xover: Dancing Before the Music Starts
David J. Duncan
For notes & such, please see Part 1
After fighting with the fitful metal beast for the entire trip, Alti finally smiled at the sight ahead of her.
"Luxor," she crowed and looked down at her feet. Through trial and error in addition to the memories she had seen in the minds of Rick, Ardeth, and Lorenzo, she had realized how the pedals worked. "The left lever," she recalled and pushed down on the brake, stopping the vehicle.
"Come on, both of you," she sneered to the two forms in the back of the truck. "We have business to conduct." Then, she dragged them towards the temple complex.
An hour later, Evy groaned and tried to move. "What?" she whispered and looked around. She was in the bottom of the great temple, strapped to an obsidian sacrifice slab just like the one at Hamunaptra from thirteen years before. Turning her head, she saw Imhotep's body lying awkwardly on the granite floor. "If he's dead, then who?"
"So, you're awake. Good," a voice taunted from the dark recesses around the room's edges. Alti stepped into the light. "I want that power that's inside of you."
"What power?" the archaeologist doubted.
"You are a very old soul, My Dear. In fact, I sense that we have met before," the shamaness grinned. "In any event, with each incarnation, a soul gains greater karma and power. Since you have been here more than once, you have great energy coupled with your soul. I want that energy, and I will have it."
"So, why do you need Imhotep? If he's dead..." Evy asked, hoping to gain information.
Alti's eyes sparked darkly and she laughed, "Because, I want you to know what it is I am going to do to you. His power is that of the Forbidden. I who am already accursed have nothing to fear from it. But you, I want you to fear me...When I'm done..." She paused and grabbed Evy by the throat, triggering a flood of nightmares and a piercing scream in the latter before continuing, "You will fear me. You will be terrified of me!"
"Rick will stop you!" Evy protested.
The shamaness sneered, "Let him try! If he and his rabble come here, I'll crush them like the insects that they are. Now, I need to meditate before the ceremony." Then, she left the room, leaving Evy to her own thoughts.
"Hurry, Rick....Please!" she sighed desperately, pulling at the bonds at her wrists and ankles to no avail.
The sun had set in bloody red fire across the western sands of the desert and the moon had risen high into the evening sky. Then, about five miles from the temple, Cybelle opened the doorway, allowing her friends back into the physical world.
"I thought this was supposed to be Luxor," Ardeth wondered. "We're still five miles away."
"I did that deliberately," the priestess mentioned. "We need space to plan."
"Plan? What plan? We just go in, right?" Rick surmised, purposefully pulling out a gun in each hand.
Gabrielle stared at Xena who frowned at her. The former was having an incredible case of deja-vu herself. "It seems like we just had this conversation," she mused, shaking her head.
"No, Alti will be ready for us," the Warrior Princess disagreed. "Besides, she can sense David's presence."
"Sense his presence?" the Mai-Jai chieftain wondered. "But how?"
The professor looked up testily at the bedouin. This close to Alti's influence, his darkness was fighting him mightily, and it was all that he could do to keep it under control. "The bond between our dark sides. I can sense her. She can sense me. It's a two-way street," he explained. "But then, she can also tell when Xena and Gabrielle are close by...and, since you've experienced her pleasures firsthand, I'd say both of you as well."
"So, what do we do?" Rick insisted.
"We go in, but Gabrielle, David, and I will distract Alti. Can you two go with Cybelle and free his wife?" Xena detailed.
Rick set the safety on his shotgun. "Consider it done," he affirmed.
"Then, let's go," Gabrielle urged, looking up at the sky. "Judging by the moon, it is almost 2AM. The peak is not that far off."
Cybelle opened another cloud column and whisked them away toward the temple.
Meantime, Alti swayed deep in her meditative state within the priests' burial chamber, reaching out for the dead spirits imbedded within the complex itself. "Come to me," she commanded. "You have a purpose...I order you to come here!" Suddenly, she raised her hands to the sky and a yellow glow escaped from them. The energy went off in all directions, seeping into the ground, and causing everything to shake within a mile radius.
Then, slowly, very slowly, the mummified priests came back to life. First, the high priest, and then his subordinates emerged from their tombs.
The shamaness allowed herself a satisfied smile. Now that she had her "assistants", the ceremony would be able to proceed. But first, she turned to the revived group and stated, "I have a proposition for you. If you help me, I will release you back to the Underworld. Fail me, and your spirits will wander the world forever. Understood?"
The group nodded methodically.
"Very well, then," she added. "Go to the ritual chamber. I will be there shortly."
The mummies turned and left the room silently.
At that moment, the witch felt a sharp, familiar presence nearby. But who? Then, sensing the levels of darkness in the vicinity, she snarled, "How did they get here? No matter!"
Once again, she called on the dead spirits. But this time, she stirred an army of mummified soldiers from the crypt in the bottom of the temple. "Go forth and destroy the intruders who are approaching the temple. Do this and I will release you back to the Underworld. Fail me and I'll destroy you!" she ordered.
Then, from a distance, she sensed that they had accepted her terms and were on the march. "I hope Xena, Dubois, and the others will enjoy the reception I prepared for them. It will be their last!" she cackled and went back to her preparations.
(Reader's Advisory: The sword fight in this section does get pretty brutal. Also, if the concept of somebody with two distinct personalities, one of whom enjoys violence, bugs you, you might wish to skip the end of the Dave/Xena/Gabrielle vs. the mummies fight. Just thought you would like to be warned.)
The fogbank opened once again next to the temple, allowing the rescue party to step out at the side gate.
"Remember," Xena whispered. "We have to do this quickly. The moon is almost at its peak."
Everyone looked up and saw that she was right. From its position, they had maybe 45 minutes at the most.
"Let's go!" Rick stated low and took off, followed closely by Cybelle and Ardeth.
"Now, let's kick some tail!" Dave hissed, inspecting his bow. A cold smile spread across his face as he took off around the building.
Gabrielle flashed her best friend a nervous glance. There would be no telling how long their companion's control would hold up. "We'd best keep him in sight," she advised.
"You got it!" Xena agreed as they quickly followed him toward the front of the complex. About three minutes later, they spied him waiting for them on the front steps and keeping a sharp watch for any surprises.
Reading the surprised expressions on their faces, he shrugged and probed, "You really don't think I'm going to let the Child take control and rush in there half-witted, did you? I learned my lesson the last time Alti and I faced off in the library. Now, let's go!" He made his way up the stairs, hurriedly but carefully.
Xena nodded relievedly. His control was improving. "Thank the gods for small miracles!" she thought as they followed him through the door.
"Now what?" the Bard whispered.
The Warrior Princess glanced around the darkened entry chamber. "It's too quiet. I don't like it," she growled low.
"Same here," Dave hissed, readying his bow. "I'm glad Cybelle was able to fetch this for me." In his quiver, a bunch of arrows with explosive tips lay ready for use.
Suddenly, they heard what sounded like marching feet. Turning toward the inner door, they encountered the source: about 25 mummified soldiers.
"Let's party," Dave cracked as the trio prepared for the inevitable assault.
Meanwhile, Cybelle, Rick, and Ardeth carefully advanced down the subterranean passages toward the ritual chamber. Although they had been walking quite a ways and hadn't encountered any trouble up to that point, all three knew that Alti would have some surprise waiting for them.
"I can't believe she hasn't tried anything yet," Rick muttered.
"Be careful what you wish for, my friend," the Bedouin advised. "We aren't there yet."
"Besides," the priestess reminded them both. "We're in her territory. I don't have to remind you both to stay sharp."
Rick nodded. After everything that he and his Arab comrade had been through over the past decade and a half together, such knowledge should seem secondhand to them both. No sense in getting too overconfident because trouble could be lurking around the next corner.
Just then, a familiar sound echoed from behind them in the chamber....a group of feet marching in cadence.
"Damn!" Rick muttered. "Looks like we're about to have company again!"
"Such as?" Ardeth inquired. "Only the Creature can raise the dead."
"I've got news for you, Guys," Cybelle sighed. "So, can Alti...and she'll force them to do her bidding." Then, she saw the sight. "Speak of the devils...."
Her companions wheeled around to see five mummified soldiers advancing on them from behind.
"Allah, help us!" Ardeth declared, brandishing his scimitar.
"I say that God helps those who help themselves!" Rick declared, aiming his shotgun, and pumping round after round into their opponents, decapitating one after another in the process. He winged two others and blew a fist-sized hole in the fifth soldier, but they still kept coming. "I hate mummies!" he yelled.
Cybelle walked to his right. "Get back," she commanded and began to chant.
"What are you doing?" the two men chorused.
The priestess raised her hands toward the ceiling, collecting every bit of static electricity from the air and stones about them. Then, after combining it with her own formidable energies, sent three powerful bursts into the advancing horde, effectively devastating them.
"That's better," she told the others. "Now, you were asking me something?"
"Who us?" Rick denied, imitating his son's best angelic/innocent face. "Not us."
She cracked a smile. Some men were such cynics. "Then, come on. We have to deal with Alti and the chamber shouldn't be that far ahead."
"The sooner we get there, the sooner we save Evy," Rick affirmed as they hustled toward their goal.
Meantime, back in the front foyer, Xena, Gabrielle, and Dave were facing the majority of the undead troops.
"I really don't have time for this!" he bellowed at the horde.
In response, the troops dropped their jaws farther than one would have thought possible and roared back at him.
The medievalist shook his head, waving his hand in front of his face, and baiting, "Whew! mummy breath! Guys, has anyone told you about Listerine?" Not receiving a response, he continued, "No, well, I guess that I'm going to have to introduce the concept of cleaning out your mouths, because your breath stinks!" With that, he fired a series of regular shafts into the opposition.
Unfortunately, the mummies kept advancing on them.
"Shit!" Dave cursed himself. "I should have known better than that!"
Just then, the mummy leader picked the professor up and flung him towards the far wall.
Concentrating, Dave used his own psychic abilities to slow his flight down just enough so that he barely grazed the brick facade. However, the impact still pushed him farther towards the edge.
"That does it!" the Warrior Princess decided and, yelling her war cry, executed a triple flip over the troops, and landed behind them. Drawing her sword, she began to quickly cut a swath through their attackers. A fling of her chakram took out still five others in a single trip.
Gabrielle, on the other hand, had some problems with the attackers. At that point, she saw a sword lying on the floor from one of the dispatched enemies. "Since they're already dead, I don't have to worry about it," she decided while picking up the sword and hacking everything in sight.
For his part, Dave concentrated again and, just as his sister had done in the other passage, collected his own energies. After channeling this power, he released a burst at the horde, taking out six other undead adversaries.
Still, eight other soldiers spilled into the chamber from the side entrance.
Xena threw her circular weapon another time, cutting down three more opponents.
Dave released another pulse, wiping out another two. Then, after picking up one of a discarded scimitar, he let out a blood-curdling roar, and charged the other two foes.
One of the mummies held up his hand and formed razor-sharp claws. The newly endowed opponent carved three deep grooves into Dave's left shoulder. At this point, any sane man would have backed off, which the professor seemed to do as he shook fiercely and started to breath heavily.
His two companions, although still finishing up the other three enemies, noted the transformation. From past experience, they knew that his personalities had flipped again. Once more, the Dark Child was in charge, and they only wanted to stay the heck out of his way.
Unfortunately for the mummies, their intended victim looked up at them with a savage expression. His right eye had closed and his mouth was contorted in a sadistic grin. "Well now, looks like I have two bloody idiots who don't know when to quit," he chuckled. "Boys, let me show you how starting with the eager beaver there!" He advanced again.
The Claw took another swipe at his adversary. However, this time, it missed.
"Tsk, nothin' but air! Boys, where I come from, we have something called a manicure," the Child snickered and, faster than the eye could see, brought his weapon down and amputated the enhanced limb. Two more quick swipes finished the job. "Just like a Thanksgiving turkey..." he started to gloat over the remains.
Just then, the other ancient warrior grabbed him from behind, raising him high overhead, and tensing as if to fling the enraged man against the stones once again.
Rather than allow this to happen, the Child swung his scimitar again, cutting into the top of his attacker's skull, and forcing the other to drop him.
"Didn't like that, did ya?" he snickered darkly, brandishing the weapon.
The mummy lunged at him.
"Suit yourself!" he advised the advancing bandage pile. Another quick scimitar swipe decapitated it, removing the last threat.
"Aw, Mom, I want more!" he complained half-seriously to the Warrior Princess. "Besides, you seemed to be intent to watch. I don't remember leaving tickets at the door!"
Xena accessed the situation quickly. It would be most prudent to go along with him and try to get him to calm down in the process. "I figured you needed to get some frustration out of your system, and you seemed to be handling it," she shrugged. "But, Alti's still ahead."
He smiled serenely, "Oh, yeah, I'm ready for that overbearing hag...after what she did to us! But first...." Concentrating, the Child returned back to his place, and suddenly, Dave was back in control again.
"Wow!" he sighed, rubbing his head. "Any others left?"
"No, I think we cleaned out all of the mummies in here," Gabrielle informed him.
"Let's go. It should be getting very close to the appointed time by now," Xena asserted and took off towards the stairs with her friends right on her heels. One way or another, they had to stop that ceremony.
Back in the sacrifice chamber, Alti arrived with a grim resolve. She sensed the outplay of emotions from the rescue party's two encounters with her mummy-soldiers and the efficiency with which the former had dealt with the latter. She thought about the emotions coming from O' Connell and Ardeth Bey. How she would relish tearing their minds apart! And to do it in front of the former's wife down here would be icing on the cake. However, Dubois' reaction had proved extremely interesting. His anger lit their progress to her like a beacon, yet somehow, he had managed to maintain that accursed compromise position between personalities. "That was my own carelessness!" she hissed self-critically, recalling how she allowed him to reclaim the darkness within him during their previous encounter in the American Southwest. Worse still, Xena, the blonde, and that so-called priestess were with him.
She glanced around the chamber. Ten soldiers remained with her in addition to the five priests. "Best to leave them with me," she told herself and put on her antlered headdress.
"You'll never get away with this!" Evy protested vehemently from the obsidian slab.
The shamaness chuckled and allowed her eyes to sparkle intently on the captive librarian. "Ah, but I will, and by the time I'm finished, you, your husband, and the others will be dead."
Evy struggled with the bonds tied tightly around her wrists, huffing heavily from the effort.
Alti caressed the other woman's cheek, clearly relishing the other's emotion. "Ah, frustration! Keep struggling! You just make me stronger! Now, while you're doing that, I'm going to start on the bald one there! Once I have his power, I'll be invincible!"
"You just keep thinking that, you Uncouth Savage. We'll find a way to stop you," the prisoner ranted.
The witch growled in irritation. This yappy little wench didn't know when to shut up! Sighing angrily, she jerked Evy's head by her brown hair. "You call me a savage? You who desecrate the ancients in the name of your so-called civilized society?" Letting the other drink in this point, she continued, "Yes, I saw all of this in your husband's thoughts...."
"At least, we reconstruct the tombs when we get the artifacts back to London!" Evy snapped. "You would leave them scattered for the vultures and grave robbers."
To Alti, having this little snip dare to question her motives was grinding on her patience. "Let me show you why you should stop while you're ahead. You see, all of your previous lives are like an open book to me. Imagine what I could do to you." A knowing smile crossed her lips as fear started to well up within her prisoner. "You'll know more fear than that when I'm done with you!" she added, locking eyes with Evy.
The other woman's eyes bulged wide open. Suddenly, she was back in Nefertiri's form fighting Anack-su-Namun at Seti's palace. Unlike the open duel in front of the court, this "lesson" was an exercise in brutality between the two women. Although careful to avoid scarring her opponent, the teacher delivered blow after blow to the young princess, bruising the latter and knocking her to the floor.....
As Alti released her hair, Evy realized that she had been stuck in her past. However, despite the fact that the scene was only a distant memory from another life, her body was wracked with pain. Her breathing was labored as she blacked out.
"Finally! Some peace and quiet with which to conduct the ceremony!" the witch cracked and motioned to her priests to bring Imhotep's body forward. After they had done so, she commanded, "Now, step back!"
The others drew back, sensing the great power within this woman in front of them.
The shamaness laughed triumphantly as she began her spirit dance. For a full twenty minutes, she twirled in time with the dark currents within the cosmos, invoking the black magic within this foreign land to her assistance. Swaying back and forth as if in some unfelt breeze, she pulled more and more evil energy toward her person. Finally, she held her hand toward the prone form of the dead high priest. A little ball of energy popped out of his chest, flew across the room, and slammed into her body. For a full minute, she writhed painfully even as she continued the dance.
While this was going on down on the floor of the chamber, the rescue party had reconvened on the upper entrance, at the head of the stone staircase descending to the action below.
Rick glared down below and spurted, "What the Hell's going on down there? What is she doing?"
Xena studied the scene carefully and explained, "She's doing a spirit dance and it looks like she just absorbed the power of the bald man down there."
Ardeth swore in Arabic and then continued, "My apologies...the witch has absorbed the Creature's powers. Now, she will be invincible!"
Gabrielle and Dave shot the bedouin chieftain confused stares before she added, "Who is this 'Creature' that you keep referring to?"
"He's referring to the high priest, Imhotep," Rick commented intently, reloading his shotguns and pistols. "If she has his power, then we'll have a worse fight on our hands."
"Alti's enough of a threat in her own right," the Warrior Princess acknowledged mindfully.
"And with this extra charge, she'll be even more formidable," Cybelle noted. "We must move before she learns to marshall it."
The former legionnaire turned to the medievalist and asked, "Hey, Robin Hood, how are your arrows holdin' up?"
"Oh, I still have plenty of surprises for our friends, trust me..." Dave assured him. "How many of the bandage boys does she have with her?"
Ardeth scanned the area beneath them, taking in the situation with minute detail before replying, "Ten soldiers and five priests. Who knows how many others there are?"
"She would have already thrown them at us," Xena theorized. Looking at the battling bard and the medievalist, she continued, "We dealt with a pretty big reception committee on our way here...about 30 of those mummies."
"And we fought eight of them ourselves," the priestess mentioned. "I think Xena's right. Besides, she knows this enemy the best of all of us."
Rick happened to turn his eye toward the ceremony. Whatever that hag had planned for Evy wasn't going to happen if he had anything to say about it. Feeling the reassuring weight of the 22 gauge weapon in his arms, he set his jaw firmly. Then, he saw Alti starting to move towards the obsidian slab and Evy. "I don't think so!" he told himself. Taking aim, he fired off two shots toward the platform, both impacting at the shamaness's feet.
"Who would dare?" she hissed malevolently.
Evy raised her head toward the source of the shots. There, she recognized the chiseled features of her husband and knew that help was on the way. "Rick! Be careful!" she screamed.
Alti spun to the remaining mummies in the area and commanded, "Deal with them!"
The ancient followers hurried to do her bidding. Quickly, yet methodically, they made their way toward the intruders.
"What did you do that for??" Dave bellowed.
"Would you rather sit and watch? I'm here to save my wife, Pal!" Rick spat, sizing up the advancing group with his shotgun, and decapitating three attackers in succession.
"Nice shooting, Two Gun," the professor complemented, readying his bow, and stringing an arrow with an unusual white tip on it. "By the way, you got a match?"
"Sure," the adventurer agreed and recognized the wick coming out of the arrowhead as a fuse. "I take it you want a light?"
"Knock yourself out," Dave nodded and watched as his new friend did just that. "Now, stand back!" With that warning, he shot the lit shaft into the teeth of Alti's minions and watched the explosion take out three more mummies and leave some sort of burning goop on two others.
"Whoa! What is that stuff?" Rick wondered.
"Ancient Greek secret," Xena deadpanned. "It's a derivative of Greek fire which he cooked up at home. Now, let's see what we can do to liven this party up a bit!" Taking her signature weapon from its clip at her side, she flung it toward the dais, impacting off of Alti's back, the chain on Evy's left wrist, the wall behind the slab and the bond on Evy's right wrist before returning to its mistress' hand.
"Nice work," Ardeth complemented. "Now, let's deal with the witch!" Drawing his scimitar, he charged down the stairs.
However, Alti sensed his approach, locked eyes with him, and ripped into his deepest fears. "Once I've touched you, I have you, Fool!" she hissed.
The Arab chieftain gritted his teeth, refusing to give her the satisfaction of hearing him scream in pain.
"Ardeth!" Xena yelled and jumped in the air intent on flipping down to the floor below.
However, the shamaness grabbed her body out of space and flung it backward against the far stone wall. "You'll have to do better than that, Xena!" she laughed.
Gabrielle ran to her friend's side and looked the warrior over. She didn't seem to be hurt too badly. In fact, she was already coming around. "Xena, are you okay?"
"Yeah..." she grunted and sat up. A fierce pain was shooting up and down her back, but, beyond that, she was okay.
Cybelle looked around to see that Dave, Rick, Gabrielle, and herself were all that remained of their sortie. "Let's get down there now!"
"Stay with Xena!" Dave advised the bard, knowing that if anything happened to the Warrior Princess, it would befall his wife as well.
"You be careful," Xena told him. "Don't do anything stupid."
"Like charging at a woman who can provoke fear while having a personality who turns fear into anger? Who, me?" he joked, not letting his own doubts cloud his resolve.
"Yeah, you," the Warrior grunted. "Well, if you're intent on making this suicidal charge. Get to it. We'll be down there in a couple of minutes."
"Right," he agreed.
"Let's go, Dave!" Cybelle told him, opening up a cloud portal and standing just inside of it. For his part, Rick was already inside.
He nodded and, after stealing one last look at the two companions, dove through the vanishing portal, heading for the crisis below.
To be continued. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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