NOW EVEN HOREMHEB had caught the fever, and when his words rang out across the desert, they were delivered with the same excitement as Tut’s.
“Archers, take aim.”
The Canaanites could see the Egyptian archers draw arrows from their quivers and then pull back their bowstrings. A distant horn commanded the Canaanites to battle, and they flew at the Egyptians, daring their attackers to hold their lines.
Simultaneously, the Canaanite archers took aim.
Now Tut chose an arrow from his quiver, ready to fire the first shot of war. He launched it into the sky in a powerful arc, right on target. Only then did he call out to his men.
“Fire!” Tut commanded. His voice was thin and reedy, still that of a boy on the cusp of manhood. But there was fury in his tone, and a fearlessness that buoyed the Egyptian lines.
Tut’s archers sent forth a volley that blackened the sky before descending into the Canaanite infantry and charioteers. Hundreds of them fell, screaming to the heavens, writhing in agony.
Tut watched in dismay as the Egyptian infantry refused to attack, preferring to hold their lines.
It was Horemheb who told him why.
“They’re waiting for you, Pharaoh.”
Tut swallowed hard. How long had he been taking chariot lessons? Six years? Seven? He believed he could ride as well as any man, but he couldn’t be sure. “Be with me, Mother,” he whispered. Then the young pharaoh stepped back into his chariot.
“Sound the call, General.”
Horemheb signaled to the herald. The battle horn blared.
Meanwhile, the Canaanites continued to sprint forward, shouting and waving their long swords, hoping to terrify the Egyptians, and especially the young pharaoh.
Tut slipped his bow back over his shoulders. He pulled his sword from its scabbard. The time had come to christen it with the enemy’s blood. He slapped his reins down hard on his team’s flanks and raced straight toward the Canaanites.
As one, the Egyptian army roared forward behind him. High above them, another volley of arrows arced, then fell into the Canaanites’ battle lines.
Horemheb and the other Egyptian charioteers galloped up beside Tut. Within seconds they were trampling the bodies of Canaanite warriors, who writhed in pain. Tut could hear the whoosh of swords meant for him.
Holding the reins in one hand, Tut swung out with his sword. He was stunned to see the blade sever a man’s head. Tut had killed him, his first victim.
The Canaanites retreated, dropping their shields and sometimes even their swords, running for their lives.
But Tut could see that the great wooden city gates were shut tight. They could not escape.
The women of Canaan had chosen to doom their husbands and sons rather than submit to the Egyptians. It was left to Tut’s men to finish the slaughter. Canaanite bodies soon littered the desert, most butchered beyond recognition. Many of the dead were twisted into impossible positions. Some seemed to have died with an arm or leg reared up toward the sky.
Tut had finally tasted battle and become a man—and a true king.