The High Priestess lit the incense and inhaled its deep, pungent smell. She was at the temple of Amun’Ra, King of Egyptian Gods. She washed and cleaned the idol with the sacred water from the Nile. As the air turned fragrant, she dressed the idol in fine linen robes and gold and jewels. It ensured his blessings over Egypt

This was her sacred duty. She cleaned and sharpen Amun’Ra’s sacred Dagger every day. It ensured the dead stayed in the afterlife and did not bother the living.

The last descendant of a powerful line of Oracles of Egypt, She was blessed with the power of divination. She was raised to be benefactor and protector. At thirteen, she married the Pharaoh Ah’ sor. She was Urfaat, named after the first guardian of the ancient dagger of Amun’Ra. The dagger held power over Anubis – the jackal-headed protector of the underworld.

As she touched the dagger, she had a vision. “A Sphinx, a rose budding over a dead shrub and Bastet, the cat goddess staring at her unblinkingly.”

Her heart skipped a beat. Bastet meant only one thing. The cat faced goddess was a symbol of fertility and motherhood. The Pharaoh was begetting an heir.

Urfaat was pleased. She bathed four times a day as rituals demanded. Her body and head were shaved clean as a sign of ritual purification. White linen robes with covered one shoulder. A wig of her own hair covered her head. Her arms had amulets for power and luck. Her torso was covered in holy tattoos; as taught by Oracles. She lovingly stroked her belly. Not too long.. .Bastet, goddess of fertility had finally blessed her, the vision had predicted it.

She dozed off in the bath. The sphinx was staring shrewdly at her in her dreams.

The Pharaoh sat reading the hieroglyphics on papyrus. Golden chamber shone as bright as the Sun. His throne was set in ancient rubies and amethyst. The gold headrest covered his head. His hair was not to be displayed to his subjects. The Pharaoh ruled Egypt with a just and stern hand. His name and fame had earned him a loyal army, a treasury full of gold. His lands were blessed by the Nile. The black deltas yielded crops and fish. The granaries overflowed with wheat and flax. Egypt prospered.

He was desperate for an heir to secure his holdings. He had met Jah’ shida 3 months back. Exotic. Dusky. Her golden skin reminiscent of deserts at sunset. Kohl lined eyes as deep as the Nile .Tresses as black as Djins magic. What began as a chance meeting mounted to a passionate affair. Pharaoh could not refuse her demand, given her condition. The convincing of the royal kin, however, was another matter. His first wife was a powerful woman. He should not risk upsetting Urfaat. Jah’ shida was not of a royal lineage, but then, the end justifies the means, thought the Pharaoh. After all, Urfaat failed to give him an heir.

Urfaat waited. He did not visit often. Her previous three birthings had yielded stillborns, which disappointed The Pharaoh. She had heard rumours of a commoner from across the Nile visiting the Pharaoh. She was going to be especially careful this time. She had already started applying musk and medicinal paste on her pale belly for protection. She prayed to Bastet daily. The heir was important for her to secure power and continue the line. After all, she held numerous secrets to the temple and the dagger. The Priestess had duties to perform and pass over. She wished the Pharaoh would hurry up.

“The Pharaoh has summoned your highness”.

Frowning over the formal summons, Urfaat started towards the Royal Chamber. She stared. A woman stood beside him, radiant as Goddess Hathor. Dusky as the sunset, she had dark eyes…shrewd and calculating eyes…..’The sphinx”, ……

She was full with a child and stood resplendent along the Pharaoh. The Priestess was called to bless the new couple. The Pharaoh was having an heir all right, but not from Urfaat.

Jah’Shida woke up. Her dream had materialised. She gazed through the window of her chamber. Egypt stared back at her in its full glory. The organised baths, the elaborate dam systems, the green fields. The Obelisk at the far end of east stood in its grandeur. Plump with Pharaoh’s child, she was secure in her Power. Pharaoh’s first wife, the High Priestess, however, was a thorn by her side. Jah’shida had planned to usurp her power. It was more difficult than she anticipated. Urfaat was well respected by the Royals and loved by the commoners as she supported Pharaoh though he remarried against the royal protocol.

As long as Urfaat lived, Jah’shida be would an outsider. She smiled. Her grandmother spoke of a curse to invoke Anubis and trap people in the underworld. Yesterday, as she toured the Tutankhamun’s Pyramid, she had obtained a set of rituals, buried in the vault. Her grandmother knew the location. She studied the hieroglyphs. The ritual was to be carried at the darkest hour, just before the dawn.

Pharaoh was pensive. His pregnant young wife was vain and haughty. She wanted Urfaat’s place at royal clan. Respect, he knew had to be earned. He had married Urfaat for her lineage and power it bestowed. But in time, he had come to trust her decisions and visions. She was always warm towards Jah’shida and blessed her unborn daily. However, her constant visions of a sphinx and the rosebud on dead shrub worried him. Often he wondered if taking Jah’shida as his Queen was a right decision. He hoped he had not displeased his Gods.

Jah’shida was due. The Pharaoh kept her close. She sat beside him for every ritual, every ruling. The High Priestess always accompanied them. This did not go well with Jah’shida .

It was dark before dawn. The Priestess was summoned from the temple whilst praying. Queen Jah’shida is birthing, said the messenger. The Priestess was surprised. The Pharaoh generally sent his personal guard to her. Her visions returned.

“Oh this does not harbour good,” Instinct made her collect the sacred dagger from its place and she placed in the folds of her robe.

The Queen’s chamber was open. She approached and called out. The doors closed.

She grew giddy with the acrid smoke in the chambers…..

The haze cleared. Jah’shida was performing a ritual. An assortment of flowers and dead animals lay on the floor and Scarabs, the parasites of the underworld…

Priestess Urfaat closed her eyes as she swayed. She knew the ritual…Summon of Anubis. Old Words rung in her ears…

“Anubis, the guardian of the underworld

Claims all souls at his word

Evoke his name ever not

For who calls he is cursed to rot.”

She prayed to Amun’Ra and Bastet. She held her Amulets close and prayed for strength for herself and the unborn heir, whom she knew Anubis would not spare.

“Jah’shida, This ritual is cursed…You have endangered your life and the heir’s…please leave from here….I will see to Anubis.”

Jah’shida smirked.

“I have summoned Anubis for you. You are too powerful for me to destroy. Until you exist, The Pharaoh would never completely be under my will.”

Suddenly, she shrieked and clutched her middle in pain. Her labour started.

Dark clouds filled the room. The scarabs skittered all over the floor… Anubis was approaching. Urfaat suddenly realised what was to be done. She unsheathed the dagger she carried…

Chanting her hymns, beckoning her ancestors…She called out to Bastet

“Take my life, but spare the child, he is in your care,

Egypt’s only heir”

I seek pardon for Jah’shida’s deed

Take me, spare the innocent…come to my aid, I have serviced you since I was sixteen.”

Jah’shida, was scared. The black clouds took shape of head of a jackal. Anubis had arrived. Her body was bathed in her blood and her hands were turning black and numb. She heard lusty cry of an infant. Oh, what had she done….

Anubis took the child. Urfaat kneeled before him and threw the dagger at Anubis. It embedded deep in his torso

For a moment, everything halted. The sands swirled to sand storms…. The air froze. Bent before him, Urfaat Chanted,

“Spare the child, she is under my care

I sacrifice my life, for Egypt’s Heir”

The dagger did its job. Anubis disappeared. It seemed her prayers to Amun’Ra were answered. She ran towards Jah’shida and the infant. Sighed. Jah’shida lay wasted and rotten. Anubis, it seemed had spared both Urfaat and Child and taken Jah’shida instead.

It was a girl with black hair and pink lips like a rosebud. The Vision had come true.

A rose bloomed on a dead shrub. Urfaat smiled, She had a child to tend at last.

The child slept peacefully in Urfaat’s arms. Sun’s first golden rays bathed the deserts.

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