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5,000 years ago
Nile Valley, Egypt
Camp of the Children of Setekh
Blowing in fiercely across the dunes, the storm whipped the sand into a maelstrom of biting particles that could flay flesh from bone. Within moments, it could fill a man's lungs with sand, drowning him with the blood of the desert. In the animal skin tents of King Seti's tribe, his people cowered and quailed before the power of the sandstorm.
Seti alone stood against the onslaught, feet braced apart, chin held high. In the face of the storm's fury he was immoveable, as solid and unyielding as stone. Bare-chested, his only garment was a short linen loincloth. He stood with his head thrown back, his warrior braids whipping about his head: long, black, beaded scourges that flailed his face and sun-bronzed shoulders. Arms spread wide, he welcomed the wind, embracing its stinging wrath as one would embrace a son.
In a way, the tempest was Seti's child--he had nothing to fear from it. He had created it; it was he who had called the demon from its lair and unleashed it upon the land. The storm was Seti's shield, keeping him and his hidden from the eyes of his enemy. It was also his fist, his spear, and he wielded it without mercy, striking down all who dared defy him.
This time Seti's enemies had gone too far. Bidden by their god, they had stolen Seti's heart from him, had ripped it away and fed it, still beating and warm, to the jackals.
For that crime they would pay with their lives.
Ashai had been more than a lover, more than another pretty face in Seti's harem. He had been Seti's favorite, the only one capable of easing the tension from Seti's body and the worryfrom his mind with a single caress. Ashai's unusual, light-colored eyes, the color of an oasis, had twinkled with good humor even on the darkest of days. His smile and his arms had always been warm and inviting.
Seti had loved him above all others. For Ashai, Seti would have moved mountains, drained oceans. It was for Ashai that Seti had led his people across the dunes, seeking greener lands. Ashai had wished to settle, to build, to see their people grow fat and happy along the rich, fertile banks of the Nile; he grew weary of their nomadic life. In addition to wanting to grant Ashai his wish, Seti had found that the land along the great river to be rich in resources that would assure his camp's growth.
Each year it flooded, the waters nursing the earth. When the waters receded, the land was left ripe for planting. The wealth reaped from the river's bounty would assure Seti of a vast kingdom. He had led their people to this place, near where the wind rippled the waters of the great river.
But Seti's people were not the only ones to covet the fertile land. There were others, but they were of no more importance to Seti than the gnats that worried his beasts of burden. He had marched through their camps, leaving behind little but footprints in the sand. The dead were discarded; the living assimilated into Seti's camp. His numbers swelled.
Within Seti's own tribe there were those who were jealous of his riches, of his power. Seti's priests, grown envious and greedy, tired of Seti's rule. Wishing to make a weaker man king, one who they could manipulate, they sought out Seti's enemies and made a pact with them.
Together, they called upon Setekh, the god who had bestowed upon Seti's family their power; they lied and convinced Setekh that Seti had dishonored him by giving Ashai honors due only to the gods.
One night, when darkness had settled over Seti's camp like a thick, suffocating shawl, as Seti sat with his advisors readying for war, his enemies had stolen in and taken Ashai from him. Almost before Seti knew he was gone, Ashai's head was returned to Seti minus his beautiful green eyes, the name of the god Setekh carved into his forehead.
Seti's priests told him that the warning had been clear: Seti should seek to please no one but the gods; the land of the Nile was not to be his. Give over to his enemies, or be destroyed.
A King of his people, Seti was a warrior to be reckoned with, but more, he was a sorcerer. In his veins flowed an ancient magic, gifted to his bloodline in the time before time, before the gods had wiped the dust of the earth from their feet. A gift bestowed upon Seti's family by the very god for whom he was named, as was his father, and his father's father before him back through the mists of time.
That Setekh, the god to whom Seti owed his powers and who he and his ancestors had worshiped and burned offerings to was the same god who had demanded Ashai's blood as payment for Seti's disobedience, sent a rage unlike any Seti had ever known roaring through his blood.
The wind carried Seti's oath across the sand.
"SETEKH! YOU MISERABLE JACKAL! WHORE OF HORUS! MAY YOUR GENITALS SHRIVEL AND BE EATEN BY THE SWINE WHO WORSHIP YOU!" he bellowed, his voice barely audible above the fury of the storm. "I curse the day my ancestors first uttered your foul name! I denounce you! From this day forward I will seek out those who bow down before you and trample them beneath my sandals until at last there are none left! Until your existence is less than a memory, forgotten by the world! I swear this, upon my very soul!"
Screams rose from over the hill as the storm found Seti's enemies, the windborne sand flaying them, burying them alive. After a very long while the terrible din ceased, the howl of the wind the only sound remaining.
The wind grew fiercer, particles of sand whipping Seti's flesh like a cat o' nine, biting deep. Then suddenly, all stilled. Sand, airborne a heartbeat ago, fell in a cloudy curtain to the ground, the wind dying to less than a whisper. Before Seti, the warm air seemed to shimmer, becoming alive, taking solid form as a giant rose up before him.
Eyes as dark as the deepest pits of the underworld glared at Seti from within a face so gruesome that it could make the strongest man cower in fear. Reptilian, long jaws were filled with dagger-like teeth, eyes that glowed with an otherworldly power gleamed. Below his neck, a strong and perfect body towered against the buff desert dunes.
An arm slowly rose, pointing a long, graceful finger at Seti. "Arrogant dog! You dare threaten me and mine?" Setekh thundered, his voice reverberating deeply in Seti's bones, chilling him to his very core. "Death is too easy a penance for you. It is you who will be forgotten! Hungry, thirsty, lonely, you will live a half-life, doomed to suffer five thousand years of agony! Never will your ka rest in the afterlife! Such is the curse your insolence has brought down upon your head!"
From within the tents of Seti his people rose up, commanded by a god they had worshiped all of their lives. They surrounded Seti, bore him up and carried him into the tents, where soon the only sounds that pierced the silence of the night were his screams.