Channeling Cleopatra…

20 Jun

Another release, well two actually, from Scarborough on the GSP Legends Promo.

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“Get the past life of your dreams!”

Leda Hubbard, a forensic pathologist, gets the job of her dreams when an old school friend hires her to collect and authenticate the DNA of the famous Cleopatra. It’s all great fun for Leda until, during a massive disaster, her colorful dad, the dig’s security specialist, is killed by a group trying to hijack the precious material for a “blend,” a process in which the queen’s DNA is used to import her memories, personality, and character traits to a new host. They screw up, however, and get Leda’s dad’s DNA instead. To keep the queen from going to the murderers, Leda blends with Cleopatra herself, learning a lot more about Egypt than she ever wanted to know.

“A bright, sometimes humorous, often dark, but always innovative speculative fiction. . . Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is always a treat to read but with this novel, she takes readers where nobody has gone before.” BookBrowser

Excerpt:

    PRELUDE

Cleopatra looked at the snake. The snake, its tongue flicking, stared back at her. She apologized to the creature, the emblem of her queenship and the end of it. “My lord, if only Octavius were as trustworthy as you are, there would be no need to disturb you with our concerns. But alas, my protectors are all dead, my beauty faded, and even my hairdresser and handmaiden have offered their flesh to your fangs for my sake, so I have no choice. If I live and flee, Octavius will avenge himself upon my children. If I live and submit, he will degrade and humiliate my person and position in his accursed Roman triumph, dragging me in chains through the city where I should by rights have ruled as empress. Then he will kill me and destroy my body and my hope for the afterlife. Oh yes, my lord,” she said in her tender, singsong voice, the voice of a natural-born snake charmer. The snake swayed, half uncoiled to strike, its hood majestically fanned around its face.

The coils of its body lay still upon the folds of the yellow, red, and white linens of the Isis robes covering Charmion’s corpse. Iras lay beside the altar containing the body. Charmion also wore the Isis crown and what was left of the crown jewels. Iras had dressed her fellow handmaiden’s head in the black Isis curls Cleopatra customarily wore when assuming the guise of the goddess. The queen herself had employed her considerable skill with cosmetics to change faces with her look-alike maid. Now, dressed as Charmion, she explained herself to the cobra. The cobra did not mind her humble robes. It knew who she was. She was Egypt, its home, its mother, and finally, its prey.

She spoke to it to clarify her own mind before her death and to delay that same death, for she had long loved life and was loath to leave it, even under the circumstances.

“Yes, it’s true. I have it on the best authority. Isis in her compassion has sent me a dream so I may save my body and thus my immortal soul. Whatever lies he tells my people, Octavius intends to burn me after my death—before it, if he is given the opportunity, I’m sure. So I have chosen my own time. My eldest son has fled the country, and as for my younger children, I am unable to protect them, and moreover, I provide cause for Octavius to do them harm. Perhaps without me to spite with their suffering, he will spare them. And so you must give me my last kiss, my lord. My priests, who know our little secret, will do the rest. In exchange, I grant you your freedom from your duties as guardian of this tomb and temple.”

She took a deep breath, broke eye contact, and quickly, so as to startle the fascinated snake, thrust her arm at it. Having had its part so considerately explained to it, the cobra performed its last state service and struck her with a force that staggered her back, away from the altar.

Unhooded and blending with the dust, the snake then slithered out through an open window.

The pain subsided, quickly replaced with numbness. Soon she knew paralysis and death would follow. By that time, Octavius would have received her message begging him to bury her with Antony. She knew he would not, but the message would serve to seal in his mind that the body in her robes was her own. He would expect to see her there, and dead, and that is what he would see.

The stage was set to perfection, except the cobra, in striking, had pulled Charmion’s wig askew. Slowly, with a sense of detachment and amusement, as if she had had too much wine, Cleopatra rose and stretched out her other hand to adjust it.

Which was how Octavius and his soldiers saw her when they burst into the room.

She felt Octavius staring hard at her, and she thought for a moment the ruse had failed. Then he said, puzzled, more to himself than to her, “Is this well done?”

The bastard was trying to figure out if her death was to his advantage or not.

She felt herself ready to fly to the afterlife, but she had never been able to resist a good exit line. “It is well done,” she said, her voice unrecognizably husky with the dying, “and fitting for a princess descended of so many royal kings.”

And so it was that the body of Charmion, dressed in the robes of Cleopatra, was displayed to the people as proof of her death. Later, as Cleopatra’s dream had warned, Octavius publicly said she would be interred with Mark Antony but privately, to his lieutenant, he said, “Burn the bitch. The brats may watch.”

The bodies of the handmaidens were removed afterward by the priests. Cleopatra’s public tomb, stripped of its glories by Octavius, lay empty, as she had somehow always known it would. But it secretly connected, through a long and twisting passage with many stairs and a maze of tunnels, with a private tomb concealed deep beneath her palace. In some ways, the tomb was very bare, her special coffin, sealed within three others, the simple alabaster canopic jars with her cartouche and titles and seals of gold, some clothing and toiletries, a prettily carved inlaid table and chair, a bed, a wealth of lamps. The tomb was for one person only. No place for husbands or children or even trusted servants. Iras’s body had been removed to her family’s crypt. Instead, the side rooms held Cleopatra’s greatest treasure, one that Octavius and other conquerors lacked the wit to covet. But to the queen, for whom the love of erudition was more fundamental than her love of either of her Roman husbands or even her kingdom, her burial hoard was of the most valuable nature possible. It contained the originals to the best, the rarest, the most informed and fascinating of the manuscripts collected by her own great Museon, the Library of Alexandria.

                                                                  CHAPTER 1

For Leda Hubbard, attending the International Conference of Egyptologists was the next best thing to personally participating in a dig. When she found a ticket in her mailbox, she was giddy with joy but curious and also suspicious about who would treat her to such a thing. For the cost of one of those tickets, you could almost buy a plane trip to Egypt.

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Cleopatra’s back (again). This time she brought friends.

“A science fiction thriller that feels like a futuristic James Bond. . . The idea of two minds inhabiting one body is a fascinating premise. The way they blend together and respect each other’s personality makes Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s latest work a fascinating, often humorous speculative fiction.” Midwest Book Review

“Scattered throughout the narrative, Scarborough provides amusing asides from the viewpoints of the Cleopatras. The modern day is filled with marvels from the viewpoints of the ancient queens, and Scarborough does a marvelous job of giving the world we take for granted a new angle of understanding . . . [She] has done a fabulous job of researching the past, and through the observations of the two Cleos paints a heartrending picture of loss and yet at the same time presents awe-inspiring descriptions of wonders that have managed, despite war, neglect, and outright vandalism, to survive for millennia to the modern day.” SF Revu

“[An] exciting speculative thriller . . . Scarborough deftly weaves her suspenseful web and then untangles the threads with her clear and concise prose, preventing a plot with dual-identity characters from spinning out of control. The DNA-blending concept is fascinating . . . retains the breathless action, frenetic pacing, and dry wit, [of its predecessor] with homages to Elizabeth Peters and Indiana Jones, and will appeal to a wide audience.” 

Excerpt:

 PROLOGUE
                      
                                           The Book of Cleopatra’s Reawakening

     Herein do I, Cleopatra Philopater, Queen of Upper and Lower Egypt, the seventh Cleopatra of the ruling house of Ptolemy, set down the circumstances pertaining to the discovery of my tomb. This I do at the behest of my soul’s companion in this life, Leda Hubbard, who asks it so that a play may be made of it and the story told to the world thereby. For this we are to be endowed with, if not a queen’s ransom, at least the price of a modest palace.
     To begin with, I was awakened from the dead.
     This was done by means of a magic uncommonly known even in these years of miraculous happenings. Quite simply, a portion of my body still connected to my ba, or body spirit, was used to connect my ba to another body, that of Leda Hubbard, a woman of low birth but high intellect. This magic is called a blending. Leda and I first blended as we dreamed. I learned that she, like myself, grieved for her father and had suffered betrayal. I knew of her love of books and words, her search for knowledge. But I also knew, even as she slept, that we were in immediate mortal danger. We awakened to our peril aboard a ship owned by our enemy. With the aid of Leda’s allies and our combined strengths, we prevailed and vanquished our enemy.
     When we were safely ashore in what had once been my beloved Alexandria, I began to understand that, although I once more breathed and tasted, saw and smelled, was able to touch and to feel touch, the life I had ended with the cobra would in no way continue. No longer would I be concerned with the fate of the Egypt I knew, for it was either gone or buried beneath many generations of sand and captivity.
     Octavian, who continued his dominion of both my lands and his as Augustus Caesar, this viper who murdered Caesar’s own son, my Caesarian, is dead. That Marc Antony is lost I knew before my own death. His son, my Alexander Helios, was murdered like his half brother by Octavian. My other children, Selene and Ptolemy Philadelphus, were banished from Egypt and died in foreign lands without the benefit of an Egyptian burial. Thus I had no hope that they might enter into this afterlife as I have with the aid of that odd little magician, Chimera.
     Alas, Leda’s body is not capable of childbearing so there will be no more children for me, even if there are in this new age men worthy of fathering them. All that I loved, all that I lived for, is gone. Thus is my life ended, and so it begins again, without husband or children, title or lands or wealth of any consequence, great beauty or great power.
     Still, Leda’s loyalties are as strong as my own, and I find some comfort that the people whose fates concern her do seem to be worthwhile.
     However, she has not been a queen and was not reared believing she was born to greatness. Her goals are as modest as her means, and this I must change.
     We made a beginning by changing history as Leda’s contemporaries have known it. We had no tension within us at this time, for our thoughts and longings were in unison. Both of us wished to revisit my tomb and learn what remained.
     I imagined I would be able to go straight to it. During my lifetime, I had visited it clandestinely for years, secreting the most precious of the scrolls I saved from the burning of the great library. Later, when Antony gifted me with scrolls looted from the library in Pergamum, I had them copied and personally deposited the originals in the vaults within my second tomb.
     Why a second tomb? Leda asked. But she answered her own question almost immediately. Grave robbers, of course, were the first reason I chose to have a secret place of interment as well as my public mausoleum. Anyone who has strolled through the marketplace has beheld the property that was supposed to be taken into the afterlife with long-dead pharaohs and other people of substance. Their tombs were built more for grandeur than for security. Looters broke in and stole their funeral goods and dismembered the mummies so carefully and expensively laid to “eternal” rest. I value my privacy and my dignity far too much to allow that to happen to me.
     So, though no one knew but myself and one old childhood friend who became my most trusted priest, there was concealed within my mausoleum an underground passageway.
     I have now watched many films and read many books and articles that claim to be about my life. Some of them say that I am a traitorous and disloyal person. They base their evaluation on the evidence that I had my brothers and sisters killed, disregarding the fact that my beloved sibs would have done the same for me had I not, as Leda says, “beat them to it.” The truth is that I have always been a very loyal person and a true friend to those who do not try to murder me or betray me.
     And Anoubus was always, if unobtrusively, loyal to me. He understood my true nature. I wonder what became of him under Octavian?
     Ah well. Anoubus and I discovered the passageway and the tomb when we were children of perhaps eight and six years. It was within the palace quarter, naturally, or I would not have been allowed there. We found it while playing in a disused part of the harem. Father did not keep as many concubines and wives as his forebears, perhaps because he loved wine and song far better than he loved women, with the possible exception of me.
     The passageway was exciting for us, a secret to be shared, but even more exciting was the tomb at the end of it. I knew in my heart it had been one of the early tombs of my own ancestor, Alexander. Of course, it was empty then, but by the light of our lamps the marble walls still gleamed, and the spaciousness of the rooms rivaled that of my father’s own private chambers. We scuffed away the sand to reveal a fine mosaic on the floor, the colors of its tiles bright even by our flickering lights.
     Throughout my childhood, I escaped there often from my older sister, who hated me because Father preferred me, and my brothers. When I thought of it, I held my breath, fearing that some new building project would clear the entrance to my private haven, but this did not happen. When I assumed the throne, I myself cleared the area and had my mausoleum built over it; under the supervision of my friend.
     As intimately as I had known it, when Leda and I tried to find it again, I doubted we ever would. My beautiful white-columned city, with its wide streets and its great monuments, might never have been. Now it lies buried beneath tall and ugly buildings, short and ugly buildings, and the streets are filled with noisy machinery, tearing along at speed far greater than that of any chariot or natural animal I have ever seen in all my life before I awakened with Leda.
     I knew approximately where the palace quarter had been only from the shoreline of the Eastern Harbor, and even this was much altered. Leda and I pored over maps from many time periods. None was more than someone’s guess at the layout of the city of my birth, my youth, my reign, the city I gave to Caesar and to Antony, the city whose people, treasures, institutions, customs, and monuments I protected with every skill and wit I possessed.
     Leda showed me the artifacts retrieved from the harbor when it had been drained for excavation. Soon the sponsors of this excavation and the current government will attempt to reconstruct the shore line as I knew it, to rebuild some semblance of my palace and the monuments of the time. This will be done not to house a new pharaoh or even a president, but for foreign visitors called tourists. It is a worthy project and I approve of it and mean to have Leda and myself consulting so that we may instruct the builders on the correct installation of each feature and structure.
     But I digress. We examined these artifacts, most of which were large chunks of stone that were mere suggestions of the intricately carved and colored statuary and columns, building blocks and fountains that had once adorned my home. These items, more than any other thing, including the monstrous modern city, made clear to me how much time has passed since last I walked these streets. Not that I can walk them now without risk of being crushed by one of the speeding conveyances.
     I saw a blunted and water worn statue of myself I had commissioned as a gift for what we hoped would be Caesar’s coronation. The cheeks were pitted, the tip of the nose and part of the chin chipped off. The details of hair and crown, clothing and jewels were mostly lost, however. It looked, it was, thousands of years old. Many pieces of the colossal statues of my Ptolemy ancestors whose images had lined the harbor and stood sentinel beside the great Pharos Lighthouse hulked among the cases and explanatory plaques. The bones of my past.
     They saddened me, caused me to shudder. Though I had coolly faced the enemies who were my kin and the enemy who was the death of my family, as well as the cobra who was my ultimate deliverer, I was shaken with disorientation, with vertigo. How strange it was to be there viewing the scene of my former life as if from the wrong end of a telescope that saw through the distance of time rather than space.
     Even so, another part of me, the part my father had trained in the ways of all of the pharaohs and satraps before us, was reading the plaques. I mentally restored and replaced the objects to their original installations. Seeing where they had been found from the maps and plaques, I calculated how far they might have tumbled during the mighty earthquakes that were my city’s ultimate conquerors.  

About the author:

Of herself she says:

I’m a former R.N. and spent time with the Army Nurse Corps in Vietnam and in several stateside posts including Alaska. I’ve also worked for the Indian Health Service, run my own handweaving shop (Howling Woof Weavers in Fairbanks, Alaska), lived on what was then pretty much the edge of civilization for about 7 years outside of Fairbanks, have been a guest writer at the 2nd Annual Feminist Book Fair in Oslo, Norway, after which Julian May and I crossed the Arctic Circle to do research for one of her books. Of course, there were the three years of going back and forth to Ireland to write the Petaybee series with Anne McCaffrey too. I received the Edgar Wolfe Award from the Kansas City, Ks. Friends of the Library, which pleased my late mom. Otherwise, I love folk music, cats, chocolate, beading, good books, good conversation and a good laugh.

I’m a terrible punner (and have been known to have punning duals with Todd McCaffrey, which he usually wins).
Anyone wanting to buy books, make movies of my books or offer me pots of money for any of them, please contact me here or through my lovely current publisher, Gypsy Shadow Publishing, who also have great books by other writers including themselves. 
 
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