Five Years Later
The horses shot north up the royal highway at breakneck speed. Thousands of Akhetaten’s thrilled citizens lined the road intently watching as the two chariots whizzed past them.
It was an exhilarating spectacle—two of Egypt’s finest charioteers, Ay and Ramose, competing feverishly for both pride and a solid gold victory cup to the winner.
The race had begun at Akhetaten’s southern suburb of Maru-Aten. The frenzied pace at which the charioteers were traveling had them within two furlongs of the city’s central temple and palace complex and they were fast closing in on the most treacherous part of the course. The road at this point was curved inward, arcing to the left, which meant the chariots had to reduce their speed or risk the likely consequence of crashing into an adjacent building.
The walled bridge that spanned the road directly ahead presented a far trickier problem for it had three separate openings through which a chariot driven by two horses could narrowly pass—the slightest miscalculation could be disastrous. The middle opening, under which the royal family watched from “the Window of Appearance,” was more direct and slightly wider than the outer passageways.
The distinct advantage in the race went to the charioteer who could out-maneuver the other and slice through the center opening without having to significantly sacrifice his velocity, otherwise, he would have no choice but to substantially reduce speed in order to negotiate his way through one of the outer openings.
Since the finish line was approximately three furlongs beyond the bridge, the outcome of the race came down to who was going to be the first to slow down.
They both reduced speed ever so slightly then dashed for the center lane, each man trying to pull ahead of the other, but no matter how hard they tried to gain advantage they were still in a dead heat.
Wisely they veered off, both slowing down as Ramose headed toward the opening to the right and Ay went for the left. No one would have the advantage of cutting through the center gap this day.
Still the competitive spirit hadn’t abandoned either of them as they emerged from the other side of the bridge charging toward the finish line. They remained neck and neck up to the final moment when Ay thrust the full weight of his body forward. Somehow he managed to win the race by a nose.
In spite of the fierce competition between them, the two men were close friends. They turned their chariots around and headed back to the bridge.
“My friend the Master of the Horse, today you are most deserving of your rank and title… congratulations! However, I demand a rematch… and soon!”
Looking down from the Window of Appearance, princess Meritaten jubilantly turned to her three year old sister Meketaten:
“You see, I told you uncle Ay would win the race.”
Nefertiti stood up. Her immense belly indicated the coming of a third royal child. She walked over to her husband and took hold of his hand.
A servant presented Ay with the solid gold trophy cup.
“Well uncle, you’re still Egypt’s champion,” Akhenaten sighed. “How many trophies have you won? I’ve lost count.” He looked at Ramose and consoled:
“I must confess that is the closest race I’ve ever seen! You did well Ramose. I can tell by the look in your eye that you’re itching for a re-match.”
“Your Majesty knows me too well,” Ramose said. “I do want a re-match… the sooner the better!”
“You must have a new strategy in mind,” Akhenaten responded. “Very well, how about one week from today?”
“Your Majesty is most generous. One week will be fine!”
“My high council convenes this afternoon,” the king reminded. “I expect to see you both in attendance. There is important business to discuss!”
The two men bowed in compliance.
Akhenaten had invited the members of his high council to join him in an informal gathering alongside his newly constructed lake which occupied a major portion of the terraced garden behind the “King’s House” in the central city.
Beside the king and queen, the council included Ramose, Ay, Maya, Pinhasy, Meryre, Nakht, and Tepy.
“Let’s get to it,” Akhenaten said, “we have a festering sore brewing to the north with king Tushratta of Mitanni. It seems my late father made certain concessions to the old scoundrel in order to maintain a peaceful co-existence with him. Now he issues demands and disguised threats in correspondences addressed to my mother. Maya, you were present when all of this chicanery began, what were the circumstances?”
“Your Majesty, your father took Tushratta’s daughter Kiya into his harem as his second favorite wife, the idea was to stabilize the relationship between Egypt and Mitanni. She bore him a son, Smenkhkare. Upon your father’s death, most of his wealth, including his royal harem was transferred to you, including Kiya who is now one of your many wives.”
“I see,” Akhenaten responded. “And, naturally, Tushratta expected to receive a substantial dowry.”
“Precisely my king,” Maya continued: “Tushratta began to make ridiculous demands among which included a pair of large solid gold statues. Your father jokingly sent back two wooden statues overlaid with a gold facade. And to this day, the king of Mitanni still wants to obtain his gold statues any way that he thinks can get them.”
Akhenaten pondered the matter briefly:
“So, Tushratta perceives me to be a naïve child who will cave in to his demands simply because he makes a lot of noise.”
“Yes,” Maya replied, “I believe Your Majesty has made an accurate assessment of the situation.”
Akhenaten then turned to Tepy and asked: “what do you see in all of this?”
Tepy replied: “Your Majesty, I see the Mitannites and Hittites in perpetual war with each other, each trying to gain the upper hand through an alliance with Egypt.”
“Then I will pit them both against each other” Akhenaten said.
Nefertiti had been listening throughout the discussion. Finally she interrupted:
“My husband, with regard to Kiya, the marriage contract with Tushratta was with your father, not with you! Therefore, if you were to send her back to Mitanni, her father’s claims and demands would be rendered void.”
“Yes,” Ramose interjected, “but the Mitannites would look upon that as an insult.”
“True,” Nefertiti shot back, “but only a minor insult… certainly not enough to justify going to war. Their ongoing conflict with the Hittites has them at a disadvantage. The last thing they need is a war on two fronts.”
Impressed with Nefertiti’s display of shrewdness, Akhenaten extolled:
“By the grace of Aten, our queen is more eloquent than the rest of us combined.” The king then turned to Ay. “Speaking of fronts, how are our northern defenses holding up?”
Ay responded “the northern borders are being adequately maintained by general Horemheb… I know him well. But in my estimation he’s more a butcher than a general… he does not believe in taking prisoners, which, in the long term, only hardens the enemy’s resolve to butcher us in return.”
“Exactly,” Akhenaten replied, “which brings us to the greater question… how do we prevent this juggling balance of power between our two principle rivals from merging into a super alliance to wage an all out war on Egypt?”
Nefertiti offered a solution:
“My husband, if you give Tushratta his gold statues and raise Kiya’s status in the harem to your second favorite wife, I think it would decisively put the matter to rest—especially with the possibility that such a tryst could bring about a new heir in line to the throne.”
The council sat in amazement. The queen’s logic and understanding was impeccable!
Akhenaten looked around at the members of his council.
“Are there any other suggestions on how to deal with this matter?” he asked.
There was no response.
“Then I’m inclined to proceed with the queen’s recommendation… so it shall be! The council is dismissed.”
As the sun began to disappear over the western horizon, Nefertiti studied Akhenaten’s face. He was clearly immersed in thought. She rose from her seat and gently kissed him then she retreated back to the King’s House. The day’s activities had made her weary. Besides, she knew the king had other business to tend to.
The entrance to the house of the royal harem was conveniently located behind the king’s terraced garden. As Akhenaten entered, he was greeted by a servant who seemed to have anticipated his arrival. The king was led directly into Kiya’s private chamber. He had expected her to be older but instead, he found her to be young and vibrant… and stunningly beautiful.
Kiya stood before him, totally naked.
“Your Majesty, welcome… may I offer you some wine?”
“Yes,” Akhenaten replied.
As Kiya poured the wine, Akhenaten drank in her beauty—her long, dark hair—her large, ebony eyes—her succulent mouth—her ripe voluptuous breasts. She was a sight to behold. Even her skin seemed to exude a sexual essence—the very scent of her was intoxicating.
Kiya could see that Akhenaten wasn’t really interested in the wine. She took hold of his hands and cupped them firmly around her breasts.
“My king,” she said, “I hope you are pleased with me. I’m yours to do with as you wish!”
She leaned over and extinguished the flame of room’s solitary lamp. Then she lit the fire!
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