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       Nefertiti, p.43

           Michelle Moran
 

  “Nefertiti! No one can find her. Thutmose says he saw her talking with two Aten priests.” He saw the fear in my eyes, and at once he was moving down the hall and commanding his men to lock every door in the palace. “Let no one out!” he shouted.

  Ankhesenamun came with Tutankhamun by her side. “What’s happening? Who’s missing?”

  “Nefertiti and Meritaten. Go into the Audience Chamber and don’t come out.” I thought of the Window of Appearances, where Nefertiti sometimes took messengers to show them the city. The children hesitated. “Go!” I demanded.

  I ran through the palace, sweat from beneath my wig trickling into my eyes. I threw off the hairpiece, not caring where it landed or who picked it up. “Nefertiti!” I shouted. “Meritaten!” How could they both be gone? Where could they be? I rounded the corner to the Window of Appearances, then opened the door.

  The blood had already spread across the tiles.

  “Nefertiti!” I screamed, and my voice echoed through the palace. “NEFERTITI! This can’t be happening!” I rocked her against me. “It can’t be happening!” I held my sister’s body against my chest, but she was already cold. Then my father and Nakhtmin were standing beside me.

  “Search the palace!” Nakhtmin shouted. “I want every chamber searched! Every cabinet, every chest, every door into the cellars!” He could see the knife on the floor, he could see how deep the cut to Meritaten’s side was.

  I collapsed in a heap over my niece. “Akhenaten!” I screamed so that Anubis could hear me. They had been his priests, his religion. My father tried to part me from Nefertiti, but I wouldn’t be parted. He bent down next to me and we both held our queen, my sister, his daughter, the woman who had ruled our lives for thirty-one years.

  My mother came running with Ankhesenamun and Tutankhamun behind her, despite my orders.

  “In the name of Amun…,” my mother whispered. It was too late to tell the children to leave. They had seen what the Aten priests had done.

  “Be careful!” I cried. But what was there to be careful of?

  Ankhesenamun bent down and touched her sister. Fifteen years old and her life cut short. She looked over at me, and Tutankhamun closed Meritaten’s eyes.

  I held Nefertiti’s body closer to mine, trying to press her spirit into me, to bring it back.

  But the reign of Nefertiti was finished. She was gone from Egypt.

  “Shh,” I heard Nakhtmin whisper to my son. “Your mother’s not well.”

  “Should I bring her chamomile?” Baraka asked.

  “Yes.” Nakhtmin nodded. My husband moved to my bedside, looking down at me, then he unstrapped his sword and sat by my side. “Mutnodjmet,” he said gently. “Miw-sher.” He caressed my cheek. “I’m sorry, but I have come with bad news. I wanted to give it to you before you heard it from someone else.”

  I swallowed my fear. Gods, don’t let it be my mother or father.

  “Your sister’s body has been desecrated. Aten priests stormed the mortuary and tried to destroy her.”

  I threw off my linen covers. “I must see her!” I cried.

  “Don’t.” He held my arm. “The damage is…” He hesitated. “Extensive.”

  I covered my mouth. “To her face?” I whispered.

  He lowered his gaze. “And chest.”

  The places where the ka resided. They had tried to obliterate her soul. They had tried to kill her in death as well as life! “But why?” I screamed, stumbling from my bed. “Why?”

  “The embalmers will fix her,” he swore.

  But I was wild with rage. “How can they fix her? She was beautiful!” I crumpled in his arms. “So beautiful.”

  “The embalmers know how, and then they will entomb her secretly tonight. Already a new sarcophagus has been made. Tut can use hers someday. He will be Pharaoh next.”

  Our Tut? Only nine years old? “But how will Osiris know her face?” I sobbed.

  “They have her statues from Amarna. They’ll carve her name on every wall of the new tomb. Osiris will find her.”

  But my tears came harder. I couldn’t stop them. I looked up at Nakhtmin through my pain, realizing for the first time what he had said. “And the funeral?”

  “Tonight. No one will go but your father and the High Priest of Amun. It’s too dangerous. They could find her and destroy her a second time.” He gathered me in his arms. “I’m so sorry, Mutnodjmet.”

  They wept for her in the streets. She was their queen, their Pharaoh of Egypt. She had restored Thebes to them and had rebuilt the shining temples of Amun. I stood at the window of the Audience Chamber, watching the masses that crushed against the gates, covering them with amulets and flowers. Some were hysterical, others came silently, and I felt as if my heart had turned to stone, it was so heavy inside of me.

  Nefertiti was gone.

  She had sent our army to victories in Rhodes and Lakisa, but never again would she wear the headdress of Nekhbet and raise her arms to greet the people. I would never hear her laughter or see her sharp eyes narrow with displeasure. I heard my father’s footsteps in the hall. He’s come to look for me. The door to the empty Audience Chamber creaked open and the sharp slap of his sandals disturbed the silence.

  “Mutnodjmet.”

  I didn’t turn.

  “Mutnodjmet, we are meeting in the Per Medjat. You should come now. It is about Tutankhamun.”

  I didn’t reply, and he came to stand at my shoulder.

  “She was buried with care,” he informed me. “With all the statues of Amarna and the riches of Thebes.” His voice gave away his deep sadness and I turned. The love he’d had for her was wrought in the lines on his face. He looked so much older, but there was still Egypt to rule. There would always be Egypt, with or without Nefertiti.

  “It’s not fair.” I choked back a sob. “Why would the Aten priests kill her? Why?”

  “Because she created passionate believers,” he said. “Believers willing to do anything to silence someone who was attacking them.”

  “But she was Pharaoh!” I cried. “What does killing her achieve? What does it get them?”

  “Fear. They are hoping the next Pharaoh will fear them so much that he will let their temples stand. They don’t see that unless the next Pharaoh returns Aten’s temples to Amun, he is dead anyway.”

  “Because the people will rise,” I realized.

  My father nodded.

  “So it’s either the people or Aten’s priests as enemies.”

  “And no Pharaoh would stand against his own people.”

  I blinked away my tears. “Time should stand still,” I whispered. “It shouldn’t go on.”

  My father watched me silently.

  “All of Egypt should have crumbled before she died! And Meritaten…only fifteen years old.” The terror and loneliness of living in a world without Nefertiti overwhelmed me. “What will we all do?” I panicked. “What will our family do?”

  “We will prepare for a new reign in Egypt,” my father said. “And we will meet in the Per Medjat when you are ready.”

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Peret, Season of Growing

  KING TUTANKHAMUN ASCENDED the dais to the Horus thrones with the Princess Ankhesenamun by his side, and I watched my father whisper into his ear the way he had done with Nefertiti.

  “Your father is the power behind the throne once more,” Nakhtmin observed.

  “Only this time it is for our son.” A faint breeze stirred the summer heat, laden with the scents of lotus blossom and myrrh. I grasped my husband’s hand. “I will never escape it, will I?”

  “The Horus thrones?” Nakhtmin shook his head. “No, it doesn’t seem that you will. But this time will be different,” he promised. “This time Egypt will prosper, and there will be no rebellion under Pharaoh Tutankhamun.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Because I am here, and because Horemheb will destroy the Hittites and return victorious for the glory of Amun. In fifteen years, Aten will be forgotte
n.”

  A shiver passed through me as I thought of Nefertiti’s city lying in the sand, swept away by the winds of time. Everything she had worked so hard for had failed. But there was Ankhesenamun. I looked up at the dais and the little girl who looked so much like my sister, and I found it strange that I should be sitting in the same chair I had occupied when Nefertiti had ruled. How much would this child remember of her mother? She turned her gaze in my direction, the same dark eyes and willowy neck, and I wondered what she and my son would write together on the pillars of eternity.

  Afterword

  NEFERTITI’S STORY IS one that can be pieced together from the hundreds of images excavated at Amarna. Devoted to art, she and Akhenaten covered the city with carvings of themselves and Aten, a minor deity that Akhenaten elevated to supreme status. And so that no one could confuse him with any other Pharaoh, the portraits of Akhenaten and his royal family were created to be distinct. Their long necks, elongated heads, and feminine hips are unique to the Amarna period. In many ways, Nefertiti and Akhenaten revolutionized Egyptian art. But it was their heretical abandonment of Amun for which they were remembered, and for which Horemheb would destroy Amarna block by block upon becoming Pharaoh, with Mutnodjmet as his queen, as is recorded in history.

  In the novel, a few names have been changed for the convenience of the reader. For example, the city of Akhet-aten is called by its present name of Amarna, while Waset has been changed to its modern-day equivalent of Thebes. Much of this novel is faithful to history: from such household details as the interest the ancient Egyptians had in aging their wine to the paintings on the dais in Malkata. However, some liberties have been taken with personalities, names, and minor events. For instance, no one can be certain how Mutnodjmet felt about her sister’s vision of an Egypt without the Amun priests. But in an image of her found in Amarna, she is seen standing alone, her arms at her sides, while everyone else enthusiastically embraces Aten. In a period where art attempted to portray reality for the first time, I found this significant. And while Nefertiti did have six daughters with Akhenaten, so far as we know she never produced twins.

  Other historical uncertainties also remain: Did Amunhotep the Younger ever have a coregency with his father? Did Nefertiti ever rule on her own? How old was Nefertiti when she died? What killed Tiye? These are mysteries that thus far can only be answered by conjecture, and in the end I chose the interpretations that seemed most probable.

  In the years to come, some of these questions might be answered by the discovery of the Amarna mummies. Although much of Kiya’s funerary equipment was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, little to nothing remains of what belonged to Akhenaten or Nefertiti. Some archaeologists contend that a cache of mummies found in tomb KV35 are the bodies of Nefertiti and the Dowager Queen. If so, they were stunning beauties even in death. If not, the search for two of the most powerful women in Egypt’s history continues.

  Acknowledgments

  FIRST AND FOREMOST, I would like to thank my father, Robert Francis Moran, for instilling in me a passion for history. You were my greatest champion and my staunchest advocate, and I miss you more than words can ever express. It will always be my deepest regret that you never saw Nefertiti published, but I must trust that from where you are, you know it now. I would also like to thank my mother, Carol Moran, for being my closest friend, my greatest confidante, and my support in every meaning of the word. Without you, Nefertiti would not exist. Your kindness and love is an inspiration to me.

  I cannot forget to thank my husband, Matthew Carter, whose generosity with his time also made writing possible. You are my first editor and my most beloved fan. Thank you for believing so deeply in me and for putting up with so many long writing hours.

  Of course, writing is not a solitary endeavor once a work is produced and sent out into the world. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to my peerless agent, Anna Ghosh, who believed in me enough to wait while I wrote Nefertiti. Thank you, Anna, in more ways than you know. Danny Baror has been an amazing foreign agent, seeing to it that Nefertiti can be read in more than thirteen foreign languages and counting. And to Allison McCabe, my incredible editor who contributed immensely to the novel that is here before you, I am deeply indebted. Your eye for detail is unsurpassable. Working with you has been such a pleasure, and I have especially enjoyed your photos of Audrey. Long may she reign as the finest Italian Greyhound in New York.

  Yet for all of the wonderful help I have received since writing Nefertiti, becoming an author does not happen in a vacuum. Most authors can look back on their past and see the events and experiences that have shaped who they are and what they eventually write about. For this reason, I am grateful to the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History for offering summer classes in the sciences for children. These classes sparked an interest in history that my father molded and my teachers refined. I am thankful as well to Pomona College and Claremont Graduate University for helping to send me to Israel on the archaeological dig that inspired me to write in the genre of historical fiction.

  I have also been blessed in my academic career to come across teachers who have been great inspirations: Gayle Hauser, Ed LeVine, Kenneth Medina, Ernestine Potts, and Professor Martha E. Andresen, who made Shakespeare come back to life from the sixteenth century.

  And, of course, I owe a debt of thanks as well to the team at Crown. My production editor Cindy Berman and proofreader extraordinaire, Shelley Bennett, spent hours upon hours making sure that among all the births and deaths in Nefertiti, there were no timeline inconsistencies. This was a Herculean task, and between their sharp eyes and my husband’s, every month in Nefertiti’s life has been accounted for. Sarah C. Breivogel and Dyana Messina have been amazing publicists, casting the publicity net far and wide for Nefertiti. Publishing is always a group effort, and to everyone who contributed to Nefertiti’s success at Crown, I am deeply appreciative.

  Last, I would like to put on record how lucky I have been in having friends and family who’ve always believed in my writing career: Robert William Moran, Tracy Carpenter, the Armstrong-Carters, my Markstein family, my Moran family, Cathy Carpenter, Judy Indig, Bobbie Kenyon, and Barbara Ballinger…just to name a few. Fellow author M. J. Rose, your advice on all things publishing-related has been simply invaluable. And to my wonderful cast of teaching assistants without whom I would never have had the time to write: Monica Castaneda, Cynthia Castellanos, Jésica Castillo, Dilery Lovillo, and Catherine Perez. Thank you all so much.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Moran

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  www.crownpublishing.com

  CROWN is a trademark and the Crown colophon is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Moran, Michelle.

  Nefertiti : a novel / Michelle Moran.—1st ed.

  1. Nefertiti, Queen of Egypt, 14th cent. B.C.—Fiction. 2. Akhenaton, King of Egypt—Fiction. 3. Egypt—History—Eighteenth dynasty, ca. 1570–1320 B.C.—Fiction. 4. Queens—Egypt—Fiction. 5. Egypt—Kings and rulers—Fiction. 1. Title.

  PS3613.O682N45 2007

  813'.6—dc22 2006039184

  eISBN: 978-0-307-39421-7

  Map by Sophie Kittredge

  v1.0

 


 

  Michelle Moran, Nefertiti

 


 

 
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