Tehuti's Per On The Web 2.0!

Horus: Chapter 6



IN THE COURTYARD of the temple of Thoth there was a tree-lined pool around which the temple baboons cavorted, and where Hekanakht liked to work on his letters and texts. The other scribes shunned the area as too noisy what with people coming and going to have their dreams interpreted or their horoscopes cast or their letters written; Hekanakht preferred it to the gloomy insides of the temple. He lived for the moments when the sun would manage to peek through the clouds, if not for long; to him that was much better than any working silence the temple offered.

He sat in the shade--which was just a slightly darker patch of ground--and worked on a religious text, with spells to protect the reader from the underworld serpents Apophis, Sebau, and Nak. Beside him sat his combination pencase/palette, with disks of red and black pigment and slot for reed pens, as well as a small jar of water for moistening the ink; he sat cross legged with the sheet of papyrus pressed down flat against his kilt. He knew all the hieroglyphs by heart from years of practice; he wrote this text in cursive hieratic, marking the beginning of each sentence in red. He highlighted the top margin with sketches of snakes and demons, making certain to draw knives sticking through each one to curb its powers, just in case. He would add color to the sketches later, and store them in the library at the back of the temple. Right now he simply wrote, losing himself in the many dashes and swirls and lines it took to form sentence after sentence. He didn't even notice the sacred baboons wandering around him, he was so absorbed in what he was doing.

That's why, when someone touched his shoulder, he jumped, knocking over the water jar and nearly ruining his papyrus. It rolled shut with a snap and he looked up. He relaxed.

"Hetepet," he sighed. "Only you would try to scare me to death in the middle of my work."

He stood up as he spoke, rubbing the ache out of his legs and collecting his materials. His sister watched him with some curiosity. She was much younger than he was, not even twenty yet; the city people thought of them more as uncle and niece than brother and sister. He watched over her as an uncle would, and made certain she lacked nothing in terms of material comfort; she lived, most of the time without him, in their town house, with servants to cater to her every need. Yet from the first time she'd ever set foot in the temple, years ago, there had been one thing that she wanted above all else, that Hekanakht so far hadn't granted her.

"I want you to teach me to write," she told him.

He sighed. "Het, we've been through this before."

"I know, I know," she said, in an exasperated voice. "'Women don't need to know how to write.' I don't care about that. I want to learn."

As she spoke he'd disappeared into the temple's first hypostyle hall, through its second, past the offering rooms and sanctuary and back into the multiple stores, chapels, and living quarters. She followed him all the way, ignoring the disapproving looks of the other scribes. Hekanakht reached his personal quarters and searched for a light robe to wear over his kilt. He didn't keep personal servants himself; he left that to Hetepet. He found a fine transparent robe in one of the inlaid cedarwood caskets sitting by his bed and pulled it out, slipping it on.

"You must understand how long it takes to learn such a skill," he said, selecting a pair of gold and turquoise bracelets and putting them on. He found a matching pectoral in the same box. "Young boys go through up to twelve years of training. And then it's on to working as an apprentice."

"I already know some of it," Hetepet protested. "I've been watching you teach it for years now. I'm a fast learner. All I need is some brushing up."

It sounded like a pun. Hekanakht paused but she didn't seem to be aware of what she'd said. He put on the pectoral with its gold counterbalance shaped like a baboon hanging in back. He straightened it out.

"All right," he said, "I can teach you, if you can handle getting up before dawn, taking classes half the day, and getting no special treatment for being my sister. 'A boy's ears are on his back.' Apart from the gender, that could apply to you, too."

"You wouldn't need to hit me. I said I learn fast. And I've already memorized some of it."

"There's a difference between learning and doing. You'll see that the moment you try writing on ostraca. Because that's what you'll be practicing on, a long time, before I even hand you a piece of papyrus."

Hetepet's lower lip began to stick out but she said nothing.

"Then you can come to class early tomorrow, and bring your own lunch, because our mother certainly isn't going to drop it off for you."

"You don't have to be so snide about it."

He sighed. "I'm not, Het. Just realistic. If you think learning to write equals learning to be a scribe, I'm afraid you're wrong. Being a scribe takes much more than memorizing hieroglyphs and mixing the right amount of water in your ink. It takes more discipline than you can imagine. Just after you learn all the hundreds of hieroglyphs, you have to learn hieratic! That's what we all write in." He showed her the scroll.

Hetepet leaned forward and squinted. "'Pro-tect me from...vile...ser-pents--'"

He let it snap shut and turned away. "Het."

"I just want to prove I can do it!"

"I don't doubt you can. But is this something you want to spend the rest of your life on?"

"I've already spent most of it!"

He looked at her with her defiant brown eyes and sighed again. There was a time he'd been as stubborn, surely.

"All right," he gave in. "You just show up at class on time. You'll have a washable writing board, but you'll also practice on ostraca. Like I said, it'll be a while before your pen ever touches papyrus, unless you want to press it all on your own."

"I can do that."

He tried not to laugh. "One thing at a time, please, Het. If you want to learn papyrus-making, that'll have to wait till you're through with your hieratic."

She smiled and kissed his cheek. "I'll show you! Your other students will be jealous. I'll learn it all in twelve weeks, not twelve years. You'll see."

He shook his head as she left his quarters. It was too bad she had to be the sister of a scribe. She should have been more interested in weaving or brewing. At least those jobs were open to her.

But Hetepet was interested in neither. She was already laying out sentences in her mind as she went through the temple back to the courtyard. Hieroglyphs went up and down, left to right, right to left. They very nearly glowed in her head, pictures of owls and snakes and hawks. She imagined them forming words, then sentences, then pages--

She bumped into someone else heading into the temple. They both squawked and jumped back, sending a group of baboons screeching and scurrying away. Hetepet shook her head and looked to see who'd run into her.

A young man was in front of her, shaking his head also.

"You could watch where you're going," Hetepet said with annoyance.

"Me?" He looked surprised. "You ran into me! You could try daydreaming a little less."

"Daydreaming!" She drew herself up. "I'd have you know I was thinking over some important lessons, not daydreaming."

"Lessons?" He laughed. "Oh, all right; you're a scribe, aren't you?"

"In training," Hetepet said. She decided telling him a half-lie wouldn't matter; they'd never meet again.

"Then I'm sorry I laughed. Pendua." He dipped his head. "And your name, so I might properly address you?"


He bowed. "This humble servant Pendua greets the mighty scribe Hetepet."

Hetepet's eyes widened. She snorted with indignation, turned on her heel, and stalked out of the temple. The baboons scattered to let her pass.

Pendua watched her go. He glanced back toward the first hypostyle hall to see a tall, older man, in robe and gold and turquoise pectoral and bracelets, coming his way. Pendua drew himself up slightly, as Hetepet had done, and walked his way.

"Excuse me."

Hekanakht looked up. A man in a plain white kilt and papyrus sandals stood before him. A common craftsman, from the look of it. "Yes?"

"I was looking for someone skilled in interpreting dreams. I wondered if you might be able?"

Hekanakht rubbed the side of his head. It was shaven, like a priest's would be; he supposed that, plus his clothes, was why this man had singled him out. "I've done some dream interpretation, yes; though I'm not exactly skilled--"

"I was hoping to find out what this particular dream means," the man said. "It's been troubling me somewhat."

Hekanakht sighed inwardly. He'd been on his way out, perhaps to sail up the river, but felt he couldn't turn this man away after he'd taken the trouble to come here. A simple dream interpretation couldn't take that long; it probably wouldn't mean much anyway. "What's your name?" he asked.

"Pendua. Son of Tamose."

"Very well, Pendua, I'm Hekanakht, temple scribe. Come inside with me and I'll look at the texts and see what I can do for you."

Pendua offered a relieved smile that somehow made up for Hekanakht's lost afternoon. "Thank you." They both passed through the columned halls on their way to the back of the temple.

Pendua tried not to stare too much at the furnishings in Hekanakht's room as he waited while the scribe went through some of his personal scrolls. Hekanakht selected several from the stack and gestured for Pendua to sit in a chair. Pendua looked at it and believed it was more expensive than all the furniture in his house. He tentatively sat down, his hand resting on a carved ebony leopard-shaped arm.

Hekanakht took a seat nearby, still looking at the papyri. "Now I'm not too sure exactly how much these will help, but I suppose if you simply told me the details I might be able to come up with something."

Pendua nodded. "Well... It starts out when I'm walking through the city, toward the royal palace. It's dark out; the clouds are roiling. It looks ready to storm."

"Possible turmoil, of some sort," Hekanakht mused.

"I reach the palace and the royal throne is sitting on the top step. There's nobody on it, though. It's just sitting there, like somebody put it out on display."

"The throne symbolizes the king's rule."

"As I'm looking at it, the clouds overhead open up and this shaft of sunlight comes shooting through, like a spear being hurled from the sky. It descends and hits the throne. It strikes it right in the middle. And the throne just crumbles till there's nothing left but dust, which the wind blows away to the desert." Pendua shrugged. "That's how it ends. I've had it the past few nights running. What do you suppose it means?"

Hekanakht didn't answer. He'd gone pale, a scroll rolled up forgotten in one hand. He stared at Pendua a moment before gathering the papyri and slowly standing up.

"I'm not certain we should continue this conversation," he said in a faint voice.

Pendua frowned. "Why? I only wanted to know what it--" He paused, seeing the look on Hekanakht's face. "It's important, isn't it? You know what it means."

Hekanakht looked at him. He considered himself a decent judge of character, and as he studied Pendua he saw no trace of guile to indicate he worked for the king. His shoulders relaxed a little and he sighed, sitting back down.

"You seem harmless enough. I doubt the king would send out mere humans to do his work." When Pendua looked startled he set the scrolls aside and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "What you dreamed about won't be in any of these. It's simple enough when you look at it."

He looked Pendua in the eyes. "You dreamed of trouble for the throne. That's what the storm clouds meant. The shaft of sunlight--perhaps it's a weapon. In any case, the kingship is in trouble in some way."

Pendua's eyes lit up. "The kingship? The kingship of Set in trouble?"

Hekanakht flinched. "Please, lower your voice."

Pendua stood up. "Why should I have to? If Set's reign is in trouble, then we don't have to be afraid of him anymore. Do you have any idea just how it's in trouble? Can you tell?"

"It sounds like war, or battle. But please, keep quiet--you never know where they are--"

"Who? The Apsiu?" Pendua laughed and threw up his hands. "We won't have to watch out for them anymore. Imagine! I was actually troubled by this dream! I hope I have it again tonight!" He turned to the door. "I carve statuettes and vases in my workshop. However many you might need, let me know, and they're yours."

Hekanakht followed him and didn't catch up till he'd reached the exit to the second hypostyle hall. "Pendua, please, if you go around announcing--"

He started when Pendua nearly ran into someone in the entryway between the first hall and the courtyard. Pendua jumped back and shouted, "You!"

"You!" echoed a female voice.

Hekanakht pushed forward to see Hetepet, carrying a basket of pottery shards and limestone chips, some of which had spilled to the ground. She looked at him as she bent to pick them up.

"Het," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"I was just going to drop off some ostraca so I wouldn't need to look for any tomorrow--until I ran into this ape."

"Het," Hekanakht warned.

"You know each other?" Pendua asked, confused.

Hetepet glared at him as she stood up. "He's my brother. Why shouldn't I know him?" Now she glared at the scribe. "And why didn't you tell me you knew this--this--" She scowled. "I won't insult the poor baboons by calling him an ape!"

"He just came to me asking for a dream interpretation," Hekanakht explained. "Something about the throne. If you could both--"

"Throne?" Hetepet interrupted.

"Trouble," Pendua said, as if to shock her. "Trouble for the throne. And it's about time, with all the crops dying and the people going hungry."

"Shh!" Hekanakht hissed, as his sister's eyes grew.

Pendua waved him off. "I'm not going to cower in fear like some mouse under a cat's paw. I can't be the only one who's tired of never seeing the sun. It's only a matter of time before the people quit thinking about how angry they are and start doing something."

"Heka," Hetepet said. "He's starting to sound like you."

Hekanakht felt his stomach clench. It did sound almost like what he'd said to Hetepet about writing. When he looked at her, he could see that Pendua's words had gotten through to her, too.

He stepped forward, taking Pendua's arm and leading him from the temple.

"Listen," he whispered in Pendua's ear. "This dream of yours may mean something, and it may not. Whether the throne is in trouble or not isn't for us to say."

"But it is," Pendua protested. "And I'm not going to keep quiet just because everyone else has. The people need someone to speak up before they'll act."

"I'm just asking you, for your own sake, keep quiet!" Hekanakht let go of Pendua's arm and pushed him gently toward the pylon. "If you want to live to have your dream yet another night, you'll listen to me and do what I say!"

He turned and went back into the temple to meet Hetepet, escorting her out of Pendua's sight. Pendua sighed and exited through the pylon, leaving the temple behind.

Within the courtyard, behind one of the large ornate columns and half shrouded in shadow, an Apsiu with gray ear lappets watched him go.

Mahai had a good thing, and he knew it. That human in the temple had been speaking treason. That was pretty much what inciting to riot equaled. And though he hadn't done any inciting yet, that didn't matter. Talk was enough. Treason was bad.

It was good for him, though, when he worked for the king.

His gray lappets and conspicuous absence of heavy weapons indicated his position as scholar. He would have been vizier if it weren't for Thoth. Set had declined getting rid of such a valued servant; in fact, he'd declined getting rid of anyone at all but Osiris and his whelp, which Isis had hidden from him. Mahai understood the importance of not killing the queen, though he could think of no reason why Set should have kept Osiris's main advisor as his own when Thoth was so obviously loyal to the dead king. Mahai was loyal to the true king. He kept an eye on Thoth.

News of treason wouldn't make the king happy, but it could always result in favors for Mahai. Maybe someday Set would listen to reason and get rid of Thoth. Then Mahai could be vizier.

As he passed the city marketplace--a large clearing where, once or twice a month, the people gathered to barter their wares--and made his way through the city, ascending the stepped ramp to the palace, he went over in his head just how he would phrase his news of the traitor. One had to always be careful when reporting bad news to the king. More than one Apsiu had lost their position--and more--for speaking carelessly. Mahai would not make the same mistake.

He knew the name of the dissenter, plus his two friends, already. He had spies everywhere who made it their job to know names. He would give Set as full a report as possible.

He ascended the south indoors staircase to the upper living levels, walking down the hall in the direction of Set's quarters. He stopped when he heard footsteps ahead. Two figures approached from the end of the hall. When Mahai could make out who they were, he crossed his arm to his chest and waited.

The first was a woman, dressed in blue, with a diaphanous covering of the finest linen trailing around her like a spider's web. The royal uraeus was on her brow, and fine gold threads braided through her hair, setting off sparkles in the lamplight. A gem-studded pectoral in the form of a hawk rested against her chest, gold and lapis bands on her arms and ankles. Even her sandals were gilded with gold. She wasn't tall, but walked with her head carried high, as if her stare could bring even a giant down to her eye level. Altogether she possessed an air of quiet superiority, and Mahai knew to step out of her way.

Walking behind her was a man with the head of a crocodile, carrying a spear longer than he was tall. A bull tail hung at the back of his kilt. His pectoral bore an intricate design of crossed spears, the sign of the captain of the guard.

They approached Mahai and, seeing him, stopped. The woman looked at him through eyes painted around with lapis blue. She frowned at him slightly, and the crocodile-headed man moved to be at her side, shifting his spear to a more conspicuous position.

Mahai bowed, partly to hide the sneer that crept up his face. "Life, strength, and health, great Goddess-Queen Isis."

She stared at him a moment, with seeming disapproval, before nodding her head once and moving on. The crocodile-headed man kept his eye on Mahai as they passed, showing his teeth slightly in warning. Mahai only grinned and bowed again. He waited until they were gone before making his way to Set's quarters.

He managed to get past the Kana guards posted there without any trouble, as they recognized his rank and saluted, letting him through. He stepped inside and looked around.

These quarters had probably once belonged to Osiris. The walls were decorated with scenes of river life; he knew Osiris had loved the river, even as it ended up being his first tomb. The south side of the room was open, overlooking the south garden with its pools and trees and tame gazelles and cheetahs wandering around. This part of the room was supported by columns painted to look like lotus stalks, their capitals crafted in the form of flowers. The bed was to the left, in an enclosure formed by wooden bars hung with gauzy linen, creating the sense of a small private room. Stools, tables, and boxes formed the rest of the furniture.

Mahai stepped further into the room. It was early afternoon, so he expected Set to be awake. And he was, pacing at the other side of the room before a seated man with the head of an ibis, who was scribbling words on a piece of papyrus, seemingly taking down a letter. They both looked up at him as he approached and Set gestured him his way.

Set had ordered the Apsiu created many years ago, and those who said they were made in his image were right. He had a man's body, like most of the other gods, but he also had the blunt-tipped ears and long, curving snout of the Apsiu. He wore a white kilt edged in black and gold and a pectoral of gold and the darkest obsidian, as well as what Mahai knew to be armor, also black, like scales, and in the form of a girdle. He carried a staff topped by an obsidian Apsiu head. When he turned his head to look at Mahai out of the corner of his eye his earrings, gold loops hung with obsidian beads, swung to the side.

His eyes narrowed a little, as if he sensed the news Mahai brought with him.

Mahai bowed and started to speak but Set cut him off.

"Great King, True King, Mighty Bull, Lord of the Two Lands, on and on and on. I've done your work for you, Mahai, so now you can get to the point."

Mahai flushed and bowed again. Flattery was one thing that never worked with Set. He kept his head down, staring at the floor as he talked.

"Great King, news from the temple. A human there, one Pendua by name, speaks treason against the Great King."

Set winced at the repeated use of the title. "What kind of treason?" He nudged the Apsiu's side with his staff. "Spit it out, Mahai, before I make you."

Mahai swallowed. "This Pendua, son of Tamose, a mere crafts--"

"I don't need to know his lineage, damn it!" Mahai yelped when the staff whacked against the backs of his legs, knocking him down. The scribe at the side of the room kept his face blank. Mahai felt like smashing it in. The end of the staff cracked against the floor beside him and he jumped. "Just tell me what in the Duat he said!"

"He spoke of inciting the people to turn against the king," Mahai said, his head bowed. "He spoke of displeasure with the king's reign, and a prophetic dream that it would end."

Set stopped pacing and looked down at him. He pushed Mahai's chin up with the staff so the Apsiu had no choice but to look back.

"Dream?" he prompted.

Mahai tried to nod. "A dream of discord, Majesty, of trouble for the throne. I couldn't hear much but he, plus the scribe Hekanakht and his sister Hetepet, seemed to believe it."

"Did they say as much?"

Mahai averted his eyes. "No, Lord."

"Then the other two haven't committed treason." He turned to the door; both Mahai and the scribe stood and followed him out.

"You can quit worrying about this Pendua, Mahai," Set said, walking so the other two almost had to jog to keep up. "He'll be taken care of in time. I know what to do with dissenters."

"Yes, Lord."

Set stopped and the others had to avoid bumping into him. The scribe backed into the shadows so as to be almost invisible. Mahai could see Set's eyes narrow again; looking down the hall, he saw two figures approaching, the same ones he'd passed earlier. He suppressed his sneer this time.

Set flicked a hand at him without even looking his way. "You can go now, Mahai."

Mahai scowled. Leave it to Set to dismiss him at the most interesting moment. Nevertheless, he bowed and turned, walking away.

Set stood and watched as the other two came closer and stopped not too far from him. They both looked at him, the woman with her cool expression and the crocodile-headed man with barely concealed hate. Set just grinned and bowed.

"Goddess Isis, Lord Sobek."

He straightened and glanced at Sobek. Isis turned to her companion and nodded once, as she had at Mahai.

Sobek looked stricken. "Goddess--"


He hesitated a second more before bowing to her, shooting a venomous look at Set, and leaving.

Set paced a slow circle around Isis. She stood with her arms crossed, looking annoyed in a detached sort of way. He hated how calm she always was. He could have a hundred Apsiu pointing spears at her throat and she'd still just look as if she'd found a fly in her wine.

"Sister," he said, as if in greeting.

"Set," she said back. Not "Brother."

He smiled graciously and stopped before her. "Every day we go through the same little ritual," he said. "We both pretend to be polite while it's obvious we hate each other. I wonder when this situation will ever change?"

He saw her eyelids lower a little. "You'll never change, Set. I don't see why the situation should."

He smiled and tipped his head toward her, awarding her the point. "I misjudged you. That's not arrogance I see there, it's wit. Maybe sometime we could have a debate, and your little guardian Sobek could judge who--"

A noise from the end of the hall. An Apsiu, covered from head to foot with dust, tromped toward them, saluting.

Set seethed at the interruption and snapped, "What!"

The Apsiu took a step forward, scattering dust along the floor. He looked as if he'd just been caught in a sandstorm. "Lord-King Set, I've come with news from the Delta."

Both Set's and Isis's eyes widened. Set leaned toward him.

"News, Kusef?"

Kusef bowed. "Yes, Lord. A raid on a Delta village. I flew to tell you before they arrive."

"They?" Set waved it off when Kusef started to reply. He gave Isis a sugary smile. "If you would excuse us, please, Sister, but I'd like to speak with my general alone. Perhaps another time."

He turned away from her, listening to the Apsiu talk as they went back toward his quarters. Isis watched until she noticed she wasn't quite alone. Squinting a little, she could see the ibis-headed scribe still standing in the shadows, almost hidden behind a column. He looked at her.

Isis nodded, gave a slight gesture that he should follow her.

She walked away for the north hall, the scribe leaving the shadows and following closely behind.

Isis paced in her quarters, having dismissed all her servants. She refused to live cooped up in the harem with them; as such, Set had allowed her to stay in the same section she had since Osiris had lived there. It looked much like Set's rooms, only lighter somehow and overlooking the north garden; if she walked out onto the balcony in the evening she could see the sunset on her left. The clouds never covered the whole horizon, so the red flash before nightfall was always visible. But it wasn't the sunset she'd been looking at lately. She'd been looking to the north.

She stared out over the palace wall, her pet kite perched on her hand as she stroked its head. The ibis-headed scribe stood near the doorway, watching her.

"This Delta raid," Isis said. He had to strain his ears to hear her. "He's looking for Horus, isn't he?"

The scribe bowed his head. "We all knew he would start looking for him soon, Goddess."

"It must be about time, then. I've been dreading and looking forward to this day." She paused, then turned to look at him, the light outside casting her into silhouette. "What if he's already found him, Thoth?"

Thoth bowed his head again. "There's no worry, Goddess. The envoy you sent out has already found him."

Isis's eyes brightened. She set her kite on its perch and came closer. "They found him?"

Thoth nodded. "Before General Kusef and his men stormed the village. They're on their way back now. Prince Horus and the others should be here within a month."

The look on her face would have been reward enough for anything. Thoth held up a hand in warning.

"Unless the Apsiu stop them along the way. Set won't give up so easily, especially now that he knows they're coming."

Isis's jaw set and she nodded. "Get Sobek for me," she said, "and bring him back here."

Thoth bowed and left.

Isis picked up her kite and went to the balcony to stare over the garden and beyond the wall again. It wouldn't take Thoth too long to find Sobek; the crocodile god always stayed nearby. He'd been her shadow since Osiris died, and she didn't doubt he'd take on Set himself to protect her. However, there were more important things to do now than trail her around.

Thoth returned with Sobek behind him. Sobek bowed, and Isis stepped forward, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"You've served me well the past eighteen years and more. You've maintained your loyalty to the true king even when doing so has put us all in danger. Which is how I know you'll do what I tell you to do next."

Sobek wavered but didn't say anything. Both he and Thoth had caught the hidden message in her words.

"I want you to leave the city and head north," Isis said. "You'll meet Lord Upuat and the others I sent out. They'll have Horus with them. They may need help to protect them from the Apsiu. You're the best fighter I have. You'll assist them if they need it, and see to their safe return to the city."

"Goddess." Sobek shook his head. "I can't leave. I promised His Majesty Osiris I wouldn't leave you."

"This is one promise you have to break. It's Horus who needs your protection now."

"But without me--Set might--"

"He swore by Maat he wouldn't hurt me." Her smile grew slightly cynical. "And even Set's word is good when he swears by Maat." She touched Sobek's shoulder again. "Don't worry about me. I have Thoth to keep an eye on things. If you truly want to serve me now, you'll do what I say and go to the others."

She fell silent. Sobek stared at her a moment more before bowing, his spear at his side. "Goddess, if it's your command, I'll go, but don't expect me to do so willingly."

"I wouldn't force you to do anything, Sobek, though this is what I want."

"Then I'll go, without further word." He bowed to her a last time, then to Thoth, before turning and leaving the room. Isis and Thoth went to the balcony. It wasn't too long before they saw a small shape riding a kudu gallop off into the north and toward the desert, small puffs of dust rising with every hoofbeat.

Isis set her kite on its perch a last time and went back into her room. Thoth watched as the tiny figure blended in with the sand and ultimately vanished. He turned to follow Isis.

The kite screeched and flapped its wings.

Thoth paused and looked again, toward the city proper, in the northeast section of the great enclosure. Even at this distance his bird's eyes caught sight of a human male standing atop the roof of one of the many multistoried houses, shielding his eyes and also watching Sobek ride away. The human turned and disappeared down a side stairway.

Thoth felt as if the netherworld fiend Apophis had just wrapped himself around his heart and started squeezing.

Ra help us, he thought, when mortals decide to get involved in the affairs of gods.

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