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Bugs!

(Karnak, Egypt, 1459 BC)

“Morning girls, what’s the matter?” Bren asked, approaching them from the doorway.

Putting something behind her, looking caught as she turned, Sara said, “Nothing, Mistress.”

Eyebrows furrowing, Bren asked again, “Sara, what’s the matter, what’s wrong?”

Looking at each other for a moment, they both blurted out, “You don’t have lice!”

“What?”

“You don’t have those little bugs!” Sara said as she held out what was behind her back for Bren to see.

Coming closer, bending down, Brenzel drew away again in disgust. “I certainly hope not! I hate bugs! That one looks awful!”

The other Sara said, “Yes, they’re terrible and they get… everywhere! That is except on you or your bed!”

“Okay,” she said, turning up her hands, shrugging,”that’s good, isn’t it?”

“No, Mistress, you don’t understand, no one in all of Egypt doesn’t have lice, even Pharaoh. No one except you. What magic do you possess? What incantation do you use? Are you a sorceress?” One Sara put her hand to her mouth saying breathlessly, as her eyes widened, “Maybe she is a god!”

Taken aback, Bren tried to catch up in her mind saying, “So, you’re concerned that I don’t have lice? I would think that is a good thing. But honestly, I don’t have spells or do magic and I’m certainly not a sorceress or a “god.””

Can you help us?

Looking doubtful of her denial, they said together, eyes big and pleading, “Can you help us not have lice, too?”

“Well, I don’t know, really. The only thing I know to do is pray and ask God for help. He could make the lice go away.”

“Which God?” Both asked.

“Well, Jesus, I pray… to Jesus.”

Looking confused, one said, “We’ve never heard of a god named ‘Jesus’, what does he do?”

Thinking for a moment, Bren said, “Everything, I guess, whatever you need.”

“He is like Ra,” one said to the other as the other sister answered back saying,

“Or Amun.”

“Uh, no, not quite,” Bren said.

“Can you help us pray to him?”

“Yes, of course,” Bren said, saying a quick prayer herself, Jesus, I hope you take care of lice!

Taking their hands in hers, Bren said, “Repeat after me,”

Where’s the statue?

“But Mistress Bren, where the image? one Sara said in surprise, “How can we pray to a god we cannot see?”

“Don’t worry dears, you don’t need a statue to pray to Jesus, he is everywhere, he knows everything. All you have to do is talk to him.”

Eyes wide, they both nodded and then bowed their heads with her.

“Father, my friends Sara and…uh…Sara, ask that you take away the lice from them. Make them leave, in Jesus’ name. Thank you very much.”

That voice she’d heard now, many times, said through her, “Go now and bathe thoroughly, wash all your bedding. Believe that Jesus can do this and there will be no more lice.”

One of the Saras, tears in her eyes, said, “Yes mistress, we will do what you say.”

“Why are you crying, little one?”

“I’ve never talked to God before.”

Hugging them both, she said, “God cares about you. Go, wash up, and all will be well.”

Bren watched both girls roll up their mats and bedding, bowing very low before they left. Bending down near her own bedding, looking closely on the floor, she saw hundreds of dead bugs on every side. “What the…yuck! she said shivering involuntarily. Standing up, backing away, she left to find someone to wash her bedding also. I hate bugs! she thought, scratching her head unconsciously, suddenly feeling the urge to bathe.

The inner court

Preparations were well underway in the whole harem for Bren’s welcome party as she walked underneath the portico that surrounded the perimeter of the entire inner court. Servants washed and swept, artisans freshened paint and repaired cracks. More people than she’d ever seen there before, scampered about in a well-oiled dance of preparations. The mood amongst the people was festive. Men stacked extra tables under porticoes and unloaded carts unloaded heavy clay jars, boxes, and packages of every size and shape. In a few days time, all would be readied for the event.

In the center of the inner court lay a large rectangular pool, deep and clear, fed by some water source Bren couldn’t detect. Palm trees, draped between their trunks with long, gathered swaths of linen, towered overhead. Each tree was spaced evenly around the water, giving the sense of an oasis. Above and between them a large, multicolored tarp held by ropes shaded the water, casting it’s shadow on different spots, depending on the time of day. In the clear pool, mostly children, but also some of the women of the house, bathed or swam. Cushions, arranged in piles, waited patiently for whoever needed them. Servants placed tables laden with drink and food strategically, wherever and whenever people needed. Also, in the waters floated lily pads, supporting the most amazing blue flowers which opened at dawn and closed in the early afternoon.

Everyone does it

Finding one of the wives lounging under the palms, Bren introduced herself, saying, “Hello, my name is Brenzel, may I sit with you awhile?”

Looking up for a moment, she said as her hand gestured to an adjacent divan, “Of course, I would be delighted. My name is Theokleia, I’m from Danaan (Greece). You’re the new girl, aren’t you? Where are you from? I love your hair, by the way, is it natural or a wig?”

Sitting down, Bren said, “It’s all me. I’ve never had a wig.”

Removing her’s and handing it over to Brenzel, Theokleia said “It’s the only way to go in Egypt, everyone does it, take a look at mine, it’s so much less work!”

Bren stared at her bald head then looked at the wig in her hand. In fact, all of her was bald, just like her two friends from Kush. Admittedly, Theokleia still looked naturally beautiful with or without hair, though Bren firmly resolved keep hers, at least on her head. A thought occurred to Bren that perhaps people grew less and less concerned about clothes the hotter the climate was. Egypt seemed almost as unconcerned about being bare as the inhabitants of Elysia.

Those are pretty, what are they called?

Changing the subject, Bren pointed towards the water, saying, “Those blue flowers are very pretty, what are they called?”, referring the lily pads with blue blooms.

“Oh, those are the blue lotus of the Nile. They’re sacred, we have them brought here to be kept on hand. We aren’t allowed to go to the Nile ourselves, crocodiles hide under the lily pads, just waiting to snatch you if you’re not careful.”

Bren, remembering where where she had seen the flower shapes before, asked further, “Is that the flower that I see on the wall pictures? I’ve seen it many times.”

“Oh yes, they’re quite enjoyable. You should try it some time.”

Looking at her face questioningly, in perfect Greek, Brenzel said, “I’ve heard a little about Greece, it is the home of a great civilization.”

Looking at her intently, Theokleia said, “People around here said you’re good with foreign tongues, but I didn’t realize the half of it. If I didn’t know better, I would say you’d grown up in my home city. Where did you say you’re from?” The Grecian woman asked again.

Bren replied, “From a large island up north, it is named…ah… Pritani,” though she had meant to say England. Pausing, wondering why she did that, Bren said, “I think it is very far from Greece.

Turning from her tummy to back, the Grecian woman nonchalantly said, “Oh yes, the barbarian lands.”

Bren, mildly annoyed, replied, “Yes…so I’ve been told.”

Grand Mama!

(Italian Countryside, 1690)

Storming through his house, Matteo shouted, “Prepare my carriage, I leave tonight!”

“Sir, what is wrong, what has happened?”

Matteo, visibly upset, thrust a letter towards his manservant, then stormed off towards the stables.

Dear Prince Imperiali,

With a heavy heart, I must inform you that you grandmother, Lady Mafalda, is gravely ill. I do not expect she shall last a fortnight. If you wish to see her this side of heaven, I bid you come with great haste.

As personally instructed by her, I have enclosed the key to her personal lock box.

In your service,

Physician to the house Imperiali

Luigi Galvani

Packing

Heart going colder as he folded his master’s clothes, Pietro, packed personals, ordering the trunks to be stocked with the usual finery necessary for an extended trip. He knew, beyond doubt, that Matteo Imperiali truly loved his grand mama and that nothing short of his own death, could keep him from her side.

Dressing his master for the trip through the cold night, Pietro dared not share his misgivings. It might be that she was truly ill, for she was an old bird; however, judging by her manipulative actions of the past, he wondered. The grand old lady Mafalda Imperiali was a woman who always got her way and, as of yet, to her chagrin, Matteo had not seen his son.

Finishing dressing his master, his servant said, “Sire, I ask leave to prepare myself for the journey, then we can depart together.”

“No, I must leave now. Follow when you have packed and left the house in good order.”

Looking at him stoically, his servant said, “Yes, of course, as you wish sire.”

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