River watched us as we circled the same sand pit we had sparred in the previous day. But this time, instead of using just one weapon, we were armed to the teeth.
Sweat and sparks flew. Suddenly, I gave my sword a twist, and slapped his sword right out of his hand. He reached into his coat and pulled out the two hand blades I had given him the night before.
Surprisingly, despite his temporary disadvantage, he charged. Sparks flew from my scimitar as I intercepted his blades time and time again. Suddenly, I bolted forward, running past him. He turned to follow... then fell to the ground. As I had run past him, my scimitar had opened up a huge wound on his abdomen.
"That's enough training for today." I said. River looked away as I tended his wound as best I could, and gave him back his sword. "Your rush was unexpected, and that is usually a good thing."
He grimaced. "Just not good enough this time."
"Don't feel bad. I've been doing this a lot longer than you have."
"Yeah," he managed to say, gritting his teeth through the pain, "But so have Anubis and Shesmu."
I looked over his wound. "You're a fast healer for an immortal so young. You'll be fine in eight hours or so. And it won't even leave a mark."
The pain was starting to lessen, so he sat up on a rock and caught his breath. "Why do you still have your scars?"
I had sensed it coming, so I had a few seconds to think about it. "I've always thought that it meant something. I know from other immortals that most scars, even those they had before they became immortal, will heal. But mine were a mark. Death had come for me. I escaped, but not unscathed."
I looked down. We had only our pants on, to avoid any unnecissary cuts and rips in our clothes. In the middle of all of my scars I could see the one that was not connected to anything... the one left by Anubis himself.
"I don't know why I still have mine. Scars are memories. My body remembers the past."
Forrest had been pouring over some of the documents found in the burial chamber. When we walked, (or hobbled, in Pierre's case) to his tent, he had a few pages of translations for us to look at.
"It seems," he began, "that you were right. Anubis is the elder of the two. He is in charge, and this soldier died to help fuel the weaker of the two. These two immortals have been wandering the desert for millenia. Obviously no one who wrote any of these knew too much about them, but they were able to piece together bits and pieces from older documents and local hearsay. I'm sure half of it is nonsense, but some of this could be true."
I skimmed over some of the translations. "You're right... most of this is simple superstition. But I'm sure some facts can be garnered from this."
I was quick to point one such fact out. "Anubis has been roaming the desert for at least five thousand years, probably more. But this Shesmu is closer to my age. Or, at least, he only showed up around the time I was here. Since I didn't encounter him, I assume that he probably came around shortly after I left Egypt."
Pierre shook his head. "Great. So we have one immortal who's old enough to kill you pretty easily, and one that's old enough to kill me too."
I simply smiled. "That's about the size of it. Unless you want to start travelling the world, looking for other immortals to help us, it's just the two of us against the two of them."
River looked at the paper I had just pointed to, then looked to find the original hieroglyphics. "This looks right. More than five thousand years... how can he stay sane?"
"Supposedly the fabled Methos is that old, my dear." I replied. "And not only is he sane, but he's smart enough to make sure only those closest to him even know who he is."
"But has Methos lived in the desert for five thousand years, with only one companion for less than half of that time?", she retorted.
"True." I replied. "So, wherever the two of them are, they are old, powerful, and mad as march hares. Pierre, if you want to stay here, so will I, but if you want to flee the country, believe me, there's no shame in it."
He grinned at me this time. "You speak from experience?"
I didn't smile back. "Running away from death itself is nothing to be ashamed of. I had myself and my Asharu to look out for. I couldn't afford to stay and fight that creature."
After we left Forrest's tent, I had a horrible thought... perhaps Shesmu was even older than I. My teacher, my mentor had left for Egypt, looking for Anubis.
Perhaps he'd found him. And then joined forces with him. Although my mentor was one of the fastest and most agile swordsmen I had ever seen, my eyes could have been dazzled by youth... and perhaps Anubis had defeated him, but not taken his head for some reason.
I just wish I knew his name.
In my dreams, I saw Anubis. I saw him roaming the desert sands. I could see him...
I could see his face. In his hands he held nothing but a short sword. He stumbled through the desert until he collapsed from hunger, thirst, and heatstroke. As his eyes cracked open, hours later, in the failing daylight he saw the jackals coming for him.
He saw the face of Anubis before him. And he struck out. His sword left a bloody mark in the face of the nearest creature. As he fought off the wild animals, one was left behind.
He cut off it's head. He killed the avatar of Anubis.
But he was already half-mad from thirst and hunger. The animal was not an immortal. There was no life force for him to absorb, no prize to be won.
Inside every immortal is a small part of all those that have died by his blade. This immortal must have killed a powerful immortal, and he must have been driven mad by the constant presence of the one he killed.
So when he killed the avatar of Anubis, he thought he had become Anubis. He took the jackal's head, and made a mask of it. Every few years he would hunt down another jackal to replace the mask he wore. If his weapons needed to be replaced, he would hunt down an immortal and take his head, and his weapon.
He lived this way for thousands of years before Shesmu finally came along.
I knew Anubis now. I did not know the headsman. I didn't know Shesmu.
The next morning, I showed Pierre no mercy. Every move he made in our sparring match, I countered and returned before he could react. At the end of the morning, when the sun was almost dead above us, he was actually surviving my initial attack and managing to return a few blows. He had potential.
But potential wouldn't help against Anubis and Shesmu. If he could live through this, he could be a powerful immortal.
If he could live through this.
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