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Woman King Sneak Peek

Here is an unedited snippet from the Prologue of Woman King, Book II in Egypt's Golden Age Chronicles. It will contain spoilers if you haven't read the series starter, Warrior King.

Woman King will not be in Ahhotep's point of view but this is included in the manuscript right now to bridge the end of Warrior King to the new characters in Woman King.

Prologue: A Time Between | Ahhotep Sedjefatawy, 1529 BC

The Aten dipped low on the Western horizon. Its shadows lengthened down the corridor of the Kap’s nursery. Ahhotep strolled the mud brick path with Ahmose-Nefertari’s gentle embrace supporting her as she walked. The clack of her cane against the floor sounded distant. 

Her daughter’s face held harsh lines born from the weight of her crown and the duties that came with it, yet a youthful glow still emanated from her cheeks. She had never lost the light in her eyes or the kindness in her ka, her spirit, even after such loss. 

Ahhotep could not say the same about herself. The same as her daughter, only three of her children remained among the living, and two failed in health. They had lost so many too early to the Field of Reeds: Kamose, Binpu, Sitkamose, Siamun, Ahmose-Ankh, Ahmose-Sitamun, Ahmose-Sipair, Tep, Ramose, and eventually Sapair, Nebetta, and Henuttamehu . . . 

They had lain Ahmose in his tomb not long after his victory over the Hekka Khasut, and his young son Amenhotep ascended the throne with his sister Meryet Amon by his side. Amenhotep’s only son had also perished, born sickly like so many in their family. Tumerisy seemed to be the only ill child who was blessed to endure the land of the living.

Ahhotep often asked the gods that if her family was divinely appointed, why strike so many of them with evil spirits and curses and cut short their lives? It seemed the children of Ahmose and Sapair born to their non-royal wives were healthier than the divine children. Tair and Thutmose and Ahmes: flourishing, thriving. 

Thutmose would be succeeding Amenhotep if an heir could not be produced. There could be a revolt, another war, for the half-blood would take the throne. 

Ahhotep pushed the possible future away. She was too tired. Ahmose-Nefertari was well-equipped to handle such events should they come to pass. Yet, maybe Ahhotep worried in vain. Thutmose was an honored general with now a child with his sister, but she was half-blood too, born from the same non-royal mother. Perhaps a union with Ahmose’s last remaining divine unmarried daughter would seal Thutmose’s legitimacy in the people’s eyes. But it was a thought for another day.

The night breeze shifted and brushed past Ahhotep’s legs, causing them to shake from the chill. It was nights like these that were the hardest. Baba had always come on cold nights to warm her, but he had succumbed to his war wounds a few years prior.

Her eighty-one years of life had been hard, but Kemet was the better for it. She had lived through five kings and, with Amenhotep’s failing health, perhaps six. It wrenched her heart at the thought of putting another grandchild in a hewn rock. 

“A little more, Mother,” Ahmose-Nefertari said, gesturing toward the nursery door.

They came to the doorway of the Kap, and Ahhotep peered in at the nurse Sit-ra. Lady Rai had traveled west shortly after the golden fly hung around Ahhotep’s neck. Yet every time she entered the Kap’s nursery, Ahhotep expected to see the wise woman with the voice of silk. It had drawn tears from her eyes in the beginning, but now only a hollowness remained. She had lost so much and so many; she wished to rest and be at peace in the Field of Reeds, but she could not let go of the land of the living, not yet. It must have been how her mother Tetisheri felt. 

“Great Wives,” Sit-ra said and hopped out of the chair. The young woman’s higher-pitched voice stung her ears. 

“As you were.” Ahhotep entered the nursery one laborious step at a time with her daughter. She peered at Ahmes sleeping with her newborn baby girl beside her. “I pray my great-granddaughter is blessed with a long, healthy life with us.”

“All of us do,” Sit-ra said as she sidestepped the chair, offering it to Ahhotep. Pity overcame Sit-ra’s eyes as she watched Ahhotep struggle to turn and be seated.

Ahhotep snorted. She hated the body’s atrophy that came with age. When she was young, she had wanted to be older and wiser, but the pain that accompanied the wisdom was sometimes too much to bear. With her daughter’s help, Ahhotep sat in the old seat that had been there since she was a child and stared at Ahmes, the only daughter and last child of Sapair and Senseneb. The birth had not come easy for Ahmes, but the baby girl was thick and healthy with fat cheeks and open eyes.

“Hatshepsut,” Ahhotep crooned the child’s name. If Amenhotep journeyed west soon and left Thutmose as King, this child would probably be the next Queen after her mother. 

Ahmose-Nefertari stooped down and sat next to Ahmes, dabbing her niece’s brow with damp linen while Sit-ra took the baby girl in her arms. Hatshepsut’s soft fussing turned to cries. 

Ahhotep pitied the young babe for the hard life she would have, but she also knew in this new era, the future was limitless. 

“Be strong, my child,” she whispered as she folded her hands in her lap and leaned upon the chair back—another possible future taking hold in her mind’s eye. “The gods will bless you. Take Kemet to great heights, for the world will be yours to harvest.”