Drinker Of Blood

Drinker Of Blood by Lynda S. Robinson Read Free Book Online

Book: Drinker Of Blood by Lynda S. Robinson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lynda S. Robinson
Tags: Historical Mystery
stood and looked at Dilalu with curiosity. The man's tongue was slippery as wet granite, which was no doubt of great use to him when selling mountains of weapons to petty kings in Syria.
    "Are you the one who provided mounts to pharaoh in Horizon of the Aten?"
    Dilalu bowed again, nearly crushing the cat in his arms. The animal spat and struggled. It finally jumped to the ground and began to stalk around the stables.
    "Perhaps the great lord has seen the matched black stallions of the old king. Pharaoh drove from his palace in the northern city down the royal road with them countless times."
    "Yes," Meren said softly. "I remember."
    "And I provided the great royal wife with a white pair."
    "I remember a mare called Swiftness."
    "The finest, O mighty prince. The queen allowed me into her presence to praise the animal."
    Affecting indifference, Meren scooped up a handful of grain from a bucket and fed Wind and Star. Dilalu gave Prince Djoser an uneasy look and burst into florid speech again.
    "O mighty lord, whom pharaoh has made powerful, I have added horse to horse, bow to bow, shield to shield, for the armies of Egypt. And I long to serve the upright Lord Meren. I have other animals from afar—leopards, green monkeys, gazelles, onagers, and parrots." Dilalu ventured a few steps nearer his quarry and gave Meren a sideways glance that started at the top of his black hair and ended at his ankles. "I even have slaves from across the sea, blond ones from the wild north lands."
    "What I want from you, merchant, is first choice from among your finest mares and stallions, and perhaps I will need a pair of hinnies."
    "O mighty prince, I breed my hinnies from royal stallions and the gentlest of female donkeys."
    Giving Dilalu a blank stare, Meren turned to Prince Djoser. "The merchant may speak to my steward about payment. Pray come with me and taste some new Syrian wine my trader has just brought back, my friend."
    Meren and Djoser left the stable. Dilalu scooped up his cat and scurried after them, his long woolen robe a bright blot against the white-plastered walls of the buildings. Zar was waiting to escort the merchant, and Meren didn't look at him again as he engaged Djoser in conversation. When Dilalu was gone, Meren walked toward the house with his friend. The first meeting had been everything he'd planned. Dilalu had already revealed his presence at Horizon of the Aten and his acquaintance with Nefertiti.
    "My thanks for bringing the merchant," Meren said to Prince Djoser.
    Djoser smiled and ducked under the branch of an acacia beside the walk. "He'll try to cheat you."
    "Is that not the way of merchants?"
    Djoser frowned, as if troubled. "But you could have gotten horses by sending your trader to any of the breeders in Egypt, Meren."
    "Ah," Meren said smoothly, "but this Dilalu has the finest, the horses favored by the royal family, and I want the best for my eldest daughter, who is about to bear her first child."
    "Still—"
    "And how much greater the value of the gift if one attends the details of its acquisition personally, my dear friend."
    Djoser brightened. "I never thought of that."
    Having shared an upbringing with the children of the royal palace, Meren wasn't surprised at Djoser's blindness. He stopped beside the long reflection pool that decorated the approach to the house as servants scurried toward them bearing trays and ostrich feather fans.
    "This personal attention, it is a practice I learned from Queen Nefertiti. She used to choose gifts for her daughters herself. But enough of miserable merchants."
    "I agree," Djoser said. "Men like that are never of much consequence."
    "Your words have much truth," Meren said as he picked up a bronze goblet from a tray. "And dealing with that one has left a bad taste on my tongue."

Chapter 3
    Thebes, joint reign of the Pharaoh Amunhotep III, the Magnificent, and his son, Akhenaten
    Nefertiti dashed through a maze of palace rooms cluttered with guards, servants, courtiers,

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