A Welcome Surprise
A month had gone by since the wedding and Tima thoroughly enjoyed her new life as Atem's wife and Queen. Because she was Queen, she was not needed at the daily meetings to discuss political affairs so she filled her days with either continuing her studies or helping with making new monuments, either of the Kas or of their gods; if it was the latter, she only approved where the statues would go and the sculptor respected her faith. However all of that was put on hold when she was taken ill. Now bed-ridden, she tried to keep her spirits up around Atem and her lady-in-waiting (and now Seth's wife) Tikali, who was in charge of caring for her when Atem was at his meetings. Tima thought it was just a bad case of the flu but then the truth came out…
That morning, Tikali had called for the medicine woman to make a remedy for Tima. As they were waiting, Tima was munching on some bread and praying that she would not throw it up. Whining in frustration, she laid down and wondered, "Why am I not better yet?"
Tikali chuckled as she prepared a goblet of sweet wine for Tima. "These things take time."
Tima looked at her friend. "Perhaps. But, while I'm stuck here, I'm not performing my queenly duties."
Bringing over the goblet, Tikali pointed out, "You need to be healthy first."
Before Tima could argue, Tarra's voice rang out. You need to stop worrying; that will only make you sicker.
Tima smiled as Tarra flew in and landed next to her head. "Atem ask you to check on me?"
Tarra nodded and nuzzled her. Yep. The meeting is running a little late so he wanted me to see how you were doing.
Tima shrugged a little as Tikali stood up. "Since you're here, Tarra, I'm going to see what's taking the medicine woman so long."
Tarra nodded as Tikali left. As the phoenix turned to talk to her guardian's wife, her eyes glanced at her stomach and she gave a little squawk of surprise. Jumping from the sudden noise, the Hebrew asked, "Everything okay?"
Tarra's eyes twinkled, for she now knew the truth about the illness. Oh yes…everything is just fine.
Sensing that there was something else behind that answer, Tima started to demand an answer when Atem came in. "Hey, how you doing?"
As she flew out, Tarra told both of them, She's going to be just fine.
Now alone, Atem raised his eyebrow at Tima, who shrugged. "Don't look at me; she hasn't told me a thing."
Shrugging it off, Atem sat next to his wife and started stroking her hair. "How you feeling, my love?"
Tima smiled up at him. While she was grateful to see him, she did not want to keep him from his job. "Getting by. I'm not taking you away from anything, am I?"
Atem shook his head. "No, the meeting's over so I can take care of you for the rest of the day."
The Queen smiled and laid her head on his lap. "You don't have to, you know. If you're needed elsewhere…"
"…I will go where I am needed and, now, my wife needs me."
Tima took his hand and kissed it gently. "I love you so much."
"And I love you," he said with a smile. "And I will forever."
Tima smiled as there was a knock at the door. When Atem granted entrance, it was Tikali with the medicine woman and Seth, who stated, "We need you, Pharaoh; Lapidos got a message from the leader of Greece addressed to you."
The royal couple sat up, curious with what Seth said. Tima asked, "So what does that mean?"
Seth shrugged. He himself was bothered since he was still suspicious of any type of communication from Greece since he always believed that Lapidos would get something bad one day and would withhold information from them. "I'm not sure but he did not seem too concerned."
More optimistic than his right hand man, Atem nodded, knowing that Tima would be all right now that the medicine woman was here. Kissing her wife gently, he told her that he would be right back and left with Seth. Sitting up, Tima looked at the medicine woman, who bowed to her. "My Queen. What seems to be troubling you?"
Tima winced a little at a wave of illness before saying, "I just can't seem to get better."
Standing up, the medicine woman moved to a nearby table to spread out her ingredients for a range of illnesses. "Oh dear. Can you tell me your symptoms?"
Tima nodded. "Well, I don't have a fever; Tikali keeps feeling my forehead and confirming that. I'm hardly able to even look at food, let alone eat it and keep it down. I'm always tired, no matter how much sleep I get, and I keep getting headaches."
The medicine woman's head lifted a little; the symptoms sounded familiar, especially since she knew how long she and the Pharaoh had been married. Stepping forward, she first said, "Forgive me, my Queen."
Tima raised her eyebrow and Tikali took a step forward to protect her friend if need be. To the Hebrews' surprise, the medicine woman started to squeeze Tima's breasts. Blushing, Tima demanded, "What are you doing?"
Continuing the exam, the medicine woman asked gently, "Forgive me, my Queen, but when was the last time you bled?"
Tima though for a moment and froze. Her illness was starting to make sense.
The meeting with Lapidos went longer than expected because the Greek had to translate the letter and he had gotten rusty from living in Khment. When it was finally translated and discovered to be an alert that the Caesar was sending a politician down to look at a piece of land for a possible embassy, Atem left for his bedchambers. Seth followed, not thrilled by the letter. "Why must they take some of our land?"
Itami pointed out, It may be easier for them with their travels. Besides, it could come in handy for Lapidos in the long run.
Seth smirked in amusement. "I highly doubt that will work. One touch from Ra and they'll be running back home."
Itami chirped a laughing chirp in agreement, already imagining the Greeks complaining about the heat. Seth then turned to Atem. "My Pharaoh, where is Tarra?"
A little distracted with wanting an update on Tima, Atem shrugged. "After she left Tima, I haven't seen her. When I try to contact her, she just says that she's busy."
And I was, came a voice from above. Atem looked up and smiled as Tarra came down to his shoulder. "Hey, you. Where have you been?"
Tarra was at the highest peak she could find, praying to her god for blessings to her guardian's family, but she did not tell Atem that: instead, she answered with, Go be with Tima first. Seeing Atem's raised eyebrow, Tarra's eyes sparkled. You'll see.
Atem looked back at Seth before going to the bedchambers. Both curious and concerned, Seth and Itami followed. Just as they arrived, the medicine woman was exiting with a small bowl. Seeing Atem, she bowed her head and he asked, "How's my wife?"
Not wanting to look her god in the eye, she said, "She will be all right; she just needs to rest." When Atem sighed in relief, the medicine woman added, "She's waiting for you."
As she tried to leave, Atem stopped her with, "Do you know what she has?"
The medicine woman smiled and turned her head a little to answer. "She told me that she wants to tell you herself." With that, she left.
Now more confused than ever, Atem and Tarra entered. Both sitting on the bed, the two Hebrews looked up with smiles. Atem politely asked, "Tikali, can you excuse us?"
Tikali bowed her head. "Of course." On her way out, she asked Tima, "Can I tell Seth?" Off Tima's nod, the lady in waiting left.
Tarra's eyes sparkled at Tima before flying to her perch to give the married couple a little space. Atem looked at Tima. "Tell Seth what?"
Tima smiled and sat up a little. "Sit down. Something amazing has happened."
Sitting on the bed in front of her, Atem asked, "What is it?"
Tima closed her eyes, still smiling, and gently touched her stomach. Tarra gave a cheering chirp but Atem did not get it at first until she said, "I'm pregnant."
After a moment to digest the news, Atem's eyes widened in surprise. "You're…you're pregnant?"
Tima nodded and was then met with silence. Opening her eyes a little nervous, she then smiled again: Atem was smiling brightly before hugging her. "Tima…this is great news!"
Tima laughed happily and hugged him back. "Really?"
Atem nodded and pulled back. "Absolutely! This is one of the greatest days of my life!"
Tima's eyes started to tear up happily. Chuckling, Atem wiped her eyes before kissing her and touched her stomach. Tima sighed softly in the kiss, still in blissful shock: she was going to have a child, Atem's child. Tarra chirped happily and nuzzled Tima's stomach. Seeing this, Atem smirked. "You knew, didn't you?"
Her eyes sparkling, Tarra nodded. Tilting her head, Tima asked, "How…?"
I saw that you had a soul in your stomach. We phoenixes can see them.
Tima laughed and hugged the phoenix. "You silly, why didn't you tell me?"
Squawking at the sudden hug, Tarra responded with, Such news should be found out on your own. The Queen shook her head in amusement as Tarra added, This is cause for celebration!
Atem agreed with nodded. "Agreed. We must tell everyone the good news and celebrate you bearing an heir to the throne."
The idea of announcing her pregnancy made Tima sour a little. While she knew that everyone would find out eventually, she knew that there was one member of the royal court who would not be thrilled. Despite her being the Queen for a month, she knew that Aknadin still did not accept her because she was a Hebrew slave. Now that she was pregnant, who knew how he would react? Because she was deep in thought, she did not hear Atem until he waved his hand in front of her. Waking up, she asked, "What did you say?"
Atem smiled and kissed her forehead. "I asked if you felt up to announcing the good news."
Tima thought about it. She knew that the villagers needed to know but the sun was already low in the sky and they were probably getting ready to settle in for the night. However, she knew that the people in the palace and the nobles were still awake. Also, she was feeling better now that she knew why she was "sick" and knowing that now was as good a time as ever. Coming to a decision, she nodded with a small kiss. "Yes, but we'll keep it to the palace and the nobles tonight; we'll announce it to the villagers tomorrow. Go on ahead and I'll join you as soon as Tikali and I get myself ready."
Nodding, he got up and kissed her deeply. "You have no idea how much I love you right now: my beautiful wife and Queen…is becoming a mother."
Tima giggled with a blissful smile. "And my husband and Pharaoh is becoming a father."
Smiling back, Atem left, running into Seth and Tikali. "Seth, come with me." Seth bowed his head as Atem added, "Tikali, please help Tima get ready; we want to announce this good news to everyone."
Tikali smiled in obedience and kissed her husband before going into the bedchambers. As the two men went towards the throne room, Seth was the first to talk. "Congratulations are in order. How do you feel?"
Atem smiled. "I assume Tikali told you." Off Seth's nod, the Pharaoh's smile broadened. "I still can't believe it…I'm going to be a father."
Seth smirked. "Yes…an heir to the throne."
At the thought of that, Atem started to wander. "Seth…do you think I will make a good father…like mine was?"
Seth gave Atem a surprised look. "My Pharaoh, why ask such a question?"
Atem sighed. "My father was a great man, Pharaoh, and father. Will I be able to live up to him? I don't want to mess up and have my son or daughter hate me."
Seth shook his head. "If I may, Pharaoh: I have known you since we were young, when you were still the prince. I had no doubt in my mind that you would become a great Pharaoh like your father. With that said, I believe you will also become a great and caring father just like yours was." As they continued to walk, Seth noticed that Atem appreciated what Seth said and admitted, "If I may, you could be nervous simply because this is your first child. I would feel the same way."
Atem silently agreed. After a beat, he asked, "You said you would be nervous too. Is Tikali…?"
Seth shook his head. "No, she is not. While having a child with her would be wonderful…it is…difficult."
Figuring out that they were trying without success, Atem nodded in understanding. "I see. Well, when the time comes where the gods will bless you with a child, I have faith in you as well."
Seth smiled softly in appreciation.
A couple of minutes later, everyone from the Royal Court to the servants to their friends was in the throne room, very curious about why they were summoned. Atem looked at Tima, who was dressed in a simple white dress, and took her hand. "My friends, something wonderful has happened to us and it is a blessing for all of us."
Isis smiled knowingly, having had a premonition literally minutes ago. Seeing her smile out of the corner of his eye, Atem told everyone in the throne room, "My beloved Tima is with child. We will have an heir to the throne very soon."
Their friends reacted with excitement while the court silently smiled with happiness except one. Aknadin could not believe it: the mudblood of a queen was pregnant with a half-breed? This was unacceptable in his eyes because it dirtied the royal bloodline. Because the rest of the court was too busy giving their congratulations to the royal couple, they did not notice his look but Seth did as he moved away from Tikali. "Priest Aknadin, may I have a word with you…alone?"
Seeing him, the elder nodded and the two men went into the hallway; Itami wanted to follow but Seth told her to wait in the throne room. Once alone, Seth crossed his arms. "Priest Aknadin…I see you are the only one who is not celebrating the new heir to the throne."
Aknadin crossed his arms and looked away, grateful that he could be open to his son. "You call that an heir to the throne, Seth? Have you gone mad? That woman is dirtying the royal bloodline."
Seth sighed to keep his temper under control. "She is not dirtying the bloodline. In fact, she was more pure than that Greek was."
Aknadin gave Seth a hard look. "Roxanna was more like royalty than that slave was. You of all people should know that this is going against tradition!"
The grip Seth had on the Sennen Rod tightened in his frustration. "Traditions come and go; you know that as well as I do."
Aknadin looked at Seth and shook his head. He remembered how he and Aknadin were the two who really went with the idea of Atem marrying Roxanna in the first place and now here was his son, accepting that Atem married his slave instead. "What happened to you? Ever since that child-woman came into your life, you've grown soft."
That was the final straw: Seth could handle a lot of insults thrown towards him but being called soft or insulting his wife was crossing the line. He uncrossed his arms and was about to make a move when he and Aknadin heard, "Seth, no!"
To their surprise, Tikali came out from where she was hiding behind the doors and grabbed Seth's hand that held the Rod. The two men could not believe that she was here and wondered how much she heard. More angered that a (former) slave interrupted a private talk, Aknadin glared at her. "How dare you eavesdrop on our conversation! Have you no manners?"
Her anger clouding her mind, Tikali glared at Aknadin. "The only one here who doesn't have manners is you! How dare you call Queen Tima a mudblood!"
Aknadin was angry and humiliated that this woman scolded him in front of his son. Without thinking, he raised his hand to smack Tikali but Seth stopped his hand with the Sennen Rod and said sternly, "This conversation is over…and so is your clinging to the old days. Understood?"
While Aknadin refused to let go of his views towards the two Hebrews, he knew that he had to at least pretend to understand, especially since Seth was Atemu's right-hand man and, in the end, had the final say between the two priests. Lowering his head, he nodded and stormed off. Scowling at Aknadin's attitude, Seth turned to Tikali, who had her head down. "Seth…I'm…sorry…"
Smirking, Seth made her look at him and kissed her before telling her, "That was very brave of you, Tikali."
Tikali looked up in surprise. "It was?"
Seth nodded. "Yes. No one outside the Royal Court has ever stepped up to Aknadin. I'm proud of you. Now let's get back."
Tikali smiled and turned to go back in. But she paused when she saw Kiko and Mana gushing over Tima and her announced pregnancy, hugging Tima and touching and talking to her stomach. Sighing softly, Tikali watched her friend with an envious look in her eyes. She did not wake from her stare until Seth touched her shoulder. Jumping a little, she looked back at him, seeing his sad smile. He hugged her from behind, understanding that she was jealous that she was not pregnant yet. "Do not worry, my love. Our blessing shall come one day."
Tikali turned around and leaned into his chest. "If only it was that easy…" She looked up at him and asked, "What if I can't…what if I can't give you a child…? What will--?"
Tikali was cut off by Seth kissing her. "I won't love you any less…I promise. I know you want to give me a child but, if we have to adopt, I will love you no matter what."
Tikali was not thrilled to hear the idea of adopting since she wanted to have a bond with Seth that was a child but she nodded. When they went inside, Itami flew over to Tikali and nuzzled her softly; while she did not hear the conversation, she could sense that Tikali was not feeling 100% emotionally and wanted to try and make her feel better. Tikali smiled and looked at Tima, who was already glowing from the attention her friends were giving her. In the dark about what happened outside the doors, Atem announced, "We shall have a celebration tonight to bless this happy occasion!"
Upon hearing that, the servants and friends left to get the party ready for tonight.
Later that night, the feast was in full swing with food, music, dancing, and celebration for the new heir. Tima could not help but be amazed at the celebration. Granted, there was always a celebration when someone from her tribe was expecting but this feast was bigger than she expected. "All this for us being pregnant?"
Atem looked at her and chuckled. "Of course, Tima. We are celebrating the new life you have been blessed with." Tima blushed a little, prompting Atem to kiss her cheek. "Enjoy yourself; everyone is happy that you are going to be a new mother."
Tima smiled, remembering how the nobles cheered when it was announced. As she continued to eat her dinner of plain bread and cooked bird, she wondered aloud, "I wonder where Tikali is; I really need to thank her for making sure that I had simple food that wouldn't make me sick."
Atem looked around and realized that he had not seen Tikali since he announced that they would have a celebration. Motioning for Seth to come forward, the Pharaoh asked, "Do you know where your wife is?"
Seth nodded. "She's preparing something in the kitchen; been at it almost all day."
Tima smiled. "Well, tell her that I want to see her when I get the chance."
Itami looked up from the rafters where she and the other phoenixes were. I shall do that, my Queen.
Tima nodded in appreciation. With her eating and Atem watching the dancers, they did not catch the little look exchange between Itami and Seth. They knew the real reason why Tikali had not come out of the kitchen: she was worried that she would let slip that she was jealous of Tima's pregnancy. Seth and Itami continuously told her that it was all right to feel jealous but Tikali did not want to take the chance. Itami soon found Tikali, who was exhausted from her work of chopping, mashing, and grinding. Chirping to alert the Hebrew that she was coming, Itami flew down to her shoulder. Hey. What are you working on?
Tikali looked down at the bowl before her. Where there used to be about ten apples was now what could only be described as apple purée. "It's a dessert that my tribe made when a woman is pregnant. I think Tima will like it."
Itami smiled and took a little taste. Mm! Simple but sweet.
Tikali smiled. "Thank you. It's something I haven't made in a long time."
Itami looked at Tikali as she finished making the purée and started to put it in a bowl. Is there something on your mind, Tikali?
Tikali shook her head, glad that Itami continued to respect the request that the Hebrew made to the phoenix to not invade her mind. "No…no, I'm fine."
Are you sure? Seth and I are concerned.
Before Tikali could defend herself even more, Kiko and Nayru came in. "How's your dessert coming along?"
Tikali finish scooping the purée and smiled. "It's all done and ready for Tima to eat." Kiko looked at the purée and brightened. Even Nayru reached in to get a beak-full, making Tikali giggle and pull the bowl away from them. "Don't eat any; it's for the Queen. If there are leftovers, you can have that."
Kiko nodded and went to work on the dessert that Atem, the Royal Court, and the Khment nobles would get while Nayru went to mist the fruits to give them a shiny look. As Tikali got up to deliver Tima's dessert, Itami squeezed the Hebrew's shoulder. We're not done yet. I still want to talk to you about this.
Tikali sighed and told her in mental speech, We can do this another time.
Itami wanted to try again but Tikali put up her mental wall and headed to the throne room with the apple purée. Seeing it, Tima was surprised since this was a new food. "Thank you, Tikali. What is it?"
Tikali smiled. "It's a dessert that my tribe always made for an expecting mother."
Tima took the bowl and looked it. At first, it did not look appetizing since it was all mashed up. But she could feel Tikali staring at her, waiting for a reaction. So she put on a small smile and took a taste to be polite. To her surprise, it was better than she expected so she continued to eat it. Atem watched and chuckled. "That good, huh?"
Tima nodded and offered the bowl. "Yes, give it a try."
Atem tried a taste and reacted with positivity. As Tarra flew down to have a taste, Tima smiled at Tikali. "Thank you. This dessert is a big hit."
Tikali smiled. She then said without thinking, "Thank you, I was beginning to think that I would never use the recipe." She did not realize what she said until she saw the looks that the royal couple, phoenixes, and Seth gave her. "What? What did I--?" She put the pieces together and paled. "Oh, I'm sorry, Tima! I didn't mean it!"
Before Tima could stop at her, Tikali took off to the kitchen. Tima almost left to get her but she remembered that there were guests around so she had to stop. Atem shook his head and correctly guessed, "I'm sure she didn't mean to say that."
Tima nodded. "Yeah…but it must be hard for her with me being pregnant and not her. Maybe I should talk to her after the nobles leave."
Seth shook his head. "No, my Queen, I'll talk to her. It's a matter between us, after all."
Atem nodded and looked at Tima. "I agree with Seth. For now, don't worry; stress is the last thing your body needs."
Tima nodded and focused her attention on the party, which lasted for another couple hours. When the nobles started to leave and the servants started to clean up, the royal couple retired for the night. Worried about Tikali, Itami went to Seth. You want me to join you?
Seth shook his head. "No, thank you, Itami. I want to keep this between the two of us, if you don't mind."
Itami nodded. Yeah, I understand. Just remember, I'm always here for the two of you if you need me.
Seto smiled softly with appreciation as Itami flew off. Alone again, Seth journeyed to the kitchen and peeked in, seeing Tikali cleaning up the apple mess. She seemed distracted in her thoughts, feeling a bit shameful for what she said. Because of her not paying attention, she did not hear Seth come in until he wrapped his arms around her, making her jump a little. After apologizing, he asked, "Are you all right, my love?"
Tikali lowered her head a little. "Oh, Seth…I said a horrible thing to Tima…I'm sure she hates me for it."
Seth chuckled, finding what she said almost adorable. "On the contrary…she's worried about you."
Surprised, Tikali turned around. "She is?"
Seth nodded. "We all are. We know that you're jealous of Tima being with child." Cupping her chin, he kept her from lowering her head and told her tenderly but sternly, "All we need is patience and faith in the gods…and they will deliver a child to us. All right?"
Tikali smiled softly, hoping that he was right. Touching his chest, she added with a little velvety tone in her voice, "Until then…we can always have fun trying."
Seth chuckled and took her hand, leading her out of the kitchen. He was glad that she was feeling better now that she got a bit of encouragement from her husband.
The next day, all the villagers headed towards the palace. They knew that the Pharaoh had a major announcement to make and could not help but wonder what it was. They hoped that it was a good piece of news, like when he introduced them to Tima for the first time. Once they were in the palace court, they noticed that there were more guards than usual, which signaled that this announcement was huge. Once everyone was inside, Atem and Tima came into view and the villagers cheered for their leaders until Atem held up his hand to quiet them down and give his announcement. "Citizens, I bring you joyous news! Today is a time for celebration for the gods have blessed us with joyous tidings." Smiling at Tima, who smiled back, Atem continued his announcement. "For on this day, my beloved and your Queen is with child! The Kingdom of Khment has an heir to the throne!"The townspeople burst into cheers with joy, especially when Tima touched her stomach. This was indeed joyous news: their Queen was with child! Amidst the celebrating, there were two people who were not celebrating, one simply not caring and one furious. While they were clothed from head to toe to not be noticed right away, they still stood out like sore thumbs because of their facial scars…