By Jane Richards
Nekhi was gone, stolen away right under the noses of the palace guard, his own men, and even his personal servants.
The King was furious, shouting orders and gathering troops to search for the prince. Priests were lamenting, with shaved heads bowed, and the whole night was one of nightmarish proportions.
Tepi had crept out of the dining hall and returned to her rooms. The dinner had been over before it started, of course.
"Nekhi is gone", she kept thinking over and over, "What can I do to help?, Oh, what can I do?"
She had to think of something--she just HAD to!
Early the next morning, before the great sun gods Atet Boat had yet risen, Tepi stole out of the palace. Her servants were still asleep, and the palace was quiet as most were out searching for Prince Nekhi. Tepi went to her favorite spot in the corner of a secluded garden behind the lotus pool and sat on the steps with the great Nile River lapping at her feet.
There was a small door next to her, leading out into the countryside. Tepi had never ventured out of this door. It was actually forbidden. The royal children were closely watched, and rarely went out of the palace, other than to the temples on festival days. They never went alone, but the door beckoned Tepi with some strange power. As if, she thought, someone was leading her, telling her, whispering to her inside her head- that this was something she had to do.
Squeaking slightly as it was slowly opened, Tepi peered into the outside world. It was a world of undulating hills with brown, cracked mud--not the same as the inside of the palace which had many trees of acacia and palms intermingled with cool lotus pools and green resting places. The Nile was near, with it's green ribbon of life along it's bank, but here it was dry and scary.
Tepi hesitated for a few minutes, gathering her thoughts, trying to decide just what to do first. Off in the distance she saw a small mud-brick house surrounded by several much smaller sheds. In the opening around the house she could see some camels being tended by a young boy.
Tepi made a fast decision, and trotted toward the boy with the camels. "Maybe this is why I was directed towards the door", she thought to herself.
As she shyly approached the camel boy, she began to think about what she would say. What DO you say to the ordinary people out here, anyway? How could she get the help she needed to find Nekhi? These thoughts flooded through her mind as she neared her destination. One thing she was very sure of, that she was going to find Nekhi and with this final thought she set her jaw, put her head up and tried to feel as determined as she attempted to look.
"Ho, boy", she hailed, "Do you know how I can get out of the city?"
"Why would you wish to?" was the noncomittal reply.
"I have business elsewhere, and I need a ride", answered Tepi, feeling very uncomfortable by this exchange.
"Well", said the boy thoughtfully, "I do have to take some vegetables to market for my uncle. I'll be using the camels, and my uncle's donkeys to travel north. You can go along if you want", he hesitated for a moment, "I could use the help, too."
Another decision was made in those few seconds, and Tepi answered " Oh, I'd be happy to help," while in her mind she was thinking frantically, "what do I know about camels and donkeys?" This was certainly the nearest solution to her problem of getting north, for this strange power that she felt, made her feel sure that Prince Nekhi was north, taken by the enemy she had been taught about all her childhood. The dreaded Hyksos had taken Nehki, and she was going to get him back!
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