One step after another, Inaros struggles up the staircase, supporting half his weight on the railing, the other half on his cane. Night had fallen during the walk back, so now the stone walls of the palace were awash with the flickering light of torches, the stairway up to the servant’s quarters, and consequently Inaros’ bedroom, ever so slightly harder to navigate.
Pulling himself to the top flight, the man leans against the wall, catching his breath before continuing down the hallway towards his room. Most of the palace is quiet, only the tapping of Inaros’ cane and the shuffling of his feet present. As he walks, he thinks back to Senet’s final advice she gave him before she departed: ‘Make sure you tell her I helped, I just want to try and fix things between us.’
Shaking his head as he approached the bedroom doorway, Inaros steadies himself on the wall beside it, catching his breath once more and steeling his resolve. He just hoped Nanu wasn’t too upset with him being gone for so long.
Entering the room, Inaros notices the only source of illumination is the moonlight, which enters the room through the open balcony, the wall torches unlit and the candles long since burnt out. Looking out towards the balcony, he stops suddenly just inside the room, his breath taken away by the sight before him.
Framed almost perfectly by the doorframe is Nanu, wearing a light dress and leaning on the railing, her voluminous tail slowly swaying behind her perfect build. Her canine ears twitch as they pick up the sounds of Inaros’ breathing and minute movements causing her to turn around, a mixture of alarm and worry marking her expression.
Almost frantically, the Anubis says “Inaros, where were-” but stops when she finally lays eyes on the standing man, who was beginning again to close the distance between them.
“Hey, sorry about getting back a bit late, I kinda got dragged along somewhere, didn’t have much say in it.” he says, stopping just short of her and rubbing the back of his head. “I was just-”
“Where did you get that?” Nanu asks plainly, all emotions having been wiped from her face as she looks down towards his fake leg.
“I was getting to that!” Inaros says with a grin. “Senet took me out to the city to meet someone who makes these kind of things, and they made one for me! It fits perfectly, but it’s going to take a bit of time getting used to, walking with it is still weird.” He explains, sitting down on the edge of the bed, laying the cane down atop of the sheets.
Nanu says nothing, continuing to look down towards Inaros as her ears flatten and tail ceases to stir. A series of emotions runs across her face as Inaros continues obliviously, “Hell, Senet actually paid for it out of her own pocket, isn’t that nice of her? Said something about making amends.”
Nodding absentmindedly, “Yes, it must be nice for someone to actually be able to take care of you.” Nanu mutters quietly before walking quickly towards the door, her dress spreading out behind her as she moves.
“Where are you going?” Inaros asks before she can reach the doorway, stopping her in her tracks. Paws clenched and shaking, Nanu turns her head slightly to look back at the man, tears welling up in her eyes. “I’m going to leave you alone.” she says, voice breaking as she does. “The Pharaoh was right, I’m a failure. You’ll be better off with someone else taking care of you. I’m so sorry for everything I’ve done to you.” With that, the Anubis bolts out of the room, leaving Inaros behind in stunned silence.
“Nanu!” he shouts, rising to his feet and taking a clumsy step forward before toppling to the ground, slamming hard onto the stone flooring. Scrambling back to the bed and picking himself off the ground, Inaros grabs his cane and stumbles out the doorway, calling out Nanu’s name as her follows her, albeit slowly.
Reaching the staircase he had just climbed, Inaros quickly descends it, praying that he had gone in the right direction. Not wanting to wake the others in the palace, he stops his yelling, instead opting to try and listen for any sound that could tell him where to go. Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, he listens, cursing under his breath and starting back up again when he hears nothing.
Slowly, Inaros makes his ways through the halls of the palace, stopping every now and again to listen for any tale-tell signs of where Nanu had disappeared to. Reaching a rather large stone bust of a frog headed diety, he stops, leaning against the base. “Alright, think!” he mutters to himself, racking his brain to get a clue as to where she might be. Looking around, Inaros realizes that he had managed to make his way over to the east wing of the palace, where the kitchen is, “Which is where she spends a lot of her time!” he says, finishing his thought out loud.
Starting off again, Inaros quickly reaches the kitchen, muscling open the heavy door with his shoulder before stumbling off-balance into it, catching himself on a counter before rightening himself and looking around the large room. Large bowls and pots lined the wooden benches around the room, cauldrons still in their unlit hearths, but otherwise, the room is empty. Sighing, Inaros heads back out into the hall and makes his way to a small archway that opens to the back gardens.
Stepping out into the night, he stumbles his way over to a large sandstone pillar, slumping against it and slowly sliding onto the ground. Closing his eyes, Inaros buries his head in his hands, thinking back to what had just transpired. ‘Before this, Nanu had shown no signs of anything like this, she was always so positive and supportive, so what’s with the sudden change of face?’ he thinks to himself.
Minutes later, a large clanking sound startles Inaros out of his reverie, and looking up, he spies a heavily armoured figure quickly making their way towards him from out of the shadows of the palace, drawing their curved sword as they approached. Trying to stand up, Inaros is frozen in place by a commanding “HALT!” from the figure. He slides back onto the ground, holding his hands up in submission as the person emerges into the moonlight.
Two jackal-like ears protrude from beneath the golden helmet, a large breastplate, gauntlets, and greaves covering the rest of her still obviously feminine body. Pointing her sword down at Inaros’ cowering form, she says in an authoritative voice “Cease at once, scoundrel! You are trespassing on sacred grounds!”
“W-w-wait!” Inaros manages to stutter out, “I’m not trespassing! I’m just trying-”
“Yeah, yeah, save it for the Pharaoh, kid.” the tall Anubis says, fire igniting in her eyes as she grabs Inaros by the collar, dragging him up to a standing position. “You’re lucky I’m not going to just- wait.” she says, taking a second glance at Inaros, who was struggling to stay on his feet. “You’re that kid that Nanu is taking care of aren’t you?”
Shoving the woman’s paws off him, Inaros falls back onto the ground, pushing himself away from the Anubis. “I was trying to explain that, but then you grabbed me before I could even get a word out.” he says, leaning again against the pillar.
Sheathing her sword again, the Anubis adjusts her helmet, “Sorry about that, just doing my job after all.” Resting her paw on her hip, the guard asks, “What are you doing out here at this time of night, though? It’s a pretty bad idea to be sulking around like this, makes you look a little suspicious, you know.”
“Ah, well,” Inaros sighs, looking back at the guard, “I’m just, ah, you know, um.”
The guard takes a step towards Inaros, “Were you after Nanu?” she asks quizzically, leaning against Inaros’ pillar and looking down at him.
Startled, Inaros responds “Yeah! How did you know? Did you see her?”
The guard casually points out towards the gardens, “I saw her walk out of the palace and into the gardens. She usually comes out here around the same time every night, so I just let her go like always.”
Inaros grabs his cane and rushes to his feet, stumbling down the stone steps and towards the gardens, letting out a “Thank-you!” as he does, leaving the guard standing there, shaking her head.
Slowly, Inaros wanders through the carefully cared for gardens, a wide arrange of flowers, shrubs, and trees growing around the randomly scattered statues. Being careful not to trip over anything in the dark night, Inaros stops every so often to scan his surroundings, trying to see if he can spot Nanu.
Resting up against the large base of a monument, the man sighs, looking downwards at the nearby pond, where he and Nanu had spent so many lunches together, some idly chatting, but most in comfortable silence. About to begin his search once more, Inaros stops when he sees a small splash come from the centre of the pond, the ripples expanding out before disappearing completely.
Squinting in an effort to see in the darkness, Inaros scans the edge of the pond, and there, seated on one of the rocks that sits along the water and preparing to through another rock, he sees her, her black hair almost invisible if it were not for the bright white dress she wore.
Inaros hastily makes his way down the dirt path to the pond, doing his best not to startle the Anubis with his footfalls. Slowly, he creeps his way through the grass behind her, stopping a few meters shy before saying a simple, “Hi.”
Jumping to her feet, Nanu whirls around to face him, her tail tucked between her legs. Pausing for a moment, before she asks in disbelief “H-how did you find me?” wiping away fresh tears running down her cheek.
Inaros waves his hand dismissively, walking closer to the woman, “Just had a hunch, I guess.” Stopping at the large rock, he sets down his cane and pulls himself onto it, taking a seat and patting the rock next to him, “Come on, I think we need to talk.”
She looks down at Inaros, then back out towards the palace, her mouth wavering as if she was about to say something. Gently, Inaros grabs one of her oversized paws in his hands and pulls Nanu down towards him, saying nothing.
The two sit in silence for a few minutes, only broken by distant cicadas and Nanu’s occasional sniffles. Finally, Nanu takes in a shaky breath and simply says, “I’m sorry.”
Inaros looks back towards her, her green eyes glowing in the night as he squeezes her paw. “It’s fine, I would just like an explanation about what you said earlier.”
She nods, looking away but clasping her other paw around Inaros’ hands, “I was talking with the Pharaoh today, and she said something about her being concerned that I wasn’t doing a good enough job taking care of you.” she pauses to gather her thoughts, and Inaros dares not to interrupt her. “And she’s right. It’s been half a year since your accident, and you’re still a long way away from being alright again. All this time I’ve tried to help you, but it’s- it’s- it’s-” she stutters, tears beginning to flow freely again.
“The Pharaoh’s right, I’ve failed you, Inaros. First I give you an order which caused you to be crippled, and now I can’t even help you get better!” she cries as Inaros wraps her in a tight hug, burying herself in his should while her claws dig feebly to his back. “I’m so sorry.” she cries into him again and again, her body shuddering as she sobs.
Inaros holds her until the tears stop, patting her back and brushing his fingers through her tail in an effort to calm her. Finally, Nanu removes herself from the embrace, “I should leave.” she says, sniffling and attempting to stand up. Quickly, he grabs her by the shoulders and forces her to sit once more, “Not yet. I still have some things to say.”
Bringing his hands to her face, and brushing the tears off her cheeks, Inaros says “You know, the fact that I was able to find you is a testament to how much better I’ve gotten. Do you really think I could have walked all the way here without all that you’ve done for me?”
Nanu doesn’t reply, “Well I couldn’t have.” he finishes. “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. You stuck with me when I was in really rough shape, and you're always there whenever I'm having trouble, or have a bad dream. You need to know that me getting better just isn’t going to happen overnight, it’s going to take some time, so for you to want to give up know seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?”
She nods, and Inaros brings a hand up to one of her ears, scratching at its base causing her to subconsciously nuzzle into it, a small smile forming on her lips. “You’ve been nothing but a great help for me, and to be perfectly honest, Nanu, there’s nobody else I’d want by my side. There’s obviously a lot of things we that still need to talk about and figure out, but it’s probably better if we do that inside where it’s warm, don’t you think?” Inaros asks, finally noticing the chill of the desert night.
Nanu blushes at these words, squeaking out a small “Okay” as she climbs off the rock and begins to walk slowly back to the palace, expectantly looking back over her shoulder.
Inaros looks down towards the drop to the ground, then back towards Nanu, who was waiting patiently a small distance away. “Uh, a little help, please?” he asks, sliding to the edge of the rock. Nanu just raises an eyebrow at his, tilting her head in confusion as her tail wags aback and forth.
“The drop, I mean. I don’t really want to hurt myself.” Inaros says with a grin as realization dawns on the Anubis’ face, rushing back over to the rock with her tail tucked between her legs. Looking up towards Inaros, she holds out her arms, beckoning him downward.
He slides off the edge of the rock, and into the awaiting arms of Nanu, who captures him in a tight hug and presses her lips against his, pushing Inaros back into the rock. She grabs his face in her paws, trying her best to prolong the kiss. Breaking it, Inaros sputters out with blood rushing to his cheeks, “N-Nanu? What was that?”
The woman giggles, brushing the hair out of her eyes and pecking him once more on the lips. “Just something I’ve always wanted to do.” she says sultrily, grazing over his cheeks with her claws. “You’re alright with that, right?” she asks, her disposition quickly changing to that of concern as her posture slightly falters.
Inaros looks towards the ground, unable to contain the smile growing on his face. “Yeah, I think that’s alright.” he says, looking back up and embracing her again, sliding one of his hands down her back and brushing his fingers along the base of her tail. Nanu jumps at this, breaking the kiss before asking, “Well, maybe we can save the talking until tomorrow morning, hmm?”
“Sounds good to me.”