Merlin the Archer: The One Hundred- Command of the Pharaoh


The One Hundred: Command of the Pharaoh

I began training the infantry, taking care to defer to Kneph-Nebibi as much as possible. He glared at me as I went about my work, but I set upon making the ranks orderly as before, assembling team units and the like. The foot soldiers carried round shields and spears. I taught them to lock shields and stay in formation when advancing. I also lined them two deep as with my archers. The front line kneeling with their spears planted in the ground, pointing up and forward, the back line standing spears out. This was an excellent defensive position, built to take a charge and repel it. Also, by switching positions, the lines could advance in an orderly way, like a moving wall bristling with spears. Combined with my archers, even this small army of about sixteen hundred men was a formidable force. I asked Nefer-kah and Kneph-Nebibi for the use of two hundred spearmen to make a front line for the archery units. The shield men protected the archers from both arrows and infantry charges. I had learned all this from the Akkadians, who marched a hundred men abreast, shields locking, into battle. But the Egyptians lacked horsemen, which made the army slower and less powerful than a mounted troop would be. I wondered if they would be capable of withstanding Sargon’s cavalry. I doubted it, at least until they were fully trained. I was cautious to not become the war-leader of the infantry. That was reserved for Kneph-Nebibi. We staged war games with blunt arrows and spears with padded tips. It made our force battle ready. I had seen other troops now, and I knew we were better prepared than most.
Nefer-kah called me in. “You have made us fight better, “he said in his halting Achaean. “ What need you?”
I had an answer. I wanted a group of fast shock troops, men who would be able to make lighting strikes at and enemy’s flank wand retreat in a hurry. I knew who I wanted: Urartu and the five northmen, and my Bedu, Sadik. I also hand-picked another ninety –two men from the units, both infantry and archers. We called ourselves The One Hundred and wore red head cloths to proclaim our team status. Our job was to pick our spots in battle and rush in at crucial times to deal a death blow, rout a flank, or prevent a disaster. This group, while disciplined in its own way, was designed around the wild antics of the northmen, who charged about, creating havoc. It was a counterbalance to the orderliness of the army. Nefer-kah loved the northmen and showed them off at feasts, where they could be counted on to get drunk. Their leader was Finn, the huge red-bearded one. He was the kind of man who would look you in the eye without flinching. I knew I could count on both him and my friend Urartu, though Urartu was moody. I knew he wanted to leave Egypt and go home.
“Patience, my friend,” I said. “We must get strong first.”

Shesut and I continued our trysts. I was scared but she was a temptress who had the power to break down my caution. She and I made love behind barns, under palm trees, and even in my room, where she would appear in the dark hours unannounced.
“I am here, “she whispered to me as she slipped into my bed. I slept naked in the warm night and she was bare as well and her skin slid on mine. Her passion had been growing each time we made love, until I worried that we would be caught for her loudness, or even worse, for her falling in love with me and being caught out from that.
Her hands found me and I reached and felt her full breasts, the curve of her back and her ass. We played back and forth and then caught fire long into the night, only succumbing to being spent at last in the darkest hours.
“This is madness, “I said.
“It will be alright, my Achaean king. Trust me. I know my father. He is blind to such things.”
“He is not blind, that’s for sure. And which one of your servants will tell him? Someone will.”
She had no answer. She was so used to getting her own way.

I was drilling with the archers on the practice field when Nefer-kah drove up in his new chariot, the one I had designed. He grinned at me.
“Put on your lion-skin and sandals, Achaean. We go to meet Pharaoh and Weni. “
I must have looked shocked, because he smiled even more broadly, “and bring Red-Beard, too.”
Finn grinned back at our lord and master.
We went in carts to the Pharaoh’s palace. It wasn’t far, just north between Saqqara and the great pyramids, but towards the river in Mempheres, which Ikaron said Achaeans called Memphis. But I had not been there yet, as slaves are not to wander into the god-king’s precincts without permission. Pepi was often away in Upper Egypt anyway, where he had many palaces and temples. I t was there, with the help of his great general Weni, that he had solidified his rule after his father Userkare had been murdered in a court intrigue. I was told by Ikaron that the power of the local administrators, called Stepaks in Egyptian; nomarchs in Achaean, was growing. Men like Nefer-kah had high ambitions. Pepi had only just been able to keep the throne and crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt by crushing a multi-sided rebellion in his youth several years ago. Even one of his wives was stoned to death for her part in plot to kill Pepi and take the throne. Weni had been the judge in that case. Nefer-kah has chosen wisely as a young man, and fought on the side of Pepi. Weni, a lord of Upper Egypt, ruled the army and had defeated the desert raiders called the Sand-People three times. Still, they remained a threat. He had many Nubian soldiers under his command. I wondered if Mtombe was among them or whether he had escaped to the regions of the south where the Pharaoh did not rule. Ikaron said there was action on both fronts right now, and the Pharaoh had called a council to decide the best course. The sand-People were encroaching on the lands we had passed through in southern Kanaa, then under the protection of Egypt, perhaps with the support of Sargon. In the south the Kushite tribes were causing trouble, threatening the many Egyptians who lived beyond the great bend of the river, from Tentyra all the way to the island called Elephantine’ near the great falls of the Nile.
The council of war was held in a garden in the Pharaoh’s palace in Memphis. The palace was like that of Nefer-kah, only bigger and decorated with more huge statues, including one of Pepi himself made of copper, painted to look exactly as he did in life. All around the garden, which was walled in from the outside world, enormous columns like giant lotus reeds stood, painted black for the stem, and white and yellow and blue at the tops. They held up the huge lintel stones of the roof, though the walls were mud-brick, glazed, plastered, and painted in many colors. The walls were covered with giant pictures of the Pharaoh: hunting, smiting headless enemies, sitting with his wife making offerings to jackal-headed and hawk-faced gods. The garden had fish-filled pools made of alabaster and strange jungle plants from Punt with enormous flowers and gigantic leaves the size of elephant’s ears. In one pool that was fenced off were three enormous crocodiles; the man- killer size. They floated lazily in the calm water, half hiding under giant lily-pads, eyes just showing above the water line.
There must have been a hundred and fifty warlords and officials there. Scribes sat scratching their writing on stone tablets to record everything that was said. It was a hot day, even for the standards of the Nile valley, and servants fanned us with huge fans made of the plumes of exotic blue-green colored birds. There was wine and fruit on low tables. Incense burned in bowls, its sweet smell making the hot air seem even closer to me. We sat on three-legged stools of the common type. When we were all accounted for, Pepi entered. All stood and saluted and bowed to the god-king, who did indeed look like his statue. He was handsome and fit, about mid-thirties, I guessed. He wore the double crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, the latter slipping over the first, which was a tall cone of white with a knob on top. The outer crown was blue and gold and looked like a hat or helmet, higher in the back than in the front. The cobra of the Pharaoh was set in gold and emeralds on the front of the outer crown. He wore a small ceremonial breast-plate in the shape of the sun, made of gold and held by chains. His kilt was pure white linen, folded precisely and trimmed in gold. His collar was huge and heavy-looking, set with shiny malachite and electrum and many precious stones and scarabs of lapis and emeralds. His eyes were painted in the traditional fashion: black and gold, with additional blue lines above his eyes. There face paint over all of his face, so that greatly resembled his own statue. He held a short crook in one hand, and a flail in the other, both decorated with alternating stripes of white and deep blue. He crossed his arms across his abdomen so that the crook and flail were upright at right angles to each other, barely resting on his shoulders. His beard was perfectly braided and came down four inches from his chin and turned out slightly at the bottom. The throne was on a raised platform, four feet up from the floor, with ascending steps on all sides, like a pyramid. The throne itself was simple, though embossed with gold. He sat and waved for us to sit, and then did not move for several minutes, but just sat there looking every bit like a god-statue. It was very convincing. I was in the back, and watched the faces of the nomarchs and soldiers and officials. Some seemed in awe. If others weren’t, they hid it well. Only a handful scowled or looked bored. Most sat stock still. Two servants fanned the Pharaoh. Then I noticed a man standing off to the right hand of the god-king, on the next-to-top step. He was older by a few years, but utterly handsome and godly himself. Though he only wore a simple white and gold headcloth and plain linen kilt, and his collar was simple jet with silver, he was plainly was an important man. It was in the way he stood; relaxed and ready at the same time. His eyes were barely painted at all. They were light colored, though his features suggested a hint of black blood. Many Egyptians had negro blood in their veins. It made them exotic. Yet they were not blacks like Mtombe. Their skin was dark from the endless sun, yet delicate and pale underneath. I marveled how different they looked from the olive-skinned Akkadians and the pale-faced, black- haired Sumerians. Then again I was sitting with Finn with his white skin and flaming red beard, which even the pharaoh must have already noticed.
Weni began speaking. I could only understand a word here and there. I would have to wait until Nefer-kah told me what had been ordered. Plainly Weni was giving orders. Whatever ambitions the nomarchs like Nefer-kah might have, this would not be the time to make them known. Weni looked strong and tough; not one to be crossed or threatened. A discussion developed among the warlords and officials that went on for some time. I began to feel heavy -headed from the heat and boredom. At last Weni held up his hands and said something which was the final word. The men settled down. Then a most unusual thing happened. The pharaoh pointed in our direction with his crook and said something. His voice was weak and lispy compared to that of Weni, but he was Pharaoh. Nefer-kah stood and bowed and looked at me and said in Achaean, “stand!” I stood and bowed and saluted the god-king. Pepi said something long and involved at the end of which he laughed, and everyone, except me and Finn, laughed too. I glanced around nervously wondering what had been so funny at my expense. Nefer-kah said, without looking me, “Pharaoh wants to buy you and make you his dancing girl!” I laughed, for it seemed right. But Finn thought that was very funny and guffawed, setting off another round of raucous laughter among the men. When it had died down Weni said something and Nefer-kah bowed and motioned me to sit again, as he did also.
Then Pharaoh Pepi stood and we all stood and bowed low as he walked own the steps and out of the room. Men stared conversing with one another and drinking wine. Weni came through the crowd, acknowledging men as he came. He stood before us and we bowed and saluted him. He said, to my surprise in Achaean.” I hear you are a good leader, Achaean. What is your name?”
“Pelop, my lord, I bowed.
“Pelop.” He faced Nefer-kah. “I will see your troops in the morning.”
“Yes, my lord, “said Nefer-kah. He winked at me. Obviously he had bragged about us to Weni. Finn took a bowl of wine and drained it in one gulp and then found another. I grabbed his hand and restrained him.” Not tonight, my friend. Tomorrow night.”

We assembled the troops on the practice field at dawn. They were equipped with our practice arrows and padded spears. We waited in the relative coolness of the new day. I had an idea. I told Finn and Urartu to take the One Hundred and hide in the bush beyond the field, fifty on each side, out of sight. I ordered the archers to the middle and asked Kneph-Nebibi with deference and respect, for he was angry at not be taken to the council, to set his infantry on the flanks. I drew the ranks of archers out so that that there were few in front, and more behind. The vanguard presented a tempting target for any advancing army to pick off.
There was a commotion in the fields beyond our practice area. A line of carts came along the lane. Plainly we had gotten more than we bargained for. Pharaoh’s cart was in front, with Weni‘s second. There were a dozen more carts and then a huge column of troops, many of who were Nubians. Weni had brought an army to the estate of Nefer-kah.
We saluted and waited for Pharaoh. Weni spoke first.
“Practice spears, very well. My men will turn their spears backwards and use the butts. Have you more practice arrows?”
I answered, yes. Great bundles had been made for our war games. They were passed out to Weni’s Nubian archers.
“Let’s have a little dance!” said Weni. His captains ordered his troops to the field, in a different formation; shock troops in front, with large shields and long spears. Archers on the flanks. I watched them; they were confident, but ragged. I hoped my men would remember their discipline against an unknown opponent. I was nervous.
I said, ”each man must go down when hit.” Weni nodded and called out the order. I picked up a stick that I called my sword and ran out on the field in front of my troops. I carried a small round Egyptian shield, otherwise I was naked. it’s the way we Achaeans fight unless it’s cold.
The Nubians lined up. I could see, as I expected, that they would press across the whole line seeking a knockout by sheer force. The common tactic of the world. Weni had brought many troops. Our wide field was crowded.
I turned and faced my men and raised my sword -stick above my head. My troops answered back with a great shout and I spun around to face the enemy. Weni signaled and they came at us in a run, shouting and waving their spears. I ran up and own the front of my line yelling at the men to hold. Then I yelled, “Shoot!” The archers loosed a volley and another and another and the wave crashed on us as we fell back rapidly, firing the whole time. Our orderly retreat drew the center of the Nubian line in deeper and deeper into our line. Men obediently fell when touched on both side in great numbers. Far greater on their side. Kneph-Nebibi’s infantry held their ground, shields locked in double rows. I ran about, dodging spear thrusts. I don’t now how I wasn’t hit by an arrow. Weni’s army stalled, as I knew they would, now pressed on each flank by Kneph-Nebibi’s men. Then, there was a wild yelling and the One Hundred ran out of the bush, Finn Red-Beard roaring like a great northern bear and waving his war club above his head. They came around the end of the flanks and got in behind the Nubians, who became confused. It didn’t take long before Weni called it off.
I ordered a count. We had lost one hundred and twenty seven; Weni, three hundred and seventy.
I came back to the carts, panting and sweating Finn and the other northmen were whooping it up on the battlefield, savoring their victory. The palace women and servants and field workers had come out to watch. Shesut laughed, but she stayed back away. Nefer-kah tried to seem nonchalant, but he plainly was glad that his boasting had not been in vain. Pharaoh Pepi clapped his hands and laughed like a child. I saluted them all. Someone brought me a linen kilt and head cloth.
“Good fighting,” said Weni. ” You will teach us that.”
I bowed again, “Yes, of course, as my master says.” Nefer-kah offered my services to Weni on loan.
Weni had another idea.”Let us train for two weeks. Then we go together and fight the Sand-people up north.” Nefer-kah saluted and bowed to Weni and the god-king, who had another request. I was to teach him how to shoot Achaean style.

23 Pharaoh Pepi

“I am your slave now, “Shesut, said quietly. She was propped up on one elbow, with her other arm across my chest. She looked at me with gentle eyes.
“I am a dead slave if your father finds out.”
“I can deal with my father, “answered.” I’m not a child.” She sounded like a princess, used to command and entitlement.
“We must be careful, “I said.
“Yes, careful.”
I thought once again of Vila but per her out of my mind. I had stumbled, but I had seen it coming and hadn’t taken steps away from it. Shesut had been flirting with me rather shamelessly for some time. Egyptian court life was free and easy anyway, though it was dominated by men, of course. But the women had a sense of place in this society. They could inherit land, or even get property if the husband decided to divorce. There was no marriage proper, as in Sumer, but couples lived together as man and wife and became married by that fact. It was unusual for a young noblewoman to take on a slave as lover, at least in public, that was for sure. My life would surely be forfeit if Nefer-kah found us out. At least I would never become a free man.
Still, I desired her. She was beautiful and intelligent, wise in the ways of the court, and experienced in the arts of love-making. On the other hand, I doubted if she could bake bread! I had been without a woman for long time, since Lahalit. I was just a man, after all, and therefore weak in that way. I worried what might happen should she turn on me for some reason. But for now I felt her next to me and that felt good.

I began training the infantry, taking care to defer to Kneph-Nebibi as much as possible. He glared at me as I went about my work, but I set upon making the ranks orderly as before, assembling team units and the like. The foot soldiers carried round shields and spears. I taught them to lock shields and stay in formation when advancing. I also lined them two deep as with my archers. The front line kneeling with their spears planted in the ground, pointing up and forward, the back line standing spears out. This was an excellent defensive position, built to take a charge and repel it. Also, by switching positions, the lines could advance in an orderly way, like a moving wall bristling with spears. Combined with my archers, even this small army of about sixteen hundred men was a formidable force. I asked Nefer-kah and Kneph-Nebibi for the use of two hundred spearmen to make a front line for the archery units. The shield men protected the archers from both arrows and infantry charges. I had learned all this from the Akkadians, who marched a hundred men abreast, shields locking, into battle. But the Egyptians lacked horsemen, which made the army slower and less powerful than a mounted troop would be. I wondered if they would be capable of withstanding Sargon’s cavalry. I doubted it, at least until they were fully trained. I was cautious to not become the war-leader of the infantry. That was reserved for Kneph-Nebibi. We staged war games with blunt arrows and spears with padded tips. It made our force battle ready. I had seen other troops now, and I knew we were better prepared than most.
Nefer-kah called me in. “You have made us fight better, “he said in his halting Achaean. “ What need you?”
I had an answer. I wanted a group of fast shock troops, men who would be able to make lighting strikes at and enemy’s flank wand retreat in a hurry. I knew who I wanted: Urartu and the five northmen, and my Bedu, Sadik. I also hand-picked another ninety –two men from the units, both infantry and archers. We called ourselves The One Hundred and wore red head cloths to proclaim our team status. Our job was to pick our spots in battle and rush in at crucial times to deal a death blow, rout a flank, or prevent a disaster. This group, while disciplined in its own way, was designed around the wild antics of the northmen, who charged about, creating havoc. It was a counterbalance to the orderliness of the army. Nefer-kah loved the northmen and showed them off at feasts, where they could be counted on to get drunk. Their leader was Finn, the huge red-bearded one. He was the kind of man who would look you in the eye without flinching. I knew I could count on both him and my friend Urartu, though Urartu was moody. I knew he wanted to leave Egypt and go home.
“Patience, my friend,” I said. “We must get strong first.”

Shesut and I continued our trysts. I was scared but she was a temptress who had the power to break down my caution. She and I made love behind barns, under palm trees, and even in my room, where she would appear in the dark hours unannounced.
“I am here, “she whispered to me as she slipped into my bed. I slept naked in the warm night and she was bare as well and her skin slid on mine. Her passion had been growing each time we made love, until I worried that we would be caught for her loudness, or even worse, for her falling in love with me and being caught out from that.
Her hands found me and I reached and felt her full breasts, the curve of her back and her ass. We played back and forth and then caught fire long into the night, only succumbing to being spent at last in the darkest hours.
“This is madness, “I said.
“It will be alright, my Achaean king. Trust me. I know my father. He is blind to such things.”
“He is not blind, that’s for sure. And which one of your servants will tell him? Someone will.”
She had no answer. She was so used to getting her own way.

I was drilling with the archers on the practice field when Nefer-kah drove up in his new chariot, the one I had designed. He grinned at me.
“Put on your lion-skin and sandals, Achaean. We go to meet Pharaoh and Weni. “
I must have looked shocked, because he smiled even more broadly, “and bring Red-Beard, too.”
Finn grinned back at our lord and master.
We went in carts to the Pharaoh’s palace. It wasn’t far, just north between Saqqara and the great pyramids, but towards the river in Mempheres, which Ikaron said Achaeans called Memphis. But I had not been there yet, as slaves are not to wander into the god-king’s precincts without permission. Pepi was often away in Upper Egypt anyway, where he had many palaces and temples. I t was there, with the help of his great general Weni, that he had solidified his rule after his father Userkare had been murdered in a court intrigue. I was told by Ikaron that the power of the local administrators, called Stepaks in Egyptian; nomarchs in Achaean, was growing. Men like Nefer-kah had high ambitions. Pepi had only just been able to keep the throne and crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt by crushing a multi-sided rebellion in his youth several years ago. Even one of his wives was stoned to death for her part in plot to kill Pepi and take the throne. Weni had been the judge in that case. Nefer-kah has chosen wisely as a young man, and fought on the side of Pepi. Weni, a lord of Upper Egypt, ruled the army and had defeated the desert raiders called the Sand-People three times. Still, they remained a threat. He had many Nubian soldiers under his command. I wondered if Mtombe was among them or whether he had escaped to the regions of the south where the Pharaoh did not rule. Ikaron said there was action on both fronts right now, and the Pharaoh had called a council to decide the best course. The sand-People were encroaching on the lands we had passed through in southern Kanaa, then under the protection of Egypt, perhaps with the support of Sargon. In the south the Kushite tribes were causing trouble, threatening the many Egyptians who lived beyond the great bend of the river, from Tentyra all the way to the island called Elephantine’ near the great falls of the Nile.
The council of war was held in a garden in the Pharaoh’s palace in Memphis. The palace was like that of Nefer-kah, only bigger and decorated with more huge statues, including one of Pepi himself made of copper, painted to look exactly as he did in life. All around the garden, which was walled in from the outside world, enormous columns like giant lotus reeds stood, painted black for the stem, and white and yellow and blue at the tops. They held up the huge lintel stones of the roof, though the walls were mud-brick, glazed, plastered, and painted in many colors. The walls were covered with giant pictures of the Pharaoh: hunting, smiting headless enemies, sitting with his wife making offerings to jackal-headed and hawk-faced gods. The garden had fish-filled pools made of alabaster and strange jungle plants from Punt with enormous flowers and gigantic leaves the size of elephant’s ears. In one pool that was fenced off were three enormous crocodiles; the man- killer size. They floated lazily in the calm water, half hiding under giant lily-pads, eyes just showing above the water line.
There must have been a hundred and fifty warlords and officials there. Scribes sat scratching their writing on stone tablets to record everything that was said. It was a hot day, even for the standards of the Nile valley, and servants fanned us with huge fans made of the plumes of exotic blue-green colored birds. There was wine and fruit on low tables. Incense burned in bowls, its sweet smell making the hot air seem even closer to me. We sat on three-legged stools of the common type. When we were all accounted for, Pepi entered. All stood and saluted and bowed to the god-king, who did indeed look like his statue. He was handsome and fit, about mid-thirties, I guessed. He wore the double crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, the latter slipping over the first, which was a tall cone of white with a knob on top. The outer crown was blue and gold and looked like a hat or helmet, higher in the back than in the front. The cobra of the Pharaoh was set in gold and emeralds on the front of the outer crown. He wore a small ceremonial breast-plate in the shape of the sun, made of gold and held by chains. His kilt was pure white linen, folded precisely and trimmed in gold. His collar was huge and heavy-looking, set with shiny malachite and electrum and many precious stones and scarabs of lapis and emeralds. His eyes were painted in the traditional fashion: black and gold, with additional blue lines above his eyes. There face paint over all of his face, so that greatly resembled his own statue. He held a short crook in one hand, and a flail in the other, both decorated with alternating stripes of white and deep blue. He crossed his arms across his abdomen so that the crook and flail were upright at right angles to each other, barely resting on his shoulders. His beard was perfectly braided and came down four inches from his chin and turned out slightly at the bottom. The throne was on a raised platform, four feet up from the floor, with ascending steps on all sides, like a pyramid. The throne itself was simple, though embossed with gold. He sat and waved for us to sit, and then did not move for several minutes, but just sat there looking every bit like a god-statue. It was very convincing. I was in the back, and watched the faces of the nomarchs and soldiers and officials. Some seemed in awe. If others weren’t, they hid it well. Only a handful scowled or looked bored. Most sat stock still. Two servants fanned the Pharaoh. Then I noticed a man standing off to the right hand of the god-king, on the next-to-top step. He was older by a few years, but utterly handsome and godly himself. Though he only wore a simple white and gold headcloth and plain linen kilt, and his collar was simple jet with silver, he was plainly was an important man. It was in the way he stood; relaxed and ready at the same time. His eyes were barely painted at all. They were light colored, though his features suggested a hint of black blood. Many Egyptians had negro blood in their veins. It made them exotic. Yet they were not blacks like Mtombe. Their skin was dark from the endless sun, yet delicate and pale underneath. I marveled how different they looked from the olive-skinned Akkadians and the pale-faced, black- haired Sumerians. Then again I was sitting with Finn with his white skin and flaming red beard, which even the pharaoh must have already noticed.
Weni began speaking. I could only understand a word here and there. I would have to wait until Nefer-kah told me what had been ordered. Plainly Weni was giving orders. Whatever ambitions the nomarchs like Nefer-kah might have, this would not be the time to make them known. Weni looked strong and tough; not one to be crossed or threatened. A discussion developed among the warlords and officials that went on for some time. I began to feel heavy -headed from the heat and boredom. At last Weni held up his hands and said something which was the final word. The men settled down. Then a most unusual thing happened. The pharaoh pointed in our direction with his crook and said something. His voice was weak and lispy compared to that of Weni, but he was Pharaoh. Nefer-kah stood and bowed and looked at me and said in Achaean, “stand!” I stood and bowed and saluted the god-king. Pepi said something long and involved at the end of which he laughed, and everyone, except me and Finn, laughed too. I glanced around nervously wondering what had been so funny at my expense. Nefer-kah said, without looking me, “Pharaoh wants to buy you and make you his dancing girl!” I laughed, for it seemed right. But Finn thought that was very funny and guffawed, setting off another round of raucous laughter among the men. When it had died down Weni said something and Nefer-kah bowed and motioned me to sit again, as he did also.
Then Pharaoh Pepi stood and we all stood and bowed low as he walked own the steps and out of the room. Men stared conversing with one another and drinking wine. Weni came through the crowd, acknowledging men as he came. He stood before us and we bowed and saluted him. He said, to my surprise in Achaean.” I hear you are a good leader, Achaean. What is your name?”
“Pelop, my lord, I bowed.
“Pelop.” He faced Nefer-kah. “I will see your troops in the morning.”
“Yes, my lord, “said Nefer-kah. He winked at me. Obviously he had bragged about us to Weni. Finn took a bowl of wine and drained it in one gulp and then found another. I grabbed his hand and restrained him.” Not tonight, my friend. Tomorrow night.”

We assembled the troops on the practice field at dawn. They were equipped with our practice arrows and padded spears. We waited in the relative coolness of the new day. I had an idea. I told Finn and Urartu to take the One Hundred and hide in the bush beyond the field, fifty on each side, out of sight. I ordered the archers to the middle and asked Kneph-Nebibi with deference and respect, for he was angry at not be taken to the council, to set his infantry on the flanks. I drew the ranks of archers out so that that there were few in front, and more behind. The vanguard presented a tempting target for any advancing army to pick off.
There was a commotion in the fields beyond our practice area. A line of carts came along the lane. Plainly we had gotten more than we bargained for. Pharaoh’s cart was in front, with Weni‘s second. There were a dozen more carts and then a huge column of troops, many of who were Nubians. Weni had brought an army to the estate of Nefer-kah.
We saluted and waited for Pharaoh. Weni spoke first.
“Practice spears, very well. My men will turn their spears backwards and use the butts. Have you more practice arrows?”
I answered, yes. Great bundles had been made for our war games. They were passed out to Weni’s Nubian archers.
“Let’s have a little dance!” said Weni. His captains ordered his troops to the field, in a different formation; shock troops in front, with large shields and long spears. Archers on the flanks. I watched them; they were confident, but ragged. I hoped my men would remember their discipline against an unknown opponent. I was nervous.
I said, ”each man must go down when hit.” Weni nodded and called out the order. I picked up a stick that I called my sword and ran out on the field in front of my troops. I carried a small round Egyptian shield, otherwise I was naked. it’s the way we Achaeans fight unless it’s cold.
The Nubians lined up. I could see, as I expected, that they would press across the whole line seeking a knockout by sheer force. The common tactic of the world. Weni had brought many troops. Our wide field was crowded.
I turned and faced my men and raised my sword -stick above my head. My troops answered back with a great shout and I spun around to face the enemy. Weni signaled and they came at us in a run, shouting and waving their spears. I ran up and own the front of my line yelling at the men to hold. Then I yelled, “Shoot!” The archers loosed a volley and another and another and the wave crashed on us as we fell back rapidly, firing the whole time. Our orderly retreat drew the center of the Nubian line in deeper and deeper into our line. Men obediently fell when touched on both side in great numbers. Far greater on their side. Kneph-Nebibi’s infantry held their ground, shields locked in double rows. I ran about, dodging spear thrusts. I don’t now how I wasn’t hit by an arrow. Weni’s army stalled, as I knew they would, now pressed on each flank by Kneph-Nebibi’s men. Then, there was a wild yelling and the One Hundred ran out of the bush, Finn Red-Beard roaring like a great northern bear and waving his war club above his head. They came around the end of the flanks and got in behind the Nubians, who became confused. It didn’t take long before Weni called it off.
I ordered a count. We had lost one hundred and twenty seven; Weni, three hundred and seventy.
I came back to the carts, panting and sweating Finn and the other northmen were whooping it up on the battlefield, savoring their victory. The palace women and servants and field workers had come out to watch. Shesut laughed, but she stayed back away. Nefer-kah tried to seem nonchalant, but he plainly was glad that his boasting had not been in vain. Pharaoh Pepi clapped his hands and laughed like a child. I saluted them all. Someone brought me a linen kilt and head cloth.
“Good fighting,” said Weni. ” You will teach us that.”
I bowed again, “Yes, of course, as my master says.” Nefer-kah offered my services to Weni on loan.
Weni had another idea.”Let us train for two weeks. Then we go together and fight the Sand-people up north.” Nefer-kah saluted and bowed to Weni and the god-king, who had another request. I was to teach him how to shoot Achaean style.

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