River and I had to step out while other workers came in. As they cleaned the door, they saw only a small prayer written in heiroglyphics, a prayer to Anubis, asking him to take the mummy in the other room safely to Duat.
Finally, we were allowed to watch as they opened it. A puff of stale air came out, but Pierre's candle only flickered for a moment. He suggested we wait until the stale air clears out, just in case.
River was a bit fidgety during that time, but I am used to waiting. I slid my hand around her waist and kissed her on the cheek, and she smiled up at me.
After fifteen minutes Pierre and Forrest agreed that it was probably safe to enter. They went in first, and we followed.
The room was surprisingly small. At the most, twenty feet long and ten feet wide. There were heiroglyphics on the wall, and at the end, there was a statue of Anubis.
It took a moment for me to regain my composure.
A life-sized statue of Anubis. His hands were out, unlike the typical Egyptian statue pose, they lay flat. Across his palms rested a staff.
It was what we egyptians called a was. It has a long barb at the bottom end, and the top is a curved shape, usually resembling that of a dog or jackal's head. This was no exception. But as we stepped closer, we found that it was not part of the statue.
It was a long metal pole, with sharp barbs, and a hideously razor edged top.
"Amazing." muttered Forrest. "I could be wrong, but it looks like those are bloodstains there."
He pointed to the tip of the was. I looked closer, and he was right.
Pierre spoke up, "Would it be possible to do a genetic test? Compare the blood on this to the mummy?"
Forrest shook his head. "We could, but I don't see the point. This was probably just something the romans added to the mummification ceremony. They probably had a priest dress as Anubis and sacrifice an animal or something. But I can have it tested."
I wanted to agree with Forrest. But still, after we finally left, I managed to corner Pierre alone.
"Where did that come from?" I asked. "Why would the weapon that murdered that man be left in his own grave?"
He was silent for a moment. Then he said, "There is something out there, Siris. Something ancient. I've felt the quickening before you came. Several headless bodies have been found in the desert. Some were dried up, and several years old. Some were new."
"And just two weeks ago, an immortal I knew well was killed in Egypt."
I could tell that he hadn't told me quite everything, but I guessed what he hadn't said. "Who was he?"
"She." He corrected. "She taught me what it was to be immortal. If it weren't for her, I would not know who I am. I would not carry a sword. And I would probably have lost my head by now."
I squeezed his shoulder gently. "Just remember, even when decapitated, an immortal never completely dies. Whoever takes the head of your mentor's killer will absorb a small part of her."
He turned away, and then I realized one last detail that he hadn't revealed.
They had been lovers. Or at least, he had been in love with her. If she had not returned his love, then that was all the more reason for him to grieve.
Whoever first said that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all obviously never loved and lost.
The two of us circled around inside a small sand pit. Around us were high piles of excess sand, and no one nearby.
"Just wear something that can get bloody and dirty if it needs to." I had told Pierre.
So far, in ten minutes of us sparring, I had 'killed' him some number close to ten times.
I hadn't drawn much blood so far, I'm good at stopping my blade short of it's target.
But he was still mumbling about the cut I'd put on his wrist. When he attacked me, I had simply deflected his blade, cut his wrist, and when he tried to step away and give his sword arm time to heal, he found my blade at his throat.
"With a curved blade like yours and mine, remember that a long slash is often more effective than a simple cut. If you draw the blade across your target, it can cut deeper than if you simply swing it with all your strength."
"Easy for you to say," he snorted. "My sword is only one handed. I can only use half my strength."
"Not true." I said. "If you need the strength, and you're willing to sacrifice freedom of movement, you can wrap your left hand around your right, or lock your left hand on your right wrist."
"But you can fit both hands on your blade."
"Every blade has advantages and disadvantages. I prefer mine because it has all the advantages of a longsword, with the sharp edge of a katana."
"Yours has advantages. The best advantage is not the one in battle, though. The best advantage is the fact that you can carry it as a badge of honor, and no one will look twice. The rest of us are constrained to use whatever blades we can hide on our person."
He smiled. "Yes, that was a smart move on my part."
"Well, in all fairness, you grew up in this century. We didn't."
"A fat lot of good that does me. These kids nowadays... I tried to use a computer once, really I tried. But it didn't work. I just couldn't do it."
I laughed at that one. "To tell you the truth, they don't bother me too much. I bought a computer when they started to get cheap. It just sits in the corner. I know how to use the mouse, and how to use the keyboard, and that's about it."
"You got me beat, then." He shook his head. "The keyboard was easy enough... but whenever someone tried to teach me how to use the damn machine, they'd get tired of watching me slowly drag the mouse to where it belongs, and they'd take it from me and click for me."
"Is your wrist healed now?"
He looked down. "Completely."
He whipped out his blade again, and held it up en guarde.
I swing once, only holding my blade with one hand. His blade was forced aside, and I produced a knife from my sleeve and held it to his neck.
"Here's another thing to remember... most immortals carry one weapon. But the more cautious ones, like me, carry a spare."
He tried to knee me in the leg and throw me back, but I sensed the attack and turned into it, letting his knee hit the meaty part of my leg.
"And don't expect someone who has lived through a hundred fights to fall for ANYTHING you do. Just fight straight and simple. Don't try anything special, unless it's meant to be nothing more than a distraction."
We disentangled, and he watched as my knife disapeared.
"What was that?"
"I know, but what is it made of? It didn't look like steel."
"It wasn't. Carbon something-or-other. I keep it with me in case I need to pass through a metal detector."
"One thing you need to learn, and learn quickly, before you lose your head: Use the different parts of your blade for different things. The tip of your blade is only to be used for a quick slash, or to divert and enemy's attack. Don't block, divert. The tip of your blade doesn't have the strength to do it. Now, when I just turned your blade aside so easily there, I did it because I used the base of my blade against the middle of yours. That gave me better leverage than you."
"And the rest of the blade?"
"The middle you use to block, but make sure your opponant can't do what I just did. Use the middle of your blade against the middle of theirs. Also, the middle is what you want to attack with if you see an opening. Especially with a curved blade like yours, it gives the best cut. And the base of the blade is what you want to block with whenever you get the chance. That will give you the leverage to turn their blade, and hopefully make a quick thrust or swing."
We sparred for a few more moments, but it was getting towards the time when we would have to return to camp.
Finally, we put our swords away. After we had done so, I asked him, "Have you taken your first?"
"My first what?"
"Your first immortal's head. Have you used your blade yet?"
"And how many had he killed?"
"I don't know." he looked down at his blade, remembering. "He grew up in the old west in the early 1800s. He got his sword as an army man, in the civil war. I don't know which side. He had killed many mortals, but only a few immortals, I think."
"You were lucky."
"I know. He could have killed me, but he decided to toy with me first. He didn't expect me to recover so quickly."
The two of us walked back to camp. He grabbed his discarded jacket to hide the bloodstains on his shirt.
"You were lucky." I told him, "Most immortals die in their first fight against an immortal. After that, our chances of survival go up tenfold."
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