GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, drama.
SUMMARY: Despair can lead to drastic acts...but what do THEY lead to? An original myth.
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2002.
LENGTH: 7400+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Fantasy violence, mild adult language, 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 2002 and that my writing style and understanding of the mythology I created may have changed vastly in the meantime.
ADDITIONAL INFO: Fantasy Newsletter Feature Of The Month, April 2002, Writing.com.
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 rewritten from one of the stories included in the original collection City Of The Sun. The old version was highly flawed in that it involved voting for a king. I've tried to modify that somewhat, and put the gods more in character, though Ra does still freak out somewhat in this piece. You also get to see where it was that he got his temper from...one hint, it wasn't his father. This story, unlike most of my others, is based, VERY loosely, on an actual myth. Ra did commit the awful act he commits in this story, but the why is never mentioned, that I know of. My guess is as good as any, so this story gives my version. Beware of wandering POV. Definitions--the Paut Neteru is the Great Company of the Gods; "sa" is a god's...hm...energy or magical essence, you might say; been a while since I've used the term. *shrug*
STARS SHONE LIKE diamonds in the velvety sky. All was silent--the air, the earth, the heavens. Nothing stirred. A vote was being taken, and all that crawled upon the earth, soared upon the winds, or dwelled among the deities waited to know the results.
Among the gods, the neteru, there was one great king, in name and in spirit. God Amon was the first who had ever been, even before Ra, before Thoth, before Nunu. All recognized him as their king, although they never saw his face, and rarely saw his form. He was too great for most of them to comprehend, though many had their suspicions of what he was truly like. They never spoke these suspicions aloud.
Yet this was what made some of them wonder whether he should in fact be their king. None had ever even seen him. A few of the gods argued with the others about who would make a better king over their kind. Chief among those arguing was the goddess Neith, mother of Ra. The arguing finally grew so vicious that Lord Thoth suggested a mock vote to determine who felt what about whom. The vote, he said, would not determine who the true king should be...it would only tell them who they believed it should be. If there was a general agreement against the great god, he continued, he would tell God Amon himself. There had to be a peaceful way to settle the dispute before it got out of hand.
Recognizing the wisdom of his words, the neteru agreed to the mock vote, though Neith muttered a little that it should count as the real thing, as there was no way her son could lose. And so this night they all gathered in the courtyard of the sun palace in Iunu to toss rings into a box--silver rings for Amon--gold rings for Ra. Having been assured by Thoth, who watched over the box to spot out cheating, that no matter what their vote was it would not count against them, the gods tossed in their rings and stood aside to wait with great curiosity. Nothing like this had ever been done before, so they found the proceedings quite intriguing. A few murmured to each other about their opinions before Thoth stepped forward and removed the lid from the box. It was then that they fell silent and waited while he removed and counted each ring, marking the tally upon his papyrus. Such a silence had never fallen in the courtyard before; even the sunhawks sat upon their perches, watching.
The ibis god finally reached the bottom of the box, and the last ring. He clutched it in his fingers and held it up just enough so that he could see it clearly. Then he raised it into the air, and the deities leaned forward, peering at it. It glinted silver in the lamplight.
"Let it hereby be known," Thoth announced, "that the majority of you have deemed God Amon, Great Creator of the All, most fitting king of the Paut Neteru."
There was a great noise as the gathered gods let out their breath in a loud murmur, before raising their hands heavenward in tribute to Amon. Off to the side, near the pillars, stood God Ra and Lady Neith. Ra merely placed his arm to his breast in a silent salute but Neith seethed. When the others let out a chant to the great god she stepped forward with a sharp cry.
Silence descended again. Everyone turned to look at the goddess, who glared back at them, fists clenched at her sides. Her eyes flashed blue, and now everybody realized how much she and her son resembled each other.
She raised her arm and displayed her own ring, a snake of gold.
"This is the one," she shouted, and pointed at Ra. "A ring of gold! I hardly care what you say about who should be king. HE is your king!"
Ra's own eyes widened and flashed with anger and embarrassment, and he darted a glance at the crowd.
The other gods just gaped. Neith whirled to Thoth and snatched the silver ring from the surprised god's hand.
"There is no way that this count is correct! For as long as you all have been my son has ruled over you. And this is how you repay him! By proclaiming some invisible Nothing your king!" She tossed the ring down onto the table. "Count the rings again!"
Thoth blinked. "But--I counted them twice, Lady--"
"Then let someone else do it!" She turned to Lady Maat, wife of Thoth and daughter of Ra, who stood trembling to her left. "You can't tell a lie, it's known to all of us. Count the rings again! Correctly this time!"
The frightened goddess came forward meekly to do as her grandmother said. A short time passed while the deities watched again. Thoth peered at poor humiliated Ra, who still stood before the columns, fists clenching and unclenching. Maat finished her counting and pulled her hand from the box with an anxious look upon her face. The others fell silent once more as she held up her arm and shakily displayed a single silver ring.
She started fearfully, in a stammering voice, "I--I counted all rings. Let it hereby be known--"
Neith, enraged, shrieked and struck the goddess across the face. The little ring clattered to Thoth's feet and he automatically took his wife's arm and helped her up. Neither of them said a word. Ra cringed; the others looked appalled.
Neith stabbed her finger at her son again. "He is the one! He should be your king!"
"Goddess," Thoth started, "the vote is merely a mock one--God Ra has long been our king in spirit--"
"Yet NOT in name!" Neith shot back. "You even append his name to that of the Invisible One! What sort of honor is this?"
"Neith," Ra said in a warning tone. He appeared too embarrassed to call her by her familial name, by now.
"You should all have voted for him!" the goddess went on. She glared at Thoth and Maat, gesturing rudely. "And you two, have you gone over to that Invisible One's side?"
"Goddess!" Ra hissed.
His mother turned to him, and they glared silently at each other. Whether they communicated by thought was uncertain, but the stare lasted an eternity, as neither would give up. This was finally resolved when Lady Bastet and Lord Bes, the dwarf god, stepped forward. Bastet went to Ra and took her father's arm, coaxing him sweetly; Bes danced about before Neith, whom he knew had enjoyed his entertainment in the past. At the same time Khenti Amenti crept toward the two on his belly and started flattering them both.
"I've never seen you look so stunning, Lady Neith," he cajoled, slinking in between them. Bes put his fingers to his ears and stuck out his tongue, mimicking the wolf. "You truly look fit to be the mother of such a god as Ra. And God Ra! Never have you looked better. Is that a new kilt? Both of you are certainly at your best."
"I'm a monkey!" Bes announced, and, chittering, dashed around the court.
"There's no need for arguing now," Bastet cooed, tugging gently on Ra's arm. "Come, let's go play with the cats like we used to do when I was little."
"You're magnificent!" Khenti gasped, framing Neith's face with his paws. "Those eyes, that nose--"
"Quack quack!" Bes waddled in circles and pulled on Khenti's tail.
"Maybe we could sail your boat!" Bastet suggested with a large smile. "Wouldn't the kittens love that?"
Ra and Neith finally relented, to the relief of everyone else. They still cast cold glances at each other as they left, Bes hopping along after the goddess, Bastet murmuring to her father until they had all gone out of sight. Khenti let out his breath and swept a paw across his forehead before turning back to the others.
"Why are we all standing about looking so longfaced?" he cried. "You've all made up your minds and named your king! Let's start the party going!"
The last thing Neith heard as she left the palace was the loud shout of the gathered deities and the start of their joyful celebration. The noise hurt her ears and stung her pride like a scorpion's tail; she covered her ears with her hands and quickly walked away, wounded.
Nothing could console Neith that night. The ingratitude those wretches had shown toward her Ra, making him salute that--that sheep! Amon may have been the first who existed--yet he had not created all of them. He didn't rise over them every day to bring them light. Most of them wouldn't be alive if it weren't for her son. While she paced about her own palace in a fury she had several visitors, all of whom soon left, repelled by her temper. The first was Lord Thoth, who entered rather timidly and, bowing, tried to speak. She wouldn't let him.
"I know what you're going to say, Lord Thoth," she snapped. "'I should have kept my mouth shut in the first place, then there would be no Ra to cause us trouble!' Well, I have something to tell you, Crookedbeak. It may have been your voice that brought him into the world, but I bore him and I raised him, and I was here even before your wretched little coward of a wife, Maat!"
Thoth looked startled, but said nothing at all--he didn't even think lest the furious goddess could read his mind--and instead bowed and quickly departed.
The next visitor was Khenti Amenti. He slunk in and started meekly, "Beautiful Neith, Goddess of Women--"
The wolf yelped as if beaten and did so.
Thirdly came her husband, Nunu. He was looking over his shoulder at the fleeing wolf, his tail between his legs.
"What did you say to him?" he asked. He turned to her, then, seeing her face, said with reproach, "You're acting foolishly, Neith. The vote was fair. God Amon was chosen. So Ra didn't win, do you see him complaining? It was a silly mock vote after all."
"He's our son, the creator of the world," Neith replied. "He should be king--both in name and in spirit. Sitting on the throne, not bowing to some silly Invisible God! Leave now before I become angry with you too!"
Nunu sighed--it was useless to argue with Neith when she was so furious. Within seconds he was gone as well.
After he had left her sight, Neith went outside into her courtyard to walk around. Morning was soon to come--Ra had returned to his boat, and pale blue light was just beginning to show, although it would never reach the palace completely. The goddess looked to her side, still shrouded in darkness, then to the pale horizon. Then her head spun around to stare back off to her side--for the darkness was not the only thing there.
At eye level could be seen two red glowing spots, like little fires floating in midair. There was a swift movement and the twin fires--she now recognized them as eyes--were put in place by a shadowy caped figure with a hooked, black beak. It grinned at her ominously.
More annoyed than afraid, Neith snatched an arrow from her quiver and fitted it to her bow, taking aim. "Show yourself before I shoot!"
The dark figure stepped silently out of the shadows, and she immediately recognized the hawk god, Lord Sokar. He bowed and she made a face. To think that he should be here! She jammed the arrow back in its place and stormed over to him.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
The answer was simple. "Watching you stomp around."
She hated how he always grinned like that, as if he knew some deep, dark secret. She also hated how he didn't include a proper title of respect when addressing her. She raised her hand in a fist and swung it at him. "Leave here now, before you have--!"
She cut herself off abruptly, seeing he didn't even blink, and still smiled. Her own attitude grew slightly less stormy in grudging admiration. Any other god would have flinched away from her.
"Well, you're different," she muttered. "You don't even run when I raise my hand against you; you don't even flinch. I still wish to know why you're here, though!"
"I've already told you."
"I've already told you Goddess. And I know you and you're not here in fun. Who sent you? Was it Ra?"
He snorted. "Why would he send me to spy on you? He loathes me. Everyone knows this."
"You have some reason for being here and I demand to know what it is!"
"I hope you know that Lord Nunu was wrong when he said you're acting foolish," Sokar said. "I can tell now that you aren't acting--Goddess."
Neith's eyes grew and she started to protest, then realized there was no one there to protest to. The empty darkness met her eyes. Sokar had utterly vanished.
"No wonder Ra hates him," she muttered, looping her bow over her shoulder. She knew this wasn't the real reason behind the two gods' animosity, though, and sighed, glancing about her. Not even Nunu was anywhere nearby to be found; she was alone in the courtyard.
Alone, Neith thought. I'm all alone. No one agrees with what should be right! Not even Ra. Not even my own son.
"I'll just have to make him agree," she decided aloud, and quit her palace for Iunu.
Neith entered Ra's palace when he was due to return from his sunboat. The place seemed strangely devoid of sunhawks; most were probably hiding, as she'd made it clear to them how she hated having the pesky little gossipmongers around. Yet still Ra allowed them to fill his palace like winged rats. She and he rarely agreed on anything. She stood just inside and waited for him to arrive. When he did so, she saw how he nearly paused and darted a quick look into a nearby hall (was he deciding if he should run or not?), then continued, noticeably averting his eyes. She went toward him.
"We must talk," she said.
Ra now looked directly at her, his eyes glinting blue over his hooked beak. "I believe there's nothing left for us to talk over, Goddess."
"Yes, there is. Don't pretend you don't know. You know very well what I'm talking about! This whole fiasco with Amon is what--you bowing to that lowly wretch and his worthless wife!"
"Fiasco!" Ra retorted, temper finally flaring. "If anyone started a fiasco it was you! Do you not know how humiliating it would be to have your own mother scream at everyone, accusing them all of being stupid, ignorant fools? I am grown and no longer under your wing! And how you treated Maat was inexcusable!"
"The little wench lied!"
"Lied!" the god shouted, furious. "You have no right to speak so of my children!"
"I raised you!" Neith screamed, shaking her fists. "I held you at my breast when you were but a child and now you repay me with this! You're to go before the Paut immediately and complain about this--remind them that you are the rightful ruler!"
Ra threw back his head and bellowed. "YOU CAN'T TELL ME HOW TO LIVE!"
"You lowly coward!" Neith shrieked back. She spat on the floor. "The pride I felt for you has been dashed to pieces under your own feet! You're so fainthearted that you cannot speak your feelings. Because of that you are no longer fit to be my son!"
Ra's response was an immediate change in appearance. His proud, angry stance faltered, his fists unclenched, and the fury in his eyes was replaced by shock and hurt. Neith felt a pang of remorse in her heart, but what was done was done; she turned away from him and left before words of apology could come to either of their mouths. She half wished he would run after her, begging for forgiveness and asking to be accepted back, but knew he would not, not now...he took more after her than anyone knew.
As she exited the hall she glanced back at him. Her son still stood there, only he wasn't her son any longer, and he was completely different, a total stranger; a mere shell of the proud, defiant Ra she had known so well, he stood slumped slightly, his head bowed forward and his bewildered eyes staring a pained stare into emptiness as if in search of something long lost.
She saw him raise his head and take one step forward, straining to regain his shattered dignity, only to slouch again, his whole appearance racked with agony and shame. He put his hands to his face and moaned, "I've been dishonored," before turning and staggering away.
Neith followed his example, tears now streaming down her face, likewise transformed by hidden pain.
"If I know my own father, I know there's something wrong," Lady Tefnut, goddess of the rain, said, addressing the other gods and goddesses gathered around her. Most of the members of the Paut Neteru had gathered without Ra to lead their number, as he always did. Now they sat without a leader and many of them seemed at least a little out of sorts with this; the Paut had never convened before without its leader. As more than one of them had muttered on the way in, they were like a snake without its head, merely a tail flapping about uselessly. Now they sat mostly in silence, though once in a while one of them would mumble something to another. Lady Seshat raised her hand and this immediately ceased the mumbling; no one knew if she or Tefnut or somebody else was leading the meeting or not.
"Be to the point," she said, to Tefnut. "I hate mysteries."
"Then why you married Lord Thoth, I have no idea," Lord Unnu said, before Lady Unnut jabbed him in the ribs and he coughed.
Tefnut stood and walked over to Lord Khepri. "You know how it is," she said. "Every day, at the break of dawn, Ra has diligently awakened and sailed his boat across the sky. Now he won't even leave the palace. Instead he has one of his sunhawks ask you to sail the boat, and then makes the rest leave his grounds so he can be alone. He isn't normally like this. Something must be wrong."
"Perhaps he's resting for a while," Lady Rayet said quietly, as if afraid to speak aloud.
Nebhet Hotep shot her a look with narrowed eyes. "Then perhaps you can explain why he has banished even the two of us from his bedchambers? I should think he would be making the most of his 'break' that he can. Instead he shuns even his wives and his obligations."
"I tend to believe Lady Rayet," Unnu said. "Sailing a boat can become quite tiring after a while. Just going back and forth, back and forth, over and over and over, again, again, and again. Back and forth, back and forth..."
Sakhmet, Unnut, and Lady Nehmauit yawned. Lord Khnum looked almost ready to be ill.
"It must be Neith," Lady Selket said. "She's quite overbearing with him. If I didn't know better, I would say she did not trust him to make his own decisions."
"You saw how she was with Maat," Lady Nut said. "Slapping her own granddaughter and accusing her of falsehoods, in front of everybody like that...atrocious."
"Knowing very well she can't lie," Khnum added.
Maat kept her eyes downcast.
There was a scratching sound. Lady Hathor arose and strode to the far end of the hall, carefully opening the door. Khenti Amenti slipped in, trotting toward the gathered gods.
"I know it all now," he said, giving a little bow before sitting down, stealing a slice of meat from Khnum's platter. "Seems Lady Neith paid Ra a visit some days back. One of the sunhawks listened in. They got into a pretty colorful argument. Ra told Neith to keep out of his business, and Neith..."
He swallowed the meat and licked his toes, then fell silent.
The neteru waited for him to finish before their faces began to grow annoyed. Even Khnum nudged him. "What? What did she do?" a few of them pressed.
Khenti looked mildly uncomfortable. "Well...she sort of...disowned him as her son."
All was silent. The gods stared at Khenti, shock and surprise evident in their eyes. Disowning one's own flesh and blood...the most shameful thing that could be done. Neith may as well have told Ra he didn't even exist. The dishonor would have been just as great. To not exist...this was the worst dishonor of all. They'd never even heard of it happening before.
The first one to speak did so quite unexpectedly, as he'd so far remained silent throughout the whole meeting.
"Of all the foolish, stupid things to do," Sokar muttered, half to himself.
Khenti--and most of the others, for that matter--looked at him, surprised that it should be him to speak up for someone who detested him, but they wisely said nothing of it. They glanced down at their plates again, suddenly not hungry.
"So what do we do?" Sakhmet asked.
"There's nothing we can do," Tefnut replied. "Only Neith can. She can either accept him back, or..."
"Or dismiss him from the family," Maat finished softly.
None of them spoke after that. There didn't seem to be anything left to say.
"You disowned your own son?" Nunu cried, whirling to face his wife who sat in silence nearby.
"Yes," she said in a low voice.
Nunu stared at her in disbelief. "This is the most dishonorable thing that can be done to one's own children! You could have scratched his name out from all of his monuments and it would not have hurt one bit more! Don't you know what that means?"
He received no reply. Neith didn't even meet his eyes.
"That means you don't recognize him as your son anymore!" Nunu finally replied for her, pacing back and forth. They were at home within their own palace now, the walls rippling watery blue in contrast to the great golden palace of the sun. "He could be a total stranger now--he could even be a mortal compared to you! His own children, his family you disown along with him!"
"No wonder he hasn't sailed his boat. He's probably too ashamed to show his face. Too humiliated! Do you know what you must be putting him through--?"
"He'll get over it!" Neith snapped. "He's only sulking. Licking his wounds. He'll get over it, and he'll come begging to be forgiven, and only then will I. Only then will I accept him back. He has to learn he deserves more than he accepts, and if this is the only way to do it, then so be it!"
Nunu stared at her for a moment. When he spoke his voice was quiet. "For his sake, you'd better be right. I know he's always been honorable, but he most certainly inherited your temper and that doesn't combine well with the way you keep him under your heel. He grew up long ago. He needs to make his own decisions without your word. For goodness' sake, he may be--may have been--our youngest son--but he's grown up now! He doesn't need you telling him what he does and doesn't deserve. If he feels he deserves something, he'll take it. That's all up to him. And whether or not sovereignty truly belongs to him is his decision as well." He turned away from his wife's sorry figure to look outside at the gathering darkness. Light never truly reached their palace, yet it seemed darker than ever, now.
"For his sake, I only hope he does take himself off his crumbling pedestal, act more maturely than you have and come to ask for forgiveness before it all collapses beneath his feet." He closed his eyes. "For his sake."
Ra sat alone in his palace, utterly alone. No sunhawks kept him company, no visitors interrupted his silence, and no servants were on call. He'd dismissed them all long ago, so he could be alone to think. Thinking hadn't come to him easily lately, though. Ever since Neith had cast him out of the family he had been able to think of nothing else. As night became day and day night, his only visitor was his brother Khepri, who would steer his sunboat into port and then leave as quietly as possible.
The pools and tables sat unvisited and unattended, growing stagnant and gathering dust. Ra's staff with its golden ankh leaned against the wall, unused. He didn't even look into his watermirror to see what Neith might be up to. Instead he sat all by himself, thinking.
This day his thoughts were, as always, on himself. How wretched he must be, to be dismissed from his own family. This fate didn't even befall the basest criminals; even a robber or murderer usually had someone to claim him as their child. Now he had not even that. To think that Neith and Nunu had gone all this time putting up with him if he were so undeserving! If his own mother hated him so much, why had she never said so before? What an embarrassment he must be to them. The more he thought on it, the more painful the thought became, and the more sensible as well.
"A shame," he murmured to himself. "A shameful wretch."
His anguished gaze wandered the room. What could he do? He couldn't continue bringing a tarnish to their name. They had come before even he had. Neith had claimed him as the better ruler of the gods, but with what she had next told him, he believed God Amon would do the better job. As long as he was around, he could do nothing but sully their reputations even further. He couldn't allow that.
There must be something he could do to set it right.
His sights fell on a knife lying a bit away from him on his little dinner table, its golden handle glittering. A sheen passed along its curved blade. Strange disjointed thoughts rushed into his head.
No longer fit to be my son, Neith's words echoed. No longer fit to be my son...my son...my son...
What makes a son a son?...
"Not fit to be your son," he whispered. "If I'm not fit to be your son, I'm not fit to be anyone's son."
He leaned forward, reaching across and picking up the knife, bringing it closer to look at it. It sparkled in the light, copper and gold, and he could see his own face, distorted, in the blade. Instantly he was filled with revulsion. If he couldn't annihilate himself, then he could at least remove that which made him anyone's son. As he no longer deserved that title. As his family no longer deserved his dishonor.
He stood and left the hall, striding with a purpose, navigating the maze back to his chambers. The door closed silently behind him.
A moment or two passed before a soft sound stirred the stillness. A faint breeze ruffled the petals of the lotuses decorating the table and a sandal snikkted against the floor. Lord Shu entered the hall and made his way after his father with a quick but calm stride. Even as all the other neteru obeyed the sun god's wishes to leave him in peace, he had remained behind, always silent and hidden in shadows, to keep a watchful eye on him. He knew the labyrinthine hallways of the palace as well as anyone, and so reached his father's quarters almost immediately. He reached for the doorhandle to open it and step inside, then paused. He spread out his fingers and the heka placed upon the door was palpable. Some sort of locking spell had been used; even if he had decided to turn into wind to find his way within, it would not have worked against this magic. He didn't know this spell.
Perhaps Nunu would know it. Shu turned away from the door and left the hallway as quickly as he could.
Within his chambers, Ra still stared at the knife. Now that he had it, he didn't know what to do with it. All his plans had fled his mind immediately. He considered a swift plunge into the breast, but knew this would not work for long; Thoth would always come along and heal him, and it would be over with too quickly...not nearly enough suffering considering what he'd done. He'd made his family suffer, so he should have to suffer, as well. And greatly.
He stood nervously fingering the plaits of his kilt until his original plan came back to him and his fingers fell still, the thought filling him with both dread and...what? Satisfaction? That this was the only way he could remove the shame, if not redeem himself? He shuddered, but decided it must be done.
I can be no one's son. You said so, Mother.
He pushed aside the front flap of his kilt, raised the knife above his head, faltered, and then shut his eyes and swiftly brought it down.
It was as if a burning-hot sword jabbed through his middle. The pain was so horrifyingly excruciating that he didn't even scream. Instead he managed a choked gasp and swayed unsteadily, reaching out to grab at a column. The bloodied knife clattered to the floor, skittering and leaving a red trail; his legs gave out and he collapsed in a pool of his own blood. Merciful unconsciousness quickly overtook him, and the last thing he saw before the world went black was the knife. There was his own reflection, in shades of red.
A visitor arrived at the palace of Nunu and Neith. The god and goddess stood with surprise; they had not expected anyone, much less their grandson, who hurried in and bowed before them, breathless.
Nunu spoke before he could. "What is it?" he asked, never having seen the god look so agitated before.
"It's God Ra," Shu replied. "He went into his rooms at his palace and locked the door behind him with a heka spell."
Nunu frowned. "And--?"
Shu said gravely, "And he had a knife."
Nunu had gone almost before Shu had finished his sentence. Neith followed close behind, heart squeezing within her breast.
He was supposed to come back to me! He was supposed to...!
The three neteru arrived at Ra's palace not long after. As no one stood guard at the front gate, they went in without interruption, hurrying through the courtyards and into the building proper, down the winding hallways and past the numerous empty rooms. Their sandals clacked against the floor and the sound bounced sharply off the towering columns, ringing in their ears. As they neared Ra's rooms Nunu held up his hand and recited a counterspell; by the time they reached the door the heka binding it shut had vanished. At first it stubbornly refused to open, so when it did give way the three of them nearly fell in. Neith gasped and Shu staggered, trying to catch himself. They glanced around them at the golden surroundings before the color crimson caught their attention. Their eyes widened.
Neith broke away from the other two and rushed forward, arms out before her. "Ra!"
Ra lay on his side on the floor, as if asleep. His face was pale, the hue having drained out of him into the pool of blood surrounding him. A knife lay not too far away, also stained red. Despite the ghastliness of the scene...his expression hadn't seemed so peaceful in days.
Neith dropped down beside him and took his head in her hands, staining her knees. The other two came close and looked him over, Nunu pressing his fingers to his neck. Life still beat within him, fluttering and weak.
"He's lost a lot of blood," he murmured. "Shu, help me find the wound."
Shu complied and helped Nunu turn Ra over a little, trying not to move him too much. Nunu looked him over, confused. There was no stab wound to the heart, as he had expected; so where else could it be? His gaze traveled around, searching, until he finally found it. His face went pale and he fell back.
Shu and Neith both noticed his look. "What is it?" Shu asked.
"His...his wound..." Nunu stammered in a faint voice. "He tried to...to..."
Shu leaned over to look at his father more closely and took in a breath. Neith couldn't see what they obviously saw, from where she was, holding his head in her lap. "What is it?" she demanded, and when neither of them answered her voice rose several notes. "What? What did he do?"
Shu looked up at her. His eyes told all. "The knife...he tried to castrate himself."
Neith's eyes grew large and she sucked in her breath. "No!" She wrapped her arms about him tightly and tears started streaming down her face. "This wasn't supposed to happen...he was supposed to come back to me! Why did you have to be so damned proud...!"
Her voice broke off into miserable whimpering. Nunu looked down at his bloodied hands and shuddered and wiped them off on his kilt. "Shu. Go find Thoth. Tell him to bring his staff."
Shu stood and obeyed, rushing from the room. Nunu reached out to place his shaking hand upon Neith's shoulder. She rocked back and forth now, murmuring brokenly. "I wouldn't have said it...wouldn't have if I'd known you were so damned proud...why do you have to be so much like me?...why couldn't you just let it go and come back to me...?"
The three of them stayed thus for what seemed to be eternities, awaiting Thoth and Shu. The two gods finally arrived, Shu stepping aside to let Thoth past him. The ibis god strode quickly to Ra's side and knelt down beside him, pressing his fingers to his neck as Nunu had done, then feeling his breath--it came out weak and fast--and then his cold forehead. He brought forward his staff and held it over the fallen god and the crystal orbs set within the eight began to glow. He touched the head of the staff to Ra's hip and the glow spread through his body, changing him momentarily to gold. The glow began to fade after a moment, and with it Ra's eyes fluttered open weakly, his breath hitching.
"Ra!" Neith cradled his head to her. "Can you hear me? Do you hurt?"
The god blinked a few times, as if uncertain, before shutting his eyes and letting out his breath in a long sigh. His voice came out faint. "I...fail...even this..."
"No, no." Neith tried to wipe back a few tears, then stroked his hair. Part of her was beginning to feel foolish and angry over her outburst; the other part of her felt ashamed of feeling that way. How was a mother expected to feel? She'd been so busy being angry with him that she'd almost forgotten who they were, to each other. There were some things a mother could never truly forget, she supposed. "You didn't fail...you've failed nothing. Especially not me. I failed you."
He spoke again as if he hadn't heard what she'd said. "I'm sorry I dishonored you..."
"You could never dishonor me." She pressed her head to his. "I was foolish. I could never disown my son. That would be the same as what you tried to do, cutting away a part of myself. This is why I was so angry. I see myself in you so much. I wish for so much more for you, and when you disagree, I'm just so angry that you're as stubborn as I am." He took another breath and she could feel his strength returning, slowly. "I should know better, from you. I would have been the same way. I'm sorry I ever hurt you."
"He's still weak," Thoth said quietly. "I've healed him yet it will take a while for his sa to replenish itself. We should get him to his bed so he may rest for now."
"Yes, of course..."
She let go of him and watched while Nunu and Shu helped Ra to his feet, heading for his canopied bed. Although his wound had been healed, blood still ran down his legs, and Thoth went to the other side of the room to retrieve a bowl of water and a cloth. None of them had gotten very far when Neith jumped to her feet with a cry, and they all turned back to see what the trouble was.
The goddess was staring down at the puddle of blood upon the floor. The knife still lay in the middle of it--only now it was no longer still. Instead it seemed to vibrate, blade and handle thrumming against the floor as it turned in a slow circle, as if some motion far beneath the earth prompted its movement. The gods stared at it with surprise, not certain what to make of it.
"Thoth...?" Nunu asked uneasily.
The thrumming feeling beneath their feet grew, and the knife bounced and danced and skittered. It suddenly shot into the air and floated, in place, blade dripping. One drop of blood struck the floor and immediately a blinding light shot from where it hit. The gods shielded their eyes. The glow expanded and then contracted, narrowing and shrinking until it took on a human form. The light died away, shedding as a snake sheds its skin, revealing a young full-grown god crouched upon the floor, legs drawn up to his breast and his head resting upon his knees. A second drop of blood landed beside him and the light reappeared, growing and shrinking, and when it vanished the watching neteru saw what they had expected to see--a second god, similar to the first. The two of them lifted their heads and blinked, looking about themselves tentatively. They saw the others already looking at them and the seven deities stared at each other in silence.
Nunu turned his head a bit in Thoth's direction. "Thoth...what just happened?"
The ibis god shook his head slowly. "I'm...not certain. The only thing I can think of...is God Ra created them somehow. Unwittingly, perhaps."
They looked at Ra, but he was barely conscious enough to stand. Rather than let him fall to the floor again, they continued as they'd been doing, leading him to his bed and laying him down. His head rested back against the pillows, breath still coming shallow but slower now. Neith went to him and squeezed his hand.
Thoth approached the two young gods seated upon the floor. He bowed and opened his mouth to speak, then shut it for a moment, then bowed again as he gathered himself.
"Er...greetings, Lords...you have names...?"
The first god blinked once more, then smiled at him. "Names--" He broke off suddenly and jumped, looking around, and then gave a small laugh. "I hear my own voice and it frightens me...you speak of 'names'...I fail to understand."
"I feel we know much, more than we should, else we wouldn't be speaking," the second god said in a halting voice, "though I do not understand this either."
"My name is Lord Thoth. He is Lord Shu. These are our names. You have one each...? Surely...?"
"Oh." The first god stared at him for a moment. "Then I suppose we do not have names."
"They need to be named then," Neith said. She sat beside Ra, still holding his hand. "They can't go about without any. You should call them--" She cut herself off with a flinch, glancing at her son. Her fingers squeezed his and she bit her tongue. "I mean...no, you. They're of you...so you should name them."
"Majesty?" Thoth said softly, approaching his bed and bowing. "The first god who was born of you. What name should he carry?"
Ra was silent for a moment, eyes closed, the only sound he made his breathing. After a moment he made an effort to speak and the others leaned forward to hear his papery voice in the cavernous quarters.
"He...he should be named Hu."
"The Divine Utterance," Thoth murmured. He spoke louder. "What name should the second carry, Majesty?"
"Sia," Ra said, with less hesitation this time. "Call him Sia."
"The Divine Intelligence." Thoth bowed deeply and then turned to the other two gods. "Your names shall be Lord Hu and Lord Sia. You are born of the sun god Ra. You should be honored to be of the Family of Iunu."
Neith felt a pang. Honored. She looked at the two new gods with their wide-eyed stares and thought of how they had come about. Surely it had been some sort of miracle, or sign. The House of Iunu wouldn't have lasted as long as it had so far, unless one with true ability led it. Ra had always ruled over them, in spirit if not in name. Even Thoth had made this clear when the other neteru had chosen God Amon as their rightful king. Amon would be king in their minds, but Ra would be king in their hearts. He always had been. Why couldn't that be good enough?
She held his hand between her own. "Ra...?" she said softly, then, "...My son?"
"He needs rest," Nunu said. "Lead the new ones away. We'll present them to God Amon...see what he decides to do. I assume they'll be given a place within the Paut Neteru somewhere...?"
"Of course," Thoth said. He set down the bowl and cloths, picked up his staff, and bowed to Neith. "Lady Neith...?"
"I wish to stay for a while," the goddess said in a quiet voice. "To be with him."
The ibis god nodded and bowed once more. "I'll send a servant to clean the floors. There is water nearby if you wish to tend to him while we're gone. We'll be not long, Goddess."
"Take what time you need. And thank you." As they turned away, Shu and Nunu leading Hu and Sia, she added, "Lord Thoth...tell Lady Maat...that I apologize to her. For the way I've acted."
Thoth stared at her for a moment before nodding his head once and turning away. As the gods left, she caught sight of Hu and Sia looking back at them with open curiosity--in particular toward Ra, their new father--before the door could swing shut behind them, leaving Neith and her son in silence.
His hand felt warmer against her own now and she knew that soon he would be recovered, but not for a little while yet. She leaned toward him with worry in her heart--"Ra?"--but her anxiety faded a bit when his eyes finally opened again, just a little, focusing on hers.
"My boat..." he murmured.
"Lord Khepri tends to it for now. You needn't worry about it."
"You...called me Son."
"Of course. This is what you are." She pressed his fingers to her mouth. "I could never disown you, no matter how angry you might make me. I'm sorry, Ra. All I ever wanted was the very best for you. All I wanted for you was sovereignty."
He took a breath and shut his eyes. "This...this is what I wanted, also."
Neith's eyes widened and her heart rose a little. "It is?" she asked, surprised. "So you never disagreed with me at all? You wanted it, just as much as I?"
Ra nodded slowly. His eyes remained shut; she sensed him lapsing into sleep even as he replied to her question.
"I wanted sovereignty...sovereignty over my own life."
Tears welled in Neith's eyes and flowed down her cheeks. Her anger and shame were gone, for now. This feeling pierced through her as sharp as a knife, yet it was a much better feeling, to feel proud of another rather than of herself. She put her arm about his neck and held her son close. They were alike...he was a part of her...yet he was also his own. Even as she held him, she finally let a part of him go.
"Of course," she whispered. "Sovereignty you'll have. You earned it long ago, dear Son."