place with a purple ribbon, symbolizing the Queen she was about to become. She even had on light make-up to make her features stand out even more; she and Tikali decided against covering her face since the two girls would be the only ones who would understand that tradition and Tima teased that she did not want to torture Atem even more. The only thing that was missing was the Queen pendant, which was needed for the coronation. Taking a deep breath, she started to walk to Atem and then walked around him three times in her faith's practice of representing righteousness, justice, and loving kindness, the three virtues of marriage. Once she was by his side, her head nodded to Seth; it was clear that she was not told about the Holy Man being sick. Atem chuckled. "It's all right, Tima. Seth can preside over our wedding."
Tima smiled and looked at Seth, who bowed his head to them. As the High Priest turned to Tikali to get the rings, Atem looked at Tima and smiled in a loving way. The night apart was more than worth it: in his eyes, she was absolutely beautiful, like a goddess descended from the heavens. Catching his look, Tima blushed and smiled back. The rings now in his hand, Seth looked at the couple and out at the witnesses. "The day has arrived: our Pharaoh has chosen his bride and Queen. May all the Gods of Khment and the Hebrew God bless this wonderful union that will be brought forth to our Kingdom."
The Royal Court silently agreed, Aknadin bitterly doing so, and the four friends smiled. Proceeding forward, Seth gave each of them a ring to give to each other. Tima was a little confused on what to do with the ring since her tribe was too poor for such symbols of marriage. Taking her left hand, Atem smiled at her before he said his vow: "Tima…as your husband, I swear, with the witnesses present here and the gods that watch over me…I shall love, honor, and protect you…for all eternity. There is no other worthy to be my wife and Queen. You are the one delivered by Ra and his daughter Hathor…and I shall always love you."
Remembering that Hathor was a Khment goddess for love, Tima felt a tear of joy fall down her cheek as Atem slipped the ring on her finger. Atem smiled with pure love and wiped the tear away. Tima smiled and, taking his left hand, said her vow: "Atem…I swear before God and all around us…I will love, honor, and serve you as your wife and Queen…until the day God calls me to join him. No one has ever made me feel this way before…I love you so much."
She then slipped the ring on his finger as Seth nodded to Tikali. Smiling, Tikali came forward, got the goblets, and gave one to Tima and Atem. Tima did not understand until Seth stated, "And now, to seal this sacred union with a tradition that our friends from the Far East gave to us: the drinking as one, so that, together, this union shall be forever united and shall never break."
Tima smiled, remembering Atem telling her about their friends from the Far East with whom they traded silk with, and her smile brightened when Tikali started to chant a hymn that their people recited during weddings while she tied the goblets together with the red sash. As Tikali returned to the side, Atem looked at Tima and smiled, making her smile back, before the two drank from their goblets. At first, Tima tentatively drank her wine since she was not a fan of strong drinks like this but, once the goblets were lowered, she realized something: the wine was more sweet than strong, which means that Atem must have requested a special wine for the ceremony. She smiled her appreciation to him as he took her hand and pulled her forward. The Hebrew blushed and closed her eyes as the Pharaoh leaned forward so they could share their first kiss as husband and bride. The Royal Court lowered their heads in respect as their friends clapped and gave small cheers. The royal couple smiled as they left to be in a private room before the coronation. Along the way, Tima whispered, "I love you, Atem."
Atem squeezed her hand. "I love you more."
Tima blushed as they arrived to an empty room. Once alone, Atem hugged Tima from behind. "My beautiful wife."
Tima smiled and nuzzled his neck before thinking of something: "Will the noblemen and women accept me as their queen?"
Atem nodded. "Yes. Don't you remember when the villagers accepted you?"
Tima agreed, remembering. "True. But those are regular people; this is the upper class."
Atem kissed her gently. "Do not worry: they will accept you. They accepted my decisions to follow my heart than marry for the politically reasons." He then chuckled. "Besides, I think they liked Roxanna as much as we did."
Tima giggled at that. While she hoped that Roxanna did not have a painful death, she was glad that the spoiled Greek was out of their lives forever. The newly wedded couple stayed still for a while before Mahad knocked on the door. "My Pharaoh, my Queen, everyone is waiting in the throne room."
Atem looked up. "Thank you, Mahad; we'll be along." When Mahad headed to the throne room, the Pharaoh looked at his bride. "You ready?"
Tima pulled away from him with a smile. "One moment." She untied her veil and took it off, revealing damp hair, as if it was just starting to dry when she put on her veil. After flipping her hair, she smiled. "That's better."
Atem chuckled and kissed her cheek. "You are so fun to watch, my love."
Tima giggled before taking Atem's hand and letting him lead the way to the throne room. She wanted to follow him inside but he stopped her. "No. You and I need to enter separately so that they can get a good look at you."
Tima nodded in understanding and let Atem walk in first. She did peek in and saw that the throne room was full with people, from noblemen and women to the palace servants and entertainers, their friends standing with the entertainers, the Royal Court, three on each side, standing before two throne chairs, and Shimon standing next to the left throne, holding a box in his hands. As soon as everyone saw Atem, they all bowed their heads in respect until Atem stopped in front of his throne room and turned to face the room. "My people, today is a joyous day: I have married the love of my life, the woman who is to be your new Queen. May I present…Tima."
Taking that as a prompt for her to enter, Tima took a deep breath and entered the room. She tried to appear strong but she was shaking on the inside. But she got a pleasant surprise: as she passed them, everyone bowed their heads in respect for their new Queen. She smiled at the Royal Court as they bowed down on one knee. Standing in front of the thrones and Shimon in an angle that showed her profile to the people, she noticed the box in Shimon's hands. Off Atem's nod, Shimon bowed his head to Tima. "Tima…you have been chosen by the Pharaoh to stand forth by his side and become the Queen of Khment. Will you honor the law by serving and protecting the Kingdom and by being with the Pharaoh as his equal? Do you take these vows and hold them truth?"
Tima nodded. "I do."
Shimon smiled. "Then kneel." When Tima was on her knees, Shimon opened the box, revealing the pendant and a simple gold crown with a golden feather on the front; Atem suggested that they use the feather of Maat as the symbol for Tima, both because she always told the truth and because it was a symbol that she could wear that would not upset her faith. Shimon first put the pendant around her neck and then held up the crown. "Tima…I now bestow thee…" he lowered the crown onto her head, "…Queen Tima of Khment."
Tima smiled, especially when she heard everyone cheering for her. Standing, she joined Atem's side, who kissed her deeply. "You have no idea how proud I am of you right now."
Tima smiled as she took his hand, lacing their fingers, and looked out at the people. Atem gave a sharp nod and sat down with Tima in their thrones as the celebration began. Music began and the dancers came out to entertain everyone while other servants started to serve food. Tima could feel her smile widen as she looked at Atem. "All this for us?"
Atem chuckled and kissed her hand. "This is a special day; how can we not celebrate?"Tima nodded and kissed his cheek, making him smile with a blush. The celebration went on into the night with everyone enjoying the festivities; even Seth had a good time when the royal couple noticed that Tikali looked lonely and allowed him to dance one dance with his little lover. As she watched and enjoyed the ceremony, Tima finally believed that all her dreams had come true and that her life would be filled with happiness. But neither she nor Atem knew of the evil that was brewing in the desert, an evil that would hunt them down now and in the future…