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-i it (My Father)
We are all looking expectantly at the darkened hallway behind the dais. She puts her hand on my shoulder. She thinks I cannot feel the tension in her muscles. I twitch my nose, trying to ward off the ever-present bittersweet smell of incense. I have never complained, nor has anyone. He chose this incense specially, though everybody knows that such rare material is worth its weight in gold. Our gold. The rows of finely decked people stand against the polished sandstone walls, breathing in the expensive smell. All of us together stand and watch the doorway tentatively. The golden disc fixed above the archway catches the sunlight that streams in through the open ceiling.
There is a wooden stool positioned below the left of the orate golden seat that dominates the dais. Both the stool and my brother are decked in gold. My brother wears gold weave sandals, a complex belt woven from thin gold bands over a white linen kilt, and a necklace sporting the same glimmering gold disc that is fixed in the archway behind him. My brother sits ramrod straight, right arm across his chest, his expression smug. I know he loves this. He is my father’s heir, the future of our parent’s great Order.
Behind his stool, on either side of the gleaming central chair, stand two men, one short, one tall. They both cut dignified, noble figures as they stand at attention, seemingly unaware of the tension throughout the room. One is a man whose youth is leaving him. He has a stern, knowing face that is creased by scowls long past. He wears long, pure white robes that shift gently in a faint breeze that filters through the skylight. His arms are straight as a foreigner spear, fist tightly clenched.
The other man, the taller of the two, has a much more menacing air about him. He is a black man from the sparsely forested wastelands to the south. His face is fearsome, flecked with a myriad of small white scars. Another scar, thick and ropy, snakes along his muscled chest, His kilt is fastened with a simple leather belt. At his hip is a lethal scimitar, its bronze blade shimmering ominously. I watch as both men’s eyes slowly meet across the distance between them. I wish, for an instant that I know exactly what is passing between them then. The sound of footsteps, sandals snapping down on cold stone brings them to attention.
I can see only two, glittering eyes in the darkness of the rear hall. Slowly, he moves into the light. The hand on my shoulder tightens. I brush her off, and kneel with everyone else. The two men on either side of his throne bow. My brother stands but does not humble himself as we do. He smiles, basking in the reflected glow of our father’s power.
My father... he looks worse than I have ever seen him. His elongated swan neck is strained, tendons stretched. His thin face is more skeletal, his fierce almond eyes shining with a half mad light. The golden snake circlet that rests on his hairless head is dented, thrown in a fit of temper. His mouth is thin, a grimace, of pain or anger I do not know. His chest is bandaged and there is a half-healed slash on his left cheek. He was to weak to head off the assassination attempt. I know it, my brother knows it, and most worrying, the two men who my father now stands between know it.
My father was a powerful warrior once. The madness that possesses him makes him terrifying in battle, a veritable berserker. I can see the old scars from my grandfather’s foreign campaigns, the marks left by his victims in battle. In each hand he holds a golden staff of office, the symbols of his power. He places his arms in their ceremonial position across his chest. He nods to my brother, who sits, reluctant to relinquish his place of power. The two men on either side of my father stare impassively forward. My father glares out at all of us, his rabid eyes shining.
I know what is coming. He will announce a sentence that will end everything for my friend. My father will end his father and imprison the son forever. I watch my father’s thin chest move out as he inhales, then he seems to explode. That reservoir of rage that he carries around with him like a curse bursts forth. I listen as he rants, accusing us all of treason, calling us assassins, cowards, and traitors. At the end there is a terrible silence, then he screams the name of the man who is to die.
He who is marked for death by him meets his son’s eyes than turns to run, stopped by grim-faced guards, who level razor-tipped spears. My father screams the order and as I close my eyes she puts shaking hands over my ears but she cannot block the sound of those pretty, finely crafted bronze blades sinking into the accused. I hear a muffled thump as he topples, devoid of life. I open my eyes and everyone is still staring at my father as he stands, howling like the jackals in the hills. They do not dare show expression, for fear that they will be caught in the tide of his madness.
I feel a warm hand close on my wrist. She is shaking uncontrollably, and I feel a surge of pity for her. Poor Maia. The man she loved is dead. I do not struggle against her but allow myself to be led away from that deceivingly cheery room. I see the body being carried away, his lifeblood soaking into the smooth alabaster tiles. His son stands silently, tears staining his face, eyes burning with hate as he stares at my father. A guard smashes him across the forehead and he is dragged away to await his own destiny. My brother is watching the proceedings with a stomach turning look of glee on his face, exhilarated by our father’s power.
The two men on each side of the throne look at each other briefly, and that is all I see before Maia pulls me around a corner, away from the bloodstained courtyard of our palace, the House of a Million Years. I know then that the end is coming. The dynasty is falling and the only way for the men on the throne to finish it is to finish Akhenaton, my father.