Chapter 14: The Pain of Truth
Rania’s body feels heavy and her head fuzzy. Briefly, she thought to have heard a masculine voice. A soft tenor that seems to familiar to her—familiar enough to bring her comfort.
Warm encases her and she feels calmer.
A forgotten language is murmured near her ear keeping her body in a perpetual state of calm.
She wonders why everything feels so familiar.
A hollow feeling encases her chest. It feels as though she’s lost something significantly important, but it sits just out of reach of her grasp.
Her body engages in a battle of frustration and calm. Not quite certain which state to immerse itself in.
“Kun hadiana ’ayuha alsaghir,” murmurs that voice once more. Such a beautiful language—and so familiar. But where has she heard it? And when?
However, her body has given in to that soothing feeling as a relaxing energy flow through her. It pulls her back into comfortable darkness.
Her breathing evens out and she allows herself to let go once more.
But before she does, she presses in closer to that source of warmth—indulging in that familiar warmth and comfort she thirsts for.
Her eyes flutter open. The first thing she sees is the ceiling of the canopy—depicting ancient scenes of dancing sirens singing and playing.
Smooth silk surrounds her. It engulfs her body and supports her head—making her want to drift off once more.
But there’s no time for that. Actually, what time is it? And when did she come back here?
What happened during her tortuous training session?
Rania sits up. Her head is still fuzzy and the details come and go—too quick for her to really grasp anything.
All she can remember is a soothing voice whispering in her ear. Yet nothing else comes to mind before or after that.
She emits a sigh and looks around.
The dark blue sheer curtains of the canopy have been drawn back to immerse herself in rather dim lighting provided by a few glowing yellow orbs.
All is silent in her room.
How long did she sleep for? Surely, it couldn’t have been the entire day?
And right on cue—someone knocks at the door.
“Have you awoken, my Princess?” Ahti comes into the room.
Rania can make out her form through the sheer curtains—moving closer to her bed.
A tray is in her hand. Probably lunch or dinner—depending on what time it actually is.
“Pardon me, Your Highness,” she murmurs as she parts the curtains.
A golden tray is placed on the space beside Rania. The main entrée consists of a full lobster that seems to have had its shell removed for her to safely consume. So it’s, indeed, dinner time because lobster is a dinner menu item in this kingdom.
Her gaze flickers to Ahti’s face—an expression of concern etched within her soft features.
What the hell happened during her time in the training hall?
Whatever it was, it was enough to put that expression on Ahti’s face. And looking at that blatantly worried expression causes any appetite Rania might’ve had to disappear.
But not eating would probably deepen that look.
Rania grimaces as she looks upon the gorgeously arranged food on the plate. Why the hell is being a princess so damned hard?
No, scratch that. Why is being a magical princess so hard?
Though Rania almost scoffs at that. Some magical princess she is. She couldn’t even summon that devastating power when she actually wanted to.
“I-I shall go inform the Pharaoh of your awakening!”
Rania briefly glances at Ahti. Her presence had been all but forgotten until a second ago.
Ahti hurriedly bows before fleeing from the room with a rush of energy.
Rania blankly stares at the doors she had left through. Surely she hadn’t been asleep for that long?
She frowns. Once again, she attempts to draw any kind of memory that might lead her to a conclusion as to how she got here. But she still draws a blank.
How aggravating, knowing that time has been lost and not knowing what one did during that lost time.
And it had been a great deal of time considering it had only been early morning before her blackout.
Yet the people who would have the answers aren’t currently present.
By this point Hasani would usually be hovering around her—poking at her and such.
She doesn’t quite know Shukura well enough to even fathom what the woman would do in her constant presence other than lecture her to death.
Then that leaves her father. Too busy to give two shits that his daughter spent the entire day in a state of unconsciousness.
Go figure. But she’s not surprised. If anything, she’s just the slightest bit annoyed and an instant yearning for her mother back on the surface rears its head.
Why can’t she go back? She’s had enough of this underwater world of kingdoms and fucking princess and shit.
She misses the familiar smells of the French Quarter. The beignets, the gumbo, the jambalaya—all of it.
Even the loud noises of all-night parties appeal to her now. The excited hollering and laughter along with the boisterous music and parades through the street.
In her mind’s eyes she can see it all. The brightly lit street and the various displays of colors all around her.
And suddenly, her food has lost its taste.
She maybe only took a few bites of the lobster and messed around with the colorful salad. She’d barely eaten a thing, but her stomach feels as though she consumed an entire chicken on her own.
There’s a blank look about her face. Eyes vacant and unseeing.
Her body stills for a brief moment before twisting itself away from the rapidly cooling meal.
Her heart constricts painfully when she pictures her mother’s amused smile. A hint of mischief gleaming within her dark eyes.
She can hear her now, yelling at her to get out of the bed.
A small smile slips onto her lips at the thought. How she longs for those peaceful days once more. When everything was familiar and normal.
She had been fine not knowing who or where her father was. Life had been simple—annoying—but simple. Sure her mom had behaved like an oddball from time to time when it came to her voodoo shit, but that was her. It gave her a sense of being grounded.
Now? Now, she’s floating through the damn air and losing her shit at every turn.
And her mind is made up.
To hell with her father! She’s going to demand that he return her to the surface this instant!
However, when she goes to stand up, the world begins to spin and she quickly seats herself once more.
Maybe after she’s lied down for a bit…
A knock sounds at the doors to the Pharaoh’s inner chambers.
He gives a curt allowance of entry as a servant removes his headdress and sits it on the bust atop a pedestal.
Ahti enters. She quickly prostrates herself before him.
Pharaoh Aharon spares her a brief glance. “I hope for your sake that you are here to inform me that Naunet is awake?”
Ahti doesn’t dare to look at him, but rapidly nods all the same. “Yes, my Pharaoh! She awakened but mere moments ago.” Ahti swallows thickly, her body appearing to shudder beneath his stone gaze.
“And the cause?”
Ahti shakes her head. “We are still uncertain, but the palace mages believe it to be related to an old magic put in place long ago.”
Pharaoh Aharon frowns. “What you mean is that no one is able to truly discern why it is that my daughter has slept for ten days.”
Ahti shuffles nervously. Truth of the matter is, no one can understand why the princess had slept for so long.
And Pharaoh Aharon knows this. However, it does him some measure of amusement to watch this servant squirm in an effort to conceive a believable answer.
That and it somewhat placates the bitter mood he’s suffered from the last week or so.
Naunet should not have been asleep for this long. It isn’t possible for her own loss of control to have caused such a complex problem.
Something else is going on, but no one has proven themselves competent enough to discern the answer.
So he waits to see what Ahti will respond with.
The girl continues to squirm before seeming to come up with an answer. “I am not privy to the discussions of the court mages, Your Majesty. However, it is to my assumption that they have come across something of interest.” She pauses for a moment, seeming to try and gauge his reaction. She continues, “Though they will not commune such theories to me. It is to my belief that they’d prefer to speak to someone much higher in rank than a humble servant.”
Pharaoh Aharon scowls. How insolent these mages are. That they should think themselves above answering to a servant sent by their king! It seems I need to make myself clear on the matter.
One warning will be issued. If they fail to adhere to it then their lives are forfeit.
After all, he has no use for disobedient mages. Besides, it isn’t that hard to replace them. Troublesome, yes, but not hard.
Pharaoh Aharon sighs once the nearby servant removes his jeweled beard.
There’s nothing for it. He shall have to see Naunet for himself and come to his own conclusions until he meets with the mages.
It is much too late to be calling a meeting. Though he can demand them of it, but such talks with that lot are tiresome and lengthy. Too much trouble for the current hour of the night.
He dismisses the servant and turns to Ahti. “You are dismissed. I have no further use for you.”
Ahti finally raises herself from her bow; being careful to avoid eye contact. She quickly excuses herself and disappears beyond the golden doors to his chambers.
Another sigh leaves Pharaoh Aharon before he leaves his chambers as well.
Within seconds, an entourage of guards and servants are present to attend him.
But he scowls. “I have no need of you. Return to your previous tasks and see that I am not disturbed.”
A cacophony of “Yes, Pharaoh” follows him as he walks between the prostrated people around him.
They don’t move to disperse until he is well beyond their sight.
Naunet’s chambers are a little further away from his wing. Her wing lies in the northern part of the palace and is heavily guarded at all times much like his own.
That scowl remains on his face as he passes through the golden-gilded halls.
Once again, he hears that nostalgic laughter. The laughter of a child’s delight that seem to fill these once-silent halls.
For a brief moment, he sees her. A lovely child that races through the halls with servants hot on her fins.
But when he hears the voice of a woman as well, he banishes the thought from his mind entirely. His heart constricts only briefly at the mere thought of a smile adorning turquoise-painted lips.
He lightly shakes his head and continues on his path, being mindful to keep his thoughts at bay.
It seems she is still tired. His gaze settles on Naunet’s face.
Her eyes flutter open and closed—caught between the world of dreams and reality. She’s neither asleep nor awake but seems to settle in the in between that renders some of her senses still alert.
His fingers lightly brush aside a few of the curls that have strayed into her bare face.
At least the servants had the sense to remove all of her makeup.
All that remains is the marking beneath her eye. The marking of Horus that matches the one beneath his eye.
So many similarities between them and yet there are parts of her that are a painful reminder of another. Of a time forever lost to him.
Pharaoh Aharon grits his teeth; withdrawing his hand as though burned.
There is no escaping this child and the coming days will be all the more difficult.
“Especially when you learn the truth…” he murmurs quietly. He had looked away for a brief second, but it was enough.
“What truth?” Her raspy voice fills his ears. Her eyes have fluttered open to reveal those piercing gray eyes much like his own.
He turns his gaze back to her.
“I want to go back to the surface,” she mutters absentmindedly.
And his scowl returns once more. “There is no going back Naunet.”
She looks like she’s about to protest—demand why she can’t.
But he quickly intercedes—ending any further argument. “There is nothing for you to go back to,” he says quietly, but still she doesn’t seem to understand.
“What do you mean by that? Mom is still there!” She growls out, but winces when she sits up to abruptly. She immediately returns to a lying position, lightly clutching her head.
Pharaoh Aharon’s eyes darken. “That thing was but a cheap imitation,” he sighs. “Your mother died long ago…”