“I WAS PAYING YOU a compliment, Pharaoh,” said the crafty Horemheb.
“Then I accept your compliment. Tell me, General, what is our strategy today?”
The general’s large but powerful chest and belly were bronzed from the sun, and he squinted as he studied Megiddo’s distant fortifications. “May I speak bluntly, sir?”
“Of course you may. You know me well enough by now. I need to know the truth—always. Speak your mind.”
“I have conquered this miserable town before. It is a den of whores and thieves who don’t understand anything except brutal domination. If they come out to fight, we will first launch arrows and then send chariots to scatter their army. Our fighting men will wade in and slaughter them like the weak little piglets that they are. The desert sands will be engorged with their blood, which will flow from their bodies like water over a raging cataract.”
Horemheb grinned maliciously. Instead of groveling, he was now testing Tut for signs of squeamishness.
“When that moment comes, General, I will personally gut a Canaanite. I will use his innards to grease the axles of my chariot.”
“As you should,” said Horemheb, who seemed to approve of the pharaoh’s words.
Tut stared at Megiddo again and then turned to Horemheb. “And if they do not come out, what then?”
“Then there will be a siege. We will poison their wells and starve them. It might take months, but we will enter the city. I guarantee it. You haven’t lived until you’ve plundered a city like this one. The women cannot refuse you. And the men know to bring the youngest and most beautiful. You, of course, will have your pick.”
Horemheb paused, his sense of timing exquisite. “That is, if you desire a grown woman. They can be tempestuous, Pharaoh. Particularly when reluctantly submitting to a victor.”
Tut resisted the urge to draw his sword and hack off Horemheb’s arm to put him in his place. The general would be able to do nothing in his defense.
“My wife is woman enough for me. You may have my share of tempestuous whores.”
Suddenly, Horemheb’s eyes caught sight of something.
“What is it, General?”
“Permission to sound the call to order?”
“But what is it? What do you see? Tell me.”
Horemheb pointed a gnarled finger. “The gates to the city. Look for yourself. They are opening! The Canaanites are coming out to fight.”