Ateá and the Turquoise Princess of Egypt

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

A Princess of Egypt's Old Kingdom travels to an Island to secure peace as assassins track her every move. A Minoan bull leaper woman is requested to give a private dance, but will she survive? Excitement and danger lurk as princess and bull leaper fight for love, Minoa, and freedom against assassins, usurpers, and society. Snake goddesses, a priestess of Ishtar, a priest of Ra, and a mysterious tablet surround this amazing queer romance set in historically accurate 2360 BCE, Crete.

 

 

 

Ateá and the Turquoise Princess of Egypt

A Princess of Egypt's Old Kingdom travels to an Island to secure peace as assassins track her every move. A Minoan bull leaper woman is requested to give a private dance, but will she survive? Excitement and danger lurk as princess and bull leaper fight for love, Minoa, and freedom against assassins, usurpers, and society. Snake goddesses, a priestess of Ishtar, a priest of Ra, and a mysterious tablet surround this amazing queer romance set in historically accurate 2360 BCE, Crete.

 

 

Note:

Ateá is pronounced "Ah-tay-ah"

Iset is pronounced "Eye-Set"

 

 

Temple of Ra

Memphis, Egypt

Old Kingdom

Spring, 2360BCE

Neferhotep stood in his bed-chamber, wincing as each hair was painstakingly plucked from his face by a meticulous slave. The honey method had been more effective than the blades or obsidian scrapers. As a high priest, he had specific physical standards that had to be maintained, regardless of displeasure. Beyond the time it took, some might find it difficult to ignore the pain or the intense stare the boy was giving him as he plucked an unruly hair. Still, Neferhotep was of noble birth, a high priest of Ra, and had spent his entire life enduring what he must and surrounded by servants. At the moment, his mind was elsewhere. Even the hot, humid evening of late spring did nothing to break his concentration on the problem at hand.

"Someone has to make a statement before this gets too far out of hand," spoke the ever calm voice of Pyhia, Neferhotep's wife and closest advisor. His concentration finally broken, the high priest glanced her direction, ignoring the annoyed look of the slave who had been about to grasp a hair with tweezers. She swept into the room with an agile grace belying her age and the too-tight linen kalasiris she wore. She had been like that her entire life, a quick and cunning aspis who was ignored at the peril of the fool who did so. He also knew from her slight smile that she did not mean a verbal 'statement.'

 

High Priest Neferhotep of Ra

"What sort of statement do you propose?" the high priest spoke in level terms. He worried that her worst instincts were about to show, but he had yet to find a way to get Pharaoh to listen to reason. She stepped forward almost silently like the very aspect of Bastet, and certainly as cunning. Waving her hand dismissively, the slave left the room very pleased to not be a party to anything about to be said. Slaves were valuable alive but might find themselves even more valuable dead, depending on what they heard. As soon as the slave hastily left, she came to stand just beside her husband, placing her lips close to his ear where only he and the gods might hear. Neferhotep was now sure he was not going to like this.

"If someone close to him were to suffer misfortune... The gods make their will known in our lives quite directly, especially to the Pharaoh," she whispered. Neferhotep nearly reacted in visceral rage at such a treasonous implication. Yet, Pyhia's plan had the misfortunate appeal of both necessity and a likelihood of success. The room was lit by the light of braziers and smaller oil laps, framing her words in an unusually grave and macabre atmosphere. With a deep breath to calm his nerves, he grunted, prompting his ever-circling wife to continue. Bringing her lips to his other ear, she breathed an almost silent suggestion.

"His youngest son..." But before she could finish, he lashed out as his loyalty to the Kingdom tore against his devotion to Ra.

"No! A son of Pharaoh is a divine construct, a manifestation of the will of the gods." Ignoring his anger, Pyhia rounded to face him directly. The serpent was done toying, and now she would strike.

"Perhaps a daughter? Maybe Meret-Isesi or Hedjetnebu?" she suggested. Neferhotep wondered if she had proposed an unacceptable suggestion of a son to make the suggestion of a daughter more palatable. Her motives were often complex in that way. For a moment, the high priest considered her words, his rage beginning to cool. The murder of a princess was undoubtedly no minor statement. Still, the changes Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi had been making had caused him many enemies and upset various vital parts of society, especially the priests and those who believed power should remain firmly focused upon the center of government. There were plenty of influential people who would benefit from such a statement, which meant he would be less likely to be caught. While Pharaoh had several daughters, one particular young woman came to mind. She had the benefit of having no children, not much experience, or connections, meaning her loss would represent a powerful message that had the least likelihood of reprisal of any royal family members.

"Iset... She had mentioned a desire to travel. Perhaps, the queen could be convinced to allow her to travel someplace safe... for... the experience. Maybe a trip to Kriti for a routine panegyric trip to ensure their cooperation. If she were to never return, it might be beneficial," he said, feeling almost shameful with his choice of action. If she were killed in the manner that he suggested, she might never find her way into the afterlife unless she happened to be recognized by the gods. It was a distasteful thought, but a message had to be spoken, and Pharaoh had difficulty hearing wisdom.

 

OOO

 

Northern Knossos, Crete

Prepalatial Minoan

Summer, 2360BCE

 

Ateá climbed through the window and into the dark, empty room. The Moon was almost full, providing some light, but it was difficult to see. She adjusted her worn and frayed linen perizoma, a sort of loincloth made from a long narrow strip of linen wrapped around her waist and tucked betwixt her legs. It wasn't much to wear, but a simple woolen skirt, sash, and sandals, her everyday clothing, were hardly conducive to the task at hand. In the next room, she could hear two men arguing with one another in a language that sounded like mainlander-speak, maybe from Tirens, though she couldn't be sure. The small villa was located in the northern part of the city, near the docks, a common place to find merchants and travelers from afar and their unattended valuables. Kriti was an island of loosely affiliated city-states whose primary worth of mention was for being a hub for Aegean sea merchants. It was also an excellent place to steal items of value that could be traded for more liquid assets, such as actual grain or textiles, or at least promissory seals.

Rummaging through the dark room just a few feet from angry men arguing over some critical issue was a bit unnerving. She carried her freshly sharpened copper dagger nestled horizontally in the front folds of her perizoma, the way men often carried them, but fighting off two men at once wasn't her first choice. Stumbling across the packed dirt floor, her hands found what felt like a clay tablet inside of a leather bag. While of interest, clay tablets typically didn't trade for much. So she continued looking, or rather feeling around, hoping to find something more valuable. Suddenly, the door opened, bathing the room in the soft glow of a clay oil lamp. Not even looking to see who was standing at the door, Ateá grabbed the bag likely containing a tablet, the only thing even possibly of value she had found, and made for the window. As she approached, she heard the steps of a man behind her, trying to grab the fleeing thief. Falling forward, she performed an acrobatic roll to avoid his likely grasping arms, springing to her feet and then leaping through the window as one might dive into the water. She hit the ground, tucking into a roll, then leaping to her feet and jogged away, laughing. She could hear the man screaming the window in his strange language, though there was no doubt at what he was probably saying.

The Moon had barely moved one finger length from the perspective of an outstretched hand as Ateá found herself leaning against the rough stone and mortar side of a small house, opening the bag to see what she had found. Being an acrobat, dancer, and bull leaper by trade, the one thing she was good at doing was getting away, which was good since the penalty for theft often included death. Unfortunately, her semi-landlord-roommate Ninsar had traded wine and linen on her behalf to gain her access to the training to become a bull leaper, a debt she still owed but would repay, one theft at a time. Opening the bag made from what looked like goat leather, she found a clay tablet with symbols, some form of hieroglyphs. As she glanced down, she realized something was missing from her chest. Something significant.

 

 

Ateá of Knossos

 

"Maduris bite them!" she cursed, invoking the name of the snake goddess. Her bronze bullhead pendant she had been given by Bull Master Ios was missing. She still had it when she had first entered the room, as she had noticed it dangling when she had bent forward while creeping through the window, but now it was gone. Considering the guard at the front of the door of the building, as well as the angry men and the fact that they had nearly caught her, she supposed she would have to either wait a few days for things to cool off before she returned to look for it, or simply give up on the pendant. In truth, she wasn't such a fan of bulls, anyway. Dodging and jumping over them was more of a challenge and exhilaration than any actual interest in the animal. Still, she had worked hard at learning the sport and already felt the loss of her physical manifestation of that achievement.

Tucking the clay tablet back into the leather bag, she readjusted her perizoma. It was not as though she could read, anyway. She began her walk back to the small house she shared with a foreign woman banished from her own lands, the elder Ninsar of Ur. She had food and drink waiting for her, as well as a warm fur on the floor to sleep on. She needed to be rested as tomorrow was her first bull-leaping of the warm season. With luck, she might earn enough grain in trade to pay for several days of food and even a little of her debt.

 

OOO

 

Komios held the small flattened bronze disc, barely the diameter of a child's finger, examining it in the light of the oil lamp. It had a relief of bullhorns carved upon it and a tiny hole through which a leather thong ran. He only got a passing glance at the thief, but he had enough facts to give him a reasonable chance at finding her. Her nearly nude form had given away her age and sex, and her use of a man's loincloth as well is how nimbly she avoided him gave Komios a reasonably good idea of where he might find her. There were many dancers and acrobats, and even some bull leaper's who fit that description. He hoped that he might convince someone local to speak with the exchange of a few gold pieces in the shadows. At least it wasn't likely that she was literate or knew anyone who was, given that most of the population could not read or write. That meant that the information on the tablet would likely remain a secret, even to those who looked upon its inscriptions. It had taken two years to plan and position everyone needed to conquer Knossos via coup d'etat, installing Komios as the ruler. With the finality of his plan at hand, losing a tablet with the names and positions of his key supporters, as well as the dates for each to act, was hardly fortuitous. Every resource would be needed to ensure nothing stopped the plan. Komios rubbed his hands over the scar across his forehead and through his curly grey hair considering his options.

 

OOO

 

Iset stood at the boat's prow, watching as the men worked to secure it to the dock absentmidly fidgeting with her small wooden flute she often carried. As a princess of Egypt, she had spent her entire life at or near one of many palaces, except for a few side trips with her older brother to hunt birds along the banks of the Nile. This was, in fact, the first, and likely the only, real freedom she had ever experienced. She stood on a small wooden boat with its sail secured and rowers finally still, gazing upon the exotic foreign city of Knossos. Her father, the Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, had dispatched several trade expeditions around the world, many of them dangerous and very important to her people's future. Sending offerings and an official to the reasonably safe port of Knossos on the neutral island of Kriti was usually a job for a courtier of medium rank. Still, her father had felt it wise that his sons become skilled as generals, and his daughters become knowledgeable of politics. Her mother had likely played a role in changing his mind as well, she suspected.

Iset, or "Nebi," as those close to her called her, was a slender young woman of delicate build, much like her sister Hedjetnebu, a trait her brothers had long teased her about. Her finely braided dark hair reached her waist, every other braid being secured by a gold ring, a task which took her servents Nema and Maya half of a day to complete. She wore a fine bleached linen kalasiris, a tight-fitting tube dress which began just below her breasts and ended at her ankles, pleated horizontally, as was the current trend, and held up by two straps over her shoulders. Her feet were protected by a pair of freshly woven halfa grass sandals. Around her neck, a large pectoral made from turquoise and carnelian hung, revealing to all who might look upon her that she was of high station, despite her youth. Her eyes were framed by thick black kohl eyeliner and malachite eyeshadow with just enough copper to give a teal color, and she sported many other smaller pieces of gold jewelry against her light brown skin. This was one reason some called her the Turquoise Princess, though only as a nickname. She was quite glad she had traveled without incident, as falling overboard wearing that much gold would have been a death sentence.

"Princess of Egypt, I am Nosis, Master of Boats! Welcome to Knossos," a friendly old man wearing a light gray knee-length woolen kilt and plenty of bronze jewelry abruptly called out in Egyptian. The princess returned a smile to the man. She was unaccustomed to being directly yelled at. Still, it was essential to respect the locals as her job was to ensure good relations between Egypt and Knossos. In truth, all she needed to do was provide the small gift she had been given, an alabaster statue of a bull decorated with carnelian inlays, to the king and queen of Knossos, and attend a few formal meetings. Kriti was known as a peaceful island. Keeping them on a positive footing with Egypt was more about trade rates than anything more sinister, likely the reason she had been selected for the simple task. Having only reached adulthood the year before, it made sense for her father to give her such a meaningful yet straightforward task. It would also give her a chance to ask the queen if it was true that wealth and name followed the female and not the male line.

"I bet she's going to watch the bull jump this evening. She looks like she could use a bull," a man handling the ropes spoke in a hushed voice to the man beside him but just loudly enough for others to overhear. This caused laughter from the other men. It wasn't only the dock workers who leered and spoke about her with far too much familiarity. She had been the focal point of the sailors on her own boat since they had left Memphis. At first, she had worried that the men might misbehave, but it seemed that the belief that all of the members of the royal family were directly touched by the gods had kept them in line. That being said, the current man probably had not expected her to understand his language. As a child, she had grown up learning several languages, as was typical for royalty. Moreover, the notion of bull jumping sounded quite intriguing. She glanced down at the young man noting that he and his fellow workers were mostly nude. It seemed clothing, at least among men, was semi-optional in Kriti. Repressing the urge to dress him down for his plain tongue, she instead smiled and spoke to him in his own language, quite fluently.

"I don't know how many thousands of bulls my father owns, but I have never seen one as they are not kept near the palace." The man glared back at her with a dumbfounded, if not nearly skeptical expression.

"You some kind of Egyptian merchant's daughter? You speak pretty good," the worker said as he tied off the ropes of the boat. Boat Master Nosis looked as though he was about to explode in rage at the ignorant dockworker, obviously unaware of whom he was speaking with. Repressing a greater smile, the princess gazed down at the man with an aire of regency that was so striking and body language so majestic everyone watching could feel the weight of her authority, despite her young age. It was time to inform the rabble of whom they taunted. She was not just a princess – She was an Egyptian princess.

 

Princess Meret-Iset

 

"I am Princess Meret-Iset, Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi's daughter of his body, and Sacred of Merit, Goddess of Music. My father is a living god, and I am of his loin. My word is his, and his word is Egypt." Everyone within the sound of her voice fell silent. There was no question among the people that there were gods, many of whom walked among the mortals of the world in disguise, causing mischief, observing, and occasionally helping. The clothing and jewels upon her body were worth more than a dozen ships, and her beauty and exotic look were enough to tip the scales of belief. Royals of Eygpt were said to be of the gods. Moreover, young woman or not, the Kingdom she represented was among the most powerful in the known world. Her displeasure could doom them all, and then they could see how plainly she knew it. Everyone watching assumed a new disposition, either in reverence or out of fear. Turning to the master of boats, the princess decided to make her first request.

"Good Boat Master, what is the bull jump?" she asked, interested in what the local man had spoken of, especially considering a cultural attachment to bulls being well-known within the region.

"My princess, we really must make way to our temporary residence so that we might be refreshed for our meeting tomorrow with their vizier," hastily spoke Sapair, a middle-aged Egyptian man with a bit of a potbelly from his extensive love of wine, but also a scrupulous reputation for schedules and procedure. He had been tasked by the Grand Vizier to provide any official clerical work during the visit, though no actual negotiations were expected. In a way, she supposed he was more of a chaperone. Before he could speak again, princess Iset lifted one casual finger halting his advance. The master of boats, seemingly impressed by her forward nature, cracked a smile across his weathered face as he spoke.

"This evening, as the Sun is at three fourths, there will be dancing, acrobatics, feats of strength, and yes... leaping of the bulls in the western fields." The princess nodded her head in appreciation, keeping her movements measured and graceful. Part of being a royal family member meant forcing one's mannerisms into an unnatural state of calmness and detachment, as well as appearing to live outside of the usual constraints of society. It was important not only for merely maintaining appearances but also for the effect it had upon adversaries' confidence. Egypt seemed less like a viable target to anyone who believed it was ruled by living gods.

"I will attend this event when the Sun is three fourths across the sky. Very well, you may show me to my temporary villa." Sapair glared as much as he might dare, so was his disdain for the notion. The ship they had brought was small and only held two royal guards. It had been odd that the larger craft they had planned to use had mysteriously been reassigned at the last moment. If it had been one of the princes or someone of a more significant station, he would have thought a plot was afoot. Still, only four servants, two guards, and one scribe was barely a tenth of the standard group to escort even a junior princess. Sapair's attention was sidetracked as a local woman carrying wine jars flashed a smile his way. The bibulous scribe wasn't sure if he smiled for the woman or the wine, but, either way, he would make the best of his situation.

 

OOO

 

The Sun was hot as Ateá adjusted her linen perizoma. It kept coming loose as it was old and quite worn. Unfortunately, it would cost her a week's labor to earn a new one, and food was more critical to keep her strength up for dancing and bull-leaping. Next to her stood Utis, a nimble man capable of jumping a bull in a single leap. He stood wholly nude in the summer sun, which was common enough for most men working in the heat. However, bull jumpers usually wore a simple perizoma, as was customary. She considered that if her current garment finally broke, she might find herself similarly "dressed." Suppressing a laugh, she watched as Eto finished his final jump, spinning in the air as he dove over the bull. The first bull had become tired and would soon be ushered away and a fresh bull prepared for her. This would be the first time Ateá had jumped a fresh bull in its prime. Eto, an experienced and well-respected acrobat, had been anointed with oil and wore the bronze jewelry of his station. His fine woolen perizoma was dyed red from madder root. A golden chain decorated his neck, catching the Sun as he lept.

 

Minoan Bull Leaping Fresco?

 

Ateá wished she could be decorated so finely, but for right now, she would have to make do with her simple linen garment and her drive to succeed. While she was the youngest of the bull jumpers, she had spent most of her short life working hard every day, first as a dancer, then an acrobat, and finally a bull leaper. Life was hard enough, but living without an extended family and support was a daily struggle to stay fed with not much hope for tomorrow. She had little prospect for her long term future, but she could at least work to carve something from life in the present. She had worked hard for this moment, and finally, it had come. Now was the time to prove herself, her first major show. Before her, a fresh bull was led into the fenced field while the crowd began to cheer with anticipation. She bent forward, stretching one final time to ensure she was in prime condition. As she looked up, she noticed the people in the crowd turning their gaze from the new bull and her toward someone who had just arrived, a spectator flanked by a dozen guards and servants.

The newcomer was stunning, perhaps more impressive than the bull show itself. She was a woman about Ateá's age with finely braided black hair wearing more gold jewelry than the queen, and a delicate linen dress hugging her body from just below her breasts to her ankles. It was unusual to see a woman so fully clothed in the summer, outside of rituals, or her society's highest status members. Moreover, around her neck she wore a teal colored pectoral of some variety, adding to her exotic nature. Beside her stood several servants waving fans and supplying her with drink. As Ateá stared, she nearly forgot to breathe. The exotic darker-skinned woman was indeed a manifestation of some deity, at least. It was then that the exotic spectator's gaze fell upon her. For a brief moment, they stared at one another, exotic high-status noblewoman wearing the finest linen and jewelry available and a simple commoner thief and acrobat, her bare feet and legs covered in dirt and her body clothed in a rag passing for a garment. As she stared, the spectators' sounds faded as if they were the only ones present.

"Ateá! Ateá you fool!" her name snapped her back to attention. Looking to her right, she saw Utis waving and pointing. That's when she remembered where she was and what she was doing. A thunderous sound was approaching and now so close that she didn't have time to look. Instead, she dashed toward the sound and sprang into the air, twisting to angle herself in the direction of the oncoming beast. The bull began to slow at the unexpected act of the woman it had meant to ram. As she fell from above, her hands landed upon the bull's back, just behind its shoulder blades. It wasn't the way one usually leaped a bull, but she had been distracted. Coming into a headfirst roll, she bunced back to her feet, springing into the air right off the back end of the bull in a true feat of dexterity. Ateá landed on the ground with her back to the creature as the crowd erupted in cheers. Glancing once more at the beautiful woman in the audience, it almost appeared from a distance as though the exotic dark-skinned woman gave her a wink. However, it might have been her imagination.

She turned once more as the bull came round intent on getting its ram correct this time. As the creature rushed by, Ateá sidestepped its advance, and then did so twice more, each time missing its horns by barely the length of her hand. Leaping of the bull was not merely just the leap part, but a series of choreographed moves designing to lead up to the moment, like a dance. This was perhaps one reason why dance was a prerequisite to becoming a bull leaper, not just acrobatics and general athleticism. One had to be slow and work the bull, building the audiences' anticipation with each movement until they cried out for the jump. Only then, when the expectation was at its maximum and the had dance done its job wearing out the bull, would the jumper perform the final act. By starting her performance as she had, the anticipation took significantly longer to build and required many more feats and close calls with the bull. In the end, the audience was left cheering and Ateá alive. It was a dangerous life, but also a vital one.

 

OOO

 

"Yeah, that's her. Her name's Ateá. Are you a friend of hers or something?" the old man asked, having pointed out the bull jumper who had just finished her grand performance. Komios glanced at the man for a moment, wondering how anybody could be so stupid as to believe a "friend" would be tracking down somebody they could not even identify without help. The old man wore a simple kilt of wool, his skin wrinkled and tanned under the Sun. Likely, he wouldn't see five more years before the fates took him, though perhaps the gold bead Komios had traded him for information might gain him a little relaxation before his time came. He only wished it could buy the man a little common sense. He smiled, pretending to care for the man and thanking him for his helpful information.

"Something like that. Hey, thanks for the information," he said, giving the old man a slap on the shoulder and a friendly nod. With a name, he merely needed to find where she lived and pay her a visit at a more reasonable hour. At least she was an entertainer, as he had expected, and likely illiterate. The only risk at this point was that she might have already sold the tablet to somebody who wasn't illiterate. Still, he would deal with that eventuality as well. His scar oddly hurt, as it sometimes did. He had received it long ago when a musician at an event he had attended had been less than interested in his drunken attempts to grasp her. He had thrown her harp to the ground and nearly subdued her when the woman slashed his face with a copper knife she had kept hidden and fled. Somehow, thinking of the bull leaper, an entertainer, had brought those memories back. The warm wind carried the smell of food being served to high-status spectators and the victorious athletes of the leaping as Komios took his leave.

OOO

 

"Sapair," princess Iset called offhandedly between sips from her cup of wine. Kriti wine was considered among the better vintages of the world. She planned to have her fill before returning to Egypt, hopefully with some of the lovely wine and maybe one of the rustic bullhorn cups being used at the event, as a novelty. This was her one and likely only outing by herself, as much as any royal ever truly was by themself.

"How is your wine, my princess?" the older scribe asked, holding a bullhorn cup himself. The princess sloshed the wine in her own horn with amusement. She had asked for it without water mixed in for the full barbaric experience.

"It's hardly shedeh, but it tastes tart and vital." Seeing the man nod in agreement, she raised her actual reason for summoning him. Beside her, Maya the servant stood dressed in a beautiful lapis lazuli pectoral, a pair of woven grass sandals, with a belt about her wasit made of turquoise beads waving an ostrich feather fan to keep the princess cool.

"The bull leaper... the woman at the end. Do you think she is a dancer? She has the right form, I think." Sapair chuckled for a moment but ended his amusement, seeing the serious look on the princess's face. The princess was known to have an eye for the women at court, though he had never seen her indulge in any relations.

"I shall inquire immediately. Am I to infer that you are looking for entertainment for tonight, my princess? Perhaps a private dance?" the slightly inebriated man asked, a bit too amused for her liking. It was also well known among those at court that she kept a troupe of dancers and musicians in her private apartment in the palace. Some speculated that she enjoyed dance, while others had learned of her interest in music, something she might have learned from dancers and musicians. Sapair had his own opinions, she suspected, but that was hardly something she would share with the man. The desires of the daughter of a God were hardly those of a mortal man. Though he did at least have a good taste for wine, she thought, taking another sip.

"Indeed, I am. She is my first choice. If it's possible, please make the arrangements. I wish to enjoy the song and dance of Knossos as well as the company of today's champion at dinner," she exclaimed, hoping her guess about the bull leaper was correct. She wasn't sure why, but something about the way the woman moved had been dazzling and rather hard to forget. There was something about her dance with the bull, which had been captivating. It wasn't her look as much as it was how she moved and the passion in her step. She didn't just avoid the bull; she danced around it. Each movement had led towards an end with a clear path and a determined goal. The leaper had strength and passion, but also a dexterity she had only seen before in the best court dancers. She took another sip of her wine, finding that she needed a good drink.

 

OOO

 

Ateá hummed a tune as she strode down the back alley between a large granary and a series of smaller stone buildings housing artisans. She couldn't play an instrument to save her life, but at least she could dance. And dance she would, it seemed. Her belly finally had a little food and water from the gifts following the leaping, and she had rested well the night before, theft aside. Her luck seemed to be doing better of late. Her ankle-length amber-colored woolen skirt dyed with saffron and madder root dyed red woolen sash belt blew in the wind as she headed toward the ruling area of central Knossos. It was the largest city on Kriti, though she had been told it was much smaller than cities on the mainland. She was still shocked that someone had requested her presence for a private dance, though it was implied that there might be other dancers and musicians. She had danced for profit many times before, but never at the home of a wealthy person. Indeed, Utis had been correct when he had said that pleasing the crowd would bring great rewards. She had done what she could to wash, though there had not been time for a good dip in the sea. Her hair had been combed, and her eyes had been lined black by Ninsar using black khol, which Ninsar called something like "sh-zem-bee."

Owning only her perizoma, skirt, sash, sandals, and a copper knife, her options were somewhat limited. In addition to her clothing, she wore an olive branch wreath upon her head to make up for a lack of jewellry. She had left her sandals and knife with Ninsar, not expecting to need them for dance. It was said among other dancers she knew that wealthy men would sometimes become too worked up and try their best at an unsolicited encounter. Still, she was pretty sure she could avoid any man if she could avoid a bull. Her feet were bare and she carried her folded perizoma in hand, unsure if the dance would involve that garment or a garment at all, both being typical "dress" for dances. Overly friendly wealthy folk aside, dancing for some wealthy man had its monetary advantages. Still, she couldn't take her mind off of the beautiful brown skinned woman, an Egyptian most likely, though she might have been from Ur, Uruk, or even Eridu. The woman's stare had been...

Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted as a hand from behind reached around her stomach, halting her movement. Before she could react, she felt a cool bronze blade press against her neck. It was so sudden, and she had been so deep in thought that the abrupt return to reality had left her momentarily off-balance. Ateá dropped her perizoma and stood completely still, hoping the man would not slice her throat. If he had meant to immediately kill her, there would not have been a pause, she hoped. After a moment, the knife wielder spoke with a northern mainland accent.

"You took something of mine, a leather bag with a tablet within. You will take me to its location, and you will give it to me, or you will meet the gods before the Sun sets," he spoke with deadly certainty. Ateá was not the best judge of character, but somehow, she did not doubt the sincerity in the man's voice or what he might do. If he murdered her, a poor woman from no important family, they would find her body but likely never find the killer. Most murders went unsolved. She wondered what must be on the tablet she couldn't read to warrant this kind of reaction, but in truth, she would be happy to give it back. After a moment, her voice returned.

"If... If I show you... you will leave me alone?" she asked, nearly choking on the first word. Her experience with bulls had made her perhaps a little braver than someone of her age typically was, but right now, she was filled with adrenaline and fear. The bull was something she understood and could control, but this man, this strange foreign man with a dagger to her throat, was something else. He paused for a moment before answering, but it wasn't what he said; instead, it was how he said it that made the difference.

"Yes, of course. Tell me where it is, exactly, and then take me there. After that, you have my word. I will let you go." She wasn't sure why; perhaps it was some aspect of his voice or the words he chose, but she suspected that once he knew of the location of the tablet, her life would no longer have a purpose. Her next move was a risk, but avoiding a bull's horn was also a risk, one she was familiar with. Forcing her hands forward and kicking her leg backward and up between the man's legs as hard as she could, she caught the attacker in the groin. Luckily, the sudden and intense pain caused the man to release her rather than slice her throat, the risk she had taken with such a brazen action. Turning, she saw a man with curly grey hair and what looked like an oddly shaped knife scar across his head, dropping to his knees in agony. She had struck with such force that she suspected his children would be born with headaches. Sparing not even a moment, she grabbed her fallen perizoma and made a run for the house where she would dance. She doubted anybody would be stupid enough to attack the house of a high-status person, probably a merchant or similar. She would have to deal with the tablet man at a later date.

 

OOO

 

Maya the servent continued with her preparations of roasted fish and other dishes for the princess. Iset had only brought four servants, and two of them were musicians. This left the preparation of food and the attending of the princess to herself and Nema. Being the better cook, Maya had taken to preparing the food. As she bent over to pick up a date that had fallen, she subtly glanced sideways, noting that the local guard continued to glance her way. She placed the date on the table then adjusted her beaded waist cord, feeling his eyes upon her still. She wanted to be sure of his intent, so she performed a casual stretch, again glancing to see if the man noticed. Flirting with the guard was fun and felt good after a long voyage and a hard day. Depending on how the night went, perhaps she might do more than flirt. The mistress was quite lenient and would hardly be bothered if she remained in the kitchen little too long, though she would never hear the end of it if she failed to make ready the first course soon.

Stepping forward to adjust the fish cooking position in the clay oven, she heard a strange grunting sound behind her. She worried about what the man might be up to but decided to finish what she was doing before looking. She wanted him to continue to fight for her interest, to build their mutual desire to its maximum. He was hardly difficult on the eyes when she had noticed him before he had even looked her way. Maya finished adjusting the fish to cook correctly when suddenly she felt a hand from behind crossing her mouth. The man was playing some sort of silly joke, perhaps? She was about to turn and confront him when she felt a sudden impact, as though she had been punched in the back, and then a second, and a third. Pain began to fill her as she became dizzy. A hand clutching a bloody knife reached around, grasping her midsection, and she was slowly lowered to the floor. Glancing to the side, she saw the guard lying against the wall sleeping... Or maybe he was covered in blood and dead. She couldn't be sure as everything was getting dark and she becoming very confused.

 

OOO

 

Princess Iset sat on a simple wooden chair that had been covered with a dark sheep fleece as a cushion. She had brought a small chest of clothing for any formal events which came up. In it, she had packed a beautiful bead net dress made from more than 8,000 beads of lapis lazuli and turquoise, her favorite two stones. A net of linen thread with beads strung upon it produced a lattice across the body. Typically, one wore a sheer linen kalasiris beneath the dress to prevent the beads' weight upon the shoulders from hurting, as the dress was quite heavy. Still, she had opted to not wear the kalasiris. Traditionally, only entertainers would wear such a garment by itself. However, tonight she wanted to leave her own impression upon the dancer, a role reversal of sorts. Being an open beaded net, the dress left absolutely nothing to the imagination. It was more of an adornment to her otherwise nearly nude form, hardly a concern by Egyptian standards. Aside from the bead net dress, she wore the rest of her ordinary golden jewelry, woven halfa sandals, a simple blue dyed seua bikini-like loincloth, and additional gold circlets in her hair. Her servent Maya had spent a considerable amount of time, nearly all of the time between the bull-leaping event in the festivities about to commence, applying her makeup and ensuring everything was perfect.

 

 

Egyptian Musicians

 

Her two musicians waited with a lute and a harp preparing to play in the far corner. By the door, her two Egyptian royal guards stood at attention. There had only been space for two of them, with the rest of the guard being provided by the city of Knossos. The boat had been relatively small, which had limited the number of people she could bring. However, the villa she now occupied wasn't huge either. She supposed that's what happens when you're the youngest princess. In truth, being a princess was its own form of prison. There were expectations, things one must do and not do at all times. Moreover, it was still very likely that she would be married off to a powerful old man without say. She could only imagine how much wine or beer she would have to drink to endure the requirements of such a man. Perhaps that was why she was taking this opportunity to enjoy herself. This might be the first and last freedom she would ever have before being thrust back into her golden cage, however proverbial it might be. All of the gold and linen in the world could not substitute for the one thing she could never truely have – love.

"I would trade it all for honest love and freedom," she whispered to the goddess Merit, matron of music. Luckily, Sapair had already indulged himself beyond his substantial limits and had found himself a soft bed for the night. To her amusement, he had tried flirting with several local women, perhaps hoping to share that bed. It had gone poorly for him, and now he lay snoring almost loudly enough to be heard down the hall. She couldn't blame him, as she had never before experienced the company of another in such a physical fashion. She was always surrounded by servants, loyal to her but loyal first to the queen and the pharaoh. It wasn't conducive to relationships, and she had no interest in intimacy outside of love, unlike her overly zealous brothers. She frowned at the memories. Her thoughts were distracted as the door opened and in stepped a single common woman of Knossos. They had shared a look at the event. Though princess Iset knew nothing would ever come of that look, she wanted to at least flirt in her mind with the idea of romance, the most precious of all jewels and the only one she could not have.

The woman who came to stand before her seemed confused at the lack of any other dancers. She glanced nervously around the room as she took in the finery of the main chamber. The incense smoke had built up, partly obstructing Iset's view of the woman, and vice versa, but the open door began to blow the smoke away from the sensor it trickled from. The dancer appeared to almost gasp as she took in the appearance of the princess dressed even more majestically than before. The local woman began to noticeably blush. After a moment, she bowed, seemingly unsure how to address someone of such high status. However, Iset suspected she didn't actually know she was a princess. After bowing, the woman returned to staring, seeming to forget the rest of the room and her reason for being there. It was not just that she seemed lost, but that she actually stood overtly gawking. Instead of coming to her rescue, everyone in the room stayed in their place, making not a sound, likely curious to see just how long the awkward situation might continue. It was only at the sound of something falling in one of the back rooms that the acrobat regained her senses.

"I... um... Hello? I am a dancer... I am... I am the bull leaper from earlier," she began to awkwardly explain in a heavy local accent. She was almost the same height as the princess, but her body was athletic to the point of nearly resembling a chiseled statue made flesh. Her skin was a light brown, bronzed from the Sun and a life of hard work. Unlike the princess's carefully braided hair with golden beads and rings, the bull-leaping acrobatic dancer surprisingly left her mid-back length hair mostly free, but for a bun in the back. She had kept it from her face while leaping the bull, though Iset wasn't sure how she would achieve this while dancing. She wore a beautiful chaplet wreath of olive leaves secured in place with a few braided pieces of hair upon her head. In her arms, she awkwardly held a folded amber-colored woolen skirt and red sash, while she now wore a simple linen perizoma, unlike the customary nudity of Egyptian dancers. Satisified that enough awkward amusement had been provided to her all but giggling musicians, the princess spoke.

"Greetings. My name is Princess Iset of Egypt. I watched your bull-leaping and was impressed, so I asked for a private dance. This is not Egypt, and I am not your princess, so I shall ask instead of command. Will you dance for me, bull leaper?" It was a genuine request, though she suspected Sapair had already offered her a few strips of silver for her troubles, or would when he awoke. Ateá stood there unsure of herself, an uncommon feeling for the otherwise aggressive athlete. The woman before her was slim to the point of being almost delicate, yet somehow she was almost terrifying in her implied power. She took a breath attempting to regain her composure. She was a peasant, a commoner with no standing in society other than what minor fame she might gain by her entertaining actions. Yet she had been requested to dance before a princess of mighty Egypt, personally. She had thought the request would have come from a wealthy noble or trader, more specifically, from a man. In truth, all she wanted to do at the moment was stare at the beautiful princess, but she worried that staring for too long might not be the wisest choice. It wasn't likely the princess held an interest in her, a woman, probably just a simple interest in local dance.

"Um... Yeah. I mean, yes, princess Iset," she said, trying to summon as much confidence as she had. Over in the corner, the two musicians finally lost their battle with pleasantries and began to giggle. Iset's eyes darted their direction, and they immediately stopped and began to play. The smoke from the incense, braziers, and oil lamps filled the hot room with a potent ambiance. As the music started, the princess leaned over to her servant Nema and requested food to be brought. It was odd that Maya had not already brought the fish. She had smelled it a while ago, and she swore she smelled it burning. The servant quickly left, and the princess turned her attention to the bull leaper. She was almost free tonight, or as close as she could come. One day, the old man she would be wed to would die, and she would be free once more, but her youth would be wasted. That was assuming the many children he would likely fill her with didn't kill her during birthing. She sipped her wine and banished such thoughts. Tonight, she was the "queen," and she would banish whomever she wished.

Ateá stood before the princess and held her arms out straight to her sides and then overhead. Twisting both of her feet to point her toes also sideways, she began to separate her legs, carefully sliding them apart as she entered into a split. Far from a quick act, it was slow, controlled, and deliberate. The point was to show that she was flexible and that she had the strength, tone, and skill to control her body in such a masterful way. As the princess watched, she touched the floor in a full split and then slowly bent her torso forward until her chest touched the cool stone floor, so her arms pointed at the princess. As the music changed tempo, she raised her torso, making non-stop eye contact with Iset. The princess quickly sipped more wine.
Such persistent eye contact between a commoner and a royal was forbidden where Iset came from. Still, she found the dancer's stare breathtaking. Suddenly, in what was truly a feat of strength, she began to slide her body back into a standing position from the split using only her legs. Iset swallowed her wine hard. As soon as Ateá reached full height, she leaned her body backward, kicking one leg straight into the air, entering the position of a split once more. This time her torso pointed sideways, one leg up toward the sky and one leg down. She slowly lifted her torso such that she was standing on one leg with the other pointed directly into the air, each leg parallel, and wrapped her arms around her upper leg. She opened her eyes and looked into the princess's once more with a smile. Iset felt a tingle dance down her spine at the display.

The musician servants stood and began playing more loudly and faster as if competing with the dancer. Ateá stepped in tune with the lute and moved her arms and legs with the delicate strum of the harp as her dance switched from common movements and feats of dexterity into a passionate and continuous flow of motion. Iset stared as the dancer cartwheeled to stand right beside a fired-filled brazier, stopping just before touching the flame. The princess gasped as the dancer jumped and spun, kicking her legs out over the fire as if playing with it. The flame licked her sweat coated skin but didn't burn her as she moved far too fast. Iset licked her lips, fully memorized by the dancer. Her dinner was long forgotten as her appetite had entirely changed. The dancer backflipped away from the flames and suddenly entered a split once more. As she touched the ground, she gazed up at the mighty princess with a wide smile.

Ateá continued to look upon the princess, pleased to see that now she was the one doing the impressing. It was said that Egyptian dancers were some of the finest in the world. Yet, princess Iset appeared visibly stunned by the display, and so she continued. She entered into a series of handstands, somersaults, and other activities slowly building with the music. She wasn't sure what the climax would be, but she knew the dance had to be taken slowly to build the anticipation. The light in the room flickered by firelight, and sweat ran down Ateá's body as she continued to dance in the hot Kriti night. Dancing before the princess was strangely exhilarating and filled her with elation. It wasn't long before she began to enter a frenzy, dancing extremely fast, her hips gyrating and her feet stepping. Princess Iset leaned forward as though she wanted to become part of the dance herself. There was something so vital and enticing about the dance that she could hardly contain herself.

Ateá rolled backward into a handstand and then balanced on one hand, a minor feat, before falling over and rolling back into her dancing posture in one smooth motion. The room full of people had all but disappeared in her mind as she danced for the great princess of Egypt. Her thoughts had become so much more primal while dancing before the stunning and exotic princess. She wanted nothing more than to kiss the princess. Still, she continued to dance as though her dance might somehow attract the woman, and yet that notion was impossible. Her body cried out to the princess in desire, yet her mouth remained silent. Almost as if challenging the impossibility of her wish, her body moved to a new level of dance, double the speed of the instruments' tempo, hair, and body flailing as sweat flew off of her in the heat of the night. She was beginning to become a little dizzy from the exertion, and probably as a result of the endorphin surging through her body at such an open display of desire, or was it the art of dance.

Iset was an Egyptian princess. She had attended sensually and even sexually charged dances so many times in her life that they were almost cliche, but this was different. Those dances had beautiful women and powerful men, but they were dancing for profit or by command. The bull-leaper looked as though she danced for her, performance or not. It was as hard to resist as cool water on a hot day. Princess Iset could no longer remain seated, dropping her cup and stepping from the chair toward the dancer. She knew it was just a show, wasn't it? But the woman's movements were beyond any dance she had seen among her own people. She had to touch the dancer, even if just once upon her beautiful wet face. She wanted to be close enough to feel the sheer energy of her dance. She carried her small flute as she approached, considering playing it for the dancer as a form of mutal interaction.

Seeing the princess approaching, the dancer continued to gyrate, gazing back into Iset's kohl framed eyes and giving no hint of opposition. Iset squeezed her flute hoping that the dancer's body language told a greater tale than just simple entertainment. Deep down, she began to wonder if there was a possibility that maybe this woman, this beautiful dancer, might share her uncommon way of being. Love was an impossible hope as she was a slave to the kingdom in her duties as a princess, but to have even one moment of joy, one moment of even plausible romance. Just a sip from the cup of happiness...

As the princess approached, the Ateá came to a stop with her arms out, indicating her dance's end. She had expected to perform a fantastic feat as the climax of her dance, and yet now it seemed that the climax would be the touch of the princess, a gentle climax. Her delicate gold decorated hands moved slowly toward the face of the dancer as sweat dripped, and Ateá's chest rose and fell as she tried to catch her breath. She was finding it hard to slow her heart, and her breathing as the delicate hand approached. Ateá almost considered stepping forward and embracing the woman, though her better judgment held her back. Moreover, it seemed the princess had the same desire if the look in her rich, dark eyes spoke the truth of her feelings. Two lovers separated by an invisible wall of circumstance and rule. Just as she was about to touch Ateá, the door burst open, catching both women off guard and drawing their attention. Nema staggered through the door, clutching several wounds from her chest that bubbled with blood as she breathlessly spoke the word, "Flee..."

Before anyone could act, an arrow flew through the open door, lodging itself directly into the chest of the first royal guard. The other guard stepped forward, readying his spear when an arrow from the same doorway Nema had emerged from caught him in the neck ending his attack before it even began. Princess Iset stood there, her flute in one hand and the other outstretched yet frozen in place. She had no idea how to react, no idea what to do. This was when guards were supposed to swarm the intruder, and attendants would wisk her to safety, but none came. Her two royal guards were dead or dying, and the city guards tasked with securing the building were no wear to be found. The musicians dropped their instruments screaming for help and ran for the door. At that moment, two men stepped into the room from the direction of the kitchen. Both appeared at first glance of Egyptian descent, one with a bow and arrows, and the other with a long bronze dagger.

"Assassins... Kidnappers..." princess Iset fearfully spoke in her own language, though Ateá needed no translation to understand approximately what she had meant. Not wasting a moment, the dancer grabbed the princess's outstretched hand and yanked her toward the door ignoring any protest. It was apparent the highborn had no practical street smarts and was likely waiting for help from those who were either dead or not coming. As the door burst open, one of the musicians caught an arrow meant for the princess, directly in the back piercing her heart. She made a strange squeal noise and fell to the ground. Princess Iset tried to return to help her striken servant, but the dancer dragged her along. It wasn't that Ateá was knowledgeable of assassinations and such violence but, she was pragmatic enough to know the assassins, or whoever they might be were, likely after the princess. Besides, there wasn't anything they could do to help the musician with such a grievous wound. Any servants who did escape would probably be ignored, she hoped. But she doubted they would overlook the princess. Slamming the door behind them, they raced down the hallway towards the front entryway.

Halfway down the hall, the door before them opened. In stepped two new men, one Egyptian, and the other possibly Sumerian. Both carried similar bronze daggers coated with fresh blood, the weapons of assassins. With an archer and another man behind, and two to the front, the dancer pressed forward, releasing the princess and sprinting at the new threat. Both men prepared to halt the woman's progress and dispatch her quickly, leaving the princess to whatever plans they had. Unfortunately, they underestimated the acrobat. Ateá suddenly leapt into the air throwing both arms out and catching the men in their necks as she used her weight and the strength of her arms to slam them to the ground. Both men out massed her individually, but the momentum of her leap coupled with enough raw strength to hold her arms out even as they made contact with the men's necks proved the deciding factor. Rolling back into a standing position, Ateá shot a look back and threw her hand out toward the princess calling upon her.

"Princes, come!" For a moment, Iset stood completely shocked, her arms held tightly around her chest, cowering in fear. This wasn't something she had any understanding of. She had never faced any significant fear in her life, aside from sea travel danger only recently. Now here she stood, surrounded by men who wanted to abduct or kill her. Her devoted servants were likely dead, and the only lifeline she saw was a dancing bull leaper whose name she didn't even know. The door burst open behind as the men they had left in the main chamber hurried to catch up. The sudden fright from the door bursting open compelled her forward. The princess maneuvered as fast as she could in her bead net dress toward the outstretched hand of the dancer. Grasping that hand, the dancer wasted no time at all the dragging the princess out the door as an arrow flew past Iset's head by not more than a finger's width.

As they burst into the street, the dancer tugged the princess to the right and then down the alley directly to the side of the house. Two local guards from the front of the building rushed forward, attempting to engage the pursuing men, seemingly ignoring the fleeing women. Ateá didn't think the local guards would last long against the determined assassins, who outnumbered them two to one, but it would give them enough time to get away. On and on, the dancer tugged the hapless princess around corner after corner, her flute still in hand. Multiple times, the gold jewelry clad woman nearly tripped on her beautiful yet supremely impractical dress.

"Stop! Unhand me!" the princess finally spoke, gasping for breath and removing her hand from the dancer's grasp. Ateá turned to regard her with confusion, unsure why she wanted to pause what had so far been a successful escape. They stood beneath the nearly full moon still in the moment.

"Is there something wrong? Are you wounded?" Ateá asked, quickly looking over the shocked princess for any possible injuries, perhaps an arrow wound or something she had missed. The only thing she saw was a confused and utterly terrified princess wrapped in more gold and precious stones than perhaps the city's entire wealth. She was so out of place; it was difficult to believe she was even real.

"My breath... Where are you taking me? We have to inform the city guard," she spoke between deep breaths. Ateá couldn't believe the woman was already out of breath as they hadn't really been fleeing very quickly, owing to the limitations in movement as a result of the bead net dress. Ateá was not familiar with assassins, but she was familiar with avoiding people in the streets, people who wanted payment she owed, or other services she was unwilling to render. She had grown up an orphan, cast to the streets from what had probably been a relative when she was barely five years old. Luckily, she had been taken in by Ninsar and raised as best as the outcast priestess could. As she examined the princess for injury, she considered just how different their worlds must be. The problem wasn't a physical injury but an overwhelming disruption to what had been a supremely ordered and likely boring life for the Egyptian.

"We can contact the guards tomorrow, but right now, we need to get off the streets in case there are more of them nearby," Ateá said, though more compassionately. The princess seemed to be catching her breath. She gazed back at the bull leaper with genuine fear and confusion. Ateá could see that for all of her power and riches, she was at the mercy of whatever sympathy and help Ateá would give. She wanted to feel satisfaction at someone of such power and wealth finally needing her help, but as she looked at the frightened priestess, she felt nothing but sympathy. It was annoying on a personal level to be robbed of such petty feelings by compassion and empathy. Still, she supposed that's what separated good people from bad people. Iset looked as though she were about to object, but then she abruptly sighed, seemingly realizing for the first time the real precariousness of her situation and how much faster the dancer could have escaped if she hadn't taken the time to help a princess she owed nothing to.

"Thank you," Iset said, sounding almost uncomfortable with the word. Ateá had seen enough of the higher status individuals of her city conducting public rituals and making declarations that she realized the woman's discomfort with such a simple act as thanking someone for their help was not so much the result of being ungrateful or mean-spirited, but simply that the highest status individuals seemed to live in their own world where everything was done for them. There was no way for Ateá to understand what it would be like to live in such a world, as she usually spent each day hoping to figure out where to find food, but she supposed that was as good of a show of gratitude she might get, at least for a while. Besides, the frightened-looking princess was hard to look away from, let alone hold a grudge against.

"Come on, my place is not that far down the road. We should be safe there until morning," she said, dragging the wisp of a princess behind her, though a little slower this time.

 

OOO

 

"Run like the little rats you are..." whispered Komios, the spy, rubbing his scar. As he watched, the dancer and another woman burst from the visitor accommodation near the city center. He had not expected to find the small villa under assault by four highly skilled foreign mercenaries, if that was indeed, what they were, but it was quite the scene to behold. All four assassins entered and eventually left, seemingly defeating the house's entire guard compliment, which was quite a feat. The building was now surrounded by guards, at least 30. He supposed the Egyptian princess who had taken up residence in the villa that very evening was either safe or dead as he had not seen the mercenaries emerge with her. No doubt, an Egyptian princess would have fetched quite a ransome, but that was not his concern. What was his concern was the bull-leaping dancer who took his important plans.

His loins still aced from her powerful kick. Luckily, she had connected just slightly to the side of his most critical region, or he'd not be able to walk at all. His primary goal aside, he yearned to give her a savage demonstration of the pain she had caused him. It was odd to think of something so petty when control of the entire city of Knossos was nearly in his hands, but that had been a close call with a significant amount of pain. For now, he would let the girl flee as he wanted no involvement with the mercenaries. Komios had advanced as far as he had in life through careful planning and exacting his will by proxy. She, and the Egyptian dancer slave girl who followed her, judging by the elaborate costume he had not expected someone like a princess to wear, would be rotting in an alleyway soon enough. Tomorrow, he would meet with the Grand Adviser of Knossos, where he would make the formal accusations to convince the city to remove the pesky girls for him.

 

OOO

 

"Mi-na rig!" Ninsar exclaimed as the door burst open, and Ateá quickly entered, hurrying along a companion so fast the old priestess didn't get a chance to take a good look. Ninsar spoke the local language and had for decades. But if startled, she had a tendency to slip back into her own language before she had been exiled. It would have been simpler for the leaders of Ur to have simply killed her, but very few were willing to put a dagger to the throat of a priestess of Inanna. The goddess was known for her loose tongue, and so was Ninsar. Killing her was too risky, but banishing her had seemed acceptable to the leaders of Ur. She had traded her beautiful clothing and what few pieces of jewelry she had for passage to the strange island of Kriti, where she had spent the rest of her life, so far, quietly living in a small house far from the city center. Luckily, she had the young and strong Ateá to fix things. The girl was reasonably reliable, and she didn't come with the same baggage a husband would. Unfortunately, she might have to reconsider that final thought judging by what just happened.

"Who have you brought into our house?" she demanded, putting down her spindle and slowly standing. Ateá stood there for a moment as the threads of the unfinished wool yarn slowly unraveled all the way back to the spindle. Before she could speak, she noted the sudden look of shock and realization upon the face of the elder priestess. Ateá wasn't entirely sure of the woman's past, but she knew that the Ninsar had come to Kriti in exile from some higher position in a distant land. Perhaps, high-status people could recognize one another by certain social cues she was unaware of. The elder priestess stepped forward, her eyes traveling up and down the princess, focusing on various signs known only to her.

"You are of at least noble blood," she said, sounding as though she were not entirely sure the princess would understand her. Iset shot a glance at Ateá, unsure if she could trust the old woman. In truth, she wasn't entirely sure she could trust Ateá, but she had literally put her life in the dancer's hands, and now here she stood, her heart still beating. In fact, her heart beat faster as she gazed upon the dancer. She quickly looked away, returning her gaze once more to the priestess. Before she could speak, she noticed the priestess was staring her in the eyes very specifically with a slight smile appearing upon her wise face, as though she saw some subtle piece of information, a tell perhaps. Frowning, Iset caught her breath and began to speak.

"I am Princess Meret-Iset, daughter of Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, of his body, and Sacred of Merit, Goddess of Music," she spoke with reasonable confidence, considering her hands were trembling ever so slightly. To the amazement of the bull leaper, neither the princess nor the priestess blinked nor looked away from one another, for that matter. At first, she thought they were sizing one another up in some sort of strange struggle of power. But after a moment, she realized that they were evaluating one another more analytically. Strangely, the princess seemed to be calming in the presence of Ninsar's formality. Perhaps formal interactions were more familiar to her, lending some degree of normality to the situation, she wondered?

"Princess 'beloved of'-Iset, daughter of Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, of his body, and Sacred of Merit, Goddess of Music, as well as song, dance, and rejoicing, for the moment, you may stay in my house, but by the morning, I would like some explanation as to why a princess of Egypt happened through my doorway wearing what appears to be her finest outfit. Though, I have my suspicion of at least one reason you are here," she said using the princess's title "beloved," indicating that she indeed knew Egyptian. The elder priestess cast a knowing glance at the confused bull leaper and then back once more toward the princess, causing Iset to blush and look away for the first time. The priestess was about to make a statement of confirmation about what she suspected when the door burst open once more.

An Egyptian looking man nearly took the door off its simple leather henge as he plowed into the room, bronze dagger in hand. Ateá recognized him as one of the men who had come from the kitchen at the start of the attack at the villa, but had he tracked them all of the ways here? In the blink of an eye, the man eyed the elderly priestess, assuming her to be of no threat, and turned his attention towards the more dangerous dancer. Cupping her hand in front of the oil lamp which lit the room, Ninsar caused the entire room to suddenly and dramatically dim. The man glanced her direction but not in time to react as the clay spindle whorl cracked onto the top of his head, breaking into many pieces and causing the man to stumble backward. Before he could recover, Ateá stepped forward, grabbing both of his shoulders and bringing her powerful knee up between his legs so hard that princess Iset nearly vomited at the sound as his groin was destroyed. The man dropped to the ground in too much pain to even scream, but before Ateá could react, a second man burst through the door, having only been a short distance behind the first.

The second man, of Sumerian descent it seemed, barreled into the room, smashing into Ateá and knocking her to the ground hard. He spun around and swiped with his dagger catching nothing but the air in the off chance any other crafty person was intent on attacking him from behind. Taking a moment to breathe, he realized that the dancer had fallen to the floor and was seemingly unconscious, leaving only an elderly woman and the frightened princess. He began to smile as his prospects suddenly skyrocketed. It was that moment Lady Ninsar started to speak in her own language, the language of the city of Ur. Though it caught the princess slightly off guard, she understood what the woman was saying as she spoke most of the region's significant languages, as a princess should.

"You, man... How dare you enter this sacred home?" she began. The man looked up perplexed for a moment, likely not having expected to hear his own native language. As he regarded the old woman, he seemed to note that she looked similar to him, ethnically speaking. She was likely trying some weak attempt to frighten him away by speaking sternly or some other such nonsense. He'd let her live as she was of no consequence, but if she didn't shut up, a dagger through her gut, and she'd learn some respect. He began to smile with an incredulous look.

"Sacred? I'm going to take the girl, and because it's nice to hear my own language for the first time several years, I will leave you alive." He said with a chuckle, feeling quite bold now that the dancer lay face down on the ground. He stepped forward to grab the terrified princess, but Ninsar was not quite finished with him.
"If you do not leave this house in peace, I shall curse you in the name of Inanna," she said softly and with dangerous calm. The man looked back at her reconsidering his offer to let her live. She was making a good argument for being stabbed, in his opinion.
"And why would Inanna listen to you, hag?" Without flinching, the priestess advanced, removing the only piece of her past she still kept from beneath her shawl. The man's eyes focused upon the golden medallion depicting a nude female form with a helm made of horns, the feet of a bird, the wings of an owl, arrows packed in dual quivers pointing each direction from her back, and the unmistakable image of the warrior goddess of love and change, mighty Inanna. The old priestess was wholly unafraid of the man as she stood before him wrapped in her woolen shawl and linen skirt, pendant in hand.

 

Lady Nin-Sar, High Priestess of Inanna (in her youth)

 

"Because I am High Priestess Nin-Sar, beloved and servant of the holiest Inanna, former watcher of her temple in Ur, keeper of her message and upholder of the Me," she spoke calmly as she came forward in her full glory. She was radiant and carried herself as she once had so many long years before when even the king of Ur bowed before her. The mercenary stepped backward as though frightened of her presence or the implications of her connection with Inanna.

"If you leave in peace... now... And never speak of this location, of me, of anyone here... If you never interact with us again... Never return... Most holy Inanna will judge you no differently from before you stepped through that door. But if you should defy me, cause us harm, or even knowingly help others do so, then there will be no safe place in this world or even Kur. Holy Inanna will curse you once, twice, thrice, four times, five times, six times, and even seven times. She will call you enemy and purse you as she did Shukaletuda... She will span the very sky until she finds you hiding. What she does then, who can say? But it didn't end well for Shukaletuda when he caused her great harm. This is the curse I levy upon you if you do not leave in peace," the high priestess spoke. Despite her age, her words were delivered with strength and a sense of certainty that sent shivers through the princess. True, she was sure that more powerful gods protected her than the Eastern goddess Inanna. Still, she was not interested in testing this. It didn't seem the man was either as he abruptly turned and ran without another word.

The high priestess lifted the bronze knife from the floor dropped from the whimpering man holding his ruined groin. She knelt before him, speaking soothing words into his ears of how she might help. There was blood between his legs, the injury being severe and having caused a rupture of the flesh. Ninsar winced as she considered just how defined the dancer's powerful legs were and the damage they had done. Telling the man that she could remove his pain, she placed the blade underneath his chin, pointed inward towards his neck but also upward. So deep was the man in his anguish that he didn't initially realize what the high priestess was doing. Too late, he realized that her soothing voice and gentle touch were meant merely to trick him. Before he could even move, the priestess delicately slid the knife into some particular place at the base of his skull only a priestess might know of. Within a few moments, the man stopped jerking and lay very still. Iset wondered offhandedly if the goddess Inanna accepted human sacrifices, given how easily the high priestess had dispatched the man. However, she had never heard of such a thing before.

"If I do not remove the knife, he is not going to bleed very much from the neck. The wound twixt his legs won't bleed now that his heart has stopped, either. For now, we will leave him on the floor while you tend to Ateá. She is still breathing, though I think she hit her head against the wall. You look too weak to drag a dead man. When she has recovered, I will need you both to drag this body out onto the street. I'm far too old, and quite frankly, my knees are hurting," lady Ninsar spoke calmly as she bent over poor unconcious Ateá checking that the dancer was alright. Oddly, she was more relaxed than the princess could have imagined. Iset stood there, still stunned by what had happened, but the old woman flashed her a smile and then nodded towards the unconscious dancer.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Drag her into the back room so she can heal," the woman said, sounding slightly more annoyed. Taking a deep breath, Iset reached forward and put her arms around the dancer. It took quite a while and significant effort to drag the heavier woman to the back room. The princess was hardly strong, and Ateá's muscles were very heavy. In the end, the high priestess took pity on her and lent a hand, though she refused to help with the body of the man in the front room. Given the familiarity priests and priestesses typically had with death, she suspected lady Ninsar would be utterly unbothered by leaving the body in the front room until the morning. After Iset finished dragging the dancer into the rear room, she stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. Absentmindedly, she fidgeted with the strings securing her beat net dress. It pressed into her shoulders, being a rather heavy garment, and it was high time she removed it. This would leave her with her simple bikini-like seua and her sandals, but among her people, and it seemed the people of Knossos as well, such dress would not be looked down upon.

As she finished removing the dress, the high priestess stepped into the room and surveyed the situation, shaking her head with a frown. The princess stood there, holding her flute in one hand and her dress in the other. She wanted to help the dancer, but she had no idea how to revive somebody who had hit their head. Usually, she would have sent for a servant to fetch a healer. Her look of helplessness both aggravated and also amused the priestess. On the one hand, the high priestess considered princesses to be a potential waste of flesh, being less capable of everyday tasks than even a commoner child. On the other hand, this particular princess seemed slightly less obnoxious than they usually were. Perhaps it was her youth and naïveté, or maybe she was simply hiding more sinister behavior as some form of self-defense or even as the result of fear. Either way, she had gazed deeply into the eyes of both princess and dancer, and what she had seen had sparked the fire in her soul, as a priestess of the Goddess of love. Perhaps that naïveté could be useful.

"She didn't hit her head that hard, but it isn't going to heal itself unless it's properly positioned and correctly caressed," said Ninsar quite seriously, keeping a straight face.
"I do not know how to do these things. Unfortunately, my servants are probably dead, so I'm not sure how we are going to achieve this. I apologize for my inadequacy," the princess said sadly, yet rather formally, bowing in shame and looking slightly mournful at the loss of her servants and also at her inability to help the beautiful dancer. Ninsar sighed with a smile. It seemed there was hope or this priestess, yet.

"Do you really wish to heal her?" the high priestess asked most seriously.

"Yes, high priestess. If I must sacrifice to your goddess for your aid, I will do as you ask," the princess nodded in earnest reply, her hands out before her, palms up, in the way her people spoke to powerful agents of the gods. Ninsar was quite pleased and suspected her little plan would work brilliantly, assuming the princess followed her commands quickly before the dancer awoke from her simple bump to the head. She spoke once more with grave authority.

"You must kneel on the floor beside her with your back against the wall for support as you are going to be there for a while. Lift her head and put it in your lap and then gently stroke her hair with your fingers until she regains consciousness," Ninsar spoke plainly, curiously observing the reaction of the princess while trying to appear as though she were not. Iset was confused at her meaning, but she realized that the woman on the floor had saved her life. Moreover, she truly wanted to be near her in a less frightening scenario. Iset was used to listening to priests and priestesses, and so she obeyed. Nodding that she understood, she dropped the dress to the floor and stepped over to the wall.

Leaning back against the wall on her knees, she gently lifted and placed the dancer's head onto her lap. It was an awkward way to sit, but she had to hope that the healer was correct. She had seen the healers of the palace treat injuries with far stranger methods. Recognizing the pigh priestess's former position not just by her words but also by her deminer and the authority she spoke with, Iset felt more at ease. It was the way of things for her to listen to priests and priestesses, especially in such matters. Her father, the Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, had taught her this at a young age, though of late, he seemed to have been ignoring his own words. In truth, she didn't really know her parents that well, given their positions. She had been mostly cared for by servants and her sisters. Now here she was caring for someone... someone who had saved her life.

She placed her hands upon the dancer's head, she carefully removed the olive branch chaplet wreath and began stroking her fingers through the woman's hair. There were a few knots here and there, and her fingers became slightly oily. The hair strands were unevenly cut and lacked the well-groomed look of her own hair. Of course, Iset had two servants who spent as long as was needed every day just working on her hair. It seemed that the woman had done a lot of physical activity without cleaning herself that day. She wondered if the dancer had even washed after leaving the bull-leaping. It had not been something she had considered before, but the rich smell of her body reached the princess's nose answering the question. At first, the body odor was powerful and distinct, a scent that should be repellent. Yet, strangely, it carried pheromones, motes of the woman's strength. Moreover, it was mostly fresh from the dance and escape, not having enough time to grow stale.

She had heard one of her sisters before mentioning something about the smell of a man who had worked hard at physical labor. She remembered how absurd the notion sounded and how disgusting she found body odor. And yet here she knelt, with the delicate smell of the dancer, her hands buried deep within the woman's hair and her unkempt head pressing upon Iset's lap. She slowly stroked the hair, wondering why doing so was vital to the dancer's recovery. Yet, she was not especially upset by the task. She was startled when the priestess suddenly tapped her shoulder, causing her to look up.

"I'm going to go sleep in the upstairs room now that it has begun to cool. Feel free to make yourself at home. There are two large clay pots of water in the front room and a small darker pot in the corner with a wax top. Inside of it, you will find a small amount of wine. Since I suspect your good for paying me back, and since I know royals have an aversion to being sober, feel free to indulge yourself," she said with almost a smile and began leaving the room. Just before she left, she paused for a moment and looked back. The princess felt as though Ninsar were looking right into her very soul every time the old priestess glanced her way.

"Oh... And I think she likes you," she said, stepping from the room quickly before the confused princess could respond. With that, the high priestess was gone, likely headed to bed without another care. Iset considered the oddity of sleeping in a house with a dancer woman in her lap, the high priestess of a goddess of war, love, change snoring overhead, and a dead man lying in the other room. Truly, she realized that only by the will of the gods could this have come to pass. It simply made no sense to her that such a happenstance could be anything but the work of fate. If that were the case, then perhaps she was meant to be here. Looking down at the dancer, she surveyed the woman's body by oil light while considering what the older woman had just said.

Her muscles were much like that of a young man with a clear definition of each part, an anatomy of well-defined lines and curves. And yet, they were not overly defined in some grotesque manner, nor was she particularly masculine. She had the strength of Tauret, goddess of the hippopotamus, one of the fiercest and most powerful animals known to her people, but also the gentle, delicate grace of Hathor. As her left hand gently stroked the hair following the instructions of the priestess, her right hand found its way down the woman's arm, tracing the deltoid of her shoulder and then down her bicep. She had never found men of interest, but something about the majesty of this woman's raw physical ability moved her more greatly than all of the ambiance and power of Egypt. For the first time, she began to understand on at least some level what her older sister saw in her husband, a general and nobel.

As she continued her examination of the dancer, her eyes fell upon the abdominal muscles. She became almost breathless as her gaze slowly moved across each one. The skin was soft and delicate, yet beneath it, she could see the mighty strength of the dancer's musculature moving just beneath. She had seen the feats the woman could perform, from leaping over a giant horned animal and defeating an assassin in a single blow, down to the delicate act of bending over backward and then supporting herself entirely upon one hand in the air. Iset's eyes stopped their downward travel at the dancer's linen perizoma cloth, just at her waist. She touched the fabric, examining the threads. They were old and worn, nothing that she would've ever worn, and yet this woman braved life-and-death each day wearing the simple cloth. Taking a breath, her gaze began to travel up the dancer once more. She passed the abdomen and was over halfway toward the woman's neck when suddenly, her eyes caught the movement of a blink.

Jerking her head, she realized the dancer had awakened and was curiously watching her. The princess removed her hand from the perizoma, taking a deep breath as her cheeks grew warm. She had become so enthralled that she hadn't realized what she was doing. She had only meant to gently stroke the woman's hair, and yet she had found herself doing far more than that. Peasant or not, such gawking of her was inappropriate, even if it had been in awe. The princess withdrew her hand and looked away, bowing her head slightly. Staring when she danced was one thing, but to casually sate her curious eyes while the injured woman slept seemed wrong to the Princes.

"I should not have stared at you. I apologize. It is not the way of a princess of Egypt, and my behavior was unacceptable," she said. Oddly, the dancer seemed almost amused. Iset had seen men at court have their way with slaves and sometimes even entertainers if they were drunk enough and worked into even a mild excitement. She had watched her brother and her father casually reach for slaves without consideration, as though they were nothing more than a toy to be played with. While that was the prevailing mentality among her people and considered completely moral, she had always believed it was wrong. She believed in the divine right of the Pharaoh to do as he wished. Still, she also thought there was a responsibility not to harm one's subjects. Unfortunately, she felt she had just committed a similar act, though she had not meant to.

"I've been awake since you started stroking my hair if that's what you're worried about. I didn't want to say anything," Ateá spoke softly with a smile. For a brief moment, the princess glared back, almost angry, before she realized that any anger she had for this woman would be misplaced. The dancer had saved her life and had just eased her conscience, though she made a note to never let herself become so enthralled. In truth, Iset was not cut out for much of the behavior found at court. For this reason, she had employed servants rather than kept slaves as most in her family did.

"I still should not have leered at you," she said, feeling an uncharacteristic feeling of shame. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath as she still felt a bit out of place. Suddenly, a finger caressed the side of her face. Instead of withdrawing, she lay her head against the wall and kept her eyes closed, unsure of what to do. The finger paused for a moment waiting for any sign of objection. When none came, it began to trace a line across her chin, down her neck, across her solar plexus, over her belly button and stopped at her beaded waist cord. As the finger stopped its movement, Iset realized just how hard she was breathing. Her heart fluttered, and she didn't want the hand to stop. She opened her eyes and found the beautiful dancer looking back.

"I didn't ask with words either, but I think our bodies spoke for us," Ateá said with a smile.
"I would have said no if I had wanted you to stop," the princess replied, blushing at the implication of her own words.

"So would I..." The dancer replied. The princess felt a rush of emotions flood her mind as the dancer's words resonated. It had not been confusion or a mistake – the dancer did share her feelings. The anticipation suddenly flowing through her veins was more vital than even the most exotic intoxicants she had been given at special events. She felt a longing and intense need, but she wasn't quite sure how to satisfy it. It wasn't that she didn't understand how the body worked. She had witnessed orgies, had seen multiple of her family members engaging and rather intense acts in plain sight, something not so uncommon in the palace, and yet, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do. Ateá reached beside the princess picking up her small flute with two feathers fastened to the end. She handed the instrument to the princess, who seemed initially confused.

"Play something for me. Play something I can dance to," the dancer said, lifting herself from the princess's lap, slowly. In truth, Ateá was still a bit dizzy. She had hit her head hard enough to knock out for a short time. If she were not fit and healthy, she might not have so quickly recovered. While her head also hurt a bit, her body was filled with enough endorphins not to care. She was used to pain, the injury associated with the failure to anticipate the bull's movement or misstep during a dance. She stood before the princess flexing her arms and reacquainting her equilibrium. One day, she would be too old to get right up after such a fall. In fact, since the same time the night before, she had robbed a house, been chased several times by assassins and strange men, jumped a bull, and danced before a princess of Egypt, all with only some sleep. Her body ached and was tired, and she was also quite hungry. But at the same time, she had never felt so alive, she as did that moment standing before the obviously enthralled princess.

"My name is Ateá, by the way," she said, smiling at the bemused royal. The princess blinked at her, still a bit frazzled from the sweeping events of the night. She had played her small flute since she was a child, and the spirit of Merit flowed through her. Her back against the wall and still kneeling, she held the flute ready to play. From her perspective, the world had gone entirely surreal. Yet, somehow, she could not take her eyes off of the dancer as she stretched and prepared for movement once more. Summoning her royal formality, she replied to the dancer's belated introduction. She might be kneeling on a dusty stone floor in a small building wearing only her seua while hiding from assassins and, but she had standards to maintain.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Ateá, friend of Egypt," she spoke, bestowing an honorary yet significant title upon the dancer. Though, as she expected, Ateá didn't seem to pick up on the significance. She placed the flute to her lips, trying to calm her breath not only from the anticipation but also from the exertion and fear she had felt before. As she began to blow, her fingers delicately pressed each of the four holes, one after the other, to the rhythm of her breath. The music began to fill the room, and the tired yet motivated dancer sprung to life once more.

Ateá held her right hand up towards the sky and then slowly brought it down. Next, she turned the opposite direction and lifted the other hand towards the sky. She lowered that hand as well, then lifted them both up over her head. She bent backward, lifting one of her legs high into the air while the other supported her weight. For a moment, she slightly wobbled, perhaps still dizzy. Not pausing the tune, the princess continued. The dancer performed one movement after another, perfectly choreographed sequences she had obviously performed many times before, yet there was a difference. Each powerful yet delicate movement felt as though it was meant for the princess. Each pose of her body was for Iset to see like a note played upon the instrument of her body. As she watched, the dancer moved with the tune of the flute to the point where the princess began to feel as though she were controlling the dancer's body with the breath from her lips.

Faster she blew upon the flute as the dancer sped up to match it, finding some new reserve of strength after such a long day. The room was hot in the Kriti summer night, and sweat began to form anew, lightly beading upon her skin as the tempo increased. The princess started to find focusing on her playing more and more difficult as the dancer's damp skin played with the flicker of firelight. Never the less, she wouldn't allow her fingers to give out before the dancer's body. Ateá spun and then entered into cartwheels, moving faster and faster. The dancer performed a split and then lifted herself up once more using just her legs as she had done earlier that night. As she rose, her leg muscles flexing with raw strength, she locked eyes with the princess. Iset's hands trembled upon the flute as she fought against her building arousal while carefully playing each note. She reminded herself that she was a beloved of Merit, and she would not let the goddess of music down as the women competed to see who would give in first. It had become a mutual courting dance between the song bird and the peacock.

On and on, they competed as the room filled with the sounds of music and the patter of a dancer's feet upon the bare stone. Iset felt she had reached the maximum speed she could possibly play her tune as the dancer spun around and around, and then all of a sudden, her hand began to cramp. At the same moment, the dancer lost her balance and dropped to her hands and knees before the kneeling princess. The once more sweat-soaked dancer glanced up at the princess with a smile. They had both faltered at the same time, a mutually pleasing outcome. The dancer was pretty sure she had very little left in her and hoped they might sleep in. Yet, it had been worth every movement.

"You are breathing hard for someone who merely knelt," the dancer spoke between labored breaths herself.
"One does not have to move for their heart to pound and their breath to labor," Iset replied. She smiled, indicating with a flick of her chin something to the right. The dancer smiled and glanced in the direction indicated, having felt it come loose and already knowing what the princess had seen. On the floor lay her worn linen perizoma loincloth where it had fallen. It had come loose as she spun, leaving her to finish her last few moves completely naked. Dances were sometimes performed in the nude, making this a not terribly embarrassing accident, but given how the princesses gazed upon her, it didn't appear that it matter either way. The dancer licked the sweat from her lips and crawled forward, placing her hands on the floor beside the princess's waist. Slowly, Ateá advanced her head toward the kneeling princess until but a few inches distance remained. No words came from her mouth, yet neither woman had even the slightest confusion about what was being said.

The princess placed her feather decorated flute beside her and then gently placed her hands on the woman's face. She pulled the dancer forward upon her lap and placed her lips against the dancers. They were so very soft, yet they tasted slightly salty. At any other time, she might've found the idea of dirt and sweat distasteful, and yet they seemed to almost add to the occasion. Within a moment, they had moved into a tight embrace. Skin pressed against skin and lips pressed against lips. The princess had never been held tightly by anyone before, at least not romantically. In fact, she had never been romantically involved with anyone. Yet now she found herself in the arms of a dancer and bull leaper of Knossos, a woman of bravery who had saved her from death and asked nothing in return. Her emotions very nearly overshadowed her body's desire as tears of joy wet her eyes. This felt so right, so perfectly wonderful.

Ateá had wondered what it would be like one day when she finally wrapped her arms around someone in more than just friendship, and yet she had never found a woman who was both available and of a similar disposition, romantically speaking. She had avoided one man's arms after another growing up. Now she knelt upon the beautiful teary eyed princes feeling her own eyes moisten. She wiped away those few joyful tears and kissed Iset once more. As the princess left her kneeling position to find a physically closer intertwinement, Ateá realized that the wait had been worth it. A moment later, Iset's beautiful fine linen seua joined her worn perizoma on the floor.

Familiar with the more common ways people romantically connected, and yet not quite sure how she might, Ateá attempted to help the smaller princess onto her lap with her effort to become closer. Unfortunately, the muscles in her arms twitched as she tried to pull the woman toward her. In response to feeling Ateá's exhausted body quivering, the Iset placed her hands upon the dancer's arms pushing them aside. It was time to let the princess take the lead. It wasn't as though Ateá knew what she was doing any more than Iset did. With that, the princess gently straddled the tired dancer and brought herself into full glorious contact. Looking up at the smaller woman now raised slightly above her, Ateá gazed into the beautiful dark eyes of a princess of Egypt, then closed her own to let it happen. She heard the strange and exotic sounds from the princess's mouth whispering almost inaudibly as she approached. It sounded like Iree wuyn hanaak... nifer... hern'buh.

 

OOO

 

"You have levied extensive charges, though I can't say that I can see any reason for you to do so were they not true," Grand Adviser Atos murmured in a hushed tone. He lifted his golden cup, the light of the morning Sun, reflecting dazzling patterns from the hand-pounded vessel. Behind him, a wealthy merchant named Komios stood waiting for his decision. He glanced toward the temple of the Bull God and took note of the approaching queen and her entourage. Unlike the king, who took to remaining in the governing building most of the time, Queen Helia of Knossos was a curious and rather cunning woman. If he assured the man his thief would be dealt with, he might leave before she arrived with questions. Yet, the man had bothered him before he had finished his first cup, and it seemed he owned the trader some sort of tax. After all, paying taxes was the way of commerce, was it not? He mused, sipping his wine once more.

Komios considered it a bit early in the morning to be drinking wine. However, the grand advisor had mentioned that his drink was half water upon seeing the merchant's concerned look. He had watched the events of the night before and now he stood before the grand aviser hoping to convince the man to fix his problem, for him. Carefully following the mercenaries, Komios had taken note that one had fled seemingly in terror while the other not left the building, at least alive. A short while later, he had seen an elderly woman open the front door and dump liquid waste onto the ground. That implied that she, and by extension the Egyptian slave-girl, as he couldn't imagine a free dancer or musician being dragged all the way this far from Egypt willfully, and the vicious bull-leaping dancer were likely in good health, inside. A mere one inch to the side of his groin was rather bruised, though he still considered himself lucky that she had missed. He would not give her the opportunity again as long as there were disposable guards he could manipulate into doing his bidding.

"Believe me, I would not make such an accusation, even against a mere commoner, if I had not watched the rat with my own eyes. She stole from me and a merchant near the docks, then when confronted, she murdered one of the merchant's guards and sent the other one fleeing for his life." The grand advisor looked skeptically at the smaller man. What he suggested was a bit absurd, and he had trouble trusting a man who didn't have a stiff drink before the Sun reached its zenith. Still, his guards had mentioned a foreigner racing to the docks looking for any ship headed away. Moreover, there had been several reports of items stolen of late. Knossos was a growing place, yet it was still small enough that word of such crime among the noble families did not go unnoticed. As he pondered, the queen of Knossos approached curious of the happenings and likely a bit bored with the long summer day. Komios swoallowed hard as he tried to avoid eye contact with the powerful woman, lest she complicate matters.

"We could just send guards to her house, drag her out, convince her to confess, and then do what must be done. The priestess's snake could compel her to speak the truth," the grand advisor said offhandedly. He had heard the merchant's plan for how his men should capture the thief, yet he still wasn't quite sure he understood why they did not just drag her from her home. After all, it was only one young woman, hardly the sort of business to involve half of the city guards.
"Grand Adviser, what seems to be this man's trouble," queen Helia inquired, standing regally with her personal snake mother priestess at her side. The queen smoothed the front of her six-layer linen skirt, each layer a different color, and gave the merchant a fair appraisal. Beside her, the priestess wore a five-layer woolen skirt, each layer progressively shorter than the next giving them a layered look. Her skin had been painted entirely white, and body paint of various colors have been applied. She stood there, holding a snake in her hand, it's tail wrapped down her arm. Komios shuttered to think what a woman of her power might decide on a whim. After taking control of Knossos, his first task would be to remove women from any seats of power. Rulership was not a task he felt women were suited for.
"It seems a young woman from the western part of the city has stolen a critical item from this man, Komios, the merchant. He would like the city guard to find her and return the item. It seems he is quite worried that she will harm him if he tries. Komios frowned at the way his story was trivialized, but the adviser was essentially correct.

"You are a merchant?" She asked.
"I am," he replied.
"A merchant... of what?"
"Well, spices mostly."

"Spices?" she asked?

"Yes, mostly."
"And you fear this woman?" she asked, raising one eyebrow.
"I do. I am a merchant, not a warrior. This woman is an acrobat and bull leaper," he began, but she cut him off with an understanding sound.
"Ah, now I see. If she is an acrobat and a bull leaper, her legs are likely like your arms or greater. I couldn't help but notice you have a pronounced limp. No wonder you seek the city guard," she said, exchanging a smile with her priestess. Komios was pretty sure the snake the priestess held was also laughing at him. He did his best to appear humble and not angry, yet his urge to lash out was relatively high.
"Very well, unless my queen objects, I shall send guards to capture the woman and return her to you with your items. She will be yours to punish as you see fit. Spices are important trade, and we wouldn't want to disenfranchise an important merchant," the grand adviser said. Behind him, the snake priestess smiled.

 

OOO

 

Ateá opened her eyes as she slowly stretched her arms. Her entire body was still a little sore, but the Sun was at least halfway across the sky, and she had slept long enough to recharge a little. Lying tightly pressed against her was the soft and warm princess of Egypt. Her waist cloth had found its way across the room, as had her sandals, though she still wore the rest of her jewelry. One slender brown arm draped across the dancer's waist, princeless golden bangles and rings adorning it. The dancer peered down at her own nude form and then contrasted it with the darker-skinned woman adorned in gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, alabaster, silver, turquoise, and perhaps several other precious stones she couldn't recognize. It was a stark dichotomy of society, and yet it had meant nothing the night before as they had learned the true meaning of intimacy, as equals.

 

Princess Iset

 

The dancer wondered, and quite rightly, if the king of Knossos owned more gold jewelry than the princess? It was an open question. The morning was cooler, and the air smelled a bit humid. She placed her finger upon the princess's stomach and gently slid it across her soft belly. Far from abdominal muscles toned from years of exercise, the princess was lithe and delicate. They were very different not only in station but also in body and even in look. Yet there was something marvelous about the princess's presence, even completely asleep – perhaps especially asleep. Unfortunately, sleep didn't last long as the princess awoke with a stretch and a yawn. As she got up, the dancer considered their predicament. While she hadn't thought about it very long, it seemed that there was only one thing to do, and so she spoke up, direct as she was.

"Until we know who is after you and who can be trusted, I think you should dress more plainly," the bull leaper said, stretching her legs one by one as she did every morning, though today with a wince. The princess regarded her for a moment, seemingly weighing the merits of her words. The previous day and night had left no doubt in her mind over the dancer's skills, but she was still not sure that was the proper action to take. Moreover, her experience had left her wondering about another emotion, a deep feeling she had never really felt before. Her chest ached slightly as she considered the feeling. Shaking her head to force her mind back into the immediate problem.She took a moment and then spoke.

"We should travel to the palace where I would meet with your king, or at least whoever serves as your head vizier. I can introduce myself and be recognized. I should have all of the protection I need from there," she said with a slight authority in her tone. Unfortunately, traveling to meet the king meant a return to normal, a world – her world – where the dancer was not a member. Iset felt that feeling return along with the pain of inevitable loneliness. Beside her, sat Ateá wanting to grimace at being so told what to do, and yet she could see unease and perhaps fear in the eyes of the princess. She was used to giving orders and maintaining a visage of someone who always knew what to do, an obnoxious property of all royalty, she supposed. Unfortunately, while the young princess knew how to speak with authority, she had little in the way of practical knowledge for how to protect herself.

"And what happens when we are met with more of those men along the way to the city center? We are in the outskirts of the city right now, a good walk away," Ateá asked, noting that the princess had mentioned a palace, yet Knossos had no palace, per se. True, there had been rumors that a palace had been conceived and might even be built. Currently, the city center had several significant buildings that housed the leadership, including the king. The princess looked away for a moment as though deep in thought as she adjusted her somewhat messed up hair without success. The pause lingered for a bit longer as Iset continued to fight with her hair and mull over the dancer's words. Ateá was about to restate her argument when suddenly the Iset spun on her heel, smiling at the dancer in acquiescence. It was an unexpected change in demeanor from frustrated to smiling. Still, the princess was not a typical woman, it seemed.

"My father says a good leader knows what is right from deep within, but my mother says one must always know when to listen to others. I believe I can properly identify myself at the city center, but I understand that I am slightly more noticeable as I am," she said, looking down at the significant jewelry adorning her body. She glanced back up pleadingly. The dancer stood rubbing the bump on her head and wishing there were some mechanism of pain relief that existed, though sadly there was not. She stepped forward, holding her hand out to take the hand of the princess. Iset lifted her hand, unsure of what the dancer had in mind. Abruptly, the dancer slid her golden bangles from her wrists in one quick motion. She had wanted to again embrace Iset, but the jewelry was a more pressing issue.

"You could have asked," the royal said with a frown. The dancer held the heavy gold in her hand, caressing it with her fingers and feeling a surge of exhilaration, never having held so much gold in her life. She suddenly realized just why it was so prized. It's weight made it feel so much more significant than copper or bronze, the most common metal jewelry worn by the common folk.

"I sort of did," she said with mirth, "Anyway, we should take all of your gold, wrap it up and hide it within the building where we can fetch it later. I should clean that makeup from your face too, and see if Ninsar has some spare clothing you could wear. You'll still stand out, but not quite so badly," she finished. The princess was still for a moment, her eyes wide and yet her expression lost. It seemed almost comical to the dancer, as it appeared the princess was coming to terms with the notion of being a "peasant," even if only for a short time. The dancer was about to say something consoling when the princess reluctantly began removing her jewelry. It took longer than the dancer expected, considering just how much jewelry the woman carried.

"No wonder we ran so slowly," the dancer mumbled, causing Iset to smirk. A short time later, Iset, "the commoner," stood in the corner of the room with her head down, looking at her skirt. It was a simple linen wrap skirt, not even as elaborate as the ankle-length skirts, many of the local women wore. Her feet were still protected by royal quality sandals. Yet, they had not been terribly elaborate, to begin with, and would probably not be noticed as being decadent, as long as she didn't flash them purposefully. She still had a smudge a black eyeliner, which didn't want to come off, but the blue eye shadow was mostly gone. Worse, Ateá had smeared dirt, just a little bit, onto her feet and a few strategically placed smudges above that in an attempt to help her blend in. In truth, Knossos's women didn't walk around covered in dirt, but she smudges wouldn't hurt the deception.

Ateá had borrowed the skirt and a replacement perizoma from Ninsar. However, she felt guilty already owing the woman favors on many levels, including at least a dozen sacks of grain. She had softened the request by first dragging the dead man from the front room into the alleyway where he might be collected and cleaning up the blood as best as she could. Afterward, she had given the clothes to the princess and then wrapped the golden items within the bead net dress, stuffing them behind a loose stone in the wall. It wasn't the best hiding place, but she suspected it would be years before anyone thought to look there, if ever. Taking a deep breath after all of her morning work, the bull leaper gazed up, expecting to see the frown of the princess whose life had been turned upside down. What greeted her was so unexpected that she vocalized a confused sound. Iset, the commoner, was standing before her, smiling. With Ateá watching, Iset spun, causing her short linen skirt to lift in the air.

"Which God has possessed you, and what are your demands?" she asked the dancer asked half jokingly.
"It's difficult to explain... firstly, you mustn't call me by my real name if we are to be in disguise. Instead, call me what my sisters do in private, Nebi. I do miss my finer clothing, but there's a sort of freedom in this. I feel as though I have become a new person, though I guess I'm still the same person... just with a little less gold and little more dirt," Nebi said. The dancer continued to glare as though waiting for some punch line. Most people didn't undergo personality shifts within moments, nor could she ever imagine somebody used to wearing so much gold, becoming happy covered in dirt and a used linen skirt.

"You are a princess. How could you possibly be happy dressed as a commoner like me?" Nebi stopped her playful spinning and regarded the woman for a moment, considering what to say. She realized how confusing this must seem to Ateá. She had long dreamed of freedom, something a princess never truly had. Sure, her metaphorical cage was made of pure gold with the finest food, drink, and luxuries, and every possible need taken care of, but a cage was still a cage. When she returned from this trip, she would likely be married to an older, powerful man to secure some boon for her father. It was the lot of princesses, that most people never seemed to recognize.

A princess didn't find true love. Instead, she was traded to a wretched and despotic leader who wished for her to share his bed only long enough to soil her dignity and leave her pregnant, before abandoning her to the golden cage while he chased around younger slave girls. She had seen it happen so many times that it was effectively cliché. Even when she brought the subject up with her sisters, their reaction was either a resigned acceptance or dismay over her unwillingness to accept life. She could still remember her sister Hedjetnebu telling her that soldiers would be sent to die on a battlefield, and a princess really just fought and gave her life differently. How could she explain these feelings she had since childhood to someone who couldn't possibly understand the world she came from? To the dancer, it must have seemed as though her personality had shifted entirely, though perhaps it had only finely emerged. She rubbed her hand down the linen skirt, feeling the course, low-quality fabric so alien to the soft textiles she usually wore.

"When you are a princess, you wear so much gold. Everything about your life is gold. Everywhere you go is gold. There becomes so much gold that the weight of it prevents you from ever taking flight. You live out your life as a bird with clipped wings. When I wear this skirt, it's as though I've put on a costume, and I am disguised as a free person. It may only be a candle flame that lasts a short duration, but in the coldness of royalty, that tiny candle is the only light and warmth I can feel... It lights the darkness of my cage," she said with a sigh. Ateá stared nearly open mouthed at the beautiful, yet very sad proclamation. People in her life didn't speak this way. There was no way that she could know that one usually had to be exposed to beautiful poetry throughout their life, as a princess was, to know how to speak in such a whimsical way. Instead, she stared at the woman, almost teary-eyed. Her words made sense and spoke of deep, prolonged feelings that had just emerged. Deep down, Ateá began to feel a growing sadness that the beautiful bird would soon be delivered to its golden cage, but it seemed that there was little to be done. Her chest ached at the thought, but her sad thoughts were spared as "Nebi" reached for the small leather bag on the floor in the back of the room.

"Perhaps this would be a better place for the gold than the dress, though it seems small... oh, and it had a tablet inside," Nebi said, lifting the bag and removing the tablet. Ateá was about to stop her when she realized that the princess, or Nebi now, might be able to read the writing.
"Hey, can you read what that says?" Ateá asked. Nebi gave her a curious look.
"Of course. I learned many languages growing up," she said, then paused as she realized the bull leaper was likely illiterate. There was no shame as most of the population was illiterate, but it was yet another class difference. If somehow, they could remain together longer, Nebi would have loved to teach Ateá to read and write, but that wasn't going to happen." Her thoughts switched from their dark path to what was stated upon the tablet. It was a list of names and dates. As she read, trying to make sense of them, Ateá leaned over her shoulder, though she suspected the woman had not learned to read over the last few minutes.
"What is it?" Ateá asked mysteriously.
"A magic spell!" Nebi said theatrically.
"Really?!"
"No. I have read many spells, and this makes far less sense," the princess replied. She thought for a moment more and then gasped as she began to realize the meaning of the words. Hearing Ateá all but scream with curiosity, she explained.

"It seems to be a list of names and dates, as well as some notes. I recognize some of these names from what I was told of Knossos before I arrived. Some of these people are key members of the government. The dates and notes seem like a plan for something to happen... Oh gosh, this is..."
"This is... what?" Ateá asked about to scream with curiosity. But when Nebi looked up, her expression was grave.
"This looks like a plan to usurp power – to overthrow the government. These names are the people willing to help, and the dates are probably when they will, I think. It's not completely clear, but that's what it looks like to me."
Ateá was stunned. She realized now why that man had been willing to do anything to catch her. It might even have explained what the men were arguing about, though she would never know.

"A man has chased me twice trying to get that tablet," the dancer and part-time thief admitted.
"Oh? What sort of man," Nebi asked.
"Well, he was middle-aged, grey, curly hair, pretty nice clothing... oh, and he had a pretty nasty scar on his face. Looked like a knife scar. I've seen a few of those before," she said.
"So, they are after you, and someone is also after me. At the same time!?" Ateá said.
"It would seem so. But, if we get this to the Grand Adviser, he will help us and sort this matter out," she said. Ateá did not seem as sure.
"How do you know he won't kill us? That he is not part of this?" the dancer asked. Nebi smiled in return.

cause he is not named on the list. Please, do not worry. Soon all of this will be taking care of and I will make sure that you are given whatever you need in exchange for your help. The one thing I have is plenty of gold," Nebi said, swallowing a strange lump in her throat. Her emotions had switched from confusion and apprehension to happiness and freedom, and now suddenly sinking despair as she realized that there would be an end to the charade. She would return to the gilded cage, never to see her dancer again. For a moment, both women looked down as if realizing their relationship's fleeting nature but unable to confront or control it. Ateá knew what she felt deep within, though it made little sense. How she could have such feelings so quickly. She had heard stories of love at first sight and had never believed them until now. She looked up, considering how to say what had to be said, even if it could never be.

"Um, well, there's one thing we could do about that," the dancer spoke cautiously. Nebi lifted her head at the unexpected statement, almost as if she dared not hope to believe anything could be done.
"Well, you see, I feel... Well, it might not make sense..." the dancer continued seeming nervous. Nebi began to speak, to say what she had wanted to say since the night before but had been unable to. As she spoke, the dancer paused, looking almost desperate to blurt out her feelings but unsure of herself.
"Ateá... I feel so... Well, I know it doesn't make sense, and there are these... these things which stand before us to prevent us... but I... Lo..." but before she could finish the sentence, Ninsar came rushing from the front room into the back. Her rapid footsteps immediately alarmed both women. As she burst into the room, the look on her face was almost enough to give away what she was going to say, but they listened anyway.

"Ateá, your highness, there are guards at the door. I saw them approaching from the window as I was spinning, and," but then her sentence was interrupted by the sound of men bang on the door demanding that it be opened. Ninsar returned her attention to the two women, almost unfazed by the sound of banging. In the back of her mind, Iset, or Nebi as she was now called, wondered just what this woman had been through that nothing seemed to even spook her. She would regret not listening to what fantastic tales old lady Ninsar could tell, but it seemed that time had run out.

"Here, take this for your protection," Ninsar said, removing the golden holy symbol of Inanna and placing the pendant around Ateá's neck. The pendant was that of a high priestess of Inanna and probably blessed by the goddess, personally. The younger woman grabbed her arms, trying to protest at being given such a valuable and precious item. She had never seen Ninsar remove it, not even once. But the old woman forced the necklace upon her and pushed her backward, indicating that she wouldn't take no for an answer. Ninsar was not one of those people whose mind could be changed easily once it had been made. She was also no one's fool and didn't make choices flippantly. The high priestess spoke once more, this time deadly serious.

"I heard what you spoke of about the list, and if that's true, you will need the protection of our blessed holy Inanna much more than me. Now shut up, stop your complaining. Leave out the back window while I go delay them," she said initially with a frown, which softened to a slight smile and a wink. Nebi stood in shock as Ateá began to object anew. Ninsar held her hand up abruptly with such authority behind her movement that both women realized there was no reason to argue with her. She wasn't an average person to be frightened by mere guards. She was the high priestess of Inanna's temple in Ur or at least had been at some point in her life. The princess stood there unsure what to do as Ateá reached up and pulled the leather hide covering the window in their room open. It wasn't very big, but both women could fit through it, one at a time. The acrobat skillfully climbed onto the window sill, set high at the edge of the ceiling so that smoke from lamps would easily escape outside. From the sill, she held her hand out to the princess.

"Nebi! Take my hand. It's not that far of a jump down," she said. The princess, realizing there wasn't much of a choice, stepped forward and took the dancer's hand just as she had the previous night. It had saved her life then, and she hoped it would work now. In truth, the guards might have been sent to fetch her and not a threat, but if that were the case, how did they know where she had hidden for the night? Wouldn't a full royal envoy have been sent with the guards? Ninsar should have had the experience to understand what such an envoy looked like, and yet she seemed alarmed. Moreover, it was doubtful a person with the proper knowledge for her to identify herself as the princess would be among common guards. She could find herself at the mercy of regular town guards with an unknown agenda. That was hardly a positive prospect. In her hand, she carried the small bag with the tablet she would need as evidence, whatever happened. With a sigh, Nebi grabbed hold of the windowsill as she climbed up when suddenly guards came around the back of the building, spotting them.

"You there, stop what you're doing!" one of them yelled as they approach with spears at the ready.
"Maduris's bite!" Ateá exclaimed, a reference to the snake mother goddess, as she flipped onto the roof as agile as a bird. Just as the men came within spear range, she reached down with both hands and hauled the princess onto the roof. Nebi fell on top of the dancer, and for a brief moment, they lay there in each other's arms staring in shock. Nebi stood and reached her hand out to help the dancer up. In truth, the princess's attempt to return the favor was almost worthless given her lack of strength, but it meant a lot to the orphan who grew up in the streets to have a princess show her such respect.

"Okay, Nebi, I guess we are going to be running rooftop to rooftop. You can run, right?" the dancer asked with a smile. The princes gave her a smirk, though she suspected she wasn't the best of runners. She had done plenty of running as a child, but in truth, she had probably not run in five or six years. A moment later, the pair began to run at full speed, or what Ateá actually considered a light jog. However, she wouldn't say anything as she appreciated Nebi's attempt at athleticism. As they ran, Ateá wished she had worn a linen wrap for her chest. Women who performed acts of sport involving running would often wear such a cloth or even a tight cord to make certain movements less problematic. Such considerations did not seem to affect the men below but affected Nebi a bit worse than Ateá. The dancer suspected the poor princess would be sore ny the time she made it to the city center. As it was, she could feel the golden pendant bouncing against her chest with each step. She just hoped that Ninsar would be okay.

 

OOO

 

Komios watched from a distance as the bull leaper, and the Egyptian slave girl she seemed to have befriended ran building top to building top headed towards the city center. Worse, the leather bag was in the Egyptian girl's hand. All of his lying and the guards who had been dispatched had been for nothing. He quickly began pushing through the crowd, who had gathered in the midday Sun to watch the guards and whatever they were up to, taking a more direct route to the city center. With the pesky women avoiding guards and the fact that one could not cross rooftop to rooftop forever without coming down, he suspected he could make it before they did. It would take a lot of careful wording, but if he could have them arrested or even killed on sight, at least the document would be safe. It was technically possible that someone might not put two and two together even with the document. Still, the risk was too significant, and the women had been significantly more resourceful than he had expected.

 

OOO

 

Not far to the north, Seti and Menna, the mercenaries, took note of the strange women leaping across the rooftops. They had spent the morning helping load grain in a storage room and were now eating roasted goat meat provided by the grain farmer, a trade-for-food scheme, of sorts. The leader, Seti, licked his lips as he saw them. Glancing at his archer Menna, also an Egyptian by birth, the pair knew what needed to be done. It seemed that the princess and her local friend they had been searching for had abruptly made themselves visible to the world. What could possibly possess them run across rooftops was anyone's guess, but this had gone beyond gold. All they had to do was killed the Egyptian by any means necessary, and they would secure payment in gold strips. Still, they had lost one man who had been found dead in an alleyway, and the other had run to the docks seeking passage from the island and refusing to say why. How a worthless pampered princess and a young local woman whose only claim to fame was that she could leap over the top of animals could cause this much trouble, he couldn't say, but Seti could see where they were headed and aimed to beat them there.

 

OOO

 

"Ahh!" Nebi gasped, tripping and falling onto the next wooden rooftop. She rolled over, grasping her leg where there was now a scrape. It wasn't a bad injury, though it appeared that was the first significant injury she'd ever received outside of childhood. They had taken an indirect route, passing halfway around the city, mostly through alleyways and occasionally across roofs heading towards the city center. They would have already been there if they had taken more a direct route, but it seemed that the city guards had suspected this. All of the direct routes appeared protected by guards. In the back of her mind, Ateá wondered if they were truly chasing the princess or instead chasing her. Sure, she had stolen a tablet that might possibly contain a plot to kill the king or something similarly nefarious, but why would they use the city's own guards to hunt her? The mercenaries hunting for the princess, the man trying to grab her, and now the city guard? Was it even a good idea to head to the city center, or should the pair head South towards one of the other smaller towns? She wished she knew more of what was going on, but the details remained a mystery.

"Here you go. You okay?" the dancer said, helping the princess to her feet. They stood for a moment on a dirty wooden roof listening to the building's inhabitance yelling at them from beneath their feet. She was surprisingly better at running than Ateá had expected, though she was hardly fast. It had been quite a run, and Ateá had not expected Nebi to make it the entire way as quickly as she had. Running had been easier for the princess without her bead net dress and two kilograms of gold. Now, they were just a few hundred feet from the city center and could already see the royal guard and even a white painted snake priestess preparing for the evening rituals. The princess had not yet thoroughly tired out, though she could tell that the royal was losing stamina fast.

"Yes, it is just a scrape," Nebi said, giving her leg one final rub. She stood and brushed off her linen skirt. Low quality or not, it was better suited for what she was doing now than her royal clothing ever had been. She briefly considered that one of the reasons dancers often wore very little if anything was because clothing could restrict movement. They stood there for a short moment getting their bearings and preparing for the final run to the city center. It didn't appear they had been followed, at least. The dancer was still not sure heading to the city leadership was a good idea, and to be fair, Nebi was beginning to wonder as well. Sure, if they could reach the king and show him the tablet, all would probably be fixed. But if this plot ran high up throughout the government, it might be much more challenging to approach the king than she suspected. Nebi had heard about such plots and intrigue growing up, one reason she had quickly concluded the purpose of the note. Such stories were a common source of discussion and even entertainment within the palace. Suddenly, the princess caught sight of the movement well over 100 feet away on top of a taller building to the right of the city center. Ateá noticed the same movement and realized what it was before the princess.

"What..." the princess began as Ateá stepped in front of her having no time for anything else, but Nebi's confusion turned to horror as she saw the arrow in its last few feet before striking Ateá in the chest. The dancer continued in the same direction she had been moving to intercept the arrow with her body, not having had enough time to pull the princess aside. She staggered, collapsing to her knees, an arrow protruding from her chest. A moment later she tumbled off the side of the building and onto the street below. For a brief moment, Nebi stood in shock at what had happened. The beautiful dancer, the first person she had ever been intimate with, a woman that she had begun to believe she held even greater care for than she had yet fully admitted to herself, had just fallen onto the street below with an arrow in her chest. An arrow that had been meant for her. For a moment, the world seemed to stop.

Tears began to flow as she turned to see the archer pulling free another arrow with a smile on his face. She could tell from his smug expression that he was sure he would hit her this time. She could see that this wasn't just business – killing Ateá had been his pleasure, a simple moment of joy that cost him a small flick of his arms with a bow but had cost Ateá her life, and Nebi her love. At that moment, her mind came to the full realization that she did truly love the dancer. Sure, they hadn't known each other but a day, and yet everything had felt right. She felt content in Ateá's strong arms. They had laughed, loved, and had even shared each other's bed that night. It might not be a traditional love of courtship and time, but it was probably the only chance she ever had at romantic love. The tears began to flood as something snapped within the princess's mind. The fear of grabbing life by the horns and of what could go wrong began to vanish. These fears were replaced with a burning sense of hate and the need for vengeance. As she looked back up at the man on the building top, Nebi knew she was staring down the bull, but this time she was ready to leap.

 

OOO

 

"Will you look at that. Now she really hates you!" Seti, the mercenary leader, said with a laugh while Menna, the archer, carefully selected his next arrow. Killing the dancing woman had been a treat. When he was done with the princess, if there was time, he considered using his knife and claiming a trophy if there was anything good to hack off of her body. Some might find his actions grotesque, but he liked to think of it as his signature, which even the gods would see in the afterlife. Finding the proper arrow, he carefully laid its knock it against the bowstring, preparing to draw. Sure enough, the princess just stood there, likely having no idea what to do, yet knowing that she couldn't escape. Menna paused for a moment noting the woman's body language. Was it his mistake, or did it almost appear as though she were considering racing across the three remaining rooftops to the city center? If she did, she would pass right by him before her last jump. It seemed absurd for such a waste of her last moments to try such a bold move, but she had that strange look of a person judging her chances and the distance. He frowned as he drew the bowstring. She was nothing more than a pampered princess, not some sort of acrobat or thief of the night. However angry she might be, there's no way she could possibly lay a finger on either he or Seti. Ignoring whatever foolish thing she was planning, he began to take aim.

 

OOO

 

The tears didn't make it easy to see, and part of her simply wanted to drop to her knees and scream in agony. The arrow would come, and it would least be all over. Perhaps if Osiris cared to take note, he would grant her vengeance. If she had not been filled with Adrenaline, she would have done just that, but the shock and suddenness of it all kept her alert and, for the moment, kept her mind from truly accepting what had just happened. Shaking her head, she brushed back such thoughts. She was still terrified, but before her was the bull, and it was fear that caused one to lose as much as bad luck. Up ahead was the only avenue she had left for vengeance, and she'd take it if she could. She had only fallen in love the day before, and already it was time to avenge her lover. How cruel life was. She took a deep breath, using what little will she had left to keep from collapsing in anguish. She was a princess of Egypt, the daughter of a god.

Her feet pressed against the wooden roof as she began running forward toward the archer, headed towards the most obvious point to jump to the next roof. Tucked in the back of her skirt waist cord was the leather bag with the tablet. It was only about three feet between the buildings, but she was hardly a bull leaper. At the last moment, she dodged to the left and jumped not across the shortest path but a slightly less obvious route. The arrow loosed and flew harmlessly past, hitting the air where she would have landed. Realizing she had just dodged the bull, she began racing forward once more, her legs aching from the unaccustomed movement. The befuddled archer stood there in confusion at his miss for a moment too long while the wobbly and hardly athletic princess reached the next jump. He quickly knocked another arrow as she started toward the final jump, her sandals left on the previous roof where they had fallen off in her frantic run.

 

Fine Sandals Made From Halfa Grass

 

Again, the archer missed as the princess's erratic running smashing through baskets and taking the worst possible route across the building proved useful as the arrow passed this time mere inches from her chest. The archer was getting better at predicting her erratic movements. In her mind's eye, she could see Ateá as she dodged bull attack after bull attack preparing for the final jump. It was as though she could feel the spirit of the bull leaper within her, though she tried not to concentrate on such feelings as they came with the gut-wrenching agony of loss. There would be time for tears after the blood of her enemies had been spilled. Nebi approached the edge of the current roof and leaped the short two-foot distance to the final roof, nearly falling. Before her was the central courtyard, where people were already beginning to notice the commotion. Guards began moving in every direction attempting to protect important people gathered in the center, communing with the snake priestess. Yet, if the archer killed her before she could make it, it would be for nothing. Worse, there was enough time for him to fire once more, the final charge of the bull.

Nebi's vision tunneled, and her body ached as she sprinted the final distance. She knew that the fall would be at least 20 feet or more from the roof's height. She might break a leg doing it, but her lover lay dead, and her only chance at vengeance was getting to the city's leadership or die trying. Her eyes were so wet from anguish she could barely see, but she put everything she had into her final sprint. As she ran, she passed the archer taking his aim, now on her right side as she closed the distance. She could no longer see him and watch where she ran. Instead, she ran at full speed, ready to make a blind jump knowing that at any moment, the arrow might strike. Each footfall upon the wooden roof and breath filling her chest seemed almost in slow motion, while the darkness of fear surrounded all but the center of her vision as Nebi moved faster than she ever had. Perhaps it was Ateá's spirit or some unknown instinct, but she began her final leap toward the edge of the building a full stride earlier than anyone else would have, launching forward as though she were diving into water, bold beyond measure. At that moment, Menna's arrow loosed.

Her surprised adrenaline-fueled dive was uncontrolled at best, and she barely cleared the edge of the building. The arrow flew through the air but caught nothing but the air in the place where anybody else would have chosen to jump. Nebi flew through the air, tumbling forward, having no practical understanding of how to acrobatically land. Instead of slamming into the ground and breaking her legs or perhaps her skull, she landed on a cart filled with summer flax from the field in stooks waiting for processing. The landing wasn't pleasant, and she crashed through the cart, rolling off and onto the ground scraping more than just her knee. As she looked up slightly dizzy, she saw a dozen guards surrounding her with spears. For a moment, she was disoriented, but the guards allowed her to stand, perhaps suspecting an unarmed woman who just fell off of a roof to be less of a threat than the archer shooting at her. She breathed one word as she wearily pointed toward the roof.

"Assasin!"

"Send your men around back and catch that archer. I don't care who they are or why they want to kill this woman. I will not have people firing arrows in the city square," Grand Adviser Atos spoke as he stepped forward, his face angry and perhaps a little inebriated. He had just watched what looked like an Egyptian woman throw herself heedlessly off of a roof while a man on that same roof did his best to kill her with a bow. Hearing the single disturbing word she had spoken had done little to calm him. Behind him, the queen of Knossos, her two daughters, and a dozen servants had just been surrounded by guards who are preparing to escort them back into their residence. This was an intrusion beyond contempt, and Atos would be given a very satisfying answer or else.

Nebi slowly came to her feet, still a bit woosy but mostly in one piece. Almost immediately, the memory of what had just happened flashed back, and the tears began to flow a new. She wanted to explain herself to those gathered before her in utter shock at what had otherwise been a lazy summer evening. Yet all she could do was cry.

"That's one of them right there! She is a thief and murderer who is working with the other girl I spoke of!" a man appearing to be from the northern mainland with curly grey hair and dressed as a merchant remarked, stepping forward and drawing the attention of the grand advisor.

"Are you sure? She doesn't really seem like a thief," the advisor noted skeptically. Nebi's eyes were puffy with tears. Every moment she stood there, her sorrow grew as her mind more fully accepted the loss, the initial shock beginning to wear off. She could hear "thief," and "murderer." She shook her head as things started to come together. She was unsure who her enemies were, but she began to piece together what has happening as her addled mind started to fully reset. The northern man pointed his finger at her and spoke to the grand adviser.
"She is definitely one of them, and you should force her to tell you where the other one is as it seems your men were unable to capture them both," Komios spat with great theatric annoyance. That was when the princess's full memories of what had just happened entirely snapped in the place. The fall had been a bit jarring, as had the extreme adrenaline rush and the terror, not to mention the agony of her loss, not even moments before. But she took a deep breath ignoring the lying man and preparing for vengeance. The moment she felt her self control return to the minimum, she lifted her gaze. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot, but they also held the promise of death to the wicked.

"Be Silent!" Nebi abruptly screamed loudly and with enough authority in her voice that everyone paused. Even the queen held up her hand, ceasing her guards' attempts to coax her back into the building. The Egyptian looking woman dressed as a peasant had just spoken in a manner uncommon of a peasant, and now the queen's interest was piqued.

"How dare you speak like that to the grand advisor to the king himself, slave!" Komios spat in disgust, hoping to sidetrack the Egyptian's retort. Ignoring him as though he didn't exist, Nebi wiped tears from her eyes and addressed the grand advisor directly. Her gaze was fierce, and her rage looked as though it could explode from her body at any moment, yet she spoke clearly.
"There is a plot to do some harm to your king, and I have evidence of this plot," she said, her voice trembling not with fear but with anger and grief. Komios stepped forward, wanting to de-escalate the situation, especially as the woman said 'evidence.'
"You are a slave girl or a servant at best who accompanied the Egyptian princess, who I've just learned this morning was abducted. The other servants were found dead, and yet you somehow lived? Why would we believe the word of a slave who herself might be involved in yet another crime within the city?" Komios all but yelled. The grand advisor turned his attention back to the "slave," somewhat curious to hear the unexpectedly vocal woman's answer. Behind him, the queen of Knossos stood quite still, also intent of hearing the answer.

"Slave? Servant?" she said less as a question and more as pure contempt. She switched from the city's local language into formal Egyptian, with the accent and enunciation of a high royal.

"I am Princess Meret-Iset, Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi's daughter of his body, and Sacred of Merit, Goddess of Music. My family is immortal, and my father is a living god. I was attacked yesterday evening by mercenaries, and I was saved by a brave... a brave woman from your city," she spoke initially with supreme authority, though she almost burst into tears at the last few words. Taking a deep breath, she continued, "but now I have been forced to flee from the men that your guards hunt for even now. I do not know why they have sought to kill or capture me, but I do know this, someone I deeply care about was just killed by those men on the rooftop. I don't know how it is all connected, but the man who is behind the worst of it has a scar across his face... a scar like yours," she said, forcing back tears. Komios began to object when the young princess again spoke, cutting him off. The man unconsciously began to touch the old wound upon hearing her words.
"The evidence of his crime," she said, removing the tablet from the leather bag that she had stuck in the back of her skirt waistcord. Upon seeing it, Komios began stepping backward ever so slightly, hoping no one would notice as he disappeared. Nebi handed the tablet to the grand advisor as the queen listened intently from not that many feet away. Komios stepped ever so slowly back, hoping something would happen to cause the distraction he needed to escape before the grand adviser read the tablet. He had suddenly found himself to be a sheep among wolves.

"It is a list of names of people and several dates. I'm not sure exactly their meaning but, I'm beginning to believe that man might have some idea," she said, pointing at the slowly backing away Komios. Guards surrounded the northerner pointing their weapons at the man as the grand advisor held his hand up, causing everyone to pause. He looked at the tablet, carefully reading what it said and then looking back at the princess as though evaluating her words. Any attempt to convince him that this was not the princess had already failed. There was no common woman in the city who could speak in Egyptian with that perfect of a royal accent. For that matter, there weren't that many Egyptians in the city, to begin with. Lifting his wine goblet and taking a sip, he turned to examine the merchant from the north. Behind him, the queen began to approach.

"Adviser, we got this one and killed another like 'em. He tired to stab us, but a little bornze to the gut changed his mind," spoke the head guard as a group of guards dragged an Egyptian man into the court yard and tossed him to the ground near the princess. The adviser paused his read of the tablet as this new player in the complex game unfolding was laid by his feet. The man was none other than Menna the mercenary archer. Iset glared at the man as he clutched two puncture wounds to his stomach which would likely result in a painful death within a day or two, even with treatment. The moment she laid eyes upon her lover's killer, her body ignited with sudden fury.

"wannaway! wannaway!" she spat in rage, unable to speak the local language as she dropped to her knees and began to cry once more. Beside her, the grand aviser listened to her screams of hate calling the wounded man a doing of evil deeds, but he first needed to conclude his business with the merchant of spices.

"It seems that this is the princess, and the accusation she's made against you, if true, will result in a rather unpleasant end. What do you say to these charges?" the grand advisor asked, trying not to be caught up in the woman's sorrows as he pursude the truth. Komios swallowed hard as he thought hard for a way out of his situation, even if only to just escape.
"They are baseless. I am a simple trader of wine, nothing more. If that tablet points to some conspiracy, so be it, but unless my name is on it, what makes you think it has anything to do with me?" The adviser listened and then turned to hear the princess's rebuttal. Princess Iset wiped more tears from her eyes, trying to hold her composure. She remained on her knees as she breathed hard for a moment. She would have ample time for greaving once the guilty were punished.

"The woman who rescued me spoke of a man like you. A man with a scar like yours. A northerner. She said that she had stolen this tablet from such a man and that he had pursued her relentlessly since. And as soon as I fell from the roof, this man began making accusations that don't make sense unless you are trying to make sure that I never had a chance to speak. If you had said nothing, I wouldn't have thought about it. You could have escaped... But you are a fool," she finished, a pain growing in her chest, but this time it was one of loss.

"I believe I've heard enough and I believe that he is guilty," came a voice from behind. Komios began to speak as he turned to face his new accuser, feeling bolstered by the princess's lack of hard evidence implicating him. His voice was nearly an angry snarl as the loss of two year's work to depose the king and ascend as ruler of Knossos ate at his very soul.
"Now, which foolish woman wishes to speak. She should learn her place..." But his words trailed off into nothing as he turned, coming face-to-face with Queen Helia of Knossos, her guards, daughters, and snake priestess at her side. Though he said no more, he already knew he had said too much. For a brief moment, the queen stared the man down as though daring him to say something more, but he had at least the wherewithal to keep his mouth shut.

"Which foolish woman? How about a queen?" she said thin-lipped as she glared at him. Queen Helia stepped forward, grasping the now crying princess of Egypt and gazing deeply into her red puffy eyes. Beforehand, Iset would have pulled away from such an interaction, but now she was filled with too much despair to worry. The queen's white-painted face with red and blue paint around her eyes, on her chin, cheeks, and forehead gave her an almost doll-like appearance. Queen Helia stared for the longest time, and then she turned to speak once more.
"Grand advisor. Find everyone on this list and use whatever techniques you wish to encourage them to speak. If it turns out that this man is involved, he shall share their punishment, which will be death. We will let the Snake Mother determine their innocence by the Test of the Bite. If the snake's bite kills them, then they were guilty, and if it does not, they are innocent." Beside her, the snake priestess with her white painted skin and face and ritualistic glyphs painted across her body smiled at the man holding her snake almost toyingly in her hand. Her divine snakes would quickly separate the innocent from the guilty.
"Princess Meret-Iset of Egypt, please allow me to extend our deepest..." but the grand adviser was cut off as the kneeling princess abruptly spoke. Beside him, the queen listened, curious what the young woman would say.
"If you will... if you will let me have my vengeance on the wounded man, then you have my word the mighty Kingdom of Egypt will forgive these events and thank you for... for your assistance. My word is the word of Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, and his word is Egypt," she spoke in between gasps. The grand adviser glanced at the queen, both exchanging looks of relief that the princess would not hold their tiny city liable for her sorrows, lest the might of Egypt find a reason to become angry. If it cost the life of one violent law-breaking foreigner, so be it.
"Your majesty, if this man has wronged you, his fate is entirely in your hands," the grand adviser said. With a final deep breath, Iset stood on weak legs and approached the dying man. He was the archer who had taken the life of her lover. He had killed her servants and even tried to kill her. He was the bull, but now he lay bleeding on the ground. He spoke in Egyptian to the princess, pleading as she stood over him, staring down in abject hatred.
"Please! Princess... forgive me... forgive me," he begged between painful convulsions from his wounded abdomen.
"Hold him," she spoke softly to the guards. With a nod from the adviser, the guards held the man's arms and legs, pinning him in place. Iset considered the many ways she might take her revenge, but in the end, she could only think of one way which fit. She placed her foot upon the pleading man's throat and slowly pressed her weight upon him. As the man gasped and sputtered in agony, the princess began to chant a prayer to goddess Ammit, devourer of souls, that she might destroy the man and wipe his very soul from eternity. She could feel his heartbeat through her foot as it came to a sudden halt. Her tears fell upon the man as his final jerking movements ceased. A moment later, Iset fell once more to her knees and cried.

 

OOO

 

Ateá lifted her head and held her chest for a moment. She had fallen off the building and landed on a bunch of clay pottery breaking her fall, not to mention a lot of costly pottery, but not without some significant bruising. As she looked down, between her breasts, the pendant of Inanna lay reflecting in the Sun. However, what was most interesting was the strange mark on the pendant, as well as the pain in her chest just beneath. Moving the pendant to the side, she found a bruise forming on her rib cage just beneath. Laying on the ground beside her, she found the cause. As she lifted the bronze tipped arrow, which was now dulled from having impacted the pendant, the memories began to flood back of what happened. She began to stand and almost fell over once more. Her body had been through a lot of the past few days, and an arrow possibly bruising a rib and at least knocking the wind out of her had not helped, nor had the 20 foot fall onto clay jars. She looked at them with chagrin, realizing that if her motion had been absolutely straight down, upon their strongest point, she might not be walking all. Then she remembered.

"Nebi!"

Standing, she noticed the alleyway ahead was now blocked by guards. As fast as her bruised body could manage, she approached the men hoping to find out if Nebi was okay. The guards wouldn't let her forward into the city square, which had been sealed off due to the recent events. However, she convinced one guard to tell her what had happened in exchange for the bronze arrow tip that the man could probably trade for at least a little wine that night. Hearing that the princess had somehow dodged arrows and survived had filled her with great relief, but also great sadness as the guard stated she had been very quickly whisked away to her ship. He had joked how no one in the government would want to keep a nearly assassinated princess on the island for too long. If anyone else tried and succeeded, Knossos, in fact, Kriti itself, might feel the wrath of Egypt. The guard also mentioned that the princess had complained and tried to fight against her removal, but in the end, there was no way she could fight the will of the king. The ship would likely set sail before sunset, which was just about upon them. Tears welled in Ateá's eyes as she realized what it meant. The bird with the clipped wings was being returned to its golden cage, but at least she had made it.

As she turned away, a slightly overweight Egyptian man with a relieved expression passed by escorted by several guards. She suspected he was headed for the docs, probably the final member of their group. She briefly considered approaching him, but what would she say? I fallen in love with your princess after one day? Please take me with you? She didn't want to be a captive anymore than Nebi. Realizing there was nothing she could do to change the wheels of fate, she began to walk home, gentle sobbing.

"At least you had the chance to fly for one night. I just wish I'd had a chance to say goodbye," she whispered as she left the joking guards. She supposed if the princess didn't return, she could sell the jewelry and have enough in trade to live almost as a queen herself, but strangely she still felt empty at the thought. She would trade it all to again be with her Nebi.

 

OOO

 

Princess Iset stood at the stern of the ship, looking back at the port of Knossos. They weren't that far out yet, and she could still see people on the docks carrying torches and lighting lamps for the night. The Sun had set moments before in the Aegean had already grown as dark as red wine. She looked down at her brand new linen kalasiris, a formfitting tight dress with two shoulder straps that ran from just below her breasts to her ankles. Her feet sported new sandals, and several bandages of linen and honey had been applied to her wounds. With her poor servants murdered, there was no one to paint her face or bejewel her, not that she cared about such things at this point. She had one chance at love, and it hadn't even lasted a night. All of the gold in Egypt couldn't make up for that loss. She had heard stories of princesses who had jumped from cliffs or thrown themselves into the sea, and now she was beginning to understand why people told such tales.

"Oh, cheer up. I know it was frightening, but at least we shall soon be home where it's good and safe," said Sapair, the slightly inebriated old attendant and scribe as he came out from the lower part of the small craft and placed his hand on the princess's shoulder, an uncharacteristically familiar move. Instead of chastising him, she just stood there dull to the world. Only a short time before, she had found out that the overindulgent man had slept through the entire assassination attempt. It seemed the mercenaries felt no need to kill a man who couldn't identify them because he was drunk and dreaming. She shook her head slightly at the absurdity of it all.

"It's too bad that they whisked us off as fast as they did. Really a shame, it was," he continued without care, "though they did say they would find your friend's body and give him a proper burial, though I'm not sure how that will fly with Osiris. Strange customs and strange people, you know. Barbarians to the end, and all," he continued. His words took a few moments to sink in as she had not been paying much attention. Iset's subconscious kept poking at her until suddenly she realized what he had said in full. She turned and looked at him oddly.
"He? did you say he?" she asked with a frown.

"Well, yes. Wasn't it a man who helped you? A young boy, perhaps? I overheard the guard saying something but not much more." She glared at him again, about to say something, but holding her words as the thought of leaving her lover's body behind made her physically ill. Unfortunately, while the king had been thankful for her service and the traitors were indeed being rounded up, he wanted her off their soil almost as fast as it could be done lest any risk of her being killed by more assassins place his city at peril of Egypt. She supposed it was another one of those horrible decisions royals had to make. Everyone envied the gold and the dresses, but nobody ever considered the decisions royals had to make and live with.

"It's a shame they were so adamant about us leaving so quickly. Think of the wine we left and those bull horn cups. Why, we could have even purchased that dancing slave girl, you know the one that did the bull jumping thing? Yes. I had wanted to see her, but I never got a chance. I still say somebody spiked the wine," he began to say, but this time she rounded on him with anger.
"What did you say?!" she demanded, her expression quite alarming. The older man stepped back, worried that the princess might hit him, given the sudden look of rage upon her face. He had never known princess Iset to harm even an insect, let alone a person, but her glare was frightening. Iset began to speak again, though her thoughts were turning inward.
"She was no slave... She was... Was..." Her rage began to subside as the tears threatened to come again. The man looked at her confusedly?
"You keep speaking in the past tense, my dear—those barbarians have done something to you for sure, but nothing the palace and a little wine won't cure.
"What do you mean past tense? She's dead, so why would I speak about her any other way?" Now it was Sapair's turn to be confused.
"Dead? Oh, don't be silly, my princess. I saw her just before I left. You see, I was telling one of the guards..." Iset grabbed the man on both sides of his head and pulled his face close to hers. Her stare could have melted pure bronze. Below, the rowers watched the interaction with growing curiosity.
"Explain to me in clear and simple detail what you just meant by what you just said, or I will have you thrown off of this boat," the princess spoke with a strange certainty that frightened the man for the first time. He could see the true power of Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi in her eyes, and he knew that he needed to be quick and precise. Taking a breath in an attempt to banish the wine from his mind lest he found himself floating home, he began to speak.

"I saw the dancing woman, the same one from the bull jumping. She was attempting to speak to the guards at the city center. She didn't look so good. She had a large circular bruise right to the middle of her chest as though somebody had punched her, though she otherwise just seemed a little ragged. That's all I know. Please don't throw me in the water, my princess, as I would very much like to finish the wine I started," he spoke pleadingly, attempting to be humorous in such a way that the princess might calm. But when he looked at her, expecting either her humor to return or to be thrown in the water, instead, he found shock.

Iset stood there as the memories flooded through her over and over. The arrow had hit right in her chest... where the pendant of Inanna was... Exactly where the pendant of holy Inanna was! The realization hit her like an arrow to her heart. She realized that she had left prematurely and that her lover was not dead. She was in acrobat, her body covered in muscle and made strong from exercise. If anybody could survive falling off of that building, she could. In fact, Iset had survived falling off a building too. Had she taken all of it for granted? Had she assumed her lover's death when she wasn't really gone? Someone had just left the door to the golden cage open, she realized, as she looked at the stern of the boat and the shore beyond. She began gauging the distance.

The Aegean was hardly a place for one to swim during the day, let alone at night. The water was inky black even with the now full moon, and all manner of spirits and monsters were said to inhabit it. A quarter of a mile away by her estimation was the only person she had ever loved romantically, her one chance at a new life. She had swum plenty as a child, and since she had boarded, she had consumed water but no food. She was hungry, but she was at least hydrated. As Sapair stood there saying random things to cheer her up, she ignored him and carefully slipped her feet from her sandals. She reached down, gently pulling the string which held her kalasiris tightly to her waist, and began twisting the shoulder opposite the man so the strap would slide off. Her final path was terrifying, but she realized she was yet again staring down the bull, and if Ateá could do it, so could she. It was this or a life married to a nightmare, a slave with invisible shackles. She turned to face the old potbellied man with a smile so friendly and relieved that he paused midsentence unsure of what was about to happen.
"You are about to stab me, aren't you?" He asked, always wary of emotionally charged royals.
"No, Sapair... Tell my father that I succeeded but that I heard the call of Osiris," she said, causing Sapair to become concerned.
"Tell my mother, my sisters, and my brother that I love them and that I will see them on the other side and join them to travel across the sky," she continued.
"My princess, what an earth do mean?" Sapair asked with growing wary.

"It is time for me to leave this world and its journey to the next... I have been asked by the gods. As my last commandment, I order you to deliver my message and to send no one back for my body," she said, stepping free from the man and onto the stern of the ship. She looked back, seeing the calculation on his face. Was he able to catch her in time? Should he follow her wishes? There was a strange connection between the royals and the gods themselves, and she could see that he wasn't sure what to do. That indecision was all she would need. She pulled the final strap of her linen kalasiris, letting the garment spill onto the deck. Clothing drowned sailors even faster than not knowing how to swim. The water was warm, and a kalasiris would do nothing to protect her from sea monsters, spirits, or sharks. Besides, she needed her final act to look like a ritual suicide, which it might be, given her odds – an offering to the gods with enough meaning and symbolism that it's recounting would satisfy Egypt.

"Goodbye, Sapair. When my end comes, I'll be sure to mention your name to Osiris," she said with a smile. Princess Meret-Iset of Egypt spread her arms wide and fell backward off of the boat into the water. She held her breath beneath the water as long as she could, watching the ship move away under sail silhouetted by the moonlight above. As she watched from beneath, she saw nothing but black, and she fought against a burst of terror at what might suddenly come from that darkness. A moment later, she slowly surfaced, doing her very best not to make enough splash or movement for anyone to see. If there was any chance that she lived, they would come looking for her, and she needed them to think that she had been dragged to the utter depths of the Aegean.

The Moon served as a beacon as the princess swam on and on through the dark waters fueled by fear and her desire to see Ateá once more. Swimming with her face beneath the water most of the time, she expected to see whatever lived below, but instead, she saw only darkness. A cold shiver rushed through her as she pondered what it would be like for sailors who fell overboard or whose boats sank deep within the sea. As she continued to swim, she became more confident when suddenly she saw something beneath the waves. A large body moved in a strange, meandering way just ahead, perhaps 20 feet ahead. It's fins had caught a tiny bit of moonlight, otherwise, it was hidden. Not only was it close, but it was large, at least three times her length. Terror gripped Iset as she swam furiously toward the ever distant port.

She swam against the water, feeling the current dragging her east. Her body was so weak with what had happened that she feared she might give up and be dragged into the abyss. She had swum most of the distance, but the current had pulled her away from the docks towards the open sandy beach. As she approached, several times, she had felt things touch her legs. She had even seen what might have been shark fins a second time, though they had been too far to see in any detail in the darkness. Her stomach ached with the need to eat and she felt dizzy from hunger. She had eaten almost nothing in 24 hours, and now here she was swimming in the Aegean sea at night in the dark and alone. To call this a reckless course of action was an understatement. As her head broke the surface again, she saw the shore just ahead. The water beneath her could not be more than a few times her height at this point. As waves approached, she plunged underwater once more. Suddenly, she saw the shape of the shark almost an arm's length away as it swam past her, practically close enough to touch. Its black eye was only distinguishable by what it didn't reflect of the moonlight, but abruptly changed to a high reflective white as it angled toward her.

Iset pushed her hands out, coming into contact with the creature and seemingly pushing it away. It was not that large of a shark, but its mere presence sent terror racing through her exhausted body. Strangely, her skin rubbing against it caused an odd pain in her flesh, as though it had scraped against a rock. With a final burst of energy, she swam as fast as she could until her feet touched the sandy bottom. She almost ran from the water, stumbling face-first into the sand and rolling over onto her back finally upon dry land. She lay in the sand, breathing as hard as she could as her legs spasmed from over use. Above her, the Moon and a sea of stars look back. She lay naked on the beach covered in water, her old life washed away, delivered to her new life. She felt reborn, though she was beginning to understand why babies cried so much when they were born. She lay there for a while before slowly rising to begin her staggered walk to the city.

 

OOO

 

"Do not worry about the pendant. Most holy Inanna chose to protect you, and she would not have done so and then held me accountable for it," Ninsar chided as she tried to cheer up the glum bull leaper. She had seen the princess's eyes dilate as she had gazed upon Ateá, and she had seen the pulse on the athlete's neck quicken when the pair were near. Did they think she was a fool? She was the high priestess of a goddess whose domains included change and war, but also love. To see the proud bull leaper so devastated and to know that there was nothing to do saddened the old woman, but sometimes life was cruel. In fact, as she considered it, life was mostly cruel.
"But it has a permanent mark now," Ateá spoke halfheartedly, needing a focal point for her sorrow.

"That mark is direct evidence of Ianna's gifts to you and to me. I don't consider it defaced. I consider it more valuable than before," the old woman said. Ateá frowned. She would almost rather the arrow have hit. She had never found love before, and now she wasn't sure she ever would again. Finding a woman with her interests who hadn't been snatched up by a man, often by her family's will and not her own, was hard enough. But she doubted she would ever find someone like the Nebi. How could she? She frowned as she heard the priestess mumbling a prayer in her own language to the goddess. She scratched the wooden table with her fingernail holding back yet more tears. Before her, a clay bowl of broth sat unfinished.

 

 

Simple Woolen Skirt - Ateá's Typical Clothing

 

"If Inanna truly cared, she would have done something... Something to keep us together." As soon as she spoke she wished she hadn't. She waited with her head down for the high priestess to yell at her for blasphemy or to remind her that her goddess had just saved her life. But nothing came but the silence of sorrow... and a strange knock at the door. Both women looked up, Ninsar reaching for a small hand ax while Ateá grabbed the bronze knife she had taken from the body of the man the priestess had killed. She still hadn't gotten her own skirt, sash, or copper knife back. The dancer stood and approached the door cautiously. If what she had heard from the guards was correct, they had found the archer and uncovered a plot to harm the king. All those involved would be ritualistically executed over the next coming days by snake bite. The likelihood that somebody would come for revenge seemed slim, and yet there was another knock at the door.

"Who is it?" Ninsar spoke, holding the hand ax just in case. They stared at the door, and the piece of wood jammed in place, keeping it from opening to avoid a repeat of somebody bursting in. There was a strange muffled sound like someone speaking too low to be heard. And then the voice spoke up louder, summoning what little breath it had.

"Ah... Ah...tay... ah..."

The door burst open as Ateá all but tore it from its hinges. Nebi had been leaning against the door frame and the door. As soon as it opened, she stumbled forward. The dancer grabbed hold of her as the exhausted woman fell into her arms. They sank to the floor in each other's grasp. Ninsar rushed over with an oil lamp as they examined the princess. She wore nothing, and she was dirty, with sand and dirt on her feet. Her hair had seaweed and sand mixed into it as though she had washed ashore. Aside from being messy and smelling of the sea, she appeared reasonably healthy, though absolutely exhausted. They stared at each other in shock, though Nebi was having a hard time focusing. Ateá couldn't believe what she saw, but she knew what she felt. It could only have meant that the princess had swum from some point in the sea all the way back to port. Nebi was scrawny, not particularly in good shape to start. It must have nearly killed her swimming the distance in such danger. As she stared, the princess summoned one last mote of strength to speak. Her words came out in her native tongue and barely audible.

"Ma... marer e... t..au..." she whispered and finally lost her battle with consciousness. Ninsar smiled as she placed her hand upon Ateá's shoulder and spoke. She could feel goosebumps form on the dancer's skin as she did.
"She said, 'I love you,' in Egyptian."

A short time later, Ateá knelt in the front room with Nebi's head in her lap, slowly petting her hair. The window was open, and a small fire started in the stone and brick oven for warmth. The air itself was warm, but Nebi continued to shake as though her body were cold. Luckily, the dancer had rubbed her flesh, keeping the blood flowing as the heat from the fire and the warmth from the summer began to take effect. Ninsar brought a fresh clay dish with broth and a container of wine. With Nebi unconscious but obviously exhausted and probably having not eaten in well over a day, she knew feeding her was both critical and yet also challenging. She tried lifting the woman's head to help her sip the broth, but she remained unconscious. After a while, it became apparent that the only way to feed the exhausted woman was as one fed a baby.

Taking a mouthful of broth, she put her lips to Nebi's and fed her in the traditional way. It was a long process that did not result in much broth flowing at a time. Moreover, Ateá ended up consuming at least half of the food herself, if only by accident. Though in truth, she had barely eaten anything in a day as well. The wine and the food continued until they were gone, and still the exhausted woman slept though she now seemed to be calmer than she had been. Ateá realized that she wasn't that far removed from Nebi in exhaustion. Her body was more muscular, but it had also been through a lot. She bent forward over the princess in her lap and slowly began to drift away to the sound of her lover's breathing. At least her breathing was stable now. The Sun had nearly risen upon the glowing horizon as Ateá slumped forward and her hand stopped stroking Nebi's hair. In her lap lay the woman who would swim through the dark Aegean to return to her.

Perhaps it was the wine and the broth or maybe the heat, but the princess's body began to stir. As Nebi awoke, she looked up to find herself in Ateá's arms. A tear rolled down her cheek as she realized that she was finally happy and content for the first time in her life. Strangely, she could tell that she had consumed some food and wine. She could feel the warmth of the alcohol, and she could taste the food on her lips. Feeding someone unconscious was hardly easy, and she wondered how it had happened. The dancer was facing down though obviously asleep. She felt exhausted, and every part of her ached, but somehow it didn't matter. Reaching up to grasp Ateá, she began lifting her aching neck and head until her lips came to touch the lips of the woman she had swum through the darkness of the abyss to reach. She had been given a second chance to touch her lover, life after death, whether literal or metaphorical, it didn't matter. It was a rare chance, and she had taken it. As she kissed, the dancer awoke at first startled, and then her tears joined with Nebi's. As the fire burned down in the morning began, they lay together in each other's arms without care of seaweed, sand, or even physical pain. They embraced one another, realizing that for the first time, there was someone else in the world who cared for them deeply. Someone who would hold them. Someone who would live with them and would die for them.

 

OOO

 

Ateá stood in the hot Sun of the waning summer one full moon later, sweat dripping from her body and a smile across her face. Her beautifully blue-dyed fine linen perizoma loincloth waved in the breeze, and the Sun danced off of her new bronze bracelets. Before her was the bull, who had just tried to hit her once more and had missed. They were stubborn things, and this one was rather large. Its horns were as long as her arms, and it's manly prowess hung for the world to see. It was a mighty creature confident in its masculine strength, and rightfully so. She was a much smaller and feminine creature, but she was quicker, and she was smarter. Ateá turned from the bull showing her back to it, a bold move. Looking over the crowd, and heard cries and saw people waving in excitement as she stood firm with her back to the monster. In a moment, she caught sight of a brown-skinned woman with beautiful black braids wearing a fine multilayered linen skirt, beautiful leather sandals with shell beads, and lovely bronze jewelry. Her eyes were framed in thick dark eyeliner. She waved happily with an exotic grace that was not just different from everyone else, but somehow more regal.

Ateá flexed her muscles as she heard and felt the sound approaching and smiled. Turning, she moved forward, approaching the bull at full speed. The creature slowed as they did when somebody charge them, aligning its head, neck, and spine, preparing for the impact. At the last moment, Ateá threw herself into the air reaching for and grabbing the horns of the bull. The creature tossed its head back as they always did, catapulting the woman even higher into the air. With strength and grace, she somersaulted across the beast, landing perfectly on the ground just behind the creature. Immediately, her legs shot out each direction, dropping her into a spectacular split. She ducked forward as the bull's back leg kicked out, flying over her body, then returning and landing hard on the ground with a thud. She rolled away, coming back to her feet and dancing off with her arms out wide in challenge as another man rushed out, capturing the bull's attention giving her time to leave. The crowd cheered, but only one person in the crowd mattered to Ateá.

Walking back to the villa a short time later, Ateá considered the events of the last month. The men had been rounded up and killed for their actions. In the end, the king had found their actions severe enough that he ordered particular fates for a few, including a certain northern trader. Some had been torn apart by bulls while others had been bitten by the snake priestess's supremely dangerous pet snake. While Iset would have wished to personally oversee their deaths for what they had done to her and her servants, her new life as Nebi meant that she stood in the back of the crowds watching it happen and would have to be content with that. She had her revenge upon the archer, and that would have to do. Selling only a fraction of the gold had afforded enough in trade to obtain it a small villa, new clothing, bronze jewelry, and even reimbursing Ninsar, with a lifetime to spare. They would never want for anything, being quite wealthy. However, they had decided to keep their fortune low-key for a few years to avoid suspicions. They had even invited the old priestess Ninsar to live with them, and she had accepted the offer, though she had her own accommodation in the house.

Ateá opened her eyes from daydreaming. She had remembered the events of the day while lying on furs and their soft bed awaiting her wife. It had been quite a bull-leaping event, and she had recalled it in perfect detail, including a few moves she needed to improve upon. A moment later, the door opened, and Nebi stepped in wearing only her beautiful jewelry, some of it gold she had kept, and a smile. She glided forward, picking up her bronze goblet and sipping wine. Ateá reached forward and grabbed the clay container with wine-sipping some straight from its neck. Nebi shook her head. There were some habits neither of them would give up, but that wasn't a problem; they were endearing traits. Placing the wine on the table, the former princess of Egypt slid into the soft for bed and into the arms of her bull leaper. They began to kiss and lay in each other's arms. It was a freedom Nebi had never thought possible. The freedom to choose her lover and her own bed. It was also freedom for Ateá, having the resources to enjoy life rather than simply fight from day-to-day. After a few playful moments, they stopped to gaze into each other's eyes.

"I'm glad you came to dance for me, my love," Nebi whispered.
"I'm glad you took my hand, my princess," Ateá replied.
"I am no longer a princes, though. I am Nebi, Meret-Ateá, Sacred of Merit, Goddess of Music. My word is your word, and your word is mine. I am yours forever," she whispered. And with that, they kissed one another passionately, feeling the warmth of their bodies pressed together and the beat of their hearts as one. There was a pleasure, sexual and sensual, but perhaps more important than the joys of the body, was the beauty of their love, and the rich emotions which painted the canvas of their lives. As they rolled in each other's arms, not caring if the world heard the sound of their joy, Ninsar sat downstairs spinning wool and humming a hymn to Inanna. Her goddess had brought conflict, change, and finally, love.
"Oh holy Inanna, everyone misunderstands you so. But not me... not Nin-sar. For beyond war and love, I know your true passion... Change," she mumbled with a chuckle as she slowly spun the drop spindle.

 

 

 

Author's Notes

 

Seua – Throughout Egyptian art, lower bikini-like garments are depicted but never named. After weeks of searching, I chose to use the ancient Egyptian word for loincloth, seua, to describe them, as they are technically a form of loincloth, unlike the bikini bottom they resemle.

Slavery – I had considered the slaves a princess of Egypt would lilely bring, but I was uncomfortable with the notuon of slavery, however accurate it might be. Given that a free servant could have been employeed by a princess, I chose to make the slaves free servants. You may notice that they are clothed exactly as slaves were, a simple wasit cord and jewellry only, but they are written as free servants.

Inanna's Seven Curses – This comes from the frequent use of the number seven, as well as repetitious wording in Sumerian myths. For example, Inanna passes through seven gates to enter Kur in her famous Descent story.

Clip Art – I purchased a CD and booklet from Dover Publishing a long time ago with pretty Egyptian clip art and the license to use up to ten of them in a project. While they do not perfectly fit, I felt they added more than they detracted from the story. Sadly, the only Minoan art they had depicted much later clothing (most are familiar with) from 1000 years after my story is set.

Head Injury – Most injuries to the head, resulting in a loss of consciousness long enough to work, in my story, would be quite disastrous for poor Ateá. After digging around, I learned that a significant blow to the head's temple could cause something known as a carotid sinus reflex, causing a syncope. Basically, you push the arteries to react negatively to an impact reducing blood flow to the brain for a short time. Not enough to cause harm, but enough to leave her unconscious and then be back on her feet shortly after. Technically, the chance of a zero long term effect and totally fine in 30 minutes is tiny, but protagonists always roll the best dice.

Iree wuyn hanaak... nifer... hern'buh – This is only part of an ancient Egyptian sentence, but Ateá could not hear all of it. It roughly means, "I will be with you."

Sa annu – Ancient Sumerian for "What is this?"

Wannaway – Means a bad person, or a person who does evil, in ancient Egyptian.

 

 

 

Glossary

 

Aegean – A sea south of Greece and north of the Medeiteraian Sea. It spans more than 200,000 square kliometers and has a depth of over 3,500 meters in some places. The Aegean was the primary setting for many of the great myths of ancient Greece which took place on or near the water. The ilse of Lesbos, famous for the poet Sappho, as well as the island where Medusa supposedly lived are both within this ancient and famous body of water.

Beadnet Dress – A dress made from a net of string (usually flax thread) with strung beads. The garment is ankle length and usually just below the breasts. Shoulder straps suspend the dress very much like a Kalasiris. The dress conceals nothing and was usually worn with an undergarment, such as a kalasiris or at least a seua loincloth. Severvents and entertrainers, if they wore such an expensive outfit, may have worn the dress by itself.

Boats – Ancient Minoan boats of the early Prepalatial period were very small, perhaps 20 meters in length and only two to four meters wide. The bows were often elaborate and curved upward while the sterns lifted high into the air, lending to the slang term, "frying pan boat." Such craft usually had a single mast and square-rigged sail with rowers.

Bronze – A metal allow made from copper with 10-12% tin. Shortly after the discovery of metalworking with copper, Bronze was discovered to be much more durable, becoming the key metal for several thousand years.

Bull Leaping

Carnelian – A semi-precious gemstone made from silicon dioxide. Carnelian has a soft, orange-red color and was commonly used for beads and inlays.

Crete – An island in the Aegean sea as close as 60 miles south of Greece with a rich history of human habbitation spanning at least 130,000 years. Crete, known in the story as Kriti, was also the location of the Minoan Civilization.

Inanna – A Sumerian goddess from at least 4500 BCE, and perhaps earlier. Her domains were Love, War, Change, and sacred laws (see Me). She is later known as Ishtar.

Kalasiris – A shieth dress (tightly fitter tube-shaped dress) usually made from linen. At the time of the story, the style would likely have been a linen tube fightly fitting, from just above or below the breasts flowing to the ankles. One or two shoulder straps hold the dress up.

Knossos – An acneint settlement on the island of Crete founded circa 7000 BCE as a settlement, eventually become a city. The city was abandoned likely around 1100 BCE.

Khol – A black makeup commonly used as eyeliner or eyeshadow and made from a ground minerals of different types, depending on time and location. In the story, the mineral Stibnite (antimony and sulfer) was likely used.

Kriti – See Crete

Kur – The Sumerian afterlife contolled by Ereshkigal, sister goddess of Inanna

Lapis Lazuli – A semi-precious mineral used for jewellry, makeup, and as a pigment. Lapis Lazuli's characteristic royal blue color comes from sulfer, though its full chermical stucture is quite complex, including sodium, calcium, chlorine, and other elements.

Me – Sumerian sacred decrees of the gods. They are laws, behaviours, and may even be considered domains of influence among the gods.

Merit – An Egyptian goddess of song, dance, music, and jubiliation.

Minoan Clothing (early) – Unlike the complex and beautiful multi-teired open busted dresses so often associated with Minoans (from the later period), ealier Mionan woman clothing was simpler. Men wore simple woolen or linen kilts, perizoma loincloths, and were often enitrely nude. Women wore simple linen or woolen skirts, sometimes with multiple teirs and fancy designs for higher status individuals. Lower body nudity appears to have not been accible among women, unlike the men.

Nudity - Nudity, both partial and full, were normal aspects of life in much of the ancient world, especially Egypt and Minoa. In fact, it was not uncommon for early period Minoan men to live and work entirely nude, as it was for some Egyptians. While nearly every character in this story wears a lower garment at most, their upper bodies mostly bare, it should be understood that this was simply a way of life in such hot and humid climates where clothing was costly in time and material to make. Nudity should not be reguarded in an overtly sexual way. It is important to cast aside our modern notions of modesty and sexuality when considering the social norms of an ancient society.

Old Kingdom Egypt – The history of what is called Ancient Egypt involves at least nine time periods spanning at least 2818 years. The Old Kingdom, the first major dyanastic period, starts around 2686 BCE and ending around 2181 BCE, and spanned 505 years. Old Kingdom Egypt existed over 2000 years before the time of Cleopatra and is a much more ancient period. Many of the common tropes many consider "Ancient Egypt" did not yet exist, such as wax head cones, the extensive use of wigs, and many later garments. This period of Egypt is far closer to their late Neolithic period than the later periods the media so often explores.

Pectoral – A form of necklace which hangs below the neck, typically covering much of the upper body just above the breast. Often, pectorals are shaped like a half-cirlce so they appear to fan out from the neck.

Perizoma – A woolen or linen loincloth made from a long, scarf-like strip of cloth tied around the wasit and tucked upon itself. Typically, men are depicted wearing a perizoma. Women may have worn them during dancing or athletic activities.

Premastication – A form of feeding mouth to mouth used in many cultures. Premastication may even be the precursor to kissing.

Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi – A 5thdynasty Egyptian Pharaoh (King) of Egypt. His reign lasted at least 40 years and lead to many major changes to the politics of Egypt.

Prepalatial Minoan – A period of time in the early history of the Minoan civilization of Crete when small cities had formed, such as Knossos, but had not yet build their grand palaces.

Princess Hedjetnebu – A 5thdynasty Egyptian princess. Her father was Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi and her mother may have been Queen Setibhor. She appears to have been a rather slender woman who died around age 19. She is also the basis for the fictional princess Iset.

Queen Setibhor - A 5thdynasty Egyptian Queen of Egypt. Her pyrimid was quite large, though sadly, the tomb was severly damaged long ago.

Seua – A type of loincloth worn by women in ancinet Egypt. In its simplist form, it is a waist cord with a single cloth usually tucked between the legs and back in upon itself, resempling a modern bikini. More complex versions might have jewelled or beaded wasit cords and colorful fabric.

Shedeh – A type of wine made in Ancient Egypt from possibly pomegranate or red grapes.

Slavery – Slavery was commonplace in ancient egypt. Slavery is objectivly wrong and immoral, however, it was mistakenly not thought of this way in ancient Egypt (and much of the ancient world). Princess Iset's attendants are free servants, and while this could have occured, they would more likely have been slaves.

Sumer – A late Neolithic, copper age, and early bronze age civilization(s) in what is now souther Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq) from roughly 4500 BCE to 1800 BCE. Many famous cities and city states existed during this time, including Uruk, Ur, Nippur, and Eridu. Many famous cultures existed in this reigion, such as the city of Babylon and the Akkadian Empire.

Turquoise – A semi-precious mineral made primarily from copper and aluminum. Turquoise comes in both a darker blue and a ligher blue, approaching green. Of these two colors, princess Iset favors the greener blue, a sort of teal color.

Ur – A sumerian city which existed in Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq) from roughly 3800 BCE to 500 BCE.

 

Disclaimers

Copyright © 2020 by "Ishtar" T. Watson.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

This work is purely and entirely fiction. Names, characters, events, and places, other than major geographical regions, e.g. Crete, portrayed within are imaginary. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead, events or places, or previous fictional works is entirely coincidental. All characters, unless explicitly indicated, are depicted as eighteen years of age or older.

 

 

 

Copyrights

 

Cover Image – Artwork by Alexandra Filipek (Commissioned by the author for this project with full copyright to use).

Minoan Bull Leaping Fresco – Image of ancient Bull Leaping scene c. 1600 BCE, photo by Jebulon. This image is Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bull_leaping_minoan_fresco_archmus_Heraklion.jpg

Simple Woolen Skirt - Ateá's Typical Clothing – Typical Minoan woman's clothing C. 1600 BCE. Photo by Jebulon. This image is Public Domain. https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitxer:Man_woman_praying_archmus_Heraklion.jpg

Clipart Images – Dover Publications Inc. Allows the use of up to 10 images from it's clipart CD's per project. This project contains seven pictures, thus falls within this use. Below is a copy of the license I have received in writing from Dover Publications Inc. This is also listed on their website and the CD itself.

  • High Priest Neferhotep of Ra
  • Ateá of Knossos
  • Princess Meret-Iset
  • Egyptian Musicians
  • Lady Nin-Sar, High Priestess of Inanna (in her youth)
  • Princess Iset
  • Fine Sandals Made From Halfa Grass

 

 


Submitted: November 28, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Ishtar. All rights reserved.

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