IT WAS HIS TIME NOW, but was he ready—quite possibly to die? Tut stood alone in his tent, his stomach a knot of nerves and fear. Adrenaline raced through his body as he anxiously clenched and unclenched his fists, then bounced lightly on his toes a half dozen times. He was all of seventeen years old, and he was going to war.
Outside, he could hear swords clanking and horses whinnying as his great army assembled on the morning of battle. His army. Egypt’s army.
Tut whispered a silent prayer to Amun. He strapped on his leather chest armor, slid a sword into the scabbard at his waist, then stepped out into the harsh desert sunlight to join his soldiers.
Unlike many of these men, whose wives followed the army, Tut had traveled alone. Sadness over the loss of their child had changed things between Tut and Ankhesenpaaten. Even though she had become pregnant again, things weren’t the same. She was moodier, more grown-up.
Unlike his father, who stayed home with Nefertiti every day of his life, Tut began traveling. He hunted deer with Aye, whom he continued to distrust. And he fell under the spell of General Horemheb, particularly on the subject of warfare. To be a real man, Tut decided he needed to do battle. He needed to be here with the army.
Now he had a chance to fight for the first time. He would test his mettle today, and perhaps he would die.
The great Egyptian army was encamped near the Canaanite city of Megiddo, a desert fortress surrounded by towering walls of mud and limestone. There was a good chance the Canaanites would refuse to come out and fight, preferring to endure an Egyptian siege than to be slaughtered in full view of their women and children.
Tut prayed that this would not be so. He ached for his first taste of battle.
The gleaming sword weighed heavily against his hip as he inspected his chariot team. Like soldiers before him, Tut vowed to be strong and to show no fear, but he worried that he might turn and flee.
“You have a talent for drawing, Pharaoh. Your images of the gods are so powerful that I feel the urge to bow down at the sight of them,” said Horemheb, who had stepped up to Tut’s side. It was a snake-like compliment about Tut’s passion for art, a not-too-subtle insinuation that the boy was timid like his father.
“Are you saying I should have stayed in Thebes, General?” Tut was unafraid to ask hard questions, even of men decades his senior.
Now he wiped the sweat from his brow. He surveyed his men—infantry, archers, and charioteers assembling in long orderly columns. A simple sweep of the eyes brought into view an arsenal the likes of which few had seen before: powerful bows and maces, highly sharpened axes, spears, and daggers glistening in the sun.
Having so much power at his disposal excited Tut in a way that he never could have imagined. No, he was not his father’s son. He was a warrior!