Two sets of eyes peered out over the edge of the wall at the warriors who were filing into the city. They would be in trouble if their mother knew that they had ventured so far from home to come and see the soldiers coming back but it was no fun waiting there. Besides, they’d waited almost a month now to see their father and didn’t want to wait another minute.
“Nile,” the young girl tugged on her brother’s arm, frustrated at her lack of success in finding their father in the crowd. “Do you see him yet? I thought Daddy rode at the front.”
“Shhh,” Nile hushed his sister, pulling himself higher on the wall for a better look. “He will probably be at the back. He said that good commanders are there to help the wounded and they would not be at the front.”
“But that could take forever,” she whined, rising up on her tippy toes so she could rest her chin on her folded arms. As more men walked by, she sniffled and tugged on Nile’s arm again. “Mama will find us before we find him.”
“Stop it Lue,” he grumbled, pulling his arm out of her reach. He glanced down at her when she went oddly quiet and instantly regretted it. She had dropped to sit on the boxes he stacked for her to stand on and looked close to a complete meltdown; lip trembling, eyes watering, the works. “Don’t cry,” he’d be in so much trouble if she cried, “We’ll find him and maybe he’ll let us ride home in his chariot.”
“I don’t want to wait,” she sniffled again, wiping at the water that had gathered at her eyes. Nile had dropped down to help wipe the tears away and fix the hairstyle their mother had done in celebration of their Father’s return. “Why does Daddy have to take so many warriors with him, it takes too long for everyone to get through the city.”
Nile shrugged his shoulders, deciding not to try and explain the concept of military campaigns to his eight year old sister. He didn’t even understand everything about it either so whatever he said wouldn’t help anyways.
“At least he’ll be home for a nice long while,” Nile smiled in relief as she looked up at and her eyes were far less wet than before. “He promised he would, remember?”
“Yea,” she murmured with a sigh. Even though she wasn’t completely back to normal, she took his offered hand and followed him back down to the main street. “Where are we going?”
“If we want to get to him first, we have to find a better spot for him to see us.” He had to raise his voice the closer they got to the crowds. There were many people there, happy to see their family members return, just as they were. But it was the sheer lack of females in the crowd that made him grip Luella’s hand tighter.
His parents explained that their world was one severely lacking in females. The planet only supplied male babies from the Earth, in a special place protected by the Royal family. He didn’t understand why or how but his little sister was only the second girl born in the city since women came to live here as well, and the only one born naturally of a Maltuhotep male and an Earth female. Whatever that meant, he only understood one thing; it was his job to make sure his sister stayed safe while they were out.
Determined more than ever, he weaved through the crowd with Luella trailing behind. There was only so much time before they possibly missed their father and had to walk home for a scolding. It was not easy with all the people in the way but he made it to the front just in time for the horns to sound the commander’s return to the city.
Trading wide grins with his sister, they looked around for their father’s chariot. It was decorated differently, with various odes to the Gods to hope for safe return, and was normally easy to pick out in crowds.
“I don’t see anything,” Luella pouted again, stomping her little feet in frustration. She was not the only one either; Nile was becoming more frustrated the longer it took to find their father.
“Allow me,” a deep voice laughed, scooping up both children and they could suddenly see over the crowd. “I wouldn’t want my brother to miss out on his homecoming.”
Luella recognized the man before Nile did, squealing and hugging his head when he lifted her higher. Their father had three brothers but he hadn’t expected to see any of them here. In fact, if it had been Haji or Bakari, he’d be more worried about being taken back home to wait there. On the other hand, Ahmose didn’t care much for the rules.
“Uncle Ahmose, what are you doing here?” He asked, even though his eyes were trained on the marching group. From this vantage point, he could see where the flags were being held and the crowd cheering louder. Their father was back here.
“Your cousin, Lateef, went along this time. His gifts of fire and steel were not suited to the forge like the rest of his brothers” his uncle answered, laughing as his sister squealed again when she caught sight of their father. “When I saw you two, I sent him to tell Osiris to come over here.”
“So Daddy knows we’re here?” Luella interrupted, bouncing more as the procession got closer.
“That he does little one, and he’ll be happy to see you both,” Ahmose pushed himself up to the front of the crowd. As he reached the edge of the crowd, the ornate chariot of their father’s pulled up next to them. “Look brother, I seem to have acquired two leeches. Would you like to trade?”
“I am unsure,” Nile and Luella stopped trying to squirm away from their uncle to gape at their father. He wouldn’t really leave them here, he couldn’t. They had waited for so long. “But seeing as you can barely handle them, I suppose I can take them off your hands. Lateef, you’re dismissed. Give your brothers my love.”
“Of course Uncle,” Lateef stepped down from the carriage and took Luella off of his father’s shoulders and handed her over. Nile scrambled into the chariot and took the one armed hug that his father gave him. The other was occupied with holding his sister who had latched around his neck.
With a few more well wishes for their uncle and cousin, and their father receiving the same in return, they rejoined the procession. Nile leaned into his father’s side as they moved through the city, just listening to his sister chat his ear off. He glanced up and watched him kiss the top of his sister’s head and grinned when he looked down at him.
“I have missed you both but did either of you inform your mother of where you were going?” The question wiped the smile off both their faces and despite his best efforts, Nile shifted his gaze to the horses pulling the chariot. There was trouble waiting for them at home and they both knew it. And now, their father knew it too. “Ah, that answers that.”
“We just wanted to go out and meet you,” Nile sighed, thankful that the crowds were thinning and he didn’t have to yell to be heard. As it was, he didn’t want to look up and find out if his father was disappointed in him for disobeying their mother. “Mom wanted us to wait at home.”
“Are we going to be in lots of trouble when we get home?” Luella’s question disrupted his thoughts about what their mother might do. He hadn’t wanted to ask the question but his sister didn’t share in that avoidance.
“I am sure she will be unhappy when we get there,” that answer deflated both of them and if it weren’t for the bumps in the streets, Nile would have rested his forehead on the edge of the chariot. That desire only grew as their house came into view. “But, if you both look properly scolded, we may convince her that you have been punished enough.”
“But Daddy,” Luella sounded shocked at their father’s plan. “That would be lying and Mama says lying is bad.”
“Lue!” Nile protested, looking from their father to their house. It wasn’t more than a blurry outline but he was positive that the figure outside wasn’t one of the guards. Their mother was waiting.
“No, we are playing pretend.” Their father murmured as they got closer, a wide smile splitting his face. Nile hung his head and didn’t quite have to fake the apologetic look when he could finally make out his mother’s face. She was definitely not happy. Well, she was happy to see their father but he could see the underlying anger when she looked at him and his sister.
“Hello love,” their father brought the horses to a halt and handed the reins down to the stable boy who came running. If it weren’t for the fact that it was their father’s first day home in months, it would have been him taking the horses back to the stable. He put Luella down to pull their mother into a hug.
For the moment, she was more caught up in welcoming him back instead of giving them that look that normally sent them running. Even with the looming trouble, it was nice to see the two of them together again. Sharing a small grin with Luella, he realized that he wasn’t the only one who liked the sight.
“As glad as I am to see you, we have two little troublemakers that disobeyed me.” Her voice cut through the atmosphere and they both quickly hung their head. Hopefully their Father’s plan worked.
“Cerise, leave them be. I already scolded them for coming down to the city without supervision.”
“Oh really,” Nile flinched when he heard that. That tone was the same one when she knew that they weren’t telling her the truth. Glancing up, he could see their mother wasn’t buying it but she wasn’t calling their father out on it. It mystified him. Must have be one of their father’s special powers; to get their mother to agree with him. “Are you sure?”
“Positive.” Luella glanced up at the same time he did, trying to hide her excitement. Not getting in trouble was always a good thing. Not getting in trouble with the help of their father was even better.
“Just so long as they know sneaking out is not going to be tolerated again.”
“Of course Mom,” Nile nodded while his sister squealed and launched forward for more hugs. They got off easy, no doubt because of the homecoming, but he couldn’t say he was too worried about the next time. Hopefully, their father would not be gone so long the next time the kingdoms went to war.