Jaws agape, the young jackal stood in awe of what had just taken place. In a flash he'd been plucked from the material realm and now stood in the halls of the Pantheon.
Fine pillars of carved stone rose up to touch a crystal blue sky. Shifting sculptures of pleasing male and female forms stood on pedestals decorating the central court, and a lush oasis of green interspersed with vibrant flowers.
"In all my years I never grow tired of looking at it either," remarked a musical female voice from behind.
Whirling, he immediately recognised Isis and dropped to his knees in supplication as Ferionas had always impressed upon him.
With eyes rolling and arms folded beneath her bosom, the goddess regarded him with a frown. "There is no need. You can address me just as well on your feet."
It took a moment for the jackal to register but just as soon he obeyed as though commanded. "Y-yes!"
She was gloriously beautiful, like no woman Ankh'mhem had ever laid eyes upon. There'd always been something of an itch for a certain servant girl that carried the waters each morning, but this was something else.
"My face is up here, child," she remarked with a mock tone of chiding.
The flustered jackal at once met her gaze, his golden eyes making her shiver for the likeness of his father was incredibly sharp. But where gaunt and severe angles belonged to the senior, charming softness made the junior. Still a boy, but she could tell he would be a glorious man.
"I am Isis, though I suspect you need no introduction if I know the way Ferionas lectures you. But you've seen the last of those. Your studies are at an end, at least in part."
She watched as those tall ears of his swivelled to chase the sound, could almost hear the whirring of his mind playing catch-up. "The Pantheon has decided to grant you some responsibility."
Ankh-mhem had just about been in possession of what was going on when this newest revelation hit him between the eyes. "The Pantheon?! Me?!!"
She held up a lightly tanned hand for him to let her continue, to calm himself, and oddly enough he felt his thoughts come into focus and his anxieties level out.
"You have spent long enough cloistered in that temple, kept from the truth. Have you not wondered about your parents, child? It is of no consequence, however. We will bring you up to speed with these things later. For now we are going to discuss.. the dreaming.
* * *
How do you put into words what it feels like to suddenly discover everything you ever knew was just a fraction of the reality? I spent some days coming to terms with it all. Weeks, months, who knows how long? Time doesn't seem to move in the Dreaming. She waited. Her patience seems to know no bounds. I think I love her but then it is not like any love I've ever known. She tells me it is the love of a mother. She reads my thoughts without any warning. She tells me about my mother, too. Ahlara, Goddess of Dreams.
Like the air bubbles that burst to the surface when diving into the Nile, the orbs of the Dreaming floated in an infinite void. Sometimes clustered, sometimes solitary, they were anchors of creation in the nothing that existed between realms. Inside every one of the pearlescent spheres a mortal was communing with their god, either in deep prayer or sleeping.
However, the Pantheon were incredibly busy or so they liked to claim. The prayers of mortals were fickle and numerous, too many to be handled individually for such a thing would draw the Pantheon away from greater things. Instead they were left often enough to be unheard, occasionally fished from for the sake of amusement, whimsy, or to fill a vacancy in the great design.
Isis stood within one of the 'bubbles', a blank canvas of nothing that she had chosen by default to be an endless sandy plain. Ankh'mhem stood at her side, features that much more composed and chiselled, several years having passed since his original induction. The benefits of immortality had already begun to shave away the flaws from his physical body, inclining toward a more subtle masculinity.
"There is no need for me to instruct you in what must be done next, child. I am here to observe and to guide." She swept her hand across the horizon and the sun was dragged across the sky and brought down to allow for night to fall.
"Anything you desire can be made manifest here. It is no exclusive privilege, however. Any mortal is capable of the same thing."
The jackal predictably wilted at the saying so. It had been said before, but he'd held a hope that something more would come of the assignment and the honorifics that had been bestowed. "But I am aware and in control," he responded to which he was granted an approving nod.
"Your hand in the Dreaming is a firm one. The mortals cause minor and often random ripples in the flow of creation. Short-lived and spontaneous."
The goddess watched as the jackal moved off the mark before she'd finished speaking, a lift of her chin as she waited for what was to come. It was faster and more organised than she could ever have imagined, a natural flair expressing itself in the young male. Buildings and landscape blurred like running paints and took shape at the waving of his hands. A gash in the ground that turned to a snake-like ribbon of water. He's building Egypt. It was not the real Egypt. Yet Ankh'mhem's attention to detail was astonishing. People populated the miniature replica now. Like little ants they appeared in droves and began to go about ordinary tasks. The jackal's features were fixed with concentration but a small smile held pride of place throughout.
Ankh-mhem the God of Dreaming had found his purpose. The coming years were spent in isolation as the jackal honed and mastered new challenges set by his mistress.The whispers of a romance between them were beginning to circulate with much relish amongst the younger gods, the older gods more subtle with their gossip.
What was certain; the disorder and warring of the rival ethnicities vying for control of Egypt, the racial squabbling of beast and men - it was bubbling off. Peace was creeping through the cracks of long contested political chasms like an errant weed and it was all due to the increased presence of the gods, working through their new herald.