Chapter 9

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 "Please, I implore you," she whimpered as she squirmed under the immensity of his weight. "Stop this, please, Mursili... you do not want to do this!"

That wicked cackle of his rang in her ears. "Oh, but I do, my darling princess. You know I do..." His groping upon her bosom tightened as his fingers dug into her flesh. "You know I have wanted to for the longest of times." His other giant paw moved along the grooves of her body, his fingertips gliding along her shivering skin as they meandered lower.

"Please, stop this! Please!"

"No, Mala, I will not. Mala, my Mala, forever my Mala..."

She jolted awake, her brow covered in a thin film of sweat. Utati, who had been gently shaking her, pulled back her hand in surprise.

"Utati?" She rubbed the caked sleep from her eyelids as she peered at the girl who was crouching beside her bed.

"P...princess, are you alright?" The younger girl's voice quivered meekly, something which was unusual for such a boisterous personality.

Malawashina rubbed the throbbing ache at the side of her head; remnants of the ordeal that had been. Adjusting her gaze to the faint light of the nearby candles, she focused upon her maidservant. The young girl's cheeks were flushed and her eyes were red. Stray strands of hair clung desperately to her face and it was then that Malawashina realised the young girl had been weeping.

"My dear Utati, tell me, what is wrong? Have you been crying?"

Utati sniffled and lowered her eyes, giving a small nod. Yet, she would not speak the reason.

"What is it, my darling Utati? Please, you know you can speak to me about anything. Did you have a bad dream?"

"No, I did not..." She replied, turning her head away slightly, her face shamed.

"Utati..." Malawashina urged as she reached out and touched the young girl's quivering hands. Alas, Utati began to sob once more.

"It.. it is this... it came..." She whimpered as she moved her arms to reveal the large, distinguished patch of crimson staining the bleached cotton of her nightgown.

"Oh Utati..." Malawashina looked upon her friend with a sympathetic, but proud smile. "You are now a woman."

"But I do not wish to be!" The younger girl wept. "It hurts terribly!"

"I know that it does, I experience it every moon, my dear. But do not worry, there are remedies to abate the discomfort."

"And this?" Utati pointed at the stain with her nose shriveled in disgust.

"We will have you cleaned up." Malawashina tossed her bed linen aside and began to rise, but Utati jumped away from her.

"No, Mala, you cannot help me. Already I have tainted you with my presence."

Malawashina chuckled and continued to get out of her bed. "We will have the priestesses cleanse the tent in the morning. Do not worry about that. Now come, let us get you cleaned up and into some fresh clothing and back to bed."

The priestesses of Isis that had accompanied the Egyptian retinue had come to her tent in the early hours of the morning. Four of the older women had led Utati through the back of the camp to the huts of cleansing. There, the young girl would stay, away from the eyes of men, until her cycle ended and she could be again cleansed and free. Malawashina knew the custom all too well. Even if it meant she would have to be cleansed each time, she would not hesitate to make time to visit her best friend. For this she was glad that they had stopped to rest a few days at Gezer, a large vassal city loyal to the Pharaoh, north east of the holy city of the Caananites, Urušalim. Unfortunately for them, however, the great palace within the city had been severely damaged from a recent fire. Thus, the Egyptian and Hatti retinue had elected to make camp outside the city in the lush countryside, green with grasses and clovers from the recent rainfall. They were used to the tents now regardless. Malawashina did not mind either, for her tent was decorated lavishly enough for her status, and the fresh scents of wide open spaces helped dull those more apparent in close quarters.

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