The day of Prince Thutmose’s funeral was both a grand celebration and a day of tears and sorrow. The temple priests carried the prince’s body from the temple to the corridors outside. The wailing women sat on their knees, lining either side of the corridor, screaming and pulling at their wigs.
Behind the priests were the Pharaoh and his chief wife, Tiye. She wore her finest garments and jewels, but her face had aged by at least a decade. The Pharaoh tried to hold his head up as he paraded past his subjects, but it was obvious that his heart was broken.
Next came my father, reciting the prayers and dedications needed in order for the prince to complete his journey into the next life. Beside him walked Prince Amenhotep. He kept his hands locked behind his back and his dark eyes looking down. Though he seemed to be in mourning over the loss of his brother, I knew it was because of his uncertain future.
My royal sisters and I followed behind my father and the prince. We rattled our sistra as we walked, singing the accolades of Prince Thutmose in hushed tones. Each of us wore the headdresses of our patron goddesses. Beketaten and Meratathan took the lead, while Kepri and I walked along behind. I didn’t mind as it helped hide the fact that I wasn’t mourning as much as I should.
We walked from the temple to the tomb, a journey that took nearly half a day to complete. The priests placed the body inside the sarcophagus and my father took his place at the prince’s head.
He recited the incantations as the Pharoah and his queen stood at their son’s feet. When he was finished, my father motioned for Prince Amenhotep to come forward for the opening of the mouth ceremony.
“It is the king’s wishes,” my father announced, “that his son, Prince Amenhotep, take his brother’s place as heir to the throne. Prince Amenhotep, please step forward and release the spirit of your brother.”
Prince Amenhotep went forward and performed the ceremony. He recited his prayers as he’d been taught, but it was obvious that the words were hollow. Fortunately, his parents were too distraught to notice. My father, however, shot the young prince a sideways glance that even I felt from across the room.
When the ceremony ended, the procession made its way back to the palace complex. We entered in the same order we’d left, then took our seats in the dining hall. It was the last piece to the full puzzle. Pharaoh made a grand gesture in having his new heir moved from his seat on the left, to his new place at the right hand of his father. The room erupted in jubilation, but the prince still seemed unamused by the whole affair.
Bekatatan and Meratathan remained at their usual spots to the prince’s right and Kepri and I stayed in our places to the left. Though I had no idea what the future would hold, I was sure I’d never move up from my current position.
When the day had ended, my royal sisters and I dispersed to our rooms. I walked with Kepri who seemed even more depressed than usual. She’d heard some of the servants say that the new prince could reject all his brother’s wives and choose new ones.
“So what,” I quipped, “it’s not like we get our heads removed. We move back home and find a husband of our choosing.”
Kepri shook her head. “Not for me. My father gave me to the king in order to pay a debt. If the prince rejects me, I’ll be given over to a brothel.”
My heart went out to the poor girl. As we reached her apartments, I took her by the face and smiled. “Maybe I can talk to the prince for you. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll even offer to give up my spot to ensure your place.”
“Why would you do that for me,” she asked.
“Because I don’t care if I’m chosen or not. I’m a scribe and I’ll find a way to make it in this world.”
Kepri hugged me tightly before entering her room. I ventured on toward my own space. Once there, I found someone had let themselves inside.
I slowly pushed the door open. There stood one of the guards looking around the room, though not touching a thing.
“Can I help you,” I asked in haste.
The guard turned to face me. “My apologies, Princess, but your presence is requested by the prince.”
I felt a shockwave run through me. I nodded and followed the guard. He led me to the terrace where Prince Amenhotep stood waiting. The guard bowed and stood by the entrance.
I walked out a little further, watching the prince’s stature in the torchlight. He may not have been the ideal Egyptian specimen, but there was something alluring about him.
He turned toward me and bid me join him. As I approached, he reached out for my hand. I complied and looked deep into his eyes. For the first time since coming to the palace, I felt the pangs of love.
“Princess Nefertiti,” he said with a whisper, “it won’t be long and I’ll take my father’s place as Pharaoh. I have no idea what to do, but I know I can’t do it alone. I need someone by my side that will give me good advice without simply telling me what they think I want to hear.”
His voice quivered as he continued. “What, um. What I’m trying to say, is…um, would you still be willing to be a queen of Egypt?”
I couldn’t stop the smile that ran across my face. Prince Thutmose had never formally asked for my hand in marriage. It was a simple fact-of-life. I’d been chosen, end of story. However, Prince Amenhotep had taken the time to ask me if it was something I’d like to do. How could I say no?
Then, something else came to mind. “My prince,” I began softly, “before I make my decision, I must ask one thing of you.”
“Of course,” he replied, “name it and it shall be yours.”
I swallowed hard and chose my words wisely. “I just want to know as to what will become of my royal sisters. We have become close and wouldn’t want to be a queen without them by my side.”
The prince simply smiled. “I understand. Worry not, my queen. I will ensure that my brother’s royal wives remain in the palace. I have no choice but to marry Beketaten as it is tradition, and she’ll not be happy without Meratathan at her side. As well, I know you’ve formed a bond with Kepri and will wed her as well. I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that you’ll be at my side when I am Pharaoh.”
Without hesitation, I threw my arms around the prince’s neck. He hugged me back, then pulled me into a deep, passionate kiss. It took my breath away and sent shivers down my spine. Though love had never been a requirement for marriage, I knew ours would be one of the greatest love stories of all time.