I do not own Harry Potter, no matter how many times I wish I did. Absolutely phenomenal chapter image by the amazing Lee (Jeanie) at TDA. Thanks hon!
First, I would love to thank all my fantastic readers and reviewers - you guys are really, really fantastic and I love you all so very much. If you're reading this, it means you've decided to join me in on this adventure (having made it past the treacherous chapter one), and so I thank you! Enjoy.
Olga Kurylenko as Grace Lawless
Daniel Craig as Maxwell "Black" Blackthorn
Hugh Dancy as Hugo Weasley
To the Readers
Please enjoy, and I'd be thrilled if you left me a note telling me what you thought!
Grace was bleeding badly, the previously gray shirt now completely drenched with red, but she set her jaw and walked into the antechamber nonetheless. She made it as far as halfway across the dark room before she felt something heavy and thick drop into her hair, and something equally strong wrap around her ankle.
An all too familiar sound was heard and Grace screamed as she saw the serpentine head of cobra coiling itself around her thigh.
"Get them off of me!" she shrieked at Black, who was frozen as a viper started to slither up inside his shorts. At the sound of her hysterical voice, he jerked out of his stupor, grabbing behind him for his gun. Grace's eyes widened in fear.
"Are you insane?" she roared, her hands tightening around the throat of the snake. Black, blind to her screams, grabbed the viper that was now twining itself around his waist and dropped it.
With a single bang! he shot the reptile. A look of victory on his face, he turned to face Grace, whose snakes were now approaching her jugular. Their inch-long fangs dripped with venom and acid. With a slick dread he realized the one coiled around her neck was a black mamba, the most poisonous snake on the continent.
"MAX! KILL THE FUCKING SNAKES!"
"Right," Black growled, and gripped his wand, cursing once again the sorcerers who had placed such sadistic wards around the tomb. A flare of red light spun out of the tip of his wand and hit the deadly beast. The mamba immediately dropped from Grace's neck and sped towards him, spitting menacingly.
" Black bellowed, wand aimed at the serpent. The mamba immediately shrunk. Grimacing in disgust, Black went to stomp on the snake, leaving its guts and blood smeared in the dust.
In the meantime, Grace had managed to rid herself of the cobra, but not without a great deal of effort. The creature's corpse now lay in front of her, blasted into three parts by her gun. She wrinkled her nose in discomfort, spittle falling from her chapped lips.
"Snakes," she wheezed. "I hate snakes."
Black grinned crookedly. "The feeling's mutual, I think. It didn't look as though they were too sweet on you, either." He stroked his stubble, appearing pensive. "Although that king cobra - I'd have him fried any day of the week." Black looked down at the corpse of the snake and kicked the head. "Ah, good thing they're gone. I'm not too keen on vipers, personally."
Grace swatted at him feebly before stumbling forward. Black's hands immediately went to her bloodied waist.
"Whoah, now, Lawless." He spoke in a low voice. "Don't go weak on me here." Grace smiled at him feebly and straightened up, brushing her sweat-drenched locks out of her face. She cast a glance around them and gasped.
"Black!" she exclaimed. "Just look
at all of this!"
What little they could see of the room was filled with artifacts and objects dating from at least three thousand years prior to their invasion. Grace swept her wand around her in order to light up the antechamber, but it was Black who thought of sending a ball of fire careening to the middle of the room, lighting it up in its entirety.
It was filled with potteries and statues, utensils and rotting wood. Only then did Grace notice how pungent the smell of dying termite had become. How they'd found their way down into the dank hole she had no idea, but her nose shriveled all the same.
"Shit," she heard Black whisper hoarsely, and she forced out a chuckle, despite the searing pain she felt in her back. "This is a fucking gold-mine."
She nodded noiselessly, agreeing with him. Yet she was not here to admire the pretty little vases. She had work to do. Scouring the chamber for something worth more than a couple EGP's in Cairo. Something pretty, perhaps. Shiny, definitely. Maybe even something with power.
Black, in the meantime, had taken an acute interest in the miniature gold statues set to guard the mummy's chamber. Grace rolled her eyes in disgust.
"Come off it, Black. Hurry the sodding fuck up so we can get the hell out of here. This fucking Pest is eating me alive." Black only sneered.
"Who made you the bloody Queen of Sheba?"
Grace set her mouth, pulling her gun from her holster and aiming it at Black's skull. The red dot was trained on the spot right between his eyes and he winced, knowing full well what she was capable of. He raised his hands in surrender and rubbed his hair forwards.
"Fine, fine. Just stuff these beauties in that pretty old vase in the back and let's get the hell out of here, yeah? You're about as weak as a newborn kitten right now." She growled, her lip curling in that cruel, mocking way, and he had to swallow hard to keep from lunging at her. But she complied, not dropping her gun, and wrapped her free arm around the dusty vase. Balancing it against her blood-streaked hip, she motioned for Black to put the statues inside. He did so, tossing them in unceremoniously.
They made a hollow sound when they hit the bottom, and Grace hissed with displeasure. He might have broken the vase.
"Let's go," she muttered, and stuffed the vase, statuettes and all, into her pack.
That evening, at their camp, Grace stood in front of a crackling laptop and near a pathetic excuse for a fire, looking directly at the screen. The transmission was rotten, and she could hardly hear a word of what Hugo was saying, but still, they tried. The screen had distorted his face to a wide, blurry blob of peach-colored skin.
"How d- ... th- ... -aid g ...?" Hugo asked, with what could be described as concern etched on his pixellated face. Grace adjusted the computer and glanced at Black, who was on guard at the perimeter of their encampment, a cigarette clenched firmly between his teeth.
"It went fine," she answered blithely. Her hand unconsciously went to her waist and she grinned crookedly. "The both of us are fine."
"Bollocks," she heard Black mutter from behind her, and the nauseating smell of a Camel filled her nostrils. Hugo's smudged eyes turned their gaze to Black, and Black breathed in heavily.
"She got hit by a Pest, Hugo. We don't even know what kind of Pest it is." He kicked a rock furiously. "She's bad off."
Hugo turned to glare at Grace.
"Why ... -idn't y- ... -ell me?" he asked, pulling out a notebook. Grace bit her lip but stared right back.
"I didn't want you getting worried. And it's nothing I can't handle." Hugo eyed her warily.
"... u're bl- ... ding," he stated, and Black leaned in.
"And bad, too. Look, it was something like a whip or a crop that hit her three times in the back. The wounds are deep. I dressed them as best I could, but you and I both know I'm not a Red Cross nurse."
Grace scoffed. "Hardly." Black ignored her.
"Figure out what it is, Weasley. You know how she hates being taken care of." His eyes gleamed in the campfire light.
"Ignore him, Hugo. I'll be fine. Here, tell us what on Merlin's sweet earth we found in that musty old pyramid." Grace motioned for Black to bring over the vase. He did so, albeit grudgingly. Grace held up the vase to the monitor's camera so that Hugo might see it properly.
"Here. We found this. Know anything about it?"
Hugo squinted and clicked his pen. "Des- ... it, wou- ... ou? ... ere's n- ... uch light."
Grace groaned. "Stoneware vase, two handles. There's a circular impression in between the handles. Hm ... etchings of crocodiles and agapanthuses ... agapanthi?" Black leaned over her shoulder, studying the vase's odd patterns.
"Look here," he muttered. "The handles aren't regular handles at all - they're sculpted. One's a lioness, the other a cat. Sekhmet and Bastet. Counterpart goddesses. Think it has any actual value, Weasley?" he mused.
Hugo's eyes went wide. "Th- ... Urn ... Se- ... -met!" he exclaimed. He pulled out what looked to be an enormous tome from his side and started flipping through it. Grace laughed forcefully, the pain still shooting through her back, and moved to shut the laptop down.
"Get back to us when you figure something out. In the meantime, I'm going to get some sleep." Hugo nodded, not looking at the screen, and Grace closed the computer.
An hour later, while Grace was dozing quietly in her tent, the fire spat and Hugo's head appeared among the flames. Black turned around warily, gun at the ready, before recognizing their faithful compatriot.
"What's up, Weasley?" he asked casually, setting his weapon back in its holster. Hugo looked around.
"Is she asleep?" he asked nervously, and Black nodded. Hugo sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I found out what kind of Pest she got hit with. It's the one that guards the Urn of Sekhmet, rather than the mummy, quite ironically. Which is odd, because if you think about it, Saqqara has a pretty colorful history of sorcerers protecting the sarcophagus rather than the artifacts. Funny that the two of you blasted into the one pyramid that kept the Urn safe."
Black growled. "Get on with it, Weasley." Hugo nodded.
"It's called Infection. You mentioned she got lashed three times, correct?" Black cocked his head to acquiesce, and Hugo continued. "They weren't regular lashes. There's a sort of poison on the whips, one that can't be identified - it changes constantly. Some possibilities I've explored are adder and black widow venom, arsenic, wolfsbane, veratrine, and hellebore, among others. So far, all I'm certain of is that it's spreading within her, and fast. She doesn't have much time until the poison reaches her main arteries." Hugo looked desperate. "Bring her to Cairo, Max. It's the only way to save her."