CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR PTOLEMY'S GATE!
IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THAT, STOP READING AND GO BACK NOW!
Disclaimer: So not mine. Seriously. I'm not the illustrious Mr. Stroud in disguise or anything. I'm just a fan, doing what fans do best... and showing the world that 'fan' really is short for 'fanatic' ;)
A/N: My first Bartimaeus fic... Kinda hard to believe, since I've been a huge fan of the books since AoS first came out several years ago. I've read the first book 4 or 5 times, the second one 3 or 4 times, and the third one almost twice (once to myself, and then once more reading aloud to my mother whenever she and I went driving over Christmas break in 2005. However, she kept sneaking off and reading it herself when she couldn't wait for us to go run errands to find out what happened next.)
So yah... My first fic, even though I should have been writing this stuff quite a while ago... /Sigh/ Ah well...
To quote a certain all-powerful djinni: "Here we go-o-o!"
Bartimaeus fiction by Jezunya
Chapter 1 – White Shores
shores are calling
You and I will meet again
And you'll be here, in my arms,
"Into the West" by Annie Lennox
The first thing I became aware of was the blinding white light shooting right into my eyes. Or, you know, shooting somewhere. I didn't currently have any eyes, and I didn't feel much compelled to rectify that at the moment. My essence shrank in on itself, looking like a splotch of dirty dish water trying to curl up and go back to sleep.
There was light all around me, but not the kind of swirling, drifting colored light that would have meant I was back Home. No, this was a distinctly Earth-like light, and the sharp pain stabbing through my essence only sealed the deal. I must have been on Earth, and I had been unconscious for some reason.
Something touched me then and I recoiled sharply. The touch was gentle, like someone soothing a rattled cat, but it was unexpected too. I didn't know where I was, I couldn't remember who'd summoned me, and something had knocked me out in the fairly recent past. Best to let instincts handle this sort of situation.
But then, suddenly, a voice.
A voice I knew.
I shot up, taking in my surroundings as best my muddled essence could. A face swam into view, smiling at me. Browned skin, dark hair, scrawny limbs...
I addressed the situation with my usual eloquence and poise.
"I... uh... wha..?"
His smile turned into a grin. "It is good to see you again, my friend."
I frowned, then decided to actually take a form so that I could frown. I became a sleek miniature panther, house-cat sized but still strong and deadly. My eyes were clenched shut against the ache in my head. "What do you mean 'again'? Have I been away..?" I shook my head slightly, trying to remember. Something about silver, maybe a spear...
Ptolemy's face turned solemn, his eyes sad. "No. But I have." Then he smiled again, though his eyes remained sad. "But now you're here. You don't have to worry anymore."
I squinted at him, pursing my cat-lips in a tight scowl. "What are you talking about? Are we not in Egypt?"
Ptolemy opened his mouth to respond, smiling wistfully again, but was cut off by a rather unpleasant snort from somewhere off to his left. He turned to look that way, his gaze slightly reproachful and exasperated. "He's only just woken up. It's only reasonable that he'd be a little disoriented," he said tetchily to whoever the snorter was.
"Forgetting the last two thousand years of his life is a bit more than 'a little disoriented.'"
That voice. That voice! I hadn't the foggiest idea who it belonged to, but I didn't like it. I seemed to remember it booming all around me, the sensation of being tied up inside a loudspeaker...
The mini-panther finally swiveled to face the newcomer. Hey, I was just a bit disoriented after... whatever had happened to me... I was still trying to remember how to maneuver my form around.
The sight that met me was both confusing and disheartening. My stomach plummeted to the ground. Literally.
"Oh, pick that up," Nathaniel said crossly, wrinkling his nose like an offended pig. "And stop with all the dramatics, it's not helping you any."
I sneered at him but stuck out a paw to absorb the organ back in with the rest of my essence. "What are you doing here, anyway?" I asked, the cat's yellow eyes switching between him and the distinctly darker boy beside him. "You don't belong here in Egypt!" A thought struck me, my memories starting to come back into focus. "Hey- you haven't even been born yet!"
Nathaniel rolled his eyes and Ptolemy sighed lightly. "We are not in Egypt, my friend," he said softly, "and nor are we in London."
"Well, obviously." I looked around at the landscape beyond the two humans. We were on a white beach, me sitting on my panther haunches, they both kneeling in the sand in front of me. Crystal clear water lapped gently on the shore at my back, while behind the two boys a forest of palm and other tropical trees swayed in the light breeze. Yup, definitely not London.
"Do you even remember what happened to you?" Nathaniel asked suddenly, rising up onto his heels to lean forward slightly. He was watching me intently, his brows knit in concentration. Apparently, he was thinking very hard.
"Don't hurt yourself," I said, while trying to piece together the memories that continued to elude me. Things were slowly starting to fall into place again – Ptolemy coming to the Other Place; his death not long after; the next two thousand years of servitude off-and-on, with masters who were much more like the average magician than Ptolemy had been; and then, after a few years of being left to myself, being summoned by a scrawny, pale little kid in a second-rate house in London. Nathaniel.
The next five years after that flashed before me, all the way up to...
"Hey!" I spun back around to face the gawky pale kid. Unconsciously, I'd started pacing like all cats do. "You're supposed to be dead!"
"As am I, Bartimaeus," Ptolemy's soft voice broke in, cutting off whatever retort Nathaniel was screwing up his face to make.
I stopped, my muzzle closing with a snap. The cat turned burning yellow eyes on the Egyptian boy. "Does that mean you're not?" I asked softly. Most people would have thought the tone was quiet and deadly. Ptolemy, however, recognized it as one of strangled hope, if the small smile he gave me was anything to go by.
He shook his head, that wistful grin once again on his face. "I have passed out of the mortal world, my friend. As has Nathaniel." And was I getting too optimistic, or was there a slight note of dislike in his voice when he talked about dear Natty boy?
There was a moment of silence in which I stopped sniggering to myself and realized what Ptolemy had said. They were both dead. Yet they were both sitting right in front of me, talking like nothing had happened. Which made me...
"Wait- if you're both dead, how have you come down here to talk to me?"
"We haven't gone anywhere, Bartimaeus," Ptolemy said patiently. "It is you who has come to us."
"What does that-"
"Oh for the love of-!" Nathaniel suddenly exploded, throwing up his hands. "Would you stop being so difficult and listen to what we're saying! You're dead! Nothing else to it! Dead!"
I admit it – he'd shocked me. I was speechless. Me! Speechless!
And if Nathaniel had left me wordless, Ptolemy knocked the air right out of my lungs by quietly confirming the Brit's assertion. "I think that could have been handled a bit more delicately," he said, slanting a rather peeved look at Nathaniel. The English boy just shrugged, looking away at the swaying palm trees.
"You don't- I mean, I'm not- You can't be serious!" The panther leapt to its feet, legs stiff and fur standing on end.
Ptolemy nodded sadly. There was no wistful smile now. "You were killed, only a few moments ago, protecting your master." He smiled sardonically then, "Well, perhaps 'master' isn't the right term for her."
I blinked. Her who? A face flashed before my eyes, lined and withered, grey roots just beginning to show past the dyed-brown of the rest of her hair. It was a human face, young and blazing with a powerful aura beneath the damage done by her visit to the Other Place...
I jerked out of my musings.
A/N: Whoo! First chapter!
A Note on the Song Lyrics: The song "Into the West" (by Annie Lennox, written and recorded for Peter Jackson's movie of "The Return of the King") has very special meaning to me. It was sung at a dear friend's funeral a year or two ago. She was a beautiful, wonderful person who died at the young age of 16. She was a huge Lord of the Rings fan and the song is, in many ways, about death and knowing that it's not the end of the world and certainly not the end of the person you love. It was very beautiful and very appropriate at her funeral.
My friend didn't ever read the Bartimaeus books (at least not to my knowledge) but I think she would have enjoyed them. She was literally like a modern-day girl version of Ptolemy, from her quirky yet quietly strong personality to her small, almost sickly stature. Perhaps because of this, "Into the West" has since become Ptolemy and Bartimaeus' theme song in my mind. Sometimes it's Bartimaeus saying the words to Ptolemy, and other times it's Ptolemy singing these reassurances to our beloved djinni. But it is always about the moments when Ptolemy is dying and always about not being scared of that and knowing you don't have to let go.
So that's the deal with the song... I'll probably have more of these lyrics in later chapters, but they're not a required thing, and they won't be in order. The ones in this chapter were taken from right in the middle of the song.
Anyway, I hope you liked this. Stay tuned for more!