The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 25: My Sacrifice

I am to go with Ninurta for a season.  I will return after the Sumerians have trained me in their ways. In my place, Sekhmet will be training a ‘youth’ named Gil-Amarek.  Of course, Gil is not exactly a youth. He is 2,000 years old, the same age as Resos the scribe. Correction. 1,000 years younger than Resos.

But our fates are tethered together, Gil and I. We are of the same…cloth. We are both neither human nor Eldyr race. Nor are we of the ancient hunters. We are a separate people altogether.  Would that be an accurate assessment?

I am both excited and a bit scared at this move. I have never been outside Egypt and know nothing of the outside world. Until recently, my little piece of Egypt was the world. Now, I will be going into another very foreign world to me.

“Will we see the city-states?” I ask.

“From a distance,” Ninurta assures me, “but there really isn’t much to them. Just small settlements surrounded by supportive farmland. Sumer isn’t really a kingdom. Just a bunch of allied cities that act independently.”

“Somewhat like Egypt,” I state.

“Well,” he smiles, “yes and no. There isn’t really a push to unify at the moment. Just a tendency to cooperate, yet war with one another when the mood strikes or stores get low.”

“I see,” I nod, “but unification is inevitable.”

“Indeed,” he nods, “as it is everywhere.”

“And your settlements?” I ask.

“They lay in the desert,” he remarks, “beyond human settlements. much like here. It is part of our treaties with the people of Sumer. As they expand, we move farther out into the wastes.” He looks at me. “Eventually, we will be left with no place. We will have to…disappear from the midst of man. That is where you and your breed come in. You blend in better. Especially you and Gil. You both can leave this realm and enter the unseen.”

“This is not normal?” I press.

“Not for hunters,” he remarks, “no.”

****

Night is falling and we have one more hunt to go on. The hunt to destroy the alliance between Tiamat and Set. The dragon and the Devil. We cannot afford their alliance to remain intact, at least not within the bounds of Egypt.

We must push Tiamat back into Sumer so she can be dealt with by her own. Just as Set will be dealt with by our hunters. Or they will flee from the known lands into the abyss. We would rather see them flee into exile if we cannot kill them.  The Wadj-men, those Fallen who fled earth with their pale shadow brethren-who are neither hedj nor kem, but a cross between the two-would take them in.

Still, the ideal end would be for them to be killed, not exiled. But it won’t be easy to kill either of them.  Balance must be restored and the breach healed. Even if it means the end of the Eldyr Race in order to protect and preserve mankind.  Yet, we must try to preserve all races. Man. Vampyr. Lycanthi. Scarabi. Scriboi. Archoni. Serephi. Terrephi. Feyin.

Harmony must be kept, balance restored. Light must overcome the dark, order over chaos. Otherwise, the universe will be destroyed. And I, I will play a part in the defense and preservation of the universe.

“Be light on your feet,” Ninurta instructs, “Tiamat can feel rhythm, especially made by heavy footsteps or marching.”

“We have noticed the same with Set,” Sekhmet replies.

“My earlier scoutings have shown me that Ammit and her pets will be nowhere near Set’s abode,” Naunet states, “Meretseger, Khepri, Renenutet, Sepa, Wadjet, and Selket helped on patrol. We patrolled in an inconspicuous manner.”

“In other words, they became snakes,” Khnum smirks, pausing for a bit of drama, “and bugs. Always fun when they become something smaller to avoid being noticed. They can go just about anywhere.”

“And where did they go?” I ask, in response to Naunet’s piece of information, but nodding to acknowledge Khnum’s wisecrack.

“They were sent westward into the western desert,” she replies, “to seek a temple. Or some safe place where Set could hold out if need be.”

“He must be expecting an attack,” Sekhmet nods, “and is seeking a place to hide.”

“If he expecting an attack,” Aten begins, “then we must strike him on all sides. Give him no room for retreat.”

***

As we near Set’s hellish abode, a great dragon rises from the ground and flies to the east. Tiamat. She is retreating to Sumer. Set is on his own. Luckily she has not spotted us.

We wait until she is no longer visible, then move in. Set, it seems, really isn’t expecting us. His blood drinkers offer little resistance.  I can’t really call it much of a battle. Apparently, they have glutted themselves on blood and are unable to put up a defense.

They die almost too easily.  It’s all a little too easy.  Almost unnerving. It is almost as if they had held a blood-feast to celebrate something. But what?

We gain access to Set’s palace. There are dead everywhere. Farmers. Slaves. Minor nobles. Town folk that have been missing for weeks.

“You’re too late,” Set says wickedly, “if you’re here to save them.” He motions to the bodies littering the floor of his throne room. “They served as a wonderful banquet to celebrate a wonderful alliance.”

“We already know that you met with Tiamat,” Ninurta interrupts him, “The question is why?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Set grins darkly. “We want to defeat you. Unfortunately, she could not stay to relish in your defeat.”

He rushes to attack me, but I see a weakness in his approach and trip him…moving quickly to one side to avoid his reaching grasp. he falls harmlessly to the ground, embarrassed. He rises, angry at the affront.

“Until next time, runt,” He hisses, then vanishes.

“Looks like you caught him off guard,” Khnum snickers.

“He’ll be back,” Sekhmet replies, “when he thinks things have quieted down.”

“You’ve just worded his pride, boy,” Ninurta smiles, “But to truly defeat him, you’ll have to come with me and learn our ways as well. The more you know, the better you will become as a fighter and a defender.”

“Then,” I nod, “I shall accompany you to Sumer.”

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 24: The Wayfarer

We are playing host to a wayfarer, a traveler from Sumer. Ninurta, a great legendary warrior and blood drinker hunter, has come in search of Tiamat. He believes that she is working closely with Set.

“The Dragon,” Ninurta is saying, “has left Sumer. She is wandering the lands of Earth. Elell, or Enlil as you know him, has sent me to find her and kill her if I can. He thinks that she is here in Egypt, helping Seqt.”

“Would you know anything about a new ally of Set’s,” Sekhmet probes, “named Wishmaster?”

“He is a priest of Seqt,” he nods, “who was sent to gain her alliance for Seqt. Apparently, she accepted and they have combined their power. Something to do with a youth that has evaded death more than once.”

“That would be our young child-priest, Amun-Nekeb,” she smiles, “who happens to be more than he appears to be.”

“Ah,” he grins, “one of the promised ones, is he?”

“We are thinking so,” she responds, “he is far more powerful than he appears. And far more powerful than any other pupil we have had.”

“Power to see the future?” He inquires.

“He has that,” she replies, “as well as all of our powers combined….and possibly yours and those of your clan.”

“I believe that we must put him to the test,” he agrees, “perhaps we should arrange a pupil swap. After all, we have a youth among our own who is possibly as powerful.”

“The 1,000 year old youth we have all heard about from Resos?” She pries.

“Yes,” he avers, “Gil-Amarek….better known as Gilgamesh.”

“We shall arrange a trade before Amun is to take up the priesthood,” she states, “the more powerful he is, and the more he knows, the better able he will be to protect humanity.”

“Agreed,” he nods, “but, for the moment, we need to make sure that Tiamat and Seqt are not joining forces…or we will have a problem on our hands.”

“Indeed,” Amun interjects, “and not just a problem. A calamity.”

“When do we start?” Khnum inquires.

“I need to rest,” Ninurta replies, “I suggest tomorrow night. Darkness will give us enough cover to sneak close enough to Seqt’s little piece of desert to find out who he’s making allegiances with.”

****

Our guest is asleep and we are under attack. Seems that Ammit has sent her little servant, Kinslayer, to try again.

“Seems you have a problem,” she sneers at Sekhmet, “my master’s lover has a visitor from beyond the peninsula.”

“Kinslayer,” Amun begins, “those who hate cannot love. they can only use, abuse, and take for granted through lust.”

How dare you!!!” She snarls. “You’ll pay for that.”

“Why not try the one you came to kill?” I inquire with a humble smile.

“It’ll be my pleasure!” She hisses.

My teachers look at me with questioning looks. I smile at them and shrug. After all, she has no clue what I can and cannot do. She still thinks that all I can do is shape-shift, since that was what I was learning when she attacked the first time.

The battle begins. She slowly, awkwardly, picks at my defenses trying to find my weaknesses. Her inability to find any starts to burn as anger in her eyes.  She is frustrated, I can tell. I keep meeting her every attempt with an equal defensive move that leaves no opening.

“You’re not playing fair,” she whines.

“In other words,” I smile, “I am not as inexperienced as you believed.”

“Your cockiness will be your fall,” she threatens.

“Experience,” I respond, “is not cockiness.”

Around us, her blood drinkers are dying by the hundreds. We are locked in a life and death battle, both of us determined to win. But there can only be one winner, and we both know it. Yet, neither of us wants to cede to to other the victory.

But she is growing tired. Her power is weakening. Her resolve, now beginning to crack. But I am not weakening, nor am I growing tired. And my resolve is unbreakable.

I feign a weak point, causing my body to become a mist-like mirage. Thinking that she has the upper hand, she strikes but finds emptiness. My hand enters her chest and I grab her heart.

“If I become solid again,” I inform her, “I will be able to pull your heart from your body.”

“Do your worst,” she hisses bitterly, dropping her weapons from exhausted hands, “you have me at a disadvantage. You have beaten me.”

I materialize and yank my hand out of her chest, grasping her heart. She blinks in disbelief at the sight of her heart, then falls lifeless to the ground.

I kneel next to her and place her heart next to her.

“I really didn’t want it to end that way,” I comment mournfully, “I would rather she yield, not die.”

“They rarely give in and surrender twice,” Amun states sadly, “It is their pride. They cannot accept that one bests them the first time and chooses to die rather than surrender the second time.”

“Send her heart to Ammit,” I respond, “as a warning. I want her to know that her servants are failing her.”

“It will be done,” Khnum replies, “feigning weakness and becoming a mirage was ingenious, especially grabbing her heart and giving her a choice. You did what was right in the end.  Had you been merciful and turned away, not taking the opportunity you had, she would have killed you.”

“Agreed,” Sekhmet avers, “and she would have taken your lifeless body back to Set with her. You showed infinite wisdom in killing her.”

“What did I miss?” Ninurta asks, emerging from the palace.

“Long version,” Atum smiles, “or short?”

“Short will suffice,” our guest responds.

“We know that Tiamat is definitely with Set,” Horus states, “as is Ammit, the soul eater.”

“We were attacked by Kinslayer,” Thoth smiles, “and her blood drinkers. Young Amun-Nekeb defeated her. Ripped her heart out of her chest. The most surprising thing to watch.”

Ninurta looks at the dead Kinslayer, rolling her over to view the hole in her chest. He grimaces at the sight, then notes the glazed look of pained shock on Kinslayer’s face.

“That had to hurt,” he shakes his head in pity, “having your hand solidify inside her chest. Not to mention the extreme torture of having one’s heart pulled out of their chest. Novel approach.”

“He gave her a chance to yield,” Satet remarks.

“And yet,” he smiles sadly, “her pride was too much to allow her a second defeat.”

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 23: Live To Tell The Tale

The death of Negus has most assuredly reached Ammit by now. If that is the case, then so has the tale of my survival despite her attempts to kill me. Both of these facts are sure to enrage her. But then, so will the loss of most of her blood drinkers.

Thousands of blood drinkers were burned during the morning hours after being stacked like kindling. We slept through the burnings and now rise for a night of hunting. A rumor has reached Sekhmet that shadows are coming to life and attacking humans and hunters alike. She has called them the Shadowkin.

Living shadows. Vile and ruthless, they seem to be everywhere. It leads me to wonder if they will be the next weapon sent by Ammit. No matter, I shall be ready for anything.

I only wonder one thing. How will we see them after dark? Is there something special about them that makes them visible even though they seem to be made of shadow? If so, what?  And how do we know that we have actually killed them?

“Half of us are staying behind to defend the sanctuary,” Sekhmet begins, “while the rest of us will go in search of these Shadowkin.”

“Is there a reason for the sanctuary’s defense?” Khnum asks for my benefit.

“Yes,” Sekhmet admits, “we expect another attack tonight. If it comes, it will be in retaliation for killing Negus. He was pretty high up the chain of command and Ammit will be seething and wanting to exact revenge.  We must be ready from this point on for whatever she may throw at us.”

“And Amun-Nekeb?” Amun asks for my benefit.

“The boy-priest will be out hunting with us on purpose,” Sekhmet answers with a smile, “Ammit will expect him to be here, but he will not. Those left in defense must be extra careful. They will be coming to kill, not to injure.”

“Duly noted,” Isis nods, “they will be bringing the fight to us as you are taking the fight to them. Sort of.”

“Precisely,” Sekhmet agrees, “and those in the hunting party will have to be just as careful.  After all, we know virtually nothing about these Shadowkin or what their powers are.”

“Understood,” Khnum avers.

With this, we leave the relative safety of the sanctuary. We are only at half the strength we generally take with us. But I am not afraid. We shall overcome.

We travel in silence. We must not draw attention to ourselves where blood drinkers or other possible allies of the Fallen are concerned. Our targets will not be drawn by noise, but by our casting shadows. Seems strange to be drawn to shadows, but that is their tendency.

We are out three hours from the sanctuary when the first Shadowkin appears. Then, we are surrounded. They’re everywhere. In front of us. Behind us.

“What do we have here?” a disembodied voice seems to sneer. “A group of hunters?”

Their red eyes, almost slit-like, mark them as something other than shadow as do their vile white grins. Now I realize how to spot them. And I realize exactly what they are. And how to kill them.

“Thrust for their hearts,” I alert the others, “or their heads. Those are the only way to kill them.”

“The man-child is smart,” the disembodied voice hisses, “but he will soon regret his revelation.”

I wait for a Shadowkin to draw close to me, then stick my staff through its shadowy head. It screams and bursts into flame. There are bursts of flame everywhere. But the more we kill, the more that appear.

We are at a standstill in our advance, unable to move forward. Or backward. Still, we have accomplished exactly what we set out to do. We have drawn out the new foe and successfully diminished their numbers.

The battle seems to last a few hours. With dawn nearing, the Shadowkin retreat back to their world of shadows, the slowly emerging light destroying their ability to be of any effect.  Now, with our path back to the sanctuary clear, we also retreat to safety. Still, we cannot figure out why they attacked with such ferocity. What were they preventing us from returning to find?

We finally return to the sanctuary after three hours. Blood drinkers lay everywhere. Neither dead nor living, they were soulless and now lay lifeless. We find that none of those left to defend the sanctuary have been killed or injured.  This last revelation is a good thing. But the carnage is phenomenal.

“They showed a new leader,” Khnum states, “one that the blood drinkers call Wishmaster.”

“Wishmaster?” Sekhmet inquires, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes,” he nods, “at least that is what the blood drinkers called him.”

“What did he look like?” She presses.

“Almost like Set,” he responds, “but not as dark.”

“Send out messengers to the other hunters,” she gives him a concerned look, “and see if they have any information on this new foe.”

“Will do,” Khnum answers.

I watch the diminutive hunter vanish. I look around and find both Neith and Satet also missing. I shrug. They are never far from Khnum.

Atum appears from inside the sanctuary palace.

” Let’s clean up,” he states dryly, “we need to rid ourselves of blood drinker corpses.  There isn’t as much work, so we’ll be able to get some rest rather soon.”

It only takes three hours to pile the dead corpses. Atum lights the pyres and we head for our beds. As I ready for bed, I ponder what I learned this night.

Shadows can bleed. They can die. They can talk. And they can wound.

Set and his blood drinkers have a new ally. He is unlike any other we have encountered. He looks like Set…much the same way I look like Amun. And we have yet to find his weakness.

In the mean time, we will try to find out what we can of this new enemy. And hope that none of those we have encountered will return anytime soon. We need time to rest. I need time to finish my training.

The Shadowkin will be back. So will Wishmaster. And so will Kinslayer and Shezmu, eventually. We can be sure of that.

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 22: The Faceless Man

I can see that the descriptions given are accurate. Where there should be a nose and mouth, only slits denote any place to breathe from, but there is no mouth. He speaks through mind-speak. But there is another major difference in his appearance. His hands.

His hands look strange. His fingers look like snake tails, not fingers. And yet, they don’t. They have strange looking cups attached that hold fast to whatever he touches and draws it to him. I fight to stay at a safe distance from his fingers, but they seem to grow to any length as he attempts to catch me.

His eyes, too, seem dead. Unseeing. Or all-seeing. Not sure which.

But if they see all, then his inner sight is off by quite a bit. He is unable to predict my next move. This, I can work to my advantage. Should I time the use of a spear correctly, I can cause him to impale himself on it.

But I have to keep my intent hidden while trying to position the spear so that he will do exactly what is intended. Not an easy task to fulfill. Especially not against a man who seems to see even though he does not.

“You fight well,” He mind-speaks, “Almost like a god. No matter. All your defense is for naught. I will kill you. Maybe not as quick as I would like, But I will still kill you.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?” I ask without any emotion.

“All the time,” he responds, “But I still end up killing them.”

“With what?” I inquire. “Boredom?”

I am purposely trying to anger him. I want him to lose control. I want him to drop his guard. I want him to make a mistake.

Correction. I need him to make a mistake. It is the only way I can get him to subconsciously do what I intend for him to do.

He allows an angered growl escape.

“You’re trying to distract me,” he accuses.

“What would I gain by it?” I inquire. “After all, It was you who started the conversation.”

“I hate it when someone deflects,” he growls, now growing more angry ad he realizes that I am telling the truth, “as they attempt to distract.”

“Have it your way,” I remain unemotional, “it makes no difference to me.”

He suddenly loses all reason and makes a blind attack. Now is my chance. I get the point of the spear lined up so that he cannot see it pointing at him, then thrust with purpose. He grabs it and jerks it from my grasp, pulling it hard directly toward himself. And driving it deep into his own chest.

A mental gasp escapes him as his eyes suddenly show realization at what he has just done. I drive the spear on into his heart. It comes out his back. He goes limp as the spearhead goes through his spine.

“You fooled me,” he mind-whispers, “you knew all along what you were doing..and you fooled me. No one has ever been able to resist my draw to use emotion as a weapon. But you. You had me from the beginning. I…I…I couldn’t read you.”

“Of course not,” I smile, “I am a warrior. And a Warrior does not use emotion. And besides. I held my emotions in check with a warding spell.”

“But,” He gasps, “but human magic is not real!”

“No one said I was ever human,” I reply, “though I was born of human parents, that does not make me human.”

“No,” He shakes his faceless head, “no, of course it doesn’t.”

His eyes close and he dies. The blood drinkers flee into the night as I drop the ward. No need to hold it anymore. The faceless man, Negus, is dead.

I behead him and put his head on a pole. I place the pole outside the sanctuary where any other would-be-attacker will see it and possibly think twice before trying their luck. If Negus was the best that Set’s followers have, I truly feel sorry for them.

“Ammit is not going to be happy,” Amun states, cutting one of Negus’s hands off to send as a warning to Ammit and her minions, “You’ve killed one of her pets. And more easily than she believed it possible.”

“Was he her best?” I ask.

“Oh, no,” he responds, smiling and shaking his head, ” The god-killer is her best, but you have even bested him by taking his hand. But as far as minor evils, Negus is one of her worst…just not the worst.”

“His weakness was his strength,” I state, “What he fed upon was also his only source of strength, but was also something that created a major weakness. using his own negative emotions against him was what proved lethal to him. He could not feed off his own negative emotions and that made him weak.”

“Very good,” He praises, “you are learning.”

“One must always learn,” I reply, “if they are to grow.”

“Indeed,” He chuckles.

I look around. Cleanup is going to be a nightmare. Dead blood drinkers are everywhere. And we are all exhausted.

I look at the sky. The new day is dawning. It will soon be daylight. Still, there is work to be done.

We will be able to rest as soon as we get things cleaned up. I yawn. Then yawn again. No rest for the weary. But, then, I would have it no other way. Dreams and visions can wait.

So can more lessons. No need in worrying about numbers and glyphs. Or even spells, rites, or rituals. Those can be for another day.

There are bodies being burned everywhere.  The bodies are stacked outside the sanctuary in multiple piles on pyres of wood doused with pitch. The flames shoot high into the sky. And burn with a heat so intense that the sand itself melts.

Khnum, Neith, and Satet wash away the blood stains. Soon, the sanctuary is clean and I head for bed. Sleep is now more needed than sustenance. Though tomorrow is already here, today is pretty much wasted.

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 21: Whispers on the Wind

By noon, there is something on the wind I cannot place my finger on. A slight chill, barely noticeable, has begun to nip at me. I notice that no one else seems to notice. Or they cannot feel it.

If they notice, they give no sign. And that bothers me. Why am I the only one noticing this change?

The whispers begin. At first, they are indiscernible. Then they grow louder.

“Can no one hear the whispers?” I ask, breaking the silence. “Do you not feel the chill on the air?”

“Whispers?” Horus responds.

“Almost like a warning,” I aver, “as if someone or something is coming.”

“How cold of a chill?” He asks.

“”Deep,” I remark, “almost soul deep.”

“Silence, all!” He commands, holding his hand up to signal the need. “Our young warrior has sensed a coldness on the breeze and hear the wind whispering!”

“An attack is eminent,” Satet gasps, “they have sent someone dark and evil to deal with the boy. Someone whom we have never chanced to meet.”

“We have taught him well,” Atum smiles, “while we were busy with chattering amongst ourselves, he was in tune with the very air around him. And probing for activity on the other end….even if he did not realize it.”

“I merely sensed a change,” I respond humbly, “and followed it to its source.”

“Indeed,” Amun nods, “You have learned well from us, young Amun.”

“They intend to strike tonight,” Meskhenet announces ominously, “And shall be led by a faceless man.”

“Negus,” Ma’at responds, “The deformed. also called the syphon. He is an energy drinker. He tends to feed off your negative energy, using it to become stronger.”

“He has other names,” Isis says sadly, “But this is the one he prefers, since he prefers negativity.”

“The only way to combat him is to not give off any negative emotions,” Sekhmet smiles grily, “or to set a ward that doesn’t allow him to sense your emotions.”

“I can do that,” I assert.

“The whispers,” Menthu explains, “are his blood drinkers. His are not very intelligent, or quiet. They tend to announce themselves in advance. Almost as if they are bragging about being the ones chosen to kill innocence.”

“We must plan a defense,” Thoth suggests.

“Yes, indeed,” Aten agrees.

“Then,” Sekhmet smiles, “plan we shall.

***

Dusk. My teachers have all slid into the shadows in their defensive positions. As planned, I sit in the center of the practice arena. I have my eyes closed so as to appear as if I am meditating. I make no moves, show no emotion.

And then, they suddenly descend. Without warning, I move. Without opening my eyes, I begin my dance. As I open my eyes, I notice that there seems to be an endless number of attackers. They just keep coming.

It is as if they are meant to wear us down. Make us easy prey. Strangely, they are weak. Almost too easy to defeat. It doesn’t;t make sense.

Still, my emotions are cloaked by a ward. An extremely powerful spell meant to mask, to hide. To keep an enemy from discovering. But where , exactly, is their master?

Or is this an illusion, something meant to make me drop my ward? What if the devils are watching, waiting? NO. Can’t allow myself to think that way. No questions.

And still, they keep on coming.  I can’t help but laugh inwardly. The ridiculousness of the situation is amusing. At the same time, this seemingly endless wave is hiding something else. But what?

I refrain from using spells. Or any of the abilities I have been trained to use. I cannot afford to drop the warding spell. I cannot allow him to find me through my emotions.

Keeping my mind on my fluidity keeps it from wandering from the task at hand. Counting moves. Strokes. Slashes. Jabs.

There will likely be no sleep this night. Only battle. And death. And for some reason, I am relishing it all.

Why? Could it be a false emotion? Something to make me drop my guard? Or is it that I have a touch of bloodlust?

Whatever it is, I have to get it under control. Keep it from breaking my concentration and, ultimately, the warding spell. I need to remain resistant. Resilient.

The lives of those around me rely upon my ability to keep control. To lose control would be deadly. For all of us.

Strike. Parry. Sweep. Jab. The motions are ordered, yet staggered. Parry. Jab. Strike. Sweep.

I continue to leave no real rhythm or rhyme to my movements. Sometimes, I repeat movements more than once to throw the opponent off. Sometimes, I omit a move. No two sequences are the same.

It is all to throw off my foes. Every move, every attack. This is the ultimate training session. And, yet, It is the most brutal test.

Both too easy and most difficult, it would be maddening to anyone else. But, then, I am not just anyone. I am the son of priests, born to be a priest. I am to be a protector of kings.

And then, he appears. From out of the dark, he comes, descending from the darkened sky.  But he is still uncertain whether I am the child or not. I show no emotion. H can feel no emotion.

“Either my prey has better skills than I was informed,” He states in a bodiless voice, “or he is an empty husk.” He looks at me. “You seem the right size and build, yet you show no emotion.”

“I am a warrior,” I reply, without emotion, “A soldier shows no emotion. Feels no emotion.”

“Not even the thrill of battle?” He mind-whispers.

“Not even the thrill of battle,” I assure him.

“Then,” He looks away, “Let’s see who the better warrior is.”

“Age does not determine one’s being better. Only discipline. And practice,” I respond.

“Indeed,” if he could smile, now would be one of those moments, “indeed.”

“It is your move,” I state.

He lashes out and I catch his strike with ease. Parry. Thrust. Thrust. Jab.

“Do you know who I am?” He asks as he attempts an attack.

“Negus,” I reply, “The faceless man.”

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 20: Bless The Child

Over and over again, I am taken to far flung sanctuaries and trained to use different gifts. control of scents so that I can overcome an opponent. The power of love. Insight. Foresight.

the one thousand and one ways of making war. And the wisdom of it all. I learn of the heavy burden placed upon me. I also learn that the hunters that train me are called Ka here in Egypt. Souls. What an odd thing to call immortals who hunt the soulless that we Egyptians consider soulless.

But there are other names. The Ba. The Akh. And the Ma’at Kheru. Each name has a special significance. And all are a form of the concept of soul.

In essence, Egypt believes these hunters to be living souls, separated or apart from bodies, gods and goddesses, who defend and protect humanity from evil. Forever alive, they keep the balance.

I also learn that those in my city now ‘bless the child who was chosen of gods’…me. I am holy to them now. I am no longer bound by human laws of existence which means that if I don’t die, they will not fear me. I am a god in flesh form. A divine priest sent to serve the people.

I am humbled. And afraid. What of my teachers? What will be their fate?

Yet, as I ponder these new fears, I learn all that I can. I know that, if possible, they will all survive the coming changes. Their names may change over time, but they will remain. That is if they are not slaughtered by the Fallen.

Still, so far, we have only battled the servants of the Fallen, not the Fallen themselves. It would seem that the Fallen fear us. Or think us as more of a nuisance than a threat. Whatever the reasons for their restraint, I thank fate for the silence.

I know, however, that this silence could very well be temporary. After all, nothing lasts forever. Even my visions have shown me that. And visions never fail.

***

I am exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Worn out from the training of the day. Seemingly endless training. But now, it is at the end. Even the day is at the end.

I has been amazing to witness how time was stopped for hours at a time only to resume mere seconds after I was whisked to some remote training ground. Thousands of hours of training all within twelve hours. But, then, I must be ready for anything now. Kinslayer has seen to that.

But she will not be a threat again for some time. They will send someone else. But who? And when?

I sup in silent thought. No one interrupts my thoughts. They know what is on my mind. It hangs heavy over all our thoughts. It is the reason they have been training  me so intensively.

They also fear that they might not live as long as I. Though I saw no hint of them in my first visions, that means very little. It could just mean that they have very little to do with my personal journey. But that is the problem with visions. They are nearly always incomplete.

Yet, if they were complete, it would add to the urge to either hasten or prevent their events.  And I have been warned not to attempt either. It would be counterproductive. And counterproductive is bad. Very bad.

It would destroy the world. And I want to see this world safely to the end. But what lies beyond the end? Is there anything?

I hope so. Perhaps another life. Something where nothing really matters. Something where peace is all we know.

No war. No hate. No greed. Nothing but love and oneness.

Then, maybe that is too much to ask for. Or is it? I hope not.

I look around at those who are at sup.

“I am sorry for my silence,” I apologize, “I have much on my mind. Questions about a great many things. Some that none but time can answer.”

“We understand,” Sekhmet replies, softly, “go now and rest. Tomorrow will worry about itself.”

I nod and head toward my cubicle. And my soft bed of pillows. I need sleep. Badly.

I get myself ready for bed. I set a warding spell for safety. Closing my eyes, I drift off immediately. Darkness takes me. There will be no dreams tonight.

***

Morning comes too soon. Dressing quickly, I get ready for the day. I remove the ward and Ptah looks in on me.

“There’ll be no training today,” He states, “Except glyphs, enumeration, and spells. I believe your priestly teachers are readying the intermediate lessons for you today since you are already adept at the beginner spells, phrases, and mathematics.”

“Any special reason?” I inquire.

“I believe that your glyph teacher desires that you write your father,” he smiles, “a kind of update on your training.”

“How much can I tell him?” I pry.

“Well,” He replies, “I would stick with an overview. Don’t go too much into detail. Don’t want him to be bored.”

“Alright,” I smile, “I will go easy on him. After all, he is a high priest and cannot spend too much time reading about my adventures.”

“Go eat some breakfast,” he advises, “then go see your teachers. Time’s a wasting.”

“Yes,sir,” I respond respectfully, “At once.”

I run down the hall toward the great room. The smell of fresh bread and roasted lamb drawing me ever onward. I enter the great room and stop short, uncertain whether to approach or stay where I am.

“Seems the sleeper has awakened,” Sakhmet’s voice carries to me, “Come, Amun-nekeb. Sit and take your place at this morning’s fine banquet. Fresh dates, figs, roasted lamb, and a multitude of delights await you.”

I obediently take my place among the hunters and begin eating. the delicious food keeps me occupied and quiet.

“The boy seems hungry this morning,” Thoth jokes lightheartedly, “could it be that all that training yesterday caught up t him?”

laughter erupts in the room. I can’t keep myself from chuckling. After all, I am making a pig out of myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 19: Living On An Island

Khnum’s island sanctuary is a drastic change from the desert sanctuary of Sekhmet and the dead wastes of Osiris. Here, life is everywhere, lush and green. To the north, a small human city is oblivious of the oasis of beauty to its south. But then, the humans there worship my hosts.

“Water is like any other element you have used,” Khnum says, beginning his instruction, “except that it is temperamental. The river and the sea can be harsh mistresses, taking everything from you if allowed to be unruled. The briny deep of the ocean keeps her secrets well, but the muddy and murky depths of the river sometimes spills hers upon the land.

“He who masters the power of water can save nations. He can destroy enemies. He can wash away evil in a single wave. Or pierce the heart with a single stream.

“All you have to know is that water will control you if you do not learn to control her. Master water, and you can master anything.” He grins. “But then, you have mastered time and space, so water should be no problem.”

“Beckon to the water,” Satet admonishes, “and let her know that you wish for her to come to you. But brace yourself and set a limit to where she must be or she will topple you and wash over you. ”

With one hand, I place a space where I wish the water to stop. With the other, I motion for her to come to me. She does as she is bid, stopping just short of my hand representing the halt.

“Good,” Neith responds, “now separate her into parts…streams.” I do as she bids me, creating seven streams of water. All held vertical in the air. “Now. Use one of those streams as a spear.”

I grasp one stream and hold it as one would a spear. An antelope breaks from the brush. I sight in on it. Then I thrust the water-spear, striking the antelope. The antelope jumps, then falls dead.

“Good,” Khnum praises, “Now form a bow and arrow out of two streams and shoot a clump of dates from that palm.”

I do as instructed. The dates fall to the ground. I go and retrieve the dates, then go and dress out the antelope. Two of Khnum’s servants come and take the meat and dates to prepare them for a meal.

“Very good,” Satet remarks, “Now show us how to walk on water.”

I allow the remaining strips of water to return to the river like snakes. The act causes Neith to giggle. After, I walk to the water’s edge and place a sandaled foot on the edge of the water. placing one foot carefully in front of another, I begin to carry out Satet’s instructions. Khnum and Neith assail me with water forms, which I fight off successfully.

“Very good,” Khnum states, satisfied, “Now return to shore.” He waits for me to return, then continues. “Like water, her beasts are also at your command. The Hippopotamus, the crocodile, and even the fish. And the snakes.

“You can train them to do your bidding, though I suggest not to do so with fish if you are sending for help. they cannot breathe outside of their watery home. They are more a weapon when near water…or a poorly planned out practical joke.”

“And the rest?” I ask, deciding not to ask him about his last comment.

“Crocodiles can go short distances,” Satet states, “as long as it remains near the river. Snakes, not so much. Snakes can go anywhere, but are a bit slow as they have to find shade from time to time in order to cool down.”

“All are best,” Neith adds, “as scouts and weapons. And crocodiles, if needed, can provide a form of travel.”

“They are the most reliable,” Khnum remarks, “and would rather eat you if they can cause you to lose your concentration. But if your hold id strong enough, you can keep them from diving on you and actually make it to your destination.”

I see a couple of crocodiles sunning themselves on the shore. I focus my attention on blocking their natural instincts. I succeed and bridle them without any problem. I lead them back into the water, then place a foot on the back of each. I command them to take me around the island, and they do. I retain my hold on them until I am safely away, then release them.

“Well, I’ll be,” Satet sighs, “The child is truly talented.”

“Indeed,” Neith responds in awe.

“Not the most comfortable ride,” I smile sheepishly, “but I can bear it if need be.”

“I do believe that we are about done here,” Khnum remarks, “Osiris was right. You are a quick study. Few, if any, can ever master what you have grasped so easily!”

“With practice,” Satet adds, “you will truly be a formidable foe to any who oppose you.”

“May you lead those you train,” Neith admonishes, “to heal the Earth should it become wounded by wars.”

“I will surely try,” I promise.

“The jar of water I gave you,” Khnum begins, “It will serve you well. It is your link to the river. Never drink it or lose it.  Keep it sealed. In your time of need, it will give you aid. It will allow you to conjure a water-spear or water-bow and arrow even in the middle of a desert.”

“Now,” we must return you to Sekhmet so you can continue your training,” Satet states, “for the hour must not grow too late as you still have many lessons to learn.”

“Yes,” Neith agrees, “we must return you.”

In a blink of an eye, we are back at the arena. It suddenly dawns on me that once they are all done, I will be more powerful than they. This thought also frightens me. Still, I know that I am not the only one of my kind to rise. I may be the first, but many others will also rise. And we will protect man to our last man with the powers we are trained in.

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child; Chapter 18: Planet Hell

Osiris takes Aten’s place before me. He is taller and darker. Almost black as shadows.

“I shall teach you how to control death,” he says without emotion, “how to bring people back to life. How to prevent death. How to control disease so that it can serve your purpose. Your needs.”

In the blink of an eye, we are in the most barren landscape. Everything within view is dead. It is the bleakest place I have ever seen. Nothing grows.

“Teacher?” I ask, uncertain of his intent.

“Make that tree come back to life,” he states, pointing to a tree that has obviously been dead for centuries, its branches sun-bleached and barren, “and make it bear fruit. It was a fig tree in its life, but now, it is only kindling.”

“Yes, teacher,” I reply.

I close my eyes and picture a living, vibrant fig tree. My hands pointed in the direction of the dead tree, I imagine it alive. Healthy. Bearing figs.

“Very good,” Osiris states in pleased, but dead tones,”now make this spot an oasis.”

Again, I do as instructed. Closing my eyes, I envision a lush, green oasis with date palms and fig trees around  a deep pool of water that is rimmed with a thick carpet of grass. I open my eyes to find what I had envisioned.

“Very good,” he states, “eat and be filled. Once you are done, make this all return to the way it was.”

I eat both figs and dates from the trees. They are the most delicious I have ever tasted. I fish in the pool and manage to catch several fish. I roast them and eat them as well. Then, I drink deep of the water. After a short rest, Osiris rises and I do the same.

“Now,” he commands, “return this spot back to the way it was.”

“Yes, teacher,” I reply.

I envision the spot as the single dead tree and desert it had been. I hear the sad groan of the tree as it withers and the cracking of the bark as the tree returns to its original state of decay.

“Remember that life and death are two sides of the same coin. They are opposite images of each other,” he instructs, “what can be made alive can also be killed. And what is dead can be made alive again.

“This strange absurdity we call life is but a lesson for us to learn. If we learn it, we move on. If we do not, we remain until we do…for good or evil. Disease is a lesson wrought by nature. We become too malignant, we suffer. We need a lesson in humility, we are made to suffer.”

We vanish from the now vanished oasis and reappear at the bedside of a very ill gentleman.

“Take from him his illness,” he commands.

“Yes, teacher,” I reply.

I visualize the illness as a creature and pull it from the man.

“Good,” Osiris remarks, “now mold it into something you can store away,” he hands me a sealed jar, “and place it in this jar.” I do as I am told. “Tuck it away for later.”

Again, I do as I am told and we vanish from the man’s bedside. We reappear in a hidden place filled with servants of the fallen.

“Release that illness from the jar and make it strong enough to kill all in this place,” he commands, “except you and I.”

I obey and create a disease that will eat the undead who are around us. I make sure to design the illness so that it will only affect those around us, and not affect us. Then, I release it upon the unsuspecting blood drinkers. I watch as it takes immediate effect, though not in any apparent way at first. Just a cough. Then their noses begin to bleed. And finally, they die a horrible death.

“Very impressive,” he commends, “In this manner, you should always use what I have taught you. Heal those who are good or who do good things. Create lifesaving oases for those who seek food and protection from the desert sun. Kill only those who are evil. But leave no trace of your own presence through it all.

“The desert is only like the underworld if you allow it to be. You have the power to create paradise. Or the alternative. You have the power to manipulate for the betterment. But never manipulate man. Only do what is for his protection.

“Man suffers to see what he is made of. If he is worthy of going beyond this life. The evil suffer to see if they will recant. The good suffer to see if they can remain strong. The guilty suffer because of their crimes, the innocent to see what they are willing to go through.

“Young, old, good, bad, this life is a test. It is the universe’s test to see who is worthy of reunion and who is not. Not everyone will leave this life. Some will be doomed to repeat it until they learn. Do you understand?”

“Yes, teacher,” I respond.

“Good,” he smiles, “good. It is now time for us to return to the arena. I believe Khnum and his harem are your next teacher, Fun with power over water. May you enjoy.”

“I shall endeavor to do so,” I state humbly.

“Good,” he nods, “and never lose your humility. It serves you well.”

“Yes, teacher,” I reply.

We materialize back in the arena.

“I will forewarn all,” Osiris begins, addressing the group around the arena, “Our young student is a very quick study.” He turns to me. “It has been a privilege to teach you what I know. Use it well, use it wisely. Continually work at doing better.

“Combined with whatever els you learn, this will serve to save the lives of those in your charge…as well as your own. You are truly a blessed child.”

I stand in silence as he speaks. I am unused to such lavish praise. Though I want to run, I remain still. My training, after all, is not yet done.

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 17: Dead Gardens

Aten is the lone hunter. Mysterious, he lurks where no hunter will ever go. His is the depths of the deepest shadows, where the servants of the Fallen roam. He quietly slips in, then vanishes as quickly as he appeared. The fallen and their servants have no time to strategize a defense.

It is this use of shadows he will teach me. This quiet stealth. This swiftness. And all strength that comes with it.

We are outside the constraints of time. Beyond the physical realm. We are in the spirit. Here, we remain undetected by those around us.

We have not left the compound, not really. We are just beyond physical comprehension. We can go anywhere we wish, when we wish, without really leaving our current location. We can return without being missed as well.

“We are beyond the reach of harm,” Aten states, “even though we are still within the compound. Here, I can train you for hours, days, weeks, or even years without you aging or time passing in the compound. I am the only one who can walk both realms. Not even Osiris can do so.

“I can bend time. I can strike without being seen. I can hide in plain sight. And now that I know that you share this ability, I can train you beyond the reach of time.

“If I wanted, I could take my time. But we do not have the time to spare. Not in the physical realm. So I shall teach you the basics, then allow you to hone your skills with what I teach you as you grow.” He looks at me. “Time can be stopped by the adept. It can be captured. It can be bent to do the will of its master. Do you understand?”

“Yes, teacher,” I nod.

“And you must be its master,” he continues, “you must use it to do your bidding. If an evil attempts to rear its ugly head, you can use time to prevent it. But be careful. Preventing one evil can make a thousand more appear later. We must pick carefully how we manipulate time. Otherwise, we have done all for naught.

“For instance, we must not prevent a fore-ordained death or birth, no matter how evil the person or being might be. Or even how much we may care for the person.  All life is precious. All life. Even the most evil.

“This does not mean, however, that you can allow evil to live long. For evil cannot survive its own weight if left to grow.  You mustn’t meddle in man’s affairs, but you must prevent the Fallen from corrupting mankind as best you can. Do you understand?”

“Yes, teacher,” I respond.

“Good,” he smiles, knowing that I understand the basics but am slightly confused with his pattern, “let us begin your lessons in bending time.” He cups his hands and makes a misty substance appear in his hands like water from the river. “Try this simple manipulation. It is called holding time in your hands, or holding someone’s fate. But for sake of this exercise, do not seek to hold anyone’s fate…just time itself.”

I do as I am told. I cup my hands and time’s misty substance appears there.

“Good,” he praises, “Good. Now try to bend what you see.”

I do as I am told. The mist in my hands leaps and folds, then swirls.

“Not bad,” he muses, “now allow it to go back to the way it was., then let it dissipate.”

Again, I do as I am told. After allowing it to return back to its original state, I allow time to vanish.

“Excellent,” he proclaims, “You must remember that you can only do this here, beyond the physical realm. You cannot bend time while in the physical. All you can do in the physical realm is cast illusions, create mirages, and bend the perception of those around you.

“And yet, you can kill what is in the physical from within the spiritual. You can even inhabit another person’s body. But I wouldn’t recommend that. Too much of a headache. And it tends to mess with your mind after a while.

I do, however, recommend the not on of striking at an enemy from this realm. It makes you less vulnerable and untraceable. From here, you can travel the world without ever leaving sanctuary.

“Now,” he changes subject, “I will teach you what you need to know about finding food for your possible human servants. Everything has food value. Even the scorpion and locust. Many plants are good for food, but you must know which are poisonous and which can be eaten…”

He begins to go through poisonous and edible desert plants, roots, nuts, and fruits with me until I am able to accurately identify them all. then we return to training in the art of bending time, space, and reality. We train for what seems to be hours, then return to the sanctuary. I notice that the sun is still where it was when I first stepped to the middle of the arena.

“Remember to practice,” he smiles, “every chance you get. Perfection comes with practice. These skills can also be used to visit any of your allies.”

“I am humbled, teacher,” I reply.

“In future times,” He nods, “it will be your responsibility to pass this knowledge on to any of your kind you might discover. Male or female, you should be generous with your future students. Never refrain from teaching based on gender. Share with all as long as they are positive forces in this fight.”

“It shall be as you request,” I bow in obeisance, “as you have taught me, so shall I teach all I find like me.”

“When combined with the skills you are about to learn,” he smiles, “this shall be a lethal tool in your arsenal of abilities. As it will be in the arsenal you pass to your own students.  Use it wisely…and teach your student to do the same.”

“As you wish,” I promise.

 

The Vampyr Wars: Witch Doctor; Book 1: When I Was a Child, I Thought As a Child…; Chapter 16: Dark Chest of Wonders

The sanctuary fills, over several days, with Watchers and Guardians. All who have fought beside Sekhmet, Amun, and Atum come from near and far. Isis, the most beautiful and most loved. Horus the all-seeing. Osiris, the king of the dead lands, better known as the underworld.

The dead lands. A strip of the desert wastes where nothing lives. Not even Fallen or their soulless once human servants. The ultimate sanctuary. The ultimate training ground for someone like me.

Something tells me that I may be passed off to him once Sekhmet, Amun, and Atum are done with me. His sanctuary is home to Isis and Horus as well. Perhaps I will be trained further by the three of them. But I cannot go anywhere until I am through being trained by Wadj, Hotep, and Djet.

After I am fully trained, I will return to Nekeb and the temple. I know now that I am far too dangerous to spar with Ra, my old friend. I would kill him accidentally. And then, Egypt would not rise to her future glory. And she must. It is her destiny.

I must take my father’s place and stand beside Ra as he unifies our land. I must stand witness to her rise and decline. All must happen as I have foreseen it. I cannot change any of it. No matter how angry or sad I become at the state of things.

It is her destiny as well as mine. I must live until the Harmony Stone is destroyed forever. I must witness changes that others will never see. I must see this out to its end.

I have no religion, but I must represent something humanity can understand. So I must become a priest. A shepherd of the people. A protector of a leader.

Half of those now at the sanctuary will train me here in their ways of combat while they are here. Or, perhaps, more. They will be my protectors.

“We are at your service,” Isis states, bringing me out of my thoughts as she lays an obsidian chest at my feet, “we shall protect you with our all.”

“I am humbled,” I state quietly.

“This chest holds a great many wonders,” she says with a smile, “take care that it remains always with you or where only you know where it is.”

“I shall,” I promise.

She bows and takes her leave. A diminutive man approaches. Bes. He bows.

“My lord,” he says reverently, “I am at your service.

“A sealed jar of sacred water,” Khnum states, bowing, “lovingly blessed and sealed.”

“I shall see it safe to the end,” I bow in response.

I notice two women. I look at Amun.

“Who are they?” I ask, motioning to Khnum’s two companions.

“Satet,” He responds, “and Anuket. They are two of his three companions. Neith is the third. And, yes, they are a family.” He spies an approaching figure. “And here comes one of their offspring.”

“I am Heka,” the stranger announces, “and my gift is yet to be. I shall help you hone your skill in magic in warfare.” He bows.

seventy-one people parade before me. A small army. All here to protect me. And train me.

***

The ceremony is over. The feast, too. I sit in my cubicle pondering the events of the evening. Atum stops at my door.

“Problems?” He inquires.

“Exactly what will Khnum and his family be teaching me?” I respond.

“How to control water as a weapon,” He smiles, “and the jar is a symbol of that. It will remind you that you can summon water no matter where you are…desert, atop a mountain, or wherever.

“Others will teach you how to use the winds, animals, trees, scents, rocks, or whatever you have at your disposal. Even a mere suggestion can become a powerful weapon. Or a stick.”

“And the chest that Isis presented me?” I pry.

“That,” he replies, smiling, “is a mystery you must discover for yourself. But only in due time. Everything in its time. Knowledge. Wisdom. Experience. Love. All in due time.”

“When will that time be?” I ask.

“Only after you have learned all that we have to teach you,” He responds, “and you are of an age when the lock opens. No sooner, no later.” He smiles. “Now it is time to sleep. And dream.”

“Yes, teacher,” I nod, “tomorrow waits for no one.”

“And you have training,” He agrees, “to rest up for.”

I watch him walk away, then lay down. I look over to where the chest sits. It glows this night, but the lock is still unopened. All the locks are still unopened. I count them in the half-light. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.

Seven locks. There must be seven major lessons I must learn. I know of only two…my training by the Guardians and the training by the priests. But wha are the other five lessons?

I roll onto my back and look up at the ceiling. Atum is right. I will know when the time is right.

***

Morning comes too soon and breakfast is over just as quickly. I head to the arena to train. I  find it surrounded by potential teachers. I realize that training today will be intense. Tonight, I will be worn out.

I also know that there will be no enumeration, glyph exercises, or spell lessons. Only combat. And the use of every possible object in nature as a weapon.  I suck in a breath. I do not know whether I am ready or not. But that does not matter. Not now.

I am now being thrust into the most intense training of all. Layers of training. Hours of training. Possibly days of it.

But who will be my first teacher? I make my way through the crowd. In the center stands Aten. The lone Hunter. This is going to be interesting.

“I hunt alone,” he states, “that means that I will teach you how to survive on your own. Before we begin, I must warn you. time here will stop, even though we will spend the equivalent of a week away.” He looks at me. “Are you ready?”

“I am,” I reply as the arena vanishes.