Authors: Dianne Hofmeyr
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Aladdin paperback edition June 2011
Copyright Â© 2007 by Dianne Hofmeyr
Originally published in Great Britain in 2007 by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, a CBS company.
Published by arrangement with Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
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Designed by Ann Zeak and Irene Metaxatos
The text of this book was set in Centaur MT.
Manufactured in the United States of America 0511 OFF
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Library of Congress Control Number 2010940169
ISBN 978-1-4424-1189-0 (eBook)
ith two fingers missing it's hard to grip a reed stylus. So I'm writing with difficulty as I sit here on the bank of the Great River far from the city of Thebes. At last it's quiet. The noise of battle has ended. Only the lapping of the water through the reeds keeps me company.
I hope my story will soon be carved in stone so the truth will be known to all. I've a great many things to tell. Poison, slavery, and murder are all part
of it. If it seems too much like myth, let me swear the words are written by the white feather of Truth, under the protection of the Eye of the Moon.
When all is told, I will add:
These are the words of Isikaraâdaughter of the embalmer at the temple of the crocodile god, Sobek.
But first I should explain my injury.
The forefinger and the middle finger are the bow fingers. They pluck the gut and send the arrow with purpose. Strength is crucial in pulling back the bowstring. But it's the final release of these fingers that controls the arrow and sets it on its path.
Right to the heart of the enemy.
I hadn't understood their true importance until my right hand was forced open against the ground, a cleaver raised, and both fingers sliced through with one clean blow.
What better way to maim a bowman than to take away these fingers?
Of the two of us, my friend Anoukhet was the better marksman. She pulled the arrow back with the strength of someone twice her size and sent it on its way with the true eye of a hunter. Deadly accurate!
Side by side we stood. And side by side we were captured. Sisters in combat.
But that's behind us now. I've put aside my arrow and bow and changed my boy's tunic for a robe more suited to a girl. Anoukhet has too. But a girl's robe doesn't prevent her from remaining fiery. And we both still carry daggers in our belts.
It might seem strange that a girl writes of warfare. There are many strange things ahead. Not least that I should be
to write. Few girls are scribes. But my father taught me well in the way of writing words in the new hieratic style. It's quicker than hieroglyphics and suits my impatience.
There is much to tell. My words flow fast ahead of me now and my stylus blots the sooty ink and leaves behind dark smudges on the papyrus. The story grows so fast, that should I not be able to find enough soot and sap to mix more ink, I would write it in blood . . . even my own.
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y story begins in the Temple of Sobek in Thebes on the day I thought my brother would die.
There was a moment of absolute stillness. Then my brother's scream. I can still hear it. The worst scream I've ever heard.
I ran down the path to the crocodile pit. He clung to the edge of the stone wall.
“The stick, Kara! Get the stick!” Katep bellowed.
His eyes were glazed with terror. A crocodile held his arm and was wrenching and tossing its head in a fury. Inside the pit, the other crocodiles were thrashing and snapping in their eagerness to get at my brother as well.
I searched frantically. The forked crocodile stick that usually stood next to the wall wasn't there. Nothing was in its place. I had no weapon. Not even a branch to shove between the beast's jaws or poke at its eyes.
I stood paralyzed. I knew how brutal crocodiles were. One thrust of its tail, one quick arch of its body, and it would throw Katep into the air and then catch him again in a stronger, more