THE DEATH TRIALS│9

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"SO HOW WAS IT?" NAIMA asked, breaking the silence as she wiped Zaina's back.

"Naima," Lilith began, her voice suspiciously sweet. "If our master wanted us to know how the trial went, he would have invited us to watch."

Naima apologised and looked downwards, quietly washing Zaina's arm.

Tired of Lilith's attitude, Zaina snapped. "Must you be so cruel all the time?!"

"Do not take that tone with me!" Lilith retorted, pointing a finger at Zaina. "Just because our master picked you does not elevate your status in here."

With a scowl plastered on her face, she got up and walked out. Khadijah and Naima continued their duties quietly, not bothering to engage Zaina in conversation.

Soon, they were dressing her in the clothes Mido had dropped off; this time, he didn't enter the tent. Dressed in an attire similar to the last time, Zaina walked down the hallways with him. Even though she tried to make conversation, Mido was adamant not to talk, replying with a few curt sentences. As soon as they arrived at the hall, he bowed down and left her before she could utter a word.

Zaina stood at the door and observed, not mothering to find a seat. She watched as Anubis took the stage and the other gods lined up, ready to congratulate the winner.

"I will not give a speech as we are well aware of the reason for this gathering. Without wasting time, let us invite the winner of the second trial, Omar Almasi!" Anubis said, clapping at the end.

The rest of the room remained quiet as Omar got up from his seat. Eyes glazed with jealousy and envy watched him walk onto the stage.

"Okay, tough crowd we have here," Anubis said, laughing to Omar when he had mounted the stage. He placed a second necklace on his neck, the ankh clinking against the first one.

When he had returned to his seat, Anubis spoke once more. "As we all know, one of the competitors was killed today. As I speak, his body is being prepared for mummification seeing his akh has already left his body. Kosey, the competitor who killed him is currently imprisoned. The gods and I will have a discussion and a suitable punishment will be given. For now, enjoy your meal and get some rest. The next trial will take place tomorrow night, so you are free to do what you want until then, as long as no rules are being broken."

Zaina watched as the competitors dug into the food before them. She observed how some couldn't eat as their attention was focused on the grinning champion. Omar ate without a care in the world, not caring that the people who surrounded him could be plotting his demise.

"Are you going to stand there all evening?" a gentle voice asked, startling Zaina.

She placed a hand on her chest as though to calm her racing her. "Oh, it is you."

"I must say," the archer begun, the corner of her lip lifting up. "You sound disappointed. Were you expecting someone else?"

"No," Zaina replied, peeling herself off the wall. "I was actually going to look for you."

"Oh really?" the archer asked as she started to walk.

"Yes," Zaina answered, following after her. "I wanted to thank you, for helping me out there."

She laughed, a gentle sound which contrasted the harsh words that followed them. "I did not do that to help you. I did that for myself."

"Oh," Zaina said, slightly stumped. "I just thought that we could, you know, be friends."

"Let's get one thing straight," she said, turning around to face Zaina. "I am not your friend, and nothing I do is to help you or anyone. If, by chance, what I do helps you, lucky you. If not, that's unfortunate."

Turning on her heel, she marched forward. "Aren't you coming? The food is going to get cold."

Zaina hurriedly followed her, her face warm from embarrassment. Soon, they were seated and eating their food. When they were done, the tables disappeared and Anubis was by her side.

"Would you like me to escort you back?" he asked, extending a hand.

Zaina nodded, seeing no reason for her to remain in there.

"How was it?" he asked as they walked down the hallway.

"It was delicious, even though it lacked a little salt," Zaina replied, referring to the duck she had just eaten.

Anubis laughed. "I was not asking about the food, I was asking about the trial."

"Oh," she replied, her lips parting slightly. "It was difficult I guess, I have never ridden a chariot, well till today, and I have no knowledge of horses. I would not be surprised if I looked like a fool out there."

"That you did," Anubis replied, not missing a beat.

Zaina whipped her head to look at him, shock written on her face.

He laughed once more. "Would you rather I lie to you?"

"No," she mumbled. "You could be a little less harsh."

"I'll bear that in mind."

Silence enveloped them for a while as they neared the large room in which the competitors lived.

"And what about...what about the first one?" Anubis asked, his voice hesitant.

Zaina smiled, pleased that he was considering how she felt about that event. "Apart from almost killing three people, it was alright I guess."

"How did you know to push the hieroglyphic of the cat?" he asked, his voice gentle.

Zaina froze. She thought he had told her, that it was part of the message. If it wasn't, that meant Mido told her by his own will. For some reason, she did not want to tell Anubis.

"My brother is part of the construction team of a new pyramid. He showed me the structure and told me all about the traps and shortcuts in the pyramid," she answered after a while.

"Oh I see," Anubis answered, his voice indicating that he did not believe her but had decided not to push it. "Well, we have arrived."

"Thank you for escorting me," Zaina replied as she stood in front of her tent. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," Anubis replied with a smile before turning around and walking away.

Once he was gone, Zaina walked inside and began to pace. Why did Mido lie to her? She sat down on the bed. Technically, he did not lie to her seeing as he never said that Anubis said it. But why would he help her? And if he was willing to help her, why was he giving her the cold shoulder now?

With all these questions running through her mind, Zaina fell asleep, not even bothering to change out of her clothes.

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