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Purely Theoretical

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The door to the carriage opened just as the train began to move. Rick stood in the doorway, and Evy put down her notebook of descriptions of feasts in Hieratic, and smiled happily at him.

“Well,” he said, flashing her a familiar crooked smile. “It’s all aboard now for the meeting of the greatest scholarly minds of the decade.”

Evy flushed a little and refused to dignify that vast overstatement with a response. The meeting in Edinburgh would consist only of Evy and Georgiana H. Williard.

They were longtime correspondents and had frequently communicated on interesting archeological discoveries and scholarly discussions. They also shared the distinction of being scorned multiple times by the Bembridge Scholars. In Evy’s opinion, it was a travesty that Georgiana had been snubbed, as her discussion of Celtic Britain's burial practices was unparalleled in the scholarly community. Georgiana had published it herself, with the aid of a benefactor, and circulated it among interested parties; without a connection to the Bembridge Scholars’ circle, it was costly and difficult to publish findings and make them widely available.

In any case, their shared intellectual achievements certainly did not make them the greatest scholarly minds of the decade, and Evy matter-of-factly told Rick so, as he settled comfortably onto the seat next to her.

“I shall attribute your statement to the rosy glow of love,” she added, smiling at him. “Hello again, Mr. O’Connell.”

He grinned back at her. “Sure, you could call it a rosy glow. Hello again, Mrs. O’Connell.”

He leaned forward to kiss her, his hand curving around her neck and his mouth catching and sucking softly at her lower lip, ever-so-gently and oh-so-inappropriately for their current, rather public, location.

Evy’s breath quickened and she closed her eyes with a sigh.

“Hmm,” Rick said, his voice low. “However shall we pass the time?”

As Rick leaned down to press a shivery kiss on the side of her neck, the door to their compartment opened. Evy jerked away from Rick in surprise. As the door banged shut again, Evy caught a glimpse of a shockingly familiar face.

“Jonathan?” she gasped.

Rick pulled back and gave her a very unimpressed look. “Excuse me?”

Her brother’s face reappeared around the crack of the door.

“What ho, O’Connells,” he said, waving weakly. “What an unexpected place to meet the two of you.”

“Jonathan, what are you doing here?” Evy said, disentangling herself from Rick’s arms and ignoring his muttered oaths. “And what do you mean, unexpected? I told you we would be traveling to Edinburgh on the Flying Scotsman when we spoke last week.”

“Did you?” said Jonathan vaguely, entering the compartment and shutting the door.

“Jonathan,” Rick acknowledged through clenched teeth.

Evy smoothed her dress and took Rick’s hand to distract his thoughts from wandering towards an indelicate physical interaction with Jonathan. Her brother was … oblivious. Rick had still not recovered from Jonathan’s unexpected appearance during their romantic trip to Paris. Indeed, she herself was still quite annoyed by it; his company during their trip to the Egyptology wing of the Louvre had been riddled with unromantic discussions of the monetary value of various artefacts.

“I suppose you might as well join us,” Evy said reluctantly, although Jonathan had already availed himself of the seat across from them.

“Why, thank you,” Jonathan said. “Isn’t Scotland beautiful this time of year?”

Evy and Rick shared a doubtful glance.

“It’s November,” Rick said pointedly.

“Jonathan,” Evy said firmly. “You had better tell us why you’re on this train. Is it … well --” She paused delicately. “-- you know ... again?”

“Gambling debts,” said Rick loudly.

Jonathan shushed them both, with an extra glare for Rick. “No, no, not at all,” he assured them. “Evy, my dearest sister, you know how much I have longer to hear about your interest in -- in --”

He trailed off.

“Bog bodies,” Evy supplied.

“Good God,” Jonathan said, taken aback. “What in seven hells is that?”

Rick snorted. “Oh yeah, you’ve been longing to hear about this, have you?”

“Jonathan,” Evy said, frowning at him. “Were you not listening last week? Although I must say, to claim it as my own interest would be rather overstating the case. It is, in fact, the great passion and interest of my dear scholarly correspondent and, I might hope soon to add, friend, Georgiana H. Williard. I have hopes that her discoveries in her area of research will be enlightening for my own studies in a number of respects.”

“Indeed,” Jonathan said faintly.

“An academic pursuit of the highest scholarly minds,” Rick put in loyally.

“Yes,” Evy agreed, glancing at him fondly. “And to answer your question, Jonathan, bog bodies are so named due to the peat bogs in which the bodies are found, a landscape notable primarily to Northern Europe. The lack of oxygen in the dense peat prevents decay of the cadaver, you see, and creates an environment that naturally mummifies and preserves the --”

“Wait, wait -- what?”

Evy paused as both Rick and Jonathan stared at her in dismay.

“What did you say?” Rick demanded.

“Did you say -- mummy?” Jonathan said.

“What I actually said was ‘mummification,’” Evy pointed out. “In this case, a naturally-occurring preservation process that results from the high acid and low oxygen environment --”

“Evelyn, Evelyn, Evelyn,” Rick said, wrapping his hands around hers. She was startled to see small worried creases in his brow and around his eyes. “My light, my love, my life. When you proposed this little holiday jaunt to Scotland to meet your scholarly friend, you failed to mention that the country was riddled with naturally-occurring bog mummies!”

“Well, yes, Rick, but they’re not --” Evy began.

“You might recall that we have a very bad history with mummies!”

Jonathan was nodding vigorously. “I would never have agreed to come if I had known --”

“And you!” Rick added, rounding on Jonathan. “You weren’t invited in the first place! Why on earth are you on this train?”

“I say, old chap, you’re veering wildly away from the mummies issue!” Jonathan told him, aggrieved.

“Oh, shush!” Evy said, exasperated. “Both of you! I mean, really.”

Rick glared at her.

“I’m sorry, my darling,” Evy said, patting his hand. “This is simply not the same situation as -- as before. In Egypt, I mean.” She coughed. “Georgiana and I will be engaged in purely theoretical discussions.” She turned to Jonathan. “I don’t know what I said to get the idea of treasure hunting in your head, but these grave sites are found in simple villages, not tombs of Egyptian pharaohs.”

Jonathan mumbled something.

“What was that?” Rick demanded.

“You called it the ‘most valuable discovery in human history,’” Jonathan said sulkily.

Come to think of it, that did rather sound like something she might have said. Georgiana’s letter had been very intellectually invigorating.

“Oh, come on,” Rick said. “How long have you known her now? Anytime she says ‘untold value,’ you should mentally substitute the words ‘probably a book.’”

Evy humphed. “It’s not always a book,” she said.

Jonathan gave both of them a glare. He subsided onto the seat of the train compartment, muttering imprecations under his breath.

"You don't have to come," Evy added.

"It's rather too late for that now," Jonathan muttered.

There was a long moment of silence.

“Purely theoretical discussions, you said?” Rick said, at last, eyeing her skeptically.

“One hundred percent theoretical,” Evy said firmly.

“All right,” Rick said, sighing and pressing a soft kiss to her wrist. “Scotland in November can’t be that bad, can it?”

~~~~~

It turned out Evy was a little presumptuous in promising the one hundred percent purely theoretical part.

She arrived at the entrance of the University of Edinburgh to which Georgiana had directed her promptly at three o’clock. A porter ushered her down the corridors paneled with dark wood and polished door knobs.

The porter knocked on a door labeled “Prof. Chambers” and, with a nod of his head, left her there.

“Thank goodness you’re here!” exclaimed the woman who opened the door. She was dressed simply and smartly, but her eyes had something of a wild air about them.

“Georgiana, I presume?” Evy said, and was hastily ushered into the cozy book-lined office. A fire blazed cheerfully in the grate, and tea was laid out on a small table. After traveling by cab in the chill Edinburgh fog, Evy was grateful for both.

“Professor Chambers is away on a dig,” Georgiana was saying. “He doesn’t mind if I use his office sometimes while he’s gone.”

Evy murmured agreement, but her attention had been caught by some of the intriguing books on North Africa on the shelf across the room. She ventured towards them for a closer inspection.

“The, ah, office I work in is in another part of the university,” Georgiana was saying.

Evy pulled a book on economies of the southern Mediterrian region off the shelf.

“Oh, that one’s a load of nonsense,” Georgiana added from a chair near the fire, nodding at the book.

Evy paused. “I understand the author gave the Bembridge Scholars annual lecture a few years ago,” she said, pursing her lips.

“He didn’t even consider the social implications of gendered labour and --”

“But ignoring that would negate the entire argument of --”

“Exactly! Humph.”

Evy put the book firmly back on the shelf. “What a load of nonsense,” she agreed. “Is there another author you recommend on the topic --”

But Georgiana abruptly put down her teacup with a loud clatter, which startled Evy into turning around. Georgiana had risen to her feet to burst out, “I stole Mildred!”

Evy blinked, disconcerted.

Georgiana drew in a shaky breath, bit her lip, and sat down again on the edge of her chair.

Perhaps Mildred was a cat or other small animal, Evy hazarded to herself. When it became apparent that Georgiana wasn’t yet able to continue, Evy determined that some gentle inquisition was in order.

“I’m sorry,” she said, and came to sit down by the fire next to Georgiana, “I’m afraid I’m a bit lost. Who is Mildred?”

Georgiana leaned closer. “I’m the only one who calls her Mildred,” she said. “Everyone else calls her Roger.”

“Ah?” Evy said, no further enlightened.

“She’s our bog body,” Georgiana added. “She was uncovered at our dig site a few weeks ago.”

“Ah,” Evy said again. Some things were becoming clear. Evy knew that Georgiana had been at an archeological dig in Scotland, and had been excited about their discoveries there.

While Evy had no reason to doubt the acumen of her wisest correspondent, she was uncertain about the legality behind -- behind stealing a mummy.

With some reproach, she said, “You didn’t mention any of this in your letter.”

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly have recorded any of this in print,” Georgiana said, sipping her tea. She seemed to be recovering her aplomb quite rapidly after her confession. “Besides, it’s all happened so fast.”

“And,” Evy continued delicately, “when you say ‘stole her,’ do you mean …?”

“Well,” Georgiana said, “I kidnapped her, wrapped her in a sheet, and hid her in my office. That was this morning.”

“You -- you stole her this morning?” Evy said. She was fervently glad that Rick had chosen not to join them for tea. Of course, he was going to be insufferable later.

“Yes,” Georgiana said. “Oh, Evy, I’m so relieved you’re here! If you’re willing, I want your opinion on the markings on some of the objects we uncovered with her. There has to be a way to convince these male idiots to see her for her true self!”

“Oh,” Evy said, flattered and intrigued. “Well, of course, I don’t have your background in British archeological finds --”

Georgiana waved her off and, before Evy quite knew how to respond, they set off together through the corridors of the university. Evy had an excellent sense of direction, but it was firmly tested as they twisted and turned, venturing down a set of stairs, and proceeding down narrower and darker hallways.

Along the way, Georgiana rapidly filled Evy in on the particulars. Scorn from the Bembridge Scholars was apparently only the beginning of Georgiana Willard’s scholarly rivalries. When Mildred, or Roger, as he was more commonly known in the archaeology community of Edinburgh, was first uncovered, his sword and the size of the remains had led him to be identified as a soldier. Other artefacts that had been buried with him, including a brooch, a cauldron, and arrowheads, led them to believe the bog body had been a wealthy man.

Georgiana, however, had been convinced from the very beginning that she was a woman. “They just assume,” she said disparagingly.

Evy, who had reviewed many accounts of Egyptian tombs from male archeologists who thoughtlessly presumed that swords meant men and that jewelry meant women, was quite inclined to agree.

Eventually, they reached an unassuming door with a curling piece of paper pinned to it. “G.W.” had been written on the paper in a scrawled and hurried hand. Georgiana unlocked the door and gestured for Evy to enter.

The room was cold; no fire was lit in the grate. It was scarcely big enough for the tiny desk that had been shoved to the side.

A mummy was laid out on the floor. Evy was immediately drawn to examine her. She was not at all like the Egyptian mummies Evy was familiar with. She lacked any cloth wrappings that were familiar to the Egyptian practice; instead, she seemed to be quite naked. Rather than skeletal remains, her skin and hair had been preserved to a dark mahogany brown and a wrinkled texture that looked to be as stiff as leather. Presumably, this evidenced the peat bog’s peculiar preservation at work.

“Astonishing,” Evy breathed. “Simply astonishing.”

Georgiana began unwrapping the artefacts she’d brought with her.

They think she was ritually sacrificed,” she said. “But why would they bury a sacrifice with all of these objects?”

Evy knelt to examine Mildred more closely. The mummification was quite impressive; part of her facial features had also been preserved by the peat bog, so that her long nose and strong chin were clearly defined. Her eyes were closed, and she looked serene in repose.

“I theorize that she is a protector, a warrior,” Georgiana went on. “She may have died in battle or in some other way to protect her village. They buried her with her ritual objects to honour her, perhaps even to allow her to return one day to save them --”

Return? Evy bit her lip. No, no, she couldn’t think about that.

“Take this cauldron, for example,” Georgiana was saying. “This brooch matches it perfectly, and in fact, it fits right into the grooves here to --”

The body twitched.

Evy blinked. No -- surely, surely, her eyes had been playing tricks on her. It was simply not possible --

“-- a perfect fit --” Georgiana was saying.

The mummy twitched again.

“Oh, dear,” Evy whispered.

Georgiana turned to her questioningly, just in time to see Mildred sit up.

Georgiana gasped.

Evy scrambled to her feet, her heart in her throat, her pulse hammering.

Mildred rose, somehow both fluid and awkward in her brown leathery skin. Her bones, Evy realized distantly, her bones wouldn’t have been preserved the same way that her skin had been. How was she standing upright?

“Oh my god,” Georgiana said, and her face was lit with delight. “Hello, gorgeous.”

At that precise inconvenient moment, they heard a knock on the door, and a voice saying, as it opened without waiting for a response, “Hello? I say, Williard, are you still lurking down here like a creature of the night? The damnedest thing has happened with that mummy, would you believe they’ve misplaced the thing --”

The young man who was opening the door caught sight of Mildred. He screamed.

Mildred seized her chance. Before Evy could move, the mummy had pushed past him and scuttled out the door.

“Smith! Oh, you cretin!” Georgiana exclaimed, and rushed out after her.

Evy gathered up the artefacts as quickly as she could. The young man was sputtering quietly and looking a little pale, so she advised a reinvigorating sip of whiskey and a good long bath to recover his wits, before she followed Georgiana.

“Undergraduates!” Georgiana was muttering in the hallway, hands clenched into fists.

“I quite agree,” Evy said briskly. “Now, where do you think she might go?”

Georgiana’s eyes went a little dreamy. “Isn’t she extraordinary?” she said, sighing.

Evy decided not to reply. Her own experience with mummies notwithstanding, there was no call to rain on a fellow scholar’s specific passions. Unless, of course, Mildred turned out to be bent on raising an army of the dead or similar. Bubbles would have to be burst at that point.

Evy sincerely hoped that was not the case.

There was a loud crash and a scream from a nearby hallway. Georgiana took off at a run, and Evy hastened after her.

The scene that greeted them was equal parts horrific and comedic. A white-haired bespectacled academic stood on his chair, his robes billowing around him as he danced back and forth on his toes in his panic. “This is an outrage --” he was warbling.

On the other side of the room, trying ineffectually to grasp the fireplace poker in a leathery hand, was the mummy.

“Hello, beautiful,” Georgiana said gently.

Evy didn’t take her eyes off of the mummy’s hand, and tightened her grip on the cauldron. If a person swung an item like the cauldron with enough force, it would surely make an impact even on the mummy’s hard skin.

Mildred certainly did not seem to be following in Imhotep’s footsteps, to Evy’s great relief, despite their unfortunate shared tendency towards reanimation. She seemed uninterested in eating people’s organs, for one thing. A fire poker certainly seemed like a weapon, however, and Evy was not about to be unprepared if the mummy did turn on them.

Mildred looked at them and let out a screech.

Then she turned and crashed through the window, stumbling out onto the green lawn of the quad.

“My word!” squeaked the professor.

“She’s heading to the library!” Georgiana announced, pointing at the building on the other side of the quad.

They raced back through the hallways, out into the quad, and across the lawn.

Inside the library, they followed the path of destruction left in Mildred’s wake: tumbled piles of books, shelves toppled over, undergraduates huddled in panicked circles or scattering at a dead run.

Evy was relieved she was not the culprit of this particular library disaster.

“What do you propose we do?” she whispered to Georgiana.

“I will try to speak with her,” Georgiana said firmly. “I need to understand what she wants.”

Some instinct prompting her, Evy said, “Here,” and handed her the sword. “Maybe she’ll recognize this.”

Georgiana held the sword in front of her with two hands and approached the centre of the disturbance. An undergraduate racing towards them took one look at Georgiana and flew wild-eyed in the other direction.

They continued onwards until they found Mildred near a bookshelf, apparently eating a page from one of the books.

She did indeed recognize the sword.

“Oh,” Evy whispered.

Mildred stood up, a rapid and jerky sort of movement that did not look human. It was fascinating to consider the state of decay her bones must be in under the well-preserved skin. Evy wondered again what was holding her upright. Pure will, most likely.

“Hello,” Georgiana said again. “Hello, beautiful one.”

She held out the sword, turning it so the hilt was presented towards Mildred.

Evy grit her teeth and tightened her grip on the cauldron.

The mummy paused, then slowly turned and cocked her head at Georgiana.

Evy didn’t dare breathe.

“Thpppenryy,” the mummy said.

The word was ground out of her throat, gritty and deep, rough with disuse.

She reached for the sword and paused.

For a long moment, no one moved.

“Thpennryyy-ck,” she said again, her hand hovering near the hilt of the sword. Her mouth worked around the word as though she had dredged it up from years of sleep.

“What did she say?” Evy whispered.

“Excuse me!” said another voice from behind them. “What on earth is going on here?”

The mummy, moving unnaturally quickly, grabbed the sword and plunged into the stacks. Georgiana yelped in dismay and raced after her.

That left Evy to turn her librarian comrade, who was staring at the mess around them in utter disbelief.

“I beg your pardon,” she said. “These are dreadfully unusual circumstances. I know that you of all people will appreciate the need for a more organized and thorough advanced study. I, too, am a librarian!”

Before the affronted librarian could reply, she hurried after Georgiana and Mildred.

She found them outside in the quad. People had scattered and they were alone in the centre of the grass. A grey rain was falling in the darkening afternoon light.

The mummy spoke the same word again, questioningly.

“I don’t know,” Georgiana said, frustrated. “I can’t understand you! I wish we knew more about ancient Celtic languages.”

“Could it be her name?” Evy said.

Georgiana paused, thinking. “Maybe not her name ... There’s a mountain near the archeological site known as Penrigg Hill. It’s an old name, I think ...”

The mummy’s eye sockets were fixed on her.

“Penrigg,” Georgiana said again, loudly. “Is that where you’re from?”

“The old name of her village,” Evy breathed.

“Pthennrigg!” Mildred said, with vehemence.

“She wants to go there,” Evy said, and it was one of the first things in the whole surprising afternoon of which she felt confident.

“Yes,” Georgiana said immediately. “We have to take her there. Perhaps we can put her to rest where she belongs. Her rest isn’t yet done. Come on,” she added, “I have a car.”

It turned out she meant that Professor Chambers had a car and had left the keys in his office. Evy ran to fetch them while Georgiana persuaded Mildred to accompany her to the car. Showing her the cauldron and brooch seemed to help, as she clearly recognized them.

It was a good thing Evy did have a good sense of direction. She was able to find Professor Chambers’ office again without the porter’s help, and navigate to the side street where the professor’s car was parked. By the time she arrived, Georgiana had managed to open the unlocked back door of the car, and convince Mildred to sit in the backseat. When they had time, Evy definitely needed to ask her how she’d accomplished the latter.

Georgiana slid into the driver’s seat.

“We have to make one stop first,” Evy said, a little reluctantly. As the adrenaline was wearing off, she was having the unfortunate realization that she had a heck of a lot to update Rick about.

~~~

“Are you telling me that you two -- kidnapped a mummy?” Rick demanded.

Evy wisely did not comment on the squeaky register his voice reached.

“Well, technically, that was Georgiana,” she said. “Besides, kidnapped is a strong word. Liberated, one might say. Rescued!”

Might one?” Rick said, sounding even squeakier.

“I know what you’re thinking, darling,” Evy added in her most reasonable tone.

“Do you,” Rick muttered.

In generous consideration of the alarming nature of the news she’d just delivered, Evy chose to ignore him.

“This is nothing like our, er, past experience,” she said. “In this case, we’re working with the mummy on a common cause.”

“How very reassuring,” Rick said.

“Georgiana’s very adept at communicating with her,” she explained.

Rick raised his eyes and stared upwards for a long moment.

“You know I love you,” he said, apparently to the ceiling.

“Yes, darling,” Evy said. “I love you, too.”

“And that I think you’re the cleverest person in the whole blooming country.”

Evy blushed a little.

Rick lowered his head and looked her in the eye. “I want to state for the record that somehow you manage to have the wildest, most harebrained ideas of anyone I’ve ever met. Working with a mummy on a common goal, by all that’s holy --!” He heaved a sigh. “But I’m determined to keep my promise to be beside you for everything, come hell or high water. So, Evelyn, cleverest woman in the world, greatest scholarly mind of the decade, let’s liberate this mummy.”

Evy’s heart turned over, and she smiled helplessly at him. “Thank you, Rick, darling,” she said. “That is the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me.” As he was busy holstering his gun and buckling on his boots, she added: “You’ll be pleased to know one thing, which is that we don’t have to liberate the mummy at all. She’s already in the car.”

~~~

Rick nodded a stiff greeting at Mildred, who did not deign to acknowledge him in return. “Chatty, huh?” he muttered, with a glance at Evy, who gave him a helpless shrug.

Georgiana moved to the back seat with Mildred, and Rick took the wheel. Georgiana could direct them to the dig site, only a few hours outside of the city.

It was dark already, and they had to assume that the archaeologists at the university knew now that they had liberated Mildred and would be searching for them.

They had almost made it out of Edinburgh when Rick screeched the car to a stop. A figure stood in the middle of the road, lit by the headlights.

It was, of course, Evy’s hapless and bedraggled brother.

“Jonathan! Get out of the road!” Rick roared.

“O’Connell! Am I ever glad to see you,” Jonathan was saying, shielding his eyes against the headlights’ glare as he went around the car to open the door to the backseat. “Is Evy with you? I was at a pub for -- ”

“Wait --” Rick began.

“No, don’t --” Evy started.

“ -- and, I say, those fellows don’t know how to take a joke, do they --”

The car door shut behind him.

Jonathan looked at Mildred.

Mildred looked at Jonathan.

Jonathan screamed.

Mildred screeched.

The car lurched forward as Rick stepped on the gas to get them outside of the city.

Mildred’s screech was a piercing inhuman noise that was deafening inside the car. If Evy weren’t clapping her hands to her ears out of self-preservation, she might have been interested in examining the physiological mechanism that made it possible.

“Jonathan, please!” Evy said loudly. “Stop!”

Jonathan kept screaming.

“You’re distressing her!” Georgiana yelled at Jonathan.

“She’s not the only distressed one!” shouted Rick, his fingers tightening on the wheel.

Mildred closed her mouth, and the inhuman screeching stopped.

Jonathan’s scream hung in the air for a moment and then sputtered out.

“Well,” said Evy into the sudden silence. “Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way. Jonathan, may I introduce Mildred?”

~~~~

Introductions having been made, they drove in silence, anxious or terrified respectively, as the rain pounded the windshield. It was cold, even in the car, and the headlights danced in wild shadows over the trees as they passed them.

It was, Evy reflected, staring out the window, damned inconvenient when your brother kept showing up at your archeological expeditions as well as your romantic excursions. She would have to speak with him quite firmly about this sort of behaviour.

She snuck a glance in the backseat where Mildred was slumped bonelessly on the bench seat. In the dark, it was hard to make out the stiff features of her face. How many years had she been in that bog? A village warrior, slumbering for centuries, waiting to be called into action once again. And awoken abruptly, before she was needed ...

It was a long drive. They reached Georgiana's archeological site as pre-dawn was just starting to lighten the edges of the horizon. A cold drizzly rain was falling and the clouds hung low in the air. Rick rubbed at his eyes and stretched his long limbs as he got out of the car. Evy realized she was feeling quite stiff herself and stood on her toes to reach up into the sky. Even though the rain was dripping icily on her face, it felt good to stretch her muscles.

"I can't wait for a hot bath," she said to Rick, remembering the advice she'd given the hapless undergraduate in Georgiana's office. It felt like that had been days ago.

"Room for two in that tub?" he said, giving her a sly look.

"Newlyweds," Jonathan said with a scoff from behind them.

Evy ignored him. "It's a date," she told Rick. "I'll bring the bubbles."

They stood next to each other and watched as Georgiana helped Mildred slink out of the car and awkwardly wrench herself upright again.

“She’s quite astounding,” Evy whispered.

Rick slid his arm around her shoulders. “You don’t see things like this every day,” he said agreeably. “You know, mummies getting out of cars in the middle of nowhere, Scotland. Except when a person is married to you, of course.”

Evy smiled and snuggled closer to him.

“I can’t believe this is happening again,” Jonathan said, glaring at her.

“You invited yourself along at every stage of the trip,” Evy said, without remorse. Maybe she could mail her brother to the South Pole, no return postage.

Jonathan harrumphed.

Mildred looked around, slowly. Her expression didn't change, but she seemed to recognize where she was, even after the centuries that had passed. "Pthennrigg," she said, and her voice was still gravelly, but there was a loving warmth to its cadence.

She took the sword from Georgiana and led them towards the dig site where her grave had been found.

“I think she knows she woke up before her time,” Georgiana said softly. “She wants to go back.”

“We’ll help her, then,” Evy said firmly.

The mummy climbed down into the dig site and into the peat bog grave from which she’d been dug up and removed. Georgiana placed each artefact around her body, finally placing the sword reverently in her arms.

Mildred lifted her hand, a gesture of recognition and thanks.

Georgiana raised her hand in response. They stood in a silent vigil and waited.

Dawn broke without ceremony, grey and damp.

As the cold November light began to glint on the horizon, Evy peered over the edge into the peat grave. The mummy was still and lifeless again.

When she looked up, there were tears streaming down Georgiana’s face.

Evy gripped Georgiana’s hand with one of hers, and Rick’s hand with the other.

"You did the right thing," Evy whispered to her. "And it took incredible bravery. I'm so proud to be your -- your friend. If you'll have me as such."

Georgiana squeezed her hand back, so tightly that Evy winced. "Thank you," she said, voice hoarse. "My friend."

As they watched, Mildred and her accompanying artefacts sank slowly into the bog, until they were swallowed up and it was as if no one had laid down in that spot of peat at all.

“Now what?” Jonathan said, rain dripping from the tip of his nose.

“Now, we go home,” Evy said, and they did.

~~~~

“The Bembridge Scholars have refused to publish a word of Georgiana’s article!” Evy announced to Rick as she entered their dining room, waving Georgiana’s latest correspondence at him.

Rick raised his eyebrow. “No surprise there, I should imagine.”

“Oh, well, yes, and I’m affronted on principle, of course,” Evy said. “But the wonderful thing is that Georgiana has agreed to join our efforts to publish our own quarterly!”

Evy’s years of correspondence with other scholars meant that she had a broad network of scholars who were quite fed up with the Bembridge Scholars’ narrow views on things such as gender and race. She had collected the support needed to arrange a society that was open to publishing papers by everyone. Georgiana’s discussion of bog bodies was now confirmed to be one of their first published papers.

“A quarterly of your own,” Rick said thoughtfully.

Evy dropped a kiss on his forehead. He smiled up at her.

“I shall have to prepare my own submission,” she added. “My research on the vessels in the Hamunaptra artefacts, perhaps? Or --”

“I have a suggestion,” Rick said.

“Yes, darling?”

“How about something one hundred percent purely theoretical?”

He grinned at her, and she rolled her eyes, but grinned back. “I’ll say one thing, Rick O’Connell,” she said, “and that is: I promise to never, ever say that something will be purely theoretical ever again.”

“That’s all a man can ask for,” Rick said happily, and picked up his newspaper again.