I'm specifically looking for input on how well Heneter is set up as a character, how interested you are in what happens next, if you think she should eventually get involved with Nakhti far, far in the future, and how much, if any, effort should I put into details of the preparations for leaving and the voyage.
General comments are also welcome.
Heneter easily blocked the attack and countered swiftly. Her opponent went down with a gasp as the flat of her dull edged practice sword connected with his midsection. She stepped back and sheathed the weapon. These are the best? She thought as she looked around.
Six men were all that remained of an initial group of 20 applicants looking for a place with the elite guard of the temple of Horus. Her subordinates had weeded out the other 14 the previous day leaving only these for her and her second to evaluate. To her right Nakhti was still toying with his partner as the other four watched, recovering from their own bouts.
Nakhti was leading the young man to swing wildly and expend far more energy than he could afford. He allowed each swing to barely miss him giving the applicant the illusion that next time it would connect. The applicant had power behind those swings and his form was good. It was only Nakhti's years of experience in real battles that allowed him to play with him.
That one has promise if he learns control, she thought. She pushed her sweat soaked hair out of her face and glanced at the sun to gage the time. It was only mid-morning and the heat was already building. She had seen enough to make her decision and there was no reason to waste time standing around. She had too many other things to do today.
Heneter clapped her hands for attention and Nakhti promptly stepped in and knocked his opponent on his rump. “That’s all for today.” She announced. “We will post the names of those who will continue this afternoon. Those on the list will report back here at first light in the morning. You are dismissed.”
She immediately headed toward the baths. When Nakhti caught up with her she gave him an irritated look. “You were showing off.”
“Yeah, how did I look?” He gave her a cocky grin.
She growled and gave him a glare. She wouldn’t answer that so she changed the subject. “I think we have only two real candidates here.”
He nodded. “My last opponent and the third one up, the one from Bubastis.”
“Tiw is his name.”
“Right, they both need work but the reflexes and the basic skills are there. They have the right attitude for it too.” He let her pass through the door first. Inside thick stone walls the air was still relatively cool and he felt a chill as the sweat started to dry. “Why don’t we finish this discussion in the bath? We’re pretty ripe.”
She calculated the odds that he was up to something and decided that although they were pretty good she really wanted to get clean before lunch. “Fine but keep your mind on business.”
He laughed. “I always do.”
She gave him another glare but before she could reply a page came trotting toward them.
“Lady Heneter, the High Priest requests that you come to his chamber.”
“We have just come from the practice field do I have time to bathe and change?”
“I believe so Lady. I found you sooner than I expected to so if you hurry it should be alright.”
“Thank you, I will be there shortly.” The page nodded and hurried away.
Heneter saw Nakhti's irritated look and decided that the interruption was probably for the best. “We'll have to discuss the recruits later, go ahead and post the notice if I'm not through in time.
“Yes, Captain,” he sighed.
Waiting for her in the High Priest's chamber was an old acquaintance, Huni the Pharaoh's Minister of Secrets. This was probably not going to be good. “You wished to see me Lord Menkau?” she asked the High Priest.
He glanced at Huni. “Actually, Lord Huni is the one who requested your presence. I need to attend to another matter.” Menkau got up and walked out, leaving her alone with the old spy master.
Huni had been in the Pharaoh's service in one capacity or another since childhood and Heneter knew that anything the old man said would carry the weight of the Pharaoh's authority.
“It is good to see you again my dear. I have a job for you.”
“Straight to the point as always. What is it this time?” She sat down in one of the hard chairs Menkau kept for visitors.
“Nothing too difficult. You will be handling security for Ambassador Meren-Ptah when he goes to Gadir to represent the Pharaoh at the coronation of the Emperor of the West.”
“Coronation? What happened to Emperor Acherbas? I thought he was still strong and in good health.
“He was, until someone cut his throat.” Huni's grin was chilling. “Thanks to the fast actions and firm leadership of Prince Hasdrubal a potential civil war came to nothing more than a palace revolt. My sources say that the one behind all this was a cousin who has fled north and may even be trying to hide in the Great Waste.
“He's a fool then. Nothing can survive there for long without being twisted by the dark magics there.”
“Indeed. You have been to the outskirts of that region before and know what to look for. I want you to find out what the situation really is. An unstable Empire affects all of us for good or ill. While we might benefit by expanding our Eastern border so might the Romans. In addition to this conflict there have been rumors of sickness striking their southern lands. We cannot refuse trade ships for no reason but if there is a plague brewing it could come here at any time. Good intelligence is essential for the Living Horus to make plans to defend our lands.
Heneter nodded in agreement. “I can travel with the ambassador and send you reports of what I observe then slip away once we reach Gadir and do some reconnaissance to the north. I'd like a few of my own men along.”
“Of course. The ambassador needs an honor guard and servants to smooth his way. You'll have two days to make your plans.”
“That's short notice but I'll be ready.” Heneter was already making lists in her head and forming preliminary plans.
Huni stood to indicate the interview was over. “I'll let you get started then. Expect a messenger with the codes you are to use and your final instructions before you board.