TITLE: She Is Yours
GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, drama, emotional.
SUMMARY: She came late one night, with an offering... An original myth.
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2001.
LENGTH: 3400+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: 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 2001 and that my writing style and understanding of the mythology I created may have changed vastly in the meantime.
ADDITIONAL INFO: NA.
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 story takes place after the sequel to Horus, Kingdom Of The Hawk (unwritten), when Set and Horus go to fight the sea god Yamm and free the kingdoms of Kemet and Keben. This also might be set in an alternate timeline of events - i. e., I'm not sure this story really takes place in the "real" timeline, it might just be me messing with continuity and saying, "What if...?"
NEPHTHYS SAT IN the garden, strumming her harp absently and staring at the stars. Although Horus's palace was a palace of light and life, she preferred it here, in her brother's palace in the underworld, in the land of shadow. Her sister was here, and though her son still lived with his half-brother in the kingdom of the living, he came to see her often. She was glad that they were so close. That her family had healed itself.
She was glad for the other change that had come. Perhaps, her family truly had healed. She had never thought it possible, even as she'd hoped. But it seemed to be true.
After the great fight against Yamm, when Horus the king, and Set, and the foreign goddess Astarte, had defeated the wicked god who threatened to hold them all prisoner, she had had a visitor. She had few visitors as it was. Yet this was one she had never expected.
He had come to her at night, and the moment she had felt someone touch her as she lay sleeping in her bed, she had panicked, expecting an attack when she was most vulnerable. He had held her down and kissed her and she had struggled for a moment against him in sheer terror before suddenly recognizing the face before her in the dimness. Then her struggles had ceased, partly out of bewilderment, partly out of disbelief, that her eyes must be fooling her.
She had yielded herself to him then...and she couldn't begin to describe what had happened, what she had felt afterwards. In the morning, he had still been with her, sleeping beside her while she watched him in the growing light. She still couldn't believe he was truly here.
What had brought him back, when he had been gone for so long? They had not been together since before Anubis's birth. That was when he had turned away from her, from his entire family. That had been so many years ago...why had he returned now? What had changed him so?
She thought over every idea in her mind. Perhaps his defeat at the hands of his nephew had changed him. She didn't doubt that it had...but this much? Perhaps it had been his years spent living in exile in the desert while Horus ruled the kingdom he had once called his own. Or perhaps it had been the fight itself, their battle against Yamm, side by side...Horus had called upon Set to assist him, guaranteeing him his freedom...and somehow Set had swallowed his pride and accepted...this alone was surprising. But for him to come back to her? Why now?
She knew she shouldn't question it. So she tried not to, to merely accept him back, and hope that the lonely years were finally over...
As she played the harp, looking up at the stars, she heard the faint sounds of life within the palace. This was not unusual, even so late at night; many of those here were night dwellers, such as herself. She didn't feel tired anyway. The air was pleasant and warm, and for once she enjoyed her solitude. She hoped Set would return to the palace soon, though she had no reason to believe he wouldn't. She didn't worry about him now.
Footsteps. At first she pretended not to hear them, until a voice quietly called out, "Lady Nephthys." Then she lowered her gaze and turned her head toward the entry back into the palace, seeing the guard standing there, spear at his side.
He crossed his arm to his breast and bowed. "Goddess, a visitor wishes to speak with you, and waits at your quarters."
Nephthys blinked. A visitor? Another one? This she hadn't expected, either. It couldn't be Set, he wouldn't announce himself so. "Who is it?" she asked, rising to her feet.
"They would prefer to speak with you in private, in your quarters, Goddess. Do you wish me to send them away?"
"No, I'll speak with them. Thank you."
He bowed again and went back into the building. Nephthys followed, her curiosity piqued. She had been alone long enough tonight, and even Anubis was busy. Perhaps a visitor was just what she needed to tide her over until Set returned.
The guard led the way until they reached the hall leading to her and Set's quarters, then stopped and bowed a third time. Nephthys nodded at him and continued alone. When she reached her door she found no one there, but decided to open it first before deciding they had left. Ah. She'd been correct. Her visitor was within already - a gesture that would normally be considered rude, but Nephthys didn't much care for excessive displays of manners. She was more interested now than ever.
Whoever waited for her sat upon a small ornate stool near the table where she kept a jug of wine. They turned to face her on hearing her enter, and stood, replacing the cup they had filled. When she stepped closer they did the same, and she gave a small gasp of surprise on recognizing the features. She had seen this person only once before, and not for very long; yet she still remembered.
"Lady Astarte," she exclaimed.
The goddess dressed all in black and red bowed her head with respect. "Lady Nephthys." Her gaze fell on the small table. "I hope you may forgive my lack of courtesy. I was quite thirsty and did not wish to disturb your serving ladies..."
"Of course," Nephthys replied, hastening to her and refilling her cup. Astarte sat down again with a weary sigh and Nephthys placed the cup in her hands, then moving about the room trying to think of something she could do for her guest. "I too must apologize for the state of the room, I had not expected guests - "
"Please, do not worry, I mean to stay for only a short time. I wished to speak with you about something. I only hope I cause no more trouble for you - "
"Of course not, of course not. You've come all this way. Keben is such a great distance. Please, make yourself comfortable, let me know if I may get you anything. Your feet, are they sore?"
"Oh, no, no," Astarte said with a gentle laugh. "I didn't walk here...though I did have to use a great deal of my magic...heka I believe your people call it."
"Yes, this can greatly drain one's energy...please, drink as much as you like, let me know if you need anything else...you said you had come to speak with me?"
The goddess took a sip and lowered her cup. "Yes. It concerns your husband. Lord Set."
Nephthys stopped moving about and looked at her. Astarte lowered her eyes to focus on the wine swirling in her cup, and was silent for a moment.
"Do you know that he has not been faithful to you, Lady Nephthys?"
Nephthys stood where she was, unspeaking. After a moment she gave Astarte a small, sad smile and sat down herself, on a nearby chair.
"I never knew for certain. But I always assumed."
"How, and why? Why did you assume?"
"We have not been together for many years. Not until recently. He...he was deeply hurt when I could not give him a child." She paused. "He left me then, when he thought...when he thought that I had been unfaithful to him. And I had been, though I had never meant to be. We spent many years apart. And so if he had found another during that time...I would not have blamed him. This was only the way he is."
"You are not angry with him, then."
"No. Not for that." She lifted her gaze to meet Astarte's eyes. "This...is the reason you came to speak with me? To tell me you know of one of my husband's...one of my husband's involvements?"
"Granted, Lady, I know only of one. For all I can tell, it is the only one. I do know that your husband loves you, and this is why he returned."
Nephthys blinked again. It was...it was as if the goddess had read her earlier thoughts. She opened her mouth, but Astarte held up her hand.
"Please...allow me to continue. This is difficult...waiting will make it only more so. I must speak." She took a breath, and released it. Her hands gripped the cup tightly.
"When the king of your country...Lord Horus...arrived with your husband, and his others, to free me and to free the prince, and to spare our kingdoms...you do remember this?"
"Of course," Nephthys said. "It was after this that Set returned to me."
"I genuinely do believe that he returned because he missed you. Believe...I know that was the reason why." She took another breath. "I know this for certain, because I..."
Something in the corner made a soft whining noise. Nephthys's head jerked up and her eyes grew. Astarte glanced back over her shoulder before standing and moving to pick up a dark shape lying in the shadows. Nephthys watched as she carried it back with her, still whining, only the sound seemed familiar. When the goddess sat down upon her stool again, a large bundle in her lap, and started carefully pulling it open, Nephthys finally recognized the sound.
She stood with a soft gasp and moved swiftly to Astarte's side, arriving just as the baby began to cry. Astarte moved aside so she could see. The child was not a newborn, but it was still small, with a shock of red hair upon its head. Its face contorted and it squalled and waved its arms with hunger.
Girl, Astarte thought, and Nephthys beamed and reached down to touch the child's face.
"She's so beautiful...what a darling child!"
Astarte smiled. "Yes...she is."
Nephthys retreated to find something for the baby to feed upon. She returned with a bottle that Thoth had made, with clay and cloth and a hole in the end for liquid to flow from. She filled it with milk and gently pressed the tip into the baby's mouth. The crying stopped and her small lips started sucking.
Nephthys laughed softly.
"What is her name?"
"She has no name, yet. This is for another to decide." Astarte cradled the child close to her as she fed, and resumed talking. "I came to speak of your husband. I know that he loves you. He proved it, to me."
Nephthys looked up at her.
"Immediately after the battle with Yamm, before he returned to Kemet and to you...Lord Set...and myself...we had relations. He shared my bed." She fell silent for a moment before adding, "This is as delicately as I may put it, without hoping to offend you...I pray that it did not."
Nephthys only stared at her some more. She wasn't hurt by the news, she was...surprised? What? She did not care that her husband had been with another...nor that that other was now speaking to her in confidence, as a friend...she merely wondered why he had done so. She didn't wish to know out of anger or spite. It simply...didn't seem like him.
Is this what caused him to change...?
"If you have seen a change," Astarte said, and Nephthys listened to her again, "then the answer is both yes, and no. Yes, as I believe after this he realized he still loved you, and returned to you. No, as I believe he has loved you all along, he just did not know for certain."
"How...how can you be certain that he loves me, when he was with you? How do you know it isn't the other way...?"
The corner of Astarte's mouth curled up very slightly. "Because...he was not very guarded with his thoughts while we were together...I could sense them easily. He was thinking of you." Nephthys flushed. "I know that this itself was unusual for him, to let down his guard so greatly...I believe the thought of you did that to him. He's missed you. He wanted to come home. After he gained his freedom, nothing else mattered. He wanted to be with you again."
Nephthys couldn't speak. No words would come. Her face still burned with the thought of her husband's private emotions being publicly accessible, especially at such a time as Astarte had described; yet at the same time, she felt...what, pleased? Flattered? That he had thought of her the whole time?
Astarte stood. "This was what I wished to tell you...I hope that you believe me, and believe him. That you accept him back. He has made many mistakes in the name of pride, and he may make many more...but I've seen into his heart...and he is not evil. Right now, he needs someone, and that someone is you. His wife."
Nephthys nodded her head once and smiled, a bit shyly. "Thank you. I believe you. He would not have come back here if it were otherwise. Thank you, Lady, for telling me."
Astarte nodded and started to turn to the door. The baby in her arms suddenly made a muffled noise and dropped the bottle to the floor, yawning loudly. The goddess glanced down at her again as if having forgotten she was there. "Oh...I had one more piece of business to settle with you before I leave."
She turned back to Nephthys, bundling the baby again until only her face showed. "She needs a name."
"You have not been able to find one for her - ?"
"No, I am not the one who may name her. This is best left for her true parents." She held the baby out. "Here...Lady Nephthys. She is yours."
Nephthys's eyes widened. She put a hand to her breast and stepped back, shaking her head wildly.
"What? Oh - no! I can't take your child!"
"I am her mother, yes. But I cannot raise her. And her father deserves her more." Her eyes met Nephthys's, and the goddess began to understand. "You are her mother then. And the two of you shall name her, as your own."
"But..." Nephthys's voice trailed off in disbelief. "But...Set can't...can't father children..."
"Perhaps with you...he could not. But with me...I am the bearer of the Divine Fire among my people, the way that Lord Horus is among your own. I have read about your kind, how your Lady Hathor was unable to bear children until impregnated by the Divine Fire. As such, she and Horus have brought their sons into the world."
"But - Hathor was merely a prophecy come true - she could bear children, and Horus could father them - but Set - "
"Believe me, Lady." Astarte's look was meaningful. "With some of us...things are different. Perhaps you and your husband...simply were not meant to have children." Nephthys felt her heart twist. "However, I am not meant to have them either. This is the tradition, the custom of my people. The great goddess may not keep any children she may bear...or they will die." She paused and looked down at the baby, her voice growing soft. "I have already given up one whom I loved more than almost anything. I do so again. This time, though, I believe I will make the proper decision, and she will be loved." She looked back up at the goddess standing before her. "Please, Lady Nephthys...you are not her mother by blood...but Set is her father. And I may not be her mother. You and your husband, you love one another more deeply than any I have seen in many years. I know that there has been much difficulty in your family, and only now are you setting things right. Perhaps this is the right time after all, and nothing is an accident. Perhaps this, perhaps she is what you need to correct all that has gone before."
Nephthys stared at her, and then at the baby now sleeping in her arms. Astarte held her out like an offering. Which she was. She could think of no argument to offer...indeed, since learning the truth of the girl's parentage, she had longed more than anything to hold the child in her arms, cradle her as if she were her own. Astarte must have seen this. When Nephthys numbly held out her arms the other goddess placed the baby within them, and Nephthys drew her close, murmuring and rocking her slowly. The baby gave a tiny hiccup, and fell asleep again.
Nephthys's eyes welled up and the child's face before her blurred. She was thinking of Anubis. She was thinking of Kebehut. Her son, her granddaughter...and now...Set's child? Her husband's child? Her own?
"I know that he wished for a son," Astarte said, "though I feel this will matter little now."
"I must return to my own land." The goddess cast a glance at the darkened window, longing in her eyes, before turning back to Nephthys and giving the same sad smile that Nephthys herself had. "You know...there are times when I feel I can raise the sea with my fury for having given up that which I love. And yet there are times when I feel it was the best thing I could do...I am not certain I would make a fitting mother, after all. There is something out there...some wildness...always calling me back. I feel I would move on too quickly, and leave my children behind." Her smile faded. "I only hope they may forgive me someday. For leaving them behind..."
"Upuat has," Nephthys blurted out, blushing again when the goddess looked at her inquiringly. She lowered her voice and repeated herself. "Lord Upuat has. He talked to Anubis, who told me. He said that you told him. Who you are, to him. He has forgiven you. He merely wanted to know why. He knows now so he forgives. Though I do...I do believe he wishes he could have known you better."
Another slight smile. "Perhaps...perhaps we will come to know one another, yet. Our two kingdoms have always been friends, since your brother came to visit us so long ago. Keben will always aid Kemet - "
"And Kemet will always aid Keben," Nephthys cut in, and her own smile grew and she nodded. "Yes. All right. Yes. Please promise me only one thing, you will return, or else you will invite us to your own kingdom. We are so far apart, it is so difficult to remain friends."
"The Great Green Sea will not be wide enough to keep us apart for long. The wildness often calls to me from your own land. I need only heed it more often." They both laughed, and Astarte lightly touched the baby's head. "Goodbye, little one." She leaned forward and kissed her, ruffling the red hair, and bowed her head to Nephthys, meeting her eyes once more.
"You will tell him, for me?"
"He will know she is his?"
"Yes, he will."
"He will believe you?"
"Perhaps he will not, at first...but I know that he will."
"And you will name her...and care for her, as your own child?"
"Yes, you need not even ask. Of course we will." A pause. "Lady, perhaps you might stay...? Just a short while...? Set is likely to return very soon, I know that he would wish to hear this from you, and to see you again..."
Astarte shook her head. "No, I thank you...but the ties are for you and he to build, not he and I. It would be best if I left now, and if you two spoke alone...with her among you, of course..."
"Of course," Nephthys said quietly, looking at the baby. "Thank you, Lady Astarte. For bringing them back to me."
A final smile, as genuine as the rest. "Believe me...I was not the one who brought him back to you. In his heart, he never left." She bowed, and Nephthys nodded her head. The goddess then turned to her door - Nephthys wasn't certain whether she opened it, or simply drifted right through - all she could say with certainty was that one moment the goddess was there, and the next, she was gone. She was left alone in her quarters again, with only the baby girl in her arms.
She touched her tiny face and went to sit by the balcony, to better wait for her husband's return, and to show her the stars. The child had many of them to learn, and many years ahead to learn them.