A MARKED MAN
by Regann


Somewhere in the dusty law annals of Cairo Egypt, there was a law which stated that a person must be at least 18 years of age to be considered an adult.

Somewhere in the less-respectable area of Old Cairo, Rick O'Connell was vehemently disagreeing with the old bastard who made that particular decision.

In his mind, an adult was someone who could take care of himself, who could be depended upon to scrape through existence without charity or pity and maybe have some fun along the way. By his rather loose definition, he was most definitely an adult. And had been for years. It didn't matter that he was only fifteen years old -- a tall, clumsy boy with messy hair and a bad temper.

Unfortunately, that last fact mattered quite a bit to the government. So when his parents -- Presbyterian missionaries en route to central Africa -- had died of fever during the long sea-voyage from Lisbon to the great capital of the Arabic World, the Captain had refused to let the boy simply go on his merry way once they had docked. Captain Arturio del Glasia, an Italian by birth and an Argentine by choice, had seen it as his Christian duty to see the American boy deposited someplace where he would be 'cared for' and 'looked after' until relatives could fetch him.

"After all," the captain had explained to the sputtering child. "New York's a long ways away, nino. You'll be here for many days."

That was the sad series of events which had caused fifteen-year-old Rick O'Connell to find himself in the care of the nuns at Our Lady of the Conception orphanage. Catholic, of course. No Argentine or Italian would have taken the boy to a Protestant missionary post.

The orphanage was made up a two large stone buildings which had once been store-fronts until bad business had driven away the merchants and an idealistic Irish nun by the name of Sister Maria Esperanza had persuaded her father to buy the hideous, abandoned buildings so that he could help in God's Work. That had been in the 1890s, not too long after Egypt came under Western control, and ever since then, a gaggle of nuns had clucked and mothered dirty, homeless orphans, most of them Egyptian and Muslim.

In the highest room of the first complex, young Rick had often stared moodily out of the rectangular window cut out of the wall, watching as people flowed freely up and down the street. On a busy market day, the streets below were full of customers, a strange mixture of West and East as English vacationers in pale linen high-waisted gowns and dapper suits mingled with natives wearing long Bedouin robes and turbans, the few women wearing highly-decorated veils which hid their faces from view. The young boy longed to be one of them, allowed to go and do as he pleased, without regard of the lecturing black-clad nuns who tutted and scolded him as if he were a child, reminding him that he was in their care until his Aunt Patricia arrived to collect him. Oh, and he knew that Aunt Patty would take her dear, sweet time in coming after him. His father's sister hated to travel, hated dry desert weather and hated her smart-ass, trouble-making nephew. He'd be lucky if she ever came after him. Knowing her, she'd just wait until he was eighteen and then mail him a fare.

The dank, dark room at the top of the building had become his sanctuary, as it had once been attic and the only way to access it was to use a rickety wooden ladder to climb up into it. In the two months he had been a resident of the orphanage, he had regularly sought its peace and quiet, thankful to be able to go anywhere where he wouldn't be followed by a nun. The only nun who would dare step onto the ladder was the youngest of the order, an Egyptian who went by the name Sister Gabrielle. At only twenty-three years, she was still slim and agile unlike her fellow sisters, allowing her free access to the small, cramped attic space. And technically, Gabrielle wasn't even a nun because she had only been working at the Our Lady orphanage for a few months, once she had realized that the nomadic life of her blood-ancestors offered little for a Catholic, European-educated native. The fact that she had once been an orphan there herself and had used the room to similar advantage was what kept her from ever actually entering the sacred space; she'd only pop her head up through the hole to announce meals and chore duties. Then, she'd smile and disappear, leaving only the ghost of her white grin against dark skin as proof that she's ever been there.

On that particular day, the sun was sinking below the line of buildings as Rick watched it disappear, turning the sky to blazing colors which slowly gave way to the cool blue of a desert night. The snaking Nile glittered far-off in the fading light and the young man's adventurous soul thought smallest smudge of Giza's pyramids was visible on the horizon.

He closed his blue eyes and rested his head back against the still-warm stone of the window ledge, his longish sun-lightened hair falling haphazardly into his face. He wasn't certain how long he sat like that until he heard the distinctive bang of someone clamoring up the ladder. He squinted one eye open at the entry hole to see Sister Gabriel's merry face looking at him. "Hello, there, Rick," she greeted, speaking softly-accented English.

"Hullo, sister," he answered dutifully. "Since I've already had dinner and I finished my chores, what can I do fer you?"

"Well, I need a favor of you," she explained. "There's a young boy, about your age, who's being forced to stay here until his parents can come get him. They're desert nomads, you see, and will be out of Cairo for a few weeks. He was left behind by the caravan -- accidentally, of course. I was wondering if he could room with you up here? You two might even get along."

Her last sentiment won her a scowl from the American teenager. "He can come up here if he wants, sister, but I'm not interested in making friends."

"Of course not," she agreed in the laughingly patronizing way adults did when they were humoring a child's serious but funny statements. "But it's very nice of you to share with him. As soon as he eats, I'll show him up."

Rick nodded before returning his attention to the now-dark sky, its velvety expanse lit up the pale dapple of stars strewn across its surface. He had decided a long time ago that the stars looked different in different parts of the world. The terrain and the horizon played such an important role in the look of the night sky that it couldn't help but look different. At sea, the sky had sometimes seemed to bleed into the shimmering water until the edge was almost blurred, but here against the desert, the break between dark sky and light sand was clearly defined, sharp and prominent. Back home, the stars had seemed to be ready to burst from the purple sky and fall into the crops which had waved gently in the rain-heavy winds.

The boy was still contemplating the sky and how they would look in some new far-off place like Australia or Japan when he heard the familiar noise associated with the ladder. He immediately tensed at the expected intrusion but never pulled his eyes away from the chunk of sky he could see through his small, uncovered window.

"You are Rick?" The deep voice spoke his heavily-accented English, making it more melodic than even Sister Gabriel's.

"Yeah, I'm Rick," the American shrugged. "And you are?"

"I am Rahman," he answered, his mysterious voice devoid of the cynicism which dripped from Rick's.

He finally tore his gaze away from the window to look back at his new roommate. The boy did look to be about his age -- fifteen or so -- and was as tall as he was, but he wasn't nearly as stocky, his frame being rather gangly. His skin was very dark, made more so than the usual Egyptian olive by days spent traveling under the sun. He had lank black hair which fell straight and shiny just past his thin shoulders and his blacker-than-sin eyes had a strange glint to them which reminded Rick of the piercing gaze of a raven. Dressed in the loose pants and tunics common to most natives, he struck the American boy as….strange. No other way to describe the odd feeling which ran through him when the other boy looked at him so intently. Like a rabbit had run over his grave, his mother would have said.

"Well, make yourself at home, Rahman," the boy told him, spreading his arms to gesture at the room as a whole. "Mi casa es su casa and all that jazz."

"I thank you," the Bedouin nodded and took a seat across from Rick's window, folding his spidery legs underneath him as he collapsed on an old blanket left on the cold stone floor. "Sister Gabriel told me that this was your room."

"Naw," he shook his head. "I just choose to stay up here away from old biddies, always trying to mother me. I can take care of myself."

The dark-eyed Rahman nodded fervently. "That is what I told them," he revealed, beating a hand against his chest. "But they made me come here, until the caravan returns."

For the first time since his parents' deaths, Rick felt a sort of fledging kinship between someone and himself -- this someone being another like him, forced to remain captive within the walls of the orphanage. A companionable silence blanketed the boys, as Rahman stretched out on the floor and Rick continued to watch the moon glide across the sky. It was Rick who spoke first. "So, you live out there?" he pointed to the pristine desert which lay beyond the cramped city. "Out in the desert?"

"Yes, we travel always. We act as traders between the other tribes and we…take care of things. We are a very powerful clan, descended from the greatest warriors in history."

Rick paid little attention to the boast about the boy's descendants. He had heard a version of the same boast hundred different times in his short life. Ordinary people who said their ancestors were French nobles or Indian princesses or High Kings at Tara or Crusaders who helped capture Jerusalem. But he was intrigued by the idea of traveling, always seeing new places and people. It was what he and his parents had hoped to do --- while saving souls, Mr. and Mrs. O'Connell would have hoped. That whole religion bit didn't interested their son but the idea of adventure did. "Must be grand," he told Rahman. "New places, new people. I'd love to do that."

"It is the greatest of lives," the Bedouin agreed proudly. "The whole desert is my home and the sky is my roof. I have seen things that you Englishers can't even imagine."

"I'm not an 'Englisher,'" Rick corrected him, amused. "Hell, I'm not even English. I'm American."

"Even Americans could not imagine what things I have seen." There was a hint of challenge in his words and it should have warned Rick of something being hidden there. Instead, it simply caught his attention.

"Oh, yeah. Like what?"

Rahman leaned close, lowering his voice. "I have been to places that are just seen as myths by your people. Spots on ancient maps never seen by Europeans or Americans or whoever."

Rick raised an eyebrow at that statement. "You're talking like you've been to the Garden of Eden or Atlantis or something."

The boy's bird-like face lit up as he grinned. "Perhaps," he eluded, raising a hand and pointing heavenward with one bony finger. As he did, a black ink design on his wrist caught Rick's attention.

"This a tattoo?" he asked, grabbing the boy's wrist so that he could examine it more closely. In the darkness of the small room, he couldn't see it as clearly as he would have liked, but it struck him as being something complicated and ancient-Egyptian themed. It reminded him of pyramids and pharaohs and mummies.

"It is the mark of my clan's great warriors," Rahman's voice was oddly cryptic as he whispered and his dark eyes were once again gleaming like a raven's. "A great destiny which has followed me for thousands of years, through many different lifetimes."

At the mention of something as far-fetched as reincarnation, the spell which the Bedouin's soft voice and blacker-than-sin eyes had been weaving abruptly snapped. "Yeah, sure. Whatever."

"Do you not believe, then?" he questioned.

Rick snorted. "Of course, I don't! Stupid shit like reincarnation, destiny, blah, blah, blah. Too much desert air, my friend."

Rahman was quiet for a moment. "What if I told you that you also shared this destiny? That it was fate which brought you here to Egypt with your parents? That it was this duty that left you here, to meet me? That it will continue to guide you until you have done as Allah and the angels had proclaimed at your birth." With lightening-quick movement which completely surprised the stocky American, the Bedouin was nose-to-nose with him, staring intently into his blue eyes as if he could see through them to his soul. "Yes, I see that what I have said is true. You do have a great destiny, Rick. One of great adventure, riches and love."

He scrambled away warily. "Okay, when I agreed to let you stay up here, the Sister didn't tell me you were crazy!" he complained. "Keep your freaky ideas to yourself!"

"You have to accept your destiny, Rick," he said sadly, suddenly seeming much older than fifteen. He reached out for the American with his tattooed arm. "Or else, it will haunt you. You are marked, marked for greatness."

"I thought that was what they said about men who were being chased by the law," he was saying sarcastically when Rahman's thin hand wrapped around his wrist, twisting the arm to a painful angle. Suddenly, Rick felt a sharp burning on his skin just below the other young man's hand and looked down in horror as it seemed that something dark was appearing there, something which reminded him of pyramids and pharaohs and….

Images flashed through his head, of riches and ruins and the big, beautiful eyes of a dark-haired woman who looked good in prim tea-dresses but much better in clingy Bedouin robes. He felt as if death passed before him in that, rotting flesh and corrupted eyes. And lastly, he saw a dark-haired warrior covered in tattoos, his eyes reminding him of a raven's….

The pictures whirled and danced until they were nothing but spirals of color and light, the only sound he heard being the deafening roar of funneled silence which was like a long, deep horn which never stopped.

Having the distinct impression that he was having a very strange dream, Rick allowed the quiet, dark haven of oblivion to sweep over him, and he fell to the cold stone floor with a decided thud, unconscious.


*****



The young American awoke the next morning to the sounds of angry Arabic voices and harsh sun light flowing through his uncovered window. His head pounded and his body ached, as if he had drank all of his Uncle Leroy's moonshine the night before. Rubbing his head gingerly, he hauled himself into a sitting position, eyes still unfocused as he squinted against the light.

As his eyes finally became accustomed to morning, he remembered his strange visitor. "Hey, Rahman?" he croaked, looking around. The small uppermost room was empty. "Rahman?"

For one strange second, Rick was ready to believe that he had dreamed the whole episode until he looked down at his wrist. There, just below the bend of his wrist there was a tattoo, a complete pattern down in the black ink, stark against his light golden skin. His eyes were wide with disbelief and he ran a finger over the pattern. It didn't hurt and it wasn't red or swollen like common sense told him it should have been. Rick frantically tried to remember what had transpired the previous night but after Rahman had first appeared, everything took on a hazy quality in his memory and he couldn't even be sure that their conversations hadn't been part of a dream….

"Rick O'Connell!" The booming voice of the orphanage's Irish-born Mother Superior blasted from the entry-hole and he scrambled over to look down through it. Sister Mary Margaret was standing at the foot of the ladder, looking up at him with her plump face creased in concentration. "Come down this instant, boyo! Your auntie's here!"

Almost falling down the ladder in his haste, Rick made a futile effort to soothe his hair and wrinkled clothes as he followed Mother Superior down the narrow stairs to the first floor of the orphanage. The entire time, she was muttering to herself.

"Been calling fer ya forever," she drawled in her florid brogue. "Poor auntie o' yours, waiting and waiting. Just got in this mornin', she has. I bet ya she's as tired as they come. And here ye are, laying abed."

"What happened to Rahman?" he wanted to know as they descended the last few stairs and stepped into the neat lobby-like area of the orphanage complex.

The nun gave him a befuddled look. "Who? Ain't never heard of such a…." She broke off, paying no attention to the young man's look of puzzlement. She gave him a little shove and herded him into her office, which was just off the main room.

As he stepped inside, he had expected to see the pinched face of his Aunt Patty, her eyes glaring down at him as if it were his fault that her brother and sister-in-law had died to leave her to bother with their unruly son. Instead, he saw a vaguely familiar woman dressed in a faded but neat sprigged-cotton dress carrying a large purse and a floppy-brimmed hat. She was just on the plump side, and her skin was fair, already turning pink from the little time she had spent in Egypt. Her hair was a light, almost-blonde honey-brown and it was tucked up in a neat bun on the very top of her head. Her eyes, he realized as she smiled at him, were the exact same shade of blue his own were and she seemed vaguely familiar because she reminded him of a younger, chubbier version of his mother, Eleanor.

"Rick," Mary Margaret began, scooting around to sit behind her wobbly desk. "This is yer aunt Verity Starnes." She waved a few papers in her hand. "According to this, she's yer mum's younger sister.

"Nice to finally meet you, Rick," she smiled brightly, holding out a hand for him to shake after transferring her purse to the other hand. "Your mother was my older sister, by about seven years."

He'd never met much of his mother's family; she had married his father before she was nineteen and they had spent much of their life moving around. What he did know of them was that she had had six siblings, and that they all hailed from Georgia where his grandfather had once been involved in the shipping business. Her southern drawl was even heavier than his mother's had been but the sound of it and her resemblance to Eleanor made the fifteen-year-old feel warm inside. He returned the handshake and could feel him grinning back at her. "I expected my father's aunt," he admitted.

"Well, when Patricia got in touch with me and explained the situation, we decided that it'd be easier for me to come and fetch you. After all, she's so busy and such…" Her nose crinkled and Rick got the distinct impression she disliked Aunt Patty as much as he did. "Anyway, it was no problem for me. I'd been wantin' a reason to travel."

"Yes, well," the nun interrupted brusquely. "Give me a day to finish the paperwork and he'll be all yours legally." She gave the boy a fond, motherly smile. "We'll miss him, though. Such a character."

His young aunt Verity gave him an amused look and darted her eyes at him in a wicked way which meant that she knew that 'character' was a euphemism for 'troublemaker.' His grin only widened and he shrugged unrepentantly. "Would it be alright if I took him now and came back to take care of the papers tomorrow? I still have to get his things out of the shipping company's impound and I'll need his help."

Sister Mary Margaret thought for a moment before nodding. "Very well," she relented. "Go on, Rick, and say good-bye to everyone, then come back here. You can leave with Miss Starnes then."

"Well," he said. "The only person I'd like to say good-bye to is Sister Gabrielle. Do you know where I can find her?"

The Irish woman's wide face was contorted into a serious look of disapproval. "Miss Gabrielle disappeared last night, after dinner. She left a note saying that she had done all that she needed to do and was returning to her people. Uncivilized nomads, they are…and she's a very ungrateful girl, if you ask me," she finished with a sniff.

Rick stared at the old woman as if she had sprouted a second head. But he had seen Gabrielle after dinner because she had brought Rahman up to him….he suddenly remembered that Mother Superior had said that she knew of no Rahman in the orphanage, and Gabrielle's parting words sounded suspiciously like those of someone who had fulfilled their duty -- destiny -- and had moved on….

Completely baffled, he did what most young men would do after months of stress, grief and hardships: he pushed it to the back of his mind, filed under "Worry about later." It was the single best way any teenager could handle the curves thrown at him by life. Or, was that destiny?


*****


A few days later under a scorching sun, Rick O'Connell stood on the vast docks of the Cairo international port, waiting with his Aunt Verity to board a steamer back to America. Not New York this time, however. His aunt lived in Savannah, where she worked in her father's shipping office, and he would return with her there. After only a few months in Egypt though, the young boy felt a strange kinship with the stark, inhospitable land and he found himself missing it before he had left.

"So tell me more about this grandfather of mine," he asked Verity while they waited.

"Oh, he'll love you," she assured him. "Elly was always his favorite and you being her only son….well, he'll just love ya!" She mockingly pinched his cheek which caused him to roll his eyes and bat her hand away from him. Then her eyes twinkled as she added, "That is, if you keep your smart mouth shut."

"You know me too well, huh?" he laughed.

"Oh, right I do," she nodded, stabbing at him with one finger. "So you better watch it, mister!"

"Yeah, yeah," he rolled his eyes again, making another dismissive gesture with his arm. This time, however, the black-ink marking caught his aunt's eye.

She quickly grasped his arm and studied the mark. "And where did you get this?" she wanted to know.

He shrugged. "Some kid slapped it on me at the orphanage."

Verity let go of his arm and stuck her hand into her over-large shoulder bag. "Well, it looks like you're a marked man," she drawled before triumphantly pulled something out of the purse. The nephew was unsettled at how eerily similar her words were to the ones Rahman had used, so unnerved that he missed what she had said.

"Come again?" he asked, impolitely implying that he needed her to repeat her statement.

She rolled her eyes but good-naturedly replied. "Here, put this over that thing. Your grandpa won't be too fond of it -- against God's Law and all -- so we'll just cover it up until there comes a time when we don't need to, okay?" The 'this' to which she referred was a leather cuff which she was twirling around between her fingers.

"Where did you get that?" he wanted to know, pointing at the cuff.

"I bought it for a friend of mine," she told him huffily. "Now, be a good boy and do as you're told."

He took the band and laced it onto his wrist, effectively covering the strange marking. Verity brightened as he teasingly modeled it on his arm. "Now, that's better," she announced approvingly. Her blue eyes were shining as she told him, "Remember. Don't mention it until we have to, ya hear? It's the best way to deal with things which goes against the grain -- or your grandpa."

"Got it, Verity," he nodded, mulling her words over in his head.

She had some good advice, his aunt did, in her own special way.

"Forget it about it until there comes a time when it needs to be remembered" was it amounted to, in Rick's mind and he easily found himself applying the adage not only to the existence of his tattoo but also to the strange circumstances which had led to his receiving it. All that talk of destiny and stars had been a bit much for a fifteen-year-old boy still dealing with his parents' deaths; he had a long while yet before he needed to worry about such things. Besides, he told himself as he followed his young aunt up onto the ship, if he did have some kind of strange destiny awaiting him, it would find him in the end. No need looking for it, searching it out. You didn't have to do that with destiny.

Finally at ease, Rick waved goodbye to the desert and the pyramids and the crowded Cairo streets, knowing only one thing for certain:

One day, something would call him back to that ancient land.


The End


Author's notes: This idea has been in my head since I re-watched The Mummy and The Mummy Returns when I bought the DVD set. So, here's my take on how he might have gotten that tattoo and what his life might have been like. This is my first attempt at Mummy fanfiction, so please be kind and review. Feel free to email me at regann@kalyka.net if you have any comments/questions/concerns. Thanks. And did I mention, review?