It’s been some time since I’ve worked on a piece of writing at 4 in the morning that wasn’t due that afternoon. It’s quite refreshing really, to be able to get my thoughts down that doesn’t require it to be in the drab academic format and can tell it like it is here in San Francisco. That doesn’t stop Edfu from staring over my shoulder and looking for typos, though. That bird just can’t seem to let up.
Let me introduce myself before i get too carried away. I’m Senet-Ra, and I’m a magical superheroine. I’m also a college student studying Egyptology (and minoring in English, thank you very much) who is trying to balance my studies with the rigors of fighting crime. I never would have thought that the day I found something priceless on my way home from school would change my life as I knew it forever. Finding out others had similar experiences to me was a similar shock, but I’ll save that for another post on this community.
The day I was changed started out like any other. I got up, left for the university, attended classes, did a short work study orientation for the library’s circulation desk job, stopped at the store for some essentials and was on my way home when I spotted an antiques shop. Normally I would have passed this place without a second thought, but I had time before I had to start on my reading homework, so I stopped in. It had the usual that you would see anywhere around America, old coffee tables, vintage signs, the odd sword or two, but what caught my eye was the vintage jewelry. Most of it was pretty, but what suprised me was the small collection of antiquities that lay amongst the art deco and Civil War-era pieces. There were a few Ancient Greek and Roman votive vases, a Aztec figurine, a faience bracelet that looked like it’d been ripped off a Late Period mummy’s wrist, and a gold collar with a Bast amulet attached to it.
I was entranced with the collar. It felt like it simply called to me, that I must take it from this dingy place where the only thing that was appreciated about it was that it would sell for a high price and that any other owner wouldn’t possibly be who it needed. Before I knew it, I’d drained my month’s trust allowment and earned the shopkeeper’s dark amusement.
“That piece is cursed,” He’d said to me as he handed me my reciept. “I’ve sold it three times before you came along and all three times it came back to me from a relative of the owner. They’ve told me that within a few days of trying it on, they have had several misfortunes before either passing or being mysteriously found unconcious until the collar was taken off. Be careful that the curse does not fall upon you, young lady.”
I had smiled politely, not believing him, as I took my receipt and collar in a necklace box and left for home.
It was at home that my curiosity got the better of me. I was just finishing my reading for my literature class and about to start reviewing my Middle Egyptian notes when I got a nagging feeling that I should try the collar, which was sitting in its necklace box on my dresser in the bedroom, on. I tried to ignored it, but it kept on bothering me until I closed my notes, took the collar from its box, went to the now defogged bathroom mirror and placed it around my neck.
I felt a satisfaction wash over me, and something like a queenly smile as I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror at the piece of history that hung around my neck. Went I went to take it off though, that feeling went to one of concern. I couldn’t get the thing off! It felt as if the collar itself was fighting being taken off, that I was to be its host now and that soon something wonderful would happen.
I didn’t feel wonderful at all. In fact, my emotional state verged on the edge of panic. I’d heard urban legends of items eating their owners and the shopkeeper’s words ringing in my head, but I never thought them true, even with the few supers I knew of that were out there. I tried to live my life believing in what was in front of me, and let others deal with the big, powerful things out there. But then, a gold necklace had never tried to eat me before either. I raced out of the bathroom, through my bedroom, still trying desperately to unhook the clasp, and into my living room where my notes, keys and shoes sat in various places around the room. I had my eyes closed, and didn’t see my open notebook on the floor until I slid upon it and landed upon the white carpet, bumping my head on the edge of the borrowed oak coffee table on the way down.
“So I see the collar finally found a new canidate for its powers,” I heard a female voice purr from the direction of the kitchen.
“I don’t see how she’s unlike any of the others of this generation’s canidates,” a lower female voice growled. “most couldn’t handle the first transformation, let alone be appropriately reverent to those we represent. It’s as if they believed the Netjeru were only a myth!”
“That’s because to them, Kemet’s been dead for several thousand years, ” a male voice said. “It’s no small leap of the mind if this one would think the same thing.”
“Yes, but would it keep her from accepting? You know they must all consent to the bestowment of the collar’s power. She does look a bit old for it though,” another male voice said.
My head was pounding from the bump it had procured and what sounded like…a group of people having a conversation in my living room. I was quite certain I’d locked the door before starting dinner earlier and I had heard no sounds of forced entry as I was in my panic, so I was curious as to how these people whose faces I’d yet to see had gotten in. It was either that or I was hallucinating. I forced my aching self to roll over onto my back and sit up.
I was confronted with four people…in the loosest sense. The two women were somewhere along the feline and leonine ranges mixed with humanoid bodies, and the two men were either very beakish or somewhat leonine like the one woman. All of them were in various states of undress and adornment. They all looked like they’d walked off an Ancient Egyptian tomb’s walls. I must’ve caught the feline woman’s attention with my confused gaze, because she smiled warmly and nudged the beakish man. They all turned to face me sitting on the floor.
“She can see us,” the feline lady said. “The collar’s magic has taken root.”
“So it has,” the beakish man said. “Tell me child, what is your name?”
“Who-who are you all and wha-what’s going on?” I asked, still a little panicked. “Why are you in my apartment?”
The beakish man sighed. “I’d prefer your name before we explain ourselves, miss.”
“It’s appropriate to introduce yourself to us,” the leonine woman said. “After all, you did summon us by placing the Collar of Bast-Mut on.”
“I’m Rai Ren–I don’t think I need to give you my full name for an explanation of what you’re doing in my apartment!” I said, rubbing my throbbing head.
“That’s better,” the leonine man said. “We just needed your first name so we don’t have to keep on calling you miss. The collar’s already looked into your ren when you put it on.”
“You mean the Ancient Egyptian part of the soul that is a person’s truename?”
He nodded. “The collar only chooses what it thinks are suitable canidates for its power via its sensing of the khu. Those that it feels would stand up to the rigors of its heka are compelled to try it on, where it can read the person’s ren.”
“Those that pass that check get us summoned to them and a few trials to weigh the heart at its current state, so to speak,” the feline woman said and stretched. “I’m always first to arrive because the collar bears my great queen’s name.”
“As for how we got into here, there is very dismal spiritual protection around this living space you can an ‘apartment’, so netjeri such as us could waltz right through the front door,” Mr. Leonine said.
“We don’t do it unless its official business for the Netjeru we serve, as its generally more polite to not go wandering into strange human dwellings unless we have an attachment there, but most of this era’s people do not have that kind of draw for netjeri of our level,” Mr. Beaky said.
“Okay, so what should I call you four?” I asked.
“Just call us by our forms for now,” Mr. Leonine said.
“Either way the trials go, you’ll either know a lot of pain–and possibly death if your ka is weak enough–or you’ll become known to the Netjeru we serve,” Miss Leonine said.
“If you’re lucky, you’ll be put on a probationary period for the collar before my queen is notified of the results. Usually her more motherly side and those who serve her watch over this period to make sure our trust isn’t misplaced,” Miss Feline said.
“I was so hoping that last woman would go the distance,” Mr. Beaky said, “but alas, she had to go and use the collar’s power to steal from a bank several days walk from here. We just couldn’t allow her to continue to disrupt ma’at, so we took the power from her. She should be deciding now whether to stay on the Seen or cross over…”
I looked a little worried at their words as I tried to get up onto my feet. I only managed to get onto my knees before I had to support myself on the coffee table. “So I have to earn your trust or I die? It sounds like kind of a harsh penalty for this collar’s power…”
“Yes, well they didn’t say the road to becoming Bast-Mut’s chosen was an easy one,” Mr. Beaky said. “That’s why we offer the canidate a choice, and require them to be at least fifteen before they can undergo the trials. We know this is not the legal age for this nation and we will be looking into adjusting that age requirement in the collar’s magical matrix once the next generation comes along.”
“The choice we give the canidate is a simple one. Either consent to go though the trials, or forever give up the chance to serve Bast-Mut as her direct emissary to the seen,” Mr. Leonine said.
“Can the collar be taken off before I make that choice?” I asked as I finally lifted myself onto the couch.
Miss Leonine laughed. “No, it needs an answer while we’re here to witness before it’ll come off. It makes it so that we don’t need to summoned repeatedly every time it has to read the person’s ren. It also forces the canidates to follow their instinct, and therefore their truer nature.”
“We prefer an answer before sunrise, as we do have other duties to attend to besides the collar’s trials,” Miss Feline said. “Most usually give us an answer within an hour at the most.”
“…I don’t see why I should be this goddess’ emmisary on Earth,” I said, thinking aloud. “I mean, the lure of power doesn’t call to me like it would more ambitious people. I’m decently set for the next few years in terms of finances for my education. The only things I can think of that would pull me towards this are my love of Egyptology, my general longing to have real adventure like in anime, and maybe help people in the process. If I go through the trials and am proven to be what you want, could I still step away from it and not be killed or put into a coma?”
“I would have to ask my great queen about that, but generally the collar stays for life or the incapacitation of the bearer,” Miss Feline said and then closed her eyes. It was a few minutes before she opened them again. “She says that if it’s an abdication during the probationary period, it shouldn’t be much of a problem, but it would early generation if you were to do so after that. The collar would be too attached by then and you would be very hurt by the seperation.”
“How long is this probationary period?”
“One Kemetic year. Seeing as it starts around your current Gregorian calendar’s late July to early August, you would have almost a year within it to consider the position.”
“Assuming you pass the trials,” Mr. Leonine said.
I thought long and hard about it. Knowing it would mean I would probably be challenging my old notions of the world, and my school schedule, I finally opened my mouth to answer. “I might as well, but I will let you know my schoolwork and basic needs do come first. So, yes, I’ll do it.”
“Excellent,” Mr. Beaky said.
“Bast will understand that, but if you pass the trials, you’ll be required to do emissary work once a week at minimum,” Miss Feline said. “Let’s get you started through the trials, then.” She walked up to me and touched my forehead. I felt as if a warmth enveloped me as it emenated from where she’d touched my skin. Miss Leonine was next, touching my white sleepshirt where my heart lay underneath my skin. It felt like water surrounded me, and I could barely breathe.
Mr. Beaky’s touch came to my eyes and I felt like I could see all the wrong I ever did, but all the good I had as well. This also blinded me to where Mr. Leonine aimed until I felt it as more of a punch to my solar plexus than a gentle touch the others’ were. I doubled over in pain as I felt like the punch had set my insides ablaze.
It was then as I held my eyes shut that I felt a light from within burst forth, soothing the pain and calling to me. Are you gonna let them tear us to shreds? It asked. I sure in the hell don’t want to be forced to leave you here on the couch to die when we’ve got so much more to live for! Call upon her! Call upon her to control the netjeri that were sent here to test you! Call the Iryetra!
I was saying the words to a song I didn’t even know I knew as I struggled against everything that they put into me, even that start of a lingering doubt that I couldn’t do it that was seeping through me. “Bas es samecheck, Iryetra, Iryetra, Bas es senedjeck, Iryetra, Iryetra. Sau em Bast-Mut, Iryetra, Iryetra! Khuwi netyu meruwi, Iryetra! Kheperu tet!” The pain fully lifted and I blinded myself with the light coming from within. When I was able to finally see again, all four of the people were on their knees, looking exhausted and restrained.
“Good, you passed,” Miss Feline said. “Just remember that song and you’ll be fine. It seems that you took a bit more shine to Bast than most have.” She smiled.
I would have asked her what she meant, except that the wave of exhaustion that swept me away into passing out upon the couch prevented me from doing so.