TWO NEW TEMPLE priests raised Horus's arms, encasing his wrists in gold, and placing bands of gold and lapis on his upper arms. They did the same to his ankles and slipped gold-gilded sandals on his feet. They lined his eyes with matching gold and blue, fitting him with a pristine white pleated kilt edged with the same colors; one fastened a large glittering pectoral around his neck, bearing the design of a hawk grasping the wadjet eye in its talons. A long cape of gold followed. Last of all they placed the nemes cloth upon his head, draping the lappets over his shoulders and centering the uraeus circlet over his brow.
Someone held a mirror before him and he felt the same sense of awe he had on meeting Harakhte and Ra.
He nodded, taking a breath and letting it out. The priests--just recently scribes--moved away. He shook his arms and stepped toward the door of the temple room. He stopped, facing the priest who stood there.
"How do I look?" he asked, half facetiously.
The priest smiled, reaching out to straighten Horus's pectoral. "You look like what you are."
Horus smiled back at him. He liked Hekanakht. The priest reminded him of somebody.
He drew himself up, head high, and left the room. Several of the palace guards waited for him in the hall, ready to escort him out one of the side portals and into the street. He approached and let them line up at his sides.
He stopped. He looked over his shoulder, a little tense, then waved the guards to lower their spears. He nodded at the shadowy figure with glowing red eyes, acknowledging it.
Sokar stepped forward and offered a half-bow. "Should I say King Horus, now. Congratulations. I had a feeling you'd come out on top."
His chilly grin didn't bother Horus anymore. He only smiled back politely, nodding again, and went on his way.
Outside the temple wall, waiting in the empty street, were Upuat and Anubis and another set of guards. They looked at him and he saw Upuat's eyes light up. He guessed the wolf god must be happy to see Set off the throne and the true king about to be restored. Horus was glad it was almost over.
Anubis kept his head lowered, not making eye contact as Horus joined them. Horus stopped by him, and when he looked up gave a slight smile. Anubis smiled tentatively back, and when they formed a line and walked out into the main street he tried to hold his head a little higher, as befitted a prince.
The two Apsiu standing atop the palace raised their silver trumpets and blew a fanfare. Everyone crowding the street before the palace turned south, craning their necks to see. A procession was approaching, the three figures in the lead in shimmering gold, followed by a company of guards bearing the crossed spears emblem on their chests. A murmur rose and fell; the people sighed when they could make out Horus, his diadem catching the sun, and they backed away from the palace, many bowing their heads.
Atop the palace steps stood a group of eight, Isis at the center. She wore the long gauzy robes and golden vulture headdress of a queen, with her hawk pectoral gleaming upon her chest. Nephthys stood close behind her, watching almost as anxiously as the crowd. Thoth was on Isis's right, the Atef crown upon his head; Sobek, similarly adorned, waited on her left. Sakhmet and Maftet, dressed in rich red and green, were near Nephthys. Two guards stood at the sides of the group, spears erect and at attention. They all looked at Horus as he and his company approached.
The crowd gathered fell silent.
Horus walked past, head high; though Upuat, who walked beside and slightly behind him, was taller, Horus appeared taller now than any of them. Perhaps it was his godhood, or merely the elaborate makeup around his eyes; in any case they seemed to glow, matched by Isis's, as he reached the bottom of the palace steps and halted between the criosphinxes.
Upuat and Anubis backed away so he stood alone.
The steps, gleaming white, seemed to stretch on higher than he'd remembered. Isis and the others stood above him looking down. He felt the old anxiety and uncertainty well up inside him--was he really ready for this? could he handle such a responsibility on his own?--before realizing, he wouldn't be alone. The people he knew and trusted most--with his life--waited behind and before him.
He set one sandaled foot upon the first step, and ascended.
Reaching Isis, he knelt on the step below her and bowed his head. Isis took the cobra circlet from his brow. She turned and received something from Thoth--a pskhent, the headdress combining the tall White Crown of Upper Kemet and the Red Crown of Lower Kemet, with the cobra and vulture--Buto and Nekhbet--adorning the front. Turning back, she placed it upon Horus's head, whispering as she did so.
"Ankh. Udja. Seneb." She drew back and smiled down at him when he looked up. "Life, strength, and health, King Horus."
She bowed. Thoth, Sobek, and the goddesses followed. Looking back, Horus saw everyone else do the same, Anubis and Upuat crossing their arms to their chests and kneeling.
Horus turned back to his mother. She smiled again, gently this time, and spoke. "I go to be with your father now." She touched his shoulder. "May you rule Kemet as nobly as he did."
"I promise," Horus said. Isis tipped her head. Horus took one step down, then glanced at Sobek. The crocodile god looked at Isis and she nodded. He left her side, joining Horus, and they went down the steps together.
Some priests had brought their horses into the street. One handed Horus his lance. He, Sobek, Upuat, and Anubis climbed up and, Horus leading, rode down the street toward the city gate. The people lined up to watch them go, including Pendua and Hetepet, their heads bedecked with fresh lotus buds and their hands touching, who smiled at each other as the group passed.
A pair of Apsiu opened the gate. Beyond waited Antakh and his Moru, standing before the remains of the Kana army. Khenti Amenti frolicked back and forth before the pathetic creatures, occasionally mock-snapping at them. Horus stared at them a moment, all of them kneeling with their wrists shackled behind their backs, before spotting his uncle. Set looked much the same as the rest of them now, having been stripped of his armor and jewelry; he didn't look up at his nephew, though Horus could plainly see the defeat and hatred on his face. He didn't stare at him long. He still had a job to do.
He nodded at Antakh to take up his place leading the Moru army. "Captain," he said to Sobek. "Lieutenant Anubis. Lieutenant Upuat." They saluted him, taking positions before the Kana prisoners. Khenti ran at the Apsiu, barking, forcing them to their feet.
"Are you really going to take the lead?" Upuat shouted to Horus as he rode past. "Because I still think you're not experienced enough."
"Of course I am," Horus replied, only Anubis catching his grin.
"Shut up, Upuat," Sobek said. "Remember, he's our leader now, and I doubt he'll be as lenient as Set was."
Upuat snorted but couldn't quite hide his own grin.
Finishing his inspection, Horus turned north and dug his heels into his horse's flanks; it whinnied and burst into a gallop. He heard the roaring sound of cheering coming from the city at his back, and the sound of the others following him. The sun lit the earth in gold and red as he set off on the longest part of his journey yet.