Amid the turbulent times of the Achaemenid Dynasty, the Sorcerer Gaumata has set his sights on the highest jewel—the throne of the King of Kings. He plans to murder King Cambyses with his sorcery. Then Gaumata plans to take advantage of a complex scheme to seize the throne. Chaos and brutality grip the land as Gaumata abuses his power, but in the back of his mind a terror of his own lurks. He has crossed powerful witches and sorcerers who are now determined to bring him to his knees. The sorceress Spenta and her powerful mage brother Mihr are caught in Gaumata’s trap, but they have allies in the two witches, Indrayani and Apuyani. They have finally discovered the key to his sorcery, and they plan to use it against him to save the kingdom.
Prince Darius, the real heir to the throne, is in danger when Gaumata understands that he has seen through his disguise. Will he be the next to face his worst nightmares in the world of horror only Gaumata, the fiendish sorcerer, can construct?
The sweat was dripping from Cambyses’ forehead as the suffocating dank air of the tomb pressed down on him. It seemed that the smell was so thick in the air that he could almost see it. The cloying smell of putrefaction became stronger after the inner case covering the corpse was exposed and he felt the saliva begin to collect rapidly in his mouth. He could not retch in public, no, that would not do.
He heard the noise faintly at first, but then it became louder and louder. It was a buzzing that sounded filthy, like when one disturbs flies that have been feeding and laying eggs on excrement. The atmosphere pressed down and the sound increased even as the unbearable stench was forced into his nostrils.
Cambyses began to look about the walls of the tomb, not because he was interested, but because he needed to distract himself. He saw that the intricately painted small figures were beginning to move now. It began very slowly, but he suddenly realized that they seemed to see him too, and some of them were making obscene gestures in his direction. One little man pulled up his robe and wagged his genitals at him while women stood by laughing. Some of the servants behind the little painted oxen that were pulling plows began to point and gape at him. They now seemed to be talking, their rough, guttural language grating on his ears. Somehow he could almost understand what they were saying.
Cambyses turned away from the walls, only to find that the chanting was still droning on. He shifted slightly and felt his face color as Matwa, the high priest, glanced at him. Things were getting bad. He just had to get out of this tomb—out of the festering, nauseating atmosphere of that corpse house. The buzzing was steady and strong now. It seemed to be coming from the inside of the closed inner sarcophagus. He held his hands stiffly against himself to hide the shaking, but then his left eyelid began its tremors anew.
Now the high priest was reaching for the lid of the sarcophagus. Why? Why? Cambyses looked down slightly and saw that his knuckles were white and visibly shaking. The box was opened for the last time and the King of Kings could see the linen wrappings of the mummy, who had a brightly painted mask over its face. Its arms lay crossed over its chest and they had placed the two royal scepters in them. The linen wrappings were discolored already, although they appeared to be quite dry. He blinked, hoping that he wouldn’t see it, but he saw it just as he feared.
The buzzing sound had increased dramatically when the lid was raised and he saw it. Struggling to free itself from the wrappings that bound the body, a large creature began to emerge. It was wet, as if it had been born from the hideous, festering, rotting body. It stroked its front feet together as it looked about. Its many faceted eyes seemed to take in the scene as the almost transparent wings stretched out, slimy tendrils breaking off and making quivering puddles under them. The smell of the creature was one of festering liquid putrefaction. It was coming out of the crotch area of the dead man, just as it had been said in the words of the Holy Avesta.
Cambyses was paralyzed. The many knobby knees of the creature stretched tentatively and he could see the flat buttocks and flabby abdomen that swung slightly as it rose. It was now looking at him. When the faceted eyes settled on him, his paralysis was lifted. He took up his sword to defend himself. The creature began to buzz savagely as if it could divine his intensions. Cambyses ran at it with his sword poised to strike. Expertly he slashed at the thing, but it was as fast as lightening. It flew at his face and he smashed it with the blunt end of his sword. It rolled on the floor as if it had been hurt seriously, but then recovered and tried to attack him from behind.
Cambyses was in a frenzied fight for his life, but not one of the other people in the tomb seemed willing to come forward. Again and again the creature attacked. It seemed to be trying to burrow under his clothes—yes, as the legends said, the Demon of Death, if not contained by the sight of a dog, would try to enter the body of the nearest person by burrowing into his anus. The vile feel of it was enough to make his fight desperate, but the thought of it entering his body! He managed to strike it directly in its abhorrent face. Its feelers were bent now and a loathsome liquid dripped from the sharp teeth that were exposed.
Suddenly, the head priest Matwa leapt up to the dead Pharaoh and threw his arms around the body protectively. The creature seemed now to turn his attention to the priest, who appeared to be sobbing and frantically clutching at the frayed spot where the thing had made its way out of the mummy wrappings. It buzzed excitedly and flung itself at Matwa’s back. The man writhed in frenzied terror as the thing began to burrow and the man’s lower garment dropped to the floor as the creature tore at it. Matwa’s scream was unlike that of a man. It sounded like that of a goat whose life is being tortured out of it. Again and again the hysterical shrieks reverberated in the stone pyramid tomb. The thing deftly pulled Matwa’s tightened buttocks apart and then began to burrow nose first into the man. Matwa struggled, desperately squeezing his buttocks against the repulsive thing, but it still fought its way in. Soon only a few of the hairy, repulsive feet remained and then they also slid in, leaving a slimy trail, as the buzzing finally died away.
Cambyses panted in his terror and looked at the people who stood there gaping in horror. Matwa lay dead and the mummy was torn to shreds. Debris from the struggle littered the floor of the tomb and several canopic jars lay smashed, their fetid contents smeared where a foot had slid in the decaying matter. Matwa lay near the mummy, his torn clothing bloody. One of his legs twitched and then relaxed again. The bones under the mummy wrappings stuck out like white branches.
Cambyses was suddenly seized with rage. Why had they not tried to help him and the high priest? What kind of cowards were these Egyptians? He roared his orders now. They were to bring dogs in to watch for the creature and then clean up the mess. He ordered that they take special care of the body of Matwa, now the home of the Demon of Death. Cambyses felt sad for the noble high priest. He had been the only one who had tried to help, but he now lay dead.
What a terrible way to die. He shuddered as he looked around at the craven Egyptians who had failed to help him to fight against the Demon of Death. He was exhausted and heartsick. What was he thinking venturing into this evil place without the magi? They would never have let this terrible thing happen. They would have insisted on having dogs present. They would have known the proper spells to ward it off! Cambyses felt the tremors in his body subside somewhat. Now he would have to undergo a lengthy purification process.