THIS PAGE WILL BE DEDICATED TO SHORT STORIES, BOOK CHAPTERS AND IDLE RAMBLINGS! AS THE TITLE SAYS, IT’S JUST FOR FUN!!!
As I’ve said before, some people knit and crochet, we write. Writing was our hobby long before we ever got the idea to try to publish something together. Mary also quilts and travels and works for her husband, but she always has a book in her head that she’s working on in her “spare” time. I amuse myself in my retirement by writing short stories. Many of them I’ve been writing and rewriting over again for years now.
With the publication of our nineteenth novel coming soon, I thought I’d give you a teaser. So here is the first chapter. It’s a fun read with drama, laughter and romance. Hope you like it and if you do, I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available on Amazon. –Debbie
A KNIGHT IN CAIRO
A Sierra Parker Novel
“Good evening. Thank you for coming. My name is Sierra Parker and I am about to introduce you to the stars of our new exhibit. I hope you will find them as fascinating as I have while preparing it.
“But first, a little background for you. As many of you may know, Ramesses II was once considered the most powerful Pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Whether that was because he was particularly adept and intelligent; or whether he simply had a long time to accomplish something since he was over 90 when he died in 1213 BC, has been debated. Nonetheless, he is known as Ramesses the Great and Egypt enjoyed prosperity and stability under his reign. But he was also a real flesh and blood man.”
I spread my hands out, palms up, to ask the question: “What did he look like? Just as we use camera filters or airbrush photos, many of the representations we see of Ramesses, commissioned by the pharaoh himself, undoubtedly took flattering liberties with his looks. For example, his nose was portrayed as long and straight and regal, but his mummy was found to have more of a hooked beak.”
Several snickers and a few giggles rumbled through the group. Now I had them, as Associate Curator of the Antiquities Museum of New York, Egyptology is my specialty.
I stepped over to the first case and pulled off the cover. “And here he is.” The mannequin had light brown skin and was fairly muscular. I had worked hard to find the right one. He stood proud.
There were a few gasps as I expected, and I smiled as I pointed out his features. “Ramesses was tall for an Egyptian of the period at about 5’7” and seems to have had red hair. That was, as you might expect, unusual. When his mummy was found, the remaining hair was dyed red, confirming what I’ve always suspected, that male vanity is nothing new.” There were a few appreciative twitters from the women in attendance.
“He is wearing the Pharaonic headdress with the cobra in the front that we have all seen in the movies.”
I continued to work my way down the mannequin figure. “History tells us that Egyptians were clean-shaven, but Ramesses is wearing a fake beard. The wearing of the fake beard was the pharaoh’s way of making himself seem more godlike. The god Osiris is pictured with this type of beard.”
I stopped and addressed the ladies. “You might be interested to know that the female pharaohs, yes, there were at least seven, also wore the fake beard.”
Turning back to the case, “He is wearing a kilt which is pleated linen with colored bands in the front. Egyptians wore white linen much of the time, but he would have had several richly decorated outfits for special occasions.”
I pointed as I spoke. “Ramesses is wearing a wide gold collar to show his wealth and power. He was a warrior and a prolific builder. This pharaoh was further immortalized by the poet Shelley who was moved by the sight of massive blocks of a fallen statue of Ramesses II to create the poem, Ozymandias. That’s a variation of one of Ramesses’ names. You may have heard the line, ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
“In more current mentions, both Ramesses and his wife Nefertari have appeared in the mummy movies and numerous video games. His legend in Egyptian history is comparable to that of King Arthur in Britain’s.
“It’s also a fun fact that Ramesses is the eighth most prolific male in history and was estimated to have fathered more than 160 children. Before you ask, as far as I know at this time, Genghis Khan holds the record but the exact number is unknown. It has been calculated at more than a thousand and 0.5% of the world population may have sprung from his line.
“But back to Ramesses, he had many wives but his favorite and most honored wife, with a temple and tomb of her own in the Valley of the Queens, was Nefertari.”
I pulled the cover off the second case. More gasps of delight as the dark-haired beauty emerged.
“We have taken the liberty of making her a bit shorter than the king, as we don’t have a mummy to confirm her actual height. Her crown is impressive, isn’t it? We’ve recreated it from wall paintings and statues. The base is called the Royal Vulture Crown with falcon feathers around her face for protection. It is also pictured worn in conjunction with the two red-orange plumes standing tall above.”
I turned away from the queen for a moment. “Nefertari married Ramesses before he was pharaoh when he was fifteen and she was thirteen. They were married for over 20 years and had at least six children. Ramesses had eight royal wives, likely other consorts, and lots of children, yet these two seemed to have been devoted to each other. He wrote of her: ‘She is the most beautiful woman alive. Just by passing, she has stolen away my heart.’”
Several of the women sighed. I nodded my understanding, and then returned to the queen. “As I mentioned before, most of the Egyptians, men and woman, dressed routinely in white linen. Here we have some color added in her belt of woven faience beads and, of course, her magnificent jewelry. She often wore a wide gold necklace, armbands, earrings, and bracelets. As we might expect, the workmanship was exquisite. Another fun fact, some Egyptian women went around naked except for their jewelry. Most of the children went naked, as well.”
I grabbed white gloves from my jacket pocket and put them on. Then I opened the case and removed a two-inch-wide gold bracelet with precious stones surrounding it from the queen’s wrist.
“This is a genuine bracelet from the period. The rest of her jewelry and headdress are reconstructions.” I walked around and let the women see it up close.
Then I turned, opened the case, and put it back. “Her tomb is considered the most wonderful and exquisite in the Valley of the Queens. You will see some photographs of it in the case at the back of the room. Sadly, so much damage has resulted from allowing viewers into the tomb that it has now been closed to the public.”
I waved a hand at the long cases that lined each side of the room. “Please enjoy looking around and feel free to ask me any questions you’d like.”
What made this entire display different from the standard museum layout was that I had used mannequins to display the pieces rather than just lay them flat on a swatch of fabric. Beyond the full-sized pharaoh and queen, the side cases held heads and shoulders with earrings and necklaces, arms fully extended with armbands and bracelets, hands covered with rings, and so on. I felt that it made the jewelry real as most of it could easily be worn today with contemporary clothing. I had done the hair and makeup on each piece in classic Egyptian styles to add authenticity.
They disbursed to the cases. The five couples invited to tonight’s preview consisted of the usual wealthy and influential museum supporters: rich business people, a few Hollywood celebrities, and their guests. The women were what my friend Izzy calls “well-bought,” with as much perfection as money could buy. The men less so; when you are wealthy, what’s a bald head or a pot gut among friends?
They were all formally dressed and sipping the champagne that was being distributed by the caterers. Each was aware that the museum needed their support in the form of solicitations and contributions. These are the people who could literally make or break our exhibit. I had to convince them in a matter of minutes that our institution was a worthy investment.
It was the first time anyone outside the museum had seen these displays and it was important to me. If I could get a reaction out of this group of cold fish, the tickets would fly out the door when we opened it to the public. I was more excited than nervous because I truly believe in the work I’d done here.
I wandered around the room and answered a few questions about daily life and how the women were treated (same as today—depending on your position) and whether these Egyptians had running water (no), did the women really wear all that eye makeup (yes) and so on.
After about fifteen minutes, I sensed they’d had enough and shepherded them toward the conference room. The table had been covered with a white tablecloth and silver platters containing hors d’oeuvres and fresh glasses of champagne awaited. Finally, almost two hours in, I was able to give our security guards the nod to see them out.
I went back to the exhibit to make sure all was well and cover the cases. I said goodnight to Ramesses and then turned to Nefertari. The door to the case was open slightly. “Well, that’s odd. Did I forget to close this door?” I spoke to myself in the empty room. Just as I was about to close the door and lock the case, I realized her gold bracelet was gone!
“Oh no!” I took a breath and grabbed my pager to call the guards. “Do not let anyone leave this building, I repeat, no one leaves this building!”
I took a few deep breaths and then hurried to the front of the museum where two guards were blocking the group from exiting. The men were vocally distressed and insulted; the women more anxious and confused. The metal detectors in place at the front entrance were shut down for the night so we would have to search them the old-fashioned way.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid we’re going to have to use the hand-held metal detector to search each of you. I’ll need you to step forward one at a time.”
A “well-bought” young blonde started shrieking and when her escort took her arm to calm her down, she shrugged him away. Then she turned to me and shouted, “Do you know who I am? My father will buy this place and burn it down! How dare you?”
I walked over to her and looked up. She had me by a couple of inches and on top of that she was wearing four-inch heels. I straightened up to my full height of 5 feet 3 inches and smiled as I said, “You can be first.”
Then she spit on me. There were gasps all around, then the others went silent. The man with her tightened his grip on her arm. “Rayanne, for God’s sake, stop.” He whispered fiercely.
It took every bit of self-control I had not to spit back. I pulled one of my white gloves from my pocket and used it to wipe my cheek.
Two of our guards came to either side of her. Our female guard, Anya, approached with the scanner. She said something quietly to the woman who blanched slightly. Anya stared at her for a few seconds, then scanned her from the feet up. When the wand reached the area between her breasts, it beeped loudly.
The rest of the group murmured disbelieving and disapproving noises. You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “if looks could kill”, well, she flashed me a look that should have laid me straight out.
Undeterred, I stepped forward and held out my hand.
“Do you want to remove it or shall I?”
She reached down into her bra and tossed the bracelet at me. “I’ll get you for this, bitch.” She hissed.
Ignoring her, I grasped the bracelet in both hands and walked away. I didn’t want anyone to see the tears in my eyes or notice how my hands were trembling.
Losing it would have cost me everything—my job, my career, and my pride. I carefully replaced it on the Queen’s wrist and locked the case. My head was spinning with what might have happened.
That’s probably why it never occurred to me that I had just made an enemy.