Sorry for the long delay. In case you're wondering where I got the details for this and the preceding chapter, they are to be found in the writings of Josephus.
1505 BC, Egypt
Moses' chariot pulled up to the camp. He jumped out and hugged his mother, who had come to meet him. His stepfather, a Greek prince named Niul, also came up. Moses asked Sobekneferu, "Now, I understand I'm to lead the army or something?"
"Come and see your grandfather," Sobekneferu replied, leading him to the main tent.
Pharaoh Amenemhat III was standing in the tent doorway. Prince Moses went to his grandfather and kneeled. "Greetings, Great One."
"Greetings, my son," Amenemhat replied. "I have important business to discuss with you."
Half an hour later
"And so," Amenemhat concluded after fully explaining everything, "I appoint you, Prince Moses, Supreme General of the Egyptian army." He paused for effect. "Do you accept?"
"Of course, Great One," Moses responded. "Gladly."
Amenemhat rose. "Good. Let it be written and proclaimed throughout Egypt. But we must be sure not to alert the Ethiopians."
The messenger hurriedly wrote down the proclamation, then left.
Moses was in the midst of studying maps. In particular, where the Ethiopian army was. One of the leading commanders entered the tent and saluted. "The messge has been sent out, and the army ison its way. They should be mostly regrouped before dawn tomorrow."
"Good," Moses replied. "That's when we move out."
The officer nodded, then turned to go. "One more thing," Moses said. The officer stopped and listened. "Collect ibises."
"Ibises, sir?" the officer asked, confused.
"Ibises," Moses repeated. "As many as you can find. Put them in very large baskets."
Not able to question his orders, the officer went to obey.
The next morning
Moses surveyed the army. Soldiers had been coming in throughout the night. He wished he could give them more time to rest, but the situation was too urgent. He pulled aside the officer he had spoken to last night. "Did you carry out my orders?"
In response, the officer pointed further down. Moses saw several wagons loaded with huge baskets.
"Excellent," Moses responded.
Several hours later
The army, under General Moses, marched steadily towards one of the nearest encampments of the Ethiopian army. Some similar groups were approacing Ethiopian encampments elsewhere in the country, ready to strike should Moses' one be successful.
The Ethiopians would naturally expect any would-be attackers to take the route along the Nile River.
So Moses did the opposite.
His army marched straight across the land towards them. Under the scorching desert sun.
Moses called for his regiment to stop. They had just reached a waterhole – one he knew the Ethiopians hadn't ambushed. And that was the worrying part – they country they were about to enter. Moses was just about to address his troops and warn them of the danger, when there was a loud and sinister screech.
Before anyone could react, a largish creature had swooped down from the sky, and carried off one of the front soldiers. The creature had the rough outline of a bird, but that is where the resemblance ended. The creature had large leathery wings, a long tail, and a large head with a crest. It looked quite reptilian.
The officer Moses had spoken with quickly barked orders to some archers, wh oimmediately fired some carefully aimed arrows. The best – some would call it a dragon, although it did not breathe fire – crashed to the ground, dead. It still clutched the now injured soldier.
Several soldiers went to go and check on him, but Moses held up his hand and yelled, "Wait!"
And it was a good thing he did. Several snakes – some of them quite large – quickly emerged from their hiding places and converged on the now-terrified man and the flying reptile. The soldier's screams were joined by screeches from above, and a couple of similar winged reptiles joined in the feast.
The others could only watch in horro. Some took a few steps back at the sight. Several looked away. For many miles ahead of them, they could glimpse the movements of serpents upon the ground. There were two or three in the air – that they could see.
Moses, quite grim after the gruesome spectacle he had just witnessed, turned to his army. "Men, the country ahead of us is serpent country. Nearly impossible to cross. Deadly, as you just witnessed. But cross it we must."
"How?" the officer asked.
Moses pointed at the huge elephant-sized baskets. "With ibises. The ibis is the natural enemy of the serpent kind. Unleash the ibises on them, and we should clear the path for our army."
A week later
The Ethiopian didn't know what had happened. Everything had been going splendid. They were successfully conquering Egypt.
Then part of the Egyptian army – lead, apparently, by the Pharaoh's reclusive grandson, Prince Moses – had charge one of the major encampments from the serpent-infested country!They hadn't yet worked out how they did that. The attack caught the emcampment completely by surprise, forcing them to retreat. Other emcampments were attacked a few hours later.
The Ethiopian army was quickly overwhelmed and forced to retreat. All the Egyptian cities they had captured had now been taken back. A huge number of Ethiopian soldiers had been slaughtered.
Now, they were back in their native Ethiopia. But they were still on the run. The tables were now completely turned. The Ethiopians were now facing ignominious defeat at the very least. The Egyptians were hammering them, pushing them further and further back. They now looked to be overrun.
King Merops listened to the latest report with an ever-increasing anxiety. He pondered for a few moments. "Have the army retreat into this the captial city, Saba. Have the city prepare for a siege. Hopefully, we'll hold them out."
The messenger nodded gravely, and went to deliver the news. Saba, the capital city of Ethiopia, sat on an island. It was surrounded on all sides by three rivers which converged there: the Nile, the Astapus, and the Astaboras. Once the gates were shut, the city was impregnable.
A few days later
Moses knew the low chance of success that attacking Saba had. Still, the Egyptians had come this far. They might as well try and finish the job.
Princess Tharbis, daughter of King Merops, was visiting the city's walls. In particular, she was near a window inside one of the walls, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Egyptians' new general that was the source of the Ethiopians' pain. As well as watching the Egyptians finally be driven back.
She was not disappointed in either regard. The Egyptians attacked, but it was as if they knew if was futile. They fought bravely. They issued a volley of arrows (which caused Tharbis to keep a distance from the window). But they ultimately fell back.
But it was the other sight that impressed her more. That of the incredibly brave and dashing Prince Moses, fighting quite boldly at the head of his army.
Not to mention being incredibly handsome.
For the rest of the day, Tharbis could hardly take her mind off of him. She became obsessed – no, infatuated – with him.
A more disturbing idea began to enter her thoughts. Anyone could see Moses was a brilliant general. After watching him fighting – and watching him from a distance later, and listening to reports of his feats – there was no doubt whatsoever in her mind: if there were any way – any way at all – to take the city and defeat them (perhaps, she thought, even slaughter them), HE WOULD. If there were any loopholds, any slipups, any ANYTHING in the city's defences, he WOULD find it and would DEFINITELY, POSITIVELY use it – much to the city's detriment.
Saba had been thoroughly fortified, Tharbis reminded herself. But what if something was missed?
As she brooded on this, a plan began to form in her mind. One that might hopefully bring a resolution to this conflice, which otherwise could only end badly for Ethiopia. She called her most trusted servant, Memnon.
Memnon, wearing a dark black cloak, made his way down the city wall. Above him, Princess Tharbis – also in a black cloak – leaned out of the window. She had managed to have this small part of the wall cleared for "royal purposes".
Memnon reached the ground, and slinked into the shadows. The moonless, cloudy night considerably helped, making it nearly impossible for him to be spotted. He made his way to the bridge, and quickly crossed it.
In the Egyptian camp
Moses and one of his officers were leaning over a map. Suddenly, a sentry entered. "Sir, a messenger has just arrived from Saba. Claims to represent King Merops' daughter."
Moses looked at the officer, and then back at the sentry. "All right, bring him in."
The sentry briefly bowed his head, then ducked out of the tent. A few moments later, he returned with Memnon.
"What do you want?" Moses asked.
"I come with a message from Princess Tharbis – King Merops' daughter – Great One," Memnon said with a small bow.
"What does she have to say?" Moses asked.
Memnon paused before answering. "She desires your hand in marriage, my lord."
Moses raised his eyebrows. The officer laughed – until Moses looked at him. Moses sat down and pondered for a few moments. "I can see definite advantages to such a marriage," he said to the officer. "What is your opinion?"
The officer – Baka – thought for a few moments. "Yes, I can see definite advantages."
Moses turned to Memnon. "Is Merops willing to agree to this?"
Memnon hesitated. "He does not know, Great One, about any of this. Tharbis made this decision entirely of her own accord. I have greatly risked my own life to carry out her instructions in secret."
Moses pondered for several more moments. "Tell your mistress that I accept her proposal."
Memnon bowed his head. "Thanks you, Great One." He turned to go, but Moses' voice stopped him.
"On one condition," Moses called after him, causing Memnon to stop and turn. "I will marry her... if she delivers up the city of Saba to me."
In the city's walls
"Betray the city?" Tharbis asked, not entirely surprised.
"Yes, Madam," Memnon replied. "That was his condition for a marriage."
Tharbis turned her back to Memnon as she pondered. This was a very important decision. Possibly the most imortant of her life. Once made, there was no going back.
Tharbis turned back to Memnon. "Tell him I accept."
In Moses' camp
"Princess Tharbis accepts your conditions," Memnon told Moses. "She says to get yoru troops ready. In one hour, she will open the city gates, allowing you and your army to take the city."
"Excellent," Moses replied.
"On one condition," Memnon continued, causing Moses to raise an eyebrow. "That you spare her father and household, and the population of the city."
Moses thought for a few moments. "Yes. We will try and keep civilian casualties to a minimum. And if possible, we will spare King Merops and his household."
Memnon bowed. "Many thanks, Great One."
An hour later
Moses and Baka stood in front of the bridge, their army gathered behind them. The night was almost completely pitchblack – perfect for such an operation. They waited for the signal.
The two guards standing on either side of the city gates stiffened when they saw two cloaked figures approaching. As they got close, one of the guards quietly challenged, "Who goes there?"
One of the figures pulled back her hood and responded in a voice they knew well, "The king's daughter." The guards quickly stiffened further, and Tharbis continued, "I'm here to make a quick inspection of the gate with my servant."
"At this hour of the night?" one of the guards asked puzzledly.
"Yes," Tharbis replied firmly as she and Memnon moved past the guards. Moments later, the guards felt something hit them in the back of the head. They almost instantly blacked out.
Memnon and Tharbis grabbed the unconscious guards before they could fall and clatter. Dropping the bricks they each held, they gently laid the guards on the ground, and dragged them a few metres. They then stole to the gate. Grabbing an end each, they lifted the large wooded beam that secured the gate. Quickly and quietly, they carried it past a few houses and around the corner.
Tharbis and Memnon stole back to the wall, and back to the same room they had been in earlier. Pulling out a torch from his robe, Memnon proceeded to light it. Once lit, he handed it to Tharbis.
Standing before the window, the burnign torch in her hand, Tharbis suddenly had doubts. Was she doing the right thing? Or was she simply a traitor?
Tharbis steeled herself. I'm doing the right thing, she thought. And it's too late to turn back. She waved the torch back and forth in front of the window.
Outside the city
Moses spotted the signal. He glanced at the men standing next to him holding the battering ram. Then he raised his spear in the air and pointed it toward the city. "CHARGE!"
The soldiers on the city wall were startled by the sudden cry of the charging army. They could just make out their forms in the darkness. Archers and spear-throwers quickly took up their positions. Some began firing. "Don't worry," a captain stationed directly above the gate assured his men. "They can't get past the gate."
To the Ethiopians' shock, as soon as the battering ram at the head of the army hit the gates, they flung open! The Egyptian army poured into the city.
Ten minutes' later
King Merops and his wife, Queen Tuya, were woken suddenly by a banging on the bedroom. That's when they noticed the sounds of clamour from the city. "Your Majesty!" a soldier cried from the other side of the door. "Your Majesty! The city has been breached!"
Alarm and panic flaring in his chest, Merops jumped out of bed and ran to the doors. He flung them open and asked the soldier, "How bad is it?"
The soldier shook his head. "There's nothing left to be done."
Merops' heart sank like a rock. His dreams of ruling a vast empire stretching from the Cape to the Mediteranean were completely dashed. Why couldn't he have been content with the kingdom that he had?
Before anyone could react, they heard footsteps running. A messenger ran up and cried, "Oh King! The castle has been breached! We must fly!"
However, the tramp of approaching boots could already be heard. And the city was as good as taken. There was no point in fleeing.
A group of soldiers, lead by a familiar-looking general, rounded the corner at the far end of the hall and marched straight towards them. The general stopped in front of im. "King Merops?" he asked.
"That is me," Merops confirmed.
"You are ordered to surrender immediately," Moses replied. "To do so will spare your own life, the lives of your household, and the lives of your people. Further resistance is futile."
Merops turned to look at his wife, who was stanidng in shock in front of the end of the bed. He turned back to Moses. "I surrender."
The now-humiliated King Merops knelt before General Moses as the final conditions of surrender were dictated. "My final condition – also a guarantee against future attacks from you – is the hand of your daughter Tharbis in marriage."
Merops glanced up sharply at Moses, who met him with a steady gaze. He then turned and looked at Tharbis, and saw the earnestness in her eyes. He turned bakc to Moses. "Well I don't have any choice, do I?"
"No, you don't," Moses replied.
Within a week, the Egyptian royal court was celebrating the marriage of the heir to the throne to a barbarian Ethiopian princess.