Prince of Thieves
By: Sleepy Lotus
What if Sethos had a son, a son as adept at the trade of tomb robbing as he? Lawrence is there for the treasure, but has his eye on Nefret as well. In him Ramses finds a rival of infuriating proportions on his hands. Nefret/Ramses/Lawrence
Like all strays, or at least strays as Ramses' mother would care to categorize them, this one came to the Emerson family in a strange twist of fate. Call Ramses suspicious. A pessimist. All too willing to believe in the darker side of man's intentions. All too unwilling to hold faith in the chance of serendipitous fate.
He didn't like him.
Not one bit.
It all started with a child, a street urchin, on the streets of Cairo. The little nit picked the wrong pocket, got caught, by the white gloved hand of an officer of the Egyptian army. A certain acquaintance and blood relation of the family's, Percival Peabody. Like all upstanding gentlemen, he was short of temper and patience with the "native element", especially the thieving-for-necessity children of the street.
The spectacle of his wrath drew nearly the whole lunch crowd of Shepheards to the edge of the terrace. Percy, always one for fair odds in a fight, gripped the child's arm and brandished a riding crop. Ramses made ready to leap the balcony, blood high as ever. But before the child could receive a thrashing, someone stepped in, snatched the crop right out of Percy's hand from behind.
"What the devil!" spat my cousin.
In the confusion the child twisted away, disappearing into the teeming crowd of the street, ducking beneath a camel's legs and clearing a pile of refuse to his freedom. "Care to pick on someone your own size?" growled the newcomer, striking at Percy's legs with the crop.
"How dare you!" Before Percy could move forward he was struck again.
"Horses don't like it," said the man coldly. "Neither do children."
Thirsty to witness a fight, the crowd stayed glued to the scene. But it was Nefret who brought an end to the bravado. "Percival Peabody, your behavior is deplorable, as usual. A child, really. Haven't you anything better to do?"
Ramses suspected it was not solely Nefret's scolding, but his mother's steely gaze as well that held dear Percy in check. "I beg your pardon, madam," said my cousin, in his most thick of bootlicking tones. "I didn't realize theives were to get off so easily these days."
Like a true snake he slithered away in retreat, even leaving the riding crop in the hands of the child's rescuer. At a seeming loss for what to do with the offensive article, the man tossed it away. It was with a great bit of jealousy Ramses watched Nefret extend her hand to shake, as a man would. He watched the introductions, though executed in softer voices, he could not hear exact words. The devil said something though that charmed both Nefret and his mother, because next he knew, Nefret was upon his arm, escorting him to the family's favored table. Because Ramses' mother raised him to do so, and in part just for Nefret, he stood to greet his family and their newfound guest. "Ramses, meet Lawrence Fairchilde. Would you mind if he joined us for tea?"
"Of course not, mother."
He did, naturally.
Like two alpha males, the young men sniffed each other out, sized each other up. Lawrence was a man of trim build, near exact Ramses' height with a mop of sandy blond hair and blue eyes that rivaled the sapphire quality of his fathers.
"Well done," he acknowledged, begrudgingly. "Had I made it down in time, I might not have been able to resist giving the bastard the thrashing he deserved. Excuse me, mother."
"Not at all, Ramses," sighed his mother in agreement of sentiments.
With a smile, Lawrence admitted, "It was difficult not to. You know him?"
"Unfortunately," answered mother, we share a blood line with officer Peabody."
"I see. Well, that is unfortunate."
"So what brings you to Egypt, Mr. Fairchilde? I dare say, we are familiar with most of the regulars, so forgive me for assuming you have just arrived recently?"
"You're not exactly incorrect. I have been here before, my father was a military man and dragged me all across Egypt and the middle east, along with India and a bit of China. Kenya too. You know, how we British do love a good divide and conquer."
Ramses noticed with some interest that this remark upon queen and country's imperialist exploits was said with quite the sneer. "I take it you are not a supporter of her majesty's far reaching empire then?"
"Perhaps I stand on shaky ground, Mrs. Emerson, but as you asked, you must forgive me for telling the absolute truth. In Calcutta and Delhi there are clubs with signs reading NO dogs or Indians. It's the same here, and I think its condescending rubbish. It's a small wonder they don't rise up and massacre us all, for the way they're treated, except that they're simply a better people than we are."
To Ramses' chagrin, mother nodded approvingly. He, however, retained his suspicious nature, questioning motives of the fellow, for it wouldn't be unheard of to fabricate such remarks based on the subject, though to what ends he couldn't be sure.
Perhaps he wasn't being fair. Perhaps what truly rankled him was the way Nefret hadn't taken her eyes off the chap even once since his strange and heroic arrival into their circle. Her eyes glimmered with cornflower blue amusement at his seditious remarks, so rare to hear from someone outside our own family circle.
"I'm afraid I have yet to truly answer your question though, Madam, I'm here on Egyptological business. I've just finished my courses at Oxford on the subject, and did a bit of a stint under Budge at the British Museum. But I have a handkering to get my hands dirty in the field, as it were. Though for now it seems they'll just have to settle for the dust of the Cairo Museum here."
Eyes alight, Nefret practically purred, "And what have you to say about the state of the Cairo museum?"
A burst of malicious laughter escaped Lawrence's lips.
"It is in a bloody awful state, isn't it? Excuse my language, Madam, but its deplorable. Everything's a jumble, nothing is properly catalogued. Beautiful papyri, seeming full texts of the book of the dead, just rotting away in musty boxes. Maspero--"
"What's Maspero done now?" bellowed a voice from just behind Lawrence. Ramses noticed the newcomer did not jump or flinch, as most new to their circle certainly would at the sound of one of the Father of Curses' famed outbursts of temper.
"Do lower your voice, Emerson," said Amelia with a glimmer of affection in her eyes, genially pouring him a cup of tea.
"Father," said Nefret sweetly, clasping his paw of a hand. "This is Lawrence Fairchilde. He's been charged with the Herculean task of cleaning up the Cairo museum."
Lawrence scoffed with a self deriding grin. "Hercules had it easy, all he had to do was divert a river to wash all the muck away. The contents of the museum will take years to properly sort and catalogue. If Maspero will even allow it. Is all archeology rife with such politics?"
"I fear so, dear," said Mother with a tragic aire. "So make as many friends as possible in your beginning time here."
"Yes Madam. It seems I'm already off to a good start." Draining his tea, Lawrence apologized, "It's been lovely meeting you all, but I'm afraid I have to get back. We'll see if your Percival doesn't have half the Egyptian army harassing me in the next few hours, eh?"
He shook Ramses and Emerson's hands, and kissed those of mother and Nefret in what Ramses thought to be an overly chivalrous gesture, surely orchestrated with more designs on Nefret's person. Lawrence was not at all out of ear range when Emerson demanded, "Who the devil was that?"
"We should invite him to our dig!" exclaimed Nefret excitedly. We can always use another able pair of hands, and it would be an excellent opportunity for him to learn from the finest archeologist in our age, or any other!"
Ramses winced at Nefret's enthusiastic description of his hands. It appeared all the females at the table were effectively taken by the lad. And so it was with much relief that father turned to ask him, "And what do you think of this Fairchilde, my boy?"
"I haven't yet formed an opinion, sir. His words seem in the right place on archeology. His actions have yet to prove their merit."
It was a smooth lie on Ramses' part. He'd already quite made up his mind, at seeing the way Nefret's eyes gleamed as she schemed to bring him on the dig.
He didn't like him one bit.