Today I'm sharing an excerpt from my latest new release, Lady of the Nile: Gods of Egypt. This is the seventh book in my loosely connected series and I really love writing paranormal romance set in the 1550 BCE time frame. I've always been totally, fascinated by ancient Egypt and I love putting my own twist on the era.
Here’s the story:
Tuya, a high ranking lady-in-waiting at Pharaoh’s court, lives a life of luxury, pageantry and boredom. Khian, a brave and honorable officer from the provinces temporarily re-assigned to Thebes, catches her eye at a gold of valor ceremony. As the pair are thrown together by circumstances, she finds herself unaccountably attracted to this man so unlike the haughty nobles she’s used to. But a life with Khian would mean leaving the court and giving up all that she’s worked so hard to attain. As she goes about her duties, Tuya struggles with her heart’s desires.
When Tuya is lured into a dangerous part of Thebes by her disgraced half-brother and kidnapped by unknown enemies of Egypt, Khian becomes her only hope. Pharaoh assigns him to bring the lady home.
Aided by the gods, Khian races into the desert on the trail of the elusive kidnappers, hoping to find Tuya before it’s too late. Neither of them has any idea of the dark forces arrayed against them, nor the obstacles to be faced. An ancient evil from the long gone past wants to claim Tuya for its own purposes and won’t relinquish her easily.
Can Khian find her in time? Will he and his uncanny allies be able to prevent her death? And if the couple escapes and reaches safety, what of their fledgling romance?
The goddess Mut was much revered in Thebes, which is the capital city at the time of my stories. Her name means ‘mother’ and she had many titles and duties, and was considered to have been involved in the creation of the world. The hieroglyph for her name was a vulture, and so the bird was sacred to her. The ancient Egyptians believed all vultures were female, given children by the wind. Mut was often depicted with the wings of a vulture and I’ve used that reference several times in scenes where I featured her. (She’s also in Magic of the Nile.) As with any Egyptian deity, the names, stories and attributes changed over the course of thousands of years of worship, so I do my research and then decide which core set of ‘facts’ I’ll stick to for the purposes of my story.
The excerpt – a vision Tuya has in which the goddess Mut delivers a grim prediction:
Tuya stood on a hill, in the shade of a beautiful palm tree, watching groups of people walk along a path across the river from her. They danced and laughed and kissed and talked amongst themselves, as if going to a wonderful festival or special event. Men and women strolled hand in hand, oblivious to anything but each other. Families traveled in little groups, the babies in adult arms, toddlers and young children skipping and running ahead, only to rejoin their parents.
“How do I get over there?” Shielding her eyes with her hand, she searched for a path leading away from where she stood, or a bridge to cross the river.
“But you positioned yourself here, why do you now want to leave?”
Surprised, Tuya turned to the woman standing beside her whose presence she hadn’t noticed before, being so intent on the parade across the way. She seemed familiar, but no name came to Tuya’s tongue. “I didn’t choose to stand here.”
“Indeed you did. You worked hard and cleverly to achieve this elevated role. Don’t you remember all the times you chose the path of service over more demanding—and perhaps frightening—opportunities? Opted for the safety of the familiar?”
“You refused numerous offers for your hand, stating you couldn’t leave Ashayet early in her term as Royal Wife, or when she was pregnant or nursing or later as a young mother.”
“I was needed!”
“The Royal Wife has fifty ladies-in-waiting, with dozens more who’d relish the chance for the appointment for a year or two.”
“I also serve the goddess at the temple.”
The woman laughed. “As one of a hundred. Did anyone other than the goddess notice when you stopped singing today? Or started again?”
Feeling a chill, and a bit frightened at her unknown companion’s knowledge, Tuya searched again for a path to the river. A low wall surrounded the spot where she stood, and she got goosebumps when she realized there was no break, no exit. She could step over the rows of nearly laid bricks but fear made her pause.
“Where are they all going?” she asked.
“They travel the road of life,” the woman said. “With all the experiences, good and bad, you’ve chosen to shield yourself from. The highs and the lows of a life lived. Not merely observed, not simply drifted through, like a ship caught in the backwaters of the Nile. You chart a safe course going nowhere except the tomb.”
A sudden fear entered Tuya’s mind like a slithering cobra. “Am I going to be in trouble when my heart is judged?”
“No, for you’ve committed no crimes against the gods or Egypt, told no lies.” The woman tapped her on the chest. “Your heart is true but untried, untouched. Indeed, many envy you for your closeness to Pharaoh and his Royal Wife, for your comfortable, easy life in the palace.” The other shook her head, causing the gold and turquoise beads in her hair to chime. “You represent potential untapped. A waste, but nothing to punish.” She gathered her fine linen skirts in one hand, preparing to leave the enclosure.
Greatly daring, for Tuya now realized she was in a vision and the person with her was either a goddess or a servant of the Great Ones, she put her hand on the lady’s arm to detain her. “Is there time to change?”
Laughing, the woman shifted away from her. “You? Change your path now?” She gestured at the wall surrounding them. “You’re close to the point where destiny is completely set. Shai the god of Fate only has so much patience, waiting to see what a human will do with their choices, and you’ve exhausted his. He’s moved on to others.”
Terrified, Tuya realized while they’d been chatting, more rows of bricks had been laid by invisible hands and the barrier was higher. “I don’t serve Fate, I serve Mut.”
Shaking a beringed finger at her, the other said, “All but the Great Ones are subject to Fate. Rare indeed is the intervention by a god or goddess on a human’s behalf.”
“Why show me all this then?” Tuya stared at the procession of people across the river, still happily moving through what she now understood were their lives. As she watched, several solitary men and women greeted each other and continued their walk hand in hand. Her heart ached as she recalled several good, worthy men she’d had as lovers but who drifted away when she refused to commit to marriage. It’d been a long time since she’d even exerted herself to flirt and seek a new lover. She couldn’t remember the last time a nobleman or high ranking officer had sought her out.
“Perhaps the goddess has a soft spot for you. Perhaps she had hopes for one who was a favorite.”
The breeze lifted the curls of Tuya’s elaborate wig and brought the scent of the blue lotus to her nostrils. “Change is terrifying to me, ever since I was a child and my father died. Our whole world shattered and nothing was ever the same again.” She wrapped her arms around herself, seeking to keep the grief and frightening memories of the years after his death at bay. “How can I risk suffering such upheaval again? How can anyone blame me for creating a life of safe comfort?”
Patting her arm, the other said, “Only you can decide if you wish to break the wall of the sheltered life you’ve created. Don’t wait too long.”
And she turned into a bird and was gone, winging toward the river on ivory white wings.
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