Shirzah holds a position of honor as a Preparator of the Dead in the great Necropolis of Abdon. His skills assist souls in their journey to the next life, a worthy occupation. But when a body comes into his care bereft of its soul and heart, Shirzah finds himself launched into a chaotic web of murder, intrigue, and fearsome events that force him out of his comfortable, pleasant existence, and give him no choice but to seek out a former friend, lost years ago to the service of the gods.
The priest Set-Imbe holds power now, as a priest of the Fourth Rank. Kept to the Pantheon grounds by binding oaths, trained to serve the god Toth, still Seti is delighted when his old friend Shirzah seeks him out, ending eight long years of loneliness and separation. Their joyful reunion nearly overshadows the reason behind Shirzah's visit, all the more so when their old friendship bursts into a new flame of forbidden passion.
Frightened by the strength of his attraction to Seti, Shirzah nearly abandons his attempt to secure the priest's help. But the horror of desecrated bodies drives him forward into a whirlwind of events. A demon terrorizes the town of Abdon, feasting upon souls. And a purely inner demon torments Shirzah, as he realizes the strength of his love for Seti, a thing forbidden by his entire society. And what of the gods? Once, they walked the streets of Abdon, but they haven't been seen in decades. Even the highest ranking priests have had no contact with their deities beyond vague, fuzzy visions once in a while. Where are they now, when a demon is feasting upon their followers?
Shirzah and Seti discover an underlying web of corruption powered by death and greed in their quest to defeat the demon and free their missing gods. Will they succeed in saving Abdon and its people? And more, will Shirzah overcome his fears of the love he feels for Seti?
- 5 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
"Wait here," the priest instructed. "I will tell Set-Imbe of your arrival."
The garden surrounded him, small and peaceful, laid out with mathematical precision; not surprising, since it served devotees of Toth. Shirzah found a seat on a plain stone bench and tried to make sense of what the priest's words implied. Seti—he must remember to call him Set-Imbe now—had left word to watch for him? Set-Imbe expected him still, after eight long years of no contact? And yet, he had sent no message, no indication that a visit would be welcome.READ MORE
A tiny, jewel-bright bird flitted into the garden, and Shirzah held utterly still, watching it. The little bird hovered, its wings a blur, then darted forward and took delicate sips from the flowers of a plant hanging in a basket beside the bench. It approached so close that Shirzah could see the sparkle of its little black eye. The wings made a humming sound, beating with such speed that they blurred together. Then the door opened and the bird darted off.
Seti stood there, in the doorway, both the same as memory painted him and yet different. Shirzah stared, unable to take his eyes off his friend. He stood taller now, and had lost the gawky, unfinished look all growing boys shared. His eyes were the same, though, as was the way his face lit with a brilliant smile.
"Shirzah! You came!" He stepped forward with arms held out wide and welcoming, then a shadow of doubt flickered across his face when Shirzah didn't respond. "Shirzah?"
Whatever spell had held him immobile broke then, and Shirzah lurched forward, off the bench and across the smoothly raked gravel to wrap his arms around his friend.
"Seti," he managed to say, somewhat alarmed by the strength of his reaction but unwilling to release the other man, "Seti. It's been so long. Why did you not send word?"
Seti showed no inclination to release Shirzah, either. "What do you mean? I sent word often, many messages, but I never got a reply. And I've been waiting for you to come visit these many long years. And now you're here, at last!"
He was real. Shirzah's senses confirmed that. He could feel warm flesh beneath the sheer sleeveless robe Seti wore, smooth and comfortingly solid. He could smell a hint of sandalwood from the long, thick hair, hanging in a precise braid down Seti's back. He leaned back, away from the close embrace, long enough to see the smile on Seti's face, then pressed close once more. He could hear—
Seti murmured something almost audible, in a language Shirzah did not recognize. But it sounded welcoming, it sounded heartwarmingly intimate, like something one would say to a long-lost friend of the heart. Shirzah felt his eyes prickle with tears of happiness.
"I missed you," he said finally, pulling away. He didn't want to, but part of him realized that standing in a temple garden holding another man close could cause a great deal of trouble. "I received no message. Perhaps someone dislikes you, or me, or both of us, and wished the messages to go astray."
Seti frowned. "That is more likely than you know, old friend." He sighed. "I should have realized long ago that you had not received my messages. Surely you would have come to visit before now, had you known you were welcome!"
"Yes," Shirzah replied. Such a simple word to sum up eight years of longing. He stood watching Seti, unaware of the somewhat foolish smile on his face, with a feeling that a great wrong in his world had come right at last.COLLAPSE