Thebes

Thebes

A Chapter by Brendan Wilson
"

The wheels begin to turn.

"
The procession marched through the paved streets of Thebes during the noon hour. Passers-by stopped and stared, and conversations broke into whispers as they moved by. Everybody knew who had arrive, but none had known he was coming.

Eventually, the procession came to an abrupt stop, at the foot of the steps to the city centre. Not a soul moved, not a sound was made, until the centre of the procession broke open, allowing passage to one man and the strongest members of his entourage.

Pharaoh Amenhotep II stepped clear of his royal guard and looked around, frowning.

'So much for a welcome party...' He paused, deep in thought, before turning to the nearest commoner. 'You, there. Where is Osiris?'

The man opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a voice behind Amenhotep.

'He's down in the crypts again.'

Amenhotep turned around and saw Osiris' younger brother, Setesh, sitting lazily atop a stone pillar, a bemused look on his face.

'Ah, Setesh. Shouldn't you be with him?'

Setesh gave a half-hearted shrug and sighed inwardly.

'Whatever it is Osiris gets up to down there, I intend to keep my distance. I have to think about my future with Nephthys, and I'm in no hurry to leave her a widow.'

'You believe he's up to something dangerous?'

Setesh nodded grimly, then paused, scanning the group.

'Where is Tiaa?' He asked. It was strange to see the Pharaoh without his wife.

'Back home in Memphis, looking after Thutmose,' Amenhotep answered.

'Ah, of course.' Setesh nodded thoughtfully and slid free of the pillar, landing on his feet with minimal effort. He began to approach Amenhotep, but was quickly blocked by two guardsmen.

'That's close enough, beast,' warned one of the guards.

Setesh sighed, irritated by the guard's choice of words.

'And what, pray tell, will you do if I come closer?'

The guards blocking his path exchanged a nervous glance, causing Setesh to smile slightly. Just as that guard opened his mouth to speak, Amenhotep cut him off.

'Relax, soldier. Setesh would be the last of his kin to try to harm me.'

The guard looked like he was about to object, but apparently decided against it. Nodding at Setesh, the guard stepped aside, gesturing for his partner to do the same.

'Thank you, friend. I'll take it from here,' Setesh said to the guard, stepping between the pair to approach Amenhotep once again.

The guards looked to Amenhotep, who nodded in approval, before re-joining the formation. Amenhotep then gestured for Setesh to walk with him, and the pair began to make their way to the city centre.

'I'm sorry about that, Setesh. Being the leader of our country opens me up to all manner of threats, and my guards are under orders to protect me from any potential assassins. I'm sure you can understand that a member of a family such as yours definitely qualifies.'

Setesh considered this for a moment as they walked.

'Of course,' Setesh responded. 'You could hardly call them a guard if they were any less protective.'

Amenhotep nodded slowly.

'I am very fortunate to call you my friend, Setesh. You possess a certain rationality the other men in your family have never shown before. I believe you and I could do great things for this country. Perhaps even the world...' He trailed off, seemingly lost in thought.

That was just like Amenhotep, always trying to find a new way to make things better.

Setesh nodded.

'We are both fortunate. A lesser man could be executed for speaking to you as casually as I do, and I've grown quite fond of being alive.'

'Ah, but are all men not lesser to the likes of you?' Amenhotep chuckled in spite of the seriousness of his question.

Setesh shook his head, looking Amenhotep in the eyes.

'The moment I see myself above mankind, I may as well join my brother in the crypt.'

'A noble sentiment, though not entirely true. Speaking of which, however, what do you say we go take a look and see what he's been up to?' Amenhotep suggested.

'I knew you'd ask that,' Setesh sighed. 'Very well, it's not far anyway.'

Amenhotep nodded and smiled, satisfied. He had been curious for far too long, and there was little chance his curiosity would be sated if not for Setesh.

The sun was closer to the horizon than it was to its apex by the time the crypt was in sight. Through some miracle of timing, Osiris and his group, mostly consisting of servants, appeared from inside the crypt just as Setesh and Amenhotep drew close.

'Pharaoh! I didn't expect to see you here, my lord.' Osiris proclaimed, more than a little shocked.

'That's how surprise visits work, brother,' Setesh interjected, eliciting a chuckle from Amenhotep.

'Relax, Osiris. I just thought I'd come see what the most powerful family in Egypt did with their spare time,' Amenhotep explained, before turning to face the crypt. 'Which seems to be spending a dreadfully boring amount of time underground.' He paused for a moment as Osiris exchanged glances with the woman by his side; his wife, Isis. 'Would you mind...?' He continued, gesturing at the entrance.

'By all means, my lord,' Isis answered, casting another look toward Osiris.

'Thank you, Isis. Now, if it's not too much trouble, I could use a guide. I'm afraid I don't spend much time in crypts; between you and me, they give me the creeps,' Amenhotep said softly, eyes gleaming.

Osiris nodded, his face set in a serious look.

'You go ahead, my love. I will show our great leader the way,' he said to Isis, who promptly turned and led the rest of Osiris' group away. Turning back to Amenhotep, Osiris smiled with tight lips. 'Shall we?'

'We shall,' Amenhotep responded, and the three made their way into the depths of the crypt.

The waning light from outside barely penetrated the limestone entryway. Fortunately, Osiris' group had left the torches on the walls lit, casting flickering lights deep within. The dancing shadows did nothing to ease the tension; rather, they added a morbid eeriness to the air that only grew stronger the deeper the group delved.

After quite some time searching the crypt, the group arrived in what appeared to be the innermost chamber. A ceremonial table took pride of place in the centre of the chamber, totally bare except for an abandoned robe.

Osiris and Amenhotep walk to the centre while Setesh walked around the outskirts of the chamber. Osiris picked up the robe and examined it, then dropped it back onto the table and looked up at Amenhotep, who was now on the other side of the table.

'Does this sate your curiosity, my lord?' He asked, gesturing around the chamber.

Amenhotep looked up at Osiris' question.

'Not particularly, but it'll do, for now...' He said, before turning to Setesh. 'Come, let's get back to the city. All this exploring has dried out my throat.'

'Shall I call for a feast, my lord?'

Amenhotep turned back to Osiris once more, eyeing him cautiously.

'That sounds like a grand idea, Osiris. We'll go fetch my men and meet you when everything is ready.'

Osiris nodded as Setesh and Amenhotep turned to leave. Grabbing the discarded robe from the table, he glanced around at the walls of the chamber once more, then followed the others back through the dimly lit tunnels, face locked in a thoughtful frown.



Outside, the sky had darkened as night took hold. Osiris plucked the two torches from the wall nearest the entryway and handed one to Setesh.

'I'll send a servant to find you when the feast is almost ready. I would advise you hurry, as it won't stay warm long in the night air.

Setesh nodded as Osiris turned and walked away, following the path his group had taken earlier.

'There's definitely something going on here,' Amenhotep said quietly, staring at the fading figure.

Setesh turned to look at him.

'Agreed. It's hard to say what, though, while the crypt is so empty. Perhaps we should come back when Osiris and his disciples meet again. Sneak in behind them, see what they're doing.'

Amenhotep hummed in agreement, then paused.

'Perhaps, although I have another idea. I'll send some of my guards this way when the rest of us head to the Great Temple.'

Setesh nodded thoughtfully. 'We should probably get moving. Your guards aren't going to find themselves for us.'

'Oh, don't you worry about that,' Amenhotep responded with a smile, though the pair began to walk anyway. 'There's only one place those men will be at a time like this.'



The sounds of drunk men rang loud through the tavern as the pair approached the doorway some time later. Mostly laughter, along with some singing and belligerent yelling. All fell silent as the two walked in, however; every man in the place waiting for Amenhotep to speak.

'Look at you all, drunk already...' He called in mock disdain, shaking his head and chuckling. 'You all had better sort yourselves out quickly, as I've called for a feast at the citadel. Very private, so naturally, you're all invited. I would suggest you don't embarrass yourselves until after everyone else is half as drunk as you all are right now. Is that understood?'

The sounds of goblets clinking together and men cheering erupted again, the men all excited at the prospect of further excitement.

Amenhotep turned to Setesh and spoke again, this time a little more quietly.

'Come with me.'

Setesh nodded and followed Amenhotep as he made his way to the farthest corner of the room, where a group of five guards sat at a table watching the others drink.

'I see you men are not drinking with the others,' Amenhotep said as he and Setesh joined them in sitting.

'Not yet, my lord. We felt it would be unwise for not one of us to be clear headed, just in case anyone starts any trouble,' said one of the guards, whom Setesh recognised as the one who had barred his way that afternoon.

Amenhotep nodded.

'Very well. It just so happens that I have need of a few sober men now, anyway,' he began.

The guards looked at him, curious.

'Setesh and I are concerned that his brother is up to something. We found Osiris, his wife and some of his servants leaving a crypt this afternoon, and had Osiris lead us back through it. The place was bare, almost nothing inside, but I feel there may be something we missed. I would like you men to go investigate while we keep the others busy at the feast tonight. I'm sorry, but that means you won't be joining us.'

The men looked at each other briefly and nodded.

'Fine with us, my lord. We'd only end up drinking ourselves sick anyway,' the first guard said, letting out an almost inaudible sigh. 'When do we go?'

Amenhotep looked at Setesh for clarification.

'When we receive word that the feast is ready, we'll all leave as one. You walk at the back, and break away to the East when the rest of us turn toward the citadel. Just keep going that way and you'll find the crypt.'

Amenhotep and his men looked at Setesh, surprised.

'Giving orders suits you, Setesh. Perhaps one day you'll get to play an even bigger part in leading our people,' Amenhotep said, before nodding at his men. 'There you have it, men. Do as Setesh said, and if you find anything �" anything �" out of the ordinary, you send someone back to let us know. Oh, and if anyone catches you, I'm afraid I can't help you. It won't do to have any issues between my family and Osiris'.'

The men nodded grimly, and Amenhotep rose to his feet.

'Come now, Setesh. Let's enjoy ourselves a little while we wait.'

Setesh nodded and stood, then the pair made their way through the crowded tavern in search of a drink.

Some time later, Setesh and Amenhotep were well on their way to being as drunk as the guards when a messenger approaches Setesh to inform him that the feast was ready. Setesh relayed the information to Amenhotep, and soon they and the royal guards were making their way through the city.
As instructed, the sober few guards broke formation as the rest of the group turned for the large staircase on the way to the Great Temple of Ptah.

Setesh's wife, Nephthys, was waiting for them inside the walls of the Great Temple. She greeted Amenhotep and locked arms with Setesh, falling into step by his side as they approached the feast.
In the centre opening of the Great Temple, seating arrangements were made in the shape of a large ring. Amenhotep moved to sit on one side of the ring, while Setesh and Nephthys sat opposite. Osiris and Isis took their seats halfway between, on the right side of Setesh.

Once everyone was seated, servants emerged holding large jugs of wine and thick beer. After a few minutes of filling the guests' goblets, they stepped back into the shadows, replaced by others carrying trays of food. The mixed smells of various meats and vegetables filled the air as the trays were lowered before the guests. Setesh recognised Nephthys' personal servant, Mertrashida, offering a selection of fish to Osiris. Strangely, despite an almost lifelong service to the family, her hands appeared to be shaking quite a bit.
She looked up to take a breath and steady herself, unwittingly locking eyes with Setesh. Almost immediately, her eyes flicked back downward, adopting a steely focus on her task.
Mertrashida placed the tray back on the tablet as Osiris claimed a piece of his, then backed away with her eyes down. Setesh shrugged thoughtfully and turned his attention to the feast.
The food was delicious, the wine strong. Before long, the area rang loud with festive cheer as the guests gorged themselves, most quite a bit drunk. By the time the feast appeared to be drawing to a close, most of the guests, particularly the guards, were slumped over the table, fast asleep. Nephthys herself had already excused herself, too dignified to pass out in such a manner.
Looking across the table, Setesh noticed Amenhotep rocking lightly side to side in his chair, goblet in hand. Wine spilled over his hand every time he moved, but he didn't seem to care. He locked eyes with Setesh and sat up slightly.

'Setesh!' He slurred, seeming almost unable to make eye contact.

Setesh cocked his head, waiting for his friend to resume speaking. After just a moment, he realised that Amenhotep was actually looking over his shoulder, eyes widening.

It was a moment too late; before Setesh could so much as turn to look, he was struck in the head by something heavy, slamming his head forward into the table and stunning him. He looked up blearily and saw two of Osiris' guards grab Amenhotep, while more marched around the table and began to execute the Pharaoh's drunken guards. That was all Setesh was able to see before he was struck again and his vision went black.

Setesh woke with a start some time later to the suns warmth on his face. The harsh brightness of the sun was magnified by his hangover, causing him to wince and jerk his head back as he shut his eyes. The movement sent a surge of pain through the back of his head, and he suddenly remembered what happened the night before. Reopening his eyes, Setesh looked around at the mess before him. Bodies lay everywhere, left where they were slain. One of the tables on Amenhotep's side had been knocked over, spilling everything on it onto the ground in the middle of the table ring.
Setesh slowly rose to his feet and shakily moved around the tables, checking the bodies for signs of life. He found none.
As he reach the side at which Osiris had been seated, the bodies and all other mess came to an end, confirming the suspicions that had begun to dance in the back of his mind. Whatever the reason, Osiris had ordered the attack.
Setesh returned to the nearest fallen guard and rolled him over, pulling his sword free. When he stood, his eyes seemed to dance with the flames that still burned in the torches on the walls.
He would head East, back to the crypt. Either he would find Osiris there and deal with him right away, or he would reunite with the few guards that had been spared the slaughter. First, however, he had to find Nephthys and ensure that she was unharmed.
He moved quickly, running to their shared quarters, but slowed as he approached the doorway; the door had been left open, very much out of character for his wife.
His heart filled with dread as he approached, grasping the guard's sword with a tight fist. Peering around the door, the feeling grew as he saw the state of the room.
Their chambers had been completely turned over. Setesh ran into the room, head on a swivel, terrified he would find her body. He was almost relieved to find nothing, but that still left more questions than answers.
Fortunately, he knew where he might find some.

A little while later, Setesh finally arrived, out of breath, at the Eastern crypt. He took a moment to rest out of view of the entrance, and then darts inside, sword at the ready.
As yesterday, the place was empty, yet fully lit. Setesh darted down the same passageways that led to the chamber Osiris had shown them.
The moment he arrived, he noticed the glaring difference in the room. The stone table in the centre of the room had been moved, revealing a hole in the floor big enough for a person to climb through. Sure enough, upon closer inspection, Setesh found grips cut away in the walls of the hole, leading the way down into the first truly dark part of the crypt.

The climb down was painfully slow, if only for the fact that had to search for places to put his hands and feet every time he moved. Finally, though, light began to filter through from below, eventually casting his shadow in front of him as his feet touched the floor. Turning around, Setesh saw a corridor stretch out before him, giving way to passages on both sides halfway along, before it seemed to open up into another large cavern, far bigger than the one above.

As he approached, Setesh saw three figures directly ahead of the passageway, the one in the middle shorter than the others. The closer he got, though, the more he saw, until he realised what was in front of him.

Two stone pillars rose from the floor, bearing chains that met in the middle to hold the middle figure in place.

Setesh ran forward the moment he noticed his wife, bound to the pillars and struggling helplessly.

'Setesh, no!

Setesh froze in place as her words rang out. It was then that he noticed more of his surroundings.

Behind Nephthys, Setesh noticed for the first time a black-robed disciple, seemingly busy with whatever preparations he was making on a stone table before him. Fifteen brown-robed disciples stood on either side of the centre, each holding a ceremonial urn in both hands.
Rows of stone seats lay on either side of Setesh, facing Nephthys and the pillars. Many of the seats in the front rows had been filled by Osiris' guards, who stared back at him over their shoulders as he looked around. Above him, on the left and right, a second level stood overlooking the chamber, alternating between wall and opening.

Dust and small pieces of rock crumbled down from one of the openings above Setesh's right. Strangely, he noticed, it didn't sound like it had landed on the stone floor, but something soft instead. Glancing down from the source, Setesh was surprised to see Mertrashida, Nephthys' servant from the night before, hiding between chairs and looking up at Setesh with a terrified expression.
Before he could react, Osiris' voice boomed out from above Nephthys. Setesh turns and notices a viewing platform jutting out over the stage area. Osiris stood on this platform, hands on the barrier, staring down at Setesh as he called out.

'I wish it didn't have to be this way, brother. All you both had to do was join us... Instead you let Nephthys talk you into living like a common man... She has poisoned your mind, and so sealed her own fate.

Your wife has been chosen as the sacrifice in a very, very important ritual. I would advise you to let my disciples do their jobs; Nephthys is already dead, so you may as well reap the rewards with the rest of us.'
He paused and looked down toward the black-robed disciple, then nodded.


Setesh said nothing but instead charged right through as the disciple approached Nephthys from behind. Disciples in brown robes rose from the chairs and moved to stop him, but he cut them down with ease. Finally reaching Nephthys, he prepared to cut her free, drawing back his sword - but then she jerked, cried out and convulsed as a lance of some kind was thrust through her back and out through her chest.

Setesh screamed, overcome by blind rage, but was pulled back by other disciples and pinned to the ground as the others waiting to the sides the sides began filling their urns with the blood flowing freely from Nephthys' wound.

Setesh looked on in horror as the disciples moved out of his way and returned to their positions, revealing the lifeless body of his wife hanging limply from the chains. He began screaming curses and thrashing about as disciples grabbed his hands and dragged him back the way he had entered. As he was dragged further and further away, the black-robed disciple began to chant an incantation, causing strange lights in the form of runic symbols to appear all around the room and on the urns of blood.

The disciples continued dragging Setesh back through the passageway, taking a left turn before they reached the entrance he had climbed through.
Shortly after making the turn, the hands pulling Setesh let go as the sounds of a blade cutting through flesh and a body falling to the floor repeated several times. He turned over and lifted himself up, raising his eyes to see who had freed him, expecting to see Amenhotep's guards or even Mertrashida.

Instead, as he looked up, his eyes locked with those of his childhood friend, Amenhotep himself.

'Are you alright Setesh?' Amenhotep asked, out of breath.

Setesh just shook his head miserably, trembling. Amenhotep put his hand on Setesh's shoulder and looked him in the eyes.

'We have to leave, right now.'

'No... No. I have to go back. I'm going to kill them all,' Setesh responded.

Amenhotep shook his head.

'In time, Setesh. You need to survive doing so if it's to mean anything. Come, I'll show you another passageway I found.'

Setesh nodded after some time, and the two begin to hurry away, ducking into a side corridor hidden in the darkness between torches.

'Where are we going?' Setesh asked Amenhotep, who said nothing, and the pair kept moving in silence.

Soon, the tunnel they were in began to slope upward, and levelled out not long after. Amenhotep gestured for Setesh to go through a doorway to their left and see what awaited on the other side.
Setesh made his way past Amenhotep and found himself standing on a balcony - the very same balcony Osiris had stood on just minutes before.

'What..?' Setesh started, confused.

Amenhotep walked up beside him and spoke as an odd feeling began to grow from Setesh's stomach.

'How long have we been friends, Setesh?

Glancing down tentatively, Setesh saw that the chamber below was already empty. No disciples, no urns… No corpses, not even Nephthys.

''Nearly seventeen years... What's going on here, Amenhotep?' Setesh asked impatiently.

'Hmm... Indeed. Tell me, in all that time,' Amenhotep began, 'have I ever given you reason not to trust me?'

Setesh shook his head, confused.

'And do you trust me?'

Setesh nodded.

Looking over at Amenhotep beside him, Setesh locked eyes with his friend, who smiles wistfully.

'Then I need you to do something.'

Setesh paused, confused.

'He needs you to drink,' came a familiar voice from Setesh's left. He spun around to find Isis, smiling brightly and holding out her hand; more specifically, an urn.

It took to moment to sink in, but then Setesh felt his stomach drop. He spun back around to Amenhotep, who was smiling openly.

'You betray me?' Setesh whispered.

'No, brother. We wish to offer you something,' came another voice from behind. Osiris.

Setesh spun back around, shocked.

'A parting gift, of sorts, from your dearly beloved.'

Osiris gestured to the urn in Isis' hands.

'This can't be happening. No. No, I won't accept this.' Setesh cried, backing away from Osiris.

'You have little choice, I'm afraid.' said Amenhotep.

Setesh's mind raced. For so much to have gone so wrong... How could this be happening?

He began to search frantically for a way out, but found none. His back was to the wall this time. Or rather, to the barrier of the balcony.

That's when Setesh realised, he had a way out, after all.

It took half a second for Setesh to fling himself backwards over the barrier; he didn't even hesitate for a moment.

The fall took slightly longer; long enough for Setesh to see three faces appear over the balcony before he landed on his back atop one of the pillars, snapping his spine and almost folding him in half backwards, before his momentum bounced him over the side and onto the ground.

Setesh lay there, twitching helplessly as Osiris' disciples reappeared from their various hiding spots.

'Thank you for making this easy,' Osiris called down. Setesh saw one of the disciples approaching, urn in hand. 'You should be grateful; you get to be the first to drink of our success.'

'N-no...' He gasped, trying to move, but his body no longer followed his commands.

Setesh could do nothing as the disciple opened the urn, turned Setesh's head to face the ceiling, and held the neck of the urn to his lips. Slowly, ever so slowly, the disciple tipped the urn upside down, pouring the thick, viscous red liquid within right down Setesh's throat.

Setesh choked and sputtered, tears pouring from his eyes, as his wife's blood drained into his stomach. All he wanted was to get away, to throw up; still, he could do nothing.

Suddenly, as the last of the blood made its way down his throat, everything disappeared around Setesh.
Not even the floor remained; looking around with his eyes, Setesh saw nothing but a vast darkness. A void, even. But still... He did not feel that he was alone. He couldn't place it, but he sensed that there was a presence, all around him. Whether said presence was malicious or not, or even actually there, he had no idea.
He was beginning to doubt his senses when he suddenly felt the presence shift.

Instead of being all around, the only place he could sense the presence was... Right behind him.

'Look at you. Down on the ground, unable to move... Like scum.'

The voice was deep and raspy, and spoke with a tone of disgust.

'I suppose I should fix you if you're to be my host... Very well.'

With that, Setesh felt a deep heat burned through his body, focused mainly on his spine, followed by the sensation of all feeling returning to his limbs and torso. As the feeling faded, Setesh attempted to move his fingers, and was delighted to see them wiggle.

Climbing to his feet, he went to turn and thank the being behind him, but was stopped by a cautionary hissing.

'Don't turn around. The impurity of your blood offends me... To think, of all the possible choices, I should be stuck with the likes of you...'

Confusion and concern filled Setesh as he processed the words. Could it be that this being knew his family secret?

“How insulting. Even if we were not currently joined together, the very youngest of us Umbra could notice how badly you reek of it. Do the humans not notice? How pathetic.”

Setesh could hear how thickly the voice dripped with disdain, but was too shocked by the realisation that the being had first healed his paralysis and then apparently read his mind to care. That word, though... Umbra... He could swear he had heard it once, long ago.

'If they notice, they are too afraid to show it,' Setesh responded. Evidently his answer amused the “Umbra” behind him, as it snorted once again.

“Your kind are all the same. Barely a step above the rest, more to the side, really, and yet you strut around like the world is yours. How it must pain you to be so close to real power.”

Setesh clenched his teeth. He knew that while his family were truly superior to humans, this being was indeed far more powerful than he. Still, he felt compelled by nature to respond in kind.

'Why don't you face me and we'll see who wins,' he retorted.

The Umbra behind him chuckled.

'I think I like you after all. You've got fire in you, which I suppose is quite ironic now. For that, I will give you my name, and my blessing. I am-'

'-Nuri.' Setesh blurted out, suddenly confused. 'How did I just know that?' He asked.

Nuri growled.

'Do not interrupt me. You and I are now one and the same, the connection goes both ways.'

He paused.

'As I was saying, I am Nuri, the essence of flame. From this point forward, you may summon my flames and use them as you wish.' The voice seemed less hateful, now. Almost as if he respected Setesh; or, rather, despised him less.

'...And with that, I believe it's time you wake up. You will soon find you have... Much work to do. Oh, and Setesh... Do refrain from coming back here unnecessarily.'

Just like that, the void faded around Setesh, and he felt his consciousness begin to rejoin his body.

Setesh then reawakens in a bed, a disciple dabbing at his face with a damp cloth. Every time it touched his skin, it sizzled and steamed; it seemed Setesh's body now burned hot to the touch.

Setesh's eyes flicked upward as Osiris walked into the room, locking eyes with his brother and staring at him silently for a moment. Strangely, everything Setesh felt for him now seemed subdued, possibly by the Umbra within.

Finally, Osiris broke the silence.

'Do you understand now, Setesh?'

Setesh paused. He still knew how he had felt earlier, and was clear-minded enough to see that what Osiris was doing was not fuelled by good intentions. Still, with his newly opened viewpoint of the bigger picture, he knew that such concerns were all but pointless.

‘I understand.’


Not too far away, back in the chamber where Nephthys had been executed, Mertrashida finally moved from her hiding space, having waited to be sure she was alone.
It had taken everything she had to stay silent when the block-robed disciple had murdered Nephthys. She very nearly moved to save Setesh, but knew such an attempt would be a lost cause. So she waited, and watched on in horror as Setesh flung himself from the balcony above and was forced to drink Nephthys' blood.
Now, she crept forward, approaching Nephthys' lifeless body. Once she stood before her fallen master, she fell to the floor and began to sob. Unlike the other slave owners in the city, and the rest of their family, Nephthys had always been kind to Mertrashida, and Setesh had interacted very little with her at all.

A few minutes of crying seemed to lighten the load on her shoulders. Mertrashida steeled herself, knowing that she may well be the only person with a chance of stopping Osiris' plan, whatever it was; and she knew just how to do it.
Looking up at Nephthys, Mertrashida allowed her final vision of her master to burn into her memory.
'I'm sorry, master. I won't let this be for nothing...'
Mertrashida whispered her final message to Nephthys, then rose to her feet and headed for a small exit under Osiris' balcony; the passageway the rest of the disciples had left through.
It took surprisingly less time than Mertrashida expected to find the urns. The problem was, two disciples were standing by the urns, looking at the symbols and picking the occasional urn. Looking for specific urns, Mertrashida surmised from the doorway.
Mertrashida peered around the doorway for a few more moments, trying to figure out what to do next. Fortunately, she merely needed to wait, as the disciples had apparently retrieved the urns they were sent for, and were turning to leave.
From her vantage point, Mertrashida could see the symbols on three of the four urns they carried.
Change. Life. Death.
An involuntary chill ran through her as she saw the symbol on the third urn. The fourth stayed out of her line of sight, despite her attempts to move and look from another angle.

Seconds later, when the disciples had cleared the room, Mertrashida rushed forward and began checking the urns. She had spent enough time eavesdropping on Osiris' meetings to know about the Umbra and the powers they offered; she had even come close to being caught when Osiris found her abandoned robe left behind in the upper chamber.
The urns before her seemed to vibrate as she touched them, tilting them back for a better look.

Water. Earth. Lightning. Decay. Place.

That was it. Upon seeing the latter, a plan began to form in Mertrashidas mind. Looking around, she found a large cloth bag resting in the corner beside some baskets. She could claim the Place urn for herself, put the other twenty-four in the bag, and take them with her. Whatever was happening to Setesh, she could come back for him later; her first priority was to get as many urns out of Osiris' hands as possible.
Picking up the urn with shaking hands, Mertrashida readied herself for what came next. She cracked the fresh seal and removed the lid, tipped her head back, and prepared to drink.

Just before the contents of the urn could reach the edge and tip into Mertrashidas mouth, she felt someone grasp the urn and prevent it from tipping. Opening her eyes, she saw a small group of five men. Royal guards, she noticed, judging by their finer attire.

Mertrashida felt her heart leap into her throat as fear suddenly took over. She tried to pull the urn toward her, but came dangerously close to tipping the contents everywhere, and decided to try another plan.

Locking eyes with the guard holding the urn, Mertrashida steeled herself as best she could and began to speak.

‘Release the urn. You have no idea what you’re doing.’

The guard shook his head as his companions snorted.

‘And I suppose you do?’ He asked, one eyebrow raised, looking Mertrashida up and down distastefully.

Mertrashida paused, only for a second, but it was a second too long. The guard pulled back on the urn and yanked it out of her hands, then sniffed at the contents before turning up his nose.

‘You were going to drink that? What’s wrong with you?’

Deciding to ignore the comment, Mertrashida lunged forward in an attempt to take the urn back, but stood little chance against the larger adult.

‘Hey! No, that’s enough. Whatever’s in this is surely not meant for the likes of you. Why don’t you sit down and wait for your master?’

Mertrashidas eyes fell at the mention of Nephthys; the pair had always shared a closer relationship than just about every other slave she had met, and the shocking murder of her master had left Mertrashida with a strange new sadness, one she hadn’t yet had a chance to process.

The guard seemed to notice her downcast look, and cocked his head a little before closing the urn and handing it back to one of his companions. As he then leaned forward for a better look into Mertrashidas eyes, it finally began to dawn on the guard that something was up.

‘Where is your master?’

Mertrashida opened her mouth to answer, but couldn’t speak; the best she could manage was a shake of her head, which elicited a sigh from the guard.

‘Okay, we’ll try this. Who is your master?’

Mertrashidas mouth opened and closed several more times before she was able to speak the name.

‘Nephthys.’

The guards face took on a surprised expression.

‘Nephthys? As in, wife of Setesh?’

Mertrashida winced at the name of her master’s husband, a response that did not go unnoticed by the guard.

‘Am I missing something here? What’s going on with that family?’

Mertrashida shook her head vehemently, hoping that keeping the guards in the dark would be a viable way to ensure her safety.

‘Whatever. The Pharaoh gave us a job to do, I’ll be damned if I let a slave girl get in the way.’

The guard turned and gestured to his men, who surrounded Mertrashida in preparation to escort her away. Mertrashida struggled as the men gripped her arms, trying to pull away with all the strength she could muster.

It was no use, of course. Four large guards against an underfed, exhausted young servant is generally a guaranteed win, after all.

Even with the commotion Mertrashida was putting up, the guards all immediately noticed someone entering the room, and stood to attention.

Amenhotep and Setesh stood in the doorway, observing the scene in front of them.

‘My lord.’

The guards all repeated the greeting and bowed, still holding Mertrashida firmly in place. For her part, Mertrashida was unable to take her eyes off of Setesh; the last she saw of him, he was on the floor of the sacrificial chamber, with a body that was far more broken than it appeared to be presently.

‘This girl was sniffing around the urns,’ reported the guard in charge. ‘The men were just about to bring her to you.’

Turning to face the other guards, the leader gestured with his hand, prompting the others to begin marching Mertrashida forward until she stood before Setesh and the Pharaoh.

Mertrashida still couldn’t take her eyes off Setesh, even when Amenhotep began to speak.

‘What do you know of these urns, girl?’

His tone was smooth and pleasant, a disturbing revelation after having seen his betrayal of Setesh.
Mertrashida said nothing; she merely continued looking Setesh over, trying to understand what had happened. This didn’t matter, though, as Setesh answered for her.

‘She saw the summons and my bonding. I’m afraid she knows far too much to be allowed to leave.

Amenhotep began nodding thoughtfully, face locked in a frown, as Setesh’s words began to dawn on Mertrashida.

‘I’ll leave this with you, Setesh. You could use the practice.’

If Mertrashida was shocked before, she was absolutely mortified when Setesh’s right forearm suddenly burst into flames after Amenhotep finished speaking. Despite the situation, she was surprised to find her first instinct was to extinguish the flames before Setesh was badly burned �" but then her surprise grew even greater at the sudden realization that the flames were neither harming Setesh nor spreading up his arm.

Half-turned toward the doorway, Amenhotep paused and leaned close to Setesh, speaking quietly and looking around at the faces in the room.

Surprise lit up Setesh’s face, just for a moment, before it was replaced with a joy usually seen on the faces of children. Amenhotep continued turning and walked out of the room as Setesh held out a hand, seeming to manifest a large ball of flame in the middle of his already burning palm.

That was the moment it dawned on Mertrashida; every one of the people standing before Setesh was now a target.

Mertrashida opened her mouth to yell a warning to the guards, making the decision to save the men who were just doing their job, as Setesh drew back his arm in preparation to throw.

Setesh was faster.

The ball of flame launched across the chamber at immense speeds, burning with an unnaturally intense heat. Mertrashida’s warning began to ring out far too late; the men holding her in place barely managed to flinch before the fireball made impact.

The guard in front of Mertrashida’s right side took the hit directly to the left side of his neck. Upon impact, the fireball came alive in a brilliant explosion of light and heat. The guard hit by the fireball roasted alive in a matter of moments as the flames continued their explosive expansion.
Mertrashida tried to turn her head away and shield herself, but she couldn’t avoid the heat that hit her entire right side, engulfing her in pain as searing hot as the flames the now engulfed half her body.

As the force of the explosion hit, Mertrashida and the other three guards holding her in place were blown away from the point of impact. The front left guard disappeared to the left and slammed into the stone wall with a sickening amount of force. The hands of the guards behind Mertrashida ripped free of her arms as the three of them were blown back, and the rear left guard crashed into the leader, bowling him over and landing mostly on top of him.

Mertrashida and the rear right guard were essentially blown straight back toward the table. Mertrashida’s smaller stature meant she was also hit with downward force, and she found herself flying back into the base of the table, making impact with her left shoulder, shattering the bone within. The guard appeared to be more fortunate, flipping right over the table and slamming into the floor on the other side.

All this happened in mere moments, but to Mertrashida, it felt like everything happened much more slowly.

Lowering his arm, Setesh admired his handiwork. Looking around, he was disappointed to see only two of his intended targets were dead.

No matter, he thought. Let’s try something else.

Setesh approached the guard leader, trapped under the weight of the dazed guard on top of him. The guard leader saw him coming and held out an arm, trying to defend himself.

Setesh merely laughed and let loose a stream of fire as the final guard stood shakily to his feet on the other side of the table.

Mertrashida watched in horror as the stream of fire engulfed the top guard, drawing a range of horrific screams from the guard as he began to burn.

The guard leader, however, thought quickly. Mertrashida watched, equally impressed and disgusted, as he moved the guard atop him, blocking most of the flames from reaching his body at the dying man’s expense.

At this point the stream of fire jerked and moved, heading straight for Mertrashida, as the remaining guard leapt the table and repeatedly began plunging his dagger into Setesh’s chest.

Setesh let out an animalistic scream and stopped the stream of fire, moments before it could point toward Mertrashida.

Mertrashida watched on in horror as her old master fell to his knees, blood pouring from what used to be his chest. His eyes tracked upward, glaring into the face of the final guard, as he lifted an open palm and blasted the guard with a superheated torrent of flame, avenging himself, before he fell to his side on the stone floor, defeated.

It was then that Mertrashida realised she had to leave, as soon as possible. She lifted herself with her scorched arm and began to push herself off the ground.

As she stood, she looked down and saw the guard leader, still laying under the corpse of his shield, face locked in a terrified expression.

‘Get up,’ she said in disgust. ‘You’re not hurt.’

The guard stammered for a moment, trying to find his voice. He swallowed, then tried again.

‘What the f**k just happened?’

Mertrashida paused, hand outstretched to retrieve her urn from the table.

‘You work for the wrong people,’ was all she said.

The leader grunted as he began to roll the body off of himself. Standing, he looked Mertrashida up and down, amazed that she was so composed considering the damage to her body. Still, he knew people were capable of amazing things when the time came �" Setesh’s flames certainly proved that true on a whole new level.

‘Well, I think it’s safe to say my services are no longer wanted here…’ he said quietly, looking around.

By this point, Mertrashida had already retrieved her urn, and was preparing to drink. The guard look at her, equally amazed and sickened, as the girl tipped her head back and downed the contents.
‘There’s something seriously wrong with you, kid.’

Mertrashida snorted and wiped the bloody concoction from her lips. She was about to respond, but suddenly the mixture took effect.

No amount of spying could have prepared Mertrashida for what came next. Though she managed to drink the contents of the urn with relative ease, at least considering what she knew it to be, there was no way to foresee what happened once it was inside her.

The contents bubbled and turned inside her stomach as the power imbued within began to adapt to its new container. At the same time, every nerve in her body came alive, sending an unknowable number of different signals to her brain with every instant. Every sense Mertrashida possessed went wild, barraging her with a symphony of twisted perception. All of this happened instantaneously, constantly, causing Mertrashida to stumble and fall, convulsing on the cold limestone floor.

The guard leader stood there, shocked. Looking around, he realized he had only one option. Bending down, he picked Mertrashida off the floor and moved for the door.

Before he left, though, a thought occurred to him. Turning around, he noticed all the urns on the table. The girl had been quite insistent on taking the urns, and the first thing she did in the aftermath of the fight was drink from one, before passing out. Whatever they contained, it seemed apparent that he should continue her mission.

Several minutes later, he hurried out of the chamber, Mertrashida draped over one shoulder, sack of urns on the other.

His timing was extremely fortunate; as he ran from the room with his precious cargo, Setesh began to stir, chest fully healed and full of rage.

The guard leader ran a considerable distance considering his cargo. As he ran, leaving the crypt and the lights of Memphis far behind, the sack of urns and Mertrashida appeared to be competing to see which could jostle around the most. Mertrashida for her part remained unconscious, still deep under whatever trance drinking from the urn had put her under.

Had he looked back, the man would have seen a burning figure lift into the air above the crypt and fly in the opposite direction, heading back to Memphis. Instead, he kept his eyes locked forward, terrified that at any moment his escape would be cut short in a brilliant explosion.

He didn’t stop running until Mertrashida began to stir and groan. It took a minute before he even noticed, he was so focused on running. Once he took note, however, he slowed and stopped, lowering the girl to the ground. As she slowly sat up and looked around, he allowed himself to keel over, forehead kissing the sand as he closed his eyes. He breathed deeply for a moment, before turning his head to look at the girl.

‘Welcome back…’

The moment he finished speaking, he allowed himself to fall sideways, passing out before he hit the ground.

The first thing Mertrashida did when the man passed out was check her injuries, but she was oddly unsurprised to find that they had already healed. Her left arm appeared as though it had never been hurt, while the right side of her body bore scars from being so badly burned. She stared at the scars on her arm for a little while, trying to get used to their presence. Eventually she simply seemed to shrug it off, and stood to survey her new surroundings.

She took watch for a while as the man slept, but as the hours passed she began to grow restless. Looking around to ensure there was nobody approaching, she crept over to the sleeping man and crouched by his side. With one hand on the man’s side -and one grabbing the sack of urns on the other side of him, Mertrashida closed her eyes and bowed her head.

Before she could do anything else, the man stirred beneath her hand. She opened her eyes and pulled away, looking over to the man’s face as he began to wake up fully.

‘What are you doing?’ He grumbled.

‘We need to keep moving,’ Mertrashida responded.

The man nodded and rolled onto his back, sitting up with a groan.

‘No arguments here… The further we are from that show, the better.’

Mertrashida nodded silently. Looking at her, the man realised that neither of them had a clue who the other even was, and yet they had now been forced together by whatever monstrous scheme was at play.

‘What’s your name?’

Mertrashida broke the silence, almost seeming to read his mind. Shaking his head, the man met her gaze and finally introduced himself.

‘Adil Tekin.’

Mertrashida nodded.

‘My name is Mertrashida. Nice to meet you, Adil.’

This time it was Adil who nodded.

‘Just Mertrashida?’ He asked.

Mertrashida cleared her throat and paused.

‘I don’t know my real name... I only know the name my masters gave me when I was little.’

Adil lowered his eyes, regretting his question.

‘I’m sorry.’

Mertrashida smiled, apparently undisturbed.

‘Don’t worry about it. They were actually quite nice to me, you know. I used to wonder about my real family, but… This is my life now.’ She shrugged.

Adil nodded thoughtfully then yawned, stretching his arms out. As he did so, he moved his right hand down onto the sack of urns, drawing his attention.

He looked down at the urns and then back at Mertrashida, a question burning in his mind.

‘What the hell was all that back there anyway?’

Mertrashida sighed, thinking to herself silently for a moment, before meeting his gaze.

‘I think it’s best somebody else explain that. Here, hand me the urns.’

Adil grabbed the sack of urns and passed it over to Mertrashida, who set it down and began inspecting the urns within.

Every now and then, she looked up at Adil, then back down at whichever urn was in her hands, before setting it aside and reaching for the next. This went on for a short while, until she smiled and extended her hand, offering the urn to Adil.

‘I know it’s nasty, but you should try to drink it all, and quickly. I’ll work on getting us out of here.’

Adil hesitated, fearing the possibilities. Looking into Mertrashida’s eyes, however, he was filled with the sense that he should trust her.

Taking the urn, Adil sat up properly and cracked open the seal. Tipping his head back, he poured the mixture down his throat before he had a chance to back down.

The moment he was done, he tossed the urn and clutched at his stomach, coughing.

‘You made this look easy,’ he coughed. “That’s disgusting!’

A moment later, he convulsed for a second, before collapsing to the ground unconscious.

Gathering the urns she had set aside, Mertrashida stepped over to Adil and crouched next to him once again. Like last time, she reached out her hand and set it upon his side, then closed her eyes.

A few moments later, the man, the girl and the urns all disappeared.


© 2019 Brendan Wilson


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Added on November 10, 2019
Last Updated on November 10, 2019


Author

Brendan Wilson
Brendan Wilson

Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia



About
Young Australian man with a wild imagination and an odd point of view more..

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