One in a continuing series of occasional posts talking about a personal favorite scene from each of my books. It may not be my most favorite scene, since that would probably involve spoilers, but I thought it might be fun.
I’m working my way through my backlist from the first book published onward, as much as possible. WARRIOR OF THE NILE was my second book to be published by Carina Press and after that I became fully independent. My wonderful editor left Carina, they were pivoting away from the ancient world romances…lots of reasons. I’ve since gotten the rights back to the ebook and republished it with a cover I like…
I love writing action, adventure and romance in an ancient Egyptian setting, with a paranormal twist.
I think my favorite scene in this one is where the female main character meets the goddess Isis. This is the beginning of the scene, where the high born Lady finds it’s not so easy to gain entry to a rural temple.
Small though it was compared to the ones in Thebes, the temple of Isis stood prominently on a small hill to the east of the town, its white stone façade gleaming in the early morning sunlight. Finding her way easily through the streets, having marked the path yesterday during the expedition to the market, Tiya arrived in a few moments, only to encounter her first setback. The temple guards at the main gate refused to let her inside.
“Today isn’t a feast day, there’s no special ceremony,” the chief guard said, holding his spear across the opening. “The public isn’t allowed to just wander in at any time. You should know that, girl.”
In disbelief, she blinked and gazed from one guard to the other, unable to accept the rejection. “But I need to make a petition to the goddess—”
“Go use one of the small shrines along the east wall then, like anyone else.” He pointed and she turned to see a row of humble little altars built close to the main temple.
With a hot flicker of annoyance, Tiya remembered she was dressed as a commoner, not the high born lady of Thebes who could gain entry to at least the first courtyard of any temple in Thebes with no question. I can enter the inner chambers of several, on my rank alone. Fumbling with the buttery soft black leather pouch at her belt, she brought out a coin. “Please? I-I need to ask the goddess for help with my sweetheart—”
The other guard reached across to take the bribe, raising the spear barrier with his free hand. “Go ahead then. You’ll find the priestesses in the courtyard, doing their morning ceremonies. You can ask one of them to accept your petition and pass it along to the goddess.”
Flashing him a smile, Tiya walked through the gate.
The courtyard was quite spacious, paved in alternating green and white stones. Hesitating just inside the wall, Tiya debated what to do next. The door to the inner rooms was open, across the way. Five priestesses were clustered in a group off to the side, singing a morning hymn to the goddess, accompanied by the thumping of a small hand drum and whirring sistrums. Respectfully, Tiya waited for the song to end before walking in their direction. One woman broke off from the circle and met her, holding up an imperious hand.
“Yes? Why has the guard allowed you into the courtyard at this hour?” Her face was stern.
Tiya drew herself up to her full height. “I’m Lady Tiya traveling from Thebes on Pharaoh’s orders. I bear the mark of Nephthys, and I need to offer a prayer directly to her sister Isis.”
The priestess tittered behind her hand, rings flashing in the sun. “Pharaoh sends servant women on his errands these days?” Shaking her head, the woman took Tiya’s elbow in a bruising grip, trying to steer her back to the gate. “You can make your petition outside, at one of the shrines, as I’m sure the guards must have told you. I hope you didn’t offer them a very big bribe to let you inside because it was deben wasted, my girl. Getting above your place, trying to enter the temple.”
Tiya dug her heels in and jerked herself free of the priestess’s grip. Rolling up her sleeve, she revealed the cartouche of Nephthys. The priestess lifted her hand away from Tiya as if she were made of fire and backed away a step, staring at the mark and then at Tiya’s face. Gathering her own fine shawl closer, the woman said, “I can’t deal with this myself. Come into the sanctuary and I’ll fetch the senior priestess.”
Allowing herself to be drawn across the courtyard while the other priestesses gawked at her and murmured in astonishment, Tiya walked up the stairs behind her reluctant guide and entered the first room. Not as grand as those in Thebes, the place still projected an air of power. A large painting of the goddess Isis dominated the far wall, outstretched gold and turquoise wings guarding a closed door to the next chamber.
“Wait here. Don’t touch anything.” With that warning, her guide hurried away across the tiled floor.
Throwing back her hood, Tiya glanced at the paintings and furnishings, remaining in the same spot as ordered until the priestess returned with a more senior member of the temple hierarchy in tow. Coral beaded wig slightly askew, this older woman eyed Tiya up and down, her thin lips compressed. “You bear the mark of Nephthys?”
Silently Tiya extended her arm. The other woman examined the cartouche closely, not touching her skin, finally nodding. Head tilted, eyes narrowed, the priestess stared at Tiya’s face. “And yet this is the temple of her sister, Isis. Explain to me why you’re here and not in the House of Nephthys as would be proper?”
Curbing her impatience, Tiya made her voice soft and persuasive. “I need to make a petition to your Great One today, on a matter of great importance.”
With a sniff, the priestess looked at the birthmark once more, obviously thinking hard. Reaching a decision, she lifted her chin and said, “Very well. It’s certainly unusual but you may have a few minutes here, to pray.” The officiant took a few steps toward an alcove where a small, gilded statue of the goddess was lit by torches. “Over here will do.”
Tiya didn’t budge. “I need to address the goddess directly, in the sanctuary.”
The priestess drew herself up to full height, thin lips clamped together, shaking her head. “Impossible. How dare you even think such a request, let alone utter the words? By your own admission you’re not a member of any temple staff—”
Tiya glanced around, anxiety rising in her gut like acid. Isis won’t appear to me out here and I can’t allow anyone else to hear what I need to say. She had to get into the sanctuary. “Please, it’s a matter of life and death.”
Shaking her finger in Tiya’s direction, the other woman was working herself into a fine state of indignation, real red color suffusing her cheeks underneath the ochre powder. “I’ll have the guards escort you out, mark or no mark. You’re treading on blasphemy, wheedling your way in here, onto sacred ground. And probably lying. Best have a care, girl, for the gods look askance on liars and tricksters.”
A breeze wafted through the chamber, ruffling the hem of Tiya’s humble dress and the elegant pleats of the priestess’s gown, stirring the elaborate fringed ends of the her shawl. The woman glanced around warily before turning back to further berate Tiya.
Before she could say another word, one clarion note rang out, vibrating through the courtyard. Tiya felt as if the sound was thrumming in her very bones. Slowly the great door into the next chamber creaked open, although no one stood near it.
WARRIOR OF THE NILE
RT Book Reviews sez: “4 Stars HOT…you’re in for the most romantic desert story since Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra…”
Lightly re-edited since the original release.
Egypt, 1500 BCE
Adopted brother to Pharaoh, warrior Khenet is fiercely loyal and willing to undertake any mission, no matter how dangerous. Assigned as the bodyguard to Lady Tiya while she travels down the Nile to an arranged marriage with a provincial ruler, he soon finds himself caught between the gods of Egypt, the black magic of an enemy and undeniable feelings for the lady in question.
Chosen by the goddess Nephthys to assist in a scheme to defeat the sorcerer, Tiya knows she’s going to die but has been promised immediate entry to the fabled afterlife. During the river voyage, she discovers powerful reasons to regret her choices, including her growing love for Khenet. Life has never seemed so precious and her fate so bitter. Forbidden by the goddess to tell Khenet the truth about his own destined role in the battle against the forces of black magic, Tiya desperately seeks a way to save the man who has come to mean to much to her.
Can these two successfully circumvent the goddess’s plot while still working to save Egypt from the scheming enemy? Will their love be strong enough to bring them through the danger and let them find a future in this life together?
Note: Harlequin retained the rights to the audiobook and the original cover for Warrior.