TITLE: If I Can See It And Feel It
RATING: PG-13 at most
DISCLAIMER: Sadly, I don't own it. Universal Pictures and Alphaville own 'The Mummy' and Stephen Sommers wrote the script. I'm just borrowing the story line and characters. No profit is made by writing it. I'm doing it for my own personal enjoyment and no infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm elaborating on what happened in the movie and embellishing some of what happened. I hope that I'm true to the spirit of the movie! I have also adapted Egyptian myth and belief here. I'm working on the idea that what is known about Egyptian mythology is only half the story. This way I can draw a fuller picture of what happened.
"Ohhh, I know it's here somewhere!"
Evelyn Carnarvon fussed over the shelf of dusty books and then muttered a 'there it is' as she pulled the loved volume from the shelf. Rubbing her nose as dust began to fly, she moved back to the heavy oak desk where the rest of her work lay waiting for her. Musty and old, the smell of paper draped the library in its benevolent embrace. The illumination coming from electric lights was neither harsh nor dull. The librarian herself was dressed in colors that seemed to blend into the surroundings.
The gentle beige of her skirt and the chocolate highlights of her hair matched the thick shelves and old leather bound tomes. Rich cream, her shirt matched the aged papyrus she had been looking over so intently. Murmuring as she began to translate the mythology once more, using the new book to aid the process, Evie absently wondered if Jonathan had remembered they were having a family dinner tonight. Sighing, she doubted he had. Since returning to England, he had only worsened his career prospects. Evie loved her brother but she did worry about what he was thinking, running about with that high-flying crowd. They didn't have that kind of money. After Hamunaptra, the gold they had found in their saddlebags had gone towards paying all their debts and they had both returned to England in an effort to escape the bad memories.
Frowning, Evelyn closed her book and let her memories free reign. The days and eventually the few months after the whole affair were so frantic and euphoric she could only remember them as a blur. First they had found the saddlebags which had been the cause of much celebration and surprise. There had also been relief and the wash of emotions that they had not even paused to examine before. When slowly local papers began giving safe, scientific and rational explanations for what happened, that they almost started to doubt what they had seen. Almost.
Dark as night, the other object she had found in the saddlebags told her all too well that what had happened was no hallucination. O'Connell and her brother had taken barely a glance at the gold and then gone on a spree to every fashionable and some not-so-fashionable clubs in Cairo. They hadn't bothered to dig further into the bags. That slight overlook made it possible for Evie to find a very unexpected addition to the treasure. It has seemed that Beni had intended to doublecross his master with the Book Of The Dead.
First she had thought to destroy it. The librarian in her screamed out against that and Evie doubted that she could destroy it anyway. Something about it suggested that it could not be gotten rid of by normal means. Then Evelyn wondered if she should report it to the Bainbridge scholars or perhaps Ardeth Bay and his desert warriors. Possessive wrath banished the idea of the arrogant scholastic group that wouldn't even accept that she was capable student of antiquities. As for the leader of the sworn protectors of the curse, Evie wasn't sure if their method of 'losing' such powerful items was a good idea. Just look at what happened when O'Connell found the key!
At the thought of the brash American, Evie felt the flush of pain. The first month had been so exciting. What they had experienced together bound them close. Even her doubts had vanished when she saw the mocking attitudes of the other men around her. O'Connell wouldn't laugh if she mentioned a curse or the walking dead or even resurrection. Half way through the second month, she hadn't been sure. Secrets and questions weighed heavily on her mind. They pressured her more heavily when, finally, her life wasn't in danger. Then, it had soured after seeing him in another woman's embrace.
Partly it had been her fault. There were things she just couldn't share. The Book was one of them. Like a cold weight around her neck, it demanded her attention and her secrecy. The trip into the desert had changed her. Evie just wasn't the ignorant and painfully stupid girl she had been. Maybe that was what had made O'Connell fall into Millie's more worldly, if less intellectual, arms. Frowning, Evelyn swallowed and pulled the Book from the locked desk drawer to her right.
Humming as if with an electrical charge, her fingertips tingled as she touched the book's black metal cover. Tracing the intricate carvings, Evelyn shivered. Maybe it wasn't just the book. Shuddering, she repressed the other sequence of memories that began to stir. Taking the key from her pocket, she opened the Book. Once she had decided to keep the artifact under her personal care and protection, it had been easy to let herself study it. The horrors of the undead still fresh in her mind, Evie wanted to know why with a passion.
Her desire for knowledge fed directly into her love of books. Weren't books after all mediums for knowledge? The book before her held the most delicious and tempting knowledge of all. It detailed death and the afterlife with irrefutability she had already witnessed first hand. It also spoke of Hamunaptra and all its secrets. More knowledge than she could ever dream was hidden in that city. Eagerly Evelyn immersed herself into the pages of the Book. Its mysteries were hers to learn- if she worked hard enough and work she did. For nearly a year she had strove to piece together the history of the lost city and the frightening powers she had witnessed.
The visitation of the god Anubis had been the last straw. Her nicely ordered world and belief system, were altered forever. It wasn't everyday that mummies walked and ancient gods appeared in phantom chariots after all! Snorting at her thoughts, Evie took out the steadily growing pile of notes on Hamunaptra. She had mined ever last myth, folk story and piece of solid evidence there was. She simply couldn't do more in England.
Finding that the Bainbridge scholars weren't as infallible as they thought themselves wasn't enough. Evelyn wanted to be a scholar. Ever since she had been a child she had listen to her mother tell her stories of how the sands of Egypt ran in their veins as did her blood. Although she knew it now to be just a story her mother told her to amuse her, Evie still wanted to study and preserve the great culture that was her heritage.
"What am I doing?" Evie sighed. "I'm wool gathering, that's what I'm doing."
At this rate she would never get to the bottom of what might have been her fate if she hadn't spoken the incantation from the Book Of Amun Ra when she had. Of course it was much more difficult that just translating the important passages. Evelyn knew she had to understand it too. How they had survived just chanting the passages so indiscriminately she didn't know. There was some particularly nasty things in this book.
Assuming what her old mentor and Ardeth Bay had told her the truth, her body would have become a vessel for Anck-Su-Namun's Ka or spirit. Not a pleasant thought. From her own experiences, Evie wasn't so sure. First of all, it didn't make sense that she of all people had been top of the mummy's list for bodies to be reanimated as his dead ladylove. Evie knew she wasn't as beautiful as say Millie or as exotically lovely as some of the Egyptian women she had seen in Cairo. Was it because she had freed him that she was cursed, like the Americans, to be part of the resurrection?
Frowning she looked at the hieroglyphics that represented the canopic jars the mummy had been so intent on retrieving. Something wasn't right there. Pursing her lips, Evie tried to focus herself on the problem. Just as her concentration began to puzzle out the problem, a loud bang caused Evelyn to jump. Echoing even to the library, the sound of the front door made her fumble to hide away the Book and assorted documents in the drawers they had come from.
Her lungs heaving, Evie just managed to hide the two keys in her pockets when her brother entered the library. His merry step and the rather befuddled look were enough for Evelyn to guess he had become intoxicated. Sighing, she moved forward as she brother began to tumble forward.
"Really, Jonathan! You know you shouldn't-"
"Evie, old mum, don't scold. I won at cards this time! They were no match for my... skills," Jonathan said with bruised dignity, as he plopped down on her desk chair.
"You've been gambling again? Well, of course you have! Why I ever thought you'd give it up is beyond me. Jonathan... you know the money won't last forever. Please stay home tomorrow?" Evie asked almost begging.
"Don't worry, Evie. I'm goi-goi- gonna win tomorrow too!"
"Or until they find out you're cheating, humm?"
Seeing that it would be impossible to argue with her brother in his state, Evelyn sighed and called Theodora to take Jonathan to bed. Alone she descended to the dining room to eat dinner alone. In the echoing and damp chamber, she only picked at her food. Looking at the bland and uninteresting roast on her plate, Evelyn wished all the more for the familiar dishes of Egypt.
Although her father had maintained the house in England, she had never seen it until they had arrived a year ago. The damp mists and nearly constant rain dragged her spirits down and her mouth felt constantly coated with the blandness of the food. Frowning, Evie knew it wasn't true. She loved the library that her father had kept here and the museums in London. It was foolish to be so homesick. Still, sometimes she felt as if the sands of Egypt that flowed through her veins ached for the sweltering sun and textured scents of exotic incense.
Evelyn also wanted to prove herself. Hamunaptra was waiting for her to go back to it. All the wealth of Egypt didn't interest her but the knowledge she could excavate and learn did. All the puzzles and questions that plagued her could be answered fully.
"I'll show you Bainbridge scholars!" Evie blurted.
Blushing at her outburst, she hurriedly ate the rest of her dinner and had Theodora clear it away. Looking in at Jonathan, Evelyn could see he had drifted off in a drunken stupor. If she were to be able to research anything else on Hamunaptra, she would have to go to back to Cairo. It would be easy to hire any help she needed. Her father and his friends had known where to get the best help and she had learnt at his knee. All she had to do was remain focused on the golden sands of Egypt that shifted only for time, wind and the occasional curse. At the Museum Of Antiquities, was the final book she needed. With that book, she could finish her translations and find where the switch was to raise the city from its hiding place.
It took a week and multiple telephone calls and telegraphs to organize passage to Egypt. As slow as it was, Evie felt as if events passed by in a flash. All her organizational skill previously lavished on her precious books, she had worked to secure the fastest passage available. Partly it was so hurriedly because she was dreading telling her brother about her plans to return and mount a dig of Hamunaptra. In the end he found out about it as she began to pack. When he burst into her room, with the calm of a sage, she told him her plans to return to Egypt. She wished dearly that he had arrived an hour later and read about it in the note she had carefully prepared.
"You're what?!" Jonathan gasped.
"I'm going back to Cairo and there isn't a thing you can do about it." Evie said with more confidence than she actually felt.
Folding a pair of socks away into the suitcase, she turned towards her brother. His expression was one of panic and shock. A little guilty for so abruptly telling her brother she turned away from her packing and regarded him with tender affection. Evie did love him even if he was turning into a scoundrel. She had to go home to Egypt. There was no way around it.
"You're going back to that cursed place, aren't you? Oh Evie, it's dangerous! I know I'm a coward but- but it's just not safe!"
"Jonathan, you're not a coward. You might be more practical but-"
"Evelyn!" Jonathan snapped.
Silence spread between them. Jonathan rarely ever called her by her full name. Usually it was the shortened 'Evie' or an endearment. When he did call her by her full name, he was very upset. Upset that he had been so hurt, Evelyn wished she could sooth his worries. There was no danger, she knew it. The curse had been defeated. All that remained were ruins just like any other. Well, maybe not quite like any other but no more dangerous.
"I know you want to get your field experience and all that but really, can't you choose somewhere else? It's dangerous!" Jonathan continued after a while in a lower tone.
"But it isn't! The curse has ended and Hamunaptra is no more dangerous than the pyramids. Besides, Jonathan, this is what I've been waiting to do- so I can be accepted into the scholarly world."
"Evie, what if it isn't? I can't very well send my sister into danger alone! I can't do all that scholarly stuff you want to do!"
"I'm not asking you to. I am going to find Ardeth Bay and ask for safe passage into his lands and am going to do the excavations myself. I can hire help myself too! I'm not some helpless female!"
The expression on her brother's face told her he thought her just that. Angry at the suggestion, Evelyn stood up straighter and looked him in they eye. She had been in much greater danger and she had survived. Even when Anck-Su-Namun had come at her with a knife, she had held her own. There was no reason to think her so irresponsible or helpless.
"Jonathan, how could you? I'm not a child! I can do this and I'm going to do this!" Evie retorted.
"That's not what I meant!" Jonathan argued.
"Yes it is!"
"I don't want you to become scarab fodder! Can't you ask and see if you can go on one of the museum's digs to get the experience you need?" Jonathan asked pleading with her.
"You know they don't want me to tag along. They won't, at least until I prove that I'm more than a silly little woman to be humored. Please Jonathan, this is really important. I wouldn't go unless I was sure it would be alright," Evie argued gently.
"Oh bother! I can never win with you, can I? So you're going alone? Are you sure that's wise?"
"Jonathan!" Evelyn sputtered exasperated and dismayed.
"Well... it's just that I know a nice fellow that has always wanted to go to Egypt. And well, I did sort of offer that you could show him around when you next went."
"He's always wanted to go site seeing and I said that you knew all about that sort of thing and-" Jonathan began and then halted seeing his sister's angry face. "Evie, it's a good idea. This way you can have a travel companion and then once in Cairo you can point him in the right direction."
Concern wasn't something she was expecting. It would be easier with someone she could travel with. The idea of one of Jonathan's friends was less than pleasing but better than nothing and she had traveled with far worse. Wincing she remembered being whisked away in a desert whirlwind. Looking at the suitcase on the bed, she nodded. Her brother really was worried for her. Jonathan deserved this at least. It wouldn't be that hard to tell his friend where to go in Egypt.
"Very well but your friend better be ready and at the port by tomorrow at six! The ship won't wait!"
"Yes, yes, I'll tell him!"
With that, Jonathan left the room. With a whoop of joy, Evelyn began to gather up her things again. Everything was just as she hoped! Hurriedly she finished packing and settled the Book into it's specially made leather case that could be hidden in her clothing with little bulging. By the time things were packed, she was ready for bed. Her last thought before she dreamt of the shifting sands of the desert, was that she was going home.
* * *
The cab settled before the hotel that Justin Sommers would be staying at and Evelyn wondered what recommendation he would take first. Part of her wanted to make sure his stay in her native Egypt was a good one but most of her wanted to rush straight to the museum. As the ship had eased towards Egypt, her need to hurry increased. Even her uncertainty of the character of her traveling companion wasn't as important. Twice they had left ports on different boats than those she had intended just because she had heard they would be leaving earlier. In her dreams she saw the shifting golden sands and the huge burning disk of the sun in the sky. Always she would wake up yearning for the familiar surroundings of Egypt.
Embarrassed as she was about her unseemly rush, Evelyn couldn't help it. As soon as she had breathed the rich air, awash with all the familiar scents of home, she instantly felt better. Rangy and sour the smell of camels blended with the most exotic of perfumes and incenses known to man. Dulled and strident voices speaking with smooth chocolate tones mixed with the clatter of hooves, wheels and strains of music or prayer. Breathing it all in, Evelyn felt at home. The Museum Of Antiquities was just a step away.
"Miss Carnarvon, are you sure you don't want me to see you settled back at home? We did arrive three days early," Justin asked politely.
"No thank you Mr Sommers. I shall be perfectly fine. At the last port I sent a message to my house servant and they will be expecting me," Evelyn said telling a white lie.
"Very well, I hope to see you again soon."
Smiling back to be polite, Evelyn was glad when the cab drove forward once again. She didn't really have any servants at home. They had been dismissed when they had returned to England not that there were many of them to begin with. It was just easier to tell Justin Sommers, nosey parker extrodinair, that she was going straight home. Calling out to the cab driver she told him to hurry. With a jolt the rickety car moved forward and Evelyn wondered how much she would have to pay the man. She had noticed that Mr Sommers hadn't paid him for his share of the ride. Perhaps he didn't know how lucky they were to get a ride in a private automobile in Egypt.
She couldn't blame the man in a way. Most of the voyage she had been seasick and confined to her cabin. The other passengers were assigned to tours and not being with any of those groups had only caused Evie to be isolated. That hadn't mattered to her. All her mind was filled with when she wasn't violently ill was the burning need to return home. For the rest of the way on land, she had just tried to find a private moment to study the Book. The result was that they hardly knew each other at all. Not that Evie was so certain she wanted to get to know Sommers much more than she did- he seemed the sort that might be in search for an ornamental wife to go with the bright red automobile he had shown up at the port in. She could just see herself sitting on the mantelpiece wearing a matching red dress.
With a quick stop to unload her baggage at the small residence she had called home for most of her life, Evie finally made it to the museum. No one had been around to return her keys to so she simply went to the back and entered. After everything that had happened, she wasn't even sure who maintained the museum's collections. Deciding to be as quiet as possible, she slipped into the library and was pleased to see that someone had fixed the remainder of the mess she had made by accident.
Murmuring to herself as she went through the nearby card catalogue, Evie soon immersed herself into the world of books, call numbers and Ancient Egyptian. The book was luckily just where she had left it and climbing the ladder to reach the top shelf she began to go through the titles.
"No, I don't need you although it would be nice to read more on excavation techniques... ohh, look at you! You're new, I know. Essays On Coffin Texts? You're not supposed to be here! I suppose I can put you back. Now, where is it? I know you should be here. Where would Rare Egyptian Translations wander off to?"
"Maybe to Professor Galliger's office?"
"Yes! That's where it would be! Why didn't I think of that sooner?! Really, I-" Evie began and then realized someone had spoken.
Whirling towards where the voice, Evie forgot that she was on a ladder and found herself flying towards the earth at an alarming rate. Lucky for her the person who had spoken mounted a daring rescue and became the padding between her and the rather unforgiving earth. With a loud oof coming from the person underneath her as she rolled off, Evie regarded the person who had startled and saved her.
Pale blue eyes blinking behind spectacles regarded her under a shack of sandy blond hair. Rather bright red suspenders peaked from the tweed jacket that Evie would have thought to heavy for the weather. The mild expression on the man's face was neither hostile nor welcoming. Mostly it was puzzled and curious.
"I'm Evelyn Carnarvon. I-I I used to work here," Evie said and winced knowing although it sounded logical in her mind it sounded foolish out loud.
"Oh. I'm Thomas Henderson... I work here now. I thought you died in the meteor shower."
"Meteor shower? Oh!! That! No, I'm very much alive, I assure you."
"Do-do you want your job back?" the young man asked nervously.
"No, I just need to borrow a book. Not take it outside of the library or anything," Evie explained at the Thomas' worried look. "I just need to translate something. It's rather important as I'm starting a dig."
"A dig? Really? I've always wanted to go on a dig," Thomas sighed.
The disappointment was raw in his voice and Evie felt her heart clench in sympathy. Of course the others wouldn't accept this man- he wasn't arrogant or rude like the rest of them. Looking harder at the man to his discomfort, she smiled.
"Well, believe me they don't know as much as they think they do! The Book Of Amun Ra under the statue of Anubis, indeed!" Evie said with a flash of pride and disgust.
"Isn't that a myth?" Thomas asked confused as to what she talking about.
"Uhm, yes. May I borrow that book?"
"I'm not really supposed to but since you worked here before, I can't see the harm in it. I'll be over at the desk," Thomas said giving her privacy.
Relieved that she was alone, Evelyn hurried to Galliger's office. In the small but well furnished room, she took the Book from its hiding place under her skirt. As she unlocked it using the carefully wrought key from her pocket she felt as if a great lung had exhaled. Opening the book she moved the heavy pages to one of many places she needed to understand more fully. Pausing she came across one of the more curious incomplete translations. Opening the translation book she flicked to the chapter on translating Egyptian religious hieroglyphics.
"Ba... life force... where is it? Ba, ba, bah! For heaven sakes, what am I doing? Here we go, this is it!" Evie said as she found the pages she was looking for.
Reading what the text said, she frowned. Ka was considered the life force or spiritual essence that made up someone's personality while Ba was the life force that kept a person alive. Puzzled, she wondered if she could liken Ka to a person's spirit and Ba to the soul. Frowning, she looked at the hieroglyph that was supposed to represent Ba and Ka. They were what she thought. Her translation had been correct. The Book Of The Dead also seemed to say that while Ba could not be reincarnated, Ka could. It was an idea that wasn't in line with Egyptian myth or perhaps what she knew of it. Did this have something to do with the sacred jars?
Sitting back, Evie looked down at the book. Canopic jars and now Ka forces. What a muddle! A muddle that she shouldn't even be bothered about. What did a scholar care about spells and the afterlife? Sighing, Evelyn quickly wrote down a few notes and then turned the pages to the final mystery she hoped to solve. If she didn't solve this more practical problem, then nothing else could be solved.
Working steadily for an hour, she kept working on translating the difficult paragraphs. When she had finished, she laughed at the simplicity hidden by shades of meaning. Evie knew she had been right to double check some of the vaguer hieroglyphics than to travel blindly into the desert but even now she wasn't sure what it all meant. The passage read;
As the path of the Pharaoh's heavenly journey across the sky reveals the city of Hamunaptra, so shall moonlight pave the path to the great works of priests and engineers. Between the Breasts of Isis shall lie they key to Egypt's heart.
The way the passage read, it suggested the 'heart' of Egypt had something to do with the weighing of the organ in the afterlife. Then the reference to the breasts of Isis was puzzling. Evie knew that Isis was the mother of Horus, who guided the dead through the underworld but that was all. Isis was also often depicted suckling her infant son. It made no sense. Rubbing her tired eyes, she gathered up her things and the Book. Making her way back to the library and placed the book she had borrowed on its correct shelf. As she was about to leave, she paused at Thomas Henderson's desk. Seeing her waiting he looked up.
"Please pardon me if I'm being rude, but are you Robert Henderson's son?" Evie asked remembering something from her childhood.
"Yes... how did you know that?" Thomas asked looking up at her.
"It was a guess, actually. It's just that your last name as familiar. I believe that my father knew yours," Evie said blushing at her forward manner but he seemed rather familiar.
"Your father? Was he Alex Carnarvon? The explorer?" Thomas asked his eyes lighting with recognition.
"He was. I'm sorry but your name was familiar," Evie replied.
"No, no it's perfectly alright. How is your father these days? My father returned to England when I was a child and I remember letters coming from Egypt."
"I'm afraid he died five years ago. I think he would be pleased that I have met you. He said many good things about your father."
Evie could remember the tales her father had told about Robert Henderson, his sometimes partner in exploring Egypt's wastes. Even her mother had liked him. Although she had never met Robert Henderson's children, the letters sent between her father and his friend had mentioned them once or twice. For a moment Evelyn felt as if she was regaining some of her family back after the years of missing her father.
"I'm so sorry! I've been away at collage and then doing the grand tour that I haven't spoken with my father."
"It's alright. My father always wanted me to meet the great Robert Henderson. I suppose it was because I was so adamant with my studies and wanting to conduct digs of my own."
"Ahh, Miss Carnarvon?"
"Yes?" Evie asked wondering what Thomas wanted.
"You mentioned a dig and I was wondering it I could be of service. I know I have very little... any experience but I was hoping that I might be able to go with you. You need not pay me anything! I just want the experience," Thomas Henderson said his whole face screwed up in hopeful lines.
Dumbfounded by the offer, Evie could only stare at the unfortunate man. Seeing how uncomfortable he was, she averted her gaze to the patterned tile floor. Although she had told her brother that she had everything worked out that wasn't exactly the case. The urge to return to Egypt had eclipsed everything else. Her plans for a dig were rather... undeveloped. Evelyn wasn't even sure if she would be able to return the city to the surface. The Book wasn't even very clear. Still, to have the son of her father's partner struck a chord within her.
"You know, I haven't even begun to figure out-"
"Miss Carnarvon, please don't humor me. I've had that enough. If you have no place for me, then please say so. Don't feel that you have to because of our fathers' past friendship."
"No, it's not that. Why- why don't you tell me what area you specialize in?" Evie asked trying to sooth his feelings that she had hurt unintentionally.
"I'm afraid that's half the problem. Most don't think that it's really useful. I'm interested in lost cities. You know, researching to find out if the stories are true, or if they are just local fables," Thomas spoke his voice becoming more and more animated.
Rather shocked at the disclosure, Evie looked for any signs of deception or that Thomas might know about Hamunaptra. Could it all be a coincidence? After what had happened a year ago, she wasn't so sure anything happened by chance. Yet, if he was honest, then Thomas could be the perfect help on a search such as this.
"I won't lie to you- your help might be useful. It's just that what I plan to do is rather well... important to-. What I want to do will be of a delicate nature and I don't really want others knowing about it. I'm not even sure if I can find it," Evelyn said realizing suddenly that she really was pinning all her hopes on a thin straw.
"You're trying to find Hamunaptra!" Thomas spoke up suddenly. "I can't believe it! Someone who isn't just interested in the treasure!"
"Do you believe in curses Mr Henderson?" Evie asked suddenly.
"Curses? Like on tombs and things?"
"Not really. Mostly they are leftovers of superstitious cultures," Thomas replied confidently.
Somehow Evie was strangely reassured by the reply. If Thomas Henderson didn't believe in curses, then she didn't have to worry about him doing things that weren't really a good idea. Then again, she had been the ignorant fool who had opened the sarcophagus and spoken the release spell. Even so, Evelyn preferred the idea to someone who would purposefully look for trouble.
"Can you keep a secret? I'm only asking because this must be done in absolute secrecy," Evie asked still unsure as to whether she could trust this man who had taken her old job.
"I suppose. I understand how you wouldn't want treasure hunters to hear about your attempt to find the city. You also don't have any reason to trust me but I'm sure my superiors will tell you I can be trusted," Thomas said sincerely.
Evelyn wanted to trust the man before her. He looked as innocent and well intentioned as she had a year ago. They even had experienced the same rejection by more mainstream scholars. She wanted to trust him but could she trust him with this secret that could be the most important of them all? The Book seemed for a moment to weigh her down. Could she trust him with the knowledge that existed in the Book? That wasn't something she could even tell her brother.
"You do understand that I might not be able to find it?" Evie said, the lie not quite a lie.
"It doesn't matter," Thomas replied.
"There won't be anyone but us... at least at first," Evelyn added seeing the change of expression at her words.
"I don't mind. I really would like to go on your dig, Miss Carnarvon. It probably sounds foolish but you would be giving me an opportunity that I would be forever grateful for."
"Really? I-I mean that I'm happy to have you! Do you mind if I meet you here in two days? That is if you can take the time off. It should be at least a few weeks," Evie suggested.
"Of course... I haven't taken much time and I have a month owed to me," Thomas added with a red blush.
"Until Thursday, then," Evie said with a smile. "I'm sure that the Museum still has my details if you need to contact me."
Still unsure but hopeful, Evelyn left the museum and returned home on an overcrowded local bus. The rout brought back memories of working at the library. They were mostly happy but they seemed a world away rather than just a year. She also half expected Jonathan to jump out at her and try to scare her as he always did. Smiling she looked out at the brilliant sunset that was touching the tops of the nearby buildings. Two days and she would be searching once again for the ruins of Hamunaptra. Everything seemed to happen so fast.
The sea passages and the train rides seemed to have blurred in her memory just as the months after her first visit to the lost city had. For a moment Evie felt as if all that was real was Egypt and the deep sands of time that shrouded it. Shuddering at the thought, she pulled the bell and the rickety bus pulled to a stop. Wearily she trod up the street to her home. Slapping her thighs, the Book made her aware of its presence. Its heaviness reminded her that she still had much to puzzle over but stifling a yawn Evelyn decided to wait until morning. Her rest had been filled with dreams of Egypt nearly three thousand years ago but as pleasant as the images were, the allowed her little rest. The rich tapestry of the images returned to her.
Skies filled with bright never-ending stars and the feeling of a warm hand in hers was the strongest image. Then the elegance of the pyramids and the sphinx rose before her, a backdrop to temples and the resting-place of generations of Pharos. As Evie opened her door and made her way to the bedroom the waited for her, she wondered why she felt so pulled to the ruins that had very nearly killed her. She also wondered why the Book puzzled her so greatly.
A librarian wasn't supposed to dabble in Ancient Egyptian mysteries. Although she scolded herself a hundred times a day, she could remember the rush of power that had run through her as she had chanted the spells that had raised Imhotep and then killed him. With a deep shiver through her body, Evie realized that it was the first time she had called him by his name. She hadn't the courage before. It was if she named her fear, then it would summon him. Laughing with strained tones, she rubbed her eyes. There was no doubt she had feared him. She had also pitied him. No one should suffer such a fate for love and Evie didn't doubt that he had loved Anck-Su-Namun.
Peeling back her bed, Evelyn wondered why he had called her by Anck-Su-Namun's name the first time in Hamunaptra. Maybe he hadn't gotten used to his stolen eyes yet, Evie thought with a feeling of nausea. There would be some puzzles that she knew would be better left unsolved but still her curiosity burned through her. Then there was the matter of Ka forces and the canopic jars.
According to tradition, there should have only been four jars. Evie remembered quite well that there had been five. The feelings of the cold iron shackles clapped around her wrists and the decaying bodies of the undead priests about her would never leave her memory. Nor would the suddenly animated form that hungered for her life.
Of the five jars, four had contained the normal lugs, liver, intestines and stomach. The fifth had been carved into the likeness of a lion. Sekhmet? Each of the canopic jars were important to the passage of the soul to the afterlife. If Imhotep had summoned Anck-Su-Namun's Ba force during the ritual, was the lion headed jar meant to contain her Ka force? Sekhmet, the lion headed goddess was a strong protective force and it might be logical for such a spirit to be kept locked within such a jar.
Evelyn also knew that jar had been broken. If it had been broken, then how could Anck-Su-Namun be resurrected? Why had she almost ended up as a ritual sacrifice? Unable to sleep with the thoughts racing through her head, Evie pulled the Book from underneath her pillow where she had placed it. Opening it wearily, she slowly began to wade through the stilted formal phrasing of the book. It seemed that the book purposefully tried to confuse and to hide the meaning of its words.
Finding a section on Ka and the traveling of it through the spirit worlds, she puzzled out a few sentences. Drawing on all she knew about the Egyptian funerary practices, Evie figured out that the Ka was released to travel to the spirit realms aided by the preparations and satisfactory burial. The Book was clear that a Ka could be contained should there ever be a need and it was considered a great curse. If the Ka was captured and forced into a jar, then it would be an eternity of torment, as the Ka retained the personality and consciousness of the owner. The Ba, however, would be tied to the body and underworld, moving between them. In the case of further rituals, the Ba could mindlessly reanimate the body as what had happened with the priests that had served Imhotep.
Considering what the book had told her, Evie knew that Imhotep had tied Anck-Su-Namun's spirit to the jar so that he could resurrect her. Without the jar intact and the spirit within it, he would have failed. Angrily, Evie let go of the book. The long dead priest was far too intelligent to try something that wouldn't work. Taking up the book again she again poured over the pages. There had to be something that explained it.
It wasn't easy translating the passages, or finding what she needed. Again and again, she thanked her father's love of the language that he imparted to her. To make the process harder, the Book wasn't divided into easy to follow categories of spells, rituals or information sections. Muttering under her breath about the need of librarians in ancient Egypt, Evelyn consulted with a dictionary that rested on her bedside table for a moment to check herself. The translation read;
Should the Ka not be delivered for Judgement and escape devouring by demons, eternal life shall be denied. The hands of the Gods shall cleans and dissolve the eternal fabrics and return it to the clay of Khnum.
Looking at the translation she had scribbled down, she realized that this was the reincarnation the book has spoken of earlier. This way it looked like something of a punishment. Was this why the Pharos went to such lengths with their burials? They feared being denied eternal life as a Ka spirit? The clay of Khnum seemed straightforward. According to Egyptian myth, Khnum was the ram headed god that created humans on his potter's wheel. Evie suddenly blinked. It meant that the soul of Anck-Su-Namun, had been returned to the material that Khnum used to create more humans. Was that why she had almost been killed? Did Imhotep think that her Ka was created from some of Anck-Su-Namun's?
Unhappy with the thought, Evie closed the book and slid it under her pillow. Even huddled in her sheets, she shivered. The idea frightened her, as she knew it made as much sense as any other alternatives she could come up with. Although her father was agnostic and passed that on to her mother, she still retained the superstitions of most Egyptians. Evie remembered that her father once told her that her mother had even given birth to her over a brick, as did many ancient Egyptian women. Her father had considered it a quaint tradition. What scared her most was that things seemed to be too tightly linked for it all to be coincidence.
Feeling chilled, Evie fell into a deep sleep. In her minds eye, again she dreamt of pyramids and temples too well preserved to be those of modern times.
The sour and rangy smell of camels filled her nose as she bartered for the mounts that would take them to Hamunaptra. Before her, the weathered features screwed up in displeasure at her latest offer. Evie knew that she was close. Bartering had been something she learned as a child. It was both a pleasure and chore. Burning through her light dress, the sun beat down on her making Evelyn want to find the nearest coffee shop and find an iced fruit juice. Hearing footsteps the concentration of the owner wavered and she struck a bargain as he was distracted.
Pleased with the outcome, which was a fair price, Evie busied herself with organizing the camels to be kept in reserve until tomorrow. Dealing out the money to the owner, she was anticipating retreating for that fruit ice.
"I never expected to see you back in Egypt."
Familiar, the timber of the voice made her back stiffen for a moment. Somehow she hadn't expected him to be in Cairo. Now she wondered how she could be so stupid. Evelyn slowly turned to look at O'Connell. He hadn't changed much. His jacket was a little more ragged but he was just as handsome and just as foolishly irresponsible.
"O'Connell," Evie greeted him her tone carefully neutral.
"So when did you get back?"
"I see you're planning a trip. No where I know, I hope," O'Connell replied pointedly.
"Not anywhere you've been," Evie agreed mentally reminding herself that the breasts of Isis weren't Hamunaptra.
"Huh. Could have fooled me. You have that look in your eye like you're on to something you shouldn't be. I really hope that you don't start chanting old spells and raising another plague," O'Connell said with a twist of derision.
The emotional jab surprised her. For all that had happened between them, Evie never expected him to insult her like he just had. On her expressive face, her pain was all too obvious. Knowing that he would have seen her hurt, Evelyn felt her cheeks heat up. Thoroughly embarrassed, she hurried forward, wanting to leave his presence as soon as possible.
"Evie, wait!" O'Connell called.
Against her better judgement, her pace slowed and Evie found herself stopping and waiting for O'Connell to catch up. He placed a hand on her shoulder, which was warm and apologetic. Again against her better judgement, she allowed herself to be stopped and turned.
"I'm sorry Evie. I didn't mean to be so rude," O'Connell said uncomfortably.
"But you couldn't help yourself, could you?" Evie retorted with a sigh. "What do you want, O'Connell?"
"I came to buy some camels for a expedition I'm leading on Thursday. Some impressionable tourists want a tour of the ruins and then to go looking for Hamunaptra. If they ever finds it, I don't think they'll want to stay," O'Connell said with a laugh.
"Is that what you're doing? Swindling decent people out of money for you to lead them on a wild goose chase? O'Connell! That's-that's not fair!" Evie cried horrified at what he was doing.
"What harm can come from it? They aren't going to find anything, we both know that. It's better that I show them around and they get back home safely," O'Connell replied seemingly unconcerned.
"It's still not right!"
"Evie, lets argue somewhere that's a little cooler? I'll buy you one of those crushed fruit ices that you like," O'Connell replied hoping the peace offering would be accepted.
To think that he remembered warmed her heart. Once she really had loved him and to her discomfort, there was a warmth in her chest told her that the feelings she still had were less than resolved. O'Connell smiled down at her and Evelyn smiled back. Memories that had recently been unlocked, sent shivers through her. The kiss they had shared returned to her full force but she forced herself to remain calm.
"Of course I did. Come on, we don't really want to argue under this sun," O'Connell said steering her to a nearby coffee shop.
Spooning the fruit ice into her mouth, Evie relaxed in the shade. Wide shades of brightly woven cloth stood between them and the sun. A young boy in the corner pulled a device that cranked the small fan that was supported on a pole. The rhythmic clank of the fan's blades was soothing and Evelyn almost felt as if she could doze off. Having coffee with O'Connell was quite pleasant. He filled her in with all the gossip that she had missed and what had happened since she had left.
To her the doings of everyone she had left behind caused her to feel a pang of guilt. Evelyn should never have left the land that had nurtured her through life. Running away with her tail between her legs was cowardly and hardly admirable even considering what had happened. Avoiding O'Connell was also stupid. His place in her life would never be erased- they had all gone through too much for that.
"So what expedition are you organizing?" O'Connell finally asked.
"Nothing important, really. I was hoping to find Ardeth Bay's people and collect the stories of the curse and Hamunaptra. It really would be an interesting study," Evie replied telling him only the first part of her plan.
"To those crazies? They'd be more likely to slit your throat than talk to you. Sure, they helped us but only for their own reasons. It's dangerous!" O'Connell said frowning with concern.
"They're not that bad and it was our own fault. It's very rare that a people would have such detailed and accurate information. Usually it becomes more inaccurate with each generation. Can't you understand that this is the kind of thing I've wanted to do all my life?," Evie said her scholarly stubbornness emerging and finding herself become convinced with her story that was half true anyway.
Awkwardly, O'Connell stirred the thick coffee before him. Evie watched and knew that he disagreed and wasn't about to quit trying to dissuade her. Suddenly, one of the reasons they had parted ways returned to haunt her. A week after their desert adventure, he had asked her to quit her studies and to marry him. She had refused. All the work she had done couldn't be thrown out just like that. Evie had thought that he had understood. Biting her lip she played with her fruit ice. The lemon ice suddenly became less appealing.
"You'll have to excuse me, I still have a few errands to do," Evie said stiffly and stood to go.
As she began to leave the small table, O'Connell's hand tried to detain her once more. For a moment she was tempted to give in. Surly he didn't mean to be so rude? It was his way and didn't mean anything by it. Turning back to him she looked at him half undecided.
"This is about my not wanting you to go out on digs, isn't it? I can't help that I don't want any wife of mine in danger. Evie you're being unreasonable!"
His last sentence brought back a thousand memories. Her father and her teachers had been the first to tell her that. Was it so unreasonable to want to do what men did? If she were her brother, there would be no question. She was a woman and was unreasonable. Her lips setting in a line she glared at O'Connell. And to think she though he understood! Yanking her arm from his grasp, she staggered a few steps away. This was her life and she would prove she wasn't just a lace doily.
"That is none of your concern!" Evie snapped and disappeared in the crowds outside. "I'm doing perfectly fine!"
Dashing blindly through the crowds in an effort to escape, only made Evie all the more cross. Why was it that her ideas and feelings were being brushed aside? Maybe she wasn't a crusader for women's independence but she still tried. Nor did she consider it any of O'Connell's business! She would be perfectly safe and she was finally doing something she had only dreamed of doing. Sighing, she hurried to the rather dilapidated store that would supply her with the rations and equipment for her expedition.
A thin young man manned the front desk and his eyes lit up as she approached. Evie recognized him from when she had placed an order for one of the museum's resident archaeologists. Smiling to hide her disarrayed emotions, she moved up to the desk.
Although she still had most of her share of the treasure they had found, Evie didn't want to spend too much money. They might not find anything after all. Then there was the small matter of hiring workers if they did find something important. Part of her also felt guilty for taking her share from the family account in England. Jonathan hadn't known she had done that. To appease her guilty conscience, she reminded herself that it was better spent on a few camels and rations than liquor, cards and parties. In her mind, Evie could almost hear Jonathan's voice objecting and she felt her mouth curve into a smile.
Perusing the shop's contents, Evelyn made a few quick judgments. She had done without luxurious tents, eating equipment and furniture before and she could do it now. Ordering a few sleeping roles and two small tents along with the important water and food rations, she quickly concluded her business with the shopkeeper. His ingratiating ways and thickly false English accent grated on her nerves as much as his sly questions.
Escaping with a bill and a promise to deliver at the museum tomorrow morning before dawn, Evelyn walked down the streets and caught yet another bus. Her feet and emotions both bruised and battered found their way home but Evie's mind was wondering at her chance meeting with O'Connell. Just another one of those strange coincidences that seemed to happen far to often for her liking? Frowning as she closed the front door, Evie rebuked herself for her gullibility. O'Connell lived in Cairo before she had met him and there was no reason for him to leave after she had left for the safe haven of England. Yanking away the straw hat that had protected her from the sun's harshest rays, Evelyn picked up a mythology book.
"I'm being silly," Evelyn enunciated slowly so it would sink into her disobedient mind. "It was only a kiss."
But it wasn't. Was it? No one had kissed her before O'Connell had smashed his lips to her from that grimy cell. The second time he had kissed her was when they had finally escaped Hamunaptra. Blushing, Evie remembered what an enthusiastic kiss had been but with a pang, she wondered if it was enthusiasm for her or for life. She too had been carried away with their victory.
Unlike most of the scholars she had met through the museum, O'Connell had a true passion for life. Not any of the young men her brother had introduced her had his charm either for all their polished manners. O'Connell had also saved her life repeatedly. He had also been willing to fight at impossible odds to stop her from being taken by Imhotep.
The gloating and triumph in the ancient priest's dark eyes returned to Evie and made her swallow hard. O'Connell's flashing blue eyes had held anger and passion that had taken her breath away at the time. Doubt assailed her and Evie also remembered the following weeks after being rescued. It had been as if they were suddenly at a loss at what to do. Trying to be brutally honest, she wondered if they had only felt passion stirred up by novelty. Suddenly feeling like some novel heroine who was far too silly for her own good, Evie slumped into a nearby chair.
She had prided herself on her intellect. How embarrassing that she was done in by the first ruffian that kissed her. If she was that silly, Evie didn't know why she hadn't fallen head over heels after the mummy had kissed her. What she had meant to be a distraction had been returned with a passion on his side in ways she hadn't anticipated. Not even O'Connell had used his tongue in such a distracting manner.
Flushing at her thoughts, Evie focused on the terror of being tied up and about to be stabbed to death. Feeling a little less disturbed Evelyn sighed deeply. Things were only made worse by seeing O'Connell kiss Millie. Evelyn had a feeling that Millie knew all about distracting tongue tricks and wasn't holding back. Neither was O'Connell by the looks of things. That was one dint to her pride she wouldn't repeat. She had that much sense at least.
Realizing that the afternoon was turning into evening, Evelyn was cross with herself. She still had to pack and make sure that things were ready for tomorrow. Energized with the thought of finally beginning her expedition, Evie hurried upstairs to her fathers study. A medium sized room and half lit with sunlight for most of the day, it lay between her room and the room which had been Jonathan's. It hadn't been entered often after his death. There hadn't been any need but now Evelyn wanted to find the old leather bags that he had used in his wanderings. The room was rather must smelling but soft leather chair and heavy wooden desk stood solid and where she remembered.
The lack of furniture was made up by the large bookcases stocked with all manner of maps and photographs. Evie tenderly touched the yellowing paper of a map with her fingertips. Although there didn't seem to be one bit of order in the numerous maps and pieces of paper, she herself had organized them countless times for her father. Drawing herself out of fond memories, she moved to the small cabinet where the bags were kept.
Pulling them out she traced the seams in the soft leather. The bags felt as if her father had just rubbed them down. Crouched on the floor she looked at the small room. It seemed as if she strained enough she could smell her father's pipe and hear him muttering over the maps he had helped put together. At the thought of her father's maps, Evie realized that he probably had made a map of Hamunaptra and its environs. Eagerly, she began going through a shelf of maps. It wasn't easy, as she wasn't quite sure where it was. Ironically it were the breasts of Isis that caught her attention.
Two perfectly round hills on a plateau stood out perfectly on the topographic map. With a ruler, Evie measured the distance and made a few guesses using her memories of the land around Hamunaptra. If she was correct, then the beasts of Isis were less than a mile straight from the ruins. Carefully rolling up the map, she placed it into her bag and took the bags up to her room. Now was the hardest part- deciding which books to take and which to leave behind.
* * *
The morning chill was just giving away to the golden rays of morning. Evelyn looked out towards the expanse of desert they would be crossing and breathed in the dry and sand kissed air. It had taken the better part of two days for the barge to make its way to the drop off point. Thomas was filled with high spirits and Evie found herself just as excited. The camels had been unloaded along with their equipment and now the barge eased out of sight. To Evie it seemed like she had woken up to find herself in heaven.
Heaving herself up on her camel she watched as Thomas did the same. His ascent was less practiced and it brought back memories of her first attempts. Poor Thomas had been rather lost since leaving the library. Frowning a little, Evie wondered if she had been the same way. Just little things like that reminded her of how much she had changed. A year ago she would never have considered heading a team all by herself and with only one other member. Now, she was perfectly happy with it to the point where she almost wished she were by herself. The loneliness of the desert seemed to call for solitude and introspection.
"Miss Carnavon?" Thomas asked. "Where do we go now?"
Smiling back to her companion, Evie realized that the openness of the desert and its stark cruelty was making him uncomfortable. Searching the bare horizon, Evelyn began to get an inkling of how he felt. Dunes sculpted windswept and wild from the harsh wind, were only interrupted by broken and pitted outcrops of rock. Arid and burning, the air bit at their throats robbing them of precious moisture and the sun drenched them with its power. The lack of vegetation and moisture was very unlike England and Thomas didn't have the benefit of growing up here. To her it was home. Deep down in her bones, Evelyn could feel it.
"Please call me Evelyn or Evie. We shouldn't be so formal with each other now we are partners. Just follow me and we should be there in two days but some desert people should find us before then," Evie replied with a reassuring smile.
"What desert people?" Thomas suddenly asked with a tinge of fear.
"Oh, it's nothing to worry about. We just have to meet with a group of people who believe in the legend of Hamunaptra and to gain their permission to look for it."
"So we just wander around until we find them?"
"Well... sort of," Evie replied uncomfortably aware of how foolish it sounded when put like that.
Thomas seemed to nod and Evie nudged her camel forward. The Book had said that Hamunaptra was the heart of Egypt. Maybe it was for her own heart ached to discover its mysteries. As soon as she had stepped into the ancient ruins, something had stirred within her. The romance of the whole place and adventure had swept her off her feet but this time she would be more practical.
Despite her resolve, she had once again dressed in the robes she had bought in the desert village the first time. They were much more practical than her long skirts but she did feel daring. It was foolish since most women were nearly baring their knees to the world these days but Evelyn wasn't most women. She had found it much easier to hide behind books and long skirts. Glancing towards Thomas, it seemed that he did the same but instead in tweed. For all it was a veil to hide from the world, stopping most unneeded curiosity, it was still a part of her. Evie truly had no idea where she would be without her books.
Ever more harsh a ball of fire in the sky, the sun crept overhead. The headdress that she had bought when they first traveled towards Hamunaptra kept the wind blown sand from her eyes and the straw hat she placed on top of it cut down the glare from the sun. Thomas was wore some strange hat combination that Evie had never seen before. He seemed comfortable so she didn't inquire. Although riding her camel was a mostly mindless occupation, navigating in the sea of and parched earth wasn't. Her father had taught her to navigate anywhere on Earth but Evie knew she had to be precise. There was no one to save them if she lead them the wrong way or into danger.
By the time the sun was setting, she was glad. As much as she loved the harsh beauty of the desert under the punishment of the sun, darkness was a needed reprieve. As slowly as the sun set along the horizon, Evelyn could feel the chill of the night. Helping Thomas from his camel they began to wordlessly set up camp with such ease it surprised her.
"What about a fire?" George finally asked.
"Normally we shouldn't but we made better time than I expected. It will have to be small as I don't want to run out of fuel," Evie replied chewing her lip in thought.
"I would have though you would have brought a gas stove," George said as he built the fire. "Everyone at the museum said they were the best little things ever invented."
"Well, that's them! I don't have the resources to buy one. Those treasure hunters do. How they can call themselves real scholars, I don't know. Did you know Professor Everett sold-" Evelyn began and then blushed at her fury.
"I'm sorry, Miss Carnarvon," Thomas replied uncomfortably.
"No, it's my fault. I can't believe I said all that," Evelyn almost whispered, horribly embarrassed.
"A fire is romantic and reminds me of the stories my father used to tell," Thomas supplied into the silence.
"Yes, me too," Evelyn thankfully added.
Between their efforts, the uncomfortable tension disappeared. As she handed Thomas his share of food, Evelyn wondered if he knew what he was getting into. It was a stupid question, she decided after a moment. How could he know? Giving a small sigh, Evie reminded herself that things were perfectly safe. The curse had been defeated and all was left were a pile of ruins that were undiscovered but safe.
"How did you learn about Hamunaptra?" Evie finally asked her companion.
"Oh... from an old woman in the market in Cairo. She was a fortuneteller and a friend of mine who was visiting dragged me in. She spoke of my friend discovering the greatest treasure of all Egypt. I asked what she meant and she said Hamunaptra. Of course William was happy just visiting the pyramids. How did you hear about it?"
"My mother told me the tales. Everyone knows them here in Egypt and I always wondered if it had some grain of truth to it," Evie said remembering her excitement at finding a legible map of all things to Hamunaptra.
"You certainly seem to know where you're going," Thomas said a little baffled.
Guilt flooded her heart. They were supposed to be partners. Feeling dishonest, Evelyn wondered what she could tell Thomas. She wanted to trust him but she didn't want anyone taking this discovery away from her. Still in the middle of the desert, with no way for him to return back to Cairo that concern did seem a little silly. Looking up at Thomas who was chewing on the spicy dried meat, Evie decided.
"I wasn't quite truthful with you, Thomas. I've been to Hamunaptra before," Evelyn said with one big breath.
"You what?! That's impossible!" Thomas breathed shocked.
"No, it's not. I met a man who had nearly been killed so that the secret would remain undiscovered. We went and found it," Evie explained cutting most of the details out.
"But- but you'd have published by now. And you wouldn't have any worry about money!"
Evelyn blushed and was glad that the darkness made it impossible to see. Finding Hamunaptra had been the easy part. Surviving it had taken all of their courage and resources. Even now, Evie didn't know how they had done it. The kindly face of Thomas was so innocent and well meaning that Evie knew he wouldn't believe the whole truth.
"We had to leave before much could be done. The old stories tell of how the city could be raised and lowered with a flick of a switch. Someone in our party found the switch to lower it and we had to escape. I now have to find the switch to raise it," Evelyn said temporizing.
"That would nearly be impossible. Where would you even start? Even if we did find the switch, the likelihood of the mechanics working would be... well very little indeed!" Thomas replied his mind having difficulty absorbing the facts.
"That's why I need to speak to Ardeth Bay!" Evie said triumphantly, pleased with herself.
Her partner's mind was agog with everything she had told him. Feeling better for telling some of the truth, Evelyn departed for her tent. Exhausted from the ride, she again fell to sleep. This time she welcomed the dreams of Egypt at its height.
Justin Sommers motioned for one of the servants to bring him his food. Across the campfire, O'Connell was telling some long-winded story about a mummy curse and a group of 'intrepid adventurers'. Rather disgusted at the rampant show of superstition, Justin instead watched the faces of his companions. Besides himself and O'Connell two others had the balls enough to even grasp the idea of Hamunaptra. Tierson and Porter weren't well known to him but they wanted money and that was good enough for him. Justin was honest enough to know that was what he wanted too. Relics were all well and good if they bought a high price but other than that, they were useless. Man should embrace the present and future- not hold on to the past.
That tiresome woman he had shared his passage to Egypt with was such an example. She was so stuck in the past, she didn't even know it when she betrayed herself a thousand times. All the avoiding of talk about tombs, mummies and treasure had clued him into the fact that she knew something. It wasn't until he placed a few good questions wrapped up in good pound notes to those who would know what might have happened, did he guess what she knew about.
Finding O'Connell hadn't been hard. Persuading him was even less difficult. A few more pound notes and a little excitement, wafted under his nose and he was leading them to Hamunaptra. Not that the fool knew Justin's real goals. A letter from his American cousin had arrived in Egypt a day before they left. It had only confirmed his suspicions. The people he had tail Miss Carnarvon also told him he was on the right track. Now he just had to play his cards right.
* * *
The ring of black clad horsemen made her heart pound. Evie knew that they wouldn't harm the or... or that was what she hoped. Calling out in their own tongue, she asked for Ardeth Bay. For a moment Evie thought that they would leave but suddenly they advanced, closing in on them.
"Come," a man said in heavily accented English.
Swallowing hard, she shared a look with Thomas. They knew they had no choice. Thanking her mother for insisting her father teach her the various indigenous languages, Evie followed. At least she had been able to tell them that they meant no harm and tell them that she knew their leader. Not that it helped much and memories of the scared man who had tried to kill her returned with alarming clarity. Forcing herself to relax, Evelyn reminded herself, there was no curse they had to protect anymore.
Their destination was a carefully disguised village of tents. As they were brought through the village, women gawked and children of all ages stared at them. Evelyn smiled at one child but there was no response. Grave duty was stamped on all their faces and Evie shivered. This single-minded show of unified purpose scared her.
A large tent dominated all those around it. The procession stopped abruptly in front of it and Evelyn knew the tent had to belong to Ardeth Bay. The leader of the band made a motion that indicated they were to dismount and Evie and Thomas did as was suggested. None of the riders but the leader dismounted. The leader then entered the tent. Hushed words that Evelyn couldn't quite catch passed between two people before she was motioned to enter. As Thomas attempted to follow, a saber stopped his path.
"Stay here, Thomas. I'll be fine," Evie replied to the rather pale Englishman with confidence she didn't feel at all.
Lazy swirls of tobacco and herbs of unknown origin filled the tent as did the smell of spices and sand. Blinking to let her eyes adjust to the dimness, Evie stumbled forward over thick, soft carpets. When her eyes adjusted, she could clearly see Ardeth Bay who was sitting cross-legged on a pillow.
"Come in Miss Carnarvon and make yourself comfortable. Please tell me why you have returned to the desert and what we can do for you," Ardeth Bay said with straightforwardness that relieved Evie.
"I've come to study what remains of Hamunaptra," Evelyn replied honestly.
"Hamunaptra. What would you want of that cursed place? Did you not learn your lesson?"
"I don't doubt the power of the curse- how could I? It's just that now with the curse gone, then there is an opportunity for study that will never come again. I could learn so much!" Evie said her face flushing with excitement.
Ardeth Bay chuckled and nodded. Evie could tell he understood her wish to know more. As his penetrating eyes sank into hers, she swallowed hard as they measured her soul. Uncomfortably she shifted on her cushion but couldn't look away from his gaze. Finally he looked away and Evelyn breathed a deep sigh of relief. She felt positively flustered!
"What else do you want? I can tell that permission to study Hamunaptra isn't the only thing you want. If you had wanted just that, you would have just gone there and damn the consequences," Ardeth Bay replied his eyes interested but not hostile.
"I want to know what you know about Hamunaptra," Evie stated wondering what he would make of that.
"For three thousand years we have not shared what we know with outsiders. Why should we tell you?"
"Because the curse is over and I'm a scholar, not a treasure hunter?" Evelyn squeaked as his eyes bore into her again.
"Enough, I know what you are Evelyn Carnarvon. You may visit and learn as much as you can from what is left of Hamunaptra. It matters little now. As for what my people know..." Ardeth Bay said weighing alternatives. "You may just be able to help us."
Eyes widening, Evelyn wondered what she could do for his people. She was just a scholar and had no special skills. Her heart was still pounding fast with the adrenaline that flooded her system. When the desert leader had called an end to their sparing, she had been thankful. Her nerves weren't sure how much more they could take. As interested as she was with the stories of Ardeth Bay's people, she wasn't about to insist.
"Help you? How could I do that?"
"When Imhotep killed our Pharaoh, we could not act right away. He was needed to preserve our king's body for the afterworld. Of course, he would do so or risk detection. He did not know that we already knew of his treachery. Carefully my descendants prepared their trap until he left with the body of Anck-Su-Namun. After the curse was cast, my descendants collected everything that might lead to the discovery of his treachery and Hamunaptra. This was not hard as only two people knew the location- the Pharaoh and Imhotep. In our search, we also found the diary of Anck-Su-Namun."
"Her diary?!" Evie cried, shocked.
"My ancestors could read this diary and knew the depths of her falseness but today the skill to read hieroglyphics is lost to us. That is what we want from you," Ardeth Bay said somberly.
"To teach you hieroglyphics?" Evie gaped her mind whirling.
"No, to translate Anck-Su-Namun's diary. My people need to know the truth. The stories handed down through the generations can be doubted but her own words can not," Ardeth Bay said with finality.
"I-I suppose I can do that. You mentioned stories..." Evie replied and held her breath, wondering if he would tell her more.
"So hungry for knowledge. I was much like you as a boy! Our stories tell how Anck-Su-Namun not only tempted Imhotep but another man."
"You mean he was waiting three thousand years for her and she was two timing him all along?!" Evelyn cried shocked.
"That bothers you?" Ardeth Bay asked.
"It offends my romantic sensibilities, sir!"
Ardeth Bay gave a full-bellied laugh. Rather dismayed her feelings on the matter were being made fun of Evie straightened her back and felt heated words begin to rise in her throat.
"Miss Carnarvon, please take no offense but you do not know all the facts. Anck-Su-Namun did what she did because it was that or eternal damnation by the hands of the priests of Seth. It seems she now has it anyway for all her machinations," Ardeth Bay replied.
"The priests of Seth?" Evie asked curiously.
"There was a petty rivalry between the Pharoh and their cult," Ardeth Bay said shrugging. "Now, I wish you to take the diary and when you finish with Hamunaptra, return here and give us the translations."
"Ahh, well I'm happy to help but the translations may take more time. I might need the books in the Museum Of Antiquities," Evie reminded wanting to be nothing but honest in her present circumstances.
"Certainly. If you do not return the diary, however, we shall come to reclaim it," Ardeth Bay said with a warning look as he handed her a cloth covered object.
"Of course," Evie murmured a little unsettled.
"My warriors will guide you to Hamanuptra," Ardeth Bay finally concluded and the leader of the bad reappeared to escort her out.
Outside, the circle of warriors seemed not to have moved an inch. Book in hand Evelyn mounted her camel once again and let herself be guided out. Thomas looked a little paler than normal under his recently acquired tan. Feeling rather unnerved, Evie was glad when the warriors departed and they were left some meters from where Evelyn knew Hamanuaptra to be. Taking a deep breath, she looked at Thomas.
"Ardeth Bay gave us what we needed. Now we should get some rest until an hour before moon rise tonight," Evelyn said, her voice unsteady.
"Until tonight?" Thomas repeated questioningly.
"Yes. Please, it's too complicated to get into," Evie said knowing it was little more than a plea.
Tired, they unloaded some of their things from the camel but didn't pitch their tents. The dying light of the sun soon passed and Evelyn thankfully wrapped herself in a heavy woolen robe. Knowing there was little else to do, she opened up the cloth package that Ardeth Bay had handed her. There were several layers of felt, which was probably made of camel hair before the book itself appeared. It was a standard Egyptian papyrus scroll. Evelyn wondered for a moment how it could have survived intact but the strange tingle in her fingers told her that magic had something to do with it.
Opening it cautiously, she began flicking through, reading a sentence here and a sentence there. Evelyn didn't know if she really wanted to read the whole document but it was part of the bargains he had struck. The final warning also precluded any argument against it. With an uneasy feeling in her gut, she remembered her tentative guesses about Ka spirits. Was once she a part of this woman who had ruined two men? Did she want to know? Shaking her head, Evie turned to the last page.
Imhotep and I will finally be together for the first time tonight. All the preparations are made. The Pharaoh, Seti, should burst in on us at the correct time and there will be no alternative than for Imhotep to resurrect me. They will have their dead Pharaoh. Soon, my priest shall resurrect me and I shall be free of the Sethites curses.
After translating the passage Evie blew out the small oil lamp she had lit. Anck-Su-Namun really was desperate. The talk of curses made the hair on the back of Evie's neck rise and she felt sick at the betrayals. Evelyn thought she was a good person but if part of her spirit had been Anck-Su-Namun's, then could she be capable of such horrific plots too?
Anck-Su-Namun had loved but did it matter? They were long dead. Their plots had died with them too. A dead Pharaoh's revenge had been completed and destroyed. It was sad that the dead would not sleep easily. Ardeth Bay had suggested that they were damned. Evelyn knew what had happened to Anck-Su-Namun. Frowning, Evie wondered if she was being naive. Most of the Book was not translated and she could hardly expect that her guesses were perfect. Obviously, she was no expert in the afterlife. She also didn't know if she could trust Ardeth Bay's interpretation of events. Looking up at the stars, she saw that it was nearly time to find the breasts of Isis. Shaking herself from pointless debate, she woke the dozing Thomas.
"The moon is nearly up. We should get going," Evie said with a bright smile that was wasted on the tired man.
"Which way do we go? Where are we going?" Thomas asked as he packed up his things and mounted his camel.
"West from here until we find two mounds. The moon should help us, or that is what I believe," Evelyn cried over her shoulder as she hurried her camel forward.
Excitement pumped through her veins and Evelyn juggled map, compass and camel. At a bumpy trot, she moved forward into the silver lit desert. The moon wasn't quite full but Evelyn figured that it didn't need to be full for it to work but when it was it was at full strength. The moment when the moon reached its peak, Evelyn felt a tingle spread through her body. Reaching the top of a rise two mounds rose before them bathed with moonlight. Vibrations in the earth told Evelyn that the mounds probably hadn't been there before or if they had, then not connected by a building.
Between the circular mounds, the geometrically straight lines of a building lay perfectly preserved and waiting. Slowing the surly camel, Evelyn smiled back at Thomas who was staring at the building that had suddenly appeared from nowhere. Turning back to the building, Evie dismounted and tied her camel watching Thomas do the same.
"This is where the Pharaoh would activate press the switch to rise Hamunaptra from the ground. I think it must have been set to rise every morning and then return to the earth in the evening," Evelyn said to Thomas as they moved toward the entrance.
Lighting the torch she carried, Evelyn entered darkness. The warm stones under her feet were solid and sand rippled across it in miniature dunes. Darkness only parted around the small circle of light that her torch gave out. Shivering she hoped there wouldn't be any scarabs. They were one of the most horrifying parts of their adventure and Evelyn hoped never to see another.
The close confines of the hallway opened into an antechamber. Exquisite reliefs flickered in the light and Evelyn caught her breath. The delicate carvings were as good as any she had seen. From what she could tell, the scenes were depicting the brining of offerings the Hamunaptra and the Pharoah rising it above ground. Evie felt her hands itch to touch the beautiful art work and she left her fingers brush against the smoothed stone.
"Thomas, I want to just get a few copies of this. It's beautiful!"
"Indeed! Look at the detail! It depicts everything!"
Hurridly, Evelyn pulled out the folded case of tools she had tucked into one of her many pockets. Removing the soft bristled brush, she gently stroked it against the wall's surface. Dust of the ages fell away even more detail was revealed. Stepping back, Evelyn let out the breath she hardly noticed that she was holding. Beside her Thomas almost wriggled with excitement.
"Go back to the camels while I dust off some more of this. In my saddlebag you will find some paper and charcoal. I can get a rubbing if we're careful."
"I'll be right back."
By the time Thomas returned with the thin paper and charcoal, Evelyn had brushed off a large segment of the wall. It wouldn't be possible to take rubbings of it all but the most important scenes were done. Evie hadn't been surprised seeing a depiction of not only Seti but Imhotep. Taking the think paper she had thought to bring, she had Thomas hold the paper as she brushed the charcoal over the reliefs. Slowly their image was transferred onto the paper. Once she finished she smiled. The copy was almost perfect. The Bainbridge scholars couldn't doubt the existence of Hamunaptra now! Giving a nod to Thomas they happily moved on.
To their surprise, the scenes gave way to a plane hallway that was studded with torches. To Evies surprise, when Thomas lit one it caught fire. Waiting for Thomas to light the three thousand years old torches Evelyn swallowed hard. She knew somehow that magic had sustained them all this time. The hallway ran straight into darkness before them but the torches suddenly disappeared a few dozen feet before them. Glancing back at Thomas who was nervously clutching his torch, Evelyn was glad that she wasn't the only one how was feeling the atmosphere of the place. Burning in a knot in her stomach, excitement and fear warred but pushed her onwards. Moving forward again, Evie blinked as she emerged from the hallway to a room bright from moonlight. In the center of bare and echoing room, stood a pedestal.
"This is it! This is the switch!" Evie spoke happily.
Hurrying towards it she yelped as she suddenly found herself falling. Arms flailing, she grabbed at the edge of the pit that opened under her feet. Feelings of vertigo as she glanced downwards made her head spin and Evelyn felt as if her fingers were about to slip.
"Oh my god! Evie! What do I do?!" Thomas cried his voice panicked.
"Pull me up! Hurry, I don't know how long I can dangle here," Evelyn retorted her fear and annoyance blending.
Thomas' frightened face suddenly peered down at her and Evelyn sighed with relief. The strong hands on her wrists reassured her and slowly she was pulled up inch by inch. Battered and panting, they collapsed at the edge of the pit. Shivering with fear, Evelyn looked around her. A slight grating vibrated through the floor and she watched in amazement as the segment of floor tile rose up from the pit she had almost fallen down. Was it some kind of strange booby trap?
"What happened?" Thomas asked his eyes bulging at the returned tile.
"I- I think that some tiles are rigged to fall. We should be more careful," Evelyn said as she struggled up.
"Don't you think we should just wait and get some help?"
"Help? There isn't anyone else here," Evelyn said shaking her head. "Pass me my torch."
Thomas looking again pale and drawn handed her the torch, which had gone out when she had dropped it. Using the torch, she thumped on the nearest tile. Finding it solid she stepped on it. Again and again she repeated the movement and threaded her way through the booby trapped tiles. Following her closely, Thomas kept his eyes on the pillar they were hoping to reach. Evelyn felt sorry for the poor man, knowing that he probably hadn't expected so much danger.
Her own resilience to the danger surrounding them surprised her. A year ago she would have been fainting or wondering if it there was another way to enter Hamunaptra. Pounding on the last tile, which was, of course solid, Evie looked at the square pillar. From her perspective, she could see a familiar indentation. That pillar needed the key, she thought with a smile. Pulling it from her pocket, she put it in place and turned. Perfectly, the circle of the key slid to the right and a loud grinding noise sounded from deep below them. Another rumble sounded as something thudded into place.
"Where did you get that key?" Thomas asked curiously.
"From Ardeth Bay," Evie said a little too quickly as she pocketed it. "Come on, the booby traps should be disarmed now and we should set up camp. Tomorrow we'll be exploring Hamunaptra."
"Are you sure? That's all we had to do?" Thomas asked rather dazedly.
"Well- well I'm not sure but I think it will work. I mean that's what I was told," Evie said suddenly unsure herself and her translation of the Book.
"I'm sure it worked. It sounded like it from the way the ground shifted. So we have to wait until sunrise?"
"Engineering isn't really my forte but I believe so. I mean, it makes sense. I unlocked the mechanism so it should rise as normal and if I lock it again, it should remain in the ground," Evie said as she walked across the room provoking a gasp from Thomas.
Realizing that she had just walked across the booby traps without even checking if her guess was right, she blushed. Where was her mind? To her partner she had just not only embarrassed herself but proven beyond any reasonable doubt she was foolhardy and stupid. Sighing to herself, Evie hurried down the passageway and back to the camels who were still tethered she unloaded the sleeping rolls and food supplies. Every cell ached for rest and Evelyn suddenly didn't care about anything else. Sleeping inside a proper building would be good for a change. The idea of solid ground under her back was a heaven she craved but then Evie wondered if this building would disappear with morning. Rubbing her eyes tiredly, she realized she didn't know.
Confusion and exhaustion filled her and she dumped the things in her arms to the soft sand. She just didn't know. Sniffling a little in frustrated misery, she wrestled with her tent and didn't even acknowledge Thomas as he began to set his tent up. Finally she crawled into her tent and sleeping roll and mechanically chewed her dried beef and fruit. A few frugal sips of water later, she curled up and fell into a surprisingly dreamless and deep sleep.
* * *
Giving a signal to the two men that had positioned themselves around O'Connell, Justin pulled his gun and placed at the back of O'Connell's head. The other men also pulled their guns. The expression on his 'guide's' face was rewarding. Slowly halting his horse, Justin eased himself around to better see O'Connell's face.
"You won't be stupid now, will you?" Justin asked mildly.
"What the hell is going on? I thought we had a deal," O'Connell ground out wondering if he could reach his gun before he was shot.
"Don't try it, old boy. You won't be able to even aim before one of my friends shoots you. We can be civilized about all this if you want. Now, tell me, is this really where Hamunaptra is?" Justin asked.
Porter carefully reached forward and removed the weapon strapped to O'Connell's shoulder as Justin spoke. The anger in O'Connell's spoke eloquently of his mood and none of them wanted to chance a lucky shot on the part of their desert hardened guide.
"I said it was. There's not much le-" O'Connell began but was cut short by a casual slap.
"Don't try to lie. You and your lady friend obviously know more than you're telling me. So did my cousin who died in this hell pit."
A sneer and a flash of humor passed over O'Connell's face and he laughed. Justin watched him shake his head and wondered if he should slap him again. The whole situation wasn't what he expected. For a man with three guns pointed at him, O'Connell was taking things less seriously than Justin would have liked. It made him curious and so he shrugged off his anger and put off the slap. He could always hit O'Connell later if he refused to talk.
"You know that story I was telling you last night?" O'Connell asked with a rather disturbing spark of fear and anger in his eyes.
"That piece of pathetic superstition? You probably heard it half drunk and filled in the details you forgot," Justin snarled annoyed that his prisoner had mentioned it.
"It's true. It all happened a year ago... right here," O'Connell said his whole face radiating honesty.
This time Justin didn't hold back with the slap. He also followed up with a good right hook. O'Connell fell off his horse and Justin trained his gun on him as he staggered to his feet. This stubborn American would have to learn his place but Justin knew it would be much easier to wait for Miss Carnarvon to show up. Slap her a little and Justin knew that O'Connell would tell him the truth.
"I think we shall just have to wait for Miss Evelyn Carnarvon to visit. I'm sure she'll be more than happy to help," Justin said.
As his partners tied O'Connell to his horse, Justin surveyed the area. It seemed like a waste to him but he just knew something was here. Yes, he would soon be wealthier than his wildest dreams. Who knew it would be so easy?
Her jaw cracking with the huge yawn that emerged, Evelyn waited for the sun to rise. They had been waiting for some moments and the sun had first turned orange and then red. As if a great sigh had been released, a wind moved over them and the sun rose above the horizon. In the golden mirage that wavered before them, Evelyn could see Hamunaptra. Heart leaping, her breath caught as the golden haze vanished and the stately ruins were revealed.
Shocked to his core, Thomas gasped and blinked a few times as if he didn't trust his own eyes. Excitement rising like a tide in her overflowed and her gave a wild cry and urged her camel into a break neck gallop. Her overflowing emotions caught Thomas up and he too spurred his mount on. In a cloud of sand and dust, they raced towards the open gates of Hamunaptra. As they neared, Evelyn noticed the slight changes. Pillars that had stood when she was here last now were slumped to the ground. For all the evidence of disturbance, the feeling of the place shivered through her as she passed the gate.
Slowing the camel down she slid to the ground and the feeling of tingling intensified. Closing her eyes she savored it. The feeling something cold and hard at her neck made her open her eyes. Before her, a man stood pressing a gun to the side of her neck.
"Oh," Evelyn murmured foolishly.
Quickly, she looked towards Thomas and found another man similarly accosting him. As another moved forward, she looked up to see who had unreasonably detained them. Evelyn felt her eyes widen as she recognized the man before her. Justin smiled towards her and then looked around.
"I suppose this is your working," he said calmly waving to the ruins that had appeared around them.
"Uh, yes?" Evelyn replied and then cursed inwardly that she had said anything at all.
"Quite unexpected. I'll have to ask you about it later but why don't you join your friend and give us a moment to have a look around," Justin said and nodded to his men.
Roughly, Evelyn was hauled to a nearby arch that had stood the test of time and treasure hunters. Sadly, Evelyn wondered if it would survive this wave of ravagers. Forced closer to the arch, she realized there was someone tied to the arch. Her heart lurched in surprise when she realized it was O'Connell who was tied up. Seeing him tied up and helpless was as much as a shock as seeing him at all. In her mind, the pieces clicked together and Evelyn felt like kicking herself. She really should have remembered that there was another group in the area. Of all the stupid things to forget!
"Hello, O'Connell," Evie said as she too was tied up.
"Evie," O'Connell greeted her and focused on her travelling companion.
"Oh, please meet Thomas Henderson. He's the son of one of my father's dearest friends," Evelyn said with all politeness as if they were meeting on the street in Cairo.
"I'm pleased to meet you Mr O'Connell," Thomas chimed in.
"Good to meet you, too. You one of Evie's scholars?" O'Connell asked.
"Yes, I- I well specialize in lost cities," Thomas said rather miserably as he looked at the gun wielding captors as if just realizing the dangers of his chosen occupation.
"Two scholars of antiquities. I don't see why you bother," Justin put in with disgust. "At least you can help us find the treasure. Tell us where it is and we won't have to be uncivilized."
"I'm sorry but we don't know," Evelyn replied before O'Connell could say anything.
The slap she wasn't expecting. Fire blossomed along her skin and she thought she would faint from the pain. Eyes watering, Evelyn glared up at Justin with anger. She hadn't liked him but she had at least thought him a gentleman but no gentleman hit women. Blinking to clear her gaze she looked at him with more venom as he picked at his tie disinterestedly.
"We don't know. We were running away at the time. It's a maze down there," Evelyn said her words edged with anger and truth.
"Don't tell me- the mummy story. Fine, we'll have to do this the hard way. Take these fools to the entrance we found," Justin said to his men.
With guns pointed to their backs, they had little choice but Evelyn fumed with every step. If O'Connell hadn't started this little tour then they wouldn't be in this situation. Angry and more than a little afraid, she studied the entrance they were motioned towards. It wasn't like the ones they had found before. Glancing at the hieroglyphics that adorned the door before she was pushed in, Evelyn translated it as 'king's rest' or rather Pharaoh's rest. Was it some kind of accommodation for when the Pharaoh's visit?
The air was as thick with long decayed spices and the weight of time. Soft under her feet, the powdery sand made walking difficult. Coupled with the lack of light and moving shadows caused by the torches, Evelyn stumbled as she moved forward. The undecorated passage suddenly ended with walls of carefully painted and sculpted hieroglyphics. Rich color as fresh as the day it was applied glowed and seemed to move in the flickering light. Overwhelmed at the beauty of the graceful figures and stately writing, Evelyn couldn't even begin to translate. Nothing she had ever seen had prepared her for this.
"Enough gawking- move," Justin snapped.
Moving forward as ordered, Evelyn passed figure and line after line of writing. If anything the decorations and scenes increased in beauty, color and complexity. Her captors seemed unmoved and uncaring by the rich tapestry of ancient Egyptian life before them. It shocked her that they would be so callous. Stumbling, Evelyn looked about at the shape of the room they were passing through. Having seen many tombs and having read much about them, Evelyn knew that they were nearing the sarcophagus. When a door sealed by a slab of heavy stone stood in their way, Evelyn wasn't surprised.
Her breath stolen by the intricate scenes, it took a few moments to realize what she was seeing. On the door were carefully wrought hieroglyphics. The care with which they were carved told her just how important the occupant was. This was a resting-place for all eternity. A tomb. Evie let her eyes search the carvings for the name of the Pharaoh interned within. Finding the formal name it took less than a second for her realize who's tomb it was. It was Seti's tomb.
"O'Connell... do you remember the Pharoah that Imhotep killed?" Evie asked as if nothing was wrong.
"Uhh, yeah? That Seti guy?"
"That's the one. Well, this is his tomb," Evie finished, proud that her voice didn't even waver once.
"Really? Is there anything important about that?" O'Connell asked.
"I just thought you should know," Evie shrugged.
"Thanks for telling me," O'Connell spoke, his voice strained.
Justin listened to the exchange carefully. It was disgusting how superstitious they were. Frowning he wondered if it was perhaps booby traps they feared and like the fools they were misinterpreted them. If they had been here before, maybe they knew what some of them were. Smiling slyly, he reminded himself to make them open anything that needed opening.
"You can read those barbaric scribbles?" Justin asked.
"They're not barbaric scri-"
"If you can read them, then do so. Tell me what it says," Justin bit out gesturing to the stone block.
Swallowing, Evelyn stumbled to move closer to the door. A torch was obligingly moved for better illumination of the carvings. Looking closer, she realized that there was another set of carvings less skillfully carved and much smaller than the first set. They ringed the others as if they had been added sometime after the tomb was sealed. Letting her fingers trace the symbols as well as they could with her wrists tied together, she began to translate. Halfway through, she stopped. Standing up, Evie turned and faced Justin.
"I-I know you don't believe in curses or mummies but I really do recommend that you don't open that door," Evie said with quiet dignity.
"When I want your recommendations, I will tell you. Now tell me what it says," Justin replied his eyes hard.
"Well, it generally says that you shouldn't open the door," Evie said honestly.
Anger rose in Justin and his hand slapped the arrogant woman to the ground. Seeing her crash to the floor made his temper recede and he gained control of himself. His partners were just as annoyed but Justin didn't want to lose his temper again. Taking a breath, he hauled up the dark haired woman to her feet where she tottered before regaining her balance.
"Now, you will tell me what it says word for word. I don't care what you think and I'm not going to be tricked by you leaving something out," Justin said with chilling calm.
"I can't," Evie said her voice quavering.
"I suggest that you do," Justin said coldly.
"I won't. It's a curse and-" Evie said and the rest of her reply was cut off but an iron hand around her throat.
"Fine, I will ask the other scholar. Don't think you have gotten away with your disobedience. You will have no water for two days," Justin spoke knowing how cruel a punishment it was.
Swallowing, Evelyn stared up at the man who glared down at her. Very easily she could die with a sentence like that. Every cell in her body cried out for her to tell him what the curse said but she clamped her mouth closed. It might not be a real curse but the horror of the decaying corpse that had bent down to kiss her was too fresh in her mind. So was the near catastrophe that been summoned by her own foolish words. Evelyn just couldn't do it again. Glancing at O'Connell, she could see his fear and his futile anger. Evelyn could also see that Thomas was shaking with fear and her stomach suddenly turned with fear.
"You- Mr Henderson, will you translate for me? If you do not, I will make sure you suffer just like Miss Carnarvon," Justin asked civilly.
"Don't do it, Thomas! Please, trust me!" Evelyn cried before Thomas could reply.
The closed fisted blow was more than she expected and she staggered, almost blacking out. Flashed of red hot pain encompassed her head and for a long moment all she could do was try not to move until the pain died down a little. Her jaw ached fiercely and Evie wondered if it was broken. Experimentally moving it she decided it wasn't broken. Opening her eyes, she saw Justin looming over the frightened Thomas. It seemed as if Justin was soaking up her partner's fear and discomfort like some sick leech. Suddenly, Thomas whimpered and scurried forward towards the door and began reading it. Horrified, Evelyn could only listen backing away as far as she could.
"By the power of Seth this curse is placed. May rest never be found by Seti until he recognizes the power of Seth. May the tortured Ka of Seti the Second rise to wither your souls and bring the power of Seth through his conduit to ravage the harvest of Osiris."
Silence followed the hesitant and stuttering translation. Evelyn backed away instinctively taking advantage of the horrified stares of Justin and his friends. Piercing the silence a laugh suddenly echoed. Jumping at the loud sound, Evelyn could see Justin was clutching his stomach in mirth. The atmosphere was suddenly dispelled and the other two men joined Justin in laughing. Shocked and a little disoriented, Evelyn wondered what happened. As the curse was spoken, she had felt the tingle of magic about her but nothing had happened.
"Take them back to the arch and tie them up. I want to get working on this rock. Just think what we'll find behind this. A royal tomb! And to think we've just scratched the surface," Justin sneered. "So where is your mummy curse, Evie? So much for superstitions."
Still shocked and shivering with the adrenaline that was rushing through her body, Evelyn didn't protest as she was led out. O'Connell looked equally stunned and didn't struggle as he had when they had been led in. Thomas looked completely defeated, with perspiration drenching his coat and shuddering uncontrollably. As much as she had been frightened, she couldn't blame him- he didn't know. Blinking at the harsh light of the day, she was thankful when the reached the shade of the arch. Tied once again to the arch, Evelyn felt like collapsing with exhaustion.
"What happened, Evie?" O'Connell asked when Justin's partners left.
"I don't know. It was a real curse, O'Connell," Evie said her voice tentative.
"How do you know?"
"I just do. Please, I'm not overreacting- it was real. I could feel it as it was spoken. Something is going to happen but I don't know what," Evelyn said trying frantically to explain.
"It's okay Evie, I know. Do you have any idea what?" O'Connell asked.
"What are you talking about?! It was just a tomb inscription!" Thomas burst out. "If we cooperate they will let us go!"
"Listen! They won't! They'll kill us when they're done! There is enough treasure to take a life time to remove. They sure as hell won't want us knowing where it is and how to get it!!" O'Connell yelled. "Evie, is there any way to find out more?"
Biting her lip, Evie was silent a moment. The only thing that might have something about the curse was the Book. It spoke of many curses and their effects. There were also ways to stop them. Evelyn also knew that it would be risky to translate them alone and without her other books but there was no other choice. Taking a breath she turned to O'Connell who was tied next to her.
"I have the Book Of The Dead," Evie said softly.
"You have what?! How did you get that?"
"It was in the saddle bags," Evelyn said calmly.
"Oh god... Where is it?"
"It's in a leather case under my skirt," Evie said with a blush. "I can't reach it but you could."
For a moment O'Connell glared at her and then began to twist so his hands could inch up the hem of her skirt. Feeling his hands move over her skin, Evelyn turned a bright crimson that heated her whole face. All at once it felt good but also very wrong. Biting her cheek she could feel the fumbles with the leather of the Book's case. Finally after an eternity of accidental touches, O'Connell fished out the Book. Breathing a sigh of relief Evelyn pulled the key from her pocket.
"Sorry, Evie," O'Connel said uncomfortably.
"It's okay, I have it now."
Struggling with her bonds and the key, she finally opened the Book. The tingly feeling of magic enveloped her fingers. It was another ordeal equal to removing the book from its case, to flip the pages but Evelyn managed knowing it was their only hope. The parts where curses were mentioned were many but vague. They would mention mythology that modern scholars had either misinterpreted or lost entirely. The spells were also couched in terms that only years of familiarity with the Book would make sense of. Evelyn had neither. Sucking in a trembling breath, Evelyn translated a portion that she thought she understood.
All curses bind the power of a god to the will of the caster. A god will only grant the power to a chosen. Once bound, the curse shall wreck havoc on non-believer and the chosen alike.
Biting her lip, Evelyn puzzled out what the book meant. Was the book saying that a curse could only operate on a believer or someone the god chose? Was that the same as the conduit, the curse mentioned? If that were so, then only one person would be affected. Evelyn suddenly wondered who it would be. O'Connell, Thomas... her? Fear, unadulterated and consuming ate at her. Her heart pumped and surged as her trembling fingers traced the edges of the Book. How could she stop it? Bending back over the hieroglyphics, she searched for anything else she could translate and understand.
Although anyone may trigger a spell or curse, only the chosen can defeat a bound curse.
A chosen? Did that mean the one that was cursed? Why would the chosen end a curse once cursed? Evelyn didn't think that this kind of curse would allow for that. The evil she had felt told her it would linger and wreck as much havoc for long as it could. The last words of the curse returned to her and she wondered what the harvest of Osiris was. Evelyn knew that the Egyptians credited Osiris with civilizing them and that he was the king of the dead. Instinctive fear that was bubbling away deep within her, made the leap if intuition and Evelyn knew the harvest of Osiris was souls.
"Did you find something to stop whatever this is?" O'Connell asked eagerly.
"No. I think we're in deep trouble. The Book says that the curse can only be stopped by a chosen. I don't know what a chosen is!" Evelyn said frustrated and frightened.
"What does it say exactly?" O'Connell asked.
In a halting voice, Evelyn repeated what the book said, careful to leave out a few words incase she might trigger something accidentally. O'Connell looked down at his booted feet and Evelyn could tell that he had no idea what it was. When Thomas started laughing, Evelyn focused on him. A hysterical desperation filled his eyes and they chilled her.
"A chosen is a priest! For heavens sake, Evie, I can't believe you! What are you going on about!? Cooperation is the only way we're going to get out of here! Only way!" Thomas cried and died off muttering incoherently.
Her hopes knocked from her and shattered, Evelyn slumped and slowly replaced the Book in its leather pocket. With the buckles untied, she could manage it herself, although she had to leave it unfastened. Hot, tired and afraid, Evelyn found herself giving into her exhaustion.
Waking up with a dry throat to the triumphant laughter of Justin and his group, Evelyn cracked an eye. The sun had begun to sink towards the horizon leaving the sky streaked with red and orange. So much had happened in a few short days. The looming fears she had fallen asleep with returned five fold as she saw the sacks of gold and precious stone being unloaded from sweaty shoulders. Evelyn sighed in sadness knowing that more than a tomb would suffer by these actions. And she couldn't stop it this time.
Justin ignored the prisoners as did his partners. The riches found in the tomb dazzled his mind but the promise of more still lingered. There would be no need to be frugal ever again in his life. Fingering a small sack of small trinkets, Justin gave into temptation and poured them out into his hand. They were all from the mummy that they had torn to shreds looking for gold. For some reason he just had to have the jewelry and bobbles they had found on the corpse. Slipping a ring on his finger, he was surprised to find it a perfect fit. The other two didn't understand his interest in the pieces but had been happy to take the other things as their share.
Snorting he looked down at his hand and slid on the other rings. He even put on the necklace. Feeling pleased with his trinkets, Justin moved over to the prisoners. That woman had defied him. Anger rose up and he wanted to teach her not to disobey but Porter and Tierson wouldn't go for that. Frustrated he consoled himself with examining his new jewelry. They were fools for not wanting it.
As they watched their captors eat hard trail rations, their stomach clenched in hunger but no moves were made to feed them. Evelyn felt as if her mouth was dryer than the desert. Still drained she watched the movements of the three men through glassy eyes. The two men she had learnt were Porter and Tierson were drinking some sort of spirits and gloating over their finds. Oddly, Justin hadn't dragged out as many bags of gold or treasure but instead kept rubbing at his fingers.
"O'Connell, what is he doing with his hands?" Evie finally asked.
"Justin? I don't know, he put on some jewelry earlier. Probably something he stole from the mummy," O'Connell said with distaste.
"From the mummy?" Evie repeated. "You know him better, does he normally like jewelry?"
"No, I wouldn't have thought so," O'Connell finally said and looking intensely towards Justin.
Evie suddenly knew that Thomas had been right. For whatever reason, Justin was a chosen of Seth. Perhaps not a priest but perhaps cruel and evil enough to have a kinship with the Egyptian god of evil incarnate. Feeling very uneasy all of a sudden, Evelyn twisted towards O'Connell so that if she spoke in a low voice they wouldn't be over heard.
"He's the one possessed. Seth is a god of evil and I think he found a kindred spirit in Justin. We have to stop him! Once the curse takes hold fully, then he will kill us all," Evie said envisioning the harvest of souls.
"How? Evie, you admitted that there was no way to stop it," O'Connell said.
"Not in this book," Evelyn replied. "The answer may lie in the Book Of Amun Ra that Jonathan dropped. It's our only chance!"
Before O'Connell could reply, a startled shout came from the campfire that had be built. Evelyn gasped as a darkness far colder and more numbing that the desert night around them began to surround Justin. An old instinctive terror washed over her and Evelyn wanted nothing more than to run. A sudden sharp pain dug into her fingers and she felt blood and more surprisingly her hands came free.
"Hurry! Go!" O'Connell snarled at her as he worked his ropes awkwardly with the broken shard of stone.
For a moment, Evelyn paused but O'Connell snapped at her again. Needing no further prodding with her belly a mass of writhing fear, Evelyn ran into the ruins. Her lungs sucking in life giving air and her legs pounding on the sand and stones, she ran on pure memory. Finally the trench she had dug oh so long ago provided her refuge. Sliding down through the top to land heavily on the ground below she wasted no time and took off running again. In ragged gasps and moans, her dry throat screamed for relief. Ignoring it was simple when fear so mind numbing it froze out everything else, pulsed through her.
* * *
Justin felt something begin to tingle along his veins. Glaring up at the setting sun he wondered if it was dehydration but discounted knowing he felt better than he had in years. Why shouldn't he? He was a rich man with prospects of getting a hell of a lot richer. Rubbing the back of his neck he conceded that he was a sunburned rich man. As the feeling of tingling itchiness began to descend along his spine, he rubbed harder. A rash? He knew there was a reason he had demanded horses. Camels- who knew about those lice ridden beasts?
Glaring over at his prisoners he felt an unreasonable flash of anger towards them for making him deal with the foul beasts. Stalking to the recently built fire he watched the faces of the men around him. Flickering, their features seemed to move in a greedy ballet that turned his stomach. Twilight and fire seemed to affect his eyes as Justin realized as they blurred, the edges of Porter and Tierson' bodies seemed be ringed in dull gray light. Shaking his head, Justin rubbed at his forearms. The whole pit of a country seemed not to agree with him. Justin really didn't care for he didn't agree with the barbarous country much either.
A flash of pain along his skin made him cry out and suddenly dark energy raced through his body. Shaking the ground under him, something alien took control of his vocal cords and the cry turned to one of exhalation. Suddenly Justin felt a strange ripping sensation as if he was being torn from his body. The unearthly sound died away and that which looked from blue eyes was not Justin. Almost mindless, obeying only the master that pulled his strings the creature moved forward. Seeing the black wild fire that surrounded their companion, Tierson and Porter scrambled away but fell dead not three feet from the fire.
* * *
Not stopping as she raced through the almost pitch black treasure chamber, Evelyn barely noticed the devoured corpse on the steps. Her legs now like unresponsive jelly, she dragged herself into the temple where she had nearly lost her life and Ka. At the alter, her body failed her and she collapsed panting and gasping for air. Long moments were filled with only trying to gain enough strength to stand. When she finally did, she staggered to the foul water filled lake where Jonathan had dropped the book.
Rolling up her sleeves, Evelyn pulled a broken and dulled spear from the dead grasp of one of the Egyptian soldiers that had nearly killed them. Using the spear she prodded and searched through the foul muck that must once have been a clear lake. Frantically and almost sobbing with unreasoning fear, Evie searched again and again for the book before her spear hit metal. With a thankful whimper, she pulled it from the slime. Wiping the book free of muck, she scrabbled to unlock it.
The familiar sensation of warm sunlight and magic washed over her. With her task done and the claming influence of the book shining on her, Evie suddenly felt her panic recede and her thirst rage. Mouth painfully dry she searched for any kind of water that might be drinkable. Eyes fastening on the fetid lake, she knew there had to be some kind of tap. Walking the circumference of the lake, she found what she had been looking for. With desperate fingers she unplugged the blocked pipe and waited with held breath. As a trickle of clear liquid began to fall, Evie lapped it up. With her thirst quenched, Evelyn looked back towards the heavy gold book.
Making her way to the Golden Book she opened it. All around her, as she flipped through the Book, she could feel the evil that was gaining more and more strength. Her heart contracted thinking of O'Connell and Thomas. Wiping away a tear that had slid down her cheek, Evelyn reminded herself that she had to do this or else the harvest would begin. Focusing on the Golden Book, she began to hurry her desperate translation.
Amun Ra, our creator, made all the powers wielded by the chosen of the gods possible to defeat unlike the pure power of the gods. Spells or curses could negate each other for Amun Ra would never allow the works of mortals eclipse the work of the gods.
Evelyn cried out in frustration as she realized that was all there was about curses in the book. The rest of the book was concerned with the chants and incantations spoken in the rites of Amun Ra that she had once wanted so much to read. Slamming her hands down on the alter, Evelyn took a deep breath. There had to be something! Closing the book to the first page she looked at the spells Jonathan had used to command the undead soldiers. He wasn't a chosen but he had cast magic. So had she. Evie felt her mind whirl back to what the Book Of The Dead had said; the unbelieving could trigger a curse but not bestow it. Wiping her eyes, she heaved herself up and hurried back to the alter and black waters that lay before it.
The temple was dedicated to Osiris, the very god that Seth hated above all others. Evie also knew that Imhotep was a priest of Osiris. With trembling fingers, she withdrew the Book Of The Dead. Opening the cover she fingered the familiar hieroglyphics she had once spoken unknowing. Swallowing she looked directly at the dark pool. If Seth's curse could be triggered, the she could trigger Imhotep's curse.
Words remembered almost perfectly rolled of her tongue with a sureness that shocked her to the core. Before her eyes, the black pool began to boil and surge. In a column it rose and began to whirl madly. Evelyn stepped back a pace and stumbled over her own feet to land hard on the floor. Her guess was right! Once cursed, forever cursed! Before her eyes the column contracted and the form of the ancient priest stood before her as harsh breeze whipped around the temple. His dark eyes opened and rage boiled from them.
"You awake me again? I will have you, my Anck-Su-Namun."
Anger and dark triumph rolled off in waves from the advancing priest and Evelyn jumped to her feet and dragged the Golden Book from the alter. Imhotep paused his advance as she held the book up, ready to read the spell that would trigger the end of the curse. Unexpectedly, Imhoptep folded his hands over his chest and Evelyn wondered what he was doing. When the sound of thousands of hard little bodies began to move closer, she realized what he was going to do.
"No! Stop or I will send you back!"Evie said stumbling over the tongue of the Pharaohs.
"I will complete the ritual this time and you shall not stop me,"Imhotep said with certainty.
"The curse on Seti's tomb has been triggered!"
Immediately, the sounds of the scarabs faded and Evelyn could easily read the horrified expression on Imhotep's usually stony face. Heart pounding, Evelyn wondered if he would listen. With speed that took her by surprise, the Golden Book was suddenly yanked from her hands and she found her wrists clamped together by iron fists.
"T-treasure hunters forced someone to read the curse,"Evelyn said fully expecting to become a sacrifice.
Abruptly she was released and the stern face of the priest blanked and his eyes closed. Somehow she could feel his senses extend past the confines of the temple and scour the area. As he did so, something heaved with magical strength and a tidal wave of pure evil washed over her. Her senses torn apart, Evie stumbled and caught hold of the alter to keep herself upright. Surly the worst curse the Egyptians knew could hold against Seth's curse on Seti II?
Just as he senses were recovering from the wave, Evelyn felt another huge blast of power flood from Imhotep. Knocked back again by the sheer magnitude of the burst, Evelyn wished she could faint and maybe wake when this was all over. Trembling, she clung to consciousness unsure if she could trust the ancient priest not to try to turn her into Anck-Su-Namun when she fainted. As she collapsed on the alter, Imhotep turned around to face her.
"Seti has possessed a mortal and will grow in strength until the harvest can begin. I have slowed the process by a few days but soon his strength will rise like the Nile to destroy anything in its path,"Imhotep spoke as he moved forward.
Evelyn suddenly felt like running away as fast as she could as Imhotep towered over her. The look in his eyes made her only want to flee even more, though she knew that wasn't the intention. She guessed that he had probably looked at Anck-Su-Namun like that and that he was thinking of her now. Proudly she stood up as straight as she could and met his gaze angrily. She was hardly some three-thousand-year-old concubine!
"What of those with Justin?"Evelyn asked dreading the answer.
"The one who is possessed,"Evelyn explained.
"They will have their souls taken so that the Seth spirit will grow. For now the temple is safe but when Seti had gained his full power, even the sacred ground of Osiris will not stop him."
"Can... can he be stopped?"Evenly asked sick at heart.
Before she could get an answer a voice sounded from the hall. Hope seared through her and she darted forward. She took two paces and then found herself restrained by a rock heavy hand on her shoulder and then the owner of the hand took a few steps to stand in front of her. Brought to her senses, Evelyn wondered if the voice was friend or foe. As a running figure stumbled through the entrance of the temple a great smile cracked her face. Her heart rising with relief as O'Connell turned toward them, Evelyn was shocked when both men locked gazes and began to threateningly move forward.
"Please, Imhotep! He can help us!"Evie pleaded, hoping O'Connell would not be hurt and praying that the dark priest would heed her call.
To her relief, the large form of the priest stopped and turned to judge her. Rage and desire for vengeance burned within his eyes before cold shutters closed over them. His rocky countenance caused Evie to tremble and wonder if she had overstepped her bounds in interfering but he instead turned in time for O'Connell pull his gun. This time Evelyn cried out in English.
"Don't O'Connell- you can't kill him."
"Evie! What have you done?!" O'Connell asked his eyes wild and his aim still trained on the mummy.
"It's the only way! The curse needs a priest to defeat it or else the harvest of souls will begin," Evelyn said hurrying between the two antagonists and grasping O'Connell's shoulders. "Please, do be a grown up and put away the gun? He will kill you if you don't."
O'Connell flicked his eyes between them and Evie was glad to see that he slowly replaced the gun. Breathing a sigh of relief, she turned back to Imhotep who was arrogantly glaring at them with muted anger. Realizing that her hands on O'Connell's shoulders didn't please him at all, she dropped her hands and moved away from the both of them. She wasn't about to reenact a three-thousand-year-old triangle of jealousy, especially when she wasn't even the real focus of that jealousy. Evelyn suddenly felt as if she was being torn every which way.
"What is going on, Evie? Justin... did something to the others and I only just got out of there," O'Connell asked still keeping an eye on the cursed priest.
"Imhotep said that Justin is possessed by Seti who I think has been forced to act as a link between the power of the god Seth and this world. Justin... absorbed the souls of the others. How did you get free?" Evelyn hurriedly explained.
"I used that piece of stone. I worked on our ropes while you were sleeping. Evie, that crazy mummy isn't safe! He'll kill us as soon as this Seth guy is dead," O'Connell said fingering his gun.
"What are you telling him? The doings of the chosen should not be for the ears of the uninitiated,"Imhotep interrupted moving closer to Evelyn in the process.
"He does need to know. He will be able to help us and besides, I'm not a priest,"Evelyn argued.
"You freed me not once but twice and you deny you are one of the chosen?"Imhotep growled.
"I-I just read out what the book said,"Evelyn said her fear returning.
"The Book Of The Dead... and The Book Of Amun Ra,"Evelyn added pointing towards the two books that lay on the alter.
Intently, Evelyn watched as Imhotep studied both of the books on the alter. Closing both of them, he pocketed the key and looked up at them with a dark gaze. From the possessive tone to his stare, Evelyn knew he might help them now but when the curse was defeated, he would once again be their enemy. Evelyn also guessed that he probably didn't know that the canopic jars had been smashed in her efforts to get free. A flicker of pity made her drop her eyes. Even now Imhotep would be denied what he had lingered three thousand years for.
"I will help you,"Imhotep finally spoke. "For my help, I shall ask a price. Pay it or I shall do nothing. My price is that tell me what you did with Anck-Su-Namun's body and sacred jars."
"And if I tell you, you'll steal my Ka!"Evelyn argued.
A sudden blast to wind that whipped through the temple told her of Imhotep's rising temper and she regretted her hasty words. Above her, the huge form of the ancient priest loomed and her knees suddenly gave way. He knelt down and reached out with a soft finger to caress her cheek before standing again, pulling her up with him. Evelyn's heart skipped a beat as she expected to he hit but she instead was helped up.
"Your Ka is that of my beloved's. Once your spirit has been reunited with her body, you shall remember,"Imhotep smiled.
She had been wrong. Imhotep hadn't wanted to use her body as a vessel for Anck-Su-Namun. He had wanted to put her Ka into Anck-Su-Namun's body. Evelyn suddenly realized that the Ba that remained with the body would cause the part of her Ka that had once been Anck-Su-Namun's to take control. That was if the other four canopic jars had been whole. Now, that wouldn't work. The preserved organs that would let her Ka move to the other body safely were destroyed.
"It won't work. The canopic jars were destroyed,"Evelyn said softly and wincing at the pained look of horror in Imhotep's eyes.
"Impossible! It can not be so! No!!"
The negative was a loud roar as the priest hurried towards the alter and knelt to take the shards of the jars. Shocked to her core, Evelyn could only watch as the shards were crushed to powder in his grip. Screaming at her senses was the loss and misery that seemed to pour from the kneeling form of Imhotep.
"What did you say to him Evie?!" O'Connell asked worriedly.
"I told him that the sacred jars were destroyed and it would be impossible to bring back Anck-Su-Namun," Evie replied sadly.
"Evie! For three thousand years, he has been locked, alive, in a coffin. The only thing that has probably kept him sane was the hope of reanimating Anck-Su-Namun. Now you just told him it is impossible!" O'Connell cried backing away.
"Oh dear," Evie murmured and wished she had memorized how to send Imhotep back.
Just as Evelyn wondered if she could open the Golden Book before anything happened a keening filled the sill air of the temple. The volume increased until the very stones that sheltered them vibrated. Rage and grief were almost physically tangible and Evelyn soon realized her own voice had risen in pain. As the great sound died away, Evelyn collapsed and lay against the ground whimpering, her very bones aching. Finally opening her eyes, Evelyn limply watched as Imhotep stalked towards her with a sense of purpose that scared her.
"If I can not have my Anck-Su-Namun, the fairest blossom of Egypt, I will have you Ehvaylyn Khar-Narh-Avon. That is the price of my help."
Dark eyes searched out her and Evelyn found herself pinned under their strength. Imhotep's eyes seemed to strip away her defenses and she shuddered as they seemed to pierce her soul. A large hand grasped her arm and she winced and the hot burning pressure of it. At the same time Evelyn felt a strange sense of familiarity. Half in a trance, Evelyn watched her hand reach out and lightly brush over his features. Again she repeated the motion, caught up with the rightness of it. Surprise washed over Imhotep's face and lips suddenly pressed against hers and her tongue was caressed and teased into replying. When their lips parted Evelyn looked up into satisfied eyes with terror and shock.
"Death is only the beginning and I will have you for the dark futures of eternity,"Imhotep promised and vanished in a cloud of whirling sand.
"Evie, are you alright?" asked a shocked and worried O'Connel.
"I think he's going to turn me into a mummy," Evelyn replied stunned and slumped back to the floor.
Placing her hands over her eyes, she wished she could wake up and find it was all just a nightmare. Her body ached more than she though possible, she was hungry and wanted rest. All her life she had wanted to go on a dig and the two times she had tried to fulfill that dream, Evelyn found it turned into a horrible adventure in ancient Egyptian curses and death. Now she had a crazy long dead priest demanding nothing short of her soul for his help. Weakly, she sat up and looked around. O'Connell was wide eyed and covered in a film of sand and sweat that made her realize she too was similarly covered.
"We'll be safe here for a while. The Seth Spirit can't cross the sacred ground of Osiris," Evelyn said knowing she had better warn him.
"If we're okay here why did you bring back the dead guy?" O'Connell snapped as he stood and began to pace.
"When the spirit is at full strength, holy ground won't matter. I didn't have a choice, O'Connell! Do you think I like the idea of becoming a-a mummy?"
"It sure didn't seem to mind being in a lip-lock with that one!"
"Jealous are we?!" Evelyn cried bolting up.
"Jealous! Of that walking plague!" O'Connell yelled. "It's disgusting! He was gooey when we found him!"
"I knew you were jealous! It serves you right! How did you think I felt when I saw you kissing Millie?"
Not waiting for a reply, Evelyn stormed over to the foul lake and began to scrub the sand from her hand. The trickle of water was barely adequate but it was better than enduring the gritty covering of sand. Fiercely she scrubbed it away rubbing her skin red before O'Connell dragged her hands from the water and pulling her to look at him.
"Millie wasn't important, Evie!"
"Neither was I, obviously!" Evelyn retorted her voice tight.
"That's not true! You were very important to but... it just wasn't going to work. I don't want you risking yourself on digs that I know aren't safe or running about the countryside resurrecting dead guys! It wouldn't have worked," O'Connell said holding her hands gently.
"You're right but, O'Connell, that wasn't the point. When I saw you with Millie, who is everything I'm not; pretty, wealthy, outgoing and popular, I was hurt! You could have just told me and-and-," Evie sputtered.
"Evie! I wanted to! I really did and then Millie cornered me and I was suddenly kissing her. I haven't seen her since that night," O'Connell said fervently.
"No. Just please promise me that you don't let that dead guy kiss you again," O'Connell asked dropping her hands.
"Since when has it been you're business who I let kiss me!" Evelyn replied her eyes blazing.
"Evie! He's going to kill us after this is all over!"
"Well- when he turns me into a mummy, you're the first one I'm coming after," Evie began sternly but ended with a chuckle that turned into a laugh.
Evie watched as O'Connell's mouth twitched and he joined her in laughter. The last time she had spoken those words, things had seemed just as bleak and terrifying. Spasms of laughter moved through her and Evelyn felt the fear and exhaustion recede. Wiping away the tears that streaked her face, she looked up at O'Connell. It wouldn't have worked and maybe she should thank Millie for showing her so early.
In silence they both washed away the worst of the sand. Their silence was of understanding rather than discomfort. Wiping the water from her hands on her robe, Evelyn wondered where Imhotep had gone. The idea that he had left them worried her greatly but she knew for some reason that once given, his word was good. Wondering where she got that idea, Evelyn looked over the temple. They were in the most inner sanctum and she thought of the documents on the ancient temples she had read. The sacred ground should extend for more than the sanctuary. Looking about, Evie had to admit that she wasn't really certain as this temple was nothing like the one she had visited and read about before.
Closing her eyes Evelyn tried to remember the lay out of the area. It would make sense that both the treasure room and the mummy room would have been sanctified. That at least gave them more room. Part of her wanted to explore the are and Evelyn knew that O'Connell would probably appreciate being able to leave the atmosphere of the temple sanctuary.
"You know, we can probably go into the treasure room if we want," Evelyn suggested. "It would have been blessed by Osiris too."
"Why don't you go since we won't be getting any sleep. I want to wait for that dust cloud. I don't trust him."
"So you've said," Evelyn replied tartly. "I think I will go and have a look around. It's not often such things survive."
O'Connell rumbled a rely and Evelyn happily fled to the huge gold filled room. She would pay the ultimate price so that the Seth Spirit would be banished O'Connell wouldn't do anything but gripe. Wandering through the treasure room she marveled at the wealth spread out before her. Piles of coins worth more than the gold they were made of, rose up in piles taller than herself.
Immaculately preserved statues of gods, animals and people looked at her from all points of the room. Jewelry and gems glittered in the soft moonlight that caught on the aligned mirrors. Gingerly, Evelyn picked up a bracelet and half expected it to disintegrate in her hand. To her surprise it did nothing of the sort. Smiling foolishly at her daring, she slipped it on her wrist and admired the rich blue color of the lapis lazuli and vibrant red of the carnelian. The sky blue of the turquoise reminded her of the clearest of skies and the gold was the sun.
Spotting the matching bracelet, Evie couldn't help herself. Slowly she dressed in the rest of the jewelry she found on the pile. With the bold glittering of the ancient gold cool on her flesh, Evie curiously moved over to the closest mirror. Even with the uneven surface and the luminescence of the moon, she saw a stranger's face in the mirror. Exotic dark eyes looked back at her and the bold colors of the jewelry enhanced the tones of her skin. Blushing she reached up to touch her cheek, watching to see if the strange face she saw was indeed hers.
"All the treasures of Egypt will be yours but they pale beside you,"a voice murmured from behind her.
Startled, Evelyn whirled to see Imhotep watching her. Her face blushing all the more, she wondered for how long he had been watching. She felt like she had been caught doing something that she wasn't supposed to. When his comments registered, her face tried to flush more but found it impossible. Her pride made her back stiffen and her chin lift as she regarded the ancient priest. His flattery or ridicule wasn't what she needed at all.
"You don't have to mock me,"Evelyn said quietly.
"I do not mock you Ehvaylyn,"Imhotep said with finality. "You misjudge your beauty and try to hide it as if it was shameful. The women of my time embraced their beauty. With scented oils they smoothed their skin and with the purest cosmetics they beautified their sun blessed skins. The blood of Egypt flows in your veins, does it not call for the luxuries of your ancestors?"
The words she would have spoken caught in her throat. Astonished, Evelyn shifted uncomfortably. Scholars didn't have time for primping. It took hard work to learn hieroglyphics and she had never had time to worry about her appearance like most of the other girls she had known. Evie couldn't remember the last time when someone had told her that she was beautiful. Glaring at the dark priest, Evelyn refused to let her head be turned by such words. All he wanted was a replacement.
"The women of my time think there are more important things that rubbing their skins with oils and matching necklaces!"Evelyn growled exaggerating. "And where did you go anyway?"
Imhotep seemed to fight a smile for a moment and Evelyn just straightened her back all the more. He was making fun of her! Again she blushed at the thought of what a spectacle she had made of herself. She really did want to take the jewelry off but she couldn't do it now or suggest that she was embarrassed. That was the last thing she wanted to do in front of Imhotep.
"The Seth Spirit has left Hamunaptra and has begun to search for more souls to sooth its never ending hunger. It will be drawn towards the greatest number of souls so the true feasting can begin. It will go to Cairo."
"Cairo? All those people! I thought you said it would take several days before it was full strength,"Evelyn queried.
"It will but with more people to consume it will take less time. The Eye Of Ra must be found so that the Spirit can be sent back,"Imhotep said.
The mention of the Eye confused Evie. Most scholars considered it a powerful symbol of the god Ra, but that wouldn't explain why it was needed. Something told her that this was one of the parts of Egyptian mythology that they had overlooked or not discovered. As to where the Eye was, she didn't know.
"What is the Eye Of Ra and why would we need it?"Evie finally asked knowing there was no other way to learn what she needed to know.
"You do not know of they Eye? The priests of Amun-Ra hold it in their grand temple at Cairo. How is it that you are so ignorant of the gods of our homeland?"
Confounded, Evie stared at the priest. Did he not know? Knowing that the three thousand year old man was in for a shock, she bit her lip. How could she best tell him? Surly he had noticed the differences in modern Cairo? If he had, she really didn't know what he had thought of them. What would he say when she told him there was no Pharoah?
"Imhotep, there are no more priests of Amun-Ra or any of the gods. That I why I returned you. There is no one else who can do it. The temple of Amun-Ra is gone or moved- I'm not sure which. What did the Eye look like?"
A look of disbelief crossed stern features and Evelyn knew that she had delivered a rather shocking revelation. She knew that she wouldn't have the strength to do what this ancient man was doing. To suddenly wake up and find the world so changed would be beyond horrible. For a moment the carved stone of Imhotep's face softened and Evie could see the dismay he was feeling.
"I am sorry,"Evie murmured uncomfortably.
"Enough. We must have the Eye or the Seth Spirit will never be defeated. The Eye is a large inset wadjet eye of gold. Only the finest Lapis, turquoise and purest gold the color of the sun was used. The Eye is a cubit long and three hands wide held up by a staff of gold inlaid with precious stones from afar,"Imhotep said his face returning to the cool mask it normally was.
Struggling a little with the unfamiliar measurements, Evie tried to picture the Eye. Where would something like that be? She hoped that it hadn't been found in centuries past and melted down to its base metals and the stones pried away. Glancing up at Imhotep she realized that there had to be a way of finding the Eye. Evie was also unnerved by how easily he had closed off his shock. She rather wondered when it would all burst out. When it did, she wasn't sure if it would be a good thing.
"I haven't heard of such an artifact being found but at the museum there is a record of all the pieces they have. We could look there,"Evelyn suggested.
"We must leave soon or else the Spirit will gain its full strength."
"But we don't have any camels or supplies or-"
Seeing the look in Imhotep's face, Evelyn stopped her protests. Obviously they wouldn't be traveling by mortal means. Immediately her stomach began to churn. On trip like that was quite enough. Although she couldn't remember anything except suddenly being sucked up into a huge sand whirlwind and then finding herself sitting on a sand dune, her stomach had obviously remembered. By the look on the priest's face, there wasn't much choice.
"You will not need them. Come, we must gather your servant-"
"He is not my servant!"Evelyn cried disgusted. "O'Connell is a friend and you should treat him like one. He will be able to help us when we reach Cairo if I can't find the Eye in the museum records."
"Do you love him?"Imhotep scowled down at her.
"I don't see what business of yours it is!"Evie bristled.
"It is every business of mine! You are mine, now and for the desert of eternity. I will not let your petty guard get in my way,"Imhotep said clasping her shoulders firmly and letting his hands caress her flesh. "Do you love him, Ehvaylyn Khar-Narh-Avon my Anck-Su-Namun born again?"
"No,"Evelyn squeaked her eyes large and her heart racing at the touch of his hands. "I thought so once."
As soon as the words exited her mouth, Evelyn regretted them. Why had she told him that? Lightheaded, she wondered what had compelled her to answer so truthfully. Maybe she should have lied. Forcing herself to meet Imhotep's eyes, she recognized the passionate possessive nature behind them. Perhaps she had been right telling the truth. Abruptly his hands dropped from her shoulders and Evelyn would have slumped to the floor from nerves except for her pride. Her eyes darting from side to side, she wondered what would happen now.
"Come, we must go,"Imhotep said and Evelyn nodded and followed behind him back into the sanctuary.
O'Connell saw them enter and her jumped to his feet and Evie joined him rather subdued. Seeing his curious glance, she realized that she was still wearing the jewelry but forced her face not to blush. As she walked towards him, Evelyn could tell that he was less than pleased about Imhotep's return.
"We have to go to Cairo. The Seth Spirit is heading there and we must find the Eye Of Ra to defeat it."
"To Cairo? Are the horses and camels still outside?" O'Connell asked frowning.
"Not exactly," Evelyn replied uncomfortably.
"Are you ready?"Imhotep broke in impatiently.
Nodding she wondered if O'Connell would be mad later. Before anything else could be said, the priest turned into a whirling sea of sand. As the edge of the golden sand passed over her, Evelyn found herself fade into darkness.
Virtually unnoticed by the dawn press around them, they made their way to the small house that she called her own. Once again covered in a fine film of dust and sand, Evelyn was about ready to kill for a bath. Itching but more rested than when they had started out, they shuffled through the front door. Too tired to care what Imhotep would think of her rather plain home, Evelyn wandered into the kitchen and fished out some cheese and coarse bread. Sitting down at the kitchen table, Evelyn looked around the peaceful kitchen and wondered if it all could be real. Two curses in as many years. That couldn't be coincidence. Swallowing down the bread that to her tasted like sawdust, Evie felt more ready to deal with her new houseguests. Looking at the bread and cheese, she suddenly frowned. Did a mummy have to eat?
Shaking her head she took the bread and cheese out to the living room on a platter. O'Connell was scowling and fiddling with his gun. The priest was looking about the room in fascination. Neither of them looked comfortable or happy. Knowing her mother was probably turning in her grave at her lack of hospitality, Evie belatedly set the platter down wishing she had more in the cupboards to eat.
"Evie, I should get down to the market and see if there are any rumors. We don't really want to be caught unawares," O'Connell said between shoveling the bread and cheese into his mouth.
"That's a good idea. When it gets a little later, I will go down to the museum with Imhotep to go through the records," Evie replied.
"Why is this Eye thingie so important anyway? What's it supposed to do?" O'Connell frowned. "I don't want to risk my ass for it unless I know what it is."
Embarrassed that she hadn't even thought to ask that question, Evie looked up to the brooding priest. He seemed bored by their conversation and she couldn't blame him as he couldn't very well understand what they were saying. The Eye was their first priority but Evelyn wondered what would happen if they did banish the Sprit. Would she really become a mummy? Shivering, she knew that she would rather go without that once-in-a-life-time experience.
"I'm not really certain, O'Connell, but I know we can't get rid of the Seth Spirit without the Eye," Evie said keeping her face from blushing.
"Why don't you ask Mr Bandages."
"O'Connell and I wish to know what the Eye will be used for. How will it help us get rid of the Seth Spirit?"Evie finally asked.
"The curse they laid on Seti was something forbidden to even the greatest and wisest of the Chosen. Amun Ra decreed after many millennia that none of the gods would be allowed to manifest directly to the mortal plane. Seth's hatred of Osiris was so great he had his priests curse Seti to act as the link between Seth and the mortal plane,"Imhotep spoke with great seriousness that Evelyn found that she could only believe what he was telling her. "To defeat a Spirit with most of the powers of Seth, we must draw Amun Ra's attention to Seth's transgression."
"But why was Seti cursed in the first place?"Evie asked after digesting what she had been told.
"My brother and I did all we could to drive out the Sethites after they nearly succeeded in assassinating the heir to the dual crown of Egypt."
"Seti was your brother?!"
"That is not important!"
Deciding that it was better to back down, Evelyn turned to O'Connell. He had been watching the exchange carefully. Framing what she had found out into English, Evie wondered what O'Connell would think of gods that were tangible and that interfered in the affairs of man. The idea scared Evelyn and the philosophical debates were quickly packed away so for later.
"Imhotep says that the Eye will somehow make Amun Ra find out about the Seth Spirit. It seems that this really isn't supposed to happen. I gather that Seth was really, really, naughty and wasn't supposed to be directly linked to this world," Evie explained.
"You have got to be kidding me!"
"You believe in mummies, curses and plagues but not gods? O'Connell! There are higher forces or how do you explain how we got to Cairo or the dead walking?" Evie argued.
"No, I don't believe in lofty gods or some Supreme Being. That's crazy! Mummies might be explained as a freak of nature but Evie? You can't honestly believe that! What happened to believing in only what you can see and feel?" O'Connell shouted towering over her.
In an instant, O'Connell found himself dangling by the throat a few feet of the ground. For a moment Evie was stunned but she jumped to action as she saw her friend's face start to turn red. Realizing that Imhotep would kill him, was a great motivator. Hurrying towards the glowering and homicidal priest, she prayed that they would all live.
"Please, he was just upset! He wouldn't have hurt me!"
"For the last time I have endured his meddling! You are bound to me and he who threatens you, threatens me!"
"I can fight my own battles! We have something these days called independence and I'm not about to just let you take it! Let him go! He wasn't going to hurt me!"Evie cried wrapping her hand around the wrist of the arm that was suspending O'Connell.
"Why do you protect such as he?"Imhotep said turning to look at her.
"He saved my life and he's my friend,"Evelyn replied.
"His life is not worth your trouble, Ehvaylyn."
"You can't kill him, we need his help. Please, he might be nothing to you but he is my friend,"Evelyn pleaded her pulse hammering.
With a thud, O'Connell hit the floor. Evelyn helped him the couch and checked his throat that was already beginning to bruise. Guiltily she avoided his eyes and stepped back before he could force her to meet his gaze.
"O'Connell, I think you should go to the markets," Evie suggested wanting to hurry O'Connell out before anything else happened.
Hustling him out, Evelyn avoided the priest who she could have sworn was sulking and went upstairs to the bathroom. Drawing water she splashed her face but gave up soon. The water had come away nearly beige from the dirt. Turning the taps on in the bathtub, Evie again thanked her mother for demanding indoor pluming. Undressing she added some sandalwood bath foam to the water before lying back in it.
Soft and cool, the water enveloped her and the bubbles floated as a screen around her. It sure beat the metallic water she had endured in the temple. Closing her eyes, Evelyn wished she could just forget the last few days and return to quiet study. She would also forget kissing, not once but twice, someone who was technically dead. How she could do that she didn't know. Evelyn was sure that it had to do with the stressed of battling another curse. The kisses had happened though and even how her cheeks burned at the thought. Even with her limited experience, Evelyn struggled deny that it was a good kiss. What was it with her and kisses?
The first time she had kissed Imhotep she had done it to distract him. It had certainly distracted him. There was nothing to it! It had been different with O'Connell whom she had feelings for. O'Connell had been gentle and yet passionate. He hadn't assumed more than was appropriate. The priest had shocked her to the core both times stirring up all sorts of things. A wave of embarrassment flooded her. Her mother must be rolling in her grave! Crossly, Evelyn wondered why she was thinking such things.
Papyrus scrolls and rubbings were nice, safe and didn't require eyes of gods, kisses or lost books. Much safer- she wouldn't even have to go outside. Frowning, Evelyn took it back. Quiet, but horribly boring. That wouldn't do at all. She would be gallivanting about Egypt in no time. It was just bad luck she seemed to be a curse magnet.
Poor Thomas had paid the price. Saddened, Evelyn opened her eyes looked at her reflection on the wall. She should have told him everything. Even if he had laughed and ignored her warnings, then maybe he wouldn't have read out the curse. It was her fault. Tears washed down her face and she dashed them aside hastily. Crying about it wouldn't do a bit of good. She had to fix things. If she didn't then Seth would consume the souls of all Cairo and then maybe the rest of the world. Now, that she wouldn't sit back and let happen.
Luxuriating in the water for a few more moments, Evelyn finally moved from the water when she realized she had better get to the museum. Delaying would only be foolish no matter what happened. Skin wrinkled from the prolonged soaking, Evelyn looked at her desert robes that were draped beside the large bathtub and shook her head. They were too dirty to be worn and the jewelry just silly. Why had she put that on anyway? How embarrassing to be caught prancing around like some silly little chit with no care but her appearance!
At the thought, Evelyn closed her eyes and winced. Shaking her head, she felt another lump in the clothes. Pulling it out she found Anck-Su-Namun's diary. Biting her lip she wondered what to do with it. Giving it to Imhotep didn't seem to be a good idea. Neither could she read it presently. Evelyn hurried to her room, hiding the diary in her beside drawer resolutely. With the diary hidden she dressed in more conventional, and more scholarly, clothes. She knew if she blended, then no one would even notice her. As for Imhotep... he would just have to lurk and hope for the best. There was no way to make that six-foot-plus monstrosity blend. Giggling, Evelyn wondered if she could stash him in a sarcophagus. She was sure no one would notice him then.
Once properly groomed and with every hair tucked in place, Evelyn rolled the jewelry into her desert clothes and stashed them into a drawer. She could study them better later. Imhotep was standing in the living room studying a photograph of her father and mother. A little uneasy with the priest manhandling her only full size photograph of her parents, Evie hovered closely not saying anything.
"How did the artisans create such a likeness? Even the greatest scribes and artists of Egypt could not create such a marvel,"Imhotep asked touching the glass of the frame with a large curious finger.
"It wasn't painted. A machine imprinted the image using reflections in mirrors and special paper. It is called a photograph. There are many more in the museum and we should go soon,"Evelyn suggested.
"A remarkable likeness... Your parents I believe."
"Yes, it is of my parents. They are dead now,"Evelyn replied uncomfortably.
"May Osiris watch over them. Where will this book be in the museum?"Imhotep said changing the subject as he replaced the photograph and moved to the door.
"In the library's special collection. It's not a real book- the previous curator started it and it has been added to by the current one. I'm not sure where it is exactly but I know I can find it!"Evelyn spoke with certainty as she flagged down a bus.
The priest didn't seem as sure as Evie and she felt her temper flare. She was doing the best she could and neither O'Connell nor Imhotep would see that! Giving a fiery glare to the figure beside her, she began to ignore his presence. By the time they arrived at the museum, Evelyn had to smother her triumphant smile. It worked better than she had hoped.
Cool, smothered in the weight of ancient dust and so familiar it made her want to breath a sigh of relief, the library was silent and empty. Thomas' desk held only a few personal items and she knew the museum hadn't hired an interim librarian. Swallowing she looked away as she was suddenly struck by the thought of what she would tell his father. How could she tell him that she had killed his son? What would her father say if he was alive? Guilt making her nauseous, Evie hurried to the desk and pulled out the first drawer in the desk.
On a plain, undecorated steel ring, a single key rattled. It was the rather rusty key for the locked area of the library. The special collection held things that could never be replaced and at times important documents. Evie had only been into the room a handful of times. With her tendency to get into trouble, she had been told to stay away. Now she would be technically breaking and entering.
Still ignoring her companion, Evelyn hurried to the iron-braced door. A few times treasure hunters had tried to enter the museum. Considering how easy it had been for her to enter, she really wasn't sure how there was a thing left. Shaking her head, she used the key and the heavy door opened ponderously. The particular smell of papyrus and ancient inks made her nose itch and she repressed an undignified sneeze. In dim and somewhat faltering electric light, she could see several shelves of documents. Part of her leapt to the fore and begged her to pour over the originals and not some Bainbridge scholar's published interpretation but she controlled herself.
Imhotep stepped forward and brushed a finger over the delicate surface of one scroll with a mixture of surprise and wonder. Although it gave out no aura of magic, it was very well preserved and Evelyn was impressed. Snorting a little she wondered if the scroll and the mummy were contemporaries.
Knowing that she was putting off the search, she stepped forward to a rack of books. Going through the titles, she carefully examined those with no name on the spine. Most were museum accounts. A large book caught her attention and she recognized it. Giving a crow of delight, she pulled it out and began to flick through it with eagerness. If they were this close, then the Eye just had to be a step away.
"Is that the book of records?"Imhotep asked arrogantly and still angry with her for ignoring him.
"Yes, this is it. Now I must find the entry for the Eye... if it was ever in museum hands in the first place."
Deciding not to start with the newer entries, as Evelyn knew she would have noticed something like the Eye during her time at the library, she began at the front. The slightly faded ink made her squint in the low light and she slowly read the descriptions of the artifacts. Most she recognized from the collections but others she frowned at wondering if they were stowed in the back. Dispersed through the lists of items, were a few paragraphs explaining where things came from. There were also notes saying where they went if they no longer resided in the museum. Evelyn was shocked at how much had been shipped from Egypt to primarily England. All those treasures, just sent of to the ends of the Earth!
Becoming all the angrier as she flipped through yellowed pages Evie almost missed the entry for the Eye. It had been brought in after an excavation in Luxor. Reading the description, she knew it had to be the Eye. It matched Imhotep's description perfectly! Smiling she glanced up and met the priest's eyes and his face lightened. Evelyn would almost have sworn that he had almost smiled.
"I've found the entry for the Eye!"Evie cried.
"Where is it? We must find it before the Seth Spirit arrives,"Imhotep replied avidly.
"Where is it? Oh! One moment..."Evie replied looking back down to the book.
Two re-readings later she still looked down at the dusty tome blankly. Given away to Birdie Smith?! That-that pirate! Disgusted she read the entry again. Given for his support and patronage. Evelyn almost felt sick at the thought of the Eye in his hands. It also meant that there was no way to get it. Smith would never give it up. In all her experience, Evelyn had never met a more greedy and prejudiced individual. He was a snob; he hated all native Egyptians, ridiculed women and happily plundered tombs in his spare time for the fun of it when he certainly didn't need the money.
"It was given away to a rich man,"Evelyn explained breaking from her troubled thoughts. "He will never give it to us. He wouldn't care. In fact, he will take great delight in refusing!"
"This man does not own the Eye Of Ra. The Eye does not belong to any paltry man but to the Chosen. He won't be able to stop me from retrieving it,"Imhotep promised.
"No, you mustn't! That will only provoke the officials! You can't kill everyone and if you do then the Seth Spirit's work will be done for him,"Evelyn argued.
"Why is it you must always interfere? These petty lives are nothing in the complex and magnificent workings of the Gods or Pharaohs. You care too much for things that are no more important to the desert than a single grain of sand,"Imhotep growled impatiently and confounded.
"I care because a desert might be made of many grains of sand but each are equally important. Imhotep, I'm sure we can figure out some other way of getting the Eye without violence. If this man suddenly dies, there will be questions that I won't be able to answer,"Evie tried to explain.
"You astound me. Do you care for all the world Ehveylyn? Again and again I let you stop me,"he spoke as if musing.
"Uhh, yes, ah, well..."Evleyn stuttered unbalanced.
"Innocent, so innocent. Isis blesses you with both beauty and intelligence but do you know how you tempt? No, you do not. Instead you try to hide."
Fury at being examined flooded through her shock. How dare he brush aside all her carefully constructed veils!? The sensual aura that surrounded him sizzled with carnal grace. Red blossomed on her cheeks and Evelyn swallowed as she tried to construct a reply. She was Evelyn Carnarvon, not some long dead concubine that excelled in the arts of beguilement. Maybe Imhotep thought he saw his ladylove in her but she was herself!
"I am not your Anck-Su-Namun! I'm myself!"Evelyn shouted and stormed out of the room.
"No... you're not,"Imhotep agreed under his breath.
* * *
He'd wanted freedom, adventures and the possibility of riches. What did he get instead? A psychotic three-thousand-year-old priest and an Englishwoman who was more at home chasing curses, than in the kitchen. All in all, it made O'Connell want another drink. He refrained, however, seeing the manager of the catzba frown in his direction. Getting drunk wouldn't be a good move. Especially when his throat was beginning to bruise and ache.
Doing his rounds to all the clubs and watering holes of the genteel and not so genteel treasure hunters, O'Connell had heard no mention of unexplained deaths. That was good but he did not want to be lounging around in dirty little rooms that smelt more of camel than the actual beast. What he wanted to be doing was getting Evie away from that walking menace. Evelyn might not be the one for him but O'Connell couldn't just leave her at that thing's mercies. It went against every heroic bone in his body.
Evie was right about sending him out. His pride wasn't about to stand being manhandled again. O'Connell almost wished that he hadn't started his 'Tour Hamunaptra' business. Sure, it had been profitable and he could watch his rivals try to follow him and then get frustrated when they found nothing. As for his clients, they wouldn't know the difference between a hill and a real archaeological site. It had worked out for all of them. Well... until Evie had done it again. Why the hell had she gotten it into her thick skull to return?
For all his grand words about it not working out, he still had a great fondness for her. She was bright, pretty and could boss him into shape. Evelyn Carnarvon would have been the perfect wife; if only she had wanted to stay at home. O'Connell had had a taste of what lay under the scorching Egyptian sands and didn't want her anywhere near danger ever again.
Too bad she didn't agree. Placing some coins on the roughly constructed surface that passed as a bar, O'Connell pushed his way out. He'd done his duty and hopefully he could get a bath out of Evie before he was strangled or had his innards sucked out.
Dejected and feeling a little hopeless, Evelyn mechanically began to cook. As she was handed the ingredients, she added them or suggested something else. Even the strangeness of having a three thousand year old man in the kitchen didn't rouse her from thought. Without the Eye, they were doomed but Smith would never ever give it to them. If she asked, he would brush her off as a woman. If O'Connell asked then Smith would insult him ending in a rather messy fight. As for Imhotep, he couldn't even speak English. It seemed impossible. Should she let Imhotep take it by force? Maybe she should take a page from her brother's book and lightfoot it off.
Stirring the savory meat dish, she looked up to her companion. Since returning from the library, he had been both quiet and very solemn. Not knowing if this was normal for him or not, Evie wasn't sure if she should ask. Evelyn wasn't even sure if she wanted to ask what could be bothering him. Their argument was still fresh in her mind and she wondered why she was still so cross about it.
"Uhm... ah, do you eat?"Evie finally asked turning pink.
A smile spread over the priest's face a then a laugh met her ears. Astonished at his reaction, embarrassed Evie tried to turn back towards the cooking food. His large hand stopped her and she glanced at him wondering what she had said that was so funny.
"I can eat should I choose but it is no longer required,"Imhotep replied gently.
Nodding, Evelyn turned back to the food. With relief, she realized that he hadn't been laughing at her. Instead, he had been laughing at the strangeness of the situation. This was rather odd after all. Frowning slightly, she wondered why she was overreacting so much lately. Even considering everything that had happened, it was foolish and there was no reason for it. Taking the offered spices, Evie dusted the meal with them and smiled at the aroma. Her mother had been a great cook and she could only try to follow the recipes she had taught her. Cooking made her feel closer to her mother.
"There, it should cook for an hour before we eat,"Evie said stepping away.
"Will your friend be back?"Imhotep asked with a sarcastic emphasis on 'friend'.
"I hope so. We need to figure out how to get the Eye."
"We must take it from the hands of the unbeliever soon. The Seth Spirit nears Cairo. It will delight in absorbing the souls of the people, giving us little time."
"You can feel it?"Evelyn asked with concern. "How close is it?"
"Its anger betrays it like a single torch in the darkest hour of the night. It will be a full night and a day before it arrives but we must prepare before it arrives,"Imhotep said gravely. "If we can not stop it before it is at full strength, it will be far harder."
"Why? Shouldn't it make Ra all the more angry and likely to help?"
"Yes but as the Spirit gains strength so does its master. Ehvaylyn, this will be very dangerous,"Imhotep warned gently his soft voice like velvet.
Swallowing and suddenly nervous, Evelyn realized how close he had become. When his hand reached out to tuck a piece of frizzy hair behind her ear, she gasped. The warm fingers traced her jaw and his eyes locked to hers making her drown in their unfathomable depths. Tilting her face up his hand caressed her soft lips. Light and teasing the touch made Evelyn struggle to catch her breath but when his lips met hers all thoughts fled. Tasting and learning, their lips and tongues danced she though she would faint. Slowly they ended the kiss and Evie found herself pressed up against a rather well contoured but very bare chest.
Before she could blurt some excuse and run away, Evie found herself very involved with another kiss. A moan escaped the tangle of their lips as hands began to move over her body inciting a strength of desire that overwhelmed her. Under his hands, Evelyn found herself lose all track of logical though or argument and shivered with arousal, hearing him whisper her name. The bang of the front door brought her back to reality with painful clarity. Startled and horrified at what she had been doing, she pulled away and determinedly went back to stirring the food. She had not been doing what she though she had been doing!
O'Connell entered the kitchen and Evie could smell the alcohol on his breath. Sighing, she said nothing and just hoped that he had found something useful as well as intoxicating himself. Giving the meat a final stir, she served it up on a platter with flat breads around it.
"Did you make this, Evie? I didn't think you knew what a kitchen was," O'Connell said with blurry-eyed surprise.
"I don't think you know enough about me to make judgements on my culinary skills," Evie retorted sharply. "Did you find out anything of use?"
"No one said anything about anyone dropping dead, if that's what you mean. Some bigwig is having a party tonight. He's going to show off the latest stuff he's pinched from some site. What did you and the dead guy find, Evie?"
Against her will, her face began to blush and Evie looked away. That wasn't what O'Connell had asked! Guiltily she glanced to Imhotep who seemed amused by her suddenly rosy cheeks. Thankfully, O'Connell was concentrating intently on eating and hadn't noticed. Taking a breath, Evelyn controlled herself.
"We found that the Eye was with the museum but it was given as a gift to Birdie Smith. That pirate doesn't deserve a thing!" Evie scowled crossly.
"Him? That lazy son-of-a-"
"O'Connell! Don't use that kind of language in my home!" Evelyn said shocked.
"Well, he is, Evie! I didn't think you knew him. He's the arrogant dilettante that's hosting the party. Half of Cairo's going. It's some sort of costume affair," O'Connell said insultingly.
"A costume party, did you say?" Evie queried and bit her lip in thought.
Maybe she could lightfoot it off. Masked and hidden in plain sight, she could get in and take the Eye when he wasn't looking. The risks scared her, though. If she was found out then she would go to prison no questions asked! Smith wasn't the forgiving sort. Still, if it was the only way they could get the Eye...
"Yeah, it's going to be some big thing. Like I said most of Cairo is going."
"O'Connell, what if I went? I could sneak off and take the Eye and no one would be the wiser!"
"WHAT!" O'Connell cried his eyes sparking. "Are you crazy?!"
"I could steal it and because we're all masked no one would know who took it," Evelyn explained rationally.
"Ehveylyn, what are you saying?"Imhotep asked in a very protective tone.
"O'Connell is overreacting. The person who has they Eye is hosting a great banquet and I suggested that I should go and take the Eye."
"It is too dangerous,"the priest said decisively.
"There isn't another way of retrieving the Eye! It won't be dangerous. It is going to be in costumes and masks. No one will know who I am,"Evelyn argued incised that every man in her life seemed to want to put her on a pedestal. "I can take care of myself!"
"That is not the point. Without a distraction, you could be found out. I will not have you taken as a lowly thief! Your friend is sodden on liquor and so I shall go with you. While you distract the owner, I shall find the Eye."
"Evie, what is that menace saying?"
"Imhotep said it was too dangerous for one person," Evelyn translated roughly still glaring daggers at the priest.
"Are you both crazy?! Evie, it's too dangerous!" O'Connell argued.
"We don't have a choice! You know Birdie won't give it to us and you know he wouldn't sell even if we had enough money!"
"Fine, I'll go with you!" O'Connell piped up standing unsteadily, knowing he was out voted.
"And how much did you drink tonight? Some help you'd be! No, Imhotep said he will come and take the Eye while I distract Birdie. I think we should argue with him," Evelyn said gauging how determined the ancient man was.
"Think of it this way, O'Connell- he won't need a costume."
* * *
Two hours to find a costume, get dressed and to gather up her courage wasn't enough. Evelyn bit her lip almost to the biting point as she fussed over the stitching of the costume she was making. It was just luck that she and Jonathan hadn't cleared the attic of all the things her mother had accumulated over the years. The fine linen once sewed and folded in place would be a perfect costume. Sighing, she pulled the cloth the right way around and studied it intently. It was a more modest version of an ancient Egyptian gown. Even sewn to fit modern modesty it was more revealing than anything Evelyn had ever worn.
Pleats had been sewn in and the folds of the cloth fixed closed. Evelyn had even managed to find some gold thread in the markets that she had hurriedly embroidered the edges. Wincing as the woman behind her pulled her hair, Evelyn again wondered why she had hired her. The old woman was a hairdresser that even now was braiding and pulling her hair up into something straight from the scenes painted on Pharaoh's tombs. Evie disliked all the fuss but she knew that if she was to go, then she would have to do everything Millie and the others would. She had to blend. It certainly wasn't because she wanted to impress a certain priest.
"You're finished, Miss," the hairdresser said and smiled when Evelyn paid her.
When the woman left, Evelyn looked into the mirror. Her normally unreasonably wild hair was tightly braided into a multitude of small braids that were tipped with colored glass beads and scented with an exotic fragrance. Swallowing, Evie hurriedly undressed and slid the kalasiris on. With the light behind her, she could clearly see the shape of her body and the light material clung to ever curve. Nervousness suddenly raced through her and Evelyn wondered if she should wear something else. Heart fluttering, she clenched her hands. She had to get the Eye no matter what.
Sitting down at the mirror she wetted the kohl eyeliner and drew the small brush over her eye. Adding a little gloss to her lips and some shimmering powder to her cheeks and arms, she was done. Finally, she placed the heavy earrings, neckbands and bracelets. Looking in the mirror, she gasped. The woman who looked out at her did not at all resemble the mousy scholar she convinced herself to be. Touching her cheek, Evelyn was relieved her reflection copied the gesture.
Less nervous and gathering her calm, she stood and went down stairs. Both men were in the living room obviously trying to ignore each other. O'Connell was napping on the couch and Imhotep was examining one of the statues her father had found on a dig. As she entered, both sets of eyes turned towards her. While O'Connell looked at her in stunned amazement, she felt fairly burnt by the dark eyes that absorbed her from across the room.
"I'm ready," Evelyn said in both languages as her cheeks were beginning to blush.
Awoken from their daze, the two men escorted her out. O'Connell had arranged for another automobile to pick them up and drive them to Birdie's large mansion. The look on the priest's face at the sight of an automobile was priceless and Evelyn felt much better. At least he wasn't ogling her. Evelyn did have to wonder about manners in ancient Egypt. She just hoped he wouldn't get into trouble.
"The Eye should be kept with the other artifacts. I believe that Smith keeps his treasures in a guarded room. With the banquet tonight, the guards will be set around the property instead of the treasure room,"Evelyn explained in an undertone.
"Once I have the Eye I will find you, most beautiful star of Egypt,"Imhotep said bringing her hand up to kiss her palm.
Startled, Evelyn quickly reclaimed the hand and was relieved when the automobile stopped. It frightened her what intimacies the priest took with her and she felt very off balance. Not even with O'Connell had her sense vanished with such swiftness! Slipping on the simple gold painted eye mask she watched to make sure Imhotep did the same. His was a black full mask for safety sake. Although she was considered part of Cario's society and could bring an escort, Evelyn felt it safer to hide his identity so fewer questions were asked. As it as she was going to raise a few eyebrows as she never had attended these functions before. Only her bother had bothered.
Masquerade though it might be, Evelyn knew that most people would know each other. It was impossible not to when they had all grown up together in close circles. Evie might not be close to them now but she had gone to school or attended parties with them as a child. Millie, one of Cairo's shining stars, was once a dowdy brown mouse who Evelyn had shared her lunches with. Taking Imhotep's arm, she took a deep breath and stepped forward. It was time to pretend she had nothing better in her mind that the next soirée.
The butler let them in quickly once she had informed him who she was. Pleased that her father's reputation hadn't eroded too greatly with Jonathan's antics, Evelyn breathed a sigh of relief as she removed her overcoat. Even with the chill of the night, she was burning with the heat of nerves and excitement. Even from the entrance she could hear the sounds of jazz and laughter which mingled with the haze of smoke. The immensity of what they were about to do suddenly found its way to her heart and she felt it race.
"Ehveylyn we will succeed. Do you wish me to find the Eye first?"
Imhotep's words snapped her concentration back and Evie pushed away her worry. Glancing up she wondered if he had guessed at her unease. Pulling away from the hand he had rested on her shoulder she stood straighter and glared. Over the last few days, Evelyn felt like she had been frowning more than she had in her whole lifetime. A naughty voice in the back of her mind, told her she'd been doing more kissing too. Flustered she looked away and peered into the dancing crowd.
"No, wait for a few moments. I will introduce you as my friend and if asked more, the leader of an unknown desert tribe. After you have been introduced, go find the Eye. Don't let anyone see what you are doing,"Evie cautioned knowing he had to understand.
"They will see nothing. My powers will make me a mirage to their eyes,"Imhotep replied confidant.
Hoping that she could believe in the priest's confidence, Evie waited before stepping out into the milling people. Nearly thirty people were preening and glittering in fancy dress more expensive than Evie's home. On a nearby gramophone a record squawked and jammered. Sensing Imhotep's interest in the machine, Evelyn hurriedly restrained him with a gentle hand on his arm. He glanced at her and saw the pointed shake of her head.
"A new kind of magic?" he asked.
"No, it's- well I don't know how it works but it is not magic. Please, we should find Birdie Smith,"Evelyn replied.
"Ehveylyn, I want you to take this,"Imhoptep said extending a living scarab from somewhere in his robes. "It will protect you."
Instinctive fear made Evie pull back in horrified fear. The scarab remained quiet on the priest's hand and Evelyn rebuked herself for reacting. Of course it wouldn't harm her! Its master didn't really want her to die before he turned her into one of the living dead. Knowing that she should take the shiny insect, Evie extended her hand hesitantly. The beetle deftly leapt onto her arm making her jolt before she realized it was just hiding in her sleeve. Shuddering as the tiny legs scratched her skin, Evelyn endured the insect and looked up at the priest's eyes.
With mutual accord, they stepped out into the circling groups of people. A medium sized man dressed in a medieval tunic and breeches stepped forward and judging by his manner, Evie knew it to be Smith. Plastering a wide smile on her lips she let him approach and size them both up with a mercenary stair. The look he favored her with was so plainly lascivious that Evie could feel her companion begin to bristle. Her hand on his arm tightened in response and she let her fingernails dig in. If Imhotep reacted then everything would be over. To her relief he seemed to realize that and backed down.
"And who is this enchantress that comes to my humble party?" Birdie asked with a sly smile, ignoring her companion.
"Well, if I told you that it would spoil the masquerade," Evie replied fluttering her eyes unashamedly.
"Finally someone who actually likes the idea! Half of the people have already introduced themselves. Makes for an anti-climax at midnight," Birdie replied with a wink.
"My friend and I hear that your latest finds are truly remarkable," Evie suggested as the moved forward through the crowds.
"Indeed they are! Possibly some of the best relics found so far in this hole of a country. Speaking of treasures, I couldn't help but notice your jewelry. Three thousand years I believe," Birdie said arrogantly expecting it to impress her.
"Why yes! How did you ever know?" Evelyn gushed with a fake smile that was beginning to make her face sore.
As she batted her eyes like the worst of flirts, Evie was pleased to see that Imhotep had begun to drift away. Pretending to be impressed and amused was harder than she thought and Evelyn hoped that he would find the Eye soon. It was also embarrassing to act this way. Acting like Millie or one of her clique wasn't coming naturally to her at all! It did astonish her that she had such power. Many eyes were glued to her and Evie felt more sensual and sultry than she ever had before. Amusing as it was to see men become speechless at her costume and women green with envy at her jewels, Evie hated the odious attentions of Birdie Smith.
* * *
Darkness shrouding the halls was no barrier to his eyes. Anger flowed like fire through his veins. The belongings of the dead lined the walls. The protective magic instilled in them throbbed and crackled, as if more alive than he. Imhotep paused to look at a statue of Thoth imprinted with the name of a Pharoah he did not recognize. The violation of the things around him caused him to clench his fists. This he would not allow. Before he could summon his powers to return the items, the face of Ehveylyn flashed through his mind. Glowering, he realized that even now she could make him pause.
Frustration and confusion halted his search for the Eye. Finding the sacred jars destroyed had cut him to his heart. His Anck-Su-Namun would never live again and yet her Ka survived in a strange and annoying woman. At first, seeing the signs of his beloved's Ka in Ehvaylyn, he had though her Anck-Su-Namun. Imhotep was no fool. She might have Anck-Su-Namun's Ka but she was right- Ehvaylyn was Ehvaylyn. Finding his heart stir when he thought it dead was not right. Angrily, Imhotep continued his search.
When he had named his price for her help, it had been out of revenge. She would endure the long hours of immortality with him and remind him of all he had lost. Now he just wanted her. Imhotep also knew that she wanted him even if she pretended she didn't. Even when he had wanted to sacrifice her, they had both felt something. If the gods had crossed her path with his, then so be it.
* * *
Counting the minutes she hoped the Eye was there. What if it wasn't? The horrible thought made her heart sink. It had to be there or the Seth Spirit would win. Panic started to run circles with her thoughts. Imhotep shouldn't be taking this long. Her success in keeping Birdie from unveiling the new finds, and giving Imhotep more time was better than she could have hoped. Birdie's attention was also straying to things Evie didn't really want it to stray to. The leer that had been held back at first was fully exposed and rampant now and suddenly Evie felt uncomfortable. The 'accidental' touches and suggestive comments turned her stomach.
Long ago, the brainless smile she had plastered on her face that had began to hurt but then turned numb. Evelyn also found herself out of depth with the sexual games that Birdie was just about to initiate. Faintly they repulsed her and more strongly made her want to flee. They weren't passionately sincere as O'Connell had been or as sensually enveloping as the attentions of the ancient priest. This pantomime seemed oily and shallow. Uncomfortable, Evelyn bit her cheek as Birdie ran his hand over the rise of a breast pretending to examine her 'rare and most exquisite jewels'. Just as she was about to reach her breaking point, where she would have slapped Birdie, Evelyn caught sight of the tall robed figure at the doorway.
"Birdie, I'm dying for a drink. Would you be a sport and get me one?" Evie asked with a manufactured giggle.
"Anything for you precious!"
Watching as Birdie went off in search of a drink, Evelyn hurriedly exited to where Imhotep was waiting. He nodded and in a gust of wind they vanished. Evelyn became aware a few streets away from Smith's house. Blinking, Evie glanced at Imhotep who held the Eye. The first real smile of the night crossed her features. It was just as he had described it. A molten gold in the moonlight, the precious gems glittered and winked. Brushing at her costume, Evelyn realized that she wasn't covered in a film of dust.
"There's no dust,"Evelyn said in surprise.
"My powers are strong,"Imhotep said obviously pleased.
Laughing a little, Evelyn realized that as intimidating as he was, Imhotep probably didn't know much about his powers let alone had time to learn all he could accomplish with them. Sobering a little, Evie wondered if it would have been possible to defeat him, had he fully tested his curse given powers.
The thought made her aware of how much had happened. In England what had happened had taken on a surreal edge. Too fantastical to be true except for the evidence of the Book and the nightmares that crept upon her during the night. Evelyn wondered what Imhotep would do if they defeated the Seth Spirit. What did plagues upon the earth do in their spare time? Would she defeat the Seth Spirit only to find her ally would take its place? Imhotep had said nothing about what would happen afterwards. Well, except to say she would soon be a mummy too. Evie looked at him. He seemed to be a man like any other. That was until he spoke or looked you in the eye.
All the elemental power she had unleashed with the spells she had cast were wound up and made tangible in him. He was a physical embodiment of the powers Evie only began to comprehend. Wild, elemental and perhaps cruel but she wasn't quite sure of evil. The unexpected visit of Anubis to the mortal realm had shaken her greatly as she had felt powers that she could never understand. Beside her stood a creature that did not just understand it but was one with it. The powers she had felt were neither cruel nor kind. In fact it had been very human.
In the dark pools of Imhotep's eyes, Evie saw all the faults of a mortal man. Beside her better judgement she saw the good qualities of a mortal man also. Although she could never agree with his methods, his wish to return his beloved to life was something she could understand. To kill for it, was something Evelyn could not abide. She had endured being the one on the altar and it had made a lasting impression. All in all, she didn't know what to make of Imhotep.
"Ahh... have you thought of what will happen if the Seth Spirit is defeated?"Evelyn asked bluntly.
"The fears of the Med-Jai have taken root in you too, Ehvaylyn?"Imhotep asked with a frown. "Those I would take revenge on are long dead. The one that is not, I will see defeated. Seti will be cursed with the suffering he left me to endure."
"What will you do?"Evelyn asked her heart near stopping with worry.
"I will bind his Ka to the earth,"Imhotep said his eyes flashing anger and hatred.
"You really hate him."
"He never knew Anck-Su-Namun. He loved the power he had over her, not her!"
Rage contorted the face that looked down at her. Rage, hurt, jealousy and even madness were shown to her and Evelyn swallowed hard. Three thousand years being slowly eaten alive and no hope for a final death all had made their mark on the ancient priest. Imhotep had not needed to answer her as she could read his expression well, but Evie felt her heart speed up and she wondered if she was about to faint. Mesmerized by the hideous swell of emotion in his eyes that had suddenly turned familiar, Evie felt her mouth working. A flood of emotions rose up alien to her that mirrored the power of his with the addition of a wild fear that she knew was hers. The words filled her belly and rose up and she found herself speaking.
"The dead must rest."
The words were loosened and Evelyn felt a wrench and she wilted. Before she hit the ground an iron like hand that slid around her waist rescued her. Faintly, Evelyn wondered if she should introduce Imhotep to the modern invention of a suit. Running about in a loincloth and raggedy robe really wasn't proper.
"What did you say, Ehvaylyn?"Imhotep asked intensely.
"Say?" Evelyn parroted back in English.
"I'm fine. I just felt strange a moment. It was like I was... I was... I don't know. It was so strange."
"A god has spoken through you. Who are you Ehvaylyn Khar-Narh-Avon? What fate have the gods written for you?"Imhotep asked as Evelyn found her feet once again.
"What are you talking about? I am a librarian! Nothing more. It's not my fault curses seem to be triggered when I'm around! Don't you-"
Before she could say more she was engulfed in whirling golden sand. When Evelyn came to she was sitting on a chair with O'Connell shaking her awake. Her body felt leaden and she wondered why she was back home. Groggily Evie made her eyes focus and look for the priest wanting some answers. To her surprise she found him gone.
"O'Connell where is Imhotep?" Evie asked her anger rising.
"I don't know! He just blasted in here, dumped you on the chair and left again. Did you get the Eye?"
"Yes! He has it but where did he go?" Evie asked standing.
"Calm down, if he's going off to get rid of the Spirit then all the better. Risking life and limb once is more than enough. I saw what that thing did to those bastards who tied us up," O'Connell said with a frown.
"I don't think he is going to challenge the Spirit. He was muttering about gods and fate and me. O'Connell, do you think he's going to turn me into a mummy?" Evie asked fear turning her stomach.
"Wouldn't he need you?"
"Oh. Yes... I guess you're right."
Embarrassed at the outburst, Evie patted her costume. At least she wasn't sandy. Confused, she looked at O'Connell who seemed bewildered. The drink must have hit him, as he looked worse for wear. The exhaustion written on her friend's face in deep lines made Evelyn feel her own. Curses and parties- two things she'd rather do without. Rubbing her eyes she groaned when she realized that she had smeared the kohl and made herself look like one of O'Connell's raccoons. It really was time for bed. That infernal priest could go hunt the Spirit if he wanted because she wasn't going to bother!
"Lets get some sleep, Evie and I'll take Jonathan's. When he returns we'll figure out how to get rid of both of them," O'Connell said patting her shoulder.
Nodding an affirmative, Evelyn let her tired body go through the motions of undressing, removing the make up and finding her bed. O'Connell was right- she could worry about tomorrow after she slept.
The Egypt he knew was in ruins about him. Once proud architectural masterpieces now slumped to the sand. The bright colors that would have surrounded him once were washed away by the savage hunger of the desert. Imhotep ignored the ravages of time around him and sent his senses further. Raging with a god's strength, anger and mindless need for death told him where the Seth Spirit was. Opening his eyes, he looked about him. The light of Cairo was far from him and the stars above him were bright and clear. Kneeling, Imhotep began the chant to his god Osiris. He had risked his god's wrath trying to return Anck-Su-Namun to the living, but the strength of Osiris' blessings to him as High Priest had not been revoked.
Over and over, the words of his prayer chant repeated themselves. On time just a few hours before sunrise, the stars seemed to swirl and align themselves. Plain in a woven map that only he could see and read, the life path of his Ehveylyn was spread out for him. Parts of it were shadowed and not for him to know. Others were open for his inspection. Amid the strands of her life he could see the pattern of his own fate bound around hers. She was his reason to live but all he hoped for them was shadowed.
In a golden streak, the line of a god's Choosing wove around her destiny as bright and bold as sunlight. Anger flared in betrayal as he recognized it. Stifling his emotions, as he knew it was foolish to be angered at Evelyn for being chosen of that god. It was the duty of Anubis' Chosen to prepare him for the Hom-Dai. Still, the pain and horror of the curse was fresh in his mind and the irony of it made him want to scream. Even now, the gods were not finished with their punishing.
* * *
A shaft of sunlight seemed to take great pleasure in shining straight into her eyes. Cracking a lid, Evelyn groaned and turned over. It was useless to fight, however, and she soon cracked the other eye and let it focus. The smooth shiny black body sitting on her pillow made her jolt awake in terror and scream. The high pitched sound ripped though her throat and the insect jumped and scrambled into the bedclothes. Evelyn jerked her legs up as sense broke in to calm her instinct driven mind. So did O'Connell. Gripping a large pistol and looking ready for battle, he peered into her bedroom.
"Evie what happened!"
"Ah-ah it was a dream! Yes, I had a silly nightmare. I'm so sorry!" Evelyn hurriedly explained hoping he would believe her.
"A dream? No mummies or spirits?" O'Connell asked taking a step further into her room.
"I'm certain. I'm ever so sorry to bother you, I really am," Evelyn said embarrassed at her reaction.
"Okay. I kinda thought you were in trouble," O'Connell said and excused himself hurriedly noticing she was in her nightgown.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Evelyn gingerly lifted up the edge of her sheet. It had run under there somewhere. What should she do? Evelyn knew she couldn't very well leave it in there. It might just eat someone accidentally. Nor did she want to explain it to the insect's master if she happened to roll over squish it in the night. Cursing herself for forgetting about it, Evie pulled up the sheet and pulled it over her head. Wriggling her way under the sheets, she caught sight of the pesky insect.
"If only I had remembered. I would have given you to O'Connell to put in a jar or something. You're quite the little menace. Just like your master, hmm?" Evelyn said as she tried to catch the creature.
To her disappointment, the scarab dashed out of the bedclothes and onto the floor. Tumbling out in a hurry to try again, she followed it, crawling across the floor and expensive rug as it hissed and chittered madly. Twice she grabbed and missed only making the scarab hurry further away from her. Cursing it and yelling at it alternately in English and ancient Egyptian she saw it pause. Smiling in triumph she lunged and sprawled on the floor. With a final chitter, the scarab wiggled out between her fingers and Evelyn noticed a bare, masculine, human foot not three inches from her hand.
Red flooded her cheeks and Evie watched as the scarab made a break neck dash for Imhotep's robes. Horribly embarrassed by her less than dignified position and antics, Evelyn straightened wondering how he had entered her room. Looking up the smile on his face only made her pride fuel her slight body with the strength to stand and confront him.
"What are you doing in my room!"
"I returned some time after the sun rose and came to see if you were awake. I see that you are,"Imhotep replied with amusement.
"A-and you just enter without even knocking! I don't know if that was proper in your time but it certainly isn't in this one!"Evelyn sputtered cross and defiantly refusing to admit she was embarrassed.
"I choose what is proper,"Imhotep replied with unbendingly. "Find your friend we have much to discuss."
Bridling at the order, Evelyn let her fury mount. How dare he tell her what to do! Invading her home, her room and then commanding her about was the last straw. Hands clenching until her nails bit her palm, Evelyn made herself count to ten. Over and over, she reminded herself that she strangled him then he wouldn't want to help with the Seth Spirit.
"This is enough! I will not have my private space invaded and then have you order me about. You might be some high and mighty priest but this is my home and I will not be ordered about like a servant!"
"And I will not have my rank ignored by foolish young women who refuses to listen! Your home is mine as much as it is yours. You have sworn to be my companion for eternity!"
Evie saw red. Sucking in deep breaths of air, she shook with the effort not to do something she regretted. Her heart was pounding as if she had run a mile. Flushing hot and fevered her skin felt scalded by Imhotep's very presence. Aghast and angry she was relieved when O'Connell burst into her room for the second time that morning. Whirling way she stomped to the chair and wrapped herself in her robe.
"Evie, what is going on! How did he get here? When did he get here?!" O'Connell yelled inching forward as if to bodily evict the priest from her room.
"Just a moment ago. He seems to think he can order me about!"
"I think maybe we should go downstairs," O'Connell said seeing the stubbornly
angry set of her jaw. "Breakfast sounds really good."
Grasping onto the suggestion, Evelyn nodded and was relieved when both men left her room. Suddenly her anger left her and she felt close to tears. Sniffling, she flopped back down on the bed. Everything was confusing and half the time she didn't know why she was arguing. Two curses and being kissed insensible by two men had ruined all her preconceptions. Evie had always thought she was sensible and knew what she wanted from life. She had always wanted to be a scholar and marriage hadn't figured into her plans. Now she was supposed to spend eternity with some mummy that ordered her about like a child or servant.
Suddenly Evie was disgusted with herself. Her giving up would horrify her father. Why was she being so dismal anyway? There was Seti's curse to defeat and then she would give Imhotep a piece of her mind. Maybe she didn't understand what was happening to her and the safe refuge she had built for herself but she wouldn't lie down and mope.
O'Connell was cooking something while Imhotep was writing swiftly in hieroglyphics on a piece of paper from her desk. The ink pen was obviously unfamiliar to him but it didn't seem to deter him. Upon seeing him, Evelyn felt a little spark of anger but she forced it down. The eggs that O'Connell was cooking smelt good and she instead sat at the table. For a few moments, nothing was said but instead Imhotep extended her the piece of paper he was writing on.
Reluctantly, Evelyn read the paper. It seemed to be an incantation or spell of sorts. Although the incantation was a straightforward initiation into Anubis' service, Evie didn't know what it meant. Puzzled and a little worried she looked up at the priest.
"Last night I called upon Osiris to grant me insight into why you have been able to call me twice. The Seth Spirit will be in Cairo in two days, maybe less,"Imhotep said with full seriousness.
"Two days? I thought you said it would be earlier than that,"Evelyn said surprised.
"The Spirit lingers to harvest the souls of desert tribes. It could be two days or less before he kills them."
"What is he saying that's news, Evie?" O'Connell asked as he served two plates of eggs.
"The Seth Spirit won't arrive for a day or two. It's killing tribesmen."
"Ardeth Bay and his followers? Do you think they're all dead?" O'Connell questioned uneasy with the thought.
"I'm not sure. I'll have to ask," Evelyn replied equally disconcerted.
"The desert people- are they the ones that guarded your resting place?"Evelyn asked uncertain of what Imhotep would make of the question.
"I have no way of knowing. If it is then I do not regret it. They are as despicable as their ancestors. Blind loyalty leads them astray."
"What does this all have to do with this- this ritual?"Evelyn said puzzled and avoiding an argument about Ardeth Bay and his people.
Imhotep seemed to consider her question. For some reason, Evie felt uneasy. Ardeth Bay had never been a friend but the magnetic leader had helped them, risking his life. Partly because of him, she was alive today and not the resurrected Anck-Su-Namun. Studying the priest before her, Evie realized that he was hesitating. Evelyn really did hope the priest wasn't thinking about turning the Mad-Jai into mummies. She didn't think they'd be too happy. Their ancestors who had stood as guards hadn't been too pleasant when Jonathan had woken them.
"The Seth Sprit is strong. The Eye will defeat it only if Ra hears our entreaties. Osiris, my god will help our petition as I am High Priest, but it is still an uncertain thing. Our cause would be aided with the addition of another Chosen. My priests were slaughtered and are not able to help... but you have been chosen of Anubis,"Imhotep finally spoke.
Evie gaped, her jaw working but her tongue numb. He wanted her to become some priest to a long forgotten god? Did that mean she had to mummify people? In her mind she remembered the conversation she had with O'Connell about mummification procedures. Blithely she had told him how it was done and had delighted in horrifying him. It all seemed to take on a terrible significance. Uneasy, she looked from Imhotep to O'Connell who was shoveling in scrambled eggs and leftover dinner.
"What?" O'Connell asked noticing her look.
"He wants me to become a priest of Anubis," Evelyn said more steadily than she thought possible.
"A what! Evie, first this guy wants to make you into a mummy and now he wants to turn you into some cult follower!" O'Connell replied hotly aiming dagger like looks at Imhotep.
"Excuse me! O'Connell, the ancient Egyptian religions were not cults. They were perfectly normal and important to daily life. Priests were very highly respected. I-I take exception to you calling them cults!"
"Evelyn! Are you crazy! This dead guy is manipulating you! How do we know anything he says is true!" O'Connell growled.
"We don't know! We don't, but we have to do everything to get rid of the Seth Spirit. You saw what it can do. Do you want to run like you did when Imhotep was awakened? Are you a coward?!" Evelyn argued pushing all of O'Connell's buttons in a fit of anger.
Scarlet infused the man's face. Suddenly, Evie regretted making O'Connell so angry. Abashed she looked down at the eggs she had just picked at. How could she say such things? O'Connell was doing his best to help her and the world and she just yelled at him.
"I'm sorry, O'Connell. I know you're not a coward," Evie spoke softly.
"When you've seen sense, come find me but not before. If you are going to do everything this rotting corpse says, then you can do it without me!"
With those words, O'Connell left. Shocked, Evelyn only watched him leave. Was he right? Once again confused and uncertain she looked up at the ancient priest who had been watching their argument. Her own cheeks flushed when she realized all she had done in his presence was act like a fishwife. What must he think of women of her time? Cross with herself and for even caring, Evie wished she could go back to bed and start again.
"O'Connell doesn't trust you,"Evelyn finally said.
"That is not important. I need you to be brought into Anubis' service. The Seth Spirit is close to being at its full strength."
"And how can I trust you? You would have happily killed my friends and I before. Then you tell me I have to become a- a creature like yourself and now you say I have to become some priestess! I don't know if I can believe you,"Evelyn said more upset than angry. "It is too much! I just want to be a scholar!"
"I am the High Priest of Egypt and upon my honor as Osiris' Chosen I swear to you that it is necessary. With the moon in the sky I looked upon the lines of your destiny and Anubis chose you at birth,"Imhotep said with a steady gaze and then he took her hand. "I would do nothing to harm you, Ehvaylyn."
"I-I- I need to think,"Evelyn said standing up and hurrying out.
In her whirlwind of mixed emotions, Evelyn found herself hurrying to the library. Realizing that refuge would only bring her guilt, Evelyn looked around the busy streets of Cairo forlornly. She was a scholar above all. She wanted to learn of Egypt of the past, to read the papyri that hadn't been read in thousands of years. Even despite what had happened, Evie burned to return to Hamunaptra and continue her dig. The switch room in the Breasts of Isis was just the beginning. Becoming a priestess of an ancient god and battling equally ancient curses wasn't what she was supposed to do.
Evelyn had always loved Egypt and its history. Her father had understood that and urged her to become a librarian. It was a career that she loved but Evie had always wanted to do more than file and read books all day. The sands of the desert had always beckoned her. It scared her that they might beckon to do more than safely dig up ruins. If what Imhotep had said was true, then should she agree?
It would be an incredible experience. No Bainbridge scholar ever became a priest of Anubis! Then there was a Seth Spirit out there that needed defeating. Evelyn took a deep breath. Could she do it? Lip trembling she though of all the nightmares her last adventure had brought her. Scholars weren't supposed to become curse breakers.
Eyes tearing, Evelyn turned to hurry somewhere she could cry. When her blurry eyes focused she saw the dark form of the ancient priest. Had he followed her? Trying to muster up the anger to say something, he extended his hands and pulled her into a gentle embrace. Face buried on his shoulder, Evelyn began to sob. Somehow as unnerving as the embrace was, she couldn't pull away.
"I was the elder brother who was to inherit the thrones of Egypt. When the elderly High Priest of Osiris came to claim me as a Chosen, I did not wish to go. My brother Seti was a good man but not meant to lead. Several nights I delayed but had to admit defeat in the end. The gods do not choose lightly, my Ehvaylyn."
The comfort of the embrace slowly let Evelyn calm her weeping. She believed him. The unnatural heat emanating form him also was soothing and she felt almost drowsy. Sniffing a little she looked up at him and his eyes for once weren't demanding or closed.
"I-I always thought you made a very good High Priest,"Evelyn said honestly.
"You will make a good priestess if you choose,"Imhotep replied.
"So... what do priests of Anubis do?"Evelyn questioned uncertainly.
Walking back to her home, they talked about the duties of the Chosen and what would happen in the ritual if she agreed. Evelyn felt the butterflies gather in her stomach and she wanted nothing more to run far away but she couldn't. The coincidences that had brought her to this point were too real to ignore or deny. Something told her that she had to take this next step and she couldn't argue against it. Retiring to her books wouldn't be right. The Seth Spirit was out there and she couldn't deny her responsibility but there was something more.
The story that Imhotep had told her was shocking. If he had not been chosen he would have been Pharoah. That was a sacrifice that haunted him today. Probably every time he saw his brother with Anck-Su-Namun his hatred had grown stronger. But he had decided to become a priest. Why? If he had to give up so much, why did he accept? The strange pulling sensation that had settled in her stomach again manifested itself. It urged her to go through with it. Suddenly, Evie knew that this was something she had to do for herself.
Opening the door, Evelyn looked around half-expecting O'Connell. He wasn't there and she guessed that he was frequenting one of the men's clubs or a local casba or two. Sighing to herself in disappointment she closed the door behind them. Had O'Connell been home, she would have spoken to him about becoming a priest of Anubis. She trusted his judgement if he thought things through rationally. Despite his rough edges and sometimes hasty reactions to situations, he was intelligent and caught things she missed.
Imhotep was a solid stone and was waiting but Evie didn't trust her reactions to him. Blushing a little at the thought, she wished she hadn't broken down like some silly little girl and cried all over his robes. She had, though and Evelyn now found her believing him.
"Have you decided, Ehvaylyn?"
Although expected, the words were terrifying. How could she choose so quickly? All her life goals were in turmoil and she had to decide now? Taking a deep breath she slowly expelled it. She had to choose.
"Yes. I... I will do it,"Evelyn said with finality trying to calm her nerves.
"Then we must prepare. I must gather the required things while you bathe,"Imhotep said. "Do not worry my Ehvaylyn, you have nothing to fear. Anubis Chose you at birth and this is just a confirmation of that Choosing."
Nodding, she made herself calm down. When the ancient priest left in a cloud of dust, she took up the written version of the ritual. The ritual purification of bathing would also relax her. Evelyn knew from her other readings that this version of the ritual was not normal. Imhotep was cooking up something, she knew but she also knew that he was being honest. Usually an initiate spent years trying to gain enough knowledge to become a priest. Shaking her head, Evie knew she had to hope. No danger would come to her even though this was out of the ordinary.
In the bathroom she drew the water for her bath. The cool water splashed into the tub and she added her bath foam that was familiar to her from childhood. Reading the sheet of paper she lowered herself into the water and began the first chant. The soothing words and sounds slowly began to sink in and Evie felt her body unclench. Long moments she lay in the water, her eyes closed and breathing in the fragrance of sandalwood while speaking the ancient words.
The sound of the door closing downstairs woke her from the calm sea the chant had created within her mind. Blinking a little, Evelyn dried herself off and slipped on a silk robe she had bought in England. Wondering whom it was, she left the bathroom. Making her way down the stairs she moved into the kitchen. As she rounded the corner, hands grabbed her and Evie would have screamed but a callused hand clamped over her mouth. Fighting like a madwoman, she tried to shake loose but the man holding her was much too strong.
To her surprise the voice was familiar and she did just that. The hands dropped her and she whirled around. Ardeth Bay looked worse for wear and the three other men with him looked exhausted. They were also eating things from her cupboard. A little cross to be roused form her bath, to find virtual strangers raiding her kitchen, Evelyn glared.
"What are you doing here!" Evelyn cried.
"What did you do at Hamunapra! Half of my people were killed by it when it came into our camp one evening," Ardeth Bay snarled. "How did this happen? Nothing our ancestors knew of could do this!"
Guilt made her wince and Evelyn wished that Thomas hadn't spoken the curse. Ardeth Bay looked ready to do violence if she didn't answer but Evelyn knew that he wouldn't take this well. His loyalty to the dead Pharoah was strong. To find out he was partly responsible... Finally, Evelyn sat down at the kitchen table and cradled her head in her hands. It would not be easy to tell him all that had happened. She also wanted him away before Imhotep returned.
"There was a curse laid upon your Pharoah by the priests of Seth. If someone spoke aloud the curse then Seti's soul would act as a conduit for Seth. The Seth Spirit would then kill all upon the earth," Evelyn said with deep weariness.
"And you spoke it?! After all that has happened!"
"No! That was Thomas! A party of treasure hunters forced him to do it! Do you think I would really do such a thing-" Evie broke off realizing she had for the second time woken Imhotep.
"Impossible! How could Pharoah Seti be cursed?!"
"I'm not sure. If the Seth Spirit gains full strength, nothing can be done. The Eye Of Ra must be used by a Chosen to defeat it," Evelyn said seeing the deep distress on Ardeth's face.
"Evelyn Carnarvon, on your honor what is a Chosen?! If this creature is released on the ground we were oath bound to protect, it is our responsibility," Ardeth Bay said his eyes darkly intent.
"Ah... I really don't think you'll be happy about that," Evie said uncomfortably flashing a nervous smile. "A Chosen is the priest of a god. Preferably of the god Osiris in this case."
It took a few minutes of aghast staring for Evie to wish she could disappear. The other warriors around her did not understand what was being said but they shifted uncomfortably seeing their leader so dismayed. Shifting on the chair, Evelyn wondered what she would do. If Ardeth Bay was angry she really didn't want to be around.
"The curse had been ended! Impossible! Did you betray us?" Ardeth Bay yelled grabbing her by the upper arms.
"I-I- I didn't! I swear! I read the Book Of The Dead and The Book Of Amun-Ra. Once cursed, forever cursed and anyone can trigger it. I had to call back Imhotep! No one will live if he can't defeat the Seth Spirit," Evie babbled scared at the violence that was being contemplated by the fanatic warrior.
"We are sworn to stop the raising of that plague and yet for a second time you return him. If he told you he will help, do not believe him! There is no guarantee he will really destroy the spirit."
"Not true! The god Osiris has always been in conflict with Seth and Imhotep is bound by his god to do battle. Or at least that's what I believe!" Evelyn argued.
A rapid-fire conversation in the native language of Ardeth Bay's people followed too quickly for Evie to follow. The emotional reactions were enough to tell Evie that they were not pleased at all. Nervously she tried to squirm from the almost painful hold on her arms. As she just thought she could wriggle free, Ardeth looked back at her and strengthened his hold.
"Evelyn why did you resurrect that monstrosity? He will rise up against the world as soon as the Seth Spirit is gone! Where is he? If we surprise him perhaps you might be able to get rid of him," Ardeth Bay said glaring down at her.
"No!" Evie loudly cried in desperation. "We can't do that! I have agreed to help him get rid of the Seth Spirit! If you send him back to the realm of the dead now, there is no hope! I have read the two great Books and know it's true."
That was only half-true but she wasn't about to say she only understood a little of what she had read. Nor was she about to say that Imhotep had the Books. Ardeth Bay seemed to consider her words and finally released her to her relief. Rubbing her arms, she retied her robe. Evelyn really didn't want the Med-Jai in her home. The fireworks if Imhotep returned would be most difficult to explain to the neighbors. As it was, Evie was certain they were wondering who all the strange men entering her home at odd hours were.
"You are not lying? This is most important!"
"I assure you that I am not! Now, please leave and go pester O'Connell. He can tell you the details. I'm sure you'll find him at one of the local watering holes."
"The Spirit will arrive within a few days. We will be watching and after it has been defeated we will find a way to get rid of that traitor!"
Mouth dry from fear, Evie watched as the Med-Jai left her house. Breathing a sigh of relief she tumbled into a chair. For the last few strained moments, she had thought her knees had turned to water. Hopefully O'Connell would talk some sense into them. As a hand gently touched her shoulder, Evelyn jumped and whirled around.
"They are gone, Ehvaylyn,"Imhotep said softly.
"They are lucky they didn't harm you. My anger at Seti's Med-Jai is still strong. If they interfere once more I shall be relentless in my pursuit of them,"he replied darkly.
"Oh,"Evelyn said uncomfortably.
She had seen the flicker of an anger so ancient and compelling she could not comprehend it. It scared her as she could remember that look very well. Unpleasant memories seemed to surface with it. Most of all it reminded her that Imhotep had once been her enemy. Her confidence muted, Evie looked up at the priest whose expression now seemed as stony as normal but missing the cruel edge, she had just seen. Shaking her head Evelyn dismissed it. Things were different.
"We shall go on with the ritual as planned."
Disturbed but resolute, Evelyn nodded and hurried up the stairs to her room. Reading the ritual over again, she dressed in the fine linen she had worn the night previous. This time she did not bother with jewels. If she was going to become a member of the clergy, then she wouldn't do it trussed up like some kind of harlot. Dressed she descended the stairs and went into the living room. The small coffee table had been moved to the center and the rest of the furniture moved away. On the table sat both of the books and some bowls filled with things she was unfamiliar with. Imhotep was also standing beside it. Around him was the smell of freshly crushed spices and herbs. His expression was all dignity and elegance. Evie knew she was seeing the High Priest and not the man.
Moving forward, she knelt before the alter. The towering Priest before her began a second chant that she had only read of. Over and over it was said and as he spoke it, he picked up a bowl and lit it. The smell of frankincense smoothed over the air and Evelyn breathed deeply of it. Fear fluttered in her stomach but she forced herself to remain calm. A second bowl of incense was lit and it was slightly bitter and something she didn't recognize. This too she breathed deeply as the ritual decreed. As she did so she found her head whirl and the world fall out of focus and realized that the incense was some kind of drug.
In a haze and feeling if blanketed in layers of rich silk, Evie vaguely let her arms and body be anointed with sweet oils. The unnatural heat of his hands seemed to burn her skin or perhaps it was what was in the oil. Biting her lip, Evelyn remembered to repeat the words of the chants at the correct intervals. She didn't quite know how she managed the words as her tongue felt unwieldy and floating. As she breathed more of the incense her body faded away. Only her eyes seemed to work and still the edges of things seemed to blur. By focusing on Imhotep's eyes she could remain awake but when he urged her to drink a spicy liquid she knew she wouldn't be conscious for much longer. In one swallow she drank the lukewarm and dark liquid. It rushed through her with alarming quickness and Evelyn felt darkness move over her.
Shadows muttering and whispering filled her mind and bandaged her eyes. Images she thought she ought to recognize were too fleeting to catch as they flashed through her mind. Finally the shadows cleared and she could see, although Evelyn somehow knew her eyes were closed. With dour purpose stiffened bodies were rubbed with ointments and the opened cavities packed with salt. Spells and chants were muttered over the still forms with reverence and gentleness. Jeweled eyes replaced those carefully preserved in sacred jars. The garments of the dead were painstakingly draped and pinned. Bandages were wrapped precisely and with care to fit the form of the still body. A great presence surrounded the jackal-masked priest as he finished the final details.
Like the tumbling of sand down the steep side of a dune, the scene changed. Blurred forms went through graceful motions. Sonorous chants and the smell of a thousand spices and chemicals filled her senses. In her mind a feather and scale rose up. Evelyn didn't know if they were hieroglyphics or if they were real. This time the yipping of jackals filled her ears and heralded the coming of a new drama.
Tortured shrieks and moans, deafened the sound of the animal cries, to echo in a torch lit room. Large shapes in full black jackal masks bent over struggling forms. Over and over bandages were wrapped and folded with a sense of awful urgency. The sizzle of flesh and steel occasionally hissed. From a bucket, the dry sounds of many legs scuttled. Suddenly a large white wrapped form was lifted into a sarcophagus. With callused hands, a priest lifted the stone bucket and thousands of scarabs poured from the opening into the coffin. Evelyn found herself screaming in horror as the rest of the sarcophagus was placed over the struggling form.
Again the scene changed. The exuberant calls of wild jackals and the raw smell of preservative substances enfolded her and Evelyn watched as a giant black form bounded towards her. Just as she brought up her hands to ward it off, the shadowy form coalesced into a mist that struck her in the chest. Her mouth worked and she awoke with a startled cry. Gasping for breath, Evelyn panted and wiped the sweat from her brown and lip. Shivering she looked around and met Imhotep's slightly sad and resigned eyes. Images flooded back to her in a torrent.
"I-I saw what they did to you,"Evie spoke uncertainly.
"It matters not. You must not speak of the visions you received. Come, you must bathe again."
Dazed and weak she stood and let Imhotep guide her to the bathing room. With trembling hands she filled the tub. Alone she peeled off the costume. It stuck to her flesh with sweaty persistence and Evie wondered how long she was unconscious. Shivering she wondered if she could call it unconscious. Cool and soothing, the water swallowed her up. With relief she scrubbed away the oil that coated her like a second skin and rinsed away the reek of frankincense and the bitter second incense.
When the remains of the ritual were washed away, Evelyn became aware of a numbness in the center of her chest. Curious, she lifted her hand to touch the absence of feeling. In a flash she realized that was where the huge jackal had... jumped into her. As her hand touched her skin, she felt the contours of something metal and cool. Knowing she hadn't felt that while she washed herself, she panicked and stood up to look in the mirror. Evelyn nearly fainted. It was a pendant. The pendant depicted a reclining jackal and other symbols consistent with the priesthood of Anubis.
Uneasily, Evelyn touched it. The rich pendant felt real. Had she just not noticed it was there? Where had it come from? Not really sure she wanted to know, Evelyn let the pendant drop back to her chest. Shivering a little she dried herself off and hurried to her room where she dressed in comfortable clothes that soothed her rattled nerves with their familiarity. Thus garbed for battle or whatever else might happen, Evie returned downstairs.
To her relief, the makeshift alter had been removed and things returned to their normal places. Even the reek of incense had vanished. Finding things so normal made Evelyn wonder if she had dreamt it all. Before she could question what had happened, Imhotep entered the room and briefly touched the pendant at her neck. Swallowing hard, Evie realized that she hadn't. The priest seemed pleased and he softly kissed her forehead. Unreasonably comforted by the gesture, Evelyn pulled away to look at him squarely. Had what she seen truly happened? Even as she questioned it, she knew that it had.
"You are now a priestess of Anubis. When you stand by my side with the Eye, our Gods will answer our prayers and bring our plea to Ra."
Hearing the words, Evie was dumbfounded. That was it? No sacrifices or second part to the ritual? Looking at the pendant, Evelyn was suddenly very glad that there wasn't to be another part. Even now the skin beneath the pendant felt numbed and she really didn't want to question that too much. Taking a deep breath, Evie pulled herself out of her thoughts. Sitting around and moping wouldn't get rid of the Seth Spirit. Before her Imhotep stood with a triumphant glory that stirred her heart into believing him.
"What do I have to do?"Evelyn asked realizing she had no idea how they were going to use the Eye.
"When the time comes, we must call upon Ra to recognize that the Seth Spirit exists and to right the balance,"Imhotep said.
As the priest spoke, Evelyn realized that she understood what he meant. The image of the scales and feather rose up in her mind and she knew hat was what he was referring. According to Egyptian mythology after death a Pharoah's heart was weighed against a feather that represented truth or Ma'at. Evelyn now knew the scales did more than weigh a heart. Uncertain where the insight had came form, Evie wished she could look up a few of the books in the museum's collection. Suddenly she wondered how much time they had left.
"How long have I been...?"Evie asked not certain what she would call the ritual or the visions she had seen.
"A few hours. The Seth Spirit has moved faster than I expected. By tomorrow morning it should be in Cairo."
"I should study what I should do, then!"Evelyn replied. "O'Connell needs to be told too. The Spirit probably got tired of chasing the Med-Jai and is heading to Cairo as quickly as possible."
"You should study the Book Of Amun-Ra. The ritual requires an understanding of Amun-Ra. I shall find O'Connell,"Imhotep said handing her both the Gold Book and the key.
Heavy in her arms, the Book Of Amun-Ra made Evie tingle of curiosity. Imhotep left in a cloud of dust before she could say anything else so Evie happily opened the book, enjoying the feeling of sunshine as she touched the pages. Trailing her fingers over the beautiful hieroglyphics she found the entry she had puzzled over so much before.
Amun Ra, our creator, made all the powers wielded by the chosen of the gods possible to defeat unlike the pure power of the gods. Spells or curses could negate each other for Amun Ra would never allow the works of mortals eclipse the work of the gods.
Did Imhotep realize that his strength would be put to the test against the Seth Spirit's? Even with the Eye, it would be their will against the god Seth's. From what she knew, Evelyn knew that Seth really did want to stay on the earth and to destroy all those that lived. Was that why he had wanted her to become a priestess? He had told her that the strength she received from Anubis would help. Evelyn didn't understand that. She certainly didn't feel any stronger than before! Looking down at the Book she frowned. Had Imhotep given her the wrong book?
Discounting that possibility, Evelyn flipped through a few pages. Maybe she should be looking for things about the Eye. Her familiarity wasn't that great with the Golden Book. The Book Of The Dead she had translated a little. Struggling with a heavy gold page she gasped as the word for 'eye' jumped out on her.
Ever watching, the eye of Ra judges god and man alike.
Was this it? Reading further, Evie frowned. It didn't make any sense. The final words suggested there should be more. Turning the page back and forth, she bit her lip in concentration and finally looked at the binding. Suspicion flared up and Evie closed the book. Imhotep wasn't going to find O'Connell! There was a missing page! He knew there was a page missing from the Gold Book and he was after it right now. Anger at being duped and not being told everything burned steady as she dashed to find her coat and stash the Gold Book and key in a convenient pocket.
If that high and mighty priest thought he could keep things from her, then he was greatly mistaken! Rushing out into the dusty street, Evie waved madly and just caught a bus. She guessed that he would be heading out of Cairo to the burial ground that had just recently been unearthed. So far, excavation teams had found not much but Evelyn knew that he probably knew where everything was. The tinge of humiliation that colored her anger, only added fuel to her charge. She wasn't going to be left behind like a useless piece of baggage- especially when she had been tricked!
Catching a series of busses and finally paying a few pounds to ride on a tour bus, Evie headed out to the excavation sight. On the horizon she could see the whirlwind that was her errant priest. Glowering she clenched her fists and resolved to give him more than just a piece of her mind. All the trouble she had gone through to chase him across Cairo suddenly caught up with her. Slumping on her seat, she watched as the bus crept closer.
The lectures and 'exciting tidbits' the tour operators were giving the tourists were giving Evie a headache. Her clothes were also dusty from the local busses and her hair was mussed from the heat. The looks she was receiving from the matrons and various other passengers made her blush and head pound all the worse. Part of her wanted to yell out that if they really wanted the truth about ancient Egypt then they should go bother the three thousand year old priest she had resurrected. Maybe she should just to see Imhotep's face. Giggling a little foolishly, Evie breathed a sigh of relief as the rickety bus finally stopped.
Dashing off, to the tour guide's displeasure, Evelyn hurried across the site. Deftly she avoided the pits and holes recently dug. She had watched where the whirlwind had stopped and she knew that she had to hurry or endure the ride home while listening to stories about Hamunaptra that made her want to laugh with the irony.
Evie panted as she climbed up a hill but smiled as she saw below her. The whirlwind was concentrated in one area and sand was flying about madly. Debris from the ground and excess sand were piling up. Awed, Evelyn watched as a large stone building was quickly unearthed. Finally the whirlwind calmed and reformed into a man. Setting her lips into a straight line, Evelyn hurried purposefully down the hill.
"Why didn't you tell me about the missing page?"Evelyn asked loudly.
Imhotep whirled around and Evelyn felt gratified by his surprised look. His displeasure mixed with the sensual grace he exuded unconsciously and only made Evie all the more ready to argue. To herself she wondered if the Bainbridge scholars would eat their hats to know she had puzzled out the Book Of Amun-Ra so well that she had outsmarted the High Priest of Osiris at his own game. Stubbornly she continued to glare at Imhotep who seemed ready to burst with anger.
"I told you to wait. The Priests of Amun-Ra guard their secrets carefully. The tomb was created with many traps and you will wait here!"
"I have been excavating tombs with some of the best scholars in Egypt since I was a child!"Evie argued exaggerating a little. "And that's not the point! You didn't tell me!"
"It was not important."
"Yes it is! How can I trust you!"
"You are so stubborn, Ehvaylyn!"Imhotep frowned. "I am not going to let you endanger yourself!"
Unexpectedly, Evelyn found herself thrown onto his shoulder and held there. It took a minute for her to really believe that she was slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Yelping with astonishment, she tried to wriggle off but she was clamped very efficiently. Horrified by her predicament she began yelling in both English and ancient Egyptian. The hold that he kept on her brought her into contact with more skin than she had expected. Heart leaping and her anger sparking, she wriggled to emphasize the words that bubbled from her throat.
"Let go of me you- you- big bully! Let me down!"
Abruptly she was let down but found her hands being tied and her feet too. The cords were not thick but wrapped around several times they worked very well. Angrily she continued to curse using a few turns of phrase that caused him to raise his eyebrows. Feeling a little vindicated by shocking him, Evie quit cursing and began arguing.
"Let me go or you'll regret it! I did have time to read the return spell again, you know!"Evelyn yelled at her last resort.
"I know you too well, Ehvaylyn. You are too stubborn for your own good,"Imhotep laughed a tinge of respect and took the Gold Book and key from her pocket. "You shall stay here until I return."
When Imhotep entered the now unearthed tomb in a swirl of his dark robe, Evelyn let loose a yowl of anger. Wriggling madly she tried to rid herself of the cords. To her disappointment she found that they didn't budge an inch. They were tied so skillfully that she didn't even have room enough to chafe her wrists. Dejectedly she slumped back against the rock she was sat up against and wondered how long the priest would be. He was just infuriating!
Painfully embarrassed and wanting nothing more than to disappear, Evelyn wriggled to try to find a comfortable siting position. Why had she dashed out like that anyway? It was really silly to rush across Cairo to be tied up. Groaning to herself, Evelyn wondered why she could be provoked into such silliness. Forcing herself to calm down she methodically checked the ropes on her legs. To her delight, she found if she curled up and stretched she could reach the knot. Working it out she crowed in triumph as she freed her legs. Evie knew she couldn't do much about her hands but working legs were all that she needed.
Hurrying into the tomb, she paused only to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. The faint scent of decay rode the back of the dust that seemed to cover everything. Already, her nose began to itch. Along the walls were colorful hieroglyphics, which were incredibly vivid, but nothing like what she had seen between the Breasts Of Isis. The colors were muted with time and the paint had just begun to flake. The feeling she had when magic was present was absent too and Evie guessed that these walls hadn't been preserved.
It was slow going as Evelyn didn't want to repeat the experience of falling floor tiles but the lay out of the tomb was familiar. The antechamber lay before her. What had once been a careful arrangement of items was not littered and broken on the floor. Two skeletons lay devoid of flesh were stretched out on the sand witness to the danger the tomb represented. Shivering in distaste at their gleaming white bones, Evelyn looked at the skeletons and noticed a strange calcification that suggested they had been blasted with acid. Cautiously, Evelyn proceeded through the chamber without stepping on anything or disturbing things. She guessed that the robbers had triggered the trap by moving something.
Several rooms branched off from the antechamber and Evelyn paused considering the choices. Frowning, she wondered why the antechamber didn't lead directly to the burial chamber. Looking about the clutter of treasure around her, Evelyn could see nothing to give her any clues. Glancing up at the hieroglyphics, her eyes drifted to the black shape of a jackal. Almost mesmerized, Evie reached out and touched the raised carving. A mechanical click resounded in the room and Evie found herself falling into air. A scream wrenched its way from her throat and she prayed to whoever was listening that she wouldn't die and prove the arrogant priest right.
A brittle wooden cart cushioned her fall and Evie moaned. Her whole body felt jarred but nothing broken. Smiling, she had to admit that it wasn't too bad considering the alternative. Pulling herself up to a sitting position, Evie realized that she could see and that the semidarkness of the antechamber and hallway was gone. Curios at the source of the light, she looked about but to her amazement found nothing. Touching the plain and undecorated wall, she could feel the tingle of residual magic.
Biting her lip, Evelyn stood and wandered down the hallway. It had to lead somewhere and she really didn't fancy the idea of being trapped in the tomb forever. Around and around the passageway wove until Evie wasn't sure which direction she was heading in. Counting her blessings that there were no turns, she continued on. As she walked, she realized that the stone that surrounded her in dusty abundance was no longer rough-hewn. The walls were polished and silky under her fingers. Knowing Imhotep would have to be around somewhere, kept Evie from panicking all together. Wherever the passageway was leading her had to be connected with the tomb somewhere.
All at once the smooth walls burst into color. Hieroglyphics and prayers for the deceased priest decorated the walls with their brightness. In the magical light, they glowed and were almost painfully bright. To her surprise, although there was light, the hieroglyphics were not preserved. Here and there an arm, a word or picture had yielded to the patience of time.
When the hallway ended in a room, Evelyn felt her mouth drop. The gold in this room perhaps did not rival the riches of Hamunaptra but blanketing her senses was the feeling of embracing sunlight and care. For a moment, Evelyn though if she closed her eyes she could see priests of Amun-Ra place the things in the room. Of course, in the center lay the sarcophagus. Scolding herself for her foolish school-girl reaction, Evie moved forward to the sarcophagus. Unlike Imhotep's, the sacred spells and the name of the occupant remained. Looking about her, Evie wondered where she was. It didn't make sense that she had found the burial chamber. Sense and all the Bainbridge scholars told her that it should be on the first level.
"The Book Of Amun-Ra under the statue of Anubis, indeed," Evelyn murmured with a smile. "Now, where would a page from that book be?"
If the Book had been under the statue of Horus, then surly so would be the page? Other than the sarcophagus, the largest feature was the alter that stood behind it. On the alter lay the all important canopic jars, items for use in the afterlife and even a few personal items. Evie hurried forward and looked among the treasure. Finding no statue of Horus, she sighed with frustration. It didn't make sense.
Although the book might have been hidden under the statue of Horus, Evie reminded herself, it didn't mean that the page was. Things weren't always logical. Kicking out in frustration, Evie yelped as she bruised her toe on the alter and dropped to the sandy floor. Massaging the injured appendage back to normality, her eyes widened as the eagle like eyes of Horus glared out sightlessly. The alter was decorated with the many gods of Egypt. Crowing in delighted triumph, Evie let her fingers trace the solid and perfectly carved stone. To her disappointment she could feel no lever or button. Finally Evelyn pulled on it and watched as it rolled forward smoothly. With a grating sound the back side of the alter slid away. Wrapped in cloth that crumbled under her fingers as she took out the package, the golden page shone dully in the chamber's glow.
"I've got it!" Evie said out loud to herself.
Tucking the heavy page into her coat pocket, Evie looked around the treasure about her. It would be nice if she could untie the cords about her wrists. They had begun to cut off the circulation in her fingers. To herself, Evelyn wondered why Imhotep had been so cross about it. Seeing a large spear by the door, she hurried over. Repeatedly she ran the edge of the blade down her bonds until they frayed and she could pull them off. Rubbing her wrists as her fingers prickled with returned circulation, Evelyn turned to leave the tomb. As she turned her coat and skirt caught on the spear. In a split second, Evleyn caught the spear only to find the floor disappear from beneath her feet. Terror welled up and she could only clutch at the spear.
A high pitched but full throated scream escaped her lips as Evelyn blindly grabbed for anything to halt her fall. To her relief her other hand connected with something that made her whole body jolt as her downward plummet was halted. For a few moments, Evie could only thank her patron god that she was alive and well.
It took a great effort, and many more moments, for her to open her eyes and find out what exactly happened. Peeling one reluctant eye open Evelyn felt her heart leap. She was dangling into a pit, held from falling into nothingness only by the spear, which had fallen across the pit. Immediately, Evie felt her hands become slippery with the dampness of sweat. Whimpering a little, Evie wondered what she could do about her situation. Her arms already ached with the effort to hold on and she couldn't pull herself up.
Wishing there was a nice Thomas to pull her up, Evelyn yelped again as she hear the wood creak. She certainly couldn't hang on for much longer. Blushing with embarrassment, she realized she really ought to call Imhotep to pull her out of the mess she had made. Taking a deep breath, she squashed down her pride and gave his name an all out yell. Evie suddenly realized that this must be how her brother felt when she had to pull him out of his messes. Several times, she tried it until a shower of sand started to hiss from the corner of the tomb. Horrified, Evie wondered if she had brought the whole room down on herself with her yells. How did she get herself into such pickles?
Just as she was about to give the priest another yell regardless of the consequences, the pile of sand that had formed at the edge of the pit suddenly moved. The sight almost made her forget to hold on as it reformed into the very person she had been calling. Eyes wide with wonder and near disbelief, she was hauled out by one large and very angry High Priest.
"Imagine seeing you here,"Evelyn said refusing to be intimidated but winced when she realized how silly it sounded.
"How did you get free? This place is dangerous, Ehveylyn. You could have died. If you think to escape our bargain through death you think wrong! This time nothing will stop me if I must resurrect you."
His words were harsh and laden with emotions that made Evie quell her arguments. The golden bronze his face was so perfect a master craftsman could have molded it, except for the sheer force of presence that surrounded him and devoured her. Such certainty and dark passion, made any of her retorts pale and shrivel up. The passion in his eyes made Evie very certain that he was not so much telling her as promising her. Again she felt the strange feeling that made her believe that he would do anything to keep his promises.
"I'm not trying to escape! I certainly wouldn't kill myself to do it! I made you a promise and I intend to keep it!"Evelyn replied trying to make him believe her.
"You will?"Imhotep replied with a bark of a laugh, clearly not believing a word of it.
"I said I would! I don't go around breaking my bargains."
For several moments his eyes devoured hers and then his lips mashed against her own forcing them open. Finally his tongue thrust into her mouth and Evelyn moaned a mixture of shock and acquiescence. Her head spinning, she let him plunder her mouth and search out her tongue for battle. Sensation and fierce need seemed to radiate from him and stir her into responding. Evie felt her head begin to spin and she wondered if he intended to kiss her senseless. Suddenly the kiss turned gentle and Evelyn felt herself unwillingly lean into the lips teasing hers. Large warm hands moved from her shoulders and began to move in ways that shocked her. Eyes flying open, Evelyn wondered what he thought he was doing!
Her mother had told her about wedding nights, men and women and what it was all about when she was a child. Her mother had explained everything to her quite well but Evelyn hadn't thought of it again until O'Connell had come into her life. Even then she hadn't given it much consideration. If she had then, then only in the context of after a ring was on her finger. Evie knew that the man kissing her didn't have wedding rings on his mind. Everything she had been raised to believe in told her to pull away and aquatint Imhotep to modern propriety. Before she could do so, Evie remembered his disbelief of her when she told him she intended to keep her bargain. Was he asking for something more than a promise?
The husky tone to his voice made her swallow hard. Evelyn looked up at him and felt her breath evaporate with the desire in his eyes. He had noticed her passivity and she knew she had to make her decision now. What had her aunt told her? Close your eyes and think of England? Evie had never thought to take her aunt's advice as she always thought she'd marry for love but could she risk pulling away? The Seth Spirit needed to be destroyed. Surly this was nothing to defeating something that could kill everyone in the world?
Taking a deep breath, she smiled and leaned forward for another kiss. She could close her eyes and pretend she was somewhere else. She melted into his lips and pressed herself along his body urging him to touch her more while blushing at her actions. Gently he caressed her and muttered endearments in a tone so low she gave up understanding. With a note of alarm, Evie felt her back arch as burning lips moved from her throat, tracing the line of her collarbone. Well, he certainly seemed to know what to do if she didn't.
As her modest shirt was removed and he pulled her down to the soft sand of the corridor, she felt her heart leap. Breathing in deeply with nerves, she could smell the spicy richness of his scent and the musk smell of arousal. Improperly jolted to awareness, her senses were madly trying to take in the weight of his smooth body and the masculine scent washing over her. A strange feeling jolted through her as his hands drew exotic designs of the peaks of her breasts and his lips followed their patterns. Unnerved and trying to cover her nervousness Evelyn let her hands rest on his shoulders which burned under her hands.
Unexpectedly, Evelyn shivered as one of Imhotep's hands found curve of her hip and she felt her own hands begin to explore as if they had a mind of their own. Shocked at her audacity, Evelyn felt her hands discover the expanses of golden skin revealed for her as he removed his robe. Her mind kept a constant commentary of disbelief at her situation but her body was another matter. Nerves felt afire and Evie felt herself blushing. This wasn't what she had expected! Closing her eyes, Evelyn bit her cheek. She was acting like- like- Millie! She had to keep her head. What had her aunt said? England? England, yes, cold, damp... uhmmm? Oh my god, what did he have under that loincloth???!!
Her thoughts raced around as he pulled her into a sea of her own desire. Somehow all the frustration and shocked anger she had kept burning inside of her had turned into something very different. That something was exactly the something good girls never even thought about. Vaguely, Evelyn realized that Aunt Mae probably hadn't met a man who had been locked up in a coffin for three thousand years. The thought quelled silent exclamations and objections.
Moving down the gentle curve of her breast, lips covered her sensitive flesh of her nipple. Crying out she quivered and finally pressed him to her not wanting the sensations to end. Hungrily she sated her desire by exploring the smooth and burning plains of his back as her hands slid over the silk like skin. When his lips lifted form the erect and demanding nipple, he met her lips again in a frantic kiss.
Brushing against her torso again, a large exploring hand moved downwards to her hip. Her own skin singing with sensation, Evelyn moaned at the light touch. As the hand urged her to part her legs, she did so wondering with a little trepidation what the ancient man would do her all too willing body next. His hand brushed against the damp curls between her thighs and she couldn't restrain crying out his name. Intense want filed her and Evelyn arched into his hand. She had no idea how much she had wanted this but hadn't realized it. Obliging her, his fingers delved deeper and she moaned as pleasure erupted under his touch. Uncontrollably her hips lunged and a tangled mixture of ancient Egyptian and English erupted from her lips. Evelyn found her world vanish into bursts of pleasure when Imhotep's lips joined his fingers.
Almost painful the spasms of her climax rolled over her. Shivering as they faded she rolled her hips under his insistent mouth which slowed over her tender, recovering flesh. Just as she felt as if she could slip into pleasant nothingness, his mouth began to tease the center of her pleasure again. Brought to the razor's edge of arousal, Evelyn cried out in disappointment as he pulled away.
Hands encouraged her thighs wider and Evie felt her lover move between them. Beyond anything but need, Evelyn eagerly twined herself with him, urging him to join her on the soft sand beneath her. At her center, two of his fingers dipped into her, opening and caressing her folds. The invasion as he thrust into her made her gasp in mingled pain and pleasure. Evelyn felt herself clutch at his shoulders and tremble. Somehow, she realized with a pang, he had not just invaded her body but something far more fragile. Slowly he began to thrust and Evelyn gave up thought and felt their movements became hurried and rapid. Savoring the feel of him so fully imbedded within her, Evie locked her legs around his hips to pull him against her.
Eyes catching and loving like their bodies, Evelyn felt lost. Violently their hips crashed and Evelyn screamed as another climax tore through her. This time her immortal lover followed her, calling her name with a growling cry. Tangled of limb and sated of body, they lay panting not willing to move.
When she could finally breathe normally, Evelyn opened her eyes to find Imhotep watching her with an undecipherable look. Dark as night, his eyes were all at once soft and piercing. A hint of a blush filled her cheeks as she realized that she wouldn't be wearing white if she ever got married. Her aunt would be scandalized. Evelyn realized that she wasn't. Carefully, her new lover pulled her up and handed her the clothing he had removed.
"We must hurry my Ehvaylyn. The page must be found before nightfall or the Seth Spirit will not be stopped."
The seriousness of his words fell like lead into her stomach. When he gently cupped her face and kissed her, Evelyn felt a flutter of desire once more. For a moment he rested his forehead against her own before he pulled away. He was right. They both dressed quickly and Evelyn strapped the bag one of the twin Books. Its weight made her pause and she pulled the item out. How could she forget the page? Touching his arm, she stopped him from entering the tomb.
"Don't worry, I found the page. It was inside of the alter and I just had to pull the statue of Horus to open it,"Evelyn said proudly.
"You found it? Show it to me. It has to have the ritual,"Imhotep said with concerned excitement.
Fishing out the page, Evelyn watched as Imhotep read the page silently. He certainly read faster than she did! Resolving to improve her skills, Evelyn watched his expression and was pleased to see that the page was the one they needed. From his words Evie guessed that he had suspected the page would have the ritual but hadn't know for sure. Smugly, Evie realized that even High Priests weren't infallible. Just relieved that the page had been found and that they had a possibility of winning, Evie felt a knot of tension relax. She had to believe they could do it.
"We should go back to my home. Both O'Connell and the leader of the Med-Jai, need to know we have the important things,"Evelyn explained and realized she also had to tell O'Connell about going through with the ritual. There were also things she certainly wouldn't be telling him. "Do we need anything else? The ritual is all there?"
"It is all there, Ehveylyn. All we need is preparation time and then we can destroy the Seth Spirit if the gods are willing,"Imhotep replied taking her hand.
As the golden whirlwind enveloped her, Evie wondered if O'Connell would guess what had happened. The sun was low in the sky when Imhotep deposited her in a side ally to the local cazba. Evelyn blinked a little and looked towards her companion who was already focusing on the coming and going of pedestrians out in the main street. Glancing out, Evie hoped that no one had seen a whirlwind suddenly turn into a man. Evelyn studied the man who she had just so recently made love to. In the half-light of sunset, his features were almost obscured but set in stern lines. A sliver of worry threaded through her and Evie wondered what their encounter had meant to him.
Certainly he had taken lovers before her. Was she just one of many? Evelyn felt foolish. Aunt Mae's advice hadn't helped very much. What had probably just been a nice roll in the hay for him had become something more for her. Biting her lip, Evelyn wondered why she was being so silly. First O'Connell and his kiss and now this! Where had her standards gone? She had gotten into a terrible habit of making more of things than they really were. Despite her internal cursing, Evie knew she had fallen in love with the arrogant priest and that he was still probably mooning over Anck-Su-Namun. Ashamed at her horrible bungle, which had ended with such disastrous personal consequences, Evelyn made herself pull herself together. Her British forefathers had perfected the stiff upper lip and all she had to do was follow in their footsteps. It was her mother's fiery Egyptian side that had caused this mess anyway.
To her surprise, O'Connell hadn't drunk himself senseless. If it had been Jonathan she would have had to ply him with at least three cups of strong Egyptian coffee just to get him home. Instead, O'Connell was spooning around the remains of something that once had been a lemon ice. The owner of the cazba was fluttering around O'Connell and seemed to breath a sigh of relief when she entered.
"He's your problem now, miss!" the portly man said in accented English.
Daunted by the owner's proclamation, Evie watched O'Connell. He hadn't even noticed her arrival or the very obvious robe dressed form of the priest. Somehow, Evelyn guessed that she was one of the problems that had caused him to be so miserable. Remembering how he had left so suddenly before the ritual made Evelyn wonder if she shouldn't have gone after him. What was between them was over. She knew that now even more but he was still her friend. O'Connell had stood by her side when she had been in danger and she couldn't forget that.
"O'Connell?" Evie called moving to him.
"Evie? God, what time is it?" O'Connell asked as if just waking up.
"It's nearly night time. We should be getting back to the house. If we wish to get rid of the Seth Spirit, there are some details we must work out," Evelyn said gently.
"Ardeth Bay came around. He said he'd met with you at the house. Evie... he had some information that I think you should hear about," O'Connell said looking up at her with tired eyes.
"What? Why didn't he tell me when he came to see me?"
"I see you went through with it," O'Connell hedged looking at the medallion about her neck. "Evie, why did you do it? I knew there was something fishy about the whole thing."
"O'Connell! What are you talking about? I'm perfectly fine and I'm not sure Ardeth Bay was thinking clearly. I had to tell him about Imhotep and the Seth Spirit. I imagine he was very upset when he found you," Evie argued gently.
"Yeah... you could say he was upset. Evie, he should talk to you and without that hulking corpse around," O'Connell replied.
Biting her lip, Evelyn felt like stamping her foot in frustration. They didn't have time for her to go waltzing about the desert in search of Ardeth and his men. Evelyn wasn't sure if she trusted the Med-Jai enough to go without Imhotep. She would make a nice hostage against the priest. They certainly didn't need that kind of complication with the Seth Spirit at their doorstep. Crossly, she rubbed her forehead. Things had gotten so complicated! Telling herself to think things through sensibly, Evie looked carefully at O'Connell. He at least believed what he was telling her. If O'Connell didn't think it a ruse, then it probably wasn't.
She did have to find the Med-Jai before dawn tomorrow. Having them distract the Seth Spirit while she and Imhotep finished the ritual would be an advantage. Evie also didn't like the idea of being attacked while she was praying. Looking towards Imhotep she saw he was patiently ignoring the various people in the cazba and concentrating on O'Connell and herself.
It was obvious that O'Connell wouldn't be telling her what Ardeth Bay had said if Imhotep was around. It wasn't logical since Imhotep didn't even begin to understand English but Evie did understand his reluctance. What Ardeth had said probably wasn't complimentary. Making a decision, Evelyn sat down next to O'Connell and ordered a second round of lemon ices.
"O'Connell has information from the Med-Jai. He wants to talk about it but someone has to go over the ritual,"Evie said knowing that the priest would understand O'Connell's reluctance.
"Very well. Do not stay long as you must learn it too."
They both watched as the tall priest left the cazba. Evelyn noticed that the whole cazba seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when he did. The aura around Imhotep was both regal and frightening. Looking back at O'Connell, Evie wondered if she would regret not taking his advice. Instinctively she touched the medallion about her neck. It reassured her by its presence and she doubted she could even begin to try to feel regret. What had happened was so important it changed her in so many ways and yet she was still herself. The Evie who had blithely decided to find Hamunaptra in the first place wouldn't have dreamt of becoming a priestess of Anubis. Not to her surprise, Evelyn felt a pang for that Evie. Things had been so straightforward and perfectly simple.
"So, what was it that Ardeth Bay said?" Evie said pushing her thoughts away before she could blush.
"Evie it isn't that simple!"
"What do you mean?"
O'Connell rubbed his eyes and regarded her quietly. Uncomfortable, Evelyn shifted in her seat and was relieved when the ices were placed in front of them. Taking a bite, Evie waited for O'Connell to speak. It was obvious that he was enjoying being mysterious. The tired strain of her shoulders informed her that if she didn't get to bed soon she would find herself as rigid as a board. Although she wanted to hear what O'Connell had to say, Evie mostly wanted to pull the bedclothes over her head and pretend the world didn't exist.
"I was right about what I thought you'd do. You couldn't resist living history yourself, could you? Goddamn it Evie! Can't you see it's better dead and buried. This time we're screwed. Come on, Ardeth and his men are staying above the cazba," O'Connell muttered almost incoherently.
"O'Connell! What are you talking about! You're making no sense and-" Evie said and was cut off as he pulled her up and towards the back.
Groaning, Evie let herself be propelled up the stairs and waited quietly as O'Connell knocked on the door. Hopefully she could get this over with quickly. She still had to go over the ritual before sunrise. The very thought of the Seth Spirit arriving in the morning made her stomach flit and her heart speed up. They had to succeed!
The man who opened the door wasn't familiar to Evelyn but his dress marked him as one of the Med-Jai. Hawk like eyes pinned and examined her to see if she was any kind of possible threat. Suddenly a familiar voice called from inside the room to let them in. The door swung open and a bare room filled with black clad forms of tribal warriors was revealed. A silence descended as they entered. Multiple eyes trained on them and Evelyn felt her chin lift with pride as she tried to shove away her instinctive fear.
Surrounded by fellow warriors, Ardeth seemed to be holding court. Even as they entered, several men hurried out with a sense of purpose that told Evelyn something was going on. The heavily veiled eyes of their leader did nothing to dull her concerns. Suddenly distrustful of everyone around her, Evie let her eyes dart to O'Connell. He didn't seem to be uncomfortable. Taking a breath, Evie told herself that for now they were all on the same side and wanted the same thing. Everything depended on cooperation.
"I see you were persuaded to become a priestess of Anubis. Had you told me, I wouldn't have let it happened. You have assured your own transformation as one of the undead," Ardeth Bay said in a tone so final, Evie felt her heart skip a beat.
"What do you mean? I don't know what you're talking about!" Evie denied and refused to think of the possibility her heart pattering in a beat of horror.
"O'Connell has told me that the creature was fully restored when he was returned. All he needs now is a human sacrifice and he will be unstoppable. We believe you will be that sacrifice. He will then resurrect you as one of the undead."
"Evelyn, he's telling the truth," O'Connell added softly.
"I- I don't believe it. It doesn't make sense!" Evie stuttered out. "I made a promise and I-"
"You think a promise matters to that creature? Nothing matters to such as he. Being a priest of the jackal headed god will only hasten your transformation. We must stop him before he arises after the Seth Spirit and destroys us all," Ardeth Bay growled determinedly.
"No, I don't believe it! If he kills me he can't very well make me into a mummy," Evie argued not really wanting to believe it.
"The Med-Jai know what he is capable of. You called him forth and all he needs now is to finish the curse. Once you are dead he can preserve your body for all eternity and trap your soul within it."
A pit opened up in her stomach. Was it true? Had he lied and deceived her? Evelyn blinked back the surge of emotions and forced herself to look at things logically. The idea of Imhotep invincible scared her deeply. His strength and curse given powers frightened her now. She had agreed to become a mummy but not make him invincible! Evie felt her heat tighten at the thought of him deceiving her. Was he going to take his revenge after all? Maybe kill the Med-Jai and O'Connell too? She felt like a fool.
"Oh. And... and uhmmm, how do we stop that from happening?" Evie asked numbly.
"As soon as the Seth Spirit is destroyed we must return him to the underworld. Not even his own god would wish him to remain in the world of the living- he is an abomination," Ardeth said his eyes flashing.
Something clicked in her appalled mind. That wasn't true. Osiris had granted Imhotep the power to stand as High Priest in her initiation. If he really had offended the gods, then Evie knew that her initiation wouldn't have worked. Frowning, she looked at Ardeth Bay sharply. She might be foolish enough to be duped by Imhotep but something wasn't quite right with what the desert leader was telling her. For generations they had tried to prevent Imhotep rising and Evelyn knew that they wouldn't let it go easily.
"He will be weakened after fighting the Seth Spirit and we can use the Book of Amun-Ra to defeat him," Ardeth Bay continued.
Did everyone want revenge? Evelyn suddenly felt very tired. Nothing was going the way she had thought it would. Did it even matter that Imhotep became invincible? The uneasiness in her belly told her it did matter. No force that strong should walk the earth. Imhotep was a man with human faults. The havoc he had wrecked for love when not invincible was frightening enough. Sighing, Evelyn remembered what the Gold Book had said about the works of man never eclipsing the works of the gods. Did the Hom Dai do that? Maybe Amun-Ra was right about that. So many questions plagued her and Evie had answers to none of them. She couldn't let Imhotep become immortal but she couldn't strike anyone, even an enemy, in the back when they were at their weakest. Evie wasn't even sure that the priest was an enemy anymore.
"No. I will not do that," Evie said looking first at O'Connell and then to the angry Ardeth Bay.
"What!? Evie, we have to or-"
"No, O'Connell," Evie snapped glaring at her friend who looked like he would protest again. "That wouldn't be right! It would make us no better than Beni! Do you really want to shoot someone in the back? That's what you'd be doing. Not to mention that someone will have just helped save you and the rest of the world!"
"Evelyn, this isn't some gentleman's duel! Do you think he'd give us the same amount of respect?"
"Do you remember the square?! He ordered his goons to kill us even when he said if you went with him he wouldn't!" O'Connell shouted.
"I'd forgotten that," Evie said blushing a little.
"The American is right," Ardeth Bay said standing. "We must stop the creature before he becomes invincible."
"And how do you even know this is what her intends? All I've heard so far is fear. I am not going to play a part in this when there is no proof," Evelyn argued taking a step back.
"Proof? The proof is-"
Ardeth Bay did not have a chance to finish as the air rippled and the priest appeared before them. Before they could recover from their shock, Imhotep sent Ardeth flying across the room. The other Med-Jai scrambled to attack but they were quickly subdued. Evelyn found herself calling out in ancient Egyptian for him to stop but he only treated her with an angry gaze. Another Med-Jai crashed into the room sending Evie and O'Connell crashing to the wall. In retribution, Imhotep suddenly inhaled and then sent a stream of scarabs blasting towards the hapless warrior. With a scream he was consumed by the scarab horde and then just as quickly the glossy black bugs ringed Evie and O'Connell keeping them from moving.
"Leader of Med-Jai, you seek to betray me?"Imhotep spoke using Hebrew rather than ancient Egyptian.
Horror rooted her to the spot just as effectively as the scarabs. Evelyn shifted uneasily as the scarabs chittered and hissed, wondering if she should translate. To her surprise, Ardeth glared back at the priest and cursed him using the same language. Uncertain at what other secrets Ardeth Bay had kept, Evelyn trained her gaze on him. A rivulet of blood streamed from his split lip and hatred boiled in his raptor like eyes.
"We seek to fulfill the oaths of our ancestors!"
"Your ancestors were fools and you seek to repeat their folly. You are all fools. Did you really think I would stand for this?"
"Your own treachery betrays you! They know what you plan and that you will use Evelyn to become invulnerable. The Med-Jai will not suffer such a catastrophe to walk the earth!"
"The Pharaoh that you so revere is an abomination far greater than the Hom-Dai and you do nothing. You would rather plot behind closed doors,"Imhotep said standing over Ardeth menacingly.
"And you would rise in the place of the Seth Spirit,"Ardeth barked back.
Tension mounted and Evelyn felt her heart ache with the horrible feeling that someone might just die. Sizzling between the three men was the slow burning of hatred. Acrid in the air was the peculiar mix of fear and adrenaline. Thrumming though her body Evie felt the multiple rasping and grating sound of the oily bright scarabs as they heaved and shifted before them. Evelyn felt her stomach leap and turn but pulled her eyes from the six-legged horrors to watch the tableau before her. Glorious in his wrath and dignity, Imhotep sneered at Ardeth while the desert warrior proudly stared him down with night deep eyes. Beside her, O'Connell tensely fingered the always present gun under his coat.
"Revenge is all you speak of! My punishment for my acts was an eternity of damnation. All around me will die as I see more years pass than there are grains of sand. I would have thought the Med-Jai would have reveled to see the curse fulfilled."
"We will see you rot in your grave while you scream to eternity. Even now you would raise the dead! You do not even uphold the sacred laws of our people."
"The sacred laws of our people? The sacred laws would never have called for the Hom-Dai! I will take what is left to me, even if I must beg forgiveness from the gods for all eternity! You can keep your pitiful desert lands and I have no wish to crush the already broken remains of a once proud land!"
"You lie! How can we believe a word you say? You have already broken one promise!"
"Not so!"Imhotep snarled back.
"You promised to spare our lives in return for Evelyn and yet you ordered us killed."
"You would have done the same for all your *honor*,"Imhotep sneered and raised his arm threateningly. "I will not play your games."
"No!"Evelyn cried as the arm reached out to strangle the desert warrior.
Evelyn held her breath as the priest's features turned into an impassive mask. Ardeth Bey's face was filled with righteous fury and a defiance that would become his death mask in a moments time. O'Connell was sucking in deep breaths beside her and Evie knew that he would start shooting if he was put under any more strain. Men were like that for some reason. Her own heart was rather urging her to run or to start hitting something too. Biting her lip hard, she edged back from the seething mass of insects at her feet. Clasping the stylized figure of Anubis around her beck, Evelyn shook her head in a negative as time began to slow in the strangest manner. The tension in her body was twisting in her stomach and rising in her throat. For a moment Evelyn couldn't believe she had spoken.
"Don't! Please, Imhotep, I beg you! Do not kill him! No more bloodshed!"Evelyn cried in ancient Egyptian her words tumbling from her mouth.
"He would destroy me and keep us apart. I will not let him destroy the world just to satisfy his need for revenge. All the sands of Egypt will turn to dust before I let him take you away from me or let the Seth Spirit win!"
"If you kill him then we will fail! The Med-Jai must distract the Spirit so that we may destroy it. Make him swear by Allah and the Pharaoh his ancestors revered and he will keep his oath," Evelyn hurriedly sputtered hoping that she was right.
"And I should believe that he will keep his oath? You ask me to risk everything on this mortal's word!"
"No, on my word,"Evelyn murmured unsure of herself but imploring the cruel priest with her eyes.
Abruptly, Ardeth was dropped and Imhotep merely waved his hand and the hoard of scarabs scurried away. Taking a deep breath, Evelyn stepped forward towards Ardeth Bay. The desert warrior regarded her with great distrust and looked ready to strike out but Evelyn refused to be deterred. Somehow she had stopped catastrophe and now she had to stop it again. Making a silent vow to take a nice holiday in nice, safe and secure library, Evelyn proudly glared back at Ardeth and the remaining warriors.
"Do you really think you can win by fighting each other? We will all die! There is a creature that will kill us for sure if we don't work together! Ardeth, you will fail in your duty if the Seth Spirit isn't destroyed. Imhotep is our only chance."
"There is no guarantee! I will not waste my people to destroy the Seth Spirit only open the way for monstrosity. His very presence is offensive to the gods he so proudly declares he serves. He should be killed before he destroys us!" Ardeth Bay argued his eyes sparking with the promise of violence.
"I swear to you that I will help you make sure that Imhotep can not complete the ritual to make himself invincible but I won't stab him in the back! You can't make me! Swear, swear by Allah and your oath to guard Hamunaptra that you'll fight the Seth Spirit without bloodshed beforehand. Then I don't care what you do after!" Evelyn snapped advancing another footstep.
"Evie, you can't mean that! It's too great a risk! I know that walking plague will kill us as soon as we are finished with the Seth Spirit!" O'Connell argued.
"And what do you suggest? Can you think of a way to kill the Seth Spirit?"
Silence greeted her words and Evelyn knew she had defeated their arguments. Dread filled her with what would happen later. It was obvious they wouldn't rest until Imhotep was killed. Once, Evelyn would have agreed. Maybe Imhotep was playing her for a fool but she couldn't stand the idea of helping them destroy him. Glancing at the priest, he seemed stony faced as usual but Evie could tell he was as uncertain as she was and was barely restraining violence.
"Ehveylyn, what are you saying? Do you like these fools seek to betray me?"
"How could you think that?!"Evelyn retorted with her pride bristling.
"You tried to kill me once. Even now you fear me. I will not be returned to damnation! You gave me your word but your baseless fears rise in you as we speak,"Imhotep said with all seriousness and with restrained power.
In a roar, Evelyn felt anger rise in her body until she quivered with it. How dare he accuse her of deceit? It was he that treated her with undisclosed motives! Even as she felt he ranger rise, Evelyn knew she had agree with Ardeth Bay an the others to an extent. Imhotep did frighten her and she didn't want him to be indestructible. Dishonest curdled her stomach but how could she speak them to him? She was a fool but Evie knew she had to stand strong. The Seth Spirit was too close for comfort. Even if it did absorb the obnoxious Birdie Smith, it was one soul too many.
"Of course I fear you! Ardeth Bay did speak the truth! You will not just turn me into a mummy but make yourself indestructible! What can stop you then if you suddenly feel like a spot of revenge?"Evenly spat out angrily her tongue running away with her.
Laughter shocked her into silence. Imhotep's face suddenly cracked into one of the largest smiles she had seen. Before everyone, he swept her up into a possessive kiss that sent electricity through her body. Turning bright red, she guiltily looked at the shocked faces of the others when Imhotep released her. Embarrassed and turning red at the spectacle he had made of her Evelyn wiped her lips and glared up at his amused face. Still scowling, she wondered what was going on. Did he think that she was joking with him? Was he making fun of her? If he was then her dignity just wouldn't take it!
"Why would I do exactly what I am trying to prevent the Seth Spirit from doing, my Ehveylyn? The Seth Spirit is an abomination in the eyes of the gods and man! I only hope that Amun-Ra will see and answer our prayers. I would not wish to replace the Spirit."
"So... you never though about sacrificing me? I mean, you wouldn't make yourself invincible?"Evelyn whispered, his words disarming her anger and her eyes begging for the truth.
"No and I will not think of it for the countless days we will see under the burning chariot of Horus, my beloved. I swear it by Osiris."
Imhotep spoke with his whole heart in his words. In the darkness of this sarcophagus, he had thought of becoming immortal and invincible but not now. His black rage that called for never ending revenge had faded. The blasphemy of the Seth Spirit outraged him and he would not tempt the god's punishment further by taking its place. The beautiful creature before him made it impossible. He wished her by his side for the length of his immortality. It was his just reward to have her share immortality with him if he could defeat the Seth Spirit. Osiris had not removed his powers even though his god knew what was in his heart. That gave Imhotep cause to hope. As he watched, Ehveylyn nodded and her eyes softened into melting pools trust. He would not betray her and he had been a fool to doubt her.
Under her breath, Evelyn murmured a muted 'oh'. She couldn't help but believe him. The touch of his lips on hers was strong in her memory and she hoped it meant what she thought it did. Could she hope that he felt at least something for her? Swallowing the brimming emotions that caused her to be so embarrassingly flustered, Evenly turned to Ardeth Bay.
"What did that abomination say?" Ardeth snarled.
"He swore that he would never seek to become indestructible," Evenly replied triumphantly.
"Lies! I can not swear to anything if all he gives us is an empty promise! Too much rides upon this Evelyn Carnarvon! My people are nearly destroyed and I will not allow another monstrosity to destroy what remain of my tribes!"
"Ardeth, he swore by Osiris! He must keep that oath or risk failing to destroy the Seth Spirit! I give you my word as a priestess of Anubis and- and a scholar, that I will do everything to see that he never become indestructible. I also give my word that he will hold to his promise!" Evelyn pleaded and a brief exchange in words too fast for Evelyn to follow issued before Ardeth straightened and moved forward to grasp her hand.
"I swear by Allah and the sacred oath I gave to protect Hamunaptra that I and my warriors will stand with you to battle the Seth Spirit. I will refrain from attacking the priest but afterwards, we will return him to the gods for judgement."
A breath of relief exited her lips and the Med-Jai left the room. O'Connell looked similarly relieved but the distrust on his face was still strong but Evie knew that was all she could hope for. At least disaster was averted. Slowly her heart slowed to its regular rhythm. Imhotep stood quietly still waiting to be told what had happened although Evelyn guessed he had figured out what happened in general terms by through body language.
"He agreed but he will hunt you if we manage to destroy the Seth Spirit,"Evenly said softly.
"And I will be prepared."
Eyes burning and her back a knot of agony, Evenly concentrated on the ritual. The words were difficult to remember and she had memorized it long ago. Too bad that memorizing the ritual was the easy part of it. O'Connell had long since cleaned and polished his guns and then left them to study the ritual and all that was involved. Evelyn wished that she could sleep also but knew that she couldn't. The twists of her emotions only insured that if she was given the opportunity that she wouldn't be able to find blissful slumber. Evelyn wished that Aunt Mae had given her more advice than just thinking of England. Too bad that advice hadn't helped! Sighing, Evelyn began reading the ritual once again. The gentle pressure and warmth of a familiar hand on her shoulder made her look up.
Imhotep stood behind her and was looking at her with such gentle desire, Evelyn felt her insubordinate body respond with desire. How was she supposed to study with her body doing those sorts of things and him just encouraging her? Crossly she glared at him but to her disappointment he only smiled knowingly. Flustered and blushing Evie tried to look as dignified as her situation would allow and filed miserably.
"Come, Ehveylyn. We have only a few hours before dawn and you must sleep,"Imhotep said as he motioned her to stand.
"But- but I still have to-"
The golden shifting sands of Imhotep's whirlwind stilled her protests and Evelyn suddenly found herself in the bedroom. Perturbed by the sneaky maneuver, she was about to ask him since when was he allowed into her bedroom when she realized that her bed was terribly soft. When hands began to knead the tight muscles that ached so badly, Evenly decided not to do her latest impression of a fishwife. Sighing with relaxation she lost all trains of thought as slept crept upon her.
* * *
A frantic voice and the shaking of a shoulder broke into her sleep. The peaceful lack of awareness beckoned her to fall once again into darkness. It was too bad that the voice wouldn't cooperate. Evelyn looked up and groaned. O'Connell looked like he had enough weapons to lay siege to some large and uncooperative building. Sleep left quickly as Evelyn remembered what they were about to do. Lifting herself from the bed, she realized she was still dressed- one blessing. Her second thought was where Imhotep was and that the Seth Spirit must be close if O'Connell was waking her.
"What's going on? Is it the Seth Spirit?" Evelyn asked quickly.
"Yeah, the dead guy woke me up a moment ago and then disappeared in a cloud of dust. I guess he's going to see how close it is exactly. We won't have much time, so you better hurry," O'Connell said his excitement evident.
"I guess we better hurry, then," Evelyn said.
O'Connell watched as Evelyn began to take stock of her surroundings. The sometimes timid and rather clumsy librarian he knew still shone out from her but now... O'Connell really wasn't sure what had changed. Evie wasn't his Evie anymore. Sadness welled up at the thought but he knew that it was just silly to want something that would never work. They were better apart, they both knew it. O'Connel just wished that
Sober and resolute, Evelyn stood and looked at O'Connell. He seemed so confidant and yet she knew him well enough so that she could see his anxiety. Hoping that she looked just as confidant on the surface, she nodded. This was it- there was no more waiting. All night she had almost wished that the Spirit would just come to put an end to the never ending waiting. That wish was no farthest from her mind. The reality of the danger they were in and that O'Connell and she could die lay heavy and unmoving in her stomach. Evelyn didn't even want to think about the serpent of fear that twisted in her stomach that suggested that Imhotep might fail. They couldn't fail! The consequences were just too terrible.
"Why don't you make sure we didn't leave anything downstairs? I need to gather the Books and the Eye," Evelyn replied knowing that the items she mentioned were already gathered and ready to go.
O'Connell seemed to know too but he said nothing and left. Evelyn needed some time alone. Slowly she went to her window and looked out. The sun was just beginning to rise and she could see the outlines of the city. Already activity was buzzing below and around her. People woke to work, pray and to labor under the sun. Life around her buzzed with such strength that Evelyn wanted to cry. They didn't even know. Arms surrounded her and Evelyn turned into them. Fear bubbled up in her throat and she looked at Imhotep. Gently he kissed her forehead and Evelyn shivered.
"My Ehveylyn the Spirit will arrive soon. We must hurry. Are you ready to do battle?"
"I... think so. O'Connel is down stairs and did you inform the Med-Jai?"
"They are assembled just outside of the city. When we go into battle, I do not want you near the Spirit. Stay back and complete the ritual,"Imhotep said and began to speak again but then closed his mouth on whatever words he would have said.
A strange disappointment saddened her heart when Evelyn realized whatever words she had been waiting for would not be said. Confused and her pride stung, she followed the ancient man downstairs. O'Connel was waiting for them and resolutely, Evie clutched at the two Books that held the words of ancient rituals. She didn't need the Books but was too afraid to leave them. The Golden Book itself made her feel more comfortable and confident and Evie hoped that perhaps Amun-Ra would listen harder if she held it. As Imhotep engulfed them in whirling sands, Evelyn once again wondered what had almost said.
Silent except for the hissing sand against sand, the moon drenched land about them was waiting. None of the city's sounds or smells broke the desolate atmosphere leaving Evelyn strangely disconnected. The chill of night soaked into her clothes and Evelyn rubbed her arms. None of them said a word as they waited. It didn't take long for the sound of horses and men to break the tense anticipation of danger. As the sun began to rise, cresting against the golden splendor of the dessert, Evelyn felt the hair on the back of her arms and her neck rise. Tingling about her was the feel of magic and danger. Glancing towards Imhotep, Evelyn watched as his face turned into a thundercloud. Eloquent and plain, the rage and hate made her shudder although it was not directed towards her. Evelyn just hoped that he would remember the ritual and not run off to battle.
"We must begin Ehveylyn. Hold the Eye with me."
"Now? Are you certain? I can't even see it,"Evelyn replied grasping the Golden Book closer.
A brief nod was all she received and Evelyn swallowed hard. Librarians really weren't supposed to be priests, she thought to herself. She certainly wasn't cut out for it that was for sure- her knees felt decidedly jelly like. The very thought of the Seth Spirit scared her. Evelyn had only experienced a slight brush with it's power and that told her she really didn't want to endure more. Terror so deep that her instincts screamed at her erupted all at once and she gasped as the sky turned a bruised yellow green. Biting her lip, Evie forced herself to move towards Imhotep who held the Eye. It was time.
When her hands touched the gold of the Eye's staff, she suddenly felt the distractions of the world fade a little. Evelyn's eyes locked on the eyes of the High Priest before her and she could feel herself focus. As words as ancient as Egypt itself called to the gods to hear their prayers, Evelyn as surprised to find that the words fell from her mouth almost of their own accord. It was as if a wisdom not her own was guiding her. Faint as if on the very horizon of her senses, the sound of jackals yapped and cried. Hearing Imhotep call for Osiris, Evelyn added her own cry, asking that Anubis stand with her and deliver their prayers to Amun-Ra. Flooding through her, Evelyn felt a power all at once familiar and strange. Opening eyes that she hadn't realized were closed Evelyn smothered a gasp. For a second, Imhotep seemed to be gone and the image of another stood before her. The sight of the otherworld scared her but around her the power of the Spirit grew and moaned in appalling hunger.
Urgently, words ripped from their mouths, calling upon Amun-Ra to witness the breaking of his laws. Over and over they chanted a prayer calling for Amun-Ra to restore the balance of the world. Almost breaking their chant was the scream of a war cry and the sound of gunfire. Somehow tearing her eyes from those of the High Priest's, Evelyn looked towards the others. The Med-Jai that were once silent and still had burst into action. Waves of their horsemen advanced on a figure that pulsed with an unholy light. Her stomach doing summersaults, Evie made her fear tightened throat speak the words of the chant. Although the power of the magic increased each time they spoke the chant, Evelyn did not feel an answer from Amun-Ra. All about them, men fell their bodies sucked of life-force. The answering hail of bullets fired into the Spirit did nothing. Closer and close it advanced as if pulled by their chanting.
The figure still had a remarkable likeness to the man it had once been. To Evelyn's horror, the features of another were slowly imprinting itself on those of Justin Sommers. Those features sent an unexpected echo of fear through her and Evelyn glanced back at Imhotep. Recognition fired in his eyes, and Evelyn knew they were the features of Seti, the spirit cured to act as a focus of Seth's will. Dragging her eyes from the Spirit, Evelyn rested her forehead against the Eye chanting louder. The sounds of death and destruction filled her ears no matter how much she wanted them not to. O'Connell nearby, shot a few rounds and Evelyn suddenly knew that the Spirit was almost on them. Terror printed itself on her face as Evie realized that if Amun-Ra didn't hear them soon then their stand would be futile.
When the weight of the Eye rocked towards her, Evelyn realized that Imhotep had turned to face the Spirit. Unable to help herself, Evelyn watched as the sands began to boil. As if in response to the power she could feel in her very bones, the Spirit turned towards the ancient priest. Elemental the two forces lurched towards each other and with screaming winds, the sands churned. Abrading her face and choking her as Evelyn desperately continued the chant, she forced her eyes to look for some indication of what was happen. A full throated war cry sounded and suddenly the Med-Jai leapt back and scattered.
Fear wanted her throat to wail and howl in a primitive cry of terror but Evelyn didn't dare. The only thing that could save them was Amun-Ra's response to her prayer and if she stopped then they would die. Desperation tinged her words and Evelyn felt her eyes tear and she clutched harder at the words. Just as her voice began to choke and scratch, heat boiled up from the sky. Light, harsh, fierce and terrible pummeled down on her and again she felt the guiding hands of something not herself. It pulled the punishing light within her and it surged through her. Evelyn felt as if her body would burst into flame with its power but suddenly it left her body and traveled along into the Eye. Turning herself towards the battle, Evelyn gasped as the sand boiled with horrors that were obscured from sight.
The scratching of scarabs and the heat of unholy might mixed and Evelyn wondered what was happening. Instinct told her that Imhotep was calling his plagues and forcing the Spirit back but in answering strength the Spirit was pulling at the very energy that had raised the High Priest. Heart contracting, she wished she could see Imhotep. Before she could call out, something alien took hold of her vocal cords. Words of command and judgement rang loud and inhumanly clear. The force of anger and defiance that rang out in profane reply from the Spirit nearly blasted her from her feet and the sands again began to surge. Frantically she clutched the Eye, knowing that Imhotep was trying to hold the Spirit still. Half remembering the ritual and pulled by forces that were not her own, Evelyn began to speak. Words not written in the rituals suddenly filled her mouth and the Eye blazed out.
White and scalding, a blast of light, shooting out from the Eye engulfed everything. Pinned by the events before her, Evelyn watched in shocked fascination. The white light faded and a crack of darkness split the very fabric of the world. Sucked towards it sand and air formed a howling gale. Her feet slipping, Evelyn fell to her knees and watched as forces beyond her understanding grabbed the Spirit, pulling it into the crack. Into the waiting darkness, it hurtled but to her horror, deformed limbs grabbed at the haggard form of the High Priest. This time her voice was under her control and she screamed a panicked warning. For a brief second as eyes locked with hers before disappearing.
Abruptly, sound and motion was stilled. On her knees, Evelyn let the Eye drop to the ground. Carnage from the battle seeped red into the sand and spoke of depraved atrocity but the horrific display did not have her attention. Stunned, Evelyn stared at where the Spirit and Imhotep had disappeared. Amid her numbness shivers began to wrack her body. It wasn't supposed to happen that way. She hadn't even considered it. Pale and sick, Evelyn didn't think she could move. A warm hand on her shoulder tried to comfort her but she said nothing.
"Don't worry, Evie. It'll be alright," O'Connell said hesitantly.
Slowly Evelyn stood and tottered to where they had disappeared. In the sand lay Imhotep's pendant that proclaimed him a High Priest of Osiris. Rage and deep injustice filled her. It was not right. Not now, and not ever. Scanning the sands of the deserts, Evelyn looked out in the very heart of the never-ending sands that were baking in the sun. Taking the golden pendant in her hand she looked down at it once more before pocketing it. Noticing that O'Connell was looking at her oddly, Evelyn smiled but she knew it was more a pain filled grimace filled with bitter irony.
"Where are you going, Evie?" O'Connell asked warily.
"To Hamunaptra, O'Connell... Where else?"