by Chip Dunning
The afternoon bell tolled again as it called the faithful to services. Ama-tep hurried along the narrow alleys between the wide streets in an effort to reach the temple before the others made it impossible to get inside. The great Rukh Noh would be leading the prayer today and this was a once in a lifetime experience. Noh was a man of great stature among the people for his unflagging desire to throw back the pointy-eared devils that lived to the north. He had personally lead some of the most devastating raids into their lands, protecting the faithful from the devil’s corrupting ways. Now he wanted the people of Aman-rash to rise up and march north with him to strike their own blow for Zarn.
Ama-tep reached the temple and came face to face with Rukh Noh. He was standing on the steps to the upper worshiping chambers as Ama-tep was making his way to the central floor. Their eyes locked and Ama-tep could feel the righteousness of the man before him judging his every action and thought against the purity of Zarn’s rebirth. Ama-tep knew that if his faith was found wanting that he would burst into flames and die at the foot of the temple. When their gaze finally broke and Rukh Noh turned to go into the temple, Ama-tep knew that there would be a very special message for him in the prayers. Somehow against the odds Rukh Noh had noticed him and been pleased with strength of his faith.
As the crowds flowed into the central floor of the temple, Ama-tep found himself a good spot where he could see the alter that Rukh Noah would stand behind while speaking to the people of Aman-rash. A hush fell over the crowd as the temple’s an-Rukh came out and sang the opening prayers. The people got to their knees and prayed for Zarn’s rebirth. A rebirth his people were destined to see through even if it cost them their lives. Ama-tep knew that not everyone in the prayer circle was a true believer, but he was and now knew that it was his destiny to play a larger role in the rebirth of Zarn.
When the prayers were over, Rukh Noh was standing before the alter larger than life itself. He towered over the worshipers and laid into them with scathing remarks about their own shortcomings. He exposed their weaknesses and laid bare their infidelities. To him, the people of Aman-rash were not worthy to inherit the world of Zarn or carry his banner into battle against the devils. A great shame fell upon the people as a few spoke up, questioning how they could cleanse their souls of corruption.
Just then Rukh Noh had three devils brought unto the alter, their hands and feet bound. One by one he placed his left hand upon their chests and spoke the true words of Zarn. The devils scream and writhed in pain as smoke and fire rose where his head touched their unclean skin. When Rukh Noh pulled his hand away, the faithful could see the sigil of the ankh clearly burned into their skin.
Now the words of Rukh Noh were clear and commanded the faithful without question. “Take these devils to the highest alter and sacrifice them to the greater glory of Zarn. Bathe in the wonder of his light and rejoice in his coming rebirth. You are the sword and the arm that will cleanse this world of evil. This I charge you with.”
With Rukh Noh’s words still ringing in the air the faithful rose and surged towards the alter. Hands grabbed at the devils while other punched or beat them. Ama-tep reached the alter and grabbed one of the two female devils by the hair. While others were grappling with her limbs he yanked her head around like it was attached to a limp rag-doll. With the help of others Ama-tep drug the devil out of the central chamber and up the steps, making her suffer each step along the way. Her face was a bloody mess, but still Ama-tep pressed her face unto each stone as he recited the sacred prayers of Zarn. Two dozen other worshipers had the other devils and mimicking Ama-tep’s actions. Behind them came a wave of people eager to bathe in the glorious light of Zarn.
Ama-tep wasn’t just caught up in the wave, he was leading it. The blood of the devils would be spilled tonight and he would be there to partake of Zarn’s blessing. Their evil had spread to deeply into the heart of the world for any half-measures to destroy the sickness. Instead, the faithful would bring the fire and sword to the devils and their corrupting ways. As he and a dozen others drug the three devils into the center of the sacrificing stone, Ama-tep locked gazes with Noh. Everything that he had done he knew in that instant was for the greater glory of Zarn. Everything he knew he would in the years to come would glorify Zarn. As Noh himself descended the stairs and gave Ama-tep the sacrificial blade the link was completed — the time for prayer was over, now was the time for blood.
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