“My lord, I have examined the house of Raneb. Aside from the disarray, I saw no outward signs of injury. I directed Thanuny to remove his body to the temple for preparations. I shall observe the removal of the organs this evening. The gods may provide me with some answers at that time. I also examined the body of Iput. I now understand why your daughter was shaken by what she saw.”
Ramesses, seated on his throne, said nothing. He had lost a close friend and advisor, and this unpleasant business which had so unsettled his favourite daughter still had not been solved.
“I left a soldier guarding Raneb’s home. Is there a soldier or Medjay who may relieve him? The sun is high in the sky and he has been keeping watch since early morning.” Qaa looked to Ramesses for some direction, but still none was forthcoming.
“I also inquired with the Harbour Master before I returned to the palace. This may not be related to the crime, but one ship departed for Phoenicia at sunrise. Could the ship be intercepted at the next port? I await your orders, my king.” Again, Ramesses sat mute, struggling with his inadequacy at the current state of affairs.
“Did you not say your daughter has information about the murder?” Qaa asked, hoping to prod some response from Ramesses.
Ramesses finally looked up and considered the young man in front of him. Even though Qaa’s mother was not Egyptian, he was like a son to him, more trusted than some of his own sons. He was a strapping man, towering a full head and shoulders above most people, quite capable in battle, strong as a bull, most likely able to overpower the most dangerous individuals in Waset.
“Qaa, I am appointing you Chief of the Medjay in Waset, as well as First hem netjer in the Temple of Amun. The soldiers and Medjay are yours to command; they shall obey you as they obey me. You may make your quarters here in the palace, or at the temple. Raneb kept quarters in the temple, which can be made available to you as well. As for a guard, I shall dispatch one to Raneb’s home to keep watch until you are satisfied you need nothing further.”
“I am honoured by your confidence in me, your majesty, and I shall serve you well,” Qaa bowed to Ramesses. “I would prefer to stay at the temple for the present, to oversee the burial preparations, and meet with the temple administrators.”
“Please, Qaa, you may still call me ‘Father’ when we are alone. You grew up in my home, with my sons and daughters. Your father served both my father and me well; I treated him like a member of my family and shall treat you just as well,” Ramesses replied, smiling faintly. The king stood and crossed the room. “Medjay, dispatch a soldier to Raneb’s home. Have a guard there at all times until dismissed by Qaa. Summon my daughter at the temple. Tell her I wish to see her in the palace gardens. And dispatch a Medjay to the ship Qaa arrived on and have his belongings brought to the temple,” Ramesses commanded. The guard at the door scurried away as the king turned back to Qaa.
The two men walked out into the gardens and talked at length about past battles, the state of affairs in Kush, and the foreigners who seemed to be prevalent in Waset. Qaa inquired about the health of the royal family, and Ramesses spoke passionately about his children. Although three of his sons had joined with Auser, and his youngest daughter was plagued with evil demons, he had many children. Aside from his son, Pentaweret, they brought him a great deal of joy; his daughter, Tentopet, was due to deliver her fifth child soon. When Qaa asked about the king’s daughter, Nebettawy, he flushed deeply, unable to hide his feelings for her. Ramesses laughed heartily; his daughter still captivated Qaa, even after an absence of twelve years.
Nebettawy was escorted to the palace gardens. Her father was laughing, and quite animated with the stranger seated next to him. She had not seen her father this happy in some time; she had broken his heart when she made her choice to serve the temple, and even now when she came to the palace, she could see the sadness in his eyes.
“My beloved father, I have come at your request. How may I serve you?” Nebettawy bowed deeply in front of Ramesses.
“Our new Chief of the Medjay has arrived and is anxious to hear what you know of Iput’s death.”
For the first time, Nebettawy really looked at the stranger who had made her father laugh.
“Qaa?!” Her voice was barely audible. She stared intently into the blue eyes she had never forgotten, they threatened to overpower her, drown her like the Great Sea. The blood drained from her face and her knees buckled.
Instinctively, Qaa rushed forward to steady her, grabbing her by the arms. They were so warm to the touch, soft and supple, like a dancer’s. Being this close to her, he could feel the heat of her body and smell her musky scent. She smelled of myrrh and cinnamon, blue lotus and rose, and it was intoxicating. He felt his desire for her rise up inside of him, uncontrollable like a wild jackal. The heat in his loins burned like a torch, the throbbing between his legs unbearable. He wanted to pounce upon her and carry her off, possess her, devour her. His head ached, his chest pounded, and his ears buzzed. He forced himself to breathe but the air, heavy with scent, clogged his lungs, like the Nile at inundation. His thoughts swam in all directions until . . .
“Qaa! Release my daughter!” Ramesses’s words struck him like a thunderbolt.