NEFERTITI GLANCED AT HER HUSBAND, expecting to see him trembling in fear. Instead, Amenhotep wore a look of serenity. “When I am done with this, I will have put my mark on all of Egypt,” he told her. “No longer will I allow those pompous buffoons in the temple—”
“You speak that way about the priests?” Nefertiti whispered. She had little respect for the priests but knew better than to talk like this. What was happening to her husband? Was he saying all this because he knew he was about to die?
“That’s right. You heard me. No longer will they have any say in how I rule my kingdom. Starting tomorrow, Amun, Re-Harakhty, and all their other pitiful gods will be banished.”
“You speak heresy,” Nefertiti said. She felt faint. Had Amenhotep gone mad? Was it his terror speaking now?
“We will worship Aten—and Aten alone.” Aten was the sun god.
“Do the priests know? Any of them? Does Ptahmose know?”
Her husband’s cunning smile answered her question.
“They will be furious!” she said. “They will come after you. And me as well.”
“That won’t matter. Do you want to know why?”
Actually, she didn’t. In his current state, Amenhotep IV was likely to say something utterly crazy. He didn’t disappoint.
“I’m building a new city for us.”
“I don’t understand, Pharaoh,” said Nefertiti. “What new city? Where would it be? Why haven’t you told me before?”
“It will lie halfway between here and Memphis,” he continued. “It will be the greatest city in the world. I will never leave there. Not even to wage war or collect tribute. Thebes and Memphis can return to the desert for all I care.”
The crowd was loudly chanting the pharaoh’s name, but Nefertiti wasn’t ready to let him go. She clung to her husband and said nothing more. But then he pulled away and began walking up to the reviewing stand—without so much as a kiss or a good-bye.
“Oh!” he said, turning around to her. “I have saved the best for last. Tomorrow I will change my name to honor our god’s greatness. No one will ever again confuse me with my father.”
“What will I call you?” the queen asked, her mind reeling and her knees weak.
And then, to deafening applause, the pharaoh strode to his chariot and began his ride to immortality.