THE HITTITE PRINCE’S NAME was Zannanza.
He and his entourage rode fine white horses down the well-traveled dirt road to Egypt. He was pure Hittite by birth, his father’s pride and joy. At age twenty-two, Zannanza had already demonstrated courage on the battlefield and shown confidence and diplomatic skill in the royal court. His impending marriage to the queen of Egypt would unify the two nations and make history.
Zannanza would be the new pharaoh and would possess a level of power not even known by his father. The messenger had told the prince that the Egyptian queen was a beautiful young woman. He had described her as “fiery” and “graceful.” Zannanza was eager to meet her and take her as his wife.
Now Zannanza drank from a water skin, then passed it to his vizier. “Do you see them?” asked the vizier.
“How could I not?” Zannanza replied.
It seemed that the queen had sent a welcoming party. A small band of Egyptians waited at the border, taking refuge from the sun in a verdant oasis. Zannanza imagined they would have something to eat—fruit, perhaps. And fresh water. He had ridden hard all day.
Zannanza and his soldiers and courtiers galloped toward the waiting Egyptians.
As they arrived, a small man with a potbelly trotted forward on his horse to welcome them.
“Greetings. I am Horemheb, the queen’s general. She sends her best wishes, Prince.”
“I am Zannan—”
The Hittite prince’s words ended abruptly. He had not seen the archers behind the tents, nor the arrow racing toward him straight and true that would pierce his forehead. He toppled off his mount, royal blood flooding onto the sand in a massive pool.
His entourage suffered a similar fate. Anyone who escaped the arrows was chased down and hacked to bits by Egyptians wielding swords and axes. As buzzards circled, Horemheb dismounted and walked over to Zannanza.
With his sword, he severed the prince’s head and held it high. Horemheb’s men cheered and then raced to loot the other bodies.
“For the queen,” Horemheb said with a sneer, throwing the head into a bag for its trip back to Thebes.