*********Important Note!!! We will be posting two versions of the end of Rite of Passage. Chapter 25 Original Ending: Souls Divided, and Chapter 25 Alternate Ending: Home at Last. The original ending is the ending you should read if you want the story to lead into the movies. The Alternate Ending is the one that you should read if you are interested in the rest of the series Rina and I have written. The Med-jai Chronicles, while mildly Alternate Universe from the Mummy movies, does span seven stories currently, most of which are finished. Whichever you choose, we hope you have enjoyed the journey of the boys in their Rite of Passage.

Disclaimer: Any characters you recognize do not belong to the authors. Some of the ideas were inspired by Xanthia Morgan's wonderful fic, Brother of My Soul.

Archiving: Please ask first!

Chapter 26: Home At Last (Alternate Ending)

Rick stared into Suleimon's eyes with his own, eyes that were filled with confusion, hurt, and anger. "I don't care," he breathed. "This is all that matters to me."

"I am so sorry, Rick," Suleimon whispered, hugging the boy tightly to his chest. "Someday, I pray you will understand and forgive me." The man closed his eyes and kissed Rick's forehead, about to invoke the memory spell.

"Stop!" a breathless voice ordered, and an old lady dressed in Med-jai blue burst into the room. "Suleimon, do not cast that spell!"

"Grandmother!" Ardeth called from where Terrence had him pinned, and pleaded with the old lady to stop what was happening in a mix of languages, too upset to stick with just one.

Suleimon, startled by the interruption, turned towards his mother. He was surprised by her interference. After a second, he found his voice again. "Mother? What is the meaning of this?" the king asked confused, though he was only mildly surprised that she had knowledge of what was transpiring in the room without being told. For as long as Suleimon could remember, Savath seemed to instinctively know somehow what was guarded as most secret.

"Let go of my grandchild at once, Terrence!" the lady ordered and pulled Ardeth close to herself, stilling his shaking whispers with a gentle hug. Her burning eyes turned to Suleimon. "I have seen the future, my son, and if you continue in this course, it will be terrible. While these boys will go through a great deal, if they have each other they will only be strengthened. But if you separate them this soon after they met and formed a bond, they will be shattered. Do not do this to your son or to your people, Suleimon."

Suleimon looked between Ardeth and Rick, then back at his mother. "They both have a great destiny before them," he said slowly. "You are certain that this will not endanger them or their purpose?" he asked her, his eyes never leaving hers.

Rick was trembling, casting back and forth between Ardeth's grandmother and Suleimon who still held him.

"My king, I speak the truth. This bond between them will only give them strength through what they must endure to be ready for their destiny. You know what they will face—I know what they must go through in order to face it." The old woman stepped forward, keeping Ardeth in the circle of her arms, and rested a hand on Suleimon's arm. "It will work out, my son—my king."

Rick held his breath, silently pleading with the king to agree with Ardeth's grandmother. Glancing over at Ardeth, his deep blue eyes could see his own fears and hopes reflected in the prince's dark brown ones. The silence in that moment was agonizing.

Suleimon looked down considering the woman's words. It seemed an eternity before he spoke again. "Very well, Savath." The king closed his eyes as if he were as much relieved by this fact as the boys were.

Rick tried to get his breathing and heartbeat to slow once he had registered Suleimon's words. He looked at Savath, his eyes conveying his gratitude. He knew he would never be able to repay her for her influence on his behalf that night, but he would sure try. Then much to his surprise and momentary alarm, the king's arms around him tightened. His panic went down though when he realized the king was only embracing him.

After a moment, Suleimon let go of Rick and turned away. His long legs easily carried him out the door before anyone could say anything else. Savath sighed heavily and turned to look at her grandson and his new brother. "Go after your father, Ardeth, my child. He believes that you will hate him for what he was about to do."

"Yes, Grandmother," the boy whispered and met Rick's eyes, silently asking if the older boy would be all right if left alone for a little while.

Rick nodded, still a little shaken by all that had happened, but assuring Ardeth that he would be alright.

Ardeth hurried after his father, knowing immediately that Suleimon was going to the private garden attached to the king's personal chambers. It was where the memorial for Ardeth's mother was.

When he found Suleimon, the king was on his knees before the ornate statue in the likeness of the late queen, his forehead leaning heavily against the stone, his shoulders shuddering slightly.

Taking a deep breath, Ardeth pushed aside his own hurt and confusion about what had just happened and knelt next to Suleimon. He made certain the king was aware of his presence, then leaned against Suleimon's side. "Father?"

Suleimon's eyes glistened, but he found he could not look at his son just yet. After a moment, he breathed deeply trying to compose himself. "Will you be able to forgive me for what I had been going to do?" he asked finally the question that tore at his heart. He loved his son dearer than life. And the idea that he might lose him by his own actions tore more painfully at his heart than anything else.

"Of course, I will forgive you, Father. You were doing what was the best option for everyone that you knew of." Ardeth swallowed hard. "Will you forgive me, my king, for not obeying you?"

"Oh, Ardeth," Suleimon whispered, the tears rolling down his face as he finally turned towards his son pulling him into his arms, wrapping them tightly around him. "There is nothing to forgive. You were protecting him, as he protects you, as you both do for each other. This is your path, your destiny, though I fear it is wrought with peril and much pain."

Ardeth rested his head against Suleimon's chest, listening to the man's heartbeat. "There are so many events colliding right now, and futures are changing rapidly. Can you feel the twists in the air, Father? Savath has never led us wrong before—she will guide us now."

Suleimon closed his eyes, taking comfort in his son's wisdom. "Yes, she will." He pulled back to look into the boy's dark eyes. "I love you, my son. Please know that, no matter what happens, that will never change!"

"I love you, Father," Ardeth whispered back, smiling at the king.

The king smiled and kissed his son's forehead, pulling the boy back to himself and holding him there a while longer.

After several minutes, Ardeth pulled back a little. "I left Rick alone with Savath and Uncle Terrence. We should probably go rescue him."

Suleimon laughed at this but nodded and followed Ardeth back to the room.

Ardeth kept a hold of Suleimon's hand as they walked, knowing how much his father needed the reassurance that he was right there.

Rick was still sitting on the couch where they had left him when they made it back to the room, kicking his feet nervously. He shifted uncomfortably as eyes drifted occasionally to rest on him. But inside, he was confused. So what would happen now, he wondered. Would he be allowed to stay? He tried not to think about it, afraid to hope for it again. But he was infinitely relieved that at least his memories weren't going to be erased.

Savath was talking quietly with Terrence and sent him out after a moment. Then, the old lady came and sat next to Rick, studying him carefully. Finally, she nodded. "You are good for my grandson. You have made him happy."

Rick's cheeks reddened slightly at her words. He had never heard anyone say that about him before. Back at the orphanage, many of his peers had told him that he was a loser, and that he would never be good enough for anybody. He had brushed them off easily enough, trying not to let the words get to him, but they had hurt him deeply, especially in his first years at the orphanage. Then as time passed, the frequency with which he heard them had ingrained the idea into his head as a fact more than an insult, so much so that it was almost startling to hear otherwise now. "Uh, . . . thank you," he said, then he shrugged, feeling as though he hadn't really done anything much. "He's my best friend. I just hope I can do right by him."

Brushing a hand over his forehead, Savath smiled. "You will do just fine, young Rick O'Connell. There are many challenges facing you, and you will go through times so dark you will forget the light. But never forget that your heart is now bound to Ardeth's—you are the older, and while he is prince, he needs you to be his anchor."

Rick nodded solemnly. "I will, I promise." It wasn't a difficult promise to make, since he already felt protective of his friend. But Savath's words instilled in him the idea that from now on his actions would have an impact on someone else, which was definitely not something he was used to.

Just then, Ardeth and Suleimon came back into the room, Ardeth had a firm grip on his father's hand, and both looked much calmer than earlier.

Rick smiled at Ardeth, glad to see that both he and his father seemed to be more at peace. "Hey buddy," he greeted his friend, as he stood and walked over to him.

"Rick," Ardeth said, smiling at his friend. His smile suddenly turned into a mischievous grin, and the younger boy turned to look at Suleimon. "Father, look at what I found! An American Med-jai! Can I keep him?"

Rick threw a withering glance at his friend, trying to keep the smile off his face. But then, he looked nervously at the king, half afraid of his answer, the smile fading from his face.

Suleimon rolled his eyes. "You will have to ask your grandmother that, my son. She seems to be in charge of this house, as always."

Rick smiled, breathing in relief. He was glad for the break in the tension, and he was at least certain how she seemed to feel about him staying. He turned grinning to Ardeth and then to Savath, pleading.

The old lady approached them, circling Rick several times, humming tunelessly. "My grandson, you may keep him, but only if you promise to take good care of him! Feed him lots, train him well, and make certain he bathes often!"

Ardeth snickered. "I will fulfill these duties, grandmother."

Rick rolled his eyes, shaking his head. "Oh, come on Ardeth. You make it sound like you found some stray on the street... well maybe you did, but still! I've got my ... well, no... I really don't have that much of a reputation, but still!"

"What is wrong, my friend? Grandmother and I just arranged for you to stay here with me. You will eat with us, sleep in my room, and eventually join in my lessons."

Rick smiled broadly at this. "I like the sound of that," he breathed, nodding. He was beaming again like he had been before they had entered Suleimon's chambers.

Suleimon stepped forward and looked at Rick. "I apologize for my earlier actions, Rick."

Rick looked up at the king, clearly still a little confused, but he nodded. "That's alright, Your Majesty." He was more than willing to let it go since he had been allowed to stay.

"You two, off to bed! My son and I must talk." Savath kissed both of the boys on the cheek before sending them off.

The two said their goodbyes, and Rick followed Ardeth out the door. Once the door closed behind him, Rick closed his eyes and released the breath he hadn't realized he was still holding, his muscles finally beginning to relax.

"Are you all right, my friend?" Ardeth asked, turning back to Rick in concern.

"I'm fine," Rick said, nodding slightly. "Breathing is good. After that, I think I'm going to sleep well tonight," he shook his head, noting how exhausted he felt.

Ardeth nodded. "Come on, this way." The younger boy led the way through the halls, and in minutes, they were in Ardeth's room. Moonlight came in through the open window, giving them just enough light to see to get ready for bed.

After Rick was done getting ready, he pulled out the puzzle box he had found in his pocket that morning and began to examine it carefully. He didn't really remember enough of the hieroglyphs to translate it, but he recognized one of the symbols on the back, as a small figure of Anubis.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Ardeth opened it to find a healer there. "The king sent me to ward someone's dreams against the Creature."

Rick stuffed the key back into his pocket, knowing the healer had come for him. He stepped forward. "That'd be me."

With a smile, the healer came into the room. "Lie down, young man, and relax. This will not take long, and then the Creature will no longer be able to touch your dreams."

Rick did as he was told, lying down on the couch, since he didn't want to take Ardeth's bed and didn't have a bed of his own yet.

The lady knelt next to him, resting a hand on his forehead. Her eyes closed, and her brow creased in concentration. Moments, later, Rick felt incredibly sleepy and heard the healer whispering in a different language.

Having already been exhausted by the day's events, Rick didn't try to hang onto consciousness for long, and drifted away to the soothing sound of the woman's voice.

Ardeth watched as the healer worked and was very pleased to know that Rick's dreams would be safe now.

After about an hour, the healer finally pulled away, completely drained. She expressed her joy to the prince that he was safely home and bade him good night before leaving the room.

The healer found Suleimon and Savath talking quietly in the king's personal study. "My King, I have warded the boy's dreams like you asked. I would not have been able to accomplish this if your son had not already begun the process—the Creature's hold on this boy was strong."

Suleimon's brow furrowed. For the hold to be almost too strong for even a woman of her magic to break through, he was astounded that Rick had not already succumbed to the Creature's power. Usually once a fully-grown man reached this point, he was already too far gone to be saved. The king nodded and thanked the woman for her service before turning back to Savath. "At least he will find some peace from the darkness of Hamunaptra now. Well, at least for a time."

The old lady nodded. "For a time, yes, they will have peace. Now you, my son, must go and seek your rest. Go!"

The King smiled. "Yes mother," he intoned like a dutiful son. He embraced her. "Thank you, for stopping me and for speaking to Ardeth for me."

Savath hugged him back. "You are welcome, Suleimon. You are a good man and a great king—never forget that. Now go and sleep."

"Thank you," Suleimon said as he left and headed to his room.

Ardeth woke up early the next morning, thrilled to be in his own bed. After a moment, he stood and went out onto his balcony. He wanted to see the sunrise.

The hidden valley of the Med-jai city was awash with brilliant fiery tones as the sun made its ascent over the edge of the horizon. The light reflected off of every lake and river it touched, sending dazzling light dancing across the buildings the desert people dwelt in, including the walls of the palace.

Sighing in contentment, Ardeth waved to the few people out this early before going back inside to see if Rick was up yet.

Rick was stirring from the amount of light spilling into the room. He turned over in his sleep on the couch, the blanket he had used the night before falling onto the floor.

"Rick, wake up. There is something you should see," Ardeth said, dropping to his knees next to the older boy.

Rick's eyes opened blearily. "Huh? What happened?" He looked groggily up at Ardeth. "Hey, buddy."

"Come, Rick, you must see this." Ardeth tugged Rick off the couch, leading him to the balcony. The sky was still full of beautiful colors from the sunrise.

Rick rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as he went, but as they stepped onto the balcony, he was struck by the beauty of Kiriyah Gan in the fresh morning light. "Whoa," he breathed as he leaned against the railing beside Ardeth. "It's amazing!"

"This is your new home, Rick." Ardeth rested a hand on the taller boy's shoulder. "The valley welcomes you."

Rick smiled widely at his friend. "I'm home," he whispered, his eyes glistening slightly. He shook his head. "I have a home, I still can't believe it. It seems too good to be true."

"It is true, my brother. We are home." Ardeth grinned back at Rick, then turned his attention to the valley. Kiriyah Gan was waking up to meet this new day. The air was filled with the spices of wild tropical flowers and a hint of baking bread. All around them, birds burst into song, and peace surrounded them. This was truly their home.