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The Boy King
Tutankhamen laughed, hugging his sister’s waist. It was the highest part of her that he could reach. She was the eldest and, to Tut, the kindest and most beautiful.
“He’s that ugly?” the boy giggled.
Mertiten nodded gravely, pouting, “I once saw a goat run away from him when he tried to pet it. I have to say, the goat was fairly good looking compared to that man.”
Tut laughed again, but suddenly became serious. “How often will you come and visit, sister? I will miss you dearly.”
The boy’s sister smiled, “You have five other sisters, child. What loss is it to lose one among those?”
Tutankhamen sighed, “They are not like you. They always want to play silly girl games with me. I am not a girl!”
“Of course not, little one.” Mertiten patted the boy’s shaven head and gently pushed him in the direction of his chambers. “It is late,” she said. “It is already past your bedtime. Ah, no complaining from you, prince. If you are to be king someday, you must go to bed early and arise refreshed and strong like Ra. Go, shoo!”
While Tut struggled to come up with excuses to stay up late, a weary messenger in a simple skirt came running up the cool marble steps and stood with his hands on his knees, panting, before the royal siblings.
Mertiten waited patiently for the slave to regain his breath.
The man said, “Your highnesses, the king has crossed over into the afterlife. We are preparing his body for preservation. Before he died, the king requested that his only son be crowned king by tomorrow at dawn.”
Mertiten’s expression became stony and unreadable. She glanced at Tutankhamen who gazed back, tears forming in his dark eyes. She knelt beside the boy and squeezed him tightly into a hug. She whispered in his ear, “Go to your chambers, dearest.”
Tut blubbered, “But father has ordered—“
The princess gently shook him by the shoulders, “No, child. Go to your chambers and do not come out until I call you, understood? Go, now. Quickly.”
She watched the little boy disappear into the darkness, followed by his servants and an atmosphere of grief and gloom.
Turning to the slave, she nodded, “Thank you for the message. Continue to prepare the pharaoh’s body for preservation. Make sure he has all he needs within his tomb.”
“And what of the prince, your highness?”
Mertiten hesitated. “You say the king ordered it?”
“So be it. He will be crowned tomorrow at dawn. Get the priests ready. I want no delays.”
The messenger bowed and scurried away. Mertiten shook her head. “Only a boy of nine years,” she whispered to herself in the darkness. “How can he be king? How can he command his armies? Our kingdom will fall!”
She snapped out of her gloom. “No,” she said firmly. “My baby brother is the mirror image of his great father. He is intelligent and strong. He will live up to all expectations. He will be so great that Ra himself will come down and offer his blessing upon him and all he watches over in this land. That is enough speculation. I must go and see how he is doing. I must prepare him for his reign.”
In his chambers, Mertiten found the boy curled up on his bed. She heard his soft sobs and sniffles. The candlelight poured over him, trying to soothe him. The servants stood uneasily at his door and windows, helpless.
“Tutankhamen,” she said. “Get up.”
The boy shot up like an arrow and wiped the tears off his face. The kohl around his eyes had smudged and flown in rivulets down his cheeks. He stared at her, waiting for her to do something to calm him.
While Mertiten had been conversing with the messenger, Tut felt his heart beat faster and faster. His father was dead and his mother would be buried alongside him. Thankfully, the pharaoh did not feel the need to entomb any of his sisters are well.
But now he was to be king. Barely an hour ago, the boy had been laughing at his sisters’ jokes and pranks and sipping juice from his small clay goblet and fidgeting with his mother’s gold earrings. Now, he was to take his father’s place on the throne.
He would be half man, half god.
But he was only a boy. He was still learning his mathematics and philosophy. He couldn’t train armies! He wouldn’t even lift a spear much less throw it at an enemy!
“I said get up,” his sister said. Her voice was soft and yet Tut felt the authority in it. She would make a good queen. But she did not have the choice.
Tutankhamen quickly stood up and wiped his nose.
Mertiten folded her hands behind her, “Tomorrow at dawn, you will be crowned pharaoh of Egypt. You are the son of Ra and will act accordingly. No more childish games, no more playing with your sisters, no more pranks and fun. Your studies will be sped up and you need to work hard. You will be taught battle strategies and you must make good decisions. You will have help, of course, but you must not grow dependent on your advisors and soldiers. They will take advantage of you and lead the country to ruin.”
Shocked by her sudden commanding tone, Tut nodded. “Yes, sister,”
“Once you have been crowned, you will be the most powerful man in Egypt and you must not take that for granted. Always think of the people you rule over, but do not give in to them.”
Again, Tut nodded.
“You will always be my beloved baby brother, but from tomorrow you will be my king. Understand your position. Do not be the reason this kingdom falls.”
The boy felt warm tears run down his face.
“Kings do not cry,”
Tut closed his eyes, stifling the flow of sadness.
As Mertiten glided out of the chamber, she said softly, “You must sleep now. If you are to be king, you must go to bed early and arise refreshed and strong like Ra.”