Summary: Settled comfortable back in London following TMR, Evy finds a book...and, of course, much trouble ensues.
Disclaimer: This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money is being made. The Mummy Returns and its characters are the property of Steven Sommers and Universal Studios. The original characters, tribes, situations, legends, and curses are the property of the author. Please don't borrow them without asking. Special Thanks to Deana for her encouragement and suggestions
Things people seem to like to know ahead of time: it's Ardeth hurt/comfort, which includes all of the O'Connells (and Jonathan.) It doesn't include Immy or Anck - apologies to their fans. There are several original characters (BOO HISS!), including one in the very first chapter. =-O However, any and all Mary Sues are purely unintentional. Also, I've juggled more characters in this than I usually attempt, so if I lose anyone (usually Jonathan or Alex), apologies. I always find them, eventually. ;-) Oh, and, this is my first solo Mummy story - so be warned. :-J
One last note: Generally speaking, the Arabic is written only when the conversation is switching back and forth between languages, not when the entire conversation is Arabic. Apologies to any Arabic speakers for my slaughtering of the beautiful language.
Okay, all done. To any who are still here, happy reading! :D
Focusing on his horse, Ardeth Bey tried to ignore the reproachful glare burning a hole into his back. Unfortunately, nothing else really needed to be done to ready the animal. It was prepared to leave, as was he. Sighing reluctantly, the great Medjai warrior bravely turned to face his exasperated sister.
"It is not as though I'm riding into battle, sister. I will be fine." There was a slight pleading edge to his voice that only an only older sister would recognize.
"Ah, but you cannot be certain of this, can you, little brother?" Badi'a questioned, rhetorically. "And if you do find yourself in battle, what then?"
Ardeth studied his sister's disgruntled stance for a moment, before answering simply, "Then I will fight."
"Then you will fight, will you?" Badi'a huffed, and Ardeth ducked his head ever so slightly in preparation for the tirade to come. "You really believe you are recovered enough for battle, do you? Well, you are not, little brother."
Badi'a fell silent, and Ardeth nearly breathed a sigh of relief. He had gotten off easy, but showing that he realized it would only set her off again. Turning back toward his horse, he mounted. There seemed little point in remaining. He had no argument for Badi'a. She was right, of course. He was far from ready for battle, but he wasn't riding into one, only traveling to England. However, Ardeth understood that for his grieving sister, they were one in the same.
It was, indeed, his destination that fueled her anxiety, and Ardeth could not fault her for it, nor, he knew, were there any words that would ease it. The last time he'd traveled to England, he'd returned home wounded and physically exhausted. There'd barely been time to learn of his younger brother's death in the battle before his body gave out, collapsing with fever. Badi'a had watched that fever nearly claim his life; it had been almost more than his sister's aching heart could bear. In her grief, she'd blamed the O'Connells. He knew this, and was not surprised when she'd balked at the announcement he was returning to England; she did not even believe he should be on his feet. However, there was too much at stake. He had to go, despite the anguish is caused his sister.
"Go with safety, little brother," Badi'a shouted, in resignation, as Ardeth prodded his horse into motion. His mind would not be changed; he was making that clear enough.
"Allah willing, sister," Ardeth replied, twisting around and smiling, reassuringly. Turning back, he wavered, slightly but visibly, in his saddle. Tightening his grip, the warrior softly prayed his trip would be uneventful.
"Yes," Badi'a muttered under her breath, once his back was to her. "May it be Allah's will that you survive the O'Connells one more time."
Evelyn O'Connell, standing hands on hips, sighed as she examined the crate sitting near the foot of the staircase. Once belonging to her parents, it had greeted the family upon their return from Ahm Shere - and had been sitting in the way since. Evy hadn't allowed it to be moved, wanting to take care of it herself. But each time she'd approached it to do so, unexplained reluctance stopped her. This time, however, she was determined. The afternoon was perfect for it. Rick, Alex and Jonathon were all out, so there'd be no need to worry about making a spectacle if she became sentimental and blubbery.
Sitting carefully balanced on one corner, Evy's eyes skimmed over the top layer of trinkets, most of which were obviously silly flea-market bobbles. The realization made her wonder if her parents had ever really intended to send the crate back to England, or had just used it as a waste bin. Regardless, the sentimental value of the crate - labeled only with the name "Carnahan" - made it priceless to Evy. She shook her head as she marveled, yet again, that it had found its way to her in London so many years after their deaths.
"Well, no time like the present," Evy muttered to herself, randomly reaching for a trinket. Its displacement caused the items around it to shift and uncovered what appeared to be the hilt of a weapon. Evy's melancholy mood dispersed as her gaze fell upon it.
"What do we have here...?"
She ran curious fingers over the finely crafted silver, before grasping it firmly and slowly pulling the blade from beneath the other items. Ignoring the shifting and resettling of displaced clutter, Evy twisted the sword in the air, examining the design etched into the metal.
"You're certainly not Egyptian, are you? Where did you come from?"
Evy was about to lay the sword down to study it more closely when something else caught her eye - a glint of light as it reflected off another, smaller blade that had apparently been hidden beneath the displaced clutter.
"Hmmm...looks like you have a friend," Evy commented, carefully picking up the dagger.
Holding it in one hand and the sword in the other, she briefly compared the two weapons, before the sword became to heavy to hold up with one hand, and she let the tip drop. They were obviously a set, an exquisitely crafted set... inscribed with ancient Arabic. Evy nearly gasped at the discovery of the words woven into the intricate design etched into the blades of both the sword and dagger. Wanting to examine the words more closely, she carefully balanced the sword across the top of the crate and held the more manageable dagger in both hands, intending to carry it upstairs where the lighting was better.
As she stepped toward the staircase, something else caught Evy's eye - a book - no, not a book... a journal of some sort. A journal. Evy felt a flutter of excitement. Perhaps there was some reference to the mysterious weapons. Perhaps it belonged to one of her parents? Her mother? Or her father? It didn't matter really, she longed for both so badly that she trembled at the prospect of reading their words - their thoughts - regardless of whether they revealed any great secrets.
Bumping the now forgotten broadsword as she reached for the journal, Evy was too focused to notice as the hilt slipped from its precarious ledge and fell back into the crate, leaving the blade sticking dangerously up in the air. Oblivious, she stepped past the crate and up the stairs to her bedroom. It wasn't until Evy moved to sit on the bed that she remembered the dagger still in her hand. Placing it on the nightstand, she made herself comfortable and opened the journal at random. As she read the beautifully scribed Arabic, it quickly became obvious that the words weren't those of one of her parents.
"At this moment, as I await word from my fellow Medjai that it is done, I continue to pray to Allah for his divine intervention. The Carnahans have been dear and faithful friends to me. If only I had found a way to dissuade them from traveling to the city, but they would not listen. They would not be turned away from Hamunaptra. Now, my heart is unable to find solace in the knowledge of what will be. Never before have I questioned the honor of being of the Medjai as I do today."
The Medjai...the Medjai had killed her parents! Evy could barely form the thought as grief and rage surged through her. Letting the journal slip from her fingers and drop gracelessly to the floor, Evy rolled onto her side and let the tears welling in her eyes trickle onto her cheeks, as she mentally cursed every Medjai she'd ever laid eyes upon.
Pausing for a moment in the empty drive, Ardeth Bey studied the imposing stone of the O'Connells' home. A chill wafted down the warrior's spine, and he shivered. The damp air seemed colder than it had been the last time he'd come to England, but the Medjai knew the chill couldn't be entirely blamed on the weather. The memories of his last visit were at least partially responsible. His reception then had been less than friendly, not that Ardeth could entirely blame the O'Connells for their reaction. They had carried the trouble into their home themselves, but he knew they still associated it with his presence. That made it seem unlikely that they would be pleased to see him there again, especially so soon after returning from Ahm Shere.
The warrior's muscles, already sore and tense from the long journey, wound tighter as his body registered the eerie stillness surrounding him. He hoped it was an indication that the occupants were away, but Allah never seemed that merciful when the O'Connells were involved. Still, perhaps if he were very careful, he could accomplish his task this time without any mishap befalling any of them. Knocking on the door, the Medjai steeled himself for the suspicion that would greet him. He sighed as he waited, feeling the cold dampness settle deeper into his bones. England was not good for his health, he decided, but then neither were the O'Connells.
After several minutes, Ardeth knocked again. Still, there was no response. Moving to a window, he peaked inside and spotted a large crate near the bottom of the staircase. Certain that it contained what he sought, he briefly considered simply breaking-in, but the Medjai didn't want to damage his friends' home unnecessarily. Fortunately, during his previous visit, an alternate method of entry had been discovered.
As Ardeth moved away from the front door, he once again felt a tickle of hope that he would be able to retrieve the artifacts without incident. He'd moved only a few steps before it occurred to him to check if the door were locked. Retracing his steps, Ardeth tried the knob. When it turned, his heart sunk a little, certain that it was an indication someone must be home. Still, he reminded himself, that was not a guarantee of trouble. Opening the door slowly, Ardeth stepped warily inside.
Evy jerked up from the bed, unsure of what had startled her. Holding her breath to try to quiet her tear-spawned hiccups, she listened, intently, but heard nothing and was tempted to brush it off. Unfortunately, the chill tickling her spine wouldn't let her. Swinging her legs around, Evy sat on the edge of the bed and listened again. She still heard nothing, but was certain, all the same, that she was no longer alone in the house.
Grabbing the dagger from the nightstand as she stood, Evy crept out of the room and quietly made her way to the balcony. Careful to keep as well hidden as possible, she scanned the room below. It didn't take long to spot the imposing figure dressed in the ceremonial robes of the Medjai. Evy's grip on the dagger reflexively tightened, as he moved toward the stairs.
Striding over quickly, Ardeth immediately spotted the tip of the sword sticking out of the crate. About to reach for the hilt, a flicker of movement caught his attention. Looking up, Ardeth spotted Evy. Strangely, she appeared to be skulking.
"Evelyn," the Medjai greeted, bowing his head slightly. "Pardon my intrusion. I did not realize you were at home."
Evy heard his voice - the strong, yet, gentle voice of her friend. Her friend? He was a Medjai - a murderer! The words she'd read spun around her head. 'I await word from my fellow Medjai that it is done.' IT! That it was done! That they - the Medjai - had killed her parents! Evy's hand trembled with building rage, as her fingers flexed around the hilt of the dagger.
"Evelyn?" Ardeth repeated, growing concerned. Not only had she not replied, Evy had edged deeper into the shadows, as if responding to some sort of danger. Instinctively reaching for his weapon, Ardeth pivoted around, quickly and thoroughly scanning the room, but neither saw nor heard anything. Concerned that perhaps the threat was already upstairs with Evy, Ardeth warily made his way towards her, keeping his fingers firmly wrapped around his scimitar's hilt.
Evy didn't see the worry on his face as he approached. In fact, she didn't really see Ardeth at all. Her attention remained focused on the silver embroidery decorating his robe - his distinctively Medjai robe. It moved closer...and closer. The Medjai - the murderer - moved closer...and closer.
Ardeth scanned every shadow, as he reached the top stair and stepped towards Evy. His adrenaline-heightened senses heard nothing but the sound of his own heart racing. However, he could feel the tension emanating from Evy. With each step forward, Ardeth could also see more clearly the storm of emotions raging across her lovely features...but there was no fear. He realized too late that the dominant emotion was rage.
Evy's fury swelled, as the silver embroidery moved close enough to nearly distinguish the individual threads creating the Medjai design. It moved a foot closer...and another. Her eyes traced the embroidery, following it down until it disappeared beneath a neatly wrapped black sash. As her gaze locked on the spot where the black swallowed up the silver, the tip of the dagger in her hand followed. Suddenly, her body could no longer contain her surging emotion. Stuck in an enraged trance, Evy lurched forward.
Ardeth flinched away from the unexpected movement. Shocked by the hatred on his friend's face, he didn't notice the dagger until pain tore through the left side of his abdomen, yanking his attention down to Evy's hand. He watched, disbelievingly, as his blood spilled onto her fingers.
"Evelyn?" he gasped.
The sound of her name wormed its way through the haze of Evy's rage, and she glanced up to meet familiar eyes. They were filled with bewildered amazement; she wasn't quite certain why. It made her abruptly remember she held a dagger in her hand. The blade twisted, as she reflexively tightened her grip. The movement caused a hot deluge of blood to gush onto her already sticky fingers, and she instinctively pulled her hand back.
Ardeth stumbled backward as Evy pulled the knife from his flesh. One hand groped for the wall and the other for the wound, as he struggled to stay on his feet. He continued to watch, disbelieving, as Evy's hand dropped, allowing his blood to drip from the tip of the dagger onto the floor. She made no move to help him, but simply stood there, her gaze locked on his. Ardeth saw enough recognition in her eyes to assure him that Evy had acted of her own will. He didn't understand what he'd done to provoke her, but enough rage lingered in her expression to send him staggering away, towards the stairs.
With each step, more blood spilled from the wound, taking his strength with it. By the time he'd reached he first step, Ardeth could already feel the darkness threatening to engulf him. Clinging to the banister, he struggled to keep it at bay long enough to escape. His legs only barely managed to stay beneath him, as he stumbled down the flight of stairs.
Tripping over his feet as he stepped onto the landing, Ardeth lost his grip on the banister and fell onto his knees. He didn't notice the fresh deluge of blood, as he focused his little remaining consciousness on the struggle to rise. Putting everything into the effort, Ardeth finally reached his feet. He took a few dizzy, disoriented steps in a vain attempt to find the banister, but it was too late. Darkness swallowed him completely, and he tumbled gracelessly down the remaining flight of stairs.
Distantly, Evy registered the smack as, below her, Ardeth's head met a solid surface. Her body flinched, reflexively, jolting her out of her fugue. Forgotten, the dagger slipped from her fingers. Racing to the banister, she stared, in horror, at the body draped lifelessly over a corner of the heavy wooden crate still sitting at the foot of the stairs. It took several seconds for her to notice the blood dripping from the blade of the broadsword impaled through Ardeth's shoulder.
Gasping, Evy flew down the stairs, hitting the bottom step just as Alex came bursting through the front door. Rick, trailing close behind shouting at his son not to run, nearly tripped over the eight-year old as Alex abruptly halted. He followed the child's shocked stare to the bundle of black cloth dangling precariously off a corner of Evy's crate.
"Oh, Rick! I didn't...I mean he was coming at me and...I...I...I killed him, Rick! I've killed Ardeth!" Evy wailed, nearing hysterics.
Glancing up at his wife, then, back down at the crate, it finally dawned on Rick that it was a body limply hanging there.
"What the...?!" Pointing at Alex as he moved past, Rick ordered, "stay there!"
Rushing over to the body, he carefully lifted it off the sword and rolled it onto its back. The Medjai moaned weakly, pulling Rick's gaze from the bloody shoulder wound to his friend's ashen face. It was then that he fully registered it really was Ardeth in his arms. As gently as he could manage, Rick laid him on the floor.
"Dad? Is it really Ardeth? Is he really dead?"
Rick glanced up at his son, who was still, surprisingly, standing where he'd left him. It almost seemed as though Alex were afraid to get any closer, which seemed strange to him. His son had seen injured men before and hadn't shied away.
"Yeah. It's really Ardeth, but he isn't dead," he calmly answered his son. Glancing around, Rick searched for his wife and found her pacing back and forth a few feet away. She was muttering something about the Medjai bastard deserving it and not meaning to hurt Ardeth. There was more, equally jumbled and contradictory, but he didn't have time to worry about it. "Evy!"
"Evelyn!" Rick tried, when she failed to respond. Evy stopped pacing and looked at him. "Evy, we need to get him to the hospital. I need your help."
"La'! Min fa..." Ardeth began, then, paused. Barely clinging to consciousness, he found it difficult to remember to speak in English. "P...please, no hos..pi..tal."
Rick barely caught the weak, pain-laced words. Looking down at his friend, he saw his eyes had opened a crack and were fixed on Evy.
Amazingly, Evy had also heard him and rushed forward. Ardeth flinched away from her, more than Rick would have thought his body possible of at the moment.
"Whoa, buddy. Don't try to move...gonna be all right," Rick soothed, placing a firm hand on his friend's uninjured shoulder. He could feel Ardeth continue to tense as Evy stood over his shoulder. The Medjai's weak gaze remained fixed on her. "S'all right...gonna be all right."
"Evy, send for the doctor!" Rick ordered, without taking his eyes off his friend. She didn't move. "Evy!"
Rick nearly sighed with relief as he felt her move away and, beneath his hand, felt Ardeth relax a little. The Medjai's eyes remained cracked, but were no longer focused on anything in particular.
"S'all right...gonna be all right," Rick repeated, more for himself than Ardeth. He knew he needed to move him, and he knew it was going to be agony for the Medjai. Still, there was little choice. As he studied his friend, trying to figure where best to grab him, Ardeth's eyes slid shut. "Ardeth?! Ardeth?! You still with me?"
There was no response. Rick shook his uninjured shoulder - still, nothing. Taking a deep breath, he told himself that it was a good thing Ardeth had passed out. At least, he wouldn't have to feel it as Rick moved him.
"Alex," he said, as he tightened his grip on the Medjai's good arm and hoisted him over his shoulder. "Gotta move him upstairs to a guest room. Need ya to open the door for me, buddy."
Alex nodded. Sidestepping around his father, he carefully averted his eyes and ran up the stairs without looking back.