Abridged Excerpt from ZENOBIA
252 A.D. The Syrian Desert
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
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.”