A Little Egyptian Prince
Letter to mother
If you are reading this, I am already dead. I am sorry it had to come to this but this was the only way.
For years you have been working hard crafting and polishing the walking canes for King Tutankhamun. Ever since I can remember, my job was to test them for him, to deliver them, and to ensure that they helped him in his walk. I was his friend and confidant. We were naughty little boys together. As we grew up, I felt we understood each other because we suffered from the same ailment. I loved him like a brother and I thought he did so too. But it seems I was wrong. But I don't blame him, to be honest. He has a whole kingdom to rule and that comes with its set of challenges.
Mother, I can only imagine what it might have felt to have been chosen for the role. I remember you told me that the King was in his carriage one day and he saw you walking with me in the square as I struggled with my little cane. I was barely two years old. You were later summoned to the palace so that you could make walking canes for his young son.
I was taken to live in the palace so that I could teach the little boy how to walk. The queen also wanted the little prince to learn to walk using a cane by following my example.
We quickly hit it off I can imagine. After all, we were alike. In an environment of mighty royals, I imagine what it might have felt like for the little boy to find someone he could resonate with. I remember a childhood of joy and laughter. Both of us running with our little canes, sometimes falling and sometimes playing little tricks on others. We couldn't participate in the chariot races, hunting, or archery but we had fun watching these games. We were always betting on who would win or lose. Ours was a game of the mind.
I was too young to see our differences mother. As a child, I always thought my friend's canes were stronger and golden because that's the colour he liked. After all, you always asked me the colour I liked and always made a cane for me in those colours. I did not understand why my canes broke often or were never quickly replaced. I also did not understand why Tut had so many at his disposal while I only had one at a time.
You protected me from all this mother. You did not want your little boy to be heartbroken from learning the truth too early. You let me enjoy my childhood like a carefree little kid. You let me be a little Egyptian prince.
Mother, I did not know that you lived in a barn. While I enjoyed all the luxuries my life had to offer; grapes, dates, pomegranates, rice, fruit juices, smoked meat, fish, grains, spices, and other delicacies, you barely had enough. I thought you went to stay with the little princesses when you left just like I went to stay with the little princes.
But I wasn't ignorant of my predicament for too long mother. Slowly, I began to get smart about it. As my friend was being groomed to be king and as he ascended into power, I learnt constantly.
Mother, it has been four years since King Tut came into power. His condition is getting worse. Very soon I fear that he will be dead. The people around him are already plotting a succession. Different camps are conniving their way into power in this event. As he has no heir there will be bloodshed before one of the camps eventually wins.
Upon his death, your services will no longer be needed mother. So will mine. I know you know that. Nobody wants a cripple in the palace. As I also already know too much about the politics of the officials in power, I fear for my life after the King's death. I am certain that I will be eliminated through any means possible either before or after.
Because my predicament is obvious, I do not wish the same for you mother. I want you to be away from this forsaken place when that happens. I want you to be safe and free. I want your future to be quiet and peaceful. You have already spent your entire life trying to make life less miserable for two crippled boys. It is time that you spent it to take care of yourself. That's why I am doing this mother.
Mother, for years I have been chipping off some gold from King Tut's canes. Often when I have to bring them to him, wash or store them away, I scrap a little away. I have learnt to cut some thin threads off the golden rings too. I have also learnt to polish them back to shape after my cuts. Years of watching you work made me a pro at leaving your handicraft intact. I would not want this to be traced back to you.
The canes are an easy target as very few people get to handle them. The King cares little for them. He barely looks at them even. He hates them. He hates being a cripple. Imagine all that power when you do not possess the power to lift yourself up or to support your own frame? It is this ailment that will take the kingdom away from him he says. And he hates it. Even though he has always expressed self-loathing, his condition seems to bother him more as an adult. Often, he throws his canes in fists of anger. He sometimes falls from his drunken episodes and as the official bearer of his canes as you know mother, I have to deal with that.
As I have to do minor repairs on the canes, I get to handle a lot of golden chips and rings. I always hide them under my wig when I leave the palace and for years have been hiding them in a clay pot buried inside the old barn you used to live in. That's where I am right now as I write this letter to you. I am sitting on the spot you used to sleep on and that's where the gold is buried, mother.
After reading this letter, I want you to go and get it, mother. And don't worry. There are no ghosts in that old barn. I am the one who started that rumour to deter people from going in there to find your buried treasure mother.
When riding with the king one evening, he must have seen some tattered old linen from the servants that had lived there and suggested that ghosts lived in those old barns. I had at this point been burying my treasure in there and this comment came in at the right time. I joked back to him insinuating the same and he ordered the barns be destroyed immediately. I had to think quickly and suggested that appeasing the ghosts by giving them a place to reside was better than angering them by destroying their habitat. He agreed mother and my treasure, your treasure was safe.
So don't fear going there to dig it up. There are no ghosts. And because others will fear encountering them, you will be safe mother. Just remember to go in the dead of the night. I have been doing it for a few years and I have never been caught. And enter the barn from the left side. It is much safer and the roof is less likely to fall on you.
Mother, as I write this, eleven of my friends at the palace have already been killed. They were sent to fight the enemy at the front. With little combatant experience, they met their death. Advisor Aye wants little blood on his hands. So he advises the King to make such decisions. Slowly by slowly, they weaken the king by reducing his circle. They tell him that he has to test the loyalty of those closest to him. And he agrees. He is weak which makes him paranoid.
I received my letter from the king today mother. And as I cannot physically fight, I expect to die. I hid this letter amongst your will because I know you would only touch that section of your belongings upon my death. I also know that that is where you keep your emergency gold coins. I wanted it to be near yet far. I did not wish you to find this letter prematurely. For your safety and mine.
Mother, you know we both would have wanted to leave the palace, go to another place and live another life but our fate was sealed. We had to serve the King. But mother, now that I am dead, you are free. You know you are allowed to mourn your son, to take the time off to bury him. Mother, take the gold in the barn and run, and never come back. If you don't come back, they will say you went mad from losing your son and that is what we want. That way they will leave you alone.
Before I go, I have some confessions to make mother. Remember when you had to make twenty canes a week because the king had ordered it? That was not true. I had ordered them myself so that you wouldn't feel bad for abandoning your King. He has enough canes and therefore no longer needs you.
Also, remember a few months ago when you were relieved of your duties of carving canes for the king and was forced to train new apprentices? It is I that orchestrated that mother. I wanted to free you early enough so that they wouldn't come looking for you when you didn't show up. I know it hurt you deeply to see your job taken away from you and to be forced to train the ones that would take it from you mother, but it was the only way. Please forgive me.
The King is dying. And upon his death, you might not be spared. So mother, take the gold and run. In the name of my mourning go to another land and start a new life. Find a new man and have another child. A healthy child. A child that shall not tie you to servitude to a king. A life that shall not put you in danger.
I love you mother and I thank you for giving me the life you did. The life of an Egyptian Prince. It is because of your ingeniousness that your talent was noticed. It was because of you that I got to be who I was.
Mother, I do not want a lavish burial. Please spare the gold, combine it with the gold you will receive for my services, and use it to get yourself a better life. All you have given me in life is enough. Please do not give me more in death. I did all this because I love you mother and because I want the best for you. Please don't let my death and sacrifice be in vain. Please mother leave. Leave the capital.
This is not goodbye as I feel you will still be with me and I with you.
Mother just one more thing. Please destroy this letter as soon as you read it. If they find it in your belongings with the seal unbroken you will be spared. A broken seal will mean that you were an accomplice to my crimes and your life will not be spared. Please throw this letter in the flames as soon as you finish reading it.
I love you mother and thanks for everything. And please mother, leave!
Your loving son