I'd thought the Hittites were camped just on the other side of the river, but I was wrong. Tut's army marched for hours toward the rising sun, to the far eastern borders of Egypt. The sun was nearly overhead when I heard a low, droning sound that reminded me of a beehive I'd seen once. We crested a dune and saw the Hittite camp far in the distance. Smoke from their fires curled into the new morning sky. Closer was line after line of Hittite warriors, all facing us. Their own scouts must've seen Tut's army approaching, and they were ready for battle.
Tut's infantry stood in long lines halfway between us and the Hittite army. I saw Tut raise his scimitar to the sky and scream out a war cry that chilled my blood.
Tut's cry was drowned out by the voices of a thousand men answering his call. The infantry, already far ahead of the archers and chariots, broke into a run. Soon all I could see of them was a cloud of dust kicked up by their feet in the distance.
Tut's horses broke into a gallop, which must've been the signal the archers were waiting for, because the horses behind and to the side of us began to run. My horses and Grant's joined the stampede, hurtling themselves forward against their braces. Our chariots rocketed over the sand, bumping, jerking, and jolting. My teeth rattled together from the bone-jarring ride.
The noise grew in volume as we neared the area where the Egyptian and Hittite infantries had met head on. It was horrible mix of metallic clangs as sword met sword, mixed with war cries and the agonized screams of men and horses.
I could smell blood on the hot desert wind. The metallic stench of it filled my nose; it was so strong I could almost taste it, like when you get a bloody nose and the blood slides down your throat.
Grant was on my right, his chariot nearly even with mine as we crested another dune. Before us was spread a scene that could've been taken straight out of the movies, except I knew there were no special effects here, no CGI. Every drop of blood was real, and every one of the hundreds of bodies that lay broken on the sands had once been a living, breathing human being.
If I hadn't been scared before, I was now. I could hear my blood pounding in my ears, and the hands that held my reins shook.
Thousands of men fought with swords and spears. The Hittites had chariots, too, but theirs were bigger and heavier than the Egyptians', and each was pulled by four horses. I could see many of them bogged down in the softer sand. They were also clumsy; they tried to wheel and turn, but couldn't do it very quickly. They were powerful, though, and the ones that didn't get stuck in the sand plowed through Tut's infantry like rocks through paper, mowing men down and trampling them under sharp hooves and wooden wheels.
Tut's chariot plunged right into the thick of the battle, dragging Grant's and my chariots with him. I was busy trying to steer my horses around the bodies and away from the charging Hittite chariots, but I saw Tut's scythe flash bronze in the sunlight, slashing at the enemy.
I lost sight of Grant. The Hittites had forced him off to the right, separating us. I jerked the reins hard to the right, and the horses turned, racing across the battle line toward where I'd last seen him. "Grant! Grant!" I screamed, knowing my voice couldn't possibly be heard over the thunderous noise of the battle.
The feet of the armies and the horses kicked up the sand; it was flung by the wind into my face, scraping my skin raw like sandpaper. It bit into my eyes, making them hurt and tear up, until everything looked blurry.
A Hittite chariot closed in on my left, driven by a man with black hair and wild eyes. A second man stood with him on the chariot, holding a sword. Before I could maneuver my chariot away, the second man's sword flashed toward me.
It was probably only instinct that made me raise my shield. I certainly didn't intentionally block the shot, but it worked. The sword bit deeply into the shield, slashing it neatly down the center, but I didn't get so much as a scratch, although I felt the blow travel painfully up my arm into my shoulder.
I heard a voice screaming loudly, and it was only after my horses pulled my chariot away from the Hittite's that I realized it was coming from my own mouth. I screamed myself hoarse, until my voice sounded as rough as the sand that blew all around me.
That was the moment it really sunk into my brain. This wasn't a game. It wasn't a play, or a movie, or bunch of guys re-enacting an old battle. It was real. Men were dying all around me. Some of them weren't even as old as I was, barely more than kids themselves. Their screams of pain rang in my ears. I heard them calling for the gods, for their wives, their children, and their mothers, crying in pain, and calling for help that never came.
What had Grant and I been thinking? This was stupid; no, more than stupid--it was insane! We didn't belong here. We should be back at the Stanton School, going to class and slacking off on our homework! Where was Grant? I pictured him dead, crushed under his overturned chariot or hacked into pieces by the Hittites.
I finally spotted him off to the right, his chariot racing toward me. I felt an enormous wave of relief at the sight of him, particularly since he looked okay and still had all his body parts. I pulled hard on the reins, slowing my horses to a walk. When he got closer, I read my name on his lips, although I couldn't hear him over the noise all around us.
He was pointing behind me. I twisted my head, squinting to see through the flying sand.