A/N – This chapter is dedicated to OcSickGirl who found my little story Broken Doll six weeks ago and pied pipered a slew of new readers to my door. Though it's been six months since my last update, I can offer nothing but apologies and the firm promise the next update will not be so long a wait. If all goes well, I will be posting Chapter 15 in two weeks and wrapping the entire story up in five chapters or less. Thanks to all my readers, old and new for their patience and support. You are the lifeblood of this fandom.
Much gratitude and appreciation for TwiliteAddict and Gasaway Alley for your editing and critique work!
Now, without any further ado, we return to Amun Ra and Eleazar in Egypt...
From Chapter 11:
"Goddess and Consort. Sulpicia! She is here."
Amun-Ra nodded his head, his hands flexing into fists. His anger rolled off him in waves.
"My Lord, I am yours to command. What do we do?"
Handing me the bottle that Sulpicia would murder for, I knew there could be no "we." It was time for me to run and for Amun-Ra to stop running from his wretched daughter.
This was going to be one hell of a family reunion.
With the healing my high priest had given me, my concerns about having to continue carrying the volatile Djinn were diminished. However, I was now consumed with worry for Amun Ra. Would he kill his own daughter if that is what the situation demanded?
From what I gathered through his revealing explanation of painful family history, one of the main reasons he had not faced Sekhmet, aka Sulpicia, was his guilt caused by choosing to protect Hathor from the monster he himself had created.
Despite removing her godhead, Sekhmet had found other ways to cultivate power... dark power from dealing death and destruction for thousands of years. Amun Ra could no longer ignore the beast she had become.
"The plan, Eleazar, is to make sure Sulpicia doesn't get what she came for, which means getting you and the Djinn as far away from here as possible."
I looked around at the sanctuary Hathor had created. The sun was shining bright and true in the bluest of skies. A refreshing breeze danced around us. The idyllic setting was completely at odds with the storm of fear rattling around inside me. A sickening thought developed.
"How do we keep Sulpicia from just coming into this Sanctuary and taking both the Djinn AND The Source?"
To see fear ghost across the face of a god is a truly humbling experience. Only a being faced with the starkness of mortality wears that look. Whose death did he fear? His own? Could Sulpicia actually kill Amun Ra? There was no doubt as to the fact she would if she could, andJaru had mentioned Ra was the only god to have walked the earth as a mortal. Did that privilege make him vulnerable somehow? Was this the weakness I had detected in comparing his strength to his daughter's? I sincerely doubted Ra feared his own death. No, he feared what he had been avoiding all these eons: having to kill his daughter, putting an end to the beast he had a hand in creating.
"I am the God of Consciousness, Eleazar. I hear your thoughts! The fears I carry are not for my own hide, dear Brother, it is for yours and mankind's, should we fail. If Sekhmet achieves her goal and becomes the Eye of Ra once more, she will not stop until she's devoured the world."
Chilling resolve shaped his tone, but still I wondered if he could pay the ultimate price and end Sulpicia if he had to.
His determined eyes flashed the ice blue of his race.
"It is time for me to face my wayward daughter. But not without a little help..."
The golden Ankh and staff of the mighty sun god materialized in his outstretched hands. Positioning the looped top of the ankh over his mouth, he sang a low, baritone Ohm, which rumbled up from the very depths of his body and resonated across the water, up into the sky. The sun immediately brightened in response growing larger ... no ... coming closer to our position lakeside. The heat and brightness of the day intensified to the point where even I was uncomfortable. But I cared not. Never in my existence did I ever think I would witness a phenomenon such as this divine transference of power!
A black spot on the sun swirled into a dark eye, growing larger and larger until a great burst of fire erupted from it. The sky went from blue to white as a bright beam of aquamarine, auroral energy streamed from the sky directly into the staff Ra was holding in his other hand. His entire body burst into light and time fractured. I knew nothing but white light all around me, and sincerely wondered if my retinas had burned up to leave me permanently blind.
Strangely, I felt no fear. Rapture raced across my body wrapped in a whispering kiss of solace. Even the negative vibes whispering from the Djinn's bottle stilled in that slip of time, suspending us in a completely silent space of nothingness. Then reality knitted itself back together and my sight returned.
Night now reigned in Hathor's world. The sun had been replaced with a large, blood-red moon, a harvest moon. Its light cascaded down in a beam to point to the center of Hathor's island located in the middle of her Lake of Tears. Ra stood before me ready for a reaping and dressed in some type of enchanted armor. The breast, elbow, and shin plates shimmered like liquid light. His helmet was the head of a falcon, his spirit animal. The ankh was gone, but the staff was in his left hand, a low vibrational hum pulsed from it in a promise of power. Here was a god prepared for war.
I dropped to my knee before the god I would serve until the end of time, humbled to be witness to his divine dealings and consumed with guilt for my lapse in faith.
Amun Ra's voice held a teasing edge, not the booming gruff I expected from the mighty warrior I saw before me. He grabbed a hold of my arm and hauled me effortlessly to my feet.
"Again with the kneeling, Eleazar? Come. We have a dimensional doorway to cross and defend. Hold on, we needed to be out of here five minutes ago, so this time we are not taking the scenic route." He smiled conspiratorially. "...though I can promise a dazzling light show."
Gripping the Benji's bottle a little tighter, I had barely enough time to shut my eyes against the strobing streams and beams of light swirling in a vertigo-inducing vortex around us. Though it lasted only seconds, the blinding brightness of the flash had tattooed itself on the back of my eyeballs to project like ghosts across my vision. Blinking in disorientation I hadn't experienced since I was human, I found myself being unceremoniously shoved through the doorway, only to have it shut behind me with a resounding, ominous finality. The precious stones vibrated in their settings with the force of it. Amun Ra proceeded to make his way up the stairs quickly.
"You couldn't just transport us to the top of the stairs?" I hedged, as I followed after him.
"It is not yet dawn in this dimension; I have to conserve the energy I received from the Sun in Hathor's world. Just as Sulpicia draws her magic from the darker corners of death and destruction, my powers are fueled by the sun itself.
Dawn? Had we been gone that long? Surely we had only been gone a few hours, it should only be late evening. I then remembered Ra's statement earlier about time moving differently in Hathor's world.
"Would the tourists be gone then?" I asked.
"Oh yes, long gone, and I'm thankful that is one less problem we have to worry about..."
He stopped short on the stairs and ran his hands over a large glyph on the wall. It was a depiction of Hathor's necklace.
"Menit...of course, how could I forget?" the god whispered in sudden recollection.
"The necklace, my lord?"
"Yes! The necklace! You must tell Isabella about the necklace, I was going to but.." the god's brow furrowed in contemplation which he shook off as quickly as it descended. "Hathor is the goddess of love, fertility, birth, rebirth – she kept pieces of that magic in the Menit! Magic that could help Benji remember. Magic that could bring Hathor back."
It suddenly dawned on me Amun Ra was talking as if he would not make it out of here to tell Isabella himself. Not wanting to press him on this matter, I decided it was best to simply do whatever was asked of me.
"Of course! Where is this 'Menit'?"
"A sympathizer with the OurosBouros Brotherhood has been keeping it for me in Dublin, Ireland. You need to get in contact with Dr. Siobhan O'Riorden of Trinity University."
Upon committing the information to memory, we crested the top of the stairs and exited through the floor in the Temple Sanctuary. The damp coolness of night still clung to the air, along with other, more ominous, odors. The cloying, spicy scent of Sulpicia's blend of dark magics threaded down from the antechambers just ahead of us. It was easy to tell she had used much of her own power stores fighting with Ra's Djinn, Jaru, as the reek of it was permeating.
"Sulpicia's used much of her magic to fight with my Jaru. This bodes well for us," Amun Ra stated with assuredness.
Pride lit a fire within him. I didn't have the heart to voice aloud that magic or no, Sulpicia's skills in all manners of combat, coupled with her psychotic disregard for mercy of any form, were enough to make even the strongest warrior's knees knock. This I was sure Amun Ra already knew, having experienced the plunging depths of his daughter's evil caprices. Though he was ready for war, I had a feeling Ra would destroy the temple itself, burying the door to Hathor's world forever before he would destroy Sulpicia.
As if on cue, an ear-splitting, revenant's cry of the most sickening intent scattered like scarabs against the ancient stone walls. A blue light pulsed ahead of us, filtering through the darkness like a phantom. Just below Sulpicia's evil laughter, Jaru's strained moans could be heard. The pitiful sounds ripped through Amun Ra like a tempest, tension rippling across his body, coiling like a snake ready to spring. To act. Avenge.
I shuddered at the thought of what could inspire such evil sounds of pleasure from Sulpicia.
"Please, my lord, let me fight with you," I pleaded.
The high priest's battle-ready face took my measure and reached for Benji's bottle. He held it in one hand and closed his eyes, placing his other hand palm up in anticipation of offering. A shimmery replica of the bottle Sulpicia had made to trap Benji blinked into existence in his previously empty hand. He handed me back the original.
"This is my fight, Eleazar, but first I will offer my daughter a trade. One Djinn for another ...however you will be the only one leaving here with both."
"I will do everything within my power to make sure that is so."
"It would certainly be in your best interest. Jaru could be your only ticket out of here. No matter what happens, get Jaru to the roof. The stairs are on the east wall just before archway to Hypostyle Hall."
Forcing us into action, Jaru's screams echoed down the hallway as the blue lights darkened to purple, thickening and threading around us like a serpentine specter.
Amun Ra went left and directed me to go right as we set off to flank Sulpicia. I kept apace along the eastern edges of the temple walls, sliding through the smog of Sulpicia's spun sorcery, concentrating all my efforts on remaining unseen.
When she finally came into view, Sulpicia was too deeply involved in her work to notice Amun Ra and I approach. I could not be thankful for her distraction as Jaru's bravery was beyond anything I had ever witnessed, and I had seen many creatures sliced and diced on the cold, metal tables in Sulpicia's oubliette.
Steel stilettos struck the stone floor as she circled her prey, the harsh shots of sound echoing off the solid walls. She had costumed herself as if she was taking part of a nostalgic homecoming, wearing an Egyptian linen himation and finely-worked gold and lapis lazuli jewelry. Her dress, however, was grotesquely splattered with Jaru's blood.
Suspended in the air in front of her, the Djinn was hanging upside down. His legs and hands had been bound with ropes of fire in such a way that he resembled an upside down ankh. Black magic was bred in this type of blasphemous symbolism, and Sulpicia had dove deep into her darker dealings with the underworld to desecrate the poor Djinn. To spill blood in this way on sacred ground was true evil, and this ritual had a much more sinister intent than mere torture for information. The odor corrupting the air was not evidence of Sulpicia's spent magic. In fact, it was just the opposite. She was offering sacrifice for power and Jaru was being slowly, sadistically siphoned of his magic as his burned and barely recognizable body writhed beneath her bonds.
She drew close to him, lovingly caressing the raw, burnt flesh of his wounds while whispering in his ear,
"I followed that thief Eleazar here only to find you instead. Another Djinn. Not mine, but an interesting coincidence, don't you think?"
Jaru refused to answer and I wondered if he even could. Being upside down had caused the viscous mess that was his insides to dangle and drip from his open wounds down his neck, over his closed mouth, and into his eyes.
His silence did not seem to faze her, but I knew her patience was dwindling, you could see it in the grit of her teeth and tight clipped movements of her body.
"I will ask you one, last time. Where. Is. My. Djinn?"
Jaru made motions with his mouth to speak. When Sulpicia moved closer to listen, the Djinn spat blood and teeth into her face, seething through his struggle to speak, "Benji... is not... yours"
Sulpicia's bloody face split into a Cheshire cat grin which held no warmth, only the cold edge of cruelty.
"Oh, but he is. And you will be too."
Plunging one hand into his ravaged abdomen, she cupped his forehead with the other, placing her palm over his third eye like an anti-evangelical healer. Violet arcs of electrical energy crackled and crawled from the Djinn's body into Sulpicia's as he screamed in agony.
The reviling scene was a snapping point for Ra. His face contorted in disbelieving horror, then desolation before hardening into resolve. I was certain any guilt he had felt in choosing a side and making the monster capable of such butchery had drowned in the blood spilled by his beloved Djinn.
"Sekhmet! You dare desecrate your sister's temple?!"
Sulpicia whirled around, face morphing into that of a large cat. Her fingernails lengthened into claws and she hissed in defensive response. Enormous teeth were bared in a feral growl as she positioned herself in front of Jaru's body. The fierce lioness defending her kill wasn't to be trifled with.
But then again, neither was Amun Ra.
Emerging from the shadows, a ball of fire forming in his hand, Ra spoke in his celestial language. Then, like a rocket launching from his palm, the fire ball streaked over his daughter's ducked head and sliced through the enchanted ropes suspending Jaru. His battered body came crashing to the ground.
Sulpicia morphed back into human form, shrieking in disbelief,
"YOU!" Pointing to the pile of charred flash on the floor, she looked at her father incredulously, "This Djinn is yours? You stole Benji back for Hathor?!"
"Yes." he replied calmly.
"Yes?! YES?!" Sulpicia grabbed her long locks of hair by the root of her scalp and screamed at the top of her lungs. "Unbelievable! That's all you have to say to me after a couple thousand years of abandonment and coercion with my enemies?"
"You chose a darker path, my daughter. So dark I can no longer see you standing within its cold void."
"You gave me no choice. You let Ma'at strip me of my godhead to leave me defenseless!" she countered.
"Ma'at needed retribution for the lives you destroyed and forever altered!"
"ME?! What about Hathor? Where was her punishment for the destruction caused by BOTH OF US as the Eye? You preach about balance? You have always favored her, forcing me to steal and scrape for my own. You created a Djinn to protect her. So I took it. You created an entire sacred Brotherhood, an army to protect and fight for her. So I created one of my own and took hers. That is what I call balance."
"You know nothing of balance OR creation. Hathor created life from the bodies you laid to waste!" Amun Ra raged. "You sought out negative energies and tipped the balance of your own Ka, daughter. You were fueled by notions of revenge and domination. I'm surprised with this tactic of yours in playing the victim. So unbecoming a Goddess of War, Sekhmet." his derision delivered, Ra softened his tone for the sell, "You are much better at negotiating, therefore I offer you a trade."
He showed her the copy of the Djinn's bottle only to make it disappear again when she reached for it.
"Now, now … This is yours in exchange for mine. The Djinn that used to be Benji is no more, as you have damaged him beyond repair. Taking into account the harm you have done to Jaru, I consider this offer an even trade."
Sulpicia considered the pitiable pile on the floor that was Jaru. In a miraculous surge of vigor, he had crawled over to his carved walking stick and was using it to attempt to stand. It took everything I had to not reveal myself by lending him my assistance. But I had to remain in my hiding spot, waiting for Ra's signal to retrieve Jaru and make for the roof.
"You want to trade Benji, Hathor's lover, for this pile of worthless flesh?"
Again the fake bottle materialized in his hand and he offered it to her. His eyes darted to his Djinn on the floor and he nodded solemnly. "Yes. I do. For not only did I create this Djinn, which you stole, I led the army which you razed, watched good men die to keep you at bay. Third time is the charm, daughter. For I created The Golden Eyed Queen, who will end you once and for all, with or without Benji's help."
Sulpicia froze, stung by the harsh words from her father's lips. She began to vibrate in anger as her eyes went from blue to pitch black pits of wrath and ruin.
In a burst of desperate energy, Jaru scrambled across the floor to create distance between himself and Sulpicia. The only sound audible in the entire temple was the desperate shuffle of his movement as he struggled towards me.
Then, as if her emotions flipped some sort of switch, manic laughter erupted from the witch, and I knew she had figured out the real reason Amun Ra had taken a stand and revealed himself.
"LIES! All lies." she snarled viciously. "You aren't here for this worthless Djinn. Or even for me. You've hidden Hathor here somewhere and you are finally showing your cowardly face because I am so. Damn. Close."
Sulpicia's head morphed back into the leonine beast that was her true form as she lunged for Amun Ra with razor sharp claws extended to rip and tear. The Ankh materialized in Ra's hand and he shouted very loudly in his strange, divine dialect. Before my astonished eyes, the sound took form, becoming a great fist of frequency blowing Sulpicia backwards into one of the gigantic pillars lining the center of the hall. Stone and dust pelted down from the ceiling as the pillar buckled and broke apart from the impact.
I took what I saw as my only chance to grab Jaru, reaching him just before a large piece of granite pinned him into the ground. Clutching me and his staff with a death grip, Jaru held on with surprising strength as I vaulted and veered through the rain of debris in an effort to get to the stairs before the entrance was blocked off by rubble.
As Sulpicia extricated herself from wreckage she caught sight of me and bellowed,
"Traitorous vampire! You will not leave here alive!"
Standing tall and terrifying, chanting curses while forming a dark ball of black flames, Sulpicia brought her arms up, finishing her spell with a deafening roar. Before she could bring it above her head to heave at us, she was thwarted once more by a trumpeting blast of sound, shaking the already unstable temple foundation.
I shot up the stairs to the roof of the temple amid a rain of debris as Amun Ra's voice rang behind us,
"The only one not leaving here alive will be you, Sekhmet! Behold the power of RA!"
Dawn's light flooded the east window to stretch blood-red fingers down the staircase, obediently responding to the summons from Ra. He was pulling power to him from the sun as it crested the horizon..
I willed my legs to work faster as realization struck me: He was going to do it! Destroy the temple and bury the door!
Bursting through the entrance to the rooftop, I felt the surface beneath me tremble and shake with the force of the battle below. I looked down at Jaru in my arms. His eyes held the knowing that his end was nigh. I realized in moments I would be carrying his body with me and nothing more. I wanted to keep running in the hopes we were both wrong, but Jaru's voice rang clearly in my head. He was managing to communicate with me telepathically, but I could tell even this took effort.
"Please, leave me. My place is with my Master." he pleaded.
I stopped short to lay him gently on the rooftop. With dogged insistence, he put his staff in my hand and grabbed me by the shirt collar which was stained with his blood.
"Take the staff, it is old magic, a key to open up portals."
"Portals?" I said to him aloud.
The Djinn smiled weakly. "Yes, interconnected doorways, they web across the entire planet"
Beneath our feet the ominous rumbling promise of the Temple's ruin as the fight between Sulpicia and Amun Ra reached its peak. Jaru's eyes widened and he shoved me and the staff away from him.
"You must go now! To the west, about thirty meters from the side of the Temple is the Sacred Lake."
A sonic boom rippled outward from the center of the roof and large fissures snaked across the surface splintering towards us. I took off at a dead run toward the western edge of the roof, staff in hand, as Jaru broadcasted instructions to me,
Jump into the center of the lake with the staff. Think of where you want to be, not where you are, and the door will open."
I didn't look back when I heard the roof cave in, having only enough time to jump onto the ledge of the building, and locate the dried out ancient lake bed below. Suddenly, the staff came alive, sliding out of my hands to wrap its long, black muscular body around my head like a turban. Its head bobbed in front of my third eye like the uraeus the pharaohs wore when traveling to the afterlife, pointing towards the dark portal now forming at the center of the lake. I gave in to the magnetic pull it exerted on my body, and let myself fall.
The snake tightened its grip... and spoke to me!
"Yessssss. Let go. Think of where you'd rather be..."
Not only was I diving headfirst into the yawning abyss below me, there was a port key who thought it was a snake wrapped around my head talking to me!
I did the only thing I could which was heed its instructions. Think of where I'd rather be. Undoubtedly, I longed to be home. My mind instantly projected an image of Carmen's loving presence and our home in Barcelona. Even if that was not the place I should go, it was definitely the place I'd rather be.
The blackness of the unknown rushed up from the ground to greet me, swallowing me whole, my trajectory no longer mine to control.