Sobek & Hathor (AKA Heart Of Clay)
TITLE: Sobek & Hathor (AKA Heart Of Clay)
GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, drama, romance/love.
SUMMARY: What happens when the goddess of love doesn't WANT to fall in love? An original myth.
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2001.
LENGTH: 9300+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: None.
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. This is one of the rewritten stories from my old collection City Of The Sun (the title of which I plan to appropriate someday for an eventual novel). According to my line of fiction, Hathor, the goddess of love and daughter of Ra, vowed never to marry anyone, despite her hobby of spreading love among others. Ra, wanting her to have children, or just to settle down, desperately wanted to pair her off with one of the other gods...but nobody suitable was available, this being way before Horus's time. And so, in this story, he has a god created for this specific purpose, but don't think for one minute that Hathor's going along with it... A note, when Hathor calls Horus "Brother," she's not referring to him as her brother (I think she is in fact his great-aunt or something); in ancient Egypt, "Brother" and "Sister" were often romantic nicknames along the lines of "Sweetie," as well as the title for actual brothers and sisters...probably related to the fact that marriage between royal siblings was encouraged in this society. Also, Sobek is WAY out of character in this story...let's just say this is because of the circumstances, shall we? Beware of wandering POV, by the way. Definition--the "Paut Neteru" is the Great Company of the Gods.
"HOW DARE HE do this to me!" Hathor shouted furiously, her beautiful face, as usual, contorted with anger.
Khnum shrugged at his potter's wheel. "It's his command. No one may disobey."
Hathor whirled about to face the sculptor god. "God Ra told you to make me a husband without even asking me? He very well knows I'm never going to marry! I vowed so myself. I'll never be the slave of any man!"
"It's his command," Khnum replied lamely, not knowing what else to say. Hathor's temper tantrums, frankly, frightened him. Trying a different approach to calm her down, he added, "You wouldn't be a slave. Your sister Sakhmet is married, and she's hardly a slave, is she?"
"Any woman who's married is," Hathor shot back. Khnum flinched away. "I'm the one who should know. I have them fall in love and they marry. But why they want to is a mystery to me."
Khnum made no reply.
"Anyway, he knows I'm not going to marry so he should just forget about the whole thing!" Hathor finished.
"It's his command," the ram-headed god said a third time. He was beginning to feel very low. "No one may disobey."
"You sound like a parrot!" the goddess fumed, and left the room.
They were, of course, in Khnum's cave near the First Cataract of the great river. That was where Khnum lived, using his potter's wheel to sculpt his creations--namely, gods, men, and beasts. He would collect clay from the river and shape it on his wheel, leaving a tiny hollow in the chest for the heart, which could be made of gold, stone, clay, or glass. As soon as the heart was placed inside and the chest cavity sealed, he would put the statuette in an oven and fire it until it hardened. Then, when it was done, he would place a hollow reed in its mouth and give it the breath of life. The statuettes were not the living creatures themselves; they were merely blueprints of how they would look. The sculptures Khnum kept himself, stored safely on shelves within his cave where no one would tamper with them.
This was what Hathor knew about Lord Khnum's work. She also knew that her father, God Ra, had ordered him to sculpt a new god as a possible mate for his daughter. But Hathor, seeing how foolishly love made so many others act, had made a vow not to marry anyone, ever. Somehow it seemed Ra just wasn't willing to accept that fact, and was always trying to think of a way to pair her up. Well, she wouldn't let him. Not that easily. There had to be a way to foil this plan. It would only take a little while to think of something. Yet it had to be done quickly!
Unwittingly her sister Bastet helped her out. Hathor had returned to her father's palace and was walking near a pool which the cat goddess often frequented, and while she passed by, lost in thought, Bastet, sitting near the water and playing with a lily, spoke.
"It's a lovely day, isn't it, Sister?" she asked. "Enough to take someone's breath away. The water's so cool and the birds are putting all their hearts into singing. It's a golden opportunity to do some daydreaming, don't you think?"
Hathor merely nodded, only half listening. But as soon as she was out of sight within the palace she stopped, and a diabolical smile crept up her lovely face. She now had a plan of her own, and Bastet, simple Bastet, Ra's favorite child, had given it to her.
Khenti Amenti, the wolf, was well known as a trickster and one who was constantly getting into trouble. It was a good thing he had a tongue of silver, for otherwise he would have been greatly punished long ago. Hathor located him fast asleep in the sun just outside the main courtyard. He was also quite lazy sometimes, although he would deny it. He was always doing favors for her, since he was the only one low enough to accomplish some of them, and so she stooped beside him and shook his shoulder. There was certainly no one better suited for what she had in mind.
Khenti mumbled, "Go 'way!" and swatted at her, dozing off again.
"Get up, you lazy pile of hair and bones," Hathor threatened, "or I'll put wasps up your nose and make you!"
"All right, all right," grumbled the wolf, sitting up and stretching. He yawned so his tongue lolled out over his teeth. "What do you want, anyway? It's early."
"Don't talk to me like that, Khenti Amentet. And it is not early, it's afternoon. You have to do something for me. It involves cunning."
"Ooo!" Khenti was immediately wide awake. "I'm all ears."
"You must go to Lord Khnum's cave on the river," Hathor said in a low voice, in case any eavesdropping ears should be nearby. "On his potter's wheel should be a sculpture. I don't know what it looks like but it's a god, and he's probably ready to be fired. Khnum will have sealed up his chest. This is where you come in. Distract Khnum--tell him he's needed someplace. When you're certain he's gone, reopen the statuette's chest and replace his heart of gold with a heart of clay. Afterwards seal it back up and leave everything there as if nothing happened."
Khenti frowned at first--this was certainly an odd request--but shrugged it off. The more important the task was to Hathor, the greater the reward for him. "All right, sure thing." He got up and started away but Hathor grabbed his tail and he yelped.
"You understand me perfectly?" she said. "A heart of clay."
"I hear you! Let go of my tail!"
"Make no mistake," she warned, and let his tail go. The wolf, muttering a little in annoyance at his sore hind end, padded off to seek out Khnum's cave.
When he arrived Khnum was just warming up the kiln. Khenti peered over at his wheel. Just as Hathor had said, there was a small statuette there. He could barely make it out but he was certain that must be it. Puffing out his chest, he sallied inside importantly.
Khnum looked up at him. "Khenti Amenti? What brings you here?"
"A most important matter," the wolf replied. He really had no idea whatsoever, but that didn't worry him since his mind was racing even as he spoke. What might Khnum respond to quickly? A summons from Ra? No, too risky; he wouldn't want to arouse Ra's suspicions. How about a problem somewhere along the river? Ah, that sounded just perfect. A drowning child? Definitely! Go for it!
"Well?" Khnum asked, frowning.
"I thought you'd like--not really like, but want--well, maybe not--oh, who cares? I thought you should know of some trouble downriver a ways; a little boy, probably barely five, splashing around and calling for help. Maybe it's a prank, but it looks like a very good one--"
He found himself talking to an empty room. Khnum had long since gone.
"Worked like a charm," Khenti said to himself. "Heh, that was almost too easy!" He trotted over to inspect the statuette.
"Why, you're a funny-looking fellow!" he remarked to the statue. And indeed it was. It was dressed in battle gear, with a long spear in one hand, and had a crocodile's head. On its breast was engraved the word SOBEK.
"So your name's Sobek, is it?" Khenti said with a sly grin. For some unknown reason he was beginning to feel a little envious. Perhaps it was because, if this one became Hathor's husband, she'd have no time to give him these odd little chores to do--thus there would be no rewards. How would he spend his time and fill his empty stomach then? This god just didn't seem right. She'd have to marry someone else.
At some later time, of course.
"Well, I'd better get started on you, silly-looking Sukhos," he sneered, finding himself doing the same thing Hathor had--using an alternative name. At the moment he didn't notice. Any other time it would have frightened him. "By the time I'm through you'll have had a complete change of heart!"
So saying, he carefully traced a circle around Sobek's name with one claw. The clay neatly came out, exposing the god's chest cavity. Khenti peered in.
"So that's what a heart looks like?" he murmured. Very carefully, and very slowly, he reached in two toes--that was all the little hole would allow--and plucked the heart from its cord. He studied it in the dim light and watched its golden surface shimmer. The heart mesmerized him. He remembered being told, long ago, of how he himself had been made--by Khnum at the command of Ra--out of Nile mud. He had a heart of gold also but it was different. It's your ka, Lord Thoth, god of wisdom, had explained. The heart is a house, and the ka is its occupant. When properly made a heart of gold is a heart that's true. But if done incorrectly the ka is damaged, marred. That's what happened to you.
The thought still hurt him a little. His soul was marred. He was imperfect. That explained why he lied and cheated so much, the way some people breathed. But none of that was his fault! He sighed wistfully, wondering what it would be like if he could have a second chance. However, he knew very well that that could be too dangerous--Khnum's past attempts to implant a different heart after the subject had already been brought to life showed that too often the ka was damaged further or even destroyed, for even with a different heart, one must always have the same soul. That could not be changed.
Khenti abruptly shook his head. He'd gotten off track! He rarely did that. Khnum must have found out there was no drowning boy by now. The wolf dropped the heart in its proper box with its companions, and selected from another box a heart of clay. He understood why Hathor had wanted it so. A heart of gold could feel love--exactly what Hathor didn't want. A heart of stone usually felt nothing but hate--a dangerous possibility--and a heart of glass broke too easily, causing unendurable anguish--something particularly dreadful for a god, who could not end it all by simply dying. But a heart of clay was the perfect solution--it did not break easily and felt all emotions--including loyalty--except love. If Sobek couldn't love Hathor he wouldn't marry her, and Ra would be forced to just let the whole thing drop or else have two squabbling deities on his hands--definitely an unpleasant situation.
"In you go," he whispered, cautiously placing the heart inside. He cared little for the ka. He'd handled the heart so carefully it was almost certainly intact, and since the statuette hadn't been fired yet it didn't matter what ka it had. He picked up the clay circle he had cut out so that it didn't break or crumble, and, wetting the edges like he'd seen Khnum do to make the clay soft, put it back in place. He rubbed it a bit to hide the opening, then redid Sobek's name, which was slightly smudged, and stepped back to view his work.
"Perfect!" he said softly and proudly. "Nary a scratch. Nary a blemish." The sound of footsteps came up behind him. "Uh-oh."
Now came the hard part--confronting Khnum. The ram god wasn't the brightest star in the sky, but he had a good sense of intuition. However, he also had a pretty big soft spot--which was definitely the proper weakness to exploit. The wolf turned around, crossing his forelegs so his clayey paws couldn't be seen. Khnum came down the stone stairs into the room, casting a long shadow upon the floor. He frowned at Khenti again, giving him a peeved look.
"I saw no boy!" he said. "Not even a strip of clothing."
Khenti said, "Not even a hair?"
"Not even a hair! What are you up to anyway, old dog? Why are you standing so funny?"
"Me? 'Up to'?" Khenti put a paw to his breast, looking mortified. "Lord Khnemu, you wound me! To think that you of all people have now turned upon me. It's enough to break one's heart." He turned his head away, pretending to cry, in reality laughing at his own joke. Such an obvious hint, and the numbskull didn't even catch it!
"I--I'm sorry, Khenti," Khnum stammered, mildly bewildered. "I didn't mean to upset you so, I just thought perhaps--"
"Say no more!" Khenti cried. "I hear...and I understand." He skulked from the cave, leaving the perplexed potter behind and mentally congratulating himself on his acting.
Next stop, Hathor's! Maybe she would congratulate him with a good scratch behind the old ears.
"You placed in a heart of clay?"
"Mm-hm," Khenti murmured. He was too busy having his ears scratched to bother with words.
"And you made certain to leave no trace," Hathor prompted.
"Mm-hm. A little bit to the left, would you please? Aaaahh! Right there!"
Hathor, finding that pleased him, stopped and tugged his ear hard enough to make him wince. "I know you can hear me but I want you to listen to me. You made absolutely certain that no trace of your actions was left behind?"
"I told you. Khnum knew I was there. But he doesn't know what I did. I cleaned everything up. Maybe he saw my paws, but he won't suspect anything. Everyone knows how curious I am--he'll just think I was playing around with his clay."
The goddess let go of his ear, and the disgruntled wolf rubbed it. "You'd better hope he does," she warned, "or both of us will be in trouble--one of us more than the other!"--wagging her finger at him.
Khenti snorted. "Well!" he huffed. "If you don't want to have the honor of scratching my ears anymore, I'll just go find Lady Bastet. She ought to be in a better mood!"
Khnum, meanwhile, after inspecting his creation to make certain that everything was perfect, picked it up and placed it in the kiln to let it harden. While it did so he milled around rather anxiously, several times trying to work on another sculpture but unable to finish. He was too nervous. He always got this way when it came to deities. If a mortal creature caused trouble it could easily be put to rest. But gods were another matter altogether. Once they were created, there was almost no turning back.
When he checked on the statuette some time later and found it done, he took a deep breath. Now was the moment of truth! Khnum let it cool before taking it out and setting it on a wooden pedestal. He pulled out his reed and a covered cup. Uncapping the latter, he extracted a tiny amount of sparkling, crystalline powder and placed it in the reed, then put the reed to the clay mouth. With his hand he made a sign in the air like a cross with a loop on the top--an ankh, meaning life--and blew. Several seconds passed while the potter waited tensely. Then a faint shimmering appeared in the dimness nearby. It took shape gradually, and when the light grew to blinding brilliancy it suddenly was shed like a blanket. There, sitting with knees drawn up to his chest, sat the crocodile-headed god.
Slowly, almost tentatively, he opened his eyes and lifted his head, blinking around at the room.
Khnum let out his breath. Success. Normally he created newborn gods; but Ra had asked for this one to be created mature already, so it had been done. Apparently he wished to marry Hathor off pretty quickly. He stepped forward and the god looked up at him.
"Greetings, Lord Sobek," he said. "Crocodile God, you will power the destructive heat of the sun and will be known as Lord of all fierce creatures of the river." He paused, then added, somewhat meekly, "Your bride-to-be Lady Hathor waits for you."
Sobek merely stared at him.
Khnum coughed a bit. When he had created the god as mature, he had also been certain to include all the basic reasoning and mental functions, though of course, not having had any exposure to neteru society, this one would not be certain how to act or even respond until properly educated. "Not that I'm prodding you or anything," he hastened to add to his last comment, "but God Ra has ordained that--oh well, I suppose you barely understand me. I'll take you to Lord Thoth. He can help you out."
Evening fell. The gay hues of daytime were replaced by those subtler shades of early dusk, and the night creatures were just beginning to stir. Khenti Amenti was among them. He'd spent part of the day asleep in the sun, and now wandered into the meeting hall of the Paut Neteru, searching. Word had gotten around that Sobek was there with Thoth, being taught all the rules of everyday life. The wolf wanted to see him for himself.
"He should be out soon," he muttered, looking around. "Thoth's lessons never take very long with gods, and this one was born grown up. I wonder what's keeping them? They've been at it forever."
He knew that wasn't exactly true--it had only been about three hours. Still, he was tired of waiting, and had very little patience for such things. A faint noise interrupted his train of thought, and he turned his head to see, down the dim hall, a door opening. Sobek--Khenti recognized his long crocodile snout--came out, followed by Thoth. The latter said a few words in parting, and placed an ankh necklace around Sobek's neck, saying an incantation over it. Khenti could hear him say, "May you have eternal happiness, and life, strength, and health be with you." He then paused and waited.
Sobek looked slightly disconcerted, searching for the correct reply. Thoth stood in the doorway, patiently awaiting it. The crocodile god finally said, falteringly, "May you likewise be blessed with eternal health and happiness."
Thoth smiled at him kindly. "You're learning already, but you still have a long way to go. Go now, and come back any time you have questions." So saying, he bowed slightly and went back into his quarters, closing the door behind him, leaving Sobek in the hall.
"Here's where I come in," Khenti said to himself, and started off down the hall, head held high, pretending that he hadn't seen anything that had transpired. In so doing he nearly ran into the new god, and gasped with feigned surprise.
"Why, hello!" he greeted when the god glanced down at him. "You must be Lord Sobek. I've heard so much about you."
Sobek didn't seem to know what to say. Khenti guessed he was still puzzled over where he'd come from and why he was here.
"I'm Khenti Amenti," the wolf said with a polite little bow. "Ah!" He straightened up and smiled. "I suppose you haven't met Lady Hathor yet?"
"Hathor?" Sobek murmured. He seemed to remember hearing that name before.
"Of course. She's probably waiting. She doesn't like to be kept waiting, you know. She has quite a temper."
"Waiting? But--for what?"
"Why, for you! Don't you know? You're to be married!"
"Is that why I'm here?"
"You bet it is. Now, why don't--"
Sobek interrupted him, looking confused. "How do you marry? What do you do?"
Khenti blinked, then stuck out his lip. "Of course," he said to himself again, snorting. "Knowing Thoth, he probably used words like 'betrothal' or 'matrimony' or some other junk." He coughed and spoke up. "Do you, hm, recall Lord Thoth saying anything about--oh, say, husbands and wives?"
Sobek thought for several moments, then said, "I think he did. He said they're two people joined together in ceremony who afterwards share their lives together in mutual understanding."
"Figures!" Khenti muttered.
"Is that what I'm supposed to do with Lady Hathor?"
"You're right on the mark. Now--"
"But I do not mutually understand her."
"Well, you have to meet her first! Let's go. She's probably waiting outside."
Khenti had been timing this for Hathor's approach to the hall. He knew she wasn't really dying to meet Sobek, but had to act the part so her father wouldn't become suspicious. The two met her as she was just entering the hall. All three stopped, and six eyes stared at each other. Sobek was looking at Hathor. Hathor was looking back. And Khenti was looking at both.
"Lord Sobek, this is Lady Hathor," he said, to break the silence. "Lady Hathor, Lord Sobek."
"Greetings," Hathor said, bowing with a sly, barely hidden smile.
Sobek was silent as he sorted out his thoughts. Then, "Greetings, Great Daughter of the Sun."
Impressive! thought Khenti. Keep that up and you could have something going. But then Sobek turned to him.
"Lord Khenti, I still do not mutually understand her."
Hathor aimed a sudden puzzled look in Khenti's direction.
"Ha ha!" Khenti laughed hurriedly. "He has such a good sense of humor, too. Lady Hathor, Sobek and I were talking about Lord Thoth's concept of marriage."
"Oh," Hathor said, as if that explained everything.
"Do we marry tonight?" Sobek asked. "I don't know if you can marry someone if you do not mu--"
"No, no, no!" Hathor interjected, giving a pleasant laugh. "It takes time, doesn't it, Khenti?"
"Certainly it does. That's why I think I'll be leaving you two alone now." The wolf turned to trot away.
"Khenti!" the goddess smiled through clenched teeth, reaching out and tugging his ear again, drawing him back. "Not so fast. Stay a while."
"But I don't--ow!--have anything to--yoww!--do here! OW!! Will you let go--would you let go already?!"
"But you seem so interested in this matter! What's the hurry? Let's all get to mutually understand one another!"
"Now wait a minute! I'm not mar--"
But Hathor wasn't listening. She started along, followed, somewhat reluctantly, by Sobek. Khenti had no choice but to do the same, as his ear was still attached to his head, and he didn't wish that little fact to change. He just prayed to the Paut Neteru that he'd be able to keep up.
The next day Khnum entered the great hall, searching as Khenti had. Where were Hathor and Sobek? He hadn't seen them since yesterday. This fact alone puzzled him; it was difficult to go for very long without bumping into everybody, unless you lived in a cave. Well... Spotting Khenti stretched out beside a column, he approached.
"Where's Hathor? And Sobek?" he asked.
"Sobek's out with Lady Bastet," the wolf replied with a yawn. "She's showing him the...flowers...fluffy kittens...and stuff. As for Lady Hathor, she's in her rooms, though she could be dancing with the demons of the Duat for all I care." And he rubbed his ear, which lopped slightly.
Khnum ignored his final remark. He made a beeline to Hathor's rooms and knocked. A few moments passed before a servant girl answered, and directed him inside. Hathor sat at a table brushing her hair as she looked at herself in a mirror; on seeing him, she stood and beamed as if he were the most wonderful person in the world.
"Khnoumis!" she exclaimed.
"Where's Sobek, Goddess?" the ram-headed god asked, confused. "Khenti said he's with your sister."
"But--he's supposed to be with you. I mean, you hit him with an arrow by now...surely...?"
"Come inside a bit more and I'll explain everything," Hathor replied.
Khnum did as he was told, pondering. Hathor, being the goddess of love, had the very important task of shooting arrows. The thing was, these arrows weren't the everyday kind. One sort had tips of pure gold and were adorned with the soft white feathers of a dove. This kind, when its aim was true, struck its receivers with a feeling of the deepest love toward the first thing that caught their attention, be it deity, mortal, beast, plant, or statue. Those arrows were the ones Hathor was most accustomed to firing. The other kind, however, was quite different. Their heads were leaden, with dull brown owl feathers affixed to the shaft. Instead of love they inflicted a feeling of great indifference. One hit with such an arrow would turn the receiver's head from the affections of others. Hathor should have hit Sobek with the former type of arrow. If so, why wasn't he here, with her? Why would he rather be out with Bastet looking at flowers and fluffy kittens when here was Hathor, the most beautiful goddess in the Paut Neteru, to be his wife?
"You see, I think there's something...wrong...with Lord Sobek," Hathor explained as she seated the potter near the table and started roaming about, occupying herself with trivial things, straightening something here, moving something there. "I'm not saying this to delay any wedding, either. It's just that he's acting strangely. I shot him, if you're wondering, but he didn't seem to notice me. That's what's so odd. I can barely understand it. What do you think?"
Khnum snorted, still puzzled. "That shouldn't have happened. You two should be inseparable." He frowned at her. "You shot yourself, didn't you?"
Hathor shot him a look back. "I most certainly did no--" She abruptly cut herself off and forced a too-sweet smile. "I mean...not yet! I decided to see how he would react first. Then this happened. It's a good thing I didn't shoot myself, because now I'd be pining away!"
Khnum sighed. "Well...I suppose you're right. Still it bothers me."
"Maybe you did something wrong?"
"Such as when you made him. Maybe you did something wrong?"
The ram god's nostrils flared. "Maybe I did! I have to leave now, Lady. I'll see if I can find out what's going on for you."
Khnum instructed one of Ra's sunhawks to leave a message for the sun god when he returned. He wished to hold audience with him, meaning to tell him of Sobek's behavior.
"What do you wish me to say?" the sunhawk asked.
"Ask him if he'll stay behind and have someone else pilot Millions Of Years for the day," Khnum replied. "Tell him it's very important--it's about Lady Hathor and Lord Sobek. And see if you can find them and ask them to come to God Ra's palace as well."
The hawk nodded its golden head and flew away.
The next morning, while it was still dark, the sunhawk returned and summoned Khnum to the sun palace. Ra had accepted his request to stay. Khnum thought this mildly unusual since the god didn't normally do such things, but supposed it must have been because his daughter was involved. The hawk informed him that Sobek and Hathor were to come in a short while so they could speak alone. By the time Khnum reached the palace the sun bark was gone, but he could tell by the relative desertion of the place--even no sunhawks were about--that Ra must be inside. He wished at least one hawk were around; he didn't know which way to go. As if in answer to his wish, the one that had delivered his message landed atop a statue and called out, "Just keep going straight and ignore the side passages. I know it is a big place. Don't let it overwhelm you, Lord, and you won't become lost."
"Thank you," Khnum replied as the bird flapped its wings and flew away. He did as he'd been instructed, and in several moments found himself just outside Ra's throneroom. He went in a few steps, then bowed on his knees, pressing his head to the floor.
"Rise," a voice called out. "And come a bit closer, I don't particularly feel like shouting today."
Khnum did so a little bit meekly. He always felt uncomfortable in the presence of such powerful beings; he much preferred being back in his primitive cave, at his potter's wheel. This, being here, made him feel awkward, out of place. He neared the throne and bowed again.
Ra, seated upon the large golden chair, nodded at him, and spoke. "You said you had something to tell me about Lord Sobek and Lady Hathor." He leaned back a bit. "Is something wrong?"
"Well...I'm not certain, Majesty," Khnum answered. "I went to see Lady Hathor, and Lord Sobek wasn't with her, so I asked why he wasn't there. She told me he was acting oddly--even when she had hit him with an arrow he didn't pay her much attention."
"Are you certain it was a gold arrow?"
Khnum snorted again. "Come to think of it, Lord, I never asked her that!"
"Well, we will find that out now. Here she comes."
Khnum lifted his head. Sure enough, Hathor had entered the hall far behind him. Sobek was not with her but he noticed Ra didn't appear upset. He must have told the crocodile god to come last. The potter god bowed again, also noticing that Hathor had brought her quiver, with arrows, and bow. She obviously knew what Ra wanted. However, she acted as if she had just been called in from outside and knew nothing of the sort. She simply bowed before him and said, "Greetings, Majesty," all too pleasantly.
Khnum could tell that Ra suspected something was up. "Greetings, Lady Hathor." He glanced at her quiver and bow. "I hope we haven't interrupted anything."
"By all means, no."
"However, it happens to be about your arrows that we've called you here. Have you met Lord Sobek, the new god, yet?"
"I have. He's very polite. He acts a little bit strangely, though, as if he's reciting everything he says. I suppose this is because he's still learning how to act."
"I suppose," Ra mused, looking thoughtful. "Daughter, have you hit him with a golden arrow yet?"
"Why, of course, Father!" Hathor said, almost with reproach. "It was your order that he be my husband, so I shot him."
"You seem quite willing to obey this after your vow of celibacy."
The goddess's eyes narrowed just briefly before she smiled again. "I know, but it was your command. I wished not to disobey. Besides, life alone is becoming quite dull..."
At that moment, Sobek entered. He was trying not to gaze at all of the tall pillars and ornate statues, to instead look straight ahead, but his eyes continued to wander. He knelt mechanically before Ra's throne, and Ra looked him over a moment before nodding at him to rise.
"You remember Lady Hathor and Lord Khnum, and Lord Thoth has obviously told you about me," he said. "Hathor is my daughter. Have you heard of the wedding arrangements, between her and yourself?"
Sobek nodded. "I have, Majesty. Believe me when I say that Lady Hathor is very beautiful. I will not deny thinking that."
"But I do not mutually understand her, and I don't believe I ever will. To be married, Lord Thoth said you must mutually understand one another."
At this remark Khnum and Ra looked at each other, as puzzled as Hathor had been. The goddess, meanwhile, merely smiled demurely, stroking one of her thin arrows. Ra glanced back at her with a confused frown.
"Daughter, did you--are you absolutely certain that you--"
"Lord Sobek, close your eyes," Hathor ordered, and Sobek did. Quick as lightning she fitted the arrow to her bow, aimed, and struck him directly in the breast, the arrow vanishing as it hit, melting into thin air.
"Lord Sobek, open your eyes and look right at me!"
The god obeyed, and his eyes fell upon the goddess. He blinked once, twice, while the others held their breath. An odd look came over his face and he sighed, then turned to Ra, bowed, and spoke.
"No matter what spell anyone might be using, Majesty, I still do not understand her."
Khnum looked pleadingly at Ra, as if to cry, "You see?" Ra gaped at the crocodile god and stammered, "You don't--you don't feel anything? You don't see anything special in her, anything at all?"
Sobek shook his head. "Nothing...am I supposed to, Majesty?"
"You should be madly in love with her by now!" Khnum wailed.
"In love?" Sobek blinked again. "I thought I was supposed to understand her first!"
Ra stood and glanced at Khnum as the other three abruptly ducked their heads. "Khnum. You still have Lord Sobek's life figurine on your shelf?"
"Yes, Majesty, I keep them all."
Ra raised his staff. A stream of light shot from the golden ankh atop it, striking Sobek as the arrow had. He started to speak but his words cut off as his body suddenly went rigid. His eyes fluttered shut and his head dropped, and the spear he'd been holding slid from his hand, clattering to the polished floor.
Khnum's ears pricked up. Hathor gasped and dashed to the frozen god. She listened for a heartbeat, checked for breath, and finally placed her hand to his head, concentrating. Even that drew no response. She whirled to her father, fists clenching. "What have you done to him?"
Ra stepped down from the dais, his eyes dark. Khnum backed away as he approached. "I put him to sleep. Lord Khnum, we will go back to your cave and break open the statuette's chest."
The potter god balked. "But--but surely you don't mean--"
"You can't do that!" Hathor cried. "That could ruin his soul!"
"I don't want his heart taken out!" Ra snapped. "I want to know what it is he has in there. Whatever it is, it isn't a heart of gold!"
Khnum bowed at him as he stalked past, out of the hall, and hurried to follow. He glanced back to see Hathor staring at the now unmoving, still living and yet lifeless Sobek. Her stare was helpless and full of guilt. It was obvious she hadn't planned on this happening.
Ra followed Khnum to his cave in the form of a falcon. Khnum descended the steps to his cave and went directly to the shelves in the back room, searching through the myriad sculptures while Ra perched atop the potter's wheel like a clay figurine. The ram god found the statuette inscribed SOBEK and, taking it down, brought it back into the main room and bowed, showing it to Ra.
"This is the one," he said.
"You know what to do with it."
Khnum swallowed again and shuddered. He nodded and turned away to his work shelf, selecting a little wooden mallet and a chisel. He set the statuette down beside the watching falcon and carefully tapped out an opening in the figurine's chest. When he struck it once with the mallet it cracked and finally broke into little pieces, leaving a tiny hole. The falcon hopped forward as Khnum shone a candle in and they both peered inside. The ram god gasped, a look of dismay crossing his face.
"What is?" Ra asked.
Khnum held the figurine up. "I'm absolutely certain I gave it a heart of gold! I swear it by the Feather of Maat! But this statue--this has a heart of clay!"
The falcon's eyes narrowed. "I thought it might."
"What--what will we do, Majesty?"
"Nothing. There's nothing we can do. Once the heart is sealed inside there's no switching it without risking damage to the ka." He scowled, as best he could considering his form. "I don't know how Hathor did it...but somehow I know that she did. Of course this is the perfect means for her to escape marriage. I should have expected she'd put up more of a fight than that." He ruffled his wings. "Redo the chest and seal it back up, and when you're finished I'll bring him back to us. She wins, this time."
Khnum nodded and, dejected at his obvious inattention to details, set back to work repairing the fractured statuette. Ra was, of course, correct. Hathor had won, for the time being.
Time passed, as time tends to do. One should be worried if it did not...but then again, this is not a story about time, this is a story about a love that wasn't quite...and perhaps, for the better...for as time passes, feelings change...and where did that story go again?...
A light rap came at the door. Horus, lost in one of his rare moments of solitude since becoming king, looked up, then suppressed a small sigh and went to answer it. Normally a servant would do such things...but he had yet to become accustomed to the idea of sending other people to do his own chores.
As soon as he opened the door Bastet danced in, twirling about. She took his head in her hands and sang, "Greetings, sweet Horus!"
He couldn't help but smile, in spite of himself. "Greetings, Lady Bastet. What brings you here?"
"It's Hathor," the cat goddess replied, her voice sympathetic but her dancing unhindered. She stepped lightfootedly around the room, picking up random objects and setting them down. "Have you, as her new husband--life, strength, health!--noticed how she's been acting lately?"
The hawk god paused thoughtfully before nodding. He rarely spoke in haste. "She seems to go off by herself often, and she's being...secretive. As if she wishes not to speak of something. I've been wondering if I've angered her somehow. I haven't asked her, if it should upset her more."
"I don't think you could possibly upset her, Golden Horus. Just several days ago, before she started acting like this, she would talk and talk about you. She would speak of no one else. And when anyone grew tired of her talk and glared at her, she would easily outstare them. Not that it takes much to be outstared by the queen! No, I don't believe it's you that she's upset about. But perhaps you could get her to talk to you? I came to suggest this, as she spoke of you so fondly before."
"I don't know if I could convince her to speak to me of it, if she hasn't yet," Horus replied. "I'll see if I can help her, though."
Horus found his wife outside, in one of the large courtyards, sitting near the pool with Khenti Amenti reclining at her feet. She was absently stroking his back while he slept. Horus approached her silently, not certain what to say. They had not been married long; he'd heard the stories about her vow never to marry anyone, and was still not sure why she had chosen him; though she didn't seem to be insincere. Lately she'd been spending more time alone. Still wondering if he'd done something to upset her, he stopped not too far away and said, "Lady Hathor?"
She turned her head, a little startled, then smiled when she recognized him. "Majesty. Apologies that I didn't notice you."
He flinched a little at the title; he would never grow used to this. He came around in front of her and knelt on the ground. She blinked at him with some surprise. He placed his hand on her knee.
"I wondered what has been bothering you these past few days. I had hoped it was not something I said or did. If you're still worried--my promise stands--I will not make you do anything you do not wish to do."
The color rose in her cheeks and she averted her eyes. Her fingers squeezed his. "It's...not you, Lord. I know you'd never break your promise. Please be patient with me, and I know I will give you an heir. But...this is not it."
He clasped her hand now. "Then if this isn't it, what is? Why have you grown so quiet? Even your sister notices that you haven't been yourself."
She turned to face the pool, cool blue and shimmering in the twilight. "It's too confusing to tell..."
"I'm willing to be patient," he said, "so I'm willing to listen."
She gave a small, unconvincing laugh. "You're very patient, then, Lord! It seems some--though they are few--will do anything for those they love." Her smile vanished. "That's...that's what's bothering me so much."
Hathor drew in a deep breath. "I did something," she murmured, "to someone...and now I'm ashamed for doing it. It was a long time ago, yet I still remember it clearly. I was angry, and selfish...wanted things to go my way...so I took something very precious away from someone, and now he can't have what I have." She sighed, and tears abruptly welled up in her eyes. "I don't know what I should do."
Horus picked up her hand and pressed it between his own. "Does this person know--?"
She shook her head, wiping at her eyes. Khenti lifted his head and sneezed twice.
"Perhaps you should tell him all, then. If he doesn't know, the news may hurt him if he hears it from someone else...you know my brother? Lord Anubis?"
"He is my half-brother," Horus said, "and he did not know it, for many years. We both thought Lord Osiris was our father, and Lady Isis our mother. When Isis told him that Lady Nephthys, and not she, was his mother, he was devastated...he was jealous of me, and refused to speak to me for a time."
"I remember hearing of this."
"I could not give up on him, though. He may not be brother to me in blood, but he did not give up on me either, and we are now brothers in spirit." He looked into her eyes. "The truth may be a painful thing, but there are some who say pain makes us stronger. I do not know if they are right. I do know that Anubis and I love each other dearly. You should tell this person the truth, and ask for forgiveness."
Hathor was silent for several moments, again staring at the rippling pool. She lifted her head and looked at him, her eyes slightly aglow with hope.
"You think he'll understand? And forgive me?"
"I cannot say yes or no. Just remember Anubis, and the truth."
The goddess took another deep breath, and stood; now she clasped Horus's hand back.
"Thank you, Brother. I think I know now what I have to do."
Khenti Amenti trotted at Hathor's feet while she strode to Sobek's post. The crocodile god had long since been set up to guard the palace, and had even assumed the position of captain, as he was quite well suited for the job. He took orders from his superiors quite well, and anyone who tried to deter him from his duties would soon be left with a lost cause. He had changed very much since Ra had had Hathor hit him with her arrow, many years ago, and now he wasn't nearly as timid or confused as he'd been then. Instead he was rather aloof toward everyone--which made the situation a bit more awkward for Hathor. She wasn't certain how to deal with such...emotionless people. She considered turning back, but his acute ears heard her coming, and he turned to see her and bowed.
"Hello, Lord Sobek," Hathor replied. She tried to keep from wringing her hands and approached him.
He tipped his head a bit, giving her a look. "It's late to be out, Majesty."
"I know. I came to tell you something."
"At this hour?"
"It's what you'd call important," Khenti Amenti muttered.
"Quiet, Khontamenti," the goddess warned, nudging him in the ribs, so the wolf fell silent.
"I'm not certain what could be so important as to make you come out so late, Majesty," Sobek said bluntly. "Unless there is a problem with Lord Horus?"
"No, no," Hathor said. "It has nothing to do with him. But it is important. So please, bear with me."
The god seemed to suppress a sigh but tapped his spear to the ground. "As you wish. Though I hope it takes not long, as Your Majesty should truly be back in your quarters at this hour."
Hathor said nothing. The other two waited, and could see that she didn't seem to know how to begin. Sobek frowned and tapped his fingers against the shaft of his spear. Khenti glanced at both of them, then sighed and spoke.
"Lord Sobek, you remember when God Ra--sort of--asked you to marry Lady Hathor here, don't you?"
"Well...she has something to say about that."
He performed a little bow, turned on his heel, and trotted away down the hall, out of sight. Sobek looked at Hathor, still frowning, now more with puzzlement.
"Something to say?" he inquired. "What could there be? You're married to the king. Everything's said and done."
"I wish that were so!" Hathor cried. "Lord Sobek, I have something to tell you about a thing we--I--did, and now I regret doing it so much. Sobek, do you remember when, at God Ra's palace, everything just went blank--when you awoke, you felt oddly, and they said the engagement was off?"
Sobek stared at her a moment before nodding again, slowly. "I vaguely seem to recall this..."
"My father and Lord Khnum were examining your heart then. Before you came, when you were merely a statuette on Khnum's potter's wheel, I--I sent Khenti Amenti to do something for me."
"You had a heart of gold," Hathor explained. "Please don't take this personally, Lord, but I didn't wish to marry anyone then. I felt my father was forcing me into it, and I had no other choice. I felt I had no other choice. I sent Khenti--I sent--I sent him to switch your heart, w--with a heart of clay so you--so you couldn't love me." Her chest hitched and tears filled her eyes. "Or anyone else."
As she'd been speaking, she noticed that Sobek had placed his hand to his breast, as if trying to tell for himself. He was very quiet for a long time, staring into space. When he spoke his voice was quiet. "I don't see..." He noticed her now, the tears starting to stream from her eyes, and frowned anew. "Why are you crying, Majesty?"
"Aren't...aren't you angry with me?"
"I am surprised to hear this, yet I do not see why I should be angry."
"I took away your ability to love. To love another as they could love you. Doesn't this upset you? That you'll never know what this is like?"
The corner of Sobek's mouth twitched and he gave her the same look he'd given her before. "I suppose, Majesty, if I had felt it before, it would bother me to not feel it again. However, since I have no idea what I'm 'missing,' I see no point letting this get to me. To fret over it would be a waste of my time. Please do not cry over this, Majesty. You are tormenting yourself over something that is long past. If you did not wish to marry, you had every right to protest."
"I did much more than merely protest...I thought you'd be so angry, you remember, like Lord Anubis was, when he found out about his past."
"Prince Anubis and I are two different people. I am not angry."
Hathor let out her breath with great relief. She held out her arms to him, but he held up one hand, again with the look. She flushed and pulled back.
"Apologies about that...I nearly forgot!"
He tipped his head in what might have been a nod, or might have been a bow. "I must thank you though, Majesty, for being truthful. It appears you were the only one who wished to be so."
She felt her cheeks grow hotter and had to avert her eyes. "I thank you as well," she murmured, "for listening and understanding."
Sobek reached for his spear and bowed. "Now Majesty...you know already, it's quite late."
"Oh." Hathor blinked with surprise. "You're right...apologies. I'm sorry I kept you so long from your duties. Thank you, Lord Sobek, and have a good night."
He bowed again as she turned and walked away, watching as she disappeared down the hall.
Thus she didn't get to see Sobek when he did something he had never done before--he called to one of the other guards to assume his post, and left the palace to go out into one of the courtyards. He glanced about and spotted several moonibises, servants of Thoth, perched atop the statues, heads tucked beneath their wings. He whistled, and they lifted their heads and opened their silvery eyes to look down at him. One flapped its wings and descended to the ground before him.
"You wish to send a message to my lord?" it asked.
Sobek shook his head. "To Lord Ptah. You can find him?"
The bird bobbed its head. "I may travel to all who hold power with the moon. You wish for me to request something of Lord Ptah?"
"He is the most skilled of the craftsmen among the neteru," Sobek said. "Ask him to craft a necklace for me. Tell him to make it of gold, and with the finest turquoise around..."
Several days later, Bastet sat out at the north pool, playing with several tiny kittens--her favorite pastime. She was tickling them and laughing as they rolled and tumbled about, tripping over each other, when a thin shadow swept over. She quickly gathered the small creatures into her lap. The shadow could have been of some bird of prey, seeking a light dinner; or it could have been some relative of hers, come to chide her for dallying about at Horus's palace in a manner so unbefitting of a goddess and a daughter of Ra. She glanced up to see that the shadow was merely that of a moonibis...a harmless creature. She let go of the kittens and stood just as the silver bird landed nearby, flexing its wings.
"Is Lady Hathor about?" it asked her.
"Yes, of course. She's inside." Bastet cocked her head, her ears pricking with curiosity. "I see you have a package tied to your leg. Is it for my sister?"
The ibis nodded. "A gift, for her. There is a note attached, explaining all."
"You look quite tired. I could take it to her, for you."
The moonibis paused and eyed her uncertainly. "You won't open it?"
"Of course I won't! You can trust me."
"Well...all right." The bird stood still and allowed her to untie the package from its leg. "Promise me you won't open it!" it said, as she pulled the bundle loose and looked it over.
"I promise! I swear by Maat. Your kind is so fussy!"
The moonibis, hearing her promise, was reassured and flew away. The cat goddess held up the package and shook it lightly as if to hear it. She was tempted, but decided to honor her vow, and took the little carefully wrapped bundle inside, carrying it to Hathor's rooms.
Hathor was again at her mirror, brushing her hair. Khenti Amenti, as usual, dozed at her feet, tongue lolling from his mouth and hind foot twitching in a dream. Her door opened and the guards let in Bastet, who hurried past the servant girls straight to her sister. Hathor glanced up at her as she approached, Khenti lifting his head and yawning widely.
"Greetings, Sister!" Bastet cried. She leaned down to kiss Hathor on the cheek.
"Hello, Bastet," Hathor said with a puzzled smile. "You're happy today! Shouldn't you be at home by now?"
"Oh, you know how it is there, always so sunny yet stuffy! There is hardly a thing to do! Here it's so much more exciting!" She held up the little package as if to illustrate her point. "I have something for you, by the way. It has a note on it. It's for you, it's for you, delivered from the blue--by a moonibis. Open it, open it. It must be important. I simply must see what it is!"
Hathor had to smile and shake her head as she took the package, Khenti putting his paws up on the table and peering at it as well. Her sister must have been the goddess of cats for a good reason, with her nose. She looked at the little bundle with its linen wrapping, turning it about as Bastet had done. She hadn't been expecting anything. What could it be?
Well, there was only one way to find out.
She pulled loose the cords tying the package shut and the linen fell free. She lifted the flap aside and looked down. All three of them gasped in unison at what they saw.
Inside lay a shimmering necklace of gold and turquoise. Every seven turquoise beads were interrupted by a gold bead, and the pendant was formed of the gleaming yellow metal, surrounding the largest, brightest turquoise they had ever seen. All Hathor could do was stare at it numbly.
Turquoise. Seven. Her sacred jewel, and her sacred number. Who...?
"There's a note, there's a note!" Bastet prompted, bobbing on her feet.
Khenti fidgeted. "Open it! Read it!"
Hathor nudged the necklace aside, the other two picking it up and admiring it while she retrieved the note. It was all she could do to keep from dropping the little piece of papyrus as her shaking hands unrolled it. She focused on the small, neat lines of text within, and found it was a short message addressed to her.
Lady Hathor, Great Royal Wife, Daughter of the Sun.
Your Majesty has rendered me an invaluable service though I do not show it. You yourself know the reason why. It is beneath my dignity to fawn over anything, even the truth. However, I must repay you for telling it to me, and also for the distress I sense you have felt over concealing it for so long. Here is my thanks. Lord Ptah has fashioned it at my request. I know that it is trivial compared to what you have given me, though I hope that you find it to your liking, and that it appeals to your high tastes. It is the least I may do to repay you, and if ever you or any of your royal family are in need of anything, you know already you have merely to ask me. I am loyal to you always.
Life, strength, health,
The hieroglyphs blurred upon the page as Hathor's eyes welled up, reading the final words of the note. Perhaps a necklace was a trivial thing...yet it felt like so much more than that, to her. The thought that he had put behind it. She knew how much he had changed since she had first met him, and for him to compose such a letter...she would not have believed it, had she not read it for herself. It must have taken everything he could summon up simply to do it, yet she knew he had done it because he wanted to. Sobek had given her much more than a necklace. He'd given her peace of mind. She folded the letter and pressed it to her breast.
"Who is it from, who is it from?" Bastet and Khenti both asked.
"Oh..." Hathor wiped her eyes before they could see the tears there. "No one in particular. Just a friend."
They both frowned and blinked at each other with puzzlement as she gazed into the large, shining turquoise, seeing the pale outline of her reflection upon its surface, and the two of her smiled, whispering, as if in secret.
"Just a friend."