Part Two/Chapter Two - Interim




The night Audrey El-Fadir began her long journey, Ardeth began to dream of her. During the day, there was not a moment that Audrey was far from his mind. At night, he was bound to her by a thread as strong and deep as any bond he'd held in his life. He was consumed by the thought of her, so very real to him in sleep. Although she was thousands of miles across the sea, Ardeth felt her presence as keenly as she were but a breath away. His guilt ate at him. But the dreams were more profound than the conscience of one remorseful man.

What more, he could not say.

* * * * * * * *

She walked towards him, her face held a earnest kind of concentration. Audrey, her blonde head cocked thoughtfully to one side, was not the Audrey Ardeth had known. Her face was softer, darker, older. She was a woman, not a girl. Feminine, intriguing, but very subtle in her beauty. The sun shone behind her, setting her hair ablaze with light. This sun...A strangely familiar sun.

The Thebes sun.

Yes, this was Thebes. Ancient city, holy city. And Audrey lived here. As easily, as fully as she had lived in the twentieth century London, she lived in Thebes three thousand years before. As did he. He stood in the street, listening to city-type noises, feeling at ease in his surroundings. He had been here, in this city, his entire life. He was not Ardeth Bay.

He watched Audrey as he had a hundred times before: covertly. She listened intently to her companion. Try as he might, the Med-jai could not make out the features of Audrey's companion. A man. Tall, well-built, wearing colorful robes. He was not afraid of this man, only wary. Smart men, Med-jai, were all cautious where the tall man was concerned.

But Audrey had no hesitation, no trepidation in his presence.

Ardeth watched through another man's eyes, feeling this ancient's emotions as though they were his own. There was immense fondness for Audrey and...sadness in the face of her unattainable person. Ardeth strove to see the man she regarded with warmth as she drew closer. But the sun that illuminated her, hid him. He strained eyes that were not his own for the details he knew were important. Imperative.

The dream began to fade. Ardeth struggled to hold it. He must know the identity of Audrey's companion. A haze descended, blotting out the sun, evaporating the dream itself. But as the sun light dwindled, Ardeth caught one last glance. He stared in horror at the familiar features of the man who put a loving, protective arm around Audrey's shoulders.

Imhotep.

* * * * * * * * * * *


He rolled over in bed to find her in his arms. This was not a surprise. She had spent many nights in this very position. Moreover, it was where she belonged. Where they belonged together. He pulled her closer, reveling in the intimate lethargy of early morning which they were far too seldom afforded. There were duties: his hers, their's. But, this morning, if only for a short while, they could wait.

Sleepily, she tossed her head, sending long blonde hair over his shoulder, across his face. He smoothed it away. This hair, so unlike anything he'd seen before her. It was her mother's legacy although she'd never known the foreign woman who'd borne her. There was, truly, very little of her father in her. Her strong will, her ferocious heart, perhaps, but nothing substantial in her appearance. He was rather glad of that.

The sun had yet to peak over the horizon but he would have to go very soon. The chill in the desert air was the only thing still keeping him in bed. The chill, and the woman. He nuzzled her neck, not wanting to wake her too quickly. She sighed in her sleep. Smiling, he decided to give her a few minutes longer. There had been few moments like this in their time together. Truth be told, they were not yet completely safe. Soon but not yet. He found he could hardly muster the negativity to feel fear in the face of that fact. Whatever had come before, this -this moment, this woman- was his reward. This and the child.

It was then that he heard the noises in the corridor. He propped himself on his elbow in concern. The servant would not have let anyone so near the master suite without an announcement. The double doors of the room burst open as Med-jai, at least twenty strong, swarmed in. His fellow Med-jai. The cold, consuming fear hit him then. He knew full-well why they'd come.

These men, these Med-jai, had come to take his wife from him.

****************************************************

Ardeth sat bolt upright in bed, his hand reaching for his scimitar, fear and anger sizzling through his heart. They would *not* take his wife....

Slowly reality dawned. He had no wife. Audrey was nothing more than the daughter of a close friend. And if anyone was to be blamed for her kidnapping, it would be Ardeth himself. He sunk back into a reclining position but the vice of his tense muscles did not relax. These dreams were becoming too real. He hardly slept at all any more. Audrey El-Fadir had been gone for a little over five months and Ardeth's shame was drawing him into the abyss. He could not forgive himself for his actions. As well-intentioned as he had been, he doubted the decency of what he had done.

Both Roslyn and Saeed El-Fadir seemed empty shells of themselves. Now that Saeed had explained the curse to his wife, they both understood the necessity of Audrey's absence, in theory, but could not adjust to the reality of a life without their youngest. Inside the compound they cloistered themselves away from the world, quietly trying not to speak of their absent daughter too often. The house seemed deathly quiet, unendingly sad. Truthfully, Ardeth doubted that Saeed's marriage would be able to weather the situation.

More than that, the dreams agitated Ardeth. Something in their inexplicable nature rang true to him. Could it be that his life was already intertwined with Audrey before he'd met her - before either of them had been born? If so, did that mean that his involvement with Imhotep was deeper than that of a Med-jai chief avowed to keep the evil priest from rising? Had they known each other in another life?

Had Ardeth betrayed the Med-jai?

There was no other explanation for an occasion that would bring the Med-jai, the pharaoh's distinguished bodyguards into his home. The willingness he'd shown to engage in combat with his fellow guards indicated that, in that life, Ardeth's loyalties had been misplaced. The thought distressed him.

One thing was clear, though, the Truthsayer had been right. Audrey was the key. He could only hope that he'd sent her far enough away.