TITLE: Beyond The Senses
DISCLAIMER: Sadly, I don't own it. Universal Pictures and Alphaville own 'The Mummy' and Stephen Sommers wrote the script. I'm just borrowing the story line and characters. No profit is made by writing it. I'm doing it for my own personal enjoyment and no infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a sequel to 'If I Can See It And Feel It'. The story begins roughly a year after the end of the first story. Again I've taken liberties with Egyptian mythology but it has been done to enhance the plot so I hope people won't mind.
The very stone of the walls smelt of all the spices of Egypt and of things long forgotten. Hurrying along the familiar pathway, Evelyn Carnarvon felt butterflies flutter in her stomach. Inhaling deep breaths to calm herself, she hoped that O'Connell had remembered to close the gates this time. Emerging into the sunlight, the arid winds of the desert struck her cheeks. The sounds of workers and orders being called out greeted her ears and made her smile sadly. The solitude that had shrouded Hamunaptra for eons had been banished once and for all. Eyes searching out the gates, Evelyn groaned and hurried towards them.
Sand had once covered the stately pathways and canals. Rubble had encased the buildings, hiding their regal perfection. Sweat, tears and determination had resurrected the beauty of the ancient city. Statues and pillars stood as pristine as the day they had been made cried out the rich past and the days of long ago glory. Evelyn had never seen such beauty from such an ancient city. Remains unearthed by archaeological digs had always been pitted and broken, sad reminders of the knowledge of a civilization long turned to dust. This had been her goal, her dream and the only thing that had ever mattered. Her scholarly soul rebelled from letting this city decay, even if there were some memories that were less than pleasant. Now, slowly and carefully it was returning to its former glory. Standing at the gigantic gates that she had ordered specially made at great expense, Evelyn stared out into the desert. Now it was time for the world to see Hamunaptra.
* * *
"... and don't think you can go running of to the nearest tavern. I won't have you disgracing the family like you did in London. No wonder little Evie left! I just hope that we can find out where the dickens she is."
The last part of his Aunt Mae's speech was driven forcefully home as Jonathan realized that she wasn't going to let him out of her sight, anytime soon. His only hope was to find Evie and make her talk some sense into the matriarch of the Carnarvon family. Not that he had high hopes. Jonathan was certain that Evie would fold just as easily as he did! People just seemed to do that around Mae Celeste Carnarvon. Jonathan just wished he could do that. It certainly would make playing cards easier!
"Well, we could try the Museum or the house?" Jonathan suggested gingerly.
"After all this time she must have given up her ideas of being a scholar by now! We'll try the house. I don't want to be dragging our luggage all about Cairo. Who knows who might steal my things?" Aunt Mae replied fretting.
Jonathan was very aware that Cairo and his Aunt Mae were at odds. The exotic city wasn't at all proper in his Aunt's eyes. Her stiff British upper lip was firmly in place and Jonathan knew that if they didn't find Evie soon, then his aunt was liable to pull the city apart looking for her. And there wouldn't be a drink in sight. Hailing a cab and hustling his aunt and her much worried over luggage onto it, Jonathan just hoped that Evie would have a good explanation. After over a year and hearing nothing from her the Carnarvon clan was in an uproar. Jonathan was just glad there weren't that many Carnarvons left. If they were all like Aunt Mae, he would be in some serious trouble. Probably more than when he had been attacked by a mummy.
The familiar sights, sounds and smells of Egypt made Jonathan feel the old tingle of excitement. Here was where fortunes were made and lost! Not in the stuffy parlors of London! Adventure was a distinct possibility as well as long buried treasure. Sadly, so were curses but Jonathan doubted he'd ever repeat that particular experience. As the robed masses seethed around the hired cab, Jonathan wondered what Evie was doing. It must be quite something to keep her from writing. He just hoped that she hadn't been eaten by scarabs, or worse... married. The idea of his little sister married appalled him. That meant that it was high time for him to turn respectable. It was just luck that Evie didn't seem to be the marrying type. Apart from O'Connell, she didn't seem interested at all.
To his surprise, lights were burning in the windows of his family home. Relieved, he hoped that Evie could draw his aunt's attention to allow him to play at least one hand of cards. Struggling with bags, trunks and all the rest of their luggage, the click of a gun being cocked caused him to jump. In a heap, the luggage dropped to the floor and Jonathan gapped at the man before him.
"Jonathan? What the hell are you doing here?"
"O- O'Connell? You and Evie haven't... well... gotten married?" Jonathan asked his earlier thoughts returning making his nightmares suddenly turn true.
"Married? Why would you think that and who's the battleaxe?" O'Connell demanded just as Aunt Mae entered.
"Battleaxe! You blasted Americans are all shockingly rude! And what have you done with my little Evie! You haven't kidnapped her? Oh no! Poor little delicate Evie! You beastly man!" Aunt Mae fussed advancing threateningly on O'Connell who seemed taken aback.
"What!? No! I work for her! Evie's on a dig!" O'Connell cried going a little wide eyed as the corseted and confused matriarch advanced.
"Then what are you doing here?" Jonathan asked puzzled but feeling his prospects rising if Evie really was on a dig. "And where is this dig? I don't suppose there's any money in it?"
For a moment O'Connell paused. The older woman looked like she would either hit him over the head with her handbag or smother him in maternal advice. Jonathan looked as crumpled and disreputable as ever. Their appearance was a mixed blessing. Evelyn hadn't said anything about them visiting and O'Connell doubted that she had even known they were coming. With a sigh, O'Connell wondered if Evie had contacted her family since she had first arrived. Maybe this was exactly what she needed. Since the whole Seth Spirit thing, she'd been acting strange. Nothing he'd done or said had made one bit of difference.
"She's in Hamunaptra. I've come back to escort a whole bunch of scholars to look the city over. The bastards still don't believe the place exists," O'Connell replied watching for any change in Jonathan's expression.
"Oh no, not that place again! I tried to tell her it's dangerous! That place just swallows up people and they're never heard from again!" Jonathan stuttered his face going chalk white.
"Yeah, well you haven't heard the half of it and she won't hear a word I've been saying. Not since our old friend visited again and disappeared. I'm sure you know which old friend I mean- tall guy, bald, liked bandages?" O'Connell said forgoing subtlety.
This time, Jonathan's face turned a sick green. The last thing he wanted was to meet that mummy again. It really did seem to be good time to run but before he could slink away, Aunt Mae grabbed his shoulder and kept him firmly in place. He really did need a drink! From the dour look that O'Connell had, Jonathan guessed that he wouldn't let him run either. The thought of his baby sister in that place worried him. Evie did have a knack of getting into trouble, although she always said he was the one who got into messes.
"Now tell me what's going on and where Evie has gotten to? This scholar nonsense is always getting her into trouble. I'm not letting my little niece off on a dig without a chaperone! Evie isn't some common girl!" Aunt Mae stated bustling deeper into the house.
"I say, wait a second Aunt Mae! You really don't want to go to Hamunaptra! There's curses, and bugs and sand! Nasty things, really! Why don't we wait for Evie here? I'm sure that's what she would want," Jonathan implored.
"Curses? More of those silly superstitious stories you came back to England with? Jonathan, I expected more of you than that! It's settled- your sister needs me," Aunt Mae replied with aplomb.
"It's a wild goose chase, I'm telling you! Haumunaptra! Bah! Stories and tales! Scholars shouldn't be dragged across the desert on one woman's foolishness!" Professor Montgomery spouted.
"Montgomery, this is how you missed that second chamber on that Ramses dig! You have no faith! This is the perfect opportunity to see if those tales and stories have any basis in reality. This woman, I do recall, was rather foolish but we can humor her. Think of the possibilities if Hamunaptra does exist!" Mark Wilkins chuckled.
"The both of you be damned, I'm sunburned, tired and smell of camel. I don't care how this turns out at long as I have a bath at the end of this trip!" Fredrick Harris replied.
The reply was seconded and the scholarly contingent was then thankfully silent. O'Connell just rolled his eyes. Evie really wanted to be counted among their number? If it was up to him, he'd have nothing to do with them. They didn't even appreciate the opportunity they were being given. When they arrived at the city, they would be ruing their words. In a year, Evelyn had excavated a great deal of the city. The outside was carefully excavated and the glory of the city shocked even him. Inside, Evie had painstakingly dusted off the carvings and hieroglyphics. Scenes upon scenes of Hamunaptra's life were slowly uncovered. It would take lifetimes of work to truly explore what the city held.
For the better half of the week, the complaints had come thick and sharp. O'Connell ignored them with ease and when they hit too close to harm, he just threatened to leave them in the desert. Considering he had led them in circles and strange patterns to keep the exact location of Hamunaptra secret, they were totally lost. Even at times to enhance the mystique he had blind folded them. It was a petty revenge but O'Connell really didn't care as long as they shut up. Now less than half an hour from the city, their complaints were again ringing in his ears. O'Connell guessed it had something to do with being woken up before dawn.
Of course there was a reason to be woken up so early. Evie had rigged the city to sink into the sands at night and the emergence of the city would put the scholars firmly in their place. Slowing his camel, he waited as they all ground to a stop. The sun gracefully rose into the sky and the hazy mirage began to shimmer before them. With a slight rumble underfoot, the city rose to greet the dawn. Gasps and muttered blasphemies told O'Connell that the scholars were duly impressed. Glancing at Jonathan, O'Connell knew that he was less than pleased. Not blaming him one bit, O'Connell just hoped that Evie would be polite when she saw them. Lately her tongue had been quite sharp.
"Well, that's Hamunaptra, boys. Why don't we go greet Evie?" O'Connell suggested into the awed silence.
* * *
Dressed in a nice but sensible dress, Evelyn watched as the camel-riding contingent of scholars, reached the gates. The beautiful gold snake wrapped around her forearm glittered in the sun and Evelyn stroked it gently. A little gold flashed at the correct time never hurt anything, or so she was beginning to learn. The gates creaked open and scholars muttered their surprise. Evelyn knew she wouldn't explain the complex engineering that kept the gates working at the flick of a switch. Mystery was nearly as enticing as gold. Nervousness fired in her belly and she let her fingers brush against the object in her pocket. She needed her courage.
The familiar features of O'Connell's dusty face told Evie, that he was quickly loosing his patience with their guests. Behind O'Connell their guests seemed just as impatient although awed. Letting her eyes roam over the others, Evelyn gasped. Jonathan was with them! Breaking out into a large genuine grin she hurried towards him and he embraced her enthusiastically as soon as he had dismounted.
"Jonathan! What are you doing here? I thought you were still in England!" Evelyn cried out so pleased to see him that she abandoned her speech of welcome.
"Evie, I can't believe you're living here! It's not safe! Aunt Mae agrees!" Jonathan said in a rush.
Her Aunt's name brought a flush to Evie's cheeks. A sadness also rose up and banished her smile. She had ignored her family for too long. Long days of back breaking labor seemed far easier than dealing with what was left of her eccentric family. Work also had the advantage of keeping uncomfortable thoughts from clouding her mind. Swallowing her foolishness, Evelyn looked towards her aunt. Sunburned, dusty and in more than a little disarray, Aunt Mae still cut an imposing figure. Forcing a smile, Evie helped the elderly woman from the uncooperative camel. The flustered and rather surprised look that her aunt gave her, made Evelyn aware of the many changes she'd experienced. Maybe once she had been a silly girl who was hopelessly nieve but she'd grown up and accomplished so much and she wouldn't stop now!
"Hello Aunt Mae, I hope you've had a good trip?" Evelyn asked decorously.
"Of course not, child! This beastly desert isn't suitable for any proper gentlewoman. I simply insist that you return to England. On my little Evie, this isn't the place for you!" Aunt Mae replied with overwhelming concern.
"Don't be silly, Aunt Mae. Hamunaptra is my city now. I can't leave it with so much work yet to be done," Evie said making her words audible to the rest of the party.
Murmuring started up behind her but Evie ignored it. Her aunt seemed flabbergasted that she had contradicted her. Evelyn felt more than a little shocked with herself. Never before had she the courage to do it! She loved her aunt but Evie knew she couldn't leave. If she left now... with resolution, Evie buried her thoughts. Now wasn't the time to think about such things. She needed these scholars and their skills behind her. Hamunaptra would not live again unless they would help.
"I beg your pardon for not greeting you but I did not know my kinsfolk were coming. I hope that you are all well as I would like you to come on a tour of Hamunaptra," Evie said with a welcoming smile.
"Now see here, girl! Yes, there is a city here but whether it is Hampunatpra is another matter. I'm sure your skills are quite... suitable for someone of your station but we have many years of experience. It could well be that this is just a wild goose chase!" Montgomery snapped as he nearly fell from his camel.
"Professor, I assure you that this is indeed Hamunaptra, I have it on very good authority," Evelyn replied with a rather ironic smile. "Please, leave your camels here and we can enter."
Evelyn felt oddly amused by the blustering of the scholars. All her life she had wanted to be considered a scholar and now... now Evie really wasn't sure at all. So much had happened. Her passion of Egypt's long history hadn't vanished it had just changed. Biting her cheek, Evelyn forced herself to keep her face calm. Loosing her composure in front of these men would be horribly embarrassing since she was trying to put on a good show. So much depended on their help. She was so close! Recognition for all her work, tears and toil was not even a stone's throw away.
The difficult process of persuading camels to cooperate was over surprisingly quickly. While the ragged band of scholars were obviously unpracticed at dealing with their mounts, Evelyn was glad that none of them broke their necks as they dismounted. Aunt Mae accompanied her return to the earth with blistering comments about the unsuitability of camels for a woman of Evie's tender situation. That made Evie smile and hide it with a slim sun browned hand. All her foibles aside, she did love Aunt Mae.
With a mixture of bluster, derogatory statements and general skepticism, the scholars followed her into the city. All conversation quickly dwindled as they made their way down the main entrance. Columns delicately carved with prayers to the gods surrounded them and Evelyn could almost smell incense burning. She had done her best to restore the city as well as simply uncovering it. Naked again to the sun, the city was a splendor that had demanded to be seen. To cover it again with the dust of time was almost sacrilegious. The ancient magic that had preserved the city was still strong and Evelyn knew that as old as the city's buildings were, they could take whatever the desert could throw at it. Now the only thing that could bury it was the engineering that hid it beneath the sands.
"So, where are we exactly?" asked one of the younger scholars.
"This is where the Pharaoh's goods were transported into the city. Practical items were also brought down here before they were unloaded," Evelyn said simply. "Priests would then catalogue and distribute the goods to the temples."
"What? All the tales said that Hamunaptra was simply a burial or perhaps a holding site for the Pharaoh's wealth," a florid man snapped.
"Oh, no, Hamunaptra was a city. There was a whole community of priests and intellectuals that lived and died here. I suppose that over the years the stories of wealth were of more interest to Roman tourists than that of a religious community in the middle of the desert," Evie replied with an amused twist of her lips.
"You're saying that there was a whole city that people didn't know about! Isn't it a little difficult to hide a whole damn city?"
"The Ancient Egyptians were very clever, Professor Montgomery. The whole city can be hidden under the sands. The people who lived here were bound by the most dire of oaths and most of them never left. Even then only the High Priests and the Pharaoh knew the location. The others were blindfolded like you were."
Discontented muttering followed her words. Evelyn could guess how unhappy they had been at being blindfolded on the journey. O'Connell had agreed wholeheartedly when she had suggested it and as Evie was thankful. This was her city. Her sweat had helped pushed away the sand and rubble. Her determination had returned it to a semblance of its former glory. The idea of anyone else trespassing or worse, treasure hunting was detestable. Of course, there was also the possibility of another curse being triggered but Evie tried not to think about that.
A great deal of effort had been made to hide the location of Hamunaptra. An even greater effort had been expended so that Evie was the sole owner of it. O'Connell had almost turned green at the amount of gold that had required. Both the Egyptian and British authorities recognized her ownership and that was all that mattered. No one could take this away from her now.
The entranceway loomed up and Evelyn smiled. Stepping through the dark entrance was like coming home every time. Guiding the odd contingent of people through the passages, she rattled off bits of information and the usual rubbish a tour guide said. Evelyn honestly couldn't say her mind was really on what she was saying. She'd prepared what she was going to say several weeks ago. Instead she watched the scholars as they ran their eyes over the perfectly preserved hieroglyphics and the graceful sculptures that festooned the halls and passages. Thousands of years worth of grime had once hidden their beauty. Clearing it away had been difficult without ruining the color but the strange magic that wove around the ancient city prevailed over time. The workers she and O'Connell had smuggled in had done a great deal of work. They were slowly beginning to be almost as proud as she was of the city.
It had been difficult to find trustworthy workers. O'Connell had known some as had she but there were still risks. Evelyn knew it wasn't yet time for the world to know where Hamunaptra was. Treasure hunters and other unworthy types would swarm to the city. The very thought turned her stomach. The workers that they had hired weren't just here for the job- they were here for life. Together with their families they had been moved to the ancient city and settled into the old artisans quarters. Hamunaptra was called the city of the dead but it was also a city filled with life. Now it was returning to its former glory.
Finally, Evenlyn guided the scholars and her family to the council chambers. In this large and rather grand room, deep within Hamunaptra itself, the high priests of the temples would govern the city and wait for the Pharaoh. From their faces, Evelyn knew the scholars were impressed. How could they not be? The glow of pride filled her and she smiled. O'Connell also looked pretty appreciative. Before he had left, the council chambers had still been grime filled and the blocked off water channels filled with muck and decomposing bodies. Little if no sign was left to suggest it now. Torches flickered over the crystal clear ponds and the soft gleam of gold was almost hidden under prayers to the gods repeated forever in the colorful hieroglyphics.
"This is Hamunaptra, everyone. I'd like you to stay as guests for a month while you look over the city and verify for yourselves that this really is the city of legend," Evelyn said graciously.
"My god! I never thought it possible! If this really is the city... are the Pharaohs of ancient times truly buried here?!" spoke Dr Peter Walsh who had previously been silent.
"Some of them Dr Walsh. Most of the Pharaohs were brought here to be mummified and prepare for the afterlife. They were then returned to be placed in their burial chambers. There are some burial sites here at Hamunaptra but they won't be disturbed," Evelyn replied her voice firm.
"Not disturbed! Are you insane, girl?!" Montgomery snapped. "There could be great archaeological treasures to be found! Not to mention the information that could be collected from examining the mummies themselves."
"Professor, I respect the dead here at Hamunaptra. They will not be disturbed unless there is a very good reason," Evelyn said frowning as unpleasant memories played through her mind.
"I say good thinking, Evie," Jonathan said looking a little pale. "I never believed in curses-"
"Jonathan, that will be quite enough. No more of that superstitious nonsense, now. These learned souls won't be entertained by your stories like those liquored cads you call friends," Aunt Mae quipped.
An embarrassed silence rose and Evelyn felt a blush stain her cheeks. These scholars probably thought she was just a silly woman afraid of the boogey man. Glancing at O'Connell she nodded and he pulled a lever. That particular lever would ring in what was the servants quarters. Currently it was mostly unmanned but today there was several workers ready to act as guides and help the scholars settle themselves in. Evelyn was hoping that they would stay out of her hair until she had a chance to speak to O'Connell and then to her family. The sun-darkened faces of seven workers appeared and gave a rough bow to her.
"Gentlemen, these good people will show you to your rooms. Please get settled and once you are more at home, you may explore. I ask that you not go into the tied off areas as they aren't structurally sound," Evelyn said knowing it was partly the truth and partly that they wouldn't believe her if she said anything about curses or magic.
With disgruntled complaints the scholars quickly disappeared. By the look of Aunt Mae, Evelyn knew that she was ready to pounce. Sighing, Evelyn wondered if she ran now that maybe she could escape the upcoming battle. Aunt Mae had very specific ideas of what a lady of good quality was supposed to do and *not* do. That wasn't something Evie really wanted to talk about at the moment. Not to mention she didn't want to deal with her eccentric family at all. Jonathan would want to know the real story and Aunt Mae would want an acceptable one. Realizing she was beginning to get a headache, Evelyn glared at O'Connell. He shouldn't have brought them.
"O'Connell I'll need to talk to you," Evelyn said in a tone that brooked no argument.
"Evie, I didn't know-"
"We'll talk about it later."
For a second, O'Connell looked angry but he just shrugged and disappeared. Evelyn could guess where he was going and decided that she'd deal with him later. Dismay filled her when Evie realized she'd been left alone with Jonathan and Aunt Mae. Obviously O'Connell had learnt enough about Aunt Mae to run while he could. Jonathan looked like he wished he could run too.
"Aunt Mae, why didn't you send word you were coming? If I'd known, I could have made better plans," Evelyn said with an effort.
"Oh child, no! Don't you bother with us, we're perfectly fine. It's you who need us, my dear. A lady of good breeding must always be aware of her reputation. What could you be thinking Evie, living here with all these men and no one to protect your reputation?!"
She really wanted to tell her Aunt that she'd been doing perfectly well. The workers and everyone else respected her. All the time she had spent working and associating with O'Connell had taught her to look after herself quite well. Not to mention her adventures had prepared her for any danger that might arise. Then there was the small matter of her not caring one jot about her reputation unless it was her scholarly one. Maybe a year ago she would have been beet faced at the thought of scandal but she'd learnt not to care. A woman scholar was enough scandal on its own anyway.
"There's no need to worry, Aunt Mae. O'Connell is a good friend and wouldn't think of presuming and the workers know I'm in charge," Evelyn replied calmingly.
"So... you and O'Connell aren't engaged again?" Jonathan asked hesitantly.
"You were engaged to that rude American?! Evie!"
"That was a long time ago, Aunt Mae," Evelyn replied her cheeks suddenly betraying her emotional surge.
"Oh, thank god! Here I thought I'd have to turn all respectable too!"
"Jonathan!" Evelyn cried. "I thought you were happily settled in England. Why are you here?"
"We're here because Egypt isn't the place for an English lady of good family," Aunt Mae interrupted. "You can pack all this silliness up now, Evie. There are plenty of qualified people to do whatever you're doing now. Come home now and I'll introduce you to this charming fellow I know would be perfect for you."
"A charming fellow? Aunt Mae, you're not trying to set me up are you?"
"Of course I am, dear. It's high time that you're married! I was sixteen when I was married to your uncle Walter and what a fine gentleman he was," Aunt Mae sighed.
Evelyn had been brought up with tales of how wonderful Uncle Walter was and she hoped that her aunt wouldn't begin to retell them. By the time she was five, her uncle had died and Evelyn didn't remember him much at all. All that she could remember was a white haired man who pinched her cheek and told her what a cute little thing she was. That really didn't give her a clear picture of her uncle but Evie guessed he couldn't be a perfect that Aunt Mae said he was. Not that she would ever argue.
"Aunt Mae, this is my city and I have no intention of returning to England in the future. Now, let me call someone to take you to a room. I'll have to put you in the priests quarter with O'Connell and I."
Ignoring the protests at the idea of O'Connell being anywhere near her bedchamber, Evie felt an intense burst of relief when someone came to take her family away. Maybe it was disloyal but she needed time. Now she would find O'Connell and ask him what possessed him to bring her aunt and Jonathan to Hamunaptra.
As she expected, O'Connell was in her study swigging on bottle of something alcoholic. Taking from him, she took a long swig, choked and passed it back to him. Their shared look told her he was sympathetic but not about to put himself between Aunt Mae's line of fire. Evelyn couldn't blame him. Sitting down at her desk, she sighed. There were a multitude of papers, some in ancient hieroglyphics and some in English. Running a city was hard, and running a city that was slowly being excavated was even harder. Not that she would change it for the world.
"Things went well in Cairo, Evie. All the supplies you wanted I could get and not to many questions were asked," O'Connell said after taking another drink from the bottle. "So tell me about that battleaxe of an aunt. Is she really going to get you to go back to England and wear pretty frocks."
"Not if I can help it!"
"Well, if you hadn't brought them, I wouldn't have to deal with this. Why did you bring them, O'Connell?"
"It wasn't as if I could lie after they saw me at your old house. Jonathan would have suspected something anyway. Besides, they're your family- they at least deserved a telegram saying you were alive and well," O'Connell replied gesturing wildly.
"That's none of your business! Besides, what about your family!" Evie replied hotly.
"I'm an orphan!"
"Oh right, I forgot. Anyway, it's not any of your business and besides I wasn't ready to deal with them. They all want me to turn into a credit to the Carnarvon name. I'm not like Aunt Mae and this is my dig! I'm so close to being something more than a silly woman that's a joke in scholarly circles."
"You don't have to tell me that, Evie. I just don't think that old bat is going to accept that."
"Well, she'll just have to."
Over the last year, O'Connell had learnt that it was his cue to change the subject. Another sip of the harsh gin and he complied. There were plenty of more important things to talk about anyway. Together they went through the supply list and then discussed the newest buildings that had been restored or uncovered. The water system with its intricate canals had been one of the first things he had helped Evie restore. Without water, there would be no city. To this day he didn't like thinking of the things they had pulled out of the dirty water. Now the water ran clear and Evie was planning gardens. O'Connell wondered if she really thought she had time. Half the time he didn't even know what she was doing. There were things she didn't tell him and O'Connell didn't like it.
He wouldn't tell Evie, but that was one of the major reasons he'd let Jonathan and Aunt Mae to tag along. Maybe they were what Evie needed to pull her out of the strange mood she'd been in since last year. Frowning, O'Connell wondered what the hell was going on in her head. Working on the city was absorbing but Evelyn was nearly obsessive. He had a feeling that maybe it wasn't something he wanted to know about.
"O'Connell, are you listening?" Evie asked raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, sorry I drifted there for a second."
"Maybe you should put the gin away?"
"If I have to deal with either your scholars or your family, I'll need it."
The tones of utter dread made her smile. Evelyn knew that she'd been asking a lot from her friend. They'd patched everything up and although they'd be nothing more than friends, Evie knew that she could count on O'Connell. There had been too much that had happen for it to be any other way. Realizing that they had covered most everything they needed, Evelyn realized she needed to face Jonathan and Aunt Mae.
"Did you say anything to Jonathan about what happened last year?"
"Not exactly. If you'd like I can fill him in while you talk to your aunt? I'd guess he'll be trying to open the door to the treasure chamber by now," O'Connell smiled.
"You're probably right about Jonathan. I suppose I better deal with Aunt Mae," Evelyn replied with a sigh.
Things worked out differently than Evie expected. Looking in the mirror, she took stock of herself. She was leaner and her face more defined that it had been a year ago. There was also a hardness to her eyes that hadn't been there before. Sighing, she straightened her shirt and wondered what Aunt Mae would think of her trousers. There had been a few women who were courageous enough to wear them but she was sure that Aunt Mae would be scandalized. It was almost deliciously wicked to tease her but Evie couldn't help it. To her credit, Aunt Mae had probably guessed that a long time ago. Of course, that didn't mean she stopped trying to reform Evie.
Her aunt had not settled well into Hamunaptra. For the first few days she had tried to follow Evie around. That had only succeeded in exhausting her and not dissuading her. For the next week, Evelyn had caught her spying here and there. Then the ambushing had begun. Evelyn didn't know if she was peeved or amused. It didn't help that Aunt Mae had somehow gotten her hooks into Jonathan. When he wasn't hiding somewhere, Aunt Mae had him virtually tied to her apron strings. Evelyn almost approved of that. Hamunaptra was not really dangerous anymore but Jonathan had a habit of getting into trouble. As if summoned by her thought of him, Jonathan's head peeked around her door.
"Hey, old mum! Don't suppose you have a drop of something a little more powerful than water?"
"You can just forget that Jonathan. Unless you want some coffee, you're going to stick to water."
"That ghastly stuff? Ugh! I don't know how anyone can drink it. I suppose you get it from our mother but luckily I missed out. My pallet is far too sensitive for that kind of tar."
"If that's so, then I'm surprised that you've not done irreparable damage to your pallet drinking the way you do."
"Oh Evie, don't be cross, my sweet baby sister! I was just teasing," Jonathan pleaded with big innocent eyes.
"So why aren't you out exploring?" Evelyn replied.
Jonathan couldn't repress a shiver. Oh, he'd tried exploring. There was just something about the city that gave him the creeps. Not even the possibility of 'borrowing' some gold lured him out. Evie didn't seem to notice whatever it was, so he wasn't going to mention it. He did have *some* dignity after all! After the first attempt to explore, he wasn't going to try again. I was probably just water or even the wind but the noise he'd heard down one of the tunnels reminded him a little too much of flesh eating scarabs.
When O'Connell had told him what had happened last year, he had been very glad he'd been in England and sloshed at the time. Then he'd started feeling guilty. He was her big brother after all. Even if he couldn't protect her from mummies and Seth spirits, he could at least have provided a few girly screams. O'Connell had been very explicit indeed about how Evie had somehow sucked both the Seth Spirit and the mummy into some kind of vortex. That at least was worth a faint. His little sister was far too serious about things and it was his duty to provide a little relief now and then.
"Do you think I'm in any condition to do that without at least a shot or two of scotch?"
"You might just surprise yourself, Jonathan."
"Yes, well, I might just faint and never recover from the surprise. I much prefer my debauched ways. Far more predictable an end than being eaten by scarabs or sliced and diced by mummified Med-Jai."
"Well, I need to get to work. I'm sure Aunt Mae could use your help."
Evelyn giggled as Jonathan mumbled something and hastily excused himself. Rushing down the passageway to the latest dig site, she wondered if Geoffrey Porter would finally accept that this was Hamunaptra. The last two weeks had been very busy and she was becoming frustrated with the scholar's skepticism. After the first week most of them had been willing to accept that this was indeed Hamunaptra. Geoffrey Porter, the oldest of the group, still didn't want to believe. He had suggested that this was a clever fabrication, that maybe it was another city and finally that it just couldn't be Hamunaptra because everyone knew it was a myth. That mixed with the condescension of the others was beginning to get on her nerves.
She had done a stellar job with the city and she didn't need them sneering at her work. Most of the others had accepted that this was Hamunaptra. They didn't accept, however, that she should be in charge. Nor did the accept any of her decisions. Dr Walsh was pushing her to excavate the tombs, Montgomery was fussing about her giving the Cairo Museum authority over the city and even the various sycophants were treating her if they were lower than mud.
O'Connell had left to meet with the Med-Jai after the second day of their arrival. The scholars had become worse with everyday. The only good news was that he would be arriving today and that the excavation of the Temple of Thoth was going well. There were many temples in Hamunaptra. The temple of Osiris had been virtually clear but the others had not been so lucky. The first temple she had restored was that of Anubis. The gateway god stirred something deep within her that she still didn't fully understand but it was her haven. The temple of Isis and Ra followed and now they were removing the last of the rubble from the gateway to Thoth's temple.
"Hello Evie!" called out a voice that she recognized as belonging to Sean Hadar.
Like herself, he was part Egyptian. Evie also guessed he was also part everything. To hear him talk, you'd swear he had relatives from all over the globe. Smiling and waving, Evelyn made her way over to the dark haired man. He was her site manager and helped her organize the digs. Many scholars wouldn't hire him because of his native roots and Evelyn had been happy to employ him. The Forman was swearing in the native tongue and by the looks of things, Evie knew it was better for him to keep working. He bossed and instructed the workers very well and Evelyn knew that the speed of the excavations were greatly due to him. Between him and Sean, she had very little to worry about.
"Hello, Sean did you solve the access problem?"
"Sure did. That boulder was a bother but it's cleared and we'll be in by lunchtime. Those scholars of yours are being a nuisance, though. Some of them tried to boss the workers into excavating a tomb behind your back. You really need to do something about them, Evie. They've also been disrupting work by questioning everything I do."
"They what? Which tomb did they want to open?!" Evie spoke in a shocked tone.
"The one those tombs robbers got into up top. Seti's tomb, I believe. Don't worry about it, Evie. The workers know better and they respect you for respecting the dead."
A hard lump formed in her throat and she felt as if the temperature had plummeted. The first thing she had done upon arriving at Hamunaptra was block the entrance to that tomb. Maybe the Seth Spirit had been banished but who knew what else might be triggered accidentally? Curses weren't to be trifled with. Fear and unease pumped through her and Evelyn focused on Sean. He didn't look like he was worried but then he didn't think there was a reason. Telling herself that she was being paranoid, she couldn't help but ask the question that was plaguing her mind.
"Sean, who was it who tried to open the tomb?"
"Not sure. I'll ask the workers and get back to you on it but I really need to make sure the site is being recorded properly," Sean said and Evie let him go.
Chewing her lip, Evelyn wondered if it was really worth the trouble. The scholars were turning out to be a real bother but she kept reminding herself it was worth it. It would take them time to realize this was hers and she wasn't going to pass it on to them like they seemed to think she would. Just because she was a woman didn't mean that she was less able a scholar. Snorting, Evie reminded herself that some of them didn't even speak ancient Egyptian fluently. As if it really mattered. The attacks on her dignity were beginning to sting, however. Aunt Mae was less than pleased too. Evelyn knew she wasn't the epitome of feminine beauty or behavior. There were calluses on her hands from digging and her body was beginning to be rather muscular from the physical labor. Even the soft creams and oils she rubbed into her skin couldn't hide her skins sun kissed bronze. The clothes she wore weren't always feminine and she didn't simper or flirt. She never thought she cared but she was beginning to feel like an ugly duckling.
Embarrassed that her thoughts were so shallow, Evie began to recite grammar rules for ancient Greek. She was more than just a pretty face. Pretty faces didn't matter either. Finding the scholars wasn't really that hard when they had taken over the council chamber. They were sitting around the table and stroking their egos. This had carried on for quite a while. Once they realized that she wasn't going to let them run away with her discovery, they had slunk around and sullenly ate her supplies and made nuisances of themselves. The information she had shared with them had garnered her some respect but they still didn't think she could deal with the responsibility of such a large find.
"Good morning gentlemen," Evie said as she entered.
"Ms Carnarvon," Harrison replied. "We were just speaking about the hieroglyphics at the entrance. Rather unusual."
"Damn things sound like something out of a fairy tale," Montgomery growled.
"I think they're just typical of the mumbo jumbo they believed in way back when," Dr Walsh replied.
"I believe they were meant in all earnesty," Evelyn said with a frown.
"What? You really believe that the gods would tear people apart, eat souls and all that?"
"Well... not exactly. I believe that if someone betrayed Hamunaptra that certainly something bad would happen to them. I doubt the Pharaoh or the high priests would have been pleased."
"Ah, so you believe that the Pharaoh would have skinned the blighters alive or perhaps fed them to the Nile crocodiles to judge their innocence."
Evelyn nodded knowing they would never believe in magic. It was hard to believe that she hadn't believed in magic once too. After everything she'd seen, magic had become entirely believable. The first time she had read the inscription on the entrance, she had felt the current of magic. It really was a curse but not a powerful one as curses went. For not the first time, Evelyn wished there was someone other than O'Connell and Jonathan she could talk to about magic. O'Connell didn't like to talk about it and Jonathan was frightened out of his skin at the mention of it.
"So what did you come to ask us, Ms Carnarvon," Montgomery asked with a snide tone.
"I was coming to inform you that the temple of Thoth will be opened by lunch time. If you would like to take part, I would be happy to tell Sean," Evelyn said sweetly smiling as if she hadn't noticed.
"I certainly would love to have a quick look-see. What about you fellows?" Walsh asked.
A rumble of assent rose and Evelyn felt a little better. Maybe this would make them more predisposed to accepting her authority. When Geoffrey Porter began his usual diatribe, Evie felt like she would explode. Hastily excusing herself, Evelyn returned to the refuge of her study. So much had been done at Hamunaptra. It was her city and it was beautiful. It just took a lot of effort to persuade people see it.
The piles of books on her desk had no draw for Evelyn. They were old friends and she knew them well. What was locked away in a drawer was more important. Unlocking the drawer with the key she wore around her neck, she drew out the heavy contents. The Book Of Amun-Ra and The Book Of The Dead prickled her fingers with magic. They also seemed to conjure up memories that she didn't want to dwell on. Work had made them go away but looking at these books always made them want to surface.
She had said that all the wisdom of Egypt lay in these books. She had been right but the wisdom was locked up in riddles and littered with clues she had difficulty understanding. There was so much knowledge and so much mystery. Over the last year she had learnt much but it was merle a drop to the flood the books promised. The spells and curses that wove around Hamunaptra were opening like a petal to her in ways she couldn't describe. It was as if they sensed the presence of a Chosen and rejoiced. If she desired, she could call the dead from the very foundations of the city. She could also open a doorway for wakeful spirits to pass into the realms of the dead and thus lay them to rest. As a Priestess of Anubis she could do all that and yet she did not.
The Egyptians had respected the cycle of death and life. To interrupt it was a serious matter. To pass safely into the otherworld was the reason the Egyptians had created the pyramids and even Hamunaptra. That was one of the reasons the Hom-Dai was so cruel a curse. To prevent a soul from passing into the otherworld was to trap the being in flesh for all time. Evelyn knew very well what kind of torture could be inflicted on a body and mind that would not die. Pushing aside those thoughts, she ran a gentle hand over the cool metal of the books.
What she wanted to Hamunaptra was to share its knowledge. Maybe not everything but there was so much to be learnt about the ancient Egyptians. Not only would you read about it in books and see it in pictures, but Hamunaptra would be real. People would be able to see what ancient Egypt had once been. Evelyn wasn't interested in fame or glory but she did want to be recognized as a worthy scholar. This would prove it. Sighing, she opened both books and began to work.
Absently, Evie glanced at her watch, and realized that she needed to see Sara. Sara was in charge on the gardens that helped to keep Hamunaptra fed. In ancient times the gardens were lush indeed. Today they were struggling but being nurtured into returning. With water from the underground springs that flowed through the canals, there was great promise. E'¥veryone had to put in at least three hours twice a week into the gardens. Today, Evelyn wanted to check on their development as well as put her time in. Hurriedly, she packed away the books and eased her stiff muscles. Becoming so absorbed in what she was studying, she had lost count of time and her back was protesting at its treatment.
It was easy to become lost in the earthy workings of Sara's garden. It wasn't surprising when Evelyn realized she'd been planting beans for nearly two hours. Friendly gossip with the other women was a balm to her soul. The workers had brought their families and the women hadn't known what to make of her at first. Evelyn had to admit she had been rather shy herself. She had never had any sisters and never any close women friends. That was beginning to change although the women were slow to fully accept her.
"Are you going to sit there and dream all day, Evie?" Sara chuckled.
"Dream? Oh no, I suppose not. I'm sure I should be trying to convince those scholars I know what I'm doing. By now Sean will be about ready to open the entrance to Thoth's temple," Evelyn replied.
"Good luck to you but they will never want to hurt their pride by admitting it. Men are like that," Sara said with a shrug of her shoulders.
Leaving to a chorus of good-natured giggles, Evelyn had to hurry. Hamunaptra was a large city but she knew most of the short cuts. There probably weren't many people who knew it as well as she did. With a smile, she reminded herself that she better know it well since she had surveyed every part of it for detailed maps and future digs. By the time she arrived at the temple, the other scholars had arrived. They were all clustered around and Evelyn could see that Sean and the foreman were poised. Upon seeing her they began work. Grunts filled the air as the workers pulled on long ropes attached to the great doors of the temple. With agonizing cries doors stiffly opened. A wave of stale air and dust washed over them all and then anticipation laden silence was broken by Sean.
"Wait for a minute as I'm sure you know and then I'll get a few torches ready for us all," Sean said in a light tone.
There was some slight grumbling but the scholars knew it was for the best. The last thing anyone wanted was to collapse due to bad air. Evelyn felt excitement and anticipation fill her. It was plane in everyone's face that they were excited too. Who knew what this temple held? The stories the hieroglyphics told and the remains of ancient life were more precious than gold.
Slowly the smell of staleness disappeared and Sean began to hand out torches. The smell of pitch was bitter but Evelyn couldn't help but smile. This was an adventure in and of itself. Safer than most too. Sean led the way and Evie followed. The rest of the scholarly contingent followed grumbling a little about not being in the lead. Evelyn couldn't have cared less. The carvings on the wall were elegant and showed stately processions and prayers. Heavy and as thick as velvet dust obscured most of them but their shapes were revealed at odd intervals. Smooth rock underfoot was littered with pebbles and dirt. Evelyn knew it was to be expected. The bodies, however, were not expected.
"Mummies? What the devil are they doing here?" on of the scholars snapped out.
"I have told you the story of how Hamunaptra became lost," Evelyn said softly. "I didn't exactly tell you how it happened."
"What is it then? I don't like that information is being withheld!" Porter growled.
"This is my dig, Mr Porter and it is my choice whether I tell you anything at all. I will, however, explain why there are bodies here."
Evelyn took a deep calming breath. Telling that story had been harder that she had thought. The story of how Hamunaptra had become lost was painful. The memories it stirred up weren't all bad but they weren't things she liked to think of. Even more strange was the echo of memories that she just couldn't logically have. There were so many doubts and so many questions that would never be answered. Steeling herself, she forced some professional distance into her voice.
"When the Pharaoh's bodyguards tracked the high priest, they knew that Hamunaptra would protect him. Hamunaptra belonged to the Pharaoh but it also belonged to the gods and those that served them. Loyalty between the priests was strong. In revenge they slaughtered everyone in the city; young, old, innocent and conspirator together. There is a lot of blood that flowed over this city," Evelyn said softly.
"They killed everyone? The whole city?" Harris queried softly.
"As far as I can tell. If anyone who survived probably would have perished in the dessert."
"Good god," a voice said under their breath.
"And what did you do with the bodies?" Walsh asked suddenly.
"Those bodies that were not weathered away... I buried them," Evelyn replied evenly.
Something deep within her had been horrified that the priests had died without the ancient prayers being said. She could not give them all full burial rights but she had given every body a grave and said the ancient words of passing over them. As she had done so the sound of jackals cackling and howling seemed to dance on the wind. It was a strangely fitting eulogy. Swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat, Evelyn raised her torch and glanced around the main chamber. They had made their way past the entranceway and the temple proper was now clear. Thoth in all his glory rose up in smooth stone polished to a finish. Rich and as thin as an echo, the scent of long gone incense still clung to the temple. It probably came from the many offerings of precious scents clustered around the statue. Evelyn could feel its loneliness at the pit of her stomach. It was that way with all the temples, except her own. They all made her feel as if they were mourning the lack of priests and worshipers to sing praises and send up clouds of sweet scented smoke with their prayers. At least once a week, Evelyn went around to light some incense in each temple. It had helped but the loneliness was still there. Evie guessed that even gods did not like being alone.
Vaguely, Evie realized that the scholars were again arguing over the appropriateness of her actions. Rolling her eyes, Evie wondered if they would excavate their own mothers' grave if they could publish the findings. Hamunaptra was the city of the dead. Souls and spirits clung close. In nearly every room she could feel their faint presence. She did not wish to bring the dead more pain than they had already experienced. Catching Sean's glance, they both moved forward to leave the scholars to argue. This temple wasn't as badly damaged by time as Amun-Ra's but it would take time to clear away a few thousand years worth of dust and grime. The fragile wooden door that let into the inner areas of the temple opened easily but a cloud of dust sent Evie coughing. By the time the dust cleared the scholars had realized they were pressing on without them.
"I say, it's a library!"
Blinking to clear her eyes, Evie looked up. Row upon row of papyri scrolls filled the room. It was beautiful. All her life she had studied and worked in libraries. Being the librarian had been a constant joy. Seeing the cream colored rolls was like a dream come true. Eagerly she moved into the room and then felt faint with the pressure of magic. It was everywhere- in every scroll and in every shelf. Feeling ill, she lent against a wall. The scholars crowded in and began exclaiming over the find. It was an astonishing find. As sense of jubilation and awe filled her. Every fiber in Evelyn's being ached to read the scrolls and books. Perhaps she would find the answers to the Books' riddles. Slowly the feeling of euphoria eased. No one had dared to touch the scrolls for fear of damaging them. It was then that Evie realized that she would have to get the scholars out quickly. They couldn't realize that the papyri were in mint condition. Magic had been used to protect them from damage but it was now more of a problem than a help.
"I think we should move back into the other room!" Evelyn said loudly to catch the scholar's attention. "There must be restoration work done before these can be touched. We might very well be damaging them by being here."
For once, they didn't complain. As soon as they were out of the ancient library, they began debating and arguing over its contents. When Evie finally noticed Sean, her stomach did a flop. He looked about as sick as she felt. Somehow he'd felt the magic. Butterflies engulfed her insides and Evelyn wasn't sure what to do. Before she could do anything a skinny looking girl hurried down the corridor.
"Miss Evie! Miss Evie! Mister O'Connell comes!"
The young girl who had cried out to get her attention gave a broad smile and then disappeared back down the tunnel. O'Connell was well loved by the children in Hamunaptra and Evie wondered if the poor girl had a crush. Shaking the dust from her clothes, Evie hurriedly excused herself. She wanted to know what Ardeth had to say but truly the distraction as welcome. She didn't know what she would say to Sean or if she should say anything at all. With a resolute heart, she turned her mind the news O'Connell would bring. The Med-Jai didn't like Hamunaptra being disturbed but Ardeth Bay knew the wisdom in it. If Hamunaptra was restored and guarded by the people who lived there, then there was less to fear. Besides, there was really nothing of catastrophic power left to protect. There was magic for sure but no more curses that would bring about the destruction of the world. With the scholars now at Hamunaptra, its debut into the world would not be far off. The Med-Jai were still unsure whether to allow it. Ardeth had told them there would be condition and Evelyn hoped they weren't too harsh.
Eventually the dust cloud on the horizon resolved into O'Connell. Beside him was Ardeth Bay. Evelyn felt a ribbon of tension run through her. O'Connell was doing the negotiations for the simple reason that she still hadn't forgiven Ardeth for letting his honor endanger the world. Evelyn knew there was more to it than that but she didn't want to think about that reason for disliking Ardeth Bay. It was the past and it was done with. Straightening her spine, Evie hoped that a little of Aunt Mae's determination and stiff upper lip had worn off on her in the last few days. The proud Med-Jai was difficult even at the best of times.
"Greetings Evelyn Carnarvon."
"Ardeth Bay," Evelyn greeted him.
"Alright you two, pack it in and get inside where I can get some water and shade," O'Connell broke in.
Obediently, they followed O'Connell and Evelyn wondered if this would take long. The less time she spent with Ardeth Bay the better. O'Connell's room was packed with cases and stands. Evie guessed the near excess of furniture was to store and display his weaponry. Certainly there was some measure of comfort knowing that O'Connell was prepared for the worst. Then there was the worry that one of the lamps would fall over and ignite all the gunpowder and dynamite he seemed to be stockpiling. If O'Connell blew up Hamunaptra she would be very peeved with him indeed!
After O'Connell watered himself and collapsed into a chair, Evelyn turned her attention to the desert warrior. His face was impassive and expressionless as usual. Evelyn could feel a stew of emotion simmering within her ready to explode. Cross with herself, she calmed herself down as much as she could. She'd sworn she'd never let her emotions run riot ever again. It just lead to trouble. O'Connell seemed strangely tired and Evelyn could tell by the state of the Med-Jai's robes that he too had been exerting himself lately. A frown creased her brown and Evie wondered if there was trouble with the tribes. Did they dislike the possibility of letting Hamunaptra rejoin the modern world?
"Well, Evie, it was hard but we did it. Your plans can go ahead," O'Connell said blithely.
"They can?! I mean, they will!" Evie said with a quick double take hardly believing her ears.
"Not without restrictions," Ardeth Bay said cutting down her enthusiasm. "The tribes do not wish great numbers of people invading their lands. No more than thirty scholars at a time and they must be blindfolded and mislead like those that are here now. The location of Hamunaptra shall remain secret."
"Anything else," Evie asked coolly as little cross at his pronouncement although she did agree.
"There are raiders in the desert. I would suggest that you close the gates and prepare. The Med-Jai have been attacked and are tracing the raiders."
"Is that why you look so worse for wear, O'Connell? Are we in danger of attack?"
"The Med-Jai protect Hamunaptra now and forever. We will not allow they near this cursed city," Ardeth Bay replied with derision.
"The way I see it is you've been pretty slack in protecting the city. And it's not cursed!"
"Allah! You speak improperly, woman! We have guarded Hamunaptra for generations. It was you that released the abomination not once but twice!"
"Oh? And you would rather satisfy a vendetta that has lasted more than a thousand years than saving the world!" Evenly snarled her temper flaring.
"Better that than sell my body and soul to that corruption of nature!"
Fury overwhelmed her and Evelyn slapped the arrogant man as hard as she could. The stinging of her palm shocked her anger away and she ran out the door. Tears bit at her eyes, stinging and aching. Frustration and anger from the last days melded with old fears and pain to send her sobbing. For so long she had been pushing her emotions down. This was just the last straw. Stumbling through the passages, Evelyn somehow navigated towards her own rooms. When she collided with Aunt Mae, she felt like wailing. This was the last thing she needed! To her surprise, her aunt placed an arm around her shoulder and guided her through the last few passages to her room.
"Oh Evie, don't cry, my dear. Was it that beastly American?"
The innocent question made her sob harder. Evelyn was so tired of being strong and hiding her fears. She was tired of fighting people who thought they knew better. All she wanted was to work on her city and to forget. It would all have been so easy if she could forget the last few years. There wouldn't be anymore questions about magic or ancient priests, vendettas or who she really was. Taking the soft cotton handkerchief from her aunt, Evie dabbed at her eyes.
"No, it's not O'Connell."
Her aunt was silent. The silence was rather odd and Evie looked at her aunt's wrinkled face with bleary eyes. Usually her aunt would have some snappy response that would be a simple prelude to trying to make her a proper English gentlewoman. Now her bright blue eyes were soft and even sad. When a sigh issued from her aunt, Evelyn stopped crying in her surprise.
"I've been going about this all wrong, haven't I child?" Aunt Mae said.
"What do you mean?" Evie asked rather bemused.
"I so wanted to protect you from the world but you embrace it so. There is comfort in convention, Evie. I was married at sixteen to a man I'd only met twice. I grew to love your Uncle Walter very much. Our marriage was strong and it gave me great joy. I wanted to make you see there is joy in being a lady as well as a scholar. Gadding about like you have been... I worried for you. A woman will never be fully accepted as a scholar, Evelyn. Men don't like to admit that women have intellects that equal theirs. I hoped that I could dissuade you and spare you that."
"That doesn't mean I can't try!"
"Of course not. These days women are far better off than when I was a girl. Here I thought you hadn't discovered a woman's heart yet and now you're crying your eyes over some lump of a man. Now, my dear, tell me what is wrong!"
That lead to more tears. Aunt Mae had never said anything like this before. The soft comfort she gave, melted all the iron battlements Evelyn had erected over the last year. It was a relief to finally cry and have someone hold her close. Part of her wanted to talk to her aunt but the other part was afraid. There wasn't anyone else she could talk to. O'Connell was a man and he would never understand anyway. Jonathan was also out of the questions. Even if she wanted she couldn't tell Aunt Mae everything but perhaps she could tell her some things. Sniffling a little, Evie nodded her head.
"H-How do you know when a man loves you?"
"There are many different kinds of men, my dear. Some will whisper words of love and then leave you once they have robbed you of your virtue. Some are gentle and kind and will give you their hearts without you ever knowing. There are many kinds and every man is different again. You have to use your heart to work that out," Aunt Mae said with a smile.
"What kind was Uncle Walter?" Evie asked hesitantly.
"He was one of the quiet ones. It took me ten years to realize he loved me and then several more before I realized I loved him too. What does your heart say about your man?"
"I don't know. I'm not... not beautiful like most women and I've got a sharp tongue. O'Connell kissed Millie because I wanted to go on adventures, not stay at home."
"Evie! That's not your heart talking. That's your mind telling you stories," Aunt Mae said with a chortle.
"Well, it doesn't matter. He died and it doesn't matter," Evie said and her lip began to quiver.
"He died? You poor thing."
"He loved someone else, Aunt Mae. She died and, I-I think I only reminded him of her. Then he... died. And I lost him and it was my fault!"
"Evelyn, it wasn't your fault. Whatever happened, I know you wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose."
All the emotions that she had been working to suppress were pouring out of her. The things that Ardeth Bay had said hit closer to the mark than he probably realized. Since her last adventure, Evelyn knew she had to try to forget for her own sanity. When the Seth Spirit had been banished, there had been so much unsaid. Imhotep had been granted the death that he had been denied for thousands of years. Calling him back to a life that had given him torment wasn't something she would do when he had finally been given peace. The Egyptians had respected death. As a priestess she had to do the same. The doubts and fears that remained were plaguing her. Had she been simply a replacement for Anuk-Su-Namun or worse, a poor second choice? What bothered her most was that her heart didn't seem to care!
"Oh Aunt Mae! I'm in such a pickle!"
"Yes, you are. I don't agree with the way you want to live your life, but that is not up to me. Just promise me to give it time. All pain fades with time," Aunt Mae said softly.
Evelyn nodded but wasn't sure if she believed her aunt. She did have rather convincing proof that broken hearts can last several thousand years at least. Wiping at her eyes again, she realized that she probably looked terrible. Gently her aunt ran her fingers through her hair and fussed over her until she again looked presentable. At least she would be saved the embarrassment of being red-eyed and puffy in front of all the scholars. Once more ready to battle prejudice and arrogance, Evie wondered if this meant her Aunt wouldn't try to set her up with anymore 'charming fellows'.
The temple of Osiris was empty and grieving. Echoing and shattering off the walls, the sounds of her footsteps were hollow and uncertain. Evie had avoided this place as much as she could. Even on her rounds to all of the gods temples, she had only stayed her as long as she had to. There were memories here that were frightening and those in turn summoned memories that were sweet filled with a bitter center. She was being foolish and she knew it. Whatever might have happened was over. Evelyn wasn't even sure what it had been. She hated the thought she had been foolish and let her emotions run away with her. That happened to silly girls in romance novels and not scholars with half a brain.
Somehow when she had left her room, Evelyn had wandered here. It wasn't intentional and probably if she had realized where her steps were taking her, she would have turned around and found another destination. Easily in her mind's eye she could see herself tied to the altar and Imhotep reading from the Book ready to join her Ka and Ba. She had been so frightened and yet the ancient words of the ritual had stirred something hidden and dark within her. Those memories quickly led to those of warm hands and soft-spoken words. Taking a deep shaky breath, Evelyn moved to the alter and lit the incense that lay waiting. In soft clouds it enveloped her in the rich scents of exotic woods and spices. Imhotep had finally returned to the death he had wanted. It was time that she let him rest. Whispering a prayer to Osiris she bowed and slipped away.
Banishing the lump in her throat as best she could, Evelyn wondered if Sean had uncovered anything else at the Thoth's temple. She really had needed to be there but O'Connell's news had been more important. With the thought of Sean, Evie remembered the sick look on his face. Unease again filled her and Evelyn wondered what she could tell him. Sorry Sean, you're feeling magic but I can't explain because I don't understand it myself? Shaking her head with disgust, Evie made her way to the temple. All of the temples and their grounds were located within short distances of each other. The other districts seemed to expand from the temples, including the Pharoah's complex.
There was a great deal of Hamunaptra that she hadn't uncovered yet. Most of the city was half covered in sand and rubble deposited through the ages. Within the temple areas, there were passages that she hadn't dared to go though for the weight of magic and curses. There were also traps for the unwary and so she had curtained them off. There was so much here that Evie knew she could spend several lifetimes discovering it all. That was one of the main reasons she had brought the scholars to Hamunaptra. They were the key to her dreams. During the past week, she has shown them some of her plans, guided them around the city and allowed them to explore. Now it was time for her to reveal exactly what her aims were. Tonight's banquet had been planned for quite some time. The opening of Thoth's temple was strangely fitting. The god of knowledge and wisdom would hopefully help Evie convince the scholars of her plan.
Making sure the last details were taken care of was a difficult job. The cooks in the kitchen were doing well but the setting of the table and various practical considerations were far more demanding. Evie hadn't seen O'Connell since she had stormed out and wasn't sure if she was thankful or annoyed. She would have appreciated a hand with the preparations but she really didn't want to talk about why she had slapped Ardeth Bay. Knowing O'Connell, that would be one of the first things he'd want to know. Deep in thought, Evie didn't notice someone else had entered the room until a pair of hands descended on her neck.
"Gotcha!" Jonathan cried with delight.
"Oh Jonathan! You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"Ah well, Evie you know me- anything to give my baby sister a start. So what are you doing here?"
"For your information, I'm tying to get things ready for tonight," Evier scolded.
"That's right, that elegant little tea party you have planned in the middle of this mausoleum."
"Hamunaptra isn't a mausoleum... or well at least not all of it."
"Do you really think this will make those old fuddy-duddies see things your way?" Jonothan questioned half expecting to be yelled at again.
"I don't know but I have to try. It's either that or they can forget about ever seeing Hamunaptra ever again."
"What? My 'itty bitty sister is blackmailing all those nice gentlemen? I'm so proud of you, Evie! And here I thought I was the only black sheep of the family," Jonathan teased.
"I am *not* blackmailing them! I'm- I'm just persuading them!" Evie replied with a slight blush.
"Of course you're not! Don't worry, I won't tell them," Jonathan winked.
"Ohhh!" Evie growled in good-natured frustration.
Although she tried to hide it, she couldn't help but smile. It was good to see Jonathan. Even with Aunt Mae's disapproval of her career choice it was good having family close. The Carnarvon clan was rather small with only a few other distant cousins and her mother had been an orphan so family was important to Evie. A she worked on the table settings and organized her makeshift wait staff Jonathan kept up his teasing interspersed with unlikely tales from England. Growing up with Jonathan as her older brother made Evie often feel as if she was the older sibling. Once the preparations were finished, Evie felt a glow of accomplishment.
"Jonathan, find O'Connell and tell him to 'round up' our guests. I need to get dressed," Evie said realizing she was dusty and disheveled from a long day.
"Wait! It's not one of those fancy dress things... is it?"
"Yes, it is and you already knew that. If I don't see you in a suit and tie, I'll tell Aunt Mae you stole some of O'Connell's whisky the other night."
"Hey, how did you know that!"
"I didn't," Evie laughed and hurried away.
It had been several months since she had been back to Cairo or any kind of civilization. Leaving supply runs to O'Connell was just easier. She didn't have to worry about bumping into anyone she knew and she could immerse herself in work and blot out everything else. Three months ago Evelyn had gone with O'Connell to interview more workers and while there she had decided to pay some attention to her wardrobe. For the most part, she preferred sensible clothing that would allow her to do anything from explore more of Hanumaptra to take her place in the trenches with the workers. This dinner, however, required a more formal arrangement. The glittering gold sequined tunic top clung to her curves and yet hung in a graceful line to the shin length black skirt. When she had seen it, Evie had wondered if it was a bit much. She had never really been into high fashion and it was the latest thing out of Paris. The woman who ran the boutique had somehow convinced her and for once, Evelyn was glad. Fresh from a luxurious bath, she looked elegant and at the same time exotic. Outlining her eyes with kohl and rouging her lips with balm, she took a deep breath. Evie only hoped she could do the illusion of elegance and self-assurance credit.
Arriving before the scholars did, Evie was surprised to see O'Connell lounging at the table. For one he was out of his dusty beige desert wear and was handsome in a suit. Evelyn smiled and laughed softly. O'Connell's suit looked good on him but he didn't look happy in it. Vaguely she wondered if he had hidden some kind of gun on him or if he had forgone for once.
"My, my O'Connell, if I had known you'd look so good in a suit, I would have made you dress up before now," Evie said with a lazy smile.
"The same goes for you. When did you get that outfit?"
"I got it the last time I was back in Cairo. They said it was the newest in Egyptian inspired fashion from Paris."
"It certainly fits the décor. So do you suppose those scholars will be impressed?" O'Connell asked, looking about at the newly set table and the decorations.
"They better be or I'll be forced to rummage up a curse or two for them," Evelyn laughed, taking her place at the head of the table.
"Don't even joke about it. Between you and Ardeth, I've had enough of curses."
Evelyn made an polite sound that as neither agreement nor disagreement. It was written all over O'Connell's face. He was going to ask why she had stormed out. She had hoped that dinner might dissuade him but obviously her luck wasn't with her. Evie knew it had been a bad idea to slap Ardeth Bay. She just couldn't help slapping that self-righteous bastard. Her mother would be rolling in her grave at the thought of Evie using such language but it was true. For the sake of a vendetta that was sorely misplaced, Ardeth would have let the Seth Spirit loose. She still had Anuk-Su-Namun's diary and she had kept to her word about translating it. It was a horrifying piece of heartbreak, treachery and politics. None of the parties involved were innocent.
"Evie?" O'Connell's voice broke into her thoughts.
"What is it, O'Connell?" Evie asked.
"You just drifted off there, for a minute. You've been doing that a lot lately," O'Connell replied.
"Are you suggesting I'm not doing my job?!" Evie cried.
"No! I mean, you're doing your job but there seems to be something bothering you."
"Oh... I suppose I'm just worried that things won't work out," Evie said fabricating the most plausible excuse she could think of.
Thankfully O'Connell seemed satisfied. If he had pressed, Evelyn knew that she would probably have said something unforgivable. She'd spilled all the beans to Aunt Mae and she didn't feel like spilling them again. Especially O'Connell! Although she would deny it if asked, Evie knew it had something to do with the fact they had been engaged at one point. She had demanded O'Connell to adhere to modern propriety and to tell him it had flown to the winds with a creature that was technically dead... Sighing, Evelyn straightened a fork and hoped that the scholars would arrive soon.
"So what did the Med-Jai say? You still haven't told me everything that happened," Evie asked her thoughts once again centering on the future of Hamunaptra.
"Well, that was kind of hard to do when you ran out. It's fine, Evie. They weren't too pleased but they know they don't have anything to guard anymore. I think they don't really know what to do now that they don't have their 'sacred duty'," O'Connell snorted.
"And what about those raiders? They aren't close are they?"
"Nah, they're just hassling the Med-Jai. Ardeth said they get a few crazies thinking the desert people must have some kind of treasure they're hiding to make them want to stay in the desert. I suppose there right," O'Connell laughed.
"Then they aren't near Hamunaptra?" Evie asked hesitantly.
"They're a few days ride but I doubt they'll bother coming any closer. Ardeth and his men will discourage them if they come to close."
Evelyn bit her lip at the thought. She knew that the Med-Jai were great warriors but they had been weakened after the Seth Spirit's attack. There was also the possibility that the raiders might think that any 'discouragement' might mean there was something to hide. In this case there was and it was a very valuable something. Evelyn was no fool. The treasure in the treasure chamber was beyond most imaginings. She had even used some of it to finance the resurrection of Hamunaptra. Although she guarded its existence, it was the wealth of knowledge she valued more. There were things that scholars could learn from Hamunaptra that could not be learnt anywhere else.
Lowering the city under the sands every night was necessary but Evie often wondered if it was enough. If it was possible she would keep in underground during the day. Access and air was a concern, however, as the sand was deep indeed. Other than a few levers in the temple district, the only place where the city could be raised from was the Breasts of Isis. Evelyn had gone to great lengths to safeguard it. The doors were locked using the key that fit the Books. The booby traps were also left active. The city also safeguarded by distance. Most people wouldn't venture this far into the desert without a very good reason.
"Good, I don't want a nasty surprise sneaking up on us," Evie said with a sigh.
"What are the chances of that after everything we've been through? I think our karma is pretty much paid," O'Connell grinned.
"Don't tempt fate, especially not here," Evie said and clutched at the medallion around her neck.
They didn't have to wait much longer for the guests of honor. To her surprise, the white haired Montgomery was escorting Aunt Mae. Trying not to stare, she stood and waited for her guests to be seated. The scholars looked half amused at the formal dinner and Evelyn hoped they'd at least listen to what she had to say. Clearing her throat, Evie once again stood when her guests were settled. Butterflies in her stomach flittered but she forced herself to remain calm.
"Lady and Gentlemen, I hope you'll enjoy dinner tonight. It's in celebration of opening Thoth's temple but it is also to mark the explanation of what I have invited you hear for," Evelyn stated clearly.
"By the devil, young lady! It's about time! You've had us pottering around like a bunch of fools!" Montgomery grumbled.
"Montgomery does have a point although I would have phrased it more delicately," Harris chuckled.
"I had hoped that you would explore the city so that you could appreciate how important this find is," Evelyn replied. "This city has a great deal of knowledge to impart."
"Not if it's just some ancient forgery erected to amuse Roman tourists," Saunders quipped irritably.
"You're not going to go on with that nonsense again are you?" Walsh snapped. "Just accept it old man, this is Hamunaptra!"
"Dr Walsh, I-" Saunders sneered.
"Gentlemen! Please, don't fight. There is no need and regardless there is still things to be learnt," Evelyn said in a conciliatory tone.
"I agree with my sister! This place is bloody ripping even if you don't think it's Hamunaptra," Jonathan said as he tried to support Evie.
Everyone turned to look at Jonathan. He looked at little abashed to be the focus of such attention. Evie felt herself color a little and then looked down. Jonathan was a dear but he did have a habit of saying the wrong thing. Aunt Mae looked martyred and Evie understood exactly how she felt. O'Connell looked amused and perhaps she would have been amuse if Jonathan wasn't her brother. Realizing that she probably should signal for the first course, she pulled on the lever. Swiftly a small army of servants brought in the first course.
"Why don't we enjoy our meal and talk about this afterward?" Evelyn suggested.
Nods of agreement followed her proposal. The soup was lovely and Evie was thankful. Usually the cooks weren't used to making such dishes. Food was rather on the rough side when guests weren't visiting. Many meals consisted of beans and flat bread or a spicy native stew. Since the scholars had arrived everyone had wanted to impress them. The cooks certainly were succeeding! As she ate, she paid attention to the conversation going on around her. Mostly it concerned the library they had discovered. Some wanted the collection to go to the museum. The lackeys or 'assistants' as they preferred to be called simply agreed with their masters. Evie even participated steering the discussion towards her idea.
Hamunaptra could be a center of learning. It could provide a living example of Ancient Egyptian culture. She couldn't bear to have it ravaged and broken by scholars that thought such a 'barbaric' land shouldn't own such treasures. How ironic that they ignored the fact that the 'barbaric' land had been the one to produce such treasures. The conversation slowly drifted to more common things like digs elsewhere and the opinions of so-and-so on whatever. It was almost comforting to hear such talk. Evie had grown up hearing it on her father's lap and then again a the museum. Jonathan hadn't exhibited much of an interest but Evelyn had absorbed every kernel of knowledge she could. After her mother had died, the ancient tales and knowledge seemed to call her even more.
Occasionally as dinner progressed, Evelyn studied her Aunt Mae. She seemed like her normal robust self and displayed no suggestion that their talk had ever taken place. Jonathan was sitting beside her and was elbowed ever so often when he reached for the wine. Evie hid a smile and wondered if he could 'borrow' a jug later without Aunt Mae noticing. Somehow Evelyn doubted he could. Jonathan might have light fingers but they weren't light enough to deceive Aunt Mae.
It was during the third course that Evie noticed something odd. The hand that was serving her had dirty and broken fingernails. That really wasn't too odd since those that were serving were really workers borrowed for the occasion. What was odd was that she had made everyone wash their hands before they served. A frown marring her face, she looked up from her dinner and studied the face of the man serving her. His face wasn't one she recognized. Hurriedly she scanned the faces of the other servers. None of them were familiar. Evie had quite a few workers but she could recognize most of them. With growing alarm, she noticed a wet patch on the back of on of the servers. Just as she was about to say something the cold sharp edge of a blade was pressed against her neck.
"I suggest you remain seated and say nothing, Ms Carnarvon."
Evelyn gaped stupidly at Dr Welsh as he stood up. The change in him was immense. He was no longer a simple scholar. Power and evil seemed to radiate from him. Wildly she looked around and saw that every scholar, lackey and even O'Connell had a blade or gun pointed at them. A really large lump had formed in her throat and she swallowed hard making the knife push closer to the edge of the blade. Not meaning to she let a whimper out. Welsh seemed amused and he stood up. With lazy arrogance he crumpled his linen napkin and threw it onto his plate. Untying his tie and unbuttoning the first few buttons of his shirt he withdrew a medallion. Immediately Evelyn recognized it.
"I'm sure you'll recognize this symbol?" Welsh asked and Evelyn nodded.
"What is it, Evie," O'Connell growled.
"It- It's the symbol of Seth."
"I am a priest of Seth just as you are a priest of Anubis," Walsh agreed.
"I say what is going on Walsh! Quit this silly mumbo jumbo and theatrics!" Saunders bickered.
"Kill him," Walsh replied.
Before her stunned gaze, a blade was drawn over Saunders' throat and he slumped to his plate. Sickened by the rush of blood and the clang of his face hitting the plate, Evie looked away. Fear was flowing through her and she could tell this wasn't going to end nicely. The scholars had watched in horrified silence and were now virtually paralyzed with fear. Evelyn knew they probably hadn't seen anyone murdered before. She had but nothing quite so vivid or coldly cruel. Aunt Mae looked close to fainting and Jonathan was clearly repressing the urge to run as far as he could. Even O'Connell looked a little worried. Faintly Evie guess he hadn't brought a gun and she regretted it dearly.
The peril they were in was very real and yet it seemed so impossible. Hamunaptra had been protected for three thousand years. The Med-Jai were supposed to help protect it. It boggled Evelyn's mind that somehow these men had caught them unawares. She had thought she had done so well to protect Hamunaptra. It hurt to see her efforts so easily foiled. She also felt a ball of anger at the idea Walsh had tricked her so thoroughly. He hadn't seemed like a Seth worshiper! Not to mention he was an established scholar!
"How did you- I mean the Med-Jai-," Evie stuttered unable to help herself.
"You mean how did I get these men past the watchful gaze of those desert fools? It was a simple matter to call in a few favors of a bandit leader I knew. While the Med-Jai were busy with them I had my men slip past them," Welsh replied with a sneer.
"What the hell do you want!" O'Connell snapped.
"Wise question, Mr O'Connell. I didn't think you thought with anything other than your gun. To begin with I want this city."
"You can't have it!" Evie found herself replying heatedly.
"I can have what I want and don't mistake it. This city is the key to my goals. I also know you have the Book Of The Dead and the Book Of Amun-Ra in your possession, Ms Carnarvon and I suggest that you give them to me."
"The Books? Those are real!" Harris said shocked.
"Enough! Ms Carnarvon, I await your answer," Walsh reminded her.
Swallowing, Evelyn wondered what to do. Walsh might be arrogant but he wasn't going to let her stall for more time. There was little point in stalling him anyway. With a sickening feeling, Evie realized there wouldn't be a last minute rescue. The Med-Jai were occupied, the workers probably didn't think there was any danger. Even if they did, they couldn't do anything. No one else even knew where they were. Suddenly the isolation of Hamunaptra was horrifyingly final. They could die here and no one would know.
Looking into Walsh's eyes, Evie felt the iciness in them with an almost physical chill. She had never met anyone with such evil in them before. Not even Imhotep had such cold menace. She had no idea what Walsh wanted. Hamunaptra couldn't be all he wanted. Nor could it be treasure he wanted. Somehow Evelyn guessed it had something to do with the Seth Spirit. What else could it be? The idea of Walsh holding the Books was a terrifying thing. Those books held the secrets of life and death. She might not understand them but in all possibility Walsh did. He certainly seemed to know more about being a Chosen than she did. Glancing at the man who held the knife to her throat, Evelyn made her decision.
"No? It will be far easier if you tell me," Walsh said in tones the belayed his seriousness.
"I mean, I don't even know what you're talking about. What books?" Evie said and realized that she wasn't even near convincing.
"Don't play games with me, Ms Carnarvon. I felt the triggering of the curse on Seti's tomb. I was too late to welcome Seth's avatar but I know it would have had to been you that returned him!"
Evelyn realized that Walsh didn't know about Imhotep. Walsh might have guessed right about her hand in banishing the Spirit, but he probably didn't know how. Thinking hard, Evelyn wondered what she could possibly say that could stop Walsh's plans. There were probably all sorts of grisly things that he'd do to her. She'd end up telling Walsh where the Books were and anything else he wanted to know besides! Still, she had to try. In his hands, those Books were very dangerous.
"No! I'm not telling you a thing!" Evie replied hotly.
"Fine. Search her rooms," Walsh ordered one of his men.
"What? No torture?" Evie gasped a little shocked.
"It will be far faster to simply search your room. Don't think that I won't torture you if I don't find what I'm after."
For once, Evelyn wished she had hidden the Books. Normally it was far too much of a bother to hide them in some nearly inaccessible place. Now she wished she's thrown them into the ocean or perhaps melted them down into scrap metal. Of course she would never have done it even if she'd known. Everything she was rebelled against the thought. Minutes ticked away, as Evelyn studied pasty faces and breathed shaky breaths. Only Walsh seemed to be free of tension. The men holding them at gun and knifepoint, were tense and ready for action if need be. Obviously they were seasoned mercenaries. Even if O'Connell could accomplish a miracle and avoid being shot while getting away, there was little hope he could get further than a few steps.
When the weathered mercenary returned he bore the two Books. Evelyn felt her last hope die and she wanted to cry. As foolish as it was, she had hoped the mercenary wouldn't find them. Walsh smiled broadly and eagerly took the books from his thug. Evie frowned in possessive wrath as he caressed the metal surfaces and traced the embossed hieroglyphics. Those were *her* books. She had found them and she had spoken from them. Everything she had gone through finding them made them hers. It wasn't right Walsh was touching them.
"Good, now chain them up and lock all outside doors," Walsh said.
It became apparent that Walsh had planned this for some time. The mercenaries worked smoothly and quickly Evelyn found herself in chains. Once the weapons were removed from their throats, the scholars began to complain and grumble. Thankfully both Walsh and the mercenaries seemed inclined to ignore them. Jerkily they were prodded and pushed into a small empty chamber. The thud of the door behind them echoed and everyone seemed to freeze. Clicking into place, the lock barred their exit.
"My god what have you gotten us into you rotten woman!" Montgomery yelled.
"Don't you dare say such things about my niece!" Aunt Mae snapped back. "None of this is her fault and you don't need to be flapping your big mouth!"
The scholar looked stunned and Evie felt a glow of satisfaction. Everyone lapsed into a pensive silence and thoughts of doom were easily visible on the scholars' faces. Slowly they looked about them but the flickering torchlight revealed nothing but bare walls. O'Connell was studying the doors and Jonathan was hiding behind Aunt Mae. From the tenseness of O'Connell's shoulders, Evie guessed that the doors were quite solid. Evelyn wished there was something she could do but she knew it was hopeless. The magic that bound Hamunaptra together had kept the doors and walls sturdy. She didn't even know what Walsh was planning with the books.
"It's solid, Evie," O'Connell said, moving to stand by her.
"I thought so. I have no idea what he wants. It's probably something to do with the Seth Spirit," Evelyn replied.
"Is there any way out of here that I don't know of?"
"No. This place was just a storage chamber of some sort."
"Damn," O'Connell muttered futilely.
"Do you think the Med-Jai will notice anything?" Jonathan asked tensely.
"I doubt it. I don't think Ardeth was too happy with Evie and they have no reason to suspect anything."
"Well thanks a lot, O'Connell! So it's all my fault now!"
"I didn't say that!"
"It's certainly what you implied!"
"Evie, enough! No one is at fault. This young man is quite right. We'll just have to see what happens," Aunt Mae intervened. "We can't do anything else now, so why don't we get comfortable?"
The suggestion seemed outrageous when so much was at stake but Evie realized that was all they could do. None of the scholars or Aunt Mae realized how important the Books were. Telling them would be useless as they would probably scoff. Jonathan and O'Connell knew and they looked as worried as she did. Evelyn briefly wondered if they would be left to starve but it didn't seem likely. Walsh probably had some nefarious scheme that required lots of human sacrifices. Evie had already almost been sacrificed. She didn't want it to repeat the experience. Sitting down between Aunt Mae and Jonathan, Evie watched as the scholars fell into a fitful rest out of sheer boredom. Quelling her fear as well as she could, Evelyn followed their example.
No one had noticed that the torch had gone out until the mercenaries opened the door and ordered them out. The change in light made them all blink and Evelyn felt as if a herd of wild camels had trampled her. Aunt Mae seemed equally stiff and Evelyn gave O'Connell a smile of thanks when he helped her stand. It really wasn't good for a woman of her age to sleep on cold stone floors. Once out in the passageway, Evelyn looked for an opportunity to escape. Where she would actually go, she wasn't certain. Trying was the important part. If she actually got away, she'd worry about what to do then. Following the mercenaries, she wondered where they were taking them. Eventually familiar wide doors opened and the sparkle of more gold than was imaginable greeted them.
Gasps of pure greed and awe fell from the scholars' lips. Evelyn couldn't help but smile. Let them disbelieve this was Hamunaptra now! That thought soured as she remembered that Saunders was dead. The glow of the gold now seemed to be cold and lifeless. In the middle of the wealth were four men. One of them was Walsh but the other three she didn't know. They were wildly outfitted and Evelyn guessed they were some of the 'raiders' Ardeth had been chasing. From the look of them they were probably the leaders of the bandits.
"Take whatever you wish from this chamber. This is all I care about," Walsh said as he stroked the head of a statue.
The statue was of the god Seth. Frowning, Evelyn wondered why it was so important. There was an aura of magic around it and that boded ill. Still, there as nothing in any of the books she had read about a magical statue of Seth. As they were pushed closer to the small group of men, Evelyn found the eyes of the more richly dressed bandit run over her body. Maybe the new dress was a little much, Evelyn thought as she shuddered at the slimy feel of the man's eyes.
"Anything I want? Just for making sport with those desert tribes and doing your silly ritual?" the bandit asked.
"Don't mock what you don't understand. Yes, Kaffa, you may take anything you want," Walsh replied with a touch of menace.
"And what if I want everything I see?"
"I suggest you don't become greedy," Walsh said his voice flat.
"Greed? I live by greed. You are one man and I can take what I want," Kaffa threatened his hand lowering to his saber.
Abruptly Walsh spat out words in Ancient Egyptian. The words chilled Evelyn as she realized he had been reading the book. With a crash, three figures broke from the walls. Bearing spears, three mummies advanced. Evelyn realized Walsh had called upon the guards that protected the treasure chamber in life and death. The horrified look the bandit chief gave was enough for Walsh and he called them off. Unnaturally still, they stood awaiting further orders. Walsh laughed and surveyed the chamber.
"You may take whatever you can carry out on your own backs. Any more and I'll let my guards convince you of how much trouble a single man can be."
As there were over thirty men including the mercenaries, Evelyn thought it was a more than fair bargain. Just as she was wondering what they had been brought to the treasure chamber for, Walsh glanced over to them. The malice in his eyes made her stomach flop. Evie guessed that she probably wouldn't like whatever it was.
"So Ms Carnarvon, you grace us with your presence once more," Walsh said in an almost civil tone. "Indeed your presence is vital!"
"What are you going to do with her?!" O'Connell growled.
"She banished my god's avatar to damnation and only her blood can call his strength back. Of course, it doesn't have to be blood willingly given. Seth is not as picky as the others," Walsh snickered.
His words echoed in her ears. Evelyn blinked and tried to sort through her emotions. Biting her lip, she looked at Walsh. He seemed very certain indeed. To the Egyptians damnation was being denied an eternity living with the gods as spirits. In effect, she had banished a great deal of Seth's powers and along with him, Imhotep. Sickened, Evelyn realized she had sent them both to a kind of hell. Knees weak, she felt as if she was going to fait. Only O'Connell's hand around her wrist jerked her out of her thoughts. Walsh as advancing and Evie realized he wanted her. Roughly she was yanked away, her chains rattling.
"Prepare for the sacrifice. Do not dare to make a mistake!" Walsh ordered.
The bandits formed a circle with Walsh and herself inside. Frantically, Evelyn jerked and fought as Walsh forced her to the ground. Angrily Walsh cuffed her and Evie found herself stunned on the floor. On her way down she had grazed her temple on the Book Of Amun Ra. The world seemed rather hazy and she felt so very weak. Vaguely she guessed that she had a concussion. In a daze, Evelyn watched as a makeshift altar was set up. The statue of Seth stood in the middle and bowls of burning oil stood on either side. Her gaze wandered and Evie found herself looking at the mummified warriors. They were so still they were uncanny. The sound of O'Connell shouting reminded her that she was in danger.
Awkwardly she forced herself to kneel and then push herself upright. Once she was somewhat upright, Evie realized that Walsh had started to chant. Her cloudy mind only half translated what he said and it sounded like a prayer to Seth. Focusing herself, Evie listened more attentively. Slowly it dawned on her he was opening the portal once more. Frowning, Evelyn realized that of course that was what he was doing. He'd told her so. It was quite funny how she'd forgotten. The pain in her head as she tried to get to her feet was sharp. The sensation seemed to knock some sense into her.
He couldn't open that portal. If he did, then they were all doomed. Walsh was reading from the Book Of The Dead and had left the Book Of Amun-Ra on the floor. Softly glinting, the cover drew her attention. Mind clearing rapidly, Evie glanced at the immobile mummies. Jonathan had used an incantation once and it had been from the Golden Book. Just as she reached it, Walsh noticed her.
"Lord Seth in your name the door between worlds cleaved with the blood of this woman!"
Agony radiated from her chest. Shocked, Evie looked down and the golden blade of a sacrificial knife was lodged in her chest. Weakly she crashed to the ground. Faintly she heard someone cry out. Strangely, she had landed almost on top of the book. Taking a painful breath, Evelyn spoke the words.
"Destroy them!"Evelyn ordered and watched as the mummies sprung to life.
Around her there were screams of the bandits and the war cries of the dead warriors she had called to battle. Pain was strangely making her numb. Walsh looked down at her with an expression of hate and anger. Reflexively, Evie swung the Book at him. He grabbed it from her hands before it made contact. Overbalanced, Evelyn crashing into him. The knife was pushed deeper as they collided and a river of blood gushed anew. Everything took on a surreal edge and almost in slow motion Walsh fell and hit his head on the altar. Even as he went down, Evelyn could feel magic gather and pulse. Staggering to her feet, Evelyn saw the Book Of The Dead on the altar. Weakly she dragged it to her.
Piles of gold seemed like mountains. Staggering and crawling, she hauled herself along. Evelyn didn't dare remove the dagger or else she knew she would bleed herself to death. Howling and pounding at her, magic was pouring into the treasure chamber. The door between worlds had been opened and Walsh would summon the Seth Spirit if he could. Tears began to run down her cheeks as Evelyn pulled herself forward. The door was open and the ritual as begun. Something had to be brought forth. Maybe she could right one wrong before she died.
At the entrance of Osiris' temple, Evelyn collapsed. Blood was steadily flowing and she was nearly unconscious. Pawing the Book Of The Dead open, she read the words that were becoming so very familiar indeed. The flow of magic suddenly centered on her and Evelyn pulled out the dagger. Pain ripped through her and she let the blood flow freely. Again magic throbbed and she could feel the need for direction. Awkwardly her free hand felt for the item that had been her lucky charm for the past year. Imhotep's pendant was dull in and lifeless in her hand as she struggled to gain enough air to speak.
"I summon you, Imhotep, cursed Priest of Osiris. I summon you, Imhotep, with your pledge to your god. I summon you, Imhotpe, with my death,"Evelyn spoke.
Her body stiffened as in a torrent the energy she had called forth ripped through her. It was ecstasy and agony all in one. She screamed as it left and in a blinding flash of light disappeared. As it left, it took her strength. Darkness slowly invaded her vision and Evelyn didn't resist it.
Rick O'Connell watched in absolute horror as Walsh sent the dagger in a glittering arch. It lodged easily into Evelyn's unprotected chest. A bellow of rage and pain erupted from his throat and he threw himself onto the mercenaries. They easily tripped him with his own chains and O'Connell ended up face first into an unforgiving pile of gold. The pain of the blows he had received were nothing to the horror he had just seen. Jonathan looked stunned and the scholars were shocked silent and ashen. When the guards moved towards him, it was Aunt Mae that brushed away the mercenaries who would have been happy to beat him to a pulp. Sprawled on the pile of cold metal, O'Connell wished he had never set foot on Hamunapra again. Watching Evie topple to the ground had made O'Connell sick to the core. It all seemed impossible. The bad guys weren't meant to win!
Grief tore through him and O'Connell itched for the guns he had left behind in his room. He had left them because he thought Evie would appreciate it. Now it was his fault she was dying. O'Connell could barely stand to look back to the circle. Just as he forced himself to look up, a loud cry rang out. The voice was ragged with pain but it was Evie's. For a moment the cry echoed in the large chamber and then a monstrous war cry rang out. With grace born of the grave, the three mummified warriors sprang at the mercenaries. In a hale of bullets, the mercenaries ran forward to meet the charge. Adrenaline drenched his system and O'Connell realized they were a distraction. Grabbing the keys from the remaining guard, he knocked the first one unconscious. As the second swung at him, he ducked away. The third guard almost beheaded him with a sword but suddenly Jonathan decked him with a solid gold statue of Seti. Surprisingly Aunt Mae clobbered the second guard who thought she would be an easy target.
"Hurry up! My little Evie won't die in vain!"
That galvanized the scholars and they ran from the treasure chamber. O'Connell fought against the surge but Jonathan grabbed his arm and yelled something he couldn't make out. Pulled and pushed along, O'Connell pushed his way to the front of the group. They were heading the wrong way. The City was set to sink into the sand in a few minutes. If they weren't in the main areas of Hamunaptra, then they would be crushed of suffocated. Once in front he grabbed as many scholars as he could and pushed them down the other hallway. To the rest he bellowed out a command.
"The other way! That way!"
To his surprise, O'Connell found they obeyed him. For what seemed like forever, they dashed down hallways and through chambers. He wasn't as good as Evie at navigating the city but O'Connell knew they were nearing the worker's quarters. Alone they were sitting ducks. A big part of him wanted to run back and do something for Evie, but O'Connell knew far too well she had done her best to give them a chance. He couldn't disrespect that. There was also the other part of him that knew he had to protect the scholars and the rest of the Carnarvons.
Panting and staggering, they finally to Sean's door. O'Connell pushed it open and ushered everyone in. Once everyone was inside, he too hurried in. Sean was a picture of confusion and the beginnings of fear were working their way into his expression. Taking deep breath, O'Connell wondered what he could say. He couldn't damn well tell the man there was a crazy priest who opened a portal to another dimension running amok in Hamunaptra. Finally he decided to tell at least half the truth.
"There's a band of mercenaries and bandits. They killed Evie," O'Connell said and his voice caught.
"Evie! Oh god," Sean murmured. "How did they get here?"
"He was a traitor! That bloody bastard was a traitor!" one of the scholars cried out.
"It was Walsh, he's gone mad! Babbling on about magic and ancient gods!" Montgomery spat in between puffing for air.
"I have to get back to my room and get some weapons," O'Connell said roughly. "Those bastards aren't going to get away with this. Keep them safe Sean, and get some of the workers to be on the look out. The city is about to go under for the night."
Almost as if triggered by his words, the city began to shake and roar around them. The sound of countless grains of sand rising around them deafened them to anything else. O'Connell swore under his breath. He had been hoping for just a little more time. Anger and grief mixing, he hoped Walsh and his goons had either been trapped or crushed. Using the keys he'd taken form the guards he unlocked his chains. The damn things had done a good job of ruining his suit. Looking down at the suit, O'Connell realized Evie wouldn't ever compliment him on it again. Clenching his jaw, he threw the keys to Jonathan.
"You keep your aunt safe, Jonathan."
"Wh- What about Evie? You don't think she's really dead... do you?" Jonathan asked, his eyes pools of disbelief and his face oddly vulnerable.
Unable to ruin his hopes, O'Connell looked to the ground and then to Aunt Mae. She looked exhausted and grief had aged her face nearly ten years. How could he tell them what they already knew? He damn well couldn't. Fidgeting for a moment, he wondered if that it was possible Evie was all right. In his mind the image of Evie with the knife in her chest rose up and he banished his hope. No one could survive that. There was also the matter of what had happened to that portal. That wasn't something he wanted to think about. He hated magic almost as much as he hated mummies.
"I don't know. I'm gonna find out, though," O'Connell replied.
His first destination was his rooms. After the first two 'adventures' he'd had concerning Hamunapra, O'Connell had accumulated nearly anything a guy could want in terms of personal weaponry. Once dressed in his more familiar clothing and packing his guns, O'Connell hurried back to the treasure chamber. The passageways were eerily silent and there was no sign of either the mercenaries or the mummified warriors. O'Connell wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. Having nothing to shoot, however, was making him jumpy. It just wasn't natural.
Serenely silent and resplendent in shimmering glory, the treasure room was also quiet. Doing his best to muffle the sound of his footsteps, O'Connell slowly moved forward. Neither mummy nor mercenary jumped out at him. All he found to suggest either had been there were a few corpses and a broken spear. Shrugging his shoulders, O'Connell gave up walking silently. He wasn't doing well at it anyway. That many gold coins underfoot made it nearly impossible. As he moved passed a large statue, the altar now in disarray rose up before him. Unable to help himself, O'Connell found his eyes moist. In dread, he moved forward expecting to see Evie's body. To his surprise, all he found was a pool of blood and a trail leading away.
She had been alive. Evie had been alive when they had ran away. Shame and guilt made O'Connell was to be sick. He knew that she'd created the diversion to get them away but it still made his heart contract. What if she was still alive? He couldn't help her with that kind of wound. While he had been in the Foreign Legion, he'd seen wounds like that. It didn't take long. Swallowing heard, O'Connell gripped his shotgun more firmly and followed the trail. He could see where she had collapsed and crawled alone. Where she had paused in near exhaustion was also clear. Heart aching, he followed the trail to the large archway and entered. The scene before him sent his jaw dropping.
The next thing O'Connell knew he was colliding with the wall.
* * *
In a flash of light, the torment ended. For ceaseless hours the demons had chased him, digging their claws into his spirit when he could not fight them off. Imhotep, despaired that the gods would grant him mercy. This could only be punishment for loving too much. Now he was free. Slowly his senses returned to him and hie eyes cleared. Bloody and broken, the form of his beloved lay before him. Rage beyond understanding ripped through him. Did the gods taunt him with this? Had they not punished him enough? Ehvaylyn was his only comfort for eternity and she lay dead, her Ka already fleeing. The last traces of magic clung to her and he could read them clearly. His beloved had given her life to call him back. In her hand lay his pendant that marked him as Osiris' Chosen.
A bitter negative wrapped with rage rose in his throat in a wordless fury of power. Sand whipped around him and the sound of scarabs echoed in the chamber. The torches hissed and popped and Imhotep could feel the plagues well up ready to be released upon humankind. He could take revenge for her, he could make the living regret the death of his Ehvaylyn. Yet how cold revenge was. She would still be beyond his touch.
Without a Chosen of Anubis to preserve her body and bind her sacred organs, she could never be resurrected. He had planned that for Anck-Su-Namun but Ehvaylyn had not been given the correct rites that would anchor her soul to her body once called back from the realm of the dead. Gathering the limp body in his arms, Imhotep ran his hands through her bloody sticky hair. Even in death she was beautiful. Never again would his Ehvaylyn live. To return her to life would be to bring her back as one of the undead. She would forever be a thing with no mind or true soul. Instead she would be a groveling and rotting thing that knew him only as a master. The Hom-Dai had made him master of all undead things. Even with all that power he could not bring her back.
The ebony cover of the Book Of The Dead glinted softly in the darkness of the temple. Its cover caught his attention and he placed his beloved carefully down. In that Book the greatest mysteries of his people and gods had been written. Even his own curse had been recorded in that Book. Frowning, he hurriedly flipped through the pages. Imhotep had read this Book but rarely. Such great mysteries had been carefully guarded. Even as the most powerful priest in all of Egypt, he had to be careful to hide the knowledge. Of course the Med-Jai had cared in their fury for vengeance. His crime was great but the Med-Jai had not cared when they committed the greatest blasphemy and cursed with the Hom-Dai. The Book Of The Dead was heavy in his hands as Imhotep read its passages. His soul had been bound to his flesh and his flesh bound to eternity. Ehveylyn would never truly live without something to bind her soul to her body. The rituals she would never have prevented that and yet he had been bound as the undead and his soul bound with him.
Nearly throwing the Book down in frustration, Imhotep preyed for inspiration. The Book had shown him the incantations and rituals that had to be performed to resurrect someone and they had shown him a thousand ways of raising the undead. None of them would work or would be more than damnation for his Ehveylyn. Caressing the cooling skin of her cheek, Imhotep could feel the remainder of the magic pull at him. Her life had called him back and her death had made him immortal. Frowning, Imhotep ran his hand across her cheek once more. Again the magic pulled at him.
With a wolfish smile, he pulled Ehveylyn close and moved her to recline on the altar. His beautiful Ehveylyn might not have the rites that would bind her soul to her body if he called her back, but she had already bound herself to him. His body had been given full rites before he had died. Could they be enough for them both? Even if the gods reviled him for eternity, he would call back his Ehveylyn. He would not endure the wastes of eternity alone. Working swiftly he lit the incense that lay near by and took the bloody dagger from the ground. Tenderly he removed his pendant from Ehyvelyn's grasp and slipped it over his head. As he did so he could feel the power of Osiris welcome him. Hope filled him and Imhotep wondered what the gods intended.
Words of power and the names of the gods rolled off his tongue with practiced ease. About him in magnificent waves, magic rose and tumbled. His senses drowned in the heady energy that he drew forth and directed. Imploring upon Osiris he called for Ehyvelyn's Ka to be returned. He called for Anubis to open the way for his Chosen's soul to return and Isis to guard Eyvelyn's soul as it traveled from the underworld. The pool before the altar began to boil and seethe. Slowly a wraithly form appeared and drifted to the still body on the altar. At the height of his chant, he plunged the dagger into his chest. The agony was immense as the magic spread through his undead body. Roughly he removed the dagger and its tip glowed with an unearthly light. Raising it above his head Imhotep again wielded the dagger plunging it into his Ehyvelyn's chest. In a rush the shadowy spirit was sucked into the body through the dagger. As Imhotep pulled the blade out, her body arched up and took a breath. Joy and triumph washed through him and he reached down to touch his lover. As he did so he heard a cry behind him. Whirling he sent a wave of power out and knocked the impudent trespasser into the wall. Turning once more to the woman on the altar he gently caressed her skin.
"Wake my Ehyvelyn and behold our future."
* * *
Pain radiated from her chest and it pulled her back to consciousness. Everything felt so strange. It was as if she had another set of senses that weren't working correctly. Peeling her eyes, open, Evelyn gasped. A pair of sensuous brown eyes locked with her and flooded her with familiar feeling of their gaze. For a moment her mouth worked trying to make a sound but then she gave up. It was impossible. She had felt herself die. Hurriedly she looked down to where she had been stabbed. There was no wound and the only proof that she had been injured was the hole in her once expensive tunic top. Half wondering if she was dreaming, she looked back at the priest that stood over her. It was him. Trembling like a leaf, Evelyn took the hand that was offered to her. The contact was electric. The touch seemed to resound all through her, waking a longing that squeezed her heart.
"You are returned to me, Ehyvelyn. Now nothing can take you away from me,"the priest replied bending down to kiss her.
Before his lips could meet hers, Evie rolled away and stood on the other side of the altar. What had he done to her?! The confusion of waking up was swiftly departing and yet she felt strange. Fear and curiosity blazed through her, sending her mind racing. She had died and she was supposed to stay that way, damn it! This wasn't something she'd bargained on. Dying had seemed like such a good idea at the time. Imhotep first looked puzzled and then began to look angry. Despite herself, Evelyn felt a flutter of fear but then her anger returned. Was she a mummy now?
"What did you do to me!"
"We are one now. The gods have linked our souls and bodies together for eternity. Not even death will part us."
Evelyn did her best to understand what he telling her. It sounded like he'd done something rather naughty. This wasn't something she had planned for! She didn't want to be immortal. She had imagined growing old and terrorizing people like Aunt Mae. Glaring up at the ancient priest, Evie tried to understand. The expression of desire and intense focus on his face sent her heart beating more rapidly. Futilely, she realized that at least she still had a heart beat! Biting her lip, Evie wondered what she should do. It had hurt so terribly to find out Imhotep hadn't been granted the rest he had deserved and rather had been damned with the Seth Spirit. That wasn't a torment she would wish on anyone. Walsh had killed her and it seemed so right to call Imhotep back. Something had to come out of the portal, anyway. Now she was alive... sort of anyway and her life had once again turned itself on end.
"I'm undead?"Evelyn found herself asking in a wobbly voice.
"No, you are neither dead nor alive. I would not condemn you to my punishment. You life is linked to mine and you shall not die unless I do."
As he spoke, Imhotep moved closer to her. Evelyn realized he was very close indeed, when he ran a hand through her hair and tilted her lips to his. The sensations that coursed through her washed away her doubts. Teasing and soothing his lips and tongue met with hers. Pulling him closer, Evelyn ran her hands up the expanse of his back. Her body remembered and longed for his touch with a strength that surprised her. Unnaturally warm skin pressed against hers and Evie realized they were becoming far to carried away. Blushing at her forwardness and her loss of control, Evelyn broke the kiss. The amusement in Imhotep's eyes ruffled her dignity. Trying to gather some self-composure, Evie tried to straighten her outfit. As she did so, she remembered the events that led to her death.
"Imhotep, where are the Books!"
"You had the Book Of The Dead with you. I used it to bring you back to me."
"The Book OF Amun Ra- it's in the treasure chamber,"Evelyn said and rushed out.
Just as she reached the entrance to the treasure chamber she noticed the sprawled and very familiar form of O'Connell. Stopping dead in her tracks, Evelyn whirled to face Imhotep who had followed her. Seeing her friend slumped dead to the world was the last straw. A mixture of frustration, panic and everything that had just happened welled up and she launched herself at him.
"You bully! What did you do to him! Damn you!"
Spitting and growling she beat at the high priest who quickly incapacitated her. Tears began to pour down her cheeks and Evelyn sagged against him. She had felt herself die, she had felt it and then somehow she was back. What was she? She felt alive but was it just some cruel joke? Soothingly, large warm hands ran along her back and soft words in an ancient tongue were whispered to her. She was angry at Imhotep for returning her to life or a semblance of it without even wondering what she would have wanted. As angry as she was, she wasn't sorry. Evie wanted to live. It was selfish and wrong when it went against everything that the gods had intended but she didn't care. Evelyn didn't even care that
she probably had once again done wrong by calling Imhotep back.
"Why did you sacrifice yourself? I would rather endure and eternity of torment than you sacrifice yourself,"Imhotep replied and wrapped his hands around her shoulders possessively.
Evie was silent. How could she answer that? Tell him that she hadn't intended it? Walsh had wielded the sacrificial dagger and had murdered her. If she had known that Imhotep had been damned with the Seth Spirit, would she have sacrificed her life? Evelyn wasn't sure. How could she be? The decision had been taken from her hands. Her blood had already poured into the sand when she had done what she thought would correct what had been done to the high priest. Looking up into Imhotep's eyes, Evie felt her heart contract. He had returned her to the living and his eyes seemed so warm. Did he truly care for her? Care for *her* and not just as a replacement?
"I thought you had been granted rest. It was a priest of Seth who sacrificed me. He wanted to bring forth the Seth Spirit and I knew you had been damned along with it. I thought..."Evelyn began but her throat closed with old grief.
"The gods will not grant me rest. My hope is that I may earn forgiveness,"Imhotep responded. "Can you forgive me for desiring you too greatly and sharing with you my punishment?"
Wordlessly, Evelyn buried her face into his shoulder. She didn't want immortality. All of her friends and family would age and die before her. Now she would never have children or play with grandchildren. All those things would never be. Death had claimed her and even if she had not returned those things would have been denied her. She loved life with a passion and Evie knew she couldn't give it up now. This was better than nothing.
"I still haven't forgotten what you did! What did you do to O'Connell!?"
"He is presumptuous and would have disrupted your awakening,"Imhotep glowered.
"And how exactly would he have done that? He is my friend and-"
Her complaints were stifled by the high priest's hand wrapping around her mouth. Indignation fired but before she could fight, Evelyn heard voices. They were tinny and echoing but she could make out enough to guess they were mercenaries. Wrapped up in Imhotep's arms, Evie wondered exactly what he was going to do. If it involved murder, she really had to object. Walsh had probably escaped and she wanted to know exactly where he was. The mercenaries might just know where he was heading.
"They're mercenaries! The came with the priest of Seth!"Evie whispered after pulling the large hand away.
"They will regret their sacrilege of the sacred city!"
"No! Don't kill them! We need to find out where the priest went!"
When Imhotep nodded, Evie felt relieved. The sand underfoot did not even whisper as Imhotep faded into the shadows of the temple and stalked his prey. In the unnerving silence, Evie felt strangely vulnerable. It was a pretty foolish feeling for a dead woman to be having but she couldn't help it. Looking down at O'Connell sprawled on the stone floor, Evelyn sighed. He'd probably have a fit when he woke up. Her own feelings on Imhotep's return were rather difficult to accept. When she had been dying, the choice to summon Imhotep had made sense. Crossly, Evelyn resolved never to make important decisions while bleeding to death.
Kneeling down beside O'Connell, Evie rolled him onto his back. Other than a rather large egg that was forming on his head, he seemed to be uninjured. Hesitantly she shook his shoulder and he groaned. His response was encouraging but Evelyn wasn't sure what she could say to him when he woke. 'Oops' probably wasn't going to cut it. Neither would anything else she could think of. Resolute, she shook him again and O'Connell's rather blurry eyes opened.
"Must be dreaming..." O'Connell slurred.
"Sorry to disappoint you but you're not."
"Am I dead?" O'Connell asked blinking hoping he was dead rather than crazy.
"Again, no. Just how hard did you bump your head?"
"Evie, you're dead. I saw that bastard kill you!"
O'Connell was sure he was crazy. He could feel his heart beating and it didn't comfort him at all! Strangely, his delusion was very solid and was giving him a dagger filled look. Pushing himself off the floor, O'Connell winced. His head felt like a camel had sat on it. Hopefully the blow to his head explained what he was seeing. Frowning, O'Connell tried to remember how he'd hit his head. The memory came back with a rather intense rush of adrenaline. In less than ten seconds, he pushed Evie down and had drawn his gun.
"What are you doing?!" Evelyn chided.
"That mummy! He did something to you!"
"O'Connell calm down and talk to me like a civilized human being," Evelyn scolded and stood up beside him.
"Evie, that plague is back and you want me to have a nice little chat!"
"Sit down and be quiet before you draw more mercenaries to us!" Evie growled angrily. "He's gone to get rid of the mercenaries and bring back one for questioning."
"What?! You knew he was here and you're being nice to him again!"
"Well... I did rather summon him," Evelyn said looking abashed and guilty.
Rubbing her temples, Evie wondered whether O'Connell was going to be able to be objective. Of course when talking about O'Connell, his objectiveness at the best of times was a matter of opinion. Even if she hadn't wanted to bring back Imhotep, something had to come from the portal. If she hadn't completed the spell, then the Seth priest would have. Alone, they wouldn't have had a chance at defeating the Seth Spirit. The last moments before the Spirit had been banished were still painfully fresh in her memory. The Med-Jai had barely stalled the creature. They owed their lives to the high priest.
"I had to summon something or Walsh would have brought back the Seth Spirit," Evelyn responded calmly.
"And so you just decided to bright back that homicidal dead guy?" O'Connell sputtered.
"Would you have preferred the Seth Spirit?" Evie asked. "No, I didn't think so."
"You are going to get rid of him, aren't you?"
"I- I don't know if I can. I summoned him with my death and it completed the ritual to make him indestructible," Evelyn replied not sure if she wanted to 'get rid of' Imhotep.
"Evie, what were you thinking!" O'Connell cried in horrified tones.
"I wasn't thinking, O'Connell! I was dying!"
"You did die! Evie, what did he do to you?"
This time Evelyn flushed with a mixture guilt and anger. Finally she simply looked at O'Connell imploringly. This wasn't the ideal way for things to work out. She knew that but she couldn't help what was done. Clearly in her memory, Evelyn could remember threatening O'Connell if she ever did become a mummy. Honestly she wasn't sure if she was a mummy but she wasn't mortal. O'Connell looked both grief stricken, afraid and angry. As much as Evie wanted to sooth him, she couldn't sooth herself let alone someone else. Imhotep would be back soon and she didn't really want to argue with O'Connell anymore.
No matter what happened, she wanted to show a united front. Her heat my have different ideas, but Evelyn wasn't sure if she could trust Imhotep now he was returned and invulnerable. Painfully, Ardeth Bay's words were back to haunt her. What did immortal priests do in their spare time, anyway?
"O'Connell lets not discuss this? I'm alive and that's what matters. There are mercenaries lurking about and I still don't know what happened to Aunt Mae, Jonathan and the others."
"Oh, them. They're safe back with Sean and the workers. I got them out and went back to look for you," O'Connell said softly.
"I'm sorry, Rick. I really am but I thought it was best at the time," Evie replied her heart aching.
"It's alright. I just saw him stab you and-"
"Don't think about it. The Seth Spirit is still damned and I'm fine," Evelyn replied and squeezed his hand.
For a moment they looked at each other with perfect understanding. They may not be in love, but all the tragedy and adventure they had shared had formed a bond. Such a friendship was not to be put aside easily. Even if he would never understand, Evie knew they'd be friends. Smiling a little, Evelyn wondered what Aunt Mae would think. The thought of her aunt put a blush in her cheeks. She doubted her aunt was ready for ancient and admittedly homicidal priests.
"Oh the Book!" Evie cried out remembering.
"The Book! The Book Of Amun Ra! Walsh had it at the altar and I bashed him over the head with it," Evelyn replied.
"I still can't believe you kept those books. You should have thrown them into the ocean or something," O'Connell grumbled.
Before Evelyn could decide if she should find the book or wait for Imhotep, the ancient priest appeared from the far passageway. In his grip, a sniveling man was held tight. The mercenary looked as if the devil himself was after him. Sighing, Evelyn guessed that the mercenary was probably very close to being right. Evelyn moved forward but O'Connell restrained her and stepped in front of her. Rolling her eyes, Evie wondered when he'd become so chivalrous. With a glare to O'Connell she moved forward to the altar. Imhotep fastened the chains around the man with practiced ease. The golden knife was beside the altar and Evelyn picked it up. Twice she had been under it and the last time it had finally claimed her life. As she picked it up, it felt familiar and she tested its weight. This time she'd make sure it wouldn't be aimed at her.
"Where was he hiding?"Evelyn asked.
"They were like rats looking for escape. The fools did not realized that Hamunaptra has lowered for the night. They are all dead except for this one. He was one of their leaders,"Imhotep replied with little respect for the trembling man.
"I shall try questioning him,"Evelyn said.
"Wait, I felt more than tomb robbers within the city, Ehveylyn. Who are these mortals?"
Evelyn realized that there was a great deal that she needed to explain. She really wasn't sure how the high priest would react to her efforts. Hurriedly she described the purpose of her dig as best she could. It was difficult to explain an archaeological dig in the ancient tongue. The ancient priest before her alternatively looked angry, amused and intrigued. Finally his features fell into a calculating expression. For a moment Evie wondered if he was trying to figure out how to dismember her since he couldn't just kill her. Now her actions seemed rash and foolish. What was she thinking when she brought so many people to Hamunaptra? Although she hadn't intended it, it was her fault that Walsh had found the city.
"Even if the people of Egypt turn from their gods, the gods have not forgotten their people. Ehveylyn, it is time that our people remember the old ways."
"You- you're not angry?"Evelyn asked hesitantly. "For me bringing people back to Hamunaptra?"
"It was the Med-Jai that would have this place empty and as cold as the grave. They don't wish to remember the times when our people listened to the gods and were strong."
"Evie, what the hell are you talking about?" O'Connell broke in.
"Imhotep felt the presence of the workers. I was just explaining-"
"Alright, I get the picture," O'Connell said with a smile forestalling one of Evie's famous speeches on the goals of her dig. "Are you going to question that desert rat?"
"Well, I was about to do so..."
"Okay, just remember to ask how the hell they found this place. I was certain the scholars had no idea where they were."
Nodding, Evelyn turned back to the bound man. If felt rather good to have their situations reversed. Being bound helpless waiting for death hadn't been the most pleasant feeling. Of course, she'd feel a whole lot better if it was Walsh strapped to the altar. Realizing she was wool gathering, she glanced at Imhotep. It was obvious that he disliked O'Connell's presence. If Evie could have thought it possible, she'd say that he was jealous. Of course, it couldn't possibly be so.
"Who are you?" Evelyn asked in Arabic.
There was no response and the man tried his best to look stubborn. Sighing, Evelyn realized she'd probably have to threaten him. Already she could hear her aunt tell her that threatening dirty mercenaries wasn't one of the approved things for English gentlewomen to do. It seemed she was doing quite a few things that weren't appropriate for an English gentlewoman lately.
"Do you really want me to leave you to him," Evie asked glancing at the high priest who looked very intimidating indeed.
The man's face cracked for a second and he looked petrified. Whatever Imhotep had done to the others must have been very graphic indeed. Evelyn almost felt guilty for threatening him but she forced herself to remember how the mercenaries had threatened them and even killed Saunders. Scowling, she glared at the man in chains. She couldn't believe she was actually interrogating a prisoner. It was simply barbaric but it was the only thing they could do.
"Tell me how you got here and where Walsh has gone," Evelyn said calmly.
"I- I can't tell you, miss! If I tell you they will cut my tongue out and chop my hands off! I will be fit for nothing more than begging in the streets!"
"Tell my Ehvylyn what she wishes,"Imhotep snarled and the sound of thousands of scarabs began to scratch.
There was no way the man could have known what the priest said, but Evelyn watched as he twitched and jerked on his bonds. He was terrified and Evelyn was beginning to feel a little sick. Tormenting the poor man wasn't something she'd really thought through. Sweat began to pour off of the man and Evelyn laid a hand on Imhotep's shoulder. He looked down at her and slowly the sound of scarabs dulled.
"Tell me and you won't suffer," Evelyn said finding it hard to keep her voice steady.
"Oh miss! The man, he did not say! He spoke to Kaffa in Cairo. Said he could promise us wealth if we helped him. Kaffa was suspicious but thought he could kill the man if he lied."
"How did they find the city?" Evelyn asked suddenly curious.
"The man gave us maps. He got them from the British."
Evelyn realized that somehow Walsh had probably smuggled maps and copies of her deed from the British Governor's office. She had paid a lot of money to cover her tracks with both the Egyptian and the English officials. Obviously she had not been careful enough. Either Walsh had bribed someone or had stolen the papers himself.
"How was he going to escape Hamunaptra after the ritual?"
"Horses. Kaffa had horses waiting for us all. Those creatures attacked us and we had to fight. Then, then the city shook and we could not get out," the man said his voice breaking up as he sobbed.
"Where was he going to go?" Evie asked intently.
"I don't know. Honestly, miss, I don't know!"
"They went to Cairo. He doesn't know where. The leader of the tomb robbers had horses waiting,"Evelyn said in ancient Egyptian to Imhotep.
"We must find him, Ehvylyn. As long as there is a Sethite priest, they will try to free the Spirit."
"That Walsh won't last a minute in the desert. He probably doesn't even know where he was going," O'Connell said having followed the conversation in Arabic.
"I don't know, O'Connell. He managed to fool us, he might know more than we give him credit for," Evelyn replied and then translated for the ancient priest.
"We need to find the Book Of Amun Ra and then we will hunt down this priest,"Imhotep said.
"The Book was in the treasure chamber. The Seth priest set up a temporary altar."
"We shall find it and destroy the altar,"Imhotep replied.
After translating for O'Connell, Evelyn followed Imhotep into the treasure chamber. Seeing the altar, she shivered and the feeling of the sacrificial knife in her chest felt painfully real. Lifting her chin, Evie continued forward to where she had last seen the Book. The feeling of fear grew as she hunted for it. Gold coins were scattered and spotted with blood. Most of it was hers. Gingerly nudging them aside with her foot, she searched for the book. It was possible that during the fight, the Book had been obscured behind them. O'Connell helped her look while Imhotep destroyed the altar and spoke ancient words of power over the remains. Slowly, Evelyn was beginning to admit defeat. It wasn't there. Finally her eyes met those of the ancient priest. Walsh had to be stopped. With the Golden Book, who knew what he could do?
"If that blasphemer has the Book, we must find him,"Imhotep spoke and advanced towards them.
"No, wait. We don't know where he is or where he is going. Even with your powers it would be nearly impossible to find him. He'll probably find the other mercenaries and it will be even more difficult to locate him,"Evelyn replied.
"The priest was trying to return the Seth Spirit to the world of the living. Such a monstrosity can not be allowed,"Imhotep replied.
The Gold Book in the hands of Walsh wasn't something she liked to think of. She guessed he'd return to Cairo but in that warren of a city, they'd never find him. Walsh also thought she was dead and the Book Of The Dead with her corpse. It frightened her to leave Hamunaptra unprotected. Something within her warned against it.
"But that was with the Book Of The Dead,"Evelyn reasoned. "He doesn't have that Book. If he wants the Book Of The Dead, he'll have to return. Besides, my family and everything else I care about is here. We can't leave it unprotected with the mercenaries lurking about."
"Making the serpent come to us may be more dangerous than you foresee, Ehyelyn,"Imhotep cautioned.
"Please? The Seth priest thinks I am dead. He will believe that Hamunaptra is vulnerable,"Evelyn replied holding her breath in expectation.
"This city was ancient when I became high priest. This land is blessed of the gods. I too do not wish to see it desecrated further. The priest must return and we shall hold the city against him,"Imhotep agreed.
"Good! Now all I have to do is introduce you to Aunt Mae,"Evelyn said rather delirious with relief.
Halfway to the worker's quarters, Evelyn realized that her hair was matted with blood and her top was slowly falling to pieces due to the large rip in the front. Self-consciously she tried to straighten her appearance. How could she look commanding and convincing when she literally looked like she'd been to hell and back. She felt like a ragamuffin. Her embarrassment was compounded by the fact Imhotep kept looking at her like she was something to eat. Last time she had checked, she wasn't a sticky bun. O'Connell was beginning to notice as well. It would only get worse when they arrived at Sean's. Aunt Mae would just have a fit- she knew it. How was she going to explain Imhotep or her resurrection? The scholars would think her mad!
Finally Sean's door loomed up and Evie looked at her two companions. They all looked worse for wear but the tension between the two men was going strong. Evelyn knew that O'Connell didn't trust the high priest. She couldn't blame him and she knew that she really ought to agree with O'Connell. Imhotep had harmed a lot of people when he'd last been summoned. Forcing her ethical conundrum from her mind, Evelyn focused on what she was going to say. If Walsh did return, and she truly believed he would, then everyone would have to know the truth. Convincing them would be the problem. The scientific minds of the scholars would not be ready for this and Evelyn knew that they not be receptive to the idea of gods, mummies and magic.
"We ready to go in, Evie?" O'Connell asked noticing her apprehension.
"I don't know. I doubt they will be," Evie said, flashing a smile.
"That's for sure. What are you going to tell them?"
"The truth. If Walsh returns, then they have to know the danger. We don't have time to send them back to Cairo," Evelyn replied sadly.
"Well, get the mummy to do a few tricks and that'll convince them," O'Connell grumbled.
"O'Connell!" Evie reproached.
Although she didn't like it, he had a point. She did doubt, however, that if she asked Imhotep to do a few 'tricks', as O'Connell put it, he'd perform like a trained monkey. Surely there had to be a polite way to ask? Steeling herself for the inevitable fuss, Evie rapped on the door and then entered. All faces turned to her and jaws sagged. The stunned expressions lasted for a few moments as they convinced themselves that she was really standing there. Suddenly she was wrapped up in Aunt Mae's tight embrace and Jonathan quickly joined in too muttering something about his 'little baby sister'. Tears pricked and Evelyn hugged them back. They were so precious to her.
"Evie! I thought you were dead! Oh my little girl, I was so worried! Come home with me from this beastly place," Aunt Mae near wailed.
"You're alive, old mum! I knew it would take more than that to get rid of you!" Jonathan added, his eyes misty.
"I'm fine, really, I'm fine," Evelyn reassured.
Slowly they calmed and pulled away from her. Behind her, both O'Connell and Imhotep silently entered. Taking a deep breath, Evelyn waited. This would be the deciding moment. Her family had their eyes glued on her and Aunt Mae looked as if she'd never give her a moment's peace unless she agreed to return to London. Her aunt would be sadly disappointed. She wouldn't leave Hamunaptra now. There was also the matter of a bargain she'd made with a certain high priest a year ago. Evie was pretty sure her death hadn't voided that agreement since she'd come back.
"I say, who the hell is that?" Montgomery said raucously.
Peeling her family from her, Evelyn turned to regard Montogmery. He looked less certain of himself but he was just as rude as before. What self-confidence she'd managed to gather suddenly deserted her and she felt like a naughty little girl, caught stealing cookies. This really wouldn't be easy. Sean seemed uncertain of what to do and he kept staring at Imhotep. His expression was one of fear melded with uncertainty. Abruptly Evelyn remembered that he could sense magic. Imhotep was a seething mass of magic.
"There's something we need to explain," Evelyn said as clearly as she could.
"Oh god, run Evie! It's the mummy again!" Jonathan broke out as he noticed whom it was standing by the door. "Aunt Mae, I told you I was telling the truth!"
To her amazement, Jonathan scurried to hide behind the Carnarvon matriarch. His expression of fear made Evelyn want to giggle, glad that at least someone would believe her. Beside her, Imhotep stirred and pinned Jonathan with a glare. Obviously he remembered his brother giving the order that 'killed' Anuk-Su-Namun's body. Luckily he hadn't attacked but Evelyn hastily met his eyes with a content laden look. The priest's stony face seemed to harden for a moment and then he almost imperceptibly nodded. Having a homicidal high priest going on the rampage really wasn't the best way to convince the scholars to work together for the greater good.
"Jonathan, do behave! That's part of what we have to tell you," Evie sighed with frustration.
"What are you going on about Ms Carnarvon! Who were those people and weren't you stabbed?" Harris broke in.
"There is something about Hamunaptra that I haven't told you. It is in regards to how I found the city and is pertinent to what has happened today," Evelyn began and glanced at the ancient priest who was watching everyone very carefully.
"You said you'd discovered it by accident!" Montgomery complained.
"Not exactly," Evelyn said.
"I found it by accident when I was with the Foreign Legion," O'Connell interrupted. "We went to find treasure but all we found was death."
There was a strange stillness among the scholars after O'Connell's proclamation. All too clearly they could remember the events of the evening. They probably hadn't experienced death so intimately before. Locked away in the hallowed halls of scholardom, they may have talked about death but always as an abstract concept. Even looking over the ancient dead, they hadn't seen it for the powerful force it was. Evelyn felt her heart jump. She could remember that just as well has they did and perhaps better. She loved Hamunaptra but how much more death could blanket this place? Had she been wrong to excavate the city? Sighing, Evie knew she couldn't accomplish anything by doubting herself.
"O'Connell escaped the Med-Jai that protect the city and I met him in Cairo. He guided us to the city," Evelyn said.
"Us?" Harris questioned.
"Of course! I had to escort my little sister and make sure she did things right! A damned sight lucky too, since I was the one that saved the day," Jonathan broke in.
"Good god! Don't tell me you're going to tell that crazy story, Ms Carnarvon. Your brother I understand to be lacking of wit, but don't expect us to believe such poppycock," Montgomery growled. "So now what, Ms Carnarvon? Are you going to try and convince us that man in the loincloth is the mummy? Please don't insult our intelligence."
"Professor Montogmery, I'm not sure what my brother told you but this is a very serious matter. Dr Walsh killed Saunders and nearly killed me. I have reason to believe that he will return and try again."
Evie realized her words were falling on deaf ears. A few years ago, she would have though she was stark raving mad too. How much had changed! Her worldview had been changed permanently but the men before her didn't have the benefit of her experience. What Montgomery had said had now closed the matter in their eyes. Flicking her gaze over the remaining scholars and her family, Evelyn knew she was out numbered. Without proof there would be little hope in convincing them. Hopefully Imhotep might just be prepared to do a couple 'tricks'. Desperately Evelyn looked at O'Connell. He seemed to be just as angry at the scholars as she was. O'Connell disliked magic and any mention of curses but he'd grown to respect them. If he had accepted magic, then surely there was a way to convince the scholars?
"Sean, you noticed something in the library of Thoth, didn't you?" Evie asked hit by inspiration.
"I- I'm not sure what you mean," Sean stuttered uncharacteristically.
"You felt something there. I did to. You can feel it around him, can't you?" Evelyn said indicating Imhotep.
"It's- it's-! It just so strong!" Sean said with a tinge of fear.
"When I first came to Hamunaptra I triggered a curse," Evelyn said and turned to Imhotep.
"They argue with you, Ehveylyn?"Imhotep asked contemptuous of the assembled group before them.
"I say! That fellow spoke ancient Egyptian," a lackey burst out.
"His name is Imhotep and he was... is the high priest of Osiris. He was cursed with the Hom-Dai," Evelyn replied to the outburst.
"They do not believe in magic or that you are... well who you are,"Evelyn replied to Imhotep. "I don't suppose you could, convince them?"
"If they can no believe, then they shall see,"Imhotep replied and Evelyn wondered what she'd gotten them into.
As if stalking prey, Imhotep advanced upon the scholars. They tried to keep their expressions of jaded boredom but Evelyn could see they could feel the raw power of the man standing before them. For a long second, Imhotep did nothing. His eyes bored into each of the scholars as if daring them to doubt. Suddenly the priest's skin began to ripple. Thousands of round lumps seethed and coursed underneath the skin. Wetly they exploded from his skin and hit the ground. Their black carapaces glittering in the torchlight, they scurried and seethed around Imhotep's feet. White faces filled with disbelief and horror were glued to the high priest. Evelyn felt her own heart beating faster and felt slightly sick to her stomach.
"Believe,"Imhotep said darkly and the scarabs vanished out of sight in his robes.
The scholars began to look green and Evelyn hoped that meant they'd be reasonable. Aunt Mae seemed a little faint and Evie began to feel a little guilty. Sean also looked a little lightheaded. When Imhotep placed his warm hand on her shoulder, Evelyn looked up into his dark eyes. The amusement there took her by surprise. She realized that he'd enjoyed giving them all a scare. Although she couldn't blame him, she did feel like giving him a piece of her mind. He could have done something a little less... horrifying.
"What the hell was that," Montgomery finally spoke in a strangled voice.
"That was the Hom-Dai. Now, there are more important things to discuss," Evelyn said and looked to O'Connell.
"We need to get this city safe and make sure those mercenaries won't get in again," O'Connell said and fingered his gun.
"They're coming back?" Harris asked horrified.
"They want the Book Of The Dead," Evie replied. "Walsh thinks he killed me and that the Book is unguarded."
"What the devil does he want with the damn thing?" Montgomery asked fearfully.
"He wants to make his god- Seth manifest in this world," Evelyn replied matter-of-factly. "A curse was triggered last year and it created the Seth Spirit. That's what he wants to summon again. We almost didn't defeat it and we can't let Walsh bring it back."
Confusion and argument greeted her words. The scholars had seen proof of magic but they hadn't fully accepted it. Jonathan had probably told them some wild story about the first time Imhotep had been returned and Evie didn't have time correct the tale, let alone explain about the Seth Spirit. Slowly the scholars digested the information she'd given them. Most of the lackeys looked bewildered or dazed. Their abrupt introduction to curses had been brutal but her own had been even more harsh. Since there was no way of telling when Walsh would return, every moment counted. They would also need ever person available to help.
"The city is safe for tonight but I want everyone on their toes tomorrow. The Med-Jai need to be told what is going on and there will need to be guards," O'Connell interjected.
"We'll need to excavate the guard towers," Evelyn added.
"The guard towers? Evie, we can't do all of them right away," Sean replied hesitantly.
There were eight towers that were still buried under the sands. Excavating them by hand in the time they had was impossible. Looking at Imhotep, Evelyn frowned in through. They had both agreed to hold the city. The towers were important parts of the city's defense system. The walls that connected them were also mostly covered. Clearing the wall and guard towers hadn't been high on the list of priorities and so they had been left mostly as they were found. The great entrance had been cleared but little else. If the ancient man agreed to use his powers, then the walls and defenses could be cleared in a matter of hours.
"Imhotep, the city walls and guard tower are covered in sand. If we are to hold the city, they must be cleared. Would you help us clear it away tomorrow?"Evie asked.
"The walls can be cleared and I can set the spells and traps that protect the city,"Imhotep replied.
"Traps and spells?"Evie asked a little worried.
"The Chosen of the gods erected spells that would protect the city if ever attacked. No fire will burn the buildings nor can they be simply crushed. Mortal hands and devices shall never destroy the city of the gods. The finest engineers of Egypt helped fortify the city, my Ehvelyn. They have left many defenses,"Imhotep replied.
"We were walking around a booby trapped city?" Montgomery exclaimed and Evie hurried to reassure him remembering that most of the scholars could understand ancient Egyptian.
Slowly plans had been made. At first light, when the city had once again risen to the surface, O'Connell would find Ardeth Bay and his men. They would most likely defend the city but Evelyn dreaded having to explain to Ardeth, how Imhotep had been returned the living yet again. Several debates and even a few all out arguments erupted but things were slowly settled. Most of the scholars were too afraid to really help. They mostly fussed and wished to return to Cairo as soon as possible. It was out of the question, as they neither had the manpower or time to get them back to Cairo. Jonathan had said nothing more and had done his best to fade into the background but Evie knew he too wanted to be as far from the city as he could get. Evelyn had nervously watched Aunt Mae but she seemed as stony faced and hearty as ever. Occasionally she passed Imhotep some cold and disapproving looks. It was obvious that the high priest did not meet her standards for gentlemanly conduct. Evelyn was sure it had something to do with the loincloth. She also guessed that when alone, she would be on the receiving end of one of Aunt Mae's lectures.
"So are we decided?" Evie finally asked and a reluctant murmur of assent greeted her words.
"Just one more thing," O'Connell said. "It shouldn't take me long to find Ardeth and his people but is there any way of sealing the city in the mean time?"
"You mean keep it buried?" Evelyn asked.
"Something like that. I don't like the idea of Walsh circling back and taking us by surprise," O'Connell replied.
"I don't think so. There is only enough air to sustain the number of people we have for a night. Let me just ask."
Turning to Imhotep she met his gaze. For the length of the meeting he had been very quiet. His little display had the scholars looking at him as if he'd grown another head. That seemed to amuse him but Evelyn was unsure. His nature did not let him allow others to lead so willingly. He was a powerful man in his time and yet he had made no disagreement to their plans. Just as she was about to speak, Evelyn remembered the scholars would understand every word she said. In the past using ancient Egyptian had circumvented informing O'Connell and others of things Evelyn didn't want them to know. Now she would have to remember to think before she spoke.
"I need to speak to you privately,"Evelyn finally said and the priest nodded.
O'Connell gave her a puzzled look as they went into Sean's bedroom. Once in the bedroom, Evelyn blushed. Maybe taking Imhotep into the bedroom wasn't such a good idea. Memories flushed through her, reminding her of his touch. His proximity made her catch her breath. The heat of his body and unique scent sent her shivering. Forcing herself to retain her dignity, Evelyn stepped away.
"You've been rather quiet,"Evelyn began.
"You lead those fools as if they were trained hounds. I do not doubt your skill in this matter. In this matter, we think alike. The Sethite must not succeed and together we shall make certain of this,"Imhotep replied and Evelyn blushed.
"Then you agree with our plans?"Evelyn asked.
"Amun-Ra and the other gods will not take lightly the Seth priest's actions. Here on their sacred ground, they shall be with us,"Imhotep said confidently.
"O'Connell has asked whether the city can be rigged to stay under the ground for longer than just a night. Is it possible?"
"It is not. With so many mortals, the sands would send them into the next world."
"What if Walsh returns with more mercenaries before-"
"My Ehveylyn, you have not truly seen the powers the Hom-Dai. When you first awoke me, I was uncertain and weak from my long imprisonment. With the gift of your death, I am at full strength. I will not allow those mercenaries to defile the city,"Imhotep said his eyes filled with darkness.
Evelyn found herself swallowing hard. Half the time she forgot Imhotep had been locked in a coffin for three thousand years. Torment beyond the grave had made their mark upon the priest. She was just glad that his homicidal rage wasn't directed at her or her family and friends. As if sensing her uncertainty, the priest raised his hands to cup her face. His hands gently caressed her cheeks and slowly their eyes met. The possessiveness in them sent shock waves through her. His expression made her insides do strange flops and dives. It was quite foolish but she just couldn't help it.
"Never fear me, my beloved. We are as one and I shall never harm you or yours,"Imhotep murmured.
Softly their lips met and Evie was drowning. The ancient man was like a tidal wave. He swept over everything and you either were destroyed our caught up with him. All of her half-formed resolutions to stop kissing him and to avoid being made a fool of for a second time were brushed aside. Hungry hands slid over her flesh and Evelyn moaned softly as Imhotep's lips traveled down her neck. Not even thoughts of scarabs popping out of his body seemed to deter her own explorations. Pushed down to the narrow bed, Evelyn found herself wonder how she'd stood aching for this for so long.
"Evie!" a voice said from the door.
Abruptly returned to reason, Evelyn gasped at the figure at the door. There was no way to explain this. Imhotep knelt on the floor, her legs wrapped securely around his waist and his robe crumpled on the floor. Evelyn was just glad her own clothing was still in place. Blushing furiously, Evie scurried to sit upright.
"I can explain, Aunt Mae!"
"You- you Casanova! Corrupting my niece!"
Evie watched in shock as her Aunt Mae launched herself at Imhotep and began beating him about the head with her handbag. The high priest looked utterly stunned that the woman would do such a thing. Her mind a flutter, Evelyn tried to think of something to say but she found herself stuttering. With a roar, the high priest sent the bag flying and neatly trapped Aunt Mae. That didn't seem to stop the flood of angry words that Aunt Mae was fairly spitting out in anger and offended proprietary.
"Tell this she-viper to desist, Ehveylyn!"Imhotep ordered.
"She's not a she-viper! That's my Aunt Mae and don't you manhandle her!"Evie replied tugging at his arms that might as well have been stone.
Abruptly, Imhotep loosed his grip on Aunt Mae and stepped back. The older woman quite exhausted from her struggles glared at him and gathered Evie protectively close. Evelyn groaned and wondered what she was going to tell her aunt. This wasn't going to be easily explained. She just hoped that the others hadn't heard the ruckus.
"Aunt Mae, what are you doing?" Evie asked still horrified she'd attack Imhotep.
"Saving you from that debaucher! You're so young and nieve, Evie. Don't let him take advantage of you," Aunt Mae said shaking with indignation and looking for all the world like she would attack again.
"What is she saying, Ehveylyn?"Imhotep asked glaring at the older woman.
"She thinks you're taking advantage of me!"Evelyn replied not sure if her Aunt was right or not.
"Tell her you are mine and shall be for the end of time!"
"Excuse me! I'm not some- some harlot that you can have whenever suits you,"Evie retorted her pride flaring.
"You promised yourself to me, Ehveylyn. Do you try to break that promise? I could feel your desire. You were not unwilling,"Imhotep said moving closer.
"I never said that but I am not a loose woman!"Evelyn snapped.
Comprehension dawned on the ancient high priest's face. Evelyn blushed and wondered if she should have just shut up. O'Connell thought she talked too much and Evie was beginning to agree. The large grin on Imhotep's face only made her blush harder. Aunt Mae seemed offended again and Evelyn had to restrain her from leaping again. The whole situation was getting out of hand and Evie wished she could just vanish.
"Our souls are joined together. Isis herself has blessed this union. We need no further vows,"Imhotep said his voice smooth and seductive.
"Evie what did he say?!" Aunt Mae asked sharply, observing her niece's expression soften.
"Aunt Mae, I think there are few things I need to tell you," Evie said a little dreamily.
Again her eyes met those of the man before her. The ache of desire was softened by deeper emotions. They made her heart contract and Evelyn couldn't help but feel a little dizzy. No one had ever looked at her like that before. His words had meant more to her than she knew he expected. Evelyn didn't know what he had done to return her to life, but obviously it was something pretty big. Strangely, she could feel whatever it was that was between them. Maybe it was just left over currents of magic but it was there.
"I believe you,"Evelyn replied shyly. "I believe you but my aunt does not understand. Would you let me speak to my aunt alone? She is very concerned."
"I shall watch over those fools outside,"Imhotep said gently and brushed his lips against hers before he left.
"Oh Evie! The nerve of that man!"
"Please calm down, Aunt Mae. It's more complex than that," Evie replied awkwardly.
"What are you talking about? I saw him taking advantage!"
"Re-remember when we had that talk earlier?" Evelyn asked horribly embarrassed. "Imhotep was the one I was talking about."
"That- that barbarian! Oh Evie, even for you, that's just going a little too far! He isn't suitable at all for a lady of your breeding!"
"What do you mean? He was the Pharaoh's brother! He was going to *be* the Pharaoh except he became High Priest of all Egypt," Evelyn retorted defensively.
"He's not even human! Evie, I know you think you love him but really, it would be for the best if you just forgot about him," Aunt Mae replied her eyes wide with shock.
Astonishment numbed her. Evelyn couldn't believe what she was hearing but it was all too clear. Mentally she rebuked herself to hoping her aunt wouldn't mind. Of course she was going to mind! Aunt Mae had burst in on her doing all sorts of improper things with a loincloth clad maniac who was technically dead. Flushing with a mixture of embarrassment and anger, Evie straightened her spine. Even if O'Connell, Ardeth Bay and now Aunt Mae were right about the ancient priest, she had given a promise. As much as Evie wished it was a matter of simple honor, her heart stridently proclaimed otherwise. The look in Imhotep had in his eyes might just suggest he felt the same way.
"Aunt Mae, I don't care what you think!" Evie replied triumphantly. "You don't know what is going on."
A long moment passed before the matriarch of the Carnavon clan sat down abruptly on the bed. Evie wondered if she had finally gone too far. She had been truthful but that didn't mean Aunt Mae was going to accept it. For the last year she had pushed aside what had happened when the Seth Spirit had been banished hoping she could ignore the hurt and pain. With Imhotep returned, her doubts and fears hadn't gone but they might be resolved. Evelyn wouldn't throw that chance away. If what Imhotep had said about their souls being joined and her being immortal, she had to get used to his presence anyway. They'd be stuck together for a long time.
The anxiety she felt about her new 'life' was still very strong. Evie knew at the soonest chance she would try to work out what had been done to her. The bond she felt with the ancient priest and the particulars of her return to life were puzzles that simply had to be solved for her peace of mind. Coming to terms with her new longer than average life span would also take some getting used to. Although those complexities were urgent, the Seth priest's eventual return was more so.
Looking down at her aunt, Evelyn felt a wave of compassion. Aunt Mae looked totally lost. It really wasn't surprising she was so upset. Seeing Saunders murdered and then her own brush with death would scare anybody, even if they were her Aunt Mae. Then finding out about magic and Imhotep would be enough to make anyone hysterical. So far her aunt had shown a great deal of self-restraint. Most women of her age and breeding would be fainted on the floor or hysterical. Of course, the Carnarvon clan had always known Aunt Mae was made of stern stuff. That she did admire. Gently, Evie sat down beside her aunt and took her hand. Aunt Mae looked down at their twined hands and sighed.
"I suppose you are going to be stubborn about this," Aunt Mae sniffed. "If I supposedly don't understand, then why don't you enlighten this old lady?"
"I died, Aunt Mae."
"You what? That's impossible, you're perfectly fine!" Aunt Mae replied looking at her as if she was mad.
"No, it's not," Evelyn said with a small smile. "I did die, Aunt Mae and Imhotep returned me to life by binding our souls. He did that because I had promised myself to him in return for his help fighting against the Seth Spirit. It was his help that allowed us to defeat it."
"Evie, I've listened to what you've said and it's as fantastical as the one your brother kept trying to convince me of. I'm not sure if I accept all of it but I've seen what that... creature is. One thing is for sure is that you shouldn't have to honor such a promise to give yourself to him. It's simply out of the question. Not to mention uncivilized!"
"Aunt Mae, I gave my word. I'm not going to go back on it!"
"Blast! I only wish your brother had some of your sense of honor. I don't like it, Evie! I'm going to do all I can make sure that *man* stays away from you!"
Clear before her, Evelyn could see her doom. Hours spent chaperoned by her aunt punctuated with ladylike conversation. If she was very lucky she might be allowed to bathe alone. Maybe other ladies of her 'station' enjoyed that kind of life, but not her! Evelyn Carnarvon was a modern woman who enjoyed her independence. She was meant for adventure on archaeological digs not cocktail parties! It was enough to make Evie want to take a leaf from her brother's book and get smashingly drunk. Aunt Mae's stubborn gaze told her there would be no discussion. Swallowing hard, she squeezed her aunt's hand and stood up.
"I can't change your mind but I do have to try and keep this city safe," Evie stated.
Protests followed her as Evelyn made a quick exit. In the main room, O'Connell was arguing with Imhotep with Harris trying to translate. Harris was having difficulties with the rather inventive profanity that O'Connell was capable. Most of what O'Connell was saying probably wasn't even translatable into ancient Egyptian. Imhotep seemed to be getting the gist and was replying with more than a few creative curses of his own. Evelyn was just glad they weren't the magical kind. Realizing that the two men were about to move from verbal to physical battle, she quickly moved between them and gave them both school ma'am looks. Gratifyingly they both backed down and looked ashamed.
"O'Connell what are you doing?"
"This goddamn bastard thinks he's going to summon more mummies!"
"Is it true? Are you going to raise more undead?"Evie asked aghast.
"The priest of Seth will not return unaided. His soldiers are the least of the danger. The priest could summon the wrath of Seth himself,"Imhotep replied.
"Why didn't you mention this earlier and what kind of things could he summon. He doesn't have the Book Of The Dead. The Book Of Amun-Ra doesn't contain those kinds of things,"Evelyn replied quickly.
"He will not need it. His god will provide him with the power. The preserved remains of my priests and followers will be able to withstand much of what the Sethite will call,"Imhotep explained calmly.
Her memories of the priests Imhotep had called before weren't good ones. They were truly frightening and Evelyn didn't like the idea of having them run around. Imhotep could control them but how much? Maybe her heart was being rebellious but the idea of the ancient priest gaining more power disturbed her. From experience, Evelyn knew that power could go to someone's head. A repeat of the first time Imhotep had awoken was not something she would ever look forward to. Folding her arms across her stomach, Evie tried to think calmly. Her thoughts were riding the back of fear and she was being foolish. She had to take one step at a time.
It was obvious that Seth would grant his priest whatever powers he could. Evie didn't know much about gods, but it seemed Seth had everything to gain. With the Seth Spirit banished, the powers would be reduced but it was still the power of a god. Could Imhotep truly stand against a god? Against the Seth Spirit, he had only been able to stall it before Amun-Ra had intervened. Swallowing down the emotions that rose from remembering those events, Evelyn made her decision.
"Very well,"Evie replied. "But only at last resort."
"What!? Evie, you didn't just agree did you?" O'Connell cried out as Harris translated.
"It's our only chance. Walsh could summon the powers of a god! We couldn't survive that! Imhotep will only summon his mummies at a last resort," Evie argued.
O'Connell shook his head and Evie realized that he thought she had gone insane. She didn't feel insane, but if you were did you feel different? Rubbing her temples, she realized nothing more could be accomplished before they all had some rest. Her neck and back were painful with tension. Her mind felt as if it was cluttered with thoughts that chased their tails. Although she didn't feel tired, Evelyn craved the release that dreams and sleep would give her. Dwelling on Walsh and the Books was futile. Imhotep was another problem she didn't wish to consider for the moment. The others looked haggard and exhausted. Sean looked thoroughly spooked and Evelyn realized she still hadn't explained to him why he was sensing magic. That was yet another thing she just couldn't handle. Even a stiff British upper lip didn't conquer all.
"We better get some rest. Tomorrow we'll begin the preparations," Evie said and then translated into ancient Egyptian.
A mumbled agreement greeted her ears and in groups the scholars and lackeys left. O'Connell even left his expression troubled and even slightly angry. Their argument hadn't been hot but Evie knew that he wasn't pleased with her. Obviously he had made a quick exit as to avoid further argument. Evie almost felt like kissing him in gratitude. Taking Imhotep's side had hurt O'Connell but Evelyn couldn't see any other solution. Finally Sean's room was empty except for Imhotep, herself and her family. Strangely, Evie found herself nearly in tears. She had almost lost them and herself. If Walsh hadn't been driven off, even now the Seth Spirit would be on the rampage. Tearfully, she embraced first Jonathan and then her aunt. Over her brother's shoulder, Imhotep nodded to her and disappeared in a cloud of sand. Linking her arms around them, Evelyn walked with her family back to her rooms.