Start for a book idea I had. Feedback appreciated.
| She was too wired to sleep. Even if the sounds of the other members of the dig celebrating weren’t filtering in through the walls of the tent she wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Dr. Zawahiri had come to the site to tell everyone about the results of the testing on the mummy today and after had come to see the work on the tomb when they had made the breakthrough into the new room. The colors on the wall had been amazing, but they hadn’t been able to stay in the room because the air was toxic. The new room was exciting, the level of preservation was amazing, but there was something about it that was calling to her. Work at night was prohibited for safety reasons. She needed to see the room though and most of the camp would be asleep and those who weren’t would be too far gone to care. She got dressed and peaked out through the flaps of the tent. There weren’t many lights on in the camp. She picked up her flashlight and walked towards the entrance to the tomb. She kept the flashlight off till she couldn’t at all and when she turned it on she kept it covered with her hand until she had gone deep into the tomb. By now the air had had time to circulate and clear from the room, but she still hesitated at the entrance trying to test the air for any hint of danger. The air seemed clear so she walked into the room and shined the flashlight around the walls. She had only had a few minutes to look at the room the last time she was here, but there was an area that had caught her attention. A series of hieroglyphs that were separate from the others and in an unusual arrangement. The fact that the owner of the tomb was nameless added to the mystery. This room was the most likely to hold the key to the owners identity. She swept the flashlight around the room again, looking for a cartouche that would signify the name, but there weren’t any so she began to read.
Cleo’s first memories were of her mom bent over in the storeroom at the university piecing together a clay jar. Her mother’s passion for history and archaeology had rubbed off on her and when the opportunity to for the summer internship had come up she had jumped at it. All the years of working with her mom and the games they had played that had taught her Egyptian history and hieroglyphics had paid off. She was the only undergrad intern at the dig and aside from the teasing about her age things were going great. When she got there they had just found the tomb and were barely beginning the excavation. By the time it was half way over they had found the burial chamber and the mummy had been taken to the university for examination. There had been no name on the tomb and the only identity they had came from the examination. It was a male, mid 20’s and most likely a pharaoh from the artifacts that were found in the wrappings. It had been Cleo’s responsibility to read the inscriptions that were found and she had been busy which made the lack of a name for the tombs owner more than strange. Historically names were erased after the pharaoh’s death to try to prevent them from entering the afterlife. In this tomb the name hadn’t been scratched out after the fact. It wasn’t there.
The story Cleo read on the walls was one of a young prince who had inherited the throne when his father and older brother had died in a river boat accident. His time on the throne had been short lived though as he also died less than a year later although how he had died wasn’t mentioned. When Cleo got to the part that had caught her interest she stopped. The hieroglyphs didn’t make sense. They weren’t names and they didn’t seem to have anything to do with the story around it. She read it a second time out loud trying to make sense of what it meant. As the sound of her voice echoing off the walls faded she started to feel dizzy. Thinking that the air in the tomb was still toxic she turned to leave but fainted before she took her first step towards the door.
As high priest Seneb usually spent his time in the temple overseeing religious rituals and the training of priests. Today though he was going to see his old friend and he wished it was under better circumstances. It had been a week since the pharaoh had been placed in his tomb and the door sealed. The death of the eldest son had been a problem. No tomb was prepared for him and work was still being done to prepare one for his burial. The mummification had proceeded as necessary to preserve the body for the afterlife though and now the body was lying in a temporary tomb guarded by the royal guard to prevent robbers from desecrating the body and stealing the jewelry and talismans that had been placed in the wrappings. Even though he had been raised as the son of a pharaoh with all the education and training that was necessary to become pharaoh, Kaykhet had not really been prepared to take on the responsibility and danger that came from being pharaoh. Seneb was concerned about the rumors that were being whispered about a conspiracy to overthrow Kaykhet. The pharaoh had many sons and they all had ambitions for the throne. Kaykhet’s brother had a son already and had been somewhat protected from the scheming of the lesser wives and their sons, but Kaykhet had not married yet and was still vulnerable. Seneb wanted to talk to Kaykhet about the situation. A marriage was important and an heir even more so to protecting Kaykhet but Seneb knew that this wasn’t a high priority for Kaykhet right now. His fathers and brothers death had hit him hard and he had thrown himself into the burial preparations and the building of a tomb for his brother. Seneb made his way through the palace to the set of chambers that belonged to the pharaoh. Kaykhet was discussing the progress of his brother’s tomb with one of the architects. When he saw Seneb he dismissed the man and stood to greet him.
When they heard the door close they embraced and greeted each other warmly.
“What news have you brought me old friend?” Kaykhet asked as they both sat down.
“My priests have been working hard to discover the details, but there is certainly a plot against your life. The conspirators seem to be working hard to keep their plans a secret. It’s hard to say how much time we may have before they will act.”
“This was a danger I had hoped never to have to face. I never cared for palace politics. What about the other matter?”
Seneb leaned forward with restrained excitement showing on his face. “I believe I have found something that could help us. I have done much searching of the texts and believe I have found a way to call someone back from the future. It is an ancient spell and I have hope that it will work.”
“What do we need to do?”
“I will need you to make arrangements for one of my priests and myself to have access to a room in your brother’s tomb. I think it should be set aside as a sacred room to keep suspicion away. We cannot allow anyone else in the room when we are finished. We will need to write an inscription on the wall. Once it is read aloud the person will be brought back to that room in our time so we will need to make a show of being in the room for a few days to make sure that when the person appears no one else will find them. The only problem is that we will have no control over who reads the inscription and will have to be especially careful about hiding this person.”
“This sounds like a tricky plan. I can convince the workers of the purpose of the room easily enough and keep them away, but there is a great deal of uncertainty around who will be brought to us with this spell. What if they are an enemy? What if no one reads the inscription?”
“It is true; this is not a fool proof plan. But until we are able to discover the plans and plotters against you I think this is worth the chance. I will make sure that one of my most trusted priests is always guarding the room. The spell should work quickly, so we will know in a day or two at most if your brother’s tomb will ever be opened once you have sealed it.”
“I will talk with the architect as soon as you leave. Prepare to begin your work tomorrow and we will both hope that this works.”
They embraced again and Seneb left the room. The pharaoh walked to the window and looked out. He had never expected to become pharaoh and had spent most of his time growing up hunting and play fighting with the other princes of the palace expecting to take a place in the army when his brother became pharaoh. Now those same brothers he had laughed and played with were probably plotting to take his life and take the throne for themselves. There were a few that had seemed to be interested in creating alliances and working their way into the inner circle even though they had little chance of becoming pharaoh. Kaykhet had dismissed their ambition as hollow given their position, but now realized that being pharaoh was much more dangerous than his father had made it seem.
Cleo woke up to the worst headache she had ever had. That was all she could think about at first. Then she felt the hard stone under her and opened her eyes. She was in the tomb, but it looked different. At first she thought the headache was causing her vision to blur and play tricks on her. As she looked around she realized that there were parts that looked unfinished and the finished paintings looked like they were newly painted. Then she realized the air smelled different too. It was fresher although there was a distinctly smoky smell that hadn’t been there before. She was trying to stand up when she heard a noise coming from the entrance. She looked up and saw a man who looked as startled to see her as she was to see him. The man turned to look down the hall as if hearing something and Cleo looked at him more closely. He was wearing a costume that made him look like an Egyptian priest. It was very authentic looking and Cleo thought this must be some kind of practical joke. She had been seen entering the tomb when she wasn’t supposed to be there and the other students were playing a prank on her for breaking the rules. She was going to say something when the man turned back and spoke. It took Cleo a minute to register what he had said. He was speaking quickly and in a hushed tone and the language he spoke wasn’t English.
“Who are you?” she asked, confused. The man just looked at her then looked down the hall again. He was obviously nervous about something. He looked back at her and spoke again. This time he spoke more slowly and a little louder. This time Cleo realized he was speaking ancient Egyptian and managed to translate what he was saying even though it didn’t make sense. He was asking her when she came from, not where but when.
“2009” she said in ancient Egyptian although it seemed silly to her. He looked at her puzzled and she thought maybe he hadn’t understood her. She was about to repeat herself when he spoke again.
“This is the time of Kaykhet. How many pharaohs since his reign to your time?”
This made no sense. She recognized the name from the inscriptions on the walls of the tomb. This must be a joke, a very elaborate one, but a joke nonetheless. She started walking toward the man intending to end the joke and find something for her headache when the man held up his hand.
“Please, you cannot leave this room. There are too many people around and you are not dressed properly. People would notice you and raise an alarm.”
“This isn’t funny anymore. I have a headache and I want to go to bed.” She said this time in English. The man just looked at her confused again and kept his hand up. He was blocking the entrance and she would have to push past him to leave.
“I do not understand what you said.” He said still speaking in ancient Egyptian. “Please stay here. I will bring you some clothes and explain things further, but you must stay here.” His expression was a mixture of concern and anxiety. He was an excellent actor if this was a joke. Cleo decided she wasn’t going to get off easy and may as well play along.
“I’ll stay here,” she said in ancient Egyptian, playing along, “if you bring me something for my headache and some water. I don’t feel well and if you expect me to play along you’re going to have to help with that.”
Seneb looked at the strange woman standing before him not sure what to make of what she was saying. She was sitting down though so he decided he would have to risk leaving her unattended in the room while he found some clothes that would hide her appearance. If he could find a servant to help he would also try to bring her a tonic for her headache. He made his way out of the tomb and looked around to see if anyone had seen him leaving the tomb. It was late and although it wasn’t unusual for a high priest to visit a tomb while it was being constructed, he didn’t want anyone to become curious and go into the tomb while he was away. He made his way quickly to the palace and found a servant.
“I need a tonic, I have a headache.” He told the servant. The man simply nodded his head and rushed off to fulfill the request. Seneb looked around wondering where to go next. He hadn’t prepared for a woman to be the one brought back by the spell and was having difficulty figuring out how he was going to get clothes for her that would cover up her appearance enough so people wouldn’t become curious without also raising suspicion by making her look out of place. He decided servant’s robes would have to do and when to the servants quarters to find some clothes. The servants knew who he was from sight and knew better than to question his request for clothes. He went back to the palace entrance where the servant he had asked for the tonic was waiting for him. He took the cup from the man and left without a word. He wanted to run, afraid that the woman had left the tomb or had been discovered by a guard, but he knew rushing would only draw attention and couldn’t afford the risk. He walked up to the tomb entrance and looked around to see if anyone was around. It was late so there weren’t many people who would have reason to be out moving around the construction site. Seeing no one nearby he entered the tomb and made his way to the woman. She was still sitting where he had left her holding her head and looking unhappy.
“I have brought you a tonic for your head.” He said. She looked up at him and then to the cup he was holding out to her. After a moment of consideration she took the cup from him and looked at the liquid inside.
“What is this?” she asked in English. The man just looked at her and she realized he really didn’t understand her when she spoke to him in English. She repeated herself in ancient Egyptian.
“Tonic. It will help your head pain. Please drink it and put these clothes on. We cannot stay here much longer. One of the guards will hear us talking and come to investigate.” He said. He handed her a bundle of clothes made of linen and walked toward the door of the room. She drank the tonic, grimacing at the bitter taste. She didn’t recognize the ingredients and wondered what was in the drink. The cup was definitely not what she had expected and she was beginning to wonder if this wasn’t really an elaborate hoax. From what she had seen she was wondering if something had happened to her. It felt too real to be a dream, but at this point that was the only thing that made any sense. The man was standing by the door with his back to her. He seemed to be listening intently for any sign of another person coming into the tomb. She decided that dream or hoax, she may as well play along and put on the clothes he had handed her. They were loose robes that brushed against the floor and hung on her like a shapeless bag. Not sure what was supposed to happen next she cleared her throat to get the man’s attention. He turned and looked at her and nodded.
“Put the hood up to cover your face. You must keep your face covered and not speak. I am going to take you to the palace now. I will try to explain things when we are in the palace where I can control things better. We are too exposed here.”
She put the hood up and the man took her arm so that the sleeve of the robe didn’t expose her hand. He led her out of the tomb and she looked around as they walked to a large well lit building. It looked like an ancient Egyptian palace, but where it was in relation to the tomb made no sense. She should be seeing the camp where all the students and archaeologists had put up tents for the summer.