Born Immortal Chapter 39

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Astyr took off her jacket and handed it to her mother, mentally kicking herself for not thinking to bring some extra clothes. Arianna put her painfully thin arms through the sleeves and wrapped the thick, black material around her emaciated body. Arianna hadn't had more than thin broth or gruel to eat in the nearly sixteen years that she had been held prisoner in the tiny stone cell and her appearance was a clear reflection of that. Her skin was pale and dry; hanging off of the bones that showed clearly through the wasted muscles. Her hair was dingy and hung down her back like a curtain of lifeless threads.

Her large, pale eyes were sunken into her skeletal face but they were the one area that was showing an improvement thanks to the donated blood that Astyr had given her. The energy that she had absorbed from it was lighting her eyes, giving them a shine that radiated through the gloom of the underground stone chamber and brought a smile to Tyr's worried face every time he looked at her. Even in her wasted condition, Tyr could see the woman inside who was full of love.

He couldn't help, in the beginning when they first met, comparing her to his first wife, Isis. Isis had been a cold and calculating woman who looked at life through eyes that were trained to look at the world around her in terms of what she could get out of it. Arianna looked at the world and thought only of what she could do to make it better. Isis was ambitious; she had been born to the ruler of the fertile east bank of the Nile River and she had been raised on adoration and worship, never learning contentment or consequence. Arianna had been born to the queen of the Alfar and had been raised to think of her duty to those around her.

Tyr's marriage with Isis had been an arrangement between their parents to bring the lands of Tyr's father in Syria together with the lands of her father in Egypt. Isis hadn't wanted to move away from the home she had grown up in; she didn't want to go to a land where the humans didn't know her name and wouldn't worship her. So she had done what she had always done best; she schemed. Before she was sent to Tyr for their wedding, she conspired with her cousin, allowing him to get her pregnant so that Tyr would refuse their marriage.

She had gotten what she wanted, in that regard. When Tyr discovered, on their wedding night, that she was already with child, he had sent her back to her father in a rage.

That was where her plot had gone wrong. Her father, incensed at her behavior, locked her away for centuries. She had spent her time raising her daughter, growing her hate and resentment, and plotting.

He cousin Osiris, the father of her child, finally managed to free her from her prison and together they went on a rampage of killing and revenge that left the fledgling Egypt in their power and under their dominion with no one but her younger brother, Set, to stand in her way.

Set fought both bravely and cunningly but he never quite managed to fully overthrow his sister and her powerful consort. What he did do, however, was to keep her occupied with maintaining her position and defending her throne so that she had no time to spare for getting back at Tyr.

The prolonged warfare did give her one advantage. Her need for an army that would implicitly obey her and give her their loyalty led her to the development of an elite corps of fighters made up entirely of her own daughters. She spent her centuries of imprisonment teaching Menha, who had been imprisoned with her, everything she knew just to pass the time. When she was free, she took that idea and expanded it, breeding warriors with the fighters she defeated and training those girls to fight for her. Sons were neither wanted nor tolerated.

Isis had then lived for thousands of years as a goddess. She had encouraged her humans to worship her, building temples in her honor and shedding their blood for her. She had been so well-known that her name was carved in stone and stories of her greatness were carried on to new lands as the boundaries of the world were pushed back and expanded. She would have gone on like that for even more millennia had it not been for the end of paganism.

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