by Beverly Forehand
“What do they call themselves,” she asked, “these god-slayers?”
He did not turn to look at her, but answered simply in his growl of a voice, “Many things.”
She nodded and tucked her feet primly under her. She studied the scene of violence below her: the loot of the city, the wreck of the temple, men fleeing, and others pursuing, sword and fire. “What will they do when they are finished?” she asked him.
And again, he answered without a turn of his head. “Go. Stay. It makes little difference. I will have work to do. There is no difference at all.”
She nodded. She would be busy as well. And he was right. It made little difference, but still... The temple was on fire now, a bright crisp flame leapt up from the second story. The smell of clay, fire, blood, and stone rode heavy on the wind. Such a waste.
“Who do they think they are?” she asked, “They trample and destroy. They walk in the holy places with their common feet. They are nothing.” She finished with an indignant hiss.
He did not move beside her, and after a while she looked away trying to appear as unconcerned as he always did. “It means nothing,” she murmured under her breath, but even as she did she remembered the veils of blue, the sparkling waters, the way the sun warmed the terracotta stones with its first rays. All ruined. All gone.
She could scarcely remember a time before the temple. It was in the temple that she had been born — or at least that she had found her true self. But she knew in her heart that wasn’t true. She remembered another place. A hard place with so much sun. She remembered the rain and then the sun and then the temple with its bending trees and golden walls.
In the morning there was singing and in the night there was music and dancing and feasting that lasted until the moon finally set. And in the morning it all began again. It always had and always would. Hadn’t it? It seemed to be so and yet the temple was ruined and all her best things destroyed. There seemed to be no point to it.
From the rooftop where she lay she watched them carry gold and silver from the ruin. They scattered here and there like rats. Rats fleeing the flames. Her gold. Her silver. She narrowed her eyes and took a long, sharp breath heavy with annoyance, but they could not hear her.
Beside her, she could hear her brother’s steady breathing. He did not care. Nothing moved him. A true professional. She lay peering over the side her fingers grown numb and tight with the tension. Below she could hear a scream and then nothing and then a scream again. She wasn’t sure sometimes until she saw her brother’s ears twitch, his only movement in the long day. After a while, she pulled back from the edge and gave herself over to sleep. But even in her dreams the temple burned and the acolytes ran and she heard someone calling her name from far away, but she did not see them. She could not find them. And then the darkness closed about her and she slept while the city burned and her brother sat beside her still as a stone.
After hours or perhaps days, it seemed, she woke. The wind had changed and the sun was low, low in the sky. The wind had the coolest scent blown from the river and she could almost taste the sun and the mud and the reeds. She rose onto her haunches and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “What day is it?” she asked.
And her brother answered as stoically as ever, “It is today.” Annoyed, she pulled herself upright and risked a look into the streets. The fires and the screaming were less now. The city was hazy with burning and soot and dust. Bodies lay here and there. Loot lay in the streets with the dead and above her just over the horizon she could see the ghost of the moon. She smiled.
It was almost over. The stone would smolder for days and the dead would be piled in heaps. She could hear them now, in the streets, singing, drinking. “What are they saying?” she asked him.
“They say the gods are dead,” he said. She smiled and with the back of her hand rubbed a piece of ash from her cheek.
“The gods dead?” she laughed. “But who could kill a god?” She stood taller and watched the moon grow clearer.
The dark was coming and soon. Her folk would be abroad and wherever they walked, so did she. The night was coming and she could see that those below knew as well. They were a little quieter. A bit more uneasy. Who knew what lived in the dark?
Dark eyes. Golden eyes. She had not always been the Goddess of Joy; once she had been something else, and in the dark, they could see the eyes of the lion glowing from a thousand dark alleyways, from a thousand dark corners, from the inside of their very souls.
She stood and licked the back of her hand and felt the claws retract soundlessly. The Goddess smiled and in the dark she saw the Jackal’s eyes glow. “Will I see you again soon, brother?” she asked.
And the Jackal growled, “I am always here, whether you see me or no.” Bast showed him her teeth and leapt into the night; behind her a thousand soft feet followed. The jackal Wepwawet, son of Isis, Opener of the Underworld, simply sat and watched and waited, as he always had. The night was young. It always was and always would be, and he had time yet.
Copyright © 2006 by Beverley Forehand