The Curse of Anubis Raid
"This is not one of my days, just not one of my freakin' days," I grumbled under my breath as I rolled away from a horse's prancing feet. Looking up I saw a dappled gray horse with distinctively Arabian accouterments just before a robed and veiled desert dweller type who was guarding them spotted me. The language was one I spoke, but as he yelled to his companions, it sounded off somehow.
Scrambling to my feet, I dove at the yelling tribesmen, snorting my distaste for their unwashed stink, I took the first one down, relieving him of sword and knife as he stumbled into the ground. Since he wouldn't shut up and most of what he was yelling was foul, I used the knife to silence him. This left half a dozen swarthy, shifty eyed types pulling weapons to deal with and I didn't even know what I'd done to annoy them in the first place. Given the threats they were making, I wasn't certain I wanted an answer to that. Dead men tell no tales. Makes it hard to get information, but they weren't going to talk to me anyway.
I hate fighting in sand. Sand and blood is even worse. My opponents were not up to my standards and fell to my skills with relative ease. I dropped the blades and did a quick recon of the area. Horses, which I already knew. Jeeps. Jeeps? 1940's style Willys Jeeps with large caliber guns mounted on the backs and painted sand colored. Two of them. This did not bode well. I checked the bodies I'd left. Not a driver's license in the lot. No real ID papers at all. The guns were ancient. Come to think of it, the ones mounted on the vehicles were old. Very old. Very 1940's old.
I took a deep breath and tried to think. Saharan heat and a hangover were not allowing a lot of coherent thought. The next best thing was to go find the bodies that belonged to the Jeeps. Suiting action to thought, I did so. Five of the six tents in the camp were empty of people. The sixth and largest held … Oh, look, they're not bodies.
Four men in variations of WWII military gear were bound to the supporting tent poles. They looked like they were wisely catching 40 winks before dealing with their captors. The one with surfer blond hair had a broken arm. Not good with the nearest doctor who knew how far away; I hadn't seen anything looking like a medical tent in the camp. With caution, I slid into the tent and took a look at the items on the low table across the multiple layered carpets from quartet of captives. The guns were still vintage, as was the combat knife.
Logical decision: time to wake sleeping beauty and see what was what. With that laudable intention, I turned and reacted to the menacing figure approaching me. No, I did not make sure they were still secured; which led to a short scuffle with the apparent leader of the pack. Good thing he had not yet freed his men. I ended up seated on the small of his back, trapping one of his hands against his side with my thighs.
"OK. Ride'em, cowboy was not my intent when I walked in here. You wanta stop bucking?" He did, becoming disturbingly still under me. Time to talk and talk fast, only I hadn't a clue what to say since I was still dealing with the whole 1940's motif and realizing it wasn't - a motif. "I'm gonna shift off. I'd really appreciate not getting hit, stabbed or shot immediately thereafter, okay?" A sort of clenched nod was the answer. I suspected that my variant of American English was throwing him a curve ball.
I shifted off and scooted back a few feet as he rolled over and into a seated position to stare at me. He had dark eyes. Piercing dark eyes. I hate piercing dark eyes, especially when they're regarding me with a combination of confusion and suspicion.
"Who're you?" he asked. Nice voice. Crisp, commanding, clear. Went well with the kind of ruggedly good looking face that I could now see since his hat fell off in our tussle. American accent rather than Aussie.
"Yuconovich. Cheri Yuconovich." Why lie? He didn't know me from Eve.
"Ruskie?" a light tenor voice, also in the American vernacular, asked. Pale eyes behind wire-rimmed rounds of glass gave me a searching look.
"Russian and French heritage. Amazing what Ellis Island can do to mangle a foreign language that isn't Irish or Scots," I answered with a laugh.
"Where?" The one in front of me asked.
I surmised he meant 'where did I come from' rather than 'where are we' and disseminated information accordingly. "Illinois. Small farm. Dad was Russian, Maman French. I grew up speaking both in addition to English. Makes me a polyglot." So, why should I mention the other 13 languages, not counting the dialects, I spoke? A woman should always retain some mystery. Or so they keep telling me. "Maybe you should cut the others loose. Especially him," I nodded to the man with the broken bone. "That cannot be good for him."
With martial grace, the man I'd fought got to his feet and released his men, never quite taking his eyes off me. The Brit moved to the wounded soldier and confirmed the break. Efficiently he straightened and set the arm, his patient smothering a scream behind his teeth. The man's lived in looking face broke into a sweat, but he retained consciousness and his lunch, assuming he'd had any of the latter.
"And you are?" I asked, remaining seated on the sand. Six untrained Arabs with blades were one thing; four Allied military men were another, even if one had a busted wing.
"Sgt. Troy, Sgt. Moffitt, Pvt. Hitchcock, Pvt. Pettigrew. What are you doing out here?" Sgt. Troy was taking in my anachronistic garb. T-shirt, vest, jeans and moccasin boots are not that odd in the desert, in New Mexico or Arizona. In the Sahara in the early part of the desert war, I was so out of place.
"Sitting on my ass answering questions, apparently." Insouciant to the end, that's me. No, I wasn't winning friends and influencing people, as the spiel goes, but there wasn't much of an answer I could give him since I not only didn't know how I'd arrived (although I had a suspicion my local friendly mad scientist might just have had something to do with it) and I wasn't exactly doing much of anything since I'd only been there on the order of what? 20 minutes? I ignored having slaughtered a number of Arab citizens. Hey, they started it!
The Brit glared at me. The surfer grinned. Seriously too young to be that grim with the glasses looked me over curiously. Sgt. Troy squatted down to stare into my eyes. Green is not a color you see that often in the desert. Bright, insane green is generally not something you see outside of movies, anime and CGI enhanced characters on the big screen. I could almost see the thoughts chasing around in his head. I had to be a trap of some sort, but he could not see it right now so he wouldn't immediately act on it.
"You're coming with us."
Given that the dead bodies outside were probably altering time lines as we spoke, I declined to argue. So far, I hadn't eliminated myself by any of my actions. Oh, yeah. The last time I looked at a calendar, it was 2008AD. Incredible-numbers-of-expletives-in-a-dozen–langua ges deleted.
The bodies surprised them. I'd been fairly quiet in my decimation of the Arab guard. Looking around, I began to wonder where everyone else was. As noted before, there were several tents, a couple of covered trucks and a dozen horses but not another sign of a human besides the men I was with and the ones that lay dead near where the horses were tethered.
The Sgt. leading the allied group looked to be echoing my thoughts. "You killed them?" He pointed to the dead. I nodded. No point in lying. "Where's everyone else?" he asked, not quite pointedly from me, but close.
"Uhm… How many everyone else's are we talking about?" I asked, since the only people I'd seen so far had attacked me or been rescued by me.
The Brit, Moffitt, answered. "At least a dozen more men."
A breeze blew past with a spattering of sand. Odd. I looked down at my feet and then at the larger area covered with tents. Ten feet away, a short wall stuck up out of the sand. It was weathered and ancient looking. Closer inspection showed that it was really ancient mud brick much worn by sand storms and the hands of men. The wall stretched away until it disappeared beneath the surface about two hundred feet away.
"Walls." I was trying desperately to think why the area looked familiar. Sandstone cliffs rose to the north of us while the desert lay undulating to the east and south. There was something … Ignoring the men, I walked a short grid over the sand, searching for some hint of what lay below. Sand scrunched oddly beneath my feet, instead of just that funny sort of sighing noise it normally makes.
In a couple of minutes I dug a hole in the sand with my hands to reveal stone, some sort of pedestal turned on its side from the look of it. Feet carved in the style of the 19th Dynasty topped the pedestal. Black stone feet attached to ankles and what looked like unbroken calves above that. Given the scale of the feet, I walked out from the pedestal to where I thought the head of the statue must lie.
The four men must have thought I was out of my mind, although Moffitt looked into the hole I'd already dug and nodded. I pitched sand by the double handful out of the area where I expected the head to lie. Sure enough. Black stone, dog faced, the jackal headed god of death: Anubis. (OK, for sticklers, guardian of the path to the afterlife, not actually the god of death, but who really cares about that difference?)The statue probably towered over 20 feet in height when standing. The weathering damage showed it had remained vertical for centuries before being knocked aside and buried in the smothering sand. "Anubis."
"That's a big statue," Moffitt gave his opinion.
"Very. And with a pedestal." I went back to the first hole, not freeing the statue, but pulling the sand out from around the square of black stone on which Anubis should stand. It was hollow, like a box. Something had resided within the hollow. But what? And why did this statue keep trying to set off something like alarm bells in my head?
I squinted up at the Brit. "Moffitt … Wasn't there … an Alistair Moffitt? Archeology?"
A slight grin curved his mouth. Mmmm. Nice mouth. "My father."
"Cool. Any ideas about this?" I waved a hand to encompass the wall, the flat sand and the statue.
"Not a clue. Not a place I've been before." His companions raised their eyebrows. "What?" he asked. "I haven't been everywhere, you know."
I shelved the reactions to let my mind wander as Troy and Hitchcock neatened the bodies and looked for rocks to cairn over them. A line wandered out of the desert. 'If the black book of the dead is buried at the feet of Anubis, then the book of Amun-Ra is buried … under the feet of the statue of Horus…' It was part of a story an old man once told me. He was so proud of his wife for figuring out … Oh Hell!