THAT WAS THE PLAN for the boy who would be king, though it didn’t turn out that way. Not even close. Once again death would intrude—perhaps even murder.
“You live in a house full of women,” the military instructor informed Tut. “To be pharaoh, you must become a man. Someday, you will be as big and strong as I. Once you are through with your training, no man will stand in your way.”
Studying the instructor’s bulging biceps and massive chest, Tut had a hard time believing that could ever be true, but he listened closely to every word.
They stood in a great green field on the west side of the Nile. It was February, and the mild sun kissed the earth.
Tut was a skinny child whose slightly cleft palate gave him a mild lisp but who otherwise bore the flawless beauty of his mother. His arms were thin, and his sandal-clad feet supported legs that weren’t much bigger around. At the time of his death, Tut would be approximately five foot six, and his build would still be slight.
“Are you ready, sire?” asked the instructor.
Tut tried to speak, but in his nervousness only a sigh escaped his lips.
The instructor concealed a smile. “Let’s talk about the types of bows we will be using in our archery practice, then.”
The list was too long and too dazzling for Tut to remember right away—though the instructor made it very clear that the pharaoh would be proficient in each of them, along with shield and mace, sword fighting, spear throwing, chariot riding, horseback riding, hand-to-hand combat, daggers, throw sticks, boomerangs, clubs, and battle-axes. For today’s lesson there was a double-composite angular bow, composite angular “bow of honor,” bow staves, and short self bows. That was all he had to master.
The bows were made of birch that was then wrapped in sinew and bark for durability. Gold leaf and ivory decorations adorned their curved shafts. The instructor’s great bow was taller than Tut, while Tut’s bow was only big enough to reach just above his knee when he stood it on the ground.
The instructor placed the bow in Tut’s little hands: “Now listen to me. You will want these with you in the afterworld. On the day you are buried, all your bows will be buried with you. So learn to use them well, Highness. The rules of combat you are about to learn will stand you in good stead… forever.”
Tut notched an arrow in the bow and pulled back the string. His shot hit the target cleanly on the first try, though it wasn’t far from the boy.
“Very good, sire. You are a natural.”