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reveuse2


The fine art of procrastination

or stuff I wrote when I should have been writing something else


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"The Mummy" fanfiction (Ardeth Bay); Home is where the heart is; pg
ardeth2
reveuse2


Hmmm, a bit older, this one - and maybe a little lightweight. But I do love me some Ardeth and this is the only time I ever ventured there.

Title: Home is where the heart is
Rating: pg
Word Count: 2,237
Pairing: Ardeth Bay/OC
Warnings: none
Spoilers: none
Disclaimer: Ardeth is the property of Universal pictures, more's the pity

Summary: Betrayed and bitter, it seems Ardeth has developed a death wish - until he's about to meet his maker

Home is where the heart is

In the moment before his death, the irony amused him.

Ardeth Bay smiled as sunlight caught the blade that descended, in a glittering arc, towards his exposed throat - knowing his apparent defiance would merely provoke his enemy further.

And in those seconds before his end, when it is given to man to review his life, Bay examined this apparent change of heart. Everything remained as it had for the last 18 months: the bitterness that had dogged his days and haunted his nights, the humiliation of her scathing farewell. Everything that had made him so constant in his courting of death was there…with one addition. Now, he wished to live.

He closed his eyes – not against the face of death, but merely to savour this final lesson in Fate without distraction. Allah, embrace this fool and bring him into paradise.

There was no pain at the point when he knew the blade must connect, no change at all in his circumstance. Bay wondered whether this was the true nature of death: to find oneself still immersed in life, without the capacity to live it. Or perhaps it was the form of Eternity saved for those who had spurned the days granted to them. He opened his eyes, and the light blinded him, forcing him to cast them down. His chest was soaked with blood - as he had known it would be - yet, still, he felt no pain.

When he turned his head to one side and felt the sand grind into his face, he began to suspect. When he saw the body of his assailant lying beside him, throat slit from ear to ear, he knew. Whipping his head around, he squinted into the fierce brilliance of the overhead sun. There, silhouetted against the light and swathed in the veil and robes of his people, stood his apparent saviour, the dagger still bloody in his hand. Bay reached out, willing the other to lean toward him just enough to block out the glare, to enable him to see the face of the person who had either saved or condemned him.

And the angel fled.
……………..
They buried the dead and distributed the wounded among the survivors, and thus the depleted band of warriors reached the tented settlement with Bay at its head. Self-pity case aside, once more, for the mantle of responsibility, he refused all succour until the last of his men had been delivered into the care of his family.

There had been no more time to contemplate his own survival, for the battle had been raging, still, when he rose to his feet to make after his saviour. His movement had thrown him back into the heart of the storm and, this time, he had fought with the will of one who wished to see the calm beyond it. The realisation did not lie easy with Bay: that he had been willing to sacrifice his soul for the peace he imagined death would bring, only to discover he preferred the emptiness of life. But duty had been his companion since he was sixteen years old, when they brought the body of his father home. It must be duty which spoke to him now, for there was nothing else to hold him here.

They moved about him quietly – bathed, dressed and fed him with reverent care – unaware of how their respect of his need for silence isolated him still further. He thanked them as they left him to the night and, turning onto his back, he stared into the darkness. He was tired, and yet he resisted the sleep that beckoned so enticingly at the edges of his mind. In sleep, he would find only her – the one that had robbed him of the true rest it should bring.

He cursed the mere thought, aware that he could not avoid the memories now, even while awake. The picture of her smile; the high, breathy sound of her voice when she said his name; the light of his beloved Sahara reflected in her pale hair and the sky in her eyes. Six months of patient longing, relieved only by the occasional touch of her hand and, latterly, the bliss of a soft, innocent kiss. But he had waited gladly for this one, who had moved his heart as it had never been moved before – waited for her to be sure. And when the time had come, he had asked her with the confidence of a man who had observed nothing but the mirror of his own devotion.

‘You want me to what?” He had tried, so hard, to scourge her words from his heart, but he could not. “Ardeth, you must have known that this was just a game. You couldn’t think that I would seriously consider…”

That was all he had been to her. A game, to while away the half year she had stolen from her parents, before she ‘settled down’. He had thought she waited for the sanctity of their marriage bed, but she had never considered it - because the English gentleman she coveted would not contemplate a woman soiled by an Arab savage. His heritage meant nothing to her, his fidelity even less. She had laughed in the face of his love.

……………….

The youths lined up in the increasing heat of the late morning sun, their hairless chests heaving from exertion. Each had sparred more robustly, perhaps even more recklessly, than usual – aware that the eyes of their Chief were on them as they performed. Bay paced the line, noting that infinitesimal straightening of their already ramrod stance as he passed each warrior-in-training. He looked each one up and down, just as he had observed them as they fought, but he detected nothing. As he reached the end of the line, he gestured for their commander to join him, and moved apart from the group. The commander nodded respectfully, then turned and dismissed the young ones into the shade before joining Bay.

He looked across at the youths as they rested and took water in the tented area to one side of the training ground. Nodding towards them, he addressed the man at his side. “Are they all here, Commander?”

The man’s forehead contracted into the slightest of frowns. “Yes, Lord, as you ordered.” His mouth tilted up at the corners. “Not that they required any persuasion. It is not every day a young warrior’s prowess is observed by his Chief.”

He nodded. “True enough, but it does no harm to keep an eye on them. Soon enough, their training will be done and they will be called upon to replace those who have fallen.”

The commander’s expression sobered, and he watched his charges with the eyes of a man who both loved and hated his lot. “Yes, Lord.”

Bay’s expression softened. His was not the only bitter path. “And yesterday, commander – were any absent then, even for a short while?”

“No, Lord.” He watched his Chief closely, wondering what lay behind the impromptu inspection, but the man’s face was shuttered. “My Chief…?” He hesitated to bring Bay’s temper down on him – for it had been too often unleashed this past year or so - but concern for his protégés fed his resolve. “…is there something I should know? Has one of them displeased you in some way?”

Bay sighed and laid a heavy hand on the man’s shoulder. “No, commander, they are a credit to you and your skills.” He straightened, his hand dropping away. “Thank you, that will be all.”

The man looked into his eyes for a second, and then bowed his head. “Yes, Lord.” He turned and paced back to his waiting trainees.

Bay went to his horse, swung himself up into the saddle, and headed back towards the settlement.

.....................

As distractions went, this had been a singularly dissatisfying one. Clearly, the youngster who had so bravely acquitted himself by saving his Chief’s life yesterday had no intention of identifying himself. His flight from the battle scene, and his failure to come forward for medical treatment, indicated as much. Bay hadn’t intended to embarrass the boy. He was merely curious as to his identity – as a Chief, and as a man. The boy’s courage singled him out as a potential leader of men, while his devotion to his Lord conveyed upon him the honour of rousing the interest of a man who cared little for anything these days.

But now Bay was concerned by his failure to spot the boy responsible. In this heat, untended, the wound to the leg he had been seen to sustain, as he fled the battle, might fester. Well, if he would not go to the medics, perhaps he would go to the women. He would ask his mother to make it clear among them that, if such a wound were presented, word of it need go no further.

He slowed as he approached the tents once more, knowing what lay ahead this afternoon. What was the point of it? They both knew, their families knew, how it would eventually end. But there was protocol to be observed, however futile the exercise might seem. As he handed over the reins of his horse, and walked slowly towards his tent, he promised himself that he would be gentle.

…………………..

There was no denying her beauty, but it failed to touch him, as it always had. Now that their six-month period of formal courting was almost over, the truth would soon lie between them. Bay had no doubt that she would refuse the match, as would he. No woman could be drawn to a man who showed her such little attention, or regard. Still, he regretted the discomfort it would cause her, when she returned to her own village. Though she cared nothing for him, and there was no disgrace, among his people, in refusing a match, her family would surely chastise her for ruining their dreams of such a lofty alliance.

Having been persuaded by his mother to attempt this, he had tried, at first, to like her. Indeed, there was nothing to dislike. But there was nothing to stir his blood, either. No fire, no temper to match his own - no spirit other than the placid one that sat obediently in front of him now, pouring his tea.

He remembered the other one’s fire: the slap on his face that had so shocked him, he who was used to nothing but obedience; the fingernails biting into his wrists as he held her fury in check. She had struggled as he pressed his lips to hers, but then her struggle had turned to a languid compliance that set his body alight - and then his own struggle had begun, to stop at merely a kiss.

This one held the cup out to him, her eyes respectfully down-turned. “My Lord.” Her voice was low, barely carrying to him through the thickly heated air of the tent.

“Thank you.” No. If there can be no passion, then I choose solitude. “Ishmeera, look at me.” She hid it well, her surprise at his uncommon use of her name, but he could still see it, in the dark eyes now fixed intently on his. “Our time together is almost done,” he continued quietly. “I think, perhaps, today, we should be honest with one another.”

She inclined her head, acknowledging his uncharacteristic concern. “As you wish, Lord.”

“You must know I will refuse the match.”

She blinked, once. “May I know how I have failed to please you, Lord?”

“It is not you who has failed. No woman could have succeeded.”

She stared at him for a long moment and Bay found himself growing uncomfortable under her scrutiny. “Do you truly wish to know my thoughts, Lord?”

He raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Yes. You may speak freely. It will go no further, I give you my word.”

“Then, I agree with you. The failure is yours, Lord. Men go to their deaths willingly, each day, under your command. And yet, in eighteen months, you have not allowed yourself to live.”

Her rebuke stung him. “Who are you, to judge how feel? What do you know of a warrior’s life? Of his heart?”

Her gaze remained steady. “Only that which I am permitted to know, Lord.”

He felt the muscles of his jaw twitch. “I have no wish to live. I survive only by the will of Allah, to do my duty.”

“Then Allah must grieve with me, and you are the fool she named you.”

The pain blazed in his eyes. “Leave me! And do not come again.”

He watched as she rose to her feet. She was tall for a woman, her head almost touching the dipping canvas at this end of the tent. She bowed to him, before she turned to go.

“Farewell, Lord. May Allah continue to protect you.”

He wondered, as he watched her walk away, whether she had meant it as a blessing or a curse. And it was only as she lifted the flap of the tent, and stooped to leave, that he noticed how she favoured her right leg as she moved.

He leapt across the space between them and caught her wrist. And then, with a tenderness he had forgotten he possessed, he drew her back into the tent, before his angel fled again.

 

 

 

 


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