Dinotopia is a fictional utopia created by author and illustrator James Gurney. It is the setting for the book series with which it shares its name. Dinotopia is an isolated island inhabited by shipwrecked humans and sentient dinosaurus who have learned to coexist peacefully as a single symbiotic society. The first book has “appeared in 18 languages in more than 30 countries and sold two million copies.”Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time and Dinotopia: The World Beneath both won Hugo awards for best original artwork.
“Can you believe I’ll be chief wife to Harsiese the Magnificent, Nafretiri?” My eighteen year old sister, Shamise, exclaims as she greedily drapes a shining, gold necklace across her neck where it gently grazed her breasts.
Her silver eyes glitter as the sun set and casted a ray of light from the open door on the balcony and her ebony hair and skin glistened from the oils her body servants had put on her during her bath.
My lighter, green eyes trail from the window where I watched the pomegranate tree, that my mother planted years ago before she died, sway in the slight wind, in the small garden that was mine and my mother’s old happy place, to her as I try to hide my frown. It was the first month of Shemu and the days were becoming hotter. Our ladies fanned us from the heat, trying to stop us from sweating as the Nile flooded.
I was sad to leave it, to leave my home in Akhmim and go to Thebes, where Pharaoh Harsiese resided in the Malkata palace, to help my older sister as she fought for Pharaoh’s approval over his other wife of five years, Bahiti.
Pharaoh Harsiese had been in power since I was young and the Romans invaded even though he was only a few years older than I. He was nearly fourteen when he become Pharaoh and now he is twenty and I sixteen. The people of Egypt adored him as he took over and saved our country from starvation and poverty with the help of the viziers.
They didn’t mind how different he looked from the past pharaohs; how his skin paled during Peret, the colder months, and how his hair was the color of the sand that covered the ground. To them, he was a god and from what I had seen and heard, he looked like one.
The first and only time I saw him was when I was almost fourteen and he eighteen. He was being carried on a gold and lapis litter through the streets, waving to his people, with his wife, Bahiti by his side as they showed off their newborn son. He was absolutely breathtaking and for a moment, I was jealous of my sister who has always been promised to him.
Sadly, a few months after, their son died in the night, smothered himself in his sleep by his own blanket, and they have yet to have another child. It was said the pharaoh was getting impatient, demanding a child and an heir from Bahiti soon or he would throw her into a harem.
That’s why my father, one of the most respected viziers to the royal family, took his chance and is finally making Shamise take Harsiese’s attention and become chief wife.
I go to answer my sister’s question, that she asks at least twice a day, when the door to the room opens and our father walks in, his smile immediately becoming adoring as he lays his eyes on his two daughters.
“Senit,” he leans down and kisses my head lovingly as he whispers the word for little girl before doing the same for Shamise. I pet my beloved cat, Khensu, meaning traveler of the sky, as he slept peacefully in my lap. I named him after the God of the moon as he loved to explore at night.
“Are you ready for the travels?” He asks us as we both nod, my eyes trailing to the window again where the servants were loading our heavy chests. My sister leaned over the window to look down when she heard a sudden ruckus and scowled.
“Be careful with that! It’s worth more than your life and what we paid for you,” she hisses as I frown and look down. I hated when she was rude to others. I could never find the way to be mean to someone, even if they were lower in class.
“Nafretiri,” my father suddenly speaks, making my head shoot up. He gives me a soft smile, holding out his hand which I grab, placing Khensu on the floor as he leads us out of the room.
“Your eyes are like a cat’s in the sun, senit. Green as the emeralds that line the palace thrones,” he says as we walk out into the garden. I instantly pull off my sandals to feel the cool, fertile silt against my toes as I lean down to inspect my mother’s mandrakes that I continue to take care of.
I smile lightly at my father’s words, looking up at him. “I don’t think you brought me out here to talk about my eyes,” I say as he chuckles and nods.
“Nafretiri, when we arrive at the palace and your sister becomes chief wife, it is your duty to make sure she stays well behaved and remembers the task at hand. She is hot tempered and you, my girl, must help her. You have patience and kindness, little cat, unlike your sister. She must become pregnant with Harsiese’s heir in the first year or she will be thrown into a harem just like he’s threatening Bahiti. Our family’s fate lies in your hands.”
I listen to his words as I stare at the ground. It was going to be hard to make sure my sister stayed in line. She was wild as a bird, never staying in one place, and had the bite of a cobra when someone upset her. She frightened even me on occasions and I instantly prayed that I wouldn’t be over my head.
I fear that is not the case.
Reeds, lotus, and cattails lined the banks of the muddy Nile as our barge carried us to the City of Pharaohs. My breath was caught in my throat in jealously as I watched my sister parade around in a sheer, white dress that accentuated her curves as rare, glistening jewels and a gold collar sparkled in the afternoon sun as they hung from her throat. She looked beautiful, like always, as her honeyed, tan shoulders and obsidian hair caught the eyes on the slaves as they rowed.
My own dress was as green as my eyes with gold accents, my dark ebony hair was in several braids and pushed back with a gold headband. My sister warned me I had to look plain, but not too plain, and have her be the first one Harsiese sees so he will fall in love with her instantly and not me. I told her she didn’t have to worry about that earning a laugh and shake of the head as she marched off to bark more orders to the servants.
The fact that she was about to become chief wife to the pharaoh of all of Upper and Lower Egypt was beginning to be unsettling, but I wisely kept my mouth shut.
As we grew closer to the palace, the water became clearer, shining like liquid lapis and silver as it glittered in the light. Many boats and ships lined the banks as men, women, and children pushed and shoved to see just a glimpse of the future chief wife of the great pharaoh.
“Great Osiris,” I whisper to myself as I see the Elders being carried high in their shining litters and hundreds of soldiers and slaves waiting for our arrival. As we stepped onto the bank, we were all escorted to our individual curtained litter and picked up as they slowly carried us to the palace.
I smile as I watch musicians entertain the growing crowds and close my eyes as the beautiful flutes play as we passed the sandstone homes that the people of Thebes lived in. I knew Harsiese was an avid music lover, as was I, and I knew he would be disappointed when he realized Shamise was not.
Entering the Malkata Palace was overwhelming. Sweet perfumes of incense wafted down the hall made of beautiful alabaster stone, the walls beautifully covered in bright tiles and paintings of papyrus fields and the Nile. I trail my hands across the magnificent art work, happy that my new home was so exquisite.
We were escorted to our own rooms where body servants helped us bathe and I was happy as they rubbed rich lavender oil into my skin as it always helped calm my nerves. My tanned skin shone from the oil as they wrapped another green dress around my body, accentuating my small waist and long legs while pushing my breasts up slightly.
The body servants then spent hours expertly lining mine and Shamise’s lips with red rouge, our eyes with thick, black kohl and mine rimmed with malachite making my green, cat like eyes even more intense, and hennaed our breasts with intricate, gorgeous designs.
After they placed heavy, hot Nubian wigs covered in braids and beads on our head before securing them with beeswax and resin. Soft creams were massaged into our skin making it silky smooth, sweet smelling perfumes spritzed between our breasts and neck, and gold and silver dust was blown softly from their palms until our bodies were covered all the way to our feet.
Looking down at the bath water I emerged from and seeing my reflection, I almost gasped.
For once, I felt beautiful next to my sister.
“You look like Isis herself,” my body servant whispered to me, making my cheeks heat up. It was rare I ever received a compliment as my sister normally stole every man and woman’s attention.
“Thank you,” I whisper back, gently giving her arm a small squeeze making her gasp lightly. I ignored it knowing why she reacted that way. They were rarely shown any kindness.
Soon, the servant stand and open the doors before turning to us. My breath catches as the utter the words,
“Are you ready to meet the the great Harsiese, Pharaoh of Egypt?”
The music and festivities could be heard from the other side of the palace as we neared the large doors. Shamise gripped my hand tightly, leaning down to whisper in my ear. “Stay behind me. He must see me first.”
I nod as the doors slowly creak open and I could instantly feel a million eyes on us. My cheeks heat up instantly, my instincts telling me to shyly bow my head but instead I keep my head high like my sister. I had to get used to this; a world of constant watching.
We are greeted by a herald who clears his throat before loudly and grandly introducing us, which was very unnecessary since everyone’s attention was already on us.
“The Lady Shamise, daughter of Mehu, Senior Vizier of Egypt.”
Gasps fill the Great Hall as she takes a step forward and the endless chatter faltered instantly. I bite my lip as I step closer to the herald.
“The Lady Nafretiri, daughter of Mehu, Senior Vizier of Egypt.”
Whispers pick up making my heart rate start to thump wildly in my chest, my eyes darting left and right. Their eyes were burning into my skin as I step forward and begin to walk towards the Horus thrones where Pharaoh and his wife sat. I see my father in the crowd and he gives me a proud nod, making me feel a bit more confident.
As we approached closer, I feel an intense stare on my face but I ignore it, my eyes on my feet as I make sure I don’t trip and make a fool of myself. Arriving in front of the thrones, we both bow deeply with our arms outstretched.
A deep, raspy voice that reminded me of pure honey spoke dominantly sending a feeling of sparks through my veins. I wondered if Shamise felt the same as we both stood up straight.
My eyes finally move from my feet and come in contact with the most brilliant green eyes that looked like they were mixed with pure gold. I hold in my gasp as I allow myself to be drowned in their depths.
The owner of the most gorgeous eyes adorned the Nemes crown, the royal head cloth that was striped blue and gold. In the center held the Uraeus, the golden cobra crown with its hood flared that symbolized kingship. Stories say that it was able to spit fire into the eyes of the wearer’s enemies, blinding them permanently.
What shocked me the most was how the eyes were looking straight at me and not my sister.
“Harsiese,” my sister begins earning an stern, out reached hand, cutting her off.
“Silence,” he commands making my blood run cold at the sound, his eyes never leaving mine as he demands silence from my sister, the girl who was supposed to be his chief wife. From the corner of my eye, I see my sister deflate and glare at me but I can’t find myself to care.
My breathing catches in my throat as I stop myself from collapsing as he regally stands, sweeping his dark blue cape behind him as he slowly walks down the stairs towards me, his eyes still never leaving mine. His body was one of the gods, lean and full of muscle from battles at war.
The room was silent as he soon stands directly in front of me. The scent of him almost made my eyes roll back in pleasure as I inhale the rosemary oil mixed with the musk of his own body.
“Nafretiri,” he speaks lowly, his voice even more beautiful as it spoke my name. My mouth gapes slightly as I try to say something back but nothing comes out. He smiles playfully, his hand gently reaching up and caressing my chin as he closes my mouth.
Sparks dance across my skin wherever his fingers trail. “Beautiful creation. Your mawat named you well,” he comments making my cheeks heat up for the third time of the evening as he speaks the meaning of my name my mother chose. His smile becomes even brighter at the sight.
“Miw-sher,” he whispers the word ‘kitten’ as his eyes admire my face and body. “You are now mine.”
I barely have time to react before he turns and grabs my hand, raising it up. “Bow before your new, soon-to-be queen,” he exclaims loudly as I finally remember to breathe, my chest heaving dramatically as I watch the entire room, including my sister, bow before Pharaoh Harsiese and me.
I tried something different! Hope you like it! Give me some feedback please! It will mean a lot and I’ll try to post Part 2 soon if you want it! x
A wip of the fifth and final tarot card that I’ll have for CCAD’s Chroma! I’m illustrating Horus as the Emperor card. This doesn’t mean that I’m done with the series completely, I’d like to continue until I have a full set, but I’m going to need a rest after the breakneck pace that college has me working at.
Commonly referred to as the River Sphinx, the Nile mermaid was once a revered, respectfully feared and auspicious inhabitant of the Nile River. Believed to be the consorts and companions to the Egyptian god Hapi, River Sphinxes were considered demigods of prosperity. Their presence in the Nile was an indicator of the rivers health. Along with the nilometer of Elephantine, the priests would monitor the River Sphinx’s behavior as a precursor and omen of flood or famine in the Nile.
Unlike many of their European relatives, the River Sphinx is communal, living in family groups made up almost entirely of females. While each unit does have a single siring male, the unit is governed by matriarchal law. Adolescent males tend to school together until they are breech into a pod or create a new one. Family units can be found throughout the Nile river feeding on fish, waterfowl and have even been known to hunt down caiman.