The slender woman walked into Pharaoh’s throne room. Standing a good head over most males present, her frame was like that of a perfectly sculpted figurine wrapped in a golden coloured sheath dress. Deep brown eyes gleamed with scorn as they took in her environment, and as she moved it appeared as though her feet were gliding over the marble floor. In her right palm was a smoking pot of hot coals and a thin iron staff was gripped in the other.
Many knew her as one of the most powerful priestesses Egypt ever had. They revered the ground she threaded and looked upon her as the oracle of the gods themselves. Some say she was a woman totally consumed by evil and her beauty only gave it a neat, nice wrap, but she cared little about their opinion.
Her name was Rai. She was power and beauty. The people’s obsession, negative or positive, only served as the wind in her sail. As she walked on, she basked in the look of awe and admiration on their faces–all except Pharaoh. He was seated on his throne with lines of impatience marring his brow. She could guess why he appeared so upset. Moses must have threatened again.
She had received the news of the plagues upon her return from her six months’ rite of intense meditation at the caves of Ma’at. When she journeyed through the once vibrant streets of Memphis in her canopied litter, the level of destruction and decay that marred the land chilled her.
The air was thick with that smothering stench of rotting flesh. The fields were destroyed, save a few sprouts, no cattle dotted the plain fields and the Nile reeked of the dead. She also noticed everyone had ugly looking scabs on their bodies, including Pharaoh. She was grateful the plague hadn’t occurred when she was around, she couldn’t imagine her flawless face scarred in any way.
When Rai finally stood in front of Pharaoh and his officials, she knew she had to deliver, if not, she might as well bid farewell to her perfect head. It didn’t take much to envision her dismembered body thrown carelessly upon heaps of decomposing corpses. She gulped and discarded the troubling thought immediately, choosing to focus on the task at hand.
There was a light murmur about the throne room as she placed the burning pot on the floor, hands totally unhurt by the sweltering object. She mumbled her thanks to Ra then straightened.
“You summoned me, o great Pharaoh.” She bowed slightly at the mention of his name.
Pharaoh signaled for everyone to leave except his son and two scribes. The king’s lean figure was rigid with fury and the kohl that lined his small dark eyes only added to his menacing look. Rai could almost swear the air pulsated with his rage.
“Forty-two,” Pharaoh Thutmose said as he banged a bejeweled fist on his throne.
Rai looked at the king blankly, she did not understand what he meant. “Forty-two what, o wise Pharaoh?”
“Forty-two magicians and sorcerers. The very best in the whole of Egypt. Do you know what I did to them?”
Rai swallowed but remained mute.
“Answer me!” Pharaoh roared as he half rose from his throne.
“I do not know, my king. I have been absent for the past six months.”
“Well, since you’ve been away, allow me to fill you in.”
He relaxed into his throne and fixed her with a hard stare.
“I hung them all–every single one of them. I also included their families and even their little ones were not spared. Do you understand what is at stake if you fail?”
Rai nodded. She was unable to find her voice.
“Good. Now that we understand each other, let me tell you Moses’ latest threat.”
When he started speaking, fear’s cold grip encircled Rai’s gut, making her knees go weak. She wasn’t expecting this at all. The possibility that she might not be able to undo what Moses said made her feel a kind of terror she had never experienced before. She resisted the urge to wrap her slim fingers around her slender neck… her gorgeous slender neck.
Rai was aware she suffered from extreme narcissism; she was literally in love with herself. Sometimes she would stand in front of the mirror for minutes on end, observing her features. She’d rub ointments on blemishes, adjust her long jet black hair a thousand and one times and pray away even the tiniest spot.
Now, the foreboding she felt concerning her current situation only made her bones tremble; her spiritual calm was gradually crumbling. She nodded as Pharaoh continued to rail about Moses and his god.
“You must speak to the gods for me, perhaps they are tired of hearing my voice. Tell them to bring disgrace on Moses and his god!” The king spat at the mention of Moses’ name. A servant appeared almost immediately, wiped the spittle off the gleaming marble floor and disappeared into whatever invisible place he emerged from.
“I am sick to death of these people… these slaves. I would rather rid the world of them than let them go.” Pharaoh’s hand balled into a fist, his brow squeezing with a heavy frown. His eyes turned vacant, probably caught in a distant memory.
“He grew up in this palace. They told me he was my uncle but there was a part of me that always suspected he wasn’t Egyptian…” Pharaoh stood as he continued to speak, pacing to and fro like a caged beast.
“I don’t believe this claim of his. Going to worship their god in the wilderness? Bah!” Pharaoh sat again, the lost expression still on his face.
“There has to be something else. I’m not stupid. Do I look stupid?”
Rai raised an elegant brow. Was she to answer the question? She noticed the scribes looked very disturbed, maybe they feared for their master’s sanity. His son decided to answer the question.
“No, father. You are the wisest, the bravest; you are the shining star of Egypt.”
Rai stifled a snort as she silently regarded the prince. He reminded her of a snake. He was twenty-six years old, his father’s first son, and the heir to the throne. She couldn’t explain why he didn’t strike her as the next Pharaoh. Maybe it was his look. All his features were long and scrawny, from his narrow head down to his ridiculously long feet.
Rai instantly felt uncomfortable as the prince turned his small eyes in her direction. A leering smile spread across his thin lips as he stared at her, violating her body with his gaze.
“So, do you understand my father’s request?”
He had a whiny voice, hardly that of an authoritative ruler.
“I understand. I will speak to the gods and hear what they have to say. If–”
“Don’t just speak to the gods!” The king bellowed. Rai tried not to jump at the intimidating sound; she noticed the prince still had the sardonic smile on his odd face. How she itched to curse him with infirmity, he’d see if he would have the teeth to smile at her then.
“They must give you a satisfactory reply. Do you hear me?!” the king shouted as he pointed a long finger in her direction.
Now Rai was terrified, she tried to still her breathing but the fear she felt was too intense to allow the action. “Yes, my king. I would speak to them and pray they give me a satisfactory reply.” She hoped her voice didn’t sound as shaky as she felt inside.
The Pharaoh’s voice was low and full of threat when he spoke his final words. “Then better pray hard, because if the reply is not satisfactory, that beautiful head of yours would be hanging first thing at the break of dawn. You may leave.”
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