Dancing Before the Music Starts
By David J. Duncan
For notes and such, please see Part 1
With Alti occupied with the rescue party's incursion, Evy fussed with the chains at her feet. Despite her effort, she couldn't free herself. Looking around at the scene, something was changing. Everything blurred...and then, she saw another scene playing out in front of her. She was on a plateau overlooking Karnak and in the midst of a titanic struggle. Over to her left, she recognized Xena and Gabrielle fighting the shamaness.
"Cleopatra!" a male voice bade. "I have her!"
Evy (or was it Cleopatra?) faced the speaker. A dark-skinned man wrapped in black robes approached her. Along with him, an attractive brunette woman stumbled on the rocks along the face of the plateau. "Thank you, Antonius. Welcome, Eve," she heard herself say.
Antonius nodded, allowing his face to come uncovered. In that moment, his face shifted to the familiar face of Ardeth Bey. Of course! If she was there, then why not him?
The Messenger of Eli nodded gratefully, "Thank you, Cleopatra." Then, she stepped back to allow another man to enter the picture. He was garbed in white and his head hooded. For a second, his face was bearded and tanned by the intense desert sun. His face blurred and then, she saw Rick looking at her.
"Is something the matter, my Love?" he asked.
"No...no, Claudius," she indicated, somehow knowing his name. "Are we ready?"
"Indeed? We must use the necklace now," Claudius/Rick urged.
Evy/Cleopatra felt herself nod and hold up the golden necklace which she used in the tomb. The jewel caught the sunlight, creating a beam which shot out at Alti, putting her into a deep sleep. From there, the group took the shamaness to Thebes where they sealed her into the crypt......
With that, she felt herself snap out of the reverie, just in time to see the mist collect in the chamber. "Where is that mist coming from?" she wondered.
And then, from behind her, a voice advised, "Sit still!"
She complied and, after two clanging noises, felt the chains fall away from her ankles. Turning toward the source of the voice, she recognized her savior immediately.
Rick smiled at her warmly, tears falling freely from his eyes. He knew that the scene might ruin his image, but frankly, he didn't really care at the moment. "Thank you, Lord," he said to the sky. Then, he looked at his wife and said, "We have to get out of here. Dave and Cybelle are distracting Alti at the moment.
"Rick, do you have the necklace?" Evy probed.
Feeling around in his pockets, he initially shook his head, "No...I...wait a minute!" He reached down into his boot and pulled the golden neck ornament out. "Sorry," he shrugged. "It seemed like a good place at the time, especially after she grabbed you."
"Give it to me, please," she demanded.
He handed the jewelry to her, and she put it around her neck. The gold's weight felt comforting as if it should have been there all along. "Now, we need to deal with Alti!" she declared. "Help me up and let's hope your friends can keep her busy for a few more minutes!" Looking up at the ceiling, she saw the colors starting to appear in the sky. Dawn wasn't that far off...if they could stay alive that long.
On the other side of the misty barrier, Alti fumbled her way through the obscurity. Somewhere in this haze, her victims stood waiting for her. Then, she felt it. A feeling of lukewarm going cold. "Dubois, come out!" she challenged.
"I'm right here," the professor snarled, stepping into her line of sight. His face was contorted in that grin and the right eye was once again closed. "Care to try your luck?"
"I'll shred your mind once and for all!" she snarled, grabbing his right arm and flooding him with her morbid mental energy.
He chuckled, "That tickles! Don't you know? Fear and anger make me stronger! You don't scare me, Witch!" Firing a mental blast, he sent the shamaness flying across the room and into the staircase.
For once, Alti began to feel fear herself. The feeling intensified with the growling coming from the fog. She retreated up the stairs only to face two familiar foes: Xena and Gabrielle.
"Well, well," the Warrior Princess challenged. "And where do you think you're going?" Leaping up in the air quickly, she pummeled her opponent over and over again with kicks before putting a solid shot to her adversary's midsection, throwing the shamaness to the floor.
The witch started to rise only to find herself bound by vines. "What is this?" she complained and started to summon Imhotep's energy.
Cybelle looked at the roof. The first light of dawn now squirmed its way into the chamber. Sensing that her handiwork was about to give way, she called, "Rick! Do it! Now!"
At that moment, Alti released a powerful burst of energy, shredding the plant-bonds, and allowing her to climb to her feet. "I'm going to kill you slowly when I get my hands on you, Little Girl!" she vowed.
"That will never happen," Evy's voice stated.
The shamaness watched as her prisoner stepped out of the fog. However, her form shifted to that of...."No!" she screamed. "The accursed Cleopatra with that necklace! I'll kill you first!"
Evy/Cleopatra calmly held the jewel up to the sunlight. As it had done two millennia earlier, it soaked up the solar energy and directed a beam at Alti.
"Not again!" the besieged woman bellowed.
Then, just as he had done in the past, Rick/Claudius steadied his lover while she performed this task.
"Noooo!" she protested to no avail. Suddenly, the energy which she had stolen from Imhotep broke free and floated off into the sky. After that, she burst into flames, reducing her body to ash.
"Good riddance!" Rick snarled. Looking at his wife, he asked, "Are you okay?"
"Y...Yes, I think so. I had this strange experience. For a second there, we were at Karnak, putting that witch in the jar the first time. Amazing..." Evy stammered. "My name was Cleopatra, you were Claudius, and Ardeth was Antonius. I could have sworn I saw somebody in leather armor fighting Alti as well."
"That would have been us," Gabrielle indicated, approaching the O' Connells through the rapidly dissipating ground cover. "I'm Gabrielle, but I think you know that."
The librarian nodded slowly, "Right, and your friend with the dark hair...she's Xena, isn't she?"
"That would be her," her husband indicated. "Surprise, she exists!"
Evy shot him a sour glance. He had to rub it in, didn't he?
"Not to worry," Xena laughed. "You did a nice job once again."
"I did, didn't I?" Evy asked. "But without your help, it wouldn't have been possible."
"This time, there's no body for her to return to. Still, I'm going to make sure this stays under guard," Dave stated, scooping up the shamaness's ashes and locking them in a small box. "Cybelle, do you have any confining chants?"
The priestess nodded and sang a Celtic chant. Then, she assured her brother, "The box is sealed for all time. As before, only the jewel can open it."
"Right. Evelyn, I'm going to suggest you keep the necklace here in Egypt," Xena planned. "Meantime, we'll take the ashes with us."
"Who will be able to guard them?" Ardeth demanded.
"We have a great curator at the university museum," Dave assured him. Then, he stared in the corner where Imhotep's body had been and asked, "Uh, Guys, where's your buddy's body?"
"The Creature has disintegrated!" the Bedouin exclaimed. "Perhaps, he is finally dead."
"I wouldn't bet on that," Rick affirmed. "Still, I'll feel better once we're back in Cairo."
"Oh no, Alex! Jonathan! Lorenzo! Are they?" she worried.
"They are fine, Dr. O' Connell," Cybelle assured her as she opened the fogbank again. "Perhaps you would like to see them?"
"Yes I would," Evy affirmed. "So, when?"
"Let's get to the truck. Once we're on the way, I know a shortcut...." the priestess explained.
Rick agreed as they climbed the stone stairs and headed for the exit, "Trust her. She knows her shortcuts better than anyone."
"If you say so, I'll be eager to get home and hold Alex in my arms!" Evy told him.
Meantime, Xena looked at the chamber one last time. Alti had been so close to her goal and, once again, they had foiled her by the slimmest of margins.
"What's up?" Dave probed.
The Warrior Princess frowned, "Oh, nothing. I still feel like she's gonna come back again somehow. But that's silly, right?"
The Bard shook her head, "We've seen stranger things happen, Xena."
"Why do you think I'm taking all of these precautions?" Dave asked them. "I'm trying to keep her from doing an encore. Hopefully, Nick and Alyce will be able to figure something out."
"Let's hope so," the warrior grimly concurred as they departed the battle scene and joined their comrades outside of the temple.
Alex stalked out onto the terrace of the O' Connells' house. Ever since that strange lady had dropped them off here, he had brooded about being left behind.
For his part, Lorenzo walked out to talk with him, "Hey, Alex? Are you okay?"
The boy turned toward his mother's associate and sighed, "Yeah, Mr. Larry, I guess...I just wish that I could be helping Mum and Dad. I'm worried about them...."
The archaeologist nodded, "We all are, Son. But, with their friends, I think they'll be okay."
Alex looked up at his friend and hoped, "I know, but I wish that really scary guy wasn't with them. He frightens me."
"Somehow, I think he's not as bad as that," Lorenzo surmised. Then, he noticed Jonathan sitting by himself in the living room, sipping on a cup of tea. The man hadn't budged from that position for the entire evening. Like his nephew, he wished that he could do more to help rescue his sister from that madwoman. Within him, his fear fought a fierce battle with responsibility and love, paralyzing him.
Alex followed the other man's stare and shook his head, "Ever since the scary man shook him up, Uncle Jon hasn't been the same."
"I think that's part of it, Alex," Lorenzo agreed. "I also think that he wishes he were there too."
"That's true," the boy admitted. "But I hope they come home soon."
"Me too. Me too," Lorenzo agreed. "Now, let's see what we can do for your uncle."
With that, they walked back into the house.
The alley behind the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo was usually deserted in the early morning hours save for a few stray dogs and cats. However, on this particular day, a mist began to form in that narrow area. After a few minutes, the alley was filled by the obscuring fog. Five minutes after that, the O'Connells' truck rumbled out of the fog, through the alley, and out onto the street next to the museum.
"I...I don't believe it!" Evy stammered. "It's true!"
"I told you," Rick shrugged. "She's got a real talent for it."
"We should be at the Museum," Cybelle indicated. "How far are we from your home?"
"Right around the corner actually," Evy replied. "Well, we should be getting back there."
"And we need to be doing the same," Dave agreed. "We left an elderly man by himself and should be getting back to him. But, can you do us a favor?"
"Name it," Rick agreed.
"First, when you see Lorenzo, give him our regards," Dave requested.
"Absolutely," the British Museum curator stated. Then, she added, "A question for you too if I may?"
"Sure," Xena nodded.
"Why are you taking the box with the ashes with you? That would make a great display," she inquired.
Xena and Dave looked at each other momentarily before he asked, "Umm, let's see, if history serves me right, each artifact you uncover does something, right? Rick's key uncovered Imhotep. The Anubis bracelet brought the Scorpion King back to life. And the crystal in that necklace revived Alti. Aren't you the one who used all three of those keys at one point or another?"
Evelyn looked at the questioner with an aghast expression, "Well, I never...!"
"Actually, Dear," Rick indicated. "He's right. That would be you."
She shook her head and backed away from him abruptly.
"Sorry about that," the adventurer apologized. "She does get a bit tempermental when she's being corrected like that." A slight grin crossed his face. "But, I'm curious. How did you know all of that stuff? It's almost like....nah...that's crazy."
"What?" Gabrielle asked. "What is it?"
"I was going to say that you have to be from the future. But, that's nuts," Rick snickered.
Once again, the warrior and the medievalist exchanged looks. Best to let him think that way for now.
"Yeah, it's nuts. Well, our best to everyone," Xena agreed, shaking hands with Rick. "Ardeth."
"Once again, my friends, it was a honor to fight alongside you," the bedouin acknowledged and gave them the Islamic salute of peace and good fortune. "May Allah always bless you."
"And you," Dave smiled. "Thank you, Rick, for your help. And, Evelyn, my apologies. Take care of the necklace, okay?"
"I will," Evy sighed and managed a little smile. She understood that the professor was only making a point to her.
"You're welcome," Rick stated. "You're something else in a fight. Hopefully, we'll run into each other again."
"If you're ever in Tucson, look us up," Dave invited.
"And, one last thing, " Xena added. "A young woman named Angela says hello."
"Angela? I don't know any Angela," Rick puzzled aloud, glancing at his wife.
Evy shrugged, "I don't either." She studied their new allies again. For some reason, she agreed with Rick. While he was joking, she wondered if there was something to it. This would bear some thought. Until the right opportunity came, if it ever did, she vowed to keep her silence.
"You will," Dave snickered as he stepped back into the mist. "You will."
The Warrior Princess took one last look at the O' Connells before she stepped through. At least, she allowed Angie to look upon her great-grandparents again. Gabrielle followed closely behind.
Cybelle smiled and wished them pleasant journeys before stepping inside the smoke and sealing the portal behind her.
For a long minute, Rick, Ardeth, and Evy stared at the spot where their allies had been. Their minds were flooded with questions. But then, they decided that some things were better left undiscovered.
"We'd best check on Jonathan and your son," Ardeth remarked.
"You're on," Rick stated. "How would you like some breakfast?"
"I would be delighted. Come!" the bedouin concurred as the three friends walked off into the morning lit streets, looking for the way home and preparing for their next adventure.
Alex O' Connell stared out the window of the downtown loft. He had been brought here after his granddaughter, her husband, and his cousin had disappeared earlier this afternoon. Where did they go? And what was going on? He sat in the corner of the room, mulling the mystery and drinking his tea.
Across the room, Nick Miles observed his guest. The 790 year old vampire-detective was just as taken aback initially by Natalie's and Schanke's request that he watch the elderly archaeologist. Of course, once his guest's identity had been determined, the two had gotten along splendidly, spending most of the afternoon talking about Egyptology and the like.
Walking over to the oak cabinet in the far corner of the room, he opened it and discovered a particular picture taken in the early 1940s. In it, Nick saw himself standing with Rick and Evelyn O' Connell, a blond, strapping teenaged youth, and another man...a professor of Celtic and Egyptian antiquities as he recalled. "I don't believe it!" he mused to himself. Turning to the old man, he saw the familiar glimmer in the blue eyes and the features, despite their age, were stunningly similar. Somehow, Alex had found his way back to his friend's side. And, his other friend, Lorenzo Alvaro, the boy he had saved along the roadside, had been associated with that party as well. And to think, those two men were the grandparents of his friends, Dave and Angie. "It is truly a small world," he laughed, while putting the picture away and rejoining his guest.
Meanwhile, Eve and Natalie nervously stared out the window of the Duboises' apartment and waited for their friends to come back. Between Dave's jitters and his sudden disappearance not to mention Angie and Francesca, both women were extremely nervous.
"I hope they are all right," Eve hoped, bouncing Deirdre on her knee.
"I know," Natalie sighed, shaking her head. "They took off so abruptly. No warning or anything."
"And yet, mysteriously, David's classes were covered," the Messenger wondered. "Almost as if...."
"As if there was divine intervention, perhaps?" a familiar voice asked.
The coroner and the messenger both turned to their left. There, Michael stood smiling.
"Yes, Eve. All was taken care of in the manner that you suspect," he explained.
"Excuse me, who?" Natalie broke in.
"This is the Archangel Michael, Natalie," Eve introduced before asking the newcomer. "I trust that you and Raphael are behind the disappearance of our friends?"
"We told them of the situation. After that, they and Cybelle travelled back to Egypt to fix the situation. Alti broke loose from her prison," the angel recounted.
Having at various times been exposed to the witch's not-so-tender mercies, both women shuddered.
"And did they...?" Eve probed.
"Yes, they did defeat her. As for the rest...," Michael continued, noticing the cloud forming behind him. "I'll let them tell you." He stepped back to allow the portal to fully form. Within seconds, Dave, Xena, and Gabrielle entered the room followed by Cybelle.
"Oh, Mother! Gabrielle!" Eve exclaimed and hugged her two companions.
"Now, this is the type of homecoming I like," Xena smiled warmly and tightly held her daughter.
"So, where did you go?" Natalie pressed. "You know Schank and I were pretty scared when the three of you just up and vanished like that."
"We had an emergency," Dave replied. "Besides, in my situation, I wasn't going to risk giving anything else away to Grandfather O' Connell."
The coroner and the messenger looked at him curiously, "Give what away?"
"His parents are Rick and Evelyn O' Connell. And her father is Lord Carnahan," he continued.
"You mean the explorer that...?" Natalie realized. "And Evelyn is the same person who discovered Imhotep's tomb and....?"
"Right," Xena grinned. "She also accidentally released Alti. That's what the emergency was."
"I thought that only the necklace could do that," Eve surmised.
"That's apparently how she did it," Gabrielle noted. "And that's how she defeated Alti."
"But only one of the royal line of the Pharoahs could...," the Messenger started and had a sudden thought. "Does that mean that she was tied to Cleopatra?"
"Right," Xena nodded and turned to the Bard. "Did Rick and Ardeth Bey look familiar to you as well?"
"You mean Claudius and Antonius? Xena, that's incredible! Why didn't I see it?" the Potadeian warrior-bard wondered. "But the way they fought. It was as if...."
"They had fought her before and at our side," the Warrior Princess nodded. Then, turning to Dave, she cracked, "You weren't too bad yourself, you know. Taking out all of those mummies and not letting His Attitude get out...well not that badly. And, especially in Alti's presence, good work."
"Thanks," he accepted and turned to the angel, "Michael, it's all set."
"And you have the box?" the archangel inquired.
Dave produced the small chest and held it up for all to see. "Here are her ashes."
"And I put a sealing spell on it to make sure of it. Once again, only the necklace can open it," the priestess added.
"I have arranged for a friend of yours to stop by," Michael added. "The university curator, I believe? Well, I must go. Raphael is coming. He has some people for you to meet." Having said his peace, the blond angel disappeared in a flash of light.
"That was incredible!" Natalie gaped. "That was actually the archangel Michael."
"Yeah, it was," Xena shrugged. "I wonder who Raphael's going to have with him?"
"Probably some long lost reception committee," Cybelle guessed and started to form another portal. "I gotta run. Matt's probably ready to declare me lost..."
At that moment, a bright light on the other side of the room signalled the arrival of Raphael and four hooded figures.
"Raphael," Gabrielle greeted. "It is good to see you."
"And you," the black haired angel replied. "You as well, Xena and David. I have brought you some visitors."
"Now what?" Dave hissed, ready for anything.
Eve shook her head and advised, "David, I don't sense any malice in them. Raphael wouldn't intentionally lead any harmful people here."
"Indeed," Raphael agreed.
"Besides," one of the cloaked figures noted cheerfully. "I wouldn't want to get you ticked off, Robin Hood."
Dave took a step back and ventured, "Rick? Is that?"
"None other," the deceased adventurer smiled, revealing his face. The others did so as well revealing themselves as Evy, Ardeth, and Lorenzo.
"So, this is where you are from," she chuckled. "I suspected as much. Really, Dr. Dubois, why didn't you just come out and tell us?"
"And risk disrupting the time continuum?" Lorenzo chided. "Really now, Evelyn. Now that I've set you straight on everything, we should be fine."
"I suppose so," the deceased curator admitted.
Ardeth jumped in and asked. "Pardon me, but do you have Alti's remains?"
Xena patted the box. "Right here...and it's going in a very secure place. Did you secure the key?"
"Yes, it's under guard in Cairo," Rick added. He took a look around and complemented, "Nice place."
"Thanks," Dave accepted. "Angie and I think so."
Evy turned to the other academic and inquired, "That's the second time you mentioned this 'Angie'. When do we get to meet her?"
Everyone in the room turned to look at Xena who shrugged and stated, "You already have. Well, kind of...watch." Sheathing the sword, she concentrated. A bright flash concealed her form and then, Angie stood in her place.
"I'm Angie," the oncologist explained. "I'm Jennifer's daughter."
"You mean little Jenny, our granddaughter?" Evy gasped. "I say! Rick, she's our great-granddaughter!"
"Unbelievable," Rick shook his head and moved closer to his descendant. "Well, thank you. Somehow, I knew we were in good hands."
Lorenzo smiled proudly, "Now, I suppose you wish to see our grandchildren? Follow me."
As the three spirits entered the room, they glimpsed the two nine year olds intently studying their books.
"The one on the left is Karen. Her sister is Lauren. And they're both really smart and precocious. But, they're such good girls," he beamed.
"And who's the toddler out there?" Rick asked.
"That's Deirdre, their sister. Believe me, these girls are all going to be something else one day," the Florentine predicted.
"I'm sure," Evy agreed and moved closer to them to get a better look.
At that moment, the twins looked up and chorused, "And who might you be?"
Evy stepped back, "They can...."
"Sense us?" their colleague cracked. "Yes, they can. Hi, Girls. Don't let us disturb you."
Karen furrowed her brow and wondered, "Great-Grandpa?"
"That's right," Lorenzo agreed. "How did you know?"
"Daddy always talks about you," Lauren added, a smile coming to her face. "And I was named after you."
"Yes, you were. Now, Girls, I want you to meet your mother's great-grandparents. This is your Great, Great-Grandpa and Great, Great-Grandma O' Connell," the spirit introduced his peers.
"Hi!" Karen smiled.
"Glad to meet you!" Lauren added enthusiastically.
Rick's eyes shined on Evy. Despite all of their close calls, they had established a wonderful family. With their love, they had planted the seed which had sprouted into future generations.
For her part, Evy stooped down next to her descendants and grinned broadly. They were beautiful as was their mother. Yes, these two twins would be fine scholars and, with their abilities, would be formidable in their own right. She managed to put her arms around the girls in a suitable imitation of a hug.
"Now, you can see why I'm so proud of them," Lorenzo revealed.
"Yes, I can," Rick concurred. "Who would've guessed?"
"It is funny how fate works," Lorenzo agreed. "Now, as much as I would like to stay, our time grows short." He bent over one last time and kissed the sisters on the forehead. "Buona Nochte," he wished them.
Rick and Evy tarried a moment longer, watching the twins. Then, they followed their friend into the living room.
"They are beautiful!" Evy complemented. "As are you, Angela."
Angie's eyes teared up as she tried to embrace her great-grandmother, "Thank you. I wish that Momma could be here. She would love to see you both again. Will you be seeing Grandpa Alex?"
"Unfortunately," Rick sighed. "Not on this trip. But with Nicholas, I'm sure he's in good hands."
"You both know Nick?" Natalie gaped. It seemed that there were no end to the surprises!
Ardeth nodded, "Indeed we do. We met on an expedition to the southern Sahara in 1942. Quite an unusual man, but a wonderful friend to have."
"Then, there was the creep who hung around him, La Something," Rick added.
"LaCroix," Natalie affirmed. "Yes, he's here, unfortunately. Sorry, Eve."
"No, that's fine. Given his attitude, it is unfortunate. Someday, with Eli's blessing, I may be able to help him, but for now, I cannot...." the Messenger replied pleasantly.
At that moment, Raphael cleared his throat and announced, "It is time."
"Well, once again, thank you," Rick expressed to the group.
"Thank you for saving me and helping us," Evy added. "Take care of the girls!"
"And keep your chins up," Lorenzo advised, his eyes twinkling warmly toward his grandchildren and niece, Francesca.
The deceased chieftain bowed respectfully.
With that, they vanished from sight back to Heaven.
"Thank you," Dave expressed to the archangel.
"It was our pleasure," Raphael replied gladly. "They had questions after you left, and we knew that you deserved a reward for your good deed. Be well!" Having said that, he faded away as well.
Angie hugged her husband tightly and sighed, "After all of that, what an experience!"
"I would say so," Dave agreed, kissing her on the cheek. "But seeing the grandfolks is always worth it."
"Yes, but there's still the box...." she indicated.
"We'll worry about that tomorrow. Let's enjoy the evening and another job well done," he assured her.
She yawned and nodded. It had been another wonderful adventure for them. In the process, they had helped to keep the world safe and found out more about themselves and their families. All in all, a good day's work.
THE END (for now)
(I hope that you enjoyed the piece! Look for Part 3, "Aftershocks" soon. Part 1 "Protecting One's Own" will be available soon as well!)
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