Anubis watched as Horus threw the four casting sticks and successfully moved two of his counters off the board. The falcon clicked his beak in delight, clutching the pretty opal stones in one hand, and he grinned at his friend.
“Your turn, Anu.”
The jackal flicked his ears, trying not to show how displeased he was, threw the sticks, and ended up in the House of Waters.
“Boys!” Both gods flinched at the reprimanding voice from the doorway. Isis frowned at the pair as she settled the folds of her skirt around her shapely thighs. “It’s too early in the day for such language.”
“Sorry, Isis.” Anubis ducked his head.
“Sorry mother.” Horus looked guilty, even though it hadn’t been he who had spoken. “I’m winning.”
“Of course you are sweetie.” Isis crossed the room towards them, her bare feet almost silent on the cold stone, and bent to kiss her son’s feathered head. “Your father and I are going out. Could I convince you boys to leave you game and go and remind Khepry the clocks went back last night and he needs to be getting up about now?”
Anubis grinned, and overturned the Senet board with a flick of his fingers, upsetting the pieces and sending his own obsidian playing counters across the floor. He’d been so close to winning before Horus’s series of lucky throws.
“Sure thing, Isis. C’mon bud."
Grumbling, Horus stood and followed his friend as the black-furred jackal skipped easily across the room, his short claws skittering on the smooth floor. They bounced down the broad staircase of Osiris’s palace side by side, out into the warm night and, with no more than a quick glance up at the sky thick with stars above them, began to race each other across the bridge. Anubis laughed and drew ahead of his best friend, using his slighter frame and better grip to run in big bounding leaps as Horus laboured on human feet. The falcon was not to be outdone, and as Anubis came close, reached out for a fistful of his linen shendyt, and yanked the god of the underworld back by his clothes. Anubis barked, grabbing at the fallen garment as his belt came loose, then laid his ears back and threw the handful of cloth at his friend before streaking away in the nude. Horus jogged on to catch him up and found Anubis sitting over the arched doorway which lead into Khepry’s stable, looking smug.
“You’re a jerk, Anu.”
“Says you. You just wanted to get me naked again.”
The god of the sky chose not to reply and simply knocked on the door before admitting them both into the bright glow of Khepry’s little dwelling.
“Mom says you should be up already….”
Anubis covered his laugh, ineffectually, by biting his knuckles as Horus’s words roused the enormous dung beetle from his slumber. Khepry bustled and spluttered, then took the huge glowing sphere of the sun from where it had lain all night in the corner of the stable, brushed bits of hay and mud from its surface, and began to back out of the stable, still grumbling to himself. Anubis and Horus followed him out and watched as beetle and sun both began to climb into the sky, lighting the world for the new day.
“Well he didn’t seem too happy.” Anubis turned to grin at his friend and sometimes parent, Hathor, who stood resplendent in the early morning sun in a floor length blue and green dress, the red disc of the sun shining between her long golden horns, smiling as she watched the sun beginning the journey it made each day. “And what about you two, did you run here directly out of bed, or what?”
“He’s uncontrollable, this one,” Horus joked, and handed his friend his clothes. “Dude, seriously? Get dressed.”
“It’s not like she ain’t seen it before.” Anubis shrugged but began to wind the cloth once again into the traditional short skirt favoured for the hot, dry heat of the Egyptian day. He settled the gold and black belt over his hips and turned back to his friend, but Horus wasn’t watching. The falcon leant over the parapet, his gaze directed down at the world below them. Hathor touched the jackal’s shoulder before she departed.
“You have work to be doing today remember.”
“Your father wants to see you for your lessons this afternoon.”
“He’s not my father,” Anubis grumbled.
“Yeah, I’ll be there.” He watched Hathor walk away enough to be sure she had actually gone, then jabbed his friend in the shoulder. “C’mon man, let’s go down to the river and eat breakfast with Sobek.”
“Stay a bit.” Horus’s voice was soft, not really paying attention, still gazing down at the world.
Anubis swung his legs over the edge, and craned to see what his friend was so interested in. Below them, humans were coming out of their homes as the day began, greeting each other, trading news and goods. Children skipped around making up little games as they followed their parents, pretending to fight with sticks, or drawing in the dirt by the side of the road. Men led animals and carts along the dusty roads, women smiled at them as they came the other way, carrying water on their heads from the well. A potter turned his wares in the sun, drying out the clay even as his young assistant added water to a trough of mud and climbed in, using his feet to pound the wet earth ready to be shaped. It was no different from every other morning, and Anubis frowned.
“What? Nothing going on bud.”
“I like to watch them in the mornings.” Horus was smiling. “They start each day full of so much potential, with no idea what their lives will hold. Don’t you think it’s exciting?”
“Not especially.” Anubis shrugged. He looked down at the crowd with his divine skills instead. “He’s dying today, and her.”
“Is that all you can think about?” Horus slapped his forearm with a frown.
“No.” Anubis’s canine grin spread wider. “Look who else is down there.”
Moving among the people of the world, unnoticed by them, was a white-clad figure with shining lapis blue hair. Anubis felt himself stir under his clothes, even though up on the great bridge, he was far too far away to make out Nefertem’s gorgeous features. Knowing they were there was enough to spread heat from his crotch and forget all about the things he’d promised Hathor not ten minutes previously.
“Dude....” Horus did a better job at hiding his lust, but only slightly. “You’re not going down there?”
“Er, yeah?” Anubis licked his muzzle. “Pretty little thing is down there all by himself, be rude not to offer him my company.”
“How many times has he got to turn you down, Anu?” Horus sighed. “Can’t you keep it in your skirt for even one day?”
“Ha!” Anubis rounded on his friend, his ears pointing up, and his dark eyes twinkling. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it you who turned up on my doorstep last night, begging me to lend you a hand?”
Anubis had the pleasure of watching his best friend blush, his tan skin not dark enough to hide the spread of embarrassment over his broad chest. Anubis turned his body until his knees were spread either side of Horus’s, and the falcon’s abdomen was within licking distance of his tongue. He pressed a palm over Horus’s rich muslin shendyt and purred as he felt the shape of his arousal.
“You might need more than just a hand with this one… again.” The jackal arched an eyebrow suggestively. “Does the son of Osiris need me to take care of him?”
Horus glowered at him, his own pale hand pressing against Anubis’s black-furred chest, just over his heart.
“You should stick to playing Senet, Anu,” he quipped, “and learn to quit while you’re ahead!”
Anubis barked in surprise, but it was too late, and Horus tipped him backwards off the parapet, sending the jackal-headed god of the underworld tumbling down into the world below them. Anubis landed with a thud and a yelp in an ungraceful heap, and then had to gather himself up and leap out of the way of a pair of oxen coming along the road. He was immortal, but hooves still hurt. He glanced up to see Nefertem’s beautiful sky blue eyes shining down at him.
“Hello Anubis.” His light tenor voice held no trace of irony or surprise as he spoke. “What are you doing down there?”
“Admiring the view.”
Nefertem was too innocent and sweet for his own good, and turned to look skywards. From here, the great stone bulk of Osiris’s palace, the bridge, the stable of the sun, all of the realm of the gods in fact, was but a suggestion of a shadow. Anubis turned his head very slightly, and got the quickest peek up between Nefertem’s well-toned thighs, between the folds of his white and blue shendyt, before the young god of beauty looked back at him again.
“The sky is lovely today.” He smiled, more gorgeous than all the water lilies on the Nile, brighter than Ra himself, and Anubis felt his self-control slipping.
If only he weren’t quite so dim, he told himself.
There was not a trace of irony is Nefertem’s voice: he really did think the featureless morning sky was beautiful. Anubis pulled himself up to his full height, brushing sand from his fur, and gave the lapis-haired boy his most winning smile.
“And what are you up to today, most beautiful one?” Nefertem blushed beautifully at his words, and Anubis knew he’d pitched his tone just right. He’d been after the gorgeous young man for ages, but circumstances kept on trying to thwart his efforts to sleep with the most stunning creature ever created by Ra. “Why don’t you walk with me a while? We can enjoy the morning.”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
Nefertem stepped alongside him and, after a few paces, didn’t seem to notice when Anubis looped one dark arm around his bare waist, long fingers tickling his washboard abdomen. Anubis couldn’t help but thank Ra for his good fortune in finding the boy so early in the morning before others would be abroad, because they would have the whole day together to enjoy each other’s company. Mucking about in bed with Horus was fun, and he enjoyed his best friend’s company wherever they found themselves, but Anubis could barely remember a time when he hadn’t been nearly obsessed with wanting Nefertem.
It’s hardly my fault, the jackal reasoned as they walked together through the human throng. He is the embodiment of beauty after all.
And yet, he wouldn’t even make a good Senet partner, another voice in his mind replied, laced with sarcasm. You couldn’t even have half a decent conversation with the boy.
He’s doesn’t have to be smart, Anubis countered, echoing the thought he’d had when Horus had said the same thing long ago, He just has to be pretty.
The internal conversation he’d had bothered the god of the underworld more than he liked to admit. As they reached the arch of the great viaduct, carved with the image of Nefertem and his parents, Ptah and Sekhmet, the holy trinity of love and nurturing, the young boy picked out from the white alabaster with his signature lapis blue stones, the crown of lilies painted and carved in exquisite detail, the jackal tightened his grip around his companion's narrow waist.
“Shall we play a game?”
“What game?” Nefertem smiled up at him, and Anubis was stuck again by his amazing beauty. There wasn’t a single thought written on his perfect, smooth features, and the jackal sighed.
“You and Horus are always playing that.” Nefertem frowned gently. The fast paced game could last Anubis and his friend as little as minutes or as long as days when they were both being stubborn--or when betting was involved. “I was never very good. I keep forgetting the rules.”
“I could teach you?” Anubis offered, but his inner voice scoffed.
You have less patience than Ra. You know you’ll get bored.
Hard to be bored with something so pretty to look at, Anubis gloated privately.
“Shouldn’t you be working?”
The jackal god groaned. It wasn’t even mid-morning and already he was sick of being interrupted. He turned to the doorway which had opened into the archway of the viaduct and watched Sekhmet descending the stairs towards them. As the lioness smiled, Nefertem broke away from Anubis’s loose embrace and ran to his mother. Suddenly, to Anubis, he seemed very small and young; still beautiful, but like the flowers his mother began to weave into his hair, too delicate to touch, and certainly not something Anubis desired. He laid his ears back and folded his arms over his chest.
“Good morning, Sekhmet.”
“And good morning to you too, Trickster. It’s late in the day for you to be walking in the sun, is it not?”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
Anubis liked Sekhmet when they worked together side by side. Humans fought at her command, and in her name, they invoked her spirit to guide their spears and blades, and wherever war went, death was never far behind. Anubis enjoyed a good war, swelling the ranks of the dead with so many vital and nourishing souls, shepherding them to the land which lay beyond the mortal realm. But when Sekhmet was being mother to her precious son, she was much less amenable.
“Goodbye Anubis. You have work to do.”
Feeling like a child, Anubis turned on one paw and loped away.
The underworld was dark, but Anubis didn’t mind, pacing the corridors of his realm without torches. Each enormous wall he passed was richly decorated, paint colours vivid in the absolute darkness, showing each and every soul he had shown across to the realm beyond mortal life. Figures and cartouches arrayed in never ending rows, stretching further than Anubis had ever been bothered to walk. There had been a few new souls, waiting on the banks of the shadow Nile, and Anubis had taken each of them by the hand and lead them across the water, watching as their names were inscribed upon the walls. Each had brought forth offerings, and Anubis had taken a necklace he rather liked the look of. Now he tied the silk strings at the nape of his neck and settled the large solid gold and lapis wings of the scarab over his chest and collar bones. The green silica body of the beetle was a welcome weight on his sternum as he left the halls of the dead and started along the passage which sloped upwards towards his temple.
The temples of the gods, like the palace of Osiris and the mansions of Pharaoh and his favoured people, were uniformly enormous and made of alabaster stone. Only Anubis’s temple was different, a dark monolith sitting among the golden sands, a glory built of black granite. The jackal walked along the long avenue, passing the rows of stately pillars which rose to a ceiling almost beyond the edge of his vision. The way was given a soft half-light by the incense which burnt every twenty steps, the smoke rising in thin trails into the darkness, giving the space gentle warmth along with the heady scent of jasmine and myrrh. Anubis smiled to himself as he walked from the darkness into the fire light which ringed his statue.
There were plenty of statues of Anubis across the delta, small and grand, detailed and smooth, but this was his favourite, and so this was the temple Anubis had chosen to call his permanent home. Unlike the pair of upright, jackal-headed human statues which stood, fifty feet tall, guarding the entrance to the necropolis in the human world, this one showed Anubis in his feral shape, lying reposed and stately on an enormous block of stone. The whole thing was carved and polished from more black granite, and the kohl around his eyes, the collar about his neck, and the edges of his long and pointed ears were all picked out in lustrous gold. Anubis touched his own front paw as he climbed into the space between the statues front legs and settled himself down in the curve under his statue’s chest. He gazed up at the underside of his own muzzle for a while, lost in thought.
Why did he want Nefertem so badly? The obvious answer was simple: the boy was beautiful, the epitome of visual delight, worshipped and revered throughout the delta as the mirror of heaven, the most gorgeous creature in all of Ra’s creation. But that was an easy answer, and it wasn’t as though Horus was anything other than beautiful too.
We all are, Anubis muttered to himself. We’re gods, why would we not be beautiful? Even Set, with his amalgamation of animal features and flat-topped ears, was still beautiful in his own way, though Anubis would rather be caught ushering his own soul into the afterlife than tell him so. But when the lapis-haired boy ran to his mother, suddenly he seemed small and young, no longer delightfully innocent, but pityingly so, like a child. Horus thought the beautiful young man kept rejecting him, but it wasn’t so. Every time Anubis thought he was getting close to getting his own way with the boy, something happened to pull Nefertem away from him. All the flirting the in world wasn’t any good if the beautiful boy wasn’t able to understand his intentions.
And that’s just the thing, isn’t it? Anubis cursed at his inner voice, speaking sense he didn’t want to hear. You only want him because he has no idea of your carnal desires. You want to ruin him.
Having sex doesn’t ruin someone, he countered bitterly.
But it might with him. After all, he is beauty and nurturing and love. And you…
And I’m the god of the dead.
Anubis growled out loud, listening to his voice reverberating around the enormous room. The jackal yawned hugely, his long jaws creaking with the motion. Horus had woken him at a truly unholy hour, and though staying up and playing dirty until both of them had been writhing in pleasure had been fun, it had also made him tired. Anubis settled himself more comfortably against the body of his statue and curled up to sleep. Just as he laid his ears back, relaxing into the shape of the stone, he heard footsteps, and the unmistakable noise of feathers rustling in the still air. If there was anything better than sleeping in the day, it was doing so after getting Horus to repay the favour of the previous night. Anubis sat up, and then threw himself back to the stone plinth, but not fast enough to not be seen.
“I thought I’d find you here.” Nebthet folded her arms across her breasts, her long falcon feathers settling themselves in order, brushing the fabric of her long white dress. She scowled up the statue as Anubis’s head reappeared over the edge of the plinth. “You know there are souls waiting for you, right?”
“There are always souls.” Anubis scowled down at the woman who, in many ways, might be called his partner. “Just because you care about every single damn loved one left behind, does not mean every single dead person gets to be ushered to the underworld by Anubis himself.”
“You’re so fucking full of it, Anu.”
“Piss off.” Anubis had already lost what little patience he had for Nebthet and her sympathies. She guided and supported those who were abandoned after death: Anubis was only interested in taking spirits and shepherding them to the underworld. “It is not your place to tell me how to do my job!”
“Oh, whatever!” Nebthet threw up her hands in irritation, her wings flapping in annoyance. “You should know, your father is looking for you.”
“He is not my father,” Anubis snapped back.
He watched Nebthet go for long enough to be sure she wasn’t hanging around to watch him get harangued, then jumped nimbly down from his statue and crossed the great hall before heading down a series of narrow passageways, lined with pictograms and hieroglyphs. These were not the names of the dead but showed the stories of Anubis’s past and present, the legends the people told of him, and the things he did. Anubis let his fingers trail over the outlines of his favourite image, the one which showed him and Horus seated together at the bank of the Nile, Sobek standing above them. All three were carved in relief which showed their delight as they tossed petals into the water, Anubis skimming small stones, his arm wrapped around his friend’s shoulders. The hieroglyphs told the story of their friendship, the love they felt for one another, and the guidance Sobek gave them. Anubis touched the outlines where his and Horus’s flesh met, then hurried down the stone passage on silent paws to his bed chamber. He shed his simple linen shendyt and instead wound another of fine muslin embroidered with carnelian beads, with the hem dyed a soft green to match the new chest piece, around his hips.
A sound made the jackal prick up his ears. Thoth was indeed looking for him, but Anubis didn’t feel much like sitting through another lesson on geometry from the Ibis-headed god of wisdom and academic subjects Anubis couldn’t ever be bothered with. Medicine and astronomy could wait, because they never helped him get laid, and they weren’t required to take souls into the underworld either. Anubis slipped out the back of his sleeping chamber by a private door only he and Horus knew about, and heard Thoth’s irritated sigh follow him as he began to make his way out of the temple.
It was so like the ibis to be the only one up and about in the middle of the day. The disc of the sun had reached the zenith, and Khepry was barely visible against the brightness of the glory of Ra. It was hot, the air dry and motionless, as Anubis slipped his way between the pyramids and out of the city of the dead. It did not take him long to find his way through the city of the gods, silent and pale under the hot sun. Anubis bypassed the route which would lead him to Horus’s rooms, wandered through the grand foyer, lined with round heavy based pillars and hung with drapes of shimmering muslin woven with strands of rare silk, and descended the stairs which were lapped by the smooth clear waters of the Nile.
The reeds which grew there were slender and graceful, each perfectly poised to cast elegant shadows over the water and the steps, the gentle ripples which spread from their stalks glistening in the sunlight filtered through the palm fronds which hung high above. Anubis splashed down the alabaster steps until he stood knee deep in the water, then sat on the last dry stone with a heavy sigh.
“Running away from your responsibilities, young one?” Anubis flicked an ear in the direction of the water, and the two eyes which floated just above the surface.
The long head of the crocodile god appeared from the river, shortly followed by the rest of him, his shoulders draped in a wide beaded collar of turquoise and malachite beads. The god of the Nile smiled at his friend and settled upon the first step in the water.
“And who is looking for you?”
“Maybe I just wanted to see you?” Anubis returned the crocodile’s slightly twisted smile. “You are one of my favourite people after all.”
“Sweetie….” Sobek stroked a tan knuckle under Anubis’s jaw gently. “It’s the middle of the day; if you were coming to see me, we would be lying in my bed right now, and you wouldn’t look so tense.”
Begrudgingly, Anubis had to admit his friend was right. If it hadn’t been for Nefertem and his inviting smile, Anubis might have ended up at the river hours ago and indulged in his friend’s fantasy. He exhaled softly and leant into his friend’s touch.
“Thoth wants to give me geometry lessons again.”
“And you’re avoiding him because…?”
“Because I don’t need his help!” Anubis scowled, stood, and splashed his way nosily deeper into the water. “Just because he’s the god of wisdom-- and medicine, and drawing and writing, and magic, and all that stuff--e thinks he’s better than me just because he knows things!” The jackal snarled, “I am the god of the underworld! Everyone has to answer to me one day; even Ra himself!”
“Alright, easy there, pup….” Sobek reached a hand out and Anubis found himself pulled firmly into the big crocodile’s lap. “You’re preaching to the converted sweetie; calm down.”
Anubis flicked his ears back over his skull. He knew he was acting like a grumpy, recalcitrant teenager, and he didn’t care. Sobek never stood on ceremony, and apart from Horus, there was no one Anubis was more comfortable with. He knew he didn’t have to pretend when he was with the Nile god, so Anubis let himself be cuddled and wished his day had gone differently.
“You don’t have to be a big, strong important deity all the time, Anu.” Sobek’s voice was a low rumble at the back of his neck, and the jackal shivered in the hot air and cool water. Desire followed Sobek’s scaly fingertips down his ribcage. “You’re allowed to need people every now and then.”
“That’s different,” Anubis sighed as he spoke. He could feel Sobek’s erection digging into the furrow of his lower back. Already he knew the water would only hide his own arousal for so long. “You aren’t trying to teach me random crap I don’t need.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Sobek ran his muzzle and jaws over Anubis’s neck, and the jackal moaned as the crocodile god’s fingers wrapped firmly around his hardness. “There’s still things I could teach you.”
The jackal couldn’t be bothered to find an eloquent response and settled instead for panting Sobek’s name as the crocodile opened him up with his knees inside Anubis’s thighs, spreading him wide under cover of the river. Sobek might have his teeth twisted into a permanent smile, but there was no mistaking the grin in his tone as he ran his free hand down Anubis’s abdomen to fondle the soft furry sac nestled beneath his erection.
“Who’s a good dog then?” Sobek teased him gently as he pumped the jackal’s cock. The crocodile knew exactly what his friend liked and twisted his fingers as he massaged the hard length of muscle. Anubis quivered under his touch, letting out a soft groan as Sobek’s own reptilian penis prodded at his soft flesh under the water. “You don’t have to be the big, strong god of the underworld with me, Anu. And I love to watch you squirm!”
Anubis felt the muscles under his fur quivering, his parted thighs ached so sweetly where Sobek held them, exposing him in the water. As he felt the crocodile poking at him again, Anubis relaxed back against Sobek’s broad and scaly chest and let himself be plundered. Sobek was taller than him, and the jackal found a place for his head in the curve of the crocodile’s shoulder and gazed up at the hot blue sky and the palm fronds above them without really seeing anything, unable to do anything but shiver in pleasure as Sobek found his entrance and worked two thick fingers into the tight passage of his body. The god of the Nile held the jackal against his chest with a hand over his heart, pressing the hard edges of his new pectoral jewellery into his flesh, as he invaded the hot, tight sheath, tapping pleasure against his inner walls, making the young god writhe and moan.
“If you’re good,” Sobek’s whisper made Anubis’s ears flick in distraction, “maybe one day I’ll teach you how to do this.” He punctuated his words by placing the head of his own cock against the jackal’s tight opening and slid himself into the heat of the other deity without removing his fingers first. Anubis cried out as pleasure and pain raced each other through his system, lost in the mixed sensations which flooded him, forcing him out of his head and into the heady rush of desire as Sobek filled him up. “Talk to me, pup. What do you want?”
“Ahhh…!” Anubis could barely think past each thrust of the crocodile’s hips pounding into him, making the waters of the Nile splash about their hips, but he knew what Sobek wanted. “Please....” Not for anyone else would Anubis beg, not even for Horus, and he certainly wouldn’t have been caught dead begging Nefertem for anything, no matter how beautiful he was. “So, please, I need you.”
“Yes?” Sobek coaxed him, adjusting his fingers to grip the jackal’s hip and thigh, working into his slick body at an angle which made both of them grunt and clench their jaws in pleasure.
“Fuck me harder.”
“Please, So....” Anubis felt himself quivering, every muscle tense past the point of no return, his thighs shivering as Sobek reamed him ever deeper, spread him open further and further until the jackal thought he might break apart. “Hurt me.”
“Ohhh,” Sobek snarled in his ear as he tightened his grip on the jackal, “there’s a good dog.”
“Sobek!” Anubis keened his lover’s name between his fangs and came messily, his hips jerking out of the water to paint his seed over the clenched muscles of his abdomen. Sobek gripped his hips tight enough to make his bones ache and snarled as he flooded Anubis’s body with his own orgasm.
Neither of them attempted to move, both concentrating on inhaling enough air not to pass out.After several long minutes, Sobek wrapped his arms around the jackal and pulled the both of them deeper into the cool waters of the Nile. Anubis freed himself from Sobek’s cock and turned in his arms, tucking himself against the crocodile’s chest. Sobek smiled and petted his long ears.
“Feeling better now, pup?”
“Yes,” Anubis admitted quietly. “Thank you.”
“I’m always here, sweetie.” The river god held him tight for a moment and then ruffled his fur. “Just remember to come hiding next time before people come looking for you.”
“That’s not why I came.” The jackal pouted, but Sobek merely smiled in his knowing manner.
“I know. You’re beautiful, pup; that blue water lily boy ain’t got nothing on you.”
“And you beg so prettily.”
“Ha… don’t worry, little pup.” Sobek washed the jackal’s chest with his palm. “I’ll always keep your secrets.”
“Mmmm....” Anubis bent his head once more to settle himself on the crocodile’s warm scales. He could think of nothing better to do with his afternoon than lie around on the banks of the Nile in sleepy post-sexual satisfaction.
It lasted all of a minute before the sound of footsteps on the stone made Anubis instantly prick up a long pointed ear.
“Is your father still looking for you?” Sobek queried.
Anubis scowled and hauled himself out of the river and into the reeds.
“He’s not my father.”
“So, I won’t be seeing you later?”
Anubis glanced through the reeds at his friend and lover, wishing he could have stayed, and that Sobek didn’t look so unsurprised but disappointed.
“Of course. Have fun, Anu.”
Naked and with his fur plastered to his skin, the god of the underworld made his way through the thick reeds, and by the time the Ibis headed god arrived at the steps, his was already out of earshot.
The High Priest of Anubis had been awake for a long time. In fact, he could not remember quite when he’d last been asleep. As he knelt before the great stone statue of his most favoured god, he wondered if instead of the protection and knowledge for which he was praying, he had instead been granted a strange form of madness. Or he’d finally found a way of falling asleep without slumping to the floor. The High Priest stared as the glorious figure of his god strode naked into the temple, adorned with nothing but his fur and a golden pectoral of a giant winged green scarab, water pooling around his paws. It was potentially more worrying that the god of the underworld looked very angry, and the High Priest had been hoping to find out how to quell their deity’s rage rather than entice it. From his position on the floor, the High Priest considered the option of staying very still in the hopes his lord would not notice him, but he hadn’t become High Priest through cowardice, and if anyone was placed to speak to the god of the underworld, and potential become a sacrifice for him, then it was going to have to be him.
“Oh Lord Anubis, how glad we are for you to have heard our prayers.”
The jackal turned and stared at him, ears pricked up, his eyes narrowed in surprise. The High Priest had been expecting to meet his god one day, but he certainly hadn’t thought the lord of the underworld would be naked and smelling faintly of wet dog and river water at the time. Wishing he was anywhere else, the High Priest ploughed on.
“Great Lord, I thank you for your continued protection of those who have passed into the underworld, for watching over the great necropolis, and guiding the souls of the dead into the next life.”
Anubis arched one long eyebrow, and the High Priest quaked as the jackal began to make his way over to where he knelt. The god of the underworld ran a clawed hand through the short fur over his scalp and frowned.
“Sire, I am willing. I shall be the sacrifice you demand. Holy lord of death, I shall give my life to you. I-”
“Get up.” Anubis shook himself all over in a very canine manner as the man scrambled to his feet. He looked terrified but confused, and Anubis hoped he could dispel the first emotion for long enough to get the human to make sense. “I require no sacrifice. Not today.”
“Oh....” The High Priest was stunned. He stared at the jackal, then tore his gaze away, and fixed on the stone floor between his knees. He should not be staring at the image of the god of the underworld, not when the jackal himself stood there in the flesh. “What do you require my lord?”
“Sorry?” The High Priest’s sense of reverence caught up with his voice after he’d spoken. “I-I-I-I mean, sorry, oh lord?”
“Clothes?” Anubis repeated, as though speaking to the mentally deficient. “Where are my offerings?”
“Oh!” The High Priest scrambled to his feet, slipped in the water Anubis had shed from his fur, and recovered after a few moments of confusion. “This way my lord. We have been assembling tribute for the great pyramid of Pharaoh for many years, as is proper.”
“Indeed.” Anubis followed the human away from the main statue towards a row of hieroglyph carved pillars which led down a passageway lit with torches. One wall was carved with a relief showing figures and a story, and the High Priest was surprised when the god of the underworld stopped and stared, his brows furrowing in confusion. “What is this?”
Anubis took a torch from its bracket on the opposite wall and held it up to the painted stone. He scowled up at the scene.
“What is this?”
“My lord, that is your family?” The High Priest spoke each word very, very carefully. “There you are with your mother, learning at your father’s side. These are the instructions he has handed to you, which you, in turn, gave to our master architects in order that we might complete the great pyramid for Pharaoh. It is a favourite story among the acolytes and the apprentice pyramid architects. They all wear your symbol; without your guidance, we would be at a loss of how to revere our ancestors and pass them safely along to you.”
“He is not my father.”
The jackal rolled his shoulders, then raised his hand to the carved stone, and ripped all five claws deeply through the image of Thoth. He snarled.
“Have it removed.”
Anubis rounded on the man with a snarl which made the man shake visibly with fear.
“Remove it! He is not my father!”
“B-b-b-b-b-but my lord, how else will we remember who to thank for the technology you have bestowed upon us?”
“I don’t care! Just do it!” Anubis snapped. He took the torch in his other hand and smudged ash across the carving with indiscriminate rage.
“What would you have us carve there instead?” The High Priest really didn’t want to ask the question, but he would need to give some direction to the stone masons, and he didn’t fancy his chances at eternal life if he enraged the god of the underworld twice.
Anubis laid his ears back over his skull and barked.
“Have me converse with this Pharaoh of yours. I shall lead him out of his great tomb and into the underworld.” Anubis looked up at the expanse of wall available for the scene. “There should be a lot of gold.”
“Your wish is my command, sire.”
Anubis arched an eyebrow at the High Priest.
“It should be,” he muttered and followed the man to the store room where the tribute was being assembled.
If nothing else, Anubis smiled to himself, they do know how to give a guy a damn good send off. The store room was packed with all manner of goods, statues, treasures, chests, several chariots, a boat, carved plinths, shields, mirrors of polished stone and bronze, cloths of fine muslin and richly dyed linen, precious stones, and beads, and gems, and gold. Lots of gold. Gold looked good against the black of his fur, and Anubis smiled to himself.
“Does it please you, lord?”
“Oh yes. Very nice. You have equipped your Pharaoh with everything he will need for the next life.”
“It is our holiest intention.” The High Priest bowed very, very low. Pharaoh wasn’t even ill, or old, but such massive preparations took time. “But of course, your lordship is welcome to help himself to whatever he desires.”
Anubis dismissed the High Priest with a wave, not bothering to reply as he wandered through the room of wealth and glory, letting his fingers trail over items which he found delightful. He found first a pair of gold bands, wrought with onyx and malachite which he slipped on and fastened around his biceps, and another plain pair to fit around each forearm just under the elbow. The jackal considered the various fabrics which had been wrapped and stacked with various precious amulets of protection within their folds before choosing a richly woven but plain shendyt, and a wide belt of more malachite beads. A starched shaped headdress of thick white linen, with two slits ripped into it to allow his ears, made Anubis feel much more like himself than he had when he had arrived at the temple. He fixed the cloth in place with a gold diadem and turned back to the High Priest who stood, slack jawed, in the entrance to the store room.
“Here.” Anubis removed the beautiful scarab pectoral he had picked up that morning with a quick tug. “Give this to your Pharaoh.”
“As you bid, my lord.”
Anubis turned his attention to the nearest mirror and straightened his short skirt with a frown.
“What do you think?”
“Sire?” The human quivered slightly, and Anubis rolled his eyes as he selected a triple string necklace of blue glazed discs hung with lotus flowers. He secured the two rearing cobra clasps at the back of his neck and turned to the High Priest.
“You have done well, and you have pleased me. When the time comes for you to pass into the underworld, be assured I will be there myself to guide you across the waters and into eternity.” Anubis smiled at the man, showing his long white fangs. “Now go and do my bidding. I’ll see myself out.”
He left the High Priest before the man had a chance to speak, made his way through the temple without being seen by anyone, and stepped out into the fading light of the evening. Anubis didn’t waste any time walking through the world with the humans but made directly for the great bridge, arriving at the far end just in time to smile at Khepry as the enormous scarab beetle returned to his stable, still pushing the great disc of the sun ahead of him.
“Good day?” the jackal asked.
The dung beetle only mumbled and scowled, and Anubis turned from him with a chuckle. It had hardly been the day he’d planned, but since he’d successfully managed to avoid Thoth and his boredom, had excellent sex, and acquired himself some excellent new jewellery, Anubis still considered it a success. At least he hadn’t made himself any new enemies.
Anubis made his way along the bridge without paying much attention to what went on in the world below him as darkness fell, and Nut, with her great dress of stars, spread across the heavens. He smiled up at the sky goddess, receiving a slightly sorrowful upside down reflection of the gesture before he started up the steps of Osiris’s palace. There were two figures on the steps, silhouetted in the light spreading from the entranceway into the palace, and Anubis had raised a hand to greet his friend before he made out what was going on.Horus stood with Nefertem, the falcon’s head very close to the lapis-haired boy’s crown of blue lilies. Both of them were smiling, and as Anubis watched, Horus placed a hand on the beautiful man’s waist and whispered something in his ear. The jackal gaped as the boy giggled, and then waved at him quickly before vanishing away into the palace. Anubis continued up the steps to where his friend stood, feeling much less happy than he had moments before.
“Hey there, Anu. You look very regal.”
Anubis glared at him, and Horus looked taken aback.
“What?” The falcon held out his hands in supplication. “What did I do?”
Anubis jerked his chin in the direction Nefertem had vanished.
“What did he want?”
“Senet lessons.” Horus arched an eyebrow and smirked. “Boy’s pretty, but I’ll go mad before I make him understand the rules of the game. He’s not so smart, eh?”
Anubis felt himself begin to smile before he’d even decided to be happy.
“So does that mean he’s going to be hanging around and bothering us all the time now?”
“Nah....” Horus wrapped an arm about Anubis’s slender waist, rubbing the texture of the malachite beads against both their skins. Anubis lent into the embrace with a contented smile. “I sent him to Thoth. Bloody ibis wants to teach someone; it may as well be someone who needs some learning.”
“Is that so?”
“Oh yeah.” Horus, son of Osiris, and god of war and protection, turned to his friend, pulling the black jackal up against his chest with a sly grin. Anubis stroked the short fine feathers of his face with one hand. “This way, I’ll get more time with you all to myself.”
Anubis felt his ears prick up at Horus’s words. Underneath his new clothes, the rest of his body took an interest too.
“You got a new outfit, Anu,” the falcon murmured even as his deft fingers began to slip underneath the cloth. “You know I’m going to have to get you out of it.”