River, Forrest and I drove back to the museum in the truck carrying most of the objects found at the site in the last few days. Among them, well padded and in a safe place, was the casket we found.
Forrest was describing the procedure they would use to examine the mummy. "It's amazing.", he said. "We won't even open up the casket at first, and we'll still be able to examine the mummy. Better, perhaps, than if we unwrapped it. We simply have a scanner that looks like one of those CAT scans in the hospitals, and it creates a 3-d image we look at on the computer."
Unconsiouly, I shuddered. Computers again. I suppose I'll have to get used to them. They'll be running just about everything in the future.
Luckily Forrest had called ahead, so while the museum people were unloading the truck, we were following the cart that held the casket. We were all interested to see what it looked like inside, and the museum had the machine ready to scan it.
We were able to watch the computer monitor as the scan started. They decided to start at the bottom of the sarcophogus and work their way up. The details filled the screen, very slowly, but we began to see details. While we were watching the mummy take form, one of the computer technicians tried to explain the process to us. I simply nodded and smiled.
The mummy was wrapped up in the normal way, there was no sign of anything strang until we got to the upper thigh. There was a long slash across his left thigh, and when the mummy dried it had pulled open. The cut must have happened shortly before or after death. It was too smooth to be a simple tear in the mummy.
My mind flicked back to the was staff we found along with the mummy...
As the scan slowly got higher, we found another wound in the abdomen. We almost missed it, since most of the internal organs are removed in the mummification process, but it was there, Two stab wounds, next to each other... then a twist. Someone had expertly gored this man with the end of the was and twisted... breaking his spine in two. That takes a lot of strength.
I held my breath as the scan reached the top of the shoulders... the base of the neck...
Then nothing. There was only swaddling and wrapping above the base of the neck.
The head had been cut cleanly off. And it had not been buried with the mummy. That could mean only one thing.
In my mind's eye I pictured it...
An ancient immortal, lived in Rome, or at least joined the roman army at some point. When the romans entered Egypt, he sensed the passage of a powerful immortal. Fearful, but also hopeful, he deserted his army. He walked into the desert. For days the sand stung his eyes, and the sun burned his skin.
Then he felt the sense of another immortal. He found an oasis, or at least a sheltered spot and... no. That couldn't be. They would never have found his body if he had fought in the desert.
Perhaps it was the other way around. While traveling through the desert, another immortal sensed him. The soldier was followed into Alexandria or some roman city in Egypt, and the two of them fought in the streets... no one thought to stop the man who killed him because...
Because he was a god. Because Anubis himself travelled the streets of Alexandria with a was in his hand, and took this man to the underworld. That's why he was mummified. The roman army had stood by, helpless, and watched this Egyptian monster take his head, then they had him buried in the Egyptian way.
And he left behind his was. Why? As a message of sorts? Or was he wounded, and he crawled away with nothing more than his head still attached to his body?
There are some things best left unknown. If I can avoid tangling with this monster, all the better.
It's hard to believe that something has been out there, roaming the desert, taking heads for at least as long as I've been alive.
Clutched in the mummy's right hand was a bronze short sword. Roman make, most likely. Lying on his chest was his shield.
I was right, he was a roman soldier. The poor bastard never had a chance. He might have even been on his first life. He might not have even known that he was immortal until he joined the army and died in battle.
As I got over my shock, I tried to act as puzzled as the rest of them were. I don't know if anyone noticed that I wasn't sincere. I've had thousands of years to practice my acting. And I haven't known River long enough for her to read me too well.
The sarcophogus itself was carted away to perform the genetic testing Pierre had requested. Fortunately, they weren't going to have to break into the sarcophogus itself. The small piece that had broken off was big enough to stick a needle in and get a sample through the wrappings.
We were told that we would have results by the end of the next day.
I am patient. But I think I already know what the result will be.
My only question is whether the short sword in the mummy's hand drew blood or not.
Pierre sat down and unrolled rubbing paper. If he understood it correctly, this particular inscription told how the mummy had died. Laborously, he compared the symbols he didn't recognize with those in a book he had with him.
Finally, he was done. He massaged his face with his hands, then walked out of the tent, heading towards the tent that held the radio.
One of the people from the museum finally managed to relay his message to us. "Mr. Bouchard called for you, he asked for you to come, and to bring your niece and her friend with you."
"All right." Forrest said, "As soon as we're done with some of the labeling. We found a lot of small artifacts in that burial chamber."
"It sounded urgent, sir. He wants you there right away."
"Very well, I'll leave the photographs of the tomb, so you can see where everything was. But I'll be back later to finish the labelling."
River spoke up, "I wonder what he found? I mean, why would he ask for the two of us to come with you, specifically?"
I knew. He couldn't just ask me to come, so he had to ask for River and her uncle as well.
The trip was quicker, we took one of the trucks back, but because it was empty we made better time.
We got back and Pierre had two pieces of paper to show us. The first was the heiroglyphics, and the second was the translation.
"This tells how the soldier died. I don't want to get the word out quite yet, but apparently he was a roman soldier."
Pierre continued to tell the story exactly as I had imagined it. A soldier, passing through the desert. According to his comrades, he had died in battle, and mysteriously not crossed over completely into death. When he got to Egypt, he met up with his death a second time.
But there was one detail I hadn't counted on.
"According to this, he was killed by Anubis himself... but Anubis wasn't the one who took his head."
Pierre looked me in the eye as he said the next part. "His head was taken by Shesmu. That's who the staff belongs to, not Anubis. Eyewitnesses said that Anubis killed him the second time, to make up for his oversight. Then Shesmu took his head right there. A great cry of fury arose around them, and when they were done they simply walked out into the desert, heading west."
Now there were two of them.
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