Background information: The Giza Plain has been continually inhabited by humans for about 15,000 years. The desert plains were originally savannah grassland, quite enticing to an ancient population of hunter gatherers who made their home near both an easy water source and a source of steady food.
Between 6,000 to 5,000 years ago, the savannah plain of North Africa began to disappear and transform into desert as a result of the continual high temperatures produced during the Altithermal (which was a dry postglacial period extending from about 7500 to 4000 years ago, during which time temperatures were believed to be distinctly higher than present temperatures, somewhat like global warming). Cave paintings found in the desert show the Ancients hunting animals in the grass, where now there is desert sand.
The Sahara didn't transform completely into a desert until around 3,000BC, coincidentally the time portrayed in the events of TSK. Mathayus's people were probably still adapting to the higher temperatures and the desertification of the region, but a source of water in the desert was treasured more than gold or the new metal just coming into existence: bronze.
3000BC is the generally accepted timeframe for the shift from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, coincidentally the setting of the events in TSK. In the Early Bronze Age, metal is rare (excepting for copper and gold which was used mainly in decorative or religious objects). Copper, worn as jewelry, has been found in a site dating back 10,000 years, so Mathayus's and Amel's copper pendants would be entirely appropriate.
The Mesopotamians had already developed agriculture and the attendant cities, and the Sumerians had developed their writing system on clay tablets [the Iron Age didn't occur until nearly two thousand years later, during Egypt's first Intermediate Period, better known as the Invasion of the Hyksos (The Shepherd Kings). The First Intermediate period is between the 17th and 18th Dynasties, and the 18th Dynasty, as we know, produced King Tut].
The peninsula referred to in the story is the Sinai Peninsula, where some of the richest deposits of turquoise in the world are found. Turquoise was known to the Ancients and Egyptians were mining turquoise in the Sinai Peninsula by 3,200 BC (just before the events set in TSK). Queen Zar, a wife of the second ruler of the First Dynasty, i.e., the ruler just after Scorp, wore four turquoise armbands on her mummy.
Fanfic premise: Mathayus, although being born into an arid desert, has the memories of having lived before in a well watered, grassy savannah. He, like all humans living in a dry region, long for a cool sip of cold water. He also has disturbing nightmares about a never-ending war that seems to take place in the future. Although he is a born warrior, he is frightened of the events he sees in his dreams. Changes are being forced upon the peoples in his region with the advent of bronze, and the growing spread of agriculture. Mathayus doesn't know what the future will hold, and dreams about his people's destruction terrify him.
Mathayus gets a new weapon, one for which he willingly pays the price.
Timeline: Story is set four years before the events in TSK
Mathayus squinted against the desert sun glaring down at him. He wasn't sure, but he thought he could make out on the horizon a lone figure coming towards the campsite. The soon-to-be visitor was carrying something that glinted in the sun.
Glinting off the object, the sun shone directly into Mathayus's eyes. He closed his eyes and raised his hand to shield them. Spots swam before his eyes. He turned his back to his visitor and awaited the arrival of the visitor by getting out his water bag. His own fist sized copper pendant gleamed against his skin.
"Greetings, Mathayus!" his visitor called when he was in range. Mathayus turned around and called back:
"Greetings yourself. Your metal stick can work to our advantage in a fight. The sun glinted off the stick and shined its light directly my eyes. A man could blind his enemy temporarily and then rush him!" Mathayus's voice had an edge of excitement to it, for he was a born warrior.
"Ahh, this is called a sword, and I can tell you are longing for the days when the fighting was endemic!" Mathayus's visitor, Amel, said.
"You know me well, Amel. I do in fact long for the days when I could wake up and fight my way through my day!" Mathayus told Amel as he offered the man a small hide bag full of cold water. Amel drank.
"My man! Where did this sweet nectar come from?" Amel cried.
"My secret. And you'll not know!" Mathayus' dark eyes twinkled. Both he and Amel knew the the desert's treasure was neither gold nor copper nor the new metal, bronze. Water was the desert's treasure and Mathayus had found, nestled in a hard to get at nook in a small rock formation, a spring which bubbled up cold delicious water. A secret like this could only help Mathayus, for if his secret spring's location was generally known, someone would eventually want it for himself.
And Mathayus was determined to not let that happen. Water was the treasure of the desert, and some of the ancient battles had been fought over water rights. His tribe had inhabited the region for thousands of summer seasons. Mathayus was a just man, and under his protection, he could provide a steady source of water for his village.
Mathayus had been especially impressed with the rock paintings he'd found in a small cave near the spring. The paintings showed people hunting animals in grass! Mathayus had seen grass once, along the shores of the big sea to the north. His grandfather claimed he remembered a time when the region had pockets of grass and one could see animals eating the grass.
Mathayus had tried to doubt his grandfather, but then again Mathayus himself had had disturbing dreams over the past season about a terrible war which would destroy his people. He didn't know how he could face the upcoming destruction, if that was what the dreams were portraying. A skilled archer, Mathayus could hold his own in any battle. But it took time to nock an arrow--time during which he could be killed. Mathayus wouldn't admit it, but he was scared.
As a result of these dreams, which to Mathayus's dismay had been occuring with more frequency as of late, Mathayus had lost some sleep and was a bit grouchy. But this fact he tried to hide from Amel and he focused instead on something else.
Mathayus wiped his forehead and looked at the sand stuck to his hand.
"Sand, sand, sand!" he exclaimed.
Amel butted in, "it's everywhere. Gets into your clothes, your food. Myself? I like the big sea to the north. There the sand gets into your clothes and your food, but you can always go for a swim in the water and wash them!" Amel laughed. Mathayus shot him a sharp look.
"You know very well we don't have enough water in this region to wash clothes every time they get a bit of sand in them," he said. For his own clothing, he wore a leather loincloth. Leather held up well, although it was hot to wear, so Mathayus had taken his flint knife and slit the leather up the sides of the garment.
Mathayus eyed the bronze sword. Metal used as weapons was an entirely new concept, and Mathayus was interested. He was extremely adept at archery and he, although he didn't show it, was jumping with excitement over Amel's sword. Perhaps with this sword, he could face the upcoming battle with confidence. The sword's edges looked sharp.
"And where did you get this sword?" he asked Amel. "May I see it?"
"But of course," Amel said, and lifted the strap of the heavy sword off his shoulder with a grunt.
Mathayus hefted the sword. It was heavy, much heavier than his bow. Mathayus took several large steps away from Amel so the blade of the sword wouldn't cut him. Amel watched Mathayus swing the sword back and forth through the air. Amel took a sip of water.
"It looks like that sword was made for you! My shoulder is sore from carrying it!" Indeed, as he said this, Amel took off the leather jerkin he was wearing and showed Mathayus his sore shoulder.
Mathayus looked at the deep red welt where the sword's leather strap had cut into Amel's shoulder.
"Deep wound, but it will heal," he pronounced confidently. He wished he could be as confident about the disturbing dreams he'd been having, the latest dream to have occured just last night.
He continued to swing the sword. He mocked jumping at an unseen target and shouted "Ha!". The air whistled as he cut it with the sword.
"I think you are right, my friend! This sword wants its home with me!" Mathayus said. But even as he said it, he knew the price he would have to pay if he wanted the sword. For Amel was a trader, and naturally, he would trade this magnificent oversized sword to him--for a price. And the price would be access to Mathayus' hidden new spring.
"Ahh, but there is a price, my friend!" Amel said, knowing what was going through Mathayus's mind. He watched Mathayus calculate his options as he continued to swing the sword, jabbing at invisible enemies. He swung the sword easily in the air around his head, a feat which Amel wished he could do.
It had been a long journey for Amel, and carrying the huge sword hadn't made it easier. He hadn't seen anything special about the blue stones when he'd picked them up on the mountainside of the peninsula. He had been taking a remote foot trail that he suspected animals had made when he'd stumbled. Looking down, he saw the large blue stones. He knew his trading partners liked colored stones and he hoped this group would net him a better prize than what he was used to getting.
As it turned out, he obtained the new metal made into a sword in exchange for his fifteen blue stones that his trading partners called turquoy. Their eyes had lit up when he'd drawn out the first of the fifteen fist sized stones. Jaws continued to drop as he pulled one after another stone out until fifteen blue stones lay in a row before his trading parnters. They'd rushed to get his prize: a bronze sword.
Amel had lived most of his life in the desert to the far west, and he'd never heard about the stones called turquoy. But the trader in him noted the expressions of his trading partners and he soon learned turquoy was in huge demand amongst the peoples in this region. And the new metal called bronze. This was a prize unto itself. But the prize Amel most wanted was water, and Mathayus's protection.
As soon as he saw the huge sword, he thought of Mathayus, and the disturbing dreams he'd been having about a war. Surely Mathayus would pay him handsomely for a sword like this!
For Amel's people had suffered a terrible drought lasting many years. The drought had driven them far to the east, and into the region where Mathayus and his people lived. Amels' people had need of Mathayus's protection, for he was known as a great warrior in the region.
But Amel himself preferred copper and like Mathayus, wore a fist sized pendant on a leather cord around his neck. He fingered his pendant as he watched Mathayus come to a decision.
"And what, my friend,would you be wanting for a sword like this?" Mathayus asked, knowing full well Amel wanted water and possibly Mathayus's protection.
"Ahh but you know already! You are just hedging, trying to gain a little more time with my metal friend!" Amel laughed.
"You are right. And I know your price." Mathayus had considered carefully. He knew he could trust Amel. The power he'd felt in the sword when he hefted it gave him comfort. He knew he could fight any battle--and win--with this sword. Confidence coursed through his veins and bubbled up out of his mouth as a war cry.
He had decided to grant Amel what he wanted: water and the protection of the warrior Mathayus in exchange for the sword.
"My friend, the trade is agreed upon. I will allow you to use my hidden spring and I will offer your people my protection should the need arise."
"Agreed," Amel said. "Now let us eat! I suspect I shall have a walk for you to show me the spring." Amel knew that he wouldn't reveal the location of the spring to anyone. Mathayus was a man he wouldn't want to cross and judging from the ease with which he hefted the sword, Amel's head would be off his shoulders and rolling in the sand should Mathayus find out that the location of his hidden spring had been compromised.
At the same time, Mathayus considered Amel's words. To show the location of the hidden spring to someone would mean Amel's people might get the advantage. But then he hefted the new sword and saw the thoughts running through Amel's head. Mathayus would have to tell the spring's location to at least two people in his tribe, so that they could carry water back to the small village. Amel's people lived half a day's walk from Mathayus's village.
He considered Amel's village location some more. If he posted Ramu to be the water-carrier, he could ensure that the spring's location would not be compromised. The youth was in need of more to do than help the priests and Mathayus knew he could convince the chief to let Ramu be the water-carrier.
Ramu was known as the fastest runner in the region and he was almost as strong (perhaps a bicep smaller, Mathayus mused) as Mathayus. Large hide bags of water were carried on Ramu's back, and with water needed on a daily basis, the spring would be well protected.
"Yes, I will show you the location of the spring. In exchange, you will help protect the spring's location. To reveal its existence to the neighboring villages could start a war," Mathayus's deep voice intoned. "Wars have been fought before over access to water. But you may find it easier to allow my village to bring most of the water to you. Ramu is capable of carrying ten large hide bags full of water at one time!" Mathayus said, and pointed to the larger hide bag of cold water.
Amel saw the hide bag was about the same length and as wide as the sword was long and he was impressed at the description of Ramu's strength. Surely this was a coup for Amel's village. Access to additional water and the protection of the warrior Mathayus!
"I suspect you can carry more," Amel teased. He felt relief in knowing that an easy source of water would be available to his people. Mathayus's further suggestion that his village get Amel's village water was an added bonus. Amel's chief had wanted extra water to wash clothes (and bodies) but in this arid region, water was hard to come by. His people had learned to take a day's trek to the river to bathe.
Mathayus laughed. "Of course I can!" He put down the sword on his bedding. The sun glinted off the sword and Mathayus smiled.
"Yes," he thought. "This sword shall help me conquer anyone who comes across me in battle!"
He and Amel sat down to eat their noon meal. Mathayus kept glancing over at his new sword, and he couldn't help but smile. He knew the dreams wouldn't bother him tonight, nor any other night.