First book trailer

I’m pretty giddy about making my very first book trailer. I will be creating more in the near future as I release more books into the world. Enjoy.SDRandCo (7)

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

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The River Ar

This is a random excerpt of book three from an untitled (as of yet) novel related to The High King’s Embalmer:

nile-river-100

Pictured above is the Nile River. Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

The River Ar

His predator eyes roamed over the landscape and silhouettes of bushes and sheep outlined against the backdrop of the moonlit pasture. His gaze shifted to the horizon, then back to the wider part of the River Ar where it engorged from the summer rains. Water churned black sand up to the surface. It wrapped around rocks, and disappeared back into the abyss. Reedy papyrus nearly disappeared beneath the swollen banks.

Whistles and high-pitched calls from a nightjar or goatsucker, filled the night. He had always found that name peculiar. He had never witnessed the bird sucking milk from a goat. Other predators, different from himself accompanied him. The resident horses of the river, or hippopotami, waded unperturbed by the rising waters. The aged Nile crocodile crawled onto higher ground, blending in with its surroundings to mimic a downed log. Ancient reptilian eyes stared at the frog who swam too close. In the next fraction of a second, the frog disappeared into the massive jaws of the Nile crocodile. Overkill for such a small creature. Not far on the disappearing shore, stood the resident night heron, waiting for fish to swim into its sight.

To his right, the blazing sun dissolved to nothing more than a soothing, peachy glow on the horizon. Torch flames threw a yellow glow in the area near the carved stones and granite pillars. The lights snaked along the well-travelled road toward the quarries. Human hands pounded and chipped away at limestone and pink granite. The workers, ant-sized from that distance, had a few weeks’ work remaining before the mortuary temple was completed.

Mountain peaks rose to the south. Sediment and silt of the deepest onyx pushed toward the river. He listened to the constant splashes of the cascading rainwater.

He closed his eyes against the sudden breeze from the desert lands. The brief coolness offered relief from the humid temperatures of the unusually steamy day. Next to the embalmers’ tent, the scents from the finest perfumery in the village all rode the aromatic zephyr. Lilies, henna, cinnamon, lemongrass, frankincense, myrrh, and roses all melded to an overpowering intoxicating bouquet and masked whatever odors of decomposition the humans might have noticed.

Male and female voices laughed, argued, and conversed, all mingled with the brays of hungry donkeys, bellows of oxen, nickers of a horse, bleats of goats, all normal sounds of the idyllic village on the other side of the river.

A celebration had began in the palace early that evening. The river god, Hapi, had blessed the land, they said. Music ebbed and flowed with the breeze from the great house, or “pharaoh.” A song began in adagio, slow in tempo, with drummers banging a hypnotic rhythm for the longest time.

An ache filled his soul. He wanted, no needed the beat to speed up to a more tolerable rhythm. The music, although not foreign to him for he had lived amongst the humans for quite some time at that point, still dispatched shivers along his spine. It was different for those of his kind. Certain tones and vibrations affected those of Kem much deeper than it did for humans. His hand reached for the ankh amulet he kept around his neck. A gentle vibration pulsed against the palm of his hand and anchored him between the two worlds: the spiritual and the physical.

The musical tempo from within the pharaoh’s house grew in speed and tone until it reached a frenzied pitch before the zummara double pipe, flutes, harp, lutes and lyres joined into the song. Human hands joined in, clapping to the beat.

He relaxed.

Barefeet padded up the hill near his vicinity. He didn’t need to open to his eyes to know who with her fragrance of myrrh oil and roses: Henutsenamon, the king’s youngest royal consort and one of his favorites.

But, he did open his eyes to see two women: the young queen with her servant, who balanced a basket of bread loaves on top of her head. One hand kept the basket steady while the other carried blankets clutched to her chest. She wore nothing more than a long skirt and a wide, gold beaded necklace.

Henutsenamon, his lady of interest led the way. She wore typical attire of the great house, a sheer dress of the finest flax linen that clung to her lithe form that accentuated her breasts and the growing baby. A heavily floral-scented garland decorated her neck and a perfume cone fragranced with blue lotus rested atop her hair. Her skin smelled of the richest Mendesian and Susinum. Each betrayed their aphrodisiac qualities. Oddly, none of the scents overpowered the other. Gold with vivid turquoise and carnelian stones graced her earrings. A large, bright blue scarab beetle centered on each of her gold bracelets, and a plentiful supply of rare gems and copper beads formed the pectoral. Glistening onyx kohl lined her eyes—to reflect the sun’s rays and kept insects away, the physicians had insisted. Ground malachite shadowed her eyes in a sea of green. Her natural beauty sank his heart. A forbidden love, one he could never consummate. She was the pharaoh’s youngest wife, still in her teens.

To snap him back into reality, her unusual eyes the color of ground cinnamon, betrayed her true feelings. They revealed the usual expression of fear most of her people showed him. At the same time, lust, excitement and longing also filled those soulful eyes. Despite having lived amongst them for hundreds of years, he was still the outsider. A foreigner without a land, without a home.

“You are not joining the banquet, Nakht-ankh?” Henutsenamon asked with caution in her sonorous voice.

He bowed his head to her to show respect. Still unsure what to call himself in the form he had taken, he accepted their name, Nakht-ankh, but it was not his own.

“Did Pharaoh not request your presence? Surely he would have invited you, his favorite magician,” she said, but her gaze focused on the river, on the crocodile.

“There is one God. No river god, I do not worship it.” He spoke too abrasive. He hadn’t meant to.

“Such a sharp tongue, Nakht-ankh. You are my friend… and more. Forgive me, I forgot. Your beliefs are different. We accept that.” She handed him one of the pale blue lotuses atop her head.

“You are tense tonight. Perhaps this will help.”

He took the flower with a scowl. “And who spoke of such a thing, Your Majesty?”

“Why you, of course.”

He nodded.

“Will you be joining Pharaoh on the hunt later, Nakht-ankh?”

“What does he hunt?”

“Crocodiles.”

“Why did he not listen to me? I warned him of his fate.”

“He is aged, m’lord. He believes Sobek has granted his protection.”

“Why are you not there with him, at the celebration?”

She laughed nervously. “I needed the fresh air. I love the air after the first rain from the Inundation. Is that not why you are here, also? Is that not something else we share?”

He sighed inwardly. How many times did he have to explain himself? He couldn’t be near the living, not with their tempting living hearts. He preferred the dead where it was safe for him; for the humans. But, she was correct. He enjoyed the fresh air for the same reason.

“His Majesty, life, health and peace to him, does not welcome my presence to spoil his celebration. He fears my presence summons an early death.”

She nodded. “I’ve heard as much. It is unfortunate.”

“But you have not feared.”

“No, I enjoy your company, Nakht-ankh.” She placed a hand on his wrist. “You know this?”

He nodded.

“You were correct about my pregnancy. You’ve been correct with every one who has tried the trick of urinating on barley and wheat seeds.”

“Crude, yes, but—”

“Yes, but we know if we are pregnant far sooner. I’ve seen the temple. It is near completion. Much better than working in a tent for embalming? Much more… private?”

“The temple is near completion, yes, but a place of confinement to keep me separate from the great house.” He stared at the river.

“No Nakht-ankh, not the Place of Confinement. You could leave if you feel. Perhaps it would be better? Although your leaving would hurt my soul, all of it: Ren, Ba, Ka, Sheut and Ib.”

Awt-ib. Yes, I understand,” he said and paused before looking at her again and catching her eye. “Not the Sheut, not the Akh, my queen. You know not of what you speak.”

“I see,” she said and looked away. “Forgive me, I do not have such knowledge as the embalmer priest.”

He nodded, then smiled. “I forgive you, always. Where would I go? I have given my devotion to my art, though I did not want a temple for myself. If I tried to leave, they won’t allow me to. I know this.” He turned away to stare at the rising waters of the River Ar. When he spoke again, it was quiet, barely above a whisper. “Especially when they find out the truth.”

“I will never tell, Nakht-ankh. Never.”

“That does not matter. They will know when the child is born.”

“How will they know? You look similar to my brother, surely if anyone asks I can say the child resembles my family heritage and it will be believed.”

He shook his head. “No Henutsenamon. When this child is born, it will be obvious he is not Pharaoh’s. It will be as I am. Something few will understand. Something to imprison or enslave, as others of my kind are within the kings’ palaces.”

“None of your kind are free?”

He shook his head.

“Not even with your secret knowledge of… things?”

“No, it does not matter.”

She looked away. It grew quiet between them. A cow mooed.

“We will not be allowed in the temple without going through a purification ritual,”she said. “I don’t believe any of us except the pharaoh, if he chooses, and the guards will be allowed. I hope to see you somehow.”

“If I they will allow me. As I said, and you must understand now, I belong to Pharaoh and he does as he wishes with me.”

She stared at the dark water. “Will this baby be born healthy, Nakht-ankh?”

He put the palm of his hand on her belly and listened to the tremors of life through her flesh. What he saw in his mind’s eye sent a sharp pain through his soul, the truth. It was as he suspected. As he read in her aura and the baby’s.

“He will.”

She released a long-held breath.

“I was worried. My dreams felt real. I had dreamt the child was born dead. I am pleased that is not so. Pharaoh will be pleased.”

Pharaoh will not be pleased. 

Again the longing of what he could not have nibbled on his heart. No matter how many times he explained to her, she never believed it.

Pharaoh will put me to death.

“I have to finish my work.” He nodded his head slightly in the direction of ibu, the place of purification.

“Does it bother you about living in the temple? I see the sadness in your eyes whenever it is mentioned. Would you rather live in—?”

“So many questions. I am flattered by Her Majesty’s concern, Henutsenamon.” He smiled thinly.

“You never answer me.”

Henutsenamon. So simple-minded. So young. So sheltered.

“I need to return to my prayers and rituals,” he said. “It is better at night.”

She turned away again to watch the river. “The rains have created a double-edged sword, have they not?”

“True. Fresh water and fertile soils. But many deaths from the floods.”

She didn’t argue, instead took his hands between hers and inhaled the palm wine that stained his hands. Her lips brushed against his finger tips. She offered a weak smile, then held his hand against her swollen belly.

“I always think of you always when I can not see you. In my heart always.” She handed him a cobalt bottle of Susinum, the most expensive perfume of the region.

“To remember me, Nakht-ankh,” she said. “When I die, use this for my embalming. You will, no doubt, outlive my generation as you have those before me, although I do not understand how or why. Pharaoh says you are a magician in that sense. You know things, can cast spells and have that ability to read minds. We leave it at that.”

“I will never forget Her Majesty. She is in my heart.” He didn’t open the bottle. He didn’t need to. The smell of the subtle fragrances of lilies, myrrh and cinnamon and sweet-smelling balanos oil were strong in his nostrils.

“Know that I love you deeply, Henutsenamon,” he said barely above a whisper. “I always will with my soul, even if we cannot be together. You belong to another.” And your species is different from mine.

Henutsenamon nodded and disappeared beyond the reeds in the direction of the palace. Her servant glanced at him of a knowing look but said nothing.

He inhaled the fresh air, not looking forward to what the night’s work held.

The seer. That was the name they had given him. The chief embalmer priest who could predict the next to die, was what they believed. According to them, he was one who could read anyone’s thoughts. They were wrong. He could not predict the future any more than anyone else. It was his ability to see sickness on the humans, that he used to his advantage, along with his ability to read auras and energy of a person. It was difficult to predict the length of a human’s life without tasting their blood. With the pharaoh, it was his reckless abandon for hunting such dangerous beasts.

He kept his feelings as neutral as possible. To keep everyone appeased, he played his part well, answering only those questions asked, and embalming to perfection in the old ways of his kind. Pharaoh would realize soon enough that Henutsenamon’s newborn was not human. He should have left before this, before the birth, but where would he go? He had nothing else to live for. They would hunt him down and that went against his predator urges.

“We are ready… Master.” Takhaet, barely dressed in a loincloth, stood on the downward slope of the hill. His eyes glistened in the flickering torchlight.

Nakht-ankh turned and released the ankh he had held for so long. The amulet that helped keep his feelings grounded, and neutral. He followed the boy toward the tent.