Avalon 5.4 The Mystery of the Madness, part 3 of 6

Rachel went out to the kitchen where Surti was cooking a fine meal.  She got her cloak and said good-bye to Surti and Meme, and said she would see them in the morning.  About a third of the servants in the house were Egyptians who stayed in the house overnight, to care for the family and whatever guests there might be, and to meet any needs that might come up in the dark.  A good two-thirds of the servants were Semites, and some were children of Abraham.  The latter waited for her at the gate, because she was late.  They normally walked home at sundown.

The guards, who were all Egyptians, smiled and waved her through, and old Haman spoke right up.  “It wouldn’t be safe to walk home alone in the dark these days with madmen roaming the streets.  Things go bump in the night.  I made everyone wait for you.”

“Thank you,” Rachel said, genuinely grateful, though she had not seen any madmen yet.  She had only heard about them, but what she heard scared her to no end.  They did not sound like madmen.  They sounded like demonized men who went out into the streets to steal, kill and destroy, which was all demons knew how to do, other than lie.  They were said to have great and terrible strength, to punch through walls, and kill an ordinary mortal with one punch.  They were said to cut themselves when they could, like men trying to kill themselves, though some said they were unnaturally attracted to blood.

“Never you worry,” Haman said.  “We are family, and I know there is safety in numbers.”  Haman said things like bump in the night or safety in numbers once in a while, and that made Rachel raise her eyebrows.  Mostly, they were common sense things, but as often as not, they were expressions that became clichés in the future.  It meant nothing, necessarily, but it did make Rachel wonder if the outwardly nice old man, Haman, might be one to watch.

Rachel decided then and there if her people were being accused of bringing the madness on the people, the only way to save her people would be to find the real culprits.  Rachel would have to become detective Rachel, but then she grinned.  “One old man.  One beardless boy.  And three women, one of whom is my mother’s age, and one of whom is as old as you.”

“I’m the eldest,” one of the women spoke up.

“I got fuzz on my chin,” the boy protested.

“But you are right,” She smiled for the old man.  “We are safer together.”

Old Haman nodded, but then stopped, and the whole group stopped with him.  There was a man in the street.  He held a bloody ax and chased after a young couple.  The young girl and boy were both screaming, the boy maybe one pitch higher.

The ax man stopped suddenly and turned to stare at Rachel’s group.  He yelled, though it was hard to make out what he actually said.  It sounded like, “The Kairos and the Jews.  Kill them now.  Kill them now.”

The women, except Rachel, screamed.  The boy ran.  Haman stood still in his panic as the ax man approached, or maybe he knew he was safe.  Rachel asked Amun Junior to come and step into her shoes.  It felt like a prayer, but from somewhere in the deep past, Junior agreed.  Rachel vanished and Junior appeared, and he came dressed in the armor of the Kairos.  He had a great sword at his back, and a long knife across the small of his back, if they were needed.

Junior raised his hand, and the ax man froze in place, though clearly the ax man resisted with all his might.  It made no difference.  Amun Junior lived as one of the gods of Egypt for the sake of Amun, his father.  That meant he was not only a god, but in his own jurisdiction.  His will was absolute, limited only by the actions of other Egyptian gods or the Most-High God.

The ax man did manage a slight roar, but a much louder and deeper echoing roar came from down the street.  As Junior examined the demon filled man, a lion appeared.  The women behind him, and Haman stared, and even the boy came back to stare and gasp as the lion turned suddenly into a beautiful woman.  She ran up to Junior and threw her arms around him.

“Wait, sister,” Junior told her, and she waited while the night watch arrived.  The head of the night watch, Amonre, seemed a gruff and cruel man.  Rachel did not like him.  Worse, Rachel did not trust him, but he did seem to be getting the madmen before they did too much damage.  Rachel thought it might be a bit too convenient how he knew where to find them.  The watch took the ax and bound and gagged the man so he could not escape, though he could struggle and swear through the gag.

“Thoroughly demonized,” Junior said, and gave a gentle brotherly kiss to his sister, Sakhmet.

Sakhmet returned the familial kiss with a word.  “Not a vampire type demon, though they may become that if they are killed.  I don’t know.  Demons are not my strong point.”

“They should not be anyone’s strong point.  They aren’t allowed to inhabit flesh and blood,” he said.

“Tell them that.”

“As defender of Upper Egypt, I imagined you would be in Thebes.”

“I came to Memphis to visit my father Ptah when this whole thing started.”

“And any word from mother, or I should say, not-my-mother Ishtar?”

Skhmet grinned at her half-brother and shook her head.  “Not lately.  She stays pretty much in Mesopotamia these days, and I have my work here.”

Junior nodded.  “And where is Wadjt, defender of lower Egypt.  This is her city.”

Sakhmet made a face.  “She is on the outs since she let the Hyksos in a couple of hundred years ago, and she encouraged them.  I think she is still sulking.”

Junior nodded again.  “I was with the Hyksos, you know.  I did my best to spare Memphis.  Wadjt said she did not care if the city got burned to the ground.”

“Unhappy love affair,” Sakhmet explained.  “The girl died young, and Osiris would not let her come back.  Wadjt told Horus to screw himself with his own glasses and went off to sulk.”

“She was very sulky back then.”

“So, who are you this time?” Sakhmet asked, as Amonre and the watch dragged off the demonized man.  Junior made the two of them invisible, and hoped Haman did not see.

“Rachel,” he said, and traded places with Rachel so she could hug Sakhmet herself and say, “Thank you for watching over us.”

Sakhmet frowned and said, “Tell my brother I’ve been a full-grown woman for some time now.  He doesn’t have to do things for me or think for me anymore.”

“Sorry” Rachel said.  “But I need you to make me visible again as soon as I figure out how to not make the others notice.  I’m working undercover.”

“The demon noticed you, and who you were.” Sakhmet said.  “But you seem like a sweet girl.”

Haman called.  “Rachel.”

“Here I am,” Rachel called back from down the street where she found herself.

“Tell him you got scared and ran off. Oh.” Sakhmet, still invisible to the rest of the world, paced her, but appeared to get excited.  She clapped her hands rapidly, like a six-year-old, and shouted.  “They’re here.  My adopted mom and dad.  Talk to you later.” She vanished altogether.

Rachel mumbled.  “All grown up and mature.”  She laughed a little while Haman spoke.

“I got worried when I didn’t see you.  I thought maybe you vanished into thin air”

Rachel squinted at the man.  “Yes, but I realized it would not have been right to run off and leave you to the madman.  So here I am, safe and sound.”  She squinted again when she said safe and sound, but he betrayed nothing.

“The watch came and got him, and just in time.  And there was a lion, but I don’t understand that part.”

“The lion of Judah?” Rachel suggested, and the boy perked up as they continued on the journey home.

“I didn’t know Judah had a lion.”

“It’s an old story,” the old women said.  “Older than me.”  She smiled at herself and told the boy the story.

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