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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn
The crackling orange flames from the torches surrounding them made it hard for the kids to see who was holding them. The giant man shouted something to the smaller robed men, and they grabbed Charlie, George, and Alice. They were taken back to the spider room.
The large, domed chamber was glowing eerily in the torch light. Charlie, George, and Alice struggled for a few seconds, but resistance was futile. They were outnumbered; there were about 20 bearded men wearing long, tattered robes and each of these angry men was staring at the kids.
The huge man was obviously in charge. When he spoke, the other men listened. Now, he roared at the kids, "Wie heissen Sie?" But they had no idea what he was saying. He continued, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Parlez-vous français? Do you speak English?"
At that, Charlie spoke up, "Yes, we speak English."
The huge man replied, in a heavy accent, "What are you doing here? Are you working for Arbuthnot?"
Charlie answered, "We're taking a test." As soon as he said that, he realized how silly it sounded, even though it was true.
"What are you talking about?" demanded the man. "What test?"
"Well, it's the Test of Time," said Charlie. "We didn't mean to do anything bad. We're just trying to get out of this pyramid. There was a sandstorm outside, and we came in to escape the storm. Then we got lost."
"Ah yes," the large man said, "we bypassed that storm. Ich heisse, ... I mean, my name is Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach. I am a geologist from Munich, Germany, and I am on my way back to my dig. Who are you?"
"I'm Charlie MacDuff, this is Alice Wright, and that's George Garcia. We're from the USA."
Alice was confused -- there was no Germany during the time of the ancient Egyptians. She asked the man, "What year is it?"
"It's 1911, of course," he replied. He then turned to Charlie and whispered, "Did she get hit on the head or something?"
Charlie smiled and replied, "No, she's always like that."
Alice was indignant, but realized that at least Charlie had changed the subject.
Von Reichenbach asked, "How did you get in? This pyramid was sealed last month by Lord Arbuthnot, that eccentric English Egyptologist."
George told von Reichenbach, "We just solved the riddle on the door to the pyramid."
Alice whispered to Charlie and George, "That explains why the inscription on the door to the pyramid was in English - an Englishman designed it to keep other people out."
"Arbuthnot will not like this at all. He sealed the pyramid when the King's chamber eluded him," replied von Reichenbach.
"I think we found the King's chamber," said Charlie, but he didn't tell von Reichenbach about the map he had taken -- he wanted to make sure that he could keep it for the clues that it contained.
"Yes," added Alice, "and we almost got locked in there forever with the mummy and all that old junk."
"Arbuthnot will want to hear exactly how you found it," said von Reichenbach. "He had given up, and went on to the Bahariya Oasis, where he is excavating a multitude of mummies in a tomb. I was heading in that direction also, to return to my dig, when I noticed that the sealed door to the pyramid was open. Arbuthnot showed me this room last month, after he mapped the pyramid, but the ultimate prize, the King's Chamber, was not to be found."
Von Reichenbach took a map out of his pocket - it was a diagram of the corridors in the pyramid. He pointed to a short "U"-shaped corridor off the main chamber and said, "That's where we found you."
George said, "Oh, that's why we saw the flames in two places - we were in a loop."
"Yes," said Alice, "and I'm sure glad we didn't get to the tarantulas or the snakes or the rats. I've had enough excitement."
"How did you find the King's chamber?" asked von Reichenbach.
Charlie pointed to the corridor that they had entered first, and said, "We went down that passage, where there was a huge statue."
Von Reichenbach interrupted him, "You must mean Anubis; he has the body of a human and the head of a jackal."
"Yes," replied Charlie, "at first we passed the statue, and then got we attacked by bats and hit a dead end, but when we returned, we found a secret passageway that led to the King's chamber."
"Arbuthnot will want to hear about this," said von Reichenbach, chuckling, "but he will be humiliated that children found the treasure that eluded him. Will you come with me to the oasis and meet Arbuthnot? I would enjoy that."
Charlie remembered the map he had found. It seemed to point to a graveyard at a nearby oasis. Charlie said, "Yes, we'll go with you."
"Do you have any food?" asked George. "We haven't eaten since breakfast."
"We'll eat as soon as we get outside," von Reichenbach assured him. Von Reichenbach shouted something at the robed men, and they all began to leave the spider room. Charlie, Alice, and George followed von Reichenbach through a dark passage.
In a few minutes, after crawling through the hole in the floor of the passage and continuing through another small corridor, they could see a patch of bright light in front of them. When they finally emerged outside, the light hurt their eyes and they could hardly see until their eyes adjusted. The storm had passed, and the desert was calm and beautiful. There were about 20 camels by the door of the pyramid. Each camel was loaded with a precarious pile of bulging brown sacks.
Von Reichenbach whistled, and a small man came running. Von Reichenbach talked to him, and the man ran off. Charlie, Alice, and George were watching as another group of men put up a small tent -- it took them only a few minutes.
Von Reichenbach called to Charlie, Alice, and George, "Come, let's eat." They went into the tent and sat down. The small man returned, carrying a large brass tray piled high with food. There were exotic fruits, flat breads, strange salads, and savory chunks of meat.
The food was wonderful, and they all ate heartily. Von Reichenbach asked them, "So what is this test you mentioned?"
"Well," stammered Charlie, "I don't think I should talk about it. You wouldn't believe me anyway." Alice and George just smiled.
Von Reichenbach shrugged, then continued, "The Bahariya Oasis is only about 20 miles from here. As soon as we finish eating, we'll be on our way. We'll arrive there well before sunset. We can find Arbuthnot when he finishes with his mummies." Von Reichenbach was big and gruff, but friendly. He added, "Arbuthnot and his crew go from pyramid to pyramid, unearthing mummies. They have opened dozens of tombs and have found hundreds of mummies of ancient Egyptians. They ship most of them back to England. When Arbuthnot is finished with a pyramid, he seals it and it can only be opened by solving a riddle or a pun. I detest English puns. Since those eccentric English have arrived, even the ruins have gone downhill."
Charlie remembered the map they had found in the King's chamber and asked von Reichenbach, "Is there a sphinx around here?"
"No," replied von Reichenbach, "but there is a giant statue of a sphinx about three hundred kilometers to the northeast, down the Nile River near Cairo." Von Reichenbach was pointing in the direction of the village that Charlie, Alice and George had seen when they had first arrived.
"No, that's too far, and in the wrong direction," Charlie said. He pointed in the direction opposite to the village, and asked von Reichenbach, "What's over there?"
Von Reichenbach answered, "The Bahariya Oasis is in that direction. That's the location of my dig, and where Arbuthnot found his precious mummies."
According to Charlie's map, the sphinx graveyard was also at the oasis. That was where Charlie had to go.
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