In the land not yet known as Egypt, a beautiful woman rested on a couch and stared into a pool of dark water. She was the most beautiful woman in perhaps the whole world at that point; she certainly thought so. As she looked into the water, she didn’t ask it who was the fairest in the land; she had something much larger on her mind.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a scream. A pair of young men crashed to the stone floor in front of her couch. They quivered there while their attacker stood over them. Their attacker was a man clad in a black loincloth and an equally black headdress in the shape of a dog’s head—the symbol of the god Anubis. On each hand the monster wore a gauntlet made of the paws of a bear, an animal quite exotic for Egypt of the time.
The claws on the gauntlets were even sharper than those of a normal bear; the monster proved this when he sliced open the chest of one man. With the precision of a surgeon, he cut out the man’s heart. The organ was still beating when he presented it to his mistress.
She cupped it in her hands to watch it beat. “This is all you bring me? This is hardly worthy of my dogs,” she growled.
“I am sorry, my master,” the monster said. “I will go find others to serve you.”
“No, these will do. I have another use for your talents.”
The monster cut out the second heart while his master devoured the first. She didn’t eat it the way one would eat an apple. Instead, she held the heart up to her mouth and it simply dematerialized. She let out a sigh as if she’d just eaten a joint of mutton.
She motioned to her servant for the second heart. She devoured it in the same way. Then she leaned back on the couch while a couple of slaves scurried in to take the bodies away. They worked quickly and silently so they wouldn’t be next up on the menu.
Once she and the monster were alone, the woman gestured to the pool of water. “Several moons ago we lost something important,” she said.
“Forgive me, master. He was more cunning than I anticipated.”
“Of course he was,” she said. “He was my most gifted student.”
“You wish for me to find him?”
“There’s no need to find him. I know exactly where he is. He’s in a land far to the north. He hopes to avoid my gaze there. The fool doesn’t realize he can’t go anywhere to escape my notice.”
“Then I will go there and kill him.”
“No, you will not kill him. Bring him back to me. But be warned, he’s preparing for your arrival.”
“I won’t fail you again, master.”
“I should hope not.”
The monster bowed to her. “I will make ready to leave at once. If I may be so bold, though, what will you do while I am gone? Who will harvest your sustenance?”
“I can take care of myself for a few moons.” She shook her head. “I hate to have to dirty my hands with this rabble, but it’s necessary.”
“Would it not be easier for you to go to the traitor? With your power, you could be upon him in seconds.”
“Are you questioning my wisdom?”
“Not at all, my master.”
“Good. Now go. Find Merlin and bring him back to me. Let no one stand in your way.”
The monster bowed again and then backed out of the room. He set out on foot to the north, to where Merlin—and me—waited. In her palace, the beautiful woman leaned back on her couch and sighed. She had made a mistake in underestimating Merlin once, but she wasn’t going to make that mistake again. This time she would make certain to destroy him—and anyone else who got in her way.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Tomorrow we return to the witch coven as they prepare for the fight of their lives...