I thought of a line from the Book of Ra—first from Chaos. I drew on the memories of Isis, the only goddess who had ever known Ra’s secret name, and I began to understand the nature of the sun god.

“Ra was the first god to rise out of Chaos,” I said.

Khnum frowned. “That’s my name?”

“No, just listen,” I said. “You said you’re not complete without Ra, just a husk of your former self. But that’s true of all the other Egyptian gods as well. Ra is older, more powerful. He’s the original source of Ma’at, like—”

“Like the taproot of the gods,” Carter volunteered.

“Right,” I said. “I have no idea what a taproot is, but—right. All these eons, the other gods have been slowly fading, losing power, because Ra is missing. They might not admit it, but he’s their heart. They’re dependent on him. All this time, we’ve been wondering if it was worth it, to bring back Ra. We didn’t know why it was so important, but now I understand.”

Carter nodded, slowly warming to the idea. “Ra’s the center of Ma’at. He has to come back, if the gods are going to win.”

“And that’s why Apophis wants to bring back Ra,” I guessed. “The two are connected—Ma’at and Chaos. If Apophis can swallow Ra while the sun god is old and weak—”

“All the gods die,” Carter said. “The world crumbles into Chaos.”

Khnum turned his head so he could study me with one glowing red eye. “That’s all quite interesting,” he said. “But I’m not hearing my secret name. To wake Ra, you must first name me.”

I opened the Book of Ra and took a deep breath. I began to read the first part of the spell. Now, you may be thinking, Gosh, Sadie. Your big test was to read some words off a scroll? What’s so hard about that?

If you think that, you’ve clearly never read a spell. Imagine reading aloud onstage in front of a thousand hostile teachers who are waiting to give you bad marks. Imagine you can only read by looking at the backward reflection in a mirror. Imagine all the words are mixed around, and you have to put the sentences together in the right order as you go. Imagine if you make one mistake, one stumble, one mispronunciation, you’ll die. Imagine doing all that at once, and you’ll have some idea what it’s like to cast a spell from a scroll.

Despite that, I felt strangely confident. The spell suddenly made sense.

“‘I name you First from Chaos,’” I said. “‘Khnum, who is Ra, the evening sun. I summon your ba to awaken the Great One, for I am—’”

My first near-fatal mistake: the scroll said something like insert your name here. And I almost read it aloud that way: “For I am insert your name here!”

Well? It would’ve been an honest mistake. Instead, I managed to say, “‘I am Sadie Kane, restorer of the throne of fire. I name you Breath into Clay, the Ram of Night’s Flock, the Divine—’”

I almost lost it again. I was sure the Egyptian title said the Divine Pooter. But that made no sense, unless Khnum had magic powers I didn’t want to know about. Thankfully, I remembered something from the Brooklyn Museum. Khnum had been depicted as a potter sculpting a human from clay.

“‘—the Divine Potter,’” I corrected myself. “‘I name you Khnum, protector of the fourth gate. I return your name. I return your essence to Ra.’”

The god’s huge eyes dilated. His nostrils flared. “Yes.” He sheathed his knives. “Well done, my lady. You may pass into the Fourth House. But beware the fires, and be prepared for the second form of Ra. He will not be so grateful for your help.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

But the ram god’s body dissolved into mist. The Book of Ra sucked in the wisps of smoke, and it rolled shut. Khnum and his island were gone. The boat drifted on into a narrower tunnel.

“Sadie,” Carter said, “that was amazing.”

Normally, I would’ve been happy to astonish him with my brilliance. But my heart was racing. My hands were sweating, and I thought I might throw up. On top of that, I could feel the glowing orb crew coming out of their shock, beginning to fight me again.

No slice, they complained. No slice!

Mind your own business, I thought back at them. And keep the boat going.

“Um, Sadie?” Carter asked. “Why is your face turning red?”

I thought he was accusing me of blushing. Then I realized he too was red. The whole boat was awash in ruby light. I turned to look ahead of us, and I made a sound in my throat not too different from Khnum’s bleating.

“Oh, no,” I said. “Not this place again.”

Roughly a hundred meters ahead of us, the tunnel opened into a huge cavern. I recognized the massive boiling Lake of Fire; but the last time I hadn’t seen it from this angle.

We were picking up speed, heading down a series of rapids like a water slide. At the end of the rapids, the water turned into a fiery waterfall and dropped straight down into the lake about half a mile below. We were hurtling toward the precipice with absolutely no way to stop.

Keep the boat going, the crew whispered with glee. Keep the boat going!

We probably had less than a minute, but it seemed longer. I suppose if time flies when you’re having fun, it really creeps when you’re hurtling toward your death.

“We’ve got to turn around!” Carter said. “Even if that wasn’t fire, we’ll never survive the drop!”

He began yelling at the orbs of light, “Turn around! Paddle! Mayday!”

They happily ignored him.

I stared at the flaming drop to oblivion and the Lake of Fire below. Despite the waves of heat rolling over us like dragon breath, I felt cold. I realized what needed to happen.

“‘Reborn in fire,’” I said.

“What?” Carter asked.

“It’s a line from the Book of Ra. We can’t turn around. We have to go over—straight into the lake.”

“Are you crazy? We’ll burn up!”

I ripped open my magic bag and rummaged through my supplies. “We have to take the ship through the fire. That was part of the sun’s nightly rebirth, right? Ra would have done it.”

“Ra wasn’t flammable!”

The waterfall was only twenty meters away now. My hands trembled as I poured ink into my writing palette. If you’ve never tried to use a calligraphy set while standing up on a boat, it isn’t easy.

“What are you doing?” Carter asked. “Writing your will?”

I took a deep breath and dipped my stylus in black ink. I visualized the hieroglyphs I needed. I wished Zia were with us. Not just because we had hit it off rather well in Cairo—[Oh, stop pouting, Carter. It’s not my fault she realized I’m the brilliant one in the family]—but because Zia was an expert with fire glyphs, and that’s just what we needed.

“Push up your hair,” I told Carter. “I need to paint your forehead.”

“I’m not plunging to my death with loser painted on my head!”

“I’m trying to save you. Hurry!”

He pushed his hair out of the way. I painted the glyphs for fire and shield on his forehead, and immediately my brother burst into flame.

I know—it was like a dream come true and a nightmare, all at once. He danced around, spewing some very creative curse words before realizing that the fire wasn’t hurting him. He was simply encased in a protective sheet of flames.

“What, exactly—” His eyes widened. “Hold on to something!”

The boat tipped sickeningly over the edge of the falls. I dashed the hieroglyphs onto the back of my hand, but it wasn’t a good copy. The flames spluttered weakly around me. Alas, I didn’t have time for anything better. I wrapped my arms around the rail, and we plummeted straight down.

Strange how many things can go through your mind as you fall to certain doom. From up high, the Lake of Fire looked quite beautiful, like the surface of the sun. I wondered if I would feel any pain on impact, or if we would simply evaporate. It was hard to see anything as we plummeted through the ash and smoke, but I thought I spotted a familiar island about a mile away—the black temple where I’d first met Anubis. I wondered if he could see me from there, and if he would rush to my rescue. I wondered if my chances of survival would be better if I pushed away from the boat and fell like a cliff diver, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I held on to the rail with all my might. I wasn’t sure if the magical fire shield was protecting me, but I was sweating fiercely, and I was fairly certain I’d left my throat and most of my internal organs at the top of the waterfall.

Finally we hit bottom with an understated whooooom.

How to describe the sensation of plunging into a lake of liquid fire? Well…it burned. And yet it was somehow wet, too. I didn’t dare breathe. After a moment’s hesitation, I opened my eyes. All I could see were swirling red and yellow flames. We were still underwater…or under fire? I realized two things: I was not burning to death, and the boat was moving forward.

I couldn’t believe my crazy protection glyphs had actually worked. As the boat slid through the swirling currents of heat, the voices of the crew whispered in my mind—more joyful than angry now.

Renew, they said. New life. New light.

That sounded promising until I grasped some less pleasant facts. I still couldn’t breathe. My body liked breathing. Also, it was getting much hotter. I could feel my protection glyph failing, the ink burning against my hand. I reached out blindly and grabbed an arm—Carter’s, I assumed. We held hands, and even though I couldn’t see him, it was comforting to know he was there. Perhaps it was my imagination, but the heat seemed to lessen.

Long ago, Amos had told us that we were more powerful together. We increased each other’s magic just by being in proximity. I hoped that was true now. I tried to send my thoughts to Carter, urging him to help me maintain the fire shield.

The ship sailed on through the flames. I thought we were starting to ascend, but it might have been wishful thinking. My vision began to go dark. My lungs were screaming. If I inhaled fire, I wondered if I would end up like Vlad Menshikov.

Just when I knew I would pass out, the boat surged upward, and we broke the surface.

I gasped—and not just because I needed the air. We had docked at the shoreline of the boiling lake, in front of a large limestone gateway, like the entrance to the ancient temple I’d seen at Luxor. I was still holding Carter’s hand. As far as I could tell, we were both fine.

The sun boat was better than fine. It had been renewed. Its sail gleamed white, the symbol of the sun shining gold in its center. The oars were repaired and newly polished. The paint was freshly lacquered black and gold and green. The hull no longer leaked, and the tent house was once more a beautiful pavilion. There was no throne, and no Ra, but the crew glowed brightly and cheerfully as they tied off the lines to the dock.

I couldn’t help it. I threw my arms around Carter and let out a sob. “Are you all right?”

He pulled away awkwardly and nodded. The glyph on his forehead had burned off.

***

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