“TUT. MY POOR TUT. What shall become of you?”
Nefertiti held her newborn son in her arms and feared for his life. Technically, the child was not her own, for he did not spring from her loins. But that idiot husband of hers with the wandering eye was the father, so the child might as well be the son of the queen.
The birth mother’s name was Kiya, and the pharaoh had given the pretty young harlot the title Greatly Beloved Wife, which placed her above even Nefertiti in esteem.
Kiya was—had been—a Mitannian princess named Tadukhepa, sent to Egypt by her father, as a peace treaty between the two nations. For three long years Nefertiti had endured the woman’s presence, watching her repeatedly take the queen’s place in the pharaoh’s bed. The man whom Nefertiti once loved had become a stranger to her, devoted to his beloved Aten and his child bride.
Why, the pharaoh had even begun telling people that he himself was Aten, that the pharaoh and the god were one and the same. It was Nefertiti who had the nerve to correct him, and for that he had cast her from his bed.
I am still the mother of his children, she reminded herself.
Yes, but all girls. This one, the son, will be the next pharaoh. I am no better than Tiye. When the pharaoh dies, the empire will fall to this child, this baby. And what will become of me?
What does it matter? There will be nothing left of the great Egyptian nation by the time my husband dies. That fool has seen to that.
The people of Egypt were starving and reverting to their nomadic ways, forsaking their farms and cities for a hardscrabble life on the move, all thanks to Akhenaten’s neglect or perhaps his insanity. The priests of Thebes wanted to kill him for usurping their gods with his own—and for asserting himself as a god. The royal vizier pretended to be a faithful servant, but once he got tired of Akhenaten’s preening, he too would want to stab the pharaoh in the back.
And what of Horemheb? Surely the general went to sleep each night and dreamed only of a military takeover.
So what stopped them? Could it be that they actually believed the pharaoh was a god? What fools men are. Or what liars.
The baby started to cry. Poor Tut.
Nefertiti was about to whisper to the child, telling him that at that very moment his mother was being placed inside her tomb. She had died giving birth, and Tut would never feel the comfort of her arms or suckle her bosom. But the time for such talk was past.
“Be still, my son,” Nefertiti said. “I am your mother now, and I will raise you to be the pharaoh your father should have been. You will be king. I promise you.”