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 2 The SeaI hate the sea. It doesn’t roll or call to me. Sometimes if I’m desperate I’ll think about joining it. But for the most part, I hate it.
“…so I asked him for dresses for the festival and do you know what he said? No. Why no. Why not yes.” Diana whines. Diana is a priestess here. She was born a girl so her parents sent her here. A better fate than mine. At least she doesn’t have a mad sister trying to kill her. “Are you listening to anything I’m saying?”
I jump. “Sorry. I didn’t know you were talking to me.” I apologize.
“What were you thinking about anyway?” She asks crossly.
I sigh. “Why I hate the sea.” We are sitting on the beach, Diana’s legs stretching across the sand and I with my hands folded around my knees, bringing them up to my chest.
“Tell me!” She commands.
I sat in the sands along the Nile. Ptolemy, or as I liked to call him, The One, was sitting next to me.
“Why don’t you go for a swim?” The One asks. It was a sweltering day. I was sweating so hard, as was The One.
“Father would get mad.” I pointed out.
“True.” He says smiling. “But only if he knew.”
“Father is Pharaoh. He knows all and sees all.”
“Tryphanea slapped you all the time, but did he know?”
“No.” I admitted. “He also doesn’t know how much of a viper Cleopatra is either.” We both giggled.
“All right then.” He said, business-like all of a sudden. “If he doesn’t know about her, then he won’t know that you went for a swim.”
“Okay.” I said, grinning as an idea occurred to me. “Why don’t you go swimming too, brother? After all, it is rather hot.”
The One laughed. I liked it when he laughed. It would start as a hoot, and then grow into a roar. “All right, little sister. I bow down to your wish.”
“I’m older than you!” I protested indignantly.
“Yes, but I’ve got to marry the Viper.” The One grimaced. He was to marry Cleopatra as soon as she returned from that trip up the Nile. She was going to visit the Valley of the Kings, but my brothers and I knew that she had an ulterior motive. We couldn’t figure out what it was though.
We stepped into the Nile, lifting our chitons so they wouldn’t get wet.
“I have a bet for you.” My brother told me teasingly.
“What?” I asked him.
“I bet that you can’t wade in farther than me.”
“I bet I can. How much?” I was slightly reckless.
“2 gold bands.”
“Alright.” I said, cocky.
We both started wading. Soon The One was swimming. The water at that time was to my neck. I did have the advantage of being taller. The One started to splutter and swam back.
“You win.” He gasped. I didn’t hear him. I thought he said,” I need a break.”
I continued wading. I would not lose to him.
Suddenly, my foot slipped. The current washed me away. I heard screaming. Everything became a blur. I slowly began to see more black in my blur. Then I saw Charon’s boat and the Styx. I went closer to him. Not yet, he told me. Not yet, Princess.
Diana stares at me. I blush. “I’m sorry I told you that.” I mumble.
“Don’t be.” Diana tells me. “This is the most interesting thing that’s happened to me.” She pouts. I realize that her life here is limited. She has no freedom.
“Do you wish me to continue?” I ask her.
“Yes.” A smiling voice answers from behind us. Accalia stands there.
“My lady.” I gasp. My mind races as I try to see how much she has heard.
“Please continue. It was an enchanting tale.” She tells me. She comes toward us and sits by my side, stretching her long legs in the sun.
When I came to, I was in a bed in a strange hut. I was alone, with sunshine streaming through the thatched roof. A strange man entered.
“Ah… I see you have come to Princess.” The man said, smiling.
“Where am I?” I asked, confused.
“I am the fisherman, Aapep. This is my hut.” When I did not say anything, he continued talking. “You’re lucky that you’re brother found me. He was raving mad. I thought demons had claimed him.”
“The One! Where is he?” I sat up immediately. I was very worried. If he got in trouble…
“Your brother is fine.” Aapep smiled at me. It did not sooth me. “He is simply explaining to your father why you nearly drowned.”
“Is he in trouble?” I asked. I would give anything for the answer to be no.
“Do not worry.” Aapep spoke calmly. “He simply wants to speak to you. He told me to bring you to him as soon as you were awake.”
“But I am!” I protested.
“So we shall go.”
“That is more excitement than I have had for my whole life.” Diana complains again.
“Life here isn’t so bad.” I tell her.
She says, “How?”
“It’s more peaceful than before.” I say. “I can think on things.”
“Girls, girls.” Accalia chides. She turns to me. “Why don’t you finish the story?”
The Pharaoh, my father, at the moment I saw him after my drowning is something I shall never forget. He trembled with rage. The One stood behind him. He mouthed I’m sorry.
“Here fisherman.” The Pharaoh tells my rescuer, thrusting a bag of gold into his hands. “May Bes watch upon your family always, and may Isis heal your wounds.”
“His name is Aapep.” It was the first time I stood up to my father. The nobles around him gasped.
“Arisinoe, you are already in trouble. Don’t dig yourself deeper.” My father commanded. The One pled with me in his eyes. “You will meet me in my rooms.” He boomed. “I have other matters to discuss.” I raised my eyebrows coolly and left.
I never knew the way to my father’s rooms. Unlike Cleopatra, with whom he met with every day, I was forgotten. I ended up going to my dead sister’s room. Tryphanea. She fulfilled one half of the promise she made to father. She did become queen, if only for a few months. I looked about. I saw mirrors shattered, clothes ripped. I even saw scratches on the walls. Was my sister mad? I think.
“There was something wrong with her.” My old nursemaid stepped out of the shadows. I jumped.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that something, something in her mind was wrong.” I shudder, knowing what she means. “I served her before serving you. As soon as I heard that the new baby needed a nursemaid, I agreed to go. The years nursing you were the best in my life. Although drowning.” She shook her head, smiling. “I don’t know when I taught you to drown. Or at least, stand up to your father.”
“He never cared for me. It was only about Cleopatra.”
“He does. He does care for you. Very much.” My nurse looked me in the eye. “He was so scared when reports came that you fell into the Nile. He nearly whipped your brother, his worry was so great. He would have gotten the court physicians to come to see you, and he nearly did, but you awoke.”
“How long was I unconscious?” I asked, afraid of the answer.
“Oh, not long. Only an hour or so.”
“An hour!” I gasped.
“At the 45 minute mark, he ordered the physicians to treat you. The fisherman said to give you 15 minutes or so. He was right.” My nurse added dryly.
“Did he send you?” I asked.
“Yes.” My nurse confirmed. “It was only after you left his presence that he realized that you did not know how to get to his rooms. So I was sent to find you.”
“How did you know where to find me?”
“Have you forgotten that you learned everything at my knee? That I raised you?”
“No. I have thought about you a lot. I miss the days in which you were with me.”
“Do you want me to accompany you?”
“No. But I will make sure you are honored.” I replied to her sarcasm. She was old and frail. There was no way she could keep up with me. She was bent over because of sickness of the muscles. She hurt so much. I suddenly realized that one day, I would be like that. I would be bent over, shuffling. I did not know what to think. To me, my nurse was the same woman. But to others… but to others, she appeared to be an old grandmother.
“Come.” She wheezed, holding out her hand. “I shall show you the way.”
“Was your sister really sick?” Diana asks, unblushingly. She was sitting up straight, staring as though I was Aphrodite.
“Yes. It was a sickness of the mind though. She was scarred inside.” I mumble.
“You still haven’t told me what happened when you and your father met.” Accalia reminds me.
My nurse took me through passages. I traversed countless corridors. Suddenly she stopped between two golden doors.
“This is where I leave.” She bowed to me and left.
I pushed open the doors. What struck me first was the splendor. The whole place looked like it had been hammered out of gold. I doubt if it is like that now, but it does look elegant, which was the whole purpose. My father sat in a chair at the other end of the room. His head was in his hands and he looked sad.
He looked ill. I was slightly scared. If he died… if he died it would be war. My sister would try to seize power, and it would be up to my brothers and me to stop her. He looked like an old man, worn with years of watching and waiting and learning.
“Arisinoe, come closer.” He beckons me. I hesitantly stepped forward. “A little closer.” I step so that I am in front of him.
“Are you well, Pharaoh?” I ask, concerned.
“I am old, my child. And why do you call me Pharaoh instead of Father?”
I blushed, looking down at my feet. “You were never much of a father.”
I waited, waited for the order that would end my life. The order never came. Instead my father chuckled. “You speak your mind. You are very honest. That is not something I would have expected from you.”
“What do you expect from me?” I stuck my chin out defiantly.
He paused. “I never expected you to say you don’t have a father.”
“Arisinoe, I am old. Cleopatra will be queen.”
“Because she is older.” I said dully, knowing my fate was to never be queen.
“Yes, but she is also, also unprepared. You aren’t.”
“Is that the whole reason she went on a trip down the Nile?”
“You hate your sister don’t you?”
“I hate both Cleopatra and Tryphanea.” I replied, speaking my mind as always.
My father chuckled. “You are amusing. I can’t believe you grew up without me noticing you.”
“You cared more for Cleopatra.” I answered truthfully.
“I have nowhere else to turn, no one else to turn to. Listen, and listen carefully.” He told me. I never forgot his next words. “Soon, there will be a war. After my death. There will be a power struggle.”
“How do you know this?” I asked.
“It is common in our family. But listen, if the Romans come, don’t trust them. Never trust the Romans. They only seek to glorify their empire.” I nodded, scared. But I did have a question.
“Why don’t you tell Cleopatra this?”
“She will not understand. If she is defeated, then you must, must, make sure that the Romans are thrown out. You have to make sure that Cleopatra is safe. For all else, you two are sisters.”
I though back to that moment. The moment in which we had become sisters for just a moment. I would give anything to make that moment last for eternity.
“If you are defeated, remember, you will be killed.” I nodded, still struggling to absorb it. The Romans would come. I might be defeated. I could possibly die. I had to make sure I won. And even if that meant killing my own sister, so be it. This was the game of survival.
“But you were defeated.” Diana points out.
“Yes.” I admit. “But not completely.
“No one can defeat Arisinoe.” Accalia teases me.
No one can defeat me if I don’t let them. I won’t be defeated, a part of me thinks. But then another part thinks, how long until she comes?