Sekhet slowly backed away from the Prince as sheer unadulterated terror. She had hit a Khemetan Prince, the exact same act which resulted in the priest from earlier today being led to the dungeons no doubt with an eminent execution in his future.
Was she truly meant to occupy the priests adjoining cell. No doubt the priest would think of that as poetic justice in a way.
Merneptah glanced back up at her, and he was frowning. Sekhet’s eyes slowly began to dart around as she tried to find the easiest escape route but she was somewhere completely unfamiliar, all she could see was walls.
“What’s wrong? Look I’m sorry I covered your face without telling you what I was going to do. It was the only way. I didn’t mean to freak you out.” Merneptah said slowly.
Sekhet stopped in her momentary retreat clearly puzzled. “Why are you apologizing to me my Prince? Don’t you realize what I’ve just done?” Sekhet asked and she could have cursed her stupidity. Of COURSE he knows what she’d done.
Merneptah sighed, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Now, will you please quit calling me Prince and come with me. I have something that I want to show you.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet nibbled her lip as she gazed at him in complete confusion. “But, I hit you.” Sekhet said softly.
Merneptah rolled his eyes before he clenched his own fist and lightly hit Sekhet’s shoulder. “There. And now I’ve hit you. We’re even, so can we please just drop it?” Merneptah said, his tone tinged with exasperation.
Sekhet was quiet for a moment before she nodded. If he really, truly wanted to drop it then who was she to contest? “Okay.” Sekhet said as she once more glanced around at her surroundings. “So, where exactly are we anyway?” Sekhet asked.
Merneptah snorted, “We’re inside the palace walls. That was why I had to blindfold you. I couldn’t let you find out about my secret way in and out. I don’t even think my father knows about it.” Merneptah replied.
Sekhet frowned, “And why are we in the palace? I thought you said that you wanted to go somewhere to talk.” Sekhet replied.
Merneptah nodded as he reached out and gently grabbed a hold of Sekhet’s hand. “I do. And I have just the place in mind. You’ll love it. I promise.” Merneptah said as he lightly tugged on their joined hands.
“You seem awfully confident in that.” Sekhet replied, her tone light and full of jest. She just wanted to put the whole ‘her committing a capital crime’ behind them.
“You’ll come to learn that there is almost nothing that I am not confident about.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet rolled her eyes, “I believe that means you are cocky. Not merely confident.” Sekhet replied.
Merneptah came to an abrupt stop, tugging on their joined hands and pulling a startled Sekhet’s body against his own. “I would only be called cocky if I was not able to back up my thoughts or words with action.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet snorted and she was quite proud that she managed to not blush yet again today. She was not some lovestruck girl spending time with her lover. She just happened to be a lucky girl who happened to have gotten to spend time with one of the princes.
Merneptah paused a moment before smirking, “Although, I would suppose you could also call me cocky if you were pressed up against me for too long. No doubt I would be very...cocky then.” Merneptah teased.
Sekhet flushed a brilliant shade of red at the implication and her heart thudded painfully in her chest. Did he even know what he was saying? She glanced briefly up into his amusement tinged brown eyes and knew without a shadow of a doubt that he knew exactly what he was saying and he was enjoying teasing her, even if he most certainly didn’t mean his words.
“So are you going to show me this spectacular secret place or not?” Sekhet asked.
Merneptah sighed and he did slowly pull away from her and once more began to tug her through the courtyard and into the hypostyle hall.
“Don’t worry. We don’t have much further to go. I promise.” Merneptah replied.
Sekhet rolled her eyes but fell silent as she allowed the Prince to continue to lead her. He turned and ducked down a side passageway that Sekhet honestly hadn’t seen was there and at the end of the passage was a massive garden.
Sekhet’s eyes widened in surprise. The royal gardens. She’d of course heard stories of Pharaoh’s royal gardens where only the most beautiful and exotic plants were grown. Her eyes widened as she slowly took in the wide variety of colors and smells. It was...the only word she could think of that came close was breathtaking. It was almost like she would imagine the field of reeds would look like. A divine paradise for the souls of the departed to spend the rest of their eternity tending to. No wonder on the mortal plain a garden like this was reserved only for the divine king and his family.
“Come on, you haven’t even seen the best part yet.” Merneptah said as he lightly tugged on her hand again, pulling her deeper into this paradise. Sekhet honestly didn’t have a clue what could have possibly been better than this.
And then he pulled her up to a intricately carved stone bench beside what could only be described as a massive pond covered with closed up plants. Merneptah came to a stop standing just behind Sekhet both of his powerful arms wrapped comfortably around her body. She didn’t feel trapped.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet nodded, “That it is. Its just too bad that these plants aren’t currently in bloom. I’m sure it would be absolutely breathtaking if they were.”
“Which brings us to why I brought you here when I did. The plants in this pond are night blooming lotus blossoms. And as Ra descends back into the underworld to once again defeat Apophis these beautiful plants while bloom.” Merneptah replied.
Sekhet nodded, lightly resting her body back against Merneptah’s bigger and stronger one. “So, what do we do while we wait?” Sekhet asked.
“We could talk like I wanted to. I would love to get to know you better.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet chuckled, “Are you sure Meri that isn’t yet another thinly vailed invitation to go hunting in the marshlands?” Sekhet asked behind her Merneptah shifted awkwardly.
“No, it actually wasn’t. And please don’t mention that again, its taking a lot of my self control as it is to not react to how closely I’m holding you.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet glanced briefly over her shoulder and was not surprised to see that Merneptah was a bright red himself.
“Fine. I won’t mention it again. So, what do you want to know then Meri?” Sekhet asked.
Merneptah sighed as he sank down onto the ground just in front of the stone bench, so that his back was resting against it. Sekhet had been tugged onto the ground as well and was still comfortably lounging against him.
“So, how old are you?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet chuckled, “That’s your big question that couldn’t wait until we were in private? How old am I? I wasn’t aware it was supposed to be such a big secret. But, fine. I am sixteen if you must know.” Sekhet replied.
Merneptah snorted, “Forgive me for starting with a simple question. How about you tell me about your family? What part of the kingdom are they from? Have you always resided here in the capital? Where do you live?” Merneptah rattled off.
Sekhet sighed, “What if I told you there wasn’t much to tell?” Sekhet replied.
“I’d say you were as cryptic as my brother and I’d keep asking until you supplied me with an answer.” Merneptah replied.
Sekhet sighed once more, “Then I guess you could say I’m relatively new to the capital. I’ve been here less than a year. My family resides actually further to the north. I was actually born in Cairo.” Sekhet replied.
Merneptah nodded, “I’ve been there before and its quite a way down river from here. How did you end up all the way in Thebes? Or did your family just move to the capital for business reasons.” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet shrugged, “To be honest as far as I know my father is still in Cairo.” She paused a moment frowning, “And he can stay there for all I care.” She muttered darkly. Merneptah’s arms tightened slightly around Sekhet’s body and she could have sworn that she had felt him press a kiss to her wig.
“That still doesn’t explain how you came to Thebes.” Merneptah asked lightly.
Sekhet sighed, this wasn’t a story she told very often. “Well, as you know I was born with Isis’ blessing.” Sekhet said slowly.
Merneptah nodded, “Yes, that delightful gift of yours is how we ended up meeting to begin with.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet sighed but nodded. “My father first found out about my gift when I was six years old. I’d been running in the house and I knocked over one of my mother’s good clay pots and it shattered. My father had been livid. He started yelling at me and while I was standing before my father crying my eyes out the pieces of the pot flew into the air...and the pot reassembled itself. I remember awkwardly holding my hands out and the newly repaired pot rested in my hands.”
Merneptah chuckled, “That had to have been quite a shock.” Merneptah commented.
Sekhet rolled her eyes, “You don’t know the half of it. I almost dropped the damn thing all over again I was shaking so bad.” Sekhet said.
She paused a moment to gather herself before continuing, “My father grabbed the pot and told me to go and play outside. I took off without a second thought. At the time I had no idea what had even happened. I thought that maybe Khurum had taken pity on me and mended the pot for me, but then I thought it was sort of ridiculous. I was a little girl, no one special. There was no reason for one of the divine gods to intervene on my behalf. My father didn’t bring the matter up again until almost a month later. He came in with an old pot that we used to store excess ashes from the oven and he threw it on the ground at my feet. Clay shards and the excess ashes went everywhere. And, he told me to fix it. I just stood their starring at the broken pot in horror. I knew I couldn’t fix it.”
Sekhet paused briefly to clear her throat, even after all this time telling this story was hard. “My father grabbed me harshly by the arm and told me that if I didn’t fix it then he’d strap me until I did.” Sekhet said.
“So I knelt down and started trying to pick up the pieces hoping that maybe there was some way I could figure out how to put them back together. My father kicked me in the ribs and told me to fix it like I’d fixed the other one.” Sekhet said.
She sighed, “I was scared. I’d never seen my father like that before. And, then just like with the first pot this one seemed to reassemble itself. Even the ashes that had been dumped on the floor ended up back in the pot. You could never tell that it’d been broken to begin with. I remember my father giving me this strange look before leaving the house. The next day he came back with a priest from the temple of Isis. My father had apparently told them about what happened and that was when they told me that I had been born with Isis’ blessing. And that I was going to go with them. I found out later that my father essentially had sold me to the temple. The priest took me to the docks the next day and I remember how excited I was when I saw the different ships. They said that I was going to be brought to the temple in Luxor to be properly trained in how to use my gift in a way that would please the gods.” Sekhet said.
“And that’s where you still live?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet shook her head, “No. I ran away from the temple about five months ago. I couldn’t stand living there. I hated it actually. There were so many strict rules and regulations. The priests at the temple stopped just short of dictating how I could walk or how many times I needed to chew my food before I could swallow it. Yes, I know a good thing you could say was that they did teach me how to control my gift. I learned many different skills in Isis’ arts from the creation and blessing of talismans to basics of divining the future. But, I felt like I was dying on the inside the longer I was trapped there. Especially when my training had officially ended and it now seemed like the priests had decided that I would use my gifts when they said so and for whom, whether I wanted to or not. And so, I seized a chance when I could and I snuck out of the temple and made my way from Luxor to Thebes. And, well I’ve been here ever since.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah was quiet for several moments and Sekhet was thankful that he was. That he was immediately condemning her for fleeing from the temple’s walls. Wasn’t scolding her for just wanting to be free to live her own life. To choose which paths to take in her own adventure.
“So, are you saying your homeless?” Merneptah finally asked.
Sekhet shook her head, “No, I’m not homeless. I do have a small home that I’ve managed to make for myself. I support myself with a small stall I have in the marketplace. Some of the skill that I learned while in the temple of Isis help me to earn just enough money to put food in my belly and to pay any taxes that I need to. I get by.” Sekhet said.
“Well, that’s good to hear.” Merneptah said before she felt his chin shift as he glanced up. “It looks like its just about time.”
Sekhet glanced out at the pond and sure enough, Ra was once more making his journey into the underworld and as he dipped lower and lower on the horizon the lotus plants floating on the surface of the pond began to open one by one. They were beautiful pink, purple and red plants and Sekhet could not help but smile as she watched them bloom.
“They’re beautiful.” She whispered.
Merneptah shifted out from behind Sekhet and waded carefully into the pond before he reached down and plucked one of the pink blossoms before making his way back onto the shore. He gently tucked the blossom into her hair behind her ear and gave her a kind smile, tender smile. “They may be beautiful but they don’t hold a candle to you. You are beautiful beyond words.” Merneptah whispered.
Sekhet glanced down at her hands which she folded in her lap, however Merneptah’s hand slipped beneath her chin tilting her face up once more so that she was starring into his warm brown eyes. His finger lightly traced along the side of her cheek as he just starred at her for several seconds, Ra still setting behind him.
He leaned forward and pressed his lips tenderly to Sekhet’s. Sekhet’s eyes drifted closed as she pressed her lips back against Merneptah’s. The kiss didn’t last for particularly long, only a few seconds. But the tenderness and rightness of the kiss seemed to take Sekhet’s breath away.
Merneptah finally pulled away he said nothing further as he slipped behind her once again and wrapping his arms around her. Sekhet allowed her body to fully relax. It felt good to have his arms around her. Safe. And that was something she hadn’t truly felt in a long time, living on her own like she did.
I could get used to this. Sekhet thought before her eyes snapped back open. No, no she couldn’t get used to this. She could not fall in love with a Khemetan prince. No! She had just escaped living in a rigid structural place where every move she made was dictated by rules. Life in the palace would be no different and she could not. WOULD not go back to that kind of a life.
So, no matter how sweet he was. How kind. How handsome and how much she had come to like him over the course of a single day deep down Sekhet knew that she was going to have to let him go. In the end it would be for the best if she did.
No matter how hard that might be.
She glanced back up over her shoulder at him and he just smiled at her before lightly pressing a kiss to the tip of her nose. Sekhet giggled. But not tonight. Tonight she would just enjoy the companionship and after the new year celebrations finally came to a close she would make the only decision she could.