By Jane Richards
The royal party had returned. Tepi was just as excited as anyone around her as she stood beside the palace steps to greet her father, mother, and brother. The priests from the great Temple of Amun were chanting their greetings to the "Great Pharaoh Sekhenere Tao" and his "Beloved Queen Tetisheri". The Crown Prince, fondly called Nekhi, but in actuality destined to be called Sekhenere Tao II, was proudly riding his big reddish-brown horse beside his parents. At 13 years, this was his first royal tour. They had journeyed south to the Sacred City of Abydos to dedicate a new temple to the beloved creator-god, Atum, and pay respects to the believed place of the burial of the King/God, Osiris. They had also stopped in their pilgrimage at another temple, built far in the past, to the goddess Hat-Hor [Hathor] to honor her on the site that was traditionally known as the place where the primordial mound appeared at the beginnings of creation.
This was a very important trip, Tepi knew, as her father would be taking the troops, who had been training so hard, to a big battle in the north.
As the horses and chariots moved through the great gates in a giant cloud of dust, Tepi heard her name called. "Tepi--Tepi, over here", called Nekhi, climbing off the prancing horse. "Come into the garden", grinned her brother,"I want to tell you all about our trip, and", he whispered, "I have a gift for you. It's very special". Tepi scrambled up the steps, into the cool dim palace and scampered along the halls out into the garden. There, by the lotus pool, Nekhi handed her a beautiful cedarwood box. It was shiny, and smelled of fragrant cedar when she opened it.
"The priest at Abydos said this came from a land far to the north where giant trees grow much taller than our palms here", explained Nekhi. "I thought you might like it to put things in. I'm going to bring you lots of presents when I start traveling with father to the north", he stated proudly.
"Nekhi, you aren't going into battle yet, are you?", Tepi asked anxiously. She had watched her brother practicing with the spears and battle axes on the military grounds, and learn how to handle his horse and chariot. The war chariot was something new to the Egyptians. They had been brought in to Egypt by the foreigners, or Hekakhasnt [Hyksos]. Now, her father and his troops were using them against the very same enemy.
"No, not yet, I guess", admitted Nekhi, sounding a bit disappointed. "Father says I'll be staying here to help protect the palace and city. But, it won't be too long until I'm old enough to lead some troops."
The large dinner gong interrupted their poolside conversations at this moment, and each hurried off to their rooms to clean up for dinner in the great palace dining hall. This was to be a very special dinner visited by all of the governors of the 22 hesep [nomes] or provinces in Upper Egypt [southern Egypt], to honor the King and Queen. They were all gathered here to plan strategies for the upcoming battle, as the governors also lead the troops from each of their provinces.
Tepi wanted to look her very best for this special occasion. She was to sit at the main table with her family, the King, Queen, and Prince.
After a bath in perfumed water, she wriggled into a pure white linen dress which came to her ankles, her maid offered her a choice of girdle-belts for her waist. She chose her favorite-made of gold and blue stones, and finally decided on a neck band showing a sacred vulture with wide spread wings, the body of the vulture depicted the sacred scarab beetle. With her ceremonial wig adjusted just so, she walked sedately through the corridors, accompanied by her ladies, into the dining area where a cool, perfumed head-piece was placed on top of her wig. As she was seated in her correct place at the table, a loud commotion began to disturb the guests already at the table. Craning her neck, Tepi saw it was the High Priest, Vizier and King, all three huddled together talking rather loudly, and gesturing wildly.
This was certainly very strange, thought Tepi, and where was her brother, Nekhi? He should have already been seated, even before she had arrived. Something had happened, but what was it ?