The last thing Rick expects to hear, when Evie opens the door at last, is a grim: “Darling, we’ve got to get married.”
Now. It’s true he and Evelyn had been getting to know each other, in a number of enjoyable ways, but Rick is pretty damn sure there can’t be any reason she should feel the need to say those words in that tone.
“ Rick !” Evie cries when he points this out, going an adorable shade of scarlet from the bottom of her throat to the top of her nose. “No, it’s not—Haven’t you taken a look outside this morning?”
He has not; the prospect of a day spent in Evie’s presence, be it watching her bustle about the museum or lounging together in the Cairo sunlight, could probably distract him from the impending apocalypse.
“Well,” says Evie wearily, pushing him towards her bedroom window, “I suppose you had better.”
And. Apparently a day with Evie would definitely distract him from the impending apocalypse—specifically, the sun shining an unearthly red, clay cobras spitting fireballs from their mouths, and an enormous lion-faced woman stalking the courtyard below, weapons unsheathed.
“No harm,” Evie offers from behind him, “ever came from opening an amulet?”
The woman currently interested in decapitating half of the city is properly called the Eye of Ra, Evie explains, which Rick is sure will be very helpful to know as he sends this new supernatural menace back to hell.
“Not that she belongs there,” Evie corrects him crossly. “By rights she’s the goddess Hathor. See?” She holds up an amulet, likely another treasure from Imhotep’s stash, that is carved on one side with a rather placid-faced priestess. When Rick turns it over, the reverse features the same woman, now with her features held in a snarl: presumably, the same charmer downstairs.
“So how does this turn into that?” Rick wants to know, and Evie winces.
“You see I was examining the amulet, and I could make out just the tiniest scrap of papyrus within, so I only pulled at it a bit when it snapped open, and—and here we are.”
“Did you try closing it again?”
Clearly she has, if her unamused glower is any indication. “Naturally.”
If that’s ruled out: “Anything on the papyrus?”
“‘Beware, all ye who open the dread token of Ra’s Eye. Suffer, weep, and die, mortals,’” says Jonathan, choosing this moment to sit up on the sofa and join the conversation. “Quite quotidian, really.”
Is it his imagination or does Jonathan sound more—well, Jonathan than usual? He looks to Evie for confirmation, who says, “There’s an old story, that the Eye was once lured back into the form of Hathor by an offering of alcohol. Jonathan’s been doing his best, as you can see, but it doesn’t seem to have had any effect.”
Strange how that happens when most of the brandy involved goes down Jonathan’s throat rather than towards the goal of appeasing anyone, but who is Rick to judge?
He focuses on the problem at hand. “So do I stab her now, or is there an incantation we wait and read first?”
A huff. “Did it slip your mind so soon that Hathor happens to be a goddess? Specifically an immortal one.”
Oh good. Nothing like a megalomaniacal goddess who can’t be killed to ruin a perfectly nice day. Rick stares at the others, exasperated; Jonathan hiccups and drops back out of sight.
“Like I said,” Evie repeats, clearly come to the end of her patience, “we’ve got to get married.”
Obviously. Why didn’t he think of that?
So it turns out it’s not as crazy an idea as it seems at first sight. Hathor, it seems, was a patroness of love and marriage in her more peaceful aspect, and Evie is very nearly certain that a wedding performed in the Eye’s proximity can revert her back to her usual state.
“And,” Jonathan adds, “if we’re wrong, the Eye destroys us all and we don’t live to see the consequences. Win-win, if you ask me.”
Even Rick’s snarled reminder that no one had asked Jonathan is half-hearted at best. Try as he might to avoid it, the Carnahans have truly worn him down.
The nearest chapel is only three blocks away—no problem at all in the usual circumstances, but slightly more complicated when ancient Egyptian magic has been unleashed on the city, yet again. Rick deposits his revolvers in their holsters, more out of habit than hope that they’ll prove useful, and Evelyn shoos Rick and Jonathan out onto the landing until she can change her clothes and wrestle a coat from the depths of her wardrobe.
“Honey, you can’t be serious,” Rick bellows through the keyhole.
“It’s bad luck,” Evie calls back, “for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the ceremony begins.”
Rick considers the cobras, the fire, the eleven-foot-tall murderous spirit swearing vengeance on all who cross her path. “Not bad luck,” he drawls. “Anything but that.”
Rick leads the way out onto the street, Jonathan tipsily bringing up the rear, and Evie in her enormous coat, kept between them. Eventually his eyes adjust to the ruby-red light, enough that he makes out a cobra slither its way towards his foot—unfortunately not before Evie hisses a warning and slashes at it with the umbrella she brandishes.
“Those are poisonous, you know,” Rick says, as the clay cobra’s clay guts are exposed in the aftermath of Evie’s wrath.
“Only,” she retorts, “if they bite you. These seem rather more inclined to burn us alive, don’t you think?”
On that cheerful note, Jonathan points at a dark-robed figures across the street. “Rick, old mum, tell mine eyes don’t deceive me and that’s ...wos-his-name.”
That’s Tall, Dark, and Humorless, all right. Figures: he’s got a knack for being present during the worst moments of Rick’s life.
Valentino’s better-looking twin brother sweeps past the clay carcass to intone: “The gods’ wrath is upon us. The world is in utmost danger.” Just then, a horde of demonic falcons drops down from the sky, and they duck for cover as one.
“Yeah. We noticed,” Rick forces out between gritted teeth. “About time you showed up. I need a best man.”
The Reverend Holme, much to everyone’s relief, is currently at home cowering under his bed. It takes Rick and the Medjai chieftain bodily lifting him up, multiple assurances on Evelyn’s part that all would be well, and Jonathan’s unsubtle intimations of a young couple living in sin, to coax him out. Even after, Reverend Holme grips his Bible with knuckles as white as his hair and a vacant expression, and Rick wonders if another minister might be available. Any other minister.
“Absolutely not,” Evie whispers back, voice fierce, “the Reverend has christened, buried, and married everyone in our family for the last three generations. He was a dear friend of my grandfather’s.”
“Don’t tell me; he christened him, too.”
The Reverend Holme clears his throat. “Before we proceed,” he says, “I must identify the witnesses. Young James, I presume you will give away your sister?”
Jonathan snickers. “If I could find a fellow gullible enough to take her on.” One glare from Evie later, he coughs and corrects himself. “Er, that is--Yes, I will.”
Reverend Holme nods to himself without any sign of actually having understood what Jonathan had said. “Good, good. And as for you--ahem, Reginald?”
“Richard,” says Rick, “and my buddy, uh…”
“Ardeth Bey,” is the answer, complete with deep bow.
“My buddy Ardeth here will sign as witness for me.” Off the Reverend’s uncertain expression, Rick adds his best shit-eating grin and an insincere “We go back a long way.”
“I...see,” Reverend Holme manages, and looks like he’s considering retreating under the bed once more.
This is not how Rick imagined his wedding.
Not that, in all honesty, he had ever imagined himself getting married in the first place, but still he’d always figured he’d do better than standing in the middle of the Reverend Holme’s parlor, Ardeth Bey and the good Reverend himself on either side, with Jonathan humming an off-key version of the Bridal March as accompaniment to his stroll towards them, Evelyn in tow. She looks beautiful, the voluminous coat removed to reveal a shimmering white frock; her face is almost the same shade.
The Carnahans come to a stop, Jonathan more or less shoves Evelyn into Rick’s arms, and the Reverend Holme begins to drone on. He makes it to the part inviting all to speak now or forever hold their peace when he’s interrupted by Rick saying “Wait a moment--” at the same instant Evie murmurs, “If you don’t mind, I’d like a moment with just the two of us alone….”
The other three look at one another and then retreat, leaving Rick and Evie alone in the parlor to eye each other warily.
“If you’re having second thoughts--” he begins.
“No! Well, yes, I--it occurred to me I never did ask if you wanted to, to, before all this.” She gestures helplessly. “If you’d rather, we can always find another way. There’s Ardeth to help now, and Jonathan….”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but your brother probably won’t look as beautiful in a wedding veil as you do.” Evie smothers a laugh, which Rick takes as a sign that he’s on the right track. “And if you must know, I was planning to ask you to marry me tonight. Somewhere romantic. Away from eavesdroppers.” He raises his voice for that last bit, and he swears he can hear Jonathan edge guiltily away from the door.
It doesn’t stop Ardeth, Holme, and Jonathan from entering the parlor again a far-too-short moment later. Rick tries not to look as though he’s been caught kissing the bride a few cues early. Holme says contentedly, “Now, if that’s all settled--” and that’s all he manages before they hear the front door crash open. Something stomps through, something that sounds eleven feet tall, hairy, and angry.
“Continue!” Ardeth orders. “Carnahan and I will buy what time we can.” (“We will?” Jonathan has time to yelp before Ardeth’s pulled him over to barricade the door with their bodies.)
Leisurely, the good Reverend begins to read: “Dearly beloved….”
“Uh,” Rick feels the need to point out. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but we’re kind of pressed for time. Can we skip ahead a bit?”
“Please,” adds Evie, and Holme blinks, considers the booms on the other side of the door, and licks his finger to turn the page.
“Join hands, please. Do you, Richard…”
“Alexander O’Connell,” Rick supplies, and after a louder-than-usual snarl from the hallway, adds: “I do.”
Holme looks disapproving but continues. “And you, Evelyn Almina Carnahan--”
“Almina?” Dear God, what is he marrying into?
“My mother’s choice,” Evelyn mutters. “She thought it a very good joke on my father’s family. You see, in Arabic it means--”
“--take Richard as your lawful wedded husband--”
“I will,” Evie says hastily, even as the door shatters at last. Ardeth is staggering to his feet, but Jonathan is sprawled on the floor unconscious--or pretending to be. The Eye of Ra stands there, golden, glorious, and gruesome. Rick pulls Evie behind him and hopes for the best.
Thankfully the Reverend keeps his head long enough to say “I now pronounce you man and wife,” before promptly passing out. The Eye pauses in the middle of her charge, and cocks her head to one side, clearly fascinated. To his dying day, Rick will swear that her eyes mist over and her features shift to look about as threatening as the average housecat, before the air shimmers before her and she disappears as easily as a desert mirage.
“Jolly good,” says Jonathan, promptly opening his eyes, “humanity saved, then?”
“Seems that way.” The Eye--or Hathor now, Rick guesses--must have taken her pets with her. All that remains is the faint scent of sycamore. It’s probably what passes for an apology in divine circles. “Is the Reverend all right?”
“He will live,” pronounces Ardeth from where he and Evie kneel by him. “And. On that note. I believe congratulations are in order.”
Huh. Rick’s married now. Who would have thought it?
“Feel free to be a stranger if it means we don’t have to keep putting down the undead,” Rick retorts, coming too close to being sentimental for his own good. The things a wedding does to a guy.
“If Allah wills it I shall.” To Rick’s eternal surprise, Ardeth hesitates. “Though it would be my honor to continue my acquaintance with you and Mrs. O’Connell, wherever the winds should take you.”
“On that note,” Jonathan jumps in, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you and Evie. Now I know you’re married now, but I do hope you understand that I’ll have to keep trespassing on your hospitality until I’ve gotten back on my feet, so to say. I’m sure it’ll be temporary.”
“Jonathan. You’re a millionaire.”
“And what has that to do with anything?” His new brother-in-law is the picture of innocence. Rick considers shouting, but settles, just this once, for grinning at Evelyn.
“You never did promise it would be boring,” he tells her.
“You never did promise me anything at all, which I suppose means you’ve promised me everything,” she says, and as always, she’s right. They never did make it through reciting those vows. “Bit reckless of you, don’t you think?”
“Someday I’ll learn,” he promises, and bends down to kiss her.