Hero's IV-Brothers In All But Blood

Sequel to "Have A Cigar, Ardeth"

Disclaimer: The characters of Rick and Evy O'Connell and Ardeth Bay belong to Stephen Sommers and Universal Studios. No infringement intended. All other characters belong to the author.

Ask anyone who knows me via email, I've been talking about this story for quite some time, and it's captured my imagination. I've enjoyed a new level of writing for this as well as learning more about the Islamic and Egyptian cultures, of which in my own interpretation, I've combined the two. Hopefully I haven't offended anyone with my viewpoint and of course, these are my thoughts and theories on the events that led up to TMR. Special thanks to Eirian for all her help; it's meant a lot. And for use of the Medjai Warrior Oath, Shukran maHbub qalbi. Special thanks to Xanthia for allowing use of her phrase from "Brother." (by the way, forgive any translation errors; I'm new at using my English-Arabic dictionary.) And a general thanks to all of you who've listened to me ramble on about this, you're comments have been very helpful.Not sure what else to add except enjoy..and of course, feed back is always appreciated. Send it to Mommint@msn.com.

Prologue - 4 weeks prior

~*~ Chapter 1 ~*~

It was the kind of night he liked, perfect for a murder.

The moon hung low like a silver orb against the black velvet of the night sky, and silvery threads of clouds moved with graceful ease blown by a gentle wind. And they occasionally obscured its iridescent glow from the world below, giving time for shadows to move within the night

On the small ridge of a sand dune, overlooking the outskirts of Cairo, Jahm Musad straightened in his saddle for a moment, allowing himself only a brief grimace of pain from his cramped knee before schooling his face back into an emotionless mask. The mask he had been wearing since seizing control of the men that were once led by the brothers Sariyah, almost five weeks ago in a vicious battle with other would-be leaders. He fingered the new scar that slashed almost diagonally across his face from the tip of his left eyebrow, down the bridge of his nose to end near the corner of his mouth. Its surface was still red and angry, but its detraction from his appearance didn't bother the young leader, instead it gave him a sense of satisfaction for the man who had given him this scar didn't live to boast of his tale.

Such was life, Jahm mused sardonically. Kill or be killed. There was always someone waiting to take the leadership from him and he had to fend off all challengers for now Jahm had built up a formidable army since Adham's death. An army that he would eventually led against his most hated foe, the Medjai. Unlike his predecessors, Jahm was a patient man, gathering the men that had fled the night Adham had been killed, and training them unceasingly, until he was satisfied they were ready for the next step in his grand scheme. And when he deemed they were ready, he was going to lead them into battle, for now it wasn't the matter of the fabled gold buried at Hamunaptra any more, it also became a matter of vengeance. Retribution.

And if there was one thing Jahm excelled at so far in his life, it was killing. Once the Medjai had been dealt with, then he would be free to seize the city of the dead and reap his just rewards.

Over the past few days, he had divided his army, taking two promising men Kasim and Qutaybah and making them his second's in command. They then divided the men again, and picked out twelve messengers, each assigned to one of the twelve tribes of the Medjai and who were solely responsible for intercepting any communication from the warriors to the various villages. Jahm learned who were the commanders, who sent out the most patrols and who would be the easiest to fight first, thinking the remote tribes on the outer regions away from Thebes and Hamunaptra were most vulnerable.

So it was more than a surprise when one of his messengers arrived in the renegade's camp this morning, bearing not a note regarding the Medjai, but of a man who wished to meet the leader of these men, midnight at a disclosed destination in Cairo. The message had been vague but hinted at the possibility of them working together, for they both had a mutual goal in terms of seizing Hamunaptra. Intrigued but cautious, Jahm sent the note back agreeing to this meeting and now found himself waiting for the appointed hour to arrive so he could meet his mystery benefactor.

"This could be a trap," Qutaybah warned and moved his mount closer to Jahm's. "Set by the Medjai."

Jahm shook his head. "No, I think not. The Medjai are more worried about one of their commanders, Ardeth Bay who has still yet to recover from Adham's challenge."

"So, you'll still meet this man?" Questioned Qutaybah again, his cunning mind already formulating possible scenarios if the meeting did indeed turn out to be a trap.

"No, not just me.both of us." Jahm's mouth twitched into a sarcastic smile, for he was already guessing the other man's intentions of taking his place as leader. "Kasim, you stay here with your men and if trouble arises, you have your orders."

Kasim obediently nodded his head. "Yes my chief."

Qutaybah knew better than to argue and for the moment, silently followed Jahm's orders. He kicked his mount into a quick trot and followed his leader down the ridge and out onto the open plains, that led towards Cairo. Behind him, a few men dispersed like ghosts into the night, blending in with the shadows, silent and wraith-like as they all converged on a dilapidated building chosen for the site of the meeting. Overhead, the moon's light was suddenly shrouded from mist and Jahm sighed with satisfaction, indeed this was a good night for murder.

~*~

"You trust this man, this Musad?" The mercenary asked his accomplice.

"No but I have use for him and his army of men. Given the proper training and weapons, they would make a valuable asset to be used as we continue our quest." The older man answered. "And as you know, I am not one for bypassing such an opportunity to bring this man in as an alley, rather than an enemy."

The mercenary snorted with disdain, for he knew of Musad's bloody climb to power. "I for one will not trust him."

The other man laughed. "That is good, since I trust you to deal with him as you see fit, if he fails to choose wisely. Now go."

And a second later, the mercenary disappeared into the dark corners of the room, his eyes glittering like the cold stare of a king cobra coiled and prepared to strike.

Jahm sauntered into the small room, his alert gaze sweeping over the interior for any threats and when he felt it safe, he motioned for Qutaybah to stay behind, a decision he knew irritated the other man's restraint.

"Stay here and wait for my call, if I should need you." He murmured.

He arrogantly walked up to the lone man, who sat at the room's only furniture, a small wooden table with two chairs, and a lantern in the center given off a feeble illumination that showed the room to be empty otherwise. And stopped when he approached the chair opposite of him.

"Please, sit down. I would offer you some refreshment but as I'm sure you can agree, this is not a social call." The man stated pleasantly and waved at the chair.

Jahm straddled the chair, lifting one leg over the seat and letting his robes fall away to deliberately reveal his weapons, tucked in the waist of his pants as he sat down. It was a show of power meant to intimidate but he was surprised when the other man merely smiled.

"You have every reason not to trust me, but" He raised his hand before Jahm could respond. "I need for you to listen to what I have to offer."

"Go on." Jahm urged in a bored voice. "I'll admit, you have my curiosity."

"Good." The man shifted in his seat and began reciting the facts he had learned about the leader opposite of him, leaving out no detail and the events that led up to this moment, impressing Jahm with his knowledge and skills at obtaining it. He grudgingly admitted, this stranger knew more about him than most and he couldn't decide if that were a good sign, or the indication this man needed to be killed. Too much knowledge of one's past had taught Jahm well in his youth and he didn't like being at a disadvantage.

"You know so much of me, yet I know nothing of you. Why recite to me what I already know?" He asked suspiciously.

"I admire your tenacity, your perseverance in your struggle for power. We are almost alike, you and I since we both thirst for more than the average life has to offer. Except my goals exceed the unlimited wealth of Hamunaptra." The man leaned closer, his dark eyes shining with greed. "I desire what the Medjai have protected for over three thousand years."

"You want the priest?" Jahm asked, knowing full well of the legend.

"I want the power that the priest offers.control of the world. I find I need someone, such as yourself to keep the Medjai occupied as I continue my.research on resurrecting Imhotep. Like a jackal nipping at their heels, you could harass the Medjai, draw them out and away from the City of the Dead, while my men and I search for certain artifacts. It would be mutually satisfying to us both, you would have access to the gold and I would have..well, I would have my own rewards."

Jahm leaned back in his chair, arms folded over his chest as he thought over the other man's offer.

"Think of it, the wealth you seek to obtain just hanging in the open, like ripe fruit for the taking." The man leaned closer again, seeking to drive home his point. "And revenge on the Medjai, who you've hated since your youth. Tell me, have you reconciled yourself over the death of your mother, when they raided your camp? Have you forgiven them when they killed your father in a battle a year later?"

"Enough!" Jahm growled, his voice holding a note of warning.

The man leaned back, hands up in surrender. "Agreed, what is done in the past is of no consequence to us now. Accept my offer, become the leader of my men as well and together, we will defeat our enemy and claim our rightful prizes." He suddenly reached down and pulled a small burlap bag from under the table, a movement that made the leader pull out his weapons in retaliation and take aim at his possible partner's chest. From behind him came the unmistakable sound of a sword being pulled from its sheath and a moment later, Jahm felt the cold kiss of steel lodged firmly against his throat.

"No!" The man ordered to the accomplice behind Jahm and threw down on the table the bag, the impact causing its weakened seams to burst open and reveal a small fortune in gold coins. He waved off his mercenary and slowly, the blade was lifted just as slowly, Jahm withdrew his weapons.

"Take this is a token of my good will and partial payment of your services. Think about my offer, I give you twenty-four hours to respond." He rose up and walked away from the table and materializing from the shadows came the tall figure of a Nubian, dressed in a flowing cape and looking at Jahm with a sneer of disdain.

"And if I chose not to accept?" Jahm returned to glare and called out after them, picking up one coin and holding it closer for examination.

The two men stopped before they reached the doorway.

"Then I will find someone who will, it matters not to me. The end result is what I'm paying for.complete access to the City of the Dead. Twenty- four hours." The man called over his shoulder as he left with his accomplice, while Jahm still sat at the table.

He was furious, his anger barely kept in check, indicated only by the muscle flexing in his cheek. He stared at the coin as if trying to decipher any secrets it may hold in relation to its previous owner, and he heard the cautious approach of Qutaybah behind him. Ah, the source of his anger.

"Jahm?" The other man called out.

"Come closer, there's something I want you to see." The leader answered, and waved his man forward. He slowly pulled the dagger hidden from his robe and when his second in command was a hand's width away from him, he jumped up from the chair, grabbed Qutaybah by the throat and slammed him down in the table, making some of the coins bounce up and drop to the floor. The point of his dagger was pressed hard into the other man's face, hard enough for a droplet of blood to appear beneath the sharp edge of the blade.

"Do you have trouble listening? Did you not hear the sword drawn on me?" Jahm hissed, his face close to Qutaybah's, his lips curled back in a snarl of rage. "Or do you covet my position so much that you would grab any chance to usurp it and have it as your own?"

"No..no, I ah, didn't hear you call out for me." The second in command tried to make amends, his hands straining to hold back the blade pressed against his face. "I swear by all that's holy."

"Heed my warning well, dog. Disobey my orders again, and I'll cut that pretty face of yours into ribbons, and dump your carcass into the Nile. Do you hear me now?"

"Yes! Yes.." Qutaybah all but whimpered.

Jahm released him and stepped back, ordering him to gather the gold. "We need to hold a council, as soon as we return to camp. Call everyone together and assemble the messengers."

"Yes my chief," he swallowed convulsively. "But why? Are we moving ahead with our plans?"

Jahm and Qutaybah walked outside into the cool night air and the leader purposely kept from answering, his mind still mulling over the benefits of hiring themselves out. For now, he vowed to do some research of his own before giving his answer and he ordered Qutaybah to mount.

"We ride back to camp."

And just as silently as they came, the men rode out from the town, and this time Jahm didn't care that the full extent of the moon's brightness revealed to them their surroundings in stark clarity, almost like night turning into day. And he took that as a good omen, a sign for the things to come.