“Do you not know who I am? Drop your blades and you may live this night.” Kalaros called out to the darkness.
The Medjai approached his foe, curved blade held forward in challenge. Miris stayed close behind, as instructed, with blade ready in reverse grip. The two pondered at the four figures before them, searching shadow for a sign of who they were. As they closed the gap between them, the stench of decay worsened. They did not heed the warning of Kalaros. Did not falter in stride. Did not respond. They just shambled steadily toward their target.
The Medjai tired of waiting and charged forward, but unexpectedly, the shadows did too. They met with steel on steel. With blades locked, Kalaros could now see his opponent clearly. He could see that it was once human, but death had taken it long ago. Rotting bandage wrapped the top of its head and eyes, decayed flesh hung loosely on the bone of its exposed jaw. It wore armour of tarnished leather and silver. Its blade was ancient but far from dulled. It moved, but it was not alive. Its slow and decrepit appearance from first sight was now lost to a renewed vigour as its agility and strength now matched the Medjai’s.
Kalaros broke from his opponent and leapt back as two more approached on his exposed flank. Dashing once more, he feigned a low strike before removing the head of the first attacker. In place of blood was ash and sand as the undead fell to the ground. His next two opponents were soon upon him, ducking and parrying the creature’s blades with the ease and grace that his skill granted. In a single mistake by his foe, they were struck down with a powerful arced blow from the Medjai. Kalaros heard a scuffle behind him in the abrupt silence. Turning on the spot, he saw his last opponent behind him, but this one, did not move. It had already been slain with a blade pointed through its throat, spine separated. As it dropped to the ground, his wife stood in its place.
“What is this madness?” Kalaros asked aloud with no intended target. Despite the fight that had just ensued, he was not short of breath or vigour. He looked at the things he had just slain with both wonder and fear.
“The god stir, my husband.” Miris said with an unnerving smile. Screams and shouts began from all around them.
“We’re under attack.” Kalaros said calmly. “We must go to the pharaoh.”
Miris and Kalaros ran through the chaos, one hand linked to the other and one bearing blade. The village was under attack. The undead were in force. An army of animated corpse had set upon them. The prophet’s vision was not wrong, but the Pharaoh was to have ignored him. They were now unprepared and vulnerable. They passed by as the unarmed and weak were slaughtered where they stood. They passed by as awoken soldiers clashed blade with blade. Kalaros did not have the option to stop and aid their struggle. He was a Medjai and his duty was to Khemtep, his Pharaoh.
As the Medjai and his wife reached the base of the colossal temples steps, they saw that their entrance was blocked. A wall of undead stood guard, shields raised, unmoving. Kalaros ducked and Miris did with him. He pulled her to the side, into a tree line close by. He wasn’t sure if the dead warriors had seen them, but if they did, they did not come after them.
“There’s no way we’re getting through there.” Miris whispered to her husband as they hid.
“I know another way.” Kalaros responded.
The Medjai led his wife through the shadow and undergrowth until they were at the back of the temple. Kalaros stopped at one of the huge blocks at the base of the structure. This one was chiselled of the same stone as the others. It was the same shape. Same shade. But upon it was a series of hieroglyphs. The Medjai studied it for just a moment, then pushed forward on two of the markings. What appeared to be a block, was not all that it seemed. It was a small door. With a series of counter weights and pullies, the door rose. The space inside was cramped and dark. It was a tunnel that led under and into the structure itself. Only the Pharaoh’s most trusted of Medjai even knew of it’s existence. It was built as both an entrance and exit, in case it was ever needed. And now, it was needed more than ever.
The crawl through the tunnel was a long one. Dust had built thick on the cold stone, and light barely shone from cracks above, making the experience unpleasant, but necessary. Kalaros had to reach the Pharaoh. But judging by the heavy footfalls and groans of undeath above, he began questioning if Khemtep was even still alive. The Medjai stopped as they neared the exit, and turned to Miris. He started to doubt himself for bringing her this far into danger. But what was the alternative? If he refused, she would be alone at that moment. At least with her at his side, he could do what he did best. Protect. Kalaros checked the grip of blade in his wife’s grasp, then tightened his own. Together, they made the last steps through the darkness.
Thank you all for reading!