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Heading towards Karnak

(Karnak, Egypt, 1458 BC)

Oars dipped rhythmically into the Nile, their combined might pulling a royal barge up a swollen river. In a few more days, river navigation would be difficult, due to Akhet (spring inundation) rising, some years over 30 feet. A steady cadence of the oar-master’s voice played to the creaking of the long wooden poles swinging in their leather loops. The rhythmic sound melted into the background, through weary repetition. On the way back to Karnak, they raised single, great square sails, gently aiding the backs of the oarsmen.

Hatshepsut lie in her cabin bed looking up at the ceiling, unsure of how to respond to Brenzel after the miracle at Dendera. Everything changed as Bren had spoken the prophecy. Seeing the violet halo, the otherworldly grace and poise as she spoke God’s word, Hatshepsut thought, You were right all along, Senenmut, my love. There IS one true God. I miss you. Thinking back to standing beside Bren, Egypt’s Pharaoh felt shocked to her core. Everything in life – her position, kingdom, and wealth – it felt shabby in that holy presence.


Yet afterwards, as if changing clothes, the tall blond woman all viewed as the incarnation of Hathor just became Brenzel. She’d been hungry and tired, seemingly indifferent to what had just taken place. Like one of those small lizards, blending into the background, she’d become human again in a matter of moments. Still in awe, Hatshepsut had followed Brenzel down the straight stairs, her friend asking humbly if someone could get her a drink of water.

Quickly sending a servant to get the drink, Hatty took Bren’s arm and, with tears in her eyes, earnestly asked, “Please, tell me if my Senenmut is alright. Did he complete his journey and make it to the field of reeds?”

Looking at the pleading eyes of her friend, Brenzel thought for a moment, then said, “Oh, you mean heaven?”

“Yes, did my love complete his journey to the field of reeds?”

Taking the cup of water she was given, Bren swallowed four large gulps, then answered, “Yes, I think so. I saw an angel on the Harem wall about the time he passed. He must have taken him with him.”

All at once, something broke inside and Hatty began to tremble. Seeing her surging relief, Bren looked at her friend from the future, hugged her warmly, and said, “Everything will be okay, Hatty. I promise.”

Go now!

When the two women had emerged from the bottom of the stairs, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard stood ready with her chariot. He said, “Great Pharaoh, go quickly! More people are coming! Its like nothing I’ve ever seen! My men will make a path for you, but you mustn’t linger. Go now, or the people will overwhelm us all! Make for the royal barge and do not stop!”

Nodding, Hatty stepped up into the royal chariot, pulling Bren up behind her. Looking at the blond woman, Hatty said, “Hold on tightly, this will be rough.”

The captain, shouting orders to his men, looked at the driver and nodded, as the door to the temple complex abruptly opened. The royal guard, men sworn to protect their Pharaoh at any cost, cleared a path through the mass of people outside the temple at spear point. Women screamed and men cursed as the spear-men drove them back. There were people as far as anyone could see, still chanting ‘Hathor, Hathor, Hathor!’

The driver, slapping the horses’ rears, yelled, “hah! HAH!” At that, the startled steeds reared, then raced forward, pell-mell, into the ecstatic crowd. Galloping through the small path the soldiers cleared, the horses burst into the palm trees, making a mad dash over the hill for the docks as the crowd surged after them. Several times, as plumes of sand flew when they turned, they hit rocks causing the golden cart to almost upset as all the riders’ feet momentarily left the deck.

Safe on the water

Reaching the boat, Hatshepsut and Bren had run up the plank, then held on to the boat as men rushed by and the plank fell into the water with a splash. People by the thousands streamed along the bank, even entering the Nile, oblivious to the potential dangers from crocodile and hippo alike. Hatty gazed at their faces, waving arms, and shouts, thinking, What have I done?

Now, lying in her cabin that night, Hatshepsut wondered hard. Thutmose was at the borders, choosing to stay with his army rather than go ahead. The priesthood was in rebellion, and unpredictable. With Senenmut gone, and an unproven Vizier at the helm, naturally there was disruption in significant areas of the kingdom. Now, with what had happened at Dendera, religious hysteria was sweeping the land, producing a knife-edge tension, which could easily destabilize her entire kingdom. Fortunately, and practically the only thing that had gone right, was that Bren had called Hatshepsut to stand beside her as she spoke. Rumors were already flying that Hathor had raised Pharaoh from the dead, giving Hatshepsut great religious and moral standing in the people’s sight.

Waves of pleasure

And the way she felt! Remembering Bren stretching sensuously before she spoke, so alluring and free, made her loins melt inside. What was that? Why was that? laying there, sensual feelings bubbled up inside her like a fountain of fresh water. Touching her belly lightly, it undulated in waves of pleasure.

Stop! she willed her body, yet it ignored her as the thrill continued to rise and fall. Breathing deeply, she moaned. Her woman servants, seeing their mistress writhe on the bed, fell silent watching, trying to figure out if she was ill or enjoying herself.

Perhaps it was the effects of Dendera – religious ecstasy, one postulated.

Maybe she ate something that doesn’t agree with her, another thought, wondering if she should call the physicians.

Yet, all began to feel it, too, like a invisible hand touching them every so slightly, their bodies becoming alive at the same time as their mistress, moaned and squealed.

Remembering the last great day

Outside, on the deck, Bren sat looking at the stars, thinking back to the roof of the temple. The oneness with God’s Spirit, the intimate feeling of unity as He spoke through her; the only thing she could relate it to was dancing with Desere at the Last Great Day. On the roof of the temple, it was that same sensual feeling, the feeling of being lifted up into the heavens.

Unconsciously, putting her hand on her stomach she mouthed the words, “I love you.” That was it! she realized, she felt pure love inside. So right and holy, like a baby who suckles it’s mother breast for the first time. Blessed! It felt similar to physical love in her secret places, but it was much more than that. Bren, since a young woman, had burned with desire and it drove her to do things that she knew were shameful. Yet, this was passion minus the guilt. What seemed wrong then, felt right now. That thrill which ran up and down her body, causing her heart to beat faster and her hips to move, felt as natural and right as breathing.

Hatty passioned hard in the cabin, as Bren laid back on the cushions and fell fast asleep under the blanket of a clear night sky.

Please stay

(Rome, 1692)

As Matteo held her hand, Mafalda said, eyes wide and earnest, “Please don’t go! You need to fully recover! It is too soon! Grandson, you gave me an awful fright! Please, stay with me until you are well.”

Matteo, looking deep into the old woman’s eyes, felt what she was really asking by her protestations. He thought, Our time on this earth is fleeting, isn’t it? “Okay, Nonna, I will stay. Life will be marvelous together.”

Later, with Dante in his arms, he retired to his favorite place at the estate, the library. Pietro walked in, informing the prince that his bath would be ready at seven o’clock sharp. “Ah, thank you, good man, I am more than ready for it!” Though some thought it extravagant, Matteo insisted on bathing every day. By and large, he detested the heavy perfumes and sundry ointments that many of the aristocracy applied. He believed that a man should smell clean, not having to mask his natural scent.


The last rays of the day filtered in through the glass, as Pietro undressed his master layer by layer, until he slipped out from under his garments. Then, like some Adonis from Greek myth, Matteo stepped up into the light, as Pietro steadied him. The prince gingerly tested the water with his toe, then slowly lowered himself into the hot bath. Pietro’s heart beat faster, seeing his master’s masculinity, though he showed no outward sign to Matteo. “Ahh,” the price exclaimed, black locks sinking until only his face and arms remained above the water, a look of serenity coming over his features.

After awhile, Matteo sat up, signaling he wished to be washed. Pietro, coming near and leaning over, began to bathe his master carefully from head to toe. As the sponge swept deftly over his body, Prince Imperiali thought back to the first time he’d felt his Pietro’s touch. Though there were other servants before him, something had been different in the way Pietro’s young hands had moved over his soaking body.

Dear, I find it tiring

Presently, Matteo said, “You know, I don’t care for her,” as he propped his leg on the edge of the tub.

Applying more soap to the sponge, Pietro said, “Yes, sire.”

Looking miffed, Matteo said, “Pray, let us dispense with your attitude, dear, I find it tiring.”

After a moment, Pietro looked at his lover and said, “I don’t like her at all, she is crafty and proud… and she doesn’t love you. Why even deal with her? What fascinates you? To me, it’s just rubbish.”

Raising his other leg, forcing Pietro to stand on his toes and lean over the tub, Matteo laid his hand on Pietro’s skin lovingly, where his shirt pulled out of his trousers.

Caressing him lightly, Matteo said, “I swear, there is nothing between us. Someday, I will tell you everything, but for now, you must trust me.”

A dangerous game

Sitting once again, Pietro looked at the handsome prince, observing, “It is a dangerous game you play, Sire. I sense this priest hangs around your neck like a hangman’s noose. My skin crawls every time I see him.”

“I can handle him, dear one…As long as he gets what he wants.”

Fire in his eyes, Pietro said, a little too forcefully, “And what is that!?”

Matteo, yearning to confide everything, sighed, saying “I can’t say. Please trust me, my love. I need you to trust me.”

God is with you, Mistress!

(Karnak, Egypt, 1458 BC)

Back at the palace, Hatshepsut retired to her quarters while Bren reunited with her girls. The two Saras undressed her, excitedly asking about her journey. As Bren told them of her adventure, they ooh’ed and ah’ed continuously with each new revelation.

“And the fire above your head came back!” one exclaimed.

“God is with you, Mistress! We heard of your exploits even before you arrived. All Egypt is talking about Hathor and her prophecy!”

Stepping into a fresh linen dress, Bren asked, “What do they say?”

Tying the strap behind while the other offered jewelry, which Bren declined, Sara said, “They call it the ‘Prophecy of Reeds’. They say that one will be born from the Nile and save us.”

Bren sat down, shaking her head, saying to her Nubian beauties, as her hands fell to her lap, “I have no idea where all this is going.”