GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, drama, thriller/suspense.
SUMMARY: Never underestimate the little guy...or his rival. An original myth.
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2006.
LENGTH: 12,100+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Fantasy violence, mild adult language, mild adult themes.
COPYRIGHT: This story and all characters, unless otherwise stated in the Disclaimers, are copyright ¬© tehuti_88 and may not be used or distributed without permission. The reader is free to print out or download a copy of this story for offline reading as long as the author's copyright information remains upon it. Please do not distribute; if you wish to share this story, send a link to this page.
DISCLAIMERS: Certain characters are from Egyptian mythology. Although aspects of this story are loosely based on Egyptian mythology and culture, artistic license has been taken as this is a FANTASY story. Please take note that this story was written around 2006 and that my writing style and understanding of the mythology I created may have changed vastly in the meantime.
ADDITIONAL INFO: NA.
RELATED STORIES: "The Book Of The Gods; Or, Tales Of Kemet" (short stories), "Horus" (novel), "The Ameni Chronicles" (serial--ADULT CONTENT), "Related Tales" (short stories--ADULT CONTENT)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This short story ties in with the other Kemet short stories and/or the Kemet/Egyptian mythology as I make use of it in my writing; as such, it might not make much sense out of context. This is actually an idea I cooked up long, long ago but never wrote out due to the adult aspects. It's still pretty toned down, but rest assured that not much occurred in my original idea, except between Sokar and Selket...but that's another story to be found elsewhere. Perhaps this story can be a warning about underestimating the little guy. This hasn't been proofed yet, so please beware typos. Translations--"heka" is magic power; neteru are gods (singular, neter).
* * * * *
HE LOVED SIMPLY watching her move. He didn't get to see her often, as both of them tended to frequent different parts of Celestial Kemet; yet when he did see her, he took strict notice, and wouldn't turn away until he was absolutely certain she was out of sight. And every moment that he saw her was a moment that left him breathless and giddy, and despondent again once she was gone.
Apesh had taken to sitting not far outside the great palace of the sun, despite his own aversion to the place, just so he could more often see Lady Selket walk by. She did not visit her father often. He sensed tension between the two of them, and felt sorry that she should have to be upset about anything. Still, if she was upset, she hid her emotions well, and always wore the same indifferent look on her face when she passed. Apesh adored that look. She looked as if she felt herself superior to everyone around her, and he fully believed it. There was surely nothing in this kingdom superior to such a goddess as the Lady Selket.
She did not get along with her sister Hathor. He realized this one day when the other goddess accosted her outside the sun palace and the two of them commenced arguing in heated voices. Hathor fumed and flailed and fussed, while Selket kept her face as calm and cool as ever, though the shifting look on Hathor's face was enough to convince Apesh that Selket had some choice words of her own. He stood behind a column and watched them whisper viciously at each other before Hathor turned and stomped away, and Selket resumed her course. Apesh watched them depart and glared after Hathor as venomously as he could. He hated her for upsetting his beloved Selket.
He also hated her for not turning Selket's eye in his direction.
He had spoken with her, once before. Before he had known of the animosity between the two goddesses; perhaps it had not existed back then? All he knew for certain was that he had asked her, his voice as simpering and wheedling as possible, if she might not aim one of her arrows in her sister's direction, and oh so accidentally strike her, while he was within sight. He steamed at the memory of the look the goddess had gotten on her face, her eyes growing wide before she threw back her head and started laughing as if he had told the world's funniest joke. All that he could do at the time was stand fuming silently as she cackled in great hilarity, clasping her arms around her waist and doubling over.
"You--you think to have her fall in love with you--?" she cried, and started laughing afresh. "An ugly little toad like you? As much as I do not care for her, I will hardly go turning her eye toward you. How vulgar! Maybe you'd best try looking along the riverbottom if you're seeking a lady friend."
Apesh had turned away, fists clenched, and stalked from the room as she continued laughing. He wished she would hit herself with one of her arrows, and fall in love with a crocodile or a hippopotamus. Perhaps Selket would be amused for her to get her head taken off.
And so he had to resign himself to merely watching her pass by, whenever she saw fit to do so. He never addressed her, as Hathor's words had stung, and he hated the thought that maybe she did see him as nothing more than an ugly little toad. Yet week after week of simply watching her, without sharing so much as a word with her, was draining him, and he actually had dreams at night that he spoke with her. So he dared to stand a bit closer, more out in the open, whenever she went by. It was a start. And a couple of times, he thought she did glance at him, just briefly. When one day she cast him a look before continuing on her way, it was as if his heart soared, and he went back to his own palace with butterflies in his stomach. He couldn't sleep the rest of the night, he was so happy merely that she had seen him!
It was a few more tries before he could work up the courage to bow his head at her as she passed. It took a while for her to realize that he was performing this gesture for her, and she looked mildly puzzled but nodded at him, before disappearing inside. Apesh was deliriously happy. He couldn't even sleep that night but for how much he thought about that nod, and how beautiful it had been.
It was much longer before he could speak to her. The mere thought of hearing her speak to him in return was both thrilling and terrifying; he could hardly bear the thought that she might call him some hideous name like her sister had. Yet he refused to believe that she was that cruel and shallow. And so after many weeks had passed he bowed his head at her and spoke, his voice barely above a murmur.
"G-greetings, L-Lady Selket."
She looked at him. Apesh's eyes met hers and grew. The slightest frown passed over her face, and she nodded, before turning and going inside. Apesh was crushed. Her lips had not parted even a tiny bit, to speak to him. He trudged home with a heavy heart and couldn't sleep, wondering over everything he might have done wrong. He must have done something. Still, she had at least looked at him, which had to count for something...so he supposed it wasn't a total loss, and tried to take some tiny bit of comfort from that.
The three tries resulted in the same thing, and he was beginning to wonder if he had read her all wrong. Yet one day when he meekly mumbled his hello, she nodded at him--"Greetings, Lord"--and went on her way. And Apesh's heart nearly burst from his chest. He had to keep himself from dancing home, he was so elated. GREETINGS! She had said GREETINGS to him! She had even called him Lord! She had SPOKEN to him!
He stared at himself in the mirror that night and instead of seeing the dark wrinkled turtle's head that everyone else around him saw, he saw a real god, somebody worthy of being spoken to by Selket herself, and he beamed at his reflection proudly. He had surely never been more divine than this.
He made a point to ask God Ptah to make him a gorgeous pectoral to wear, and he sought out his finest clothes. Although it was just for a few moments every so often, he dressed his best, just so she could see him. She paid him more attention now--her glances were always rather odd--but when he spoke, she spoke in return, and when he bowed, she nodded her head as well. Apesh's pride swelled with each passing encounter. When she smiled at him one day as she went by, he knew that she was his forever.
He promptly set about preparing a room in his small dingy palace for her. He knew it was nothing that could possibly compare to anywhere else she had ever lived, but still, she had smiled at him--surely that meant she was willing to live in his humble home. He furnished it with the most exquisite trappings, adorning the bed with the most gorgeous drapes and sheets and pillows, gleefully positioning lamps for when she should first set foot within the space and grace it with her presence. He ached to pick flowers, but it was too soon for that; and so he scouted out the best places to find the most beautiful blooms, just so he would be ready. He made certain his food stores were good, and agonized over whether she would prefer dates or duck meat--he had no idea! He thought of asking one of her sisters, then thought again. Spiteful wenches...they could only spoil the surprise. He cleaned his palace from top to bottom, shining the floors by hand, until he was spent and panting from exhaustion. Yet he always had the time and energy to greet her, and swoon over her own brief greetings as well.
He plucked a lotus one morning and waited for her to arrive. When she did he shakily held it out to her. She looked at it with seeming puzzlement before accepting it with a nod. "Thank you, Lord." Apesh was beside himself with joy. He bobbed his head and watched her walk away, and he sighed over the way that she stepped.
The next time she passed, he held out two waterlilies, which she took, and he was the happiest that he had ever felt yet.
And the next, she accepted the three lotuses, and smiled at him.
When he gave her a pink lotus the following time, she reached up to place it in her headband, and Apesh nearly collapsed, he was so overcome.
It was a few more encounters before he dared to ask if she would like to join him in his palace. "Just...for just the evening," he stuttered, terrified. "I--I could have a wonderful d-dinner p-prepared for My Lady, a-and..."
He saw her smile start to fade and his heart nearly collapsed, itself. "I am afraid I cannot," she replied, and his face fell. A faint smile returned to her mouth and she tilted her head just slightly. "Perhaps another time."
With that, she was gone...but her final words stuck in Apesh's head, as he stared blankly off into space. Perhaps? Another? Time? She was--she was accepting his offer--?
She is ACCEPTING my offer--!
Apesh had to cover his mouth to keep himself from crying out with joy. He made it back home and danced in the hallway, yelling at the dark sky with pure glee. Yes, he would be spending the night alone. But she had said she would come ANOTHER TIME! For all he knew--that meant tomorrow evening! This thought made him gasp and fall silent, then he hurried to get to sorting out his household again, just in case she should stop by unannounced. Everything had to be perfect for when she arrived!
Apesh hummed cheerily the entire time that he sorted, his fears much allayed and his spirits soaring. Lady Selket was going to visit him! HIS house! He could barely stand to wait!
He couldn't sleep, and so stayed awake all that night, staring at the hallway, straining his eyes for any sign of a light, his ears for any whisper of a foot upon the floor. Lady Selket didn't come. By dawn, when gray light seeped into the palace, his heart was heavy and his spirits dimmed, but he reminded himself that it had been only one day.
He ached to go and see her, but the thought of possibly missing her if she should decide to visit him later that day made him agonize even more, so he stayed in his palace and paced from end to end for hours. Evening began to fall; no Lady Selket. Apesh chewed his thumbnail as he paced. Why hadn't she come yet? She had said she would come at a later time, hadn't she...?
He dozed off several times that night, each time snapping awake and cursing himself--what if she should stop by, see him sleeping, then decide not to disturb him and leave? She struck him as being courteous that way...
By midafternoon of the next day, he couldn't take it anymore, and went out looking for her. She was a busy goddess with many important duties; perhaps she'd merely forgotten.
He couldn't find her, no matter where he looked, and so finally had to ask after her. The sunhawks in Ra's palace informed him that she hadn't visited that day. So Apesh went back home, steaming by now. Of course, it wasn't Lady Selket's fault. Perhaps one of her sisters had gotten her into some sort of fix. Of course. He couldn't be angry with her. But he could be disappointed...
He went bright and early the next day to the sun palace and waited. At last, she arrived in the evening, and his heart leapt up into his throat as he likewise leapt to his feet. The motion was so sudden that it startled her, and he immediately felt bad for doing so. He hastened to her side, wringing his hands.
"I--forgive me for startling you so, Goddess! I meant nothing by it!"
"This...this is all right, Lord," she said, frowning a little but resuming her walking. "I know it was unintentional."
She isn't upset with me! Aalu, what a gracious goddess! "As...as a m-matter of fact, Goddess...I...I wondered if perhaps I might share a few words," he managed to stammer, and she nodded though she didn't slow her pace. He let out a breath and tried to relax a little. "I...I've been waiting for you to come, you see, and I was w-wondering when you had planned to do so..."
"Come?" Selket's frown grew. "Come where?"
"Oh." Apesh blushed. "Well...t-to my palace, Lady...you did say you were coming..."
"I did?" She seemed genuinely perplexed.
Apesh nodded. "Well...y-yes...the other day...I invited you to visit, remember? My Lady said you were busy, but perhaps another time..."
Selket blinked. "Oh." She got a very strange look on her face which he couldn't describe. "I think...perhaps you misunderstood me."
"I realize My Lady is quite busy with important matters!" Apesh pushed on. "And far be it from me to take up much of your time...w-which is why, I've prepared everything ahead of time, so, whenever you should wish to stop by would be good with me..."
"No...I think you misunderstood." She slowed her step somewhat and turned to face him; his heart thudded hard. "You see...perhaps I should have been clearer. I'm not certain how best to put this." She fingered her pectoral and looked pensive; he adored that look on her face. "When I said at a later time...I meant that perhaps..."
Perhaps next week, Apesh's mind filled in. Perhaps even next month--oh--she's probably busy with SO many things! But I would wait even a year for a visit from her...
"...Perhaps it would be best if I did not come by, Lord," Selket finished, and Apesh blinked, then sucked in a breath as his heart felt like it fell all the way down into his feet.
"N...not come by...?" he echoed in a whisper.
"Please understand, Lord," Selket said, her eyes softening; she even reached out and lightly touched his hand. "I mean nothing personal by this...but it might be seen as improper if I were to visit with you. My sisters spread stories, you see..."
Spiteful wenches! Each and all of them! Apesh fumed. "But I have prepared quarters for you and everything," he lamented, and she fell silent. "Why listen to those women? You are your own goddess--you needn't concern yourself with their petty quibbles! I myself would be more than happy to vouch for your honor..."
"Quarters...?" Selket echoed, and he looked up at her to see that her expression had again gotten rather strange. His face lit up and he bobbed his head excitedly.
"Yes--quarters! They are so fine and lovely!" He took her hands, not really noticing how she tensed when he did so. "I--I admit I'm not certain of your favorite color, Goddess--so I chose red and gold, I know they would look divine upon you--the bed and pillows and sashes and all, matched to look perfect in the company of such a goddess as yourself. I have such stores of food, all sorts of delicacies, as to keep you happy forever--and I could pick all the most beautiful flowers to fill your rooms, you would never even have to leave--"
"Keep me happy--?" She slowly pulled her hands away from his and took a step back, brow furrowing. "Keep me happy for what?"
"Well--" Apesh held his hands up. "For when we are married, of course!" He beamed. "I intend to make you the happiest bride that has ever lived! All you need do is come by and tell me if the rooms are to your satisfaction...I can always change them around just for you...and I need to ask permission of your father, of course, though that's easily done, and..."
"I...I think perhaps I should be going," he heard her say, and looked up again to see that she had taken another step or two back. He furrowed his brow, seeing the strange look on her face--she seemed afraid of something. He glanced around himself, but couldn't tell what was frightening her. "I do have some important things to attend to...My Lord understands."
"Oh! Of course! Please forgive me." Apesh hastened forward to grasp her hand and kiss it; this time he did notice how she tensed, but wrote it off as wedding jitters. Of course she would be nervous! He certainly was. "I won't detain you longer! Though I do hope you stop by soon! I hope to have the rooms set up properly for our wedding night, you see, and if you don't see them before then, how can I know what you truly like...?"
"Of course," Selket echoed, pulling away once more. She executed a stiff bow, her face blank, and turned away. "I have to be going now."
"Farewell, Goddess!" Apesh cried, waving wildly, though she didn't turn to give him so much as a glance. No matter! Her face had been so pale, he knew the idea of their marriage excited her as much as it did him. Filled with renewed hope, he turned on his heel and hurried back to his palace, to clean it just one more time, in case a few bits of dust had happened to gather since the last time. Everything had to be perfect for when his new bride moved in.
* * * * *
Needless to say, Lady Selket didn't pay Apesh's household a visit the next day, nor the next. The tortoise god sat steaming alone, wondering what sort of things her sisters must be up to to be hindering her so. Surely she would have come by now...? He stopped by the sun palace, but the sunhawks had no news; apparently she hadn't been by any time lately. Then Apesh began to worry. What if she was ill, and unable to leave her quarters? So much the more reason for her to move in with him immediately, so he could care for her. Growing frantic, he began scouring Celestial Kemet, hoping to stumble across someone who might know where she could be.
"What if she's fallen...?" he murmured as he jogged along, wringing his hands. "What if she's hurt herself...? Those wench sisters of hers! I just know one of them is responsible for all this...!"
Unfortunately, her sisters were also the most likely to know where she was. Reluctantly he sought out Lady Bastet and asked if she knew where Selket might be; but the cat goddess denied any knowledge. A likely story, Apesh thought spitefully. Lady Maftet had no idea, though she suggested that Hathor might know. Apesh dreaded visiting with Hathor the most, after how she'd treated him the last time...but if it was for Selket...
"What, you're still going on about her--?" the goddess exclaimed when he found her and repeated his question. "I thought I advised you to look in the river, and believe me, it was pretty good advice. Stop flying about like a bird and crawl around like the turtle you are."
"I was only concerned that she might be hurt somewhere," Apesh insisted, fighting not to reach out and smack the smirk from her face. Difficult to believe these two had fallen from the same tree. "She hasn't visited the sun palace in days; aren't you concerned for your own sister--?"
"Why should I be concerned when I am the one who knows exactly where she is?" Hathor jeered. "I found out she was going visiting with that Lord Sokar and did what I do best."
Apesh blinked, surprised. "Huh--?" he managed to get out.
Hathor rolled her eyes and let out a gusty sigh. "Must I spell it out for you...? She went to him to gain protection from you. Though gods know why she needs it, I could twist your little arm myself! Apparently your disgusting advances have her rattled and she decided to seek out a more capable god." Her mouth twisted. "Let's just say I decided to speed matters along a little, and gave them both a little taste of my medicine. Believe me," she said, apparently growing bored of talking with him as she turned away, "those two are much better suited than she and you would ever be."
She ended their discussion with a flick of her wrist, and went pacing off, her dress swishing with her movements. Apesh didn't even notice. He couldn't believe what he'd just been told. Lady Selket. Lord Sokar. Together? It couldn't possibly be what it sounded like...
Surely her spiteful sister had made the whole affair sound much more sordid than it really was. Apesh knew where to ask. He discovered that, yes, she had gone to Lord Sokar's dark palace in the west, but as for what had gone on there, well, it could be much different from what Hathor had described! It had to be! Selket was Ra's daughter, and everyone knew how Ra detested Sokar. And Hathor detested both of them. Why would she pair them together? And most of all, why would Lady Selket be seeking protection from him? Weren't they to be married soon--?
He asked around until he could take it no more, and did the last thing he wished to do, but the thing that he felt was inevitable. He went to demand an audience with Lord Sokar.
The hawk god stood and listened to Apesh rant and rail at him for a good ten minutes or more, arms crossed and an indifferent look on his face; Apesh was at least two heads shorter than he was, and at any other time the other god would have cowed him so much that he never would have thought of even addressing him. But these were pressing circumstances, and Lady Selket's honor was at stake. Apesh detested the bored look he got in return for his impassioned speech, and at last flailed his arms, his voice rising to a screech.
"Even if Lady Selket came by here," he snapped, "I would never believe that she would do such a thing as that wench Hathor described! The whole House of Iunu is full of lies! I know exactly what is happening here! Everyone knows of your reputation with women. The Lady Selket was so afraid of visiting my household because you have been pestering her! Rather than annoy me with her problems, she honorably decided to seek you out herself and try to end this unpleasant matter. I'll hardly let her put herself in danger any further. If you ever come near Lady Selket again, you have me to face--and I will fight you to the death to protect her!"
He hadn't expected much, but when Sokar just rolled his eyes, that infuriated him all the more. "I hate to break this to you," the hawk god said blandly, "but you have it somewhat backwards. The Lady Selket came here to ask me to shield her from you. And might I add...she wasn't exactly begging me to keep away, either."
Apesh's mouth slowly fell open and his eyes grew huge. His fingers curled into hooks as the fury welled up in his breast, and a second later he was screaming and hurling himself at Sokar with all his might.
A second after that, Sokar was carrying him by the neck and depositing him outside his palace with a thud. Apesh squatted on the ground, grimacing and rubbing at his bruised throat as Sokar turned and went walking back inside, calling back over his shoulder, "And the next time you set foot near her, you will have much more than a bruise to worry about."
He returned home fuming and humiliated and sat alone the entire night. Sokar had to be lying. There was no way that the Lady Selket would betray him so. Yet she wasn't here...and as the night wore on, heading toward morning, he realized that she wasn't coming. Anger simmered in his breast.
Those two are much better suited than she and you would ever be...
She wasn't exactly begging me to keep away, either...
"Lies," he muttered under his breath. "All of them lies! My Selket is in danger from all of them. I can't let her stay out there alone. Even her own family conspires against her, by sending her to that awful hawk god! What can I do? What must I do to protect her, to keep her safe...?"
By the time the sun was shining, and he'd missed a night's sleep, it at last dawned on him just like the sunboat dawning on the horizon. Lady Selket was too afraid to come here on her own. He would just have to bring her here himself.
As soon as this plan came to mind, he managed to calm himself somewhat, and started pondering how best to get her away from such evil influences and bring her here, as well as how best to shield her from their eyes when they would inevitably come looking for her. "We are all divine," he said as he paced feverishly in his courtyard, "and there's little doubt that if they try hard enough, they'll be able to sense her here, especially if she's afraid. No wonder she will be afraid! Knowing that such hideous neteru are after her! I'll have to either calm her or find a way to hide her from them.
"Hide...? Some sort of barrier! This is it!"
Apesh clasped his hands together, eyes lighting up. His own heka was relatively weak. But perhaps he could steal a spell from Lord Thoth, who was brilliant with such things, and then Selket would at last be safe. It had to be worth it.
There was no way he could worm his way past Thoth and hope to escape undetected, as the ibis god was nearly all seeing and aware of most things going on. So Apesh decided to send one of his little snakes to do the work. Surely Thoth wouldn't think to look for a snake stealing one of his scrolls. Though Apesh did have to instruct the snake, repeatedly, about what type of scroll to pick out and bring back. Needless to say it wasn't very easy instructing a snake on how to read and fetch, so this took longer than he'd hoped, and by the time he sent the little reptile off to do its work, he was in a rather irritated mood.
"It has to be worth it," he repeated to himself. "For Lady Selket's happiness!"
The thought of her beautiful dark eyes encouraged him, and he sat and waited for the snake's return.
When it finally came back, panting and exhausted and with its tail wrapped around a papyrus scroll, Apesh hurriedly snatched the spell up and looked it over to make sure it was even the right kind. Thoth had hundreds of papyri, and of course it couldn't have been easy finding the right one. He let out a sigh of relief to recognize the hieroglyphs upon the sheet as being a spell of concealment, exactly what he needed. The spell was to be recited over an enclosed room, after which that room would be undetectable to outsiders, and everything within it would be hidden as well. Inside such a protected room, Lady Selket could scream like an enraged lioness and wouldn't even be heard...not that she would have any reason to do such a thing. Though she could very well scream knowing that an awful god like Sokar was chasing after her, Apesh reasoned sympathetically, and he hastened to the middle of his palace to find a suitable place to recite the spell.
He lamented that the quarters he had prepared so lovingly for Selket could not be used, as they had a window overlooking the black dreary plain outside. He knew just the spot though. Just off the library, which he never used, was a small but functional room with no windows, no balconies, and even though he would have preferred more spacious quarters for his beloved, for now these would have to do. He hurried to move as many of the furnishings of her old room into this one as he could, though he spent the most time lovingly arranging the drapes on her bed--which he hoped to soon put to good use. He blushed as he made certain all was as it should be; there would be time for such thoughts later. In the entryway, he unrolled the papyrus and recited the spell, standing there for a while to see if any change overcame the room. He couldn't be sure but he thought he did see a tiny bit of a blue glow in the corners, where the walls met the ceiling, the floor, and each other. His mouth twitched in a smile. He left his palace secure in the knowledge that he'd created the perfect place for his lovely goddess.
* * * * *
Now came the hardest part: separating his goddess from the evil influences of her family, and transporting her back to his palace.
He knew this would present quite a challenge, especially considering that she would likely be terrified of them being caught, and her terror could very well impede him. So he had to think of a way to safely transport her.
He went to Thoth again, this time legitimately, to meekly ask for a draft of poppy to help him sleep. "I've been having such awful dreams lately, you see, and they always wake me up well before dawn," he explained in his most sincere voice, and though the ibis god frowned a little, he at last handed over a packet of the powder, which Apesh took home with many thanks. He mixed it into a bit of wine, poured this into a small clay jar which he stoppered tight, then went out looking for his love, his heart beating hard in anticipation of her rescue.
It took some looking around to find her. And when he finally did, he was incensed to see her again departing from Lord Sokar's palace. The look on her face was calm, but he knew she must be filled with terror. That hideous hawk god! What sort of horrid things was he doing to her in there? Apesh knew her better than anyone, and he knew that she was in distress; surely he'd come for her just in time. He followed her at a distance as she made her way to the sun palace, but before she was within the golden glow cast by its walls and columns, he dashed out of hiding, rushed up behind her, and grabbed onto her as tightly as he could.
She was somewhat taller than he was, but didn't weigh as much, so he was able to lift her off her feet. He felt her muscles tense and saw her eyes go wide--her mouth opened, but he'd been anticipating that, and he hurriedly pressed a poppy-soaked cloth to her face. She started struggling but her motions grew weaker as the drug began to take effect; Apesh gently lowered her to the ground, then unstoppered the jar and poured the rest of its contents in her mouth. Selket's surprised eyes glazed over and fluttered shut within a moment, and Apesh hurriedly picked her up, draping her over his back and hastening back to his palace before any of the ever-present sunhawks could notice anything amiss.
He was surprised by just how much heavier the goddess was when unconscious, and before he was within sight of his home he was gasping for breath and struggling just to carry her. Perhaps one of her wicked sisters had cast some sort of spell and was even now following them--? Filling with dread, Apesh picked up his pace--finding some hidden reserve of strength deep within himself--and made it the rest of the way to his palace. He carried her down the hallways and into the hidden room, where he deposited her upon her new bed, and carefully arranged the sheets and pillows around her to make her most comfortable. Then he left the room--closing and locking the door behind him, of course--and hastened to his kitchens to fetch her something to eat. She'd been looking a little thin lately; either her family was starving her, or that nasty hawk god had her so frightened that she couldn't even eat. Apesh would take care of that.
He readied a plate of dates and honey cakes, fetching his best jar of wine, and hurried with them back to her rooms. She was still unconscious, of course, so he set them nearby, then simply sat and stared at her in silence for a long while. Even unconscious, her face was perfect, and he felt his heart ache. Finally she was all his! They would never have to worry about Sokar or Hathor or anybody ever again. He knew he could protect her.
Unfortunately, she hadn't awakened an hour or so later, and he realized that he must have overdone it on the poppy. When a snake slithered in to inform him that someone was approaching the front gate, he reluctantly tore himself away from the hidden room, nearly forgetting to close the door and seal the spell behind him. He let out a sigh of relief as he made his way up the hall. So close! He'd have to be more careful if he wanted to truly protect her.
He began quaking the moment he saw Lord Sokar standing in the front hall, arms crossed and a look on his face decidedly less pleasant than the last time. His eyes glared red as Apesh approached and bowed, and his voice came out so sharp and unexpected that the tortoise god jumped a little.
"No one has seen the Lady Selket for a good several hours now," he snapped, eyes narrowing. "She was expected at God Ra's palace, yet never arrived. Funny, the sunhawks thought they spied you nearby just before she went missing."
Apesh silently cursed the annoying birds. "Oh...?" was all he could think to say, in his most innocent voice.
The hawk god's nostrils flared. "She made it pretty clear that you have been pestering her of late, and you even formed some sort of delusion in your mind that the two of you were to be married soon. I don't suppose that you have seen her anywhere tonight...?"
"I cannot say that I have, Lord," Apesh replied, wringing his hands.
He gasped and jumped again when Sokar lowered his arms and took a long stride toward him, towering over him and casting him in shadow. "It's quite strange," he said in a threatening voice, "that the moment she goes missing, you suddenly seem to lose your interest in her wellbeing. You wouldn't be hiding something here...would you?"
Apesh felt sweat began to bead on the back of his neck, and couldn't keep himself from wringing his hands almost hard enough to hurt, but he tried his best to make his fear look like it was aimed at the hawk god alone. "I--I of course worry about her a great deal, Lord. But I wouldn't know where she is. You--you can even s-search my household, if you like."
He mentally cringed--why had he said that? He readied himself to take it back, but Sokar was already brushing past him. "Perhaps the first intelligent thing you have said in your life," he muttered as he went striding off down the hall, and Apesh had to hurry to catch up with him.
He grimaced the entire time that Sokar searched his palace, not refraining from tearing things apart when necessary, yanking sheets from cots and shoving furniture away from walls. Apesh imagined himself taller than the hawk god, grabbing him by the neck and throttling the life out of him--he imagined God Ra laughing, and giving him Selket as a gift for his actions--he imagined Selket smiling at him with her coy eyes and taking his hand in hers. He imagined other things that made him blush. But most of all, he imagined killing Sokar in every hideous painful way possible. Yet he stood and meekly held his tongue as his household was practically ransacked, and just as he'd hoped, Sokar didn't even notice the doorway to the hidden room. Apesh could see it as plain as day, but to Sokar, it was as if it was invisible. He could sense the other god's frustration and disbelief at being left emptyhanded, and it amused him like nothing else ever had. He would have laughed if he knew it wouldn't result in him being murdered right then and there.
"I do not know how you did this," Sokar growled at him once he was done searching the palace from top to bottom, "but I'll find out. And if you've hurt a single hair on her head, you will regret the day you ever crossed me."
"Perhaps My Lord could use a drink to settle himself down...?" Apesh inquired innocently. "You seem to be rather flustered for some reason."
He tensed when Sokar clenched his fists, beak grating as if he intended to kill him anyway; yet a moment later Sokar let out a sharp breath and whirled away from him, storming off down the hall. His sandals clacked loudly and Apesh listened until the sound faded away and the palace was completely still once more; then he waited a little longer, just in case. Then he let out a cry of glee, clapping his hands and whirling around to dash off toward the hidden room. Unbelievable! It'd worked! Selket was his!
He let himself into the room and poured two cups of wine, for him and for her, and sat himself down at her bedside, sipping at his to put him in the mood. He smiled and dreamily thought of the time they would pass together in this place. Certainly, it was a bit drearier than what she was used to, he knew, but he could always fill the rooms with flowers and gems and as soon as her father settled down they could go and visit the sun palace again, too. He sighed as he stared at her face, so composed in sleep, then began to think of what they would name their children, and frowned and bit his lip hard in thought. What would they name their children...? He couldn't believe he hadn't even thought of that yet. Better yet, what would their children do for a living? He berated himself for not having set up a room for them yet. He began making mental lists--he would have to visit a seamstress and have clothes made for them, and set up lessons so they could learn from Thoth, and perhaps they could learn sports and domestic duties from some of the other neteru...
A soft moan drew his attention and he gasped, leaning forward eagerly. Selket's brow furrowed and his heart leapt. She moved her head a little, then her eyes fluttered open and she blinked blearily a few times. Confusion flitted across her face.
"Goddess...?" Apesh whispered, and her eyes immediately flicked toward him, growing wide. He smiled. "How do you feel?"
Selket blinked once, then twice. Her mouth opened--then she sat up so abruptly that Apesh jerked back. She let out a hiss and grabbed at her head, grimacing; Apesh quailed, reaching out to touch her arm and comfort her.
"Be careful, Lady! Your head might still be throbbing--here's some wine to take away the edge--"
"Wine--?" She lowered her arms, then in an instant smacked the cup away so it went flying across the room, crashing against the wall. For an instant their eyes met and then hers flared blue. "What in the Duat--?" She yanked her arm away from him. "What in the hells is going on?!"
Apesh winced. "Please, Goddess, such language! Surely that awful hawk god taught it to you--I forgive you--but you must settle yourself down!"
"Settle down?" Her voice rose to a pitch that made his ears hurt. She shut her mouth long enough to look around the room and her eyes just grew bigger and bigger before focusing on his again. They were filled with disbelief, and Apesh frowned in confusion--what had her so upset?
"You--" Her fingers curled into fists. "You KIDNAPPED me?!"
He winced again. "No! I didn't kidnap you! I RESCUED you from that awful hawk god, and brought you here to be safe. It's all right now! He can't find you. I've made certain of that. No one will ever find you in this room. You can be safe, with me..."
He noticed that his words seemed to be having quite the opposite effect on her from what he'd intended, and this perplexed him. She tossed the sheets from herself and vaulted out of the bed, running toward the door. He blinked when she flung herself against it and began yanking on the handle, then pounding upon it so hard that surely her hands were bruised. "OPEN! OPEN!" she shrieked, then stepped back and held up one hand. A bolt of fire shot at the handle, but it ricocheted off and evaporated, leaving the door untouched. Selket gawked, then began striking and kicking the door again. "OPEN UP!"
"G-Goddess!" Apesh cried, jumping up and dashing over to her. He grabbed her arm and tried to pull her back. "Please! You're going to hurt yourself--!"
She whirled around with a catlike snarl and slapped him across the face. Apesh hissed when her fingernails just missed clawing his eye. He let go of her to rub at the welt, and the goddess commenced dashing around the room, flinging herself at the walls like a moth battering itself against a lamp. She kicked and hit every one she met, her eyes livid and her hair flying around her wildly. It was as if she'd gone completely insane, and Apesh couldn't understand it.
"LET ME OUT!" she screamed. "LET ME OUT, YOU VILE LITTLE TOAD!!"
Apesh blinked the sting away from his eye, mouth falling open. "But--Goddess!" He spread his hands. "I've saved you! From your family, your sisters, that awful Sokar! You're safe here!"
"Safe?" She at last halted in her mad whirl, facing him with her fingers forming claws and her teeth bared. "You think to SAVE me? A disgusting little REPTILE like you? The only thing I need saving from is YOU! If you don't let me out of here this MINUTE--!"
Apesh's eyes slowly widened, then something snapped in his head. His vision of Selket began to fade into red and he felt his teeth hurt as he began to clench them, his own hands forming into fists. The goddess must have seen the reaction, for her words died and she drew in on herself slightly, her look growing tense. "How...how dare you," Apesh grated, his voice sounding like rocks grinding together. "How dare you speak to me so when all I ever wanted to do was make you happy! All the trouble I've gone to--and THIS is how you repay me--?"
His voice slowly rose until it was almost a yell, and he saw the way that she flinched and stepped back. He hated frightening her--what was he doing? But her words stung so much--how could she treat him in such a way? When all he'd ever had was her best interests at heart?
"All the trouble I've gone to!!" he screamed, and the goddess cringed away from him. "EVERYTHING I've done! How can you just throw that back in my face--?"
He advanced toward her, not even caring now that she gasped and stumbled back as if to slip away from him. She ran into the wall and dug her fingers into it, glancing from left to right, but there was nowhere to go without going through him. Apesh halted just a hand's breadth from her, glaring into her wide eyes and seeing the fear there--then he leaned forward and abruptly kissed her. She tensed, then swung a hand at him, but he caught it, and then caught the other one; she let out a muffled squealing noise and tried wrenching herself loose but he held her as tightly as he dared. Why was she fighting so much--? He'd rehearsed this scene a hundred times in his head, and she'd always willingly given in. So how come it wasn't working out that way--?
He pulled away from her mouth and she let out the most awful scream he'd ever heard. His ears throbbed and he made the mistake of letting her go; then he yelped when she gouged his cheek with her fingernails. He put up his hand to press it to his face, taking a step back; a second later he was wheezing and doubling over after her foot connected with him in a strategic place, and she edged away from him, her otherwise beautiful face contorted in rage.
"Don't you DARE touch me again!" she shrieked.
Apesh could only stand staring at her, eyes wide and blood squeezing out between his fingers. After a moment his eyes began burning and his own mouth twisted, his face growing hot, until a strange sound arose in his throat and erupted into a scream of his own. Selket's rage vanished in an instant and she gasped and hopped back, her own face suddenly pale; Apesh flung his hands up and down, his scream rising to a shattering pitch, before whirling around on one foot, kicking aside the little table holding the wine and dinner he'd brought her, and storming from the room. He slammed and locked the door behind himself, and then just to let it out, screamed several more times in the privacy of his hallway. Once he was done he yelled hoarsely for one of his snakes to come back out from hiding, and sent the trembling creature back into Selket's room to report to him what she was doing. When the snake slithered in, slithered out, and informed him that the goddess was busily battering the walls, the god let out a short breath, forced himself to settle down, and stalked off to his own rooms. It looked like he would be spending tonight alone.
He sat in his room with a new cup of wine, simmering and trying to calm his frayed nerves. Every so often he touched the gouges to his cheek with a wince and his anger would flare up a little bit again. How could she hurt him so, when all he'd ever done was look after her? One would think he was a terrible brute with how she'd attacked him. He hated leaving her alone, but it was for the best; he had no idea what he might be forced to do when she was in such a mood. He sipped at his wine and took several deep breaths. Perhaps after a few days she would reconcile herself to this change in circumstances, and would come around. This was such a big change for her, it was only to be expected that she might be a little unsettled at first.
He shut his eyes and finally calmed down a little. Yes, it only made sense. The poor thing was just unsettled. A few days spent in his household would show her that he meant no harm. He sipped at his wine, and did wish that he could at least sit with her for a while, but perhaps she needed time alone for now.
He returned to check on her the next morning, only to nearly receive her wine cup against his head as soon as he peeked in the door. Judging by the state of the room, she'd already destroyed almost everything else. He fumed to himself on seeing the state she'd left the bed in--the bed he'd prepared just for them, all torn and ruined!--but told himself she'd calm down eventually. He managed to slip in a plate with fresh food and drink, but when he checked her again later that night, all that she did was again throw the cup at his head. He clucked his tongue after shutting the door. Perhaps he should put some more poppy in it to help her settle down.
He received another visit from Sokar, who again went to the trouble of tearing his household apart, and again failed to find the hidden doorway. Apesh simply stood and let him look, taking silent enjoyment at the hawk god's frustration. After he departed, Apesh stood outside the door to the hidden room and told Selket of her visitor, knowing that she could hear him even though he couldn't hear her. "Apparently our friend seems to think you're in some sort of distress," he called out at the door. "Don't worry, though, as no one can see this door but my snakes and myself. You'll always be safe and sound here with me."
He thought he heard the faintest vibration in response, and decided to pretend that it was just her shouting out her appreciation for him.
The next day he attempted visiting with her; she had nothing left to throw at him, and spent the entire time huddled on the bed giving him the most venomous glare possible, but at least she didn't try to attack him. He felt saddened seeing her tear-stained face and disheveled hair, and ordered his snakes to bring her a comb and mirror, but this just resulted in her starting to scream again and he had to hurry up and exit, closing the door behind him so the noises couldn't be heard. She did manage to yell out a few choice epithets before he did so, however, and he went to bed alone and sighing, again wondering if more poppy would be a good idea. But what fun would she be drugged out of her mind all the time...? She certainly was taking her time settling down. How could they ever get married if she'd never stop screaming?
The day after this, he received a very odd visitor in the wolf god Khenti Amenti, who bobbed his head to the ground and wagged his tail and asked if he could come in for a visit. Apesh was immediately suspicious--Khenti Amenti had never been interested in visiting with him before--but let him in, to show his goodwill. He ground his teeth as the wolf chattered and chattered away like mad, wandering the palace hallways obliviously and commenting on anything and everything. Despite wishing to spend more time getting to know Selket, Apesh didn't care much for conversation, and Khenti Amenti's onesided dialogue was seriously grating on his nerves. Still, he tolerated it, if it meant allaying anyone's suspicions that something was up.
"...Of course, his floor is much shinier, and visitors are thus much more inclined to go sliding about like stones skipping over water, only not nearly as gracefully," Khenti Amenti was blathering. "Oh! Another point is that with such a floor, it can be quite an embarrassment to the lady visitors, seeing as it's just like walking across a giant mirror all the time! Not that I'm given to such vulgar behavior, mind you, but some other gods certainly are!"
"I wouldn't doubt that Sokar would be one of them," Apesh muttered at last, hoping this visit would be over with soon.
Khenti let out a bark of a laugh. "I wouldn't know, in truth! But who can tell? I notice your floors aren't nearly so shiny, so perhaps the ladies would be much more at home traversing your halls!" Apesh stiffened, ready to insist that no ladies had been here any time recently, but the wolf went on before he could speak. "Not that you would have much time for such frivolous things! I'm betting a busy god such as yourself has much more important things to do than entertain visitors--which is why I'm so glad you allowed me in! You see, I told myself just the other day, 'Khenti, wouldn't it be nice if you got out and got to know your fellow neteru better?' 'Well, Khenti,' I told myself, 'that sounds like a grand idea befitting a god of your genius.' 'Why, thank you, my good sir,' I replied to myself. 'Now who shall I visit first?' 'Oh, I suppose we start alphabetically,' I thought to myself, 'and that way I won't get myself all confused.' And seeing as 'Apesh' is so high up in the alphabet, I thought, why not visit with you first off? And so here I am, to give my greetings and get to know my fellow neteru better."
"I can think of many others whose names come before mine!" Apesh exclaimed with a frown.
"Well, of course," Khenti replied smoothly, rolling his eyes, "but I already know them fairly well! You, on the other hand, are a great mystery to me! And so here I am, to learn all I can...what a lovely palace you have...so dark and dreary and most befitting of a god such as yourself!" He put his nose to the floor and started sniffing. "I can practically smell the murk and dankness! How do you do it?"
"Well..." Apesh said, flustered.
"Ah! I'm betting you use some sort of powerful heka to keep this household so dark and dreary all the time," Khenti Amenti exclaimed. He turned down the hall which contained the hidden room, and Apesh began to sweat, hurrying to keep up with him. "Take a look at this! I bet you don't even use half these rooms, am I right--? Of course! That's how gods such as yourself maintain your brooding image. Rule number one of being a dark god--always have plenty of empty rooms of no use in your household." Apesh began gnawing on his lip when the wolf halted right before the doorway of the hidden room, sniffed a bit, then moved on; only when they'd reached the end of the hall, the wolf apparently having no interest in anything there, did he let out his breath in relief. The door had been right in front of him and he hadn't even seen it! "Actually, I just came up with that--but feel free to use it! I have plenty more."
"Actually, Lord..." Apesh hastened to pace beside the sniffing wolf. "I was rather busy and had some things I needed to take care of..."
"Ah! Say no more--didn't I just say you must be terribly preoccupied?" Khenti Amenti bobbed his head again, ostrich feather waving. "Very well! I'll be on my way. Thank you SO much for letting me browse your exquisite home! Now I believe I have--oh--six hundred and seventy-three more to go." He let out a gusty sigh. "There are just SO many of us neteru! Have a grand day, Lord, and enjoy your wonderfully dreary house."
Apesh stood in the entryway and watched as the wolf trotted off, whistling to himself the entire way. He let out his breath again and rubbed his head. This was getting a little tiring.
That night, he was able to sit in Selket's room without her screaming or attacking him, though they sat at opposite ends, and of course the conversation was nonexistent. Oh well. At least he got to gaze at her beautiful, if extremely beyond irritated, face.
"You would look much prettier if you stopped glaring," he commented, but forced himself to leave before she could start screaming again, which she looked about ready to do.
He paced in his quarters later that night. "What do I have to do?" he asked himself in despair. "She's been here several days so far and it's as if it's the first day. She treats me like I'm that awful Sokar himself! Why won't she open up to me? Talk to me? Let me be with her? I've done EVERYTHING to make this place as perfect as I can for her--why won't she accept it? How long will this honestly take...?"
He threw himself down on his bed and sighed mournfully. Perhaps if he managed to distract Hathor, he could steal one of her arrows, and make Selket love him. As soon as he thought this, he grimaced--she ALREADY loved him, she had to!--but as he drifted off to sleep, he imagined her lying beside him, and the thought of using trickery yet again became a more appealing one...
He spent the next day planning to himself how best to distract Hathor and snatch an arrow of hers, then set out later that night for the palace of Ra to try to find her. The best way to distract her, he concluded, would be to apologize for the antagonism between them. It left a bitter taste in his throat, but if it would make Selket yield to him...he steeled himself as he walked, holding his head high. He could sacrifice his pride for Selket. It was the least he could do. Hathor would be so surprised, she would let down her guard, and her arrows would be as good as his...
He had to pace around the courtyard in the palace of Celestial Iunu for a good half hour or so before a sunhawk asked him what he was doing there, and he stated that he'd come to speak with Lady Hathor. The bird gave him a look that said it thought he must be crazy, but escorted him inside anyway. Apesh was left on his own, seeking her whereabouts until he located her quarters and reluctantly knocked at the door, which stood half open. Understandably, she was surprised to see him, and frowned at first, but when she saw the meek look on his face she waved her servant girls away and gestured at him to enter. One servant girl remained, holding up a mirror which the goddess stared into as she applied her makeup. Everything about her looked pristine and perfect, but compared to Selket, Apesh believed she looked like a cow.
"And what is someone like you doing here...?" she murmured, applying rouge to her lips. "I'd think you'd feel more at home underneath a rock somewhere."
"Actually, Goddess," Apesh said, biting down his hatred, "I came to seek forgiveness, for the shoddy way in which I've spoken to you in the past."
"Oh?" She sat back in her chair and pursed her lips at him. Her eyes narrowed. "And why would a reptile like you be seeking forgiveness now...?"
Apesh made certain to look her in the eye when she was speaking to him, but whenever she glanced back at her mirror his eyes were roving the room, seeking her quiver. He spotted it leaning against a chest at the other side of the room. "I was simply thinking to myself," he said, keeping his eyes upon it while she patted at her cheeks, "that, as Lady Selket's elder sister, surely you deserve at least as much respect as she herself does. I feel beside myself having insulted you so, Goddess, and wondered if you could find it in your heart to forgive me."
"Hm," Hathor said, examining her eyes. She selected a container of kohl. "I would find you amusing, if I didn't already find you so pathetic. I hardly need your apologies; in fact, when you insult me it just reminds me of how grand I must be compared to you."
Apesh imagined himself tearing off her horns and impaling her with them. He forced a sugary smile. "Well...even though that may be so...my heart still feels heavy with the insult I've placed upon you, and I truly wish to seek your forgiveness..."
He saw her roll her eyes and make a face. "Oh, Apis's hooves! Go on already! I have better things to do than listen to you grovel." She leaned close to the mirror, waving at her servant girl to help her with her makeup; Apesh saw his chance, and hastened over to grasp a golden arrow and pull it out. He hurriedly slipped it in the back of his girdle, careful not to pierce himself, and resumed his place just behind her. "Besides," she said, not even having noticed his actions, "I figured you would be busily guarding your fortress from invaders today!"
Apesh furrowed his brow. "Whyever would I be doing that...?"
"Because you obviously snatched my dear sister and secreted her away somewhere in there," Hathor replied, now drawing kohl rings around her eyes. "Everybody's been talking about it."
Apesh put on his best innocent look, not feeling perturbed in the least. "Why would they think such things, Goddess? Lord Sokar has come to my household twice to seek your sister, and found nothing. He can even go and look through it again right now if he wishes, I shan't stop him..."
Hathor snorted. "As a matter of fact I think that's what he was already planning to do." When Apesh cocked his head she turned to look at him, eyebrow arching. "You mean you didn't know? Khenti Amenti told me."
Khenti Amenti...? Why did Apesh suddenly feel so uneasy, like he was being left out of something? "What would that old wolf know about anything?" he asked, confused.
Now she looked genuinely surprised. "You honestly don't know--?" When he just shook his head her mouth started twitching. "That dog tells me everything! He said he stopped by your household and sniffed about on Lord Sokar's orders. Sokar may chase after the women a bit much, but he's not stupid. He knows you've got her in there somewhere. I heard them talking when Khenti came back and he filled me in later. Apparently Sokar convinced him to go in and sniff her out, and now they're on their way there to set her loose." Her mouth finally twisted up into an ugly sneer. "And take a look, here you are chattering away with me!"
All of the blood drained from Apesh's face and he could hear a roaring noise in his ears. Suddenly everything made sense--why else would that mutt pay him a visit?--why else would Sokar give up so easily?--and as Hathor's words at last sank in, he sucked in a shaky breath, eyes starting to goggle. Hathor looked ready to start laughing; instead she turned back to her mirror and began brushing her hair.
"And that look on your face says everything," she said, but her voice was just a dim echo to him and he barely took notice of it. "You should really have just stayed under your little rock, Reptile."
Apesh whirled away from her without another word. Before his brain could even command them, his feet were carrying him toward the doorway, and he went sprinting back up the hall faster than he normally would have thought possible. The wind tore at his clothes but he didn't notice; even the chattering of the sunhawks and occasional servants went unheeded as he sped past them. His feet flew and everything was a blur but he couldn't seem to run fast enough.
My Lady! My Selket!!
I took every precaution to make her mine! How could I be so BLIND--?
It felt like ages, just racing back to his palace, and for once he lamented that it was so far from the palace of the sun. He lamented that it was so dark and suddenly he couldn't see well enough. He dashed in his own entryway and finally slowed down to glance around himself wildly, gasping for breath, lungs burning. None of his snakes were about. He couldn't see anybody. Was anybody even here yet--?
Perhaps--perhaps I got here first!
Daring to feel a sliver of hope, he continued his run, toward the hidden room near the back of the household. His sandals pounded against the floor like his heart thudding in his chest as he neared the doorway, and his spirits rose a tiny bit when he saw that it was still shut. There was no sign of Khenti Amenti, no sign of Sokar, and when he halted and peered, panting, at the seal, it looked like it was still intact. He let out a breath, then started laughing, the noise starting out weak and thin and then growing into a hysterical cackle. He clasped his hands together and spun around, his laughter echoing throughout the halls. Then he halted and yelled at the ceiling as if Sokar himself were there--"I BEAT YOU, YOU STUPID OLD BUZZARD! SELKET IS MINE!!"
Still giggling gleefully, he reached out and snatched open the door, striding inside.
He halted immediately and his laughter died in his throat, a confused frown replacing it.
The room seemed empty. Selket wasn't anywhere in sight.
Apesh's brow furrowed. "Goddess...?" he said hesitantly, peering at the bed, the chests, the corners of the room. He took a step forward. "Where are you hiding, lovely Goddess...?" he inquired, and his smile began to return. "I know you're here...you shy sweet thing! Did you hear that brute poking around outside pretending to find you? Need I tell you that he never will? I'll just take you to another safer place where we can be alone forever! How does that sound, sweet Lady?" He stooped to lift up the edge of the sheets and peer under the bed, seeing only cosmetics chests. "Hm, pretty Selket? Why don't you come out now that I've beaten that buzzard who dares to call you his--?"
"I think perhaps you have that the wrong way around, Reptile."
Apesh's spine stiffened, and again he felt his blood go as cold as the river. His hands, still holding the sheets, began quaking as he recognized the voice; he slowly lifted his head, and turned to peer over his shoulder. His eyes grew as wide as moons. He couldn't be seeing what he was seeing.
Sokar stood right behind the door, arms crossed, staring at him with those glowering red eyes of his, as if he'd been there all along. With a sick feeling squirming in the pit of his stomach, Apesh realized that he had.
"You should be more sparing with visitors," Sokar advised, uncrossing his arms and starting to cross the room toward him. Apesh shakily got to his feet and turned to face him. "Even a piddling mongrel like that wolf can sniff out a goddess, no matter how well you might think you have her hidden. And it was small work to ask Lord Thoth to provide me with a counterspell to let her out, considering that you stole the spell from him in the first place."
"B...but...the seal..." Apesh stammered, inching back.
Sokar's nostrils flared. "And just as easy to set it up again as soon as I entered the room. You wonder where your lovely Selket is? Far away from here, in Lord Khenti's company. I assume she'll be having a nice long talk with her father about how naughty you've been. As much as I dislike him, I do believe I'll be greatly amused by what God Ra decides to do this time." He halted just as Apesh bumped into the wall, having nowhere else to turn. "Though he might not have to do very much, considering this was the reason why I decided to linger behind. I believe I promised you you'd regret it if you touched her again."
Apesh began shaking so hard that he could barely control his arms, and had to clasp them to keep from flailing them. He chattered wildly as if the room had just frozen over. "L-L-Lord S-Sokar...I m-meant no h-h-harm by it, I s-swear by Maat! I only w-wished to sh-show her my l-love for her! S-s-surely you understand--?"
The hawk god's eyes narrowed to red slits. "Lady Selket was composed enough to inform me of how you presumed to lay hands on her when she clearly didn't wish it, and how you likely would have gone further if she didn't possess such lovely fingernails. I am only fulfilling the duties that she requested me to." The air around him seemed to take on an ominous charge. "I believe you just said you'd beaten me, and I informed you you'd gotten that wrong."
Apesh quailed. An instant later, Sokar's hand was around his throat. Apesh had enough time to let out a wheezing gasp before he was sailing through the air, legs flailing, and then crashing into the chests at the other side of the room. He landed hard on his elbows and winced, shaking his head, only to gasp again when the other god's foot connected with his jaw, sending him sprawling. Wood splintered around him, gouging his arms; he lay there dazed for a moment, blinking a drop of blood from his eye. His vision blurred over, then cleared, and he saw Sokar striding toward him, his face as neutral as ever, but an unsettling glow surrounding him as he moved. Apesh squeaked and began scrabbling at the boxes, trying to get to his feet.
"L-Lord Sokar!! I meant no offense to her--aaghkk!!"
Fingers wrapped around his neck again and Sokar lifted him from the floor, as effortlessly as if he were a kitten. Without a word he threw him so he slammed into the wall and crumpled in a messy heap at the bottom. He made the mistake of lifting his head again, and within seconds was being pummeled, first with one fist, then another, then an elbow to his stomach, then a kick to his jaw. The whole time Sokar kept that same impassive yet mildly annoyed look, as if he found this task exasperating, and didn't say a word, which for some reason Apesh found even more threatening than if he had been screaming obscenities. Every time he could open his bleeding mouth to speak, he begged to be heard, vowing that he'd never meant Selket any harm--he could never harm the one he loved so--he'd only ever wanted to make her happy, the only way he knew how--surely he would understand?--but it was as if his words hadn't been spoken at all. Sokar made quick work of him, kicking or punching or throttling him every time he managed to weakly pull himself up, tossing him into what was left of the room's furnishings every time he tried to speak again. It wasn't long before Apesh simply couldn't move whatsoever anymore, and Sokar tossed him one more time so he crashed into the canopy of the bed before landing on its mattress with a thud. His leg slid off the bed, his face pressed against the pillows that he'd dreamed he and Selket would awaken upon some morning soon. All he could do now was drool blood and saliva onto them, his eyes glazed.
Sokar didn't come after him another time. The hawk god dusted off his hands and himself as if Apesh had been incredibly filthy, and let out a light snort as if the room smelled bad. "The Lady Selket will be returning to my palace once this affair is cleared up with God Ra," he said almost boredly. "And if you even think of attempting such a thing again, what God Ra will do to you will make this look like a dinner party." He turned and held up a hand so the door opened, breaking the spell. "Perhaps you'd best stay under this rock where you belong, and leave the real neteru alone."
He stepped out of the doorway and within seconds was gone. Apesh dazedly listened to his footsteps echoing away down the hall until the palace was left in silence. He had brief thoughts of trying to push himself up and perhaps seek medical attention, then thought better of it and just went limp where he lay. He'd made this bed to be as comfortable as possible for Lady Selket and himself...well...for now he could just be comfortable in it alone.
"All...I wanted..." he managed to murmur weakly, eyes glazing again and blood dripping from his mouth, "wath...to make...her happy." And then even that thought became too much for his addled brain to work its way around, and Apesh's eyes fluttered shut as he allowed himself to peacefully pass out in the room he had so lovingly prepared for his Lady Selket.
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