Bast worked out her ‘kitten rage’ somewhere over the Nile and fell over on a bright green coil of serpent Goddess, arms and legs trailing, the sistrum on the deck of the barq just under her gold-covered fingertips, claw points just ticking gently on the metal instrument. Her hair, beaded and braided much more elaborately than Naida’s trailed also, on either side, adding to the soft clatter as she snored… lightly. More like a purr.
One hand curled possessively over Wadjet’s scales, pinning Naida’s skirt with golden claws and Naida didn’t dare move. It didn’t seem to be a good idea.
Asteri sighed, somehow shifted his paws under Bast’s and she curled between the chimera and the Lady of Flame, freeing Naida so she could scootch back against the bow of the barq, still holding her lamp.
“She… just kind of fell over. Is that normal?” she asked.
“Yes,” Wadjet answered, lifting a feathered arm to shade them all from Re’s burning gaze. He still stood, behind them, glaring across the sand and the heat of his gaze was enough to fry onions on the stones of the streets below… sand… Nile… more streets. They hurtled through days of travel in the course of a single day, powered by the sun. “She has more and younger avatars than most Deities and you have to let the children blow off their energy like a windstorm. You see she looks older now as she sleeps?”
Bast’s face was older, more reminiscent of full grown lioness or full grown leopard and her breathing was more a big-cat’s rumbling purr than anything else.
“I… see, I think.” Naida said quietly. “Sy…um Wadjet… Lady… I’m nervous of this fight. When I found a little boy in the desert I didn’t think I and Syb and Asteri would be tangled in a fight for supremacy… and I need to get home.” She wasn’t going to blubber. In the desert it wasted water, besides being undignified. “My mother and father are going to have another child. And they might not want me or need me if this baby is raised by them and our people.”
Wadjet made a noise as though she was going to interrupt, but Naida carried on, talking right over the Goddess’s sound and the snake woman’s eyebrows shot up toward the edge of her headdress. “I know, I know… every child is wanted and needed by someone. But…”
Asteri baaaaed at her and his lion head shook its mane, all quietly to not wake Bast. “Not true, little princess. That’s just fear. We’re here to witness this coming…” he hemmed and hawed for a moment before settling on an appropriately neutral term. “… this coming discussion between Re and Amun. My Lady of Flame is here to support Re… and Bast also. They are here to protect the human witnesses.”
“Why do Gods need human witness,” she asked and Bodhi started laughing and laughing so hard he fell right off his lotus.
“Because with no audience,” he said. “There is no story. With no suffering there is no relief of suffering.”
Wadjet nodded quietly as she scooped Bodhi up and dumped him, head first, back into his flower, where his feet kicked as he roared with laughter. “Very true. You see, Naida-Efra, the Gods are so powerful that they are beyond story and they are bored enough to play very silly games with Each Other. Humans make real story, because they are so powerless. As you said to Re, ‘You cannot make me worship you.’ And Gods cherish that. You humans give your suffering and your stories and your adoration so completely that the Gods are drunk on you.”
“You mean we are kind of like Them getting drunk?”
Bodhi pried himself out of the lotus and lay, draped languidly over the petals. “Very wise, princess,” he said.
“But that means we’re mostly just here as game pieces.”
“On the wheel of time, yes, until you wake up and realize that you have free will.”
Kurama nuzzled into her ear. “Foxes are all about free will.”
Naida scratched her ushera under the chin and felt her fingertips crackle with energy. “How is it that you are so powerful, when I’m not bleeding?”
The fox bumped her forehead into Naida’s palm and flopped over sideways almost like a cat. “Humans are changing. Growing up. You’re starting to understand where the Goddess power really comes from. It’s from stars, you know. But blood is the easiest way to access it.”
“Stars? And humans are getting shoved around by drunken Divinities.” Naida felt like she was facing down Yal and the other mean girls and boys. “That’s not right.”
Wadjet shifted slightly to keep them in the shade. “The problem is that some Goddesses, Gods and Spirits get drunk on death and terror alone. Control of human suffering is what drives them so they try and make more of it. Mother Goddess shows grief instead of insanity, mostly.”
“Oh, yes,” Bhodi said, offering her another cup. “You might want a bit of tea before you look ahead. Amun’s Temple is in sight.”
Asteri’s lion head came up and he snarled deep enough to jounce Naida on the deck. She restrained herself from whipping her head around and accepted Bodhi’s cup and nodded her thanks. “Thank you, Bodhi. I think it will help me calm down.”