THE DEATH TRIALS│13

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ONCE MORE, ZAINA BARELY FLINCHED as the hot water was poured over her back. She did not seem to care when Khadijah pulled her hair too hard or Naima scrubbed too roughly. The khadimas washed her, careful not to say anything, aware of the events that took place.

"I knew," Lilith whispered as they set her on the bed. "That was why I was so cruel. I was hoping that you would get angry and drop out."

Zaina turned to look at her, her movements robotic. "There is no use in getting angry, there is no way I could have dropped out."

"You could have," Lilith said, standing up from the bed and picking up the papers and the scroll. "There's a paper that you sign─," she began and then stopped, frowning. "He did not give it to you."

Zaina laughed and the khadimas flinched, not expecting the harsh sound. "Why would he? How could his source of amusement drop out?" she asked rhetorically. "Surely he would not allow that to happen."

She laughed again, shaking her head. "You were right Lilith, I am a ghabi."

"No, no, you are not a fool," she said, taking a step forward as she reached for the heartbroken girl before her.

"Leave," Zaina whispered, loud enough for them to hear.

When they made no move to leave, she screamed. "I said leave! Get out!"

Taken aback, they took a few seconds to gather themselves before exiting the tent.

Mido rushed in at that moment.

"Oh Zaina," he whispered, looking at the broken girl on the bed. She was no longer the girl he fell in love with, Anubis had made sure of that.

Sitting on the bed, he gathered her in his arms expecting her to fall apart. But Zaina simply laid her head on his shoulder, her hands weakly wrapped around his arms.

In Osiris's chambers, Pakhet and Hathor were remorseful. They had allowed Anubis to toy with the girl's heart.

"Anubis, is it true what Qetesh said?" Amun asked, his gaze trained on the sceptre in his hand.

"Like I told Zaina, there is no point in denying," he answered dismissively, running a hand through his jackal's fur.

"How could you do this and appear unbothered?" he asked, standing up from his seat as he grew angry.

"Not to worry, it is not an appearance," Anubis said, laughing slightly. "Let us not forget who approved this whole idea."

"We warned you," Mafdet told Amun, gesturing towards himself and Ma'at.

"It is too late to change anything now," Anubis piped in from where he sat.

"Shut up!" Osiris shouted, looking ready to strangle him.

Anubis amusedly zipped his lips and threw the key away.

"We cannot let her return to earth like this," Pakhet said, rubbing her arms.

"I have a solution for that," Ma'at said, rising from her seat.

"Let this game run its course," Anubis said, sitting up.

"Osiris," Amun called out, ignoring what the other god had said. "Anubis is not allowed to orchestrate anything or give orders until further notice. For now, he has demoted to a minor god."

"You cannot do that," he shouted, pushing himself up from his seat. His rafiq became alert, letting out a bark.

"Anubis," Osiris said, his voice tired. "Do not start now."

"Osiris," he replied, feeling uncomfortable because his uncle was upset with him.

Osiris raised a hand.

"Let us go and fix the mess you created," Mafdet said, glaring at the god of Death.

The gong was it three times and Zaina lifted her head from Mido's shoulder.

"That is not possible," he said, a frown on his face. "The next trial is not until tomorrow."

The khadimas walked in timidly avoiding eye contact with Zaina.

"The final trial has been pushed to now. We were sent to get you ready," Naima said, daring to look Zaina in the eyes.

The girl nodded, giving them permission to get her ready.

"I want to take a bath before we begin," Zaina said, her cold voice foreign to her own ears.

The khadimas nodded and undressed her, helping her to the bathroom. When Naima reached for the soap, Zaina stopped her. "I want to do it myself."

The khadimas stood there in shock, unsure whether to insist or give into her wishes.

"Have you all gone deaf now?" Zaina asked, rolling her eyes and gesturing towards the entrance. Hurriedly, they rushed out.

Zaina roughly rubbed the towel and swabu together before scrubbing herself. She wanted to get rid of every trace of Anubis. She scrubbed the hands that he had touched, the arms that he had caressed and the ears that he had traced but it was not enough. Throwing the towel on the floor with a frustrated growl, she resorted to her nails. She ran her nails over her arms roughly, unmoved when the water became tinged with pink.

Lilith rushed in upon hearing the growl and almost cried at the sight that met her. Calling the others, they rushed in and pulled the girl out of the tub. Drying her and putting honey on her skin to heal the cuts, they brought her back to the bed. They had done her make-up and Khadijah was about to style her hair when Zaina spoke up.

"Cut it," she said, looking at Khadijah through the mirror in front of her.

"Your hair?" Khadijah asked, shock evident on her face. She had suggested a cut on numerous occasions but Zaina always refused.

"No, Khadijah, my skin," Zaina replied, her voice monotone. "Of course my hair."

"Where do you want it up to?" she asked, her voice gentle afraid she might anger the girl.

"My neck," she answered. "Naima, bring out the black dress that he sent over."

Without questioning her decision, Naima went and brought the black dress that their master had sent over. Zaina had been saving it for the last banquet, the night before she went back home. It was a black sheath dressed that hugged her body and exposed the inner sides of her breasts. They placed the golden pleated cape on her neck for the finishing touch.

"Are you ready to go?" Mido asked as he re-entered the tent.

Zaina smiled, a smile that bore a striking resemblance to Anubis' smile. "Yes."

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