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The Reign of Osiris (Ramses the Damned #3)

The Reign of Osiris (Ramses the Damned #3)

by Anne Rice, Christopher Rice

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Overview

The gilded adventures of Ramses the Damned, iconic creation of the legendary bestselling author, continue in this breathtakingly suspenseful tale of a titanic supernatural power unleashed on the eve of war.

A pharaoh made immortal by a mysterious and powerful elixir, Ramses the Great became counselor and lover to some of Egypt's greatest and most powerful rulers before he was awakened from centuries of slumber to the mystifying and dazzling world of Edwardian England. Having vanquished foes both human and supernatural, he's found love with the beautiful heiress Julie Stratford, daughter of Lawrence Stratford, the slain archeologist who discovered his tomb. Now, with the outbreak of a world war looming, Ramses and those immortals brought forth from the mists of history by his resurrection will face their greatest test yet.

Russian assassins bearing weapons of immense power have assembled under one command: all those who loved Lawrence Stratford must die. From the glowing jewels at their necks comes an incredible supernatural force: the power to bring statues to life. As Ramses and his allies, including the immortal queens Cleopatra and Bektaten, gather together to battle these threats, Ramses reveals that the great weapon may have roots in an ancient Egyptian ritual designed to render pharaohs humble before Osiris, the god of the underworld. The resulting journey will take them across storm-tossed seas and into the forests of northern Russia, where they will confront a terrifying collision of tortured political ambitions and religious fervor held in thrall to a Godlike power. But the true answers they seek will lie beyond the border between life and death, within realms that defy the imagination of even an immortal such as Ramses the Great.

In Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris, Anne Rice, revered and beloved storyteller ("queen of gothic lit, the maestro of the monstrous and the diva of the devious" —The Philadelphia Inquirer), in collaboration with her son, acclaimed bestselling novelist Christopher Rice ("a magician; a master" —Peter Straub), bring us another thrilling, seductive tale of high adventure, romance, history, and suspense.

AN ANCHOR ORIGINAL


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101970331
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/01/2022
Series: Ramses the Damned , #3
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 7,743
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

ANNE RICE is the author of thirty-seven books. She died in 2021. CHRISTOPHER RICE published four New York Times bestselling novels before the age of thirty and has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Together with his best friend and producing partner, New York Times bestselling novelist Eric Shaw Quinn, he runs the podcast and video network, The Dinner Party Show.

Hometown:

Rancho Mirage, California

Date of Birth:

October 4, 1941

Date of Death:

December 11, 2021

Place of Birth:

New Orleans, Louisiana

Place of Death:

Rancho Mirage, California

Education:

B.A., San Francisco State University, 1964; M.A., 1971

Read an Excerpt

1

Brogdon Castle

She was no stranger to war.

She had walked the fields of many plagues through the centuries, offered healing and comfort to the mortals who lay dying there.

She had borne witness to the fall of kingdoms, knew well the tastes and scents and sounds that split the air before a world was shattered by an apocalyptic storm.

Bektaten felt those things now. They rode the brisk, ocean winds that swept her long walks atop the sea-facing cliffs. They drummed against the stone walls of the Norman castle she had so recently restored. They rose high above the English Channel, spun off by the thunderheads rolling over the German Empire.

War was coming.

But the reports from her spies throughout the world, her beloved Heralds of the Realms, had convinced her this cataclysm would have no precedent in history, and so her eight thousand years of immortal life could not prepare her for it. Cannons that could turn a battalion of soldiers to a sea of charnel would soon be rolled into battle. Machinery that once defied imaginations would service an interlocking web of conflict unlike any she’d ever seen. All the great nations of Europe would soon be embroiled.

She could feel the coming thunder of it in her unbreakable bones.

And so she retired to her library with its leather-bound volumes containing her ancient journals, where the great mastiffs she had recently rescued watched her attentively from all corners of the stone-walled room. Outside, the Celtic Sea roared against the bases of the cliffs on which her castle stood, but within her citadel she could hear only the drumbeat of war. She lifted her pen to paper and she wrote. She wrote to all the immortals who had so recently been placed under her care. Immortals who’d been rendered so without her consent, but through the power of an elixir she had created thousands of years before.

She wrote to them of the war she feared and the temptations it would place before them all. When she was through, her loyal servants, Enamon and Aktamu, would make all the necessary copies of the letter and see that it was delivered to all of the recipients addressed therein. To Ramses the Great, once Ramses the Damned, and his immortal lover, Julie Stratford. To the dashing and mysterious Elliott Savarell, who she’d yet to meet. And to the American novelist Sibyl Parker and the immortal to whom she was still mysteriously connected, a woman who may well be the risen Cleopatra herself. She wrote to this Cleopatra as well, sweeping aside the question of whether or not she was truly Egypt’s last queen reborn, or a fragmented clone residing within her resurrected skin and bones.

Essential to address them all as one, as if they sat collectively before her. For how else to impress upon them that they were an alliance, a council in the making. The first citizens of a new kingdom that must endure within the shadows and gaps of knowledge that defined mortal humanity.

With each stroke of the pen, she tried to summon her wisdom and her experience, hoping it would form a river of strength through the fear that dominated her thoughts.

She knew it essential to write them, not just as their queen, but as their compatriot, and so she began by opening her ancient heart.

You are my children now, all of you, and given the extent of all that I must protect here at my citadel atop the windswept cliffs of Cornwall, you are my subjects too. And so I share these words with confidence that you will each place flame to paper once you have absorbed the contents of this letter so as to conceal from history the many secrets alluded to within these pages.

The events which drew us all unexpectedly together have reached their conclusion. Saqnos, the prime minister of my ancient kingdom, who for thousands of years strived to steal from me the formula for the pure elixir, has been vanquished, along with his acolytes, the fracti.

I grieve Saqnos. I cannot be untruthful about this. He was once my lover and prime minister before he turned traitor, before he was lost to his rage over the fact that I had kept my discovery of the secret to eternal life from him. But he was one of but a handful of witnesses to the glory and expanse of Shaktanu, our fallen kingdom, our ancient world. With him died memories of glittering palaces now ground to dust by time, great sailing ships lost to the winds of history, of a forgotten time when the Sahara, now desert, was dappled with crystalline pools and glistening rivers and trees that shifted lazily in temperate winds. These were the gardens of a kingdom that was spoken of by the ancient world, as Atlantis is now spoken of by this modern one.

But the destruction of Saqnos is but a prologue to what I wish to share in this letter. For his vile plots have brought us all together, and now that we are roughly and newly united, our new burdens commence.

Given the power you all possess, I must speak to you now of the terrible war I believe to be on the wing.

2

London

They were kind men, these officials from the British Museum. But their presence here in her front parlor stirred painful memories of other agents of that august institution who had tried to force their way into Julie’s home months before, all in a frenzied effort to make off with Lawrence Stratford’s last, great discovery—the ancient mummy and artifacts her father had unearthed in the hills outside Cairo just before his murder.

Of course, those men hadn’t possessed the slightest idea of the true magic and mystery contained within her father’s finds. They’d financed the expedition and felt entitled to its end results. And they’d thought it terribly ghastly Julie had insisted on displaying the mummy right here in the front parlor of her family home in Mayfair. And like the world, they’d no idea of the miracle that followed. A miracle wrought by ancient magic and the sun, the very kind of fierce, midday sunlight that filtered through the stained-glass ceiling of the conservatory now, illuminating the empty shelves that had been filled with her father’s journals only moments before.

But these were different men standing before her in this moment, gentler men. And she’d invited them here. They’d not come to collect an ancient mummy and its related artifacts, for the occupant of that sarcophagus had, to the eyes of London, mysteriously disappeared. No, these men had come for something far more intimate and personal.

Lawrence Stratford’s journals.

“I must say, Miss Stratford, we’re most impressed you were able to make a survey of this many volumes so quickly. Especially given recent events.” Eyebrow raised, the shorter of the two men studied her.

Ah, there it was again. They were beset by curiosity about the mysterious tale of her betrothal party to an Egyptologist named Mr. Reginald Ramsey. To say nothing of the earlier scandals that had marked Mr. Ramsey’s rather mysterious and sudden arrival into London society.

“My father’s legacy had been marked by much excitement, that’s for sure,” she said. “But I didn’t read the journals just these past few days. I’d spent much time with them already, so it was short work, removing the ones too personal. Surely you can understand that some of Lawrence’s innermost thoughts must not be . . .”

“Oh, of course. Of course, Ms. Stratford.”

Both men practically fell all over themselves to agree.

She felt a stab of guilt. Part of what she’d just said was a lie. But hardly a damnable one. In fact, she’d read the entirety of his journals—thirty-five volumes from a lifetime of expeditions to Egypt—in a single day’s time. And she’d memorized every word. These were talents afforded her by the same elixir that had changed the color of her eyes to blue, that ensured her tangle of brown curls remained the same length and the same shining luster. That made her flesh and bones all but indestructible. That had given her the gift of eternal life.

But she could not tell these men this.

And she felt grateful for them. Grateful that in this time of conflict and unrest, they would provide a safe and sheltered home for the chronicles of her late father’s travels and blazing insights and passions for the ancient world.

They popped open the clasps on their leather cases. With gloved hands they gently placed the stacks of volumes within. It seemed fussy, the amount of care they showed. The journals weren’t in danger of falling apart. Indeed, the most recent ones were in such fine condition they served as a painful reminder of how recently Lawrence had been lost. Nothing among them was as ancient as the accounts contained inside the leather-bound volumes the great queen Bektaten guarded in her castle perched on the Cornish coast. But still, the sight of their methodical packing comforted Julie, made her feel as if this was the right choice.

“Even so, that you would take the time to facilitate during this time of trouble,” one of the men said.

“Come now, Mr. Starnes,” the taller one commanded. “Mustn’t sour Ms. Stratford’s day with your dire predictions about the troubles on the Continent.”

“Forgive my colleague, Ms. Stratford,” Starnes said with a smile. “He believes this will be a short war.”

“It will be!” the taller man pronounced. “The British declaration is but an ornament, meant to deter the Germans out of any silliness.”

“Whether it’s short or long,” Julie said, “I’m grateful to know these precious items will rest secure within the museum’s walls.”

Both men beamed at this, the little tension of their disagreement having vaporized. And then there were handshakes and assurances she could come and visit and read through the journals again at any time she liked as soon as the archivists had cataloged them all.

And then they were gone and, with them, much of her father’s memories.

She had not been prepared for this, this harsh stab of grief that struck her now as she found herself alone in the double parlor, the empty shelves in the Egyptian Room exposing the extent of all she’d handed over to strangers. And the sunlight filtering through the stained-glass window in the conservatory nearby a reminder of all her father had been deprived of. Poisoned by her scheming, greedy cousin before the true miracle of his discovery could be revealed to him.

With her heightened senses, she detected movements just outside the front doors, assumed it was the men from the museum lingering, perhaps struggling with the weight of the cases before descending the front steps. Then there was a slight scrape, and when she returned to the foyer, a white envelope rested on the little Oriental rug.

In elegant cursive, the names on the envelope read mr. ramsey and ms. stratford. And on the flap, a wax seal below the words brogdon castle.

Her heart thrumming, she tore open the letter. When the enormity of its contents became clear, she hurried upstairs in search of the other addressee, the same man who’d torn the mummy’s wrappings from himself in the front parlor of this very house months before, stepping fully into the sunlight that had streamed through the conservatory’s stained-glass ceiling, rousing from centuries of slumber.

To Mr. Reginald Ramsey, once Ramses the Great, and then Ramses the Damned, immortal counselor to Egypt’s ancient rulers. Once a powerful king of that land yourself, while swelled from the heat of victory in battle against the Hittites, you stole the elixir from a woman you dismissed as a mad priestess when you happened upon her isolated cave during your wanderings. You stole it without knowledge that this woman was my companion, and that it was not she who had discovered this elixir quite by accident, but I who had concocted it thousands of years before. I repeat these facts here not to shame you for that long-ago murder of my friend, the Hittite priestess Marupa. For all you have done with the elixir’s power since, in my view, absolves you of the initial heinousness of that crime. You used your immortality not to become an all-powerful tyrant, but to provide wise counsel to kings and queens who might otherwise have placed the ancient world on a path to ruin. You have guarded the elixir’s formula from those whose only desire is to destroy or acquire. You have balanced power with wisdom, despite your rash acts.

No, I repeat these facts of history so they might make clear to all the significance of the treaty to which you and I have agreed, a treaty which dictates that you will engage in no more rash acts. I speak specifically of your use of the elixir some months ago to resurrect remains you identified to be that of the last queen to which you gave your counsel, the last queen of Egypt, your former lover, Cleopatra.

Under your alias, Mr. Reginald Ramsey, you have promised me and those to whom you are now intimately connected that you will engage with this modern world, not seek to disrupt it or thwart its natural course of events with your incredible power and strength. Henceforth, your actions will be guided by your thirst for knowledge and experience, and tempered by your love for your immortal companion, Julie Stratford, daughter of the man who accidentally discovered what you assumed would be your final resting place. For reasons which have become clear since our parting a short time ago, I must hold you to this promise now more than ever.

Kinship, Ramses said to himself as he passed the letter’s pages to Julie. Let me feel only kinship with my new queen. Not this roiling anger. Not this sense of being imprisoned through elegant words.

But it was a struggle.

He’d read the letter several times in its entirety, then reviewed the passage addressed specifically to him once more, hoping his anger would recede. But it did not. And now he gripped the arms of this soft upholstered chair in the bedroom where he and Julie never slept but made love frequently.

There was so much of his life the historians would never know.

Ramses II of Egypt did not die of old age as the biographies claimed. No stela had recorded the truth of those years—that his own son realized his father was not aging as a mortal man should, that the makeup and beards Ramses wore were a ruse, and that whatever the source of this miracle, it posed a threat to his own ascendancy. Not Plutarch, not Herodotus, not the historians of this twentieth century, not a one knew the hours Ramses spent being tortured by his once-loyal offspring as the man furiously demanded the secret to eternal life Ramses had guarded ever since its discovery.

It’s theft, he reminded himself.

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