AUTHOR'S NOTE: When a Pharaoh died, it was said that "the Falcon has Flown to Heaven". Biological sons of the pharaoh were known as "Sons of His Body", and the Pharaoh's mother was "The King's Mother". The king's wife was called his Great Royal Wife, rather than his queen as such. However, I stick with "queen" to keep things a little more simple.
Disclaimer:Oh! To own Prince of Egypt! Alas, I own it not, for it is Dreamworks who doth own it.
It was a long journey through the drench of heat. Clouds of sand puffed up with the camel's every step. The hot air rippled through Moses' robes as he, Tzipporah, and their son rode the camel to Egypt. Images of downtrodden slaves flashed in Moses' mind like shimmering mirages, disappearing like ghosts as one drew near. Neither Tzipporah or Moses spoke much of what was before them. Moses knew that God had assigned him a task not for the faint of heart: confront Pharaoh and free God's people. The Hebrews had waited long enough—now it was time to be set free after hundreds of years in slavery.
And suddenly, there it was, a giant, colossal city grander than Moses had ever known it to be: Egypt. He had left behind impressive temples and enormous monuments when he exiled the land, but Pharaoh Seti had transformed Egypt beyond recognition. Massive statues dwarfed mud brick houses, temples stretched toward the sky, and the very breadth of the borders had stretched far beyond what Moses ever had remembered. It seemed to Moses that Egypt had swollen three times bigger than when he had escaped but ten years ago.
Moses' four-year-old son, Gershom, riding in between his parents, pointed a finger over Moses' shoulder.
"Is that it?" he yelled, "is that Egypt?"
Moses straightened his back, shoulders squared. "Yes," he confirmed, "yes it is."
"Where the bad people live?" Gershom made swishing motions with an arm, pretending to wield a sword. "I'll fight bad people!"
Moses gently grabbed Gershom's arm.
"Violence is not the answer, Gershom," he chided firmly, "leave the talking to me."
"Pharaoh Seti can order your death with one word. You cannot fight the power of his words."
"God will! He'll help us!"
"Gershom…" Tzipporah warned, "you heard your father. It is he, not you, who will confront Pharaoh."
Gershom fell quiet as the camel trotted down the limestone gateway and into Egypt. Moses' heart quickened as he passed the looming statues of Pharaoh with their stern, grim expressions. Gershom grabbed the back of Moses' robes, hiding his face from the statues' domineering presence.
"The statues are built to make you afraid, Gershom," Moses mentored, "you need not fear them. They're made of stone and do not have beating hearts."
Gershom gripped Moses's robes tighter, gasping as the camel passed the walls painted with rows of bound captives and slaves.
"Mean Egypt!" Gershom yelled, "mean Pharaoh! I hate—"
His words were suddenly muffled; Tzipporah had clapped a hand over his mouth.
"Sh!" she warned sharply, "hold your tongue, lest someone hears."
Gershom tried to protest, words incomprehensible.
"You must hold your tongue when Moses speaks to Pharaoh."
The camel padded past the terrible paintings etched to honour some "glory" Moses could not see. Where was the glory in capturing slaves? Once he had proclaimed Egypt possessed a proud history splashed over her walls. Now he knew better. Moses was ashamed he ever saw honour in being a part of that history. Nevertheless, Egypt was once his home. He had lived eighteen years there, and how could he toss those years aside? He'd loved his adopted family, up until he'd discovered his "father", Pharaoh Seti, had killed all the Hebrew new-borns and drew that event on a wall like it was a jubilee festival.
Moses stopped his wandering thoughts as soon as the steps leading to the palace appeared in view. He tugged the reins, commanding the camel to stop.
"Let's go," Moses said, preparing himself for the confrontation.
The entrance hall reverberated with energy and music. Acrobatic ribbon dancers entertained the pharaoh, and servants milled around, offering wine and morsels. Moses was suddenly aware of being hungry, for he had little food on his trek into Egypt. But this was neither the time or place to stop for food.
Suspicious eyes bore into the three strangers, the chatter turned into whispers, and far away on his throne, Pharaoh lounged. Moses' brow furrowed in befuddlement—there was something different about this king.
It can't be Seti, he thought, a child sits near his throne, and Seti would never slouch like that. Could it really be…
Suddenly, the pharaoh was all movement as he sat up straight, holding up a hand. All music stopped at once, leaving the beautiful dancers stranded in mid-step. All eyes now locked onto Pharaoh.
His face…that's not Seti…
"Rameses." Moses breathed in a mix of shock and surprise.
Will I have to confront Rameses?
The pharaoh—Rameses—stood up, walking with assurance down the steps. The woman—her face achingly familiar—brought a hand to her mouth, eyes wide. She looked about ready to follow Pharaoh down the steps too.
"Moses?" Rameses asked, hope and joy in his face and voice, "Is…is it really…?"
Moses couldn't think of anything to say—Rameses was Pharaoh! His brother now ruled Egypt. Moses wanted to say something, anything—even congratulate him—but right then, Rameses grabbed him in a rib-crunching embrace, literally lifting the shepherd's feet off the floor. Moses' arms were pinned to his sides.
"MOSES!" Rameses shouted in pure joy.
Astonished gasps rose from the multitude.
"Rameses!" Moses gasped, a grin forming despite having the breath knocked out of him.
"Where have you been?!" Rameses asked as he let Moses go, "We took you for dead!"
Moses stepped back, still stunned—his brother was now pharaoh.
"Look at you!" Moses exclaimed, "Pharaoh!"
Rameses laughed, "Look at you—what are you dressed as?"
It won't be so hard, Moses thought, if Rameses is pharaoh, surely he will listen.
Moses laughed along with Rameses, giving him a hug. "It's so good to see you again!"
Moses pulled out of Rameses' embrace as Tuya's voice interrupted the reunion. His heart hammered as he saw her aching joyfulness sparkling in the tears running over her cheeks. Gliding past Rameses, she pulled Moses into a tight embrace.
"I thought you lost," she told him, stepping back to look into Moses' eyes, "we all did—and you have returned alive all this time."
A cough from a few feet away drew their attention. One of Seti's old priests stepped up, addressing Rameses.
"Your Majesty," he addressed, "we must remind you that this man did a serious crime against the gods."
Tuya held up a hand in their direction.
"We know," she told them.
The priest opened his mouth to interrupt, when a child's voice rang out.
"Father!" Gershom called out, "What's going on?"
Moses felt small hands tug at his robes at the same time he heard Tzipporah commanding her son to stay back. He looked down at Gershom and waved a hand at him, gesturing for him to return to Tzipporah. It was too late, for both King's Mother and Pharaoh had seen him. Rameses raised an eyebrow at Moses.
"This your child?" he asked. "How did you find a woman so far in the desert?"
Moses turned his head, looking back at Tzipporah, who was eyeing the reunion with unhidden suspicion. Rameses followed his gaze, as did Queen Tuya.
"You're quite the snake charmer, Moses," Rameses quipped, "you married the desert cobra."
"Your Majesty," Tuya warned, "do not speak that way of Moses' wife."
Gershom interrupted, "Are you the pharaoh then? The mean one?"
A soft gasp from Tzipporah behind them. Moses shook his head sharply at Gershom.
"Do not speak that way to Rameses," he chided, "he is pharaoh."
"No more," Moses interrupted.
Rameses' eyebrow arched higher; just a few feet away, his own son glared at Gershom.
"Oh no, do go on," Rameses commented, "Do tell Pharaoh why you think he is mean."
Moses looked down at Gershom, who folded his arms, narrowing his eyes at the king. But, to Moses' relief, he didn't say any more. Meanwhile, the priests looked ready to erupt with hidden indignity.
"Your Majesty!" Huy practically spat, "this man has committed a crime! A murder!"
Rameses hissed between his teeth, annoyed.
"We are loath to bring it up," the other priest continued.
"Be still!" Rameses snapped, "I am the Morning and the Evening Star."
I am the Morning and the Evening Star.
It hadn't sunk in before for Moses, but now those words hit him like a sledgehammer. Seti's falcon had flown to heaven—he wasn't the pharaoh he thought he would confront. It would be Rameses.
The same man he had once called brother.
"I pardon forever all his past crimes," Rameses declared now to the crowded hall's astonishment, even as he placed his large hands firmly on Moses' shoulders, "he is still our brother, Moses, the Prince of Egypt!"
The Prince of Egypt…
Moses lowered his eyes, avoiding his adoptive mother's and brother's jubilant expressions.
It would have been easier were it just you, Rameses. Having to tell you why I'm here is one thing, but with your mother standing near…it is harder.
Moses took a deep breath as he looked back up at Rameses.
"Rameses, mother," he addressed both, "in my heart, you are still my family, but things cannot be as they were."
Rameses's rapt expression didn't change. "I see no reason why not!"
"Why?" Tuya asked in her soft voice, consternation crossing her face.
Another deep breath. "You know I am a Hebrew."
The crowd in the hall gasped and whispered at this revelation. Gershom tugged at his father's robes, but Moses never looked down at him. Tuya didn't speak, but nodded, her face more worried than before.
"And the god of the Hebrews came to me."
"What?" Rameses asked.
Tuya stepped forward, "What are you talking about? What god of the Hebrews?"
Moses steeled his resolve.
God wants you to do this, he wants you to free His people, at whatever the cost.
"The god of my people, mother," he explained, "he had appeared to me."
But Tuya looked just as confused as Rameses.
"Appeared to you?" Tuya echoed, "I do not understand."
Moses gripped his staff, his fingers seeking courage from it.
His command must be heard.
Moses locked eye contact with Rameses. "He commands that you let his people go."
"His people?" Tuya repeated, "Who are his people?"
"My people are His people—the Hebrews are His chosen."
Rameses withdrew his hands from Moses' shoulders, a brief expression of disappointment crossing his face. But then his characteristic smirk returned. He spread his hands as though to challenge this unknown god and his order.
"That's right, pharaoh!" Gershom blurted out, "He commands and you'll do—"
Gershom didn't say anymore, as Moses clasped a hand over his mouth. The boy tried to speak against Moses' palm, but it was all garbled.
"Hush, Gershom," Moses reprimanded, turning his attention back to the king, "behold, the power of God."
Bringing his stick forward, Moses let go of it. Instead of falling down, it stood straight like a soldier, shuddering as it transformed from a wooden staff into the thick coils of a hissing, angry cobra, its hood fully unfurled. Gershom let out a little squeak of fright.
"It shall not harm you, Gershom," Moses soothed.
Tuya looked as sceptical as Rameses himself. "A snake charmer can do the same," she said.
"But that snake charmer has never turned a wooden staff into a snake," Moses pointed out. "It is a sign of God's command and strength."
Rameses laughed, as though the whole thing was just a big joke.
"Very well, Moses," he said, "I'll play along! Hotep, Huy! Show this snake charmer our answer!"
The King, King's Mother, and the king's Son of his Body retreated to their places at the throne. Rameses' Great Royal Wife still hid in the shadows of the throne, silent and passive, but still alert to the goings-on of the hall.
Moses shielded his son as the priests came forward, malice in each step, and placed their staffs before Moses' cobra. They ignored its hissing and its hood extending even larger as the two men stepped near. It snapped at their robes, as if to warn them it was still venomous, even despite having been a non-venomous staff seconds ago.
Huy leaned forward, his nose an inch from Moses's. "You're playing with the big boys now," he whispered, trying and failing to sound threatening.
Moses frowned, glaring back into their eyes. But they turned their backs, gesturing for the show to begin. The light around them shifted and formed new shadows as slaves prepared the show for the Egyptians' benefit. The priests nudged Moses with their hands, pressing him into the centre of the room. Moses gripped Gershom's hand, not letting go. He would protect his son no matter what.
"Come on, come on," Hotep muttered, "hurry up, slaves! Let us get this show going before we all die of old age!"
Slaves, Moses thought bitterly, that's all they see the Hebrews as.
"Father?" Gershom tugged at Moses's robes, reaching his arms up to him. Without another word, Moses lifted his son into his arms, holding him firmly.
"I'll keep you safe," Moses whispered as Gershom leaned his head on his shoulder. "You'll see."
Gershom clung to Moses's neck as the priests chanted the names of the gods, the smoke and incense filling the room with a sickening intensity, saccharine to the nostrils and nauseating to appetite. He clutched his son tighter to his chest as the priests got too close to him.
Keep your hands off my son.
Moses flinched as one of the priests brushed into his personal space with a closeness reserved for lovers and very close friends. He itched for this show to be over—he wouldn't be surprised if Hotep and Huy were deliberately dragging it out just to torture him and entertain the Egyptians.
Will they take all night with this nonsense?
After what felt an eternity, the show ended.
They don't notice that their two staffs had been swallowed by mine, Moses thought, they are too full of themselves to realise God had just shown he dominates their gods.
Moses resisted rolling his eyes as the priests took deep bows to the cheering and applause of the Egyptians. Tzipporah looked like she'd swallowed something that had gone off, her face twisting in disgust at the priests' antics.
Their gods remain silent and unseen.
Just then, Rameses marched up to Moses, hands planted on his hips, the same sceptical expression in his eyes. Without a word, he tilted his head in the direction of the doors to a quieter, private throne room. Moses remembered that room—the same place where Seti would reprimand them after the boys had been caught in some misdeed.
He will listen, Moses soothed himself as he followed Rameses, he must. He is my brother after all.