The smell of desperation lingered in the oppressive air as a steady parade of workmen, common and noble alike, shuffled hurriedly out of the tomb, arms laden with reverently held treasures. The thin linen loincloths and robes they wore were soaked with the sweat of mingled heat and fear. From within the inner chamber, the monotonous chanting of the priestesses was beginning to falter, the effort and long hours finally taking its toll upon them.A tall, thin man, with sunken cheeks and gaunt, hollowed eyes stumbled out of the entrance corridor, pushing frantically through the crowd. The robes that identified his rank as a priest of high ranking, flapped around his ankles as he dashed about in terrified bewilderment, anxiously scanning the gathering of royalty across the valley.Spying the small group of people watching the proceedings from beneath the most ornate pavilion erected on the desert floor, the priest hitched the fine material of his clothing up around his hips and rushed towards them in a manner that belied his dignified position. Sliding to a halt in a cloud of dust, he bowed low drawing in deep, rattling breaths.‘The priestesses cannot hold out much longer,’ he panted, addressing the thick-set man standing in the foreground of the shelter, averting his eyes uncomfortably from the small boy that clung, weeping to the large mans leg, ‘The preparations are almost complete, but her power is beginning to increase already.’Adjusting the distinctive panther cloak around his shoulders, the high priest turned his great bulk slightly, chubby hands resting on his pendulous stomach. A teary, teenaged girl and a tall, powerfully built man with a scarred face stood further back in the shadows.‘General?’ his heavy-lidded eyes revealed no sign of perturbation, but his stance stiffened slightly as he looked to the commander of the army for advice, ‘What do you suggest?’Still bent at the waist, prostrating deeply, the priest took an involuntary step back as the giant military man stepped out into the harsh sunlight. Accustomed to the reaction of fear that his overwhelming presence evoked in others, the giant ignored the shivering priest and surveyed the area with keen, perceptive eyes.The back of his shaved head tingled with sudden foreboding. Highly trained and skilled in warfare, Horemheb had developed an acute sense of danger and every nerve in his body was now screaming of impending chaos.He whirled around to speak as the chanting ceased abruptly. Thin screams issued from deep within the tomb. Thunderous cracks rent the heavy, desert air in violent spasms and the earth beneath their feet began to tremble.Deep, rumbling noises emanated suddenly from all around the valley. The stone cliffs towering above them began to shake, pebbles and rocks dislodging to cascade down the cliff walls.Wasting no time, the General began to run across the valley floor. The priest turned to stagger after him.‘Get everyone behind the magic barrier now!’ the soldier yelled urgently, ‘Drop everything and get that wall up!’A flurry of increased activity filled the valley as the ground heaved and trembled. Workers pulled the exhausted priestesses out into the open air before rushing back to help erect the barricade.Meritaten was the last to leave the sunken entranceway, stepping away from its dark depths with calm, measured steps. She approached the pavilion in long, graceful strides, a sombre expression creasing her forehead.A soft, golden nimbus of light appeared to be surrounding her body giving her a look of ethereal serenity, but her hard, dark eyes were red and swollen from a flood of bitter, silent tears. General Horemheb joined her on the valley floor, walking briskly beside her.‘It is done,’ Meritaten stated bluntly as the two of them joined the high priest and the children standing together in stunned silence. Her eyes softened slightly as she gently caressed the boy’s cheek and embraced the girl.They fell into her arms and together the three of them wept openly as the two men stood to one side. After a moment, Meritaten detached herself gently from the frightened children, rose stiffly and faced Horemheb and the fat priest.Her steely, almond shaped eyes held those of the men who were to be entrusted with the lives of the last of her kin. Her gaze was steady and challenging, ‘I have fulfilled my promise, make sure that you fulfil yours. Know that I will be watching, and if you fail your death will be swift.’Bowing low, the two men repeated the oaths they had made to the gods and to her willingly. When they stood, Meritaten was gone, only a slight bluish shimmer remaining briefly in the air showed that she’d been there at all.Ankhespaamun took the boys hand in hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He looked up at her gratefully, ‘I must be strong for this boy,’ she thought, forcing down the lump that had risen in her throat again, ‘he is the last hope for our people.’Across the valley, the final brick was placed in the wall. The noise and shudders from the cliffs and the ground below their feet stopped completely and the violent, supernatural disturbances within the burial chamber ceased. People everywhere dropped to their knees. Peasants and courtiers, ignoring their class differences, clasped hands in relief, offering thanks to the Gods in loud wailing voices.Still grasping Ankhespaamun’s hand tightly, the boy looked up at the priest, eyes wide with grief and terror, ‘I am so afraid Ay. Why must we do this? He was my brother!’Ay knelt down, he’d tried so hard to make him understand, but the boy was too young to comprehend the evil that had gripped Egypt in the palm of its hand for twenty years. Placing a hand on the boys shoulder while at the same time grasping the girl’s free hand with the other, he drew them close in a gesture of comfort and sympathy.‘What lies in that tomb is no longer your brother Pharaoh,’ Ay’s hooded eyelids masked the tears welling in his own eyes as he tried patiently to explain it again, ‘You have both suffered much loss and you are so young. I know it is hard to understand, but what we have done is necessary to protect our people; your people. Already too many have died.’‘But how will the gods find Smenkhare’s spirit?’‘When it is your time to travel to the underworld, you will take his treasures and his name with you so that Anubis will find Smenkhare’s true soul. Hopefully your brother will never be associated with that monstrosity!’The boy grappled with the information, but he still did not truly understand why they had done what they had to Smenkhare, ‘We are alone now Ay,’ he finally whispered, clutching Ankhespaamun’s hand even tighter as though afraid that she too would disappear.‘No, I will be there for you both, always Tutankhamen.’*Seven years, ever since the turn of this miserable century, Aziz had worked for the infidel treasure hunters, but never had he seen such a wanton disregard for the final resting place of the dead.The twentieth century, so these foreigners kept insisting, was the age of reason. But there was no reason here.They had barged their way into the tomb like children tearing open a paper wrapped gift with no regard for the protocol he’d seen used on other sites. Now they stood in the ruins, noses almost touching as their arguing hit a fevered pitch.The archaeologists didn’t even bother to look over as Aziz moved in to get a closer look at the damaged sarcophagus and its decaying, exposed mummy. Their yells and proclamations were disjointed and confusing. Instead of a productive debate, they appeared to be trying to outdo each other over what each considered was most worthy of discussion and where they should begin their painstaking investigation. A discussion they should have conducted before they knocked down the barriers so unprofessionally.Disagreements had broken out almost as soon as the tomb had been breached. Protocol had been set aside as the men had torn off their jackets and had hastily and unwisely rushed into the newly opened chamber. Not one of them had noticed that the local contractors had backed away, not wanting any part of the malevolence that they felt emanating up the corridor. This was something only those who’d lived their lives in the shadow of the ancient kingdom could understand. The archaeologists didn’t seem to sense or understand the powers that had inhabited this valley for millennia.Mingled yells of excitement from within the burial chamber soon became a cacophony that was virtually impossible to decipher. Once inside the ravaged stone cavern, the spell of confounded chaos lifted and they had resorted to name calling and blaming each other for their rash lapse of judgement. An hour later, they were still standing in a huddle, shouting heatedly about the condition of the find.Even Aziz, whose curiosity had won out over his superstitions, could see that something was very different and very disturbing about Tomb 55. Sparse and undecorated, there was nothing obvious indicating who had been put to rest here even though there was clear evidence that the tomb had been sealed with great care and skill.The bier on which the sarcophagus had rested had collapsed even though it appeared to be solidly constructed. Many others like it had been found in the surrounding area and had remained intact.Priceless treasures had been abandoned right by the entranceway and somewhat more perplexing, an array of tools had been left behind. Scattered and strewn throughout the chamber, it looked as though the owners had simply dropped what they were doing and fled in panic. Nothing like this had ever been found before.His eyes wandered over the chamber surreptitiously. Although it certainly appeared as if the cavern had been plundered in ancient times, there was always the possibility that something had been overlooked.A glint of gold in the weak light cast from the lamps caught his attention. Aziz bent over the body hastily and tugged at the gleaming object protruding from the mummy’s wrappings. It came away with surprising ease.Swiftly, he placed it in the deep pocket of his striped, cotton robe and headed quickly for the entrance. His absence, like his presence, went unheeded.Outside in the pounding desert heat, Aziz took the artefact out of his robes and looked at it carefully. It was a thick circlet of gold, a gleaming emerald nestled in its centre.It looked like some kind of bracelet, or armband, and was covered in strange markings that he knew to be hieroglyphs, but was unable to read. Whatever it was, Aziz was elated. He knew the right person to take this to, with no questions asked.He felt no guilt whatsoever about taking this tiny trinket from the foreigners who would not recognise it as a piece of his country’s heritage anyway. Aziz snorted with sudden anger.‘Egyptologists!’ he snarled inwardly. What could these pompous upstarts, who paid real Egyptians a pittance to rape their own country of its heritage, possibly know about Egypt? They could see nothing past their noses but glory and riches.With this tiny bit of jewellery that for all anyone knew may have belonged to one of his own ancestors, at least for the next month or two, Aziz’s family would not have to go hungry.*‘A package has just arrived for you Professor Thomas.’‘Excellent,’ he looked up, pushing the square lenses of his spectacles over the bridge of his thin, crooked nose, ‘I have been waiting quite impatiently for this Beth. Stay and take a look.’Sweeping aside the mountain of papers and books that covered the surface of his desk, Augustus Thomas placed the small box in front of him carefully before turning his attention to the thick manila envelope that accompanied it.With meticulous attention to detail, he opened the envelope and pulled out its contents. Scanning the report enclosed briefly, he turned his attention to the bundle of X-rays. Slowly, Augustus studied each one, murmuring quietly to himself.‘Professor?’ Beth cut into his musings shyly, ‘May I ask what the X-rays are for?’Professor Thomas looked up with surprise, apparently having forgotten that he’d invited Beth to stay, ‘Of course my dear. How rude of me,’ he apologised kindly, his wispy grey hair standing up in odd puffs making him look even more like the proverbial absent minded academic, ‘These are X-rays of the artefacts cavity. I have long suspected that this piece was something more than a piece of jewellery. The style is more reminiscent of Celtic ornaments than Egyptian. These reports confirm my suspicions.’Interested as ever in her employers vast knowledge of antiquities, Beth leaned forward curiously and watched as the Professor donned latex gloves and laid out a large piece of acid free paper before carefully sliding open the sealed box containing his latest acquisition.Patiently, he peeled off the layers of bubble wrap until the object hidden within was free. Laying it gently on the paper, he and Beth studied it from every angle with awe.‘It’s gorgeous Professor!’ Beth breathed out, staring at the gold and emerald ornament lying between them.‘Indeed. A unique piece believed to have been stolen from the tomb of a Pharaoh that virtually nothing is known about. I acquired it from the estate of a private German collector. Cost me a pretty penny too I might add. But,’ he waved his right index finger around as he had in the days when he was still giving lectures to enraptured students, ‘I believe it was well worth it. It has a most unusual history. Never has it stayed with the same collector for any great length of time, and at least two that we know of were placed in sanatoriums, totally convinced it was trying to control their minds. All that nonsense aside, here is the part that really interests me.’Thomas delicately twisted open a stopper at one end of the torc-like band. It came out with remarkable ease as if it had been waiting for this moment as much as Thomas had. Tipping it slightly, the Professor exclaimed with delight as a tiny papyrus scroll hidden within slipped out of its enclosure unaided.Beth had only been listening half heartedly, completely enthralled by the perfectly cut facets of the large elliptical emerald. As the Professor finally lapsed into silence, intent upon rolling out and treating the scroll with preservatives, Beth picked up the circlet and replaced the stopper. She sat back in her chair contentedly, fondling the band lovingly.‘This is most extraordinary Beth!’ Readjusting his wire rimmed glasses again and holding the scroll gently with both hands towards the light, Thomas became lost in his own thoughts as he peered intently at the amazingly clear hieroglyphics covering the parchment. Beth’s silence, an unusual occurrence once an investigation was underway, went unnoticed by the thin, elderly man as he began translating the scroll aloud;‘Listen to this, “Finally she has been subdued though all was almost lost. My family is all but gone, only Tutankhaten and Ankhespaaten remain. If I am remembered, it will be as a power hungry, malicious murderess, but that is preferable to the truth. Sehkmet almost won. She escaped the body of my father and ensnared the body of my beloved.He is now entombed without a name and perhaps with no way out. So it must be and I must make the ultimate sacrifice less her spirit is released in years to come by those who must forget. Ra charges me with immortality to keep guard against the Hated One’s return. For time is a fool and you will find that this scroll is your doom.” The back is covered in supposed magic symbols to ward off evil and this cartouche belongs to Meritaten!She was Akhenaten’s daughter and was the wife of Smenkhare, the very man the jewel was supposedly stolen from. It is most intriguing, but what can it all mean? Any suggestions Beth?’Thomas looked up enquiringly at the unusual silence and stood quickly with fright. His high backed chair fell back with a clatter on the tiled floor at his hasty movement. Closing his eyes he shook his head, trying to convince himself that what he’d seen was a trick of the light, imagination or failing eyesight. His shoulders began to shake with unaccountable terror at Beth’s continued silence. Slowly, he forced his eyes to open again.The eyes that stared back at him from where she languished in the chair opposite him were no longer blue and sparkling with excitement, but golden, cat-like and sinister. The armband glittered with a light of its own from where it encircled her left bicep. Beth’s whole demeanour had changed in some subtle yet malignant way.‘Is something wrong?’ Even her voice had been altered. Her usual giddy, enthusiastic babble had turned to a sensual drawl with a menacing undertone.‘Elizabeth?’ he mumbled tremulously, ‘Are you feeling alright?’‘Elizabeth,’ the woman rolled the name off her tongue a few times as though tasting a new flavour, ‘What an exotic name. What does it mean?’‘It…it is just a name,’ Thomas stuttered, totally bewildered by the change that had come over his naïve, bubbly assistant.‘All names have meaning fool!’ she spat derogatively, ‘And now you shall know mine so that it may haunt you in the underworld forever.’She rose to her feet slowly, sinuously, a wicked smile on her lips. Raising her hand towards his throat, palms turned upward, she began speaking in a language that was strange and yet vaguely familiar. A tongue of flame erupted from her outstretched fingertips, lashing out towards him.Pulling his scattered senses together in the nick of time, Thomas ducked beneath the desk, covering his ears as the oak cabinet standing against the wall behind him was obliterated.Remnants of wood, plaster, paper and china rained down around him, the air thick with choking dust. Shaking with terror and his chest heaving as he coughed violently, Thomas barely registered the door of the study banging open.Another female voice began speaking in the lilting, sing-song syllables of the same foreign language that Beth had used. Something about it put the Professor’s thought patterns into a whirl. It was a tongue that he was certain he’d never heard before, and yet deep in the back of his mind, he felt an insistent tug of vague recognition.Try as he might, the words exchanged between the two women were lost on him. Their tone, however, was clearly angry and threatening. The conversation ceased abruptly and sounds of struggle erupted.Crawling on his stomach, Thomas squirmed over to the row of filing cabinets lining the adjacent wall. Pulling out a potted palm that separated two of them, he squeezed his lean frame into its place, still breathing heavily.From this cramped position, he could see Beth and an unfamiliar woman locked in hand to hand combat. Shaken as he was, Thomas found himself fascinated by the almost graceful fight that seemed to be utilising a whirling mixture of martial arts, gymnastics and dance.Beth looked over towards him briefly, her golden eyes piercing his. He felt a peculiar push at the edge of his thoughts as she penetrated them, lulling him into a state of calm and indifference. The shaking stopped and he sat and studied the woman who’d entered his office, aware but unafraid.Long, flowing locks of raven hair framed her delicate features and dark, almond shaped eyes shone with anger and determination. A golden halo surrounded her short, petite figure. The loose, white linen shirt and trousers she wore accentuated her dark skin. Thin gold bracelets clattered about on her lower arm.Thomas was in no way a religious man, but in his present state of bedazzlement, he found himself wondering blissfully if she was an angel. He watched the dance of the warriors in a dreamy, surreal way, as though a cloud of mind numbing fog had descended upon him.Beth leapt high into the air and kicked the newcomer with a powerful swing of her leg. The other woman reeled back slightly but recovered quickly and grabbing Beth’s leg, which was still in mid-air, swung her into the desk.The heavy wood imploded with the crushing impact but Beth stood from within the debris, completely unscathed. Her dark haired opponent crouched down in a defensive position as Beth sprang forward nimbly, hands outstretched.The woman in white jumped up and grasped Beth’s wrists firmly, hurling her to the floor in a single, fluid motion. Howling in rage, Beth rose and lifted a Ming vase from a nearby pedestal to hurl across the room.‘Stop!’Both women turned towards the Professor in surprise as he crawled awkwardly out of his hiding place, little chunks of plaster falling from his head and shoulders.‘Please, that vase is priceless!’Obligingly, Beth placed it back on the pedestal carefully and stepped towards him, ‘Of course dear one,’ her honeyed tones pulling the veil of headiness, that had momentarily been swept aside with the threat to his treasures, back down over him, ‘I only wish to protect you from the evil one.’‘Yeah, right,’ the raven-haired woman drawled in disdain as she took the opportunity to knock Beth over the head with a bronze statue of a horse. As Beth collapsed on the floor in a daze, the woman seized the Professor’s hand and ran out the door, tugging him reluctantly behind her.‘Trust me,’ she growled as the terrified old man continued to resist her, ‘I will take you to safety.’Cursing vilely, she sat up and shook her head groggily as the woman and the old man fled from the building, disappearing into the city’s crowded streets. Her equilibrium returned quickly, a red haze of fury rising within her.Standing swiftly, she strode out of the inner sanctum and down the hall to the open front door. For a moment she considered pursuit, but quelling the rage, she decided against it. She and Meritaten had an eternity to continue their game.Looking out curiously at the throngs of humans walking swiftly by on the footpath leading past the doorway, immersed in their own tiny, insignificant worlds, she drank in the various styles of clothing and plucked random thoughts and memories that hung around them in the event that they could be of possible use to her in this bizarre time.One human in particular caught her eye. Lurid purple hair was spiked up above its head and a studded leather collar adorned its neck. It was the clothing that interested her the most. Tight and fashioned from animal skins, it looked both comfortable and seductive.Holding her arms out in front of her, she inspected the body she now inhabited as best she could. Kicking the door shut contemptuously, she walked back into the interior of the cool, dark building in search of a mirror.In the tiny, brightly lit bathroom; “Electricity” she decided, comparing this unusual light with a passing thought she’d ensnared; she looked at her reflection with distaste.The body was pale and weak, but at least this one was female, albeit with a boyish frame. Closing her eyes, she willed the short blonde hair to grow into a luxurious red mane. The simple blue blouse and shapeless matching skirt became a skin tight vest and trousers of pale gold leather.Tan combat boots replaced the ridiculous black pumps on her feet and with another critical glance; she filled out the body’s figure making it stronger and more voluptuous. Running her hands over her new body, she smiled with satisfaction. Much more comfortable, and better suited for the tasks ahead.Sehkmet looked in the mirror once more and this time she was pleased.‘We will wait here.’The raven haired woman sat down in a meditative pose on the dusty, debris littered floor of the abandoned warehouse that she had led him to. The building stood in a lot of similar empty warehouses on the edge of the city limits.Thomas recognised the area immediately as the old industrial estate that had been earmarked for years as a site that the city intended to build a new complex of high rises on.Looking around at the crumbling, red brick walls and the windows so filthy that sunlight was barely able to penetrate through the panes, he wondered in bemusement at her choice of location, until he peered through a relatively clear patch of glass and saw the view of the entire city below them.Stepping back towards the middle of the deserted building, the elderly Professor stared down at the woman’s still form. She’d hurried him along with her so quickly that there had been no time to talk. He was burning with questions, but there was one question that he needed answered immediately.‘What happened to Beth?’ he asked quietly but firmly.‘She is dead.’‘You killed her!’‘No, when she put on the amulet Sehkmet removed her soul and claimed the body,’ she opened her eyes and looked at him searchingly, ‘You care. Was she your daughter?’Tears flowed down his pale cheeks and his words came out in a broken sob, ‘No, but she was a lovely, sweet girl.’‘Be at peace. The God of the Apiru shall find her soul.’She closed her eyes again, apparently unwilling to impart any more information than that. The Professor’s mind was filled with thousands of questions, thousands of theories, a whirlwind of disjointed thoughts. Still, he could not understand or come to grips with the events that had unfolded around him. In mid thought, her last words hit him like a lightning strike.Apiru! It was an ancient Egyptian word that was believed to refer to the Hebrews. A term that he’d only ever read about or discussed with other historians. Strange pieces of the puzzle began to fit into place. The language he’d heard was familiar, and yet not so, because it was a language that had never been spoken in living history. But those pieces only demanded more questions.Why did this enigmatic girl speak in ancient Egyptian, a dead language, and why use such an obscure reference as “Apiru”? Why did she speak of Sehkmet, an Egyptian Goddess, as though she was a physical reality? And why had she arrived at his office just as things had grown eerie? What the hell was going on?‘Who are you?’ he finally asked quietly.For several moments the woman remained still and Thomas had just decided that he was going to be ignored when she sighed and stood abruptly. Pacing up and down the concrete floor, her face looked decidedly uncertain as she began to speak.‘I am the Watcher. My life has been given in service to Ra so that I may guard against the unleashing of the goddess of destruction.’“The Watcher?” Despite all he’d seen and heard, Thomas’ eyes were blank and sceptical, ‘You must have a name that I can call you by?’‘Do you?’ she snapped.‘Oh, My apologies,’ the old man’s inbuilt politeness evident, even under such unusual circumstances, ‘My name is Augustus Thomas.’Nodding sharply, she placed a splayed hand over her heart, ‘Meritaten,’ she told him with a slight inclination of her head.‘What an unusual coincidence! I was just reading a scroll which I believe may have been written by Meritaten, daughter of Akhenaten the heretic.’Her dark eyes grew fiery and she strode towards him angrily, ‘My father was no heretic, ignorant child of science!’ she yelled, her deep, husky voice reverberating around the empty, cavernous room.‘I’m sorry,’ he stammered, more confused than ever, ‘I’m finding all of this very difficult to comprehend! Are you telling me that you are really the Meritaten?’Stepping back, her tense shoulder’s relaxed slightly, ‘Yes I am,’ she admitted sadly, ‘Reason may have forgotten the Gods, but the Gods have not forgotten you. I must apologise. I sometimes forget that the people of your world do not know the truth. It all seems like yesterday to me.’‘The scroll!’ a flash of terror crossed Thomas’ face, ‘It said it was my doom.’‘By removing the scroll from the amulet you allowed Sehkmet to ensnare another mortal being. It is a doom you will carry with you for the rest of your life. That is why Ra gave me immortality. The God’s knew it would eventually happen and it is my duty to contain her again.’‘But the amulet was discovered years ago! Has this never happened before?’‘I have been fortunate enough to have befriended all of the others who have possessed the amulet and have been able to prevent this from happening. It has been a close call many times however.’Deeply ashamed, the professor lowered his eyes, ‘And impetuous fool that I am, I opened it before you could stop me,’ he whispered hoarsely.‘I certainly underestimated your enthusiasm Augustus.’Opening his tightly clenched fist, he looked down at the crumpled parchment he’d held onto in his gloved hand unthinkingly, ‘Will this help you trap her again?’Meritaten’s eyes widened in surprise. Taking it from him gingerly, she cocked her head slightly to one side as though listening to something that he could not hear.Handing it back to him, she said, ‘You will have need of this yet.’Thomas opened his mouth to protest when a sound at the door attracted the attention of them both. A huge, dark man entered the building, powerfully built with thickly muscled arms and legs. His head was shaved bald and a ragged scar that ran from his right temple to just under his square chin marred an otherwise handsome face.Dressed in a similar fashion to Meritaten, the giant was also surrounded by an ethereal aura, albeit less brightly than hers. He was a formidable sight and Thomas found that his thin legs were trembling with fear. The fear appeared unfounded though as he realised that the two strangers knew each other.‘What news Horemheb? Meritaten demanded.‘She is already in action,’ his voice was a low rumble, ‘Buildings are burning, people are already dying and the earth begins to tremble. It has so far been centred in the area where she emerged so the authorities think there has been a gas leak,’ he paused. Meritaten looked at him sharply, ‘She has discovered that our people now worship the God of the Apiru.’‘So soon?’ she turned to Thomas questioningly, ‘Is this something that your young assistant would have known?’‘Yes, why?’‘Sehkmet absorbs memories from all around, but the host memories are strongest for her,’ Horemheb said quietly as Meritaten fell into silence.‘We must get to Egypt before she does,’ she said after a moment before bowing her head and returning to her silent introspection.Ever curious, the professor took the opportunity to approach the large man carefully, ‘Horemheb? Forgive me for asking, but weren’t you the one responsible for persecuting the Atenists?’Meritaten’s head snapped up and she growled, ‘He was supposed to have removed all trace of our conflict, but he failed. Did you not Horemheb?’ the big man scowled but said nothing, ‘Now he serves me, together we have guarded against the return of the accursed one for three thousand years.’‘I have accepted my fate and am honoured to serve you Your Highness.’ Meritaten was tiny beside his hulking figure and yet Horemheb treated her with fear and respect. She was obviously far more powerful than Thomas could possibly have imagined.A tremor rippled through the ground underneath them, cracking the cement floor like an eggshell. The windows shattered and the acrid smell of smoke assailed their nostrils. Distant screams and moaning drifted on the rising wind. The three of them rushed to the empty window frames and looked out in astonishment over a devastated cityscape.Buildings had collapsed into piles of rubble and toxic, black smoke issued from many places. Far to the north they could see the thin ribbon of the river that ran through the city rising and falling in gigantic, treacherous waves.Above the city, darting back and forth was the barely discernible figure of a woman with wild red hair, clothed in gold. Lightning flashed around and even through her as she hovered over the shattered streets below.‘All is lost here Your Majesty. We must get to Egypt,’ Horemheb urged.‘You can’t just leave my country to suffer her wrath!’ the professor exclaimed.‘Do not worry Augustus,’ Meritaten said soothingly, ‘She is merely expressing the freedom of her powers. It is our people that she truly hates, not yours,’ he looked unconvinced and desperately worried, but Meritaten turned away to address Horemheb who was waiting patiently for orders, ‘Go warn Isis and Osiris that this city will need to be contained and then meet me in Egypt. I will have need of your strength.’‘Where will she go?’‘I believe she will go to Armarna. She may not yet know that it no longer stands.’Horemheb bowed low before disappearing in a shimmer of blue light. Meritaten took the professor’s shaking hands. A whirlwind of blue ice chips surrounded them and Thomas felt his feet lift from the ground but he could see nothing through the glimmering cloak of sapphire light.As the blue light fell away like a cascade of water, Thomas dropped to his knees, retching and dizzy from the sudden shift of cool, dark enclosure to the blinding glare of light and heat. When finally he looked up and around him, he saw that they now stood amidst abandoned ruins in the middle of a scorching desert.‘Welcome to my father’s legacy,’ Meritaten said bitterly as she helped him to his feet, ‘all that remains of a revolution.’‘A revolution?’‘Yes. During the reign of my grandfather, Sehkmet became very powerful. Always before, we Egyptians believed that people had the right to worship as they pleased but Sehkmet became jealous and wanted to enslave us all to her will.’We chose to resist her and she became even more enraged when the other God’s sided with us. Sehkmet wanted us annihilated but we discovered a secret that helped us defeat her.’Despite their dire circumstances and the overwhelming anxiety that he felt, Thomas was enraptured by her tale.He listened closely as she continued, ‘Sehkmet could fight and topple all of the Gods, except one; the Faceless One, the God of the Apiru. With no name and no face, she could not overcome it and so we tried to emulate them. It was an unnatural practice for our people, but we faced annihilation, so the Gods retreated and we tried to worship only the rays of the sun so that Sehkmet could not be accidentally invoked. Almost four generations it took for her to become weak enough to be overpowered.’‘There is so much that we do not understand,’ Thomas said as her voice trailed away.‘And there is too much that you know that you should not have!’‘About the Atenists?’‘Yes, although you have misinterpreted the events, there are some among your kind who have made the connection they should not have. Ay and Horemheb were meant to aid Tutanhkaten to abolish all signs of the conflict, but failed to do so thoroughly,’ Thomas raised his bushy eyebrows at her easy use of Tutankhamen’s original name but he did not interrupt, ‘My adopted uncle was also responsible for erasing the truth. He told the Apiru that they must never speak of what happened in Egypt, but they were ever lovers of storytelling.’‘Your uncle?’‘Tuthmosis. However, you probably know of him simply as Moses. He saved many of his birth people during the war of the God’s.’Horemheb materialised beside them as Thomas was trying to digest this puzzling information. Startled, he jumped back, but Meritaten merely glanced over and nodded.‘All is ready Queen Meritaten,’ he bowed.‘And not a moment too soon I see.’A shimmer of dazzling red light appeared above the ruins, falling away to reveal Sehkmet. The professor stared in perturbation at the changes the goddess had made to Beth’s body, some that he considered obscene, and grew angrier than he had ever felt before.The wild haired goddess floated over the ruins, sparks of fire shooting from her golden eyes. She seemed to be searching for something, penetrating the ground with beams of scarlet light.Turning on them, her face transformed into a grotesque mask of hatred, she screeched in outrage. The scream was penetrating and high pitched, making Thomas clap his hands to his ears in pain.‘Where is the traitor?’ she roared at Meritaten.‘You are the only traitor that lived here witch?’ Meritaten retorted boldly, ‘but if you speak of my father, he is somewhere you may never return to!’Springing lightly to float in the hazy desert air beside the Goddess, Meritaten released a volley of blows and kicks to her face and body. Sehkmet fought back viciously. They seemed evenly matched but it soon appeared to Thomas’ untrained eye that Meritaten was slowly leading the flight across the desert floor.Horemheb lifted the slight, old man into his strong arms and flew into the air after them without a word. Higher and higher they rose. Thomas looked down from the dizzying heights fearfully.All he could see was sand, heat waves rippling above it, and the occasional village or vehicle, looking miniscule from the height he was gazing down from. As he looked towards the distant horizon, three points could be seen poking above the land. With a start he realised where they were heading, but why?Following closely behind the airborne combatants, they reached their destination in a surprisingly short space of time. The professor’s ribs were beginning to ache from Horemheb’s firm grasp and the rushed flight across the desert was making his eyes and throat burn from the gritty grains of sand disturbed by their passage.As the great pyramid loomed before them, Meritaten gave one last powerful thrust propelling herself and Sehkmet through the solid walls. Thomas barely had time to cover his face before Horemheb followed.The professor checked himself in shock and awe as the big man placed him down lightly. He had no explanation for how it had happened, but he was inside the dark, cool interior of the structure and still seemed to be in one piece.Lit softly by the glow emanating from the auras of the three immortals, Thomas was able to gaze in wonder around a cavern that was completely unfamiliar to him, despite his countless explorations of the greatest monument on earth.Heedless of their magnificent surroundings, the two women floated overhead in the vast chamber, glaring at each other. They showed no sign of strain, not even breathing heavily after their exertions.Horemheb had moved to one of the famous giant stone plugs blocking a corridor and began to pull it out as effortlessly as removing a sword from its scabbard, arm muscles bulging beneath his thin, white shirt‘What is going on? What are you doing?’ Sehkmet screamed over the top of the grating sound of stone against stone.‘Putting you back to sleep, whore of evil,’ Meritaten snarled. Lifting her arms high she began to chant, ‘In the name of Toth, I command you!’‘You better know what you are doing bitch!’ Sehkmet spat viciously, even as she struggled impotently against the incantation.‘In the name of Isis, I command you,’ Meritaten continued, her expression hardening further, ‘ In the name of Osiris, I command you; In the name of Horus, I command you’With each command Meritaten brought her left hand down in a chopping motion and Sehkmet flew down the newly opened corridor little by little. The light that shone from within her dimmed and she howled in rage. The professor scrambled over the stone blocks and followed them down the musty passage.‘You cannot do this!’ the weakening Goddess screeched with sudden fear, ‘You are not a God!’‘In the name of the Aten, I command you!’ Meritaten continued without faltering.With a clink, the arm band slipped off Sehkmet as she dropped limply onto her knees with a groan of disbelief and horror. With sudden clarity, Thomas knew why he had been brought and he rushed forward hurriedly to pick it up.Unscrewing the stopper, he removed the parchment from his breast pocket, rolled it up neatly and with shaking hands, slipping it back within the cavity. As he replaced the stopper Meritaten completed the ritual in a high, authoratative voice.‘In the name of Ra, I condemn you!’ A bright sword of pure white light appeared in her hand which she thrust through Sehkmet’s chest as she uttered the final three words.Sehkmet’s body arched backwards, an ear splitting scream left her lips accompanied by little spheres of light. Glittering like dust motes caught in a ray of sunlight, the spheres spilled from her gaping mouth like a stream, merging into the emerald of the armband clutched in the professor’s fist.Sehkmet fell to the ground of the exposed cavern beyond the passage in a crumpled heap, her life force now trapped in the glowing green jewel. For a moment there was total silence and then with a cry of grief, Thomas knelt down by the body on the hard, moist floor.With Sehkmet’s power broken, Beth’s features had become those of her own again. Even her clothes had returned to their original state. Thomas knew the body was just a husk, but a husk of one who had been gentle, kind and full of life.A radiant light effused the chamber and at once, Meritaten and Horemheb knelt down, their foreheads touching the stone floor. Thomas looked up through watery eyes.A man had appeared before them, he too was enclosed in a nimbus of light, but unlike the others who were as solid as Thomas himself; this man was nothing but light. His presence was powerful and overwhelming and Thomas found himself prostrating to the figure as well.‘Weep not child of Israel,’ the God’s voice echoed through the cavern, mighty yet compassionate, ‘she will be cared for. Rise.’They stood and watched in amazement as the room began to fill with treasures. Frescoes depicting their story appeared on the wall and a crystal sarcophagus arose on a bier of gold.With a slight gesture from the figure of light, Beth’s body was lifted into the air and laid out in the sarcophogaus. No mark blemished her skin and her clothing looked brand new. Thomas walked over to the coffin and noted in surprise that her name had been inlaid in gold within a cartouche.‘I cannot let you take her home with you for Sehkmet’s possession has altered her molecular structure in ways that your scientists should not know. Here she will be honoured and her body will never be corrupted.’‘Thank you Almighty Ra,’ Thomas choked, ‘But what about her soul? Where has she gone?’Ra laughed, a rich, vibrant sound that warmed the heart. He swept a transparent arm around and there she was. At least her shade was there. She smiled at him.‘I am fine Professor. Ra helped me find the light. Don’t be sad, I’m happy where I am,’. With that she faded away to be replaced with other shades.He recognised some of their faces from statues and death masks. Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Smenkhare and many others stood smiling at them. Behind him, Meritaten and Horemheb were weeping openly with joy and sadness.‘You have done well my children, stronger than any other,’ Ra stepped up and took their hands, ‘but you should think kindly of the Apiru, for through Tuthmosis, the power to release Sehkmet’s hold on the world forever has been preserved.’‘Do you have the amulet?’ he addressed Thomas, who nodded, ‘And you have studied what they call “the rites of exorcism”?’‘Yes, but that was thirty years ago! I don’t think that I could recall the actual words now,’ he mumbled.‘You will remember. You were born for this exact task.’With the words, Thomas found that he could indeed remember them exactly, ‘But they don’t seem to fit?’ he said, half to himself.’Ra smiled, ‘Improvise. You are the only one here with the power. Hold the gem in your palm and release her.’Thomas did so, holding the glowing emerald firmly and beginning the ceremony he’d always believed to be nothing more than superstitious nonsense, haltingly at first, but his voice grew stronger as he felt somehow guided.‘The Gods finally arise, their enemies scattered, and you who hate them,’ his voice grew stronger as he thought of Beth and of the destruction and death Sehkmet had wrought in the short time she’d been freed, ‘shall flee before their might! As smoke is driven away, so are you driven; as wax melts before the fire, so you, the wicked one, will perish in their presence. We drive you from this world Sehkmet, destroyer of hope, and you shall no longer deceive the human race!’ he hesitated briefly, ‘Amen.’At that last word the amulet turned to dust and trickled to the floor. The atmosphere in the chamber lifted, a shadow pressing down on them had finally dissipated.It seemed almost an anti-climax. Everyone was watching him silently as mixed emotions flooded his mind, clearly expressed on his tired face. He’d found faith again, something he thought that he’d lost forever, but he also felt confusion, fear and sadness. He knew that he’d never forget this day but he could not share it with anyone either.‘What now?’ he asked finally.‘You will go home and the rest of us will return to the underworld,’ Ra answered, ‘the time of the ancient Gods has passed, for now.’‘Will anyone know what happened, what happened to Beth?’Ra shook his head sadly, ‘For now, they will assume she died in the earthquake, but know this; the great pyramid was the greatest achievement of my children. It is an illusion to all those who do not understand the truth. When the world regains its ancient knowledge and its secrets lay open, then everyone will know of what you have all accomplished this day.’Sombrely, Horemheb and Meritaten embraced him before they joined the shades of their loved ones.‘Even I am not sure why I chose to take you from your building,’ Meritaten was smiling, her aura increasing, as was Horemheb’s, as her solid body slowly began to turn to light, ‘I’m sorry that I was angry with you. What I thought was your doom was my release and I shall never forget you.’There was a burst of light, as bright as the sun, and then it was only he and Ra left in the chamber. The stone plug was back in place, blocking the corridor again, and a wave of panic washed over him. He was trapped!Again, Ra seemed to know what he was thinking, ‘You are safe,’ he said calmly, ‘close your eyes.’ Thomas did so and felt a gentle breeze causing goose bumps to rise on his skin, ‘Now open them.’Alone again, Thomas was standing in the shaded city street outside his shattered office building. It had happened so quickly and without the side effects that travelling with Meritaten had caused. He’d been in Egypt one second and back in his city the next.It was done. It was over, and yet Thomas felt an uneasy sense of foreboding, as though they’d forgotten something. Something important.A flurry of activity was happening all around, sirens and the whirr of helicopters filled the air. The city was in tatters and yet he felt somehow gratified that although he’d unleashed the power of the Goddess of Destruction, he had also helped destroy it.‘Dad! Dad!’A tall, thin man in his thirties with short blonde hair, a small girl clutched to his chest, pushed his way through the crowd. Thomas ran forward and hugged his son and grand daughter tightly to him.‘Are you alright Ben?’ he asked anxiously.‘We’re all fine. Karen is at the hospital, they’ve called in all able bodied personnel.’‘Tell me what happened, I’ve had no news.’‘They think a tremor caused the tidal waves and also broke open gas lines that killed people straight up and then the big one hit. Seven point eight on the Richter scale but no one can explain it. There are no major fault lines anywhere near here.’‘You’re right. Where do they think the epicentre was?’‘That’s the thing,’ Ben said looking over his shoulder at the pile of rubble his father owned, ‘We saw it on the TV, and I was so afraid! It was right here Dad! How did you get out? Didn’t you feel it?’‘I wasn’t here son,’ he choked, unable to express himself further. Ben didn’t seem to have noticed his father’s odd manner, concerned only with his welfare.‘Thank God,’ Ben said, tears of relief running down his dirt streaked face.‘Amen to that.’Deep within the bowels of the earth, something stirred, slowly awakening. Sehkmet was finally gone and the gullible fool, Ra, would soon follow.