The perforated and punctured body of Philadelphos Ptolemy, son of Alexander's greatest general and pharaoh of Egypt fell from his saddle and hit the desert sand with a wet thud, kicking up a cloud of the accursed desert dust. The Seleucids around him cheered as the remaining Egyptians bodyguards were pulled from their horses and unceremoniously put to death.
General Meryre Ptolemy cried out in disbelief, no more than a quarter-mile away. The sudden sandstorm and persistent haze had masked the full size of the invading army and the pharaoh hadn't realized until too late that the bulk of the Seleucid military had entered the Egyptian heartland.
"You there, stand fast!" he turned to his own royal guard escort, singling out one among the ranks, "Find the Pharaohs son! Get him to safety!" Raising his voice, Meryre turned turned to the rest of his guard.
"Five years ago, you all took an oath to protect the Ptolemaic bloodline with your lives! If you wish to see that oath through, Heruben Ptolemy must get to safety! The rest of you, follow me!"
Without hesitation, the nameless rider broke off from the column, racing across the desert towards Alexandria, silently praying to Anubis that he should reach Heruben before the Seleucid horde. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see Meryre signaling the cavalry column to charge towards the approaching Seleucid army, their battle standards already peaking over the dunes. He knew that was the last time he would ever see his lord.
* * * * *
150 miles away Heruben, son of the Pharaoh, brooded over a world map in his tent. The war was going badly for Egypt. In the past three weeks, he had been visited by couriers from the cities of Mytilene, Halicarnassus, Damascus, and every other city along the northern rim of the Mediterranean. All those cities had fallen to the Seleucid slavers. The Ptolemaic Empire was slowly failing before the crush of the Seleucid war machine.
His secretary entered the war tent, clearly alarmed. "Your majesty, a rider from the west has just arrived. He is clad like a Hetairoi and bears an urgent message for your ears only." Heruben signaled with a silent drop of his chin for the man to be shown in.
"Milord..." The cavalry guard staggered into the tent, spluttering, his legs bowed from two days in the saddle and his face scratched and shriveled from dehydration and exposure. Drawing support from a chair and catching his breath, he continued. "We are defeated! The Seleucids are in far greater number than we suspected, and caught the pharaoh and his generals by surprise. Jerusalem and Gaza have both fallen, and the heirs of Seleukidos vow Alexandria will be theirs as well!"
Heruben closed his eyes as the news sunk in, and the rider from his uncle's bodyguard drank greedily from the water goblet served by the secretary. The silence was palpable, as both men reflected on this turn of news. The world he had grown so comfortable with was changing. Old familiar empires were being swept aside by new powers. To the west lay the rising republics of Rome and Carthage, and even in the world of antiquity, the memory of Sparta's defeat by the city of Argos lay fresh in the minds of historians and politicians. Alexander the Great's empire was but a memory, the descendants of his generals now fighting bitterly amongst their divided states.
"How large is the Seleucid Army?" He asked.
"The forward guard is only a few thousand men, but there could be as many as fifty thousand more marching through Araby, no less than three weeks march from Alexandria. Lord Meryre has surely joined the Pharaoh with Osiris. I can only imagine the battle that has been fought to the east."
Heruben turned to the secretary. "Have the troops made ready to leave immediately. We make for Memphis in thirty minutes. We will march through the night."
* * * * *
Ten days later, Heruben stood on the deck of the largest polyreme in the Ptolemaic navy, which was docked in its entirety at the ports of Alexandria. Both the cities of Memphis and Alexandria had been emptied, as troops, civilians and refugees from the east piled aboard almost 500 waiting ships, taking with them what supplies they could. A Seleucid army had been spotted fifty miles to east, only four days away from the capital, which was now left with only a skeleton defense meant more as an impediment to the Seleucids than anything else.
Anticipating their mass evacuation, the fleets of the Seleucids and their Macedonian allies were rapidly closing in on the Ptolemaic armada. Time was running out, and the ships already lay low on the waterline.
Admiral Wah, standing beside Heruben, turned to him and spoke softly "Your majesty, we must leave. If we are to maintain any strategic advantage, we must engage the enemy fleets at open sea, or we will be cut off at the harbor entrance."
Heruben replied dejectedly. "How far are you prepared to go with me, Wah?"
"You are our new Pharaoh, and while you don't act like it, your people will follow to whatever ends you would have them. You are god made flesh."
Heruben affixed his gaze into the infinity of the horizon. "To the edge of the world?"
The admiral chuckled. "To the afterlife if need be."
Looking back to the city of Alexandria, Heruben couldn't help but feel shame. He wanted to be there when the city fell, a sword in his hand and the enemy at his feet. He wanted his last words to be a defiant roar. But he knew this was the only way to save his people. "Mark my words: one day we will return."
* * * * *
Meryre Ptolemy rode through the gates of Alexandria at the head of a formation of 31 survivors out of the 1500 men the eastern armies. The advance guard of the Seleucid Armies was hot at his heels. As soon as the iron gates had shut behind him, he dismounted and climbed the towered gateway.
"Give me your xyston." He commanded of the garrison captain, who obliged him. Reaching into his cloak, Meryre pulled out a severed head, it's face in a grisly contortion, and affixed it to the end of the long spear. He turned around, a mad look in his eye and addressed the defenders below him. "Out there are the Seleucids. They too are the sons of Achilles and Hercules, which makes their treachery all the most despicable. We will all die in this city, so it matters not if we go to the afterlife. What matters, is how many of [i]them[/i] you force to escort you there. This is the head of the Seleucid general Azgalor. It is my prize from the east. What prizes do you plan on taking in this coming battle?"
The men below were silent as Meryre turned away, cackling maniacally. To the east, the horizon was black with Seleucids, but he was happy for to the west he could see the sails of egyptian ships disappearing over the horizon, leaving behind the burning wrecks of the combined Macedonian and Seleucid fleet. The bloodline would go on.
Historians of later times would look back at the fall of Alexandria as a famous last stand, led by the crazed Ptolemaic General Meryre. Some would say the heat of the desert had addled his brain, while others would speculate he bartered his sanity to Anubis after the horrific battles to the East. What was certain was that he died at the city square, bristling with arrows and bathed in gore, holding the spinal columns of two Seleucids in his clenched fists.
* * * * *
The armada had continued west for two weeks before making one last stop at the city of Cyrene, the westernmost of the cities still in the Pharaoh's holding. There they took on supplies for the journey, as well as news from the east.
The entire Nile River basin, the heartland of the Ptolemaic Empire, had been conquered by the Seleucids, one city at a time. Reinforced by almost limitless military traffic, the Seleucids had butchered their way through Egypt in a matter of weeks.
Word had also reached the pharaoh that the Seleucids had expanded their war to the dynasties of India and the Kingdom of Bactria, and that the Bactrian king Pytros had died defending their capital from an attack by the Seleucid's Parthian allies.
For the next two weeks the pursuing Seleucid navy engaged the Egyptians repeatedly until, at the order of the pharaoh, the fleeing refugee fleet came about and surrounded their surprised pursuers, destroying them utterly.
For ten weeks the egyptians continued west, to the edge of the world, then north. Heruben, the pharaoh of no nation, got to see for himself the wondrous coastal cities of the Roman and Carthaginian Republics, and the fleets of enormous ships and feats of engineering, Quinquiremes, crossing the sea between the rapidly growing states.
Months passed, and when it seemed that illness, starvation, desperation and discontent had reached mutinous levels aboard the egyptian ships, land was sighted in the sea to the frozen north.
The Ptolemaics disembarked from their leaky and filthy ships, shivering, distressed by exhaustion and hunger. So many had died along the way so that the pharaoh and his followers could at last step foot on the frozen beaches of Britanniae.
Camps were made, wells were dug and tents were erected as the egyptian ships were cannibalized for building supplies and firewood.
So it was that the shattered remnants of the Ptolemaic civilization found itself clinging to life in the frozen wilderness of a distant land on the edge of the world.