An Egyptian barge had made a long trip from where the Nile fed into the sea, to the capital.
At the sides, spear-bearers sat alongside rowers, keeping a weather eye out for hippos or crocodiles that might attempt to capsize or endanger the boat. The center of the barge had a shaded sitting area, where slaves stood at the ready with wine, fans and other small comforts.
The guest….was not Egyptian.
She had descended from a boat with eyes on the prow, and dancing bulls painted on the sides, oars and sail. The boat came from a decent distance in the Adriatic, on a prosperous island kingdom where wreaths of ivy curled around the rocky ocean vista. She was paler…like an uncooked pastry, and even kept her feet out of the sun to avoid from being burned. A long chiton of handmade fabric modestly covered her in pure, plain elegance…an dark red hair was allowed to hang free under a simple headband of gold and leather. Her face was calm, composed….and as she turned her head to observe the passing sand dunes, fishermen and farmers, children playing in the reeds and women scrubbing laundry in the shallows….was like a mother watching from a safe distance over her children
At her feet, kneeling with a look of someone eager to run and jump and play, a younger girl, on the precipice of womanhood. Her clothes were white as well, but the edge of the chiton was raised above her knees and left her arms bare, with soft arms and legs in a golden tone. The wide eyed excitement in her barely compressed lips and wriggling fingers said servant, not sister or daughter. Not even of Crete as her mistress, but of another smaller island perhaps that sent tribute. She was youthful and vibrant, her hair pink as lotus buds and her hands, arms, ankles and neck decorated with glass and wooden beads in bright colors.
Their eyes, eventually, were drawn to the large marvels of architecture that loomed before them.
Beings with heads like beasts….beautiful men and women, painted on walls and carved on immense pillars….their statues raised high into the air. Gods and goddesses of the desert kingdom. Even larger still was the approaching palace, home to a god of its own. Not of stone. The visitor was going to see a flesh and blood man.
Egypt was not without it’s foreign neighbors and citizens. Even as the boat docked at the private harbor of the palace, the woman who sat in the shade could see African boat builders bending large poles into place for enormous canoes…and earlier still she saw where the Jews set up homes above the floodline, amongst the Greeks and Morrocans in the foreign quarter. Still, a raised hush of curious murmuring passed through as she walked into the shade of the palace, giving the hearers of her portable shelter freedom to take down their staffs and fold them away. The woman’s servant followed with a bouncy jaunt at her mistress’s steady pace, looking around at the high vaulted ceiling, peeking into rooms as they passed at the hairless priests and acolytes. Once in a while a giggle broke the echoing silence of the palace, but before any member of the retinue could turn their heads in a scolding look, she had already pressed her lips together in innocence.
They entered the throne room after an announcement…to which the guest raised her head.
“Pharaoh Atem-” She greeted, giving a bow that sent a ripple of kowtows from her retinue. “-God and Ruler of this Life and the next…I, Shani of Crete, humbly thank you for your hospitality.”