There has to be a first, and among Immortals that honour is accorded to the Shemsu-Heru, the friends or companions of Horus. Created by Isis and her sister, originally to follow and serve her son Horus, they are the oldest Undying in the world. The original Immortals of Khem, the land of black sand and pyramids. Bound together by their shared culture and the tenets of the Wat Hor they continue to work towards Horus's twin goals: vengeance against Set and the defeat of Apophis.
The history of the Shemsu-Heru is the history of the Reborn, and it has been told many times. The first members of the Dynasty, indeed the first Immortals, were created by the mage-goddess Isis and her sister Nephthys in the time after the vampire Set had killed his brother, the vampire pharaoh Osiris. One of the first (versions differ as to how many came before him) of the Immortals was the son of Osiris and Isis, Horus, and he became an immortal with a burning hunger for revenge.
The Shemsu-Heru were created either by Isis herself, of by her cult after she died (if she truly did die) and their mission to dethrone and destroy Set evolved into a quest to defeat the vampires' true master, Apophis – the maw of Oblivion. For the last six millennia, the Shemsu-Heru have continued in their holy war against all the forces of darkness, chaos and ultimately, the very concept of Oblivion itself. Their devotion to Ma'at and to Horus are legendary, their code of honour austere, but the Reborn are as fallible as any mortal human and it has been such a very long path to achieve their goals. Sometimes these devout warriors and ancient heroes lose their way, either through ennui or hubris, sometimes through corruption, and while they are recognised as the best immortal society has to offer, they are an awful long way from perfection. Originally numbering one for each of the 42 Judges of Ma'at of Ma'at, these followers of Horus (including the Immortal Avenger himself) have been winnowed down by centuries of tragedy and despair.
Because of their unity and the self-confidence brought on by experience the Shemsu-Heru are the de facto leaders of Immortal society, having perfected many of the tactics and taught their lesser siblings the paths of Hekau they are simply revered, often grudgingly, due to their seniority. When the Ishmaelites travelled to Mesoamerica and the orient to share the great rite and give birth to the other dynasties, they still considered themselves Shemsu-Heru. The tales of the first Immortals passed into the legends and myths of all the Reborn and most Dynasties held them in reverence without ever having met them in person.
Once the Dynasties began to come together and the concept of an Immortal Society began to take shape, the reverence in which the Shemsu-Heru had been held went a long way to helping establish the pecking order and despite the fact that they didn’t always live up to expectations, nobody has yet felt the need to topple them from their pedestal. During times when it seemed a new order might be ready to emerge, external events conspired to remind the rest of the reborn just how completely they needed the leadership and guidance of the Companions. Many Reborn view the Shemsu-Heru as arrogant and unyielding, but they also recognise what the Dynasty has achieved and what it has allowed the younger Immortals to achieve.
Many of the perceived flaws that serve to drive a wedge between the companions and the other reborn are the result of their own immense age tied with their birthright as the chosen of Isis. The Shemsu-Heru benefit from the guidance of Godlike entities and traditions begun in the Mythic age. When Horus was created, Caine still ruled Enoch and the 13 founders of the vampire Clans openly dominated their people. The traditions and laws the Dynasty follows were given to them personally by living Gods and many of the Companions believe that Horus, their ever present leader, is himself a God. With such an ancestry, it is no wonder that the Shemsu-Heru are guilty of vainglorious pride and conceit.
For two millennia the Shemsu-Heru were the only Immortals in existence and they fought the war against Apophis unaided. The eldest of this Dynasty are at least twice as old as any other Immortal, and it is to their desires that the Veil of Isis still tends. The Dark Kingdoms and the empires of the dead were distant possibilities when the Shemsu-Heru founded their own dark realm of Amenti, many of the Arcanoi of the Wraiths little more than the restless dead's attempts to replicate the effects of Necromancy Hekau. History is the Dynasties ally as much as it is their shackle; they are the first Immortals and thus the oldest enemies of Oblivion. Where other Dynasties struggle with tactics and dilemma, the Shemsu-Heru have already tried and perfected them.
What many detractors see as the greatest flaw of the Shemsu-Heru, its strict devotion to Horus and its rigid code is in truth its greatest strength. Imagine the Christian Church if Jesus Christ was at its head, or the Vampire Clans with a benevolent Caine to guide and rule them - focus and devotion in the hands of true believers can bring down the walls of Jericho or the moral outrage of the world. The Shemsu-Heru are order personified in rude determined health, the very living antithesis of Oblivion. To them the way of Ma'at is almost instinctual and rarely doubted, they draw undisputed strength from their knowledge of the "right path".
At its heart, the Dynasty is an army of the faithful, sometimes zealots, dedicated to the battle against Apophis and his earthy prophet Sutekh. Warmaster Horus himself sees the destruction of Set as the core goal of his Dynasty, the method by which victory will be achieved. He is a general of astounding genius, but his foes are as easy to pin down as smoke. As Set is the God of darkness, evil, and chaos, so the Shemsu-Heru must continue to be the paladins of light, virtue, and Ma'at. This is the true reason for the Dynasties rigid code of honour and its demand for dedication.
Horus and his inner circle are losing ground however, the vampires continue to dominate the cities, their curses have robbed Khem of the Silent Striders and the Bubasti as a viable presence. Oblivion and the Wyrm grow stronger and stronger while the world has all but forgotten about the old gods and their laws. Effective leadership of Immortal society is always just out of reach, rifts have formed by the Shemsu-Heru's own actions, or because of the cultural differences of those concerned. While the other reborn respect the capabilities of the first Dynasty, they rarely trust them entirely and most find it hard to call them friends. After all the Shemsu-Heru attempted to eradicate the first new dynasty they learned of, the Cabiri, and they have never been quick to treat others as equals.
In the Final Nights of the 20th century, a new mood emerged within the Dynasty. There are now Immortals in the Shemsu-Heru who believe in the cause, in the battle and the need to keep Ma'at, but who have lost faith in Horus himself as the ultimate Prophet of the way. As difficult as it is, they have begun to question Horus and his lieutenants, to demand changes, new tactics, an admittance that the status quo and the old traditions has failed.
This is not a new trend, it has happened countless times through the groups long history, after the first and second Intermediate periods of Khem, when Alexander invaded Egypt, when Rome was at its height and when the empire fell, when millennial fever struck a thousand years ago and a few times since then. In the end it is always the experience and the tested methods that return the Dynasty to its united state. A few members may have left to become Ishmaelites, sometimes new Immortals are created, but in time things always returned to normal.
However there is one difference in this version of the eternal cycle, and that is people are talking openly about the inevitability of such habits. For the first time in its long existence, members of the Shemsu-Heru have begun to believe that victory is in fact impossible. They have lived long enough to see everything they have experienced come around many times, and even the spectacular and unique has become repetitive habit. There is a growing belief that the reborn can expect only two things, those who remain loyal to Ma'at can expect an eternity of war, just keeping Oblivion from completely devouring the worlds, and those who prove unworthy of the task will be simply add their weight to the scales on the side of the enemy.
When Osiris returned after the Dja-akh, the Sixth Maelstrom, he had his son gather his followers for a ritual that ended in their deaths... allowing them, too, to receive the new Spell of Life of the Amenti, which has since made their return to the world that much more vivid and wonderful. The return of Horus (who has since become so powerful that he acts through intermediaries of his surviving comrades, themselves leaders of the Shemsu-Heru) has sparked the restoration of the ancient city of Edfu, between Isna and Aswan, where Horus' temple once stood, and faith in Horus is rising throughout the land, upsetting Muslim purists and resulting in stricter security.
The 13 surviving Shemsu-Heru are now called the Imkhu.
The Shemsu-Heru have a unity and fraternity to be proud of. They have maintained a close and reliable network down through the centuries that can be called upon by any Immortal faithful to the Wat Hor. Their reactions to any event is laid out for them by the governance of Horus and by the expectations of Ma't.
Horus himself is still very active, although most of his Dynasty wide rulings are heard from his inner circle rather than from the man himself. The Viziers of each geographical area report to the founder and receive orders from him in turn, ensuring that Horus and his cabinet have a direct effect on the war effort and on Immortal society itself.
Since the fall of Khem to Alexander's forces in 332 BCE, the Shemsu-Heru have treated Amenti as its capital, and they all but abandoned the land of their birth after the rise of Islam. Even during his time in the lands of the living Horus rarely resides in Egypt anymore, preferring to dwell among the Veil of Isis or in his current favoured castle in the Alps. Egypt is their spiritual home but rarely their physical one, without the temples to the gods or the language of their childhood it has become a foreign land to them.
Amenti, the Dark Kingdom of Sand, is by far the largest of the shadow realms, and the model for all of the other immortals underworld domains. This Kingdom contains many cities and was at one time even larger, having once been much larger than the modern-day Dark Kingdom of Iron could have hoped to have suppressed. Even with its vast wealth and resources, Amenti never sought to dominate the Underworld and simply took steps to mask its presence when the True Wraiths founded their own kingdom.
Shemsu-Heru are met at death by a ferryman, nearly always one who claims to be Anubis himself. This Ferryman leads the newly dead Immortal to Amenti where they are free to reside in safety or dabble in the affairs of the Underworld however they see fit. Though the immobile wraith of the vampire Methuselah Osiris sits upon a throne here, it has been many centuries since he has even appeared to notice what takes place around him. Governance of the city is carried out by ancient wraiths who once served as Osiris courtiers in death.
While there are Companions created after the golden years of the Veil of Isis who view Horus as a literal God, many of the elder members have a more balanced view of their leader. The problem has always been that there is more than one Horus in the Egyptian pantheon. There is Horus the sun god, a version of Ra, and then there is Horus the son, offspring of Osiris and Isis. The leader of the undying Shemsu-Heru is only Horus the son but his followers and many others from lesser Dynasties elevate him to the role of Horus the god. Although they rarely come to blows over their different beliefs, it is a distinct gulf between the two largest factions within the Dynasty.
The Siheru (Son of Horus) or SitHeru (Daughter of Horus)Edit
This is the title usually given to those who believe Horus is both the God and the man, and they often add the title to their name. They also adopt names such as Herumes or Herumoses ("Born of Horus") or Herunefer ("Beauty of Horus"). The faction has many similarities to a fully fledged church and given where Marianism originally came from that is hardly any wonder.
The Siheru could conceivably be called the hardliner faction within the Dynasty, devoted to the Wat Hor almost to a man. They regularly break out into open condemnation of the Ishmaelites and the Dynasties they have created and even on their best behaviour they remain convinced that only the Shemsu-Heru have earned the right to eternal life.
The Het-hert (House of Heru)Edit
The Het-hert are those Immortals, often among the oldest of the Shemsu-Heru, who imbue Horus with no Godly status beyond being a prophet of Ma'at and the avenging agent of his father Osiris. The Goddess Hathor's name has much the same meaning and this is something the group is keen to elaborate upon. Hathor is the Goddess of motherhood and using her name reminds the Immortals that it was Horus Mother Isis who gave them the gift of eternal life. The Het-hert had a very close relationship with the veil of Isis and even in the final nights they are the cults greatest supporters and allies.
Preferring the Path of Ma'at, they Het-Heru are without a doubt the most moderate faction within the Dynasty and without them the Shemsu-Heru would never have come to accept the other Dynasties as equals.
Menmaatre (Eternal is the Justice of Re)Edit
The Menmaatre are a close-knit sect of special agents drawn mostly from military or noble backgrounds. They take the battle against the enemies of Ma'at very seriously and are loyal to the ideal behind the Dynasty. For every negative rumour floating around about the Shemsu-Heru, there is a Menmaatre hero to cast doubt upon it.
Down through the long history of the Shemsu-Heru the Menmaatre have been the secret police punishing traitors, infiltrators sent into the Labyrinth to battle Spectres, death squads tasked with the eradication of the bastard Dynasties, assassins employed to topple Sutekh's thralls, and even monster hunters set to kill the undead themselves. They are experts in tracking, battling and killing vampires and other monsters and they have also perhaps the greatest understanding of how to utterly destroy an Immortal. A skill they claim is used to kill the Bane Mummies but which has been used at times against the Cabiri, the Oboli, and the Ishmaelites.
Wahankh (Strong in Life)Edit
The Wahankh are a new and still highly secretive faction within the Dynasty, a result of the whispered changes in Shemsu-Heru philosophy. They have come to believe that the actual defeat of Oblivion is impossible, if not to be actively avoided at all costs. They no longer see victory over Apophis as their ultimate goal. Instead they seek to preserve the world and the balance by keeping the forces of darkness in check.
Hushed whispers have been voiced to the effect that the Wahankh might one day have to undo the very forces they fight beside if it looks as though the balance swings too far in favour of the armies of Ma'at.
A few Immortals from other Dynasties have come to share the beliefs of the Wahankh but for now it is mostly made up of Shemsu-Heru. To openly speak such heretical beliefs to non members would invite destruction and so the sect grows slowly and makes no overt moves to evangelise its viewpoint. For now they simply collect evidence to support their belief and take comfort in knowing the truth while redoubling their efforts to keep fighting the fight.
Tepemkau (Best of Souls)Edit
The Tepemkau were formed in Amenti while Neter-khertet was in its golden age, they have a first-class pedigree in the Underworld. They are masters of necromancy and have a network of allies among the various factions of the dead, from the guilds to the legions, with a working knowledge of the far shores the Hierarchy would be jealous of.
Occupying a position of power and influence in the shadow realm of Amenti, the Tepemkau operate with a degree of autonomy from Horus and the Inner circle, preferring to safeguard the Dynasties underworld holdings and to serve as guardians of the Ba of Osiris. In fact members of this select group claim to be the last individuals to whom the vampire Methuselah ever spoke, and they are not afraid to remind the rest of the Dynasty of this fact when it can gain them some leverage.
One of the practices of the Tepemkau that Horus is less than pleased with is their jury tampering. While it was common for temple texts, such as the papyrus of Ani, to include spells and cheats to ensure that the deceased could pass the tests of the negative confessions and not be turned over to Ammit when his heart was weighed against the feather of Ma'at, the Tepemkau went a step or two further. They have developed ways and means to ensure that the reborn come off favourably when they are judged by the 42 gods of Amenti and have been known to sell these spells not only to other Shemsu-Heru, but to other Dynasties as well.
Almost all Shemsu-Heru Follow the Path of Ma'at or the Wat Hor. In fact, all at least claim to follow one or the other sanctioned routes to enlightenment and keep any deviation a closely guarded secret. The Wahankh have begun to turn to the Path of Balance in secret and it may, in years to come, gain prominence in the Dynasty if they ever step into the open.
The Wat Hor (way of Horus) is a strict code that governs the Shemsu-Heru - it governs every aspect of the Alpha Dynasty, from ritual observance to laws and communication. In many ways the Shemsu-Heru Dynasty resembles a religion, with a God and his Prophet at its head and a set of commandments to be followed without question. Membership in the dynasty means as near to absolute adherence of the code as can be portrayed and at least two thirds of the friends of Horus truly take the worship of Horus to its ultimate extreme.
Some of the most terrible act committed by the Shemsu-Heru are rationalised away by the commandments of Horus, he who must be obeyed and it might be easy to portray them as fascists or zealots. However the strict code of honor that binds the companions together has also preserved them through countless millennia and has allowed them to inflict more defeats upon the forces of Apophis than the remaining seven dynasties and their wraith allies combined.
The demands of the Wat Hor is truly no harder to follow than the path of Bushido or the requirements of most hardliner religions. It supports and directs its adherents, but they remain intelligent and free willed warriors to the cause. Many of them have met the Gods themselves and would laugh at any who suggest that Osiris or Sutekh were anything other than deities. Each death allows those who walk this path to pass the harshest judges in creation and reminds them that remaining faithful to Horus is clearly the way to walk wholly in the path of Ma'at.