AYE BURST OUT LAUGHING. “Yes, she has news. Tell her the news. Tell her the fantastic news about her Hittite prince—who is riding here to save the queen and become pharaoh.”
Ankhesenpaaten glared at him. “You knew?”
“Of course I knew.” He laughed some more before turning his attention back to Yuye. “Your lady-in-waiting has been a useful spy. Please, Yuye. Tell the queen the news she has so longed to hear.”
Shame coursed through Yuye’s body, and she couldn’t meet the queen’s gaze. When she spoke, it was in a low monotone. “The Hittites received your missive, Majesty. Their king sent a son to Egypt to marry you and serve at your side as king.”
“And?” asked Ankhesenpaaten.
“And this prince, whose name was Zannanza, was met at the border by General Horemheb. They had a discussion. Then the prince and his men were slaughtered. A courier galloped here this day with the news—and this.”
Yuye placed a leather bag on a table. Aye stepped forward and emptied the contents onto the floor. The prince’s severed head hit the tile with a loud thud.
Ankhesenpaaten staggered backward. She could barely breathe as she looked at the head, then faced the vizier.
Aye showed no deference to her now. He mocked her openly. “You are a traitor. I control the priests, I control the money, and I control Horemheb,” he declared. “Choose wisely, Majesty. You can either marry me and keep your life, or you can choose to die, just like your husband.”
Aye turned and paraded from the room, sandals slapping softly. He took the girl Yuye with him, and that night, to be safe, he made certain she would keep quiet—by slitting her throat. If the lady-in-waiting could betray the queen, she could betray him as well. And the stakes were too high for that.