ANKHESENPAATEN’S FACE HAD TURNED a sickly shade of pale. She cried out as wave after wave of excruciating pain coursed through her body.
“What is it?” asked Tut, holding her hand tightly. “What is happening?”
“The baby is coming, Tut. Right now.”
And at those words, Ankhesenpaaten began to cry. She knew that no child should enter the world so early in a pregnancy. There was no way it would live.
It was as if Tut and his advisers did not exist now. Alone with the child, she curled into a ball on the floor and sobbed bitterly, pressing her face into the cool, smooth stone.
“I am so ashamed,” she whispered.
“My queen… ,” said Tut.
“I am not worthy of being called your queen,” she said, sitting up straight and looking deeply into Tut’s eyes. The bile in her throat rose as she stared at the three advisers. “I cannot give you an heir. Don’t you see? I am incapable.”
The advisers said nothing to this, but none would have disagreed. Thanks to their spies within the royal household, the aging men knew that she referred to them as the Serpents. The girl was arrogant and disrespectful, but she was also very smart.
“Don’t speak nonsense,” Tut said in an unconvincing voice. This was the moment he had feared since Ankhesenpaaten had announced that she was with child again. “We’ll put the child in my burial tomb. Much of it is already finished.”
“You’re not listening to me,” said Ankhesenpaaten, just as a contraction sent a new wave of pain through her body.
“She’s right,” Horemheb pronounced. “She sees things clearly.”
Tut got to his feet and stood toe-to-toe with the general. “Do you dare tell the pharaoh that he is in error?”
Horemheb didn’t back down all the way. “No, sir. I am merely agreeing with your queen. You heard her. She is telling you to take another wife. Listen to her.”
Tut bent to the floor and scooped up Ankhesenpaaten. Lovingly, he kissed her cheek as she wrapped her arms around his neck and he carried her to the royal bedroom.
“I will deal with you later,” Tut said to Horemheb. “Egypt is a land of many generals. Do not forget it.”
Then, to Aye, he added, “Send the doctor to the bedroom. Do it quickly, Scribe.”