Anyway, I've been reading up on the gods and dynasties of Ancient Egypt, getting a better idea of the overall flavor of life in the center of their politics. I'll buy more in depth books on the lives of Egyptian commoners and histories of Sumer and the Greek Isles as needed. This is all for preliminary sketches of stories surrounding my imagined grand epic. I have a better idea of how I'll flesh it out, but I'll still leave most of the particulars to whim when I get to it after finishing Sita Roryn and The Dragons of Cowtown.
In case y'all don't care to read through more speculations on what I might write, you can scroll down now. ;)
I'm thinking of doing three volumes, maybe more, of short stories, novellas, and simulated prayers and poetry set in the Egypt-esque world. Each will loosely revolve around one of the three great Kingdoms, with additional add-ons for the three Intermediate Periods and the final, semi-classical Fourth Kingdom of outside rule. This is meant to echo the actual history of Ancient Egypt, but set in a vast inland sea rather than on a great river, with nods to the Minoans, Sumerians, Caucasus cultures, Hittites, Bedouin, etc. and ending with a general invasion by a kind of amalgam of early Rome with a sudden Islamic-styled internal political upheaval. If it sounds mixed up and chaotic, that's okay for a start. The overall story will basically follow what I outlined in my last post.
The first volume will be about the rise, fast flowering, and sudden collapse of the First Kingdom. Beginning with the rags-to-riches tale of the young tough who becomes the legendary (and forever after worshiped) First Father, it will gradually lead away from the center of power as that power grows to seemingly universal heights. From the first king to a vizier of his grandson, to an artisan of a later king's tomb complex, to the wife of a businessman during the high-point of the royalty, to a lowly soldier who sees the utter destruction of the coast from a tsunami. It will thus go in a step-by-step route from obscurity to palace politics, from boredom inside the gilded cages to the awe of seeing the majesty of palace life from outside, and finally from comfort in the now peaceful kingdom to new-found poverty at the hands of an angry god. I'm not sure if this is how it will go exactly, but the out-in-out, poor-rich-poor theme sounds like a good way to introduce the cyclical story.
The second volume will begin right away with warfare, as the self-proclaimed heirs of the now nearly mythical First Kingdom fight throughout the sea to regain what was lost. Here, I'll have the novella of a sailor who, growing from a fisherman into a naval captain, becomes a king's Master of the Waters, the naval commander finally responsible for the reunification of the ancient empire. During his life, he'll see many battles from all sides and learn that the kings are not only human, but sadly fated to dying young at the hands of their enemies or from the daggers of their brothers. Nevertheless, the sailor will survive to see his sixth king crowned and the empire reborn. From this, I'll jump forward to the daughter of a desert governor being preened to be given to a king, ashamed of her family's lower status among the courtiers, who uses her wiles to gain the rights to the mines in the west and bring to the palace what becomes the fount of the empire's greatest treasure. Next, after several generations, the capital has been moved to the formerly unknown desert town, and its local leaders and priests have become the most powerful nobles in the world. Here, a greedy young priest dreams of taking the throne from the now fat and weak royals, but learns that conspiracies are nothing new to the empire and that generations of viziers and regents learn from childhood how to stop greedy little men like him. Finally, I'll follow the last prince of the empire as he goes out to quell a civil war between two upstart regional governors, only to find that they have secretly set a trap for him with the priests back home taking advantage of the situation to finally end the reign of the fishermen kings.
The third volume will be one novel-length story with a few short pieces thrown into small breaks to spice it up, with the final one a kind of retelling of the whole thing from the perspective of a priest-scholar from long past the fall of the last native dynasty. The main story will be about a Horemheb-like figure who is born during the reign of the last great king of the empire at its greatest flowering. He grows up knowing the eccentric second prince who accidentally becomes king, and watches in despair as this heretic king wallows in religious delusion while the empire begins to show cracks. Later, he tries to hold the regional governors and outsiders at bay as the heretic succumbs to his insanity and dies, then juggles fighting in the hinterlands with trying to keep watch over the new child-king who is unfortunately doomed to follow his father into oblivion. He returns to the capital with the outer empire in better shape but with the dead boy-king's vizier already enthroned as a paranoid old man clutching at any way to justify his reign, and finally takes the crown himself after the dynasty has truly ended and there is no one else left with the power to hold the now fragile empire together. The much later scholar will recount a kind of archaeologist's view of the history of the three Kingdoms from their mythical beginning, through the second and third resurgences of power and glory, to their end as a poor province of his own, much larger and more advanced civilization. He will finish his tale as his workers find the entrance to a forgotten tomb, the one of the ill-fated boy-king who was reluctantly wiped from history by the Horemheb character.
I want to have the three volumes set up as follows; the first as a loosely connected set of short stories, the second as several less-closely related novellas, and the last as a single life-long story interspersed with short cultural snippets to show the rapid changes that occur during the character's lifetime. I want to see this empire from many varied points of view; from bottom to top, from inside and out, old and young, through plain narrative and half-awed legend, and from eerie prophesy to sketchy hindsight. It's an ambitious idea, and probably far beyond my ability to make into a coherent whole, but it's the kind of story I want to read.