"Aw, common Ja-kal !" The small boy whined, in his hands he held a controller which was ajoined to the electronic device on the floor.
The hawk guardian grimaced.
"My prince, you have already beaten me ten times." He groaned.
"Ok, I'll ask Rath then." Presley said good-naturedly, " hey! Rath! Wanna play ?" He asked, gesturing to the control set.
"Wha- ? Um, no my prince, perhaps some other time." The scribe said, lost in thought.
"Don't worry Presley, I'll play !" Nefertina said, snatching the controls out of Ja-kals fingers. Armon finished gulping down his soda, and, picking up a burger, joined the others on the long stone bench. All the others didn't seem to miss Rath who had retreated out into the sunlight.
The scribe held a flower to his nose, had he been alive, his tear ducts would be functioning now, letting the tears run down his face. Pulling out a petal, he crushed it between his fingers, savouring the scent. The memories, long dormant, now resurfaced of their own accord....
Rath frowned, tutoring his Pharoh's son was easier said then done ! He picked up the scrolls he had been showing Rapses and left the palace, sending a servant to fetch his chariot to go back to the dwelling Pharoh had bestowed upon him.
The journey home was interupted half-way.
"What ? Who is so rudely in my way ?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
"It is just an old man, Great Royal Tutor, I shall beat him." His driver said, showing him the man in question. He was old and frail.
Rath shook his head.
"He will not survive your beatings, let me question him myself."
"But sir -"
"You have heard me! I will have none of your beatings today, Driver!" turning to the old man, he asked, "What is your name, sir ?"
"Akmeh sir, oh sir, please help me sir, some men, sir, they're after me !"
"Why ?" Rath asked.
"I spotted that gang of them beating up another man .... and now, they're threatening me if I tell on them !"
Rath frowned, these upsurps were just begging to be punished. "Stand behind me." He instructed Akmeh.
Drawing his sword, he stood, feet apart and ready as four bedraggled men stumbled drunkenly into the square where they were standing. "Hey...hand him over !" The leader said, stepping forward, "he's not worth protecting!"
"And if I say he is ?" Rath inquired. The leader, obviously drunk, rushed at him, bearing ugly yellow teeth, Rath smiled and easily side stepped him, sweeping his arm in a graceful move,he grabbed the robber by the neck. I never thought that move Armon taught me would work! he thought.
"Take these men to the proper officials !" He told his driver, who rounded the men up. They went with little resistance. Turning to Akmeh he asked him what else he required.
"Oh nothing great scribe, but please allow me to offer you a gift."
Rath was surprised. "What can you offer me ?"
He was astounded.
"No, I will not take a ... a slave !"
"No, great scribe, she will .. lay with you."
Rath was even more disgusted. "No !"
"Please, great scribe! Surely, you must be in need of female company !" Rath thought for a while. Yes, he could use her to do the cooking, his cooks weren't very good. Besides, he reflected, he could use the change.
"Very well. I will not lay with your daughter, instead, she will be placed in my kitchens."
"As you wish."
Rath got back into his chariot. Turning to Akmeh he asked, "You know where I reside, do you not ?"
Akmeh bowed, "yes sir, indeed I do."
"Good, I will expect your daughter tommorow by midday."
Akmeh bowed his head once more.
"By the way, Akmeh, what is her name ?"
"Meryt, my lord."
Rath was working as the small girl stepped into his house. Awed at its grandeur, she didn't see the big vase until it was too late.
She tripped over it, making a crash the sound of which could be heard from miles away. Rath rushed out of his study in time to see her pick herself up, a guilty look on her face. Seeing the scribe, she quickly bowed.
"I - I'm Meryt, sir." Rath was astounded, she stood at least a head shorter than him and was as thin as a stick. She wore a brown overcoat and was dressed in the normal attire of a peasant woman : sleeveless coarse linen dress and reed sandals. Her black hair was unusually short, stopping at her shoulders instead of at the middle of her back. Her eyes were black, so black they looked like polished ebony.
"I understand that you have work for me, my lord ?" she inquired, stopping his silent analysis of her.
"Indeed, come, I will show you your quarters and the kitchen." He couldn't resist smiling as she gently propped the vase back up, "don't worry about that. It can be replaced." Ra! Was that him ? He must be in a good mood today ! Meryt smiled back nervously at him, Rath smiled, feeling a little uncomfortable and gestured for her to walk.
As he showed her the servant's quarters, he noticed that Meryt's back was uneven, unable to stop himself, he placed his hands on her shoulders to check. Abruptly, she jerked away. "Meryt ?" the mention of her name carried a question.
Meryt bowed her head, a bit sadly. "I know my back ... its crooked, the people in my village ..." She broke off, unable to continue, he could see the tears run down her eyes. Without thinking, he brushed them away quickly. Rath was shocked, usually, he didn't do that kind of thing! Rath! Get a hold of yourself, he berated. Love? No, merely ... merely concern for a woman, after all, Ra knew that the only woman he knew and loved had been Chontra.
Looking her over, he nodded his head, "Meryt, I believe I can treat your back."
She was stunned, "But sir, no doctor has been able to do -"
"Then I shall be the first!" He interupted, "I will treat your back everyday with herbal remedies until I can move the bone in your back to its proper position."
She gulped, "Will it hurt ?"
"A bit, but I shall try to lessen the pain for you."
Meryt thanked him profusely, then hurried off to make supper.
Rath turned away as Meryt lifted up the dress she was wearing, after hearing her cough a little, he turned around and placed the compress on her skin. He marvelled in the way that it was colored, paler than most girls who spent their lives out in the fields and yet darker than the ladies of the palace.
He pressed the compress down, so that the skin and the muscle were softer. Feeling her spine, he made silent calculations and nodded. "I'm going to shift the bone now, bite on this." he said, giving her a linen wad. Bracing himself, he gently eased the bone back. He saw Meryt bite down hard on the wad, murmmuring an incantation, he shifted the bone again. The magic slowly began to work, calming the servant girl as well as finally shifting the bone into the right place. Rath sighed. A success !
"That's the fourth plate this week, Meryt !" Rath observed, leaning against the doorway. The small girl turned to him, her small face nervous.
"I am sorry, my lord. I just can't concentrate, I'm very sorry. I'll go to the market tommorow and -"
"Enough ! This *will* be the last time I am letting you off ! You obviously need some time to adjust." Rath told her, turning around quickly so she didn't see the smile forming on her face. Ra help me ! He thought, that girl was begining to grow on him.
The smell of cooking wafted to the study and its occupant. Slowly, the scribe got up and followed it to the kitchen. Meryt was bent over a bubbling pot and was stirring its contents. Distractedly, she tossed some leaves into the pot and turned around.
"My lord Rath."
"I do not mean to disturb you Meryt, but I smelt something wonderful." Meryt blushed, spooning some of her cooking onto a nearby plate, she allowed Rath to sample its flavour.
He gasped as he swallowed the first mouthful, "M-Meryt ! W-Water, quick !" Meryt swirled around and handed him a earthenware jug. Gulping half of it down, he turned to her again. Meryt blushed fiercly.
"I'm sorry my lord, it won't happen again..." She said, clutching the jug to her chest. By Osiris! She must have added too many spices to the stew!
"Meryt, its alright." Rath told her. He swept the hair out of her eyes. The gesture obviously startled the black haired girl. As Rath looked in her eyes, he felt something stir within him, it couldn't be love...could it ? The way she was staring at him and the way he was staring at her, the warm feeling in him .. it was all adding up to make him feel very uncomfortable. She startled him by looking away suddenly and stirring the stew vigouresly. Well ! It suited him fine, really...
"..So that is why we should always keep a good lookout when travelling along the Great River, both on foot and on boat." Rath said, finishing his lecture on the Nile and its dangers.
"Well Rath, that lady doesn't look like she's listened to your lecture before." Rapses said.
"What ? Where, my Prince ?"
"Over there, by the banks of the river !" Rath turned. Oh no! Not again! Meryt had been trying to get water from the Nile and had somewhere along the line, lost her jar and was trying to get it back, only she was leaning too far forward and would fall in any time !
"My prince, go back to the palace, I shall see you tommorow." Rapses nodded and ran off, happy to escape from his lessons early.
"Meryt !" Rath shouted. The servant girl saw him, and in one fluid move, reached out, somehow grabbed the jar and moved to meet him.
"What were you thinking ? You could have been killed !" He scolded. Then he realised that he had unconciously grabbed her forearms. Of their own violation, both their faces seemed to be getting closer. Blast this all, he thought and kissed her softly. Ptah ! This wasn't right, but, he mused, it felt so good. He kissed her again, taking her in his arms .. and she didn't try to turn away from him either ...
Presley frowned. Where was Rath ? he wanted to ask him something about a science project.
"Hey guys, you seen Rath ?"
"I believe he went outside, my prince." Nefer-tina said, concentrating on the game, "Ha ! Beat ya again Ja-kal !"
"I have to find another way to spend my time. " The tall mummy groaned, handing his control to Armon.
"Rath ! There you are, I've been looking for you all over !" Presley frowned. The scribe looked sad, "What's up ?"
"Aw, common, you can tell me, I won't tell the others. Puh-lease Rath ?" Presley was begging now.
"Well alright then. I- I was remembering the time when I was alive my prince. Nothing more."
"Really ? Common Rath !"
"I am telling the truth! Now what is it you wanted to ask me ?" As Presley told Rath about his project, the scribe's mind continued to wander to Meryt. He had died in the ambush a few days after the kiss on the Nile. He wondered what she had done after that.
Did she break down and cry? Did she go on with her life ? He sighed, knowing that he'd never find out.
"Rath! Something's going on down town ! It's Scarab !" Armon shouted, rushing outside.
"There isn't a moment to loose !" Ja-kal added.
"WITH THE STRENGTH OF RA !"
Indeed, Rath mused as his armour clamped down on him, Ra give him strength to live without her ....