Authors: Gill Harvey
Bloomsbury Publishing, London, Berlin and New York
First published in Great Britain in 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
36 Soho Square, London, W1D 3QY
Text copyright © Gill Harvey 2009
Illustrations copyright © Peter Bailey 2009
The moral right of the author has been asserted
This electronic edition published in July 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
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A CIP catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 4088 1249 5
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Also by Gill Harvey
The Spitting Cobra
The Horned Viper
The Sacred Scarab
Orphan of the Sun
Hopi and Isis can remember the terrible accident on the River Nile, when they lost their parents to crocodiles. Hopi still bears crocodile teethmarks on his leg. But five years have passed, and they’ve been lucky: eleven-year-old Isis is a beautiful dancer, and she’s been spotted by a dance and music troupe in the town of Waset. Now they live with the troupe, and Isis performs regularly. Meanwhile, thirteen-year-old Hopi, marked by the gods, pursues his strange connection with dangerous creatures . . .
Join them in the world of ancient Egypt as they uncover the dark deeds happening around them. If there’s anything you don’t understand, you may find an explanation at the back of the book.
In the flickering light of the oil lamp, the gold on the lid of the casket gave off a fiery glow. Nakht turned the precious object over in his hands, examining it closely. He opened the lid and peered inside; he ran his finger over the fine inlaid patterns of carnelian, lapis lazuli and gold.
‘A very fine copy, don’t you think?’ asked Baki.
Nakht shook his head. ‘This is no copy. I’d know it anywhere,’ he said. ‘I worked on it myself. And I placed it in the tomb with my own hands.’
Baki stroked his chin. ‘You’re sure?’
‘By Horus and all the gods, I couldn’t be more certain.’
Baki gave a heavy sigh. ‘Then let us await the messenger.’
The two foremen lapsed into silence. Nakht placed the casket on the floor, and they gazed at it, as though it might be able to give them an answer to the mystery.
At last, there was a soft knock on the door. Nakht stood, and went to open it. A young man stepped inside, still breathless from running down the mountain.
‘Well?’ demanded Baki. ‘What did you find?’
‘The tomb has not been touched, sir,’ replied the young man. ‘The door is still in place, with the seals of the Great Place in perfect condition.’
Nakht sat down heavily, shaking his head. ‘Impossible,’ he murmured.
‘You’re sure you checked the right tomb?’ queried Baki.
‘Of course, sir,’ said the messenger. ‘I checked three times, and all the tombs nearby, just to be sure.’
The two foremen exchanged glances. The young man stood nervously, shifting from one foot to the other.
‘You may go,’ said Baki.
‘Thank you, sir.’ The messenger stepped quickly to the door, and disappeared into the night.
Nakht stood up again, and started pacing the room. ‘So,’ he said. ‘This casket has been found in our village, but it belongs in a royal tomb. This much is sure. But the robbers are cunning. They did not break into the tomb via the doorway. They must have made another way in. It all points to one thing, Baki. The robbers live among us, here in Set Maat. No one else knows the mountain so well; no one else has the knowledge and skill to create another entrance.’
Baki ran a hand over his head, then once more stroked his jaw. ‘This cannot be,’ he muttered. ‘I cannot believe that such a terrible thing has come among us.’
‘There is no other explanation,’ said Nakht, his face full of sorrow. ‘We cannot hide from the truth. We must find the robbers, even if they are our relatives and friends. It is our sacred duty.’
Nakht sat down, rested his elbows on his knees and bowed his head. ‘Yes, how,’ he murmured.
The two men were not afraid of silence. They had known each other for many, many years. They sat and stared at the beautiful casket once more, each wondering whether the other would come up with an idea. At last, it was Nakht who spoke.
‘The harvest approaches,’ he said. ‘Let us each throw a party. We can afford to be generous; let there be music and dancing and rich food and wine. Indeed, we must make sure the wine flows freely, for that is our key. Wine and good cheer encourage tongues to speak freely. Someone will say something that should have remained a secret.’
Baki smiled wryly. ‘I am surprised at you, brother,’ he said. ‘I never thought I would live to see you encourage drinking and revelry.’
But Nakht remained serious. ‘Perhaps so,’ he said. ‘But I never thought I would live to see such things happen in our midst. Do you think it a good idea?’
Baki spread his hands expressively, and shrugged. ‘I can see nothing wrong with it,’ he said. ‘And vanity may play a part as much as flagons of wine. If a robber’s wife has acquired sumptuous jewellery, she may be tempted to wear it.’
‘Then let us go ahead. The sooner the better.’
‘Well . . .’ Baki frowned. ‘It may not be so easy. There are a few problems.’
‘Our best music troupe cannot perform at the moment. Wab and her family have a sickness, and their finest young dancer has broken her arm.’
Nakht slapped his thigh impatiently. ‘But there are others!’
‘They are priestesses, brother,’ Baki pointed out. ‘Can we really call on them for such a purpose?’ He paused. ‘Perhaps it would be better to wait awhile.’
‘No.’ Nakht was determined. ‘We have to carry out our plan now. Rumours are already spreading. If we cannot use our own troupe, we can hire another. Let us send messengers to Waset; there are plenty of performers there. I will pay for them out of my own pocket if I have to.’
Baki could find no other objections. He nodded slowly. ‘You speak wisely,’ he said. ‘We cannot delay. Let us send messengers first thing tomorrow.’