The problem when a god steps out of his natural place and goes after things that are not his to have, it is impossible to tell on whose side the other gods will come down. Emotep realized he needed to solve the children dilemma himself. Sakhmet was an easier dilemma to solve. “Out of the mouths of babes,” Neferet is right that Sakhmet and Emotep are loving each other, but not like grownups, like true brother and sister even if Emotep only vaguely knows it and Sakhmet does not really know it at all.
By mid-afternoon, the whole gang was back in the clubhouse, avoiding the work in the village. Aha spent his time showing off for Sakhmet and almost fell out of the trees, twice. Usersi mostly just grinned, quietly. Ankara sat beside his sister Neferet which only put the five-year-old between him and Sakhmet. He was content. Ka sat beside Emotep and kept nudging him to tell another story.
“So much for a little time alone to think.” Emotep said that several times.
Aha showed Sakhmet the view of the village and the view of the Nile, twice. She played along and said the river looked lovely, though Emotep knew she could see it all perfectly and in total detail even without having to look. In the late afternoon, they all began to smell the first wisps of cooking and stomachs began to grumble. They missed lunch. Sakhmet moved to a seat beside Emotep and for a moment it looked like she might take his arm. She appeared to be his age by then, no more than ten, though no one noticed the adjustment in her looks except Emotep and maybe Neferet.
A bell rang out from the village. It was Mother Beset banging her copper spoon against her big copper pot. Aha, Emotep and Ka knew it was time for supper and Emotep stood. He bit his tongue to avoid saying, “Saved by the bell.” Instead, he said. “Supper,” before he turned to Sakhmet and said, “Brother and sister. Remember?”
“But Horus and Hathor, and Isis and Osiris,” she responded.
“And Nephthys and Set once upon a time,” Emotep responded. “But we need to think Anu-Bast and Anubis.”
“Are you a warrior?” Sakhment asked.
“No, but you are.”
Sakhmet looked thrilled that he knew. Of course she was a bit of a love goddess through Ishtar, but she was also a serious goddess of war through Ishtar and Ptah in his own way, and thanks to Ptah she was no slouch in the intellectual department either.
“I’ll be good,” she said. Emotep did not respond directly. He just let out a small laugh.
After supper and a good, long scolding by Father Meni, Emotep found Lockhart and Katie watching the festivities. They were sitting side by side, but not touching, each pretending to be friends and nothing more.
Sakhmet slipped up and whispered in Emotep’s ear. “But they would already die without each other.”
Emotep turned his head to look at her. “You reading my mind now?”
Sakhmet shook her head. “But like you thought earlier about me. You are young. You leak.” She smiled, looked at her feet for a second and then pointed at Roland. “They have a little spirit with them.” Of course, she was not fooled by the glamour of humanity that Roland wore.
“I know,” Emotep responded. “He is an elf. One of mine.”
“One of yours?”
“You didn’t think the gods left me with no responsibilities, did you?” Emotep said “responsibilities” with a very teenage voice. “They dumped the whole lot of them on my head. I got elves, dwarfs, fairies, goblins, ogres and trolls.”
Sakhmet made a face. “I don’t like ogres and trolls, they’re scary. Hey! Can I have a fairy?”
Emotep frowned at her. “First of all, you don’t have fairies any more than you have people. They have themselves.”
“You sound like Papi Amun.”
“And second of all, what is it about girls and fairies? And no, I don’t have any say over unicorns.”
Sakhmet let out a sly grin. “Now you are reading my mind.”
“Can we help you?” Lockhart and Katie startled them. They were staring at them.
“Budding romance?” Katie asked with a kind but motherly smile.
Emotep and Sakhmet shook their heads and pointed to each other.
“Think Luke and Leah, same mother except we are not twins.” Katie looked up. “No, not Mother Beset. I mean a bunch of years from now.”
“Hey,” Sakhmet slapped his shoulder, lightly but it still hurt. “I was keeping that secret.”
“Right. Good idea.” Thus far she had told no one she was a goddess, but Emotep was not fooled. He looked up again as he rubbed his shoulder. Lockhart was still staring at him.
“Oh.” Katie shook her head like she really did not understand, but she turned to stare at him with the same expression on her face Lockhart had. It made Sakhmet giggle and cover her mouth.
“Alright.” Emotep decided to just come out with it. “Your job is to get home alive. I understand. But I need to go south – same direction. I need to get to Abydos and get our children back. I haven’t figured out how, yet, but since you are going that way.”
“Won’t the gate move further south as you move south?” Lockhart asked.
“Well, yeah. But it will move north again after we free the children and I come home.”
“Yes,” Katie interrupted. “Why the children?”
Emotep nodded to her before he spoke. “I figure some kind of brainwashing or indoctrination like in your twenty-first century where the schools and media got tons of people to actually vote against their own best interests. Make a bunch of Set worshipers and let them go home and in a generation they will be building a shrine to Set in my own village. That kind of conquest takes time, but hey, Set isn’t going anywhere.”
Elder Stow came over at that moment and Sakhmet stepped around to hide behind her brother, her eyes got big as she stared at the Gott-Druk.
“The boats have stopped for the night between villages. I estimate two days to reach the big village on the river.”
“Abydos,” Emotep said. Elder Stow shrugged. Katie turned to Lockhart and set her hand gently on his arm.
“I really can’t wait to get to Abydos where all the first kings were buried.”
“And will be buried. Not happened yet, but Osiris is there.”
Lockhart looked like he already made up his mind. “Elder Stow. Tell the others we spend one more day here helping these people rebuild and then we are taking Emotep to Abydos.”
“And me.” Neferet jumped out from behind the bushes.
Emotep shrugged. “Only don’t tell our parents.”
Lockhart did not look as pleased with the idea of sneaking off with minors in tow, especially such a little one as Neferet, but Sakhmet got down and hugged Neferet and Katie smiled so he assumed he had no choice.
Elder Stow saw and let out a bit of his overly wide grin before he went off to tell the others.
Avalon 2.11: Followers … Next Time