Another One Down
TITLE: Another One Down
GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, comedy, romance/love.
SUMMARY: Can putting all your heart into something be more trouble than it's worth?
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2006.
LENGTH: 6000+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mild adult language, mild adult themes.
COPYRIGHT: This story and all characters, unless otherwise stated in the Disclaimers, are copyright © tehuti_88 and may not be used or distributed without permission. The reader is free to print out or download a copy of this story for offline reading as long as the author's copyright information remains upon it. Please do not distribute; if you wish to share this story, send a link to this page.
DISCLAIMERS: Certain characters are from Egyptian mythology. Although aspects of this story are loosely based on Egyptian mythology and culture, artistic license has been taken as this is a FANTASY story. Please take note that this story was written around 2006 and that my writing style and understanding of the mythology I created may have changed vastly in the meantime.
ADDITIONAL INFO: NA.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This short story ties in with the other Kemet short stories and/or the Kemet/Egyptian mythology as I make use of it in my writing; as such, it might not make much sense out of context. This is just a light little scene idea I got in my head (yes, most of my short stories read more like scenes--that's why I specialize in novels and serials). This has not yet been proofread, so beware errors but feel free to point them out.
THE FACE THAT stared into the little mirror was absolutely miserable. "I look like a fool," the voice belonging to it muttered.
Lady Bastet was in a considerably better mood than her subject. "No, you don't," she insisted as she moved quickly around her quarters, picking up perfume bottles and makeup boxes and everything else she thought she might need. "Besides--how can you look like a fool when I haven't even gotten started yet? Let me do that, and then you can complain that you look like a fool...even if you don't." She halted and deposited all of her belongings on the little stand next to the chair, and glanced at the one holding the mirror. "Your arm isn't going to get tired, is it, Lord Bes...?"
The ugly dwarf standing before the chair shook his head, his arm upthrust and the gleaming copper mirror clasped in it. "Of course not! I shake sistri all the day! And I'll have you know that I walk on my hands all the night! Holding up a little mirror will hardly tire me much!"
Bastet smiled, then frowned a little. "You walk on your hands all night...?" She shook her head. "Never mind! I have work to get to." She moved to stand beside the mirror, selecting one of the boxes and opening it up. She pulled out a little brush and dipped it in the little black container of kohl. "Firstly...your eyes, since they're the nicest part of your face!"
Lord Upuat grimaced, so she nearly poked him in the eye. "They are just eyes! As if there is anything special about eyes!"
"Quiet down now, and stop pouting. You always look so much better when you have kohl on properly. Do you never get the right sleep? Your eyes are always so shaded. Never mind, with this they'll look good as new."
"I don't like sleeping," Upuat groused, but stood still as she applied the kohl around his eyes. "I see bad things when I sleep," he added when she finished one and moved to the other. "One reason why this is a foolish idea and I should never have bothered with it."
Bastet rolled her own eyes. "Oh, hush! Would you like her hearing that?" She went over the lines to make them darker. "I thought you were interested in making her happy."
"I am!" She nearly poked him in the eye again. "But to be realistic, how happy could she truly be with someone like me? I ruin things wherever I go."
"With that attitude, it's no wonder!" Bes exclaimed.
"Hush, Bes," Bastet said. She leaned back to look at her work, pursed her lips, and put the brush away. "Now, Upu, you were the one who asked Lady Maftet if she should like to be your wife," she said as she dug around for an eyeliner. "She told you yes...so you can hardly in good faith back out now!"
Upuat's miserable look returned--as if it had ever gone anywhere--and he sank in his seat. "I can't help but feel I made a mistake. There are a hundred gods much more suited in the Paut, and she could choose from any of them."
"Yes, but she chose you."
"Merely because I was first to ask."
"Well, that counts for something! Close, please!" Upuat obediently shut his eyes and she began lining the kohl in gold. "Come on, now, Upu...she is my sister, and you do know we talk, don't you...?"
"Talk?" Upuat's eyes shot open and she squeaked, nearly jabbing him. "What do you talk of--?"
Bastet made a face at him and jerked her hand, making him shut his eyes again, though he scowled as he did so. "Sisterly things, of course! Did you never converse with Sokar about brotherly things--?"
Upuat's muzzle wrinkled. "You MUST be joking!"
"All right, bad comparison...but see...the very first thing she did after you asked, was she came here, to ask my advice, just like YOU have done!"
Upuat groaned. "I knew this was a stupid idea...you women are like a flock of chattery birds! You all know everything everyone else is saying!"
"Don't let Hathor hear you say that, or she just might prick you with another arrow. Turn left." Upuat turned his head. "As it so happens, Maftet is quite discreet, and doesn't normally go chattering with others--which rather tells you how important she must see this entire thing, doesn't it! As I was saying, she came to me to speak of it. Do you know what she said--?"
"I do not want to hear it," Upuat groaned.
"She said that she was worried that you might be worried, and she asked that I help you out facing God Ra. And take a look, here I am, doing just as I promised!"
The wolf god let out a noise that sounded like a whine.
"Oh, stop all that. You sound like Khenti when he needs a bath! Speaking of..."
"I just TOOK one!" Upuat cried, baring his teeth and opening his eyes again. "Have you honestly forgotten already--?!"
"Not that hard to forget," Bes said, standing on one foot.
"Hush, Bes," Bastet said. "That's right...that was the very first thing I had you do before coming in here...oh well, that's one step out of the way! You must know that I'm here only to help you, Upu. I want my sister's marriage to be the absolute most perfect thing she has ever had--and so it will be. I'll help out every step of the way."
"As if it even will go through," Upuat sighed miserably. "I have yet to even ask her father's permission!"
"And this is why you've come here today, isn't it? There." Bastet cocked her head to look at her work. "Eyes are perfect! But your face is pale, and needs something to bring out the life in it." She put the eyeliner away and pulled out a jar of blush. "Upu, you must realize that, the better you present yourself, the greater your chances of succeeding with God Ra!"
"This is just it," Upuat grumbled. "He is already ill disposed toward me. What makes you or me think he would hand over one of his daughters to me? Especially one as beautiful as Maftet! I was an idiot for even asking her such a thing."
"Love makes people do idiotic things," Bastet said.
"Love is plainly idiotic," Bes added, standing on his other foot.
"Hush, Bes," Bastet said. "Upu, surely you are aware that people don't always think straight when Hathor's arrow hits them--? And that's the joy of it all! You can't go through life thoroughly expecting everything that will happen. Sometimes, things happen and we don't know why. Sometimes, we lose our minds, even. And sometimes we just lose our hearts. I think it's a wonderful thing!"
"You have apparently never sought the daughter of the sun god for a wife then," Upuat muttered.
Bastet tilted her head thoughtfully. "Well...no...but why would I be seeking a wife anyway?" She frowned. "What would I even do with one...?"
"I can think of a few choice things," Bes remarked.
"Hush, Bes. Upu! Did I put the blush on you already--?"
Upuat blinked and shook his head.
"Oh." Bastet's frown grew. "That's odd! Because your face is going red! Oh, well." She started brushing it on. "Anyway...stop turning this into something about me! I was talking about you. Stop thinking you are so unworthy. Maftet evidently considers you worthy, and so do I. The trick now is in convincing Father that you are worthy."
"And this is just the thing," Upuat cut in. "How can you convince someone of something that is evidently so against everything he believes in! Ouch!!" He squinched his eye shut when some of the blush drifted into it, and lifted a hand to rub at it. "Watch where you're putting that awful stuff! You'll have me looking like a woman if you keep this up!"
"Imagine him seeking God Ra's permission then," Bes said.
"Hush, Bes," said Bastet, and lightly batted the wolf god's hand away. "Ah-ah! Don't you dare! You'll smudge your kohl. There, I think I took care of it. Now stop grimacing like that or it'll stay that way! I've told you already, just do your best, and this will go like a piece of honey cake. Hush, Bes," she said when the dwarf opened his mouth. "Besides," she added, putting the blush away and frowning as she poked amongst her bottles, "I made a point of asking Father to take the day off, and let Lord Khepri sail the boat, so that he will be relaxed and more receptive to such things. I also made a point of asking him to come out in the courtyard and watch me play with the kittens, which he insists is a silly frivolous thing for the mighty sun god to do, but which he secretly adores doing. So he's already in a better mood than usual, and you needn't worry about much."
"Much," Upuat echoed in a grumble. "And what is that?" he nearly barked when she picked up a bottle.
"Well, perfume, of course!" Bastet exclaimed. "You can hardly go to him smelling as you do!"
Upuat furrowed his brow, then sniffed at one arm. "Smelling like what? I just bathed!!"
"Yes, in regular old water. You men! Have you no morals? You should have bathed in scented water with flower petals. But not to worry, this should take care of that!" She started sprinkling him with the perfume. "This will have you smelling like a poolful of lotuses in no time!"
"Eugh! What hideous stuff is this?!" Upuat snarled, shrinking away and raising an arm to protect himself. "Agh! It smells awful! You women actually WEAR this sludge--?!"
"We apply it every single day in order to smell our best!" Bastet insisted. "Now stand still, I have to put some on your other side. Goodness but you're squeamish! You mean to tell me that you could easily go out and gut some demon of the Duat, and wear his entrails as your necklaces, but you can't even stand a bit of perfume--?"
"Not THIS atrocious stuff!" Upuat snapped, wrinkling his muzzle. He put a hand over his muzzle and gagged. "How can you stand it all day long? Even dog vomit smells better!"
"One wonders how you would know the exact olfactory appearance of dog vomit," Bes commented.
"Hush, Bes," Bastet said. "Upu! Stop squirming this minute! There. Now just a tiny bit more...and I'm done. That isn't so bad! Is it?" She pursed her lips when he gave her the foulest look imaginable. "You'll really have to stop pouting like that, Upu. Father will think you're mocking him, because he wears that exact same look most of the time. Oh!" She gasped. "Did I say that aloud--? Just forget that I ever mentioned it. Now stand up, we have a few more things to do."
"We do?" Upuat groaned, getting to his feet. Bes danced back in case he felt inclined to kick.
"Well, of COURSE!" the cat goddess sighed gustily. "You need MUCH better clothes than that!" Upuat looked down at his kilt and girdle, frowning in confusion. "You wear those same old guard clothes everywhere you go. Not today! You shall have the finest shining garments available."
"And what would you be doing with garments in my size?" Upuat demanded as she went toward her chests.
"Pfft!" said Bastet, waving her hand as she stooped to open one up. "I'll have you know that I think of EVERYTHING! As soon as Maftet came to speak with me, I got to thinking, 'Now I'm going to need some nice makeup--kohl and gold for his eyes, and blush for his face, and the nicest lotus perfume in Celestial Kemet--and oh, clothes!--I'll simply have to have some made especially for him; now what's his size?--surely Lord Sokar knows his size--'" here Upuat groaned again "'--and then I'll have to have him take a bath, because who knows what hideous demons he's been out slaying while we're preparing for his wedding?' You see, men simply never think of such important matters, because--well--because you're always all out slaying demons and other trivial stuff! That's why we women have to think of all the important things, like the best clothing to wear, and exactly what size, and everything!"
"You women actually sit around all day talking about this?" Upuat asked in disbelief. When she pulled out some fresh clothes and approached him he furrowed his brow again. "Do you honestly never get bored of it all?"
Bastet halted and held up the new girdle, which gleamed like gold, to see if it looked like it would fit him. She stared at it thoughtfully. "Why should we ever get bored?" she murmured, half in thought. "One would rather think you men would get dreadfully tired of hunting lions and killing monsters and..."
"I think I would rather get bored of both," Bes said. "Very fast."
"Hush, Bes. Let's see. Looks decent enough. Here, let me help you with your clothing." Upuat slapped her hand away when she reached to untie his girdle, and she frowned at him when his face went brilliant red. "Why! That was quite rude, you know!"
"I--I very well know how to undress MYSELF!!" Upuat cried, voice cracking, and actually wrapped his arms around himself as if to ward her off. "Do you think you could offer me a little privacy?!"
Bastet cocked her head, curious. "What, are you shy--?" she asked, surprised. She clucked her tongue and smiled cheerily. "Oh how sweet! I'll have you know, it's nothing I've never seen before!"
"Maybe it's a bit more than you've ever seen before?" Bes suggested.
"HUSH, BES!" Upuat yelled. He grabbed the clothes, making them both jump. "Privacy!" he barked. "And I swear I'll put the damned things on! But only in privacy!!"
Bastet rolled her eyes and sighed. "Oh, very well. Right over there, near my bed, is where I take my morning shower. Just draw the drapes and you'll have your privacy! And Bes and I will stay put over here. No, Bes, don't get any ideas with that mirror, just put the thing down! Hurry up now, Upu, because we have to get going soon, before your perfume wears off."
"I wish we could wait until it wears off," the wolf god grumbled from behind the drapes. His silhouette was visible as he took off his old girdle and kilt and replaced them with the new ones, but the other two didn't mention this. "What in the--?" He yanked the drapes aside, gawking out at them. "THESE CLOTHES SMELL!"
"Well, of course," Bastet chided. "I made sure to douse THEM with lotus perfume, as well!" Upuat made an awful noise and drew his fingers down his face. "Now stop that, you'll smear the kohl! You're lucky you just barely touched it. I guess it's too late to fix right now. Hurry up out of there, I have some new sandals for you as well." He grumbled awful things to himself as he stomped toward them and stooped to put on the new sandals--they too were leafed in gold, just like the girdle--and made even more awful noises when Bastet moved to take out his old earrings and remove his regular pectorals, replacing them with shiny new ones in shades of gold and lapis. "There. Much better! I know you normally don't like such frilly things--"
"Demons tend to laugh when their slayer is wearing frilly things," Upuat muttered.
"--But gold and blue are Father's FAVORITE colors, and you look so stunning in them! And here are some new armlets and leg braces as well...oh dear...what am I forgetting?" She put her hands to her face, quailing. "Oh dear! I knew I should have made up a list!"
"You mean there's yet more to be done here?" Upuat exclaimed. Again with the strange noise. "Enough with the marriage--I want to swallow my own dagger now!"
"DAGGER! That's it!" Bastet gasped and hopped up and down. "I spoke with Lord Ptah and asked about having a new sword and dagger made for you! Wouldn't you look absolutely breathtaking with weapons edged with carnelian and lapis--?"
"HELLS NO!!" Upuat bellowed, making both her and Bes flinch back. "I am NOT going to replace my weapons!" he yelled. "Especially not with weapons decorated with WOMANLY BAUBLES! You can dress me up in lip rouge and gauzy robes and get me all tittering like a girl before I'll let you do THAT!"
"Now I admit, that image leaves me speechless," Bes admitted.
"Hush, Bes," Bastet ordered. "Oh fine! Since you're going to be that way about it, keep your old weapons. But they're so dreadfully plain. Oh well. If they stay in their scabbards, perhaps they'll do. Just don't go swinging them around when you go to see God Ra."
"I'm getting very tempted to swing them around right now!" Upuat groused.
"Now I know there was ONE more thing I needed to address," Bastet said, frowning thoughtfully. She snapped her fingers. "Oh yes! What exactly you are to say to Father..."
"We've already been over this," Upuat moaned.
"I know, but you do want to remember it all, don't you? Now how would you feel if you stepped up before God Ra, addressed him as the mighty lord of the sun, and then...utterly forgot what you were about to say?"
"I only have to ask for one thing!" Upuat retorted. "It's not like I have a shopping list to recite!"
"One basket of bread, two jugs of beer, one unwed daughter--" Bes started to say.
"Hush, Bes," said Bastet. "I know you'll hardly forget WHAT it is that you go there to ask for, silly Upu! But it's the how that concerns me. Now you have to remember to say it exactly as I say now." She cleared her throat and stood up as straight as she could--though her head still only came up to Upuat's chest--and got the most serious frown on her face.
Upuat's brow furrowed. "Do I really look like that?"
"Sans whiskers and cat's ears, pretty much," replied Bes.
"Hush, Bes," Bastet said. "Now this is what you must say to Father. 'Great God of the Sun, ruler of us all, sailor of the skies, lord of all we survey, life, strength, health! I, the fearless guardian of the Duat, Upuat, humbly request the hand of your noble daughter, Lady Maftet--life, strength, health!--so that we may be wedded, and together bring honor to the House of Iunu. Life!--strength!--health! to God Ra!'"
Upuat made a face. "And how in the hells am I to remember all that? Do you people really talk like that all the time--? However do you actually find time to get anything done--?"
"Come now, Upu! Try repeating it, and then we'll recite it until you get it just right."
"Oh all right! If it will get you off of my back!" The wolf god made another face but took a breath and obliged. "Great God of the Sun, ruler of...something...I the humble guardian of...whatever...wish to...er...ask for the hand of your noble...um..." His face screwed up and he gripped the pommel of his sword. "GODS THIS IS DAMNED ANNOYING!!"
"Calm down, calm down now," Bastet coaxed, holding up her hands. "This is just the same as any lesson one has to learn from Lord Thoth! 'Repetition is the best teacher,' he always told me, which is why I never forgot it! Just relax, and listen to me say it again, and in no time at all you'll know it by heart. 'Great God of the Sun, ruler of us all, sailor of the skies...'"
(Your narrator must halt to inform you that this part goes on for quite a while. Apparently not everyone is so skilled at learning things through endless repetition. I recall that it often worked for me when I was a student myself, though I without fail would then forget the things I had learned once all the tests were done. I seem to have retained the stuff that really matters, though, as I am here right now telling you this story, aren't I? And mathematical equations never figured into my writing, nor did matters of government or physical science, so the way I see it, everything I forgot was just for the best. But anyway, as I was saying--Lord Thoth's methods apparently don't work equally for everyone, and poor Lord Upuat had to stand--and then sit--there in Lady Bastet's quarters and recite this phrase over and over and over again, bit by bit, until he'd pretty much memorized it, and by then evening had long settled in, so I guess you could say it was night. Seeing as it had been early afternoon when this story began, as I said, this part would go on for quite a while if I were to write it all out, and by the time I would be done you the reader would be sick of it and would no longer be reading this story. That's kind of the opposite of what I want you to be doing, so I'll just skip ahead somewhat, and we'll both just pretend that I went over the whole thing, because you aren't missing much anyway. Now to continue with the story.)
"'...Life!--strength!--health! to God Ra!'" Upuat intoned for what felt like--and very well could have been--the millionth time, his eyes about ready to roll back into his head, and Bastet hopped up and down and clapped her hands gleefully.
"You did it, you finally did it JUST right!" she exclaimed with joy. "See? I told you that repetition would work! Of course, there are some teachers who also say that whipping a student works, but..." She made a face and waved her hand dismissively when the wolf god's eyes grew wide. "Never mind that unpleasantness! Now that you've got that part down you're ready to set foot out there and pop the big question! Er...well...you already did that part, but, it's Father who has the final say..."
"I'm doomed," Upuat groaned, covering his face.
"As doomed as doomed can be," stated Bes.
"Hush, Bes," Bastet said, and grasped Upuat's arm to pull him to his feet. "Nonsense, Upu! I'm certain Father will be more than willing to listen to you! Especially once he sees what great lengths you've gone to for this! Father has always instilled in us the value of putting all our effort into things, and that's exactly what you've done. Now come along, and be on your way. I'm afraid I can't come with you, because it would seem terribly improper. But I'll be watching from a distance! And cheering you on all the way! Won't you as well, Bes--?"
"Truthfully will I chortle cheerfully and cheer chortlefully," promised Bes.
"--And within no time you and my sister will be the envy of all the Paut Neteru!" Bastet finished, with much conviction. She patted Upuat's arm and clucked at his miserable look. "Now stop looking like that! One would think Apophis is playing kick-ball with your insides!" She put her hands to her face. "GRACIOUS! Did I actually say that--?"
"I must admit, that was more along my lines," Bes admitted.
"Hush, Bes! Go along now, Lord Upuat!" Bastet said, tugging on his arm again and gesturing toward the doorway. "God Ra awaits, but not for very long! I'll cross my fingers!"
"And I shall cross my eyes," Bes said, and did just that.
Upuat frowned. "What good will that do...?"
Bastet bit her lip, then furrowed her brow a bit. "Truthfully...I have no clue! It just sounded good while I was saying it, I guess." She waved. "Go on! He has a busy day tomorrow, so you'd best be quick! 'Great God of the Sun, ruler of us all, sailor of the skies'--remember! And good luck!"
Upuat's miserable look returned in force, but he let out a heavy sigh and turned to exit her quarters, his feet dragging. Bastet suppressed a wince, and sighed herself; if he kept walking like that he'd scrape all the gold leaf from his new sandals. But she supposed it was too late to worry about such things as that.
True to her word, she waited until he had gone off quite a ways before following, tiptoeing along silently with Bes in tow. As she herself was housed in the palace of the sun, Upuat hadn't very far to go at all, though it was a very big palace and easy to get lost. The wolf god did take a few wrong turns, so he was practically scowling and muttering to himself by the time that he finally found the right way, and he shot many evil looks at the few sunhawks flitting around, doubtlessly passing on the word that the guardian of the Duat was busy getting lost in Ra's palace. Bastet shot them a few dark looks of her own but didn't dare raise her voice, as that would alert him to her presence, and might put the birds in a bad mood, when she needed them to keep her informed of everything. Sunhawks were always up on the latest gossip, after all.
Upuat's step started to slow as he got closer to the main hall where God Ra often relaxed with a cup of wine in the little time that he had to deal with the affairs of the other neteru. Bastet and Bes hid behind a column to watch him dawdle outside the doorway, pacing back and forth and gnawing on his fingernail. Bastet made a face.
"Hathor's horns! I knew I forgot something--I forgot to paint his nails up nicely!"
Bes whispered, "I believe that would go along with putting him in lip rouge and gauzy robes and--"
"Hush, Bes!" She put a hand over the dwarf's mouth. "Why isn't he going in? Father has important things to do! Why is he stalling like that? Oh! I do wish I'd informed him better..."
"I don't think you can quite prepare for cold feet," said Bes, "unless you're willing to don woolen sandals!"
"Oh, DO hush, Bes!" Bastet hissed, shoving the dwarf behind herself. "The only reason we keep you around is because there are no OTHER men willing to dance and shake rattles while women give birth! Come on, Upuat!" she whispered urgently. "Go in! I know you can do it!"
"This is ridiculous," Upuat muttered to himself, but he took a deep breath, steeled himself, and headed straight for the doorway. He did falter a little when the doors opened of their own accord, but then kept on walking through, and Bastet let out a breath, putting a hand to her forehead in relief.
"Thank the Paut! That's the first step." She crept out from behind the column and tiptoed to the doorway. "Now for the next!"
She and Bes halted and peered inside the doorway, being careful to stay out of sight of the hall's occupants. Right now, these occupants were God Ra, seated upon his throne, and Lord Thoth, who was taking notes upon a papyrus, like he always seemed to be doing when he was in Ra's company. Bastet wondered that the ibis god didn't get dreadfully bored of such things, but then again, she'd never really understood Thoth and she doubted anybody did. She did feel a bit peeved that her father had of course opted to tend to a few official things when he was supposed to be taking a break, but it wasn't like she could control everything around here...
She nibbled on her own fingernail as Upuat approached the throne, Ra and Thoth both lifting their heads to look at him. "Come on now, Upu!" she whispered. "Remember all I said!"
Upuat halted some distance from the throne and bent down onto his knee, bowing his head and crossing his arm to his breast. "Greetings, God Ra, life, strength, health! There is something I wished to ask of you."
Ra frowned a little, but seemed more curious than anything. He even cast a look at Thoth, but all that the latter did was very slightly lift one shoulder. "I assume this matter is an important one, Lord Upuat...?" Ra asked. "Seeing as you saw fit to interrupt me here in such a way...?"
"I apologize, Lord," Upuat said, keeping his head lowered, "but yes, this is a most important matter, concerning the House of Iunu."
"Oh! He's doing so well already!" Bastet exclaimed under her breath. She tapped Bes's head. "Now if you had been in there, you'd probably be doing acrobatics all over Father's head, and dancing over Lord Thoth's lap..."
Whispered Bes, "This can still be done, for the right price..."
"Hush, Bes!" She craned her neck. "I wish to hear what ELSE he has to say! Come on, Upu, you know the words! 'Great God of the Sun, ruler of us all, sailor of the skies...'"
"Very well, I suppose I have a moment," Ra said with a small sigh, and waved at Upuat to stand again. The wolf god did so, though he still kept his arm to his breast and his head bowed. "You said you had a question to ask?" Upuat nodded and Ra did the same. "Go ahead, then."
Upuat opened his mouth. "Great God of the Sun, ruler of us all..."
And that was pretty much it, of Bastet's carefully rehearsed spiel. She crouched waiting and waiting for him to say the rest, but she waited in vain. Upuat stood faltering for a very, very long time, and even from her vantage point she could see his ears growing red. Ra began to frown, and the hawk god's eyes shifted to peer at Thoth; the ibis god didn't seem to have anything to say, either. The silence stretched on for a while longer, and even Bastet and Bes began to squirm.
Ra's frown grew, then he opened his beak.
"I wish to ask for the hand of Lady Maftet in marriage, Lord," Upuat blurted out, and then his ears went very red indeed, and Bastet's and Bes's jaws just about hit the floor. Ra's eyes went wide and his beak snapped shut; even Thoth looked a bit more surprised than usual.
Perhaps if the sunhawks had bothered to listen a bit more closely, they would have heard crickets chirping in the far reaches of the palace at that moment.
Upuat began fighting not to fidget. "If...if this is your wish as well, Lord," he finally added, and grimaced, ducking his head, ears going back. The silence resumed as heavy as a blanket, and it was another long time before Ra at last spoke.
"Well," he said, and for a moment that was it; he didn't seem to know what to say. Thoth cleared his throat and that seemed to snap him out of it. "Lady Maftet?" Ra echoed, and Upuat visibly swallowed. The hawk god frowned a little. "If I question her, what will she have to say of this?"
"I...I have already discussed the matter with Lady Maftet," Upuat managed to say. "She expressed agreement with my proposal."
"Igh! He makes it sound like a business affair!" Bes whispered in disapproval. "'The first party hereby agrees to marriage with the second party, who shall hereby forfeit one donkey for expenses and--'"
"Hush, Bes!" Bastet whispered, shoving his head down. "I admit it's much less romantic than what I'd planned for, but at least he got it out!"
"You are aware I will be speaking with my daughter about this after you are dismissed," Ra said, his frown growing.
Upuat put his arm to his breast again. "I am aware, Lord. I again ask for the hand of the Lady Maftet that she might be my wife."
The long silence resumed and drew itself out. This time even Thoth looked like he wanted to stand up, stretch his legs, and start battering himself over the head with his palette just to relieve the tedium, but he somehow refrained. Ra's frown grew so much that it began to resemble a scowl, and Bastet began to falter a bit, able to tell from Upuat's stance that he was quickly losing spirit. She imagined the floor of the hall opening up in a gigantic gaping flaming hole, and the wolf god turning and hopping right into the Duat rather than continue to stand here waiting. Then she had to shake her head, the image had been so believable. Lots of other gods looked like they would have preferred jumping into the Duat to asking Ra for his daughters.
Ra pushed himself to sit with his spine as straight as a pillar. "Lord Upuat," he said sharply, and Upuat flinched a little before saluting. "I am going to have words with my daughter Maftet once you are gone," Ra said in the same unpleasant voice, and Upuat's shoulders began to slump. "Her hand is yours if she agrees."
Upuat's ears both flicked upright, and his eyes went as wide as moons. His mouth fell open, which was just as well, as Bastet's and Bes's again did the same. "You...you give your permission--?" Upuat blurted out, forgetting to add a respectful title, though he did then say hastily, "Lord--?"
Ra gave a curt nod. "Seeing as it looks like you went to so much bother to come here and ask, when most others would simply not dare, or else would just elope." Upuat's face went red. "I must speak with her as is custom...but I have a strong suspicion that she will be agreeing with this." He flicked his hand. "You are dismissed."
Upuat's mouth opened and shut several times, and he clapped his arm to his breast, bowing his head over and over. "M--many thanks, Lord! Life! Strength! Health!" His voice even cracked as he said this, and he turned on one heel and very nearly went sprinting from the hall. Bastet gasped and she and Bes ducked back behind the doors to avoid being seen as the wolf god ran past them. She couldn't tell if that had been a jog of joy or one of panic, though she suspected it was probably part of both.
She let out a breath and sank to the floor, Bes following suit. "Thank the gods!" she whispered, wiping her brow. "I thought it would never be over--"
"Hush, Bastet!" Bes said, waving her forward; he was crouching nearer the doors now. "Lord Thoth is getting up. I wonder what else they might have to say about this--?"
"Hm--?" Bastet questioned, but crept forward on hands and knees anyway, even though this was behavior most unfitting for a goddess. She peered into the hall, one large ear cocking so she could hear better. Thoth had gotten to his feet and approached Ra's throne, putting his own arm to his breast and bowing his head.
"God Ra...?" he said.
Ra, for his part, was still staring at the spot where Upuat had been standing, the same unpleasant near-scowl on his face. His fingers were digging into the arms of the throne and he looked ready to jump up and lift it over his head and hurl it across the hall, then start smashing all the columns and shooting beams from his eyes. Thoth tilted his head a little. "God Ra...?" he echoed himself uncertainly, and Bastet hoped that he knew a spell to make her father freeze in place before he could destroy the whole palace. Perhaps getting herself involved in instructing Upuat hadn't been such a good idea after all.
Ra blinked as soon as he heard his name the second time, then let out a little puff of a breath. Immediately the glare died from his eyes and he sank back in his throne as if all the energy had been sapped out of him, and Thoth took a concerned step forward. The sun god dropped his head into his hand, leaning on his elbow, and sighed wearily.
"Thank the gods," he groaned. "So many daughters, so few gods willing to ask for them...that's another one down!"
"Lady Bastet--?" Bes suddenly exclaimed, and he hopped over to start fanning her face, as the goddess had quite abruptly fallen flat to the floor in a dead faint.