Chapter 04 – The House of the Priestess
“Good morning, Jo!” Hearing the voice of her friend, Jo looked up from her breakfast in the courtyard of the house. A servant appeared around a screen of potted fig trees, followed by a rather sleepy-looking AP. “Were you up as late as I was? Boy, your cousin Saadi can certainly play the oud.”
She laughed. “I knew you would be playing until sunrise. Here’s a pot of tea for you. And I thought you would like ful medames; it’s a traditional Egyptian breakfast, and vegetarian, too.” The young woman took another bite of hummus.
“Thanks; just what I needed. Yes, I don’t often get to have fun like that. It’s hard to find musicians to play with. Especially oud players.
“I hope you remembered to write to Epona before you fell asleep. I promised her I wouldn’t let you forget.”
He nodded. “I did that before dinner. Just a quick note – she wouldn’t want to know all the boring details. Tashmoo wanted to know everything, and there were already several inquiries from her in the queue. I described the cone to her, and asked her if she had ever heard of an artifact like that.” He pulled out his Time Concordance after looking around, and tapped the small screen several times. “She’s gotten back to me already. She checked several references, and has come up dry. She also reminds me not to get killed, because she has more poems for me to edit.”
Jo laughed, choking on her coffee. “That’s very kind of her.” She reached for a napkin.
“Cats. What can I say? They do have their priorities firmly in mind. At least she pays in cash for editing work.” He helped himself to laban and ful, then continued to tap out a reply on the device.
Jo grinned over AP’s shoulder. “Good morning, Daddy!” she distracted her father with fresh coffee and bread while her companion slipped the anachronistic device into a pocket.
After serving her father his breakfast, Jo sat next to him and smiled sweetly, her dark eyes shining. “Daddy…AP wants to ask you something important.”
“Well young man, I suspected it was only a matter of time. It’s a big step. Are you sure you’re ready?”
“I have never been so sure of anything in my life, sir…er, Gene!”
The old man nodded. “I could see the passion in your eyes the moment you stepped into my office. All right, you have my blessing! Welcome to the Old Giza Reanimation Society, AP!” The men shook hands. Jo laughed and hugged her father, delighted to have her friend joining the cause.
“Jo, how are those old relics down in Mobile coming along? Have they gotten anything done since I sent those scrolls of poetry from Merytamunet’s tomb?”
“You know how they are. They mean well, but they’re as easily distracted as kittens. I don’t think they have it in them anymore to actually complete anything!” She sighed. “We’re supposed to be perfecting the “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony before we attempt it with Merytamunet’s mummy, but it’s like they’re just sitting around waiting for someone else to tell them what to do. Last time I was out there, we made a little progress with mummified rats. Those lasted a few hours, which was an improvement. I thought that would be encouraging to the gentlemen, but…” she trailed off dejectedly.
Jo’s father patted her hand. “Well darlin’, the old boys have been fussing with this thing since long before you were born. Anybody would be bound to be a mite discouraged. Have y’all got any ideas yourselves?”
The other man replied, “We did try one thing. I suspected that it was the ostrich feathers. We will need a lot of them, so we bought them from a milliner. But I am told the hunters just shoot the birds, grab the feathers, and leave the rest to rot. I was reading an article on offerings, and the author said that if any of the offering was wasted it would be offensive to Ma’at. That would render the feathers useless as a spell component.”
Jo refilled her father’s coffee cup. “To test AP’s theory, I tried one of the new feathers in the “Mhenankh’s Divine Beer” spell Buford taught me, because I knew I could do that. The other spell components were from my own stash, so I know they were good. I ended up with a nice glass of ice-cold frog.” She grimaced.
“And so y’all two are going to go chasing big ugly birds.” Gene laughed. “Tell y’all what; come out with me to the dig site in the poor fella’s basement and I’ll get us a nice glass of something better than frog!”
“Stop fussing and get me one of your robes. And that scarf-thing you people wear on your heads” Hammer snapped at his servant. The Arab looked up at the creaking fans, then trudged out of the room. “And find me a ladder too!” He shouted after the man’s retreating back. “One at least twelve feet long!”
It’s impossible to think or plan around here with that pest puttering around. What in the hell does he do all the time? he thought. Action! I need to take some decisive action. That unctuous assassin is cutting me out of the chain of command.
His thoughts trailed off as he located the priestess’s house on the map. Too far to carry a ladder in the middle of the night. Anyone seeing him would know something was up. The servant could carry it over during the busy part of the day and leave it close to the house. Who would notice one more Arab wandering around carrying any kind of bizarre thing? Just yesterday he’d seen one carrying a goat!
He tapped a spot on the map – there – only a block from the target, a blind alley…
Perfect. In fact, I should make the little rat keep an eye on it so one of his thieving pals doesn’t lift it.
“All right mister assassin, let’s see you top this. You will learn that The Hammer is not afraid of shadows and mumbo-jumbo.”