Things That Go Bump In The Night - Shoot Back!
It was a day of discovery and losses for both teams. Evy and the boys had found Imhotep's sarcophagus, unaware of how close they were to pure evil. The Warden had wandered off and paid for it with his life. The Egyptologist had led the Americans through the upper passageways. They reached Anubis' statue first, where they tried to open the bottom and recover the Book of the Living. Several diggers gave their lives in the quest. Anubis held tight to his treasure.
The night found the two groups going over their day. Blazing fires lit the camps and cast long shadows back across darkened sands. Evy kept hypothesizing about the mysterious body entombed inside their find. She played with the puzzle box determined to return tomorrow and use it to open the tomb.
It was driving Rick and Jonathan crazy. Rick was ready to gag the talkative woman. He tried to change the subject regarding the strange happenings of the day.
"Three diggers died trying to open the statue," he commented, startling Evy from her musing.
"What happened?" Her eyes went wide with shock, and no small amount of curiosity.
"Booby trapped with salt acid, rigged to explode when opened."
Jonathan paled, gulping visibly, causing his Adam's apple bobbed in his throat. His pale eyes skittered around the camp's perimeter. He tried to peer into the shadows, as if he hoped to see some nefarious evil coming for them.
"Do you think there's a curse on the temple? Similar to the Carter expedition, those poor blokes didn't fair too well."
A strange chill wind blew through the camp on the otherwise still night. The fire sputtered almost dying out, before it blazed back to life. Rick and Jonathan exchanged wary glances.
Evy rolled her eyes at such nonsense. Rick had drawn his ever-present pistol. He pointed it in the direction the wind had blown. Her brother in direct opposition had scooted closer to the ex-soldier. She smiled at their antics. She loved her brother, but never kidded herself about his bravery.
"There's no such thing as curses. If I can't see it or touch it, then it isn't real." She settled back against her bedroll, considering the matter closed.
Rick stretched out his long body. He placed his hands over his chest, with the gun still firmly in hand. A loud 'CLICK' echoed in the subsequent silence as he cocked the trigger. Rick shot Evy his devil-may-care grin.
"Can't be too prepared."
He watched over his party, waiting for them to settle for the night. He couldn't stop the uneasy feeling he had that someone was watching them. His instincts told him to stay diligent, and they were never wrong. The siblings were joking as Jonathan went through the Warden's belongs. Evy pretended disapproval then laughed at her brother's antics when he found quality liquor hidden inside the dead man's pack.
Rick raised his hand, silencing their play. He knelt down to press his ear against the sands. There beneath the shifting grains was a pulse.
The Medjai soldiers had waited as long as they felt was safe. With the discovery of Imhotep's tomb, the Book of the Living's resting place, and with the Key, close by; it was too dangerous to sit idly by until the others arrived on the morrow. They must act before this perilous game went any further. Their duty was clear, these strangers must leave and the Beast must remain forever caged. It was simply a matter of how they performed this task that was in question."
Shadows shifted, danced and blended once more with the darkness. The night's calm shattered as hoof beats and gunfire filled the air.
Rick broke into action. He threw a large rifle toward Evy, barking at her to stay put. She caught the cumbersome weapon, and before she could reply, he was already over the small hill separating the two camps.
She stared at the gun in her hand and then at Rick's retreating figure. Evy's mouth set in a determined line as she took off after him. Jonathan had watched this wide-eyed. He clutched the liquor next to his chest like a security blanket. His head swiveled from the camp to the path Evy had followed. With quiet resignation, he grabbed his gun with his free hand, and ran to catch his headstrong sister.
Jonathan shouted at her, "Evy! Stop! Didn't Mr. O'Connell say to stay put!"
She ignored him as she kept running. The rifle kept getting in her way, and she had to shift it from one arm to the other. It didn't matter. People were in trouble, and she wasn't some damsel to stay behind and do nothing.
Rick ran through the ruins toward the other camp. He was happy they had separated the camps, and his charges were safely out of harm’s way. He reached the site only to find utter mayhem.
Men dressed in dark, desert robes rode through the camp. They were firing rifles at the pack animals, sending them racing into the night. The Americans stood outside their tents shooting at the riders as they raced through their camp. Panicked diggers ran haphazardly about as they tried to find safe ground. Caught in the crossfire, their bodies lay scattered about the demolished camp.
Rick took aim and shot the rider bearing down on the stocky American, Daniels. He cursed under his breath when another shot spun the man's body around, and he crumpled to the ground. His compatriots rushed to his side, and covered him with return fire. Rick's opinion of Daniels went up a smidgeon, when he saw the injured man was still shooting.
He started to move closer to the camp, when he caught Beni trying to escape. Rick dragged the squirming little traitor with him. He threw Beni toward the Americans and took off as another wave of riders entered.
Hafiz, the head Medjai warrior, had circled back around to make another run through the encampment. He knew they must put the fear of the gods into these intruders. It would mean loss of lives for both sides; but, it was the will of Allah. The Beast must remain forever caged. His scimitar sliced downward into another fleeing worker. A prayer for a peaceful passing readily escaped his lips as he watched the body fall.
His eyes tracked his next target. He pushed his horse onward, as he knew the spoiled Americans were less likely to continue without their workers. Hafiz felt his horse stumble, and worked to right it even as his body continued in the fall and slammed against the ground. He cursed himself for a fool. He had overlooked the soldier, thinking him among the Americans. He continued in his roll, pulling his weapon with him as came back up on his knees.
Rick shot the scimitar from Hafiz's hand. It was the first time he got a clear look at their assailants. He was wishing he hadn't. They were from the same group that had rescued him five years before preventing him from joining the others buried at Hamunaptra. Rick opened his mouth to say something when a horse and rider shot between them. He raised his gun to shoot and blinked. They were gone – horse, rider and Hafiz.
Evy hid in some fallen rocks, watching the fighting. Her scalp tightened as a chill raced down her spine, and she turned around to find a tattooed man coming straight for her. She backpedaled in terror, forgetting about the gun still clutched in her hands. The Medjai warrior reached for her. Evy screamed, fell backward and reflexively fired the gun. BOOM! The impact threw the warrior away from her as blood bloomed from his chest. She saw none of this though. The recoil sent her head over ass down an incline, where she landed with a hard thud. She came up spitting sand, and several unladylike words.
Jonathan found refuge inside the temple door with several diggers that had reached it without injury. They were returning fire whenever the riders came within reach. He had lost Evy in the shuffle and was starting to worry, since these 'bandits' didn't seem intent on leaving any time soon. Jonathan took several long drinks from the bottle still held closely to his body. He watched another group of riders head their way.
"Oh bugger, there's not enough liquor in Egypt to keep this night from getting any worse," he mumbled and took aim.
Rick quickly reloaded his pistol. He turned in time to stop Hafiz from taking his head with his scimitar. His gun took the impact as he instinctively raised his hand to block the strike. Rick quickly glanced about the destroyed camp, searching for a weapon.
Hafiz advanced on the soldier. The Medjai had allowed this man to live once, and yet he returned to the City of the Dead. He would not make the same mistake a second time. Hafiz stepped forward and raised his scimitar to deliver the killing blow. The man dove away from him, and rolled in the sand to escape his reach. Hafiz went to finish delivering the rightful punishment, when he stopped. The man had the luck of the gods on his side. He stood holding a lit stick of dynamite. Where he had found such a dangerous weapon at the ready among this ruin, Hafiz would never know.
They stared at each other, neither willing to budge as the fuse burns.
Hafiz looked at the Rick with contempt. "Leave this place!" he demanded. "OR DIE."
His horse suddenly appeared as if by magic. Hafiz raced away, with the remaining Medjai following him. They disappeared as quickly as they appeared.
Rick stared down at the lit fuse. It had nearly reached its end. He simply blew it out, and slipped the dynamite into his pocket. His lips puckered as he started to whistle a cheery tune. Any fight he walked away from was a good fight in Rick's book. He knew coming back to this place was a seriously bad idea. It beat dying at the time. He was wondering if he had simply put off the unavoidable.
Buffy wiggled in the saddle, and tried once more to find a comfortable spot. It wasn't that she didn't like leaning against Ardeth. He was all kinds of dreamy. It was simply too hot, and she was convinced Slayers weren't meant to ride horses. Her butt hurt in places she wasn't sure her advanced healing could handle.
She tried to convince Ardeth Bay to let her run alongside for part of the journey. Stubborn man refused even to consider it. He said no matter her abilities she couldn't keep pace with Kemwar. The horse was desert bred and could travel across long distances without rest. It was the 'without rest' that was giving her problems. How am I going to fight the Big Bad if I can't even walk?
She realized they needed to get to Hamunaptra. Ha! She had remembered the right name. Buffy wondered if it counted if no one heard her say it. She shrugged her shoulder and went back to her internal musing. They needed to be there like yesterday, what she wouldn't give for her mom's SUV about now. Don't they have cars in this time, whenever the frilly heck this is?
It was the first time it had dawned on her that she didn't know what year it was. She was more freakin' blonde than she realized.
Ruya was right. It was time for her to stop depending on others to spoon-feed her information. She had no problems figuring out the best way to handle any vamp or demon that crossed her path. It was time she applied the same attitude toward the rest of her life, regardless if it concerned slaying or not.
She mentally squared her shoulders and prepared to gather more information regarding this time and what awaited them in Hamunaptra.
"Ardeth," she said over her shoulder. Buffy waited for some sign, he had heard her.
"Yes, little warrior."
His deep, accented voice fell pleasantly against her. The heavy base vibrated against her back sending pleasant tendrils racing through her body. Ooh, man, maybe talking wasn't such a good idea. Bad Buffy. Get your head in the game. This isn't a date, you idiot. You're riding hell-bent for leather to stop Evil from coming back to life.
Her brow wrinkled as she fought her inner demons, and racing libido. Stupid horse, stupid yummy voice, even stupider Buffy, who can't keep her mind on the...
Kemwar had jumped a small ridge without any instruction from his master. The stallion knew to continue via the shortest route. It also knew the way to Hamunaptra. His master visited often and once pointed in its direction, Kemwar headed for it with steady assurance.
Buffy winced at her outburst and the added jarring to an already sore rear. Ardeth Bay's arm immediately tightened around her. She bit inside her cheek to keep the moan from escaping. It wasn't pleasure induced this time. When he pulled her backward, he unintentionally dragged her onto her bruised tailbone. Her teeth chewed on her lower lips as she fought against the pain. Buffy slowly inhaled through her nose then exhaled through her mouth.
"Uhm, do you mind answering some questions for me?" She hoped he didn't notice the unnaturally high pitch in her voice.
Ardeth's lips twitched upward. He nodded against her head, unsure he could speak without giving away his amusement. He was happy Buffy faced forward unable to see his expression. She would no doubt use her heightened strength to knock him from his mount. Her constant movements had done nothing for his normally stoic resolve. He wasn't unsympathetic to her discomfort though.
"What year is this? And, where exactly is this?"
Her question startled him. He had imagined many others, never this. He was momentarily at a loss for words.
Shaking his head, Ahmed Bay cleared the numerous questions that filled his mind, and answered her, "1925"
Buffy heard the hesitation in his voice. She thought that maybe she needed to clarify her question.
"I figured I was in the Sahara Desert, but where at? How far from say..."
Her words faded off. Buffy closed her eyes as she tried to imagine the atlas in her head. She knew most of the great archeological discoveries were in Egypt. Problem was Egypt wasn't small, and she wasn't sure where in the discovery timeline she had landed. Was the Cairo Museum already the center of Egyptology?
"...Cairo. How far are we from Cairo?" She slowly shifted her weight to her other hip.
"We reside beyond Thebes, which overlooks the Valley of the Kings. It is 700 kilometers from Cairo."
Buffy's brow wrinkled and her nose crinkled as she did the conversion in her head. She wasn’t bad at math. Who knew, right? It roughly converted to 450 miles. So, not a short weekend outing with the kids.