"Nate!" Elena groaned as he pulled her into yet another market full of Egyptian knick-knacks and curios. "I thought this trip was supposed to be about us, remember? No danger and no treasure hunting."
"And it is," Nate insisted receiving a look. "This is the last market, I promise. After this we'll go to the Natural History Museum or the Sphinx or any where you want, okay?"
"Yeah, sure," she said rolling her eyes and following after him.
As much as it annoyed her that she couldn't drag him away from the markets he was amusing to watch. He scowered every market looking for that one perfect artifact to add to his collection. His eyes were so lit up with excitement they were practically glowing and the air around him was filled by this infectious energy. She couldn't help but get swept away with him. It was easy to understand his fascination, she was fascinated too. Egypt was rich in centuries of history and culture. It would be so easy to get lost in this place, to be swept away by its tales of ancient mystery and intrigue. But they'd both promised, no business and no treasure hunting. If it wasn't for that promise she'd be going camera crazy by now.
"Hey, Elena, come over here and look at this," Nate called back at her.
Turning away from the various semi-precious gem encrusted hand mirrors she'd been admiring she walked over to Nate. He was holding a four posted midsize hourglass made of bronze. The frame had been tooled with dozens of hieroglyphics. It was a beautiful piece but it was flawed. The glass lacked any sand and there was a decent sized gap between the upper and lower bulbs.
"It's nice, Nate. But look," she said wiggling her finger in the gap. "It's broken. There's a piece missing or something. It won't even hold sand."
"I know," Nate said frowning. "There's just something about it though, something special."
"Oh, no," Elena said pushing the hourglass down so he'd look at her. "No treasure hunting, remember? You promised."
"You're probably right," Nate said setting the hourglass back down on the table.
"Ah, you have a keen eye, sir," the owner of the table said coming over.
"That piece you were holding, it is very rare," he said picking it up. "This is known as the Pharaoh's Hourglass. According to legend every pharaoh had one. The hourglasses had the power to give its wielder a second chance, one chance to turn back time and correct a fatal mistake, their one biggest regret. Many hourglasses have been recovered throughout the years, this one in particular is from a later period, but the center piece, the crucial piece that makes the hourglasses work, has never been found. It is said that collectors and treasure hunters still to this day search for the piece in hopes of unlocking the secrets of the hourglass."
Nate watched the merchant place the hourglass back on the table.
"Well, it's a good story, I'll admit," Nate said rubbing his chin, "but that's all it is, a story."
"Believe what you will," the merchant said. "It doesn't change the fact that this is a very rare artifact sought after by many collectors."
Elena saw the hungry gleam in Nate's eyes. It didn't matter whether the merchant was spinning a tale or not, that hourglass had a story and a good one too. He wanted it, he wanted it bad. Grabbing his arm she dragged him aside.
"You don't really believe that guy, do you?" she asked trying to pull him back down off his find high. "Honestly, if that hourglass really was a rare artifact he wouldn't be hawking it to tourists in a street market."
"Take a look around, Elena," Nate said. "We are we out of tourist territory. Sometimes you have to be willing to take a chance; you never know where it might take you."
Elena smirked at the truth in his words. Three and a half years ago she'd taken a chance on this guy from the Keys claiming he knew the location of the Sir Francis Drake's coffin. She hadn't been able to get rid of him since.
"Fine," she said throwing her hands up. "You want to get it, get it. But don't blame me when it turns out to be a piece of junk."
He didn't hear her mutter the last statement because he was already walking away. Elena just watched as he haggled with the merchant. After a few minutes they settled on a price and he forked over the agreed amount of bills. Prize in hand he walked back to her a smug look on his face.
"Happy now?" she asked hip cocked.
"Yes," he answered slinging an arm over her shoulder.
They began weaving their way back through the stalls the bright desert sun shining down on them through the numerous rooftops and canopies. The dusty market was filled with shoppers and a chaotic symphony of smells and sounds roared around them. In its own way the market was beautiful with a sort of harmonic serenity. Elena loved every bit of it. For the first time she and Nate were managing to enjoy the exotic location without having to worry about being shot at or saving the world from some power crazy psychopath.
"I'm glad I let you talk me into this trip," she said lacing her arm around the small of Nate's back. "It's nice."
"What is?" he asked sensing there was more to the sentiment.
"Oh, I don't know, you not getting shot at," she ribbed.
"How many times do I have to tell you, they're shooting at you too, y'know!"
Elena laughed hugging Nate's side and staggering out of step. He was so easy to get riled up. Turning his head away he feigned pouting while she smirked at him. He was playing at his old gambit again and she wasn't going to fall for it.
"So do you think it's true?" he asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Do I think what's true?"
"The story about the hourglass. The missing piece and…"
"No," she cut him off. "Uhn-uh. Don't you dare go getting all wrapped up in that story on me. This trip is strictly us, remember? No treasure hunting."
"I know," he said. "I'm just… curious."
"Well, I honestly can't tell you," she said after a moment. "The skeptic in me would say it's just a bedtime story but some part of me wasn't to believe in the fantastic. After all I used to think El Dorado and Shambhala where just stories too; you've proved me wrong on both occasions. So who knows?"
"You're right," Nate said. "It's almost impossible to tell. And the chances of finding the missing piece without some sort of hint or clue are nearly non-existent. Unless, of course, the hieroglyphics on the outside mean something. It wouldn't be much but it's a start and from there…"
"Nate," Elena warned.
She shook her head as he continued to study the hourglass. He was positively incorrigible. She watched his eyes work over the tooling as if trying to decipher some meaning out of the pictures. He was studying it so intently he seemed to have forgotten she was there entirely. Sighing she slid out from under his arm and hopped around in front of him. She pulled him forward by one hand and swung it back and forth to get his attention. Finally he looked up at her.
"Well let's say you did find the piece and got the hourglass to work, what then? Would you use it? Is there really something so terrible, something you regret so much you'd want to go back and change it?"
Nate glanced from the hourglass to Elena pondering for a moment.
"I've made some mistakes…"
"Okay, a lot of mistakes," he grinned shaking his head at her. "But when I look back on my life I don't regret a minute of it."