Speak Softly
The Gift

1935: Ardeth Bay is resurrected from the dead. He awakens to a world vastly different, to familiar faces changing and to the knowledge that he is Egypt's final hope for freedom.

He also finds out just how far love and despair can take him.

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Though his skin felt distinctly cold, the first sensation he noticed was the burning. What had once been a lifeless body lain out to rest upon a stone bed was now changed. He drew breath, slowly at first but gradually increasing to take in enough oxygen to support life. Yet no one was here to witness such a miraculous event. He awakened to the world alone.

Jarring to life suddenly, his fingers wrapped around the edge of his hard bed. He had no memories of Heaven but without doubt something had been taken away from him. Some sense of peace that he could no longer bring to the surface of his mind.

The year he had fallen had been 1929, that he knew. That year rang through his mind so loudly he nearly covered his ears. His body tingled, but he did not deny to himself that he feared getting up. Surely this was hell and outside this cold room would be death and ash.

Ardeth Bay opened his eyes and blinked as only darkness greeted him. He had no sense of time; felt as though he could possibly be the only person left within the whole of the universe. When he could finally bring himself up from his rest the sound of his movement against the stone seemed harsh. His hands raced to meet his ears and for a moment all he could do was remain still, adjusting to this newness of life returned.

Rapidly the sensation of leaving some other place began to disappear until he finally questioned whether or not he had been dead at all. He swallowed and the use of his throat made him cough—a sound that echoed through the quiet. Whatever the case, dead or sleeping, he had not used his body in some time.

Dead. Memories of old rituals began returning to him. Ardeth felt of his clothes in the dark. He was dressed in his full formal desert attire, as any Med-Jai warrior would be in death. Strapped to his left side was his scimitar. These discoveries chilled him.

He brushed his long hair from his face and dropped his feet to the concrete below. Leaving this place tore at his heart, but without reason he knew he could not remain. Something outside pulled at him, so he stood and began walking. The darkness swallowed his sight completely, but by some intuition he seemed to know the way out.

Whenever he passed a room or niche in the wall where another body rested he seemed to know it, though how he could not say. Nor did he question it. Apart from the ache of awakening only numbness remained. Apathy and the pull of outside. Ardeth continued towards the exit to this place and the tingling all over increased.

A small, silent eternity passed until he turned down a hall and entered the final room of this great mausoleum. Vision poured in from the open entrance and he turned away, covering his eyes from the brightness, though what illumination came through was dim and gray. It took him long moments to adjust and even then he squinted as he turned back and let himself see the terrible light. It made him feel hollow somehow.

Ardeth steeled himself and pushed forward and outside. As soon as he passed the threshold a realization came and he closed his eyes once more. The fading echo of what had been Heaven left him when he let go and accepted the world once more. Where was he now?

The sky looked stricken and frightening. Around him sand covered the face of the earth, proclaiming he was still at home—still in Egypt, but the atmosphere here had never looked so gray. It looked as if the skies would weep with rain. The sight of the world was disturbing. Perhaps it was only he himself, but it seemed as if the very air had changed. Something was wrong with this place.

A structure upon the horizon caught his attention, something large and forbidding. Yet in this barren reality it was the only sign that life existed. The tombs of the Med-Jai were located upon a great hill, hidden by rock and shadow. There was only one way down. Before the entrance to the tombs lay a downward path and Ardeth began the descent.

The earth was quiet and lonely as he walked in silence. He began to long for someone else—anyone else, even an enemy—that would assure him he was not alone in this hell. There was nothing except the path and the looming building ahead.

Ten minutes passed until finally he came to the bottom of the hill. His brow furrowed in confusion at the sight that lay before him. Instead of the open desert there were stone tiles and pillars laid out and erected like some sort of maze. Through cracks in the pillars he could see other stones beyond. To leave this place he would have to follow the trail.

Ardeth exhaled and left the puzzle behind. Entering the labyrinth of stone, he walked and wondered what he would find beyond this place. He was growing weary of the quiet. If he were to live he wanted to be surrounded by life. Anything to fill the emptiness left in him. The air was chilly and that too bothered him, apart from everything else. The small journey through these odd, roofless halls welcomed another ten minutes of his return.

Just as he began to question whether or not this place had an end one presented itself. Near the threshold were carved words in hieroglyphic, reading: The Footsteps Of The Blessed. He ran his fingers over the chiseled words, wondering what on earth it meant.

Beyond that lay the open sand he had expected and the world looked frighteningly dead. But even as bothersome as that was it did not hold his attention for very long. Below him was a small form, female and unconscious. She lay on her side with one arm sprawled from her body. Upon her hands and arms he saw blood; marks covered her body in what he could only guess were cuts from a whip meeting her flesh. She was dressed in scanty clothing, clothing that seemed ancient and lovely on such a form.

Her pale skin gleamed beneath her blood and clutched to her chest was the Book of the Dead. Ardeth knelt down at her side and brushed her dark hair back away from her face. What he saw drew a gasp. Quickly he felt for a pulse and was greatly relieved when he felt the rhythm of life. "You live," he whispered, brushing his fingers across her cheek gently and feeling grateful that the first face he should see would be a familiar one. Hers was a face he hadn't seen but a few times since Imhotep had been raised and put down again.

She stirred slightly but did not come to. Ardeth turned his dark eyes towards the vastness ahead and the fortress in the distance. His friend needed medical attention, but something did not feel right. A breeze brushed through his hair and over his face as he considered his options. She did not appear direly wounded. Travel could wait until she awakened and he understood this world a little better.

Ardeth eased her to her back and pushed his strong arms beneath the crook of her knees and her shoulder blades. Cradling her to his chest, he stood and turned back towards the labyrinth. Evelyn Carnahan lay limply in his arms with the Black Book in her lap. So it had been she that had awakened him from his rest. Something was happening out here in the desert that she must have felt required his attention. Something very important, otherwise she would not have disturbed him. But what could be so terrible?

He looked down at her face, troubled even in sleep and lovely, and wondered where her brother was. Where O'Connell was. Her clothing was very revealing and it hit him she would never have worn such an outfit by choice. Something was very wrong.

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Disclaimer: The Mummy and The Mummy Returns belong to Stephen Sommers. All original characters belong to me, and will be listed as they appear. This plot is the property of "Ruse" Angela J. Drews. No infringement intended.

A/N: Review! Review my little radishes! Lol. JK. Mmmm, but we would feel honored to receive feedback, mmm, yessss, my precioussss. Does this little beginning appeal to anyone or should I kill it now?? :O Thanks. :D

Anyway, against my better judgment, I've decided to post this now instead of waiting until "Passion" is done. My Buffy/Mummy fic = backburner if this story is worthy enough to merit interest. If not, we'll have to see. Anyway, since "Passion" is nearing completion, I sucker you into "Speak Softly". ;)

-Angela