Sunset Xiphos and Hannibal arrived late to the Delta Theater, a jewel of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. From the central entrance, the companions looked down thirty-two sets of stairs to a portion of the Delta River that had been diverted to form a perfect semicircle around the front of the stage. Small skiffs floated in the water, each holding a rower and three musicians playing lyres, flutes, and other instruments. The king and his entourage sat front and center at the bottom of the main staircase. Two heavily robed actors with masks gestured and spoke onstage. “Do we interrupt?” Hannibal asked. “Pharaoh wants our report,” Xiphos returned. They descended the long flight of stairs to join Pharaoh at the front of the audience. Queen Berenice, on the king’s right, moved over to allow Xiphos access. “What did you find?” Ptolemy whispered. “The tunnel,” Xiphos returned softly. “It’s full of blood. We found a fragment of his robe, and of a woman’s gown. I spoke to my sister, Cynisca. She knows of no scrolls that produce water spells or thunderbolts. Perhaps something is hidden in the Serapeum Library?” “We’ll begin a search,” Berenice said. Onstage, one of the actors gestured grandly and called out a line. The audience laughed. “That damned Sosibius!” the king hissed under cover of their clapping. “I know he’s hiding something.” He tugged angrily at the ring. The king fell silent, leaving Xiphos unsure whether he was to leave or not. Onstage, the actors recited the meeting of the Queen Mother, Atossa, when told of the demise of her cherished son, Xerxes. “What is the source of their wealth, these Athenians?” asked Atossa. “Copious silver from their mines in Attica, my queen,” said the messenger. The king looked over at Berenice and frowned. She nodded in sympathy and shared concern. “Keep me apprised of developments,” the king told Xiphos. Xiphos bowed and backed away with Hannibal. “What did he say?” asked Hannibal as they climbed the stairs. “Not much. He’s angry, and so is the queen.” “Better not anger our queen,” Hannibal muttered. “None have forgotten how she killed her first husband; something about a liaison with her mother?” “Silence! This is serious!” Xiphos whispered harshly. As the two instructors climbed the staircase, Xiphos scanned the audience, hoping for a glimpse of Princess Arsinoe, longing to see her. “Do they use the composite bow on horseback?” asked Queen Atossa onstage. “No, my queen, they grasp the stout spear and wield a massive shield,” answered the messenger. Xiphos turned to watch. “Who is their king?” “They have no king!” The actor’s voice rang out, louder than the previous lines. He turned, facing Ptolemy. “They are free people!” With the words still ringing, he lunged for the water, screaming, “Death to tyrants!” He leaped the fifteen cubits, hanging for a moment in the air, moonlight flashing off a long, white jade dagger, before landing on one knee and plunging the blade to the hilt into the monarch’s chest. Ptolemy screamed. With another knife in his free hand, the assassin sliced through Pharaoh’s ring finger. Before anyone could move, the actor dropped into the water and disappeared with the severed digit. Xiphos grabbed Hannibal, dragging him down the stairs. “Hannibal. There!” Xiphos pointed at the water where the assassin had disappeared before racing to attend to the king. “Got it!” Hannibal leaped over five rows of seats, landing on one of the skiffs. A musician tumbled into the water as Hannibal steadied himself for his next jump. He scanned the channel, seeking a path to intercept the fleeing actor. Thirty cubits ahead, he saw a disturbance in the water. He bounded from one skiff to another in pursuit, toppling musicians to the accompaniment of screams from the theater crowd behind him. Ninety cubits from the murder site, the actor scrambled from the river, into a crowd of vendors, guards, and Alexandrian citizens. A thin cloak obscured his features. At the king’s side, Xiphos called for help in removing the raging Queen Berenice from her husband. The dagger hilt and handle protruded from the king’s upper-left chest. Blood spilled from the wound, and from where the finger was severed, shooting geysers from the pumping heart. “Put pressure on the finger!” Xiphos shouted at Berenice. Trembling, she drew a sharp breath and pulled herself together, pressing a wadded section of her dress to the stump where her husband’s finger had been. “They’ll pay for this,” she whispered. Grasping the knife handle, Xiphos chanted his mantra and focused his qi into the wound. The blade had passed between the second and third ribs, collapsing Ptolemy’s left lung, nicking the pericardium, and barely missing the heart. Xiphos closed his eyes. But something disturbed the flow of his qi into the wound. He frowned and focused harder. Slowly, the wound began to close around the knife as he eased it from the king’s chest. Dropping it, Xiphos looked toward the water to see Hannibal swimming hard, ninety cubits away. There was no sign of the assassin. Soldiers swarmed the theater. I have permission from the authors to use this excerpt in my article.
The backdrop of this book is set in the Ptolemaic Kingdom where magic exists. It is a time of murder, assassinations, power, and greed. Brother will be against brother. Son will try to take the throne from his father. Two brothers race to find and obtain 12 powerful and magical amulets before the other one does. Whoever has the amulets has the power to save or destroy the world. Who will find it? The book starts out with the murder of Pharaoh's friend. Who would do this murder and why are the main plots in this book. This is a great book. I loved the way the authors start this book because it captures your attention and you want to read the whole thing to find the who and the why. Even after you know those answers you still want to continue reading it until the end. I can't wait to read the next book. It is written in an easy and understanding way. The characters are believable except for the magic. It is good against the bad. There were twists and turns and it was great. There is even some romance in here. You can tell that this was researched with information on the Ptolemaic family and the Egyptians belief in aliens. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves a good murder, romance, adventure, and history of an ancient civilization. Even fantasy and magic are included.