Vol. V

        A man of Egypt walked the desert. His lips were chapped and his skin blistered where his robes were torn. The sun glared down on him and baked the sand he walked on. The only protection he had were the clothes on his back, the wrap on his head and shoes on his feet. The horizon was an endless, shimmering sea of sand. Still he staggered on, hopeless. There was no turning back, the Romans would either catch him and take him back or find him dead in the sand.

             The man fell. It was so hot. He needed to rest—no, if he did, he was sure he wouldn’t get back up. Hot sand burned his palms as he clutched the grains underneath them. He sat up on his knees, atop of large dune of sand. He could see for leagues away, nothing but dunes and shimmery heat. He grabbed his head wrap and let it fall away to reveal his sweating, bald head. He had no strength to go on. He had to pick his grave, here or some other pile of sand.

             The hot desert wind took his head wrap from his weak fingers. The man turned his face up to the sky, lips cracked and trembling.

             “Aashetu, spare me, God of Desert and Reprieve, and I will build a temple in your name. Harbor me from your harsh sands and give me sanctuary. I will become your servant and act on your will. Grant me life, and it shall be yours to command here and in the next.”

              Salvum was the word that whispered through the realm of Man. The sand under the man’s feet began to spread and disperse as it gave way to the green of grass. Trees sprung forth, foliage, and flowers arose; jungle took hold and sheltered him. Then, from the green earth, water began to pool. The man watched as a spring of water rose before him, a small pond with clear waters that made him weep, for he was saved. He drank from the pond and washed his face. From the trees, fruit began to grow and ripen. He would have food and drink to recover his strength. The man wept tears of joy and prayed.

             “Thank you. I am your humble servant, my god.”

             Then, from the green brush, a black serpent appeared. It slid on its belly, into the pond and swam towards the man, like a dark mirage. It landed on the other side and raised its body and opened its hood. It was a jet black cobra with golden eyes and golden markings on its head. The man did not run, fear held him. He had already pledged his service. It would be the god’s right to take what was his.

             The black cobra waited. The man wanted to live, but knew he was held by his words. He extended his arm to the serpent. The cobra struck quickly, leaving two tiny dots of blood before it went back into the water to disappear.

             Venom burned like fire through the man’s veins and he cried out. He held his arm out and saw his veins blacken. The darkness suddenly began to travel, slithering like ink underneath his skin. The man endured the pain and watched the darkness slither up his arm and curl around his biceps, where it stopped and transformed into the body of a snake, printed on his skin. It was a black cobra.

             The venom did not stop however and the pain continued to course through his body. It spread and twisted him into unspeakable agony on the jungle floor. He took with fever. The man could do nothing but wait. Days and nights passed him till finally his fever, sweating and spasms quieted and the pain had subsided.

    On the morning of his recovery, the man stood up, stronger than before, his bronze skin glistening. His body was stronger, more muscled. Yet he felt lighter and clear headed. He could feel he was changed and went to the pond. When he looked at his reflection, he was shocked to see his eyes were golden like the serpent’s. The black cobra on his arm squirmed underneath his skin and the man dropped to his knees once again, hands lifted to the sky. He, Atemowet, would be known as the first; and he would do as he promised to the god who spared him. He would build a temple, lead loyal subjects, and act out his god’s will. The man stood, with new knowledge and power then disappeared into the jungle.

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