“You can do this,” I murmured. “You’re my brother. I love you. All the embarrassing bits, all the annoying bits, which I imagine is most of you—a thousand Zias might run away from you if they knew the truth. But I won’t. I’ll still be here. Now, tell me your name, you big idiot, so I can save your life.”
My hand tingled against his forehead. His life passed through my fingers—ghostly memories of when we were children, living with our parents in Los Angeles. I saw my birthday party when I turned six and the cake exploded. I saw our mother reading bedtime stories to us from a college science textbook; our dad playing jazz and dancing me around the room while Carter covered his ears and yelled, “Dad!” I saw moments I hadn’t shared with my brother, as well: Carter and Dad caught in a riot in Paris; Carter and Zia talking by candlelight in the First Nome; Carter by himself in the library at Brooklyn House, staring at his Eye of Horus amulet and struggling against the temptation to reclaim the power of a god. He’d never told me about that, but it made me feel relieved. I’d thought I was the only one who’d been so tempted.
Slowly, Carter relaxed. His worst fears passed through me, his most embarrassing secrets. His strength was failing as the poison gripped his heart. With his last bit of willpower, he told me his name.
[Of course, I won’t tell you what it is. You couldn’t use it anyway, hearing it from a recording, but I won’t take chances.]
I raised the wax figurine and spoke Carter’s secret name. Immediately, the poison receded from his veins. The wax figure turned green and melted in my hands. Carter’s fever broke. He shuddered, took a deep breath, and opened his eyes.
“Right,” I said sternly. “Don’t ever ride another bloody snake monster again!”
“Sorry…” he croaked. “Did you just—”
“With my secret name—”
“And all my secrets—”
He groaned and covered his face as if he wanted to fall back into a coma; but honestly, I had no intention of teasing him. There’s a difference between keeping your brother in his place and being cruel. I wasn’t cruel. Besides, after seeing into the darkest recesses of Carter’s mind, I was a bit ashamed, possibly even in awe. There really wasn’t much there. Compared to my fears and embarrassing secrets—oh, dear. He was tame. I hoped our situations were never reversed and he had to heal me.
Bes came over with Lenin’s head tucked in the crook of his arm. He’d obviously been having a nibble, as Lenin’s forehead was missing—victim of a frontal choco-lobotomy.
“Good work, Sadie!” He broke off Lenin’s nose and offered it to Carter. “Here, boy. You’ve earned this.”
Carter frowned. “Does chocolate have magic healing properties?”
Bes snorted. “If it did, I’d be the healthiest dwarf in the world. Nah. It just tastes good.”
“And you’ll need your strength,” I added. “We have a lot to talk about.”
Despite our looming deadline—as of tomorrow, only two more days until the equinox and the end of the world—Bes insisted we rest until the following morning. He warned that if Carter exerted himself physically or magically any sooner after being poisoned, it might well kill him.
Losing the time made me quite agitated, but after going to so much trouble to revive my brother, I rather wanted to keep him alive. And I’ll admit I wasn’t in much better shape. I was so drained magically myself, I don’t think I could have moved farther than the veranda.
Bes called the front desk and ordered a personal shopper to buy us some new clothes and supplies in town. I’m not sure what the Arabic word is for combat boots, but the shopping lady managed to find a new pair. When she delivered our things, she tried to give the boots to Carter, then looked horrified when Bes pointed at me. I also got a supply of hair dye, a comfortable pair of jeans, a cotton top in desert camouflage colors, and a headscarf that was probably all the rage with Egyptian women, but which I decided not to wear, as it would probably clash with the new purple highlights I wanted for my hair.
Carter got jeans, boots, and a T-shirt that read Property of Alexandria University in English and Arabic. Clearly, even personal shoppers had him pegged as a complete geek.
The shopper also managed to find some supplies for our magic bags—blocks of wax, twine, even some papyrus and ink—though I doubt Bes explained to her what they were for.
After she left, Bes, Carter and I ordered more food from room service. We sat on the deck and watched the afternoon go by. The breeze from the Mediterranean was cool and pleasant. Modern Alexandria stretched out to our left—an odd mix of gleaming high-rises, shabby, crumbling buildings, and ancient ruins. The shoreline highway was dotted with palm trees and crowded with every sort of vehicle from BMWs to donkeys. From our penthouse suite, it all seemed a bit unreal—the raw energy of the city, the bustle and congestion below —while we sat on our veranda in the sky eating fresh fruit and the last melting bits of Lenin’s head.
I wondered if this was how the gods felt, watching the mortal world from their throne room in the Duat.
As we talked, I set the two scrolls from the Book of Ra on the patio table. They looked so plain and harmless, yet we’d almost died retrieving them. Still one more to find, then the real fun would begin—figuring out how to use them to awaken Ra. It seemed impossible we could do so much in forty-eight hours, yet here we sat, sidelined and exhausted, forced to rest until the morning. Carter and his bloody heroics, getting bitten by that Doctor Dolittle snake…and he calls me impulsive. Meanwhile, Amos and our rookie initiates were left alone at Brooklyn House, preparing to defend against Vlad Menshikov, a magician so ruthless, he was on a secret-name basis with the god of evil.
I told Carter what had happened in St. Petersburg after he got poisoned—how I’d given up Set’s name in exchange for the location of the last scroll: someplace called Bahariya. I described my vision of Anubis and Walt, my chat with Jaz’s spirit, and my trip back in time to Ra’s sun barge. The only thing I held back: what Set had said about Zia’s village being named al-Hamrah Makan. And yes, I know that was wrong —but I’d just been inside Carter’s head. I now understood how important Zia was to him. I knew how badly any information about her would rattle him.
Carter sat in his lounge chair and listened intently. His color had returned to normal. His eyes were clear and alert. It was hard to believe he’d been on death’s door only hours before. I wanted to credit my healing powers, but I had a feeling his recovery had just as much to do with rest, several ginger ales, and a room-service cheeseburger with chips.
“Bahariya…” He looked at Bes. “I know that name. Why do I know that name?”
Bes scratched his beard. He’d been glum and silent since I’d recounted our conversation with Set. The name Bahariya seemed especially to bother him.
“It’s an oasis,” he said, “way out in the desert. The mummies buried there were a secret until 1996. Then some fool donkey put its leg through a hole in the ground and broke open the top of a tomb.”
“Right!” Carter beamed at me, that Gee, history is cool! light in his eyes, so I knew he must be feeling better. “It’s called the Valley of the Golden Mummies.”
“I like gold,” I said. “Mummies—not so much.”
“Oh, you just haven’t met enough mummies,” Bes said.
I couldn’t tell if he was joking, and I decided not to ask. “So the last scroll is hidden there?”
Bes shrugged. “It would make sense. The oasis is out of the way. Wasn’t found until recently. There are also powerful curses in place to prevent portal travel. The mortal archaeologists have excavated some of the tombs, but there’s still a huge network of tunnels and chambers no one’s opened in thousands of years. Lots of mummies.”
I imagined horror film mummies with their arms out and their linen wraps coming undone, groaning as they chased screaming starlets and strangled archaeologists.
“When you say lots of mummies,” I ventured, “how many is lots?”
“They’ve uncovered a few hundred,” Bes said, “out of maybe ten thousand.”
“Ten thousand?” I looked at Carter, who didn’t seem bothered by this at all.
“Sadie,” he said, “it’s not like they’re going to come to life and kill you.”
“No,” Bes agreed. “Probably not. Almost for sure not.”
“Thanks,” I muttered. “I feel much better.”
(Yes, I know what I said earlier about dead people and cemeteries not bothering me. But ten thousand mummies? That was pushing it.)
“Anyway,” Bes said, “most of the mummies are from Roman times. They’re not even properly Egyptian. Bunch of Latin wannabes trying to get into our afterlife because it’s cooler. But some of the older tombs…well, we’ll just have to see. With two parts of the Book of Ra, you should be able to track down the third part once you get close enough.”
“How, exactly?” I asked.
Bes shrugged. “When magic items get broken up, the pieces are like magnets. The closer they get, the more they attract each other.”
That didn’t necessarily make me feel better. I imagined myself running through a tunnel with flaming scrolls stuck to both hands.
“Right,” I said. “So all we have to do is creep through a network of tombs past ten thousand golden mummies, who probably, almost for sure, won’t come to life and kill us.”
“Yeah,” Bes said. “Well, they’re not really solid gold. Most of them are just painted with gold. But, yeah.”
“That makes a huge difference.”
“Then it’s decided.” Carter sounded positively thrilled. “We can leave in the morning. How far is it?”
“A little over two hundred miles,” Bes said, “but the roads are iffy. And portals…well, like I said, the oasis is cursed against them. And even if it wasn’t, we’re back in the First Nome. It would be wise to use as little magic as possible. If you’re discovered in Desjardins’ home territory…”
He didn’t need to finish that sentence.
I gazed at the skyline of Alexandria curving along the shore of the glittering Mediterranean. I tried to picture it as it might’ve been in ancient times, before Cleopatra, Egypt’s final pharaoh, chose the wrong side in a Roman civil war and lost her life and her kingdom. This was the city where Ancient Egypt had died. It didn’t seem a very auspicious place to start a quest.
Unfortunately, I had no choice. I’d have to travel two hundred miles through the desert to some isolated oasis and find one needle of a scroll in a haystack of mummies. I didn’t see how we could accomplish this in the time we had left.
Worse, I hadn’t yet told Carter my last bit of information about Zia’s village. I could just keep my mouth shut. That would be the selfish thing. It might even be the right thing, as I needed his help, and I couldn’t afford to have him distracted.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com