Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Key (02/14/13)
TITLE: A Pharaoh's Secret
By Jack Taylor
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Hatshepsut winced as the truth hit home. The sun blurred in the mid-day sky. The white doves lifted off the myrrh trees and faded into the shadows of the palace roofing. Every servant evaporated from the room. The gold flask of date wine lay upended on the floor as her hand shook in seizure.
From her knees she wretched and saw the evidence spread out before her. The poison had begun its work destroying her from the inside out. There was no question that her co-regent had tired of her control after 22 years of keeping him down.
For years she had maneuvered to have her adopted son moved into place as successor. Moses had proved himself on the battlefield, succeeded in building great monuments to her legacy, and had wowed the nobles with his oratory skills. Still he refused the ultimate prize she was ready to offer. Perhaps they had waited too long.
As the Pharaoh of Egypt coughed up more blood she spotted her trusted architect Ineni moving through the scarlet curtains toward her. She rolled on her side and reached into the fold of her tunic. A single brass object fell into her hands. “For Moses,” she called out as a spasm twisted her body into a pretzel on the floor. “When he is ready.”
The master builder scooped up the object and left his Pharaoh to writhe in her death throes. It was too late for any magician or physician to work their arts on her. Her sail down the Nile into the heavens had begun.
Ineni hurried toward his latest masterpiece towering out of the desert sands. He slid into a hidden entrance and set about his task. A few moments later a follower entered by the same way and within the hour the great one was dead, screaming under torture, but refusing to give away his secret.
Delphi wiped the sweat from her brow as she brushed away the endless sand from another row of stone. Archaeological digs had faced increasing challenges since the Arab Spring had created havoc in Egypt.
The rewards for her years of dedicated efforts were minimal. A few pottery fragments, statuettes of no significance, carvings and a skeleton.
The Princeton grad had studied deeply the fragments of writings attributed to Manetho in the third century BC. That great historian had spoken clearly of Queen Hatshepsut, Pharaoh of Egypt for 22 years before her death in 1458 BC. Of course, his system of dating was different but the translation to the modern day calendar was unmistakeable. And now, this broken tower had just been confirmed to date to her very reign in the eighteenth dynasty.
For a thousand years the architecture of Hatshepsut and her architect Ineni would be unrivaled in the ancient world. Ineni had erected the twin obelisks at the Temple of Karnak. The tallest in the ancient world. Delphi held her breath as if on sacred ground. What secrets lay within the stones?
The sun had almost buried itself into the desert sand when Delphi first felt the movement. It was slight and only because her knee had settled just so at the corner of the stone.
A high powered light allowed her to continue even after her colleagues had moved to the buses for the trip back to the camp site.
The Italian, Falconi, alone patiently waited and watched as she pleaded for more time.
It was just after mid-night when the two of them finally removed the stone from its nesting place. Hidden in a corner was a leather pouch. In the pouch was a brass object.
“A key,” said Falconi.
“To what?” asked Delphi.
“I don’t know,” said the Italian “but sketched on this leather pouch is a map. A picture of the Nile. Of Upper and Lower Egypt. Look at this writing. Pharaoh of the two lands of Egypt.”
The bow of the brass key contained clear allusions to the sun god Ra. The handle and its combination twisted in the pattern of the Nile itself as if some satellite long ago had laid out the detail too clear to miss. Delphi unrolled her map and laid the key alongside and a shiver went up her spine.
“It is the key to the throne of Egypt,” said Delphi.
“What is this inscription on the wrapping?”
“'For Moses'. What could this mean?”
“Bring me a Bible!”
“Don’t you see? It is the key to everything right now.”
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