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As best as I could make out, there were at
least five thousand skeletal warriors, accompanied
by squadrons of chariots that
seemed almost as numerous. The statues
of the necropolis strode between their
ranks, like giants among children. I recognised
the great sphinx we had passed in
the desert, and the winged beast that had
killed Grunstein. The moonlight picked
out tattered banners flying over the ruins
of a temple near the pyramid’s base. A convocation
of wizened creatures in white and
gold — the tomb city’s priests — stood on
its walls, awaiting the arrival of their leader.
A single figure stepped out of the darkness.
Armoured in bronze scales, she carried
a tall spear, and her face was hidden
behind a serene death mask of shining gold.
For a moment, her blank eyes passed over
where I crouched on the pyramid’s side
and I froze, convinced against all reason
that she had seen me. I did not need to
understand the dry syllables she uttered
to the legion below to know who she was.
Mahatesh, handmaiden of Teput, wife of
Kharatep, Queen of Djedesh, whose deeds
were written in chronicle and whose slumber
we had disturbed with our reckless
rummaging through her husband’s grave.
Through the gates beneath her, a procession
of skeletal guards carried out the casket,
now firmly shut again. They loaded it
onto a gilded chariot, and the army began
to file out of the square, heading north into
the desert in a winding column of bronze,
bone and ancient stone. The queen rode
with them, riding beside the precious chariot
that carried the casket. Having seen its
power first-hand, I have no doubt she intends
to use it as a weapon.
I clung to the ledge on the pyramid’s side
until the last of the living dead had disappeared
over the dunes and the sun began
to rise in the east. With trembling legs
and aching arms, I painstakingly picked
my way down to the ground, where I now
write this last entry in my journal.
We have her husband. The chronicle
cannot call her Mahatesh the Vengeful
for nothing, and unless I am very much
mistaken she and her army will be heading
for Eichtal and the headquarters of
the Society. I must get there first.
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