David sat upright in surprise, the sound of thunder echoing somewhere above him. He was lying on a large stone slab, somewhere beneath the ground. Instantly he regretted his action of a moment before. Rivulets of pain washed through his upper body. He groaned.
"Yes, that was foolish," a silky voice said from behind him. Feeling, as well as hearing the bones of his neck and shoulders pop and crack, he turned his head and saw Imani lounging against the far wall of the small enclosed chamber. A single three foot tall passage opened up off to her side, and the path it showed led gently upwards.
They were in a tomb!
More thunder rumbled overhead. Imani saw David's eyes flick towards the low ceiling and sighed.
"It's been like that all day," she commented easily. "Imagine, thunder and dark clouds over the desert?"
"Why am I in a tomb?" David asked wearily.
"I brought you here," Imani answered evenly. "To allow your body to heal during the passing day."
She strode over to stand at his side and looked down at him critically for a moment.
"The bones and muscles of your limbs have healed. The rest of you is progressing slowly. You will need to feed when we emerge tonight."
David smiled grimly. "Not likely. Where are Gabrielle and Sindis?"
Imani smiled. "Sindis is in the next chamber, sleeping. Gabrielle stayed out in the rising sun in order to burn Arijani's blood out of her body." She folded her arms and nodded in approval. "Using his blood to emulate our powers was quite brilliant, if I may say?"
"Thank you." He looked at her as he tried to get comfortable on the unyielding stone. "Why aren't you asleep?"
Imani shrugged her delicate shoulders. "Sometimes I do not sleep during the day. In those rare instances, I must simply wait for the sun to set. It is an exercise in patience."
"Insomniac, huh?" David smiled grimly.
"I spend those days in contemplation of various subjects." Imani continued as if she hadn't heard him. "Today, I have been contemplating you."
"Why didn't you just finish me off when you had the chance?" David asked.
Imani smiled coldly. "If we meet again, in the future, I may. But on this day, I decided that I owed you this small consideration, since you did actually save my life?"
"Life for a life?" David asked. "Maybe a favor for a favor?"
At those words, Imani stiffened for a moment, as if something from her past had just reared up before her. Then the flash of anxiety was gone, replaced by a cool calculating smile.
"I look at you, and I see and hear so much of Nickoli, that I almost believe you are he." She said. "Even the means by which you neutralized our advantage. I could see Nickoli exercising such a strategy. You have the same bearing. The same noble stature, even some of the same words. So alike, and yet, so distinctly different? And then there is the power of your will. How you could overcome the Blood Madness in Gabrielle, and hold myself and Sindis at bay with a word of command, at the same moment? In some ways you have surpassed Nickoli? I would understand how it happened?"
"It's a very long story," David sighed. "Tedious at times and hopelessly complicated."
"But fascinating, I expect?' Imani replied with just a hint of eager desire. "As was the journey you were just on?"
David looked over at her in surprise. "What do you know of that?"
"Only that you talk in your sleep," Imani answered. "Tell me: What did you mean by 'Gatecrashers in the Underworld'?"
At that, David began to laugh, though the effort, at first, caused him some discomfort. Slowly, he forced himself to sit upright, wincing at the effort.
"Feels like a truck hit me?" he said.
"The capstone," Imani corrected him.
"The capstone from the Great Pyramid," Imani explained. "Just a glancing blow, by any account, but even that was enough to kill any mortal man." She smiled at the recollection. "You're little companion was quite put out."
"How did you find us, anyway?" David asked suddenly.
Imani's smile didn't fade. "Ah, that was Ghoul's work."
"Ghoul?" David thought. "The one that Gabrielle ran into in the catacombs of your old temple?"
Imani nodded. "He and his brethren stayed in Greece, for the most part, though some of them have moved north to other regions. It was he who beheld you and Gabrielle by a lake near her home." She slowly tapped her chin with one delicate finger. "The interesting thing is that he also said that you perceived him?"
David thought back to when they had been planning the wedding. That evening by the lake, after a long swim, while he and Gabrielle were enjoying a late dinner by a fire.
A strange, icy watchfulness had come over them both, though they couldn't find the source.
"Being a blood descendant of Nickoli," Imani speculated. "Probably means that some of his perceptions have been handed down to you over the years. Gabrielle, however is a different story?"
"Nickoli forced her to drink his blood," David said easily. "Even after the effects had passed, who knows what side effects were left behind?"
"Ah," Imani nodded. "I was forgetting her previous transformation."
"Yeah," David mused. "Which reminds me? How did you go from being Bacchi to being Vampires? Gabrielle gave me the cliff notes, but a lot of it doesn't make sense?"
"Another, as you say – long story." Imani replied, smoothly skirting the subject.
David, however, was not so easily dissuaded.
"I don't need the gory details," he countered easily. "Just give me the Readers Digest version?"
Imani stared at him, not understanding the reference. David aided her understanding by holding his thumb and forefinger a couple of inches apart. She clasped her hands together before her and gave a subtle nod.
"Very well. In short, during the fight against Xena's army, Marshal Titus was stricken down on the field. As he lay dying, he fed on the blood of another dying man and so saved himself. However, instead of regenerating as a Bacchi, he became something else. Something completely different, and free of Bacchus's control."
"He became undead," David nodded. Again, Imani paused. It was the word that Nickoli had coined in his explanation to them and to Gabrielle and Xena during their last encounter.
"Quite," she continued. "Ignorant of this change, he returned to Bacchus and reported that Nickoli had been chivalrous in battle, allowing Xena to live. Bacchus imprisoned Nickoli in a sealed cavern for ten years as punishment for his honorable actions. While imprisoned, Titus visited Nickoli and converted him in order to save him from the Blood Madness that Bacchus hoped would kill Nickoli. When Nickoli escaped, he fled from Bacchus and lost himself in the world. He eventually made it to this country and hid among the shadows of night as he strove to understand what he had become. On his travels, he found others and gave them the gift. He found me here."
"In Egypt?" David's eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Yet one more little quirk that brought me a false hope that you were he." Imani said coldly.
"It soon became apparent that we were forever bound to Titus and Nickoli, as long as Titus existed. That was when Nickoli devised a way for us to be completely free. We had to eliminate Titus, and then Nickoli had to also die."
"Titus created only one other," David nodded. "But Nickoli created several. A nice cluster of roots for a diverse family tree."
"Precisely." Imani smiled. "When Xena and Gabrielle helped us dispose of Titus, Nickoli needed Xena to also finish the job by killing him. He led her precious Gabrielle into a trap, plotted the distribution of the Black Scrolls of Arijani, and then lured Xena in to finish the job, knowing that the 'greater good' would be the recovery of those writings to protect mankind." She laughed quietly. "Allowing Xena to save Gabrielle was merely an added twist to make the danger more palpable. And it worked perfectly."
"Yes it did," David nodded. "Because, in spite of the half truths and lies within the scrolls, there is also the truth. Ways in which you can be destroyed."
It was David's turn to smile knowingly. "Nickoli knew that, over time, mankind would decipher the real truths hidden in those writings. He knew that nothing should last forever."
"Foolishness," Imani scoffed.
"Really?" David asked. "Then why not create a total fiction? Why not give mankind a complete list of dead ends? He knew that even an immortal must have a chance at death in order to truly appreciate life. How boring would your existence be if there was truly nothing that could harm you? No challenge, no risk, no thrill? A part of every living thing must exist knowing that something is stalking them, even if it is only the creeping shape of death itself over time?"
"In the end, your kind will go the way of all things." He smiled coolly at her. "Where I come from, the Vampire has been completely eradicated. Your kind no longer exists." He shrugged. "Sorry."
"I don't believe you!" Imani hissed.
"Suit yourself." David shrugged, feeling the final bits of pain fade as his injuries completed their healing. He bent down and looked out through the small opening. A shadow moved beyond, and Sindis entered. She actually seemed relieved to see David conscious.
"The sun has set," she reported. "It's safe to go out."
David dropped from the slab to the floor.
"Good," he clapped his hands together. "We need to find Gabrielle. And then, I have an appointment with a very naughty High Priest!"
They emerged into the final fading light of the sun as it set behind the distant horizon. Instantly, David felt that something was terribly wrong.
"She would have made for the river," he said, and he pressed ahead.
"Then seek her," Imani said coldly. "Sindis and I have other obligations to attend to first. I suggest that you do not delay long yourself, or you might not retain your own sanity?"
David looked back at her and smiled sardonically. "We'll see."
He turned and ran, with inhuman speed towards the Nile.
He found burnt shreds of cloth lying on the stones as he ran. Like a trail that led to the dock. Apparently, Gabrielle had not made it there ahead of time as they had planned.
"Not good," David muttered as he held up a piece of her halter. Then his eyes fixed on the boat, moored at the dock. It sat lower than it should, resting at an odd angle.
"Definitely not good," he repeated and he ran as fast as he could to the dock.
The river was gone, though the track of it was still present, overgrown with water vegetation and caked in a thick layer of dark wet earth.
"The track of the river shifted at some point in history," Professor McGhee's voice rang in his memory. "The how and why of that is a complete mystery."
"Mystery solved," David sighed. His preternatural eyes scanned the surrounding area for his wife.
A soft moan sounded somewhere to his right.
"Gabrielle?" he called and he dropped to the mucky earth below.
He sank in to his ankles and pushed forward, calling for his wife.
Then his eyes found what he sought. A heat signature, concealed beneath a layer of mud. It was moving weakly.
Gabrielle lay on the bank, covered in a thick layer of dried earth, her had been burned away, much like his had been.
He pulled his long coat off and knelt beside her.
"What happened?" he asked nervously.
Her eyes opened and David could see the texture of blisters on her flesh from her return to the living.
"Thirsty," she croaked.
Gently, David lifted her to him and vaulted for their suite.
The bath had been prepared, but the water was not warm. Gently, David lowered her into the large tub, watching as clouds of earth lifted from her red flesh.
She cried out softly as the luke warm water touched her, and then she seemed to relax.
David grabbed a cup and filled it from a water jug nearby. She took a sip and coughed most of it back up.
"Easy now," he said gently. She took the cup in her weak fingers and drank on her own.
David bent and grabbed a wash towel. Gently he began to clan the earth from her face and hair.
"I thought I lost you," Gabrielle finally managed to say. Her eyes closed under his gentle ministrations.
"Not likely," David smiled as he poured more water through her hair. "I keep telling you. I'm here for the duration."
"I was certain Imani would finish you, once I was gone," Gabrielle continued.
"What ever she is," David replied. "She has a very strong sense of honor. If she said she wouldn't hurt me, she meant it."
"How would you know that?" Gabrielle asked.
"Because of what she did in the past, when she spoke with you and Xena, after that whole thing with Nickoli."
Gabrielle grimaced. "She was there to gloat."
David nodded. "She might have been gloating, but she still told you. It was her way of clearing the debt between you."
David finished his task and stepped back. He surveyed her deep pink, and in some places, reddened skin. He smiled. "In a few days," he said softly. "You're going to peel like a snake."
"Gee, thanks," Gabrielle replied weakly.
David rose and smiled. "Just sit tight for a minute," he said. "I'll be right back."
She barely caught the hint of strain in his voice, but when he turned away towards the other room; she saw a subtle hint of red flash in his eyes.
He moved quickly, but reluctantly from the room. Gabrielle felt a shiver run up her spine. Though the transformation of her husband was only temporary, he was still very, very dangerous in his 'starved' state.
David felt the hunger boiling in his belly. He went across the room and knelt in the corner, his back to the wall and hugged his knees to his chest as the painful hunger pains began. He felt the fire in his mind and fought the unholy drive with all his strength. He felt himself break out into a cold sweat.
"Not…going…to…happen!" he growled. Then the mantra began again, and he focused on those words as he rocked back and forth.
Gabriele sat in the cool water, listening to the beastly voice in the other room, chanting like a damned spirit in Tartarus. Her own fear grew as the words became more and more strained until they were unintelligible.
Slowly, she forced her pained muscles to move and got out of the tub, wrapping a cloth about her and crept quietly to the doorway. She could see him, huddled in the corner, his body balled up tight as he swayed.
An icy hand touched her shoulder and she wheeled about in fright. Her eyes locked with Sindis, which didn't really help her relax.
"Wait," she said quietly. Gabrielle saw the small trickle of fresh blood at the corner of her mouth. "It isn't safe yet."
Gabrielle relaxed, but only a little as she saw Imani enter from the balcony, moving over towards David as if she were floating on air.
Imani stopped, standing proudly over David, and fixing him with a critical look.
"Not…yet!" David growled, his red eyes still ablaze with maddened hunger.
Slowly, she knelt before him and stared into his eyes.
"You cannot win this battle," she said knowingly. She smiled at him in a way that made Gabrielle's skin crawl.
"You must feed," Imani continued in that soft voice.
"No!" David growled, shaking like an addict on a crash.
Imani slowly raised her arm towards David. "You must, or you will go mad."
"No!" David growled again with more vehemence.
"My blood will sustain you," Imani continued relentlessly. "And in the morning, it shall burn out of you, just as Arijani's shall."
"He doesn't believe you!" Gabrielle said angrily. "And neither do I!"
At the sound of her voice, David's eyes shot up and any control he had been clinging to was instantly lost in the presence of a living being. He launched himself at her with ravenous insanity.
"Sindis!" Imani shouted. The two vampires intercepted David. His clawed hands snapped closed inches from Gabrielle's throat, and then he was back across the room, pinned against the wall by Sindis and Imani. He kicked and struggled like a thing possessed, Inhuman gurgling roars issued from his throat.
"David!" Sindis said sharply. His blazing eyes turned to her. She nodded to him. "You must!"
She lifted her head, inclining it to him.
"What are you doing?" Imani asked, but it was too late.
David fastened on the Amazon warrior's throat and the two of them sank to the floor.
Gabrielle felt pure horror, mixed with revulsion, well up within her throat as he fixed his eyes upon her while he drank.
Sindis sighed in rapture and let the moment flow between them.
A look of dawning appeared in David's eyes and he withdrew, letting Sindis fall to the floor as he scooted away, coughing in horror.
"Jesus Christ!" he gagged.
Sindis rolled over and weakly picked herself off the floor, her hand straying to the rapidly healing puncture wounds on her throat.
Gabrielle hovered at the doorway, her hand covering her mouth in revulsion, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Sindis raised a hand toward her.
"It's okay," she said weakly. "He'll be all right now."
Imani's expression was one of relief, but her eyes spoke of disapproval. Then she looked down at the horrified David.
"How are you feeling?" she asked him curtly.
"I just played Bella Lugosi on someone!" David shot back angrily. "How the hell do you think I'm feeling?" He put his hand over his mouth. When he saw the blood on his fingers, he grabbed the nearest article of clothing and wiped furiously at his hands and mouth.
"Christ on a god damned crutch!" he cursed as he sat back against the wall. "Me and my bright fucking ideas!"
His hand shot out, shattering the mud brick to powder and leaving a decent sized hole in the wall. Then he put his head in his hands and said nothing.
Gabrielle slowly stepped over to his side. The other two creatures did nothing to stop her.
When she knelt before him, she could hear him breathing hard as the emotions rose in him.
"Worthless, idiotic bald headed son of a bitch," he was muttering.
When he looked up again, his eyes were the blazing green, but there was murder in them.
"I've had enough of this!" He hissed. "We need to find Utanhk!"
"I know where he is," Sindis offered. This brought a reproving glare from Imani. "You won't like what you find."
"At this point," David growled. "I really don't give a rat's ass!"
Sindis sighed. "He's in the main temple."
Gabrielle quickly grabbed some spare clothing and her Sais. Then the four of them headed towards the temple with David in the lead. As they passed the outer arch, David's sword came out in his hand. He sliced at a wooden pole sticking from the ground and then hacked an angled point on either end, handing it to Gabrielle. "Go for the heart."
Outside the temple entrance was a sacred fountain, decorated with hieroglyphs of the God Osirus. David dipped the blade of his sword in the clear water as he passed. He flicked the excess from the blade, nearly hitting Sindis with the spray.
Sindis nimbly jumped back away from the acidic water.
"Oh Lucy!" David shouted as they entered. "I'm home!"
The words died on his lips as he beheld the scene.
The main chamber of the temple was a slaughterhouse. Bodies lay everywhere as if they had been cast aside like unwanted dolls. Blood covered the walls and in some places stained the ceiling. Some of the bodies were horribly mutilated.
"So much for a stealthy entrance," Imani commented.
"Stealthy, my ass!" David growled as he surveyed the carnage. "I want that prick to know we're coming!" He began stalking towards the large double doors at the far end of the chamber.
Several figures emerged from the shadows between the columns. Half a dozen in all, their eyes shone red in the gloom.
David recognized them as some of the lesser priests from the other day.
"Evening, boys," David said coldly. "Where's the boss?"
In one move, the priests attacked.
David sidestepped quickly, his blade slicing into the middle of the first priest. At the touch of his blessed blade, the attacker exploded in a shower of smoldering ash. A second quickly followed suit as David spun back around and ran his blade through his throat.
Gabrielle met a third priest head on. The creature ran right onto the crude wooden staff. It screamed an inhuman cry of pain before it sank to the ground.
Gabrielle drove her forearm into the wood, snapping the makeshift stake off in its chest and effectively creating another one. She spun the weapon with experienced ease and squared up against the next creature.
Sindis grappled with a fifth creature, and in a lethal move, ripped the head from its body. Both fell with a sickening plop onto the hard stone floor.
Imani was off to one side, sucking the life out of another.
Four more priests charged from concealment, snapping and frothing like demons.
Again David seemed to float on air as he swung his weapon with deadly accuracy. Another vampire fell under his assault. Gabrielle fended off two more until Sindis bowled over one of them. The distraction gave Gabrielle the split second she needed and she impaled her remaining opponent through the chest.
Blood erupted from the wound, spraying over her as she drove him back against a column.
Imani intercepted the last one and with graceful movements, like a dancer, her claws slashed through the priest's robes and flesh, sending him staggering, though it did not kill him. Then David's sword descended and bisected the skull vertically before withdrawing and severing the cloven head with a vicious horizontal sweep.
The chamber fell silent, except for the soft pattering of blood dripping on the floor somewhere.
Near the front of the chamber, a single foot fall was heard.
Slowly, David turned his eyes in that direction and saw Utanhk, no longer in priest robes, but wearing the golden cross braces of Egyptian armor. In his hand he held a large, two handed Egyptian chopper. Its bronze blade shone red in the flickering torchlight, as did his eyes.
"He has fed on the majority of the people here," Imani said quietly. "It has made him powerful."
"And mad," Sindis finished, nursing a vicious gash in her shoulder.
"Mad?" his voice echoed, low and demonic in the chamber. "I have saved Ka-Ma'at!"
"Saved?" David asked in horror. "Bud, in less than a week, you've sunk a city, shattered the pyramids and re-routed the course of the Nile! That sounds like three major fuck ups to me?"
"I have preserved this place for eternity!" Utanhk roared insanely. "The city of Alexandria, safe beneath the sea, and Giza, in the wastelands of a desert that none will dare cross!" His smile was insane and showed elongated eye teeth, dripping with saliva.
"I shall do the same to all of Khemet! I shall deliver the land of the God Kings to Osirus as a gift!"
"Oh, yeah," David nodded. "You're gone."
He flung his hand out.
"Onobis Illuminotis!" he roared.
The wave of energy rocketed through the chamber, burning the bodies of the dead. At the same moment, Utanhk also raised his hand and cried defiantly.
It seemed that a wall of light and shadow collided near the far end of the chamber and halted, each vying for dominance.
The energy of the spells crackled in the room, causing the stones to rumble dangerously. Portions of the fine murals on the wall fell away as green chutes of energy licked them with dangerous power.
David's face glistened red with a sheen of bloody sweat as he pushed with all his might, trying to beat back Utanhk's counter spell.
Suddenly his sword was wrenched form his hand and Gabrielle charged across the room raising the weapon to strike.
David roared in rage and pushed even harder, trying to force his energy past Utanhk's defenses before Gabrielle reached her target.
Sindis was practically jumping in anticipation of her own attack, once the energies were spent.
Utanhk saw Gabrielle coming and hissed in delight. He also raised his weapon to meet hers.
The Sword of Power whistled around and came down at Utanhk's blade. It sliced through the bronze and then through the priests outstretched left arm, just below the elbow.
Utanhk cried out in pain and then the wave of energy hit him full force. He blackened in an instant and then exploded in a shower of fiery sparks and hot ash.
The concussion of the blast threw Gabrielle into the shadows and bowled the rest of them over.
David was back on his feet and running towards the darkened corner of the room.
"Gabrielle!" he shouted desperately. He saw her through the red hot haze in his vision, picking herself up off the stone floor. She was beaten, bruised, but smiling in satisfaction.
David smiled n relief, and then his gaze went dark. "Are you out of your freakin skull?" he blurted out. "He could have killed you!"
Gabrielle wiped the sword on her skirt and looked at it lovingly.
"This sword opens the Fountain of Strength on Japa," she said with a smile. "Do you honestly think that a Bronze Age weapon would have stopped it?"
"Well I," David stammered. "It might have!" he finally blurted. He shook his head, his mind torn between anger and joy. "Of all the crazy ideas! That one is definitely in the top five!" He wrapped his arms about her and held her tightly.
When they emerged form the shadows, Imani and Sindis stood there, waiting.
Imani's eyes were cold and natural, while Sindis seemed to fidget uncomfortably.
"It is done," Imani said simply. "Our debts," she indicated David. "Are paid." Then she fixed her cool eyes on Gabrielle.
"And once again," she smiled frostily. "We have crossed paths and you have survived. It shall not happen a third time."
"Not much on the live and let live philosophy, are you?" David said.
"Regardless of what has transpired here," Imani replied with that same frosty smile. "I still owe a debt to Gabrielle and Xena for the death of Nickoli. Xena is gone, and so I am satisfied in part. However, you have also killed the Lord, Arijani." Her eyes fixed on Gabrielle. "That deed shall not go unnoticed."
She stared at them both for a moment. "Since you have saved my home from destruction, I shall not harm you while you are here. Once you cross the borders of Khemet, your protection ends." She looked at the Amazon woman beside her. "Come, Sindis."
Sindis looked at Gabrielle and David, then back at Imani.
"No," she finally said.
One dark eyebrow rose. "No?"
Sindis stepped over beside Gabrielle.
"I will not be going with you, Imani," Sindis said quietly.
Imani looked at the trio with amusement. "There is no going back for you, Amazon," she said. "Where will you go? With them? You would betray your own kind for them?"
"They are my kind," Sindis replied with a hint of anger.
A look of distaste appeared on Imani's face. It melted into disgust.
"Very well," she said contemptuously. "I could not bear the company of one such as you anyway. A feeder on pigs and goats!" She spat and turned to go. "Pray that we never meet again."
"Imani," David called after her. The vampire turned back to face him.
"Understand something." David continued. "Where I come from, my people have had two thousand years to strain the truth from the lies of Arijani. We have also discovered other methods of combating your kind that you probably know nothing about. If you come upon us and consider trying to take our lives, think real hard about the risks before you strike. Chances are that you would be the one that would not survive."
She stared into David's fiery eyes and realized that there was no deception there. He did hold knowledge, vast and dangerous.
Fear appeared on her face for only an instant before her calm, icy countenance reasserted itself. She bowed her head and departed.
David watched her until she had passed beyond the entrance, then he looked sidelong at Sindis.
"You fed on pigs?" he asked.
Sindis shrugged. "After last night, I couldn't bring myself to kill another human being."
Gabrielle smiled. "Well, you have to start somewhere?"
Sindis smiled regretfully. "I realize that I have quite a bit to atone for."
David looked at Gabriele and smiled.
"Sounds like someone you used to know?" David offered.
Gabrielle nodded. "Yeah, she turned out alright in the end." She looked into Sindis's eyes. "You will to. I know it."
"As a creature of the night?" Sindis looked at them helplessly. "How do you think people are going to react when they meet me?"
"Yeah," David said. "About that. I think we might be able to do something regarding your sensitivity to UV."
"UV?" Sindis asked.
"Sunlight, sis," David smiled.
"You have a plan," Gabrielle smiled knowingly. Then she looked at Sindis. "He has a plan. I always know when he has a plan. He gets that look."
David smiled and shook his head. "Call it a wild idea. A theory that I think we should explore." He looked down at his pale hands and sighed.
"After I get some sun in the morning. I need a bath, a drink and some real food."
"About that," Gabrielle said uneasily. "The river's gone. How do we keep you from, you know?"
"The cisterns should still be full," David mused. "We use the bath in the eastern most apartment, knock the outer wall open and have some extra water on hand in case things really start to cook?" They exited the temple and went back to the guest houses. One of the upper floor suites seemed ideal for the task. While Gabrielle and Sindis ran to gather extra pitchers of water, David easily knocked a huge opening in the eastern wall, exposing the tranquil shadows of the desert, bathed in the pale moon.
The sky was brightening when the task was complete.
Sindis watched the growing light anxiously.
"Get out of here, kiddo," David said as he began to disrobe. "You don't want to be here for the sunrise. Not yet."
Sindis looked at Gabrielle, who nodded, and then she quickly leaned forward and kissed David on the cheek.
"Tonight then?" she asked a little nervously.
"We'll be here." David reassured her. "Now get going."
Sindis glanced once more at the brightening sky and then darted from the complex towards the necropolis.
David watched her go, and then finished undressing.
"Whoa," he said as he stepped into the tub. "That's cold."
Gabrielle watched the paling sky. "It won't be for much longer."
All too quickly, the sun erupted from the eastern horizon and David instantly felt the fire rage within his veins. He dropped into the tub and curled up, feeling the conflagration begin. His body thrashed and writhed beneath the water. It boiled and steamed away almost as fast as Gabrielle could keep pouring more in. The process seemed to take forever.
Finally, David jumped up from the water and struggled to climb over the edge.
"Hot!" David was saying quickly. "Hot, hot, hot!"
Gabrielle pulled him out of the boiling tub and let him slide back against the warm stone. Then she grabbed two pitchers and poured the cool water over his shoulders.
David let out an audible sigh of relief as the water flowed over his body.
She set the empty jugs aside and knelt down to examine him.
The fiery green of his eyes was gone and the gentle, thoughtful brown was back.
He fumbled wearily for her hand and squeezed it.
"Just promise me one thing," he said.
She nodded eagerly.
"Promise me that we will never do anything remotely like this again."
Gabrielle smiled and held him. "That's a promise."
"Good," David sighed. Then his gaze got critical. "How do I know you'll keep this one?"
Gabrielle looked at him in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you already broke the promise we made on the boat," David said.
"I did not!"
"Yes you did," David continued. "You promised to let me do some things on my own, because we both agreed that things of that sort might come up."
"Ah, ah," Gabrielle held up a finger. "But we also reserved the right to jump in if the other was in trouble."
"I wasn't in trouble." David said defensively. "I had everything under control."
"You were overmatched," Gabrielle replied, smiling.
"I was not overmatched." David retorted. "I could have taken him at any time."
"No, you couldn't," Gabrielle smiled. "Otherwise you would have."
"I was playing with him. I was just about to finish him off when you grabbed my sword and charged in there!"
"Oh, sure you were," Gabrielle's smile widened, and David also smiled.
"I think we need some clauses in this agreement," he said. "A definition of when one should or shouldn't interfere-"
Her mouth closed on his and silenced him.
Return to the Academy