At first, when I became queen, I thought I could help undo or prevent the cruelty resulting from Trypheana's reign. However, the reality is the next three weeks since I became queen, I have done nothing. It seemed as though I was merely given the title just to silence the citizens of Egypt. I rarely attended meetings about dealing with Rome. Trypheana seemed to be sure word of her discussions about our nation did not reach my ears until after they take place. I am only a puppet, a figurehead, not a real queen.
At this moment, I rested out by the river with servants fanning me while my two younger sisters played by the water. The majority of the days seemed to be like this. I took comfort in the fact that I at least could sleep a bit more soundly. I held the title of queen, while at the same time not disturbing my sisters plans so she will hopefully not see me as a threat.
"My army defeats yours, Cleopatra!" Arsinoe declares, slamming her wooden toy ship into Cleopatra's. "I win the nation and become its queen!"
What is this game they are playing? I wonder.
Cleopatra holds up her finger. "You forget, Arsinoe. I have a secret army I use for emergencies." She pulls out a bigger wooden ship from behind her back and uses it to knock the other ship out of Arsinoe's hand. "I win the nation, and my first order is sentencing you to death, Arsinoe!"
"You cheat, Cleopatra," my youngest sister accuses with her hands on her hips. "You should be the one put to death, and I…"
"Stop!" I interject, sitting up straighter. "I do not want to hear you two talk of sentencing each others deaths."
"But it is only a game," Arsinoe pouts.
"I do not care. Play something else," I order before leaning back to get comfortable again.
Cleopatra goes to her and tugs her arm. "We have to do as she says. She is queen now."
"I thought Trypheana was the queen," Arsinoe replies rather loudly.
"She is queen, too," Cleopatra explains in more of a hushed voice, taking her hand. "Come, let us say we both won and are queen for our game, like our older sisters. We can build a nation in the sand over there."
At that moment it dawns on me that the first real command I have given as queen was telling my little sisters not to play a game.
I sit alone in my chambers, combing my hair. I did not even bother calling maids in to assist me for there was no purpose. I would likely either dine alone or with my younger sisters. It seems my main purpose as queen is keeping my little siblings in line. I doubt Trypheana will ever find me a husband and any request I make to marry will be denied to keep me from gaining more support than her. So it appears my grim future will consist of me being an idol secondary queen until my sister decides I am of no further use to her.
I hear a rough rapping on the door.
"Come in," I say, without even bothering to turn around.
"My queen," Pythagoras says as his heavy footsteps draw nearer.
I turn to face him and he takes a bow. I ask, "What brings you here at this time, Pythagoras?"
"Queen Trypheana wishes you presence," he informs as he rises up from his bow.
I sigh and inquire on, "What does she wish to speak with me about? She has never before bothered to have my opinion on any matters."
Pythagoras folds his hands as he speaks, "You have spent a significant amount of time with your sisters. Her Majesty the queen…" he stutters awkwardly, "the other queen wishes to know how that is going."
Still combing my hair, I turn around and roll my eyes, knowing my eldest sister's true intention.
I reply, "Tell her I have nothing to report."
"Perhaps it is better you tell her in person," he insists. "Since you are both queen, it is good you communicate when you can."
I do not feel at all a queen, but I nod. "Very well. I will see my sister."
As Pythagoras leads me to Trypheana's chambers, I feel as though I am walking straight into a trap. He may have once been my advisor, but I am certain his loyalty currently lies with my sister. Any man who valued his life would be more loyal to her. Perhaps Trypheana wishes to do away with me permanently. The only thing stopping her is my supposed popularity with the people of Egypt. At the same time, if I become too popular she may just have me killed anyway. I must somehow maintain whatever balance I have now to increase my chances of staying alive. I feel as though I am tiptoeing across a rickety bridge over the Nile.
Pythagoras brushes through the curtains to Trypheana's chambers, takes a brief bow announcing my presence, and then leaves.
Trypheana, stands near the wall in front of a table. As it is not just the two of us, she lifts off her headdress, placing it on the table. She then turns to me and forces a smile.
"Sister," she greets in a pretense pleasant tone. "We do not see one another often enough."
I, too, force a smile. "I am sure you are quite busy now." I take in a breath before adding, "You do know you can send word for my assistance to take the burden off. I am queen as well."
"Indeed," Trypheana mutters as she sits down and then motions for me to take the seat across from her. "There is a burden I do wish to lift. Please have a seat."
I am hesitant but I do sit down. If she offers a beverage, I plan to refuse.
The moment I sit, she continues, "It is about our sisters. I am told you have spent a great deal of time with them recently."
I merely nod, knowing there is no point in denying it.
"Well," Trypheana presses on, looking at me sharply. "Is there anything I should know?"
I shake my head. "They are just children. They play games with one another. That is all. Why do you ask?"
Trypheana takes in a breath to plan her words. "Well, it is no secret, the former Pharaoh desired to make our younger sister, Cleopatra, his successor. Until recently, she likely believed she would one day be queen. Therefore, she is a threat to the throne."
"She understands you are queen now," I protest, sitting up straighter. "I have heard her say nothing against it."
Trypheana rolls her eyes. "Well, she would not directly say anything to you, Berenice. Do not forget you are queen as well. She is a threat to you, too."
I sigh, tilting my head downward. "What must be done?"
"I would think it to be obvious, sister," Trypheana says as she rises to her feet, a darkness clouding her eyes. "Cleopatra must die."