Ra-Horakhty and the Ghostbusters
By Princess Artemis
All RGB © Sony, DiC, Columbia, whomever and whenever; the rest © S.D.Green. With apologies to Kitty Woldow, who was gracious enough to give me permission to write this.
This bitty little fic is a tag to Kitty Woldow'sHighway to Hell. You may wish to read it first, or if serious angst-o-rama ain't your cup of tea (sure ain't mine), I will here provide a short summary of the events relavent to my fic. Seth, the Egyptian storm god, is generally evil in Egyptian mythology--in the fic to which this is a tag, Seth traps the RGBs on a lonely road and manipulates them into providing a willing sacrifice for him. After much rangling, they draw straws and Egon get's the short end. Unfortunately for him, Seth's version of the afterlife ain't a pleasant one. Anyway, Egon spends the better part of two weeks in a very, very, very unpleasant place, and Peter keeps visiting him in dreams. After much more rangling, angsting, and whatnot trying to get Egon back, Peter decides to take his place. Eventually, all four RGBs chase Seth to The Lake of Fire (Egyptian Hell) and force him to let Egon and Peter go, while Ray traps him in the Lake by an oath. And that about sums it up; obviously, reading the fic would get the job done better, but that oughta sufice.
Strangely enough, however, Seth isnot entirely evil, and according to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, does some very useful and good things...
"This is the fifth solar eclipse this week!" Ray shouted. He expected sunlight to peek through his window in the morning. When it didn't, he had looked out the window with distinct foreboding.
"Hush up Ray! I'm trying to sleep!" Peter grumped from two beds over. Ray shot a look at Venkman's bed then tromped over to his closet. If the last few days gave any indication, there wasn't going to be any sunlight at all the rest of the day. He was a bit peeved by that, as he always enjoyed sunlight, especially in spring.
As Ray was dressing, he began to think about what might cause so many solar eclipses. It was obviously not a natural occurrence; in fact, he'd seen the new moon up in the sky along with the eclipsed sun! For now, nothing presented itself, so he decided to go fix breakfast while the rest of the guys slept.
* * *
Janine arrived at work not long after Ray had risen. She set her purse in her own closet and peeked around surreptitiously to see if anyone was awake. Smelling breakfast, she knew Ray at least was up and that the rest of the Ghostbusters would be hungry when they came down to work so she went about ordering some doughnuts to be delivered to the Firehouse.
A few minutes later, she heard a strange knocking on the Firehouse door and went to open it, thinking it might be the delivery person. She yelped in shock when she opened the door, as a small flying thing flitted by her face and went quickly inside. She turned to see what it was, but instead of a small bird as she half expected, there stood a seven-foot tall man with bronze skin and Egyptian clothing. Where his head should have been was the head of a great falcon, surmounted by a large, glittering disk, around which circled a thin cobra. In one hand, he held a large golden ankh; in the other was a tall, strangely shaped staff.
The falcon-headed Egyptian spoke in a deep, rich voice. "I am looking for three mortals whom I understand live here. I seek Raymond Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Peter Venkman. Bring them to me."
After recovering from her surprise, Janine adjusted her glasses and said undaunted in her best secretary voice, "May I ask whose calling for them?"
If the Egyptian could have smiled, he probably would have. With a rumbling laugh, the man said, "Yes you may. I am Ra-Horakhty. Tell them the god who is the noon-day sun demands their presence."
Janine gave Ra-Horakhty a long look. She knew enough about Egyptian mythology to place that he did at least look like who he claimed to be. She shrugged and went up the stairs, no longer much impressed when gods came to her doorstep.
"Guys!" she shouted when she got to the bunkroom door, "There's an Egyptian god here to see you!"
Ray came rushing out of the kitchen, stunned. "A what?" It wasn't as if they hadn't had their absolute fill of Egyptian gods lately, enough to last a life time. If he never caught wind of Seth again it would be too soon. "Are you sure?!"
"That's who he claims to be anyway. Says his name's Ra-Horakhty and that he demands to see you, Egon, and Peter. He's got the sun-disk and everything."
Ray groaned and went into the bunkroom to get the rest of the guys up while Janine went back down to tell the sun god that the Ghostbusters would be with him in just a moment.
* * *
Peter was less than pleased with the announcement. "You mean to tell me, after all the grief that particular pantheon has caused us, one of them has the audacity to come here?!"
"Ra-Horakhty is a god after all, Peter," Egon replied, equally displeased but demonstrating it in his own way. He threw on his pink shirt and shoved his arms through the sleeves in a most violent way.
"Man, I wish I'd never heard of any Egyptian gods," Winston grouched as he got out of bed.
Ray picked up the PKE meter Egon perpetually kept on his nightstand and flicked it on. With a strangled squeal, it refused to continue working. Fortunately it didn't do any of the particularly unpleasant things shorted-out PKE meters were prone to, such as implode or render the operator unconscious. Ray gathered enough information from the screen before it choked to see that there was at least a demi-god level supernatural entity in the building. He sighed.
* * *
When the Ghostbusters came down stairs, they did so warily, looking around for blue domes, powerful artifacts, or anything else to indicate they were walking into a trap.
What they did see was a falcon-headed man wearing a gold and lapis lazuli pectoral, a striped headdress complete with sun-disk and serpent, a number of finely-wrought bracelets, and a pleated linen skirt with a tail attached to the belt. He certainly looked like an Egyptian god...
...All except for the cup of coffee he was attempting to drink. As he could not sip it, he took to getting a beakfull of the hot liquid and lifting his head so he could swallow it. It certainly qualified as one of the most ridiculous things they had seen and it helped to put them somewhat at ease. The sun god sat in a chair next to Janine's desk, his cup of coffee in one hand and his ankh held loosely in the other.
As soon as the four dismounted the stairs, Ra-Horakhty turned his black eyes on them and stood, setting his cup down as he did. He looked them over, and setting his gaze on Winston, he said, "I called only for three."
Peter frowned and informed the god, "Ghostbusters come in fours buddy."
Ra-Horakhty shrugged his broad shoulders. "I knew of only three; the one who bound Seth by my name and the two he consumed." The four shuddered at that and their mood darkened considerably.
Ray asked a bit harshly, "How do you know our names?"
Ra-Horakhty answered calmly, "When Seth did not show his face in my bark as I sailed over the air toward Duat, I sought him. When I found him, he was understandable angry and embarrassed, which further flamed his anger. He shouted often your name, Raymond, in his fury. I soon gathered that you had bound The Lord of Justice in the lake by my name! I gave him my word I would find a way to release him, and he told me the names of the two whom he consumed. I found you by following the mark of the knife in The Consumed Ones."
The five mortals in the room were highly upset to say the least. Janine was the first to confront the god, unafraid of spirit or man in her anger. "You came here to free Seth? How dare you! I heard what he did to Egon and everyone, how could you let someone like that free?"
"You mistake me," Ra-Horakhty intoned, a threat rumbling in his voice. "Seth is with Thoth Lord of Justice. His eating habits disgust me, but he is a faithful ally and protects my bark from Apophis." The sun god raised a hand and pointed to the sky. "Have you wondered why the sky is dark? Apophis keeps destroying my bark! How can I sail across the sky if my bark won't float? This is why I came: I need Seth to protect my bark. There are also several souls who have found themselves in the slaughterhouse, destroyed because Seth's protection was not on them; others I would spare that fate."
"So what do you want us to do about it?" Ray asked uncomfortably. The last thing in the universe he wanted to do was free Seth, but at the moment he didn't see any other option...and he didn't like that part about the slaughterhouse; he had heard of such things.
"I say we go in and blast this Apophis to smithereens!" was Peter's loud suggestion. "No way am I gonna let Seth go."
Egon was equally adamant. "I will not consent to free him either, and he is bound by all of us, not just Ray."
Ra-Horakhty laughed, a rich, warm sound. "Do you plan on taking the Snake, that which is chaos incarnate, and sticking it in one of your traps? Beside the fact that you have no idea how to reach Duat, and even if you did, no mortal can destroy chaos! Even the great gods and goddesses of the Enneads can't do that!"
"Then what?" Winston asked practically. "Obviously you can't get all four of us to consent to release that world-class jerk, so what can you do?"
Ra-Horakhty tilted his head thoughtfully. "There are two other possibilities. First, either of The Consumed Ones--"
"Now wait a minute," Peter demanded, "I heard those capital letters! You can't live with Egon for years and not recognize capital letters when you hear 'em. Whaddaya mean by making those capitals?"
Again, Ra-Horakhty tried to smile, but was constrained by the inflexibility of his beak. "I suppose you can say that you have achieved a bit of notoriety in the Enneads. There are no others living who have been consumed by a god then released; do you think it would leave you unaffected? You had become part of Seth as he fed, and as you were released, you, in a way, took that part with you. Seth is not diminished, but if they wanted, and if someone showed them how, The Consumed Ones could become Seth."
A round of confused blinks greeted the sun god's explanation.
"Well that sucks," was Peter's summation.
"That is the first possibility. Replace Seth as my ally, join Thoth as Lord of Justice, protect them who might fall to the hands of the slaughterhouse...take those who fail in the Duat, destroy them, and feed on filth and all that is unclean for eternity."
"No, I was wrong. That sucks much worse."
"I can't see that happening, Ra-Horakhty," Egon said slowly, certain that he would never even entertain the idea of replacing such a beast as Seth. "What else have you got?"
"I figured you would not like that idea. I cannot blame you; for all the good he does, Seth is not a pleasant fellow, and his habits are evil," said the sun god. "The other possibility is this: one of you would join me in my bark to fight off Apophis each and every morning. This would be your duty for eternity. Personally, I would like the cheerful one to join me in my bark."
"Uh...no, we're gonna have to pick door number four," Peter replied. "Ray's a Ghostbuster, not an Apophisbuster."
"There is no, as you call it, 'door number four'." Ra-Horakhty picked up his cup of coffee and gurgled down another swallow. "I shall have to introduce Atum and Khepri to this drink," he said to himself, "it might help Khepri get up in the morning."
After a moment of enjoying his coffee, the sun god continued. "I may be able to persuade you that releasing Seth is in your best interests."
"Oh right, and keeping terror dogs as pets is in our best interests too," Winston commented snidely.
"You are certainly straining my beak, mortals. For some reason, I find you amusing. However, the fact of the matter is not so. Seth is bound by his first oath, much to his consternation; he cannot revenge himself upon you. Freeing him would not put you yourselves in danger." When Ra-Horakhty saw the Ghostbusters reaction to that, he held up a hand to forestall their comments. "It is clear that you do not seek your own preservation above others; the Enneads are aware of this. However, some in the Enneads do not feel so compelled. Osiris is a good god, but not a merciful one. Even now, he seeks you in order to take your lives. He knows you are the only ones who can release his most hated enemy, and he desires to keep you from doing so. Nephthys seeks you for reasons that are more personal: she wants her brother-consort back. Even Horus wants Seth released! I imagine he seeks balance, and perhaps misses his uncle with whom he shared kingship long ago. Seth's oath has put you in a dangerous position. I want to help you release Seth willingly and under your own terms; others wish to force the issue, or remove the issue entirely."
Peter nudged Ray with his elbow. "Sounds like we put a whole pantheon in an uproar. Gotta love us, eh?" Ray smiled despite himself. Peter could find new and obscure ways to stroke his ego that mere mortals could not even fathom.
To the sun god Peter said, "Under our own terms? You mean we get to make up conditions for Seth? I could do something like, say, not let him go unless he kissed my feet and served me hand and foot for a year?" This garnered him a few disgusted and/or exasperated glances from his colleagues.
"Yes, exactly. So long as he accepts the terms, they will bind him. He is a surprisingly honorable one to stay bound by a mortal's oath at all. I didn't know he had it in him."
"Can we confer about this, Ra-Horakhty?" Ray asked. When the falcon head nodded, he took the other Ghostbusters aside and began talking with them in private.
"So you have a plan, Ray?" Winston asked hopefully.
"One involving a proton pack, a trap, and tall, dark, and feathery's divine butt?" Peter added. "I think this whole thing is loony tunes."
"I agree," Egon said, "I want nothing to do with it. However, we don't have a choice, do we?"
Ray closed ranks and whispered conspiratorially. "I've been thinking about it, and I think Ra-Horakhty's right. Seth is one of his guardians, and as much as I hate to say it, he is also responsible for protecting people in the afterlife in certain cases. If the solar eclipses are happening so often because of what we did, I think we have to fix it. But according to Ra-Horakhty, we get to make the rules."
"So we gotta come up with the best rules possible, right?" Winston asked.
"Right," Ray answered. "So let's be thinking about what sort of deal to make him. If he wants out, he can't refuse."
While the four Ghostbusters were conferring, the doughnuts finally arrived, and with a frightened shriek, were dropped off at the doorstep. Ra-Horakhty picked up the box and sniffed at it, then lifted the lid and removed a glazed doughnut. The great sun god handed the box to Janine, then began munching on the pastry. From the look in his dark eyes, he was quite pleased with the taste.
* * *
Ray was absolutely vibrating with excitement. Ra-Horakhty had informed them that the only way to reach Seth was via his solar bark. And now, here he stood, before the great boat of Ra himself. And he was going to get to ride in it.
"Wow!!" he exclaimed as he scrambled aboard the large bark.
Peter watched him go up with a smile on his face. "He sure gets into his work, doesn't he?"
Ray peeked over the side of the blue bark and shouted, "This is great! You gotta see this! Khepri and Atum are here too!"
"Who in the blue blazes are Khepri and Atum?" Winston asked as he mounted the boarding steps.
Egon grumbled, "Khepri is the god of the morning sun and Atum the god of the setting sun."
"You and Ray are gonna have to do some explaining about all this mythology stuff," Peter added as he too went up the steps. "I wanna know just what the heck we are getting ourselves into."
"Not that that ever stopped us before," Winston called back.
Janine walked up the steps as well; she had forced herself on this trip, informing Ra-Horakhty if she didn't come, the other four would wind up getting themselves killed. He had laughingly agreed, much to the distress of the Ghostbusters.
Ra-Horakhty followed the rest up, carrying a small bag of coffee and a few doughnuts to share with his fellow deities. He dropped his staff when Peter screamed incoherently, and when he finally boarded his bark, the sun god saw the dark haired Ghostbuster scrambled all the way up Egon's back and peering terrified over his shoulder.
Peter pointed at one of the other bark riders and squealed, "He's a BUG!!"
The "bug" in question was another Egyptian god, a little shorter than Ra-Horakhty, but dressed similarly. The major difference was his head, which was that of a very large scarab beetle, complete with antennae. The Egyptian did not look pleased, although his expression was rather hard to decipher.
Ray bounced on his feet. "That's Khepri, Peter! Wow!"
Peter just cowered from his perch on Egon's back. "But he's a bug...!"
"M'man, that's no way to treat our hosts," Winston commented to the petrified Venkman. He reached his hand out to greet Khepri, who looked askance at the dark man.
Khepri's voice was very smooth and tinkling, like the sound of deep bells. "Is this the common manner of greeting? It's too early in the morning for me to figure out such mortal things."
"Yes, Khepri, it is," Ra-Horakhty said, a smile in his voice. "That reminds me; these mortals have something called 'coffee', which may help your early mornings." He handed the other Egyptian the bag of ground beans.
Khepri took it in the hand that wasn't holding his ankh. He brought it up to his head, where he used his twitching antennae to smell it. Peter made a frightened noise, which prompted Egon to knock him off.
"That wasn't nice, Egon," Peter pouted, his attention momentarily off Khepri's antennae. Egon just shrugged and raised an eyebrow down at his friend.
"The repairs are finished, Ra-Horakhty!" another voice called from the prow. The owner of the soft voice came to the sun god's side. His head was that of an exotic ram, with long twisting horns that came out horizontally on each side of his head.
"Ah, good!" Ra-Horakhty shouted happily. "Now, before we set off for the Lake of Fire, I wish to introduce you to our guests." The Egyptian god extended his arm to indicate each Ghostbuster in turn. "This is Raymond Stantz, the one who bound Seth; this is Peter Venkman and Egon Spengler, The Consumed Ones; this is Winston Zeddemore, servant of the Most High; and this is Janine Melnitz, a courageous woman unafraid of both gods and men."
Then Ra-Horakhty turned to indicate his shipmates. "This is Khepri, the sun first born, and this," he said, indicating the ram-headed god, "is Atum, the sun as it ages."
Khepri glared his multi-faceted eyes at Peter. "This is one of The Consumed Ones? Look how he pales!"
Atum laughed. "He fears insects, I think."
"He fears the morning sun, too," Winston cracked. Peter glared at him, barely resisting the urge to swat him.
* * *
The Solar Bark floated over the dark sky, light as a feather. Ray spent the time talking excitedly to the three sun gods, while Winston watched the earth below in fascination. It was a startling view.
Janine joined him after a while, folding her arms over the side of the bark. "Penny for your thoughts?"
The darker man looked over at Janine. "I was just thinking about what we're about to do. I don't exactly know what Seth did to them, but Egon and Peter are pretty unhappy about this. Egon especially. He's close to spitting tacks. I wonder if it's for the best, you know?"
The redhead nodded in understanding. "About the only other thing you can do is take on the entire pantheon. You know you can't do that. How much do you know about Egyptian mythology?"
"Not enough to know there was more than one sun god," Winston replied.
"Oh, yeah, there are a lot of them. Just don't mention Aten to them; it was the god of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, and I don't think these characters would want to hear it. Ra-Horakhty talked about Enneads; there were several, each made of nine gods. They were councils of sorts."
Winston nodded. "That helps a bit." He leaned on the side of the bark for a long while, then said, "You think we're doing the right thing? Seth was a jerk and a half, a real monster."
Janine dipped her head. "I dunno. But we have to have sunlight, and as much as I dislike seeing Egon upset, I don't think there's anything else we can do."
* * *
Several hours later, the bark sailed under the earth, into the Duat. It was black as pitch there for a while, only the forms of the gods glowing gold and shining with a light akin to the sun's. After that darkness, the bark shot out into the light, or it seemed as if it were into light; what really happened was Ra-Horakhty's bark had begun to shine like the sun.
Below the bark were vast fields of waving grain, people working them with very old farm instruments. A few temples dotted the horizon and rivers flowed through the land. Ra-Horakhty rose from his seat and walked to where the Ghostbusters rested. He looked down at them, making sure they were awake before he said anything. When he saw that he had their attention, he said, "Be still here, and do not stand so as to be seen. This is Osiris' land, the Underworld, and while he does not know you are here, he may sense the presence of The Consumed Ones. I do not want you in danger from him, and the fewer who see you the better."
"Hey, Ra my man, when do we eat here? I'm starving," Peter asked impatiently.
"You are fortunate, mortals, that I took you into my bark of my own will; otherwise, you might have nothing but refuse to eat. You are unprepared for the Duat and the rules thereof. But here, I have meat and beer for you."
"Beer? I'm there, man," Peter exclaimed, getting up and following Ra-Horakhty to the galley of the bark.
When they got to the eating area, a servant brought platefuls of meats, vegetables, and mugs of beer. Ray dug in with gusto, while Winston, Egon, and Janine were a little more cautious. Peter lifted his mug of beer and was about to take a swig when he realized Khepri had sat down next to him and was regarding him with a cool eye. An antenna twitched.
"WAAH!" Beer sloshed out of the mug and onto Peter's shirt front.
"Dr. V," Janine admonished, "It's not his fault he has the head of a dung beetle. Be nice to him."
Khepri skewered Janine with a multi-faceted glare, to which she just looked up and said, "What?"
"This...beer...is more like bread," Egon intoned unhappily. He had never been one to imbibe, and had clean forgotten that ancient beer was a lot more like baked goods than a beverage. It was part of the meal's balance.
"Man, I know! It's easier to chew than to drink," Winston added as he downed another gulp of the thick drink.
Ray smiled brightly, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. "Just like back in Scotland! Remember when I was about to inherit a castle? It was great!"
Peter just tried his hardest to ignore the beetle-headed god sitting next to him, with his doughnut and cup of coffee.
* * *
It wasn't long after their meal that the bark arrived at the Lake of Fire. All five humans were watching over the side of the vessel as it began its decent into the Egyptian Hell.
Janine blanched in horror at the landscape; the dull, fiery red sky, black, scorched ground, and the oppressive atmosphere of death was too much to take.
Winston and Ray, having seen the place before, were battling a dull fury and disgust at what they were here to do.
Peter and Egon could barely stand to look at the place. Egon tried to keep his face smooth, to conceal the dark emotions the landscape evoked; Peter made no such attempt. A few tears stood in his eyes and his face was contorted with hate and fear. They both had spent nearly two weeks here in this Hell and neither one were prepared to return so soon.
Ra-Horakhty stood behind the five and looked dispassionately at the forbidding land. "This is not Seth's land; I never understood why he chose to come here."
Atum and Khepri watched with equal detachment as the solar bark set down at the edge of the Lake of Fire. They knew this place would be hard for the mortals to bear, so they had directed the vessel to land far from Seth's knives.
As soon as the bark touched the blackened earth, a form swirled into being, standing amidst the fiery lake. The too-familiar shape of Seth, with his red fur, curved snout, and cropped ears erect coalesced from the mist. He turned his black eyes upon the bark, examining it. Then he howled in fury.
"By Hathor I never want to see you again! Be gone from here miserable humans!" Seth shook his fists at the bark.
Ra-Horakhty disembarked and strode to the edge of the lake. He raised his arms and addressed the other god. "Seth! I have brought them here to free you! Listen to their offer, Lord of Justice!"
"Ra-Horakhty, Ra In The Midst Of His Bark! Has the Snake been troubling you since these humans wrongfully imprisoned me?"
Peter could not contain himself. "We had every right, you pig-headed son of a--"
"Peter! Quiet!" Ray exclaimed, slapping a hand over Dr. Venkman's mouth. He struggled for a moment then gave up when he realized Ray wasn't going to let go.
"Have you guys figured out the deal yet?" Janine asked. She had an arm around Egon's waist, which he did not shake off; he appeared to need it rather much.
"Yeah, I think we have," Winston replied. "So which of us gets to make the offer?"
"I will," Khepri answered in his musical voice. "I know the words to use, the words to bind Seth to his agreement. When he agrees to the terms, then you will release him from his oath to you. Now tell me the terms."
At that, the five huddled up and explained to the morning sun god all the terms they had agreed on.
* * *
The five humans and three gods stood at the edge of the Lake of Fire, prepared to make their offer.
"Seth, listen to me, hear me O Seth!" Khepri called out to the lake, while the others waited in silence.
Seth strode up to the very edge of the fiery lake, but not past that invisible boundary. "Yes Khepri, I hear you. Tell me what you will, and let me get soon out of the sight of these wretched humans!"
Khepri continued. "The humans, the one who bound you, the servant of the Most High, and The Consumed Ones wish to bargain with you."
Seth sneered. "Have they power? None that I did not give them."
"Seth, just listen," Atum insisted. Seth growled but said nothing.
After a glance at Atum, the scarab god looked back to Seth. "They wish to free you, but they have conditions to which you must agree before they will."
Seth's cropped ears perked higher at the sound of that. "You have convinced them to loose me from my oath?"
"Yes, Seth, if you agree to their terms. Apophis must be stopped, or the sun does not shine. They wish to return the balance to nature."
Seth rolled his dark eyes. "Seven times cursed do-gooders. But I listen."
Khepri nodded. "The first condition: you must never return bodily to the plane of mortals, for any reason." Seth growled, but waved his hand in acceptance.
"The second condition: you must never out of caprice refuse your duty to maintain justice or to protect those who would be captured and taken to the slaughterhouse."
"Yes, fine, I accept."
"Third condition: you will no longer roam the Underworld to kill and destroy."
Seth glared hotly at that. "Why must I be prevented from killing in the Duat? I am the storm god. I am caprice. I must kill."
"Fine by me, Sethy. We'll just let you roast there for eternity. How's that?" Peter growled.
"FINE!" Seth thundered. "I will not roam the Duat to kill! But you cannot bind all of them that do so!"
"The fourth and last condition: you must humbly beg forgiveness of The Consumed Ones and affect restitution as best you can."
The people at the edge of the lake flinched at Seth's cry of rage. He shook his fists in the air with impotent fury. A great storm gathered above his head, forks of lightning striking madly at the lake surface. After a few moments, the raging storm ceased and the storm god lowered his arms.
"Yes," he said in a whisper, "Yes. With this I will buy my freedom."
Atum smiled, the only one of the sun gods capable of such a gesture. Khepri just continued with the binding words, which Seth repeated faithfully. When he was finished, all four Egyptian gods looked to the humans.
"Is it enough?" Ra-Horakhty asked quietly.
All four Ghostbusters and Janine looked at one another. Some were obviously loath to release Seth, but under the conditions, were able to summon up a willingness to do so. "It is enough," Egon said in a barely audible voice.
Seth heard it, and bared his sharp teeth in what passed for a smile on a storm god's face. He stepped out of the Lake of Fire and walked past the group, embarking the Solar Bark and taking his place at the prow.
"Now wait a minute!" Janine shouted, pointing a long fingernail at the red storm god. "We're not riding with him are we?"
Atum looked down at Janine. "Of course we are. We must complete our trip through the Duat and face Apophis before we return to the Overworld."
"Nobody explained that part!" Peter yelled. "No way am I getting on the same boat as that S.O.B.! Bad enough we had to let him out!"
"Then I suppose," Ra-Horakhty said with a shrug, "you can stay here for the next day or so, until we return. Seth will not be with us then, for he must speak with Thoth and Nephthys."
Peter and Egon turned very pale. "I don't think we want to stay here any longer," Winston said for them all.
"I did not think you would chose to remain. Come, let us embark. You may sleep if you will for the remaining trip."
As they walked toward the bark, Ray sidled up to Khepri and asked, "Who added the part about the apology? We weren't looking to have any more contact with Seth than we already had."
Khepri looked down at the shorter man. "I believe it was Ra-Horakhty. He thought it important to do so. The Consumed Ones have been greatly damaged, I judge, and some of it can be repaired by the power of Seth, and more perhaps if they can find it in themselves to accept his apology."
"That's a pretty tall order," Ray replied. "I don't know if they can."
* * *
After they all boarded Ra-Horakhty's bark, he gave orders to set off and return to the Duat proper. Khepri had settled down to take a nap at the stern. The Ghostbusters and Janine sat all the way in the back of the vessel, as far away from Seth as possible. They noted with concern that the storm god kept glancing back at them with a strange look on his red-furred face.
"Make him stop looking at me!" Peter shouted to Atum, who was seated nearby.
"I am sorry his presence disturbs you. But you did the right thing in releasing him," Atum responded.
"Whatever," he said with an irritated wave of his hand. "I don't get it. Why do you Egyptians even tolerate things like Seth?"
Atum shook his head a little. "The Duat is a place full of chaos. Mortals should never have been allowed into it. They have to know spells and incantations simply so they may eat food which is not detestable. It is a very imperfect creation. The problem with Seth is that he is one of the two Lords of Justice. Unlike Thoth, he knows no mercy...and he knows none who deserve it. So he feels no compulsion to keep his murderous and capricious nature in check."
The ram-headed god sighed deeply. "We tolerate him because he is the one given power over Apophis. You might say he is the lesser of the two evils. Seth at least is not irrational chaos. He is capricious, but not utterly lacking reason."
Peter made a face, perfectly expressing his low opinion of the Egyptian pantheon. A moment later, Seth turned and walked over to where the humans sat. It was all Peter could do to avoid whipping out his thrower and nailing Seth to the wall.
Seth saw the look, but didn't react. Instead the storm god got down on his knees, then laid flat on his belly, with his hands extended in front of him. Each hand was mere centimeters from both Egon and Peter's feet. He laid his long, curved snout sideways on the planks of the bark, because face down was simply impossible for him.
After a long moment, Seth said, "I am begging for your forgiveness, you whom I have consumed."
"Unlikely," was all Egon had to say. Janine spit on him on Egon's behalf.
Seth didn't even flinch. "Nevertheless, I still ask." He got back up on his knees and took his ankh from the belt around his waist. He held the ankh by its stem. "May I use this? To take my life from you?"
Ray whispered in Peter's ear, "Remember what Ra-Horakhty said about you two being The Consumed Ones? Maybe he's going to take what ever part of him is in you."
Peter wrinkled his nose in disgust, then turned a hot glare on Seth. "You saying me and Egon have some of your worthless life in us? Yes you can take it! I don't want to be polluted by having anything in common with you." Egon grimaced and nodded his own assent.
Seth simply touched Peter and Egon's noses with the ankh, and then he got up and left, returning to his place on the prow. The two Ghostbusters did feel a little cleaner, in a strange way; a blackness they hadn't even realized was there had been lifted. If nothing else, the two were relieved to have no part of Seth.
* * *
A few hours later, Ray watched the landscape slide by, far beneath the Solar Bark. He was plum excited, nearly bouncing out of his skin. Below he saw courtyards and temples, with many different people moving around among them. In the small crowd, he spotted several Egyptian gods milling about, in apparent discussion about some unknown things. Ray could barely contain himself; he was actually right in the middle of the Egyptian afterlife!
Janine was leaning far over the edge of the bark, pointing out different gods and goddesses she recognized below. Ray joined in, and the two played a sort of travel game, like picking out out-of-state plates. Janine was winning with eight deities to Ray's six.
After a while, Atum joined them at the side. "Enjoying your trip through the Duat?"
"Yeah! I think I saw Anubis down there!" Ray exclaimed joyfully.
Janine smiled over at the ram-headed god. "It is a neat trip, not exactly what I expected to do at work today."
"No doubt," Atum said with a grin. "I did not expect to entertain guests such as yourselves in my bark. Most of the people who ride with us are too often casting magic and making sure they are welcomed by different spells to see if we really would welcome them on our own. I am sure many mortals have stepped aboard this bark who might have been interesting if not for their instance on obscure spells that make little sense. There are many frightening things in the Duat, which one must be protected from, but it is very rare that any of them actually trust us to care for them on our own."
"I don't blame them, Atum. Right over there is a god that kills people for food. Of course they don't trust you," Janine pointed out.
Atum shrugged and conceded the point. "Still, I wish that the mortals here could do without all their magic. The Duat was never meant for mortals...." The sun god sighed heavily. After a moment he straightened and said, "Anyway, I have enjoyed this day, for the opportunity to speak with such that would speak for themselves. Of course, your sugary pastries are quite delicious as well. Now come away from the side of the bark; we are nearing the mountains in which Apophis dwells."
The two humans followed the sun god to the center of the bark. "Atum? Maybe we can help you fight off Apophis? We pack a pretty powerful punch," Ray offered, motioning to his proton pack.
Atum shrugged. "You may have no choice. Come, if you will, stand by the prow."
"Wow! This'll be great!" Ray enthused as he and Janine went to the prow. They still maintained a good distance from Seth. Ray brought his rifle to bear when the sky suddenly darkened to an ominous black. The bark still shed its light, but the darkness about them swallowed it up.
Seth slipped into a fighting stance, a long iron pike held in his hands. The other three Ghostbusters joined Ray, throwers ready. Janine, having no thrower, picked up a lance that lay nearby. Before anyone could tell her not to, she growled, "I'm gonna protect this boat, and I'm gonna protect you guys. Got a problem with that?"
Ra-Horakhty just laughed heartily, impressed by the redhead. Khepri said nothing, for he was still asleep at the stern. Feeling that it might not be prudent to argue with her, the Ghostbusters left it at that. Janine nodded her head in satisfaction and turned back to face the darkness.
It didn't take long for Apophis to appear. He reared his huge head from the darkness to face the occupants of the bark. "SO RA-HORAKHTY! YOU HAVE NOT BACKED DOWN! AGAIN I WILL HAVE MY WAY AND BLOCK OUT YOUR PALE LIGHT!"
Ra-Horakhty stood in the center of his bark, unwavering and immovable as stone. "No, foul snake, I have not! I have brought the one with power over you! Seth stands in the prow, ready to defeat you."
Seth shook his pike and called out, "It is so, filthy beast! Come, let me slay you!"
Apophis' eyes glowed red with anger. The huge serpent said nothing in response; instead, he lunged violently at the bark. The Ghostbusters immediately opened fire.
The proton streams struck Apophis in the face, causing the reptile to pull back. "HOW DARE YOU! RA-HORAKHTY! SETH! YOU SEND MORTALS TO DO A GOD'S JOB? HOW SHAMEFUL!" The snake's thundering laughter shook the bark to the core.
"No overgrown snake is gonna laugh at Peter Venkman like that!" With that, the dark-haired Ghostbuster powered up to full stream and let Apophis have it. The snake screamed, more in anger than in pain.
Quite angry now, Apophis' next attack was stronger. He broadsided the Solar Bark, sending the occupants reeling and struggling to stay standing. Of the humans, only Egon maintained his balance through the onslaught; Seth and Atum were the only gods to do so.
Just before Apophis attack ended and he moved away, Seth swung his pole-arm with great force and rent an enormous gash in the enemy's side. The snake jerked away in pain.
Not even bothering to regain his footing, Winston shot the snake, burning the wound in his side with concentrated proton fire. Again, Apophis convulsed from the agony being inflicted on him. He quickly retreated a distance and positioned himself to protect his injury.
For a moment, all was quiet. Then Apophis roared, charging straight at the bark, intending to ram it with his great head. Just before he hit, Janine threw her lance at him, catching him through one nostril. The snake shifted directions quickly, not wishing to accidentally ram the spear farther up his nose. As he did, Seth leapt out of the bark and with a loud cry, skewered the snake's head with his own pike. The blow struck home; Apophis let out a long wail and began falling. Before leaping back into the bark, Seth took his long knife and with a quick and powerful slash, sundered Apophis' head from his body.
When Seth did return to the vessel, Ra-Horakhty held his hands up to him. "The sun will shine this day! Ra and those with him are triumphant!"
Seth smiled, which by no means was a pleasant expression, but he seemed pleased to have fulfilled his duty to Ra-Horakhty. Atum looked over at the humans and said, "Praise be to these mortals who have so bravely helped us. For millions of years, yes millions and millions of years shall they be welcome in my bark."
"Well...shucks," Ray said, a blush on his face.
Peter assumed a supremely cocky expression. "See? Even sun gods can't resist me!"
"Quiet!" Khepri grumbled groggily. "I am trying to sleep."
* * *
A while later, the Solar Bark exited the Duat and began climbing the earthly sky. The Ghostbusters and Janine slept for a little while, exhausted from the day's events. Ra-Horakhty, Atum, and Seth sat in the middle of the bark, while Khepri continued his slumber in the back.
Ra-Horakhty carefully scooped some of the ground coffee into a makeshift filter. He set a clay pot on a ceramic stone and used the uraeus snake's fire-breath on his sun disk to heat the water. After it was ready, he poured the water through the filter and into another pot that Atum held.
"Now what again is this dark liquid?" Seth asked.
"It's called coffee. It is very tasty and full of energy," the falcon-headed god replied.
Seth grabbed a cup and dipped it into the pot Atum held. When it was full enough, Seth put it to his lips and lapped up a swallow. "Ghaa!" he shouted in pain. "It is too hot! And very bitter!"
Atum snickered at the storm god's reaction. The sound having waked him, Ray wandered over to the gods and peered over Ra-Horakhty's shoulder. When he saw what the gods were doing, he quickly retreated to the other sleeping humans and roused them as quietly as possible.
"Then put some sweetener in it, Seth! And perhaps some milk. That may help the taste," Atum suggested. Seth growled and went to retrieve the necessary ingredients. In the mean time, Ra-Horakhty set the empty hot water pot aside and served up a cup of coffee for himself and Atum.
When Seth returned, Ra-Horakhty sent him with a cup to wake up Khepri. When he did, Khepri grumbled in frustration while attempting to pull his covers over his head. "I hate mornings. What god was it that blessed me with the duty of being the morning sun?"
"Wake up you lazy dung beetle!" Seth insisted, snatching the covers from Khepri and tossing them away.
"Fine!" Khepri growled. "Gimme that!" he snapped as he grabbed the cup of coffee from Seth's hand and began drinking it. He used what looked like a short nose to do so.
The Ghostbusters and Janine watched this all in silence: Ra-Horakhty gurgling coffee, Seth and Atum lapping it up like any animal, and Khepri drinking with his nose. And although it was very difficult and strained their self-control to the limit, they all maintained their silence. To see four Egyptian gods make fools of themselves with coffee was a sight to savor for as long as possible.
And if they ever needed a favor, perhaps they could use it as blackmail.