The Tomb Of Osirus
They had finished packing the large knapsack when Sindis appeared on the balcony, shortly after sundown. The chill of the desert flowed through the opening.
"Hey, Sin," David greeted her. "Have a nice rest?"
Sindis sighed. "The sleeping by day isn't the problem. It's feeding on pigs. That's the problem. It's like drinking bitter water."
She spat as if the taste still filled her mouth.
"Well," David mused as he assembled the components of his bow with automatic efficiency. "If all goes well. Tonight will be your last night living on pig tartar."
"So," Gabrielle asked. "You've kept me in suspense al day! What's the idea?"
"To find the Book of the Dead," David replied easily. "Somewhere in the Tomb of Osirus." He looked back at the two of them. "Any questions?"
"Yeah," Sindis asked. "What good is a book going to do me?"
"Oh this isn't just any book," David grinned as he strung the bow. "This is the mother of all magic books! The ultimate Book of Shadows, if you like?"
Gabrielle was smiling in appreciation. "That spot you were judging from the corner of the pyramid the other day? Right?"
"Ten points to the lady," David announced. He tested his bow and slung it and a quiver of arrows over his shoulder.
Looking back, he saw Gabrielle sliding her sais into her boots.
"Ready?" He asked.
Both girls nodded.
David reached down and tossed Gabrielle the bow she had discovered in Xena's old weapons cache.
"Just in case," he offered.
Gabrielle slung the weapon and her own quiver over her shoulder.
The trio made their way through the courtyard and past the front of the Great Sphinx, on their way to the dock.
They stopped at the rear of their ship, now lying completely on its side in the quickly drying mud.
The three of them dropped into the riverbed and began moving up the course of the water towards a large, flat outcropping of rock that had previously been completely submerged. As they moved to the front of it, David felt his mouth drop open. Before him was the final gate that he had seen in his dreamscape. The gate he had swerved aside to miss.
"I'll be dipped in," he caught himself before he finished that statement and stepped up to the doorway. Cool moist air flowed from it like a killing vapor. The opening gaped at them like the mouth of midnight.
"I wish I could still see in the dark," David said to himself.
Sindis heard him and shrugged.
"It wouldn't have helped," she admitted. "I can't se anything either."
"Uh huh," David nodded. "Well, then. When eyes fail, technology must suffice."
He reached into his coat and drew out three long thin, cloudy white plastic rods.
"I thought these might come in handy exploring the pyramids," he mused. "Who'd have thunk it?"
He handed one to each of his companions. They looked at the things curiously.
"Just smack them hard against the stone and shake," David said. He did so and there was an audible crack. Instantly the rod began to glow a brilliant orange. "Like so," he smiled.
Gabrielle shook her head in appreciation while Sindis merely gaped at him in shock.
"Magic?" she asked.
"Chemistry," David replied as he stepped into the opening.
Gabrielle smacked her rod against the stone and it also glowed to life.
"He's full of interesting surprises like that," she told Sindis. "After a while you get used to it."
Sindis also activated her glow rod and followed them within, marveling that the light burned brightly, yet there was no heat.
David slung his bow and drew out his bowie knife, holding it in his right hand while he thrust the glow rod over his head and forward. The orange light revealed a long passage that plunged straight into the plateau, vanishing into blackness beyond the glow.
The walls were smooth and only slightly eroded from constant exposure to water. The entire place smelled of slime and decaying water plants.
"You know where you're going, right?" Sindis asked timidly. "I mean, the way you knew about the entrance. You've been here before?"
"Yup," David replied.
"When?" Sindis asked.
"IN about two thousand years," David said.
Gabrielle turned back to Sindis and smiled. "See what I mean?"
She watched Gabrielle follow after David, still mildly shocked.
"No!" She hissed.
They continued down for several hundred feet until they entered a large dark chamber. Several stone walkways rested just above a pool of dark water, the remains of the Nile waters left from the recession of the river. The air was cool and dank, and they heard the constant sound of dripping water.
In the center of the room, just above the level of the water was the lid of a large ornate sarcophagus.
On the other three walls, more passages split off in three directions.
They all paused as they heard a slight sizzling noise. Suddenly, Sindis squealed in pain and fright, jumping back into the main passage, smoke rising from her feet.
David and Gabrielle were at her side instantly.
"What happened?" Gabrielle asked urgently.
Sindis was pulling her boots off as quickly as she could. The flesh of the soles of her feet were blistered and smoking.
"Of course," David nodded. "Hallowed earth, holy water."
Sindis was nearly in tears.
"Easy now," David said gently. "There's a way around this."
David smiled. "I'll carry you. It can't burn you if you don't touch it, right?"
Sindis and Gabrielle looked out at the narrow paths of stone traversing the pool.
"But if you fall?" Sindis's eyes were wide in horror.
"Then don't panic and jump around," David replied easily. "And it'll be a walk in the park."
David handed his bow, quiver and glow rod to Gabrielle, and then he let Sindis climb onto his back, like he was giving a child a pig a back ride. He took the glow rod back and stared out at the stone walks through the chamber.
"You okay?" He looked up at Sindis who merely closed her eyes and held on.
David slowly moved out onto the narrow walkway. The stones were nearly two feet thick, but the added danger of the holy water made him feel as if he were walking on a balance beam.
Looking up, he saw dozens of metal protuberances hanging from the ceiling, most of them coated with a thin layer of slime and water. Ancient hieroglyphic inscriptions covered the walls and ceiling.
David made the first fifteen feet to the inner square surrounding the sarcophagus. He turned gently and continued another six feet to the next turn and then continued towards the far entrance.
"Nearly there," David grunted under the weight. "Just a bit further."
Sindis risked a peek and then closed her eyes again. The opposite entrance seemed miles away. She could feel the water vapor in the air scratching at her lungs and she coughed.
David froze at the sudden movement.
"Easy," He cautioned. "It would suck to make it three quarters of the way and then fall in."
Sindis laughed in spite of her horror.
They were nearly at the opposite end when suddenly, one of the stones shifted under David's feet. HE felt his body shift too far and struggled to keep his balance, but it was no good. He knew he was about to take a plunge.
"Sindis!" he shouted, pushing up with his arms as he toppled over. Jump for it!"
Sindis grasped the damp metal hanging from the ceiling, felt the moisture begin to burn her hands the instant she touched it. She screamed in pain as David fell sideways out from beneath her and hit the dark water with a splash.
Some of the spray landed on the young Amazon, and she felt it eat away at her skin where it touched.
She screamed again and then swung towards the opening. Her body just cleared the threshold and she landed in a painful heap on the other side.
David bobbed up and looked about, sighing in relief when he saw Sindis safe in the opposite passage. Then he looked down for his glow rod. It lay at the bottom of the three foot pool, on a scattering of pale bones.
Instantly, he was out of the water and on the walkway again.
No sooner was he out when he spied the silvery cloud of fish shooting past him, their tiny black eyes searching hungrily for prey.
"Ooo," he grimaced. He looked back toward Gabrielle, working her way along the outer track.
"Uh, honey?" he said urgently. "Better get a move on."
"What is it?" Gabrielle asked.
"Better you don't ask," David replied. "Just take my word for it."
Gabrielle reached down and drew her sais out, clutching the glow rod in her teeth.
In the soft illumination, David saw the subtle ripple in the water as the school of fish approached Gabrielle.
"Gabby!" David hissed. "Freeze! Don't move!"
Gabrielle looked down at the water beside her feet and saw the tiny silver objects milling about just beneath the surface.
Slowly, David knelt next to the water and splashed his bowie knife on the glassy surface.
Instantly, the school of deadly fish shot away from Gabrielle towards this new disturbance.
"Go!" David said quickly. He continued his distraction, watching the water ripple closer to him.
Gabrielle moved as fast as she dared.
At the last instant, David pulled his knife out and brought the double thick canvas coat up covering his body as best he could.
Dozens of small silver shapes leapt out of the water and bit into the cloth of the coat with needle teeth.
Gabrielle watched in horror for only a moment, and then she dunked her leg into the water and splashed loudly. The attacking school of fish, receiving only bitter cloth for their efforts turned and shot back in her direction.
David looked up and saw Gabrielle running for the passage.
"Go! Go! Go!" She shouted at him. He turned and also ran for the opening.
David got there first and turned to receive Gabrielle. The water rippled angrily, gaining on her by the moment.
Gabrielle bypassed the last few feet of the walkway and leapt. Dozens of small silvery shapes burst from the water right behind her. Sindis retreated up the passage while David caught Gabrielle in his arms and leapt deeper into the passage out of the way of the flying carnivorous.
They landed with a squelching thud in the muck.
Looking back, they saw several of the things wriggling on the floor, their black, pitiless eyes fixed on them, even in death, tiny jaws snapping at the air. One by one, they each ceased moving.
The three of them got to their feet and edged closer to the nearest one for a better look. As they watched, the fish seemed to flatten and melt into the stones, leaving only a small smudge of wet discoloration on the floor where it had thrashed about.
"Okay," David mused. "That wasn't in any of the ancient texts I've ever read?"
"What were those things?" Sindis asked, her body trembling.
"Some kind of piranha," David mused. "I think?"
He rose to his feet and looked up the passage.
"Sphinx, this way, I hope?" he guessed aloud.
The ground began to climb gently upward and eventually, the soft wet muck under their feet changed to dry dusty stone.
"This is promising," David said as they moved forward. Their footfalls sent clouds of dust up in their wake and thick cobwebs sometimes stretched completely across the passage.
They reached a second chamber, nearly thirty feet across and ten feet high.
On the wall to their right was another archway, this one blocked by a large ornate stone door, decorated in fine metals and flanked by two statues of the jackal headed God, Anubis.
"Well, well," David grinned. "I do believe we have found it."
He began moving toward the door.
"Wait!" Sindis said suddenly, her green eyes fixed on the door ahead. At the same moment, the two Anubis statues became animate and stepped to block the door. Each of them held a crook in one hand and a flail in the other, the symbols of the Egyptian Kings.
David froze and slowly backed away. The two statues resumed their original positions, their flinty eyes seeming to watch them with cold anticipation.
"Can't you hear them?" Sindis was saying nervously.
Gabrielle and David looked at her in concern. Her eyes were wide with horror.
"I can't hear anything?' Gabrielle admitted.
David also shook his head.
"They're saying that only the dead may enter," Sindis's voice was trembling.
David looked back at the doorway and then his head turned back to Sindis.
She looked at him, her eyes wide.
"Oh no," She stammered. "David, I can't do this!"
"You have to," David replied. "They won't let Gabrielle and me past."
"And how do you know they'll let me by?" Sindis asked in a shrill voice.
David shrugged. "Because, to them you are already dead?"
That statement struck a chord with Sindis and momentarily subdued her fear, replacing it with a scornful expression.
"Sorry," David shrugged. "But it is the truth."
HE stepped over to her and put his arm around her shoulder.
"Listen," he said. "You might be able to get close enough to open that door. If you can, that means that you'll also be close enough to smash those two Chihuahua's into powder. Then, we go in together? See?"
She looked at him in panic.
"Sindis," David said calmly. "You're not going to do this on your own. I give you my word."
She looked at Gabrielle, who merely nodded her head in encouragement.
Her eyes fixed on the two stone guardians. Then something like a dreadful calm seemed to come over her and she stopped trembling. Her eyes flashed a dull crimson for a moment.
She moved slowly towards the door. The two statues remained still, their eyes fixed stolidly forward.
Sindis reached the door, her hands touching the finely wrought metal encasing it. Suddenly, her eyes flashed a brilliant red and with a hiss, she spun and smashed first one and then the second statue. The stone shattered into fragments under her assault.
David and Gabrielle rushed forward, coughing in the dusty air.
"Nicely done," he said appreciatively. "Now, let's see about this door."
"Only the dead may enter there," a voice said calmly behind them. This time they all heard it.
Slowly, they al turned and saw a single figure standing in the center of the room, dressed in the ceremonial garb of the pharaohs, the whole wrapped in fine white linen.
His skin was a pale green in color and his eyes were deep and black.
His eyes were deep and thoughtful, set in a handsome face. His crown rose red and white from his head.
"Osirus?" Gabrielle stammered. The figure only looked at her and nodded, a faint smile on his lips.
"An interesting little riddle," he said thoughtfully. "One who has lived beyond her years, another which lives before his years, and the third, beyond life?"
David only smiled grimly and bowed his head.
"Tell me?" he asked as he stepped toward them. "How can this be? Two of you have lived past the time of judgment?" He fixed his dark eyes on David. "And you have not yet been born into a life to be judged?"
"It is a long story, My King," David said, his eyes still focused on the ground, body tense.
"Does this tale also tell of how you knew to find my resting place?" Osirus asked.
"It does," David replied.
One cool, pale green finger lifted David's chin. David looked into the eyes of the God.
"I have seen you of late," he said knowingly. "You turned aside before reaching my door? Why have you returned?"
"We seek your help, My King," David said carefully. "She who is beyond life, seeks to reclaim it?"
"Once life is lost," Osirus replied. "It cannot be reclaimed."
"But it isn't lost completely," David said. "Otherwise she would have stood in your hall by now. Her spirit still lives. It is her body that has been robbed of life."
Osirus stepped over before Sindis and studied her for a long moment, his eyes gazing deeply into her pale green ones.
"We thought that your book would contain the incantation that would reverse what has been done to her?" David explained.
Osirus fixed his gaze on Sindis again. "You are consumed by darkness, child," he said evenly. "Yet, within your soul I see a flicker of light. Do you believe that light is enough to sustain you?"
Sindis looked into his eyes for a moment and then hung her head.
"I don't know," she admitted.
At that the god actually laughed a sweet gentle laugh.
"An honest answer," he said in surprise. "It has been so long since I have heard an honest answer."
He turned to Gabrielle and David. "And what of you?" he asked. "Would you be judged by the scales?"
Gabrielle shook her head.
He looked at David. "And you?"
David smiled with grim realization. "If you were to weigh my heart against the feather of truth," he offered. "My heart would probably break your scale."
Again, Osirus laughed gently. "For too long have I heard the words of the unworthy, read from my book. To hear this is refreshing beyond compare. For that alone, I should grant you what you desire." Then he gaze seemed to harden.
"But a life returned can also be squandered," he continued. "What proof do I have that she will not abandon the path she has chosen, once her life is restored in full?"
Again, Sindis had no answer. She seemed resigned to the fact that she would remain as she was.
It was David who spoke up.
"My Lord," He said cautiously. "I cannot promise that which I do not know I can keep. Can we say that she will try to live a good life, if given the chance? Yes, I can offer that. But we are not perfect. We all make mistakes. That is why we depend on your wisdom so much? And your understanding."
"I can only promise to try," Sindis said quietly.
Osirus placed a cool hand on the Amazon woman's shoulder and smiled.
"And that was all that I ask," he said. He raised his hand and the sound of large bolts sliding could be heard on the opposite side of the door. Then the door slid open without as much as a creak.
Sindis looked back into the dark void.
"Sindis of the Amazons," Osirus said. "I offer you a choice. I can return your body to life, or return the life of another. Which will you choose?"
Sindis looked at the god steadily and then sighed. "Return Yania," she said at last.
"Very well," Osirus replied. In the chamber behind them, there was a sudden burst of golden sunlight. A single column that blinded them all for a moment.
"If that is your wish," Osirus said evenly. "Then go."
"Wait a minute!" David blurted in surprise. He turned to Osirus.
"David!" Sindis said sharply. He looked at her, his eyes wide. She smiled. "It's all right. This is what I want."
She turned and walked towards the light, feeling its heat already pressing against her preternatural flesh.
"Sindis!" Gabrielle cried and she ran after her. An invisible barrier stopped her at the entrance.
David looked at Sindis, walking towards the inferno and then back at Osirus.
"Stop this!" He begged.
"She has made the choice," Osirus replied.
"The hell she has," David growled and he went after her. He stopped at the barrier and put his fingers out, trying to penetrate it as he did with most other energies. For the first time in his life, he failed completely to push even a finger through it.
She paused at the edge of the column and looked at him. She smiled in a way the kindled rage in his heart.
"You're going to stop this," he growled and he turned and stalked towards the god, all pretense at reverence lost.
Osirus simply held out his hand and David felt his whole body go stiff. It was as if he had become rooted in place. His eyes blazed with wrath.
"I took her sisters life!" he bellowed. "If anyone should pay for that! It's me!" He struggled with every muscle in his body against the spell, but the only thing he managed was to turn his head and look back.
Smiling, Sindis stepped into the column of light. There was a blinding flash and the young woman seemed to disintegrate in a matter of a few moments.
Suddenly, David was free. He ran for the door, but it slammed shut before he reached it. He threw his body against the unyielding stone.
"You son of a bitch!" He cried. He slammed his fist against the door to no avail and then he went perfectly still, his chest heaving. Gabrielle almost felt the pressure building within him. Instantly, his sword was drawn and he wheeled to face the god.
Gabrielle interposed herself between him and Osirus. She wrapped her arms about his waist and struggled to hold him back.
"You worthless son of a bitch!" David screamed at him. "She didn't deserve that and you fucking know it!"
Osirus's face was impassive.
David's wrath expended itself, falling into grief and he slid to the floor. The sobs burst from him like gasps of pain, his weapon clattered on the stones. Gabrielle whispered quietly in his ear, trying to ease his pain, and then she looked at Osirus, her own eyes ablaze with fury.
Osirus studied them for a long moment, and then he smiled faintly.
"You asked that she be returned to the light," he explained. "And she asked that her sister be returned also. This has been done." He fixed his dark eyes on Gabrielle. "And you?"
"How could you do anything?" Gabrielle hissed. "Yania died in Amazon lands, under the watch of the Greek Gods!"
"Who are currently not as abundant as they once were," Osirus finished for her. He smiled at her.
Gabrielle looked at him, completely astonished.
"I have heard your dreams in my lands, child," Osirus said to Gabrielle. "And I know also what you wish. That also shall be granted, though not in the way you expect?"
Gabrielle opened her mouth to ask a question, but never got the chance. Instead, she and David were momentarily blinded by a brilliant flash, and then they were out above the ground, in the temple courtyard. In the east, the sky was ablaze with the pre sun dawn.
David looked up and his fury blazed anew. "Kick us out, will he!" he snarled. He got to his feet and began stalking back to the entrance of the tomb. "I don't think so!"
Another sound caught their attention and he stopped, looking back.
Just past Gabrielle, he saw two other figures lying in the courtyard.
Gabrielle turned and looked, her eyes wide.
"Sindis?" she gasped.
The young Amazon woman was pulling herself upright. When her weary eyes saw the sky, she covered her face and cried out in fear as the sun burst over the horizon.
Then her eyes saw the other figure lying nearby. She paused for a moment, still expecting the coming immolation that was daylight. Then she realized that it wasn't happening.
The second figure also began to stir, her mane of blondish hair turned and she looked up at Sindis with familiar eyes.
"Yania?" Sindis asked, not daring to believe it.
"Sindis?" Yania asked in a thick, weary voice. "Where am I? The last thing I remember-" she stopped short when she saw David standing, sword in hand, staring at her in complete disbelief.
Quickly, Yania staggered to her feet, hands out in a fighting posture.
"No!"' Sindis cried quickly. "No! Wait!"
At the same time, David looked down at the weapon in his hand and quickly sheathed it, his other hand out in a staying gesture.
"But he?' Yania gasped in fright. "I was, and he-"
"It's over, Yania," Gabrielle said calmly. "It's time for all of us to go home."
Yania looked at David with obvious apprehension. David merely smiled and gave a polite bow. "Look," he stammered. "Uh, well, I guess the only thing I can say is, um, sorry?"
Yania stared at him for a moment longer. Then she looked at Sindis nervously.
"It's all right, sis," Sindis reassured her. "He's not going to hurt you."
"No," Gabrielle agreed. "Evil demons and mysterious gods seem to be his specialty."
"Oh!" David smiled. "That was a joke, right?"
Gabrielle smiled at him. "Can we go home now?"
David shrugged. He looked at the two Amazon women still staring at him, one with gratitude and the other with trepidation. Well, that would be cured as they traveled.
"Fine," David agreed, heading down towards the dock.
As they walked, they suddenly heard a thunderous crash behind them. David wheeled and saw the Sphinx looking down at them with stony, painted eyes.
"Ah man," David moaned. "Look at that! And I never even got a good look before it happened?"
The three women looked up at the monument and gasped. The nose had fallen off!
"Well," Gabrielle offered. "Is that the way your people will find it in the future?"
David nodded. "Yeah, pretty much."
"Then I guess everything is alright after all?" Gabrielle smiled and hooked her arm through his. The reached the riverbed and began walking towards the coast.
As the sun rose and the heat with it, David shrugged out of his long coat and then cried out in despair.
The three women looked at him questioningly.
"Look at this!" he said bitterly. He held up the part of the coat that had been chewed by the countless fish. "This is my favorite coat. Man! You think the least Ozzie could have done was fix that?"
The laughter of the three women drifted back down the river bed and into the black entrance to the Tomb of Osirus as the sun shone into the inner sanctum of the sleeping God.
All else was silence.