Just as she predicted, Moses returned to the palace the same early evening, ready to command Rameses to let his people go. Tuya presumed that Rameses would refuse, again, and tomorrow would wake up to another plague from his God.
I'm going to change that today.
She arrived at the audience chamber, spotting Rameses sitting in his throne; Nefertari and their son were elsewhere in the palace, likely having some sweet mother-son bonding time. That was even better, as it meant Tuya could step in without interruption from Nefertari or the little prince.
Rameses acknowledged her with the briefest of a sideways glance as she strode in to stand by the throne.
"Rameses," she addressed him, "I wish to speak to Moses when he returns this evening."
"You will see—but I will speak to both of you."
"How important is it?"
"Important enough that I want to have a conversation in the private throne room," Tuya nodded at the door leading to aforementioned room, "I have had a recollection of an event of a similar nature occurring to a pharaoh a very long time ago. I have been in the library and my findings have confirmed it."
Rameses raised his eyebrows. "You speak like you're still the queen, mother."
"Well…I am still a queen at heart," Tuya said, "And I don't think that will change to my last breath."
Rameses opened his mouth to remark on her words, but then the doors opened, revealing Moses.
Ah. Here we go.
Tuya straightened herself, as much as her back would allow, as Moses approached the throne, his staff tapping in time with his feet.
"Good evening, Moses," Tuya greeted in an even voice.
"Good evening," he responded.
"Before you say anything this evening, I wish that you and Rameses would come and speak with me in the private throne room," Tuya declared, "I have found information in the library on a similar occurrence, and I have recollected it in my own knowledge as well."
Moses glanced around the throne room. "There is no one else here but the guards."
"Nevertheless, I wish to speak with both of you. I know I am no longer queen, but I am still one in spirit."
Moses gave her a questioning glance, but neither man denied Tuya's efforts to speak with them privately. Even if she wasn't a proper queen anymore, right now she had that look of "come with me now" that only a queen could achieve.
Let's hope we can have a discussion, a proper one, Tuya thought as she walked into the private throne room with her two sons.
Once in the throne room, she turned to face the two men, both now at least in their thirties, who waited for her to speak. She first looked at Moses, but knew she couldn't divulge what she was about to say without breaking the promise to Miriam.
"Rameses, Moses," she addressed them, "I have just recalled a very prominent Pharaoh who has experienced an event to what we are going through right now. I have seen his documents in the library of this palace."
Moses' eyes widened as though he realised what she was talking about, while Rameses had an expression of great concentration on what Tuya was telling them.
"The pharaoh was Ahmose, the brother of Kamose, who died in battle in an effort to save Egypt from its enemies. Do you recall Ahmose, Rameses?"
Rameses paused as though to search his memory for that name.
"I believe I do. Was he not the brother of Kamose?"
"As I have just said," Tuya confirmed, "But I have seen in the documents and have heard before of a man who saved Egypt, because of his God."
Rameses and Moses both glanced at each other before the former encouraged Tuya to carry on. The King's Mother did so, explaining, with some help from Rameses, what had transpired so long ago with the Hebrew named Joseph, who ensured Egypt still prospered and survived even through the seven year famine. Though the famine had not come because of anything Egypt had done, but so God could allow Egypt to see that a friendship with the Canaanites was unbreakable and loyal to the end, unless it ended in betrayal. Tuya barely allowed herself to take breaths in between sentences, wanting to spill everything she knew to Rameses, the story of Joseph who helped Egypt through its tough period.
After the breathless spiel, with some help from Moses who filled in a few details, there was a silence in the room. Rameses had taken his seat on the throne, while Moses had stayed in the same spot, unmoving, as still as any of the statues inside and outside the palace. No one spoke after Tuya's speech.
"So," she said at last, "I thought that if Joseph could find a way to save Egypt without any more harm, I thought there might be a way for us to do that." She hesitated. "Together. There has been too much damage and harm to Egypt, and I want to see if there was a more peaceful way of letting the Hebrews go, without more distress to our land."
Moses nodded, as though agreeing with Tuya. "She is right, Rameses. I don't wish to cause harm at all to Egypt, and I wish there was a more peaceful way to do this."
"You can rotate the peasants each inundation," Tuya began, her voice firm, "They have nothing to do during the flooding."
"That's right," Moses agreed, "And they say idle hands are mischievous hands."
"As you two well know," Tuya added with a hint of a smile, "Two idle princes could create a lot of mayhem in their youth."
"We weren't that bad were we?" Moses asked good-naturedly.
"We only switched the heads of statues about three times," Moses insisted, a smile pulling at one corner of his mouth, "And we only knocked the noses off about five statues during our chariot races."
"Those poor, innocent statues," Tuya commented, "What did you have against them?"
"Statues just get in the way." Rameses argued good-naturedly, "They don't have the decency to move when you want them to."
Tuya tsk-ed. "Statues are very rude, I'm afraid."
With that, the tension in the room seemed to evaporate, even despite what had gone on across the land of Egypt over the last few days. The livestock dead, the bloody Nile, the hordes of flies and frogs, and…what else was to come? If Rameses didn't let the people go, what would scourge the land of Egypt?
"Moses, do you have anything to say about this?"
Moses considered his words before speaking. "How quickly can the peasants be put to work on the monuments?"
This time, it was Rameses who answered. "The next inundation. Right now, it is the season of harvesting. The inundation is soon."
Rameses shook his head, "You've been away too long, Moses. The harvesting ends in about one moon cycle."
"One moon cycle?" Moses echoed, "Is the monument building so important it cannot wait for one moon cycle?"
Rameses' expression hardened, but he still looked like he was trying to consider Moses' words. Then his hands tightened on the armrests of his throne.
"Is freeing the people so urgent that it must be done now?" he asked.
Tuya assumed that Moses would immediately reply with yes, but to her surprise, he hesitated, thinking over his words.
"If you agree to let the people go, will you stand by your word that the Hebrews must go at once?"
"Tomorrow or during the inundation?"
"Does it need to be tomorrow?" Rameses asked.
"I believe the peasants are about to revolt," Tuya interrupted, "Due to the livestock death and the worries that the harvests have been ruined by the blood of the Nile just days ago. I…I think Joseph would have asked the same: no more slavery and Egypt is saved."
Moses spoke up now, his voice unusually quiet, "Egypt was my home, and it still feels like it in some ways. I don't like to see it destroyed like this."
"Really?" Rameses asked. "Because you certainly didn't act like it before!"
"I shouldn't have been so hasty as to ask you—"
"It sounded more like a demand to me—"
"Because I could only see the Hebrews' suffering, and my God's command to let my people go."
"Well!" Rameses leaned forward, angry again, "That makes everything fine then, doesn't it? Does that make it fine that we thought you dead thirteen years only for you to return and toss that aside? I don't think you gave a thought to that did you? Seeing you back in Egypt after so long was like seeing the dead come forth. Maybe if you'd have thought about stepping into my sandals for a moment, then you might know what it would be like to lose a brother. Maybe your God is more important than your own family, but that doesn't mean we don't care, that doesn't mean you can just toss us aside like discarded trash."
Rameses brought up his fist, the one with the ring on it. "You weren't, were you? Then how do you explain this?"
"You know. Because you could only see your people, and your own Hebrew family. You may not be of our blood, Moses, but family isn't always just blood."
Rameses hauled himself upright, standing up with fists by his sides. "No! You didn't know or refused to know! You ran away from Egypt after you found you weren't of our blood! You cut us out, and you never gave us a sign in thirteen years that you were fine! That you were alive! I had to look at that monument of father, mother, and us in the hallway for thirteen years, knowing you weren't coming back! And then you did—you came back—and then just…" Exhausted from his tirade, Rameses sank back on his throne, "For thirteen years, my mother mourned the loss of two children."
Tuya tensed, wishing Rameses had not brought that up, but if anything, she could hear what he was saying through his rant. He was right: the family had mourned for thirteen years, and much as she didn't want to admit it, Moses had cast them aside as easily as a fisherman cast out his net. For his part, Moses was speechless as the wave of Rameses' words washed over everyone in the room. But from what Tuya could tell, he didn't appear too shaken by Rameses' words.
"I'm sorry," Moses said, and Tuya couldn't tell if it was sincere or not. "But I could not be a part of the palace once I knew I wasn't born of your mother and father."
"Yet you still call me mother," Tuya pointed out, confused and hurt by Moses' words.
Moses nodded, "I do, because you were the one who raised me in the palace. And I still would call you brother, Rameses."
"What, if I let your people go?" Rameses asked. "I will only be your brother again if I allowed the people to go?"
Moses bit his lip, as though resisting words that wanted to be spoken at that moment. He looked pained, as though the question had hit some nerve in him. Finally he let loose a sigh that seemed to come from his very soul.
"You were always my brother, Rameses," he said, "That is why I kept the ring in the desert."
"Yet you did not give a sign that you were alive."
"The Midian people would not have wanted to enter Egypt after what had happened to my wife."
"Your wife?" Rameses repeated, as though not quite believing Moses had one. "What happened to her?"
Moses winced, guilty eyes glancing quickly at Tuya. "You remember that banquet when Seti had proclaimed you as Prince Regent?"
"Very well," Rameses said promptly.
"She—Tzipporah—she was Midian, and soon became my wife. It was because of my mission that she willingly returned to Egypt with me until…until my people are freed."
"And what if that didn't happen until the coming inundation?"
"As long as it takes," Moses said, "She will always support me." Then he stopped, as though realising what Rameses had just said. "Wait…coming inundation?"
"If your God would be patient to wait a moon cycle," Tuya added, "They may go peacefully and Egypt will not be harmed."
Moses shifted his gaze to Tuya. "Once a queen, always a queen, aren't you?"
Tuya couldn't hold back a smile. "Always. I will never stop being a queen to my last heartbeat."
"And yes, this means I will let your people go no sooner than the river begins flooding," Rameses declared, "Only on one request."
"What is that?"
"Will you allow us to have a proper chat about what has come to pass in the last thirteen years?"
Moses shrugged, but his expression had softened. "I don't know. You probably have a lot more to talk about than I do, unless you want to hear about all my sheep-herding adventures."
"Of course I do." Rameses grinned, a little hesitant, but it was there. "I want to know everything that has happened while you were playing hide-and-seek in the desert. And if you call daily meetings with advisors exciting, then I suppose we will be even."
Moses tilted his head, askance, as he queried, "Do you speak the truth when you say you're letting the Hebrews go soon as the next inundation happens?"
"If there is another plague tomorrow, I guess you will know."
"So…are you speaking the truth?"
"What do you think?" Rameses asked, "Tomorrow morning, we will see. Since you don't trust that I am speaking the truth, we will have to wait. You have your answer, Moses. Come back tomorrow morning and see if I have not spoken true of my words."
Moses held up a hand, his face concentrating as though listening to someone. Was it her imagination or did Tuya hear someone—not Rameses—speaking in the room too?
He speaks the truth, Moses.
Moses' whole body seemed to relax; Tuya hadn't realised he had been tense all that time, like he had been expecting something untoward to happen. Really looking at his face, Tuya realised for the first time that he looked weary, as though he had barely any sleep in the past few nights. There were bags under his eyes, but his expression still transformed into a picture of relief as the words echoed in the room.
"My God has said you speak the truth, and I believe Him," Moses declared, looking very much surprised. "I believe you, Rameses, for God has told me Himself now."
Rameses relaxed, leaning back on his throne. "Anything else?"
"No, that is all He had asked me to do." Moses nodded, "Yes. That is all. You have given your word and your promise, and I know they will be free soon."
"As I have decreed, when the season of inundation arrives, you and your people may go."
A/N: So, here we are, finally at the end of the road, even if everything all seems to come together in one chapter (I was needing so bad to finish it, and my Muses were all 'screw it, just do it in one fell swoop!'). Yes, this is it, dedicated readers, for this is the last chapter of "King's Mother"! This has taken me eight months, and I'm impressed at how many followers have stuck around till the end—you must have the patience of saints. ;) Thank you for all your reviews, feedback, and support, and thank you for being there to the end.
Now I'm afraid I must farewell Prince of Egypt and go answer the siren call of Queen Elsa. I have one Halloween PoE fanfic up my sleeve as well as the crossover fanfic I'm doing, "Frozen Miracles", that is a crossover between "Prince of Egypt" and "Frozen".
Once again, thank you SO much for your support!