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Out of Duat

By LoweFantasy or T.S. Lowe All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Fantasy

Blurb

Hath should have died the night the Pharaoh of Egypt set out to destroy the worshipers of death. But the Pharaoh’s son saved her, inadvertently earning a place in her heart. So when Hath takes her place as the last of the necromancers, she does so with every intention to use her morbid arts to win the love of her young prince, now Pharaoh of Egypt himself. Xiusthamus only wants to avoid being remembered in history as the pharaoh who unbalanced ma’at by coming to power without a queen. When virgins are murdered, his general is kidnapped, a plague threatens Egypt, and a beautiful slave from the future captures his affections, keeping up protocol is going to be the least of his worries. And Annette has no idea why she’s been sucked back in time. But whoever did also gifted her with strange, almost inconspicuous powers to deny death itself.

Prologue

Hath could not find her papa. Black legs ran about her in the moonlight and people shouted over one another. Mother tugged on her arm with her mouth in that thin, straight line Hath knew meant she was nervous. Not many things made Mother nervous.

“Get in the house,” said Mother, but Hath did not think Mother understood. She may not be worried about Papa, but Hath had seen the flash of the Egyptian soldiers' white kilts in the moonlight. And she knew men kill men, not women and children.

Mother tugged harder. “Hath, listen to me!” Her voice pitched high like a cat’s.

“Papa!”

“Papa can't come.”

Mother almost had her past the doorway. “He's busy.”

Straw from the threshold ran between Hath’s toes.  It was as cold as the night itself, and nearly as rough.

“We have to find Papa! What’s wrong with you?”

“We can’t help him!”

The house was too dark. Mother had closed the door. Hath shrieked in frustration and jerked her small sweaty hand from her mother's grasp. Mother's nails caught the edge of her clothes, but she had already escaped out the door and swallowed up into the sea of skin and night.

“Hath!”

Hath called for her papa. She could only see clothes, legs, and moonlight turning the entire world black and white. Over the crowd she could hear her mother calling for her in that unnerving cat-like yowl. Bodies rich with the smell of sweat and urine shoved her this way and that, bruising her shoulders, scraping her hands, and stomping on her fingers. For a brief, horrifying second she thought she would be trampled, but then the crowd pushed her out of its centre beside the Nile. She stumbled into the dark silt next to a dock where a group of Egyptian soldiers had gathered. Their spears and swords had been turned toward a small group of men at the edge of the dock. Through their long cinnamon legs she could see a familiar head of wiry black hair among them.

“Papa!” she cried.

But her father did not look her way. Instead, he held up a worn wooden box Hath remembered seeing in their cellar mere hours ago.

His deep voice pounded out against the chaos of the village behind her. "You and your Pharaoh's wickedness end here! No longer will your cruelty cow our people, but our ancestors who you slew to enslave us shall rise tonight and free their children by the power of sacred death! The will of Apep!"

He pointed to the sky, where what could have been a black mouth in the sky moved to swallow the moon.

Soldiers pressed in, blades forward. Hath yelled a warning, but Papa vanished behind the mass of legs. Just as she scrambled to her feet, she heard a splash and spotted Papa once more, now wading in the Nile with the box held tight in his arms. From her new vantage point she could see the other men left on the dock doing their best to stop the Egyptians from following, but they were painfully outnumbered and their blood spilled all dark and shiny on the docks. She pressed her palms to her ears to block out the sound of their lifeless bodies slipping over the edge into the water.

Egyptians jumped into the Nile. Her father had stopped with his face up to the moon in earnest.

“Papa!”

But the sky never swallowed the moon completely. When a sliver was left, it paused. Then the darkness passed over as though it had changed its mind. Her father gave an animalistic cry of despair. The Egyptians sloshed closer, khopeshes in hand.

The blades went down. Papa dropped.

And the box fell with him, lid lifting just before it sank into the depths of the cold, unforgiving Nile.

Papa!” Her eyes stung terribly.  Her chest felt empty and on fire all at once.  Papa.

“Stop screaming!” A hand wrapped around her arm. She spun, hands raised to slap, to hit—

To see a young Egyptian boy, about her age, with bright eyes like obsidian. The smile he gave her was a tender thing and she felt the horror inside her fade ever so slightly. He wore a burlap cloak and held it tight about him with gold laced fingers, so she could not see what he wore underneath.

“I don't think you want those guards over there to know he's your dad.”

She weakly protested. “I am not ashamed of my papa.”

“Yes, but now he's dead.”

In the shock of hearing it out loud, she became so angry her tiny body flared with fire. She pulled mightily to escape the grasp of this young boy, hissing and spitting like a wild snake.

“Shh! Just come on,” said the boy.

“No!”

“Please?”

He gave her that tender smile again and her anger calmed just enough for her to wonder where he had come from and why he was trying to pull her away. But no, she could not go with him. They must go to the river, help Papa, save him! For he could not die so easily.

But the boy was pulling her along through waves of Egyptian soldiers. She was caught in awe of how easily he made his way through, as though by magic.

“Who are you?”

“Where do you live?” he asked, in the way of an answer.

“I can get there fine myself.”

He tugged her hard, forcing her forward.  “I'm trying to help you!”

“But you’re Egyptian! Egyptians killed Papa!”

He stopped, but did not let her go. For the first time she noticed he was shorter than her, but the obsidian eyes had made her think him much bigger.

“I'm nine years old,” he said softly, with emotions soft as cicada wings. “Do you really think I could kill anyone?”

This gave her pause. Of course she had not thought that, but...had she? As Egyptians surrounded them she looked into his face, listening to the terrible screaming of her people, the form of her falling father still replaying against a wall of her mind.

“Who are you?”

He gently squeezed her arm. “You'll know soon enough, but I don't want you to get hurt.”

They ran, but not far. They broke out of the soldiers and came to the foot of a giant who sat atop a brilliant white horse and wore more gold than Hath had ever seen in her life. Bright colored soldiers, their eyes lined with kohl, sat atop their own steeds around him, encasing him from the battle that lay just ahead.

She ran into the young boy when he slowed. He did not seem afraid of the Egyptian that towered above them, and even smiled as he tugged her down with him into a bow.

“Father.”

With her face inches from the dirt, Hath realized who this giant was.

The Pharaoh.


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