Yseult Shadowrun – Dust of Ages Part IV

   So how to find the Eye of Ra? It wasn’t likely that Hitoshi had found that and then given it up to chase down another lead. Unless it was something portable – and that didn’t seem likely; the stuff in the crypt certainly hadn’t been – Hitoshi probably hadn’t found it.

   There might be more clues in that temple near the sphinx – but it would be nice if there was some way to find the Eye directly. It might be three thousand years, but it had evidently been a major temple; surely it hadn’t simply vanished beneath the sands.

   She asked Nassor if there was some way that he could use the mummy to trace the energy source that had affected the boy? Or possibly trace the kids route? After all, some people were able to tell the last owner of an object and other things like that.

   Nassor gave her such a LOOK… OK, genuine magic shouldn’t have been available before the awakening, and life-powered magic left strong traces – but the traces were still three thousand years old. He could certainly look around the sphinx for similar traces of magic – but as for tracing the kids steps after more that kind of time? He was a mage, not a god!

   She really should have expected that; if there was some magical method of tracing the Eye, Hitoshi would almost certainly have used it instead of heading for the ship. Normal traces faded after a few days; evidently this life-powered stuff was different – but not THAT different.

   Nassor seemed a bit rattled by all this anyway. Well, he did work for the department of antiquities, and he had just seen a lot of his most fundamental beliefs about history overturned. A bit of shock was understandable.

   She asked him if anyone had looked for magical traces near the sphinx.

(Nassor) “Oh yes. Hundreds of times. Every year there are a thousand mages and would-be psychics, and such all over the place. They’re all sure that there’s ancient magic there. They swarm over everything that isn’t deep underground or seriously restricted and guarded. Nobody takes them seriously now if they ever did; they’ve been at it the 1950’s, long before the awakening. There are more half-assed attempts at spells done near the great pyramid and the sphinx than anywhere else on earth except stonehenge. Nobody’s ever tried to sort out that mess…”

   Yseult noted that the man was sort of slowing up there. In fact, he was starting to mutter slower and slower, until…

(Nassor) “Well, Crap!”

(Yseult) “What is wrong?”

(Nassor) “Well… the blasted tourists and wanna-be mages have muddled so many traces there, and been so blatant about it, that no reputable scientist has wanted to be associated with the place in decades! If there is something hidden under there, no one has been looking professionally since before the awakening! Still; it’s at least thirty square miles. Not a job for two people, nice as that might be.”

   Yseult sighed and started playing with maps. Maybe there was some sort of pattern to the locations that Hitoshi had visited? Several of the classic tourist sites around Gaza, then KV 5 in the Valley of the Kings – a pretty big tourist site on it’s own – then abruptly off to the site with the obelisk, then to the temple and the entrance to the lizard-folk crypt. At the crypt he’d taken some scrolls, and then headed out of Egypt. Had he simply wandered off from a tour group in KV 5 and stumbled across the beginning of the trail? In that case the prior sites would be meaningless – and he hadn’t had a local guide or (being a mage) the skillsoft programs to fill him in on the traditions about the Eye of Ra. So if he’d run a similar symbol correlation program… This might be the effective beginning of Hitoshi’s trail right here.

   Drat. Well, even if that was true, there still might be more details on what he might have found at the Eye of Ra – and it would be a secret well worth uncovering anyway.

   Besides, she wasn’t going to give up now! She – and possibly Hitoshi – were on the trail of some source of magic powerful enough to survive through much of the nonmagical era.

   So – reconstruction: Hitoshi might or might not have followed some leads she – working backwards – hadn’t found yet to KV 5. Regardless of whether or not it was on purpose, there he had (probably) found the traces of magic and followed them to the child-mummy. The scrolls with the kid, and (likely) a bit of symbol-correlation, had led two ways – to museums and scholarly papers (where there was little profit to be had) – or to the nearly-unexplored area around the obelisk and the fallen ship (even if Hitoshi hadn’t known what that was at the time). At that site, Hitoshi had done some digging at the sites of magical traces, found and investigated a lizard-person skeleton, and – most likely – had found a magical artifact (perhaps one of the spears that drew on the crypt’s power sources, like they’d found at the crypt) that was linked to the crypt-city. That link had led Hitoshi to the crypt – where he’d poked around and snagged some scrolls. In possession of those ancient relics, he’d promptly snuck out of Egypt and headed for Madagascar, from whence he’d departed by ship.

   That didn’t explain why Hitoshi had simply taken a few scrolls – but he might have just used some sort of finding-spell, or grabbed the first things that came to hand when some guardian had sent him running. He and his fox apparently weren’t eager to get into fights; his sister had said that he was mostly a social specialist.

   Of course, Hitoshi might have thought that the “Eye of Ra” referred to the Sun, or to any of several other things. He didn’t have a local guide, and he might have just run a symbol-correlation program on the symbols that were in a different style, rather than translating the whole scroll. Neither Hitoshi nor the fox could use skillsoft programs, so they probably couldn’t have simply read the scrolls without a lot of work. Ergo, there was a decent chance that the whole “Eye of Ra” thing had simply fallen by the wayside as far as Hitoshi had been concerned.

   Yseult looked at Nassor…

(Yseult) “Would you be interested in searching more locations with me? A bit under the table at first; you can reveal what we find to the world; I just want a good portion of the reward money.”

(Nassor) “Well… so far this has been fascinating. Whatever got you started on this trail has been well worthwhile so far.”

(Yesult) “Then I must ask that you wait until we reach the end of the trail before revealing anything.”

   Nassor was willing to go along with that – although that would eliminate the option of getting professional help with the mummy for the moment. He recommend leaving it alone in it’s case; they didn’t have the facilities for an X-Ray or CAT scan or anything.

   Yesult was agreeable there; the mummy didn’t look like it would be useful at the moment anyway. The fact that it existed at all provided most of the information that she’d needed…

   Unfortunately, fiddling with the maps had been pretty useless. With only three locations – and one of them probably random – there really wasn’t enough information to make anything but a line, arc, or triangle, and none of those were especially revealing.

   Throwing in the sphinx – with or without the crash site (which didn’t seem too likely to be a marker for anything) – didn’t do anything either. Neither did the small temple – minor and well-explored – which Hitoshi had visited just before coming to KV 5. Besides… it was on the wrong side of the Nile to make any kind of regular symbol.

   Oh well. The maps had been a long shot anyway. After all, the lizard-folk crypt would date back close to 10,000 years, the ship anywhere from 8000 to 20,000, KV 5 about 3300, and no one was too sure about the sphinx.

   Blast. They were going to need a physical survey unless she could turn up some more clues. Of course, magic detection was a lot like looking for a light; get a good angle or glimpse, and you could see it for a long ways. If it was under a lot of rock or something, it would be very hard to pick up.

   She asked Nassor if he could bring in anyone skilled at searching out magical locations – or if there was anyone who owed him any favors that he could call in to narrow down their search near the sphinx.

   Nassor said that he could ask a few friends – but that the only surface locations that hadn’t been extensively searched would be secure sites. Searching underground, in the catacombs, would be a major expedition.

   Well, it certainly looked like there was something of great – probably vast – magical power (or at least potential) down there. Anything that could provide enough magical power to induce goblinization during the bottom of the magic cycle must be unimaginably powerful. It might be a creature or an item or a location – but there was something. Still, at least thirty square miles to search… Had Hitoshi simply decided not to bother? She could eliminate a bunch of well-explored and well-classified sites – but who knew what was underneath them?

   Hm… It seemed inappropriate somehow, but she had a cell phone signal.

   The Valley of the Kings was well-explored, and had quite a lot of tourists and phones. It was just that no one yet had bothered with all the workmen’s tombs. After all, there were hundreds upon hundreds of them, and none of them ever had much of anything of interest inside – or at least they hadn’t up until now.

   She got in touch with a few of her more academic contacts and made them an offer on the most detailed set of annotated maps – both mundane and magical – that they could put together of the area around Gaza and the Great Sphinx. There had to be some sort of clues. Everything above-ground might be throughly mapped and surveyed – but no one else would have been looking in quite the same way, or with the particular facts she had. At the very least, she could eliminate some places.

   Hm… According to some of the sources, the Sphinx itself might be somewhat more than five thousand years old – interestingly, from roughly the last days of the last age of magic. There were tales of chambers beneath it, and miles of catacombs in the area – never entirely cleared of water and rubble – but they wandered all over the area.

   Nassor could use telekinesis to remove or hold back small amounts of water, and move a bit of earth – which would help with local explorations – but he certainly couldn’t handle the entire catacomb system. She knew better than to ask anyway; he’d already denied godhood once.

   Oh, now there was a thought; the Department of Antiquities was actually run by a bunch of retired ancient Egyptian gods in disguise. Too bad she wasn’t a scriptwriter; that’d be a trid series that might actually be worth watching.

   Anyway, there were a lot of theories about the Sphinx; there might be something in the literature or that the museum people would know. She ran a search on the for any more information on the layout of the Sphinx and theories about it.

   She should have known better. More than a hundred thousand pages. Even filtering out a lot of the crackpots only reduced that to twenty thousand or so. Claims of chambers under the Sphinx dated back for centuries, but a variety of sonic and radiation-based surveys had been done in the 1980’s and 90’s that demonstrated – quite conclusively – that there was nothing there but solid rock. There was a set of stairs nearby, going down – but they ended in a simple chamber and yet more solid rock, and had been reburied since 1995, since there was no reason to spend a lot of money to keep them exposed. A massive series of caves existed beneath the area however, and was supposed to be haunted by a giant snake – apparently first reported in the 1800’s, when the caves were first reported.

   One of the sources seemed especially promising… Some pre-awakening author named Andrew Collins…

   From the underlying geology, it is clear that Gizas subterranean caves reache the main pyramid field before disappearing beneath Giza’s southern hill, known as Gebel Gibli. I suspect that this rocky knoll is the original datum point, or survey point, from which the pyramid field took shape. I believe that the hill was seen as the primeval mound, the place of the first creation of the physical world – an attribution preserved even today in a name given to the site in Arab Egyptian folklore. This is Tarfaya, which means the “first place”, or the “place of beginning”, in that it existed before everything else.

   A previously unrecorded Arab-Egyptian legend speaks of the caves beneath the plateau as being guarded by a mighty snake named el-Hanash. It protects a great diamond that contains the essence of this underworld, and it will blind anyone who attempts to steal the jewel it protects. Yet one day someone, a chosen one, will come along and el-Hanash will blind them only in one eye. It will be this person who goes on to access the great jewel and learn of its secrets.

   I believe the core of this legend is very ancient indeed, and relates to the existence in Giza’s chamber of first creation of a power object similar to the lingams of Hindu tradition and to the baetyls and omphali once found at the center of temples across the Near East. Ancient Egyptian building texts on the walls of the temple of Edfu in southern Egypt speak of Giza’s underworld realm, named here as the Underworld of the Soul (duat n ba), as not only containing the mythical tomb of Osiris, but also a power object known as the bnnt (pronounced “bennet”), a word meaning “seed” or “embryo”.

   A separate tradition links this chamber with a power object called the benben-stone, a representation of which was once to be seen at Heliopolis, the ancient cult center of the sun-god Re situated just beyond what is today the city of Cairo. Such ideas might one day be verified through a proper investigation of Giza’s rediscovered underworld

   This is a (somewhat re-written) excerpt from Earthquest News, by Andrew Collins (August 2009). You can read the entire thing Here. Given that no one else yet seems to be able to find his mysterious underworld below the pyramids, I shall reserve judgement on Mr Collin’s theories – but I must give him credit for producing excellent game props, even if that isn’t really what he had in mind.

   Well, giant crystals, the single eye of the sun god, and a power-object related to the sun god Re (Ray, Ra, etc) might well be related.

(Yseult) “Would you like to share the glory – and possible riches – of exploring the underground caverns? Possibly with a few friends?”

(Nassor) “Well – at worst it’s a waste of time, at best it could be almost anything.”

(Yseult) “Alright then. I have a contact I need to go and speak with in person. Can I leave you here to prepare a suitable team of TRUSTED associates for exploring the caverns? I hope to have more information when I get back. It shouldn’t take more than a week… That’s all right? Good. Lets get out of here so I can go and come back quickly.”

   She needed a few more clues about the ancient world – and there was only one reliable source. The Dragons. They were certainly the last known survivors of the period if you didn’t count a few bristlecone pines and such.

   She’d run some of Dunkelzahn’s errands in exchange for a future favor or two – and a bit of information-trading should be practicable, even if the old wyrm would probably count getting in to see him as a notable favor in itself – especially given the fact that there was a terrorist group targeting dragons at the moment.

   At least reaching one of his public-relations secretaries was easy enough – even if she did give the impression that Dunkelzahn had known she was going to call, and already knew everything she wanted to say, but would be willing to meet in person just to oblige her since her information was “too sensitive” to entrust to satellite links – although such an appointment in Dunkelzahn’s impossibly crowded schedule was a much bigger concession than any possible favors she might have done merited.

   She’d been – quite expertly – manipulated into promising to reveal some of what she’d recently discovered in Egypt whether Dunkelzahn helped her out or not – and if the old wyrm had seen her online auction (which seemed probable), that might be enough for him to put everything together anyway.

   The blasted woman might be just as good at HER job as SHE was at detective work.

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