The Myth of Sekhmet
And so, it came to pass that man had so offended Re with their jibes, mockery, and evil deeds that he called together a tribunal of all the Gods he had created and spoke to them.
“Eldest of the gods, you who made me, and you whom I have made: look upon mankind who came into being at the glance of my Eye. See how men plot against me! Hear what they say of me! Tell me what I should do to them. For I will not destroy them until I have heard what you advise.”
“As they came into being at the glance of your Eye, so to shall you know vengeance by it! Send your Eye against them in the form of Sekhmet!” cried all the other gods and goddesses, bowing before Re until their foreheads touched the ground.
As he plucked out his left eye it took the form of a fierce woman with the head of a lion and she set forth to punish mankind for their transgressions.
Her slaughter continued for many nights and she reveled in it. As mankind called out for mercy, Re’s heart was stirred, but he could not call Sekhmet back for the joy of the hunt had made her bloodthirsty.
As he had once before, Re called forth a tribunal, this time seeking advice on how to reign in his daughter before all of mankind was destroyed. A deep voice spoke from his side, “Leave it unto me”
With but a word 7000 barrels of barley beer was flooded into a field and stained red with the juice of pomegranates. Upon seeing it Sekhment let out a roar of victory for she believed it to be blood and drank herself into a stupor.
Upon waking, her blood-lust sated, her shame fell hard and she hid in a cave. For three days the sun did not rise and men called out once again to Re for mercy.
Re turned to the ebony skinned, ibis-headed god and spoke “You told me to leave it to you. The job is but half done.”
The god bowed saying “It shall be done.” and turned to leave, a sly smile on his face. Once again, he had everything where he wanted it.
The silver-tongued trickster
The numen standing outside the cave mouth managed to look bored and wary at the same time. He stood nearly seven feet tall, had a lean and well-muscled build with ebony skin, and was clad only in a linen kilt bound about his waist. The ibis head on his shoulders was cocked and listening while his eyes stared unblinking, towards the entrance of the cave. He refused to move toward the mouth of the cave. He damn near lost some feathers last time.
“Just how long are you going to sit in there and sulk?” he asked in a droll baritone.
A snarl was the reply.
She’s certainly in a fine mood. He thought, smiling. That hangover must be hell.
Patiently and with measured movements, he sat out a blanket, some dishes of meats and cheeses, and built a small fire. “I’ll be right here. I’ve some food and am making some tea.” he called toward the cave mouth, “Should you wish to join me, I have got a proposition for you.”
The snarl came again, but there was less force behind it and it definitely sounded closer.
He continued, unphased. “You’re really quite impressive you know. Your skill in the martial arenas is second to none.” It was a small lie, he reassured himself, one he hoped she missed. “I think we have other uses for your power. One that will have legions of mankind flocking to follow you, rather than just seeking to placate you.”
His movements were precise. It was the practiced patience of a man who knew how to play cat and mouse with a very dangerous mouse.
A woman, tawny skinned, with a lion’s head and full mane stepped out of the cave. With each step she took the sun rose higher. As she turned her face to the rising sun and squinted, it became apparent her tentative movements were a result of pain rather than trepidation. The lioness was clad in a red leather tunic reinforced with bronze plates that reflected the sun’s golden rays. She returned her gaze to the god before her.
“Speak Djehuti. And pray Setekh did not just hear your transgressions.”
Djehuti looked up and smiled winningly at her. “Ah, my sweet battle-maiden. Do you really think the defender of the sky barque to be so vain he couldn’t admire your prowess? Come. Join me. Surely you’re hungry and I’ve made tea.” As she opened her mouth to speak he raised his hand “I promise, it’s not pomegranate.”
Sekhmet chuckled lightly ignoring the pounding in her skull. She was hungry and likely food and drink would at least ease her suffering. “I don’t think I want to see another pomegranate for a few centuries.” She looked at him and narrowed her eyes into slits. “That was your doing, wasn’t it?”
Djehuti placed his hand over his heart and bowed slightly, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “Ever at your service, m'lady.”
Sekhmet sat down on the blanket with a derisive snort. “You’re at no one’s service but your own Djehuti.”
His expression changed to mock horror. “You wound me! That’s not so! For I’ve served your father twice in three days. It was at his request I” he paused as if considering his next words, “tempered, your enthusiastic spree.” His mischievous smile returned. “And it is at his bequeath that I am here with you now.” He served the tea and reached for his cup, gingerly sipping as if to test it. He nodded to himself in silent approval before looking back at the lioness sitting across from him.
Sekhmet sipped her tea. The warmth spread through her and the tightness in her skull eased. She let out a sigh of relief and appreciation, bowing her head to him in acknowledgment and thanks.
“If I did not know how well you serve and love my father, I would question your motives. But I’m certain you’ve capitalized on this whole thing for your own ends, and amusement. What is your game, baboon?”
He smiled. He had her. Cats were curious after all and he had dangled just enough treats to hook her. This might work after all.
He reached out and served her a small plate of the delicacies that were set out. “What do you think about healing?” Sekhmet’s eyes went wide in surprise. He had her. Hook, line, and sinker.
The warrior stood at the bow of the sky barque, his fist clenched around the spear in his left hand, as he glared back at the serpent dissolving into chaotic coils. Another night, another battle won.
He cut an imposing figure. The embodiment of a desert warrior. Well muscled, fighter build and clad in a linen kilt, eschewing the bronze plate shirts that had become popular, in the name of “challenge”. His head resembled that of a jackal. Eyes, bright and alert scanned for any additional threats while his squared-off ears twitched, listening.
His right shoulder throbbed something fierce. Apep almost did real damage tonight. When he tried to roll his shoulder, pain lanced through it. He grimaced. He’d be fine by nightfall. His nephew needed him.
As he turned, he felt a warm hand on his good shoulder and a gentle voice with an undercurrent of command, “Sit.”
He turned and cocked an eye at the lion-headed goddess who appeared beside him. “Sekhmet! I could have used your help tonight!”
She snorted. “You would have taken it as an affront if I had helped in the battle and I am helping you now. Sit.”
He did as he was told and she saw to his shoulder. Her ministrations were gentle but thorough. It was hard to believe that this was the goddess that once almost obliterated mankind for their transgressions against Re. Over the past few hundred years, she had changed the focus and now waged wars on a much smaller battlefield, that of the body. She was the patron deity of healing, doctors, and caretakers now. The fevers that afflicted the sick were said to be her blessing, her power fighting the demon that was the illness.
“You’ve become quite adept at this healing thing.”
“I ought to have, I’ve worked hard to become so,” she smirked as she finished bandaging up the wound. “It’s one thing to kill a battlefield full of foes indiscriminately. It’s quite another to selectively eliminate only the enemy among the allies.” Sekhmet patted Setekh on the good shoulder. “You’ll be fine in a few hours.”
He recalled it was a conversation with Djehuti that started Sekhmet’s interest in healing. He often wondered what the baboon said to convince The Lady of the Bloodbath to turn her attention away from the battlefield, but she remained tight-lipped. Setekh hadn’t been any luckier trying to pry the information out of Djehuti. The last time he tried, Djehuti challenged him to a poker game with “one piece of information” for each win Setekh could rack up. A fool’s bargain. The last time any god played Djehuti in poker, Re lost and five days were added to the calendar.
Recently, Sekhmet and Djehuti had been seen coming and going together far more frequently and Setekh’s curiosity was just getting unbearable. Today’s deliberate injury was a calculated risk that paid off. Maybe now he could figure out what was going on.
As Sekhmet cleaned up around them, Setekh decided to try his luck.
“Alright. Spill it.” He spoke in a low whisper. “No one is around and you’ve got to tell me what is going on.”
Sekhmet fixed him with a blank stare. “I’m quite certain, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
Setekh snorted. “Like hell. I know you and Djehuti are up to something. I want in or I’ll start another fight with Horus just to get Aset riled up. Your little secret party is bound to get sidelined, at the very least, while you play clean up.”
Sekhmet glared, her eyes narrowed and her voice came out as a growl. “You wouldn’t dare.”
He shrugged with an air of indifference. “Try me. I’m bored and you know how bad that is for business.”
“If you’re so bored, try practicing more. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to patch you up.” she retorted.
He continued to stare, an unreadable expression on his face. She blinked.
“Fine! What if you’re not interested once you learn about it? What if it’s boring?” she asked unable to keep the exasperation from coloring her voice
Setekh shrugged, “Then I’ll leave.”
Sekhment sighed and mumbled under her breath. “You’re nothing but trouble.”
Sekhmet and Setekh walked into the pavilion Djehuti enjoyed so much. The walkway, roof, and pillars were cream marble. Low divans, thick rugs and mountains of pillows in rich, deep jewel tones served as decoration. The whole pavilion screamed of elegance and indulgence. In the center, there was a round table with food and tea set out.
Djehuti looked up as they approached and managed to hide a chuckle. Setekh looked so out of place. “Once a warrior…” He let the thought trail off. The bandage was new. Djehuti wondered if Apep had gotten that good, or if something was troubling the god of storms and thunder.
As they moved forward Sekhmet looked resigned and Setekh’s ears were twitching, listening for threats.
A sweet breeze blew through the pavilion and Djehuti narrowed his eyes. This was unexpected. He sighed. Play the cards you’re dealt. His little project was about to become quite the chimera.
Sekhmet’s voice broke his reverie. “Why do you have this place? Man reveres you as the god of knowledge and scribes. They place you in learned halls and music chambers. This is,” she paused looking at the blatant extravagance, “neither.”
“It amuses me,” Djehuti answered simply. “It need not make sense. It need only serve a purpose. This one serves as my amusement. Come. Sit. Tea is ready.”
She walked forward and gestured with a thumb over her shoulder. “His royal highness, the troublemaker, insisted on coming.”
“Oh absolutely. Though I did wonder what took him so long.” Djehuti replied, pouring the tea.
Setekh scratched his head, looked at the floor and started stammering. “Well, it was tough finding a minute where Sekhmet could feel like she could talk, and then I had to find the perfect counter threat because I knew that she wouldn’t tell me out...” he paused a stunned expression crossing his features, “Hey! Wait a minute! You expected me?”
“Of course.” Djehuti lied smoothly “Although, you would do well to remember that calling on another god also alerts them to your conversation. While you’re unmatched on the battlefield Setekh, you’re no match for the Mistress of Magic in a battle of wits.”
Djehuti glanced at one of the large pillars around the pavilion. “Come in Aset, eavesdropping is rude. We require your help as well.”
Setekh ’s shoulders tensed as he turned to watch the woman step from behind the pillar. Her royal bearing was evident in the way she carried herself. Her linen tunic was elegantly pleated and embroidered and the cloak about her shoulders resembled brightly colored feathers. Her ebony hair fell in braids to her shoulders. When she spoke, her voice carried with it a great tenderness and wisdom.
“Well, well, well, if the players aren’t all assembled. This is quite the motley crew you have brought together Djehuti. What are you up to?”
Looking back at Setekh, Djehuti grumbled. “It’s a good thing you didn’t call the arbiter of the gods. We’d be in a real pickle then.”
As the four gathered around the table, Djehuti started “Let me tell you about our little project….”
“You can’t be serious!” Aset’s eyes went wide in disbelief as the four of them sat planning.
Djehuti’s deadpan stare betrayed nothing.
Her expression was incredulous “In the name of..” Djehuti held up a hand quickly cutting her off. “Don’t. Just don’t.” He took a breath and let the silence settle before he continued. “I am quite serious. And please, it’s tough enough getting things going with four of us working. If we start adding more medd…” he coughed softly “interested parties, we won’t make any progress.”
“But to what end, Djehuti? For what purpose? One does not just take an interest in a mortal, nay, what you are suggesting is more taking a hand in their creation, without a purpose!” Aset demanded. “Doing it ‘for amusement’ is irresponsible and nigh on reprehensible. We will have a responsibility for this entity. We cannot just create and release. What it does, it does in our name, in our image!”
“Djehuti, I know you are not one to embark on this sort of thing without a plan,” Setekh spoke calmly attempting to reason with the elder god. “You don’t get out of bed without a plan, but you need to help us understand that plan. Aset is right. Doing this means we are bestowing this thing …”
“Girl” Djehuti’s low voice cut in.
Setekh’s eyes went wide, his mouth opened and closed a few times before sound found its way out again “I’m sorry?”
Djehuti sighed. “Not 'entity’ or "thing”. It will be a girl. A human girl.“
Setekh rolled his eyes. "Seriously Djehuti? A girl?” Sekhmet chuckled earning her a glare from both Setekh and Aset.
“Look,” Sekhmet cut in, “we all know that Djehuti wouldn’t do something like this without a plan. We don’t exactly know what this plan is, but if he’s gotten invested enough to ask us to help, this is not something fleeting. If he’s planning on actually creating something, we’re looking at centuries before it comes to fruition. That’s how he works.” She turned from Aset and Setekh to look at Djehuti before continuing. “But you have to trust us and understand why we are uncomfortable. You have to let us in at least a little.”
Djehuti looked at each of them, put his teacup down and stood. He walked to the edge of the marble floor and stared out into the gardens surrounding the pavilion. The summer breeze brought with it the scents of plumeria and jasmine. Taking a deep breath he clasped his hands behind his back and fixed his gaze on the horizon.
The three gods stared at his back, unblinking and silent. They were not going to let him off without some sort of information on what he planned and why. He sighed again and turned around “I don’t know why this needs to be done. I’ve nothing concrete. It’s just a … feeling. Something dire will come to pass and we will be powerless to stop it. I,” he paused “no, we need to do this. While I didn’t plan on the way things worked out. I’ve no doubt that this is exactly who needs to be involved. I know that with the same certainty that I know we are going to have an invested interest in a human girl. She is going to be willful and will try my patience to no end, but she is needed.”
He looked at each of them in turn. “But for what,” he shrugged, his expression frustration and helpless all at once “I don’t know. That bothers me more than anything.”
There was a prolonged silence before Setekh let out a low whistle. He leveled a stare at Djehuti. “If you don’t know what the danger is, are you sure this human girl can handle it?”
Djehuti smiled “With our gifts and guidance, we will arm her with what she needs to succeed.”
The sound of china clinking had everyone looking at Sekhmet. “There is something else we need to consider. Our creation or not, vested interest or not, this child has free will. It is possible we will put our effort into this endeavor for naught.”
Djehuti chuckled bitterly and Sekhmet pressed. “She does reject us? You’ve seen this?”
Djehuti smiled and shook his head, “Oh no, my dear. I’ve seen some things. She is willful, yes. She is fascinated with many things, rejects many others. She doesn’t agree with the doctrine that explains Aset and Setekh.” The two gods share a glance before turning back to Djehuti. Meanwhile, he had continued “She is enamored with you Sekhmet and your sister…” He fell silent
“And you?” Aset asked the question that hung in the air.
He grinned ruefully, sorrow coloring his tone “She has a unique, if somewhat astute, impression of me. Above all, I am her father, with all that entails.” He turned his gaze back to the setting sun.
On the appointed day, the four gods found themselves meeting at the infamous cave that Sekhmet called home for three days. There, over clay from the Nile, each bestowed blessings on a child who had a mission none of them could fathom. Each blessing came with a cost. There had to be balance.
Sekhmet bestowed healing. The child would be able to heal herself and others. The cost was empathy. She would feel the pain of others. If she chose to heal others, she would take the illness herself.
Aset bestowed magic. The knowledge and curiosity of it as well as the ability to perform it. The cost was the ability to learn it in the traditional sense. The “path” wouldn’t make sense. Any attempt to learn the “proper way” of doing things would just lead to confusion. The child had to stumble onto answers through coincidence.
Djehuti bestowed curiosity, a deductive mind. She would not be able to take things at face value and would need to investigate. She would be a scholar. The cost was her belief in anything that couldn’t be explained.
The other gods looked at him and he just shook his head. “She needs to find us and accept us on her own. This is written.”
Setekh smiled and walked forward. A small ball of light formed between his palms. It floated and sunk into the small form taking shape in the clay. His smile was gentle, loving. “She will love the outcast. She will defend the victimized.” He looked at the other gods. “Djehuti blessed her with intelligence. Sekhmet gave her compassion. Aset has given her the ability to use that which cannot be explained.” He looked at the small child shape and gently ran his hand over her head. “You have frustrated and confused her to no end. When it gets too much for her to bear, when she is frustrated and needs to rage, she will call me.” Setekh’s glare at Djehuti spoke volumes.
“You are her father. I am her uncle. My gift to her is will. She will be a warrior.”
He turned on his heel and started towards the cave entrance.
Aset called out to him “Wait! What is the drawback to your gift?”
Setekh looked over his shoulder and chuckled, a sad look in his eyes. “You’ve dealt with me! Why should she be the only one to pay a price for her existence? I am the reason she is headstrong and will frustrate the hell out of all of us. You’re welcome.”
They all stare as he exits the cave, leaving them behind.