At times my ability to focus is stretched as I'm constantly bombarded by ideas. I feel compelled to get the beginning down as a base to work from. Right now, I have six stories that are fifty-percent completed and another dozen with a few chapters. I know the Noah Hunter series won't last forever, and I wanted to start a private investigator novel(s) as well as my fantasy/sci-fi series.
I have no lack of ideas and I'm looking forward to writing full time to get them all down.
Here is the beginning of Signs of Anubis. I'm looking forward to this story as the research is nearly complete. As always, too many projects, not enough time.
SIGNS OF ANUBIS
The day’s scorching heat plummeted as the silky smooth sky of pinks and purples announced the night’s calm. As if marking the fiery orb’s former location, a brilliant star appeared a finger’s width above the horizon, twinkling like a polished jewel against a black cloth. A symphony of crickets sang to each other as bats began to feast upon mosquitos and moths in the enveloping darkness. A beige rat scurried from a pile of rocks with a twitching scorpion in its jaws. Immune to the repeated stings, the furry rodent feasted at the water’s edge.
An hour later, when a glowing constellation appeared in the northern sky, a robed man stood with his back to an outcropping of granite while unrolling a banner. To the untrained eye, the papyrus was covered in random ink lines and showed signs of wear—thirty-six holes of varying sizes perforated the material, but a trained eye knew differently. While in his fourth decade, he had the physical attributes of a man half his age. Corded muscles that shifted beneath the cloth were more suited to physical labor than a scholar. Dressed in tightly wrapped white robes and sandals, he stood two inches above five feet, and his tanned skin gleamed in the starlight.
The sheet was carefully aligned with the bottom edge against the horizon, and when the constellation could be seen through the holes, a nervous excitement made the man’s pulse race. Grinning, he counted seven lines to the left, and a yellow-white star flickered through the page. A calloused finger counted the crossing dashed lines—three.
After rolling the scroll tight, the man slipped it into a deep pocket and picked up his pack and a reed cage. Inside, the goose had a tan plumage and brown colored mask about the eyes but appeared a uniform gray in the low light and seemed unperturbed at the traveling accommodations.
The leather sandals made gravel crunch underfoot, but soon the silent sands of the desert cushioned each step as he strode northwest, leaving the oasis behind. Dry and cracked lips murmured prayers learned from birth, not only to appease his soul but to measure the pace. The path led over dunes a hundred feet in height and across open expanses where the sand barely covered the limestone shelf beneath. The glimmering yellow-white star guided his steps, and at the end of the third repetition of praying, it was nearly lost as one jewel among many when his journey ended.
Unsurprised to find a dune at his feet, the man placed the pack and cage to the side before digging. The day’s heat was held in the ground but soon gave way to the cooler temperatures as the hole deepened. Throughout the night, he toiled in silence with only brief breaks to sip tepid water from a container, and as the faint blush of dawn arrived in the east, the capstone was revealed.
The polished red and black flecked granite slab was eighteen inches wide, twenty long, and three inches thick, and the man was surprised to find no carvings or writing blemishing the smooth surface. Further digging showed the stone to be sitting on a limestone shelf. The legends are real! He quickly mentally added, not that I had any doubt, my God.
The man gathered his pack and cage, pausing to watch the sunrise. The longest day of the year had begun. Heat waves already rippled above the sands, making the sun shimmer and dance on the horizon. The afternoon winds would erase any trace he had left on the journey, including the hole. Turning from the light, he sought the darkness.
With minimal effort, the capstone shifted to the side, and he slipped into the cool tunnel beneath. The shaft was five feet tall and wider than his shoulders, with plenty of room to walk nearly upright. He removed an oil lantern from the pack and used a metal striker to light the wick. The goose honked and shifted within the confines of the reed cage, and its dark eyes watched the man struggle to replace the stone. With a huff of effort and grinding of sand, the sixty-pound weight slid into position. Any vestiges of light from the outside world were extinguished.
The tunnel sloped downward through the bedrock and, after one hundred paces, performed a ninety-degree right-turn into a chamber. The ceiling was constructed of massive curved granite blocks that met twelve feet above the man’s head. Each stone was an example of perfection and design; a grain of sand would not fit between the gaps. Contrary to the exquisite work above, the floor was rough-hewn limestone and covered with dust. However, the man’s attention was drawn to the end of the long room where an eight-foot statue appeared to be emerging from the wall behind a table.
The man dropped to both knees and pressed his forehead into the rugged floor.
The jackal’s head and body were solid stone, and brilliant green eyes glimmered in the lamplight. A muscular arm held a balanced scale in the left hand and a staff in the right, and around each wrist, golden bracers were decorated with symbols. The God of the afterlife looked ready to step into battle or pass judgment.
“I have come bearing bad tidings, my Lord.” The man remained on the floor but raised his head. “I am the last from the great temple. The rest have been slain in the name of your usurper.”
The high priest prompted his harrowing escape and subsequent journey. His mentor’s last-minute instructions and knowledge have led Aken to the secret temple of Anubis with the raiment of the order—such relics can never be lost.
Aken stood and brought the caged goose to the stone table. The solid granite slab was precisely six feet long and three feet wide, with the right side being three inches taller than the left, giving the surface a definite slope. A copper knife made quick work of the caged door, and the bird was placed on the table.
“Please accept this humble offering as a token of—” Aken’s head snapped around when a distant grinding echoed down the tunnel.
The capstone was being moved.
He had been followed.
The blade flashed twice to either side of the goose’s neck as the hurried sacrificial offering was completed. Knowing her life was ending, the goose’s wings gyrated as if taking flight, and feathers landed in the growing pool of blood. Aken threw the bird to the side and opened his pack, removing a ring and necklace. His hands shook as sweat beaded across his brow.
“Guide me, my Lord,” he pleaded.
The hushed tones of men talking replaced the echo and were barely heard over the dying bird but were unmistakable.
My eyes see all.
Eyes? The glint from the lantern made the emerald crystals sparkle, and Aken had the answer. Two thumbs pressed inward, and a muffled click allowed the table to slide a foot back, revealing a small cavity underneath. The relics fit inside, and the table slid back into position.
The goose found a corner to die as multiple footsteps approached.
“Yes, my God.”
Anubis was the lord of the dead, and the command could only mean one thing.
Aken sat on the table and didn’t hesitate. The copper blade slashed deep across his left wrist, nearly to the bone. The steps were mere feet from the chamber as the razor-sharp knife slid across the side of his neck through his carotid artery. As the last priest of an archaic order lay flat, blood arced in a sheet across the wall and floor with each beat of his heart. Four men stormed into the chamber, shouting victory and clutching knives, but their cheers were short-lived as the earth shifted and thunder rolled from above.
A granite wedge weighing two tons fell from the ceiling at the entrance, trapping everyone inside. Aken’s lifeblood ebbed across the table as the dim light of the oil lantern faded, but the grin on his face grew as the Osiris priests panicked.
In the absolute darkness, the eyes of the jackal watched the folly of men, and a brief glint of light betrayed the God’s anger. The setback would cost hundreds of years, if not millennia, but the ancient conductor of souls was nothing if not patient.