BOOK ONE: Shifting Saharan
What is it, little one?
Near the end of the Age of Gemini, about six thousand five hundred years ago on the grassy, but drying, Giza Plain
Kysen stood on the Giza plain and tears ran down his face as he watched the scenes of the future. The plain on which he was standing was barren and dry as the shore along the Great Green and the plain was dotted with massive triangular shaped stone buildings. The limestone faced buildings then exploded into bits of dust. He had raised his hands to shield his face when the voice spoke.
"I am called Imhotep. If not stopped, these events will occur near the end of the Age of Pisces," a male voice intoned over the sounds of explosions; to Kysen's ears, the explosions were like the sounds of the volcano on the island in the Great Green. "The Dark One shall call to His side a misguided folllower, one who will try to destroy the Ma'at of Egypt. You will need to procreate a son, in whose bloodline will run the strength and courage to oust the Destructor of Ma'at and stop the Pyramids from exploding."
"I have begat only daughters, Imhotep, God of Egypt! Eleven of them!" Kysen cried, holding his arms out.
"And Ma'at will smile upon your daughters, for they will be prosperous in the coming years. You will live long enough to see the son born who will beget the Restorer of Ma'at to Egypt in the Age of Pisces," the male voice told him. "Take a second wife. Priest Tefibi will be told to allow it, but this son of Egypt must be born, and born soon," the God of Egypt's voice told him, fading.
The man looked down at himself. His long hair was more silver than black now. Along the Nile, his eleven daughters laughed and played, the oldest daughters looking after the youngest daughters. .
How he'd wished for a son! During the years in his teens and early twenties, he and his tribe had wandered from the western shores of the land where the Great Green met a large salty ocean. His tribe had headed towards the lands to the east, for an illness had ravaged the lands and Tefibi--a year younger than Kysen and newly appointed Priest-- had declared the western lands unclean.
Few children had been born to the other men in his tribe, for most of the women had died during the pitted scar illness that had struck his tribe when Kysen had been fifteen summers old.
He shook his head and headed down to the Nile to play with his daughters, thinking about the three eligible women with whom he could mate. Abana? No. At seventeen, Abana had her eyes for Yey. Tais was sixteen, and in love with Min. Those two women had not yet married, for Priest Tefibi had ordained they could only marry when the tribe had settled in their new home.
Khuta? She would have been beautiful but a fire that had swept through the savannah had burned half her face into a thick mass of purple scar tissue. Khuta was of marriageable age at sixteen. She was possessed of intensely dark eyes, eyes with depth, and a steely reserve that he'd only seen in the warriors of the nomadic tribes he'd met wandering the grassy savannah. Her countenance was almost as if the fire which had destroyed her beauty had hardened her soul into the soul of a warrior.
"Yes...Khuta," the wind seemed to
whisper in his ears and Kysen started. "She has the soul of a warrior
and a warrior is what will be needed to oust the Destructor of Ma'at near
the end of the Age of Pisces," the wind whispered to Kysen.
Age of Taurus, about 2630 BC, Djeba, Temple of Nuit, late summer, near dawn
Imhotep came out of his trance and looked around. He was sweating profusely, despite the cooling wind which swept through the open air temple. Entering the Crossroads of Time was strenuous, for the Crossroads was meant only for the recently departed souls who were on their way to be judged against Ma'at.
While in the Crossroads of Time that night in this very temple sixteen years before, Imhotep had helped Ardeth restore Ma'at to Egypt. He'd followed Nuit's command and had managed to gain access to the Crossroads, albeit by ingesting a large amount of the mushroom. Since that day sixteen floodings before, Imhotep had tried every month to gain access again, but thus far he'd failed. Until tonight when he'd been in Djeba again for the first time in sixteen years.
When he'd gained access to the Crossroads earlier in the night, he was stunned again to see his own Pyramid, and the Great Pyramids, exploding just as the Pyramids had exploded in his vision that night sixteen years ago.
But this time, there was no warrior of Egypt return the Ring of Nuit to her Temple and thwart the Destructor of Ma'at. Imhotep had watched the lone silver bird fly around the Pyramids and then had seen a long line of silver birds, so many that they filled the sky and large silver nuggets were dropped from the sky onto the Pyramids, and onto the city that surrounded the Pyramids.
The screams of the newly departed souls rent Imhotep's own soul and the cries of billions more souls pummelled Imhotep's ears and he put his hands up to cover his ears.
When he'd looked up again, he happened to look behind him, and had discovered why the Warrior of Egypt--the Restorer of Ma'at--wasn't in this vision of the future: the man responsible for begetting the progenitor of the Restorer had failed to procreate a son.
Imhotep instantly saw the reason why: the strictures of Kysen's tribe mandated one wife to one man, despite the deaths of most of the women from the pitted scar disease. Most of the young women in Kysen's tribe were his own daughters, and he was forbidden to marry one of his daughters.
Imhotep stretched his soul and had found Priest Tefibi trying to communicate with the Gods. He'd spoken to Priest Tefibi and instructed him to allow Kysen to take a second wife.
"You must dream the future and tell the leader about a dream that this young girl needs to marry Kysen and beget a future warrior," Imhotep had told Priest Tefibi. "Tell your leader that this evening there will be a star that will streak green towards the Great Green," Imhotep said.
"And when the green star streaks, my leader shall believe my dream and allow me to marry Kysen to a second woman even though Kysen has a wife?" Priest Tefibi asked.
"Yes. I can not emphasize how important to Ma'at this future warrior is," Imhotep told the Priest. "His progenitor must be born before the next flooding, or else Ma'at, and Egypt, shall be destroyed," Imhotep told Priest Tefibi, and Imhotep had left Priest Tefibi alone in his temple room, blinking his eyes in wonder and awe at having spoken to a God of Egypt.
Imhotep had then gone to Kysen and had instructed him in what to do regarding his future son.
As he lost his grip on the Crossroads of Time, a fragmented thought from Kysen echoed in the Crossroads: "Khuta?...hardened her soul into the soul of a warrior..."
Imhotep had whispered with the last of his strength: "Yes...Khuta. She has the soul of a warrior and a warrior is what will be needed to oust the Destructor of Ma'at near the end of the Age of Pisces." And Imhotep had seen in the waning light of the Crossroads of Time that Kysen would indeed marry Khuta and beget the progenitor of the Restorer of Ma'at.
Standing up, and stretching out his arms in supplication, Imhotep looked up towards the dark belly of Nuit. Her Daughters were flashing their light at him, and Imhotep smiled as a feeling of rightness--the restoration of Ma'at--settled over his soul.
15,000 feet above London, August 24, 1940 (Age of Pisces), near the end of a sunny day
"Ack Ack bearing down on five!" the pilot shouted into the radio.
The pilot, Squadron Leader Michael O'Mara, had been shocked to see a Luftwaffe bomber plane flying near London. Ramsgate, Dover, Portsmouth, Birmingham, the north-east of England and several airfields had seen heavy Luftwaffe activity today.
Although the air battles over Britain had been raging for almost two months, since July 10 when the dogfights started, London had so far been spared the sight of German bomber planes.
Now, for the first time since 1918, when Squadron Leader O'Mara was a toddler of two, the skyline of London was witnessing bomber planes on the horizon.
Michael O'Mara vowed he would do everything he could to prevent London from being bombed. But he realized that might not be possible.
A dark foreboding washed over Michael's heart. He frantically radioed again to Fighter Command, "Ack ack bearing down on five!" he repeated as he raised the sights on his ack-ack: a Hurricane I anti-aircraft plane that he affectionately called Black Storm.
He pushed the button.
And hoped the gun camera would catch the Messerschmitt's demise.
"Mark!" O'Mara shouted in relief as the Messerschmitt 109E suddenly veered off to the left, and then plunged down in a twisting spiral, black smoke trailing above the falling plane.
Michael watched the plane make contact with the ground--an empty field. "Whooooo hoooo! Flight Command, Black Storm has one Messerschmitt down!"
But then his attention was diverted to a shiny glint he caught out of the corner of his eye. The bottom of a Messerschmitt had opened and a bomb was being dropped on London. Squadron Leader O'Mara's mouth dropped in an "O" of horror. "Noooooooooo!" he screamed.
"Germans are bombing Central London! Red alert! Repeat: Germans have dropped a bomb over Central London. Germans have dropped a bomb over Central London!"
"Copy! RAF coming to assist. Flight Command out," responded Flight Command but Michael's attention was riveted to a group of bomber planes coming from the east--from the direction of the North Sea and Germany.
He took a deep breath, and levelled the plane as he readied himself for another dogfight. He heard, rather than saw, other planes from the twenty two year old RAF taking off, ready to defend Britannia from the invading German bomber planes.
HQ, Luftflotte 3 (St Cloud, France) August 25, 1940
"A navigation mistake?" Schlotter asked. "How could there be a navigation mistake? The Thames has a distinctive shape. Even at night, a pilot can't miss the Thames. The pilots were told to stay to the north-east of the Thames."
The young SS officer squirmed. He was merely the messenger. "The RAF managed to get pilots up in the air. Our spies say that one pilot was already up in the air and shot down the first plane. That downing gave the RAF enough time to get more pilots in the air and repel our forces," the young SS officer informed him. His face looked grave. "That pilot was O'Mara."
"O'Mara. Yes, yes. We'll deal with him later. I'm sure old Winston will attempt to retaliate. But nevertheless, we inadvertantly bombed London when the bombs were jettisoned," Generalfeldmarschall Schlotter commented. He looked thoughtful. "How many did we lose?" he asked, looking at the young SS officer.
"Thirty eight, sir."
Schlotter stroked his chin. "A navigation mistake could turn out to be the event which brings down England. Once she falls, we'll have most of Europe under our control."
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm not following."
Schlotter looked up. "Oh you will. The entire world will understand, soon. Very soon. Dismissed." He drummed his fingers on his desk before pushing the buzzer on the intercom.
London, Saturday, September 7, 1940,
Nine days before the full moon
"Honey? Have you seen the Book of The Dead?" Rick called out as Evie lay soaking in the bathtub. Evie sat up, water and bubbles dripping from her shoulders.
"I think it's in Alex's room," she called. Evie lay back and rested her head on a small pillow. "They should have invented bubble baths a long time ago," she muttered to herself. She swirled the water around and watched as the bubbles foam. "And this bubble bath is nothing short of heaven itself," she said, closing her eyes.
"What was that dear? Did you say something?" Rick called as he walked down the hallway to Alex's room.
Evie sat up again. "Nothing, honey! Just talking to myself." She lay back once again and rested her head on the small pillow. Evie looked up, and saw a bullet hole. "Damn! I thought they'd repaired all those. Meela just has to pop up in my lives more than once," she muttered.
She sat up. "Honey! We need to get the contractors here again! They left some bullet holes!" Evie called to Rick.
"What's that? I couldn't hear you!" Rick called back from down the hallway. He was walking out of Alex's room holding the Book of the Dead in his hands. The thick tome was bound in leather and studded with jewels and gold.
--Worth a fortune--Rick thought as he walked down the hallway towards the master bedroom.
"I said Ancksunamun, I mean Meela, has left us another calling card!" Evie shouted as she took up a washcloth and began to scrub her arms. "Honey!" she called loudly.
"Coming!" Rick called. He put the Book of the Dead down on a small mahogany table inlaid with silver and ebony and walked into the bathroom.
"What calling card?" he asked. Evie pointed upwards to the corner of the room. Rick looked. It had been eight years since Meela and her cronies had kidnapped Alex, and in doing so, they'd pumped a lot of bullet holes into the bathroom.
"Damn. Anck always has to mess in our lives. I'll call the contractors on Monday, okay?" he said as he kneeled down next to the bathtub. "Let me do your back," he said as he took the washcloth from Evie. She leaned forward to let Rick rub the washcloth over her back in small circles.
"Reminds me of when my handmaidens used to do this," she murmured.
"Handmaidens?!" Rick said in mock surprise. "I suppose I should have known you'd like your back washed, Princess Nefertiri," he told Evie's bare back as he finished washing her back. Evie lay back again. She smiled up at Rick, who was holding the washcloth in his hand. He swirled the bath water and the bubbles foamed.
"Where's Alex?" Evie asked.
"He's off at the football field with his mates," Rick replied. "He's supposed to be home for high tea."
"Is he going to bring some of his mates home? We'd better tell Tallulah to make extra scones in case he does. Teenage boys can eat a lot," Evie said. "Funny, I don't remember teenage boys eating a lot before. I mean, when I was in my past life."
"That's because you were in the harem," Rick said, smiling.
"Rick! I was the Pharoah's daughter," Evie protested but Rick burst out in laughter. Evie splashed him with her bathwater, soaking his shirt with water and bubbles. "You know I had my own apartments!" she told him, laughing.
"Mummy! Dad! Come quick!" Alex's voice was insistent--and alarmed. Both Rick and Evie were startled and Evie stood up quickly, bubbles sliding down her body. Rick handed her a bathrobe which she put on as they both called to Alex, "What is it, Alex?"
"Dunno! Looks like a thunderstorm coming but I'm not so sure about that!" Alex's voice carried more alarm. Rick ran out of the room while Evie climbed out of the bathtub. Once she was out, she too started running towards the sound of Alex's voice and she tripped.
"Oooomph!" she said.
Hearing the thud, Rick turned around. "You okay, honey?"
"Yes," Evie said as she got up and adjusted the bathrobe. She started to run, then thought better of it and walked quickly to where Alex was standing at the end of the hallway, looking out of the big window towards the east.
Rick, Alex and Evie stood looking at the thick black line steadily moving towards London.
"Uh, that's not a thunderstorm, is it mum?" Alex asked as he turned and looked at his mother. Evie's face was pale, paler than he'd ever seen it before and he was alarmed. Evie shook her head.
"Dad? Do you know what it is?"
Rick shook his head as well. "Can't be Imhotep. He dived into the Underworld."
"Is it Ancksunamun or Meela?" asked Alex.
Evie shook her head and Rick put a hand out to steady her. "I don't think so, Alex."
The three members of the O'Connell family stood at the large window and watched as the thick black line moved towards London.
As the three watched the thick dark line move ever closer to London, the big window slowly melted away into blackness, and then transformed into a shimmering golden light in the form of a blue skinned golden haired female figure who hovered just outside the O'Connell residence. Behind the woman, a haggard looking Ardeth was seen standing in a wrecked temple, the late summer wind ruffling his hair. A female voice, strong and resonant, told the thunderstruck O'Connells:
"Ardeth Bey has restored the Ma'at of Egypt and returned my earthly incarnation to my Temple by the Ninth Day of the Full Moon. Although the Gods tried to prevent the Dark One from gathering power, our Power is very weak outside Egypt, and the Dark One has gathered the one you refer to as Hitler to his side. The Dark One has placed Hitler far beyond the boundaries of the ancient Egyptian trading empire and Hitler is beyond the reach of the Egyptian gods or else we would have dealt with him ourselves. It is under Hitler's command that the destruction of London has begun."
"Daughter of Egypt and friend of the Restorer, you and those you shelter under this roof are now under the protection of the Gods of Egypt. The Restorer of Ma'at to Egypt shall bring you the Bracelet of Lostris to further assist you. Although I am far from Egypt, the Ancient Gods have massed their power and I will be able to protect you so long as you shall remain under this roof. Do not venture past the boundaries of your estate until the Restorer of Ma'at arrives, for I shall not be able to protect you if you leave.
The woman faded out as Evie demanded, "Who are you?" The window now showed a woman being raped, then rapidly changed to show the same woman giving birth. The O'Connell's were able to understand the German being spoken.
"What do you want to name him?" the O'Connells heard the English midwife ask the woman in German as she cut the umbilical cord. "Adolf. I'll name him Adolf," the woman replies. "Aye, he's got a black cloud over his head. He'll naught come to good," the midwife told the woman, who shrugged and held her arms out to receive her child. The midwife made a sign against the evil eye.
The scene faded and the O'Connells then found themselves staring out the window at the thick black line of planes which filled the entire sky. The undersides of the planes opened and bombs began to fall over London.
"We'd better get into the basement," Rick said, but the three were rooted with fear and nobody moved. A thick cloak of blackness floated down over the O'Connell estate and as the three family members watched, several planes veered off and flew directly towards the window the O'Connell's were facing.
The undersides of the three planes opened and Alex counted the bombs as they fell towards the ground.
"One, three, fivesixseven," his voice, tiny and frightened, whispered aloud. "Seven bombs. Mummy? Will the lady do as she said and protect us?" He wanted to run, to flee, but he was rooted to the floor in front of the window, wanting--needing--to protect his life but also needing to know if he would be protected by the Lady in the Window. Alex firmly believed in Egyptian magic for Alex had used Egyptian magic to bring back his mother from the dead.
Evie hugged Alex to her, tightly. "Yes. Yes she will protect us."
"Who was she? Someone you know?" Rick asked Evie as he hugged his family close to him. The bombs fell ever closer to the O'Connell residence.
The three O'Connells watched as the bombs made contact with the thick black cloak--and they watched in awe as each of the bombs was bounced back up into the belly of the plane that had discharged them. The bombs exploded inside the planes and pieces of shrapnel flew in the air, bouncing off the black cloak until the metal pieces of the destroyed planes fell harmlessly into a field of heather near the O'Connell estate.
"I, I don't know which goddess she was but her protection..." Evie said as her face grew concerned. She turned her thoughts inward for a moment. "Nuit! She was Nuit. She was always depicted with blue skin."
"Nuit?" Alex asked, hugging his parents in relief. "She's gonna protect us?"
"The Goddess of the Sky," Evie replied. "And she will protect us because Ardeth restored Ma'at."
"Now my next question: what is the Bracelet of Lostris? And just how will it protect us?" Rick now asked Evie as they watched three more planes veer off towards their estate.
"I've never heard of the Bracelet of Lostris," Evie admitted. "I suppose Ardeth will tell us," Evie finished, watching the black cloak gather into the shape of a woman. "Be gone!" they heard Nuit's voice tell the pilots, who had obviously been scared of the apparition for the planes suddenly veered upwards then crashed into each other, exploding into pieces.
"Ardeth must have done something good for the Goddess to protect us like this," Alex exclaimed. "Why won't she protect all of London from the bombs?" Alex asked.
Evie shook her head. "I don't know. She said their power outside Egypt was very weak."
"What did Ardeth do?" asked Alex as they watched the bombs fall thick and fast from the twenty mile long line of planes filling the late afternoon sky. His feet felt rooted to the floor and he was unable to tear himself away.
"Ardeth looked pretty haggard in that vision," Rick commented, putting an arm around Alex.
"Tasks performed for the Gods are never easy," Evie said.
"Does that mean someone was trying to bomb Cairo?" interjected Alex. His immediate safety needs being met, he was thinking ahead, trying to figure out what was happening so he could help his parents best respond--despite the bombs which were beginning to look rain.
Evie considered, then shook her head in confusion. "You can ask him when he gets here," she told her son and hugged him. Outside, the steel rain came tumbling down from the sky and explosions were heard--but dulled by Nuit--from every part of the city.
"Is the Bracelet of Lostris going to get rid of the planes?" Alex now asked, insistent as always.
"The Bracelet of Lostris..." Evie said softly.
"Did you remember what it is?" Rick asked his wife.
Evie shook her head. "No. I'm trying to remember if I ever heard about the Bracelet of Lostris when I was Nefertiri. It must be some relic from a later age."
"Or an earlier age. The Hyksos ruled Egypt for over two hundred years. Maybe it's something of theirs," Alex put in. "I'm just trying to help figure this out. There's nothing we can do about the bombs," he put in quickly.
"I know, darling," Evie said sadly. "We also need Ardeth's help. Lostris is a female Egyptian name, meaning Daughter of the Waters," Evie said. "Why would we need the help of a Daughter of the Waters? We're inland!" she exclaimed, watching the bombs falling over the smoky skyline of London. Birds were frantically trying to escape the smoke and were flying en masse towards the O'Connell estate.
"Uhm, perhaps we need to escape by boat?" Alex asked. "We really should go to the basement." His parents weren't listening.
"Nuit said, 'under this roof'. Does that mean we can't leave?" Rick asked his wife.
Evie was looking confused. "I, uh, I don't know."
"Nuit said 'you and those you shelter under this roof shall be protected from the upcoming destruction of London.' I think that does mean we can't leave the house," Alex said.
"Until Ardeth gets here and tells us more about what he did to earn his new title, I think it would be best if two of us stayed in the house at all times. We can offer shelter to those in need. After tonight, the villagers will need shelter," Evie said as a mallard duck lost its orientation in the smoke and careened towards the big window. Alex hurried to pull the window open and the duck flew in right after Alex had raised the window up.
The duck had flown into the curtains and had managed to pull the curtains down over the frightened O'Connells.
Angry quacks sounded as the duck tried to extricate itself from the curtains.
"Must be named Evie," Alex intoned as he pulled the curtains off himself.
"The bookcases are still standing," observed Rick from behind his billowing white curtain.
"Ha, ha to the two of you. Humor at this time is not called for. Besides, that's a male duck. Look at his coloring," Evie replied in a dry voice as she too extracted herself from the curtains. Rick was doing the same and the O'Connells held the curtains in their hands as the duck, now free, was quacking and walking around in a circle, stamping his feet. The duck started to fly down the hallway, then spied the bathtub full of water. He flew into the bathroom and landed on the tub before jumping in.
"Just what is Ardeth's new title?" demanded Alex.
Alex balled up the curtains and placed them on the bench just underneath the window sash.
"Restorer of Ma'at," his mother replied. She brushed a wisp of her hair out of her face.
"What does that mean?" Alex asked.
"It means that there was something wrong with Egypt and Ardeth corrected the wrongness, or at least he ameliorated it enough for him to earn the title of Restorer of Ma'at to Egypt. The Gods of Egypt do not bestow that title lightly, or to just anyone," Evie said with authority.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what does it mean? Does it mean Imhotep's back with Anubis's army?" Alex asked, pointing to the planes which were filling the London skyline.
"The Dark One is Set, Seth. He is normally depicted with red hair and either red or blue eyes," Evie said. "He is Brother to Osiris. Set killed Osiris and hacked his body into 14 pieces that he scattered around the globe. His sisters, Isis and Nepthys, gathered them up and put them back together again, before..." Evie intoned, desperately trying to take her mind off the bombs.
"Would Imhotep have this kind of power?" Rick interrupted, ignoring Evie's impromptu dissertation on Egyptian mythology.
"Imhotep wanted to rule Egypt, not London," Evie replied.
"If he couldn't rule Egypt would he try to conquer London?" Alex asked, but his mother cut him off.
"Nuit said the Dark One called Hitler. This destruction was wrought by human minds, not the minds of Imhotep and Anubis," Evie said. "Nuit is the mother of Set, Osiris, Isis and Nepthys."
"Nuit is Set's mother?" Rick asked incredulously. "No wonder she's willing to protect us," he finished.
"Talk about a wayward son!" Alex said. "And you two get on my case a lot," he complained.
"You don't set out to destroy London, dear. We'll wait until Ardeth arrives and figure it out then," Evie told him as she hugged him to her, tightly.
The three O'Connells fell silent trying to figure out what was happening and they watched with tears running down their faces as they looked out over London as the bombs fell. The skyline was black with smoke, and they could see Nuit protecting their estate each time a plane veered off towards their house. "Be Gone!" Nuit's powerful voice resonated.
But the sounds of the bombs were muffled by Nuit, and the three O'Connells were grateful.
"So many dead..." Evie said. "I almost wish it was Anubis's army here...at least we would know what to do..." her voice trailed off as they watched the twenty mile long line of planes drop the bombs over London.
Soon, the invading planes started to avoid their area of London. The smoke around the O'Connell estate cleared and people were running for the undamaged O'Connell estate.
"Let's go let them in," Alex suggested. "I'll get the extra blankets," he said as he pulled back from his parents and went off to the storeroom.
Rick and Evie went downstairs to let the frightened people inside.
A sense of dread premonition filled Evie and she moaned in her sleep. Outside the O'Connell home, the muffled sounds of the bombs continued to be heard throughout the death filled night.
In the wee hours of the morning, after tending to the surviving villagers and ensuring the duck had fresh water in the bathtub--the duck had refused to leave and had angrily quacked every time someone tried to shoo him out a window--Evie had lain down for a while. But the night was not a night destined for sound sleep.
Time and space seemed to telescope and Evie found herself standing in a desert vista.
Heartbeats filled the air: da-dump da-dump da-dump.
Evie watched, terrified, as Ardeth was tossed and turned in turbulent water. She saw an angry Set reaching down and holding a struggling Ardeth under the water until Ardeth, using even the tidal breath the lungs held, lay limp in the roiling water--his long dark hair floating around his scratched face, his dark eyes open forever and his soul lost under the waters. A last bubble of air hovered between his slighltly open lips, then slipped out and upwards.
The heartbeats slowed, da-dumped one last time and stilled. Set turned his red-haired head and his astonishingly blue eyes seemed to bore into Evie. Set threw his head back and laughed.
"Daughter of Egypt!" Set's gravelly voice boomed in Evie's ears. She put her hands up to cover her ears but Set's laughter boomed again and he spoke louder.
"Soon your friend shall be dead in the manner that I have shown you. My powers are growing stronger every day. You know the death rituals from the Book of the Dead, Daughter of Egypt. Ardeth's attainment of Ma'at means nothing to me, and if his body is not prepared properly, Ardeth shall be doomed to roam the underworld with the one who planned the destruction of the Pyramids."
"And this time, my follower shall rule for a thousand years!"
A guttural sound rose up from Set's throat as he thew his head back and laughed. And laughed. Set chose that moment to disappear.
Shortly after Ardeth's death, the waters cleared and Evie could see Ardeth floating to the surface. His body bobbed clear of the surface and floated there, face down, his eyes open, his dark hair floating around his head. Another body, a male's, had already bobbed to the surface of the water and Ardeth's body brushed up against the dead man.
Ardeth's strong hands were floating just under the surface of the water and Evie could see an electrum bracelet studded with emeralds on Ardeth's wrist.
"The Bracelet of Lostris," Evie whispered in a panicky voice. "How come it didn't help Ardeth?" Deep fear gripped her and she felt faint.
A juvenile fish came to investigate the new offerings. The young fish looked into Ardeth's open eyes, then started nibbling at Ardeth's lips. Shortly, other fish, both juvenile and adult, joined in the feast.
Evie screamed. But the dream just repeated
itself. And repeated.
Djeba, Egypt, Sunday September 8, 1940, Dawn
Ardeth opened his eyes to see the golden figure Nuit hovering over him.
"The Daughter of Egypt, her husband and child are safe, and will remain safe provided they stay within the boundaries of their estate. Our power is very weak outside the boundaries of the ancient Egyptian trading empire but the Gods have massed their power and I am able to protect them."
"The Hyksos entered Egypt from beyond the Tigris River at the urging of the disgraced and exiled Lord Intef, who was the father of Lostris. The Daughter of the Waters has offered her power to protect your friends where I can not."
"In her time, she was asked by Pharoah Mamose to protect the double crown of Egypt for their son, Prince Memnon, and she delivered the Prince safely to Lower Egypt. As Pharoah Tamose he begat the progenitor of Ahmose, who, with the help of the Bracelet, finally expelled the Hyksos from Egypt. The Bracelet of Lostris contains the power necessary to expel the followers of the Dark One from London and end the daily bombardment. You must carry the Bracelet to London."
"Daily bombardment?" Ardeth croaked, his throat tightening. He didn't like what the Great Mother was telling him.
"The Dark One has it in his mind to recreate the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos.The Hyksos ruled Egypt for two hundred fifty years. This time, the Dark One's follower will continue to bombard London daily to try to subjugate the populace, for he wishes to rule a thousand years. Your friends shall be under the protection of the Gods of Egypt until you arrive with the Bracelet. Hurry my son! The Dark One will try to place many obstacles in your way in an attempt to impede you in your journey but I shall help you when I am able."
The golden light of Nuit faded and Ardeth sat up on the hard bed. He rubbed his eyes, then stood up. The last three days had seen Ardeth with no sleep. He'd been shown the bombardment of London and although it had been dawn in Egypt, he'd seen that sun was low on the horizon in London.
Unlike Cairo, Djeba was a rural village, adhering to the way of life lived for thousands of years in Egypt. Here in Djeba, the villagers still used the shadoof--a water lifter--instead of indoor plumbing to get water from the Nile. Ardeth remembered that he'd felt helpless when Nuit had shown him the bombing of London. He knew the bombing would begin late that afternoon yet there was no way to warn his friends, the O'Connells.
He'd spent the rest of yesterday in the Temple of Nuit. As the Egyptian dusk settled over the desert, an intense feeling of wrongness slipped into his soul and Ardeth knew then that the bombing of London had begun. Tears had fallen from his eyes as his soul felt the passing of those who died that day: he counted four hundred eighty eight souls which had passed through the Crossroads of Time.
Ardeth had made his way back to Djeba, where he sat alone in the small mud brick house he'd rented from the headman. He'd sat on bed with his head in his hands, unable to eat, unable to drink. He hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep until he'd opened his eyes and seen the Great Mother hovering over him.
Now he took up the pitcher of water and drank directly from the pitcher. The water was cool and delicious going down his parched throat. Finishing the pitcher, he set it down, and went outside into the brightening dawn. He looked up at the retreating belly of Nuit. She sent a cooling breath of wind to him, ruffling his hair and caressing his face before the wind passed by him and went out into the desert. Ardeth watched as the Bringer of the Wind formed a curtain of sand--and showed him the O'Connell's house.
The Medjai's face broke into a smile as he saw his friends, safe in their home. From the looks of it, they'd offered their home as a shelter to the villagers who lived in the small village nearby. A duck was swimming serenely in the O'Connell's bathtub.
Ardeth looked at their faces and saw their faces relaxed but strained and he knew that Nuit was silencing the sounds of the continued bombings that Ardeth saw in the background.
"A duck is swimming in their bathtub?" Ardeth asked the vision in the sand.
The Bringer of the Wind's breath ran out and the sand gently floated down to the ground. Ardeth knew he'd have a long journey back to Cairo, especially since he'd sent Martin back to Cairo with the plane. One of the village's children brought him a basket full of covered plates. The smells coming from the basket whetted Ardeth's appetite despite his not desiring to eat.
"Thank you," Ardeth told the young girl. She bowed, then smiled at him. "Can you tell your father to arrange for a fast felucca to carry me to Abydos?" Abydos was as far as the felucca owners would sail from Djeba.
The young girl nodded and smiled before turning and walking away.
Ardeth started to carry his breakfast into the small mud brick house, then thought better of it and sat down outside the small home. Taking out one of the covered plates, he lifted the lid and was greeted with the sight and smell of roasted potatoes, vegetables and stewed meat. He took up the spoon and began to eat.
After breakfast, Ardeth, bathed and dressed in fresh clothes, went to find the felucca he'd rented. Ra was beginning to ride high in the sky and the day would be hot and dry.
"My daughter prepared your breakfast, Commander. Did you find it to your satisfaction?" the felucca's owner asked, as he helped to load the supplies they'd need onto the reed boat.
"She is an excellent cook for one her age, and she is commended on her skill," Ardeth noted. "Is she not able to talk?"
Ankhef nodded. "The Dark One must have been hovering near when she was born, for she is mute--her hyoid bone is missing," he said sadly, "though she knows how to write."
Ardeth grimaced at the mention of the Dark One. "He has been hovering near many people as of late," he said.
Ankhef made a sign to ward off the Dark One. "Nuit must be ashamed to have the Dark One as her son. You, earthly Son of Nuit, are much better for her."
Ardeth started. "Why do you think I am a Son of Nuit?"
"You possess the countenance of an earthly Son of Nuit. The soul of a warrior beats within your heart," Ankhef said. "To be an earthly Son of Nuit is a blessing. Your fight against the Dark One has a better chance of succeeding in your favor," he finished.
"Fight?" Ardeth asked, trying to feign ignorance but the dark brown eyes of Ankhef bored into him.
"Nuit has called you to help her in her fight against her son, the Dark One. This much I was shown in a dream during the last full moon."
Ardeth thought for a moment. He was encountering too many coincidences in the past month and many of these people appeared just when they had been needed to help him in his journey to Djeba.
Now here was another man who was telling him about a dream concerning Ardeth. Was this the work of the Gods? Were they amassing earth-bound help because they were trying to expel the follower of the Dark One from the earthly realm?
"Is this the work of the Gods?" Ardeth asked, then realized he'd given himself away.
Ankhef replied, "I believe it is," he said slowly. "All that I was shown in my vision was that the Dark One is amassing his forces beyond Egypt, and there will be many people who will be needed in the coming years to fight him. It could be that the Gods are calling those who have assisted them in ages past, and have been reincarnated at this time."
Ardeth nodded. Ankhef's explanation was as good as Ardeth's own explanation. From his nightmares, Ardeth knew that millions of people would be killed in the coming years. The Gods would need earth-bound help to prevent millions--billions--more from meeting an early death.
The felucca was now loaded with supplies for their trip. Ardeth had hired the felucca to take him to Abydos. He would catch a train in Abydos to Cairo--there were no private planes available in Abydos. The two men stepped on the deck of the felucca and Ankhef undid the ropes which tied the felucca to the small dock.
As the felucca sailed towards Abydos, Ardeth sat on the deck and thought about Ankhef's words. Nuit had known about Hitler. Were the Gods trying to help him by showing visions to those who assisted the Egyptian Gods in a past life?
The Egyptian day wore on, hot and dry, as Ardeth had suspected. He had tried to help with the poling, but Ankhef and his sons pushed him away, telling him the Commander of the Medjai, and Nuit's Chosen One, must save his strength to fight the Dark One.
Ardeth had felt a bit uneasy at their words, but he was exhausted and didn't put up much of a fight. He sat back under the canopy and thought about the task which had been set before him. He'd been sure that Nuit had told him she wouldn't be needing his help for many floodings of the Nile. Why did she now task him with bringing the Bracelet of Lostris to London?
Unless...unless Nuit had meant that his task was to prevent the forces of the Dark One from destroying Egypt, and his restoring Ma'at to Egypt was only the first part of the task.
If that was true, then Ardeth would have an arduous task ahead of him--one that could take years.
Despite his night's sleep, Ardeth soon found himself dozing in the afternoon sunshine. The past month had worn him out. A wealth of thick black hair spread out on the silk cushion he leaned against. In his sleep, the corners of his mouth turned up slightly as he dreamed.
Not a nightmare this time. The Gods took pity on his dreams, and instead of having a terrifying dream, Ardeth was riding a strong black stallion through a land full of green plants. Soft rain was coming down and drenching Ardeth as he rode his horse.
He was soaking wet in this pleasant dream, but his dream self didn't seem to mind. A steady rain was calming to him--he was a desert man--and being drenched with water was far better than being drenched in sand from a khamsin wind.
In his dream, the dream Ardeth shivered, for he remembered the horrifying dream with the devil khamsin wind bearing down upon him. He remembered dreaming that the Pyramids were exploding...and both Ardeth and his dream self cringed as he recalled the memory of the millions of souls who suddenly found themselves in the Crossroads of Time. Those souls were crying.
But the rhythmic motions of the black stallion riding through green countryside soon calmed Ardeth's nerves, and both his dream self and his physical self relaxed.
From her own sleeping place, Nuit sleepily opened her silver irised eyes. She smiled down on her earthly son as he lay dreaming, and she sent soft winds to ruffle his hair.
"I kiss the sweat from your brow...I will stay near you, my Son..." she whispered before closing her eyes. She would need to be awake soon, for the afternoon was waning and Ra would arrive home to awaken her.
Ardeth awoke with a start. Beside him was a pitcher of water, which he picked up and took a long sip. Wiping his hand across his mouth, he set the pitcher down and looked around. The sun was going low on the horizon.
He stood up and walked to the small room set aside for use as a bathroom. After finishing his hygiene, Ardeth stepped out and walked down the length of the felucca to an area where a table had been laid out and set with steaming plates full of couscous, vegetables, dipping sauces for the pita bread. Beer was in a pitcher.
"Greetings, Commander of the Medjai," Nakhtmin said. "My sister has prepared this food for you."
"Is she here? Your sister?" asked Ardeth as he sat down at the table. "The breakfast she prepared for me was quite acceptable," he finished as he picked up a piece of warm bread and dipped it in the sauce.
"She is below deck, sleeping away the hot part of the afternoon," Nakhtmin told him as Ardeth took a bite of the bread.
Nakhtmin bowed and left Ardeth alone to eat. He was needed poling, Ardeth thought to himself as he enjoyed the food Ankhef's daughter had prepared. I don't know her name, Ardeth thought and made a note to himself to correct that deficiency as soon as he saw Ankhef.
As he ate, he thought about Ankhef's words. Ardeth was pitted against Nuit and Geb's son, Set. Osiris was murdered by Set and hacked into pieces. Their sisters, Nepthys and Isis, had found the remains of Osiris--sans the phallus--and reassembled him and Osiris became God of the Dead. Set was exiled by Osiris's son Horus. The Book of the Dead depicted Set in an alternate guise as the God of Wind and Storms.
The more he thought about the situation, the more he realized that Nuit was needing an earthly son to counteract Set's deeds. Hitler was native to Germany, far outside the boundaries of the ancient Egyptian trading empire. Ardeth knew that wherever the Egyptian Gods had been worshipped, wispy remnants of their power existed and that power would be used were Egypt to be threatened.
But the Egyptian trading empire was never as far north as Germany and Set had placed his follower there. The Gods needed a mortal to counteract the deeds of the Dark One's chosen mortal.
Fitting, Ardeth thought. Set is also the God of Foreign Lands and it would be just like him to place his followers beyond the boundaries of the Egyptian trading empire. He knows that the Gods would ensure the destruction of those who followed him were Set's followers located within the far boundaries of the ancient Egyptian trading empire.
The pilot who planned the destruction of the Pyramids is now in the Underworld, Ardeth thought. He is in the underworld because he travelled into the borders of the ancient Egyptian trading boundaries, and the Gods showed their anger at his potential actions against Egypt.
Ardeth turned the events of the past month over in his mind. Just as he needed help, help appeared. First in the form of Martin Wilkes, the former Keeper of the Bracelet. Martin had called upon Lostris's help and she had first cleared the murky waters under the Mediterraean and then had called a dolphin to help him get back to the surface.
Now Ankhef had been placed in his path. Yes, Ardeth now thought. The Gods are trying to help place Hitler in the Underworld. They are calling all those people who are capable of helping me in my quest. The Gods of Egypt are angry at Set.
Despite the help he had been given, the Commander hoped he would be able to get to London in time...and in one piece.
O'Connell residence, London, England, pre-dawn hours, Sunday September 8, 1940
"Honey! Honey! Wake up!" Rick said as he gently shook Evie's shoulder.
Evie sat up with a start. A lock of her dark hair fell over her eyes. "Ardeth! He's in trouble! We must warn him!" she shouted.
Rick took Evie in his arms and stroked her hair. "Shhh. I'll send a telegram to him. What kind of trouble is he facing?"
"That troublemaker Set. He is planning on drowning Ardeth. And I think Ardeth has the Bracelet of Lostris. He was wearing the Bracelet in my dream," a shocked Evie stammered. "Amongst his other duties, Set is the god of wind and storms. We must warn Ardeth!"
"I'll go out later and see if I can get a telegram to Ardeth," Rick replied as he stroked Evie's hair and rocked her.
Evie sat up as she realized the dull sounds from the dropping bombs had ceased. "The bombs! They've stopped bombing us," she said.
"Sounds like it," Rick replied.
"Do you think they'll drop more bombs?" Evie asked, her voice tremulous. She sank back against Rick's chest, allowing his arms to envelop her again. She breathed deeply of his scent.
"I don't know. We've been fighting an air raid since July 10."
"We should be prepared, just in case. We need to stock up on supplies for the villagers," she murmured.
"I'll go out later this morning," Rick said.
"Neferteri's father and grandfather were rumored to have red hair, like Set's. They both tried to popularize the worship of Set." Evie murmured, changing the subject.
"Doesn't Seti's name mean "he of the God Set?" Rick asked, his voice sleepy.
Evie's voice was barely audible, "yes,"
she breathed. Her breathing evened out and RIck realized she was asleep.
He kept rocking Evie and soon he too fell into a dazed sleep.
O'Connell residence, London, England, mid-morning, Sunday September 8, 1940
The night had been long, and weary. The villagers had come to the O'Connell residence seeking shelter and the O'Connells let them in, gave them bread and hot tea and one by one the villagers dropped off into a stony sleep. The sounds of the bombing were dulled by the strange black cloud which had settled over the O'Connell estate.
Rick would make an offering to Nuit and thank her for drowning out the sounds of the bombs, which had finally ended around 4:30 am, about the time he had woken Evie up from her nightmare.
But what Nuit couldn't drown out was the anguished cries of the doomed souls who had suddenly found themselves on their way to the Afterlife, instead of on their way to high tea yesterday afternoon.
When Rick had first moved to England, he had thought it strange how English villages were laid out: a small collection of residences, and one large manor house, either at the village edge or down the road from the village.
Evie had told him the layout was a remnant of the feudal age: the Lord owned the biggest house and the villagers lived in the smaller houses. In the Middle Ages, the villagers would work in the Lord's fields, or in his house and in return, the Lord would give the villagers protection.
Now it was the O'Connells who provided protection to the villagers from something the feudal lords had never dreamed about: bombs.
Rick was glad that he was the one who went to send Ardeth a telegram. The devastation caused by the bombs last night was terrifying--blackened bombed out shells of homes were littered on streets and he didn't want Evie or Alex to see this destruction.
He found himself passing the village store. Its blackened shell still smoldered and pieces of shrapnel were shining in the morning sunlight.
Rick picked his way carefully around the debris. Nothing remained. They would have to rely on the supplies laid up in the O'Connell basement. Rick was glad to see the library was intact on the other side of the store, for the library contained the telegraph equipment.
He went to the library, opened the doors and stepped inside.
"Shhhh! Someone's here!" a boy's voice whispered.
"It is them? Are they here to kill us?" a girl's voice whispered back.
Rick cleared his throat. "It's okay. I'm Rick O'Connell." Rick opened the door to let the sunlight in and he stepped aside so the young kids could see him.
"It's not them!" the child shouted happily and came out from beneath a table. Bookcases had tumbled down, and books were strewn everywhere.
The girl stood up, and Rick saw she was one of the village children--seven year old Mary Hartford. She appeared to be unhurt physically. Mary motioned to her friend, and the boy also stood up. Rick saw that he was nine year old Michael O'Hare.
"Boy, are we sure glad to see you!" Michael gushed to Rick, his changing voice full of relief. His face had a scratch on the forehead, and other than being scared, Michael was physically all right.
"Are you all right?" Rick asked.
Both children nodded.
"Good. If you will go to my house, you will be safe. Your parents are there. They will be glad to see you. They thought you were dead."
"Thank you!" both children went by Rick and out the door.
"Be careful, and run to my house...you will be protected!" Rick called after them. He started to turn the doorknob leading to the library's basement, then thought better of it and went back to the door.
The two children had made their way to the village's end but were standing frozen at the bottom of the small hill leading to the O'Connell estate. They holding their hands up to protect themselves. Overhead, a lone bomber plane was circling--German by the insignia.
"Ruuuuunnnnn!" Rick shouted to the children as he darted forward. Mary looked at the rumbling cloud over the O'Connell estate. The cloud was quickly turning black. Mary tugged on Michael's arm and he looked. The two children looked at each other, then simultaneously broke into the fastest run Rick had ever seen.
He was charging behind the children when they reached the edge of the estate, and were enveloped by the black cloud covering of Nuit. Golden light suffused the dark cloud and her voice rang out "Be gone!" and the cloud made contact with the lone bomber plane.
Rick watched dumbfounded as the plane exploded into pieces. The two children were holding hands, and their mouths hung open.
"Thank you, Nuit," Rick said.
"You are welcome," her melodious voice answered, startling Rick. The black cloud drained away until there was just a golden shimmer hovering over the O'Connell estate.
"Nuit?" he asked but the golden shimmer remained silent. "Hmmmpf. She probably needs to recoup her strength," Rick said aloud to no one in particular.
Rick motioned for the children to go into the house, but their parents had already run out to meet them.
Seeing that the families were reunited and that the sky was clear of bomber planes for the moment, Rick went back to the library and went down to the library's basement and used the telegraph machine to send Ardeth a telegram.
TO: COMMANDER ARDETH BEY, CAIRO EGYPT STOP WE ARE OKAY STOP STRANGE BLACK CLOUD HOVERS OVER OUR ESTATE BY NIGHT AND SHIMMERS GOLDEN BY DAY STOP WE THINK IT IS NUIT PROTECTING US STOP SET IS PLANNING ON DROWNING YOU STOP TAKE CARE AND PLEASE HURRY STOP RICK O'CONNELL END
After sending the telegram, Rick stood in the doorway to the library, and looked at the remnants of the village. The blackened shells were still smoking and from the library's door, Rick could see street after street of London, blackened and smoking from the bombs.
Tears started slipping down Rick's face.
Egyptian Airspace, between Cairo and Alexandria, September 16, 1940, afternoon
The plane engines hummed with power. Ardeth was seated in the rear seat, his abayor filled with water (although Martin kept referring to the abayor as a canteen), a sack of onions and a large chunk of goat cheese wrapped in linen cloth were underneath his seat. The water and cheese were for eating; the onions helped to keep away the scorpions and were also tasty boiled in water.
A feeling of doom had settled in Ardeth's soul. He'd received Rick's telegram and was grateful that Nuit was protecting his friends. But the accounts of the destruction of London by the Luftwaffe was horrifying.
Ardeth felt under his robes to the leather pouch secured around his waist. The Bracelet was there, its power restored, for Martin had had the Bracelet repaired and emeralds from Gebel Umm Kabu in the Eastern Sahara gleamed in their settings. Martin had performed an elaborate ceremony transferring the Bracelet from his possession to Ardeth's, and Ardeth's soul felt a thrumming from the restored Bracelet.
"Here we go!" Martin shouted back over his shoulder. Ardeth merely smiled at Martin and adjusted his aviator goggles. He had to admit to himself, albeit secretly, that he enjoyed flying.
Eight years ago when he and the O'Connell's were battling the High Priest Imhotep, Seti I's Imhotep, Ardeth had travelled across the desert hanging onto the wing of a plane. He had been grateful none of the Medjai were there to see the expression on his face, which he had rather suspected showed a goofy expression. Despite the reason for the trip, he had enjoyed and had been exhilarated with flying through the air.
The feeling was no different when the plane he was now seated in lifted into the air. Ardeth felt the rush of excitement when the plane was fully airborne and headed towards Alexandria.
Ardeth was in favor of anything which lifted the feeling of doom from his soul.
A movement flickered in the corner of Ardeth's eye. He turned his head to the right, and saw a huge wall of sand bearing down upon the small plane.
"Noooooooooooo!" Martin's voice cried out but the sound was choked off by the blowing sand and the fierce wind which accompanied the khamsin.
"You will not reach your destination, Ardeth Bey," came a deep, gravelly male voice from the sand. "I am Set, and although my mother and the Gods of Egypt are protecting your friends, I have overpowered them in this very Egypt of ours. I am not fond of the Bracelet of Lostris nor of the spawn she begat. You and the Keeper of the Bracelet will be deposited in the vast Saharan, far from any water source, and far from the nomadic tribes which wander the desert. Your souls will not reach the Afterlife for your bodies will mummify underneath the sands of the desert."
Mad laughter rang in Ardeth's ears as the plane was flipped over and over in the air. Ardeth hung onto the straps holding him in his seat. He hoped Martin was still in the plane and that he had the sense to hold onto the seat straps.
Ardeth felt the blood rushing to his head
as the plane was suspended upside down and pushed faster than Ardeth had
flown before, and he lost track of time.
Somewhere in the Sahara spanning North Africa, late afternoon, September 16, 1940
Ardeth felt himself slowly falling. Falling to one's death wasn't so bad, he thought to himself as he saw the blue sky above him. Ra, Ardeth thought wildly as his back made contact with the sand.
"Poomph!" he involuntarily said. Ardeth lay on his back, his breath coming in ragged pants. He wondered how he could have fallen out of the plane if he was strapped in. Further, he wondered just how he could be alive if he'd fallen from the plane. Was this the Afterlife?
"You are safe," Nuit's voice, mingled with a male voice that was familiar, whispered, faint and weak, and Ardeth's soul rejoiced. "My dear little one," Nuit's melodious voice murmured as the voice faded out.
Gradually Ardeth's head cleared and he sat up, trying to see Martin.
Martin was sprawled on his back in a similar position. Ardeth crawled over to him. Martin was breathing and Ardeth breathed a sigh of relief.
Ardeth stood up and looked around for the plane. A short ways from the two men, the plane was on its side, destroyed. Ardeth walked over to the plane and crawled up the side. Reaching down under the rear seat, he pulled out the metal canteen of water he'd secured there. He reached under the seat again and pulled out the cheese and the small sack of onions.
His heart nearly stopped beating when he looked closely at the straps which had held him in the seat. There were no straps visible, only the shredded ends. The Dark One did his work thoroughly. Ardeth's face paled, and he involuntarily licked his lips. He wondered how far they'd fallen from the sky.
Ardeth climbed back down the side of the plane. He opened the canteen and took a small sip, swishing the water around his mouth to get rid of the sand. He spit the water and sand out, then took a larger sip that felt silky going down his parched throat.
He carried the canteen over to Martin. Groaning, Martin sat up and tried to speak. Ardeth handed him the canteen.
"Just a small sip to wash out your mouth," Ardeth cautioned as Martin took a sip from the canteen. Washing out his mouth, Martin next took a larger swallow.
"What the hell was that?" he asked Ardeth after swallowing. Martin wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and put the cap back on the canteen. The canteen was their only source of water and Martin wasn't sure if the memories of his past life contained the knowledge of how to find water in the desert. He would have to trust Ardeth, and Ardeth's knowledge of finding water in the desert.
"That, my friend, was Set's doing," Ardeth replied.
"Hell of a way to re-introduce himself to me."
"Set was always a troublemaker," Ardeth commented.
"I seem to remember he was a troublemaker," Martin said.
"How did we...?"
"Nuit. And, I think Imhotep. Somehow they cushioned our fall. If they had not, well, you know."
Martin gulped. "Seti's Imhotep saved us?"
Ardeth shook his head. "No. Djoser's Imhotep: the architect of the Step Pyramid."
"Yes! Now I remember. Taita was a huge follower of the Great Imhotep. I thought Set was going to try and drown you," Martin finished.
"I think he is saving that for later," Ardeth said with a frown.
Ardeth turned and walked towards a high sand dune some ways away.
Ardeth looked back over his shoulder. "I will see where we are and find out if there's a way to get water."
Martin smiled sadly and nodded. Soon Ardeth's
black clothed figure shrank into the distance. He sighed, and stood up
and walked over to look at the remains of his downed plane.
Djeba, Age of Taurus, About 2630 BC, Temple of Nuit, just before midnight
Salty sweat ran down the Grand Vizier Imhotep's face and dripped onto the stone floor. Using the mushroom was always dangerous, and the visions obtained with the use of the mushroom were exhausting.
Tonight was no exception. Imhotep had taken a personal interest in the Restorer of Ma'at, and he desperately wanted to ensure the safe future of Egypt. This was the reason why Imhotep found himself sitting cross legged in the temple night after night, eating the mushroom, and enduring its side effects: watery stools, stomach cramps, and sleeplessness.
In the Crossroads of Time, Imhotep had been both delighted and shocked at the future. Early in the second half of the Age of Pisces, new lands would be discovered across the vast ocean far to the west, but a blood borne sickness would well up in the glands of the human population and decimate the peoples to the north of the Great Green.
Last night, Imhotep had gained entrance to the Crossroads of Time and had made contact with Kysen, Ardeth's remote grandfather. He'd also made contact with the Priest Tefibi.
And although Imhotep's own future was shrouded, Imhotep had clearly seen the future of the Restorer of Ma'at.
He'd gathered his strength and with Nuit's power, helped the two men land safely on the sands of the Sahara--as near to a water source as Imhotep could place them, given Set's angry sandstorm.
"You are safe," he whispered aloud, and in his trance, he saw that Ardeth had heard him.
Tonight, Imhotep's main task was to gain entrance once again to the Crossroads of Time to find Taita and Lostris in the Afterlife. The Restorer of Ma'at would need Lostris' help in getting to the shores of the Great Green unscathed--and Imhotep was afraid that Set was planning the death of the Restorer of Ma'at and the Keeper of the Bracelet.
Imhotep breathed evenly, allowing his mind to empty, hoping he would be able to gain entry to the Crossroads of Time.
Because time was running out for the Restorer of Ma'at.
Age of Gemini, about six thousand five hundred years ago on the grassy, but drying, Giza Plain
The wind blew the remains of Khuta's hair back from her ruined face. Once she had been as beautiful as the deep green stones she wore around her neck. The stones were from under the sands on the eastern side of the great green river.
But the savannah fire had licked her face and had left thick purple scars. The fire had burned half of her hair off, and the scars on one side of her head were so thick no hair could grow there.
She had despaired of ever finding a mate but women were valuable, and so were the children they carried within their wombs.
Her father had told her she was to be married. Her womb would bring forth fruit, he told her, and ensure the future of this land.
Khuta was disinclined to believe her father. How could a child ensure the future of the land? Her tribe had walked for many moons, leaving behind the land in which she had buried her mother. One spring day Khuta had woken up and found her mother covered with tiny sores. Soon, her mother had died and one by one so did other members of her tribe.
So they had left that land, thinking perhaps evil spirits lingered there. And for moons they had walked eastwards until they came to a large plain. Here, Kysen said they would live.
And now she would marry Kysen.
A small wind roused the drying earth, and the earth formed a picture in the air. Khuta gasped! The earth was changing into the shape of a man--strong, with dark piercing eyes. The shape of his face reminded Khuta of how her own face had looked before the savannah fire had ruined the soft skin. The man was looking straight at her. Strange blue markings were tattooed on the man's face.
"He is a warrior," Khuta thought. "With those piercing eyes and that countenance, he is a warrior through and through," she finished and was startled when a male voice spoke.
"He is your descendent, Khuta. And yes, he is a warrior. He is needed in a future time to ensure the restoration of Ma'at to this land."
Khuta was startled at the words which came from the thin air and she wanted to run. But her curiosity got the better of her, so she asked, "What is his name?"
"Ardeth. He is the man your son's descendents will beget in a future time, near the end of the Age of Pisces. He will restore the Ma'at to Egypt and liberate a city across the Great Green and far to the northwest. You must take your son away when he is a year old, for the pitted scar disease will come to your tribe again and if you and your son do not go away until the flooding subsides, your son will contract the pitted scar disease and die," the voice answered and faded.
"Ardeth..." Khuta whispered. "You are my son..." she said as the dry sandy earth dropped back to the ground.
Nine months after Khuta's vision...
Oh sweet Isis! The pain! Could not even the shaman give something to help dull the pain?
Khuta's eyes glazed over and she felt something pressing between her legs. She grunted and was surprised when she felt something slip out of her.
"A caul!" exclaimed the shaman.
"It is a boy," Khuta said, panting. She made this as a statement, before seeing the child.
"Yes, a boy," the shaman said as he removed the caul from the infant's face. Both he and Khuta sucked in their breath.
"Those markings are familiar," Khuta murmured...'Ardeth!" she exclaimed as she remembered the face of her future descendant. In that distant time, the man in the sand had blue markings on his face very similar to these birthmarks the infant now bore.
"Ardeth is not one of our tribal names," the shaman observed. "Do you wish to call him Ardeth?"
Khuta thought about this a moment. She had asked Priest Tefibi about the Age of Pisces. He told her they were near the end of the Age of Gemini and the end of the Age of Pisces would not occur for at least six thousand five hundred floodings from now. He had been surprised at her question and she replied that she'd had a dream.
"Yes. A new name in honor of a new home," she said as the shaman finished cutting the umbilical cord. The shaman dried the infant, who merely looked at the shaman with his huge dark brown eyes. The shaman handed the infant Ardeth to Khuta.
--That's strange. Normally, babies' eyes are blue at birth and gradually darken to brown. I have known a green eyed infant whose mother had blue eyes and whose father had brown eyes--the shaman thought. --But for this infant's eyes to be brown at birth...this infant is destined, or his descendents are destined, for something special.--
Nestled in his mother's arms, the baby began to nurse when his mother offered him her breast.
"My son Ardeth, you will become a great warrior," Khuta whispered to her newborn son. She began to softly sing a lullaby as the newborn nursed.
"What is it, little one?
"A warrior in this life, or in a future
life," the shaman added silently to himself as he watched Khuta nurse her
newborn son Ardeth.
Age of Taurus, 2630 BC, Temple of Nuit, late summer, in the deep of night
On the floor of Nuit's Temple, Imhotep was straining to keep the vision in his mind. He smiled to himself as he saw Khuta nursing the newborn Ardeth and heard the lullaby she sang. The same lullaby was used by the Medjai women in Imhotep's time and Imhotep knew that the lullaby's origination had been with Khuta.
Imhotep found himself becoming well versed in hearing the thoughts of those to whom he gave visions. He knew Khuta would protect her son from the pitted scar disease and take him away.
If only the pitted scar disease would go away, Imhotep thought to himself as he deepened his trance.
All of his strength would be needed to help the Restorer of Ma'at.
For Imhotep had discovered that Set was
planning a nasty surprise for Ardeth, and Imhotep desperately needed Lostris'
help. Strange that he couldn't find Lostris and Taita.
Sand Dune, three hour walk south of Wau en Namus, Southern Libya, September 16, 1940, near dusk
Wind. How he hated the sere desert wind: blowing, hot, gritty. And sand. Sand was everywhere, marching up to the stony mountains in the distance. His very bones were weary of the blowing sand and digging in the hot Saharan sands to unearth the ruins of the Temple of Nuit did nothing to change his opinion about the sand.
The sole benefit of the eternal sand was a beauteous one: the sand dunes hummed. The humming was a source of wonder for Ardeth and he never tired of hearing the humming when the sand cascaded down the side of the dunes in sand avalanches.
Although he was a desert man, Ardeth admitted freely to himself that he could learn to love the ocean were he ever given the opportunity to live along the shores of the Mediterranean. He'd even go for the rainy inland weather of London.
Ardeth gave careful consideration to his current situation. Bit by bit, his eyes took in the geography of the desert vista he stood in, and he compared his current location with the vistas and peoples of the desert that he remembered from his youth. What Ardeth needed to know was where he and Martin were located so he could figure out if, and where, various nomadic tribes passed through the area.
For he and Martin needed water, and soon. A person could survive in the Sahara only one day without water and the abayor he carried would not provide enough water for two men.
Some confederations of the Tuareg, like the Kel Ewey Confederation, run the salt caravans--the tarhalamt--across the varied vistas of the Sahara. The Sahara was not all beige sand--red, rocky sandstone cliffs would rise from the desert floor, and groundwater would feed sky blue lakes.
These vistas Ardeth had seen for himself as a young boy: the rocky rims of the Djado plateau where the sands of the Tenere brush up against the stony Djado; he'd ridden the white riding camels through the searing flat sands of the Tenere to the ancient volcanoes rising from the Tibesti Mountains in Chad.
And he'd seen the beauteous Blue Mountains--the Marble Mountains--in the Tenere. The mountains were made of marble which glowed blue depending on the angle of the sunlight. He'd also travelled the beautiful Red Desert in Libya, to the south of Tripoli, where the sands were a deep blood red and the wind and temperature carved the rock into arches.
His own branch of the Tuareg tribe tended to roam the Sahara to either side of the Nile; the plentiful water that could be siphoned off and keep the Medjai in the vast beige deserts and five oases of Egypt.
The vista which stretched before him was mostly stony desert, with the ever present sand. Ardeth's soul despaired as he realized few nomadic tribes travelled or lived in the area.
Ardeth's thoughts now turned towards the tools they would need for desert survival. The tagelmust he wore on his head and face would provide him, but not Martin, with protection from the sun and sand. The other tool Ardeth carried for desert survival was his abayor to carry water.
Aside from the goat cheese and the sack of onions that Ardeth carried, he and Martin had no source of food. And they had no fire to protect them from nighttime temperature dips of up to 100 degrees from the daytime temperature.
Set had stranded Ardeth and Martin in the desert, with no food, no visible water sources, no protection for the light-skinned Martin from the searing sun, and no protection from a sudden windstorm, should Set be in a capricious mood as the God of Wind and Storms.
The grit had parched Ardeth's throat and he worked his tongue around his mouth to work up moisture. Finding water was encroaching more on Ardeth's thoughts--and with good reason.
Nomads are a resourceful people, and would sometimes leave clay cisterns of water buried under the desert sands as they travelled. Digging the cisterns from the sands reminded Ardeth of the way elephants sometimes dug for water in wadis.
He recalled that along the Skeleton Coast, in Namibia, the temperatures soared over 100 degrees and the khamsin winds blew for weeks on end. Ancient rock drawings attested to the fact that in antiquity, elephants indeed lived along the southwestern desert shore of the African continent. A very young Ardeth had been astounded to see the tracks of the elephants, fresh and recent.
And then he saw the desert elephants: big and beauteous, they were climbing down a sand dune to reach a permanent watering hole. The baby elephant reached the water hole first and dipped up a trunk full of water and sprayed its mother. The sounds of the trumpeting elephants had filled his ears.
There were times when Ardeth had wished those elephants could be transported out of Namibia to Egypt and placed in the Saharan desert. The elephants would dig holes in wadis--dry riverbeds, and hopefully the holes would fill with water.
"Perhaps the elephants would find more accessible watering holes. They will travel for miles to reach the next oasis in the Namibian desert," he thought bitterly as he looked out over sand towards the stony mountains in the distance. He adjusted his tagelmust, and listened as the sand dunes hummed. He continued to scan the horizon carefully.
But even as his soul despaired, Ardeth's dark eyes picked out a long but faint strip of green far to the northwest. Desert people are attracted to any color that is not the color of the sand on which they are travelling--for a line of color in the desert usually means a source of water is nearby--or perhaps a desert settlement. Perhaps the strip of green signified a wadi--a dry riverbed.
Hope flared in his eyes. Although the savannah had dried up six thousand years ago, the riverbeds and underground streams were left behind. Some underground streams fed desert lakes, like the Mandara Lakes in Libya. There, desert palms grow out of the reddish sand dunes, and some trunks of the desert palm are half buried by the ever shifting sands. But the desert palms still live half buried in the sand--their roots are fed by the groundwater.
If there was no human settlement--it was too early in the year for the Kel Ewey Confederation to begin their annual tarhalamt; they started the salt caravan in winter--Ardeth and Martin could replenish their water supply and walk northwards to the sea, and along the way dig into the dry riverbed and hopefully, like the elephants in Namibia, they would find a small supply of water.
But Ardeth's real wish was to find desert succulent plants--the desert water plants with the thick, long, water-filled roots or leaves that the Tuaregs and other nomadic peoples used in times of drought. These plants had evolved to store water in their leaves and roots.
The faint strip of green in the distance could very well be a stand of succulent plants. Ardeth didn't think they should take the time to dig into the wadi to find water.
And in any event, the two men didn't have the necessary tools to dig into the wadi.
Ardeth silently cursed the Dark One but he could only guess by the desert where he was, and where the next city would be located. Ardeth thought they were probably in Libya, judging from the stony desert vista which stretched out before him, and their only hope was that Nuit would be able to overpower her wayward son and send the rains which were so infrequent to the Sahara.
Unlike the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan, which had monsoon rains most years, the rains came to the Sahara only a few times every hundred years. The Sahara is a tropical desert and the scant Saharan rains simultaneously caused devastation and created miracles. The rains poured from Nuit's belly with such force that anything living that was walking in the dry riverbeds would be killed in the churning flood as the water wended its way to the sea.
But even as the rains caused death, birth was inevitable. Seeds which had lain dormant for decades would bloom within a few days of the rains. Vast fields of yellow ericas, blue gladiolus and scarlet lillies would greet tired eyes. Soft green grasses would grow alongside the dry riverbanks, waving their green tendrils in the softened breeze.
For a while, a small part of the desert would be transformed into the grassy savannah of six thousand years ago.
And then, as always, the relentless Saharan heat and sun would take their toll and once again the desert would be littered with the dried stalks of flowers, the carapaces of insects and here and there the bleaching skeleton of an unfortunate four legged animal--or man--which had both strayed from its brethren and had stayed too long in the brief respite from the blowing sand.
Ardeth would not be able to see the desert bloom, for he and Martin would have to be in the wadi, waiting for the rains Ardeth hoped Nuit would send--and send soon.
Their journey down the suddenly full wadi to the sea would be brief, and wet. Hopefully, both of the men would live, but if push came to shove, Ardeth gave a prayer that if the Gods had to choose one to die, that it would be Martin. There was no malice in this thought, but Ardeth was needed in London, to help repel the Nazi bomber planes which he knew were even now bombing London--and the O'Connell's--day and night.
In his dreams, Ardeth could hear the anguished cries of the dead as they were taken by the Gods, and he could also hear their gasps when the souls entered the Crossroads of Time. His relief came from knowing that each soul taken in the daily bombing of London was granted eternal life.
It was their cries as each person was killed by the bombs and taken by the Gods which rent Ardeth's own soul to shreds. He knew he had to hurry.
Ardeth walked slowly down the side of the sand dune. When he was near the bottom, he deliberately twisted his ankle and created a small sand avalanche. Obediently, the dune he was walking down began to hum. Ardeth smiled despite himself.
The sun was just setting and the desert sky was ablaze with brilliant reds and oranges. Soon, the colors would fade to indigo blue and Nuit's Daughters would appear.
He walked back to the downed plane.
"So? Where are we?" Martin inquired.
"We are probably near the Djado Plateau, on the southern border of Libya and the northern border of Niger. The desert around Djado is stony and sand meets the stone. We will have to leave the plane. It can be replaced."
"What do we do now?" Martin now asked. He wasn't concerned about leaving the plane and it showed in his face.
"We walk," Ardeth said as he took up the small sack of onions, the water canteen and the hunk of cheese still wrapped in linen.
The two men set off across the deepening
twilight of the desert, towards the wadi where Ardeth hoped to find water--and
a passage to the sea.
Three hours later, a tired and thirsty pair of men reached the shores of the wadi that Ardeth had noted earlier.
Except it was not only a wadi that Ardeth had noted earlier--they were at Wau en Namus, an ancient volcano which erupted and in its crater a younger volcano had formed. Groundwater formed the lakes which glimmered in the moonlight. Half buried desert palms swayed their fronds in the gentle night wind.
"Wau en Namus," Ardeth said. "We are in southern Libya, just north of the Tibesti mountains. Amongst his other titles, Set is the God of Foreign Lands and placing us in Libya would be his idea of a joke."
"Up to his old tricks again. He already gave us the sandstorm as was his right as the God of Wind and Storms," Martin observed. "Tripoli. We go north to Tripoli?" Martin asked, hoping his geography was correct.
"Northwest, yes," Ardeth said. "We start following the wadi." He indicated the way with his hand. The two men walked to the edge of the freshwater lake, Ardeth removing his tagelmust as he walked. The two men knelt at the edge of the lake, and cupping their hands, drank deeply of the fresh water.
During the trek to Wau en Namus, Ardeth remembered the terrible dream in which the pyramids had exploded, and hot bile had risen repeatedly in his throat as he recalled the sounds of the millions of souls who would enter the Afterlife unwillingly at the hands of Set's follower.
Ardeth drank long and deep.
After slaking his thirst, Martin asked, "Um, do we walk all the way?"
Ardeth considered his answer. Martin had a right to know, and he was Keeper of the Bracelet of Lostris. And Lostris was a Daughter of the Waters. He hoped Martin would be able to call upon Lostris's power and have her help them with safe passage down the wadi.
"I am hoping Nuit will send a rainstorm which will fill the wadi and give us passage to the sea," he replied as he continued to drink the water. "So fresh, so good!" he told himself.
"I will call on Lostris to assist us," Martin said without hesitation and without a hint of fear in his voice. "She will grant us safe passage down the temporary river."
"I am hoping so," Ardeth replied. He stood up and he fell silent as he walked towards the vegetation.
The Daughters of Nuit were shining tonight and the light of the moon helped Ardeth to recognize the shape of the scraggly line of green plants. The date palms swayed in the light breeze.
"Succulent plants. The Gods have been kind. Even with the lake water, we would need to have a supply of water for the trek north," Ardeth said as he gently pulled up one of the desert succulents, making sure he didn't tear the roots. Shaking off the sand, Ardeth bit down on the succulent root, and was rewarded with the sweet taste of water.
"We have all the water we need here," Martin said. Ardeth looked at him. In response, Martin blinked. "I was a city dweller in my past life, and in this one," he said.
"We need succulent plants to get water for the trek to the sea," Ardeth replied as he gently pulled up more of the desert plants.
Understanding dawned in Martin's eyes. "I wasn't thinking. Are there any nomads in the area?" he asked as he began to gently pull up the succulent plants.
"Wau en Namus is just north of the Tibesti Mountains. We are north of Chad and the Toubou who inhabit the Tibesti. We are also too far north for the Kel Ewey Confederation, for they cross the Tenere, not the mountains."
"So we are stranded, more or less?"
"Yes. Until Nuit sends the rains. But we must continue our journey by walking in the wadi," Ardeth replied.
The chilly evening spoke of autumn in the desert and Nuit's Daughters gazed down upon their Brother and his friend pulling up plants from along the shores of the volcanic desert lake. Wind ruffled Ardeth's hair.
When they were done collecting the plants, Ardeth placed them in his tagelmust until the fabric strained. He twisted the top of the tagelmust and knotted it closed. He left his tagelmust on the ground.
He next took out a leather pouch from beneath his black robe. He walked over to a date palm and proceeded to collect as many dates as the pouch would hold. Seeing Ardeth eating, Martin walked over and the two men ate their fill of dates.
Martin swallowed his mouthful and asked, "What else are we going to be able to eat in the desert?"
"Fig trees grow wild in Libya and rattlesnake makes a good meal when cooked over an open fire," Ardeth replied.
"My Son. Hurry!" Nuit's voice echoed in Ardeth's mind. "We must leave now," he told Martin, who was stuffing a handful of dates into his mouth.
"Pmmmmppf!" Martin responded, bits of chewed date spewing from the corners of his stuffed mouth.
Ardeth walked back to where he'd lain his tagelmust down, picked it up and slung it over his shoulder. He motioned to Martin and the two men started walking in the wadi, headed northwest.
Neither noticed the dark clouds gathering in the shape of an angry face in the sky behind them as soon as they turned their backs and headed northwest to the Mediterranean.
Wadi Bey el Kebir, Mid-Morning of September 17, 1940
"Were you able to ask Lostris for help?" Ardeth asked a bleary-eyed Martin. The two men had spent an arduous night walking in the wadi, stopping only for a few hours to sleep briefly.
They'd taken turns keeping watch while the other slept for an hour. Countless emperor scorpions, busy with their night work, had scuttled to and fro across the wadi, causing Ardeth some concern. The sting of the scorpion could paralyze an arm or leg for days but the Sahara would claim their lives well before the poison could wear off.
"Yes. I was able to make contact with her and she has agreed to help," Martin replied, eyeing a slow moving emperor scorpion near his foot. "I thought the scorpions dug themselves into the sand during the day," he finished.
"Normally, they do dig into the sand. That one is dead," Ardeth noted drily, nodding his head at the emperor scorpion at Martin's feet.
Martin lifted up his leg and brought his boot down onto the scorpion's shell. Obediently, the shell cracked.
"A feast fit for an emperor!" Martin chided no one in particular, adjusting Ardeth's tagelmust around his eyes.
A worry line appeared on Ardeth's brow and he glanced sideways at Martin. Rambling and muttering incoherently were early signs of heat exhaustion, and the late summer day promised another scorcher.
Ardeth remembered the town of Al-Aziziyah near the Mediterranean had recorded a world record temperature of 136 degrees Fahrenheit, on another late summer day: September 13, 1922. This morning's temperature seemed no less hot. The sky above was a deep blue: there were no signs of Nuit sending the rains to help them down the wadi towards Tripoli.
He reached into the sack he'd made from ripping off a swath of cloth from his robe when he'd lent Martin the tagelmust. Pulling out a root from the desert succulent plant, he handed it to Martin.
"Here, my friend. You need to drink the entire root," he said. Martin looked at Ardeth, distracted for a moment, then he nodded and accepted the proffered root. Drinking the water the thick root held, Martin's eyes cleared.
"Thank you, Ardeth. I think the desert is trying to claim me," he told Ardeth before draining the root dry.
"You're welcome. And you are not the only one the desert is trying to claim," Ardeth replied, pointing to the dead carcass of a camel on top of the wadi's bank. "Camel?" Ardeth asked aloud. Climbing up the steep bank of the wadi, he scanned the horizon for signs of nomads.
"Are they there?" Martin called up, excited hope in his voice, knowing that camels might mean nomads were camping nearby. Camels could easily walk fifty miles in one day.
Ardeth looked down at Martin, and shook his head. "No.”
“Damn,” Martin said.
“The nomads have been gone for a while. This camel wandered off." Ardeth bent down to examine the carcass. The camel's skin was dried to tough leather. "She's been dead for several days," Ardeth said.
"She," Ardeth confirmed and stood up. "She was nursing a young one." He climbed back down the bank of the wadi. "Come, we must make more time before we rest in the heat of the day," he told Martin.
The two men started to turn and Ardeth happened to glance to his right. A sharp intake of breath alerted Martin that something was wrong. He too, turned, and sucked his breath in sharply at the sight of the roiling black clouds filling the sky. Rumbling was heard in the distance, rumbling that sounded like laughter.
"Seth," Ardeth muttered under his breath.
"Again?" Martin asked, his eyes fixed on the black cloud.
Pulling out the Bracelet from the leather pouch, Ardeth slipped the Bracelet onto his right wrist. He stood tall, and Martin spread his arms and called out, "Lostris, Daughter of the Waters, we have need of your help!"
The emeralds in the Bracelet began to burn a brighter shade of green and Ardeth felt a power begin to emanate up his arm from the Bracelet. The rumbling grew louder until a gravelly male voice could be heard: "You will fail, Daughter of the Waters! They shall die under the waters and their souls lost for all time!"
"Not this time, Dark One. It was I who kept you at bay last night and you shall not harm them today," another male voice interjected.
"Imhotep!" Ardeth exclaimed.
Seth’s voice echoed Ardeth. “Imhotep,” he snarled. The clouds gathered themselves into the angry face of Seth.
"I have come to assist the Daughter of the Waters. You will be safe. I have seen this much, Ardeth Bey," Imhotep replied as a sharp cry sounded--a female's voice in pain. The belly of Nuit opened and a torrent of rain poured down into the wadi. Instantly, the wadi flooded and the two men raised their arms, trying to shield themselves from the huge tsunami that bore down upon them.
"My son," Nuit's voice, weak, started to say but her words were cut off by Seth.
"My brother shall die!" Seth roared, laughing as he fought with his mother, draining her belly of water.
"You shall be safe. I have cleared the waters around you and you shall be able to breathe," Lostris said, her melodious voice filling Ardeth's ears. And Ardeth hoped that her words were true.
"Pharaoh Tamose, lend me your power as a God-King of Egypt," she said. A golden light flashed, and instead of being engulfed in the tsunami, the two travelers found themselves swimming effortlessly and time seemed to slow. Seth's laughter died down, and disappeared entirely.
In his mind, Ardeth saw himself as a newborn, his skin still damp from the womb waters. He smiled. His mother was singing a lullaby as she nursed him, a lock of her hair brushing his cheek. Her long fingers stroked his thick dark hair--"unusual for a baby to have a full head of hair at birth," he thought.
"Her name is Khuta, Ardeth Bey. She is your remote grandmother and she named her son Ardeth," Imhotep's voice said, startling Ardeth.
"Ardeth is an unusual name. My grandmothers told me my name has not been used since the time before the 17th Dynasty, according to the scrolls the scribe keeps," he told Imhotep.
"Your scribe is correct. Khuta wanted a new name in honor of a new place to live. Are you displeased with her choice?"
"Not at all," Ardeth replied softly. In his vision, Khuta looked up, and her eyes grew wide in surprise. She stopped singing and whispered, "Ardeth, my son." Ardeth wasn't surprised to see the scars on her face; to him, Khuta was made more beautiful by her disfigurement.
The vision faded and Ardeth heard Martin say "And I love you, Mummy," and Ardeth knew that Imhotep had give Martin his own vision.
Lostris and Imhotep spoke together, their voices blending well. "We have placed you as near the shore as we can and you are a half a day's hike from the Great Green." A contralto male voice joined in--Pharaoh Tamose, Ardeth suspected--"We can not hold Seth back much longer. The Gods of Egypt are watching over you," the voices faded out as the rain stopped suddenly and the sky cleared to a bright enamel blue. The water in the wadi receded just as suddenly, leaving drying puddles in the deep riverbed.
Ardeth now found himself face down in a fast-drying puddle of water. He got up, wiping water from his face, and looked for Martin. Martin was already standing, looking around. He was shaking his head, trying to clear his ears of water.
"Did I hear them correctly? That we are only a half a day's desert hike from Tripoli?" Martin asked, his voice soft, full of wonder that he was able to swim in the raging water, and full of wonder that he'd been able to talk to his mother.
Ardeth nodded, and replied just as softly. "The Gods always protect when they can. A half a day's hike is not so bad." He looked at Martin. "Did you find your mother?" knowing Martin had never known his mother in this life, for she had died soon after his birth.
Martin nodded, the tagelmust already half dry in the searing heat. Ardeth shaded his eyes and looked at the sun, judging the time. "Then come, let us go. We shall be in Tripoli by nightfall," he told Martin. "We no longer have our supplies of food and water, so we shall have to hurry," he finished.
Far ahead in the distance, the Mediterranean sea glinted green, beckoning the two travelers.
All is calm
to their comrades and
To the sun
Night has come
Like a curtain that is drawn
Night is born
Words on a black cloud
Here is the moon
And in the rooms
They sleep with glimpses
Of dreams in their eyes
--Fanny Ben-Aris, age 9 (concentration camp inmate, displayed at Yad Vashem, Museum of the Holocaust, Jerusalem)
to be continued...