When he escapes from the Naga assassins, Solomon Magus travels to Mizraim. There he is tasked with transporting Meshkenet, a pharaoh's daughter, to Kwandari in the Southern Kingdoms to exchange her for M'Bali, the daughter of King Thulani. As Pharaoh Amun-Khepri explains, '...if either King Thulani or I break the peace treaty, then the daughters will be the first to die'. Solomon deems this a little bizarre. Nevertheless, with the aid of a barbarian and a healer, he sets off on his mission. Of course, it will prove to be no ordinary undertaking.
[I'm currently halfway through this novel]
From CHAPTER ONE:
...The Naga lay dead, their corpses peppered with several long arrows each, whilst beyond them, seven tall black men gazed at me with no slight amount of interest.
Except for animal-hide loincloths and several decorative accoutrements - armbands, necklaces, and earrings - they stood naked, their buff bodies muscular and lean. Bows in their left hands, their right hands remained at the ready upon quivers of those lengthy arrows that hung from belts around their waists. Behind them, at a safe distance, eight other half-nude bearers supported a decorative covered sedan chair on their shoulders; I could not see the occupant, for a thick yellow gauze curtain covered the opening.
"May the Goddess Shakti shine upon you this day," I called out in Common. "To whom am I indebted for saving my life?"
None of the men spoke. Perhaps they did not know any language but their own, whatever that might prove to be.
However, a moment later, the curtain slowly drew back, and I looked upon a rather large and full-figured reclining woman who appeared very attractive. I took this woman to be around twenty years old although, to be honest, I could have been wrong. Additional corpulence oftentimes disfigures appearances, making it difficult to assess their age.
She possessed a voluminous amount of black hair that billowed like a mane to the middle of her back. Across her breasts and around her waist and legs, she wore multicolored garments that left her shoulders, belly, and arms bare. Huge round rings hung from her ears, whilst another smaller one pierced the septum of her nose. Small chains dangled from the ring in her nostril to the ones in her lobes.
She spoke to me, then, in Common, though heavy with an accent. "I am Nifritiri, daughter of Amun-Khepri, and a princess of the Middle Kingdoms, and heiress to the realm of Kumat. And who might you be?"
I bowed low. "I am but a lowly traveler on the road to Arpakshad, milady. I bear ill will to no one, seek only knowledge and peace, and to share -"
"A lowly traveler?" She cut me off, amusement quite evident in the tone of her voice. "Pray tell, what has this 'lowly traveler' done to anger five Naga assassins?"
For a moment, I considered lying, but such is not in my nature, although I may stretch a truth now and then to obscure it.
"It seems, milady Nifritiri, that I have managed to slay him whom they referred to as their master - the wizard, Lazhar."
At this admission from me, not only did the princess explode with laughter, but also all the men who accompanied her.
Apparently, they did know Common.
"I have amused you?" I asked.
"In truth," she replied, "I do believe that only a more powerful wizard than Lazhar could have slain him."
I shrugged and responded, "I do not claim to be more powerful, milady. But I did see him perish before my own eyes through the working of his own magic rather than mine."
"Then, you, too, are a wizard?"
"Solomon Magus, milady." And I bowed again.
When I looked up, she smiled and said, "I beg you, Solomon, ride with me, and let us talk of magic."