The barbarians were so close that it surprised Cyrus, who was now only thirty feet from his tent and already swinging his finely crafted sword at the heads of the wild-looking people. In his mind, he pictured the relief he would have carved into the mountain. He would have them portray him as a god-like hero borne aloft a Simurg bird with the sun symbol beneath him. Rows and rows of the vanquished barbarians would be pictured with their hands tied, being led to pay their homage to him. He would have to make sure that their costumes were depicted accurately. The Scythians and their pointed hats, the Massagetae with their calf-length robes, and those strange cloaks on the Scythian warriors! What were they made from? There were those among them with fierce masks on their faces. They were painted in eerie earth tones, but the impact was fantastic. As he mused, he continued to fight confidently, seeing that he was flanked by his able royal bodyguards. Not that he was afraid to fight like any other soldier, but his importance was naturally a consideration. His arm was beginning to ache.
Soon he was face-to-face with Queen Apuyani. You may be surprised to hear that a king, what to speak of a queen, would be fighting in a battle. Yes, in those days, kings were required to fight alongside the troops. If a queen wished to hold onto power, she too had to fight.
Many people suddenly stopped and the din of the melee seemed to dim around that spot. Cyrus was sure this woman was the queen, because of her regal bearing. He felt guilt now. She had appealed to him and assured him that her country was obedient to the throne, yet he had had killed her entire army, including her son. His face softened with a look of regret as Queen Apuyani approached, teeth bared in a mask of rage.
I knew it was time to take over before he stepped away from the fight. The king’s eyes fogged over and he appeared to become furious. Swinging his sword as if imbued with demonic power, he dashed at the queen. His heavy sword hit her club with such intensity that she almost dropped it. The queen’s charger backed up and then flung himself forward. This sudden movement caught Cyrus off guard. The queen pulled a half-sword from its scabbard as they closed in.