Ardeth Bay watched them leave in that horrid flying monstrosity. He nodded his head to them, Rick and Evie O’Connell. He wondered if he’d ever see them again. He’d not think about that right now…
But he did think about it.
The first time he’d ever seen Rick when he was a Colonel with the French Foreign Legion at Hamunaptra. They had somehow woken something evil in the city of the dead. When they’d let Rick escape, he never thought the man would survive the desert, much less change his own life as much as he and Evie had.
But he had. There had been more to Rick O’Connell than he’d thought.
The second time he saw Rick was when he showed up back at Hamunaptra with Evie, Jonathan and the other one, the prison warden, on camels and followed by a group of ignorant, treasure hunting Americans. He knew by then that nothing in his life would ever be the same.
Earlier, Dr. Bey, a brother of the Medjai, had sent him a note that Evelyn Carnahan and her wastrel brother, Jonathan, had somehow gotten a map that would lead them to the city of Hamunaptra and the Book of Amun-Ra. Miss Carnahan was determined to locate this book and bring it back to the museum. She truly did not understand what it was. To her, it was a book of interesting incantations. He knew it to be too dangerous for anyone to own.
And then, there they were, fighting the idiotic Americans and ancient evil and, Allah help him, Imhotep himself. He was worse than Ardeth could have ever imagined and he been raised to protect the world from this traitorous monster. He had no choice but to step in, even if it meant harm to Rick and Evie.
Then almost as quickly as it began, it was done and Imhotep was sent back to the dead. Rick and Evie had fallen in love. He had pondered what it would be like to have a woman to love, a family, but the order had been his only family for most of his life. He had been raised for this one task, this one thing, as had his own father and his father before him back three thousand years. As they had once guarded the Pharaoh, they now guarded against the undying evil that had killed their Pharaoh.
When he was a young man, he had rebelled and gone to Cairo and learned of the hedonistic life that he could have there. All he need do was give up his God and his mission. It had not been hard to leave the brothels and gambling dens behind for his home in the desert, but he took a few memories with him of how it might have been, had he not had his life planned out the day he was born.
He had been surprised to see Evie and Rick back in the desert several times. Evie and her brother were part Egyptian so they had a home in Cairo as well as one in the England. The couple had actually found and ridden to his encampment after they were married.
“Ardeth!” Rick jumped down from the horse he was riding, helped Evie down then pumped Ardeth’s hand in a handshake that could only be from an American. “We wanted to thank you again for all your help.”
“I was only fulfilling my mission.”
“I want to thank you for not shooting him the first time you saw him,” Evie said with a twinkle in her eye. “You saw something in him that I didn’t. He was shaggy and filthy the first time I met him in jail. Jonathan said he could get us to Hamunaptra and that was enough for me.”
Evie was dressed in native dress while Rick still looked like a cowboy. He welcomed the sight of them, glad to see westerners for once in his life. After they had gone back to England, he had missed them and their foreign ways more than he’d ever have believed. The world seemed a little duller without the whirlwind of activity that seemed to follow them.
Rick grinned. “We got married since you’ve seen us.”
“We are working together now,” Evie told him. “We hunt treasure, well, we hunt things for the museums, mostly. It’s a lot more fun than cataloguing books though.”
Ardeth had heard of some of their more dangerous adventures. They had a habit of running into greedy, unscrupulous treasure hunters, men who thought nothing of murdering anyone who got in their way.
“You should be more careful,” he said as he showed them the tent they would stay in.
“We’re careful,” Rick said. “And starving! When do we eat?”
Ardeth and his brothers had no need for servants but they still set a good table. They had a spicy rice dish called koushari, bread, and lamb skewered over the fire. They sat long into the night talking of their lives though little was said of the childhoods of either man. Rick mentioned that he had grown up in an orphanage in Cairo.
“You had no parents?” Ardeth asked.
“My mother died and my father was not around.” That seemed to end that subject so Ardeth asked about Jonathan.
“I am sure he is in jail somewhere or about to be,” Rick answered. “He is either the luckiest or unluckiest man alive and I’m not sure which.”
It was late when they all went to their tents. Ardeth was not far from Rick and Evie and he felt lonely as he heard their muffled talk and Evie’s laughter as the camp became quiet. And yet, he was happy that they had one another. Both of them had somehow become dear to him and they deserved happiness.
Time passed before he saw them again.
Evie was heavy with child the next time he saw them. She was overjoyed and Rick was terrified.
“How do I know how to be a father? I barely remember having one at all.”
Ardeth had asked him a question. “What kind of father did you want to have?”
“I wanted a kind, brilliant father who loved me and spent lots of time with me.”
“Then be that man for your child. I am sure that you will do fine.”
Rick clapped him on the shoulder and thanked him.
Ardeth again felt an intense loneliness that was only offset by his happiness for his friends. His life was one of solitude but he had known this from the time he was a boy and began to train as a medjai. He had a purpose, a holy one, and it was an honor to have such a gift.
He met young Alex when he was but a few hours old.
Ardeth smiled at the pink little bundle and gave him a finger to squeeze.
“Isn’t he handsome?” Evie had asked.
Ardeth couldn’t really tell if he was or not but he nodded. It seemed to be what was expected. “Yes. He is a fine son!”
Solemn eyes had gazed into his own at the words and Ardeth knew he would protect this child as if he were kin.
Jonathan had arrived as well. “Do you think he looks like me?” he asked.
They all laughed as the child was the spitting image of Rick.
The visits were fewer as the child grew but they usually came to the desert once a year to spend some time with Ardeth. When the boy got old enough to go to school, the visits slowed even more but he thought of them every day and Evie wrote to him almost every month. Alex wrote, too, telling Ardeth of his adventures with his parents and how he longed to take up archaeology when he grew up.
He went to London to warn them when the cultists had come to steal the bracelet in order to find the Scorpion King and had another wild adventure, trying to rescue Alex and save Evie from Imhotep yet again.
He saw by his tattoo that Rick was probably the son of a medjai himself but the American didn’t seem to know anything about it. Ardeth was content to let it lay. Someday they would explore it more.
And they were gone, back to London, back to their real lives, leaving him here.
And here he would stay.
To protect them.