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Excerpt Thursday: Warrior of the Nile by Veronica Scott
This week, we're pleased to welcome author Veronica Scott once again, whose latest novel, WARRIOR OF THE NILE,is set in ancient Egypt. Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of Warrior of the Nile to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:
Egypt, 1500 BCE
Lady Tiya is bound to the service of the goddess
Nephthys, who plans to sacrifice Tiya’s body to protect Egypt from an ancient
terror. She embarks to meet her grim fate alone but for the hardened warrior
Khenet, who is fated to die at her side. Tiya’s dreams of love and family now
seem impossible, and Khenet, who is the last of his line, knows his culture
will die with him. Struggling with the high cost of Nephthys’s demands, both
resolve to remain loyal.
Neither expects the passion that flowers when
Tiya’s quiet courage and ethereal beauty meet Khenet’s firm strength and
resolve. On a boat down the Nile, their two lonely souls find in each other a
reason to live. But time is short and trust elusive.
Without the willing sacrifice of Tiya and
Khenet, a great evil will return to Egypt. How could the gods demand their
deaths when they’ve only just begun to live?
**An Excerpt from Warrior of the Nile**
Khenet waited in Pharaoh’s private
chambers eyeing the gilded chairs pulled up to Pharaoh’s ebony table, but no
one, not even him, dared to sit without the ruler’s express permission. A dull
ache had settled in his head and Khenet blamed the oppressive weather cursing
the city. Unseasonal thunderstorms rumbling all night long had made sleep
The palace summons had come to the
barracks that morning before he’d even had time for breakfast. His stomach
growled and he stiffened his spine. Whatever Pharaoh Nat-re-akhte needed him
for, he was ready. Too much leisure between battles wore on his nerves.
The door flew open and Pharaoh strode
into the room, approaching Khenet. “My brother, it’s been too long since we
spent time together.” They clasped arms, leaning in for a quick hug.
“Not since we harried those Hyksos
raiders from the neighboring province,” Khenet said, stepping back, eyeing the
physical changes in Pharaoh’s appearance. The
cares of ruling Egypt are starting to weigh on him,clearly.
Pharaoh picked a handful of dates from
a golden platter and sank into his favorite lion-footed ebony chair. Propping
his bare feet on an ivory stool, he gestured at the ample spread of food on the
table. “Will you have anything? Wine or beer, perhaps?”
Reaching for a meat roll, Khenet shook
his head. “Early for beer, my lord.”
Pharaoh poured himself a goblet full
and, perhaps sensing Khenet’s disapproval said, “Trust me, it’s necessary today.
Khenet glanced at the closed door
across from him. Unusual informality.
“We won’t be disturbed—don’t worry. But
we also don’t have much time.” Having made the declaration Pharaoh fell silent. He sipped at the beer
and frowned, as if the taste failed to please him.
One did not speak unless spoken to in
the presence of the Living God, but everything else had been unusual today.
Khenet and his pharaoh did not stand on much ceremony when they were alone. Time to find out what’s going on. “Your family is well?”
“Fine. The queen and my boy are
healthy, praise the gods.” Pharaoh set the goblet down with a thump, splashing
beer on the table, and leaned forward, eyes narrowed. “I need a personal favor.
A dangerous, complicated task lies before me and only the right man can carry
Action at last. Khenet straightened. “My brother has but to name the
thing, and I’ll undertake it.”
Pharaoh held up one hand to forestall
him. “I’m seeking a volunteer, not giving orders today. I had the Chief Scribe
summon two other candidates, should you choose to pass on the assignment, but I
won’t lie— you’re my first choice.” The monarch waited until Khenet nodded,
then leaned forward over the table, lowering his voice. “What we speak of must
not go beyond these walls. The Great Ones are involved.”
A rush of adrenalin coursed through
Khenet’s body and set his heart to racing. After pulling the nearest chair
closer, he sat opposite Pharaoh. Suddenly needing a drink himself, he reached for
the beer. “I give you my oath. No one’s hearing a word from me.”
Nodding, Pharaoh took another long pull
from his mug. “The goddess Nephthys wants a woman escorted south to the Viper
Nome, to marry the provincial ruler, Smenkhotep. The journey is to be by boat
and chariot. I’m to supply a single bodyguard. No other soldiers, no retainers.
Nephthys decrees that the man must be from my personal guard, someone close to
Considering the information, Khenet
raised his mug and took a long drink. Odd
many aspects. He swallowed. “The Viper Nome isn’t
loyal to you. Yet you’ll do Smenkhotep honor by sending him a bride?”
Pharaoh grunted and toyed with a knife
on the table, spinning it in lazy circles. “From what the goddess Nephthys told
me last night, the nomarch is as treacherous as the snakes which give his
province its name. He worships the god of our enemies, Qemteshub, and seeks to provide
our foes a new foothold in Egypt. Apparently when the Usurper occupied my
struck a deal with Smenkhotep. She
agreed to send him a girl from one of the ancient Houses of Egypt, to help him
somehow. I overthrew her before this wedding plan could go forward so no
candidate was ever identified.”
He gestured at an untidy pile of
papyrus scrolls at the end of the table. “I had the Chief Scribe locate the correspondence
between Smenkhotep and the Usurper this morning. All is as the goddess stated,
including the need to send only one guard—a personal envoy, close to Pharaoh in
blood or affection or both.”
Glancing at the tumbled scrolls, Khenet
raised his eyebrows. “And why is this issue arising now? The Usurper is dead.
You’ve been on the throne for a year.”
“According to the goddess, Smenkhotep
practices black magic so powerful even the Great Ones are barred from entering
his realm. His plans are reaching some kind of climax and he still desires a
Theban noblewoman of one particular lineage to marry. I found a tablet renewing
his request, sent shortly after I took the throne, which was overlooked in the
chaos of the time. Nephthys now orders me to grant the marriage request. She
intends to take over this girl’s body at the right moment, allowing Nephthys to
cross the border in secret, in human form.” Pharaoh frowned, his worry clear as
he raked a hand through his hair.
Khenet was shocked at the very notion
of a goddess possessing the body of even a willing priestess. Poor girl, loss of a home for one’s soul is worse than death. “To what purpose?”
“It’s part of a larger plan ending in
the Smenkhotep’s death...and the girl’s.” Staring across the table at Khenet,
Pharaoh lifted the dagger and pointed the blade at him. “And the death of my
envoy as well.”