Welcome to Dragon & Tiger

Title and Chapter Number: The Rescue 1/1 Vignette
Fandom: The Mummy
Rating: R for implied violence
Disclaimer: Ardeth Bay and The Mummy Characters are owned by their respective creators and they retain all rights. OC's are owned by me.
Special Warning: This is pretty dark, everyone survives, but some are the worse for wear.
Beta: Mayetra
Cast: Ardeth Bay, OC Female
Timeline: After The Mummy Returns, except that Horus returns as well. I guess that makes it AU.
Spoiler: Not really, since this never happened
Summary: Ardeth goes for a walk and bumps into the neighborhood bullies.
Notes: I started this a year ago last fall. My Mum was recovering from a near-death illness, 9-11 had just happened, and I was feeling generally like the world was unstable under my feet. I don't know where this came from, but it was the strongest, most urgent thing I've ever been compelled to write.

The dawn that Horus had returned alone 5 trackers had ridden out in search of any sign of their missing Chieftain. Horace flew above them, his sharp falcons’ eyes scanning the horizon for his master.

A glint of metal had brought Horus from the sky and horses thundering across the dunes after him. Half buried in the sand was Rick O'Connell's spyglass, gifted to his friend after they'd saved Rick's son from the Scorpion King and defeated Anubis' warriors

Horus again took wing, circled, then flew westwards, into the setting sun.

With his own spyglass, a tracker scanned the dunes in the failing light. Halfway again to the horizon he saw - something - outlined by the suns last rays.

For the moment, the raiders were secure in the erroneous belief that no one knew they were there, and so were lax in posting sentries. They were also not terribly vigilant in the guard of their prisoner.

As the Medjai silently surrounded the raider camp, a shadow crept between dark tents, sword sheathed, hand on the hilt. Adrenaline rushed through her, heightening her already tense-to-snapping senses.

She knew, in theory, exactly where to find him. The trackers had watched the raider camp for days without seeing any sign of their chieftain, but there was only one tent that was guarded night and day.

Muffled voices froze the shadow in her tracks. From their volume, tone, and laughter, they knew nothing of her presence.

The guards were away at the fire throwing dice and drinking. She watched them momentarily. They didn't seem interested in paying any attention to the prisoner inside. The shadow slipped around the back, opposite the guards. She knelt and drew her knife from her right boot. A sudden commotion from the fire stilled her again, but it was only raucous laughter and gave her perfect cover as she split the heavy canvas of the tent.

She stepped through the tear. The front flap of the tent was left partially open, letting in just enough fire light for her to see a figure crouched in the center of the tent, hands and feet chained to the tent's center support pole. He was naked, his legs drawn up to his chest; his head rested on his arms folded across his knees. His long dark hair was matted with blood, his back and shoulders crisscrossed with cuts and half healed whip marks, his arms and legs covered with black-blue-green welts, and his ribs showed like sun bleached bones. His usually olive skin nearly glowed in the darkness. The ancient runes he had tattooed all over his body hadn't protected him much...or had they? He was, after all, still alive.

Her stomach turned. Surayia stepped towards the prisoner. "Ardeth," she whispered. He was asleep or unconscious. She crept forward, searching for a place on his body where she could touch him to rouse him without hurting. She paused again, kneeling next to him, "Ardeth." Her left hand hovered over him, her knife still in her right.

Slowly he lifted his head and turned towards her.

She couldn't look at him. "Give me your hands," she whispered. Blankly he stared at her knife. "Please, don't you want to go *home*?" In a spark of clarity he raised his hands to her. She jimmied the locks on the manacles then worked on the shackles.

Momentarily Ardeth was free and she replaced her knife in her boot. She slipped her cloak off of her shoulders and over his. Weakly he tried to stand. Surayia steadied him with both hands on his left arm. Her cloak barely reached his calves. He put his arm around her shoulders and she supported him with her arm gently about his waist. He swayed then hissed through his teeth as her arm tightened on his broken ribs.

Surayia tipped her head towards the rip, indicating their route of escape. "The Tribe follows, they will cover us."

She paused momentarily to let her eyes adjust to the darker darkness outside. They stumbled with all speed possible across the sand.

Out here beyond the firelight the night was dark as pitch. The moon had been full the night Ardeth had taken his ill fated midnight walk, alone, as he was prone to do when troubled or simply feeling cooped up. No moon had risen this night and the stars were mere pinpricks of light. Surayia guided their path by them.

Halfway to where she'd left her horse the rescue was discovered. Alarms were sounded; shouts were audible above the general chaos. The tribe would be riding in now, hoping Surayia had Ardeth safe, to chase the raiders back into the deep desert, or preferably to let their blood water the sand.

Soon, she could see the last rise where she'd left her horse. With one final glance behind her, Surayia whistled for Nico. His ears pricked and he tossed his head in the air trying to scent them, a horse’s eyesight not being its best in the dark. Surayia whistled again and he eagerly trotted to them. He could smell and hear the battle and was eager to join it. He would be disappointed.

Nico stood statue still for his mistress to mount. Ardeth steadied himself with a hand on Nico's flank as Surayia swung into the saddle. She reached down to give Ardeth a hand up. He clasped Surayia's forearm and struggled to lift his bare foot into her stirrup. She had to heave with all of her strength and nearly overbalance herself out of the saddle to get him up behind her.

Ardeth settled a bit too heavily onto the saddle and Nico sprung away, nearly dislodging both of his passengers. Surayia reigned him in and turned him in tight circles to calm him. Ardeth clung to her waist as well as to the warhorse. Surayia could feel how weak his grip was on her and feel the lack of strength in his legs. Their ride would need to be short.

Surayia allowed Nico an easy trot and turned him away from the battle, in the direction of their camp.

The rest of her party would be catching up behind them soon; she wanted to have Ardeth safe in her tent before any one else could see him. He would be mortified if his people saw him in this state. She clucked Nico into his best long lope.

They circled the oasis; Surayia wanted to enter the camp from behind, nearest her tent. When the guard signaled, Surayia said to Ardeth, "raise your hood, we're almost there". She saluted to the sentry and waved off help. She informed the guard that all was well with the rescue and to expect the rest of the party soon. "Please have water, wine, and a light supper sent to my tent."

Surayia intended to dismount, then help steady Ardeth as he did. Unfortunately, her feet had barely touched the sand when he came tumbling down. Only her strength and one of his hands on the saddle kept them from landing in a heap in the sand. She half dragged him into the tent and dropped the door flap, indicating that her ordered supplies should be left outside, then settled him on the palate. He instinctively curled on his good side into a tight ball.

Surayia stoked the fire in her small brazier, the nights were growing chill this season, and all he had to cover him was her too small cloak. The tent began to warm nicely and a gently breeze had risen, sucking the fire smoke out the small hole at the apex of the tent. Almost immediately there was a scratch at the door flap. She brought in the trays and cups, and let the flap close again behind her.

She set the food and drink down next to the palate and moved to a shadowed corner of the tent where she opened a small but ornately carved wooden chest, from which she chose a few healing herbs, bandages and salve. She warmed some water to cleanse Ardeth's wounds, then mixed some still cold with the wine and herbs. Then she crossed back to Ardeth with a cup of the watered and drugged wine.

She touched him gently on the shoulder, "Ardeth," she whispered, trying not to look at his face. He raised up to rest on one elbow and she handed him the elixir. She busied herself over the tray of food, choosing his favorite cheeses and rare fruit as he raised the cup to drink. The sudden moisture nearly choked him. Surayia jumped up, thinking she'd somehow hurt him. He suspended her aid with an upraised hand. He downed the wine, irritated that it was so thin.

Surayia bade him roll over and turned away to refill his cup as he did, still not looking at his face. She'd have to soon, but not yet. He uncurled and rolled on his stomach so she could cleanse and dress his back.

Surayia lifted her cloak off of him. She couldn't shrink from the sight now; she was all he had. Her stomach clenched and she fought back tears at the sight of him. She draped a light, soft blanket over him, then lifted it gently to treat his wounds. She sponged the blood and filth from his skin, there wasn't a hand span of flesh from his nape to his heels that wasn't marked with lash marks and/or bruises. Despite her care, he still flinched once or twice while she salved and bandaged the worst of his wounds. She could do nothing for his broken ribs.

By now the wine and herbs were easing his general pain, and the salve was taking the edge off the worst of the cuts. "Turn, Love," she said.

He turned stiffly towards her, coming to rest on his relatively unhurt right side again. "Surayia - " he began, his voice was cracked and dry, but it was still his voice.

"Shhh. Eat," she quieted him by handing him something from the tray.

As she passed him his refilled his cup he took hold of her hand with his. His long fingers wrapped all the way around the cup and her hand as well. He simply held on for a moment, trying to catch her eyes with his, then let go and sipped his wine.

The little fire was burning down, so Surayia moved to feed it.

He lay back so she could finish tending his hurts. The wine and herbs were making him sleepy, and sitting up had further drained him.

She returned and gently flipped the blanket off of his legs, trying not to notice how completely naked he was.

She worked her way up from his feet, but only so far, then covered his legs again and pulled the blanket down to his waist. When she'd done all she could for him there, carefully avoiding his broken ribs, she knew she had to look at his face.

His beard was overgrown and as matted as his hair. His lips were dry and cracked. Then finally his eyes: the left was almost swollen shut and there was a nasty cut over his eyebrow. Surayia cleaned and salved his eye when she realized that he was fully awake and watching her. She gave a start and he took her hands in his. "Thank you Surayia," he whispered.

Surayia was flustered, "Y-you'll need a bath," she stammered. She realized immediately what a bizarre thing that was to say.

"Tomorrow," he said, as a man who yesterday hadn't expected to live to see tomorrow. Ardeth smiled and kissed her fingers, then drifted into sleep. He would be himself again soon, but his 'self' would never be the same.

Surayia stepped outside into the crisp dawn air. Horace glided like the Sky God he was, in lazy circles on thermals above the oasis.

She had wished to clear her head but instead her anger and frustration welled up blinding her. She could barely contain her rage at what had been done to him. She couldn't get past it because she hadn't put blade to Raider flesh. She was full to brimming with fury. She even hated the sun as it rose, she was sure she wouldn't be able to take in all of his hurts all at once in the bright daylight. Her insides clenched yet again, and Surayia emptied her stomach onto the sand.

Surayia reentered the tent and sat for a long time just watching Ardeth's chest rise and fall.