Abridged Excerpt from ZENOBIA

252 A.D. The Syrian Desert

 It was a beautiful day for death. The saffron sun teased the desert with color as it changed beige sand to a rainbow of pinks, oranges, and hot red and sent the temperature soaring. Dunes laid in rows from east to west, and the sand plains in front of them were ridged like a sun-ripened date.

Zenobia tucked an errant strand of black hair under a silk scarf she wore beneath her helmet. She looked across the desert at the Persian army lined up to attack her Palmyran forces along with those of her husband.

She turned in the saddle and looked at her husband, who was always introspective before a battle. She reached over, touched his hand, and prayed to the great god, Bel, for his safety. This ritual was performed before every battle, and each time it grew more important to her. She had thought it impossible to love her husband with such depth. Her heart felt as if it would burst at times like these. She loved his powerful shoulders and arms, his decisive manner in battle, and his strength against the enemy. Most of all, she loved the man. He was a good man and a good king.

“We have been fighting the Persians for eight years now, Odainat.” She inclined her head toward General Abdas to her husband’s right. “Your Christian man says that we had our first battle in the 244th year after his god’s death.”

“It seems many lifetimes,” Odainat said. He looked neither at his wife nor his general.

“It’s time for me to return to my troops. She squeezed her fingers around his war-hardened hand and released it slowly as she turned her horse away from her husband. She refused to think of mortality.

“It is your turn to give the signal to advance,” Odainat say.

Zenobia looked over her shoulder and laughed. “You are a stern taskmaster making me decide when to attack.”

“It is good for you to practice strategy and fro me to learn how you think.”

“After all these years on the field of battle, you should know how I use my mind.”

Odainat pulled at his beard, still black but tinged with silver. “Alas my queen, I believe not.”


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