Sekhet spent the remainder of the party in Merneptah’s arms to the great disappointment of several potential suitors. They danced a few more times before they slipped outside to the balcony for a breath of fresh air. The balcony was practically empty with only a few guests and two servants carrying drinks on trays were making sure those guests were properly attended to. They decided to stand in the corner, almost completely bathed in darkness allowing them as much privacy as it was possible to find at a party like this.
Merneptah and Sekhet leaned against the stone balcony, just looking up at the star filled sky. After as stressful as this party has been Sekhet was very thankful for the break. Merneptah pressed a light kiss to the top of her head, she could feel the slight pressure through her beaded wig.
I need to tell him. Sekhet thought to herself. She needed to tell him what she already knew deep down. Following this party Pharaoh would never permit them to see one another again. But, how was she supposed to put that into words. Mentally she’d known this was coming, after all it was the only logical end to their relationship.
But as she slowly turned away from the balcony to gaze up into his eyes she felt her heart breaking. Prince Amunher had asked her if she loved Meri and she had told him that she was falling in love with him. Looking into his eyes right now Sekhet knew that that was a lie. She wasn’t falling in love with him, she already had fallen. She was in love with him. Totally and completely in love with him.
“Meri?” Sekhet whispered softly.
Merneptah gave her a warm smile as he tilted her chin up slightly before placing a light chaste kiss on her painted lips. Vaguely Sekhet hoped he hadn’t made a mess of Princess Nefertari’s hard word by kissing her. “Yes my beloved lotus blossom?” Merneptah whispered.
Sekhet chuckled at the name even after all these weeks of him calling her that it still seemed to bring out a reaction. “I need to tell you something.” Sekhet said softly.
Merneptah smiled as his finger lightly traced along the side of her cheek. “You can tell me anything Sekhet.” Merneptah whispered.
Sekhet took a deep calming breath as she tried to find the words to tell him about what a terrible mess she’d made talking to Pharaoh and the crown prince. How Pharaoh knew she’d turned her back on the priesthood and how he was clearly upset by that. But how she still told him that she had no intentions of returning to the priesthood even now.
As Sekhet slowly released the breath she had taken she decided to speak the words, “Meri, I don’t know how this even happened but somewhere along the way...I found myself falling in love with you. And looking into your eyes now I know that I’m no longer falling. I am in love with you Merneptah.” Sekhet said as a lump lodged itself in her throat and I can’t bare the thought of losing you.
Merneptah was quiet for a moment as a bright smile slowly appeared on his face as his hand slipped around to the back of her neck while his other hand slid its way around her waist, pulling her even closer to him while they hid in their shadowed corner. “The first time I saw you at the New Years festival Sekhet I thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Getting to know you over those next two weeks however told me so much more. You were not just a beautiful woman. You were the perfect woman. You were the woman that Khurum molded on his pottery wheel just for me. And this past month I’ve spent courting you has just further proven to me what I already knew. I love you Sekeht. More than I could ever say.” Merneptah whispered, he paused briefly resting his forehead against her own before he added, “And I’ve thanked the gods each and every day since for bringing you into my life.”
Sekhet smiled at Merneptah before they leaned in as one and their lips touched once more. The kiss was slow, languid and tender and full of the love that the two of them felt for each other. It felt like an eternity that the two kissed under the stars although in reality it was probably only a matter of minutes before they were interrupted.
“So, this is where you disappeared off to?”
Merneptah let an annoyed sigh as the kiss broke. Sekhet leaned forward and buried her face in Merneptah’s chest while his arm draped itself comfortably around her shoulders. “Can I help you with something Amunher? Or do you just enjoy interrupting couples when they managed to find a few moments to be alone together?” Merneptah grumbled.
Prince Amunher snorted, “Please, the last thing I want to do is stand here and watch you kiss. Father sent me to find you both.” Amunher said.
Sekhet’s hands tightly gripped Merneptah’s shoulders as Prince Amunher finished speaking. This was it, this was going to be where she had to tell Merneptah good bye.
Merneptah lightly rubbed her back in an apparent soothing motion as he addressed his brother, “Now? Isn’t your party still in full swing?” Merneptah asked.
Prince Amunher rolled his eyes, “You’ve apparently been out on this balcony longer than I thought. The party is winding down and most of our guests have already headed home. All that remains are the last of the stragglers.” Amunher said before he turned to head back inside, “So, follow me. We don’t want to keep father waiting.”
Merneptah sighed but nodded and slowly he unwrapped his arms from around Sekhet’s body and she regretfully did the same. Merneptah grabbed her hand and together they followed Prince Amunher back into the banquet hall. The trio had only taken a handful of steps before Amunher’s wife, Inanna, strode right up to the crown prince, raising her hand in a clear intention to strike him.
Sekhet snapped her fingers as she muttered the spell for freezing objects in motion bringing her hand to abrupt stop mere inches from the Prince’s face. The princess’s face turned a deep red color although Sekhet had no doubt that she was not embarrassed in the slightest. She was angry. Inanna’s eyes drifted away from Prince Amunher before landing on Merneptah and Sekhet.
“Demand your whore to unhand me at once, Merneptah!” Her dark eyes blazing.
Merneptah frowned as he slipped his hand out of Sekhet’s before wrapping around her waist instead. “I am terribly sorry Inanna, but I do not have a whore to make that command to. Perhaps after the company you kept for this party you are a tad confused. Not every woman here is a whore. Just the ones whose company you’ve kept.” Merneptah said sharply.
Inanna opened her mouth no doubt to shout at them again when Crown Prince Amunher’s hand collided firmly against the side of Inanna’s cheek, snapping her head to the side. “That is quite enough from you. Leave. You have disgraced me quite enough for one night. Get out of my sight before I do more than just smack you for your disrespect.” Prince Amunher growled.
And at Prince Amunher’s command Sekhet released the spell she had on Inanna’s arm allowing her to turn and stalk from the room. For a moment the three just stood there allowing Prince Amunher to visibly gather himself before they continued on their way.
Merneptah’s hand was lightly rubbing a soothing motion along Sekhet’s back as they walked. She lightly rested her head against his shoulder. Relishing the closeness she had with him because she knew once they left Pharaoh that closeness would be gone.
It did not take very long for the trio to make their way from the banquet hall and to Pharaoh’s study. Prince Amunher knocked twice firmly on the door before they heard Pharaoh’s voice bid them to enter. Prince Amunher pushed open the door and strode inside with Merneptah and Sekhet following. Sekhet lightly grabbed a hold of the side of Merneptah’s tunic, squeezing the fabric with her hand as she felt the tension building within her.
Merneptah continued to lightly stroke her back as Amunher rounded Pharaoh’s cedar desk and leaned comfortably up against the back wall, his arms folded over his chest. “I apologize for the delay father. Once I located the two love birds we were...delayed momentarily by Inanna.” Prince Amunher said.
Nefertari, who Sekhet hadn’t even noticed was in the room, snorted. “Oh, and what did that vile bitch want?” Nefertari grumbled.
“Enough Nefertari.” Pharaoh said sharply.
Nefertari bowed her head, “Yes father.” She said softly.
Prince Amunher chuckled, “I’ll tell you about it later Nefer. Father is right, we do have something more important to be discussing right now.” Prince Amunher said.
Pharaoh was quiet for a few moments as he starred at Sekhet and Merneptah, his expression once more completely unreadable. “You both know why you are here.” Pharaoh said.
Sekhet slowly nodded her head. She knew all right and she had been dreading this moment ever since she’d danced with Pharaoh earlier this evening.
Merneptah nodded as well, “Yes father, we know why we are here.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet watched as Nefertari nibbled on her lips, her eyes continually flicking between Pharaoh and Merneptah. She clearly also knew there was ample reason to be nervous about this meeting.
“I had the chance to speak with Sekhet earlier this evening. I asked her about how she came to be here in the capital and for her to describe how you and her had met Merneptah. Do you know what it was that she told me?” Pharaoh asked.
Merneptah nodded, “Yes, father I do. She told you that we had met at the New Years festival. As for how she came to be here in the capital. She no doubt told you about how she ran away from the temple of Isis and now supports herself with a stall she mans in the bizarre.” Merneptah said firmly, his hand squeezing Sekhet’s side as he spoke.
Pharaoh frowned, “You mean to tell me, Merneptah, that you were fully aware this this young woman who was blessed by the goddess Isis knowingly turned her back on the very goddess that favors her by refusing to continue to serve her?” Pharaoh growled.
Merneptah nodded once more, “I know why Sekhet left the temple of Isis and what she told me had nothing to do with any disloyalty to the goddess Isis. What she told me was that she was unhappy with the life the priests had given her within the temple walls. So, when she finally had an opportunity to escape from the temple she took it and has not looked back since.” Merneptah said he paused before adding, “And if I may father. If the goddess Isis had truly blessed Sekhet, truly favors her then why would it stand to reason that she would want Sekhet to be miserable? Why would she want her to be essentially imprisoned within the temple? Sekhet makes good use of the gifts the goddess has blessed her with. She is living her life exactly the way that the goddess wants her to.” Merneptah finished.
Pharaoh was silent for several moments as he continued to stare at his son before he turned his attention fully onto Sekhet, “I will be perfectly plain Sekhet. I am most displeased that a person who had been blessed by the goddess Isis would willfully choose to spit in that very goddess’ face by running from her duty to the priesthood. Duty, as you will have no doubt come to realize is of the utmost importance to this family. I expect the woman who will stand beside my son one day would be a dutiful wife and I have no reason to believe that you would be such a wife.” Pharaoh said.
“Father, I...” Merneptah began to interject although Pharaoh held up his hand to silence him. Sekhet’s eyes drifted down to rest on her feet as she felt tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. She had known this was coming, truly she had.
“Father, may I say something?” Prince Amunher said.
Pharaoh sighed, “If you must Amunher.” Pharaoh said.
“As foolish as this may sound father and as unworthy of Merneptah as we can both clearly see that she is I can’t help but think that despite these obvious shortcomings that we should give them a chance.” Prince Amunher said.
Sekhet’s eyes snapped up off the floor before flitting over to rest on the Crown Prince who was still leaning casually back against the wall. His eyes were resting firmly on Merneptah. “Because despite everything Merneptah clearly loves this girl. I propose that we give her a chance to prove herself worthy of having a relationship with him. And once she squanders that chance as we both know she will then we will have no complaints when you terminate their relationship once and for all.” Amunher finished.
This time it was Pharaoh who was silent as he seemed to contemplate what Amunher had said.
“He really does love her father. I’ve seen evidence of that myself. Just the way his face lights up when he talks about her. I know you don’t like her, but father doesn’t the fact that she makes Meri happy mean something?” Nefertari interjected.
“Father please.” Merneptah whispered, his voice softer more vulnerable then Sekhet had ever heard it.
Pharaoh was silent for several moments more before he finally opened his mouth to speak, “despite my better judgment I will permit this courtship to continue. However, Sekhet I will warn you that from what I have seen of you thus far has not impressed me. There is much more to a good wife than merely a pretty face. Show me that you can be that good wife to him. That dutiful wife or any hopes you two may harbor of moving beyond courtship will never come to pass.” Pharaoh said.
Sekhet bowed her head as it felt as though a large stone had just been lifted from her shoulders at Pharaoh’s words, “I will not let you down my Pharaoh. I will strive to do my best to prove myself worthy of the chance that you have so graciously given me.” Sekhet whispered.
“See to it that you do not for I will be watching you closely.” Pharaoh said before he turned his attention onto Merneptah.
“Do not confuse this chance with a blessing on this relationship. That you have most certainly not earned. If you try to go behind my back again Merneptah I will be most displeased. Do we understand one another?” Pharaoh asked sharply.
Merneptah nodded, “I understand father. I will not ask for Sekhet’s hand without speaking to you about it first.” Merneptah vowed.
Pharaoh nodded once more before dismissing them with a wave of his hand. It was two elated teens who left Pharaoh’s study in silence as they slowly made their way back to Merneptah’s room. The full realization of what Pharaoh had said settling in their minds.
They had just reached Merneptah’s chambers when he scooped a surprised Sekhet up into his arms not unlike a new bride before playfully carrying her over to the bed.
He gently laid Sekhet down a top his bed, his arms braced on either side of her. She lightly traced the side of his face with her hand as she just gazed lovingly up into his eyes before she leaned up and pressed her lips tenderly against his.
Merneptah pressed his lips hungrily back against Sekhet’s as he allowed his body to press against hers, his tongue seeking to deepen the kiss which Sekhet eagerly let him. Their tongues twirling and twining together as they celebrated the fact that they were here and able to kiss at all. However, much too soon for Sekhet’s liking the need for air made itself known and they were forced to break the kiss.
“Gods I love you.” Merneptah whispered huskily before he pressed his lips against Sekhet’s again. Sekhet smiled into the kiss, this one far more tender than the one before. And as the kiss finally came to an end Sekhet lightly brushed her nose against Merneptah’s.
“I love you too Meri. Now, what do you say we get changed and go to sleep. I don’t know about you but I’ve had an absolutely exhausting day.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah chuckled but nodded. “As long as that day ends with you sleeping in my arms I still see it as the perfect end to a perfect day.” Merneptah replied.