THERE HAD BEEN no public ceremony and no special words from the high priests to mark the moment of their marriage union.
Ankhesenpaaten had simply moved her belongings to Tut’s side of the palace, where their father had once laid his head.
That had been three years ago. They had slept in separate rooms since then but had also become closer friends. Now, on the day they had put Nefertiti in her tomb, Tut would rule alone.
Ankhesenpaaten fumbled with her gauzy white gown as she and Tut prepared to share a bed for the first time. He wasn’t yet a teenager, like his sister and bride, who was a few years older, but Tut had begun to physically develop into a man, and this wasn’t lost on his wife.
It was time they produced an heir—or at least, given their ages, began practicing.
Tut untied the cumbersome, false pharaoh beard from around his head and laid it on a bedside table. Nefertiti had coached them both, in individual discussions, and Tut thought he had a good understanding of how it all worked. But he had never visited a harem, as the royal scribe Aye seemed to do each afternoon after lunch, and what was about to transpire was unnatural and awkward to him.
Ankhesenpaaten turned her back discreetly as she slipped her dress off her shoulders. Tut watched the fabric drop down past her narrow hips and land silently on the floor.
Ankhesenpaaten covered her budding breasts with one hand as she turned to pull back the bedcovers, then slid between the warm sheets. He could smell the perfumed oils she used on her body and hair.
“Now you, Pharaoh.”
Tut felt butterflies in his stomach and was unnerved at the thought of shedding his clothes right there with Ankhe in the room, especially since his own longings were on full display.
“Did you ever feast as much as today?” he asked somewhat randomly, referring to the whirlwind of revelry surrounding Nefertiti’s funeral. All the priests of Aten had feted her. Aye had been there too, and Tut had noticed that the royal vizier drank quite heavily while huddling in the corner with Tut’s generals.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much food in my life,” Ankhesenpaaten agreed.
“I wish Mother could have been there.”
“Now you can make your claim to the throne. No one can deny you.”
“Yes,” Tut said softly, feeling for the first time the crushing weight of being the pharaoh of all of Egypt. It pressed down on him like a block of limestone.
“We are alone, Tut,” Ankhesenpaaten whispered, realizing a different sort of burden. “Just the two of us in this difficult and complicated world. Not a parent to guide us. Just us.”
“It’s scary when you say it like that.”
“Yes. But Tut, let’s promise that we will always look out for each other and protect each other from those who would do us harm.”
“I promise, Ankhesenpaaten. I will never let anyone harm you.”
“I promise too.”
The bedroom was still then, uncomfortably so. The warm desert air flowed in through the open window, and Tut could smell the faint and wonderfully familiar musk of the Nile.
Ankhesenpaaten took a deep breath, and then she pulled back the sheets, unafraid to show herself to her husband.
In their many years together, Tut had never seen his half sister naked, and now he gasped at the realization that she was exceptionally shapely and beautiful.
“Take off your kilt, Tut,” she said.
The pharaoh did as he was told. And he was beautiful too.