“Apophis,” Kiya shouted again, and more softly added, “Don’t look in his eyes. They are hypnotic. Don’t look in the eyes.” She watched as the giant serpent ground to a halt, and found something more to shout. “Hey, moron-head, get out of there.” She waved her arm to the side, so Horemheb backed up.
“Kairos,” Apophis said. “Why the trouble? I just came to thank you for preventing the Aten from returning to this world.”
“You could join him,” Kiya said. Apophis laughed as Elder Stow stepped up, his screen device in his hand. Kiya was going to say that would not stop Apophis, but she held her tongue. It might well stop the thousand other snakes writhing beneath the shadow of the great one.
“Why would I do that when you have given me the world?”
“Well, you have said thank you, and you’re welcome. Now you can go back to where you were, locked up in the underground.” Kiya seriously did not know what else to do but stall.
Apophis laughed again, a very annoying hissing sort of laugh. “I see you are watching me closely, but for some reason, you will not meet me in the eye.” Kiya shook her head. The mouth was the only thing she needed to watch. “Sutek was the only god that could meet me in the eye, and again, I need to thank you for ending Sutek’s days in the flesh. Now the Re is mine to command. Horus remains in hiding, and Amun will not take the power.”
A lion came up the road behind Kiya, and roared. Two lionesses came out from the house. One sat beside Kiya and the other bounded over to the far side of the road where she sat, though her tail twitched, nervously. Then a third lioness came from the house and sat at that edge of the road, pausing only long enough to growl.
“Your friends cannot help you,” Apophis said. “Even they dare not look me in the eye.”
“No need,” Kiya said. “All they need to look at is the right place on your throat to rip off your head.”
Apophis laughed for the third time, and appeared to be preparing to strike. Kiya interrupted him.
“So why have you come here? You sent the ghost. You sent the poltergeist. What was that all about?”
Apophis hesitated before he relaxed and spoke. “You do not frighten. And those demons have no real power and do not do as they are told. I am here to finish things.”
“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” Kiya said. “But what is it you plan to finish? Surely you have a boast to share with everyone before you act.”
Apophis grinned an awful snake grin. “You killed Sutek, and you killed the Aten as he attempted to return. I decided it would be best to kill you before you imagine some way to kill me. Hold still.”
The sound of a bird overhead came down to the group. Apophis struck, and slammed right into Elder Stow’s screen. Apophis would figure it out in a second, but meanwhile, the Benu bird came streaking down.
“The eyes,” Kiya yelled, before she remembered to change back to Phoenix and repeated. “Benu. Take out the eyes.”
Apophis tried once more, the screen being no barrier, but Phoenix raised her hands and the flames of sacrifice, the very fire of the sun drove the serpent back.
Phoenix collapsed as the Benu took one eye completely out with the first strike. The serpent moved fast, but the Benu could travel faster, and quickly struck the other eye, blinding the serpent. The lionesses growled and began to move forward, like hunting cats. The travelers opened fire on both sides of the serpent. The Benu just about had the second eye out of its socket when Apophis vanished, and thank goodness, he took his thousand snakes with him.
Alexis rushed to Phoenix. She had a bite in her leg, and her whole leg swelled while the bite area turned green. The Benu bird squawked, and Alexis paused. The bird stepped up and let a few tears drop into the wound. In seconds, the swelling in the leg went down and she was perfectly healed.
“Hurry now,” Phoenix talked to the bird like she might talk to a little child. “You must get back to your nest. It must be near the time for renewal.” The bird squawked again and headed into the sky to quickly move out of sight, and Phoenix said one more word. “Thank goodness for Harry Potter.”
The unknown goddess that had been the third lioness, butted in front of Alexis and planted a great big kiss on Phoenix’s lips. Phoenix returned the kiss for a minute before she pulled back. The goddess helped her stand as Phoenix spoke. “You know if I had any inkling in that direction, you are the woman I would choose.”
“Wadjt,” Katie figured it out. She and Lockhart had seen her kiss Phoenix several times, and always with the same conclusion. Wadjt waved, looked around at the staring crowd, and vanished. Sekhmet and Mihos resumed their human form, and the lioness in the center, that had stood beside Kiya without flinching, was gone. Nana Bestet came out from the house and ran to Neferure. Phoenix thought Bast was getting to be a bit like maybe she needed a telephone booth to change in. Then she changed back to Kiya, dress and all. The armor went back to its resting place.
Mihos got to say what everyone thought. “You know he will find a way to heal his eyes and try again.” Kiya nodded and looked at Sutek.
“If you still want me,” she said.
“Absolutely,” he said. “And I will count every moment blessed.”
“Mommy,” Neferure called her by a name she had not called her in some time. “I like him.” Kiya nodded.
“Horemheb,” Katie warned. The man marched in their direction, followed by a dozen or more soldiers.
“I think we should get married right away,” Kiya said. Sutk liked the idea, but he had curiosity on his face. Kiya answered his unasked questions. “I believe Horemheb is going to want me to go back to the palace, and I am not going anywhere near that place without a husband. My supposed nephew is Pharaoh now, and I don’t want to be on the menu.”
“Tutankaten?” Sotek said.
“Tutankamon,” Kiya nodded.
“But what if Horemheb wants to hurt you?” Artie asked, seriously. Several people laughed and Lockhart explained.
“After what just happened here, he would have to be a real moron.”
“That’s right,” Lincoln said. “Did you call the future Pharaoh a moron-head?”
“An English slip,” Kiya said with a grin and a shrug. “I was just the Princess, killing snakes. She doesn’t respond to stupidity well. Shh, don’t tell.”
“Kiya,” Horemheb said as he approached.
“Why, Horemheb,” Kiya said as she held tight to Sutek. “How good to see you. MY how you’ve grown. Do you know my husband?” Horemheb stopped and looked confused. Kiya spoke to the others. “Phoenix. She has a similar problem. She doesn’t do polite, pleasantries well at all.”
One week later, the travelers sat around a fire, ready to move through the next time gate in the morning. Alexis spoke. “We have been to two weddings in Egypt now.”
“Yeah,” Boston interrupted. “But this one was a real Egyptian wedding. Not like mine.”
“Yes, but I listened to the words this time,” Alexis said, and with a look at Boston she added. “Last time I cried.”
“Me too,” Katie said. “And there is a lot of truth in what Kiya told us. Egypt is a bit like a land of the living dead. Osiris died before the first dynasty began. We were with Eliyawe when she brought the coffin of Osiris back from Byblos. The next time zone was Emotep. He was the Scorpion King who defended the graves at Abydos. Two time zones later, Junior was there in Egypt when Horus threw Set, or Sotek out of the two lands, and two time zones later, we finally got to Weret, concubine of Narmer and mother of Menes. Only then were the two lands united and it became what we call Egypt.” Katie took a breath, and Lockhart gave her an odd look. She explained, “I stayed up last night reading. Lincoln lent me the database.”
“Okay,” he said.
“So in the first dynasties, and the Old Kingdom, Osiris was still seen as being more-or-less in charge. They carved his face on the Sphinx. But he stood between life and death, so Horus was expected to actually be in charge, but the Aton Ra was still around through most of it and gumming everything up. When he finally went over to the other side, they stopped building sun temples. But then Horus tried to push some more democratic reforms and screwed everything up in the sixth dynasty. So then we have the first intermediate period. I think Horus tried to pull it together, but he could not quite get the puzzle pieces to fit.”
“Okay,” Lockhart interrupted. “I see what you are saying, but I don’t understand how this fits with the living dead idea.”
“Well, it’s simple,” Katie said. “Horus leaned heavily on Osiris in the Old Kingdom. All of those pyramids, some of the greatest works in human history were nothing more than tombs. Everything in Egypt, and by the middle kingdom, everyone in Egypt focused on dying and where people were going to spend eternity. It’s like they forgot to live and wasted their whole lives worrying about dying. By the Middle Kingdom, they all but stopped building temples, like the temple of Bast where we just spent some time. All they built were mortuary temples. I think Horus himself was still trying to please his father, and doing things to honor Osiris. I don’t know. But it was all focused on death and the afterlife. Eventually, I think Horus just got frustrated and gave it up.
“I didn’t know the gods could retire,” Decker said.
“Well, I think he tried to palm it off on Amun. Amun got all the press when the New Kingdom started, but I understand he did not want it. Maybe that is what allowed the Aten to try and make a comeback. I think Amun will take it from here, and he is a creative god, but I think it is too late. After three thousand years, the cult of death has become ingrained in Egypt.”
People shrugged. Most did not follow what she was saying. Katie got that and turned the subject. “So Artie,” she said. “Tell me. What did you think about the wedding?”
“I thought it was great. It was wonderful. I cried, it was so great. I don’t understand why you two don’t have a wedding. You could get married, and then you could adopt me for real, and I could really be your daughter, and I would be happy, and I want a boyfriend.”
Katie looked at Lockhart. Lockhart raised his eyebrows, and found himself sitting on his saddled horse, all of his things neatly packed away.
“What the…” Decker sounded out from horseback. Even the tents were all packed up.
Mihos appeared with Sekhmet. Sekhmet spoke. “You have to go.”
“We don’t normally go through a time gate in the dark,” Lockhart said, to explain.
“Poltergeist,” Mihos responded with just the one word.
“Artie, go ahead,” Katie said. “I’m right behind you.” And they moved through the time gate in the dark.
Artie goes missing in Avalon, episode 5.7, Little Lost Lamb.
Don’t miss it. In the meanwhile, Happy Reading.