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She Who Scratches

She Who Scratches

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She Who Scratches

Length:
89 pages
1 hour
Released:
Jun 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781393743712
Format:
Book

Description

"I, Marcus Memmius Celer, tell this story. I have told it a thousand times. I may tell it a thousand more ..." 

This is the story of a trio of legionnaires in the days of the Emperor Hadrian, when Rome held sway over Egypt, and strange magic haunted the world. 

When Celer and his friends Festus and Melior come upon a scroll stolen from Alexandria's great library, pointing the way to a thousand-year-old labyrinth of tombs, they know they've been offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance at riches beyond measure. To win it, they must desert their legion, sail up the Nile, and trek into the blazing western desert, the land of the setting sun — the realm of the Theban dead.

The three battle-hardened veterans are ready for anything, or so they think. But nothing can prepare them for what they find in an ancient burial ground hidden beneath eternal drifts of sand — a necropolis sacred to the lion goddess Pakhet, She of the Sharp Claws. She Who Scratches ...

New York Times and USA Today bestseller Michael Prescott, author of more than twenty thrillers, blends history, fantasy, and horror in a 20,000 word novella that takes you deep into the past — and even deeper into hell.

Released:
Jun 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781393743712
Format:
Book

About the author


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She Who Scratches - Michael Prescott

SHE WHO SCRATCHES

Michael Prescott

Table of Contents

I

II

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IV

From the author ...

Acknowledgments

Books by Michael Prescott

For Robert E. Howard

I have heard the songs of ancient tombs.

Funeral hymn of Neferhotep, priest of Pharaoh Horemhab, c. 1300 BC

I

I, Marcus Memmius Celer, citizen of Rome, born in Cremona, raised to the rank of tesserarius, late of the Third Legion Cyreanean, tell this story. I have told it a thousand times. I may tell it a thousand more. I do not tire of it, for it is my destiny, the beckoning doorway that led me to untold riches and life immortal.

I know not how long ago these events transpired. I cannot say how many years or centuries have rubbed raw the stony mound of which I will speak, grinding it down, burying it under ever higher drifts of Egypt’s shifting sand. It may have been a thousand years, one for each telling of the tale.

I know only that my story takes place in springtime of the third year of the reign of Hadrianus Augustus, born Publius Aelius Hadrianus, known popularly as Hadrian. He may be the Divine Hadrian by now, having gone to his reward. This also I know not, nor do I believe there is such a reward for such a man, no matter how exalted his mortal station. I believe no longer in Roman divinities, whether enthroned in the clouds or on the Palatine. The skies are empty, the earth barren.

Ah, but below the earth … that is a different matter. And those are different gods.

I told you I was attached at one time to the Third Cyrene. My adventure began around the time I parted ways with military life, along with my friends Calidus Melior and Lucius Valerius Festus. Not to put too fine a point on it, we deserted.

As you might expect, our decision was not lightly undertaken. Should a deserter be caught, he is subjected to the fustuarium—shoved into the middle of the parade ground and set upon by his former comrades, who beat him to death with clubs. I have seen it done. It is no pleasant thing.

We had two reasons for taking the chance we took. The first concerned the exalted Hadrian, who, in the three years since inheriting the title of Princeps, had revealed himself as a mere greekling, much addicted to the pettifoggery of Athenian sophists and, it was said, the buttocks of beardless boys.

Unlike most in the Third Cyrene, the three of us were recruited in Italy, and we shared a proper contempt for all those not of true Roman origin, and particularly the spawn of Greece. The Greeks, as all know, are wily, untrustworthy, and effeminate, a race of goat-herders and eunuchs.

Except Alexander, Melior was wont to say. But of course, he was a Macedonian.

Melior was passionate in his devotion to Alexander, the greatest soldier of them all, and hence, ineluctably, the greatest man who ever lived. Yes, greater than the Caesars, though it would not pay to announce this opinion in a stentor’s voice. Festus, who cared nothing of Alexander one way or the other, knew this peculiar fixation to be Melior’s weak point, and when bored, he liked to probe that spot, using his words as a surgeon uses his scallpellus.

They’re all Greeks, Festus would answer, all sons of she-goats. Alexander no less than any other.

Olympias was no she-goat, Melior would return, naming Alexander’s mother. And Alexander conquered the world.

Alexander licks Mars’s ass.

I rape your mouth.

"Too late—your cock is in your mother’s cunnus!"

And so they would spar, endlessly exploring fresh variations on a topic that was, for them, evergreen. Festus took his share of merriment in abusing Melior, and Melior, in his phlegmatic way, seemed to enjoy the sport.

We three made an odd grouping. Festus was a lively, wiry little man, going bald like the first Caesar, but hard as a horn. He was glib and quick-witted, though possessed of no discerning intelligence. All finer sensibilities were alien to him. He cared nothing for music or art, would not even listen to a story being read aloud, was indifferent to fashion and unimpressed with learning. He was ruled entirely by his god Priapus, he of the perpetual hard-on. No man ever regretted sliding his wick between a maiden’s legs, he would say. It was his entire philosophy.

Melior was his opposite. They were as unlike as the two faces of Janus, or the masks of comedy and tragedy. Festus, naturally, was the comic mask, while Melior was of a tragic turn, with the sullen face, drooping eyelids, and lugubrious mutter of the eternal pessimist. He stood with shoulders hunched against a constant chill, his head lowered, shifting his feet like a restless child. In no other respect did he resemble a child; he was a giant of a man—last of the Titans, Festus called him—who towered a head higher than myself, and I am no pygmy out of Africa. I think Festus could have sat in Melior’s lap without filling it. He may even have tried, when drunk, as he often was.

This is not to say that Melior was some unthinking brute. Behind the stolid features and dark, glowering eyes lay a mind of some acuity. He had strange moods. I had seen him adopt a lamed puppy and nurse it to health. I had seen him in the company of children, accepting their jests with good humor, even going down on all fours to imitate a bear for their amusement. Yet I had also seen him crush a man’s skull in a tavern because the man called him a barbarian. He took the offender’s head in one huge hand and simply tightened his grip, his fingers flexing, the knuckles squeezed white, until there was a crack of bone. The man dropped to the floor, goggle-eyed in death, and Melior walked away, as untroubled as if he had crushed a snail. Needless to say, no one impeded his departure.

Among such as us, it is no wonder that Hadrian failed to inspire confidence. Our Princeps was not a man of action, and scarcely a man at all. He had sired no children and was thought to be incapable of doing so. He lived apart from his wife, surrounding himself with his catamites and with musicians and poets; worse still, he wrote poetry himself, like a woman, and consulted oracles, and tasked diviners with

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