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The Second Empress by Michelle Moran


Learn more about the Second Empress

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Random House, Crown Publishers
(Paperback, 496 pages)
# ISBN-10: 0307381749
# ISBN-13: 978-0307381743

 

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Exerpt

Chapter 1
1351 BCE
Peret, the Season of Growing


When the sun set over Thebes, splaying its last rays over the limestone cliffs, we walked in a long procession across the sand. In the twisting line that threaded between the hills, the viziers of Upper and Lower Egypt came first, then the priests of Amun, followed by hundreds of mourners. The sand cooled rapidly in the shadows. I could feel the grains between the toes of my sandals and when the wind blew under my thin linen robe I shivered. I stepped out of line so I could see the sarcophagus, carried on a sledge by a team of oxen so the people of Egypt would know how wealthy and great our crown prince had been.

Nefertiti would be jealous she’d had to miss this.

I will tell her all about it when I get home, I thought. If she is being nice to me.

The bald-headed priests walked behind our family, for we were even more important than the representatives of the gods. The incense they swung from golden balls made me think of giant beetles, stinking up the air whichever way they went. When the funeral procession reached the mouth of the valley, the rattling of the sistrums stopped and the mourners went silent. On every cliff families had gathered to see the prince, and now they looked down as the High Priest of Amun performed the Opening of the Mouth, to give Tuthmosis back his senses in the Afterlife. The priest was younger than the viziers of Egypt, but even so men like my father stood back, deferring to his power when he touched a golden ankh to the mouth of the figure on the sarcophagus and announced, “The royal falcon has flown to heaven. Amunhotep the Younger is arisen in his place.”
A wind echoed between the cliffs and I thought I could hear the rush of the falcon’s wings as the crown prince was freed from his body and ascended to the sky. There was a great amount of shuffling, children looking around the legs of their parents to see the new prince. I too craned my neck.
“Where is he?” I whispered. “Where is Amunhotep the Younger?”

“In the tomb,” my father replied. His bald head shone dully in the setting sun, and in the deepening of the shadows his face appeared hawkish.

“But doesn’t he want the people to see him?” I asked.

“No, senit.” His word for little girl. “Not until he’s been given what his brother was promised.”

I frowned. “And what is that?”

He clenched his jaw. “The co-regency,” he replied.

When the ceremony was finished soldiers spread out to stop commoners from

   
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