"I have journeyed over a long road. The road of souls is opened.
Ye shall not hold captive my soul. Ye shall not keep in durance my shadow. The way is open to my soul and to my shadow."
DECREE: If this Chapter be known by the deceased he shall come forth by day, and his soul shall not be kept captive.
From The Egyptian Book of the Dead
When an Egyptian mummy goes on display at a local museum, it brings adventure and romance for artist Lily Evans. But then an eccentric archaeologist asks for her help, and the past begins to come alive in more ways than one. Under the shadow of an ancient secret, Lily finds danger and desire that cannot be hidden away.
Please enjoy this excerpt from my novel Soul and Shadow.
I felt like a kid in a candy store as I stood in the basement of the museum. Acutely aware of the privilege being bestowed, I feasted my eyes on the artifacts in front of me. They were lying all about, not locked away behind glass cases, but right where I could touch them. Ursula was with me, providing a fascinating commentary.
"This is her cosmetic palette." Ursula showed me a wooden form in the shape of a duck. "Amisihathor mixed the pigments for her eye and cheek color in the grooves. And here," indicating a small alabaster jar, "she kept her perfume. These are some of her pins, and beads she wove into her hair. People donít change much through the years, do they? Always trying to look their best. I wish I could show you the oracular decree and the letter that she wore in her amulet, but they were so fragile that they had to be preserved and kept in Cairo. The copies I put into your folder."
I had read those. The decree was a spell that the Egyptians wore protected in a cylindrical amulet. They were written on small pieces of papyrus and represented promises from the gods. Amisihathorís was in the form of a blessing from Hathor: ĎI grant unto my beloved servant strength of limb and joy of heart. Daughter of eternity, she shall walk in a dream garden, knowing sweetness in this life and the next.í
The letter, written on a scrap of papyrus, was from the scribe Kamenwati. It told of his love for her and how much she was missed. And yet she had been laid beside another man in another tomb with all of her possessions. It was certainly an intriguing mystery.
I examined the treasure trove raptly. At last I came to the object for which all this had been arranged: Amisihathorís necklace. It was a collar strung with rows of beads, red carnelian alternating with blue turquoise and green feldspar. On either side were lotus blossoms enameled with lapis lazuli. These were connected by a row of pearls forming a clasp. Amisihathoróthe flower of Hathor. And her flower was the lily.
"Itís beautiful, isnít it?" asked Ursula gently. "We discovered so many wonderful items in the tomb, but when I found that, I knew it was special. Itís difficult to describe what happened when I held it. I remember thinking of Amisihathor and how she must have touched it every day of her life. It brought her closer to me than anything else had done. I kept staringóI couldnít seem to tear my eyes away. And then I fancied that I saw another pair of eyes. They were wide and dark and filled with a terrible sadness. The pain hit me as if it were my own. I think I must have cried out, because the next thing I knew, my fellow workers were gathered around me. I was made to sit down and drink water, and I just went along with their notion that I was overworked. I didnít tell anyone what had happenedóhow could I? We stopped for that day, but the image stayed in my mind. I crept back to the dig very early, before anyone else was about, and held the necklace again. Again, I felt the sense of loss and sadness. And a name came into my head. ĎKamenwati.í "
"The scribe," I said.
"Yes. Only I didnít know that at the time. He was completely unfamiliar to me. But afterwards, I found two references to him in the temple records. The first notes that a scribe by that name had come from Edfu and joined the residents at the temple. The other announces the promotion of the scribe to a higher position in the priesthood at Dendera. ĎKamenwati and his wife Amisihathor rejoice and give thanks to the great lord Horus.í They probably performed some type of offering, and this is a reference to it. Excavations have gone on for years, but you know how painstaking they are. No more tantalizing information came my way until the discovery of Kamenwatiís tomb. Then I was vindicated. There she was, Amisihathor herself, identified once again as a songstress of Hathor, beloved wife, but this time of an entirely different man!"
"The tomb wasnít finished, was it?" I asked. "They didnít find a mummy."
"Not even a sarcophagus. None of the decoration was complete. It looked as if work had just stopped. Kamenwati simply disappears. Excavations have continued in the area, but nothing else pertinent has turned up. I could do nothing but continue to search, and wait until the right person came along to help me. Iím certain that person is you, Lily. Please take the necklace and look at it with an open mind. If you feel Amisihathorís presence as I did, it will not be pleasant. Just remember that it is not your story. You are a spectator only, and there is no danger. I am going to leave you now in peace, but Iíll be in the next room if you need me." And with that, she was gone.
I stood there for a minute, feeling ridiculous. At least Ursula was not breathing down my neck waiting for some kind of response. I could simply examine the artifact and let her know the truth: that it was fascinating and beautiful, but totally bereft of magical power.
But when I did pick it up, another sort of feeling came over me altogether. Like someone was walking over my grave. Or, rather, like I was walking over someone elseís. I was surprised by the shudder that passed through me. Ursula had gotten my imagination working overtime. Gingerly, I held the heavy chain in my gloved hands, gazing down at the intricate designs.
Nothing. I almost smiled in relief. I realized that a very small part of me had been expecting to see a dark, exotic face from the past. But of course, Amisihathor was three thousand years dead, and nothing remained of her in this necklace but a memory. I experienced a moment of sadness, thinking of her leaving the world so young, everything she knew and loved receding from her grasp. The fear, the burning of frustrated emotions, the desperate desire to tell them Ö tell himÖ.
But it is too late! I am alone, all alone. Oh, my love, forgive me, I did not realize! Will I see you in the afterlife now? Will you take my hand and smile at me?
Beloved, be with me. Mistress, welcome me into the western mountain. Let maat prevailÖ
I gasped suddenly like a person released from drowning. I felt as if I had not breathed in ages. At first I could think of nothing but getting enough air in my lungs. Then I put down the necklace and stumbled over to a nearby chair. I was so drained of energy that I was afraid I was going to faint. I put my head down between my knees, and, gradually, the sickness passed. Slowly, I sat up.
What had just happened to me? My mind was already finding reasons to push away the threat of the inexplicable. The past week had been a very emotional time. My life was undergoing considerable change. No wonder I was in such a suggestible state. Surrounded by ancient artifacts, primed by a famous archaeologist with dramatic theories, was it so unusual that my imagination would get the better of me? Of course not. Of course not, I repeated firmly, just to make sure my mind understood. And to further convince it, I reminded myself that I hadnít eaten anything since breakfast. Ursula had set up this appointment after museum hours, and I had been too excited to think about lunch or dinner. All of these factors had come together to cause a dizzy spell. Natural. Perfectly natural.
I waited until I felt normal again. Then, without another glance at the table, I went into the next room to find Ursula.
Her look of anticipation quickly changed to one of concern. "My dear, youíre so pale! Are you all right?"
"Fine," I replied in what I hoped was a calm tone. "I had a little dizzy spell, thatís all. Thatís what happens when you skip two meals!"
Ursula looked at me steadily. "What did you see, Lily?" she asked.
I did not want to encourage her fantasies. But I did not want to lie, either. "I didnít see anything," I answered cautiously. "I do understand what you experienced, though. Itís easy to imagine how it would feel to be facing death, thinking about your loved ones, wondering what was going to happen. Itís a very powerful, movingÖ" My words trailed off, knowing I could never do justice to the impact of those emotions. But Ursula seemed completely satisfied with my response.
"All right, dear. You donít have to say anymore now. Iím sure this day has been quite long enough for you. You go and eat something and have a nice, relaxing evening. Are you certain youíre well enough to drive? Iíll be happy to have Philip drop you off."
I was anxious to get home and do as she said, so I assured her that I was fine. Truthfully, though, I still felt exhausted and on edge. When I did reach my apartment, I collapsed on the bed gratefully. I was supposed to call Kent and tell him what had happened, but found the prospect too fatiguing. In a little while, I thought as I closed my eyes. I remembered the strange words that had gone through my head as I held the necklace of Amisihathor. Beloved, be with me. Let maat prevail. Maat, the ancient Egyptian concept of order and right. It was against a feather from the goddess Maatís headdress that a heart was weighed on the day of judgement. If it was heavy with sin, one could not go on to the afterlife. A dreadful beast, Ammit the Destroyer, waited to devour the wicked. It was essential to have truth on oneís side. What was the truth concerning Amisihathor?
Cleocatra jumped up next to me, gave a soft hiss, and jumped back down. In the cool stillness, it was not long before I was asleep.