The Amulet And The Staff by Ed Sutter by Ed Sutter - Read Online

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The Amulet And The Staff - Ed Sutter

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understand.

Prologue

The final pick blow opened the side of the ancient tomb, and the archaeologists got their first glimpse of what they’d found. The American archaeological team had found the new tomb almost completely by accident. They’d been excavating the tomb of a Middle Kingdom Pharaoh, when the older, more experienced man on the team noticed a crack in the plaster on one wall. Almost masked by the stone sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb, the crack proved to be an entrance to another tomb on the other side of the wall. This wasn’t really all that novel, since the landscape of the Saqqara Plain was full of the tombs of kings and other nobility. Unfortunately, the primary tomb had been very thoroughly looted. The hope was that the inner tomb may have escaped the attentions of tomb robbers.

The younger of the two Americans, a young man doing his internship on this dig, looked around him and was a bit disappointed.

It’s just an empty room, he said.

The senior archaeologist shook his head. Correction. It’s an anteroom. He pointed across the room to a false portal with a carved and painted frieze across its top. That’s most likely the actual entryway to the tomb proper. Let’s take a look.

The two men moved forward and looked up at the picture story above the lintel of the false door. Hieroglyphs accompanied the pictures, and the two men read them avidly.

The older man, Doctor Conrad Burris, had been in this business for twenty years, and he read the characters much more quickly than his apprentice.

The young man, Dennis Carlisle from Yale, read eagerly. Then, a disappointment. This was no Pharaoh. He was just some kind of bureaucrat.

Burris barely glanced at him. Read on. He was no minor functionary in the Old Kingdom. He was… He stopped for a moment, stunned, and then pointed to a string of hieroglyphs. Oh my God! Look at this inscription. It says, ‘Welcome, seekers of knowledge. Welcome, followers of Thoth. Enemies of Egypt and the true gods, beware! For I am watching.’ And look. There’s his personal cartouche. This is the tomb of Imhotep!

Carlisle shook his head. Who’s Imhotep? You mean the guy in the Mummy movies?

Burris looked at him with sad shock. Jesus, what do they teach you kids in college any more? This is the tomb of one of the most amazing men in Egyptian history. Come on. Let’s take a break, get some lunch, and I’ll tell you about Imhotep, a true Child of Thoth.

The Best Laid Plans

Phoenix, Arizona, Present Day

I’d gotten a short break from customers and other chores at the Magic Shop, and I was working on my little computer behind the cash register, trying to register for some classes at Mesa Community College for the Fall semester. I’d really wanted go to ASU, but finances being what they were, I was going to have to start at the community college at least for the first year, maybe two. Even for in-state students like myself, tuition and books at a big school like Arizona State can get kind of pricey.

A number of people had suggested that I should get all the general studies things out of the way as soon as possible; stuff like English, Humanities, Math, and general sciences are all common to just about any degree. Apparently, every other student in the universe had gotten the same advice, however, because I was having a heck of a time finding classes available to sign up for. That would be unless I wanted to take one class at eight in the morning and the next at seven in the evening. How I was supposed to schedule my life around that sort of thing had so far evaded me.

The bells over the door chimed, indicating that someone had come in. I was both annoyed and relieved. Annoyed, because I was trying to get this whole class thing sorted out, and relieved because I wasn’t having a lot of luck, and I was getting frustrated.

I stood up and turned around, and then froze. Holy mackerel! Somebody had come in all right, and it was a female. And then some. I tried not to stare, or at least to not be caught staring as she walked around the store, looking at the displays, sometimes picking something up, occasionally chuckling to herself.

My new customer—I supposed she was a customer—was about five feet seven, with gold-red hair cascading down her back, and from what I could tell, her mini-skirted navy blue business suit covered a body swimsuit models would be envious of. Then she turned to face me, and I got the full force of her looks. She had huge, slanty blue eyes, high cheekbones, and perfect teeth. Her scarlet silk blouse was open one too many buttons to be totally businesslike, but I wasn’t complaining. She had a magnificent set of—uh, eyes. Yeah, eyes. That was it.

I broke my lust-induced trance to say, Ma’am, may I help you with anything? Anything at all?

She smiled, no doubt fully aware of the effect she had on men, and replied, Actually, I’m looking for someone. I understand that Zacharias Torres is the proprietor of this establishment?

I nodded. Yes, Ma’am, but he’s not here right at the moment. Can I tell him you stopped by, and what this is about?

She smiled again, and I felt like a dog that had been patted on the head. Good doggy! Then she went on, Please tell him that Lindsay Lavell stopped by. Here’s my business card. I’ll be in town for a few days, and I’d like to speak to him about some rare items that I believe he may be in possession of.

Okey dokey. I’ll be sure to let him know.

She turned to leave, but then turned back suddenly, probably catching me looking at her butt. I blushed. So sue me.

She gave a small smile and said, I’ll be staying at the Biltmore down on Camelback. Ask him to give me a call as soon as possible.

Wow! I took a deep breath and wondered, what was I doing before Miss July came in? I drew a blank for at least two minutes. It may have taken that long for the blood to get back to my head from wherever it had gone. Oh yeah! Classes.

* * * *

It was about an hour later that Zack came in. He’d been out at an estate sale. I gather that the deceased had been a noted collector of esoteric—here read magic-related—objects. Besides the main business of the usual stuff like books and movies about the supernatural, or herbs, or magic wands, or Tibetan rosaries, Zack also did a fairly lucrative side business in hard-to-find magical implements and literature. Now, we’re talking the real thing here, not some New Age hokum. The boss liked to exercise some discretion in who he sold stuff like that to. People had been known to do very bad things with magic, so Zack tried to make sure he didn’t sell some potent grimoire, say, to a guy who wanted to use it to pick up girls. He only catered to serious practitioners.

Hey, Boss! I called.

He smiled back. Hi, Alec. How’s business today?

I replied, Pretty slow, actually, but you had a visitor.

His eyebrows rose. Oh?

Yeah, it was this totally hot redhead, named Lindsay Lavell. Here’s her card. She wants you to call her at the Biltmore as soon as possible. I gather that she might be one of your practitioner customers.

He looked down at the card. Hmmm. Lavell. That rings a faint bell for some reason. I know I’ve never met her, though.

At that moment, Zack’s niece and the love of my life, Marina Torres, came in the door. Marina has long, wavy black hair and big brown eyes. She’s slim, but round in all the right places. We’ve been friends since we were little kids, but the last couple of years, things changed. A lot. Think Salma Hayek in black jeans.

Today, Marina was dressed for work over at Chandler Public Library. She wore a black polo shirt, black jeans, and black tennis shoes. Hey, she likes black! What can I say?

Hi, Alec, she said, Hi, Uncle Zack. What’s up?

He smiled at her. Oh, somebody named Lindsay Lavell stopped by asking for me. I can’t quite place the name. Sounds familiar though.

Marina’s brows rose in surprise. You mean you don’t know who Lindsay Lavell is? And she came into the Magic Shop?

I volunteered, Oh yeah. She was in a couple of hours ago. She said she’d heard that Zack had something she was interested in.

Marina looked at me. Tall redhead? Gorgeous? Probably dresses really well?

I nodded. Sounds like her all right.

Marina replied, Oh my God! Lindsay Lavell is one of the richest women in the country! She owns Lavell Cosmetics, a clothing line, the most successful fashion magazine in the country, and a chain of clothing stores, all of which are international corporations.

Just to show I’d been following along, I said, Lavell Cosmetics?

Marina looked at me like I was retarded. You mean you’ve never heard of Lavell Cosmetics?

As she said this, the door chimes rang again, and Doctor Megan Lee came in. Tall and lean, with sun-bleached hair and a great tan, Doctor Lee was a world-renowned archaeologist and was, as near as I could tell, in a very hot relationship with Zack. She was wearing cargo shorts and chukka boots with a loose, sleeveless cotton shirt.

She smiled and said, Lavell Cosmetics? Is Zack branching out to women’s’ accessories?

Zack smiled at her, and who wouldn’t? He said, Not this year. We got on this subject because Lindsay Lavell apparently stopped into the shop earlier looking for me. Marina was just giving a dissertation to us ignorant males as to who she is.

Megan made a sour face. "Lindsay Lavell? That bitch!"

Whoa! said Zack, I believe I detect the faintest hint of disapproval here.

Megan gave him a wry smile. This Lavell person is the worst kind of collector. She buys up antiquities, and then squirrels them away, never to be seen by the public again. She started pacing, always a bad sign. She’s also been implicated in several cases of outright theft of valuable artifacts, mostly of a reputed magical nature. Of course, nothing’s ever been proven, and she has a battery of the best lawyers that money can buy. She paused, and then said, "The bitch!"

Zack rubbed his chin. A bitch indeed. I wonder what she wants from me?

Megan came over and hugged him, and then held him at arm’s length. She said, Whatever it is, don’t trust her.

He kissed her on the forehead and said, I don’t plan on it.

They separated, and Megan looked around at all of us. I have really exciting news! Marina, you’re going to love this. She leaned back so she was half-sitting on Zack’s desk. About a year ago, an untouched tomb was discovered in Egypt. The occupant of the tomb was Imhotep! She looked around at our blank faces. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of him!

The Mummy? I volunteered.

Marina suddenly brightened. Not the Mummy, you dope. The real Imhotep was born a commoner in the Third Dynasty. He went on to become a scribe, an architect, a healer, and the Grand Vizier of all of Egypt!

I couldn’t resist. What’s a Grand Visor?

Zack said, smiling, Alec, I know you’re not that dumb. Marina looked unconvinced. He went on. A Grand Vizier was comparable to a Prime Minister. He would basically rule the country, answerable only to the Pharaoh.

So this was some guy, I take it. I said.

Megan nodded and replied, Oh yeah, he was some guy all right. Not only that, but they’ve taken the relics from his tomb on a world tour, and the tour’s coming to Phoenix!

Marina said, That is so cool! When does the tour arrive, and where are they going to be?

Megan said, They’re coming to the Phoenix Art Museum in two weeks. I’ve got tickets for all of us to go.

Marina and to a lesser extent Zack were very enthusiastic. I couldn’t help but think, Mummies? Who needs mummies?

I’d had a kind of crash course in Ancient Egypt a few years before, when I accidentally came into possession of a gold amulet made by one of the high priests of Egypt. The amulet had been made for Alexander the Great, and it had this tendency, unless I was real careful, to grant my wishes, but always in unexpected ways.

Along with it, I’d found out that I was a distant descendant of Alexander, one of the greatest conquerors of all time, and possibly the greatest warrior of his age. Now, that in of itself would be kind of cool. Unfortunately, it also seemed that I was a reincarnation of old Al, and for a while there was some question as to who was going to get to run my life. It worked out in the end, but the Macedonian conqueror was still there in my head, but now we worked more as a team. It can get kind of confusing though.

Overall, my life had been a lot better since I got the amulet, but there were times when things totally sucked. I didn’t know if this was because of the magical properties of the amulet, but it made me very wary of things having to do with Ancient Egypt.

Like I said, Who needs mummies?

Physics

That late May evening, with the house air conditioning going full blast to ward off the early summer heat, I was sprawled across my bed reading about dark energy. Hey, I’m no Einstein, but we’d had a bit of an adventure the previous summer that got me started on what I call scientific magic. That may sound contradictory, but it made sense at the time, and it still does—to me at least. What I’m talking about is the application of scientific principles using magic as a power source. The Ancient Egyptians called the magical force that pervaded the universe Heka. The Chinese call it Ch’i. The Japanese call it Ki, and the Hindus call it Prana. It seemed highly likely to me that they were all talking about the same energy, or maybe the same set of energies.

Western science has largely ignored such talk, especially when it’s tied to Third World religions, blowing it off as religious bunk. After all, those countries aren’t as technologically advanced as we are, are they? How could they be more advanced in what amounted to theoretical physics? I was no longer so sure, and the new Western theories of dark energy seemed very much in line