Read an Excerpt
By Christian Jacq
Rebound by SagebrushCopyright ©1998 Christian Jacq
All right reserved.
Ramses was alone, awaiting a sign from the Invisible. Alone, facing the vast scorched stretches of desert. Alone, facing the destiny still just beyond his grasp.
At twenty-three, Prince Ramses was tall and athletic, with well-defined, powerful muscles and a magnificent head of red-gold hair. A broad, high forehead, thick brows arching over small, bright eyes, a long, slightly hooked nose, rounded, delicate rimmed ears, full lips, and a strong chin added up to a commanding, attractive countenance.
He had already been through so much younger son of Pharaoh Seti, royal scribe, army officer, finally named co-regent by his father and initiated into the mysteries of Abydos.
Seti had been a great ruler, an irreplaceable sovereign whose reign had brought peace and prosperity. But now Seti was dead after fifteen remarkable years on the throne, fifteen all-too-brief years that had flown like an ibis in the summer twilight.
At first, Ramses had not even been aware that his distant, demanding, awe-inspiring father was gradually grooming him for kingship. Seti had put him through various tests, beginning with a face-to-face encounter with a wild bull, the symbol of pharaonic power. At fourteen, Ramses had the courage to confront the beast,but not the strength to overcome it. He would have been gored to death if Seti hadn't roped the charging bull, leaving Ramses indelibly impressed with the understanding of a pharaoh's first duty: protecting the weak.
The king alone held the key to true power. Through the magic of experience, he communicated it to Ramses, stage by stage, without revealing his master plan. Over the years, father and son had grown closer, united in faith and purpose. Reserved, unbending, Seti was a man of few words, yet with Ramses he indulged in long conversations, attempting to spell out what was required of the Lord of the Two Lands, upper and lower Egypt.
Those golden hours, those blessed moments had now vanished into the silence of death.
Pharaoh's words had poured like consecrated water into Ramses' heart, where they would be stored as precious treasure, infusing his thoughts and actions. But Seti had departed, gone to commune with his fellow gods, and Ramses was alone, bereft of his father's guiding presence.
He felt defenseless, unable to bear the weight thrust upon his young shoulders. To govern Egypt ... at thirteen, it had been his dream, a childish longing for a prize that could never be his. Convinced that his older brother, Shaanar, was his father's chosen successor, he had finally surrendered the foolish notion.
But Pharaoh Seti and Tuya, the Great Royal Wife, had decided otherwise. After observing their two sons in action, their choice had fallen on Ramses. Why hadn't they found someone stronger and abler, someone as great as Seti! Ramses felt prepared to meet any challenger face-to-face, but not to steer the ship of state through the uncertain waters of the future. He had proven himself in combat, campaigning with Seti in Nubia; his boundless energy would see him through a war in defense of his country, if the need arose; but he had no idea how to command an army of bureaucrats, dignitaries, and priests, all of whom could outmaneuver him.
The founder of their dynasty, the first Ramses, had been an elderly vizier, unwillingly appointed Pharaoh. When Seti inherited the throne, he was mature and experienced. He, Ramses, was only twenty-three and had been content to live in his father's shadow, following his directives and responding to the least of his demands. It had been so wonderful to have a trusted guide! To work under Seti's orders, to serve Egypt by obeying the Pharaoh, to have him available with the answer to every question ... that paradise was lost.
Now fate had unfairly dictated that Ramses, a spirited, even rash young man, should take Seti's place. It might be better if he fled, laughing, so far into the desert that no one would ever find him.
Of course, he could count on his supporters: his mother, Tuya, an exacting and faithful ally; Nefertari, his beautiful, calm young wife; and his four boyhood friends. Moses, the Hebrew, now supervised royal construction projects, Ahsha was in the diplomatic corps, Setau was a snake charmer, and Ahmeni had devoted his life to Ramses as his private secretary and sandal-bearer.
However, he could count far more enemies. His brother, Shaanar, had still not given up on claiming the throne for himself. It was anyone's guess what plots he was currently hatching. If Shaanar appeared before him this very instant, Ramses would offer no resistance. His brother might as well wear the double crown if he coveted it so desperately.
But did Ramses have the right to betray his father and abdicate the responsibility with which he had been entrusted? It would be so simple to conclude that Seti had been mistaken, that in the end he might have changed his mind. But Ramses would not lie to himself. His fate depended on the answer he received from the Invisible.
It was here, in the desert, the heart of this "red land" charged with a dangerous energy, that the answer would come to him.
Sitting cross-legged in the classic scribe's pose, Ramses waited. The vast and solitary desert was the place for a pharaoh. The rocks and sand harbored a fire that would either strengthen his soul or break him. Let the fire pass judgment!
The sun approached its zenith, the wind died down. A gazelle leaped from dune to dune. Danger was near.
It came out of nowhere: an enormous lion, twice as big as normal. The blazing mane made it look like a triumphant warrior, the sleek dark brown body rippled with muscles.
At the sight of Ramses, it loosed a fearful roar that echoed far into the distance. Teeth flashing, claws bared, the big cat studied its prey.
Seti's son had no way to escape him.
The lion came closer, then stopped a few yards from Ramses, who noticed his golden eyes. For a few seconds, they stared each other down.
Flicking his tail at a fly, the lion loped forward, suddenly tense.
Ramses rose to his feet, still staring hard.
"It's you, Fighter, whom I saved from certain death. What do you have in mind for me?"
Forgetting the danger, Ramses remembered plucking the baby lion from the brush as his army left Nubia. Fighter's remarkable constitution had allowed him to survive a cobra bite. Cured by Setau's remedies, the cub grew to colossal proportions as Ramses' pet.
For the first time, Fighter had escaped from the pen where he was kept in his master's absence. Reverting to the wild, he was ready to pounce on the man who had raised him.
"It's up to you, boy. Kill me now, or fight at my side for life."
The lion reared on his hind legs and set his paws on Ramses' shoulders, nearly knocking him over. The prince held steady. Fighter's claws retracted. He sniffed Ramses' face. There was friendship, trust, and respect between them.
"You've sealed my fate, boy."
There was no longer any choice for the young man Seti had named Son of Light.
He would have to fight like a lion.
Excerpted from Eternal Temple by Christian Jacq Copyright ©1998 by Christian Jacq. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.