Children of the Storm
By Elizabeth Peters
Published by William Morrow  
March 2004; 0061032484; 416 pages

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Children of the Storm by Elizabeth PetersChapter One

The encrimsoned sun sank slowly toward the crest of the Theban mountains. Another glorious Egyptian sunset burned against the horizon like fire in the heavens.

In fact, I did not at that moment behold it, since I was facing east. I had seen hundreds of sunsets, however, and my excellent imagination supplied a suitable mental picture. As the sky over Luxor darkened, the shadows of the bars covering doors and windows lengthened and blurred, lying like a tiger's stripes across the two forms squatting on the floor. One of them said, "Spoceeva."

"Russian," Ramses muttered, scribbling on his notepad. "Yesterday it was Amharic. The day before it sounded like -- "

"Gibberish," said his wife.

"No," Ramses insisted. "It has to mean something. They use root words from a dozen languages, and they obviously understand one another. See? He's nodding. They are standing up. They are going ... " His voice rose. "Leave the cat alone!"

The Great Cat of Re, stretched out along the back of the settee behind him, rose in haste and climbed to the top of his head, from which position it launched itself onto a shelf. Ramses put his notepad aside and looked severely at the two figures who stood before him. "Die Katze ist ganz verboten. Kedi, hayir. Em nedjeroo pa meeoo."

 

The Great Cat of Re grumbled in agreement. He had been a small, miserable-looking kitten when we acquired him, but Sennia had insisted on giving him that resounding appellation and, against all my expectations, he had grown into his name. His appearance was quite different from those of our other cats: longhaired, with an enormous plume of a tail, and a coat of spotted black on gray. With characteristic feline obstinacy he insisted on joining us for tea, though he knew he would have to go to some lengths to elude his juvenile admirers, who now burst into a melodious babble of protest, or, perhaps, explanation.

"Darling, let's stick to one language, shall we?" Nefret said. She was smiling, but I thought there was a certain edge to her voice. "They'll never learn to talk if you address them in ancient Egyptian and Anglo-Saxon."

"They know how to talk," Ramses said loudly, over the duet. "Recognizable human speech, however -- "

"Say Papa," Nefret coaxed. She leaned forward. "Say it for Mama."

"Bap," said the one whose eyes were the same shade of cornflower-blue.

"Perverse little beggars," said Ramses. The other child climbed onto his knee and buried her head against his chest. I suspected she was trying to get closer to the cat, but she made an engaging picture as she clung to her father. They were affectionate little creatures, much given to hugging and kissing, especially of each other.

"They're over two years old," Ramses went on, stroking the child's black curls. "I was speaking plainly long before that, wasn't I, Mother?"

"Dear me, yes," I said, with a somewhat sickly smile. To be honest -- which I always endeavor to be in the pages of my private journal -- I dreaded the moment when the twins began to articulate. Once Ramses learned to talk plainly, he never stopped talking except to eat or sleep, for over fifteen years, and the prolixity and pedantry of his speech patterns were extremely trying to my nerves. The idea of not one but two children following in the paternal footsteps chilled my blood.

Ever the optimist, I told myself there was no reason to anticipate such a disaster. The little dears might take after their mother, or me.

"Children learn at different rates," I explained to my son. "And twins, according to the best authorities, are sometimes slower to speak because they communicate readily with one another."

"And because they get everything they want without having to ask for it," Ramses muttered. The children obviously understood English, though they declined to speak it; his little daughter raised her head and fluttered her long lashes flirtatiously. He fluttered his lashes back at her. Charla giggled and gave him a hug.

The question of suitable names had occupied us for months. I say "us," because I saw no reason why I should not offer a suggestion or two. (There is nothing wrong with making suggestions so long as the persons to whom they are offered are not obliged to accept them.) Not until the end of her pregnancy did I begin to suspect Nefret was carrying twins, but since we had already settled on names for a male or a female child, it worked out quite nicely. There was no debate about David John; no one quarreled with Ramses's desire to name his son after his best friend and his cousin who had died in France in 1915.

A girl's name was not so easy to find. Emerson declared (quite without malice, I am sure) that between our niece and myself there were already enough Amelias in the family. It was with some hesitation that I mentioned that my mother's name had been Charlotte, and I was secretly pleased when Nefret approved.

"It is such a nice, ordinary name," she said.

"Unlike Nefret," said her husband.

"Or Ramses." She chuckled and patted his cheek. "Not that you could ever be anything else."

Charla, as we called her, had the same curly black hair and dark eyes as her father. Her brother Davy, now perched on his mother's knee, was fair, with Nefret's blue eyes and Ramses's prominent nose and chin. They did not resemble each other except in height, and in their linguistic eccentricity. Davy was more easygoing than his sister, but he had a well-nigh supernatural ability to disappear from one spot and materialize in another some distance away. The bars had been installed in all the rooms they were wont to inhabit, including the veranda, where we now sat waiting for Fatima to serve tea ...


The foregoing is excerpted from Children of the Storm by Elizabeth Peters. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

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Synopsis

Return once again with New York Times bestselling Grand Master Elizabeth Peters to a remarkable land of mystery, deception, and danger, where murderous intrigues swirl in the desert wind. . . .

The Great War has ended at last. No longer must archaeologist Amelia Peabody and her husband, Emerson, the distinguished Egyptologist, fear for the life of their daring son, Ramses, now free from his dangerous wartime obligations to British Intelligence. The advent of a season of joy and peace marks a time of new beginnings in Luxor, with delightful additions to the growing Emerson family and fascinating wonders waiting to be discovered beneath the shifting Egyptian sands.

But in the aftermath of conflict, evil still casts a cold shadow over this violence-scarred land. The theft of valuable antiquities from the home of a friend causes great concern in the Emerson household. Ramses's strange encounter with a woman costumed in the veil and gold crown of a goddess only deepens the mystery. And the brutal death of the suspected thief washes the unsettling affair in blood.

Amelia's investigation sets her on a terrifying collision course with an adversary more fiendish and formidable than any she has ever encountered. And in her zeal to make things right, the indomitable Amelia may be feeding the flames of a devastating firestorm that threatens the fragile lives of the tender and the innocent.

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Author

Barbara Mertz as Elizabeth PetersElizabeth Peters is a pen name for Barbara Mertz.  Barbara Mertz has a Ph.D in Egyptology at the University of Chicago.  She has written twenty-seven mysteries under the name of Elizabeth Peters and and another twenty-six suspense novels under the pseudonym of Barbara Michaels. Barbara Mertz a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters a.k.a Barbara Michaels won the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award in 1998.

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