Chapter 3

Exiled

For six weeks since my conversations with Father and Trypheana, nothing happened. I spent half of that time in constant anxiety over what my elder sister may be plotting, but after the forth week passed, I finally began to relax and sleep with only one eye open rather than two. I do not think Trypheana would target me first anyway. She does not yet view me as a threat, even though I am next in line for the throne. My sister, Cleopatra, will certainly be her first target, all because she is father's favorite. I would then be next, followed by my youngest sister, Arsinoe. Little Arsinoe now looks at Trypheana as a role model, which frightens me immensely.

I try not to question Father's means in ruling. As a god, his way should always be right. But does a good ruler really need to buy support for the Romans? The people of Egypt clearly want something different, and Father's recent increase in taxes only made them want it more. Do they perhaps prefer Trypheana as queen? If so, the citizens have no idea what they are asking for. I wonder if anyone prefers me as queen. I doubt that the people even considered the aspect of me as their queen.

Tonight, my sisters and I were each summoned for a formal dinner with our father. It is quite rare that all of us dine together. I do wonder why father chose to do this tonight. Does he intend to announce his wishes to make Cleopatra his successor? If so, I would greatly fear for her safety if Trypheana were to get her way.

I enter to find a group of chairs gathered in a circle, as usual when father dines with a group. I see Cleopatra has already arrived, sitting on Father's right side. She wore an elegant pearl gown, similar to mine, though I wore much more jewelry than her.

Father's eyes glisten at my presence. "Welcome, Berenice. You are as radiant as the sun." I see a brief flash of jealously in my younger sister's eyes as our father motions his hand towards the chair. "Please, have a seat."

I take a seat on Cleopatra's other side, not wanting to battle Trypheana for the other seat next to Father. I smile at my sister and she does return my affection. Little Arsinoe is next to arrive. She plots herself on the seat next to me. Father does briefly greet her, but that is all the attention she receives.

I take in a breath and then look to the Pharaoh. "Father, why is it you have summoned us on this evening?"

He looks at me, startled. "Is it not unusual for a father to want to dine with his beloved daughters?"

Yes, I think to myself, but only nod without a word.

Arsinoe then pulls my arm. "Where is our sister, Tryphaena?"

I shrug and shake my head. "I do not know."

Silence stiffly brushes across the room. I look around, wondering when my sister would appear. Surely she would. No one ever dared disrespect the Pharaoh by not attending when summoned. Trypheana risked a great deal by her absence. I will admit to only myself I did not necessarily wish to come but would not dream of ignoring the king's orders.

I then spot Pythagoras, an advisor to both Trypheana and myself. Cleopatra and Arsinoe have their own advisor. I am certain Pythagoras favors my elder sister and would be more loyal to her over me. After all, she is the stronger, more determined of the two of us, not to mention she is more certain to be queen.

Pythagoras offers a brief bow to my father and says, "Forgive me, my Lord, but I regret to inform you that your eldest daughter will not be attending due to obligations elsewhere."

"Elsewhere," Father repeats, appearing utterly baffled. "What can be a higher priority than dining with her father, the king?"

Pythagoras shakes his head, his eyes pointed downward. "I know not, my Lord. She did not specify."

My body curls awkwardly in tension. I cannot predict how Father will react or what he will do, but I feel nothing good will come from this.

Cleopatra then looks at me and notes, "Where is Arsinoe?"

I turn my head to my left side to find that my youngest sister had disappeared. I wonder where she dared to go.

Father stands up, thrashing his napkin to the ground and roars, "How dare my own daughters demonstrate such disrespect? They cannot believe I would tolerate this behavior!"

He rises to his feet and storms out of the room. Cleopatra and I rise too, in respect, with a bow. I swear I felt the ground shake as he blows passed me.

I glance back from Cleopatra to Pythagoras. Both seem at a loss for words, as am I.

"What happens now?" Cleopatra finally inquires, looking down at her untouched food.

"Are you hungry?" I ask her, briefly scanning my own full plate. She shakes her head and I say, "We should be off to bed then. Best not get caught off in the entanglement of whatever is going on between our father and Trypheana." I stand up and hold out my hand to her. "Come, let us retire to our chambers for the night."

She takes my hand and asks, "Can I stay in yours for tonight?"

I nod and then turn to Pythagoras, who offers a brief bow and then leads the two of us to my chambers. As I walk, I hover close behind him, squeezing Cleopatra's hand. With each step I take, my intestines twist and shutter. Something is going to happen tonight, something catastrophic. I can feel it.

We approach my chambers with my guards positions at each end of the entrance. Suddenly, I hear fast paced thumps followed by hollers and wails. I sounded like an attack within the castle walls.

"Pythagoras, what is going on?" I demand, my vocals quivering.

Before he could answer, Cleopatra says, "It is Trypheana, is it not? I recognize the sound of her guards. She is trying to take over the kingdom! Am I correct?" And as Pythagoras nods in response, she attempts to break away from me. "I must go to father!"

Refusing to let go, I pull her in closer to me. "No, it is too dangerous. I want you to go into my chambers now. My guards with protect you."

After she scampers in between the guards, I turn to Pythagoras. "Is there something we can do to stop this?"

Oddly, I do not feel a strong sense to assist father as Cleopatra displayed. I know I should feel ashamed but I cannot help myself. Yet, with my sister as queen, my life would hold my more dangers if I stayed in the palace.

"It is best as you said earlier, my princess, we should not intervene," he answers.

"Surely my sister can not win," I say, running my fingers through my hair.

"Actually, I believe she will," Pythagoras replies as he proceeds to explain, "The people are displeased with your fathers affairs in Rome. His bargain with that nation of recognizing Egypt as a country has resulted in higher taxes."

I hear the roars grow nearer and more intense.

"So the rioters," I gasp in a hushed tone, "they are with my sister?"

"They desire to see someone else on the throne, yes," he answers with a nod.

These people have no idea what they are asking for, I think to myself, but the truth is I fear my own safety.

"Father must have a plan to stop this," I say aloud, desperately.

"Princess," Pythagoras continues, "you must not get involved in this. As of now, your sister does not see you as a threat so she has no reason to harm you. If you wish to keep it that way, best you keep a low profile."

I look past him, my eyes losing focus. "I need to see father."

He shakes his head and grabs my shoulders. "That would be the worst you can do now. If your sister suspects your loyalty to him, she will have you killed on the spot once she is queen."

Queen Trypheana? I think of the terror in a daze. That must not happen.

I break free from his grip and dart down the hall. I grab a torn cloak lying on the ground and through it over my head. I hear voices and cries from all directions.

"Long live the queen! The Pharaoh is gone!"

It cannot be! I think desperately as I make my way outside. The breeze given by the nearby river offers little comfort, as I fear I am too late. I do not wish to assist father. He has never shown me much care and love so why should I show him any? Still, I have the urge to see him, an urge I cannot explain. The harsh reality finally hits after all this time. I have never loved my father. I wanted so desperately to love him as a daughter should, but I cannot. He has never loved me either, I know. Of his daughters, he has really only loved one of us.

I then spot a group of guards surrounding a hooded man. I draw nearer, lingering by a tree. The man in the hood turns his head towards me. I do not bother to hide, for I know he is in more danger than I. Instead, I pull down my own cloak, revealing my face. He does the same, but I already know who he is.

For a stiff moment, Father and I look into each other's eyes. He then brings his fingers to his lips and blows me a kiss. I mirror his gesture as the real reason of my desperation to see him finally dawns on him. Despite our lack of tender feelings we have for one another, I still must be here for I know this will likely be the last time I see my father.