CHAPTER FIVE

SET sank deep into the bowels of The Underworld where he was first formed. Where the first evil was committed so long ago that only he remembered. Once there, he wallowed in the corrupted essentia, drinking in its purity and forming a plan. There were long forgotten parts of Duat only the oldest inhabitants remembered. Deep subterranean cells retaining Malum, old evil no longer permitted to walk the earth. Evil he caged as protector of the human race and as a pretense to gain Osiris’ council would serve him again. A ripple of delight swept along his changing form. So many layers with nooks and crannies, caves and wells, to cast friend, foe, and the discarded dregs, off and forget they existed. Through many layers of sediment and rock, he passed, slowing as he approached each ward. Some created by him, others by Osiris. A few were a combination of the four council members: Nephythys, Osiris and Isis and himself. He passed through the final ward and set foot on the ancient corridor. Created from the very first sands of Egypt, the inky glass pathway led to equally dark glass chambers housing the enemies of the Pantheon. At the end of the end, Osiris’ crypt rested. Not like the crypts of the pharaohs, no furnishings, trinkets, bodies of slaves, or feasts were housed to take him to the afterlife.

Encased in stone, frozen to his council seat, the god had chosen his fate and accepted his sentence. There he waited for the one person that could free him. But never would. His mind wandered to his son, Anubis. How could a joining between Nephythys and him produce a weak-willed, spineless being. She had birthed Horus, a true prince of the Pantheon, for her lover Osiris and let his wife, Isis, claim maternity. It was the only way SET would let the child live and mature into his godhood. And it was the only way Nephythys would agree to be his wife. What a poor bargain he had made when he commanded Hathor, the Goddess of Love, to join them together. Too late for regret. Now was the time for vengeance. As he walked the pathway, SET peered into each chamber, searching for the one he wanted. In the middle, situated between a chthonic demon and a Sumerian, Khuket—Goddess of Darkness and Chaos—resided. Curled into a tight ball in the shadowy corner of the room, SET listened to her labored breathing. She suffered. Eternal hunger gnawed her insides and reduced her to this mewling being. He would never know that hunger. The abundance of evil precluded that possibility. SET swept his hand along the hieroglyphics lining the doorway to her chamber. The glyphs hummed to life. Their

patterns changed, realigned, allowing the barrier to thin and him to pass. Her breathing hitched and her head craned on her neck. Her dark pixie hair was at odds with her ashen skin. Red rimmed, pitted eyes glared at him before she rolled onto her back, heaved a breath, and rolled once more onto her side. A pert nipple peaked through the tattered remains of a gown showing vast stretches of flesh. A tight abdomen, the curve of her hip lay bare. The gown dipped into the valley between her slim legs, outlining her sex. All would’ve stoked a fire in any man. Regrettably, SET wasn’t a man and his embers burned for one who cared naught. If he could, he’d kill Hathor, the Goddess of Love, for binding him to his beloved wife, even though she did so at his command. The conquered Goddess of Ogdoad studied him with hostile eyes. No less than all he deserved for his part in her pantheons defeat. If she could, Khuket would see him and all in the Egyptian Pantheon dead. The desire for revenge swam in her eyes. A fruitless endeavor. Death held no leverage over him or him over the final judgment. Besides, there were worse things than death—defeat. A condition she should be well acquainted with. “Forgive me Great God SET for not welcoming you as you deserve. What brings you to my palace?” She rasped. His

He stopped a smile from forming. “You do, Goddess.” vis’Ra ebbed from his pores and gathered in a murky ball,

hovering in the center of the cell. Khuket’s lurched to her feet. Sparks flared briefly in her eyes as she tracked the energy. “I thank you for the recognition, but I am no longer a goddess.” She trembled. SET waited for her to crumble, crawl, beg. She didn’t. “Though caged, I will not deny your true station, Khuket, Goddess of Ogdoad, the kingdom that came before my own.” She sank gracefully to her knees, then genuflected and stayed bowed in that submissive position. He wasn’t fooled. Energy depleted, she had not the strength to gain her footing once more. He palmed the ball of energy and hurled it across the cell. Power coated her, soaked into her. Khuket collapsed onto the earthen floor. Body arching, mouth agape in a silent scream, she thrashed. Her fingers gouged the ground until she banged her head once, twice leaving flecks of blood quenching the dirt. shudder raced from the tips of her hair to her toes. Then, she stopped. She dry heaved once, twice, then gritted her teeth and A

bore down. He knew his energy didn’t quit suit her, but she needed it. She wouldn’t regurgitate precious his gift. Khuket, the last remaining deity of The Eidos, a race of elementals who thrived in the first eons, gave a last shudder and stood. A flame flickered in the depths of her eyes. No longer wan and pasty, a thousand candles seemed to illuminate

her from within. Edges of the tattered gown seamlessly knit together. The threads of her power stroked him, subtly shifting his emotions. Her steady gaze cooled to a smoldering ember when she met his gaze and her slight smile washed over him. He threw back his head and laughed. “You are exactly what I need. I will grant you your freedom now and forever if you complete one task for me.” Her startled expression pleased him. “You would free me? Once your enemy?” She hedged. He nodded. “What is the task?” Suspicion edged each word.

“I have sent my son to kill a human. He will fail.” He suffered her questioning stare for a moment. “It is his nature to fail. This adventure will be no different. You will find this human for me. Destroy everything he loves. Then bring him to me.” A feral, eager grin split her face. “Who is this man that has earned your wrath?” SET pushed all the knowledge he had of his nemesis into Khuket’s mind. Her lovely face lost all trace of emotion. “Are you up to the task or do you doubt your abilities?” “Your will shall prevail, but this will take time my lord.” Her level gaze didn’t skirt away from his.

She challenged him with the truth. “What is time to a god? Do you accept?” “Yes, my God SET. I agree to your terms for my complete freedom. Destroy the man’s soul and return his shell to you. Is that all?” Demure and acquiescent, she portrayed the model servant. He liked that. He told her the terms and she accepted without haggling. Not that she had a choice. SET moved his hand along the hieroglyphics, causing them to glow. The sealed glass doorway turned back into its natural state, collapsing to the ground as golden sand. Khuket crossed the threshold and sighed deeply. He noted a different look in her eye. Amusement? Curiosity? Both danced within their depths. “What will stop me from leaving this place and doing as I please?” SET changed, turned into a Typhon, a jackal-like mystical predator Ra defeated when he’d first conquered earth. The Greeks learned of the legend, created their own beast, and named it such, though nothing so magnificent as he. Sleek, coal colored fur covered his body. Multiple rows of canine teeth populated his mouth. Small openings for ears and four pitted eyes comprised his head. Eight claw-like feet and a forked tail, all ten feet of him surrounded her.

He batted her back into the cell. Khuket skidded to the middle of the room and didn’t move. In this form, he had to battle to keep his more primitive impulses under control. He wanted to pounce and play with her before devouring her in delicious bits. Instead, he stalked over to her and pinned her to the floor. He crouched low and brought his snout close to her face. He liked the fright in her eyes and the way she trembled. “I am SET, the God of all Evil. Where ever evil goes, hides, lives, I am drawn to it and it to me. You, defeated goddess, will never be able to hide from me. Your dark chaotic essence is the very thing which will lead me to you. Run. I need a good hunt.” He growled, drooling onto her face. Her fear seeped into him, quelling the rage her challenge stirred. He retreated and returned to the SET who had greeted earlier. “Follow me.” He turned and again crossed the threshold

of the cell. He glanced once more on Osiris’ crypt, swearing the god’s eyes followed him. Khuket paused and studied the occupant of the cell next to her. “Fail in your oath and this prison will house you again,” he said. “My oath binds me to your will, Great God SET. You will have your vengeance . . . and I will have mine.” Her form faded into the foundation of the prison. SET didn’t give chase. He let her believe she had achieved some

small triumph because it wouldn’t last. And in the end, victory was much sweeter when you destroyed your opponent’s dreams. Instead, he listened to the sweet chimes of her laughter ringing in his soul.

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