(Akkaba, Egypt, circa 3000 BC)
Hours ago, the armies of Egypt and the Sandstormers battled to the death, only to be buried together by a massive cave-in. The Sandstormer’s camp is nothing but a city of the dead, all involved lifeless from this massacre… all, that is, except three men. Reaching from the ground, a hand manages to claw its way out. The hand belongs to Ozymandias.
Far below the carnage, in the sacred cave the Sandstormers call the Hound of the Sands, are the cavernous remnants of a time-traveling vessel that came from a far-flung future carrying Rama-Tut. Baal similarly manages to find his way out of the cave-in, not suspecting that the Sandstormers above him lay dead. He barely acknowledges his crushed legs or burst eye. He cares only for his adopted son, En Sabah Nur. A precious artifact found in this very structure called the Eye of Ages hinted at a powerful destiny for Baal’s adopted son, and he will surrender all to insure Nur lives to reach his potential… to destroy the hated pharaoh.
He looks over and sees his son lying on the ground, impaled by a massive rock. Blood surrounds the entry point, and Baal fears the worst. En Sabah Nur thinks he is dying. Nature has tested him well, but he feels he has failed. He tells Baal that he doesn’t know why the pharaoh fears him, or how he even knows of his existence, but it appears he has succeeded in ending whatever threat he posed.
Baal says he must live. He is the strong and must be the whip that fells Rama-Tut. En Sabah Nur looks at the artifact he holds in his powerful hands. “I was to be a savior, then?” he asks. He gives an ironic laugh, as he imagines a savior hated and feared by his own people. He thinks his people despise him as much as they do the pharaoh.
Baal stops the bleeding, and figures that, as his son is still alive, there is yet hope. They have always lived in the tribe by the doctrine of survival of the fittest, and it’s the only thing that has kept them from oblivion in this harsh world. If they die now, then their people’s hopes will die too. The pharaoh will succeed and truly be like unto a god. He will have crushed them and scattered them back to the sands from where they came, and this cannot be allowed.
En Sabah Nur says that it won’t be. He feels a stirring inside him. He informs Baal that he has seen the cryptic visions of the Eye of the Ages. No more shall he be whipped and hunted. A grin spreads itself over his odd-looking visage, as he promises that they will no longer have to run. They will rule, and the pharaoh will tremble. Only the fit will survive his arrival. He will be the test unto Tut’s kingdom.
(some time later)
Ozymandias rides into the City of Kings on the day of the Festival of the Scarab. Crowds cheer his arrival, as he parades between the massive statues that line the pathways. Rama-Tut watches him, and comments that he plays the role of returning conqueror well. More the pity that he has failed to actually conquer anything. Ozymandias looks up to him, and asks if he has been mistaken in thinking that the obliteration of a threat to the chosen people of Egypt is a thing to be prized? Rama-Tut warns him not to patronize. He was supposed to deliver En Sabah Nur to him, and he sees no evidence of him having succeeded.
As he speaks, Rama-Tut thinks about how misguided Ozymandias is. He knows he has no idea just how powerful the youth is. He knows he took a big chance coming to this point in time, and that he would have to deal with En Sabah Nur at some point, but to control his power and shape his future… For him to be his heir - surely no single man has ever had such an impact on history. Rama-Tut turns to see Nephri standing nearby, and is reminded that this time period has its other pleasures, too. He calls her to his side.
He addresses his people below. He informs them that their king is to take Nephri, Ozymandias’ young sister, as his bride. Nephri says he uses her to punish her brother for failing to find the heir he always speaks of, but when men play at being gods, only death can follow. Rama-Tut replies that that her insights serve her well, but he will not suffer disobedience. Ozymandias looks on and grins nefariously. “Thus, I come one body closer to the throne…!” he whispers to himself.
Logos warns Rama-Tut not to take the woman unto him. He thinks Ozymandias will employ her like a poisoned sword to take the crown of Egypt. Rama-Tut replies that he is not blind. He sees things his vizier cannot. He tells him that in this ignorant world, only one snake bears venom, and it is he.
(meanwhile, beneath the desert)
En Sabah Nur complains to Baal that they’ve been searching the passages down there for weeks with no food or water. They’ll die if they don’t find the surface. They come across another dead end and, in his frustration, En Sabah Nur hurls a rock at the wall. To his surprise, the wall collapses, leaving a gaping hole through which can be seen a strange metallic object. Baal figures this is the secret that makes the pharaoh a god, and why man bows to him. It holds the key to his son’s future. He recalls how the pharaoh was found.
The Sphinx, guardian of Egypt, they say fell from the sky; a portent of the gods coming back to rule. It was a weak-minded notion. Baal saw the vessel fall to Earth, and only his people saw the burning fragment that broke from it. Inside this fragment was a man, garbed in a weird and wondrous outfit. He was broken and blind, so they took him to their camp. They recognized him as being powerful, and for weeks they tended to his wounds. He would have died if not for their charity. He named this traveler Rama-Tut, ‘The Visitor from Beyond the Sun.’
One morning, they woke to find he had wandered away during the night. His footsteps led towards the pharaoh’s lands. Weeks later, Rama-Tut returned with his sight restored and wielding strange weaponry. He now commanded Egypt’s army. He demanded to know where the ‘jewel’ he was found in was. The Sandstormers never revealed its location, even when he massacred his people and enslaved most of the survivors. Rama-Tut thought they were crushed, but Baal had found the Eye of the Ages, and in it he saw the face of a man powerful enough to defeat this usurper. The man he saw was En Sabah Nur! Whatever place Rama-Tut had come from, he knew of Nur, and Baal warns that he will use all the power of his kingdom to take him.
The building of Egypt’s great pyramids has continued unstopped for decades. They are built on the blood of slaves. The warlord Ozymandias oversees the pharaoh’s work in these unfortunate periods of peace, never hesitating to wield his whip. He only wishes it were a sword. He would make war on the gods, just as an excuse to put his flaccid whip down. Ozymandias doesn’t like the fact that Logos thinks he will raise the rabble to their level by giving them monuments and arts of learning.
Meanwhile, Logos is privy to the pharaoh’s mysterious plan. This grates on Ozymandias. He cracks his whip on the back of a slave who prostrates himself. He tells the man that his time of usefulness is done, and callously kicks him off the pyramid to his death.
Below, Nephri averts her eyes to her brother’s evil. She feels the king’s rule has reduced them to animals. The glorious destiny of Egypt has been diseased by this outlander. She knows that somehow, he must be stopped.
Baal forewarns En Sabah Nur of his own, imminent death. He feels he must soon lie down and forever will he sleep. En Sabah Nur asks him not to speak of death. He wouldn’t have lived past infancy if Baal hadn’t saved him. He doubles over in pain, and Baal lifts him back to his feet.
Soon, they come across a series of hieroglyphs that Baal reads. They speak of his son. “From the sands he comes, neither god nor man… kingdoms bow at his feet and mankind weeps in his presence. He is En Sabah Nur… the first one.” Baal tells him that he is his weapon against the pharaoh; his hope for tomorrow. Nur says that his father keeps telling him of grand destinies and prophecy carved in stone, but has he considered that whatever person all his signs and portents speak of, might not be his son? He asks Baal to look at him, not with the eyes of a parent, but with those of a stranger. What cruel joke has nature played here? Why was he born like this?
Baal replies, “What is, is.” He feels they must take what harsh measure nature gives them and persevere. Life is a test, and this is how he has been raised. He tells En Sabah Nur that he must leave him. He grabs a Scarab Beetle and squeezes the juices from it onto his son’s hand. He should take its sustenance while he rests. Baal then finally weakens and collapses. He knows he is weak, and the weak must never burden the strong. He asks his son to seek out the Sphinx, because hidden wonders lie within. He must fulfill his destiny.
En Sabah Nur is saddened by this turn of events. He doesn’t want his father to leave him alone. He is all that’s ever mattered to him. He is the only person who ever showed him kindness and mercy, and this is how he has been rewarded - murdered by the pharaoh. There is nothing left for him now. Baal dies cradled in his arms. He has left his son with the will to win the fight, and he drinks the scarab’s blood from his palm before leaving Baal’s body behind. He promises the pharaoh will choke on his own blood for what he has done. He will now become his own prophecy; his own god! He leaves his father buried, forgotten to all eternity, except by that human part of him that he leaves by his side. Now, he will claim his destiny!
For days, En Sabah Nur climbs ever upwards, making his way through the earth and rock as he strives toward the light. Despite his lack of nutrition, his body does not die. His will cannot be crushed like a man’s. His wrath is eternal, and he will not be denied. Four weeks later, on the hottest and longest day of the year, the day of the Isis Ever-Rising when omens come to pass, the ground opens as a pair of arms reach through into daylight.
En Sabah Nur has made it to the surface and, as he coughs from the influx of fresh air into his lungs, he notices that someone is there to greet him. The man introduces himself as Logos, and he is there to help him. En Sabah Nur insists he must go to the City of Kings, but Logos says that first he needs water. En Sabah Nur is about to introduce himself, but Logos already knows who he is, such is his function. The pharaoh said he would be there. His knowledge of events is unnatural and unexplainable. Logos had thought Nur dead for sure.
Logos returns to his laboratory with En Sabah Nur’s face wrapped in a brown slave’s sheet to protect his identity. When he enters, he finds Ozymandias standing there. Logos reminds him that he’s not allowed in his laboratory, and he must leave, now. Ozymandias tells him to wash his odoriferous slave and calm himself. He is not one of his engineers, and he would break his hands to stop these ‘projects’ once and for all. He must show him some respect. Logos isn’t one to be dismissed so lightly, and he snatches a sheet of papyrus from Ozymandias. He warned him it would be on his head if the pharaoh knew he looked upon these scrolls.
Ozymandias grins. He replies that they both know Tut dares not strike against him. He needs his sword, his soldiers and even his sister to birth his heir. He feels Logos can pretty the streets with his temples and ziggurats, but it is he who carves the borders and keeps the rabble from overrunning the land. He is the might of Egypt, and soon the power that Tut holds will be his.
Ozymandias asks Logos to choose his side, for all this will end soon. A change is on the horizon. He is a warlord and it’s his way to bring about this change bloody and quick. He leaves Logos to his plans. As he departs, Logos talks to himself. He figures Ozymandias thinks himself already on the opal throne because his sister is to be wed to the pharaoh. But, he has finally found Tut’s heir in the wastes. His sister will be irrelevant. “Let your sword deal with that, Ozymandias.”
Upon hearing the king’s name, En Sabah Nur rips the cowl from his face and pulls out his dagger. He is infuriated, because he knows that Ozymandias is the king’s butcher who logos said murdered his camp. He’s responsible for Baal’s death. He will die most painfully. Logos steps in front of him, stopping his charge. He tells En Sabah Nur that he appreciates his enthusiasm, but he is not yet ready for this, and that is not the way here. He laughs nervously, and admires Nur’s dagger. He didn’t know his people were at that level of iron crafting. He asks him to put it down.
He then gestures to the great pyramid currently being built nearby, and promises him he will have his chance at the warlord. He needs Nur to save them from the horror of a royal consolidation with the House of Ozymandias… to save them from both Tut and his warlord. If Ozymandias gets this, Egypt will drown in blood, fallen from the very sword that raised it. Nur shall be Logos’ engine of change. But, until he is strong enough, he must remain hidden, there, amongst the pyramid project.
En Sabah Nur tells Logos that he doesn’t care for this civilization of his. He has only seen it to be cruel and capricious. Nor does he like hiding himself under a slave’s wrappings. All he wants are the heads of Rama-Tut and his general. He feels tears hit the palm of his hand and wonders who the girl on the balcony above him could be. He asks Logos how he can get to see her. So much beauty and ugliness in one place. This truly is a place of wonder, and is shall be his!
(Meanwhile, in Tut’s chamber above Logos’ laboratory)
Nephri looks out of the window at the city, and thoughts race through her mind. She has cried tears, but are they tears of hope? Who is this stranger that Logos speaks of? Does he dare oppose both Tut and her brother? Is there truly hope for her and for Egypt? As she thinks about how this might be her one last hope, Rama-Tut appears behind her, asking her to come inside. She has her pharaoh to serve. Nephri stands, wondering if she is not the only one who sees the madness afoot here. She wants to speak with this stranger, and wishes for Isis to watch over him until then.