By Jane Richards
A large group of horsemen could be seen approaching the small temple. The Prince and Princess had expected a military escort back to the camp. As they stood at the top of the temple stairs they were shocked to discover that both the King and Queen were in the lead. The priest, who had been standing with them watching, was even more surprised. Actually he was overawed at the prospect of facing the formidable royal pair.
Both the King and his wife dismounted, strode to the stairs and enveloped both Nekhi and Tepi in warm hugs of relief.
Looking at the priest the Kings' deep voice boomed a sincere, "Thank you for taking our children into your keeping. You will be honored in many ways, as will your temple."
The priest could only bow low and murmur his acceptance. His tongue just didn't seem to want to cooperate, his knees felt weak and his hands were shaking. To make his situation even worse, the High Priest had accompanied the King and Queen. This was just too much for a simple, humble priest in a small village temple!
The two prisoners, now free, were on their horses and headed to camp in less time than it took for a scarab beetle to scurry into its' hole.
Hot baths had been readied for the two when they arrived. Even in this temporary camp some conveniences were available. Tepi sank into the bath, scented with perfumed oils, and just relaxed her tired body.
"Mmmm, this feels so good! I would have given just about anything to have had something like this when I was in that tomb. It was so scary and cold," she said to who ever was near enough to hear her. Afterwards, clean and refreshed she went in search of her brother and found him at the pool in the middle of the oasis. It was surrounded with date palms trees. The cool breeze gently moved the feathery branches.
"How are your feet feeling?" Nekhi asked as Tepi sat down beside him. "I know mine still hurt a little."
"Oh, they're all right, I guess," she answered. "Have you heard anything about who was responsible for our being taken? It had to have been someone who knew everything we were doing. They even knew what tents in which we were sleeping!" Thinking for a moment she added, "It had to be a person close to the court, I just know it."
"No one's said anything to me yet," put in Nekhi, "I imagine Father has many people trying to find out who did this. Not even the servants seem to want to talk about it."
"Let's go ask someone." suggested the girl. "Since we were the ones taken, someone should be able to tell us something!"
The two arose from the pool and, hand in hand walked to a large, brightly colored tent, pennants fluttering in front of the entrance. Their fathers' Vizier/High Priest was standing in the entrance talking quietly with two men as they approached. When they neared the trio the men bowed low to the vizier and walked quickly away. He then turned to Nekhi and Tepi, a serious look on his face.
"My lord and lady, how may I help you?" he stated formally, as he bowed low.
"Sir, we only wish to inquire into the ongoing investigations surrounding our kidnapping," Nekhi stated, also formally. "My sister and I feel that since we were the victims of this crime we should also be informed of the situation surrounding it."
The dignified older man thought for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, I agree. Both of you are old enough to be allowed the information we are gathering. I will speak to your parents and suggest you two be present at our meetings when we discuss this investigation. I would like to warn you, though, that all that is said at these meetings should never be discussed outside. Of course, I know you already realize this," he added in a thoughtful tone. He bowed and turned to leave, then turned back. "The barges will be awaiting us on the river tomorrow. It is time to return to the capital before any more dangers befall us, or you two." With those last words he entered the tent and disappeared from view.
"I wonder when the meeting is supposed to take place," murmered Tepi as she turned to face Nekhi.
'I'm sure we will be told. Let's go see what the troops are doing." Nekhi proposed as he proceeded down the trail leading to the military encampment nearby. "Maybe General Amenti can give us a hint of what is happening. Keep you ears open, Tepi, you can hear all kinds of gossip in a military camp." Nekhi grinned as he continued to walk.
Nearing the large military encampment the two stood for a moment to watch all the action going on around them. Chariots were being cleaned, shined and readied to be attached to the horses, who were themselves being groomed, their coats brushed to a glossy sheen. Ostrich feathers were being attached to their tossing heads on the shiny bridles.
Tepi walked to a small cross legged chair sitting beside a tent. She let Nekhi go over to one of the soldiers. He seemed to know this man and began to talk. Their gestures became quite animated as the discussion continued. When it ended Nekhi stalked stiffly to where Tepi was sitting.
"All Ramose seems to have heard is that someone in the palace is suspected," he related to Tepi. "There is a group of people following us. Their camps have been found but nothing else at this point. The King and Vizier want to leave as soon as possible just in case an attack is being planned. They know it would be too dangerous with so many people in this group. They just couldn't protect so many if we were attacked."
Tepi nodded in silence. She knew this was true. As they walked back to the camp they could see the servants packing the tents and provisions on the camels and realized the trek to the Nile would begin soon. There, they would board the barges for the trip back up the Nile to the palace.
As everyone prepared to leave several mounted men rode into camp and approached the King and his Vizier. Listening intently the King nodded, turned to his General and seemed to be giving him instructions. He then motioned for Nekhi and Tepi to join him.
"My son, we are going north instead of south. You will be joining the general and I w,ith a large military force on the way from the capital as we speak. The Hyksos are trying to push south from Memphis. We cannot allow this. We will have to fight."
The King then turned to Tepi. "Daughter, you will go with the women and guards back to the capital aboard the barges."
Tepi ,immediatly began to protest. "Father, please allow me to go along. I'm very useful in the medical tents. You know that. I wish to accompany you. Is Mother cowering back to the palace? I think not! She wouldn't leave you, and I don't want to either!"
After a brief, thoughtful pause the King gave in. With a deep sigh he nodded his agreement, realizing that both his wife, Queen Tetisheri, and his daughter, Princess Ahhotep, possessed a unique heroic quality, not expected in all people. Her mother, the Queen, had been present at all battles which had been fought in the attempt by her father to free Egypt from the foreign Hyksos. This was quite an unusual feat for a queen in this country at this time. Queen Tetisheri was already honored because of her participation in this war for liberation. Of course, Tepi knew she didn't actually fight or carry weapons but just being in the area of the battle was unique and she was very proud of her Mother. Tepi hoped to be much like her in every way. This would be the opportunity to do so, she felt.
Proceeding to the east towards the Nile the large group of priests, noble ladies and servants with the guards rapidly moved away from the King, his family and the military group awaiting their additional troops.