There are fates worse than death…
Welcome to the serialisation of Accidental Immortal. Chapters will be published four times a week so the serialisation will be completed at (roughly) the same time as on Wattpad, if not a little sooner!
If you would like to start from the beginning, please head over to chapter one. There is also a contents list at the bottom of each post.
Chapter 26 – GATHERING
As the orange fingers of dawn crawled along the desert landscape, the tribe broke camp. Lynsey had already swapped the garish dress the Brothers had given her for one of Illyara’s. It was definitely more suited to walking distances but then sitting on a yelk meant the long dress hadn’t been a trip issue with the Brothers. She rubbed her face as she trudged on. They had talked with Illyara’s father for hours last night and she was exhausted. Her bones felt as if they had been filled with heavy metal. Each step was a struggle.
“Pico? Could you take over for a while?” It was worth a try, she’d give anything for a sleep.
“I do not think that would be a good idea Lynsey. I understand you need sleep but it would be a slippery slope for me to take over when things get too hard. Your body needs sleep as well as your mind. If I did this I suspect I would be doing it more and more.”
Great, she thought, stifling a yawn. It had been worth a try though. No harm no foul as the Americans would say. She straightened her back and copied Illyara’s gait as they climbed yet another dune.
They were miles away before they felt safe enough to make camp again. The call had gone out to the rest of the tribe that there was a meeting and the tent was again packed. Full of young and old jostling for position to hear their leaders and Lynsey speak. They sat on bright cushions brought in from the other tents. The floor was an enormous patterned mosaic as if put together by a colour-blind designer. As she thought this, she realised that she could see colours properly for the first time. Reds and greens popped out next to blues and purples. Her jaw dropped at the beauty. “I didn’t realise what I’ve been missing!
“Pardon?” Illyara replied sitting beside her.
“I can see colours!”
“Couldn’t you before?”
“Yes, but not like this.” Her voice was filled with wonder.
“I’ve been working on changing your core code. I noticed there were bits missing and corrupted. That is why I have been so silent for so long. It’s hard work working through DNA sequences. I have to work small. A lot of what I have tried gets reversed, before I have finished changing it.” Pico’s voice sounded hurt.
“I thought I was stuck with how I arrived here.”
“Technically that is true, but I’ve found I can make small changes at the molecular level and it sticks but too much and all the changes I make disappear and I have to start again.”
“Really? This is amazing.” She could see the colour of people’s eyes from across the room. “What else have you done?” She whispered.
“Well as you asked, you should notice a marked improvement in your hearing and you might find that your sense of smell is better, although I’m still working on that one.”
“I don’t really want to smell any better. That happens during the,” She went cross-eyed for a moment, trying to think of a better way to say it. Oh, hell. There was no need to censor for Pico, she smiled at the thought. “time of the month. The amount of times I’ve nearly prayed to the porcelain god because someone was eating something stinky in front of me. If that happened all the time I would just be throwing up all over the place.”
“Noted, I won’t mess with that sense anymore.”
“Could you not mess with any more of my senses, please?”
“Because there is a reason that humans developed their sense in a certain way and messing about with that could have uncertain consequences. Surely you can see that? My chucking up example should give you a clue!”
That was easy. “Good.”
“Sekhmet has come back to us.” Shouted a voice. Lynsey twisted and identified it as Illyara’s father, Darun. Everyone clapped around her.
“What? Who is Sekhmet?”
“The lion headed Goddess of fire, war and healing. Interesting I can see where they get that from.”
“You are.” Illyara replied, her eyes shining in the candlelight. “We have waited years for you to come. There was a prophecy that you would arrive. We need you to help us rescue a dragon. You can lead us and the other tribes against the brotherhood and the king and take back what is rightfully ours.”
“What is rightfully yours?”
“Freedom. We are trapped in the desert, moving from one place to another so that we cannot be forced to fight for the king in distant wars. We have to hide what we can do. Our people have lived in the desert for centuries. They have been here so long that they have no concept that there is another way to live. Water and food should not be rationed as the city would have us believe. War and power makes it so and it is time to change.
Lynsey stood up, nervous to be standing in front of so many people. Illyara nodded at her, still seated on the royal blue cushion besider her. “I’m not Sekhmet, I’m just Lynsey.” She coughed, clearing her throat. “I am from another world but I am not a Goddess. I arrived here by accident not by design. I’ve just stumbled from one thing to another. I really don’t belong here, all I want to do is go home.”
“Do you know, I wouldn’t mind that either.” Pico whispered in her consciousness. “We will do that but we have to help these people.”
“Why are you on their side?” Whispered Lynsey.
“We may be on this world for a very long time. Do you want it to be a heaven or a hell?”
“They think I am Sekhmet. What if they want me to do a miracle or something?” She switched to thought at some curious glances.
“They don’t seem to be that kind of people. They haven’t really said what they want you to do yet.”
Lynsey pondered for a moment. What was a god anyway? It was just a label. If she was honest from the beginning, then what could go wrong?
“I am not Sekhmet, but I will help you.”
The nomads looked from one to the other and they grinned, she would help them.
“Where are we going now? Asked Lynsey struggling to climb up the steep sandy bank after Illyara.
“Back to the Oasis where you first met us. Messengers have been sent far and wide for all the tribes to meet there.”
“It is holy and more practical. It is the biggest oasis this side of the desert. Our yelks will need to drink and stock up on water and we will need to be somewhere safe to talk that won’t draw attention to our numbers.”
They walked for two more days at a faster pace than with the temple but water still had to be rationed and everyone had a skin which contained enough water for the day. Lynsey pushed the container on to her belt. She was still thirsty but Illyara had warned her to take sips now and again rather than gulps. Her thoughts were fuzzy under the heat and thirst and she could see the others were feeling it too. The sun was relentless. It was with tremendous relief when they arrived at the oasis at night fall the next day. The smell of camp fires burning throughout the oasis reached them as they approached and they could hear people singing.
“We won’t bother with making the tents up here. We don’t need to put up walls during a Gathering.”
“How did everyone get here before us?”
“We sent messengers on wedasi. It is the fastest way to travel in the desert.”
“Why don’t you ride them all the time?”
Illyara looked horrified. “That would be dangerous. The wedasi would eat anyone that dared to ride them without training.”
“What are the Wedasi again?”
“Two headed serpent like creatures.”
Lynsey paused skin half-way to her mouth. I met one of those when I first arrived here. Why didn’t I see any of them while we were travelling to Ghinari?” They passed a family of nomads unrolling some fur on the floor for beds.
“They always travel a distance behind with their trainers.” A woman to their side offered a fresh skein of water. Illyara took it with a bow and a whispered thanks.
“I can understand why.” Replied Lynsey with feeling. Illyara gave her a strange look but carried on, dodging some children running past.
As they made their way through the camp, Lynsey noticed people were roaming to and from different fires with skins full of drink. From the gait of some of the revellers, Lynsey was pretty sure that not all, if any, of the skins contained water.
“I thought you didn’t drink?”
“What gave you that idea?”
“At the house, you didn’t drink the brandy?”
“I didn’t feel comfortable drinking in that company.” Illyara winked and drank deeply from the skin. “Would you like some?”
Lynsey took it. As long as it wasn’t vodka, she knew she would like it. She raised it to her lips and chugged it down. Her eyes watered and she stopped breathing for a moment. She coughed once and then couldn’t stop. The men nearest started laughing.
“What is that?”
Lynsey glared at her and Illyara replied laughing.
“It’s fermented yelk milk. The taste takes a little getting used to.”
The other tribes had left a space beside the river. There were several curious glances at her blond hair but no one approached her and she was able to move freely through the crowds. There were hundreds of tribesman already there and more were arriving every hour.
Darun and his wife were organising the gathering area. To the right of Illyara’s tribe’s area, there was a clearing in between the desert and the water. It was filled with stones styled in a half-moon pattern. Illyara caught Lynsey looking at the stones.
“The Elders will sit on the stones and everyone else will stand in a semi-circle around them.” Illyara’s arm swept out towards the stones.
“If someone from the crowd needs to speak, they stand and face the semi-circle.”
“Do the elders need to stand as well?” Lynsey watched as an elderly lady hobbled towards them.
“Oh no, they raise their arm and we listen.”
Young men were working among the stones, clearing the ground of roots, weeds and loose vegetation. In front of the stones. They laid tent material inside the half-circle. On the stones themselves they placed cushions made from a deep blue material. They appeared to be made for the seating as they were the exact size of the stone they were placed on. As each stone was covered, an elder would take their place from the crowd which was beginning to form.
Others prepared lamps and hung them from trees and placed them on the ground between brightly coloured cushions. The effect was surprisingly intimate for the number of people there. A young man, skin in one hand and a sweet treat in the other stumbled through some already seated tribespeople. He stood on a hand but the woman, just smiled and pulled him down to sit beside her.
“There is a lot of drunk people here. How are you going to have a meeting like that?”
“No one is seriously drunk and those that are, are only stopping their voices from being heard. That is their choice and their right.”
As the moons moved through the sky, Darun blew on a horn. The long low sound echoed soulfully in the stillness, sending chills down Lynsey’s back.
“That’s beautiful.” whispered Lynsey. Illyara smiled back at her.
Darun handed the horn to his wife and took a burning branch from Mewlli waiting nearby. He lit the first lamp and then a team of what Lynsey guessed were teenagers, took small branches and lit them from Darun’s to fan out and light all the lamps.
Lynsey moved to sit on the outside, next to the nomads surrounding the circle but Illyara gently took her hand and drew her to one of the stones near the front.
“Your place is here.”
Lynsey sat sheepishly looking at her satin slippers compared to the coarse leather of those around her. She had changed in to nomad robes but she hadn’t been ready to lose the shoes. She realised how silly that was now.
They thought she was some ancient Egyptian God! How was she going to live up to that? She felt Pico sending soothing thoughts to her but she shook her head irritated and she stopped. Lynsey cocked her head to the side. She still hadn’t made up her mind whether Pico was a girl or a boy. He felt like a boy but that didn’t really make any sense.
“Why is this so important to you Lynsey?”
“I don’t know, I just need to know whether to think of you as a he or she. It is doing my head in.”
“How about a he then?”
“You want to be a he?”
“Lynsey, it really doesn’t matter to me. There is no biological reason for me to be one way or another. From your memories you have historically got on well with males so I am happy to be a ‘he’ for you if that makes you feel better.”
“Shh. They are starting.” She thought back.
“We are gathered here today to fight for what has been taken from us all those centuries ago. They took our land, they took our lives and they took our dragon. We must fight now while the King and the brotherhood are fighting between themselves and the others. They are losing the war against the islands. They need men and money. The king will not be able to effectively fight on two fronts. If we join the fight then his empire will collapse. We have stopped the Temple from gaining the money from the pyramids by rescuing Lynsey Walker. If we unite and push on now we can win. This opportunity may not present itself again for centuries. We are the enemy within that they have forgotten about. But we still remember.” The crowd roared, stamping their feet into the ground.
“We need a leader, someone to show the way. We must rescue the dragon. He helped to defeat the priests in the beginning and protected us for years. Now it our turn to rescue him.”
Lynsey held her head up and gulped. How many times had she taken a sick day at university so she would miss the kind of lessons where she had to talk in front of class? This was the ultimate presentation. She scanned the seated crowd. There were so many of them. Hundreds of people were looking at her from the clearing and they went far back as the water in the oasis and into the desert to the side. These people needed someone brave enough to talk in front of them at least. She stood up and strode to stand in front of Darun.
“My name is Lynsey. I am from another world and I have met your dragon.” There was a gasp. She saw surprise on Darun’s face.
“He has been trapped in the bowels of the Temple for two centuries. He has been tortured, and treated like a simple beast.” She searched for an example that would be relevant for them.” Worse than a yelk. He is no animal. He is as clever as you or me and he deserves better. I don’t know what he did for your people beyond what has been said today but he was brought here accidentally as I was. He wasn’t meant for the life he has and he should be free. I pledge that I will do everything that I can to help you and him to make a fairer society.” The crowd stamped their feet.
“Shut up Pico.” But she inwardly smiled.
Chapter 1 - Duat Chapter 2 - London - Present Day Chapter 3 – Lynsey on Duat Chapter 4 - Nomads Chapter 5 - Scorpion Chapter 6 - The Dragon Temple Chapter 7 - Assassin Chapter 8 - The Luscious Luna Chapter 9 - Arkan Blade Chapter 10 - Kidnapped Chapter 11 - Rescue Chapter 12 - Modesty Chapter 13 - Banquet Chapter 14 - Arkan Chapter 15 - Dancing with the King Chapter 16 - Dragon Brotherhood Chapter 17 - Pico Chapter 18 – The Dragon Chapter 19 – Settling Down Chapter 20 – Danger Revealed Chapter 21 – Betrayal Chapter 22 - A Meeting of Minds Chapter 23 = Invisibility Chapter 24 - Desert Chapter 25 - Escape