1 week earlier…
Through the long thin slit in the stone walls of the oldest pyramid in Egypt, the rising sun’s first rays helped illuminate the colorful hieroglyphs carved deep into the walls. This particular pyramid was a hidden piece of ancient architecture…for only a short time longer.
High Priest Nakhti was reading the story etched in the beautiful alabaster walls within the gold topped pyramid while the last beaker of the alchemic mixture fired. The carefully woven prophecy of 2000 years ago was written in the odd language of hieroglyphics made from animals, parts of the human body, plants…familiar simplicity that the average Egyptian related to.
The mysterious Valley of Kings at the center of the quiet village of Al-Kharijah, currently hidden by priestly powers, was about to reappear after nine hundred long years. This verdant valley of royal pyramids had vanished mysteriously just before the dawn of the Tales. Only one man would occasionally appear from this area, seemingly out of thin air to test the Egyptians’ soul through the centuries. Then he would vanish. He was the specter of myths.
Almost all was set in place.
Tale number ten was of the greatest significance; the number of math and science. Did anyone care about the foretelling? Tales of Egypt were historically said to be calculated at 100 years each, beginning around nine hundred years ago.
This most powerful of high priests watched the simmering liquid in the beaker until the color turned a deep amaranthine signaling the end of the final step. He reached down to extinguish the flame. It was critical timing.
Nakhti walked over to the ancient papyrus roll and raised his gnarled hands, then frowned. Why couldn’t he regain his youth as well as the Other? After all, they were of the same blood. Each tale this lengthy process of gathering ingredients to make the list of reanimation potions seemed not to bring him back to his original peak of youth. Not so with the Other. But then then Other was not living through each Tale either as he was having to do.
A movement from the corner of the room caught the periphery of the High Priest’s vision. The beautiful young virgin had risen from her chair to walk over to the closed sarcophagus. Curiosity had drawn her. He had specifically told her to remain where she was placed.
Nakhti said a chant under his breath to still his irritation as he walked over to the sarcophagus and laid a hand on the girl’s arm.
“Chosen one of the gods, I beseech thee to do as I instruct!” the old priest mildly chided her. His bony finger pointed back to the ornate chaise opposite the coffin. He pressed a small cup of potion into her hand.
For a few seconds her expressive brown eyes looked into his, then she bowed her head and reseated herself.
“Obedient, biddable creature, at least” the elderly religious man said under his breath as he watched the girl retake her seat. Once she had finished the drink, the effect was immediate; slowly she slumped sideways onto the couch.
He looked down at the young skin of the tanned arm as he lifted it over the cup she had just swallowed. Her breastbone rose and fell slower and slower. Another crucial timing must be kept while her heart still beat.
The ceremonial knife was skillfully wielded along her wrist. Drip by drip, the cup filled. Once the mark inside was reached, Nakhti placed a linen bandage around the wound to keep the chaise from being spotted. He took another few moments to watch the last rise and fall of her chest.
Nakhti inclined his head to say a short prayer to the god of the underworld on behalf of her sacrifice. What a brave little soul. Too bad songs would not be made to sing of her but no one could know of the secrets that brought new life.
The crimson life liquid was added to the fine glass beaker and swirled slowly. It was time.
The priest returned to the scroll to set the elixir of resurrection in its place among the strange geometrical lines of the table.
He put his hands in the air again. With practiced movement, his fingers traced a pattern he had performed 9 other times in the past. The words flowed with ease; softly at first, then gradually rising in pitch. An otherworldly light swirled between his gesturing hands. His arms pulled inward, bringing the ball of light over his head. As the light flowed down his body like a winding serpent, he picked up the glass and held it up to the morning sun. He tried not to cringe as he swallowed.
The burning inside was tortuous! His skin crawled and prickled.
When the sun beam along the opposite wall crept downwards by a royal cubit to the symbol of the blooming papyrus flower, the painful transformation was completed. Once again, he survived the transformation. The skin of his hands had lost their wrinkled texture. It was as expected.
Now for the Other.
The High Priest ran his hands along the joint of the sarcophagus lid at the lower part until they felt the insets. He pressed the metal mechanism to release the locks and raised the lid. Yes, the One of his blood was in perfect suspension. Excellent!
The scroll was not needed as the words were easily recalled in his more youthful brain. The half drunk glass container was set near the coffin. Inhaling air into his refreshed lungs, he exhaled the prayer.
Between Nakhti’s raised hands, the circular light made its appearance again, but brighter and larger and more colorful. The Other gasped as he breathed air into his own lungs. The paralysis was loosened after several centuries of disuse!
Dark, chocolate brown eyes opened but saw only the glowing around him. He knew what to expect next. As the burning liquid was poured into his mouth, he swallowed with anticipation. His throat was hot with fire but it felt energizing rather than painful. The transformation was not as overwhelming since his body had been in suspension between each of the Awakenings.
The metamorphosis was finished when the beam of light crawled slowly downwards another royal cubit to the symbol of the flaming phoenix.
The light that had engulfed him was slowly waning and seemed to disappear into his eyes. He was kneeling inside the sarcophagus. He hated that death bed!
With a quick movement, he stepped out onto the stairs next to the sarcophagus and walked down them to stand by the corpse of the lifeless girl. Rather more beautiful than the last one, he considered. For a brief moment there was a slight twinge of guilt. It vanished quickly.
“And what name will you favor yourself with this time, grandfather,” the Awakened One asked the other man whose form looked for all the earth the same age as his own.
The other man smiled, “You may call me High Priest Khonsu.”
The taller man narrowed his eyes. A flash of anger passed over his shadowed face. “I…will allow you to possess such a sacred name, my fellow traveler through times. Appropriately chosen.”
The two men walked through the labyrinth of halls until they came to stand at the entrance of the pyramid. The One turned his face away from the bright sun. It would take time to adjust to such bright light. He would be grateful to see the greatest shining star finish setting.
“Egypt! Behold the fulfillment of the First Prophecy!” High Priest Khonsu pronounced loudly.
At the Shout of Announcement, the air shimmered and the wind rushed around the pyramid in a great swirl then moved outwards as a violent dust storm…
Akhten the peasant squinted, lifting a hand to his forehead to shade his vision from the blinding sun that emerged after the storm passed the next morning. The children of the small town of Al-Kharijah were running around, playing a competitive game of handball, clearly not phased by the sudden storm that had put the fear of the gods into the adults.
The father of four scanned from the east slowly pivoting to the south…and froze! A mirage! Yes, it had to be! Pyramids in the town’s center?! A chariot stop? Out of thin air?! He was losing his mind for sure!
Then he realized that the childish shouts had gone quiet. Other villagers were emerging from their houses speaking in hushed tones, all looking to the south.
Two men were suddenly seen to be walking side by side; one in priestly robes, the Other in a blackish-brown robe with a cowl over his head and a staff in his hand. The Other diverged and began walking towards the west.
Akhten ran up to the priest, kneeled and begged to be told what the haboob portended.
“Tell the people that the ancient prophesy of the Tenth Tale has begun…The Stranger is back to test the intentions of men!”