Save Us from the Queen
Three months pass by since Father was forced into exile. For all those months, I felt as though I have been tiptoeing on a thin sleet of ice that could break any moment from just one step out of place. Fortunately for me, Trypheana seemed more interested in assuring the people see her as queen rather than father. Anyone who openly showed loyalty to our father was executed on the spot.
Lying in bed, I turn my head to see the sunlight peaking in through the curtains. I let out a dreadful sigh. It seems I am never ready to face another day in immense fear. I rotate my head to my other side to see little Cleopatra still sound asleep in fetal position, her back facing me. Ever since Trypheana's takeover, she has spent every night in my chambers with me. I know she would not be safe on her own. Also, our fear seems to bring us closer together. I think we offer one another comfort with our company.
As my eyes move upward to the ceiling I feel the bed sink and I turn to see Cleopatra waking up.
I force a smile. "Good morning. How did you sleep?"
She, too, smiles briefly back, rubbing her eyes. "Not any sounder than the night before."
She has said the same statement every morning I ask.
We both just lay there as the moments continued to flutter by, unwilling to wait for us. Neither my sister nor I seem eager to face another day.
Cleopatra then lets out a sigh and asks, "Do you think Father will be able to get enough support in Rome to return?"
"Shh!" I hushed, turning to her with sharp eyes. "Cleopatra, you must not speak of our father at all. If anyone were to hear you and report it to Trypheana, she could have you executed for treason."
My sister nods, looking up to the ceiling. I could see her eyes start to shine with tears, but she holds them back. I hated to be so cold with her, but at the same time, I do not wish to risk anything that would give our new queen reason to consider us her enemies.
I turn my head back to her and begin more softly, "Cleopatra…"
But an urgent rapping on the door interrupts me.
"Who is it?" I ask, sitting up straight in my bed.
"It is Pythagoras, Your Majesty," he answers. "May I come in?"
Upon my agreement, the door opens and he enters, appearing quite urgent. Pythagoras briefly takes a bow before getting to the point.
"Your Majesties," he begins. "I must first say starting this night, Queen Trypheana wishes the two of you to spend your nights each in your own chambers."
Cleopatra and I briefly look at each other dreadfully. I wonder why our sister concerns herself with where we sleep at night.
"For what reason?" I demand. "We are not doing anything against her. I would like to speak with the queen myself on…"
"No," Cleopatra interrupts me as she stands up. "It is alright. I will head back to my own chambers now."
I look at her curiously as she has her back facing me. Why did she agree so quickly? Perhaps it was because of my sharp tongue or maybe she was taking my advice about not crossing the queen.
As she passes by Pythagoras, he bows. "Your Majesty."
"Cleopatra," I call out as she starts through the exit. "Be sure to take one of my guards to escort you to your room." As she nods, I look up to Pythagoras and mutter, "I ask again, for what reason does the queen demand this?"
"The queen fears that if the two of you were to spend too much time together you may perhaps conspire against her," he explains with his hands folded. "I encouraged the separation for your own sake, Your Majesty."
I look up to him, puzzled. Sure, before Trypheana became queen, Pythagoras was my advisor as well. However, I did not expect it to remain so now. I am certain his advice would favor the queen over me. Otherwise, he would be risking a great deal.
"What do you mean for my sake?" I ask.
"The queen still considers Cleopatra her enemy because she was the ex-king's favorite and possibly named his successor," he responds. "Being around Cleopatra and showing more support to her over the queen would be a great risk for you, Princess. From now on, for your own safety, it is best you distance yourself from Cleopatra."
It became clearer to me that Cleopatra is in more danger than any of us. Yet, she is still a child. I do not believe Trypheana would have her killed, but at the same time I would not put it past her.
"The queen wishes you present with her advisors when they discuss matters on dealing with the Romans," Pythagoras informs me. "They will begin soon so its best you go now."
I nod, deciding best not to question anymore of my sister's wishes. After Pythagoras goes to wait outside my chambers, I summon a couple of my maidservants to assist me in getting dressed. I wear a simple white gown with some golden jewels. One of my servants places my long braided wig on my head.
As I exit my chambers, I find Pythagoras already gone. He did, however, leave a guard to escort me to the meeting. I follow him to the main throne room, where we greeted our father before. I see Her Majesty, sitting on the throne, wearing the same red and white headdress that once rested on our father's head.
I enter and bow down before the queen. Without words or even eye contact, Trypheana merely motions for me to stand behind on the right side of her throne. I look around to see only advisors and noble men standing before the throne, with guards positioned by each entrance. There is no sign of either of my sisters. I wonder why my presence was required. The meeting seemed to start without me.
"My queen, the two most recent delegates we sent to Rome have been murdered," an advisor whose name escapes me, speaks out. "This is likely your father's doing."
"I am sorry," Trypheana replied coldly. "Who's doing did you say this was?"
"Your father?" he mutters, looking at her confused.
The queen arises, looking down at the man with icy eyes. "I believe when I became queen, I ordered that man would no longer be referred to as my father, seeing now he is an enemy of Egypt."
The advisor desperately falls on his hands and knees. I cannot help by pity him for his slippage of words.
"Forgive me, my queen," he pleads. "I did not mean to say it like that."
Ignoring his cries, Trypheana sits back down and motions her hand. "Guards, take this man away and cut out his tongue."
I gasp involuntarily at this harsh sentence. Trypheana whirls her head around, looking at me sharply.
"Do you have something to say, Berenice?" she demands.
I briefly look down at Pythagoras, who shakes his head, and copy his motion. "No, Your Majesty. It was only a cough."
Trypheana just rolls her eyes and turns her head back to the front and asks, "Pythagoras, what is your opinion of sending delegates to Rome? Do you not think it necessary to show the Romans that Ptolemy Auletes is no longer king?"
Pythagoras bows his head before answering, "I believe if we keep sending them, they will likely keep getting murdered, My Queen. May I suggest that instead you focus more on assuring the people of this land accept as Pharaoh? After all, you yourself said that the ex-king made the mistake of worrying too much about what the Romans thought."
"I thought we already assured this," Trypheana reminded him.
"By having the previous Pharaoh's supporters murdered, yes," he agrees, "but you must portray security to your throne to gain their lasting support."
She eyes him coldly, letting out an impatient huff. "I hope you are not suggesting marriage, Pythagoras, as I have already said where I stand on that matter. You know I do not like to repeat myself. Besides, both of my brothers are much too young."
"I was not going to suggest marriage, my queen," he continues, "but instead another form of family unity to show strength to the throne, a joint rule perhaps?"
"I see…" she leans back in her throne, slightly, "and which of my family members do you suggest I rule jointly with?"
He holds out his hand to Trypheana's right and responds, "I was going to humbly suggest your sister, Berenice. After all, she is quite popular with the people. Together, the two of you can represent a new beginning for Egypt."
I draw in a sharp breath. What was Pythagoras thinking? Surely, Trypheana would never agree to share her throne. Instead, she would likely have me killed just for the suggestion. Perhaps that was Pythagoras's intention so he would not risk the queen ever thinking him to be more loyal to me over her. With my death, that would not be an issue.
To my utter shock, Trypheana appears intrigued by his suggestion.
"I suppose if it is a way to keep the people's support, but only if my sister agrees." She then turns her head to me. "Berenice, do you accept your new position as queen, ruling jointly with me?"
I choked on my words. It felt so odd. A moment ago, it seemed as though I was not even present, and now all of the sudden, every pair of eyes pointed at me. Never before had I felt so uncomfortable.
I look into Pythagoras's eyes and he briefly nods.
I take in a deep breath. "I accept."