A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 17byTaLtos6©
***The rest of the day like no other for lovely Yasmin. Oh, and a little more of Dakhete's back-story too. 0_o
"What was that?" Yasmin asked as they walked the dusty road to the dead city, "What just happened there? Where did all of those people come from?"
She stopped and Dakhete continued on a step or two before she stopped to look back. Yasmin was looking at her a little strangely.
"Who are you?"
Dakhete saw that Yasmin's lip was trembling. The girl was obviously becoming upset.
She walked back and put her arms on Yasmin's slender shoulders. "I am sorry if all of this frightens you. I should have said more but I was preoccupied. I am not now, so I will try to begin to explain."
She chuckled to herself, "I really do not know where to begin this properly."
She thought a moment, "Alright. Piankh, my friend, I have need of you once more. My friend and I will want to have our evening meal -- and I will prepare it myself, since we have the food. What I need from you are three things. Firstly, please organize a party of guards with torches if it is possible to remove any crocodiles by the river as close to my house as is possible, so that we may bathe in a bit of peace. For this night, it will be allowed if there are no attendants available.
Secondly, please see what may be done so that we have a place to sleep in my home if that may be done. If not, then find us a place for that. And thirdly, a place for a little cooking fire with a bit of wood would be very nice."
The large man nodded and slapped his chest with his fist once more, "It will be done, Kandake."
Yasmin didn't know that the man had even been there with them, but she looked around now and saw that they were alone. Piankh was running along the path ahead of them.
"For a time, long ago," Dakhete began, "I ruled here. This is almost as far back as my memories go for now and I hope that I will remember more soon, since things are coming to me once more. I was Kandake. That means a ruling queen who holds power by herself and does not share with her husband, for example. A Kandake is above the queen of a king. She stands higher than a king.
You know that I am not dead, of course," she smiled, "but everyone else here is. I have only raised them, that is all."
"They are, ... ghosts, then? All of them?" the girl asked.
"They are shades," Dakhete nodded, "A ghost is a thing which knows nothing of what is around it. A ghost is a remnant and nothing more. These are shades, Yasmin. They know me. They see what is around them here. They can act and not only wander in a little place and moan to frighten children.
A ghost can do little harm to anything. A shade can kill a living man. Look around us. I thought at first that I would come here alone and try to remember everything, but then I met you, and now everything has changed. My pupil needs a good and proper place to learn, and she will learn little while she spits out the sand from between her pretty lips all the day. So I have decided that I require at least some of this old place to live once more. For that I need help, and so I have begun it.
You need have no fear of them. In a little while, when all have heard that I have returned from those who just saw us back there, many will want to meet you. None will wish you harm. Quite the opposite, in fact. They know that they are dead. The dead have existences as well, only different from what they had while they lived.
What just happened there behind us is something which should have happened long ago. It was a little unfair to hold Tanyi and his ilk to account for all of the ruin around here, but I know that much was lost because of him after I left, and it was he who began the decline.
I am Kandake once more, Yasmin. To show you the difference, imagine any queen who wishes her king dead for whatever reason. I would guess that it has happened that a queen might wish for that in her heart, but can that really happen without all sorts of intrigue and plots? I think that it is usually done from the other side of it, where the king decides to be rid of the queen."
The girl struggled with the notion as she slowly raised her arms to hold Dakhete by the waist. "No," she said, "I know little of such things, but I cannot imagine that it would be possible. Any queen who has a king lives under that king. A ruling queen does not have any king -- at least, as far as this beggar girl knows."
"Correct," Dakhete smiled, "or very nearly so. Here in what was once the heart of Armak, a ruling pair may share power equally, but that sort of queen cannot kill her king. I was never that sort of queen. I am Kandake. I rule absolutely. I could take a king as consort, but I can also order that king to kill himself -- and he must obey.
Think of this; when I ruled here, Egypt was only a captive state under the heel of Rome. I often had Roman armies on my borders. I led my armies myself as a Kandake must and I beat them back, and more - my armies chased and hounded them, carving them up as they ran.
That is the difference between a queen and a Kandake. A Kandake must be as hard a warrior as any man, for they need and expect no less. They deserve no less than that from their queen. That is what it means to be Kandake. Look at Piankh. How can I ask him to lay down his life for the kingdom if I am not prepared to stand with him and fight?
Armak lost both ground and prestige under that rat Tanyi.
It was not only me. Yasmin. Other Kandakes before me forced Rome to bargain and ask for peace so that they could staunch the bleeding that Armak raiders caused. A Kandake before me forced the Roman governor to the table and they settled on a peace which was very favorable to Armak -- and then she broke it and began again, because her true purpose was only to buy a few years to replenish the Armakkian army.
One can smile across the table and bargain for peace if it suits, but Kandakes have always held to one creed -- it will be a sweeter bargain if one holds the leads of one's snarling hounds in one hand and grasps the olive branch of peace with the other. It is our choice which one we let slip from our fingers, never theirs.
But it was not the Romans who finished the decline here. It was another kingdom from the south, I would guess. Any kingdom or empire lasts only so long before it grows weak and if there is another one nearby just ascending, ..." She shrugged, "At least this did not fall when I ruled here.
Tanyi was not my king. I nominated him when I had to leave by the command of my master far away. He commenced the fall of once-mighty Armak and for that, my pretty gazelle, his life was forfeit -- if he still lived, of course.
Now, I know that if I had commanded it, he would have refused, being a coward, and so, once I felt the thoughts of those dead spirits, I acted. By my hand, those ones do not even live in the afterlife anymore. They are gone into nothingness.
So that is what just happened. The people are my subjects, such as they are now, alive again and away from their dried- up corpses. My army stands once more - and they will not tire - and they cannot die by any mortal hand. I think they will prove useful -- especially the elephants. There is much to be repaired and that suits an elephant who draws breath once more and seeks a task. And I have over a hundred of them," she smiled.
"So, in a little while, all of this will begin to turn green again. You will train under me for many things. For fighting with weapons, you will learn from Piankh the Mighty, and he will be pleased to have a pupil such as you are. But that is only the beginning; for all that he knows is what he knew then. I will take over for many finer things after that.
For archery, you will know Sheershepsut, the finest archer who ever lived in the kingdom. She will teach you her mastery of the bow. And it will go on and on. You will learn to ride a chariot for sport, mostly, and you will learn to fight from the back of a mighty war elephant as well."
She pulled Yasmin to her and hugged her, kissing her through the shawl on the forehead. "You will be a very busy gazelle."
Yasmin felt better in Dakhete's arms and laid her head onto her shoulder. "I am sorry. I just did not understand everything."
Dakhete didn't answer and Yasmin lifted her head to see Dakhete gazing straight ahead into the distance.
"What is it?" she asked, trying to crane her head around to see.
"Look there," Dakhete said a little distantly, "What do you see?"
Yasmin turned around, and Dakhete kept her one arm on her shoulder as she pointed, "See there?"
Yasmin looked and far off on the top of a ridge, she saw three lions and sucked in her breath.
"Lions!" she said, "I have never seen lions before. Are we in danger?" She thought that she had to ask it, even though she felt the strangest want in her to go to them, feeling no fear.
She felt Dakhete's arms tighten as the woman leaned her head on Yasmin's shoulder and continued to look with a smile, "No, this is a very, very good sign. They come to see what is happening. Come, we both wear a little dust, and I have been trapped in this armor all the day long. I apologize if you can smell my stink."
Yasmin grinned, "It is not bad, Dakhete, but I know what you mean." She had her jelabeeya off in a second. "That feels better again. Why not take off that armor? Forgive me if I sound disrespectful, but you are Kandake, you said. Surely if the queen wishes to feel a little air on her skin, it is allowed, no?"
Dakhete gaped a little in surprise and then she chuckled, "And what am I to do with my armor, Yasmin, ask you to carry it for me? Summon someone for that?"
"Of course not," Yasmin laughed, "though I would carry it happily for you if it is your wish. I was thinking of a more sensible solution."
Dakhete smirked, "And what would that be?"
"Let Najmah carry it." The girl smiled.
Dakhete began to pull her boots off on the spot. A few minutes later, Yasmin stared as Dakhete stood wearing little more than a white underveil that she'd been wearing underneath everything wrapped around her and it was open for the most part, hiding little of her dark body. It was wet with sweat and stuck to her, but the warm air and the breeze, ... it dried almost before ones' eyes The blue shawl was still on her head, covering everything but her eyes.
"You are so ... you are more lovely than I had imagined," Yasmin said, "But why am I not allowed to see your face?"
Dakhete groaned as she gave in to giving her breasts a gentle scratch, "Oh, free at last," she chuckled and Yasmin saw those golden eyes turn toward her.
"I am not hiding my face from you. It was not my plan to meet anyone today and this is how I go when I dress in armor because it often serves my purpose to look like a man, as I have said. There is a lesson in this, but I do not know if it is too early to begin this part. I will try nonetheless.
Often, it is desirable to hide one's face if one does not wish to be known. But there are other reasons for it. Look at me. I stand here hiding almost nothing of my body. This traps the eye of a male opponent. They hesitate, wanting to see more, or at the least, trying to commit what they see to memory. My face is hidden and I am a mystery.
Even to a female adversary, my body may draw her eye, but with most females, it is more the unknown of my face which causes them to slow and wonder. Like this, I am easily wounded, and yet, I am also at my most dangerous. A third of a second is a long time to hesitate in a fight, Yasmin. I can do much in that time."
She smiled seeing the way that Yasmin looked at her. Dakhete wondered a little why she had felt a little nervous about allowing Yasmin to see her body. "I must point out that often I will guide you in a lesson, and I may leave you to wonder over something. But there is very often a key which unlocks a truth. In this case, the key is profound, so pay a little less attention to my tits for a moment.
If you can see -- or imagine that you can see -- one place on an opponent's body which would tell you in advance what his next motion will be, would that not be worth much in a fight?"
The girl nodded, "Oh, I have often longed to know something like that."
"Then never mind my face and forget about anything else on my body," she said, "and look only here."
She pointed to the spot where her collarbones came together. "Every motion that a fighter may make can be seen and predicted if you look here and learn the way that a body moves. Anything that he thinks to do can be seen here just as the motion is thought of and before it really begins."
She smiled, wanting to tease her friend a little, "My enemy can stare at my face or my nipples -- even my cleft - all that they wish after I am dead. Before that, they are in peril if they look at those things in a fight for while my opponent stares, I am moving to end it in my favor."
She chuckled, "Most often when I train -- even most times when I have trained others either singly or in small groups, I have taught wearing nothing more than this blue shawl on only my head. It serves to enhance my mystique, you might say, but like this, I never need to pause to wipe the sweat from my face. Once my sweat has soaked the shawl, it is always cool against my skin. My hair is never in my eyes.
As far as my mystery goes," she laughed softly, "I think that you ought to know how I regard you." She stepped a little closer to Yasmin and spoke a little slower for emphasis. "Listen carefully.
Of all of my students, and I have trained armies of fighters to slip in unobserved to kill and then leave unnoticed by anyone, none -- not one of them has ever seen my face, Yasmin. Not one."
She lifted the veil from her head completely and began to untie the shawl. When she pulled it off and wrapped it up in one hand, she smiled a little shyly. "I only hope that I do not disappoint my pupil."
Yasmin stared and tried to answer, but all that she could do was to shake her head slowly while her eyes remained locked on Dakhete's face. Finally, a few words managed to escape, "I have never ... Oh Dakhete, you are ... you, ..."
"I am growing old waiting for you to finish, "she laughed, "Stop it, Yasmin. You are making me feel foolish with this. I take your rapt expression as a compliment -- a very heartfelt compliment and I am honored that you like the way that I look.
So?" she grinned as she took Yasmin's hand to get them moving again, "then let it be said that we like each other and let us get on with the important things, such as getting clean and eating our meal."
"But what, my friend? Must I summon a long-dead scribe to have it written that for some reason that neither of us can understand, we seem to be smitten with one another? I have struggled over it all the day and now I am tired of the struggle. Be happy that I like you, for I am enjoying the day with my friend. I in my turn, am happy that you like me. We laugh only standing still. That is the gift of new friends to each other. It does not have to be understood. I have given up trying to understand it. I would rather eat now. What more is there?"
Yasmin stopped and held Dakhete's hand tightly so that she had to stop again. They stood on the hillside looking at each other as Dakhete waited.
"I almost died this day," Yasmin said, "and I met one who is like me -- and who even likes me too. I am to be taught things that I could never seek ways to learn by myself. Now I find that the one who saved my life is not only a warrior who is a girl; she is a queen, and mighty from everything that I see and hear. You can raise the dead and travel far in the blink of an eye. You are the most beautiful woman that I have ever seen in my life, and you like me?
Dakhete, it is all too much in only a day."
"Fine," Dakhete sighed heavily and rolled her eyes, "You need a moment then. I will wait."
Yasmin's jaw fell open and Dakhete laughed. It broke whatever spell her friend was under and she laughed as well. They began to walk.
"It is a bit much to take in, you must admit," she smiled at Dakhete, "Look at it from my view."
"I have and I see it," Dakhete smiled, "Your life was so much easier before. You woke up, someone chained you to poor Najmah here and you were about to be stoned to death. What could be simpler? Now you are in a sandpit surrounded by dead things and a crazy woman."
"Who likes me,"
"That is true. Yes, I suppose that it must be a lot for one day," Dakhete said, "but I was becoming embarrassed. I was afraid that you wouldn't like me." She looked over, "I have made a friend of a girl. You have made a friend of an old-"
"Older girl," Yasmin laughed, "What of it? Have you seen yourself in anything shiny, Dakhete? I know that you are much older than I am, but we are not human, are we? You look like no more than my slightly older sister. I feel very proud to have met you and I am happy to walk with you. That is all that needs to be said.
Well that," she grinned, "and how very happy I am to finally see my teacher's beauty. It makes me feel privileged and accepted as your pupil as though I belong. Tell me of your troubles," the girl said, "If they are not gone, then I still wish to help if I can."
She saw Dakhete smile, "My troubles," she repeated, "They are not too much, but I face one that causes me to stop and think often these last few hours. You see, I have this new student. She is quick in her mind and she shows me at every turn that she would be my greatest pupil. She is young, just about to enter the lowest age where I would even consider training her.
In fact, I would NOT train anyone else at that age. But this one has had to live by her wits, having nothing else in her arsenal. That makes her perfect for this. In my whole life, Yasmin, I cannot say that I have ever seen one who shows more promise and lets me see that she is beyond willing."
"Oh, that," Yasmin smiled, "well tell me, what is the difficulty then?"
"The difficulty," Dakhete said, "is that a teacher must retain a certain ... distance in order to remain objective."
"I see," Yasmin smiled without turning her head as they walked, "But it is likely that this student will succumb to the tendency of many students to wish nothing more than to be closer to their teacher. Infatuation is a natural leaning if one looks up to one's teacher. You and this student will need to be careful to see the foundation of this tendency."
Dakhete's head snapped around at Yasmin's words. "A very astute observation," she said after a moment. She looked ahead herself and they walked in silence for a moment.
"Thank you," Yasmin smiled at last, "I knew that all of those hours spent learning to read the texts in the shops would have a purpose one day."
"You can read?" Dakhete asked, "There is it again, the student surprises the teacher at every turn."
"I am glad of it," the girl said, chuckling, "I'd do anything to please and impress my teacher, you know."
"Come on then," Dakhete laughed, "See the torches there? That is where we may bathe."
"What about Najmah?" Yasmin asked, "She's dustier than both of us."
"Then she needs to be washed as well, if she will permit it. Faithful beasts of burden are cherished here. In fact," she chuckled, "I may have to provide Najmah with her own attendants, she is such a good girl."
Yasmin shrugged as she looked over, "That's my Najmah."
The river felt cool and pleasant after the heat of the day and their travels on foot. Yasmin looked over when she had finished washing and stepped closer, "I wish to say my thanks for everything that you have done for me this day. I feel as though I am to begin a new life now."
Dakhete held put her hands on Yasmin's slender hips and kissed her cheek, "And so you will. Only be prepared for the harshness of some of the aspects."