Title: Eternity's Dance
Summary: A couple of Egyptian artifacts arrive in LA, and what follows could very well be the end of the world unless Angel Investigations can stop it.
Disclaimer: Angel and all associated characters belong to Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Sandollar and 20th Century Fox. The Mummy and all associated characters belongs to Stephen Sommers and Universal. It goes without saying that I don't own either of the movies or the show. No money is being made from this little story. If there was, I wouldn't be dragging my butt to school every morning, I'd be sleeping in. :->
Authors Notes: This came from watching The Mummy Returns and thinking on how great it would be to see Cordelia be able to fight the way that Evy does in the movie. From there the idea developed into it's present form. It would probably help to have seen the Mummy movies, but I hope not essential. *--* indicates italics.
This is set after Birthday, but before...I'd say Waiting in the Wings.
Dedicated to Betti who is my beta extrodinaire and is living through renovations.
Spoilers: Angel - Up to "Birthday" The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.
Life was going well for Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell. Especially today.
Having had an exceptionally productive day at work, she'd arrived home to discover a letter from the Bembridge Scholars awaiting her. They'd approved funding for her to do a dig at Thebes!
It was a strange to consider good things coming out of accidentally bringing a 3000 year old mummy back to life -- especially considering that he had tried to kill her to bring his dead girlfriend back -- but her life had changed completely because of that one mistake. And for the better.
She had met Rick while searching out Hamanuptra. Had it not been for Imhotep there was the possibility that Rick would have just taken her back to Cairo after they'd gotten what they'd came for, and that would have been the end of that. She probably would have been stuck still being the ignored timid librarian at the Cairo Museum of Antiquities, instead of the confidant, happy Egyptologist at the British Museum that she now was.
And to top it off, the Bembridge Scholars had finally approved funding for her own dig! The Museum would have no problem giving her leave, especially if she came back with artifacts for them, she was sure. Which only left Rick to convince...
"Why don't I trust that look?" A teasing voice brought her out of her reverie. She smiled at the voice's owner, and leaned up to kiss the tall man standing in the doorway, gazing at her a smile on his face.
"Because you know me?" she teased back.
"That works." He agreed, taking her in his arms and kissing her again. Coming up for air he noticed the letter in her hand. "Anything important?"
"The Bembridge Scholars." Her eyes glowed with excitement. "They approved the funding for the dig at Thebes."
Rick O'Connell let out a good natured groan. "I would have thought you wouldn't want to see Egypt again for at least..." he appeared to think about it, "ohh lets say a year? It's only been what? Eight months?"
"Eight and a half." She corrected him, a smile playing on her lips.
"Mmmm." He nodded, humor dancing in his eyes. "I suppose this is where you try to bribe me into coming with you?"
"I was thinking along those lines." she admitted.
"What are your terms?"
"Agreeing not to read anything I dig up?"
"That goes without saying. What else?"
"Hmmm. Well I can't pay you much... How about the side benefits?"
"Well, I hear that private cabins on board ship are expensive, so we'd have to share to cut down on expenses."
"And of course we don't want to burden the camels too much so we wouldn't take anymore tents than absolutely necessary."
"Why Mrs O'Connell, I do think you're propositioning me!"
"If you only *think* I am, I'm going to have to work a little harder."
Rick laughed and kissed his wife again.
"I take it that means you're coming with me?" Evelyn inquired when they came up for air.
"Try getting away without me." he told her, claiming her mouth again.
With his usual lack of timing Jonathan Carnahan stumbled into the room only moments later, the now familiar sight of his sister and his new brother-in-law wrapped around each other greeting him. "Oh for ... Get a room!"
Which was precisely when a frustrated Cordelia Chase woke up.
And so it began.
SIX WEEKS LATER
Angel hit the floor with a loud 'Oomph!', and stared in shock up into the hazel eyes of his Seer.
Cordelia crouched over him, sais held at his throat, her expression grimly triumphant, her eyes strangely flat.
"All right. Where did that come from?!" he demanded, stunned.
Cordelia blinked and started. A frown marred her features as she noticed their positions. "Eeep! Sorry!" Quickly she removed the sais and stood, allowing Angel to pick himself up off the floor.
"Cordelia? Where did that come from?" he asked again, reflexively rubbing his throat where she'd held the sais against his skin.
"I... I don't really know." she admitted, staring bewildered at the weapon in her hand. "I've never used one of these before."
Which was entirely the point. Cordelia was becoming fairly proficient with the sword, and Angel had decided to start training her in the use of some other weapons. Seeing as how she was already a crack shot with the crossbow, he'd decided to start with the sais. The last thing he'd expected was to end up flat on his back less than ten minutes into the training session.
Somewhere -- and judging from her current expression she didn't have a clue where -- Cordelia had picked up the skills of someone highly proficient with the sais. And the fact that she didn't know where the skills came from was setting off warning bells in his head. What if Wolfram and Hart had hacked into her head again?
He was unable to stop the low growl that escaped his throat at the thought.
"Unless..." Cordelia's low murmur would have been missed by anyone with less sensitive hearing. Almost absently she began to play with the weapons in her hands, shifting her grip, and moving as if fighting a phantom opponent.
Angel watched worriedly until she suddenly stopped, her eyes widening. Then; "Oh crap! Even my dreams aren't my own anymore!"
Two women wearing gold masks and holding a sais in each hand stood opposite each other. They held the attention of the multitude of people surrounding them, all waiting for the deadly demonstration to begin. It was both a personal and a political move for Pharaoh. Today he was showing Egypt just how accomplished both his future wife and his daughter were. And just how foolish it would be for anyone to try to take or harm what either woman protected. Namely himself and the Bracelet of Anubis.
Pharaoh brought his hands together to signal the fighters to begin. Turning their backs on each other they paused, waiting.
At Pharaoh's command they exploded into motion. The sound of metal meeting metal filled the room as they battled across the room. The spectators remained quiet -- awed by the skill displayed -- only breaking the silence with applause once the fight appeared over, one combatant of the floor, the victor standing over her.
They both raised their masks and spoke, words that the spectators could not hear, then -- with a yell -- the woman on the floor flipped to her feet and took up her stance again.
Again the deadly dance began, this time without what little protection the masks offered. Across the room and through a change of weapons, from sais to axe and spear, they fought until once again one lay on the floor, spear to her throat.
"You are learning quickly Nefertiri. I'll have to watch my back."
"Yes... And I'll watch mine."
"So let me get this straight," Wesley began, looking at Cordelia and trying to ignore Angel's pacing. "You've been having dreams about fighting with those blade things..."
"...sais, and now you can fight with them?"
"That 'bout sums it up, yeah."
"And you haven't mentioned this before... why?"
"Well until ten minutes ago I had no idea that they were anything but dreams!" Cordelia defended herself hotly, fighting the impulse to squirm under the combined gaze of Angel, Wesley, Fred and Lorne like a five year-old that's been discovered with her hand inside the cookie jar. "Ok, so some of them had major weirdness going on in them. But considering our line of work, weirdness is bound to creep into some of our dreams, right?"
"She's got a point there big guy." Lorne cut in before Angel could do much more than open his mouth. "Nothing has been screaming at me from the Princess's aura, so cool down."
"Could this be the Power's contribution to Cordy's training?" Fred asked. "Having more than one warrior to protect Connor would be a good thing, wouldn't it?"
"Well..." Cordelia considered the possibility, "the cryptic dream thing *is* right up their alley..."
Lorne shook his head, "Doesn't have the Power's signature on it."
"...of course so is mind numbing, skull crunching visions." Cordelia sighed. "Wesley? Any ideas?"
"Wolfram and Hart." Angel all but growled before Wesley could reply.
"Uggh!" Cordelia rolled her eyes in frustration. "Angel, I hardly think that Wolfram and Hart would try that again. Not knowing that we'd be looking for it. Besides, can you really see Lilah or Gavin arranging for me to suddenly learn how fight like that? Hello! That works *against* them! Evil try-hards does not mean completely stupid."
"Quite." Wesley agreed. "There are a few other possibilities, but I'd have to..."
"...consult your books." Cordelia and Lorne finished for him.
"Actually I was going to say, find out some more about these dreams. I'll need to get some more details from you, Cordy. Details of locations, people, objects, that sort of thing. Something that can give us a better idea of the significance of these dreams."
"The dreams? In a nutshell? Thebes, Hamanuptra, London, husband, son, brother, father, bitch soon-to-be-step-mother, priest-guy slash mummy, huge bug guy, cute guy in black, sand everywhere, gold everywhere, sais, fire, black book, bug bracelet... I think that just about covers it. Oh! Medjai, the red turban brigade, something about the Bembridge scholars and, of course, those beastly Americans!"
Everyone in the room just stared at Cordelia as she finished her free-association spiel.
"Well they were! We got there first! Just because there were more of them..." Cordelia trailed off as she realized what it was she was saying. "Oh crap."
"Cordelia... Did you say 'Medjai'?" Wesley asked carefully. That word rang bells. Unfortunately he couldn't remember what kind of bells.
"Yes." Cordelia drew out the single syllable, "That means something to you?" When no answer was immediately forthcoming, she snapped her fingers. "Wesley?"
"Hmm? Oh. Maybe. I'll have to look into it a little. In the meantime however, if you could let us know of any future dreams?"
"Oh fine. I'll let you know of any new dreams."
Technically she hadn't lied.
The dream she'd had last night wasn't a *new* dream. She'd had it before. Besides she didn't feel like telling an overprotective Angel and a concerned Wesley about an extremely explicit dream that had nothing to do with monsters, jewelry, books or sand.
There was no way she was telling them about how she had awoken before the end of the dream, with frustrated arousal cramping in her stomach.
For the most part she had managed to ignore the dreams for the last seven weeks. And considering how *real* they all were that was something of an achievement. It wasn't until she'd almost slit Angel's throat that she'd had to face up to the idea that maybe they weren't *just* dreams.
Now she *knew* they weren't.
The bracelet in the glass case in front of her was something directly out of her dreams.
A something that half of her screamed to destroy, while the other half wanted to grab it and run. Hide it where no man could find it. Allow no-one near it.
It was like there was an argument taking place in her soul.
"No! Without it we can't find Ahm Shere when the Scorpion King wakes next."
"That's the idea! If we can't, neither can any one else! Do you really want someone raising the Army of Anubis?"
"And if we can't find Ahm Shere to kill the Scorpion King, he and the Army will march over the globe! The bracelet is the Key."
"Yeah the key to getting us all killed. Rick almost ended up in that pit thing, not to mention almost cut in half, and Alex was kidnapped and used as some kind of supernatural street directory because of that bloody bracelet. And I realize you died by taking a header off a balcony, but can I point out that having one of the bad guys kill you *hurts*?"
It was so strange, hearing a conversation with no voices. And that dying thing was something that Cordelia had definitely *not* informed Angel or Wesley about. Can you say overprotective Alpha-males?
She was jostled from behind by a woman who glared at her. Cordelia glared right back until the woman averted her gaze to look at the gold jewelry displayed in the case. It wasn't until she caught the security guard eyeing her with suspicion that Cordelia realized what the other woman had been glaring at her for. She had been standing here, staring at the bracelet for almost half an hour. The guard probably figured she was trying to figure out how to steal it. Well...part of her was. If the museum ever figured out what exactly it had here... More to the point, if Wolfram & Hart ever figured out what the museum had here...
A shiver skittered down her spine as she walked away, the security guard's eyes following her. She continued on through the exhibit, eyes skimming over the Ancient Egyptian artifacts on display. Nothing else really piqued her interest. Nothing that is until she spotted an empty display case.
In an ideal world -- or at least *her* ideal world -- she'd have unlimited funds, there would always be at least 50% off all along Rodeo Drive, Connor's diapers would change themselves (for such a little guy he sure made a big smell!) and Wesley, Gunn and Angel wouldn't instantly go into their Overprotective-for-god's-sake-don't-let-anything-hurt-or-get-near-Cordelia mode at the slightest hint of something strange, weird, unpleasant or otherwise undesirable happening to her. Or even *near* her.
Oh sure it was kinda nice for them to go a *little* overprotective -- it made a girl feel special, loved and kinda warm and fuzzy inside. But the lengths those particular men went to was so far past a *little* overprotective to qualify as smothering. So in her ideal world they wouldn't be react to her news like panicked ... well panicked and overprotective *men*.
Unfortunately this wasn't her ideal world.
Which meant that that was exactly how they were reacting.
Of course they were reacting like that in their own ways...
Wesley had immediately begun firing questions at her, Gunn had started fidgeting the same way he did whenever he wanted to get out and actually *do* something about a situation rather than stick around to find out what he was about to run headlong into, and Angel...
Angel had instantly told her she wasn't to leave the hotel. And if she did she had to have one of them with her at all times. And then he'd still have to think about it.
It was lovely, really. But she really wanted to scream. Preferably at them. Specifically at Angel. Hello? 21 now! Who did he think he was? Her father?
Fortunately for them -- or her depending on your point of view -- Lorne interceded before she could actually open her mouth to let them know how much she really wanted to wring their necks for over-reacting to such a degree. Or actually try to wring their necks.
"So a book and the bracelet from your dreams is here in LA?" Fred asked trying to straighten out the situation in her head. "Could that be what triggered the dreams?" she asked, glancing curiously at both Wesley and Lorne for an answer.
Lorne shrugged. "It's possible," he admitted, "certainly not unheard of."
"So nice to know." Cordelia muttered sarcastically. "Do I take that as a good thing considering how much death and freaky-ness is in most of those things?"
"And you say the book has been stolen?" Wesley asked for the third time.
"Yes! I talked to the curator. Someone broke in two nights ago. A real slick job apparently, especially considering the museums security."
"Their security isn't that hard to beat." Angel observed, recalling how easy it had been getting in to steal the Shroud.
"Sure, for someone with no body heat," Cordelia nodded, "but for a human it'd be almost impossible. They've tightened security quite a bit since our last midnight visit. It was a requirement for them to be able to host the exhibit."
"You think a vampire stole the book?" Gunn frowned.
"Or something else."
"Wolfram and Hart." Angel sighed.
"Can you think of anyone else who'd have any idea what's so special about the book?"
"*We* don't even know what's so special about the book." Frustration edged Wesley's voice as he threw the pen he'd been holding onto the table. "And which book are we talking about anyway? The gold one? Or the Black one?"
"The black one. And I keep *telling* you," Cordelia began, "it brings dead people back from the dead. How many times do I have to tell you about the mummy guy?"
"Imhotep." Wesley sighed. "The only mention of any Imhotep we've been able to find is Seti the first's high priest."
"That's him." Cordelia wasn't entirely sure how she knew, but it sounded ... *right* to her.
"Problem being that's all we've been able to find out about the man." Wesley scrubbed his hands over his face. "There's no mention of this Ank-su-namun person, and the only reference I could find to either Hamanuptra or the Scorpion King were a couple of mentions in the local Bedouin myths. The only Book of the Dead we've been able to find anything on is the papyri found in the tombs. Prayers and some minor spells, certainly nothing like what you've been describing."
"Could the book be from somewhere else?" Angel asked.
Wesley considered the idea. "If the book is real -- and seeing as how someone went to the trouble to steal it we can assume it is -- then it would make more sense if the book originated in a much later period. During the time period that Cordelia's been describing there were no books as we know them. Writings were on papyrus scrolls until around 100 AD. That would mean we've been researching the wrong period of history. The problem with that idea is that by that time books as we know them evolved, the Dynastic period in Egypt was over. Seti I ruled 1000 years before then. It doesn't add up."
"The book was at Hamanuptra when Imhotep was priest." Cordelia insisted. "I'm not getting mixed up. Isn't there someone who specializes in this sort of thing that we could ask about this?"
"What about that Meji thing you were talking about earlier, Wesley?" Fred suddenly asked.
"Medjai." Wesley corrected, "An old acquaintance from the Watcher's Council knows a bit about them. Fortunately he lives here in LA now. I tried calling earlier, but there was no answer."
"Well, first things first. We need to get that book back from Wolfram and Hart." Angel headed for the weapon cabinet.
How does that old saying go? The best laid plans of mice and men..?
What Lilah wanted to know was, why was it always her plans that went awry? There would be no being able to blame someone else on this one, she'd already taken credit for the successful early stages. Of course with the way this was going, the senior partners would probably be the least of her worries.
She really should have researched this... man... a little better.
It wasn't until he'd been standing before her, alive and no longer a dried out corpse, that she'd gotten her first inkling that she was in so far over her head she'd be swimming for days to break the surface.
There, dried out corpses at his feet, menace in his stance and blazing anger in his eyes, stood Imhotep. He scrutinized her closely, making her feel like she was being examined under a microscope. A deep voice, as cold as the arctic, clipped out a single name.
The first time they had done this kind of thing, it had been fun.
As far as Gunn was concerned, throwing a vampire into the lobby and watching the place go nuts was infinitely preferable to walking into the lobby to find the place in an uproar, with a couple of bodies splayed out on the floor.
But the thing that really worried him was the look of absolute horrified terror on Lilah Morgan's face. For lawyer lady to be scared, he just knew that the big guy standing next to her with a smirk on his face was bad news, with a capital B.
And since when had he been able to read anyone's emotional state just from their expression anyway? Hell, he'd definitely been spending too much time around Barbie and Angel.
Angel's determined movement towards Lilah pulled Gunn's attention out of his thoughts, and onto the situation at hand. Retrieving the black book... that tall, tanned and presumably psychotic held firmly in his hands. Damn. He sighed. So much for that brief and totally unrealistic fantasy he had had -- that getting their hands on the book was going to be easy. Taking a deep breath, he followed Angel and Wesley, pushing his way through the panicked flood of people trying to get out of the building.
"Lilah." Angel was practically growling at the lawyer and she backed up a couple of steps.
"Angel. So nice of you to drop by." Even as shaken as she was, Lilah wasn't about to let Angel gain any ground on her. She had survived this long on her brains and her ability to brazen out almost any situation. Things weren't about to change just because she may have bitten off more than she could chew.
Angel took another threatening step towards her only to be stopped by a hand gripping his throat.
Now he was protecting her? Lilah was more than a little puzzled. And disturbed. Since reviving him, Imhotep had swung between practically ignored her presence, and constantly making sure she was always close by. The impression she'd had -- that he was angry with her for some reason -- had solidified into a kind of cold certainty that terrified her. Terror was not normally an emotion she allowed herself to feel. It signaled weakness, and at Wolfram & Hart, the weak never lasted long. But Imhotep terrified her. She had seen how easily -- how thoughtlessly -- he had killed those who had helped revive him.
She couldn't help but wince as Imhotep hoisted Angel up and threw him across the room as casually as if Angel had been an insect.
On the other hand, Imhotep's brand of malevolent power had it's perks too. No doubt, later she'd rather enjoy the image of Angel being tossed across the room. Supposing of course, that she lived to see later. Now if she could only figure out why he was so angry with her. Or why he was suddenly protecting her.
Trying to take advantage of Imhotep suddenly being busy, Wesley and Gunn both rushed the ancient, Wesley grasping the book, while Gunn tried to deck the larger man. All to no avail, a quick backhand sent Gunn reeling, and a strong push sent Wesley across the room in both the same direction and the same manner as Angel.
Really, under other circumstances she'd be enjoying this. Watching the collected muscle of Angel Investigations getting trounced was most definitely on her wish list. Pity then that at the moment she was almost hoping that they may be able to stop Imhotep.
You know what? OW!
The fact that this wasn't the first time he'd ever been thrown across a room did not mitigate the fact that it *HURT*, thank you very much. Angel got to his feet, turning just in time to see Wesley suffer the same fate he had only moments earlier.
Ok, this? This wasn't good. Who the hell was that guy?
Steadying Wesley as Wesley pulled himself off the floor, he began: "That the book from Cordy's dream?"
"I would assume so." Wesley muttered back. " He doesn't seem very inclined to part with it unfortunately."
"I think it's safe to say that our normal approach of beating the crap out of him, isn't going to work."
"*Your* normal approach. And I would tend to agree."
"Nothing is coming to mind. You?"
"Other than the overwhelming desire to kill him? No."
Wesley was silent for a moment. "Go with your approach."
Angel pulled his sword out from under his coat. "I'll go for him, you go for the book. Think that Gunn can take care of Lilah?"
"The Pope Catholic?"
After being thrown across the lobby Angel should have realized that this...man/demon/thing was strong. He realized it now. Of course he was pretty sure that he had a broken cheekbone. Again he got to his feet and attacked, trying to give Wesley a chance to grab the book. Over his opponent's shoulder he caught a glimpse of Gunn pointing a crossbow at Lilah, who had steadily been backing away from the scene in front of her.
Fully expecting to be sent flying across the lobby again, Angel aimed a kick at his opponent's mid-section and was surprised when it connected, causing the man to grunt and stumble backwards, dropping the book in the process.
Wesley scrambled for the book as Angel swung his sword. He didn't know what surprised him more -- the fact that Angel had managed to get a couple of good blows in, or the sight of the severed arm that suddenly dropped in front of him. The part of him that remained detached and didn't go briefly into shock, noted that there was no blood on the limb. There were two sounds that blended together, then. A male cry of "Imhotep!" and a growl that definitely *wasn't* Angel.
Wesley looked up in time to see Angel and two black-robed figures land in a heap near the lobby doors. Angel began to smoke and smolder and quickly scrambled out of the reach of direct sunlight.
A hand reached down and grasped the arm. Wesley's gaze followed as the hand re-attached the arm to the body it belonged to.
The sight was too much for the ex-watcher, his mind seemed to find the whole thing just too much and shut down. He... He had just *re-attached* a severed limb. This... this thing... Slowly the earlier male cry penetrated Wesley's fog. Imhotep. Imhotep. Oh God. Cordelia, dreams, book, bracelet. IMHOTEP. Oh God.
The low growl from the man standing over him, snapped Wesley's mind back into a functioning state and he tightened his grip on the book, hugging it close to his chest.
A smirk spread across Imhotep's face and he drew a deep breath, slowly exhaling, his jaw opening widely as a large swarm of locusts poured out of his mouth on his breath.
The panicked screams throughout the lobby intensified as people desperately tried to swat the insects away from them.
Wesley just closed his eyes, tightened his grip on the book again and began to pray.
Which meant that he missed the almost unbelievable sight of Imhotep grabbing Lilah by the arm and exploding into a whirlwind of sand that twirled across the room and out of the lobby doors before slamming the doors closed, leaving an almost hysterical silence in it's wake.
"Are you sure about this Cordy?" Fred asked as they rapped on the imposing door in front of them. "Angel did say you weren't to leave the Hotel."
"Angel said that I wasn't to leave the hotel without someone with me, and you're here. On top of which can we say over-react much? I'm sure Wolfram & Hart don't have a clue we know anything, so where's the danger? Besides, we need more information about what we're dealing with, and I have a feeling we don't have a lot of time." Cordelia frowned and shifted her weight. "So who is this guy anyway?"
"Jonathan O'Connell. He used to be a Watcher so he won't think you're crazy when we tell him about the dreams. At least according to Wesley. Apparently he knows a lot about Ancient Egypt. I wonder why Wesley didn't contact him to start with?"
"He didn't contact him because he didn't know he was in LA. The last Wesley knew he was working at the British Museum."
"Great, we're going to see another Giles." Cordelia muttered under her breath as the door begun to swing open. Her breath caught as a shockingly familiar man appeared in the doorway, his breath smelling faintly of liquor. This man looked almost exactly like Rick O'Connell, man who had turned up in the first of the dreams, then appeared in most since. This was getting very, *very* creepy.
"Yes?" Jonathan O'Connell squinted against the early afternoon sun at the two figures on his doorstep. He wasn't particularly in the mood for visitors right now, current developments being what they were.
The younger of the women in front of him managed a nervous "Hi!" as the other cleared her throat. "Hello. I'm Cordelia Chase, this is Fred Burkle. Um... a friend -- Wesley Wyndham Pryce -- said you might be able to help us? He tried calling earlier, but there was no answer. We need some information on Ancient Egypt, in something of a hurry." There was silence for a couple of moments. "Can we come in?"
O'Connell shrugged. "Doesn't make much difference. I'd love to help but I really don't see much point considering the world is about to end." O'Connell was rather gratified to see the reaction that his announcement caused. Both young women looked stunned, then confused -- which was an improvement in Cordelia's case. She had been looking at him like she'd seen a ghost.
"The end of the world?" she frowned and shook her head.
"Wouldn't Lorne have noticed something like that?" the younger woman asked her.
"Nope, not the end of the world," Cordelia continued on as if Fred hadn't said anything. "If it was I'd be bombarded with visions now. Wouldn't I? And besides, haven't we already done the 'it's-the-end-of-the-world' thing to death already?"
Visions? What visions? It was then that O'Connell remembered that Wesley was no longer with the Council. He was working with the vampire Angel now -- if the rumor mill was to be believed. Visions. This young woman must be a Seer. Well this made things a little more interesting. "Had a bit of experience with this sort of thing have you?"
"You have *no* idea."
"Well, in that case, you may as well come in." he opened the door wider to admit them. As he led them through the house he continued; "There's really nothing to be done about this one. It's begun already and we don't have the means to stop it."
"Are you always this doom-and-gloom?" Cordelia asked as they entered a library. She saw Fred's eyes light up as she surveyed the floor to ceiling bookshelves that surrounded the room on three sides.
"Wesley and Angel would be in heaven in here." Fred whispered. Cordelia almost groaned. Yes Wesley and Angel would both love a library like this, and Fred looked like she would too. Well, she *had* worked in a library. She turned her attention back to Jonathan O'Connell.
He was leaning over the back of a high backed chair that was seating an elderly man. Both men were now staring intensely at a small television set. Jonathan quickly glanced over his shoulder at her and Fred, absently he introduced the man in the seat as his father. "Anything new?" he asked the elder O'Connell.
"No. Not yet." he answered, absently swirling a glass of bourbon.
Cordelia approached the pair, curious to see what held their attention. She froze as the images on the screen triggered instant, crystal clear recall.
"Nooo! You must not read from the book!"
The sudden shout startled Evelyn. There were a few moments silence before a strange noise reached her ears. Instinctively moving closer to Rick, she turned in search of the source and saw a dark wave come rolling out of the desert. The wave of locusts swarmed over the ruins of the city walls, inundating the camp. Rick grabbed her hand and dragged her into the ruins of the city.
Behind her she could hear the American's Egyptologist; "What have we done?"
"Which one is next?" Jonathan asked, "The water turning to blood or the boils and sores?"
"Oh gosh." Fred's whispered exclamation pulled Cordelia's focus back to the present.
"You see?" Jonathan began as they watched locusts swarming around the Wolfram and Hart building and the surrounding streets. "It's started. He's back. And we don't have the book to kill him. He's just going to get stronger and stronger..."
"Book?!" Fred looked sharply at the two men. Did they mean the Book of the Dead? They knew about it?
"The Book of Amun-Ra." The elder O'Connell informed her tiredly. "It holds the incantation that can kill the creature."
"Creature? A demon is doing this?"
"He's not a demon, although I suppose it depends on your definition of demon."
"Imhotep." Cordelia whispered still staring in horrified fascination at the screen. Were Angel, Wesley and Gunn all right?
"How do you know that name?" The elder O'Connell's sharp question drew her attention away from the television.
"You know about Imhotep?" She asked hesitantly. He nodded, staring at her with a puzzled frown. "Oh, yes! Thank you! I knew he was real, I knew I wasn't making him up!"
"You've been having dreams about him." His face was now almost neutral and he wasn't asking a question.
"Umm... yeah. How did you k..." She trailed off as something in his eyes told her just who this man was. "Alex."
It was almost eerie.
For the most part the entire Wolfram & Hart building was empty. Empty that is except for a few people on the upper most floors who were still working away with no idea that anything at all had happened.
And excepting the small group of people gathered in the lobby, arguing with each other.
"What part of that did you not see?" Angel demanded angrily. "We did *not* just *let him go*!"
"You released the creature..." A woman in black robes began.
"Uh, excuse me?" Gunn interrupted. "We did *not* release him. We haven't released *anybody*." He considered what he'd just said, then added; "Lately."
The woman continued as if he hadn't spoken. "...and now we must go on the hunt. We must find a way to kill the creature, *before* he causes too much damage."
"No," Angel corrected, "*you* are going on the hunt. *We* are going home. We've got what we came for. Now I want to go home and make sure that Cordelia and Conner are all right."
"Speaking of which..." The woman held out her hands. "The book. Give it to us now."
"No." Wesley tightened his hold on the book for the hundredth time. "We don't know who the hell you are, and we would no just hand it over in any case."
"You don't know what you're dealing with!" The woman stepped forward angrily, only to be stopped by the restraining hand of her companion.
"Aisha. Stop." The softly spoken command carried immense authority and almost immediately the woman subsided. "What would you do with the book?" The man's gaze was assessing, not curious. "What need of it do you have?"
"Need?" Gunn snorted. "Buddy we'd be a hellava lot happier if the damn thing didn't exist." The stranger inclined his head, as if acknowledging the appeal of the idea.
"We don't need the book," Wesley began.
"Don't particularly want it either." Angel muttered.
"...we don't want to use it," Wesley continued, ignoring Angel, "and we would be much happier if we could destroy it." Thinly veiled alarm flared in the stranger's eyes before Wesley continued. "However, that isn't for us to decide. We will however be returning it to the people who *can* make that decision."
The stranger's lips quirked as he nodded. "Very well."
"Aisha." The woman glared at him, but kept quiet.
"So, are we done here?" Gunn asked, staring worriedly out of the glass front of the lobby.
"Yes." Angel began to head for the doors, pulling his coat up and over his head.
"I think you can forget about that. In fact I don't think we'll have to worry about the blanket or hitting the tunnels either."
Gunn nodded to something outside the building. "That."
The rest of the group moved forward to take a look at what Gunn was seeing.
"Uh..." Wesley was at a loss for words. "There isn't supposed to be an eclipse today."
"It's the creature." Aisha informed them. "It has begun, the beginning of the end."
"Are you always this ... optimistic?" Gunn frowned.
"So what are we up against here?" Angel asked as he looked out on the streets shrouded in darkness.
"The end of the world." came the grim reply.
"So we stop it." he shrugged. "How?"
"You don't understand, no mortal weapon can kill the creature. He does not eat, does not sleep and he will never stop. Things will just keep getting worse until his curse covers the earth."
There was complete silence for a full minute following that pronouncement. Then Wesley turned to Angel.
"You get to tell Cordelia."
Jonathan O'Connell was used to weird. He'd trained with the Medjai and been a Watcher for the better part of 12 years. He'd killed his fair share of vampires and demons and faced the prospect of the end of the world a grand total of two times. The weird had become the normal.
Despite having grown up hearing the stories about Imhotep and the Scorpion King he hadn't really thought about the reality of those stories. Sitting on his Grandmother's lap hearing about how his grandfather had been so very brave in killing the Scorpion King and Imhotep, the subjects of the stories seemed no more real than the monster who lived in the washing machine, eating only one of every pair of socks.
He knew the story. He knew the *stories.*
How Imhotep had been reborn after his Grandmother had read from the Book of the Dead. How he had brought the Ten Plagues of Egypt with him, raining brimstone from the sky and inflicting boils and sores on the population. How he had kidnapped Evelyn so he could kill her to bring back his dead girlfriend.
He knew about his father being kidnapped by the bad guys working with Imhotep because Alex had tried on the Bracelet of Anubis in a fit of curiosity, then couldn't remove it.
He couldn't remember a time where he didn't know that his Grandmother had been an Egyptian Princess -- Seti I's daughter -- in a previous life. His Grandfather a Medjai, or that his father had had to bring Grandmother back from the dead using the Book of the Dead because the re-incarnated Ank-su-namun had killed her.
Today was the first time that he'd ever been confronted with the reality of the stories however.
They'd found out that the Book of the Dead was in LA too late and someone had beaten them to ...acquiring... it. That in itself was worrying, but certainly not panic inducing. No, panic had set in when they received word that there had been digging out at Ahm Shere. That Imhotep's corpse had been removed, crated and shipped. To LA.
Jonathan was a firm believer in the idea that there were no such thing as co-incidences.
Which of course was proven when he'd turned on the television to discover locusts swarming throughout LA.
Imhotep had been revived. And his curse would spread until the entire world was engulfed. And there wasn't a damn thing they could do about it without the Book of Amun-Ra.
He felt helpless. It wasn't a feeling he particularly liked. There was nothing he could do to stop this. No mortal weapon could kill Imhotep, not now. Not without making him mortal first. And the book they needed to do that was buried at Humanuptra, in a pool of dark liquid, under the ruins of the city and god-only-knew how many tonne of sand.
All in all it was a particularly good time to get drunk. A condition he'd started working on only a few minutes before being interrupted by these two women, one of which who was bringing her head level with his grandfather's, staring at his face.
Had he told them his father's name? He couldn't remember doing so. Unless that scotch he'd managed to down had hit him harder than he'd thought, he was pretty sure he hadn't. So how did she know?
"Mum?" His father's broken whisper sliced through the sudden quiet of the library.
Oh, that's how.
It took a moment for the word to fully register, then; "WHAT?!"
There were days when the smog could get pretty bad, and on rare occasions the fog wold roll in and visibility would drop, this this? Creeping through traffic, headlights very necessary, in the middle of what supposedly was day? Creep. Very, very creepy. An eclipse was one thing, but eclipses as a rule didn't last more than a couple of minutes and this had been going on for the hour it had taken them to make it back to the Hyperion.
Cordelia sighed as she turned off the ignition and slid out of Gunn's truck. Headlights died behind her and two men climbed out of a late model Ford.
Alex, eyed the eclipse uneasily. "You know what this means, don't you?" he asked as they made their way into the Hyperion.
"Yes Alex, I know what this means. And we will find a way to stop Imhotep, but first I want to make sure that everyone is all right.
"The guys are going to freak when they find out about this." Fred predicted.
"They were in a building that was swarmed by locusts. How freaked could they get?"
"I mean that we left the hotel."
"Pfft. They'll be fine."
"Cordelia!" Angel greeted his seer, a fussy Connor on his shoulder. "What part of 'You are not to leave the hotel without one of us with you.' did you not understand?"
"I had Fred with me!" Cordelia protested as she reached out and took Conner from him. Conner instantly stopped fussing, snuffled a couple of times and went to sleep.
Angel glared half-heartedly at his traitorous son, then demanded. "Where were you? We've been worried sick."
"Jonathan O'Connell?" Taking a break from the pile of books that weren't telling him what he needed to know about Imhotep, Wesley was staring at the O'Connells with a puzzled frown. "What are you doing here? Did you get my message?"
"I say... You don't happen to know anything about a mummy...person... by the name of Imhotep, do you?"
"Funny you should ask about that." Alex laughed nervously. "I don't suppose you have any idea what is causing the unscheduled night out there?"
Angel looked apologetically at Cordelia. "We didn't get there in time, and... well, there's been an interesting development."
"You mean Imhotep being revived?"
"Imhotep has been revived." he nodded, then frowned. "How did you know?"
"Locusts swarming Wolfram & Hart? Solar eclipses on demand? Very biblical-ten-plagues-of-Egypt-y." Cordelia shrugged, "Couldn't be anything -- or anyone -- else."
"'And he stretched forth his hand and there was darkness throughout the land of Egypt.'" Alex quoted. "And I have to say that I obviously spent far too much time with Uncle Jon, and am now stealing his lines." His eyes alight with humor he feigned a glare at Cordelia. "It's all your fault."
"My fault!?" she was taken aback at the sudden attack, until she saw the teasing light in Alex's eyes. "What did I do?"
Alex snorted, and imitated in falsetto, "'Take Alex. Go help Rick.'" His voice deepened, "'Why don't you stay here with him?'"
"Hey, that wasn't me! That was your father!"
"I know. Oh, and let's not mention all the times you used Uncle Jon as the babysitter! As if I needed one!"
"What are you complaining about? You two got along like a house on fire. Practically joined at the hip."
"He was a bigger kid than I was!"
"I know. We were hoping you'd be a good influence on him!" Cordelia retorted, not realizing that she had been speaking as if she herself was Evelyn O'Connell -- something that hadn't gone unnoticed by any of the other people in the room.
Angel had watched the exchange with growing uneasiness -- and a vague sense of jealousy at how... at ease Cordelia seemed to be with the two men. Dreams were one thing. They could be written off as an extension of her powers as a seer, or perhaps a manifestation of her shiny new demon aspect. But this? Carrying on a conversation as if she were somebody else? This...this was not good. Not when you factored in Imhotep. Not when you factored in how Cordelia knew... she *knew*... what was going on, and just how bad it was. Somehow this -- these people, the black robed couple... and Cordelia. Somehow they were all involved in what was going on with Imhotep and Wolfram & Hart, and he wasn't liking it. This put Cordelia directly in the firing line, the last place he wanted her. So he was almost afraid of the answer when he turned to Jonathan O'Connell and asked, "Do we want to know?"
Jonathan considered the question for a moment. "That depends. Do you have a problem with strange and completely unexplainable-unless-I-want-to-sound-absolutely-frogging-looney things happening to her?"
"Then no. You don't want to know."
Angel wasn't reassured, but he didn't have the courage to ask. Lorne however had only just arrived and had missed the strangeness of Cordelia's return to the hotel.
"Know what?" he asked, taking a seat next to Jonathan.
It must have been the shock of coming face-to-face with a green skinned, red-eyed demon that made the words come out the way they did. Which is to say, completely wrong.
"She's my grandmother."
"Past lives? Ok. Can someone explain this to me from the start?"
"From the start? That could take a while. And quite frankly, we don't *have* a while."
"Cliff Notes version?"
"I don't know about Cliff Notes, but we might be able to manage a condensed Reader's Digest version. Dad?"
"Best person to start this would be Cordelia."
"We need to start the story in Ancient Egypt."
"Oh, make me dredge up the memories why don't you?" Cordelia sighed as she settled herself back into her chair, Conner asleep on her shoulder. "Where to start..."
"Cliff Notes, Cordy." Wesley reminded.
"I know, I know. Ok. 3000 years ago, Imhotep was Seti's high priest. Ank-su-namun was Seti's mistress, and Seti was planning on marrying her. Needless to say having an affair with the Pharaoh's mistress is not a thing to do if you want a long life, but Imhotep was... well personally I think he was too arrogant to think that the rules applied to him. When Pharaoh discovered the affair, Imhotep and Ank-su-namun killed him." Cordelia drew a shaky breath. "They stabbed him in the back. I saw it happen but I'm not real sure what happened after that, everything goes black. Cliff Notes enough?"
Jonathan took up the story. "The Medjai -- Pharaoh's bodyguards -- killed Ank-su-namun. Imhotep stole her body and took it to Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead. He planned on reviving her, but the Medjai interceded before he could complete the ritual. They cursed Imhotep with the Hom-dai and mummified him alive."
"They buried him *alive*?" Gunn grimaced.
"Well, not really. They *mummified* him alive. Basically they cut out his tongue, wrapped him in linen, and then locked him in a sarcophagus with flesh eating scarabs. *Then* they buried him."
"So what's this ... Hom-dai?" Wesley asked, his mind whirling. If they could break the curse... So he hadn't had any luck in finding a way to break or modify Angel's curse, that meant he was due for some luck, right?
"It denies a soul access to the afterlife. For the Egyptians, that was a big deal." Alex said.
"As far as anyone knows, Imhotep was the only person the Ancient Egyptians ever performed the curse on." Cordelia added, then looked at Alex, "Unless you've discovered another one in the last 60 years?"
"So the curse is that bad?"
"Well, they never used it because they feared it so." Cordelia elaborated, unconsciously taking on Evelyn's speech patterns. "It's written that if a victim of the Hom-dai ever arise, he'll bring with him the ten plagues of Egypt."
"I hate to point this out," Gunn frowned, "but this isn't Egypt. So why are we getting the Ten Plagues replay?"
"The plagues follow Imhotep." Alex explained. "He's the source."
"So Wolfram & Hart dig him up, revive him and here we are." Angel murmured thoughtfully. "So where does Cordelia's dreams fit into this? How *does* she know that the book would bring him back from the dead? And this bit about her being your," he looked at Jonathan, "grandmother?"
"Ah," It was Alex's turn to play storyteller, "the next part of the story happened in Cairo in 1923 when my Uncle Jonathan found..."
"Stole." Cordelia corrected.
"... a puzzle box. He took it to his sister -- my mother -- who was working as a librarian at the Cairo Museum of Antiquities. She opens the box and finds a map to Hamunaptra."
"And then Dr. Bey had to go and burn off the part with the location of the city..." Cordelia added.
"...so Uncle Jon had to admit that he 'found' the puzzle box when he picked the pocket of a drunk at the local casbah."
"That drunk being Rick O'Connell who was in prison for... uh... if I remember correctly the warden phrased it, 'He was just looking for a good time'."
"They were going to hang him..."
"Apparently he had a *very* good time."
"...but Mum managed to save his neck..."
"Only because it didn't break when they hung him."
Alex glared exasperated at Cordelia, "Would you just let me tell it?!"
"Hey, I'm remembering more of this as we're going! Don't knock it or I might forget something important."
Alex sighed. "Dad had been to Hamunaptra before -- that's where he got the puzzle box from -- and Mum being the curious type that she was..."
"'Didn't have enough experience in the field.' Hah! And where was I supposed to get the experience when no-one would hire a woman archaeologist? I had to get the experience somehow. The Bembridge Scholars didn't want me to run the British Museum back then, you know."
"...got him to take her out there."
"Only to run into those beastly Americans."
"At Hamunaptra, Mum goes looking for the Book of Amun-Ra, which she thinks is buried at the base of the statue of Anubis. Instead she finds a sarcophagus. Imhotep's sarcophagus. The puzzle box turned out to be the key to the sarcophagus."
"And after three thousand years, he was still decomposing in there."
"'Juicy' was how Great-Uncle Jon phrased it." Jonathan smiled.
"Have you two quite finished?" At Cordelia and Jonathan's nods Alex continued. "On the same day the Americans found the black book -- The Book of the Dead -- buried where Mum figured the Book of Amun-Ra would be buried. Curiosity being a terrible fault of hers..."
"So speaks he who tried on the Bracelet of Anubis and ended up being used as a super-natural tour guide."
"... she stole..."
"... the book and did a bit of reading. Aloud."
"Famous last words being: 'It's just a book. No harm ever came from reading a book.'" Jonathan grinned.
"I know better now."
"And so start the plagues. For reasons that aren't really important... I say, they aren't important are they?" Alex paused and looked questioningly at Angel. "When you saw Imhotep, was he fully regenerated?"
"I think so. How would we know?"
"Did he look human, or like a dried out corpse?"
"In that case the reasons aren't important, but Imhotep goes on something of a killing spree, retrieves the book... and becomes a little fixated on Mum, figuring that she's the perfect sacrifice for the ritual that he needs to perform to bring Ank-su-namun back from the dead."
"And about being kissed by a 3000 year old half decomposed mummy? EWWW!"
"Imhotep abducts Mum and takes her back to Hamanuptra to perform the ritual. Dad and Uncle John follow, find the book of Amun-Ra, and after freeing Mum she finds the inscription that lets them kill Imhotep."
"So he *can* be killed." Fred asked.
"You need the incantation in the Book of Amun-Ra."
"Where do we find that?"
"Underneath a whole lotta sand, debris and rubble in the middle of the Sahara Desert." Jonathan informed her.
"Any other ideas?" Angel asked.
"Only one." Both Alex and Jonathan looked at Cordelia. "Don't suppose you remember the incantation?"
Cordelia was a little surprised to suddenly find herself the center of attention. She squirmed slightly, "Well, not really. I've been trying to remember the damn incantation for the last two hours, ever since Alex told me where the Book of Amun-Ra is. For some reason all I keep coming up with is something about a Turkish Mall and paradise. Somehow I don't think that's it."
"Even if Cordelia can remember the incantation -- and that's an awfully big ask -- how would we find him?"
"Yeah, he ain't at Wolfram & Hart anymore." Gunn added. "He left in a real spectacular swirl of a mini sandstorm."
"Normally I'd say he'd go looking for Ank-su-namun, but considering that the last he saw of her was when she was fleeing rather than helping him, I doubt that it's his first priority." Alex sighed.
"His dead girlfriend?" This time it was Lorne who asked the obvious question. He knew that this wasn't really a good time for this kind of thing, but he had found the re-telling of the story amusing. It would have been downright hilarious if it wasn't from the tension and jealousy the Princess's ease with the O'Connell's were generating in the AI crew.
"Yeah. When I was eight, Ank-su-namun -- or rather the re-incarnated version of her -- dug up Imhotep. They went to Ahm Shere to try and defeat the Scorpion King and take control of the Army of Anubis. Imhotep got his arse kicked by Dad, Ank-su-namun got her butt kicked by Mum and Dad killed the Scorpion King. Ahm Shere began to collapse in on itself and instead of helping Imhotep off of a ledge he was clinging to by his fingertips, Ank-su-namun ran.
"It's kind of where the bracelet comes in." Cordelia told them.
"Bracelet? The Bracelet of Anubis?" At Cordelia's nod Alex sighed. "I'm so glad that that thing is still buried at Ahm Shere."
"Uh... well... actually... It's not."
"The Bracelet of Anubis. It's at the Museum that Wolfram and Hart stole the book from... Alex?!"
Alex had gone as white as a sheet. "It's here? Are you sure?" he asked hoarsely.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Are you Ok? You don't look so good."
"I'm... I'm fine." he gulped. "We need to get to the bracelet before Imhotep does."
"Why?" Wesley asked.
"Yeah, other than the willies the idea of Imhotep having the bracelet gives me, it's not like we have to worry about the Scorpion King. He won't awaken again for another 4900 odd years, right?" Cordelia agreed, "Assuming of course that Rick killing him wasn't permanent. Things seem to like coming back from the dead around here."
"You're right that we don't have to worry about the Scorpion King." Cordelia sighed in relief. "But the bracelet still holds the key to the army of Anubis." he added.
It was Cordelia's turn to turn pale. "You've *got* to be joking." Alex just shook his head. "Oh this just keeps getting better and better." she moaned, burying her head in her hands. "Turkish Mall, Turkish Mall, Paradise, Paradi..."
Despite having trained with the Medjai and despite having been a Watcher for thirty years -- before a disagreement with Quentin Travers had Jonathan losing his temper and decking the man, leading to both Jonathan and Alex leaving the Council -- this would have to be the most... unsettling and terrifying situation that Alex had ever found himself in.
Oh sure, 'trying on the Bracelet of Anubis and being used as a super-natural tour guide' -- as Cordelia had earlier put it -- had been as scary as all hell. And he'd faced the end of the world, in one form or another, on and off since he was eight. That was always a bit panic inducing.
This however was *most definitely* panic inducing. Terror inducing even. Events that had haunted his nightmares for years had made themselves real and flesh again. The only thing that was holding him back from collapsing into a useless panicked heap on the floor was the young woman wearing a path into the floor in front of him.
That, at least in spirit, his mother was here... well it was the difference between needing some serious meds and coping. But still, "I wish Dad was here."
Cordelia swallowed her irritation at being left behind while 'the menfolk' went to retrieve the bracelet at Alex's plaintive words. She lowered herself to sit beside him at the bottom of the stairs. "This must be pretty scary for you, huh? Your nightmares coming back to life."
Alex managed a small smile of acknowledgement. "I'm not the one who's been dreaming about taking a header off a multi-story building. Or dying after being stabbed Ank-su-namun."
Cordelia grimaced. "Do me a favor? Don't mention either of those to the guys? I'd never hear the end of it."
Alex nodded in understanding. "Don't the visions work like that anyway?"
"Yes, but in the visions it isn't 'me' dying."
"It's so strange. This... knowing all these things. And what happens after this is over? Will I still know... still remember and have all of these memories, or will they fade? Or will they keep coming until they overwhelm me and I'm not really me anymore?"
"I'm not really sure. All I've got to go on is what happened with Mum. It was like they memories took over at first, but she was still Mum. Almost like someone with Multiple Personality Disorder. Then it faded and she was just Mum... with all these other bits that showed themselves when necessary."
"So the past lives won't take over?"
"No. I don't think so."
"Worried about that a lot, huh?"
"Yeah." The lobby was silent for a few moments before Cordelia began to mutter, under her breath. "...Turkish Mall, Paradise, Paradise." She sighed. "Damn, that's not it."
He considered her mutterings for a moment. "Do you mean Parad Ous?"
"Do you mean Parad Ous?" he asked again. "If you're remembering what the incantation sounded like, that's what Paradise would most likely be."
"Parad Ous? Parad Ous." She tested the sound of the word on her tongue. "Turkish Mall, Parad Ous. No." She closed her eyes, trying to remember the dream again. "Turkish Mal, Parad Ous. Not quite. Kurkish? Kurdeesh? " Her eyes flew open. "I've got it! Kadeesh Mal, Parad Ous!" She grinned in triumph, then froze as a thought occurred to her. "Does Imhotep have to hear the words for this to work?"
Alex was stumped. "Uh... I have no idea," he admitted.
"Kadeesh Mal, Kadeesh Mal," Cordelia ran for the front door, muttering. "Parad Ous, Parad Ous." As Alex joined her in the unnatural dark, following her gaze to the still obscured sun. She turned to him. "I'm going to go with 'Yes-the-evil-3000-year-old-corpse-needs-to-hear-the-words."
He pulled his keys out of his pocket. "You drive."
There was something to be said for having extra help around when everything about a situation went into the toilet.
That the extra help just happened to be Aisha and Kadeen, the mysterious black robed warriors from Wolfram & Hart was... well it was a little disquieting. And something he would have to deal with later. Right now, Angel had much more pressing things to worry about other than why those two seemed to be following them.
Like fighting for his life... or unlife.
This Imhotep guy was strong and fast, and quite frankly Angel was getting sick of being thrown across rooms... or into wooden display cases. Pulling himself to his feet, his pride was gratified to see that neither Aisha or Kadeen were having any better luck with Imhotep than he was. But at least they were keeping the creature away from the Bracelet that they were both after. Unfortunately Imhotep was having the same luck with them.
There was the sound of glass shattering as Gunn shoved a vampire into a display case.
And that was their other problem.
Imhotep hadn't come to retrieve the bracelet alone.
He was working with Lilah. Of *course* he hadn't come alone.
At least they could feel lucky that the minions doing battle with Gunn, Wesley and Jonathan were only vampires. They could have been demons. That scenario had the potential to be so much worse than vampires.
As Imhotep knocked Aisha aside and began to attack Kadeen with a sword taken from one of the displays, Angel attacked again.
Under most circumstances Lilah Morgan didn't permit herself to feel terror. This however was not most circumstances.
A 3000 year old regenerated Egyptian high priest seemed to have taken a rather terrifying interest in her, his attentions were almost... obsessive. She would have called the attention almost lover-like if it weren't for the distinct impression she had that he was coldly furious with her about something. She had the uneasy feeling that her own terror of the man was combining with someone else's, almost paralyzing her.
Not quite so much that she couldn't recognize and grasp an opportunity when it arose though.
With Imhotep pre-occupied with Angel and the rest of the minions dealing with the rest of the Angel Investigations team, Lilah grabbed the Bracelet that Imhotep had been after and slipped out of the chaos engulfed room. As long as she had the bracelet she was safe. If Imhotep won, not only would Wolfram & Hart be rid of Angel but she could also claim that she had gotten the bracelet for him and gone to safety. If Angel and his white hats won, well... she still had the key to this army thing. The Senior Partners probably wouldn't be very pleased, but they wouldn't kill her. She was almost positive. She was also almost home free...
...until Angel's Seer and an old man filled the doorway.
"Going somewhere Lilah?"
Hate so strong it almost overpowered her exploded in Lilah's stomach. This woman should be dead. The visions should have killed her by now. The psychic hacker that Angel had killed should have done a more complete job. *She should have been crushed when Ahm Shere collapsed in on itself, just as she had been.*
And suddenly Lilah knew why Imhotep was so cold and furious at her. More importantly she knew who Cordelia really was... and why she hated her so much.
Pain -- dagger sharp -- lanced over her upper arm as the sais gouged a trail into her skin. She jerked back, instinctively moving away from the offending weapon. Away from the woman handling the weapon with an elegant savagery.
The woman sighed, taking a step back and bringing an arm up to remove the protective gold mask from her face. "You must learn to suffer the slight injuries without reaction. Your opponent will expect you to fall back, protect an injury -- giving you the opening to attack." The words were designed to teach, almost an apology, but the eyes held a vicious triumph that revealed the woman's true feelings.
These training instances were full of small incidences like this. Incidences that appeared innocuous enough, but actually held a darker edge.
Nefertiri was unable to say what it was precisely that had first made her take such an active dislike to her father's mistress. As time had passed, she had come to the realization that the woman was power hungry and vicious, a realization that had deepened dislike to loathing. She could have made an issue out of Ank-su-namun's treatment of her she supposed, but she chose not to 'rock the boat'. Her father was planning on marrying Ank-su-namun and nobody, not even his daughter, would question the Pharaoh's right to choose his wives.
Her father wasn't completely blind when it came to his mistress however. He had detected some tension between her and his daughter and had asked Ank-su-namun to train Nefertiri in battle, in hopes that some time spent together would ease the animosity between them.
What the Pharaoh didn't know was that Nefertiri had been forced to take additional lessons from the Medjai, because Ank-su-namun had left large gaps in her education -- gaps that would prove fatal in battle.
Out of necessity, Nefertiri had become adept at noticing details. How to correctly hold a weapon, even when Ank-su-namun had instructed her differently. How to execute moves that she hadn't been shown, but would be forced to try in battle. It was an imperfect way to learn, as several scars on her body could attest, but it was effective. Nefertiri occasionally wondered if Ank-su-namun realized just how much she had been unintentionally teaching her student.
"Again." Ank-su-namun demanded, taking a stance, sais confidently held at the ready.
Nefertiri quickly checked the wound on her arm and, after seeing that it wasn't serious, complied.
The first clang of metal on metal was accompanied by a large boom that made both women jump apart in shock. Finding the source of the noise Nefertiri saw her father, accompanied by several Medjai, entering the room. He seated himself in full view of the training floor and indicated for them to continue.
As always between them, the battle was fast and furious. Block, parry, attack -- it was a deadly dance, performed at a rapid pace, beautiful in it's intricacy. It was that intricacy that found Nefertiri on the floor, blade to her throat. Although improving daily, she was no match for the more experienced woman.
A loud clapping echoed through the large room, Pharaoh approaching the two women. Ank-su-namun removed the blade from Nefertiri's throat, stood and pasting a smile on her face turned to face her master.
"Good. Very good." Pharaoh began, as Nefertiri climbed to her feet. "I am most impressed. In fact, I have tasks for both of you." Pharaoh was beaming at the two women proudly.
It was Nefertiri who spoke, "A task father?" she was puzzled, "What do you wish me to do?"
"My daughter, we are in need of a new protector for the Bracelet of Anubis. I believe that you would be most suited to the task."
Both women gaped for a moment in amazement. To protect the Bracelet... it was a great honor. But also a great responsibility. With the danger that the Bracelet posed -- should it ever be lost or stolen then those with it in their possession could conquer the world -- the protector was in effect responsible for protecting Egypt.
"Father, I don't believe that I am the right choice for such a task." Nefertiri felt compelled to point out. "I was bested. Surely Ank-su-namun would be a better choice."
"Indeed. For who better to protect *me*?"
Several months later, on a day where that question had been asked again, Nefertiri stood on the balcony of her apartments and watched in horror as her father discovered his High Priest Imhotep and Ank-su-namun together. As Imhotep drew the Pharaoh's sword, she cried out for the Medjai to help her father, then watched helplessly as Ank-su-namun drove a dagger into her father's back.
Painfully steadying himself Angel looked up at Imhotep just in time to see Aisha -- who the creature had been holding up by the throat -- level a solid kick into his groin.
With a pained grunt Imhotep dropped the girl, who stumbled back into Angel. As Angel tried to steady both of them a roar came from the creature and a force propelled them away from the Ancient Egyptian.
From his new position on the floor outside the room he'd just been literally thrown out of, Angel quickly surveyed the chaos beyond the doorway. Wesley, Gunn and Jonathan had almost completely finished dealing with Imhotep's minions. Jonathan was now frantically searching the ruins of the cases for the Bracelet before Imhotep beat them to it. His search hadn't gone unnoticed, Imhotep was stalking his way towards him.
Angel climbed to his feet and was about to throw himself at Imhotep again when a cry stopped him cold.
He spun to find the source of the cry and saw Cordelia launch herself at Lilah. If his heart had been beating it would have stopped. As it was he went cold.
Lilah raised her hands to block the attack, dropping something heavy and... gold? The bracelet!
He glanced over his shoulder to discover that Cordelia's cry had also caught Imhotep's, Jonathan's and Kadeen's attention. He turned his attention back to the two struggling women. He was going to have to have a talk to Cordelia about following orders and staying *out* of harms way. He didn't want anything to happen to his Seer, yet she kept throwing putting herself into situations where she was in danger. Maybe he should consider locking her in her apartment? Seeing that neither woman was armed, and considering that Imhotep was almost at the doorway, Angel searched for the bracelet as he darted across the room, spotting it in Alex's hands, as the elder O'Connell backed away towards the door.
Imhotep's outraged cry; "You!!" went almost unnoticed as the clang of metal on metal pulled Angel's attention back to his Seer. He was going to have to revise his original opinion about neither woman being armed...
*Now* he had a real appreciation for the sais skills that she had demonstrated on him a few weeks ago.
Strike, parry, thrust, spin, at an incredible pace the two women were dueling with a sais in each hand. Cordelia ducked under one of Lilah's attacks, spinning under Lilah's arm, bringing her elbow down into Lilah's stomach. Completing the spin she struck out, gouging a path into Lilah's cheek. Lilah gasped, bringing her hand to the wound.
"*Now* would be a good time!" Alex panicked as the subject of more than a few of his nightmares approached him.
Lilah, always the opportunist, took advantage of the shift in Cordelia's attention and ran.
"MUM!!" Alex managed to scream just as Imhotep lifted him by his shirt front.
Angel and Kadeen attacked the mummy as Jonathan tried to reach his father, their reward for which was being tossed across the room, swatted aside as if insects.
"HEY!" Cordelia was now exceedingly pissed off. First Lawyer Girl/Ancient Egyptian Bitch and now this... this...*creature* was hurting her friends. Well not for long!
Standing in the doorway Wesley and Gunn saw Imhotep stiffen, lower Alex and turn to stare in horror at Cordelia as she began the incantation.
"...Parad Ous, Parad Ous!"
A ghostly chariot appeared at one end of the room. Passing through the display cases it raced toward Imhotep, passed through him, and continued through the exterior wall now carrying the ghostly image of Imhotep.
"Wasn't that supposed to kill him?" Wesley asked, confused as he stared at a extremely angry Imhotep.
"No. But you'll be able to kill him now..." Cordelia backed away as Imhotep turned his attention towards her. "Angel..?"
Angel smiled grimly at the prospect of being able to finally do something about this guy. "Whatever you say Cordy."
Imhotep having been dealt with Angel turned to make sure Cordelia was alright, only to find her doing the same thing for Alex. He tamped down the rush of jealousy that flooded through him. Well, he supposed that that meant that she was ok. They were definitely going to have to talk later.
"This place looks like the Mall in The Blues Brothers. *After* Jake and Elwood had trashed the place." Gunn commented, surveying the damage. The only response was a choked whimper from the corner of the room.
They turned to see the curator, disheveled, wide-eyed and gaping, trying desperately to form an understandable sentence. Finally he succeeded.
"The insurance company is *never* going to believe this!"
*Two Days Later*
"Where do you want this?" Alex asked the Medjai chief standing next to the four wheel drive in his son's driveway. *This* was a large chest containing the Bracelet of Anubis. "Sucker weighs a god-damned tonne."
"Alex, watch your language!"
It was hard to say who was more startled at the sharp admonishment that flew out of Cordelia's mouth, the people surrounding the vehicle or Cordelia herself. Alex was the first one to recover however, grinning. In the most upper class English accent he could manage he repeated the words he'd retorted to his mother 65 years earlier; "Rather weighty this!"
Heat flooded Cordelia's cheeks as Alex grinned at her, Kadeen taking the chest from him. The whole situation with her being Alex's reincarnated mother was still strange... and more than a little disturbing when things like that flew out of her mouth before she could stop them.
"Thank you." The tall Medjai leader turned to face the assembled group. "You have earned the gratitude and respect of me and my people."
"Oh, well that's nice. Thank you." Angel squirmed under the Medjai's gaze.
"You've got the Book?" Jonathan asked, peering through the vehicle's windows.
"Yes. It is already on it's way back to Egypt."
"Try and keep it safe this time, hmm?" Alex smiled slightly.
Kadeen nodded, a rueful expression on his face.
Waving goodbye, they watched the vehicle drive away until it's rear lights disappeared from view.
Angel couldn't help the smile that curved his mouth as he watched the scene in front of him.
Cordelia was rocking in the rocking chair, Conner in her arms hungrily sucking on a bottle of formula. In a low voice she was telling him a story.
"...and the dirigible finally lifted up and away, leaving Ahm Shere to sink into the sand like bathwater with the plug pulled. And as they started home, Jonathan and Izzy started arguing over who owned the huge diamond that Jonathan had plucked from the top of the pyramid. What happened with that diamond is a story for another night, little man."
"You mean you know what they did with it?" Angel raised a brow.
Cordelia looked up, startled at his sudden appearance. "I'm going to put a bell around your neck if you don't stop sneaking up on me." she threatened with a small smile. "Yeah I remember what they did with it. Of course I'm going to have to clean up the story a bit to make it suitable for the G audience..."
Angel crossed the room and gently lifted his son into his arms. "You didn't tell us everything about those dreams."
"What? Of course I..."
"Jonathan let it slip about Evelyn dying at Ahm Shere."
"Why didn't you tell us?"
"Because you'd make a bid deal out of it? You'd go all caveman overprotective when there was nothing you could do? Basically I knew you'd freak."
Angel thought on that for a moment. "Any thing else you left out?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Put it this way, Evelyn was *very* happily married for a *very* long time."
It took a moment for Angel to understand what she was getting at. "Oh. Um...That I don't want anymore details of."
"That's what I thought."
The sat in silence for a moment. "So you've been having dreams about what Jonathan did with the diamond?"
"Nah. It's all coming back like memories now. There are huge gaps, but..."
"Must be scary."
"Some of it. But a lot of it is good. Nefertiri may have died young, but Evelyn didn't die until the late 70s." A gentle smile curved her lips. "Gives me hope. Maybe we'll last that long."
Angel gazed down at Conner, then back at Cordelia. And for the first time in a long time he let himself believe in something a little more long term than getting through the next day.
"Yeah. Maybe we will."