In the green and muddy water, deep under the bellies of the crocodiles, was laying a ruby stone. Covered in sand and slime, surrounded by thousands of tiny fishes, it was peacefully resting on the bottom of river Nile.
For centuries, not a single soul has touched this elegant beauty. Only one time before, there was a queen, who possessed this ruby and in her fist it had power beyond one’s imagination.
Cleopatra was seating in the yard, under the shadows.
“Alexandria is incredibly hot this summer. Don’t you think Caesar?” she smiled.
“You know, your people must be saying: the Pharaohs Cleopatra is heating the earth with her bosoms” laughed Caesar.
“Stop playing with me. You know those jokes might get you in trouble” she grinned.
“Now, you have to excuse me, I have business to attend to” she lifted her chin and stood up.
Caesar courteously kissed her hand.
“Send oracle to the ritual room” she addressed the servant.
The burning incense was filling up the room with the thick smoke. Cleopatra and the oracle were standing in prayer.
“Speak” she ordered to a small man in the golden robes.
“You are in danger my queen,” the oracle closed his eyes, inhaling the burning fumes “I see blood and pain.”
“Dreadful. But surely we can prevent. You helped me avoid many disasters, Namun. I am confident in your foresight. Tell me what is going to happen?” she said.
“My queen, you know that I would not lie to you, nor I would sweeten it for your ears” he kissed Cleopatra’s hand.
“You are too occupied by the one who is, at this very moment, residing outside with a goblet of wine in his hand and plans to own the world. He sees Egypt as his jewel, and you as his queen, but soon he will be no more. There is no salvation for him, but there still might be for you” whispered Namun.
Cleopatra gasped “I cannot finish it with Caesar. You know that Namun, and besides this is his destiny, that you foresee. My fate is not decided yet.”
Namun nodded “People of Egypt have never seen your almighty powers. With Caesar, you had forgotten your people. The times of Khufu are far behind us, my queen. People are starving and they need a miracle. They need proof that you are indeed their pharaohs’ goddess. Give it to them and they will be on your side forever. Then, you will live”
“Nomun! What do you suggest? Hire a trickster? Make a show? I do not have to prove anything. I am their mother and ruler” said Cleopatra.
“It is not that simple. Their minds are being played with. Romans are tricky, and they are trying to create chaos. Caesar is on your side, but he has enemies. I could see that you will outlive Caesar only if you prove, you can protect your people, that you have the powers of pharaohs” said Namun.
“Very well. What do you have in mind?” she said
“Nile is drying out, the fields in Memphis and Thebes are not getting enough water. We did not have a drop of rain for more than 200 days. People are dying on the streets” said Namun
“You are just stating the facts. I already have ten viziers telling me numbers all days long!” Cleopatra screamed.
“Apologies my queen,” Namun bowed “considering all the facts we need to make it rain. I heard that Hatshepsut had power to change weather, this is why her people were never thirsty.”
“Ha, great story. Are you taunting me? I do not see how I could get Hatshepsut’s powers,” Cleopatra narrowed her eyes, “shall I rob her tomb or summon her ghost, as if it is even possible?” she laughed hysterically.
“Almighty queen, please allow me to finish. Hatshepsut possessed enchanted stone that gave her powers. It is said that almighty Amun-Ra came to her in a dream. He granted her the stone and told to keep it by her side at all times. Amun-Ra foretold that she is destined to rule Egypt for many years and bring it peace and prosperity. But if she let go of the stone her life will end. When Hatshepsut woke up, she found it in her hand. From that day onwards her luck turned and she was pronounced Pharaohs of Egypt. Since that day she performed many miracles and indeed Egypt prospered under her reign” sighed Namun. His eyes were filled with tears.
“You are indeed the greatest oracle. I never heard this story about her. What happened to the stone? Tell me now.” Cleopatra asked impatiently.
Namun looked at his queen with sadness. He observed her face, puffy lips, big brown eyes, curly hair collected with a bezel on the back of her head, bare neck and her curvy body wrapped in the white silk. She looked so pure, almost dreamlike. To Namun she was still as innocent as the first time he saw her. He was very young when he started serving Cleopatra’s father as an oracle. Cleopatra was eighteen when she inherited the throne. Namun became her devoted servant. With years, she matured, became more powerful and with that, more demanding. He knew all her secrets, her dreams and fears; he knew her weaknesses but would never dare use it to his advantage.
Namun looked into her eyes and thought “I would give up my life for you, if you asked.” He looked away.
“So? Speak. Where is the stone?” Cleopatra raised her eyebrows.
“The stone is lost, my queen. But I saw a vision it in my prayers. It is red as blood. I believe it is a ruby. I do not know of its whereabouts, but I could see it was covered in mud and I sensed water. We should search the Nile first” said Namun.
“Very well. Are you sure it will give me the powers?” asked Cleopatra.
“I am certain” Namun bowed.
“Arrange the search” ordered Cleopatra.
The search was organized immediately. Twelve high priests went on a secret mission to find the lost ruby of Hatshepsut. Namun led the search in Thebes, where queen Hatshepsut had lived and died.
At night he walked on the streets of Thebes. The people were still awake, man playing knucklebones, children running and elderly smoking pipe and drinking tea. It smelled of sweets and spices. The alleys were decorated with lanterns connected between the houses. Namun decided to walk into the darker alleys away from the center, where palace guards were not present. There, to his sorrow, he found hundreds of homeless people, lying on the ground, dying of starvation, beggars coming from all the corners and children asking for a drop of water.
“Get lost scum!” shouted Namun’s guard and pushed a small skinny boy on the ground.
“Calm down Seti. They are desperate, not violent. Give those children water and bread” said Namun. The guard obeyed.
Once Namun reached Thebes Palace, he ordered servants to go to the dark alleys and leave large jags of water for the poor. Then he went to bed. He quietly prayed for starving people of Egypt and Cleopatra’s good fate until he fell asleep.
In the morning, Namun was informed that the ruby was found by one of the servants of the priest of Karnak. He brought it directly to the palace.
Namun unwrapped the material covering the stone. He checked the ruby and suddenly felt the sharp ray of energy going out of the stone, hurting his eyes. He hastily closed the cloth.
“It is the one. How did you find it boy?” he asked
“My master ordered me to look for a red stone in the Nile. Everyone searched in the safe parts of the river, but I realized if it was lost for centuries it might be in the forbidden part. No one goes there, because of the curse of Sobek. The crocodiles will hunt everyone who trespasses. I decided to risk it” said the boy proudly.
“Are you not afraid of the curse?” asked Namun
“No, your highness. I work for the temple of Amun-Ra. I am safe as he guides me” he answered.
“I see, but how did you get to the dive there?” Namun was curious.
“A pack of thirsty cows approached. Crocodiles got distracted. Next thing I saw, they hunted the poor animals. I took my chance and dove down. By fate, the stone was there. I do not remember how it all happened and how I got out, but now I’m here” the boy was shaking in excitement with wide smile on his face.
“Good job. Now I will give you a choice. You will be awarded a higher title in Karnak Temple or you will come and work for me” Namun smirked.
“If I may go with your highness?” asked the boy
Namun looked pleased.
“We shall leave to Alexandria tomorrow. And what is your name?” asked Namun
The boy replied, “Ibi”.
Cleopatra received the ruby from Namun. They performed a sacred ritual. In the end Cleopatra was told to leave the ruby on the altar, untouched, then go to her chambers and sleep.
The queen was restless that night. She kept turning. The ruby was here, but is she destined to possess its power?
Cleopatra felt breeze on her face, lights flickered in the corners of her chamber. Thick mist slowly entered the room.
In front of the window in the moonlight, stood tall, beautiful woman, dressed in gold and covered in precious stones. She was holding crook and frail in golden and blue colors.
Cleopatra felt motionless; she could not make a single sound.
The woman spoke “Do not be afraid child. Do you know who I am?” she said calmly.
“Very well. Now listen. I came to pass on the power and knowledge of the ruby of Amun-Ra. You have been chosen to make great things happen. You are to rule for many years. Do not let the stone go out of your sight and you will be destined to die when you decide. Go on and be the true mother of Egypt. Just close your eyes and make a wish, but remember, it cannot be done for your personal gain” spoke Hatshepsut and disappeared into the darkness.
Cleopatra woke up at sunrise. She found the ruby of Hatshepsut tightly clenched in her hand. She laughed and cried to herself, tightly holding the stone next to her heart.
On the same morning Namun went to check the ruby and discovered that it was not on the altar anymore. He smiled looking forward to see the queen.
Cleopatra arranged a festival with food and drinks for all. She could hear the happy cheers of people with full bellies and drunken faces. She knew those very same people were blaming her for poverty and starvation, but she was about to change that.
“It is time, my queen” said Namun
Cleopatra stood in front of the crowded square. “People of Egypt, my children, I, Cleopatra, Pharaohs of Egypt. Your mother and protector, welcome you at the festival of life. As you know, the desert swallowed our country, dried out our river and fields. But not anymore. Today, I will give you water!” her voice was echoing across the square.
The crowd gave her soft applause. Many people looked confused and waited for her to continue.
The queen felt dryness in her mouth. She looked over her shoulder at Caesar standing in the shadows. He looked as confused as the crowd. He did not know what was about to happen. Cleopatra sighed in frustration. Her body was shaking.
Namun whispered from behind, “You can do this my queen.”
She firmly held his hand for a moment and let go. There was the support she was seeking for.
The ruby was vibrating, pouring rays of energy into her body. Cleopatra closed her eyes and pronounced a wish. When she looked up, the clouds were getting darker and the next second a drop of water rolled down her cheek. The sky trembled in a roar and the rain purred heavily beating down the ground. People cheered, applauded and cried raising their hands. Then the gong banged attracting attention to the queen. The crowd dropped down on their knees at once, shouting “Cleopatra the Greatest!”
Since that day Cleopatra continued using the powers of the ruby and blessed Egypt in heavy rains and fertile fields.
Cleopatra had fortune on her side for many years. The people loved her. She had many successful war campaigns and a devoted lover. Many times her life was in danger but she managed to escape death. One time she was locked up in Alexandria with Caesar for a year. She thought that would be the end of her, but she was lucky again and survived.
As Namun predicted, Caesar died early and she had to find another supporter to secure her son’s right to the throne. She became close with Mark Antony, general of Roman Republic. With time they professed love to one another.
It has been years since Cleopatra received powers of a ruby and never asked her oracle for advise again. Namun grew old, his posture changed and his hair became white, his eyes changed color and Cleopatra thought that was time for him to retire.
One day, he came to warn her about his new prophecy.
“Namun, my dear friend. I do not need prophecies, while I have this in my possession” she pointed at the ruby hanging around her neck.
“But my queen, it is important” he mumbled.
“Not today, go my dear, go” she said and called her servants to prepare a bath.
Namun stood in an empty room looking dreadful. A young man brought him a goblet of water.
“Your highness, what are your worries?” he asked.
“Ibi, my boy” Namun smiled and patted boy’s shoulder. “I am to die soon and I have to share a prophecy, I trust no one more than you, Ibi. You are like a son to me” he said
Ibi stood still with sadness in his eyes.
“Listen” Namun lead him to a private chamber “the queen will be assassinated this month and it might be the end of her, I will write and seal it, you must deliver it to her” he said.
Suddenly Namun was silent. He touched his left arm in agony, exhaled and dropped on the floor. Ibi cried, embracing the old man’s body. Namun was not breathing anymore.
Cleopatra did not attend Namun’s burial ceremony. She was occupied with her lover, Mark Antony.
“ Ibi, servant of Namun. I allowed you here because you were my oracle’s favorite servant. What do you want?” said the queen.
“My queen. I am here to pass on the prophecy of Namun” said Ibi
“Prophecy you say? Namun preferred you to all the high priests of Alexandria? The tiny servant?” she chuckled and raised her hand “remove him!” she ordered her guard. “You shall not play a joke on your queen” said Cleopatra.
Ibi was dismissed from the palace. He did not serve any temple again and instead found work in the city as a laborer. He decided to forget about Cleopatra and the prophecy “She did not drop a single tier for Namun. She is blind and cruel. No prophecy would help her”
Soon Cleopatra was betrayed and forced to escape her palace. She summoned a great storm, covering a traveling route to her secret burial tomb. She ordered to build it earlier, she knew, no one would expect to find her there. The place was secure.
She sent Mark Antony a letter “We were betrayed. I was told I would be paraded on streets of Rome as victory over Egypt. I won’t let it happen. I have taken poison and I am writing to say that I love you. Good bye forever, my dearest”.
The letter was a lie, made up to mislead the enemy. Cleopatra was sure that it would not reach Mark Antony. Regrettably, he received it and stabbed himself to death. He arrived at Cleopatra’s tomb bleeding. She held him in her hands singing a song about lost love, her tears pouring on his bleeding body. He gave her the last gaze “I love you” and exhaled leaving this world in peace.
Cleopatra held the ruby in her hands crying with desperate screams “bring him back!” she squeezed the stone tightly, but nothing happened. She sobbed and looked up at the sealing “So am I to live?” she held the stone, closed her eyes and pronounced a wish. Something started moving on the ground making hissing sounds. A large snake slowly moved towards the queen and suddenly stopped as if it was waiting for her command.
“Now I wish to die” said Cleopatra calmly resting her head on Antony’s shoulder. Snake hissed and made a rapid move towards her bare neck. Cleopatra gasped with her hand opened and ruby rolling away on the floor. She was no more.
On the day when Cleopatra was discovered dead, Ibi was called up to labor at her burial. Once it was done, he stayed to lockup the tomb. Ibi glanced at her grave for the last time, thinking what would have happen if he managed to tell her the prophecy.
The sun majestically glowed on her grave and something red shined from the corner. Ibi could not believe his eyes. He picked it up in great surprise. It was the stone he found in the river a long time ago, when he was a little boy. “Time to bring you back where you belong” he said.
After some time Ibi traveled back to Thebes, he went to the crocodile part of the river Nile and slipped the ruby into its blessed waters “May it rest there for a thousand years.”