Ian and Barbara were taken to the inspector so quietly that no one noticed they’d gone. No one but the Doctor.
“Perhaps you would like to tell me how a five thousand year old body could turn up outside Miss Wright’s tent in 1999?” The Time Lord listen outside the tent as the inspector talked.
“We don’t have any idea.” Barbara’s voice.
“Look, what are you implying?”
“He’s implying,” the Doctor said, walking in, “that you managed to set all this up some how.”
“Wasting police time is a criminal offence sir,” the inspector stated, “even in this country.”
“Now just a minute!”
“I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous!” The protests came from the teachers simultaneously.
“Would you like to explain to me...... er... to myself and my
young friends,” the Doctor started, waving his stick around, narrowly missing people, “exactly how they achieved this so called fraud.” He stopped ranting as soon as he was in front of the inspector, who remained silent. “I mean, it isn’t easy is it?” The Time Lord took up where he left off. “Finding a five thousand year old body? Not the kind of thing you get mail order, is it?”
Silence descended again.
“We are in the middle of an ancient site sir,” the inspector pointed out with untold patience, “with tombs and temples.”
“Oh I see, so you are suggesting that my friends are looters as well as fraudsters.” This time the police man was not given the opportunity to speak. “Well I can assure you young man, that no bodies have been uncovered on this site other than the one outside Miss Wright’s tent. Unless, of course, you are suggesting that the body came from the tomb we’ve just uncovered. In which case, I would like to know how you explain my two companions ability to dig through nine feet of sand in a matter of hours without being noticed. Not to mention that the tomb is obviously still sealed.”
Ian always admired the Doctor’s ‘diplomatic’ skill. He found it amusing but reassuring when his friend launched into his self appointed legal representative routine. He always won as well, a regular Perry Mason.
A soft mew distracted his attention from the battle of wits, and he allowed his eyes to focus on the patch of sand behind the two arguing men. There, walking slowly across his field of vision, right to left, was a cat. Not just any cat, but the temple cat, the temple cat from five thousand years ago. He glanced across to Barbara, whose full attention was still fixed on the debate.
He gripped her hand. When he had her attention he nodded his head in the cat’s direction. She just frowned and shook her head. ‘What am I supposed to be looking at?’ her expression asked.
Ian looked back, the cat had disappeared. He felt light headed, dizzy; the floor seemed to be rushing up to meet him. He grabbed wildly at his companion and was reassured to feel her arm slip about his waist, the other hand taking his arm and guiding him to a seat.
“Look inspector,” she stated angrily, “I’m sure you think you have cause for this particularly stupid little theory of yours, but Ian is still ill and I think you and the Doctor should argue it out somewhere else.”
There was stunned silence for a few moments then a mumbled apology from the Doctor. The inspector was less gracious but did at least leave the tent.
“Barbara did you see it?” Ian asked, once the others had left.
“There was a cat walking behind the inspector.”
“I think you should lie down, you’ve been doing too much.”
“I am not imaging things!” he snapped.
Barbara sighed. She had become so used to treating him like a pupil over the last couple of days, that she had forgotten how to treat him like an adult.
“I’m sorry.” The anger finally left his eyes. “No, I didn’t see anything.”
“It was there, it looked across at us.”
“What did?” The Doctor’s voice came from the tent flap.
Barbara climbed to her feet. “Where’s the inspector?”
“I managed to convince him that his little idea was not very practical.” The elderly man allowed the canvas to close behind him. “I think he’s in a snit.”
The teachers couldn’t help the smiles crossing their faces.
“So,” the Doctor crossed over to the chair, "how are you feeling my dear Chesterton?”
“Better, thanks.” He would have got to his feet if Barbara’s hand hadn’t been firmly planted on his shoulder, pushing him down.
“Good, now what did you see?”
Ian glanced up at Barbara who nodded her encouragement.
“Ah!” The Doctor caught hold of his lapels and nodded sagely. “I see.”
The school teachers exchanged puzzled looks, yet another cryptic reply.
“I thought it was just a stray.”
Ian jumped to his feet despite his friend’s best attempts. “You saw it?”
“Well, yes, of course.” The tone suggested it was the most obvious thing in the world to see in the middle of the Egyptian desert.
“It was the same animal that I saw when I was unconscious.”
Another nod. “I think you should listen to Barbara, you need some rest.”
Ian sighed deeply. “Doctor, I am not imagining this.”
The Time Lord placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “My dear boy, I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort, but it still doesn’t stop Barbara from being right.”
With a small laugh and a reluctant nod, Ian offered his elbow to the slightly smug woman. She took it and escorted him from the Doctor’s presence; the Time Lord’s gentle giggling ringing in their ears.
What they missed as they made their way across the sand was the sight of the Doctor skittering towards the temple, towards the TARDIS. As the Doctor disappeared inside the ruined building, a small, grey, furry figure appeared around the corner. It stood for a while, studying the darkness beyond the rays of the sunlight. It was watching the Time Lord’s ship. Satisfied with what it saw, it turned its attention to the two figures walking across the desert towards a canvas structure. With a large expressive yawn, it settled down to a detailed wash of its face, one paw reached up to brush behind its ear. A storm was coming.
Ian dreamt that night; a confused dream of tombs built and buried, of Sennu ageing rapidly in the sand, but above it all was the maniacal laugh of Sham. The whole plateau of events being watched over by a silent Time Lord, resting on a cane, free hand grasping lapel.
It was not until first light that the shadow Doctor turned his back on the dreams. The images faded and slowly Ian’s eyes slid open, to stare straight into the benevolent face of the real Doctor. Such was the shock that, with a grunt of surprise, the young man shot straight up, sitting upright so abruptly that his head collided loudly with that of the elder man. Both rubbed at sore spots on their foreheads and regarded each other levelly.
“I’m sorry Doctor,” Ian started ruefully.
“My dear boy, what did you want to do that for?” The Doctor creaked his way into an upright position. “Could have given me a heart attack jumping up like that. As it is, you very nearly cracked my skull open.”
“It was just a bit of a shock, seeing you that close when I woke up,” Ian explained, running a hand through his hair. He was sure he could already feel a bump developing. “What did you want anyway?”
A blank look spread over the Time Lord’s face. “Yes, now what did I want, hmmmm? Quite put it out of my mind, all this. Oh dear me, what was it?”
Ian sighed and got out of bed. He’d learned long ago that it was useless trying to interrupt the elder man’s little theatrics. Much better to let him witter on until he’d run out of hyperbole.
“Ah, yes,” the Doctor finally announced, shaking a finger in the air. “I did some checking in the ship last night and there is some thing very odd happening here.”
“Like what?” Ian’s voice was muffled by the towel he was using to dry off his face.
“There appears to be some kind of time phase.” As if that explained it all.
“Yes, well that makes it crystal clear of course.”
“People and events from five thousand years ago are starting to bleed into the present for some reason.”
The towel was lowered. “So the cat I saw last night was the one I met in the temple.”
“It could very well have been. By the same token that body could have been that of your acquaintance Sennu.”
Ian’s face saddened at the thought. “But how?”
“Somehow, something you did, or didn’t do back then has upset the balance. Time is trying to correct the interference. Things will just get worse until eventually the phase will eliminate itself along with everything in this immediate area.”
“Well come on, what’s stopping you?” The school teacher threw down the towel and headed for the way out. “Let’s get to the ship and get back there. We can sort out what I should or shouldn’t have done when we get there.”
“No, no my boy.” The Doctor signalled for the school teacher to stop, and then idly picked at his bottom lip. “Erm... we can’t use the ship.... no, not at all.”
“What? Why? What’s wrong with it?” Nothing permanent he hoped.
“Well, er...” The Time Lord turned his back on his companion. “We have no definite date to go back to, no way to programme the flight computer.” His expression said that he thought that was a wonderful idea. “Yes, yes that’s it.” He turned back.
“Well, how do I get back?”
“It’ll have to be the same way you went before.”
“Doctor,” Ian started, stepping towards the old man, raising a finger to emphasise his point, “if you think that I’m going to go out looking for a snake just so....”
The Time Lord waved the suggestion away. “Oh don’t be so ridiculous. We’ll have to try something else, hypnosis or something. Oh and one more thing, I want Barbara to go with you.”
“Because if the reason this is happening has something to do with mythology then who is more likely to know? You or Miss Wright?”
The young man thought about it, it made sense, but he didn’t have to like it. “Alright, but you explain it to her.”
“Of course,” the Doctor agreed waving Ian out of the tent.
“So we go back and change whatever Ian did or didn’t do?” Barbara recapped.
“That’s right,” the Doctor nodded.
“But we can’t use the TARDIS?”
Both Ian and the Doctor shook their heads.
“Okay.” The expression on her face told a story of trying to assimilate all the new information. “I have just a few questions, if I may.”
“Just a few?” Ian said, rather louder than he’d intended.
The Time Lord glanced up at him, eyebrows raised in a reproving stare.
The school teacher squirmed, uncomfortably. “Sorry.”
“Now my dear, if young Ian has quite finished, ask your questions?”
“Firstly how do we get back?”
“Hopefully, Doctor Patrick will be able to help us there.”
“So it’s going to have be drug induced?”
The white hair shifted along with the nod. “Partly, at least.”
“Just a minute,” Ian interrupted, “you told me this morning that hypnosis would work. I’m not sure I like the idea of us being pumped full of drugs.”
“Yes Doctor, would that really be necessary?” Barbara sounded concerned.
Ian was treated to another scathing look. The Time Lord knew he should have spoken to Barbara alone. Ian was a nice enough person, but the poor boy did worry so.
“I said, young man, hypnosis or something, when I spoke to you. Those were my exact words.” He paused a moment to ensure that the school master had been nicely quelled. “Now, it seems obvious to me that perhaps hypnosis alone is not going to be enough. You must remember that you were in a coma when you went back, perhaps that’s the state you’ll need to reach again if we are to succeed, and as good as my hypnotism is, I don’t think even I can get you that far without chemical intervention.”
Ian just managed to bite his tongue before mentioning that there had been times in the past, when just listening to the elderly man had put him into a near coma like state.
“So, if there are no further questions........”
“Actually, I have a few more.” Barbara stopped the Doctor who had turned to leave.
With his back to her she didn’t see his eyes roll upwards or see him take trouble to reinstate the friendly smile on his features. Earthlings!
“Of course,” he said, not a trace of frustration showing in his voice or face as he turned back towards her.
“How do we know when we will arrive?”
“From what Ian was saying the other night, once back in that period, time seems to run at the same speed as here, so hopefully just a few days will have elapsed. You should arrive before any real damage is done.”
“Hopefully.” A muttered remark floated in from the side.
The Doctor merely raised an eyebrow and made a show of concentrating, ready for Barbara’s next question.
“Yes I understand that, but I actually meant, how do we know we’ll go back to the same period that Ian went to before and not something much earlier or later?”
Damn! He’d hoped that they wouldn’t think of that one. Out came the big bluffing guns. “Obviously, Chesterton is tied into this period somehow. Everything that has happened has been linked to a time five thousand years ago. So providing you go together you should both end up in the right place at the right time.”
A moment, as the two thought about this, then Barbara nodded. “You are sure that Ian’s up to this aren’t you.” She chose to ignore the exasperated sigh coming from Chesterton.
“He’ll be alright. Anyway, you’re there to keep an eye on him.”
“True. Well alright, I’m willing to try.”
Ian nodded. “Okay, let’s go.”
“Very well,” the Doctor held the tent flap open, “let us go and see Doctor Patrick,” he watched as his companions started for the physician’s tent. “And with a bit of luck, all this will actually work!” he muttered before following them.
Doctor Patrick studied the people in front of him, before breaking into hearty laughter. The three travellers looked at each other, their expressions grim. They were used to being regarded as somewhat eccentric. They had discussed whether or not to tell the medic the truth, and it had been decided to try. They needed all the help they could get.
Patrick wiped at his eyes, coughing wildly as the strain of the laughter began to show.
“You know,” he gasped, swallowing deeply, “you should take this act on the road, it’s good.”
The Doctor huffed. “This is not an act.” Some movement out across the site caught his eye. “Doctor Patrick, come here a moment would you.” The old man waved his stick at the young man. “There’s something I think you should see.”
Still shaking his head and chuckling, the medic rose to his feet and came to stand next to the time traveller. His laughter stopped immediately and his Adam’s apple did a dance of shock.
Opposite the abode, the ruined temple was surrounded by a slight shimmer, like a heat haze rising from a tarmac road. Within the distortion the building itself appeared to be moving, blocks appearing and disappearing at random. Sometimes the entire structure would be reduced to so much rubble, shortly after it would be complete; clear cut as the day it was built.
“What’s happening?” The medic stuttered, taking an unsteady pace away from the vision.
“That’s time,” the Doctor explained. “Time is trying to work out what it was that Chesterton interfered with. That effect will grow steadily worse, spread further a field. If the problem isn’t rectified, it could level this whole site and everyone in it.”
“This is why you want the drug?”
The medical man turned wide eyes on the three companions. “I can’t help you,” he stated.
“Now just a minute....”
Patrick held up his hands. “It’s not that I don’t believe you, I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” he gestured back to the still shimmering temple, “but ethically I couldn’t, wouldn’t put two perfectly healthy patients into comas, it just isn’t done.” He sighed, placing his hands on his hips. “On a more basic level, I couldn’t even if I wanted to because I just don’t carry any drugs like that. The best I could offer would be a strong sedative.”
The Doctor leaned heavily on his cane. “Mmmm.” He thought for a moment. “Have you ever heard of a technique called directed dreaming?”
A light of realisation shone on the medic’s face. “Yes, I have. I don’t know that much about it though.”
The elderly man waved the problem away. “Oh, that’s alright I do.”
“We don’t,” Barbara pointed out, with Ian nodding his agreement.
“It’s a relatively new theory,” Patrick explained, “that says when a sleeping person enters the REM state, their dreams can be controlled either by themselves or by an outside body. There’s been some research done, but it’s a long way from being accepted by the establishment.”
“Do you think it’ll work Doctor?” Ian asked. It all sounded rather doubtful.
“Oh, there’s no doubt that the theory works. Whether or not it will take you back as we hope, is another matter.” He sighed, tugging on his lapel with one hand. “But since we have no other option, we will have to try.”
“Wing and a prey, ah Doctor?”
“Quite right my boy.”
Ian opened his eyes. Relief and a little anxiety washed through him as the sight of a perfect blue be starred ceiling greeted his eyes. Well, at least they were back in a period when the temple was whole. Only time would tell if they were back in the right period.
He reached out his hand, surprised and a little worried to not find Barbara’s hand in his own. It had been agreed that they should hold hands as they went under, to give them a better chance of reaching their destination together, at least that was the Doctor’s theory.
“Barbara!” he called, climbing to his feet. “Barbara, where are you?” It was then that he noticed a pair of legs, poking out horizontally from behind a pillar. He hurried over to his unconscious friend.
“Barbara,” he shook her shoulder gently, “Barbara!”
Slowly the woman’s eyes cracked open, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Are you alright?” He asked, helping her to a sitting position.
She brushed at her hair, taking in the perfect state of preservation the building was in. “Yes, I think so,” she answered, distractedly. “Did we make it?”
“Well, this is certainly a long time before we arrived on the scene,” he paused, “ in our time,” another pause, “in the future,” a sigh. “Oh you know what I mean.”
With an understanding smile, Barbara struggled to her feet, clinging onto Ian until the slight vertigo she felt had passed.
“Alright?” he asked, studying her face.
“Yes, just felt a bit giddy.”
“I know, I thought it was the snake bite last time.”
“Right, where do we start?”
“We need to find out if we’re in the right period or not.”
“On time you mean?” Barbara watched as his face crumbled into a grimace. “Sorry,” she shrugged.
With a double take in her direction, Ian shook his head. “If we get outside and take a look at the state of the tomb, we should be able to make a guess.”
With a nod she followed him across the dun coloured floor.
They didn’t get very far before the temple doors were flung open and a figure appeared, haloed by the sunlight.
“Why are you back?” The voice was that of Sham.
“The situation was unfinished,” Ian answered coldly.
“I thought it finished rather well.” The figure stepped further into the hall. “Who is that with you?”
Barbara moved from behind Ian’s protective shoulder.
“My name is Barbara.”
“Ah!” The door was closed and Barbara was astounded by the resemblance this stranger bore to the Doctor.
“The lady you spoke of in your dreams.” He moved forward to grip her chin in his hand. The school master was instantly at her side. “I see now why you were confused on waking. Indeed a woman worthy of dreams; Sennu reborn.”
“Reborn?” Ian snapped, as he removed the scribe’s hand from Barbara’s face.
“She still lives,” Sham stated, still staring at the woman, watching as she looked defiantly back. “She will be glad that you have returned.” He blinked as Ian interposed himself between the scribe and Barbara. “She will not be happy that you brought a companion.” The old man smiled, amusement lighting his eyes. “Particularly this one.” With a small giggle he moved away to study a nearby statue.
“So, you believe you know my cause sir?” the scribe asked, his back still turned to his audience.
“I know that you are emptying the tombs of their treasure and storing it for yourself, against Sennu’s orders. I know that you are looking for the book of Thoth.” Ian tried not to let the man’s casual indifference to his accusations annoy him, but it was difficult. “I also know that you plan to kill Sennu.”
At last a reaction. The scribe span about, fire in his eyes. He glared at the two teachers, before calming himself, his expression becoming less threatening.
“What makes you think that?”
“I overheard you talking to the boy by the tomb.”
“Ah!” The old man nodded, picking at his bottom lip. “I see, so you’ve taken little snippets of a conversation, put them all together and come up with a nice neat little theory.” He giggled again. “Pity you’ve got it all wrong really.”
“What!?” Ian bellowed. He had the feeling he was being toyed with and he didn’t like it.
“Typical! Absolutely typical!”
Any protests were cut short by the opening of the temple doors.
Ian heard a gasp from behind him. Barbara, like the rest of them, had just noticed Sennu. Understandably shocked she could only stand and stare.
The priestess, to her credit, only paused slightly in her forward movement, stopping before Ian.
“My lord, you have returned,” she stated, slight confusion evident in her tone. She turned her attention to her mirror image. “You are Barbara?” It was almost a statement.
A raised eyebrow and a tilted head was all the reaction forth coming before she turned to Sham.
“How do you account for not only his survival, but also his reappearance if he is, as you say, a servant of Apophis?”
“I may have to reconsider that opinion, my lady. Perhaps if I could have a few minutes alone with these people?”
“Indeed.” She gestured the three of them towards the temple doors.
Ian didn’t know quite how to take that. It was a relief that the fawning had stopped, but he felt rather put out, being dismissed like that. He mentally shook himself, told himself not to be so childish, but even so!
Sham indicated the two teachers should follow him out. Eyeing his outline in the open doorway, Ian eventually nodded, making sure he exited before Barbara.
The priestess pondered the closing door. She was not used to feeling so confused; her life was order, a strict regime organising her days, but since the strange young man had appeared a week ago nothing had gone as planned.
First she had thought him a servant of the divine lord, then that he was an agent of chaos; he had been destroyed but was soon back.
She had acted on his words about the tombs; she had gone to one of the sites that was due to be opened, challenged the people she had found clearing the treasures, demanded to know who had given them orders. They had made no reply and she had stormed away to fetch the medjay. On returning, all they had found was an empty tomb and five dead bodies. Whoever was in charge had a very tidy mind.
Returning to the temple she had given orders that all tomb searches be stopped, but she doubted the instructions would be followed anymore than the earlier ones had.
With a sigh, she lent down and picked up the cat that had appeared, rubbing itself around her legs, mewing and trilling gently. Scratching the furry chin distractedly, she shook her head and moved towards the alter.
Outside, diplomatic relations were being forged between the two teachers and Sham.
The two men had agreed to lay aside what had gone before, and Barbara was there to smooth the waters when those relations got a little choppy. Sham was presently trying to explain why what Ian had heard him say didn’t mean what Ian thought it did.
“But I heard the boy say the treasures had been put in your personal vaults,” Ian was saying.
“That’s where they are stored, but not for my use. I received orders some months ago to proceed in the way that I am.”
“Why do it if you’re not to receive a share?”
“To save Sennu’s life!” The answer was snapped out, the old man’s expression stating that it should have been obvious.
It had been a good reply, knocking Ian off balance, making him unsure what he now thought of the man. “What do you mean?”
“I received a message some months ago, as I have said,” Sham replied on a sigh. “It detailed what I would do, how I would do it and what would happen to the priestess if I didn’t.”
“Do you know who sent you this message?” Barbara asked, once again calming the situation.
“No. One of my hopes in this is to find the identity of my tormentor.”
“Why you?” Ian asked, still trying to decide weather or not to trust this man. “Why contact you?”
“Sennu’s plan to recover the sacred stone is not as much a secret as she would like to think. Many priests and lower dignitaries know of it. Some approve, many just find it amusing. Whoever this person is, obviously thought it would be the perfect way to hide their criminal activity.” The scribe moved forward, pushing his face close to Ian’s, his eyes blazing. “As long as Sennu was ignorant of the real situation she was safe, but now you have jeopardised all by planting the seed of doubt in her mind,” he finished viscously.
This shook Ian, more than he would like to admit. His mind replayed the sight of the mummified corpse outside Barbara’s tent. Could he really have been responsible for that?
“So what is your plan?” the woman asked.
“To do exactly as I have been told.” Sham glanced briefly over his shoulder, before returning his gaze to the school master.
“What?!” The school master was scandalised.
“When I find the book of Thoth, I intend to give it the person behind all this.”
“The book of Thoth can not be used by the unworthy.” Barbara nodded as she suddenly realised the simplicity of the scheme. “The book has been alleged to take care of itself, disposing of those who try to use its power for evil.”
“But if it’s just a book.....?” Ian was still confused.
“Perhaps it’s not a book as we understand it,” Sham started, excitement gleaming in his eyes. “Perhaps it possesses its own form of magic.”
“Magic doesn’t exist!” Ian replied shortly.
“It doesn’t have to; they just have to believe it does.”
“Exactly Barbara,” Sham agreed with a nod, finally stepping away from Ian. “Their own minds do the rest.”
“Mind over matter,” Barbara pointed out to a still sceptical Ian. “The same way curses work.”
“Okay,” Ian started. “So we don’t actually have to find the book, it doesn’t actually have to be the genuine article, is that what you’re saying?”
“It needs to be a book of antiquity,” Sham began. “It has to be found in a place and way that is believable and acceptable, preferable independent of me, or witnessed by others, so that news can be carried back to whoever is planning this.”
“We need to put some thought into this,” Barbara agreed. “It’s no good going back to the temple picking up a book and then saying ‘oh look we found it, it was under our noses all the time.’”
Sham nodded. “There would be no basis for belief, and that’s what we need if the plan is to work.”
“That’s why you’ve been searching the tombs, to make sure you send the right message.” Ian finally got it.
The woman and the scribe exchange relieved looks, both nodding.
“So how many tombs are left in the area you’re searching?”
“No more than twenty,” Sham informed, “but that could take many months.”
“Months!” Barbara exclaimed. “We won’t be able to stay for that long.”
“No, we won’t,” Ian agreed, rubbing his chin. “What we need is inspiration.” He looked up at the sky. “Divine inspiration, if that’s possible.”
“Perhaps in a way it is,” Barbara started, flopping into the shadow of the half built tomb. She was aware of two sets of eyes turned on her, gazes intense. “Well, let’s look back at the myth of the book.”
“It states it is to be found in a tomb.” Sham took up residence on a block of stone that was waiting to be added to the structure.
“In Memphis, as I recall.” Sham nodded his agreement. “We also have three main locations for Thoth’s worship,” the woman continued, searching her memory for almost forgotten facts. “The city of Hermopolis Magna - that is Khmun at the moment I believe.” Another nod from the scribe. “There’s a temple at the Dakhla oasis and at Tell Baqliga in the Nile Delta.”
Ian watched the interplay between the two people. He loved to listen to people who knew their subjects, but if he was honest he would have to admit to being rather jealous of the way the foreign names tripped easily from Barbara’s lips.
“It is also said,” Sham began, “that the book was first located in a locked chest at the bottom of the Nile.”
“We’re a fair hike from the river,” Ian muttered.
“As we are from most of these locations,” the elderly man pointed out.
“So we have a lot of options,” Ian said finally. “Where do we start?”
Silence descended over the group, becoming more oppressive as the sun reached noon and the temperature began to soar.
The old man wandered off muttering something about needing to consult his records, heading not for the temple as one would expect, but towards the oasis a few hundred yards away.
Ian, leaning casually up a chuck of limestone, frowned as he watched the old man disappear behind a palm tree. He hadn’t thought there were any structures in that direction.
“Barbara....” he muttered half heartedly.
The school teacher was looking intently at the temple doors, she too was frowning. “Do you think Sennu would have any ideas?”
“Probably not. Remember, she doesn’t know what Sham is up too.”
“Don’t you think she should?”
“Not if it puts her life in danger, no!” The heat was making him belligerent.
“Sham said she was already suspicious, it will probably be safer if she knew everything. At least that way she could be cautious. At the moment she’s just blundering around in the dark.” Barbara watched as Ian sunk to the ground, now protected by the shadows, he laid his head against the rock. “I think we should tell her.”
“Isn’t that up the Sham?”
“He wouldn’t say anything and you know that.” Barbara rose to her feet and started for the temple.
Ian watched as she turned to face him.
“If it was me, I would want to know.”
With a heartfelt sigh he gained his feet, rubbing the sand from his trousers. “Come on then!”
The Doctor looked up from his study of his two sleeping friends. He glanced across to Doctor Patrick who nodded and winked; they were fine. The Time Lord took one more look at the two school teachers, their hands still linked, their expressions still calm. Reassured, he walked over to the tent flap opening it and looking out.
The temple was in a fairly stable state at the moment; it was as if ‘time’ knew that they were trying to rectify the situation. The blocks no longer appeared and disappeared, although there was still a slight glow about the structure, and the humans carried on with their day, either deliberately ignoring it or just not noticing. Earthlings!
When his granddaughter had suggested a visit - her first, his first in a very long time, he had been reluctant. From what he remembered of the species it really hadn’t impressed him. Gradually though, he had come to tolerate them, then over the course of many more visits, including, of course, the one where the two travellers had become stranded in 1963 London (due to several major faults), he had grown to respect them. ‘Noble savages’, was the best description of them he had thought.
Then these two particular humans had stumbled into his ship. At first he was annoyed that his true nature was in danger of being revealed at such a time of paranoia, and as he saw it, he had no option but to leave, taking them with him. Now over the course of many adventures, respect had been joined by a genuine liking. He now feared that humans were about to become his favourite of species. Despite their many faults, and there were many, they kept trying no matter what tried to stop them.
He knew that at the beginning of his recent journeys he would never have trusted anyone, let alone a human, to look after his granddaughter then just a few short months ago, he encouraged - forced, he admitted - Susan to stay on Earth with a human male. David would look after her he knew, he loved her. His brow furrowed as feelings of guilt, remorse and loneliness flooded through him. He cared about his companions deeply, not that he would ever admit it to them of course, but still it wasn’t the same as sharing discoveries with a person of the same background, same home. It wasn’t the same as family, possibly the only family he had left.
With a tut and annoyed sigh he turned away from his sightless gaze across the desert, back towards the interior, back towards the present crisis.
Sennu stood aghast, shock covering her face. “You mean this whole search has been a fraud?”
“No, the search has been real, the motive behind it has been hijacked,” Ian explained. He still wasn’t sure this was a good idea.
“Taken over, removed from your control,” Barbara explained.
“I have stopped the search.”
“No, you mustn’t! Whoever is doing this must think you still know nothing about his plans,” Ian stated.
“I have already stopped the digging,” Sennu repeated.
“You need to give orders to get it started again, as soon as possible,” Barbara put in urgently. “If we’re lucky who ever is controlling this won’t have heard anything yet.”
“Sham can give the order,” Sennu stated, pouting slightly. “I will not have my ideals..... hijacked.” She repeated the word carefully.
“Not even to save your own life?” Ian asked.
“My life is pledged to the gods. If I were to meet Osiris now, then that would be my fate.”
“Sennu,” Ian began in frustration.
Seeing the expression on the priestess’s face he knew that any protests would be useless.
“I will be aware of danger, and will not walk into it purposefully, but I can not let this interfere with my work.” With a last firm nod she strode over to the alter.
Ian and Barbara watched her back as she performed her duties.
“We can’t force her into hiding, Ian.”
“No, I know. We’ll just have make sure we look after her.”
Both turned at the sound of the temple door opening. Sham approached them, barely contained excitement in each step, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“Well, I suppose we’d better let Sham know we told Sennu about his plan.” Ian’s tone suggested that he hoped Barbara would tell him not to bother.
“Yes, we had.”
Ian’s face dropped. “Ah!”
Before either could get a word out, the scribe walked past them.
“Sham...we need to tell...” Ian started.
“Yes, yes later.”
Ian tried to hide his relief. “Oh well, we’d better try later I suppose.”
Sennu turned on her colleague, her face displaying anger. “So you think my plan foolish, scribe.”
“My lady?” The man was obviously puzzled.
“You say you are loyal to me, yet you seek to deceive me.”
“Sennu, I...” The scribe gestured wildly, trying to understand the woman’s sudden anger.
“Don’t try to make a fool of me! These others,” she waved at Ian and Barbara, “are strangers to me but they at least have told me the truth.”
The look that the scribe shot in their direction made the school teachers squirm and step back nervously.
“My lady,” the old man tried to reason, “what I did, I did to protect you, not out of any disloyalty or lack of respect. I care deeply about your cause, I think it just, but it can not be pursued at the cost of your life.”
“My life is not important!” the woman snapped again. “The path to the Duat is not through deceit. It matters not when you go to Osiris, only how you get there.” She sighed deeply, reaching out a hand and placing it on the scribe’s shoulder. “The path must be clear, only through knowledge and enlightenment can the goal be seen. Lies and deceit lead to death, a dark and lonely place, Sham.”
“I think you should leave. You have orders to give, a tomb robber to catch. I have work to do.” With that she turned her back on him.
With a last killing glare at Ian, Sham stormed from the temple.
Ian moved forward, ready to start the debate anew, a hand on his arm stopping him. Glancing back he took in Barbara slowly shaking her head: ‘not now, later,’ her eyes told him.
With a nod he followed her from the building.
A small feline shape emerged from behind the stone altar. It looked towards the doors, watching as they were closed soundlessly, causing the torches to gutter slightly in the disturbed air. It mewed quietly, turning its attention to Sennu.
“Not now,” she muttered, not turning to acknowledge the creature. “I have much to think about.”
The cat leapt up onto the altar, settling down to lick its paws, its ear pricking noticeably as the candles flickered again. A human shadow fell over the feline form causing the creature to arch its back, ears flattened against its head, hissing loudly it looked ready to attack. A hand flicked out, knocking the animal casually from its perch. It scampered away into the darkness of a recess.
Sennu swung about, her features paling as she looked up into the face of the intruder.
“Who... who are you?” she stammered, instinctively stepping backwards.
“Oh, you would not know me, my lady.” He moved closer, until she was backed against a statue. “I am just someone who has watched you from a far. An admirer, I think you could call me. Yes, I admire your plan to bring the people back to their gods.” He smiled, a cold smile that did not reach his eyes. “It has proved very useful to me.”
“You are robbing the tombs!” The sudden realisation brought back some of her diminished courage.
“Robbing.” He seemed to mull the term over then shivered theatrically, his long braids brushing across his shoulders. “Oh no, I don’t like that term at all. I prefer to think that I’m redistributing the wealth to the living; me.” He laughed, an evil echo sounding around the hall. “The dead have no use for it.”
She placed her hands over her ears trying to blot out his voice. “I will not hear this sacrilege!”
The man grabbed at her hands pulling them away from her head, forcing them behind her back. “You will hear what I choose!” he shouted in her face.
The air outside was finally cooling as the sun continued its journey towards evening and the dangers of the underworld. Sham stood some distance from the two friends, glowering silently.
Ian and Barbara stood gazing out across the near still waters of the oasis, watching bright highlights appear and die as the sun light caught the slight breeze driven ripples on the water’s surface, then something odd caught Barbara’s eye; a solid lump of black at the edge of the water.
“Ian, what’s that?” she asked, pointing, a useless gesture she realised as he tried to follow her finger to its destination.
“At the edge of the water,” she explained moving forward, catching his hand and pulling him behind her. “It looks like a box or something.”
“Probably just a rock,” Ian exclaimed, unwilling to be galvanised into action.
“No, I swear it wasn’t there earlier.”
“It’s bit early in the scheme of things for fly tippers don’t you think?”
“Oh Ian!” Barbara snapped.
As they drew closer, Chesterton realised that she was right. It was a large box, the water melodiously lapping at its carved surface.
He bent down to pull it out; almost toppling over as it came away easier than expected, having almost no weight at all. “Any good at reading hieroglyphs?” he asked, only half joking.
“No not really,” Barbara muttered, bending to look over his shoulder, “but I do know that that,” she indicated the small figure of a crouched baboon holding a quill, “is a representation of Thoth.”
Ian looked over his shoulder, sharing an unbelieving expression with his friend.
“Couldn’t be,” he stated.
“Too much of a coincidence,” Barbara agreed.
They both looked at the casket. “No!” they said together, the shaking of their heads completely synchronised.
“Take it with us anyway,” Barbara whispered, straightening up.
Ian climbed to his feet, hoisting the box up to chest height, and then they made their way back across the sands. The scribe watched, one hand under his chin, a secret smile lightening his eyes.
The temple was cold and quiet. At first they thought it was empty, but then a movement by the altar caught their eyes. The cat was pacing about on top of the stone slab, meowing loudly. Using a bit of imagination, he could almost have been calling for help.
“Something’s wrong!” Ian called as he rushed forward, lowering the box to the floor.
Moving around the altar he saw the still form of the priestess. Pain and fear etched across her frozen face, black finger marks stood out on her neck. He jumped slightly as Barbara pushed past him, kneeling to feel for the woman’s pulse.
“She’s dead,” she stated lowly, watching the guilt cross her friend’s face. “Looks like she was strangled.”
Ian swallowed deeply.
Ian was forced aside as Sham pushed towards the altar, the scribe’s eyes widening as he took in the sight before him.
“You stupid idiot!” He rounded viscously on the school master. “I told you this would happen.
Barbara stood up moving to Ian’s side, lending moral support, hoping her closeness would help in some way.
“All my efforts wasted, because you couldn’t keep quiet! You fool!” His ire temporarily spent, the elderly man vent his frustration by pacing about the body.
“I’m sorry she’s dead,” Barbara started gently, ever the diplomat, “we both are, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.” She stared levelly as the scribe turned on her. “We need to concentrate on catching the person responsible.”
Sham nodded, reluctantly accepting the truth of her words. “Yes, you’re right.” He took one last look at the woman on the floor. “He’ll still want the book.”
“We found something.” Barbara’s voice broke the heavy silence once more. “It was at the edge of the oasis.” She dragged the box over to Sham. “We were bringing it in to show Sennu.”
The scribe knelt by the casket.
“What do you think?” she asked after a few moments.
“This does show Thoth.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Have you opened it?” The scribe regained his feet.
“No, but I think it’s empty, it’s very light.”
“What about her?” Ian interrupted, nodding towards the priestess.
Sham returned his attention to the body, his face filled with sadness. “It would be better if, for the moment, no one knew she was dead.”
“We’ll keep the body hidden in here then, it doesn’t seem to see much traffic,” Ian stated, his voice devoid of emotion.
“It would be better, for the plan to work, if our enemy thought his attempt has been unsuccessful,” the scribe stated, looking up at Barbara.
Ian too glanced up at her, before realising what was being implied. “Now just a minute. If he thinks Sennu is still alive he could try again.”
“He probably will.”
Barbara placed a hand on his arm. “Ian it will be alright, I don’t have to go any where, I can just stay here.”
“But she died here!”
“Then you will have to look after her,” the scribe pulled himself up to his full height, staring into Ian’s face, “this time.”
“Ian!” Barbara started pulling him away from another confrontation. “Let’s wait outside, I think Sham would like sometime alone with his friend.”
With a last challenging glare, the school master allowed himself to be led from the temple.
The evening had drawn in and the air was cool, just on the comfortable side of cold.
Ian shoved his hands into his pockets, tilting his head back until he was looking directly upwards, gazing at the pole star, searching out the constellations surrounding it. He felt a hand on his arm, heard a soft voice in his ear.
“Are you alright?”
He exhaled deeply, lifting his head slowly. Ignoring the slight giddiness he felt. “Well, I’m doing well so far aren’t I?”
“Ian, it wasn’t your fault. I wanted her to know, I thought we should tell her.”
“I was the one who put the doubts in her mind to start with. That was the reason she stopped searching.”
“You weren’t to know what was going on.”
He laughed sadly. “I never seem to know what’s going on now days.”
“I know what you mean, but we get by.”
He looked at her, smiling. “I think I’d probably go mad if you weren’t with me.” He took her hand, squeezing it slightly.
“Some of us wouldn’t know the difference.”
Another laugh, happier this time. “Thank you!”
“There is some good news in all this,” Barbara started.
“What?” Ian asked, doubtfully.
“We’ve changed something. Sennu didn’t die from a snake bite.”
“Well, perhaps we should go now while we’re ahead,” Ian scoffed viciously. “Do you really think that matters?”
“Ian, at this stage we don’t know what will make a difference.”
“Sennu is still dead!”
“Yes, but her body is here, not in the future.”
Ian’s tantrum was immediately quashed by that statement. Barbara was right of course; even a small change was still a change. Acting like a spoilt child wasn’t going to help anything. Another, somewhat disturbing, thought struck him. If Sennu’s body was now here, whose body had he found in the future, a week ago? He shook his head; this was just giving him a headache.