Excerpt of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
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Its fine, Tuthmosis promised.
The two princes of Egypt watched
their mother go, and only Anubis,
who weighs the heart of the dead against the feather of truth, knows
for certain what happened after the queen left that chamber. But there are many viziers who believe that when judgment comes, Amunhoteps
heart will outweigh the feather. They think it has been made heavy with
evil deeds, and that Ammit, the crocodile god, will devour it, condemning
him to oblivion for eternity. Whatever the truth, that night the
crown prince, Tuthmosis, died, and a new crown
prince rose to take his place.
Peret, the Season of Growing
When the sun set over Thebes, splaying its last rays over
the limestone cliffs, we walked in a long procession across the sand.
In the twisting line that threaded between the hills, the viziers of Upper
and Lower Egypt came first, then the priests of Amun, followed by hundreds
of mourners. The sand cooled rapidly in the shadows. I could feel the
grains between the toes of my sandals and when the wind blew under my
thin linen robe I shivered. I stepped out of line so I could see the sarcophagus,
carried on a sledge by a team of oxen so the people of Egypt would know
how wealthy and great our crown prince had been.
Nefertiti would be jealous shed had to miss this.
will tell her all about it when I get home, I thought. If she is being nice to me.
bald-headed priests walked behind our family, for we were even more important
than the representatives of the gods. The incense they swung from golden
balls made me think of giant beetles, stinking up the air whichever way
they went. When the funeral procession reached the mouth of the valley,
the rattling of the sistrums stopped and the mourners went silent. On
every cliff families had gathered to see the prince, and now they looked
down as the High Priest of Amun performed the Opening of the Mouth, to
give Tuthmosis back his senses in the Afterlife. The priest was younger
than the viziers of Egypt, but even so men like my father stood back,
deferring to his power when he touched a golden ankh to the mouth of the
figure on the sarcophagus and announced, The royal falcon has flown to
heaven. Amunhotep the Younger is arisen in his place.
A wind echoed between the cliffs and I thought I could hear the rush of
the falcons wings as the crown prince was freed from his body and ascended
to the sky. There was a great amount of shuffling, children looking around
the legs of their parents to see the new prince. I too craned my neck.
Where is he? I whispered. Where
is Amunhotep the Younger?
In the tomb, my father replied.
His bald head shone dully in the setting sun, and in the deepening of
the shadows his face appeared hawkish.
But doesnt he want the people to
see him? I asked.
No, senit. His word for little girl.
Not until hes been given what his brother was promised.
I frowned. And what is that?
He clenched his jaw. The co-regency,
When the ceremony was finished soldiers
spread out to stop commoners from following us into the valley, and our
small party was expected to walk on alone. Behind us, the team of oxen
heaved, pulling their cargo across the sand. All around
us cliffs rose against the darkening sky. We will be climbing,
my father warned, and my mother paled. We were cats, she and I, frightened
of places we couldnt understand, valleys whose sleeping Pharaohs watched
from secret chambers. Nefertiti would have crossed this valley without
pause, a falcon in her fearlessness, just like our father.
Excerpted from Nefertiti
by Michelle Moran Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Moran. Excerpted by
permission of Crown Books. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.