Mathayus, his half-brother Jesup, and their friend Rama, the only three true remaining Akkadians, are hired by King Pheron of the free tribes to kill Memnon's sorcerer for twenty blood rubies. This bargain upsets both Pheron's son Takmet, as the rubies are the last of their treasury, and Nubian King Balthazar, who dislikes the Akkadians. The Akkadians manage to sneak into Memnon's camp but are ambushed by his guards, having been tipped off by Takmet, who killed his own father and defected to Memnon's side. Jesup and Rama are hit by arrows, but Mathayus manages to sneak into the sorcerer's tent, where he sees that the sorcerer is actually a sorceress, Cassandra. Mathayus is ambushed and meets Memnon, who executes Jesup in front of him. Cassandra warns Memnon against killing Mathayus, saying the gods wish him to survive the night and defying them will incur their wrath and cost him his victories. To circumvent this, Memnon has Mathayus buried to his neck in the desert to be devoured by fire ants at dawn. Mathayus manages to escape with help from a horse thief, Arpid.