The thin foil package glittered in the morning sunlight as it fluttered between David's thumb and forefinger. All of the tiny little plastic windows had been punctured except one. The tiny white pill rattled in its isolated bubble.
David looked out over the vast expanse of ocean and sighed. His long dark hair writhed in the wind. The salt spray washed over the mirror red lenses of his sunglasses.
Aboard the ship, he looked strangely out of place, standing in a pair of beaten old blue jeans, faded gray tee shirt and black leather vest.
His boots were in the cabin, along with the rest of their gear. The fact that he was barefoot was the only similarity between him and the sailors moving quickly about the deck.
His eyes looked down again, longingly at the foil pack. He smiled slightly as he realized that it spoke, metaphorically, of the dwindling of his modern supplies. Each day pushed him more and more into the same vein as his wife. Soon, his only loose connection to his real time would be the clothing that he wore, and even that would not last forever.
Already, he could feel the twinges of queasiness that he always got when travelling on a boat. He forced the sensation down and tried to focus on something else. His eyes scanned the hazy horizon as he thought.
Again, he smiled. He was sitting on the bosom of a sea that existed two thousand years before he was even born. On his way to a land that had been nothing more than pages and speculation in his ancient history classes in college.
He pulled the damp glasses from his face and wiped them dry. His brown thoughtful eyes stayed fixed on the horizon. The jagged four pointed scar over his left eye stood out a deep purplish crimson against his tan skin. He blinked as the salt spray misted over his face. His left eye itched, which amused him, since it was nothing more than a glass prosthetic. He blinked the mist out of his eyes and reset his glasses. His arms found the rough wooden railing and he leaned over, his gaze staring out at the vast shimmering blue expanse before him.
The ship rocked gently, like a cradle as the steady wind billowed the large main sail.
Captain Licno, a grizzled, barrel chested man in salt stained breaches and tunic stepped next to him and grunted approvingly.
His myriad of golden hoops jingled in his ears as he moved.
"It's a good steady wind," he commented. "We should be in Alexandria by tomorrow if it keeps."
David nodded absently.
From David's time, it was nothing more than a series of vast ruins beneath the ocean. A smile touched his lips as he realized he would soon be walking on streets that, from his perspective, had not been above the water of nearly two millennia.
It took a few minutes before Licno realized that David did not desire idle conversation, which was fine for him. His attempt at conversation was a courtesy. If his passengers desired quiet and solitude, so much the better. He stared at the sea for a few moments more and then nodded as he withdrew.
David's mind wandered back to his college days as he focused on remembering all the theories about life in ancient Egypt that he had studied. Now, he would put a great many of those speculations to the test. A thrill of excitement ran thorough his body like a subtle tingle.
Another step sounded behind him and he turned to see Gabrielle. She still had the soft, drowsy look of someone who had just awakened from a comfortable nights rest. Her golden hair was slightly mussed.
She wore her deep red and black halter and skirt. The design reminded David of tiger stripes, which he found most apt as a description for his wife's personality.
"Welcome back to the land of the conscious," he greeted her with a smile. "How are you holding up?"
Gabrielle pushed a few stray strands of hair out of her eyes and stepped up next to him.
"Fine," she replied, leaning her head against his shoulder. "You?"
It had been a standard response for over a week now, as each of them tried to comfort and console the other.
For David, it was coming to terms with the death of the young Amazon woman, Yania, who had died by his hand in a raid on the village of Tripolis. The girl had been no older than fifteen and superbly trained. A simple move that David had used often to disarm opponents had failed, and instead, David had inadvertently stabbed the young girl with her own blade. Yania had died right before his eyes. That image still haunted his dreams, though with less frequency than before. David had passed the self deprecating stage of his anxiety and was now coping with the guilt.
Gabrielle, for her part, was also dealing with a loss. After the two of them had settled on taking a ship the rest of the way to Egypt, David had informed her that she had been pregnant when they were in the Amazon Village, and that she had lost the child during her challenge for leadership against Queen Alia's champion.
The champion had actually ended up being one of the women that had stormed the beach at Helicon several years prior.
Gabrielle was dealing with the loss of not only the unborn child, but also a fellow Amazon sister gone mad.
Gabrielle's green eyes flicked down and saw the small, flat foil packet David was extending to her. Gratefully, she took it and removed the tiny white pill from its protective capsule.
"Did you already take yours?" she asked as she popped the Dramamine into her mouth and took a swallow of water.
David shook his head. "Nope."
Gabrielle looked up at him.
"Why not?" Gabrielle asked.
David smiled. "Because that was the last one." He folded the expended packet and slipped it back into the pocket of his vest.
Gabrielle looked at David in concern. "Then what are you going to do?"
David sighed. "I'll manage. Tomorrow might be along day for you, though?"
Gabrielle gave him a mildly stern look. He had done it again, putting her needs first as he always tried to do.
"You're going to be miserable, too," Gabrielle chided him.
David shrugged again. "The dose from yesterday will last a while yet."
"In that case," Gabrielle replied, a cool smile asserting itself on her face. She reached into her small bag and drew out the weathered deck of Bicycle playing cards that David had brought. "You want a rematch?"
David eyed his wife dubiously. Since his arrival to this time, he had managed to teach Gabrielle several things. One of the more esoteric ones had been the fine art of poker, to which she had shown quite proficiency.
"Besides," Gabrielle said, still smiling. "You still owe me twenty from yesterday?"
"Do I?" David replied.
"Yes, you do," Gabrielle said.
"But honey," David said sincerely. "We're married, which means that we share everything, so I really didn't lose my money. It's our money, so it doesn't matter who's actually carrying it, right?"
Gabrielle shook her head. "Nice try." She waggled the cards again invitingly. "Double or nothing? Or are you afraid you might lose again?"
David sighed in resignation. "You're making me pull out the Man Card again, aren't you?"
Gabrielle nodded eagerly. Poker had been one of the things David had brought back with him that she truly enjoyed. It was a game of chance that required skill, knowledge and luck in equal measure. She strode over to the small barrel that they had been using as a table and seated herself on the short stool, shuffling the cards expectantly.
"You know," David said. "Where I come from, they had an eight-hundred number for people like you."
He seated himself across from her and waited as she shuffled the deck. He cut the cards and handed them back to her. She set her small money purse on the barrel and looked at David expectantly. Reluctantly, David did the same.
"Okay," Gabrielle said with authority. She began dealing the cards. "No peek baseball, threes and nines are wild. The buy on fours is one dinar."
David looked at Gabrielle in a mixture of shock and admiration. "Man, I have really corrupted you, haven't I?"
It was a simple ritual to pass the time. The game invariably led to conversations which would invariably lead to matters of the heart. It was a way for the two of them to heal from their recent wounds. For both of them, the context of a game made the talks easier.
Gabrielle noted that David's sarcastic wit had begun to return and with it, his confidence.
By the same token, David had noticed Gabrielle's sense of humor returning. Some of the fears and anxiety regarding their relationship after the loss were beginning to dissipate. She had been withdrawn for some time, but he could sense the old passion reawakening slowly.
David watched as Gabrielle flipped the next card in her small stack. She ended up with a full house, queens over sevens. She folded her arms and smiled triumphantly. She still had two cards left to draw from if needed. She set five dinars in the center of the table with a flourish that made David smile.
"Getting pretty cocky, aren't you?" David mused as he looked at her hand. He glanced down at his cards. He had two pair, sixes and fives. Not a strong hand, but workable since one of the cards was wild. He called her bet and flipped the next card over.
The six of diamonds – David smiled and reordered his hand, now with a full house, sixes and fives, with one card left.
He rested his finger on the remaining card and smiled. "Tell you what," he said smoothly. "If I win this hand, you get to do the cooking for the next week. What do you say?"
Gabrielle looked at his hand and smiled. The odds of his winning were astronomically against him. "Fine. But If I win," she paused and that familiar, slightly seductive look appeared on her face. "Well. I'll think of something."
David smiled and lifted the card. The four of hearts.
Gabrielle squealed in delight. Then David held up a coin.
"If you wouldn't mind?" he said. He tossed the coin on the pot and sat back. "I'll take my extra card."
Gabrielle's momentary glee vanished when she realized that his play was not over.
"Just flip it over," David said, smiling as he attempted to hide his nervousness.
Gabrielle lifted the card and looked at it, and then she seemed to wilt. She threw the last card on top of David's hand.
"Well," David said proudly as a rush of relief flooded over him. "Unless you can beat four sixes, it looks like I get all my meals catered this week?"
Gabrielle looked down at her hand and sighed.
"How do you do that?" she asked, mildly frustrated.
"I cheat," David replied easily.
She was about to protest when she saw David's smile. He dropped ten coins into the pot.
"Call, or fold?" he asked.
That touch of arrogance, though much missed in many ways, only fueled her desire to show him up. She slapped ten more coins on the little table and flipped the next card.
The jack of spades seemed to be leering at her in mischievous glee when she saw it. Nervously, she lifted the last card and looked at it. Her face remained set as her eyes flicked from the card to her husband and back again. Then she set it down.
David's triumphant smile melted into one of disbelief as he saw the Queen of hearts looking back at him.
"Well," she said with a musing smile. "That would be four queens. And I don't think you have any more cards to play, do you?" she made a show of looking about his side of the table. "No, it doesn't look like it."
David's face changed to a slight frown. "You're a terrible winner, you know that?"
Gleefully, Gabrielle drew the coins to her, pouring most of it into her purse.
"And you still owe me twenty from yesterday," she reminded him.
David grabbed the cards and began shuffling them forcefully. He stared at her in defiance as he set them down. She cut the deck and David sat back.
"All right, smart stuff," he said. "Black Mariah, low spade in the hole splits the pot, and I hope you have a lot of cash."
One of the things David noted with considerable relief was how much Gabrielle was smiling and laughing again. Even if he ended up with an empty moneybag on this trip, the laughter would be worth it. It was good to see that happy light in her eyes again.
He had a little trouble convincing himself of that an hour later, when his money bag was indeed empty, but only a little.
The beginnings of David's seasickness started around the time of their midday meal. He paused in mid chew and forced the bile back down into his belly.
Gabrielle looked at him in concern as his color went to a pale shade of gray/green.
"David?" She asked. Instantly, she knew what was coming and she edged up next to him, rubbing his back.
"It started, didn't it?" she asked knowingly.
"Oh yeah," David replied thickly. "With a vengeance."
He got to his feet and forced himself to straighten up, breathing deeply of the fresh salty air.
His eyes closed and he forced his breathing to slow to a more relaxed pace.
As Gabrielle watched, David's color improved visibly. When his eyes opened, they were fixed on the distant, immovable horizon.
He let a long, easy breath hiss out between his lips. "Much better."
Gabrielle looked up at him in amazement.
"How did you do that?" she asked in awe.
"With difficulty," David replied, keeping his eyes fixed on the horizon.
Gabrielle looked out to the sea, then back at him, and out at the sea again.
"What are you looking at?"
When David answered, his voice sounded slow and very far away. "Absolutely nothing."
After a few more moments, he blinked and looked down at her.
"That's interesting," Gabrielle commented. "How did you do that?"
David sighed with relief and moved to lean against the railing. "I just picture something unrelated to what's happening, and hold it in my mind. If I focus on that, then I can't focus on getting seasick, can I?"
Gabrielle had to think about that for a moment. "I guess that makes sense."
David smiled at her uncertainty.
"You ever notice that when you're completely absorbed about one thing, other things don't really matter?" he asked. "It's like the idea never enters your mind?" His voice dropped off as he heard a gentle slapping sound.
They both turned to see the main sail of the ship slowly falling limp against the mast.
David looked at Licno who only shrugged his massive shoulders. David was certain they both shared the same thought.
"Looks like we won't make Alexandria by tomorrow," David sighed.
Gabrielle sighed in resignation. "I'm sorry."
David frowned. "For what?"
Gabrielle looked about them for a moment.
"For this," she said, indicating the ship and the ocean surrounding them. "For taking the last of the medicine – "
"I gave it to you," David offered.
"For the way I've been lately," Gabrielle finished a little downcast.
"Hey," David smiled reassuringly. "I know you wouldn't have done anything dangerous if you had known."
"David," Gabrielle admitted. "I should have known. Deep down inside, I think, maybe I did know?"
David looked at her, his face softening in understanding. He put an arm around her shoulder.
"I know it doesn't help much," he said sincerely. "But we have time. I'm not going anywhere."
"I know," Gabrielle nodded. "I guess I expected you to be, I don't know, angry with me?"
"What in the Hell for?" David asked sincerely. "How could I be angry with you over that? It happened. It wasn't fair to either of us, but it wasn't your fault either. I thought you understood that?"
"I do. I do," Gabrielle admitted. "It just doesn't seem like enough."
David held her to him and felt her head resting against his chest.
"Baby," he said softly. "We have time. After all, you're only fifty, what six? Seven? Something like that?"
Gabrielle looked up at him and slapped his chest. "Hey!"
"And I'm, um," his brow furrowed in thought. "What? Negative nineteen hundred and sixty, something or other. I was never good at integers." He looked down at her again and smiled.
"I get the point," Gabrielle retorted, and some of the depression melted away.
"We have time," David finished seriously. Then he looked up at the sail hanging slack against the mast. "Plenty of time, it seems." He finished. Then he looked forward and aft and sighed heavily. "I'm really not up for this."
Gabrielle gave him a sympathetic pat on the back, thinking that he was referring to the additional time that would be spent on the ocean.
Instead, David stopped at the rear of the main deck, and turned to face the mast.
Gabrielle stopped short when she realized that their little cabin was not his destination.
David planted his feet apart and let his arms drop to his sides. He stood and stared at the limp sail as if his eyes might burn through it. Then he craned his neck, first to one side and then the other. Gabrielle winced at the crackling sound that she heard coming from his neck. She wondered absently if it actually hurt whenever he did it. It sure sounded like it hurt.
Gabrielle stepped around him and watched, her arms folding across her chest as she leaned against the railing.
David's eyes lost their focus and he began to move slowly. His arms rose, stretching out to either side as he inhaled deeply. Then the air slowly left his lungs as he drew his hands back in close to his chest, palms up.
Gabrielle both felt the shift in the railing behind her as well as smelled the ships Captain as he slid up next to her, watching David with mild curiosity.
"What's your friend doing?" He asked as he leaned closer to the young Amazon.
Gabrielle wrinkled her nose, but otherwise tolerated the odor of the ships captain.
"I think he's trying to summon a wind for us?" Gabrielle replied, secretly praying that he would succeed.
Every muscle in David's body was tense as a drawn bow. Gabrielle could see the sweat forming n his brow from the exertion of his efforts.
His hands stretched back out and then returned several times, his limbs quivering as he moved.
She could see his lips moving but was unable to discern the words.
Then David's body seemed to slowly relax and his stance changed. He drew his left arm in close to his body and stretched his right hand, palm out, towards the limp sails. Gabrielle was taken aback by the sheer intensity in his stare. It went well beyond anything she had ever seen before, even when David was enraged. She suppressed a sudden shiver, and even noticed the portly captain standing up straight in mild fright.
David's lips continued to move though he spoke too quietly for them to hear the words.
There was the hint of a rustle in the massive fabric of the sail, then it began to shudder softly and finally caught the fresh breeze that rushed up off the sea behind them. The ship almost lurched forward under the sudden gust. After that, the breeze remained steady, driving them the last distance towards the Land of the Nile.
David let his arms drop wearily and breathed as if he had been running for miles. He drew the air into his lungs with large heaves of his chest and wiped the perspiration from his brow.
Gabrielle was at his side instantly, helping him over to the small barrel that had served as their card table earlier. David leaned upon it gratefully and let his head drop back, face turned up toward the sun.
"That was amazing," Gabrielle said in appreciation. "I didn't know you could do that?"
David smiled and rose, lifting a bucket tied to a length of rope and tossing the pail overboard.
"How do you think I got to Mogador so fast?" he asked her with a smile. He drew it back up and dumped the cool ocean water over his head.
The water cascaded over him, soaking his clothing and hair. He let the bucket fall back to the deck and shook his head fiercely, sending a spray of water in all directions.
Gabrielle held up her hands to ward off the sudden shower.
"Hey!" She protested.
David leaned his arms against the rough wood and let hair hang down as he rested his forehead on his hands.
"Much better," he said wearily. Gabrielle saw the goose bumps rise on his exposed flesh as the cool breeze contacted the moisture on his flesh. He shivered and then pulled his soaked shirt from his body and twisted the water out of it.
"Well, then," He said as he pulled the damp garment back on. "If you don't mind, I think I'll go to the cabin and pass out."
He gave a polite nod to Captain Licno and stumbled wearily towards the small door at the back of the main deck.
Gabrielle followed David into the tiny cabin and watched as he fell onto the small pile of their sleeping rolls. One hand rose to rub his eyes.
"I'm going to sleep now, honey," he said almost drunkenly. "Tell the good captain to hold my calls."
His hand fell across his chest and his eyes shut. In a moment he was breathing slowly and steadily, fast asleep.
Gabrielle moved next to him and covered him with a light blanket. She paused on her way out and leaned against the doorway, looking down at him. She smiled in appreciation.
"You are just full of interesting surprises, aren't you?" she said, and she closed the door as she left.
The sun was setting against the western horizon a few hours later when Gabrielle, who was busy trying to focus on something other than the motion of the ship, suddenly felt an unnatural rising sensation in the pit of her stomach. She frowned as she felt the slight increase of weight that indicated something had pushed her higher. Her hands fell on the rail and she looked about. Everything looked normal, as far as she could tell.
"Captain!" one of the aft crew members called. "Something strange here!"
Licno took the stairs at a pace that seemed impossible for a man of his stature.
"What is it?" he ordered.
"Water level is too low," the crewman reported nervously.
"What's going on?' Gabrielle asked, stepping up next to the captain.
"The water level is low," Licno repeated.
"I just felt us rise?" Gabrielle said in confusion. "Wouldn't that mean the water is deeper?"
Licno simply stared at her, his own expression one of mild confusion. He shrugged.
"How far are we from Alexandria?" She asked.
Licno looked up at the sail straining against the strong wind.
"With this wind, we should be there sometime tomorrow morning." Licno replied.
All three of them looked out at the ocean. It was calm, quiet and hardly a swell could be felt beneath her feet.
On a hunch, she turned and went to their cabin. David was still stretched out, fast asleep in the bedroll. It looked like he hadn't even moved since she left him there.
Setting aside the guilt at what she was about to do, she gently shook his shoulder.
"David?" she asked. "David, wake up."
He groaned, causing her to wince in sympathy.
"I'm sorry," she said sincerely. "But something strange happened a little while ago?"
David grunted his question in response.
"The ocean got shallower all of a sudden, but everyone felt the boat rise?" Gabrielle asked.
David rolled over and sighed. "Sounds like an undersea subsidence." Then he flopped back over and closed his eyes again.
"Undersea subsidence?" Gabrielle asked, her brows furrowing.
David held one hand out parallel to the floor. "It's when a shelf of coastline drops into the ocean." He dipped his hand to the deck. "It pushes the surrounding land mass out, which can cause the ocean bed to shift or rise," he yawned. "I learned about them on the Discovery Channel."
Gabrielle's eyebrows rose and she nodded. "Okay," she said. "Undersea subsidence. Interesting."
"Very," David muttered and he dropped back off to sleep.
She paused at the entrance and took another look at him. Then she slowly shut the door and left him in peace.
She stepped a few paces from the door, still musing over David's groggy words.
Licno leaned over the rail from the deck above.
"Did he have anything interesting to say?"
Gabrielle didn't get a chance to respond. The cabin door burst open and slammed against the wall as David practically flew out, fully awake, with eyes wide.
"Undersea subsidence!" he blurted excitedly, but Gabrielle saw dread in his eyes. "That's it!"
"Yes," Gabrielle said nervously. She had never seen him so – what? Worked up? Frightened?
David spun quickly. "Captain? Are you still bound for the harbor at Alexandria?"
Licno was taken aback by the question.
"Of course we are," he answered brusquely.
"Well, change your course!" David barked sharply. "Make for the mouth of the Nile!"
"What?" Licno replied in surprise.
David had already turned back to Gabrielle, his eyes were like saucers.
"Kehmet!" he blurted.
"Yes?" Gabrielle replied slowly.
David's hands were hovering before him, trembling with excitement. "When we booked the passage, I told Licno we wanted to go to Egypt!"
"Yes," Gabrielle nodded slowly. "I was there, remember?"
"And Licno looked at me like I was out of my melon!" David continued. "It wasn't until I told him I wanted to go the 'The Land of the Pharaohs' that he understood, and he said 'Kehmet'!"
"David," Gabrielle held up a hand. "Slow down. You're starting to scare me."
"Kehmet!" David said for the third time. "I just realized what that meant!"
Gabrielle was beginning to get concerned. David's face was flushed with excitement. His entire body was tense, as if it would explode.
It was clear from Gabrielle's expression, that she was completely lost. David forced his reeling mind to slow down.
"Back when I was in college – I mean in the future," he closed his eyes for a moment and shook with frustration. "Forget it. When I was in college, I had to assist at a dig on the Giza Plateau. We found a lot of interesting things, but I digress. One of the things that I learned about was the fact the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs were responsible for maintaining the balance between Chaos and Harmony. It was something they called Ma'at!" David began pacing back and forth. "Now, there are very few references directly referring to Egypt as Kehmet! It was more like a mixed up translation by Budge – don't ask. The man was brilliant, but unimaginative! Anyway! On the Rosetta Stone, found by Napoleon was a statement that referred to the land as Kehmet!"
"I think you've established that part, David," Gabrielle was almost pleading now. "Please, slow down?"
"Don't you get it?" David faced her. His eyes were still wide and wild. "It's a shift in enunciation!"
Gabrielle was shaking her head helplessly. She glanced at Licno who merely shrugged helplessly.
"Kehmet!" David said again. If he said it one more time, Gabrielle was ready to bash him on the head.
"It's the result of a modern translation of a language that hadn't been spoken for more than a thousand years! No one really knew how to pronounce it, or spell it?"
Gabrielle placed both hands firmly on her husband's shoulders.
"David! Stop!" she cried out. His entire body was still trembling.
He forced himself to take several deep breaths.
"Just slow down," Gabrielle said in a calming voice. She held him in her gaze. "Take a few deep breaths and start over, from the beginning, okay?"
David's hand rubbed his head as he tried desperately to calm down. It didn't work too well.
"Remember when we first met?" David resumed. "You spoke Greek – I spoke Greek, but we still had trouble understanding each other!"
"I remember," Gabrielle answered.
"You said my Greek sounded strange," David explained. "It sounded strange, because you were two thousand years behind on how the language had changed over all that time!"
"It's called the Law of Consonantal Shift!" David explained. "In a nutshell, it basically states that a language or words will modify themselves over time, causing the actual pronunciations to shift to something different. You say potato, I say potatoe. You say tomato, I say tomatoe, you follow me now?"
"I think so?" Gabrielle still had that frown.
"The point is, we are going to the land of Kehmet," David said and Gabrielle sucked in a breath, forcing her fingers not to clench into a fist.
"Right?" Gabrielle said through gritted teeth.
"But that's not what Licno said to me!" David said quickly.
"I said 'Kehmet'," David explained. His hands rose again in excitement. "But Licno said 'Kaymat'!"
Gabrielle's eyes suddenly widened at the similarities.
"What does that mean?"
"Okay," David said, resuming his pacing, though at a slightly slower speed. "Now, the word, 'Kehmet', as translated in the modern context, translates in one dialect, to Egypt, or 'Old Lands'."
"I don't understand what that has to do with it?' Gabrielle shook her head.
"Because I'm not done yet!" David replied. "Now, both pronunciations are two syllables, and very similar, BUT, they assume the word is a single word!"
"You just lost me," Gabrielle admitted.
"Follow it with me," David explained. "Kehmet is a modern supposition, based on the assumptions of translators a thousand years after the language vanished. They had to assume a lot!"
"Okay," Gabrielle replied.
"Now, work backwards with the word," David explained. "Kehmet used to be Kaymat. Still a single word and still translatable to the derivative 'Egypt'!"
"Okay?" Gabrielle agreed.
David stared at her for a moment, and then gestured towards her. "Go back with it further. Kaymat, Kay-Maat, Keh Maat, Ke- Maat, Ka-Ma'at?"
Gabrielle's eyes widened in understanding. "It turns into two words?"
David nodded eagerly.
"As the enunciation changes, there is a possibility that the meaning changes as well!" David continued. He froze suddenly and frowned. Then he wheeled around and stared at Licno. "Have you adjusted that course yet?" He barked.
Licno snorted. "No, I have not! I have a cargo to drop in Alexandria!"
"Alexandria is gone!" David bellowed back. "That was what caused the tide to be so whacked!"
Licno, Gabrielle, and most of the crew on the ship all looked at him in disbelief.
It took a few moments for Licno to find his voice. "What do you mean, gone?"
"Gone! Finito! Adios! Drowned in the drink! Lost! You follow? The port, dock, harbor, library, Cleopatra's tomb and summer palace all deep-sixed in an earthquake!" David said quickly. "Now point this tub towards the Nile Delta if you want to have a chance to survive!"
He wheeled back to face Gabrielle.
"When you walk the word backwards, the translation changes!" He prattled on. "It actually becomes two words! And those two words have a completely different meaning!"
"The Pharaohs were charged with maintaining Ma'at. Maintaining balance!"
"I follow," Gabrielle said, feeling a mixture of jubilation and dread balling in her stomach. "So, what does the original translation actually mean?"
"Ka Ma'at translates to 'the balance'!" David replied. "So, really, the 'Land of the Pharaohs' is actually 'the Land of The Balance', got it?"
"The balance between Harmony and Chaos?" Gabrielle put two and two together.
"Exactly!" David said. Then he turned quickly back to face Licno. "Set the damn course!"
Licno, still reeling with the possibility that his destination might no longer exist, looked at David for a long moment. When he saw the earnest certainty in his face, his doubt melted away.
"Adjust course to the Nile Delta." He ordered.
David sighed in relief and turned back to Gabrielle. He was about to resume his explanation when he felt Licno step up behind him.
"Perhaps you can explain how you seem to know that some disaster has occurred?" he asked expectantly.
David looked at him and then back at Gabrielle. She raised an eyebrow expectantly and gestured for David to continue.
David held his hands together in front of his lips thoughtfully. Then he nodded.
"All right. For nearly three thousand years, the nation of Egypt – Kehmet – has existed on its own, ruled by the Pharaohs who were worshiped at the same level as the Gods in the pantheon, right?"
Both of his audience nodded in understanding.
"So what if the Pharaohs were more than just rulers?' David asked. "What if there was more truth to the worship of the Pharaohs than just overzealous gratitude?"
This time both of them shook their heads.
"What if the responsibilities of the Pharaohs did require the maintaining of balance between harmony and chaos?" David asked. "What if they actually did it?"
"What?" Gabrielle asked incredulously. "Actually maintained the balance of the universe?"
"Sure!" David answered. "Or, at least, played a major part in it?"
He looked at the two of them, both with doubtful expressions on their faces.
"Oh, come on!" David said. "The Pharaohs ruled this kingdom for almost three thousand years! In all that time, how many major events have happened? Not too many, right?"
"There was that eruption in Pompeii?" Gabrielle offered.
"And the Island Kingdom of Atlantis fell into the sea," Licno offered. "At least, that's what I've heard?"
"Okay," David replied. "So, no one's perfect! The point is that a Pharaoh has been in charge for all that time, and then, BAM! In walks Julius Caesar, snatching up kingdoms like a kid in a candy store! He conquers Kehmet and turns it over to the Tolimey family! Then Cleopatra gets the call! Now, she grew up in this land. She learned the language and was as familiar with the culture of this land as anyone else? She yanks control from her little brother, gets him out of the mix, and everything's just peachy until Caesar gets hold of her and starts dishing out other parts of the Roman empire to her! The Senate kills him and sets their sights on Kehmet again, because Cleopatra has a son, compliments of the late psycho dictator!"
Gabrielle and Licno looked at him in shock as he rattled off details that no one should be privy to.
"How do you know all this?" Licno asked. Gabrielle only smiled slightly and shook her head.
"Long story," David said quickly. "Anyway, Cleo gets Mark Antony on her side, holds off the Romans for a short time, and then the two of them buy it! Suddenly, there is no one to maintain the balance. The Priests of Kehmet aren't going to give any sacred knowledge to their new Roman dictator! They'd rather burn in Hell!" He turned suddenly and looked at Licno.
"Were you running cargo into Kehmet during the second Roman invasion?"
"Was I?" Licno scoffed. "Not on your life! The Roman Navy wouldn't let a rowboat through their lines!"
"But you were familiar with the land before the war?"
"Yes," Licno replied.
"Tell me," David asked. "Where was the Library from the harbor?"
"Quite close," Licno said. "You could see it for some time on approach. A lot of Captains used it and the great lighthouse as their landmarks."
"I was forgetting about the lighthouse," David muttered, a twinge of regret touching his voice. "That'll be gone as well. But it could be seen from the Delta, right?"
Licno shook his head. "The glow from it could, at night. But not the building."
David stamped his foot. "Then I can't prove it to you and get us into a safe place at the same time. You're just going to have to trust me, Captain."
"Then answer my question," Licno countered. "How do you know all these things?"
David sighed. "Because I've already seen most of it."
Licno looked at him in wonder.
"He's a Priest, remember?" Gabrielle said quickly. "He's also a seer. He's been seeing things for the last few months. Stuff that he hasn't been able to put together," She looked at him quickly. "Until now."
"That was how you brought the wind back," Licno said in a whisper of awe. "You called it!"
David nodded. "Yes, I did. And I'm going to have to call a bigger one if we want a chance at making it to the delta before the rebound gets back!"
Again, Gabrielle frowned. "Rebound?"
David moved his hands back and forth. "When the land mass slid into the sea, it pushed the water out of the way. We were close enough to the land not to get plowed over by the wave because it was still building underneath us. It's also why the water is lower than it should be now. That wave is going to crash against something on the opposite side of the sea and come ripping back here. When it does, we're in for one hell of a ride!"
Licno nodded in understanding. "Tsunami."
"Exactly," David replied. "If we make for the harbor, that wave will pick us up and slam us against anything in our way! If we're at the mouth of the Nile?" he held his hand out to the terrified Captain. Dawning appeared on his face.
"We might ride it out!" he said excitedly. "Down the Nile!"
"Bingo," David nodded. "Have all available crew start shifting your cargo to the rear of the hold! We want to be stern heavy when it hits."
Licno frowned. "Why?"
David's smile began to creep across his face. "Ever been surfing?"
Gabrielle saw that smile, and the slightly mad look in his eyes. She waited until Licno was out of earshot, bellowing orders to his crew.
"David?" she said. "This is another one of your crazy ideas, isn't it?"
"Oh no," David replied, his smile fading. It had apparently been for the benefit of the Captain. "This is by far, the craziest I've ever had."
"But it'll work, right?" Gabrielle asked earnestly.
David looked at her and shrugged. "I have no idea." He kissed her suddenly. There was something in that kiss that mixed desperation and hope. "If it doesn't, this has been one hell of a ride, sweetheart."
He turned quickly away and headed for the cabin, stripping off his shirt. When he re-emerged, he wore only a pair of shorts and his hair was tied back.
"Cap!" he called. "I want to inspect the rudder and its mounts! I need a sling!"
Licno tossed a large coil of rope down to him. David set up the makeshift swing and draped the rope over the rear rail. He wrapped the large loop beneath his posterior and looked down at the clear blue water hissing below. After a few moments' consideration, he fetched a second rope and tied it off, letting that one hang down, trailing in the water behind them.
"Just in case I fall," he said as Gabrielle watched him anxiously.
"David," Gabrielle said. "Be careful."
He kissed her again and swung his legs over the rail, leaning out over the ocean.
"Oh yeah," he muttered. "This is definitely the craziest idea I've ever had." He glanced down at the two large pieces of wood slicing the water at the rear of the ship.
"Hey Licno!" he called. "Don't make any wild turns!"
Licno looked back and nodded. Then he tied off the wheel and nodded again.
David pushed off the back of the ship and dropped slowly towards the water. The rail creaked slightly from the strain.
Gabrielle stood at the edge of the rail, watching as David swung back and forth between the two massive rudders. He kicked his feet and swung to the port rudder and looked at the massive bronze pins holding it in place. After a few minutes of close examination, he released his hold on the top of the rudder and let himself swing gently over to the other. Then he lowered himself further.
"What are you doing?" Gabrielle shouted down at him.
David looked up at her and smiled encouragingly.
"The top and middle mounts look great!" He called back. "I need to check the lower ones!"
"But those are beneath the water!" Gabrielle shouted.
David let more slack out without allowing himself to drop. He estimated the distance and tied it off, then taking several deep breaths he reached to the gap between the rudder and the hull and dropped into the water.
The current pulled at him, trying to break him free of the ship as he continued down to the mount. This pin was slightly corroded, but still quite solid. He smiled and looked across at the other mount. That one, even at this distance, seemed wrong somehow. He had to get over there for a closer look. Reaching up, he hauled on the rope, pulling himself out of the water as he drifted away from the ship. When he was clear, he swung back to the side of the ship and then repeated the action, dropping back down next to the second rudder.
Gabrielle heard the crack beneath her whitening knuckles. She saw them, and then the section of railing snap off. Three feet of the rail, still wrapped by the rope, went falling to the water below.
"David!" Gabrielle cried out, but he couldn't hear her.
He was beneath the water and nearly at his destination when something yanked his fingers free and sent him spinning away. Instantly, he knew that his line was broke. He kicked for the surface and his back up line. It snaked above his head like a serpent, slicing through the water. At the last moment, David grasped the end of the line and was again jerked forward. The coarse rope slid through his hands, cutting the flesh. The salty water sent rivulets of pain down his arm, but he forced himself to hold on and kicked for the surface.
His head breached the top of the water and he inhaled deeply. Gabrielle looked as if she were about ready to dive in after him. She grasped the rope and began hauling on it with desperate strength.
Smiling, David began hauling himself toward the ship hand over hand. They pulled him up out of the water. He rolled over onto the deck and sat up, soaked, salty, and smiling like a banshee.
Something slammed into his shoulder hard.
"Ow!" David protested. He looked up at Gabrielle, her fist still clenched. "What was that for?"
"I told you never to scare me like that again, you idiot!" Gabrielle shot back vehemently. "First your Valkyrie! Then Valcis back in Poditea! And now this!"
She knelt down before him, her green eyes alive with anger.
"I don't care what you saw on your little trip back to me!" She hissed at him. "I don't believe the future is set! You are not indestructible, David!"
David sobered quickly and nodded. "You're right. That was a bit much on the risky side. I'm sorry."
"It wasn't risky!" Gabrielle shot back. "It was stupid!"
She stood and stormed a few paces away, her arms crossed over her chest as she seethed.
"Did you see anything?" she asked, not looking at him.
David was still trying to get water out of his ears. "What?"
Gabrielle turned back to look at him. "Did you see anything?"
David shook his head. "I think they'll hold up."
Gabrielle nodded, her lips pursing as if she were about to say something else. Then she knelt before him again.
"I want you to stop taking so many risks," she said seriously.
"What do you mean?" David replied. "It is my crazy idea?"
"That's not the point." Gabrielle replied. "One of the crew could have done that just as easily, without the mishap."
"But would they know what to look for?" David countered easily.
"And do you?" Gabrielle challenged. "I know you have a wonderful gift of foreknowledge. And you know a lot about a lot of different things. But I don't remember boats being a part of your life?" She looked at him hard. "In fact, I don't remember carpentry, medicine,-"
"Hang on a second," David interrupted her. "Okay, you're right. I'm not trained as a doctor, but I've been treated by a bunch. And the building bit, I've had some experience helping the guys put on a roof or two, or building furniture."
Her eyebrows rose and David knew it would be best for him to come clean.
"Fine," he admitted. "But I have come up with a few things that have helped?"
"I'm not saying that you haven't." Gabrielle replied. "All I'm saying is that you like to get in the middle of everything, even when you really don't know what's going on! One of these days it might not work out the way you want it to! You have a gift for magic, but you can't reorder the whole world! You have some knowledge about a lot of things, and I love that about you. But you've also gotten yourself in over your head a few times." She sighed. "And every single time, it was because you wanted to keep me out of trouble!"
"What's wrong with that?" David asked.
She smiled and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"Nothing," she said. "Nothing. But you said you wanted into my life, all the way. That means we face things side by side, or back to back, not with me standing behind you. I've held back taking the lead on some things, because I truly didn't know what to do, and other times because I was afraid that you might take it the wrong way. I can't do that anymore." She paused for a few moments. "And you have to understand that there will be times when I will have to do things on my own, just like there will be times when you have to do things on your own. That's part of what it means to trust each other."
David let that settle for a few moments, his mind wandering back to the adventures they've had and he finally nodded.
"You're right," he said at last. He nodded again for emphasis. "You're right, on all points."
Gabrielle was momentarily stunned. She had been expecting an argument of some kind, or at least, and agreement to disagree.
Instead, David chuckled to himself and looked up at her. "I've been a complete ass on more than a few occasions."
"Well, that's one way to put it," Gabrielle smiled.
David looked at her sharply for a moment, then his face softened again and he nodded.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle," he said sincerely. "Ever since I got here, I've kind of just taken over, haven't I?" He shrugged. "I've been so cocky about everything that I brought back with me, including my 'foreknowledge', as you call it, and I've kind of overcompensated for our little issue a few months back." He took her hands in his and looked at her. "I'm just so afraid of losing you. I just stepped right into the center of everything and –" He shrugged and smiled. "Humility was never my strong point."
Gabrielle smiled. "Really? I hadn't noticed."
David chuckled. "All right. If this hair brained idea works, I promise to back off on the throttle a little, okay?"
She nodded. "Done."
"But," David held up a finger. "I reserve the right to jump in if I think you're in over your head?"
"As long as it goes both ways," Gabrielle countered. "And we can start right now."
"We can?" David asked.
"Yes," Gabrielle replied. "This whole idea of yours is rubbing me the wrong way somehow. Explain what you're hoping will happen?"
David did so with as much detail as he could provide. Gabrielle listened and asked many questions. When David finally fell silent, Gabrielle mused for a few moments.
"If Licno makes the boat too heavy on the aft, the wave might overwhelm the ship."
"But of theirs too much in the front, we could simply dive beneath the water?" David replied.
"Say this works," Gabrielle assumed. "And we start riding this wave towards the Nile. If we come over the top of that wave, with all that weight in the aft, could it flip us over backwards?"
David's eyebrows rose in surprise. "I hadn't even thought of that."
Gabrielle gave him a knowing look and then ran to explain the hazard to Licno. The Captain nodded understanding and looked over at David with a momentary reproachful glance. Then he issued some orders and went back to preparing the ship for the trial ahead.
The sun was beginning to slide towards the west when the call came from the lookout.
Everyone on the raised aft deck squinted into the haze and made out the slightly gray shore line miles ahead.
The ocean was calm and glassy, reflecting the bright sun with blinding silver light. The only sound was the constant breeze and the creaking of the ship as it moved.
David stared out at the distant shore and sighed. Then he looked back. The ocean was flat as glass as far as he could see.
Licno also surveyed the water behind them. David was expecting a scornful remark about the calm. Instead, the captain sighed.
"The closer we get to that shore, the more certain I am of your words," he muttered. "We should be bobbing like a cork on the surf as we approach. This calm is all wrong." He turned and barked. "What's the water depth?"
"Just over five fathoms sir," a crew man replied from the side of the ship.
"It should be at least seven," Licno muttered. He looked at David. "I hope this plan of your works, lad."
"You and me both," David replied.
For another three unnerving hours, the ocean stayed that way. The sun was setting deep orange, hanging just above the water. They could see the outline of the shore ahead clearly now. Tall palm trees and lush green vegetation covered the expulsion point of the Nile, all waving gently in the breeze, as if beckoning to them in welcome.
Gabrielle was hopeful. "We might get there before the wave hits."
David shook his head. "If we do, we're toast."
She looked up at him in surprise.
"If this tub is stopped and that wave hits, it'll mash us into chowder." David said grimly.
Gabrielle looked up at Licno. "Aim for the eastern side of the delta, Captain."
Slowly the boat adjusted its heading. That was when David noticed something that terrified him.
The sail was full of wind, the ship was level, the water smooth, but they were barely moving!
"Dead astern!" A panicking voice cried from the lookout atop the mast. "Look!"
They all ran to the stern and gazed out in wonder and horror. Across the entire horizon was a thin line of blue. As they watched it continued to grow, shimmering in the fading light of the sun. A wall of water was rushing after them.
"By the Gods," Gabrielle breathed.
David looked at the wave thundering towards them and felt the ship slowing even more as the undercurrent began to pull them back.
"Action stations!" Licno roared at the top of his lungs. "Batton her down lads!"
David leapt down to the deck and looked back up at his wife. "You understand what I was talking about earlier, the weaving part?"
Gabrielle nodded anxiously.
"Good," David said as he lashed himself to the deck. "Get to Licno and tie yourself down! She's all yours!"
David turned and faced the billowing sail.
"Must go faster," he was muttering as he struggled to calm his mind. "Must go faster." His eyes shut and he slowed his breathing down. He raised his arms and began twirling them slowly as if moving through molasses, his lips moving inaudibly. The wind, which had been gentle, suddenly began to pick up as he called upon the energies of the universe.
The sail strained as a strong gust pushed against it with unnatural intensity. The ship began moving forward faster.
A gentle murmur began to sound in their ears increasing to a deafening roar as the water thundered inexorably toward them.
Gabrielle turned and looked at the sight. The wave was easily sixty feet high. It was a massive undulation without the typical crest of a normal wave as it breaks on the shore. This was a force of nature that would not be stopped at the shore.
Then, she felt the aft section of the ship rise as the foot of the monstrosity reached them. Cargo shifted beneath their feet and the bow rose completely from the water as the ship surged forward.
David blinked and grabbed a lifeline, looking up at the crystal blue oblivion just behind them. The ship plunged forward with reckless speed.
Gabrielle's eyes were wide in terror as she saw the water screaming at her, just beyond the railing. Then it was over it and creeping forward as the ship settled further and further within, aiming like a missile towards the rapidly approaching shore. Water inundated the aft section of the ship. It choked Gabrielle as she tried to breathe and the salt stung her eyes as she desperately tried to keep the shore in sight. Below and ahead of the torrent, David also watched with his eyes wide. He looked back and saw Gabrielle, clutching the wheel in her hands and fighting for air as the water practically covered the deck just behind her feet.
The land was approaching and David could see the miniscule shapes of people trying to flee the coming inundation. He looked back and shouted for Gabrielle, but the roar of the water drowned his voice. He let go of the lifeline with one hand and pointed to the left, indicating the direction he needed the ship to turn to avoid being smashed like insects on the shore
Gabrielle saw him gesticulating and suddenly she understood. She turned the wheel over to the starboard and felt the ship moving beneath her feet. David's hand moved until it was pointing straight up and Gabrielle turned the wheel back, holding the course. After a few moments, his arm pointed back to port and she turned the wheel accordingly.
The ship sped through the Nile delta and into the river proper, weaving back and forth as the wave spent its energy pushing further inland. The ship began to descend. The water on the stern receded and Gabrielle could see again. A quick glance to the left and right revealed that she was alone on the deck. There was no sign of Captain Licno, or any of the other three crewmen that had been tied to the railing beside her. She had enough sense to tie the wheel down so it wouldn't turn on its own when the bow of the ship slammed back down into the water.
The front of the ship hit the surface with a splash that shot water up away from it in a large fount.
It was as if something had pulled the ground from beneath their feet.
Gabrielle was hurled forward over the rail onto the deck below, while David went flying toward the bow. She saw him plow into the bow rail and then the hard wood of the deck rushed up to meet her and she knew no more.
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