Buried in the Desert

“Ah ha! I win again!” Shouts the ecstatic young boy as he leaps and declares victory! “I am invincible! Nobody can beat me at Senet!”

“What can I say? My baby brother is brilliant!” Shrugs the older brother.

“Who are you calling baby, Kamose? I’m seven years old, and I just annihilated you at Senet! Does that make you an infant?” The boy smiles smuggly.

A messenger arrives on horseback and is escorted to the young Ahmose and his brother. “Your lordship, a messenger has stated he has an urgent message concerning Moses in the Land of Cush.”

The boy’s beaming smile quickly turns to a look of frustration. “Moses always beats me at Senet.” The boy says as his joy deflates.

Kamose is eager awaiting the messenger’s pass through security. He thinks of how his group of advisers were setting up a sabotage to the supply line of Moses’ troops as they advanced on Cush in hopes that the field operations in Cush would fail and Moses would be defeated. This would immediately elevate Kamose to the leader of the Egyptian army and provide him with the justification to request an invasion of Cush with the full support of his Pharaoh brother, Seqenenre Tao, who was helping advise the conspiracy against Moses in Cush.

Kamose turns to his younger brother and says with a huge grin, “I don’t think you have to worry about that anymore, Ahmose.”

As he stands eagerly awaiting the good news, Kamose suddenly begins to worry… Moses is known for his innovative military maneuvering and finding success even in the most difficult circumstances. He remembers back to the time Moses was thought lost in battle, only to return after 40 days in the wilderness practically unscathed and with the head of the Amori military leader in hand. He had personally witnessed Moses command massive arrays against the Cushites before, using field tactics that no other military leader in Egypt had ever planned. What if Moses was still alive? What if Moses defeated the Cushites?

“Do you think something bad happened to Moses?” Ahmose asks his older brother with worry.

Looking down at this brother and placing his hand on his shoulder, Kamose lies, “Let’s hope not, brother.”

#

“You think Moses is a traitor?” Ahhotep asks dismissively.

“He married the Cushite princess!” Kamose yells! “What could be more treasonous than marrying the daughter of our sworn enemy?” Kamose is fuming!

“My poor child,” Tetisheri begins as she walks over to Ahmose on the other side of the room. “Perhaps his political skills have come of age,” she pauses… “unlike your own.” Tetisheri pats Ahmose on the shoulders as she smiles and both of them chuckle at Kamose.

Ahhotep speaks up. “It’s a very politically astute maneuver if you’d open your eyes to the possibility. Rather than roll on with a long, drawn out, and costly war between our people and the people of Cush, Moses sacrificed himself for a generation of peace between our two nations. Perhaps even more.” She smiles slightly, “maybe there’s even a true love connection for the young Moses. I’ve heard the Cushite princess is the most beautiful woman in all their land.”

“You’ve always been partial to him and his people, mother.”

Tetrisheri interjects, “And you should be too! His people have served Pharaoh after pharaoh for many generations. They have brought tremendous wealth into our land, tamed the Nile and given us fertile lands beyond those of any other nation.”

Ahhotep speaks up as the elderly Tetrisheri pauses to catch her breath, “And let us never forget the great famine of seven years their fathers helped us overcome and countless insurrections and plots against our families.” She turns to the seven-year-old Ahmose. “You, my son, must always remember that Moses and his people are our allies.”

“Yes, mother.” Ahmose obediently responds.

Kamose steps between Ahmose and his mother, “But don’t let those past fairytales rule your thinking, brother. Just as you slit the throat of a once loyal dog who bites you, so too must you put Moses down when he betrays you.”

“IF!” Tetrisheri raises her voice. “And don’t let the deranged conspiracy theories of your brother’s deluded advisers persuade you with their mockery of intellectual reason, my boy.” Tetrisheri pulls Ahmose close towards her and away from Kamose. “These fools will tell you of prophesy when they really mean propaganda. They are the sons of the same men who failed our families and our nation generations ago. The sons of the same men who the fathers of Moses saved us from their ill conceived policies.”

Kamose remains silent for a heartbeat, “These are stories HIS scribes wrote! Not our scribes!” Kamose is becoming increasingly agitated. “Don’t believe everything you read, brother. It’s written as lies and half truths by those who want to manipulate you, just as Moses is trying to manipulate our kingdom today. Next rise of the great Ra and you know what, he’ll want to be Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt, reigning in Cush with his Cushite princess. He’ll make us slaves just like his people have become to the Hyksos. We’ll all be his slaves!”

Tetrisheri turns sharply to Kamose and spits in his face. “Don’t you ever try to pollute the mind of your younger brother, or I will make sure you never sit atop our kingdom’s throne. Your idiot advisers might have convinced you of some great conspiracy brought about by the fathers of Moses and some droppings of Hesat prophecies, but the truth is that they saved our kingdom, our people, and our land!”

Kamose wipes his grandmother’s spit from his face and stares deeply into her eyes with wicked intentions. She smiles and then laughs.

“I see everything you plot against me, boy. I’ve seen men mightier than you come and go many times over. You think in steps. I think in generations. I’m always thinking ahead of you.” Tetrisheri puffs her breath and continues… “I may have this old body, but my mind is too advanced for you, Kamose. Just like your brother is with Senet. One day, I will let you have your course. Until then, you should study more and listen to your corrupt advisers less. Do you want a true prophecy?” She pauses to wait for Kamose to nod…

Kamose nods, accepting the wisdom of his grandmother.

“Your anger will be the death of you,” she says sharply.

There’s a call into the room from a messenger. Ahhotep signals to the guards to allow the messenger entry. He enters and announces that Seqenenre has been defeated and captured by Moses during a disguised raid on a Hyksos outpost city.

“Seqenenre and Moses fought hand to hand, and Moses bested him. Once he removed the mask of Tao, Moses forbade the execution of the Pharaoh.” The messenger announces.

Ahhotep dismisses the messenger and orders the guards to leave the room and take up position on the outside perimeter of the room. She turns to Kamose, “That answers the question of Moses’ loyalty. Does it not? The real question is how loyal is Seqenenre to our family when he provokes the Hyksos in their own land!”

Enraged, Kamose shouts, “Their own land? That is the land of our fathers! Land the Hyksos and the fathers of Moses stole from us!”

Ahhotep speaks up yet again, “Land rightfully granted to the fathers of Moses by Amenemhat!” She turns to Ahmose. “Let this be a valuable lesson in loyalty, my son.”

“Today it’s clear he serves only the Hyksos, the masters of his people.” Kamose grumbles. “Why would he bring our troops into Hyksos land to protect the Hyksos people?”

The young Ahmose interjects with befuddlement, “You just said the land doesn’t belong to the Hyksos, Kamose.”

Tetrisheri laughed boisterously! “Out smarted by a seven year old again!”

Ahhotep speaks up again, “It’s clear Moses is far more politically astute than your idiot blood brother and father, Ahmose. He had every justification to kill Tao, and he chose not to. Moses understands the tremendous value in forgiving those who know not how incredibly stupid they are.”

“She’d sell her own husband for bushel of wheat.” Kamose says in disgust as he turns to Yuf, Ahhotep’s adviser, who has been standing silently the entire time.

“At least the wheat would have greater wisdom than my husband.” Ahhotep snaps back.

Yuf stands perfectly still, almost like a statue as Kamose attempts to rouse a response from him with eye gestures.

There’s an awkward silence as each person in the room contemplates their strategy given the latest revelation they just received. With her internal spy network, Ahhotep knows that Kamose and Seqenenre were plotting together to sabotage the military campaign into Cush lead by Moses, but she didn’t know about the disguised attacks that were taking place. She decides not to press her son on the topic until she finds out why there’s a gap in her intelligence gathering.

Young Ahmose breaks the silence, “Who is going to negotiate the retrieval of Seqenenre?”

#

Moses kicks Seqenenre’s foot to wake him.

“Apepi is here to speak with you.”

Apepi enters the holding cell with Moses and Sequenere. The three men sit in their own corner of the cell.

“Tao, how did we get to this?” Apepi asks.

“It was the hippos,” Seqenenre laughs.

Moses looks at Seqenenre with a puzzled look who responds, “I’ll tell you later,” Sequenenre says to Moses with a wink.

Apepi looks again to Seqenenre and says, “Moses has negotiated to escort you back to Thebes. This is the great Apepi’s gift to the people of Upper Egypt. A gift from the great king of the Hyksos. I’m sure your spies have already conveyed your capture and Moses’ benevolent hand upon your throat to your family. Personally, I would have killed you first and then wept at your stupidity after.”

Apepi looks again to Moses and says, “I know this must be a difficult position for you, Moses. I want no quarrel with the people of Upper Egypt. Think of this as a personal gift from me to you for the kind service of your people in my land.”

Moses chuckles, “Gifts are given freely, lord Apepi.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Apepi growls in anger. “What good would it do for me to kill the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt? And why would you speak such a thing?”

“No such words were uttered by my lips, lord Apepi. The spit from your speech is the venom of an asp. A gift from you is like a heap of refuse from Hesat. Don’t speak to me as if your gift is nothing more than an attempt to enslave me as you have my people in our own land.” Moses retorts.

Seqenenre laughs loudly, “My brother, Moses! May Ra shine upon you for all eternity!” He laughs loudly once again as Apepi shakes his head and leaves the holding cell.

“I should lock you both in there.” Apepi grumbles.

Moses responds, “Your words hold not a key, lord Apepi. Safe returns to Avaris.”

“Oh, Moses. I’m truly sorry I could not allow Aaron the time needed to attend your wedding to that Cushite.” Apepi says with a smug smile as he begins to walk away. “I’ll give my regards to your dear brother.”

“A threat like that without a backbone to hold it upright is like breathing underwater, lord Apepi. Tell Aaron I’m grateful to have such a wonderful brother.” Moses says sitting in the cell with Seqenenre.

There’s silence for a moment while waiting for Apepi to be out of ear distance.

“The hippos?” Moses asks with a chuckle.

Seqenenre starts laughing and can barely get the story out to Moses who joins him in laughter over such an absurd story. “I swear by my god Ra, Moses, I will be known through out all time as the hippo king!”

The two laugh uncontrollably for nearly a degree on the sundial before they exit the holding cell, Moses following after Seqenenre.

#

As Moses is preparing his mule and a mule for Seqenenre, three men even larger than the mules approach. Two stand back while the third approaches Moses and stands arms akimbo next to the mule.

“I wouldn’t stand there, neighbor.” Moses says to the imposing man.

“We are the friends of Khamudi. Lord Apepi sent us to accompany you and Pharaoh back to Thebes and ensure his safe arrival.” The man says in a booming voice.

“Is that so?” Moses chuckles as Seqenenre walks over to stand next to Moses. “I’m sure we’ll be able to manage the return trip on our own. You can thank Apepi for the generous offer.”

“Lord Apepi said you might not be willing to accept our assistance, but Lord Apepi also said we must accompany you no matter.”

Moses snaps his fingers and makes a clicking sound at the same time. The mule suddenly sidekicks the enormous man who falls to the ground gasping for air with two cracked ribs protruding through his side. The mule trots over to Moses, and Seqenenre mounts the mule with Moses’ aide.

The other two hulking men stand over their companion as they watch Moses mount his mule.

“I told him it wasn’t a good idea to stand there.” Moses smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “You two can hold up the rear.”

Seqenenre rides off to the head of the army already underway at Miriam’s direction as Moses meets up with the rear guard to inform them they are responsible to monitoring the men sent by Apepi.

After a quick sprint, Moses meets up with Seqenenre and Miriam at the head of the mule contingent in the center of the army. Moses rides up to the head and provides instructions for the commanders at the head of the army, and then Moses returns to Seqenenre and Miriam in the center position with the rest of the soldiers riding mules in the crowd of thousands of Egypt’s finest warriors.

Miriam tosses Seqenenre a head dressing and instructs him to wear the disguise. “I’m certain Apepi didn’t send those men, brother,” Miriam says to Moses.

“It was Apepi trying to send me a message, Miriam. There is nothing to worry about.” Moses smiles. “Still, Seqenenre, you should wear the disguise. My sister is often more right than wrong.”

“Moses, you should join my cause, if for no other reason than to free your brother.” Seqenenre says as he puts on the disguise with difficulty while still maintaining balance on his mule.

“Raiding villages and towns of peaceful people is not a cause that calls me, brother,” Moses responds sarcastically.

“Moses, your fathers provided so much for my fathers, but what has come of your people? You have interbred with the Hyksos invaders, and your people have become slaves to them. My cause is not to attack your people but to free you from your oppressive masters.” Seqenenre almost sounds genuine in his pleading.

Moses and Miriam chuckle, “Miriam, I can almost believe what our Egyptian brother is saying.” Moses jests.

“Moses, you and I together can free your people from oppression. You have the military mind, and I have the money needed to remove the Hyksos by force. And I know your intelligence operations have deep root into the Hyksos operations. We can do this together. If you want me to beg in the face of Tetrisheri, I’ll do so on two bended knees.”

“Seqenenre, thank you for the compliment about our intelligence operations. If you truly believed even your own words, you would then also know that we knew of your plan to cut off our supplies in the Nubian campaign and Kamose’s plan to poison Ahhotep.”

Seqenenre has a genuinely surprised look on his face at the news of his son’s attempt to murder his own mother.

“He didn’t know that, Moses,” Miriam says to Moses before he can continue.

“I didn’t know that, Moses. I would not take my own son for conspirator against his own family. I know he and my mother do not see eye to eye, but murder his own mother…” Seqenenre pauses and looks down. “I should have seen this.”

Moses and Miriam allow Seqenenre a moment to contemplate the news they just provided him. The army continues its gradual pace towards the first outpost that it needs to reach before the sun is too high and makes continuing impossible.

#

A guard at the stronghold greets Moses, Seqenenre, and Miriam with some fresh water. “Greetings Moses.” The guard says as he hands the jug to Moses. Moses looks down at the jug, smiles, and then nods to the guard before handing him back the jug.

The guard takes a drink from the jug and Miriam flips over her timer glass. The three stand with increasing tension as the guard continues to hold the jug while Miriam flips the timer glass a half dozen times until Moses is satisfied there is no poison in the jug.

Moses nods at the guard who hands him the jug. “It’s my honor to serve you, Moses. Thank you for your trust,” the guard says.

“That you for your service, brother.” Moses acknowledges the faithfulness of the guard. “How is your brother, Japheth?” Moses motions to Miriam and Seqenenre to proceed ahead into the private cooling room carved into the rock.

As Moses is catching up with the guard, Seqenenre and Miriam refresh with the water in the cooling room.

“I have men close to Aaron. If you and Moses were to support and lead a campaign against the Hyksos, I could ensure the safety of Aaron.” Seqenenre attempts to make his case with Miriam.

“Aaron is doing just fine. We have no concerns for him,” Miriam replies.

“Miriam, when my mother adopted Moses, it was to honor the generations of service your people provided to Egypt. To honor the knowledge and technology your people have shared with us and allowed us to grow and develop our nation into a greater and most powerful nation. Perhaps my raids were not the best plan. Perhaps my own son has plotted against me. Perhaps my days as Pharaoh are numbered. I acknowledge Moses is the better general. I acknowledge you are the better intelligence operative.” He pauses to read Miriam’s response. There is none.

“The Hyksos are like a pestilence on your people and our land. They have taken what my fathers gave to your fathers and subjected your people to immeasurable cruelties. They have taken your metals, stopped your education of your children, confiscated your weapons, and stolen your land only to then force you to build monuments to their own government. They worship that wicked bull, and if you and Moses do not join me, think of what will come of your people.”

Moses enters the cooling room. “Our people have overcome worse, Seqenenre.”

“Moses…” Seqenenre starts and then pauses. “Who will remember the name Moses?” Seqenenre laughs. “You won’t even be a footnote in the records, Moses. Your people’s destiny will be swept into a cave and buried in the desert like the land of Babel.”

Moses smirks, “I don’t need to be famous, Seqenenre. I am not Pharaoh. Nor do I ever wish that curse upon me.”

“Moses, my brother, your people will become nothing! You will be no different than the people we find buried in our land from generations ago. Do the Hyksos even acknowledge the canal of Jacob? Who pays tribute? Your people? Or the Hyksos?”

Moses and Miriam are silent.

“Your people allowed the Hyksos to invade from within. You allowed one generation of Hyksos in and by the end of the next generation, you became slaves! And now, Apepi has his eyes set on Upper Egypt. And he’s nurturing the next generation for even bloodier conquests. Moses, this enemy is the most dangerous the land of Egypt has ever faced. We must join together.”

#

The army is making their way through a valley wide enough for standard formation and protected from the rising sun. Just beyond the valley will be the next stronghold where they can take their daily rest before the final leg to Thebes. Two scouts are leading the head of the army, keeping a sharp eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

Flaring his nostrils, the first scout says to the other, “Was that you, Elon?”

“Surely, I thought it was you! I smelled it a few steps back and believed for certain you had too many quail eggs,” Elon responds as the two continue along.

The smell continues to worsen as the scouts and army march on. “I can’t make out what it is, Elon. Is it a giant mount of Hesat?”

Stumbling from the odor, Elon coughs out, “It’s definitely Apis. Apis has died and been resurrected.”

The two scouts laugh as they look back and see the troops behind them starting to get wind of the smell they’ve been discussing for a long pace.

“Was that you, Elon?” One of the head soldiers shouts.

Elon and the other scout laugh as they proceed forward, tripping over each other as they react to the ever increasing odor that’s beginning to overcome all their senses.

“I told you you shouldn’t have eaten all those quail eggs,” the second scout pushes Elon as they continue to laugh and stumble.

The odor is so foul, several troops begin to stumble as they march forward. Moses notices the rumblings of “Apis” in the troops ahead and begins to trot his mule towards the front line. He smells a whiff of the foul odor!

“A mound of Apis, indeed!” Moses thinks to himself.

The odor is so strong he tilts his head back and covers his nose and mouth with his sleeve. As he tilts his head back he sees a flash of light from the top of the ridge opposite the rising sun. He immediately yells out, “Fall back!” He turns his mule around as quickly as possible and whistles to the mule Seqenenre is riding.

“Fall back!” Moses yells!

Just as Seqenenre’s mule starts to circle back, a massive explosion rips through the valley, tearing soldiers apart and throwing bodies and parts of bodies all over the valley! Seqenenre is thrown from his mule, and chaos ensues!

The valley is filled with dirt, dust, and debris. The back ranks have fallen back to safety and suddenly dozens of the troops begin turning on their fellow soldiers, easily picking them off in the confusion. The two friends of Khamudi begin making their way towards the center of the chaos in hopes of finding Seqenenre.

Seqenenre feels a hand on his shoulder and awakens. He’s dragged along the ground and thrown into a spot between a pile of body parts. He attempts to stand, but he’s unable to maintain his balance and stumbles back to the ground. He feels a sharp dagger slice his neck and reaches to cover his wound. He feels a kick to his ribs that forces him to drop his hand to the ground. One of the friends of Khamudi grabs him by his shoulders and sits Seqenenre on his knees.

Reaching behind his back, the other friend of Khamudi reveals a bronze battle axe to Seqenenre. “I was instructed to make sure you can see this axe, Seqenenre. Can you see it?”

Seqenenre nods his head in acknowledgement. He remembers back to when he had the axe commissioned for his wife, Ahhotep, He remembers the joy she expressed when he acknowledged her and thanked her for her support of his military campaigns into Nubia and Cush.

“The owner of this axe paid for my services, Seqenenre. She told me to make sure you knew.” The friend of Khamudi says as he then takes his swing. The axe becomes stuck in Seqenenre’s forehead and the hulking man struggles to remove it. He kicks Seqenenre’s lifeless body away from the axe and a large chunk of his skull remains stuck to the head of the axe. “A souvenir,” he smiles to his fellow friend of Khamudi.

Seqenenre drops to the ground, his brain visible from the massive axe wound to his forehead. The two friends of Khamudi walk back through the fighting still taking place in the back ranks.

#

Moses awakens to a tapping on his foot. He can tell he’s pinned between a couple of dead soldiers and his mule. He can barely breathe with the crushing weight of his mule on top of him, but a rock is supporting just enough of the weight of the mule to prevent him from suffocating. He feels the tapping on his foot again and can hear a muffled voice calling his name. He closes his eyes and goes unconscious again.

“Moses!”

Moses slowly opens his eyes and blinks for a moment.

“Moses! You are alive!” Miriam cries as she holds his weak body in her arms. Somehow, Moses has not a single scratch on his body. He’s covered in dirt but no wounds other than his throbbing head.

“Sister, where is Seqenenre?” Moses coughs out the only question he can think of.

“It’s not good, brother.“

Moses attempts to lift himself up but doesn’t have the strength. He collapses back into Miriam’s arms and begins to weep. Just as Moses begins to cry a violent storm begins to pour down rain in the valley and Moses weeps ever stronger at the loss of his Egyptian brother.

Once the rain storm clears, Miriam and Moses walk to the location where Seqenenre’s body lies half buried in the ground. Moses again weeps at the sight of his fallen Egyptian brother. He digs out Seqenenre and lifts his lifeless corpse and carries him over his shoulder as the three of them continue to make their way to the final stronghold before Thebes.

When they arrive at the stronghold, Moses and Miriam perform mummification rites for Seqenenre as best as they can with the limited materials they have available at the site. Moses again weeps for his fallen Egyptian brother.