What if Cleopatra faked her death and escaped on a pirate ship? While her sister sailed for Wales with the most valuable ancient books from her Library of Alexandria? And they both landed in an imagined new world filled with crypto-creatures and historical humans?
Trekking to the desert of 1st century New Mexico, Cleo from the Yucatan and Alex from Nova Scotia, they’d need bravery and help from friends and lovers to evade inner demons and determined villains across an uncharted wilderness.
Alternate history- Fantasy-Romance – Adventure!
“The Pharaoh and the Librarian” is the story of two journeys from the Old World to the New – in the first century, a few hundred years before Columbus sailed.
These early Western settlers travelled to Chaco Canyon in what’s now northern New Mexico with books from the Library of Alexandria.
Cleopatra’s journey passes through where I live in northern Arizona and gave me the opportunity to imagine what my home area was like 2,000 years ago. After surviving Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, Cleopatra and her Mayans used the “Green” River as their passage north. They find the ancient salt mine and a meteorite buried in a feathered cloth, and visit the people in the Montezuma Castle cliff dwellings.
Next they travelled on to Sedona. As those who have visited Sedona know, it’s a spectacularly beautiful place and can also guess it’s easy to make fun of the tourist mecca’s crystal culture. (Around here, they say you really have to love Sedona to make fun of it.) In Sedona the visit the already ancient Palatki Ruins and are chased off to New Mexico when Sunset Crater erupts. (I took the liberty moving the eruption into my timeline.)
Each of the places the sisters visit took research: Anglesey Island, Chichen Itza, Rarámuri, Hopewell culture, and more since there’s little firsthand reporting available. Some research was geographical, for example how Niagara Falls and the Great Lakes would have looked. Other research involved the archeological evidence of Cahokia and Poverty Point. I’d visited Cahokia and Chaco Canyon and recommend both as a small glimpse into what North America must have been like before Columbus.
I loved writing about the sister pharaohs’ journeys and invite you to travel along. Just don’t be surprised to find a bit of fantasy.
The letter Alexandria, already voyaging to Nova Scotia, receives from her sister Cleopatra:
Alex read the letter written in Cleo’s hand:
To Alexandria, Librarian of the Library of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt
Dear Alex, Mirror of My Life,
To be blunt—I live.
Please forgive your errant sister for her deceit. I truly feared for my life from the Romans. My only choice was to fake my death. I thought the asp an ironic end to my life as Pharaoh Queen, for you know well my phobic fear of snakes. A most trusted servant begged to dress in my regalia and let Octavian’s Legionnaires find her, while I, clad in her rude tunic, face bare of kohl—if can you imagine me so—fled through back alleys to the harbor with only a few slaves and possessions. By prearrangement, thank Thoth, in a most desultory warehouse, a Bedouin princess dressed me in the desert robes of a common herder. The horrific fabric still smelled of goat. From there she led me to a trading ship. That crude vessel carried me along the coast to a pirate lair. There the pirate king, a disgustingly handsome rogue, agreed to take me—this, dear sister, you will not believe—to the New Land. By the time you read my words I will be on the high seas aboard a pirate ship.
I know your first dire question, after my personal safety, of course. Yes, I have with me books and scrolls I secreted from your precious Alexandrian Library. Over the years I purloined a small but rare collection. You librarians will never develop foolproof security. Most preceded me to the new land. Fear not, I am determined to keep these tomes safe and vow to preserve my own self.
No more Roman lovers for me. I have promised myself to the Chi-Ah-Ah, Emperor of the Mayans. I travel to the Yucatan to become the Empress of this lusty young athlete. His family promises me pyramids of riches.
For now, I suffer this rough sea voyage with the Barbary prince Gaspar Lupaster. I envy you, cloistered one, safe in your bookish sanctuary.
Your loving sister, fearful she will never look into your eyes again,