Through a Mummy's Eyes
A Mummy fanfic by Katie Sullivan
You know the drill: Roses are red, these characters aren't mine, please don't sue me, your copyright's fine
~~ Chapter Five: Hanging by a Heartstring ~~
Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun reached the golden pyramid shortly after the first direct beams of morning sun did. If the O'Connell boy hadn't reached this place already, he was dead. As they emerged into the clearing, they spotted their enemies milling about outside the main entrance to the pyramid.
Imhotep watched uneasily as that icy, murderous expression took form on his true love's face. He had hoped it had disappeared along with the persona of Meela, but there it was again. "Anck-su-Namun?" he prodded gently.
"Do you not recognize that woman, Imhotep?"
He squinted at the distant figures through the trees. "Ev-eh-lyn O'Connell."
"Yes. But she is also Nefertiri reincarnated."
"Princess Nefertiri, the Pharaoh's daughter?"
"You know another Nefertiri?"
He shook his head. "No wonder she looked so familiar the first time I saw her, in Hamunaptra. I even thought she was you for a few moments."
"You what?" Anck-su-Namun said indignantly.
"I was very disoriented, my dear. I'd only had eyes for a few moments, and they weren't even mine."
"I see," she said with a jealous pout. "I assume you soon saw the error of your ways."
"What do you mean eventually?" she asked with a suspicious glare.
"Well, I did sort of kiss her once...and she might have kissed me once, but she was just trying to distract me so I wouldn't kill her friends."
"You what?" she hissed. She would have shrieked it, but she didn't want to alert their enemies to their presence.
"It didn't mean anything, honestly! I thought she was you, and then when I realized she wasn't, I immediately tried to use her to bring you back. That's the truth, my darling. I swear."
She lowered a skeptical eyebrow and gave him a withering look. "I see."
"Don't be angry," he said sheepishly. "I apologized, didn't I?"
"Did you? I was too busy trying to imagine you kissing that...that hussy to notice!"
"I swear I thought she was you at first!"
"Yes. Then I was going to sacrifice her to resurrect you. I promise."
"Hmm." She looked only partially convinced.
"You know I love only you, my Anck-su-Namun," he said in his most charming voice, sliding up to her with a seductive smile.
"I've always loved you, and I always will. You and only you, Anck-su-Namun."
"Mmm." Her frown faded into a tolerant smile. "So...you don't mind if I kill her, then?"
"Of course not," he replied without hesitation. "Please do. After all, it was that meddling nymph who warned the Med-Jai of our deed, that last night in Thebes. If not for her, we could have both escaped unharmed. No, she must die. But be wary; she is strong."
"Not as strong as I. She never was," she said with a cocky smirk. Overcome with affection for her spirited ways, Imhotep drew her into a kiss. She indulged him for a few seconds, then broke away. "You take care of the other one," she said, indicating Johnathan.
Anck-su-Namun had waited for this moment for all her life--both of them. Countless times she had restrained herself during ritualized combat with the elegant princess. One little "oops" with her blade and she could easily have slain the overconfident Nefertiri, but she never dared. Seti's wrath was to be avoided at all costs, as she had learned the hard way several times. Imhotep himself had bathed her bruises and ministered to her wounds after she was the target of the Pharaoh's anger. So she had to go on acting as if she liked Nefertiri. As if she looked forward to being stepmother to a vain princess her own age. As if the fervor she displayed in their dueling matches was merely athletic and not emotional. As if she cared one iota about Seti and his brat. As if she was happy having the life slowly crushed out of her by Seti's dominating persona.
Two lifetimes of hatred boiled in her breast as Anck-su-Namun lunged at the unsuspecting Evelyn O'Connell with a long dagger. It was frighteningly easy. The blade sliced straight through the stunned woman's torso and out again, and she dropped like a stone, bleeding on the powdery sand. Her brother was tossed aside by Imhotep, and they strode into the pyramid unopposed. Anck-su-Namun caught a glimpse of O'Connell running to the scene, but he was too late.
A tingle of adrenaline surged through Anck-su-Namun's body. She was elated, triumphant. In one fell swoop, Nefertiri and Evelyn O'Connell were eliminated, and now she was walking to face the Scorpion King with the Book of the Dead in her arms and her beloved at her side. She was on the top of the world!
They instinctively knew the way though the labyrinth of corridors within the pyramid. Neither spoke, subdued by the thought of facing the Scorpion King. Anck-su-Namun wondered if Imhotep really wanted to do this, and he wondered if she really wanted him to, but neither had the courage to speak their doubts.
Still lost in thought, he stepped off a small flight of stairs and onto the crest of Anubis embossed on the floor of the temple. As his feet came in contact with the god's symbol and his body passed between two statues, a sudden flash paralyzed him. His body arched and quivered helplessly as a surge of power coursed through him, more potent than electricity. Anck-su-Namun fell backward into a statue, still clutching the Book of the Dead like a shield.
The beam disappeared as suddenly as it had materialized, dropping Imhotep to the floor like a discarded toy. Anck-su-Namun rushed to help him up, stammering in concern and asking if he was all right.
The unexpected ordeal left him drawn, pale, and shaking. Wait a minute... His powers...?
He raised his hands in front of him and concentrated intensely, attempting to lift the altar at the other end of the room with his mind. It didn't budge. He tried the golden artifacts atop it instead, but they barely quivered.
Anck-su-Namun stared at him, her eyes huge with concern. "What has happened, my love?"
He gave a shallow, nervous laugh. "The great god Anubis has taken my powers. It seems he wants me to face the Scorpion King as a moral." He studied his hands as if expecting to see some trace of his powers there. His gaze then shifted to the stone archway leading into the chamber of the Scorpion King. Eerily, the torches and bonfires within the long-abandoned room were already ablaze, as if expecting him.
"I must face the Scorpion King alone." He began walking toward the door, but she clutched his arm, dragging him back.
"No! You must not! Without your powers, he'll kill you!"
"No. It is our destiny." Imhotep gave her a sympathetic look and handed over the Book of the Dead, as much as to say, "If I die, you can resurrect me with this."
She threw her arms around him, near tears. "No! I don't want to lose you again," she said fervently, holding him tightly to keep him there.
There was nothing for him to say. It was too late to back down now. He merely kissed her--deeply, passionately--and then resumed his march into the hall of the Scorpion King.
"No!" Anck-su-Namun wailed, watching him go. She wanted to run after him, to tug him backward and tell him to forget the whole thing. Forget Anubis. Forget the Scorpion King. Forget ruling the world. Just stay with her, safe and alive. But she couldn't articulate any of that, and her feet refused to move, unwilling to carry her into the extreme danger beyond that threshold. She bit her lip and prayed to any gods that might be listening to please protect her beloved. There was only so much she could take in one--or two--lifetimes.
She didn't know what to do, so she paced.
She hated feeling helpless. She hated wearing shoes. Come to think of it, she hated scorpions, too. Snakes she liked. Scorpions she didn't. And she wasn't overly fond of creepy old temples, either.
Someone cleared his throat. She whirled around to find Evelyn's brother, Johnathan, glaring at her with fists poised as if to start a boxing match. She nearly laughed.
"Ahem! S'time someone taught you a lesson, wench!" the Englishman taunted, feigning a punch.
This time she did laugh, a short, humorless sound, and approached him. If he wanted a fight, very well. It would take her mind off worrying about Imhotep for a few moments, and she needed the practice anyway.
"This is for my sister!" he said, landing the first punch.
She got in a few blows, he managed to do the same, and she landed a solid kick that sent him staggering back into a statue. He awkwardly grabbed a spear, and she procured a pair of tridents from a nearby statue. It had been a very long time, but the weapons felt reassuringly familiar in her hands. As she moved to attack, her opponent called out, "Hurry up, Alex!"
Who was he talking to? Suddenly she realized she had left the Book of the Dead unattended. Stupid, stupid, stupid! She spun around and saw that O'Connell brat reading from the sacred book. The pale corpse of Evelyn/Nefertiri lay in front of him.
She growled in rage and prepared to attack the boy, but Johnathan distracted her with an inexperienced spear thrust. Clumsy though he was, he had to be dealt with before she could stop Alex. Impatient and growing more and more irritated, Anck-su-Namun attacked Johnathan with renewed vigor. Somehow he fended her off for several long seconds, but the child's voice continued reading the incantation. Anck-su-Namun swore inwardly and lunged harder, this time managing to disarm her foe. She did a fairly efficient job of strangling him, nearly preventing him from answering Alex's question. It seemed the little troublemaker couldn't remember how to pronounce the last symbol. Anck-su-Namun knew, of course, but certainly wasn't about to tell him. But Johnathan managed to croak out the right word, and the spell was complete.
Suddenly, a hand locked around Anck-su-Namun's forcing her to break off her attack on Johnathan. "Pick on somebody your own size," a distressingly familiar voice taunted. It was Evelyn/Nefertiri, brought back from the dead by her meddling son's incantations. Anck-su-Namun backed away from Johnathan, sizing up her new opponent. The two males slipped away to safety while the two women faced off, tridents at the ready.
"Nefertiri," Anck-su-Namun said contemptuously.
"Anck-su-Namun," her opponent confirmed with a nod.
"Good." Anck-su-Namun launched herself back into action. She had already killed this woman once today. Once more shouldn't be difficult...
But Nefertiri was no more out of practice than she was. The fighting was intense, a whirl of limbs and weapons, no quarter asked or given.
"You have remembered the old ways," Anck-su-Namun said with an approving nod.
Nefertiri sent her enemy reeling backward with a head-butt. "That's a little something new."
Anck-su-Namun's cheek was bleeding, both her pride and body wounded.
Just as she was preparing to resume the combat, an inhuman roar shook the room. Both women froze, wide-eyed, at the sound. They silently agreed on a truce, staring through the corridor into the hall of the Scorpion King. They both sensed the same thing: The man I love is in danger.
Discarding their weapons in their haste, the warriors raced to see what, if anything, they could do.
Imhotep was uneasy. Without his powers, he felt naked and distressingly vulnerable. Anck-su-Namun was upset; he could sense it, although he wasn't sure why. And this haunted chamber, criss-crossed with a chasm that led directly into the underworld, was enough to give even the undead the creeps.
Still, he persevered. An immense golden gong stood near the front of the room as if waiting for him. He took up the heavy mallet and swung with all his now-mortal might, causing a reverberating bong to ring through the still air. The entire cavern seemed to shiver.
There was someone approaching quickly from behind, and it wasn't the Scorpion King. Imhotep spun on his heel with the gong's hammer out in front of him, just in time to block the blow descending on his back. He strained to hold the hammer steady as his attacker tried to break it with his axe. Imhotep found himself looking straight into the face of a seriously pissed off Rick O'Connell.
Don't you ever give up? he thought to himself in disgust, saving all his breath for the battle ahead. He twisted with all his strength, and both their weapons flew from their hands and went skittering into the bottomless abyss. O'Connell and Imhotep backed off a few steps, circling like predators as they sized each other up.
O'Connell delivered a punch to his adversary's jaw, and Imhotep staggered back. He touched his now-bleeding lip, stunned by his own mortality. "So...you wish to kill me. Then you would kill him and send his Army back to the underworld. This I cannot allow."
Mortal or not, he had to fight. With a sneer of hatred, Imhotep launched himself at O'Connell.
At first they fought with their bare hands, but Imhotep quickly tired of this novelty. A real warrior would use an elegant weapon...like those in the claws of the guardian statues. He grabbed a pair of golden weapons, and O'Connell did the same. Their battle increased to fever pitch, a true duel to the death. Relentless, they warred back and forth across the temple chamber, only pausing to recover from the increasingly frequent earth tremors. Imhotep was shocked to find that the side of his mouth was bleeding. He was indeed mortal now, but he didn't have to like it for a single second.
Just as they seemed to have fought to a draw, their weapons locked together in a quivering but solid hold, it happened. The massive doors on the wall above the altar blasted open, and a huge, dark something slid down from the shadows.
Both combatants stood mute and still, staring up in horror at the creature. Their personal vendettas forgotten, the broke off the duel, dropped their weapons and craned their necks back to get a clear idea of the sheer scale of the monster emerging from the wall. It wasn't encouraging.
So this was the Scorpion King. Human head and torso, giant pinchers instead of hands, and from the waist down built like a scorpion. Not just any scorpion. A scorpion that spent far too much time bathing in radioactive waste. Apparently Anubis had a very sick sense of humor.
Imhotep knew that discretion was the better part of valor; those who fought and run away lived to fight a better day, and all the clichés that existed in some form even in his day. So he followed their advice and attempted to flee. The monster scorpion trapped him against a pillar, however. His mind raced for a solution as the giant poised to deliver what would inevitably be a fatal blow.
He dropped to his knees and bowed low, quickly saying, "I am your servant!" in the oldest dialect he knew. The creature understood.
"We shall see..." it said suspiciously.
"I am your servant," Imhotep said again, "but he was sent here to kill you!" He pointed at O'Connell. It was such an old trick that even the Scorpion King had probably heard of it, but several millennia locked in a dark room wasn't the best thing for keeping the senses sharp, so the beast fell for it. He turned his attack on the American instead.
O'Connell fled from the fury of the monster, nearly running head-on into the curator, who was very much the worse for wear after an encounter with one of the temple's many supernatural booby traps. The terrified man tried to appeal to Imhotep for help as the Scorpion King grabbed him, shouting, "Help me, my lord! Help me!"
Imhotep remained blasé. "Why?" The simpering brown-noser was no further use to him, after all.
While the behemoth was busy ripping the curator into itty bitty pieces, O'Connell dashed into another room. Imhotep followed at a safe distance, eager to see which one of them won the battle and hoping it would be O'Connell--merely because the mummy himself would have to defeat the victor. He watched from the shadows as his mortal enemy read the inscriptions on the wall and suddenly realized the true significance of the scepter he and his companions had been dragging around. Only the Scepter of Osiris, once telescoped into a holy spear, could kill the Scorpion King.
Whether the monster knew this and/or noticed the Scepter in the hands of the frightened Johnathan in the corner was a moot point. He was intent on killing O'Connell--which was fine with Imhotep, too, really--and couldn't seem to concentrate on more than one thing at a time.
Evelyn and Anck-su-Namun came racing out of another corridor together and stopped in their tracks as if they had glue on their shoes at the sight of the hideous Scorpion King. Imhotep tried to motion to his beloved to stay back, of out danger, but she was too busy gaping at the creature to pay attention.
O'Connell's brother-in-law finally figured out how to open the Scepter into a spear.
"The Spear of Osiris!" Imhotep gasped. Anck-su-Namun was trying to stop a frantic Evelyn from warning her brother.
Johnathan tossed the spear with surprising agility toward Rick, who was very close to being crushed by the creature's giant pinchers. Desperate, Imhotep launched himself into the air with grace an Olympic track and field star would have envied, and caught the spear in mid-air. The others gasped. The Scorpion King just looked confused. Imhotep grinned. "The Army of Anubis will be mine!" he crowed. He drew back his arm and hurled the spear again in the direction of the monster--only to watch in horror as Rick O'Connell gave him a taste of his own medicine. With insanely fast reflexes, the American adventurer grabbed the spear out of the air.
"No!" Imhotep yelled, unable to believe what he was seeing.
O'Connell evaded the Scorpion King for another few seconds, trying to get a better angle to use the spear. Finally, he was trapped up against the bottomless chasm and had no choice but to thrust the golden weapon clear through the Scorpion's stomach.
""No!" Imhotep wailed, rushing uselessly to the monster's side.
"Go to hell, and take your friends with you!" O'Connell said with a grimace, staring without fear into the stunned face of the creature.
The evil being slumped in death and dissolved, leaving O'Connell sprawled on his back at the edge of the chasm. Imhotep was about to attack him again, but the entire hall convulsed in a sudden earthquake, knocking both men over the edge.
The women screamed in horror as their men disappeared into oblivion--but no, they were both still hanging on. Two pairs of hands clutched the edge of the abyss. Both Imhotep and O'Connell were at the limits of their endurance. This day had already been taxing beyond belief, and neither adversary had the strength to hang on for very long.
O'Connell called to his wife, telling her to stay where she was. Stalactites and chunks of rubble were hailing down from above, shattering on the stone floor in a deadly rain. Anyone venturing into that storm would almost surely die.
Imhotep panicked. After all he had been through, after dying the most horrible death imaginable, returning only to die a second time, he couldn't stand to go through it all again. Not again. Not this time. He wanted to live, dammit! Was that so much to ask?
"Anck-su-Namun!" he cried out. "Help me!"
He could barely see her over the lip of the gorge, staring at him without really seeing him. She was in shock, panicked more than he was, unable even to speak or move.
Despite his protests, O'Connell's wife ran into the danger zone and somehow reached him safely. She reached down and yanked him free. So he was saved.
"Anck-su-Namun!" Imhotep called again, his voice shrill with desperation. "Help me!"
She wanted to. She ordered her body to move. She couldn't let that trollop show her up like that. If Nefertiri/Evelyn could brave the danger to save her man, why couldn't she?
Good question...why couldn't she?
Her limbs refused to move. She stared, dumbfounded, across the crumbling chamber to where her beloved's pleading eyes reached out to her.
Go, damn you, she told herself. Move!
She couldn't. She was afraid. He was her strength, her courage. If he was helpless, what could she do? She was lost, alone and terrified into numbness. He called her name again, but it sounded foreign to her ears.
Fight or flight? Fight or flight? Fight or flight?
Move, you worthless piece of camel dung! Move! she commanded her insubordinate limbs.
They did, but not in the direction she had intended. Without knowing why, without wanting to, blinded by fear and despair, Anck-su-Namun fled down the corridor, running to she knew not where.
Regardless of the crumbling pyramid, Imhotep's entire world crashed down around him. "Anck-su-Namun..." he whispered, his eyes flooding with bitter tears. He had to be seeing things. He didn't just see the woman he loved, the woman who supposedly loved him, the woman for whom he had risked the wrath of men and gods, the woman without whom life wasn't worth living--he didn't just see her run away from him, did he?
He looked up at the O'Connells, who regarded him with expressions very much like pity.
She did. She abandoned him. After everything he had done for her, she left.
He felt like blacking out, getting sick, crying, screaming, or some combination of all of them.
His arms were over the edge of the abyss, now. He could conceivably pull himself to safety. But why bother? Anck-su-Namun was--no, had been--absolutely everything to him. If she had forsaken him, life wasn't worth contemplating, much less living. He closed his eyes, unable to look upon the cruel, merciless world a second longer, and let go. He fell backward into the chasm, tugged by ghostly hands of the dead. His body plummeted in the depths as his heart had just done, embracing the end.
Then the comfortingly familiar blackness closed in.
Anck-su-Namun ran blindly down the uneven corridor, barely breathing, not thinking, just fleeing. Fleeing from what? From Imhotep, the only man who ever loved her, ever cared, ever earned her love in return! What was she thinking?
Suddenly, the ground wasn't ground anymore, and she plunged into a pit full of--scorpions?!
She had no time to think. No time to scream. No time to weep.
The physical blackness of the ravenous arachnids closed in, soon followed by a much purer blackness, and the pain was gone.
Death is only the beginning...