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Authors: Jean Murray

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BOOK: Soul Awakened
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Kendra rolled over and grabbed the book from the vault, one of many ancient texts that encircled her on the king size bed. Based on the growing stacks, her success this past week was less than stellar. Even with one black magic text.

She was certain this book contained the right spell. Inpu, the Underworld priest, had gathered the ingredients she needed. Everything was in place, but Bakari remained locked tight in his cell. Asar was counting on her to wake his son. Everyone was counting on her.

Rubbing her head in frustration, Kendra swung her legs out of bed. She shuddered remembering that moment in the vault when the darkness crushed upon her. It made her sick to think that Bakari was experiencing that right now, while she lay recuperating from a week long spell fest with no success.

She clasped her pounding forehead. She needed to do something constructive, other than ruminate about her failure. Bakari couldn’t wait any longer. She pulled her robe over her nightgown and headed out the large gold doors of her room into the palace common.

On Bomani’s insistence, he assigned a sentry to assist her in his absence. He tried to pass it off as simply someone to help her, but she knew better. Since her little accident Bomani became a little over protective. Since, she has never gone alone, especially when she descended into the bowels of the dungeon. She didn’t mind the escort because the place gave her the creeps.

The sentry’s black eyes swept the hallway and vista. He stood at seven feet tall with large bands of muscle and had similar scarification tattoos, but not to the extent of Bomani’s. The two sabers strapped to his chest were eye candy compared to the formidability of the warrior.

He had placed his body between her and the open balcony that overlooked the serpentine river that snaked its way through Aaru. The sand of the beach sparkled in the new dawn light. The cycle of the day was in opposition to the human realm. Nighttime had arrived in the motherland of Egypt.

Tilting her head upward, she looked up at his massive shoulders to his angular jaw that was tightly set. “What’s your name?”

“Ari.” His eyes never left their surroundings.

She made the translation of his name in her head. “That means guardian, doesn’t it?”

“Yes.”

As if he didn’t know
, she silently chastised herself. She was never that good at conversing with the opposite sex. Based on Ari’s tone, he wasn’t there for small talk or to become her friend.

She missed Bomani. Their friendship had grown over the last several weeks while she conducted her research in the library. So at ease with him, she almost forgot he was this powerful warrior. It was probably best he wasn’t here. Her ability to keep smiling waned with each passing day.

They approached the iron gate and broad steps of the dungeon. Ari nodded to the sentries and the heavy iron door swung open. She checked her pocket for her flashlight and then pulled her robe in tighter around her chest.

In short order Bakari’s cell loomed ahead. Doors she had been through countless times. The sentry at the entrance simply sidestepped and nodded his acknowledgement. He scanned her body with a light of curiosity. She had never shown up in a bath robe and slippers before. Normally, she would have chuckled and smiled, but she wasn’t quite feeling like herself.

The coldness of the rock seeped through the thin soles of her slippers momentarily distracting her from her throbbing headache. She clasped her arms, attempting to wipe away the fresh set of goose bumps covering her skin. The sensation would pass, it always did. She laid her hand on the top of the sarcophagus and covered the intricate carvings with her palm. “Good morning, Bakari.” Her voice sounded flat even to her own ears. There was nothing
good
about any of this.

She retraced the hieroglyphics that covered the entire lid, looking for some small clue she had missed. At the head of the sarcophagus she laid her forehead against the wood. “Bakari, I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I need you to tell me how to open this—please.”

She had asked that question every day she had entered this cell. With of course, no response. The tomb still remained silent to her touch. She fisted her hand. “Come on, talk to me. Tell me what I want to hear.” Her voice rose, along with her desperation. 

“I have been asking him the same thing.”

Kendra jumped at the sound of a deep voice. Knocked off balance, she toppled butt-first over a stack of texts that lay on the floor. She landed on her back with a resounding thump.

“Kendra!” Asar stepped forward out of the shadows. “I am sorry. I did not mean to scare you.”

Lying on her back with her slippered feet in the air, she pressed her palm to her forehead. God, this happened way too much. Asar held out his hand. She clasped his thick palm. “I’m okay.” Her cheeks filled with warmth, embarrassed that she lived up to her fumbling reputation.

“I should have announced myself.”

Standing up, Kendra pulled her robe together and smoothed her wild hair. Gathering her pride, she looked up into the concerned face of her new brother-in-law. “I didn’t mean to speak so harshly to him.” She looked away to hide the tears that welled in her eyes. Trapped in his own grief, the Underworld god didn’t seem to notice.

“How long have you been here?”

“A few hours. When I saw you come in, I did not want to disturb you.”

Such sorrow in his voice and no wonder, God knows what his enemies did to Bakari during his confinement. Kendra weaved her fingers through Asar’s muscular digits. “I’m okay really. I was having trouble sleeping, so I came down.”

His mouth lifted up on one slide. “You have been working very hard. I appreciate everything you have done.”

She exhaled heavily. Apparently she hadn’t done enough because Bakari was still trapped. She pulled the large god forward and placed her hand on the center of the tomb.

“What was he like?” Kendra cringed, regretting she let the words slip past her lips. Asar frowned. “I meant, what
is
he like. Shoot, I’m sorry. I’m used to dealing with mummified remains. This is so completely different.” She clamped a hand over her mouth. What the heck was she saying? “I need to shut up now.”

His frown deepened further. “It is okay, little one. I would be a fool to think Bakari could come out of this unchanged. Who could?” The Underworld god placed both hands on the top of the sarcophagus and kissed the lid. “He was very kind and generous.” A wry smile crossed his handsome face. “Nothing like me.”

Kendra placed her hand on his arm. “That’s not true. I’ve seen the way you judge souls.” The breadth of his grief translated through her touch. Loss had a strange way of bringing people together. They had lost their father to the curse over five years ago and again on the Thebes battlefield, when he was finally put to rest.

Placing his warm palm over hers, he winked. “Thanks to your sister, I have a second chance not only for myself, but my son.” He pulled away from the tomb. “Bakari had a pure soul that is why I imparted my gifts to him.” Asar touched the gold lion and moon medallion that hung from his neck. The same necklace that led Asar to their doorstep so many months ago. “Most thought it would be too great a burden for a young god, but he shouldered it with the utmost strength and fairness.”

“The power to kill gods.”

Asar nodded. “It was his ability to be impartial that made him so effective. He utilized his skill judiciously. Never used it for his personal gain.”

Kendra looked at the tomb. “I’d like to think the son you knew is still in there.”

“Me too, little one.” Despite the catch of hope in his voice, resignation darkened his eyes.

Rapid footfalls echoed through the corridor. Kendra glanced up to find Lilly staring in from across the heavy iron bars. Her bright green eyes looked warily from Kendra to Asar. “Is everything okay?”

Asar’s eyes brightening upon her arrival. He left the cell to intercept her sister. Although it wasn’t easy in the beginning, the pair was inseparable, always in tune to the others’ feelings. His grief no doubt brought Lilly here. Kendra sighed. She would love to have a man look at her in the same way.

“Everything is fine. I am sorry that I disturbed your sleep.” He leaned his forehead gently against Lilly’s.

“Come to bed. You must be exhausted.” Lilly kissed Asar’s lips before pushing him toward the hallway. “I’ll meet you there.” Lilly swatted him on the butt before turning to the iron gates. A good-natured growl echoed in the chamber.

Lilly walked up to the reinforced bars. “How’s it going?”

Kendra shrugged. “Okay, I guess.”

Lilly wrapped her arms tightly against her waist. She never passed through the doors of the cell, and only came here if Asar was present. Kendra was surprised she stayed this long.

“I want you to let me know, if you start feeling different in any way.”

“I will. Actually, I’m feeling a whole lot better now that my headache is gone.”

“Good.” Her sister started to fidget with her belt. “Ah, I need to go.”

“I understand.”

Her sister turned and dashed out the corridor. Kendra shook her head. Lilly was a powerful Nehebkau huntress with an abundance of courage and absolutely no fear. There was only one exception, Bakari’s tomb. Her sister could sense Bakari’s draw of living energy off her soul, similar to the way she fed Asar’s. It was the Underworld’s curse, forcing them to feed off the one thing they were commissioned to protect. Luckily, their mother had seen to it that the sisters had enough energy to feed their hunger. Asar told her that Bakari was feeding off her in the same way, but she never noticed.

Tracing one of the glyphs on the sarcophagus, her mind started churning. Their mother had made them to serve a specific purpose. Lilly’s healing energy grew Asar a new soul from which to judge.

If Kendra was destined to free Bakari from his prison, what made her different from Kit? Kit had the same demi-blood running through her veins. She started to pace the length of the sarcophagus. At the head of the tomb she directed her question to the sleeping god.

“So what makes me different? You like auburn hair?” Kendra rolled her eyes at herself. “I’m sure it’s not because I’m short.” A snort sounded outside the cell. She glanced up to see Ari and the two guardians staring at her with unusual interest. “I’m glad you guys find this entertaining. A little help would be appreciated.” She crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot in the silence that hung between them. “I thought so.”

Ari cleared his throat. Kendra shifted her gaze to him. “You have something to say, Ari?”

“No, Madame.”

Narrowing her eyes at him, she pursed her lips. “Are you sure about that?” He clamped his lips tighter and shifted his eyes to the ground.

Kendra turned to the sarcophagus. “I guess we start from the beginning then.” Lifting up the text gingerly in her hands, she opened the delicate parchment to the page she had marked. The black demotic text contained spells to inflict injury, manifest plagues, and more importantly, raise the dead. Bakari for all intents and purposes was in a death-like state, locked in darkness.

She had the right spell, but no matter how she read the incantation the crypt remained sealed. “So what’s missing?”

She resumed pacing. “Okay, let’s go back to what the Nehebkau mother stated,
we are the key
. Lilly unlocked the goddess Kepi’s tomb. My mother wanted to thwart Menthu’s plan before his army grew too strong. Unfortunately, the reven’s curse had to be released upon the earth. Kepi returns to take her revenge, stealing Asar’s key to the Underworld, ripping out his soul, and kidnaping his son.”

She rested the text on the lid and pushed the sleeves of her robe up to her elbows. “But, Bakari is dangerous. He’s the only god with the power to kill other gods.” She fisted her hand and slapped it into her palm. “Kepi has to lock him away, but not kill him. So she uses the demotic spell to place him into hibernation, until she is ready to use him against the Pantheon.”

BOOK: Soul Awakened
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