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Son light

(Vatican City, 1690)

That morning, the big priest had risen, finally finding time to see his family. For the last week, crisis after crisis landed on his desk, keeping him from Fia and the boys. First, the consequences of Ireland’s King James the Beshitten’s failed efforts to retake his throne, then the Spanish economic woes, and finally the fight against the Protestants of France. To be sure, Louis XIV was a troublesome imp, but his Dragonnades proved highly effective at stemming the tide of the French brand of reformation. Though his financial excesses were certain to doom the country, for now, Beauty felt Louis XIV served her greater aims without depleting the Vatican’s coffers.

Through sunlight streaming from the high stained-glass windows, the golden shafts highlighted Cardinal Tim as his feet trod the marbled floors of Saint Peter’s Basilica, heart warmed by the prospects of seeing his love. Tim felt a better human every time he entered his family’s apartments. His hand on the doorknob of Fia’s bedroom made his heart know he was doing right in some small regard. His son, now six months old, showed no other problems after the initial scare. His beloved Fia also recovered well from giving birth, busying herself with the many aspects of motherhood.

Knocking softly, Tim said, “Hello, my angels,” as he gently opened the door.

“Shush,” Fia whispered, her finger to her lips, “I just barely got him to sleep.” In the room, mother sat cradling her infant son on a chaise lounge in front of the four poster bed. As if his sleep was the most delicate of flowers, Fia rose slowly and laid him carefully in his cradle, whispering, “There, there,” softly, as he rustled, causing him to fall back to sleep. Stepping away carefully, she turned and fell into her lover’s arms.

Smiling, Tim said, “Okay, I’ll be very quiet,” as his hands slipped down her waist towards her buttocks.

Kissing him deeply, she said, “I’ve been wanting you all day … but not here. I’ll find Maria, then we can go to the spare bedroom.”

My son

Nodding, he lingeringly let go of his woman, then, slipping off his shoes, moving silently towards the cradle. There, resting peacefully, lay the miracle he’d never imagined would be his.

Laying his hand on the edge of the bassinet, he said in his heart as he teared, my son.

Hearing Fiammetta come back in, he turned, seeing his faithful servant following her. In this cloistered existence, the apartments built in the Vatican by the Borgia, Maria had become head housekeeper, chief cook, and trusted confidant of Fiammetta. As promised, her family lacked for nothing as Maria protected Tim’s secret. Even though she was older, Tim marveled at how well both women got on.

Sitting down on the chair, Maria nodded to Fia, who took Tim’s hand and led him down the hallway towards the spare bed.

Opening the door, Tim noted candles were lit, giving the room a soft, warm glow. Fia, breasts full, smiled as she put her arms around his big shoulders, cooing, “I’ve missed you so much!”

Feeling up her waist, beginning to unlace her dress, Tim said, “I’m all yours.”

Weni

(Karnak, Egypt, 1459 BC)

The red orb, sinking low over Karnak, provided the backdrop as the High Priest and his entourage made their way to their quarters. Though a sumptuous meal now lay before him, Hapu sat in silence, stewing over the day’s unexpected turn of events. His servant, Weni, approaching cautiously, offered, “Would you care for some wine, master?”

Staring at nothing, Hapu looked up from under his scowling eyebrows, saying, “No, this day does not call for wine; poison would be more appropriate.”

“Surely master, Pharaoh has the best interests of the kingdom at heart. I am sure she meant no disrespect to your wise counsel.”

The fuming priest looked at his young servant as one might gaze upon an incredibly loyal, yet vacuous, dog wagging it’s tale. Weni, like a canine, possessed the annoying habit of sticking out his tongue while concentrating. Hapu thought, What I wouldn’t give right now to be so dense.

Back from Pharaoh’s court, still in his headdress and robes, the high priest sat dejectedly, thinking, My day of triumph, ruined!

He’s dead; I’m not

Indeed, his plan had been perfect. Reliving the day, he thought of how confident he was of the final piece of his coup falling into place as he led his own choice for vizier into Pharaoh’s great hall. The female Pharaoh, noticeably shaken, sat uncomfortably on the throne as they approached. She looked like a whipped dog, trying to make herself smaller to avoid the next lash, he had fancied. Now that Senenmut was gone, all that was left to do for his plot to succeed was to install his own man as Vizier and control that wounded lioness and Egypt from the shadows.

Hate boiling in his heart, Hapu gnawed on how he hated Pharaoh’s late Vizier. That tall and handsome upstart, a favorite of women, always seemed to manage to be one step ahead. Oh, yes, you were cunning, I’ll give you that, Hapu thought, but you’re dead and I’m not! Yet, as if a specter rose, Hapu felt sure the dead Vizier had somehow foiled him once again from the grave! Curse him by all the gods of Egypt! May the times of his life never be known to exist on earth at all!

Weni, tongue out, busied himself arranging the dishes of food in front of his master, noting the redness of his face and how that one vein on his temple stood out. The old man puts too much upon himself, Weni thought, he needs relaxation, food, and drink.

“Master?” Weni said, as he offered the goblet of wine once again.

Saa Menetnashté Sabah Kah….blah blah blah!

Taking it, sipping the fruit of the vine, Hapu erupted out loud, “. . .and that ridiculous name! Saa Menetnashté Sabah Kah….blah blah blah! I’ve never heard of him!” Indeed, the priesthood was vast, the largest administration in all Egypt; yet certainly he must be someone of note for Hatshepsut to appoint him. “Why haven’t I heard of him before? Weni!” Hearing the anger in his master’s voice, the young priest fell silent as his tongue retracted.

Then, the High Priest’s blood ran cold for a moment, as he thought, Perhaps she suspects! Or worse yet, perhaps she knows!…But how could she? I’ve taken every precaution to hide behind that vile Hittite creature Arinna. Batting doubts away from inside his head like annoying flies, he reasoned, Deal with only what you know, not what you suspect. Someone tipped her off, that much is certain. I must assume she is not as distracted as I hoped. Forcing himself to calm down, the holy man concluded, I’ve not lost yet. She’s weakened, and it will take her some time to regain full control. Finally, Hapu decided that the new Vizier was the unexpected in his equation, the unknown value, which put all his calculations in doubt. He must pay a visit to him, and soon.

A sumptuous cell

For the last two days, Bren sat under arrest in a sumptuously appointed room with guards standing outside the heavy door. Though a cell, it seemed to be a recreation of a small house not unlike those at the harem. Upon entering it, Bren thought dryly, Well, at least it’s an upgrade from my usual dungeon.

The two Saras, allowed to attend to her, played games and told Brenzel of the news they’d heard. One of the black beauties exclaimed, “Everything is awfully tense, all are fearful. There are palace guards everywhere!”

The other Sara chimed in, “Everyone is suspicious, too! I think that we have been questioned at least five times by different officials. They want to know everything! And when we tell them all we know, they want to know it all again. We feel like a wrung out cloth, without a drop of water left!”

Bren, seeing the stress on their faces, felt oddly serene about the situation. God speaking through her caused her to know that everything would be alright, despite their present distress. Reaching out, she touched both Saras reassuringly, saying, “Don’t worry, dears, I feel that all will be well.” Then, on impulse, she asked, “Seeing as everything is changing, what would both of you want to do if you left?”

Taken aback by the question, they both looked at Bren, surprised, saying, “Mistress, what do you mean?”

“Well, if you weren’t slaves. I mean, if you were free.”

Still at a loss, they just stared, minds not comprehending the question.

Two paths

Bren said, “Okay, let’s pretend then. You are both walking down a long road with me. It is a beautiful place with palms and fields, and we all come to a fork in our path. Both ways lead to anywhere you want, each one of you must choose a path and tell me where it leads.”

Grasping the game, one Sara said, “Please, can I go first!’

“Yes, Sara, tell us where your path leads.”

“Well,” she said, eyes wide and smiling. “My path leads to my own home. My husband waits at the door, he is handsome and tall and very dignified.”

The other Sara said nothing, looking down.

Bren, sensing her inner struggle, asked, “Dear one, where does your path lead?”

Shoulders trembling, she said, “I dare not hope it.”

Touching her shoulder, Brenzel said, “Don’t worry, Sara, its only a game.”

Body calming, she looked up with big moist eyes, saying, “My path leads me to my mother’s arms.”

Your mother lives

Feeling both their hearts, before thinking, Bren promised, “If it be in my power to make that possible, I will.” Then adding, as if someone else spoke, “Do not despair, your mother yet lives.”

Looking at her, Sara said, face brightening, “She lives?! Oh thank you mistress, thank you so much! You don’t know how many nights I’ve prayed to the gods and laid awake wondering! It has been long, but she lives and I will see her again!” Reaching over, she hugged Bren with joy and excitement.

Though they barely recalled her face, both Saras remembered well her warmth of heart and tenderness towards them, how she’d covered them during the army’s attack and defended them with the spear as the Egyptian soldiers approached. How she fought! It took five men to subdue her. Whatever happened afterwards in their lives, each Sara remembered how strong she was for them and her courage gave them the will to live.

Bren immediately felt badly for saying their mother lived, for they both obviously believed her without question. Though she wanted to say something like, “Please, don’t get your hopes up too much, I could be wrong,” the words just wouldn’t come.

Annoyed

(Vatican City, 1690)

It was late morning now, as Fia lay with her man. Feeling fulfilled as she never thought possible, she felt whole and satisfied. In the beginning, Tim was hesitant, unsure, and careful. Now he took her with sureness, knowing her body almost better than she did herself. Slipping out from under his arm, she stood for moment, looking at him lovingly. Who in this world understands what love can be, she thought, then concluded, I do.

Slipping into her dress, she went to find someone to help lace it when one of her kitchen girls, flustered, approached quickly saying,. “Lady, someone desires your presence.”

“What? Where?”

“She’s in the kitchen.”

Not knowing what kitchen business could possibly have to do with her, Fia said, “What do you mean?”

The young girl, looking at her with wide eyes, said, “A great lady, she demands to see you.”

Balderdash, Fia thought, who demands anything from the servants’ domain? Annoyed, Fiammetta briefly thought about calling Maria to attend to the matter, but then didn’t want to risk waking young Nico. “Okay,” she said, “take me to her. Show me what all the fuss is about.”

Standing firmly still as the servant girl laced her, Fia then followed her to the kitchen.

Enter the Imperialli

Upon opening the kitchen door, Fia froze.

An old lady, the grand dam from House Imperialli, sat nibbling on a pastry. Looking up she said, “Ah, my dear Fiammetta, so nice to see you! These tarts are delicious! You must send the recipe to my chef!”

Speechless for the breech of protocol, Fiammetta blinked, then managed, “Um, welcome madam, I…I’m so please to see you.”

The ancient woman, looking at her bluntly, replied, “Yes, I can see you are just bowled over. Never mind, Sweetie, I’m here to see my great-grandson, you may take me to him now,” she stated, as she shakily stood up on her cane.

Fia, mind racing, thinking of Tim laying in the back room said, “Uh. . .Madam… I am so sorry, – your great-grandson has been up all night with a sour stomach, I just got him down. If he wakes, he will cry for hours.”

Grey eyebrows raising, Malfalda simply stared, as Fia’s awkwardness increased by the moment.

Breaking the deafening silence, Fia blurted, “But tomorrow – yes, tomorrow would be perfect! Please, come join us for dinner in the evening. We’d love to have you visit and spend time with us.”

Mafalda continued to stare for a moment, then a smile suddenly graced her thin lips, and she said, “Oh, my dear, that would be lovely!” Turning to leave, she waited until the servant girl opened the door and then looked back saying, “Tomorrow at six, then! We will look forward to it!”

Still flustered, Fia comfirmed, “Yes, of course, at six,” as the old woman hobbled out and the door closed behind her.

Heart pounding, face flush at the potential disaster averted, Fia said, “Curse her damnable persistence! No high born ever uses the servants’ entrance, it’s simply not done!”

Wait, Fia thought, thinking backwards a moment. “did she say… We?”

SEOIB.