The Passion of CleopatraAnne Rice
ANNE RICE & CHRISTOPHER RICE
THE PASSION OF CLEOPATRA
Anne Rice is the author of thirty-six books, including The Vampire Chronicles and The Lives of the Mayfair Witches. She lives in Southern California.
Christopher Rice published four New York Times bestselling novels before the age of thirty and has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. He is the cohost of the YouTube channel The Dinner Party Show with Christopher Rice & Eric Shaw Quinn (www.tdps.tv).
ALSO BY ANNE RICE
Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis Prince Lestat
The Wolves of Midwinter Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story The Wolf Gift
Of Love and Evil Angel Time
Called Out of Darkness Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt Blood Canticle
Blood and Gold
Vittorio, the Vampire The Vampire Armand Pandora
Servant of the Bones Memnoch the Devil Taltos
The Tale of the Body Thief The Witching Hour The Mummy
The Queen of the Damned The Vampire Lestat Cry to Heaven
The Feast of All Saints Interview with the Vampire
UNDER THE NAME ANNE RAMPLING
Exit to Eden
UNDER THE NAME A. N. ROQUELAURE
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty Beauty's Punishment Beauty's Release
ALSO BY CHRISTOPHER RICE
A Density of Souls The Snow Garden Light Before Day Blind Fall
The Moonlit Earth The Heavens Rise The Vines
The Flame: A Desire Exchange Novella The Surrender Gate: A Desire Exchange Novel Kiss the Flame: A Desire Exchange Novella Dance of Desire
AN ANCHOR BOOKS ORIGINAL, NOVEMBER 2017
Copyright (c) 2017 by Anne Rice and Christopher Rice
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, Toronto.
Anchor Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors' imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Rice, Anne, 1941-author. | Rice, Christopher, 1978-author.
Title: Ramses the damned : the passion of Cleopatra / Anne Rice & Christopher Rice.
Description: First edition. | New York : Anchor Books, 2017.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016057153
Subjects: LCSH: Mummies--Fiction. | Ramses II, King of Egypt--Fiction. | Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, -30 B.C.--Fiction. | Immortality--Fiction. | GSAFD: Occult fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3568.I265 R36 2018 | DDC 813/.54--dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/ 2016057153
Anchor Books Trade Paperback ISBN 9781101970324
Ebook ISBN 9781101970485
Cover design and photo of eye by Henry Steadman
Cover photographs: statue (c) Stephen Studd/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images; pyramids (c) vorkot/Shutterstock
About the Authors
3600 B.C.: Jericho
Chapter 1: 1914: Outside Cairo
Chapter 2: Venice
Chapter 3: Alexandria
Chapter 4: Chicago
Chapter 5: Paris
Chapter 7: Monte Carlo
Chapter 9: The Mediterranean Sea
Chapter 10: SS Orsova
Chapter 11: The Twentieth Century Limited
Chapter 12: SS Orsova
Chapter 13: London
Chapter 15: Cornwall
Chapter 17: RMS Mauretania
Chapter 18: SS Orsova
Chapter 19: Havilland Park
Chapter 21: The Rutherford Estate
Chapter 22: Yorkshire
Chapter 23: The Rutherford Estate
Chapter 27: Cornwall
Chapter 30: Havilland Park
Chapter 31: Cornwall
Chapter 33: Havilland Park
Chapter 34: Cornwall
Chapter 35: Havilland Park
Chapter 39: Cornwall
Chapter 42: The Rutherford Estate
Chapter 44: Yorkshire
Chapter 45: Cornwall
Chapter 46: Isle of Skye
Anne and Christopher both dedicate this novel to their coauthor, and to the People of the Page
It was a tale told by the newspapers in 1914--of a spectacular find by a British Egyptologist in an isolated tomb outside of Cairo--a royal mummy of Egypt's greatest monarch and, beside his painted sarcophagus, a vast collection of ancient poisons and a journal in Latin, written in the time of Cleopatra, comprising some thirteen scrolls.
Call me Ramses the Damned. For that is the name I have given myself. But I was once Ramses the Great of Upper and Lower Egypt, slayer of the Hittites, father of many sons and daughters, who ruled Egypt for sixty-four years. My monuments are still standing; the stele recount my victories, though a thousand years have passed since I was pulled, a mortal child, from the womb.
Ah, fatal moment now buried by time, when from a Hittite priestess I took the cursed elixir. Her warnings I would not heed. Immortality I craved. And so I drank the potion in the brimming cup...
...How can I bear this burden any longer? How can I endure the loneliness anymore? Yet I cannot die...
So wrote a being who claimed to have lived a thousand years, slumbering in darkness when the great kings and queens of his realm had no need of him, ever ready to be resurrected at their command to offer wisdom and counsel--until the death of Cleopatra and of Egypt itself drove him to an eternal rest.
What was the world to make of this bizarre tale, or the fact that Lawrence Stratford, discoverer of the mystery, died in the tomb itself at the moment of his greatest triumph?
Julie Stratford, daughter of the great Egyptologist and sole heiress to the Stratford Shipping fortune, brought the controversial mummy to London, along with the mysterious scrolls and poisons, to honor her father's discovery with a private exhibition in her home in Mayfair. Within days Julie's cousin, Henry, made frantic claims that the mummy had risen from its sarcophagus and tried to murder him, and talk of a mummy's curse astonished Londoners. Before rumors could die down, Julie appeared in public with a mysterious blue-eyed Egyptian named Reginald Ramsey, who then journeyed with Julie back to Cairo in the company of beloved friends Elliott, the Earl of Rutherford, and his young son, Alex Savarell, and the aggrieved Henry.
More shocking events unfolded
An unidentified corpse stolen from the Cairo Museum, grisly murders amongst the European shopkeepers of the city, and Ramsey himself sought by the Cairo police, and the disappearance of Henry. Finally, a fiery explosion left baffled witnesses and a frantic Alex Savarell grieving for a nameless woman who had fled the Cairo Opera House in terror, driving her motorcar into the path of an oncoming train.
Out of chaos and mystery, Julie Stratford emerged as the devoted fiancee of the enigmatic Reginald Ramsey, traveling Europe with her beloved, while in England the Savarell family sought to understand the exile of the Earl of Rutherford and the grief of young Alex for the woman he had so tragically lost to the flames in the Egyptian desert. Gossip dies down; newspapers move on.
As our story opens, the country estate of the Earl of Rutherford will soon be the location of the engagement party for Reginald Ramsey and Julie Stratford, as others far and wide hear echoes of the story of the immortal Ramses the Damned and his fabled elixir, though the mummified body itself, brought to London with such fanfare, has long since vanished.
How can I bear this burden any longer? How can I endure the loneliness anymore? Yet I can not die. Her poisons can not harm me. They keep my elixir safe so that I may dream of still other Queens, both fair and wise, to share the centuries with me.
--RAMSES THE DAMNED
3600 B.C.: Jericho
"We are being followed, my queen."
She had not been a queen for centuries, but her two loyal servants still referred to her as such. Both men flanked her now as they approached the great stone city of Jericho on foot.
They were the only members of her royal guard who had refused to take part in an insurrection against her. Now, thousands of years after freeing her from the tomb in which she'd been placed by her traitorous prime minister, these former warriors for a lost kingdom remained her constant companions and protectors.
It was their companionship that mattered most. She knew a loneliness which she could never fully describe to another being, a loneliness she had long accepted but she feared might one day destroy her.
There was very little else from which she needed to be protected. She was immortal, and so were they.
"Continue to walk," she commanded quietly. "Do not pause."
Her men obeyed. They were close enough to the city to smell the spices coming from the market just beyond the stone walls.
She towered over most people, but her servants were both taller than she by almost half. To her right walked Enamon, with his proud but bent nose, broken in an ancient battle between tribes who had long since died out. Aktamu was on her left, his round, boyish face out of place atop his lean, muscular body. They hailed from no specific lands; immortality had made the world their home. But today they dressed as traders from Kush, in skirts of leopard skin that shifted over their long legs, with broad golden sashes stretched over their bare, muscular chests. Her swaddling of blue robes allowed her slender arms to move free. The walking stick she used was a show for mortals. She did not tire or require rest as they did.
The road before and behind was clear of wagons in this moment, and so it was no surprise the three of them had drawn notice from someone outside the city gates, and yet to hear Enamon tell it, this attention was sustained, and suspiciously so.
When Bektaten looked back over one shoulder, she saw the spy.
His skin was a few shades lighter than her own, the same color as those who inhabited the city ahead. He stood a good distance up the barren hillside off to their left, wrapped in robes and latticed by the frail shade from an olive tree. He made no attempt to conceal himself. His stance and position were a warning, a threat of some sort. And his eyes, they were as blue as those of the men with whom she'd traveled for centuries.
They were as blue as her own.
They were eyes changed by the elixir she had discovered thousands of years before. A discovery that had caused her kingdom's fall.
Is it he? Is it Saqnos?
The memories of her prime minister's betrayal would never fade, no matter how long she walked the earth. The raid he'd staged upon her quarters with members of her own guard. His demands that she hand over the formula she had discovered quite by accident, the one that had allowed a flock of birds to fly above the palace in endless circles without ever tiring.
Saqnos, handsome, thoughtful Saqnos. She had never seen anything like the transformation that had overtaken him all those centuries ago. And it had only worsened when he saw her eyes, once brown, had turned startlingly blue.
That there was a substance on this earth that could abolish death, and that she had consumed it without consulting him, these facts had driven him mad with a thirst for power.
If he had simply asked for it, if he had not betrayed her, would she have handed it over without question?
There was no telling now.
With the spears of her own men raised against her, she had refused.
Despite the great strength afforded by her transformation, the royal guard numbered enough men to overpower her. They dragged her to the rock tomb Saqnos had already prepared. And during this humiliation, the architect of her fall raided her quarters and even her private work chamber for every vial of the elixir he could find. Immediately he distributed them to his soldiers. But he did not find the precious formula itself, for she had taken care to scatter the ingredients among her other tonics and powders.
It was then that his plan went to ruin.
Upon discovering that they had been granted eternal life, upon realizing that they had been made impervious to most fatal wounds, these once-loyal soldiers laid down their arms and abandoned their new leader. What need did they have for a ruler? What need did they have for the shelter of a kingdom when they could explore the world endlessly without fear of cold, starvation, or the serpent's bite?
But the man who watched them now was not him.
"Once we are inside the city walls, prepare the ring," she said quietly.
"Yes, my queen." Enamon caressed the leather pouch at his side with a long-fingered hand.
They made frequent visits to this place. They were assumed to be traders from the land of Kush, and they never disabused anyone of this notion. Their bags always bulged with blossoms and spices, many of which she'd plucked from peaks so high and dangerous, so battered by powerful winds and drenching rains, no mortal could reach them. The other visitors to the market did not know this.
These journeys to Jericho filled her with joy, for they interrupted her long wanderings. The vast, forbidding landscapes her immortality allowed her to visit spoke their own languages; there was a certain music to the whisper of winds through the leaves of jungles where no humans dwelled, a harmony to the contrasting winds that swept high mountain peaks. But the languages spoken in Jericho, and the tales of loves, deaths, and newly born cities, they were a music without which she could not endure. And after days of collecting these stories, of listening to mortals tell their tales, she would then return to her camps and record them in her leather-bound papyrus journals, clumsy books she had made herself and kept throughout her centuries of existence, books she had vowed to keep for all time.
Bektaten would not allow her love for this place to be spoiled by the sudden appearance of strange immortals, immortals she had not made.
Immortals like the one who was following them now from just outside the toss of a stone. Or the one who stood poised next to the city gates, regarding them with a fearless and penetrating gaze.
We are being hunted, Bektaten thought. Someone has heard tell of tall black-skinned people with blue eyes visiting Jericho, and they know what we are and they have come here to lie in wait for us.
As they passed through the gates and into the tunnel just beyond, Enamon used the cover of shadow to follow her instructions. He held one open hand out to his side, indicating she should fall behind them by several steps. She complied.
Enamon swung his leather satchel around to the fron
t of his body, then removed a bronze ring Bektaten had fashioned with her own hand. He passed it to Aktamu, who quickly unscrewed the small jewel, revealing the tiny chamber and pin underneath. Enamon then removed a small fabric pouch.
Bektaten watched them closely.
The next few steps could be very dangerous for all three of them, but as long as the contents of the pouch did not pierce their skin, all would be well.
Unless she was soon given cause to use the ring.
Once the ring had been filled, its jewel fastened back in its place, Enamon handed it to her, and she slid it gently up one long, dark finger.
They continued to walk as if no transfer of a great, secret power had just taken place.
And then she saw him.
He stood in the shadows of the rectangular towers behind him, the bright glare of sun at his back. His swaddling of robes matched those of the two spies he'd sent to watch her approach.
The man who had condemned her to immortal life trapped beneath the earth. The man who, in his desperate desire to re-create the elixir, had harvested every plant in Shaktanu, penetrated jungles she had forbidden her subjects to enter. The plague he had unleashed had brought down a civilization that once stretched across the seas.
So much had been lost to the man who now stood before her, she was rendered speechless by his presence. And yet she felt no rage.
What had she expected to feel upon seeing him again after all this time?
They had been lovers once. And now, despite herself, she felt an unwanted kinship with him. Ah, the loneliness, the unspeakable loneliness, how it presses on the heart.