“But first,” Set interrupted, pointing at the Chocolate Museum bag next to Bes, “I can’t stand surprises. What’s in there? A gift for me?”
Bes frowned. “Sadie wanted a souvenir. I brought her Lenin’s head.”
Set slapped his thigh with delight. “Bes, how evil! There’s hope for you yet.”
“Not his real head,” Bes said. “It’s chocolate.”
“Oh…shame. Can I have part of your chessboard, then? I simply love eating pawns.”
“Get out of here, Set!” Bes said.
“Well, I could do that, but since our friends are on their way, I thought perhaps we should make a deal.”
Set snapped his fingers, and a globe of red light appeared in front of him. In it, the holographic images of six men in security uniforms piled into two white sports cars. Their headlights blazed to life. The cars swerved across a parking lot, then passed straight through a stone wall as if it were made of smoke.
“I’d say you have about two minutes.” Set smiled, and the globe of light faded. “You remember Menshikov’s minions, Bes. Are you sure you want to meet them again?”
The dwarf god’s face darkened. He crushed a white chocolate chess piece in his hand. “You lying, scheming, murdering—”
“Stop!” I said.
Carter groaned in his poisoned daze. Either he was getting heavier, or I was getting tired of holding him up.
“We don’t have time to argue,” I said. “Set, are you offering to stop the magicians?”
He laughed. “No, no. I’m still hoping they’ll kill you, you see. But I was going to offer you the location of the last scroll in the Book of Ra. That is what you’re after, isn’t it?”
I assumed he was lying. He usually was—but if he was serious…
I looked at Bes. “Is it possible he knows the location?”
Bes grunted. “More than possible. The priests of Ra gave him the scroll for safekeeping.”
“Why on earth would they do that?”
Set tried to look modest. “Come now, Sadie. I was a loyal lieutenant of Ra. If you were Ra, and you didn’t want to be bothered by any old magician trying to wake you, wouldn’t you trust the key to your location with your most fearsome servant?”
He had a point. “Where’s the scroll, then?”
“Not so fast. I’ll give you the location if you give me back my secret name.”
“It’s quite simple. Just say ‘I give you back your name.’ You’ll forget the proper way to say it—”
“And then I’ll have no power over you! You’ll kill me!”
“You’d have my word that I won’t.”
“Right. That’s worth a lot. What if I used your secret name to force you to tell me?”
Set shrugged. “With a few days to research the correct spell, you might manage that. Unfortunately…” He cupped his ear to his hand. In the distance, tires squealed—two cars, traveling fast, getting closer. “You don’t have a few days.”
Bes cursed in Egyptian. “Don’t do it, girl. He can’t be trusted.”
“Can we find the scroll without him?”
“Well…maybe. Probably not. No.”
The headlights of two cars swerved onto the Nevsky Prospekt, roughly half a mile away. We were out of time. I had to get Carter away from here, but if Set really was our only way of finding the scroll, I couldn’t just let him go.
“All right, Set. But I’ll give you one last order.”
Bes sighed. “I can’t bear to watch this. Give me your brother. I’ll put him in the car.”
The dwarf took Carter and stuffed him into the backseat of the Mercedes.
I kept my eyes on Set, trying to think of the least terrible way to make this deal. I couldn’t simply tell him to never hurt my family. A magical pact needed to be carefully worded, with clear limits and an expiration date, or the whole spell would unravel. “Evil Day, you are not to harm the Kane family. You’ll maintain a truce with us at least until—until Ra has been awakened.”
“Or until you try and fail to awaken him?” Set asked innocently.
“If that happens,” I said, “the world is going to end. So why not? I will do what you ask concerning your name. In exchange, you will tell me the location of the last part of the Book of Ra, without trickery or deception. Then you’ll depart for the Duat.”
Set considered the offer. The two white sports cars were only a few blocks away now. Bes shut Carter’s door and ran back over.
“We have a deal,” Set agreed. “You’ll find the scroll at Bahariya. Bes knows the place I mean.”
Bes didn’t look happy. “That place is heavily protected. We’ll have to use the Alexandria portal.”
“Yes.” Set grinned. “Should be interesting! How long can you hold your breath, Sadie Kane?”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind, never mind. Now, I believe you owe me a secret name.”
“I give you back your name,” I said. Just like that, I felt the magic leave me. I still knew Set’s name: Evil Day. But somehow I couldn’t remember exactly how I used to say it, or how it worked in a spell. The memory had been erased.
To my surprise, Set didn’t kill me on the spot. He just smiled and tossed me Vlad Menshikov’s sunglasses. “I hope you live, after all, Sadie Kane. You’re quite amusing. But if they do kill you, at least enjoy the experience!”
“And just because I like you so much, I have a free piece of information for your brother. Tell him Zia Rashid’s village was called Makan al-Ramal al-Hamrah.”
“Why is that—”
“Happy travels!” Set disappeared in a cloud of blood-colored mist. A block away, the two white sports cars barreled toward us. A magician stuck his head out the sunroof of the lead car and pointed his staff in our direction.
“Time to leave,” Bes said. “Get in!”
I will say this for Bes: he drove like a maniac. And I mean that in the best possible way. Icy streets didn’t bother him at all. Neither did traffic signals, pedestrian pavements, or canals, which he twice jumped without bothering to find a bridge. Fortunately, the city was mostly empty that time of morning, or I’m sure we would have mowed down any number of Russians.
We wove through central St. Petersburg while the two white sports cars closed behind us. I tried to hold Carter steady next to me in the backseat. His eyes were half-open, his corneas the most awful shade of green. Despite the cold, he was burning with fever. I managed to tug off his winter coat and found his shirt soaked with sweat. On his shoulder, the puncture wounds were oozing like… Well, it’s probably best I don’t describe that part.
I glanced behind us. The magician in the sunroof aimed his staff—not an easy task in a high-speed car chase—and a glowing white javelin shot from the tip, hurtling toward us like a homing missile.
“Duck!” I yelled, and pushed Carter against the seat.
The javelin broke the rear window and flew straight through the windshield. If Bes had been normal height, he would have gotten a free head piercing. As it was, the projectile missed him completely.
“I’m a dwarf,” he grumbled. “I don’t duck!”
He swerved to the right. Behind us, a storefront exploded. Looking back, I saw the entire wall dissolve into a pile of living snakes. Our pursuers were still closing.
“Bes, get us out of here!” I yelled.
“I’m trying, kid. Egyptian Bridge is coming up. It was originally built in the eighteen hundreds, but—”
“I don’t care! Just drive!”
Truly, it’s amazing how many Egyptian bits and bobs there are in St. Petersburg, and how little I cared about them. Being chased by evil magicians throwing javelins and snake bombs does tend to clarify one’s priorities.
Suffice it to say: Yes, there really is an Egyptian Bridge over the Fontanka River, leading south out of central St. Petersburg. Why? No idea. Don’t care. As we raced toward it, I saw black stone sphinxes on either side—lady sphinxes with gilded pharaoh crowns—but the only thing that mattered to me was that they could summon a portal.
Bes barked something in Egyptian. At the top of the bridge, blue light flashed. A swirling sand vortex appeared.
“What did Set mean,” I asked, “about holding my breath?”
“Hopefully won’t be for long,” Bes said. “We’ll only be thirty feet under.”
“Thirty feet under water?”
BANG! The Mercedes careened sideways. Only later did I realize another javelin must have hit our back tire. We spun across the ice and flipped, sliding upside-down into the vortex.
My head slammed against something. I opened my eyes, fighting for consciousness, but either I was blind or we were in complete darkness. I heard water trickling through the javelin-shattered glass, and the roof of the Mercedes crumpling like an aluminum can.
I had time to think: A teenager for less than a day, and I’m going to drown.
Then I blacked out.
12. I Master the Fine Art of Name-Calling
IT’S DISTURBING TO WAKE UP as a chicken.
My ba floated through dark water. My glowing wings flapped as I tried to figure out which way was up. I assumed my body was somewhere close by, possibly already drowned in the back of the Mercedes, but I couldn’t figure out how to return to it.
Why on earth had Bes driven us through an underwater portal? I hoped poor Carter had somehow survived; perhaps Bes was able to pull him free. But dying from poison rather than drowning didn’t seem much of an improvement.
A current caught me and whisked me into the Duat. The water changed into cold fog. Wailing and growling filled the darkness. My acceleration slowed, and when the mist dissipated, I was back in Brooklyn House, floating just outside the infirmary door. On a bench against the wall, sitting together like old friends, were Anubis and Walt Stone. They looked like they were waiting for bad news. Walt’s hands were folded in his lap. His shoulders slumped. He’d changed clothes—a new sleeveless tee, a new pair of running shorts—but he looked like he hadn’t slept since returning from London.
Anubis talked to him in soothing tones, as if trying to ease his grief. I’d never seen Anubis in traditional Egyptian clothes before: bare-chested with a gold and ruby collar around his neck, a simple black kilt wrapped around his waist. It wasn’t a look I’d recommend for most guys, but Anubis pulled it off. I’d always imagined he would look rather skinny with his shirt off (not that I imagined that a lot, mind you) but he was in excellent shape. They must’ve had quite a good gym in the underworld, bench-pressing tombstones and whatnot.
At any rate, after the shock of seeing them together, my first thought was that something terrible must’ve happened to Jaz.
“What is it?” I asked, not sure if they could hear me. “What’s happened?”
Walt didn’t react, but Anubis looked up. As usual my heart did a little happy dance quite without my permission. His eyes were so mesmerizing, I completely forgot how to use my brain.
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