exordium

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IT WAS THE NIGHT OF the annual summit. They had all conveyed at Amun's dwelling, the Khurnak temple. Anubis' fingers itched, a sign that always indicated his excitement. His tongue yearned to spill the brilliant idea he had come up with during his extensive walk the day before. The gods were filing into the hall, some engaged in conversations and a few glaring distastefully at the inscriptions on the wall. Sekhmet lit up the room, lighting the torches with a flick of her hand.

Anubis rolled his eyes; she was such a show off. He watched as she stalked to her seat, her rafiq, a stealthy lioness, following close behind. Something wet pressed against his ankle, causing him to end his observation and glance down. His own rafiq, a jackal, stood at his feet. Anubis cracked a smile and ran a hand through his fur, knowing how much he liked it. Soon, they were all seated in their respective seats. Their conversation, however, did not cease.

Amun walked in, a smug smile on his face as he admired the temple that the mortals had built for him. He walked further into the room, dragging his sceptre behind him. Amun frowned when he realised that they were still speaking in his presence.

"Silence!" he ordered, halting at the head of the table, his seat.

The heads of the other gods swivelled, they conversations dying out. Well, majority of them. Ammut and Shesmu were still talking, discussing the latest batch of souls that had arrived.

"Akhrus!" he shouted, glaring at them both.

Pleased with the silence, he took his seat. "Let us begin."

Anubis zoned out of the meeting, not interested in the affairs of the other gods. Everyone could see what happened throughout the year; to him, there was no need for this summary. He longed for the end of the meeting to announce his idea.

"I never knew being a god was such a bore, Anubis," Amun drawled, running a finger along his sceptre.

Anubis snapped out of his reverie and sent him a frigid smile. "Not at all," he answered, easing himself into his seat as he ran a finger over the black velvet that covered his seat.

Amun glanced at Osiris who glared at Anubis in return. Tilting his head sideways, Anubis rolled his eyes and continued to pet his rafiq. He may not care for the old fool, but he didn't want to be cast out before he revealed his plans.

Very soon, the time he had been waiting for arrived.

"Does anyone have anything they want to say?" Amun asked, glancing round the table.

"I do," Anubis spoke up, leaning forward and placing his elbows on the table as his rafiq sat straight.

"Pray, do tell," Amun said, waving a hand as though wanting him to finish talking already.

"I propose," he begun, then paused, shaking his head. "No, I am bringing back the twelve chambers of hell."

Anubis sat back, a sly grin on his face, as all hell broke loose.

Pakhet, the goddess of motherhood, rose from her chair and shouted, "I won't let you toy with my children in that way!"

Her rafiq, a lioness, snarled; her mood changing in accordance to her goddess'.

"You will be messing with the cycle of life, why do you think it was banned in the first place?" Ma'at the goddess of justice, truth and order asked angrily, slamming a fist against the table. The ostrich behind her, her rafiq, puffed its feathers.

Sekhmet changed into her alter ego, Hathor, switching from the goddess of lions, fire and vengeance to the goddess of love. The lioness at her side changed, in accordance, into a cow, mooing loudly as her tail swished to and fro.

"I won't let these mortals be killed a second time for only one person to return to earth," she said, her voice low and soothing.

Mafdet, the god of justice, stood up from his seat. His mongoose stood on its hind feet and snapped its teeth. "This is unfair, what about all the people before?"

"Akhrus!" Amun shouted, slamming his sceptre against the ground as he stood up from his seat.

"Exactly," Anubis said, sliding his fingers across the table. "Shut up! Let me explain," he continued, standing up.

"I will bring it back, but it will have a twist. It won't be the same twelve chambers of hell these mortals were told of during their childhood. Each chamber will be a different trial. The winner of the competition gets to go back to earth with a clean slate," Anubis explained, basking in the attention he was receiving.

He leaned back and turned, stalking towards Pakhet. "Dearest Pakhet, I fail to see how you're disturbed," he drawled, running a hand through her hair.

Her lioness snarled at his jackal who barked in response.

Anubis ignored them and continued, "Mortals fighting for their lives, doesn't that bear a resemblance to something you rule over?"

"War," she purred, running her fingers through her rafiq who had calmed down, just like her goddess.

"And Sekhmet," Anubis continued, walking towards Hathor. "We all know that competitions lead to injustice. These mortals will thus try to seek─,"

"Vengeance," she completed, transforming back into Sekhmet.

Anubis grinned, loving how beautifully his plan was working out.

"What about us?" Mafdet asked, gesturing towards himself and Ma'at.

"You're none of my concern," Anubis answered with a wave of his hand, not even sparing them a glance as though they were the scum beneath his slippers. "Only the vote of major gods, or gods with influence, count."

"Amun, you're going to let this happen?" Ma'at asked, her words dripping with outrage.

"Don't you remember when we were feared by the mortals? How we were revered?" Anubis asked, walking towards Amun.

"Now, they scoff at the thought of gods. If we show them, through this competition, that we are a force to be reckoned with, don't you think another temple would be built for you?"

Amun stared down at his sceptre in thought; Anubis did have some salient points. A new temple wouldn't be bad, seeing as this one was starting to chip away.

"Habibata," he said, turning to his wife Amunet, "what do you think?"

"I think a little competition never killed anyone," she said, smiling at the irony as she took a sip from the chalice in her hand.

Anubis sent her a discreet wink.

He was right after all, he was bringing back the twelve chambers of hell.

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