Prologue – Death will arrive
The guardians are the strongest of mankind, born and bred to survive the many ages of men, only to die in battle; they will live on forever if they do not meet that fate which is inevitable. There are only fourteen in the world at any time, one of whom will lead and guide them in all their endeavors. It is their task only, to battle a living darkness that came before the empires of Egypt, before Jesus roamed the earth. That cursed race created by a hatred long forgotten but a war that rages on until times unforeseen and is the poison of all humankind. Blessed be the Order of Light, strike them down and protect the world from ravage. Page 1567 - “The Book of Maetre”
The sky was awash with the colors of blood and an ominous wind cut through the air razor sharp as a a knife. One man with long dark hair in braids and lightly tanned skin stood astride a hilltop, eagerness bright in his face for the coming battle. Dark clouds began to gather far in the distance, threatening with the smell of rain and electricity dooming them to a coming storm. A lone figure in robes approached the man who stood motionless with only a loincloth for cover, sandals over his feet and a tall sharpened spear in his hand, held aloft. When he spoke, the language he knew was not English; but something far older and more primitive. “The darkness comes, and with it the armies of evil. There is something you must see.” He beckoned to the ill-dressed warrior, who proceeded to follow him to the bottom of the hill. “Make it quick, I must return to my hill before the darkness.” Once they reached the bottom, there was a small tented area; a crude splashing of animal skins and torn pieces of cloth thrown together and tied to tall tree branches, secured by large boulders in the open field. It was impossible to miss the blood trail leading across the grass and into the tent, still wet from its source. His stomach nearly withered, but his anger gave him courage to open the flaps and step inside. A burly man stopped him with a massive hand on his chest as he entered, speaking the strange guttural language that was common to their people. “It is a message.” He stepped aside and it was painfully obvious where the blood had come from. A woman crouched beside what used to be a man lying upon a makeshift bed of furs, doing her best to sponge the blood that poured from his body in streams, bubbling up with the characteristic of a macabre waterfall. Soon it would stop forever as his life poured from him in that mocking red which resembled sand from an hourglass saying he had only moments left. Being the strong, war-like people they were, this man was somehow still breathing though most of his insides had been scooped back into his body crudely by his own people and the skin secured by heavy rocks keeping the flesh closed. The gray somber stones were in the shape of a cross from his chest to his navel, the skin pulled as tight as it could be, while no longer attached to itself. Telkapir could no longer speak with his voice, his eyes glazing over in seconds as Sekhme watched. There was something in his hand, clenched tightly. Emotions were ravaging Sekhme, unable to speak he could only wait for his brother to die and pray it came very soon; with every moment that went by he suffered more than anyone could imagine. The woman stopped trying to stem the flow of blood; it was quickly subsiding with the beat of his heart. Sekhme whispered almost inaudibly. “I will be following you soon my brother. Rest now in your eternal sleep.” One grimy finger from her blood soaked hand she dipped into the puddle in the furs beside him and drew an ancient rune upon the dying man’s forehead, whispering softly. He smiled then and a peace came over his face that was of heaven, his eyes stared unseeing into the confines of the tent. Sekhme could not grieve, for he knew his own death came with the wind and a sickly sweet scent that called his name. The thought of his brother gutted like nothing more than a hunted animal made him angry, giving him a strength that would follow him to battle. The woman took the cloth from the man’s dead hand with no emotion on her face, spitting on it and handing it to Sekhme. He opened it, seeing the strange symbol language of the ones they fought. The war had raged on long enough for many of his people to learn the language from hundreds of years before. It was a warning. “His body is dead but the soul will go on. Come to us, your fate is his.” To bless them with a simple death was a lie. There would be no reprieve for any man who should come upon them in this war. The creatures must be destroyed or there would be nowhere to hide for his people and no hope for their souls to survive. Soon it would be dark and they would come. The tall man stood and left the tent with its smell of blood and death; a grim reminder of things to come. Just before darkness fell he stood upon that hill once more, searching all the faces of his people for the last time while death was riding to meet him on its shadowed horse. Familiar faces peered through veils of fear at him for hope and strength, the courage of him would not be measured in battle, but in the way he lead his people to survival these many years. The death of his brother and the tattered message had been foretold by their shamans in stones many moons before, bringing with them the sign of his end. The eyes of his compatriots looked to him, Hamati, who had been with him longer than he could recall and whose loyalty was unfaltering in any circumstance. Semhunhut, his ally and protector looked down on him from eyes set high upon a lumbering figure twice the size of a normal man. Every man and the few women scattered throughout were wearing weapons and some men held shields in their hands made from leather and flattened strips of iron. Mostly spears and some roughly crafted swords. Sekhme scanned the crowd that was quickly gathering for her and there she was. Iola Basim stood tall and imposing in the center of it all, covered by her silky dark hair and scant short robes. Even from afar her blue eyes penetrated the very being of him inside and out. For a moment they just stared at each other, lost in time, her red lips smiled widely and a wink of one gorgeous sparkling blue eye. They were coming, he could feel it with a tight anticipation; a freezing cold wind that sent chills down his back and whispered the end for him. In his expression she could see the unrest and the smile left her beautiful face, replaced with a knowing look. These would be his last words, so they needed to be good. “The dark ones will be here soon and with them, many of us will perish. You must protect any who fall to death until their souls have escaped the confines of this land, so that they may someday return to it. It has been a good fight. With the enemy comes my death, I have seen it. You must not be brave when I fall. You will run and you will survive wherever you can, until my return. It has been my greatest honor and gift of life to have fought alongside you all, to have protected each other through our battles and watched you all grow to be a strong people.” A man in robes came to stand next to his side, with long white hair and matching beard. “Kadius, who has been with us since the beginning...he will rule in my stead. Follow him as you have followed me until my return.” Sekhme nodded his head and one by one the thirteen other guardians walked forward to clasp arms with him as a sign of respect and goodbye. Although several of them did not like Sekhme, they had an understanding and respect for his authority. Phoenix was there with a somber smile and a pat on the back as was Hamati. When they said their farewells, the people washed to the bottom of the hill and fanned out in a rough formation to prepare for the fight. Each person had someone near them to protect their body should they fall. If the creatures should touch them after their death, there would be no hope for that person’s soul. The guardians took position at the top of the hill, with the advantage that higher ground would give them in battle. Iola came to him and they embraced one last time, her lips finding his with the soft touch of a feather. He pulled her against him tightly, smothering her lips brutally with his and the knowledge that he may never touch her again. “Your eyes are dark and death comes, but I will not grieve; for we will be together again my love.” She whispered sweetly into his ear so that only the two of them could hear those words. Sekhme’s fingers caressed her long silky hair as he released her, stroking her velvet skin one last time and seeing the unshed tears behind those bright eyes. He remembered the first time he ever saw her, nearly two centuries had passed but it seemed not so long ago. It was love at first sight when she walked to meet him on that sunset, coming over a sand dune in Egypt. She wore barely anything, shimmering cloth around her waist that fell above the thighs and matching gold cups over her perfect breasts. That long dark shiny hair she wore streaming as though it were a cloak around her body. The picture would stay with him forever, but his mind returned to the task at hand. “My heart is yours Iola, forever.” He meant it as he never meant anything before. She moved to her place at the bottom of the hill, never turning away from him, unable to for fear that he would disappear. Shadows moved along the fields towards them in the rapidly failing light that would soon be darkness. In dark, the creatures would have more of an advantage, but not with the torches that lined the area. In a few moments those torches would all be lit; shining with the brightness and warmth of a perfect sun in the sky. His mind was touched by whispers with a bittersweet, deadly poison they filled his ears and spoke of his forthcoming death. Sekhme shouted his war cry, spreading across the fields with a rush of screams that poured from the mouths of all his people, stirring the air with its power. Yes he would die, but he would take as many of them as he could before he went and his soul would not be lost.