Rebirth of the Ruler
Darkness came first.
All-engulfing, impenetrable, seemingly endless, utterly familiar darkness.
Next came sound, or rather a noise so insistent and harsh and loud that he wanted to press his ears closed with his hands.
Only he couldn’t move. He wasn’t even sure he had ears and hands…yet.
So he did what he had always been best at. He endured, trusting in his ability to withstand whatever was thrown his way, knowing that he always came away as the winner. What challenge was noise to him who had lived when others would have died?
The noise went on and on, growing louder but strangely at the same time more bearable. With it came light, in a sudden explosion of yellowness that would have blinded him had he possessed real eyes.
As if the brightly burning light had reawakened a slumbering ability in him, he could finally distinguish between all the sounds, and the crazy cacophony of noise reassembled itself to make more sense. He could hear hammering and shuffling, stones being removed, sand being shoveled away. And oh, the voices. So many voices, speaking in tongues he couldn’t identify and didn’t yet want to understand.
They drew nearer, and just when he thought he should open his non-existent eyes, words turned to whispers and shouts. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t make sense of whatever the people so precariously close to his hide-out were talking about. Their excitement was palpable, and it fuelled the fire inside him that had been reduced to glowing embers and smoking ashes for so long.
One word filtered through the noise and traveled straight to his heart. Again and again he heard it, and he delighted in it, anchored himself to it, clothed himself in the three syllables that gave him substance.
Spoken with the hushed reverence that befitted the word, it pierced his soul and infused his mind with the strength he’d need soon.
Again and again they chanted his name, as if they knew he was here, as if they wanted to summon him.
And he realized the time was right to rise again.
As he became more conscious of himself and the world around him, minutes turned to hours and hours turned to days.
Osiris, God of the Dead, Ruler of the Afterlife and the Underworld, father of Horus, husband of Isis, King of the Kings. He gave the spark of life inside him time to shoot flames and add to the artificial light reaching his secret chambers now. He vowed to shine brighter and brighter until the sun would have no choice but to acknowledge him again when he rose to rule.
Oh, but how long he had slept. How much had changed. He used his substance-less body to float around and let his gaze roam. Nobody noticed him when he rose from his hide-out in a debris-cluttered corner of the funerary complex toward the staircase and up. He traveled around in the main room of the tomb. The hall with its five pillars looked much like he remembered it from those days, when he had laid himself to sleep. Time had been kind to his resting place—and it had been kind to him, as he had never doubted it, for he could already feel himself getting stronger. He gazed at the huge painting of himself, sitting on the throne with his dark green skin and his white crown with its two curling ostrich feathers. A smile stretched the features of his spirit form, and he moved on with a renewed sense of purpose.
After drifting through the hall and amusing himself with brushing his non-existent hands over the rough stone walls and the dusty floor, he traveled to the adjoining chamber. There he admired the colorful murals of knife-wielding demons, still so vivid although he was sure centuries had gone by since they had painstakingly been painted. He pressed his palms against their hideous bodies, feeling not fear but a quiet sense of satisfaction.
How would the people running helter-skelter inside the tomb react if he called his demon guardians to life? A few well-remembered words, three smithereens of blood, and he could call them back into existence.
But no, now was not the time. No harm would befall those who had reawakened him until he had a better understanding of them and the world.
Oh, he knew well how misunderstood he had always been and would always be. Some saw only the horror and terror in Osiris, others believed him to be the benevolent and beneficial ruler instead. But only he knew that he was neither, or a little of both.
And he longed to be among the living again, although his place was to be with the dead.
He had patience, oh yes, boundless amounts of it that had helped him through many a rebirth. And so he waited. And he listened. And he learned. Sending out his mind-reading gift and easily adjusting to the very strange and intriguingly complex languages that were spoken around him, he familiarized himself with the current times. Some words held meaning, others none at all.
Abu-Sir, the place of the tomb, close to Cairo. Archeologists. Italy, Spain, England, Egypt, America. Inscriptions and hieroglyphs. Artefacts and mummies. Pyramids. Vessels, buried utensils of copper and limestone. Investigations.
And always his name, Osiris. He much preferred being called Asar, and he hated being called Usir, but Osiris seemed to be linked to the legacy he had left behind.
Finally, one full moon night, he knew he was ready, and the world was ready for him.
Footsteps echoed in the otherwise silent tomb, and he smiled. He knew who it was, not just because he recognized the footsteps but because he had sent the silent call out to his nightly visitor, choosing with care.
From where he was hiding in a corner of his chamber, he watched her approach, the dainty woman who was the Chosen One this time.
She was painfully slim and short, in fact more than a head shorter than everyone else on the team, but what she lacked in height she made up for in courage, determination and confidence. He could sense a quiet strength inside her that called out to him and pleased him. And the man in him appreciated her odd but appealing appearance. Her dark brown hair had a reddish glow to it in the light of the torch she carried, and it fell in loose, curvy lushness down her back. She was dressed like the men she mingled with, which surprised him pleasantly. Was she a woman who knew what she wanted?
Come. Listen. See. Feel. Understand.
Osiris sent out his silent call again, enticing her closer. He had singled her out because she was a woman, but there was much more to it than the obvious. She was more receptive to the vibes he radiated than the others of the group. Whenever he glided invisibly among them to learn, she tensed and grew alert, her big, dark eyes darting everywhere as if she were searching for the source of energy and the shift in the atmosphere that nobody else noticed.
María from Spain. Her name and her origin, or so he had gleaned from the thoughts he had picked up.
Come to me, María, he called out silently, automatically picking the right words, taking care to send positive vibes out towards her, making her feel safe although he could sense her anxiety. Or was it anticipation?
When she entered his chamber and lifted the torch, he felt the flames of life inside him leap and dance. The light framed her beautiful, if a little too angular face, her eyes even larger and darker than usual. She knew something special was about to happen, or at least she suspected it. He could read it in her thoughts, he could smell her mixed emotions like a delicious fragrance, a secret scent meant only for him. She was astonishingly fearless, this mortal of the modern times.
Do you know who I am? he asked silently.
Her tongue darted out to wet her lips, and he could see that she was breathing fast and hard, even though her body stood firm and tall and she didn’t permit her hands to tremble.
“Yes,” she spoke, and her voice came out as a reverent whisper that he appreciated.
Oh yes, he had chosen well. Luck was with him, as it had been time and time again.
Say it. Say my name.
“Osiris, son of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb, brother of Set.”
He smiled, and she must have sensed his pleasure because an uncertain but enchanting smile flickered across her face too before she grew serious again.
Do you fear me?
The woman shook her head, and he knew she spoke the truth. For a moment he allowed himself to wonder what age this was that made it possible for women to be so fearless and to work alongside men who were of some importance or other. Did they have queens now? Was she somebody others would look up to and obey? Or was it about her and not women in general? Had she lived through something that made her bold but not brash, sensitive but also sensible?
There was no time for rambling thoughts.
Osiris moved from his place in the corner, slowly, making sure that the myriad dust particles he had so carefully gathered were sticking to his essence and forming the rough shape of a tall, male body. When he stepped from the dark into the circle of torchlight, the woman gasped and wavered for a moment. Still, he sensed no fear.
Now came the difficult part.
He searched for the right words, coming closer until he was close enough to touch her. He reached out an arm and laid his right hand on her head, which barely reached his chest. How small she seemed. How big she was on the inside.
María the fearless one, would you like to be a king’s most precious belonging? Would you like to help someone who has once helped millions? Would you like to experience what only a chosen few will ever be blessed with?
The short silence rang loudly, and he could hear her heart beat frantically.
“Yes. Yes to all of it,” came her whisper.
Osiris moved his hand from her head to her face, knowing she could sense some kind of touch although he hadn’t materialized yet. He caressed her cheek and felt her lean into the touch. Blessed be his powers of convincing people to do what he wanted. He was amazed every time how willingly people let him spellbind them. Still, this woman with the spark in her night-black eyes didn’t look as guileless and powerless and will-less than the previous ones.
Interesting. Very interesting. The thrill of new discoveries and challenges surged through him, and he brushed his ghostly fingers over her half-parted lips.
María, cariño, sol de mi vida, he whispered, lapsing into the language that was inside her head although she had spoken the different, common one so far. Darling, sun of my life, will you do as I tell you?
He saw her shiver, then nod silently. Stepping closer, he shook himself to discard the dust he had used to form an almost human shape. He was now only his spirit form, barely visible apart from a slight shimmering haze in the light of her torch, like smoke carried away on a breeze. But he knew she could feel his touch when he moved his hand to her neck and further down, caressing the bare, sun-kissed skin her open shirt collar revealed so tantalizingly.
He bent down and spoke into her ear.
Mi preciosa, mi corazon, mi reina. My precious, my heart, my queen. Ayúdame, help me. I will reward you beyond what you could ever imagine. I’ll make you mine, and I’ll be yours.
“Sí. Mi amor. Yes, my love,” she whispered, and her shiver went through him too.
Osiris pressed a kiss to her forehead, then another to her cheek. He nuzzled her neck, feeling her pulse hammer beneath her oh so soft skin.
Mi vida, my life, he murmured, and then he captured her lips in a kiss he could feel just as much as she could.
When she opened up to him willingly—even kissing him back with an abandon he hadn’t planned, as if she were the one wanting something from him and not the other way round—he knew his time had come.
He used his mysterious powers to seek out the spark inside her that made her live, and he latched onto it, feeding his flames. His eyes closed, his senses flooded with the essence of her, he drank from her fountain of life like a thirsty traveler in the desert.
He drank and drank as if he were breathing in her soul, and he felt the woman sigh and swoon and grow limp when he encircled her in an intimate, inescapable embrace.
With every passing second, he could feel his strength growing and his life returning. But he was also inundated with her life, drowning in it, drifting helplessly. So many images flashing one after the other or flickering all at once, each and every one of them confusing.
Such intense colors, such strange countries and vast cities with wondrous buildings, people moving around in vehicles he could never have thought of, dressing in unimaginable ways. But it wasn’t just the sensory overload and the torrent of novelties that shocked him. It was also the intimacy of the moment, and how special this woman was. He had chosen her wisely, for she was like no one he had ever known during his centuries of reincarnation and reign.
He watched her grow from infant to child, from girl to woman, entranced as if she were weaving some female magic to ensnare him although he literally held her life clenched in his fist.
One scene kept recurring, driving him insane with its tempting imagery and with the dangerous emotional mix if stirred up.
María, a little younger than she was now, was standing alone in a field of high, greener than green grass growing up to her knees. There were strikingly red flowers with a black heart all around her and in her hair. She was wearing a loose white dress barely covering her thighs, and her brownish-reddish-blackish hair was waist-long. She lifted her arms and started spinning in a frenzied sort of dance, her hair fanning out around herself, the dress billowing and revealing even more of her fair legs. Throwing her head back, she laughed.
What did it mean? Why was she laughing? What was she doing? Was this a message her dying self had sent to him?
He had called her his queen to lure her, to take her life and move on, to fulfil his mission. Yet now he realized he wanted to keep her. She would be part of his future, he’d see to it.
With inhumane effort he tore himself away from her, breaking the kiss and the bond that had her essence flow into him. Every particle inside him screamed to latch onto her again, to have more, more, more, but he forced himself to let her go. Held up only by one of his strong arms, she was hardly more than a lifeless shell, but she wasn’t dead.
With a muttered curse, Osiris leaned over her and kissed her again. This time, strength flowed from his body into hers. It caused him pain to let go of even a little of the vital energy, yet more than anybody else, he knew about pain and how to handle it. He knew about sacrifices. If you were sealed in a box and left to die only to have yourself revived for a spell and die again, if you were chopped into 14 pieces only to be resurrected, you learned a lot about who and what mattered.
He smiled to himself, remembering his clever ruse that had turned him immortal, and then he broke the kiss and stared María, who was now his woman. She looked like in peaceful sleep, and he brushed his lips across her closed eyelids.
Sleep, my queen, for you need to rise in all your glory and might when your king calls you to his side.
He glanced at his limbs which were growing more solid with each of the conscious breaths he now took, and his smile widened. The woman could wait, his mission couldn’t.
His supernatural strength regained, he lifted María and carried her up the stairs and through the hall towards the exit of the tomb. A murmured word in the ancient tongue assured that they were shielded from anyone who might cross their path.
Osiris walked into the cool night air, stared at the full moon for a long moment, and then straightened up proudly. He laid the woman down on the sandy ground softly, ripped a little of her modern garment off and wound the strange cloth around his hips to hide his nakedness. With the majestic gait of a powerful prowling wild cat, he walked over to where he could hear a silent call beckoning him.
There was another tomb in the necropolis, different from his, and fit for royalty. He sent his mind-reading gift out and raised his eyebrows at the response he got.
Queen Khentakawess III, wife to Pharaoh Neferefre, from the Fifth Dynasty.
He had never particularly liked her husband or her son, but he hadn’t always been blessed with perfect candidates for his experiments. Rulers were rulers, and he was the one who ruled them all. With grim determination, Osiris wound his way into the tomb where the other undead ancient’s spirit was begging to be released.
It was time to see how this particular experiment had worked out, and how he could benefit from it.