Doctor Who: The Sands of Time


Tablo reader up chevron

Ancient Egypt - c5000BC

The woman was still alive as unnatural thunder cracked across the sky. The lightning forked through the thrashing rain, stabbing at the desert sand. Rain splashed across the dunes, running down the bank towards the entrance of the tomb, washing over stone that had been parched for a thousand years.

She was hardly more than a girl, her eyes betraying her fear as she shivered in the warm rain. The priests stood either side of her, holding her arms out from her body. Their heads were lowered - perhaps in shame, perhaps in an effort to keep them dry.

She screamed as the spirit she hosted was split, ruptured and ripped from her mind. She collapsed to her knees, held up only by the grip of the priests. Damp sand gritted into the white cotton of her dress. The muscles in her neck tightened with the pain and her cries echoed through the night, blotting out the thunder. But she was still alive.

The gods watched from the ridge, silent and still. The rain running down their masked faces and splashing from their robes. Then Anubis and Horus stepped forward and made their considered way down towards the burial party. The lightning flashed across their ritual masks, picking out the reflective detail of the gold and deepening the dark holes of their eyes. The woman raised her head slightly as they stopped in front of her. Her left eyelid flickered while Anubis raised the lid from the canopic jar. Then her body spasmed again as Horus touched her cheek, drew out the enclosed spirit, left her with only the instinct and intuition she had inherited.

She was still alive, but Rassul did nothing.

He watched as they dragged the girl's sagging body towards the tomb. He followed, taking his designated place as the last of the relics were carried after her. The ring of Bastet, born on a velvet cushion; the snake statue of Netjerankh; the scarab bracelet; the figure of Anubis, god of the rituals of death. Rassul followed, holding the hourglass before him like the talisman it was. And at his back he could hear the Devourer of the Dead snapping in frustration as she was cheated of her victim.

The girl was still alive as they removed the dress. She could stand alone now, unmoving apart from her eyes. She was still alive as Anubis directed the priests to smear her naked body with bitumen.

She was still alive as they started to smother the bandages round her. And Rassul did nothing.

As the wrappings reached her face she screamed again, head back and mouth wide, as if to remind them she still had her tongue. A single word, screamed in terror, anger and accusation. A single word hurled at Rassul as he stood before her. And did nothing. The next twist of cloth cut off her voice, bit deep into her mouth and gagged her.

She was still alive as the bandages covered her forehead, leaving a thin slot through which Rassul could see her eyes widen. She was watching him, locked on to him. And he could see her pupils dilate, could almost feel her terror.

The opening of the mouth. Her scream had been like a pouring in of energy. His muscles tightened and his whole body tensed. A single word.

In that instant he knew what he must do, saw his destiny mapped out like a procession snaking across the desert. He felt his life stretch out ahead of him, guided inexorably towards a new purpose.

Rassul placed the hourglass in the appointed position. He watched them lower the mummified body into the inner sarcophagus and drag the heavy lid across it. He watched the priests follow the gods from the tomb. He turned back as they reached the doorway, bowed in reverence, and made to join the procession.

Then he reached out, and turned the hourglass over. A tiny trickle of sand, a thin line of time, traced its way into the lower glass bowl. Rassul watched for a moment, then followed the last of the priests. He waited outside as they closed and sealed the doorway.

The gods were already gone. The priests waited no longer than was necessary to complete the final rituals. Like Rassul, they had heard the thumping on the inside of the sarcophagus. Like Rassul, they knew she was still alive.

Mena House Oberoi hotel, Giza - September 1896

Lord Kenilworth spluttered into his single malt, wiped a sodden handkerchief round his damp collar, and looked again across the room. He was sitting alone at a map-strewn table close to the window. He had been examining the maps for most of the afternoon, tracing out routes to possible sites and discarding them for lack of substantiating or corroborative evidence. Across the extensive hotel gardens outside, if he cared to look, he was afforded an excellent view of the pyramids. But for the moment, the presence of the man who had entered the bar puzzled him more than the ancient monuments he had spent a good deal of his forty-seven years studying.

'Good God, Atkins,' Kenilworth blurted, half rising as the man approached him. 'What the deuce?'

'I'm sorry, sir. I realize this is somewhat unexpected.' Atkins lowered his head slightly as he spoke. 'But a matter has arisen.'

'Unexpected? I should say so.' Kenilworth waved the tall man to a chair, and wiped his brow.

Atkins sat, assuming an upright posture which emphasized his near-immaculate attire. If Kenilworth noticed the mud and sand clinging to Atkins' shoes and the cuffs of his trousers, he did not mention it. He waited.

'So what is this matter that brings you all the way from London? What is it that causes you to neglect your duties - and my household, I should add - and come to Cairo in person rather than send a telegram?'

Atkins coughed politely. 'We are actually in Giza, sir.'

'I know where I am, thank you. And I rather think I may be permitted to stray a couple of miles from my residence. Especially since my butler seems to have wandered several thousand miles from his.' He gave a single curt nod to emphasize the point. Then he laughed, a short snort of mirth. 'You gave me quite a turn though, I don't mind admitting.' Kenilworth set down his drink on one of the maps, rubbing his thumb against the cool surface of the glass for a moment.

A shadow fell across the table, and he was suddenly aware that another figure had joined them. The man was standing beside Kenilworth's chair, silhouetted against the window and framed between the shapes of the pyramids outside.

'Who the devil are you, sir?' Kenilworth asked, pulling the maps off the table and rolling them up. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Atkins grab the whisky tumbler a moment before the map was pulled from under it.

'This gentleman, sir,' Atkins said quietly as he replaced the tumbler on the table, 'has a proposition which I believe you will find of interest.'

'Does he indeed.' Kenilworth peered into the setting sunlight. The man was tall, but Kenilworth could make out no features. There was just a shadowed oval where his face should be. 'Well then, sir, out with it. What proposition is it that causes you to hijack my man and bring him half across the globe?'

The man's voice was young, but at the same time it commanded respect. It was cultured, lacking any discernible accent beyond being English. 'You are looking for a tomb,' the man said. 'A blind pyramid south of Saqqara.'

Kenilworth's eyes narrowed. 'How do you know that?' He turned to his manservant. 'Atkins?' he asked accusingly.

Atkins shook his head, a barely perceptible gesture. 'I think you should listen to the gentleman, sir. I have good reason to suspect he can provide useful information.'

Kenilworth snorted again, and reached for his drink.

'Really. And what information, pray, can you provide me with?'

The man straightened up again. 'You must be prepared for some hardship, I'm afraid. There will be danger, death even, ahead of us. But if you're agreeable I can offer my services to your expedition.'

'And what exactly are you offering?'

The man turned away, towards the window, and looked out at the pyramids. The sun was edging down between them, its rays streaming across the hazy desert sands. He was silent for a moment, as if considering. Then he seemed to come to a decision and turned back to face Kenilworth.

'I can lead you to the tomb,' he said.

Cranleigh Hall, Oxfordshire - 1926

The orchestra occupied a large area of the terrace. One end of the lawn was taken up with the buffet and bar, the rest was free for the guests. Some of them stood and ate; some of them chatted idly amongst themselves; some of them danced in the small area of the terrace free of musicians; some of them watched the dancers as they skidded merrily through the Charleston.

Lord and Lady Cranleigh weaved their way endlessly and effortlessly through the guests. They smiled and exchanged small talk. They nodded and accepted good wishes and compliments. They agreed with any comments offered unless they related to religion or politics, in which case they went out of their way to be non-committal before moving hastily on.

'Beautiful, absolutely beautiful,' Smutty Thomas told them for the fourth time as he waved his most recent flute of champagne vaguely in the direction of the happy couple. 'Lovely church. Bishop's a good sort.' Champagne splashed on to the grass at Lady Cranleigh's feet. She smiled, pretending not to notice.

'Speeches - excellent. Superb,' Smutty Thomas concluded, nodding enthusiastically.

Lord Cranleigh laughed. 'We haven't had the speeches yet.'

Smutty Thomas frowned with some difficulty. 'Well,' he decided at length, 'they will be good.'

'Indeed they will,' a voice said from just behind Cranleigh. It was at once breathless and controlled, as if the speaker had just run a hundred yard dash but not broken a sweat. 'I shall especially enjoy the anecdote about the pig in Exeter College.'

Lord Cranleigh gaped. 'How could you possibly know -' he began, turning to face the man who had spoken. As soon as he saw who it was his surprise turned to delight and understanding. 'Doctor,' he said with a beam, 'how good of you to come.'

'Not at all.' The Doctor smiled back and took Cranleigh's proffered hand.

'Congratulations. The wedding cake tastes lovely.'

'We haven't cut it yet,' said Lady Cranleigh.

But her husband just laughed again and waved an admonishing finger at the Doctor. 'I can never tell when you're joking, Doctor.'

'Are you here alone?' Lady Cranleigh asked. She had been looking past the Doctor, scanning the nearby guests for his companions.

'I'm rather afraid I am.' The Doctor's smile faded.

'May be just as well,' Cranleigh observed. 'I rather think Miss Nyssa's appearance here might cause some little confusion.' He turned to the swaying Smutty Thomas. 'You know she's the image of Ann,' he confided. 'Two peas in a pod. Quite uncanny.' But his friend seemed more concerned with keeping his champagne within the confines of the wavering glass than in Cranleigh's words.

Ann Cranleigh patted the Doctor's shoulder. 'It's nice to see you, anyway,' she said. 'But you must bring Nyssa and Tegan and Adric to visit us soon. You are always welcome here.'

'Indeed,' Cranleigh agreed with his wife. 'We owe you a lot, Doctor.'

'Thank you,' the Doctor said. He bit his lower lip as if pondering something important.

'I know you're a little busy at the moment,' he said at last, 'but I was wondering if you could do me one small favour.'

'Anything I can do, Doctor,' Cranleigh said seriously. 'So long as it's not money,' he added with a wink.

The Doctor laughed. Then at once he was solemn again. 'No, it's not money. And actually, it's really your wife I must ask. Though I can give you a little while to think about it.'

'In that case,' Lady Cranleigh took the Doctor's arm, 'you can ask me as we dance.'

'Dance?' The Doctor was dismayed. He twisted round as she led him towards the terrace and shot Cranleigh a despairing glance.

Cranleigh raised his glass in response. 'See you later, Doctor,' he called, turning back in time to catch Smutty Thomas as he fell.

Kenilworth House, London - 1965

Aubrey Prior froze. The glass hovered for a moment in front of his open mouth, then he blinked suddenly and put it down. The light from the heavy chandelier reflected off the cut facets of the lead crystal and made the vintage port glow as if lit from within. It was one of the best of the many ports that Aubrey Prior had tasted.

'How long have you known? Are they sure? My God, how do you -' Aubrey shook his head. 'Sorry, I - Sorry.'

Cedric smiled sadly across the room. He was standing with his back to the fire, resting his arm along the mantelpiece. 'I've known for quite some time really,' he said. 'Though it took me a while to believe it.'

'But there must be something - some treatment or other. If it's a genetic instability or defect in the DNA -'

Cedric held up his hand to stop his nephew. 'In a few years I can believe that you and your colleagues will have tinkered around with our genes to the point where you can cure anything, Aubrey.' He stared distantly at the chandelier for a moment. 'But I don't have a few years. All I have is a few weeks.'


Cedric Prior nodded. 'Three at the most, apparently. Though God knows I feel better now than I have in ages.' He looked round the drawing room, slowly scanning the furniture and ornaments. To his nephew he looked as if he was seeing the room properly for the first time. Or the last. 'I was hoping that he would come during my lifetime, that I would find out at last what it's all about … ' His voice tailed off and he shook his head slowly and sadly.

'He?' Aubrey stood up and went over to join his uncle at the fire. They were friends as well as relatives, and Aubrey had been looking forward to the evening for weeks. Probably for longer than his uncle had left to live. He put his glass down on the mantelpiece. Suddenly he didn't seem to want the drink.

Cedric Prior was still staring into space, his eyes glazed over. Aubrey waited a while, but his uncle seemed deep in thought. 'Would you like me to … ' Aubrey gestured vaguely towards the door.

Cedric looked at him. 'What? Oh, no. No. Sorry I was -' He looked towards the door where Aubrey had pointed. 'Yes, yes. We must go. It's time you knew about your duties, knew about the task our family is charged with.'

Aubrey followed his uncle into the hall, wondering vaguely if his brain had been affected by the illness. He was becoming certain of it when Cedric Prior led him to the cupboard under the stairs and indicated that his nephew should follow him inside.

'In there? Really, Uncle, I do think -'

'Come along, I've waited all your life to show you this.' Cedric grabbed his hand and pulled him inside. Then he immediately stooped down and started to fumble with the floorboards.

Aubrey peered over Cedric's shoulder, and saw that he was levering up a brass ring set into the wood. As soon as his fingers could gain purchase on the ring, he pulled. And a section of the floor of the cupboard lifted up accompanied by a cloud of dust. 'A trapdoor.'

Cedric smiled and nodded. 'Down you go.' As his uncle stood aside, Aubrey could see a set of stone steps leading down into the cellarage beneath.

Aubrey had expected a dim area filled with cobwebs and dust. Instead he was greeted with a large stone-floored room, brightly lit and draped with deep red velvet curtains round the walls. On low tables and shelves around the room were various ornaments and statuettes. But Aubrey hardly noticed them.

On the far side of the room, was a dais. Two stone steps led up to the raised rectangular area. And standing on a stone table in the middle was a sarcophagus.

Without looking to see if his uncle was behind him, Aubrey walked slowly across the room towards the coffin. His feet rang on the stone floor, the sound deadened and absorbed by the heavy curtains. As he stepped up to it, he could see that the sarcophagus was dark with age. Once it had been covered with intricate, colourful hieroglyphics, three rows of tiny pictures around the outside of the human-shaped case. But now they had faded and blackened in the air so that only the outlines and shadows of them were visible as they caught the light.

Aubrey reached the top step, and looked into the coffin. He drew in his breath sharply as he saw the bandaged body. From the size and shape he assumed it was, or rather had been, female. He shook his head in disbelief. 'My God. How long have you had this here?'

Behind him, at the foot of the staircase, Cedric Prior laughed. 'I didn't put this here. I wasn't told who did.' He stepped forward, lowering his voice slightly. 'And I knew better than to ask.' He stepped slowly up to the sarcophagus and stared inside for a while. 'She is your responsibility now, Aubrey.'


'Oh yes. As my sole heir you will get the house and all its contents. Including her.''But what? I mean -' Aubrey waved his hands over the bandaged form. 'What's it for? What do I have to do with her?'

'Probably nothing. She lies here like this, untouched and undisturbed until our family's duty is discharged.'

'And when is that?'

Cedric reached inside his jacket and pulled out an envelope. It was brittle and yellowed with age, and a fleck of paper flaked off and floated to the basement floor as he teased open the end. From inside he drew a piece of card. He handed it to his nephew.

'An invitation card?' In fact it was half a card. The faded gilt of the rounded edge ended in a jagged tear where the card had been torn across. Aubrey read the half sentences on the printed side, trying to fill in the missing words and phrases.

'Probably you will pass that on to your next of kin just as I do,' Cedric said quietly.

'But there is a chance, just a chance, that during your lifetime he will come.'

'Who will?'

'Whoever has the other half of that invitation card. He will come to claim the mummy, and you must release it to him.'

'And when that happens?'

Cedric Prior shrugged. He traced his finger along the edge of the ancient coffin and stared at the rotting bandages across the woman's face. 'I wish I knew,' he said quietly.

Comment Log in or Join Tablo to comment on this chapter...

Chapter 1

The Doctor was deep in thought. Nyssa could tell as soon as she entered the console room. She had heard the melodious chime that meant they had landed while she was in the TARDIS corridor. Now she could see that the central column of the control console had come to a halt.

The Doctor was leaning over the console, staring across it through the misted transparency of the central column. A single line creased his apparently young brow as he gazed into the empty middle distance.

As Nyssa watched from the doorway, the Doctor shook his heard suddenly, sending his blond hair into a frenzy as he set off rapidly round the console. He was muttering under his breath, consulting instruments and frowning at read-outs.

Tegan's voice came from close to Nyssa's ear - her friend was standing right behind her. 'Have we landed?'

'Yes.' Nyssa stood aside to let Tegan into the room. 'But I'm not sure we're where the Doctor intended.'

'So what's new?' Tegan positioned herself so that the Doctor could not help but notice her as he started another circuit of the console.

'Ah. Tegan,' he said as he almost ran into her. 'Good. Yes. We've landed.' He plunged his hands deep into the pockets of his long cream-coloured jacket and peered over Tegan's shoulder at the console.

'We can see that, Doctor,' Nyssa said as she joined them by the console.

The Doctor pulled his hands from his pockets and tapped an absent-minded tattoo on the nearest control panel. 'Only,' he said quietly. Then he suddenly stopped tapping his fingers and peered closely at the controls on the panel.

'Only what, Doctor?'

For a moment he did not move. Then he straightened up, his face creasing into the frown of a late schoolboy with no excuse. 'We're not where we should be,' he said, as if totally surprised.

'We guessed that,' Tegan told him.

'Hmm?' the Doctor asked in a pained voice.

'Where are we, then?' Nyssa asked him before they could start arguing over the exact percentage of accurate landings the Doctor had recently accomplished.

The Doctor turned sharply towards Nyssa. 'I don't know,' he said as if the question had only just occurred to him.

'I'll try the scanner,' Nyssa offered.

It showed nothing.

'It's just black,' Tegan said, earning a scowl from the Doctor and a shrug from Nyssa. 'Perhaps it is just black outside. A void of some sort.'

'No, Nyssa. The scanner's playing up, that's all.' The Doctor closed the scanner screen and waved a hand dismissively at the control console. 'It'll sort itself out soon enough.'

'What will?'

'What? Oh, relative dimensional stabiliser failed. It's happened before, so the TARDIS will know how to fix it. Then we can be on our way.'

'As simple as that?' Tegan did not seem convinced.

'Er, well no, actually. Not quite.'

'Thought not.'

'We need to recalibrate. Won't take a moment.' The Doctor grinned. 'Once we have the data.'

Tegan looked from the Doctor to Nyssa. Since the Doctor did not seem about to elaborate, Nyssa explained. 'We need to know where we are, so we can work out how to get back on course.' She hoped she had understood the problem.

'Quite right, Nyssa. Where and when. Once we know that, we can have another go.' 'So we have to go outside.'

The Doctor nodded. 'Exciting isn't it?' He reached for the door control, and the main doors swung heavily open.

'Come on, you two.' The Doctor already had his Panama hat in hand. He stuck it on his head as he pushed past Nyssa and Tegan to get to the doors. 'Where's your sense of adventure?'

'Mine died a long and lingering death somewhere in Amsterdam,' Tegan said quietly to Nyssa. 'Where's yours?'

'I'm not sure I ever had one,' Nyssa replied. But she followed them out of the TARDIS anyway.

The room was large and unlit. The only illumination was the moonlight which spilled in through the dusty windows. As she peered into the gloom, Tegan could make out dark shapes along the length of the room. A black river flowed round them, and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness she could see that it was a carpet. It traced a route through and around the shapes. The Doctor was already making his way down the room, peering at shadows. As she watched, he removed a pair of half-moon spectacles from his top pocket and put them on.

Tegan made to follow him, conscious of Nyssa beside her. Something caught at her hand, just for a second, then let go. Immediately Tegan gasped in surprise and jumped back.

Beside her, Nyssa laughed. 'It's just a rope, Tegan.'

'I can see that.' And so she could - now. The rope stretched along the side of the carpet, cordoning off the area outside it. To get to the carpeted path, they had to step over the rope. As they made their way after the Doctor, Tegan saw that the rope was strung between low posts along the way. She was beginning to understand where they were.

'They're caskets,' Nyssa said as they reached the first of the larger shadows. The central aisle of the room was a line of similar shapes. They were all open caskets about seven feet long and three feet wide. And each seemed to contain a body.

Nyssa was examining the nearest casket. 'The body is wrapped in some sort of protective covering,' she pointed out. 'I think it must be an advanced process derived from cryogenics. A way of preserving a body so that it can later be restored to life.'

This time Tegan laughed. She was glad that for once she knew more than Nyssa about something. 'Advanced process? I don't think so.'

'Oh be charitable, Tegan.' Somehow the Doctor had popped up between them and was staring into the casket. 'The process is pretty advanced, considering. And the basic idea was exactly as Nyssa said. They thought the soul was reunited with the body after burial. So the body had to be preserved to endure the rigours of the afterlife.'

Tegan's eyes had adjusted enough to the dim light for her to be able to see Nyssa's smirk. 'Doctor, they're mummies,' she said. 'Whatever Nyssa thinks, we're in a museum. A museum full of sarcophaguses and ancient Egyptian stuff.'

'Sarcophagi,' the Doctor admonished. 'But you're right.'

They looked around again, able now to see rather more clearly. The sarcophagi formed a row down the centre of the room. Along the sides of the room, more caskets and sarcophagi stood upright. The TARDIS was almost at one end of a wall, just one more box in a large collection of strange shaped caskets. Dotted about the room were low tables, each with one or more objects standing symmetrically upon it. The objects ranged from statuettes to urns, from glass cases of jewellery to fragments of papyrus.

'And this is not just a museum,' the Doctor continued. 'This is the museum - at least as far as Earth is concerned.' He slowly turned a complete circle, surveying the room with apparent pride. 'This is the Egyptian room of the British Museum.' He set off down the room again. 'All we need to know now, is the time,' he called back over his shoulder.

'It's night time,' Tegan called after him. 'And it's cold.' She was still wearing the camisole top and thin shorts she had taken to Amsterdam. They had been fine there, but she was conscious now that they were really little more than glorified underwear.

'Did they really think they would revive in an afterlife?' asked Nyssa. 'After this?' she gestured at the bandaged figure lying in the coffin in front of them.

'Guess so.' Tegan shivered. 'Made for some good films though - mummies lurching to life and staggering after their victims.' She made a clumsy lunge for Nyssa, who giggled and stepped out of the way.

'If he's going to be much longer, I'll have to get a coat.' Tegan watched as the Doctor moved slowly amongst the relics and jotted odd notes on a small pad that had appeared in his hand. 'Aren't you cold?' she asked Nyssa.

Nyssa shook her head. She was wearing brown corduroy trousers and what appeared to be a matching velvet tunic.

Tegan came to her decision. 'Right,' she said, 'I'll be back in a minute.' She nodded towards the distant figure of the Doctor. 'Don't let him wander off,' she told Nyssa. Then she headed back towards the TARDIS, pausing only to curse at the low loop of rope she tripped over on the way.

Nyssa smiled as she saw Tegan trip against the rope again. She returned her friend's embarrassed wave, and watched her enter the TARDIS. Turning her attention back to the bandaged body in the sarcophagus in front of her, Nyssa wondered about the rituals and beliefs of the culture that took such care of their dead. She tried to estimate the age of the corpse, and then of its coffin. But she soon gave up, blaming both the bad light and her lack of background information. She would examine a couple of the other artefacts, and then ask the Doctor. If she felt confident enough she might even hazard an estimate of the age of one of the relics.

The first piece that Nyssa looked at more closely was a bracelet which lay on one of the tables by the aisle. It was large and heavy, hinged to open outwards and close around the wrist or perhaps the lower arm. As she twisted it to catch the moonlight, Nyssa could see that it was gold, inlaid with a blue enamel which she did not recognize. On one half was a picture. It seemed to show a child perched on top of a clump of leaves. The figure held a staff with a looped top and wore a headress adorned with a rearing snake. The picture was framed by the twisted shapes of two other snakes, their tails meeting above the child's head. The background was faded and worn, but the reliefwork itself was well-preserved and delineated. If she looked closely enough, Nyssa could even see the line of the mouth where the figure held its finger to its lips, as if asking her to keep silent.

She carefully replaced the bracelet on the table, none the wiser. A larger object might yield more clues. Nyssa made her way to a sarcophagus standing upright against the wall.

The sarcophagus was larger than she had expected, a good two feet taller than Nyssa. It seemed to be made of wood, and was carved into roughly the shape of a person - presumably of its occupant. Nyssa guessed from the relative sizes of the casket she had already seen and of its occupant that there was plenty of space inside even when the casket was full. The real person would have been nowhere near as big as their coffin.

A stream of moonlight illuminated the side and top of the sarcophagus. This was partly why Nyssa had been drawn to it, and she could see that the face painted on the head section was of a woman. The rest of the body was adorned with small pictures of animals and birds. There were also several human figures, but with the heads of other creatures. A single pattern, a stylised eye, recurred across the ornate coffin. An eyebrow looped above it as if in surprise, and two lines fell away from it. One was perpendicular to the eye, the other slid off to the left at an angle, thinning out before ending in a solid circle as large as the pupil. In the glinting dusty moonlight they looked to Nyssa like tears across the front of the coffin lid.

It did not take Nyssa long to decide that she had no chance of deciphering the symbols and pictures without help. Instead, she turned her attention to the face of the dead woman. She had to stand on tip-toe and lean forward over the extended feet jutting out from the base of the casket. Half the face was in shadow, but she could see the rest of it quite clearly. She could see the wide staring eyes and high eyebrows, the painted cheekbone and soft line of the nose. She stared at the flaking lips, turning up slightly even as a dimpled line shadowed down from the corner of the mouth. She reached up and ran her hand over the flat paint of the curled dark hair that cascaded down from a central parting to hang unevenly over the artificial shoulders. And she felt a cold trickle of fear run its course from the nape of her neck down her spine.

Tegan was wearing the longest, heaviest cloak she could find in the TARDIS wardrobe. She had considered changing her clothes completely, but she was not at all sure she trusted the Doctor to hang around for the length of time it might take to find something suitable. So she was wrapped entirely in a black cloak of some thick worsted material, the heavy hood pulling at her shoulders as it hung loose about her neck.

Her first problem was negotiating the rope she remembered all too well was strung across her path. She had to hoist the cloak up and over with each leg. Once on the other side of the rope she congratulated herself on the operation, smoothed the cloak back down to her ankles, and looked round for the Doctor and Nyssa.

She could see neither.

But then, as her eyes adjusted again to the gloomy light, she made out a figure towards the far end of the room. As she watched, it straightened up, silhouetted for a moment against the lighter doorway in the end wall. It stuffed its hands into its trouser pockets and turned slowly one way, then back the other. Tegan smiled and set off towards the Doctor.

She was about half way there when she caught sight of movement from the corner of her eye. Her immediate thought was that it was Nyssa examining some other artefact. But it was not a person, more of a momentary glow. She stopped and turned back towards the light source.

But there was nothing there. Just another sarcophagus standing by the wall. It was tall and wide, shaped like an upright figure just as all the others were. The arms were crossed over the chest, each holding a staff. The headress over and around the face was alternate lines of black and a lighter colour, but it was too dark for Tegan to make out any details. She watched it for a moment. The sarcophagus stood silent, still, and lonely.

Just as Tegan was about to move on, she became aware of a faint humming sound. It was not unlike the background noise in the TARDIS console room. She looked round to see where it was coming from. Had the TARDIS door swung open behind her, perhaps caught and kept ajar by her cloak? But the door was not open; and the sound was coming from behind her. From the sarcophagus. From the sarcophagus which was now lit with an eerie inner light that seemed to emanate from the lighter strips of the headress and spill out down the rest of the body.

The strobing blue light mesmerised Tegan for a second. It held her attention and her mind. Then just as she broke free of the image and found her voice, the light cut out.

'Doctor,' she called across the room. Her voice echoed over the relics and skidded across the coffins.

In the distance, the Doctor's silhouette turned sharply in the direction of the noise and broke into a run. Lit for a moment in the doorway behind, another figure slipped silently and swiftly into the room.

The hand was large and rough and smelled of fish. Nyssa had enough time to notice each of these facts, and to let out the beginnings of a surprised shriek before the hand closed completely over her mouth. Her cry stopped as abruptly as her assailant grabbed her.

Across the room, Nyssa could see the dark figure of Tegan and the hurried outline of the Doctor as he arrived beside her and clasped her shoulders, asking her what was wrong. The tableau receded as Nyssa was pulled back through the room in the opposite direction. The man holding her grunted with the effort as he tried to prevent her from crying out or wrenching herself free.

Nyssa bit and wriggled and stamped, but nothing she did seemed to shake her attacker's resolve or his grip. She pulled at the huge hand clamped to her mouth, but without success.

In the distance the Doctor glanced briefly towards them. Nyssa could imagine him peering into the blackness and wondering where she was and what her stifled cry had been. Her eyes widened in blind appeal and she struggled all the more violently.

But the Doctor turned back to Tegan, moved her aside and started to examine the sarcophagus behind her. In a last desperate effort, Nyssa twisted in the doorway, her foot lashing out at a nearby display table and her half-free hand catching at the doorframe as she was dragged from the room.

'Look at the workmanship,' the Doctor said again as he wiped imaginary dust from the figure's face. 'Definitely Osiran influence.' He waved a hand at the stylised line of the eyebrows by way of proof. 'Well, at least we know what drew the TARDIS off course.' He turned back to Tegan, only slightly daunted by the fact that she appeared not to be paying any attention to him and was instead looking round the room behind them. 'Probably caused the stabiliser failure too, come to that.' He jammed his hands back into his pockets and leaned suddenly forwards. 'Tegan, if you don't want to know, then please don't ask,' he finished as if continuing the previous sentence.

As he had suspected, she did not register the change of subject or the criticism.

'Where's Nyssa?' she asked instead.

'Oh, I expect she's -'

The Doctor's expectations were cut short by the sound of a table crashing to the ground. The sound echoed round the room as the table spilled its contents across the floor. Something smashed in a minor explosion of plaster. Something else skidded and rolled across the ground, spinning to a stop at the edge of the carpet.

Tegan and the Doctor both turned towards the source of the noise, towards the far end of the room. And saw the silhouetted struggling as Nyssa was dragged through the doorway by a large dark figure.

'Hey!' Tegan shouted, tripping on the edge of her cloak as she tried to break into a run. As she stumbled, the Doctor leaped past her and vaulted a collection of relics which stood between himself and the door. Behind him he was aware of Tegan struggling with her cloak. In front of him he saw Nyssa finally disappear from view, the door slammed shut behind her.

The door was unlocked. But the room beyond was empty.

The Doctor paused for the briefest of split-seconds. Then he was off again, racing across the small room, and crashing through the door at the end of it. He heard it bang in to the wall in front of him and slam shut again behind him as he skidded down the stairs. He heard Tegan's muffled shouts as she followed. He caught the smallest glimpse of Nyssa's flailing trailing leg as it disappeared round a bend in the wide stone staircase ahead of him. But when he reached the landing below, there was no clue as to which way to go. The stairs continued on down, but three doorways gave out on to the floor he was now on. The Doctor paused for breath and to listen for any hint which way to go. But all he could hear was Tegan clattering down the stairs behind him.

'Which way did they go?' Tegan asked as she reached the landing, her cloak swirling behind her.

The Doctor adopted a pained expression. 'Do you really think I'd be hanging around here if I knew that?'

'Great. So what do we do now?'

'We think.'


'Yes, Tegan,think . It can be really quite useful - you should try it occasionally.'

Tegan snorted. 'And what good will thinking do Nyssa? We need to find her.'

'For example, why do you think they - whoever they are - have taken her? Hmm?'

'It doesn't matter why, Doctor. We've got to find her.'

The Doctor smiled and waved a finger at Tegan. 'But if we knew why, we might know where. As it is, we have to guess. And I would guess they're taking her somewhere else.'

'Brilliant,' Tegan said, sounding as though she actually meant something quite different.

'Tegan,' admonished the Doctor. 'Somewhere else would suggest they're taking her outside the building. Away from the museum.' He nodded, primarily for his own benefit. 'So we need to be outside. We need to find their means of transport.'


'They're not going to drag Nyssa kicking and screaming through the streets of London, now are they. Would you?'

But the Doctor did not wait for an answer to this. Instead he started down the staircase again. 'Come along,' he called back over his shoulder as he jumped down another three steps.

The night air was cold and dry. What breath Nyssa was able to exhale between the fingers of the clammy hand covering her mouth was forced through as a warm humid mist which drifted and thinned into the foggy distance. Nyssa had all but given up struggling and was trying instead to slow her progress as much as possible. She had heard the clatter of pursuit and her hope now was that the Doctor could catch up with them.

As she was dragged backwards out of a side entrance to the large building, Nyssa had no way of knowing where she was headed, but she had a good view of where she had been. She spent little time in considering how much this was like travelling with the Doctor, and more dragging her feet sluggishly through the thin sprinkling of snow which covered the frozen cobbles. Her heels bumped over the small rounded stones and her calves were jarred by the jolting.

Further back along the dark shadow of the building, another door was opened into the foggy night. It swung heavily outward and sprung back slightly as it reached the limit of its hinge. A moment later the Doctor bounded through the doorway, followed closely by Tegan. At the same instant, the man pulling Nyssa stopped.

Nyssa's immediate thought was that the man would release her and make a run for it. The Doctor and Tegan were now so close that they must catch him. The Doctor was waving and shouting; Tegan was struggling to keep her cloak from under her feet. The fog parted before them as they dashed forward.

But then Nyssa felt herself hoisted roughly up a couple of high steps and bundled through a small door. At the same time the hand was released from her face and the ground jolted beneath her. She was thrown back on to an upholstered bench seat. In front of her a pair of eyes gleamed darkly, and gaslight reflected for a second from the blade of a knife. Behind her, Nyssa could hear the Doctor's continued shouts above the accelerating rhythm of the horse's hooves and the crack of the coachman's whip.

The carriage was soon swallowed up by the foggy night. For a while the sounds of the horse's hooves on the snowy cobbles and the clatter of the wheels made their increasingly muffled way through the thick fog. Only when they were gone did the Doctor stop running. He drew in a deep breath, threw his rolled Panama hat down into the roadway and carefully stamped on it.

Tegan caught up with him in time to see him retrieve the hat, unroll it, dust it down on his coat and jam the cold, soggy result back on his head. Then he sat down in the snow, pulled his knees up to his chest, and stared into the night.

Tegan said nothing. She pulled her cloak closer round her and raised the deep hood, aware of the cold despite the enforced exercise.

'That street lamp.' The Doctor nodded towards the nearest one. 'Interesting, don't you think?'

'No.' Tegan crouched down beside him. 'Doctor, we lost Nyssa.'

'Yes, I know,' the Doctor said without a trace of sarcasm. Rather he seemed in a thoughtful mood. 'And we'd better find her.' He leaped to his feet and strode over to the lamp post. 'Given the lighting technology, the ambient sound and,' he waved an arm through the misty night, 'pollution, I should say we're round about late Victorian.'

Tegan could see no reason to disagree. 'Does that help?'

The Doctor thought for a moment. 'Probably not,' he admitted at last. 'But I like to get things straight in my mind. And we still need an exact date to reset the TARDIS navigation systems.' He walked round the lamp post, leaving a slushy trail in the snow. 'That Osiran lodestone must have picked up some residual vortex energy from the TARDIS time track. That would explain why we were drawn off course, and might have caused the stabiliser failure.' He stopped his circumnavigation and peered pensively at Tegan. 'Also why the sarcophagus appeared to glow. Probably leaking out the time differential to prevent a short.'

'Does that help?'

'Possibly. If the sarcophagus and Nyssa's kidnapping are connected. Though I don't see how they could be. Perhaps this gentleman can enlighten us.'

It took Tegan a second to realize what the Doctor had said. Then she looked round to see who he was talking about. She was still looking when she became aware of the sound of footsteps. Almost immediately, a figure pushed its way through the fog in front of them and stepped into the gaslight.

The man was tall, his figure fleshed out by the cloak he wore. A tall black hat exaggerated his height as he walked towards them. His face, as it caught what light there was, was thin. He looked to be in his late thirties. 'Ah, there you are,' he said in a deep, measured voice.

The Doctor and Tegan exchanged glances. 'You were expecting to find us here?' the Doctor asked.

'Indeed, sir.' The stranger switched on a smile. 'I have a communication.'

'For us?' Tegan pushed forward to see the man better. 'Something to do with Nyssa?'

The man frowned and seemed genuinely surprised. 'To do with what?'

Tegan shrugged and turned away.

The man continued: 'I'm sorry, Miss Jovanka, I did not understand the reference.'

Tegan stopped dead. 'You know who I am?' She turned slowly back. The Doctor too seemed surprised.

'Indeed.' There was an awkward pause. Then the man seemed to sense that perhaps he needed to elaborate. 'How could I forget you so soon?' he added helpfully.

'You've met before?' the Doctor gestured between the stranger and Tegan.

The stranger laughed, a surprised rather than an amused laugh. 'But of course,' he said. 'As you well know, Doctor.'

Tegan decided to try a different approach. 'How did you know we were here?'

The man shrugged. 'Lord Kenilworth said I would find you here. But if I had missed you, I assume you are still at the Savoy.'

'Absolutely.' The Doctor moved Tegan aside and reached out a hand. 'Spot on. Now, about this communication.'

'Of course, sir.' The man fumbled inside his cloak and drew out an envelope. He handed it to the Doctor. 'It's for tomorrow afternoon, as agreed. Now, if you will excuse me, I must be getting back. I still have various duties to discharge this evening.' He bowed slightly to them both, then turned and walked into the fog. In the distance, Big Ben began to chime midnight.

The Doctor examined the envelope. He showed it to Tegan. On the front it was addressed in a neat efficient hand to The Doctor . 'Curiouser and curiouser,' he muttered as he opened it.

Tegan stood on tiptoes and looked over the Doctor's shoulder as he pulled out the card inside. He glared at her briefly, and she smiled back. Then he held the card so they could both see it in the light from the gas lamp above.

It was a plain white card, edged in gold. It was about five inches long by three inches high. Tegan read it twice.


At home

Monday 10th November, 1896

Kenilworth House, Embankment

A Mummy from Eygpt to be unwrapped at half-past two

'Not that unusual, Tegan,' the Doctor said after a while. These events were not uncommon. The Victorians loved to marry ceremony with antiquity and some semblance of learning.'

'Maybe, Doctor' Tegan said, 'but I'd say it's pretty weird to get invited at midnight by a complete stranger to a mummy unwrapping party.'

The thin layer of snow cracked and collapsed under Tegan's feet. Her breath formed clouds in front of her face, and her feet ached. She felt as if they had been walking for days, though she suspected that it was probably only about an hour all told. She was barely paying attention to the Doctor's lecture on the history of Victorian London and glanced only occasionally at the features of interest he pointed out along their route.

He should get an umbrella and do the tour-guide job properly, she thought as he took her arm again and waved a learned hand at yet another bridge across the Thames. But for the most part she was thinking about Nyssa, and she suspected that behind his erudite manner the Doctor was as well.

Finally seeming to sense that he was making no progress in distracting Tegan, the Doctor had quietened. They made their way along the Embankment in silence broken only by the background hum of the city and the foghorns of the boats on the river. A gaslight haze lay over the nearby rooftops, fading into gloom and darkness in the distance.

'It smells,' Tegan said at last. She felt this was a fair comment on the Doctor's appreciation of Victorian architecture.

'Smelt a good deal more before they put the sewer in,' the Doctor said, immediately back into his undaunted spiel. 'All the sewage used to just go into the river. Now it gets carried ten miles East.'

'What happens to it there?'

The Doctor lowered his head and kicked at a swell of soft snow. It exploded in a puff of white dust. 'It just goes into the river at Barking,' he muttered and quickly went on: 'Another marvellous feat of Victorian engineering.'

'A sewer?' Tegan was not convinced.

'Mmm,' came the enthusiastic reply.

'So where is it?'

'Ah, well. They roofed it over and called it the Victoria Embankment,' the Doctor smiled through the gloom. 'We're walking on it.' He broke into a grin. 'And we've arrived.'

Just ahead of them Tegan could see the tall shape of Cleopatra's needle cutting into the foggy sky. The bulky shape of a carved sphinx watched it diligently from beside them. Clawed hands of bronze gripped the edge of the stone plinth as the silent figure continued its vigil, poised to leap forward into the night.

But the Doctor was not interested. He had turned inwards and was pointing out a large rectangular building. The facade was lined with row upon row of large square windows, each row separated by a balcony. Just visible at the top of the building, flags hung limp from poles at each corner of the roof in the still night. Between the flags, lit from beneath and catching the vestiges of moonlight that struggled through the thick air, large capital letters proclaimed proudly: SAVOY HOTEL AND RESTAURANT.

'Shall we, Miss Jovanka?' the Doctor asked theatrically as he waved an operatic hand to indicate a paved path through the line of young trees.

Despite the lateness of the hour, the reception clerk was busily sorting through papers and allocating them to pigeon holes. The small square openings covered most of the wall behind the heavy mahogany desk, which itself occupied a fair extent of the far wall of the hotel lobby.

The clerk looked round as the door opened to let in the Doctor and Tegan. He was middle-aged with slicked back dark hair fashionably greased to his head. The Doctor approached the desk while Tegan waited at the back of the room. The clerk shot them a look of annoyance as Tegan glanced round the foyer. The area was large and ornate, as she had expected. The carpet was deep pile and deep red, and a huge staircase ascended from one corner of the reception area. Beyond it, a corridor led out of sight while a pair of double doors stood propped open to reveal the glory of the dining room. Several immaculate waiters were making their weary way round the tables positioning cutlery.

Tegan's sweeping gaze brought her attention back to the clerk, and she saw his expression transform into one of delight as the Doctor approached the desk. He seemed to exude pleasure as he hurried to check a couple of pigeon holes, and returned to the desk with a pair of heavy keys.

'No messages, sir,' he said before the Doctor could say a word. 'Not for you or for Miss Jovanka.' He smiled across at Tegan, who frowned beneath her hood. Then he seemed to catch sight of the Doctor's expression. 'I'm sorry, sir, were you expecting a communication?' He returned his attention to the pigeon holes. 'Let me just check again.'

The Doctor turned and shrugged. Tegan returned the gesture, unsure whether her cloak had masked the movement completely.

'No, sir. Nothing at all.'

'Well, never mind,' the Doctor reassured him. 'Not your fault.'

'Your keys.' The clerk handed them to the Doctor.

The Doctor took the keys and started towards the staircase. He stopped abruptly in mid stride and turned back to the desk. 'There is one thing you could do for me.'

'Of course, sir. Anything.'

Tegan could see the edge of the Doctor's hesitant smile. 'Miss Jovanka and I have been discussing it and we can't seem to quite remember. Tell me, how long have we been staying here?'

The clerk's jaw dropped perceptibly.

'Er, exactly, that is,' the Doctor finished.

Still not convinced, the clerk reached under the desk and produced a heavy leather-bound book. He licked a suspicious index finger and riffled through the pages until he found what he was looking for. Finger marking his place, he peered at the Doctor slightly suspiciously. 'You signed the guest register at three-twenty-seven, sir.'

The Doctor's lips tightened and his eyes narrowed. Tegan could see he was wondering how to frame the next question. 'Three-twenty-seven,' he said at last. 'And that would be on, er - ' his voice trailed off into the embarrassed corners of the room.

'Yesterday, sir,' the clerk said with the slightest hint of a reprimand.

The Doctor nodded half-heartedly. 'See, Tegan,' he said at length. 'I told you so.'

Tegan said nothing. She was tired; she was confused; she was cold; and she was worried about Nyssa. She stamped across the foyer and relieved the Doctor of one of the keys, then continued towards the staircase. As she turned across the half-landing and ascended out of sight of the foyer she could hear the clerk's muffled voice from below.

'I assume you remember the way to your room, sir.'

'Ah, er,' the Doctor's voice followed. 'I don't suppose you'd like to remind me of the general direction?' There was a pause and Tegan could only guess at the clerk's expression. The Doctor's voice became clearer as he hurried up the stairs after her. 'No, well - just a joke,' he admitted unconvincingly. 'Ha ha.'

It was something of a relief eventually to find rooms 106 and 107. It was also just as well, Tegan reflected, that the keys had numbered brass tags attached.

The Doctor motioned for Tegan to keep quiet as he silently slid the key to room 106 into the lock and slowly turned it. The lock clicked quietly and the Doctor flung open the door.

The room appeared to be empty. The bed was turned down, and the curtains drawn. It appeared in every respect to be an ordinary, if somewhat plush, empty hotel room. The Doctor grunted his disappointment and grinned at Tegan. 'Let's try 107.'

The procedure was repeated with the adjoining room. Tegan stood well clear as the Doctor gave the door a hefty push to open it. He stared into the room for a moment, frowned, and then smiled at Tegan.

'That must be your room, I think.'


The Doctor yawned, stretched, looked down his nose at her and pushed past towards the open door to room 106. 'I'll see you in the morning,' he said as he stepped out of sight. 'I need to think over a few things. I'll call you for breakfast at eight.' His face suddenly reappeared in the doorway for a moment. 'Green's not really my colour,' he said. 'Goodnight.'

Tegan watched the door to 106 close and heard the key turn in the lock. She had no idea what was going on, but at least she could get a few hours sleep. Now at least she had a decent place for the night, and things could hardly get any more confusing.

Then she stepped into her room. Laid out on the bed was a Victorian dress, trimmed at the neck and cuffs with delicate lace and pleated at the waist. It looked to be about the right size for Tegan. It was pale green.

The dining room was surprisingly quiet. There seemed to be more waiters than guests at breakfast. Tegan felt decidedly over-dressed until she entered the room. Then she transferred her social worries to her conspicuously short hair.

The Doctor on the other hand seemed to have made absolutely no concessions to the era or the establishment, and was acting as though he felt good about it. He was dressed as always in his cricketing gear and pale frock coat. He smiled affably at the staff and nodded politely to the guests. The only moment of uncertainty in his progress through the room as they followed a waiter to their table was when an old man who had seemed to be asleep mumbled 'Hello, Doctor,' as they passed. 'Don't have the kippers,' he added in a stage whisper as they were almost out of earshot.

The waiter led them to a table by the window. Snow was still covering the ground outside, but it was a bright crisp morning, the sun shining on the murky surface of the Thames just visible between the young trees lining the embankment. It reflected in rather more glory from the bronze hide of one of the sphinxes guarding Cleopatra's Needle.

'Ideal,' the Doctor told the waiter as he surveyed the scene. Then he yanked out a chair and sat down, legs immediately stretched out under the table.

'Thank you, sir.' The waiter smiled. 'You did seem quite comfortable here last night.' He pulled the opposite chair out for Tegan, pushing it gently into the backs of her knees to forcing her to sit suddenly and indecorously.

'You mean at dinner?' the Doctor hazarded.

'Indeed, sir.'

Tegan gave a short humourless laugh. She was getting used to everyone knowing where they had been and what they had done before they had even arrived. 'I suppose you can remember what we had to eat, too,' she muttered.

The waiter dropped a napkin into her lap. 'You had the cutlets, Miss Jovanka. You expressed some disappointment as I recall.' He smiled at the Doctor as he pulled the napkin from the Doctor's glass and politely handed it to him. 'Whereas the Doctor was kind enough to compliment the chef on his oysters.' He stepped back a pace, perhaps to double check the perfect alignment of the table against the window. 'Enjoy your breakfast, sir.' With a slight bow, the waiter turned on his heels. 'Madam,' his voice drifted back across his shoulder, as if as an afterthought.

Tegan watched him across the dining room. When the waiter was well out of earshot she leaned across the table and grasped the Doctor's wrist. 'Doctor, what's going on?' She asked. 'And what are we going to do about Nyssa?'

The Doctor was already busily checking the breakfast arrangements. He opened the lid of the heavy silver teapot and peered inside for a moment, then he counted his way through the cutlery and checked the temperature of the toast in the rack. 'Well,' he said at last, 'as to what's going on, I haven't a clue.' He grinned. 'Interesting, isn't it.'

'And Nyssa?'

The Doctor stopped mid-way through pouring the milk. 'Yes,' he said seriously, 'well, as I said last night, I think our best course is to attend this mummy party this afternoon and see what clues we can pick up there.'

'And until then?'

'Oh come on, Tegan, first things first.' He picked up the teapot. 'And the first thing I need is a cup of tea.'

Kenilworth House was a large, imposing stone-clad building several storeys high. It was set back slightly from the embankment, the rear of the house looking out over the river. The Doctor and Tegan followed a narrow footpath round to the front of the house and found themselves facing a large gateway. The heavy ironwork gates stood open, and a pair of carved jackals looked down at the Doctor and Tegan as they passed.

Tegan spared a hurried glance for the stone creatures as she and the Doctor started up the driveway. The skidding of carriage wheels on the gravel and the encouraging call of a driver to the horses drew her attention back to the house. The carriage was pulling away from the porch which jutted out over the front door, shielding it from the cold afternoon sun and shadowing the woodwork. The bay windows on the upper floors leaned towards them as if watching as they approached. Tegan did not look back for fear that the jackals on the gateposts had turned to monitor their progress. Instead she followed in the Doctor's footsteps as he crunched nonchalantly up the drive, hat on head and hands in pockets.

The door was opened before the Doctor's hand reached the bell. It creaked inwards to reveal a tall thin man. It was the same man who had handed the Doctor the invitation the previous night.

For a second nobody moved. The man stood framed in the doorway; the Doctor's hand hovered close to the bell pull. Tegan stood a step down from the Doctor, a chill running up her spine. Then the moment was broken like the tension on a lake when the first drop of a thunderstorm splashes into it.

'Who is it, Atkins?' a gruff voice called from inside the house.

The man in the doorway - Atkins - stepped back, opening the door fully and gesturing for the Doctor and Tegan to enter. 'The Doctor, sir,' Atkins said as the they entered the hallway, 'and Miss Jovanka.'

The next few minutes seemed almost like a dream when Tegan tried to recall them afterwards. She remembered being greeted by Lord Kenilworth in the hallway. She was not quite sure how they knew it was Lord Kenilworth, perhaps they did not find out until later. But whoever they thought he was, the large man in his forties was genuinely pleased to see them. He seemed to radiate equal amounts of pleasure, relief and excitement as he pumped the Doctor's hand and clapped Tegan on the shoulder.

'Thank heavens, Doctor,' he chuckled loudly. 'I know you said you'd probably be late, but you cut it a bit fine. We were quite worried, actually. Thought we might have to delay the big moment. Can't start without you, after all. Not after everything we've been through, eh?'

'Quite,' the Doctor muttered, as he allowed himself to be led to the drawing room. Tegan hurried after them, trying not to trip over the hem of her dress.

The drawing room was big and square. The dark walls were hung with portraits, the only subject Tegan recognized being Queen Victoria. A large fireplace dominated one wall, the burning logs sparking and crackling and throwing shadows of the people in front of it. And the room was full of people, or at least that was the impression Tegan got. Thinking back later, she decided they could only have been perhaps a dozen guests. But as they all stopped in mid conversation and turned to watch her enter the room behind the Doctor and Kenilworth, they seemed like a multitude.

The small crowd parted for the approaching Doctor as if he were Moses. People stepped back respectfully, clearing a way through to the far corner of the room. To the area below Queen Victoria's stern vigil. To the sarcophagus.

'I think, Doctor, that we might as well start right away,' Kenilworth said as they approached the trestles on which the ornate mummy case rested. 'Professor Macready has kindly offered to assist.'

Macready was a small man with little round glasses and thin grey hair. He stood the other side of the sarcophagus, so his head seemed almost to rise out of it. He gave a nod and a smile as the Doctor and Tegan arrived at the coffin, as if they were old friends. Around its sides Tegan could see rows of intricate hieroglyphics, centuries old, blackened and beginning to fade. The coffin itself was shaped like a child's rough outline of a broad human form, arms pressed to the sides of the body, feet together.

The lid had been removed from the sarcophagus. Tegan stood at the foot of the case as she looked inside. Her head was whirling, she was not sure quite what was going on or why they were there. Some part of her mind was aware that the Doctor and Macready were shaking hands across the sarcophagus, across the mummified body lying inside. Another part of her brain was beginning to realize that the Doctor was intended to perform the unwrapping, to remove the bandages from the body that had lain undisturbed inside the coffin for millennia.

'How old, do you think?' the Doctor asked as he and Macready surveyed the bandaged form inside.

'Oh, I agree with you, Doctor.' Macready's voice was thin and reedy. His glasses caught the flickering firelight as he surveyed the ancient form. 'Four thousand years at least.' He drew a pale hand up the length of the body. 'The sarcophagus is, as you rightly surmised, of the Middle Kingdom. And the bandages themselves would seem to date from the same period.' He peered closely at one of the bulges wrapped close into the side of the body. 'Notice how the bandage is rotting over this arm, Doctor.' The Doctor and Tegan both craned forward to see.

'This side too,' the Doctor observed.

'Indeed.' Macready nodded slowly. The crowd was leaning forward too now. Too polite to press closer, but eager to hear and see the deliberations. 'You will also notice,' Macready continued, 'that the legs are not so closely bound as one might expect.' He poked a thin finger as the wrappings. They gave slightly at his touch.

'You think they were loosened after burial?' the Doctor asked slowly.

Again Macready nodded. 'Unusual, I know. But possible. One does hear rumours that this happened, though this would be the first case documented so thoroughly.'

'What?' Tegan asked. 'What are you saying? That someone loosened the bandages - someone tried to unwrap the mummy?'

The Doctor took a step towards Tegan. He seemed unsure whether to put his hand on her shoulder, and eventually settled for resting it on the lip of the coffin. 'Professor Macready is suggesting, and I think he is correct, that this poor unfortunate was bandaged up and then buried while still alive.'

'That's horrible.' Tegan wanted to turn away, but instead she leaned closer and looked into the bandaged face. It seemed so calm now, just decaying stained cloth. She tried to imagine the figure writhing and twisting, tried to imagine the heavy lid of the sarcophagus thumping down and entombing the still struggling form. Tried to imagine the darkness and the terror. 'Four thousand years ago,' she murmured as the Doctor reached into the coffin.

With Macready's help, the Doctor managed to tease free a corner of bandage with a pair of tweezers that he had produced from somewhere. He held the edge of material for a moment, looking round the faces of the assembled crowd. Kenilworth nodded to him, and the Doctor tugged gently.

The bandage pulled free and began to unravel like an old sweater. As Tegan watched in horrified amazement, the cloth fell away from the mummy's head. She watched in fascination, ready to look quickly away when the full horror of the face was revealed. She could imagine it already, the smell of the rotting bandages evoking half-remembered images of mummified faces from forgotten text books and childhood museum trips. Four thousand years.

But as the flesh beneath the bandages glimpsed into view, it did not seem to have the pitted grey pallor of decay. Instead it looked smooth and white.

'Good grief,' Tegan heard Macready mutter as a mass of brown hair untangled from the wrappings. 'Is this why you wouldn't let us examine her until now?'

'Oh no,' the Doctor breathed, a tell-tale hand gripping the side of the sarcophagus.

Tegan said nothing. From the end of the coffin she could see clearly the whole of the mummy. She could see the four thousand year old wrappings as they clung loosely to the bandaged form. She could see the tattered ends of the cloth pulled from the mummy's head. She could taste the stench of decomposition and decay rising from the corpse's ancient shroud and she could feel the weight in her stomach lifting and rising in her throat as she looked at the face of the mummy.

The face was perfectly preserved. The eyes were shut, the mouth closed. The hair was a tangled mess from the millennia it had spent woven into the bandages. And now that she could see the face, Tegan could recognize the shape of the rest of the body, outlined by the sarcophagus and by the rotting cloth. The figure in the coffin, dead for over four thousand years, was Nyssa.

Comment Log in or Join Tablo to comment on this chapter...

Chapter 2

When Osiris the king returned victorious from the campaign, his brother Seth feigned friendship. Together with Nephthys, his sister-wife, Seth invited Osiris to a great banquet to celebrate his safe return.

Isis, the wife and sister of Osiris, and the sister of Nephthys and Seth, begged her husband not to attend, fearing some treacherous intent. But Osiris was in good humour, magnanimous in victory. He spoke to Isis and together they agreed to go to the palace of Seth.

Seth had organised a great feast. There were grapes and figs, calves' heads, the forelegs of oxen and hearts of cows. There were geese and ducks. The wine flowed freely and all the royalty and dignitaries of Egypt were in attendance.

Osiris was the guest of honour, made welcome by his brother Seth. He was seated at the head of the table, as befitted his position. And his brother Seth and his sisters Isis and Nephthys made merry with him.

Then, when the feast was ended and the wine was almost gone, Seth had a great sarcophagus brought into the banqueting hall. It was traced in gold and inlaid with lapis lazuli. The casket was the best workmanship of the greatest craftsmen in all the Kingdoms of Egypt. And Osiris asked his brother for whom such a rich gift could be intended.

Seth let it be known that the sarcophagus was a prize - the greatest prize in history. And the prize would be won by the man who best fitted the sarcophagus, that it should bear him in glory into the afterlife.

So the nobility of Egypt each tried the casket for size, eager to win so great a gift from the brother of the king. But they were each by turns too short, or too tall, too fat or too thin. And it seemed that none of the guests could win so great a prize.

Then Nephthys urged her brother Osiris to try the casket himself. Osiris at first declined, his wife Isis fearing some entrapment. But Seth laughed at his brother's apprehension, and Osiris agreed to try the test.

So Osiris lowered himself into the casket, laughing with his brother Seth. It fitted Osiris as if it had been made for him. And so it had.

When Osiris was lying in the casket, Seth slammed shut the lid and, still laughing, he sealed it. Then he called his guards, and had the coffin hurled into the Nile.

As the coffin floated into the night, Seth's laughter mingled with the grief of Isis. And the tears of Isis dripped into the river and flowed after the entombed body of her brother and husband Osiris. And Nephthys saw her sister's grief, and she found it good.

(Translated by Tobias St.John, from the inscriptions of the tomb of An'anka)


The water was clear, sunlight diffused through it like lemon juice. The liquid was warm and viscous. Tegan swam with increasing difficulty, her movements slowing as she struggled towards a surface that was not there. She had lost all sense of direction, and the light source had turned out to be the coral-covered expanse of the ocean floor. She twisted and turned, lost in the killing colour of the reef, her lungs bursting under the pressure, her eyes glazing. Then, as the strength slipped from her like the stream of bubbles rising from her mouth, she felt herself drifting, floating.

As she sat hunched on the edge of a heavy leather armchair in front of the fire, Tegan relived the swelling terror of an afternoon swimming on the reef. She clutched a glass of brandy she could not taste, staring at the flickering of a fire she did not see. She remembered the raw panic which welled up in her stomach and slowly permeated her whole being as she realized she had lost all sense of direction. She began to swallow water and to splutter her life away. She was barely aware of the Doctor and Kenilworth behind her as they examined the body of Nyssa, half heard their whispered discussions. But she knew she was sinking and that the surface was receding from her. This time she would not suddenly break free into the cool breeze of the Australian afternoon and gasp in retching lungfuls of air.

It had been difficult to cope with Adric's death. But even that had been so much easier. She had not actually seen him, had not actually looked into his dead face and seen the calm silent form which life had deserted. She had not begun to imagine the horror of his last desperate moments of existence, had not re-enacted them in her mind and relived them in her imagination. In a sense, Adric's death had been remote, reported, something written in a book or seen in a film. It was a death defined more by his subsequent absence that by the event itself.

But this was different. This was the mind-numbing loss of a friend brought home with vicarious immediacy. When Adric had died, it had been a sudden shock. And Nyssa and Tegan had been able to help each other to cope with the loss, had been able to comfort each other in their grief, had shared emotions which the Doctor seemed unwilling or unable to risk.

Now Tegan was alone, drowning in her grief. She sat before the fire, unable to bring herself to look at the coffin or the body of her friend behind her. She clutched the lead crystal of the brandy tumbler, feeling the gut-wrenching emptiness of the loss which she had refused to imagine the whole time that Nyssa was missing. She wondered how long the Doctor had suspected the worst; wondered if he had somehow known; wondered why he seemed not to care.

Then the Doctor was there, kneeling beside her, folding his hands round hers as they clutched the warm glass. She could see for the first time the depths of emotion and the years of hurting in his eyes as he looked at her. She could see that he too felt the pain and the loss, even if he could not show it in the same way as she could. She knew that it would be best for him if he could give expression to his grief and voice to his pain and set it free.

'Oh Tegan,' the Doctor said. His voice was barely more than a whisper, flickering in time with the pale flames of the fire glinting off the cut facets of the glass she held so tightly in her fragile hands. As he held her, Tegan released her first painful sob. Her whole body convulsed with each heaving choke. She lowered her head till it rested on the Doctor's shoulder, and cried.

'Why?' she managed to gasp between her tears. 'Why Nyssa?'

He shook his head. 'I don't know, Tegan. I wish I did.' The Doctor turned and looked over Tegan's shoulder, back towards the sarcophagus still resting unmoved in the corner of the now deserted drawing room. 'It's strange,' he muttered. 'So long, and yet so perfectly preserved.' He shook his head slowly, still holding Tegan's hands around the glass. 'It's almost as if… ' His voice tailed off, and he looked from the coffin to Tegan, then back again.

'I wonder,' the Doctor said, leaping to his feet. He looked back down at Tegan, brow creased in thought for a moment. Then his expression suddenly brightened.

'May I?' he reached down and took the glass from her hands. Tegan thought for a second he was about to help her to her feet. But instead, he drained the brandy in a single swallow, smacking his lips together appreciatively. Then he handed her back the empty glass and dashed across the room to where Kenilworth was still standing silently by the casket.

The Doctor reached inside the coffin. 'Will you time me, Lord Kenilworth?' he asked. 'I'm going to feel her neck for a pulse again.'

'If you wish, Doctor.' Kenilworth pulled a gold watch from his waistcoat pocket and flipped open the front cover. 'But there was nothing earlier.'

'Four thousand years is a very long time. An induced metabolic coma would explain the body's preservation, and it would have to be extremely deep to be sustained for that length of time.'

'You mean - she might not be dead?' Tegan put her empty glass down on the low mahogany table beside her chair and stood up. 'Nyssa's alive?' she asked.

The Doctor was staring into the casket. 'It's possible,' he said. 'We did feel for a pulse just now, but only for few seconds - perhaps thirty. In a coma this deep, there might be a pulse only every few minutes.' He paused, face creasing into a frown as if he was willing Nyssa's heart to beat. 'It is possible,' he repeated. 'Just possible.'

The bed was hard, made of some sort of rough wood. In fact it was more like a bench than a bed. The smell of fish was everywhere, which might have given Nyssa a clue that she was somewhere very close to Billingsgate. Except that she was unconscious. And she had never heard of Billingsgate.

She drifted into and out of awareness, her mind hovering between blackness and a misty haze. Sounds wafted through the gloom as she floated nearer to the surface of thought, mixing with the smell of fish, insinuating their way into Nyssa's mind. She heard rather than listened, absorbed the noises as she breathed in the smells.

'She was found at the appointed place. There at the appointed hour. She is the one.' The voice was refined, cultured but with a guttural accent which caught the vowels at the back of the throat.

But the voice which answered rasped as if it was forced through broken glass: 'You will send her back?'

'As it is written. As I remember it happening. I have seen her, and she is the one.' A pause. Then the gravelled voice scraped again in the darkness: 'Then the time is near. After all the millennia, a mere century and then… '

The blackness drifted in again. The mists clouded Nyssa's thought and fogged her hearing. The sounds drifted away again into the distance. A few phrases, odd words found their way through the night.

'The journey… the alignment will be right tonight, the stars are set … power is building… '

'The watchers report the museum is clear… we must return at once… '

Dinner was a rather muted affair. Usually when Lord Kenilworth was recently returned from an expedition, he and his wife would talk animatedly about what had happened variously in Cairo and London over the past few months. The previous night had followed this pattern, broken only by anticipation of the unwrapping, and by Kenilworth's strange assumptions about what Atkins had been doing in his absence.

But tonight Atkins poured a little wine into his lordship's glass, and listened to the silence. He had not attempted to understand why Lord Kenilworth supposed that he had accompanied him on his expedition. He must have known otherwise. And even if he did not, Lady Kenilworth was as insistent as Atkins was that Atkins had not stirred from London in the past four months. The conversation had been ended by Lady Kenilworth's suggestion that they talk about the impending unwrapping, and Kenilworth's half-heard mutterings that the Doctor had said there would be some confusion over events.

As Atkins removed the dinner plates and motioned for Beryl the maid to supply pudding bowls he reflected that the previous night had been crystal clear by comparison. After the subdued silence of the soup and the quiet politeness of the entree, conversation had risen to new levels. And confusion with it.

'Four thousand years, and you say she's just asleep?' Kenilworth shook his head and reached for his wine. 'Dashed queer business, if you ask me.'

'It's a metabolic coma,' the Doctor repeated patiently, hand palm-down over his wine glass as Atkins reached forward with the bottle.

Atkins moved on to Miss Jovanka. She watched glassy-eyed as he replenished her drink, and then all-but drained it in a single gulp. Atkins pretended not to notice, just as he feigned disinterest in the conversation. He had heard matters from the colour of the Queen's bedroom curtains to the future foreign policy of the Empire discussed in this room, and he took it all in his measured stride.

Tonight's conversation was more unsettling than others, though. Perhaps because of his involvement on the fringes of yesterday's related discussions, perhaps because of the evident distress of the Doctor and Miss Jovanka, perhaps because of the seemingly lifeless body lying in an ancient casket in the next room… Atkins felt that tonight he might permit himself to discuss some small aspects of the deliberations with Miss Warne when they went over the plans for the household for the following day.

'Dashed queer,' Kenilworth repeated. 'Don't you think, Atkins?' he added as the butler passed behind him.

'I'm sorry, sir? Oh I really couldn't say.'

Kenilworth snorted. 'I must say, you've clammed back up since we returned. You know I value your views on these matters.'

This was news to Atkins, but he nodded politely and hazarded an opinion as he was asked. 'If the young lady is merely asleep, sir, then could we not wake her up?'

'Good thought, good thought.'

'Well, Doctor?' Miss Jovanka seemed to take her first interest in the conversation. 'Can we help her?'

'Perhaps, Tegan. Perhaps.' The Doctor pushed his plate to one side, the food untouched. Atkins carefully removed it before the Doctor's elbow could sink into the spotted dick. 'It is possible, though rather tricky. I have to break into the coma in precisely the right way and that depends on how long Nyssa has been unconscious, where she was found, what condition the sarcophagus has been in, all manner of things. Even how she was transported here is important. Ideally the body should have been kept as level as possible.'

Kenilworth wiped his upper lip on a napkin. 'Well, of course it was,' he said through the double damask.

The Doctor stared at him. 'Could I ask why?'

Miss Jovanka, the Doctor and Lady Kenilworth waited for the reply. Atkins contrived to fill a glass close to his lordship so as to hear properly.

Kenilworth eventually finished refolding his napkin. He seemed perplexed. 'The sarcophagus was kept level, even to the point of stringing it up in a hammock on the return voyage, because you insisted on it, Doctor.'

The Doctor gaped. 'Idid?'

'Indeed. I'm not sure I follow what's going on here, Doctor. Your memory seems as fickle as Atkins' does. The other stuff you mentioned - location and condition of the body and all that - you know already.' He stood and motioned to Atkins. 'I think we'll take port in the drawing room.'

'But how?' Miss Jovanka called after Kenilworth as she got unsteadily to her feet. 'How does the Doctor know?'

Kenilworth turned in the doorway. 'Not you too, Tegan. He knows, as you do, because he was there when we found the tomb.'

The carriage clattered to a halt in the snowy night. Nyssa had no way of knowing how long it was since she had last been here, but she recognised the impressive stone facade of the British Museum as she was dragged roughly from the carriage.She stumbled groggily down the damp wooden steps and slipped on the cobbled street. Her foot sank through the crisp crust of ice and skidded on the slush beneath. At once she was hauled to her feet.

'Gently, Yusuf, gently.'

Nyssa found herself looking into the tanned face of a short but broadly-built man in an opera cape. It was a round face, made to appear rounder by the complete lack of hair. The face was broken into a grim smile which looked as though it was set in position. Nyssa got an impression of a depth of experience which belied the apparent age of the man. Then she saw that while his skin was smooth, it was also cobwebbed with hairline cracks, like an old oil painting of a young man. He continued to smile humourlessly at her, talking over her shoulder to the man holding her arms behind her back.

'The goddess did not choose this one so that you could bruise her fair skin.' He reached out a callused hand and ran a rough finger along Nyssa's cheek. She flinched, tried to back away. But the man behind her held her still. 'No, Yusuf, she has a better use for her than that.' He stared into her eyes for a while. Nyssa held his gaze for a moment, then looked away, sought refuge in the dirty white of the churned up snow at her feet.

'Does your father have other daughters?' The hand on Nyssa's cheek caressed her chin, gripping it suddenly and pulling it upwards so she was forced to look into the man's face again. It was not a rough gesture, rather it was almost gentle. 'It would be a shame if such beauty was unique.'

'My father's dead.' And for the first time Nyssa found she really believed that. He was not coming back; he had not just gone away; her father was dead. A short word that covered a condition that would last forever. No funeral, no time for tears, just an emptiness so deep that it ached. 'Dead,' Nyssa repeated, and the word hung in the cold air with a blunt monosyllabic finality.

The man nodded slowly. 'I have heard it said that a father should not outlive his children,' he said quietly, so that only Nyssa heard him. Then his mouth twisted into a sudden smile and he snapped his fingers. The bald man was immediately handed a thick roll of cloth. The man gripped the hem of the cloth and let a long cloak unroll. He draped it over Nyssa's shoulders and pulled it tight around her. Then he stepped back to admire the result. 'There,' he said, 'that's better.'

'Who are you?' Nyssa was aware that her voice was shaking. She hoped the man thought it was from the cold rather than from fear. 'What do you want with me?'

'So many questions, so little patience.' The man started to turn away.

'Why have you brought me back here?'

The man paused, then swung back to face her. His face was still set in its half-smile. 'Oh Nyssa, Nyssa,' he shook his head.

She gasped. 'You know who I am?'

'Of course. I have always known. Or at least, it sometimes seems that way.' He gave a slight bow, barely more than an inclination of his bald head. 'I am Sadan Rassul, High Priest of Sutekh and Nephthys, as was my father before me. And I have been waiting for you.'

He turned away again, cape swirling in the breeze, and started to walk slowly towards the main doors of the museum. Yusuf pushed Nyssa after him, and she was aware of others following behind him. A single flake of snow landed on the smooth back of Rassul's head. It lingered for a second in the gaslight before melting slowly into a drop of water which ran down his hairless neck like a tear down a mourner's cheek.

As she stumbled her way after Rassul, Nyssa realized that the others were walking with the same measured tread as their leader. It reminded her for a moment of a ceremonial procession on Traken.

It reminded her of a funeral cortege.

The candles guttered and danced in the draught from the open door. The light flickered across the relics and played along the walls. It pooled on the floor, reflected off the high windows.

If she had not remembered the path they had taken to get back there, Nyssa might not have recognized the relic room. As she was guided in, it seemed to Nyssa that every available surface hosted a candelabra. Each of the candles kept its own tiny halo within reach, allowing it to toss and twist but never to break free of the fizzling wick. Shadows crept across the room, and then jumped back into the gloom as a flame edged towards them for a second before changing direction again. Trails of oily black smoke spiralled upwards towards the ceiling as if rising through murky water, desperate to reach the air.

The dark figures of her cloaked captors processed slowly through the room. A dark cat watched their progress with statue eyes; the dead faces painted on the sarcophagi followed their journey to the far end of the long room. Nyssa let herself be carried with the tide. She could smell the acrid candle fumes, could taste the caustic smoke in the back of her dry mouth. She tried not to cough and the effort brought tears to her eyes. Tears that she had been trying to keep inside.

As they neared the end of the room, Nyssa could smell something else. There was a perfumed, sweet, almost sticky smell. Incense and flowers, honey and myrrh. She looked round, trying to locate the source, and out of the corner of an eye caught sight of the flicker-lit blue of the TARDIS. She gasped, taking in a deep mouthful of the sticky sweetness. She almost laughed for joy, but the sound stuck in her throat as she was pushed forward, away from the hope of escape.

Her vision was blurring, hazing over as a firm hand on her shoulder drew Nyssa to a stop. She blinked back the smoky tears and saw that she was standing in front of the sarcophagus Tegan had been examining. A lifetime ago. The dark, impassive, carved face stared back at her. The arms were crossed over the chest, each hand holding a staff. Almost unconsciously Nyssa copied the gesture, bringing her cloak tighter about her. A phrase of Tegan's lingered in the back of her memory: 'Cross my heart.'

Beside the sarcophagus stood tall incense burners, one each side. Through the increasing muzziness of the sweet haze, Nyssa registered that the sticky smell was dripping from the smoking contents of the bowls of the burners. She swayed on her feet, feeling the weight of her body rock on the backs of her heels for a second.

Rassul stepped in front of Nyssa. He bowed low to the sarcophagus, then turned to face her. With a swift movement he shrugged off his cape. Beneath it his chest was bare, adorned only with a gold necklace which hung in heavy strands across his torso. Below it he wore what looked like an ornate skirt.

Nyssa swayed again, as if in the breeze, and noted with a light-headed giggle that he wore sandals on his feet. The leather twisted into an oval over his toes. The shape mirrored the curled end of the stave the sarcophagus figure held.

The other figures clustered round behind Nyssa, attention fixed on Rassul. When he spoke, his voice had taken on a deep, plangent tone that echoed round the room, glancing off caskets and cutting a path through the smoke and incense.

'The time is now.' He raised his arms above his head. 'We bring the chosen one to the gateway at the appointed time. It is as it was written; as I remember it to have been.' Rassul turned back to the sarcophagus, crossing his arms across his chest, imitating the carved figure. 'I make the sign of the eye, and send you a new receptacle. The chosen one.'

Somewhere deep within the sarcophagus a hum of energy was building. A blue light flickered with the candles across the face of the casket.

'From across the ages, we provide your continuing imprisonment, and your ultimate release. When Orion is aligned, when power is rife, then it is said that you will live again.'

The noise was rising like a major chord on a large organ. The blue light strobed into a swirling vortex of colour, and the front of the sarcophagus dissolved into a whirl of light bleeding into its dark outline.

'The waiting is almost over. I begin the final act.' Rassul's laugh echoed over the chord.

Nyssa felt herself propelled towards the vortex. She struggled for a moment, but then realized that nobody was holding her, nobody was pushing her. But in the second she looked behind, she saw a figure through the incense-mist, a figure standing behind Rassul's followers. Watching. The figure stepped back into the shadows as Nyssa turned away again. But she had caught a glimpse of him, had seen the shadow of his ruined face. But the image that her retina retained was not the pallid glow of the moonlight on the sunken, blackened features of his face. It was the snow clinging to his matted hair and his heavy cloak. The snow which seemed to have crystallized into a layer of ice, when it should have melted in the heat from his body.

Nyssa was being drawn closer, into the kaleidoscope of light. She clasped her hands tightly over her shoulders as the blackness closed around her and Rassul's laughter faded into the hazy distance.

'Cross my heart,' Tegan's voice murmured in Nyssa's ear as she fell from consciousness and into the casket. 'Cross my heart, and hope to die.'

'I'm sorry, Lord Kenilworth, but I'm going to have to ask you to trust me.' The Doctor clenched and unclenched his hands as he spoke.

But Kenilworth snorted at his exasperation. 'Well, wouldn't be the first time, would it?' He drew on his cigar and let out a breath of smoke. It drifted across the drawing room, thinning and dissolving somewhere above the mantelpiece. 'Reckon you deserve that though, after everything.'

'Yes, well,' the Doctor scratched his head, half stood up from where he was seated on the sofa, then sat down again. 'I'd rather we didn't discuss that in any detail, if you don't mind.'

'Why not?' Tegan was standing on the far side of the room, arms folded, staring down into the coffin. She looked up, and the Doctor had to twist in the sofa to see her properly. 'What's happening here, Doctor?' She held his gaze for several seconds. 'I want to know.'

'Well, if we're to help Nyssa, there are some things I need to know. But I'm wary of knowing too much.'

'Not much fear of that so far.'

'Tegan,' the Doctor chided.

'So what do you want to know, eh?' Kenilworth was examining his port. He took a sip and nodded appreciatively.

The Doctor picked up his own glass, stared at it for a moment, then put it carefully back on the table beside him. 'I must ask you to bear with me, Kenilworth. I'm going to ask you about things which you will tell me I already know. But please answer my questions about where and when the mummy was found as best you can. And please don't add any extra information, I only want a direct answer.'

Kenilworth shrugged. 'Fire away, old man.'

The Doctor turned back to Tegan. 'And I'd be grateful if you could curb your natural inquisitiveness for a while, Tegan.'

She stared at him. 'Doctor, Nyssa is in a coffin here dying.' Her voice had dropped an octave. 'I want to know why. And I want to know how to save her.'

'So do I, Tegan. Believe me, so do I.' The Doctor heaved himself out of the sofa and crossed to her. He hesitated a moment, hand raised, then he patted her gently on the shoulder. 'But there are wider implications. There's great danger in knowing too much. We will help Nyssa - I think we already have. But we can't risk damaging the web of time.'

'Please, Doctor,' Tegan whispered. 'She's all I have left.'

The Doctor blinked.

'Apart from you.'

'I'm doing what I can, Tegan.' He shook his head. 'If good old Blinovitch could see me now, he'd be turning in his urn.'

The Doctor gave a short laugh. Then he stuffed his hands into his trouser pockets and coughed, staring at the floor. 'Sorry,' he muttered, and turned away.

A stream of bright sunlight made Nyssa blink. It brought tears to her eyes, and she rubbed at them as she sat up. She found herself sitting up inside a box. Or rather a casket - it looked like the same sarcophagus as she had fallen into in the British Museum, but without the lid.

She looked round the room. A large glassless window allowed the sun to shine directly into the stone-floored room. A gold jug and goblets stood on a low wooden table by the door, and heavy tapestries hung across the walls. Two chairs stood angled towards the casket, which was raised on a dais. In one of the chairs sat a man.

Nyssa's first thought was that it was Rassul. He wore a similar necklace and kilt, and he was completely bald. But he was older, much older. Wrinkles creased his brow and the flesh on his chest sagged over a full belly. Behind him stood a young woman, her dark hair cut into straight lengths to her shoulders. She wore a skirt similar to the man's kilt, and an ornate halter top which looked as though it was made of gold and studded with semi-precious stones. The stones glinted in the sunlight.

'Welcome,' said the man. 'I am Amosis, priest of the goddess.'

'Goddess?' the sunlight seemed less intense now that her eyes had adjusted and Nyssa glanced back towards the window. Outside she could see the pointed silhouettes of two huge pyramids outlined against the horizon, the sun shining between them, hardening their edges.

'And this is Sitamun, handmaiden to the goddess.' Amosis gestured to the woman. She smiled nervously and stepped forward so she was level with the priest's chair.

'What goddess? What's going on? What is this place?' Nyssa was suddenly incredibly tired. She felt herself slumping back into the casket.

'Why, you are the goddess,' Amosis said quietly. 'Or at least, you will be.'

Nyssa felt the cold base of the casket hard against her back.

'I welcome you as the chosen one of the gods. The new Nephthys.'

The Valley of the Kings - 2000 BC The air was hot and close, sweat dripping from the stone walls of the passageway. Massud beckoned, waving the smoking torch to illuminate the way. The others stumbled after him, elation at their success so far tempered by trepidation about what lay ahead.

They had been digging for days. Or rather, for nights. Long nights, hidden from the daily observations of the priest-guardians of the tomb on the far side of the valley. The tunnel was low and narrow, in contrast to the high vaulted ceiling of the wide, sloping passageway they had intersected. Their goal, their calling, their goddess was in sight. So they stumbled onwards, oblivious to the heat and the humidity, not caring about the stale air or the darkness. They feared only the goddess, and failure.

The heavy doors were sealed with a crimson rope. It was tied tightly around the huge handles, knotted and dipped in wax. The decay of the ages clung to the cord, and it exploded in a cloud of dust and frayed fragments as Massud cut through it with his knife. With a backward glance to his comrades - sufficient to gain their confidence and approval, but not enough to be infected by their anxiety and fear - he pushed against the heavy double doors. And with a creak of ancient protest, they swung slowly open.

The eye of Horus watched unblinking, disapproving, from where it was inlaid in the passage floor. A faint glow suffused the air around the ornate pupil, a reflection perhaps of the torches above it as they clustered in the doorway. Then Massud stepped tentatively over the threshold. And the eye at his feet flashed brilliant red.

The wind ripped through the passage like a typhoon. Massud was the only one of them inside the doorway, and yet the hurricane that erupted from inside seemed to sweep past him. He staggered forwards in the eye of the gale, while his comrades were blown against the passage walls. He was oblivious to their fate as he battled his way onwards into the tomb.

Behind him, Massud's brother Ahmed crashed into one of the open doors. Blood streamed from his face as he collapsed back on to the floor and tumbled away. Thutmos the camel trader clawed at the cracks between the stone slabs on the floor, his fingers tearing and the skin rippling on his cheeks. He clung on for several seconds, then bounced down the corridor like a Shabti doll hurled from the tomb doorway.

Within the tomb, Massud struggled onwards. He was leaning into the wind, his loose clothing blown back against his body as he inched forwards. As he reached the sarcophagus, he lost his footing and crashed to the floor. His knee crunched on the flagstones and he screamed in pain. But he dragged himself onwards. So close now, so close.

In front of him he could see the relics placed on low shelves round the head of the casket. He could see the canopic jar, its stopper carved in the shape of the head of Anubis the jackal. The god's ceramic eyes watched his progress unblinking. Massud's hand reached out towards the jar, and the red glow from the passageway outside seemed to grow stronger even as the screams of his friends died away.

With a final effort, Massud hurled himself forward. His fingertips connected with the stopper, and the jar tottered for a long second. The wind dropped, as if holding its breath with Massud, while the jar rolled on its base and rocked back again. It teetered of the rim, then slipped from the low shelf into space.

The wind returned, stronger than ever. Massud was swept against the wall of the tomb, the back of his head smashing against the carved stone and splitting open like a rotten egg.

The last thing Massud saw before he died was the canopic jar rolling towards him across the floor of the tomb. It was still intact, but a dark crack ran the length of it. Perhaps it was enough, enough for him to pass through the Hall of the Two Truths and for the goddess to welcome him to the afterlife.

The jar rolled itself to a halt against Massud's face. The glazed eyes of Anubis stared into those of the graverobber, and the wind died away. The jar rocked slightly in a growing, viscous pool of blood. And darkness returned.

Rassul woke suddenly. His head felt like it was splitting. And through the crack in his mind he could feel something forcing its way in. Was it guilt? Anger? He did not need to ask himself what he should feel guilt or anger about. And that acceptance of the truth was itself unusual.

He rose stiffly from his wooden bed and went to the window. He was alone of course. He had not shared his bed since his only wife had died in childbirth. So long ago now, so alone for so long. Outside the pyramids stood stark against the night sky. A jackal called out somewhere in the distance, a long lonely wail.

As he turned to go back to bed, he saw a figure standing in the shadows by the door. He could not see who it was, but the servants all knew better than the disturb him without good cause. But before Rassul could say anything, the figure spoke. Its voice was cracked like an old flute playing in the wind. 'The tomb was broken into tonight.'

'Robbed?' Rassul did not need to ask which tomb. Only one mattered - the tomb he lived to protect.

'No,' the figure said. 'The robbers did not complete their task.'

'The gods be thanked.'

'But they have started something. Something that must be finished.'

'What do you mean?' Rassul was worried now. For a second he saw the hourglass, sand dripping from the upper bowl as it sifted through the seconds of eternity. Why had none of the priests alerted him to the events if the robbers had been disturbed? 'Who are you and how do you know this?' he demanded.

The figure rattled a laugh. 'A jar was cracked. The priests are discovering it even now, binding it with hessian and praying for guidance. They will come to you soon for advice. You are the one chosen to watch over the tomb, the one granted the lonely years of vigil. They fear for their lives, and for the life of Egypt.'

'Cracked,' Rassul could taste the same fear, he knew how the priests would be feeling.

'But not broken?'

'No,' the voice sounded almost sad. 'But the crack is enough. The process begins. Your own feelings are proof enough of the power of the goddess.'

'My feelings?' Rassul stepped back a pace. The guilt and anger had made him shout, had confessed the truth of what the man said.

'Your feelings,' the voice repeated. 'And my presence.'

A sudden thought occurred to Rassul. 'Wait, how did they get past the test of the Shabti?'

The figure's laugh was a dry, rasping death rattle. 'We were told the answer before we entered the tomb.'

'You? Who by? Only one person knows the secret of the riddle.'

'Exactly. One who serves the goddess, and yet knows it not. One who will be her servant in the empty years ahead now that the chain of events is started, now that the inevitable is set on its course.'

The crack in Rassul's head seemed to split wide open. He could see clearly for the first time, knew his destiny. And he remembered meeting the man in the marketplace, recalled slipping him the papyrus on which he had scrawled the answer. Sadan Rassul, the only living man to know the secret of the riddle, but until now he had not known his own purpose.

The figure's croaking voice broke into his realization. 'You know what you must do. You have always known. And now is the time.'

'A replacement vessel,' Rassul murmured. But he knew that they must find another form of container, the canopic jar could not be repaired or imitated. They would have to pray that the gods again provided the means to their ends.

'Yes,' the figure in the shadows hissed. 'You see, already the spirit of the goddess is within you. You will be a good servant to her in the long lonely ages ahead.' The figure reached out its hand towards Rassul. It was holding something, gesturing for him to take it.

'Me?' Rassul was aghast. 'But why me? Why not you?' Yet even as he questioned how he would come to serve the one he was sworn to keep in thrall, he knew that the shadowy figure spoke the truth. And he took the hourglass the figure was holding out to him, the sands spiralling down into the lower bowl. He had known already what he had to do, had known since the tomb was sealed and he had started the hourglass sands on their courses. It was the only way he would ever -

The figure broke into his thoughts again: 'I am not fit for the years that lie ahead, for the waiting and the planning.' The final words were almost a gasp as the figure collapsed: 'I am dead already.' It fell forwards into the room, making no attempt to save itself or break the fall. The body landed with a dull thud at Rassul's feet.

Outside he could hear the commotion as the messenger from the priests hammered on the door and demanded to be let in. He could hear the servants moving around downstairs, and the bolts being drawn.

And at his feet, sudden in a shaft of moonlight, he could see the dark mass of congealed blood. It caked the back of the head of what had once been a man. The skull was smashed inwards, split open like a rotten egg.

Comment Log in or Join Tablo to comment on this chapter...

You might like Justin Richards's other books...