In the Candace’s chamber, past the lotus pool, a chime sounded and a light flared, just for a moment. Amani-shakhete was not there, dealing with the reports coming in from the seers all the way up into Egypt, warning of disaster to come from the north. The High Priest Kyan, just closing the doors to the inner chambers, froze. He dropped his keys and ran to the shrine the Candace had laid for her daughter, the one missing for fourteen years now.
The Jade scarab that had been carved on the day of the little girl’s birth, out of the same stone that made up her child’s bracelet, lay on its blue chalcedony pedestal, still and silent as he’d planned. It hadn’t cracked, showing that the princess Efra had been killed by the roc he’d summoned, but the Candace’s Ushera, a Bennu, also hadn’t returned from chasing after the kidnapping monster. Luckily she’d been so wound up in saving her consort that she hadn’t been able to see any signs of who may have sent the creature.
Kyan spit a drop of wine over the Scarab and bowed to the shrine, praying as he had daily that the stone would crack and the Candace would be forced to adopt him, since she had been ‘mysteriously’ barren all these years. He loved his potions, sent through Egypt, Carthage and even Atlantis.
He'd continue to receive his potions from the Amun Temple in Thebes, even as his High Priest there whipped up fear of foreigners and the Pharaoh closed the borders, refusing anyone's entrance. The Silk Roads still ran though trade was constricted and poisons and abortificants came in smaller and smaller quantities.
“Stay away from here,” he chanted under his breath. “May the Ushera never find you, may the Gods forget you, may your child name be forgotten.”
The doors slammed open and Amani-shakhete swept in. “Kyan, the Scarab –“ Her face lit up when she saw him bowing at the shrine. How did she know? What magic was this? She was unusual and stood bare of an Ushera, alone among her women.
“No, Divine.” He filled his voice with grief. “There was the barest sign of life, a flicker of magic, no more.”
“We cannot send the Ushera to search? Any of the Irrepressibles?” Her attendant ladies surrounded her, a sea of linens and scented wigs, their familiar creatures around them fanning their wings or hissing their distress. Her golden eyes – said to be a gift from Sekhmet Herself – were full of tears.
She drew herself up. “Kehet-ana,” she waved at one of her ladies. “Keep watch on the shrine and if it sings, send your bird after the trace.”
“Yes, Candace,” the woman said, her gold beaded wig clicking as she bowed. “With all my heart.”
Kyan didn’t let a single sideways glance fall on her from his kohl-rimmed eyes, though he hated her with almost as much passion as he hated the Candace. Her son, Jahi, had been made consort while he had been sent to the Temple and had his scalp-lock sacrificed to Amun. If I cannot be consort to the Candace then I shall be her child and rule with wisdom when she goes to be with her Bennu in the sun-barq.