|The Temple of Sekhmet
Author: Link Roc PM
In the vast Lujayn Desert, a warrior and a scholar enter an ancient place, rumored to be a site of evil power. They enter to discover lore and hopefully treasure of times long since past, but they are about to discover that those aren't the only things waiting for them inside. ONE-SHOT!Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Horror - Words: 4,918 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 10-08-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3064258
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Temple of Sekhmet
Author: I was really quite surprised at the reception my last story got, my character Axe in particular. So, with that attitude in mind, it was decided that I put this one up as the new story! I hope you all enjoy it, although I will say that if you don't like it as much as "The Beast and the Monster" or don't find it as fleshed out as it, I would like to express the fact that I spent a TON of time on that first story for different reasons. I've had Axe made for a good while now, but I'm still sanding away the rough patches, trying to get an EXACT feel of the guy and a lot of details about him. SO, it still stands: If you have something to say about the story, feel free to speak your mind. No flames, however!
Also, I would like to give a shout out to my new friend and Axe fan, Ink Flows Into Power (or Inky), who has not only created a community for fantasy stories, but has a number of his own works, one of which is a pretty good fantasy story called "Resilience: Blood and Fortitude" I haven't read it all yet, but from what I have read, it's a good story!
In the Southern Sea, there is a very large continent and on this continent lay the desert country of Sahra. Along the coast of Sahra were a number of port towns, all of which were populated and prosperous due to trade and fishing. Further inland was a great stretch of sand, which made up most of the country, called the Lujayn Desert. While many thought of it as a deadly sort of place, some people thought the desert was a beautiful place, as with the strange sands, it seemed to shine like precious metal and stones when the blazing sun hit the millions of grains.
The black ziggurat of the Lujayn Desert had always been a place of fear and superstition. For over three hundred years, stories of the foulest nature floated around the desert cities; stories of demons crying into the night air as they danced around the pyramid, of human sacrifice, and other unholy activities that made one's blood run cold. For generations, hardly anyone dared to approach it, let alone step inside, but on one night, when the moon was at it's fullest and poised over the pyramid, it received two visitors.
"I cannot believe I got roped into this."
"You've accepted payment in advance, so now you must fulfill your obligation, bodyguard!"
Two men occupied one of the main corridors of the pyramid. One of them was a muscular, dark-skinned man with long, wild hair as black as shadow and dark colored eyes; he wore boots of hard leather, trousers that matched his hair and a white cloak wrapped around his shoulders. He carried a double-headed battle axe in one hand and a torch in the other. His bare torso felt itchy because of the grains of sand that still clung to the cloak.
The other man was a smaller man of much lighter complexion and completely different physique. He had a slender form with short red hair and a pair of spectacles that kept slipping down his nose. His attitude, the way he carried himself and the finer clothings he wore, they all said that he had led a somewhat sheltered, easy life and spent many of his years reading texts. Like his companion, he too, carried a torch.
The swarthy man scratched his head and sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I'm not an ass, Terence. I'll keep my end of the agreement, but I don't understand why a scholar needs a bodyguard!"
Terence chuckled, pushing the glasses back to the bridge of his nose as he turned about to face him. "Because, my field has a connection to many things, my friend, dangerous things in fact!"
"Like what, getting papercuts on scrolls?" the other man asked dryly.
He held up his hand. "It's just Axe, Terence, don't worry about the mister part."
"Very well. As I was saying – ah, follow me, won't you, I would like to see more as we chat, it's more productive that way – my career has it's own dangers aside from things such as papercuts!"
"Example!" Terence snorted. "My young friend, when one pursues a career in history and archaelogy, the dangers are great in both numbers and severity. For example, places like these are riddled with boobytraps and often enough bandits!"
They entered a wider corridor, one with hollowed out spaces on each side of the wall at five foot intervals. The walls were decorated with rows of half-faded paintings and carvings of some ancient and forgotten language. They walked, Terence in the lead moving briskly while Axe kept up.
"If I'm your bodyguard, shouldn't I be in the lead then?" Axe asked.
"You do not know the way!" Terence gave an idle wave without looking back at him. "You would get lost!"
"And you wouldn't?" Axe shot back. Something in one of the hollow spaces caught his eye. He stopped and turned, holding his torch high over his head. At first, the fire light showed nothing, but as his sight adjusted, Axe was greeted with a sight of a dried out corpse, long dead and propped up inside the hollow. He gave a scream and soon found himself tripping over his own feet.
Hearing the yell, Terence whirled about and looked down at the fallen form of his bodyguard. At first, he was going to ask what had happened, but then he took notice of what the man was staring at and broke into a hearty laugh. "I seen you've met one of the locals!" he said, chortling.
Axe gave a fierce snort and muttered, "Shut up, Steve! That's not funny!"
Terence stopped laughing and apologized, "I'm sorry, I just could not help myself. But, I'm afraid that you're confused. My name is Terence, not Steve."
Axe waved at him. "I wasn't talking to you." His hands moved to a leather sack that was tied about his waist and removed the thick rope that sealed it. Terence, who had often seen the man caress and hold the bag since they left the city, gave his own startled cry when he saw his hired muscle extract a human skull from it.
"I wasn't scared, Steve!" he held the skull up to eye level, glaring at the empty sockets. "I was just surprised, that's completely different!"
Axe didn't realize that Terence was looking at him, fear dancing all over his face. "Relax!" he said in a low voice. "Nothing to wet yourself over."
"You're one to talk, I think!" Terence squeaked. "What on earth are you doing, carrying such a thing?"
"What do you care? You've said yourself that you study old and dead things. Why do you look shocked to see him?"
Axe nodded. "This is Steve and he's a friend of mine."
"A f-friend?!" Terence looked at him in disbelief. "You mean he isn't a sort of macabre trophy?"
"A trophy?" Axe scoffed. "Nothing like that."
"It's either a trophy of some poor man you've butchered," Terence eyed the battle-axe that lay on the floor at Axe's feet, "or a sort of talisman. Although I must admit, I don't know why anyone would carry such a thing for a talisman, unless they..." he trailed off.
Axe glanced at him. "Unless they what?"
Terence gulped and stammered, "P-Practice b-b-black magic..."
Now, it was Axe's turn to laugh. His laugh was mighty and it echoed through the corridors like a crashing wave. "So, that's what you think of me, Terence? You think of me as either some sort of brute who collects the heads of victims or someone who spends his time doing evil sorcery?"
"You mean...you don't?"
"Hardly!" Axe stuffed the skull back into the bag and collected his weapon. "As I've said, Steve is a friend of mine, and a dear one at that." He looked to the corpse in the hollow, then looked to the other spaces around them, and deduced that each one of the must be holding a body as well.
Terence noticed his action. "You don't care for mummies, I take it?"
Axe shrugged. "I've known that some civilizations practice this way of burial rites for the dead, but I don't have much experience in it. I've been around the dead many times before in my life, but this...I just wasn't expecting it, that's all."
The two of them stood there for a long moment or two before Terence cleared his throat.
"Shall we continue? We have much ground yet to cover before we're through."
"Aye," Axe finally tore away from the mummy and nodded to his employer. "Lead the way, Terence. While you're at it, tell me everything."
"Everything? How do you mean?"
"Tell me how you know about this place, what you hope to achieve here and, if possible, tell me the story behind it."
"Are you a student of history, Axe?"
"I don't find myself being attending a university of any sort, but you can say that learning about the past is a great interest of mine, aside from fighting."
"Well then, I shall enlighten you!"
They had a lengthy conversation as they moved through the pyramid. Terence told Axe that he had first heard about the ruins a few years ago when he was leafing through a thick tome in the library of the school he attended. Although he didn't believe in curses or black magic, he grew interested in the building and set out to find it.
"So," Axe began as they took a seat in a large, ornately decorated room, "how did you find out where this was and how do you know where to go?"
Terence smiled as he sat down across from him, taking a seat on a dust covered stone chair. "When I came to the desert, I went from city to city, asking questions to the natives. They knew of the building, which they call The Temple of Sekhmet, and called me a fool to be interested in it. Despite their insults and opinions, I was what you can call stubborn and kept pressing them until I received a map as to how to get here and a map of the interior. I memorized the second map so I know this place like the back of my hand!
"I can see in your eyes that you're wondering just how I could acquire maps of such detail if people are afraid to come in! The truth is, according to the man who gave me the charts, that there was a cult who did demon worshiping and blood sacrifices inside this place. Their leader, a witch named Sekhmet, practiced necromancy a great deal and often did such horrible things to further obtain her power. The natives said that when the cult fell into ruin and Sekhmet died, a number of the cultists escaped certain doom and re-entered normal society, carrying only stories and a few trinkets of their experiences with them.
"I asked what deity they worshiped, but they wouldn't tell me. I had hoped to find trace of it in here, but I cannot find a statue or marking that will give a description or image of their spirit. As a man of knowledge, I care not for sorcery, but rather for truth and historical fact."
Axe looked at him oddly. "If you don't care or believe in that sort of thing, why were you so scared that I did such things when I brought Steve out of the pouch?"
Terence looked sheepish as he removed his spectacles and wiped a small cloth over the lenses. "It's not the occult significance that bothers me, Axe, is that historically, only the most bloodthirsty and insane people do such things and-"
"You thought that I was a lunatic who could potentially lop off your head and drink your blood?" Axe finished, shooting a grin.
His employer didn't say anything to confirm that. Instead, he said, "Tell me about yourself, Axe. Where do you come from?"
"I come from the land of Tarvos the Great Bull."
Terence's eyes widened. "Knoss? You hail from Knoss?"
"That's the empire of the minotaurs!" Terence exclaimed. "The country where savage beastmen rule over man and other species with an iron fist! Tell me, what was it like to live amongst such horrible creatures?"
A cross look suddenly appeared on Axe's face.
Terence realized he must have said something wrong. "What is it?"
Axe's arm shot forward like a brown snake and his hand latched onto Terence's shirt. He pulled the red-head off the stone seat and drew him close, his brows coming together. "The minotaurs, though violent, are my people, Terence. My father was a minotaur and despite my appearance and what others may think, I will always think of myself as one of them. If you insult them, you insult me and believe me when I say this Terence, but the last thing you want is an angry Knossian. Watch your tongue from here on out, or I'll reach down your throat and pull that tongue out myself!"
The red-head nodded rapidly. "I-I unders-s-stand!"
"Good." He released the man and Terence fell back onto his seat.
They shared an awkward silence for a time.
"If I may be so bold," Terence said meekly, "may I ask what the story is behind that skull of yours?"
Axe stared at him, but said nothing.
"Please, I apologize for my words earlier. I did not mean to insult you, and I did not mean to insult your father."
The Knossian kept staring.
"Will you not tell me?"
Axe drew in a deep breath and sighed loudly. He reached into his pouch and pulled out the one he called Steve, holding it in both hands between his knees. "There is much you don't need to know about, Terence, but I can give you the most basic information. Will that satisfy you?"
"Yes. Any information is better than none. Surely, people call you a madman for carrying around the remains of the dead and talking to it like some sort of shaman?"
"Some do, some do not, but I do not care. I have spent most of my life under the ridicule of others, so I am not new to the concept. If they wish to insult and mock me for such a thing, then let them if it pleases them."
Terence, the intellectual that he was, could not understand what could possess this man, this bull loving savage, to do such a thing with human remains. Surely, he was mad, but he could not find the courage to let his tongue say such a thing, especially after the threat he had received from the last time he had loosened it.
"However did you come attached to such a thing?"
Axe was about to answer when he paused, then he suddenly shot to his feet, gripping his battle-axe. He turned in all directions, his black hair whipping around as his eyes darted back and forth, his nostrils flaring; he seemed to be sniffing the air. Terence thought he looked like a wild animal who had just sensed something was very wrong in his home.
"What is it?" he asked quietly.
"SHH!" Axe hissed. He quickly stuffed the skull back into the pouch. "Be silent! We're not alone in here."
Terence felt a chill run down his spine. "Bandits!" he whispered fearfully.
Axe shook his head. "Bandits don't smell like this..."
"Like wha-" Terence stopped when he heard an inhuman sound echo around them. It sounded like moaning, or grunting, and soon the sound of something dragging along the ground joined in. The owners of the noises entered the room they occupied and Terence nearly fainted on the spot.
The mummies, the preserved dead of the pyramid, lumbered forth! Carrying ancient blades and wearing armor from years long past, the dried out corpses of the cult soon surrounded them, their empty eye sockets looking at the two of them. They reeked of hundreds of years of decay and death, and it assaulted the two's senses horrifically.
"How is this happening?!" Terence shrieked, backing into Axe. "How are they able to move!?"
"Looks like those rumors about this place being cursed and having black magic were true after all," Axe mused, keeping his eyes on the undead. "They're blocking the exits. We're going to have to fight our way through."
"But there's so many!"
"That's where I come in!" Axe looked behind him. "Our torches! Pick them up!"
Terence looked down to see the two sources of light were still burning. Without hesitation, he picked them both up. "Now what?!"
"Now, we run!"
With a roar to rival the man-eaters of the jungles of the world, Axe charged into the crowd of mummies. What Terence witnessed next as he darted after him was a torrent of dust, the gleam of steel, the primal outbursts of his protector and the rain that was made up of freshly hewn limbs. Things moved too quickly for him to see every detail of every little thing, but he did what he could to fend off those who reached for him that Axe could not eliminate. The flames from the torches engulfed the walking corpses like a wildfire.
Suddenly, something heavy collided with the back of Terence's head, sending him sprawling to the floor. His vision blurring, he watched Axe battle the burning mummies until he was overwhelmed. The battle-axe the Knossian carried was the last thing he saw before he blacked out.
The undead did not slay or devour the two men. Instead, they subdued them and brought them a chamber greater than any they had seen before. It was reminscent of a throne room, complete with piles of assorted golden treasures and artifacts. In the middle of the room a long, deep crimson carpet extended from the entrance of the hall to the tall throne that sat directly opposite of it.
Terence was still unconscious, but Axe, who was only bound by iron chains, could see the creature that lay sprawled across the throne. It wasn't human, at least not completely, but it shared the characteristics of a human being. It wore the clothes of a human woman, a fine white silken dress and plenty of extravagant jewelry sat on her legs, arms and head. The creature, though dressed as it was, looked very much like a big, black panther.
Axe had spent enough time in the desert to know one of the cat-people that inhabited the cities of the sand before coming to this place; he had first laid eyes on their kind when he was a boy living in Knoss. He and Terence were brought before the throne; he was forced to kneel, but Terence was merely laid out like an easy meal.
"Who are you?" the cat-human asked. The voice was that of a woman. She picked herself up from her relaxed position and sat up straight upon the throne, her bright emerald eyes staring down at them. "What are you doing in my temple?"
"Your temple?" Axe repeated.
"Yes," she purred. "I am Sekhmet and this is my temple and these," she waved to the mummies in the room, "are my warriors, my guards."
Axe's dark eyes met her bright eyes. "Sekhmet? As in Necromancer Sekhmet?"
Her eyes lit up and her lips curled into a smile. "Ah! So, you have heard of me."
"Only just recently," Axe tried to rise, but he was quickly forced back down by the undead. "You're supposed to be dead, though, from what I hear."
"Far from it, as you can see." Sekhmet looked to the unconscious red-head next to Axe. "I know what is going to happen to the two of you, but I am curious as to who you are and what you are doing here."
"Why do you want to know?"
She shrugged casually. "I'm always curious about my visitors."
"You've had more?"
"Oh yes! I've had a number of people come into my halls: lost souls, tomb raiders, all kinds of people. They enter my pyramid, after one thing or another, but they all meet the same fate."
"Which is what, exactly?"
She smirked. "They give their lives so that I may live. Their blood spill and it grants me more years to enjoy in this world!"
Axe glowered and spat, "Vampire!"
"I suppose you could call me that, human," Sekhmet said with a nod. "I would much prefer something like Mistress or Your Ladyship, but to each their own, I suppose."
"So, you've been here, just drinking the blood of people to stay alive?" Axe questioned. "All this time?"
"It's so much easier to pretend you are dead instead of blatantly flaunt your existence. Amazingly, people are foolish enough to fear ghost stories more than the real thing." Sekhmet gloated, her tail swaying back and forth behind her. "In my glory days as cult leader, we often battled with lawmen and others that came to persecute us. This way, I can prey upon those I wish and all that's left are whispers in the night and fearful peasants."
"Why don't you just leave this temple for good? All these years, you must have had an opportunity or two?"
"I am bound to this temple for it is my duty as leader of the my cult to stay and pay homage to my deity. I can only leave during the night hours and must return before daybreak or else I will be punished and become nothing more than a pile of ash and bones.
"I was about to go out and collect a victim or two, but then I heard that I had a couple of visitors and decided to...eat in." She approached Axe and took his chin into both her hands. Her coat of fur was thin and felt soft against his hardened features. "Your friend will make nothing more than a late night snack, but I think I can make you into a long lasting meal."
Axe's manacled hands moved to his waist. He had hoped that he could undo the ropes that kept the pouch shut, but Sekhmet caught the action. One of her clawed hands latched around the pouch and snapped it off his waist. "What do you think you're doing, human?"
"Nothing," he said simply.
She sneered, "Liar! What were you reaching for, a weapon?"
He kept silent as she pulled away the cord with a claw. She reached into the bag, only to recoil and drop the bag almost instantly; she swung a powerful arm and raked her razor claws across the right side of Axe's face. As the skull slid out and hit the floor with a thunk, she let out a shrill scream and leaped backward, baring her fangs; her hand was smoking, and a loud sizzling noise filled the air as if it had just been thrust into a fire. The scream woke Terence from his forced slumber, but once he saw where he was, he closed his eyes and feigned unconsciousness.
Quick as he could, completely ignoring the pain inflicted upon him, Axe swept Steve into his grip and held it up over his head. The mummies around him and Terence immediately began to back away, as if they were terrorstricken, dropping their weapons as they retreated. Axe's double-sided weapon clanged against the stone floor.
"Bastard!" Sekhmet howled, arching her back. "What is this?!"
"This is your end, bitch!" Axe collected his battle-axe and with a burst of speed that surprised the necromancer, he closed in on her. He moved as a great cat himself: fast and deadly with the intent of death in his eyes. In one hand, he held the skull and in the other he held his weapon. He did not truly understand what it was that was giving him aid that night, but he was grateful for it nonetheless.
Sekhmet tried to pull away from the Knossian and his strange talisman, but she found herself trapped against her throne. She could do nothing as Axe raised his blade and with a grand swing, seperated her head from her shoulders. The cat-witch's head flew through the air, mewling as dark blood splattered against the décor and some of the treasure. Her headless corpse slumped against the throne and came to rest, never to move again.
Their mistress vanquished, the mummies of the pyramid collapsed into piles of metal and dust and bones. Axe went back to his employer, collecting the pouch as he did. With a loud snort, he placed Steve back inside and tied it.
Terence, hearing nothing more but the footsteps of his bodyguard, cracked open an eye. After a quick look around, he pulled himself to his knees, shocked at what lay around him and what lay on the throne in front of him. "What in the world just happened?!" He looked up at Axe. "What did you do?"
Axe wiped the blood from his blade. "My job." He held out his hand and helped Terence to his feet. As he did, Terence watched in silent amazement as the four gashes on Axe's face stopped bleeding and closed up, leaving nothing but a collection of wicked scars. Axe noticed his stare and said, "What the hell is the matter with you?"
"Uh...I..." Terence gulped and raised his hand, reaching out and running his fingers along the fresh scars on Axe's cheek. The warrior, though irritated, did not knock his hand away. "What in the name of all that is good in this world did I just see?"
"Nothing you need to worry yourself about," Axe said solemnly, pulling away. "Come on, let's get out of here, huh?"
The sun was already in the air when Terence and Axe left the Temple of Sekhmet. Although the ordeal was over, Terence was still shaking a great deal when they walked into the fresh air and hot sun. He sat down against the lowest wall of the ziggurat, resting while Axe made a number of trips into the temple, bringing out another load of treasure each time.
"Well!" Axe said, finally satisfied at his haul. "This turned out to be a better job that I had ever hoped it would be!" He reached into one of the treasure bags and pulled out a circlet with a magnificent lapis lazuli set in the center. "What do you think?" he asked, placing it on his head. "Is it me?"
Terence shook his head. "How can you possibly be so cheerful after what we just went through?"
"When you live the kind of life I have, not many things can actually disturb you." Axe pulled out a glorious necklace that sparkled with at least a dozen diamonds and whistled. "I can really get a lot of money for all of this!"
"You're going to sell all of that?"
"Maybe not all of it," Axe mused. "I think I'll hang onto my favorite pieces and put them in a safe place, but the others I can sell to help me on my way."
"Our agreement is over with, Terence; I protected you while we were in there, right? With Sekhmet gone for good, there shouldn't be dangers in there anymore. You're free to study that place to your hearts delight and there's plenty of treasure left in there if you want it."
Terence looked back to the ziggurat and shook his head. "I don't know I'll ever want to go back in there. I might just go back home..."
"Well, then I wish you the best of luck in life, Terence." Axe sorted his treasure and picked up the bags with ease. He took one last look at his employer. "You got here just fine before, you think you can make it alright on the way back?"
"I think so, yes," Terence nodded. "I'm going to have quite a story to tell others when I get back to civilization!"
Axe chuckled. "Do yourself a favor, Terence: embellish a little bit. Try to leave out the part that you got knocked out cold and throw yourself into a battle to the death with Sekhmet and her undead horde. That'll do wonders for you, might even get you a woman or two!"
And with that, Axe of Knoss turned and ventured out into the Lujayn Desert. Terence never saw him again, but he would never forget what the bull-lover had done for him that night.