Having released Egypt from Ay’s clutches, Ankhesenamun returns to Crete to try to retrieve Intef from the underworld.
But a deal struck with a god, even a minor one like a gate guardian, cannot easily be undone.
Once again Ankhesenamun will be tested. Once again she will have to decide just how much she’s willing to give up to achieve her aim.
This is the final instalment in The Amarna Age series.
The Amarna Age is set in 18th Dynasty Egypt in a world where the old gods have been worshipped for thousands of years and magic is a matter of belief.
For readers of dark fantasy who enjoy an historical setting.
Also in this series:
I am falling. Down. Down. The light is murky. My chest hurts. I am holding my breath.
I am not falling, but sinking.
The water envelopes me. It is cold and I can’t hold my breath for much longer. Regret fills me at the knowledge that my child will never know her father.
I woke with tears in my eyes and a sob in my throat. I had experienced this event before, but by the time I was awake enough to wonder whether it was a dream or a memory, it had faded like waves rushing away from the shore.
The gentle rocking of the boat soon sent me back to sleep. For a time, my sleep was peaceful. Dreamless. Then an image appeared. A black scarab beetle, with blood dripping from its edges.
I woke with my heart pounding. It was a brand of some sort, burned into flesh. I had never seen such a thing, but it felt ominous. A warning perhaps. But I was tired after a long day of travel and the night was late. Guards stood at each end of the boat, their spears just as much a part of their silhouettes against the moonlit sky as their limbs. I was safe with them watching over us. Soon I fell asleep again.
When I next woke, the birds had begun their morning songs in anticipation of dawn, although the sky was still dark. Did my father and my brother watch over this next stage of my journey as I travelled from Memphis back to the island of Crete? Back to the underworld to retrieve Intef from the domain of Keeper of the Lake. But there were too many stars and if my loved ones were up there, I couldn’t tell.
From the other end of the boat came soft snores I didn’t recognise. Renni, Istnofret, Behenu and I had travelled together for so long that I knew the sounds of their sleep. The snorer could be Tuta, who used to be one of my guards, or Sabu from my brother’s squad, who had both traveled with us. Or it could be one of ten other men, as we brought a full squad to guard us until we stepped onto the boat that would take us from Rhakotis to Crete. We weren’t taking any chances with our safety this time. There were too many loose ends left here in Egypt. Too many men who might want to stop me.
The snores ceased and blankets rustled as someone — presumably the snorer — rolled over. I pulled my blanket up higher and closed my eyes, determined to get a little more sleep before the sun rose and we resumed our journey.
No sooner had I fallen asleep than the dreams returned. A confusing montage of images. Intef, Osiris, Keeper of the Lake. A young girl who displayed no emotion as Intef knelt in front of her and cried. Running through darkness with only a lamp for light, hot breath on my neck, fear coursing through my veins. The knowledge that we were being chased. No, hunted. Be careful of the jackal. He is a trickster. A row of baboons, seated on their haunches, looked at me with glittering eyes. The blood-dripping scarab. Something searched for me, not the beast that hunted me in the tunnels, but something else. I sank into deep water.
And woke with a gasp, choking as I tried to breathe, still not quite certain that air rather than water filled my lungs. I had to hold on to this memory long enough to understand it. But it slipped away, as it always did, and by the time I was properly awake, it was gone.
The girl who watched Intef as he cried must be our daughter, Meketaten, who I gave to Osiris as payment for the Eye. She looked so much like the sister I named her for that I would recognise her anywhere. But she also had an otherworldly quality to her, something that suggested she wasn’t quite of the mortal realm. Perhaps living in the underworld had changed her. Perhaps she wasn’t fully mortal anymore.
Did my dream mean I would encounter her? She was only a few months old right now, so that event must be several years away. I tried to bury the thought and not let myself hope. She was the price I paid, and Osiris would never give her up. But at least I could look forward to the day when I would see her, even if it was only for a few minutes.
As for Intef, his agreement was with Keeper of the Lake, a minor deity at most. I could only pray that my dream of him with Meketaten didn’t mean we would fail to convince Keeper to release him. Keeper had demanded a soul to stay as payment for the others passing through Anubis’s gates. I didn’t expect them to give up Intef any more than I thought Osiris would return Meketaten, but perhaps I could persuade Keeper to accept a new exchange. I planned to offer myself to secure Intef’s release, although those who travelled with me didn’t know.
There was no other option. We couldn’t expect to retrieve Intef without some sort of payment and we couldn’t leave him there forever. At least if I stayed, I might have the chance to see my daughter.