Disclaimer: Neither the characters nor the premises from either "Van Helsing" or "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" belong to me. There are recognizable pieces of the latter movie incorporated into this fic, directly from the screenplay. These do not belong to me either. The plot of this story however, and the expansion I give on other peoples' characters, are mine alone. The title was taken from a painting by Salvadore Dali of the same name, (ie, not mine) which I found both lovely and inspiring.
A/N: This is a one-shot crossover with the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" which spun off a random thread I connected to my fic PERDITOR. It is set in 1933, near as I can tell. This is a stand-alone, and can be read without reading either LAEVA DEI or PERDITOR, though I would recommend doing so as they will help you understand my take on the character Van Helsing.
They were able to ride for only an hour more before the light from the setting sun completely blurred to blackness. Long before, they had changed from joyous canter to careful trot, wary for the horses on unknown terrain. They had emerged from the Canyon of the Crescent Moon just as the last rays of light had faded. While their incredulous joy at being alive had not yet dimmed, their conversations had, leaving each of the four tired men in silence.
Keen eyes probed the darkness for secrets. It was the one least given to such contemplation who spoke up first, pointing. "Look – there's a light up ahead!"
And so there was – the faint glow of a campfire against the night.
"Well, what are we waiting for!" the shorter, chubby man who spoke was a loyal friend, though scattered and inclined to be more trusting than was healthy. This was one of those times.
"Hold on, Marcus. We don't know what happened to all the Nazis," the oldest man in the group cautioned. His hair was short and gray, his clothing stained with blood that made his glowing health all the more strange.
The fourth man was middle aged and Egyptian, with dark hair and a portly stomach. "We do not have enough water to make the journey back across the desert."
The stars shone icily above, and the night was freezing, bound only to get colder.
"Dad's right," said the first man authoritatively. He was covered in dust and old blood, and sat his horse far more easily than the others. He glanced at the older man before continuing. "But we need the supplies."
The younger man rolled his eyes, huffing exasperatedly. "Dad!"
"Just how do you think we're going to get anything from a camp of Nazis?" Henry Jones asked tartly.
"It might not be Nazis," Marcus pointed out helpfully.
"I'll think of something," the younger man assured his father blithely. "Hey, it's me!"
Henry leant towards the Egyptian. "Is he always like this?"
Sallah could only shake his head.
They approached the campfire in silence, navigating rough terrain carefully. As they approached, Indy felt relief wash over him. It was a single campfire, with only one figure visible in the fire's flickering light. Not a horde of Nazis, then. This was looking to be much easier than he had thought.
They were unable to hide the sounds of their approach, but the dark figure leaning against a large rock didn't move from where he lay – and Indy was almost positive the man was asleep.
They came closer, however, and a memory sparked in the archaeologist's brain; the dark hat pulled low over the stranger's head hid his features, and had Indy reaching for a gun before he could think. He knew instantly that the man was not asleep, though the stranger showed no signs of concern at the sudden appearance of a weapon.
"Junior – what are you -"
"Be quiet, Dad," the younger man said harshly. "I want to see his face."
The stranger raised his hands slowly. "Easy now." The voice was low and light, completely calm. One hand went to the hat, and pulled it off. Indy breathed a sigh of relief – this was not the nameless, fedora-wearing looter who had stolen the Cross of Coronado all those years ago. That man truly had perished in the wreck of the Vasquez de Coronado.
This face was much different – with sloping angles and a thin bladed nose. Dark hair had worked its way free of the clasp at the back of his neck, hanging in wavy tendrils to his shoulders. Hazel eyes glowed golden in the fire's light, and a small smile curved the full lips. "Satisfied?"
Indy glared, feeling a little foolish. "For now."
The stranger lowered his arms, and Indy put the gun away, the tension slowly seeping off into the night. "You look tired," the stranger commented. His eyes rested on each of the men in turn, noting the exhaustion, dirt and blood.
Indiana, in turn, assessed the stranger. He was wearing a black shirt and dark denim pants, his boots suitable for desert weather. Strangely, his coat was lying a distance off, scorned in the cold for the heat of the fire. His clothes were much too dark to make the day's heat bearable, and the archaeologist wondered at that.
"We need supplies," Brody spoke up. "We were wondering if you might share any extra provisions with us." He walked several steps forward, sticking out a hand. "Marcus Brody, at your service, sir."
When the man stood, he was as tall as Indiana, if not a trifle taller. He shook the scholar's hand gravely, offering his own name. "Gabriel Van Helsing."
"Our pleasure, Mr. Van Helsing," said the father, shaking hands cordially. "Henry Jones, and that lout with the gun is my son, Henry Jones Junior."
"Indiana," the younger man hissed reflexively. He gripped the stranger's hand hard, was surprised by the answering strength.
"We named the dog Indiana," the father retorted calmly.
"I like it," his son insisted, freeing himself somewhat less than politely.
A smile twitched at Gabriel's lips, firmly controlled. His eyes lingered on the two men, quietly searching for something. Understanding dawned, and the smile was replaced by a look of weariness.
Sallah pulled attention away from the bickering father and son by stepping forward and introducing himself. Gabriel's eyes seemed to measure him carefully, and after a moment, he returned the portly, good-natured man's greeting – in Egyptian. Sallah smiled in surprise, and the others were left staring for a few moments as the stranger and their friend conversed comfortably.
Noticing the attention directed at them, the stranger smiled and broke off. "I'm sorry, that was rude of me. Come, sit."
He gestured at the fire, and the four newcomers eagerly arrayed themselves around it, leaving their host to reseat himself contentedly against the large rock. Gabriel pulled two bags, heavy with supplies, from the lee side of the boulder and distributed them to his guests. At Brody's initial hesitation, Gabriel smiled. "I have more than enough for myself – please, help yourselves."
The hungry, tired men needed no second bidding, and within moments they were eagerly eating and drinking. Gabriel had with him water and bread, and other foods that would not spoil in intense heat.
The silence grew uncomfortable, then, as their host remained silently staring into the flames.
"So, where are you from?" Marcus asked between bites, trying to alleviate the awkwardness of the moment.
Gabriel smiled, softening the intense expression that had settled over his features. "Nowhere in particular," he answered good-naturedly.
"A traveler?" Sallah guessed, probably from something the other had said during their private conversation.
"You might say that," the stranger responded neutrally. "What about you? Sallah, I could understand meeting in the desert. But not the noted scholars Henry and Indiana Jones. And Mr. Brody seems more suited to a museum than the sand," he asked, laughing lightly. Such curiosity was only natural, but the humor shining in the stranger's eyes told Indiana that this man knew more of them than they had revealed, and that made him uncomfortable.
"We're taking a trip," Indy gritted out in return.
"An archaeological expedition," his father added, shooting him a warning look. His smile must have looked as false as it felt. Indy subsided warily, not at all pleased with the situation. He took an angry gulp of water, and almost choked.
"Really?" the man sounded politely interested. Almost as if he already knew what they were going to say, Indy thought grumpily. "Where?"
In a desert this vast, the question was inevitable, but Indy could not help tensing. "Nowhere in particular," Henry smoothly parroted the stranger's words back to him. "A valley not to far from here."
Gabriel smiled at Henry's caginess, but his next words caught them like a blow. "The Valley of the Crescent Moon? I'm on my way there, myself."
"Is that so?" Indiana asked grimly.
Gabriel smiled. "I'm not a Nazi, if that's what you're so concerned about," he read the archaeologist's thoughts with unnerving accuracy. "Quite the opposite, in fact. Nor am I looking to create chaos in the world of archaeology," he nodded towards Henry and Brody. "I have reason to believe a friend of mine is there, and I haven't seen him . . . in ages." Gabriel's voice had grown sad, his eyes distant.
"Does this friend have a name?" Sallah asked, in an attempt to draw their host from his dark thoughts.
Gabriel smiled at that. "His name would mean nothing to you, if he himself hasn't already forgotten," he answered cryptically. "I received a message of sorts, and I believe he has need of me."
"And so you're traveling across the globe to see him?" Indy asked skeptically. Aside from the stranger's peculiar manner, the timing was too much to be coincidental.
Gabriel's eyes flared with something like anger before it was quenched beneath a mask of serenity. His voice was hard, the accent untraceable. "In all his long life, all the years of our friendship, my friend has never asked me for anything. Not once. Should I ignore him, the one time he does? What would you do, Indiana Jones?"
Indy took a breath, surprised by the other's vehemence, and gave the question serious thought. Blue eyes locked with hazel. "Probably the same thing," Indy admitted truthfully.
But Gabriel's anger was long dissipated, replaced by a cool blankness that might have been tinged with weariness. He grunted only, and Sallah gave a careful glance to Indy as the stranger dragged his two bags in front of him. Giving up his languorous slouch against the smooth rock, Gabriel sat upright and began unloading the bags.
Heaping the supplies into piles, he began sorting through and repacking. Once he was done, one of the bags was much smaller than the other. The large bag was stuffed to bulging, and there were several items that would not fit. "Your horses have saddlebags?" Gabriel asked abruptly into the silence of men eating.
The white-haired man swallowed. "Yes, they do." Henry was the one to answer, looking curiously at Gabriel.
"Good," the stranger replied tersely, rising to his feet.
"Excuse me?" Brody had a puzzled look on his face.
"I travel by night," Gabriel explained, hefting the smaller bag and walking over to his discarded coat. He secured the garment to the bag with a short length of rope as he continued speaking. "It's much safer for a lone traveler, and less taxing. I need to make the Canyon by sunrise."
"You leave now?" Sallah was startled, his command of language sliding slightly.
Gabriel pulled the bag onto his shoulders. "You have enough supplies to last you, if you're careful. I've lingered too long here as it is."
"Wait just a minute," Indy protested, getting to his feet. "Do you know what you're walking into back there?"
"I have a fair idea," the stranger replied, still irritatingly calm.
"I don't think you do," Indy contradicted him.
Gabriel looked pointedly down at his arm, and the hand restraining it. "Does this reassure you any?" he asked icily. The stranger hooked a finger in the collar of his shirt and dragged it down several inches. In the dim light of the fire, a small tattoo, in the shape of a cruciform sword, was revealed.
Gabriel tugged his arm impatiently from the archaeologist's grip. Indy backed off, a little.
"What? What is it?" asked Marcus Brody.
Henry, however, recognized the sigil. "Brothers of the Cruciform Sword," he breathed. "Keepers of the Holy Grail."
Gabriel's brow rose in amusement. "Something like that."
"Jeez, don't you guys ever quit?" Indy snarled. "You're everywhere!"
Gabriel smirked. "That's the idea."
Henry scrambled to his feet, closely followed by Marcus and Sallah. A mind that had spent the last few decades deciphering vague clues made a few connections. "But the Grail -" the older Jones began.
"You found it, did you not?" The question was almost indifferent, and completely at odds with what the last member of the stranger's Brotherhood had told Indy of that group.
"You don't sound too worried," Indy retorted probingly, scenting a lie, somewhere. His hand inched toward the gun holstered at his hip.
In a move so fast that even his ready eyes missed it, Indy was on the ground, his gun in the stranger's hand. "I wouldn't," Gabriel breathed softly. The barrel was unerringly focused on his forehead. "Don't move." The stranger didn't even bother to look up at Sallah and Henry, who had both taken a step forward at sudden shift in power. "You have a choice," Gabriel told them. "You can forget you ever saw me, and rest by this fire until dawn. You can take the supplies I have given you, and forget this place, forever. Or, you follow me back to the canyon, if you must know my mission there. Either way, you will stop hindering me."
Gabriel then shot to his feet, his outstretched hand grabbing Marcus Brody's collar as the bumbling scholar, overbalanced by the force of his swing, went tumbling past. He was holding a rock, with which he had thought to brain the stranger. Indy scrambled to his feet, unarmed but not outmatched.
"There is always another option." That voice was cold, so cold. "It ends with blood and death." A sweet, dark promise that stopped all in their tracks.
"No one wants that, my friend," Sallah answered carefully.
"We'll come with you," Indy volunteered immediately.
"We'll – what?" squawked Marcus. The stranger easily released the wriggling scholar, and gently pushed him toward his friends. Then, in a surprising move, he uncocked the gun and tossed the pistol to the ground at Indy's feet.
Indiana picked up the weapon, and stared warily at the stranger. "How do you know I won't just shoot you?" he asked.
Gabriel raised a brow. "Would you truly shoot an unarmed man?" he asked mockingly. Then he smiled. "You would, if he were an enemy. But you won't shoot me in cold blood, until you're sure of my intentions. After all, I haven't harmed any of you – and I was only defending myself. No, you won't shoot me."
"Not yet," Indy snapped, disconcerted by the other man's perception. "Don't tempt me." But nevertheless he shoved the gun into his holster, and picked up the big pack of supplies, grunting at the weight.
Henry Jones followed, picking up some of the supplies that wouldn't fit, and moving with his son to the horses. "Tell me, Junior," he asked pleasantly. "Why is it we're going back to that forsaken canyon, when we've only just left?"
"I have a gut feeling," his son answered grimly. "This guy's up to no good. The only people left alive in that canyon are Nazis, if anyone. He's going to them – which means that there's something else going on here. And if it involves the Grail, we have to stop it."
"The Grail's gone," Henry pointed out, tying up the saddle bag and grabbing the animal's reins.
"But he doesn't know that."
They waited, mired in their own thoughts, for Marcus and Sallah to finish loading their horses and untie the animals. It was only a few minutes since the strange altercation when they finally set out, leading the animals and following the stranger. If he was honest with himself, Indy had no real idea why he was going back to the Canyon. All the excuses he tried to think of were flimsy and false, and he knew it. The others were similarly confused, from the expressions on their faces, but they followed his lead. And for some inexplicable reason, Indy felt . . . compelled to return. As if, somehow, he had left something undone, or unknown, back in the Canyon.
Shaking these thoughts off, he realized that the dark shape stretching in front of them in the pre-dawn light was the very canyon he had been ruminating on. How had they traveled so far, without him noticing? Angry with himself for his distraction, the archaeologist frowned and settled his glower on the dark-clad stranger preceding them, wondering where he would take them.
It turned out to be idle wondering, for Gabriel led them unerringly into the crescent-shaped ravine. The howling wind of yesterday was a mere whisper singing across their skin. Unseen by those following him, Gabriel smiled. Even the biting cold that had plagued them yesterday was missing, replaced by the accustomed chill of early morning.
Indy was carefully watching the man guiding them. As the sun rose, it became easier to make out his features. Gabriel showed no surprise on reaching the hidden city, carved into the reddish rock in eons past. He trailed a hand lovingly over the worn stone, an enigmatic smile gracing his features. Calloused fingertips traced out the lines of script that Indy, in his previous haste, had not noticed.
Henry pulled out his battered, dirty glasses and perched the lenses on his nose to peer at the etchings. "It's Aramaic!" he muttered, surprised.
The stranger's smile widened at his obvious confusion. "For Joseph," he said gently. Another line, lower and less orderly than the rest, caught his attention, and the stranger crouched. "And by Joseph," he murmured soberly.
For all his education and quick mind, Indiana had never learned Aramaic, and his father's knowledge of the language, while more complete, was sketchy at best. "But this is like nothing I've ever seen before. What does it say?" Henry asked eagerly.
Gabriel smiled, a slow, sad smile. "Roughly, he says, 'Into your hands, Lord, I commend my soul.'"
"The first keeper of the Grail," Brody murmured, his characteristic, scattered abstraction lost in the thrill of discovery.
Gabriel stood up, then, and bypassed the columns, venturing deeper into the city. Leaving the horses tied securely, with Sallah watching over them, the Jones' and Marcus followed.
Gabriel did not seem surprised at the destruction they found within. He surveyed the collapsed wall with knowing eyes, gazing around the room at the toppled columns and broken stone littering the floor. The great seal had cracked in half, and a gaping chasm in the floor descended into nothingness.
It was here, in the dusty sunlight swirling from above, that Gabriel removed his pack. From the depths of the leather satchel he produced a strong coil of rope. Moving to a downed column, he secured one end around the unmoving stone, and the other around his own waist.
"What are you going to do?" Marcus asked with interest.
"You're insane," Indy said flatly, understanding what the stranger was about.
Gabriel rolled his eyes. "Did you really think that the Holy Grail could be so easily lost?"
"Wait – how do you know it's even down there?" Henry asked suspiciously, in a vague attempt at misdirection.
"I know." The stranger's eyes turned to Indy, then, who was sweating under his layer of dirt, and pale beneath his tan. "Don't follow me." Was that a flicker of sympathy in his eyes? "Believe me when I say you won't like what you see."
Indy's heart thudded. Else.
With that, the stranger crawled over the edge of the ravine, showers of pebbles tumbling below into nothing. Indy watched in idle curiosity as the rope, pulled taut over the edge, twanged with the tension. The rope was strong, and did not fray where the edge of the ravine scraped the fibers.
It jiggled and vibrated with the motion of the man fastened beneath, and Indy stared at it until finally, he tore his eyes from the entrancing motion and asked, "Does he really think he'll find it?"
"I think we should be more concerned about what he'll do with it if he does," Henry responded grimly.
At their words, the rope ceased its mesmerizing activity, and all eyes were drawn to the edge. Carefully, mindful of the time he spent dangling above the drop in the previous day, Indy crept toward the edge. He peered over the side.
His father's sudden appearance in his field of vision made him jump, and he scrambled back from the edge. "Dad!"
Henry Jones ignored him, leaning out over the edge. "Mr. Van Helsing?" he shouted out.
They waited, listening to the echoes bouncing faintly down.
They had to strain to make out the words, but almost as the voice reached the listeners, the rope began to twitch again.
It took longer for the stranger to climb up than it had for him to descend, and when he did, he was coated with rock dust. It was ground into his pants, and had turned his shirt a light gray. Gaining the edge, Indy saw that Gabriel had produced a linen bag from somewhere, and looped it over his shoulder. The Grail was outlined clearly within.
Gabriel rolled away from the edge and stood. He tore the clasp from his hair and ran a hand through the thick strands, coughing at the cloud of dust that was produced.
"Where did you find it?" surprise shone clearly through Henry's voice.
Gabriel shrugged, letting off another small cloud of dust. He took a few steps away from the edge, batting at the air. "It was on a ledge a ways down."
"It's not damaged?" Indy asked suspiciously.
"No," Gabriel retorted shortly. "It's a holy relic – and thus is more difficult to destroy than you might imagine."
"But it's only wood," Marcus objected.
"In one sense only."
"Right," Indy scoffed. But the stranger was no longer paying attention to him, instead, the man was surveying the entire room carefully, and as he focused in on something, his face lit up.
In a few quick moves, Gabriel had untied the rope around his waist, coiled it and replaced it in the pack, removing one item. Leaving everything where it lay, he circled around the group of men and moved to the far left of the room.
He revealed something that resembled a gun, and appeared to check the mechanism carefully. He aimed, and when he pulled the trigger, a thin metal bolt shot from the tip, attached to a strong, thin wire. The bolt lodged deeply into a crack in the rock high above in the opposite wall, and the stranger adjusted the weapon.
"He's going across," Marcus commented, staring at the strange gun. His tone was one of logical puzzlement. "Why in the world does he want to do that?"
"I don't know," Indy murmured, looking over the room himself. As Gabriel swung fearlessly over the gap and landed lightly on the ground, Indy shook out his whip. Gabriel looked up from securing his bolt-gun at the sharp crack that split the air. He smiled wryly to see Indy tossing the end of the whip back to Marcus, urging the reluctant man to swing across.
By the time Henry had breached the chasm, Gabriel had disappeared.
"That's great. Just – great," Indy muttered, looking around for the vanished stranger.
"Patience, Junior," his father called back to him, as he crawled towards the place the stranger had last been seen. A moment later, "I've found it!"
"Found what?" shouted Brody as he slithered over a particularly large boulder, to tumble gracelessly down the other side.
"A door," Indy answered, farther along than his friend. "Come on, Marcus!" The excitement of discovery was back in his eyes, firing his every motion with energy. Indy took the lead down this tunnel, which had once been the beginning of the entrance to the Grail chamber.
Indy found himself stepping over the shattered blades of the first deadly challenge. "Watch out," he cautioned the others, ducking under a fallen beam. The shards underfoot were razor-sharp slivers, and he kicked them out of his way. "The Breath of God," he muttered to himself, shaking his head. The tunnel turned, and they saw Gabriel, standing thoughtfully at the edge of a massive drop.
The stranger glanced back at them. "Only the penitent man will pass," he murmured wryly.
"Too right," Marcus Brody's eyes were still agape at the size of the blades, even broken.
"The Word of God. Only in the footsteps of God will he proceed," Henry murmured, stroking hi beard. "The second challenge?"
"It was," Indy answered. He glanced expectantly at the stranger, waiting for a solution to the destroyed floor. There was no way across – falling debris from the ceiling and walls had shattered the floor and collapsed the opposite rock face into a slope of boulders and pebbles.
But Gabriel did not give any more time to the precipitous edge, instead turning back to survey the way they had come. He smiled, then, and softly called a name.
From a half-hidden crevice in the rock hobbled an old, old man. His beard was thin and white, his hair hidden by the chain mail he wore. Kindly wrinkles lined his face, and he was stooped with age. Indy recognized the knight the moment he appeared, and knew as the ancient man approached that his father understood as well. He could hear his dad whispering to Marcus as the knight took one pained step after another, until Gabriel stepped forward to meet him.
The old man paused gratefully, and Gabriel urged him to sit on a nearby boulder.
"Now what?" Indy asked bluntly. He was ignored by everyone except Marcus.
"We wait, I guess," the scholar replied doubtfully.
And so they waited, as the sunlight that illuminated the cavern from no detectable source grew brighter. The stranger and the knight spoke softly, like old friends, and Indy caught a word now and then, and wondered.
His father was leaning against a boulder, playing against Marcus in a cobbled-together game of checkers. It led to a lot of discreet arguing, since the colors of the pebbles were all the same, and they forgot whose was whose quite early on. Indy was egging each on, rooting for no one, when the conversation behind him dropped into silence.
Asking himself why he was still waiting around, why he hadn't grabbed the Grail and run, Indy found himself inquiring snappishly, "Done?"
"Not quite," the stranger responded. "But almost."
Something in his tone quieted the budding argument taking place at floor-level; it silenced even Indy's internal doubts. Henry and Marcus gained their feet, and the knight smiled at all of them.
"I am glad you are here to bear witness," said the soft, benevolent voice.
"Witness what?" Indy asked warily. His father glanced at him. "What?"
Gabriel spoke the knight's name once more, and slowly, the old man creaked to his knees.
The image filled Indy with a sudden fear. The frail, old man on his knees, bowed before the darkly-clad stranger, evoked an image of helplessness that tugged his heartstrings. Sunlight dipped the surrounding rocks in gold. The light glittered off the chain mail, and the old man raised his head. With that proud motion, the scene in front of Indy changed dramatically. No longer did he see one man subjugated before another, but a meeting between two individuals which he knew he did not rightly understand.
Gabriel reached out a hand, let it rest lightly on one thin, mailed shoulder. "Are you certain?" he asked softly, a sadness in his voice. He had known all along the knight would not change his mind.
A bright smile changed the lines and crags in the old face into a tapestry of joy. "I am sure, old friend," he whispered honestly. "I have waited for you for a long time."
"We will meet again," Gabriel promised. Indy was barely able to make out the words.
"My honor on it," the knight smiled.
Gabriel's hand lifted then, to settle lightly on the knight's forehead. The old man closed his eyes, his breathing slow and deep. For a long moment, nothing seemed to happen. Then Indy realized that he was squinting to see. The light around the stranger and the knight grew brighter and whiter than sunlight could provide. Brilliant beams dazzled their eyes, shattering through the air with fierce radiance.
Indy lowered an arm he couldn't remember raising, blinking the spots from his vision as shadows closed in. The light had subsided, seeping away into silence and dust. He rushed forward when he could see, shocked by the turn of events.
The stranger was gently lowering the old man to the floor, his body cooling even as they watched. A tiny smile curled the still lips. "He chose wisely," Gabriel said softly, his words such an eerie echo of something the knight had said that Indy blinked.
Henry and Marcus had rushed forward as well, a bare half-step behind Indy, and they crowded to a halt at the stranger's words. Gabriel looked up then, and stood away from the peaceful body resting on the stone floor.
There was something in his eyes that froze Indy. For all his experience with nightmarish temples and priests who called on forces of power beyond reckoning, he had no idea what this could be. It was more powerful than the forces unleashed by the Ark, yet benevolently implacable. The wisdom gleaming in those hazel eyes reduced him to a mere babe, yet he did not begrudge the other man the feeling, for that sagacity was tempered with an aged sorrow too poignant for words.
"What are you?" he heard his father gasp beside him. Marcus was similarly stunned, his mouth agape as he stared.
Gabriel looked toward the knight, releasing them from his gaze, and Indy remembered to take a breath. His father's face was alight with wonder, and Marcus looked utterly dazed.
Gabriel gestured to them, and they preceded him out of the chamber. Indy's mind was awhirl with meaning and possibility; so caught up was he that the next thing he knew, he was outside the hidden city with no memory of the trip there.
He was jolted unpleasantly from his thoughts when Gabriel turned towards the hidden city for a final time. The stranger spoke one word, in a language never to be heard by mortal ears. It sang through his blood, flowed through his tears and prickled on his skin. Indy fell to his knees, sitting numbly in the dirt, his heart racing and ears throbbing.
With a roar, tortured stone finally gave way before the power in that sound. The reddish columns collapsed in on themselves, coughing to life a great cloud of choking dust that blew hotly over them. The noise of falling rock deep within the mountain continued to reach them even after all the boulders they could see had settled.
The destruction was complete. Sheer cavern walls gave way to an impasse of tumbled red stone littered with pebbles of varying hues. Indy felt something hit him, and jerked backward in time to catch Marcus' head before it smacked the ground. The little man was unconscious, and in fear for his friend Indy staggered to shivery knees.
"What did you do to him?" he half-shouted at the stranger. He stared bewilderedly around the canyon, and saw Sallah, not far from the horses, also unconscious. His father, however, was sitting waveringly in the dirt.
Gabriel brushed past the angry archaeologist and went to crouch by his father, steadying the older man. He spoke a few words with Henry, who was markedly improved for the short conversation, and stood, not quite as shaky as his son.
Gabriel then turned to Indy. "Your friends are fine," he reached out to steady the younger man, but Indy shook him off.
"What did you do to them!"
Gabriel shook his head at the demand, grasping the recalcitrant scholar firmly by the upper arm and marching him over to his father. "Sit," he ordered briefly, plunking Indy on the ground. Then the stranger moved to Sallah, grasping the large man and easily hauling him away from the horses' restless hooves. The Egyptian was laid carefully next to Brody, within sight but not earshot, before Gabriel returned.
The stranger sat down in the dirt, and that unnerving hazel gaze seemed to encompass both of them at once. "Now you begin to see the differences," he murmured at last.
"What the -"
"Differences?" Henry cut him off.
"You drank from the Holy Grail," Gabriel reminded them.
"'Who drinks the water I shall give him, says the Lord, shall have a spring inside him welling up for eternal life.'" Henry paled. "I thought it just -"
"The Grail has never 'just' anything," the stranger interrupted coldly. "You knew this before you agreed to work for Donovan."
"Who are you?" Henry pleaded, unwilling to wait any longer. "How do you know this?"
"My name is Gabriel," the stranger told them calmly. "I am the Left Hand of God."
The words were impossible. But there was no doubting the truth shining from hazel depths. Gabriel rubbed tired eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. The disappearance of tension left him slouched, and he slowly straightened. "There are things I must tell you, things you must know, before we go our separate ways."
"Things like what?" Indy asked warily. Messenger of God or not, he had a feeling he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear.
He was right. He didn't want to hear about the burdens and responsibilities, complications and pains of eternal life. He didn't want to hear that he would watch, unchanged, as those he knew and loved grew old, and died. He didn't want to hear that he would need to always be aware of how long he had spent in one area, always be aware of when it was time to move, change names, change lives. But most of all, he didn't want to hear that someday, a someday which didn't even have to be very far off, it would all be worth it.
Indiana learned that if he became ill, he would recover. If injured, he would heal. He had been frozen in a moment of time, and thus would move through time untouched. But the colors were brighter, his senses sharper, Gabriel promised. He could see the world through fresh eyes, if only for a short time.
"How long is eternal?" he asked ruefully, his mind on the knight who had guarded the Grail for seven hundred years, and yearned for death.
Gabriel's eyes were distant, now, when he answered. "Not as long as you think. Longer than you might wish."
"Don't you know?" Henry was openly curious, staring at the enigma in the form of a man who sat before them.
Gabriel started, blinking. He focused on Henry, and smiled a little. "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead," he murmured. "In places, you'll find it's more than just a catechism, Henry."
The Joneses gaped at each other for a moment.
"What do we do now?" Indy finally managed. The sun was high above, lighting the canyon to painful brightness and banishing the shade. Sweat dribbled down his face, pooling uncomfortably on his skin and wetting the omnipresent dust.
Gabriel smiled. "Live."
They spoke longer, as the sun descended in the blue-blasted sky and created more shade. They spoke of life and death, love and loss. At the end, the stranger was no longer an unknown, but a friend. "If ever you have need of me," he told them seriously, "All you need to do is call my name, or think it as loud as you can. I'll hear you, and come to your aid."
Father and son understood the magnitude of this gift, of the power behind it should they need to call upon it. They discovered that despite all the day's revelations, they were not beyond feeling awe.
Marcus Brody began to shift as the sun sank lower in the sky, and Gabriel's eyes strayed to the two unconscious men. "They'll wake soon," he said quietly. "I'll be gone when they do."
"Thank you. For everything," Henry said quietly as he gained his feet. Gabriel shook the man's hand, an amused smile quirking his lips.
Gabriel then turned to face Indy. Try as he might, the younger man could see nothing, not even an expectation of civility, from the other. That, more than anything else, prompted him to manners. He held out a hand.
"Nice to meet you," tripped off his tongue.
"Really?" Gabriel asked skeptically, unable to keep the smirk off his face.
The two men laughed, in perfect understanding.
When Sallah gained his feet, he saw the destroyed temple, and helped Marcus to his feet.
"That was a close one, no?" he asked, white to the lips. Indy stared at him, and then glanced at his father. Gabriel's words rang in his head.
Sallah is a good man, kind and just. He has belief without needing understanding. But because he lacks understanding, he will never be able to remember what he has seen and heard.
Marcus stumbled away in shock, grabbing one of the horses' saddles to hold himself upright.
Marcus Brody is a scholar, a man intimately familiar with knowledge and understanding. But he has faith, and does not need more than that. He will not remember. It is better that way.
"Come along, Junior," Henry called authoritatively.
"Dad," Indy groaned, following his father toward the horses. "Don't call me Junior!"
Sallah looked up as he heard them bickering, his attention easily – too easily – removed from the demolished city. As they mounted, he opened his mouth in confusion. "Please," he began, "What does it always mean, this, this . . . Junior?"
His exact words from the previous day, as if none of it had happened. A day had been lost that would only ever be remembered by Indy and his father.
"That's his name," Henry said slowly, with none of the flippancy of yesterday. He gathered up the reins. "Henry Jones, Junior."
"I like Indiana," Indy retorted, as if reciting the words from memory. The younger archaeologist looked to Brody, who was dubiously hauling himself into the saddle.
"We named the dog Indiana," his father countered, this time with a smile.
"May we go home now, please?" Marcus interjected pleadingly. They had all finally mounted the horses, and Sallah's booming laugh echoed in the canyon.
"The dog?" he gasped, tears of hilarity starting in his eyes. "You are named after the dog?"
"I have a lot of fond memories of that dog," Indy growled, not having to fake his embarrassment.
The mounts were ready. Indy looked at his father. "Ready?"
"Indy! Henry! Follow me, I know the way!" Marcus cried, thrilled to be at last going home. "Haa!"
Sallah spurred his mount into a canter, and the father and son exchanged an exasperated but fond glance, as they followed the others into the rays of the dying sun.
A/N2: I was hit by this idea, and it just ran me ragged until I finished it. Now I can get back to finishing PERDITOR, for all those wondering just where this story came from.