Jonathan sat in the largest tent in the camp, among numerous colourful pillows and blankets. He could still hear the celebration happening outside, however, it was somewhat muted and he was thankful for that. He just wanted sometime to himself, before...before...Jonathan felt as if he was going to be sick.
He sat large pillow, staring down at the tribal markings winding their way up his arms, the mark of the tribe, of the man he now belonged to tattooed deep into his skin, never to be erased. With a tired sigh, he closed his eyes, thinking back on how he had ended up in this situation.
They were all sat in a tent. Jonathan and Evie beside each other, as they were stared down by thirteen men dressed from head to toe in black with only their eyes peeking out. The thirteenth man, who was clearly the man in charge, was seated in front of them with his men standing behind him in a semi-circle, his dark hard eyes staring at Johnathan.
Rick and Alex were being held in another tent, as Jonathan and Evie tried to sort out their current predicament.
Evie began, "can you tell us who you are and why you have brought us here?"
At Evie’s question the man's dark eyes snapped to hers and Jonathan saw his sister flinch from the hard look in them. He reached over and grasped her hand, giving her as much moral support as he could.
Those dark eyes looked down at their clasped hands with what Jonathan could only describe as disdain before looking back up at Evie.
"Who are you and why have you come to Hamunaptra?"
"I am Evelyn O'Connell and this is my brother, Jonathan. The older gentleman you are holding elsewhere is my husband Rick and the boy is our son Alex. I am an Egyptologist and Archaeologist. We had heard myths about Hamunaptra, however, we found a map to the city and decided to come and see if it is real."
Evie reached into her pocket and produced the little box in which they had found the map, only for one of the men to pluck it from her open palm.
"Hey!" She said indignantly.
Jonathan squeezed her hand, "come now Evie, let's not make this any worse than it already is." He tried to reason with her, his eyes glancing at all the men in the tent, happy when he felt her relax. "Remember they still have Rick and Alex."
The chieftain nodded at the man who gave him the box, expertly opening it and retrieving the folded map that was inside it.
"I am Ardeth Bay, Chieftain of the Medjai warriors and you are trespassing."
Without another thought, the man who introduced himself as Ardeth Bay promptly set the map on fire. Jonathan swore he heard the breath leaving his sister as they watched what his sister surely would refer to as blasphemy happen before their eyes. He rolled his eyes heavenward, knowing what was about to happen.
"Oh dear Lord, help us get through this with all our limbs intact." He said under his breath before Evie released his hand and stood so suddenly her chair toppled over.
"Are you mental?! Do you know what you have done?!"
Those dark eyes looked at her quiet calmly, the room was so quiet and still, Jonathan swore that everyone could hear how hard and fast his heart was beating. Evie was still looking down at Ardeth, fury burning in her eyes from what he had just destroyed.
He reached out and grasped Evie's wrist but she shook him off, daring to take a step towards the men who could kill them without even blinking an eye.
"Evie, maybe you should remember where you are."
"Be quiet Jonathan." She snapped. "This wanker just destroyed a very important piece of history!"
Jonathan's eyes widened and he was up and out of his seat, standing in front of his sister by the time Ardeth had risen from his seat and took the few steps to close the space between them. As a result Jonathan's slight body was now the only thing protecting his little sister from immediate death.
"Look at what you did Evie." Jonathan said through the side of his mouth, his eyes not leaving those dark ones that seem to be piercing his very soul. "Umm...” he tapped her side with his hand, "move back a little there for me ol' mum."
"Oh, Jonathan, just move out of the way and let me at him." Evie tried pushing him out of the way, but Jonathan stood fast, not budging an inch.
He was about to about to reprimand his little sister, who surely had a death wish, again when Ardeth spoke.
"I can assure you Mrs. O’Connell, that I am most certainly no an idiot. And burning that map is to protect you and all others who may have found it."
"Protect us from what?" Evie demanded and Jonathan felt her fold her arms across her chest, as her elbows were now poking him in his back.
Ardeth open his mouth only for Jonathan to cut him off.
"How about we sit and continue this conversation? I am sure we would all be more comfortable that way." He suggested, smiling brightly hoping that Evie would not raise another stink and he would not be gutted by one of the two swords hanging on Ardeth's hip.
However, instead of being run through by a sword, Jonathan released a breath of relief when Ardeth stepped away and around them, righting Evie's chair that she had knocked over before retaking his own seat.
The siblings sat back down.
"Evie, please, I beg of you just reign in your temper. We are foreigners in a very foreign country and I very much like my limbs attached to my body." Jonathan beseeched his sister under his breath.
He got an annoyed huff and rolled eyes in response.
Jonathan turned back to face the man whose eyes were looking at him with what he could only describe as 'interest' as were the men behind him who were nodding their heads at each other and he felt unease slide down his spine.
"Has your sister always been like this?"
It took a moment for it to register that Ardeth was addressing Jonathan.
"Oh? Ah," he glanced at his sister who looked at him, "yes, she has always been like this. She has a great love for Egypt."
"Our father travelled a lot and he met our mother here and married her." Evie explained.
Jonathan was not sure, but he would swear that Ardeth smiled under his tagelmust.
"So, you are children of Egypt."
"That's one way of looking at it." Evie responded.
Ardeth nodded, "still I cannot allow you to return to Hamunaptra, not only for your protection, but everyone who inhabits this world."
Jonathan glanced at his sister and saw that glint in her eyes; the thirst for knowledge that hopefully Ardeth would sate instead of chopping them to pieces.
"You said that before," Evie began, "what exactly are you trying to protect us from and does that justify the killing of innocent people?"
Jonathan had read in the message sent to him at their hotel, that a few persons from the group expedition had been killed when their camp was attacked by Ardeth and his men. The rest that had been spared had ran for their lives. Only Evie, Rick and Alex were captured, seeing as how they were in the tomb at the time of the attack, only to return to the surface and come face to face with the massacre and guns pointed directly at them.
"If it prevents that plague of a creature from being brought back to life then my answer is 'yes'." Those dark eyes that were smiling a few minutes ago, were now hard as they glared at Evie and then Jonathan. "In addition, not all who venture into Hamunaptra are innocent. There have been many who have tried over the years to find the creature and resurrect him."
Evie leaned forward in her seat. "What creature is this?"
Jonathan shook his head slowly, catching Ardeth's attention.
"The creature is Imotep, the former high priest of Pharaoh Seti I. He had a love affair with-"
"Excuse me Chieftain Bay," Jonathan interrupted Ardeth.
Those dark, intelligent eyes met his and Jonathan felt a shiver of fear roll down his spine.
"Before you continue, please know that my sister's thirst for any knowledge about Egypt will have us here all day with her infinity of questions, if not all week since she has before her an intelligent man whose knows the history of this place."
Jonathan swore he saw Ardeth sit up a little straighter at the compliment.
"However, since you and your men are tasked with the job of keeping us and others from Hamunaptra, I gently suggest that you let us get out of your hair and just send us on our way."
He was dealt a sharp slap to his arm by an irritated Evie.
"Could you just," Jonathan was up and out of his seat, dragging Evie with him. "Excuse us for a moment."
The men behind Ardeth all had their hands on their swords at the sudden movement, however, Ardeth held up his hand signalling them to not attack just yet. He watched as Jonathan dragged Evie to the door of the tent and as the siblings began a heated discussion.
"Evie, I suggest we thank them for their warning and leave while our heads are still attached to our necks." Jonathan suggested.
Evie rolled her eyes, "so far Ardeth has been rather forthcoming with information. They have not done anything to us."
"Yet. They have not done anything to us as yet. There is still time." His voice was tinged with a bit of hysteria.
"Stopping being such a baby Jonathan. Our trip to Hamunaptra has been cut short-"
"-but right here we have a wealth of information."
"We? What 'we'? There is no 'we' here. I told you it was a bad idea to visit a place also known as The City of the Dead."
"No Evie." He said sternly, "you are my baby sister and it is my job to protect you. So, I will query when we may leave and we will do so with no complaints from you."
Evie knowing she was beat when Jonathan pulled that tone with her cut her losses. "Fine, go do your lawyer thing and get us out of here."
However, unbeknownst to them, there was a hushed conversation taking place among an exasperated Ardeth and his men.
"What do you think of him Chieftain?" Kareem, the youngest warrior asked Ardeth, whose eyes had yet to leave Jonathan's slim form as he spoke with his sister.
Khadim, the second to youngest spoke next, "he is smart, well spoken, brave. Not a lot of people has the courage to stand up Chieftain." The other men nodded, murmurs of agreement could be heard.
Ardeth rolled his eyes, knowing what his men were doing.
"Not to mention he is quite easy on the eyes and has Egyptian blood flowing through his veins." Zaire, Ardeth's second in command and the same age as him chimed in.
"All of you be quiet." Ardeth said as brother and sister made their way back to their seats.
"Thank you for giving us a moment of privacy." Jonathan smile politely.
"And so well mannered." Latif, Kareem's older brother commented under his breath.
"I am assuming that since my family and I are not dead as yet, it is because somewhere deep down you are willing to spare us."
Ardeth tilted his head contemplating his words.
Jonathan wanted to scream. He was desperately missing his sister, his little nephew and even his brother-in-law. He had made sure that they be on the first steamship out of the country, with detailed written instructions to his law partner to have all of his possessions and money transferred to his sister and her family.
Tears fell from his eyes, falling onto his arms and he angrily scrubbed at his face. He kept reminding himself mentally that he agreed to the deal. His family was in danger and if the sacrifice was one life instead of three, then he would gladly give his.
The look that Ardeth was giving Jonathan made alarm bells go off in his head.
"Is-is something the matter?" Evie asked, noticing the look that was being sent her brother's way.
"Well, that depends on your brother's answer to my question Mrs. O'Connell."
The siblings shared an uneasy look with each other.
Jonathan gulped. "And just what is your question sir?"
"What would you do for your family?"
That was an extremely dangerous question and a trap. Jonathan knew this; as soon as he had received word of Evie and her family's capture, he had set out and rode all night to reach the encampment. He also stood between her and the tribe's leader, protecting her. It was not hard to answer the man's question, he just knew that answering it honestly was going to seal whatever fate had in store for him.
"Anything." He answered, his voice firm and his eyes unwavering. "I would do anything for my family."
There was a dangerous glint in Ardeth's eyes. "Including giving up your freedom for theirs?"
Both siblings answered simultaneously.
Evie grabbed his arm to get his attention, "Jonathan, no. You can't do that. I got us all into this mess, let me suffer the consequences."
He smiled gently at her, "and I am your older brother. It is my job to protect you."
"Not like this." Her eyes were filled with tears threatening to spill. "Let him have me instead."
Jonathan opened his mouth but was cut off by Ardeth.
"Mrs. O'Connell it is not you that I want, the main reason being that you are married and I will not break up a happy marriage." He calmly explained only to be met with twin looks of confusion.
"I beg your pardon. I do not understand." Jonathan was beginning to fret. "What does being married have to do with killing me?"
"Killing? Who said anything about killing you?"
"Then what do you plan on- oh my God." Evie looked horrified by whatever conclusion she came to.
"What?" Jonathan looked from Evie to Ardeth. "What?"
"He plans to marry you." She said in a horrified voice.
"What?" Jonathan's voice was tinged with hysteria. He looked at Ardeth, "you can't do that. You can't force me to marry you."
Ardeth did not spare him a glance. "I will marry your brother Mrs. O'Connell. He will stay here in Egypt while you, your husband and son will go back to England and if I ever receive word that you have set foot back on Egypt's sand, I will slice open your brother's throat."
They could not gauge Ardeth's facial expression, thanks to his face being covered, but those cold, dark eyes said enough. He was not making idle threats.
"No," Evie's voice shook and tears filled her eyes and spilled over down her cheeks gone pale with fear. "You can't." She looked at Jonathan, "Jon."
"Shhh, come here ol' mum." Jonathan got up from his seat and pulled his crying sister into his arms. He held her tight to him as he consoled her, whispering promises that it was going to be alright.
"No, I cannot leave you here. Not with him. He will hurt and abuse you Jon." Evie grabbed fistfuls of his clothes, holding tight as if that could save him.
"I have no intentions of being cruel or mistreating your brother Mrs. O'Connnell."
Ardeth's words fell on deaf ears as brother and sister held each other for what would be one of the final times they got to do so.
"Come on Evie," Jonathan produced a pristine white handkerchief from his pocket and gently wiped her face.
"I just wanted to study our heritage. I did not mean for this to happen." Evie sniffled, looking up at him with red, sorrow filled eyes.
"I know, but nothing to do now except accept the deal presented to us, which I must say is pretty great considering the alternative."
Then, as if remembering that they had an audience, Jonathan with his arm still around Evie's shoulder turned to face the man who would become his husband so that his family could go free. "I accept your offer, but I only ask that my family immediately be released and allowed to return to Cairo so that they may collect their belongings and be on the first steamship out of Egypt."
Ardeth nodded his assent.
"I also request that I accompany them so that I may say 'goodbye' to them properly."
"And what is to prevent you from escaping with them?"
Evie, finally having dried the last of her tears for now, turned to face the man who was tearing their family apart because of her thirst for knowledge. "Send one of your men with us to keep an on him." She suggested.
"You will accompany them back to Cairo and ensure that Mr. Carnahan does not try to board that ship as well."
Zaire gave a small bow, "as you wish Chieftain."
Saying goodbye to his family was heart breaking.
Alex, being just eight years old, no matter that he was smarter than most children his age, he could not understand why his favourite uncle was staying behind and not coming back with them.
Evie's eyes were red rimmed, but she had not cried since they were allowed to return to Cairo.
And Rick, the only time Jonathan had seen Rick shed a tear was the day he wed Evie. He promised that he would return for Jonathan, while Jonathan in turn made him promise not to keep that promise for all their sakes.
They all stayed up, sans Alex who had fallen asleep with his head on Jonathan's lap, during the night, no matter how much he said that they all needed their sleep for the coming trip. It was the last time they would spend together as a whole family and they did not want to lose these last precious few moments to sleep.
The next morning at the port was the hardest. Alex was outright bawling, drawing looks of passersby and Evie was cutting off his oxygen from how tight she was holding him.
"Evie, Evie, come now." Rick was gently prying her from Jonathan. "He's turning blue and we need to board now."
"No." Evie had tears streaming down her face.
Jonathan had yet to shed a tear and he was not about to do so when Evie was so clearly ready to throw him over her shoulder and run aboard the steamship. Gently, he grasped her arms, easing her hold on him. "Go on ol' mum, I will be alright. I will write you as often as I can. Go on now." He urged her. "Rick, take her."
Rick took her into his arms, his hand wrapped around Alex's thin wrist, "take care of yourself Jonathan."
"Take care of my sister and nephew, Rick."
The two men nodded at each other, and at the sound of ship's horn, the final call for all boarding passengers, Rick walked his family to it. Jonathan waited until they had showed their passes and got on the ship before turning sharply and hurrying his way through the crowd, not wanting to stand there and see the ship, his family leave without him.
"Sir, sir!" Zaire called to him as he followed Jonathan through the crowded port.
With a tired sigh, Jonathan turned to face the man. "Yes?"
"Ardeth instructed me that as soon as you have collected your belongings at the hotel, I am to escort you back to the camp."
He was so tired, that his brain had not fully registered the name said to him. "Who?"
Was that pity in Zaire's eyes, Jonathan was not sure and at this point he did not care. "Ardeth Bay, sir. The man you are to marry."
"I was instructed to escort you back to the camp after your family had departed."
"Ok, let us be on our way then." Jonathan did not wait for a response before he began walking again, tears burning hot in his eyes.
Jonathan was back in the tent, this time it was only him and Ardeth, both of whom had yet to utter a word to each other since Jonathan's return some fifteen minutes ago. However, whereas Ardeth's dark eyes were closely examining Jonathan, the Englishman had yet to even look in his direction, something that greatly bothered him.
"Tell me Mr. Carnahan, do you have a great love for Egypt as well?"
Jonathan visibly flinched at the sound of that dark voice breaking the tensed silence.
"Seeing as how you are forcing me into a marriage I want nothing to do with, I think it would be best if you called me 'Jonathan'."
"Then please do call me 'Ardeth'."
"Well Ardeth, to answer your question I would prefer somewhere a little more tropical to be honest. This climate is another extreme that I am being exposed to. I mean, I am from London, England where it is cold and wet, then I travel to a country where the weather is hot and dry."
Ardeth's chuckle at his answer was dark and rich. "You do not mince your words do you?"
"What exactly am I getting myself into here?" Jonathan finally looked at Ardeth, weariness for the man sitting in front of him shining in his eyes. "What will happen to me after we are married?"
"You will remain in Cairo. I have a house in the city, where you will stay and I will visit you when I am able to. It will also make it easier for you to exchange letters with your family."
Jonathan scoffed at that, dragging a hand down his face. "I need to find a job. I cannot just live in that house doing nothing."
Ardeth nodded, "I know. Your sister said that you are a lawyer. I have contacted a friend of mine who is the curator for the Museum of Antiquities. There is a job waiting for you there as he is in need to a lawyer."
"You thought of everything haven't you?"
"Jonathan, I know that this a sudden and unexpected change for you. I am simply doing what I can to make it easier for you."
"If you knew what this was doing to me, you would not do it." Jonathan snapped. "What now? What happens until the ceremony?"
This time, it was Ardeth who looked away from Jonathan and he immediately knew that he was not going to like what he heard next.
"We will only spend tonight apart seeing that the marriage ceremony is tomorrow."
"T-tomorrow?" Jonathan's voice was barely a whisper. "Why so soon?"
"I thought it would be best to get this out of the way as soon as possible."
"If it is such task why go through with it? Why put me through such torture? Allow me to go back home."
Ardeth shook his head, his eyes regretful. "I am sorry my friend, but I cannot allow that."
"I am not your friend!" Jonathan snapped, standing up from his chair in anger. "I am your prisoner. No matter how you look at it, I am your hostage and will be that until the day I die!" He took a breath trying to calm down "My apologies, I am understandably overwhelmed by the situation at hand. If it is my sister that you are worried about returning to this country, both myself and Rick can keep her from returning."
Ardeth regarded him with a calm intensity that made his anger return.
"Say something!" He screamed.
"Jonathan,” Ardeth rose from his chair and Jonathan took a terrified step back. He held his hands up, showing that he meant no harm. “You will not be mistreated by me or anyone in my tribe. You will not be abused, neglected, or whatever other horrors your might have conjured up in your mind."
"Your words are not really comforting right now, considering you told my sister that should she ever return, you would slice my neck open."
"I would never do that." Ardeth admitted, taking another step foward, only this time for Jonathan to take another step back, putting his vacated chair between them as a buffer. "That was an idle threat meant to keep her away."
Jonathan shook his head. "You forget that you are speaking to a lawyer. That was no idle threat Ardeth. It was real and you know it. Do not lie to me."
"You are right. I am sorry."
"So, I will not be mistreated, but you will kill me if you have to.”
"I have to get out of here." Jonathan fled the tent. Walking hurriedly through the camp until he reached the tent that had been given to him for the time being.
Jonathan felt as if he could not breathe as he looked around the opulently decorated tent. This was the same tent in which he had spoken to Ardeth in just the day before, but at the same time it was not. There were so many pillows and blankets making up the nest in which he had situated himself, there was a table with wine, bread, cheese and fruits laid out for the newly married couple to enjoy.
The ceremony that took place only an hour ago felt like a life time ago as Jonathan thought back on it. He had been dressed in fine robes of Ardeth's family and instead of exchanging rings, similar tattoos were tattooed into their skin. During all that, Jonathan had yet to look Ardeth in the eyes.
He had yet to even touch the man. Not that he wanted to.
Drawing his knees up to his chest, Jonathan dropped his head down on his, folding his arms around his head as if to block out the world. He would not cry. It was a hopeless situation, but he would not cry. Soon he would be back in Cairo, living by himself in Ardeth's house and from he understood, he would hardly see the man, something that brought a little light into the bleakness of what was now his life.
At the sound of someone entering the tent, Jonathan held up his head, only of his eyes to lock onto the dark ones of his new husband. He watched as Ardeth removed his tagelmust to reveal one of the most handsome faces he had ever seen. The face revealed had tattoos on both cheeks and forehead, a strong jawline and the most breath taking head of thick, black, slightly curly neck length hair and the shallow part of Jonathan was thanking God that the man he was forced to marry was good looking. Realising that he was staring, Jonathan turned his head, attempting to ignore the other presence in the tent.
"Have you eaten as yet?"
Jonathan ignored the question.
"I know you did not eat after the ceremony outside. Have you at least drank some water?"
Ardeth sighed and walked over to where Jonathan was sitting and crouched down before him, only for him to turn his head in the opposite direction. He reached out and placed a hand on Jonathan's shoulder.
"Please Jonathan, speak to me. What do you need?"
Jonathan shrugged his hand from his shoulder, “I need my freedom.”
“Jonathan, there is something I have to tell you and it is not going to be easy to hear.”
“I am sure that whatever it is you have to tell me is not worse than being told I have to marry you in order to save my family.”
"The marriage will have to be consummated."
His eyes snapped up to look at Ardeth. That one statement took all the wind out of Jonathan's sails.
"I stand corrected. That is much worse." Jonathan eyed the entrance to the tent and Ardeth knew immediately what he was thinking.
"Jonathan think before you act. Running will get you nowhere. Marriage among my people have to be consummated to be recognised as legal."
"But this will not be a real marriage. It is a contract, a threat, an ultimatum." Jonathan felt like he was going to be sick.
"No matter how you look at it, it will still be a marriage between us.”
Knowing that this was not going to be easy for his new husband, Ardeth stood and held out a hand to Jonathan. "Please, give me your hand."
He looked at the offered hand and then at the man it was attached to, before tentatively reaching out his own. When their hands touched, Ardeth gently pulled Jonathan to his feet, slowly closing the distance between them until their clothed bodies were touching.
Unable to think of anything to get out the current situation, Jonathan began trembling in fear, so much that Ardeth felt it. Still holding onto Jonathan's hand, had his other had wrapped around his waist holding him close.
"You have nothing to fear Jonathan." He whispered in his ear, the hand around his waist slowly loosening the sash that was holding his robe closed. "I have no intentions of being cruel to you tonight or any other time."
Jonathan's sash slithered to the ground by his feet and Ardeth eased the robe from his shoulders letting it fall to the ground as well, leaving him dressed in only his pants. Ardeth's dark eyes drank in the sight of pale, unblemished skin before him. Whereas he had defined muscles from training and fighting, Jonathan was lean, with a hairless chest and flat stomach. His nipples were pink and pebbled from the attention and Ardeth wanted nothing more than to latch his mouth to them and suck.
Taking a small step back, Ardeth began undoing his own sash and once it was loose, he removed his robe, his ego flaring when Jonathan glanced up only to do a double take. Ardeth knew that he was a good looking man, but to have someone he knew did not like him, admiring his body with such open desire made him feel powerful.
Ardeth stepped back into Jonathan's space, allowing their exposed skin to touch. He brought his hands up to cup Jonathan's face.
"If you wish to stop, just say so and I will stop."
He waited until he received a nod before bringing his lips down to Jonathan's. The kiss was gentle, oh so gentle that Jonathan felt tears escape from beneath his closed eyelids and slide down his cheeks. Ardeth did not rush him, he did not force his tongue into his mouth. The entire night, during the consummation of their marriage, Ardeth was considerate of Jonathan and his well-being. He made sure that Jonathan was well stretched before entering him.
Jonathan wanted to feel nothing, but with how tender Ardeth was being, he could not help how his body responded to the attention lavished upon him. Ardeth played him like a master violinist and in the moment, Jonathan was not embarrassed by the lewd sounds escaping him.
When the deed was done and Jonathan laid there on his back among the many pillows, Ardeth gently wiped him down, before lying beside him and pulling Jonathan into his arms.
With tears silently streaming down his face, Jonathan laid wrapped in the arms of his sleeping husband, with only one thought running through his mind, ‘sacrifice one life, save three lives.’