Day 1 of the reign of Setenet Ahit-Kau
Setenet sat in a chair on the terrace, overlooking the rising sun. Her maids gently combed her hair into a basin of scented and blessed river water, careful to not get it tangled between her crown of short, sharp horns. She started to hum a sorrowful tune that was stuck in her head. The maids gave each other sideways glances as she started to sing: Your great-great-grandmother wept, as she cleared the fields she found. For you see she had naught, to feed her fifteen babes.
Your great grandmother sighed, as she wiped her dusky brow. She worked hard in the fields, to feed her five young babes, she sang.
The young girl glanced over as she sang to three women who came in with the pieces of her lavish coronary outfit. It was a deep blue and dripping with little silver triangles. It glinted in the pale dawn light.
Your grandmother did laugh, as she played among the wheat, with her fat happy babe and a slave to keep her shade.
Your mother did howl when she woke up with the gift. She had sold her mother's land to go le-arn the script, Setenet continued.
"Your highness, please close your eyes now," her slave handmaiden, Nabu, said quietly. Setenet did, and they began painting her face with a tender touch. It was a traditional pattern; Blue encircling her eyes, a point stretching down her face, and patterns of triangles between her brows and pointing up from her chin. Her lips were also painted with black kohl mixed with animal fats.
And you my dear young child, you don't know what now to do. You sit in your hut, too hot and small to cook if only you had some grain.
You want to own som'thin big, you dream of your own land, but you've killed many children, who lie asleep in womb.
The servants drained the basin of water, had her sit up, and began to fix her hair up in a grand style. They braided it around copper wires, and bent the wires to make the braids stand up, halo-like around her face. Each braid was capped with a large silver bulb, and wrapped in silver string. After they were done with the hair, they glued silver foil sheets onto her horns. She stood up and had them dress her in the tinkling sheath dress, ceremonial sandals, and a beautiful silver chain shawl that moved like the water of the sacred river Tobu.
You don't realize your children are gifts of the river, they're richer than any soil. And when you die like the babes, Kau will cast you down. And-
Setenet's singing was interrupted by her caretaker, who appeared behind her saying: "First Princess, it's not good to sing such an unlucky song on the day of your coronation." Setenet jumped.
"You scared me Va'anna," Setenet said, putting her hand on her heart.
Va'anna laughed at the young girl, making her weathered face crinkle around the eyes, "I think you are just a little jumpy in general today," Va'anna took the hand of her charge, and guided her to sit next to her on a chaise lounge, toward the interior of Setenet's opulent quarters. "Are you ready, First Princess?"
"I hope so, Va'anna," Setenet said, looking into her lap.
"I shouldn't have asked," Va'anna said, lifting Setenet's chin up, "Because I already know that you are. You will make the empress so proud," She paused, smiling, "And you will make me proud as well."
Setenet smiled back at her, "Va'anna, I just wanted to let you know, although you were not born here in the valley, and you did not give birth to me, I consider you little less than a mother. You have never steered me wrong." Va'anna brought the girl's hand up to her mouth and kissed them with respect and a great deal of love. Setenet stood up and motioned the maids over to finish accessorizing her. As they put in all of her earrings she asked, "By the way, the sun is already up, why are you not yet dressed for the ceremony?"
"I have not been invited to your highness's coronation," Va'anna said thoughtfully, inspecting her loose hair, now streaked with gray.
Setenet sighed, but she knew why. Va'anna, being a foreigner from the western land, beyond the Besme mountains, did not qualify as being of high enough class to go to the ceremony. Even though the woman had served as Setenet's caretaker for her whole life, she was still a foreigner and a bin, a person without horns. Only aka, people who did have horns, would be allowed to join. "Oh, I thought my mother's affection for you would have granted you special dispensation to attend in spite of-," Setenet said.
"Unfortunately, no, the Empress did not have any say in the guest list. I doubt she will be able to attend either, First Princess. She is much too sick, and the imperial physicians are reluctant to move her, they fear she will have another fit, and the Fourth Princess in her womb would die." The servants had finished, so they all bowed and left, save for Nabu, who stood silently in the corner.
"That's ok, I doubt she would have fully been aware of what was happening anyway, and my sister's successful birth is more important than my pride," Setenet said, her face growing sad and distant. Va'anna bowed her head in agreement. "Nabu?" Setenet called, the slave walked over, torso bowed as she faced her. "Nabu, can you see how long until the priestesses are ready for me?" The woman bowed her head lower and backed out of the room, never turning her back on the princess.
"Have you eaten anything yet, your highness?" Va'anna asked. Setenet shook her head.
"I'm too nervous, I have no appetite."
"Well there is nothing to worry about. You barely have to remember anything, and you will be standing in the sun for a long time, with that heavy silver cloak, you need to eat or else you'll collapse," Va'anna warned, sounding very matronly.
"You're right," Setenet chuckled. Va'anna got up and went over to the princess's writing desk, where someone had left a bowl of figs, wenem berries, and nuts. She also grabbed a knife, and placed the bowl on the table in front of the chaise lounge. Setenet sat across from her in a chair that was decorated with scenes of her mother killing wild game. Va'anna began peeling off the skin of the fig with her knife. A small smile creeped onto Setenet's face, and she picked up a few berries to eat. "You remember the smallest things," she said.
"Like the fact you don't like the texture of the skin?" Va'anna asked, throwing the peel on the ground and whistling through her teeth. Two athletic hounds came in from the small side room where Setenet practiced her reading and writing, and greedily ate up the fruit skin. "Or that Ament and Arat love to eat the fig skins?" she asked, gesturing to the hounds. She handed Setenet the peeled fig, and the girl ate it reluctantly, taking small bites, fearing she may be so nervous she would throw it up later.
They sat like that for a while, with Setenet eating and Va'anna peeling and the dogs slobbering all over the marble floor. Eventually, after Setenet had finished two figs and a couple handfuls of nuts and berries, Nabu came back and bowed before the Princess. "Your highness, They are ready for you in the shrine." Setenet stood up and took a deep breath. Va'anna stood up as well.
"When you see me next I will be your Empress." Setenet said to Va'anna.
"Your highness, raising you has been the greatest honor of my life," She bent down on her knees and did a full bow. Setenet gave her a fond look and then left the room. Outside her door two young girls stood waiting for her in their ceremonial green robes and white face paint. They were mistresses of Isitobu, girls who were priestesses-in-training. Setenet held out her arms and the two girls gently held her forearms and guided her to the shrine. It was not too far from her quarters, and they held her arms the whole way. Once she got there they let her go into the room alone.
She had gone into the shrine many times, it is where the members of the royal family went to pray on a day-to-day basis. It consisted of a round room, with large statues to the six most important goddesses lining the wall, each with a little tribute table where people could place gifts or light incense. In the middle there was a large pool of water, it was water brought from the Tobu river, the life source of the people and of this shrine. Every night the pool was emptied and cleaned, so that fresh water could be brought up every morning. Normally the shrine was a bustling place, filled with royal women and politicians. Today, the only people inside were High Priestesses of Isitobu, ready to bless Setenet and prepare her for her coronation. She had to first be spiritually cleansed so that her ascension to become the empress, essentially a deity, would be smooth and be approved by the Goddess Isitobu.
The priestesses gestured for her to enter the center pool of water. As she did, they arranged themselves around her in the orientation of the sacred unicursal Hexagram. For this part of her day, which would in fact take several hours, all she really had to do was sit still. The priestesses would do a lot of chanting, dancing in certain formations, lighting several different incenses and placing a myriad of ceremonial objects in the pool with her. Setenet felt as if she was being made into a goddess stew. By the time they were done, Setenet was getting a headache from the strong smell of six different incenses being lit and she was sure her toes were beyond pruney. Finally, the Arch Priestess, a very elderly woman with white-as-death hair, blue eyes, and a bent back who had been leading the ceremony, gestured for all the chanting to stop.
"First Princess Setenet Ahit-Kau, Daughter of Setentes Ahit-Kau, and Grand-daughter of Setensit Ahit-Kau, are you ready and able to accept the children of Tobu, and act as a mother to the world?" The Arch Priestess asked in her booming voice.
Setenet straightened up her back, and in the most solemn voice she could muster said, "I am."
"Then go forth to embrace your destiny. Isitobu will accept you," The Priestess said, gesturing to the door. Two Mistresses came to help Setenet out of the water and walk her to the front courtyard of the palace. All of the priestesses followed behind the princess as they walked to the courtyard. Setenet started to get even more nervous than she was before. The palace was decorated in all sorts of festive decorations, and the hallway from the shrine to the courtyard was dripping with hanging blue yarn, and on the floor flower petals were strewn about. When they came to the door that led outside, there were two guards who opened it for her.