the heretic queen by michelle moran - excerpt

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The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.


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    A N O V E L


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  • This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the productof the authors imagination or are used fictitiously.

    Copyright 2008, 2009 by Michelle Moran

    Excerpt from Cleopatras Daughter copyright 2009 by Michelle Moran

    All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the

    Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New

    THREE RIVERS PRESS and the Tugboat design are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

    Originally published in hardcover in slightly different form in the United States byCrown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random

    House, Inc., New York, in 2008.

    This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Cleopatras Daughter byMichelle Moran. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the

    final content of the forthcoming edition.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Moran, Michelle.The heretic queen : a novel / Michelle Moran.1st ed.

    p. cm.1. Nefertari, Queen, consort of Ramesses II, King of EgyptFiction. 2. Ramesses II, King

    of EgyptFiction. 3. EgyptHistoryNineteenth dynasty, ca. 13201200 B.C.Fiction. 4. QueensEgyptFiction. 5. EgyptKings and rulersFiction. I. Title.

    PS3613.O682H47 2008813'.6dc22 2008011857

    ISBN 978-0-307-38176-7

    Printed in the United States of America

    Design by JoAnne Metsch

    Map by Sophie Kittredge

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    First Paperback Edition

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  • Topurchaseacopyof









  • Nineteenth Dynasty





    Isetnofret (Iset)



    Bintanath Sethi Khaemwaset Isetnofret Merenptah


    Meritamen M

    Ramesses II


    Ramesses I

    Seti I Tuya

    Pili (deceased, child of Seti I and Tuya)






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    SetepenreAnkhesenamun Tutankhamun

    Meryre Meriatem ? ? ? ? ?

    Nefertari Baraka

    Tey Vizier Ay



    Nefertiti Amunhotep IV(Akhenaten)



    m. m. m.



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    Author s Note

    i x

    T H E R E WA S A time in the Eighteenth Dynasty when

    Nefertitis family reigned supreme over Egypt. She and her husband,

    Akhenaten, removed Egypts gods and raised the mysterious sun

    deity Aten in their place. Even after Nefertiti died and her policies

    were deemed heretical, it was still her daughter Ankhesenamun and

    her stepson, Tutankhamun, who reigned. When Tutankhamun died

    of an infection at around nineteen years of age, Nefertitis father, Ay,

    took the throne. With his death only a few years later, the last link

    to the royal family was Nefertitis younger sister, Mutnodjmet.

    Knowing that Mutnodjmet would never take the crown for her-

    self, the general Horemheb took her as his wife by force, in order to

    legitimize his own claim to Egypts throne. It was the end of an era

    when Mutnodjmet died in childbirth, and the Nineteenth Dynasty

    began when Horemheb passed the throne to his general, Ramesses I.

    But Ramesses was an old man at the start of his rule, and when he

    died, the crown passed to his son, Pharaoh Seti.

    Now, the year is 1283 BC. Nefertitis family has passed on, and all

    that remains of her line is Mutnodjmets daughter, Nefertari, an or-

    phan in the court of Seti I.

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    I A M S U R E that if I sat in a quiet place, away from the

    palace and the bustle of the court, I could remember scenes from my

    childhood much earlier than six years old. As it is, I have vague im-

    pressions of low tables with lions-paw feet crouched on polished

    tiles. I can still smell the scents of cedar and acacia from the open

    chests where my nurse stored my favorite playthings. And I am sure

    that if I sat in the sycamore groves for a day with nothing but the

    wind to disturb me, I could put an image to the sound of sistrums

    being shaken in a courtyard where frankincense was being burned.

    But all of those are hazy impressions, as difficult to see through as

    heavy linen, and my first real memory is of Ramesses weeping in the

    dark Temple of Amun.

    I must have begged to go with him that night, or perhaps my

    nurse had been too busy at Princess Pilis bedside to realize that I was

    gone. But I can recall our passage through the silent halls of Amuns

    temple, and how Ramessess face looked like a painting I had seen of

    women begging the goddess Isis for favor. I was six years old and al-

    ways talking, but I knew enough to be quiet that night. I peered up

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  • at the painted images of the gods as they passed through the glow of

    our flickering torchlight, and when we reached the inner sanctum,

    Ramesses spoke his first words to me.

    Stay here.

    I obeyed his command and drew deeper into the shadows as he

    approached the towering statue of Amun. The god was illuminated

    by a circle of lamplight, and Ramesses knelt before the creator of

    life. My heart was beating so loudly in my ears that I couldnt hear

    what he was whispering, but his final words rang out. Help her,

    Amun. Shes only six. Please dont let Anubis take her away. Not yet!

    There was movement from the opposite door of the sanctum, and

    the whisper of sandaled feet warned Ramesses that he wasnt alone.

    He stood, wiping tears from his eyes, and I held my breath as a man

    emerged like a leopard from the darkness. The spotted pelt of a

    priest draped from his shoulders, and his left eye was as red as a pool

    of blood.

    Where is the king? the High Priest demanded.

    Ramesses, summoning all the courage of his nine years, stepped

    into the circle of lamplight and spoke. In the palace, Your Holiness.

    My father wont leave my sisters side.

    Then where is your mother?

    She . . . shes with her as well. The physicians say my sister is

    going to die!

    So your father sent children to intervene with the gods?

    I understood for the first time why we had come. But Ive prom-

    ised Amun whatever he wants, Ramesses cried. Whatever shall be

    mine in my future.

    And your father never thought to call on me?

    He has! Hes asked that you come to the palace. His voice broke.

    But do you think that Amun will heal her?

    The High Priest moved across the tiles. Who can say?

    M i c h e l l e M o r a n


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  • But I came on my knees and offered him anything. I did as I was


    You may have, the High Priest snapped, but Pharaoh himself

    has not visited my temple.

    Ramesses took my hand, and we followed the hem of the High

    Priests robes into the courtyard. A trumpet shattered the stillness of

    the night, and when priests appeared in long white cloaks, I thought

    of the mummified god Osiris. In the darkness, it was impossible to

    make out their features, but when enough had assembled, the High

    Priest shouted, To the palace of Malkata!

    With torchlights before us we swept into the darkness. Our chari-

    ots raced through the chill Mechyr night to the River Nile. And

    when wed crossed the waters to the steps of the palace, guards ush-

    ered our retinue into the hall.

    Where is the royal family? the High Priest demanded.

    Inside the princesss bedchamber, Your Holiness.

    The High Priest made for the stairs. Is she alive?

    When no guard answered, Ramesses broke into a run, and I hur-

    ried after him, afraid of being left in the dark halls of the palace.

    Pili! he cried. Pili, no! Wait! He took the stairs two at a time and

    at the entrance to Pilis chamber two armed