Akhenaten was brought back from his daydream by the gentle touch of his wife’s hand upon his shoulder.
“Good morning, my king.” she softly spoke. “You look troubled again, what ails you?”
“Please do not call me that, you know how it infuriates me. What king am I who allows such deceptions to go on, and who allows his people to be enslaved by the ‘houses of the temple’?” Akhenaton answered abruptly.
“I am sorry this troubles you so, Akhen.” The queen said slowly with patience in her voice. “But you know it is meant to be this way, you accepted this….”
Akhen cut in abruptly.
“I was coerced, you know this. I was young and they played me like a fool and I acted as a fool – what has happened should never have happened.”
“But you know it has to happen, and you must release yourself from the guilt you carry for it does you no good.” said Nefertiti as she embraced her husband.
“I‘m sorry Nefi, I do not mean to be abrupt. It just pains me so – the lies, the deception, and the poverty. It does not have to be this way, surely. It just feels so wrong – the life-style we lead, and the secrets we hold which could help all the people of this land and not just a privileged few. What gives us the right to do this….”?
Before Akhen could finish Nefertiti cut in.
“You know that god does. Please let us not argue about this again. You know this is what he requires from his servants.”
Akhen left his wife’s embrace by pushing her away, and raised his voice…
“That is lies and you know it is lies! There is no need for temples and places of worship. Something that loves us would want none of this and certainly would not want us to have all that we possess and not share it with all the people.” Akhen was getting angrier by the second and continued even though Nefertiti tried to cut in again.
“We have lied to the people and told them that there are multiple gods and you know this, then you expect me to believe that there is just one god that demands all this of us. I know in my heart that whatever it is, it is in me. It is nothing external – it is in all of us! Or maybe we are simply just talking to our true selves? What ever it is, it is no less than us and it is certainly no greater than us. And it is certainly not the lies the priests preach from the temples. They are coercing the people as they coerced me – simply to maintain their status, lifestyles and control. I am not a king; I am nothing more than a paid mascot.”
Akhen was now shouting and was full of rage.
“Please calm yourself, Akhen, before some one hears you. You cannot speak this way.” Said Nefertiti, trying to get her husband to calm down and lower his voice.
“Why can’t I speak this way?” Akhen roared. “Why can’t anybody speak this way? We are all the same are we not? Are we not all equal?”
Akhen was now staring at his wife, waiting for an answer, and was becoming more impatient by the second. Nefertiti bowed her head in respect without answering, but this did not pacify the enraged king so he answered for her.
“So you do think as they do. You do think that you are better than the people.”
As Akhen spoke these words and saw the non-reaction from his wife, confirming what he already knew was true. His heart broke and the tears fell from his eyes as the pain inside him became unbearable. He could not bring himself to look at her. He simply walked over to the bed, sat down and started to weep. His voice was quiet now, but he was sobbing with his head in his hands.
Nefertiti followed her husband, sat beside him and threw her arms around him trying to comfort her broken husband. When Akhen sobbed it was as though he sobbed for the entire world. He sobbed for all and everything on the planet. He was inconsolable, and Nefertiti knew that she would just have to wait till it passed.
She had watched this change in her husband for nearly two years now. Once he was happy to live as a king with the splendour, grandeur and the power, and to have literally the control over life and death itself. He’d been a man who had had no problem in vanquishing the enemies of the temples and had done so without a second thought. How many had he sent to their deaths, because they had dared to question the ways of the temple, the taxation or slavery?
At one time he was a great ruler in the eyes of his queen, his chief queen and his second and third. Yes, she was grateful that now she had Akhen to herself – only just a year previously he had decided that he did not want many wives and was happy just to have herself at his side.
But her husband was in pain now, and in his 46th year was on the verge of throwing everything away because of this pain. The guilt he carried was too strong to bear, it was ripping him in two, and he was becoming less concerned about what he said; becoming more out-spoken by the day, and this worried his wife as she knew how powerful the temple had become; and she also knew that they would not think twice about assassinating him if Nefertiti could not pull the reins in.
She knew, as many others did, that Akhen’s eldest brother, Tutmose’s, had been assassinated so that Akhen could ascend to the throne, and she also knew that Akhen knew nothing of this.
The old Akhen she knew before would have no doubt killed his own brother if it had been required of him and, even though it was required, Akhen had no part in his brother’s death. A soldier was employed to do the job for the priests – and he was later hacked to death himself for no trace of any deed must be left outside of the temple.
Nefertiti had always feared that one-day Akhen would find out the truth and what she did not realise was that the process was already under way.
The commotion had stirred a few in the palace and had woken their son, the 8 year old prince Tutankhamen, who had come stumbling into the royal bedroom wiping sleep from his eyes, leaving his twin Tutmose’s still fast asleep and unaware of the disturbance that had woken his brother.
“Mother, what was all the noise about?” he enquired. “Was father shouting again? I am sure I heard him – it woke me.”
Akhen was trying to compose himself, but was still gently sobbing – so he would not look at his son. The last thing he wanted to do was to upset him. It was bad enough when they were present and witnessed their father during such outbursts, knowing that no matter how he wanted to stop he couldn’t. The thoughts going through his mind, surrounding the memories of past events tortured him, resulting in pure frustration – a frustration that would lead to the destruction of something, anything, as long as it was inanimate, as Akhen knew he could never hurt another living creature again or, at least, not physically.
Before Tut could say any more, Nefertiti rushed over to their son and ushered him back out the door, holding him gently around the shoulders and reassuring him with a soft voice.
For sometime afterwards Akhen sat and gently sobbed as the pain passed. This was a pain that no medicine could cure. A pain that cannot be explained and only felt, but one that feels like your very insides are being torn apart. Nefertiti came back into the room after reassuring Tut and leaving him with his nanny to be fed, washed and clothed. She was concerned; as these attacks – as she described them – were becoming more frequent and she felt Akhen was becoming very unstable. Whilst tending to their son, Tut, she also gave word that the doctor was needed, as the king was feeling un-well. She had also given word that the king could not hold court that day for the same reason, but again without elaborating. She could see that Akhen was calming, the sobs becoming less frequent and his breathing was now more relaxed.
She moved towards him, knelt at his side and gently slipped her hand into his.
“Please do not be angry with me, Akhen, but I have called the doctor. You need to rest. I know that you have not been sleeping well and you are restless during the night. You need to sleep.”
Akhen was calm now.
“I am tired.” Said Akhen in a very calm and quiet voice – totally drained from the experience as he always was. And what was being said to him was a truth he knew so well, so maybe it was time to rest.
“I will rest and take advice from the doctor if you feel this is what I should do”.
“Lie down, my darling.” she gently whispered in his ear, and gestured for him to do so by offering her support. Akhen did what was asked of him without reply – he was tired, he knew he was tired so why fight it anymore?
For too many months now he had had next to no sleep. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he actually got a full night’s sleep. For too long now had he wandered around the bedroom, night after night in perpetual torture, as his mind beat him with the biggest stick it could find at the time. He could not even wander around the palace, as this would raise questions – and questions always need answers. Even though he wanted to shout from the rooftops, he knew this would serve no purpose but, in his own mind, he knew the day was soon coming, even though his instincts were screaming ‘this is not the way’.
Akhenaten was caught between the hammer and the anvil, and this frustration was driving him to a point he thought was actually going insane. He had even dismissed the two guards outside the bedroom door – even though this was unheard of – by saying he required some privacy when alone with his wife. This was accepted, but still raised an element of suspicion that he saw in the eyes of the priests and the family elders when making his request, but nonetheless they had agreed.
Nefertiti greeted the doctor who had been standing there a short time, silent – he was following very stringent protocols. She explained to the doctor that the king was not sleeping well and needed to rest – much business over the last few months had left him drained, could the doctor give the king something to help him sleep? The doctor agreed, and gestured so by removing a small bottle he had been searching for in the bag he was carrying whilst listening to the queen. The doctor entered the room with his head bowed low and made his way towards the king with Nefertiti leading the way. When they reached the royal bed Nefertiti stood to one side and allowed the doctor to speak to Akhen.
“My king,” whispered the doctor “please forgive my presence here, but I have come to help you.” he explained, still with his head bowed low and waiting for a response from his king.
Akhen spoke as he lay with his eyes closed.
“Thank you for coming, Isbane, and I will accept what you suggest”.
The doctor found this strange, as in all the years he had treated the king from childhood, the king – even as a young prince – had never said thank you. He knew what was ailing the king – as many did – and knew it was no illness the king suffered from. These were matters of the heart that no medicine could cure, but at least he could help give the king some solace for a while.
“If it pleases my king, could you take two sips from this bottle please?” The doctor offered the king a small glass bottle after removing the cork.
Akhen opened his eyes and sat up slowly. He reached out his hand and gently took the bottle from the ageing doctor. He did what was asked of him, returned the bottle and sat motionless for a while before lying back down. It was at that point that Isbane lifted his head enough for his king to be able to catch sight of his eyes. Isbane knew this was frowned upon. He knew if the king were the king he used to be, such an act would have led to his own death. However, Isbane knew for, some reason, that it was acceptable now, as long as the queen did not see this happen. As their eyes met for that short instance, Akhen saw validation in the ageing doctors eyes. He knew that Isbane really knew what ailed him. And this brought comfort to him. Akhen beckoned Isbane forward and the doctor did as he was asked.
“Thank you, my friend.”
Isbane bowed even more than before, not out of protocol but from respect, as he was engulfed by the humility shown by this one-time tyrant of all Egypt.
At this point Nefertiti walked over to Isbane and asked.
“Is all well, now, doctor?” He gestured with a humble nod of his head that it was and quietly saying, “Yes my queen”. He could not speak any louder as there would be emotion in his voice, nor lift his head – even if protocol allowed it – for his eyes were full of tears.
“You may leave now.” Nefertiti said.
And the venerable doctor made his way to the doorway and quickly departed from the royal bedroom.
When the doctor had departed Nefertiti made her way back to her husband, now lying still on the bed. She could see that he was so much calmer now. His breathing was slow and his face was far more relaxed. There was no smile but she knew he was at ease now – well, at least he would be for a short time. She moved forward slowly and bent down and kissed her husband gently on his forehead, softly whispering.
“Sleep now, my king. All will be better when you wake.”
There was no answer from Akhen, but his facial expression told her he had heard what she had said.
“I will make sure you are not disturbed, my king.” This time there was no response at all as the herb was now working, and Akhen was drifting off into a dream. Unfortunately for Akhen his dreams were sometimes worse than the reality he found himself prisoner in, but this was something that, deep down, he knew he had to go through. No matter how painful it would be.
Continue reading Chapter Four