Amani watched Berenice study the workings of the statue, which marked the passing time. The mechanics of the clock were hidden outside the palace, but she studied the artwork of the sculpture with displeasure. Amani suspected she had no concept of the complex system of tanks, gears, and siphons that resulted in an accurate measuring of the hours at any time of the year.
We divided day and night into 12 hours each, and the length of those hours varied with the season. The clock accounted for all of it, and yet Berenice dismissed it with a scoff because she disliked the cut of the statue’s nose.
“It’s a shame your tutor left for his fool’s errand,” Berenice said. “Pharaoh has to act and cannot wait for his return before doing so. Whether or not he agrees to the ransom, the people will see any further delay as the weakness it is.”
“Philostratos might succeed,” Cleopatra said. “There’s still hope for a solution.”
Berenice tutted. “We make our own solutions. Egypt’s hope is in true leadership, not in rented salvation from across the sea.”
She moved to the window where the light silhouetted and accentuated her figure. Amani grimaced. Berenice was not nearly as attractive as she assumed. Besides, adulthood came to everyone. Berenice was nineteen, but it wasn’t as if she had earned it.
Cleopatra collapsed onto a couch and crossed her legs so that one bare foot dangled in the air, her sole pointed at Berenice.
“When Pharaoh asks what we should do in this matter,” Berenice said, “I know well what I shall answer him.”
“He won’t ask,” Amani said.
“Cyprus is ours,” Berenice continued, “and we will not pay for what we already own.”
“The time will come,” Cleopatra said.
Amani looked surprised. “You think Pharaoh will pay?”
“The time will come when Berenice will be consulted,” Cleopatra said, “if not by father, then by Alexandria.”
Berenice steadied her wig. “The people will bow before me.”
“And your brother,” Amani said.
It was not a kind remark, and in truth, the boys were still young. If Berenice were to take the throne too soon, there were other men of marrying age, hidden away in foreign lands.
Berenice lowered her gaze at Amani. “Remember, you’re only here because you’re clever. Do you know why I’m here? Because I’m important. I will always be important. Make sure you stay clever, little girl. There’s always another to take your place.”
Amani ignored the challenge and asked, “Do you think you’ll make a good queen?”
Berenice spun with delight. “I will be radiant.”
“Your mother enjoys being co-regent,” Cleopatra said.
Berenice stopped, and her gown swung lazily from side to side. “Everyone releases their power, eventually.”
A chill crept through Amani’s flesh, but she told herself that Berenice’s threat was all posturing. She knew the family history of the Ptolemies; the sisters argued as sisters do, but she had always assumed they loved each other. Maybe as adults, they would lose something to the madness of politics, but in their youth, there could still be love. Yet, as was often demonstrated, Berenice was no longer a child. Maybe she had outgrown her sisters.
Amani broke the silence. “Cleopatra would be a good queen.”
“She’d be a joke. A small one which no one gets.”
“You should be nice,” Amani said. “You’re family.”
Berenice glanced to the door and lowered her voice. “If you were really one of us, you’d understand. Some things are more important than family.”
Amani settled onto the couch, finding comfort as an act of defiance. “I am one of you. There is no place where I belong more.”
Amani, a companion of Cleopatra, seeks to rediscover Egypt’s suppressed science and history. She is the beloved of her princess become queen, but that may not be enough to overcome the system they’ve inherited. If she fails, her country and Cleopatra, both, could fall. History meets fantasy, and together, they create something new. Experience an intelligent thriller about star-crossed lovers and an ancient science that might have been.
Thaddeus Thomas lives on the Mississippi River with his wife and three cats. Steampunk Cleopatra is his first novel, but he has a short story collection available at his website, ThaddeusThomas.com. There he also runs a book club where readers can receive indie book reviews and recommendation. His second book—Detective, 26 AD—releases July 9th and follows Doubting Thomas as he is conscripted to be an investigator for Pontius Pilate.
Book Title: Steampunk Cleopatra
Author: Thaddeus Thomas
Publication Date: 21st May 2021
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 419 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy