*Standard warnings. The characters you recognize, obviously, aren't mine. The ones you don't are. I'm not making money off of this (making it much like my job). I'm just having fun (Unlike my job). If you like it, hate it, whatever, drop me a line @ mirawesting@yahoo.com




The Link
By Mira Westing






1925

The wizened old man shook and shuttered, his entire body convulsing in waves as intense and random as his seemingly crazed ravings. Outside the large tent, people paused briefly to listen to the words of the mad man. But inside, the listening was much more focused. Three men, two sitting, one standing, all wearing head to toe black and marked with strange ancient tattoos, had watched the old man all through the night and half of the day waiting for something - anything - he said to connect with reality. The patience of the watchers was gradually wearing thin. They were warriors, inaction did not become them.

One of the seated warriors, a handsome man of no more than twenty years, turned to his leader. "Ardeth how long will we wait?"

Ardeth Bay, still young himself but the most patient of the trio. was leaning heavily against a tent pole, his head cocked thoughtfully to one side. He studied his third in command. Imam was a good soldier but needed a bit of seasoning before he'd be a great Med-jai. "We will wait as long as we must."

The words of his leader should have silenced Imam but prudence, unfortunately, was one of the qualities time had yet to grant the young warrior. "Why should we believe anything this crazy vagrant says? He is not even of our tribe. We waste our time here."

Before Ardeth cold formulate an appropriate reply, one simultaneously reproachful and tolerant, Hussam, the third of their number, broke in, "This man is a prophet. We disregarded his words when he predicted Imhotep's return. The mistake almost led to eternal damnation. We would not repeat such a folly."

For all his shortcomings, Imam had great potential. He was a quick learner. If he had any further thoughts on the matter, he held his tongue.

His discretion was fortunate as the prophet chose that exact moment to burst into another long string of gibberish. This time, however, his ranting was punctuated by one distinguishable word. Med-jai.

Hussam and Imam both tensened. Ardeth took a step forward. "What about the Med-jai, Old Man?"

The prophet's eyes were vacant yet he, or some higher power, answered Ardeth's question. "A great Med-jai warrior will marry a foreigner. A white woman."

Ardeth raised his eyebrows. A Med-jai marry a white woman? Perhaps Imam was right and the old man was simply insane. The Med-jai did not even take brides from other tribes as was common among other desert people. Still, to not at least examine the possibility would be reckless of him. "This marriage concerns us how?"

"Daughters."

"Daughters?"

"The power is within the girl child of this union."

"What power?" Hussam prodded gently. "The power to raise the creature again?"

The eruption of laughter that bubbled forth from the old man sent chills down Ardeth's spine. "That and more, my child. Much, much more."

"More?" How much more was needed? How many times over would a person need to destroy the world?

"It has been waiting."

"For what?"

"Good. Evil. It is not that easy, Young Bay." Suddenly, and for the first time, the old man looked up. Directly in Ardeth's eyes. "Her test is your test, Med-jai. And you will fail it. You will fail again."

"Why tell me if the cause is already lost?" Fail 'again'? When had he failed. Imhotep was in his eternal grave. Defeated. That was no failure.

Again, the look, so steady, so clear. "Pray that she is stronger."

Two hours later, having said not one word more, the old man who's name Ardeth had never learned died in the Med-jai chief's tent. Ardeth sent Imam away with the body.

"A Med-jai and a foreign woman?" Hussam's tone was measured. "How man white women have you even seen, Ardeth?"

"In Cairo, many."

"How man have you spoken with?"

"Only one. Evelyn Carnahan."

"And you have more contact with the outside world than any in our number." Hussam`` paused and took a measured breath. Ardeth had been his friend long before becoming his leader. If any man could question the Med-jai chief, it was Hussam. "Would *you* marry a white woman?"

"Of course not." The answer required no thought, no hesitation.

"Then perhaps Imam was correct and we should put little stock in this...prediction."

Ardeth studied his oldest and closest friend and, slowly, nodded. "You are right. Let us keep his words in mind but not take them to heart." He paused. "No one need know of this."

Hussam nodded and left his leader's tent. Outside the desert wind picked up and began to howl. It would be a busy night. Ardeth shrugged off the lingering feeling of unease, certainly a product of being identified so personally in the 'prophecy', and started for the tent flap. He was the leader of the Med-jai and duty called.