TITLE: Coming Home
GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, drama, emotional.
SUMMARY: Waiting for one who is lost to return. An original myth.
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2001.
LENGTH: 3800+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: 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 2001 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. Unwritten spoiler warning--this story is an offshoot I decided to write based on my unwritten novel The Rebel Prince. TRP is the second sequel to Horus, and takes place in an alternate-reality Kemet in which past events were much different from those in Horus's reality. In this particular timeline, Horus and Hathor had no children to claim the throne; Ra attempted to set up Anubis's daughter, Kebehut, as Horus's "daughter," and sent the god Set to take her from her father. Instead, Set ended up turning her into his puppet queen, and cast a spell upon Horus which nearly killed him; Thoth cast his energy to place Horus in suspended animation, so both of them were put out of the picture, at least until a cure could be found. Anubis was the only one left to protect the throne--and he instead fled the city angrily, a large group of Horus's followers going with him. They then lived in the desert attacking Set's factions whenever they could, and Anubis became known by Horus's sympathizers as the "Rebel Prince," the one they wished to rule their country. Thing is, in this storyline Anubis doesn't want to rule, he just wants his brother and daughter back. Anyway, now that I've spoiled the entire story...in this timeline, Anubis falls in love with Bastet, even though he detests and blames her father, Ra, for causing all this trouble in the first place. Bastet is on his side, though, and the two form a loyal bond. I believe this story takes place before the Horus of the original ("real") timeline comes to set things straight in the Rebel Prince timeline (I forgot to mention, the two timelines cross in the novel). One corrective note--I probably would not use the term "Daddy" nowadays, unless, perhaps, a comedic character such as Khenti Amenti or Bes were uttering it.
NIGHTFALL CAME, AND she waited. She waited as she always had, night after night, for the past several years.
Anyone else probably would have given up hope by now, or at least given up their devotion. She had no doubt he would return. The thing was, would he care about her still? He had not much cared for her when she had first come to his camp. If she hadn't been a goddess, she doubted he would have treated her as civilly as he did. As it was he had scowled at her the whole time she talked to him. That first day had been excruciating. She knew he was intelligent, but that day he had refused to hear a single word she'd said.
She still didn't know what had changed his mind about her. Unless it was loneliness.
She knew that he had never married; had never had the chance. The one he had loved, he had had to kill, being the god of death incarnate. She knew also that he had spoken with the goddess Hathor, who caused every creature to fall in love. He'd told her never to aim her arrows at him. Did he wish to wallow in his misery? Or had he merely felt the pain too greatly to bear feeling it again? She didn't know. In any case, he had forced Hathor to promise never to let him love again.
Had Hathor broken that promise?
Or had he?
He'd relented a little over time, and at least listened to her side of the story. Even if he hadn't agreed with it. She'd found herself arguing with him plenty of times. The mere mention of her father's name was enough to send him into a rage. She'd never seen him like that before, not before...everything had fallen apart. He refused to believe that the one who had "caused" this felt the pain almost as greatly as he did now.
She'd tried to tell him. And once he'd finally believed her, his reply had been, "Now he knows how I feel." And he'd refused to speak any more about it that day.
At one point he asked her how her father would feel if she were to be kidnapped from him, taken away by force. At first she failed to see the comparison, and thought he had some sort of dreadful revenge in mind. Until she remembered, the reason for his anger and grief. His daughter, his only child, the only reminder he had of his one love lost. She had been taken from him by force. Now, she was a different person. He had given her up, yet he had not given her up. He couldn't. He told her this, and asked her, what her father would do if someone were to take her away from him.
"He would try to get me back," she replied quietly. "He would grieve for me."
"There," he'd replied with a hard nod. "You answer all your own questions about me." He'd turned away from her then. "Why don't you just go back home to your palace and let us all be. We don't need any more 'help' from Iunu."
And this had pained her, the knowing that it was her father's fault, the knowing that she couldn't convince him it hadn't been intended to be this way. Still, she had a bit of her father's stubborn side to her, too, and had argued with him yet again. She wondered what the guards outside the tent had been thinking, listening to them screaming at each other all night. It hadn't been a pretty experience.
She persisted, though, and over time both of them had worn down equally, so they appeared to be getting nowhere. They simply seemed to be waiting for the other to give up, to proclaim themselves the winner.
She looked up, stood and went to the tent flap. She lifted it and peered outside. The stars shimmered. Nothing stirred but the fire. She went back within and sat down again, waiting.
He had finally gotten grudgingly used to having her around, though he'd spoken to her little. She refused to go back to her sheltered life in Iunu; he and his people had been put through so much pain, she had to experience it, to know how they felt, to be able to help them herself. She didn't know what she could do. But she had to do something, to make up for the mistakes that had been made.
He'd rebuked her for this, as well: "You owe us nothing. It's your father, the 'great god,' who owes us everything. Perhaps if you sent him a message and let him know this, then he would believe it, stubborn fool that he is."
She'd had to bite her tongue. Hard. She sensed he was testing her. Or was he merely lashing out? She couldn't be certain.
Granted, she didn't like living in the desert. It was dry and dusty and the dust clung to her clothing, so that within days her dress, before the green of the plants along the river, turned a dull patchy brown. Her makeup smeared and of course she could not smell very good. She felt embarrassed and out of place with the hardened desert dwellers; even the women among them were much better suited to this life than she was, the pampered little girl from celestial Iunu. He'd watched her one night as she sat and bit her lip, pulling slivers of rock and dirt from the cuts on her feet, tears streaming down her face and saying not a word. She refused to whimper about it; what were a few cuts to one of them? Still, they hurt. Badly. Her sandals had not been meant for walking in the desert. They had worn away long ago and so she went barefoot. Yet it wasn't as easy as the others made it look. Their feet had become tough as leather. Hers were still as soft as the petals of a lotus. But she refused to complain. She had chosen this life.
She'd been surprised to find him suddenly beside her, and without a word, just a sigh, he'd sat down and taken her foot in his hands and cleaned it with a bowl of cool water--she knew how badly they needed to conserve water--then wrapped it tightly in linen bandages. He'd then done the same to her other foot, and had even tended to a blister on her shoulder where her albeit small pack had rubbed against her too long. She'd noticed the sadness in his eyes as he did this. He didn't even seem angry anymore. Only resigned.
"Why don't you go home," he'd said, his voice weary. "You don't belong here. You don't owe us anything. Just go back to Iunu."
"I need to do what I can."
He'd stood and turned away.
"You can't do anything for us. Go home."
Though her feet throbbed, and her throat was parched and her skin going dry and cracking, and though her delicate eyes and nose stung with grains of sand, she'd refused again. Perhaps the two of them were more alike than anyone thought. Stubbornly, she'd stayed in the desert, and accompanied them, wherever their endless wandering brought them. She wouldn't give up that easily.
Neither would he, of course. His attitude toward her changed as the moon. She sensed he tried to be civil, if coldly so, though every so often the two of them would erupt in argument once more. Neither of them would ever back down. The more he believed she belonged back in her beautiful little city, the more she believed she belonged in the harsh dry desert. Perhaps she grew to believe it?
She remembered them arguing again, as always, and as he had done often before he turned the conversation toward the subject of her father. He did this whenever feeling especially bitter, and his words had stung more than usual. She could tell from his unguarded thoughts that he didn't mean to be hurtful, it was only his own hurt spilling out of control. Why hadn't he guarded his mind, so she could not read it? Had he meant for her to do so? To feel his own pain? If so, she had. If not, he'd let down his guard foolishly, and she'd taken advantage of it. Whichever it was, he'd noticed. They had stopped arguing and stared at each other then, not certain where the other stood. Waiting.
She lifted her head from a half-doze, hearing a sound. Another peek from the tent flap revealed several of the other camp followers yawning and stretching around the fire before lying down to sleep. There was still no sight of him. Her guards promised to keep her informed.
She dropped the flap and turned to look toward the far side of the room. Here rested a cot, and upon it two small forms slept curled up beside each other.
A boy and a girl.
They had not argued the rest of that night. She wasn't certain what had caused it. Had he decided to break his promise with Hathor? Or had the promise never existed? Had he been testing her, all along?
She didn't know. But she did know that she loved him, and if her feelings were true, she had loved him for some time now. In another unguarded moment, he allowed her to know that he had felt the same way. This had startled her, but had not surprised her. Somehow, beneath his pain and anger, she'd known it was so.
She remembered nestling close to him afterwards, listening to the desert's night creatures outside, beyond the tent walls. In that moment, they were alone; her father, his daughter, no one else existed but them. She had not worried; he had not worried. They had known only of each other, within their own small world. She'd never felt this way before, but she knew he had. It didn't mean he did not feel the same way for her. He had the pain of his first love to remember...perhaps their emotions were more startling to him than to her.
Come morning, he had been distant again, angry, but she knew not with her. Perhaps he was angry with himself.
Later on, he had tried to teach her.
He made her a pair of leather sandals and showed her how they protected one's feet better from the rocks. He also showed her how to walk over the rubble with the least difficulty possible, until it became as easy as walking over level ground.
He showed her how to carry a heavy pack, without blistering her shoulder or straining her muscles. He showed her how to pack the most items possible, taking up the smallest amount of space. He showed her what was and what wasn't necessary.
He showed her how to find water in the middle of the desert, in places she never would have thought to look.
He showed her how to set up a tent within a matter of minutes, and how to take it down just as quickly. He pointed out how to find caves hidden within the cliff walls, for shelter when the sandstorms came.
He taught her the Apsiu tongue, so she could communicate with some of the others who did not speak their language as well. He taught her certain animal calls which could be used to signal the others when in danger or on alert, without drawing attention to themselves.
He showed her how to tend to a wound, in the inevitable event that she acquired another one.
He also taught her how to fight. She wasn't certain where he had learned; she only knew that he hadn't been much of a fighter before everything that had happened. Perhaps Upuat had taught him, before the wolf god left for Keben? The two had seemed so close, that she wondered how he dealt without him. Or without Sobek, or Thoth. Or Horus.
He never told her directly about his feelings, but his eyes could never hide them. There was a sadness she knew hadn't been there before, even with what he had gone through when younger. He seemed to have given up the hope that things would ever be the way they once were, yet he was still out here in the desert, and he still fought.
She couldn't understand it. She supposed she didn't have to.
She walked silently over to the two sleeping forms and placed her hand upon the head of one, then touched the cheek of the other. They were twins, a son and a daughter, both four years of age. She paused, her hand falling still. Four years? Had it really been so long that she'd waited for him? It didn't seem that long, and yet it did. She couldn't understand that either.
He'd told her once that she was naive, yet she knew he hadn't meant it as an insult. She knew also that he was right. He had been naive once, he told her. Then things had changed.
He'd wished he could be naive again.
She'd wished she could know, as he did.
Time, events had shifted. He had had to go. She could tell he didn't want to leave her, and yet didn't want to take her with him. By then, they had both known of the child...children...she carried inside her. He had seemed guarded about that; she suspected he was remembering what had happened to his own mother, before his birth. She wondered, had he worried in this manner about Kebehut? Her mother had died, bearing her. Or was he worried for other reasons?
She hadn't held on to him long. Knowing that would have made leaving all the more difficult, she'd let him go, and had silently watched him leave with a party of his men. The rest remained behind with her and watched as well. They weren't certain when he would return. She wasn't either. But she knew he would.
That was good enough.
It had to be. For now.
She looked down on their children, born while he was away, not that long after he had gone. She had not taken them to see Lord Harakhte yet, so they still bore their human faces; she had wondered what their true faces would look like, if they would be like jackals or cats, or would keep their human features. She hadn't made the trip though. It was dangerous, and she wanted him to see them as they had been born.
The time had passed, and she'd waited for him.
They moved about almost constantly, to keep ahead of Set's Kana forces which had taken over the city, as they had after the death of Osiris. That had been long ago. Four years? It had been but the blink of an eye to her. Waiting was always painful. But when you know the one you love will return, you will wait forever if need be.
Rather, she worried about the children. Sleeping peacefully now, they had never seen their father. He was gone before they had been born. She knew they would meet him. But she worried that by then, they might not care anymore.
She made certain to let them know that he cared. So that they would not grow bitter, as he had been, when he had felt abandoned by his mother. He had managed to repair the few ties he'd had left to her, and to weave new ones; she was going to make certain no ties ever needed to be repaired. She would weave strong ones. Their children would know their father, even if he was not there.
They had grown up well so far. They asked about their father often. She knew they wondered why he was not with them, and she would tell them when they asked.
He is gone because he is the Prince. His people depend on him. He will not let them down. And he will not let you down.
She pulled her hand away and watched them sleep. They were peaceful now, without worries, and she hoped they dreamed of him. Of what they believed him to be.
She stood and stretched, suppressing a yawn as she went back over to her side of the tent. She rubbed one eye. It was very late, and she should have been asleep hours ago. There was just something about the night that made her want to wait, and watch, as if waiting meant more once darkness had fallen. Things happened at night that one could miss. She didn't want to miss him.
She extinguished one of the oil lamps, turned aside the cover on her cot, and moved to put out the remaining light.
One ear pricked and one hand froze, inches away from the flame. A low noise had come from outside--some sort of night creature--only she recognized it by now, from hearing it whenever a potential threat arrived in the form of Set's soldiers. Her hand moved away from the lamp and toward her dagger, sitting by her headrest. He had taught her never to go very far without it, or without something that could be used as a weapon. She'd been negligent this night, leaving it far to the side while looking on her children. She wouldn't do that again.
She moved swiftly yet silently to the tent opening, awaiting the next signal, higher pitched and urgent, which would indicate that Set's Kana were in the area and on the attack. Her guards had moved on, leaving her alone. She could hear the weapons of everyone else in the camp clanking softly as they were drawn, before the second call came--but it was...different. Not what she had learned to expect.
It was what he had told her to expect. Someday.
The call was higher pitched, but almost easy sounding, jubilant. Shortly following came a yell, and then another, followed by several albeit subdued hoots and cheers and the sound of running feet. She stayed by the entrance, unable to move now that she most wanted to. Now that it seemed the moment was here...she was afraid it might not really be. Suddenly four years seemed like so long. What if she were to push aside the one barrier between them and discover...the wait had not ended after all?
What if she were to discover, it had ended, yet he no longer cared?
The cheering, such as it was, died down and stopped. The camp grew nearly silent again but for some whispering and murmuring and now she really wasn't sure what was going on. The silence made her even more nervous. She crouched close to the wall, pressing herself flat and keeping the dagger at her side, her fingers tightening on the handle. An Apsiu ambush was unlikely, with how well trained Anubis's men were. Yet it was always possible. She had horrible visions of the others lying slaughtered all around her, while the enemy drew ever closer...
She darted a glance toward them. The girl had sat up and was rubbing one eye sleepily. Her mother pressed a finger to her mouth to signal silence, and the girl obeyed, with wide eyes. They'd learned to expect this as well, unfortunately.
She strained her ears again. Most of the murmuring and whispering had stopped, and the inside of her skull very nearly rang with the stillness. She moved to pull a drape around the children's cot to shield them from view, then put out the last lamp, and the tent, all her surroundings disappeared; her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness. Footsteps approached, one pair--not her guards--she clenched the dagger more tightly and waited.
The flap lifted aside and someone stooped to enter, standing up straight again and letting the flap fall back into place.
Her ears pricked. The figure cocked its head slightly, as if peering forward at her, which meant it could see her. It turned and leaned to the side--toward the lamp. As if it knew it would be there. A soft bumping noise as the lamp was picked up, and the hiss of it being lit. The flame, just a tiny dot of yellow, elongated into a curl and spread to illuminate the one holding it. Eyes stared back at her. Tired, sad, resigned eyes with just the hint of potential rebellion in them. They widened and blinked a bit on seeing her.
She slowly lowered the dagger and stared back at him.
By now, the lamp lit the entire room. He carried a sword over his shoulder, though she knew he hated weapons; he carried a boomerang on his hip, which she knew he used to entertain himself and to hunt. His clothing and armor were tattered and dusty red from the desert, and the shadows under his eyes had grown darker, more haunted. Yet when he saw her they appeared to lessen.
He seemed unable to speak. She dropped the dagger and moved forward, toward him. He held his arms out as if needing to know if she were real. She embraced him, and felt him do the same, and heard him let out his breath and then hitch it in again. Drops of wetness hit her shoulder. It felt as if he would never let her go.
After they had stood, holding one another, for several moments she carefully pulled herself free, stepping toward the back of the room and gesturing silently. He stood, tears streaming down his dusty face, and watched her. She pulled the drape aside slightly and two small faces peered around the edge, large eyes looking up at him. He looked down at them and blinked a few times with surprise. She got behind them and slowly shooed them out. When they stood side by side in the middle of the tent, staring at him, she knelt down beside them, touching their shoulders, both in turn, and speaking softly.
"This is your father."
His mouth opened slightly but he said nothing. The two children cocked their heads much as he had, curious, looking him up and down. He endured their scrutiny in silence, though she could see his fingers tighten and dig into his palms. The children appeared to finish their inspection, and first the girl, then the boy, ran toward him with bright smiles and arms outstretched.
He dropped to his knees and held out his arms to receive them as he had received her. As soon as they reached him he enfolded them into his grasp and hugged them tightly to him. She heard him laugh, just once, a pathetic, broken sound, the sound of one who has forgotten how to laugh; yet it was genuine. He burrowed his head against theirs and his tears streamed harder.
Her heart felt as if it were going to burst from her chest, it ached so much. She watched them a moment before moving to stand beside them, then kneeling again, and putting her arms around all three. One of his arms slipped over hers and the four of them were joined together, one small family, reunited.
Their wait had ended.