Chapter One -
The squalling brat had been born as any child is, from between agonised thighs soaked in the fluids of life, preceded by the struggling cries of a mother at her most primal. It was a moment of solemnity, and then a moment of disappointment and tension as the babe was held aloft and its sex determined.
"A son," bleated the wizened priest with a touch of fear in his tone.
All about the child, a world blurred into focus. The priest that cradled him was the first face looked upon, the long black muzzle of a jackal, furred flecked with grey strokes, and eyes sunken with age. The child's tail began to wag, a tiny plump miniature of the elder that held him, the exhausted mother that lay panting and sobbing alternatively, and the cowled royal that brought the blade to her throat.
"You have failed me, Ahlara."
The child bore witness, as did all others present, to the brutality of the father who needed no second son. Blood sanctified the temple floor and the hushed entourage of Gods and men shuffled away leaving the priest alone with mother and child.
"Ankh-mhem," muttered the priest, a tear rolling down his cheek as he named the offspring of his patron Lord.
It was a blessing and a curse to have been chosen and the old jackal prayed it would not be the damning of his soul. For everyone knew that the scales of the After-life were fickle and influenced by the whims of his patron as much as the weight of one's heart. And in that cold chamber; Ferionas did wonder what would become of the gurgling babe.