Nebamun was determined and nothing could deter him now. Now was his opportunity. Antony had gone back to Rome being summoned by Caesar. Cleopatra would be alone. Nebamun could offer her his heart. Offer his heart to the goddess of love whom age cannot wither or custom cannot stale – that was how one of Antony’s commanders described her the other day.
Let her trample upon his heart if she so chooses. Nebamun was the devotee and Cleopatra was the goddess. The goddess can choose what to do with the devotee and it is the bounden duty of the devotee to obey, to make whatever sacrifice the goddess demands.
He stood outside Cleopatra’s royal chamber waiting until she came out.
“Your Majesty,” Nebamun drew Cleopatra’s attention when she was about to pass him by as if he never existed. Queens don’t pay attention to ordinary soldiers even if they stand in places where they are not expected.
“Yes,” said Cleopatra staring at him. “What do you want? Why are you standing here outside my chamber?”
“I wish to speak to you alone,” said Nebamun.
“My heart’s deepest desire. A devotee’s most fervent prayer.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are my goddess, Your Majesty. I am your devotee standing before you with a supplication. Be merciful enough to grand my wish.”
Cleopatra stared into his eyes before ordering her maids to leave them alone.
“What is your wish?”
“I have been worshipping you with my whole heart and soul. Please grant my wish to worship you with my body.”
Cleopatra was too stunned to decide whether to flare up or laugh out.
“How dare you? This is intolerable audacity!”
“You call it audacity, Your Majesty, but I call it worship. I’m your devotee; you’re my goddess.”
Their eyes met again. Determination and devotion were overflowing in Nebamun’s gaze. His body language was a queer mixture of those of a soldier’s and devotee’s. A unique combination. A rare lover. Cleopatra’s eyes began to sparkle with mischief.
“I will grant your wish,” she said to Nebamun whose heart skipped a beat. “But on a condition.”
What do conditions matter to a devotee? Nebamun waited eagerly.
“You won’t live to see the next morning.”
What does the next morning matter to a devotee?
Cleopatra’s chamber opened itself to Nebamun that night.
There was a strange shade of crimson in the sky when the sun rose the next morning from the Red Sea. The executioner reported that Nebamun died without an iota of regret. “Rather,” said the executioner, “I have never met a man who seemed more contented than that.”