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(Nile Delta, Egypt, 1458 BC)

Carrying a day-old kid, the old man hobbled towards the mud brick house. After the miracle at Dendera, Grandfather found new strength, the boy noted. It was like his spirit revived and made his body stronger, too. Instead of spending all day in bed, he moved about during the early morning and later evenings, only taking rest during the hottest times.

“I believe, too, Grandfather, I heard her plainly.”

“Yes, we did, didn’t we…we surely did,” slapping his knee, smiling his broad, practically toothless smile. “As plainly as you are speaking.”

Sitting slowly down outside the door, after handing the kid to his grandson, the old man asked for water.

“Even your hands are steady now, Grandfather, it is a miracle! Tell me more about Hathor, I want to know everything, I want to be a priest!”

Hathor help us

Looking through his own eyes as a young man, remembering his religious training, he said, “Grandson, in the beginning, there was Chaos in our world, but Hathor helped us and brought us Ma’at.” Taking the cup from his grandson, he went on, as the baby goat sniffed things by the stool. “Remember when you were frustrated with our stubborn donkey outside Dendera?”

The young man nodded, recollecting the pain of his rump from slipping.

“What you could not do with all your might, I did with only two fingers.”

“Yes, I remember. You never said how you got him to move!”

“I used Ma’at Grandson, I simply scratched his ear.”

“That’s all?” exclaimed the young man, “Only that?”

“Yes, doing the right thing at the right time in harmony and balance with the world is very powerful. One does not need to bully to get ones way. There is sacred order to everything, a path that is straight, a harmony that guides all living things.

“Our Pharaoh rules not by fear, but through the power of Ma’at. True rule flows from the order of the universe and we obey not because we must, but because we desire to align with it. The donkey is stronger than you, but if you live in harmony with him, he cooperates willingly.”

Karnak on the edge of chaos

(Karnak, Egypt, 1458 BC)

Thutmose III finally entered Karnak with his armies, finding the city in an uproar. The Palace Guard had arrested, or killed, half of the priests in the great temple complex. Some said Pharaoh lay embalmed, ready for her great journey into the afterlife, while others swore they had seen Hatshepsut with the goddess Hathor that very day.

Fearing that he’d walked into a Hittite plot, the rightful Pharaoh ordered his coronation to be held the next week, which comforted many, while angering some. It seemed useless to try to sort out the mystery, but when he viewed his aunt’s sarcophagus himself and spoke with the embalmers, he decided: Hatshepsut was ready to pass over, the ceremony would be held, and then he would be Pharaoh. Ma’at would be restored to the kingdom.


Late into the day, Thutmose III heard petitions at the royal court, reassuring the kingdom that he was firmly in charge. People were afraid, the temple services had been disrupted with so many of the priests in chains or dead. Rumors flew faster than birds to the four corners of the two lands, sewing instability and distrust among the people.

Though exhausted, Thutmose III showed little sign of it. Glancing at the next papyrus the new vizier handed him, he smiled, finally, something pleasant to do.

The staff rapped on the floor as two women were shown forward, standing before Pharaoh. Thutmose stared, they were identical in every way, and very beautiful.

The two Saras

“You may approach Pharaoh,” a court official announced as the two black women looked at each other.

Thutmose said, “What are your names?”

“Sara,” they said in unison.

“Only Sara?”

“Yes, Great Pharaoh.”

“I am told that you were faithful servants to one called Brenzel, a barbarian.”

Both said, “Yes, Great Pharaoh, she was very good to us.”

“You must have been good to her, too, for my aunt, Hatshepsut speaks very highly of both of you. Hatshepsut, at Brenzel’s request, decreed that you should both be made free and given whatever you request for your return.”

Looking at Pharaoh, they asked, “Return where, Great Pharaoh?”

Smiling with kindness in his eyes, he replied, “Home.”

Panic in their faces, they both said, “But we don’t know the way, we were young when we came!”

Holding up his hand, they fell silent.

“Yes, you were young, so the one called Brenzel sent for a guide.”

Guards stood aside to reveal a trembling, regal Nubian woman stepping forward.

Giving back

Standing, Thutmose III said, as servants laid treasures at her feet, “Great lady, I give back that which was taken by my grandfather, along with a token of our goodwill towards our allies beyond the Cataracts. Please, take your daughters home.”

One of the Saras, becoming weak in her knees, slumped as the other helped her move towards the queen. Embracing, years of pent up tears rolled down their faces, while a wave of emotion caused many in the court to weep for joy at their reunion.

“Mama, is it really you?” they cried, as the older woman felt their faces and kissed their eyes and cheeks.

“Yes, it is really me.”

After they left, Thutmose could sense the change in mood of the court, realizing that this one good deed might go further towards restoring Ma’at than any army could do.

Bets placed

One more thing to do, and this also would set the tone for his reign: It was time to judge high priest Hapu.

Under heavy guard and in chains, the former high priest of Karnak fell down before Pharaoh, not daring to speak or look up. Those in attendance, to a man or woman, knew what fate this worm should receive. Bets were already placed as to whether he’d be impaled or disemboweled and fed to the dogs outside the city gates, because rumor had it that he was behind Hatshepsut’s death.

“Rise and come forward, Hapu.”

Shaking, he slowly approached, feeling he neared death with every halting step.

Grave face, Thutmose III said, “Many things are said about you, most of them evil. You may, or may not, have conspired with the Hittites to bring down my aunt and your pharaoh. You may, or may not have been in league with the royal wife Arinna, who brought the assassin. Such treason deserves the most terrible death imaginable, does it not?” Pharaoh paused for dramatic effect as everyone held their breath.

Lifting a papyrus, first right, then left, Thutmose stood, saying, “Fortunate for you, Hatshepsut left instructions.”

(Border of Egypt, edge of Nubian Desert, 1458 BC)

Waking up in the cold of the morning before the heat of the day, Hapu scratched as he sat up, feeling the lice on his body. Bathing from a small basin, which he’d filled the night before from a brackish well a half mile from the temple, he donned his priestly robe. The holy attire was little more than a rough linen robe, with frayed and faded embroidery. Entering the sanctuary, really just a small recess in the back of the building, he looked at the offerings: Only a dead chicken and a few handfuls of grain today. Unhooking the cloth that covered the three-inch-high image of Amun-Ra, mumbling the incantations, he replaced the cover, then turned, picking up the chicken and basket of grain.

At the door he paused, sighing, looking dejectedly out over the edge of the vast Nubian Desert, as a dust devil blew sand in his face.

The family oak

(Italy, 1699)

Today, a rare family day in their Tuscan estate, filled Tim with mixed emotions. They’d buried Maria here two years ago, after her sudden illness. Something to do with her heart, the Imperiali physician said. Her absence had been sorely felt, like one of the legs on the stool of his life was missing. After that, they’d decided to move the family into the Italian countryside, to a spacious estate, purchased with a small portion of Nico’s inheritance.

Fiammetta and the older boys, Gian Palo now a strapping young man of sixteen and Leonetto following by two years, especially loved the country air and vast woods of the estate, while it became eight-year-old Nico’s and his small sister of four years, Amadora’s, first home of memory.

Amadora was a difficult birth, but she was a beautiful child with perfect Italian symmetry. All who saw her adored her.

The seeding

The older boys carried the spade together, as Nico proudly bore the seedling in his cupped hands. It was an Oak of Virgil they’d dug up wild in the forest. Farmers used acorns from mature trees to fodder pigs, and when times got tough, for people to survive famine.

Tim picked a place with full sun, testing the soil, seeing that it was much like where they had dug it from. From the other large oaks in the woodland around it, Tim felt comforted that these trees lived a long time. Slim Jenkins’ revelation of his true age haunted Tim, making him apprehensive of a future in which those he loved may precede him.

Amadora held onto Nico’s pant leg, helping her brother, as he laid the seedling in the hole dug by her older brothers. All placed the dirt back around the young tree. Fia looked at the scene, knowing this was one of the best moments of her life. Looking at Tim, who never seemed to tire, or age, she knew he was the real oak of their family, steadfast in his love, protective with his covering and, above all, her man forever.

Watch over my generations

Gathering his small family round, Tim prayed as they joined hands, “Father, I ask you watch over our family. Prosper and protect our children, their children, and their children’s children. Keep us from the evil one and make us grow strong as this oak, unified under Your watchful eyes. I dedicate my family to Your glory and ask that You grant long life, good health and happiness to us all, Amen.”