Valdemahr Jun 16, 2018 20:14:36 GMT -5
Post by Char-Vell on Jun 16, 2018 20:14:36 GMT -5
“Have a care, lad! You‘ll bring the roof down upon our heads!”
“Yes, Master Khenem.”
Khenem, priest of Set, and his young apprentice Mahu picked their way down a cluttered, ill-kept corridor within the massive labyrinth that lay beneath the Temple of Set in shadow-haunted Khemi.
The sputtering torch held aloft by the elder Khenem illuminated crumbling mortar, cracked masonry and niter encrusted walls. Mahu led a bound captive at the end of a rope, a dusky young street girl recently delivered to the temple. She had weakly struggled against her fate, causing Mahu to stumble into one of the shoddily placed timber frameworks meant to reinforce the tottering corridor, bringing a shower of fine sand and dust down upon the close-shaven pates of the two priests.
Khenem muttered angrily. “If this tunnel is not repaired soon, this whole wing will cave in, bringing Set’s anger down upon us! I’ve spoken to the council about it, but they just wring their hands and wail about the difficulty finding suitable workers. Bah!
“Perhaps they should consider ending the practice of slaying and entombing the work parties after they finish their tasks?” suggested young Mahu.
“And have our secrets revealed to the unwashed masses?” scoffed the elder man, “I think not! Really, Mahu, you must learn to think things through before you speak!”
“Yes, Master Khenem.”
At length they arrived in a circular chamber. Khenem went to the twin bronze, serpentine shaped candelabras on either side of the entrance and lit the black candles held there. Illuminated, the room was revealed to be in a similar state of decay as the rest of the structure. The once elaborate frescoes had fallen away from the wall, and all furnishings and adornments had since been taken to more well-used parts of the temple. It was now empty save for a heavy iron ring set in the center of the floor. Another open doorway, identical to the one they’d entered trough, stood directly opposite to them. Khenem did not light the tapers there.
“Secure the sacrifice, Mahu.”
Mahu nodded and hauled the writhing girl to the iron ring and made the rope fast to it.
“Please master priest.” whimpered the girl, her dark, tear-filled eyes pleading to the youthful lay-priest. “Do not do this to me! I am a faithful servant of Set! I have done you no ill! I beg thee!” It was true, the waif had done aught wrong save being alone and unprotected when the priests scoured benighted city streets for suitable victims. Mahu did not like the practice, but still…was it not the will of Father Set?
The young priest blanched and stammered. “I…it is…”
“Do not fret so, child!” it was Khenem who spoke, with an air of wisdom and authority. “This is the fate ordained for you by Father Set. It is a great honor! Your spirit will be held in great esteem in the afterlife! Mahu! To my side lad!”
Mahu came as he was bid and took his place at his master’s side.
“Best to not converse with the sacrifices, boy.”
“Is this…what we do…Is it truly the will of Set?”
Khenem regarded his pupil with a raised eyebrow, “Such questions! Put them from your mind! The Princess is among the most beloved of our lord’s servants. Catering to her needs is one of the priesthood’s most sacred duties! Now, calm yourself and recite the litany with me!”
Both priests folded their arms and positioned their fingers in the proscribed manner, making the Sign of the Eye. Then they bowed their heads and spoke the ancient words.
"Iä! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Sutekh! Iä! Akivasha wgah'nagl fhtagn.”Again and again they repeated the tortuous phrase, accompanied by the sobs and whimpers of the girl-child tied to the floor.
After a seeming eternity, two pinpoints of golden fairy-fire became visible, and a pale shape was disgorged from the darkness within the opposite doorway. It was a tall, ivory-skinned woman of aristocratic bearing, her voluptuous body bare save for velvet sandals and a jewel-crusted girdle about her supple waist. A lush mass of dark ringlets framed her exquisite face. Mahu’s voice trailed off as he became entranced by the woman’s dark, marvelously large eyes. In them he found a cold cruelty, cosmic hunger, and a deep, bitter loneliness. Unwittingly he took a half step forward. Khenem seized the lad’s robe and pulled him back.
“Do not look her in the eye! Cast your eyes downward and continue to speak the litany!”
The priests continued the litany with renewed fervor. The pale woman’s exquisite features twisted into a grimace of hate, anger, and aye, self-loathing. She turned to the bound captive and seized her by the hair. She drug the screaming girl to her bosom and with her free hand wrenched the thick rope free of the iron ring to which it was tied.
Mahu shut his eyes tightly and fought to concentrate on the litany. But the tortured wails of the captive girl and the chaotic sound of the struggle caused him to once more look upon the horror in the chamber.
The pale woman had the struggling waif in an almost sensual embrace. Her succulent, ruby lips parted, revealing white, pointed teeth. She pressed her face against the girl’s throat and the child’s wails turned to mind-numbing shrieks of mortal terror.
As Akivasha, daughter of Tuthamon, undying princess of Luxor feasted on the hot lifeblood of the writhing girl; Mahu shut tight his eyes and sought refuge for his blasted nerves within the esoteric permutations of the litany.
"Iä! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Sutekh! Iä! Akivasha wgah'nagl fhtagn.”