Read an Excerpt
After lunch, they re-entered the tomb and took another peek into the wondrous First Chamber. Kendra and Clifford’s tasks, along with clerks supplied by the Madu Museum, would be to tag and number each artifact.
Photographs would be taken to document placement within the room. Once artifacts in the front were removed, any concealed behind those would be identified in place. Such procedure provided a permanent record of the placement and condition of each artifact.
Between various steps of the procedure, film would be developed to assure information was factually captured before another layer of artifacts could be moved from its resting place. Cleaning and preservation would begin on site should some pieces begin to deteriorate in the fresh air and sunlight.
After again viewing the First Chamber, they quietly began to leave when suddenly a low moaning resounded.
Kendra grabbed onto Aaron.
Bebe seemed more interested in seeing to whom Kendra would turn in a time of distress.
The groan was so stunning, Dr. Withers placed a hand on Clifford’s shoulder.
Both Aaron and Chione looked to each of the others to determine who was playing a joke.
Then it came again. A low muffled tone, almost like someone calling out for recognition. This time, all had heard. No one moved or said anything. Finally, Chione said, "That’s not the same sound I’ve been hearing. A male voice? Which one of you guys is trying to pull one over?"
The men looked to one another. The sound came again, vague and indistinct, but none of the men had opened their mouths. "The wind," Aaron said, shrugging.
"There’s no air current in here, O Pilgrim," Masud said.
"The tomb’s no longer sealed however," Aaron said.
After that episode, no further sounds were heard and they slowly exited the spectacular First Chamber. They made their way into the passageway and down the next short flight of steps.
Aaron pulled Chione aside. "Why did Masud call me 'O Pilgrim'?"
"The Egyptians are very respectful of others."
"But why, specifically, 'O Pilgrim'?"
"Someone must have told him you’ve been to the Holy Land. Anyone who’s been there is revered by the Egyptians."
"So if they respect you, they tack on some sort of title?"
"Better than saying 'Hey you', right?"
Against a backdrop of walls displaying scenes of the times with artistic splendor, Ginny’s lens continued to record their every move, videographed for posterity.
Clifford flashed his light to the ceiling. He flashed again. He motioned for a man to bring a ladder, which Clifford placed precariously close to the priceless wall art. He climbed and again inspected with the light. Finally, he said, "Just as I thought. This dark ceiling contains residue of the oil lamps used by the Ancients when they carved and painted."
"No kidding," Aaron said. "Let me see." He held the ladder while Clifford descended. Aaron climbed and gingerly picked at the edge of one spot. He held up fingertips for all to see. "Right again. The restoration people can analyze this grime."
More stair steps took them deeper into the passageway.
"According to radar scanning," Aaron said. "One wall of the next chamber lies adjacent to the first, though several feet deeper." No visible doorway could be found where radar indicated the next chamber.
"Oh, great," one of the engineers said. "Just what we need."
"What is it?" Clifford asked.
"Look for a sealed passage, anything," the engineer said. "Radar picked up a good-sized chamber on the right. We’ll have to locate the entrance."
"Just look," Aaron said. "Try not to touch."
Each of the team took a section of the wall and visually examined. Lamps were brought close.
"Strange" Bebe said. "I’d heard limestone in this valley was too poor to do much carving. Look at this art."
"We’re higher up than Valley of the Kings," Clifford said. "Way back into the hills. Might make a difference."
"Hey, I’ve found something," Kendra said in a few moments. "Right where it should be." She pointed along several deep slashes. "Right about here."
"How do you figure?" Clifford asked, straining to see.
"Look closely," she said, nudging him to bring his face up to the wall. "These cracks were purposely made to look like artistic tool marks, then painted over." Again she traced up one side, across the top and down the other. "Here’s our doorway."
"A solid block wedged so tightly you’d think the seams were carved in as part of the design," Clifford said, shaking his head in amazement.
Everyone stepped back for filming of the mural before the engineers would cut through. Chione accompanied Bebe and Clifford to sit on the steps near the portcullis shaft allowing a breath of fresh air.
Words and exclamations in mixed languages floated through the passageway as the crews worked. The job of loosening a disguised stone block without damaging surrounding portions of the wall would be tedious.
More equipment was needed. A nimble Egyptian scaled a notched rope hanging in the portcullis shaft. Soon, he returned with his equipment lowered to him. After what seemed hours, they heard stone grating as it slid loose, excited voices, and Dr. Withers calling them back to the fold.
Two muscular laborers strained to pull the loosened granite block outward; taking what precautions they could to avoid scratching the stone floor. Using tenuous finger holds, they pulled and rocked the stone side to side.
No one wished to cause damage that could be avoided. With the two-foot thick block almost free allowing a small opening into the chamber, a thick gush of putrid air escaped.
Suddenly the moaning came again! Clearly, the noise originated from inside that chamber. They covered their noses and mouths with facemasks.
For all their effort to clear, preserve, and enter through the only passage available, who or what could possibly be inside that chamber making those moaning sounds? They waited. No more noises.
Finally, Aaron shrugged and began helping to dislodge the stone. More putrid air belched out. He grimaced, cheeks puffing as he paused to blow out a couple breaths to clear the odor from his lungs and sinuses.
Unbelievably, the block began moving by itself!
A dirty hand slipped around the edge. Aaron took two paces back, grabbed a tripod and raised it like a club. His eyes bulged in their sockets. Everyone stepped back. Way back. Several workers fled.
"What is it?" Dr. Withers asked, straining to see from a distance.
A dirty arm, with blood on a torn sleeve poked through as the block moved again. Then dirty, disheveled, and favoring the bloody arm, a figure hobbled into the passageway like the dead coming to life.