THE DEATH TRIALS│2

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THE CHOSEN HAD BEEN SUMMONED by the gods. They walked through the long halls of what Zaina assumed to be Osiris' palace. Soon, they arrived at their destination. Ahead of them were the gods in a single line. Gasps of awe and wonder erupted from the competitors; no one had seen or heard much from the gods over the years.

"Welcome," a tall god with a golden sceptre said, taking a step forwards. "I am Amun, the creation god. As you have been informed, you have been selected to participate in the first Death Trials which will commence tomorrow. I will now hand over to the founder of the event."

Anubis took a step forward and smiled. "I devised this event because after centuries of watching mortals die, I realised that some of you do not deserve it. Seeing as I am the god of Death, I believe that I should give at least one of you a second chance."

One of the other gods scoffed and rolled their eyes.

Ignoring him, Anubis continued. "For now, you will become a mortal. This means that you will have your flesh, emotions and feelings. This means that you have to take extra care not to bleed. You will be taken to pick out your weapons for the trials. After that, you will be taken to your accommodation where you can take your bath and get some rest seeing as some of you look worse for wear. Your patron may want to talk to you, so don't be in a haste to leave."

Zaina looked down to see her body becoming solid once more. The first thing she felt was a dull throb at the back of her head and on her cheek. Rubbing her cheek, she wiggled her toes just to ensure she wasn't dreaming. She reached to touch her head and winced when her fingers got tangled in her hair. She was so focused on removing her fingers that she didn't realise that Anubis had walked up to her.

"Are you okay?" he asked, glancing warily between her face and her hair.

"Mhm," Zaina muttered, trying to dislodge her fingers. She pulled harshly and regretted it as it felt as though she was ripping her hair out.

"Let me help you with that," he said, reaching a hand out. A few seconds later, he pulled out her fingers unscathed.

"Thank you," Zaina murmured, her face downcast as her cheeks flushed.

"Are you ready for tomorrow?" he asked, leaning against the pillar beside him.

"Who is ever ready to fight for their life?" Zaina asked dryly in response.

"You'll be surprised," Anubis answered, the corner of his lips quirked.

Silence ensued as she did not know how to reply.

"Why did you pick me?" she asked, looking at him in the eyes after a few beats had passed.

"That's for me to know," Anubis responded, tapping her chin with his finger.

Zaina frowned, realising something. "How were you able to touch me earlier?"

Anubis quirked an eyebrow.

"When I was just a soul and not a mortal," she clarified.

"I'm the god of death, and souls happen to be a part of my terrain."

"Oh," Zaina whispered, feeling foolish.

"Let's go and get your weapons."

"But," she started, frowning, "no one is going yet." She gestured towards the other competitors who were still talking to the other gods.

"I fail to see your problem," Anubis answered. He intertwined their fingers and pulled her along.

They slipped past the others, Zaina with her head down as she feared they would be caught. When they made it to the entrance, Anubis pulled her roughly as he began to run. She stumbled and would have fallen had he not pulled her up.

"Come on," he whispered, as he leaned down to remove his slippers. He gestured to her feet, encouraging her to do the same.

Hurriedly, Zaina slipped out of her slippers. She had barely carried them when he tugged her again, breaking into a run. Hand in hand, they ran through the halls. A smile spread across her face, she couldn't remember the last time she felt so free. Soon, they arrived at what appeared to be the armoury.

"Are you sure this is allowed?" Zaina asked, glancing sideways worriedly.

"My 'anthaa zabiyatan, I wrote the rules," he answered, walking backwards into the armoury.

Zaina looked unassured for a moment before throwing caution to the wind with a sigh. Anubis smiled and beckoned her with his fingers. She wore her slippers once more and entered the armoury. Anubis smiled, his face glowing in the dim light of the room.

It was a large room with a high ceiling. From spears to bow and arrows to khopeshs, the room was filled with every weapon in the Egyptian arsenal. With slight caution and wonder, Zaina walked around the room, gingerly reaching to touch the intricate designs on the shields that hang on the walls.

"Take your pick," Anubis said, breaking her out of her awe induced stupor.

She stood there spluttering like a fish out of water. She had no idea what she needed as she hadn't read the documents he had given her. Turning away from him, she quickly broke the seal on the scroll and opened them. Before she could read a word, he spoke again.

"What are you waiting for?"

"Nothing," she said, turning back to face him.

"So what are you going to get?" he asked her, leaning against a wall.

"I was thinking of," Zaina began, racking her mind to recall the weapons that were mentioned in countless bedtime stories.

"A khopesh!" she exclaimed, pointing to the weapons that were lined in front of her.

Anubis laughed, shaking his head. She only managed to get the end of something he whispered then, "fi'ahsan al'ahwal." Peeling himself off the wall, he nodded towards the wall she pointed at. "Those are spears."

"This is a khopesh," he said as he pulled out a small curved dagger from the wall and handed it to her. The handle was black with gold inscriptions on it. They appeared to be a mixture of hieroglyphics and letters.

Zaina took it from his extended hand, turning it as she watched the sharp tip glint in the light.

She was suddenly startled and dropped the paper and khopesh as the doors of the armoury slammed open. With reflexes as quick as lightning, Anubis reached out and grabbed the items.

"Anubis!" Amun shouted, anger clouding his features.

Discreetly rolling his eyes, he handed the items back to her and walked lackadaisically towards Amun. Amun pulled him to the side and launched into an argument with him. The other competitors walked around the room, eyeing Zaina distrustfully. She also glanced through them, taking notice of their physique but failing to realise that she held fewer scrolls than the rest of them.

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