By Jane Richards
The trade of vegetables for flax was finished the camels loaded and Sethi turned to Tepi.
"Would you like to see the rest of the market? You might hear something about your brother. The merchant I was talking with says there were several new prisoners brought in. The rumors say that some are from the south."
"Alright," she agreed, "Let's try to find out where they keep them."
"Oh, I already know that," Sethi grinned. He pointed to a large mud brick building in the center of town. "They keep them there, in the fort".
Before Tepi could answer, a group of soldiers came marching out of a narrow street. In their midst, guarded closely, were three young men being taken to some new location. Tepi squeezed around the throngs of people crowding the street, and peered from behind a large pillar in the square. There, right before her eyes were Nekhi, and two other boys of about the same age. By their dress, it was plain they were from the south.
A tap on her shoulder made her jump. She turned, and there was Sethi right beside her.
"Sethi," you nearly scared me out of my skin!" she gulped. "I want to find where they are taking those three. One of them is my brother! Can you help?"
"Sure, just leave it to me," he whispered, and gave her a grin and a reassuring wink, as he disappeared into the crowd.
Minutes later he reappeared. "I heard the soldiers say they were taking them to a place outside the town. It'll be easy enough to follow them, so let's go."
"Go ahead, and I'll be right next to you," Tepi agreed, and they hurried in the direction the soldiers had taken.
For some time they were silent as they followed the troops and the prisoners. It became quite clear that their destination was some type of necropolis, or city of the dead! "Why would they want to bring prisoners here?," wondered Tepi. The two crept to a hill not far from where the soldiers had stopped. They didn't dare get any closer for fear of being seen. Some long minutes later, the guards grouped together and headed back to the fort, but Tepi immediately noticed something that made her hair stand on end. A cold chill ran down her neck, as she realised that the prisoners were no longer with the soldiers! They had left them in one of the tombs in this place, but which one?
"Sethi, we're going to have to find where those prisoners are," she whispered.
"You mean we have to search old tombs?" Sethi stuttered. "I've heard that they have curses placed on anyone who enters. Are you sure this is what we have to do?"
"Posh on curses", Tepi stormed, trying to act much braver than she felt. "If the soldiers have already opened them, then THEY are the ones who will be cursed, not us! Anyway, we aren't going in to steal anything, only to find my brother and those others with him."
Hesitantly, the two climbed down an embankment into the necropolis. There were many tombs built in this huge area, many of mud brick which looked like benches, to protect the tomb from robbers and such. Others probably had their entrances hidden from view. Tepi hoped they could find the right one without too much time spent looking. If the three prisoners were inside one, the air wouldn't be very good, so time would be important in saving their lives.
Sethi found a well-worn trail which seemed to lead to a certain group of tombs.
"This must be the ones they use the most," he stated, hopefully.
The main tunnel to one led down at an angle, and the two plunged into darkness down this incline. Sethi had thoughtfully brought a large bunch of grass to use as a torch for light, and this he lit with his hot coals in his pouch. The pouch that he kept with him all the time to light their fires to cook over.
Down, down they plunged, into the dank, dark recesses of some ancient's burial place. The two made small marks to show them the way out. They certainly didn't wish to become lost down here. Around a corner Sethi stopped abruptly, causing Tepi to run into his back. The silence had been broken, some strange sounds had come from somewhere up ahead!