The room was typical, as the travelers supposed, an open room supported by a number of pillars which broke up the space. The king sat at one end on a raised platform with his daughter seated to his right and his son seated to his left. The king had a stool in front of his chair where his swollen right foot was lifted up and sat on a soft cushion. He looked at the strangers, not in a rude sort of way, but calculating, like he was wondering what these people had to offer that might benefit him, personally.
The room also contained a dozen guards dressed only in short skirts, and holding six and a half foot spears with big bronze points. The guards were all big men in that day and age, but they were not pleased with having to look up to Lockhart and Decker. Sinuhe himself was taller than the rest, being five-eleven, but at least he was technically on their side as their general.
The man the travelers all took to be Gabrall stood beside the king’s left ear. He looked competent, but also like he did not trust anyone but himself. The man to the king’s right, and slightly behind Hellel, appeared to be Sinuhe’s assistant, no doubt charged with watching the king’s health in the night. He acknowledged his master as Sinuhe came in.
Sinuhe bowed a normal enough bow and introduced everyone, interrupted only by Zagurt’s expected exclamations of “Red hair!” and “Yellow hair!”. Names were familiar except ‘King Enshi’ was proper. The terms Prince and Princess were not current in that place. Zagurt and Hellel were more likely referred to as the king’s son and the king’s daughter in common conversation. After the introductions, everyone waited for the king to speak.
“My daughter tells me you are people with great powers,” he said.
“I only mentioned it in passing,” Hellel confessed, and lowered her eyes as if she was all innocent.
“I would see a demonstration,” the king said.
“Not by my advice,” Sinuhe said. “Great power can bring great destruction.”
“Your advice is not wanted, physician,” Hellel spoke most rudely, while Gabrall leaned down to whisper in the king’s ear. The king nodded and pushed Gabrall’s face away.
“So, Egyptian. Are you still the frightened coward that came to my door all those years ago?”
Sinuhe frowned and looked around the room. His eyes stopped at the windows which were eight feet above the hall. Of course, they had no glass, so the windows were wide open to whatever flies and birds wanted to venture in. Presently, there was a pigeon strutting around on the ledge, cooing.
“Decker,” Sinuhe said and pointed.
Decker took his rifle. He did not have to be told. He took careful aim and squeezed the trigger. The gun fired. The bird disappeared outside, and Sinuhe signaled a guard to go and fetch it while everyone else recovered from the shock of the noise. Hellel screamed, and Sinuhe wondered if she wet herself.
“What a crack,” Zagurt yelled. “I want a cracker. Can I see that? Father, can I have a cracker?”
Sinuhe, Lockhart and Katie all stepped up in front of the others, no doubt thinking much the same thing. Sinuhe spoke. “No, Zagurt. You do not know how it works. You do not know what you are doing. You might accidentally kill your father or sister, and then you would be in real trouble.”
“I won’t. I wouldn’t,” Zagurt insisted and looked at his father.
“Let us wait and see what is left of the pigeon, if anything, before you decide.”
“Father,” Hellel spoke up. “You don’t have to listen to these people. You can just take the cracker if you want.”
Sinuhe shook his head. “I don’t believe the whole army could take so much as one if these good people did not want them to.”
“It is for your own safety and protection,” Lockhart said in his best police voice, but no one listened.
“Captain,” Decker said to Katie, without spelling it out. The guard was wary, gripped his spear tight as he lowered it and tried to look mean, but stopped altogether when Katie drew her saber and put her big army knife in her other hand.
“What are you doing?” Lockhart asked her, and reached for her arm.
Katie reverted to English so the locals would not understand her. “We settled this back in the migrant camp with Beltain. If I win, they are humiliated, but if I lose, they only beat a woman.”
A reluctant Lockhart looked at Decker, but he had confidence in Katie. He looked at Sinuhe, but Sinuhe merely shrugged with his shoulders and eyebrows and said nothing.
The guard appeared to be reluctant to attack the girl, so she slapped her saber twice into the man’s spear, the second time causing a small cut on the man’s hand. That made him mad and he lunged, but she stepped into the lunge and pushed the spear away with her knife laid up against her forearm, and she sliced the man’s leg, then his belly, though not deeply like a killing cut, then paused where her saber went to the man’s throat.
The man fell to his knees, and Alexis scolded. “Katie.” She rushed over to begin healing the man.
A second guard stepped forward. Katie handed her saber to Boston to clean, slipped her knife back in its sheath, then ducked and spun, and grabbed the man’s spear just below the point. She yanked on the spear and almost took it away from the guard. He held on, but his arms were stretched all the way out. Katie shoved on the spear, and the butt of the spear slammed hard into the man’s stomach. He doubled over, moaned, and finally let the spear go as he also collapsed to the floor.
Two guards came, and Lockhart barely mouthed the word, “Cheater” before Katie ducked, rolled to one side, and stood again to grab one man’s spear down by his hands. She forced that spear to block the other spear while her foot kicked the man beside her in the face. He fell back, his nose a bloody mess, and Katie now had the spear all to herself. She blocked the other man’s spear again, hard away from his body while she stepped in close and laid the point of her spear against his throat. She slid her hands up to the point and grabbed the man by the shoulder, and squeezed, which had to hurt.
“Stop,” the king commanded.
The man froze as Katie spoke. “I’ll drop my spear if you drop yours.” The man’s eyes darted back and forth as his spear immediately clattered to the floor. “Good move,” she said. She let go of her spear and stepped to Boston to retrieve her saber. She checked to see that it was clean and slipped it back in its sheath.
“Four guards and one woman,” Sinuhe said with a shake of his head. He stared at Hellel. “I will say again. The whole army could not take the power from these good people. Be content that they are willing to be our friends.”
“It is for your own safety and protection,” Lockhart said again.