The Eye of Ra
Story by Todd Jensen
Written by Jennifer "Nabiki" Pagán
Art by Revel
Caer Sidi Country Estate
For a while, the night was quiet, even pleasant. The live orchestra was playing some of the classics, and though nobody danced, the mood was inviting, and all of the guests were happily mingling among themselves.
The ballroom was large and domed, lavishly decorated in gold and yellow, vast enough to accommodate the few hundred people invited and running about. It had three balconies overlooking the estate, and the estate was bigger than an average golf course.
Night had fallen a few hours ago in that grand estate. It was still fairly early in the year, when the nights were longer than usual and the air was somewhat cold. But it could've been him. Or it could've been the estate and its house.
Is it me,he thought, but didn't this mansion look more cheerful in magazines?
It was probably him. Lurking around in the shadows of the absurdly big and luxurious ballroom, Alexander Xanatos had no great interest of being there. He could've just as well spent his Friday Night at home, with his wife Serena, playing chess or something like that.
But he didn't ignore the benefits of making such a social appearance either. It was a small business world, after all. People talk, people mumble, and when one was in the spotlight, as Alexander Xanatos was, these little social gatherings could only help.
Well, 'little social gathering' was something of an understatement.
The correct term was 'Grand Ball', hosted by none other than Nicholas Hawkins, from Fenris Industries. The place was Caer Sidi Country Estate, Hawkins' favorite and over-hyped place to make his frequent balls.
Everybody that was somebody was there, cliched but still true. He had seen the mayor around, a troupe of famous faces from Hollywood, and just about everybody who was remotely connected one way or another with Nicholas Hawkins.
The only person who was missing was the host. Alex had quietly scanned the room for Hawkins, but he still hadn't shown yet. Knowing Hawkins, the man probably had something up his sleeve.
Alexander's particular connection was of business rival and he had his reasons to be wary of Nicholas Hawkins. It was no great secret that Nicholas and Alexander were competitors. They always came head-to-head in just about every business venture: weapons, technology, software, and politics -- especially politics concerning the gargoyles. The Xanatos family had always supported the clan and Nicholas had a certain fondness for the Gargoyle Education League, a hate group with a college degree. They were polar opposites in more ways than one.
Surely, the fact that he was being a good sport and actually appeared at his rival's ball could only give him more points in the eyes of The Powers That Be. Such was the way of the business world. Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.
Unbeknownst to him, The Powers That Be were staring at him intently at that very moment.
Across the ballroom, Garlon had his eye out for Alex and just about everybody else in that ball. Nobody had noticed him, but it wasn't surprising. He had long ago mastered the art of looking uninteresting to humans. It made it easier to blend in. That he had spent a couple of centuries as a mouse probably helped him, too. Awfully long story.
He and his various comrades blended among the mortals to keep an eye on them. There were six or seven of his people around and he had lost sight of most of them. He thought he saw Phobos lurking around the balcony and Deimos stalking the kitchen, but that had been some time ago.
But then there was Anath. Nicholas had been perfectly clear about being quiet and unobtrusive. Naturally, Anath was wearing a fiery red dress and hitting on every handsome man she could find. She was particularly entertained by a young man who looked no older than twenty-five. What the poor boy didn't know was that Anath was a war goddess who had the nasty habit of demanding young men for sacrifices. He almost felt sorry for the poor lad. Almost.
Garlon was so busy making several rounds across the ballroom, he didn't notice a certain exquisite lady walk into the party.
Angelica Hawkins sighed when she saw such a big crowd at her brother's party, and so few familiar faces. She wasn't fond of big parties, but Nicholas always threw them big. The only friendly faces she could find were Alexander and his wife Serena, and her date, John, a fellow professor from college. Her connection to Nicholas was that of sister. His close, but often ignored sister.
Angelica had always made it clear to her brother that she disliked the path he had chosen, but she had always been ignored. She hated the way he changed the subject about it and avoided her criticism. The sad part was that he thought he was right. Sometimes she thought she was the insane one; that he was right and she was wrong, but in her heart of hearts, she knew what was happening. There was no escape from the truth.
She had lost many nights of sleep because of her brother. She loved him, yes, and refused to give up on him, but sometimes… Sometimes Angelica thought she would never get him back. It was a depressing thought.
It wasn't long before the host finally dignified them with his presence. The ballroom's huge oak doors opened just for Nicholas Hawkins and a couple of bodyguards who remained by the entrance. He took a few moments to greet some of the people while making his way to the dais of the ballroom.
Nicholas looked smashing, as usual. Impeccable and handsome, he had the clothes of man who thought he was the last iced water in the middle of a desert.
Once behind the small podium, Nicholas took the microphone and said, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, I'm so glad you all made it. I'd like to start off by welcoming you to this ball and letting you know that I'm delighted to see you here. It's been awhile since I've seen so many friendly faces for such noble causes."
And Alex mumbled to Serena, "Noble causes, he says…"
"Let me start by saying this is actually a charity dance in benefit of two important, honorable movements that find very meaningful to me. The first is The Sefton Organization, an organization founded by one of my ancestors, Mary Sefton, whose mission is to protect wolves and educate the public about their true nature; a nature that has so long been shrouded by fairy tales. The second organization being honored here is The Gargoyle Education League, dedicated to the research and study of the truth behind gargoyles, their history and their relationships with humanity."
"However," Nicholas continued, "tonight's proceedings will go solely to The Sefton Organization, with the hopes they continue with the noble labor they have undertaken."
Alex scoffed softly and added, "He defends the wolves against superstition but can't do the same for the gargoyles? His altruism is killing me."
"…Still, he always denies he gives this 'Gargoyle Education League' any money," Serena added. "I find that doubtful."
Having said his piece, Nicholas encouraged his guests to have a good time and took a few moments to pose for photographs with the Sefton representative in the ball.
It wasn't long before he was mingling with his guests and personally welcoming the really important persons who crossed his path. And it wasn't long before he bumped into his sister Angelica and noticed her customary dissatisfied expression. "Oh, Angelica…don't tell me you're going to start again…"
"I never stopped, Nicholas," she said. "And I never will stop. Why are you doing this? This nothing but a feud with father! There's no need to--"
"Oh, you just don't understand yet, do you?"
"Then make me understand! Why must you take this path, Nicholas? Your crusade will be a dismal failure! I can see it, why can't you?"
"Angelica, please!" Nicholas interrupted. "Now is not the time for these pointless squabbles. This is a party and we should be enjoying ourselves. Please let it go, just for tonight. If not for you and me, then for your date. I don't think he came all the way to see us bicker all through the dance."
Angelica felt tempted to argue some more, but Nicholas was right. Now wasn't the time. He barely listened when they had lunch alone and he would never listen with so many other people around. With a defeated sigh, she returned to John's side. Well, she thought with resignation, lost the battle but not the war…
* * *
The party was at full swing when Alex and Serena took a break and headed for the buffet table for some refreshments, tired of talking to several well-meaning, if not dull, associates.
The evening hadn't been a waste of time. Alex and his wife learned a few interesting things about two or three annoying competitors and socialized with a few people they hadn't seen in awhile. They had talked to almost everybody in the party; even received a nod and a polite smile from Nicholas. Communication, no matter how rudimentary, was still communication.
However, the one known as Garlon was dangerously close, just opposite of the couple, at the other end of the buffet table. But he hadn't noticed them, as he was too busy checking out that brunette with the blue dress.
So far, the party had been a colossal bore. Garlon had spent the last half-hour lurking along the two buffet tables at the opposite ends of the ballroom. Getting drunk was out of the question, so he was just there, leaning against a wall with his arms crossed, occasionally munching on little pieces of cut cheese on a silver plate. Oh, the cheese. He mentally smacked himself when he realized what he was doing.
Then there was that brunette in the revealing bluish dress of ample cleavage. She had already winked at him a few times and Garlon had a smile --some would argue a stupid grin-- on his face
Henceforth, he was feeling pretty cocky when a raspy voice muttered, "They're fake, you know."
Garlon blinked, looked right, looked left, and looked center, where a huge and extremely obvious cat was talking to him. Grimalkin, the Demon Cat, had just appeared in a buffet table in a party attended by a few hundred humans. "Forget the broad and listen to me, this is important! I've found that--gag!"
He took the cat by the neck and hauled him under the table. "What do you think you're doing!?" Garlon snapped with an enraged whisper.
Alex and Serena couldn't help but notice that the man near them had just choked a cat and dived under the table. They were amazed, to say the least. They looked at their respective drinks and put them down on the table.
The stranger immediately straightened up, fixed his clothes and acted like nothing had happened while the cat under the table said, "That hurt, you little rat! Pun intended!" The man tried to kick the cat some more.
"Did you see that?" Serena questioned.
"IIIIInteresting…" Alex mumbled.
"Honey, don't stare! You're not supposed to pay attention to crazy people…" his wife commented.
The man tried to kick the cat but kicked the table's leg instead. They heard a mocking "Ha-ha!" coming from under the tale. Alex took it as his cue to inch closer to the man, and between the caviar and red Jell-O, he snacked on the little pieces of cheese as he listened to the man's intelligible curses.
Meanwhile, trying to act subtle, Garlon fixed his hair, completely ignorant of the looks the brunette and several partygoers were giving him. "What do you want?" he said, as the rest of the humans tried not to stare.
From under the table, Grimalkin replied, "As I was trying to tell you before being so brutally attacked, I come with an urgent report! Sekhmet has finally been found! According to my sources, she's been hiding out in Egypt, in the outskirts of a city called Asyut. We must recruit her for our side, she will be a powerful ally to our cause…"
"You've come all this way to bother me with this…?" Garlon snarled.
"Hey, what's with the attitude? She's a great asset and you know it! She's always been useful and trustworthy for the cause. Let's get out of here and go find her!" the cat retorted.
"I'm in the middle of a party, Grimalkin…!"
"Party, shmarty!" Grimalkin whined. "Let's go already. We can do this tonight and get it over with by morning!"
"What's the big hurry?" Garlon retorted with a mocking tone. "Is the widdle kitty looking for his bride…?"
"We shouldn't be wasting time making stupid jokes," Grimalkin told him. "Let's just get this done and move up to the next item in the agenda… We're on a tight schedule, you know that…"
Annoyed, Garlon snorted, but gave it some thought. "Sekhmet, oh, Sekhmet … you're right, of course. No doubt she will jump at the chance to join us. We do have 'that thing' pending, and if she were with us…"
Anath, already aware of Grimalkin's presence, ditched the mortal she had been toying with and marched right over to the buffet table, saying, "Hey, what's that big stupid cat doing here?"
"We're leaving, Anath," Garlon informed her. "Good old Sekhmet has been found in Egypt and we're going to recruit her for the Court…"
"Sekhmet!?" Anath thundered. "But what about me?"
"What about you?" Grimalkin sassed back.
"Hey, I'm not going to put up with that pompous witch! She was always strutting around with her troop of were-cheetahs or whatever it is she called them, and they were always shooting me dirty looks!"
Garlon rolled his eyes and said, "Anath, ask me if I care. Go ahead! Ask me!"
Anath retorted with a few dozen curses against Garlon's mother, and soon enough, the mortals nearby were mumbling something about not staring at crazy people. Garlon quickly ordered her to be quiet and dragged her out of the party by an arm.
Alex was too intrigued to notice the quick burst of light from under the table; his eyes were on the strangers and his thoughts on what they said.
Slowly, Serena approached him, "What was that all about?"
"Call me crazy," Alex told his wife, "but I think we've just stumbled into something very important…"
"Did the talking cat tip you off?" Serena replied.
"A talking cat and the name Sekhmet… This is a mystery that's begging to be explored…Come on, hon. I think the clan would like to hear about this."
"Why?" she replied. "Not to sound careless, but this is none of our business…"
"Oh, hon…" Alex sighed. "When it comes down to talking cats and weird people, sooner or later it becomes our business. Think of it this way: tonight we got a head start. Besides, I've had enough of this ball. And it sure doesn't hurt to at least mention it to Artus and the clan…"
Serena knew he was right, of course. It wasn't like they had something better to do that night anyway. They mumbled some quick good-byes to a few friends and walked away without anyone noticing them.
* * *
The second the Xanatoses stepped on their limo, they started making all the appropriate phone calls to the clan. By the time Alex and Serena reached the castle, Artus, Brooklyn and Sata were waiting for them in Alex's office.
"…so that's the story, guys…" Alex summed up. "The guy, the cat, and the enraged girl mentioned they were leaving tonight to look for Sekhmet in Asyut, Egypt, they said…thought you guys might find it interesting…"
"Sekhmet…!" Brooklyn muttered with some unconscious dread in his voice. "Oh, you have no idea what you've just uncovered, Alex… I haven't heard from her in decades! Can't believe she made it to this century… But I sure wish she hadn't."
"What do you know of her?" Sata questioned.
"She's a Fay… a fairly powerful one too. A war goddess to boot. The words 'bloodthirsty' and 'psychopath' immediately leap to mind."Brooklyn replied. "To make a long story short, the lady is not good news. And these guys want her to join their 'cause', they can't be good news either…"
"We've known for awhile certain individuals in this city are planning something behind our backs," Artus spoke up. "Plenty of magical incidents have been going on in Manhattan… remember those zombie humans a few years ago? Weren't they touched by magic…?"
"Now we have a talking cat and Sekhmet. There must be some sort of connection." Brooklyn continued, "Back in the zombie business, Detective Robertson and I caught this guy…he was making lots of cryptic comments to me…almost as if he knew me or something…"
"Then may I suggest we get to the bottom of this?" Serena quietly interjected. "We already know where they're going and that they want Sekhmet to join them… Perhaps we can dissuade her from not teaming up with them…"
"And figure out who 'them' are supposed to be…" Artus finished.
"What if she does desire to join those people?" Sata was quick to add. "What shall we do then?"
"You know what they say," Brooklyn sighed to himself. "Cross that bridge when we get there…"
Alex crossed his arms and said, "Anyway, we should prepare a team to go to Egypt tonight. We have to get to Sekhmet before 'they' do. I know I want to. Being CEO of Xanatos Enterprises should get her attention."
Artus turned to the married gargoyles and said, "Brooklyn, you have had direct experience with this Fay, go with Alex. Sata, I know you wouldn't want to be left behind, so go with them. As for me--"
"You will stay to tend your clan." Another voice commented. All of them turned to the Angelica standing by the doorway. "I'll go with the team."
"Angelica!" Artus exclaimed, taken aback. "I'm sorry, we didn't notice you there. Where did you come from?"
"I saw Alex and Serena leave the party in a hurry," Angelica began, casually entering the office. "They looked worried. I headed to the castle and they told me you guys were in a meeting. Figured I would have a look-see, and since the door was open…"
Brooklyn was the first to say, "Angelica, I don't think it'll be wise…Sekhmet is a very powerful Fay…"
"Therefore," Angelica interrupted, "you'll need some back-up sorcerers. I know a thing or two…"
Alex arched an eyebrow. "Two quarterlings make one halfling. Never hurts to bring more magic-users to a potential battle."
Artus sighed heavily and said, "This sounds like a plan… Now go on and get out of here. Since they said they were going to Egypt tonight, we have to move fast. If we're lucky, you guys might make it before sunrise in Egypt."
"And if we're really lucky, Sekhmet won't blow our heads off…" Brooklyn muttered.
* * *
Alexander's private and fastest transport was prepped and ready to go in less than ten minutes after the meeting with Artus. Angelica had borrowed some clothes from Serena, so she wouldn't have to go to Egypt in her evening gown, and they had all boarded the jet, ready to meet Sekhmet or their maker, or both.
Alex, millionaire and all-around handy man, was the one guiding his transport. "Dad insisted I learned to drive everything from cars to jet skies to turbo jets…" he chuckled.
Brooklyn barely listened to the others' conversation, too absorbed with Manhattan City's skyline from the 3,000 foot aerial view from his little window. Thinking of Sekhmet made him think of Kemet, and that immediately made him think of… lots and lots of things.
Now wasn't the time to pout in sad memories. He often forgot there had been good times too. Still, he couldn't remember any of them at the moment.
"What worries you, husband?" Sata's strong and clear voice cut through his veil of memories.
"Sekhmet. Among other things," he replied.
Sata merely nodded, "From where do you know this Fay?"
"Back in my three years in Ancient Egypt. I think I mentioned her to you a few times. A shrew if I ever met one…has this 'thing' for cheetahs… Most of the gods had the heads of different creatures and Sekhmet's got a lion's head, making cats and such her favorite pets. In fact, she went ahead and gave some of her 'followers' the dubious gift of becoming cat-like. Long story. Suffice to say they got the short stick of the bargain."
"She sounds like a formidable adversary…" Sata allowed as she sat next to him, took out her sword, and started to polish it.
"She's a formidable 'something'," Brooklyn grunted, disgusted. "Last time I knew of her, she had released a plague of locusts all through Egypt … We spent weeks getting rid of them. She found it hilarious."
"A bored trickster's prank, husband. Nothing to stress over."
"They were 10 feet long, Sata…"
Brooklyn absentmindedly continued, "The first time I met her, she sicced her were-cheetahs on us and called us dinner. Later, she played dirty tricks to acquire more power in the Court. In my three years there, she was nothing but a pain for all the gods and gargoyles in the land."
"Eons have passed since those incidents, Brooklyn-san," Sata replied, putting her katana aside. "Things change. Even Fay out-grow their childishness."
"Sekhmet wasn't a brat, she was a very real threat. And they said the same thing about Oberon, and you know what happened in that story…"
"Such doom and gloom, Brooklyn…" Angelica interrupted, sitting in the seat right in front of the mated couple, but turned around to face them. "Never give up on a person. No matter how lost they might seem."
Brooklyn lightened up and chuckled. "Maybe," he allowed, "but I know better than to hold my breath. It took a certain redhead a few centuries and she was just a gargoyle. Speaking from personal experience, gods tend to be far more stubborn."
* * *
Garlon long ago had given up trying to reason with Anath. The latter was sitting across him with crossed arms and was giving everybody in the hovercraft very snobbish looks.
"Stop doing faces. It'll stay that way," Garlon muttered with a smirk. Anath snarled at him in return.
"Children, children…" their boss scowled. "Please, attempt to act civilized. We want to impress the nice lady --don't say anything Anath, I don't want to listen."
Anath was ready to argue but she was forced to keep quiet instead. He was the boss. She assumed he knew what he was doing. She had to, because there wasn't much she could do about it anyway. It put her on a very rotten mood.
As for Nicholas, tonight he was in his 'world-is-my-oyster-victory-is-mine' attitude. He had dressed in one of his most 'royal' set of clothes, complete with white gloves. The old boy sure wanted to make a good impression tonight. He had even brought his Redcap bodyguards for effect, small ugly creatures that were sitting in the storage room playing poker.
She had known Nicholas Hawkins long enough to learn that he wasn't easily dissuaded from his enterprises. Thanks to Garlon, he got the stupid idea of flying all the way to Egypt to look for Sekhmet. She supposed she would have to make the best of it. The pompous witch did come in handy last time, she grudgingly admitted.
And because Nicholas was so hell-bent on finding the goddess, he didn't let a little thing like not knowing her exact location stop him. Grimalkin's reports were vague about that detail. 'The outskirts of Asyut was not an address. "Then let's think of it this way," Garlon commented. "If I were an Egyptian goddess hiding from Oberon and his power… where would I be?"
As it turned out, it was in the middle of the desert.
Had they not been so focused on finding her, chances were that they would've missed that magic shield, which turned out to be some sort of invisibility spell. It hadn't been difficult to spot it only because they were looking for something along those lines. Mortals, or even other Fay unaware of it, would've simply passed it by.
They soon landed the hovercraft, right in front of a large mansion several hours away from the closest city. For all practical purposes, they were in the middle of the desert.
Sekhmet had built herself a moderately big mansion surrounded by vegetation consisting of palm trees. The whole sight looked a tad out of place in the middle of so much sand. It looked like it had been an oasis that she claimed as her own and Nicholas silently wondered if the locals had any say in the matter. He concluded the invisibility spell that had bothered them took care of that part. He could picture a guy on a camel, scratching his beard and mumbling, "I could've sworn…"
Nicholas marched towards the front entrance. Garlon and Anath were at either side of him, and the ten Redcaps were closely behind them. He halted right in front of the door and, seeing that the door wasn't going to open by itself, he rang the doorbell.
* * *
"Hmm…?" grumbled a groggy voice.
"What? What is it?" the voice snapped angered. "I gave you explicit orders not to disturb my sleep!"
"A thousand apologies, Milady, but there are people at the door."
"How can it be? After fifteen years, how could anyone reach this place!"
"We do not know, Mistress. We told them to leave, but they refused and insisted with speaking to the Mistress."
"Curse those Bible salesmen!"
"…I do not think they are salesmen, Milady. There is magic all around them."
The voice grumbled something and sighed. "Very well. Send them to my divan in ten minutes. Can't say I'm not intrigued. Who could possibly be looking for the Eye of Ra after so much time…?"
"Be quiet, you!"
* * *
The whole troop spent some time standing outside as Nicholas paced about in the entrance with his hands around his back and a murderous look in his face. Anath and Garlon wished they were someone else and the ten Redcaps they brought along were playing a game of 'I-spy' among themselves.
"I spy with my little eye something starting with the letter 's'!" said the leader.
"Sand!" The other nine Recaps chorused.
Anath shot the creatures a look and grunted exasperated, "How long are we supposed to stay out here? Do something, Nicholas!" Anath started.
"The cat-girl said to wait and we'll wait!" Nicholas snapped. "We didn't come all this way to get the door slammed in our faces!"
"Twice." Garlon mumbled.
After some ten minutes of pacing in the footsteps of the entrance, the oak doors finally opened and a cat-like young woman said, "The Mistress will see you now. Follow me."
Nicholas' eyes brightened up, Garlon mumbled something like 'about time', and Anath merely snorted as the trio and the bodyguards followed the girl inside the mansion.
Nicholas was moderately impressed with that scantily clothed half-woman, half-cheetah creature, having heard of such things but never seeing the actual results. From what he could make out from the quick magical scan he made of the compound, there were at least five of those things around. However, according to his comrades, Sekhmet was supposed to have more servants, a dozen of them. Of course, he thought, that was centuries ago. Things change in hundreds of years.
The hallway alone was huge and high. He nodded approvingly at the exquisite vases and golden statues of what were probably ancient gods. His knowledge of Egypt was poor, but it was easy to assume most of the décor they had encountered was priceless.
They were led to the very last door on the far end and into what seemed to be a cross between a living room and a throne room. There were two old British style sofas, one love seat, and a small elaborate table. Then there was Sekhmet, in the sofa at the far end of the living room.
The war-goddess was the first thing everybody noticed. She wore her human body, that of a well-built, attractive tawny blond. She was fully reclined in the sofa, her legs were draped over one of the armrests and she had a very annoyed look on her face.
Their guide bowed to her mistress and quickly departed, closing the door behind her and leaving them alone with the goddess. Once the servant was gone, Sekhmet dropped all pleasantries at once. "Garlon and Anath? What in Ra's name are you two doing here?"
Nicholas crossed his arms and said nothing while Garlon quickly replied, "And hello to you too, Sekhmet! I'm glad to be here, thank you. Why, yes, I'm just fine, thanks for asking. A cup of coffee? Oh, I couldn't possibly!"
Sekhmet snarled at him while Anath snorted and snapped, "Bad kitty, baaaad kitty! How dare you treat old friends like this? After we came all this way to visit you…"
"Then go back the way you came," the goddess retorted. "Don't let the door hit you on your way out…"
"Temper, temper!" Anath told her. "Aren't you even a bit curious as to why we're here?"
"Don't start with me, Anath," said Sekhmet, giving her a little grumble. "You're here because I confused you with salesmen and my intentions were to provide dinner for my pets…and I don't think it's too late to carry that plan out…"
"And risk missing one last opportunity for revenge?" Garlon teased.
"Revenge?" Sekhmet skeptically repeated. "For what? You disturbing my sacred peace?"
"No, my very dear Sekhmet," Garlon continued. "Think big."
Nicholas only smiled, took his cue to step forward and said, "Good evening, Miss Sekhmet. We are so sorry to bother you at such an ungodly hour, but I've come with an interesting proposition for you."
Sekhmet gave him a curious look, as her eyes wandered to Garlon and Anath at either side of him, who smiled and snorted respectively. The goddess had completely ignored the presence of that human until Garlon pointed him out. She ignored him because, well, he was a mere quarterling. For a moment, she had thought he was the gofer boy. Her attention on Nicholas, she said, "And you would be…?"
"Nicholas Hawkins, owner and CEO of Fenris Industries. Otherwise known as Nicholas the Second." He paused for more dramatic momentum, "Lord and Master of the Third Unseelie Court."
"Third Unseelie Court?" a very incredulous Sekhmet repeated. "And… you're the new lord?"
"Yes," Nicholas insisted. "I am the heir to the great Madoc's Empire. I am following my grandfather's plans and ideals, to reclaim my rightful place in the Unseelie Court and the World. I will win the war he started for our family's glory, destroy all of our enemies, and carry out all of my grandfather's plans that our depraved enemies tried to halt… I will personally create the paradise my grandfather envisioned!"
Sekhmet gave Garlon and Anath a meaningful glance that seemed to ask, What have you been telling this mortal!?
"…For several years now," Nicholas continued, "I have been contacting most of my grandfather's old associates to join the cause. Your services, Miss Sekhmet, are more than welcomed. I'll be more than honored if you returned to your rightful place in the Court. I'll personally make sure you are reinstated to your former position and given the honor a war goddess deserves. So what would you say?"
It took Sekhmet a fair amount of time to process all the information. After all, it wasn't every day a couple of Unseelie ex-associates showed up at her doorstep with intentions of waging a war against the world. And they planned to include her in the plans…?
Once she understood their intentions, she leisurely stood up, turned slowly, and said, "What else is there to say? Best of luck to all of you. Hope everything works out."
Nicholas' expression fell. "What does that mean?" He said, straining to not sound upset.
"It means I won't be joining your private little war, 'Lord' Nicholas," Sekhmet replied. "As a survivor of two Unseelie Wars, I do not plan to tempt fate with a third one, and a poorly planned one at that. Facts are facts, dear Nicholas. Madoc is dead, Maeve is imprisoned in Avalon and the closest thing the Court has for a leader…" she looked at Nicholas and down, "…is you."
Garlon was the one to interrupt, "Sekhmet, please, Nicholas is--"
"A quarterling to boot," The goddess interjected. "Pardon my skepticism, but this whole 'Third Unseelie Court' reeks of defeat. All our old leaders are gone, Garlon. What could you possibly achieve with a quarterling for a leader?" She turned to Nicholas and gave him a little smile, "No offence."
Nicholas mumbled something between his teeth and let her comment slide.
"Besides," Sekhmet continued, sighing heavily, "three thousands years of death and violence, two Unseelie Wars under my belt, and for what?" She shook her head. "I did everything I could've done for the cause, only to find that it's a lost cause. Are we any closer to victory today than a thousand years ago? No. Am I going to try again? Risk more humiliation? I'll leave that to you, since its clear you can't get enough of it. Even generals have to retire from duty someday and Madoc's death was day one of my retirement. It's time to attend my own matters, rather than worry about a thousand-year-old feud between petty brothers. And that, gentlemen, is that."
The three other Unseelie exchanged dubious looks. Anath was the one to say, "That's 'that'? You, Sekhmet? What do plan to do without us? Gardening and knitting won't fill your nights."
"Oh, Anath…" Sekhmet retorted with a forced smile, "…I shall greatly miss your charming and witty observations. Don't worry, I'll manage."
"Miss Sekhmet…" Nicholas insisted with feigned courtesy, "…is there any way we could persuade you to change your mind…? Think about all the power and glory… You're a war-goddess! War is supposed to be your life."
"Some life." she said, clearly tired. She wanted to argue something else, but decided not to waste more time on them, pointedly relaxing back onto the divan. "You wouldn't understand. Now leave. Our conversation is over."
The other two Unseelies were startled that things hadn't worked out and slightly lost about their next course of action. They looked at Nicholas for further instructions.
"Leave her alone." Nicholas spoke up, "She made her choice and we shall respect it. I must admit I'm a little disappointed, but there's nothing we can do about it now." He made a small bow towards Sekhmet and said, "Still, I thank you for having us in your home and for giving us a moment of your time. It's been a pleasure." He turned to his two attendants, "Garlon, Anath, it's time to go home."
* * *
The troop turned around and left the same way they had come in. They silently made their way down the hallway and into the aircraft. In less than fifteen minutes, the Unseelies and their escorts were up in the air, heading back to New York. But once they had gained enough distance from Sekhmet and her magic field, Nicholas began, "…Anath had a point though…a war goddess giving up her craft?"
"Never," Anath forcefully retorted. "Not Sekhmet. Warfare is in her blood, like an addiction. It's only a matter of time before she joins in on the action."
"And she made it quite clear she'll never be on our side," Garlon continued. "What's stopping her from joining the mortals? Or maybe Oberon? She does have a husband and son back in Avalon. She sounded nostalgic enough tonight that if one of the Seelie appeared with a deal, she'd take it without thinking twice."
Nicholas took a deep breath and drummed his fingers in his armrest. "You two are correct, of course. I know her type. She'll want in soon enough and it won't be with us."
"Then we must eliminate her." Garlon rapidly added, "Kill her or imprison her, we must do something."
Nicholas thought it over for a moment and turned to Anath, "So… how would you handle her, dear Anath?"
"I would strike her down right now! Creatures like her must be dealt with swiftness!" She laughed, "The sooner she's dead, the better!"
The lord snickered and said, "Well, knock yourself out. We'll make a quick stop in one of our bases nearby, then you'll go back to Sekhmet's. Feeling up to it?"
"My Lord," Anath smirked, "you don't need to swat a fly with a Buick…"
* * *
A few miles away from the Unseelie hovercraft, another aircraft was making its way to Sekhmet's lair. The Unseelie craft was only a dot on Alexander Xanatos' radar, and he only gave it a moment's attention. He had better things to worry about than a mosquito on the scanners.
"Man, I wish that cat had given us a more concrete address…" the millionaire muttered
Brooklyn was next to him in the co-pilot's seat. "Nothing on radar?"
Alex shook his head, "Some ship a few miles back and a faint energy signal up ahead. I think its giving me a headache. Must be my sinus or something…"
"Or what if it's not just an energy signal?" Brooklyn argued. "I mean, if you were an Egyptian goddess hiding from Oberon and his power…where would you be?"
Alex arched an eyebrow much as his father used to do. "Good point. How about a second opinion?" He pressed the button of the intercom system and said, "Angelica, is it me or are we near something magical?"
"Magic out here? I think it's you," Angelica said, but after a small pause, added, "Although… now that you mention it, there is something weird close by."
It didn't take them long to figure out the origin of the energy and make a landing nearby. Much to their surprise, they discovered some sort of oasis with a mansion smack-dab in the center.
"Hey, I think this is it!" Alex cheered. "Excellent! Can you believe our luck?"
"Yeeeep," Brooklyn replied, grabbed the armor next to him and began to strap it on. "Lucky indeed."
"Brooklyn, this is a peace mission…" Alex said.
The gargoyle took out the gun hanging from his belt and charged it. "…Don't worry, I'm doing this in the name of peace. And if you'd like, you could hide one of the rifles in your jacket in the name of harmony. I get a feeling peace and harmony are gonna need all the protection they can get."
Alex arched an eyebrow, just like his father used to do. "That's one way to put it. You win. I'll give a weapon to Angelica too…for the sake of precaution?"
"Sounds good to me."
* * *
Sekhmet had already retired to her chambers when the second batch of intruders rang the doorbell. Fifteen years of peace interrupted, not once, but twice on the very same night. It was like all the mirrors she had broken in her life were exacting their revenge at the same time.
Tired and annoyed from her encounter with 'Nicholas II' and his 'Third Unseelie Court', she wasn't going to treat these guests as nicely as she had treated the first set. The first set's pomposity had put her on edge, especially that Nicholas, talking to her as if he expected Sekhmet to immediately grovel at his feet. She'll be damned if she let a mere quarterling with delusions of grandeur order her around.
All the more reason why a new war is a bad idea…Garlon and the others will only get themselves killed…though that's not exactly a tragedy either…
Still wearing her human body, she simply charged into her divan where she flopped in her sofa, crossed her legs and told the cat-girl standing in the entrance to "Send in the clowns…"
The new guests consisted of four unsure-looking people who didn't seem too aware of what was going on. There were two humans, male and female, quarterlings each and two gargoyles, a jade female and an eerily familiar redbrick male.
Setting her eyes on Brooklyn, Sekhmet said, "You…Brooklyn the Timedancer… Am I hosting a High School reunion or what? …It's shame you didn't drop by earlier, you've just missed a couple of old friends. That would've been interesting."
All looks turned to Brooklyn, who looked hopelessly confused. "What?"
Sekhmet paused and gave Brooklyn and the jade gargoyle a good look. She looked strangely familiar, but she looked younger and didn't they tag along with…?
"What?" Brooklyn kept asking, alarmed and annoyed, "What are you talking about!?"
Oh!Sekhmet told herself, He doesn't know! He is the Timedancer. My past is his future, his future is my past… Who could possibly keep up with time's practical jokes? It's giving me a headache.
Nowshe recognized the jade gargoyle…Sata, was it? The two little ones were probably too young, or maybe nonexistent at that point. She allowed herself to relax and say with a little smirk and a singsong tone, "Never mind, Timedancer… Just tell me why you're here."
Brooklyn would've growled something, but the dashing redhead man put a hand on his shoulder and gestured him to stand down. "Good evening, Miss Sekhmet, we're sorry to disturb you at this ungodly hour, but I've come with an interesting proposition for you…"
Sekhmet gave him a look. "Really?" His speech sounded disturbingly familiar. When two events relate to the same object of inquiry, one must pay careful attention.
The man blinked several times and said, "Well… yes, really. My name is Alexander Xanatos, owner and CEO of--"
"Enterprises," Alexander amended, baffled. "Xanatos Enterprises."
The war-goddess smiled toothily, "My mistake."
"Yes, well…" Alex cleared his throat and continued, "My companions here are Angelica Hawkins, Sata, and of course you already know Brooklyn." He gestured to a blondish woman looking at her with curiosity, the jade gargoyle with her right hand conveniently near a sword scabbard and Brooklyn, who was giving her a dirty look. "And we're here because--"
"Don't talk!" Sekhmet interrupted. "Let me guess… you are with the Seelie Court, and you are here to beg me to join your side and put an end to the stupidities of the Third Unseelie Court?"
The four mortals stared at each other in mute surprise, then turned to face her. The same thought ran through all their minds, though for far different reasons – Third….? Still astounded, Alex muttered, "How did you…?"
Sekhmet chuckled softly and arrogantly accommodated herself in her seat. "I," she said with a certain dramatic flair, "am a war-goddess. I know everything concerning wars and such. Hence the tittle 'war-goddess'. It's only natural that I know about this conflict… A being such as I is armed with the knowledge of the ages and the powers of the gods…"
"Is she?" Angelica whispered to Brooklyn.
"There's a catch… I know there is…" Brooklyn mumbled in reply.
"Well, Miss Sekhmet," Alex spoke up, taking charge of the situation, "you seem to have a firm grasp of things here. Care to explain to us what your people are up to?"
"My people?" the goddess questioned.
"Yes," Brooklyn spoke up, not able to contain himself. "What's this 'Unseelie Court' business and what are they planning to do?"
"You mean besides battling Oberon and the Seelie and destroy everything that you hold dear? …I haven't the foggiest idea," Sekhmet replied with some petulance. "Not that it is any of your business, mind you, but I've long ago given up the Unseelie' lifestyle. As for who they are…" she turned to Alex, "…I think your friend owes you a long, interesting history lesson. Because if I'm not mistaken, his father was part of the last war."
She paused and looked at Alex. A second later, so did Brooklyn. It was obvious Alex remembered something about that Unseelie Court thing Sekhmet had mentioned and he didn't like it. Neither did Angelica, who hadn't said anything so far. Brooklyn and Sata, however, felt that they had just walked into the middle of a mystery.
"I understand now," Alex spoke. "So that's what's going on."
"And you also understand the depth of your problems, don't you?" Sekhmet continued. She snorted lightly and added, "If it makes you feel better, I do not plan to join the Unseelies this time."
Alexander's eyes brightened, "You'll join our side?"
Sekhmet gave him a cold, deadpan "No" and Alex quickly un-brightened. "I honestly think that --heaven help me-- I'm getting too old for this sort of thing. You two can fight your petty war of you want, but leave me out of it and stay out of my lawn. I have better things to do than to follow the antics of people with too big an ego."
"You won't fight?!" an astounded Brooklyn gasped.
The Timedancer's shocked expression was something of an insult to Sekhmet. "Please, is that shocking? Give me a little credit, Timedancer. I, too, have a life beyond warfare and taking over the world."
Indignated, Brooklyn said, "Excuse me if I don't believe you."
"Believe me or not, jump off a cliff or not, I care little," she said. "I only want to be left alone for the rest of time. In fact, I think it's a win-win situation. I never see you again, you never see me again, and so the circle of life continues."
"Jeez, we haven't seen each other in thousands of years and you're already biting my head off?" Brooklyn added.
Sekhmet bared all the teeth and snarled, "You're the one that's--"
"Guys!" Alexander interrupted, chuckling awkwardly. "Let's not get carried away. If Sekhmet is not with the Unseelies…" He faced her and added, "Then you should know they will try to recruit you. We have information that they may attempt to find you to--"
"I know." Sekhmet cut him off, "I'm very aware of the position I'm in. Haven't I made myself clear? I do not plan to enter this conflict. Not for the Unseelies, not for Oberon, not even for you. That being said, its time for you to leave."
The divan's doors opened and the cat-girl stood there, expectantly staring at the intruding quartet. Defeated, Alex forced out a smile and said, "I suppose we've made our point. I sure hope we don't meet again as enemies, Miss Sekhmet."
"Not to sound rude," she replied, very coldly, "but I personally hope we don't meet ever again. Now leave."
* * *
Not even bothering with further good byes, the troop followed the cat-girl down the heavily decorated hall. She was one step short of literally booting them out of the house. Once they were outside, the girl closed the door behind them and several bolts and electronic locks sealed the door.
"Thanks for having us!" Brooklyn yelled, then proceeded to curse both his luck and Sekhmet.
"That wasn't so bad," Angelica was the first to speak. "I think Miss Sekhmet was telling the truth about not joining this upcoming war."
"That's just a bunch of bull," Brooklyn snarled to himself. "The Sekhmet I know would never give up a good ol' fashioned blood-fest…"
Sata, however, shook her head and added, "If she were the Sekhmet you knew, she would've tried to kill us by now, if what you say is true."
"Sata has a point," Alex said. "Why waste such an excellent chance to eliminate us? Come on, let's go home. We're two hours away from sunrise here in Egypt. I can only imagine your jetlag when we get to New York…"
Brooklyn grunted softly and said nothing else as he quietly followed his friends to the hovercraft parked right in from of the mansion. He supposed the guys were right. They were alive, weren't they? He had a hard time believing a creature who once went on a rampage that killed thousands of humans. With a record like that, his skepticism was more than justified.
But to give up just like that? She just let us go? She let go of the pillage and destruction? Just like that? It's been thousands of years but…
The red gargoyle looked up towards the night sky…and thought he saw a shooting star. He chuckled, lightened up just a little and hurried to catch up with his wife. He grabbed her by an arm and pointed upwards, "Hey, Sata! Check that out."
Sata looked and smiled too, "A shooting star! And look, there's two more! How lovely. And they're getting bigger too!"
Alex and Angelica also looked upwards, but it was Alex who said, "Shooting stars aren't supposed to get bigger."
They all stared at the night sky as the 'shooting stars', all five of them, seemed to get bigger and bigger and closer and closer to them. "Uh-oh!" one of them, or all of them, gasped as shooting star number one landed on the hovercraft they were about to board.
"Run for it!" Alex shrieked and the quartet began to scatter and run for their lives.
Shooting stars two and three --or ballistic missiles if one wants to be scientifically accurate-- crashed right in the whereabouts of Sekhmet's estate and surroundings, immediately leveling part of the goddess's west wing and surrounding palm trees.
The other two missiles landed near where the hovercraft had been, creating an even bigger cloud of dust, smoke and out-of-control fire. And because there were only so many places to duck from an attack in the desert, the best the gang could do was hide behind the scattered palm trees here and there.
It was then that the hovercraft appeared, coming down hard next to the blown-up one, lifting up yet another wave of sand as it landed. Its door opened and a scantly clothed woman stood triumphantly by the entrance. "Lucy, I'm home!"
Meanwhile, the mortals made a break for it and reconvened behind Brooklyn's palm tree. Unfortunately, the woman noticed them and snapped, "A-ha! And what do we have behind palm number three?"
She lifted her hand high and sent a bolt of lightning towards the palm, tearing it in half. The broken trunk missed Angelica by inches and they all jumped away in startlement.
The woman, clad in a golden armor, with a quiver of arrows strapped in her back and a bow in her hand, smirked when she got a good look at them. Brooklyn was the one that caught her attention and she said, "Timedancer. Nice to see you again."
Alex gave Brooklyn a little smirk, "Aren't you popular today?"
"Friends of yours, Brooklyn-san?" Sata was quick to ask.
"I don't necessarily know everybody who's out to kill us, Sata…" Brooklyn replied.
The woman walked down the aircraft's stairs, strutting around as if she were royalty, with a group of about ten ugly goblins behind her. They were howling loudly and showing off the several chains and pipes they carried, probably made of something that wasn't iron but was equally heavy.
She strolled to their burnt palm and smiled at them. With a hand on a hip and the other one twirling an arrow like a baton, she chuckled, "I leave for five minutes and she's already consorting with the competition. Oh, Sekhmet, what am I gonna do with you?"
"And…" Alex began, taking a step forward, "…you would be…?"
"Anath, field commander of the Third Unseelie Court and war goddess extraordinaire! Learn it, live it, love it. Well, learn it, because I don't think you'll live to love it."
"Come on, lady…" Brooklyn began trying to sound polite. "We don't want any trouble…"
He was ignored as Anath focused on Angelica, who much to Brooklyn’s surprise, was actually hiding behind Sata. "Hey, blondie! You sure like to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, don't you?"
Angelica cursed loudly enough to warrant a look from Sata. Angelica stepped away from her, crossed her arms and said, "I don't think your master will be pleased with this!"
"What the master doesn't know won't hurt him," Anath retorted.
All the mortals stared at Angelica, bewildered by the whole conversation. "Is there something you want to tell us?" Alex quipped.
Anath, however, didn't give her a chance to speak at all. She turned to her troop of goblins and snapped, "I'll take care of Sekhmet! Kill them all!"
Before anyone could register, Anath popped out of existence and the ten ugly looking creatures held their weapons high and gave a battle cry, in hopes of intimidating the enemy.
The tallest one, what could be the leader, yelled above the crowd, "Chicks dig scars, pain heals, glory last forever!"
"What are those?" Sata muttered, taking out her katakana.
"Redcaps!" Alex replied. "Their hats are dyed with human blood!"
Brooklyn nodded and mumbled, "Oh. Great." Then he grabbed a gun off his belt and started firing.
* * *
Anath re-appeared just a few steps away from the mansion's huge white doors. She turned back for a moment and grinned as Redcaps and mortals started to kill each other. Hopefully, Nicholas' little sister would die a horrible death. Anath could get in trouble for that, but it would be some time before Nicholas heard the news. By then, it wouldn't matter anymore. No more pests who could drive Nicholas away from their organization with moralizing lectures.
But now, to the matter at hand. She wondered why Sekhmet hadn't showed up outside to face her, but it didn't matter. "Sekhmet!" she yelled, "Come outside and die with the little honor you have left!"
Blah, blah, blah. Since when doyou care about honor? Sekhmet's disembodied voice echoed in Anath's mind, Come and get me!
Anathlet out a snarl and transformed her bow and arrows into an enormous sword. "Die!" she yelled as she charged towards the white doors…
…and ran into an electric magical force field instead…
The bolt alone sent her hurling a few meters backwards until she crashed head first into a dune of sand. Fried, polka dots danced in her vision until the distinctive gleam of a sword made her focus.
Sekhmet, no longer in human appearance, but in the shape of a frightening lion-headed goddess of warfare, held a long sharp sword at the edge of her neck. She wore the elegant and devastatingly beautiful armor that she had used back when she was leading her army to destroy a couple of thousand humans.
"Tsk-tsk. How did you make 'field commander'?" Sekhmet teased. "You saw that? It's called strategy. Make your target come to you. Not only did the field fry you like a bug, but also provided me a good laugh. And I got it all on tape."
"Not bad," Anath allowed. "For someone who wants to spent the rest of her days gardening."
Sekhmet's smirk vanished, "That may be," she said, her tone dropping ominously. "But I'm not a gardener yet and I assure you, I'll defeat you once again." She smiled just a little. "Just like old times."
"Indeed." Anath took the opportunity to kick her off, jump to her feet and reach her fallen sword while Sekhmet still gathered her wits. "Just like old times!"
Sword clashed against sword and they battled on, after a thousand years of feud. About time too.
* * *
Brooklyn dodged a goblin's wrench, snatched it from his hand and whacked him with it when Anath was blown backwards in the distance. Sekhmet appeared a second later and the two had engaged in a sword fight. That sorta explained who was the real target there. It didn't make Brooklyn feel any better though.
The critter he had smacked got up in less of a second and Brooklyn had to hit him several more times. "What's with these things? They just don't stay down!"
"They regenerate almost instantaneously!" Sata added, piercing another Redcap with her sword. It fainted immediately, but a greenish glow told her that it was healing. At least her sword seemed to slow it down somehow.
Alex and Angelica were also doing their best, electrifying and subjecting the Redcaps to all sort of spells, but the creeps just kept waking up and fighting back. Alex, for one, was exhausted and out of ammo. He resolved to whack everything that moved with the back of his rifle. And if things couldn't possibly get any worse, sunrise was an hour and twenty-odd minutes away.
At one point of the fight, all the ten Redcaps were down, but at least four of them were recuperating already. However, it gave them enough time for a badly needed strategy meeting.
"Alex, we can't possibly keep this up!" Angelica was the first to complain. "Can't we, I don't know, tie them up so they don't bother us?"
"With what?" Alex complained. "Sekhmet's front lawn is nothing but sand and palm trees! We had stuff in the hovercraft, but Anath blew it up."
"Which brings us to another point," Sata spoke up and gestured to the distance, where Anath and Sekhmet were fighting each other like demons. "What do we do with them?"
"Nothing," Brooklyn sassed. "Why ruin their fun?"
"Sata's right," Alex continued. "We can't let them fight for the rest of eternity and we’ve got to get rid of the Redcaps. Maybe if Anath gave up, she'd retreat and take her troops with her."
"But we cannot get close to them. Not without getting hit by a few missed punches or electrified by random bolts of magic," Sata argued. "How can we be of help?"
"Oh, that's easy!" Angelica interjected, and gestured to Anath's hovercraft. "That thing has weapons, right? What's stopping us from getting inside, aiming, and shooting at Anath?"
"Now that you mention it…" Brooklyn began.
As the Redcaps began to wake up, the whole group made a break for Anath's hovercraft, and soon four goblins were right behind them. Sata grabbed the one in the lead by the shirt and hurled him like a big rock towards three other Redcaps coming their way. "Go on, we'll hold them off!"
Alex and Angelica made it to the hovercraft while Brooklyn and Sata took on a wave of five Redcaps that just refused to stay dead. They took them down easily, though they got up almost instantaneously.
But once by the hovercraft, Angelica screamed, "Guys, the door is locked with a password!"
"Great!" Brooklyn snapped, as he smacked one goblin with the tail and punched another in the face. "Don't worry, I’ve got it covered!"
He watched as Sata sliced two more while a third, the relative tall and slightly smarter one, didn't immediately attack Sata and looked wary of her sword. It was him whom Brooklyn grabbed by the throat with one hand and lifted him off the ground. "You! What's the password to get that thing opened?!"
"Ain't telling ya nothin', ya punks!" the Redcap sassed back.
Brooklyn's eyes narrowed and he smiled wickedly. "Sata, chop his arm off."
Sata lifted her sword and aimed it at the Redcap's pudgy arm.
"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! It's Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" the Redcap cowered in fear.
"What!" Brooklyn snapped.
"Don't ask me, I just work here."
Brooklyn choked him harder and growled, "The truth, critter!"
"But it's the truth!" the Redcap cried. "They wanted a word nobody could ever spell, even if they ever got it! So good luck getting that thing opened, because nobody--"
Suddenly, the hovercraft's door opened and Alex cheerfully said, " Three thousand times and counting! I love that movie!"
Brooklyn tossed the Redcap back in the pile of unconscious goblins and the gargoyle couple ran to join the humans inside the craft.
* * *
Their swords clashed and clashed, but neither of them was any closer to victory.
Their hatred and their pride were too strong to let them toy with the concept of losing. Each of them was bent on gutting the other one to death. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they had the same skill with the sword. So this could take awhile.
Anath blocked, Sekhmet parried. They could easily stop fighting with weapons and simple hurt each other with magic, but what was the fun in that? They were war goddesses, deities of warriors. Hand-to-hand combat was part of the joy of being a warrior. Humans didn't understand that; they contented themselves with pushing little red buttons to blow up people from the comfort of their own home. Sure, that method was morbidly amusing in a way, but what about the perverse pleasure of physically tearing an enemy apart? The simple things in life were still the best…
They battled and battled, then battled some more. Surely, the fact that they had hated each other for a dozen centuries was a factor in choosing a physical combat. Part of the perverse pleasures, but…
But. But. But.
How long is this going to take?Sekhmet's mind began to wander. She blocked and fought, but continued thinking. She doesn't want to lose, I don't want to lose… And I'm certainly not going to lose. Anath may be good but she's not that good. It won't be long before she starts making stupid mistakes…
But knowing Anath, it could take awhile. Hours. Even days. An image flashed through her mind… Two grannies dressed up as Sekhmet and Anath, their bones riddled with arthritis, but still trying to lift the swords to fight each other.
Anath wasn't that good and the Fay couldn't age, but the image lingered in Sekhmet's mind for some reason. If it weren't Anath, it would be someone else. She saw all the Fay she had ever known, both Seelie and Unseelie, as riddled old grandpas and grandmas reduced to taking each other's walking sticks and stealing each other's heart medicine.
This is stupid,she thought, this is so, so stupid.
She cleared her mind and fought harder. It wasn't about the perverse pleasures anymore. This was about speeding this up. The faster she beat Anath, the quicker she would leave and the sooner everybody would leave her alone.
Stupid,her thoughts echoed, stupid, stupid, stupid.
A missile broke both Anath's and her concentration. Anath was in the middle of another "What the--?" when another missile landed dangerously close to her. The explosion knocked Anath right to the ground.
Sekhmet, ever the unrepentant, took the chance to kick Anath and buried her head in the land. "Be a dear and stay there for a moment," she said as she looked towards the source of the missile. It was coming from Anath's hovercraft. Did the Redcaps hit the wrong woman…?
"Why you!"Anath began to snarl, as she pulled her head out of the dune, "I'm not your personal rug!"
"Aren't you, now?" Sekhmet said, perfectly deadpan.
Miss Sekhmet!a soft feminine voice whispered, Seek cover! She recognized it as the voice of that quarterling human that the Timedancer had brought. And just like that, Sekhmet's unconscious prayers were answered.
* * *
Miss Sekhmet! Seek cover!Angelica told the goddess, using one of the most basic spells her father taught her. She was pleased when she made the craft's camera zoom in on the two women. The image showed Sekhmet smiling toothily and giving her thumbs up.
"Fire, Alex!"Brooklyn urged him. "Fire!"
Alex looked into a small computer screen showing the bull's eye, Anath, the war goddess extraordinaire. Aiming, however, was made difficult because Anath's ten Redcaps had surrounded the aircraft and started to shake it. It was like a bus being shaken by a mob who wanted to turn it sideways. Woodstock 2108 all over again.
Alex managed to lock her on target after all. With a mischievous grin he said, "This is for my hovercraft…"
* * *
Anath literally didn't see it coming. Sekhmet made sure of that when she tossed sand in her eyes, hit her with the back of her sword and ran the other way.
"Come back!" was the last thing Sekhmet heard, "Come back you--"
The blast cut her off and Sekhmet didn't get around to hear the whole insult. From what she could make out, the mortals had been kind enough to send three missiles right towards Anath. Or was it four? Sekhmet wasn't sure, she didn't bother to count.
The Egyptian goddess stood back for a few minutes and watched the pretty, pretty fire. Had Garlon been there, he would've said that marshmallows were in order. But he wasn't there and Sekhmet found she didn't miss him at all. And the fire…the fire was nice but she could live without it too.
Anath eventually dragged herself out of the explosion site. Her clothes were relatively fine, with minor rags here and there, and her body was more or less unharmed--it took a lot more to actually kill an Unseelie-- but she looked effectively distraught. She would not fight again that night, and that was okay, just what Sekhmet wanted.
"Game, set, match," Sekhmet teased. "I won!"
Anath gave her a look full of hatred. "You…"
Anath shook her head in utter frustration and shrieked, "Who needs you!?" She tossed her big sword at Sekhmet's feet and turned around, marching right towards the desert…
Sekhmet did the only thing she could do: she gloated.
* * *
Sunrise was less than fifteen minutes away and the mortals still hadn't left.
By then, Sekhmet had long ago began to ignore their pleas for her to join them. She was tired, but the mortals wouldn't shut up. It was the Timedancer, of all people, who finally said, "Leave her alone, guys. It's obvious she doesn't want to fight."
Sekhmet gave him a questioning look and Brooklyn shrugged. "If you had plenty of opportunities to kill us. The fact we're alive proves you're not working with the bad guys."
"And that they tried to kill me didn't tell you anything?" the goddess snorted.
"Uh, yeah, that too," the gargoyle replied.
She gave him a look but gave up arguing with him. She instead turned to Alex and said, "I think you've all overextended your stay here. Sunrise is coming. Either you get those things out of here--" she gestured to Brooklyn and Sata, "--or they have a close encounter with my sledgehammer."
"Right. As you'd like, Miss Sekhmet," Alexander courteously retorted.
"You understand, of course," she continued, "That the only reason I'm letting you go is because you shall tell everyone to leave me out of your stupid little war. And if I ever see any of your faces again, I won't treat you as kindly."
"So we assumed." Angelica muttered under her breath.
That, as they say, was that. The group 'borrowed' Anath's craft, since she faded into the night and was gracious enough to take the ten Redcaps with her.
Alex took them out and once high enough, Sekhmet's mansion faded from sight and radar. The invisibility spell, Alex presumed. It needed it, because the place had looked pretty messed up from down there.
"Great mission log for Artus," Brooklyn sighed. "Mission: total disaster."
"It wasn't that bad," Sata casually commented. "You said it best, Brooklyn-san… we're not dead yet. And Miss Sekhmet also won't be fighting against us. I think this is a pleasant outcome. Better have her neutral than against us."
"Yeah…" Angelica muttered, absentmindedly looking out a window. "Anyway, we have better things to worry about…like this Third Unseelie Court business…" Her tone dropped to a far more ominous one and she turned to Alex, "You know what this means, don't you?"
Alex nodded in reply but said nothing. Brooklyn and Sata, however, did not understand. "Alex…" Sata questioned, "what does it mean?"
Alex didn't reply, and even if he had, the married gargoyles wouldn't have heard it. The sun rose in Egypt and the gargoyles were incased in stone once more. The millionaire was thankful. He didn't feel like telling the whole story.
It means that a war is coming,Angelica quietly pondered, and we have to be prepared… Oh, Nicholas…
* * *
"Oh, Sekhmet…" Nicholas groaned. "I guess she won't be useful after all…"
What a disappointment. He had watched the entire battle and seen the strength of the goddess resolve to be neutral. Too bad. She was a smart one, smarter than Anath. A pity she didn't want to fight.
With only a glass of water, he had seen everything that happened. The battle over, he simply shook the glass and the image of Sekhmet's half-destroyed mansion vanished from the water.
He made Garlon turn the aircraft around and head to Egypt for the third time those last twenty-four hours. Anath had been foolish enough to lose her craft to the enemy and in the last image he had from her, she was walking in circles around the desert with the Redcaps closely behind her. Better get her before she fainted from sunstroke.
"So Anath failed," Garlon spoke up. "What will you do with Sekhmet?"
"Nothing." Nicholas replied, "I think she's going to stay neutral in the war. If she won't, we'll know soon enough. Anyway, we've wasted a lot of time dealing with her. We still have to coordinate the matter with the gargoyle. We have better things to do that to deal with a temperamental goddess. Have you contacted the people?"
"We haven't found a couple of them, but I'm sure the word is out already."
"Excellent," Nicholas retorted, taking a sip from his magical water. "Most excellent. Hurry up and find Anath. We have important things to do."
"After all, it isn't easy to plan a war…"