Battle is one thing, but inevitably someone needs to be confronted and the two sides need to meet. Emotep doesn’t know who it will be. He rather hoped they already ran away. But whether it is the Sorceress or Lord Seth, he knows things need to be resolved. He also knows resolution can come hard and the killing might not be over.
Emotep walked across that dry and arid field now that there appeared to be no further, hostile responses from the ridge. Katie and Lockhart were right behind him, talking softly. Emotep thought it wise to stay out of the conversation.
“I was worried when that first explosion knocked you off your feet.” Lockhart admitted.
“I was too,” Katie admitted. “But it was just dirt and sand and a bit of a concussion that stunned me for a moment. I heal fast. Zoe was right about that.”
Lockhart nodded. She was an elect, a potential Amazon Queen, born in an age when Amazons were no more but filled with the power all the same. “Still, you don’t have Gaian healing chits running through your bloodstream. A sharp little stone thrown with enough force can cut as deep as a bullet.”
“Just dirt and sand,” Katie repeated and fell silent for a hundred yards before she spoke again. “I am glad you cared enough to be concerned.”
“I do care,” Lockhart admitted. “Probably too much.” Then he fell silent for a time before he spoke his thoughts. “I was married once,” he said.
Emotep stopped when they reached the base of the ridge. It was not very high and he thought it might have been man-made like the mounds of the mound builders in the new world, when they started that work in the future. Emotep decided his life, his many lives were too complicated for words. He turned to the couple at last and spoke.
“No telling what we will find at the top. It may be deserted. There may be soldiers. The sorceress might be there. Maybe Lord Seth.”
“We’ll find out,” Lockhart encouraged him to climb, but Emotep took a second to look back. The men were following Decker toward the city and toward the end of the ridge near the Nile.
“Oh no,” Emotep sighed. Both Katie and Lockhart looked. There was a lioness bounding across the field, headed straight toward them. It did not stop to examine any of the dead, and it looked like a little girl was riding on the lion’s back, giggling the whole way. “Sakhmet and Neferet.” He turned again and started to climb. Katie and Lockhart just looked baffled and looked briefly at each other before they followed.
The Sorceress was at the top, waiting. She looked singed.
“Lord Seth deserted you?” Emotep asked.
The Sorceress squinted at Emotep to look past the armor. It took a moment to recognize the young boy she tried to destroy two years earlier. “Scorpion. Why are you still alive?”
“Because Set does not dare come up into the upper lands himself without an invitation, and as far as I know, Horus hasn’t invited him.”
“Horus. Faugh! He is nothing to the mighty Set. But you I do not understand. Who are you to cause such consternation in the heavenly realms.”
Emotep tipped his head to Lockhart and Katie. “Consternation. Her vocabulary has improved.” He looked again at the sorceress. “I am as you have called me. I am the Scorpion and the lovely Serket is my shield and my strength.”
“Faugh!” the Sorceress repeated herself before she held back a scream as Sakhmet came bounding to the top and let out a great roar. Neferet had to hold her ears and screamed herself before she giggled again and got down. Katie captured the little girl’s hand while the lion plopped down and began to groom her paws. She let her claws out briefly with a glance at the sorceress before Emotep came to her and carefully kissed the lion’s forehead.
“Thank you sister, but please don’t eat the Sorceress before I find out the plot.”
“What is this? Who are you to call a lioness sister? Tell me. I compel you to tell me.” The Sorceress widened her eyes and the magic struck Emotep in the chest. But even the gods could not compel the Kairos into revealing the future, so the spell had little effect.
“I am the Scorpion. And Sacmis, this is your namesake, Sakhmet, and I judge by her agitated state she is not presently pleased with you. Now, set my children free. Why have you taken the children anyway?”
On mentioning the name Sakhmet, the Sorceress took a great step back, but on mentioning the children, the Sorceress stepped forward again and got smug. “Your children are being turned to the worship of Set. In a generation, the mighty Set will have that invitation to invade the upper lands. The children, grown will invite him.”
Emotep turned to Lockhart and Katie. “I guessed, you know.” He squinted at them in much the same way the Sorceress first scrutinized him. “You make a lovely family. You should work on that even if your daughter does get built in a lab, but Neferet is mine, thank you.” He took the little girl’s hand and she smiled a great smile and gladly accepted his hand.
“Yours?” Katie asked.
Emotep nodded. “I don’t think I will have much choice in the matter.” He glanced at Sakhmet and saw the lion smile, which is something he did not know lions could do.
“Scorpion!” The Sorceress regained Emotep’s attention. “Before you ask your sister lioness to eat me, I suggest you consider the consequences. I, too, have one come up from the north to be my protector.” With that, a cobra the size of a Black Sea Snake rose up from behind the ridge until it’s head reached a good twenty feet above the ground and it bobbed and weaved that head which was big enough to take anyone there in one swallow.
“Hold your bullets,” Emotep shouted and he went away from there. He traded places with Phoenix, a woman whose life he lived in the past, and Phoenix shouted out the Cobra’s name. “Wadjt!” Phoenix opened her arms and stepped forward.
The Cobra hardly hesitated. In a moment, it changed back into a woman with dark, short hair and piercing yellow eyes. Phoenix fell into the woman’s arms and planted her lips smack on Wadjt’s lips. It was not a long kiss before Phoenix stepped back and looked coy.
Wadjt touched her lips briefly before she said, “That’s not fair, you know. That’s cheating.”
“I know,” Phoenix said, and she let Emotep return to his own time and place, the armor he wore adjusted as necessary. He recaptured Neferet’s hand and walked to Sakhmet. Sakhmet was on her feet and letting out a frightening, guttural growl ever since the snake appeared. Emotep slapped Sakhmet on the nose, though not hard. “I need my sister now,” he said, and Sakhmet turned back into the twelve-year-old she had been.
Sakhmet said, “ouch” and rubbed her nose, but she smiled about it while Emotep took her hand and pulled her forward.
Katie looked up at Lockhart. “I didn’t know. I should have guessed she was a goddess.”
Lockhart responded quietly. “I think we were not supposed to know.”
“Wadjt, this is my younger-older sister in the future when I get born as you don’t need to know.” He paused which allowed Lockhart to grin and whisper an interjection to Katie.
“I love it when he says things like that.”
“Sakhmet will be the defender of the upper lands even as you defend the lower lands and the delta. Sakhmet, this is Wadjt the defender of the coast from which she has come a long way. Now listen carefully. It will be a long time of fighting between the upper and lower lands before the matter is settled. Whether the Nile ends up in the hands of Set or Horus I am not allowed to say. But listen.” Emotep raised his hand and shook his finger at the two goddesses. “You two have to be friends. You can encourage and support your people if you will, but you two are not to fight each other and you are not allowed to decide the outcome. If you two fight, that will destroy the Nile. Besides, I love you both, dearly and it would break my heart to see you fighting.”
Sakhment looked down like she was properly scolded. Wadjt raised one eyebrow before she smiled. “You know me,” Wadjt said. “I like the girls.” She leaned forward and gave Sakhmet a kiss on the cheek. Sakhmet responded with a nod.
“And I am learning it is wise to always listen to my older-younger brother.” She grinned down at Neferet and Wadjt caught the look and bent down to the little girl.
“Does he belong to you?” she asked.
“Yes,” Neferet said with a big nod and wrapped her second hand around Emotep’s hand.
“You are a lucky girl.” Neferet did not say anything in response. She simply looked up at Emotep as Wadjt stood again.
“Wadjt, if it please you, I ask you to take your sorceress back north again, to Memphis.”
“Your mother and father?” Wadjt asked Sakhmet.
“Ishtar and Ptah,” Sakhmet responded. “I have been raised at Karnak under the eye of Lord Amun.”
“I know your father well. I will convey your love.”
“I hope to see him myself,” Sakhmet said, and sounded like the young girl she was which made Wadjt smile at her own thoughts.
Neferet looked up. “I don’t think that is going to happen soon,” she said.
“I will remove my sorceress,” Wadjt agreed.
“Thank you,” Emotep responded. “And tell her she can shut her mouth now.”
Wadjt tried not to laugh. The Sorceress had been standing there with a gaping jaw ever since Phoenix appeared in Emotep’s shoes. Wadjt and the sorceress vanished even as a new woman appeared, some steps away.
“Serket,” Emotep and Sakhmet spoke together. Serket nodded.
“Come,” she said, and everyone on the ridge disappeared.
Avalon 2.11: Deep Underground … Next Time