The unforgiving winds sweep little lines of sand along the massive dunes of the Wadi. Swaddled in lush robes the color of papryus reeds, a lone figure sits alone, oblivious to the biting cold, her footsteps reaching out into the distance and circumventing the treacherous pits dug by the embalmers along the salt lakes. The embers of her fire have smoldered into ashes but she does not bother to stir them to life for her mind wanders elsewhere, the cold cannot bother her. As the moon begins to relinquish its Lordship over the sky to the Sun, she uncovers her head and loosens the knots in her hair which have held clouds at bay. The hour is come, to lift the veil between worlds and peer through the sands of time.
Isis digs painted hands into the shifting earth, burying them to the wrists and begins to chant in the forgotten tongue of Amun, calling to the Earth; coaxing it to awaken, binding it to her will. The earth shifts and ripples as a desert serpent slithers out of its burrow. It warily raises a sentient head and spreads its magnificent hood. She offers her wrist, as though in penance. A swift strike and deadly venom is injected into her veins. She stumbles as the poison taints her blood; her head swims and her ordered thoughts meld into a kaleidoscope of colors and images. Her grip on the present is loosened and her mind wanders as her hips sway and her hands wave in complicated patterns, complementing music only she hears. Slowly her robes fall away, revealing unblemished alabaster skin as she mimics the dance of the dead. She staggers and slumps into a naked sweaty heap as her breath slows and her serpentine spirit guide crawls onto her belly to guard her vulnerable human form. Her mind’s eye is opened to the secrets hidden in the heavens and the pattern of time set into the stars.
Flashing images. Snatches of sound. Overpowering smells that settle for a second are mysteriously swept away… The revolting feel of vermin crawling against the skin. The metallic taste of freshly spilled blood… The smell of bedchamber sweat. The weight of a throne headdress. Betrayal. A stranger from the stars. Reawakened ancients. Death. Power. Seduction. Usurping. Set. Anubis. Ammit. Darkening of the skies. Deception. NOW!!!
She awakens with a start and espies a growing cloud of blackness hurtling to the barren lands east of where she lay.
It has begun.
Isis snatches up the serpent, which has already begun to slither away and bites into its scaly neck, spits out a chunk of its throat. She dips a finger into the blood and draws sigils on the expanse of skin above the swell of her breasts. The monkey for guile, the desert hawk for speed and the wild cat for strength. Flinging aside the serpent’s bloodied corpse, she breaks into a sprint to the top of the tallest dune from which she dives into the air and transfigures into her avian aspect, soaring into the skies as the ball of blackness crashes into the desert plain in a maelstrom of sand and rain.
Padding through the funeral mounds in the Valley of the Kings, He Who is Atop the Mound surveys his domain and rage wells in him. His elongated snout sniffs the disturbed earth, following the smell of rot and decay, the fragrance of his domain. Where are the lavish feasts in his honor? Where is the reveling with wine and dancing maidens? He is only remembered when there is sorrow and Death. The coward Osiris banished him here, away from the Sun palace, where his presence would grate on Isis, his beloved consort and remind her of her lord’s wandering eye. He feels the geasa that binds the Ammit to this realm and him to it. In his Jackal form he senses the creature trolling the depths of Du’at, the Underworld.. and sometimes the rumblings of something much older and infinitely more malevolent.
A procession of mourners make their way to a freshly dug mound, the professional wailers raising their mournful voices to Nephthys, the treasonous adulteress who bore him. Isis was the one who put him to breast, took him as her own, till the birth of Horus, her heir. Anubis scoffs, in this form it comes out as a cautionary bark. Even in this realm, their prayers are offered to someone else. The group is stopped suddenly when one of them notices a small spot of darkness in the twilight sky, growing like a blot of blood on a sacrificial shroud. Anubis raises his head and yelps when he realizes the enormity of what is happening. What was this? A rogue being powerful enough to cross between worlds? His feral eyes trace the path of the being, it will touch the Earth at the banks of the Nile, south of his mounds, in the realm of the belligerent war general Sobek, god of the Nile. Hesitation grips him. What if it is one of the ancients or worse, a hidden manifestation of the Apep? Could he strike against something of such unbridled power and hope to survive? The mass grows larger, blocking out the rising sun. The mourners stand rooted to the spot, mesmerized by the spectacle, their dead forgotten. It is decided in a heartbeat. He shall take the risk and surpass his title. The ground begins to tremble beneath his paws; the being’s descent is almost over. How shall he get to the Nile? It’s a three cycle run at his fastest, not enough if his is to be the first pair of eyes the being sees. A journey through the Du’at is to be his only path. But a door? There are no passages out, it is after all a mound and the Ka is not always sedate in death. The blood of innocents? A paltry sacrifice for his selfless act.
The five foot tall Jackal pounces on the entranced throng and swipes at them with wicked claws. It massacres them, disemboweling and tearing off limbs till it is drenched in skim and guts and the offering of life-blood has muddied the earth. Using the souls of the freshly slain as a conduit, a door is opened to the afterlife.
The Jackal appeared in a puddle of flesh blood and bones. He shook himself, getting rid of the flecks of gore matting his fur. He took a moment to study his recently appointed seat of power. The hall of the dead never looked better, no matter how long he stayed in the overworld. There was an ornate obsidian throne with a throng of souls milling around in front of it. Dead souls waiting for the lord of the underworld to weigh their hearts and mete judgment. The jackal growled, drawing the attention of the supplicants. He padded to the throne, smirking to himself at the way they all fell away from him. Lying at the foot of the throne sat a beast that dwarfed the jackal ; Its hind legs were leathery and trunk like, its fore legs tawny and muscular with a golden mane where its head met its shoulders. Its massive crocodilian head rested on its paws, both eyes shut and its mouth wide open as if waiting for a hapless soul to float in. The Jackal began to shift, its skin flowed as it rose up on its hind legs and grew in height until he assumed his true form. His head and limbs still resembled those of a jackal but he was humanoid in stature, with skin as dark as the fertile soils of the Nile valley. He wore a white and ash kilt and sported a headdress and cuirass of the finest gold with strips of obsidian worked into them along with golden circlets bearing hieroglyphs on his muscular arms.
‘Rise, Ammit! Wake from your slumber, we have prey to seek.’ he said to the beast. It slowly shut its mouth and pulled open an eyelid to reveal a serpentine eye seething with malevolence.
A deep female voice resonated in his head
‘Where have you been? I grow hungry and am in the mood to devour a thousand hearts.’
Anubis glared at the beast and brought his hand up to the front of his face, slowly closing his claws in a fist and squeezing.
Ammit leapt to her feet and bellowed in pain, shaking the whole hall and causing the gathered souls to flutter around in apprehension.
She growled murderously. “Forget not, bastard cur, that this is my realm and you are an unwelcome sojourner. Your father may have fettered me to your whims but I will free myself and feast on your flesh and gnaw on your bones.”
Anubis grinned, unmoved by the Ammit’s threat.
“Now that I have your attention; come! We must travel quickly if we wish to intercept my quarry before any other.”
He turned and walked towards one of the swirling amorphous masses of impenetrable darkness that hedged the throne room and served as its walls.
He brandished his Was Scepter and began inscribing sigils on the blackness, each symbol flaring brightly and sinking into the wall as he wrote a door into existence, imposing his will on the very fabric of Du’at, The Hall of Truth. A section of the wall in front of him shimmered and grew still, simply looking like the entrance to a particularly dark room.
Ammit came up to him, the difference in height between her fore and hind legs giving her an uneven lumbering gait. He unclasped one of the circlets on his arms and attached it to one of her front legs, whispering an incantation. It slowly faded away from sight along with its twin on his arm. He stepped into the darkness.
The chamber looked like an grandiosely designed throne room. The walls and pillars were all gold-leafed, a scattering of pillows and duvets padding the far end of the room. It was approximately the size of two burial chambers joined together. Fire danced in braziers hanging at intervals along the wall, phantom flames that burnt on nothing and produced no smoke.
The air was rife with the scents of sunlight and sex. Two figures lay entwined on the pillows; bodies heaving, skins slick with evidence of their exertion.
A cloud of darkness materialized in the middle of the room, the flames danced, agitated by the new power building in the room. A dark figure stepped out of the tear in reality accompanied by a beast that measured up to his chest and looked like three animals cruelly torn apart and random parts grotesquely rearranged and sewn together.
From the nest of pillows rose a figure, his body muscled like a human with burnt skin gleaming with a bronze luster. His head was avian and a cold intelligence shone out of beady eyes. The light around him coalesced and twisted till he was wrapped in a cloak of the purest sunlight.
Anubis sniffed at the air and he cocked his head to the side, confused at what he sensed. Shaking his head, he approached the alien figure that seemed to glow with power.
‘I had hoped to be the first to find you, making haste since I saw the signs of your arrival.’
He materialized his armour as he approached the standing figure. golden vambraces on his forearms and razor tipped gauntlets on his hands, hieroglyphs proclaiming him as Lord of the Afterlife floated across the surface of the pieces of armour.
‘It seems you have already been welcomed, though not the welcome I would have thought.’ Anubis continued as he took in Isis, sprawled on the pillows.
She simply looked on impassively although her eyes shone briefly at the open disgust in his voice. She was unused to being disrespected, no less by a lesser god unable to conjure a human face, something even lowly sphinxes managed.
The golden figure stepped out of the pillows a leaf shaped blade in his hand.
“Quell your words young god, events greater than you unfold. Come let us see if you are worthy to bow in my presence.”
Anubis growled deep in his throat, he stretched his hand out to the side and his weapon materialized; a staff with a crescent shaped blade mounted atop of it. He whirled it over his head and charged with a battle roar.
Sparks erupted as blade struck blade, Ra turned to his side avoiding a thrust at his side. Anubis danced on his feet, deftly blocking blow after blow with the shaft of his weapon. Their weapons locked and the two immortals stood eye to eye, each one refusing to back down. Ra whispered a power laden word in a harsh clicking tongue and his blade pulsed, hitting Anubis squarely with a burst of celestial energy.
Anubis landed in a crouch, his weapon clutched in his right hand and his left hand over the spot where the bolt had struck him. He tried to stand but his muscles spasmed and failed him.
Ra looked over his shoulder at the figure that still reclined.
“I must say, if this is all he has to offer then I am very disappointed.”
Isis rose and walked gracefully across the room until she stood behind Ra. Her hands slithered into the folds of his robe and caressed his firm abdomen.
‘An oversight my Lord, he does not battle with you at full strength… He is but a diminished version of himself.’
“What riddle do you speak?” Ra intoned, his avian eyes darting round the prone form of Anubis. “I sense no injuries on him, although something seems to be interfering with his might.”
Isis seemed to contemplate something before she stepped around Ra, staring intently at Anubis.
‘Swear fealty to the Lord of the sky and giver of life Sihk’Eihyul-Ra, and I shall return Wepawet to you. You shall be restored to your full power and unshackled from that beast.’
Anubis looked up sharply at the mention of his war aspect. If Wepawet was returned to him he would be able to challenge Horus and take his rightful place as god of war. He had no interest if someone decided to usurp his self-righteous father. Isis had called this being Lord. That had to count for something. Perhaps he should tread with care.
‘If truly you cause Isis to restore Wepawet to me, I shall bow to you as lord of the sky and giver of life, I shall be your champion. My faculties, fangs and my blade shall not know rest until you are lord of the Sun Palace.’
Isis brought a fist up to her mouth and blew into it, power surged through the room and she opened her fist again, revealing a clear crystal with a pool of darkness in its center. The howls of a tortured wolf could be heard from the crystal, echoes from a long hidden place.
She walked up to where Anubis knelt and offered the crystal to him.
He snatched the crystal from her and stared intently into its depths, drawn in by the subtle mesmer Isis had woven into it. There would be no turning back from this. If he took back his war aspect, it would destroy the terms of allegiance to his father and enter open rebellion against him.
Taking his eyes away from the power crystal, he looked at his father’s wife with a question in his gaze
She locked eyes with him and opened a psychic bond; letting some of her memories bleed through. Guilt, jealousy, anger, revenge. So it was true, he had heard whispers of Nephthys’ continuing trysts with Osiris and disregarded it as gossip. If Isis knew, then Osiris must have turned his favors away from her. It all made sense now, Isis with the musk of another strange god wrapped around her like a shroud. The goddess of magic and foreknowledge had turned her back on the throne, the end had already begun.
‘Very well, let us plunge the pantheon into chaos.’ Anubis smiled as he shattered the crystal against his cuirass.
Ra cawed appreciatively.
The next Installment comes up on Wednesday at 9am 🙂