Please see first chapter for disclaimer, rating, warnings, pairings, etc.
Author's Note: Goodness! My apologies for taking so long to update this story! Firstly, I hit a bit of a dry spell when it came to this story, but hearing Dr. Zahi Hawass actually speak in person helped kick-start things a bit, as well as obtaining a few more reference materials (very nice, very large reference materials!). My beta, as well, has had a very busy life as of late, and has just now had the chance to sit down and devote time to work on this chapter. We both apologize for the very long wait for this, and sincerely hope that you never again have to wait this long! Thank you so much for your patience, and we hope you enjoy this chapter!
An Unexpected Visitor
"Quiet as a tomb," John reported.
Teyla looked up from her breakfast, teetering on the cusp between the calories and caffeine kicking in and the dragging fatigue from her basically sleepless night. "I'm sorry-- You were saying-- What?"
Her old friend sat down next to Elizabeth, simultaneously reaching to grab a muffin. "Just checked in with the night guards," he said. "They reported no activity in the Valley last night. Thus, 'quiet as a tomb.'"
McKay, sitting by himself in the corner with his laptop precariously balanced across his lap and a cup of steaming coffee in his free hand, moaned. "Not funny, Sheppard."
John grinned. "Well, I thought it was."
Ronon finished his coffee and set his mug on the table with a decisive click. "So what's on the docket for today?" he asked, pointedly steering the conversation in a different direction. Teyla resisted the urge to rub her forehead with both hands and chant, Two of a kind, two of a kind! How, she wondered, could they both seem so chipper after the night they'd just had?
"More of the same," Elizabeth responded with a smile at the big man. Her gaze shifted to Teyla, who blinked in momentary confusion until she realized the other woman was responding to Ronon's question, not echoing her own thought. "If you want to work in the actual burial chamber today, I'm more than willing to take over documenting the tomb paintings."
"That would be great," Teyla said, relieved Elizabeth had suggested it. She hadn't gotten a good look at even half the objects in the tomb the day before. A chance to climb on the completed bridge and see everything she could was too tantalizing to pass up. Her energy level perked up at the very thought of doing so. She pushed her own plate away, suddenly eager to get back to the Valley.
As they left the hotel, Ronon fell into step with her leaned in close. "Could I work with you again today?" he asked. A small smile curled up one corner of his mouth. "I'm no archeologist, but I have to admit I'm suffering from raging curiosity about what all is in the tomb."
"That would be very helpful," Teyla agreed readily, smiling back.
"So," his smile turned into a mischievous grin, "what did I just get myself into?"
She launched into an explanation of how they would be stabilizing the fragile artifacts in situ before carefully lifting them onto padded stretchers and moving them from the tomb over to the long-empty KV9. Once there the objects would be examined in closer detail by one of Zahi's most trusted colleagues.
"I just hope I get a chance to examine them soon," she sighed, "before they are removed to the Cairo Museum. Yes, I will be handling them as we clear the tomb, but I want to be able to study them."
McKay cracked off a harsh laugh from the shotgun seat, which he'd claimed he deserved due to his bad back and delicate stomach. "Good luck with that. Once the antiquities services gets its hands on what we found for them, you'll have about as much chance as a snowball has in--"
"Okay, everybody," Sheppard announced loudly, "we're here."
Teyla gave his shoulder a grateful squeeze as she climbed out of the seat behind him.
The temperature in the Valley was already well on its way to 100 degrees by the time the expedition reached the tomb. Rodney, not even noticing the chilly silence being directed toward him, immediately went off to continue his mapping project. Elizabeth, after exchanging eloquent looks with the others, settled in to document the tomb paintings. Teyla, Ronon and John got right to work in the burial chamber, their careful hands starting with the objects closest to the entrance, wrapping then placing delicate though remarkably well-preserved items in shallow trays to be transported. They all kept bottles of water close, constantly reminding each other to drink. The last thing they needed was for one of them to land in the hospital because of heat exhaustion or dehydration.
By mid-afternoon, they had a good portion of the front of the tomb cleared. That was when John let out an excited yell. "Teyla! Ronon! Come here, look at this!"
Teyla capped off her water bottle. Followed closely by Ronon, she very carefully threaded her way over to Sheppard. He leaned over something propped against the wall directly across the tomb from where they'd been working on a large gold-leaf covered wooden chest. "What's up?"
"Look!" John pointed with his flashlight. Gold glittered on the jumble of objects piled together against the wall, the beam highlighting scenes of war and racing. "Chariots! The F-16s of Ancient Egypt." He sighed wistfully.
Teyla rolled her eyes. Nudging her friend away, she knelt to crane her head around the collection of dismantled pieces, trying to count. "Five, as near as I can tell," she reported. "That's almost as many as were found in King Tutankhamun's burial chamber."
John and Ronon crowded close. "They were used!" the former exulted. "Look at the wear on these wheels." He carefully touched one with a gloved finger.
She wiped sweat off her forehead with the back of her arm. "Did he take Egypt to war?" she wondered aloud. "Or did he just enjoy racing with the Egyptians?" Another question with no answers. The number of those seemed to keep growing.
Elizabeth appeared in the doorway, the beam of her flashlight finding them. "What's with all the yelling?" she asked breathlessly. "Did you find something?"
"Chariots!" John cried. He turned towards Weir, his face lit with the boyish enthusiasm Teyla remembered from years ago. "Five chariots!"
Teyla stood and brushed off the knees of her jeans. "We'll have to leave these for next-to-last, before we start work on the sarcophagi," she decided. "It will be too hard to get them out otherwise. We don't want to damage them."
John looked disappointed as he also straightened. "True," he sighed. "Man, I hope I get a chance to examine those babies." He tossed another wistful glance over his shoulder.
"Fast?" Ronon asked, gazing at the chariots with a gleam in his eyes.
"Not you too." Teyla went back to the chest.
Behind her, John said, "Yes! Very fast, and very maneuverable. For that era, it would have been the next best thing to flying."
Shaking her head while pressing her lips together against a laugh, Teyla resumed carefully brushing thousands of years' worth of accumulated dust and sand off the chest. Running her fingers along the hieroglyphs inscribed along the lid, she smiled slightly. So far she was really enjoying her job – most of the Egyptian objects the Atlantian pharoah had collected were at the front of the tomb. Elizabeth had spotted the majority of things he'd brought with him farther back. The other woman was chafing, anxious to get to work, but she couldn't until Teyla finished. Then, while Elizabeth worked on the Atlantian objects, Teyla hoped to find time to examine the Egyptian artifacts closely.
Ronon appeared next to her. "Ready to move it?" he asked.
"Yes." They got good grips on the edges before lifting it up and over onto the half-full stretcher waiting for it. "There we go." Teyla let out her breath, gently tapping the lid with her hand. "Safe and sound." She glanced at her watch. "Come on. Time for another water break."
They moved out into the clearer air of the Valley itself, taking off their masks before drinking deeply. John joined them a moment later, slapping dust off his clothes. He made a wry face. "Have you ever seen so much dust in your life?" he asked.
"You've seen more than I. Your family had far more excavation experience than mine," Teyla said wistfully.
John's lips twisted ruefully. "Would you kill me if I said I really didn't pay that much attention to the dust, back then?"
Teyla laughed and shook her head, then looked down at herself. "I need a shower. By the time we finish clearing the tomb, we're going to pay to replace the interior of the jeep we rented."
Ronon glanced at his watch. "The Valley closes in another hour and a half. We probably have enough time to finish filling that last stretcher tray, though, right?"
"Yes. We've made a good start today. We should be able to finish excavating most of the Egyptian artifacts tomorrow. Then, the day after, Elizabeth can get to work on the Atlantian things while John and I have closer looks at what we've already salvaged."
Adjusting their masks back over their faces, the three started back into the tomb. Just as Teyla was about to step inside, a loud scream echoed from across the Valley. As they whirled toward the horrifying sound, Elizabeth and McKay came scrambling out to join them.
Just as John and Ronon took a couple of half-running steps in that direction, Teyla at their elbows, McKay's yelped, "Wait! Stop!" brought all three swinging back around. Eyes nearly popping out of his head, the Canadian scientist gabbled, "What if it's a trap? Or, or, or a diversion? You know, get us -- some of us -- out of the way so they can get at--" He flapped a frantic hand at the tomb entrance behind him.
Dex and Sheppard exchanged a quick, tense look, agreement flashing between them. As John took a reluctant step back, Ronon turned swiftly to Teyla. "Can you use one of these?" he demanded.
She glanced down. He held a knife extended hilt-first toward her. "Yes," she replied tersely. Curling her slim fingers around the hilt, she took it from him.
"Then c'mon." He took off running in the direction from which the scream had come, Teyla easily keeping pace with him.
As they approached the pile of rubble between themselves and KV9, Ronon stuck out a cautionary arm, bringing them to a skidding stop just short of it. Under his breath, he hissed, "Stay behind me!" and moved forward with catlike stealth. It was no time to argue gender equality. Teyla gritted her teeth, but obeyed.
The American diver reached the edge of the rocky mound. Very slowly, he eased an eye around it. So closely did Teyla follow him, though, she had to duck sharply backward when he abruptly straightened. He gave her a quick glance and moved out of her way. "Take a look," he said.
She did, and gasped. "Salima! We must go to her!"
Ronon put himself in front of her again. "It could still be some kind of trap," he warned, "so keep a sharp eye out for trouble."
Teyla found it hard to keep her eyes from focusing exclusively on her friend, however. The Egyptian woman leaned against the rocks just outside the tomb's entrance, both hands over her face as she shook in obvious distress. Unconsciously picking up their pace in response, they swiftly crossed the intervening distance.
"Salima!" Teyla called. She started to reach out to the other woman. Noticing the knife still gripped in her fist, she thrust it quickly back at Ronon and took hold of her shoulders. "Salima, what is it? What is wrong?"
Dr. Ikram startled violently, then dropped her hands to look up at them with wide dark eyes. Clawing her mask down with one hand, "It--it-it--" she stammered, as she gestured wildly at the gaping hole in the rock wall just to her left with the other.
Teyla and Ronon looked at each other. "No trap," he said softly, "and I don't think it's a diversion, either. I'll go take a look, check out what scared her so badly."
"Not alone," she countered firmly. "Salima, wait here. We will be right back."
Stepping carefully over the power cords snaking into KV9, they entered the tomb. Teyla's eyes darted around the normal organized clutter of an archaeological dig's cataloguing process, and were almost immediately drawn to a tipped-over spotlight next to a large pottery jar, of the kind used to hold foodstuffs for the Pharaoh's sustenance in his afterlife. Its lid lay shattered into several pieces on the dusty stone floor.
Ronon put out a restraining hand. "Let me set the light back up first," he said in a very low voice. Teyla nodded tightly, her heart stuttering and jumping in her chest as she watched him lift the tripod-mounted light. Without willing it, she swayed forward as the lamp's beam swung up and around, then steadied on the earthen container. . . .
Even as terror exploded inside Teyla, Ronon was in motion: pivoting, his long arms snatching her up and crushing her against his chest as he ran them out of the tomb. She tried to suck in breath enough to scream. All she could manage, though, was muffled, uncontrollable coughing as she inhaled dust from Ronon's shirt and his suddenly acrid sweat. And burning behind her eyelids was the image she knew would haunt her nightmares for years to come: Not the desiccated remains of fruit or bread or meat, but an unwrapped mummy, its limbs hideously twisted into inhuman positions, its head rocked back on a cruelly stretched out neck as it stared at them with eyeless sockets and a long-silent scream of terror.
-To Be Continued-