For more than two thousand years, I have been afraid of death. Afraid to face it. Afraid to fight it.
Now I will face death. I will face the creature that has represented death... my death... the death of the innocent... the death of the guilty... the very thing that carried away our dead for thousands of years.
This time I wasn't alone. I had friends. I had a woman who loved me... and another immortal who would fight by my side.
I'm tired. Tired of running. Tired of hiding. Tired of being afraid of death. It's high time I turn the tables and make death fear me.
In recent years one of the things that managed to catch my attention, and incidentally, helped keep me 'cool' with the generation I appear to be in, was rock music. I dabbled in guitar for a while. I had no talent, but still I dabbled. With a dozen years, even the least talented person can at least pull off a song or two.
One of the few songs I know how to play was running through my mind as Pierre and I circled around each other in the dirt. I found myself murmering the words as we dueled...
The window burns to light the way back home
A light that warms no matter where they've gone
They're off to find the hero of the day
But what if they should fall by someone's wicked way
Pierre and I tangled weapons, then finally he managed to shove me away. "What did you say?"
I grinned at him, "Metallica's song 'Hero of the Day'. Good band."
He shrugged, "I never really got into the metal thing."
"Why ever not?"
He simply shrugged again, then charged, his claymore leading the way for him. I started singing loud enough for him to hear as I simply deflected his blade and sidestepped. For some reason I felt like toying with him.
Still the window burns
Time so slowly turns
And someone there is sighing
Keepers of the flames
Do ya feel your name?
Can't you hear your babies crying?
I stopped suddenly and pointed my scimitar at the ground. "Oh, man. I've got a sudden Metallica craving. You know where we could find a stereo around here? I've got some CDs with me... I think that one's on either Load or Reload."
"Yeah, sure. I've got one in my tent. But don't wear down the batteries. I don't have that many."
We put away our weapons and headed out. The song was still in my head... and my walkman and headphones I kept in my tent would only get in the way of our sparring.
A few minutes later, I didn't have to hum... his stereo wasn't great, but now we had music to fight by.
It's the little things in life you treasure.
That night River and I curled up together in my... well, now our tent. I found myself humming that same song as we lay together...
These things return
to me that still seems real
Then I felt it. It was so strong I almost gagged, and as I curled up, I almost knocked River off of our cot.
"What is it?" She asked, not feeling it herself. "What's wrong?"
I rolled off of the cot and grabbed my coat and weapons. "The quickening."
As I stepped outside of the tent, I could feel which direction they were in. It was more than one sense... nothing else could be that strong. Anubis and Shesmu.
I could hear yelling in the directions I sensed them. I ran as fast as I could... but when I felt them close by, I ran around one of the larget tents to come from a different direction.
I turned the corner to see Anubis and Shesmu, completely aware of me... but ignoring me. I saw Pierre, running towards them as well. They ignored him.
As they marched away, I saw that they were carrying a human form. Still alive, from what it seemed.
River came up behind me. She saw the scene... men on the ground, alive or dead, we couldn't tell. And her uncle, alive... but with them. She screamed something that I didn't catch, and tried to chase after him. I pulled her back. "You can't help him right now. This is between us immortals."
She tried to hit me, and I grabbed her fists, like I would a child. "He's not an immortal! What are they trying to do?"
"The same thing every immortal tries to do. Take heads. They'll use him to get to us. When they killed your aunt, the quickening must have given one of them some of her sensations, perhaps even a memory or two. Whichever one of them killed her recognized Forrest. They know it will draw out Pierre. They're probably hoping that it will bring me out as well."
Pierre and I followed the trail as best we could. Neither of us are trackers.
Then we found that our work wasn't necissary. The tracks led to a spot in the middle of the desert... there we found it.
Anubis had left a sign of his passing. The head of a jackal sat on the ground, grinning a dry death grin. Under it sat a slim stone tablet. Pierre caught the basic message in heiroglyphics, enough that we knew we didn't have to stop and completely translate it.
This tablet had probably been used a dozen times before, all for the same purpose. It described a certain temple nearby... A temple for Anubis himself.
Anubis wanted us to find him. Anubis wanted to draw us out to his fighting ground.
Then it hit me.
The temple was holy ground.
It was a bumpy ride through the desert. Luckily the truck Pierre had chosen was up to the task. His voice quivered with the ride... and probably with his anger as well.
"This temple was a temple to Anubis. We should have looked into it before."
I patted his shoulder... and felt a weapon strap somewhere under his jacket. "It's not your fault. We didn't know this would happen. It's not every day that a pair of egyptian gods come knocking on your door."
"This place was where the dead were preserved. Mummies were made. Ceremonies to send them to the afterlife. All of this. This was the home of Anubis."
We finally arrived, and as we drew closer, I could feel the presence of other immortals nearby... too strong to be anyone or anything else but Anubis and Shesmu.
"They're here." I said, "But remember, once we are in the temple, it is holy ground. We can only fight there if they begin the fight. Be wary."
Pierre nodded to me as we got out of the truck. "I'm ready. I'm armed. They're dead."
I looked up at the temple. The massive squat structure wasn't huge... but the statues that flanked the doorway were. "Well, shall we use the front door?"
Pierre grinned and said, "We shall."
For a young immortal, he's learned how to enjoy himself well... that sort of relaxation in the face of death takes years to come by. Well, if this was his last chance to goof off before he died, so be it. He might as well make the most of it.
The curl in my gut grew suddenly stronger... and there they were.
Anubis and Shesmu came around the corner.
I'd promised myself I wouldn't flinch when they showed themselves. I didn't.
Anubis barked a few words in ancient egyptian. My mind was in a blur, I didn't understand every word. But he said something about holy ground... and something about his captive.
Shesmu pointed with his was, pointing deeper into the temple. Then the two of them simply turned their backs to us, and walked that way, trusting that we would not break the sanctity of holy ground.
We didn't. Pierre and I simply followed them, through the temple. Past the murals and the statues. Past the heiroglyphics that I couldn't read, and Pierre didn't have the time to translate. Finally we reached the heart of the temple. The sanctuary in the temple... and the wall in the back that had been knocked down.
The wall that marked the end of the holy ground was rubble. Beyond it, we saw Forrest, bound and unconcious, but still breathing. Anubis and Shesmu readied their weapons, and walked beyond the crumbled wall.
It was time for Pierre and I to fight.
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