My new novella Healer of the Nile was recently released with stories from seven other authors in an anthology entitled Here Be Magic. Part of my “good luck ritual” for any new release is to visit Pauline and explain the background, so many thanks for having me as your guest today!
I’d had a germ of an idea for quite a while, about a poor widow in an ancient Egyptian village who’s a healer, but using spells and potions she learned from her grandmother, rather than the classic methods Egyptian physicians practiced. There was a nobleman, a warrior who’d been grievously injured in battle, and only my heroine had any belief he could be healed. So romance was going to happen! And I wanted to set the story on an estate that I could then revisit time and again, to tell many other stories. I knew the name of the estate was Hunting Cat.
But there the nucleus of the story sat. I usually write 80- 120K word novels and this idea didn’t seem to carry the weight for that many pages. Then the Here Be Magic group of authors I belong to started talking about doing an anthology of new novellas featuring magic and romance, and the rest of the story came to me.
I’ve long been intrigued with how the Egyptians believed there were local deities specific to one location or landmark, and I wanted to write a story with that element. So in Healer there’s a hint of the goddess who might be watching over the Hunting Cat estate. She’s entirely my own invention but based on the many minor feline goddesses in the true mythology. When I write more stories set on this estate, I’m sure she’ll be taking a hand in events.
Shai, Egyptian god of Fate, also appeals to me and I’d been waiting for a logical time to involve him. Mehyta, the healer of the title, can cast omen stones to read the future and answer questions for herself and Tadenhut, the injured warrior. Of course each answer leads to more questions. I gave Mehyta a pouch full of beautiful polished gemstone beads to do her foretelling with.
The last influence on this story is my cat Jake, who feels I’ve not included enough cats in my Egyptian tales! We have a reproduction of an ancient papyrus which features a cat very like him, sitting under the queen’s chair and I think Jake feels this was him in one of his many previous lives.
Here’s the story:
When Pharaoh sends injured warrior Tadenhut home to die, his noble family asks Mehyta, the local healer, to ease his path to the Afterlife. Mehyta discovers he’s trapped between Life and Death, caught in the dreamspace. Touched by his fighting spirit and will to live, Mehyta vows to use all the powers Shai, god of fate, gave her. Together Tadenhut and the brave healer battle to overcome his injuries, as well as threats from devious family members. While struggling to rescue her patient, Mehyta comes to realize he matters more to her than any man ever has before. But even if his life can be saved, what do the omens say about a match between a highborn soldier and a simple healer?
And a short excerpt:
As the first rays of sunlight lanced into the room and across the bed, she took her pouch of stone beads and sat outside, next to the fish pond. Closing her eyes, she repeated to herself the old proverb, “There is no one who can ignore Shai.” Yes, the god of Fate was the only one who could decide whether Tadenhut was to live or die. But at least Mehyta could ask for an indication of which it was to be and decide what to do accordingly.
She performed an act almost never done in fortune telling, except in an extreme situation—she spilled the entire contents of her pouch across the flat paving stones of the garden. Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes to read the pattern. The red stone of love caught her eye, but it had rolled far to the side, alone. Many of the other pebbles had traveled away from the central pattern as well, but the black of death and the white of life lay together, surrounded by other omens speaking of struggle, danger, and hardship. Mehyta reached to touch the green malachite bead, symbolizing hope in this array. It sat by itself in a small indentation of the paving stone directly north of the black and white of life and death. A dark lapis lazuli and a pale turquoise bead nestled together in the eastern quadrant. Tadenhut and herself perhaps? Allies in a battle for his life? Variegated pebbles of many types lay all around—obstacles or allies, she couldn’t be sure.
As she gathered the stones to replace them in the pouch, she pondered the message from Shai. Tadenhut’s fate could go either way, it seemed. But could she intervene? Going against the Fate decreed for a man was a dire offense to commit. Yet if the drugs she gave him trapped the warrior, wasn’t that also interfering with Fate?
Amazon best-seller Veronica Scott is a three-time recipient of the SFR Galaxy Award, and has written a number of science-fiction and fantasy romances. Her latest release is Star Cruise: Marooned. You can find out more about her and her books at https://veronicascott.wordpress.com/
Dying to read more? Me too!
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