THAT HAD BEEN five months ago.
Now, perched atop a royal birthing stool, Ankhesenpaaten clenched her abdominal muscles and pushed one last time—at least she prayed this was the last time. As Tut stood by her side, clasping Ankhe’s hand, their child finally joined them, delivered into the waiting hands of the royal physician.
It was stillborn.
The poor baby was obviously deformed, with one shoulder much higher than the other and a spine curved sideways, and just as obviously dead.
“Summon the royal magician,” the doctor said emphatically, speaking to a courtesan standing just behind Ankhesenpaaten.
The royal magician would be charged with healing whatever illness had caused the queen to miscarry, burning hot coals on the floor between her legs as she remained on the low stool, allowing the smoke to enter her womb and clean out all impurities.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” Ankhesenpaaten asked in a weak voice. She felt like crying but held back the tears. She had always been a strong girl.
“I do not think it matters, Queen,” said the doctor.
“Boy or girl?” barked Tut in a voice that indicated he would not brook such insolence.
The physician sat up straight, remembering his place. “A girl, Majesty.”
Ankhesenpaaten held out her arms. The umbilical cord connecting mother and daughter was still intact, and now the queen pulled her dead child to her bosom and sobbed in anguish.
Ankhesenpaaten ran a finger over the baby’s head, touching the small nose and stroking the soft black tufts of hair. The child’s eyes were closed, and she kissed each one.
All too soon, she knew, the royal embalmer would mummify this newborn and place it in the royal tomb to await the death of her parents.
“We will get to know one another in the afterlife,” Ankhesenpaaten whispered. “I love you, my darling Nefertiti.”