Rite of Passage Emperor, Egypt, Rise and Fall, late February 2019. This story ends without an ending. There is much promise to this tale, but perhaps I was carried away by that and the AI took advantage by all declaring war on me at once. That doesn’t fit the story so I gave up, defeated. There is still a tale to tell, however, and this is it. I hope you enjoy, and enjoy for a while, because there’s a lot of pages here I have to transcribe. +++++++++++ The caravan staggered out of the forest. Their clothing and thoughts in disarray. A woman, laden with child, lead the way. Her hand gripped the mule’s lead tightly, her brows knit in determination. One foot after the other, she lead young men wielding tent poles as standards into the flood plain. The riverbed protected their flank and thick jungle and forest secured their rear. An ocean of sand stretched beyond the river, ensuring their refuge would be hidden until their settlement was strong. Her advisor, Skylar, bent down and scooped up the fertile soil. “Our people will eat well, Chieftain,” she said, letting the dirt sift through her fingers. The woman nodded. She slashed the ropes holding the cargo to the mule’s back, letting the hastily lashed barrels fall to the sand. She turned to face her people, the pole-bearers took a step back, surprised. “Pitch the tents. Maat will be restored, my brothers and sisters.” She gestured from the forest to the river with her hand sickle. “Our harmony has been disrupted, but the river will provide. Our desert will keep out the barbarians. By the next cycle, our warriors will secure this valley. Trust in me, as I trust in my husband’s heir to lead our children on from this riverbank.” The beleaguered people blinked and nodded, their hearts and stomachs aching and hollow. Their children looked at her and her swollen stomach, taking note of her words. The men sank the poles into the sands, the omen lead the weary beasts of burden to the river to drink. Cleopatra the Mother sat on a crude stone jutting out of the sand, staring into the vaulted sky above. Her child kicked under her hands. She caressed the spot as a smile crossed her face, the first in days of hectic travel and stressful command. “There, there, little one. We have found our home.” The tents were covered, lamps were struck on the poles and animals were fenced off at the center of the encampment. She watched the campfires start as people rested on mats on the sand. They deserved a break after all they had been through but they must be strong if her child was to survive. Skylar and her senior military commander, Ahmose, approached her secluded stone. “Your tent is ready, Chieftain,” Skylar said. “Thank you, I will be there shortly,” she responded, rising from her seat with great effort. The Commander offered her his arm, but she politely refused the aid. She held her lower back in discomfort as the three leaders watched their fledgling town rise. “My men will be ready to scout the surrounding area by morning, by your command.” Ahmose announced. “So soon, my man?” she asked. “Yes, Chieftain,” he nodded, “The young warriors are stepping up for the future of our people.” “Only a few will stay behind to keep the peace, however,” Skylar pointed out. “That is true.” The Chieftain took her headdress off, shaking her hair free of the helmet-like badge of office. “I suppose we must ask the young ones for more of their future.” She turned to the warrior. “It can be done. It will only take time to get them to fighting form.” She nodded in approval. The Chieftain and her trusted friends walked back to their new city. “What do you think about our chances?” she asked, running a hand over a tent pole as she passed it. “I hate to consider it, but this may have been for the best. This is a perfect place to raise our people,” said Skylar. Cleopatra considered this and turned to the slim man walking beside her. “It is perfect,” he said plainly. “But we will have to work hard to protect it in the future. What we accomplish now will determine how prepared our children will be to defend against their enemies.” He stopped before they reached the Chieftain’s tent. “That is my burden, Chieftain. I promise you, your child will have strong subjects to lead.” He crossed his chest with a sinewy forearm and made his leave into the night. “He is a great man for the job,” Skylar said, holding the tent flap open for Cleopatra. “He blames himself for the death of the Chief. I hope he does not push himself too far. We will need his strength.” Skylar agreed and wished her Chieftain a pleasant night’s rest. Cleopatra’s servant women removed her chest piece and her dress with great care to keep the expecting woman clean. Her badges of honor were placed upon a wooden rack along with her sickle beside her bed. The Chieftain dreamed of a baby’s footprints stretch along a sandy path, growing larger and setting deeper in the distance. She prayed it was an omen of strength, and not disillusion.