He found there was nothing more exasperating than being a god, and seeing all the mortals just not understanding him. After all, Amun's form, his true form, was known only to Amun, and they seemed to have no trouble with that. But somehow, Wesir was stuck with a priesthood who seemed unable to listen to their god when he spoke to them.
It wasn't as if Wesir hadn't tried. Sure, he was a god of fertility in this tiny region, the god who allowed the crops to live or die, but somehow, he hadn't managed to get across to his priests that he didn't want them to keep referring to him as a goddess. "I'm not a woman,' he would whisper to his high priests when they opened the naos at dawn, but they would not listen. For some reason unknown to him, they had managed to completely misunderstand him when he'd said that it was his body that gave birth to the seeds. In retrospect, perhaps his choice of words might not have been wise, and perhaps he would have been better with a less poetic and metaphorical description. Instead, they had decided that the only way to make sense of such a thing was to erect statues to him, depicting him as a pregnant woman.
He sighed, and praised Ma'at that he only had any power in this tiny little region. Still, it was beginning to get to him, particularly since no one seemed able to recognise him unless he conformed to his statues. To deal with it, he had begun adopting that image, since it was all they recognised, and tried his best to not abandon them out of spite. He did still care about them; he had several temples and an active priesthood in several towns. It did no good to turn your back on that.
He had visited other temples in other regions in the past, but the other gods there just laughed at him, since he looked like Haapi, with his pendulous breasts and rounded belly. Wesir decided obscurity might be better for him. But that was before he met Aset.
Aset was the child of Geb and Nut, the earth and the sky, and Wesir first saw her as a great kite, soaring across the sky. She was a royal goddess, granddaughter of Ra, and held in high esteem in Ra's court. Wesir, as an obscure agricultural god with an identity crisis, had never been to Ra's court. But somehow, she noticed him, flying through the air as she was, and flew down to him.
She exuded all the power of Ra as she landed and walked towards him. She was the most beautiful goddess he'd ever seen. He bowed to her and stood aside, in case she wanted to pass.
"What brings you to my humble abode, my Lady?" Wesir asked.
She observed him and touched his cheek. "You are the strange one the others laugh at, are you not? The lady who is not a lady?"
"Yes, my Lady, that is who I am."
She considered him. "I think I can help you."
"How can you help me, my Lady?"
"I am a goddess of transformation. Tell me your desire, and it shall be yours," Aset said.
Wesir thought. He gazed down at his indecisive body. He did look like Haapi. His blue skin and pregnant body mirrored the river god's, though Haapi did not seem to care about it as much as Wesir did.
"I do not wish to look like this, my Lady. I do not wish to see my temples filled with the wrong images. I want them to know I am a god, full of virile power. I do not give birth to the seeds as a woman does, but like a man. Can your transformative powers do that, my Lady?" Wesir asked.
She smiled and took his hand. "I can make you a king, my Lord."
Wesir didn't particularly believe her, but wasn't about to say anything. She folded her huge wings around him, and they were in darkness. They had entered the Unseen world, the world of the gods and spirits. Wesir knew it well enough, but it always overwhelmed him. He was a small regional god, after all. There were beings here whose powers far surpassed his own.
Aset led him to Khnum's workshop. Khnum wasn't there, but Aset didn't seem to care. She took some clay, and sat at his potter's wheel, and began to work. Wesir crept close, watching as she formed the small figure of a man in her hands.
"Come, my Lord, and bring yourself to life," Aset said, gesturing him over.
Wesir had to smile at the small figure. It was naked, but she offered him some clay, and together, they finished the small figure so it was a reflection of what Wesir really felt he was. He had kept his crown, because it was part of his identity, but now he was dressed like a king, his body masculine and strong, the picture of male virility.
"And now what do we do with it, my Lady?" Wesir asked, now that it was done.
"We bring it to life," Aset said.
She brought the figure to her lips and breathed into its nostrils. With a fingernail, she opened its mouth. She opened its eyes and gave life to its body. As she did so, Wesir watched his body transform, turning him into the figure he felt he really was. He felt a surge of power through him, followed by a deep sense of peace.
"There you are. Now you are a king. I hope this is pleasing to you, my Lord," Aset said.
Wesir smiled. "It is, my Lady. I thank you for this gift. Will it make my priests understand me? Will they stop making the wrong statues?"
"That is down to you, my Lord. I can only do so much. But I will come with you, and help you be clear in your speech. Perhaps my magic will assist you with this," Aset said.
Wesir didn't look disappointed. If it allowed him to spend more time with Aset, then he would gratefully accept her help.
They returned to his lands, and began their work. Wesir did actually like his priests, even if they didn't always understand him. They were only humans, after all. Still, it did take a long time before he began to get through to them. Three years of visiting every temple, and talking to every priest, three years of trying to get through to anyone who was sensitive to the voices of the gods, and finally, a new temple in a new town erected a correct statue. They used a different name for him, but it was still him. He could recognise himself in the statues and reliefs in the temple, and in the hymns they sang to him. It was the beginning of the expansion of his worship into new regions.
Much had changed with Aset, too. The time they had spent together had ended in marriage, and Wesir felt his fortunes were finally changing. Still, there were some in Ra's court who taunted him, and wouldn't let him forget he was a pretender from an unimportant region, a goddess striving for power where she didn't belong. Some felt him deceptive and untrustworthy, and it was only his bond to Aset that kept it from getting much worse.
Aset was destined for the throne, once Ra was done with his kingship. The trials of ruling humans was difficult, but gods could be much worse. Ra was growing old, too. There were always whispers of when Aset would seize the throne, rather than wait for him to give it to her. Aset never gave them any credence, but Wesir knew she did sometimes consider it. She had great power, and her magic was almost unsurpassed by anyone else. Still, Wesir didn't speak of it. He had no desire to get involved in court politics, particularly not when he had enemies of his own.
Ra's sudden illness, then, came as quite a shock to everyone. He had been bitten by magical snake, or so he'd claimed, and no medicine could heal him. He was brought back to the palace, and laid in his bed, slowly growing ever weaker. Everyone was worried. Wesir felt he might have gone to sit with him, but the guards didn't trust him, and sent him away. Not even Aset's word helped.
Wesir had found his own peace in the gardens outside. While the palace was in chaotic mourning, he sat in a palm grove by a small lake. His worship as Aset's consort had spread far across the land, and a god could never be quite upset at that. No, the people had come to accept him as a god, and he was no longer depicted as a woman except in a few isolated temples. It was the gods who still didn't accept it, and it bothered him. He was an important god now, not an obscure provincial god with no real power. Aset gave him power now, but until he was a friend of everyone at court, he didn't think he could ever really wield it in peace.
And then, before he could even retaliate, he felt himself plunged into the lake, the water pulling him under and filling his lungs. And after that, there was just darkness and the chilling cold.
He sat in a small cave somewhere in the Duat for a long time. He could see out to the palace through a small pool on the ground, but he could not reach it. He saw no one around except Aset, who reached into the water in vain, trying to find him. Wesir had some understanding of human death, and the death of animals and livestock and crops, but this felt different. Or perhaps the death of a god was just that different. Death seemed a strange sensation.
Spirits sometimes appeared, but they didn't recognise him. Perhaps they just didn't see him.
Days passed. Perhaps months. The vision of Ra's court vanished, and he was left alone without knowing what to do. In the darkness, he began to lose sense of himself. Perhaps he was that obscure agricultural goddess after all, rather than the consort of Aset who had just been thrown into a lake by his enemies who wanted him out of the way. The pretender, the deceiver, the liar. 'Perhaps that's all he was.
Sometimes, he lay down on the rocky ground and gazed into the darkness, trying to make sense of the thoughts in his head. His powers had left him, and he lay, inert, without life to save him. Without power, he had nothing. He had been stripped down to nothing. He was now nothing more than a shell, the husk of a dying head of barley, with nothing by his ren, his name, and his ib, his heart. There seemed to be no way out, and even if he did get out, he had no magic to pass safely through the spirits that guarded the place he was in.
He didn't think any god had ever been down here before, not like that. Eventually, the spirit of a dead cow, sacrificed to another god, found him, and sat down beside him. The cow did nothing but be with him. Animal spirits were generally free to roam the worlds of the Duat, particularly if they had been offered to the gods.
You are not a bull spirit, the cow commented.
I am a god, Wesir answered.
Gods do not live in the world of the dead, the cow said.
Then I will be the first, Wesir said.
The cow spoke no further. Wesir didn't mind. It was a cow, after all. That it could conceive of a god and where it was seemed enough for him.
After that, when the cow had become bored and wandered off, Wesir stood, and began to walk, wanting to explore the place he had been forced to live in. The animal spirits he met seemed to like him, and some even remembered being offered to him. They bore his mark on their forehead, and he smiled, touching them gently in recognition.
They showed him the way to the fields, where it was perpetually summer, and the crops almost ready to harvest. It made a change from the darkness, and Wesir loved walking through the fields, taking pleasure in touching the grasses that had once fallen under his domain. He had once given them their power to grow and feed the people. But now he wandered the Duat, with animal spirits by his side, bereft of any power at all.
The head of a jackal turned to see him, and Wesir recognised another god. Yinepu finished tending to the human spirits working the crops and came over to him, confused at his presence there.
"You are meant to be at Ra's court. What are you doing here in the fields?" the jackal asked.
"I was killed and sent here by gods who didn't like me. Ra was too ill to intervene. I am sure it was his dominance as king that stopped them before, but they made sure he was out of the way so they could get to me. I am not sure what to do now. Where does a god go when he dies?" Wesir said.
"I think only you know the answer to that now, my friend. Aset has been searching for you for years. She took the throne for herself once Ra surrendered it to her, and has done nothing else since. Ra knew he was too old, so he returned to the sky. But always Aset searches for you. Would you like to see her again? I can bring you to her," Yinepu said.
"I would like that very much, my Lord. I have no power here to pass the spirits or I would have found my way back by now. I am in need of your guidance," Wesir said.
"Ahh, so that is what happens to the powers of a god when he dies. How interesting. I will have to make note of that for later. I have always wondered about that," Yinepu said to himself. He then took Wesir's hand, and began to lead him out of the Duat.
They passed many gates, and many dangers. but Yinepu kept him safe. But the life he thought he had in the Duat left him once they arrived at Ra's court, and it was Yinepu who carried Wesir's body to the queen with a heavy heart. Aset was with him almost immediately, holding her love close. That his body still resembled that of Haapi's distressed her. All her transformative magic had been for nothing.
"Where did you find him, Yinepu? What has happened to my love?" Aset cried.
"He was killed, my Queen. I found him wandering the Duat. He is as helpless as a dead human child. I do not know if life can ever be returned to him," Yinepu said.
"Ra's power can do it, I know it can," Aset said, certain it was the only way.
"But he no longer lives down here my Queen-"
Aset interrupted him. "Then you had better go get him. I will not leave him! Go, find my grandfather. I will not tolerate this injustice."
Yinepu bowed and left her alone. Aset had never felt so dead herself, seeing her love lying in her arms, bereft of life. She tried to breathe life into him with her wings, but she was too upset to work the magic properly. Instead, she tenderly picked him up and rested him on the floor in front of the throne. It meant nothing now that she was without him. And the others would have to see him like that, stripped back to where he'd come from. Already, she could see his body becoming less like Haapi's and more like a woman's. The god she loved was disappearing before her eyes, and she knew that had been the point of it all. Wesir had done nothing to deserve this sort of erasure.
Ra found her wrapping Wesir's body in sheets of linen to hide his body from the other gods. Aset whispered all the spells she knew to preserve his body, but she wasn't sure they would work. Only Ra had the power to bring him back to life. Only he could punish the ones who had done this.
Ra sat down beside them, and touched Wesir's still head. He understood why he had been called. "What happened?"
"You were taken ill, my Lord, and you could not stop them killing him. You knew he had enemies here, my Lord, but even I did not think they would plot to do something like this. He has done nothing to offend them, my Lord. I demand justice for him. I will not stand for this," Aset said.
Ra closed his eyes and things became clear. Aset had proved to have the power necessary to cure her grandfather of the poison, but it had left him scarred and weak. He had given Aset his blessing to rule in his place, and ascended into the sky.
"Give him life, my Lord. Give him life, so he might tell his story," Aset said softly. "His heart must speak true, and give voice to what has been done to him."
Ra didn't take long to agree. Summoning his great power, he breathed life back into Wesir's body. He prised open his mouth, he opened his eyes, he made his body live once more.
That first inhalation of life shocked him. Wesir found himself suddenly pulled back into life, into his body, and he sat up, seeing Aset and Ra by his side.
"My love, what - what happened to me?" Wesir said, his voice soft and raw.
Aset hugged him gently and kissed him. "You were killed, my love. I have been searching the Two Lands for you, and now I have found you, and I have brought you back. Ra has given you life. Speak, now, so we might bring you justice for what has happened to you."
"All I remember is being pulled into the lake in the garden. I know nothing of who attacked me. Then I was left in the Duat, with no power to free myself until Yinepu came. I thought myself lost and abandoned. That is all I know," Wesir said.
"Then we had better let Ma'at be the judge of who has done this. My court will be summoned. We shall find the truth," Ra said.
Wesir watched him stand and leave. Aset helped him to his feet, and while still wrapped in linens, she led him to her private chambers to rest, and to find him something to wear.
Wesir found the effort of living again to be tiresome, and he relished the chance to sit down on her bed. Aset sat beside him, and took his hand. They said nothing for a while, not needing to.
"They have turned you into the being you hate," Aset said eventually.
Glancing down at his body, Wesir understood what she meant. He could see the feminine curves of his body and the growing belly as well as she could. He wasn't Aset's consort anymore; he was that obscure agricultural goddess worshipped in a small rural region no one cared about. Even his voice sounded feminine when he spoke.
"Can you change me back, my love?"
Aset shook her head, unsure. "I don't know. Your body is different now. My magic might not work. You are tainted, now, Wesir. Your body is dead. I cannot transform dead flesh. There is no life in it to mould."
"You can breathe life into me, surely you can bring life to my body again. How can I be alive now if I am not yet living?" Wesir said.
"You are a dead god, Wesir. You have been sent to the Duat, where the dead live. You have life, but it is not the same life you once had. If you are to transform again, I fear it may have to come from you. I think it is your power now, to transform the dead," Aset said.
Wesir stood and went to the mirror that stood against a wall. Slowly, he unwrapped the linens and watched his old body appear. It hurt more than the fact that he was dead. There was the image he hated, seeing that round belly full of fertile seed, and his beautiful breasts that nurtured the faithful.
But the very idea that he could transform this ugly flesh himself seemed beyond him at that moment. It seemed beyond him.
Aset came over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "You are mine, my love, no matter what you look like. Come to bed, let me love you again."
Wesir almost said no, but he had missed her touch more than anything else as he'd been trapped in the Duat, and let her lead him to bed. They whispered to each other, and shared their bodies with each other. Wesir still didn't like what he'd been reduced to, but Aset, at least, found ways to make him feel at ease. She shaped a new phallus for him, to make him feel more complete, and he filled her, like they'd done before, like it had always been, sharing life with her as she kept him alive with the breath of her wings.
It was a brief distraction while Ra's court was assembled. As the goddess he had once been, Wesir took his place beside Aset, and he could tell by the expressions on their faces, who was pleased by his fate, and who was sympathetic. Ra stood to address them, and they all fell silent.
"I have summoned you all to right a great injustice done against me, and against my granddaughter Aset and her husband Wesir. It was bad enough that he was killed and reduced to this shell of a body, but to attempt to kill me as well makes me want to send my Eyes amongst you to seek out the guilty parties who would plot against me and my family in such a way. Has that bloody serpent been sowing seeds of its evil plans amongst those in my court? I will find out, I promise you that, and Ma'at will find out, and whovever you are, you shall be exiled so far from the kingdom that you shall dream of these lands that you will never see until the end of time," Ra said.
There were murmurs amongst the crowd. There were plenty of suspects, given that everyone knew who had done their best to ostracise Wesir from court. Ra had decided to start there, and called them up, one by one, to swear that they had nothing to do with it. With Ma'at watching, who compelled their honesty, Aset's brother Set revealed at last that he had done it, and showed no regret for what he had done.
"Have I done nothing to prove I would be a good king, grandfather? And you give it to that goddess? She is not fit to rule, she is no king over me, and she is not good enough for my sister. I was trying to protect the honour of your kingdom, my Lord," Set said in his defence.
"It is my decision what dishonours my kingdom, my Lord, and right now, that is you. Who are you to decide who is fit to rule in my place?" Ra said.
Set bristled at the accusation, and his red fur seemed redder than ever. His eyes narrowed as he spoke. "I am your grandson, your heir, and that goddess is yet another regional goddess known nowhere outside of her small group of villages. Who is she to come here and claim to be king?"
"Wesir is king by right of marriage to Aset. He is well-known throughout the lands now. Even you had your own humble beginnings, as did we all. He has done nothing to you, yet you scorn him and kill him. What does that say about you, and the sort of king you would be? You, who would denigrate the small to make yourself look stronger? There is no glory in killing the weak, the innocent, those who have done nothing to cause such a reaction from you. That is why I chose Aset to rule, because she doesn't try to force her power on those weaker than her. She does not need to order anyone to obey her; they obey her because they respect her. The same cannot be said for you," Ra said.
Set turned, and began to walk away. He glared at Sekhmet, who pushed him away. "You are all fools for bowing to her will. I am the rightful king! Nothing will stand in my way! I will rule, and that goddess' name will be forgotten."
Aset stood. "I am Queen now, Set. Do not do me the dishonour of fighting against me. Get out. Go far, far away to the sandy deserts. If you ever set foot in the Two Lands again, you will be slaughtered, and your bones scattered to the ends of the earth."
Set said nothing at the pronouncement. He glared at his sister one last time before he turned and left. Several gods left with him, and Wesir felt relieved that it was over, for now.
It was only in the silence that followed that Wesir began to appreciate what had happened to him. Leaving the throne room, he walked the gardens again. He didn't think anyone would try to kill him again. He went to the palm grove that had sealed his fate. The water was glassy, and covered with moss. Gently, he pushed it away to reveal the dark water below. It showed him his reflection, broken up by the ripples.
Everything he'd cared about, everything he thought he was, had been stripped away with his death. If that meant it was false, Wesir didn't believe it. It had never been a costume, a disguise, meant to trick anyone. All Wesir had ever tried to do was exist in his true form. But that had been taken from him.
He recalled Aset's words, that perhaps he was only able to transform dead flesh. What would that mean? Would he be able to shed this ugly body, this appearance that wasn't right?
No answer was forthcoming. He would stare into water for years before things began to make sense.
He had done his best to adjust, and be the King Aset wanted him to be, but Set had returned, and had come after them with his allies. Heavy with child, Aset had gone with Wesir, and fled the palace, seeking safety, rather than stay and fight.
Sobek came to their aid, and took them to a secret place. Fading into the Unseen, back into the Duat, Wesir watched from a distance as his son was brought into the world. His son has a presence that he did not have, and he would have to take his throne back for him, to claim what was rightfully his.
Knowing Aset and their son were safe with Sobek, Wesir bid them goodbye, and went back to the Duat, to ponder how to change his body and transform dead flesh.
It became an obsession. He would spend endless time back in that dark cave where he was first sent, staring into the pools of water, trying to understand the new power he was chasing. He had once possessed the generative power of life, but the generative power of death seemed impossible.
Every now and then, he managed to transform his body using heka, magic, to take on a disguise, but it never lasted. He felt he had lost his name, and he didn't know how to find it again.
But, he remembered, he did still possess his name. His ren, and his ib, had not abandoned him. His bau and kau were still somewhat attached to him, but he used them more as messengers and observers, to keep an eye on Aset and his son Heru. But he still had his ren, and his ib. Even a god still needed a ren and an ib, a name and a heart.
It became another obsession. Chasing his ren, to know that name and its secrets, became his goal. He was sure it would unlock the power he needed to transform himself. And, little by little, as he got closer, so his body began to change. The goddess he had once been was slowly being shed, and the King he had become was coming back to life. And when he found the last syllable, when he knew that name more intimately than he knew anything else about him, the transformation exploded all around him.
Wesir felt more alive than he had ever done before he'd died. He suddenly understood why this had happened to him, and the newly awakened powers flooded his body. That he was now male, that he looked like the god he always felt he was, brought him endless peace. He knew, this time, that it would stay. This time, his priests would never mistake him for a goddess. He had taken his life into his own hands, and moulded his own destiny. If he could no longer be Aset's King, then he would be King of the dead, and transform them into living spirits. This would be his kingdom, and there would be no Set to challenge him, not here.
He laughed, darkly, wanting to thank Set for what he'd done, as he began to create his own kingdom in the world of the dead.