A political marriage to stop a war…a king whose golden mask hides his face from his people…a princess who loves her husband though she never sees his face…and a curse placed on a royal family by God…
Okay, so once again, I’m doing my version of a legend. This time, it’s Beauty and the Beast and though it’s been done to death, I don’t think anyone’s come up with this particular twist so far.
Senset is a princess of AEgys, only a minor child, and the daughter of a lesser wife of King Aseti-Ra, but a royal princess nevertheless. Her people are descended from a group of exiles banished from, a beautiful land on the banks of a river whose waters flow northward where pyramids house their sovereigns’ bodies and palm trees shade oases.
For generations, the AEgysians have been fighting the Beast Men, wild creatures who ride out of the hills on horseback, then retreat again. More times than not, the Beasts are victorious and gain a little more of AEgysian land and another of their cities appears. Then, Crown Prince Horem captures a Beast and plans to sacrifice him to Ra-horakhty in exchange for peace. This bothers Senset who thinks her brother should try to communicate with his prisoner but Horem sees no point. It’s an animal, after all. So Senset steals into the dungeon, and discovers an intelligent, articulate man instead of a dumb creature. They talk, they become friends, she helps him escape, much to her brother’s anger.
Michael is king of the Habiru, the Beast Men, and when his brother returns home with tales of the beautiful woman who helped him escape, he sees it as an opportunity for peace between the two warring peoples. He sends Aram back to AEgys with an offer Aseti-Ra can’t refuse; peace and an alliance between the Beasts and the AEgysians and a marriage with Senset to seal the deal.
So Senset leaves her home and travels to Habir’s capitol city of Bethgurion and marries Michael, a beguiling man in spite of the fact that his face is covered by a golden mask. The two fall very much in love, Senset accepts Michael’s faith of the belief in one God, and peace reigns. It isn’t long, however, before she learns that Michael has an ulterior motive for marrying her. The king has been cursed by God and every full moon he must remove his mask and transform into a Beast, and anyone seeing his face is changed also. Only one who has selfless love will free the king from becoming a Beast, and Michael believes his bride’s love for him can break the curse. Senset herself has doubts. Is she as unselfish as her husband thinks…?
This was an enjoyable story to write, not only for the tale of love between Michael and Senset, but for the information I learned during my research. I’ve always liked studying about the ancient Egyptians anyway, so gathering facts about them was a treat. There was so much to delve into concerning the ancient Egyptians (from whom the AEgysians are supposed to be descended) and the ancient Hebrews (from whom Michael and his people trace their ancestry). I learned that though the Egyptians had chariots, they never rode horseback. The idea repulsed them and that’s one reason they consider the Habiru beasts… because they rode horses. In my story, the Habiru win their bttles because they ride instead of fighting in chariots and one of the gifts Michael makes to Aseti-Ra as a wedding present is a slave to teach the AEgyians how to ride horses.
Writing Bride of the Beast was an enlightening experience, and I hope it will be both that and an entertainment for its readers also.
(Senset meets Michael for the first time, on their wedding day.)
Ahead of them loomed the Temple, larger and more simple in its lines and design than the palace, but more imposing and even a little frightening because it was where the Nameless God was worshipped. Again, someone waited on the steps, a figure in rich robes and headdress, but again face unmasked and bearded.
Not Michael. With her features now hidden as they were, Senset hoped no one could see her disappointment.
They stopped in front of him. Adonijah released her hand though Aram still kept his under hers. He bowed to the man who raised his own in benediction. I see. This is the priest, the one who’ll perform the marriage ritual. She should’ve realized it. Though he looked much different from Ra-Harakhty’s priest who, like all AEgysians was bald-shaven, jewel-bedecked, and wore a white linen shendyt, there was that same sanctified air about this man indicating he was one communing with his God.
“He comes!” The shout made Senset spin around, jerking her hand from Aram’s. “The bridegroom comes!”
Someone else was walking toward them, but from a side street running parallel to the Temple itself. He was striding confidently, surrounded by a group of children, boys and girls running around him laughing and tossing flowers and green leaves into the air. The crowd was cheering and some were also throwing petals. And he was laughing and holding out his hands.
The sun gleamed off his golden mask.
Michael. Senset felt her knees weaken. At last.
As he neared where Senset and Aram stood, the children flung the last of their flowers. Their laughter stopped as they ran into the crowd, to waiting parents holding out their arms to hug them tightly.
“My brother…” Aram stepped forward, offering Senset’s hand. “I bring your bride to you.”
Michael held out his hand and Aram placed Senset’s in it. Then, he stepped back, placing himself in the background, so no one would be distracted from the young couple standing before the priest. Helene took his place by Senset’s side.
Senset could feel herself trembling. Michael’s hand was warm and firm against hers but he didn’t speak, just stood there, green eyes behind the mask staring at her. He was as tall as Aram, his hair beneath his jeweled crown just as dark and even curlier, actually twisting into tight spirals touching his shoulders. The mask was really only a half-shell, covering the upper part of his face, leaving his jaw and chin bare. It was clean-shaven and she thought it resembled Aram’s also. She remembered what he’d said. Michael’s his twin. See Aram’s face and I see my husband’s. She envisioned the General looking down at her with green eyes instead of hazel ones and smiled behind her own obscuring veil.
“Come , my bride.” His first words to me…his voice was deeper than Aram’s, holding a breathless quality…but it might easily have been the General speaking.
Bride of the Beast is being released by Class Act Books on September 15, 2012.