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Ten of Swords

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Ten of Swords

 

Cairo, October 1922

Rick had hoped that they would find some good answers from Evelyn’s boss at the Museum of Antiquities. Bad news was, of course, the more likely scenario, but these people had to know something that could help them, and Evelyn had seemed confident that they would find answers, so he remained cautiously optimistic. But bad news was the order of the day. It was strange enough to walk into the gallery to find the desert warrior, Ardeth Bey, standing there with the Curator, a baleful glare on his face; at least he proved to be an ally, if one disgusted by their antics. 

But then Evelyn told them about the mummy calling her Anck-su-namun, and how it had tried to kiss her, and everything went from bad to worse. 

“It’s because of his love for Anck-Su-Namun that he was cursed,” Dr. Bey said. “Apparently even after three thousand years--”

“He is still in love with her,” Ardeth Bey finished. 

Evelyn glanced at Rick and back at the men. “That’s very romantic, but what has it got to do with me?”

The men ignored her, continuing to speak to each other. Rick felt a stab of annoyance on Evelyn’s behalf; these idiots had done nothing but treat her like a fool from the beginning. 

“Perhaps he will once again try to raise her from the dead,” Ardeth Bey said. 

“Yes,” mused the Curator. “And it appears that he’s already chosen his human sacrifice.”

They turned to look at Evelyn, who took a step back in shock, and everything in Rick curled up in horror. 

“Bad luck, old mum,” Jonathan said, and Rick wanted to sling him out the window. 

“Oh, hell no,” he said, standing. “No, I won’t allow it. How do we stop him?”

Dr. Bey gave him an arch look. “His choice of Miss Carnahan may just give us the time we need to stop him.”

“We’ll need all the help we can get. His powers are growing.” 

Rick followed Ardeth Bey’s glance to the skylight, as the moon slid across the sun in a totally unpredicted solar eclipse. 

“How do we stop him?” he said again. “There has to be a way.”

Ardeth Bey looked at him, something flashing in his dark eyes. “Where is the Black Book of the Dead?”

Rick turned to Evelyn. Her face was white, but scholarly interest lit her eyes. “Do you think that it could contain an incantation to lay him down?”

“It’s worth a try,” Dr. Bey said. “We have fragments of ancient spells in the library, but I doubt that they would be enough, even if the library wasn’t in the state it is.”

 He gave Evelyn a look that made her cringe and Rick, remembering what Jonathan had said in the bar about her making some kind of mess, put his hand on her arm and turned the full force of his glare on the man. This was no time to make anyone feel bad, least of all the potential human sacrifice. The older man looked at him in some surprise. 

“Where’s the book now?” Rick said to Daniels. 

“Dr. Chamberlain has it,” Daniels replied. “And one of those jar things. But I don’t know where he is now.”

“Yeah, he took off once we got back to Cairo,” Henderson said. “Didn’t even say goodbye; not that it matters.”

“Okay,” Rick said. “So we’ll go find him and you two,” he looked at the Medjai warriors, “can sort through the books and look for those spell fragments. Whatever you think may help,” he added, overriding their sputtering. 

“We would need a librarian for that!” Dr. Bey sputtered. 

“No,” Rick said, glancing at Evelyn. “Evelyn stays with us. It’s safer that way. The ones he’s after are staying together.”

“I know which book you’re talking about,” Evelyn added. “I may have a copy of it back at the fort.”

Dr. Bey gave her an exasperated look, but glanced at Rick and wisely decided not to say anything. Ardeth Bey was nodding. 

“It would be wise to be surrounded by warriors,” he said. “Very well. We will wait for word from you.”

And so they trooped back to the car and drove out into the eerie afternoon light, back towards Fort Brydon. They were all subdued now, where on the outward journey they had all been talking over each other, comparing notes. Evelyn sat in the front seat between Rick and Jonathan, looking at her hands. She suddenly looked very small and worried. Rick nudged her. 

“Hey,” he said in an undertone. “How are you?”

Evelyn looked at him, her face set. “I don’t know. It seems personal all of a sudden. It didn’t quite, before.”

The urge to put his arms around her filled Rick; he gripped his knees and willed it to pass. “I won’t--we won’t let him get you.”

Evelyn gave him a small smile. “We’ll certainly try to beat him. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, isn’t that right?”

Rick grimaced. “Only if we want to get killed. We have to be cautious.” He scrubbed his hands through his hair, cursing himself for a damn fool. He had been trying to comfort her. “We’ll figure something out.”

“Damn right we will,” Jonathan said. He took a hand from the steering wheel and put his arm around Evelyn, squeezing her tight. “Seven brains against one ancient mummy--the poor git’ll never know what’s hit him.”

Evelyn gave a small laugh. Rick met Jonathan’s eyes; the other man gave him a look of plain terror. Rick grimace. Me, too. 

Back at the fort, they sequestered themselves in the Carnahans’ apartment. Evelyn found her copy of the book Dr. Bey had mentioned and passed it off to Jonathan, apparently unable to sit still. 

“Who opened that chest?” she  asked, pacing up and down, a line of thought drawn between her eyebrows. 

“Well, there was me and Daniels, and that Egyptologist fellow,” Henderson said. “And poor Burns, of course.” 

“What about my buddy, Beni?” Rick asked. He had the direst suspicions about that little rat. It couldn’t be a coincidence that he would be at the fort at the same moment that the mummy was killing Burns. 

“Nah, he scrammed out of there before we opened the damn thing,” Daniels said.

Henderson looked disgusted. “Yeah, he was the smart one.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Beni.” Rick sighed. He had never trusted Beni, not when he first joined the Legion and especially not when he had learned that the only reason Beni had joined up was to escape prosecution for robbing synagogues in Budapest. He was a rat and a sneak and a toady, but he had an excellent sense of self-preservation. 

“So we must find Dr. Chamberlain and bring him back to the safety of the fort before the creature can get to him,” Evelyn said. “He has an office in Boulaq, near the textile market; Dr. Bey gave me the address.”

Rick steeled himself for a fight. She really wasn’t going to like what he had to say. 

“Right,” he said, usurping command. “She stays here; you three, come with me.”

The outcry was immediate and uproarious; Rick stood shaking his head as the men refused to come with and Evelyn refused to stay behind. She flew across the room at him, her eyes bright with outrage. 

“You can’t just leave me here like some old kind of carpet bag; I mean, who put you in charge--?”

This time Rick gave into temptation. Arguing would be fruitless; they would lose time. And so as she came towards him, shouting, her green eyes blazing, Rick ducked and slung her over his shoulder, carrying her into her bedroom. 

“O’Connell!” Evelyn shrieked. “What do you think you are doing?! Jonathan!”

She was small and light in his arms, her hip bone digging into Rick’s shoulder, and he rather wished the circumstances were less awful as he slung Evelyn down onto her bed and strode back out the door, slamming it behind him. He palmed the key at the last second.

Evelyn fell on the door, bellowing, as Rick locked her in. He ignored her. Evelyn needed to be somewhere safe, because that thing wanted to kill her, and she wasn’t trained in fighting, and he couldn’t bear the thought of anything harming this brave, clumsy, wonderful girl. He had probably blown his chances with her now, anyway; she would never forgive him for this. Fine, as long as she was safe. 

Rick turned to Henderson and Daniels. “This door doesn’t open. She doesn’t come out and no one goes in. Right?”

“Right,” Daniels said. Rick looked at Henderson, who nodded. Both men looked a little astonished. He turned his gaze to Jonathan, who was  looking at him with no small degree of amusement. Rick snapped his holsters straight.

“Let’s go, Jonathan.”

The grin vanished. “Oh, I thought I could just stay at the fort and reconnoiter--”

“Now!”

“Right.”

They clattered downstairs and out to the car. At the last moment Rick looked back, up towards Evelyn’s bedroom window. She stood there, outlined in the light, her arms folded across her chest. She turned up her nose when their eyes met, and looked away. Rick climbed into the car, feeling like a cad. 

“It’s safer for her to stay here,” he said. 

“Agreed.” Jonathan turned the key in the ignition. 

“She’s surrounded by soldiers, and Daniels and Henderson are real handy with guns.”

“Yes, I know.”

“We’re only going to get Chamberlain; she doesn’t need to run headfirst into danger.”

“O’Connell,” Jonathan said, “I know that. And once Evie calms down and thinks, she’ll realize she knows that, too. She’ll come around. She’s just not used to being bossed about.”

Rick took a deep breath and scrubbed his hands over his face. “Sorry, it’s just...this guy scares the bejesus out of me. He can’t be killed and he’s hunting us.”

Jonathan gave a soft bark of surprised laughter. “It does take you back, doesn’t it? At least in the War the enemy could be killed.”

“Yeah,” Rick said wearily. “Whether they deserved it or not”

It was a tense drive to Boulaq through the winding streets empty of people. Night had fallen and there were few lights along the way, which was unusual enough. Rick had never seen Cairo so empty. It was as though the creature had snatched away every single person. He shivered. 

Jonathan glanced over at him. “All right, old chap?”

“Yeah. Just creeping myself out. Turn right up here; I think this is as close as we’re going to get driving.”

Dr. Chamberlain's office was down a narrow side street near the textiles market. Though there was no one about, lights burned in a number of windows, including Chamberlain's, and Rick felt his heart rise. Maybe this would be easy. 

But as they approached, Rick realized that his hope was foolish. Chamberlain’s office door stood open, light streaming into the corridor, and from inside came the sound of somebody tossing the place. Rick and Jonathan glanced at each other and drew their guns. They edged carefully towards the ruckus. The room was a mess, furniture overturned, books yanked off of shelves, drifts of paper stirring in the breeze of a ceiling fan. All at once, Rick realized who it was inside and holstered his gun, disgusted. 

“Well, well, well,” he said, stepping into the room. Beni leaped around, squealing. “Let me guess. Spring cleaning?”

Beni dropped the drawer he had been dumping out and ran across the room towards the window. Rick picked up a convenient chair and flung it at him, sending the little weasel sprawling. 

“Nice shot!” said Jonathan. 

Rick advanced on Beni, rage flaring through him. “Oh, Beni, did you fall down? Let me help you up.” He picked up the sniveling man and slammed him into a wall, eliciting a screech. “You came back from the desert with a new friend, didn’t you, Beni?”

“What friend? You are my only friend,” Beni said petulantly. 

“Ha!” Rick snarled. He flung Beni again, pinning him to a table. It felt incredibly satisfying to actually fight someone. “What the hell are you doing with this creep, huh? What’s in it for you?”

Beni sneered. “It is better to be the right hand of the devil than in his path. As long as I serve him, I am immune.”

That was enough to make Rick throw him into a wall again. “Immune from what?”

Beni sneered something in Hungarian. Rick shook him. 

“What did you say?!”

“I don’t want to tell you. You’ll just hurt me some more.”

Behind Rick, Jonathan snorted. “He’ll hurt you anyway, my good son, and no doubt you’ll deserve it.”

“No kidding,” Rick said, and hauled Beni away from the wall. “What are you looking for? And try not to lie to me.”

He hefted Beni to the fan spinning in the center of the ceiling. Beni screeched his dismay. He knew that Rick would have no qualms about sticking his head into the blades. It wouldn’t kill him, but it would hurt like hell. 

“The book! The black book they found at Hamunaptra! He wants it back; he said to me it would be worth its weight in gold.”

Rick and Jonathan looked at each other. This was unpleasant news. 

“What does he want the book for?” Jonathan demanded. 

“Oh, come on, I don’t know,” Beni said, and screeched again when Rick lifted him closer to the fan. “Something about bringing his dead girlfriend back to life, but that’s all, he just wants the book, I swear! Just the book, I swear. And your sister.”

Rick and Jonathan both snarled and Rick set Beni on his feet, fully intending to shake him like a dog with a rat. He thought he would let Jonathan have a go next; the man was white with outrage. Outside, someone screamed. 

It was a horrible, gurgling death scream and for a moment Rick was a twenty year old kid watching his commander and comrades being blown to pieces. Then Beni hit him in the stomach, hard, and Rick dropped him, winded. Beni took off through the window; Jonathan took off after him. Rick struggled after them, gasping. By the time he reached the window, Beni was long gone and Jonathan was staring down at a sizable crowd gathered around a robed figure that bent over the desiccated corpse of a man dressed in white. Dr. Chamberlain. 

“Aw, shit,” said Rick. 

The robbed figure stood. In its hands was the Black Book of the Dead. It raised its head and the mummy, Imhotep, looked up at the men in the window. He opened his mouth. Flies poured out, swarming around him. Rick seized the shutter and slammed it shut. 

“He’s got the book!” They were too late on both accounts. 

Jonathan was already running for the door. “Let’s go! He’ll be after Evie next!”

Rick sprinted after him, his heart in his throat. He had barely prayed since the War--God seemed to have abandoned him--but now the plea pounded in his heart as they ran back to the car and turned towards the fort. Please let her be okay. Please, God, keep her safe.  



Author's Note: Sorry this one took so long to appear! I had some trouble with it, including figuring out which character wanted to tell the story. But here it is. In Tarot, the Ten of Swords can mean betrayal, being stabbed in the back by someone you know well. Pretty apt for what Beni does. I hope you like the story! Please let me know what you think in the comments!