The Arisen, otherwise known as mummies and the Deathless, are ancient humans cursed with immortality through the Rite of Return, empowering them and allowing them to reanimate from death via the flow of Sekhem.
Irem and the Rite of Return
Only old stories of these times told by their elders survive in the memories of some Arisen; their primitive tribal ancestors, known as the Remet, resided in the lands of predynastic Egypt, known as the Black Land or Kemet, which served as the heart of their world and neighbored the Nile River. They lacked the ability to manipulate fire as a tool and were terrorized by the rising dead and ancient Amkhata with the growing influence of the oblivion goddess Ammut the Devourer across the world, until the arrival of the Shan'iatu, primordial and inhuman creatures of the Temakh, from the depths of the desert.
The Shan'iatu taught the tribes of Kemet lesser crafts and, for an exclusive number of them, the means to manipulate Sekhem - the life force of the cosmos and the source of the sorcerers' magic, which they used to quell the rising dead and command them to build the foundations of their first advanced settlements and cities. From unifying and empowering the Remet, the Shan'iatu transform them into a full-fledged nation of their own, with themselves as its founders and religious rulers. They introduced the concepts of their faith - centered around the patron deity Azar and the Judges of Death, the lords of the Underworld - and came to call themselves the Princes of Duat; although they never claimed divinity in their own right, the Shan'iatu would never claim to be mortal either.
The Shan'iatu and their servants, split into warriors, laborers, acolytes, and artisans, built the City of Pillars, which would later come to be known as Irem, as their capital for their Nameless Empire and adopted the image of the desert scorpion as their icon and battle emblem, with a Pharaoh seated as its ruler. Following the end of its first century, after the formation of its legions, the Nameless Empire began its conquest of the known world and stretched its borders to the lands of ancient Libya, Ethiopia, and Mesopotamia.
Only the Ki-En-Gir wizards of ancient Canaan, inhabiting the city known as Ubar, provided any real challenge as Libya, Nubia, and other lands were claimed as vassals easily enough beneath the bronze-clad armies of Irem. The Pact of Ubar was struck between the Ki-En-Gir and the Nameless Empire following the aforementioned city's utter disappearance from existence, crushed and swallowed beneath the sands by the sorcery of the Shan'iatu to be forever lost and its wizards taken to Irem to be tortured to death. These days mark the births of the first and most ancient Arisen, born into the Nameless Empire's golden age as it stood strong and unopposed beneath the senate of the Princes of Duat.
The Remet middle classes were organized into six guilds beneath the Shan'iatu, each serving a separate intended purpose for the society of the Nameless Empire with seven Shan'iatu guildmasters at their heads: the Maa-Kep, who worked as the supervisors of the labor forces of Irem and as the Nameless Empire's "secret police" in routing out treason and heresy; the Mesen-Nebu, who practiced the secrets of alchemy and turned the raw materials hidden beneath the lands of the Nameless Empire into valuable resources and exquisite treasures; the Sesha-Hebsu, who served as scribes and drew and maintained the records, ancient histories and lore of Irem and its vassal-states; the Su-Menent, who were trusted to preserve the funerary rites of the Shan'iatu sorcerer-priests and serve as spiritual leaders to their Remet brethren; the Tef-Aabhi, who worked as architects and engineers of Irem and constructed many of its great structures and artifacts; and the Akhem-Urtu, artisans who practiced the powerful magic of the Nomenclature and True Names.
Following the revelations among the Shan'iatu that, due to their absence of souls, they were barred from A'aru, the Will, and could not improve themselves due to their nature being affixed by the Judges, they conspired to take the places of their lords. Organizing the sacrifice of untold thousands of slaves to Ammut, they gained the knowledge required to perform the Rite of Return in exchange, which would allow them to enter Duat and supplant the Judges by fulfilling their intended ancient purpose via turning Remet servants into new immortal slaves for the Judges. The seven guildmasters of the Akhem-Urtu, distrustful of the word of Ammut, sought to augment the Rite in such a way as to allow them to ascend above the others in an act that would become known as the Betrayal.
However, knowledge of the Akhem-Urtu's treachery became known by their kin, which cursed those of the seventh guild to become the Deceived as the other Shan'iatu modified the ritual to split the essence of the seven Akhem-Urtu guildmasters into seven shards that were then spread among the Arisen of their guild. The slaves sacrificed to Ammut would become the Shuankhsen, immortal mummies whose souls have been partially eaten away and enslaved to the Devourer, while the servants that underwent the Rite of Return became the immortal Arisen the Shan'iatu desired.
Their souls cast into the Underworld to undertake a perilous and inhospitable journey to meet Anpu, the Nameless God, at the gates of Duat and be interrogated by each of the 42 Judges of Death - the last of which becoming their patron following the speaking of their Decree - the Arisen would awaken into a world without the Nameless Empire and the Shan'iatu. None were resurrected during the era of Irem, not even the first of the Arisen imbued with the Rite.
The Inhuman Condition
The Arisen are considered a form of undead, although they prefer the term 'Deathless' as they are different in many ways to the likes of vampires, zombies, and the Created; as a result of the Rite of Return, they are animated through the life energy of the cosmos, known as Sekhem, rather than accursed blood or other forms of forbidden magic. When sleeping or freshly resurrected, the Arisen resemble the desiccated, preserved remains of their khat - their original body mummified during the time of Irem - and once they have been granted time to adjust to their awakening, the flow of Sekhem allows them to assume their sahu - a simulacrum of their original self as they were in life.
The waking period of an Arisen is known as a Descent, which begins with an Arisen practically overflowing with excessive Sekhem before its flow begins to gradually ebb, trickling away swiftly at first before slowing down as the Arisen, presumably, assumes the purpose for which it was awoken. Refusing to follow the purpose granted to them by their cult or their patron Judge, completing this purpose, or blaspheming the Judges of Duat causes Sekhem to decay faster, with the exception of Descents caused by the Sothic Wheel every 1,461 years. During a Descent, an Arisen gradually regains Memory, which allows them to rediscover aspects of their old identities and events and individuals in past Descents.
The Arisen can manipulate Sekhem, which is bound to their fivefold souls, to perform supernatural feats, such as gaining superhuman physical prowess, fueling incredibly destructive magic, and activating ancient relics and artifacts. Utilizing Sekhem, however, causes it to radiate outwards from the Arisen and afflicts mortals with feelings of unease or dread - an effect known as Sybaris, or "the Sickness". Due to their connection and special attunement with Sekhem, the Arisen possess a form of 'sixth sense', known as Kepher, which allows them to detect and track artifacts and relics imbued by cosmic life energy.
The Arisen's Sahu does not rely upon internal organs that were long since removed during the Rite of Return, with the exception of their heart. Their empty body cavities instead filled with perfumed herbs, giving them a distinctive sweet and bitter scent. The Arisen possess the ability to eat and drink, however digested matter dissolves upon contact with a mummy's empty stomach. They are capable of making love, however they are universally infertile, and can thus neither bear children nor sire children. Their inhuman condition also renders them immune to disease, drowning (and therefore suffocation), hypothermia, and suffer no need for sleep, instead fuelled by the Sekhem gifted during their return to life.
During the Rite of Return, the souls of the would-be Arisen travel to the Underworld of Duat to embark upon an unforgiving and utterly hostile journey, at the end of which awaits the 42 Judges of Duat; a decree is the pronouncement an Arisen's soul proclaims before the last Judge they are faced with, which both determines the patron Judge they serve and which Pillar of their fivefold soul guides them throughout their unlife.
Each Deathless is apart of one of the five guilds which have operated since the Nameless Empire, each playing a unique role in service to the Judges.
Affinities and Utterances