By Jena McWaithe
**Legal Stuff: The Characters (Or most of them) in this story are copyright the DIC network (Disney) and anyone else involved in it. I didn't have anything to do with it, you know that, I know that. If I did I wouldn't be here living a dull boring life, but off in like New York or something... Oops! Got kinda sidetracked there :\
My apologies to Goddess Mia, when I wrote this I had no idea who you were and the character Maya in this story is completely fictional ie. Not you:)
I got the idea for this story while watching the episode " My father the hero." When Nefer-tina was talking about how she had won the race, and her father was proud of her, not as his daughter, but as the boy she was portraying. This is a story about how her love of chariots grew, and, even as obstacles were put in her way, did achieve her goal.
**I haven't seen all the episodes of the series yet, so if there's something in this story that doesn't make sense with one of the shows (such as the appearance of Kenna etc.), it's probably because I haven't seen it to get that information.
Chapter 1: "What is a chariot?"|
The sweet smell of morning air wafted through the open window. Sighing, she carelessly rolled over onto her back, her body still hidden from sight under the light silky covers. Luminesence pertruded through them however, making it perfectly pointless to try to go back to sleep. She sighed again, more disgruntled than before, and reached for the end of the blanket.
Bright blue eyes peaked through the hole in the covers, surveying the articles surrounding the cot. A table, goblet, a bowl for washing, and slinking out from around a pillar, a marble colored cat clawed it's way around to the staircase.
" Ukel," She threw the covers back and jumped out of bed, stuttering as her feet hit the cold stone floor. The cat sat down, watching intently as his master sat on the floor and rubbed one of her cold feet.
The girl looked up again. " Ukel, what are you doing up here? Father said that you must either stay in the pantry or outside. He does not trust you with the new drapes." The feline simply yawned, giving the girl more reason to leave the loft.
She stood up, brushed off her behind, and rushed towards her pet. " Come." She ordered, picking him up and holding him from under his front legs. The cat mewed in discontentment, but allowed her to bring him down the stairs to the kitchen.
Once reaching the den, Ukel squirmed out of his masters arms, and perched on top of an old bookshelf, purring happily to himself. " Ukel!" She yelled, looking up at the shelf. " Ukel, get down from there this minute! I must take you outside." When the animal didn't move, she simply grunted and sat down at the kitchen table.
A woman walked through a hanging mat separating the kitchen from the pantry. She was tall, with dark hair pulled up in a bun in the back of her head. She was wearing a red and yellow toga-like dress with a shawl covering her shoulders.
" Good morning Nefer-tina. Did you have a good sleep?" The woman asked, sitting in a chair across from her.
" Yes mother." She answered. " I had a dream that I was swimming in the river and all around me were fields of purple and green lotus'." She got down off of her chair and walked over to a cabinet positioned next to a clay oven. " And there was alot of cats there. Some were big, like lions, but others were smaller, like... Ukel." She reached in and pulled out a small loaf of bread.
" You and your cats." Her mother smiled, passing her fingers through her daughter's smokey black hair.
" Where's father? He has to get Ukel off of the bookshelk."
" Oh yes, that reminds me." Her mother exclaimed, standing up and walking up to one of the windows overlooking the street. " Your father has a surprise for you, and should be arriving with it shortly."
Nefer-tina's eyes lit up with delight. Her father had brought home many surprises before. One time it had been a golden necklace that she had worn on the Day of Ra. Another time he had returned with a boy who had later married her older cousin. The last surprise he had delivered to them had been Ukel, only because he knew of his daughters love of cats and her need for a companion at night. What could he be bringing home now?
" What is it? What is it?!" She cried, grabbing hold of her mothers skirt. " Another cat? More jewelry? I am not getting married, am I?" She asked, yanking over and over again.
" What!? No, of course not, you are only young." She pulled her linen dress away from her daughters fingers. " You must wait until your father returns. Maybe you can wait for him out front." Her daughter giggled and jumped up and down with excitment. She ran out of the room a quickly as she could, her mother shaking her head and smiling at her through the drawn curtain of the doorway.
Nefer-tina was bored. The streets were filled with commosion. People were walking in and out of shops, buying breads, jewels, meats and mats. Older children were running along the alleyways playing ruff-and-tumble games of catch and reinacting battles fought by the great pharoah King Amenphet and his armies. But her father had not yet returned.
She fiddled with the lining of her vest, the golden thread shimmering in the sunlight like wheat. The red fabric was light and airy, and a waving design was embroidered on the front. But this didn't concern her now. The sun was warming her skin at an uncomfortable rate and the sunlight would blind her when she looked at it from time to time. Her excitment had changed to curiosity which had morphed into pure boredom. The only reason she was still sitting on the step in front of her house was the fact that she was too tired to move.
It came out of nowhere. It was first a dull roar which she didn't take the time to notice. Seconds later, the sound of rushing wheels and clicking hooves filled her head and Nefer-tina looked up just in time to see two large horses trot up in front of her. Her eyes widened in fear and amazement. She had never seen horses that close before. The only time she ever caught a glimpse of them were if a messanger was riding to the palace or groups of hunters rode out to catch their meals.
" Good morning princess. Do you like them?"
She got up off the stone step and ran towards the man behind the horses. " Father!" She yelped as he picked her up. " They are beautiful! Where did you get them?"
" The same place everyone else buys their horses." He laughed. " Do you wish to pet them?"
Slowly, he walked over to the horse closest to them. Nefer-tina gave a sign of reluctance by putting her arms around her father's neck. " Now now. They will not bite." He assured her, taking one of her small hands in his own and placing it on the animal's muzzle.
" It's soft." She giggled, running her hand up the animal's head. " It is not like Ukel. It doesn't run away."
" They will stay as long as you tell them too." He told her, placing her on the ground next to the huge beast. " Irise, come here a minute." He yelled in the direction of the door. " Come here and see our new tenants."
His wife pulled back the curtain in front of the door to see what he was talking about. " Oh Mhete! They are perfect! They will make a fine pair of chariot horses."
Nefer-tina stopped petting the horses and looked at her parents.
" Chariot horses? What is a chariot?"|
" Why this young one." Mhete led her behind the horses to a cart attached to their reigns. It was streamline built, with the top of it lined with bronze and buckles of turquoise covering the front. The wheels were large and covered with buttons of bronze, making a dull bong as she pinged them with her finger.
" You will not be able to cart wheat in this." She stated, running her hand over the smooth surface. " It will fall out. All over the street."
Her mother started laughing hysterically. Her father just smiled and took her hand away from the front of the chariot. " No, it is not for carting goods. It is for moving people." His explaination was met with with a confused blank expression.
" Do you wish to see what I mean? Do you want to go for a ride?" Mhete asked her.
" In the chariot?" She asked back.
He chuckled again. " Yes Nefer-tina, we will ride in the chariot."
The reigns were checked one last time. Irise was just finishing feeding the horses, and Nefer-tina was beguinning to look a little uneasy. She even looked scared as her father led her to the chariot and helped her up onto it. She gripped the edge of the wood as her father said goodbye to her mother and climbed up onto the cart as well.
" Are you sure they will not get mad if we do this?" She asked, her knuckled turning white as she clung even harder to the railing.
" Relax princess, they will obey as I want them to obey." He told her, his hands encircling the reigns. The horses bucked as their bits went taunt, getting ready to move. She closed her eyes as tightly as she could just before her father cracked the reigns. There was a whip in the air, and the horses took flight.
The first thing she noticed was the wind rustling through her hair. Carefully, she oped one eye, surveying the landscape that was very quickly going by. The chariot was flowing down the street like water through a sieve, or the rushing waves of the Nile. The horses were flying over the ground faster than anything she new of. For the first time in her life she felt like she owned the world.
" This is great!" She yelled, letting both her arms fly back and her hair flail out behind her. " Oh father, this is wonderful!"
" I knew you would like it." He stated, veering the horses in a loop. " Nothing let's you feel free like riding a chariot."
The bliss continued until the group arrived back at the small adobe house. Once there, Mhete unhooked the chariot from the horses and led them to a shed out back. Nefer-tina stayed with the chariot. Her father's words kept going through her mind. " Nothing lets you feel free like riding a chariot." And it was true. That was the most fun she had ever had in her whole life. Everything about it, the clicking of the horse's hooves, the slick feel of the wood, the speeding surroundings and the ability to control the animals in front of you. She loved the feeling of it, and was still thinking about it as she got ready for bed that night.
As if in a trance, Nefer-tina pulled the cover up over her legs, stomach and over her chest. Looking up, she stared at the ceiling thinking about how it would be wonderful to drive a chariot. All day she had been asking her father everything she could think of about chariots, even how he had learned to drive one. He told her that when he was a young man, he had learned from his father, nearly winning first place in the chariot games held every year. Last night he had rememered how much he missed it, so this morning he had decided to go out and purchase a new set of horses and chariot. The horses names were Gat and Nut, and already Nefer-tina loved them so much.
Ukel mewed below the cot, batting at the still figure above him with his paw. Walking out from under it, he leaped onto the bed, circling around acouple times before lying down beside his master.
The girl took her hand and began to stroke his soft fur.The cat began to purr happily and rested his head down on his paws.
" Ukel, being a chariot driver must be the greatest thing in the world." She told her friend. The feline only grunted in response and continued to purr quietly, trying to get to sleep.
" When I get older, I will buy my own chariot." She continued.
" Then I will ask father to teach me and I will win in the chariot games. And everyone will be proud of me, because Ukel, nothing is as wonderful as riding a chariot, and nothing is better than being a Charioteer. That's what I want to be when I grow up."
Chapter 2: The Horrible Truth
As the weeks went by, Nefer-tina tried to go out with her father as much as possible in the chariot. Every day he would take her to the track. He would give her some grains or fruit to feed Gat and Nut before they began excersizing.
Of course she was never allowed to ride with him during practice, but did stand close by above on a staircase overlooking the entire city. She would jump up and down and cheer for him to beat his best record. It was only a few days until the chariot games, and she knew in her heart that he could win.
The night before the games Nefer-tina was estatic. All she ever talked about were meeting all the other charioteers and seeing the different colored horses and watching her father cross the finish line first. She was literally driving her mother crazy as she washed her daughter's face before the two of them left for the track again. This time however, there would be competition. One of her father's friends was also entering the games, and for practice, the two of them had decided to race each other.
Mhete stuck his head through the drape over the door. " All ready to go princess?" He asked.
" Yes!" She shouted, padding her hands on a towel. She ran over to him, waved good-bye to her mother and followed him to the chariot parked in the front of the house.
" What colors are your friend's horses father?" She asked him on the
" Brown, I think." He answered.
" What color is his chariot?"
" What are the horses names?"
" I am not sure..."
" Are they faster than Gat and Nut?"
" Nefer-tina," He interrupted. " Dear, just relax. It is only a race and nothing to get worked up over."
She looked at him, confused. Wasn't the point of racing to win? Didn't he want to win? All those days of training and feeding and grooming and tending were all for nothing?
They arrived at the track shortly before sunset. The red light shawn over the place like a flame, lighting the large steps and casting huge shadows over the entire entertainment park.
Mhete gave her a kiss good-bye before she rushed up the huge flight of stairs to view the entire track from a distance. The staircase was long and usually took about a few minutes to climb up. But it was well worth it, because from the top, you could see everything, all the way from the Nile river to the humongous Pharoah palace on the other side of the city. Every house, street and shop for miles was well within your range of sight standing atop the vast pyramid-like pedistal.
She finally reached the top and stood on the edge long enough to catch her breath. Below her, she could see the two charioteers getting their teams ready to run. Her father checked Nut's reigns one last time, then took his place on the chariot.
' I will ask father after this race when he will teach me to drive.' She thought to herself. ' And when he does, we will have races together and have fun forever.'
' And," She continued thinking, ' We will win many races together.
When he gets too old to race, I will take up the profession on my own...'
' And become the finest Charioteer in all of Egypt!'
" Excuse me!" A voice exclaimed behind her. Startled, Nefer-tina turned around to see a dark man sitting on one of the many benches lining the top of the pedestal. He looked older than her father, and was probably taller. What really got her attension was a gold amulet he wore around his neck. Only noblemen wore golden amulets outside of special occasion, so this man must have been from a high society.
" What?" She asked as innocently as possible.
" No need to impose, child, but you are blocking my view of the chariot race." He told her, gesturing matter-of-factly.
" Oh. Sorry." She apologized, moving away from the man's line of sight, and prancing over to the seat beside him. She couldn't, to her dismay, see as well as when she was at the edge, but the track was still visible and by the looks of things, the race was ready to start.
Carefully, she stood up on top of the stone slab, making sure not to scrape her knees like she had done many times before. The view was slightly better up there, but not by much. She waited for the race to start.
The flag was thrown, and the horses begun to fly. Nefer-tina began jumping up and down excitedly. " Go father! Go Gat, go Nut! Yes! Go!" She yelled at the top of her lungs. She caught a quick glance at the man she was sitting beside, and chuckled a little when she saw that she had startled him quite badly with her anticks.
The chariots flew like the wind around the oval-shaped track, her father's horses always a head in front of his friends. Suddenly, both sets of horses reared up and began to buck wildly, the Charioteers pulling back on the reigns to get them under control. Gat and Nut backed about three meters away before they began to quiet down. Mhete's friend had to veer his team to the left and park them in the center of the track.
Nefer-tina sat down, disapointed. She sighed her usual sad sigh and let her head rest on the palms of her hands.
" Is there something wrong?" She looked up at the man still sitting beside her with an unhappy expression on her face. " There's a snake on the track again." She told him.
" I see." He remarked. " Does it happen often?"
" Sometimes." She told him. " Usually only at sunset, when it isn't too hot out." She then became curious. " Don't you ever watch chariot races?"
" Not usually." He stated, leaning back against the back of the bench.
" But you're here now." She pointed out.
" I was bored. Why do you have to ask so many questions?" He asked her sharply.
She bit her lip and looked at the stone floor beneath her feet. Her mother was always telling her that asking too many questions would get her into trouble and continually repeated the phrase "Curiosity killed the cat." She had never understood it, but it sounded menacing enough that she would obey and keep quiet.
" So, what is a small girl like you doing out at the chariot track this late?" She lifted her head up, catching a glimpse of the setting sun. She quickly glanced at the man beside her, all his annoyance of her seeming to have gone.
" That is my father. Those are our horses Gat and Nut." She explained.
" So you came here to console your father." He said.|
She didn't know what console meant, but thought it had something to do with encouragement. " I am here to cheer for him." She stated.
" That's what I said." He notified. " So you come here with him often?"
" Every day almost." She clarified. " He is the fasted Charioteer in all of Egypt and he is going to win in the games tommorrow." Pride suddenly filled in her voice. " He lets me ride in the chariot everday and someday, he will teach me how to drive it and I will be a charioteer just like him."
The man's eyes suddenly filled with amusement. " What are you talking about? Girls cannot drive chariots."
She frowned and looked into his eyes. " Yes they can."
" No. They can't."
" Yes, they can." She told him cautiously.
He looked away from her dryly. " Well, have you ever see one?"
Nefer-tina bit her lip again. " Well, there was that time... No. There was a woman at the river and she was... no, that was just a cart..."
" I do not know about you, but I have never heard of a Chariotress." He tutored, crossing his arms impatiently.
She tossed her head to the side, looking away from the stranger. " I do not believe you." She told him as maturely as her age would allow.
" Fine," He sighed, sounding slighty disappointed. " Believe what- ever you wish. I am just telling you what I know."
" I bet I know more about chariots than you do." She told him arrogantly.
He smiled slightly. " Well, that wouldn't be too difficult. Chariots don't really interest me."
" Nefer-tina!" She jumped at the sound of her father's voice cascading over the large stones making up the tall staircase. As quickly as she could, she crawled down from the stone bench and over to the stairs to see what her father wanted.
" Yes?" She yelled at him.
" Come, we are going home now." Came the reply.
She looked back at her company. " I will be a charioteer when I grow up." Her voice was nothing short of pure confidence. He simply looked the other way skeptically. " I will!" She shouted, and began to run down the steps towards Mhete.
By the time she had made her way down to the last step she had already run out of breath. She stood there looking at the now purple sky above the large city and hoped beyond hope that her companion hadn't been telling the truth about women charioteers.
Her father rode up with Gat and Nut. " Hello princess." He greeted her. " Are you ready to go home?"
" Yes." She said quietly, strolling up to the chariot and taking a stance in front of her father. The reigns were pulled and the two horses began to trot their way back to the house.
Mhete gave her a concerned look. " Nefer-tina, are you alright? Oh, you must disappointed that the race was never finished. Well, do not worry princess, tommorrow you will see all the chariots that your heart desires." He sounded extremely optimistic. She just simply stared ahead of them in the dying light.
" Well, won't that be fun?" He asked her disquietly. " Nefer-tina, is there something wrong? Do you not think I could win tommorrow?"
She spun her head around to face him. " Oh no father, I do believe you could win. Gat and Nut are the fastest horses in all the land."
" Then what troubles you?" He asked solemnly.
She turned away. How could she word her answer. Maybe she could just ask him if women were allowed to ride chariots. Of course then he would ask her where she got the idea and she would tell him about the stranger at the top of the pedestal, and then she would be punished because talking to strangers was forbidden. Her mother had told her that many times.
" Father," She began, trying to contain both the feelings of dismay and fear in her chest. " When will you teach me to drive the chariot? When will I become a Charioteer?"
Mhete's face suddenly went dead serious. Nefer-tina felt her heart skip a beat as the horses pulled the chariot up to the front door of their house. The sky by now was a deep blue, and small stars were visible in the heavens above them.
He looked down at her with sad eyes. " Nef..."
" I will be allowed to ride the chariot, won't I?" She interrupted, her large eyes beguinning to swell up with tears. Her face begun to get hot and she could feel her bottom lip beguin to quiver uncontrollably.
Her father kneeled down so he was nearly at her eye level. What he had to do he knew was going to destroy her. He had attempted to tell her this many times before, but everytime he just couldn't. Her youthful enthusiasm had betrayed him, and he couldn't have shatter her dreams. Now she had asked him directly, so there was no turning back.
He took a deep, slow breath. " No." He finally told her. " No Nefer- tina, you will not be able to drive the chariot."
" Father no!" She pleaded, her eyes spilling out the tears filling them. " Please father, please let me drive!" Her head was pounding now, her entire body was shaking. But there was still a glimmer of hope in her mind that he would say yes.
Mhete looked down at the sand underneath their feet. " I am sorry princess, but women are no allowed to drive chariots." He took her small hands into his own to try to stop her trembling.
" Bb...ut, I...love tt..he...m." She informed, trying to defend her
" I know you do." He whispered to her. " But girls cannot drive chariots."
" No!" She screamed, pulling away from him, tears streaming down her face faster and harder than ever before. " I hate you! I hate Gat and Nut! I hate the games and wish I never see another chariot again!" Blinded by tears, she ran into the house.
" Nefer-tina!" Mhete called after her, running into the house also. She ran as fast as she could, through the shop, through the pantry, the kitchen, and finally scrambling up the stairs to hide under the covers of her bed.
Her mother was reading in the study when she saw her daughter run by throught the kitchen up the stairs. She simply smiled to herself, thinking that she was so excited about the games the next day she couldn't wait to go to bed.
" Nefer-tina!" Mhete yelled, walking through the hanging mat over the door of the pantry. Irise got up off her chair to see what her husband was calling about.
" Mhete, what's wrong?" She asked as he walked into the kitchen.
" Where is Nefer-tina?" He asked urgently.
" She ran up to her bed." She exclaimed. " She is probably so excited about tommorrow that she could not wait to get to sleep." She became concerned. " Why?"
He sighed angrily. " I had to tell her that women were not allowed to drive chariots." He notified, sitting in one of the kitchen chairs and putting his face in his hands. " She was devestated."
" Oh no!" Irise covered he mouth in dismay. She knew more than anyone that driving a chariot had been her daughter's dream, but had never been able to get enough courage to tell her otherwise. Now the time had come, and she was feeling worse than ever.
" I'll go and see if she is alright." She instructed, walking around the table and making her way up the stairs.
" No." He told her.
" Mhete, she is our daughter!" She disobeyed. " She must feel terrible right now. I have to be with her."
" She is too angry at the world right now." He explained. " If we were to go up there, it would only make things worse."
" So what do you prepose we do?" She asked angrily.
" Give her time." He told her. " Once she isn't so sad, it will be easier to explain things to her." The two then stood there in silence, listening to the wind and their daughter's cries from upstairs.
It was late. The sky which was once blue was now pitch black and a beautiful harvest moon was hanging above her head.
Nefer-tina had heard her parents go to bed hours ago. She had stopped crying for a little while, she felt like she didn't have any tears left in her whole body. Now, she was looking through the window, thinking about nothing and trying to forget all her feelings towards chariots.
What she told her father was a lie. She did love him, she loved him more than anything. Gat and Nut too. They were some of her best friends in the whole world. It wasn't their fault that she would never be allowed to drive a chariot.
The though of that sent a chill down her spine, and her eyes began to fill with tears once again. She has pondered it in her head for hours, but she still could not understand why women were not allowed to drive chariots. They were treated as equals in marriage, business and politics, yet they could not drive a chariot. She may have only been five years old, but she could not think of an answer worthy of denying girls the chance to drive.
She felt something warm up against her right leg. Looking down, she saw Ukel rubbing up against her, the cat craving attension.
Seeing him made her smile a little. " Ukel, shouldn't you be in bed?" She asked quietly, watching the feline's tail slowly move to and fro in the dark candlelight.
He jumped up onto the small table by the window and pawed at her curiously. She just grinned and faced out the window again. Ukel jumped up onto the sill (one of his favourite spots in the house) and mewed to her.
" I am not mad at you." She told him quietly. " I am just sad that I will never be able to become a charioteer." She crossed her arms and rested her head on them. " That man was right, there is no such thing as a Chariotress."
The girl suddenly felt very stupid. Here she was, for weeks acting like she could become the most well-known and greatest charioteer in all of Egypt, when in reality, women were not even allowed to touch the reigns of a chariot.
She closed her eyes slowly, and as she thought, tears ran down her cheeks. " Never be a charioteer." She whispered to herself again. " Never be..."
She put her face into her crossed arms and began to sob. Ukel looked at her intently, cocking his head to the side at this strange behavior which he had only seen maybe once in a blue moon. They spent the entire night like that, the girl crying on and off under the starry sky, and Ukel watching her between naps.
The next day, Nefer-tina did not attend the Chariot Games.
Chapter 3: The Master Plan
She got older. She got wiser. But she never lost her love of chariots. After that horrible night so many years ago, she had never rid with her father in the chariot again. It was just too hard for her to feel the road under the wheels and the horse's hooved against the sand. So she had gotten used to walking from place to place.
She also didn't spend her time talking to her animals anymore. Now she had many friends to talk to and hang around with. Her favourite was a girl named Maya, the daughter of the most famous jeweler in the city.
Together, they both shared the same sense of adventure and mystery, but
Nefer-tina never told her of her love of chariots. She never told anyone.|
One afternoon, after her studies with her teacher, she went over to Maya's home to meet with her. The Jeweler's was all the way across the city, on the shores of the Nile so walking there was hot and tiresome.
" Mother!" She called, setting her scrolls and schooling books on the small table in her room. " I am going to meet with Maya now!"
Irise's head poked through the door of the study. " Do not be out late, we are having company over tonight." She reminded her daughter.
" Yes, I remember." She stated in an annoyed voice. Now that she was fourteen, she considered herself to be a woman, unfortunately her parents still considered her a child, so she was still forced to be treated as one. It was the only peeve she had with them.
Nefer-tina drew the drapes back in front of the front door and walked into the scorching sun. She shaded her eyes against the light reflecting off of the white sands and began to walk across the road.
" Hey, princess!" She sighed and turned around to face her father. " If you do not want to walk there, I could always give you a ride in my cart. I must go to that side of town anyway."
" No thank you." She told him. " I would much rather walk."
" But Nefer-tina," Mhete exclaimed. " It is such a long way and it is exceptionally hot out today."
" It is alright." She told him. " I like walking. It is...um...great excersize, and... you meet a lot of interesting people." She smiled at him and blew a kiss good-bye before running to the other side of the street.
She kicked a pebble that was in her way, and continued to kick it as she walked down the alley. This had been the fifth time that week that her father had wanted to take her out in either the cart or the chariot. It had been the fifth time she had told him no. Sooner or later she would beguin to run out of excuses and have to come out and tell him the truth.
There was one thing her father had been right about. It was very hot out that day. There was barely anyone else on the street, everyone that could be was in their homes. She pityed people like her father who had to farm that day, thinking about how tired they would be working in the seering heat. If it hadn't been for the oil that she had put on back at the house, her skin would have been burning by then.
Once she reached the fork in the road, she turned left, like she did every single time she went to Maya's. Just then, she stopped, and looked at the way she was headed. It was the main street in all the city, where most of the shops were and most of the noblemen and woman lived. But this was nothing, for at the end of the street, the massive palace of the Pharoah King Amenhotep stood, it's pillars standing tall and proud. It was certainly a home fit for a king. The stairs were lined with turquoise and beryl, and the large statues in front of the main hall were embodied with gold, ochre and silver. Unfortunately, the street at that time was directly under the sun, which would make her trip tiresome and painful.
So, Nefer-tina decided to take the longer way to the jeweler's home. It may have been a farther walk, but it was all in the shade of buildings and the time would pass quicker if she did.
She had only gone this way once before, and that had been a few months before the incident with the chariot when she was five. Her mother was going to take her to the tailor's to buy her a new vest, but they couldn't go the quick way because the King's royal army was getting ready for the funeral service of the old Pharoah King Amenphet who had died in a revolt with the peoples from the north. Her parents had brought her to the funeral, but she was too young to know what was happening, so she couldn't remember very much. All she did remember was when the Pharoah Prince Amenhotep spoke to the people about what a great man his father was, and how they would all miss him. But Amenhotep had turned out to be a good ruler, honored and beloved by all the people, so everything had turned out alright in the end.
The shade was refreshing to her, especially after walking around in the direct light of the sun. Plus there were more people around so she didn't feel as out of place in the street. Most of them were common folk like herself, buying goods and foods from venders lining the streets. Not many of the upper class citizens came to this part of town very often.
To her left, she saw something that caught her eye. She stopped and stared at it. It was a large shed, and on the door said the words, " Chariots and racing horses inside." If she hadn't been so un-nerved by the word " Chariot" she may have gone inside to see the horses. They were still one of her favourite animals after all. She still fed and patted and groomed Gat and Nut as oftens as she could without her father catching her and asking her if she would like a ride.
Instead, she continued walking through the populated street, never turning back to view the shop again.
Nefer-tina reached Maya's house shortly after that. She had been right, walking in the shade had made the time pass by more quickly. She was greeted at the door by Maya's older brother Apec.
" Good day." He told her, finishing up with a customer. A large woman, wearing a pleated gown had just purchased many articles of jewelry, including a tall blue hat lined with silver and very small amounts of ivory.
" Is Maya here?" She asked him after the woman left.
" Yes, she is upstairs. I will tell her that you are here." He told her, and vanished behind a mat-covered doorway.
Nefer-tina began to look around the shelves that lined the large room. Most of them had necklaces on them, all fasioned with gold and either turquoise, malachite or silver. She enjoyed looking at the malachite pendants, because they were a glistening green that reminded her of the lotus' in most of her dreams.
But her favourite, however was a large necklace with the symbol of Bastet, the cat goddess on it. She had loved it the second she had seen it only a few months ago, and was secretly trying to save up enough currency to hopefully one day purchase it.
She left the necklace wall and moved on to the shelf which contained the jewelry shop's most recent creations. One was a pair of earings shaped like a couple of cobras, and another was a necklace of the Pharoah and a scarab beetle. It was the same thing every time, either a ring, or necklace, headpiece or long gold collar.
It was then that she saw it.|
It was at the very end of the table, away from where most eyes could see. It was a gold helmet with the sides coming down across the cheekbones and the back turned upwards. She picked it up and examined it for awhile. It was very marvelous, she thought, but why it was hiding behind every- thing like that puzzled her.
" Good day." Nefer-tina turned around to see her best friend who had just entered the room.
" Good day to you too." She said back, the helmet still under her arm. Maya took one look at it and made a face.
" What are you doing with that thing?" She asked, slightly disgusted.
" What?" She defended, holding it up to eye level. " I thought it looked nice."
" It is hideous." She told her. " That is why I put it there in the back. It will never sell."
" You made this?" Nefer-tina asked, astonished. " But it is a beatiful helmet."
" Yes, but the angles are all wrong." Maya informed her, taking the helmet from her hands. " This side is shorter than this side and the back does not come up enough. I hid it behind everything where nobody would see it."
" If you knew no one would buy it, then why didn't you just throw it out?"
" Throw it out! Never! It may be awful and ugly, but it took me a long time to make. I will not just throw it out!" She exclaimed.
" It is not ugly!" Nfer-tina defended. " It is stunning. A far better design than the Pharoah's army helmets."
Maya crossed her arms. " Well, if you like it so much, keep it."
She looked at her in awe. " Really? You would give it to me?"
" Sure." She assured her, handing it back to her friend. " It will never sell here, and I would rather you have it than father destroy it."
" Oh thank you!" Nefer-tina cried, and lightly hugged her friend. "I could give it to father on the Day of Ra next week. I am sure he will love it as much as I do." She paraded over to a mirror by the buyers counter and carefully placed the helmet on her head. It fell streamline with the contours of her face and the front rested neatly just above her eyes.
" Well?" She asked, turning around to face her friend. " Do you still think it looks ugly?" She asked her.
Maya walked around her, examining the helmet on her head. " Well, it does look better on someone. But it would still never sell."
" Of course it would never sell. It is mine. You gave it to me for my father." She told her stubbornly, returning to her mirror. She pulled her hair up and twisted it in the back, away from view from the mirror.
" I remind myself of someone like this." She exclaimed looking deep into the mirror on the wall. " But I cannot recall who."
Maya giggles from behind. " From here, you look almost like my brother. Take it off, you are scaring me!" She closed her eyes and pinched her nose with her thumb and forefinger.
Nefer-tina laughed at the motions her friend was making. " I do kind of, don't I?" She gazed at her image. It was startling actually, how with that helmet and her hair put away from view she almost looked male. Of course, she would have to remove all of her make-up before anyone would be fooled, but the likeness was believable.
" So, are we going to go, or aren't we?" Maya asked her. She just continued to stare in the mirror. " Hello?! Ra to Nefer-tina!"
" What?" Nefer-tina removed the helmet and once again let her hair hang low behind her shoulders.
" You said that we would go and visit the temple today." She reminded her. " By the large statue of the Spinx?" The temple was a small worshipping place where long ago, small bands of Egyptians would go and all day pray to their gods for good times and well-wishes. It was never used now, but was still an interesting place to visit and uncover sacred artifacts.
" Oh ya!" She called, remembering back three days ago when they had made those plans. " Alright, let's get... Oh!" She slapped her head, remembering what her mother had told her just before she left home. " I cannot go today."
" What?!" Maya crossed her arms angrily. " But you promised you would be free today! Nefer!"
" I know I did. I am sorry. My parents told me just this morning that they were inviting company over tonight and I must not be late coming home tonight." She smiled a little forgiveness smile. " We could always do it tommorrow."
Maya sighed, annoyed. " Fine. We WILL do it tommorrow, and if we do not, then we will never go period. Alright?"
" Sure." She answered, following her companion up the stairs of her home. " So, what can we do now?"
" Study or make bread." Maya teased.
" Oh. Fun."
The sun was off high in the horizon as Nefer-tina left Maya's house. Under one of her arms she carried the gold helmet. In the other, two loafs of bread that she had helped bake that afternoon to be eaten for supper.
She walked home the same way that she had left, through the left end of town, the long way home. When it was this late, no one cared how hot it had been in the afternoon. There were more cunsumers walking the streets then than there had been earlier and she felt less out of place and alone when there were others walking, maybe not with her, but beside her.
She looked away again as she was crossing the shed selling chariots
and racing horses. ' I should have gone the other way' she thought. ' At
least then, I wouldn't have to walk past this dreaded place. Girls are not
allowed to drive chariots...'|
She stopped as soon as she thought of it. It all came flooding back to her:
" I know you love chariots, but girls are not allowed to drive them..."
" Only men ride in the games..."
" If you were a boy, you could drive them all you want..."
" You look just like my brother in that helmet..."
A flicker of light seemed to go off in her mind. Quickly and quietly, so as no one would see her, she dashed into the closest alleyway. She looked the helmet over quickly, and with her right hand, wound her hair up into a bun, carefully placing the helmet on top.
Hoping that she looked the same way that she had in the jewelry shop, Nefer-tina walked out into the populated street once again. Men, women and children of all ages walked by her, never even giving her a second glance. Satisfied, she sighed with great relief. Maya was right, wearing that helmet and without all of her flowing dark hair around her, she looked just like a tall, skinny boy.
She smiled at the thought, her, Nefer-tina, a boy? It was scary and hilarious at the same time. This opened up a world of possibilities for her. She could do things now that women were not permitted to do. Duel in the streets, stay out all night in brewerys and happy houses, join the Pharoah's army. All of which meant nothing to her. As a boy, she could learn how to drive a chariot, she could enter the games, she could run the races. As long as no one found out that she was a girl.
That was when she started to doubt her plan. If they found out that she was a girl, then she would be banned from all events, shunned and maybe even arrested. But if she was careful, no one would ever have to find out the truth. Do it? or not. Do it, or not.
Nefer-tina thought back to when she was young, remembering how wonderful she felt riding the front of that chariot and how she felt like dying when she found out that she would never get to feel the reigns in her hands. And if that wasn't enough to make up her mind, nothing would have been.
She crossed the road as fast as she could, zigzaging to get out of the way of oncoming traffic. When she finally reached the door of the shed, she held her head high and tried to walk more cloddy and less dainty. Movement was also just as important as appearance.
First thing they had in the room was the chariots. There were different variations, sizes and colors. Some were large, enough to fit two or three people, others were smaller, used only for one. These were the racing chariots, she knew. Her father had talked to her ofter about the different styled and what to look for when purchasing one. A slim built and close to the ground, that's what he always said. She was even amazed that she remembered it.
Behind the stock of chariots came the horses. They were all so gorgeous and it made her chest ache to just go up and pet every single one of them. The first team she saw were not exactly the type of horses she expected to pull racing chariots. They were tall, but looked bulky, and well, kind of overweight. The second set looked much better. They were two females by the names on the side of the door, and were a hazelnut color.
" They are beautiful, aren't they?" She jumped as a voice agnoledged her from the back. " They are one of the finest pairs I have."
She faced him, but had to look down to do so. The man was only about five feet tall and as skinny as a rod. She had to bite her lip to keep from chuckling at this funny little person standing in front of her.
" So, are you interested in purchasing them?" He asked, getting right to the point.
" Um...well..." She began, suddenly remembering to use a deeper, more masculine voice. " Actually, I was interested."
" Then my friend, you have come to the right place." He grabbed her arm and began to walk her, talking faster than she could understand. " I have chariots from all walks of life, and horses to match. Whether you're an administrator coming straight from the city of Thebes, or a chariot racer with the need for a little speed, you can get them all here at the finest ranch in all of Memphis."
" Well I..."
" Or if you are a beguinner, you can simply pay as you play with our easy lease plan. The chariot, horses and lessons included in the package." " Who would be teaching? You?" She asked amused.
" Who did you think? Osiris?" He informed her. " So, are you buying, or are you flying?"
She looked at the little man with confusion and parody. No one that she had ever know talked about things the was he did.
" How much would it be?" She asked hesitantly.
" Normally, 750 ptar per month for ten months. But..." He added, grabbing her arm again and rushing her back to the front of the store. " For you, 500. And it is only because I like you."
" 400." She heckled, knowing that 400 would be all she could afford per month without taking a second job and making her parents suspicous.
" 500, 400, they are just figures." He told her, holding out his hand for her to shake. " So, do we have a deal?"
She faltered, thinking through all her ideas quickly. The pros, the cons and the consequences. ' Well,' she thought to herself. ' What have I got to lose? My self concept and a few thousand ptar.' She grabbed the man's hand and shook it solidly.
" Wonderful!" He emphasized. " Now, what set of horses would you like to purchase? These white ones over here are very beautiful..." She looked at the door at the darkening street to see fewer and fewer people walking by.
" Oh No!" She shouted, this time making the small man jump in surprise.
" OK, so you do not like the white ones..."
"Oh great! Oh no!" Being in the shed, she had completely lost
track of time. By now, her parents and their guests would have been
sitting down to eat supper. And SHE was suppose to be there with them.
" I have got to go!" She told him, running towards the door.
" But your horses!..."
" I will come back tommorrow!" She yelled behind her, racing into the street to get home as fast as she could. ' Why did you have to take the long way home?' She thought to herself. ' You will be in big trouble now little Ms.'
Being reminded that girls did not wear helmets, she pulled it off of her head and continued running, trying to conseal the gold cuirass in the cloth that she was carrying her breads in.
Although she was late, and was going to get in very big trouble very soon, she couldn't help but smile to herself. She had pulled it off. I one hour she had become a boy in the publics eyes and had a verbal contract for a set of racing horses and a new racing chariot.
The stage was set. Now it was time for the preformance of her life.
Chapter 4: Keeping Up
More or less, things went better then she had expected. She had arrived only a few moments after her parents company had showed up, and also gained a few extra brownie points by delivering the loafs of bread to her mother for dinner.
All the way through supper the adults chatted, laughed, discussed politics, pricing and the weight of the workforce on the economy of Egypt. Nefer-tina pretty much sat by herself, spoke when spoken to and passed around plates when she was asked. Her parents were so rapped up in their conversasions that they never knew for one second that their daughter was off in her own little world.
Nefer-tina wasn't all there at this point. Physically, yes. Mentally, not at all. In her mind, she was picturing herself as a charioteer. She wore new clothes and her hair and make-up were nowhere in sight. The two horses in front of her were flying over the sand, they were flying higher than the pyramids. The animal's hooves produced a stream of light which flowed over the skies of the city. Children were running into the streets, people were shouting her name. When she raced over the palace, she could see the Pharoah. He was also very impressed, and clapped for her as she soared even harder over his head. She was the most famous chariot- eer in all of Egypt.
Her mother nudged her arm and Nefer-tina's sub-consiouse thoughts disappeared in a puff of smoke.
" Huh?" She exclaimed, grabbing her spoon and began to play around with the food on her plate.
" I said, would you like some more water?" Irise asked her daughter, lifting up the clay pitcher to eye level.
" Um, no. No thank you." She told her mother.
She pushed a date to the side of her plate with her utensil, sliding around the rest of her meal around with it. She remembered how she had hidden the gold helmet under the covers of her cot, and just to be safe, had thrown a few extra cusions over it. It was the basis for her plan and under no circumstances was anyone to find it.
She placed the tablewear by her half-eaten plate. " You know what?" She questioned, sliding the plate forewards to the middle of the table. " I am really not that hungry tonight." She rose to her feet, streached her arms out and yawned. " And I am very tired. May I be excused?"
Her parents exchanged confused looks. Their daughter had never once in her life left a meal unfinished or wanted to sleep before nightime.
" Yes, of course." Mhete told her, setting his drink on the table. " Well, goodnight princess." He waved to her as she rounded the table to get up to her room. " We shall see you in the morning."
" Goodnight father." She answered, climbing up the long staircase to the second floor of the small villa.
She flopped down on her bed with an excited giggle, reaching in front of her to remove the cusions and covers away from her new gold helmet. She tried not to get too ecstatic, but she just couldn't help it. Thinking about chariots and lessons and fooling everyone into thinking she was a boy was just too funny in her eyes.
With a gracious leap, Ukel pounced onto the cot beside her, rubbing his old body down the side of her leg. She jumped when he did, almost dropping the helmet.
" Ukel!" She scolded, placing it carefully on her pillow. " If you value your nine lives, you will never do that again!" She sat up, and grabbed the old cat from behind. He just sat there in her arms, looking towards the golden cuirass in front of him oddly.
Nefer-tina smiled and began to giggle again. " Do not worry, it will not hurt you." She held him carefully with her left arm encircling his body, and slowly picked up the helmet in the other, turning it around in her hand like a cake on display.
" Is it not beautiful?" She asked the feline. He just coughed and sneezed loudly.
" Well it is." She told him. She causiously placed Ukel on the matress and got up off the bed, helmet still in hand. She walked over to the other end of the room, pushing a vase out of the way so she could set her valuble headress on the small table. Looking straight ahead, she saw her reflection in a small cracking mirror hanging on the adobe wall. Once again, she pulled her hair up in a bun on the top of her head, pulling back her bangs and trying to hold it all in place. Nefer-tina then picked up the helmet and quickly fitted it over the top of her tumbling hair, holding it in place underneath.
She turned around to let her pet see what she had become. Unfortunately, the animal didn't seem too interested in her, and began to clean his face with one of his paws.
" Thank you." She told him flatly, rolling her eyes and circling back to the mirror. " You don't care about the fact that from not on I will be able to do almost anything my heart desires?" He yawned.
" Fine." She stated, walking around the room with her new helmet. She circled the cot twice before falling backwards against the soft covers.
She let out a little laugh. " I told you didn't I Ukel? I told you
that I would grow up to be a charioteer no matter what, didn't I?" She
stood up again and grabbed the cat from the bed. He yowled as he was flung
up into the air and caught again.
" I was right and you were wrong." She teased the animal, dropping him on the floor. " So there!" Ukel growled at her, and slunk his way down the stairs to the kitchen.
She returned to the wall and looked at herself in the mirror. She had just realized something. She would need a name, something that was easy to remember. There would have been no way the chariot teacher would have taught a young boy named Nefer-tina to drive. The only problem was, what was she going to call herself?
She had always liked the name Aminher, she had heard it once before, during one of the king's announcements. Or perhaps Celmek, she looked like a Celmek.
" Ya right." She said to her reflection in the chipping mirror. " I'll never remember to answer to any of those names. Oh Nefer-tina, what are you going to...Nefer-tina...Nefer..."
Sure, why not, it was simple, easy to remember, and although the meaning of the word was something to be considered, it would work alright as an alternative personality.
Nefer-tina looked smugly into the mirror. " Well, Nefer, are you ready to beguin racing chariots tommorrow?"
' I sure am' she though to herself. ' I've been waiting my whole life for this. And with everything I know about chariots so far, this is going to be a piece of cake.'
It wasn't. She cried out as the horses circled the bend, tipping the chariot on it's side and making her fall out of it, crashing into the hard dirt floor.
It was in the late afternoon, and she had just finished being briefed on how to start the chariot. Her teacher, whose name she had learned was Lekher was trying to get her to follow his lead around a small corner of the racing track. Unfortunately, when whipping the horses to the appropriate speed, she had done so a little too hard and was now lying on her stomach with a face full of dirt.
She got up and brushed her hand over her mouth. She could feel the grit of the sand in her mouth, and she almost felt like gagging when Lekher trotted his team over beside her.
His chariot parked itself beside her bruised body. " Well now, you will not learn anything sitting on your behind all day. Of course, it doesn't matter to me, either way I still get payed."
Nefer stood up and began to brush himself off. " It was not my fault, you never told me how hard to whip them."
" That is because you never asked." He told him. " If you want to get by in chariot racing, you must ask many questions." Lekher whisled and Nefer's team came trotting up to him, chariot still on it's side, rubbing in the sand.
" I wouldn't have to ask so many questions if you would tell me everything I need to know." He said quietly to himself, pushing on the side of his new red chariot to prop it back up on it's wheels.
" Besides, a few good spills are good for a boy your age." His teacher continued. " Learning to drive is full of sacrifices that help bring down your ego, and make you ready to learn instead of teach."
" Ready to crack my head open instead of drive." Nefer said, agitated.
Lekher didn't seem to hear, he just simply waited until his student had gotten back on his chariot before continuing the lesson. Nefer stood back on his chariot, and pulled the reigns so both his horses turned around to face the direction of the track.
" You were doing well," He began. " Until you had a sudden craving for speed. After that, you pushed the horses too far and, well, ended up eating the taste of defeat."
Nefer snorted. " Ok, first of all, that was not funny." His teacher then chuckled quietly at his statement. " Secondly, two horses are too difficult for me to control. One wants to go that way, and the other wants to go the other."
" And this is why you need lessons." Lekher told him. " You told me before we started that you wanted to become a master charioteer." " The finest in..."
" The finest in Egypt, I remember. But, if you are not willing to work for it and have patients for your horses, then we should stop right now."
" I do not want to stop now, I just started!" He exclaimed.
" Yes, and because of that, you must not take turns too quickly or push your horses too far. It takes years to become a master at the sport Nefer, but those years will fly by if, and only if, you are a true chario- teer at heart."
" I am." He reassured his teacher. " And I am trying my best." He looked down at the reigns he held in his hands. " But, maybe I should try less."
" Never try less." The short man told him. " But hold back on temptations. You have your whole life ahead of you and do not want your face disfigured because of too many spills with the chariot."
Nefer laughed. " No, that would not be good!"
Lekher smiled. " So, are you ready to pick up where we left off?"
" Excellent. Now, first I will tell you about a trick I use for rounding to corners without slowing down much..."
Nefer-tina felt terrible. After she fell off the chariot the first time, she had fallen twice after, bit her toungue when the wheels had gone over a rock and slammed her chin into the railing of the chariot as she was moving her footing around. Her face was dirty, her new clothes a mess, and her beautiful golden helmet was streaked and had a small dent in the back of it.
" Things cannot get any worse." She said to herself as she was walk-
ing down the nearly deserted street. " I will have to go to Maya's
tommorrow and get that dent fixed..."
She looked over her shoulder at who was calling her name. Behind a small band of beggars, a small figure was running towards her. She squinted her eyes to see who it was. Her eyes widened as she recognized. ' Speaking of Maya', she thought.
" Hey!" She shouted, waving her arm up in the air. Suddenly, she remembered about the dented helmet she held in her hand, and tried to conceal it the best she could by hiding it behind her back with the other.
Once her friend reached her, she bent over to catch her breath. Nefer-tina didn't want to say anything to her, because by the look on her friend's face, she wasn't very happy about something.
" Hi. Maya...is there anything wrong?"
Her friend looked up at her with defiant eyes. " As a matter of fact, there is." She stated solemnly, making Nefer-tina flinch a little. What could have made her like this?
She stood up to full height. " So, where have you been today?" She asked suspiciously.
She gasped, trying to hide the slight fear that was in her chest. " Where...was...I?" She repeated.
" Well, I was...with...um... Jik. Yes, you remember Jik, we met him at the feast of..."
" I don't care where we met him!" Maya interrupted, suddenly throw- ing her voice into the next time zone. " What I want to know is, why you were with him?"
Nefer-tina looked at her puzzled. " What are you talking about?" Maya put her hands on her hips. " Oh, well, I do not know. How about this: ' What do you want to do tommorrow Maya? I do not know. How about we travel to the temple? That sounds like a good idea.' Or how about this: ' Oh, I am sorry Maya, but I cannot go today, why don't we go tommorrow?" She looked at her angrily.
Nefer-tina bit her lip as hard as she could. " Oh no! I completely forgot. I am so sorry Maya! I will make it up to you, I promise!"
" No!" She shouted. " Nefer-tina, I am sorry, but this is the last time. A friendship is based on trust and honesty, and all the lies and broken promises...That is enough."
Nefer-tina looked at her friends. It was true, there had been many times she had lied or covered up the truth to her friend. She had never actually sat down and thought about it.
" We were suppose to be best friends, but right now I don't even want to be your friend." Maya continued. " Heck, you probably just lied to me about where you were today, didn't you."
Nefer-tina felt like crying right there in the street. " Maya," she started, trying to hold back tears. " I'm sorry, but I couldn't, I can't tell you the truth. It is just... you wouldn't understand."
She looked into her friend's eyes one last time. " That is exactly what I am talking about." She brushed her brown hair out of her eyes, turned around and began to walk the other way.
Nefer-tina just stood there, her heart pounding, her eyes watering, and the the dingy helmet hanging limply at her side. She wanted to run after her, to sit her down and tell her all about her plan, her lessons, the helmet and her eternal love for chariots. But she couldn't. Somewhere along the line, she had known deep down that they would never be friends forever. Now she just thought that it was her fault.
She closed her eyes hard, letting the tears roll down her blushing cheeks. Nefer-tina then turned around and began to walk home again, ignoring the children and couples of people looking at her unusually. She felt almost as bad as when she had discovered that girls were not allowed to drive.
" Lekher said there would be sacrifices." She whispered, her hand closing harder around the metal helmet. " I just hope all of them aren't as bad as this."
Irise came down the stairs, holding the folds of her dress in her hands. She was miserable. Nefer-tina had come home in tears, and when she had gone up to see what was the matter, her daughter had broken down, telling her all about their confrontation, the arguement and how awful she felt about letting her best friend down. Of course, she had tried to tell her daughter that it wasn't her fault, but she wouldn't listen.
She sighed and rested on the closest object she could find, which turned out to be an old wooden chest. There was only one other time she had seen her daughter this unhappy, but they never discussed it. It was all in the past and nothing could change it.
She smirked a little. Irise knew that she would never be able to understand her daughter, not in a million years. First she's happy, then weary, miserable, then a little defiant. And last night she was completely off in her own world, dreamy eyes and distant. There was no keeping up to Nefer-tina. There was something different about her. Something innocent, magical even. Like every dream must be dreamed and every wish must be ful- filled before she's content.
In life, there was no keeping up with her. In imagination, everyone ate her dust.
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