Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Shahira By Shirley Cook


“Shahira, daughter of Halim, you're accused of stealing bread from the baker. How do you plead?”

Ahmose dipped his pen in the block of ink, ready to record the answer on the stone flake resting on his legs. He'd recently started work as apprentice scribe to Smenkare, the village magistrate.

“Not guilty!” Shahira said.

Ahmose glanced up.

A young Kushite girl stood before him. She wore a white linen dress, which highlighted her dark features. Her black curly hair hung loose and fell onto her bare shoulders. She gazed around with an air of defiance.

Smenkare spoke sternly. “This is a court of law. I am Pharaoh Amenhotep's advocate. You will show respect at all times.”

“I'm innocent,” she said.

“That's up to the jury to decide.” Smenkare unrolled a scroll on the wooden dais before him. “Let's hear the witness testimonies.”

Ahmose hoped the case wouldn't go on too long. The awning, erected to shield him from the harsh Egyptian sun, offered little protection - sweat trickled down his face and arms.

“Where is Neheb, the baker?” Smenkare asked.

Ahmose glanced round, as a stocky man with podgy cheeks and jutting nose stepped forward. “Here, Sir.”

“Can you tell the court what happened?”

“I was setting out the loaves on my stall when she grabbed a loaf and then ran off across the street.”

“Are there any more witnesses?” Smenkare asked the crowd of spectators.

No one came forward.

“Very well.” He rolled up the scroll. “There will be a recess while we await the verdict.”

Ahmose studied the jurors. There was Mika the carpenter's widow, Horem the doctor, Senet a Medjay guard and Paser the stone mason. The remaining three were local farmers, whom he didn't know.

Smenkare turned to Ahmose. “I trust I'll be able to read your case notes this time.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good.” Smenkare snatched up his fly whisk and waved it above his head.

Ahmose groaned to himself. He wasn't sure he liked being a scribe, but what else could he do?

Paser stood up. “We have the verdict.”

“How do you find the accused?” Smenkare asked.


A murmur rippled the crowd.

Smenkare spoke gravely. “Daughter of Nurse Halim, you have been found guilty of stealing a loaf. I sentence you to three month's labour in the salt mines.”

"I don't care!" Shahira shouted, as she was led from the court. "I did steal the bread and by Horus I would do it again to feed my family! "

Ahmose stared after her in awe. He doubted he would show such courage. Conditions in the mines were harsh. She'd probably sacrificed her life to feed her family. In that moment Ahmose knew what he wanted to do with his life. He would work hard to become a magistrate, like Smenkare, and treat poor people, such as Shahira, more fairly. In fact who knows, he might even become pharaoh himself and bring about real change.

With god Amun's help anything was possible.


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