The first word of English Evy ever learnt to say was “mama.” The first word of Arabic she ever learnt was “ohmeh.” The first word of the Old Tongue, as her mother called it, meant the same.
Her mother was Egyptian, smart and beautiful, the fertility of the black land in her hips, the wisdom of ages in her eyes, and Evelyn knew, the way children know these things, that her father married her for the love of the land more than the love of the woman herself.
She was a Coptic Christian, their language what gave Champollion the keys to unlock the secrets to the language of the black land. Her name was “Ese” for her kin, and “Eshi” for the Arabs, but Evy learnt very young that it meant “Isis,” the mother goddess of the Egyptian holy trinity.
These were the three languages she grew up with, that one word her first step to all of them, but she never realised how beautiful the word really was until the first time she heard it naming herself.
Of course, she was never completely sure what her son's first “mummy” actually referred to.
“It is a primary source! Rick, this is the first person speaking Egyptian as their mother tongue for centuries, millennia! We have all just assumed, but now we know Champollion was right, I...”
“Let me get this straight. While the rest of us were freaking out like hell, you were busy taking notes on his enunciation?”
“Well, it was hard not to... That's not the point. The point is...”
“The point is, that we need to kill the thing, and fast, and forget its linguistic abilities.”
“But can you at least admit how huge this is for the scientific community!”
“And don't think that I don't care about them, but this... this is bigger than our lives!”
“And if you write it down – if we survive – who the hell will believe you?”
“Oh.” Evy's smile died, her shoulders stooped. Of course she couldn't share this with anyone. She would never be accepted to study or work anywhere if she did.
“Oh,” she repeated, turning away, feeling like she'd been drenched in cold water, not just because of their impending doom but because she had really thought Rick might understand.
Why had she thought that? Rick was like Jonathan, they only cared about the monetary value of their finds. When he'd got that kit of tools for her at Hamunaptra so that she could continue her work, she had thought... had thought it meant he understood. So he had stolen it, which made it a little dubious gift but as she had long ago learnt not to consider the origins of any present from Jonathan, that hadn't bothered her unduly.
But maybe he didn't, after all, care about... about the things that made her, her. She remembered her mother, loved by her father for what she represented, more than who she was, and wondered if it would be any better to be wanted for what she looked like than for what she was, or even what she represented.
“Evelyn...” His voice was quiet, all heat gone now. “I'm sorry. I can see how that... Why that would be a big deal. Is a big deal. For you. And, you know, scholarly type of people. Smart people. Like you.”
She didn't turn to show him the smile his words brought on her lips.
Their name was invaluable to their superiors, for their work. They were known in the field of archaeology, had contacts all over Europe, even in the museums and universities of Germany and Austria. She was Someone, she had a legitimate reason to travel, she had her own money to finance it.
When she wore her hair in a bun, wore her glasses and the demure dresses of her youth she looked like what she was – a librarian. No one suspected a librarian of daring rescues in the middle of the night, dangling from a rope from a window of an SS castle, or carrying vital messages within her lecture notes.
And because she had faced an indestructible mummy with all the plagues of Egypt, nothing human tended to worry her unduly.
Rick was a revelation too. She was so used to him being the gung-ho-charge-at-problems-guns-out soldier that sneaky Rick was a nice change. He had glasses perched low on his nose and an over-sized cardigan hiding the fitness of his body, and he was following her around like a clumsy puppy, dropping books and stuttering.
(His French pronunciation was still atrocious but no one in the French underground cared because he always managed to travel with more guns than anyone could expect.)
It wasn't the boy king Tut-Ankh-Amun or all his treasures that moved Evy as much as the presence of two stillborn babies within his tomb. Royal children, too young to merit their own grave? The hope of a continuing dynasty, offspring of an uncle and a niece, mere children themselves? What had the young queen thought, losing a child after child and then finally her husband, only to disappear herself into the pages of history, without a trace.
Would they one day find her tomb, find out what happened, when the 18th dynasty gave way to the 19th, to Ramesses and his golden age of Kemet? She had always been drawn to that period more, the new renaissance of art and religion, of massive temples and hidden tombs. Visiting Karnak always felt like coming home to her.
Of course, when she regained the memories of her past life, that mystery was solved. It was a homecoming for her – she had been a part of the dynasty herself, a daughter of Seti, sister-wife of Ramesses the Great, Nefertiri.
Ardeth was convinced Rick had been there too, destined to protect her in all her lives. She wondered if she'd ever remember, whether she even wanted to. If Rick had been a medjai, and she had been a princess who became a queen... She couldn't believe her soul wouldn't have loved his soul, whatever vessel they inhabited, but what good would have come of that?
Sometimes when Evy dreamt about her past, she wasn't sure if they were emerging memories or mere dreams.
Sometimes she dreamt of mundane chores, of endless fight practice, of serving in a temple, of eating, bathing, playing with her children. Sometimes she dreamt of the death of her father, of the night that started everything. Those days she found it hard to shake the melancholy feeling even when awake.
But some nights she dreamt of Rick, and those dreams were different from everything else. She dreamt about the taste of his skin, so different yet so similar. She dreamt about the feel of his muscles against her body, the look of adoration in the eyes so strange and yet so familiar, so beloved.
In the dreams she knew he was not her husband, not the god on the throne whose duties she shared, whose children she gave birth to, and a part of her was horrified to find she didn't care. Her soul and his were meant to be together, regardless of everything else, and maybe the physical union never happened in the past, maybe it was wishes and fantasies she dreamt about, remembering the want unfulfilled.
But those nights she woke up restless and burning, and more often than not she woke up her husband, sleeping by her side, and showed him the way they did it in the old kingdom.
Evy learnt to pick her battles but on some things she never compromised, and in her quiet way she never backed down. She could be quiet about her heritage, she could bide her time with her career, but she would never compromise on who she was.
When people mocked her for trying to be a boy, or imitating Americans, when she spelled her name “Evy” instead of the expected “Evie,” she didn't care. They weren't invited to use the name anyway, it was only for her family and closest friends.
When people accused her of trying to coast along the fame of her last name, she ignored them. She was proud of her parents and their achievements, and knew the name gave her so many more opportunities than being a plane Miss Smith would in the masculine world of Academia.
Names had power, and maybe a part of her believed, like the ancient Egyptians, that as long as a name survived, the soul survived. Adding her own fame – or infamy – to the family name was like an offering of food placed on the altar of her parents' tomb, a sacrificial gift for the nourishment of their ka.