Moses Mondays: Significant News Arrives

Dreams, signs and portents are everywhere and even Pharaoh has a contribution, one that will prove important for later events. (See Chapter 13: Royal Omens). The first day of Moses’ new life has proved eventful for him and Egypt. But on the heels of so much uproar, a tragedy strikes the court and precipitates additional changes on top of those already set in motion.

Chapter 14: Changes

Just as the sun was nearing the western horizon, Asati, with Nari holding Moses, arrived at the house of Pharaoh. Sending the bearers and the escort around to the servant’s kitchen, Asati turned to Nari and said, “Give him to me. I want to carry him in.”

Nari tried not to react to the anxiety evident in Asati’s face as she gently placed Moses into the princess’ waiting arms. While numerous reports had arrived throughout the afternoon, assuring them that Moses had nothing to fear, Asati was still anxious about his safety. Despite the assurances that the priests of the Amon-Ra were not seeking his death, the princess did not trust the maneuvering of the priests of Egypt, especially the priests of Amon-Ra and Nephura, Second Priest and head of the god’s temple in Memphis. Nari knew that Asati’s acceptance of this miraculous gift was still very fragile, and anything that might threaten Moses threatened her. Nari gently touched the princess’ arm and moved to her proper place behind her.

Composing herself, Asati turned to the guard standing to the right of the door and said, with a practiced formality, “My brother, the divine Pharaoh, may he live forever, is expecting us.”

The guard bowed, turned and, as the other guard opened the door, led them inside.

The dining room was to the right, just off the main entrance hall. Seti, seated in a finely upholstered low chair, was surrounded on his left and right by several low tables overflowing with fruit along with succulent meat and pastries, as well as a pitcher of wine and two silver cups. One empty low chair sat across from him to his left, waiting for his sister’s arrival. Seti was alone. Everything had been properly set out and tasted, after which the servants and guards had left. It appeared that the Pharaoh desired a private dinner with his sister.

Despite Pharaoh’s cautiousness, ears were straining throughout every nook and cranny for any hint of gossip. The palace was buzzing with the events of the day. Rumors were as thick as flies at the slaughter pens and had been just as distracting to the preparations for the meal. The chief baker was only now beginning to calm himself from the previous turmoil. Numerous buttocks had felt the sting of his cane and rumors still flitted from ear to ear around the servant’s kitchen as they began to eat their evening meal.

The sound of approaching feet broke through the fall of water from the fountain built into the northern wall, drawing Seti from his thoughts. He ran the fountain only when he wanted privacy, though everyone who saw it marveled at the beautiful and intricate flow of water as it cascaded from pool to pool. It took two men running a pair of shadufs to keep the water flowing and was a waste of manpower when privacy wasn’t needed, though sometimes he enjoyed just watching the water and feeling the soothing effect it created. As he looked up, he saw Asati moving past a bowing guard, holding what appeared to be a well wrapped baby, closely followed by her maidservant Nari. Her face was a mixture of emotions, each fighting for control of her expression, with anxiety being the apparent victor. Signaling the guard to leave, he motioned Asati to the empty seat. Seti decided that sending Nari away would cause his sister too much distress, so he gave her a nod after which she quietly got a small carpet from the storage shelf and spreading it out on the floor behind her mistress, sat down.

“So, this is the source of all today’s excitement” Seti said softly, leaning forward to get a better look at the child.

Asati, buoyed by the gentle inquisitiveness of her brother’s words, shifted Moses into her left arm and spread the white linen covering to let him get a better look at the resting child. Moses had been fed just before they left, and with all the disruptions of the day having died down he was sleeping soundly. Asati brushed a lock of hair from his forehead and lifting her face to her brother said, “Is it not a handsome gift the gods have given me my brother?”

Seti’s practiced ear heard the soft pleading slipping along the edges of his sister’s voice. Against the call of his heart, due to the burden of a fledgling dynasty and the demands of court, Asati’s own marriage, and the unsettled nature of an Egypt still recovering from the predations of Akhenaton, Seti had lost contact with his sister. The special closeness of the two siblings had disappeared in recent years. Not because he loved her any less, but after the death of their mother and then their father, the divine Ramses, all of Seti’s energies went into Egypt. Indeed, he had little time for his own three children. Ramses, now twelve, was approaching manhood and needed a continuous and firm hand to prepare him for his destiny as Pharaoh. He could see in her eyes the question of trust; asking whether the deepest needs of a sister, especially a sister who was also a daughter of Pharaoh, still held sway in his heart. Fortunately for them both, Seti knew that the gods, the priests, the portents, and even the opinion in the streets of Memphis gave her no reason for concern. The only remaining problem would be Tia, her husband.

“There is nothing to fear, my sister,” Seti said, seeing the question in her eyes. “Your gift is secure. All agree that he is a gift from the gods. I have already written an edict that will be published tomorrow, telling the people of Egypt that the gods no longer desire the sacrifice of the Hebrew male children and announcing the gift they have given you. Even the priesthood of Amon-Ra is in agreement.”

Hearing rumor confirmed by the lips of her brother sealed Asati’s hopes and freed her spirit. The great weight she had been carrying flowed down her bones and out her feet with a tingling rush of joy. “Thank you. O, thank you my brother,” she said, her face literally glowing with elation. “The gods have indeed blessed you with wisdom.”

Before Seti could take pleasure in his sister’s joy, a noise from outside the door broke the moment and both Pharaoh and Asati turned to see Osiphirah at the door, closely followed by a bedraggled man who appeared to be a messenger. Seti reach forward and stroked Asati’s cheek and then motioned for Osiphirah to come forward.

The Pharaoh’s Vizier sounded decidedly upset as he apologetically approached his lord. “Divine one; forgive me for interrupting, but there is a serious situation that needs your attention.” He glanced gravely at Asati and then added, “May I speak with you alone.”

Picking up his staff, Seti pounded it twice on the floor. He commanded the servant who entered, “See that my sister’s needs are properly looked after.” Turning to Asati he said, “I will not be long. Eat something and we will talk when I return. It has been too long my sister.”

Motioning Osiphirah to follow, Seti went to a private room off the dining area. As his Pharaoh sat down, Osiphirah came forward and bowed at his feet. The messenger stood with his head down just inside the entrance way. “Great lord; there is bad news and it also concerns the princess, your sister. This messenger has flown with the wings of Horus from the North. Tia’s hunting party was ambushed. Majesty, your son-in-law was killed. Only two escaped. The garrison commander at Hamath immediately sent this messenger asking for help and he has been journeying with little rest for five days. The survivors said it was a large force of over 200. These were not bandits, but Khetan soldiers. It appears that King Saparura has broken the treaty he made with your father. Should I call your generals for a council of war?”

Seti listened closed his eyes, leaned back and began playing the possible scenarios in his mind. He set aside the issues of war for the moment. Saparura would be easily dealt with. There were more immediate considerations. Was this a coincidence or had the gods removed the last impediment to his sister’s new child? He had never liked Tia, but Asati had wanted him and it had been a good political choice for the family before his father had become Pharaoh. Well, now the young prince’s ambitions and arrogance were a thing of the past, as was his sister’s barren shame. However, it would still be dangerous for him to leave Asati and the baby alone at this time, despite the universal agreement reached earlier in the day. There were factions in Egypt who could arrange an accident. He could not take them with him. But how could he protect them without it appearing that the Pharaoh was concerned for his siter’s safety? It would give the impression that Seti was not in control of his kingdom. There was only one possibility he could think of on such short notice. Asati and the child could go to temple of Satis for a special time of prayer, dedication, and thanksgiving. No one would dare harm them in a temple, for fear of bringing upon themselves the wrath of the goddess.

Seti opened his eyes and said to Osiphirah, “Assemble my immediate council.”

As Osiphirah left, Seti got up and went back into the dining room. Asati had handed Moses to Nari and was nibbling at the food. As he entered she looked up. “Is there something wrong, my brother?”

Seti picked up his staff and pounded it again. When the servant entered he said, “Go and get my Great Wife, Tuya, and bring her here immediately. Turning he said softly, “We need to talk, my sister.”