This post is for the second of Jessica Knauss’ historical fiction blog hops – once again huge thanks to Jessica for coordinating this. Her blog post lists the other participants – please hop over to them and read through the other extracts which people have chosen to post.
This time around I am posting a section from work in progress. The novel has working title Scenes from a Life, and is set some twenty years after In a Milk and Honeyed Land, so shortly after 1200BC. There is some overlap of characters, but this will not be obvious until some way through the book.
The central character is Makty, an Egyptian scribe who specialises in decorating non-royal tombs in the area we now call Luxor. Anyone who visits the so-called “tombs of the nobles” a little way outside the Valley of the Kings might hope to see some of his work (had he really lived). As an aside, I have imagined the scribal culture he works in as similar to the world of IT contractors that I inhabit in my day job… with no mobile phones, and stone tablets rather than electronic ones, of course, but with quite similar attitudes and relationships.
The start of the book sees Makty largely ignorant about his upbringing, and content with that. The subsequent story then combines the physical journey he takes along the Nile river, with the interior metaphorical journey he takes as he uncovers his own origins.
The ten sentence extract I have chosen is from about 2/3 of the way through. Makty is now in the Nile Delta, and has arrived at a temple to the goddess Hekhet – in modern terms a convent. He remembers growing up here as an orphan, and thinks that this will be the last stage of his journey… Some of his initial hardness of attitude has worn off, and he has become more open and vulnerable. Senenptah, who is casually mentioned in the middle of the extract, is a very old priest in Luxor, and his former employer.
The chantress, a considerably older woman who walked slowly with the help of a long stick, limped heavily as she came towards them. Both her feet were turned in on themselves, and her gait was very awkward.
Makty realised that she had been one of the many crippled babies who were turned over to the temples by families or owners who did not want the burden of raising them. He watched her come towards them, proud in her difficulty. He wondered suddenly if his heart limped in just this way as it passed through life, if only one had eyes to see the shapes of the inner world? What had Senenptah seen as he looked at him?
The lady came into the room. Moved by years of boyish habit, Makty moved across to her and knelt at her feet on the dusty floor. She put one hand on the crown of his head in blessing and he felt old memories of homeliness flood his body. He had been a very long time away from home, and he put his arms carefully around her twisted legs and clung on to her.
Of course this is not the final stage of his journey, but the information he gains here allows him to take the next step. I am hoping to finish the book this year, but was rather alarmed to find that January has already been and gone! Comments and general feedback are very welcome…
Thanks again to Jessica; please remember to check out the other participants in this, accessible from her blog entry.