Title: Ghost of the Nile (Gods of Egypt)
Author: Veronica Scott
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Egypt, 1550 BCE: Betrayed, murdered, and buried without proper ceremony, Egyptian warrior Periseneb is doomed to roam the gray deserts of the dead as a ghost for all eternity. But then the goddess of truth offers him a bargain: return to the world of the living as her champion for 30 days. If he completes his mission, he’ll be guaranteed entry into Paradise. Periseneb agrees to the bargain but, when he returns to the living world, two hundred years have passed and nothing is quite as he expected. Neithamun is a woman fighting to hang onto her family’s estate against an unscrupulous nobleman who desires the land as well as the lady. All seems lost until a mysterious yet appealing ex-soldier, Periseneb, appears out of nowhere to help her fight off the noble’s repeated attacks. Meanwhile, Periseneb’s thirty days are rushing by, and he’s powerless against the growing attraction between himself and Neithamun. But their love can never be. For his Fate is to return to the Afterlife, and Death cannot wed with Life…
Periseneb had no idea how many years he’d been wandering in the gray lands of the Afterlife. Time had no meaning here. For time unending he’d done battle with monsters and demons, experiencing neither pain nor emotion, despite the horrific combat, until a startling moment when he felt pavement underfoot, not shifting gray sand. Raising his head with a rare flicker of curiosity, Periseneb found himself in a tunnel, walking toward an illuminated room. Radiance and warmth from a golden light beckoned him onward. He slowed and then stopped, fighting the tug of the summons bringing him here. Whatever was about to happen, he wouldn’t go as a supplicant.
I was a warrior.
He straightened his shoulders.
One of Pharaoh’s own guards.
He tightened the leather straps of his breastplate and drew his sword, intent on facing this new challenge as he’d lived, with pride.
Jaw set, eyes focused on the light ahead, Periseneb marched forward resolutely, braced by the discipline he’d learned in his life as a soldier.
He crossed the threshold into the chamber, his steps faltering at the sight of the deity waiting for him. But then, who had he expected? He was too lowly a shade for Isis or Osiris to bother with. Standing at attention, he saluted. “Lady Ma’at.”
Calm smile on her face, the Great One, goddess of truth, nodded to him. Taller than he, dressed in a finely pleated red sheath, the goddess was imposing. Her expertly painted face was accented by the towering red ostrich feather in her hair, and her expression could only be deemed welcoming. Eyebrows raised, eyes gleaming, she inspected him from head to toe as a commanding officer might.
He assessed the room with a glance, hope dying as quickly as it had sprung. Ma’at was alone. Neither of the other two judges, Anubis and Thoth, was present. Their chairs sat empty. The most dreaded occupant of the judging chamber was, thankfully, not paying any attention to him. As grotesque as the depictions of her hinted, the beast Ammit, Destroyer of Souls, slept snoring in a corner. Claws curled possessively, one hideous cheetah forepaw was draped over a gleaming human thigh bone. She snuffled, long pink tongue scraping the sharp crocodile teeth in her jaws, while her hippopotamus hind legs kicked in some dream. Repressing a shudder, Periseneb averted his eyes.
“I’m not here for my heart to be judged at long last, am I?” His voice sounded rusty to his ears.
“No indeed, Periseneb. The laws of the Afterlife haven’t changed—you can’t receive judgment, since none did you honor at the time of your death. No one performed even the tiniest ritual from the Book of the Dead on your behalf. You’ve no tomb, although your bones do lie in the soil of the Black Lands.” Ma’at’s voice was soft, her eyes misty with tears, apparently for him. “A paltry blessing, I know. I’m sorry.”
He knew she was sincere. Truth was the only utterance Ma’at could make. He rammed his sword into its sheath and rolled his shoulders. “Why then am I here? I didn’t seek this place out; I swear to you.” Pride stiffened his spine. He wouldn’t beg favors, not even when unexpectedly drawn into the presence of a gatekeeper, someone who could free his ka from ceaseless wandering…sentenced to defending the green serenity of the blessed duat, never to set foot there himself, banned for lack of proper ceremonies. The rule was harsh but just. No one deserved eternal life in the duat without proper judgment from the gods.
“Don’t concern yourself about misunderstanding, warrior. I summoned you.” The goddess walked to the ebony table where the scale for weighing the worthiness of human hearts stood ready. Idly, she tapped the balance beam and the arms swayed, cups twisting in the air on their thin gold chains.
Periseneb pushed away a rush of hot jealousy for the souls luckier than he, whose hearts had been weighed on the scales and obtained passage to the Afterlife for their owners. A tiny beacon of hope flickered in his mind. There had to be a reason Ma’at had picked him, of all the lost ones in the hinterlands, to meet with her.
“You recognize me as the embodiment of Truth?” She continued to toy with the scale, then picked up a slate and scanned the hieroglyphics before glancing at him, eyes gleaming under winged brows.
“Yet, I’m also a seeker of justice and balance, one who rights wrongs. I’m the goddess of second chances for the human race.” She raised her elegant eyebrows. “Although such chances are few and far between.”
Despite the warmth of the brightly lit room, a shiver worked its way down Periseneb’s spine. “You wish to right the wrong of my murder? Bring my murderer to account for the crime?”
She shook her head, the golden beads in her wig chiming like little bells. “Your death is done, past, woven into the fabric of life in the upper world these two-hundred years and more.”
He staggered, locking one hand on the edge of the table to steady himself. “So long?”
“Time here and time there run differently, warrior. Only the Nile remains unchanging.”
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As one reviewer said: “There’s Egypt and gods and magic and strong men and stronger women and love even beyond death and into the Afterlife. The historic details add spice throughout the story and these definitely aren’t 21st C people in linen kilts.”
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USA Today Best Selling Author
Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven-time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”
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