This is from a story with the tentative title Lord of the Two Lands. It takes place two hundred years after Pharaoh’s Son. As I mentioned before, I had a strong idea for a character and started jotting. The plot is laid out, and while I have not written a lot (another project, Mourningtide, is keeping me busy) I have the characters and a good understanding of the story.
In this scene, Fenuku has come to Memphis with a message for Prince Ranefer (the youngest of his family) summoning him back to court. Fenuku has seen the royal family and has some notion of who’s who, but he has never seen Ranefer, who left when he reached official adulthood in his early teens. He is with Nebseni, the Vizier of the North, and the Prince’s wife, Lady Mereret, who has just returned from a journey to the south. He has heard that Prince Ranefer is approaching.
-O- -O- -O-
Nebseni smiled. “Ah, here he comes, Count. We needn’t send a runner after him!”
Two men were approaching, moving easily through the afternoon warmth. One, wearing fine linen and a striped headcloth bound by a gilded browband was a little in advance. He tended toward portliness, though it had not yet turned to fat. Only a matter of time, Fenuku thought, remembering the royal family at Per-Ramesse.
The Prince saw them and raised a hand, smiling. Fenuku bowed and rose to watch him draw near.
The Prince was accompanied by a man who seemed about the same age. This one was bare-headed, black hair stirred by the rising breeze, dark eyes narrowed in the bright sun. He wore a plain kilt of good quality linen, shorter to accommodate someone who obviously spent time in the open air. Strong brown shoulders tapered to a flat stomach and trim flanks. What appeared to be a discarded tunic was folded and tucked into his plain leather belt. His only adornment was a carved lapis udjat hung on a gold chain.
He was speaking to the Prince, smiling affectionately, one hand on the Prince’s shoulder in a familiarity that made Fenuku frown. The other hand held a well-worn bow with bronze-clad tips. A strap, crossing his chest, supported a quiver of arrows at his back.
Fenuku considered him, the frown deepening. Very familiar; obviously a well-tolerated servant. He certainly was a handsome fellow. He looked over at Lady Mereret, who was watching him approach with a sort of measuring, reminiscent smile. Her eyes swept over his shoulders, dropped to his strong, well-muscled legs, lingered at the swell of his chest, and then rose to his face. The smile deepened.
Fenuku stared and then dropped his eyes. It would appear that Her Ladyship was not the most discreet of women, though having a nonpareil like this one in her household was probably more temptation than she should have to face with a smooth, plump husband and a quiver full of girls. She had seemed such a lady, perhaps the temptation had remained in the realm of dreams?
It is only a matter of time! Fenuku thought again.
The Prince was close now; Fenuku rose and began to perform a profound bow. His eyebrows lifted as the companion fixed Her Ladyship with an open, knowing gaze . A line appeared at the corner of the man’s mouth, which widened into an intimate, appreciative smile.
He turned to Her Ladyship in time to catch an answering smile as she stepped forward, her hand outstretched, walking right past her husband–
Fenuku stared from her to the Prince, who was watching with an indulgent smile as the fellow caught Her Ladyship’s hand, brought it to his lips to plant a kiss on the palm and then imprison it with the other and clasp it at his breast as she stepped forward to touch his cheek and whisper something to him. They turned together toward Fenuku and the Prince.
They’re lovers, by Horus! Fenuku thought, horrified. He turned to look at the Prince, who was beaming happily at the two of them. Is His Highness blind? The heedless fool might as well have the word ‘Cuckold’ carved upon his forehead! From what I’ve seen of the daughters, the fellow certainly stamps his get! They’re all his!
The servant looked up from Lady Mereret’s face, caught Fenuku’s astonished expression, and lifted one black eyebrow. He slid the quiver’s strap from his shoulder with practiced ease, offering it and the bow to the Prince, who took them with an indulgent smile.
“I’ll see these disposed, Highness,” the Prince said with another bow. “As you have guests – as I see – I’ll send word to the kitchens that supper will be delayed.” He turmed to Lady Meret and the servant and added, “I am certain that Lord Nebseni is welcome to share the meal.”
Her Ladyship turned from the servant, his hands still in hers. “Of course, Imyptah,” she said. “And thank you.” She released the servant’s hand. “Rai, here is Count Fenuku, come from Per-Ramesse with a message for you from your lord brother. He arrived just as my ship docked.”
Rai? thought Fenuku in vexed confusion. So this is Ranefer?
The servant – the Prince! Fenuku thought dizzily, held out his hand.
“You are welcome here, Lord Fenuku,” Prince Ranefer said quietly, but with the edge of an amused smile. “I regret that I was not here to greet you personally, but I see that my lady has done the honors more gracefully than I could.”