By Jane Richards
The large group traveled north on a dusty path. Each step taken by the carriers created motes of sandy clouds. Seth wondered about these tall, muscular men who seemed never to tire. He had noticed during their journey that they spoke, to each other, in a different language than that of the other Egyptians in their party. At one point, while resting at a river oasis, he had asked Imhotep what language these men, who looked like warriors, were speaking. He was told that this language was their own, from far south and they had been taken prisoner while fighting a battle against the men from Nekheb. Now, they were used for the duties needing their brawny muscles. Some, Seth noticed, were also carrying weapons and were dressed more like Egyptian soldiers. They seemed to be guarding Imhotep, as well as the rest of the group, and doing it willingly, not like the slaves which they were supposed to be. That puzzeled Seth. Why would prisoners be so happy about their situation? The tall warrior-like carriers laughed and apparently joked with each other when the chance arose. When asked about this, Imhotep patiently explained to Seth that these men were very willing to work for their captors. They were given food, clothing, treated well, and trade had been opened with their country by Djoser. The land of Nubia would be a partner, with Egypt, and would reap all of the benefits due a partner. The people would even be considered as Egyptians. Their Kings' children would come to the royal palaces to be taught by the great teachers of Egypt. Imhotep added this with a note of pride. Seth couldn't really believe this. He was used to the freedoms of his time, which didn't include any type of slavery. Shaking his head he returned to his brother and told him what he had learned.
On they traveled, to the north. Several days into the journey Imhotep signaled the group to stop. He alit from his carrier and came back to the boys. "I am going to have to take a side trip, Highnesses. Would you mind coming along? It is to inspect your fathers' tomb and funerary chapel. It is very near here."
"Oh, no," smiled Seth. "It would be very interesting to see it," and turning to Ramey he added, "don't you think"? This really excited Seth, who had studied about the wonderful funerary complex found in what he knew as Saqqura. He had learned that a visier/architect of King Djoser, Imhotep, had designed this beautiful complex, and he could hardly wait to see what it looked like when it was new.
Veering off the main road the group followed another path west towards the desert and away from the lush, green of the Nile. They came over a hill and looked down into a large flat area. There, many men were toiling on a huge group of monuments. One was a pyramid, but it looked like one flat bench on top of another.
"That looks sort of like the birthday cake Mom made for me last year," commented Ramey. "It has smaller steps going clear to the top".
"That's why they call it the Step Pyramid in our time, Ramey," Seth informed his brother with a grin.
Everyone had gotten out of their carriers and were sitting or strolling around while Imhotep consulted with the supervisor of the construction crews. They were studying what looked, to Seth like some type of blueprint or plan. Then, the architect walked hurriedly around a corner of the pyramid, which looked like it was almost finished. Seth, bored by sitting and wanting to see everything, followed, but remained far enough behind not to bother the visier. As he came around the corner where Imhotep had disappeared, ----nothing! Where was the man? There was no place to hide here in the desert. The mortuary chapel was far enough away to have been impossible to attain in that length of time.At least without seeing him.
Seth walked slowly around the pyramid, studying it closely. Abruptly he stopped. At the very bottom of a huge block of stone there was a group of steps going down into the darkness. It looked, to Seth, as if it went underneath the pyramid. Slowly, he started down the steps, wondering if this is where Imhotep was going. Near the bottom it began to get even darker. Without a light Seth couldn't go any further.
"A light?" he thought, and suddenly remembered that with the small dagger, he also had stuffed the flashlight into his pants pocket. Now, in the clothing he was wearing, they were there still, and he grabbed the light before he ducked under a stone lintel and continued on through a narrow tunnel. Ahead of him a glimmer of light was barely visable and seemed to be traveling away from him. Seth walked slowly towards the light, following as best he could on the rough stone beneath his feet, sometimes stumbling over high sills where openings would be located. After sometime, and as he turned a sharp corner he stopped suddenly. There, in front of him, stood Imhotep intent on studying a drawing in one hand while holding a large flaming torch in the other. He glanced at Seth, then back to the drawing, and to the walls around him, not seeming to be upset at this interruption by Seth at all.
"Er, I'm sorry if I disturbed you, sir," stammered Seth. " I just wished to see what you were doing in this tomb. Did you design this?"
Imhotep smiled and nodded. "Yes, this is my plan for the greatest tomb ever planned. It is to honor your father, what do you think of it?"
Seth examined the inside of the room in which they stood. On the walls were life-like paintings telling of the life and the achievements of Djoser, who was supposed to have been his father. Some of the walls were yet bare. It seemed like they were waiting for more art-work, but Seth could see that lines of text in hieroglyphs had been started, yet to be finished. As Imhotep turned to leave, Seth followed wondering what the wall would look like when finished. He assumed that the priest was going to go outside but instead he turned into another tunnel and began to follow it through several twists and turns. Into another room they traveled.
"Which room is this?", he asked in a hushed whisper. The visier of Djoser just smiled his patient smile and began to study his plans again.
"This, my boy, is going to be my tomb. I will continue to serve your father in the otherworld as I do here. So it is above, so it will be below," he recited, almost to himself as he turned around and headed for the entrance, as if he expected to be needed on the outside. Seth trailed behind and soon they were out in the blinding, hot sun of Re. As they exited the pyramid a messenger came panting up to them followed by Ramey.
"Sir, you are requested to return to Nekheb at once," recited the messenger in an out of breath rush. "The King, Sir,--er--Sir, the King has been--uh-- has disappeared from the battlefield in the north. No one knows where he is. You are requested to bring the princes back to the temple at Nekheb."
The large group immediately returned to the city they had left days before. The boys had no idea what was going on. They just knew that somehow they had to get back to their home---somehow. Not long after returning to the walled city the boys were escorted to the great temple in the center of the city. This was a temple dedicated to the goddess Nekhbet, the vulture goddess, and the main goddess of the city of Nekheb. Her symbol, the vultures head, was on the crown of Upper Egypt.
"Where are we going now?" whispered Ramey to Seth as they were led towards the inner rooms of the temple. "Do you think they're going to sacrifice us or something?"
"I don't think they sacrificed any humans here in Egypt at this time." Seth answered confidently. "They probably want to perform some rite to try and help find the king or to help him." Seth had been looking around him as he talked to Ramey. He realized that Imhotep was not included in this group. In fact, Seth didn't see him at all. "Ramey, have you noticed Imhotep anywhere?"
"Nope, haven't seen him since we got back, why? Do you think he's up to something?"
Thoughtfully, Seth hesitated, then answered, "No, I really trust him. I think he's trying to help us. I really feel he somehow knows that we shouldn't really be here. Uh, I don't really know how I know. I guess I just feel it when I'm around him."
The babble of the priests and acolytes around them was almost deafening as it echoed off the temple walls.
"This isn't the same temple we were in earlier, is it?" questioned Rami to his brother.
"No," Seth answered in lowered tones, "That one was across the river on the west side. But it had a town around it. It looked bigger than this one."
They were ushered into a large columned room with high ceilings. The walls, columns and ceilings were covered with drawings of gods, goddesses, kings, and Queens. At least that is what it looked like to the boys. Both wondered who these were, but had no chance to ask what stories this art told. They were seated on small throne-chairs carved from a black wood and decorated with white,[ebony and ivory], and waited breathlessly to see what was going to happen. Were they in some sort of danger? Where was Imhotep? These questions raced through Seths' mind as they watched the movements going on around them.