Author's note: I wrote this piece after learning about Cleopatra's younger sister. I hope people learn that... Show full author's note »
Chapter 1 SistersI stare out the window. The sea smell refreshes me. I stare out, wishing I could become one with the sea. It is high noon, and everything is still.
“Arisinoe, Arisinoe!” Calls a voice. I turn around and groan. Cassiopeia is a temple priestess who believes in adhering to the rules no matter what. “You should be in your room!” She whispers furiously. “I told you, the rules must be adhered too!” She continues to rant.
I started to recall a memory. It was a wisp that grew longer with each passing moment.
I can’t remember how old I was, only that I was standing on my tiptoes at the window of our palace. I stared out to sea, amazed by its vastness. It never ended. That is what goes through a child’s mind. I hope it never did end, that it would go on forever and ever. I was amazingly innocent.
“What are you doing?” Came the cold voice of my sister, Tryphanea.
“Staring through the window!” I chirped.
“Why?” Her voice had a trace of curiosity in it.
“I can’t wait for Father to come back!” Tryphanea slapped me, hard.
“How dare you speak his name! I am Pharaoh now!” She screeched. I whimpered, putting a hand to my cheek. “Cleopatra and he will never come back. If they do, I will destroy them. I will cut up their entrails and feed them to lions.” Tryphanea was so busy ranting that she didn’t notice me slipping away.
I ran, all the way to Bernice’s room. I was crying hard by then. She took one look at me, then scooped me up in her arms. “What is wrong my darling?” She asked me, comforting me.
“Tryphanea slapped me!” I wailed. I showed her the red mark that was left by her hand. She squeezed by face and kissed my cheek, where the red mark was.
“Tryphanea is so cruel, she never knows when to stop!” Bernice smiled at me. My tears started to dry. “Poor Arisinoe, forced to carry the burden of such a sister!” Bernice had that effect on people. She always made them feel good, but she was a bit shallow. “I know just what to do to cheer you up.” She took my hand and gracefully stood up from her bed.
She took me to the market. We visited stalls and bought things. I bought a new cat as well as several bits of silk. Bernice gave me a silver bracelet, and a silver ring with a sapphire in the shape of a tear. I started to protest, but she insisted.
We visited the docks afterword. It’s always fun to see what people bring to our beautiful city of Alexandria.
“Does the ocean ever end?” I was holding Bernice’s hand and staring into the deep blue water.
“No.” Bernice told me playfully. “It goes all the way. It goes forever! There will be a huge waterfall, and when you ride down it you will be in the Underworld.” It was only later that I realized she didn’t know, and that she was only making up a story for my entertainment.
“…And it is improper for a young lady to wander about!” Cassiopeia continues.
“Who will hurt me here?” I ask.
Cassiopeia stares at me like I am insane. “As long as Julius Ceaser is alive you are untouchable.” She tells me.
A shiver courses through me. As long as Julius Ceaser is alive. He is an old man. I must look out for…
Would she really go through all that trouble? Desecrating the temple’s safety for me to die. Oh yes she certainly would. But what risk was I? Stuck, trapped here. My future is entwined with this temple. But I shudder, knowing that she doesn’t believe that, and that she will find a way to get me.
Cleopatra and Father had just returned. I was in my rooms, when Cleopatra swept in. She was shaking, shivering. I stared, wide-eyed, as she took gasping breaths.
“Bernice, Bernice.” She told me. I only looked at her in confusion. “Bernice is dead.” The tears started to flow from her cheeks. “Father had her executed.” I felt confused, angry among other things.
“Why did he do that?” I nearly screamed at the top of my lungs. Cleopatra took me into her arms.
“It’s alright. Hush, hush. Osiris may give her a place in his palace.” We both wept at the loss of our sister. We were both thinking it. O Isis, what if I am next? I know we were both thinking it. It was the first and last time Cleopatra hugged me. It was the first and last time we were sisters. But most of all, it was the first time Cleopatra had visited me and not acted like a spoiled brat, like her stupid cat.
I am standing in front of the altar. Artemis was holding her bow in one hand, and her dogs in the other. I bowed before the goddess.
“An offering my lady?” Megabyzus is standing in Artemis’s shadow.
“No.” I reply. “I just wanted to think.”
“Thinking is good for the mind.” He looks and talks to me like I’m his daughter, not a prisoner. “Thinking sometimes helps us realize our mistakes. But not in time my daughter, not in time.”
“I have made plenty of mistakes.” I sigh.
“Not mistakes. Urges, things to do so you can live your life. It is a good thing. Look at everything and you will find a good thing. Even with the Kindly Ones you can find something good.”
Even with Tryphanea? I think. Not a chance. My eldest sister was the cruelest of all. “Perhaps.” I reply carefully.
“That instinct for survival is what keeps you alive. But it will also kill you. I see a stronger one in Cleopatra, only she wants dominance. You want peace.” I am startled by his speech. I think back, thinking of a memory in which I meet a daughter of the Kindly Ones, my sister, Tryphanea.
“No!” My sister told my father. I was on a balcony, playing with my doll.
“Tryphanea, be reasonable.” My father pleaded.
“I will not! How dare you set aside your own heir-“
“But Cleopatra is my heir too!”
“I am your eldest!” At the time, I did not know that it was my sister speaking. I thought she must be an aunt or a wife. My father did have many concubines. The only wife I knew was my mother. I didn’t know Tryphanea’s mother or any other one.
“How dare you, you, preach to me about being reasonable? I have every reason to not be reasonable.” At this my sister grew so mad that she choked on her words.
“I know I have promised you, but Cleopatra has all the qualities needed.”
“And what might those be?” Tryphanea spat. “All she has is the poison in her veins that you call blood. I am the eldest, and therefore must be queen!”
“Tryphanea! I will not have you speak that way.” My father was lost, not knowing what to do.
“I promise you, Father, that Cleopatra will die, and I will be queen.” My sister was beyond control. She whirled around on her heel, her black hair flaring in the wind, and stalked off.
The next moment I saw her come into my room. I was fascinated. I had never seen someone look so much like me. My own mother didn’t pay much attention to me.
The next second I hated her. “You. How dare you look at me in that way!” She nearly shattered with the might of her anger. “You will bow down to me like everyone else does!”
I slipped off my stool. “Who are you?” I barely had time to catch my breath before she hit me.
“How dare you ask me that question!” She was almost liquid.
“Mistress!” My breathless nurse rushed into the room. “This is Arisinoe. She hasn’t done much exploring of the palace and as one such as yourself has been busy with important matters would you please excuse her?”
My sister scowled deeply. “Make sure she knows who I am by the day ends. And that I will be queen.” She swept from my rooms with a slight flair.
I cried and cried. My nurse took me to the royal doctor. After we came back, my nurse explained everything to me. Tryphanea was my eldest sister and heir to the throne. My nurse told me that Tryphanea was proud. Too proud.
“But you are not proud at all!” She told me, cupping my face in her hands. “One day, you will be queen and everyone will know your name. You will have a grand tomb built in your honor. People will revere your mummy. You will be famous, I promise you.”
Megabyzus is watching me intently. “Were you recalling your past?”
I smile sadly. “Parts of it.”
“Perhaps the past isn’t the best one. Yours certainly isn’t. But you shouldn’t let that interfere with your life. Do you understand?”
I nod. My past will never interfere with my life. After all, my life will be spent looking across the sea for my sister, waiting for her to swoop down and kill me. But I will make sure that never happened. I would not be famous for being the only Ptolemy that Cleopatra saw to personally. I would be famous for being the last Ptolemy.