In Leg Post 124, Setne and Hermes Trismegistus follow Sauda into the Tomb of Hatshepsut in the Theban Necropolis, but Setne quickly uses the old trick of 'look over there' and a magical slab traps Sauda within the temple. Hermes is shocked, but Setne insists that Sauda would have taken the Book of Thoth from them for herself. Using his advanced knowledge of tombs and ancient Egypt, Setne leads Hermes through a secret passage to the real tomb of Hatshepsut. The air is thick with aether, which causes Hermes concern but he agrees to proceed. They are briefly halted by a magic door, but Setne figures that the password to progress is "Senemut", the name of the queen's lover and best friend. Inside, they discover a skeleton at the sarcophagus of the long-dead queen, who Setne realises is Senemut himself, having taken drugs to die with his love. Hermes finds the book, but before he could get it they are stopped by a stranger by the name of Neferkaptah. The two men chastise that this villain cannot show up without a backstory, but suddenly a cow lurches into the villainous mage and bowls into everyone and everything. The wand, revealed as a the Sphinx-Heart Wand in Leg Post 125, sets off. Outside, Sauda has gotten out of the tomb but cannot see where Hermes and Setne went. She does notice footprints, including prints of a cow, and suspects that she has been followed. But suddenly, thanks to the wand, the tomb explodes, knocking Sauda into the sand. She is met by Meretseger.
Burial Tomb of Hatshepsut
Setne anxiously glanced from Hermes to Sauda, then held out an arm for Hermes to back away. He then thrust a finger down the passage and shouted.
Setne: “Look, what’s that!?”
With Sauda’s back turned, Setne leapt backwards and tackled Hermes away from the temple front. Behind them, a massive slab of stone slammed down and shut the high priest within the temple. Sand plastered the two men as they slowly got back to their feet.
Hermes: “Did you just trap Lady Sauda in there!?”
Setne: “The old tricks are always the best! Heh heh!”
Hermes: “Why would you do such a thing!?”
Setne: “She was going to take the book from us, Hermes.”
Hermes: “I highly doubt she would be so duplicitous to do that. She was very forthcoming, I thought!”
Setne could hardly believe such a smart man could be duped, but she had stroked his ego plenty.
Setne: “She’s a high priest, Hermes. Do you think she would be doing her duty to Egypt to let you, a foreigner, have the book?”
Hermes: “Ah, I see your point.”
He looked up at the temple.
Hermes: “But isn’t the book in there, where she is?”
Setne grinned and tapped his nose.
Setne: “This way, my friend.”
Hermes followed Setne around the tomb.
Setne: “Unlike the old necropolis, the new tombs here are trapped. That door will be shut for a long time. Even with Sauda’s magic, it’s magically sealed. She’ll need to spend time breaking it, so we can sneak inside the real entrance to Hatshepsut’s tomb!”
He slammed a random stone on the wall with a grandiose display.
Except that he had just crushed his knuckles.
Setne: “Owwwwwwwww. Wrong stone…”
Tears in his eyes, he smacked another stone and a slab moved to the side to reveal the secret entrance. Hermes smiled with appreciation.
Hermes: “Well done, prince. The tales of your industriousness in these matters was not remiss!”
Setne grinned and gave a mock bow.
Setne: “Shall we go on to claim our prize?”
As they passed through the barrier, they felt an odd sensation wash over them. Every breath felt heavy, like breathing through soup.
Hermes: “There is a thick concentration of aether in the air. We should be careful here…”
He glanced back at the entrance, where the daylight shone onto the interior sandstone.
Hermes: “Perhaps I should wait outside?”
Hermes: “I know some magic, but I am not adept. If I did accidentally set off any kind of spell in here, with all this aether around… well…”
Hermes: “Boom would be one of the more pleasant results of a stray, unpractised spell here.”
Setne: “Well, if you’re sure?”
Hermes hesitated and Setne saw the desire in the old man’s eyes to lay his hands on his dream. Hermes drew a breath.
Hermes: “I will take the risk!”
Setne: “For my sake, I hope you don’t end up blasting us to smithereens.”
They went down the passage in silence, with Setne holding a torch at the front. Hermes assured him the torch was fine; it was not a magical flame.
The passage was straight but Setne kept stopping as he spotted many traps along the way. Hermes was impressed with the Egyptian’s keen vision, even in such low light, but Setne explained it was as much as he expected. The traps were laid out in designs he would expect to find them and was looking for them in those places.
Hermes: “It’s less impressive when you explain it to me.”
At the end of the passage, was a dead end but an inscription on the wall.
Hermes: “Can you read this?”
Setne: “Speak friend and enter.”
Hermes: “I wonder… melon!”
Setne awkwardly looked at Hermes.
Setne: “As in the fruit?”
Hermes: “Well… nevermind. Perhaps it is the Egyptian word for friend?”
Setne: “I’m speaking Egyptian.”
Hermes: “The Greek word?”
Setne: “Are you speaking Greek or Egyptian right now?”
Hermes: “We could try the English word?”
Setne: “What is English?”
Hermes: “Nevermind. I don’t think it even exists yet. What could it be?”
They remained for just a moment before Setne snapped his fingers.
Setne: “It doesn’t mean speak the word, “friend”. It means… let me think who… ah! Senemut!”
The secret door hissed.
Setne: “The best friend that Queen Hatshepsut had.”
The door opened and revealed a very small room, but it was bathed in an unnatural blue light that seemed to have no visible light source, deep underground as they were. The light bathed upon a single sarcophagus and around it were dozens of artefacts that Setne was sure were pilfered from elsewhere. He was horrified to find a skeleton, propped up against the sarcophagus.
Hermes: “A graverobber?”
They inched towards the dead man.
Setne: “Those are very fine clothes for a graverobber. In fact…”
He leaned down to look at the figure better under the light of the torch.
Setne: “How macabre. And romantic. The way he’s lying so comfortably, I think he must have taken something so he could die here. Peacefully.”
He straightened up.
Setne: “This is Senemut. Resting with his one true love.”
Hermes: “So he is the one who put all of this here, hoping to ease the queen into her afterlife?”
Setne: “And he hoped to join her.”
Hermes: “Are you crying?”
Setne: “I broke my hand remember?”
Hermes: “If you say so.”
Setne: “That must be the book.”
The book was upon a shelf behind the sarcophagus; just another object amongst the muddle of goods. Hermes took a few energetic strides towards the book.
They both froze and turned to find a man in the passage.
He wore a black robe that was so clean and pristine, that it appeared unnatural. It was adorned by several silver moons and stars and had a bright yellow trim. His face was middle-aged, sometimes seeming very young and the next very old. Across one eye was an eye-patch. His hair was slicked back and yet black, while his face had youthful stubble. His one eye spoke of villainy and mercilessness.
???: “Step away.”
He was pointing a wand at them, which appeared gnarled and the handle was throbbing with a pulsing red glow.
Hermes: “There is a lot of aether here! If you use that, you’ll destroy this whole tomb!”
???: “Then you’d better hope I don’t use it!”
He waggled the wand, sheparding them to the side.
Hermes: “Who are you?”
???: “I and the great and powerful Neferkaptah!”
Hermes glanced at Setne, but he just shrugged.
Hermes: “I’ve never heard of you.”
Setne: “Which is rude if you think about it! You can’t just come in here, expecting to be some new and threatening villain!”
Hermes: “A little build-up at least would have made us care about you showing up here like this. Some kind of backstory!”
Neferkaptah gave a rue smile.
Neferkaptah: “I have waited centuries to get this book. I will not be so easily distracted by your dumb banter.”
Setne: “Look! A cow!”
Hermes: “Using that old trick twice in one day, prince?”
The villainous wizard rolled his eyes.
Neferkaptah: “As if I’m going to fall for that, you fool of a prince. When I was prince, I was—”
Suddenly, from behind Neferkaptah, came a charging cow.
The cow bulldozed the wizard, knocking him flat, bowling into Hermes and Setne too. They all smacked into the sarcophagus, knocking the skeleton of Senemut into the pile of body – which prompted Hermes to, surprisingly, squeal like a girl – and then the hundreds of stolen artefacts fell on them.
In the confusing brawl, where everyone kicked everyone, though Hermes mostly kicked the poor skeleton, the wand went off.
Outside the temple, Sauda growled at being so easily tricked by that swine Setne. She wondered if she wanted to be tricked by him, because she half-admired the attempt.
It had taken her just ten minutes to get out. She reckoned Setne believed she’d be in there for hours, the idiot. However, those ten minutes proved to be enough for her to lose them anyway. She stood, hands on her wide hips, surveying the Theban Necropolis for signs of life.
She saw their footprints, but realised that there seemed to be a fourth pair of prints.
And cow prints.
Sauda: “They followed me, the bastards.”
There was a sound, like a drop falling into a still pool of water. Except it wasn’t a sounds through her ears, it was a sound in her mind. The presence of a very sudden and powerful burst of magic.
She was sent flying off her feet. The Tomb of Hatshepsut exploded and a blaze of purple fire and Sauda was deposited over twenty feet, head first into the sand.
Her brain could feel the raging aether that swirled behind her.
Then she felt a poke on her ass.
She struggled and squirmed to get out of the sand, not wanting to use magic to add to the chaos, when she was yanked, by her underwear, out of the sand and thrown to the ground.
Sauda coughed up sand from her throat.
Meretseger: “Sauda make big mess.”
The necropolis guardian looked down at the high priest.
Sauda: “For once, you dumb serpent, it wasn’t me.”
"The 'speak friend and enter' line, and the 'melon' joke, is a reference to the line spoken by Gandalf[Ext 1] in The Lord of the Rings[Ext 2] where the password is the Elvish[Ext 3] word for friend." ~ Britt the Writer