Amara held her eyes tightly closed. Aromas, not the familiar ones of garlic and car exhausts filtered through her senses. Spices, floral scents, all strange added tension and fear to her spirits. She touched the surface beneath her. Hard but some kind of padding. The cloth covering her body had a bit of a rough texture. And the sounds were odd.
She opened her eyes and held in a scream. Where was she and who were these people staring at her? Dark hair with streaks of gray. One had more gray than black. Skin tanned by the sun. Two wore some kind of kilt. A woman had a band of cloth covering her breasts. A man sported a collar like necklace. The older man wore a white robe that left his arms bare.
Was this a hallucination fostered by the spicy red liquid the ole woman had asked her to drink? She grasped the thin covering and sorted through her memories.
The phone call. The escape across city roofs. The brownstone where she’d been offered an escape. The horoscope wheel had spun her into darkness. Somehow she had landed here. Where was here?
She dared another look at the three. Nothing changed. Her forehead wrinkled. She almost recognized their clothes and that necklace.
“Where am I? Who are you?” She hated the tremors in her voice and the fear she felt positive showed.
The oldest of the three spoke. The garbled sounds had no meaning. “I don’t understand.” Frustration gathered and accelerated her fear. The urge to flee was strong.
The elderly man stared into her eyes can captured her gaze. She couldn’t blink of turn her head. Warmth and friendliness washed her fears away. He placed his hands on her head with his thumbs above her eyes.
“Who are you? Why am I here/” She needed answers. She wanted to escape, to return to her known world.
If you accept, you can never return.
An insidious wave of pain crept into her head. The bones above her eyes ached. Would they shatter? She screamed. Her body convulsed. She gasped for breath. The pain continued. Was this death? Had she failed before she began?
Slowly the pain ebbed. Her eyes widened. The sounds the others made were words she could understand.
The woman slid an arm beneath Amara’s shoulders and shifted her into a sitting position. The cover slid. She grabbed the edge. Naked. Her clothes were gone. Where? How?
“Drink this.” The woman held a cup to Amara’s mouth. “This will refresh you.”
Amara smelled mint and cautiously tasted. She braced for another displacement in time and place. When nothing happened she took a larger drink. The warm liquid eased the dryness of her throat.
The elderly man stepped closer. “I am Siti, at present the chief priest of Toth. Welcome to the Two Lands. You have been awaited and have traveled far to reach us.”
Amara wondered if he knew the truth. “Where am I?”
on the east bank
of the great river not far from Tebes. You have been called to rescue he who
has been chosen to become Toth’s Priest. He will unite with Bast’s and Horu’s
Warrior to drive the remnants of the followers of the false god, Aken Re from
out land.” temple
She closed her eyes. Her head ached from the rocks of information tumbling in her thoughts. Though a heated breeze bled, she felt chilled. Was she capable of fulfilling their expectations? She knew nothing about this Two Lands. She’d asked for a rescue from an intolerable situation. There was no return to that time and place. Was this life any better than what she’d left behind?
“I don’t understand what I can do.”
The elderly man patted her hand. “You will learn. Seshat and Kamen will be your teachers.” He stepped back. “Kamen and I will await you in the common room. Seshat will help you.”
The men left. Seshat Helped Amara sit on the edge of the bed. For a moment she felt dizzy. The room shifted. She feared she would fall. Finally she stood and wrapped the sheet around her body. She surveyed the small room. Unlit torches were on the walls. The bed was elevated above the stone floor. A pottery basin and pitcher stood on a small table. A backless stool stood near shelves filled with piles of white cloth.
“Would you like to bathe?” Seshat asked.
“Yes.” Amara thought of a tub of steaming water, soap and shampoo. She stepped to the floor. Her knees nearly buckled.
Seshat slipped an arm around Amara’s waist. “I’ll help you walk. You slept for days.”
Amara’s unsteady gait gradually became even. She and her companion walked down a hall where torches burned and lit the way. The bathing room shocked her. No tub, just tables where attendants poured water over men and women. Seshat showed Amara how to apply cleansing cream.
Amara lay on the table. An older woman mixed steaming water with cool and poured a stream over Amara’s body and her hair.
After using a cloth to dry herself Amara gasped and held the towel closer because of the men in the room. She averted her gaze and listened to Seshat show her how to wrap the breast band, and done the breechcloth and kilt. The older woman produced a comp and Amara combed her hair and braided it in the single one word by the older woman. Amara sat on a stool and laced the sandals with a strip protecting her skin. She fastened the leather belt with a sheath and pouch around her waist.
They left the bathing room and walked to the common room where the two men waited. Amara filled a plate with cheese, dates and melon. She sat on one of the backless chairs and set the food on a small table.
While she and Seshat ate, the elderly man spoke. “Today your training will begin. Kamen will hone your fighting skills and teach you weapons.”
Amara straightened. “I have studied unarmed fighting for years.” She thanked her father who had begun her training before her fourth birthday. “Why should I learn to use weapons?”
“They may be needed,” Kamen said.
“I have fought against those with knives, clubs and …” She found herself unable to say guns. “I have won those battles.”
The elderly priest clasped her hand. “Kamen will test you and decide. Seshat will guide your development of the few powers she can teach. The learning of the others will have to wait.”
What did he mean? “How long do I have before I must perform this rescue?” She felt inadequate for she knew nothing about this land. Once again the voices of the old women filled her thoughts.
. Not the one of this world
but on a different continuum. Egypt
“There will be time for you to learn,” Siti said. “Come with me. There is a place you must visit.”
He led her into the garden. Amara breathed in the mingled scents of flowers. The mentors followed. When they reached a double line of massive columns, the pair sat on a bench.
Amara gawked. The towering columns resembled trees, plants and even flowers. They appeared to have risen from the ground as a single piece. How had the seamless carvings been accomplished?
Siti beckoned. “Come.”
Amara pointed to the figures seated next to some of the pillars. “Who are they?”
“Priests of Toth who spend hours copying the scrolls or writing letters, contracts and proclamations for others. Many leave here to serve in other temples or in towns and villages where they read and write for people who don’t have the skills.”
A cream colored dog strolled toward them. Amara had never seen such a graceful canine. The animal’s large eyes brimmed with intelligence. The dog reached her side and sat. She touched the smooth and silky coat. “Who are you?” she asked.
“Toth Ka, the avatar of the got,” the priest said.
With a flurry of wings a huge brown and gold hawk landed beside the canine. A gray cat appeared. “What are they?”
Siti smiled. “The hawk Is Horu Ka and the cat Bast Ka. They have come to welcome you and to bestow the blessings of the Three in you.”
A frown creased Amara’s forehead. Did he mean they were sacred animals or something more? Confusion filled her thoughts. All in this place was new and strange. Though the cat and the hawk were familiar, the dog was new to her.
“What is the dog’s breed?” she asked.
“A saluki. His entire breed is honored by the priests of Toth for they are ----- hounds. Toth Ka is more.”
Though curious, se didn’t ask what made this one special. There was too much to learn and to understand.
The dog licked her fingers. The hawk took flight and landed above a distant doorway. With feline grace the can moved toward the dark space. The saluki walked at Amara’s side along the stone path.
Her companions vanished. Amara halted in the wide doorway. Aromatic scents from lit torches revealed statues at the rear of the long narrow room. Two men and a woman stood behind a long table. Their heads were those of the animals Siti called avatars. She stepped closer and realized the three were statues.
Siti touched the first man. “Toth, the lord of wisdom.” He moved to the second. “Bast, bringer of mercy.” He reached the third. “Horu, lord of justice.”
Amara wasn’t sure she understood. How could a god be part human and part animal? She rubbed her arms to ward off a chill. Her world had changed in more ways than she could imagine. Would she adapt or go mad>
She turned to the priest. Siti offered his hand. “You will learn to accept what is new and strange.”
She sighed. “I pray you are right.”
“Come.” He led her to where Seshat and Kamen waited.
“What now?” she asked.
“Your training will begin with tests of what a priestess or priest of Toth should know. You will have lessons in reading the scrolls and in writing the language.” Siti turned to Seshat. “She is yours for the first test.”
Seshat led her to the garden and a small pool of clear water. White tiles lined the edges. There is the scrying pool though in need, even a pot of water will do.”
Puzzlement caused Amara's brow to wrinkle. The scene looked exactly like the photograph she’d seen. The saluki appeared at the edge of the pool.
Seshat knelt and motioned for Amara to join her. “Clear your thoughts and watch the surface. I will show you the face of the one you will rescue.” She blew across the water causing the surface to ripple.
A face formed. The young man appeared to be her age. His dark hair was pilled back and perhaps braided. His skin was tanned by the sun. His eyes were brown and warm. He was handsome and appealing.
“His name is Namose,” Siti said.
Without warning another face appeared. Amara’s hand covered her mouth. The man’s sallow skin and his lean face projected cruelty. His obsidian eyes held anger and evil. Amara gasped. She would never forget that face.
“Who?” She barely forced the word from her lips.
“A priest of Aken Re, a god alien to this land. He is the one who took Namose.”
Amara memorized the face with a nose reminiscent of a vulture’s beak. She looked up. When her gaze returned to the pool, the image was gone.
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