How could something so large have leaped so far? Too late, I realized we should have stayed inside where it was harder for the monster to move. Out here, we had no chance of outrunning it.

“Carter,” I said. “Stay perfectly still.”

He froze in crab-walk position. The monster’s two heads dripped venom that hissed and steamed on the icy stones.

“Oi!” I yelled. Not having any rocks, I picked up a chunk of broken ice and threw it at the tjesu heru. Naturally, I hit Carter in the back instead. Nevertheless, I got the tjesu heru’s attention.

Both heads turned toward me, twin tongues flickering. First step done: distract the monster.

Second step: find some clever way to draw it away from Carter. That part was giving me a bit more trouble.

I’d used my only potion. Most of my magic supplies were gone. My staff and wand wouldn’t do me much good with my magical reserves drained. The knife from Anubis? Somehow I doubted this was the right situation to open someone’s mouth.

The amulet from Walt? I had not the slightest idea how to use it.

For the millionth time, I regretted having given up the spirit of Isis. I could really have used the full magic arsenal of a goddess. But, of course, that was exactly why I’d had to separate from her. That sort of power is intoxicating, dangerously addictive. It can quickly destroy your life.

But what if I could form a limited bond? In the Malachite Room, I’d managed the ha-di spell for the first time in months. And while it had been difficult, it hadn’t been impossible.

Right, Isis, I thought. Here’s what I need—

Don’t think, Sadie, her voice whispered back almost immediately, which was quite a shock. Divine magic has to be involuntary, like breathing.

You mean… I stopped myself. Don’t think. Well, that shouldn’t be too hard. I held up my staff, and a golden hieroglyph blazed in the air. A one-meter-tall tyet lit up the courtyard like a Christmas-tree star.

The tjesu heru snarled, its yellow eyes fixed on the hieroglyph.

“Don’t like that, eh?” I called. “Symbol of Isis, you big ugly mutt. Now, get away from my brother!”

It was a complete bluff, of course. I doubted the glowing sign could do anything useful. But I hoped the snake creature wasn’t smart enough to know that.

Slowly, Carter edged backward. He looked for his sword, but it was ten meters away—much too far to reach.

I kept my eyes on the monster. I used the butt of my staff to trace a magic circle in the snow around me. It wouldn’t provide much protection, but it was better than nothing.

“Carter,” I called, “When I say go, run back here.”

“That thing’s too fast!” he said.

“I’ll try to detonate the hieroglyph and blind it.”

I still maintain that the plan would’ve worked, but I didn’t get the chance to try it. Somewhere off to my left, boots crunched on ice. The monster turned toward the sound.

A young man ran into the light of the hieroglyph. He was dressed in a heavy wool coat and a policeman’s hat, with a rifle in his hands, but he couldn’t have been much older than me. He was fairly drowning in his uniform. When he saw the monster, his eyes widened. He stumbled backward, almost dropping his weapon.

He yelled something at me in Russian, probably, “Why is there a two-headed snake monster with no bum?”

The monster hissed at both of us—which it could do, having two heads.

“That’s a monster,” I told the guard. I was fairly sure he couldn’t understand, but I tried to keep my tone steady. “Stay calm and don’t shoot. I’m trying to save my brother.”

The guard swallowed. His large ears were the only things holding up his hat. He glanced from the monster to Carter to the tyet glowing above my head. Then he did something I wasn’t expecting.

He said a word in Ancient Egyptian: “Heqat”—the command I always used to summon my staff. His rifle changed to a two-meter oaken rod with the carved head of a falcon.

Wonderful, I thought. The security guards are secretly magicians.

He addressed me in Russian—some sort of warning. I recognized the name Menshikov.

“Let me guess,” I said. “You want to take me to your leader.”

The tjesu heru snapped its jaws. It was rapidly losing its fear of my glowing tyet. Carter wasn’t far enough away to make a run for it.

“Look,” I told the guard, “your boss Menshikov is a traitor. He summoned this thing to kill us so we wouldn’t blab about his plans to free Apophis. Savvy the word Apophis? Bad snake. Very bad snake! Now, either help me kill this monster or stay out of my way!”

The magician-guard hesitated. He pointed at me nervously. “Kane.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yes,” I agreed. “Kane.”

His expression was a jumble of emotions—fear, disbelief, possibly even awe. I didn’t know what he’d heard about us, but before he could decide whether to help us or fight us, the situation spun out of control.

The tjesu heru charged. My ridiculous brother—instead of rolling out of the way—tackled the monster.

He locked his arms around the creature’s right neck and tried to climb its back, but the tjesu heru simply turned its other head to strike.

What was my brother thinking? Perhaps he thought he could ride the beast. Perhaps he was trying to buy me a few seconds to cast a spell. If you ask him about it now, he’ll claim he doesn’t remember the incident at all. But if you ask me, the thickheaded fool was trying to save me, even if it meant sacrificing himself. The nerve!

[Oh, yes, now you try to explain yourself, Carter. I thought you didn’t remember this bit! Just be quiet and let me tell the story.]

As I was saying, the tjesu heru struck at Carter, and everything seemed to slow down. I remember screaming, lowering my staff at the monster. The soldier-magician yelled something in Russian. The creature sank its fangs into Carter’s left shoulder, and he dropped to the ground.

I forgot about my makeshift circle. I ran toward him, and my staff glowed. I don’t know how I managed the power. As Isis said, I didn’t think. I simply channeled all my rage and shock into my staff.

Seeing Carter hurt was the final insult. My grandparents had been possessed. My friends had been attacked, and my birthday ruined. But my brother was off-limits. No one was allowed to hurt my brother.

I unleashed a beam of golden light that hit the monster with the force of a sandblaster. The tjesu heru crumbled to bits, until there was nothing left but a streak of sand steaming in the snow and a few splinters of Menshikov’s shattered staff.

I ran to Carter’s side. He was shivering, his eyes rolled back in his head. Two puncture wounds in his coat were smoking.

“Kane,” the young Russian said with a tone of awe.

I snatched up a splinter of wood and held it for him to see. “Your boss Menshikov did this. He’s working for Apophis. Menshikov: Apophis. Now, GET OUT!”

The magician may not have understood my words, but he got the message. He turned and ran.

I cradled Carter’s head. I couldn’t carry him by myself, but I had to get him out of here. We were in enemy territory. I needed to find Bes.

I struggled to get him to his feet. Then someone took Carter’s other arm and helped us up. I found Set grinning at me, still in his ridiculous red disco suit, dusted with malachite rubble. Menshikov’s broken white sunglasses were propped on his head.

“You,” I said, too filled with loathing to issue a proper death threat.

“Me,” Set agreed cheerily. “Let’s get your brother out of here, shall we? Vladimir is not in a good mood.”

The Nevsky Prospekt would’ve been a lovely place to shop if it hadn’t been the wee hours of the morning during a snowstorm, and if I hadn’t been carrying my poisoned, comatose brother. The street had wide pavements, perfect for strolling, lined with a dazzling assortment of high-end boutiques, cafés, churches, and mansions. With all the signs in Russian, I didn’t see how I was going to find the chocolate shop. I couldn’t spot Bes’s black Mercedes anywhere.

Set volunteered to carry Carter, but I wasn’t about to let the god of chaos take full charge of my brother, so we dragged him between us. Set chatted amiably about tjesu heru poison: “Completely incurable! Fatal in about twelve hours. It’s amazing stuff!” And his tussle with Menshikov: “Six vases broken over his head, and he still survives! I envy his thick skull.” And my prospects of living long enough to find Bes: “Oh, you’re toast, my dear! A dozen senior magicians were rallying to Menshikov when I made my, er, strategic retreat. They’ll be after you shortly. I could’ve destroyed them all, of course, but I couldn’t risk Vladimir using my secret name again. Maybe he’ll get amnesia and forget it. Then if you die—that would be both problems solved. Oh, I’m sorry, I suppose that sounded insensitive. Come along!”

Carter’s head lolled. His breathing sounded almost as bad as Vlad the Inhaler’s.

Now, please don’t think I was dense. Of course I remembered the wax mini-Carter figurine Jaz had given me. I recognized that this was just the sort of emergency where it might come in handy. How Jaz had predicted Carter would need healing, I had no idea. But it was possible the figurine could draw the poison out of him, despite what Set said about it being incurable. What does a god of evil know about healing, anyway?

There were problems, however. First, I knew very little about healing magic. I needed time to figure out the proper casting, and since I had only one wax statue, I couldn’t afford to get it wrong. Second, I couldn’t very well do that while being chased by Menshikov and his squad of magical Russian goons, nor did I want to let my guard down with Set anywhere near me. I didn’t know why he’d decided to be helpful all of a sudden, but the sooner I could lose him, the better. I needed to find Bes and retreat to somewhere safe—if there was such a place.

Set kept chatting about all the exciting ways the magicians might kill me once they caught up. Finally I spotted a bridge up ahead over a frozen canal. Parked in the middle was the black Mercedes. Bes leaned against the hood, eating pieces off a chocolate chessboard. Next to him sat a large plastic bag—hopefully with more chocolate for me.

I yelled to him, but he was so engrossed in eating chocolate (which I suppose I could understand) that he didn’t notice us until we were a few meters away. Then he looked up and saw Set.

I started to say, “Bes, don’t—”

Too late. Like a skunk, the dwarf god activated his default defense. His eyes bulged out. His mouth opened impossibly wide. He yelled “BOO!” so loudly, my hair parted, and icicles rained down from the bridge’s streetlamps.

Set didn’t look the least bit fazed.

“Hello, Bes,” he said. “Really, you’re not so scary with chocolate smeared on your face.”

Bes glared at me. “What’s he doing here?”

“Not my idea!” I promised. I gave him the abbreviated story of our encounter with Menshikov.

“And so Carter’s been hurt,” I summed up, which seemed rather obvious. “We have to get him out of here.”

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