THE DEATH TRIALS│5

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She got up from Zaina and pushed her on her side, causing Zaina to wince as something poked her side. The khopesh! she remembered. Slowly, she pulled herself and sat up against the wall. The other thieves watched and laughed, enjoying her pitiful state. The tattooed man picked up one of the torches from the wall and gave it to the woman. The woman spat on the side and sneered, "Pathetic." Her voice was croaky and gravelly, as though she had just woken up.

Zaina reached for the khopesh, her hand gripping the handle as the woman walked towards her. When she was less than an arm's length away, Zaina pulled out the khopesh, plunging it into her gaunt thigh. Moving quickly, she dragged down the khopesh, yanking it out when there was a long line spanning her thigh; watching in horror as blood gushed out of the wound. Zaina gagged, the metallic sent of the blood coaxing the little food she had eaten earlier. She jutted the khopesh towards the men as they made a move towards her, the woman's blood still dripping from the tip.

The men laughed at her like she was nothing but a joke, not at all bothered by the tiny girl covered with blood and bruises and eyes filled with fear. One of the men walked towards her, his arms outstretched. Zaina looked for a way around him and found none. Panicking, she threw the khopesh at him, watching in awe and horror as it sank into his stomach, his blood joining the woman's own. The last man, the tattooed man, became visibly angry, his shoulders heaving as he let out grunts. Zaina glanced down at her hand and towards the man. Since throwing things seemed to be working in her favour, Zaina threw the torch at him. Not waiting around to see the flames lick his inked skin or hear the woman cry out in pain, Zaina leaped over them and ran back down the stairs.

As she fled, she tried to remember all the times that her older brother told her about his trade. He was a part of the construction of the pyramids. She remembered that he had once shown her the structure of one of the pyramids he was working on. And as she flew down the staircase, she willed her mind to remember. Then it hit her as she came to a halt; pharaohs were buried at the bottom of the pyramids, surrounded by many traps to prevent thieves from stealing the treasures buried with them.

Zaina stopped and looked back, making sure she was very far from where the thieves lay. When she was assured, she grabbed one of the torches and continued her descent to the nadir of the pyramid. Her search took a while, but it led her to a chamber. Glancing at the inscriptions on the wall, Zaina took in the life story painted on the walls. She understood very little hieroglyphics, but, from what she could tell, this person had lived quite a life. She often saw a female on the walls but dismissed that as the pharaoh's wife, the queen. The sarcophagus came into sight and her heart began to race. Placing the torch on the ground, she pushed the lid of the sarcophagus.

A cloud of dust arose, sending her into a fit of coughs. However, she became dismayed as she realised the reason why there were so many images of a woman; it was the queen's chamber and before her lay the mummified body of the queen. A tear escaped her eyes, many more following its lead. Silently, Zaina wept, hugging herself. She did not know how much time she had spent there, her time was probably almost up.

"I was right, you truly are pathetic," a familiar voice crooned, followed by the sound of footfalls.

Zaina turned around to see the thieves crowding the doorway. She let out a gasp as she took in her features; the woman's leg was covered with dried blood, her wound tightly bound by a piece of linen. The tattooed man was no longer visibly inked, but rather, visibly charred. His skin looked flaky and burnt to a crisp, the pink of his flesh making an appearance. The last man looked the worst of them all, his skin was pale and sweaty, as though he had just taken a bath in the Nile. His body sagged against the wall, his hand clutching the weapon that was still in him. Blood dripped from his stomach, coating his leg. From his lips flowed a steady trickle of blood, flowing in rivulets down his chest.

The woman pounced on Zaina pushing her to the ground. Zaina did not resist, after all, she did worse to them. The woman punched her face and stomach, pulling her hair from the roots. Once her nose was bleeding and her lip was busted, the woman got off her and kicked her towards the men. The men grinned sickly, malicious intents clearly visible in their hollow eyes. They threw her between them as though she was a ball. The burnt man threw her, but the man with the wound fell to the ground, most likely on the brink of death. Zaina rolled on the ground, coming to a stop in front of the wall. She blinked slowly, her ears ringing with their manic laughter.

She focused on the wall in front of her. As her eyes were about to close, they caught something; a hieroglyphic of a cat. With her remaining strength, Zaina lifted her hand and pushed it. The slab of cement beneath her tilted and the wall opposite her lifted to reveal a small tunnel. She rolled down the slab and into the tunnel which closed promptly behind her. The tunnel was small and dark, but Zaina was too busy trying to retain consciousness to focus on her discomfort. Up ahead, another wall lifted and Zaina rolled out of the tunnel. It was a brightly lit room, torches lining each wall.

Zaina lifted her head and examined the images on the wall, a smile falling into place. There was no confusion, this was evidently the king's chamber and ahead of her lay the pharaoh's sarcophagus. With greatly difficulty, Zaina managed to get to her feet, swaying slightly. She walked towards it with uneven steps, clutching her stomach. She fell to her knees at the side of the sarcophagus. With her last remaining strength, she pushed the cover off. Reaching in, she grabbed the talisman that lay on the chest of the mummified king.

The moment it was in her hands, everything fell away and Zaina was kneeling in front of the gods. Lifting her head, she saw a great number of the competitors watching her. Whispers filled the silence, everyone talking about the girl that knelt before them. The sound of crashing stones drew their attention away from her. Zaina whipped her head around, watching as the few remaining pyramids crumbled to the ground and were soon nothing but heaps of sand.

The gods eyed her with wonder, she was of the many they were assured would not pass the trial, yet here she was; her once white linen soaked in blood and her skin marred with scars. And while they looked at her in shock and wonder, Anubis eyed her with intrigue and a little bit of surprise.

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