Jonathan was suspicious, an unfamiliar emotion for a man who preferred to spend the greater part of his life in a state of blissful unawareness.
Evie rarely invited him anywhere in public. Of course, under the right amount of pressure, he could appear on her doorstep with an almost credible excuse and accompany her out, but an actual invitation to dinner was unthinkable.
In fact, she hadn't taken him to any restaurants since that incident in Cairo nearly a year and half ago. She had been quite put out with him for landing himself in the hospital for a week with a concussion and a broken wrist. Still, she had committed herself to spending the whole time at his side, sleeping in the chair next to his bed, fussing over the temperature in the room, feeding him when he couldn't lift his arm from the pain, reading to him from the newspaper, all while she scolded him soundly and swore she'd never speak to him again.
No, Evie didn't take him out in public often.
And despite all his regular appearances in her home, truthfully, the siblings had spent so little real time together in the months following Evie's marriage. Whether Jonathan was prepared or not, they had reached the end of an era. Simply put, she didn't need him as an escort anymore; she had a permanent one now. Her embarrassment of an older brother could hardly compete with the American over the monopoly on her attention, and honestly, he wasn't inclined to even try to wrest it away from Rick. For the first time, his little Evie was in love, and though he may have doubts about her judgment, he certainly wasn't going to interfere with her happiness. It had taken him longer than he had anticipated to adjust to his recent downsized role in his sister's life, but he was learning to satisfy himself with the absentminded greetings and habitual kisses on the cheek his comings and goings called for.
But sometimes…Well, he had raised Evie as much as she had raised him. They had played each others' parent, teacher, conscience, most trusted confidant, and closest friend. And he felt the loss of the past on more levels than any mere brother.
"…was thinking of something blue in the dining room," her voice broke into his reverie, making him painfully aware that he hadn't heard a word she'd said in the last five minutes, "and you're there so often anyway, I thought I might as well get your opinion on the wallpaper."
Her tone was pleasant enough, but there was something melancholy in her eyes that was pleading silently with him and it was beginning to make his skin itch.
"Bugger the wallpaper," he gave in and answered that unspoken appeal. "You didn't really bring me here to discuss the fine points of home decorating, did you?" He settled back in his chair, bracing himself for whatever blow was coming. With Evie, nothing was ever simple or easy. "What's on your mind, old mum?"
Relief mingled with her look of surprise as he broached the subject so unexpectedly. She fiddled nervously with the napkin on her lap. "Rick and I…we've decided to return to Egypt. And we would love to have you with us."
"You mean, you would love to have me along."
"No, both of us agreed on it." An odd expression crossed her face, like she wanted very much to laugh out loud but was afraid it wouldn't be appropriate. "In fact, Rick suggested very strongly that I persuade you to come too."
"Ah," he said, not understanding at all. "So, Rick is in need of a little reinforcement to keep you in line, is he? I can see why, what with you in your current condition."
Her eyes went wide, so that he could see the whites all the way around the iris. She spaced her words out with care. "Whatever are you referring to, Jon?"
He narrowed his eyes as he observed her reaction. Any honest card player can recognize a bluff, and though Jonathan wasn't honest by any stretch of the imagination, this one was clear enough to read on his sister's face. "Don't tell me you haven't shared the news with the poor man, Evie. Why shouldn't he--" A thought occurred to him, stopped him in his mental tracks. "Wait, O'Connell is the father, isn't he?"
"Jonathan!" she hissed, darting a glance around to ensure no one was eavesdropping on their conversation.
"Well, you can never be sure nowadays, what with all the moral decay running rampant," he defended his position. "And I barely recognize you lately, that Yank has brought you out of your shell so much. Not that I object so much, but--"
"How did you know?" she interrupted his rambling in an impatient whisper.
"I may be oblivious, Evie," he allowed some hurt to seep into his indignant tone, "but I also happen to be your brother. I know you better, have known you much longer, than that husband of yours, and I couldn't help but notice the change in your habits recently."
"Promise me you won't tell him, Jonathan. Please."
"It doesn't seem like my place to tell him, but that doesn't excuse your behavior. Why in God's name must it be a secret?"
"Because he wouldn't let me go to Egypt if he knew." Her hand had clenched determinedly in the napkin. "We both know that if Rick found out, I would never set foot in Cairo. He'd lock me up for the next nine months, and possibly longer. It's not as if I enjoy deceiving my husband, but this dig means so much to me, I couldn't forgive myself if I let the opportunity pass me by.
"Only a fortnight more," she reasoned with herself as much as she did him. "Two weeks of silence is all I'm asking for, Jonathan. No more than that."
Jonathan took his time in considering his answer. Any personal opinion he might have had in the matter was drowned out by his overwhelming loyalty to his only family. If Evie needed him…well, at least his death at Rick's hands when the American discovered their insincerity would be an honorable one--and, he hoped, mercifully short, as well. "I suppose," he drew out his pronouncement, "that if your husband doesn't know to care for you properly, then I'll just have to tag along to Egypt to ensure that no harm comes to you."
Her smile was all the thanks that were required between the two of them, and he returned it with one of his own and a broad, conspiring wink while he leaned in to snatch up the bill lying on the table. He glanced once at it before reaching beneath the left breast of his jacket. After a moment, he withdrew the hand with a frown and slid the other under his right lapel. When further probing revealed nothing, he began to pat his trouser pockets frantically.
He glanced up at her under his lashes with a piteous look that Evelyn knew well. "Er, Evie--I seem to--that is, my billfold…"
She held her hand out gently, patiently, for the bill to be deposited in it, and he could do nothing but comply. "I'll pay, Jonathan."
"Sorry, old mum," he apologized out of habit, and then realized there was a better expression. "I mean, thank you."
"Don't mention it," she said with a wistful smile, "we're family, after all."
A family that was about to get a mite bigger. The thought brought an unexpected grin to his lips.
He was going to be an uncle.
"You're a doll, Evie." He leaned over to place an affectionate kiss on her cheek. "An absolute doll."
(1927, Mediterranean Sea, near Alexandria)
"Honestly, Rick, must you do that here?"
Rick glanced at the gun he was meticulously polishing. Glanced at his wife. Glanced around the cramped deck of the ship. His fellow passengers returned his look with edgy, cautious glares.
"Listen, honey, if you can suggest a better place, I'd be happy to move. Until then…" He picked up the rag lying on the undersized table between them and returned to his painstaking ministrations.
"Since you refuse to let me out of your sight and return to the cabin, there will be plenty of private places to attend to your…arsenal…once we reach Alexandria. And we'll have a day there before we catch the second boat to Cairo--plenty of time for you to do whatever. Can't it at least wait until then?"
His gaze flickered over Evie's face. Flickered over Jonathan's. He frowned grimly. "No. It can't wait."
"Leave him be, Evie," Jonathan interrupted whatever remark his sister was preparing. "He hasn't shot anyone yet. Besides, I want to hear more about this Rameses fellow you mentioned."
Allowing Evelyn the opportunity to show off her scholarly prowess was the perfect ruse to divert the public spat they were headed towards, which was obvious by the way she immediately dropped the subject and straightened her shoulders with self-importance. Jonathan allowed himself a private smirk at his own ingeniousness and settled into his chair for what would surely be a long discourse on Egyptian history.
"Rameses the Second," she intoned with no shortage of enthusiasm, "or Rameses the Great, was the son of our old friend Seti the First, and probably the most famous Pharaoh of all."
"'The Great', eh?" Jonathan prompted at the appropriate pause. "You have to be some sort of king to earn a title like that." He paused, thoughtfully. "And rich, really rich."
Evelyn rolled her eyes. "All of the Pharaohs were rich, Jon. But yes, Rameses was wealthy…well, at least to start with. By the end of his 67-year reign, he had drained the coffers of Egypt to pay for his extensive building projects. You see, he did everything to excess. He erected more monuments than any other Pharaoh, though he often resorted to cheap methods to hurry things along. And he certainly took polygamy to an extreme as well, and fathered somewhere in the range of 100 sons and 60 daughters. Neither was he satisfied with being simply the descendant of a god, but actually presented himself as a full-fledged deity. Not that the Pharaohs were a modest group, but he had a particularly inflated sense of self-worth."
She broke off her speech to take a breath, and then blushed as she became aware of being drawn into such a sprawling explanation. "He wasn't entirely consumed by his ego, though," she hastily summed up her dissertation with a sheepish smile, "he did sign the first ever peace treaty in recorded history with the Hittites." She stopped to tuck an errant curl back into her disordered bun. "But the story actually has nothing to with Rameses at all; it's about his son Setna, probably the most famous Egyptian hero and magician."
Rick raised one eyebrow as he looked up from his work, betraying the fact that he had been listening just as avidly as Jonathan. "A magician, Evelyn?" he demanded, disbelievingly.
"Come now, Rick, not a real magician. Just a very smart man who people started spreading stories about until everything about him became superhuman. But what the legend says about him is that he was a great magician, but not the greatest Egypt had ever know, a fact which he discovered one day while reading a scroll. It told the tale of an earlier prince, Nefrekeptah, who had read from the Book of Thoth."
"The Book of what?" Rick interjected, no longer even pretending to pay attention to his weapons. "We're not going out looking for any more goddamn books, Evie. None."
"For Heaven's sake, don't you think I know that? Even if the book ever had existed, and if it somehow managed to survive to the present day, I wouldn't lay a finger on it. I'm interested in uncovering Nefrekeptah's tomb--which, if I may continue, Setna and his brother Anherru traveled to Memphis to visit in order to retrieve the book from its resting place. Setna entered the central chamber, where he was greeted by the Kas--sort of like the ghosts--of a woman and a boy. When Setna asked the woman for the book lying with Nefrekeptah's mummy, she tried to warn him away with her own story. "
(1288 B.C.E., Thebes)
"'Nefrekeptah and I were the children of the Pharaoh Amenhotep," the voice of the scribe swelled to fill the entire chamber as he read from the ancient scroll, washing over his three lone listeners with an overwhelming power. By some unknown magic, the sound seemed to trick Nefertiri's ears, transforming into the mournful sob of her predecessor, Ahura, the bride of Nefrekeptah, whose tale had been recorded in previous generations as a warning to those who followed. "'And, according to the custom, we became husband and wife, and a son Merab was born to us.'
"'Nefrekeptah cared above all things for the wisdom of the ancients and for the magic that is to be learned from all that is carved on the temple walls, and within the tombs and pyramids of long-dead kings and priests in Saqqara. One day as he was studying what is carved on the walls in one of the most ancient shrines of the gods, he heard a priest laugh mockingly and say, "All that you read there is but worthless. I could tell you where lies the Book of Thoth, which the god of wisdom wrote with his own hand. When you have read its first page you will be able to enchant the heaven and the earth, the abyss, the mountains and the sea; and you shall know what the birds and the beasts and the reptiles are saying. And when you have read the second page your eyes will behold all the secrets of the gods themselves, and read all that is hidden in the stars.'"
A supporting arm slipped underneath her elbow, and Nefertiri bestowed a grateful grimace on Humay. Her knees were decidedly wobbly, though she would never had admitted that to anyone, and by simply offering his assistance, he had effortlessly circumvented the humiliation of asking for help and preserved her sense of dignity.
"'Then said Nefrekeptah to the priest, "By the life of Pharaoh, tell me what you would have me do for you, and I will do it--if only you will tell me where the Book of Thoth is.'
"'And the priest answered, "If you would learn where it lies, you must first give me a hundred bars of silver for my funeral, and issue orders that when I die my body shall be buried like that of a great king."'
"'Nefrekeptah did all that the priest asked; and when he had received the bars of silver, he said, "The Book of Thoth lies beneath the middle of the Nile at Koptos, in an iron box. In the iron box is a box of bronze; in the bronze box is a sycamore box; in the sycamore box is an ivory and ebony box; in the ivory and ebony box is a silver box; in the silver box is a golden box--and in that lies the Book of Thoth. All around the iron box are twisted snakes and scorpions, and it is guarded by a serpent who cannot be slain."'"
Nefertiri knew she must look a sight. She hadn't bothered with her pots of cosmetics that morning, nor paid attention to the clothes she had dressed in. Her eyes, she was sure, were ridiculously wide as they tried to contain a barrage of unshed tears, and the tremors running through her hands were impossible to conceal. But she didn't worry much about her appearance, being mainly consumed with her own fear. Her world had been turned on end, and, by Isis, she could forego her finery just for today.
"'Nefrekeptah was beside himself with joy. He hastened home from the shrine and told me all that he had learned. But I feared lest evil should come of it, and said to him, "Do not go to Koptos to seek this book, for I know that it will bring great sorrow to you and to those you love.'
"'I tried in vain to hold Nefrekeptah back, but he shook me off and went to Pharaoh, our royal father, and told him what he had learned from the priest.'
"'Then said Pharaoh, "What is it that you desire?" And Nefrekeptah answered, "Bid your servants make ready the Royal Boat, for I would sail south to Koptos with Ahura my wife and our son Merab to seek this book without delay."'
"'All was done as he wished, and we sailed up the Nile until we came to Koptos. And there the priests and priestesses of Isis came to welcome us and led us up to the Temple of Isis and Horus. Nefrekeptah made a great sacrifice of an ox, a goose and some wine, and we feasted with the priests and their wives in a fine house looking out upon the river.'"
But Nefertiri couldn't, wouldn't, blame Rameses. She had known better than to believe his promises. Not only was he occupied by the duties of his office, but he was also consistently forgetful, and they had both allowed their year of grace to pass without devising a plan to remedy their situation.
No, neither of them was to be blamed. They could never have anticipated the chain of events they had set into place, the consequences they had brought upon themselves.
"'But on the morning of the fifth day, leaving me and Merab to watch from the window of the house, Nefrekeptah went down to the river and made a great enchantment.'
"'First he created a magic cabin that was full of men and tackle. He cast a spell on it, giving life and breath to the men, and he sank the magic cabin into the river. Then he filled the Royal Boat with sand and put out into the middle of the Nile until he came to the place below which the magic cabin lay. And he spoke words of power, and cried, "Workmen, workmen, work for me even where lies the Book of Thoth!" They toiled without ceasing by day and by night, and on the third day they reached the place where the Book lay.'
"'Then Nefrekeptah cast out the sand and they raised the Book on it until it stood upon a shoal above the level of the river.'
"'And behold all about the iron box, below it and above it, snakes and scorpions twined. And the serpent that could not die was twined about the box itself. Nefrekeptah cried to the snakes and scorpions a loud and terrible cry--and at his words of magic they became still, nor could one of them move.'
"'Then Nefrekeptah walked unharmed among the snakes and scorpions until he came to where the serpent that could not die lay curled around the box of iron. The serpent reared itself up for battle, since no charm could work on it, and Nefrekeptah drew his sword and rushing upon it, smote off its head at a single blow. But at once the head and the body sprang together, and the serpent that could not die was whole again and ready for the fray. Once more Nefrekeptah smote off its head, and this time he cast it far away into the river. But at once the head returned to the body, and was joined to the neck, and the serpent that could not die was ready for its next battle.'
"'Nefrekeptah saw that the serpent could not be slain, but must be overcome by cunning. So once more he struck off its head. But before head and body could come together he put sand on each part so that when they tried to join they could not do so as there was sand between them--and the serpent that could not die lay helpless in two pieces.'
"'Then Nefrekeptah went to where the iron box lay on the shoal in the river; and the snakes and scorpions watched him; and the head of the serpent that could not die watched him also: but none of them could harm him.'"
The priests had returned early that morning, early enough that Nefertiri had to be summoned from her couch by her maid to go to meet them. They had been thin and threadbare, worn away by the arduous journey they had undertaken into the desert to the Oracle, but they had been filled with energy and exuberance. They had, against all expectations, returned with an answer for the queen from the mouth of Ra. Only High Priest Amenemhat, their leader, had been somber, perhaps recognizing the danger he had brought to the lady he had only hoped to present with a remedy.
"'He opened the iron box and found in it a bronze box; he opened the bronze box and found in it a box of sycamore wood; he opened that and found a box of ivory and ebony, and in that a box of silver, and at the last a box of gold. And when he had opened the golden box he found in it the Book of Thoth. He opened the Book and read the first page--and at once he had power over the heavens and the earth, the abyss, the mountains and the sea; he knew what the birds and the beasts and the fishes were saying. He read the next page of spells, and saw the sun shining in the sky, the moon and the stars, and knew their secrets--and he saw also the gods themselves who are hidden from mortal sight.'
"'When Nefrekeptah came to me, he held out the Book of Thoth and I took it in my hands. And when I read the first page I also had power over the heavens and the earth, the abyss, the mountains and the sea; and I also knew what the birds, the beasts and the fishes were saying. And when I read the second page I saw the sun, the moon and the stars with all the gods, and knew their secrets even as he did.'
"'After this we entered the Royal Boat and set sail for Memphis. But scarcely had we begun to move, when a sudden power seemed to seize our little boy Merab so that he was drawn into the river and sank out of sight. Seizing the Book of Thoth, Nefrekeptah read from it the necessary spell, and at once the body of Merab rose to the surface of the river and we lifted it on board. But not all the magic in the Book, not that of any magician in Egypt, could bring Merab back to life. Nonetheless Nefrekeptah was able to make his Ka speak to us and tell us what had caused his death. And the Ka of Merab said, "Thoth the great god found that his Book had been taken, and he hastened before Amun-Ra, saying, 'Nefrekeptah, son of Pharaoh Amenhotep, has found my magic box and slain its guards and taken my Book with all the magic that is in it.' And Ra replied to him, 'Deal with Nefrekeptah and all that is his as it seems good to you: I send out my power to work sorrow and bring a punishment upon him and upon his wife and child.' And that power from Ra, passing through the will of Thoth, drew me into the river and drowned me.'"
Ra had spoken to the priests through his Oracle, instructing them that Nefertiri herself must travel to Nefrekeptah's tomb in Memphis and return the Book of Thoth to its original home with her own hands. Only then would she bear Egypt a prince. It was a confusing request, to say the least. The greatest of their gods had commanded her to commit the greatest sin: to rob the dead.
Amenemhat had offered his regrets after delivering his message, the first of many apologies that day. Amenemhat was not to blame, either. Nefertiri could only hold responsible the gods who had sent this chilling wind of fate sweeping through her life, rattling its fragile order.
"'Then we made great lamentation, for our hearts were well nigh broken at the death of Merab. We put back to shore at Koptos, and there his body was embalmed and laid in a tomb as befitted him.'
"'When the rites of burial and the lamentations for the dead were ended, Nefrekeptah said to me, "Let us now sail with all haste down to Memphis to tell our father the Pharaoh what has chanced. For his heart will be heavy at the death of Merab. Yet he will rejoice that I have the Book of Thoth."'
"'So we set sail once more in the Royal Boat. But when it came to the place where Merab had fallen into the water, the power of Re came upon me also and I walked out of the cabin and fell into the river and was drowned. And when Nefrekeptah by his magic arts had raised my body out of the river, and my Ka had told him all, he turned back to Koptos and had my body embalmed and laid in the tomb beside Merab.'
"'Then he set out once more in bitter sorrow for Memphis. But when it reached that city, and Pharaoh came aboard the Royal Boat, it was to find Nefrekeptah lying dead in the cabin with the Book of Thoth bound upon his breast. So there was mourning throughout all the land of Egypt, and Nefrekeptah was buried with all the rites and honors due to the son of Pharaoh in this tomb where he now lies, and where my Ka and the Ka of Merab come to watch over him.'"
The sheltered Egyptian lady had been pushed unexpectedly into a world she had no experience with, but that did not mean she would submit completely to the will of beings larger than herself. She would be brave, not for any god, but for herself. The adventure she had dreamed of within the walls of her childhood nursery had come to the very halls of the palace to reach her, and she would seize the only opportunity her life might offer her.
She slipped her arm lightly out of Humay's with a wavering smile and stood steadily on her own two feet.
"But Setna didn't listen to Ahura, did he?" Rick inquired shrewdly as Evelyn wound Ahura's tale to an end.
"Exactly right," Evie beamed tenderly at him. "Have you heard this before?"
He made a humorless noise. "No, but it wouldn't be much of a story if he just went home, now would it?"
"Yes, I guess so. But anyway, the Ka of Nefrekeptah rose to challenge Setna to a game of draughts for the book. Setna sends Anherru for the Amulet of Ptah, and though he loses all the games, he is able to use it to resist the magic of Nefrekeptah and takes the book anyhow. As he is leaving, Nefrekeptah sets a curse on him that he will return the book as a suppliant.
"Eventually, Setna is tricked into falling in love with a beautiful woman and casting out his wife and killing his children--only to discover later that it was all an illusion. Shaken, he returns the book to Nefrekeptah and fulfills the Ka's last wish: to have his wife and child buried with him at Saqqara. And then the tomb is sealed over and hidden so that no one else can ever find it."
"As touching as all this is, Evie," Jonathan picked up the thread of conversation, "there seems to be an awful lot about this Book of Thoth. Are you sure you're not interested in it at all? That you're not searching for another artifact to replace that Book of Ra-thing you lost?"
"That I lost? Jonathan--!"
Rick placed a restraining hand on his wife's shoulder before she clawed her brother's eyes out. "Hold on a second, honey. I want to hear the answer to this one."
She huffed and sat back in her chair, crossing her arms across her chest defensively. "Of course not! The point of the story is that it's survived so long, where it came from--there must have been a real tomb at some point for it to be based on. The whole Book of Thoth idea was probably thought up by someone with a wild imagination when Setna, as a statesman, decided to move the wife and child of some older prince into his tomb and cover it over. He probably was just making room for one of his father's building projects, no magic or books involved at all."
"Well, if it was covered over by this Setna chap, how are we supposed to go about finding it?" Jonathan posed, and Rick nodded his support.
"Easy," Evelyn said with a secretive smile. "We have a map."
"Naturally," Jonathan greeted the revelation wryly. "And how did we come about this map?"
"It was at the British Museum."
"And so they happily handed it over to you, just like that?" Rick added to the inquisition.
"No, but they did lend me their copy of the text of the Book of Thoth myth in the original hieratic. The map was encoded into the text--a simple replacement cipher that's been in use for millennia--and it gave the distances from Dosher's Step Pyramid and the Jubilee Court in cubits. Someone was meant to find the tomb eventually."
Rick sighed, but it was a resigned sound. "I wish you would have told me all this before we left London."
"Indeed," Jonathan joined in heartily. "A haunted ancient Egyptian tomb, a book that may or may not strike us dead, and a map hidden in an old children's story. And I'm considered the crazy one in the family."
But Evelyn had fallen silent, not even bothering to shield her goal from their attacks, and Rick reached over to take her hand up gently in his. "Sweetie, you look a little green around the gills there."
She pushed back her chair and gave his fingers a squeeze before disentangling herself. "If you'll excuse me; I don't think I have my sea legs yet."
Rick's eyebrows rose to brush each other as he watched her stagger away at a barely contained run. Memories flashed in his mind's eye: the boat on the Nile, their honeymoon, the trip to England. Something didn't mesh. "Evelyn doesn't get seasick," he announced to no one in particular.
"No," Jonathan agreed almost inaudibly. He hoped that Rick wasn't as dense as he sometimes painted him to be, and he also hoped his sister wouldn't inflict bodily harm on him for saying so much. "Evie doesn't get seasick."
"My troops are out your disposal, Lady Nefertiri. We can be ready to leave whenever it pleases you."
"I believe that is my decision to make, Captain," Rameses interrupted the Medjai, "and with the skirmishes on the border recently, I do not believe it would be wise to march an army anywhere that might put our dear friend King Muwatallis on edge."
"I would have to agree," Nefertiri supported her brother, though for her own motives. A whole army for company would certainly put a damper in her sense of freedom and adventure. "One guard would be enough for me to pass undetected through the land. No one should even know that I am gone at all; I can remain locked in my chambers, 'feeling ill'. There is no need to cause unnecessary panic even here in the palace."
"Then I am prepared to leave immediately, if you wish it, my lady." Humay bent his head in deference to her judgment.
Rameses shook his head firmly. "Not you. I need you here."
Humay lifted his head to meet the Pharaoh's eyes, the corners of his mouth dipping into a frown. For a long moment, it appeared as if he was going to contradict the king, but suddenly the muscles in his face relaxed into a neutral expression. Only his eyes were still alive with plans. "Then I know the perfect soldier to send in my place. He will guard the lady's life as his own." He bowed, his body angled towards Nefertiri. "Meet him at sunrise in the courtyard, lady. You will know him when you see him." And he strode swiftly out of the door in ground-eating steps, leaving behind a gaping pair on monarchs.
The story of the Book of Thoth has been adapted from the translation of the original tale found in Tales of Ancient Egypt compiled by Roger Lancelyn Green. Credit where credit is due.
Verona: How do you always manage to understand exactly what I'm going for in this story? You're the perfect reviewer!
Sheri: I am always pleased to satisfy any Jonathan fan since he is the hardest character for me to write. It means that I am doing my job right. And my idea is just as far fetched as any other, but that's what you get when you deal with mummies and such. Hugs and love back at ya!
Ann: A well-educated view is always appreciated! Thanks for the tip; I'll be sure to keep 'hieroglyphs' in mind!
LalaithCat: Hopefully you won't be too disappointed that I strayed from the realistic here. 'A haunted ancient Egyptian tomb, a book that may or may not strike us dead, and a map hidden in an old children's story.' I, for one, have never been the sane one in the family, either.
Cookie044: Thanks bunches! Your review helped me to overcome a massive writer's block. Hopefully the larger update with make up for a longer wait between chapters.