The priests, it seemed, had taken her to a small room, unfurnished and the floor covered with straw

The priests, it seemed, had taken her to a small room, unfurnished and the floor covered with straw.

Through the small window, she noticed that day had turned to night. Amanda hugged herself, her skin cold and clammy, shivering in the darkness of the room. The unbearable heat she had been feeling just an hour before turned to a chilling cold. And her stomach was starting to rumble with hunger.

As she felt a tear slip, she wondered what the hell was going on. And the more she thought of her parents worried about not finding her in her dorm, the tears kept flowing.

Would her parents be worried? What would happen when they realized she was gone? Would she be considered missing or dead?

In fact, where was she?

No one had told Amanda much, except that she was a heretic. Some of the priests even hit him hard on the head on the way to that room, as if they were taking a witch to be burned during an inquisition. Other monks, whatever they were, appeared in the corridors speaking words she didn know, spitting on the ground where she passed, others scratching their shoulders like cat claws.

Amanda had found the movement curious, having seen statues of cats all around, on small altars. She remembered high school, and history classes about ancient cultures like Egypt.

But that place didn look like Egypt. Everything was so new, recent and there was technology. She noticed several orb-shaped chandeliers attached to the pillars, powered by electric lights.

It didn feel like time travel…

Where did she end up? And how?

Her head could only remember the rainbow bridges of Heimdall[1], from Norse mythology; at times, a flying saucer would appear in his mind, hurling an extracting ray at people in a field of rye.

She had no idea, but she had certainly been abducted.

She cried some more, feeling her eyes start to swell. She had spent the entire day in that room, crying, curled up. She never once thought of running away, or looking for a way out of that place. Her entire body was numb from the sudden abduction.

Had she been abducted or was she going crazy?

As she sniffled, shivering at the idea of ​​involving Martians in all this, she heard the slam of locks and the creak of old hinges. She peeked over her shoulder, noticing the entrance of people talking loudly at the same time.

As soon as the voices stopped, Amanda could see one of the monks place an orb of light in a niche near the door and adjusted the brightness with some mechanism of the lamp.

The light illuminated the presence of three men. One she had seen during what seems to her a turbulent morning; the other one did not know, but paid attention to his appearance as a monk, with shaved hair, dark eye makeup and wearing a cloak of dark feathers.

But it was the person at the front who caught Amandas attention.

She let out a scream, trying to find a place to hide.

Amanda had no idea what she was seeing. His appearance had human features, but his skin tone was pure white — like hed been covered in rice powder, or something like that. Her eyes were silver like molten metal, and they changed to another color as the hues of light hit around her. She wore a white silk tunic, see-through that showed off her private parts as well as her slim makeup. Golden adornments covered her arms, and the belt that glued her tunic to her waist.

”What a warm welcome, ” the man smiled, and white teeth with long fangs emerged.

Amanda felt her heart thud in her chest. That person was certainly not human. She began to experience a terrible internal cold, like ice running through her veins, caused by fear of that… person.

”I was alerted early in the morning of a situation happening at the Temple, ” she said, her voice even harsher than the monks she had seen earlier. ”An ankham was sent from the gods world through the Heros Gate, without any sacred ritual.

No one moved after his final whisper. Amanda felt her headache getting worse. She had no idea if that was an accusation, only she didn understand anything he was talking about.

The person looked back. She glanced at her companions, raising her hand.

”Leave us! ” he demanded in a darker tone.

His companions looked at each other, then left the room without arguing. The door slammed as they left.

The girl felt her heart beating hard against her chest, each time the silence licked the place. The strange person, who seemed less and less human to her, had such a terrible look on her face that she thought at some point it would freeze her like Medusa. Amanda felt a tremendous trepidation, feeling her legs tremble under her waist.

The fear was even greater as the man approached her, looking at her over his deep-nosed aquiline nose.

”Did you ask someone to open the stargate pointing at you, girl? ” His voice came out cold as the air around the room.

”II…I don ! ” Amanda shivered in astonishment. ”I don even know where I am… I was sleeping, and suddenly this light came on… ”

”You claim that no one opened the gate for you, ” said the person, ”but what about the Light, of those who lose their lives and are reborn in Tammera? ”

Amanda tilted her head. Pushing away a tear, she had no idea what he was asking.

”I didn die. ” She frowned, shocked at the same time.

She managed to arouse an expression of curiosity on the creatures pearl-white face. He simply lowered himself, sitting cross-legged on the floor.

”Not dead, ” he said, a little softer. ”Interesting. Tell me what happened before you left the Heros Gate? ”

The girl gave his face an anxious look. She hadn stopped to draw a timeline, and logic always headed for the surreal.

”Like I said, I was sleeping and I saw a light in the back of my wardrobe, ” she replied. ”That light pulled me in, and when I opened my eyes, I was on the ground at the bottom of what looked like a temple to me. ”

Oh yes, of course. This is the Temple of Neter. Stronghold of the Cult of Neter, ” the man replied. He smiled, resting his fisted hand on her knee on his long chin. ”We worship the great heroes of Aaru, the world of the gods behind the stargates. Place you came from.

Again, Amanda nodded.

”It is common that travelers who have crossed the stargates across the country do not believe they have died, ” the man continued. ”But when their lives come to an end, they are reincarnated in this pre-paradise world. Not all of them, but it is said that people who had a life of little learning come to our planet to prepare their souls to Ascend to the Great Reeds, where the pleasure of life resides for all eternity.

In Amandas Christian view, it seemed like a brief explanation of going to purgatory after her death. But she was sure: she wasn dead. Dying shouldn be so imperceptible, besides, she felt the life and something else inside her body flow with each beat of her own heart.

”Weve all passed through the stargates at some point in our lives, ” the monk continued. ”I came about two hundred years ago, through a gate that was nothing special. Called to make me Partner to the Stars of a female zoph [2]. But my vocation, despite my sacred duty, has always been the priesthood.

The girl frowned.

”My name is Aiy, ” the man continued. ”Abi of the Temple of Neter. I believe that in the new terms used in the Capital, I am the High Priest of the Temple of the Hero. ”

Aiy looked back, as if staring at something behind him beyond the door and the wheat-colored stone walls.

”Few people are special, girl. ” He turned his face toward Amanda. ”More than four hundred years ago, not one person crossed the Neter Gate. What makes you special.

Amanda swallowed, thinking she would be scolded for doing something wrong.

”But the way it is here, its not common. ” Aiys eyes turned dark like beetles. ”The world lies at peace. The stargates of this temple are opened, only when this world is on the brink of chaos. When the forms of the Abyss descend to destroy our beloved land.

For a second, his cold eyes studied Amanda. She kept silent.

”Ankhamret is what youve become, which in the current temmerata is something like enlightened, blessed, ” he continued. ”But today, with Coptic glyphs, that appellation has become ”Hero. ”

”Hero? ” Amanda managed to ask, feeling her voice rasp in her throat.

Yes, smiled Aiy. ”Thats a term mixed in with the culture of Alesandario, when their Empire ruled our continent five hundred years ago. Our beloved land went through a period of great cultural exchange. Some traces remain forever in the culture even after the fall of the great Alesandario Empire; although, here in Tathra, we prefer to use old names and customs.

Amanda nodded, noting the subtlety the man was telling her that story. She felt like she was being hypnotized by his voice.

”Heroes, girls, are called by me. The great priest, Abi, in ancient terms, ” he spoke softly. ”And I didn call you. Very rarely will the gates of the stars open on their own. The last time this happened, Xerces was summoned. Becoming the worst and darkest ankham in history. Someone who got drunk with power and carried half a civilization into the abyss of his sheut. The place where we now call the Abyss.

With that proposition, Amanda swallowed the bile rising in her throat. She was shaking again. Very. Watching as Aiys gaze was close to an abyss.

”Very well. ” The man rose. ”I believe that no one who knows the story of Xerces would open a gate to the stars without going through the proper rituals. So, girl, who opened the gate for you? How much did it pay for any Hem-Neter to call his sheut to this side of the world?

Amanda shook her head, flustered, frightened.

”D-didn ask to be here… ” Her voice shook as she went back to crying. ”I already told you: I was sleeping in my room, and a light pulled me into this place. Th-then it fell to the ground… F-felt m-my body remake in the middle of that light, a-and I felt there was more stuff taking m-my body. As if more of me was coming back…

Aiys brow furrowed as he opened his eyes. Amanda thought he finally wore an expression completely different from the coldness and commitment to burning her like a witch.

”I see ”, said that short, meaningful word.

Her hands, larger than a normal human hand, gripped Amandas pajama shirt, lifting her off the floor. For a second, her feet left the ground.

”I see the truth in your eyes ”, he observed, looking at her.

The pearly irises shifted to a red as if he were a scanner probing her inner soul. Amanda felt invaded.

”You described what the last ankham felt as he crossed death to life. ” Her voice floated out of her mouth as if she were savoring the words, which in turn made her taste bad. ”The Gate of Tathra is believed to be connected to the Sekhet-Aaru, where the great neteru live, who spy on us and send people like you when the world is about to be swallowed up in darkness. And according to our liturgy, the gods have found a way to incorporate their divine powers into the material world by possessing people who pass through those gates. An ankham is a shell of the power of ancient and valiant neteru.

Amanda grabbed his wrist, having no idea what they were talking about. Ankham, neteru? Her head, which already ached, was getting coiled like a knotted rope.

”I-I don know anything about it, ” she replied, her voice hardening.

Of course not. Aiy smiled with the corner of his mouth. ”I only have to know who possessed it? ” Which one?

”N-nobody! Amanda swung her feet in the air, trying to free herself.

Noticing her paltry attempt, Aiy released her, knocking her hard against the ground. Then he let a mocking laugh flow out.

”Whoever he is, he mustn be one of the mighty ones, and I can only assume hes so inferior hes just a heretic. ” Her voice turned cold in the middle of her laughter. ”Yeah, I think thats the best definition for you, girl. Neither ankham nor neter, nor hero. Just a heretic.

He shook his head, looking at her with contempt.

”Ill see to it that this inconvenience doesn spread through the cities, and never reach the capitals ears ”.

Aiy now seemed to have no liking for her, turned towards the door.

”Its existence will soon be forgotten. He chuckled, reaching for the heavy doorknob. ”Forever ”.



[1] Heimdall – In Norse mythology, Heimdall is a god, son of Odin and nine mothers, whose mission is to guard the Bifrost Bridge, a rainbow connecting heaven to Earth, and to touch the resounding Gjallarhorn horn when approaching the end of the world.

[1] Zoph is an invented word that means: human. The female is ”zophet ”

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