The question is what can be salvaged in the village and what has to be buried. And then they can think about what to do about the chidren taken from them, and maybe about just who this runaway Sakhmet is who felt no fear at hitching a ride with these very strange people.
Ka pulled on Emotep’s sleeve. “How do you know these strange people?” he asked. He was staring at Boston’s red hair.
“From my dreams,” Emotep said.
“Oh,” Aha’s voice was full of sarcasm. He spun around. “Not like the dream about that skinny girl going around with two goofy gods. That was a stupid story.”
“They brought back Osiris,” Emotep said, and then he had to find a place to sit down because he was suddenly feeling overwhelmed. He just realized his dream people were real, and he not only knew them, but apparently they knew him as well.
Captain Decker and Elder Stow were left with tying off the horses and getting out the tents. Roland and Lincoln were at Father’s elbow to ask if some of the men might help them get a better idea of what they could fix in the village. That gathered all of Father’s attention and the men began to smile. Lockhart and Katie were doing their best to mingle and reassure the people, but shortly it was Katie among the women and Lockhart wandered back to the horses.
Decker and Elder Stow had moved back from the center of the village to pitch their camp, not the least to get away from the smell of burnt reeds and wood. Lockhart helped get the tents up and then he went to check on Lincoln and Roland. Decker kept guard and turned his binoculars on the river which was just discernible through the nearby trees. Elder Stow checked his instrument now and then while he built a fire.
That night, everyone had some meat and bread, and vegetables, mostly onions, provided by the village. Aha, Ankara and Usersi hovered around or near Sakhmet who seemed to be getting along great with Neferet despite the big age difference. Ka sat beside Emotep and tried to say encouraging things when Emotep appeared particularly distressed.
Mostly the people, even Mother Beset and Father Meni were happy, considering the circumstances. Some of their neighbors whom they already counted as dead looked like they might recover, and all of the wounded had been treated, if not healed miraculously. Alexis was asleep in Lincoln’s arms during most of the meal, exhausted from doing all that healing work, but there was a most contented smile on her face.
Everyone got to work in the morning. Aha-Aa, Ankaret and Usersi got drafted. The only reason Emotep did not get put to work was because he escaped to the club house. He had much to think about and needed some time alone. It occurred to him at ten-years-old that the world was a much bigger and more complicated proposition than he ever imagined. He was more complicated as well, but some of the things he was thinking, about living other lives in other times, was not something he really wanted to think about. It was like losing his innocence, and here he was only ten-years-old. He honestly did not want to think about some things, but he had no choice. Little Nidjau was a prisoner of Lord Seth and probably frightened half to death.
The nominal ruler of the upper lands, the so-called king in Hierakon was worthless. He would lose the land to Set if left alone. Thebes was certainly its own city, and Karnak, with the temple of Amun was an independent place – the religious center of the land as Abydos was the place of the dead, but he did not expect help from any of those places either – especially since Abydos was apparently already overrun by the enemy. And what could he do for poor Nidjau?
Emotep considered the gods. Amun scared him a little. Horus was just a young adult, like Hathor, and could not be expected to do much. Mut was reported to be sleeping with Set, so no help there. Most of the rest were in Lower Egypt; Toth at Fayun, Ptah at Memphis and the Place of the Lion, Bast in her city, Aton the Ra – the King of the gods in his city at Helios. Even his old protector – Phoenix’ old protector, Wadjt was in the delta. To whom could he turn?
He imagined Isis might be persuaded to help. She certainly had no love for Set, but then she spent every day grieving for Osiris, even if Osiris was not quite dead yet. Anubis the enforcer of Egypt? Perhaps, but he had no way of getting in touch with either Anubis or Isis. No, he concluded, getting Nidjau back and setting the children free was going to be up to him, a ten-year-old boy who never wandered very far outside of his own village. He was going to have to depend on Lockhart and the others, though he hated to put them in harm’s way. Their job was supposed to be to get home to the twenty-first century in one piece and not go head-to-head with an invasion of the minions of Set.
Emotep looked up to find Sakhmet and Neferet sitting quietly by the hole and the rope. He was startled but not surprised. He did not hear them come up the rope, but then he had his suspicions about exactly who Sakhmet was, anyway. He looked at her closely. He was also not surprised that she now appeared to be more like she was eleven, if not his age, though she still had a sense of unnatural attractiveness about her. It was like Innan, but removed from the source, and he noticed that like Innan when she was very young, Sakhmet appeared to be leaking all over Neferet. He already liked Neferet, but it felt strange to say that this little five-year-old looked very attractive.
Sakhmet was studying him in return with a serious expression on her face when Emotep startled her with a question. “Who is your mother that she should go away?”
Sakhmet’s eyebrows went straight up before she squinted at him. “I was just wondering the same thing about you, not your mother going away bit. I’ve met your mother. She seems very nice.”
Emotep sat and they stared eye-to-eye for a moment before he said, “Well?”
“Ishtar,” Sakhmet said. “She had to go to that other place for a time since Chaos was overcome.”
“Tiamut.” Emotep nodded to that much and pointed to Neferet. “She knows the story. But now, who is your father? You are headed for Memphis? Don’t tell me. Ptah.”
Sakhmet smiled and the sunshine in that was almost overwhelming. “Why, yes. That is very good. How did you know? But wait, who are you, because as far as I can tell you are just a normal, mortal boy? Except I can’t read your mind.”
“I am Emotep, a normal mortal boy, but one day I will be your younger brother, and kind of your older brother at the same time.”
Sakhmet made her whole face squint, and it was very cute. “But that doesn’t make sense.”
“I seldom make sense. But now, who are you running away from? Don’t tell me. Papi Amun.”
“He won’t let me do anything.” Sakhmet frowned and stomped her foot. “It is like I am a prisoner at Karnak.” Emotep understood that Sakhmet was likely older than she appeared. The gods aged slowly. She might be a genuine teenager in years, but in her case she would not approach anything near maturity until she was at least a hundred. Marduk and Assur were more like a hundred and fifty, and they could act like real morons. But he said none of this out loud. Instead, he commiserated.
“Amun can be frightening at times, and strict.” Emotep could not remember very many incidents, but he knew his impression was accurate, and he also knew he had many encounters with Amun in the past, and some in the future.
“Emotep?” Ka’s voice came up from below. Neferet stood up and went to the hole in the flooring where the rope let down. She cupped her hand and shouted.
“We are up here escaping the work. Sakhmet and Emotep are loving each other. Come on up.”
Avalon 2.11: Plans and Places … Next Time