“WHAT DO YOU THINK they’ll do to us if they ever catch us?” asked a smiling Tut, crouching down below the reeds so they wouldn’t be seen by Aye or their other nemesis, the teacher.
Ankhesenpaaten was usually the practical one. Her impulsive decision to escape along with Tut had perhaps been the greatest surprise he had known since the day their father died.
But it was a nice sort of surprise, the kind that made him feel less alone in the world. It felt really good to have a comrade in arms—a friend—if only to share the inevitable punishment that would follow this outrageous adventure.
Tut looked into his sister’s eyes and smiled. Technically, she was his half sister, thanks to his father’s consort with the ill-fated Kiya, and though she and Tut were the fruit of the same father, it more often felt like they were best friends than brother and sister.
She was like him, and she wasn’t. It was hard to explain. Except that he loved her dearly. He so dearly loved his Ankhe.
“They’re not going to beat us,” Tut announced, answering his own question.
“Why do you say ‘they’?” she asked. “It’s Mother who will determine our punishment.”
“That’s not exactly the way it works,” Tut said patiently. “Aye and the instructor are men. They think they have power over Mother.”
As part of the process of learning to become pharaoh, Nefertiti had taken great pains to include Tut in important meetings with her advisers. Even a boy could see that Aye coveted the great power that Nefertiti possessed. The royal vizier often cast angry glares at Tut, as if the boy had somehow offended him by just being there.
Aye frightened Tut, and as Tut remained in the reeds thinking about him, he gently rubbed the marks Aye’s thick nails had left on his upper arm.
“You need to watch out for Aye,” Tut told his sister. “I don’t trust him. Neither should you. I think he wants to marry Mother and become pharaoh.”
Ankhesenpaaten smiled at this.
“He can’t do that, Tut. You’re the pharaoh.”
“Not if he marries the queen. Marriage into royal blood would allow Aye to take the throne.”
Tut paused to let that sink in, tilting his head to watch a duck extend its wings and lift them slightly upward as it glided in for a landing.
“I don’t like that,” Ankhesenpaaten said softly, “and I don’t like Aye. Not a bit. He’s angry, and he’s rude to Mother.”
“We also need to watch out for Meri-Re, the high priest,” warned Tut.
“He’s afraid that when I become pharaoh I will no longer worship Aten.”
“He would lose all his power and wealth if that happened.”
“Right. You’re a smart girl. Almost too smart somehow.”
“And General Horemheb is a sneaky one. Keep an eye on him also.”
“I will be wary of them all,” said Tut. Then he did something he really hadn’t expected to do. He leaned in close and kissed Ankhe. And perhaps even more surprising, she didn’t protest.
Then, confident that they had avoided capture, the two children rose from their hiding place and sprinted toward the river, laughing. They were less afraid of the crocodiles lurking there than of the powerful men crawling about the palace.