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September 13, 2018

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Anubis Rising

Sunday, October 16, 2016

John ran.

 

He didn't dare look back, as he didn't know how close it was to him.

 

He, in fact, didn't even know what it was... just that it'd burst from the sarcophagi and killed three assistants and nine workers, rending them to pieces with great blades of yellowed ivory.

 

The tomb had been discovered a little over a year ago, in the Valley of Kings. It had been pure happenstance that the sands had shifted enough to reveal the top of the stone bunker, a rare find that the locals immediately reported. They knew how important such finds were and, more important, how much money they could make from people coming into the area to dig.

 

John had heard of it and pleaded with the head of the Institute to let him go, citing his numerous breakthroughs in cracking codes and languages of times past. After much discussion, John had been offered the dig. Only now did he wish he'd been denied his request.

 

Slowly running up a sand dune, he heard a howl in the distance. Inhuman and high pitched, the howl could only be described as bloodthirsty.

 

John fell onto his hands as he stumbled up the dune, climbing as fast as he could. Sweat poured down his back and chest as he struggled beneath the hot desert sun.

 

When they'd arrived, the locals had said they'd already dug out the sand surrounding the tomb, and that they had bad news. The seal was a carving of the jackal-headed god Anubis, with rusted chains crossing over the fine stonework. Whoever had made this tomb had wanted to make it clear that it wasn't to be touched, and many of the workers were demanding a higher pay to aid in the continued excavation.

 

John had readily agreed as he'd never heard of such a warning on a tomb; that meant this was a completely new discovery!

 

He'd been driven out into the Valley and to the site. Unlike many of the other tombs, it wasn't built near into any mountains beneath the sand. It was, in fact, built near the middle of the valley, some thirty meters beneath the shifting sands. The sloped pyramid was small in size compared to the ones in Giza, but the four pristine statues of Anubis facing inward were of amazing quality. Each towered at ten meters and easily weighed a hundred tons each. Each statue depicted the God of Death with a snarling face, arms crossed over their chests with the traditional scepter and ankh that the depiction would generally hold. The only oddity was the fact that each one had a loop of chain wrapped around the neck of the statue that linked to a rusted iron cap atop the pyramid.

 

John had, at the time, not seen any true reason for this. But he understood now. And by all that was holy he wished that he'd just left the tomb alone.

 

Reaching the apex of the dune, John lost his footing and rolled down the other side, coughing and sputtering the whole way down.

 

After removing the seal, chains intact, the workers had discovered that the passageway had been filled with barbed chains, crisscrossing back and forth at odd angles. It'd taken several bolt cutters to clip through the verdigris-encrusted chains, the workers moving ahead while John looked over a mosaic that was in the entry room.

 

Large and colorful, it depicted Anubis standing in the sun, with rays shining down over a city set aflame, shadowed figures depicted attacking people. A line of hieroglyphs warned any who had entered the tomb to take whatever treasure they wanted from the antechamber, but to not pass through "The corridor of Binding".Looking around the chamber, John was able to dust off stacks of silver bars that had been stacked into small pyramids, along with ivory figurines of Anubis with miniature chains wrapped around him.

 

"How very odd," John had said, before slipping one into his backpack. The statue had writing on it, and he wanted to read it later after they'd explored the chambers that were no doubt laying somewhere deep within the structure.

 

Another howl wrent through the air, spurring John to get back to his feet and renew his sprinting. His satchel flapped against his hip as he ran, panting from the exertion of running in such heat. He could feel the grains of sand in his dry mouth and smacked his lips to try and produce some saliva. Alas, he didn't have the ability to do so.

 

The corridors had ended up being a maze full of chains, leading to some rooms with similar mosaics and warnings with offerings of treasure for any would-be tomb robbers. It'd taken four weeks to fully map out the pyramid, as they'd discovered several traps that were pressure sensitive. One worker had died to when clipping through a chain, only to find the floor falling away. They still didn't know what was below, just that it was deep and that the worker was dead. A stench of rotting flesh had filled the corridors after that, chasing away the musty stink of stale air. Several dozen chains held hidden trap doors that led to chutes down into the recesses of the pyramid, and the workers had become inured to the ever-present stench after a few days. John had taken to rubbing scented oils under his nose to withstand the overpowering smell.

 

He had been in a paradise of ancient lore and mythology, with depictions of pharaohs and queens ordering men to some kind of demise in a pit with eyes.

 

It was only after they'd found the last chamber, devoid of any bodies, that John began to understand what the mosaics were saying.

 

"Get a rope ladder," John had ordered. "A long one. We're going down one of the traps."

 

The drop was over fifty meters, leading to a massive chamber supported by four columns. The decaying remains of the worker was found beneath one of the many openings in the ceiling, at the base of a sarcophagi, one of many. In total there were fifty-three of them lined against the wall, chains fastened over them and built into the stone, sealing them as if whatever was buried would try and escape. Each stone coffin depicted Anubis with gold and silver filigree, ivory manacles over the crossed wrists.

 

"It seems," John had said to the lead worker Hassid, "that there is a running theme with this burial ground."

 

"Yes," Hassid had replied, obviously anxious about the whole place. The only exit was the rope ladder leading up, and four workers, not including Hassid and John, had come down with bolt cutters and tools for precise work.

 

"Strange," John had noted, moving his lantern back and forth. "I don't see any offerings. No treasure, no urns... it's like this wasn't a place for burial."

 

"No," Hassid had said, tracing the golden mask over one of the coffins. "It seems more like a prison."

 

"Why build a pyramid for prisoners?" John had wondered.

 

Hassid had merely shrugged.

 

John had decided that they should look at one of the mummies within the sealed containers, ordering a worker to cut the chains. 

 

No sooner had the man snapped the chains did the lid shatter outward, a towering creature emerging from a crouched position. The howl had made blood run from John's ears, and the lantern had only illuminated the horrifying features on the monstrous entity, ragged wraps hanging off of emaciated arms and legs. Gripped in the giant hands were massive double-sided ivory blades, which the creature used to disembowel Hassid in one savage thrust.

 

After that, it'd been chaos, the creature shrieking in ancient Egyptian while butchering the workers. John had fled, climbing the ladder up the tunnel while the cacophony of death rang below him. When it had fallen silent he could hear the creature speaking to itself, sniffing about. John's mastery over the written language didn't translate over to how it was spoken, so he didn't know what the creature was saying. Only that he heard bones crunching and the wet sounds of meat hitting stone as whatever the hell it was began to eat the abandoned group.

 

John had made it out of the pyramid, where the rest of the workers were resting when he heard the howl again.

 

"What is that?" One of the men had demanded, looking at John.

 

"I don't know... it killed Hassid and the others, though. We need to seal the pyramid back up."

 

"But we have no mortar, nor cement!" Another man had proclaimed. "All we could do is have the crane lift the seal and place it back in the entryway."

 

"Then do that!" John had screamed just as a blast of foul air burst from the tombs opening.

 

The creature had emerged.

 

Standing perhaps three meters tall, the creature was hideous beyond reckoning. Swathed in faded linen and tar, the giant was stooped with bony spines growing from it's back, where patches of fur still remained. The head was that of a jackal, though heavily decayed and bloodied. The eyes had obviously been carved out of the creature before it's interment, but it's large ears moved atop it's head as it listened to the screams.

 

Then it was a blur amidst the men, slashing and tearing with it's tool of war. Picks and shovels were raised in defense, but the men were quickly carved down to mere piles of meat darkening the sand with their blood.

 

John had begun running then, some twenty minutes ago. And the beast was still after him, loping on long legs, howling every few minutes.

 

John collapsed, gulping in breaths of air as he tried to fight off the fatigue. He was in good shape, but no man could run in this heat for long. All he could do now was hope that the blind creature missed him. A hot breeze blew over him, sand billowing in a small cloud. Coughing, John heard the crunch of sand beneath feet. Looking up through the haze of sand, he saw the outline of the monster against the brilliant sun.

 

The shadowy figures of the mosaic made sense now: anyone fighting this creature would face the sun to do so, making it look like an evil wrapped in shadows.

 

John slapped a hand over his mouth and lay flat on the ground, listening as the creature began loping down the dune towards him. It slowed at the base, some five meters from John, and raised it's rotted muzzle to the air.

 

After taking in a long sniff, it moved it's head side to side. It seemed lost now, the winds picking up speed. It slowly paced forward.

 

In it's slow drawl, it began speaking, slow enough that John could understand it.

 

"Where are you whelp? I can smell you on the wind and I can hear your heart beating, but the winds... they betray me." It said, obvious humor in it's voice. "Come now... you've been kind enough to let me stretch my legs after my confinement. The least I can offer you is a quick and honorable death. Face me like a warrior... I will even grant you the first blow if you like."

 

John remained silent, praying that the wind would continue growing stronger. The beast stopped two meters away, standing close to John's shoulder.

 

"I may not be able to see, but I know you can hear me. By the way your heart beat changed I know you speak the royal tongue. Why not engage me in conversation? It has been some time since I've spoken to anyone. After I'm finished with you I will return to the prison to free my brothers. We will clean the kingdom of nonbelievers and parasites as we did before."

 

John, thinking fast, cleared his throat and said slowly. "That is why I freed you, noble one. The nonbelievers have taken over the land. None obey the laws of life and death anymore. Anubis is all but a myth to the parasites."

 

The creature spun, it's sightless gaze focused on John. "You speak lies. Anubis would never fall out of favor."

 

"But he has. Man has claimed a false god for themselves, even erected monuments to him in Cairo near the palaces. They defile the kings of old by digging them up and putting them on display for heathens to come and mock."

 

The monster crept closer, low and to the ground until it was prowling. It now loomed over him, weapon raised.

 

John closed his eyes as he watched the muscles flex, the blade rising in the air to pin him to the desert.

 

Spish!

 

John opened his eyes, nervously looking around. The blade was resting mere centimeters from his head, sunk deep into the sand. The monster was now snout to nose with him, blood dripping from it's fangs onto John's face.

 

"Come with me to free my brethren then, brother. Lead us to these false beacons of hope so that we may snuff them out. We must bring Anubis back to glory."

 

With that it offered a hand to John.

 

Sighing, John reached up and took it.

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