Back in 2013 or so I was inspired by that piece of information to write an 8K short story centering about Senebkai, an Egyptian boy whose family had lost everything under the old pharaoh and who was urged by Hathor to go appeal to the new pharaoh for help.
And…..then I let it sit. I write romance and while I’d added the older sister and the gallant general who saves her, the core of the story was the nine year old Senebkai. Much as I love my ancient Egyptian stories, I just couldn’t seem to find the right inspiration to open this up, pivot away from the boy and make it a full length book.
This year though, for some reason, I started to ‘hear’ Pebatma, the older sister, and Marnamaret the general and I knew how to go forward with their individual POV’s and add more to the story. I think part of the answer is that this is the tenth book I’ve now written in my Pharaoh’s time, I just finished re-releasing Warrior of the Nile after getting the rights to that book back and Khenet, the hero of Warrior, is a supporting character here. So I was in the right mindset to tackle this story.
I did something unusual for me, however, and let Senebkai have one chunk of his POV in the book. Usually I only have the hero and heroine but no one else could tell the part of Senebkai’s story of his encounter with Hathor and subsequent effort to sneak into Pharaoh’s presence. His section is limited to that set of events and the rest of the book is the usual format with the main characters in center stage.
I had fun researching everything from herbal medicines of the time to PTSD in ancient world soldiers (there are records going back to 3200 BCE of these issues, not that the Egyptians called it PTSD of course) to onions.
General Marnamaret appears in nearly all the books but only in passing and I was happy to have a chance to really dig into his story as a soldier and a boyhood friend of Pharaoh. I managed to add Sobek the Crocodile at one key moment (I always love to include Sobek) and Shai, the god of Fate, of whom I’ve become quite fond. Plus Hathor herself of course.
And it was lovely to be able to give Pebatma her happy ever after ending because she’s had some really tough times before General Marnamaret appears in her life, thanks to the machinations of a goddess and her own little brother’s bravery.
Here’s the blurb:
Forced by a vengeful Pharaoh to flee for her life and hide in the poorest section of Thebes, Lady Pebatma has scraped and struggled to support her ailing mother and young brother for the past two years. Now, out of funds with the rent to pay and no possessions left to sell, she begs the goddess Hathor for help. With a new pharaoh taking the throne, surely something can be done…
A powerful general in command of the army and best friend to Pharaoh, Marnamaret has everything a nobleman in Egypt could desire…except for true love. He refuses to settle for less. On a whim, he prays to Hathor to send him the woman of his dreams.
Will the goddess answer these heartfelt petitions? And if she does, will Shai the god of Fate allow the course of two lives to be changed by love? For none can deny Fate….
Author’s Note: This is a connected series. Heiress of the Nile can be read as a standalone. Although it’s my newest novel, the story falls between Priestess of the Nile and Warrior of the Nile timewise and is set in the early days of this Pharaoh’s reign.
A quick excerpt:
Pebatma went to the public altars along the east wall of the temple and was fortunate enough to find her favorite one free. It was in the back corner, under a pastoral portion of the wall painting’s scenes. Hathor and her handmaidens danced in a grain field, with birds all around. The artist had been so talented she felt she could hear the sistrums whirring in the seven beautiful maidens’ hands and maybe even a whisper of harp music. Pebatma wished she could be as carefree again as the maidens were.
I took so much for granted.
There was no line today and she stepped up to the altar alcove, placing a bit of deben in the offering slot and bowing her head. The rent was short anyway and this tiny sliver wasn’t going to make a difference. Pebatma had to offer the goddess some token of a sacrifice.
She’d had a prayer all ready in her head because she had to go quickly today but now she was at the altar, no suitable words came to mind. To Pebatma’s horror, she began to weep and her breath caught hard in her chest. I can’t have an attack now—I must pray and then hurry home. The cupboard was bare of anything she could use to ease her breathing though and there was no deben to buy expensive spices. And it’ll be a cold day in the seven hells before I ask the spice merchant for favors.
A gentle hand touched her shoulder and she startled, wheezing a bit.
“You’re in apparent distress, sister,” said a melodious voice full of obvious concern.
Pebatma assessed the beautiful young priestess who stood before her and stiffened her knees. She was from a long and storied family and she did not have to kneel to anyone but royalty. “I—I’ll be quick and move on, I promise.” Embarrassed, she knew her cheeks were flushing.
“No, the Great One Hathor would be most distressed were we to send you into the street in such a condition.” Looping her hand through the crook of Pebatma’s arm, the priestess adopted a coaxing tone. “Come, sit with me for a time and regain your breath.”
“I—I have no more deben for offerings,” Pebatma said, hesitating.
With a cheerful laugh, her new companion said, “There’s no question of payment or even gifting. We’ll sit and be peaceful. I think you need time to relax and be motionless, before your day’s work begins.”
Feeling as if she’d lost control of the situation, Pebatma allowed herself to be drawn through a narrow door she’d never noticed before and walked into a cool, green garden. A fountain played lazily in the center and the overflow ran in a burbling stream until it disappeared from sight. The smell of the blue lotus was pleasant on the air and Pebatma found her chest loosening with each breath. Birds sang a merry tune. “This is a large garden.”
Again the priestess expressed amusement, her chuckle low and throaty. “We’re blessed in the service of Hathor, no doubt. I think we should sit on the bench for a few moments before I release you from the rest I’ve enforced.”
Pebatma found no quarrel with the idea. The well-designed garden and the granite bench carved in the shape of a reclining cow, with the seat projecting from the beast’s stone side reminded her vaguely of her family’s estate, before they’d fallen from favor of course.