(Fangs of the SS) CHAPTER 11: In The Temple Of Set, A Vampire Is Born

Art by Mitchell Nolte

Luxor, Ancient Egypt, A Long, Long, Long Time Ago

Outside, in the desert, in the night, a jackal barks. And then howls.

Inside, in the temple, the sound barely penetrates.

Inside the temple, the air is still and smells of stone and smoke and people and snake. Very much of snake, the dry reptilian odor is a constant presence and rasp of scales on stone seem to always be on the edge of hearing.

The walls and the pillars holding up the roof are covered in hieroglyphs recounting Set’s battles with Osiris. Snakes, the servants of Set, are carved everywhere. There is a large door across the room from the dais. The room is filled with priests and priestesses and temple guards. They give voice to a hymn, praising the God and and beseeching his favor. Their voices are low and the sounds sibilant. Echos form and gather against the ceiling, against the tops of the pillars with their crowns of snake heads.

A dias at the end of the room, overlooked by a tall statue of Set, so tall that its head brushes the high ceiling of the temple, stands Mnemtarep, the High Priest. He is a majestic man, filled with charisma. The color of his skin proclaims that he’s from the south, up the Nile, from Meroe and its fabled necropolis. The gold and black of his regalia gleam in the torchlight. The crown, a coiled cobra, rests on his shaved head.

Mnemtarep adds his voice to the hymn. His deep voice guides it. A call and response develops. He questions, the priests and priestessess answer. Swaying back and forth in call and response. Shadows gather, coiling from the corners of the temple. The torches dim. The answers in the hymn become more emphatic, more pleading, building to a crescendo.

And then silence, abrupt at Mnemtarep’s final answer. The answer was positive, the God has granted the temple’s request. Mnemtarep raises his arms in blessing and gestures. When the ranks of worshippers part to allow a clear passage from the door at the far end of the temple to the altar, the sound is of scales sliding across stone.

Mnemtarep’s voice echoes. “Bring forth the priestess.”

Two guards drag the door open and she enters. She is proud, unafraid, alive, human. Naked save for snake bracelets that coil up each arm, gold against brown skin. She strides through the worshippers and stops at the bottom of the dais. Mnemtarep faces her, in the shadow of the statue of Set, which just touches her.

“Are you here willingly?”

“I freely, willingly, give my life, my soul to the God. To do His work. To be His vessel.” Her voice is strong, clear, unhesitating. Her face is uplifted to the High Priest and is unafraid. Her eyes shine with the clear righteous fervor of a zealot.

The priests and priestesses chant. “Praise him.”

None of the words are in Egyptian, but in a language that was old when Egypt was young.

“Are you worthy?”

“I fight the Light. My soul is filled with darkness. I will forever be His loyal servant.”

“Serve him.”

“Then prepare for the Blessing of Set.

“Feed him.”

Mnemtarep begins to chant, echoed by the other priests and priestesses in the temple. The shadows grow thick and dark around him, form the shape of a cobra head above him. A snake of shadow emerges from the darkness surrounding Mnemtarep. It slithers down the steps towards her, coils itself around her, moving up her body. Her face is filled with religious exaltation. The chanting never ceases. The shadow snake rears above her, mouth open, fangs ready. Then, fast as lightning, between eye blinks, it strikes. Fangs sheathe themselves in her neck right where a vampire feeds. She screams. Pain. Pleasure. The shadow snake fades into her flesh and she falls to her knees, head bowed.

The chanting fades to an anticipatory refrain.

Mnemtarep looks on, his eyes avid. He sees that she’s not breathing. He sees her hands clench where they are splayed on the stone floor of the temple. He sees the marks left by her nails. And he raises his voice in a hymn of thanks.
She gets to her feet in one long sinuous motion. When she speaks, her fangs are visible and her voice is deeper, richer, much older. “I am blessed. And am now forever a servant of the God.”

The worshippers take up the hymn of thanks and the shadows rejoice.

Mnemtarep gestures again to the guards at the door. “Bring out the prisoner. The servant must feed.”

The guards open the door again and two others push a prisoner towards her. A pale man, not Egyptian, slight but well muscled. Possibly a Minoan bull dancer seized from a visiting troupe. Naked and afraid. He pleads in an unknown language and the sound rises to the ceiling where it’s smothered in the shadows. The priests and priestesses stare at him with glittering eyes, flat reptilian stares. The prisoner becomes even more terrified. He pisses himself when he sees her. She turns to look at him, then leaps, snake fast, and takes him to the ground before he has time to scream. She tears at his throat with her fangs and begins to feed. Blood pools on the temple floor.

The praise song of the worshippers pounds against the ceiling and the shadows writhe in joy.

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