Pharaoh's servant |

Pharaoh's servant

By Rebecca Lee Varady

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The old cook’s day started several hours before the sun rose and ended several hours after it set. His position at the Palace was of great importance, and he was responsible for the Palace’s entire food preparation - from the Pharaoh’s banquets to the servants’ daily meal. Unfortunately, one of those responsibilities was to ensure Pharaoh received his breakfast, which was at the same time and served by the same person every day. And this is where the problem lied.

The old cook had important duties to attend to and making sure Ra was awake was not one to them. This was the fourth time in a week Ra did not show up at sunrise to take Pharaoh his breakfast. Ra was Pharaoh Thutmose II most favorite servant, only the Gods knew why, and the one chose to present him his meals.

He lies, cheats, steals, is always late but to Pharaoh, he is a loyal servant. Not this time, the old cook said to himself as he tried to open Ra’s door and found it locked, again.

“Wake up you lazy thief! The others are tired of being beaten for your misdeeds,” the cook shouted as he banged on the door. Finally, after a few moments, the door opened, and a very sickly looking Ra poked his head out.

“Is it morning already?”

“You know it is!” He snapped, “Pharaoh’s breakfast is ready, and everyone is waiting for you. Nothing can proceed today until Pharaoh has had his first meal,” spat the cook.

Pharaoh Thutmose II had an order to his life that could never be broken, where maintaining this order was ritualistic. The first and most important “ritual” was no business would commence until he had eaten his first meal of the day. The Vizier, any Ambassadors, and even foreign Kings would be left waiting until Pharaoh had broken his fast.

The old cook returned to the kitchen feeling worse than before he left. If Ra did not arrive with the Pharaoh’s breakfast, it would be he, not Ra, who would be whipped.

Ra tied a linen rag around his waist that he found lying on the dirty floor and walked to the courtyard, just outside his room. The day was already hot, and Ra could feel the sweat dripping from his body as he walked toward the small water well in the center of the courtyard. There, he filled a bucket with water and splashed it on his face. The water was cold and shocked him back to reality so quickly that he almost threw up. Luckily for him, he was able to swallow the bile before it passed his lips and then walked slowly toward the kitchen.

Once again Ra would lie to Pharaoh. He and his friends frequently visited a local tavern where Ra was forming a very loose relationship with the owner who provided an endless supply of women and wine. Previous times, he told Pharaoh his head was hurting and feared illness should he not rest. Ra may have been lazy and a liar but he was not stupid. He had been a slave all of his life and learned at a very young age how to control his masters, and the Pharaoh was exceptionally easy to train. The man might be an extradentary ruler but was naive to human behavior. He would tell Pharaoh he had an illness in his head to cover his sickness from the wine in the mornings. Pharaoh believed him, even though the smell of the women and cheap wine lingered on his breath each and every morning.

The old cook had a tray ready when Ra finally arrived in the kitchen. Pharaoh had the same breakfast every day - bread, cheese, dates, onions and wine. Ra was struggling to keep everything from last night in his stomach when the old cook advised Ra of one of the people waiting to see Pharaoh.

“I guess he is a doctor from the Delta. He specializes in head illnesses,” the old cook said smugly as the other kitchen assistants laughed. They all hated Ra because at one time or another they were punished for misdeeds he committed and lied about to Pharaoh. Ra could not comment because if he spoke, he would not only lose control of the words but anything else that would come out of his mouth. He swallowed more bile and carefully carried the tray to the food taster waiting with several of Pharaoh’s personal guards by the servants’ entrance to the Pharaoh’s bed chamber.

The food tester was an old man whose only job was to eat a portion of Pharaoh’s food. It had been his job all his life as it was his father’s and his father before him, who died when a scribe tried to poison the Pharaoh’s dinner wine. The food taster examines the entire meal ensuring nothing was placed on the food or in the wine, and then, randomly eats a piece of the breakfast with a wooden pick and takes a sip of wine. The only way to determine if the food is indeed poisoned is if the food taster dies within a few minutes of sampling the meal. In this case, the food taster did not die, and Pharaoh could eat his breakfast without fear of death. If the poison were slow acting those few minutes would be enough time to save the life of the Pharaoh. A food taster could be replaced easily. A Pharaoh could not.

Ra proceeded to the door of the Royal bedchamber and waited outside patiently listening for any sounds of movement. When he was satisfied the Pharaoh was alone, he entered.

It was not odd to for him to be alone in the mornings since it was part of his ritual to send the woman back to her quarters once he has completed “Ensuring the Royal Line.” Ra always laughed to himself when Pharaoh said this because it was common knowledge that the Pharaoh’s wives and concubines enjoyed the company of his personal guards, his scribes and even a stable boy over Pharaoh himself.

Ra entered the room and announced, “The people of Egypt have prepared this food…” Ra stopped and walked to the bed. Normally, by this time Pharaoh would have been up, dressed and working at his desk. Instead, the Royal Steward was standing at the foot of the bed as if staring into nothingness. As Ra walked toward the bed, he saw a horrific sight.

Pharaoh was lying in the middle of the bed with his eyes wide open his left hand clutching his chest and his face twisted in agony. Ra stumbled backward, dropping the tray and vomiting on the floor.

Pharaoh was dead.

Who would now protect him now? Where would he go? What would he do? All he could think about was himself and not of the man who cared and protected him for the past several the years.

A guard hearing the noise ran into the room to see what the commotion was about and saw Ra and the Stewart staring at Pharaoh’s bed. He immediately approached the bed and saw the horrific sight. After regaining his composure, he placed his ear close to the Pharaoh’s mouth and his hand on Pharaoh’s chest. When he was convinced there was no breath he advised his superiors Pharaoh Thutmose II was dead

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