ONLY IN THE ANCIENT WORLD was such a thing possible—such a miracle in architecture. In just two years, the city of Amarna was complete. Aye had been in charge of the site, and now he sent word to the pharaoh. He figured he had three weeks, maybe four, until Akhenaten and his host of minions arrived.
But he had underestimated the earnestness of his king’s desire to flee Thebes.
A week after his message was received, Aye was sipping ale on the terrace of the new royal palace. He was bored and lonely. His wife was still in Thebes. Even worse, so were his harem girls.
He gazed out at the Nile, marveling at the view. It truly was a gorgeous afternoon. The sky was a clear blue, and the heat tolerable if he stayed in the shade.
Then the royal vizier saw a sight so shocking that he nearly dropped his ceramic mug.
Cruising up the Nile was an armada of ships. Dozens. No, make that hundreds of vessels. Their great trapezoidal sails were visible from miles away. Aye could see thousands of citizens from Thebes lining the decks, ready to start their new lives in Amarna.
And on the prow of the largest barge, to see firsthand all that he’d created, stood Akhenaten. The stunning Nefertiti and their three coquettish daughters were at his side.
Akhenaten raised the royal standard in triumph, but Aye was focusing on Nefertiti and those three girls.
No boys. Just girls.
“I’ll kill him,” Aye said in a flash of inspiration. Of course. It was the perfect solution.
Magnificent as she was, Nefertiti had not yet borne the pharaoh an heir. And with no male heir, there was no clear succession. If the pharaoh died—suddenly—there was no one to stop Aye from declaring himself pharaoh.
No one but Nefertiti, the queen bee.
“I’ll deal with her when the time comes,” Aye mumbled, already planning his crime. But he couldn’t afford to make a mistake. To kill the pharaoh and go undetected would require a perfect murder. He would have to be patient, choosing just the right moment and the right means of execution.
Aye pursed his lips. If nothing else, he was patient. The plan had been revealed to him in an instant, every detail and twist, but it would take some time to execute.
“Someday I will be the pharaoh,” he said boldly.