My hands and part of my brain may be occupied with all things moving — logistics, sorting, packing, preparations for cleaning — but another part of my mind is with the cat and people in my novel, Shopat. I love spending time with my characters and I’ll be happy when the move is behind me and I can get back to writing. I thought this would be a good time to tell you more about them. There are six main characters:
Shopat [SHOW-pat], a very singular cat, is like other non-human animals in that she is mostly oblivious to the vast world of human affairs but is acutely tuned in to her own environment, everything that goes on in it, and whatever her humans are doing. She is strongly bonded to Chondo but is also very independent. She’s extremely smart and resourceful, has the most incredible athletic powers a feline can have, and can sense the pharaoh’s impending seizures — so no wonder Ancient Egyptians are in awe of her and see her as a Goddess creature sent straight from Bastet. Gazing into her exquisitely beautiful eyes (if she’ll let you), there seems to be something deeply mystical about her.
Chondo [CHON-doh] is a woman who is very unsure of her place in Ancient Egyptian society which sees the most important role for women as wife and mother. Part of her is sick of human beings which is why she spends so much time caring for and healing non-human animals — she helps tend livestock in the royal harem — and why she loves Shopat more than anything or anyone else. She will go wherever Shopat and the Gods take her as long as it doesn’t involve marriage and motherhood — she has seen too many awful, gruesome things in this regard. She is very headstrong and imagines she can prevent herself from falling in love if she chooses. By the end of the story she’s a bit more humble and realistic about the power and uncontrollability of certain human emotions though she still stands her ground in other respects.
Dag [rhymes with “sag”] is a BaMbuti from the Ituri forest in the Congo. She was abducted by Egyptians during an excursion there and brought back to Memphis for the pharaoh’s entertainment pleasure. She is less than four feet tall and, with her incredible skills and shrewdness, is well equipped to survive and protect herself by hiding from palace people as much of the time as she possibly can. She lives in this lonely way until she is brought into the orbit of Shopat and Chondo. In a psychological sense, this probably saves her life but by the end of the novel it is she who does the saving. Dag misses Mother Forest with all her heart and soul and sees Egypt as a dry, dusty desolation. Nevertheless she prefers to be outside rather than indoors. Shopat feels the same way and this is one reason they recognize each other as kindred spirits.
Nakhti [NOCK-tee] has been a soldier virtually all his life. Now a weariness with gratuitous brutalities done for questionable motives, as well as his aging body, are causing him to ask the Gods what other life there may be for him. When he’s suddenly assigned to be Shopat’s bodyguard, everything changes and a growing attraction to Chondo causes him frustration and exhilaration in the battle of wills and wits that ensues between these two determined people. His admiration for the Goddess Shopat grows from the first miracle he sees her perform. He was a skeptical doubter when first he was assigned to protect her. Never sure of his standing with the Gods, his observations of Shopat have now made him a true believer — in Bastet, at least.
A scribe by vocation, Kha [Caw] is now high priest and lord of The Temple of Bastet in Bubastis which is not where the story begins, but is where most of it takes place. A wag once quipped that Kha doesn’t relieve himself in the chamber pot without calculating the political impact. Everyone around Kha is viewed though the prism of his ambitions and desires. Few realize this when they meet him because he is a master of charm and with his keen intelligence, is an expert on human nature and what manipulations will produce what results.
Sebni [SEB-nee] is a scribe whose ambitions gnaw away at him and who comes to serve Kha in his efforts to fulfill them. He would like to have Chondo. Is there a question about how far he would go to serve his ambitions and whether he’d be willing to sacrifice her?
Shopat, Dag, Chondo and Nakhti accidentally end up in Kha’s web after the pharaoh is murdered and my story takes this little tribe on a journey of great danger.