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Mastaba

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"Do take your time, “doctor”. We’re in no hurry! " Mortimer may be able to taunt Olrik as he leaves the mastaba in which Nasir and himself are prisoners, but he is not very sanguine about their current situation.

Mortimer, eternally an optimist, tries to find a good side to share with Nasir. "At least they left a light." As Nasir nods, the professor turns his attention to the setting around him, the masterpieces of Professor Grossgrabenstein's collection.

Arranged in the mortuary room, the famous "Chamber of the Dead," sarcophagi, urns, vases, statues abound. Not all of the pieces are contemporary, but the whole set is quite coherent. On the wall, a superb fresco depicting the arrival of the deceased in the Kingdom of the Dead completes and highlights the exhibition.

Morose, Professor Mortimer contemplates the ornaments of the nearest sarcophagus, his gaze lingering on the details. The strokes of the paintings, the elaborates gildings, all the art that the artists of the time had developed to glorify their master and watch over his rest, all this would have elated him not so long ago. But the magic of the mysteries of the East has dissipated, dissolved into smoke as vaporous as its past enchantments.

He no longer sees anything but defects, an imperfect line, a scale on the painting, the irregularity of the set colored stones. The charm has been broken. These have become only objects of a distant past to which he is now indifferent.

Already, when Grossgrabenstein had presented him with the rest of his collection, he had felt the same impression of detachment. He had politely marveled to please his host, but his heart was not in it.

Here, in this tomb, the feeling is worse. A representation of Horus attracts Mortimer's attention. What do they matter tonight, Horus' Chamber or the Way of the Initiated? The avenging god has not favoured him. Alas, even the body is missing. With his lips, but without belief, he remembers the old plea: My brother, come back, that we may see you again.* But the magic is no longer there.

A great noise upstairs makes Mortimer raise his head, tearing him from his contemplation, and bringing him back to their present situation. Nasir has straightened up. A short moment, hope is reborn.

"Did you hear? Sounds like gunfire !"

 



* The words of Isis seeking Osiris' body, taken from the Lamentations of Isis and Nephtys