The priest’s grin chilled Namose. Was like staring into the eyes of a serpent. He couldn’t move. The evil one grabbed Namose’s arm and dragged him into the chariot. Namose struggled but the grip tightened.
Namose watched his brother turn and lunge toward the chariot. He missed. A crowd of the guards surrounded him.
“No!” Namose screamed. He tried to jump from the moving vehicle. The priest’s fist smashed into his jaw. Namose fell to the wicker floor.
“Be still. You are mine.”
“Return my heir,” the nomarch shouted.
“He is mine.” The priest laughed. “I am Hebu, beloved of Aken Re.”
The chariot raced through the barley field crushing plants beneath the wheels. The clatter over the bridge hurt Namose’s ears. He huddled on the floor expecting some disaster during the frantic flight to overturn them. His body slammed against the sides of the car. The jostling brought acid into his throat.
Why had this priest taken him? Namose couldn’t think of a reason. He remained a boy in years, just sixteen years, though in four lunars he would gain another year. Then he would be considered a man.
In time the chariot slowed. Before Namose stood, the priest pressed a foot against his back. He bound Namose’s arms behind his back with a length of leather cord.
“Why did you take me?”
“In time you will learn.” Hebu bent closer. “I have a use for you.” Hebu’s laughter showed no trace of humor. “You’ll serve me and in time you will swear allegiance to Aken Re, the true and only god.”
Never. The words reverberated in his head. Though he didn’t voice his denial, thoughts of defiance filled him with purpose. He would never swear to the god of the Hykons. Of the Three of the Two Lands, Toth had his loyalty. For that reason he had struggled to learn how to read some of the words written in the ancient language he’d discovered in scrolls his father had “borrowed” from the Toth temple guarding the Valley of the Pharaohs,
Hebu waited while the horse drank from an irrigation canal. Namose wished the priest would offer him a drink. Instead the man emptied the water sack and tossed it aside. Hebu took his place and urged the horse forward.
Namose dozed and woke when the chariot stopped a second time. He rolled to his side and peered through the woven side of the cart. The sun was far to the west.
“Who goes there?” a gruff voice asked.
“Hebu, beloved of Aken Re. Is the boat ready to cross the river?”
Hebu prodded Namose with a booted foot. “Up. If I free your arms will you follow my orders?”
Since he had no idea where he was and he had no weapons, what choice did he have but to follow the priest? He nodded. He wished he was more like his brother. Kashe understood strategy and planning. As the youngest son, he hadn’t been trained in the ways of a warrior or like the oldest son to rule.
Hebu pulled him from the chariot and freed his arms. Namose sucked in a cry of pain. He refused to let the evil man see him cringe. Needles of pain pricked his hands and arms. He rolled his shoulders to ease the stiffness.
“Pick up the bundle and carry it to the boat,” Hebu said.
Namose obeyed. He limped to the small river craft and stepped on board. He placed the bundle in the tiny shelter near the rear of the deck. Hebu entered the shelter. Namose sank on the deck and leaned against the side.
“Wake me when we near our destination,” Hebu said.