Heart of Fire

June 2016
Prof. Silmarien Szilagyi

Taweret, goddess of fertility, walked across the Egyptian desert, the fiery heat of the sun beating down on her head. She had temporarily taken human form, figuring her natural hippopotamus head would be too conspicuous, since she was assisting in the birth of a child. This wasn’t just any child, however; this child was destined to become Pharaoh one day. His birth warranted the expertise of the fertility goddess herself.

A few hours later, Taweret exited the abode of the newborn Pharaoh-to-be, a smile gracing her face. The birth had gone smoothly, and, thankfully, she didn’t have to use her powers too much, though she did hasten the delivery in an effort to reduce stress on both mother and child. While she protected expectant mothers, she rarely participated in the birthing process. Nevertheless, she was always amazed by the beauty of it, by the strength of the mothers, by the perfect anatomy of the mother’s body, and, most of all, by the instant bond between mother and child. The latter always brought tears to her eyes, and today’s birth was no exception.

With a final glance at the home, she disappeared. The fiery sun continued to shine, but with a special warmth that wasn’t present before.

Seven years later

A young boy sat on the hot sand, ignoring the discomfort to his bottom, crying softly. He didn’t notice the figure approach him, until he heard a voice.

“Now what’s a handsome boy like you doing crying?”

He glanced up, his eyes widening at the woman towering above him. With a sniffle, he replied, “My mother died today. I am all alone now.”

The woman’s expression softened, and she sat down beside the boy. “What is your name?”

The boy wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Ahmose.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Ahmose. My name is Taw.” She touched Ahmose’s shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. “I'm very sorry about your mother, but you're not as alone you think.”

Ahmose wiped the tears from his eyes and turned to Taw. “Yes, I am. My father died before I was born, and now my mother is gone, too.”

Taw smiled. “You couldn’t possibly remember me, but I was there the day you were born, Ahmose. I will take care of you now.”

He returned her smile. Suddenly, he didn’t feel so alone. He wasn’t sure how or why, but he knew the woman was being truthful and that he could trust her. For the first time that day, a warm sense of comfort washed over him.

“I would like that, Taw.”

Ten years later

Taw watched as seventeen-year-old Ahmose sparred with another man in the village. He had grown so much since that seven-year-old boy who was mourning his mother. He defended himself, even defeated his opponents, spoke fluent Greek and Latin, and was knowledgeable in arithmetic, history, astronomy, and many other subjects. The intense tutelage was essential, for the current Pharaoh was ill, and no one but the Egyptian gods knew how long he would live. Taw knew, and she wanted Ahmose to be prepared.

The clanging of swords brought her out of the reverie. Ahmose had disarmed his opponent and won the match. She smiled, satisfied. Yes, he would be ready.

Three years later

News of the Pharaoh’s death spread like wildfire through the lands, eliciting a frantic search for the next ruler. Because the late Pharaoh hadn't produced any heirs, there was to be a contest, one which only the bravest and strongest could hope to win.

Or the preordained.

Taw accompanied Ahmose to the palace and watched him compete, her heart swelling with affection and pride. He was the most skilled of all the competitors and quickly gained victory, amidst a chorus of cheers.

As she was turning to leave, a hand on her shoulder stopped her. “Where do you think you’re going?”

She faced Ahmose and smiled. “You don’t need me anymore. You shall be Pharaoh and shall rule Egypt with a fair and wise hand.” She looked at the man in front of her and could hardly believe he was the same orphan who'd been sitting on the hot sand all those years ago.

“Just because I am grown doesn’t mean I don’t still need you,” he replied. “You’re the only family I have, even if we don’t share the same blood. You raised me. I would never have come this far without you.”

Taw blinked away the tears that welled in her eyes and embraced him. “Yes, you would have, Ahmose. You were destined for this.”

The young man pulled away and smiled, indulging his foster mother. “Everyone is destined for something.”

Taw grew serious, more serious than the time Ahmose had wandered into an abandoned pyramid and had gotten lost while playing hide-and-seek.

“The gods hand-picked you to be Pharaoh, because they foresaw the kind and just man you would become,” she explained. “Those qualities are needed to reverse the corruption of the previous Pharaohs.”

“How do you know this?”

Taw knew this day would come and had been dreading it. With a sigh, she answered, “I am not a mortal woman, Ahmose. I am the goddess Taweret in human form. I have been watching over you since your mother conceived you twenty-one years ago.”

To her surprise, Ahmose smiled. “I always suspected something like that. You were never like the other women, especially since I saw you disappear into thin air one night.”

“You should have been sleeping,” she scolded him, but it was half-hearted. “Now go. You must lead your people.”

His smile faded. “Will I ever see you again?”

Her smile brightened. “You will. I love you like a son.”

He embraced her for the second time that day. “And I you, like a mother.”

She turned away to hide her tears. “Remember, Ahmose, you are never alone.”

Then, with a final glance at her foster son, she disappeared, seemingly into the crowd, but Ahmose knew better.

The fiery sun shone brightly on the congregation, with a special warmth that was present only once before.