Every Last Kiss

Page 25

There are things you were never meant to understand.

You will have to trust me.

Before I even had a chance to ponder its meaning, the cryptic message burst into flame and I dropped it to the stone floor, watching it burn on the stone.Within a minute, it had disappeared completely… as though it had never existed.

I exhaled shakily, suddenly realizing that I had been holding my breath.Forcing myself to calm, I reminded myself of my reality.I was a Keeper and my job right now was to get my bloodstone back so that I could return home to Pasadena where I belonged.And I would do it while disturbing my ancient life as Charmian as little as possible. 

I took a last glance into the mirror before I slipped into the hall, intent on waking Cleopatra up and forming a plan of action for the day.But my plan was waylaid when a house servant rushed to my side, her face drawn and pinched with worry underneath her tied scarf.

“My lady, I am so thankful you are up,”she uttered quickly.“Please, can you come with me?It is Iras.She needs you.”

Iras?!What on earth could possibly be wrong now?I quickly sailed through the empty corridors of the palace to Iras’ bedchamber, the servant trailing behind me.Pushing her door open, I scanned the room.

Iras was thrashing in her bed, her forehead glistening with sweat.I turned in alarm to the servant girl.

“How long has she been like this?”

I crossed the room quickly to Iras, putting the back of my hand against her cheek, but withdrawing it just as quickly.She was burning up, her eyes glazed as she moaned.In her delirium, she didn’t even recognize that I was there.

The servant girl shook her head quickly.

“I know not, my lady,”she admitted reluctantly. “I found her this way this morning.”She hesitated and then continued.“I do know that the priest Annen was going to be bring her an herb… to help her get over her sickness.As you know, she has been ill for the past week or two.I came this morning to tell her that Annen has died. And she was like this.”

My gaze returned to Iras as my stomach dropped like a lead weight.This couldn’t be happening.Apparently, Annen had been meant to heal her.But he couldn’t… because he was dead himself.

If Iras didn’t get better, she would not be in Cleopatra’s tomb to die with us the way she was meant.I sighed heavily.I did not want to be the one to tell Cleopatra.But unfortunately, breaking bad news to her often fell within my job description.

I turned back to the servant girl.

“Please go directly to Cleopatra’s personal physician.Tell them that I need him here immediately.”

She nodded quickly, her face alarmed.She knew that I would not call for Cleopatra’s personal physician, Olympus, unless the situation was dire.Olympus was every bit as daunting a person as Ahmose.She backed quickly out the door.I suspected that she was running at this very moment.

I sat on the edge of the bed, stroking Iras’ burning back and pushing her damp hair out of her face.Her bedclothes were soaked with perspiration.There was hardly a dry place left for me to perch.My thoughts whirled, trying to recall from history books the types of illnesses that ancient Egyptians suffered from… and the cures.

I was pretty sure that I remembered reading about typhoid and smallpox.And, suddenly I recalled that King Tut had died from Malaria.Holy crap.  We had no penicillin or antimalarial drugs in ancient Egypt.There would be nothing we could do but plaster her in herbs and offer gifts to Sekhmet, the goddess of healing.Somehow, my opulent surroundings seemed a little tarnished now that the drawbacks stared me in the face.

Before I could ponder the circumstances further, the door burst open and Olympus hurried in, carrying his leather satchel of herbs.His face was ominous, like always.He never looked cheerful- it was as though he always expected a death, even at dinner every night.The little servant girl scampered in behind him, securing the door in his wake.

He strolled to my side, apparently intent on appearing as though he had not been summoned by me, but that he had simply decided to grace us with his presence.I suddenly recalled why I disliked this abhorrent man so much- he was grossly arrogant.I honestly didn’t understand why Cleopatra tolerated him.

“You require my services, my lady?”His stringy eyebrows rose mockingly as he eyed my face.I pasted on my best superior look and glared at him.

“Obviously, Iras needs your help,”I gestured toward the bed as I rose to stand beside him.As if on cue, Iras moaned pitifully.“Please do all you can for her.Our majesty will be greatly displeased if anything…unfortunate happens to her.”

I couldn’t bring myself to say the words, but my implication was clear.If Iras died, Cleopatra would be pissed at Olympus.

He looked down his long Greek nose at me and I backed away from him.For some reason, he always smelled like pungent cheese.In a land where everyone was overly concerned with how they smelled, that was strange to me.Just one more thing to dislike about this unpleasant man.

“I will do what I can,”he announced gravely and a little dismissively, as he turned his back to me.“It will be in the hands of Sekhmet, as well as my own.”

I almost rolled my eyes.I had foreseen this not five minutes ago.Visions of the offerings that would soon take place in this room flitted through my head.Good lord- I might as well start lighting the incense now. What I wouldn’t give for just one bottle of penicillin or a Z-Pack.

“I will check back in this afternoon. Please do not leave her side,”I instructed.

He sniffed as he stared at me, but he did not dare to argue.He knew that what I had implied was correct.Cleopatra would hold him personally responsible if Iras died.And right now was not a good time to cross her, although he couldn’t know the extent of that truth.I sighed at the thought.I was going to have to break this news to her and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

I made my way slowly back to her bedchambers, not relishing my job at all.As her right-hand girl, I always got the short end of the stick.

Once, when we were teens, she had inadvertently broken her father’s favorite flute.It had been a complete accident, but her father was very serious about his flutes.He had even had an elaborate display case custom made from ebony to house his enormous collection.

Out of curiosity, Cleopatra had taken his favorite one, a beautiful hand-carved ivory creation, to see firsthand why her father enjoyed playing them so much.She herself couldn’t understand it- it seemed a little foolish to her, an utter waste of time.

Unfortunately, though, she had dropped it before she could even try it and it had shattered on the marble floor.I was the one who had to break the news to Auletes for her, although she didn’t ask me to lie.She simply didn’t wish to get struck and she felt confident that he wouldn’t beat me for her mistake.

She had been wrong.In his intense fury, he had backhanded me so hard that I flew across the room into the wall. A sympathetic guard had helped me to my feet and held me as I regained my balance.That guard would grow up to be the leader of Marc Antony’s armies… and my fiancée.

Hasani had risked Auletes’ wrath in order to help me to my bedchamber…because the room was spinning so much that I couldn’t walk alone.I could remember the anger and sympathy on his face as though it was yesterday.But as a member of the royal Ptolemaic guard, he couldn’t say anything to Auletes.It was unheard of.

But Cleopatra could.My face had swelled up for a week, my eyes black and blue.Cleopatra had felt so horribly that she had waited on me hand and foot… and she had gone toe-to-toe with her father for the atrocity, all traces of her fear and guilt for breaking his flute were gone at what she saw as a horrible injustice.

Servants had whispered to me in awe of how she had screamed at her father for hurting me.But I was in too much pain to care.It felt like the intense pain was going to split my head apart.But her railing had accomplished something. The next morning, one of Auletes’ servants had crept into my bedchamber carrying a small ivory box.The box itself was beautiful, but it also contained a set of matching golden combs.I still had those combs in my jewelry box, although I never wore them.I didn’t like to be reminded of that incident.

Cleopatra had never asked me to do her dirtywork again.Although, I was still the one stuck with giving her bad news.Such as today.Standing outside of her bedchamber doors, I took a deep, steadying breath and pushed the doors open.

She was still sleeping soundly, her beautiful face relaxed and unworried in her slumber.I walked silently to her side and gazed down upon her, dreading that I had to interrupt her peaceful dreams with this new development.I sighed heavily once more, before reaching down and shaking her shoulder gently.

I had barely touched her when her dark eyes flew open and met mine.The intensity of her gaze so soon upon waking startled me and I stepped back with a gasp.

“Goodness, Cleopatra.Were you already awake?”

She stared at me wordlessly as I crossed to her balcony doors and opened them, allowing the fresh sea breeze to flow in through her rooms, rustling the sheer draperies that surrounded her bed.  

“No,”she finally spoke, before yawning into her hand.“I just wasn’t sleeping deeply.My dreams have been most fitful, of late.”

“I can’t imagine why,”I muttered ruefully.Could it be the impending doom that lurked over all of us?

“Don’t be snide, Charmian,”she admonished lightly.“We have a big day today.”

She had no idea.

“Yeah, um, about that…”I started, but trailed off as she narrowed her eyes at me.

“What?”she demanded.“What now?”

“Iras is sick,”I started again.But she interrupted me impatiently.

“Yes, I know.She’s been sick for over a week already.Tell me something I don’t know.”She rolled her eyes as she stepped lightly out of bed, as naked as the day she was born, and stretched in the sunlight.

“Well, you don’t know this,”I paused until she looked at me.“Apparently, Annen was supposed to bring her some healing herbs.But obviously he can’t, because he’s permanently indisposed.”

As she grasped where I was heading, Cleopatra froze in her tracks, dismay immediately flooding her features.

“And,”I continued, “She is not doing well at all.She is feverish and delirious.”

“Summon Olympus at once,”Cleopatra demanded. “This is unacceptable.We can’t have any more incidents like this.”She collapsed back onto her bed, her head buried into her hands.I approached her quickly, wrapping a dressing gown around her thin shoulders.

“It’s already done, my queen,”I replied quietly. “Olympus is with her now.”

“What does he think ails her?”Cleopatra asked miserably, rubbing her temples with her fingers, her long chestnut hair tumbling around her shoulders.

“He didn’t say,”I answered.“I doubt he knows,”I added meanly.She glanced at me sharply.

“I know you dislike the man, Charmian, but you must give him credit where it is due.He usually knows of what he speaks.”I nodded silently, neither agreeing or disagreeing.I crossed to her side table and cut her a piece of crusty bread.

Copyright © novelfull thefreeonlinenovel.com All Rights Reserved.