Dancing Before the Music Starts
By David J. Duncan
For notes and such, please see Part 1 (Additional note: The scene to which Michael refers is in "Climax: Rematch with Ares" an earlier piece in the series)
Michael shook his blond head sadly and turned his eyes from the viewing pool. His plan had failed miserably. He had hoped that Imhotep would have been able to dispose of Alti. With events going the way that they were, the archangel had no choice....
"Raphael," he sighed. "It seems we will have to intervene after all."
"Then, we're going there?" the other archangel asked pensively.
"No, not exactly," the angel elaborated and paused for a second as if trying to think of an alternate plan. "We're going to ask Xena and Gabrielle to step in...along with their friends."
"But, you said that Dubois wouldn't...." the other doubted.
"Yes, but now, we have no choice. This situation involves him as well as his sister now. Very soon, the connection will make itself felt in any event," the regal archangel noted.
"Connection?" Raphael interjected.
Michael nodded and continued, "When Alti faced the Duboises in Tucson, she split his persona in two and stole his dark side...."
"Right. But, he recovered it again...so what of it?" the ebony haired angel inquired, trying to follow his colleague's argument.
"While the witch had his darkness, it bonded with her own somehow. Yes, he controls it. But, he can feel her presence. Now, given the pain that Alvaro is going through in the past, he will feel it...and know who is responsible. With that stress, the darkness will surface again, I fear," Michael mentioned.
"But he has shown remarkable improvement over the past few months," the other angel argued.
Michael had to admit that Raphael had a point. However, still being the harsh judge of character that he was, the angel would need to see this to truly believe it. "Now, come. We have to tell them before it's too late...."
The sun beat down over the Sonoran Desert, promising to deliver yet another hot day for the Old Pueblo. On the fourth floor of the Congress Hotel, an elderly man sat in a wicker chair and took in the view. This trip revealed the Old Pueblo's staggering growth. In particular, the University of Arizona's campus had astounded him when he toured it the previous day. During his last trip there in 1950, the school was just starting to expand toward its present size. Everyone knew that it would be a grand place, but nobody thought that the old place would get so darn enormous!
Sipping slowly on a glass of orange juice, he observed the date on the front page of the "Star". "Hmmm, May 15, 1997....It was 60 years ago today when we were at Thebes. Mum, Dad, Uncle Jon, Ardeth, I hope you're resting easy today. Certainly, feeling a lot better than we were on that bloody day," he sighed and started to read the news. After five minutes, he gave up and pitched the paper in the trash. "Bloody Americans, why can't they just live in peace?'
"Excuse me, Grandpa Alex?" a female voice called from inside of the room.
Alexander O' Connell smiled warmly and shuffled back into the room. There, his granddaughter, Angela Dubois, waited for him to reach the chair. "Hello, Angel. And how's my bundle of sunshine today?"
"I'm great, thanks!" she sang. "Dave will be meeting us at the restaurant." She studied his face. Something was troubling him. "Are you concerned about something?" she asked.
Alex frowned. According to her mother, Angela had always been too insightful for her own good. Since he hadn't seen her for some fifteen years, he had used the last three days to observe her and her family. Both she and her husband, David, seemed to be nice enough kids, but they seemed to have secrets. And, after some of his adventures, Alex knew when secrets were there to be discovered. "Sounds wonderful, Dear. Can you help an old man?"
She shrugged. Among other things, Angie was gifted with psychic abilities and she too could tell when something was wrong. "I'm sensing something about today's date. Why?" she pondered. "Oh well, best not to startle him overly much," she thought and helped him out of the room, down the elevator, and out to her Nissan Sentra. Once they were seated, they drove away towards downtown.
Don Schanke fumbled with his menu as he scanned the prices. Normally, Dave and Angie were pretty frugal when they went out to eat, but the "Clandaro" was pretty upscale. The paunchy, balding homicide detective wasn't finding anything that he wanted to eat.
Across the table from him, an attractive woman with dark eyes and long auburn hair shook her head at him, "Hey, Schank, it's going to be okay. I hear the Pasta Sandini is pretty good. I'm getting a Greek salad with chicken."
He cracked a smile. "Leave it to you, Natalie, to play Mom and keep me honest."
Dr. Natalie LeBeau, Tucson's best coroner, reclined in her seat and chuckled, "Now, Angie and Dave are nervous enough having her grandfather in town. Please don't get him worked up. I wish Tracy could have joined us."
"Yeah," Schanke replied. "Me too, but hey, it's a free country. Okay, I'll play nice and get the pasta."
"Well, I'm glad that's set," Dave Dubois cracked from across the table. "Now, I think I'm with Natalie on the salad."
"Is that all?" the brunette woman sitting to his left laughed. "What, are you on a diet?"
"Oh that's droll," Dave grinned. "Hey, Angie's been feeding me too well, and your Aunt's going to stuff me when we go back East next month. I need to cut down, Francesca."
"For just this meal," the Italian literature professor slurred good-naturedly. "By the way, Angie's grandfather seems like a wonderful man."
Her medievalist cousin nodded, ran a hand through his chestnut-brown hair and turned to see his wife and her grandfather walk in through the door. He waved to them.
About two minutes later, Angie had helped Alex into his chair and eased into her place beside her husband. Turning to him, she asked, "How's everything?"
"For the most part, I'm doing okay," he replied. "I have been having this headache. Nothing that a few aspirins couldn't handle though."
Francesca shook her head, "Angie, he's been having the shakes all morning."
Across the table, Schanke glanced over at his friend nervously. When Dave started feeling like that, it usually meant trouble. "You okay, Bud?"
Alex glared at his granddaughter's husband intensely. Again, he felt an all-consuming sense of deja-vu. Something about him was very familiar. But why was that? Before three days ago, he had never met the younger associate professor. Yet, something still nagged at the elderly archaeologist...Something dark bubbled under the surface of the professor's friendly veneer, and it was tied to the incident at Thebes somehow.
Dave shook his head at the old man. He didn't need O' Connell playing Freud with him...and people who wormed their way too deeply into his affairs had a habit of getting themselves hurt or worse. For thirty years, he had dealt with his own multiple personalities and resident Dark Child. Other than the old man, only the present company had been able to deal with the knowledge of his condition.
Then, he felt it again. A sharp icy-hot pain between the eyes and burning its way up his skull. He began to see things. The Egyptian desert. A tomb. Worse, people writhing in pain at the hands of a single attacker. Now, the attacker's face came into focus...thin and grim with intense white eyes. "Alti...how?" he hissed low. At this sight, he shook violently.
Angie rubbed his shoulder, "Dave! Oh gosh! Let's get him out of here! Maybe some fresh air will help him."
Francesca helped Angie in getting him outside.
Once there, he leaned against the brick facade and gasped for air. "It's Alti," he maintained weakly. "Somehow, she's doing this in her previous incarnation!"
Angie and Francesca shot each other surprised looks. "Alti free?" they chorused.
"Yes, somehow...she's free!" Dave hissed low and felt himself starting to lose control. A slight growl escaped his clenched lips.
"She was released and now, needs to be dealt with," a majestic voice indicated.
The trio turned to see two men, or what seemed like men, dressed in breastplates with gray wings sprouting from their backs.
Angie pushed, "Who are you? What do you want with us?"
"Your husband concerns us, Angela," Michael informed her. "As for you and Francesca...well, there is an indirect role for you in our business."
Angie frowned. Anything indirectly involving her, Francesca, and Alti had to call for Xena's abilities. "Francesca, let's do it!" she stated and reached over her back. Her hand grasped and drew the invisible sword sheathed there. In a flash, Xena stood in her place.
For her part, Francesca concentrated. Inside of the intense blue light, the two angels could see a staff form in her hands and then within seconds, Gabrielle take her place.
"Amazing!" Raphael marveled.
"Yes, quite," Michael agreed. "Xena, it's been a while."
"Michael," Xena returned the greeting. "You don't usually just drop in to chat. So, spill it."
The Bard looked at the professor who was still trying to keep his moods under wraps and remembered the older man still inside the restaurant. Accordingly, she asked, "What is the significance of David's and Angela's grandfather's moods?"
"Today is the 60th anniversary of an important event in Angela's and David's respective family histories, Gabrielle. In 1937, her great-grandparents discovered a certain tomb at Thebes and opened it," the blonde angel informed them.
Xena shook her head. Her instincts had been right on. Still, she needed to ask, "How was the tomb opened?"
"Remember what Cleopatra said, Xena?" Gabrielle interjected. "The jewel is the key."
"Once the necklace was discovered, the jewel was used to open the sarcophagus. The woman's name was Evelyn O' Connell. Her associate's name, I believe, was Lorenzo Alvaro. Both are suffering at Alti's hands and given David's link to the shamaness, she is getting stronger," Michael continued.
The Warrior Princess considered the situation carefully and answered with grim determination, "All right, we'll go back and clean up the situation. Besides, I can't let that bitch affect my friends' lives any further."
"So, how do we get back there?" the future Amazon queen posed.
Suddenly, the area was filled with a white cloying pea soup fog, obscuring the group from everyone else.
Dave looked up and managed a smile, "Hi, Sis. I thought you'd never get here."
Cybelle Rogers stepped into view from her place of concealment in the smoke. "Dave, you think I'm going to leave my grandfather in the clutches of that monster? Really! Are we ready?" she lectured.
Dave smiled in spite of himself. Despite all of her training, she was still his stubborn little sister. "You got a point. Well, here goes!" he stated, nodding briefly to the two angels before diving through the fog.
Xena clasped her companion's hand and urged, "Let's go!" With that, the two warriors jumped into the fog as well.
Cybelle looked at the two archangels. As a priestess of the realm of Althanor, they had no real authority over her, at least not practically speaking. Still, for the sake of hedging future bets, she gave them a respectful bow of the head. At that moment, the blue sapphire on her necklace began to glow profusely. "If you will excuse us, I must depart." Having said those words, she walked into the fog and disappeared, leaving the mists to rapidly dissipate behind her.
"Do you think that they can do it?" Raphael asked.
"It is up to them now, Raphael. It is all up to them," his companion replied and stared into the blank space where the group had just been only moments earlier. Only God knew what would happen next....
Alti released both of her victims, watching them drop to the sand. Both Alex and Lorenzo trembled fitfully. If she had wanted to, the shamaness could have killed them in a heartbeat. But no, best to leave somebody alive to spread the word of her return.
"Besides, I have something more important to do," she told herself. First, she walked back into the temple and carried Imhotep out of there. Then, she dumped him in the back of Rick's rented truck before doing the same with Evy.
"Hey..., Witch," Rick muttered. "Where...do you think...?"
Alti spun to see O' Connell struggling to his knees. "Do yourself a favor and stay down!" she snapped.
"Not...a chance," he hissed and somehow managed to hit her in the arm with a lucky pistol shot before collapsing back into unconsciousness.
She ground her teeth while accessing the wound. Somehow, the imbecile had hurt her shoulder in the same place where the Arab's sting had pierced her earlier. "Count yourselves lucky, You Fools! But, once I have their spiritual power, I will be back!" With that, she got into the vehicle, figured out how to start it, and took off into the desert.
About an hour later, Lorenzo managed to stumble to his feet. "What happened?" he wondered woozily. "Was it a dream?" A sharp icy pain between his eyes provided an abrupt answer. "I guess not. Wow." Staggering around the area, he checked on everyone else. Alex and Rick were still out cold. Jonathan was just starting to come around, as was Ardeth Bey.
"I...say," Jonathan mumbled. "What hit me, Old Boy?" He rubbed his head, trying to get rid of the headache.
"Some woman with a lot of power and a grudge to match," Lorenzo guessed.
"I would say you're right, my friend," Ardeth agreed, managing to climb to his feet. "There was something in that tomb...Something more dangerous than the Creature ever was."
"Oh, come on!" Jonathan doubted. "That witch couldn't have...."
"She did. She defeated and killed Imhotep inside of the temple," the Bedouin chieftain countered. "Speaking of the Creature, where is his body?"
At that point, Alex managed to throw his senses together enough to look around. Then, he exclaimed weakly, "Hey, where's Mum?"
"Taken..." Rick murmured painfully and finally collected enough resolve to stand. "Both...Imhotep and Evy...were taken...by that hag."
"You saw this?" Lorenzo pushed.
"Yeah, just 'fore I...blacked out. I put a slug in her shoulder too. Couldn't let her go without my calling card, right?" the former legionnaire slurred.
"Indeed," Ardeth stated. "But, without your transportation, you cannot get back to Cairo. Ahmet, my horse, cannot carry all of you. But still, I will alert the other Mai-Jai leaders, and we will go after the witch. We cannot allow her to absorb the power of the Creature!"
Just then, Alex felt a cool breeze waft across his forehead. "What the?" he wondered and looked up in wonder. For at that point, a mist had begun to form in front of the temple and rapidly solidified into a solid cloudbank. "Ummm, Uncle Jon, Dads, Ardeth, Mr. Larry, since when does mist form in the middle of the desert?" he inquired.
"It doesn't, Son," Rick stated and turned toward Alex. His eyes bulged, "Whoa!"
Just then, four people, a man and three women, spilled out of the fog. The man was just under six feet tall with dark brown hair and really intense brown eyes. One woman was really tall with black hair, dressed in a leather halter, and wearing an armored breastplate. Her blonde companion was closer to the man's height and carried a staff. Finally, the other woman had long brunette hair and wore a flowing green dress in addition to the same intensity in her eyes as the other man's.
"If the fog bothers you, Little One, that is no problem," the latter shrugged. She sang some strange song in a language he couldn't understand and made the fog vanish somehow.
"Weird," Alex stated. "But that was some entrance! Who are you?"
"Alex, let's not pester the good people," Jonathan lectured.
Rick and Ardeth glanced at each other. For some reason, two of the women looked familiar. Again, they were swept back into the past...and their previous lives. They were back at this place and the raven-haired warrior as well as the blonde haired bard had been with them. The four of them, along with Evy's predecessor, had sealed the woman in that crypt.
Gabrielle felt a familiarity with the two men as well, but couldn't understand why. It was something that she couldn't touch.
Ardeth, however, knew their identities from the Bedouin legends. "You have to be Xena the legendary Warrior Princess!"
"So, I have been called," Xena replied.
"And you are Gabrielle, her companion and sister in arms," he continued.
"That's right," the poetess nodded.
Rick eyed them carefully. "So, you're Xena. I've gotta admit I didn't believe the stories when I was in Greece. But, it's good to have you here with us. I'm Rick O' Connell." Saying that, he extended his hand.
"Thanks," the Warrior expressed and shook the outstretched hand.
Just then, from within her head, Angie gasped...and realized that she, through Xena, was shaking hands with her great-grandfather!
"And who are your friends?" Jonathan probed.
"Our names are..." Dave started and glanced at his sister. "David Dumont and Cybelle Rogers."
"We are pleased to meet you," Cybelle smiled. She glanced around the camp at the rest of their new friends. The man off to the left, sitting against what was left of the supplies, seemed familiar to her. "And who are you?"
"Well," Rick started. "The Bedouin who introduced us is called Ardeth Bey. He's the leader of the Mai-Jai tribes. Then, there's my brother-in-law, Jonathan Carnahan, my son, Alex, and the man over there is my wife's associate, Dr. Lorenzo Alvaro."
"Pleased to meet you all," Lorenzo smiled.
"Likewise," Dave nodded. Despite the static in his head from being so close to Alti, he recognized the other man immediately as his grandfather. Immediately, he managed to collect himself and ask, "So, are you all right?"
"Other than a pounding headache, I think so. Madonna! It hurts," Lorenzo cringed, furrowing his brow in the old way which made Dave feel even more nostalgic.
"Give it time. You'll feel better soon," Cybelle assured him. "I have some herbs that may help, if you'll come with me."
Xena glanced at the two siblings assisting their future grandfather before turning her attention back to Ardeth and asking, "If we need help, can we call on your brethren?"
"Indeed, we would be honored to fight by your side," the chieftain affirmed.
"And I'll do anything to get my wife back from that crone," Rick added. "But, where is she? She had nearly an hour to get to wherever she was going."
"That's okay. I can find her," Dave cracked.
"You?" Jonathan chortled. "I say, we don't know where she is and we know our way back to Cairo. You just pop in...and you think..." He let out a sarcastic laugh.
Dave stared at the ne'er-do-well and snarled darkly, "Was I being funny? I don't recall saying anything humorous!" Before anyone could react, he crossed the space between them and looked Jonathan in the eye, allowing some of the deep-seeded rage to seep to the surface.
For his part, Evy's older brother recoiled at this display. Being manhandled by the witch was bad enough, but having to put up with the wild man in front of him was too much for him to bear.
"Remember to watch your mouth, Twit. One day, you may be called to account for those words!" the enraged man in front of him snickered menacingly.
Alex sought refuge from this scene behind his father.
For his part, Rick drew his pistols and trained them on the attacker. "I don't care how angry you are, but nobody beats on Jonathan except maybe me," he insisted.
Xena tensed and grabbed Rick's hand. "Stop it, all of you!" she demanded, stepping in between Rick and Dave. Turning to the latter, she hissed, "Cool it, David. I know that you're having a tough time, but you need to keep better control."
Dave nodded sullenly and looked towards the Celtic priestess. "Cybelle, do you have any St. John's Wart?" he asked.
She smiled and concurred, "You bet. With you around, I made sure that there was some on hand." Reaching into the pouch at her waist, Cybelle handed him a handful of crushed green leaves. "Hope this helps."
"Yeah, so do I," her brother murmured and took the medicine. Within a minute, he felt his internal rage starting to subside. "I'm glad that stuff can calm the Child down," he sighed in relief.
"As are we," Gabrielle agreed. "Now, David, you were saying?"
"Right," he nodded. "We have faced her before. Her name's Alti and, during that encounter, she pulled a similar number on me that from appearances, she did to all of you."
"And how did you react to it?" Rick probed.
"Oh, she very nearly killed me. She took my nastiness and used it for a while before I could take it back. For some reason, when she's around, it's like a dark beacon and the rage bubbles forth to meet it. Through that connection, I can track her. She's heading that way," Dave continued, pointing away from the temple and into the desert.
Ardeth glanced in that direction. "They are heading to Luxor!"
"Where?" the medievalist inquired.
"Another ancient Egyptian temple," Xena explained. "And that is where we must go."
"But how?" Jonathan asked. "She took our vehicle!"
Rick looked at the newcomers. "The man has a point, People. How are we going to get there? Luxor's a good fifty miles away at least."
"You forget," Cybelle interjected. "Distances mean nothing to me. I can get us there in the blink of an eye if necessary."
Lorenzo studied the priestess in front of him. "Yes," he thought to himself.
"The robes, herbs, and the mists! She is a priestess in her own right from one
of the Celtic orders!" In college, he had studied about the druids and their
rituals, but didn't believe that anyone still held the secrets to their lore.
Obviously, the woman in front of him did and could use it at any point.
Cybelle continued, "We need to get you all back to Cairo immediately."
"Stuff it," Rick disagreed. "Look, Cybelle, I really appreciate the concern, but that maniac has my wife."
"And you won't do her any good in the state you're in," the priestess tried to argue.
"I'll take my chances," the former legionnaire stubbornly stated, while checking his revolvers and reloading them.
"As will I," Ardeth added resolutely.
"At the very least, let me take them back to Cairo," Cybelle suggested, looking at Jonathan, Alex, and Lorenzo. "They need rest."
"But, Evy's my sister! I won't...." Jonathan protested, leaping to his feet.
"She has a point," Xena interrupted. "Alti spared you for some reason. Next time, she'll shred your mind. Trust me, you're better off far away from the scene."
As much as Rick admired his brother-in-law's newfound backbone, he agreed with Xena and Cybelle. "Sorry, Jonathan, I think she's right."
"But, Dad!" Alex jumped in.
"No buts, Alex," Rick sternly told his son. "Your mom is in a big enough pickle this time. Remember the scene in the oasis?"
The boy nodded silently.
"Okay, if something like that were to happen to both of you, I don't know what I'd do. So, please, it'll make me feel better if you and your uncle are safe. Okay?" his father continued, ruffling the boy's hair.
"I know," Alex sighed. "I wish I could do something...."
"Watching our flank is a big job, Alex," Dave suggested. "Besides, if we need the cavalry, who better to call on?"
"I guess you're right," the little boy shrugged and stalked off to join his uncle and their associate. "Just get her back, okay?"
Rick smiled widely and nodded, "You got a deal, Alex."
Cybelle summoned another cloud bank and advised, "Be right back! Come on, everyone. Just walk through the mists as if you were leaving a room.
The three men nervously glanced back at their friends.
"It's perfectly safe," Xena assured them.
Receiving that assurance, Jonathan, Alex, and Lorenzo vanished into the mists.
Then, the priestess added, "Oh, Dave, I'll get your gear on the way back. You did leave the bow and arrows in your study at home, right?"
He nodded, "Right and thanks."
She nodded and sprinted into the fog. Once inside, she sealed up the portal behind her.
"That will take some getting used to," Rick remarked.
"It is...truly marvelous!" Ardeth added. "But why can't you people ever travel normally?"
"Relax," Xena assured him good-naturedly. "It is unusual, but the mists come in handy. Now, let's get cracking...."
With that being said, the group began to plan their strategies for the coming battle.
To be continued. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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