Alexandros: Ch. 13-14byJoeBarnosky©
Who do we have available for an investigation?" Sternigan asks looking up from the book.
"Davis and Markief are close to the Mediterranean," Furloft answers getting up from his chair, already knowing where the question was going.
"Good. I want them and their team to search the area."
"But we don't have coordinates, only a general location. Besides in this day in age, someone should have stumbled onto the island by now," Furloft protests.
"Yes that's true Malcolm, but that doesn't mean anything. Like all things in this world, they change. I'm not expecting to find anything above the water..."
"But what's below it," Furloft finishes.
"Exactly," Sternigan says with some excitement. He stands and walks away from the table to the wall of books.
"What do you hope to find? You read how Alexandros described it. It was plain and other than stone, water has surely destroyed it by now."
"I'm hoping to find anything. Look what you found," he says holding his hand openly to the book.
"I wasn't looking for it though."
"You of all people should know when looking for something, you tend to find opposite of it."
"You know, you should have been a history teacher or historian or something."
"I thought about it, the teaching part. Of course I found my calling here instead."
"Fate has a strange way of intervening in human lives," Furloft remarks.
"Fate is no more than a highly orchestrated plan weaved by higher power."
"Call it what you will, but things happen for a reason."
"As we shall see."
After searching the wreckage and carnage of the temporary camp, Khaldun found and secured a horse. The chariot the horse was attached to is what had hindered it from running off into the desert. He rode the day and through the night, only stopping long enough to allow the horse to drink when they found water. He didn't see any signs of an army passing through the region but that didn't mean one didn't come through.
The desert was an unforgiving place and one of the hardest terrains in the world to track people in. Winds constantly swept through destroying footprints. Windstorms were an expectation. There wasn't even the option of knowing the desert like you could a forest or other land form. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing, except sand. If not for his navigational knowledge, Khaldun would wonder the desert until his death. He reached Memphis in the twilight hours the following day where he was greeted by the city's guards.
"General Khaldun! We received news of a battle. Where are the rest of your troops?"
"Slaughtered," he said with a resigned tone. "I must see Pharaoh immediately."
"Right away General!" the soldier turned to his cohort. "Get the path to the palace cleared!"
The man ran ahead and began to yell to clear the walkway. Khaldun was tired and wanted nothing more at the moment but to lie down and sleep. As much as he wanted to he couldn't. He had a duty still. He was relieved though to see that the city still stood, which meant Rashida was still safe and alive.
As he passed the people of the city many bowed in respect to the commander of the army and many still looked in awe that here he was alive. Rumor spread through the city like a fire that Khaldun and his army was swallowed by the desert.
The rumor began like any other rumor. News filtered in from passing travelers then into the city where the news was spread further by mouth. Eventually the facts were changed; things were added and taken away leaving no two people with the same story.
Khaldun kept his posture up as best as he could. He preferred to not allow the people to see just how tired and beaten he was. The last image the people needed of the commander of the army was a weakened and broken general.
Once he was inside the inner palace gates and the doors closed he slumped in the saddle. He moved his hand over where his wound lay. It throbbed slightly from the ride, but other than that it felt better than it should have. He still didn't have an answer as to why he didn't die from the fatal wound and as long as he was alive he truly didn't care.
"Khaldun!" a voice shouted, breaking him from his thoughts. He recognized the voice instantly. Ako, Rashida's younger brother. He was one of the few that was allowed to not be required to use the title general when speaking to him. "Let me help you," he said rushing to the horse's side.
Ako was barely into his teenage years but he was strong for his age. He showed great interest in becoming a warrior training with the soldiers and taking every opportunity to learn what Khaldun had to teach him.
"How is your sister?"
"She is fine and a little worried that the rumors were true."
"Well they are. To an extent at least."
Khaldun now had his arm around Ako's shoulder and began to limp toward the palace when the doors shot open.
"Khaldun!" Rashida yelled as she ran to him. She wrapped her arms around him, nearly knocking both the men over. "I was so worried about you."
"I'm glad to see you sought my return. Does this mean you will accept my hand in marriage?"
"I sought your return because you are my dearest friend Khaldun and I care for you, but because of that I can't marry you," she answered with a hint of sorrow in her voice.
"Well one can only keep trying," he remarked more to himself than her.
"Come on. Father would like to hear your report," she said seemingly ignoring the comment.
Khaldun stood before Pharaoh without the aid of Ako or Rashida and tried his best to remain that way. He told Ako and Rashida he wanted to stand freely but asked them to stay close in case he lost his strength.
"Remain standing," Pharaoh instructed when Khaldun attempted to kneel before him. "I will not hold you longer than necessary."
"Thank you my lord," Khaldun said nodding his head.
"I'm not interested in the rumors that have been spreading so I need a full report on what has transpired and what threat we will be facing."
"After spying on the enemy encampment I deemed it necessary we make a preemptive attack." He swallowed hard expecting rebuke. He went against Pharaoh's specifics orders and at the time it didn't matter because he fully intended for the battle to go totally in the opposite direction than it had.
"Go on," Pharaoh said without a hint of anger or disappointment.
"The creatures, demon spawn from the depths of Hades were more than we expected. My men, Chike and even I fell far too quickly. The last I remembered was being stabbed and falling in the battle.
"I woke sometime later with my wound strangely closed and nearly healed. I traveled to Semni's encampment, the one I had him set up to stop any of the beasts that may have slipped past us.
"I hope they would have had a far better experience than I, but all I found was the same carnage that I had left. My thoughts swirled around the catastrophe I caused and I rushed back here to the city praying for your safety."
"You are correct in causing a catastrophe, but you did make a command decision. After the rumors I sent scouts out to find this army and though it is trying to look as if they are not concerned with us, my spies tell me otherwise."
Pharaoh stood up from his seat and proceeded down the small set of stairs to stand in front of Khaldun. Pharaoh placed his hand on his shoulder. "You did what you thought best and I'm glad you were able to survive. Now go and take rest, I'll rouse the army and begin fortifications. I'm still quite capable of leading the army."
"Thank you my lord. When I'm rested I'll be ready to lead your army to victory."
"Yes, I know."