By Jane Richards
It was dark. No, not just dark, pitch black. Tepid could feel something warm beside her but couldn't make out what it was. Her hands and feet were tied tightly with some type of cord and it hurt. Whatever was beside her made a muffled moaning sound. She tried to move a little and found that the floor on which she was laying was dirt. A smell of old dust filled her nose. She sneezed and realized that she was also gagged with a cloth but as she sneezed again the cloth came apart leaving her mouth bare. Now she could talk.
"Is there someone there?" she whispered. Her words echoed slightly in the dark. "Who is it?" she asked again as the warm bundle beside her began to move.
A muffled gurgle told her that someone was beside her but was unable to speak. "Probably has been gagged, too" she thought as she tried to maneuver to her other side and face whomever was beside her. A thick braid brushed her face. "Nephi, it's Nekhi laying here with me." Tepi knew she had to free his mouth some way. With her mouth she felt for the knot at the back of his neck, found it and tried to untie the knot with her teeth. Finally, after what seemed like hours.....success!
"Whew, that thing was awful. My mouth tastes like camel dung!" choked Nekhi. "Where are we, anyway? Are you alright?" the questions tumbled out of Nekhis' mouth.
"I think we're in some kind of cave, "shivered Tepi,"or a tomb." This last guess was one she would have rather not have made. While she was talking she was desperately trying to loosen the bonds around her wrists. Teeth, again were valuable in this and soon she had both hands free. "Nekhi turn over and I'll untie you hands. I can feel the knots enough to untie them I think." All the conversation had been in whispered tones. Soon the knots were loosened and Nekhi had the use of his hands.
"It's so dark I can't even see my hands. Even right in front of my eyes." Uh, what happened anyway? All I can remember is going to sleep in camp and waking up with you talking to me," declared Nekhi.
"I don't know any more than you do. I thought I was having a nightmare," returned Tepi. "I think we've been captured by someone." She was feeling her way around her and trying to untie her ankles. With this last task accomplished Tepi tried to stand with her hands waving around her in case there was something that would bump her head. Nothing but air. That was all she could feel. Kneeling onto the floor her hands came in contact with the cord and rag with which she had been bound.
"I've found some fuel to burn, now all I need is a way to start a fire and we'll have some light. Nekhi, do you have any suggestions?"
"Just a minute. I've almost freed my legs." he said with a grunt. "There! Now, if whoever did this left the small rocks in my pocket I might have an answer for you."
"Who goes to bed with rocks in their pocket?" giggled Tepi, in spite of their predicament.
"I do," came the short growl. "You better feel very lucky I did." Nekhi was striking the rocks into the small pile of cord and rag that they had bunched together on the dirt floor. Finally a spark survived to light the rags and they could see a few feet from where they were seated. The first thing he spotted was a half used torch thrown carelessly at their side. Quickly he lit the torch from the small fire and looked around. Both of them gasped in disbelief.
All around were painted pictures and hieroglyphs. The walls were covered with them from top to bottom. Bright colors jumped out of the painting making the scenes almost real. Nekhi and Tepi moved around the pillared room in wonder.
"Look, here's a cartouche. Now we can tell in whose tomb we are," declared Nekhi. "The picture writing inside this circle spells 'Amen-em-het', and look, over here is the name of his wife, 'Ta-Nefer'" he spelled out. "The priests who know the ancient Kings List have these names. I remember some of my lessons. This king is the one who had the giant statues carved. They're very old.
"Nekhi, aren't you scared?" Tepi asked. "I've been in a tomb once before and I really didn't like it much. How do we get out? I mean, someone brought us here, so there has to be a way out. There was when Sethi and I rescued you in the Delta tomb."
The two walked down a long hallway hewn from rock into another huge room. This one had two sarcophagi standing side by side. Piles of funerary equipment were all around. Statues of gold were in special niches as well as standing in life-like poses. These were ushabti, awaiting the orders of the king and queen lying here in state. Ushabti were the carved servants who would serve the royal couple in the 'other- world'. Large couches were arranged around the room, much like the ones that Nekhi and Tepi still used in their palace-home. Many chests full of items were around the couches, some of these had been opened and the contents spilled out.
"Tomb robbers," whispered both at once. They then realized that there had to be a way out. They walked under a ceiling painted deep blue with thousands of stars which seemed to reach out to them.
Another torch was discovered a little way down another hall. This one hadn't been used and was lit from the first. Frightened by the knowledge that these halls could very well lead to dead ends, Tepi and Nekhi hoped they would be able to find a way out without getting hopelessly lost in this labyrinth.
The air was fetid and dusty. Every step seemed to bring up more dust as they moved into rooms, hallways and tunnels all with walls covered with brightly painted tomb art. Hunting scenes, water fowl, flowers on the bank of a river. All were there for the departed to see. The gods and goddesses stared down at the two lost captives earching for the way out. Suddenly Nekhi stopped and listened intently. Noises were coming from one of the tunnels just ahead.
"Quiet," he warned, "someone's coming down that tunnel. Duck into this alcove and be real quiet."
Tepi obeyed gladly. They crouched at the side of the little niche trying to become as small as possible in the shadows. Nekhi had put the torch out quickly hoping he could light it again if he needed.
Down the tunnel came two dark figures in hooded robes. They were mumbling to each other as they passed within inches of the prisoners.
"This time we'll be rid of the enemy prince and get a reward from our king," growled one.
The other figure grunted reply. "Yes, and we have a bonus to offer. A princes too."
As they walked around a curve in the tunnel the darkness around Nekhi and Tepi was broken by a suggestion of light. They made their way in the direction from which the two figures had come and turning a corner a sudden, bright gleam of light showed ahead. Quickly the two ran silently for the entrance.
"Stop," Nekhi ordered abruptly, "There might be a guard outside. Let me check first." He slowly poked his head out the entrance and peered around letting his eyes adjust to the bright light.
No one around, let's get out of here!"
Both scrambled out of the tomb entrance and ran to a large boulder some way down a slight trail. They realized they were still in great danger. Slowly Nekhi looked around trying to decide where to go. What made their escape worse was the fact both were barefooted. Their sandals had been left in their camp when the kidnappers had taken them.
Nekhi finally made a silent decision and motioned Tepi to follow him. Down a pathway they plunged with the sharp, hot stones blistering and tearing at their feet. They gave each other courage while hurriedly getting as far away from the area as they could considering the conditions.
Around a large stone outcrop they could see a small village down on the valley floor. In the middle was a small temple. This was the place they wished to go.
After an immeasurable amount of time they arrived at their destination, entered the temple and searched for the priest. Nekhi conversed with wise man for a few minutes while Tepi sat by a small pool and put her injured feet into the cool water. Nekhi returned and did the same.
"The priest is sending a messenger to our father. It won't take long and we'll be safe here until someone comes for us," informed her brother.
Relaxed, both sat by the pool in the cool, safe confines of the small Temple of Amon in this tiny village.
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