Merin sat on a cushion beside the table. She poured water into a cup and ate a slice of melon. The time dragged. She heard the priest guards speaking in a language she didn’t know. As she considered resting on the bed Hebu appeared. “Come with me. The evening meal is ready.”
Merin followed him to the main room where the nomarch, his wife, and oldest son sat on the elevated platform. Hebu led her to one of the small tables. “This is Lykon who will be your spouse. He is the second son.”
Merin glared. “Pian of Mero was the first son.”
“Nomarch Sapar’s first son is married and has a family. The Daughter must be the first woman in the pharaoh’s court.”
Merin took her place. She glanced at the young man seated across from her. His round face and obese body wasn’t appealing. His dark eyes were small and round.
Slaves brought food and filled cups with wine. She ate enough to ease her hunger. Lykon gorged on thick slices of beef, pork and duck. He used pieces torn from a round loaf of bread to catch the juices. Other than roasted onions he avoided the vegetables, dates, figs, and melons. She lost track of the number of times a slave filled his cup. She stared at the plate. If he ate like this he would soon resemble the fat priest.
Lykon belched. He rose and held out his hand. “Walk in the garden with me. We need to learn about each other.”
Merin cringed at the thought of being alone with him. There was no choice. As they stepped outside she caught a glimpse of Bast Ka. The presence of the sacred cat soothed her abraded nerves.
Lykon led her to the lotus pond. “My mother’s garden pales before your beauty.”
“How can you say that?” Merin pointed to the lotus blossoms. “Look at how the moonlight shows images of the flowers in the water. No man or woman can measure up to the loveliness of nature.”
He grabbed her shoulders and turned her to face him. “You are mine and I will taste you.” He pulled her close and pressed his mouth against hers causing them to rub her teeth.
The shock of his assault stunned her. Never had a man treated her this way. He caught her lower lip with his teeth, He grasped her buttocks.
With a sudden jerk he released her. “Witch,” he bellowed.
Merin nearly tumbled into the pool. She saw a line of bleeding claw marks on his leg. Hebu and the nomarch ran toward them. Bast Ka sped away. Merin sank on the edge of the wall surrounding the pool. For the moment she had escaped, but a dark future loomed.
“What have you done?” Hebu shook a finger in her face.
The nomarch left his son. “She did nothing. Look at his leg. Those are cat scratches. I didn’t know how the creature appeared. Since I swore to Aken Re there have been no felines in my compound. I fear the goddess sent a warning. How can Lykon become pharaoh if Bast chooses to act?”
Hebu laughed. “The goddess has no power. Your son scraped his leg on the side of the pond.” He turned to Lykon. “You sought to take what is not yours to take yet. The Daughter will come to you when the time is right.”
The nomarch frowned. “What should we do about the cat? You cannot deny one was in the garden.”
“Search the grounds and you will find nothing.”
Lykon staggered away. Hebu grasped Merin’s arm. “Don’t try to escape your fate. Lykon will be your spouse.”