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Horus: Chapter 18


EVERYTHING HUSHED. THE fighting stopped as soon as everybody saw the two meet. It was almost as if some kind of truce had been reached, although the silence was only waiting.

Horus felt the weight of everyone watching. He sat up higher on his horse, trying to look braver than he felt.

Set smiled at him. "Sorry about the delay, but I wanted to make certain your army was an equal match for mine. I'm a little surprised to tell you it seems it is."

"No more delays," Horus said.

His uncle clucked his tongue. "You think I don't wish to fight you? Believe me," and his eyes narrowed, "I've thought about it for a long time."

"Then do something about it." Horus's horse tossed its head and fidgeted. "You wanted a war. This fight is between the two of us."

"This fight is greater than you can ever imagine," Set replied in a low voice. His stare averted, turning to his right as the Kana started moving again. His smile grew--and Horus's heart rose--when they saw who approached.

"Well, Horus. It looks like your mother's come to see you off."

Isis didn't look at her brother. Her eyes fixed on Horus's. He drew on something he saw there and faced his uncle again.

"I said no more delays," he repeated. He raised his sword. "You wanted a fight. Now you have one."

"What's the matter? Room for only one thought in that head of yours before you start to get distracted?" Set's eyes narrowed again, seeming to bore right through him. "Face it, Horus. It's because of our blood that we're here. We're closer to each other than you think. You and me, nephew and uncle, related through the same people." He nodded at Isis. "Your own mother, my sister. She insists you do this." Horus looked at her, even as his uncle continued talking. "She would have us keep killing until one is standing."

There was something strange in Set's voice, something Horus couldn't place. He tried figuring out what it was, but the more he thought the more it confused him. It was almost as if Set's voice filled his mind, became his own thoughts, so he could no longer tell whether he thought or Set spoke or both; the Kana and the Moru no longer existed. All he could see was his mother, standing on the battlefield while everything grew red around her.

Set's/his voice came to him again, everywhere, omniscient.

This isn't a fight between us. This is a fight between blood. Our blood.

Our blood, Horus echoed. Numbly, he tugged his horse's reins, bringing it around and moving toward his mother. He kept his sword raised.

Isis's eyes widened as she slowly seemed to realize what was happening. "Horus," she said. "He's getting to you. Don't let him do this."

"Our blood, Horus," Set said. "Not just yours and mine. Everyone's."

The two of us are connected, Nephew.

The two of us are connected, Uncle.

"Our blood," Horus murmured as his horse towered over Isis. "Our fight."

Isis wasn't his mother. She was just another face. Another casualty. Like the Apsiu he'd had to kill. Like a bird struck down by a throw-stick. As he lifted his sword higher he knew it was simply a part of the order of things, of Maat, something that had to be done.

Isis saw a red sheen pass across her son's eyes, though his face remained blank. She had to force herself not to back away. "Horus," she said again, hoping hearing her speak his name would snap him out of it. "Set's tricking you. He's controlling you. You have to fight it."

"It's our fight," Horus said in a dazed voice. "A fight for blood."

He aimed at his mother's neck, and brought the sword back.

Isis clenched her fists and concentrated on finding his thoughts, fighting to wrest control from Set. Her eyes flashed blue with the effort. She spoke in his mind, forcing her thoughts through.

Horus. Don't betray yourself!

The red flashed in Horus's eyes, faltered. He blinked as the haze in his head abruptly cleared. Sokar spoke to him again.

Two people will try to betray you...

...one of them closer to you than you could ever know...

Set started back, his Sha rearing, when Horus let out a furious yell, bringing his horse around and swinging his sword at the air. His eyes fixed on Set, no longer red, but enraged.

"No more delays!" he shouted, his face contorting with anger. He snapped the reins and charged. Set blocked his blow as he rode past, and swung at his nephew when he came back. Their swords met and they started struggling.

All around them, the Kana and Moru and humans watched, mesmerized. A large area had been cleared around the two combatants, and they tossed and scuffled within it, their onlookers backing away whenever the fighting got too close.

Horus parried a sword blow from his uncle, only to have Set snarl and plunge a dagger into his leg. He howled and pulled it free, and went after his uncle with more force than before, driven on by pain. He drove the butt of his sword into Set's chest; Set's breath whooshed out and he lost his balance, trying to grab onto his Sha as he fell.

He jumped to his feet immediately, snarling. "Fool!" he screamed, and swung. The flat of his sword slammed against Horus's shield, knocking it away and sending him flying. He landed hard on his elbow, feeling the shock surge up his arm, but tripped Set before he could attack. He scrambled up and their hilts locked again; when Set broke free they just started swinging wildly at each other in hopes of making contact.

They circled around each other, clashing. Horus had a clear target--Set's chest--but defending himself from Set's blows was keeping him too busy to strike.

He had to get his chance.

He took a step back and ducked. Set's swing went wide over his head. Horus drew back his sword and plunged it at Set's chest with all the strength he could muster.

The metal sparked and the blade juddered to the side. Horus's eyes went wide. Set laughed and struck him in the side of the head, sending him reeling backwards, the world spinning.

"Horus!" Anubis's voice shouted suddenly, from far away. "Use your lance!"

His lance. He'd forgotten about it, though its weight on his back almost pulled him down. Still seeing flashes, he reached behind him to loosen the straps holding it in place, grasping the handle over his shoulder and whipping it up and before him.

Set's fingers formed a claw and he lashed out, gouging at Horus's right eye. Horus shrieked as he felt the ripping of nerves, the warm gush of blood down his face, his vision going. His hand tightened on the lance with the agony and blindly he thrust it forward.

The golden tip connected with Set's armor, sinking into it and through him as surely as any sword. A blue light danced along the shaft. A look of astonishment crossed Set's face; Horus yanked the lance free and Set fell to his knees, his sword clattering to the ground, clasping his hands to his chest. He swayed before collapsing, a harsh rattle sounding in his throat.

Everyone held their breath. Horus dropped his lance and clutched at his wounded eye with a moan. He didn't collapse as Set had, instead staggering sideways and sinking to the ground.

There was a pause. Then Isis broke from the crowd, going to kneel beside her son and taking his head in her lap. She stared at his empty eye socket and placed her shaking hand over it.

Nothing happened. Her fingers came back bloody. She tried to still the panic welling up inside her and looked him over. Her eyes fell on the little silver and lapis wadjet and she paused, studying it. It seemed to glimmer in the clouded light, as if to remind her of what it was and where it had come from. And she did remember.

She picked it up in her hand and placed it over Horus's missing eye. The wadjet grew warm beneath her fingers; she pulled her hand away as a blue ray of light shot from the empty socket. Everyone gathered around gave a collective gasp and backed away. The wadjet glowed as if on fire, appearing to grow, stretching and expanding to cover the area where Horus's eye had been. Its glow died--and Horus's eyes shot open.

Even Isis gasped and started. Horus sat up and looked at the crowd, glancing briefly at Isis before standing. Everyone he looked at dropped their heads and backed away, Kana and Moru alike. They clearly saw the new markings around his eyes, mirroring those of the wadjet, as well as the blue light shimmering within them, the same light that had been in Isis's eyes.

He looked at Isis again. Every bit, every trace of naiveté and confusion and bewilderment she'd ever seen there before was gone, as if both his eyes--and something else--had been renewed. She understood the look and returned to her place at the edge of the clearing, near Thoth.

Horus stooped to retrieve his lance, turning to Set, who still lay gasping for breath on the ground, his hands covering the hole in his chest. Horus looked down at him and saw the hate flash across his face, contorting his already pained features. He lifted his lance.

A great roar came from the city. Horus--and everybody else--looked up just as the doors heaved open and the people came flooding out, overwhelming the guards, raising their knives and weapons to the air and letting out a maddened battle cry as they descended upon the frozen Apsiu.

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