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Ardeth's Dream: The Ring of Nuit
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four
Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Dimly, vaguely, he heard a loud explosion. He turned towards the sound, his clothes billowing straight out behind him.
Beige dust, much like a khamsin, billowed up into the air, then roared down upon Ardeth. Sand, grit, stone, debris, even people were jumbled in together, screaming. Keening wails of thousands, a million, echoed in his mind, his ears.
He raised his hands up to protect his face but he was caught up in the dust storm, screaming, hearing the echoes of other screams, tumbling, turning, twisting in the terrifying demon khamsin.
Grit filled his mouth and he involuntarily swallowed. He tried to squeeze his lips together but the force of the demon khamsin forced his mouth open and grit poured itself down his throat, filling up his stomach.
"Chosen One, find me," a female voice, weak, whispered in the swirling demon khamsin.
"Help us, Ardeth!" a voice, a million voices, whispered.
"Find what?" Ardeth tried to ask but his mouth was filled with more grit.. "Help who?" he said through a mouthful of grit.
Soon, Ardeth's screams were stilled.
As always after this dream, Ardeth sat up, soaked with sweat, his eyes wild with fear. Fear. He used that word when he thought of the High Priest Imhotep to Pharoah Seti I. Fear was not defined as a bad dream.
But still the meaning of the dream eluded him. Who was he supposed to find? And exactly whom was he supposed to help?
City of Memphis, Reign of King Djoser: approximately 2646 BC
"I need you to build a Temple to Nuit, Goddess of the Sky," King Djoser intoned as he took a date from the bone platter held up by the young black haired girl. He bit into the date. "The priests tell me she wishes her temple to be built outside Djeba," he said as he bit into the date again, finishing the dark fruit.
The High Priest Imhotep merely inclined his head. "The Temple shall be built, my King. Nuit's Temple shall have walls of lapis lazuli, to represent the dark night sky with the stars," he said as he picked up an amber necklace and held it up to Ra's light.
Turning the amber necklace, Imhotep noticed how the amber caught Ra’s light and reflected Ra’s golden fingers. There was an ant caught in one of the large honey colored amber stones; it had been carrying a bee’s wing when it wandered into the path of the ancient sap dripping down the pine tree.
"It has been said that the Physician, High Priest and Architect Imhotep's skill is known over to the Eurphrates and Tigris Rivers," King Djoser said, indicating that Imhotep should accept a faience cup of barley beer.
"I am pleased that my efforts do not go unnoticed," Imhotep replied, taking the proffered cup from a young girl who offered it to him.
"Efforts? Here sits the world's renowned physician and he refers to his miracles as 'efforts!" King Djoser exclaimed. Imhotep merely inclined his head. Djoser continued. "Your treatment of the swollen belly of my son was nothing short of a miracle," Djoser commented. "Tell me, how did you treat the Hawk in the Nest’s illness?"
"Usually, when the lower right side of the abdomen swells and grows hard, there is nothing anyone can do," Imhotep said, taking a sip of his beer. "When a corpse afflicted with swollen belly was brought to me, I took the opportunity to examine the area of the swelling. I noted that there is an appendage at the bottom of the intestine that was swollen," Imhotep replied.
"So you found a way to remove the swollen appendage!" Djoser exclaimed again, pleased that he had discovered what Imhotep had done. Imhotep merely inclined his head.
"In your son's case, the Gods decreed he would live. But the Gods decreed that your mother's daughter's son would join the afterlife," Imhotep said, a bit sadly.
"Such is the will of the Gods. Neb had work to do in the afterlife," Djoser said, sipping his own beer. He motioned for a courtier to bring a scroll and hand it to Imhotep. "Your fame has increased my stature, and the stature of Egypt. I am pleased to honor you with another title: Vizier." Djoser said, as he took another date from the platter offered by the slim young girl.
Imhotep inclined his head as he accepted the proffered scroll. "Thank you, my King. Architecture is one of my stronger suits," Vizier Imhotep told Djoser as he took a sip of the barley beer.
"The priests say Nuit's Temple needs to be built by the the time the large star in the north is next to the full moon. Did that make sense?" Djoser asked Imhotep.
Imhotep nodded. One of his myriad duties to the King was that of High Priest and Physician. And as High Priest, he'd known astrology like the back of his hand. Djoser was telling him Nuit's temple must be built by the beginning of the second flooding of the Nile. In other words, her Temple must be built in less than two harvests of the dhurra wheat.
Imhotep's first love was architecture, although as a priest, he'd been trained as a physician. As a child, he loved to take stones and build small things. Later, he'd figured out how to cut the stone, and make the stones fit together to build a wall taller than his head. At that point, his imagination had soared and he began to dream of building soaring stone buildings which would pierce the belly of Ra.
It was he who had designed and supervised the building of the miraculous step pyramid--the stairway to the afterlife--on the Plain of Giza at Saqqara. Already, the traders from across the Great Green had brought word to their own people about the miraculous vision Imhotep had had in building the pyramid.
Giza was where priests before him had trod upon this plain for thousands of years, thousands of harvests. Legends handed down from antiquity said that Giza had been inhabited for fifteen thousand years--a staggering number in Imhotep's mind.
Imhotep brought his mind back to the present. Nuit's Temple needed to be built--and quickly. He could use the leftover stone from the quarrying of the Step Pyramid and float the stone downriver to Djeba. He knew her temple would need to be small, no larger than an arrow's cast across. He would festoon the walls of the temple with murals and stud the walls with the stone of Nuit--lapis lazuli.
The dark blue stone with golden flecks was the earthly embodiment of the velvety dark night sky studded with stars. Lapis lazuli was a rare stone, traded from far beyond the Tigris River from the mines in those distant lands. Lapis was a royal stone, and only royalty could wear the precious dark blue stone as jewelry. And lapis lazuli would be used--albeit sparingly--in Nuit's Temple.
"When can I see the Temple's plans?" Djoser now asked Imhotep, interrupting his thoughts.
"They shall be ready by the next full moon in less than a week. Her Temple needs to be built in less than two harvests of the wheat," Imhotep replied.
"I shall provide the lapis lazuli for her Temple myself," Djoser said, and motioned for another young girl, her eyes the color of honey and hair the same color, to bring him a faience glass of barley beer.
"That young one's hair and eyes are the same color," he noted to Imhotep, the changing of the subject indicating the King wished to talk of something else now that the demands of the priests had been discussed. He took a sip of his barley beer, twirling the faience around so as to catch the sunlight. "What's her name?"
"I have named her Khutenptah. It is said she was washed ashore at the mouth of the Mother Nile when a tempest stirred the waters. Pieces of a wooden boat washed up with her. She came laden with the amber stone you adore so much," Imhotep told his King.
Indeed, this was true. Khutenptah had been washed ashore, bleeding and frightened, during a storm on the Great Green. Tied to her waist were large leather bags of the golden colored amber stone and it was this floating stone that had help keep her afloat after the flimsy boat in which she and her people had traveled the rivers in had broken apart in the stormy sea. She was the only survivor.
Imhotep had had pieces of the boat retrieved and after a few months of studying them had concluded that the boat, although made of wood, had been constructed shoddily. He knew wood floated and wood could be used to make boats but reed boats were much easier to handle.
"A fitting name for your servant," Djoser said, sipping his beer. Imhotep was High Priest of Ptah and it had pleased him to name this young girl for the God Ptah.
The King had fallen silent, watching Khutenptah and the large amber stones she wore as a necklace reflected Ra’s light. She now danced for King Djoser, a silent dance, a sinuous dance, a dance without drums, without singers.
Imhotep took advantage of the King's distraction to think his own thoughts. He thought about how to build the small Temple to Nuit in Djeba. Yes, the walls would be studded with lapis lazuli.
But there was a flicker on the edge of his mind. Each time he imagined Nuit's Temple, he saw a great shaking of the earth, and three of the Temple walls falling inwards. He saw his own Step Pyramid, and three other Pyramids, their sides smooth, exploding into bits of dust, billowing the dust clouds up to meet Ra, and Nuit.
Imhotep saw a man, distantly (and he realized with a start that he was looking at the future). This man was tall, dark haired and dressed in flowing black clothes edged in silver (and at the sight of the silver edged black clothing, Imhotep gave an inward shudder of awe, for he felt this man was an earthly Son of Nuit). The man was placing a lapis lazuli ring in the Temple, right where Imhotep planned to erect Nuit's Shrine.
And Imhotep felt that this ring was--or would be--very important to help ward off what Imhotep felt was a catastrophe looming in the Son of Nuit's lifetime.
1940, Gebel Qartrani Mountains, Western Desert, Southwest of Saqqara, closest to El Faiyum
Ardeth twisted and turned on the large thick, red silk cushion. Beads of sweat dribbled down the side of his face and nestled themselves in the thick tuft of his beard. In the light of the small lamp placed near the entrance to his tent, the Watcher saw the wet silk cushioning Ardeth's body from the rough canvas floor of the tent.
The Watcher was Nuit, The Great Mother. She was worried about one of her Chosen Ones and she loosed some of her children to streak across the sky in shades of flame red and green, hoping to surround one of her Chosen Ones with peace and calm. One of her many starry eyes told her that several of Egypt's Children had seen the shooting stars, and had pointed them out to their friends as they ambled along the Nile this dark, starry night. Many of the Egypt's Coptic priests--devoted still to the Old Ways, when Nuit's power was strong--saw the shooting stars as an omen. But was it a bad omen or a good omen?
Ardeth moaned, a pained moan, a mournful moan. Under his closed eyelids, Ardeth's eyes moved back and forth as he lay, supine in REM sleep. Nuit continued her vigil, even as the Coming of Ra started to push her out of Ardeth's tent and into the West.
Nuit watched as the red silk cushion under Ardeth grew still more damp from her Chosen's One's sweating.
--His dream must be terrible indeed to bring on such a reaction in him--Nuit thought to herself.
A pained moan escaped Ardeth's lips and he shouted "nooooo!" as he sat up, breathing heavily. His eyes were wild, and large, as if he'd just seen the Demons of the Underworld--and they had told him they were coming for his soul.
When the moan escaped Ardeth's lips, Nuit knew what he was dreaming about, and her concern grew to outright terror for her Chosen One. For she now remembered a dream another of her Chosen Ones had had--thousands of years ago.
--The time has come full circle, my Chosen One-- Nuit thought.
Nuit caressed her Chosen One--Ardeth was her favorite--and she asked the Bringer of the Wind to whisper into Ardeth's tent a cooling breeze.
Still half asleep, Ardeth lifted his head and turned it towards the cooling breeze that ruffled the tent's flaps and dried the sweat on his skin. Nuit noticed Ardeth was looking at her, so she sent another of her children to streak across the Egyptian sky.
He heard a soft voice whisper, "Ardeth, Chosen One. With my ring, you shall conquer all that comes before you." He looked out the open tent flaps, his face full in the light, cool breeze. He saw Nuit send one of her children to streak across the sky.
He watched the shooting star, One of the Daughters of Nuit, momentarily pause--and hover--over the city of Cairo, far to the northwest. Ardeth watched as the Daughter of Nuit blinked once, blinked twice, and winked out.
He sucked in his breath when he realized that he was looking straight across at the row of tents opposite his--and not one of the tent flaps was held open by the cooling wind.
"Find the ring, Chosen One," Nuit's soft voice whispered as Ra began to spread his golden arms up over the distant horizon.
"How shall I know which ring is yours, Great Mother?" Ardeth asked the retreating Nuit.
"You shall know. You shall be drawn towards it with the help of another. My eyes are blocked so I can not help you. You must return my ring--my Earthly Body--to my ruined temple in Djeba by the seventh day of the new moon, or the dream you just had of the destruction of Egypt will come to pass," Nuit said over her starry shoulder and her soft voice faded out, and Ardeth heard no more from the Great Mother that day.
The Bringer of Wind gently faded the cooling breeze. Ardeth stood up, then turned and looked down at the red silk cushion. Wet silk, and ruined. It was a good thing that on the way to this encampment in the Qartrani Mountains, Dekel, one of the two children allowed on this journey, had run off on a side trip. Ardeth had been quietly furious with the fourteen year old, for he had allowed Meged to bring Dekel, for Dekel would soon have to assume the mantle of leadership in his family--Meged was seriously ill.
But Dekel, the fastest runner in the Med Jai, had come running back to the encampment after an hour: hot, thirsty and holding up what Ardeth--even at sixty yards--recognized to be ancient elephant ivory.
Dekel had proudly held up his prize for Ardeth to inspect. The prize Dekel carried was a long partly broken elephant tusk, and the youth had assured Ardeth there was a small pile of tusks hidden in the mountains. Elephants had become extinct in Egypt at about the time the Step Pyramid had been built. Ancient elephant ivory was worth a fortune in Cairo, and Ardeth knew that for one tusk, he could purchase enough food to feed his entire tribe for a year. A small pile, well, some of the proceeds would go to replace the silk cushion he'd ruined.
--I know I didn't like that dream--he thought to himself as he stepped over to the flaps and looked out of his tent. Ra was just peeping over the horizon. Ra seemed to hover on the horizon, a huge and red fireball, and reminded Ardeth of his dream. Ra grew bigger, and turned yellow red and finally Ra decided to spring up over the horizon, as if he'd finally made a decision to start this day over Egypt.
Ardeth could understand why Ra was hesitating to start the day.
"Help us, Ardeth!" cried the voice, the million voices, in his head. Ardeth sensed that the lives of millions depended upon him and he wondered if he was up to the arduous task that Nuit had delivered into his hands. He knew he first must return to Cairo.
"Find the ring, Ardeth..." Nuit's voice echoed in his mind.
Ardeth took a linen robe from a rope hook. Putting on the robe, he went through the tent flaps, walked across to the rim of the small valley. Ra's golden fingers were just touching the surface of the water. He'd been lucky in finding the water, with a rather deep pool fed by an underground stream and having a natural outlet so the deep spring pool was constantly refreshed with clean water. He walked down the path to the pool at the bottom of the valley.
He slipped off his robe, and slipped into the cool silky water. The pool was deep--the water came well over his head--and most gratefully, the pool was long. Ardeth could swim about twenty strokes before he touched the stone end of the naturally formed pool. He tried to think about anything except his terrible dream and he found himself thinking about the geology of North Africa.
--Strange thing to be thinking--another part of Ardeth's mind told him, but he was grateful for the diversion, because the billowing beige and black clouds from his dream kept trying to push their way into the forefront of his mind, and right now Ardeth needed mundane thoughts to keep his mind occupied.
Thinking back in the classes he'd listened in on at Cairo University in his early teens, Ardeth knew that the entirety of North Africa had been--about 6,000 years ago--grassy savannah with plentiful lakes fed by underground streams. A thousand years later, during the warming weather phenomenon known as the Altithermal, the entirety of North Africa had been transformed into a vast desert, with the exception of the Nile River and the delta.
The ancestors of the Med Jai Scribe had recorded on clay tablets that the heat became more searing every day of the year--and the year had become ten years, a hundred years, and still each of the Ancient Scribes had recorded on the clay tablets that the heat could, in a few hours, dry and harden the wet lump of clay on which he pressed his recordings.
Ardeth, Nuit's Chosen One, also knew from his University lessons that the Nile Valley was prone to earthquakes, like the ruined mountain city of Gallalah, in the desert near the Red Sea. He also knew there were aquifers under the desert and a good diviner--a Warlock--could find the water sources.
This particular pool had been part of a large, natural depression in the Qartrani Mountain range where he'd camped the Commanders of the Med Jai for the time being.
Sometime in antiquity, a powerful earthquake had struck the Qartrani Mountain area, and opened up a deep crack from which welled the precious water. The water poured down the side of the rock formation, into the pool and out of the far end of the pool, which was sloped gently downward.
"Help us, Ardeth!" cried the voices in his mind as Ardeth heard an explosion and a billowing cloud of beige dust mixed with black came roaring at him. He cringed, and then realized the sound was in his mind. He pushed the thought out of his mind and swam with powerful strokes back and forth across the pool. The dreams were coming regularly at night now, and Ardeth had begun to dread nighttime—and sleep. His face was showing the stress, and he had shadows under his eyes.
He continued his swim, desperately trying to keep the horrifying dream out of his mind: he stroked back and forth across the natural pool. Overhead, Ra's light was peeping over the edge of the small valley and a falcon soared overhead.
Ardeth remembered how he had in his youth, traveled down the Nile in a felucca, seeing for himself the stele on the island of Sehen which purported that King Djoser had Royal Architect Imhotep design and erect a temple to Khnum in an attempt to end a seven year famine. Legend told the very day the last stone was set in place, Isis wept her tears and the Nile began its inundation, ending the seven year famine.
Ardeth kept ruminating on the geology of the camping place. He most definitely didn't want to think about his horrifying dream--and what it meant. Nor did he wish to obey Nuit's command.
But he knew he would obey her command. He was the Commander of the Med Jai--Sacred Protectors of Pharoah--and he was descended from a long line of Commanders.
Some of his dreams revolved around a man he'd never seen before. He seemed to be called Men but he also used a scorpion in his cartouche. However, the other tribes of the region regarded him as Commander, and so Ardeth, in his dream, had attributed the title of King on this man. Ardeth kept seeing a disembodied hand offering a curved sword to this man, and receiving the precious turquoise stones in return.
Ardeth had long ago surmised he was dreaming of an ancient time, so ancient the time period was lost in antiquity. For in his dream, there had been no cities, just mudbrick camps and those camps were scattered along the Nile.
But the dream bothering Ardeth most was the dream he'd woken up from, sweating and shouting, just a few minutes ago.
"Find me, Ardeth. Hurry!" Nuit's voice echoed in his mind as Ardeth kept cutting the water with his powerful strokes.
He did not want to think about dreams--be they of antiquity or of the future. He wanted to swim, and to clear his mind of his dream. The surface of the pool now danced with Ra's golden fingers and droplets sprang up from the surface to land, sizzling, on the rock ledge, as Ardeth cut the surface of the water with his arms.
Reaching the edge of the pool and holding onto the edge while treading water, Ardeth now rolled a heavy rock that he'd placed on the edge when he'd first found the pool. Ardeth took three deep breaths, filling his lungs with air, and then a final deep breath. He let go of the edge of the pool and with the rock in his hands, he let the rock sink him into the cold water.
Ardeth sunk through the depths of the pool until he felt the rock thunk on the bottom of the pool. He hung onto the rock, sheltered in the dark depths of the pool. Ra's golden fingers had not yet reached in the dim depths as he was still in the lower half of the sky. Ardeth kept hoping he could forget the dream that had woken him up earlier, sweating and shouting, but he knew he wouldn’t and he felt a stronger sense of urgency as he sunk to the bottom of the pool.
“You need to dive, Ardeth, to find me,” Nuit’s voice echoed in his mind.
--I need time to think how to find you, Great Mother--Ardeth thought.
As he languished in the pool's cool dark depths, he thought about the topology of the part of the western desert in which he'd camped his Commanders. A Commander of the Med Jai needed to know the topology and geography of the both the Eastern Desert and the Western Desert. He needed to know precisely how long it would take him to get from one place to another on horseback, or by felucca, or, by airplane.
But the thought of airplanes terrified Ardeth. Terror was the High Priest of Osiris, Imhotep. Terror was not a bad dream. But Ardeth knew Nuit’s command meant that he’d have to calculate precisely how long it would take him to get to Djeba from the location where Nuit was located.
And right now, Ardeth didn’t have a clue as to where Nuit was located.
“Help us, Ardeth!” the voices shouted in unison and Ardeth started. The water in the rock pool was crystal clear and an image seemed to grow in front of Ardeth’s face. He saw the Pyramids grow larger, filling the sky, piercing Nuit and out into the atmosphere beyond, and then...the Pyramids exploded, and millions of voices filled Ardeth’s ears, keening, wailing their deaths. And the devil khamsin roared down upon Ardeth.
“It’s coming, Ardeth. Stop him!”
“Stop who?” Ardeth wanted to know.
He put his hands up to protect his face from the devil khamsin, and in doing so, he let go of the rock. He floated upwards and his head broke the surface of the pool. He swam over to the edge of the pool and hung onto the edge, his eyes wild with fear, and panting in terror.
Catching his breath, Ardeth dived down to retrieve the rock he’d left on the pool’s rocky bottom. He rolled the rock into his left hand, then rolled it halfway back into his right hand. Lacing his fingers together, he lifted up the rock, kicking his feet. It was hard work bringing the heavy rock back to the surface, but he kept kicking his legs until his head broke the water's surface. He treaded water and managed to get to the pool's edge.
Hefting the rock on to the pool's edge with a grunt, Ardeth let his arms hang over the edge of the rock pool. He kicked his feet and finally let his mind wander as to how best solve the problem which Nuit, The Great Mother, had put to him.
“Hurry!” a million voices whispered in his mind.
Small Hotel in Kahn's Bazaar, Cairo, 1940--Day One of the Search
Ardeth's three year old filly Tjia had nearly collapsed during the northeasterly run Ardeth made her do across the western desert. In the El Faiyum oasis, he'd put Tjia up in a stable, and had rented a fresh horse. He'd paid with several small rings of silver. The stable boy's eyes had grown large at the size of the payment, but he knew the Commander of the Med Jai was a generous man and would often have need of such help from poor stable boys.
He had ridden hard and fast the rest of the way to the Nile, stopping only to rest the horse. A sense of urgency spurred him on, and it showed upon his strained face. Upon reaching the Nile village of Beni Suef, he'd rented a fast felucca and paid the owner with a dozen rings of gold, which had not only earned Ardeth a fast felucca but the lasting gratitude of the felucca's owner.
Finally reaching Cairo, he had sought out a small hotel in Kahn's Bazaar, which rented rooms by the hour, and which he used often for changing his clothes and taking a shower.
Ardeth let the cool water flow over him and wash the sand and the salt from his skin.
As he showered, Ardeth couldn't help but thinking of his terrifying dream. He'd spurred his mount Tjia to her limits, and to his relief, Tjia had responded well to his commands. But during the nights on the felucca, the Dark One showed him what Egypt would become should Ardeth fail in his quest:
Ardeth stood on the edge of the gaping maw where the three Great Pyramids had once stood.
In the huge hole as deep as the Qartrani Depression, debris and human remains mingled together in a macabre mix. Already, the sucking dry air of the late Saharan summer had transformed the screaming corpses into dried husks, their hands reaching out to him, imploring, pleading him to help them, their mouths forever open in screams.
Tears were flowing down Ardeth's face as he looked into the earthly version of the Underworld.
"It is not too late. You still have time to restore Egypt’s Ma’at, Chosen One. It is not yet the seventh day of the full moon," Nuit's velvet voice whispered to him, comforting him as the tears flowed down his face.
Too late for what he felt would happen? That Cairo would be rent by a terrible shaking and later overrun by tanks and airplanes bent on destroying this very Egypt? When he'd seen the airplanes come from the Mediterranean towards Cairo, a long black line as dark as a line of thunderheads, Ardeth had started screaming in his sleep. He felt that the line of airplanes was a great pestilence coming from the north--north of the Mediterranean--and the pestilence couldn't be stopped from spreading.
It was at that point in the dream that Nuit, The Great Mother, had stopped to look at him and send some of her children to shoot across the sky to comfort her Chosen One in his sleep.
The shaking of Cairo he could stop. All he had to do was find the Ring of Nuit and return it to her ruined temple by the seventh day of the new moon.
And by getting the Ring of Nuit back to its rightful place by the seventh day of the new moon, Ardeth knew he could mitigate the effects of the coming pestilence on Cairo and the rest of his Egypt. But Ardeth knew he couldn't stop the pestilence from spreading to the rest of the world.
Ardeth finished his shower and had changed into the fresh clothes he'd packed with him. He paid for his room with a few copper bracelets and went to the small hotel's restaurant to pick up something to eat and drink. He knew he'd have a long hard journey ahead of him. The sounds of the bickering in Kahn's Bazaar filtered in through the shade of the many trees that the owner had planted in sturdy stone planters.
"Greetings, Ardeth," a pleasant voice, accented with a North London accent said. "Kem, your favorite belly dancer, is here today. Shall I arrange a private viewing with her?"
"Kem may be a pleasure to look at, but I have other plans," Ardeth said as John placed before Ardeth a plate of bread, a plate of meat and vegetables and a pitcher of iced tea.
"Ahh, yes. Which one called you?"
"Nuit," Ardeth said, taking a long sip of the iced tea. He'd discovered he'd liked iced tea; mainly he liked the sugar. He finished the glass in one long sip and refilled it.
"The Great Mother. Do you need assistance? Anything I can do?" John asked, inclining his head reverently.
Ardeth thought about this request. He would have need of a fast felucca...or even better, one of the small airplanes (he shuddered to think of getting on an airplane for in his mind he kept seeing that black line of airplanes heading towards Cairo with the malign intent of destroying the ancient city). Yes, an airplane.
"My friend, I have urgent need of an airplane. I need to get to the city of Djeba by the seventh day of the full moon," he told John as he picked up a piece of bread and sopped up some of the juice. He took a bite.
"Curry," he smiled around his bread.
"Airplane to Djeba," John mused as he stroked his chin. He kept his body clean shaven, like the priests of antiquity did. "I can arrange one for you," he told Ardeth. "You do know the seventh day of the full moon is six days away," he told Ardeth, who was taking a huge bite of meat.
Ardeth nearly choked on his mouthful of meat. Managing to swallow, he asked, "Six days? I've only six days to find the Ring of Nuit?"
John nodded. If you need to get to Djeba by the seventh day of the full moon, you have only six days in which to do so."
Ardeth paled beneath his thick black beard. How could he find the Ring of Nuit in less than six days' time?
"I shall, of course, pay you with some of the gold..." he started to tell John but John held up his hand.
"A horse. A fine filly," John said.
Ardeth nodded. He had plenty of fillys, most of the young colts were too skittish to be of much use to Ardeth. He was more than willing to offload a few of them for use as workhorses, or in John's case, to provide entertainment to his young daughter. He would choose Tutu, Tjia's daughter. Tutu was a smaller horse, much smaller than her mother, almost a midget horse, and she was gentle enough for John's young daughter to ride around on.
Ardeth placed meat and vegetables on the bread and took a bite. Swallowing, he said,
"The Great Imhotep, Architect and High Priest to King Djoser, built a temple to Khnum when the God told him that building a temple to his glory would end the famine which had been ravaging the Nile for seven years. Upon completion of the temple; indeed, the very day the last stone was slid into place, the God was happy, and Isis wept her tears, ending the seven year famine," Ardeth said. "I don't want to think of the destruction of Ma’at which will occur if I don't find the Ring of Nuit as the Goddess commands me," he finished.
John sat down. "Is it...will it?" his voice trailed off as Ardeth looked at him with sad eyes.
"My friend, if I don't bring the Ring of Nuit back to her ruined temple in Djeba, a terrible catastrophe will await Cairo--and Egypt. I can not let this happen."
"What kind of catastrophe?" John was nothing if not insistent.
Ardeth looked at John. Was it better to keep his own counsel or better to tell John. He decided to tell John, for he was a superstitious man and Ardeth needed help. John thought he was the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian--like a lot of people these days. The British archeologist, Howard Carter, was largely responsible for the phenomenon--at least to Ardeth's mind--but Ardeth knew that Egyptology fever and the craze of reincarnation had begun late in the last century.
"The Ring of Nuit can prevent the destruction of the Pyramids," he told John. "As a reincarnated priest of Osiris, I trust you understand what the destruction of the pyramids truly means," Ardeth intoned.
Now it was John's turn to pale. His father had been British; his mother a mix of Ethiopian, Coptic Egyptian and Italian. Like the priests of antiquity, John shaved all his body hair, and went so far as to wax off his eyebrows, a prospect Ardeth thought to be painful.
"Cairo? The pyramids? Will they be destroyed? The end of mankind?" John's voice cracked.
"Not if I can restore Ma’at to Egypt," Ardeth said as he took a bite of the vegetables. The potato was still new to him, and he found he enjoyed the vegetable. He desperately wanted to start his search, but he knew he needed all his strength, for the coming days would be arduous.
For the destruction of the pyramids was the element of horror which had awakened Ardeth and he'd found himself screaming into Nuit's starry shoulder and then, gratefully, had felt the cool breath of the Bringer of the Wind cooling his skin and cooling his fears.
The destruction of the Pyramids was also the source of the recurring dreams Ardeth had been experiencing the past month.
"I'll make the arrangements for the plane. Just tell me when you need the plane," he told Ardeth.
"As soon as possible. I shall also need you to send word to my Commanders at the base of the Qartrani Mountains. Dekel, my fastest runner, is waiting there in a campsite. I need my Commanders to travel as quickly as possible to Djeba," Ardeth asked of his friend. "I will be able to make payment in elephant ivory."
"For one tusk of elephant ivory you will be able to rent a train! I know who to send who is the fastest messenger. Dekel can expect to see an airplane."
"Then make it so," Ardeth said, then added, "Dekel will like seeing an airplane."
"I have more than one friend with airplanes," John said, smiling. "A priest of Osiris needs to be prepared."
Ardeth finished up his meal. A young boy had brought a plate of baklava and Ardeth took a piece from the plate. The honey-walnut mixture was good, and sweet. Baklava was a Greek import to Cairo and Ardeth had found he had a penchant for the Greek dessert.
The bickering continued in Kahn's Bazaar. The Bazaar was thousands of years old, and Ardeth's ancestors began their trading here. In Kahn's Bazaar one could find anything: ancient mummy beads--the faience beads used in burials--to gold and silver jewelry needing to be pawned.
Ardeth thought he would find the Ring of Nuit in Kahn's Bazaar. But first he would go to the Pyramids and ask for help from the faint echoes of the Gods who still hovered near, still protecting the Pharoahs who had built the Pyramids.
John and Ardeth sat in silence, listening to the faint sounds of bickering from the Bazaar, each looking inwards--Ardeth about how to find the Ring of Nuit and John was thinking about how terrible these times were to live in: the War looming in Europe, and now Ardeth's revelation.
Ardeth finished up his baklava. "I need to be off," he said, standing up.
John stood up as well. "May the Gods find you well, and may you find the Ring of Nuit quickly," he said to Ardeth, as Ardeth took his leave of John's little roadside restaurant.
Giza Plain, Cairo, 1940
Ardeth stood in the shadows of the Great Pyramids. Some distance away, the Great Imhotep's Step Pyramid, rose out of the Giza Plain and soared into the sky.
He looked sadly upon the ruined remains of what were once gleaming white limestone funerary temples. In antiquity, those who had built the pyramids had designed them faced with white limestone. Ahh! The Pyramids were a sight to behold coming down the Nile from the Mediterranean in those ancient times, said the scrolls which Ardeth read. The pyramids loomed over the desert and the surrounding city. They pierced the sky--pierced Nuit--with their pointed tops. White limestone reflected the sun and the glory of Egypt.
But also in antiquity, the founders of Cairo had decided to construct new buildings. And these buildings would be built using white limestone. Not newly quarried white limestone, for the climate in Egypt was a hot, dry climate and quarrying stone in a hot, dry climate would waste a lot of manpower.
So those ancient architects had dismantled the white limestone facing of the Great Pyramids of Giza and had used the limestone to build medieval Cairo. A few of the limestone buildings still stood, and they always whispered their secrets to Ardeth as he passed by them.
Ardeth listened to the whispers from the few remaining slabs of white limestone on the Great Pyramid. The limestone whispered to him of the times of the ancient past...the time when the entire populace of Egypt worshipped the Ancient Ones, including Nuit, for whom he was doing her bidding.
He had come to the Pyramids to see if they could help him find the Ring of Nuit and make his search easier. One of Nuit's Daughters had hovered over Cairo, and blinked twice, then winked out. Ardeth remembered this clearly, and he now thought that it was from Cairo he should start from.
For the Pyramids were whispering another word to him: Herakleion.
Ardeth knew, from Bedouin legends, that the port city, so named by the Greeks for Hercules, had been been the epicenter of an earthquake, which submerged the city under water around A.D. 800. His tribe's Scribe had a scroll dating back from a few hundred years after the conquest of Egypt by Saudi Arabia and the scroll recounted how a great shaking of the earth caused the city of Herakleion, on the shores of the Mediterranean, to sink below the green waves of the sea.
That Scibe--Ramanauskas, he'd been called--had written his own notes, and said he thought the shaking of the earth represented the displeasure of the Gods and Goddesses.
"Go," Ardeth heard a whisper in his ear. He turned, but no one was there.
"Go north, Chosen One. Go to Herakleion. Help Nuit rise from the mud and restore the Ma’at of Egypt," he heard again. This time, the voice seemed to whisper all around him. Ardeth slowly turned around, his silver edged black robes billowing out in the light cool breeze that had suddenly appeared. Ardeth looked around him as he turned to hear what the whispers were saying and he saw the surprised faces and the belated prostrations of many of the Pyramid's visitors.
Ardeth noted that his clothes were the only ones billowing out in the glaring sun of the windless early afternoon, so he could understand how those prostrating themselves before him might think he had supernatural powers.
"Herakleion it is, Great Mother," he said as he left the shadows of the Pyramids.
Kahn's Bazaar, Small Hotel, 1940<
"Ardeth! My friend! You are back so soon? You have completed half the task The Great Mother asks of you?" John said, showing Ardeth to a chair. John motioned for the young boy to bring them a pitcher of iced tea.
"My friend, I have need of a plane to go to Alexandria. I need to be there by evening," Ardeth said.
"I had reason to think you might need an airplane quickly and at your disposal. The Great Mother doesn't make tasks easy for her Chosen Ones. I have an American friend who can fly you to where ever you wish to go," John said.
"I will pay him in gold," Ardeth said, taking his glass and holding it up to the sunlight. The tea shone in colors of amber and red.
--A very pretty effect--Ardeth thought.
"He will meet you at the airstrip whenever you get there," John said.
"You are worthy of a priest of Osiris," Ardeth commented, finishing up his iced tea. John inclined his head.
Taking his leave of John, Ardeth made his way through Cairo to the city's outskirts and rented a felucca to carry him across the Nile to the private airstrip.
"Hello, Ardeth Bey!" A pleasant, deep, though rather husky voice said. The voice emanated from a tall man with deep green eyes.
"Hello," Ardeth replied. The man offered his right hand and Ardeth shook the man's proffered hand.
"I am Martin Wilkes. Where do you need to go?" he asked Ardeth as the two of them got ready to leave.
"Alexandria. I do not know how many days I will need but I need to be in Djeba in six days," Ardeth told him.
"Six days. I could use an adventure. What may I ask are we doing?" he asked Ardeth as the two climbed into the biplane. Ardeth was a bit wary of using such an airplane for transportation because of his dream, but nonetheless he climbed in the rear seat and put on the goggles he was offered.
He considered Martin's request. To get to the sunken city of Herakleion, just off the coast of present day Alexandria, he would have to dive. And dive deep. He supposed his dedication to Med Jai training and his underwater training would serve him well in this adventure. Ardeth decided to open his mouth and say,
"I am going diving," he said.
"Diving? John indicated this was a serious adventure!"
Ardeth considered his response. He didn't want to give too much away but he did need the help of Martin. Ardeth could couch his answer and evade any questions Martin put to him so he answered as truthfully as he could. "Serious adventure, yes. I am diving to retrieve something that was lost a long time ago. If I do not return it to its home, I am fearful something terrible will happen."
"Terrible? As in what is brewing in Europe?"
Ardeth had heard news of the man from Germany who was brewing up all sorts of trouble in Europe. And he was afraid that it was this same man who was secretly planning on attacking Cairo with a huge formation of planes--and cause the destruction of the Pyramids, and the end of mankind.
"Yes," was Ardeth's curt reply.
"A ha! An ancient Egyptian artifact that will save the world!" Martin exclaimed.
Ardeth cringed. He'd heard the snide remarks about the artifacts the Ancients left. But then he realized that while Martin's words appeared to have scoffed Ardeth, they were said quite affectionately.
--Another believer in reincarnation?--Ardeth asked himself.
But before he could ask Martin his question, Martin spoke, "Do you know about the Bracelet of Lostris?" he asked.
Ardeth shook his head, so Martin continued. "In my former life, I was the Keeper of the Bracelet. I was murdered and the Bracelet was taken. I watched from the Afterlife as death and destruction continued to rent my world, and the Hyksos, the Shepherd Kings from beyond the Tigris River, killed my Pharoah Kamose, a descendent of the Great Queen," Martin said as he started the engine.
So Martin was another believer in reincarnation. "My Scribe has heard no such Legend of the Bracelet of Lostris. Indeed, I have never heard the name of Queen Lostris," Ardeth said as Martin leveled the airplane and the plane started rumbling down the small runway. But something tingled in Ardeth when Martin spoke about the Bracelet.
"I'll tell you about it over dinner!" Martin shouted as the airplane took off into the shimmering air.
Ardeth looked down. What he saw took his breath away. There, like little ants, were the people of Cairo--his Egypt. He saw the green Nile flowing towards the Mediterranean. He saw the Pyramids from the air, and they looked magnificent.
"Thank you, Chosen One," Ardeth heard the Gods whisper to him as the plane passed over the Pyramids. The Bringer of the Wind swept her skirts and created a small sandstorm in the shape of a pyramid—a mini khamsin--out to the west, which subsided quickly, but lasted long enough to let Ardeth know she was grateful for his help.
about 2644 BC, Reign of King Djoser, Djeba
Imhotep had ordered the rapid deployment of stone to build the Temple of Nuit. He knew that it wasn't his construction techniques which would later topple the Temple--for she would stand until the a city at the mouth of the Nile would sink below the waves of the great green during a terrible earthquake. An aftershock would rock the city of Djeba and finally topple Nuit's Temple. Imhotep knew that Nuit's small Temple would stand for thousands of floodings of the Nile.
From the day King Djoser had made his request for Imhotep to build the Temple of Nuit, Imhotep had been plagued by dreams--most of them snatches of a terrible future that awaited the Son of Nuit whom he had seen the day Imhotep had conceived the plans for the Temple of Nuit. A few of the dreams spoke of an invasion by a people referred to as the Hyksos, and Imhotep had watched helplessly as the lapis lazuli was removed from the temple walls.
Using the essence of the mushroom brought from the far mountains in the peninsula, Imhotep had meditated. He'd asked the Gods what it was that he needed to do to help the future Son of Nuit. After many turnings of the moon, Imhotep had discovered that Nuit wanted him to go out into the desert and find a small block of lapis lazuli generously flecked with pyrite.
"A thankless task, dearest Goddess," Imhotep had muttered to himself when he realized what it was that the Gods had wanted him to perform. "In the great vastness of the Red Land, I'm supposed to find a blue rock."
The Gods had revealed to Imhotep that sometime during the reign of Scorpion, traders had come from the far side of the Euphrates River and had brought a large quantity of the dark blue stone. From the mouth of the Nile, the blue stones were traded down the length of the Nile.
A khamsin wind blew strong one spring, and covered an ancient village near Djeba where a few of the stones had been given to the High Priest Khumose. The small stones of lapis lazuli were still buried under the shifting sands of the Sahara. Fortunately, those same shifting sands would make Imhotep's work a bit easier.
Imhotep had been given the unenviable task of uncovering the small stones of lapis lazuli. For weeks, he had used the essence of mushrooms to help him find the general area of the buried village. And within the walls of a mudbrick home, Imhotep was told he would find a small cache of the blue stone and one would be evenly mixed with pyrite.
For this particular stone of lapis lazuli was the body of the Goddess Nuit: her earthly incarnation. She was the Goddess of the Sky; she encircled the earth. Ra went to sleep in her belly every night.
And Imhotep was to fashion a ring out of this block, edge it in silver, and place it underneath her shrine. This would ensure Nuit's protection to those who sought her protection--or to those who performed her bidding.
Imhotep had spent several weeks out in the desert, carefully searching for the body of the Goddess. He'd finally found the Goddess's earthly incarnation protruding from the sands just outside Djeba. Imhotep had given thanks to the Gods for shifting the sands to reveal the body of the Goddess Nuit.
"Not a coincidence that you wanted your temple built in Djeba, Goddess. You did not make my task easy," he'd said to the block of lapis lazuli. "But then again, tasks performed for the Gods are never easy."
Carefully, he'd pried the small block of lapis lazuli out of the desert sand where it was half buried. He'd wrapped the body of the Goddess in linen and had carried her back to Djeba.
Fashioning the Ring of Nuit had taken almost a month. Imhotep had divided his time between the workshop of the jeweler, showing him how to delicately carve the stone and the construction site of the Temple of Nuit. The Ring would represent the earth and Imhotep had lined the inside and edges of the Ring with silver.
He'd been at the construction site when the jeweler had completed the Ring of Nuit and Imhotep had shuddered when he felt the Goddess's breath on his face and had heard her voice:
"Imhotep, you are my first Chosen One. You have performed your tasks well. There is one other task which I must set before you," the Goddess's voice whispered. Dry sand swirled in mini whirlwinds around him.
Imhotep had stood, his face upturned to Nuit, and whispered, "Yes, my Goddess. I shall obey."
"You need to find the Crossroads of Time to help another of my Chosen Ones. Few mortals have accessed the Crossroads for it is the place souls cross through on their way to be judged against Ma'at. My Temple will be robbed a thousand floodings from now when foreigners try to rule this very Egypt of ours. The Ring will be taken to the mouth of the Nile by those who don't understand its power. There, along the shores of the Great Green, a terrible earthquake will bury the Ring under the waters, the same shaking that shall rent my Temple. My Chosen One will need your help in locating the Ring and bringing it home."
"I shall do as you command, Goddess," Imhotep whispered. "I shall place the Ring so no one shall be able to rob your Temple and remove the Ring from its rightful place," he told the Goddess.
"No! All things must happen for a reason, and my Temple, as terrible as it sounds, must be robbed. If my Temple is not robbed and the Ring is not stolen by those from beyond the Tigris River, my future Chosen One will have nothing to help him prevent the destruction of mankind and the destruction of Egypt’s Ma’at."
"My Ring will restore my power, and I shall be able to help my Chosen One defend this very Egypt. For when the shaking of the earth happens nearly thirty five hundred floodings from now, my Temple shall be destroyed in an aftershock, and if the Ring is still inside the Temple, the Ring will be lost forever when a pillar crushes the Ring."
Imhotep shuddered at these words, and he knew the Goddess spoke the truth. "I shall obey, Goddess," he said to the darkening sky. The first stars began to show in the deepening twilight.
"You have my thanks, Chosen One," Nuit said. She sent one of her Daughters to streak across the sky, going south to north and Imhotep saw the green streak in the sky--and knew the streak headed north towards the future City Under Water where he would help the Son of Nuit find the Ring of Nuit under the green waters of the Mediterranean.
Port City of Alexandria, 1940
"See, the Bracelet of Lostris was made by her former slave, Lord Taita, just before he died. Some of the Bedouin said he was a hundred years old at his death and others said he was two hundred," Martin was explaining over a dinner of meat, vegetables, bread and beer.
He continued explaining his dream. "As a last respect to his beloved Queen, and to preserve her powers of protection to those that called upon her, Lord Taita had fashioned the Bracelet out of electrum and emeralds. When he fashioned the Bracelet, he added some of her hair that he had saved. He told me he would always be able to see the tendrils of her soul from the afterlife and know the Bracelet--and her power--was safe," Martin said, taking a sip of the cold beer.
Ardeth tried to remain interested in this new legend. He would ask Martin to write the Legend down, and Ardeth would give the scroll to his Scribe. "What does this Bracelet do?" Ardeth now asked, picking up his bread and sopping up the juices from his meat and vegetable plate.
"Why, the Bracelet protects those from evil," Martin said.
"My friend, when did your Queen live?"
"During the time of the Hyksos invasion. She was the only queen of Pharoah Mamose to give birth to a son," Martin said.
"Nearly thirty seven hundred years ago," Ardeth said, taking up his cup and draining the beer.
"Yes. Queen Lostris was forced to flee Egypt with her son and her beloved slave Taita. She fled south, leading her people to the lands of Kush and farther down into Ethiopia where they buried Pharoah Mamose. She returned to Egypt, twenty years after she left and her adult son, Pharoah Tamose, drove the Hyksos from Lower Egypt and their beloved Thebes," Martin said, sipping his beer.
He continued. "There in Thebes, Tamose begat the progenitor of the man who became my Pharoah Kamose. And the former slave Taita, freed by Tamose, became Lord Taita and lived in the desert, where at the end of his long life, made the Bracelet of Lostris. The Bracelet was made to ensure the freedom of Egypt during times of distress, for Lord Taita had helped the young Kamose run the Red Road, and thus become Pharoah before he reached the age of majority. Egypt needed a native son to start the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt."
Martin had evidently become thirsty from his long winded explanation for he tipped his cup up and drained the rest of his beer in one long sip.
Ardeth knew from his father's teachings that a young heir to the Horus Throne who was not yet of majority age, could assume the false beard by running the Red Road--an arduous physical task of endurance.
"You have vivid dreams, my friend. Has there been any evidence of Queen Lostris?"
"Sadly, no. I keep trying to work with Egyptologists but they dismiss my claims," Martin said sadly.
Ardeth stretched his back. "Lostris. I am not familiar with the name Lostris," Ardeth said as he took up a piece of baklava and bit into it. The Greeks really did know how to take honey and walnuts and make it into something delicious. "What does the name mean?"
"Daughter of the Waters," Martin replied and Ardeth nearly choked for the second time that day.
"Daughter of the Waters?" Ardeth asked after he'd composed himself.
"Yes. Does that mean something to you?"
"My friend, I think we have been brought together for a very special reason. Do you know how to dive?" he asked Martin, who was looking at him curiously.
"Dive? I can hold my breath under water, if that's what you mean. Why?"
"My friend, the Goddess Nuit has set forth a task for me: I must find the Ring of Nuit under the waters off Alexandria. If you were the Keeper of the Bracelet of Lostris, I will need you to call upon the Great Queen for her help," Ardeth said.
Understanding dawned in Martin's dark green eyes. "The Daughter of the Waters would be able to help you locate the Ring of Nuit in the seabed. Is this the same Ring of Nuit that was robbed from her Temple when the Hyksos invaded? There was a scrap of papyrus in the Cairo Museum, since lost, that told of a Ring stolen from a far southern town."
Ardeth didn't know why, but he nodded, and felt that he was right. "Yes, Chosen One. My Ring was stolen by the Hyskos of which your friend speaks. Indeed, a Daughter of the Waters would be an asset in your search," the Goddess's voice whispered.
Martin started. "Did you hear something?"
Ardeth replied, "Nuit. You heard Nuit." A shooting star streaked across the sky, from south to north, leaving a trail of green fire. The Daughter of Nuit hovered over the city of Alexandria, then moved to just off the shoreline, where she hovered, blinked once, blinked twice, then winked out. Ardeth felt a shiver of deja vu.
Martin gaped. "Did you see that?" he asked.
"Yes. Nuit was confirming the Ring is located there. But the ocean floor off the city is large and I shall need Lostris's help in locating the Ring," Ardeth said.
His dessert finished, Ardeth stood up, as did Martin.
"I have need to meditate and ask for the Queen's help," Martin said, as he made his way out of the small restaurant the two were sitting in. "Good night, my friend. I shall see you in the morning."
"Good night, my friend," Ardeth said as he too made his way out of the restaurant and back to his small motel room. He prepared himself for bed and for the first time in a long while, dreamed a dreamless, peaceful sleep.
Night Sky, 1940
Nuit, The Great Mother, caressed her Chosen One as he slept, protecting him from the terrible dreams which he'd been experiencing. Ardeth had done well, and with the help of a Daughter of the Waters, Nuit knew Ardeth could resurrect her powers and help fend off the terrible destruction. She'd been blinded when the earthquake had buried her in the Mediterranean mud and she couldn't direct Ardeth to where she lay under the Green Waters. She had to rely on Imhotep, and the Daughter of the Waters to help Ardeth find her earthly incarnation.
Day Two of the Search—Alexandria, Egypt, 1940
The next morning, Ardeth, sans the shadows under his eyes, and Martin breakfasted on another meat and vegetable mix. They didn't speak at all to each other but remained in their own heads, each thinking of the task set before them. After breakfast, they made their way down to the shores of the Mediterranean.
Ardeth paid for a boat rental with several of the gold rings he always carried with him. The two men ensured they had plenty provisions before they set sail.
"Did the Queen promise you her help?" Ardeth asked once they were under way.
"She promised she would direct us to the exact area over where the Ring is located," Martin replied.
Ardeth felt his stomach churn. "Just over the area? She will not direct me to the Ring itself?"
"She said that the way to the Ring was blocked by someone more powerful than her, but that you would know what to do once you dived into the water," Martin replied, then frowned. "The Queen was not in a happy mood. Her brow was troubled when she spoke to me, and she kept looking in the direction of the north, where the destruction will come forth," Martin said.
"She is worried about what will happen if I do not return the Ring of Nuit to the Temple of Nuit in four days' time," Ardeth said.
"Where is the Temple of Nuit?"
"In the city of Djeba," Ardeth replied.
"We will need to stop to refuel more than one time. The journey to Djeba is long," Martin said. The boat was taking to the wind and was sailing under full sail. Ardeth tilted his face to Ra and allowed the sun to warm his face.
The two men took out their flagons of beer and sat in the boat, sipping and sailing. Ardeth was steering the boat around the waters of the Mediterranean aimlessly, hoping that the Goddess would speak once he neared the right place. Martin dozed and a loud snore erupted from his mouth.
The boat was about four miles from the coast when a gentle wind stirred the water. "Chosen One, you are near," Nuit's voice whispered. Ardeth blinked.
"We are near the place where the Ring is located," Martin said at the same time, sitting up suddenly. "The Queen came to me as I was dozing and indicated we should drop anchor now."
Ardeth nodded. He picked up the anchor and dropped it over the side of the small boat. He felt hope surging into his heart for the first time since his frightening dream more than two weeks ago.
"Good luck, my friend," Martin said as Ardeth stripped off his black robes. Taking up a small cannonball in each hand and placing them in a leather bag that he tied around his waist, he took three deep breaths, and dived over the side of the boat into the sea.
The green waters of the Mediterranean closed over Ardeth's head. With the cannonballs in the leather bag, he sunk towards the sunken city of Herakleion rapidly.
Whispers surrounded him, murmuring to him of things past: the extensive trading which the inhabitants had done with distant peoples from far north of the shores of the Black Sea; a baby's cry was suddenly halted as the earthquake struck and the newborn babe died as the waters of the Great Green rushed into its mouth.
"Ardeth! Here lies a boat full of amphorae from Greece. We are filled with amber and silver coins."
"Ardeth! Here we are! We are the shards of a Phoenician wooden boat, one of the first wooden boats to sail the Great Green."
"Ardeth! Ardeth! Ardeth!" came the voices, whispering their secrets into Ardeth's ear, demanding his attention.
Ardeth opened his eyes. Surprisingly, he could see quite clearly under the water. He'd always thought the water would be murky this deep. But he could see as clear as day.
He saw a flicker out of the corner of his eye.
--A shark!--he thought.
But he felt the presence of someone else, a calming presence. He saw a shadowy shape, a figure of a golden woman, appear before him and the shark veered away from him.
"I have come to assist you as I promised the Caller, Chosen One," a beautiful woman's voice floated through Ardeth's brain. "I am Lostris, Daughter of the Waters, and the animals living in the waters of the Great Green shall not bother you during your search. I have also cleared the waters to aid in your search," she said to his mind.
Ardeth wanted to thank her but all he could do was sink towards the sunken city. His lungs were a third empty. He hoped he'd be able to find the Ring of Nuit before he ran out of breath. He didn't know how many times he could dive.
"Kick your legs, Son of Nuit, and go straight ahead of you," a male voice said in Ardeth's head.
He did as he was told, with the cannonballs in the leather bag holding him close to the floor of the Mediterranean sea. He brushed his fingers over the top of the mud as he swam.
"Keep going, you are near. Plunge your hand deep into the mud when I tell you," the male voice told him. Ardeth did as he was told and kicked his legs hard.
"Here!" the voice commanded and Ardeth plunged his hand deep into the mud. He plunged his arm until the mud covered his elbow. His felt his finger tips touch something cool, and round. He poked at the unseen object, and felt the Ring slip partway onto his finger.
He closed his fingers around the Ring, and gently pulled his arm out of the sucking mud. The mud did not want to give up its prize easily and Ardeth felt the Ring start to slip. He stopped pulling, his lungs more than half empty, and carefully moved his thumb over the Ring and slipped it further onto his fourth finger of his left hand.
With the Ring now more secure, he curled his fingers and pulled his hand fully out of the mud. Pushing the Ring completely onto his left fourth finger, Ardeth kicked his legs, but he was weak and the cannonballs were holding him down. His mind started to grow hazy, then he heard two voices:
"Son of Nuit, you have done well. Now hurry back to her Temple. You do not have much time," the male voice said.
"Chosen One, I will bring a dolphin to help you get to the surface of the Great Green faster, for your breath is running out and you do not have enough to get to the surface," the voice of Lostris said and Ardeth realized she was right. He saw blackness creep into the edge of his vision and knew he didn't have enough strength or breath to get back to the top. He tilted his head up and saw the shadow of the boat he and Martin had rented.
"I am Imhotep, Great Architect to King Djoser, second King of the Third Dynasty. Son of Nuit, my pyramid will also be destroyed by the invaders from the north if you do not return the Ring of Nuit to her Temple in time. There are secrets that my Pyramid stills holds--and will not yet reveal--for the stars have not yet realigned in their positions. I shall direct you to her Temple once you arrive in Djeba," Imhotep told Ardeth. His statement intrigued Ardeth.
Ardeth felt his breath running out. He knew he'd been under the surface for longer than he'd ever submerged himself. He felt, rather than saw, a sleek skin brush by him. He grasped the fin of the dolphin that Lostris had sent and he felt the dolphin take him to the surface.
The two voices said in unison, "May the Gods see you well, Chosen One, Son of Nuit. And may the Gods speed you on your journey to Djeba." The voices faded out.
Ardeth's head broke the surface of the water. He sucked in a deep breath, mixed with water and coughed, trying not to swallow the water. He hung onto the dolphin, sucking in air, while Martin tried to get the boat nearer to Ardeth to he could pull him in.
"My friend! I thought you had passed on to the Afterlife!" Martin said, throwing Ardeth a rope. Ardeth let go of the dolphin.
"Not this soon, my friend," he weakly replied to Martin. To the dolphin he said,
"Thank you, my lady dolphin. Give the Queen my thanks." The dolphin squealed, backed off and then did a back flip, spraying Ardeth with water. He smiled.
"So the Queen sent the dolphin to help you," Martin observed as he pulled a weak Ardeth towards the boat. He helped Ardeth climb the rope ladder and Ardeth sunk gracefully into the boat.
He held up his left hand. The sun glinted off the silver edging the ring on the fourth finger. Martin drew his breath inwards.
"Beautiful!" he murmured.
Ardeth had to agree. The thick lapis lazuli ring, edged in silver, was a sight to behold. An inch thick, the ring was carved with hieroglyphics: Ring of Nuit, Ardeth read the simple engraving aloud. Martin lifted the anchor, turned the boat around and set sail back to the harbor of Alexandria.
"Do we tell of the lost city beneath the waves?" Martin asked.
"As the Keeper of the Bracelet of Lostris, I do not believe it would be a good idea to tell of this sunken city. Perhaps, at some point in the future, you, or your descendants, might wish to tell of our sunken city. But for now, she needs to remain beneath the waves. I do not know why; I only felt a terrible presentiment when you asked if we should tell," Ardeth replied.
"Perhaps you felt that Hitler would ravage the treasures," Martin said, his green eyes showing concern.
"Perhaps," Ardeth replied. He lay back, protecting the Ring of Nuit in his hand, and dozed in the afternoon sunlight.
"Thank you, Ardeth Bey," the voices in Ardeth's head were relieved.
2644 BC, City of Djeba, Temple of Nuit, Private Room
Imhotep opened his eyes. He was in a private room in the Temple of Nuit. He had the Ring of Nuit on a small golden shrine set before him. He carefully unfolded his legs and stood up.
He was a bit dizzy. With the help of the mushroom from the far mountains, he'd managed to gain access to the Crossroads of Time, and to make contact with the future Son of Nuit. That son, that future son, had performed his duties admirably, albeit with the help of Queen Lostris, an ethereal presence he'd felt while in the Crossroads of Time.
Lostris? Who was she? The name meant "Daughter of the Waters." Imhotep didn't know of this young Queen and felt that she had been of a later time, closer to the time of the Son of Nuit. He knew it was Lostris who had called off the shark that was about to attack the Son of Nuit and she who had sent the dolphin to help him get back to the surface.
Imhotep had been horrified when he'd seen the large fish with sharp teeth bearing down on the Son of Nuit. A hundred images had run through his mind and he'd seen his Pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Djoser, as well as the three other Great Pyramids, explode, and a huge fireball lifted into the sky. When the smoke cleared, Imhotep could see the huge holes in the earth where the Pyramids had been, and he'd heard the keening wails of billions of voices rising and falling as mankind was destroyed.
But then Lostris had called off the shark and Imhotep had felt a warmth surging through his heart--hope, the feeling was hope--and knew that the Son of Nuit had a fighting chance of returning the Ring of Nuit to her Temple.
Imhotep still had to prepare himself for another meeting with the Son of Nuit in the Crossroads of Time. He didn't know how long it would be before the Son of Nuit would be able to get to Djeba, but he suspected that he would be told when to enter the Crossroads of Time to assist Nuit's Earthly Son in locating the ruined Temple beneath the sands outside the city of Djeba.
Imhotep went outside the Temple of Nuit. Her starry belly was winking with stars and Imhotep felt a breath of wind stir the land. He looked at her Temple courtyard, filled with offerings and flowers, and felt a stab of sadness, for he alone knew that his glorious temple to the Goddess would be buried in the sands nearly thirty seven hundred years from now. All things happened for a reason, he thought sadly.
A star, sent by Nuit, streaked across the night sky. Imhotep looked up, and smiled. He would do anything to help the Son of Nuit complete his task to save this very Egypt of theirs.
Bumpy airstrip, second refueling, 1940
"Ooomph. That's the second time we've had to stop to refuel," Ardeth said, as he came back from the small bathroom. Water dripped down his thick black beard for Ardeth had washed his face of the sand and grit which had been plastered onto his face by the open air biplane.
"It can't be helped," Martin said as he filled the tank of the airplane. "We shall reach Djeba by nightfall," he finished.
Ardeth nodded. "It is fitting, to reach Djeba as the cloak of The Great Mother covers the sky," he said as he swigged a cup of cold beer that had been offered to him by the owner of the small airstrip. He set the cup down and walked over to the airplane.
Martin nodded and the two men climbed into the plane.
"Here we go!" Martin called back and started the plane.
City of Djeba, 1940--Day Three of the Search, Just before Dawn
"Do you know where to go?" Martin asked Ardeth, after the two had been woken from their slumber by the owner of the small inn. Martin's sleep had been fitful, but Ardeth's sleep had been dreamless. Ardeth had been grateful for the deep, dreamless sleep, for he knew the next few days would be sleepless.
"The Great Mother--or Imhotep--will guide me," Ardeth said. "Her Temple is buried under the sands."
"Did you bring help?" Martin asked. "You might need help digging," he observed.
"Yes, my men should be here by morning," Ardeth said. "I shall need to go out into the desert," he said, not giving an explanation as he strode off.
Striding towards the end of the city, he came upon the stables.
Renting the fastest horse, he swung up on the stallion's back, and rode off towards the west at a gallop. A mile outside Djeba, Ardeth shuddered violently and the world seemed to shift, first sideways, then upside down. When the world righted itself again, most of the surrounding desert and the banks of the Nile were empty, except for ancient Djeba and what appeared in front of him.
He saw, in front of him, vaguely, a small Temple, and knew it to be the Temple of Nuit. As he looked at the vision, the Temple grew more solid.
Ardeth heard Imhotep's voice whisper,
"I have placed the two of us in the Crossroads of Time. Under the sands in this spot lies the Temple of Nuit where I constructed her nearly 4,700 floodings of the Nile ago. In my time, her Temple has just been completed and the moon is glinting off the walls studded with lapis lazuli," Imhotep whispered. "I am afraid the Hyksos took down the lapis lazuli," he finished sadly.
"Thank you, Imhotep. I can see the Temple as she stood in her glory. Your architecture is stunning," Ardeth said, feeling Imhotep's sadness. The ancient man had worked hard to build this Temple, and to know that the Temple had been desecrated, and later ruined by an earthquake, must have been devastating to the Great Architect Imhotep: lover and builder of one of the first stone buildings in the world.
"You are welcome. I know her Temple is to be toppled in an earthquake but that is what the Gods command. But the Gods do not command what is supposed to happen to Egypt in your lifetime. The Dark One has command of the one that would destroy this Egypt of ours. That much the Gods revealed to me. You are a Son of Nuit. You have done as she has commanded. Speed you well. Hurry!" Imhotep said as his voice faded out. The Temple of Nuit, as she has stood nearly 4,700 years ago, remained as a vision for a few moments longer before the Temple seemed to melt down into the sands of Egypt.
Ardeth knew this was where he needed to begin digging—and the sooner the better. He swung his horse around towards Djeba, and rode the mile at a fast gallop. Coming hard upon the stables, he swung down, and watered his mount. Leaving his mount to be groomed by the stable boy, Ardeth went to purchase the supplies he needed for his dig.
Ardeth knew he wouldn't have much sleep now, for he needed to unearth the Shrine of Nuit before dawn of the sixth day.
Telling John where to bring his men once they arrived in Djeba, Ardeth took the supplies, loaded the horse and took off again for the desert.
2644 BC, Temple of Nuit, Private Room (Just before Dawn of Day Three of Ardeth's Search)
An inner voice had commanded Imhotep to return to the Temple before Ra dawned. Imhotep still hadn't recovered from the effects of the mushroom, but he'd known what he had to do.
Seating himself before Nuit's shrine, he prepared another of the mushrooms, and ate it. When he'd induced himself into a trancelike state, he gained access once again to the Crossroads of Time.
He saw the Son of Nuit swinging up on an unknown animal. And his trance was none too soon, for shortly the Son of Nuit would reach where the Temple was located.
As the Son of Nuit passed near where he'd built the Temple, he said,
"I have placed the two of us in the Crossroads of Time. Under the sands in this spot lies the Temple of Nuit where I constructed her nearly 4,700 floodings of the Nile ago. In my time, her Temple has just been completed and the moon is glinting off the walls studded with lapis lazuli," Imhotep whispered. "I am afraid the Hyksos took down the lapis lazuli," he finished sadly.
"Thank you, Imhotep," Ardeth said. "Sometimes it is difficult to know the future, and even more difficult to know the names of those who rent Egypt and her Glory," Ardeth finished.
"You are welcome. I know her Temple is to be toppled in an earthquake but that is what the Gods command. But the Gods do not command what is supposed to happen in your lifetime. The Dark One has command of the one that would destroy this Egypt of ours. That much the Gods revealed to me. You are a Son of Nuit. You have done as she has commanded. Speed you well. Hurry!" Imhotep said, as the vision of the future faded out.
Imhotep opened his eyes. He looked around at the private room--the walls studded with lapis lazuli. He stood up, and made his reverence to The Great Mother and walked outside of the temple.
Ra was beginning to awake and Nuit was slowly, reluctantly heading west.
"Chosen One, you have done well. I know how difficult it is to access the Crossroads of Time and even more difficult to bring another into the Crossroads. But now my other Chosen One will be able to defend this very Egypt from those that seek to destroy her. Your Pyramid, and the Great Pyramids, and the secrets that they hold, will remain undisturbed. Your efforts will help restore Ma'at to Egypt. Your heart and the hearts of your descendents will be blessed with a happy afterlife. Your name shall be remembered well in Ardeth's time. Thank you, Imhotep," Nuit said, looking over her starry shoulder.
Nuit sent another one of her Daughters to shoot across the brightening sky. Imhotep saw the star hover of the city of Djeba, blink once, blink twice, then wink out.
Imhotep breathed a sigh of relief. It was good to know mankind would not be destroyed. Imhotep had felt horror when he'd seen the Pyramids explode as if they were faience shattering upon the stones.
Overhead, Ra reached his golden fingers out to Imhotep, welcoming him to a new day along the Nile. .
Day Five of the Search--mid afternoon
"Ardeth! I've struck something!" Dekel shouted.The boy was a hard worker, as well as the fastest runner. It had been the youth's idea to make shadoofs to lift the sand. Ardeth hadn't thought of using shadoofs to lift sand, for the shadoof had originally been invented to lift water from the Nile. As Dekel had pointed out, it didn't matter what the shadoofs lifted, so long as they lifted more than what a man could ordinarily lift. And Ardeth had agreed.
Ardeth, with deepening shadows under his eyes, strode over to see what the boy had unearthed.
"It is stone. Perhaps from the Temple?" Dekel asked, awed at the sight of the ancient quarried stone. The thought ran through Dekel's mind that the stone cutters hadn't had the advantage of iron, just bronze tools to cut each stone precisely to size.
"I think so. We will keep digging here. You have done well, my runner," Ardeth said, and smiled at Dekel. His initial anger at the teen's side excursion in the Qartrani Mountains had dissipated and Ardeth could see the beginnings of a tactical leader in Dekel: the young man scouted out potential resources beneficial to the Med Jai.
But Dekel would have to be trained to follow orders. Ardeth suddenly chuckled as the memory of himself at Dekel's age overtook him. For he too had been a little reluctant to follow orders and had often run off on side excursions, much to the dismay of his father.
Ardeth was bone-weary but he couldn't stop the digging to allow himself to sleep. The rasping sounds of sand being lifted by the shadoofs filled his ears, and Ardeth knew he'd be able to fullfil his task.
Twilight, Day Five
In the deepening twilight, as Nuit began to cover the sky with her velvety black mantle, the remains of a small temple wall were unearthed about a mile outside the present day city of Djeba.
The stones were limestone, broken in half, and standing no higher than a man, but nevertheless, Ardeth knew they were the remains from the Temple of Nuit. The stones were cracked, perhaps during the great earthquake that had sunk the delta port city of Herakleion.
In any event, the stones did not look as if they could remain upright for much longer. They wobbled when anyone tried to clear the sand from around their bases.
"Do not worry with that. I only need to find out which side of the Temple would have been indoors," Ardeth said, as he stroked the Ring of Nuit on his left ring finger.
He'd wished he could talk with Martin, but Martin's work had been done, and he'd returned to Cairo under Ardeth's orders not to reveal anything about their adventure. Most importantly, he'd sworn a blood oath to Ardeth that he would not reveal the location of the sunken city of Herakleion until such time as he—or his descendents--received a sign.
Martin had agreed, and the airplane carrying Martin had lifted up into the sky. Looking after the airplane, Ardeth felt his terror about airplanes dissipate. He knew the reason why: he'd accomplished the task set forth to him by Nuit, and under Imhotep's guidance, had found the location of the temple.
The Temple had been breathtaking in the vision. It had been an open air temple, and the walls of the temple were studded with lapis lazuli. The dawning light of Ra had glinted off the lapis lazuli studded temple walls and Ardeth couldn't help but being amazed.
He walked around the stones, looking at them carefully. His sharp eye caught an indentation.
--This was where the lapis lazuli was embedded in the walls--he thought to himself.
He clapped his hands.
"We are done, my Commanders! You have done well and now I shall send you to your dinners. Eat and drink well this night, my Commanders!" Ardeth said, dismissing his men. His men, laughing and talking, now that their task was completed, gathered up their tools, and began the mile long walk back to Djeba. The tone of Ardeth's voice told them he would be successful in finishing the one task remaining to him.
Ardeth watched them leave. The night was dark. He knew he'd have to dig in the sand until he found the golden shrine of Nuit and place her Ring underneath the shrine in the small cup.
He sat down at the small fire that had been left burning for him. Taking out a large clay pot, he opened the lid. The smell of meat and potatoes wafted up to his nose. He pulled out a spoon, and some bread, from the leather bag next to him, and began to eat, sipping occasionally from the large flagon of beer beside him.
It would be a long night digging, but the shadoofs would ease his labors. Ardeth was tired but he needed food. Overhead, Nuit hovered above him, sending her sister, the Bringer of Wind, to blow gentle, cooling breaths over Ardeth, ruffling his hair slightly, and causing Ardeth to smile around mouthfuls of food.
Dawning of Day Six of the Search
As the rays of Ra began to piece the velvet cloak of Nuit, Ardeth found the golden shrine. Apparently, the Hyksos hadn't removed this item from the shrine, or perhaps one of the priests had hidden the shrine until the invaders had finished pillaging Djeba.
Ardeth decided the latter explanation made more sense. It wasn't unknown for priests to hide a temple's religious objects if the temple came under seige, and if the Ring had been under the shrine in a small cup, it must have fallen out when the priest had snatched the shrine up in a hurry.
Ardeth brushed the sand off the golden shrine as these thoughts ran through his mind. The waning light of Nuit's children was being replaced by Ra's golden light.
Placing the Ring of Nuit in its cup underneath the golden shrine he'd unearthed, Ardeth stood up and looked around.
He heard an eerie tinkling sound as he stood in the ruins of the Temple of Nuit. Not for the first time, Ardeth felt the world shift, turn sideways, then upside down. When the world righted again, in front of him was a light filled tunnel. He looked, and saw to the past--he saw the a king of Kemet as Egypt was called in those clear ancient days--the great King Menes who had first built the city of Memphis.
Looking further, Ardeth saw the architect who had built Nuit's Temple and knew his name to be Imhotep; he who had spoken to him under the waters of the Great Green. Imhotep's mouth was open in horror and he was looking behind Ardeth.
Still further in the golden tunnel, he saw a beautiful woman, with dark green eyes (Martin's eyes, Ardeth thought), standing in the light, her arms open to him. A tall man was standing slightly behind the woman. Ardeth realized this man was Taita, the maker of the Bracelet of Lostris. And he knew that this woman, this very young woman, was Queen Lostris. She was pointing to the tunnel behind him.
Ardeth turned around, and looked behind him.
What he saw chilled his blood. He saw ahead of him that the city of London was devastated by a line of airplanes much like the ones in his dream. He saw the man responsible for this carnage and responsible for the deaths of millions and knew this man would die by his own hand.
Ardeth looked towards the distant future and saw large silver buildings tumble down and he saw the pale screaming faces of those trapped within the buildings. Those buildings caused great grey clouds to billow forth, and a rumbling noise louder than any earthquake he had ever heard washed over him and Ardeth covered his ears but could not drown out the sounds of the dead.
He lifted up in the air, and going even further ahead, saw human blood running thickly in the streets in the land once known--and soon to be known again in Ardeth's time--as Israel.
Ardeth shuddered. He didn't want to look at this time. He turned back towards the man he knew to be Imhotep. Unlike another man by that name, this Imhotep had kind eyes, worried eyes. This Imhotep was gaping at the destruction he'd seen in Ardeth's future--the future of mankind.
But the Pyramids, and Cairo were overlaid on this vision, and neither was destroyed. Both glimmered under Ra's golden light and Nuit's starry cloak.
"Thank you for your help, Imhotep," Ardeth said to the one who'd build the Step Pyramid. "Without you, I would have never been able to find Nuit's earthy incarnation. I rather suspect Nuit put a task to you and had you fashion her earthly incarnation."
"You are welcome, earthly Son of Nuit," Imhotep replied. "Yes. I was honored to perform the Goddess's command. All those who wish for Egypt's continued glory work together in the past, present and future to ensure Egypt remains as the Gods intended her."
Imhotep held up his hand in a come-back gesture. Ardeth knew this meant that he should walk with the Gods and Goddesses of Egypt watching over him.
He made the same gesture at Imhotep and Imhotep and Lostris and the first King of Kemet faded, replaced by a shimmering golden light.
Now Nuit's voice, as soft as silk or velvet, whispered in the air around Ardeth. He saw the shimmering golden light grow stronger as the voice continued to speak.
"My child, my Chosen One. You are standing in the Crossroads of Time. Time does not flow evenly here, for what appears to be a few hours may be a few seconds, or a few days, or even centuries. One can see the past, the present and the future all at once. Those who have just died may have found thousands of years to have passed in the earthly realm, yet they find they have just arrived in the Crossroads. This is where the Paths are Chosen by the Gods and where one meets their Destiny: either the Afterlife, or the Underworld."
"You have fulfilled the task which I have set before you, Ardeth Bey, Commander of the Med Jai, and restored Ma’at to Egypt. Cairo will not be destroyed. Nor will the Pyramids be destroyed by the man those living north of the Great Green call Hitler. But there is another task that awaits you, and your descendents: for so long as the Pyramids shall stand, so stands the future of Mankind. Should the Pyramids tumble, so shall Mankind tumble."
"This is the decree of Osiris. And this is why the Pyramids were built: not only to house the Pharoah's earthly remains but also to celebrate the earthly tenure of mankind, to pay homage to the knowledge given to Man by the Gods."
"I gave a challenge to my another of my earthly children, the one you know as Imhotep. It was to him that was given the first vision of the Pyramids and it was to him that was also given, by the Dark One, Set, the sour knowledge of knowing that one day his pyramid--and those a few hundred years later--could be destroyed."
"Imhotep had the Ring of Nuit constructed to help him reach you here in the Crossroads of Time, and to give you directions as to the location of the Ring although thousands of years have passed between my earthly children."
"You have risen to the challenge of your Ethereal Mother, Ardeth Bey. You and your descendents shall be forever blessed with Ma'at and having hearts less than the weight of a feather--and a happy afterlife awaits you and your children."
Nuit's soft voice faded out. Ardeth could see the shimmering golden light was in the shape of a woman with blue skin, hair the color of honey, with eyes the color of lapis lazuli. Her irises were pure silver. She smiled at Ardeth before fading out.
"Farewell, my Chosen One. I shall have need of your services again, but not for many floodings of the Nile. Sleep well during your nights, my Son."
2644 BC, Temple of Nuit, Djeba. Dawn (Dawning of Day Six of Ardeth's Search)
Once again, Imhotep had spent the night in the Temple. He didn't know why, but he felt he needed to be here in case the Son of Nuit needed additional help.
When Ra started poking his long golden fingers into the temple walls, Imhotep got up from his vigil in front of the golden shrine to Nuit and began to walk back towards Djeba. The Son of Nuit didn't need his help today.
Imhotep's steps towards Djeba halted as he saw before him a golden light tunnel. In this light tunnel, he saw the Son of Nuit looking at him. He heard the words the Goddess was telling her earthly Son, and tears slipped down Imhotep's face in relief: this Son of Nuit had completed the task set before him.
Behind the Son of Nuit, Imhotep saw terrible shiny birds rent destruction upon a city of stone; he saw two tall silver buildings take their tumble; he saw the streets of the land just east of the peninsula run thick with blood...and he knew the Son of Nuit would not be able to stop this destruction. But he could stop the destruction of the Pyramids.
Imhotep also saw the woman he knew to be Queen Lostris. She was beautiful, her eyes were dark green, and beside her, and slightly behind her, stood a tall man with piercing blue eyes, a color Imhotep had never seen before in a living human. Lostris too was watching the time behind the Son of Nuit, her mouth open in horror.
He was grateful the Goddess of the Sky allowed him to speak to her Son again in the Crossroads of Time. Imhotep raised his hand in a come back gesture, hoping the Son of Nuit would know that Imhotep wanted him to walk with the Gods and Goddesses of Egypt watching over him.
After the Son of Nuit faded, and in the dying remnants of the golden light, Lostris turned to Imhotep. He couldn't hear her words clearly in the fading light, but he thought he heard the words, 'thank you.' He raised his hand in a come back motion and Lostris and the man beside her nodded their heads. The golden light faded.
Imhotep walked out of the Temple and into the brightening day. Ra, as if to approve of Imhotep's actions during the night, burst forth over the horizon and shone his full light on Imhotep, illuminating the golden pectoral Imhotep wore and suffusing Imhotep's face with his light.
Crossroads of Time, in the Waning of the Golden Light
"Taita, why are tendrils of my soul reaching out towards the future? Do the sons of my bloodline run strong there?"
"Yes, my Queen. Sons and daughters of your bloodline still thrive in Ardeth's time," Taita said as he hugged her. "But there also awaits in the future a Bracelet to protect those in need of your protection."
"Did you make the Bracelet?" she asked.
Taita smiled at her. "Yes, my Queen. I took some of the hairs from your head when I embalmed you and made the Periapt of Lostris. My very last earthly deed in your name was to embed some of your hairs in a thick band of electrum that I studded with emeralds. It was after I passed the Bracelet unto the care of the Keeper and instructed him in its use that I heard your voice calling me to the Afterlife. And here I am."
"Taita! You should have told me this straight off!"
"I meant it to be a secret."
"You imp!" Lostris laughed. "You know I can never resist a secret!"
Now it was Taita's turn to laugh. "The Bracelet needs to be restored, for it is lying in a jumbled heap of jewelry in a bazaar, but it will fall into Ardeth's hands. He will have need of your protection," Taita said, a bit sadly. He realized that thousands of years had passed on earth yet he'd just arrived at the Crossroads. He would think on this concept of time later, after he'd been reacquainted with Lostris and his friend Tanus.
Lostris stood on her tiptoes and kissed Taita on the lips. She smiled at him and leaned her head against his shoulder. "Oh Taita, I am glad the earthly Son of Nuit will have my protection. He is worthy of being Commander of the Med Jai." She sighed. "I wish he had been protecting my pharoahs. Now it is I who can protect him."
As the golden light vanished, Lostris smiled as the reunited friends walked off into the Crossroads of Time to meet Tanus, the father of Lostris's son, Pharoah Tamose.
Dawn: Day Six, Northern Rim of the Mediterranean Basin
The bomber plane rumbled through the darkening clouds. The dark thunderhead had sprung up suddenly in the dawn over the northern rim of the Mediterranean. Lightning flashed.
The pilot, unknown to anyone, had chosen this day to make a reconnaissance of Cairo. He heard a voice come out of the thunderhead.
"Grey eyed One! My Chosen One has completed the task that I set before him and returned the Ring of Nuit to its rightful place. For centuries my earthly incarnation lay buried in the mud of the Great Green and my powers were reduced. But with the restoration of my shrine, I have returned to earth and have called upon the wind and the rain to stop you in your task. You are in the Crossroads of Time, where your Destiny is determined."
The pilot screamed as a lady's figure, blue skinned with dark blue eyes and silver irises, emerged out of the dark clouds before him. The plane continued bucking.
"I have sent this thunderstorm to crash your plane into the sea. Your heart is heavy and you shall be sent to the Underworld, your soul eaten by the demons who reside there," she said as the plane began to plunge downwards into a whirlpool that had formed in the now turbulent waters of the Mediterranean.
"Nooooooooo!" he shouted as lightning struck the plane and the plane crashed into sea and down into the gaping maw of the Underworld. Demons snashed their teeth, and shoved each other in their attempts to get to the new arrival first.
1940, Temple of Nuit, Dawn of Day Six
Ardeth saw another shimmering light and he stopped in his tracks.
Dimly, he saw a plane coming out of the light and crash into the sea. He saw Nuit watching as the plane went into the gaping maw of the underworld where the demons awaited the pilot.
Ardeth saw Nuit turn towards him.
Tears were slipping down his face.
"Do not cry, my child. He planned the destruction of Cairo and the destruction of the Pyramids--and of mankind. It was his choice to make. He chose darkness when he chose to worship the Dark One."
"Will London be saved?"
"Alas, no. It is meant to be."
"I can get a message to my friends in London. Perhaps they can warn..."
"Ardeth, the destruction of London has already begun. Look."
Ardeth looked. He saw a line of bomber planes filling the sky with darkness and dropping bombs over London. Tears slipped down his face in rivers, wetting his beard.
"Your friends are safe, Chosen One. I shall protect their home from the ravages of the bombs,," Nuit's soft voice told him. As she faded out, Nuit reached out and held Ardeth's cheek in her hands. "Fear not for their safety, Chosen One," she said.
Ardeth tried to smile behind his tears. The vision faded and he was standing in the ruins of the Temple of Nuit.
He looked up at the blue sky over Egypt, clear of airplanes, clear of bombs.
2644 BC, Temple of Nuit, Djeba. Dawn (Dawning of Day Six)
The world suddenly shifted sideways, then upside down, and finally right side up. A light shimmered in front of Imhotep as he stepped outside the temple walls.
He saw a dark grey metal bird, with a human inside. Dark thunderheads clouded the horizon and Imhotep knew that Nuit had called upon her sister to bring the thunderstorm. Thunderstorms were rare in Lower Eypgt, but when he'd been along the shores of the Great Green, Imhotep had experienced water falling from the sky.
But he'd never seen Nuit so angry. A whirlpool opened up in the murky waters of the Great Green and Imhotep saw the dark grey metal bird plunging into the gaping maw of the underworld.
Imhotep saw the demons of the underworld waiting for the new arrivals, and he shuddered with fear.
Nuit allowed him to see the maw of the underworld close around the plane, and he felt the Ma'at of Egypt restored to rightness.
The light faded, and Ra once again shined his light on Imhotep. A smile suffused his face, and he walked towards Djeba knowing that the Son of Nuit--Ardeth Bey--had succeeded in his task.
Ardeth is a worthy Commander of the Med Jai, Imhotep thought.
A week later, John's restaurant, Cairo, 1940
"John, you really should name your hotel," The Keeper advised him as the Priest of Osiris placed a pitcher of iced tea on the table.
"So others will know what to call your place," Martin said, pouring himself a glass of the tea.
"They know the hotel as John's, next to Kahn's Bazaar," John replied, sitting down. "When will Ardeth get here?" he asked.
"Don't know. He's had a difficult few weeks, especially the past week. May I ask you a question?"
"Do you think he'll need the Bracelet of Lostris? With London and all?" Martin asked, as he took out a small leather pouch from his shirt pocket. He opened the pouch and slid out a heavy object, wrapped in velvet.
"He may, now that London's been bombed for a week straight. He'll no doubt be worried about Rick and Evie," John replied as Martin placed the object on the table. Martin opened the ends of the velvet to reveal a thick bracelet of electrum. Where the emeralds had been inserted, there were small holes. Martin would replace the emeralds.
John's breathing slowed as he gazed upon the Bracelet of Lostris. "Can you feel its power thrumming at the edges of your soul?" he asked.
Martin nodded, gazing at the Bracelet. He thought he could see tendrils of light drifting upwards towards Ra.
"How did you find it, after all these years?" John asked Martin.
"Lord Taita came to me in a dream and told me that when Ardeth placed the Ring of Nuit in its rightful place, he entered the Crossroads of Time and Lord Taita was able to trace the threads of Lostris' soul back to the Bracelet he'd constructed as his last respect to her. The Bracelet was in a jumbled box of jewelry just pawned by a family who desperately needed the money," Martin said as he brushed his fingers reverently over the electrum.
"I shall replace the emeralds and restore the Bracelet to its former glory," he whispered. "The emeralds are the earthly Eyes of Lostris and those who are in need of her protection shall be able to protect themselves. Ardeth needs this protection for his friends," Martin finished.
Just then, a tired and haggard Ardeth strode into the hotel's small restaurant area. The black shadows still under his eyes attested to the hard journey he'd had to make, and of the sour knowledge he'd had to endure.
In his hands was an English language newspaper, five days old.
"You have read this headline?" he asked of John and Martin but his eyes were transfixed on the Bracelet. Ardeth's eyes grew wide and his breathing shallow.
Lostris's voice whispered to him, "Ardeth, take my Bracelet and lend it to your friends, for I know they are in need of my protection. Even without my Eyes, the Bracelet shall protect your friends from harm. I know Nuit is protecting them by night but they need my protection during the day," Lostris told him as Ardeth slipped the Bracelet onto his wrist. An soft glow emanated from the Bracelet, reached up and twined itself with tendrils of Ardeth's soul, glowed brightly, then faded out.
Martin and John could only look on, dumbfounded. When the light had faded out, the three men sat, awed at what had happened.
Finally, Martin remembered Ardeth's question. "I know London's been bombed," he told Ardeth, wincing a little at his words.
"I knew the day they started the bombing," Ardeth said. "I was referring to one of the smaller headlines," he said as he opened the paper to page three and read from the lower left hand corner:
Bomber Plane Downed in Mediterranean" —Crete, September 8
John, who was sipping his iced tea, asked, "Was that the man who was planning on destroying the Pyramids?"
"Yes. Yes, that was the man. I am grateful to Nuit for not showing me his face. It is difficult to know the face of your enemy and I don't think I could have lived with myself having that knowledge," Ardeth said, as he reached for a piece of baklava. "The demons in the underworld wrestled each other in their attempts to get to the new arrival first."
Ardeth took a bite of the baklava. For the first time in weeks, he felt peace but worry still nagged at the edges of his Ka. He knew millions would die in the coming years, and there was nothing he could do, no task he could perform to save their souls.
"I have received a telegram from Rick and Evie," Ardeth continued after he'd taken a bite of the baklava. "They tell me that a strange darkness cloaks their home and that as bombs fell directly towards their home, the cloak seemed to take the weight of the bombs and bounced the bombs back into the bellies of the planes," Ardeth said, taking another bite of his baklava.
"It seems the Goddess is protecting them," John said, not quite hiding a smile."She is back to her full powers now that her shrine has been restored."
Ardeth nodded, and a smile suffused his face. "Yes, Nuit said she would protect them. Rick and Evie also say that the bomber planes now avoid their area of London."
"The enemy decided to be superstitious?" Martin asked.
Ardeth nodded, his face grave. "But I must send the Bracelet of Lostris to Rick and Evie," he said as he got up. "They need her protection as well as Nuit's protection."
"The Bracelet is at your disposal," Martin replied.
"I will get some sleep now," he told the two men. The Bracelet seemed to glow briefly as Ardeth walked out of the small restaurant and went to rent a room for the day.
"London will be difficult to get into with the bombing. How will Ardeth get the Bracelet to London?" Martin asked John as John poured himself another glass of iced tea.
"Possibly Ardeth will go by boat to Devon and make his way over land," John replied, setting the tea pitcher down.
"Or possibly the Goddess will lift the Bracelet on the wind and fly it to England," Martin said.
"Anything is possible in Egypt," John observed. "But one thing is sure--Ardeth will not rest until the Bracelet is protecting Rick and Evie."
"Why didn't he go now?" Martin asked, curious, because he didn't know Ardeth well enough to understand his actions.
"Because Nuit is protecting his friends and he trusts Nuit. She is back to her full power--I can feel her power thrumming all through my soul where there was no power before," John said, picking up a piece of baklava and biting into it. "Mmmmm! No wonder he likes this so much!" John exclaimed as a paper boy came walking by with the latest newspapers telling about the bombings in London.
Martin bought one and the two men sat reading, their eyes filling with tears as they read of the nightly bombings of London.