"Offand, it seems absolutely ridiculous. A roman, slain by an egyptian god." Forrest looked at the rubbing of the original heiroglyphics, but saw no outright inconsistancies between it and the translation. "But looking at that mummy..."
"Shesmu." I said.
Pierre looked at me, and I nodded. "The body had no head?", he asked.
"Shesmu." I repeated, "The headsman of the underworld. Not a well known diety, in the later periods."
I knew firsthand. He was myth in my day. No one worshipped him. After archaology progressed, I found that in my mythology, his job was slowly replaced over the centuries by that of the Devourerer of the Dead, a creature that was part hippopotomus, part crocodile, and part lion. If the heart of the dead was unworthy, he quickly devoured it.
But Shesmu came from an older time.
"Yes." Pierre said. "Shesmu. He took the heads of those who did not deserve to live a second life."
Forrest took a moment to finish his train of thought. "No mere mortal would have the strength to break a man's back like that. No wonder they thought it was a god."
It took me a moment before I realized it. They knew. They knew that Pierre was an immortal. Perhaps the two of them had known his mentor as well. They were guarding their speech for me. Pierre hadn't told them about me.
"It's alright." he said. "You can speak your mind. Siris knows of my kind."
His kind. He wanted to let me tell them if I wanted to, but for now all they knew was that he was an immortal, and I knew that. But River had seen my scars... last night... her hands running across my chest... she must have at least felt them in the darkness as we lay together.
No matter. It is nice to speak freely.
"Two immortals. Anubis and Shesmu. Shesmu is the weaker." I said.
Forrest turned to me. "What makes you say that?"
"This roman was young. The text right there says that. He was still on his first life. Anubis defeated him, then let Shesmu take his small amount of power."
Pierre spoke up. "That's pretty much what the text said. Heavily layered with local religion and superstition, but it fits."
"I don't know.", River interjected. "It could have been that Shesmu lets Anubis do the dirty work, then takes the power."
"Possible," I replied, "but I personally disagree."
I slipped my jacket off, letting my scimitar fall out of it. Then I quickly whipped my shirt off, and showed my scars.
And the one scar on my front that doesn't fit in with the rest of them. It does not mark a spot where I was torn apart. It is a single slash that happened shortly after.
I pointed it out. "Anubis gave me this scar."
"More than two thousand years ago."
From the way they reacted, I got the impression that not only did they know that Pierre was immortal, but they knew how young he was. Instantly I was given control of the conversation.
I lay down in my bunk, thinking back to the conversation.
First was my storytelling. Even though Pierre had heard most of the story, he was silent until I was finished. I delighted in noting River's reaction to the mention of my first love. She had thought I was as young as she, and she had held some hope of being my first love.
I told them how I died. How I cheated death twice.
How after I killed Anubis, an hour later he rose and attacked me again. My love and I fled through the desert. I threw a rock at him, and he sliced it in half with his sword. But a chunk hit him in the head and knocked him back. I leapt... he went down on his own sword. My axe chopped again and again...
Then, covered in blood and sand, I ran again. My love ran with me. We went far, far enough that the winds would cover our tracks in the sand. By the time the sun rose we found shelter. We caught up on sleep, then walked until it was night again.
It took countless days to cross the desert. Some days I would feel the quickening within me, and I knew our enemy was close. Other times it faded to nothing. By the time we reached the edge of the red sea, I knew we had lost our enemy. Death could not find me. We travelled through Persia, and at the end of her natural lifetime, my love died. I travelled on.
My love... my nefara...
Once again, my tent flap opened. Shyly, River stepped in.
"Can I come in?"
I gestured to the open spot on the bed, right in front of my stomach, as I was in a relatively fetal position. She came over and sat there.
She began. "This morning I was hoping that... tonight we would... well..."
I smiled. "Go all the way?"
Looking at the ground, she said. "Yeah. I was hoping tonight would be something special."
"And why can't it be?"
"How old are you, really?"
"I didn't really know until I spoke with your uncle. I suppose I'm about five hundred years older than Christ."
"You've been in love before."
"How many times?"
That question hit me. How many times?
My first time had lasted through two lifetimes.
But I have had hundreds of lifetimes to live. How many women have I been with? How many people have I cared for?
Not many. In my thousands of years of life... I have truly loved a woman once. Perhaps this time will be my second.
I reached out and gently caressed her cheek. "Once. But it can happen again."
We made love that night. I'm sure if anyone was in the neighboring tents, they probably knew what was going on, too.
How long ago had I met this girl? Could it be love?
Yes. It could be. Perhaps not yet, but it could be.
This is the first time in years I have made love to a woman like this, too. She knows immortals can't have children. She never even asked if I needed protection.
I have only felt this kind of raw passion mixed with pure affection once... and that was with my first love.
Asharu. The name that has not escaped my lips in millenia. Asharu.
As we lay together that night, I dreamed.
As Asharu and I left Egypt, we wandered through the desert, looking for an oasis... anything that would keep my love alive. My throat was parched, but I would survive. She would not.
Suddenly, I felt it again.
I looked around and tried to feel where my enemy could be...
And my gut told me that the sensation came from the oasis in the distance. The only way I could save my love's life.
I had conquered death. I was ready to do the same for my love.
We made our way to the oasis. I had my axe in hand, ready for anything. We came closer, and my gut twisted more.
Finally, we saw a lone figure, sitting on a fallen tree stump. He gestured towards the water as we came close, but his hand never strayed far from the sword on his lap.
The sword... I had never seen anything like it. And the man was a foreigner.
He appeared to be a persian.
The two of us drank our fill, then we turned to this stranger. He spoke to us in thickly accented Egyptian.
"I hope you weren't planning on using that little thing to cut my head off." He gestured to my axe.
"Why should I?" I replied.
He only laughed. "You are as young as you look, I see that much. Perhaps I can help you."
"I need no help from a foreigner! Your filthy kind has turned our great land into... into..."
"Into a great land that is no longer ruled by an Egyptian pharoh?" He seemed amused at my response to him. Perhaps he was used to the way Egyptians treat foreigners.
I lifted my axe threateningly. "I cannot die. Don't anger me!"
Before I knew what happened, his sword lazily arced around and caught my axe under it's head. It flew through the air, landing ten feet behind the stranger.
He stood, slowly, all the while holding his sword at his side. "You need help, boy, or else you'll never survive."
I had no fear of him, even with his blinding speed. I could not die.
But I marvelled at his sword. Longer than any I had seen before, it was long and slightly curved, with a vicious looking pointed tip, and it curved back into another point on the backside.
This was my first look at a scimitar.
He pulled another from his person. I could not tell where he had it hidden. It sailed throught he air, and I caught it by the hilt.
"Fight me." he said.
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