parts 44-47 (the end!)
Rick hefted the ax, the double blades shimmering bronze, reflecting the torchlight as he hurried down the hallway. Imhotep and his girlfriend were in here, and he intended to make them pay for Evie. He dismissed the curator, knowing that he would never be able to escape the Oasis, but that such a departure would be well within the abilities of Imhotep. That damn mummy should just stay dead.
The hallway opened along a wall, a smaller entrance to a grand open area with massive pillars and elaborately carved walls. Fire burned everywhere, torches, braziers, big pots of fire. Something else, a dark, somehow menacing reddish light came from a large crack in the floor. There was a loud clanging noise, the sound of someone repeatedly hitting a gong. It carried, echoing through the hall, probably well outside. He almost imagined that the fires flickered in time with the reverberating sound.
Moving closer, he jumped the crack, a wave of dizziness slamming into him over it, making his wobble and almost fall backwards into it. Instinct screamed at him, demanding he get away from the crevasse, that something very, very bad lay inside it. He moved towards the noise, seeing Imhotep, looking entirely whole and human, dressed only in one of those little Egyptian kilt-skirt things and a sash, beating at a gong.
His face twisting with anger, he charged at him, axe raised high. Something must have alerted Imhotep, because he turned, blocking the axe with the wrapped staff that he'd stuck the gong with. Rick tried to press the axe, a corner of his mind insisting that this was one of the dumber things that he'd done. Imhotep shifted his footing, changing the angle of his pressure, and the axe flew back, both it and the mallet both flying into the crevasse. There was no sound of them striking anything.
He punched Imhotep, fist connecting to teeth and jaw through the thin layer of lip, drawing blood. Watching the other man wipe away that tiny red smear, he felt something, a fierce and angry hope raise inside him. If he was for some reason less indesctuctible, then he could make this hurt for the dead man. Smiling, he attacked again.
Imhotep pulled back, glaring as he spoke something that sounded serious and a bit threatening in that Egyptian of his.
The fight resumed, blows sending both of them staggering back. There were more weapons, axes, swords, and this long thing that Imhotep had grabbed that had a curving arched blade at each end. It was unlikely that they would both walk away from this alive. Rick glared back at the Egyptian, prepared to do anything to take him out. His resolve didn't waver even when the fight sent him crashing into one of the burning cauldrons, flaming oil spilling forth, the heat almost raising blisters on his back.
Something made the floor shake. There were booming noises, almost like giant footsteps echoing on stone. Rick had a sinking feeling that he really wouldn't like the source of those noises. There was this deep rumble, almost like a growl that had been made deeper, lower. He felt it in his bones, and they were not happy.
It came into view, not remotely human, despite a face that seemed human, a torso that was almost like a man's. The fact that instead of hands there were great pincers and that the human like torso merged into the body of a scorpian large enough to dwarf an elephant removed any sense of humanity. Even larger pincers were attached to the scorpion body, easily large enough to cut a man in half. From the rear, an enormous stinger rose, the wickedly curved tip gleaming with venom. This could only be the Scorpian King.
"This is bad."
He found himself gripping the axe in his hand more tightly, even as he stepped back, almost bumping into one of the pillars. That thing... it wasn't human. It was terrifying.
Imhotep's eyes had grown very wide as well. Carefully, he backed away, until with a sudden forceful gesture, he flung away the halves of the double bladed thing, falling into a position like a crouching bow, arms crossed in front of his chest as he shouted something.
The Scorpion King paused, and pulled the claws back a bit. After a pause, it... he spoke, saying something in the same language, most likely the Ancient Egyptian.
After a pause, Imhotep nodded his head, and then gestured towards Rick, his words sounding angry. Rick had the oddest feeling that he'd just said something along the lines of 'he did it, not me.'
The Scorpion King turned towards him, an angry look on his face, and Rick knew that he was in trouble. That was all the warning he had as the Scorpion King moved towards him, claws snapping, the massive stone pillars shattering as Rick frantically dodged the huge pincers.
Rick turned, running down the hall, desperately hoping for something, anything to give him a way out of this. He came to a halt beside some large wall carvings, gleaming gold accenting them. There was a figure with a mark on his wrist, the same mark that was on his own arm, and it held Jonothan's golden scepter thing. The next figure showed the scepter becoming a spear, and the one after that showed the spear-scepter embedded in a man with the hieroglyph of the Scorpion King.
Ardeth's words of fate and destiny echoed in his mind, and he looked again at the mark on his wrist and at the wall. "Okay, now I believe."
He passed the shuffling form of the Curator, confident that the Scorpion King could drop that man easily enough. He didn't turn to watch, knowing that he had to find Jonothan, had to find the scepter-spear. Rick didn't see as the Scorpion King siezed the curator, tearing him apart with the huge claws.
There, at the end of the hall! Jonothan and Alex, eyes wide, the golden scepter in Jonothan's hand.
He began shouting, hoping that they would hear him, hoping that his words would make sense to them.
end part 45.
Willow watched, her vision a bit fuzzy around the edges as Evie faced Anack-Su-Naman. They both held matching sets of curving blades that reminded her of Japanese sais. Maybe if they lived through this, she could ask what the name of the weapons was in ancient Egypt... Evie moved a bit differently, confident, wary, but with the grace and balance of a warrior. Her aura had shifted a bit, still Evie, but also... a bit different. Almost like she'd aged several years during those long minutes of being dead. Willow could feel herself trembling, shaking with the exhaustion of pushing her magic.
She had two options, she could sit here practically helpless, praying that Evie won and nothing else dangerous found her, or she could try to gather a bit of power. She gave a small snort at the idea. She was sitting in the inside of an evil temple to an ancient scary god whose undead army had just been released, having chased a mummy and his inhuman girlfriend across the globe. Of course there would be something else that was dangerous. Closing her eyes, she opened herself a little bit, trying to pull in a little of the energy of the place, hoping that she could filter out some of the raw power, claim it as her own. Surely, as much energy as there was in this place, a little bit so that she could stand, walk, run away if need be would never be noticed?
Blades flashed in the flickering fire light, metal hissing and clanging as the women became a dizzying blur of motion. Anack-Su-Naman spoke to Evie in the old language, the words almost clear to Willow as she sat there, open to the power of this place, watching the fight with worry. She felt like this was all the echo of some older, earlier fight. Were they just repeating some dreadful pattern over and over again? Had Evie connected with an Egyptian ghost? She could almost see them, both clad in glittering gold and short wraps of linen, kohl making their eyes long and exotic as a man in royal robes sat on his throne... Voices whispered, chanting filled the air, the echoes of the spells in the construction of this pyramid, the deeper voice that shook her bones repeating the words that formed the Oasis.
Willow could feel it soaking into her, the burning heat of the desert sands, the brightness of the light like a hammer, the biting dryness of the wind, the scouring of the sandstorm, the burning venom of the scorpion... This was a mistake. She shouldn't have opened herself to these magics, they were older, more powerful than anything that she'd encountered, more powerful than any mortal...
She tried to gather her will, to force the images to slow. She would not loose herself in this. She'd helped close a Hellmouth, she'd restored a soul, she'd faced Glory. She wasn't about to let the residual Egypt-ness of this power drown her! Gasping for breath, she stood up, watching the women stare at each other for a long moment before they turned and bolted down the passage towards the Scorpion King.
Willow followed them, feeling the rage of something that had become attuned to the power in these walls. Whatever it was, it was old, and powerful, and not human.
This angry something... it was linked... linked to many lesser somethings far away... outside the Oasis... With a start, she realized that the angry something was the Scorpion King, and the lesser somethings were the individual soldiers in the Army of Anubis. The web of power that lurked behind the stones was clear to her, she could read all of it...
Evie was wrestling again with Anack-Su-Naman, at the top of the ramp down to the place where Rick stood, facing the Scorpion King. Imhotep was there as well, the webs of his presence somehow changed, dulled. There was no magic inside of him now...
Willow closed her eyes and tried to follow one of the threads of power that lead to one of the soldiers. She couldn't influence it, couldn't control it, but with a jolt, she could see where it was, see the sands gleaming in the sunlight, watch things move by in a rush of speed as it charged in a line of thousands of other soldiers towards a line of dark robed men. The Medjai stood ready to fight the Army of Anubis.
She wrenched herself away with a lurching, stomach twisting jolt, unwilling to watch as Ardeth's people fought those things, unable to take the chance of seeing this Soldier fight Ardeth. It would hurt to much to see something happen to him. But they were there, ready to fight.
Jonothan finally made the scepter into a spear, the parts that had been tucked inside shooting out. He said something, gesturing for Alex to stand back, and hurled the spear towards Rick. Unfortunately, Imhotep stood up, grabbing the gleaming spear from the air with a triumphant smile.
Willow looked away, knowign that this strange awareness of the power inside the temple would keep her aware of how that struggle turned out. She looked at Evie and Anack-Su-Naman, hoping that the ancient Egyptian got beaten to a little pulp.
She felt the jolt that went through the fabric of the magic as the spear struck the Scorpion King, felt the power rip as the Scorpion King died. It hurt, feeling almost as if something inside of her had been ripped. The power trembled, and the threads of the soldiers unraveled, the Army falling to dust. The temple began to shake.
"This is going to be very bad." Her words fell unheeded into the room, unnoticed as the walls began to shake, the ceiling developing cracks that released jagged spikes of stone to plummet onto the bridge. A dusty hand emerged, griping the ramp. Soon, it was apparent that both Rick and Imhotep were trying to struggle their way out of the chasm, impeded by the somethings that filled it. They weren't quite undead, they weren't quite spirits, and they weren't quite in this world, but they were close enough to all three to try to drag the men down with them.
Evie screamed for Rick, charging across the ramp as more jagged stones fell, grabbing her husband to help pull him up, struggling to save him.
Anack-Su-Naman stood by the doorway, her eyes wide and frightened, looking at Imhotep as he called to her, hoping for the same aid that his rival was receiving from his beloved. Anack-Su-Namun shook her head, screaming a denial before she turned to flee. Imhotep watched this with wide eyes filled with pain and shock.
Willow understood his expression. Everything that he'd done had been for that... woman, he'd broken laws, defied his king, his gods all for her. Now, she was rejecting him. The pain from that had to be almost as bad as the curse that had been inflicted on him by the Pharaoh's priests. He released the ramp, pushing himself backwards, deliberately plummeting into the chasm. If he could not have his beloved, he did not want to live.
She felt tears well up at the depths of his emotions. Yes, he was evil, and yes, he was very dangerous. But to have loved that deeply... She couldn't let his soul be torn to shreds by the what-evers in that chasm. Reaching out with the power of this pyramid, she pulled his spirit away from his flesh, the bonds already weakening. The soul slid from her grasp, pulled away to face... whatever the afterlife brought. Perhaps judgment, perhaps he would be reincarnated, perhaps nothingness, although Willow preferred to think that there would be something that awaited him. She sent a last whispered thought towards him, uncertain if he would hear. "I will remember the depths of your love."
Running with the others, they made their way out of the pyramid, leaves and twigs carried on a wind rushing into the heart of the pyramid. As they ducked out, they beheld a terrifying sight - the whole oasis seemed to be swirling through the air, uprooted and being sucked into the pyramid. Leaves were joined by trees, and the undead pygmies, all being sucked inside.
"We've got to get up! This whole place is being sucked down!" Rick's shout carried, and they began a frantic climb to the top of the pyramid, hoping to escape.
They scrambled upwards, reaching the top of the pyramid, Evie and Alex both clinging to the bronze Scorpion that topped the pyramid, fearful that the whirling winds would snatch them up, dragging them into the heart of the pyramid as well. Something was out there, something that wasn't touched by the power of Ancient Egypt.
With a glad shout, Rick waved frantically for Izzy to bring the dirigible closer. They began scrambling aboard, although they almost lost Jonothan. In the end, they got a wonderful view of everything being sucked into the temple before a powerful wind blew them upwards, hurtling through the sky and away from the place the Oasis had been.
There was frantic rejoicing from Jonothan and Izzy as they realized that they'd made it, they'd survived. Evie gave Izzy several delighted kisses, so happy that he'd arrived at just the right time to carry them away. She then went to Rick, murmuring what could only be the post averted Apocalypse 'I love you's and 'I was so worried's. They looked so happy together. Looking over the side, Willow noticed a single figure. Ardeth Bey, mounted on his black horse, watching at the dirigible carried them all away. She felt inescapably sad at the sight, one hand reaching towards him, only able to watch as he grew smaller with distance.
end part 46.
Several hours later, the dirigible landed at a small town. Izzy had been insisting that it needed some proper repairs, and honestly, the whole group of them would be quite happy to stop, to rest and unwind a bit. Food, bath, and rest... the idea sounded almost heavenly.
She found herself almost understanding the words of the villagers. As if she knew a language that was close to the one they spoke. But she'd never learned any of the Egyptian languages. There was a broken obelisk in the center of the town square, and she found herself staring at it, part of her seeing it as it had once been, tall, gleaming in the sun, the sacred words carved deep into it's base, proclaiming to all that this was part of the Lands of the Two Kingdoms. She whispered the words as her fingers traced the weathered heiroglyphs.
Understanding dawned for her. She'd dosed herself with more than magic inside that temple, she'd dosed herself with Egypt. Not the land as it was now, but the echoes of the land that the Scorpion King had walked, the land that Imhotep had lived within. She knew the Sacred Writings, knew the sound of the words, the legends of their gods, the rituals of their kings... "What have I done?"
"Willow? I had hoped to find you again." Ardeth's voice pulled her attention back to here and now. "It is good to see that you are well."
"It's good to be well. It was a very close thing... Too close. I'm sorry about your people... I know there must have been loses to the Army." She reached towards him, the fingers that had just been resting on the hieroglyphs brushing lightly over his sleeve.
"I had wanted to talk to you, but..." He sighed, shaking his head with a small smile. "I found it easier to face the Army. To face near certain death. But there are things... questions that I have for you."
"We could go to the small pool that's two... three small dunes past the market, and talk in peace?" She offered slowly, part of her wondering HOW she knew there was a pool of water, let alone where it was.
They walked there slowly, neither speaking. Willow sighed, savoring the feeling of Ardeth Bey, wishing that she could stay with him. She cared about him far more than she should, especially considering that she was not from here. Could she fit in among his people? Assuming that he'd want her to try... But she didn't mention any of that.
"How did you know this pool was here?" He reached out, his fingers touching the back of her hand.
She looked up, for a moment loosing herself in his eyes. "I... I'm not sure. I did something rather foolish, back there. I opened myself to the magic, and it did... something. I knew the pool was here, I know what the carvings on the broken obelisk say. I just... I wish I knew what this meant in the long run."
"It means that Egypt lives within you now. It will be a home to you, always. Perhaps... perhaps you would stay?" His hand had moved, touching her hair, almost touching her cheek.
She looked at him, trying to memorize the sight of him, feeling how he belonged here, how he fit into the pattern of this land. She smiled, inhaling the scent of him. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that sounded like a proposal of some sort."
"Perhaps it should be. Would you be willing to stay here for a time, to learn more of these lands, of... of my people? I must warn you that my family wishes very much to meet you." There was something in his eyes, as if there were more that he wanted to say but didn't quite dare voice.
Willow smiled, wondering if magically trained warriors became as nervous about emotions as normal guys, suspecting that Ardeth Bey was proof that they did indeed become stammering, awkward, blushing boys just like the rest of the male gender. "I think I'd like to meet your family, Ardeth Bey. I'd very much like to learn more about your people, more about you. Considering that I'm sure Rick and Evie only asked me to teach Alex as an excuse to keep an eye on me, I have nothing else planned for... oh, the rest of my life."
He smiled, and Willow felt as if her chest had become a little to tight. "Then come away with me... you shall be like a rose in the desert. I offer myself as your companion and guide for as long as you will have me."
"As long as I'll have you? What if I don't ever want to let you go?" She'd stepped closer, feeling the warmth of his body prickle over her, resting her hand on his shoulder as she looked into his eyes.
"Then I would be delighted to grow old and grey by your side." Leaning down, his lips brushed over hers.
She reached up, her fingers buried in his hair as she deepened the kiss, tasting him, savoring the feeling of this wonderful moment. Eventually, the kiss broke, leaving them pressed close together, arms wrapped around each other as they smiled into each other's eyes. "That sounds good to me."
end part 47. End Time for Change.