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 3 Fear is a Terrible EnemyWhat I would not give for a normal life. A life in the villages along the Nile. I would probably be married. My father didn’t want me to marry. He said I could not be tamed. He thought Cleopatra could be. How wrong he was.
And the worst part was, was that it cost him his life.
“Why should I share power with him?” Cleopatra asked, sounding bored but really furious. I had heard from the servants this morning that she was in a rage. I made it my personal mission to befriend the servants. I now have an excellent spy network among them.
As I stood behind the pillar, I remembered what the servants had said. She was enraged at something, something about my brother. “You must.” My father replied huskily. “If you don’t…”
“So you are saying you don’t love me.” It was one of Cleopatra’s tricks. She would trap you in your words. “I should have expected this.”
“NO! Cleopatra, listen. I have many enemies. It is worthwhile to have one friend.”
“A friend who will turn on me once you are dead.”
“Cleopatra,” My father said desperately, “Listen to me. You have to have someone to share your power with. Otherwise you become so lonely. It’s painful. It will be your life if you do not share the power.”
I thought about my life. What would happen if The One did turn on her? I would co-rule with him. I would never betray him, he would never betray me. A relationship built on trust. Too bad Cleopatra didn’t have what I had.
“Back again Arisinoe?” Megabyzus asks me.
Startled, I blink. I am in the main hall of the temple, where Artemis stays with her bows and arrows. “I apologize.” I began.
“No need to apologize. Maybe the goddess wishes you to join her hunt.”
“Maybe.” I mutter. More likely she was warning me that I was being hunted, even now.
My father’s funeral was plain. He was mummified in the manner of our Pharaohs. If only he had survived longer. If only he had lived a bit longer. Then my life would be safer.
“Perhaps he shall have a feast in the Underworld with Osiris.” Cleopatra startled me out of my thoughts.
“Perhaps.” I chose to reply carefully.
“More likely he is dining with Set.” Cleopatra noticed my glare. “Do not think me ungrateful. But he has done precious little for our country.”
“Will you do more?” I asked sarcastically.
“I will make us a force to be reckoned with.” She replied evenly, then gracefully left.
I was left alone with my thoughts. I stood there for a few moments, then went to my room. I loved my room. It gave me a beautiful view of one of the courtyards, and it easily accessed it too.
My brothers came in. The One, and Ptolemy the Younger, who I like to call simply, The Young, had worried looks on their faces.
“May I sleep here tonight?” The One asked me.
I started laughing hysterically. “You do not want to sleep with your wife?”
“A wife that has a rose in one hand and an asp in the other.” He replied darkly. “I do not want to die at this tender age. I have much to accomplish in my rein, and I have little time to do so.” He looked directly at me. “I need your help.”
I nodded. “I will never abandon you to her.”
“We have to secure the throne first.” The Young said warily.
I looked at my brothers, they had grown old. “I wonder what Cleopatra is planning today.”
They glanced at each other. “Could you possibly go to Cleopatra?”
“She would never let me do that.” I warned them, knowing what they were hinting at.
“No, but your servants might know something.” The One did have a point there.
“I will ask them to find out all that they can.” I replied.
He nodded, then rubbed his temples. “Arisinoe, I do not know how to put this, but we must take control of the situation. Before it gets out of hand.”
“Before the common people love her.” I said softly.
“Win the people, win the war.” It was ironic that the people should decide the royal family’s fate.
“We will drive her out. And we will rule Egypt.”
“And we will make it so well-known that people will never forget about it.”
We all nodded. It was a pact, a bond that would remain unbroken. But first, I had to find out where Cleopatra was, and what she was up to. I remembered the argument she had with Father. I must get the servants to find out all they can. Before she rules. Before I die.
“What is it like, being a princess?” Anona, a young priestess at the temple asks me. Well, no. She wasn’t exactly a priestess. She was just here so often it seemed as if she was a priestess. She was actually the daughter of a wealthy senate family. It was as if luck favored her looks and her personality. She had received 12 marriage offers so far, yet she was barely 13. Her birthday celebration was a few weeks ago, and it was lavish. She was witty and clever. She also had blond hair and dark black eyes, which worked beautifully. Some said she was the goddess Venus in disguise. I highly doubted it. Venus was much more shallower.
“What do you think?” I ask, hoping for one of her finer pieces of wit.
“Everyone says that it must be beautiful.” She says slowly. I look at her surprised. “But I think different. Yes, you have fine foods, and yes, you have beautiful clothes. But the difference is that it comes with a price. You must always be on the lookout for someone trying to overthrow you. And then there are the boring officials and the corrupt officials and they are all trying get your favor so you can influence the king. The problem with the court is, is that you don’t know who is working for you and you don’t have any choices. Well, you might. But you usually make choices based on how it will help you, and then you have to think about how it will affect others and…”
Her voice trails off. “And?” I prompt.
“And everything.” She says.
“You’re pretty close. The difference is that my life was far more dangerous.”
“Why don’t you tell your story?”
“For what?” I ask, confused.
“For my engagement party.” She replies happily.
“You are engaged?” I ask.
“Yes. But I don’t know who the groom is.”
“Why not ask the servants. They know more than the normal people. You could gain a multitude of knowledge about the palace by simply asking the servants.”
“Good idea.” She tells me. “But I still want you to recite your story.”
I pause. “I’m not sure that would be a good idea.”
“It will be.” She says confidently.
I wonder what the others would say if I told them about my fall. The servants would carry the tale, far and wide. The servants… are perfect. If I could not be an ordinary person, then I would be a servant. It was through the servants that I found out how my father died.
“Are you sure of this?” I asked my nurse.
“Yes, I’m sure of it.” She told me crankily. Then she saw my face. “You look sick.” She looks like she did when I was younger. Strict, and ready to help me at all costs.
“No, I’m fine. Just tell me the tale again.”
She looked at me suspiciously. She didn’t believe me. But she went on with her story anyways. “I got all this from the servants. The servants of Cleopatra. They were telling each other about it in the halls. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cleopatra had their necks wrung if she found out.
“So, to begin. As soon as Cleopatra returned, her father came to her, and told her he had a surprise for her. She thought it must have been your execution. It would have taken care of the throne. He took her to the center of the court. He then announced publicly that she would marry her brother.” My nursemaid chuckled. “I’ll never forget the sight. Her eyes bulged out of her head, and her lips were pursed. It was for an instant though.
“She was forced to smile. Later, in the evening-”
“Yes, I know.” I told her impatiently. “I overheard.”
My nursemaid muttered something about me being a smart girl. “So you know that right after the conversation, she glared at him. That was when you father realized he was in trouble. I remember it clearly. He ordered his servants to prepare the wedding feast. He wanted to make sure that the wedding was over and done with before he died.
“As you know, the wedding took place 3 months after. It took a while to get all the things needed for a celebration as grand as that.” I nodded.
It was an enormous wedding. The only people that were unhappy were me and my siblings. It was enough that my brother was forced to have Cleopatra as his sister, but as his wife? I was sure he was plotting. Then my other brother. The Young. If The One died, then he would take over the duties. He would become Cleopatra’s husband. Then I. I would be alone in the palace. I could help advise Cleopatra at best. At worst, I would be sent to the Romans to be dealt with. I would be crucified. Not a pleasant thought.
If my father was aware of the uneasiness of the celebrations, he did not let on. He drank cup after cup of wine. I overheard him once boasting that I was as pretty as the sunset, and then some. He offered to marry me to one of his nobles. I do not know the name of this noble. But my sister, when she overheard the comment, her skin tightened. I knew that she should be the only one referred to as beautiful when she was around. Those who didn’t got killed. Which pretty much sealed my father’s fate.
“So,” My nurse continued. “She went to the royal doctor. She got directions to the house of her. The Herbalist. Cleopatra told her she wanted asp’s venom, and fast. This was all before the wedding. Apparently, she got lucky. There was an asp in the shop, and there was a servant who had a grudge against the king.
“So she took the poison, gave it to the servant, and told him that it would solve all his problems if he simply poured it into the king’s wine. So he did.”
“His problems were solved.” I said huskily.
“Yes.” My nursemaid sighed. “He didn’t want any taste tester. I suppose he knew his mission was done.” I nodded.
I sent my nursemaid to my brothers, to tell the tale. Now we knew who we were facing. We were facing a mad woman.
“So will you do it?” Anona asks. “It would be the best engagement present ever.”
Unable to talk, I nod. She claps her hands. “And I will take you advice.” She smiles then skips out the door.
I cannot help but smile too, all the while my heart twisting up into a knot.