Editor-In-Chief: Charbel Baini

Nightmare In Egypt…Part 15/ Feras Werr


The grounds quaked under the heavy march of the colossal Egyptian army as it progressed through the endless country that lied ahead. Its' one hundred thousand soldiers and twenty thousand chariots steadily crossed the Sinai Peninsula with utmost order, resisting the hot rays of the sun's desert, and the boiling sands of the earth. It valiantly camped at night amongst the beasts that ruled the black hours of the wilderness; it defied the impossible rugged terrains and unwearyingly marched day after day knowing only one target, to reach Sidon and Tyre. They crossed the lands of the philistines and commenced the uphill terrains of Transjordan and glided through its hills with precision till they reached the outskirts of Tyre. All the inhabitants rocked with awe at what the well organized army heralded within its wake. The food supplies and fresh water were well rationed to its troops. The wise commanders made use of the produce of the enormous forestry and animal prey they would encounter on the way. Outstanding amounts of weaponry, chariots, horses and man power were available. The army possessed an iron will to achieve victory at its upcoming conquest and to defend its lands against the aggression of the invaders. Nothing would stop it but a catastrophic uncalculated upturn of events and that was totally impossible as wise commanders with experience disciplined its divisions. 
The Egyptian giant swallowed Tyre with one day. The Hittites were crushed under a heavy surprise assault not expecting the size of the army that unleashed its fury upon them. The Egyptians were given orders to slaughter immediately any enemy upon assault. They wanted to demolish any Hittite signs from within the city and reestablish Egyptian dominance permanently. Once accomplished, they marched towards Sidon and annexed it with no notable resistance. 
Ramses being overwhelmed with content at his army's performance gave orders to press forward and attack the disputed borders of Kadesh. By this he wished to give his enemies a hard strike to weaken their threatening powers on his domain now and in the future. At least, they would know what the Egyptians could do to protect their sovereignty. 
Muwatallis raged with insanity as the news came in. The support he sent arrived too late and returned, choosing not to attack at the news of the fall of Sidon, in fear of loss. He was devastated as he knew the size of the strike force heading towards Kadesh and his borders. He met with his allies and advisors to discuss retaliation. 
Muwatallis and his allies saw best to fully and efficiently regroup their troops in Kadesh. They would wait prepared and fight them best there. If Kadesh fell there was no way the Egyptians could be stopped. They would aim north and annex all of Aleppo and the Syrian territory. Immediately massive number of Hittite troops made their way towards Kadesh; infantry, chariots and horsemen. The blacksmiths worked day and night to produce the required amount of swords and weaponry. Huge assembly lines were set up to generate the needed quantities of chariots. The Hittites never expected to organize such an immense campaign but the danger lurking just days away was ruthless and had to be stopped. 
The Egyptian army stopped on the outskirts of Kadesh in need of resting. The hilly grounds they traveled on were a contrast to the flat terrains of the Nile they were used to. However they were energetic and zealous about the excellent progress of their campaign. The high spirits of the soldiers could be felt from the smiles and laughter on their faces. They had beaten their enemies back into their borders and couldn't dream of better results. The camp turned into life within the early hours of the night as the soldiers sat in groups discussing their adventures of bravery. Some soldiers chose to sing songs describing war valor as others danced away at their tunes. 
Ramses forbid any wine drinking for fear of health setbacks. He took excellent care of his soldiers. The best and fullest meals were prepared. No contact with women was allowed during the wars. Ramses always viewed that female presence within his army ranks only caused chaos and affected the concentration of his soldiers. He strictly forbid his soldiers to even deal with any foreign women during war duty and greatly stressed discipline. Discipline, good health and combat training were keys to win any war, he reasoned.  
In a measurable travel distance the Hittite camp glowed like a shining jewel in the thickness of the night with bonfires that marked its entrances. Ramses eyed the enemy site with Ptah as they sat down outside their tents and enjoyed their relaxing meals in the cool breeze. They were seated on wooden benches in front of a wooden table very richly elaborated with lamb meat, fruits and wine. Every now and then faint but audible laughter rose in the backgrounds. Ramses took a big piece of lamb meat within his hand and tore a morsel apart with his teeth. He took a gulp of wine and chewed mercilessly as he savored the exquisite taste that nourished his worn out body. Ptah sat down in front of him able to do nothing but look at the Hittite camp and sip deeply at his brass cup of wine. "Don’t indulge too much my friend, for you will be still sleeping while we go off to create a new story of valor in our Empire's history." Ramses announced proudly.
"Don't worry, I'll be fine. A man of my size will need a barrel of this red stuff to doze me off. Ramses did you see the size of that camp?" 
Ramses put down his cup of wine and stood up. He faced the camp and pondered deeply. His mouth released echoes of his thoughts, "I have no doubt that tomorrow will be a mighty clash Ptah. I don't believe that our lands and people will ever forget tomorrow."
"And all for the will of one decision maker in their empire. I now know what your father meant in the court when he blamed himself for being responsible for the lives of many." 
"It's not your fault or mine, not even my fathers." Ramses returned to the table and sat down. He refreshed his cup and took a sip. "My father did a lot to reinstitute Egyptian dominance on our lands again. They stole lands from our empire when it was weak in the past. My father took back what was ours." Ramses took another sip and looked at Ptah who had the expressions of worry on his face. Ramses asked calmly, "Are you afraid to die?"
Ptah shot a surprised glance at Ramses. His question caught him off guard. Ramses put down his head and toiled the brass cup in his grasp. Gloomy tones overtook his face. "I have a confession to make." He looked back up at Ptah and said calmly, "Back in Sidon, in the middle of the battle as our enemy's grasp on the last fort was collapsing, a Hittite took a surprise attack at me. He threw his spear at me. If I hadn't ducked in the proper time it would have cracked through my chest. It was the first time in battle that I encountered death to this extent. I was stricken with fear. You're not alone if you have any such fears. But fear is the last thing I should be showing in front of my soldiers. I'm not allowed to get afraid. I'm not allowed to show my real emotions at any time. I'm not allowed to do anything but to stand firmly in front of my people and display wisdom and strength." Ramses took a deep breath in and continued, "The gods only know what kind of thoughts are going in my mind in fear of any loss tomorrow."
Ptah was speechless at the young mans' emotions and thoughts. He realized that even leaders need from time to time to release their burdens. He felt that Ramses had just given him confidence not at all expected. He commented assuring, "Ramses, if I was in your place, I would have done the same thing. You did what you had to do to save Egypt from death and destruction. You have behaved like a strong and caring ruler. If we have our concerns, so do the Hittites. They are in no better position. The amount of troops we have deployed at their frontiers have put them through a nightmare. You and I know very well what it takes to put together an army that size."
A shooting star in the sky caught Ramses's eyes. He watched as it raced through the sky and disappeared behind the distant lands. The skies above boasted its sparkling nightly population. The settings reminded him of a walk he once took with Sekhmet under a similar Egyptian sky. She was telling him of how one day he would be a good strong ruler like his father was and how much his father was looking forward to seeing him grow and share the responsibility. A similar shooting star showed in the skies and distracted their conversation. It resembled an abundant cluster of light as it shot down elegantly and swiftly. Sekhmet told him that, "If a wish was made just before the flying light showed, it was a sign from the gods that they were listening." Ramses closed his eyes and enjoyed the image of Sekhmet in his mind. He missed her so much. He missed her comforting words. 
He announced in an assured voice, "I feel that the gods are favoring us. I was thinking of striking tomorrow with only the majority of our forces. The Hittites will expect us to attack with full force tomorrow. They expect nothing less from a young man whom they think is probably unwise to lead such a big battle. I want to save a last minute force incase half way through the battle any surprising events should occur."
"The Hittites rely on chariot force at the beginning to inflict a heavy blow on the enemy. Infantry are no match for the heavy forces of the chariot. What do you suggest we do?"
"Immobilizing those chariots should be frustrating for them, don't you think? Any well trained spearman of ours could kill a horse chariot and do that job. For this purpose I have trained all our men on spear throwing extremely well. A division of five thousand should do the job."
"This might sound crazy for you but I will have spearmen at the front of our lines to thrust at the horse chariots. I will have a great portion of our chariots attack immediately after. I will have a good part of our infantry attack at a latter stage. As for our reserved forces, I will take five thousand chariots, and fifteen thousand infantry aside and have them wait further orders. At the same time I don't want to curtail our striking force."
"What if we have our chariots attack with full force like they do…what do you think could be the setback in this?" pondered Ramses.
"I don't want to do the obvious for them. I want to give them something that would confuse them. An attacking force of five thousand infantry with spears at the beginning of our assault should give them the impression that we are naive and have them act with carelessness. But I'm sure our spear throwers will give the required blow to their chariots and begin handling the chariot soldiers. Some divisions of soldiers on horseback will do good support for the spear throwers. Then I will have our chariots attack only.  The following force of infantry will perform tasks of support for the chariots advance and will handle and suppress their infantry. Fifteen thousand chariots will be an exceptional striking force. I don't think our enemies have this massive charioting."
"At what ever expense, I'm interested in curtailing their chariot power. I don't want my infantry forced with the task of going down to the battle ground to face their chariots. I do wish everything goes as we expect tomorrow."
"Don’t worry Ramses. I have fought the Hittites before with your father. I know their striking style. They give extraordinary importance to chariots in the war."
The evening of analyzing went on for a long time. Many plans were revised. Nevertheless Ptah felt that the spearmen were well trained at striking from a distance and could do a good job at immobilizing their enemy's chariots massively. Ramses trusted Ptah's point of view as he was a responsible element in many victories. Tomorrow's daylight will reveal a lot of things for them.
*****
Isis watched as the eagle hovered over her and dropped its human prey nearby. Its forceful wing flapping stirred up a strong dusty wind current. She had never seen an eagle that size. It was huge and hand wings almost taller than her length. It had magnificent strength. Its human shadow showed clearly against the bright morning sunlight. Isis thought that it might be a god and obediently kept on her knees in front of it.      
They were in an open field with no one in sight. There was a deep metal pot full of water set in the midst of a circle of stones. The metal pot had a huge nest of wooden sticks underneath it. The eagle flew over the body and ripped open its stomach and chest. Blood sprouted from the body soaking Isis and the entire surroundings. Isis gave a shriek of disgust at the sight of the ruptured body. The eagle dipped its claws inside the body and attempted to take some of the intestines out but they only chipped within its powerful claws. It took what ever part was salvaged in its claw and flew over the pot and released its contents. It then settled down and looked at Isis. Isis was terribly confused at what her captor meant. The eagle seeing that she didn't understand flew and did the same performance over again. Isis's heart skipped a beat. She jumped up and took a dash in a random direction. The eagle shot after her and began bumping into her while beating her with its wings. Isis fought back and covered her face with her arms. The eagle screamed as it beat harder at her and forced her to walk back and sit in her place. She knew that the creature was fast and strong and wasn’t going to release her easily. 
Reluctantly she looked at the body and dipped her fingers inside. She tore out what ever her hands captured and threw it in the pot. Isis threw up twice before she completed her task. She sat pale faced and breathing hard as she viewed her captor brush a stick at her. She understood it wanted her to light a fire. "Why on earth was this god eating this man? He must have not given his promised sacrifices," she reasoned. She felt really lucky that she always gave in the sacrifices that she promised to the gods. This man's fate made her back chill.
She placed the stick vertically with its bottom tip on the sticks underneath the pot and turned the stick quickly in her hands. Very soon a thin line of smoke arose. In moments the fire caught on. Isis crept back away from the pot and viewed the ceremony.
The eagle sat patiently with its soul meditating. It was thinking only of the black force of evil. In due time the water boiled and what was left of the body parts began frying. Setekh began chanting, "Channels of all evil, whose power is very lethal, your subject requires your presence, to set him free of this animal and wear his old body back. Channels of all evil…" After a while the field they were in filled with very thick fog. Isis was no longer able to see a thing clearly around her. She froze in her place and felt the grounds underneath with her hands. Were they still in the same place? Where was she? Suddenly a figure began focusing in a very small distance. Her eyes widened as Setekh emerged. Tears filled her eyes as she saw her beloved approach her. Isis jumped up and ran towards him. She cried like a child between his arms and hugged and kissed him hysterically. Her plight was over. Her troubles all ended. He was going to make things alright again. 
*****
Setekh watched as Isis emerged from the small stream. Numerous streams constructed by the farmers for irrigation were present in their area. Isis's red hair flowed beautifully like the majestic Nile down her shoulders and back. Her hair was an elaborating crown that complimented her head and beauty so well. Her white complexion shined fabulously stirring his hunger for her. Setekh eyed the faint bruises on her back that still showed from the flagellation. His blood boiled with anger. He was going to make Sekhmet pay for the pain and humiliation she caused Isis. He will make her die with suffering.  
. Isis stood besides a tree, boasting her full beauty, checking her dried up gown that hung on a tree branch. They were secluded in an unpopulated area, just the two of them and nature's blossoming greenery. Setekh rose up and walked up to her. He took her between his arms and kissed her lips passionately releasing his intentions to her. Isis smiled back and they both lied down on the green carpet of grass besides the stream bank.
Within moments they both rested besides each other out of breath, panting heavily. Isis enjoyed every moment she spent in her lovers arms, she enjoyed the way he expressed his love to her. He was gentle warm, passionate, and handled her softly. 
"Do you know what I will give you as a present on our marriage?" Isis rolled over to her left side and messaged her lover's chest with her hand, "What my dear."
"Sekhmet's head." Isis gasped and sat up. She looked at Setekh and commented, "Although I hate her, I don't want to harm her."
"She will pay for the way she treated you." Setekh sat up and punched the grounds with his fist. "No body touches you with any harm and gets away with it."
"Setekh, please, can't we let them be and live our lives peacefully. I only want you. I felt so cheap when I thought things over. I overturned on my brother Seti. I wanted my brother dead. Can't you see? The gods are punishing us for our bad intentions. I don't want anything but you. We will go somewhere far away and live peacefully. I'm sure that Ramses will pardon me if I show repent and worship in front of him for forgiveness. He will take into deep consideration his father's love to me and pardon me. We can then live peacefully."
Setekh gave Isis a concerned look, "You resemble a very naïve child. Ramses is a military man right now. His heart is hard and knows no mercy on traitors. He will never forgive you. Even if he does I have crossed a one way path that has no turning back."
Isis placed both her hands on Setekh's shoulders and begged, "Setekh don't scare me. I've seen enough misery that is sufficient for my entire life time. Please tell me the truth. What do you mean? We can still create a better future for ourselves."
"You don't understand. I need your love and understanding. I love and want you by me always. But…" Setekh's face filled with gloominess. He knew he had no choice but to tell his lover the truth. He took a deep breath in and explained, "The agreement I made with the forces of evil will not forsake me till I've fulfilled the purpose that made me form the agreement with them. If I back up before, the cost will be my life."
"Setekh! what are you saying. Are you ill?" Isis shook him violently, "What by the gods are you saying, and who are the forces of evil?"
"No I'm not ill. This is my world Isis, the world that I have always lived in. These forces have granted me heavy powers against my loyalty to them. But Isis listen to me. With my powers I'm strong. I will use them to help me rule Egypt and realize my dreams of power and wealth."
Isis's eyes raged with disappointment. She screamed out, "I don't want wealth and power anymore! I want you, only you! Setekh, there has to be a way out of this!"
Setekh shook his head and answered, "There is no turning back. I have a score to settle with Ptah, Ramses and Sekhmet. Once I have done that Egypt will be all mine and you and I will rule."
"Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you say who you really were before I got involved with you! You had no right to hide such things from me! I want to feel safe Setekh. I want to settle down with a person that will make me feel safe, loved and cherished. I don't want anymore hardship!"  
"Isis I love you and will not let anything happen to you. By the gods I will protect you and make you feel safe always. I promise. It's only a matter of time before you and I sit on the throne and have a happy life. Just be patient and ambitious. Share my dream Isis once more. If I failed once, this time I will make no mistakes." 
Isis gave Setekh a smart slap across his face. She turned away from him and sat down far away. She was choking with worry. The only safe haven she had thought of was dark and condemned to a frightening destiny. She didn't know what was to be done for her to have a safe peaceful life again. She didn't want to hear anymore of what he was saying. All of a sudden they were coming from a perfect stranger. This was the first time she felt a strong heart change towards her once sought lover. The huge burdens and agony she faced changed her views drastically on what life was really about. It made her focus on a new perspective and seek a new future accordingly.   
Setekh rubbed his cheek thoroughly. Isis had changed. She had never treated him that way before. Her words and views were drastically different. He felt himself speaking to a different person. He said no more. Tomorrow she will be calmer and he will convince her. They slept without saying a word to each other under a shack of light wood and straw that Setekh built. Setekh woke up the next morning to find himself sleeping alone. His love was gone. 
*****
Isis's heart glowed as the gates of Memphis showed in the distance. Civilization was welcomed after the barbaric forest she lived in. Soldiers guarding the entrance watched the caravan of nomadic merchants she traveled with enter peacefully. She wore a grayish robe of thin material with a long white scarf that was wrapped around her head. The merchants gracefully gave her the robe at the sight of her torn gown. She made up a story of thieves that sacked her master's caravan on their way from Thebes to Memphis and how they forsook her alone in the wilderness with a miracle. 
As soon as they reached the main market square she thanked the merchants for their kindness and for allowing her to travel with them. Isis found herself wandering endlessly in the paths of Memphis. She kept her head rapped in the scarf for fear of any friends or relatives seeing her. She mustn't be seen by anyone in the palace for fear of recapture. 
It was midday and the market square bustled with foreign and local people. Stores opened their doors for the buyers and merchants behind exhibition stalls populated the entire area. Some were busy displaying their possessions to potential buying or for trading while some where hollering about marketing their products. Isis had lived most of her time in the palace and its premises. She seldom wondered or walked the paths of Memphis aside from visiting relatives or noble family's from time to time. The vigorous energy that was about her stunned her. Oriental rugs, household pottery, iron tools and utensils of various purposes, small weaponry, spices, wooden farming utensils, carpentry services, clothes of various fashions, blacksmiths and goldsmiths shops, inns for travelers, all were present and open for business. 
Hundreds of voices mingled in the atmosphere. The market was also a place for socializing. Many families met and chatted about their worries and affairs. Kids played and ran in random directions with each other. Spurts of buyers bargaining with merchants erupted here and there. Clusters of young men were dispersed between the crowds. It was apparent from their eyeing that they were discussing the qualities of the many females around. They gave laughs every now and then at a joke or comment. A commotion erupted at a nearby stall. A small crowd of people hurried to see what was going on then a huge wave of laughter erupted. Isis took a peek and giggled as well as a woman was giving a youth an excellent scolding for taking a pass at her. She was quite an attractive figure posing an allurement for the likes of her victim. The youth blushed with shame and ran off saving himself further embarrassment. He was probably dared to prove his manly character by his peers. 
Women were the dominant features in the streets. Most of the men were gone off to war. Isis heard a lot of side talks from concerned women about the well being of their husbands and sons. All the families seemed to have at least one family member drafted to army service. An elderly mother fretted as she had five mature sons within the troops. She commented to her friend that as soon as they heard the news of the drafting they left. Her sixth son was pardoned by the commander in chief. Seeing her old age and her husband, he pardoned their sixth young son to look after them.
Despite the loud voices of the marketers Isis could hear the rushing waters of the Nile in the background surface from time to time. The Nile always captivated her with its mighty endless waters. It meant life and prosperity to her people. It was a vital element in the everyday lives of the Egyptians and will remain so. The priests say that the gods blessed the Nile and promised their people that the waters would never end as long as they gave them their yearly sacrifices and never angered them. Intermittently the mighty god Khnum punished the people for their sins and flooded it in the wet season. The flooding would kill a lot of people, probably the ones that the god was angry from.           
Isis had to find work and shelter. This was her top priority. She thought about the proper way to do so and keep discreet. This was going to be a very hard task but it was better than lying around in the streets like beggars with no hope. She might softened somebody's heart and convince him to help her. Egyptian land lords owned fields that they cropped and are in constant need of labor whether to seed their enormous lands or harvest. Even if work was temporary till summer harvest it would at least provide shelter for the upcoming period of time. 
Isis rewrapped the scarf around head so that her face only showed. She needed some air to waste away the intense sweating that soaked her head and body. The high temperatures were at their best and the scarf was a true burden. She looked closely for any signs that would help her begin her trek for work. She caught a glimpse of five people surrounding a well clothed man accompanied by his servant. The five were dressed with clothes implying the heavy duty work they waited to be staffed for. The servant was carrying a bag full of products that the well clothed man must have bought from the market. She approached them and listened carefully as the helper announced, "Master is very generous and will reward you well if you prove to be good and finish seeding the land in three days."
One of the workers protested, "You're asking me for my plow and horse as well. The pay is not enough."
The helper replied arrogantly, "I'm sure we will find another person who will love the pay…"
"OK, OK, I will accept."
The helper added, "I need two more workers."
The workers suddenly erupted into pleadings. The helper picked two out of the remaining few and ended the quarreling. Isis boldly came up to the crowd. The men all made way for her as they saw her advancing. The noble man looked at her as she slipped her scarf a little down her head. "Master may I inquire if you have room for a lady's work at your premises."
The helper looked with astonishment at the request. The noble man eyed her shiny red hair and attractive facial features well. His eyes revealed another form of interest other than what she asked for. He blinked and answered in a mocking voice, "What kind of work are you interested in?" 
She answered calmly, "I know how to do household chores. I can help the workers seed and harvest as well." 
The noble man caught Isis's hands and examined them closely, "Your hands are that of a well comforted woman. Your speech reveals that you are well learned. You never worked as a servant or worker before. What do you hide exactly within your requests?"
 Isis heartbeats intensified. She completely forgot how vulnerable she was at disguising herself. Her plans got blown off quickly. She turned around and left. The nobleman called out for her but returning back only meant more trouble. She got startled at the glimpse of Satis with palace servants in the market. She panicked and looked for a place to hide. She tried to mingle herself well within the clusters of people but the servants began spreading at the stalls to buy. Isis found herself in the midst of five women that were walking in a straight line. She impulsively mingled with them and walked into what ever direction they headed. Very soon she found herself climbing with them a wooden platform for display. The platform was a small length above the ground which made them visible for all in the market. A merchant from Tyre had bought the women to Egypt especially for slave sale. Isis tried to climb down but a man shoved her back in the line not noticing that she was a stranger. Isis knew that she would be noticed sooner or later. However she kept quiet in hopes that she would pass unnoticed. Interested men stood at the base of the stage pondering any potential buying. Their eyes roamed all over the women analyzing their features very carefully. Anubis, a bar owner, and Seth, anther fellow, stepped up from the crowd. Anubis was an old fat character with a bald head and short length. He had extremely rough facial features that reminded Isis of one of the hyenas that attacked her earlier. His friend was much younger with more generous height and a muscular body. 
He announced to his friend, "I think I will take two of these gorgeous women. My guests are getting bored of the women at the bar. I could do with fresh ones don't you think?"
His friend nodded in agreement. Anubis pointed to Isis and another woman and nodded to the organizer of the ceremony. He rubbed a number of gold coins in his fingers. The man pulled nervous Isis and the other women from the display and brought them to their new master. Seth's eyes widened in astonishment as he saw Isis approaching. He knew who she really was. He was doing some painting chores at Seti's palace for one of the rooms when she walked by, well guarded, to check the work. All the workers worshipped in front of her. He managed a glimpse of her unable to resist her beauty before he joined his colleague in their respect back then. "Then it's true" Seth murmured while looking at Isis. 
Isis' heart beat soared frantically as she saw the how the young man was looking at her. Her mind was racing with solutions to the predicament she was in.
"What is true my friend." Anubis asked as he paid the slave seller.
"I will buy that one if you please." A commanding voice announced. 
All looked back as Satis approached arrogantly. 

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