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A True Miracle

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Ardeth knew he was different from the other members of the Medjai tribe.

 

How could he ignore it, when it was said to him every day since the day he was born?

 

“Be careful with that Ardeth!” His Father scowled as they moved through the streets of Cairo, “Not so- Watch out for that stall!”

 

Only just managing to dodge the stall in question, Ardeth skidded to a halt, clutching the large sacks of cured meat they were hoping to trade.

 

“I know I said we needed to get to the market as quickly as possible.” The older man sighed, “And I know I was concerned about the mule… but you didn’t need to carry everything!”

 

“Sorry Papa.” Ardeth winced.

 

“I know you are…. I need to go and haggle, stay here, and don’t move.”

 

“But- “

 

“- Stay. Here.”

 

Ardeth relented, pacing on the spot whilst keeping an eye on the sacks. You could never leave anything alone in this city, not unless you wanted it gone.

 

Huffing slightly, he glanced around the marketplace, frowning when he saw someone struggling in the distance, a large sack of something in his arms, his view obscured by it.

 

Quickly, Ardeth rushed over and helped him to steady it.

 

“Here, let me help.”

 

“Oh, thank you, thank you!”

 

Glad to be of some use, Ardeth peeked around the side of the sack, beaming at the older man. “You’re welcome.”

 

The other man’s face paled immediately, “I-It’s you! The Medjaj boy!”

 

“Do you need anymore help?”

 

The man shook his head, almost yanking the sack out of Ardeth’s hand, “No, no! I’m fine! Go on… go about your way!”

 

“Are you sure, I can- “

 

“- I’m fine! I can manage!”

 

And with that, he was gone.

 

Ardeth tried not to let it bother him, heading back to the sacks, only to see that several street children were already in the process of ferrying them away.

 

“HEY!” He bellowed, rushing over, “PUT THEM DOWN!”

 

This was possibly the only time he was thankful for his reputation, as the children all freaked out and ran away, one knocking into an older woman, sending a pot flying into the air.

 

“I’ve got it!”

 

Ardeth leapt up to grab the flying pot, only to realise too late that he’d built up too much momentum, causing him to impact heavily with a nearby wall.

 

Within minutes, the marketplace was collapsing all around them. It didn’t matter that he was able to save everyone, pulling them to safety, even rescuing the stall-keepers wares and goods.

 

It didn’t matter.

 

He still destroyed everything.

 

“That’s it!” One of the stall-keepers snapped, “You need to get that freak out of here!”

 

“Yeah!” Someone else agreed, “He’s too dangerous to be around normal people!”

 

Ardeth’s father shook his head desperately, “He-He just doesn’t know his own strength!”

 

His protest fell on deaf ears.

 

……………………………………………………………

 

Hours later, when the pair were back at home, his Father found him sitting on the outskirts of the camp, staring up at the sky as the setting sun caused it to turn different shades of red, pink and purple.

 

“Son… you shouldn’t let the things they said back there- “

 

“- They’re right though.” Ardeth pushed himself to his feet, “I am a freak. I try to fit it, but… I can’t.” He shook his head, eyes focused on the horizon, “Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here.”

 

“Ardeth… Son- “

 

“- I know, it doesn’t make any sense.” Ardeth moved away, missing the concerned look on his Father’s face.

 

………………………………………………………………………………

 

Hours later, after wandering through the camp, staring up at the night sky, he made his way back to the Chieftains tent, only to see his parents standing outside.

 

“Ardeth…” His Father sighed wearily, “… we have to tell you something.” He led his son inside, and the three of them took a seat in the warm furs. “Me and your Mother… we prayed for children for a long time and- “

 

The man glanced over at his wife, who rolled her eyes fondly, “What he’s trying to say… is that you were a gift from the Gods and- “

 

“- You’ve told me this story Ma-AH!” Ardeth pouted as his Mother slapped him on the arm, a stern glare on her face.

 

“Don’t interrupt.” She scolded, “We do mean it literally…. You were a gift from the Gods.” She reached into a sewn in pocket in her clothing, pulling out a golden amulet. “We found you in our tent doorway one morning, and this was around your neck.”

 

“So… you’re not my parents.”

 

Again, he was slapped on the arm.

 

“Yes, we are!” She growled, “The Gods gave you to us to be our son!”

 

“But… that doesn’t explain why I’m like….” Ardeth glanced down at his hands, “… this.”

 

“I believe the Gods sent you to us for a reason.” His Father rose to his feet, “Whether it’s to be a hero or just a strong leader for our tribe, I don’t know. But that is why we must start training, immediately!”

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

It was a rough start, no-one was going to deny that.

 

A lot of targets were smashed during those first few weeks.

 

(“Gently Ardeth! Gently!”)

 

Rescuing the damsel in distress was… an interesting experience.

 

(“Are girls really this light and… limp?”

 

“She might have fainted Ardeth!”)

 

All the rules started to get confusing after a while.

 

(“Rule number ninety-five! Concentr- AAH!”

 

“Sorry!”

 

“Rule number ninety-six! AIM!”

 

However, despite all the set-backs, Ardeth managed to get the hang of everything, controlling his strength, excelling at all his lessons and passing the final test with flying colours.

 

By the time he was fully grown, he was shaping up to be one of the finest leaders anyone had ever seen.

 

“Do you think I’m ready?” Ardeth asked one day, as he and his Father went on their patrol.

 

“Ready?”

 

“… To find out what my true purpose is?”

 

His Father’s grip tightened on the reigns, “Yes… I believe you are ready.” He turned to his son, “But, I implore you… please don’t just go rushing into danger.”

 

“Yes Father.”

 

………………………………………………

 

The next day involved a trip into the main city of Cairo which, as anyone would tell you, was a criminal hotspot.

 

Having finished his bargaining for the day, Ardeth was on his way out, when he heard a kerfuffle from a nearby alleyway. Someone was clearly panicked… someone was very panicked indeed.

 

Slowly, he headed into the alleyway, dismounting from his horse and peering around the corner. Upon doing so, he saw a large, balding man, a known gang-member, pinning a pale-skinned man up against the wall.

 

English, judging by the accent and colourful use of threats and protests.

 

“You owe me Carnahan.” The larger man scowled, “How about I take what I owe… in another way. Let you make it up to me.”

 

“I say! What do you mean by that?!” The English man, Carnahan, attempted to lash out, but was soon slammed against the wall.

 

It was clear that this was not going to end well.

 

Unwilling to stay where he was any longer, Ardeth straightened up and strode around the corner, catching the attacker’s attention.

 

“Back off.” He growled.

 

The larger man twisted around to face him, a sneer on his face. “Why? Do you want a turn?”

 

“No! No turns!” Carnahan struggled, “No turns!”

 

“He’s not my type.” Ardeth stated, ignoring the squawk of protest, “Now let him go.”

 

The man scowled, before suddenly lunging at Ardeth and punching him in the face… only to take a step back when Ardeth barely flinched at the hit, merely turning his head with the force of the strike.

 

“Ouch.” He muttered, before rolling his shoulder and punching the man back, sending him flying into the opposite wall. With the other man stunned, Ardeth turned his attention to Carnahan, scanning him from head to toe.

 

“Bravo!” The English man clapped, “Although, I could have handled that.”

 

Before Ardeth could say anything, there was a growl from the right as the large man decided that he wanted to go another round.

 

“Excuse me.” Ardeth grunted, bracing himself.

 

And if he was showing off slightly, then who was going to know.

 

Needless to say, the fight didn’t last long, and the larger man feel to the ground in an unconscious slump. With the threat gone, he turned his attention back to the Englishman, who looked completely stunned.

 

“Are you alright?” He asked, “Where are you staying? I could escort you back Mister Carnahan?”

 

“Oh please, just call me Jonathan” The man smiled politely, “And yourself?”

 

“Ardeth Bay.” He glanced at the unconscious man, “What did he want?”

 

“Ah.” Jonathan winched sheepishly, “Well I might have made some…. Reckless decisions lately. Costly, reckless decisions. Some people are very sensitive about these sort of things.”

 

“Hmmm.”

 

“Never-mind about all that though!” Jonathan clapped his hands together, “Thank you for the save, but I think I can handle it from here.”

 

“I can still escort you back to wherever you are staying, if you want?”

 

“Don’t worry old boy, I think I can handle that much.” Without letting Ardeth say another work, he started to walk away, waving a hand over his shoulder, “Hopefully I shall see you around Mister Bay.”

 

………………………………

 

“I don’t know how to explain it.” Ardeth whispered later that night, “He was just… something.”

 

“Hmmm, it sounds like he was a distraction.”

 

“Papa!”

 

……………………………………………..

Jonathan couldn’t help but think about his mysterious saviour as he headed to the museum where his sister worked.

 

Ardeth Bay.

 

It had a rather nice ring to it.

 

As he entered the dark museum, he glanced around, searching for any sign that his sister was around.

 

“Evy? Old mum?”

 

“Mister Carnahan.”

 

Jonathan yelped, spinning around to come face to face with the museum curator. A tall, bald man of clear Egyptian blood, who only referred to himself as Im.

 

“I believe I have already warned you about coming in here uninvited.” Im sighed, “You do have a habit of bringing… unwanted trouble.”

 

“Never on purpose, I promise!” Jonathan protested, “I’ve not been touching anything, I promise!”

 

“Hmmmm.”

 

As Im moved away, Jonathan desperately tried to fill the silence, “You know, I was attacked earlier, saved by a wonderful man, a Mister Ardeth Bay.”

 

He failed to notice how Im tensed up.

 

He did notice that he stopped in his tracks.

 

“What was that name again?”

 

Jonathan frowned at the question, “Ardeth… Bay. Do you know him?”

 

“… No.”

 

Jonathan waited for a moment, only for there to be silence. “Right…” He eventually whispered, “… Well I’ll just go and… find Evy.”

 

It was hard to ignore that he was being watched as he headed further into the museum.

 

……………………………………………………………………..

 

“One city, with a million different problems.” Ardeth muttered the next day, as he and his Father made their way through the streets, “Pickpockets, prostitution, beggars and everything else.”

 

“Hmmmm.” His Father glanced around, “Let us set up some vantage points. I don’t like how quiet it’s been for the last few years.”

 

“Surely it’s a good thing?”

 

“No… it just means that something big is coming.”

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Robberies, sandstorms, rising gang activity… Ardeth was almost expecting the ten plagues of Egypt next.

 

But nothing that would indicate Imhotep had risen again.

 

“Umm, hello… Mister Bay?”

 

Ardeth noticed how his Father tensed beside him, glancing down at the familiar young man standing beside them.

 

“Mister Carnahan.” He knew his voice was softer than usual, and judging by the look on his Father’s face, he could tell too.

 

Jonathan’s face was pale as he glanced around, “There’s been a bit of an incident back at the museum… or rather the building site around it.” There was a slight tremble to his voice, “My sister, she’s trapped there and- “

 

“- Come on.” Before Jonathan could react, he was lifted onto the back of Ardeth’s horse, “Hang on.”

 

“Don’t need to ask me twice!”

 

……………………………………………………………………..

 

A crowd was already gathering around the building site, alerted by the noise and the grim fascination that someone was trapped inside. Dismounting, Ardeth barely noticed Jonathan slipping into the crowd, him and his Father rushing over to the rubble.

 

“Hello?” Ardeth hoped he could be heard, “Miss Carnahan?”

 

“Hello?”

 

Ardeth sighed in relief at the female voice, “Are you alright Miss Carnahan?”

 

“Mostly. A few bumps and bruises… how do you know my name?”

 

“I- “Ardeth glanced over at his father, “- I know your brother.”

 

Miss Carnahan groaned, “I apologise on his behalf.”

 

“It’s not like tha- “Ardeth cut himself off, “- Let’s get you out of there.” Thinking quickly, he spotted one beam of wood that would probably be the best to move, without bringing the whole thing toppling down around them. He grabbed onto the edges of it, lifting it up as high as it would go, as Miss Carnahan quickly crawled out.

 

“Very impressive.” She praised, grimacing at the dust and dirt on her clothes, “Honestly, I was assured this was all stable!”

 

……………………………………………………………….

 

Im watched as Ardeth Bay and Miss Carnahan talked quietly by the rubble.

 

………………………………………………………………….

 

Jonathan wanted to move closer, but the density of the crowd prevented him from doing so.

 

“Oh honestly.” He groaned, “Can’t a man see his sister in peace?”

 

……………………………………………………………………………………

 

“There doesn’t appear to be anyone else trapped. “Ardeth reported, sighing in relief.

 

“Thank goodness.” Miss Carnahan sighed, “Just bad luck then?”

 

“It certainly seems that way.” Ardeth frowned at a low rumbling sound, coming from with the wreckage, “Forgive me Miss Carnahan… but I think you should take a step back.”

 

Red eyes glared at them from the darkness as it slowly slithered out from the wreckage.

 

A snake.

 

It must have been about fifty feet long from head to tail.

 

“Apep!” Miss Carnahan gasped beside him, “But-but this can’t be! It’s a m-myth! Ra would fight him every morning, and only shine his light after he won! It was just a way to explain why the sun would rise at different times every day!”

 

“You don’t have to lecture me on Egyptian mythology, Miss Carnahan.” Ardeth grunted as they both moved back, “I suggest you get to safety.”

 

He didn’t need to tell her twice.

 

Apep hissed, curling up as it prepared to strike.

 

“You trained for this.” Ardeth muttered to himself, taking great care to avoid being bit or crushed to death, “It’s just a snake.” He dived to the side as the snake lunged, wincing as the fangs ripped the arm of his jacket.

 

Pulling his sword out of a sheath, he managed to slash at the slimy skin, watching as Apep reared back with a hiss.

 

As he moved to try and get to higher ground, he felt something wrap around his left ankle, throwing him up into the air.

 

Shit.

 

Everything went dark.

 

………………………………………………………

 

Jonathan yelped, hand moving up to his own throat as the creature almost seemed to snarl in satisfaction, turning it’s attention to the watching crowd and lunging towards them as they screamed… and then it stopped, glancing down at it’s neck as a sharp blade poked through the scales, slicing round until the creature was decapitated.

 

For a moment, there was only silence as Ardeth stepped out of the corpse, looking a damn sight worse than he did at the beginning of the fight, sheathing his sword before sighing in exhaustion.

 

And then the crowd burst into rounds of applause and cheering, all surging forwards to meet him.

 

At the back, Jonathan couldn’t help but join in.

 

Nobody noticed how the museum curator snarled in anger, slinking into the shadows.

 

………………………………………………………………………………..

 

From then on, it was like Egyptian myths had all come to life, as the creatures started popping him here, there and everywhere.

 

Sphinxes.

 

Griffins.

 

You name it, they started appearing.

 

Children would act out the legendary battles between Ardeth and the creatures, making it into a game. Older men praised his ‘noble’ actions, despite being the first ones to curse his name whenever something wrong used to happen.

 

It was… nice.

 

Different, but nice.

 

……………………………………………………………….

 

“I can’t believe this…. I’ve thrown everything I’ve got at him and he doesn’t even flinch.” Im paced around the small room, “I have twenty-four hours to get rid of Bay, before the plan I’ve been setting up for over twenty years goes up in smoke, and I am no closer than I was then!”

 

“Hello?”

 

Im’s jaw snapped shut, hearing a muted voice through his office door.

 

Miss Carnahan should be at the other side of the museum… which could only mean that this must be Jonathan.

 

And then he had a wicked idea.

 

Maybe, he wasn’t throwing the right kind of distraction at Bay.

 

Stepping out of his office, he headed to the top of the stairs, spotting Jonathan wandering around down below.

 

“Mister Carnahan.”

 

Jonathan flinched and looked up, before a smile appeared on his face.

 

“I was just looking for- “

 

“- Your sister.” Im raised an eyebrow, “I would have thought you’d be spending time with Mister Bay?”

 

“I-I beg your pardon?”

 

Im shrugged, “You’ve been singing his praises since the first… incident. I thought that maybe you would try and- “

 

“- No, no, no!” Jonathan winced, “It’s not like that.”

 

“Oh? And here I thought you two were… close.” Im shrugged again, “After all, he did save your sister.”

 

As he walked back into his office, he couldn’t help but smirk to himself.

 

The seed was planted. Now to see how it would grow.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

“You should have seen it Mother.” Ardeth sipped at the tea his mother had thoughtfully prepared for him, “I honestly think I’ve faced every creature from the stories you used to tell me.”

 

His Mother chuckled fondly, “Your Father has been telling me everything. He is very proud of you.”

 

Ardeth felt his own surge of pride at the words, before his face fell once again.

 

There was still no sign from the heavens as to what his purpose was… had he even proven himself yet?

 

………………………………………………………

 

Less than a week later, as Ardeth was moving through the streets of Egypt, there was still no sign as to whether what he’d been doing was enough.

 

He’d started to wonder what the point of all this was.

 

Even the speech from his Father hadn’t helped those feelings.

 

“Listen…” The older man had begun, “… You’ve got something I’ve never seen before.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I swear… there is nothing you cannot do my son.”

 

Lost in his thoughts, Ardeth grunted when he bumped into someone, opening his mouth to apologise only to gape at the familiar face.

 

“Sorry about that old chap.” Jonathan smiled sheepishly at him, “Evy is always telling me I need to pay attention to where I’m going. Good thing I didn’t this time though! I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve seen you.”

 

Ardeth couldn’t stop the fond smile on his face, pushing any worries and doubts to the back of his mind, “Indeed… it has been a while. Glad to see you’re not getting in anymore trouble.”

 

Waving his hand in dismissal, Jonathan rolled his eyes, “People are more concerned with the sudden influx of monsters than little old me.” He frowned, scanning Ardeth’s face, “Do you think you can take an afternoon off? Not to be ride, but you look a little worn out.”

 

“I’m not- “

 

“- Please?” A small pout appeared on Jonathan’s face, “Just for a little bit?”

 

Well… it wasn’t as though his destiny was making an appearance anytime soon.

 

“Alright…” He sighed, “… lead the way.”

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

Hours later, he was chuckling as he and Jonathan snuck into the Orman Botanical Garden

 

“That play was… something else.” Ardeth sighed, “I think it could be classed as so bad, it was good?”

 

“Evy does say that taste in theatre leaves a lot to be desired.”

 

Neither of them were aware they were being watched.

 

“You know…” Ardeth turned to Jonathan and smiled softly at him, “… I think this has been the most fun I’ve had in, well forever. Thank you.”

 

Jonathan opened his mouth to answer, only to catch his foot on something and fall forwards towards the ground.

 

Thankfully, Ardeth was there, his strength managing to keep him upright.

 

“Are you alright?” He asked Jonathan in concern.

 

“Yeah, I just… tripped.” Jonathan hoped his face was bright red, even as he cleared his throat, forcing a smile onto his face, “Some of us don’t have that fancy Medaj training you know.” He then glanced down at his ankle and winced, “Does this look broken to you?”

 

“You would know if it were broken.” Ardeth chuckled, helping him over to a nearby bench and sitting him down, “It’s probably just sprained.”

 

As Ardeth took a seat next to him, Jonathan nudged him in the side. “So… do you ever have problems like that?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“You know, sprained ankles… things like that?”

 

Ardeth though to himself for a few moments, before shaking his head, “No, not that I can think of.”

 

As he turned away, Jonathan chuckled. “Ah, the perfect man does exist then!” He then flushed at his own words, nervously clearing his throat.

 

For a moment, an awkward silence stretched between the pair of them, until a shooting sky flew through the sky.

 

“You know…” Ardeth sighed, “… When I was a child, I would have given anything to be like everyone else.”

 

“Ah, you wanted to be petty and dishonest?” Jonathan chuckled bitterly, pushing himself to his feet and heading over to the nearby fountain.

 

“… Not everyone’s like that.”

 

“Yes, they are.”

 

Slowly, Ardeth moved to stand by him, one hand on his shoulder, gently encouraging Jonathan to look at him. However, before he could say anything, Jonathan rolled his eyes.

 

“Don’t try and say that I’m not like that, because I am, I admit it!”

 

“Maybe so.” Ardeth sighed, “But that doesn’t stop you from being an amazing person… with poor balance.”

 

Jonathan couldn’t help but smile at that.

 

“Mister Carnahan… Jonathan.” Ardeth continued, his voice soft and low, “… when I’m with you, I don’t feel so alone.”

 

“Sometimes it’s better to be alone old chap.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“… Nobody can hurt you.”

 

Ardeth was silent for a few moments, before he slowly reached out and grabbed Jonathan’s hands, “I would never hurt you… ever.”

 

Their faces were closer now.

 

“And I don’t want to hurt you so maybe we should just go our separate ways and- “

 

“- ARDETH!”

 

There came the sound of a horse galloping towards them, Jonathan jumping away as it skidded to a halt in front of them.

 

“There you are?” Ardeth’s father scowled down at the pair of them, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

 

“Sorry! That was my fault!” Jonathan stepped forwards to apologise, holding his hand out to the older man, “I have a nasty habit of leading people astray.”

 

“Hmmm.” The older man didn’t seem impressed, “Ardeth. It is time to return home.”

 

Ardeth winced at his Father’s tone, pulling Jonathan back and turning to face him, “I’m sorry… I will see you soon?”

 

“Y-Yes, of course!”

 

“Ardeth.” His Father sounded a little tenser, “Now.”

 

“I know, I know.” Ardeth reached out and plucked a flower from a nearby bush handing it over to Jonathan. When the man gingerly took it, he seized his chance and kissed the man on the cheek, rushing away seconds later, ignoring the look his Father was giving him.

 

He didn’t notice the man lingering around afterwards.

 

………………………………………………………………………….

 

Jonathan had never felt anything like this before.

 

Yes, he’d flirted with both men and women alike in the past, usually to get out of trouble but this was… this was something else.

 

“Come on.” He whispered to himself, “What is wrong with you? It’s not like someone like him could like you.”

 

He turned his attention to the flower in his hands.

 

“Or maybe…” He brushed a finger along one of the petals, “… Maybe he- “

 

“- Maybe he what?”

 

Jonathan yelped, spinning around as a familiar figure stepped out of the shadows, head tilted to one side. “Im? What are you doing- “

 

“- So.” Im acted like Jonathan had never said anything, “What makes Ardeth Bay weak?”

 

“I- what?”

 

“What. Is. Ardeth. Bay’s. Weakness?”

 

…………………………………………………………………………

 

The Medaj Tribe member watched from the shadows as the bald man backed the Englishman into a tree.

 

“What are you talking about?!” The Englishman yelped, trying to push the other man away, “Get off me!”

 

Even an idiot could see that there was something wrong here.

 

Having decided that he’d seen all he needed to, the tribe member slipped away as quietly as he could.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………..

 

“So protective over him.” Im hissed, “Even though you’ve only known him for a few weeks.”

 

“I- “

 

“- What would your family think at your… preferences?”

 

“Hey!” Jonathan straightened, “Evy wouldn’t care!”

 

“And your Father?”

 

“Dead and buried, God rest his soul and all that.” Jonathan smirked, “So I don’t know what all this is about, but Evy would always accept me and Ardeth has no weaknesses!”

 

“Really?” Im leaned in close, “You know…” He plucked the flower from Jonathan’s hands, watching as it withered and died, “… I think you might be just a little bit wrong.”

 

The meaning was clear.

 

……………………………………………………………..

 

He didn’t know how long he stood there, watching Ardeth train with a certain gusto he hadn’t seen in years.

 

How could he tell him that the young Englishman was in danger?

 

“Father? Is everything okay?”

 

Snapped out of his thoughts, Ardeth’s father cleared his throat. “We need to talk.”

 

“… About today?”

 

“In a sense.”

 

Ardeth still seemed unsure as he moved closer, “I know you may not approve but I- “

 

“- He’s in trouble.”

 

Ardeth stopped in his tracks, stunned as his Father continued.

 

“One of my men said he saw the museum curator threatening the Englishman…. Looking for your weakness.”

 

“My weakness?!”

 

Ardeth’s Father shrugged, “If it makes you feel any better, he didn’t tell him anything.”

 

“No, it doesn’t make me feel better!” Ardeth started to panic slightly, “What if he just decided to kill him instead?”

 

No response from his Father.

 

In fact, his Father seemed to have stopped completely… not even blinking.

 

“Don’t worry. He’s fine.”

 

Spinning around, Ardeth watched as a familiar figure stepped out of the corner and started to walk towards him.

 

“You’re the museum curator.” Ardeth narrowed his eyes, trying to figure out why the man looked so familiar, “Im.”

 

“And you are Ardeth Bay… a certain pain in my side.”

 

“Glad to be of assistance.” Ardeth sneered, “What do you want?”

 

“I want you to stop being a hero, at least for one day.” Im shrugged, “But I know what you’re answer is likely to be at that, so I have a little leverage for you.” Im clicked his fingers and Jonathan appeared out of nowhere, fresh bruises on his face.

 

“Jonathan!”

 

“Ardeth, don’t- “ Jonathan was gagged as thick ropes wrapped around his entire body, causing him to fall to the floor, disappearing before Ardeth could get to him.

 

“Let. Him. Go!” Ardeth growled

 

“Here’s the deal…” Im acted as though Ardeth hadn’t said anything, “… you give up these powers for twenty-four hours, let’s say, the next twenty-four hours…” He clicked his fingers as a gagged Jonathan appeared somewhere else, “… and Mister Carnahan will be free. Do we have a deal?”

 

Ardeth glanced at Jonathan, before turning his attention back to Im, “People are going to get hurt, aren’t they.”

 

“It’s a possibility…” Im shrugged, making his way over to Jonathan, “… but isn’t he more important?”

 

Ardeth was silent for a moment, before shaking his head and sighed wearily, “You’ve got to swear that he’ll be safe from any harm.”

 

“Of course.” Im nodded, “Mister Carnahan will be safe, and if he does get hurt in the next twenty-four hours, then all your powers will be returned to you, deal?”

 

Ardeth hesitated.

 

“Look…” Im snarled, “… I don’t really have time for you to start growing a conscious, I am on a bit of schedule, so I need an answer NOW! Going once…”

 

Ardeth glanced at Jonathan, who shook his head frantically.

 

“… Going twice…”

 

“Alright!” Ardeth finally gave in, holding out his hand as Im smirked.

 

“Excellent.” Im clasped Ardeth’s hand tight, smirking as a bright light filled the air and Ardeth started to fall to his knees.

 

Ardeth meanwhile, felt like his very life was being sucked from his body, his bones seeming to turn to jelly as he collapsed to the ground weakly. As he tried to get to his feet, his knees wobbled dangerously under him, which only seemed to please Im further.

 

“You may feel a little queasy, it’s perfectly natural, maybe you should sit down!”

 

Something seemed to slam into Ardeth, taking him off his feet and pinning him to the ground.

 

“There we go.” Im sneered, “Now you’re just like everybody else… how does it feel?” Im then turned to Jonathan and snapped his fingers, the chains around Jonathan disappearing, “You were very lucky today Mister Carnahan.”

 

As Jonathan lunged at Im, swinging forwards in an attempt to knock him out, Ardeth managed to push himself to his feet, growling as Im grabbed Jonathan by the wrist.

 

“Pathetic.” Im snarled, pushing the Englishman to the ground, “How can someone with Egyptian blood be that pathetic!”

 

Pinning Jonathan to the ground with a foot on his chest, Im glanced over at a clearly struggling Ardeth, “You have no idea who I am, have you?”

 

“Should I?”

 

Im actually seemed amused at this, “And here I thought all the children of the Medjai tribe were told stories about me?” He waited for a few more moments, “Nothing?”

 

When Ardeth remained silent, Im stepped a bit closer.

 

“Look… harder.”

 

It was then that Ardeth realised why Im looked so familiar.

 

How could he have missed it before?

 

Ardeth stared at him for a few moments, horror dawning on his face.

 

“Imhotep.”

 

Jonathan was clearly confused, grunting as he was thrown next to Ardeth, the man he’d known as Im, waving his hand as a chariot appeared out of nowhere.

 

“Well, I have to go.” Im smirked, “There’s a whole world that’s just mine for the taking now.”

 

And he was gone in a cloud of black smoke.

 

“Ardeth?” Jonathan frowned, “What did he mean by- “

 

“- It’s over.” Ardeth interrupted, “It’s all over.”

 

……………………………………………………………………………………….

 

The Medjai tribe glanced up at the sky as it started to darken.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………..

 

It didn’t take long for the zombie like soldiers to start moving through the streets, harassing the citizens as they went.

 

Ardeth watched from a nearby rooftop. When he moved to head down to the streets, Jonathan suddenly darted in front of him, eyes wide in concern.

 

“What are you doing?” He asked, “They’ll kill you!”

 

“I am still a warrior.” Ardeth shouldered past him, “I need to protect these people.”

 

“Ardeth, no! Stop!”

 

“Stay here.” Without waiting for an answer, Ardeth jumped down to the streets, drawing his sword in one fluid motion as he pushed a woman and child to safety.

 

As the creatures started to overwhelm Ardeth, Jonathan glanced around for anything that he could use as a weapon.

 

“Jonathan!”

 

He turned to see Evie racing over him, an unfamiliar man following her.

 

“Who’s that?”

 

She rolled her eyes, “The world might be ending, and you’re worried about him?”

 

The unfamiliar man looked a little offended by this.

 

“Alright, forget him for the time being!” Jonathan sighed, “We need to help Ardeth, does anyone have a sword or a gun or- “

 

He stopped as a shotgun was shoved into his hands by the unfamiliar man.

 

“I hope you know how to use that.”

 

Jonathan stared at the gun for a moment, before turning his attention back to his sister, “I’m not sure I approve of the friends you keep.”

 

“Jonathan!”

 

“Alright, alright!”

 

……………………………………………………………………………………….

 

“Why didn’t anyone know Imhotep had been released?!”

 

“We didn’t know!”

 

“THAT’S NOT AN EXCUSE!”

 

……………………………………………………………………………….

 

Ardeth frowned as a couple of the undead fell to the ground, prompting him to glance up to the rooftops, where he could see a familiar figure.

 

………………………………………………………………………………….

 

“We’re being over-run!”

 

“Yes, I can see that!”

 

………………………………………………………………………….

 

Ardeth grunted and groaned as the undead army treated him like a punching bag, throwing him into brick walls and other solid objects, kicking and throwing him again without giving him the chance to catch his breath.

 

The army was starting to tear into buildings, forcing people to run indoors to avoid being hit by rubble.

 

As the dust cleared, Ardeth dived back into the fight, unaware that he was still in mortal danger.

 

“ARDETH! ARDETH, LOOK OUT!”

 

There was a rumbling from above, before Ardeth felt someone shove him violently, sending him rolling across the ground, just as something hit the space where he once was.

 

“JONATHAN!”

 

His heart sicking to his stomach, Ardeth spun around, feeling the air leave his body as he spotted a familiar hand sticking out from under a pile of rubble.

 

“JONATHAN!” Miss Carnahan was screaming, struggling against the grasp of an unfamiliar man as she fought to get to the wreckage.

 

Ardeth was already there though, removing as many bricks and beams as he could, watching as Miss Carnahan eventually kicked the other men in the shin, before rushing over to help.

 

And then reached one that was around ten times their own weight.

 

Not even thinking about asking for help, he gripped the edges of the wood, lifting it up as much as he could. As he did so, it felt like his skin was knitting back together, the aches and pains disappearing as he managed to lift the offending beam high above his head, gasping in relief.

 

He didn’t need an explanation for what happened.

 

Imhotep’s second half of the deal came true… Jonathan was hurt, and now Ardeth was restored back to his usual self.

 

Jonathan seemed to have come to the same conclusion as him, blood oozing from the corner of his mouth… and a pipe sticking out of his mid-section as his sister desperately tried to stem the bleeding and keep him awake.

 

“Jonathan…” Ardeth fell to his knees beside the man, gently lifting his head onto his lap as he tried to avoid nudging the pipe, “… Oh Jonathan… why- why would you- “

 

“- W-would you believe m-me if I-I said I l-loved you? “ Before Ardeth could say anything, Jonathan spoke up again, “You don’t have m-much time, y-you can s-still stop I-Im!”

 

“Im?” Miss Carnahan frowned, “What does he have to do with all this?”

 

“It doesn’t matter.” Ardeth turned to her, “Look after him.”

 

“I will.”

 

They both knew it was a promise to be there for Jonathan when he did go, but none of them were willing to say that out loud.

 

“You’ll be alright…” Ardeth whispered, “… Promise me?”

 

Jonathan simply stared up at him, a soft smile on his face as he nodded, despite knowing the truth.

 

Not wanting to hear any false promises, Ardeth turned away from the fallen man, turning his gaze to where he knew the tomb of Imhotep to be.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Imhotep was sure that he’d won.

 

He should have won.

 

His army was winning, nothing should have got in his way!

 

And then he arrived.

 

Ardeth Bay on his damn horse, like a warrior from tales of old, slicing through his army like they were nothing but straw targets.

 

“GET HIM! GET HIM!”

 

…………………………………………………………………………………..

 

The Medaji tribe all sighed in relief and cheered as they watched the undead armies’ numbers dwindle and decrease.

 

It was clear the tides of war had changed, something that Imhotep could see too.

 

As Ardeth Bay charged towards him, Imhotep prepared to flee.

 

“At least I’ve got one, small consolation prize! I know a certain Englishman that is just dying to see me again!”

 

As Imhotep disappeared in a cloud of black smoke, Ardeth stopped in his tracks, eyes widening in realisation.

 

“Jonathan!”

 

……………………………………………..

 

“Jonathan!” Ardeth arrived back at the scene of the accident, taking a step back at the devastated look on Miss Carnahan’s face when she turned to look at him.

 

“Ardeth, I’m sor- “

 

“- No!” He rushed over to kneel by Jonathan’s side, “Please, no!” He begged, pulling Jonathan’s head into his lap. When there was no response, his shoulders started to shake, and tears made their way down his cheeks as he pulled Jonathan into a hug.

 

Almost five minutes passed in complete silence, broken only by the sound of Miss Carnahan’s tears.

 

“I’m sorry…” The unfamiliar man went to kneel by Miss Carnahan’s side, “…Maybe we should grab that wizard and see if he can raise the dead?”

 

It was a crazy idea.

 

But it was a crazy idea that might just work.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………

 

“This will never work!” Miss Carnahan protested, “The Ancient Egyptian’s view on the afterlife and death is a fascinating subject, but it is a thing of myth and legend and- “

 

“- And you’ve just seen an undead army move through the streets.” Ardeth interrupted, Jonathan limp in his arms, “What’s to say this won’t work?”

 

“He has a point.” The other man, Rick, muttered, not even flinching when Miss Carnahan turned to glare at him, “So, what’s the plan?”

 

“… I need to die.”

 

Miss Carnahan and Rick both stopped, before Rick nervously cleared his throat.

 

“That’s… a little extreme.”

 

……………………………………………………………………

 

The sun was setting as they prepared.

 

“Alright, we have the mini boat.” Rick sighed, “Explain all this to me again.”

 

“We’re half Egyptian.” Miss Carnahan refused to look at the body of her brother, “Ardeth believes that this means he can bargain with the Egyptian gods to bring Jonathan back to life.” She winced at the sight of the boat, “Only Pharaohs should really use boat as a transport.”

 

“It will get the God’s attention.” Ardeth sighed, “Besides, we don’t exactly have the coffin as an alternative.”

 

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Miss Carnahan glanced at the setting sun, “We need to hurry with this… are you sure that those herbs will work.”

 

“My heartbeat will slow down to the point of near death.” Ardeth confessed, “It should be enough to allow me access into the afterlife.”

 

……………………………………………………………………………….

 

Ardeth kept a tight hold of Jonathan as they moved down a corridor, that was lined with an array of statues.

 

It was dark, with very little light to guide the way.

 

“Come on.” He whispered to Jonathan, holding him closer, “Let’s go.”

 

There was no answer, but then again, he didn’t expect one.

 

They arrived at the Hall of Maat quickly, large doors opening up to meet them.

 

Forty-two figures stood before them, all stone-faced even at the unusual sight of two souls in front of them.

 

The forty-two judges.

 

Desperately thinking back to his lessons, Ardeth slowly started to recite their names.

 

“What sins have you not committed?” One of them asked when he was finished.

 

“I come here not for me… but for him.” Ardeth raised Jonathan up slightly, “I’ve come to make a deal with you.”

 

“We do not make deals with mortals.”

 

Ardeth turned, taking a step back at the sight of the jackal-headed God.

 

“Lord Anubis.”

 

Anubis was stood in front of a set of scale, a feather on one side… and the Goddess Ammit waiting nearby as well as the God, Thoth.

 

“We do not make deals with mortals…. Place the deceased’s heart on the scales. If it is balanced with the feather of Maat, he shall know peace in Sekhet-Aaru. If not- “

 

Ammit growled.

 

The meaning was clear.

 

“Someone escaped.” Ardeth refused to give in, “Imhotep. His heart was eaten and he was condemned, and he still gets to walk free. He is mocking you!”

 

“We know.”

 

This time, it was another voice, prompting Ardeth to turn slightly to the right, eyes widening at the sight of Osiris stepping out of the shadows.

 

“But what can you, a mere mortal do about it?”

 

“I’ll do whatever you want… if it means I get Jonathan back.”

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

“AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!”

 

Imhotep slammed his fist into the nearest wall, watching as it crumbled under the force.

 

He was close… so close!

 

And then he heard footsteps entering the museum, prompting him to turn around, ducking as a sword arched towards his neck.

 

“Mister Bay.” He fought to remain calm, “I see Mister Carnahan has been a hero. I didn’t think he had it in him.”

 

Silence.

 

“So what?” Imhotep smirked, “This is your revenge?”

 

“Sort of.” Ardeth kept his eyes on the other man as they circled each other, “I prefer to think of it as me upholding my end of a deal.”

 

It was then that Imhotep spotted the sword in Ardeth’s hand… and how it seemed to be emitting black smoke.

 

“That- that- “ Imhotep took a step backwards.

 

“The sword of Osiris?” Ardeth brought it up to his face and examined it, “Yes, yes it is… I kill you, and I get Jonathan back, safe and sound.”

 

Realising that this was the deal Ardeth had mentioned, Imhotep shook his head, “Th-that’s not possible!”

 

“And yet here we are.” Ardeth charged forwards again, backing Imhotep further and further into the corner until he had the blade right up against the man’s throat.

 

“Please, you don’t understand!” Imhotep tried to plead, “You don’t know what’s waiting for me down- “

 

“- Yes I do.” Ardeth interrupted, “Ammit is looking forward to it.” Before Imhotep could plead further, Ardeth sliced the blade through the vulnerable flesh of Imhotep’s neck, watching as the body fell to the ground, before disappearing.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Osiris, Anubis and Thoth watched curiously as Ammit prowled towards the new arrival, backing him up against the wall.

 

“No! No! NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

 

“The deal has been upheld.”

 

………………………………………………………………………..

 

Evie had been watching over her brother for what seemed like days now, when he suddenly gasped and arched his back, like he’d received an electric shock right through his spine as the colour returned to his skin.

 

Evie was not afraid to say that she screamed.

 

Rick would probably never admit it, but he screamed as well.

 

At that exact moment, Ardeth came rushing into the room, moving to help Jonathan into a seated position as the Englishman coughed and spluttered.

 

“Ardeth? What- why did you- “

 

“People do crazy things… when they’re in love.”

 

Jonathan’s eyes widened as Ardeth leaned in, their faces getting closer and closer to one another… and then there was a flash of light and they were standing in a bright white chamber.

 

“Ardeth Bay, heir of the Medaji tribe.”

 

Spinning around, pushing Jonathan behind him, as Osiris stepped closer.

 

“You have fulfilled your birth-right.” The God continued, “And for that, we are grateful.”

 

“I- “ Ardeth found himself at a loss for words, as Isis took a step forwards to stand next to her husband.

 

“You were willing to risk your own soul to save this young man.” Her eyes flitted over Jonathan, who shrank back slightly, “For a true hero, isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”

 

“Which is why, we have a proposition for you.” Osiris stated, “To join our ranks, as an official warrior of the Gods.”

 

As Ardeth gaped at the God, the joy of being alive quickly faded for Jonathan, who backed away from the other man slowly.

 

Warrior of the Gods.

 

He could never match up to that.

 

Glancing around, he tried to figure out how he was going to get out of here, which meant that he completely missed Ardeth turning to try and find him.

 

“All my life…” Ardeth whispered, “… I dreamed of finding out where I belonged. The reason as to why I existed…. all this talk of being a warrior of the Gods, having a purpose like that, it would all be meaningless without Jonathan.”

 

At the mention of his name, Jonathan spun around, eyes wide as Ardeth strode closer.

 

“True love is something we can understand.” Isis’s smile as she gazed at the couple, “I’m sure we can make something work.”

 

Smiling, Ardeth brought Jonathan closer before kissing him solidly on the lips as there was another flash of bright light.

 

When they finally pulled away, Jonathan couldn’t stop the goofy smile from appearing on his face.

 

“Alright…” Rick held his hand up, “… What just happened.”

 

“A true miracle…. That’s what happened.”