In the mood to try a different kind of ghost story for Halloween?
Ghost of the Nile is one of the standalone stories in my “Gods of Egypt” paranormal series set in ancient Egypt. For quite a while I’d been fascinated with the idea of writing a story set on an estate in the 1550 BCE era. One of the interesting things about Egypt was that for literally hundreds of years the climate and the daily life stayed pretty much the same. Pharaohs came and went but the more ordinary folk had quite an unchanging routine, linked to the Nile’s floods. I felt my hero could return from the Afterlife and fit right into his old home, although as a guest, not a resident. I thought the challenges for him could be intriguing.
One of my favorite series of novels is The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters. All the action is set in a small English town circa 1100 CE (Common Era). I love being able to revisit the town and the people over and over. I was hoping I could do that for my readers with stories set on one ancient Egyptian estate. Ironically, I didn’t write that series yet. But the ideas inspired my setting for Ghost.
The Egyptians of 3000 years ago believed that unless you were buried in the soil of Egypt and had all the proper rituals recited for you, as well as your name preserved, you couldn’t enter the Afterlife. So my hero Periseneb, who was murdered and didn’t receive the rites at the time of his death, has been condemned to roam the fringes of the Afterlife and wage endless battles against demons and giant snakes.
I’m always fascinated with the goddess Ma’at, who represented truth, balance, justice…and who happened to be the goddess of second chances. I’m a Libra myself – scales, balance…. She was one of the Judges who weighed the heart of a dead person, to see if they deserved the Afterlife. So I decided she’d need a champion to accomplish some task in Egypt, and selects Periseneb, who she believes deserves a second chance at entry to paradise. A favorite old movie of mine is the 1963 version of “Jason and the Argonauts”. I love how the goddess Hera tells Jason she’ll help him three times along the way. I decided Ma’at would help Periseneb, and you’ll see in the book how he has to call for her assistance.
The next intriguing concept this novel allowed me to play with was the ancient Egyptian idea of the terrifying nature of ghosts, or akhs. Periseneb himself is uncomfortable with being an akh returned to Egypt, and worries a lot about inadvertently loosing the evil powers he now possesses on the innocents around him.
And last but not least, there’s the terrifying goddess or demon Ammit the Destroyer, who was part lion, part hippo and part crocodile, and known as Devourer of the Dead. I’ve wanted to find a way to incorporate her into a novel in a meaningful way because she’s so intriguing.
So there you have my influences which blended together with romance and adventure, to yield my latest novel!
This was my favorite review, from the ladies at Dear Author:
“There’s Egypt and gods and magic and strong men and stronger women and love even beyond death and into the Afterlife. The historic details add spice throughout the story and these definitely aren’t 21st C people in linen kilts.”
Betrayed, murdered, and buried without proper ceremony, Egyptian warrior Periseneb is doomed to roam the gray deserts of the dead as a ghost for all eternity.
But then the goddess of truth offers him a bargain: return to the world of the living as her champion for 30 days. If he completes his mission, he’ll be guaranteed entry into Paradise. Periseneb agrees to the bargain but, when he returns to the living world, two hundred years have passed and nothing is quite as he expected.
Neithamun is a woman fighting to hang onto her family’s estate against an unscrupulous nobleman who desires the land as well as the lady. All seems lost until a mysterious yet appealing ex-soldier, Periseneb, appears out of nowhere to help her fight off the noble’s repeated attacks.
Meanwhile, Periseneb’s thirty days are rushing by, and he’s powerless against the growing attraction between himself and Neithamun. But their love can never be. For his Fate is to return to the Afterlife, and Death cannot wed with Life…
Excerpt – Periseneb has been summoned to meet the goddess:
He crossed the threshold into the chamber, his steps faltering at the sight of the deity waiting for him. But then, who had he expected? He was too lowly a shade for Isis or Osiris to bother with. Standing at attention, he saluted. “Lady Ma’at.”
Calm smile on her face, the Great One, goddess of truth, nodded to him. Taller than he, dressed in a finely pleated red sheath, the goddess was imposing. Her expertly painted face was accented by the towering red ostrich feather in her hair, and her expression could only be deemed welcoming. Eyebrows raised, eyes gleaming, she inspected him from head to toe as a commanding officer might.
He assessed the room with a glance, hope dying as quickly as it had sprung. Ma’at was alone. Neither of the other two judges, Anubis and Thoth, was present. Their chairs sat empty. The most dreaded occupant of the judging chamber was, thankfully, not paying any attention to him. As grotesque as the depictions of her hinted, the beast Ammit, Destroyer of Souls, slept snoring in a corner. Claws curled possessively, one hideous cheetah forepaw was draped over a gleaming human thigh bone. She snuffled, long pink tongue scraping the sharp crocodile teeth in her jaws, while her hippopotamus hind legs kicked in some dream. Repressing a shudder, Periseneb averted his eyes.
“I’m not here for my heart to be judged at long last, am I?” His voice sounded rusty to his ears.
“No indeed, Periseneb. The laws of the Afterlife haven’t changed—you can’t receive judgment, since none did you honor at the time of your death. No one performed even the tiniest ritual from the Book of the Dead on your behalf. You’ve no tomb, although your bones do lie in the soil of the Black Lands.” Ma’at’s voice was soft, her eyes misty with tears, apparently for him. “A paltry blessing, I know. I’m sorry.”
He knew she was sincere. Truth was the only utterance Ma’at could make. He rammed his sword into its sheath and rolled his shoulders. “Why then am I here? I didn’t seek this place out; I swear to you.” Pride stiffened his spine. He wouldn’t beg favors, not even when unexpectedly drawn into the presence of a gatekeeper, someone who could free his ka from ceaseless wandering…sentenced to defending the green serenity of the blessed duat, never to set foot there himself, banned for lack of proper ceremonies. The rule was harsh but just. No one deserved eternal life in the duat without proper judgment from the gods.
“Don’t concern yourself about misunderstanding, warrior. I summoned you.” The goddess walked to the ebony table where the scale for weighing the worthiness of human hearts stood ready. Idly, she tapped the balance beam and the arms swayed, cups twisting in the air on their thin gold chains.
Periseneb pushed away a rush of hot jealousy for the souls luckier than he, whose hearts had been weighed on the scales and obtained passage to the Afterlife for their owners. A tiny beacon of hope flickered in his mind. There had to be a reason Ma’at had picked him, of all the lost ones in the hinterlands, to meet with her.
“You recognize me as the embodiment of Truth?” She continued to toy with the scale, then picked up a slate and scanned the hieroglyphics before glancing at him, eyes gleaming under winged brows.
“Yet, I’m also a seeker of justice and balance, one who rights wrongs. I’m the goddess of second chances for the human race.” She raised her elegant eyebrows. “Although such chances are few and far between.”
Despite the warmth of the brightly lit room, a shiver worked its way down Periseneb’s spine. “You wish to right the wrong of my murder? Bring my murderer to account for the crime?”
She shook her head, the golden beads in her wig chiming like little bells. “Your death is done, past, woven into the fabric of life in the upper world these two-hundred years and more.”
He staggered, locking one hand on the edge of the table to steady himself. “So long?”
“Time here and time there run differently, warrior. Only the Nile remains unchanging.”