Fiction Friday: Dark Eras Companion

Chronicles of Darkness, Mummy: The Curse

This piece accompanies the Fall of Isireion era (69 BCE-30 BCE) in the Dark Eras Companion.

Her jaw snaps and groans like breaking green branches. There’s a face in her mouth. It disappears when she swallows. She spits and it smellsof raw meat and ancient dust. Nefersobk rolls the blue, withered corpse off the slab. Its head is gone.

She ate it.

“Send it down the river,” she says. “His worshippers will find it.” And I will find them, and him again. And again and again and again. But for now she’s as close to sated as she’ll ever be. The hole in her soul never goes away completely, but feasting makes it feel smaller: something to step over and ignore, for a time.

Besides, she plans to eat again, soon.

Her servants cart the “deathless” one’s body away as she reels, clutching the mortuary slab. Sekhem’s stronger than hashish or unmixed wine, but it doesn’t confuse her. It makes her brilliant, like a child seeing constellations in the stars for the first time. Out of nothing but sky, the gods dance. She’s the smartest woman in the world again.

Mortals dance, too, in Alexandria tonight: Laborers stagger drunk and full through the narrow streets, sometimes stalked by thieves, and sometimes stalking each other with wine-soaked aggression, ready to fight. Whenever people drink and kill they refresh the earth, too, opening each other with small knives and letting Shezmu’s red vintage drip out.

In red-roofed mansions, courtyards glow with fires where the well-to-do celebrate less enthusiastically, with plentiful food, watery wine, and nervous chatter. Today, Mark Antony made himself Osiris to Cleopatra’s Isis. Nefersobk lives in such a house but mostly alone, and in the dark. Her fires have died and she can see all the Fate-arrayed stars above. She sent her servants home, well-paid and discreet, and she has no slaves to stoke the flames at night. She passes her outer walls for the streets.

Divine titles aren’t blasphemous, as long as you can keep them. It has always been right for gods to rule the Black Land, and for men and women of power to be their bau-presences in this world. Unfortunately, even the gods obey political realities. The wealthy know this. Cleopatra’s father bought his way back to the throne with Roman money, so her divine ascension was never foreordained, but a business transaction. They called him the Flutist, the Bastard, the Debtor. She hears a loud, rich neighbor say the names tonight as she walks past his house (but he stays away from her dark, cursed house). She avoids firelight as she goes. People here have two basic responses to a woman walking alone at night and they both enrage her. She doesn’t want to kill anyone right now.

The Bastard debased coins to pay back Rome, so aristocrats hoard old and foreign money. Everybody knows it. That’s why thieves a cut above Alexandria’s street muggers will climb their walls tonight, with longer, sharper knives. Some of them are Nefersobk’s agents. They are not necessarily aware of the fact. The chain of influence, through bored scribes, bribed tax collectors, and hawkeyed nomads, is too complex to fully describe to anyone stupider than her — or even to her, when she hasn’t eaten enough to manifest her full brilliance — but in the end a list of names and houses reached a certain village at the edge of the desert, and its redheaded, mad natives saw an opportunity to get rich and perform certain rites for the glory of Sutek, who they call a forefather.

These Parangelía Seth are witches. Nefersobk is smart enough to keep her distance. She turns down a crooked alley. Tonight will be the first time she’s ever met them. The Arisen are not as intelligent. When Sybaris twitched, a great snake nailed to the world by Fate’s fallen stars, they came back. They woke up buried brethren and they’re all so excited by what they read out of the Sickness, of Azar’s return, of Cleopatra as Esit, the god-king’s vessel of rebirth. She notes that of course, Esit is nothing but a womb with a crown to the Deathless, who have always been unimaginative users of men and particularly, women.

She understands why: To enslave others, one must believe in his heart that every person has a natural owner. As the Arisen own they long to be owned, to be ruled again, and not merely influenced by cryptic Judges. They can’t imagine that the Black Land left them behind, gave its fertility to new owners: mortals, sorcerers who learned from old scrolls and omens in this magic-soaked land.

ARE YOU NOT OWNED AS WELL? The voice is not hers, but echoes from the hole in her soul, from the ever-hungry jaws under all worlds. And her mind chants: Not by choice.

Never by choice.

  1 comment for “Fiction Friday: Dark Eras Companion

  1. June 29, 2018 at 11:40 am

    The first appearance of a sorcerer cult!

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