Blue Gold [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Lindsay Townsend
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: [Epic Historical Romance. Contains non-consensual sex and sex between half-siblings.] Ancient Egypt, 1560 B.C. Ruling Upper Egypt from Thebes, Pharaoh Sekenenre has many enemies. Aweserre, whose grandfather seized the crown of Lower Egypt. Kamose and Ahhotpe, his son and daughter, who plot to rule in his place. And, most dangerous, the storm-god Set. It is a time of famine. To prosper a man must be civilized and ruthless. Ramose, priest and Vizier, is all of these. Kasa, a farmer, must learn to be like him to survive. Neith, wife of Ramose, is driven, first to drink, then to courage. Hathor, who killed her son, finds love, desertion, then a second chance at love. Tiyi, the gentle masseuse, is desired by many, but desires only one. Watched by the gods of Egypt, the conflict reaches its climax in war. The pyramids, a thousand years old when the story begins, play a crucial part. Behind all is the God Set, with his question: 'What am I?'
eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./BookStrand Mainstream Romance, Published: 2009, 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2009
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1 Reader Ratings:
4.5 Books: "A sweeping epic set in ancient Egypt, this story encompasses life as it was lived then, told masterfully by Ms. Townsend...The detail is luxuriously embedded in a story so compelling the reader will not want the book to end. What I love most about Ms. Townsend's prose is the ability to give the reader an almost holographic entry into life and times long past. You smell the fear, feel the passion, the frustration and anger, and burn under a hot, unforgiving sun, among other delightful stirrings of the senses."--Honeysuckle, Long and Short Reviews
B review: "Beyond an Egyptian setting, I wasn't sure what to expect with "Blue Gold" as I didn't read the description until after I'd finished the story. And what a story. It's a sprawling 1970s miniseries crossed with a soap opera crossed with the epic sword and sandal movies made only in the 1950s. Plus it's got almost as many characters as Cecile B. DeMille managed to pack into his films."--Jayne, Dear Author
As a cat may eat its own kits, so a woman in ancient Egypt was recognized as having the right to kill any new-born infant she did not wish to raise. Yet, to appease the dead, it was the custom that a baby-killer should hold the dead child for three days and nights.
The guards put her with the whores, the drunkards, the killers. They were sent into the courtroom seven at a time. She was the last in the third batch.
"Name?" demanded the court scribe and scraped her answer across the papyrus.
"Why are you here?" asked the mayor of her village, the father of her former lover.
Silently, making the action almost an accusation, the woman held up the bundle in her arms to the four judges. She had not been able to bury it before the village guards had caught her.
"A nine-day-old boy," noted the scribe. "A baby murdered by its mother."
The woman said nothing: it was all true.
The judges bent their heads together, although in such cases custom demanded only one punishment. The mayor rose and bowed his head in the direction of the shrine set at the back of the courtroom. Then he spat.
"Take her to the riverbank, along with the other baby-killers. Let them all sweat outside, where everyone can see what they have done." He jerked his hand. "Drag her away. She stinks."
* * * *
The young woman standing with the other child-killers in the shadow of a temple obelisk caught his attention. Prince Ramose, Vizier to Pharaoh Aweserre, bent under the fringed sunshade and stepped from the Nile boat onto the riverbank.
A ragged barefoot couple and a bejeweled courtesan whose naturally blond hair her dead daughter had inherited shrank back at his approach. From his bearing, this powerfully built, black-skinned man was of noble birth. His flowing robes, dazzlingly white, showed that he was also a priest.
At thirty-two, Ramose was the youngest High Priest in Egypt. A man of intelligence and dignity, he was much like the god whom he worshipped: Ptah, an immortal whose special city was Memphis and who, it was believed, could create life by thought.
Aware of his superior status in a society where priests were revered, Ramose walked slowly, motioning to his bodyguards to remain on the ship. This should not take long and the danger was nothing. Any assassins amongst these child-murderers would have to dispose of their dead infants before they could attack him. He stretched out his hand in a blessing.
Again, the other child-killers drew back. His girl--the one who interested him--held her ground. That pleased him. He greeted her and was only mildly disappointed when, upon the young woman raising her head, he saw her eyes were brown.
This close, he noticed other differences: fuller breasts and hips, shorter hair, a wider mouth. Her dead child, a boy, was unmarked.
"Did you smother him?"
"Yes, Lord." Her cheeks had that pinched, taut look which came through sleeplessness and hunger. Yet she neither sought nor asked for sympathy. "His father did not want him. My father would not keep me." Her eyes returned to the child cradled in a scrap of cloth against her breast. She brushed at the flies which had settled on the dark head of curls. "How could I have raised him? Even the village women cast stones at us."
So the woman had been deserted by lover and family. Ramose thought of his child, safe at the palace of Mazghuna in the keeping of his steward. It was regrettable that Neith could no longer be trusted with their son's care.
Wondering at the contrast in fortunes between this woman's murdered child and his own son and heir, Ramose touched a hand of the dead infant. Such smooth, cold fingers. The sweet, cloying smell of corruption hung around mother and son.
"Do you bury him tonight?"
The woman nodded, brushing away more flies. "I killed my son and have held him in my arms for three days and nights, as custom demands." Her clear voice was expressionless. "Why does this concern my Lord?"
The personal form of address was not lost on Ramose. "You remind me of someone, a Keftian girl."
"Did she meet with your favor, Lord?"
"Very much." Prince Ramose smiled. Sarmatia had saved his son's life. He lifted the Egyptian's chin with his thumb and again examined her face. Nineteen years old at a guess: a mature woman. Deep brown eyes, finely-arched brows, long, slightly hooked nose, mouth as red as a pomegranate seed--yes, she was pleasing. Clever, too,: she bore his scrutiny without false modesty. He could install her in one of his estates. His wife need know nothing for the moment. He released the girl's head and stepped back.
"My gardener will bury the child. Come! We must be at Memphis before nightfall." Ramose turned on his heel, strolling back to the boat. After a moment he heard the faltering steps and knew she was following.
* * * *
Prince Ramose's gardener buried the child in the desert. The young woman stood with him as he piled sand back into the shallow grave. When they left, the jackals were gathering, whooping and scenting each other in excitement.
She felt only relief. There had been a time, before she became pregnant, when she had longed for a son from her lover, but no more. Ubas had turned from her, silent and accusing, and later denied the child was his. Her last hope had been killed when, four days after her son was born, Ubas married the headman's daughter. Anger and fear had lessened her milk, and her father, unwilling to pay a wet nurse and conscious of his position in the village, had cast her from the house.
The Vizier of Lower Egypt claimed her future issue. As a mark of favor Ramose had allowed her to stand under the fringed sunshade of the boat, close to his divan, and his servants had fed and watered her. Later, after her son was buried and she could unlock her stiffened arms, she was taken to a cool, pleasantly-scented room and allowed to rest.
Left to sleep until sunset of the next day, she awaited a summons to the High Priest, hope and anxiety blending in a wish that she would be acceptable for some time to come. Finally, as she despaired of ever being called, his servants returned. After bathing and preparing their new charge, they brought her to Ramose's rooms in a carrying chair, whispering as they left that she was beautiful. Naked in his bed, painted and perfumed, the woman watched for the master's entrance, eager but fearful.
It was after nightfall when a bobbing light showed his return. Speaking to the guard on the stairs, the vizier walked into his private rooms and set the alabaster lamp on a table by the bed. Too nervous to lie invitingly between the cushions, the woman sat bolt upright. In accordance with his wishes, she was not wearing a wig: her hair was loose and simply dressed. He ran a strand through his fingers, and she quickly turned her head to kiss his hand.
At a sign from the prince she knelt upon the couch and drew off his robes, her touch at first timid and then increasingly possessive. Firm and strong, Ramose's body was warm under her hands and as flawless as a god's. He was tall, deep-chested, with legs and hips shaped for speed, his narrow shaven head tilted slightly forward. His mouth was full, his nose long and broad: a Kushite nose, the woman thought. He was a handsome man.
She brought her hands to his waist to remove the final covering and smelled the male sweat of his skin. Her own flesh felt sweet and hot, the place between her thighs moist as the honeydew. She kept her arms about his middle, feeling at last his hands upon her back, her flanks. He kissed her mouth and then each breast. Still kneeling on the bed, she sensed his manhood rising against her, the inundation rising over Egypt.
"Do not fear," murmured Ramose, prince of Memphis, High Priest of Ptah, "You are as the goddess Hathor, the giver, the lion-goddess beloved of Ra. You nurture men's souls."
Gripping her hips, he entered her, and she gasped. Dark and light, they merged. He told her his name, which she repeated, her voice rising as their bodies quickened.
"Goddess," whispered the priest, drawing a nipple into his mouth. His tongue flicked over her breasts, and she felt them swelling. He lifted her from the bed and came deep within her. Her milk spurted, and in that moment she became Hathor, suckling mankind, granting life-giving nourishment. He was Ra-Horus, piercing as the sun. They sank onto the bed, two gods at play, and knew nothing but each other until day-break.