To Be King took me over a year to write, on and off, and was finished in January of 2008, clocking in at around 83600 words. Like Of Lizards And Men, this one took a lot of research, and I have to say delving into the worlds of Australian Aboriginal language, megafauna extinction patterns, ancient Egypt and Australian geography was really interesting. In fact, the research into Egypt led directly to the next novel, Sobek.
To Be King was my first serious attempt at an alternative history novel. What would have happened had the ancient Egyptians fled Egypt with the coming of the Hittites, and then found themselves in Australia? Well, over the course of thousands of years, they re-established themselves.
The year is 1770, and the old pharaoh is not long dead. However, his son and heir is disposed of, so his brother the high priest takes the role. However, the army is not happy about this, and so, when the young king-to-be is found alive, they rally around him and march on the capital. Meanwhile, the slaves of the empire – the indigenous inhabitants, the Australian Aborigines – are gathered together, and they too decide to march on the capital.
And so it comes with three sides battling one another as the first arrival of white man coincides with everything.
I was really happy with this one. In 2010, a friend read it over and she helped me revamp it, so it was sent out to a few publishers and one agent who actually requested this sort of alternate history novel. The feedback from the agent and two of the publishers was encouraging. One of the publishers wanted to see the whole manuscript, and so it was duly sent off, but then I got a form rejection. Oh well. I still think this one has a home somewhere.
Word quickly reached Karna that the forces loyal to Septu’ra were almost completely gathered together in the vicinity of the Heliopolis. Not just to the ears of the pharaoh, but through the rumours of the general populace. An easily defended section of the city had been chosen, large enough to house the citizens and refugees with relative ease, if not comfort, and around this walls had been raised to a great height of almost two men. Most of the surrounding towns and villages were deserted as people came to the capital to defend it and themselves. Some talk was of the forces of Septu’ra being a freedom force, of them coming to liberate the land from the evils of Ka-Apium. But most did not understand what was going on. The change of pharaoh had meant nothing for them; they still worked, fed their families, worshipped their gods, led their lives as they should. The supreme God-king had a different name, had promised to raise taxes although he was yet to do so, but life never really changed. This talk of rebellion and fighting and war only upset their peaceful existences; they did not care who ruled so long as they were ignored and allowed to go about their lives undisturbed.
But the people knew nothing really of what was to come. Information was in short supply; all they were told was to prepare to defend the city and the pharaoh, and by extension, the nation itself. But all that was about to change, and fear would start to overcome them, making sure their defence was not merely perfunctory, but heart-felt and absolute…
“Septu’ra has gathered the majority of his forces and they now train in his ways.”
The message that came to them was definite. It seemed as though thousands had joined the rebel commander and now he was preparing them for war. And that much information would be allowed to filter into the ears of the people, to ensure they knew it was happening now. But Ka-Apium had one more thing to do…
“Is Captain Hor-Anju ready?” he asked one of his generals as they strode along the beach, away from the ears of the palaces.
“Aye, my Lord,” the soldier responded.
“Send your most trusted messenger to him. ‘Tis time.”
“It shall be done.” And the general almost sprinted away to fulfil his task as the pharaoh stopped to look out over the sea. Several enormous vessels were anchored at the end of a huge stone quay, surrounded by countless fishing craft, all put to anchor for the night. In the distance fires had been ignited on the three guardian islands, each with a naval vessel tethered to it. Between the boats, darting in and out of and under them, in front of him two kut-akana were frolicking in the waves. That was always a good omen.
He had no doubts.
He had done everything to get where he was, and what he had just ordered be done was simply another means to an end – and that end was to ensure he would remain pharaoh for many years to come. That was all that mattered to him. He had to be the ruler of this land.
Rejection total: 89 + 4 = 93