A commotion buzzed at the edge of the trading souq
next to the harbor of Jizan. All eyes of the spectators followed a slender ebony galley, fringed with gold and inlays of ivory, as it slid and anchored beside one of the earthen quays. On its billowing crimson sail glowered the gold face of a ram which supported the sun on its horns, the royal insignia of Kush.
It was by no means unusual for a Kushite vessel to dock at Jizan. Plenty of merchants from all sides of the Red Sea and beyond would flock to the port to vend their wares and restock for the next trip. Yet the black galley that had come in was a rare giant that would have dwarfed the typical merchantman, never mind the native Arab dhows that appeared beside it like minnows to a whale. Above the deck glimmered the copper spears, axes, and swords of the soldiers aboard.
Once they laid the gangplank down, there descended a svelte young woman whose skin was as dark as the galley itself, with her shor