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- Morning Star - 10/46 -


of life and death lay open the gaze, who would dare to live and who-- oh! who could dare to die?"

"Then woes await me, O thou who wast my mother?"

"How can it be otherwise? Light and darkness make the day, joy and sorrow make the life. Thou art human, be content."

"Divine also, O Ahura, if all tales be true."

"Then pay for thy divinity in tears and be satisfied. Content is the guerdon of the beast, but gods are wafted upwards on the wings of pain. How can that gold be pure which has not known the fire?"

"Thou tellest me nothing," wailed Tua, "and it is not for myself I ask. I am fair, I am Amen's daughter, and splendid is my heritage. Yet, O Dweller in Osiris, thou who once didst fill the place I hold to-day, I tell thee that I would pay away this pomp, could I but be sure that I shall not live loveless, that I shall not be given as a chattel to one whom I hate, that one--whom I do not hate--will live to call me--wife. Great dangers threaten him--and me, Amen is mighty; he is the potter that moulds the clay of men; if I be his child, if his spirit is breathed into me, oh! let him help me now."

"Let thine own faith help thee. Are not the words of Amen, which he spake concerning thee, written down? Study them and ask no more. Love is an arrow that does not miss its mark; it is the immortal fire from on high which winds and waters cannot quench. Therefore love on. Thou shalt not love in vain. Queen and Daughter, fare thee well awhile."

"Nay, nay, one word, Immortal. I thank thee, thou Messenger of the gods, but when these troubles come upon me--and another, when the sea of dangers closes o'er our heads, when shame is near and I am lonely, as well may chance, then to whom shall I turn for succour?"

"Then thou hast one within thee who is strong to aid. It was given to thee at thy birth, O Star of Amen, and Asti can call it forth. Come hither, thou Asti, and swiftly, for I must be gone, and first I would speak with thee."

Asti crept forward, and the glowing shape in the royal robe bent over her so that the light of it shone upon her face. It bent over her and seemed to whisper in her ear. Then it held out its hands towards Tua as though in blessing, and instantly was not.

Once more the two women stood in Tua's chamber. Pale and shaken they looked into each other's eyes.

"You have had your will, Queen," said Asti; "for if Amen did not come, he sent a messenger, and a royal one."

"Interpret me this vision," answered Tua, "for to me, at any rate, that Spirit said little."

"Nay, it said much. It said that love fails not of its reward, and what more went you out to seek?"

"Then I am glad," exclaimed Tua joyfully.

"Be not too glad, Queen, for to-night we have sinned, both of us, who dared to summon Amen from his throne, and sin also fails not of its reward. Blood is the price of that oracle."

"Whose blood, Asti? Ours?"

"Nay, worse, that of those who are dear to us. Troubles arise in Egypt, Queen."

"You will not leave me when they break, Asti?"

"I may not if I would. The Fates have bound us together till the end, and that I think is far away. I am yours as once you were mine when you lay upon my breast, but bid me no more to summon Amen from his throne."

CHAPTER V

HOW RAMES FOUGHT THE PRINCE OF KESH

Now for a whole moon there were great festivals in Thebes, and in all of these Neter-Tua, "Glorious in Ra, Hathor Strong in Beauty, Morning Star of Amen," must take her part as new-crowned Queen of Egypt. Feast followed feast, and at each of them one of the suitors of her hand was the guest of honour.

Then after it was done, Pharaoh her father and his councillors would wait upon her and ask if this man was pleasing to her. Being wise, Tua would give no direct answer, only of most of them she was rid in this way.

She demanded that the writing of the dream of her mother, Ahura, should be brought and read before her, and when it had been read she pointed out that Amen promised to her a royal lover, and that these chiefs and generals were not royal, therefore it was not of them that Amen spoke, nor did she dare to turn her eyes on one whom the god had forbidden to her.

Of others who declared that they were kings, but who, being unable to leave their countries, were represented by ambassadors, she said that not having seen them she could say nothing. When they appeared at the Court of Egypt, she would consider them.

So at length only one suitor was left, the man whom she knew well Pharaoh and his councillors desired that she should take as husband. This was Amathel, the Prince of Kesh, whose father, an aged king, ruled at Napata, a great city far to the south, situated in a land that was called an island because the river Nile embraced it in its two arms. It was said that after Egypt this country was the richest in the whole world, for there gold was so plentiful that men thought it of less value than copper and iron; also there were mines in which beautiful stones were found, and the soil grew corn in abundance.

Moreover, once in the far past, a race of Pharaohs sprung from this city of Napata, had sat on the throne of Egypt, until at length the people of Egypt, headed by the priests, had risen and overthrown them because they were foreigners and had introduced Nubian customs into the land. Therefore it was decreed by an unalterable law that none of their race should ever again wear the Double Crown. Of the descendants of these Pharaohs, Rames, Tua's playmate, was the last lawful child.

But although the Egyptians had cast them down, at heart they always grieved over the rich territory of Napata, which was lost to them, for when those Pharaohs fell Kesh declared itself independent and set up another dynasty to rule over it, of which dynasty Amathel Prince of Kesh was the heir.

Therefore they hoped that it might come back to them by marriage between Amathel and the young Queen Neter-Tua. Ever since she was born the great lords and councillors of Egypt, yes, and Pharaoh himself, seeing that he had no son to whom he might marry her after the fashion of the country, had been working to this end. It was by secret treaty that the Prince Amathel was present at the crowning of the Queen, of whose hand he had been assured on the sole condition that he came to dwell with her at Thebes. It is true that there were other suitors, but these, as all of them knew well, were but pawns in a game played to amuse the people.

The king destined to take the great queen captive was Amathel and no other. Tua knew it, for had not Asti told her, and was it not because of her fear of this man and her love for Rames that she had dared to commit the sacrilege of attempting to summon Amen from the skies? Still, as yet, the Pharaoh had not spoken to her of Amathel, nor had she met him. It was said that he had been present at her crowning in disguise, for this proud prince gave out that were she ten times Queen of Egypt, he would not pledge himself to wed as his royal wife, one who was displeasing to him, and that therefore he must see her before he pressed his suit.

Now that he had seen her in her loveliness and glory, he announced that he was well satisfied, which was but half the truth, for, in fact, she had set all his southern blood on fire, and there was nothing that he desired more than to call her wife.

On the night which had been appointed for Amathel to meet his destined bride, a feast had been prepared richer by far than any that went before. Tua, feigning ignorance, on entering the great unroofed hall lit with hundreds of torches down all its length, and seeing the multitudes at the tables, asked of the Pharaoh, her father, who was the guest that he would welcome with such magnificence which seemed worthy of a god rather than of a man.

"My daughter," answered the old monarch nervously, "it is none other than the Prince of Kesh, who in his own country they worship as divine, as we are worshipped here in Egypt, and who, in truth, is, or will be, one of the greatest of kings."

"Kesh!" she answered, "I thought that we claimed sovereignty over that land."

"Once it was ours, Daughter," said her father with a sigh, "or rather the kings of Kesh were also kings of Egypt, but their dynasty fell before my great-great-grandfather was called to the throne, and now but three of their blood are left, Mermes, Captain of the Guard of Amen; Asti, the Seer and Priestess, his wife, your foster-mother and waiting lady, and the young Count Rames, a soldier in our army, who was your playmate, and as you may remember saved you from the sacred crocodile."

"Yes, I remember," said Tua. "But then why is not Mermes King of Kesh?"

"Because the people of the city of Napata raised up another house to rule over them, of whom Amathel is the heir."

"A usurping heir, surely, my father, if there be anything in blood."

"Say not that, Tua," replied Pharaoh sharply, "for then Mermes should be Pharaoh in our place also."

Tua made no reply, only as they took their seats in the golden chairs at the head of the hall, she asked carelessly:

"Is this Prince of Kesh also a suitor for my hand, O Pharaoh?"

"What else should he be, my daughter? Did you not know it? Be gracious to him now, since it is decreed that you shall take him as a husband.


Morning Star - 10/46

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