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Adventures in the Ancient World: 1

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Adventures in the Ancient World: 1
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Author(s): H. Rider Haggard
Date Published: 2009/12
Page Count: 456
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-985-5
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-986-2

The master story teller’s view of the Ancient World

Rider Haggard is one of the most famous authors of adventure fiction in the English language. Almost everyone has heard of Allan Quatermain—the hero of King Solomon's Mines—and the beautiful, ruthless, magically immortal Ayesha—She 'who must be obeyed.' All of Haggard’s novels and stories featuring both characters are available in handsome Leonaur editions. Haggard was a prolific writer so it is not surprising that only a few of his titles are widely known—and read—by an audience which would enjoy them all. The essential elements of his most famous creations—the great African continent and ancient civilisations, mysterious and exotic, mythical, imagined or real, are combined in a number of his novels and stories and these too have now been collected by Leonaur into a special four volume set—African Adventures. Readers will therefore be unsurprised to learn that Haggard could not resist writing a number of tales about ancient civilisations, or that in these he naturally gravitated towards the most evocative of them all—the world of the Ancient Egyptians and the other peoples of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. This is a stunning body of fiction which Leonaur has gathered together into a four volume set—each successive volume following a chronological time-line along the sweeping march of history.
In this first volume of Adventures in the Ancient World, Haggard has set his stage almost as far back in recorded civilisation as possible. Queen of the Dawn, the first novel, is set in Egypt one thousand eight hundred years before the time of Christ in the time of the Shepherd King Apepi. The second novel, Moon of Israel, is also set in Egypt—in the 13th Century BC at the time of Pharaoh Amenmeses—and centres around the Biblical Exodus. Available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket for collectors.

There came a thunder of noise upon the door beyond the curtains. <br>
“Open!” shouted voices.<br>
“Open for yourselves. But know that death waits those who would violate her Majesty of Egypt,” answered the deep guttural voice of Ru.<br>
“We come to take the Queen and the Princess to those who will guard them well,” cried one without.<br>
“What better guard can they have than death?” asked Ru in answer.<br>
There was a pause. Then came blows upon the door, heavy blows as of axes, but still it held. Another pause and a tree trunk or some such weighty thing was brought and driven against it, and presently with a crash it fell, burst from its hinges. Rima seized the child and ran into the shadows. Kemmah leapt to the curtains and stood there looking between them, the spear she carried raised in her right hand. This was what she saw.<br>
The giant Nubian stood on the topmost stair in the shadow, for the light of the lamps in the niches struck forward. In his right hand he held a javelin, in his left he grasped the handle of his battle-axe and a small shield made of the hide of a river horse. Grim and terrible looked the Ethiopian giant outlined thus against the shadow.<br>
A tall man with a sword in his hand scrambled over the fallen door, the moonlight shining on his armour. The javelin flashed and the man fell in a heap, his mail clattering upon the bronze hinges of the door. He was dragged aside. Others rushed in, a number of them. Ru shifted his battle-axe into his right hand, lifted it, leaned forward and waited, advancing the shield to cover his head. Blows fell upon the shield. Then the axe crashed down and a man sank in a heap. Ru began to sing some wild Ethiopian war chant and as he sang he smote, and as he smote men died beneath the blows of that terrible axe driven with the weight of his mighty arm. Yet they pressed forward, for they were desperate. Death might be in front of them, but if they failed death was also behind at the hands of their confederates.<br>
The stair was too wide for Ru to cover. One ran under his arm and appeared between the curtains, where he stood staring. Kemmah saw his face. It was that of a great Theban lord who had fought with Kheperra in the battle and now had been suborned by the Shepherds. Rage seized her. She sprang at him and with all her strength drove the spear she held through his throat. He fell, gasping. She stamped upon his face, crying, “Die, dog! Die, traitor!” and die he did.<br>
On the stairway the blows grew fewer. Presently Ru appeared, laughing and red with blood.<br>
“All are dead,” he cried, “save one who fled. But where is the knave who slipped past me?”<br>
“Here,” answered Kemmah, pointing to a still form in the shadows.<br>
“Good. Very good!” said Ru. “Now I think better of women than ever I did before. Yet, hurry, hurry! One dog has escaped and he goes to call the pack. What is that? Wine? Give me to drink. Aye, give me wine and a cloak to cover me. I am no seemly sight for queens to look on.”<br>
“Are you hurt?” said Kemmah as she brought the goblet.<br>
“Nay, not a scratch; still no seemly sight, though the blood be that of traitors. Here’s to the gods of vengeance! Here’s to the hell that holds them! This garment is scant for one of my size, but it will serve. What’s that sack you drag to me?”<br>
“No matter what it is. Carry it, Ru. You are no warrior now, you are a porter. Carry it, O glorious Ru, and lose it not, for in it lie the crowns of Egypt. Come, Queen, the road is clear, thanks to the axe of Ru.”<br>
Rima came, bearing her babe, and at the sight of the red stair and of those who lay upon it or at its foot, shrank back and said in a wavering voice, for she was almost bemused with doubts and terror:<br>
“Is this the message of your gods, Kemmah?” and she pointed to the stains upon the floor and walls. “And are these their messengers? Look at them! I know their faces. They were the friends and captains of dead Kheperra, my lord. Why, O Ru, do you slay the friends of him who was Pharaoh, who came here doubtless to lead me and his child to safety?”<br>
“Aye, Queen,” said Kemmah, “to the safety of death or of the prison of Apepi.”<br>
“I’ll not believe it, woman, nor will I go with you,” said Rima, stamping her foot. “Fly if you will, as well you may do with all this blood upon your hands; here I stay with my child.”<br>
Kemmah glanced at her, then as though in thought she looked down at the ground while Ru whispered in her ear:<br>
“Command me and I will carry her.”<br>
The eyes of Kemmah fell upon that great lord whom she had slain with her own hand, and she noted that from beneath his breastplate there projected the end of a papyrus roll that had been thrust upwards when he fell. She bent down and took it. Opening it swiftly she read, as she who was learned could do well enough. It was addressed to the dead man and his companions and sealed with the seals of the high priest and others. This was the writing:<br>
“In the names of all the gods and for the welfare of Egypt, we command you to take Rima the Babylonian, wife of the good god Pharaoh who is not, and her child, the Royal Princess Nefra, and to bring them to us, living if may be, that they may be delivered to King Apepi in fulfilment of our oath. Read and obey.”<br>
“Can you read the Egyptian writing, Queen?” asked Kemmah. “If so, herein is a matter that concerns you.”<br>
“Read you. I have little skill,” answered Rima indifferently.<br>
So she read, slowly, that the words might sink into the mind of the Queen. Rima heard and leaned against her, trembling.
“Why did I ever come to this land of traitors?” she moaned. “Oh! would that I were dead.”<br>
“As you will be if you stay here longer, Queen,” said Kemmah bitterly. “Meanwhile it is the traitors who are dead, or some of them, and now tell their tale to Kheperra, your lord and mine. Come. Come swiftly, there are more villains left in Thebes.”
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