Nefe, the innocent daughter of Nefertiti, flees her perfect palatial home to escape the clutches of a madman obsessed with usurping the throne.
Under the protection of General Paaten, Aitye—her mother's steward—and a mysterious man named Atinuk, they narrowly escape the corruption in the great sun city and head toward an unknown future in a foreign land. But the road is fraught with danger, from vicious seafarers to Hittite soldiers.
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Main Tropes and Themes
- Closed-door Romance
- Perilous Journey
- Tragic Rose
- Scars & Secrets
- Unknown Outsider
What is this story about?
What is this story about?
Nefe, the innocent daughter of Nefertiti, flees her perfect palatial home to escape the clutches of a madman obsessed with usurping the throne.
Her mother, the Pharaoh of Egypt, is betrayed and murdered; her last living sister abandons her for a fool's errand, sure to end in death. Nefe is left alone and stripped of everything she once knew.
Under the protection of General Paaten, Aitye—her mother's steward—and a mysterious man named Atinuk, they narrowly escape the corruption in the great sun city and head toward an unknown future in a foreign land.But the road is fraught with danger, from vicious seafarers to Hittite soldiers.
To come away with their lives, the quartet must navigate the secrets and shattered lives each carries. Can they learn to trust each other and embrace their future as refugees, or will their pasts tear them apart amid the treacherous journey?
Join Nefe, Paaten, Atinuk, and Aitye in this gripping coming-of-age drama set in the New Kingdom of Egypt.
Who is this story for?
Who is this story for?
Perfect for fans of Michelle Moran, Stephanie Dray, and Amy Tan.
Anyone who loves romantic thrillers and Ancient Egyptian historical retellings, the second series complement of The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles offers a compelling and imaginative take on the Amarna period of the 18th Dynasty.
With its richly detailed world-building and complex characters, King's Daughter is a must-read for anyone who loves tales of love, trust, and new beginnings.
Grab this gripping historical drama today.
The author rated this book for ages 13+ for violence and adult themes.
King's Daughter will contain spoilers for Salvation in the Sun, Secrets in the Sand, and the series prequels, Paaten's War and The Mitanni Princess.
Prologue and Chapter 1 Preview
Prologue and Chapter 1 Preview
Damaski, 1355 B.C.
He had promised his wife he would come back to her. Per the command of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, Commander Paaten had put the Hittite traitors to rest in the tributary state of Kubna and traveled with his legions to Damaski. His heart was almost giddy at the thought of seeing his secret Hittite wife once more. His memory pulled her touch and her scent of honey, oil and wine to the forefront of his mind. His lip curled up into a smile as he remembered her long brown hair and eyes of jade from his nightly dreams of her. But the old man Danel’s words came back to him in an instant: Do not leave her at all. She may not be the same woman when you return.
He gulped down the small fear. He had prayed to Bes every day that he would be released from his oath if he diligently executed Pharaoh’s every command. His oath to the gods would then be fulfilled, and he could return to her. He prayed to Bes to send her dreams of his return if that day should come. He had given her leave of their marriage if she found another man, and if he came back and saw she was with another, he would do as he said: he would see her happiness and leave. If that happened, it meant Bes had not sent her dreams as compelling as his; it meant he would never return to her; and it meant the gods would never absolve him from his oath to Pharaoh.
That outcome unsettled his stomach on the bumpy chariot ride.
From her perspective, it had been five years with no word from him.
The giddiness in his heart turned to dread. What if he lost her? He had given her a means to escape marriage to him. He had said to take lamb’s blood and present it to the city elders as proof of his death. It would allow her to marry someone else.
The recent rumors of Hittite sympathizers and traitors would have endangered her. What if the people of Damaski stoned her for her Hittite heritage? He doubted she would have returned her loyalty to the land that had treated her so harshly, but did anyone else know that? What if she had returned her loyalty? Had she been killed?
The chariot bounced along the lush gravel plains as he thought. With the salt from the sea no longer in the air, he knew the city upon the hill on the edge of the river was Damaski. He would find out what became of his wife before the sun set that day.
The Egyptian army took to the main city of Damaski where the young men came yelling and pointing fingers in every direction.
“Egypt has come to Damaski’s aid!” they yelled while the city elders sat at the gates.
He remembered two of the elders’ faces; they had been there when the old man Danel adopted him as his brother so he could marry Niwa. And when Danel passed, it sealed Danel’s assets for Niwa. Marriage to him kept her safe from anyone who may have forced her into marriage.
Paaten held out his hand to silence the crowds. He spoke in the language of the Canaanites: Akkadian. ”The great and mighty Lord of the Two Lands, Pharaoh Amenhotep III, has heard there are Hittite conspirators here in the land of Damaski. In return for your tribute, he has sent his legions to smite the enemy.”
“A Hittite woman lives outside of town!” a man yelled out and pointed in the direction of Niwa’s estate.
Paaten’s heart skipped a beat—his wife was alive.
“Yes, let us arrest her and burn her with the rest of the traitors!” another yelled.
One of the two city elders Paaten remembered stood up, and, at the action, the young men silenced. “The Hittite woman is Niwa, widow of Danel, married to Danel’s brother, Paaten.”
“Paaten is no longer here. He gave up his brother’s inheritance, or Niwa killed him, as no one has seen or heard from him in years,” another man offered up for discussion.
Paaten sensed the stir in his men’s chariots. He could feel their eyes shifting to him. He knew their thoughts: Was their Commander this Paaten? Paaten was an Egyptian name. He had been in the land of Hatti for two years, and there was a Hittite woman in question.
He had to act fast, or else a mob would march to Niwa’s, and he would have to reveal his secret to his men. If they refused to listen to reason, it could mean potential execution for the both of them—he, a traitor in their eyes, and she, a Hittite sympathizer.
So he bellowed out over the Damaski men’s uproar, “I, the Commander of Pharaoh’s Armies, will go to this woman and determine if she is a Hittite sympathizer or not.” His soldiers stood at the ready, daring the Damaski citizens to move. “Round up the rest of the Hittite traitors for questioning.” He gestured to a Troop Commander to oversee the questioning of the suspected traitors.
The crowd dispersed to fulfill what Paaten ordered.
“It may be unwise for you to go by yourself, Commander,” a nearby Troop Commander cautioned in a whisper. “You should bring at least two men in case the woman is a sympathizer and has Hittite soldiers or spies on her land.”
Paaten agreed, to not arouse suspicion.
“Imhotep and Mai”—he pointed to two heartily built foot soldiers—“come with me. We will make sure this Hittite woman is not a sympathizer to the land of Hatti.”
They came upon the estate. The house he had built for Niwa still stood. It looked like servants lived there, based on their dress—all women, he noticed, and quite a few of them. His eyes fell upon Danel’s old home, his home, the home where he had married Niwa; the home he had left her in, alone.
It has been five years.
His heart plummeted into his stomach. What would he say? What would she say? Had she fallen in love with another? Had she been faithful? Had Bes sent the dreams? Was he to return to her one day to live out the rest of their lives?
“Stay here; be alert,” he commanded the two soldiers, Imhotep and Mai, at the edge of the grand estate.
He walked up to the door of the home and knocked.
Pigat, Niwa’s inherited head steward from Danel, answered it. Pigat bowed and moved from the door. “Master Egyptian,” she said to acknowledge him, but seemed not to recognize him.
He looked around the home—not much had changed since he had left. With the door still open, he thought he should keep up his appearance. “I am the Commander of the Egyptian army. We suspect a Hittite woman lives in this house and is a sympathizer to the land of Hatti. Who is the Master here?” He stepped inside.
“Our Master has been away for five years, but his wife remains in his place. I shall bring her to you.” Pigat bowed once more before shutting the door behind him.
His heart quickened. Was he still the Master of the estate? Had Niwa not fallen in love with another man?
He heard a slosh of water in the back bedroom of the house, where he had gifted Niwa a bath well before he had left. A memory of Niwa’s ethereal singing entered his mind as he followed Pigat to the back room from whence the sound of water came.
Pigat opened the door to slip inside. At the open door, he expected to see Niwa bathing, but instead, a dripping wet, naked toddler ran out into the room and in between his legs, giggling and screaming.
Niwa appeared behind the toddler and grabbed her arm, pulling her into her chest. Niwa’s back bowed over the child, her head faced down toward the ground.
“Commander of Pharaoh’s Armies, I heard your inquiry.” Her voice wavered; a Hittite accent accompanied her Akkadian speech. “I am the wife of the Master of this estate. I was born a Hittite, but I am not a sympathizer to the land of Hatti! I disown the land of Hatti. Damaski is my home. Have mercy on my daughter and me!”
Paaten could only stare at the child peering up at him from underneath Niwa’s body with eyes made of a perfect blend of jade and brown. He was mute, trying to determine the child’s age. Was he the father? Was this his child? Had he left Niwa alone in a foreign land pregnant to rear a child on her own?
His thoughts drifted.
Did she find love with another man and have a child during these past five years? That thought stabbed his heart, but it was what he had sanctioned for her to do when he left. If she was happy with another man, that was what he wanted for her.
But right then, he did not want her to be frightened.
He knelt down and lifted her chin, lifting her gaze to his eyes.
She was as beautiful as he remembered. As with Pigat, Niwa appeared not to recognize him with his wig on his head, kohl lining his eyes, and the bronze and leather attire of an Egyptian Commander on his person.
“Please, Commander, have mercy on my house. My heart will never be with the land of Hatti.” Her jade eyes grew greener with the tears that almost overcame them.
He looked to her lips, hoping and wishing those lips had not tasted another. But at his gaze, he saw the tension in her shoulders immediately spring up, as it had the first day he spoke to her. Fear of being forced to bed by a Hittite man of wealth from her life in the land of Hatti flooded her eyes.
“I will never hurt the woman who saved me,” he whispered in the Hittite tongue, returning his gaze to her eyes.
She stared at him for a moment as the tension crept away from her body. “Paaten?” Her whisper was almost inaudible. Her mouth fell slightly ajar.
Pigat visibly shifted on her feet upon hearing Niwa’s realization and bowed her head. “Master,” she said.
He swallowed, afraid to ask the question about the child. The question again resurfaced: Had he left her alone and pregnant in the land of Damaski? The child did not appear to be four or five years old—perhaps only two or three? Had she been forced to bed in his absence by wayward wanderers? Was this a love child between her and a man who did not want to marry her? Had she simply adopted an orphaned girl?
“You came back?” Again her whisper was almost inaudible.
He nodded. “I told you I would come back as often as I could.”
Could he stay? he asked himself. No; he had to return. His dreams had not been fulfilled. Every night he thought about returning to Niwa, the same horrible, compelling dream came to him: “Remember your promise, General,” a woman Pharaoh called out to him. It seemed to him that until the dream came true, his oath to the gods forced him to stay in Egypt.
He pushed the dream away as he caressed Niwa’s cheek, wanting to kiss her, but afraid of the origins of the child.
“Egyptian troops are at the front of the estate. I must return to them. We are rounding up Hittite sympathizers and traitors to Egypt. We will stay in Damaski for a month or so, but I cannot stay as I want to.”
Her mouth closed. “I see.” She pushed his hand away and stood up. Her daughter stood behind her leg, peering out at him.
Paaten stood up as well. Niwa’s eyes were ever so green. His heart quickened as she said, “Pigat, please take Anat outside. No one may enter until I step from the main house.”
Pigat nodded her head and took the girl named Anat by the hand, leaving Niwa and Paaten alone. They stepped into the back room and closed the door. She spun around to face him, her arms crossed over her chest.
“Are you going to ask me if the child is yours?” Her voice strained.
He had hoped this would not be the welcome. His jaw tightened; he wanted to know the answer but also dreaded to know the answer for many reasons, his child or not.
Her eyes searched his as he thought.
He finally mustered the courage to ask, “Is the child mine?”
“No.” The answer came out cold and sharp like a dagger to the heart. It picked apart an old wound for it to freshly bleed again.
He wanted to crumple over, but he stood firm. He gripped his jaw to appease the ache from clenching it. Letting his hand fall after a moment, he asked, “Whose child is she?”
“Another man’s.” A coolness lay behind her eyes.
Paaten sensed deceit, or did he only want to sense deceit?
She studied him, as if looking for a reaction. Paaten’s brow furrowed; something seemed off. She had said the girl was her daughter; she had said he was not the father—rather, another man. Was the girl an orphan? Was she only mad at him for leaving, rightly so, and therefore trying to hurt him?
At his continued silence, she finally spoke again with a wavering voice. “I did as you said I could do. I have fallen in love with another.”
Paaten dropped his head; his life fled his body. Perhaps that was the deceit he was sensing: a reluctance to tell him the truth. He took a moment to steady his broken heart.
His words came out fragmented. “I wish you happiness, Niwa. As I promised, I will leave you with the man you love.” He turned to go but stopped when she spoke.
“Is that all?” Her voice shook.
He clenched his hands into fists. “What is all?”
“You are not going to fight for me?”
He spun around to find her with tears welling in her eyes. Why is she crying? She is the one who loves another.
“You made your decision. You had a child with another man. I have been faithful to you, Niwa, all this time, as I promised you. You are my wife; you are the only woman I love. For some reason, probably to do with the estate, you have not proven my death so you can marry this other—”
“You were gone, Paaten!” she screamed. Her chest filled with a trembling breath. “I thought you were not coming back, but I had these dreams about us . . . together . . . growing old . . . having children. They were so real, and every time I thought about releasing you from this marriage, a dream came to me.” She shook, and her voice broke. “But . . . even though you are here today, you still have not come back.”
Paaten stood in a daze. Had he heard her correctly? Had Bes answered him? Was he to return forever one day? Perhaps this other man was temporary? Maybe she still loved him? Or did she see him as a burden? Had Bes, in answering his prayers, caused him to be a burden to a wife who wanted nothing more than to move on and leave him? He had never asked her if she wanted this life—only that if she found another, he provided a means to end their marriage.
“You are right, Niwa. I left you for five years, and I will leave you again. I cannot tell you when I will be back, but one day I can return to you and stay.” He saw a tear roll down her cheek at his confession. “I have been selfish. I desire nothing more than your happiness. You deserve every happiness in this life. You deserve a man who will protect you and love you and be here with you and your daughter—”
“If I told you this child was yours, would you stay?” A longing held in her eyes as she cut him off.
Paaten remembered the same plea—the same question—from the day he left her. He again sensed a deception in her voice. “She is not mine, as you told me?” he said more as a question of confirmation than a statement.
“Answer my question. You at least owe me an answer.” Her arms tightened across her chest as she took a few steps to stand in front of him.
“I cannot stay, Niwa.” He untied three pouches on his belt. “I have earned much gold and copper that I brought for you to help with whatever it is you need. Give it to your child.”
“I do not need or want your trade goods, Paaten.”
“Take them. Tell your lover it is a gift to wish you both the best in your life together.” He tossed the pouches of copper and gold on the table. “I love you, Niwa, and I always will. May your life be blessed with your—”
“Stop saying that!” Niwa shook her head and slapped him across the cheek. “You do not love me.” Her finger pointed in his face. “I was just a bed warmer for you while you took a hiatus from Pharaoh’s Army!”
“That is a lie, Niwa!” He grabbed her wrist to keep her from hitting him again. The scent of honey and wine refreshed his memory. He choked on his next words, hating himself if she had believed such a thing for the last five years.
“I have never loved anyone as dearly or as deeply as I have you.” He traced a finger down her face. “I only regret the oaths I made that keep me from you and that have now pushed you into the arms of another man.”
A grimace covered his pallid face.
“I see you in my dreams, Niwa, but I cannot get to you. The gods want me to fulfill my oath to them for saving me in the land of Hatti. When that is accomplished, I will come back to you forever. That was my promise to you. That is the promise I intend to keep, but”—he pressed his forehead to hers—“you love another. You had his child.”
Despite his heartache at the betrayal he had caused and even sanctioned before his departure, he still wanted nothing more than to kiss her, to be with her, to love her and have her love in return. His lips hovered over hers.
“Are you going to kiss me?” Her whisper of a question came hot on his lips. Did she want him to? Did she still love him? But the child . . .
Tears welled in her eyes and also in his. “I cannot.”
“I am still your wife. We are still married.” Her free hand smoothed over his large bicep, and the other, in his loose grip of her wrist, feathered away some braids of his wig. Was this some nostalgic moment for her? Did she pity him? Why was she doing this?
Her lips grazed his, and he stilled his breath. He missed her touch. If she loved another, why was she acting this way with him? He cupped her cheek, but still, he refrained from kissing her.
“I cannot be with you when you do not love me,” he whispered, knowing the strain it would have on his heart when he walked away forever, knowing she would think it to be a sham encounter.
“Paaten,” she whispered without the prior angst in her voice. A tear escaped down her cheek. Her eyes no longer held deception; peace dwelt there instead. What had changed?
She continued in a whisper as she caressed his cheek. “I needed to know your true feelings for me.”
What? A stirring gripped his heart. “Had I not shown—”
“You left me, Paaten. You said you would return, and now that you have, I see how you respond to me. I see now that I was never just another woman to you.”
“You have never been just—”
“I know; I am certain of it now.” She pushed a finger to his lips. “I have let you believe something that is not true. I have lied to you.”
He blinked, and his mouth parted. He lifted his head from her forehead. “How have you lied? What is not true?”
“There is no other man. The child is not mine. I said she was my daughter for fear Pharaoh’s Army would take her from her true mother.” She pulled him closer to her body.
The realization of her confession sank into his stomach, securing him to the ground as his heart leapt in joy. There was no other man. She had no child from another.
“But if she were your daughter, would you stay?” The question came again, this time with an urging.
His heart yelled out, “Even with no child, I will never leave you!” But his lips spoke the reality: “I cannot stay, Niwa, but I will always return to you.”
Another tear rolled down her cheek.
He wiped it away with a thumb. “This is what I can do. I will return to you as much as I can, or if you do not want me in your life, I will not be in it. I will stay away and live a relatively empty life in servitude to my King, as I pledged before I knew you.” He kissed her forehead. It was time to ask her what she wanted for her life. He should have asked her five years ago.
“Will you accept me as your husband now, like in this current life, or do you want me to leave and never return, knowing you will never have to wonder if I am alive or dead or when I will come back to you?”
A long silence filled the space between them. Should her answer be “Leave,” he would depart a broken man. He would fulfill his oath to Pharaoh, live a life of solitude aligned with the principles of Ma’at, and travel to the fields of Re at the end of his life. There would never be another woman as Niwa was to him. In the last five years, he had been able to excel in Pharaoh’s Army, knowing one day he might return to her if he fulfilled his oath in excellence. But if he knew that day would never come, he questioned how he would wake each morning.
An answer did not come; instead, she looked into his eyes and softly said, “I needed you, Paaten, and you left me.”
“No, Niwa.” He shook his head. “You are a strong woman with a warrior heart; it is one of the reasons why I love you. You have never needed me. You only wanted me. It is I who have needed you . . . much more than you know.”
She lifted her chin; her eyes searched his. “You have never lied in what you promised me, Paaten. That I know now. That I trust. If I must go years in between seeing you, then so be it. I want a life with you, no matter how little time we may share.”
A small laugh of relief escaped him as a smile stretched from ear to ear. He placed his parted mouth upon her eager lips. Her hands slid up his neck and onto his smooth head, knocking his wig to the floor. It was then he wished for his long hair for her to tug as she once did. One day it might happen again. The day he would stay would come; otherwise, Bes would not be sending her dreams of his return. The thought lifted his heart even more, and he kissed her harder, feeling her soft moan on his lips. His hands began to roam over her body but stopped when his fingers brushed her belly. . . . The child—Niwa had said she feared Pharaoh’s Army would take the girl from her true mother. Why?
He stopped. The unresolved question beat against his mind. She looked into his eyes, wondering why his hands paused and why he had lifted his head.
“Then whose child is Anat?” he asked.
She chuckled and shook her head. “I pledge my love to you, and you only wonder about a child I have already told you is not mine?” Niwa took his hand and guided him backward into their cot on the floor. “She is the daughter of a woman whom we saved from the land of Hatti.”
He nodded in acceptance, and her neck again drew his lips. His chest drew her hands upon it. Her scent intoxicated him as his hands got lost in her tresses, and his gaze was caught in her pools of jade. His armor came off, but her answer replayed in his mind . . . the daughter of a woman whom we saved from the land of Hatti . . .
“Wait.” He paused his hands and his lips as his mind tried to think.
Was this the source of the Hittite sympathizer rumors? He pulled his head back to keep himself from kissing her.
“Who is we?”
She grinned, shaking her head. “Five years, you and I have waited, Paaten.” She kissed his mouth. “I will tell you everything that has happened later.” Her finger ran from his lips down his strong jaw, defined chest and stomach.
“Now, love your faithful wife,” she whispered with green eyes ablaze. Her body pressed against him, and he obliged her request and his desire, thinking no more on her answer.
Chapter 1: Escape from Ambush
Aketaten, 1331 B.C.
The torchlight from the royal harem’s hall flooded the bedchamber. Nefe stirred in her bed at the sudden stab of light, but at the hushed command, “Princess, get up. You are in danger,” her eyes popped open. A pair of hands pulled her upright, and a linen dress was thrust over her shoulders.
“What? Why? What has happened?” Nefe stammered, trying to discern if she was dreaming.
A belt appeared in her hand.
Nefe tried to see who was dressing her out of one eye as she rubbed sleep from the other eye.
“The people have risen up. Pharaoh orders you to the council room,” the hushed voice came again. A wig plopped on her head as Nefe girded her waist with the belt. The silhouette of the figure dressing her moved quickly and dropped Nefe’s gold-encrusted sandals at her feet. Nefe blinked a few times as she shuffled into her sandals.
The voice sounded familiar.
The people have risen up?
The night’s lull almost caused her to close her eyes yet again and brush off the happenings around her as one of her dreams.
A hard yank on her shoulder pulled her awake. “We must go now,” the voice said again.
Nefe realized she held an end of her belt in each hand as she was being prodded toward the door. This certainly does not feel like a dream.
The light from the door grew bigger as she approached it. A tendril of panic arose in her chest.
If this is not a dream, where is my sister? Is she in danger too?
The thought caused her to turn around to the shadow figure and blurt out, “What about Ankhesenpaaten?”
“I am here, Nefe,” her sister whispered behind her. She spun her around to face her. Ankhesenpaaten tied Nefe’s belt for her since Nefe was taking too long and then ushered her toward the door.
“Wait! My—” Nefe reached toward her empyreal vulture headdress on its stand by her bed: the symbol of her birthright as a royal woman.
“Leave it,” the hushed voice came again and pushed both sisters out of the room.
General Paaten stood at the corridor’s end with his khopesh drawn, alert and ready to defend. Nefe turned to look at her sister to ask “What happened?” but saw her mother’s steward, Aitye, next to Ankhesenpaaten.
If Aitye is here, where is Mother? What is going on? What happened?
A chill passed over her as she remembered the hushed whisper that woke her: The people have risen up; you are in danger.
Nefe grabbed her sister’s hand without another word, and the three women flew down the torchlit corridor. The light from the alabaster torches cast their long shadows against the decorated walls depicting the Aten and her late father’s greatness.
They fell into General Paaten’s shadow as he led them to Pharaoh’s council room. Nefe expected to hear screams, yells, and the clash of bronze weapon against weapon, but the palace was eerily quiet; nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She watched General Paaten’s head swivel, and, at one point, he stopped and strained to listen to something.
Perhaps he thinks as I do. But if that is so, why is Aitye here?
Just as they all turned the corner of the palace corridor, the pounding of feet reached Nefe’s ears. Chief Royal Guard Jabari and Pharaoh Neferneferuaten ran toward them.
The weight in Nefe’s stomach lifted at seeing her mother alive. Mother! She is alive! She is safe! She must have sent the General and her steward to get us.
They all met at the council room doors.
The bleary-eyed General growled at Jabari, “Why was I not notified of the attack? I have sent one of your royal guards to tell Ay and Horemheb.”
Nefe looked between the two chiefs. General Paaten was not told of the attack? He is the General. Neither grandfather nor Commander Horemheb were told either?
A creeping discomfort slithered around her legs and up her back.
“It all came about very suddenly. I sent a messenger to all three of you, but perhaps he was detained,” Jabari spouted off, throwing open the door and hurrying the women inside first.
As soon as Ankhesenpaaten stepped foot in the council room, Nefe opened her mouth to ask the question on her mind, but her sister asked her question for her.
“Why are we in the council room? There is no means of escape,” Ankhesenpaaten said, her voice trembling. The moonlight barely showed through the almost-completed ceiling, leaving little light to make out the figures in the room.
Nefe held her sister’s hand. Ankhesenpaaten was two years older than she and the last living sister she had. If they were going to be murdered in the council room, at least they would be together. An eerie dread overcame her senses, and she shivered at the thought of living without any of her sisters. After losing Royal Wife Kiya, who was like a mother to her, in the plague, along with four of her five sisters, Nefe squeezed Ankhesenpaaten’s hand, not bearing the thought of being alone if something happened to Ankhesenpaaten.
I cannot lose you too.
“Is there a torch in here we can light?” her mother asked over Nefe.
Jabari closed the door. “No. We do not light anything, for the rebels may see the light through the unfinished roof.”
Nefe’s eyes strained to adjust from the brightly torchlit corridor to the dim moonlight.
“You suggest we hide,” General Paaten asked him as he hooked his khopesh to his belt, “like cowards?”
“I suggest we take Pharaoh and her family to safety, away from this place. The people have killed the Hittite Prince Zannanza on his journey here, and, one way or another, she will abdicate,” Jabari said with a head nod to the leader of the Pharaoh’s Armies.
Nefe saw something move in the corner, but she assumed her eyes were playing tricks on her. Who would be in the council room at this hour? She squinted, trying to confirm that no one was hiding in the dark.
“Why was I not informed of the Hittite’s death?” General Paaten asked his subordinate as he pushed his shoulder. “Why am I the last to know any of this?”
Nothing else stirred in the dark. The cold chill in her spine returned despite her confirmation they were alone in the council room. She glanced to Jabari and heard his response.
“As I said, General, it came about so suddenly. The messenger I sent you . . . he must have been detained.” Jabari regained his composure. “There is a secret way out of the council room . . .” He moved his hands along the wall, feeling for the tiny burst of air. “Ah, here it is.” He pressed on one of the stones and opened a half-door leading to a dark tunnel.
A thin veil of sand blew in from the night breeze in the tunnel.
“I did not know there was an escape passageway in here,” her mother said. “Why did I not know of this?”
Nefe glanced around the room once more.
Something seems . . . not quite right.
Her gaze landed on the dark gaping hole in the wall; it seemed to suck away any light that fell into the council room. An uneasy wave of nausea passed over her stomach the more she stared into the abyss.
“This was a design for the royal guard, in case we needed to get Pharaoh to safety if he were injured in battle. They are all over the palace. The doors only open from the inside. Once it is closed, no one can open it from the other side.” Jabari stood and dusted his hands on his legs. “You must always have an escape route in your fortress,” he added as a note of sage advice.
He drew Nefe’s intense stare. “So, what now?” Nefe asked, knowing the last thing she wanted to do was step into the dark tunnel with Jabari.
His voice has a certain strain to it, and his story seems off. Why would the night be so quiet and tranquil if rebels were clamoring at the gates?
“You leave.” Jabari placed his hands on Nefertiti’s shoulders. “Probably never to return, for your own sake.”
Nefe let out an audible gasp at the Chief Royal Guard’s touching of Pharaoh.
Her mother wrenched back from his grip. Ankhesenpaaten let go of Nefe’s hand and grabbed Nefertiti’s arm.
“Mother, what about Tut? He will be killed!” Ankhesenpaaten asked with obvious concern for her friend and husband.
Nefe’s eyes darted between her mother and sister. Do they think Jabari is telling the truth? Her gaze fell upon General Paaten’s shadowy silhouette. Does General Paaten?
The silence lingered until her mother spoke:
“We are not going anywhere until I know the threat is real.” She looked over to Jabari. “Where do your loyalties lie, Chief Royal Guard?”
Ankhesenpaaten, seemingly at her mother’s sudden doubt, crossed her arms and looked toward Jabari’s silhouette. Nefe did the same, realizing she was not the only one who questioned the account of events. General Paaten puffed up his chest and stood behind Pharaoh.
The moonlight did not penetrate the room enough for them to make out Jabari’s reaction, but his voice was clear and forthright: “My loyalties are with Pharaoh.”
Silence lingered in the room, and something caused General Paaten to stir.
“Jabari, light a torch,” her mother ordered.
“But, my Pharaoh, the rebels will see the light and come to attack,” Jabari reasoned.
“I did not hear any rebels,” Nefertiti snapped.
“Neither did I.” General Paaten’s hand fell to his dagger.
Nor did I, Nefe thought, but something moved in the corner again. She was almost sure of it. Her gaze fell from Jabari to whatever it was that seemed to move in the dark.
“Believe what you will, but I was told the Hittite Prince was slain—killed by the very riot that tears down the gates of the palace.” The moonlight silhouetted Jabari’s hand gestures as he spoke.
“I do not know . . . something does not seem right.” General Paaten voiced Nefe’s concerns as he walked toward a sound that caused her hairs to stand on end. He turned to her mother and whispered, “I do not think we are alone in here.”
Nefe’s eyes widened in the dark, but before she could scream out, something bounded toward the Chief Royal Guard.
A glint in the moonlight—and Jabari went down.
Ankhesenpaaten screamed; warm blood splattered her face. Nefe’s voice caught in her throat. A hard grip latched onto her upper arm. The abyss drew closer. Her feet shuffled underneath her as her mother pushed her and Ankhesenpaaten into the escape tunnel. She fell through its black gaping mouth and landed firmly on her belly.
“General, remember your promise!” Her mother’s voice bounced off the stone walls as the moonlight glowed brighter in the room.
Nefe rolled to her back and propped herself up with her elbows and watched the scene unfold; she was frozen where she lay.
Aitye screamed as she jumped away from a dark figure who wounded her arm. Nefe’s mother grabbed the torch, thrust it into Aitye’s arms and pushed her into the escape tunnel with the two sisters. Ankhesenpaaten jumped up and reached for their mother.
General Paaten drew his khopesh and dagger and slashed at the air in front of him, defending himself while his old eyes adjusted. He slowly backed to the entrance of the tunnel, waiting for Nefertiti to go inside. But out of the darkness, a kick to his chest sent him flying into the tunnel before her. Ankhesenpaaten screamed, “Mother!” and her fingers just brushed her mother’s hand before Pharaoh was yanked away.
General Paaten was up fairly quickly for his age, but not before someone in the council room slammed the door shut. He banged on the hidden door constructed in the stone wall, perhaps throwing his shoulder into it as well. Nefe could not tell; darkness encased them. She could only assume as much by the grunts of the large, solidly built General. There were neither cracks nor holes for enough light to enter to be of any use.
“Light the torch so I can see!” he yelled to Aitye.
Nefe still stared in the pitch blackness as she lay on the tunnel floor, propped up by her elbows.
What just happened? The scene that had unfurled before her flashed in an instant through her mind. Where is Mother? Did Mother make it out of the council room? Where is Mother?
“I am t-trying,” Aitye cried. She had been trying to light it since she got into the tunnel; finally, using the flint that attached to its base, she was able to get a spark, and the torch lit.
The stone tunnel lit up. A sand floor, maybe. Nefe’s fingers dug into the sand by her side. A sand-covered stone floor. Her gaze stayed on the door.
The grunts. The yells. The sand. The stone. They shook the fiber of her reality. They jarred her soul in the most nonsensical way.
General Paaten grabbed the torch and pressed his hand against the wall, trying to find some sort of weakness, a handle, or anything to re-open it.
Aitye pulled Nefe up.
Nefe’s gaze fell to her sister, to the General, to Aitye . . . What just happened? Where is Mother?
General Paaten took a sad step back from the heavy door and dropped his head. His chest caved. He turned to look at the two remaining daughters of Pharaoh and her servant.
A sadness leached into his words, though his voice remained firm and deep.
“Your mother wanted me to take you to safety. She wanted you to live a life of anonymity, where no one will know you are royalty, so you can be safe. Follow me.”
Nefe could not command her tongue to argue. With her body in a fluidlike daze, she let Aitye lead her after General Paaten’s footsteps. But her sister’s yell behind her made her stop and turn around: “We are to do nothing?”
General Paaten stopped and looked back as well. “We cannot do anything more. I made Pharaoh a promise that if anything should happen to her, I was to save you.”
“What about Tut?” The tremble in Ankhesenpaaten’s voice told Nefe she feared the worst.
“If they came after Pharaoh, they probably have come after him too. He is a much easier target.” General Paaten’s grimace signaled he wished he could take back his last sentence. The firelight danced on Ankhesenpaaten’s horrified expression. “Come now. We need to cover much ground.”
He turned and began his brisk walk once again; Nefe and Aitye followed closely behind the light of the torch.
He is probably right, Sister. I am too numb to feel anything right now, but I know your heart breaks. Nefe looked around. Where is Mother? Her lips dared not speak what she knew was truth, and she only repeated Where is Mother? in her mind.
They had walked for a while until a noise and screams came from behind them. General Paaten turned back, telling them to wait there. The torchlight grew faint, and Nefe grabbed Aitye’s hand as they stood in the pitch dark. Where is Ankhesenpaaten? At least, she is alive; at least, we will be together. The thought made her stomach churn because she knew her mother would not be. She pushed it away and again asked herself: Where is Mother?
But after repeating the question a few more times, Nefe realized she could not force herself to believe the false hope anymore. The truth punched her in the belly as she sucked in the stale air around her. Ankhesenpaaten’s cries and screams for their Mother echoed in the tunnel: “He is killing her! Pawah is killing her! General, help her!”
Tears burned Nefe’s eyes and rolled down her cheeks in an endless succession as she listened to Ankhesenpaaten.
Mother is gone.
Aitye squeezed her hand as General Paaten came back with Ankhesenpaaten thrown over his shoulder. He set Ankhesenpaaten down next to Nefe and crouched next to them.
“My ladies of the two lands,” he whispered as he gathered the daughters of Pharaoh close. “These are dark times.” He looked specifically to Ankhesenpaaten. “Your mother knew this was a possibility and made me promise her that I would take her daughters to safety—perhaps even beyond Egypt’s borders. I have carried on my person at all times gold for barter, from the treasury, at her command, should the day ever spring upon us. As it has today.”
Ankhesenpaaten dropped her head and sobbed. Nefe rubbed her sister’s arm helplessly, wondering how much their mother had kept from them.
“King’s Daughter, Ankhesenpaaten,” he whispered. “Your mother will live through you.”
Then he touched Nefe’s cheek. “And through you.”
His arms wrapped around them as a father’s would his daughters. Nefe’s father had never embraced her like that, but she had seen her grandfather do so with her mother . . . Mother. She is gone.
General Paaten pulled Nefe and Ankhesenpaaten close. Nefe pushed the thought of her mother away and thought of her own father, the great Pharaoh Akhenaten, who had traveled to the afterlife only three years prior. He had embraced her maybe once in her life before he became one with the Aten-disc, or as her mother had told her in recent years, not the Aten but with Re . . . Mother. She is gone.
Nefe rested her cheek on General Paaten’s golden collar; his bronze armor poked her chest as he squeezed them.
My sister and I . . . we are orphans. The thought chilled her in the light breeze that swept through the tunnel. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but they were not as the sobs of her sister.
I will wake up, and this will all be a dream.
The sobs were not fading.
This is all a dream.
She clutched General Paaten’s neck and pressed her cheek further into his collar.
The beads from General Paaten’s collar imprinted upon her cheek.
This is no dream.
Ankhesenpaaten’s sobs quieted, and he ended their embrace when they had fully subsided. He whispered, “We must go.”
* * *
As soon as they exited the tunnel by way of another hidden door at the tunnel’s end, a dark figure appeared in front of them; soft, scattered light emerged in the predawn sky behind him. General Paaten stopped in his tracks. Nefe’s heart raced as Aitye pulled both of the young royal women behind her.
The figure of a man with a hooded cloak was silhouetted against the dusk sky. Reaching up, the man uncovered his head. His black hair nearly blended in with the predawn sky, and the fire of Paaten’s torchlight danced in his big brown eyes under full black eyebrows. The shadows of the light emphasized his hard jawline and straight nose.
“You are not Egyptian,” General Paaten said, drawing his dagger.
“No, I am not Egyptian but a friend to Pharaoh Neferneferuaten,” he said with a bow of his head. A slight Akkadian accent clung to each word. “There is no need for a weapon, General Paaten.” He lifted his hands to show they were empty. “My name is Atinuk. Come with me.”
“Pharaoh never mentioned a friend named Atinuk to me,” General Paaten said, lowering his dagger just a fraction.
Nefe looked at the bow and quiver of arrows strapped over Atinuk’s shoulder. She shrank closer to her sister as he responded.
“She did not know me.”
General Paaten raised his dagger again, debating whether or not to trust this foreign stranger. “Then how are you a friend?”
“I loved the one known to you as Royal Wife Kiya,” he answered as he swished his cloak to reveal his Canaanite attire.
General Paaten’s face warmed, seemingly at the memory of such a sweet woman. He let his defense drop, but the women behind him continued to eye the stranger. Kiya had been like a mother to Nefe and Ankhesenpaaten, and yet she had never mentioned a man named Atinuk before she passed eight years earlier.
But Kiya was Mitanni. This man is a Canaanite. How did he love her or even know her? Has he stayed here for eight years alone?
“Her last request of me was to look after the daughters of Nefertiti . . . your Pharaoh Neferneferuaten. With the riots and rebellions,” his voice tottered, “I knew it was only a matter of time before I honored her wish.”
Nefe’s gaze drifted to General Paaten, who stood ready to defend or attack.
Riots and rebellions . . . like the one tonight? Tonight when my mother . . . Nefe froze.
Atinuk gestured to the northeast. “I have land in Canaan. The daughters of Pharaoh will be safe there. The sun is about to rise, and we shall do well to leave now under the cover of darkness.”
General Paaten narrowed his eyes at the stranger and pursed his lips, keeping his dagger unsheathed. The silence knocked Nefe into the present. She looked back at the abyss of a tunnel from whence they came, then at her sister.
There is nothing for us back there. I do not trust this man, but we do not have many options.
Nefe grabbed Ankhesenpaaten’s hand, but her sister looked off toward the royal harem where Tut remained.
“Agreed,” General Paaten finally said, and they followed Atinuk out. Ankhesenpaaten’s hand slipped from Nefe’s as they ran across the stone courtyard.
At least, my sister is with me.
eBook File: 1.3 MB
Paperback Size: 5" x 8"
Includes: Exclusive Cover and Interior Formatting
Printed on-demand by Lulu Direct
Hardcover Size: 6" x 9"
Publisher: LLMBooks Publishing
Published: April 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
"An action-packed story, this is all about survival against all odds. The main characters were exceptionally well-developed and the story was paced and flowed smoothly." - Anne-Marie Reynolds by Readers' Favorite
"King's Daughter is a tale of survival, wit, deceit, trust, greed, and sacrifice. The plot of this story was unique and felt so real, showing ancient Egypt through the eyes of Nefe and Paaten. The development was perfect, and the characters were consistent with their moods. I enjoyed the simple writing style and flowing dialogue." - Jennifer Ibiam by Readers' Favorite
"The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles series blew me away with its complex plots and incredible characters. I had high hopes of Lauren Lee Merewether delivering a similar experience with King's Daughter. However, it was not the same; it was infinitely better. Nefe's character was compelling. She was innocent in all this mess, yet she had to make decisions that she never thought she would. She literally had to mature mentally and physically if she wanted to survive. This struggle for survival, the fear that her protector would turn on her, and the unpredictability of finding shelter in Canaan all shaped Nefe into a strong woman. The narrative was perfectly paced, the action was always present, and the descriptions made me feel like I was in Egypt with Nefe. Intricate, descriptive, and entertaining!!" - Rabia Tanveer by Readers' Favorite
"...young Nefe is confused, angry, and mourning the loss of her family. Will she be able to come to terms with all that has happened, or will her grief envelop her and leave her unable to thrive in a new land? ...very human element...Merewether very clearly has a passion for this time period in history." - Heather Osborne by Readers' Favorite
"Having read many of the fantastic books in The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles over the years, I am always delighted to engage with another touching and realistic drama from author Lauren Lee Merewether, who has once again crafted a knockout work of fiction with plenty of pathos, grit, and inspiration to offer readers." - K.C. Finn by Readers' Favorite