Silence in the Stone (The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles, Book IV)
Silence in the Stone (The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles, Book IV)
A Broken Heart. A New Beginning. A Reluctant King. One Final Goodbye.
Reborn, General Horemheb stakes his claim to the throne and takes his final revenge.
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Main Tropes and Themes
- Power at a Price
- Love After Loss
- Tragic Rose
- The Greater Good
- Seeking Inner Peace
- Personal Sacrifice
What is this story about?
What is this story about?
Reborn, General Horemheb stakes his claim to the throne and takes his final revenge.
Receiving the crown with his queen Mut by his side, Pharaoh Horemheb knows all should be well in a flourishing and peaceful Egypt.
Yet, the position of Pharaoh is skirted and dishonored. The Amun priesthood suffers fear and restraint from the people who now know their past corruptions.
How will he re-establish the power of Pharaoh and keep authority over the priesthood? And how will he live with his overwhelming guilt and find love again?
Silence in the Stone is the fourth and final volume of Lauren Lee Merewether's debut series,The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles, a resurrection of an erased time that follows the five kings of Egypt who were lost to history for over three millennia.
Don't miss The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles Prequel and Complement Collections!
Who is this story for?
Who is this story for?
Perfect for fans of Michelle Moran, Amy Tan, and Stephanie Dray.
Anyone who loves epic historical sagas, slow-burn closed-door romance, and Ancient Egyptian historical retellings, The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles series ender offers a compelling and imaginative take on the end of the 18th Dynasty's Amarna period.
With its richly detailed world-building and complex characters, Silence in the Stone is a must-read for anyone who loves tales of love, loss, and bittersweet endings.
Grab this gripping historical drama today.
The author rated this book for ages 14+ for violence, closed-door romance, and adult themes, such as:
- child death due to accident or illness
- romance (in non-romance genres)
- trauma and PTSD
- Ancient Egyptian executions
Chapter 1 Preview
Chapter 1 Preview
The Time of Depravity
Waset, 1324 B.C.
One day was all he needed.
Pawah planted his feet outside the palace doors of Malkata as he peered over his shoulder at the two royal guards escorting him away, Ineni and Amenket.
“In the morning, we will tell the chief royal guard you have escaped.” Amenket glowered at Pawah, gripping his spear with both hands. “Then we will have paid our debt.”
Ineni nodded, his knuckles growing white from their firm grip upon his own spear.
Pawah leered at the two men. Your debt will never be repaid.
Their eyes bore into his own, but Pawah knew he still held the upper hand. He needn’t remind them that their letters to him indicted them in the murders of Pharaoh Akhenaten and Pharaoh Smenkare.
Ineni spat at Pawah’s feet as they closed Malkata’s doors to him.
“Fools,” Pawah whispered under his breath, and began to calculate what needed to be done prior to the morning. He stared at the sun in the sky. Midday. He wrapped his robe tightly over the bleeding dagger wound in his chest and wiped his chin with his forearm, letting his sleeve fall to cover the blood on his arm. Curse Ankhesenamun and her dagger.
He went and stooped at the Nile’s edge and lapped up some water to wash his chin free of any smeared blood. His mind raced. What to do? What to do now? His plans to take the crown thus far had failed. First, I need to hide.
Narrowing his eyes against the sunlight, he made out the barge to take him across the Nile to the city of Waset. He needed to stop by his stolen estate first and gather some needed items before the royal guards came to arrest him. Do I run? Flee Egypt? His nose wrinkled in response.
“I have come too close to give up now,” he whispered from the depths of his chest.
He began to walk toward the barge.
Blood drizzled from his lip, but his tongue lapped it up.
You will pay for that, little girl.
The barge worker looked the other way as Pawah boarded.
At least I have a few still loyal to me, he thought as he stood at the end. He peered over the Nile to the city of Waset in the east. I have more than a few. I can always secure loyalty other ways, but my funds are running thin.
He ran his thumb over his finger pads as he looked into the waters of the Nile. A crocodile sat nearby, waiting for something to be snatched up.
Waiting . . . He shook his head. I waited too long. I should have seized the crown when I had the chance, when we could have killed all of them in one night, instead of saving Egyptian blood and giving Nefertiti the hemlock-laced wine to take to her husband. Why didn’t I let the rebels storm Aketaten and kill the royal family? I would have been King. All of it for naught!
His fist made contact with the barge’s railing.
“No,” he whispered. I have come too far . . . too close . . . but how do I give myself another chance? How? How?!
He watched as the crocodile’s mighty jaws snapped from the water with a fish in tow.
That’s what I do. I am done waiting. A frustrated breath accompanied his thoughts as he remembered his long-held motto: strike only when you can win. But look where that got me. I am out of ideas. Think, Pawah. Ay is Pharaoh. Ankhesenamun is Hereditary Princess—but, unfortunately, I will have to do away with her like her mother. If she only did not refuse me . . . and Ay, he has no sons. Horemheb is dead, as well as that wretched boy Tut, so there is no Hereditary Prince.
A thought struck him.
Hereditary Prince . . . yes . . . I must make Ay name me Hereditary Prince . . . but how? He won’t name me on his own accord . . . and his daughter is dead so there will be no Hereditary Prince by marriage.
A small flash of jealous lust came over his eyes. “Nefertiti,” his lips crooned. “Why did you refuse me?” His head slung back and forth; he both hated her and wanted her. “We could have been great, you and I . . . me as Pharaoh, you as my wife.” His mind flashed to all of the desires he’d held for her in his own twisted imagination.
Then he stopped as a realization dawned on him: Nefertiti had a younger sister. What was her name? He watched the crocodile yet again prey on an unsuspecting fish as the barge moved toward Waset.
He held his chin up and thrust out his chest, standing as tall as the statues in Ipet-isut.
“Mut . . . Horemheb’s wife.” His widow.
He knew then exactly where he was headed: Men-nefer.
Would the old man Pharaoh die with two daughters’ lives on his conscience? No, he thought not. Leverage Mut’s life for the crown, and then his final goal would be achieved.
Good things come to me, he thought, when I take what I want.
Victory tingled his lips as a smile spread over them.
He stepped foot on the other side of the Nile and went straight to his stolen estate.
As he threw open his door, Merka, his servant, dropped his head. “Are you our new Pharaoh?” he asked, his mouth pinched and his voice holding a certain tone of mockery.
“No, you ridiculous buffoon,” Pawah said, his prideful beam falling from his face. He slammed the door closed. “Do you think if I was Pharaoh I would come back here?”
Merka pushed his lips forward and shook his head in a failed attempt to hide a smirk.
“Fetch me gold for a trip.” Pawah shook his fingers at him to shoo him away. I cannot deal with you right now, he added in his mind, but you will pay for your insubordination.
“Where are you going?” Merka asked, not moving.
“You do not ask questions!” Pawah grabbed his collar and half pushed, half pulled him in the direction of the estate’s treasury.
Merka let out a heavy sigh and went and measured out a few debens of gold.
“Here are ten debens.”
Pawah held out his hand, but Merka dropped the linen sack on the table just out of Pawah’s reach. Merka’s uncaring eyes and finger-tapping on the table almost caused Pawah to slap him.
“Get me twenty more,” Pawah said, dismissing Merka again, and then leaned forward to yank the sack from the table.
One copper deben should be enough to make it to Men-nefer, but I may have to leave the country and will need a good stash should I find myself in exile again.
Merka came back, dropping two more linen sacks on the table, both again just out of Pawah’s reach.
“You thankless servant!” Pawah growled at his subordinate and then whispered under his breath, “I would have killed you by now if we were in Aketaten.”
Merka shook his head uncaringly. “But we aren’t.” His voice was monotone and flat.
Pawah drew near and slapped Merka across the face. “Do you know how many lives I have taken? As if yours would mean anything to me.”
“Then why do you keep me around?” Merka leaned forward so his nose almost touched Pawah’s.
Because I am running low in support and those I can manipulate.
But he couldn’t admit that. Instead, Pawah wrenched Merka’s collar in his hand. “When did you become this way?”
“When you refused to pay the soldiers what you promised. I joined you because I did not want an heir of Akhenaten on the throne. That horrid man we had to call Pharaoh stripped us of food, work, and decency. He robbed Egypt of faith. My only son joined the army ranks and went to Re in one of his border crises because he refused to set up proper defenses.”
Merka’s breath was hot on Pawah’s nose.
“That was why I joined you. You gave my family bread to eat. You paid me to work for you in the People’s Restoration of Egypt. You protected us in our worship to Amun.” Merka narrowed his eyes. “I’ve killed for you, helped you to kill several royals, and you aren’t even loyal to those who do your bidding.” He spit at Pawah’s feet. “You left Sitayet’s, Ebana’s, and the other’s families without grain after they were killed in their assassination of Pharaoh Tutankhamun and General and Hereditary Prince Horemheb. You had promised them their families would be taken care of. You threatened their families’ lives if they did not do what you asked.”
Merka shook his head and pushed off Pawah’s hand around his beaded collar. “My mother gave me this collar when I took a wife, and I’ll not have you ruin it.” Merka leaned past Pawah and grabbed his reed brush to take note of the withdrawal of funds. “Now do you want me to dress you in linens with fewer decorations?” Merka asked, not bothering to peer up at Pawah. “For your travel.”
Merka’s eyes widened, seemingly noticing the blood stains on Pawah’s chest, and his gaze jumped to his chin. “What happened at Malkata?”
“I was . . . caught,” Pawah muttered.
Merka snapped his reed brush accidentally. “You were . . .” Merka grunted; his hand crumpled the papyrus as it curled into a fist. “I want no more to do with you, but my hands are as bloody as yours and I am tied to you as you are to me. I know you will not kill me, because you need me. I am one of the few you have left.”
Pawah went completely still, his eyelids held heavy over his eyes, and then, with the force and swiftness of a crocodile, he swatted the papyrus and brush from Merka’s hands and grabbed him with both hands, again by his precious collar.
Then he pushed Merka into the wall and bashed his head against the stone until Merka fell to the floor in a seizing heap. Pawah chuckled to himself as he squatted down so he was eye-level with him, watching the life leave his body. He tilted his head, slightly amused at the way Merka’s body lay dying and slightly in awe of his handiwork against the stone wall. His gaze finally fell from the blood spatter back to Merka, whose life drained from his eyes.
“I don’t need you, and I tire of your ungratefulness.”
He stood and kicked Merka’s body after he was gone.
“Really, you should be thanking me. If someone comes looking for me in the morning, I’ve just spared you the impalement . . . but mostly, I don’t want you to give anyone any details of our happenings.”
Pawah burned the papyrus. No more would he have to keep records of how much he had taken from the royal treasury for his own estate to supply the movement once the priesthood’s funds had run out so long ago. No more would there even be proof of such a thing.
He peered over to the large chests of gold, copper, bronze, and grain. He would take as much as would fit in his sling. Smiling, he went up to his room on the second floor and gathered up his lists and records of who did what in the movement—
“Pawah, my handsome man,” a woman’s voice crooned. “Where are you going?”
He twirled around to face his mistress from the night prior as she lay in his bed. “Ah, my beautiful . . . Nile reed.” Because I cannot remember your name. There are so many of you.
He helped her to stand and slid his hands around her waist, placing a kiss on the base of her neck like he did with all of the women he brought into his bed. This woman was no different. He pulled her close and peered out the window to gauge the time. His lips turned into a scowl.
Not enough daylight left to be with this woman.
“Why is your travel sling packed?” she asked. “Why . . . you’re bleeding!” Her finger graced the wound on his chin.
He winced. I don’t want to kill you, but if you ask any more questions, I may have to. I can’t have loose ends around Waset.
“My lily flower . . .”
He ran his fingers down the outline of her jaw. She is naïve enough to believe whatever I say. Neglected wives are so desperate for love. He titled his head as an idea came to him.
“I must go to Nubia.”
“Nubia?” Her eyes danced. “Why? Don’t you want to stay here with me?”
“I do,” he whispered, and pulled her mouth to his. “But,” he said, pulling away, “I have been reinstated as Vizier of the Upper, and Pharaoh Ay needs me to go and reconcile the border disputes. You make plans to divorce your husband and I will bring you to the palace with me.”
He gave her his charming grin and got a small thrill at what this brainless woman would do in his absence. Not that he cared, but it was amusing, nonetheless.
“Oh!” She smiled and giggled, her shoulders rising at the possibility of living in Malkata. “That is great news!” She pulled his hands to her chest. “We must celebrate!”
“I want to.” He hummed as his eyes ran over her bosom. This was no lie—he certainly wanted to. “But I must be going. I’ll let you out the window and down the tree. We don’t want you getting in trouble should anyone see you coming from my estate door. I don’t think your husband would take too kindly to that.” He winked at her. Nor do I want you to see Merka’s body lying in the main room. He waited for her to object to the window, but she didn’t. That was why he kept this one around.
She took a deep breath and nodded. “I am always so careful.”
“I know you are, my charming anemone.”
She giggled again at this, playing with her wig.
“I shall be back at some point in the future. I’ll send you my usual call.”
He winked at her as he patted her cheek, then hurried her out the window to let her down. She blew him a kiss and he in return once she was at the base of the building.
He turned back to his room and gave a soft chuckle at the ease of it all. He finished putting the papyrus scrolls in his sling. If he were to be taken in, then he had his records of those who would join him. His very last resort of evading arrest and impalement.
After stitching his chest and rubbing honey into his chin, he changed his clothes to look like a noble. He looked at himself in the polished copper mirror as he thought what lie to tell people.
“I cut myself shaving,” he said, his voice dripping with ease and charm, “because I was too entranced with the news of Pharaoh’s untimely demise.”
He descended back to the first floor, opened the door to his estate, and then yelled to Merka’s body, “Make yourself useful while I am gone!” He walked out of his estate with a sneer on his face. A bark of laughter followed, and he muttered under his breath, “When I become Pharaoh, I will return for my gold.”
He headed to the nearest dock, his mind focused on one person.
How would he get her to let him inside? He could bring word of General Horemheb’s death. No. She probably has already received that news . . . His mind whirled as his feet took him where he needed to go. I will be his estate trust, that’s it! I need her to sign legal documents for his estate. Yes, she will let me in, and then, once I force her into submission, I will send word to Pharaoh that Mut is ill and needs her father to come at once.
He laughed at the ease of his plan and then snorted, wishing he had done the same years ago with that cursed Nefertiti. He had been a different person then, but he cared not now for the blood of Egyptians. He cared not for the diplomacy.
I will take what I want at any cost!
He stepped onto the barge to Men-nefer, paying his toll, and looked across the Nile to the grand Malkata. Ankhesenamun’s words hung in the back of his mind from that morning’s attack. Had it really only been just that morning? It seemed a life away now. No one will ever remember the man who began his descent as the Fifth Prophet of Amun. I curse you to be erased from all of history.
Fear of her curse coming to life began to muddle his vision, so he pushed it aside as he planned out his great victory. I will be remembered, girl—always. It will be you, Ankhesenamun, who they will forget.
He looked to the sun and smirked. One day’s head start.
* * *
Once in Men-nefer, Pawah traveled quickly, quietly.
He looked up at the wooden beam overhanging the entry into Horemheb’s estate and the walled gate around his courtyard. “Too bad he is dead,” he muttered—though he didn’t mean it.
It had taken three decans to get here, as the season had not been kind to the Nile, and now nothing but a light scar remained on his chin and chest.
He put his hand on the wall, admiring the craftsmanship; he knew, however, even as nice as this estate was, that it would not have satisfied his own desires for a palace. He looked across the courtyard to the main house, and his eyes sparkled at the thought of what he would do to Mut as he held her hostage, waiting for her father to arrive. He arranged his travel sling and adjusted his shendyt and robes, feeling the weight of the gold tied to his waist. A scowl came to his face, for still the gold he had was not enough to quench his desire for more, and this gold held no power, which was what his soul truly longed for.
Putting this from his mind—for now—he strode to the door. His eyes darted between the windows of the house. His plan wasn’t entirely together yet, but it was something along the lines of: get the servants to let him in, get to Mut, either seduce her or force her depending on what she knew about his murder of her sister, and then have her send for Ay . . . where he then would have Ay name him Hereditary Prince and then drink poison to save his daughter’s life, leaving Pawah as Pharaoh and husband to Ankhesenamun, whom he would dispatch shortly thereafter. Maybe take Mut for his wife . . . or, better yet, dispatch her too.
Can’t have anyone alive who knows I killed Pharaoh, can I? Yes, that should work. And if not, I might be out of options. He stopped at that thought. No. I will have what I want or I will die trying.
His feet planted before the door, he knocked.
Then he pounded.
Finally, a servant came and opened the door.
“Where is the Mistress of the House?” Pawah demanded.
“She has left by command of Queen Ankhesenamun to visit Malkata to share in their grief.” The servant lifted her chin as she spoke, eyeing the stranger.
“I see.” Pawah put his hand on the door to hold it firmly open. “Then I shall wait here until her return.” He pushed himself inside, knowing the wealth of his dress would command no questions from the servant.
But he was wrong. “Who are you?” the servant asked, a quiver in her voice.
“You dare ask my name?” Pawah spat at her. “Fetch me some wine. Do not dishonor your deceased master by treating your guests to die of thirst!”
The servant clenched her jaw, bowed her head, and did as she was told.
He looked around, waiting for the other servants to dare try him.
Sure enough, one did: “Who are you? Why do you not tell us who you are?”
At first, a rage built behind his eyes, but this servant stood tall with a pretty face. “I’d rather not deal with these matters until the Mistress of the House returns.” Pawah cocked an eyebrow, leering at each of the servants who had come to see who stood in their home, before his gaze fell back to the one who spoke. “But if you must know, I have come regarding General Horemheb’s estate. There were debts he owed and they must be squared away with his benefactor.”
“Your kind waste no time,” the servant said under her breath. “No respect for those traveled to Re.”
Pawah chuckled as he eyed her slender frame. “None whatsoever.” Then he rested his eyes on her face. “What is your name?” He smirked, undressing her with his eyes, all while keeping a smoldering gaze upon the servant. I shan’t be bored waiting for Mut’s return.
“Bakt, Head Steward,” she said lifting her chin. “And yours?”
“I may tell you one day”—he grinned—“Bakt.”
She ran her eyes over him. “You disgust me.”
“You may come to think differently,” Pawah murmured. He snapped to another servant: “Make a bed for me and prepare something to eat. I have traveled a long way and will be treated as an honored guest.”
He could feel the other servants’ eyes burn through him, but he cared not, for they would do as he said regardless of their lowly opinions of him. He turned his whole attention again to Bakt and shooed away the others. He racked his memory for the information he’d acquired about Horemheb over the years . . . and landed on a piece that may strike a chord in this servant.
“Now, High Steward Bakt”—her name flowed over his lips like honey—“I heard General Horemheb had another wife?”
She stiffened, crossed her arms over her chest. “What has Mistress of the House Amenia to do with this? Let her ka rest in peace.”
“Ah . . . Amenia.” Pawah gestured for her to show him to the dining room. “Come tell me about her while I eat.”
Bakt cautiously approached, led him to the dining room, and sat at Pawah’s invitation.
Just like fishing.
Pawah’s lips held a warm smile as he began to take on her mannerisms—the same curled fist under the chin, the same furrowed brow, the same pursed lips.
“Now, Bakt—may I speak to you without the title? Bakt, tell me more about Amenia and this new wife, Mut.”
“You will not disgrace the name of Amenia,” Bakt whispered with a harsh tone. She wagged a finger in his face. “She was a great Mistress of the House. You will not—”
“I am not here to disgrace her, my darling Bakt.” He gently grasped her hand in his and lowered it to her lap, letting his hand linger on her knee. “But I would like to get to know you a little better. How about over some dinner?”
“Why do you ask about her? Did you know Amenia?” Bakt said, ignoring his invitation.
“Yes, I knew Amenia. I feel that what General Horemheb and his new wife did to her was despicable,” he said, playing off of Bakt’s emotions and hoping what he said made sense to her.
Bakt’s jaw clenched, and he knew then he had struck a familiar chord within her. “Yes, it was.”
“Please tell me what happened. I only know from hearsay.”
Pawah patted her knee and then leaned both elbows on the arms of the chair to listen to her speak. Bakt began recounting Amenia’s plight with so much passion in her voice and her hands.
Well, that was easy. I think I may enjoy my stay here, he thought, imagining the same passion she would surrender to him in the evening. At least before I move into the palace as Pharaoh. His lips drew into a pensive smile to keep up his façade with Bakt. This plan would surely be the way to the crown. He would leave nothing to chance this time. He was done waiting and now had nothing to lose.
* * *
The chief royal guard, Djar, came to Pharaoh Ay and bowed. “Pawah has escaped.” There was no introductory title, no acknowledgment of Ay’s crown; just the dreadful news.
Ay narrowed his eyes, pressing his lips into a thin line, his stomach churning. “What do you mean, escaped?” Tension flooded his old shoulders.
“He is no longer in Malkata. He is no longer in the royal guard’s custody. There will be no execution for him today.” Djar stood straight and looked Pharaoh in the eyes and appeared to anticipate Ay’s next question, for he mumbled on rather quickly: “He escaped during the night. I do not know by whose hand.”
“Who was on guard?” Ay barked, and slammed a fist into the throne’s arm.
“Several men.” Djar shook his head, keeping a clenched jaw as he spoke. “I don’t know how it happened. There was evidence it was not my men.”
Ay stood and let out a guttural groan. The crack of his knuckles echoed through the throne room as he surveyed the room’s pillars.
“Tell no one of this, Djar.” Ay’s voice deepened as his cold, hard stare fell upon his chief royal guard. “I want you and your trusted guards to hunt him down. Bring him to me alive, so that I may slay him myself.”
Djar bowed and turned to leave without Ay’s dismissal.
“Do not make mention to Queen Ankhesenamun,” Ay called after him.
Djar spun back around to face Ay. “Thus Pharaoh says.”
“Now Pharaoh dismisses you, Chief Royal Guard.”
Djar stood straight for a moment, then placed a fist over his chest before turning to leave.
Ay watched him pass through the wooden throne room doors and wondered if he had advised Tut in error when naming the new chief royal guard. The last one, Jabari, had led his daughter to her murder.
A shroud of sadness still hung heavily over his heart for his lotus blossom—his Nefertiti—and, within her, his first wife, his beloved Temehu. He eased back into the throne with a stone face.
“Amun-Re, if you hear me,” Ay whispered, “if you see my family has done nothing but try to honor you the best they can, to regain power for your divinely appointed . . .” He closed his eyes and clamped his jaw so that his whisper hissed through his teeth. “. . . then give me Pawah.” His eyes slowly opened and he lifted his chin. “Let him die an agonizing death for the pain he has caused my family, the death he has dealt to your appointed.”
Paperback Size: 5" x 8"
Hardcover Size: 6" x 9"
Publisher: LLMBooks Publishing
Published: June 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
"Merewether is a master of detail and a true storyteller, the likes of which I haven't read in the genre since an initiation to Michelle Moran and L.M. Ironside." - Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
"Silence in the Stone is a stunning piece that left me speechless... intricate plots, rich details, and accurate depictions of the ancient Egyptian culture...yet another masterpiece..." - Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite
"Author Lauren Lee Merewether has crafted a deep and involved drama that takes us through many of the social, cultural, and political intrigues of ancient Egypt, both educating and entertaining us chapter by chapter." - K.C. Finn for Reader's Favorite