Akhenaten woke to the sound of his wife’s voice gently calling his name. He opened his eyes and saw his beautiful Nefertiti gazing down at him. She could see he was awake and spoke again.
“How do you feel, my king – did you sleep well?”
Rubbing his eyes as he answered, Akhen said.
“Yes, I did, thank you.”
He had stopped mentioning to his wife some time since about the dreams he suffered, and could not even be bothered to ask her to not call him king again – what was the point? She never listened to him.
“I am sorry to wake you, my king, but you are needed to hold court today.” Nefertiti said, still sitting on the side of the bed. “I shall call the servants to bathe you and dress you before breakfast is served.”
Akhen detested this. Every morning, if he wanted to bathe, he was bathed. If he wanted to dress himself, he couldn’t – he had to be dressed and this hurt him. He longed to bathe himself and dress himself. He had no satisfaction from this selfish need any more – as he once had.
He was not the man he once was. Instead, this pained him – the fact that other human beings were made to be there at his beck and call, to cater for his every whim and need pained him. This just was not right, and it was not just he who was served this way – but everyone in the aristocracy.
Akhen realised now that his was not to be served; his was to serve, and to release everyone from this bondage, this legal slavery – for that is what it amounted to no matter which way you looked at it.
“Ok.” Akhen replied bluntly, rubbing his eyes and yawning.
He tried not to do this, to be so blunt, but because of the pain he suffered over the treatment the people of his land endured daily, things just slipped out now and again. He found it hard not to be irritable. He knew he would do himself no favours by doing this, and the hardest part was the honesty. He felt, now, that all he had left of his humanity was simply this one element.
Without honesty, he had nothing. The trouble was that no one – including his wife – appreciated honesty. In fact they were very frightened of it. It scared them. The ugly truth was something that was not to be spoken of.
“Are you alright, my king?” Nefertiti questioned.
Realising his wife had picked up on a small amount of attitude in his voice, he replied softly.
“Yes, I am fine, just waking up my dear – I have slept for so long. Just ignore me, I am fine.”
These words cut through him like a knife, because it was not the truth – it was far from the truth. But, at this time, it would serve him no good to be honest even though his heart bled every time he lied. As he knew that everything that existed only existed because of lies. He also knew that soon he would be nothing but honest, no matter what the consequences of this were. He knew he had to be true to himself and he also knew that this would most definitely have consequences but so be it.
After Akhen was bathed and dressed by four servant girls, he walked through from the dressing area back into the bedroom where breakfast was waiting for him. The table was set with all types of food and Akhen knew he would eat none of it – but would enjoy a green tea with nectar.
The robes he was wearing were uncomfortable and he felt like a court jester dressed this way – an actor about to take part in a play.
He longed just to wear what he was comfortable in and to not be bound by the pomp and circumstance and the attire that came with his position. Akhen was quite happy just to wear normal clothes – clothes that, if he were allowed to wear them, would permit him to walk amongst the people un-recognised.
It was the same with the food. What right did he have to eat such food when men, women and children were starving on the streets and died in poverty every day? Even though Tiy had explained to him many times that this was meant to be – he could not accept this fact.
Not many years ago he was proud to be the actor, wearing the costumes and playing the part, enjoying the carnal pleasures of life; the food, the wives, the sex, the status and the power this brought and the control that came with that power. He was immersed in the desires of the mind and the lust for better and more; a never ending spiral downwards because, once you have reached the top, there is nowhere else to go. Fooled by delusions of grandeur, fooled by the pretend power – for he was not in control and it only seemed that way – he was just kept happy by these desires. Well, he was, until now.
Akhen stood quietly drinking his green tea by the window, looking out onto the palace gardens when Nefertiti entered the room with Tutankhamen and Tutmose’s – Akhen and Nefertiti’s twins. Tutmose’s was the elder of the two and was named after Akhen’s own brother. He was very similar to his mother in characteristics and looks. He was a sweet child, but had the forcefulness of his mother and her beliefs as well. He was a good student and had modelled himself on the way his father used to be. He had no time for the servants and treated them with the same disrespect as his mother did, and as his father used to. He was very grown up for his years, understanding many subjects and excelled in politics, religious studies and socialism – which was marked by the priests as quite an achievement for his age.
His brother, Tutankhamen, on the other hand, was more like Akhen in his looks and in his characteristics – not as Akhen was as a man, but as he was as a boy long before the priest Iktus cast his spell of words upon him. He was a good student and studied hard, but he did not have his brother’s abilities when it came to matters of social understanding.
He acted the part very well and had convinced his father that he held the royal traits at heart – disciplining servants if they stepped out of line – when his father acted as the supreme overlord of all. But, as Akhen had started to change he also saw his son for who he really was and witnessed the true values this boy held in his heart – and they were not as they would have at first seemed.
Akhen realised his son was acting, playing his part to convince everyone he was part of the play, when in fact he was as far removed from this travesty as he could be.
Akhen remembered a time, not 18 months previously, when he had gone to say goodnight to Tutankhamen and found his son crying in his bed. His son did not hide this, whereas before he certainly would have hidden any sign of weakness from his father. For that was when his father was a father and not a dad. He lay there crying until his dad spoke to him.
“What troubles you my son?” Akhen asked as he sat on the side of the bed – with patience and compassion in his voice.
Tutankhamen sprang from his bed and wrapped his arms around his dad’s neck – something that was never done – before speaking between sobs….
“I was with mother today and a servant girl slipped on a wet floor and dropped a towel when she fell. I called her a nasty name and looked at her with disgust.” He struggled to say the words between sobs. “I only did it because mother was there; I actually wanted to help her up.” The boy knew that this was severely frowned upon, but he felt at ease saying this to his dad, now.
“I know how you feel, little man.” His dad said, tenderly holding his son tight.
“Do you, dad? Do you?” Tutankhamen said between sobs.
“Yes, I do, little man. Yes I do. You do what you have to do when you are with your mother, but whenever you need to cry about it – come to me and we shall cry together. I know how much it hurts you to treat someone this way and much worse – much, much worse.”
Tutankhamen released his grip on his dad’s neck and settled back down upon his pillow, gazing up at his dads eyes – the sobbing slowly subsiding. Then he saw that his dad had tears in his eyes and realised his father had become a dad – something, secretly, he had always longed for.
Akhen greeted his two sons in the way that was approved of – very aware of his wife’s watchful gaze. Although he knew Tutmose’s expected this, Tutankhamen knew his dad was just performing an act to satisfy protocol. Akhenaton then turned to his wife and embraced her, kissing her softly on the cheek.
“How are you feeling now?” Nefertiti said to her husband.
“Much better, thank you.” He replied. This time it was the truth. Akhen did feel better after remembering the event with his son and that moment they had shared – and the many others since. Remembering these events always brought warmth to his heart in an otherwise life of perpetual sorrow.
“Go now to your tutoring boys, as the priests will be waiting for you.” Nefertiti said to the twins.
The two boys said their goodbyes to their mother and father and left the royal bedroom to go down the passageway to the schooling rooms. Nefertiti and Akhen watched the boys leave, before Nefertiti turned to her husband and spoke.
“Are you sure you are well, my king?” A tone of uncertainty was in her voice.
Akhen knew what she was getting at even though Nefertiti hadn’t mentioned the subject. He knew she was referring to the events of the night before, and he knew by the look in her eyes and the tone in her voice that she was concerned. Concerned that, today, he was not going to play his part in the farce called court – that he would not be the perfect actor.
“Don’t worry my queen.” He said condescendingly – not meaning to be so but unable to stop himself – “I will play the perfect part, or, as well as I can anyway.”
Nefertiti was worried, not for her king, for this was just a title she used. Nefertiti was worried for herself and her boys because, she knew that the control she had maintained over Akhen for all these years was slipping through her hands. She realised that she could not stop this from happening. She knew the families would not tolerate this and something would have to be done about the situation – and this is what worried her. Even though she felt she loved Akhen in a way, she realised that she loved the lifestyle more, and being with Akhen was just an inconvenience she now had to endure to maintain the lifestyle she so desired to keep.
Truth be known, theirs was an arranged marriage; one of convenience. One that suited the families…. suited their needs. Nefertiti knew that they had coerced Akhen at a very early age and one way was through the use of beautiful girls. When they, too, had got together, Nefertiti was just a girl – and a beautiful one at that. She had come from a very middle class family and was chosen for her beauty and not her family’s status.
At a very early age she had shown signs of wanting to increase her status – thinking she was better than everyone in her class. This had not gone unnoticed by the priests and they watched her use her beautiful looks to get exactly what she desired.
The priests had noticed that this young girl knew the powers of manipulation and could weave her spell upon anyone of the opposite sex, and woe be tide anyone of her own sex who confronted her. A tirade of the harshest words she could muster would be the onslaught that would be released from the mouth of this would-be tyrant if this were to happen.
A wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing was an apt description of this beautiful temptress. The priests realised that the desires Nefertiti displayed would be of great use to them. Having a natural ability to manipulate meant that all that was needed was to direct the course of her intentions. And allow her to receive the rewards for fulfilling those intentions and this was something the priests could deliver.
When Akhen and Nefertiti first met, Akhen was spellbound in a second. He was completely entranced by her beauty and the priests recognised this fact, and knew they could use this to their advantage. Nefertiti was offered a life-style that was unsurpassed and she was willing to do what was asked of her to receive such – she was willing to live a lie and to maintain that lie.
The priests knew that they would need a controller very near to Akhen and Nefertiti fitted the purpose perfectly. Already having the ability to manipulate those of the opposite sex was just what the doctor ordered and made the priests’ job even easier. Manipulate her through her lust for status and, in turn, she would maintain control of Akhen through her own manipulation which, was controlled by the priests – a perfect scenario, but a scenario that came with its own suffering for Nefertiti.
Many nights Nefertiti would suffer over all she had been party to on behalf of the priests for the families. Many nights she would shed tears, suffering the pangs of morality, as this was something no one escapes from. With no one to turn to she would suffer alone. And the pain she suffered was intense, until such time as her mind would lever its way in to say that all she had done was ok. For it kept her in the life she deserved. But what Nefertiti was hiding was the fact these events were becoming far more frequent and lasting much longer each time. She knew she had to hide this fact from the priests and, no matter how she felt, she knew she would have to stay composed so that no one would suspect.
She knew in her heart that Akhen was aware of the truth, and it was only her continuing beauty that, on some occasions, would continue to allow her control of him. But these outbreaks were becoming far more frequent and were lasting much longer each time.
Nefertiti knew that what Akhen was suffering was exactly what she was and this frightened her. Because she knew that when this struck her with all its force there was nothing she could do about it no matter how she tried. And she realised a short time before that, when Akhen was like this, there was no controlling him. She was frightened of this for she knew full well what the families would do – not just to her, to all of them.
Nefertiti also knew that Akhen’s attacks were at such a stage that he did not care who saw him when they were happening, and the fact that he would say whatever he wanted to say, no matter who it would upset, was dangerous. This was very perilous, and Nefertiti realised the gravity of the situation only too well.
As the two of them stood together, silent, a buzzer from an intercom system on a writing desk sounded across the vast room. Nefertiti left her husband’s side and walked over to the desk.
On arriving, she reached down and pushed the appropriate button to return the call, saying abruptly
“Yes, you called?”
“Ah, yes, my queen.” the voice said nervously at the other end of the intercom. “The grand master and the masters are all now in attendance within the board room, is the king ready to join them?”
“Yes” Nefertiti said abruptly. “He shall be along shortly.”
“Very good, my queen.” Said the voice in reply. “I shall let the board know.”
Nefertiti strolled across the vast room again to her waiting husband, who was not looking best pleased.
“Are you ready, my king?” Asked an uneasy queen.
“As ready as I can be.” Replied a very despondent king.
“Are you sure, my king?” Nefertiti said, reinforcing the point again.
“Nefertiti!” Akhen said abruptly.
Even though he did not mean to be so abrupt, it did so annoy him when his wife did not listen to him. He knew what his wife was hinting at, and fully realised why she would question him this way. But the point was that Akhen knew, sooner than later, he would not be able to contain these emotions any longer and all that needed to be said, would be said.
He knew that this was what Nefertiti feared, and he knew, although it would mark the end of him when he did so, he was prepared for this, as nothing could be worse than to lead the double life he led now. To be surrounded by so much deceit, treachery and lies, a life bound by duplicity.
For now, though, for the sake of his wife and children, he would try and contain these emotions – he would try at least, until such time as arrangements could be made. But he knew his patience was wearing thin. Deep down inside he knew that, one-day, he would have his say and nothing on this planet would stop him.
That was all that needed to be said by Akhen, and his wife knew this and did not pursue the matter any further.
They both strolled side by side out of the royal bedroom and down the passageway to the central part of the palace.
There they turned left and stood facing the doors that led into the boardroom where court was to be held. Nefertiti turned and smiled at Akhen and was about to say something, but Akhen beckoned her not to and she remained silent.
Akhen left his wife’s side and walked into the boardroom alone.
The room itself was huge with an impressive rectangular shaped table in the centre of it. All around were gold emblems and statues and handcrafted marble tables and figurines. A small, crystal fountain in one corner gently allowed water to wash over it to create a beautiful, peaceful sound – but no peace would be found in this room. The room was adorned with splendour and the pomp and circumstance of importance.
To say the least, Akhen disliked this room more than any other in the palace. What went on inside this room sickened him to the core, and what was even worse was the fact he would have to sit and listen. Listen to the masters discuss ever more ways to tax the people in the name of the gods, control them through precautionary principles, punish them for victimless crimes, steal their children for their carnal pleasures and, last but not least, trick them through simple deceptions, because that was the object of the game played on this court.
Akhen acknowledged everyone in the room as they, in turn, bowed their heads as their servants and entourage bowed theirs. Akhen knew that this was just a display of protocol that meant nothing more.
When the servants had seated everyone, the entourages and the servants turned and left the room. The great doors were shut behind them leaving two guards on duty behind the soundproof doors. Akhen sat at the head of the table with the grand master of the priests at the other end. They exchanged no more than a glance – as both men despised each other, even though Akhen was finding it harder each day to behave in such a way with a fellow human being. Nonetheless, the fact was quite obvious; as each of them would say as little as sufficed to each other when they met – and no more.
The secretary to the far left of Akhen stood and bowed in Akhen’s direction, which Akhen acknowledged with a slight move of his head forward. The secretary then proceeded to relay the minutes from the last court session.
At this moment Akhen could feel himself switch off, for he had no need to listen to what was said and discussed – his only purpose now was to try to set the people free and, to do this, all he had to do was tell the truth – and that was exactly what he was going to do.
Continue reading Chapter Eight