Dreamers (Legacies of the Ancient River)

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9780373786336: Dreamers (Legacies of the Ancient River)

In the land of Pharaoh, Tuya has always been a slave. As a little girl, she was sold as a playmate to a wealthy child who became her best friend. But as she approaches womanhood, beautiful Tuya is betrayed and cast out. Now she belongs to Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh's guard. Yet her heart is owned by handsome Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers. Proud, arrogant Joseph dreams of freedom, of his own household, of Tuya as his queen. Shared dreams will sustain Joseph and Tuya through the deepest of sorrows and most unbearable of separations...but is it God's will to make the dream their destiny?

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About the Author:

With nearly four million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, including The Tale of Three Trees, Don’t Bet Against Me, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Hunt is one of the most sought-after collaborators in the publishing industry. Her nonfiction book Don’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Angela’s novel The Note (with sales of over 141,000) was filmed as the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie for 2007 and proved to be the highest rated television movie in the channel’s history. She often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences, and she served as the keynote speaker at the 2008 American Christian Fiction Writers’ national conference. She and her husband make their home in Florida with mastiffs. In 2001, one of her dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest dog in America.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Thebes, Egypt

A high-pitched giggle broke the stillness of the garden. From between the branches of the bush where she hid, Tuya saw her mistress pause in mid-step on the path. "Tuya, I command you to speak," Sagira called, peering around the slender trunk of an acacia tree. "You must make more noise, or how am I to find you?"

Tuya deliberately rustled the ivy on the wall behind her, but the noise was slight and Sagira did not turn toward the sound. Finally Tuya took a deep breath and spoke: "Life, prosperity and health to you, my lady!"

"Aha!" Sagira turned and sprinted toward Tuya's hiding place as the slave girl darted from the bush. "I found you!"

"But you haven't caught me!" Tuya cried, arching away from Sagira's grasping hands.

The two girls ran, laughing, through the garden, until Sagira tripped over a rock at the edge of the pond. Pinwheeling, she struggled to keep her balance, then surrendered to the pull of the earth and fell with a splash into the shallow water.

Tuya's heart leapt into her throat, but after a moment Sagira sat up and howled with a twelve-year-old's unrestrained glee. Tuya laughed, too, then stopped. The lady Kahent might be watching. Would she have Tuya whipped for this mishap? She glanced toward the house. "I am sorry, mistress, truly I am."

Sagira pulled dark ribbons of wet hair from her face and stood in the knee-deep water, then took a deep, happy breath. "It wasn't your fault, Tuya," she said, moving to the edge of the pool. Her thin linen sheath clung to her wet body and accented her budding figure. A trace of mud lay across her delicate face and her dark eyes sparkled with mischief. "Would you like me to pull you in? The water is wonderfully cool."

"No, my lady." Tuya looked toward the house again. "I should not like to muss my dress. Your mother would not approve."

"Then I command you to keep still." The floating lotus plants jostled each other as Sagira climbed out of the pool. "Our little game is not done."

Tuya stood as still as a post, her arms hanging rigid until her mistress dripped in front of her. "There!" Sagira clapped wet hands on the slave's bare shoulders. "I caught you! I win again!"

"Yes, my lady."

"I must win." Sagira grinned wickedly as she flung water from her hands into Tuya's face. "It is only fitting that Pharaoh's niece should win in everything she undertakes."

Tuya said nothing, but smiled as Sagira pirouetted in front of the long reflecting pool. She paused and studied her watery image. "Do you think me beautiful, Tuya?"

Tuya lowered her gaze as she pondered her answer. Should she speak as a friend and tease Sagira about the small gap between her front teeth? Or should she reply as a dutiful servant and assure her mistress that no girl in the two kingdoms could rival her beauty and charm?

Not an easy decision, for Tuya had lately been reminded of the solid line between friendship and servanthood. She had been only six years old when presented as a gift for Sagira's third birthday, and as children they had shared everything. But though she often felt like Sagira's older sister, when her mistress's red moon had begun to flow, Sagira's mother, the lady Kahent, had urged her daughter to put aside her baby name and assume a mantle of dignity. Her new name, Sagira, or 'little one,' referred to her petite frame.

Tuya had never been called anything but Tuya, for slaves were not permitted the luxury of adult names, and of late Sagira's mother had been quick to emphasize the gulf existing between masters and their slaves. Certain attitudes and actions were proper while others were not. Twice Tuya had been whipped for overstepping the bounds of propriety, but Sagira seemed not to have noticed the newfound care with which Tuya formulated her answers, attitudes and comments.

Diplomacy won out. "You are beautiful, mistress," Tuya whispered, lowering her head in an attitude of deference. "Lucky is the man who will be your husband."

"And you, Tuya? Do you never dream of marriage?" Sagira cocked her head and gave her slave an engaging smile. "Do you wonder what it is like to kiss a man? To sleep with him as my mother sleeps with my father?"

Tuya felt her cheeks burning. "I dare not think of those things," she said, stealing a quick glance toward the wide doors that opened into the courtyard. "I am your servant. I will go where you go, and serve you always."

"Tuya." Sagira's voice rang with reproach, for she had seen her servant's frightened glance. She took Tuya's hand and pulled her into the privacy of an arbor. "You can speak freely now," she said, a slow smile crossing her face. "You need not fear my mother."

"I don't—"

"Don't pretend with me, Tuya. I know about the whippings. Even though you acted as though nothing had happened, I saw the mark of the lash on your shoulders and asked Tanutamon about them. He said my mother ordered both whippings."

"I am sure I deserved them." Tuya's stomach tightened as her ears strained for sounds of eavesdroppers beyond the trees. Would even this conversation be reported to Lady Kahent?

Sagira's eyes lit with understanding. "You did not deserve it. The first time was because you were wearing my jewels, but you did not tell my mother I asked you to model them for me. And the second time was because we were laughing together—"

"I was too familiar. A slave should not be on such close terms."

"You are my friend, Tuya. We have laughed and cried together since I was a baby. Can we stop being friends now?"

Tuya smiled in a fleeting moment of hope. Sagira seemed earnest, and her mother could not see into the thickly green arbor. Perhaps she could safely open her heart.

"I do not know how to behave anymore," she confessed, lifting her gaze. "Your mother says now that you are grown, I must be your servant, not your friend. She said although you may confide in me, I must not speak what is on my heart, for no one cares what a slave thinks."

Sagira flushed to the roots of her hair. "She did not say such a thing!"

Tuya pressed her lips together and kept silent.

"My mother is the best mistress any slave could have," Sagira said, turning on Tuya with a flash of defensive spirit. She crossed her arms and sat on a low bench in the arbor. "Our slaves have greater freedom than any house I've seen. My father is as rich in graciousness as he is in gold."

Tuya slowly lowered herself to the bench. "You are right, my lady."

Sagira sniffed. "Well, then, you do not need to worry about anything. And I have a surprise for you. When I am married, I shall take you out of this house and give you your freedom. Then you can marry as well, and we shall live next to each other and talk every day as we do now."

Hope rose from Tuya's heart like a startled bird. "You would do that?"

"Truly." Sagira's eyes glowed. "And then you shall tell me all about your husband just as you told me about what to expect with the flowering of my red moon. And when you have a baby—" Sagira looked down and twisted her hands "—you shall tell me if it is truly as terrible as it seems."

"It cannot be too terrible," Tuya softened her voice, realizing that Sagira now spoke out of fear. "I am sure that bearing the child of a man you love must be a great joy. And the priests say that offerings to the goddess Taweret will keep evil away from a woman giving birth."

The two girls sat in silence, pondering the mysterious rites they were just beginning to understand. Overhead, a hawk scrolled the hot updrafts, precise and unconcerned, a part of the sky. Tuya envied his freedom.

"Do you ever think about love, Tuya?" Sagira said, running her hands through her wet hair.

"Love?"

"How and when it begins. My mother says love comes after marriage, but I have heard scandalous things from some of the other servants. They say one of the serving girls fell in love with one of the shepherds. For the love of this shepherd, she openly defied Tanutamon. He sold her that very morning for her rebellion."

"I am sure," Tuya said, a creeping uneasiness rising from the bottom of her heart, "that the captain of your father's slaves acted wisely. Rebellion cannot be tolerated."

Sagira tilted her head and gave Tuya a searching look. "You wouldn't do that, would you? Fall in love with some man and leave me?"

"I don't think love is meant for one like me," Tuya answered slowly. "I love you, mistress. I want to follow wherever you go. I have not left your side in nine years, so I am not likely to leave it now."

"Nor would I have you leave it," Sagira answered, now serious. She reached out and clasped Tuya's hands. "By all the gods, Tuya, my heart goes into shock when I think of marrying and leaving my father's house. Only because I know you will be with me can I think about going at all."

Tuya's heart warmed at the light of dependence in her young mistress's eyes. "There is no need to worry. Your mother and father are in no hurry to find a husband for you. You are no commoner, Sagira. Pharaoh himself must be consulted."

Sagira sighed, then her mocking smile returned. "Then we will marry at the same time, and you will be my friend always." She planted a brief kiss on Tuya's cheek, then dropped Tuya's hands and stood to stretch. "Oh, this wet dress grows cold! Come, find me a dry garment, and bind my hair. We will play the hiding game in my chamber until my mother tells us it is time to eat."

Tuya smiled and hurried to match her mistress's eager step.

The girls' happy voices danced ahead of them into the house. Reclining on a pillow-laden couch in the villa's reception room, Kahent heard the sound. "Our daughter is growing up," she whispered, her dark, liquid voice intended for her husband's ears alone.

Intent on studying the scrolls on his lap, Donkor grunted.

"It is time, I believe," Kahent persisted, "to approach

Pharaoh about finding Sagira a husband. Surely the king knows his sister has a daughter of noble blood."

Donkor finally looked up. "Pharaoh knows what?"

Kahent sighed, careful not to let her frustration show. "Our king knows we have a daughter. Now he must be told that she has reached marriageable age. Her red moon has f...

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