(This journal entry is an excerpt from a ledger Sagira uses to keep track of incoming and outgoing merchandise and debts both owed and paid. It is filled with items, buyers, and notes about additional avenues to extract value from the treasure found in the tombs. A smattering of entries are of a more personal nature. What follows is one of those entries.)
5 Pharast 4714
When I first found refuge at the temple, I was full of anger. Sabra saw right through that anger to the fear I’d been concealing, but instead of confronting me, she made a suggestion. That suggestion has stuck with me. It was that even if I didn’t feel like I could share my true feelings and thoughts, I should at least write them down. Then I could take inventory of myself and perhaps glean some wisdom through reflection.
I hate journaling.
You know, Khepri told me that Bastet was once a fierce lioness warrior goddess. Apparently Sekhmet embodies that persona now. I don’t remember exactly why she said it changed, but I like to think that even though Bastet is more about protection and cleverness now that the fierce warrior is still part of who she is and what she likes in a follower. Maybe that’s why she sent Isra to fight at my side?
Anyway, I’m trying to follow Sabra’s advice, so I’m going to record the dream I had last night. I haven’t thought about my mother in what feels like forever. It’s been six years since I’ve seen her face. But hearing that she’s gone was still hard. I didn’t expect it to be. That rage and helplessness boiled back up inside me during that fight with the Silver Chain. I can’t believe I almost killed a kid.
When I saw his face it reminded me of when I was fifteen and frantically trying to free myself from the Faded. It was like seeing a reflection through time. I’m not a sentimental person, but that was jarring. Maybe it’s because I’m still trying to deal with my mother’s death?
Right. The dream. Do people actually remain coherent in journals?
The dream was strange. It was tinged with memory. As I’m awake now, I know that a version of this dream was part of my real childhood. I was young, probably no taller than knee height, and it was a cool evening. My mother and I were returning home from the Hall where she’d been teaching a class. I often tagged along and sat in the back row. It was expected that even at a young age I should be attentive and learning about my future trade. Ironic.
In my memory, we stopped to talk for just a few minutes and went home, but in the dream . . . I’ll just transcribe as much as I can remember.
“Tell me about the city, Momma”
“Wati was founded in –” She began to launch into a history lesson, but I wasn’t interested.
“No not this city. The one behind the wall.”
“No one goes there, my child. It’s a graveyard.” Her face was soft with a small smile, one that I still remember with warmth.
The child me looked up at her, more empathetic than I think I ever was, and said, “That’s sad. Do you think they’re lonely?”
“The people? They’re dead. They have gone on to the field of reeds.” She had, of course, taught me all there was to know about the afterlife. This was a matter of our business and family calling.
I pointed toward the entrance to the Necropolis and suddenly the scene changed. There were Voices posted there and crowd of people rioting, but that didn’t seem to affect me or my mother.
“Then why does the city need guards?” I asked. My mother placed a hand on my shoulder, now looking past me and toward the gate. Her skin was paler than usual, glimmering in an unusual way.
When she spoke, her voice was forlorn, or maybe just tired. “Sometimes spirits are not at peace. They remain past their deaths and become very dangerous.”
She was quiet for a long time.
The people rioting shifted, their skin became bruised and their tongues lolled out of their mouths. The Voices moved with the training I’d seen so often during my time watching Sudi train. But the Voices weren’t strong enough. The creatures kept changing shape, kept getting back up when they should definitely have been down.
It was like watching a moving painting. There was nothing I could do to change the outcome. It didn’t feel like it mattered.
My mother’s voice rasped from her throat. She finally answered, “Anger. And perhaps loneliness. These things have a way of twisting a person.”
When I looked up at her, she wasn’t my mother anymore. She was wearing a bright gold funerary mask, her hair gone gray and draped around her. Her hand on my shoulder was skeletal and tightened its grip.
And then I woke up.
I’m not the superstitious type, but given what we’ve just discovered is missing from the Sanctum of the Erudite Eye . . . a dream like this puts me a little on edge. It’s probably nothing. Just a jumble of thoughts and images from the past few days getting played out in my sleep.
I miss my mom. I don’t want to face her, or any of them. I don’t want to put that mask back on, the one where I had a family with brothers and expectations.