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An injured Yuri is now in Ramses hands. As they float down the Nile, Ramses asks her how she likes the river but she is unresponsive. Rusafa tries to get her to eat or drink something but she doesn’t want it. Yuri is still consumed by her grief over her miscarriage and can’t get up the will to care what happens next.
When they reach Memphis, Ramses carries her into his estate. His sisters watch from the shadows and speculate if Yuri is the girl he has been obsessed with. When they are in their assigned quarters, Rusafa starts plotting how to get a letter back to Kail. He hopes that if Kail wrote to Yuri, it might snap her out of her fugue state. As he sneaks through the estate, he gets caught by two of Ramses’s sisters. The elder one, Nefert, pegs him as a soldier right away despite his claims to be a merchant. She even guesses he’s a high ranking archer from his calloused fingers.
Did I mention that Nefert is one of the coolest characters in the whole series?
While Rusafa is away, Ramses decides to play. He pounces on the despondent Yuri. He kisses her and threats to rape her but she just lays there like a doll. Concerned by her passivity, he climbs off of her. He is so gross. There is just no getting around it. Ramses is a terrible person and nothing can redeem that at this point. Who in their right mind would think doing that to someone already in a deep depression was a good idea?
Nefert tells Ramses that Kail is rumored to be in ill health ever since the defeat at Ugarit. He goes back to Yuri’s room and tells her this news and claims the Hittites teeter on the brink of defeat. I think this is Ramses being well meaning as it’s meant to light Yuri’s fire – but it just comes across as cruel and insensitive. And this is supposed to the redemption of his character in this arc. But did I mention how innately awful he is?
But it works. Yuri shows a spark of life at last as her fear for Kail overcomes the black cloud of depression. Yuri has another revelation. For the Egyptians to know this, they must have a spy in the heart of the Hittite court with free access to the palace. It sickens her to think that one of the people she trusts might be a turn coat but she demands Ramses let her go home. The burst of energy makes her collapse and Ramses says she will stay with him because she is still weak. He does compromise with her and agrees to help her find the Egyptian that the spy reports too. This person must reside in the Pharaoh’s court.
This is part of Ramses’s campaign against internal corruption. In the court, the aristocrats and officials jockey for personal power and gain. Ramses believes he must clean things up and instill discipline. The reigning Pharaoh is weak and incompetent and the nobles try to undermine him and grow more influential. Ramses thinks the spy master is using their spy and not sharing the intel with the Pharaoh, thus undermining both the Egyptians and the Hittites. Here we are supposed to think Ramses is all about good government and would make a wise and responsible king – kind of like Kail. Ramses is a groping, sexually harassing pig and the comparison is just made all the more awkward in light of what Kail did back in volume 12. Y’know, that attempted rape nobody wants to talk about any more.
Ramses gives Rusafa back his sword and charges him with keeping Yuri from storming off to the palace. He also instructs him to safeguard her with his life.
The servants dress Yuri and one of the girls splashes water on the hem of her gown. They are mortified and beg her forgiveness. When Yuri is nonchalant about the accident, they are shocked that Yuri didn’t order the servant punished with at least several days with no food. Nefert comes into the chamber and inspects her up close, trying to suss out what attracts Ramses.
Ramses comes back from an afternoon out with a lead on a go-between for the spy and court. To catch him as he sails back and forth along the Nile, Ramses and Yuri take the barge out on the river. Nefert and Rusafa accompany them. They stay on the trail of a suspicious barge long enough to get their notice. Thinking quick, Nefert dives into the water and starts playing around with Yuri. The other barge thinks they are just the bored rich out for an ideal afternoon on the water.
The barge sails into the palace of Nefertiti, the dowager queen of Egypt, and this fact makes Ramses think she is the mastermind. Yuri remembers that she is really Prince Mattiwaza’s sister, Tatukia, who was forced to marry the old Pharaoh for political reasons. When they are alone, Yuri begs Rusafa to escape and go back to Hattusa so he can warn Kail about the spy. Rusafa refuses to leave her alone and undefended in a foreign land. Yuri continues to argue that the spy might in time become an assassin. He relents and vows to reach Kail before the spy can act.
That night, Rusafa disguises himself as an Egyptian soldier and gets all the way to the river before he is caught by real soldiers. Ramses anticipated the move and shows up at the right time, claiming Rusafa is his aide to keep him from being arrested. To Rusafa’s surprise, Ramses tells him to go to Kail and let him know Yuri is alive. He doesn’t do it for her sake but because he wants Kail strong and at the peak of health so when they fight again, Ramses’s victory will not be because he had an unfair advantage.
In Hattusa, Rusafa is given a warm welcome and his return even lifts Kail’s spirits. He tells the king everything: that Yuri is alive but lost the baby and remains in Ramses’s custody. Kail is saddened by the loss of the child but relieved that Yuri lives. Determined to free her, Kail orders the troops to assemble and push back against the Egyptians as his groove comes roaring back. Rusafa begs him to dismiss everyone else from the room. When they are alone, he reveals that one their inner circle is most likely a spy to Kail.
Back in Egypt, Yuri is treated like a queen but even during the pampering (which she finds over the top) she plots to meet Neferititi. While Yuri is being massaged, Ramses intrudes and starts groping her naked body. He promises if she’ll kiss him, he’ll arrange for her to meet the dowager queen. She refuses, but he forces it on her anyway. What a pig.
Later, when Nefert barges into her room and gets her out of bed in the morning, Yuri learns how Ramses is accomplishing this. He’s put the word all over town that he’s marrying Yuri and Nefert wants to help plan the wedding. Yuri is very cross and goes to give Ramses an ear full but can’t berate him because his mother there. She is truly happy her son has found someone and Yuri doesn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. Ramses later explains that his family is so high ranking the royal family must attend their wedding. Hence, Yuri can meet the dowager queen.
Ramses makes his next play by scooping Yuri into his arms and telling her the wedding might be a ruse but his desire to wed her isn’t. This seems to make her soften just a bit toward him.
Kail and the Hitties are fighting with renewed vim and vigor. They put the Egyptians on the retreat and push for their homeland. Kail has determined that no one in his inner circle is the spy. He believes if that were the case, Yuri’s identity as his concubine would have been discovered long ago so he tells them about the spy. But he also gives them a warning in case he is wrong. Should Yuri die because the information was passed on, he will find and kill whoever did it. But this is a trap. Kail believes that there is spy among his friends and the threat will spur him to act.
And the spy turns out to be Zora, a character so insignificant I didn’t mention him before. One of Kail’s generals catches him with a tablet with top secret information and drags him off to the king. But Zora claims he is no traitor. He’s been giving status reports to Queen Nakia as he was ordered to before they left the capital. He didn’t see how it could be wrong as Nakia ranks second only to Kail in the empire’s power structure. His testimony establishes collusion between the two queens. Now to find out what they are plotting and why.