Categories > Movies > Mummy > Honour the Vow

Battle Aftermath

by bellemainec 0 reviews

This fic introduces a new character to the canon, and deals with the back-story of Ardeth Bey. It continues on from the first part Battle

Category: Mummy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Ardeth - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2006-11-08 - Updated: 2006-11-09 - 6178 words

Days can seem interminable out here in the desert. Blinding sun beating without mercy upon the golden sands. Your eyes have no rest, no comfort can be sort in the dunes. I sometimes wonder whether that simple fact is why my people where black. Although white would lift some of the heat away from us, it would also merely be another source of dazzlement out there, another place to blind us all. At least the black allows us the opportunity to fix our gaze on something, to look at something without the glare sending waves of pain through your mind.

The sun has finally set, and the camp is growing quiet. We are still attending to the wounded, and our dead is being gathered. I have seen Ardeth briefly, but I have avoided him. He is not expecting to see me here. No doubt he assumes that I have run from him, desperate to fleehis presence. I am safer here, with our people in this camp then I would be anywhere else for he will not think to look for me here.

I have exchanged my robes for my usual feminine dress, and hidden my face beneath the concealing scarf. The Elders may forbid us the battle, but they will not deny us the right to tend to the injured. So I have returned to our camp and have found anonymity within the tents. Here I am merely a dutiful daughter of our people, tending the wounded and the survivors.

I will wait for Ardeth to leave before making my own escape. He is angry with me, and sometimes I think he will understand, and then I remember the teachings, the laws, the traditions and I think he will not. The Ardeth I remember would listen to me, would ask why I was there. I know he has changed, I know the waking of He who will not be named ten years ago altered how he sees things, how he reacts to people. I pray that I can make him understand. I know that I must.

There were so many wounded. Out there, on the battlefield, it seemed quite clear. Either you were dead, or you were alive. If you were dead, you were gone, but if you were alive, you had to realise that any moment you could make the transition to dead if you did not guard against it with every breath. It was only afterwards, after the cheering died down, and the celebratory exchanges had drifted away that the cost of our campaign against the darkness became clearer. Men fell to their knees, to exhausted to continue further, others discovered wounds that they had ignored, gashes, broken bones, damaged limbs. Bodies of the injured were found among the dead, some unconscious, some near death, others trapped beneath fallen horses or the bodies of their fallen comrades. It took hours to transport them here, hours to dress wounds, to comfort and hold back tears as they passed on, to give encouragement and warmth to those alert enough to be cheered, to give promises and take messages from those who will not last the night. I do not know which event I found more hateful, the battle or the aftermath.

I feel as if I have aged ten years. I feel exhaustion settling into my bones, but can not find the strength to seek a bedroll. The questions that would be attached, from inquisitive wives and relatives would overwhelm me, and I find myself too tired to think of a tale that would satisfy them. Better to stay here, in the dimly lit supply tent then face those questions. I can remain here, rolling bandages and quietly sorting through the remaining medical supplies. They will be needed in the morning, and there is room for me to curl up in the corner, there are even spare blankets to ward off the chill in the night air.

As I place the last of the bandages in the woven basket beside me, I sense the dividing curtain of the tent shift as someone enters. Careful to keep my own face in shadow, I turn towards the source, and find Ardeth standing before me. It almost makes some kind of twisted sense that he would find me here. I had thought myself so clever; perhaps I had merely hastened our meeting. I braced myself for discovery as he bowed slightly in acknowledgment of my presence.

So many dead. So many of our people are now gone forever. Although we all know our possible fate when we take the oaths of the Med-jai, the reality of battle is harsher than the possibility. The injured and the dead lay together, and it has taken us hours to transport them to the camp, to be tended and healed. They defer to me, they seek me out for orders, for decisions, for guidance. I had thought that any ruling authority I had been granted would be over at the end of battle, but it seems that our people are happy for me to oversee the battle aftermath until we report to the Elders.

So many wounded. I walk silently between them, seeking the supply tent. I find it hidden behind the largest tent of wounded, a covered lamp dimly beckoning me forward. Careful not to disturb those resting around me, I pulled back the curtain and stepped inside.

A woman started and hurriedly leapt to her feet. The lamplight showed the basket of rolled bandages at her side, but cast shadows across her face. I bowed, and said, "Forgive the intrusion. I did not wish to disturb those already resting."

She nodded, and quietly said, "There are so many. Yet at least the injured outnumber the dead." Her voice was low and soothing, and somehow reminded me of why it was so important to take our stand out there today.

"Yes. We survived." The simple statement seemed to hover in the air momentarily, as if its importance warranted an almost tangible presence. "We defeated the darkness. For now." I fell quiet for a moment, not sure what else to say. I saw her fiddle with the hem of her headscarf and realised she must be exhausted and waiting for me to leave. I bowed once more and said, "My apologies, I did not mean to keep you. Sleep well." I turned and started to leave.

He head not realised it was me! Ardeth turned and walked away, and the quick rush of joy that I had not been discovered was suddenly overtaken by my sudden certainty that something was amiss. He would not have been seeking the medical supplies unless there was something wrong. Pitching my voice lower than usual I called after him, "A moment, sir!"

He turned and moved back towards me, conscious as ever of the wounded men resting outside.

From my vantage point, I quickly scanned his face and could see no obvious sign of injury. Wait, yes, just there. He was slightly favouring his left shoulder, holding it rigidly as if he was expecting pain to be the result of any movement. "You are hurt."

He paused, his spine stiffening. I gestured towards his shoulder, and said, "Your shoulder. I know you are injured. Allow me to attend to it." I pointed towards the stacks of bandages and ointments beside me.

He gazed at me for a long moment, and I was almost certain that he would refuse my help, would claim to be uninjured. Then the thought struck me that he had recognised me, and I held my breath, wishing I had simply held my tongue just moments earlier.

At last, he said cool, "Very well." He sat in the chair I had recently vacated and removed his covering robe. Suddenly, realising that was not all he was going to be removing, I averted my eyes and pretended interest in the lamp shifting it slightly so more light would fall across his shoulder. In my concern for his injury, I had overlooked the necessity of baring the injury. I thanked Allah for the dim light and scarf that would hide my burning cheeks and shaking hands. I was not a child, I told myself sternly, and had seen injured men before, but this was the first time I had been called upon to touch the bare skin of a fully alert one. The other women had realised I was not a wife, had seen me as a dutiful daughter and made sure that I was kept from the men who were ... awake..enough to realise they were being tended by an unmarried girl.

I turned back towards Ardeth and found that he had retained his shirt and was busily engaged with cutting the shirt away from the wound. I barely managed to suppress an exclamation of sympathetic pain as I looked at the slash that marred his arm. "This should have been tended to hours ago. I must wash the wound clean, Ardeth, before I bandage it. It will hurt, but if we leave it, it will become worse, and you may lose the arm."

Satisfied I had shown him the gravity of the situation, I picked up a small bowl of clean water and gently began to sponge his shoulder. I heard the quick hiss of an intaken breath and paused before handing him a small wooden rod. "Bite down on this." He took it silently, and placed it between his teeth as I returned to the wound.

Finally satisfied that I had removed all trace of blood and sand from the wound, I carefully smoothed an ointment over the wound. His skin was warm and smooth beneath my fingertips, and to distract myself I said, "The ointment will sting, but will ensure that the wound heals quickly. It will prevent infection." I reached into the basket then slowly wound a bandage around his arm and shoulder, trying to ensure that he retained enough movement of the shoulder. "Keep away from water. Pray there is not a next time, but if there is, look for us much sooner."

He nodded, and I saw a small smile of amusement curve his lips at my gentle rebuke. He stood and said, "I also will pray there is not a next time. I thank you for your help, fair lady. May I escort you back to your tent? It has grown quite late."

As I frantically tried to think of an excuse to stay, he took my hand and gently squeezed it as a token of thanks. I was unable to stop the instinctive gasp of pain that followed his action. He had taken my right hand, which was sore and callused from the weight of the sword. Although I had rebuked him about tending to his wounds, I had yet to tend to my own, having hurriedly washed and bandaged it when I arrived at the camp. His eyes narrowed and he easily seized my wrist as I jumped away from him. He forcefully sat me in the chair, then knelt beside me, as he turned my hand toward the light.

He ignored my attempts to pull myself from his grasp, and stared at the bandage wound haphazardly around my hand and wrist for a moment. His voice was calm as he said, "Nefertiri."

His gaze lifted and I realised that not even the scarf would be enough to fool him. Reaching up he pulled the scarf from my hair, leaving only the diaphanous veil over the lower half of my face. He then placed his hand on the opposing arm of my chair, effectively trapping me. His tone harsh and unyielding, he said, "Do you not have some explanation for me, you foolish child?"
I once heard my father say to Ardeth, "Be wary of your words to a woman my friend; an unwary word can ignite the temper of a women faster than the Nile floods each year." Obviously, Ardeth was not listening at the time.

Child? Child? *Foolish* child?

The foolish child that just saved his life on the battlefield, or the foolish child that had spent hours comforting the dying?

I struggle to hold onto my temper, to keep my face impassive and free of emotion. I can not speak for fear of losing control of my tongue, but the look I send in his direction will hopefully tell of my disdain for the word.

Ardeth looks back at me, his dark gaze solemn and penetrating, and above all unrelenting. I fear my anger starting to drain away, to be replaced by a bone deep weariness. At a loss as to how to answer him, I can do nothing but shut my eyes.


She looks so small sitting in that chair. Fragile and weary and lost. I can see the anger that rose within her as I called her a child, and I see how the energy it momentarily gave her has drained away. I know that I have hurt her by calling her a child, and I know that she is no carefree girl. I have not the words to explain to her that her youth and innocence are special, that her idealism and belief that right and good will always triumph makes her glow, makes her shine, gives me solid proof that there is a purpose to what we do. In her I see myself a decade ago, young, idealistic, certain of the greatness of our cause and the depravity of the darkness. Ten years have altered my viewpoint, I no longer see the world exclusively in shades of dark and light. I still believe wholeheartedly in our cause, in our vows and in our purpose, but I will no longer admit the infallibility of those around me, or those who stand above me in our order. Any man can be mistaken, or misled, or misdirected. We must guard against the darkness leading us astray. Nefertiri knows that the darkness exists. How could she not? She is the daughter of a Med-jai and sister of another, but she does not know the extent of the danger, or the heights it can reach. She is young, and I will do anything that lies within my power to keep that innocent certainty in her eyes. As I look into her eyes, I see the dawning recognition of the darkness that surrounds us, and my heart weighs heavily in my chest.

She will not speak to me, and I do not know how to make her. I still hold her wrist in my hand, and can feel it trembling. At a loss, I unwrap the bandage wound around her hand, wincing in sympathy at the broken skin and callus branding her hand. She may have fought like a Med-jai, but her hands show that she is not a warrior. She may wear the badge of battle upon her hand, but as I hold her hands in mine I can see and feel the difference between them. Her hands are softer and smoother than mine, the bones more delicate and her fingers gently tapered. Mine are hard, years of countless battles and hours of practice have built layers of callus and strength. Sinew and bone and skin, for years they have been in the service of the Med-jai.

For a moment I am almost sure I see a tear slide down one cheek, but I am sure that I am just imagining it. Her eyes are still shut. "Nefertiri?"

She does not respond. I reach for a fresh cloth and begin to gently cleanse her hands, before smoothing the same ointment she used on my shoulder over her own palm. She flinched, and I tightened my grip on her wrist. She is no coward, but neither am I a fool. Given the chance she will bolt from this tent, I am sure of it. She steadfastly refused to look at me even as I wound a fresh bandage around her hand.

Rocking back slightly on my heels I look up at her face. I have no idea how to lift the silence between us, how to force her to look at me. I pull the hlaf viel from her face, and finally decide on the one weapon to which I know she will respond. Had I known her response I might not have used it so recklessly.

"Nefertiri. Speak to me. You know that you should not be here, that your place is with your family. Do you realise how deeply you have shamed your father?"

Her eyes snap open, and the venomous look she shoots at me is almost physically tangible. I hold her gaze, the blaze of pain and anger in her eyes almost blinding. Her lips part, and she speaks, her voice cold, angry and curt.

"Know this. I am here because of my father, Ardeth. He will never have reason to feel shame because of me."

The sight of her stubborn anger causes my own rage to rise, but I force it back down, knowing it will not improve our situation. Nevertheless, I can not stop the words that crowd my tongue. She must know the danger of her course. "Never give him reason? Nefertiri, you took to the battlefield this very day. You know that it is written that only full Med-jai warriors may take part in battles called by the Elders. Only those who have undertaken the rituals are deemed strong enough to survive."

"My family has fought alongside your own in every battle, Ardeth. Since the time of Narmer, we have always stood together, shoulder to shoulder, standing against the darkness. For millennia, we have been there. I will not stand silently by when the Elders demand that our family send their representative to the battle." With her eyes burning bright with rage, and passionate defiance in her voice, she is a sight to behold. But, she can not sway me from my course.

"Nefertiri, you know that the Elders are enforcing the laws. As our numbers grow smaller, we must ensure that the clans send their representatives. Your presence here means that you have deceived them all. Why did your father not come? Or your brother? Any male would have been preferable to coming here yourself!"

She flinched. She tried to hide it, her chin raised defiantly, but I saw her flinch, and I can feel the trembling of her hand beneath mine. Her face solemn and her voice measured she says cuttingly, "I have no male relative capable of taking to the battlefield, Ardeth. Not one."
I can see that my words have shocked him. His eyes widen and I feel the strength of his fingers as his grasp tightens around my wrist. He shifts suddenly and grabs my shoulders, shaking me slightly. I wince slightly as his fingers dig into my right shoulder; my sword arm burns with the fury of ten suns due to the battle. He softens his grip, but does not release me. "Look at me. Nefertiri, I have no time for games. How can you say you have no capable male relative? Your brother Heshram would have come immediately when called, you know he would. Your father never ignored a call from his people. You have uncles and cousins who are all trained as soldiers, if not as proficient as..." He stops suddenly, as if finally registering the fact that there is something wrong. Something terribly wrong.

She is crying. The tears brim, then slip down her face, over her cheeks and down her neck, leaving liquid trials that catch the dim flare of the lamplight. She makes no move to wipe them away, and her eyes never leave mine.

I suddenly realise that I am brushing her tears away with my own fingers. Her cheeks are soft and damp, yet her tears are flowing faster. I finally cradle her face in my hands, brushing the tears away with my thumbs. Nefertiri draws in a deep breath, and I find myself holding a breath of my own in sympathy, suddenly sure that I will need it when she speaks.

"Over the past five years, every male cousin, uncle and blood relation of my family has been killed, Ardeth. At first, there were innocuous accidents, falls, drownings, one or two at a time. I first became suspicious that there was something very wrong when my cousin Tothmun died suddenly. He was found beside one of the desert trails with a knife wound in his side. They claimed that he must have been drunk, and had fallen on his own knife when he was stumbling home." She paused, and I saw the pain of a hurtful memory surface in her face, before she ruthlessly tamped it down once more. "Ardeth, you knew him. Tothmun would never have been drunk! Yes, he brewed beer in accordance with the ancient traditions of our people, but he would not have left his house to drink it. He would have drunk beer, in his own house, with his wife Ankhra and his two month old son! Yet, somehow we were meant to believe that he staggered five miles from home, on foot, drunk, and then fell on his knife. I saw his body when they brought it home to his wife. The knife wound was an upward stroke, under the ribs on his right side. Tothra was right handed, Ardeth, he wore his knife on his left hip, yet they all claimed it was another tragedy to befall our family. That was when I began to suspect someone was plotting against us. I was certain of it when a year ago, his baby son was found dead in his cot. And underneath his pillow was an amulet, an amulet of Setmoramun."

Sobs began to tear at her throat, as she forced the words past her lips. "He was so small, Ardeth, like a broken doll. The blankets were wrapped so tightly around him, and when I lifted him free of them his head lolled back, against my hand. His little eyes were shut, and I thought I had done something wrong, and I called for Ankhra. I swear I didn't realise, Ardeth, or I would never have called for her. She took him from me, and held him against her breast. And then she began screaming, and I couldn't stop her, and I was crying..."

Her words became muffled, as I lifted her out of the chair and enfolded her in my arms. She buried her face in my shoulder, and I felt her shoulders heave as she cried at the memory. I slowly stroked her hair and cheek, murmuring inadequate words of comfort as her tears slowly dampened my collar. Her sobs grew, and I began to fear that she might wake one of the wounded men who lay outside. As her knees began to buckle, I caught her around the waist and half carried her towards the pile of blankets I now realise she had intended to sleep on tonight. Settling myself against the stack, I drew her down beside me, holding her close.

Only once before has she cried in front of me and I then cradled her in my arms. As the broken hearted girl of eleven had sobbed at the loss of her mother and railed against the unfairness of her being taken away, I had held her and stroked her hair. She had accepted my awkward sympathy, cried on my shoulder as I frantically tried to think of things to distract her from her grief. I might have been a newly sworn Med-jai, my training completed and I had seen bloodshed in my first battle against the darkness, but I was hopeless against the tears of a child ten years my junior. A decade later and I have seen more death and destruction than I care to contemplate, yet her tears can undo me in mere moments. She huddles against my shoulder, and I draw away slightly, tilting her chin up. "Hush, now, sweeting. You have more to tell me, do you not? Put the pain into words, and it will lessen, I swear."

She drew in another shuddering breath, and I feel her shake her head in vehement denial. Leaning closer, I heard her whisper, "It won't lessen. The words only make it more real."

I force myself to deny the truth in her words, and give her the gift of anger to focus her attention. "I know it is hard, Nefertiri, but the words make it real so we can bear it. I know you, you would not be here if you were not strong. You will tell me. Everything. Why you came. What has happened. Now."

She stiffens, and I feel her spine straighten. She moves away from me, clasping her hands in front of her. I can almost feel her nails digging into the palm of her good hand, as her eyes blaze at me.


Some part of me knows that he is goading me towards anger, that he is trying to give me a target to focus on apart from the pain. Some part of me knows this, yet I can not stop the words that I instinctively know will strike at him hardest as I lash out. Even as they leave my lips, I know the hurt they will cause, yet I cannot call them back.

"Tell you? Tell you? I tried to tell you Ardeth. I sent messages, my father sent messages, and you never replied. The only answer we had from you was silence. Father kept making excuses for you, saying that you were busy or had been called away, and that when you arrived you would make me see that it was all in my head, that I was a foolish child imagining demons in the shadows around us. He kept saying that right up until the time they attacked him in our own home, and now he lays on his deathbed. He no longer knows who I am, he doesn't even recognise his own daughter. Sometimes he thinks I am my mother, at other times I am his sister, mostly I am a stranger who is trying to hurt him. So he yells and cries out for help and accuses me of being in league with Set. Yet we called for you, hoping that you would help us."

He tries to touch my cheek and I pull away. "Nefertiri, I did not know. I swear I received no message from you or your Father, you must know that I would have come if I had. Why did you not send Heshram to me? None would have dared interfere with him!"

I look at him, I see the pain flare in his eyes, and yet I feel a sense of bitter victory as the words leave my lips. "How could I send Heshram to you, Ardeth? They killed Heshram as he stood unarmed before Father, shielding him from their weapons with his own body. They killed him slowly, then took his body to scatter it to the desert winds. I watched him die Ardeth! I watched him die and could do nothing because I had given Father my word that I would stay hidden, no matter what occurred. I promised him, I promised him!" My voice broke and tears ran over my cheeks once more. I was too tired to wipe them away, so I just let them flow, uncaring as to how I looked.

I finally found the strength to look up, and saw Ardeth sitting before me. He had not moved, and his eyes were the windows of a tormented soul. His face was white, and his jaw stoic, and I could see how stiffly he held himself. Such news would have brought any other man to his knees, but Ardeth refused to show how deeply he had been affected. No tears, no tearing of his hair, or wailing of Heshram's name. Nothing to really indicate that his childhood friend was dead. Until he spoke, and the vitriolic self-blame in his voice rasped along my nerves. "He tried to warn me. Just before I left for Hammunaptra, he sent a messenger to me asking me to come. I thought it could wait, Allah be merciful, I thought it could wait. He did not say what was wrong, he just asked me to come. I swear Nefertiri, if I had known... I failed him."

I tentatively laid a hand on his arm, and felt the corded muscles bunch beneath my fingers. His words were nothing more than echoes of the curses I had heaped upon his own head when he had abandoned us. In his absence I had condemned him to the darkest pits of the Underworld, shifting all of my blame onto him, convincing myself that he would have been able to alter what had happened. Hearing his words, I felt the flame of certainty that had burned within me flicker and die out. Ardeth was not entirely to blame; he did not know what my fears had been or what dark suspicions I harboured. He was guilty of not responding to Heshram's message, and that knowledge would haunt him, as the knowledge of my own inaction tormented me.

His head dropped towards his chest, his dark hair falling like a curtain over his features, hiding his face from my view. My fingers clutched his arm firmly, as I felt the first stirring of panic within me. Even though he had not responded to our calls, deep down I knew that Ardeth was always there. If not with us, he was out there, somewhere in our land, standing as our protector. In my mind I had imagined this moment endlessly, how he would react, what he would say, what he would claim, what accusations I would hurl against him in return. Even now, the irony of our situation does not escape me. Having just defeated the dark god Anubis himself, Ardeth sits here before me as I tell him of Heshram's death and my suspicion that the priesthood of Setmoramun are returning from their eternal exile. He has led our people against one of the darkest forces they have ever faced, I now lead him towards tears. My heart should be shouting for joy; if he feels even the smallest measurement of the horror and grief that I have been living with, my brother is avenged. Yet all I can see is a man who loved my family as his own, a man who looked to my father for guidance, who held my brothers trust and friendship dear to his heart, and a man who held me as I cried after my mothers death. Ardeth is my friend, and yet I hurt him so.

I do not know if I moved closer to him, or if he pulled me into his arms. All I know is that I am now held tightly against him, my face buried in the curve of his shoulder. I know that he can feel my tears upon his neck, and the word sorry is torn in great sobs from my throat. The hot rain of tears upon my hair silences me, and I feel the silent sobs that rack him. I cling tighter to him, trying to offer some kind of silent comfort. He finally cups my cheek and forces my face upwards. I look into his eyes, and almost cry out at the depth of self-hatred, anger, sorrow and grief shown there. His voice rasps in my ears, and I feel the brush of his beard against my cheek as he says, "I swear to you Nefertiri, I will avenge him. I swear to you I will find them and they will be brought to justice. If it takes my death, Heshram will be avenged, and the order of Setmoramun will be crushed."

The frisson of fear that crawls down my spine at his words causes me to jerk backwards. Desperately, I caught his face in my hands and forced his gaze to mine. "Ardeth, please! You must not seek your death! Heshram would not wish it, and you have to stay and help us. You have to stop them, you have to help me! Please Ardeth, please don't leave me, please don't leave me, please, please!"

I stroke her hair back from her forehead, my fingers shaking in the shiny jet strands. Her hands are cold against my cheeks, and terror blankets her eyes. Without thinking, I mimic her own action and cup her cheek with my hand, my thumb brushing over her soft lips, catching the glittering beads of her tears. She quieted and I held her gaze as I vowed to her, "Nefertiri, I vow that Heshram shall be avenged. I vow that the hurts and hardships heaped upon your family will be accounted for. I swear that you shall never heave cause to doubt me again. The order of Setmoramun will be destroyed, and they shall answer for their crimes. I swear to you Nefertiri,.I will be there."


I trust him. The conviction in his eyes, the strength in his voice, the line of his jaw convince me. He will keep his word. My Heshram will be avenged, I can tell Father that Ardeth will rid us of the scourge of Setmoramun, and...and I trust him. I feel the last of my tears welling in my eyes, and dry sobs tear at my throat as I summon a half smile from the depths of my soul. His hand slips from my cheek and over my back as he pulls me closer. I bury my face into his neck, and feel the softness of his beard against my temple. He is whispering nonsense to me, trying to calm me, and I can not quite find the strength to assure him that now, I am well, all is well. I finally pull back enough to smile softly at him, and whisper "thank you."

He smiles in return, and I think I see something in his eyes. Just for a fleeting moment, and then it is gone. I feel a strange sense of peace, a strange sense of safety, something I have not felt for years. A flood or weariness washes over me, and I feel my eyelids falling shut. I battle to raise them, and see the gentle amusement on Ardeth's face. He laughs softly and settles me in the crook of his arm against his side. He overrides my tired protest, and spreads a nearby blanket over me. "Sleep now, Nefertiri. You must be exhausted, little one. I am amazed that you are not already collapsed in a corner somewhere. Rest now, I will keep watch and make sure no danger strikes."

Before my own wretched body betrays me, I force my eyes open, and shake my head. "Ardeth, you must be as tired as I. You must rest also." I disregard his protests as I throw half of my blanket over him. A slight hint of levity creeps into my voice as I continue, "Besides we just defeated the creature and Anubis himself, I think we are safe enough to rest for a few hours."

He appreciates my weary attempt at humour enough to reward me with another small laugh, as I curl up sgainst his side. "Very well, little one. This time I shall listen."

I managed a nod, and a mumbled, "So you should," before my eyes slide completely shut and my body relaxes into sleep. I am not certain, but I think I hear him say, "I promise I will be there, Kalila. From this day forward, neither you nor any of our people will be hurt if it is within my power to prevent it."

I have promised her that I will stand beside her, will protect her and our people from harm, and so it shall be. For a moment longer I gaze down upon her face, still and content, unafraid and trusting as she sleeps beside me, I will ensure that she stays content and unafraid. Even though I know it will be impossible if the order of Setmoramun has returned, I hold her close and promise to do all that is within my power to ensure that she will never know fear or loss again. The words give me some small comfort, even though I know that the darkness that will follow in Setmoramun's footsteps have the power to destroy us all.

For now, I will simply be glad that she has escaped this battle unharmed, as have most of our people. I will not think of the future and what will stand before us if the order manages to raise him. As my own eyes slide shut, I unconsciously gather her closer against me, determined even in sleep to keep her safe.

The storm is coming. Pray to Allah that we survive.
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