Disclaimer: Ardeth Bey, the extended Carnahan-O'Connell family, Imhotep and Anck-su-namun do not belong to me. They belong to Stephen Sommers and Alphaville. However, the Ferguson family (Celia, Jason, Miranda, et al), the Bey family, assorted Med-jai, and Khaldun do belong to me. I don't mind if you borrow them. Just please return them intact, and give credit where credit is due.

Author's Note: I know I'm not the only one who noticed this continuity error in the timeline between the first movie and the second. So, I've adjusted things a little. There were seven years between Imhotep's risings, not nine. Also, Anck-su-namun will play a rather unusual role in this story.

Finally, just a warning. I do ignore things from the movies when it doesn't make sense to me. So if you see something that contradicts the movie, it's because the original made no sense to me, no matter how hard I tried to reconcile it. I think most writers will agree that they have to write according to their own instincts. If you disagree with something I wrote because your instincts are different, no worries. I have no problem with people who disagree with me. Just with people who give me a hard time for seeing things as I do. As such, all flames will be handed over to Imhotep for proper disposal. Those things being said, on with the fic!

Prologue: Between Two Worlds

She cast herself into the pit of scorpions when her traitorous body carried her away from her beloved. She lost control twice within the last hour. . .but this time, she would not relinquish control. Once more, Anck- su-namum found herself in the Underworld. Or was she? The former concubine looked around, confused. This was neither the Underworld nor the Afterworld. This was nothing she saw before.

//That, dear child, is because you have never been here.// Anck-su- namun whipped around to face the source of the voice. She could see nothing. . .nothing except a young woman. A living woman, in the living world. She was small and slender with curly dark hair and dark eyes. She couldn't see her face. . .but she seemed familiar to Anck-su-Namun. The voice said again, //Do you recognize her, Anck-su-namun? Do you recognize the soul of the woman? The very first person whom you betrayed, even before Seti?//

Anck-su-namun bit back a cry. She did, indeed. And in her mind, she could see her as she was when they were slaves in Thebes. The Egyptian girl from the very lowest of the slums, blessed or cursed with a striking beauty, and the shy young slave. Both destined to die for the men they loved. She could hear the other girl calling her 'Anck' in her mind, could hear her friend's laughter. And she whispered, 'Ardath?'

//Her name is no longer Ardath, but she does, indeed, carry the soul of your lost friend. You were not always as you are now, Anck-su-namun. You have achieved terrible deeds, but the fault was not yours alone. Nefertiri was given the chance to redeem herself, for turning away from those who needed her. . .she was forgiven, and moved ahead. Rameses was given the chance to redeem himself, and again, he succeeded. The only two remaining are yourself and Imhotep.//

Anck-su-namun lowered her eyes when he spoke of her love. And she *did* love him. She stopped fearing the Underworld long ago. . .feared only losing him. But Meela's instincts for self-preservation were much stronger than her own. Anck-su-namun wondered briefly where Meela was, and decided she didn't care. Meela was no longer her concern. Ardath and Imhotep were.

She loved Ardath as her own sister, from the moment the two girls met. Despite her name, Ardath was not Hebrew. She was found by the Hebrew slaves in a field of flowers, hence her name, when she was four years old. She couldn't remember the name she was given at birth, and her coloring was unusually fair. That was how she ended up as a household slave. . .how she and Anck-su-namun met.

Anck-su-namun looked back at the source of the voice, asking, 'What do you want of me?' She tried to sound. . .defiant. Strong. Anything but how terrified she was. But her voice came out as little more than a squeak. The source of the voice simply laughed. Anck-su-namun, above all, knew what she did. Knew about the lives she destroyed. Knew what she was, made no apologies or excuses. The Underworld didn't frighten her.

This talk of second chances. . . that frightened her. She made no excuses for herself or what she did. But she feared making the same mistakes twice. She already did that, when she reawakened fully in Meela, at Karnak. But at the same time, she was exhilarated by the idea. She was shown Ardath, whom she wronged so terribly. Did that mean she would have a chance to make things right with her only true friend?

//Among others, young one. I cannot tell you how you may make amends, for you will not have a physical body. Each time we have attempted that, it has been a disaster. But you still have the ability to help your friend, who is called by another name now. And when the time is right, you will know what to do. Not many are given second chances, Anck-su-namum. Take care that you do not waste this chance, as you have wasted others.//

The former concubine inclined her head, both in acceptance and in understanding, though she burned with questions. She learned her lesson. . .patience truly was a virtue. And if she could make things right with Ardath, sweet Ardath, perhaps in time she could find a way to make things right with Imhotep as well. She was less concerned with Nefirtiri, who was a spoiled brat. But Imhotep and Ardath were the two most important people in her life.

'One last question, if you please? Who. . .are you?'

The figure emerged from the shadows, and Anck-su-namun gasped. She saw this man before. She saw him at Ahm Shere. But he wasn't entirely a man at the time. The man bowed his dark head, answering, 'In life, I was called 'Mathayus.' But like you, I committed terrible evils, one of which led to my ruin. You knew me as the Scorpion King. . .and this is part of my penance. The great goddess Ma'at saw something good remaining within me. . .just as she saw it in you.' Then Anubis did not receive all of his soul! Or did he? Anck-su-namun tried to work through that in her mind.

Then she realized, it no longer mattered. He was given a second chance. Perhaps, like her, he just had to wait for it. She inclined her head to him once more, this time in respect. Mathayus smiled and said, 'Until that time, Anck-su-namun, you will wait with me. You will watch this new incarnation of your friend. . .you will learn about her. And perhaps, you will come to love her as well.'

He paused, and the scene changed. It was modern day Cairo, and Anck- su-namun hissed at the man shown, 'Med-jai!' A sound warned her and she looked back up at Mathayus. His dark eyes blazed with anger. . .with her. Not with the Med-jai. She started to protest, tell him that the Med-jai helped to defeat his troups, remind him of what all the Med-jai did. . .until she remembered that this wasn't the Scorpion King whom her love faced.

'You will need his aid, if you wish to protect your friend, Anck-su- namun,' Mathayus warned, 'and remember. . .it was not Ardeth Bey who performed the hom-dai on your love. It was not even his ancestor. The present day Med-jai are as much victims of that foolishness as Imhotep.' Anck-su-namun began to shake her head, but Mathayus continued, 'Yes. Imagine, Anck-su-namun, spending your entire life, guarding a pile of sand because your ancestors acted out of grief and guilt, and damned you as well as themselves and another.'

She didn't want to hear it. Mathayus sighed, 'Then you would make the same mistakes again and hold the son of your soul-sister accountable for the mistakes of the previous generation.' Anck-su-namun looked at him in astonishment. Mathayus nodded slowly, never taking his eyes from her, adding, 'He, too, was Med-jai.'

'He refers to my love as the Creature,' Anck-su-namun retorted defiantly, not wanting to believe her companion. She heard Mathayus in her head, //and that is what your love became. No longer human. If Ardeth Bey thought of him as human, he would lose sight of how easily Imhotep could kill him. If he calls him a man, he begins to believe he could be defeated as easily as a mortal man. . .and you know that is not true.//

She could not argue with that truth. Were the Med-jai chieftain to think of her love as a simple, ordinary man, he would die. It was disconcerting, seeing this from a different perspective. Disconcerting was actually an understatement. Anck-su-namun felt the world as she knew it for the last three thousand years tilting underneath her. Her hatred of Seti, her hatred of the Med-jai. She asked, 'Does he. . .does he. . .?'

She wasn't sure what she was asking, but Mathayus did. He said gently, 'Yes, Anck-su-namun. . .he does see what you are now learning. But still he does his duty, as he must, because the consequences of failure are too high.' She didn't want to hear that. Didn't want to feel any sympathy for this grim-faced man clad entirely in black. But then she saw her forever friend, and her breath caught in her throat as she understood. If only for this moment, she withdrew her animosity from the Med-jai chieftain, for he had it within his power to save her forever friend.

And that was all it took.