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More beer!

(Karnak, Egypt, 1458 BC)

“More beer!” High Priest Hapu growled, throwing his goblet at his servant, Wemi, who dodged the flying metal – this time – with practiced alacrity.

“Yes, your holiness.” The room, though clean, smelled awful. Wemi rubbed a painful bump on his head gingerly – from an earlier encounter with Hapu’s goblet. After pouring more drink, the young man approached the inebriated priest cautiously, saying, “Master, there are many waiting at your door who have urgent business.”

Outside Hapu’s quarters, a gaggle of priests and petitioners stood waiting, as they had for several days, each with official business which grew more urgent by the hour. Wemi emerged yet again, hearing the same cacophony of voices petitioning him on behalf of his master.

“Please, young master, the tally of grain must be approved today!”

“What do we do with all the extra offerings? Our store houses are almost full!”

“I pray,” another urged, “you inquire of the High Priest about the length of the great festival Opet! It nears and we must finalize.”

Wemi, apologizing profusely, for he knew not what else to do, promised to relay their requests and concerns to his sulking master, who paid them little attention.

Cruelly tantalized

My plan, my wonderful, beautiful plan! Hapu moaned within himself. Taking another swig of beer, not caring that some dribbled down the left side of his chin, he felt robbed, bereaved, cruelly tantalized with success only to have his dreams crushed at the last moment. How cruel my life, what a pitiful end of my shining victory!

Rising from his pathos, he slurred, “What make you of Dendera?”

Wemi, checking where his master’s cup was, answered Hapu carefully, “It. . .was a great blessing to witness such a divine event. I felt unworthy to be there.”

“I suppose so,” Hapu said, dejectedly.

“If I may, gracious one, ask you a question?”

The holy man said absently, “Yes.”

“Hathor coming to her place of worship proves everything we believe, everything we live for. Why then do you feel badly?”

Cocked and ready to cast the cup once again, Hapu stopped suddenly and said, “What did you say?”

Wemi shifted his weight as he said, “The presence of Hathor proves everything the priesthood stands for.”

He’s right!

Putting the cup down, Hapu stared at the youth. He’s right, by Horus, all may not be lost! Yes, by some profane magic, Pharaoh rose from the dead, but proof of Hathor also magnifies the priesthood! Looking at his servant, Hapu observed out loud, “You may not be as stupid as you look.”

Standing up unsteadily, Hapu stumbled, falling flat on his face. Wemi came quickly, lifting him up. Hapu said with a slur, “Bring the other servants to bathe and dress me. Set my reception room and arrange the petitioners. Tell the scribes to prepare a full report of the status of the temple system. Haste, we have much to do!”

What would Father do?

For two mornings and afternoons, Brenzel hadn’t seen Hatshepsut. Glad for the time to herself, she walked the halls of the palace, this time with no other escort but her two Saras. The whole royal court, eerily silent, felt like someone holding their breath, waiting impatiently to exhale. The odd servant she did encounter, bowed low, exclaimed ‘Hathor,’ then hurried away. Bren didn’t even bother to correct them anymore.

Hatty, meanwhile, worked with her new vizier, diligently trying to determine the state of her kingdom. Military officials, prominent merchants, and a few, more or less trusted, priests, gave their tally and reports.

3, efficient and precise, worked tirelessly and patiently to inform Hatshepsut of every part of her dominion. While Senenmut had mixed business with pleasure, 3 stuck closely to his role. Hatshepsut asked, “So, it’s much worse than we expected?”

With his blue eyes set upon her, he said, “Yes, great Pharaoh, the priesthood has accumulated enough wealth to finance their revolt. They most likely paid the Hittites to assassinate you.”

“How bold! I wouldn’t have thought Hapu capable.”

“The high priest is an ambitious man with no place higher to go than your throne. It was only a matter of time before he moved against you.”

Setting her elbows on the table filled with stacks of papyrus, she lowered her head and rubbed her eyes. “What will I do?” she wondered out loud.

Succession

“If I may suggest a course of action,” 3 interjected.

“Please do, I seem to be out of easy options.”

“Abdicate.”

“What?”

“Step down from your throne.”

“You can’t be serious!” she said, pushing back from the desk in surprise. “I am Pharaoh! I am Egypt!”

Moving his chair closer to her, he said calmly, “Why fight to keep something that may have already slipped through your fingers? These figures don’t lie. The picture is clear. Your nephew stands with his armies at the border, ready to lead. Why not let him?”

Anger rising inside her chest, reddening face contorting, she stood abruptly, yelling, as the chair toppled, “You speak treason! How dare you!”

Unmoved, 3 simply said, “No, great Pharaoh, just reason.”

Pacing for a moment, with chin held high, Hatshepsut said, “Leave me now, before I command something which I cannot undo.”

Rising, more than a two full heads taller than Hatshepsut, 3 said as he bowed, “As you wish.”

Insolent pig! No man speaks to me like that and lives! By all the gods of Egypt, if he were anyone else… she thought, watching his masculine back and broad shoulders disappear around the corner.

It’s about Family

(Rome, 1693)

It’s good to be alive, Matteo thought as he breathed deeply, taking his regular morning stroll with Dante. His small companion alternately demanded to be picked up and held, then let down, as he sniffed and peed his way through the new day. Nonna, encouraged by Matteo’s presence, had been making a great show of her happiness by organizing galas and interesting outings throughout the last few months. Slowly, Prince Imperiali began to reconsider his bachelor ways.

Walking in the garden now with his manservant, Pietro, he confided, “You know, I find there is something which recommends family.” Dante, scanning the path before them from his perch in Matteo’s arms, sniffed the air for any dangers. “Since my brush with death, I’ve thought differently about almost everything, my friend.”

Pietro tensed, and looking at his lover, asked, “How so, sire?”

“Well,” Matteo began, “take for instance the legacy we leave. What is the sum of my life?”

Pietro, fearing where this line of reasoning was leading, answered, “Sir, you live one of the most charmed lives in all of Italy. You have anything you want, you live the way you desire. You have social status that most only dream of – what more is there?”

After a few moments, Matteo turned and looked his lover in the eye and said, “It’s about family.”

What am I?

His heart pounding, chest tightening, his mouth dry, Pietro demanded, “And what am I!?”

Laughing dismissively, eyes moistened, Matteo answered, “You are the love of my life! But come, now, you must understand my desire to leave something behind? A legacy, if you will.

Silent, Pietro just looked at the Prince.

Dante, obviously intent on urinating again, fussed until the Prince let him jump down to the ground. The two men strolled between the back end of the house and a waist high hedge, when the prince stopped to gaze at the garden beyond, as he did most days. A cool spring morning, some early flowers began to bloom, colors promising more warmth and beauty ahead. Suddenly, Dante ran up and attacked Matteo’s leg, forcing him to step back to shake him off. As he did, a brown flash flew between himself and Pietro, like papers rustling in a trash can, thudding abruptly into a wood beam next to them. Sizing it up in a split second, Pietro tackled his master to the ground, throwing his own body over him.

Dante barked incessantly, leaping a full foot off the ground.

Damn sloppy!

“Get off of me!” Matteo yelled, confused and angry.

“Be quiet!” Pietro commanded. “You’ve just been attacked! Crawl with me on the ground around the corner, then we’ll run for the main house!”

“You’re daft man! What’s gotten into you!”

Then, Pietro pointed up to the feathered crossbow bolt embedded chest high in the beam of the house above them. “My God!” Matteo exclaimed as Pietro put his hand over his mouth. Shaking, Matteo nodded. Carefully, on their elbows, both men crawled around the corner of the house, then, on Pietro’s command, both made a dash for the the main house across the lawn with Dante close behind.

Scanning the top of hedge through the sights of his crossbow, Lot cursed under his breath, “Damn!”, as no target presented itself. Shooting indiscriminately only wasted time, with dangerous exposure growing by the second. Stepping back through the hedge into the trees, Lot thought furiously as he ran, Damn sloppy!

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