From the journal of Ellen Lambert:
Egypt – The Beginning
I remember when the earth was young and I walked among the pristine hills and verdant valleys before the world could be called old. I lived in the heart of civilization, in Egypt, once the richest, most powerful country in what constituted our world at the time, in the 31st Dynasty, the reign of Pharaoh Hakor. I was born Ayelet in the city of Karnak, the only child of the physician Abiasaph and his wife Obiama.
Although the monarchy of Egypt would end soon, our country prospered under King Hakor, or simply Pharaoh, and we enjoyed the bounties of culture, science and medicine. Our religion consisted of many gods, each one responsible for our well-being, although some gods represented death and despair, the taking away of wealth and contentment. Those gods garnered places of reverence, not to be taken lightly. A religious man, Pharaoh built great tombs and altars to our gods, designed by the master craftsmen of our land and built by the slaves Pharaoh’s army captured from other lands.
My father Abiasaph was appointed the court physician by Pharaoh. Because of my father’s high regard and his talent for healing, our family received favorable positions in Pharaoh’s court. I was chosen as chief hand maiden to Princess Taduhipa, the second oldest of the four daughters of Pharaoh and his important wife, the lovely and serene Anoka. My mother, Obiama, served the eldest daughter, Princess Merymet. And when needed, my mother and I also catered to the other daughters, Neferiti and Setepenre. Besides the princesses, Pharaoh had two sons, Maimon by Anoka, and Nepherites by his secondary wife, Kiya.
It is through Queen Kiya that my tale evolves for she made me what I am today and have been for many, many centuries.
But in my younger years as Ayelet, a hand maiden of eighteen, I enjoyed an idyllic life at court. I and Taduhipa—or Tadu as she preferred—were more like companions and best friends than as princess and servant, and we shared many things together, particularly our interests in the young men who held various positions at court.
Since I leaned toward my mother’s coloring from her Assyrian roots, I possessed amber eyes and light brown hair. And because I did not want to call attention to my difference, I took pains to blend in with the others, those of Northern African roots with dark hair and eyes, and sandstone skin. I used kohl to line my eyes and root salve to bronze my flesh; and to follow custom, I wore delicate gauze sheaths that began just below my breasts and extended to my ankles. Occasionally, I wore a wig, either of woven flax or fine wool that had been dyed obsidian black, and often accented with a gilt headdress. Like Tadu, I possessed a slim but curvaceous body, a round face and even features, both of us deemed attractive by those in the palace with discerning if not overly appreciative eyes.
Merymet, the eldest daughter of Pharaoh, had been betrothed to Ranofer, first charioteer and master of the stables. That left Tadu who, at sixteen, had her pick of the eligible bachelors at court. I had my pick as well, and I developed an infatuation with one of the scribes-in-training by the name of Darshak, a truly handsome young man.
At nineteen, Darshak possessed a lean, taut body with a muscular chest and legs, emphasized by his simple white loincloth or kalasiris. His stunning eyes, the color of cool teal, were shaded by long, thick lashes, and his flesh held a coppery sheen. Unfortunately, once he became a full scribe, Darshak would wear a royal tunic to cover his youthful body; and worse, he would have to renounce most earthly pleasures.
Therefore, I made sure to fill his life with all things pleasurable before he dedicated his life to the sacred duties of his avocation.
Pharaoh possessed two palaces, one in the city of Thebes and the other in the capital city of Mendes. Both offered the best in architecture and amenities, alabaster pillars, marble floors and spacious balconies that overlooked the endless desert. The many palace suites offered rich woven fabrics, delicate curtains that billowed in the breeze, carved furniture, ceramic vases and pitchers, bronze urns and hammered silver chafers for aromatic incense. The royal family enjoyed every comfort as did their entourage of priests and scribes—even their servants.
Several temples formed the inner sanctum of the palace, the largest and most important devoted to Pharaoh’s wife, Queen Anoka. To the south, a racetrack had been erected for chariot racing and other sports. Pharaoh, Queen Anoka and the princesses enjoyed the chariot races, but I found the track too hot and dusty, the sun too strong for my sensitive skin. Thus I preferred to remain within the cool, fragrant palace walls, finding my work load increasing with a combination of all the princesses’ needs. I had gained a position of importance, one that I could not take lightly. I fulfilled my duties from the minute I awoke in the morning to well into the night.
But at sunset I had some time for myself, and I often stood at one of the palace balconies and gazed toward the horizon, picturing my own romantic oasis in the middle of endless sand, stained gold and blood orange by the setting sun. The thrill of seeing Darshak after dusk made my heart quicken and my pulse race with anticipation...but I also felt a pang of anxiety, for I had to meet and love Darshak on the sly.
The princesses’ old nurse, Nyree, often spied on the goings-on among the young and then reported back to Queen Anoka who looked askance at romantic palace intrigues, particular among the servants. But I learned to outwit Nyree and avoid detection by her ancient but clever gray eyes. Darshak and I met beyond the far palace wall, behind a copse of palm and date trees. From there we made our way through a little-used passageway to the least-visited of the inner temples, the one dedicated to the cat goddess Bast.
There we had privacy to talk and to love, with Darshak teaching me the sensual arts, how to give and to take copiously and passionately.
We preferred to embrace in the dark, warm shadows of the temple, our only light that of an oil lamp on the stone altar of Bast, who protected women and children. In here I felt safe under the auspices of that sleek feline form carved of obsidian and embellished with topaz gems for eyes. For those who did not believe in her power, Bast seemed formidable and daunting from her perch on the altar, but I found her graceful, regal and generous of nature, and so did Darshak. She remained our supporter and protector against the outside forces that wished to keep us apart.
Darshak and I lay together on a gilt settee with comfortable cushions stuffed with downy pea-hen feathers. When he pulled me in his embrace—both of us naked now—I steeped myself in his heat. To touch him was magic, and I loved his feel, shape and weight as he gently pressed me along the cushions and took my mouth with his.
Darshak kissed his way down my throat and continued to my small but firm breasts, my nipples standing at attention as his thumbs rasped over them. Cupping both breasts, he feasted on one and then the other. His mouth and fingers caressed and nipped flesh, and made me moan in pleasure. As I arched up to him, my hands eagerly stroked his muscled chest and then worked down to his erection. He shuddered with my touch as I explored his shaft, as smooth and hard as an alabaster pillar. We both adhered to the custom of shaving our body hair, not only to keep cool in the hot summer months but to ward off vermin such as lice. Besides his head, Darshak had shaved his chest and genitals, and I had shaved my head and genitals as well, my pubes as soft and pink as a baby girl’s.
When he entered me, I opened to him, cinching my legs around his waist and circling his fine, sinewy neck with my arms. A furtive need shot through me, an arrow of excited pleasure that made me quiver as it burst between my legs and brought me to bliss for the first time. As lust and love twined like a sturdy cord within me, the need gathered again, harder, tighter and hotter.
I dug my fingers into his back and urged him on. My hips rose and fell with a silky rhythm that bound me to my lover, quickening our hearts as we increased our pace. I continued to touch and caress him, marveling at his smooth soft skin over hard muscle while savoring his intoxicating smell of musk and hibiscus.
Darshak sank deeper into me as he clutched my shoulders and looked at me with his beautiful, haunting eyes. I saw them darken and become opaque as he readied to take me with him, into the sweetness that followed us over the edge. As we crested, we enjoyed the fall of release together, allowed it to wash over us like a warm, summer rain. Our combined moans of pleasure caught between our lips, and we deepened the experience with a slow, fulfilling kiss.
Moments later, we lay together in a tangle of slick bodies and limbs, relaxed and happy.
Of all his appetites, Darshak told me afterward, his for me was the only one never quite satisfied. He could have me and still want me. I knew exactly how he felt, for I, too, could never quite take my fill of him. All the days and nights we remained apart because of our obligations and duties, made me want him all the more with a tremendous lust-filled hunger. And when we met again, we feasted and gorged on each other like ravenous animals, I a she-wolf in heat, unable to control those urges he ignited and fanned.
Darshak also told me how rare a thing it was to experience such intense pleasure and ultimate bliss each time we loved together. I had been a mere sexual novice, but under the direction of his clever hands and lips, I quickly graduated to a seasoned lover, his lithe body a perfect fit to mine. He confessed to having several lovers before me, one an older Sumerian woman who had taught him the finer points of sexual give and take. Yet to Darshak none of those experiences could compare in breadth and depth to what we had.
Ultimately, I knew fate—and our abiding love—would keep us together. Hathor, the god of love, had told me so in my dreams, and, in fact, had bequeathed love to me for ever after. My life as I knew it then could not be any more ideal; and with Darshak’s pledge of love and fidelity, I felt the happiest young woman in the kingdom.
Unfortunately, life would not be so idyllic in the coming year.