Merenra sighed, his father had taken him along with the other tomb builders for the first time and it was not an experience he was enjoying. It was midday and even in the shade the heat was unbearable, on top of that, he ached everywhere and had acquired various injuries. He was too young to be doing most of the things his father was expecting of him and from the reactions of everyone else, his father was the only one who didn’t seem to realise that.
It was nice to be included, as they didn’t really spend much time together; he was just too young to be doing what he was being asked to. The others who included their young sons had them doing menial tasks like fetching water or tools but his father was treating him like the adults and as much as the blond haired boy wanted to please his father, he wasn’t physically capable of fulfilling such a role yet.
If he were honest, which he would never be outside his head, he would admit that actually, he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. The family had been tomb builders for generations and his older brothers were already involved in it themselves, but as important and prestigious as it may be, dependant on the client, it really didn’t appeal to him.
Being a soldier, officer of the law or guard was more the sort of role he wanted, not that it was out of any sense of glory-seeking. The roles could be dangerous, dull and highly underappreciated and depending on the position, not all that well-paid either. His family wouldn’t like it if they ever found out, but he very much enjoyed fighting, especially when it came to knocking some arrogant noble’s son down a few pegs.
He would no doubt be beaten, and punished through other means, if his family ever found out that he was engaging in such things, but it was a part of who he was. They wouldn’t accept or back any attempt at going into a different area of work either, it was something he’d have to do completely alone if he decided he wanted to try. It wouldn’t be easy, or much fun but he was getting a little money from the fights and was storing safely, just in case.
Merenra sighed again when his father called for him. As everyone was taking a break out of the midday heat, he couldn’t see what his father could possibly need him for. Given the way everything seemed to be going today, it was probably going to be yet another annoying task. He arrived to find his father talking to an official, so he stood back patiently and waited for the conversation to finish.
Eventually the official left and his father turned to address him. “Nesut Aasaptah and his son may be visiting here shortly; I need you to make sure everyone is aware so the site is in order.”
Merenra bowed his acceptance and listened to the subsequent instructions before leaving to do as he had been told. A royal visit was important and it was imperative that they made a good impression, so he was somewhat surprised that his father had assigned the task to him. It wasn’t a difficult task, certainly one far more within his abilities than anything else his father had asked from him that day. His surprise came in the amount of trust his father was placing in him, not that the trust was misplaced, he would get the job done properly.
The site was soon a hive of activity, which held a relatively even mix of excitement and anxiety in the air. Merenra was finally able to sit down and have some food and drink, albeit only briefly before his father was pestering him further. Evidently the man was concerned his son might embarrass him. The simplest solution to ensure he didn’t would be to send him home. Apparently the thought hadn’t crossed his father’s mind however and he was stuck being nagged instead.
After about an hour had passed, the heat finally receded slightly, much to everyone’s relief. They had been hard at work making everything presentable and the effort looked to have paid off. Now they could continue working more or less as normal, just with slightly more consideration to the mess they made. Time would tell now whether the entire thing had been a waste of time or if the royal visit would happen.
At the sudden bustle, Merenra looked over to his father to see what the older man was expecting of him. He had never had any need to learn the protocols involved for dealing with nobles, let alone members of the royal family, so he would no doubt get something wrong. Sadly, his father still seemed to completely overlook sending him home and instead quickly went over how to behave before moving to greet Nesut and his entourage.
Merenra sighed for the thousandth time that day and tried to do as he had been told. He understood it was a big deal for all of the tomb builders there and he didn’t want to do anything that would cause trouble. He still didn’t see why his father couldn’t have just sent him home and saved all the potential issues and he was hardly excited or awestruck at the possibility of seeing the royals. While he didn’t dismiss the existence of the Neteru, he didn’t believe that the Nesut were divine.
The rulers were important, an absolute necessity to keep order, but he believed they were just people like everyone else. Perhaps sometimes the Neteru might choose a particular person to rule, or a bloodline even, but that was as far as he could accept the claim of a ‘divine right’ to rule. Of course, those beliefs weren’t something that he was going to vocalise or make obvious at any point in time. It was considered treason and not something he felt was worth being imprisoned, killed or exiled for.
Surprisingly Aasaptah’s son didn’t look nearly as comfortable with the situation as Merenra thought he should be. Granted he was only still a child himself and was probably still learning everything but he hadn’t expected Nesut to bring him on excursions before he was prepared to deal with them. The bodyguards with them were silent and imposing, stood slightly behind and to the side of the two of them. Only one of them had separated from the others, looking for a better vantage of the area, he seemed to be more aware and doing a better job in the blonde’s opinion.
He assumed he wasn’t the one in charge of the protection detail however, as he would have expected him to have told one of the others to move to cover the areas he couldn’t see, had he the authority to do so. One of the points the switched-on guard couldn’t see had already caught his attention but he wasn’t sure enough he had seen movement to risk commenting. It was no doubt unacceptable to speak unless spoken to and his father would kill him for the disgrace, so for now he would just keep discreetly monitoring the situation.
Several minutes later it became perfectly apparent that he hadn’t been imagining things, as an assassin entered his view of the elevated position he had been watching. He quickly called a warning before deciding to get involved himself. It seemed to him that the assassin was aiming at the prince, not his father and the boy was likely to get killed if someone didn’t move him out of the line of fire. It might get him into trouble but he could hardly let the boy get hurt or killed if he could prevent it.
Merenra managed to pull him down just in time for the arrow to glide over his head. He looked back over to the assassin, who seemed to mull over firing another shot before deciding the guards were getting too close and fleeing. Merenra noticed one of the guards was injured and assumed the assassin must have fired two arrows at the same time, the wound didn’t seem to be too bad to him however and it wasn’t his concern regardless.
He helped the prince up and apologised for the rough treatment before leaving him to the guards and putting some distance between them. He didn’t think that he could, through fair judgement, get into any trouble, but he didn’t want to risk being considered a threat. His father moved to stand beside him but like everyone else, he was shocked and tense and seemed completely unaware of what would happen or what should be done or not.
Aasaptah looked over his son and spoke to him briefly before turning his attention to his guards. Presumably they were discussing what had happened and the best course of action, though the blond knew better than to assume that he wouldn’t be part of the discussion. Eventually Aasaptah turned to look at Merenra and his father before walking over with the switched-on guard.
“Might I know your name little one?” Aasaptah asked softly.
“Merenra, my lord.” He replied, trying to sound respectful.
“I owe you my son’s life Merenra, thank you for both your warning and actions. He is your son Infatef?”
“Yes Nesut.” His father replied, bowing slightly.
“You should be very proud of his bravery, there aren’t many who would be so aware and courageous enough for such an act, especially when so young in years.”
Infatef bowed again, more deeply this time. “Thank you for your kind words Nesut. I am most certainly proud of such behaviour.”
The guard knelt in front of Merenra, turning the attention back to him. “Tell me, do you wish to follow in your father’s footsteps, or do you have other aspirations? I wouldn’t expect such awareness and reaction from a tomb builder’s son.”
Merenra hesitated, lying was hardly a good idea but he wasn’t ready to anger his father either. “I may have considered other career options sir, but I am nothing but a child and all children dream up things as they grow.”
“Seneret, please, though that is a very carefully considered reply for nought but a child. I ask because you show promise, so I wonder if you have interest in such careers. Certainly Nesut would grant such as a reward, were it your wish.”
Merenra glanced at his father, unsurprised that he looked displeased by the prospect. “It would be a lie to say I hold no interest.”
Seneret nodded and looked at Aasaptah, who nodded before speaking. “If there are no qualms, Merenra shall be taken to be trained as one of the palace guard. He has shown responsibility, selflessness and awareness, which are invaluable in such an important and necessary role.”
Infatef bowed and Merenra followed suit, ensuring to keep his face neutral. Aasaptah then spoke again. “You shall accompany us to the vessel awaiting us on the Nile, then you shall return home with Seneret to bid farewell to your family and retrieve any belongings you may require. Seneret shall then escort you to the palace barracks, which shall be your home for the duration of your training.”
Merenra and his father bowed again, though it was clear enough to Merenra that his father wasn’t pleased. Regardless, Infatef had already agreed, so there was nothing he could do but accept whatever consequences that entailed. If he were honest, the blond was slightly apprehensive about it all himself. He had no knowledge of the procedures and requirements of the palace guards and wasn’t the least bit aware of how to deal with the hierarchy, be it superiors, nobility or royalty.
There was also the concern about his past activities and the consequences of being involved in that, should he be recognised. Of course, given Seneret’s comment, it was quite possible he had already figured out Merenra had been involved in fights of some description, which could mean it had been mentioned and overlooked. He wasn’t going to take the risk of assuming anything however, becoming complacent caused nothing but trouble.
As everyone started moving towards the Nile, the prince turned to Merenra. “You probably know already, but my name is Amensekhem. I want to personally thank you for saving my life, I won’t forget it.”
Merenra bowed as best he could while they were walking but said nothing before the boy returned to his father’s side. He had done it because he could and because no one else seemed ready to, not because of any feeling or duty towards the royals. He would have done it for anyone, well, unless he thought it was justified. He didn’t want any ‘honours’ or recognition and hopefully as they had given him the training, he could avoid that. He just hadn’t wanted to get into trouble for doing nothing to save the prince.
Once Aasaptah was on his way the atmosphere relaxed considerably, though Infatef did not bother to hide his disquiet. Seneret seemed intent on ignoring the fact however, which was fair enough under the circumstances. Nesut’s words were law and Infatef had offered no qualms when he had been asked. There was no reason for Seneret to broach the topic and risk making things worse. Once this little stretch was over, he would be on his way to a new start.
He hoped that once they were on their way, Seneret would be more talkative and he would gain a better idea of what was to come, though he would learn one way or another eventually. It was quite possible Seneret would have questions of his own once his father was no longer present, given he had made it perfectly clear he wasn’t willing to speak freely in front of him.
Surprisingly the house was empty when they arrived, so Merenra quickly excused himself and went to pack his belongings. He didn’t really want to deal with his family and explain everything; he would rather leave that to his father. If he sorted everything out quickly enough, he might be lucky enough to avoid it all, which was certainly the intent.
Upon his return to the hall, Infatef looked him over before moving to kneel in front of him. “You have everything? I’ll explain to your mother and siblings but you should visit when you can. If you find you don’t like it, there’s no shame in coming home.”
“Yes father.” Merenra said, leaving his response simple.
“I leave my son to your care, as Nesut instructed.” Infatef stated to Seneret before heading to the living area.
“Let us be on our way then.” Seneret stated.
Merenra nodded, motioning for Seneret to go ahead of him. “Of course.”
Once they had gone a fair distance from the house and the general hustle and bustle, Seneret finally turned his attention to Merenra. “You’re observant, you consider what you say and how you say it and your reactions are quick and instinctive. You’ve done more than just consider other career paths. You’ve partaken in the Partenath, haven’t you?”
“I may have done.” Merenra replied blandly, not sure what the consequences to admitting it would be.
“I already commented as much to Nesut. The tournaments aren’t legal or endorsed, but they aren’t tied to any illegal scenes either and we’re aware that there are a lot of people from all classes involved for either money or prestige. What has been done already will be overlooked, but you mustn’t partake in any others.”
Merenra nodded, internally breathing a sigh of relief. “Understood. I can’t imagine there should be any further need to partake regardless.”
“Nesut has allowed me to be responsible for you Merenra, I’ll train you and explain everything required of you. I asked for this because you show a lot of promise, especially for one so young. In return, I need you to be open and honest with me, understood?”
“Yes. There is a lot that I don’t understand though.”
Seneret smiled at the simple admission. “Yes, I gathered but you’re observant, so I’ll wager you’re a quick learner as well. Provided we communicate properly, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
Merenra nodded, being Seneret’s personal apprentice was not what he had expected, though he was hardly going to complain. The man was switched-on and able and had already gained his respect, being tutored by him directly would offer a much better training experience than he had expected.
It was possible the tutorage might gain him some negative attention but he was strong enough to deal with that and he could always ask Seneret what the best way to handle it was, if the need arose. Hopefully they would respect the man enough to leave him alone, though either way it would no doubt be an interesting experience.
He hoped that it would work out and he would finally feel a sense of purpose and belonging. The Partenath had been the closest he had come to that, though he had felt perfectly ‘at home’ protecting Amensekhem as well. He could only wonder if the day had played out the way it had for this reason and if the Neteru had chosen this path for him. Things were looking up for him whatever the reason, so all he could do was make the most of it and prove his worth. The chance would not be wasted, of that he would make certain.