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Authors: David Lynn Golemon

Carpathian

BOOK: Carpathian
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For my band of Gypsy wanderers—

The road will someday lead us back home …

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

For Pete Wolverton and Thomas Dunne for their hard work and dedication—we grow ever closer to the tale’s conclusion!

 

CONTENTS

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Part 1: Old Scores

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Part 2: Rebirth

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Part 3: The Golia

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Epilogue: Parting

Also by David L. Golemon

About the Author

Copyright

 

PROLOGUE

And they burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.…

Cursed before the Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his first-born he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.

Joshua 6:24–26

 

THE FLOODPLAIN OF YAM SUPH (THE SEA OF REEDS), 1556
BCE

The great multitude of humanity stretched out as far as the eye could see. The eight-hour trek had been filled with hardship and death for the Hebrew tribes as they continued to slog across the floodplain of the Sea of Reeds. The lost nation from the land of Goshen had made the passing of the large body of shallow water before the tide set upon them.

As the many tribes neared the end of the desperate gamble made by an even more desperate general, the rearguard element of Israelite soldiers came under grievous attack by the lead scouts and charioteers of Libyan axmen. The axmen were the forward vanguard of Crown Prince Amun-her-khepeshef’s grand army of one thousand chariots. Amun-her-khepeshef was the firstborn son of Pharaoh Ramesses II and was chosen specially for his historically ruthless treatment of all enemies of Egypt, and would lead the army of Ramesses to avenge the loss of so many during the plagues cast down upon the Egyptian people by the Hebrew leader—Moses the Deliverer, the onetime great-uncle to the crown prince himself and one of the greatest generals in all of Egyptian military history.

The rear guard of Hebrew forces was fashioned from elements of the twenty-two tribes of Israelite pilgrims. The shabbily clad soldiers held their ground for as long as they could against the fierce axmen of the Libyan deserts. The rear guard was meant to hold off the lead infantry soldiers of the army of Pharaoh until the signal was given to break off the defense of the floodplain. This would be done just before the larger lines of charioteers entered the trap set by the prophet. The sun was just starting to reach the fourth hour past midday. The Hebrew retreat had not rested for more than four days since the flight from Pharaoh and his two lands of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The main cohort of the Egyptian army hesitated at the edge of the muddy seabed. The battle-hardened soldiers watched as the last of the Hebrew rear guard, after brutally attacking their lead elements, fled back into the mire and stinging nettles of the Sea of Reeds.

The path of the 128,000 men, women, and children, along with their vanguard of many beasts of burden, was made clearly visible in the mud and the beaten path made by this great multitude of humanity. The trail was more than a mile wide and snaked across the muddy plain until the trampled earth disappeared into the late afternoon sun. The lead chariot stopped and watched as the last of the Hebrew soldiers vanished into the tall reeds that lined the retreat of the Exodus from the land of Pharaoh.

“Great one, we should await the coming of the morrow sun to continue the pursuit,” said Amun-her-khepeshef’s commander of the Egyptian host as he stood beside the crown prince just as the perfectly matched set of black horses pulling his chariot pawed at the ground nervously. The wind had started to pick up and the smell that struck the Egyptian’s nostrils was that of the returning sea. “The tide comes in and we have little time to cross the sea as it rises. We must wait lest our main strength and advantage of chariot and speed of horse will be lost in the mud and rising tide.”

“This ends today. The pursuit has carried on far too long. I have a thousand chariots filled with weary soldiers who tire of the chase. My father wishes this put to an end and until I have the head of Moses on the tip of my spear we will continue. Look at the retreat of the Hebrew army and people. Their God is as bad a general as Moses is a prophet. Spy to the east, Commander,” he said pointing. “The sea is now at his back and this shallow pond is no obstacle at all to the Egyptian host.”

Crown Prince Amun-her-khepeshef raised his right hand with his spear pointed to the long trail of retreat and thrust the bronz-tipped weapon forward. The action brought the thunderous roar of two thousand horses to action as the first of the charioteers rode into the low floodplains of the Sea of Reeds. For almost an hour and a half the grand army of Ramesses II chased the remains of the fleeing Hebrew nation into history and legend.

*   *   *

The charioteers rumbled through the quickly drying mud and sand. The wind was now nearing gale force and the many soldiers of Ramesses II knew the day had turned to an evil portent of things yet to come. Prince Amun-her-khepeshef’s chariot was in the middle of the fast moving units as they pursued the rear elements of the Israelites.

The horses were tiring as they fought for footing in the drying seabed. Mud covered most of the soldiers’ bodies and equipment of war, and the well-trained army was now growing as weary as their animals as they became weighted down by the sticky, thickening mud.

Without warning the lead chariots started slowing, and as Crown Prince Amun-her-khepeshef’s chariot followed suit he saw the reason for the abrupt halt. The first light waves of the returning sea splashed among the horses’ hooves and the wheels of the chariots. A nervous flutter flitted through the four thousand soldiers of the Egyptian host. The rumors of the strange abilities of the Hebrew prophet had slithered down to every man, woman, and child of Upper and Lower Egypt. Most of the soldiers had the deep-seated conviction that they would never see the Nile River after this day.

“The tide is coming in, Great One, we must turn and await a better time to cross,” said his general of the host as the horses started to rear up against the fast rising sea.

“I can see the trailing elements of the traitors’ animal herd. We are close to finishing this bloody errand—it ends here—it ends today,” Amun-her-khepeshef said again as his brown eyes flashed in the dying light of day. “These ungrateful people will pay for the lives lost and the traitorous way in which they have treated my father and the land that sustained them for centuries.”

As he spoke the wind died as quickly as it had sprung up and then they heard the rush of water as it covered the lower half of the chariot’s wheels. The force of the returning sea frightened the battle-hardened soldiers of Pharaoh’s army until they were told that the saltwater would rise slowly for the next three hours and never achieve the depth they need fear. The crown prince knew then that they would have the time needed to do their butchery before the sun had set that day.

The prince ordered the pursuit to continue as the sun became hidden behind the black and ominously roiling clouds that now covered the sky from east to west and north to south. The pitch-black heavens in the late afternoon were something the men of Pharaoh’s army had never seen before the coming of this day. The clouds seemed to be spinning in a terrifying rush to close off the heavens from the sight of men. As the prince looked around him he saw the thousands of horses of the army start to stomp at the water and shy away from the approaching tide of the returning sea.

“Great One, there to the east, look!” his general called out as he tried to pierce the sudden darkness of the false night as he fought the reins to control the matched black horses.

Off to the east on a small rise of land that was an island when the tide was in stood a figure flanked by two other men. The tallest of the three stepped forward and even though the men were more than half a mile away, the crown prince knew exactly whom he was spying.

“The Great Deliverer awaits the host of Pharaoh’s army,” the crown prince said as he once more raised his spear to the sky. “He is not the weak man I had taken him for. So be it, onetime uncle, today you meet your one true God!”

“Some say he is the greatest general of the two kingdoms and is led by a singular God,” the general said as he watched the man close to a mile away raise both arms and spread them wide and then suddenly lower both and tap the ground beneath his feet three times with his long, crooked staff.

“This is quite enough. Bring me the head of the false Egyptian!” the crown prince shouted as he ordered the host forward into the deepening Sea of Reeds.

The thousand chariots started forward slowly as their wheels began to get mired in the mud, swirling sand, and rising waters. As they started to get bogged down in their haste to reach the Hebrew army they saw the man on the slowly shrinking island raise both arms once more to the blackened sky.

The attack signal had been given.

Before the men of the Egyptian host knew what was happening they were assaulted from all sides. The black shapes sprang from the water. They struck from behind large stands of reeds and from the mud. The crown prince heard the shouts and the screams of men as they were taken from their chariots by unseen forces that had sprung seemingly from the bowels of the underworld. He watched as a black, mud-covered shape shot up, shedding water, black mud, and sea grass and took the general that had been standing next to him but a moment before and all that was left was one of the man’s sandals.

Screams of men and horses pierced the false night around him. Arrows were loosed in a frenzy to get away from the unknown and deadly attackers. Un-aimed arrows flew around the prince like angry hornets as men fought for their lives. More shouts of frightened soldiers sounded when the large, black-fur-covered animals vanished after mauling a quarter of his chariot force. The Libyan axmen taking up the middle of the Egyptian formation had been decimated by the ambush. As soon as the last of the beasts had disappeared back into the mud and water, the archers of the Hebrew forces started loosing arrows by the thousands into the dark sky.

Amun-her-khepeshef took the reins of the shaking and rearing chariot and snapped the leather straps to get his twin black Arabian horses back to the attack. Before the horses could take purchase in the mud and water something rose from the sea and made the horses rear up to protect themselves. The beast was enormous. It tossed one horse to the side and that harsh action forced the other large Arabian to follow suit. The momentum of both horses going down twisted the chariot until it became airborne, throwing the crown prince into the rising foulness that was the Sea of Reeds.

Amun-her-khepeshef came up spitting vile saltwater from his mouth and dripping from his nose. Before he could catch his breath amidst the screams of torment of his many thousands of men, he was taken by the throat and lifted from the stinking mire. The long fingers of the animal were something the crown prince could not believe he was seeing. As his eyes widened at the sight of the humanlike digits he tried to move his head to see the beast that was going to kill him. As his eyes rose they came face-to-face with an animal he had always heard tales of from his Hebrew servants. They had been mere stories to scare all Egyptian children about a mighty beast that guarded the eastern gates of the empire. The Golia were mythical animals sent by the god of the Egyptian underworld for the defense of the two lands. Now the prince saw that the subject of those tales that had been meant to frighten him as a boy was now staring right at him. The beast’s yellow eyes glowed brightly as its huge muzzle opened wide to allow the prince to see the sharp teeth and the saliva dripping from them. The mud covering the animal was crusted and smelled of dead things and that was when the prince, the firstborn son of Ramesses II, knew these animals had buried themselves in the mud of the plain after the tide had left and waited until the sea had returned to spring their trap.

BOOK: Carpathian
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