Something In The Moonlight
TITLE: Something In The Moonlight
GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, romance/love, drama.
SUMMARY: What can bring fear to the fearless?...or is this feeling fear at all? An original myth.
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2001.
LENGTH: 5800+ 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. In the mythology, the lioness goddess of war and bloodshed, Sakhmet, was married to the moon god Ptah, patron of craftsmen and artisans. They even had a son together, Nefertum. Now--how did two such different deities end up paired together? The Egyptians probably had a slew of political reasons why, but I wanted to figure out the romantic part. Hence this story. An error--the terms "yards," "inches," and "miles" (all three of them!) are used--nowadays I would use more generic, less modern measurements.
SAKHMET SAT BOLT upright with a gasp and glanced around her wildly, searching. Nothing but trees, to one side the river, to the other side the desert. The same as ever.
She put a hand to her breast and forced her breathing and heartbeat to slow down to normal. Awakened and frightened by a mere dream? What sort of behavior was this? She'd battled wild beasts and bloodthirsty demons before; why should a simple dream startle her so?
What was more, she couldn't even remember what it had been about!
The goddess growled under her breath and pushed herself to her feet, grabbing up her ax and quiver. The fact that she couldn't even remember what had frightened her was annoying. She'd been out here hunting for three days straight now and had yet to venture back to celestial Iunu; in that short time she'd faced down hippos and crocodiles and even a lion but none of them had managed to do anything more than get the blood coursing faster through her veins. Fear? It was unknown to her.
She shook her head, and shook the feeling off. She slung the quiver over her shoulder and retrieved her bow. She had no horse to untie; she preferred walking, as it kept up her strength. In the brief period of time between dusk and dawn she would sleep shielded beneath the trees, with only the moonlight and starlight to look down upon her. There was absolutely nothing to fear out here, nothing she couldn't handle. She wouldn't let a stupid dream she couldn't recall frighten her away from her hunt.
With resolve she hefted her ax--it was heavy enough to cause even the strongest of the gods trouble--and went on her way, keeping eyes and ears open.
By the time the light began to fade again, all too soon, it seemed, she had brought down an antelope she'd spotted prancing about at the edge of the desert, perhaps getting ready to come in for a drink. All in all, not a bad kill, but she was still bored of it. A mere antelope out of an entire day's work. The dumb creatures weren't even dangerous unless it was mating season. She'd forgotten about the strange feeling she'd had that morning, but as soon as she made her camp again it came back to her. For some reason...she rather missed it. At least then she hadn't been bored.
She shook her head again. "Agh! To be rid of this stupid feeling! It was just a dream--forget about it and get to sleep!"
She didn't even bother with a night hunt; her boredom had sapped the desire from her. Perhaps tomorrow...she had no important duties to attend to, and intended to make the most of this small trip away from the sun palace. Instead, she unstoppered a small clay vase of beer and drank it, hiccuping when she reached the bottom and tossing the vase away. It smashed against the ground and she felt satisfied with the tiny act of destruction. Maybe later she would find a better chance to prove herself.
With a snort and a sigh she put her quiver on the ground--this was the only thing she used as her pillow or her bed, to bring anything else would be extraneous and unnecessary--and placed her head upon it, getting herself comfortable and drifting to sleep.
For what seemed to be a long time, it was dark. Sakhmet normally didn't remember her dreams unless they involved great battles and bloody fights, and even then they weren't nearly as good as the real thing. She hadn't had such dreams as that any time lately. Neither was she a deep sleeper, the better to be prepared for any attack that may come as she drowsed. The slightest noise could have her on her feet and ready for whatever might be coming. She didn't have to fear anything out here on her own.
Which was why she was so surprised when she felt something lightly brushing against her cheek, yet couldn't seem to get her eyes to open to figure out what it was.
Her heart started hammering in her chest as she struggled to awaken. What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she wake up? Was she...was she afraid to? That was ridiculous! She wasn't afraid of anything! For all she knew it was a caterpillar or a dung beetle crawling over her face--so why couldn't she wake up?
She sensed light passing before her eyelids--what from, she couldn't be certain--but when it had passed over her and vanished, likewise whatever touched her face vanished as well. And only then did her eyes finally pop open, she leaping up with a snarl and grasping her ax, looking around for whatever had been touching her.
Sakhmet blinked with some confusion. It was...almost exactly the same as the night before. Nothing but trees and grass and river and desert. Nothing, nobody near her, not even a caterpillar or a dung beetle. Nothing but the carcass of her kill, and there was no way that that had been behind any of this...was there?
Her fists tightened with anger. What stupid things to think. What a stupid way to act, over what was obviously another dream. What was she turning into, a frightened little child? She'd never cried to her father or begged him to banish her fears when she was little; it was more her sister Bastet's style to do that. She wouldn't start now.
She let out her breath, heart slowing along with it, and lowered her ax. Sleepiness dragged at her eyelids already--dawn had not arrived yet--but she wouldn't sleep after that. Not that she couldn't--she didn't want to. Why? Because she was afraid?
Another growl. I am NOT afraid of a dream. A mere nonsensical thought flitting through my head. It will take much more than that to bring fear to me, though I doubt it could even be done.
This thought brought calm to her, and, after skinning and hoisting the antelope up into a tree for safekeeping until her return, she gathered up her weapons, lifted her head in the air, nose pointing regally, and started off again.
This day, she had more time to move about, and so her luck was somewhat better. She killed a hippopotamus--albeit a small one--but it was too heavy for her to drag to the shore, and so she had to let it sink into the river. Later in the afternoon she had more luck with a cheetah she spied wandering through the tall grass. That would make the perfect kill! She made certain to chase it and corner it a good several times before finally killing it, else the hunt would have been far too boring. Into a tall tree it and its pelt went as well, away from the hyenas and jackals. At the fall of dusk she caught sight of another lion in the desert, but since it looked so much like herself, she let it go peacefully. No use making a slaughter out of everything.
Because of her truncated sleep of the night before, she was even more tired this evening, yet refrained from setting out her quiver and lying down to doze off. The thought of waking up to a "frightening" dream was enough to keep her from wanting to shut her eyes, before she realized, the dream was doing exactly what it must be trying to accomplish. It was keeping her awake, thus it was frightening her.
"It is not," Sakhmet muttered to herself, setting her quiver down so hard it bounced. A stray arrow fell to the side. She considered laying her head down to rest, but decided to bathe in the river first. Perhaps the cool water would calm her down...not that she needed calming.
Still, the water was soothing, and she hadn't bathed since before leaving for the hunt, so she was much cleaner by the time she climbed out and dried herself off and dressed. She knew she would sleep much better after that. Perhaps it was her own filth that was making her think up these things!
She returned to her makeshift camp and settled herself down, folding her arm under her head and shutting her eyes. Sleep came almost immediately this time, and she was grateful for it.
She dreamed this night of killing the lion, and proudly carrying it back to her camp. It was almost as big as she was yet she carried it as easily as anything. Yet by the time she got back she was exhausted and lay down to rest. And as soon as she yawned and shut her eyes, it was as if a voice spoke to her, out of nowhere.
The hard ground is not fitting for you, Goddess. You deserve so much more.
She opened one eye and looked around, but no one was there. Yet off to the side she noticed what appeared to be an ornate...bed? It bore the shape of a lion, with legs fashioned of gold and detailed in the most intricate patterns possible. Simply looking at it she longed to sleep in it, before--
--waking up and looking around her, noticing no bed, and realizing it had been just the dream. And what a strange dream! To dream of a bed...
She rubbed her eyes and thought maybe she had been gone from the luxuries of home too long after all.
She fowled the next day, having grown tired of her bow and ax. Fowling gave her more time to think, and the dream made her want to think hard. Why would she dream about a bed? And one so fancy and frilly as that...how ridiculous! She would never sleep on something so vulgar. She had no idea what her subconscious had been thinking, but it needed to get its act together this minute.
Still, she wondered about that voice...it seemed that whoever had spoken had been the one to offer her the bed as a gift.
Gift. That was what it was, she suddenly realized. A gift, an offering. But that only confused her more. Who would offer her such a thing as a gift?
It was too much to ponder over a little dream...best to get some fowling done, some cooking, and some real sleep instead.
She hadn't eaten during the first few days of her hunt. She could go without food longer than most others she knew. There was no reason to, other than to test her own endurance, which she did every day. So once she had finished cooking the ducks she brought down she was ravenous. She tore the blackened meat apart with her teeth and hands as madly as any wild animal, and washed it down with more beer. She hadn't bothered bringing any wine; wine was for weaklings. The beer she drank was the most intoxicating kind, yet she knew how to drink it in moderation, and still hold it better than most of the neteru.
Still, she hoped it would dispel whatever weird thoughts her mind decided to have during the night. A frilly womanly bed...ridiculous. Perhaps she'd gotten out of the palace just in time...
She dozed off before she even knew that sleep was what she was striving to obtain.
She was wading through the water, bringing her felled ducks back to shore and anticipating dinner. After she had finished eating she waded back out and bathed, swimming beneath the cool water, surfacing every so often to flip back her gleaming black hair and shake the droplets from her face. Many others like her would be afraid of the water. Not so with Sakhmet. She enjoyed a swim every now and then, and the colder the water, the better. There was nothing like a good bracing dip to prepare one for the day ahead...after a fitting sleep, that is.
She returned to the shore a second time, wringing the water from her hair and seeking out her clothes, hanging atop the reeds. As she reached out for them she heard a voice--
The most splendid gems in the world should all belong to you, Goddess.
--and gasped, arms going up to cover herself as she ducked down among the plants. She glanced about wildly but saw no one. What had that been? Had she just imagined it? She hurriedly reached up to grab her dress, only to grasp something hard and cool in her hand instead. Drawing it back, she found that she'd picked up not her clothing, but the most exquisitely made necklace she'd ever seen. It was a pectoral of gleaming gold and lapis and carnelian, bearing the shimmering image of a lion upon it. Its counterweights were even in the shape of lions' heads. She stared at it, turning it about in her hands, before realizing that she still stood at the edge of the river, stark naked, within full view of anybody who might happen by--including whoever had left this thing here.
And of course, as soon as she realized this, she woke up.
Sakhmet blinked at the tree standing before her. What had that been about? First to dream about a fancy bed, and now a fancy necklace? She had nothing against jewelry, that was certain...but to be offered such a strange gift in the middle of nowhere...when she hadn't even had the chance to get her clothes on properly...unnerved her. She wasn't sure what she thought of the idea that someone might be out here...watching her. And leaving her gifts.
But what sense did that make? They weren't even real; they were gone as soon as she'd awakened. Why was she letting this get to her so very much?
Perhaps I'm going mad, she thought to herself, wishing now that she'd brought a blanket. Perhaps I've been out here on my own so long that it's driving me crazy.
That made no sense, either; once she'd gone out on her own for several months. This had been several days! What could cause such lunacy?
She sat up the rest of that night, unable to sleep. She hugged her knees to her chest and darted furtive glances about the clearing, starting at every noise. By the time dawn came she was both exhausted and feeling foolish. The great goddess of war and bloodlust, brought down by a mere dream. Pathetic. Still, she dreaded the thought of inevitable nightfall, and paid only slight attention to her own activities that day. Even as she hunted, half of her mind was not on the task. Every so often she found herself glancing down just to make certain she was still clothed.
This time when evening fell, she resolved to stay awake. The full moon rose and illuminated everything around her; she welcomed it, to drive off the darkness. She felt comfortable while it was there, but still too on edge to close her eyes for long. She sat with her back against a tree and scoured the river and the land around her, looking back over her shoulder once in a while at the desert. Nothing wandered but the occasional night animal, which was to be expected. That didn't mean they didn't startle her every time she heard or saw them. By about the sixth or seventh scare she'd had, she was getting frustrated. This was no way for a goddess to act! She was a lioness, not a kitten. What sort of childish behavior was this!
Maybe this place is cursed. She shivered, and her large green eyes flicked left to right and back again, pupils dilated widely.
A bit of sleepiness twinged at the back of her mind, and she tried to suppress a yawn. She blinked a few times and rubbed her eyes. They burned by now; she shut them for a moment and sighed. One more night. If she got through tonight all right, then she would head back home. There was no use waiting to become a hopeless wreck before returning. The others wouldn't have to know about how she'd acted out here. She could always lie to them, say that everything had gone as blandly as usual.
Goddess...I've been approaching you the wrong way.
Sakhmet opened her eyes. The moonlight glimmered around her, a stray beam alighting upon her shoulder like a comforting hand.
The first one was simply foolish. The second one was not like you. If I had merely known you better, I would have known what to give you. Not what I would like you to have. Not what I believe you would like to have. But what you would truly like to have. Do you forgive me for being so ignorant?
"Of course," Sakhmet murmured. She lifted her gaze. "If you don't know me, you couldn't have known..."
I have one more gift for you, Goddess, that I hope you will accept. If not, I will bother you no more.
Sakhmet nodded, and started glancing around herself. A glowing light appeared before her, several yards away, and she gasped and jumped up, running to it like a child running for a treat. By the time she reached it it had assumed form; she bent to pick up a long, slender ax with a half-moon blade, the entire weapon glinting with the color of silver. She ran her finger along the smooth metal, and hefted it in one hand. Its weight against her palm was as comforting as the moonlight caressing her back. She could very nearly feel a whisper in her ear.
Do you like it?
"Yes," Sakhmet whispered. Her eyes lit up and a smile came to her face. She swung the ax with childish glee, slicing at the air, fighting unseen enemies. She giggled like a little girl and held it up before her eyes again. "It's beautiful! Very beautiful!"
She sensed a pleased feeling, all around her. I crafted it, the voice said, as I crafted the bed and the necklace. I'm happy that you like it. It is of silver...to remind you of me.
She swung it again and laughed. The moonlight seemed to laugh along with her. She danced about in the clearing in little skips and hops, and for a moment it almost felt as if the glow grasped onto her hands and danced along with her. She fell to the ground, still laughing and gasping for breath; a strand of light traced against her cheek, over her hair. She sensed a smile again.
I'm happy that you like it, Goddess.
The light dimmed. Sakhmet blinked and yawned, feeling sleepy again. The smile faded and instead she sensed sadness, drawing away from her. She blinked again and sat up with some confusion, looking around.
"Where--where are you going--?"
I must leave now. The voice was as sad as the feeling around her. If I could stay with you all the night, I would.
"Why can't you? Please don't go!"
If this were my choice...I would stay with you forever...
The moonlight faded, and everything lapsed into darkness.
Sakhmet opened her eyes.
She gasped and sat up abruptly, head whipping around. The early morning sun glinted over the horizon, glaring in her eyes; she had to shield them as she looked about her. She still sat upright with her back against the tree, as she'd been--before she'd fallen asleep? She didn't remember dozing off--all she remembered was seeing the moonlight, and a voice, which said...what? She racked her brain trying to remember, but the words were fading rapidly. Before she lost them all, she did remember the silver ax she'd seen, and let out her breath. So, it had been another one of those dreams. She had the feeling this one had told her more than the others...but couldn't remember why. What a strange one. She was surprised that she felt...disappointed...that it hadn't been real. That the voice, the moonlight, the ax didn't exist anywhere but in her half-forgotten thoughts. She put her hand to the ground to push herself up, the lonely feeling growing inside her. She rubbed at her eyes as she turned around toward the desert.
Then she gasped and jumped again, high, like a cat, landing on her toes. The fur at the base of her neck rose and her eyes grew.
Resting against the tree just beside her sleeping spot, half-moon blade toward the ground and long smooth handle pointing upward, was the silver ax she had dreamed of.
Sakhmet gaped at the weapon for what might have been a moment, or might have been an hour; her mind raced, trying to think of a valid explanation. There was no way that weapon could be there...was there? Of course not! That had been just a dream! Dream things weren't real!
She took a step forward, looking around carefully, and reached out one finger to tentatively touch the ax. As soon as she felt the cool metal beneath her fingertip she darted back again, holding her hand as if she'd been scorched. The ax was real. It was there. She hadn't merely dreamed it.
Then that meant...
The moonlight. The voice. The other gifts. She hadn't dreamed those either. Every night, someone had come to her--offered her gifts--and spoken to her.
And now as if by prompting, she remembered what had been said last night, and all the nights before.
I crafted it, as I crafted the bed and the necklace. I'm happy that you like it. It is of silver...to remind you of me.
If this were my choice...I would stay with you forever...
Someone...someone is...bringing me offerings. Offerings that he made with his own hand. Offerings of love. But...why? And who?
The why was obvious. Whoever he was...he was in love with her. Her face flushed and she felt her ears burn as soon as she realized this, yet her heart beat a little bit faster as well. The comforting, calming presence she'd felt while in the dream...as if someone touched her shoulder, and then stroked her face, and smiled at her...she found that she'd liked it, and the disappointment she felt now was of the loss of it, with the coming of the daylight. Daylight? Did that mean he existed only in shadows? Her heart ached in her breast the longer she thought about it. She wished the sun would actually set, just to see if he would appear again. She found herself missing him, even as she had no idea who he was. And she'd--never even seen him before.
She started when she realized this. It was true. She'd heard his voice...felt his touch...sensed his feelings...yet she'd never once seen him. Who could he be? Why had he not shown himself to her yet? He'd made her these gifts, had apparently agonized over giving her the proper offering...why didn't he simply appear before her, and give them to her himself?
Sakhmet didn't know. But as of then and there, she was determined to find out.
She busied herself this day, filling up the time fishing and fowling, and when that left an hour or so of daylight remaining, she sprinted along the riverbank until exhausted, then took a long swim to ease her aching muscles. When she came out from the water the sun was already setting upon one horizon, the moon rising upon the other. She was too tired by now to care whether she was wet or dry, naked or clothed. She dragged herself to her makeshift pallet of palm fronds, laid her head upon her quiver, and lapsed into a deep slumber almost immediately. And this time, she knew that she dreamed. Yet this made it no less real; if anything, this was more real than anything she'd felt so far upon this trip. Fishing, fowling, hunting, stalking, they had grown too mundane. This new feeling...this uncertainty, and yet expectation, filled her with a giddy feeling. If she hadn't been so exhausted, surely she would have been jumping about excitedly, awaiting what she knew would have to come.
The strand of moonlight brushed against her face again. She sensed surprise.
Goddess! Your clothes! You are all wet!
Her lips twitched in a slight smile. "I was just too tired...I'm not sure where I left them."
You will catch a cold this way! Now the sensation was as of someone fretting over her, seeking about for her clothing. She moved her hand up to her face to hide the smile that only grew. She could tell the bearer of the voice had been caught off guard by her appearance, possibly embarrassed; she couldn't help but to giggle. Her dress appeared before her and she sighed.
"Oh, you have no sense of fun."
Please, Goddess...I'm...not certain if I should see you this way. She sensed a mental blush and giggled again. She reached out for her clothing.
"Oh all right then. I'm still soaking wet though."
You...you would wish to dry off first...?
"I would, had I the sun to bask in for a while."
Well...the sun is quite a few hours away yet...do you suppose that this would do...?
"This...?" Sakhmet's question was cut short when she felt something cool and yet warm, at once, envelop her feet. Without looking she knew what it was; the moonlight glimmered down through the trees, sliding up her legs as it rose within the sky. She shivered and shut her eyes. Patterns swirled behind her eyelids as she felt the glow cover her body, warming and cooling her, drying the water from her skin. She sighed; it was like being held within someone's arms. She could almost imagine the bearer of the voice wrapping her in a warm cloth, smiling at her, and holding her close. A shy, thankful smile came to her face, and the barest wisp of something brushed against her cheek.
You are dry now...?
The glow receded. Sakhmet felt the chill of the night air against her skin and shivered harder. She opened her eyes and sat up, reaching out for her dress, slipping it on over her head. She rubbed her arms, but the moonlight fell upon them, and she lowered her hands.
You are not cold anymore...?
"No...not anymore. Thank you. Who...who are you, anyway? And why do you keep coming to me?" The question came out before she could stop it, or consider how to phrase it, and once it was out she blushed but decided not to take it back. Her curiosity burned brighter than anything by now.
She sensed a pause. The moonlight drew away from her a bit. She knew already that this was how he came to her, within the pale light...why when the sun rose, he had to leave her so suddenly. This still didn't tell her who he was, or why he was here, for her.
You know already why I come...
"Because...because you love me."
A vague nod. Sakhmet glanced up at the sky.
I...I do not know why. This is simply how it is.
"I was not kind to you, before..."
This was not your fault. I was ignorant...
"And so you bring me this." She picked up the ax from its perch against the tree and held it up, looking it over. It glimmered faintly. "What you brought me before...a bed...jewels...I sense that...you're not like me. Not at all. You bring beauty; I bring war. So why do you still come to me?"
There is no reasoning with love. I saw you...I wished to know you. This is all I know. I bring you something that makes you happy...and it makes me happy.
Sakhmet lowered the ax but didn't lower her eyes. She stared up at the moon until it had burned a pattern upon her retinas. "But who are you? Will you tell me?"
The light swirled around her. It glided along the handle of the ax like fingers running up the smooth shaft.
I am Ptah.
Sakhmet blinked. The name...it wasn't unfamiliar to her. She'd heard it before. Just vaguely. Her father, several of the other gods had mentioned a Ptah, in the past...an elder god...though they knew little of him, and had never seen him. A moon god, perhaps almost as old as Lord Thoth himself. Perhaps even Lord Thoth had never seen him. Her heart beat a little faster again and she rose to her feet, staring at the sky.
"Will you let me see you?"
The light withdrew again, slightly. She sensed a wall of reserve rising around her, and turned in circles.
"Ptah--? Are you here--?"
Yes. The light swirled, at a distance. I...I cannot show you myself.
"But why not? You've seen me. Can I not see you?"
You are beautiful. The voice wavered, grew faint. I am not. I could never begin to compare to your beauty. I come to you in moonlight and dreams. Things that are beautiful, unlike me.
"You must be beautiful," Sakhmet murmured. Her eyes felt damp. "Someone who creates the things you do...who feels the way you do...there's no way that you can be anything but beautiful." She raised her head and her voice, calling out. "Please--let me see you! I promise. I won't run away. You don't need to fear me running away. You've won me already. Do you not realize?"
The light still wavered, just beyond her reach, though it seemed torn. The voice itself was pained.
I can never win you...you are not a prize to be won. You are far too beautiful, inside and out, to belong to anyone. I'm not certain what my feeble efforts were meant to achieve...
"They were not feeble. You tried. You failed, and tried again and failed again. And still you tried. The whole time I was mocking you. I hardly deserved what you gave me. Yet you gave it to me anyway. Even when I question you, you tell me I deserve these things." She paused, voice trailing off, and murmured, "I've tested many others, and they grew too tired of me. You...you're still talking to me. And I haven't frightened you off. You...you even call me 'beautiful.' If you were anyone else, I would have slain you for that. But...I don't know. It seems right, coming from you. I feel as if I can believe it when I hear you say it. I feel...perhaps I can be beautiful. If you remind me I am."
The light flickered, then swelled. She sensed it surrounding her.
You mean this? All that you say?
"Of course. Please...will you let me see you? I promise. I didn't frighten you away. You could never frighten me away."
I am not beautiful...
"You are. Let me see you, and I'll prove it."
The light grew. Pale blue-white began to pour into the clearing around her, and Sakhmet's glance darted about, seeking out something, anything, of substance. The voice filled her mind as the light began to coalesce.
If I am too ugly...I will not keep you...I would never keep something which is wild and beautiful and free, as you are. You may go, and I will never be bitter about you. I could never feel anything for you but what I feel now, Goddess. No matter what you may do, please know, I am grateful that you let me know you.
Sakhmet held a hand up to her eyes. The light flashed brilliant and blinding, fading and swirling about like glowing dust motes on a soft breeze. She lowered her hand and blinked the glare from her eyes. A shape stood before her, not too far away, still bathed in moonlight, yet solid now. Not a dream. Not her imagination. Real. Here. Now.
Her hand went down to her side. She stared into the eyes that stared back at her. They were a luminous blackish-blue, capturing every glint of starlight up above and reflecting it back at her. The face that held them was coppery like the cliffs at sunrise, cheekbones high, lips full and slightly curved. There was something sad, and yet happy, in his look. His head was adorned with a tight white skullcap; it could very well have been shaven clean underneath. His clothing glowed the same luminous white as his headdress, and he held a strange, ornate staff before him, both hands clasping it as if seeking strength from the device. He wore a silver pectoral emblazoned with a crescent moon, and his earrings bore the same symbol. The two of them stared at each other across the clearing, saying nothing.
Sakhmet's eyes stayed focused on his for a time. Eventually they wandered down slightly to take him in, then up again. His own eyes finally wavered a bit; she sensed his hesitation at being here. His hands grasped the staff a bit too tightly so his knuckles went white. He said nothing to her, though she sensed that he still told her she could leave, any time she wished, and he would never be angry with her.
He wasn't what she'd expected.
Sakhmet took a step forward. Ptah seemed to freeze where he was, and blinked with surprise as she approached, her face resolved. She clung to the silver ax as tightly as he did to the staff; his gaze wandered down to look at it uneasily the closer she came. She held her head high and strode with a purpose befitting a goddess such as herself. She stopped several inches away from him and they stared at each other again. She was just slightly taller than he was, and now he looked at her as if he'd never even seen her before.
He still said nothing, but she still sensed his thoughts, telling her to go, to leave him.
She reached out one hand, her nails glinting in the light.
He held his breath when her fingers lightly touched his face. She stared at him as if trying to determine if he were real. He stared back, puzzled that she wasn't convinced.
She felt his skin when she touched him, and it was both cool and warm. The same as the caressing light she had felt. The faintest smile came to her face. His dark yet luminous eyes blinked at her with mild confusion, as if to ask her what she found amusing. She touched his face again, and let her fingers remain this time. Here. Real. Not a dream.
She leaned toward him and shut her eyes, and her mouth pressed to his. She sensed him start with surprise, both of their thoughts racing millions of miles at once. Her heart raced, yet she wasn't afraid. Perhaps she never had been. She sensed his own shame fall away as hers did. His hand took hers, and he kissed her back. Her heart no longer raced now, it soared, as fleet as she could run along the river, the moonlight giving her feet wings.
This was real. Here. Now. Always.