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Honour the Vow: Battle

Chapter 1: Honour the Vow: Battle

by BellemaineChercoeur

Disclaimer: The Mummy Returns, its concepts and the character of Ardeth Bey belong to Universal Studios, and especially Stephen Sommers. This is not meant to infringe on their copyright in any way, and no profit is intended, or will be made.

To Honour the Vow: Battle
By Bellemaine Chercoeur

The sunlight beat harshly down on my head, and caused the rolling sand dunes around us to quiver as I watched. The heavy robes I had stolen from my Father's chest fell uncomfortably around me, their cumbersome weight as evenly spread around the saddle as I could manage. It was fortunate that the call to the Med-jai had sounded so urgently, that no meeting of the houses had been planned before this battle. I knew I could not have come if the meeting had been called, if there had been time for strategy to be discussed and plans to be laid.

I look to my left and see Ardeth. He rides towards our section of the line, and I hunch my shoulders deeper into the robes. He must not see me, not before I have a chance to prove myself. He rides by us, his concentration so deep that he sees us only as weapons and not as individuals. The elders have ceded control of this battle to him. I have confidence that he will not fail us. I wish I could tell him that. He rides with the ease of one who has spent much of his life on horseback, his motions graceful and fluid. We stand silent, sentinels on the edge of battle, awaiting the war cry.

He returns, and his eyes sweep once more over us before he looks to the horizon. I freeze for a moment, frantically convincing myself that I have pulled the scarf high enough over my face to conceal my smooth unmarked cheeks. No, he passes by, and my eyes travel along the path of his gaze. The gathering storm crests the hill and strikes towards us.

As one we lift our weapons, and offer us the cry of defiance that we have guarded over centuries. The sword feels so much heavier, and I think it is only my willpower that keeps it aloft. Ardeth risks a glance back towards us, and in that moment, I feel as if he has given me strength with that one glance. A foolish fancy I know, but it gives me the courage to stand my ground and join battle with the rest of the Med-jai. I will make my father proud of me. As his daughter, I will take up arms in our name.
**
Only the denizens of the underworld would view this carnage as sport. Everywhere, the smell of blood, sweat and dust is overpowering. I hear the screams of horses who are felled and slaughtered, and the impact of metal on flesh. I hear the roar of those creatures being forced into dust. Nowhere do I hear the screams or cries of the dying. The only sounds to pass the lips of the Med-jai during battle are orders and the battle cry. We meet death silently; our enemy will not receive the pleasure of hearing us acknowledge our defeat.

My lungs burn with the heat and dust, and my shoulder protests every movement as I methodically strike at every spawn of the underworld that comes my way. The pattern my father drilled into me as a child, to strike at the head, to block but always take the head of the opposition is the only thing that stands between life and death. I barely manage to conceal the scream of panic that overcomes me as I feel my horse fall beneath me. My faithful friend lies broken and still on the sands. I rolled away as he fell, and struggle to my feet, pushing my scarf back into place even as one of them towers over me. I raise my sword, feint to the left then lop its head from its shoulders, then spin to my right and throw myself back into the battle.
**
Something calls me, some force within me drags my attention to the right. I see Ardeth stumble and fall, caught between three of the creatures. I take the legs of one, forcing it closer to my level to dispatch it. A passing horseman easily decapitates a second, but the third has already raised its spear and is driving it downward. As I watch in horror, my soul begs to be allowed to scream in agony as the spear descends. Ardeth lithely tumbles across the sand avoiding the spear and somehow retrieving his sword. He strikes blindly upwards, and the creature rears back from him, staking Ardeth's now impaled sword with him. As its head bends in pain I seize the chance and send my own sword spinning towards it's unprotected neck. The sword falls in a cloud of dust, and I hastily extend a hand to Ardeth.

My eyes quickly scan him, checking for injury and I find none. I look up and meet his gaze, and suddenly realise how precarious my position now is. As I watch his face, I realise I have lost my covering scarf and his eyes narrow as they trace my smooth unmarked cheeks before they meet my own eyes.

As our gazes lock, I see the shock and surprise wash across his face as he recognises me. I see Ardeth Bey, Med-jai, our leader and my model soldier begin to break one of our oldest laws. As his lips begin to form the syllables of my name I frantically press my fingers against them, stilling the movement. His lips feel dry and rough beneath my hand, and I realise I have confirmed my identity for him. The new callus marks on my palms can not conceal the softness of my hands. His hand came up to grab my wrist, as his gaze suddenly focussed over my shoulder. He threw me aside and beheaded the creature advancing towards us, even as I seized my opportunity to run from him. I knew he would come, but I would not endanger his honour any more than I already had done.
**
The reins drag painfully against the broken skin of my palm as I turn my horse towards our camp. Alex has been returned to his family. He is a fine boy, I would be proud to call him my own. Rick and Evie are lucky to have found each other, their bond is so deep, so heartfelt, that even my own stony heart recognises that depth of emotion between them. I recognise and yearn for it even as I recognise that we, the Med-jai, have no hope or thought of enjoying it ourselves. Yes, some of our members find wives and settle into lives that will ensure our existence, but I know that is not my path. A leader must allow himself no distractions.

Against everything the darkness sent against us, we stood firm. As we have sworn to do, we have protected Egypt against the darkness of the Underworld. There was a time when I thought black death awaited us all, and I will never forget the horror that descended upon us as that army of evil poured over the dunes towards us, only to disappear in a cloud of black dust as dark as their intentions. Even as that second wave crashed towards us, we refused to be cowed and beaten. Our men...my men stood firm. My men. And one girl.

Nefertiri.

How had the foolish child found her way here?

I had thought that the youth that had claimed the creature that towered above me was no more than an acolyte who had yet to receive the tattoos of initiation. I had been prepared to offer him the silent thanks of a warrior in mid-battle; a clasp of the shoulder and a nod of acknowledgment, before I tracked him down after the battle for a more formal thanks. Yet when she met my gaze, and I saw those eyes the colour of the Nile at sunset, I had felt my heart stop.

And had almost committed the inconceivable act of speaking during battle. The panic in her eyes as much as her hand had stilled my voice, but the realisation of how close I had come to breaching our battle vow of silence shocked me. As did the look of horror on he own face as she stopped me. A small part of me is grateful that she recognised my folly before I had a chance to act upon it, while another, much larger part of me argues that if she had not been foolish enough to infiltrate the battle I would not have been in that situation.

The larger part of me is winning at the moment.

She ran from me. After I recognised her, she fled. I am sure that she survived the second wave, we all did, and I will not consider the possibility of her not living through the rest of the first battle. If her body had been found, she would have been brought to me already. Some of the Elders would have seen her as an example of how she has shamed her family, taking upon her own shoulders the duty that belongs to another. Her father will not be pleased to learn of her deception. Each step I take through our camp I am waiting to hear a raised voice, calling my name, demanding that I look at what they have brought me.

Her only hope is if she has managed to leave here without being seen, if she can return to her home without her absence being discovered. I will not betray her to the Elders. She proved her worth on the battlefield, she stood firm against the darkness, and I will grant her the honour of her secret. Even as my mind convinces me that it is simply a matter of honour, I know that my heart is responsible for this decision as well. In honour of the memory of the young girl she once was, in honour of her mother and her father, I will stay silent. For now.

Yet, I will find her. No matter how far she runs, how quietly she creeps, or how well she hides. I will find her again.

End of Part One of One Battle in the To Honour the Vow Series.

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Chapter name
Honour the Vow: Battle
Created
28 Jan 2007
Last Edited
28 Jan 2007
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1744