Author's note: I wrote this piece after learning about Cleopatra's younger sister. I hope people learn that... Show full author's note »
Prologue: A New HomeWhy send me here? Why send me at all? After all, my life is over, one way or another. I am no longer Arsinoe IV. I am now simple and plain Arsinoe. No elegant life, filled with riches. Only the humble life of a sanctuary and the life of a prisoner. No matter how many times I deny it, the truth is simple. I am now, for all purposes, a prisoner. I wish my life weren’t so.
“Land!” calls one of the soldiers in Greek.
“Are you sure?” The gruff voice of the captain replies.
“I am sir.”
“Get our special guest ready.” He sneers. Everyone on board this ship does. I suppose I should get used to it. It’s even harder to accept the fact that I am no longer royal. Two men come down the stairs. They talk in Latin, unfamiliar. I do not know this language. The one language I can understand on them is their faces. They wonder how me, a young child, could destroy Caesar, their leader. My sisters taught me well, as did my father. Win the hearts of the people, win the war. They did not know that winning came at such a steep cost. They grab my arms, pulling me along.
I see daylight for the first time on this voyage. They do not want me to swim away. How ignorant they are, they do not even bother to learn about their prisoners. I hate the ocean. Filled with scum from Rome, unable to drink it, I think it is simply a waste of space. But many fishermen beg to differ. They claim Poseidon will kill me for that. So I dare not voice it aloud.
I stare at the large monument. It is simply enormous. It is pure white, except for the roof. The red is an orangish color, like the sunset, only much darker. 3 buildings stand out front. They are like miniatures of the temple. But after seeing the sights of Rome, this does not amaze much. The sailors, however, stare without blushing. They gape open-mouthed at this miracle. I think it is not a miracle. What is a miracle is Julius Caesar falling for my sister.
My perfect sister. Father loved her. My own stepmother loved her. She treated me as if I was garbage. My father never looked at me. Not once. It was Cleopatra this and Cleopatra that. I found solace with my brothers. Father paid attention to them, but he gave Cleopatra more attention. They hated sharing their share of affection. But at least they got some. I didn’t have any. My eldest brother, Ptolemy VIII, was my best friend. He shared the interest that women could do more, if given the chance.
There is a jolt, and we have docked. I stare, trying to memorize the sights around me, while trying to remember what my brother would say. This is a wonderful thing. He would say. Do you smell it? I sniffed the air. It was salty, but that was no wonder, we were on a ship. Yes, I would reply, I smell the sea. My brother would smile. Well now I know why you’re mad. I would laugh and feel safe. My brother could do that.
The gangway unfolds. I walk down, feeling odd. I’m not like you, I want to scream. I’m different. I’m better. People stare as I pass. They wonder why I’m here. News probably doesn’t travel very fast here. I sigh.
The captain notices. “None of that.” He growls. “I want you in tip-top shape.” He speaks in Greek, a language I can understand. Most of the crew does too.
Priests and people line the side of the road. A priest and a priestess are at the top of the stairs. They spread their arms out, smiling. Why smile? I thought. One more mouth to feed.
“Ah, Arsinoe IV, how lovely it is to see your face at last.” The priest smiles at me. I stare at him, dumbstruck. “Perhaps if you open your mouth we can at last hear you pretty voice.” He was still smiling. “My name is Megabyzus, my Queen.”
At the last sentence I gasp out loud. “Priest, do you not know I am not Queen of Egypt?” I ask him, afraid. If Cleopatra found out…
“This is a sanctuary, we can say whatever we want here. I say you are Queen. What will they do to stop me?”
“Megabyzus, you cannot keep losing that tongue of yours. You haven’t even taken her to her rooms!” Chides the priestess. She smiles at me. “Welcome. I am Accalia. Egeria will take you to your rooms.”
At that, a woman appears. She has long braided brown hair. Crowning it was flowers that wove in and out of her hair. She smiles at me. Why is everyone smiling at me? Am I not the girl who almost killed Ceaser?
Egeria floats into the temple. I run to catch up to her. Behind me, I hear the captain telling the priests what he wants. Egeria simply floats, like a lotus flower on a pond. She turns at the end of the temple to the right, and I see a building crouching beneath the temple. She brushes past the cloth like air and I step into a cool refuge. She climbs up a rickety staircase. I look around me. There are doors on either side of the walls.
“These are your quarters.” She points to a small door. “I hope you will be pleased.” She leaves me there. I push the door open. It slides without a sound, like a bird at flight. I look at the place which I will call home the rest of my life.
Colorful wool adorns the bed. It is a pattern of flowers and vines. The walls are a yellow, a dull yellow, not like the sun. I walk around my room. There is a window. I look out. I see the sunset, and color all over. It is as if one of our artists threw his paints out of my window.
There are scraggly peaks in the distance. I peer wondering what it is. The door opens. Accalia comes in.
“I hope you are happy here.” She tells me.
“Very.” I tell her.
“We don’t have much of a schedule here. Here you can do as you please. Feel free to look around the temple. I wouldn’t be surprised if you found something I haven’t.”
“I’m exhausted.” I say.
“That’s all right.” She says with that infectious smile on her face. “I will have some dinner brought to you, and then go to sleep.” She looks out the window. “If you want to close the window, take a cloth and spread it over.” She stands up. “I have to attend the dinner.” She goes to the door. “This is good-bye for now.” She shuts the door.
As soon as she’s gone, I lie across the bed. Just a nap, I think. I feel drowsy. As sleep claims me, my last thought is I will never see home again. A tear falls down my cheek and conquers the covers.