Friday, June 4, 2010

Chapter 17

The most popular of festivals was held during October after the grain and corn harvests. If the harvest was plentiful, pharaoh opened up his stores to the poor and since the occasion was also the wedding of his daughter, the pharaoh forgave all debt. The people responded by cooking meat and fowl and baking cakes and bread loaves of every description. Delicacies beyond description arrived in camps from as far away as the Giza valley, turquoise mined at Magharah and other precious jewels. Grains of myrrh burned on the altar and chickens and goats were sacrificed to placate the sun god, Re. The ceremony occurred inside the pharaohs’ temple during evening hours after Nel had laid his gold at the feet of the pharaoh and Scota had produced her dowry of ships. When the pharaoh expressed his satisfaction with the gifts, Scota, surrounded by her maids, was escorted into the temple. Then the princess, completely covered from head to toe, was given in marriage to Nel. The prince was anxious to see the face of his bride, but his father warned, "Not yet. Not until after the feast and the pharaoh approves." Nel groaned. "Be patient my son." The feast lasted into the wee hours of the morning when the pharaoh had imbibed his last goblet of wine and the entertainers fell drunk to the floor. Nel waited patiently for the nod of approval, but the pharaoh’s eyes closed and his head fell backwards into a loud snore. But the queen's agitation at the snoring caused her to jab her elbow into his side. "Give your approval!" She whispered. His eyes found the waiting Nel and he gave the nod. Alas! It was time! Nel leaped from his cushioned repose, bowed to the princess, and swept her away. The bedchamber was decorated with Persian carpets on the wall and tall pots of lavender branches which scented the whole room. Rose pedals were strewn on the floor. Panels of sheer turquoise curtains concealed the bed. Nel had consumed very little wine, saving himself for the
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princess. His eyes sparkled with excitement and his heart thumped eagerly. Scota clapped her hands and dismissed her maids but not before they draped the curtain and removed a thick sheet of silken bed covers. They were alone. Nel moved towards her and his fingers gently lifted her veil. His hands trembled and his body shook. "I am Nel," he said. She stared curiously at him with her expressive brown eyes and thick lashes, then smiled. He breathed a deep sigh; she was far more beautiful than her mother the queen. His heart pounded wildly and his lips expatiated large gulps of air. She took his trembling hand and held it tightly. "I am Scota." "Yes, yes," he said finally. "And I am Nel." They laughed.

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