AS HE DREW HIS CHARACTERS, Tut kept an eye on his strict instructor, the bane of his youth. The last thing he needed was another unjust punishment on top of the others he’d accrued. Nefertiti had been very clear in her warnings about Tut’s studies. If he failed a subject or even fell behind, he would lose the right to go out beyond the palace walls. Tut could think of no more horrendous penalty.
Then, to Tut’s amazement and joy, the same warm afternoon sunlight that had sent his mind wandering now cast a spell over the instructor. Tut watched eagerly as the man rested in his chair and his eyelids began to close.
The instructor’s head then lolled back and his mouth opened slightly, until, ever so softly, he began to snore.
Ankhesenpaaten put one hand over her mouth to keep from giggling. Tut gently placed his brush on an ivory palette and tapped her on the shoulder while jerking a thumb toward the door.
“No,” Ankhesenpaaten mouthed. “We can’t do that, Tut. We mustn’t.”
Tut insisted, standing quietly and taking hold of her arm. With a quick glance at the instructor, whose soft snore was deepening into something louder, she stood, too.
Together, the boy and girl royal tiptoed toward the door and the freedom of the river world. To be safe, Tut grabbed his hunting bow on the way out.
Suddenly, Aye’s hulking torso blocked their path. “Where do you think you’re going?” the royal scribe boomed, making Ankhesenpaaten jump in fear.
The instructor jerked awake and leaped to his feet.
Aye gripped Tut and Ankhesenpaaten tightly by the arms and dragged them back into the room, digging his fingernails into Tut’s bicep. “Let go of me,” Tut cried, but Aye only squeezed harder. “I will be pharaoh one day, and you will be gone from the palace. I promise it, Scribe. You too, Teacher!”
Then Tut wrenched his arm free and ran, and he didn’t stop running until he stood on the banks of the Nile. What was even better was that Ankhesenpaaten had run with him—every step of the way.