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As mad as hell

(Karnak, Egypt, 1459 BC)

Pharaoh sat there, as mad as hell, eyes fixed on the slave before her.

Here goes, Brenzel thought.

“Great Pharaoh, I heard two women talking in the night from my bed as clearly as I hear you speak now. The older one said, ‘Do you have it?’ The young one said, ‘No.’ Then the senior said, ‘Why not?’ The younger replied, ‘It – is difficult.’ The woman with the mature voice said, ‘Senenmut leaves for the Great Cataracts soon! No more delays, he must die – now! Remember your family! Go! Let the snake god guide you!’ Later, I remembered the older woman’s voice as the one I heard earlier that day for the first time – it was the voice of Arinna. I recognized her language; she spoke Hittite. When Senenmut called me to see him, I felt compelled to warn him of danger.”

Pharaoh, looking at her intently, said, “Yes, there is the journey to the Cataracts. Almost no one knew about our plans.”

I am a servant of YHWH

Changing position on the chair, Hatshepsut said, “So you claim to be some sort of magician? A sorcerer who knows the future?”

“No, Pharaoh, I am not any of those things.”

“Then what are you!?” she demanded.

“I am a servant of the Most High God, YHWH. Sometimes He speaks to me, and I simply repeat His words. I do not control it, it just happens.”

Lifting an eyebrow, the Egyptian ruler snorted, “My Vizier believed in your Hebrew ‘god’. He said that He was the ‘one true god’. He told me that he felt His presence. Now he is dead. Tell me, slave, WHERE IS YOU GOD NOW!”

The tension in the room thick, everyone looked down as Pharaoh glowered menacingly at Bren.

Indeed, Bren did feel God’s presence, in fact that feeling of stepping back and allowing another to come forward, sent a slight shiver down her back that very second.

After an awkward moment that hung like a water droplet on a tip of an icicle, Brenzel said, “I feel YHWH’s presence within me, Great Pharaoh.”

Hatshepsut replied, mockingly, “Really? I do not see him. At least we Egyptians always know where to find our gods! Show him to me!”

God said, through Bren, “I am here.”

Feeling the Spirit roll out from Brenzel like a wave, Hatshepsut sat back a little.

From inside her midriff, Bren felt His Spirit rise, as the sun above Egypt dimmed, causing mid-day to become as dusk.

The God of Joseph

Brenzel’s voice, clear and strong, spoke, “Hear now the word of the God of Joseph. You are in great danger. I see your star falling from heaven, causing great destruction to your kingdoms. Know now that Hyksos and Hittite align with the jackals amongst you to accomplish this terrible purpose. On the third morning, so shall these things be.”

Full sunlight returned, and Bren felt weak, so much so that a guard stepped forward to steady her.

Hatshepsut, standing now, looked up and around frantically, saying in a loud voice, more scared than angry, “You dare threaten me!? I am Pharaoh, my armies are strong, my lands secure!”

Descending from her throne to Bren, Hatshepsut grabbed Bren’s chin, saying. “I do not fear you, slave!”

Bren said evenly, feeling Hatshepsut’s nails dig into her flesh, “Truly, I mean you no harm, Hatshepsut. Hold me three days and prove the word of my God. If I have spoken falsely, then do with me as you will. If I have spoke truly, believe on Him who sent me.”

Releasing her jaw, Hatshepsut stepped back, suddenly feeling Bren’s heart. Eyes wide, suddenly seeming to deflate. She then paused for a few moments, finally saying softly, “Be it according to your words. Take her away.” Turning, Hatshepsut ascended the steps to her throne, shoulders slightly bent, as if the weight of all Egypt lay upon them.

Bren, gently invited by a guard to follow, went willingly as her heart broke for her friend. Seeing the Hatty she knew for the first time, she prayed silently, Father, keep her and comfort her. Please don’t let her die.

A question for Nonna

(Rome, 1690)

Matteo, in a jovial mood, found himself quite entertained by his Nonna’s tales of young exuberance and excess. Understanding her youth shed new light on himself, making him feel he wasn’t that odd after all. Sitting beside her as they rode in the carriage, feeling both thankfulness and sadness, he realized his grandmother had lived anything but a sheltered life, but also that all good things must, as they say, come to an end. A world without his Nonna, the one person he felt truly loved him, would be a grey one, indeed.

“Nonna, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course dear, ask away, I’m in a truthful mood today.”

“Why accept me, when so many don’t?”

Taken aback by his frankness, the old dame put her wrinkled hand on his and said, “Grandson, you are perfect, you always have been. You’re an Imperiali, and that’s what matters.”

But Nonna

“But Nonna, you know about…ah…” he trailed off.

“Of course,” she said softly.

“And it truly matters not?” he asked, open faced, looking at her eyes.

Smiling, she said, “Nonsense, you are my sunshine, Matteo.”

Almost in tears, he leaned forward as her frail arms opened, laying his face on her slight shoulder, saying, “Thank you Nonna. You are the one true constant in my life.”

Stroking his dark hair, Nonna said, “Dear, the world is full of all kinds of people – you meet all sorts in the great houses of Italy and beyond. In our society, everyone wears a mask of propriety, but the things that go on behind closed doors – ah, that is another matter altogether. Believe me boy, you are a saint compared to many. I know you love deeply, despite your pretense of a frivolous life.”

Feeling like a small lad again, he rested for moment, knowing that all the world was right.


Just then, the latch on Nonna’s side of the carriage door gave way and Dolce, as water logged as ever, escaped to find an advantageous place to relieve himself. “Dolce!” Mafalda cried, as he scamper off, sniffing furiously.

Matteo, momentarily forgetting his loathing for the small mutt, said, “Don’t worry, Nonna, I’ll fetch him.” As he reached for the dog, Dolce scampered further, not yet having found the perfect spot to urinate. Hands grabbing air, Matteo stood up again, hobbling after the irritating pooch, as he scampered down the street.

Looking after them both, Mafalda stepped down from the carriage, instructing the driver to wait, as she made her way in small steps down the street in the opposite direction, her walking cane clicking rapidly on the stone as she went. Turning, she made her way surprisingly fast up the alleyway, stopping for a moment at the bottom of a set of brick stairs. Looking this way and that, she raised her foot to the first step, pulling herself up by the rail, then again to the next step. Determined, she mounted the stair triumphantly, like a mountaineer, reaching a summit.

Knock knock knock!

The wooden servant’s door opened, and a young woman dressed in maid’s attire answered. Looking at the old, shrunken woman, astonished at her rich attire and jewels, she said, “Yes, ma’am, what may I do for you?”

Putting the crook of her cane on the young woman’s chest, the ancient woman said, “I am Mafalda of House Imperiali! I’m here to see my great-grandson!”


(Karnak, Egypt, 1459 BC)

Watching the guards take the tall blond prisoner away, Hatshepsut thought, I don’t like unexpected. In her heart, admittedly, she felt that Brenzel had spoken truth, but in matters of state, she never let her feelings get in the way.

Turning to her chief servant, she said, “Bring in the priests and have our guest ready.”

“Yes, Great Pharaoh.”

After a moment, a company of temple priests, lead by Hapuseneb, or high priest Hapu, as he preferred to be called, entered the royal throne room. A slender man, with a rat-like face, approached Pharaoh slowly, followed by fourteen sub-priests all dressed in gaudy finery. Kneeling, he bowed to the floor, saying, “Greetings, oh Great Pharaoh. Our prayers are with you and Egypt. We make supplication day and night for Senenmut’s swift and successful journey to the Field of Reeds. May his heart be found lighter than Ma’at’s feather.”

Sitting back on her throne, Hatshepsut said, “Rise, speak.”

“Oh, Great Pharaoh,” Hapu began, “we desire only to serve you and the great lands of upper and lower Egypt. Senenmut, may his soul journey swiftly, was a pillar in our great state, holding up many important and necessary duties.”

Here it comes

Here it comes, the small woman on the throne thought.

“Humbly, and with only concern for Egypt’s continued prosperity and peace, we ask that you consider…”

Holding up her hand, Hatshepsut stood as the priest stopped in mid sentence. “Your humble offering is noted, and Pharaoh thanks you for your deep concern for the peaceful and prosperous continuation of our great land, but I have already chosen Senenmut’s successor.”

A murmur rumbled through the holy men as Hapu exclaimed, “But…but Great Pharaoh, we were not informed! Surely, this appointment must be made with great care and deliberation. Our candidate is imminently qualified in every area of knowledge and governance, a man of great stature among the elite families,” he said, quickly bringing a short, old man forward. “Surely, you must not rush into such a grave decision without counsel! At least consider our – “

“Silence!” Hatshepsut commanded. “My decision is made.” As she motioned with her hand, a tall, handsome man stepped forward from behind the palace guard and stood before her throne.

Composed and serene, he bowed to Pharaoh, with his hands open, palms up, saying, “Great and wise Pharaoh, I stand before you, ready to serve you and Egypt.”

Perhaps, something…shorter?

Gazing at him for a moment, Hatshepsut then caught herself, and looked at a scrap of papyrus in her hand, saying, “Welcome. . .Saa. . Menetnashté. . . Sabah. . . Khaldun. . . Zuberi, we are pleased by your presence at court.”

“But, Pharaoh!” Hapu interjected.

“Silence!” Hatshepsut shouted again, sternly, as she looked directly at the high priest. “If you speak again, high priest, I’ve been told there is a small temple on the edge of the Nubian desert that has need of a priest.” The stricken man fell silent, backed away a few steps, and bowed low.

Saa Menetnashté Sabah Khaldun Zuberi, you come highly recommended. I have one question, though,” the small woman said.

“Ask, Great Pharaoh, and I will answer.”

“Do you perhaps have a shorter name?”

Looking surprised, the tall man said, “Well, no, Great Pharaoh, that is my name.”

Continuing to stare, eventually, she raised her brows and said, with her head slightly cocked to one side, “A nickname, then? I mean, just for convenience’s sake?”

Considering her request carefully, as his blue eyes connected deeply with hers, Egypt’s new Vizier said, “Yes, Great Pharaoh – some call me 3.”