The Guide (The Legacy Series Book 2)(3)By: Sheritta Bitikofer
He slowly backed away from the shrine and began to strip off his linen garment so he could complete the next phase of the ritual. Standing bare before his god, he stretched out his arms to embrace his own wolf, the one that had been passed down to him through his ancestral line. It was his personal gift from Wepwawet. It was why he, more than anyone else left in the world, had to be the last priest of Egypt.
Before the wolf could claim his body, a sound came to Tor’s sensitive ears. He turned his head and listened to the slow approach of camels. Their grunts and stamping hooves in the sand outside the temple were unmistakable.
Camels were not an uncommon occurrence in the desert, but the rattling of saddles that clanged in time with each step was not so common this far out. It had been many moons since he had an intruder dare to try and enter the temple. The people of Asyut should have known better than to try and come to a place that was supposedly cursed. The natives had given up on their gods, but not their superstitions.
Instead of slipping back into his clothes, Tor slunk into the inner chamber that was lined with painted columns on either side of the center walkway. In one swift jump, he perched himself within a recessed ledge along the edge of the ceiling that was just tall enough for him to duck into and practically disappear. Perfectly concealed by the shadows, he could watch them as they entered the sanctuary.
He listened to the men, three of them, enter through the temple gates. They all spoke in the common language of the day. He understood Coptic well enough, though he had been raised on the language of the ancients.
His father had taught him many languages, including the sacred form of picture letters that covered the walls of the temples and tombs throughout Egypt. Such knowledge had been lost by the human inhabitants, but the priests of Wepwawet kept the language alive, along with their traditions and rituals.
The men dismounted their camels in the outer courtyard, which would have been as far as any priest should permit them. To enter the inner chamber was blasphemous and disgraceful to the gods. Only those whom the pharaoh himself permitted were allowed to enter here.
Tor allowed them passage, but only because he was curious. One of the men who entered, was not a native. He was a foreigner, much like the ones he had seen in his dreams with pale skin and odd clothes that clung to his frame. Through the incense that was still burning on the altar, Tor could smell the foreigner’s acrid sweat, telling him that the man was not used to such a hot and dry climate.
The two others, natives with their long tunics and heads wrapped in turbans, gazed around the chamber with eyes of wonder. The foreigner did as well, but he was more interested in the carvings than the structure of the temple.
Looters had come here before and each time, Tor drove them away. The statue and incense bowl alone would have been a valuable prize to sell on the market. Gold had once been a plentiful resource and the ancients were master craftsmen of the metal, able to mold it and use it in magnificent ways. Now, the natives were greedy and cared nothing for the religious significance of the gold.
“This is incredible!” the foreigner said as he shuffled to a depiction of Wepwawet and the goddess Isis. His fingers dusted the inscription below it and he grumbled in another language that Tor did not know. By the man’s inflections, Tor could tell that he wasn’t pleased.
“We should leave,” one of the natives said.
“Nonsense,” said the foreigner. “Do either of you know what these symbols mean?”
Neither of the guides were paying attention as their hands gripped the hilt of their khopeshes. The sickle-shaped blade glinted off the sunlight as one of the men turned, and it flashed in Tor’s eyes. He backed away from the glare, causing a tiny fragment of the ledge he perched upon to fall to the floor. The soft tap of the impact echoed in the temple.
Both Egyptians spun in his direction and looked to the source of the movement. Tor did not waste time. He leapt from the ledge and used one of the columns to propel himself forward, with his eyes glowing a seething gold and sharp fangs bared.
Tor landed close to them, well within striking range of their blades, and let out a terrible and earth-shaking roar that loosened the dust and sand from the uppermost crevices of the temple ceiling.