MAGIC OF THE NILE by Veronica Scott

MagicOfTheNile_1600x2400_2Always a pleasure to be your guest, Cindy! I just got back from the 2014 RT Booklovers Conference in New Orleans, where authors, booksellers, publishing people and Readers all get together for about a week of workshops, book signings and other events. One of the evenings was a special Mardi Gras-themed field trip to the warehouse where the floats reside. The first items that greeted me inside the door were from an Egyptian-themed float! Since I write a connected paranormal romance series, “Gods of Egypt” I felt right at home.

In my most recent novel, “Magic of the Nile,” there’s a parade, in honor of the Crocodile God Sobek. I won’t give spoilers but my heroine Tyema is his high priestess and she’s in Thebes on a secret mission for Sobek, which also involves Pharaoh. As part of the festivities surrounding her visit, the priests from the local temple of Sobek co-ordinate a procession, providing dancers, acrobats, the ancient version of “floats” and many more amazements for the crowd of ordinary citizens lining the streets. Pharaoh provides free beer and a feast afterward. Tyema is responsible for a crocodile riding her “float” with her.

I always do research when my characters have to participate in events of this nature because even though my series is paranormal, I like to ground the plots in as much authentic detail as I can. There are wonderful tomb paintings of parades and of the “floats” used to carry the statues of the various gods, as well as the elaborate chairs and litters for Pharaoh and any lesser human dignitaries, like my heroine. For one thing, I discovered it took twelve to sixteen big strong men to carry the chair/throne Pharaoh would ride during the parade, depending on which elaborate conveyance he chose. (I added a few more to carry my priestess since she has a crocodile with her.)

Hollywood has done a good job of portraying parades in ancient times, especially in the 1955 epic “Land of the Pharaohs”. The parade scene there looks as if they copied directly from the tomb paintings. Oddly enough though, I also drew inspiration from a two and a half minute scene in the 1955 musical “Kismet” where the caliph is marching to meet his hoped-for bride. That scene has nothing to do with ancient Egypt (or much of anything historically accurate!) but I love the colors, the dancers, the song…the Muse draws her creativity from odd places sometimes. So the “Kismet” soundtrack provided the background while I wrote my scene but the parade itself is all ancient Egypt.

It’s interesting to me how universal the idea of enjoying a good parade is – from ancient times, to the Rose Parade where I live, to the Mardi Gras parades.

Here’s an excerpt from “Magic of the Nile”:
Nat-re-Akhte wore the double crown of Egypt today, and carried the cobalt blue-and-gold crook and flail of power. His kilt was fine linen, pleated, tinted with gold, tied with the elaborate red sash. A leopard skin was draped across one side of the kilt. He wore the magnificent pectoral depicting Horus the Falcon on his chest, gold, coral and turquoise gleaming in the sun. Pharaoh’s cloak was red, trimmed in gold and bearing his cartouche skillfully embroidered, guarded by a falcon on one side and the cobra on the other. The ceremonial braided beard adorned his chin today, although normally he was clean shaven, like most of his male subjects. It was almost painful to behold Pharaoh in all his glory. As he walked along the line of marchers, people knelt and genuflected.

Tyema’s heart beat faster at the honor of participating in a procession with Pharaoh. My astounding new cloak might be beautiful, but mere feathers can’t outshine a living Great One.

Paying the crocodile no heed, Nat-re-Akhte stopped for a moment beside her chair. “Are you ready for this, Lady Tyema?”

“Indeed, my lord. It’s all so much grander than I’d imagined, but the procession pays proper tribute to Sobek. Thank you.” She knew if Pharaoh hadn’t taken a personal interest in this ceremony, things would have been done on a much lesser scale.

He nodded. “An outstanding cloak, my dear, quite unusual. The priests of the Theban temples will have yet another reason to feel cast into the shade. And so they should.” He didn’t wait for an answer but walked to his own chair, separated from hers by heralds and standard bearers with the insignia of the Nomes of Egypt, the one for Nat-re-Akhte’s home province being foremost. The back of his chair was a glorious gilded rendition of the sun rising over the Nile. Uncut rubies set at the tip of each ray sparkled in the real sun as it rose higher. Six fan bearers took up position on either side of him as the burly litter bearers raised the chair high. In front of him soldiers stood ready to march, carrying his gold encrusted bow, shield and sword, accompanied by two handlers with Pharaoh’s snarling hunting leopards on leashes. Behind him was another miniature boat, elaborately constructed and painted, bearing an effigy of the god Horus, Pharaoh’s personal sponsor among the Great Ones. Depicted in falcon form, the statue was taller than a man, wings outspread, decorated in vibrant multicolored enamel and blue faience, with the head gold plated. Gleaming eyes, one a diamond and the other a yellow stone she couldn’t name, gazed upon the scene. Tyema knew Horus and Sobek maintained a friendly rivalry, so she could find no fault with the parade concluding on a tribute to Horus.

Pharaoh must have made some sign she missed because suddenly her litter was raised into the air. Tyema clutched the arms of her chair as the eighteen men carrying her and the crocodile adjusted their hold on the ebony poles to achieve maximum stability. Far ahead, at the beginning of the procession, she heard the blare of trumpets. From her new position, supported on the shoulders of the massive litter bearers, three men at each corner and on both sides in the middle, she could see movement in the ranks of marchers. She took a deep breath, knowing she had to stay calm to play her part in this pageant, and more importantly, to ensure the crocodile played his. So far the animal stayed locked in his regal pose, watching his surroundings with the deceptively lazy demeanor of his kind. The litter bearers closest to him exuded almost palpable fear, and she wished she’d had time to reassure the men the crocodile was firmly under her control.

Music began, a somber march supported by the rhythmic pounding of drums and then a moment later, her litter was in motion. As she was carried through the gates of the palace road onto the wide street, the roar of the assembled crowd made her blink. The roadway was lined with excited, expectant people, at least ten deep, come to see the parade and marvel. Tyema stared straight ahead as she’d been instructed although it seemed wrong not to acknowledge the people who’d come to watch. The cheers for Pharaoh were deafening. Nat-re-Akhte was a popular ruler, much beloved. She glanced back once, and saw him sitting straight and unsmiling, the picture of a Great One come to life. She was glad she’d met him in private prior to today, knew what a kind and thoughtful person he was, despite wearing the Two Crowns and being a god walking the earth.

The procession wove through Thebes along the path they’d all agreed to, passing the large temples of other Great Ones and coming to a halt in front of the somewhat less impressive building that was Sobek’s….

mardi_gras_egypt3a_2The story:
1535 BCE
The standalone sequel to Priestess of the Nile…picks up about fifteen years later and tells the tale of Tyema, who was the younger sister in Priestess of the Nile…

After a childhood spent scorned and ignored by her family because of her crippled foot, Tyema was magically healed then installed as the High Priestess of his temple by Sobek the Crocodile God. But Tyema is still haunted by her memories, scarred by the abuse she endured. Despite Sobek’s protection, as an adult she’s become a near recluse inside the temple grounds…

Until Captain Sahure arrives in her remote town, sent from Thebes on an urgent mission for Pharaoh, requiring High Priestess Tyema’s help. From that moment on, her quiet, safe life is upended in ways she never could have expected.

But after a whirlwind romance with Sahure, the two part as Pharaoh orders him to undertake another assignment on Egypt’s dangerous frontier, far from Tyema’s remote town.

Heart-broken, Tyema is ready to return to her life of loneliness, official duties and, now, regret. But the Crocodile God has other plans for his priestess: she must uncover the sorcerer who threatens Pharaoh’s life with black magic. Soon enough, Tyema finds herself thrown into the chaos of Pharoah’s court, neck deep in intrigue and danger. Just when she thinks she can’t take the pressures of a very public court life and her secret investigation for the Crocodile God any longer, Sahure re-enters the scene.

But is her former love there to help or to hinder? Can they resolve their differences and work together to find the dark sorcerer who threatens Pharaoh and Egypt? Will the love between a proud warrior and a shy priestess lead them to a future together?

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