Beloved Servants [Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition]

Two young men trudged through the desert, far from the city’s limits. The first, adorned in fur and jewelry, led the second, dressed in flax cloth.

“There it is!” The first man pointed to a half-buried obelisk stone.

“You brought me here to see a rock?” the second man asked. “Once your family realizes we’re gone—”

“We’ll be back before nightfall.” The first man dug into the sand beneath the stone, and pulled out an effigy of a cat, carved from lapis lazuli. “I wanted you to see this.”

The second man examined it. “Another rock?”

He traced his fingers over the sculpted patches of fur and around the perfectly re-created scar over its left eye. He shook his head and smiled.

“Mouser,” he said, “It’s Mouser!”

The first man grinned. “I know you loved her very much. I crafted this from my memories of her. Now, she will be the Pharaoh of Mice.”

The second man hugged the effigy. “Thank you.”

“That’s not all,” the first man said, “I will present it to the Tef-Aabhi, and they will look upon my work and proclaim me a fellow master craftsman. Then, I will bring you with me. We will no longer be master and servant, but guildmates. Your family won’t live in the barracks anymore.”

The second man looked at the first, shocked. “You don’t mean that.”

The first man put his hands on the shoulders of the second, and looked deeply into his gray eyes. “I do. I will aid you and your family for as long as I live. I promise.”

? ? ?

Pert-en-hat opened his eyes and grasped at the leather seats. He took a moment to gather his surroundings. It was 2020, and he sat in one of the self-moving chariots his cult called a “van.”

The man sitting at Pert-en-hat’s left reached over and grasped his chest. “Easy there, we just hit a bump.”

The mummy grabbed the man’s wrist. “Who said that you could touch me?”

“Wait!” The man shouted. “It’s me, Tristian! The thief you hired?”

“Pert-en-hat,” the woman to his right said, “He’s telling the truth. Let him go.”

He looked at her, stared into her gray eyes, and released the man.

“I am sorry,” Pert-en-hat said, “When the relic calls to me, my mind gets…distorted.”

He watched Tristian shake his wrist and felt a twinge of shame. A year ago, he would have shattered the thief’s arm in three places and summoned a swarm of beetles to devour him before a single cry of mercy crossed his lips. It would have been wrong to do so, but the power would have come naturally. Now, mustering the strength to grab someone was a challenge.

“What did it tell you?” The woman asked.

“Its name,” the mummy said, “It is the ‘Pharaoh of Mice.’”

“So we’ve got its name and where the bastard’s keeping it,” Tristian said, “That’s all I need to know. I’ll give my people the update.”

Tristian got on the phone. As he talked, the woman leaned over to study Pert-en-hat’s face.

“You learned something else, didn’t you?” She put a hand on his shoulder. “You can tell me.”

“Farah, I saw its creator.”

“Was it someone you knew?”

“In a sense, yes.”

“My lord, I don’t understand. Who is it?”

Pert-en-hat sighed. “The relic. It’s mine.”

?? ?? ??

The young man expected to see one of the master craftsmen when he entered the guildhall. Instead, the seven cloaked guildmasters of the Tef-Aabhi beckoned him from the atrium into a private hall, and shut the door behind him.

He fell to his hands and knees before them.

“Most holy Shan’iatu!” He prostrated. “Forgive me; I did not intend to shirk my labor, only to demonstrate my craft.”

He looked up, just for a moment. Their faces were well-hidden by the hoods of their cloaks.

One of them spoke in a husky, feminine voice. “We know what you’ve done. Show us what it can do.”

“Of course.” The man stood up. He invoked the Pharaoh of Mice, speaking its name and holding it above his head. A mouse poked its head from a crack in the floor. Another squeezed through a crevice in the ceiling. Mice from all over the guildhall poured into the room, crowding the floor and standing at attention.

“It controls the weak,” the man said. “As long as you believe you rule them, they cannot disobey. Watch.”

He commanded the vermin to leave. They fled the room. The workers outside shrieked and cursed as the rodents ran as one through the guildhall’s exit. The mice continued into the town, and then to the sands beyond.

He said, “If it pleases the Shan’iatu, I shall add this treasure to the panoply and take my place as master craftsman.”

There was a moment of silence.

“No,” said the husky voice. “You have earned something greater, should you accept it.”

The man blinked. “Yes, of course! What is it?”

The Shan’iatu looked at him, and for a moment he saw the heads of animals, not people.

“You will learn,” the husky voice said, “In due time.”

??? ??? ???

Tristian looked up at the skyscraper, shaking his head. “Robbing a corporate headquarters in broad daylight. You people are my kind of crazy.”

“It’s the only way we can get to the relic,” Farah said. “If Pert-en-hat’s visions are right, it’s in Mr. Collins’ personal safe, and we need him to open it up before you move in.”

“Right.” He looked over the building’s blueprints. “I’ve gotta say, this is a way better deal than what I thought we were going to get when we robbed his tomb. I could get used to this.”

“He recruited you,” Farah said, “because he saw potential. If it had been any other tomb, you and your friends would not be alive right now. Remember that, before you get too comfortable.” She waved over a woman to join them.

“This is Emma,” she said. “She’s the eldest of us. She’ll be heading in for an interview with Mr. Collins. Once she gets him to open the safe, she’ll signal your team over the radio.”

“Good to meet you, Emma.” Tristian took her in, low-cut dress and all. “You know, for the oldest member, you don’t look a day over 22.”

Emma smiled. “Thanks, but she was 26 when I stole her body.” She winked at him and walked into the building.

He laughed. “She’s kidding, right? Right?”

Farah pulled out a jar of red liquid from her jacket and drew a sigil into the ground.

???? ???? ????

The young man shuffled deeper into the tunnels beneath the city, where the pillars dug into the earth. He moved shoulder-to-shoulder with other workers. He recognized some of his fellow sculptors.

Earlier that day, a group of Maa-Kep dragged the grey-eyed young man and his family from his home. The young man, the family’s master, witnessed their arrest and demanded an explanation. They would not tell him why they captured them or where they were going. When he struck one of the secret police to the ground, the rest overpowered him and carried him to his guildhall.

There, servants stripped him of his finery and bathed him. They held him down and poured a bitter drink into his throat. They clothed him in robes with hieroglyphics he didn’t recognize and sent him to march with the others.

Now, his head swam as he created the end of the corridor. He stumbled and tried to grasp the wall with an unfeeling arm. His grip lost strength, and he slammed face-first into the floor. Two cloaked figures, Shan’iatu, carried him to an altar. Blood from his broken noise stained it. They did not care.

“What is this? The young man’s question mingled with the sound of chanting and screaming nearby.

One of the Shan’iatu lifted a long, copper spike above the young man’s head.

“You earned this.” The man recognized her husky, feminine voice. “You accepted it. Our empire is eternal, and you will be its vessel.”

She thrust the spike into his forehead. It was his first death.

????? ????? ?????

Pert-en-hat’s cultists assured him the plan would work. With Farah’s sorcery, the body thief as decoy, and the aid of world-class thieves, they would take the Pharaoh of Mice, and he would return to Duat with the relic without lifting a finger.

They hadn’t expected their mark to find the body thief’s radio. They couldn’t have imagined that he knew they were coming. They were not prepared for Mr. Collins using the vessel and commanding every employee to hunt down the team.

They would need him after all, and he would need to gather all the strength in his dying body. He sprinted into the building, tossing away the glassy-eyed workers trying to tackle him. When he reached the elevator doors, he ripped them from the wall and hurled them into the crowd. He leaped into the empty elevator shaft. His body melted into the concrete floor on impact and he swam through the building like a fish moving upstream. The Pharaoh of Mice shone like a beacon among the skyscraper’s inferior materials and mediocre architecture. He followed its light.

He emerged from the floor of Mr. Collins’ office. The relic stood on the businessman’s desk. It radiated warmth that soothed the mummy. Mr. Collins stood between Pert-en-hat and his goal. Beneath him sat Farah and the others, tied together.

“So.” Mr. Collins kept his gun trained on the captives. “You’re the man who wants to steal my treasure.”

?????? ?????? ??????

Pert-en-hat rose from his sarcophagus, confused. He knew Emma, but she was surrounded by strangers.

“This is your master,” she said to the others. “Kneel before him!”

They did so, save for a woman no older than her late teens. Instead, she moved to him, close enough to get a clear view of her face in the dim torchlight. Her gray eyes seemed alight with wonder. Pert-en-hat stood dumbfounded.

“No!” Emma shouted. “You don’t know what he’ll do!”

“It’s you,” the young woman said, “from my dreams. My father, and his grandfather, they served you. Do you remember?”

The muscles on Pert-en-hat’s skinless face twitched. His mind’s eye saw vague memories of a young man in the desert with eyes like hers, but nothing else. “No.”

The woman sighed. “We’ll give it some time, then. I’m Farah.”

??????? ??????? ???????

Mr. Collins stood with a hunch. His eyes were bloodshot and his clothes were soaked in sweat. His body had a corpse’s pallor.

“You’re dying,” Pert-en-hat said. “Without the proper invocation, it feeds on you. There’s still time. Give it to me, and I can save you.”

“Save me?” Mr. Collins wheezed out a laugh. “When I have the power of a god? No. It’s not me you should worry about.”

He shot Farah in the chest. She slumped over. Her blood soaked into the rope.

“I have more than enough for the rest of—”

Before Mr. Collins finished his sentence, Pert-en-hat leaped on him and smashed his head through his desk, the floor, and several inches into the concrete below both. He convulsed and went still. Emma struggled against the rope. “Farah? Stay with us! Farah!”

“She’s not dead,” Tristian said, “Not yet.”

Pert-en-hat lifted the Pharaoh of Mice from the ruins of Mr. Collins’ desk. He traced his fingers along the patches in its fur, and the scar on its eye.

A husky, feminine voice echoed in his mind. Leave them. They can be replaced. Return it to me.

The mummy’s head ached. “I…”

“Master, do something. Please!” Emma yanked her body away from Farah. “The police’ll be here any minute!”

Return it to me. It’s mine!

“No,” Pert-en-hat said. “It’s mine!”

He crushed the Pharaoh of Mice in his hands and its power flowed through him. The pain in his body ceased, and he cried to the heavens in joy.

He tore the rope binding the cultists. He placed a hand on Farah’s chest, over the bullet wound. “Live!”

His life force flooded her body and her wound sealed. She coughed up gold-tinted blood.

Pert-en-hat felt a chill spread from his chest to his limbs. His skin shriveled and he fell to the floor. Farah and the others grabbed his body, but their voices sounded far away.

Before he returned to the sleep of death, the voice in his head spoke once more. I am very disappointed in you. But I am merciful. We will try again. After all, you are my most beloved servant.

???????? ???????? ????????

Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition is currently on Kickstarter.

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