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As a princess and daughter of the great Pharaoh Akhenaten, Ankhesenpaaten knows she is intended for an important marriage. But when the Asiatic Plague takes her mother and one of her sisters, and childbirth steals two other sisters, she finds herself in a position she never expected: Queen of Egypt.
The new pharaoh’s advisors fear Ankhesenpaaten’s remaining sisters might be used by a competing political faction wanting to steal the throne. With Intef, her new captain, at her side, Ankhesenpaaten is advised to deal with the “problem” of her younger sisters.
As long as more than one daughter of Akhenaten is alive, Ankhesenpaaten is disposable.
Daughter of the Sun is a prequel novella to both The Amarna Age and The Amarna Princesses series.
For readers of dark fantasy.
Also in this series:
Even as a small girl, I knew my dreams were not ordinary. I thought maybe that meant they were important.
I used to tell my older sisters about my dreams. Sometimes they would laugh at me and sometimes they would frown. It was presumptuous for me to imagine that my dreams might be important. After all, I was only a child, and a girl child at that, even if I was a princess and daughter of Pharaoh himself.
It was a long time before I understood that sometimes my dreams told of possible futures, and even longer before I learned how to tell the difference between an ordinary dream and a true one. One dream, two outcomes. Two futures. Eventually I realised the dreams always revealed a future that was a result of a decision I myself made, although exactly what that decision would be was never clear to me.
As a child, my dreams mostly warned of small things. One decision would mean a secret kept hidden between sisters; another meant the sister responsible punished. Like the day my oldest sister, Merytaten, used a stick of charcoal to draw a face on Aten.
It was a nice face, I thought, with a cheerful smile and eyes that seemed to twinkle. But our father was Not Impressed and we three oldest sisters were brought to stand in a row in front of his throne, shame faced and heads hanging. He spoke not a word, merely sat back and waited for one of us to confess.
We were all silent even as we darted glances between ourselves, as if each sister sought to assure herself of the others’ loyalty. I kept my lips tightly fastened, determined that if anyone were to tell on our sister, it would not be me. But as the hour dragged on, and still we stood in front of Father, and still he waited, my feet began to itch. My palms tingled and my lips desperately wanted to open. I closed my mouth even tighter. I would not betray my sister.
I had seen the possible futures more than a week ago. In one, we three maintained our silence and eventually one of the administrators came to discuss some important thing or other with our father, and we were dismissed, free to run back out to our mother’s pleasure garden, where we hid in our secret place in the shrubbery and giggled about our escape. In the other future, it was me who weakened and eventually I blurted out my sister’s name. Our father said not a word but merely gestured for her to approach him. Sniffling, she did so and he turned her over his knee and soundly smacked her behind.
So I tightened my lips and waited. But inside my head, I screamed her name and I didn’t know how much longer I could keep my silence. I looked up at our father, just the quickest of glances, and found him looking straight at me. As soon as I met his eyes, my resolve crumbled.
“It was Merytaten,” I said, then cried as I watched my sister punished.
She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day, but by morning her behind no longer hurt quite so much and she graciously agreed to forgive me, if I promised never to tell on her again. I swore, faithfully, that it would be the first and only time I betrayed her.
Under other circumstances, my gift of premonition might have meant I would be a priestess. If we were still permitted to worship the old gods, I might have served Isis or Hathor or even Sekhmet. But because my father was Pharaoh, and I was a princess, that life was not intended for me.
I would have been quite satisfied with being a priestess. Had I been free to choose, I would have devoted myself to Sekhmet, the lion-headed goddess of chaos. One of the servants had been a priestess of Sekhmet, many years ago before my father had banned the old gods. If I begged her, and if there was nobody around to overhear, she would tell me about Sekhmet. Lady of Life. Lady of Terror. The goddess in her dual aspects of life and death, healing and plague. There was much I didn’t understand about the gods but Sekhmet seemed the most interesting of them all.
But because I was a princess, it was intended that I would become the bride of a man who would be useful to my father. A Strategic Alliance. I could say the words long before I ever understood what they meant. An Important Marriage. I would be Useful To My Pharaoh. I didn’t want an Important Marriage. But the old gods were outlawed and Aten didn’t need priestesses, not when he had my father to intercede directly with him.
“Who will be your heir?” I asked Father one day.
We three oldest sisters had stood solemnly beside the dais as he sat on his throne and listened as the viziers reported on the state of the country. He had heard grievances and arguments, and made his decisions on each. I always thought his decision was the right one. My father was Pharaoh and he was infallible. He was blessed by Aten. Of course his decisions were best and right. There was no other way the world could be.
But now the audience hall was empty and we girls were permitted to play. We chased each other around the dais while our father sat on his throne, watching us with an indulgent smile. My mother had sat beside him during the audience, but she made her excuses as soon as it was finished and had already left, gone to do something far more important than watch her daughters run amok.
Father gave me a long look as if assessing whether my question about heirs was frivolous or serious. At length, having decided that I was indeed serious, he gestured me to come closer. I climbed up onto the dais and he pulled me onto his lap.
“I don’t know yet, little cat,” he said. “If I had a son, he would be my heir, but although Aten has blessed me with many daughters, he has not yet seen fit to grant me a son. Without that, I do not know how I would decide such a thing. How does one choose a man worthy to be Pharaoh? Surely the gods should decide such a thing, not I.”
“I will be your heir,” I said, decidedly.
He tipped his head to the side as he studied my face.
“You, my dear daughter, will have a Very Important Marriage. You will marry a man who will help the throne.”
“I will never marry,” I said. “I want to be pharaoh.”
“Women cannot be pharaoh,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that you cannot be useful.”
“Hatshepsut was pharaoh.”
“Where did you hear such a thing?” A flash of anger, his voice brittle.
I was startled. My father had rarely ever said a cross word to me.
“I don’t remember,” I stammered.
I couldn’t tell him that the servant — the one who had been a priestess of Sekhmet — had told me of the woman pharaoh who had ruled the Two Lands. Hatshepsut’s husband had been pharaoh but when he died, her son was too young and weak to rule, so she had done it for him.
"Women cannot rule," Father said. “They do not have the temperament."
"What about Mother?" I asked.
His face softened.
"Your mother is different. Special. But even she could not be pharaoh."
"I think she could." My voice was tentative now, uncertain. "I think mother would be a good pharaoh. If I cannot be your heir, maybe she can."
He considered me, a strange look on his face.
"You say the oddest things sometimes, little cat. I do not
know where you get such ideas from.”
I shrugged and looked away, lest my guilt show on my face. The servant would undoubtedly lose her job if I were to tell him. He laughed and pulled me closer for a hug.
“Your mother would be a terrible pharaoh. Women are not meant to rule.”
Maybe some women are, I thought, but I didn’t say it aloud. That was the first time I realised that sometimes a girl has thoughts she should not speak.