I said, “Um.”

I know, Liz would’ve been proud.

“Sadie,” Anubis said. “You shouldn’t be here. Carter is dying.”

That jarred me back to my senses. “I know that, jackal boy! I didn’t ask to be—Wait, why am I here?”

Anubis pointed at the door of the infirmary. “I suspect Jaz’s spirit called to you.”

“Is she dead? Am I dead?”

“Neither,” Anubis said. “But you are both on death’s doorstep, which means your souls can speak to each other quite easily. Just don’t stay long.”

Walt still hadn’t acknowledged me. He muttered: “Couldn’t tell her. Why couldn’t I tell her?” He opened his hands. Cradled in his palms was a golden shen amulet exactly like the one he’d given me.

“Anubis, what’s wrong with him?” I asked. “Can’t he hear me?”

Anubis put his hand on Walt’s shoulder. “He can’t see either of us, though I think he can sense my presence. He called to me for guidance. That’s why I’m here.”

“Guidance from you? Why?”

I suppose it sounded harsher than I intended, but of all the gods Walt might’ve called, Anubis seemed the least likely choice.

Anubis looked up at me, his eyes even more melancholy than usual.

“You should pass on now, Sadie,” he said. “You have very little time. I promise I’ll do my best to ease Walt’s pain.”

“His pain?” I asked. “Hang on—”

But the infirmary door swung open, and the currents of the Duat pulled me inside.

The infirmary was the nicest medical facility I’d ever been in, but that wasn’t saying much. I hated hospitals. My father used to joke that I was born screaming and didn’t stop until they got me out of the maternity ward. I was mortally afraid of needles, pills, and above all the smell of sick people. Dead people and cemeteries? Those didn’t bother me. But sickness…well, I’m sorry, but does it have to smell so bloody sick?

My first visit to Jaz in the infirmary had taken all my courage. This second time, even in ba form, wasn’t any easier.

The room was about the size of my bedroom. The walls were rough-hewn limestone. Large windows let in the nighttime glow of New York. Cedar cabinets were carefully labeled with medicines, first aid supplies, magical charms and potions. In one corner stood a fountain with a life-size statue of the lion goddess Sekhmet, patron of healers. I’d heard that the water pouring through Sekhmet’s hands could cure a cold or flu instantly, and provide most of one’s daily vitamins and iron, but I’d never had the courage to take a drink.

The gurgle of the fountain was peaceful enough. Instead of antiseptic, the air smelled of charmed vanilla-scented candles that floated around the room. But still, the place made me jumpy.

I knew the candles monitored the patients’ conditions. Their flames changed color to indicate problems. At the moment, they all hovered around the only occupied bed—Jaz’s. Their flames were dark orange.

Jaz’s hands were folded on her chest. Her blond hair was combed across her pillow. She smiled faintly as if she were having a pleasant dream.

And sitting at the foot of Jaz’s bed was…Jaz, or at least a shimmering green image of my friend. It wasn’t a ba. The form was fully human. I wondered if she’d died after all, and this was her ghost.

“Jaz…” A wave of fresh guilt washed over me. Everything that had gone wrong the past two days had started with Jaz’s sacrifice, which was my fault. “Are you—”

“Dead? No, Sadie. This is my ren.”

Her transparent body flickered. When I looked more closely, I saw it was composed of images, like a 3-D video of Jaz’s life. Toddler Jaz sat in a high chair, painting her face with baby food. Twelve-year-old Jaz cartwheeled across a gymnasium floor, trying out for her first cheerleading squad. Present-day Jaz opened her school locker and found a glowing djed amulet —our magical calling card that had led her to Brooklyn.

“Your ren,” I said. “Another part of your soul?”

The glowing green image nodded. “Egyptians believed there were five different parts of the soul. The ba is the personality. The ren is—”

“Your name,” I remembered. “But how can that be your name?”

“My name is my identity,” she said. “The sum of my experiences. As long as my name is remembered, I still exist, even if I die. Do you understand?”

I didn’t, even remotely. But I understood she might die, and that it was my fault.

“I’m so sorry.” I tried not to break into tears. “If I hadn’t grabbed that stupid scroll—”

“Sadie, don’t be sorry. I’m glad you’ve come.”

“But—”

“Everything happens for a reason, Sadie, even bad things.”

“That’s not true!” I said. “It’s bloody unfair!”

How could Jaz be so calm and nice, even when she was in a coma? I didn’t want to hear that bad things happened as part of some grand plan. I hated when people said that. I’d lost my mother. I’d lost my dad. My life had been turned upside down, and I’d almost died countless times. Now, as far as I knew, I was dead or dying. My brother was poisoned and drowning, and I couldn’t help him.

“No reason is worth all this,” I said. “Life is random. It’s harsh. It’s—it’s—”

Jaz was still smiling, looking a bit amused.

“Oh,” I said. “You wanted to make me mad, didn’t you?”

“That’s the Sadie we all love. Grief really isn’t productive. You do better when you’re angry.”

“Humph.” I supposed she was right, but I didn’t have to like it. “So why did you bring me here?”

“Two things,” she said. “First, you’re not dead. When you wake up, you’ll only have a few minutes to heal Carter. You’ll have to act quickly.”

“Using the wax statue,” I said. “Yes, I figured that out. But I don’t know how. I’m no good at healing.”

“There is only one more ingredient that matters. You know what it is.”

“But I don’t!”

Jaz raised an eyebrow like I was just being stubborn. “You’re so close to understanding, Sadie. Think about Isis. Think about how you channeled her power in St. Petersburg. The answer will come to you.”

“But—”

“We must hurry. The second thing: you’re going to need Walt’s help. I know it’s risky. I know Bes warned against it. But use the amulet to call Walt back to you. It’s what he wants. Some risks are worth taking, even if it means losing a life.”

“Losing whose life? His?”

The infirmary scene began to dissolve, turning into a blurry watercolor.

“Think about Isis,” Jaz repeated. “And Sadie…there is a purpose. You taught us that. We choose to believe in Ma’at. We create order out of chaos, beauty and meaning out of ugly randomness. That’s what Egypt is all about. That’s why its name, its ren, has endured for millennia. Don’t despair. Otherwise Chaos wins.”

I remembered saying something like that in one of our classes, but even then, I hadn’t believed it.

“I’ll let you in on a secret,” I said. “I’m a rubbish teacher.”

Jaz’s form, all her collected memories, slowly melted into mist. “I’ll let you in on a secret,” she said, her voice fading. “You were an excellent teacher. Now, visit Isis, and see how it began.”

The infirmary evaporated. Suddenly I was on a royal barge, floating down the Nile. The sun blazed overhead. Lush green marsh grass and palm trees lined the riverbanks. Beyond that the desert spread to the horizon—barren red hills so dry and forbidding, they might as well have been on Mars.

The boat was like the one Carter had described from his vision with Horus, though in better condition. Its crisp white sail was emblazoned with the image of the sun disk, glittering in red and gold. Orbs of multicolored light zipped around the deck, manning the oars and pulling the lines. How they did this without hands, I don’t know, but it wasn’t the first time I’d seen such a magical crew.

The hull was inlaid with precious metals—copper, silver, and gold designs showing pictures of the boat’s journey through the Duat, and hieroglyphs invoking the power of the sun.

In the middle of the boat, a blue-and-gold canopy shaded the sun god’s throne, which was without a doubt the most impressive and uncomfortable looking chair I’d ever seen. At first I thought it was molten gold. Then I realized it was fashioned out of living fire—yellow flames that had somehow been sculpted into the shape of a throne. Etched into its legs and armrests, white-hot hieroglyphs glowed so brightly they seared my eyes.

The throne’s occupant wasn’t quite so impressive. Ra was an old leathery man bent over in the shape of a question mark, his bald scalp cratered with liver spots and his face so saggy and wrinkled it looked like a mask. Only his kohl-lined eyes gave any indication he was alive, because they were full of pain and weariness. He wore a kilt and collar, which did not suit him nearly as well as it had Anubis. Until now, the most ancient person I’d ever seen was Iskandar, the former Chief Lector, who’d been two thousand years old. But Iskandar had never looked this bad, even when he was about to die. To make matters worse, Ra’s left leg was wrapped in bandages and swollen to twice its proper size.

He groaned and propped his leg on a pile of cushions. Two puncture wounds oozed through the bandages on his shin—very much like the fang marks on Carter’s shoulder. As Ra kneaded his leg, green venom spread up the veins of his thigh. Just looking at it made my ba feathers shiver with revulsion.

Ra looked to the heavens. His eyes turned molten yellow like his throne.

“Isis!” he cried. “Very well! I relent!”

A shadow rippled under the canopy. A woman appeared, and knelt before the throne. I recognized her, of course. She had long, dark hair cut Cleopatra-style and a white gossamer dress that complemented her graceful figure. Her luminous rainbow wings shimmered like the northern lights.

With her head bowed and her palms raised in supplication, she looked like the picture of humility; but I knew Isis too well. I could see the smile she was trying to hide. I could sense her elation.

“Lord Ra,” she said. “I live to serve you.”

“Ha!” Ra said. “You live for power, Isis. Don’t try to deceive me. I know you created the snake that bit me! That’s why no one else can find a cure. You desire my throne for your husband, the upstart Osiris.”

Isis started to protest, “My lord—”

“Enough! If I were a younger god—” Ra made the mistake of moving his leg. He yelped in pain. The green venom spread farther up his veins.

“Never mind.” He sighed miserably. “I am weary of this world. Enough scheming and plotting. Just cure the poison.”

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