Egypt, Roughly 40AC
The rise of the empire was fast. Maybe not to the eyes of the humans who watched on in ignorance, but in the scheme of things it had occurred quickly. A short five decades before Kesi had driven the hunters from Cairo. Seven decades before they’d been driven from Egypt as a whole. Long enough to see the rise and fall of multiple rulers as they vied for control in the wake of Cleopatra’s death. Yet, Kesi’s power was just beginning to flicker, her empire still slowly growing with that spark of power that clung to her, and at her side, Anpy, calm and patient. They stood atop the highest mezzanine of her pyramid, staring out through the final space that waited to be filled. Below them the sounds of the internal construction echoed up and Kesi tried not to think too long on the cost in mortal lives it had taken to build. May yet take more of. It was a regret, and not her only one as she considered that she’d not be here when it was complete. But the wind was hot and dry as it brushed past, tangling in the strands of her wig and she ignored the forming knots, enjoying the warmth on her round face. The wig could be untangled later.
“I’ll miss it,” she murmured, casting kohl lined eyes over the distant fields, the sparks of green against the golden land that was braced by the raging of the Nile.
“Hmm?” Anpy asked, turning his wise eyes from the view to look down at her with eyebrows lifted, the light casting a shine against his bald scalp.
“Egypt,” she clarified, resting her child-sized hands on the warm, rough stone of her pyramid as she leaned forward, almost over the bracing fall ahead. “I don’t believe there is another land in all those beyond that I could truly call home.”
Anpy measured her with his gaze, considering as he lowered himself to sit on the stones alongside her hands, bringing his eyes down to her level. “Do you not wish to leave?”
He asked it as a courtesy, understanding her feelings already through the siring bond that still lingered, even after all this time. She shook her head, smiling wistfully. “It’s not a matter of want, dearest Anpy. It’s need. We’ve saved our people here, but these are not our only people.” She cast her eye out again, beyond the Nile, beyond the farms, until it touched the line of the ocean. “I cannot abandon the world to the fury of the hunters. United we’re strong, our people have come to see that here, and the only way I can save the rest is to unite them too.” There was a spark of hope in her chest, as there always was as she imagined the future she planned to build. The image was so far removed, she imagined, from what anyone could dream to be true. “Just think, Anpy, if we grow strong enough to defeat them. Perhaps our legacy will be that we create a world safe for all of us, those who have already suffered so much. I should like that.”
Anpy’s smile was fond, that of an indulgent father. She knew he didn’t see her future as she did, not yet, but he would come to see it with time, and she would return with an endless empire as her token and her thanks for all he had given for her. “I think all would like that,” he agreed softly, a sad light crossing his dark eyes an instant later as he turned his head to follow her gaze towards the sea. “You’ll be gone a long time. Alone and unprotected.”
She knew he feared what could happen, a reality she was all too aware of. She was to travel to the unknown lands alone, without an escort. Just a young child lost and stowed away on a ship, unrecognised for what she was, and the strength Anpy had trained into her these short decades. “I’ll be alright,” she said gently, reaching for his hand, giving it a squeeze. “I am not afraid.”
A sigh. “And that is what concerns me, Kesi. You are fearless, and it will make you reckless.”
Chuckling, Kesi released, Anpy’s hand, returning hers to the stone and shook her head. “No, I’ll be careful, for one day I wish to return home and resume my reign over Egypt.”
“I could come with you,” Anpy suggested, not for the first time, a plea in his voice. “There are many fine generals here who could manage your affairs.”
“But none whom I trust so completely as you,” she spoke gently, hoping to ease the fear and concern he had harboured since she’d announced her plans. “I’ll need my most trusted here to remind the people they have not been abandoned.”
Anpy let out a long breath through his nose, his discontent evident on his face even as he nodded and resumed his position standing alongside her, hands folded behind him as they assessed their territory. “Will you send word of where you arrive?”
“When I can,” Kesi promised, watching the sun drift towards the horizon, towards the ships she couldn’t see but knew bobbed at the distant shore. It was almost time. “Will you escort me, this one last time, Anpy? I should like your company for the boarding.”
“Of course,” he said quietly, tears beginning to shimmer in his eyes.
Kesi smiled gently at him, a warm promise in her voice as she said, “I’m coming home, Anpy, and when I return, I’ll do so as a liberator. Our people will be mighty, I swear it.”
A tear leaked onto Anpy’s cheek as he assessed the child before him, and nodded solemnly. Since the first moment he’d felt the pull, he’d known she would come to greatness, but a cold fear settled in his stomach now. A foreboding that carved an ache in his soul, that she was right, and also so very wrong.
“I know you will.”