The Mission at Kemet
Missions were chosen.
An orbital shift, gentle on a planetary scale, but deadly sharp to candidate species, nudged the planet from where it had had been. Habitable regions turned to deserts, grasslands to forests. Wind currents dipped southwards, bringing dry winds to rain forests, causing the climate on this world to change.
Oases dried up. Rain pools evaporated. Fruit trees, grains, fishes, all disappeared. Grassy plains of the target-group of creatures rapidly turned to oceans of sand. It was then the Tayamni sent missions, teachers, farmers, builders, and priests, led by Matriarchs. They settled among the new species. Missions were dotted across the planet, some half-way across the world from others.
The Kemetic Mission of Tayamni settled along a great river running north and south through shifting storms of sand.
Like most missions, this one had some success. The target-group were taught to farm, to make use of the seasons, to build houses, shelters, grain stores, and temples. The Tayamni hid advanced technology from them, or tried to. The candidate species would be taught basic skills, but any further advancements, they were explected to make on their own. The Earth project, human evolution, the progress of the candidate species depended on their own advancement, culturally, technologically, and spiritually.
But, after a time, the Mission underwent unsettling change. Their Matriarch chose to leave, to travel across time. She, and other Tayamni were needed at a future era to deal with a new threat. The day of her departure brought fear and celebration.
She would leave during the season of Peret, the planting.
Waters of the Great River had receded. Shorn fields, under water since The Inundation, covered themselves again with black earth.
Replenished, fertile lands promised harvests of wheat, barley, melons, and flax. Crops had become more treasured than gold. Surrounded by red, dry sands, the strip of black earth along the river, shone like oil in the sun, still wet.
This ribbon of rich, black earth was the land of the living, the black land of Kemet.
Along each side of the Mission, the land climbed higher, black earth gave way to red sand. There, parched in burning light, where sun and wind stripped flesh from bone. There, in the lifeless desert lay Deshret, the land of the dead.
The target-group, a people already spliced with Tayamni DNA, connected to the Power eagerly. All things were filled with Devine energy — the Great River, the Desert Wind, the Seasons, Dust Storms, Mountains, all were alive, charged with the power of the Gods. The people looked around and saw signs of the sacred everywhere.
Even in Deshret, it was the Gods who brought death, Gods and demi-Gods, spiritual helpers, tricksters granted survival, luring the unsuspecting to the water’s edge to be devoured by crocodiles. Only the brave or fool hardy ventured to sands of Deshret. There, at the border, lions roamed, hyenas crushed human bones, and jackals devoured the hapless dead. The Di’jin, twisting whirls of wind, spun wildly, roughly, throwing dust in your eyes, laughing at anyone foolish enough to approach.
It was here, close to the river, on a low bluff between the land of the living and the sands of the dead, the Tayamni built the city of the Gods. More a small settlement than a city, for hunter-gatherers living in caves, it was a miracle. No matter how frequently the Tayamni told them they were not Gods, the target-group, the humans, knew better. Here, the Tayamni taught agriculture, building, writing, music, and inadvertently, religion. They built monuments to the Nine. Stories about the First Ones, the Nine, abounded, spreading through human communities like wild fire.
Tayamni revered the Nine, the Ennead. In shrines dedicated to them, the Matriarch explained they were creatures of flesh and bone, like humans. At night, she pointed to the skies, towards the constellation from which the Tayamni themselves came, hoping to explain away, with reason, any suspicions they were holy.
But, for humans, it was rather, a confirmation. At Kemet, humans called the constellation, The Seven Hathors. At other missions, it was The Seven Sisters, or The Seven Doves. At only one Mission had humans kept the name the Ennead gave them, Tayamni-Pa, the Head of the Animal.
But here, at Kemet, humans had seen Tayamni come from the stars. Their home in the constellation, now confirmed by the Matriarch, only proved their teachers, were Gods.
On the day of the Matriarch’s departure, the palace, on elevated ground near the river, teamed with activity. Behind tall, tapered walls, painted columns and silent doors, blessed ones gathered. Nobles from distant missions, jeweled and perfumed — scribes, cooks, even lowly farmers gathered to pay homage to the Queen, the Matriarch of Kemet.
Cooks prepared funereal feasts. Stewards brought amphorae of wine from seasons past, and all spoke of the Matriarch’s departure.
Here, a musician sat in a garden near the kitchens, resting her fingers. She’d been playing all morning. At her feet sat a holy animal, wearing a jeweled collar of precious metals. These animals, declared sacred by priests, were manifestations of Bastet, the Goddess of domestic happiness, of sensuality. Bastet, was one of the Nine, in whose shrines men and women expressed and sought out sacred, physical pleasure, as an expression of the Power of Love. These holy animals would one day be called domestic house cats, by humans.
Mau, the cat, the Matriarch’s favorite, sat there, on her haunches, looking up at the musician.
Pentu, a laborer, sat next to her, “She gives you a sacrifice.”
Nebt pulled away, as Mau dropped the corpse of a mouse at her feet.
“You will insult the Goddess,” Pentu teased, placing his rough hand on hers.
Nebt swallowed hard, and looked at the bejeweled feline, “Thank you, holy one.” She nodded.
Looking at Pentu, she drew her brows together. “Do not laugh,” she whispered loudly. “Even now, the Matriarch walks among the reeds.” She moved further from the grisly gift.
Ignoring Nebt’s caution, he chuckled. “You are clearly NOT her favorite,” he gestured, standing, knowing he must get back to the quarry. “Otherwise, she would have given you the head.”
“Today we mourn,” Nebt scolded, wondering that he was not more respectful.
Mau turned her feline gaze towards the great hall. Lowering herself to the ground so not to be seen, she snaked across the sand, freezing stock-still with one paw lifted, her ears flicked back and forth.
With the stealth of a thief, she made her way towards a potted bush. There, a bird fluttered hopelessly in thick branches. Flapping its wings, tail feathers caught on a thorn.
Two men, covered in flour, walked from the kitchens carrying metal disks. Leaning towards each other, whispering, one man struck his toe against a door frame, dropping disks onto the step. Metal plates, used to spread dough into circular forms, made a loud clang. Two rolled from the slab into the garden.
Mau froze. Lowering herself against the ground, she saw disks rolling towards her. Digging her paws in sand, she turned quickly, running in the opposite direction. Entering a doorway, she sprinted down a darkened hall. She ran between the legs of servants and nobles.
Turning right, then left, she entered a wing normally closed off. She heard voices from the end of the hall. Daintily, she made her way towards them. The strong aroma of incense stopped her. Looking from behind a column, her eyes reflecting lamplight like brass mirrors, she saw a woman standing at a bedpost.
In her early 20s, the woman wore a sheer toga and braided wig. The ancient bed was stuffed with straw.
Lamplight cast trembling shadows against thin drapes, the air heavy with perfume. Hathors, Tayamni life-givers, wearing golden masks stood around the bed, hunched over the old woman. She lay still, wheezing. Wisps of white hair, tangled, brushed away from her forehead, framed an aged face. Her arthritic hands, curved and knotted, grasped linen blankets covering her thin body.
The Hathors stood in silence, transmitting thoughts.
Gasping, the old woman called out, “Batresh.”
The Hathors acted quickly. Technology in the jewelry they wore, medallions hanging from their foreheads, activated, casting light towards the aged Queen. Closing their eyes, they whispered rhythmic spells, their bodies swaying.
Acolytes shook sistrums, accompanying chant with metallic shimmering.
Batresh’s head swam. The walls curved, bending around her. She held onto the bedpost, incense burned her nostrils. Her heart pounded. She closed her eyes. A blinding flash of light accompanied by the sizzle of heated elements burst forth from the bed, as a matrix, lattices of radiated yellow light materialized above them. A pungent odor of burning filaments filled the room. And, just as quickly, the light vanished, shot across time and space to the distant future.
As if waking from a dream, the dizziness diminished and Batresh regained her footing.
The chanting stopped.
Opening her eyes, she saw the Hathors standing back from the bed, staring at the lifeless body.
The Matriarch was dead.
The Palace at Sekhmet