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 24 – DESERT
The tribe dispersed from the tent, picking up their cushions as they went. They worked as a team, loading up the yelks with furnishings, cloth and supplies. Illyara was among them orchestrating the breakup of camp like a symphony. They had done this so many times, the familiarity was soothing. She directed her people almost out of habit. The cushions and furniture were removed first from the tents, then the huge domed structures were pulled down with a warning shout. Women tended to the animals in her periphery vision while others loaded the yelks.
As the tribe set off, Illyara moved to her customary place in the back. The pace was slow. There was no hurry, it would take a while for the priests to get ready judging by the state of the caravan when she last saw it.
The desert looked featureless around her. …unless you know what you were looking for, she thought. Her tribe was almost invisible to untrained eyes. The colour of the yelk fur blended with the sand and anything that had any colour was packed up and hidden by the material of the tents. Her eyes roved past their caravan to the dunes around them. Their towering presence was comforting, if deceptively calm. She lifted her head to the side and sniffed the air. There was something in the light breeze. She took a deeper breath. It was going to rain. The corner of her mouth raised slightly, nothing to worry about though, it would be light. She settled in to her stride. The swish of long sand-coloured travelling robes was the only sounds she could hear as they trudged on.
The journey to the pyramids should take the tribe a week at the most, but then the tribe was familiar with the route, its oases and markers. She considered how many times she had taken the trip. It was at least once a year. She knew the way to the nearby water hole by heart. It was important that the location would never be lost. In fact, it had been lucky for Lynsey that they had arrived ahead of time but was there such a thing as luck? Maybe she was the one they had been waiting for? A brief flare of hope ignited in her but she squashed it down. Her people had travelled this desert for centuries. This was their life, she couldn’t imagine anything different. Yet it was already different, they should have been further west by now, selling their wares to prepare them for the dry seasons but here they were chasing after a stranger and a dream.
Illyara rubbed the small of her back. It was strange that a couple of weeks of inactivity meant that years of walking was practically lost. She shouldn’t get tired this easily. City life was not good for her people, she realised. She couldn’t imagine living away from the desert. If the legends were right and their ancestors had farmers among them, …but that was before the Egyptians had brought them to this place.
From the back, she could see there was something different about the tribe. Illyara’s brows furrowed as she studied her family. What was it? They were wearing the same clothes, they were walking at the same pace as they normally did. What was it? They were walking different. Then she had it. Their heads were higher and their shoulders were straighter. She felt it too, she realised. The excitement among the tribe was almost palpable. A stray thought materialised and she paused for a second, there had always been a cloud hanging over their heads. That could not change. It was silly to think that one person could make such a difference. But what a person, came the unbidden thought.
That night there was no shortage of volunteers to be scouts to keep track of the temple camp but it was no surprise when Paereek was selected. His affinity with his wedas, made the decision a foregone conclusion. Anyone sitting atop a lone yelk on a sand dune would have been too obvious. They needed the wedasi. Usually used for hunting, a wedas with its snake body was perfect for moving through the desert unseen with speed. It was low to the ground, quick, quiet and with the right person, reliable. Paereek had been training wedasi for decades and they treated him as one of their own. Illyara shuddered. The way their twin heads would simultaneously rub the front and back of him in affection. It is not natural, I would rather ride a yelk any day.
Illyara wrapped her arms around herself in the night air. A soft glow emanated from an open flap of the tent behind her. Enough to see a little in front but the light was so low her night vision was not impaired. The twin moons were bright above, allowing her to watch the long low body of the wedas slide along the sand into the distance. Paereek lay along its length, arranging himself around its legs which were tucked up into its side so it could gather speed as it slithered on the sand. She wished him luck but he would not need it. He would report the other camp’s whereabouts until they had an opportunity to get Lynsey away. She turned to go back inside again.
The next evening, everyone gathered in the main tent for their meal early. The lamps were brighter than usual. Illyara sat next to her parents. She felt nervous and was picking at the stitching on her dress. The action reminded her of Lynsey and she stilled her hands. She was in two minds. Was Lynsey the one they were looking for? The question kept revolving around her mind. What should she tell them? Should she keep anything back? She looked at her father for reassurance but he had moved and was talking to her aunt against the tent doorway. Her mother caught her look and moved to sit closer to her.
“What is troubling you, my darling?”
“I do not know if I should tell everyone everything about Lynsey.”
“They deserve to know Illyara. If she is what we suspect then this affects our tribe and our world.”
“It cannot be, mother. Surely if it was then there would be more signs?”
“How many signs do you need daughter?”
Illyara looked deep into her mother’s violet eyes. She was so beautiful, so wise. Her mother’s frank gaze made her cast her eyes down to the cushions on the floor.
“You are right. It is time. I have delayed enough.” Illyara squared her shoulders and stood. She picked up a wooden box which lay at her feet. She lifted the lid off and pulled out a small silver bell. It tinkled as she drew it out. She rang it once, then again. The chatting ceased. Her father gave her a small encouraging smile from across the room and moved closer to give support.
“I have spent the last few weeks with the stranger we found at the oasis near the pyramids.” She was surprised at how clear her voice was. She stopped to see everyone had sat down and was looking at her. They were hanging on her every word. She coughed and carried on.
“The people we met in the city were from all corners of our land. They were speaking different languages yet Lynsey did not seem to realise. They were talking to her in one speech and to themselves in another. She understood them all and replied to everyone in their own tongue. This happened in the shops with the serving girls as well as with the lords and ladies at the banquets.” She stopped for effect.
“There was a Droota delegate there and she charmed him when she spoke in his own language.” A murmur filled the tent. The Droota language was notoriously difficult comprising of clicks rather than words.
“That is not all. We tried to take a walk in the park and we were set upon by five people.” Illyara blushed deeply at the memory. “I’m ashamed to say I used the gift and disappeared but she bravely fought off four assailants before a fifth brought her down.” There was a collective gasp, then excited whispers.
“Can she heal?” Asked her aunt from the back of the tent. Everyone grew silent.
“She can. She was knocked over by a carriage and I saw broken bones heal themselves and bruises and cuts disappear before my eyes. She is like the dragon.”
Her aunt nodded at the back. She was holding a pendant with the loop and cross of the Ankh in her hands. In the silence, Illyara could hear the wind hitting the tent outside as the tribe contemplated the symbol’s significance.
“She can speak many languages, she can fight, she is beautiful, she heals impossibly quickly and she is as brave as a lion. She has to be the one we are looking for. She just has to be the Goddess Sekhmet.”
“But she has not said this?” Asked her father from behind her, playing the opposite as she had seen him do to her mother so many times before in debates. She smiled, grateful for the prompt.
“I do not think she knows.” She replied turning to face him.
“How can she not know if she is the Goddess if she is?” This was her brother, five years her junior from her left.
“I do not know, but she has miraculous abilities. How else do you explain it? She is like the dragon. She came from the pyramids and she fights, heals and is blond like a lion!” She had everyone’s attention.
“The dragon does not like to fight. I know but neither does Lynsey. Maybe when a Goddess comes from another world, they lose their memory? Sekhmet is a Goddess of war.”
“This is not for us to know. If she is indeed the Goddess then she can help us rescue the Dragon. He helped us in the past and now it is our turn to help him. Without his help we would still be slaves to our Egyptian masters. We owe him.” Her father chimed in.
“We cannot fight.“ came a new voice from the far end of the tent. This voice was from an older man whose skin was worn like leather over decades under the hot sun.
Illyara’s father answered. “We cannot fight but there are tribes in our people who can. Our brothers have been itching to revolt for hundreds of years. Maybe this time we can let them. We are the messengers, the thinkers, the head. We were spies and we can be so again. We can slip silently into any tent unseen. We can listen to whispered conversations, steal what they hide, discover secrets. We will always try to forget what we were but we were thieves in the past not because we wanted to but because we had to be. We will not be that or slaves again. If we can free the dragon, he will protect us and we can be free.”
“What about Sekhmet?” Asked another voice from the crowd.
“We cannot ask a Goddess to stay with us but if she will, she will always be welcome. She is the protector of the Pharaoh, maybe she is here to elevate one in this world to be a Pharaoh again as the prophecy foretold. The priests stopped them coming, maybe Sekhmet is here to bring them back.”
Illyara had never been so proud of her father. The eyes of her people were shining. The dream of not hiding anymore, of being able to settle down, grow their own food rather than be nomads forced to roam the land until a saviour could be found. Maybe it could happen now. They were already changing.
“Father, first we need to rescue Lynsey. We don’t need fighters for that.”
“You are right, take your brother with you. He is itching for an adventure. While you bring Lynsey to us, we will gather the tribes.” Illyara cast her eyes down. “Father, he’ll slow me down, he is just a boy.”
“He has mastered the Gift. That is all you need for this task.”
“And the ability to walk quietly without waking a Phalish.” she muttered quietly so her father couldn’t hear.
Mewlli was already waiting outside by the time she made it to the cool night air. The stars were out in force and she couldn’t help but wonder where Lynsey was from. Was it one of those stars? Was it the same one as the one the Dragon came from?
The twin moons were low in the sky but they lit up the night sky illuminating the darkness with a soft light. Illyara and Mewlli shrouded themselves in invisibility by sending thoughts out into the area. You cannot see us, we are not here. It was strange that it only worked on the eyes, thought Illyara. If it worked on ears then Mewlli’s noisy sand crunching wouldn’t get on her nerves so much. She loved him but he was still a boy and delighted in childish things. She stopped, where was he this time? His footsteps ended a few feet away. She backtracked and saw a lizard resting by the last footmark. She grabbed in the air expecting to get Mewlli’s arm but grabbed a piece of his robe instead.
“We don’t have time for this.” she hissed. “Each day they get closer to the Pyramids their maps get more accurate.” This needs to be done tonight!”
She heard him sigh in the silence and relented. ”I know this is the first time that you have been out on your own. I was excited the first time mother and father let me out but this is important. They must believe in you a lot to let you come when there are older trackers who were willing to come. Can you fulfil their trust?”
“I know,” his voice was small. She pulled him closer and gave him a hug. She forgot how much she missed him while she was away. He must have felt that way too. ”I love you brother” She felt his smile grow against her shoulder.
“I missed you too sister.”
They walked on and Mewlli tried harder to be quiet. She noted with pleasure how he scattered the sand behind him with his foot to disguise their footsteps the nearer they got to the temple camp. Maybe her father was right again. She should really stop doubting him.
They entered the camp through a ring of guards surrounding the temple encampment. Their feet crunched and slid on the sand as they crept through. She cursed the light rainfall that made the thin crust on the sand but it couldn’t be helped. Look-outs sat in groups of two, quietly chatting or playing dice. The tips of tall stakes pushed in sand were alight with a bright red flame to give the guards heat as well as light to see by.
Mewlli and Illyara crept further in, hand in hand so they would not lose each other as they moved from tent to tent. She couldn’t help but think the tents were a stupid design. They had watched the guides take hours to erect them over the last few days and just as long to put them down. This should have been great. The journey which should have taken a week would have taken the brothers about five. …but they spent so long each day building the camp, that the time between waterholes was also extended. The tribe had already started to ration their water. These people had no idea how big the desert was and with the way they travelled, it was even larger.
The first few tents were small with two or more men sleeping on bed rolls. The nearer to the centre they got, the tents were bigger. More often than not, they passed someone smoking outside the entrances and when they checked there was only one or two occupants inside. The sound of joking and laughing was interspersed with the sound of chanting from other tents occupied by the priests with their arcane ceremonies. She did not want to know what they were doing in those tents. Avoiding them they moved swiftly through the camp until they spied Lynsey through an open flap. This time there was a guard sharpening a spear at the entrance.
Illyara craned her neck to see clearer. Lynsey was sitting with her back to the door. She was wearing a bright blue robe, no doubt to make her easy to spot if she tried to get away. Illyara stealthily stepped around the guard, pulling Mewlli behind her to look inside. Lynsey was alone. The tent was bare except for a light on a small table and a small bed. Why would they bother with fripperies like heavy tables like that? No wonder they were so slow to move camp. Loading the yelks down with non-essentials like that was silly. She looked at the small gap between the guard and tent. There was no way she could get into the tent past him. He was sitting too close to the flap. If they tried to squeeze past him they would be discovered. Illyara’s eyes scanned the contents.
Lynsey was talking to herself again. Illyara turned to look at the guard but he was ignoring her. She couldn’t make out what Lynsey was saying but she must have been doing it a lot because the guard wasn’t paying any attention to her at all.
Illyara squeezed Mewlli’s hand so he knew she was going to move backwards and they crept around the outside of the tent to the opposite side. As luck would have it no entrances were pointing towards this side of the tent so she started digging and moving the sand to one side with her hands. She could hear Mewlli’s gentle breathing beside her for a moment and then she heard him bend and copy what she was doing. They soon dug a hole under the tent wall, spreading the sand around them as they went. Unless anyone was looking, they would think the hole was a shadow of the tent.
Illyara passed under the material of the tent wall first, followed by Mewlli. Illyara strode to the front of the tent and closed the flap behind Lynsey so the guard would not see them appear.
She was still holding Mewlli’s hand so she pulled him close to stand in front of Lynsey. She let her shield drop. Mewlli did the same beside her.
“Hello Lynsey, would you like to leave now?” She grinned at her friend.
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