In the third month of Akhet, Crown Prince Tuthmosis lay in his room in Malkata Palace. A warm wind stirred the curtains of his chamber, carrying with it the desert scents of zaatar and myrrh. With each breeze the long linens danced, wrapping themselves around the columns of the palace, brushing the sun-dappled tiles on the floor. But while the twenty-year-old Prince of Egypt should have been riding to victory at the head of Pharaohís charioteers, he was lying in his bedchamber, his right leg supported by cushions, swollen and crushed. The chariot that had failed him had immediately been burned, but the damage was done. His fever was high and his shoulders slumped. And while the jackal-headed god of death crept closer, Amunhotep sat across the room on a gilded chair, not even flinching when his older brother spat up the wine-colored phlegm that spelled a possible death to the viziers.
When Amunhotep couldnít stand any more of his brotherís sickness, he stalked from the chamber and stood on a balcony overlooking Thebes. He crossed his arms over his golden pectoral, watching the farmers with their emmer wheat, harvesting in the heavy heat of the day. Their silhouettes moved across the temples of Amun, his fatherís greatest contributions to the land. He stood above the city, thinking of the message that had summoned him from Memphis to his brotherís side, and as the sun sank lower he grew besieged by visions of what now might be. Amunhotep the Great. Amunhotep the Builder. Amunhotep the Magnificent. He could imagine it all, and it was only when a new moon rose over the horizon that the sound of sandals slapping against tile made him turn.
"Your brother has called you back into his chamber."
Queen Tiye turned her back on her son. "Yes."
Amunhotep followed her sharp footfalls into Tuthmosisís room. Inside, the viziers of Egypt had gathered. Amunhotep swept the chamber with a glance. These were old men loyal to his father, men who had always loved his older brother more than him. "You may leave," he announced, and the viziers turned to the queen in shock.
"You may go," she repeated. But when the old men were gone, she warned her son sharply, "You will not treat the wise men of Egypt like slaves."
"They are slaves! Slaves to the priests of Amun who control more land and gold than we do. If Tuthmosis had lived to be crowned, he would have bowed to the priests like every Pharaoh that cameó"
Queen Tiyeís slap reverberated across the chamber. "You will not speak that way while your brother is still alive!"
Amunhotep inhaled sharply and watched his mother move to Tuthmosisís side.
The queen caressed the princeís cheek with her hand. Her favorite son, the one who was courageous in battle as well as life. They were so much alike, even sharing the same auburn hair and light eyes. "Amunhotep is here to see you," she whispered, the braids from her wig brushing his face. Tuthmosis struggled to sit and the queen moved to help him, but he waved her away. ††††††††
"Leave us. We will talk alone."
"Itís fine," Tuthmosis promised.
The two princes of Egypt watched their mother go, and only Anubis, who weighs the heart of the dead against the feather of truth, knows for certain what happened after the queen left that chamber. But there are many viziers who believe that when judgment comes, Amunhotepís heart will outweigh the feather. They think it has been made heavy with evil deeds, and that Ammit, the crocodile god, will devour it, condemning him to oblivion for eternity. Whatever the truth, that night the crown prince, Tuthmosis, died, and a new crown prince rose to take his place.
Featured Author Michelle Moran