Just as we were about to break, Ptuto raised his hand.
Shiah saw this and nodded.
“Did he sign the letter?”
It was a great question. No one was legally allowed to print the Pharaoh’s name without him knowing about it.
Shiah hesitated for a moment. It was telling.
“I mean…. yes? Sure?”
This sent everyone into a state of disbelief. The workers were getting louder.
Shiah put an end to it. “Silence!! Hear me when I say this! Pharaoh himself handed me this copy AND said it was an EXACT copy of the one he gave his priest! When have I ever lied to you!?”
It was true. She’d always been very truthful and told us what was going on in the highest parts of the palace. Important given we would all most likely die in service to these pyramids. Or, as Ptomeses called them, “unnecessary gravesites for the rich.” I suspected he was sold off for a reason unlike myself. Maybe to avoid Pharaohs judgment? There were rumors.
“Should I just keep any further news to myself!?”
No one was able to answer. Disappointing Shaia was like disappointing the sky goddess Nut or worse, your mom. It was terrible.
“All right then! Let’s get to work!”
We went to Ptuto for our daily assignments. There was dissent in the air. I got the feeling some didn’t believe Shiah and maybe thought Ptuto’s question was agreed upon before the meeting. Actually, that second part was me. Best not to share that, I don’t even know why I thought it.
I blame the Greeks.
Nothing good happened whenever they were mentioned. My parents had once invited a merchant over for dinner.
He knew a man who knew a man who’d been to Memphis and had seen multiple pictures drawn on large pieces of papyrus of Greeks.
They were always laying down and eating grapes. They were fat too. No surprise there. If you’re just eating grapes all day.
What were grapes anyway? The man called them that, I just pictured whole cooked animals like rats. And laying down!?
Who lays down without sleeping?
I had no reason to believe these pictures weren’t true.
I almost bumped into the man ahead of me when he stopped.
I’m taller than most so I could see why he stopped.
One of Ptuto’s bodyguards drew a dagger and put his massive body in front of him. Ptuto held onto him trembling as they both looked at something in the sand.
Once again, I didn’t get to the fountain quick enough. There were already 6 men in front of me, drinking their morning water.
We got four bowls each.
It was enough at the time but given what we knew was in store for the day, it was never enough.
By first break, we’d all be painfully parched.
I looked at the sky and Ra was going to be ever present today.
The sun God was usually there but at this time of the cycle it was especially hot and dry.
There was constant talk before sleep of the water source and how for all we knew, it was much more plentiful than anyone in power made it out to be.
Ptomeses claimed that it was a mountain of water on an endless flow. Limitless.
But, he hated Ptuto for whatever reason. In his stories, Ptuto was the one hiding the limitless source of water.
I think it was because of his assistant, Shiah. A beautiful woman from the kingdom of Kush.
Ptomeses was obsessed with her. Her dark skin, her wit, her power over Ptuto was irresistible to Him.
He always wanted things he couldn’t get. His father was the same. He had two camels. Milk to sell from the female and a strong procreation possibility from the male mating with her.
It wasn’t enough though. He took his earnings and invested in things like, the sale of imported goods from other shores. More importantly, sailors who talked about imported goods from other shores. Things he’d only heard about in taverns.
My parents were different. They were happy with food on the table at least once a day, two if we were lucky.
I finally made my way to the fountain. The water was sweet as I drank it.
I headed over to the breakfast area. It was a handful of figs, a piece of wheat bread and a cup of camels milk.
What a treat!
To be fair, I had just only started working on the site when Ptuto was in charge.
I’d heard that conditions weren’t so good in the recent past.
Shiah clapped her hands.
We all stopped what we were doing and paid close attention.