CHARACTERS - CLEOPATRA 54 BC
Cleopatra Thea Philopator aka Cleopatra VII
Yeah, it's *THAT* Cleopatra ... Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, favorite target of "infamous women" writers. Here, she's 15 years old, educated by the greatest minds in the ancient world all concentrated together in the Museo adjacent to The Great Library of Alexandria. This part doesn't need to be fictionalized: she's a polyglot (languages) and a polymath (mathematics, medicine, philosophy). This is well documented, but conveniently ignored by Roman historians looking for a sexy scapegoat.
She's been groomed to rule her entire life, and her father, having worked very hard and gone deep into debt to secure Roman patronage, has retired from the business of state and dropped it in her lap. This is still non-fiction.
In the narrative, Cleopatra is expanding her management of internal affairs to handle international diplomacy, struggling to get a bankrupt empire back on its feet, learning how to manipulate people to reach her desired ends, and stumbling through her own coming-of-age.
Kalek's father was a Greek wine merchant, and his mother was from Kush. Due to his mother's early death, he was partly raised by a Jewish nanny and was fluent in three languages (Greek, Meroitic, and Hebrew) by the time he was old enough to travel the Mediterranean with his father. As a natural consequence of doing business in many different countries and having a knack, he's "passable" in quite a few languages, but, perhaps, not with the precision of Cleopatra.
Kalek ran the business, did the negotiating, and closed the deals, with his father as a figurehead, by the time his father died. His older brother, a ship captain, got the ships, and Kalek got the house in Alexandria. This worked out well, because Kalek never wanted to be a wine merchant. He rents out the main portion of the house and lives in a small room above the slave quarters, while he works as a scribe copying (and "enhancing") maps in The Great Library of Alexandria.
He makes additional money on the side with map work for the Temple of Isis intelligence network. He's aided by a photographic memory for images (not so good with words).
Kalek longs to connect with a priestess named Banafrit, but he's awkward and shy, and she's clearly out of his league.
Dakka was apprenticed to his witch-doctor uncle in Kush and learned jungle medicine: practical treatments for diseases, and some limited surgery. He traveled to Alexandria hoping to expand his education in the best physician schools in the world, and setup a private practice, but his "rural" credentials and experience just didn't impress Greeks caught up in Hippocratic "philosophic" medicine.
He bides his time also working in The Great Library, copying herbal scrolls and studying medical texts when he can. He's just started a side job for the Temple of Isis intelligence network updating their own herbal library, and is quite interested by the crowds of young priestesses staffing the place. They're very different than the tavern dancers he's fond of watching.
Banafrit is the daughter of the High Priest of the Memphis Temple of Ptah. As a child, she played in the sanctuaries of all the vast Memphis temples, and consequently learned all the tricks behind the "magic" staged for believers. She knows every temple ceremony by heart across all the different cults (they're not really all that different), but she has an agile mind and was drawn to the religious mechanical devices: doors that open and close by themselves, statues that move, holy fountains, etc. There was always a shortage of repair/maintenance people and she made a name for herself.
The Alexandrian Temple of Isis was in great need of her skills and she came to the city to help them, then decided to stay because of the greater advancement opportunities. Her intelligence was quickly recognized and she advanced to become the right hand of the High Priestess.
She enjoys subtly teasing Kalek, but still isn't sure he's boyfriend material.
Dedyet was a priestess in the Memphis Temple of Isis and moved to the Alexandrian Temple of Isis for better career choices ... and the promise of a more exciting social life in the most active trading port in the world, with its diverse Greek/Egyptian/everywhere influences. Dedyet is all about wringing the most fun out of life that she can, but can be very pragmatic when she has to be. She tries to avoid those serious situations as much as possible.
Dedyet enjoys teasing men, and she's pretty merciless about it, while men are helpless to resist. She has tattoos in a diagonal band starting near her right shoulder, running down to her left thigh, then returning to her right shoulder up her back. She will show these off at the drop of a hat (she didn't go to the trouble of getting them just to keep them hidden).
Astarte and her sister were enslaved by pirates, shortly after surviving an influenza epidemic that wiped out their family and entire village on a Phoenician island. Astarte has been receiving visions since the time of her parents' deaths, and the future promise they hold is just enough to give the two girls hope, even while chained in the hold of a leaky ship. She is currently a slave in the villa of a Roman tax collector living outside Alexandria.
Astarte is speech impaired. She can't speak, but communicates not only with common sign language, but with a particularly elegant Phoenician version they call Beautiful. It's aptly named, as it's enchanting to watch even if it's not understood. It is to common sign, what ballet is to teenagers shuffling around at their first dance. Unfortunately, her sister is the only surviving person she knows who can use it ... and they've been separated.