Mummy fanfic by Katie Sullivan
It was late one evening, the autumn chill sending a shiver through Anck-su-Namun's scarcely-clothed body. She hurried through the streets, ignoring the way people jostled fearfully to get away from her. In her hands was a wide basket filled with fruit from the palace's gardens. It was an offering to Osiris from Pharaoh, and as the god's most faithful worshipper, she was the natural choice to deliver it to the temple. None of the other women were as religiously inclined, and Seti praised Anck-su-Namun for her reverence. If only he knew! she thought with a thrill of terrified irony.
She hurried into the temple and placed the offering on the altar. There were a few worshippers kneeling in contemplation before the green-faced deity. Imhotep silently gestured to her from behind a pillar, and she unobtrusively followed him into the shadows. He led her to his chambers, shut the door behind them, and only then allowed himself the forbidden luxury of touching her. She wrapped her arms around him and breathed in his familiar scent, reveling in the sensations produced by his hands dancing across her back.
"Anck-su-Namun..." he breathed. "I was worried you weren't coming. It's late, and I haven't seen you all week! I've been starving for you, my darling."
She began quivering, and he suddenly realized she was on the verge of tears. "My love? What is wrong?" he asked, immediately leading her over to a chair.
"Pharaoh...he's...interested in me, again," she said miserably.
Imhotep grimaced. "Oh, no."
"Yes. He's called for me every day this week. That's why I haven't been able to come here."
"Do you think he suspects anything?"
"No. I don't think so. But, Imhotep, he...he says he likes me so well that he...he wants to make me one of his wives!"
"Yes! I can't refuse, of course, but oh, how I want to! I...I hate him! I just can't-- I--" She dissolved into tears, and he held her close, wiping the moisture from her cheeks with a corner of his robe.
"Ssh... There, there, Anck-su-Namun. It will be all right...somehow..."
"What are we going to do, Imhotep?" she cried. "I can't marry him! I just can't! I'd rather die!"
He looked away. "That is an option..."
"Anck-su-Namun, what I'm about to tell you is one of the priesthood's greatest secrets. But because you are like the other half of my soul, I feel I can tell you anything, and... There is a book. A cursed black book, sealed in Hamunaptra."
"The city of the dead?"
"Yes. And the book of which I speak is the Book of the Dead."
"That actually exists?" she asked, her eyes widening. Her tears subsided as her fascination grew.
"It does, but its use is forbidden. With that book it is possible to raise the dead."
"R-raise the dead?" she echoed in horror.
"But to do so upsets Ma'at, the universal order of the cosmos. Life and death are natural cycles, after all, but..."
He clasped her hands in his. "But for you, my beloved Anck-su-Namun, I would risk the wrath of men and gods. If you die in the quest to be free of Seti, I will bring you to life again, so that you may share that life with me."
"You could...do that?" she gasped.
"I could, and I would. For you."
The room and her head seemed to be spinning in different directions. "You're serious?"
She pulled him close, drawing strength from him. "Tomorrow night Pharaoh will announce his intention to marry me. Afterwards I am to fight Princess Nefertiri in ritual combat. Seti hinted that he has a great responsibility to bestow upon her. Anyway, if I do not attend, I will surely be missed. But after that, we will have some time. Enough time, perhaps, to escape from Egypt. Prepare your things. As soon as the banquet is over, we will go."
"It shall be so," he said, nodding gravely. "You will be married soon, Anck-su-Namun. But not to Seti."
She hugged him close and blinked back tears of joy.
Anck-su-Namun knew she wouldn't have the opportunity to take many, if any, of her possessions with her when she fled. She gathered a few of her best jewelry pieces and put them in a small sack under her pillow. If the opportunity presented itself she would take them along to finance their new start, but nothing of sentimental value would burden her. She wanted to forget her past and concentrate only on her future with Imhotep.
The banquet was starting. She slipped into the short gold kilt in which she always fought and grabbed the impassive gold mask that would protect her face. The equally golden tridents were reassuring in her hands as she strode into the huge chamber. There were people everywhere, courtiers, servants, guards, and other royal women. Seti sat on atop a stone staircase, crowned and cocky as always. By the applause that greeted Anck-su-Namun, it was apparent he had already made the betrothal announcement. It was just as well; she couldn't have looked happy about it even if she tried. Now she was expected to be serious, centering herself before the fight.
Nefertiri was waiting for her in similar combat regalia. She was nearly the same age as Anck-su-Namun, yet another reason the thought of marrying Seti turned her stomach. The Princess was eager to prove herself before her illustrious father. If she could defeat her teacher and the champion of the sport at the same time, so much the better.
Imhotep was watching his beloved with admiration and encouragement, standing beside Seti as the close advisor he was...but would soon cease to be. Anck-su-Namun did her best to ignore him and the pounding of her heart. She had to concentrate.
She and Nefertiri snapped their golden masks on and adopted fighting poses, tridents at the ready. Seti gave the word to begin, and the two women threw themselves into mock battle with gusto. Both were skilled, and the male members of the audience were to be treated to a longer match than usual. Imhotep was confident his lover could defeat the Princess, and the thought of their impending elopement made the whole evening just that much more thrilling. For the moment, at least, he allowed himself to relax and enjoy the spectacle.
He occasionally stole a sidelong glance at the Pharaoh, who was watching the display with a wide grin. He exhibited a disturbing mix of lust for the next addition to his collection of wives, and a paternal pride at his daughter's skills. Imhotep managed not to frown. He had never disliked Seti before, having seen him only as a ruler. Now that Anck-su-Namun was in the picture, however, he truly saw how flawed the monarch was.
Anck-su-Namun gained the upper hand and flung Nefertiri to the hard marble floor. The Princess lifted her mask and glared up at her instructor, panting from the exertion of the battle but clearly not about to admit defeat. Anck-su-Namun briefly raised her own mask to meet her opponent eye-to-eye. "Put your mask on. Let's not scar that pretty face," she taunted, teasing Nefertiri's pulsing neck with her spear point.
In one fluid movement, the Princess slipped her mask back over her face and vaulted to her feet, and the battle began anew. Although Nefertiri was goaded on by her opponent and had more than enough enthusiasm, she again found herself at the losing end of Anck-su-Namun's weapon.
"You are learning quickly, Nefertiri," she said in a tone that made the comment seem less like a compliment and more like a challenge. "I'll have to watch my back."
"Yes," the Princess said with a scowl, "and I'll have to watch mine."
They could easily have fought a third round, but Seti stood and began down the stairs to the main floor, clapping in appreciation. "Bravo! Bravol!" he cheered. The two women backed away from each other, sharing one last venomous look before surrendering to Pharaoh's praise. "Who better to protect the Bracelet of Anubis than my daughter, Nefertiri?" So that was the announcement he had made regarding her. Anck-su-Namun cursed herself for being late. "And," Seti continued, "who better to protect me than my future wife, Anck-su-Namun?"
The crowd applauded. Seti embraced Nefertiri warmly, his back to Anck-su-Namun.
Maintaining a prayerful, reverent posture, Imhotep descended the stairs to exit, followed by a group of golden-skinned priests from his temple. Anck-su-Namun warned herself not to look at him. They mustn't let anyone know of a connection between them. Not yet. But she couldn't help it. She found her eyes magnetically drawn to his bronzed body as he passed by with regal grace in his stride. Her heart swelled with love, and she found herself turning her neck to look upon him for just a second more. He did the same, unable to look away. Finally, he walked out of sight, and she turned back toward Pharaoh, who was just concluding his embrace of his daughter.
Anck-su-Namun breathed deeply. Hopefully no one had seen that moment of weakness. The way Nefertiri was watching her suspiciously made her wonder, though. No matter. The Princess could never accuse her of infidelity because if she did Anck-su-Namun would tell Pharaoh about her liasons with a Med-Jai. The threat of mutual blackmail kept them from open hostility, but there was certainly no love lost between pupil and teacher.
Anck-su-Namun's gold-painted lips twisted into a faint smile. Before Ra rose again she and Imhotep would be away from this place, and she'd never have to see that bastard Seti or his little brat ever again.
She retrieved her gold tridents and stalked back to the harem to prepare.
Servants helped her shower and change clothes. Her battle gear was replaced by a brief brown loincloth and especially intricate body paint. So late in the evening, that could only mean one thing: Seti wanted her to join him. Fear rose in Anck-su-Namun's throat. That meant she and Imhotep would be delayed. Yet he was coming here, to the harem, any moment, to fetch her!
She had to think fast.
"Auset," she said, addressing one of the servants, "Pharaoh asked me to bring him a basket of lotus flowers. Their scent pleases him. I wish to meditate with Bast before our meeting. You and the others go to the gardens and pick a large basket of the finest blossoms."
"What sort of lotus blossoms my lady? Large or small?"
"Should we pick them from the east garden or the south garden? There are so many in the south garden, but the east garden has the largest blossoms."
"It matters not," Anck-su-Namun said, grinding her teeth to restrain her temper. "Just go and get some."
"Where should we get a basket, my lady?"
"I don't know! Ask one of the gardeners."
"I fear they will not allow a mere servant to take their finest blossoms, my lady. Could you perhaps come along for a moment to tell them it is all right?"
"All right, fine, fine. Just hurry. I can't--er, keep Pharaoh waiting."
"Yes, my lady."
Silently cursing, Anck-su-Namun led her servants to the east garden, tracked down a gardener, told him to let them pick the flowers, and then hurried back to her quarters. Imhotep was probably already there. She had to tell him that Seti was expecting her, and that their departure would be delayed. Not a Med-Jai in sight, she noted as she neared her quarters. Good. A pair of golden-skinned, bald priests were at her door. That meant he was here. Also good.
She entered the room with bold strides, eager to see her beloved but not wanting to seem undignified by running. It was all going to work out, she assured herself. Nothing to worry about. She loved him, and he loved her, and as soon as she took care of Seti's (ug) "needs," they would flee to a faraway land and start a new life together. It was all going to be fine. Filled with a new confidence, she slipped through the gauzy curtains into her bedchamber and went to him, once again mesmerized by his captivating gaze.
She swept her hand down in front of his face in a smooth, sensual movement. What had at first been a compromise between no contact and forbidden touch had become a special greeting between them. Imhotep closed his eyes, relishing the sensation of her hand passing so close to his face.
Her message was momentarily forgotten as she leaned into his kiss. Seeing her paint, he was at first careful to touch only her unpainted face, but after a few moments of pressing his lips to hers he forgot everything but their passion, and began caressing her upper arm. In a daze of love, she didn't think to stop him until it was too late. No matter, she could repair the damage herself before--
The main doors to the chamber flew open. "What are you doing here?" came Seti's unmistakable voice. The question was directed at Imhotep's priests standing watch at the door, but he would soon discover who else was present. In a panic, Anck-su-Namun shooed Imhotep out onto the balcony, then dashed to pose against a statue of Bast in the most casual manner she could manage. When Pharaoh tore back the curtains, he found her standing alone. He was briefly confused, having expected to find her in the arms of a lover. Then his sharp eyes noticed the smudged paint high on her arm.
"Who has touched you?" he roared, pointing an accusing finger.
Anck-su-Namun tried to remain calm, but out of the corner of her eye she saw Imhotep sneaking in from the balcony. Her heart was pounding so loudly she feared Pharaoh could hear it. In another moment he would notice Imhotep's presence, and they would both be killed. Hatred boiled in her heart as she met Seti's suspicious gaze. Here was the man who had ruined her life, broken her spirit, battered her body, denied her basic human courtesy, kept her from the one she loved, and treated her like chattel. If anyone were to die here, it should be him. Never mind his rank. Such a lecherous and inconsiderate brute didn't deserve to wear the double crown.
Seti noticed too late the movement behind him and was unable to keep Imhotep from stealing his sword from the royal scabbard. "Imhotep?" he gasped. "My priest?!"
It was all the distraction Anck-su-Namun needed. She grabbed a long dagger from her private stock of weapons and drew in her breath before plunging the blade into the Pharaoh's unprotected back. Seti's yell of agony was cut short and then augmented as Imhotep got in a heavy blow with the stolen sword. Across the courtyard, Princess Nefertiri was calling for the guards. The next few moments were a blur of blood and flashing blades.
Suddenly, as if in a dream, Anck-su-Namun found herself standing over the mutilated corpse of the Lord of the Two Lands, a stained dagger in her hand.
There was a crash in the distance. The Med-Jai were coming. The golden priests rushed to Imhotep's side, faithful to the end, and attempted to drag him away. Protecting their High Priest was their only concern. Imhotep struggled against their well-meaning hands. "No! Let go of me!"
Concern for him overwhelmed her, pushing aside all thoughts of her own safety. "You must go, my love. You must save yourself!" she said desperately.
"No! I won't leave you!" he said with an agonized look, trying to pull away from the priests.
"Only you can resurrect me!"
He remembered, then, what he had said. It had seemed so abstract and impossible at the time. But now that it was happening...he knew she was right. He knew he had to go. But to leave her here alone, to take all the blame for this heinous deed--
A horde of Med-Jai burst into the room, and he went limp, allowing his priests to drag him onto the balcony just in time. When the guards reached the murder scene, Anck-su-Namun was the only person to be seen. Still clutching the bloody dagger, she narrowed her eyes at them. "My body is no longer his temple!" she proclaimed, raising the blade in the air in front of her. The point was aimed toward her own trembling body, however, not at the Med-Jai. Life without Imhotep wasn't worth living. If he could resurrect her and whisk her away to a better place, praise to the gods! But if he was unable to escape or unable to raise her, she'd wait for him in the Underworld for as long as it took.
Before the Med-Jai could stop her, she thrust the sword through her stomach. There was an explosion of pain. Darkness rushed up to greet her, and her body fell to the marble floor as Anubis arrived to carry away her soul.
Only her trust kept Imhotep from following suit. Anck-su-Namun had become his whole world. She was more important to him than the gods, Pharaoh, Egypt, or his own life. Her life, her happiness, her love...that was all that mattered. She deserved so much better than what fate had allotted her. If there was any way he could give her the life and love she deserved, he would do it, and damn the consequences.
Numbly, silently, he allowed his priests to steal him away, away from the palace, away from the bodies of Seti and Anck-su-Namun. Once he was safely back in the temple, he threw himself onto the bed--even now he could close his eyes and see her lying there--and wept.
But there was little time for grief. He had survived for a purpose. Anck-su-Namun had asked him to resurrect her, and that was exactly what he intended to do.
On to Chapter Five...