I stared at him. Sometimes he acted so much like a teenager, it was hard to believe he was thousands of years old. I suppose that came from living a sheltered life in the Land of the Dead, unaffected by the passage of time. The boy really needed to get out more.
“You’re worried about getting into trouble?” I asked. “Anubis, not that I’m ungrateful, but I’ve got bigger problems at the moment. Two gods have possessed my grandparents. If you want to lend a hand—”
“Sadie, I can’t intervene.” He turned up his palms in frustration. “I told you when we first met, this isn’t an actual physical body.”
“Shame,” I mumbled.
“Nothing. Go on.”
“I can manifest in places of death, like this churchyard, but there is very little I can do outside my territory. Now, if you were already dead and you wanted a nice funeral, I could help you, but—”
Somewhere nearby, the baboon god roared. Glass shattered, and bricks crumbled. My friends called to me, but the sounds were distorted and muffled, as if I was hearing them from underwater.
“If I go on without my friends,” I asked Anubis, “will the gods leave them alone?”
Anubis shook his head. “Nekhbet preys on the weak. She knows that hurting your friends will weaken you. That’s why she targeted your grandparents. The only way to stop her is by facing her down. As for Babi, he represents the darkest qualities of you primates: murderous rage, uncontrolled strength—”
“We primates?” I said. “Sorry, did you just call me a baboon?”
Anubis studied me with a kind of confused awe. “I’d forgotten how irritating you are. My point was that he will kill you just for the sake of killing.”
“And you can’t help me.”
He gave me a mournful look with those gorgeous brown eyes. “I told you about St. Petersburg.”
Lord, he was good-looking, and so annoying.
“Well, then, god of pretty much nothing useful,” I said, “anything else before I get myself killed?”
He held up his hand. A strange sort of knife materialized in his grasp. It was shaped like a Sweeney Todd razor: long, curvy, and wickedly sharp along one edge, made from black metal.
“Take this,” Anubis said. “It will help.”
“Have you seen the size of the baboon? Am I supposed to give him a shave?”
“This is not to fight Babi or Nekhbet,” he said, “but you will need it soon for something even more important. It’s a netjeri blade, made from meteoric iron. It’s used for a ceremony I once told you about—the opening of the mouth.”
“Yes, well, if I survive the night, I’ll be sure to take this razor and open someone’s mouth. Thanks ever so much.”
Liz screamed, “Sadie!” Through the mist of the graveyard, I saw Babi a few blocks away, lumbering toward the church. He’d spotted us.
“Take the Underground,” Anubis suggested, pulling me to my feet. “There’s a station half a block south. They won’t be able to track you very well below the earth. Running water is also good. Creatures of the Duat are weakened by crossing a river. If you must battle them, find a bridge over the Thames. Oh, and I told your driver to come get you.”
“Yes. He wasn’t planning to meet you until tomorrow, but—”
A red Royal Mail box hurtled through the air and smashed into the building next door. My friends screamed at me to hurry.
“Go,” Anubis said. “I’m sorry I can’t do more. But happy birthday, Sadie.”
He leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. Then he melted into mist and disappeared. The graveyard became normal again—part of the regular, unshimmery world.
I should’ve been very cross with Anubis. Kissing me without permission—the nerve! But I stood there, paralyzed, staring at Beatrice’s crumbling sarcophagus, until Emma yelled, “Sadie, come on!”
My friends grabbed my arms, and I remembered how to run.
We bolted for the Canary Wharf tube station. The baboon roared and smashed through traffic behind us. Overhead, Nekhbet shrieked, “There they go! Kill them!”
“Who was that boy?” Emma demanded as we plunged into the station. “God, he was hot.”
“A god,” I muttered. “Yes.”
I slipped the black razor into my pocket and clambered down the escalator, my lips still tingling from my first kiss.
And if I was humming “Happy Birthday” and smiling stupidly as I fled for my life—well, that was nobody’s business, was it?
8. Major Delays at Waterloo Station (We Apologize for the Giant Baboon)
THE LONDON UNDERGROUND has lovely acoustics. Sound echoed through the tunnels, so as we descended I could hear the rush of the trains, the musicians playing for coins, and of course the killer baboon god roaring for blood as he pulverized the turnstiles behind us.
What with terrorism threats and stepped-up security, one might’ve expected a few police to be on hand; but sadly not this time of evening, not at such a relatively small station. Sirens wailed from the street above, but we’d be dead or long gone by the time mortal help arrived. And if the police did try to shoot Babi while he possessed Gramps’s body—no. I forced myself not to think about that.
Anubis had suggested traveling underground. And if I had to fight, I should find a bridge. I had to stick with that plan.
There wasn’t much choice of trains at Canary Wharf. Thankfully, the Jubilee Line was running on time. We made it to the platform, jumped aboard the last carriage as the doors were closing, and collapsed on a bench.
The train lurched away into the dark tunnel. Behind us, I saw no sign of Babi or Nekhbet chasing us.
“Sadie Kane,” Emma gasped. “Will you please tell us what’s going on?”
My poor friends. I’d never gotten them into this much trouble, not even when we got shut in the boys’ changing room at school. (Long story, which involved a five quid bet, Dylan Quinn’s knickers, and a squirrel. Perhaps I’ll tell you later.)
Emma’s feet were cut and blistered from running barefoot. Her pink jumper looked like mangled poodle fur, and her glasses had lost several rhinestones.
Liz’s face was red as a valentine. She’d taken off her denim jacket, which she never does, as she’s always cold. Her white top was blotted with sweat. Her arms were so freckly, they reminded me of Nut the sky goddess’s constellation skin.
Of the two, Emma looked more annoyed, waiting for my explanation. Liz looked horrified, her mouth moving as if she wanted to speak but had lost her vocal cords. I thought she’d make some comment about the bloodthirsty gods chasing us, but when she finally found her voice, she said, “That boy kissed you!”
Leave it to Liz to have her priorities straight.
“I will explain,” I promised. “I know I’m a horrible friend for dragging you both into this. But please, give me a moment. I need to concentrate.”
“Concentrate on what?” Emma demanded.
“Emma, hush!” Liz chided. “She said to let her concentrate.” I closed my eyes, trying to calm my nerves.
It wasn’t easy, especially with an audience. Without my supplies, however, I was defenseless, and I wasn’t likely to get another chance to retrieve them. I thought: You can do this, Sadie. It’s only reaching into another dimension. Only ripping a tear in the fabric of reality.
I reached out. Nothing happened. I tried again, and my hand disappeared into the Duat. Liz shrieked. Fortunately, I didn’t lose my concentration (or my hand). My fingers closed around the strap of my magic bag, and I pulled it free.
Emma’s eyes widened. “That’s brilliant. How did you do that?”
I was wondering the same thing, actually. Given the circumstances, I couldn’t believe I’d managed it on just my second try.
“It’s, um…magic,” I said.
My mates stared at me, mystified and scared, and the enormity of my problems suddenly came crashing down on me.
A year ago, Liz, Emma, and I would’ve been riding this train to Funland or the cinema. We would’ve been laughing at the ridiculous ring tones on Liz’s phone or Emma’s Photoshopped pictures of the girls we hated at school. The most dangerous things in my life had been Gran’s cooking and Gramps’s temper when he saw my marks for the term.
Now Gramps was a giant baboon. Gran was an evil vulture. My friends were regarding me as if I’d dropped from another planet, which wasn’t far from the truth.
Even with my magic supplies in hand, I had no idea what I was going to do. I didn’t have the full power of Isis at my command anymore. If I tried to fight Babi and Nekhbet, I might injure my own grandparents and would likely get myself killed. But if I didn’t stop them, who would? Godly possession would eventually burn out a human host. That had almost happened to Uncle Amos, who was a full-fledged magician and knew how to defend himself. Gran and Gramps were old, frail, and quite unmagical. They didn’t have much time.
Despair—much worse than the vulture goddess’s wings —overwhelmed me.
I didn’t realize I was crying until Liz put her hand on my shoulder. “Sadie, dear, we’re sorry. It’s just a bit…strange, you know? Tell us what’s the matter. Let us help.”
I took a shaky breath. I’d missed my mates so much. I’d always thought them a bit odd, but now they seemed blissfully normal—part of a world that wasn’t mine anymore. They were both trying to act brave, but I could tell they were terrified inside. I wished I could leave them behind, hide them, keep them out of harm’s way, but I remembered what Nekhbet had said: They’ll make lovely appetizers. Anubis had warned that the vulture goddess would hunt down my friends and hurt them just to hurt me. At least if they were with me, I could try to protect them. I didn’t want to upend their lives the way mine had been, but I owed them the truth.
“This will sound absolutely mad,” I warned.
I gave them the shortest version possible—why I’d left London, how the Egyptian gods had escaped into the world, how I’d discovered my ancestry as a magician. I told them about our fight with Set, the rise of Apophis, and our insane idea to awaken the god Ra.
Two stations passed, but it felt so good to tell my friends the story that I rather lost track of time.
When I was done, Liz and Emma looked at one another, no doubt wondering how to gently tell me I was bonkers.
“I know it seems impossible,” I said, “but—”
“Sadie, we believe you,” Emma said.
I blinked. “You do?”
“’Course we do.” Liz’s face was flushed, the way she got after several roller coaster rides. “I’ve never heard you talk so seriously about anything. You—you’ve changed.”
“It’s just I’m a magician now, and…and I can’t believe how stupid that sounds.”
“It’s more than that.” Emma studied my face as if I was turning into something quite frightening. “You seem older. More mature.”