Keith Lewis Normal Keith Lewis 4 350 2003-06-26T12:22:00Z 2003-09-03T14:30:00Z 17 10047 57270 477 114 70331 9.2720 Chapter 12
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
The sun beat down on ancient Rostau, causing Bill to screw up his eyes against the glare reflected from the Old Kingdom mastabas that dotted the desert to the west of the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau. He was sitting on the sandy ground, waiting patiently for the group to materialise, squinting in the direction of the pyramid, wary in case any tourists came his way, or worse - any Death Eaters.
He stood as he saw the familiar group materialise in front of him, and smiled as he walked over to them, but his smile faded when he saw the serious look on all their faces. He raised an eyebrow questioningly at Charlie, who frowned and shook his head.
The four youngsters looked up at the Great Pyramid towering above them. "That is so amazing!" exclaimed Hermione, her eyes full of wonder. "How on earth did they build that?"
"Well I don't think they used buckets and spades Hermione," said Ron grinning. "Come on - let's see if we can find Djedi's tomb."
"Just hang on a minute Ron," said Hermione. "I want to take a look around first - we're standing right in the middle of history you know!" She looked into the middle distance towards the other two pyramids, shaking her head in wonder.
Her three friends grinned, never ceasing to be amazed at the rapt gaze she reserved for anything that fascinated her keen sense of the enigmatic. She looked up once more at the unfathomable mystery that grew out of the desert, rising like a beacon, a testimony to the skill and hidden knowledge of the ancient Egyptians.
She dragged her gaze back down to the ground and walked towards a very large mastaba, looking at the inscription painted on one of the pillars that supported the iron grille that protected the internal beauty of the tomb. She looked at the map of the Giza Plateau and breathed, "Hesayuru - grand vizier of the Pharaoh Khufu. It's nearly five thousand years old!"
"Come on Hermione," shouted Sirius. "We'd better get started; the sooner we find the tomb the better."
Hermione reluctantly walked back to the others and again consulted the map, pointing into the desert beyond the edge of the plateau. "It's about three hundred yards in that direction."
Sirius directed the adults to walk on both sides of the four teens as they started out across the sandy ground. After about two hundred yards, Hermione called a halt. "This is the edge of the mastaba field, or at least as far as they've excavated. Djedi's tomb should be about a hundred yards further on, and directly in line with the centre of the Great Pyramid."
They all looked back at the Great Pyramid, checking that they stood at the exact centre of the western slope. "I'll stay here," said Ceri, "while you pace out a hundred yards. You can line me up with the centre of the pyramid to make sure you're on the right line."
Ron strode out into the desert, counting the yards as he walked. The others walked along with him, turning back every now and again to make sure that Ron stayed on track.
"One hundred!" said Ron as he stood looking down at the ground beneath his feet. "Nothing here!"
"I didn't expect there would be Ron," said Hermione. "I didn't think you'd land on the exact place where the tomb is, but the spot we've marked on the map should be fairly close to where we're standing. Come on, let's spread out and see if we can spot anything. You stay there as a marker Ron."
The three walked slowly around Ron, looking down at the ground. Ron, meanwhile, put his hands in his robe pockets and started to whistle the Dione Warwick classic, 'Walk On By', drawing giggles from his friends.
Harry leaned close to Hermione, whispering in her ear, "It's great to see him in this mood. I think Margot's lifted his ego almost as high as the Great Pyramid."
Hermione laughed. "That's the power of love, Harry."
"Here's something," said Ginny, looking down at the ground. "There's nothing to see, but it felt like I walked into a slight dip in the ground."
The others gathered around. "There's definitely a slight depression in the sand here," said Harry. "Come on Ron, bucket and spade time!"
The protectors moved into a protective circle around the four as they started to shovel the sand away from the slight dip in the ground with their hands. Before long, Ron stopped shovelling. "I just felt a rock or something. Come on, start digging here."
Soon, they'd unearthed the corner of a large granite capstone, and they moved along the sides, heaving away the sand until they'd uncovered it all. It was about four feet wide and eight feet long, but there weren't any markings or writing visible on its stark surface.
"This must be it, I'm sure of it," said Hermione. "You can see it isn't a natural rock, the sides are much too square. Come on, let's dig a bit deeper."
Fifteen minutes later, they'd exposed the whole of the capstone, which was about a foot thick and seemed to be resting on the bare natural rock of the plateau.
"We need to shift this, I think," said Hermione. "We'll have to take a look inside. There's nothing on the outside that tells us whose tomb it is. What do you think?"
"I think it's going to be too heavy for us to shift," said Harry, turning towards his godfather about fifteen yards away. "Sirius, do you think some of you can help us to move this capstone?"
Sirius signalled to Bill, Charlie and Remus and the four walked over to the youngsters. Sirius looked at the slab of granite from all angles. "I think if we concentrate our effort at the far corner, we might just be able to slide it to one side slightly. It might be enough for you to see what's inside."
The four adults, aided by Harry and Ron, heaved with all their strength at the corner of the slab, pushing mightily to try to slide it over. Inch by inch they started to make progress, the low sound of grating of the granite capstone on bare limestone giving them the encouragement to push even harder. Slowly, the dark interior began to appear below the granite slab until a triangular opening of about two feet across was exposed.
"That should be enough," said Ginny, kneeling on the ground besides the opening and shining her wand into the darkness. The men and boys slumped onto the sand, sweating and breathing heavily.
Hermione knelt down beside Ginny and peered inside. "Move your wand a little to the left Ginny."
"There's some writing here I think," she said, straining to look underneath the slab, "but I can't quite see it. Can you move it over a bit more?"
The male members of the party all groaned, but stood up and took their former positions at the corner of the capstone. Ten minutes later, they'd managed to move the slab another foot or so and then flopped back down to the ground to rest.
"It's a cartouche," said Hermione excitedly as she again looked inside the opening. "Let's see that parchment you wrote at the Temple of Hathor, Ginny."
Ginny handed her the parchment, and Hermione placed it inside the opening, alongside the cartouche. She compared the two and shouted, "They're the same! This is Djedi's tomb!"
The two girls sat down beside the boys. "What else did you see in there Hermione?" asked Harry.
"The cartouche is on a white limestone block of stone," she replied. "We're going to have to get this capstone off and try to move that block as well."
Loud groans were heard, making all the girls grin, although they were careful not to show their amusement in the face of some very odd and hostile stares coming from the male members of the group. "Much more of this," groaned Ron, "and I'll be too knackered to go anywhere, let alone into the Duat!"
"Come on," Harry forced a grin. "Let's get to it."
Half an hour later, the granite capstone lay to the side, and the limestone slab was fully exposed, as was the lack of fitness of the males, except for Harry, who walked around the limestone block examining the sides. He saw that the slab was surrounded by a sort of narrow enclosure, cut from the bare rock of the plateau, on which the granite slab had rested. The enclosure was about four feet deep around the sides of the slab, and he looked closely at the far corner. "There's a sort of portcullis thing on the side of the slab. It looks as if it has to be raised up, somehow."
Hermione walked over and looked down at the odd structure, noting the grooves cut into the rock. "I think you're right Harry, we definitely have to lift it - you can see the grooves in the limestone."
Ginny lay on the sand and stretched her arms down to cup her hands beneath the portcullis. She took a deep breath and heaved upwards with all her might. The portcullis rose above the limestone slab, moving easily in the ancient grooves cut millennia ago by what must have been a master builder. Ginny sat back up grinning, wiping her hands. "That's how it's done boys - easy!" She got some very black looks as she stood up, gazing at the boys with disdain.
Harry moved to look into the darkness exposed by the removal of the portcullis, stretching his wand into the opening. "There're stone steps leading down. There's just enough room for us to squeeze inside, I think."
He went to step into the enclosure, but Hermione put her hand on his arm. "Not yet Harry. We have to wait until sunset, remember?"
Harry stepped back out and nodded. The adults stood back up and moved away, working out where they'd best be positioned in case any Death Eaters turned up. The four youngsters, meanwhile, sat at the side of Djedi's tomb looking up at the sky and settled down to wait while the sun crawled slowly, but inexorably, down towards the western horizon
Oliver waited impatiently at the Portkey site at the entrance to the canyon at Qumran. His team's night duty was due to start in about fifteen minutes, and he looked up at the darkening sky, knowing that the sun would be fully set within a few minutes. He heaved a sigh of relief when Katie appeared with a 'pop' and ran towards him, smiling.
They hugged tightly, both grinning with the pleasure of being together once more. "Did he tell you?" Oliver whispered into her ear.
"Yes, he did Oliver, and you'll never believe who it is," Katie whispered back.
Oliver eased her away, looking at her grinning face in the fading light, knowing that she was deliberately delaying telling him her father's name.
"Well?" he asked loudly.
Katie opened her mouth to tell him, but was interrupted by a loud explosion from outside the canyon. They both jumped and looked to see the sky streaked with the unmistakeable bright yellow glow of a Whammo.
"Quick," shouted Dave Henson running up to them, the sounds of more explosions following him. "Get back up to the cave and get your team to take up a position right opposite. There's about two hundred Death Eaters outside the canyon and it won't be long before they get here. Tell two of the teams at the campsite to come down and help the two already here. That'll leave the team in the cave, you, and four others to guard the Spell Cave. I'll stay here."
Oliver grabbed Katie's hand as they sprinted into the canyon. They turned the final bend before coming to the cave area, and Oliver quickly spoke to two of the team leaders who were running in their direction. They ran up towards the campsite and forty Aurors quickly disappeared around the bend heading to help the two teams at the canyon entrance. Oliver quickly briefed the other five team leaders, including the one in the cave, and they all took up defensive positions in, around and opposite the entrance to the Cave of Spells, determined that the Death Eaters wouldn't get past them.
More loud explosions could be heard from the direction of the canyon entrance, and the sound of spells and curses soon filled the air. Oliver moved around his team standing among the rocks opposite the cave, speaking to them quietly, making sure that they were prepared for the coming fight. Then he moved back to his position alongside Katie, squeezing her hand and grinning at her, trying to calm her nerves.
For half an hour the battle raged at the canyon entrance, and Oliver tensed when he spotted someone come round the bend, running towards the cave area. He relaxed when he recognised Dave Henson, and walked out into the canyon to meet him, as did the other five team-leaders.
Dave was breathing heavily, and his forehead was streaked with sweat. "There's at least a couple of hundred of them," he gasped. "I want two more teams down at the canyon entrance to help us hold them off. The team in the cave can stay there, and you keep your team opposite Oliver. You other two deploy your Aurors around the bend in the canyon and pick off any Death Eaters who manage to break through our defences. Come on - move!"
Oliver watched Dave and the two teams disappear around the canyon bend as he walked back to his team, stopping to tell each of his Aurors what was going on. Then he went back to Katie, now crouching behind a tall rock, with John Ballot just to her left.
They looked grimly at each other as they heard the sounds of more explosions, spells and curses filtering up from the point of the Death Eater attack. They knew that it wouldn't be too long before they themselves were flung into the midst of the fighting, but they kept hoping that the others would be able to hold them off before that happened.
Harry and the other three felt tense and nervous as the sun's bottom edge touched the western horizon at ancient Rostau. They looked towards the inky blackness outlined by the raised portcullis and felt a ripple of fear run through them as their thoughts turned inevitably to the dream that Margot had told them about that morning.
They looked towards the protectors, who had now gathered in one spot and were talking animatedly among themselves. They looked in surprise as Bill started to become agitated, waving his arms in the air and looking angrily at the others. Charlie and Nadine stood with their heads bowed, looking gloomily down at the ground, holding hands. They saw Sirius nod, and then lead them all over to the four waiting at the side of Djedi's tomb.
Bill continued to appear angry, but also looked worried, as Sirius spoke also looking worried. "Harry, you don't need to do this. You four have done more than could have been expected of you, so it might be time to call it a day."
"Sirius is right," said Charlie. "It's too dangerous down there."
Bill weighed in, speaking passionately. "I've just heard about the dream. There's no way I'm letting you go down there. I know something about Egyptian myths and legends, and if you're going to face anything like that then it's best that you don't - believe me, it can get nasty! And what would mum and dad say if they knew you were taking Ginny down there Ron? Look, no one's going to blame you for giving up, especially when they hear that you've been told you're all going to die."
Ginny spoke quietly, "We have to do this Bill. I know you're worried, we all are, but it's our destiny. We have to do it."
"Harry!" Bill looked pleadingly towards him.
Harry glanced at his friends, and they nodded quietly. "If we don't complete the quests there'll only be one outcome. Voldemort will get stronger, and there's no doubt that he'll get hold of those spells eventually, and then we'll all die. No one will be able to stop him, not even Dumbledore. All of us will die, and not only us - there'll be countless numbers of people sacrificed to his mad ambitions." He shook his head sadly. "We know what Margot said, but we still have to go. We still have to try to get through the Duat somehow. There's just no alternative. We can't even think of giving up."
Bill's shoulders sagged in defeat as the last of the sun's rays disappeared. He walked over and held Ginny tightly to him, closing his eyes to prevent the tears running down his cheeks. Then he hugged Ron, Hermione and Harry. He slowly walked back, looking down at the ground dejectedly as first Sirius, and then Ceri, Nadine, Remus and finally Charlie hugged all four youngsters.
"You be very careful down there," said Sirius, his voice taut and sounding strange.
"We'll see you at dawn," said Harry, forcing a grin.
"Wait," said Ceri, walking back towards them. "Don't forget this." She handed Ron a large rucksack. "You might get a bit hungry and thirsty down there."
"Thanks Ceri," he replied.
"If all goes as we expect," said Hermione quietly, "we'll meet you somewhere over by the Sphinx as the first rays of the morning sun strike it."
Darkness quickly fell over ancient Rostau, and first Harry, followed by Ron, Hermione and finally Ginny squeezed through the narrow opening in the side of the limestone slab and disappeared below the ground.
Harry lit his wand as he cautiously walked down a long flight of stone steps, finally emerging into a low oblong tomb. The four stood at the side of a stone sarcophagus, bearing the hieroglyphic name, inside a cartouche, of Djedi. On the wall opposite, dancing eerily in the light of the four raised wands was a carving of the ibis-headed god, Thoth.
"Look," breathed Hermione quietly. "He's in the same pose as Jesus in the church, one arm raised and the other pointing down at the ground - as above, so below."
"But look at his raised hand, Hermione," said Ginny. "He's pointing over to the far side of the tomb."
They looked at the direction in which Thoth pointed and saw a low archway, covered in hieroglyphics, leading darkly into what appeared to be a passageway.
"The Duat must be that way," said Hermione, glancing at the others.
"Come on," said Ron, walking towards the archway. "Let's get started with this."
Ron led the way into the tunnel, followed by Harry and then the two girls. Harry quickly stepped up alongside Ron and they grinned at each other as they continued, wands raised, down the tunnel.
After walking for five minutes, they stepped into a small antechamber. They all looked around in amazement at the walls and ceiling, which were covered in hieroglyphic writing. In front of them, guarding the only place where there wasn't any writing, were two statues, both in the same pose as Thoth in Djedi's tomb with one arm raised and the other lowered. Between the two statues was a large bronze door, completely unadorned and without any visible means of opening it. At the centre of the door was a depression in the shape of an eye. Harry walked over to the door and took out the Eye of Horus from his robes. He held it to the side of the depression and looked at his friends when he saw that the two shapes matched exactly.
"That must be the first gate," breathed Hermione. "The entry into the Duat."
"The eye must fit in that depression," said Ron. "Maybe that's how we open it."
Hermione pulled out the parchment containing the twelve spells from her robe and looked at the first one. "We probably have to say this spell as well," she said. "Place the Eye in the door Harry - let's try it."
"What does that spell say again Hermione?" asked Ron.
"Well I translate it as … O Osiris activity of the Sacred Eye of Horus, there will open for you your Tunnel Opening - god's Star lustre of the South and god's Star lustre of the North."
Harry pushed the Eye of Horus into the depression and heard it click when he pushed it fully in. Hermione stepped up alongside Harry and held his hand, then she held up the parchment in front of them. "Point your hand at the Eye and say this spell Harry."
Hermione also pointed her hand at the Eye and they both said the first spell…
'USIR UDJAT HOR UPI EN EK RE EK---BIA NETJER SHEMOU BIA NETJER MEHU'
They stood back as they heard several faint clicks. Then the Eye of Horus raised itself out of the depression and floated slowly back to the astonished Harry. He reached out and caught hold of it and then put it back into his robe pocket.
They waited for a few moments, and then held their breath as the bronze gate silently swung open. They looked at each other uncertainly as they stared into the darkness beyond the gate.
"This is it," said Hermione. "The first hour of the Duat. Come on, let's go in and see what's there."
Harry and Ron were the first through the gate, stepping into the silent darkness. Then dim light filtered down from the ceiling of a large empty chamber, but it was not sufficient for them to see to the furthest end of the room. They stood just beyond the gate, trying to make out what lay ahead in the shadowy reaches of the room. They all jumped at the sound of the gate closing behind them, and they knew that there was no turning back.
"There's something moving over there," Ginny whispered, the quiver in her voice betraying the fear she felt. In the gloom they could all just detect movement, no more than a slight shifting in the shadows, but they all heard the shuffling sound that accompanied the movement. Then the shadow became clearer. The girls gasped when they were able to see the shape more clearly.
Moving in and out of the shadows, shuffling along in an odd sort of way, was a very large man, or at least that's what they thought it was at first, before they saw the head. It seemed that the man hadn't seen the four youngsters standing by the closed gate; he just kept shuffling along the back wall of the room.
"What sort of a head is that?" whispered Hermione. "I've never seen a head like that before."
"I think it's some sort of animal," Harry whispered back. "But he's got the body of a man."
Ron leaned over and whispered, "He's walking as if he's got a poker stuck up his ar…"
"Ron!" exclaimed Hermione and Ginny quietly. Harry laughed nervously.
"What!" whispered Ron. "I think it must be Seth - he's probably walking like that because Horus cut off his left… whatsit."
All three grinned at Ron's attempt to ease the tension they all felt. "I think he's going," said Harry quietly. The man, or whatever it was, shuffled into the far corner of the chamber and disappeared into the shadows. The four breathed a bit easier when the shuffling sound faded and finally stopped.
"Maybe there's another door or something over in the corner," said Ginny.
Harry opened his mouth to answer but stopped as the chamber was suddenly filled with light, but it was no ordinary light. The quality of the glow was amazing, enabling the four to see the tiniest details in the chamber. Then, at the far end, a much brighter glow appeared, so bright that it was difficult to look at it directly. Then, out of the brightness walked two glowing figures, a man and a woman, dressed in the apparel of the ancient Egyptians, just like the paintings and carvings they'd seen on the walls of the tombs and temples they'd visited.
The two figures stopped at the centre of the room and looked directly at the nervous teens, who looked back in amazement at the sight of their regal faces. Their features were almost identical, but at the same time very different. The man's gaze was strong and commanding, yet his eyes held a gentle quality. His pose was that of an athlete, broad shoulders tapering down to a slim waist around which rested an ornate belt.
The woman was beautiful, her full lips turned slightly upwards at the corners as she smiled. Her large dark brown eyes were as gentle as the man's, but were full of compassion and love as she looked towards the four.
Harry glanced at his friends and then walked slowly towards the centre of the chamber, followed by the others. When they were no more than five yards away, the man held up his hand, gesturing them to stop. Then he spoke, his resonant voice echoing throughout the chamber.
"Who seeks entry into the Duat?"
Harry answered nervously, "The Anima Summas and their helpers."
The man smiled. "There is much for you to learn before you enter the Duat, and you need to prepare yourselves, and be prepared, for a hazardous journey." He glanced at the woman and smiled. "We once stood where you now stand, many thousands of years ago. We were the Anima Summas of that time, and followed a similar path to the one that you now follow."
"You were the Anima Summas?" asked Hermione, her voice full of the awe she felt. "Who are you?"
"I am the spirit of Osiris," said the man.
"And I am the spirit of Isis," said the woman, her melodious tones washing over the four with the gentleness of a soft breeze.
"We once fought a deadly battle with the Dark Forces of that time," said Osiris. "Our brother Seth became jealous and dissatisfied with the spiritual wealth and stability we brought to the two kingdoms of Egypt. He roamed the world in search of his own source of power, and found it in a dark and evil realm. He summoned the ones who once walked the Earth long before our time, feeding on the souls of the innocent. We prevailed in that contest and banished the Nephilim back to realm of the Dark."
"But it was not without a heavy cost," continued Isis. "We were mortally wounded in that conflict, and our last physical action on this Earth was to bury the dreaded Disc of Gates and its attendant magical spells in such a way that they would not see the light of day again. But we were wrong. That ancient and terrible instrument has now been exposed, and soon so will the spells. Your task is to prevent the Disc of Gates being used to return the Nephilim to our realm."
"It is a terrible thing that lies before you," said Osiris. "And you are nearing the end of the second part of your quest - the council and knowledge of our beloved friend Thoth. We have appeared before you to prepare you for your journey through the Duat to his hidden chamber."
"Be warned," said Isis. "The Duat is not of this Earth, and neither is it of heaven or hell. It is an in-between place, a portal of reckoning to both the Light and the Dark, where the souls of the departed are weighed and judged. Your hearts and minds must be as light as a feather to gain entry to the Light."
"And it is now time for your first trial," said Osiris. "The weighing of your souls. We must be assured that you are all worthy to enter the Duat. Then it will be upon your actions alone, within its strange and terrible confines, that you will be judged."
The four looked on as three forms walked out of the bright glow at the far end of the chamber and stood beside Osiris and Isis, waiting. One of them, a man dressed in ancient Egyptian robes, held a large weighing scale, which he placed on the floor beside him. He then pulled a small white feather from his robes and placed it on one side of the scales, which caused it to dip very slightly in that direction. The other similarly dressed man stood beside the scales holding a ledger and a quill. The third figure was different - it walked on all fours, like a dog, but its head was more like a crocodile. It padded over and flopped onto the floor beside the man holding the ledger.
"Let the Anima Summas approach so that the ceremony may begin," said the one holding the ledger.
"Wh… what's happening?" asked a very nervous Ginny.
Isis smiled. "There is nothing to fear child. I can see into your heart and mind, and I see only pure and good thoughts. We have to enact the 'Weighing of the Heart' ceremony so that you may proceed into the Duat."
"But… but what's that, eh… dog thing?" asked Ron, eyeing the strange-looking animal suspiciously.
"He is the devourer of hearts," said Osiris. "If the Ab causes the scales to tip out of balance, it means that the heart and mind is not pure, and is unworthy to proceed. The devourer will then consume the Ab."
Ron gulped loudly. "And what's the Ab?"
"It is part of you," replied Osiris. "The source of good and bad thoughts. It holds your moral awareness of right and wrong."
Harry and Hermione stepped forward towards Osiris and Isis. Osiris held out his hand and placed it in the centre of Harry's chest, and Isis did likewise with Hermione. They both gasped in astonishment at what happened next.
Harry stared disbelieving as a dim, silvery shape moved out of his body and stood beside him. It was the most startling and amazing experience - the dim shape was himself and yet it was apart from him. He was in two places at the same time, and his consciousness was also in two places at the same time.
"Let the Ab approach the scales," said the one holding the scales.
Harry's dim, silvery shape walked over and then floated up onto one end of the scales. The man with the ledger looked closely, his quill hovering over the ledger, and waited for a few moments. The dog-like thing sat up expectantly.
Harry's physical self held his breath, watching the scales just as closely as the ledger man. The scales stated to tip slowly in the direction of Harry's Ab, but he sighed with relief when he saw that the scales stopped when they were exactly level. His Ab stepped down and walked back over to Harry, where it stepped into his body and disappeared. The man wrote some hieroglyphics into the ledger and the dog-like thing flopped back onto the floor.
Hermione's Ab then stepped forward to be weighed, with the same result as Harry. Osiris and Isis then called Ron and Ginny forward and placed their hands on the centre of their chests.
"Bloody hell!" breathed Ron as his Ab walked over to be weighed. He, too, saw that the scales remained level after slowly tipping towards his Ab. He smirked at the dog-thing when his Ab reunited with him. Ginny's Ab followed and produced the same evenly balanced result as the other three.
"Is my… Ab still inside me?" asked Ginny, voicing the thoughts of all four teens. "I wasn't aware that I had it floating around inside somewhere. Where does it live anyway - in my heart or in my head?"
Isis looked amused as she smiled at Ginny. "The Ab is you Ginny - it isn't a separate entity. You have to understand that there are many aspects to your existence on Earth, and the Ab is just one of them - but all these aspects form the complete whole which is Ginny. I know it must seem very strange to you, but such matters were known to us during our physical existence in ancient Egypt, and were very familiar concepts."
"Uh, what would have happened to me if doggy over there had eaten my Ab?" asked Ron.
Osiris laughed, a powerful and full-blooded laugh. "You would not have been allowed into the Duat. You would have returned to your friends above ground, somewhat diminished but still the Ron that everyone knows and loves. But if your Ab had been in such a state to cause… uh, doggy here to devour it, you would not have been here in the first place. You would not be a helper to the Anima Summas." He nodded to the two men and they walked back into the glowing light, taking the scales and doggy with them.
Hermione frowned, deep in thought. "But what if we were dead, and our souls came here seeking entry into the Duat and then into heaven? What would have happened to our souls if our Abs had failed the test?"
Osiris and Isis frowned as they glanced at each other. Then Isis turned to face Hermione. "I see that you are delving into the ways of the dead. You should not dwell too closely on such matters at the present time; you'll have much on which to reflect later. But I will tell you that if a soul loses its Ab at the weighing ceremony, it still enters the Duat, but is destined to remain there, wandering the hours as shades, until one of two things happen. Either it will succumb to despair and be dragged into the fiery furnace, or it will rise above despair and seek entry back into the Earthly realm, there to strive to do one good deed that will affect the well being of a fellow soul, at which time its Ab will be renewed. Until that time, it will roam in solitude, seeking out wizard-kind who are the ones able to converse with it - you see them as ghosts in the Earthly realm."
Hermione nodded. "Why do we need to be specially prepared to enter the Duat?"
Osiris again smiled. "You must understand, inquisitive one, that the place you are about to enter is not of the physical Earth; as we have told you before, the Duat is the heavenly portal created on Earth to guide dead souls to their spiritual home. But you are not dead, you are still attached to the Earthly Realm, so if you were to enter the Duat unprepared, you would not see the reality of it. You would wander endlessly through a dark and terrifying place and would not see and would have no protection against the things that reside there."
"You must partake of the Shewbread," said Isis, holding before her a cone-shaped loaf on a silver platter. "This will enhance your Light bodies and will enable you to see the substance of what is in the Duat."
"Is that 'What-Is-It', mfkzt, Ma-na?" asked Harry.
Isis nodded. "You have researched well. It is also known as the Elixir of Life, and the Philosopher's Stone. It was used in our time to extend life and to enhance our Light spirits. But now, its process of manufacture has been lost to the world and that is why the Dark Side has so many followers. Come, take a small piece and eat it slowly."
Harry was the first to approach Isis and reached out to take a small slice of the Shewbread from the plate. He stood looking down at it while the other three each took a slice. Then he broke off a small piece and placed it in his mouth, tentatively chewing the strange bread. His eyes opened wide as the bread seemed to dissolve in his mouth, leaving it strangely dry as it was absorbed directly into the tender tissues inside his mouth.
When they'd finished eating, although eating was perhaps the wrong word since nothing was swallowed, they all stood quietly together, wondering what would happen next.
"You should experience a change in your perception of reality within a few minutes," said Isis. "But do not be alarmed. You have not been changed in any way other than your ability to perceive what is around you in the portals of heaven."
Soon, their surroundings seemed to change. Instead of the bare chamber, they saw blue sky and clouds above them and on all sides, stretching into the distance, were green meadows filled with startlingly bright flowers. They felt a warm, gentle breeze, which carried the wonderful aroma of the grass and flowers.
"Something's glowing inside your robes Harry," said Ron, staring at Harry's side.
Harry looked down, then reached inside his robes and pulled out the Eye of Horus. The small white iridescent crystal at its centre was now glowing with a silvery light.
"The Udjat Hor has always been thus," said Osiris. "Only now you are able to properly see it. Guard it well, for without it you will not be able to complete the quest."
"You're eyes, Ginny - they're glowing slightly," said Ron staring at his sister, looking into her eyes. "And so are yours Hermi … and yours Harry," he said turning to look at each of his friends.
"So are yours Ron," said Harry, smiling.
"You now see part of your inner light," said Isis.
"Uh, how long will this last?" asked Ron.
"Until you complete your journey through the Duat," answered Osiris. "But now you are ready to proceed into the second hour. Follow us."
They walked behind the two spirits until they came to a grassy bank, in which was set another large bronze door.
"The second gate," said Osiris. "We will open it for you, but before you go we must tell you one final thing."
Isis looked sadly at the four youngsters. "To reach your goal you will see and experience many strange and frightening things. That is the nature of the Duat. But be brave, never doubt that you will prevail, and always hold true to yourself and to each other."
Osiris and Isis then raised their hands in a gesture of farewell, and they slowly faded from sight.
"It's open," said Hermione looking towards the second gate. "After this one there're ten more, and we have ten unused spells."
"But what about the last one Hermione?" asked Harry.
Hermione shook her head. "I really don't know Harry." The four shrugged their shoulders and walked towards the gate.
Oliver and Katie glanced worriedly at each other as the sounds of heavy fighting drifted up the canyon to their defensive positions opposite the Cave of Spells. Then they looked up towards the top of the cliffs at the far side of the bend in the canyon as they heard several more loud explosions, now much nearer, and bright yellow glows flashing up into the night sky.
They looked on with horror when they saw about one hundred Death Eaters, some of them stained with the yellow light, standing at the top of the cliff and flinging down about a dozen thick ropes to the bottom of the canyon. Then they began to descend, moving quickly to the base of the cliff. Some of them were hit by spells thrown by the Aurors guarding the canyon bend and fell crashing to the rocky ground, but most of them reached the bottom safely and started to run towards the canyon entrance, obviously intent on trapping the main defensive force between two fronts.
"Stay here," Oliver shouted to his team. "I'll see what's happening."
He ran quickly down the canyon towards the bend and stopped to speak quickly with the two team-leaders stationed there. "Dave and the others won't stand a chance. We should try to relieve the pressure on them and move down the canyon. We can attack those latest Death Eaters from behind."
They both nodded and gestured for their Aurors to move forward. But they hadn't gone more than a few yards when Dave and about forty Aurors ran around the bend, flinging spells at the unseen Death Eaters behind them. Dave ran up to Oliver and the other two team-leaders, gasping for breath, a worried frown on his face.
"There were too many of them," he gasped despairingly. "We managed to break through but the others are trapped." He shook his head, a haunted look in his eyes. "There's nothing that we can do for them now. There're nearly three hundred of them down there and it won't be long before they'll be here. We've got to dig in and defend the ground around the cave area. We can't let them break through. Come on."
Dave directed the two teams that made it to the safety of the cave area up beyond the other side of the cave, telling them to take up position in the rocks in case any more Death Eaters dropped into the far side of the canyon. He told Oliver to keep his position opposite the cave, and the other two teams to move back from the bend and dig in among the rocks close by.
Dave ran back with Oliver and settled down beside him, Katie and John Ballot. The sounds of spells and curses could still be heard at the canyon entrance, but they soon became more sporadic and finally stopped. Dave hung his head, looking at the ground, his mind in torment knowing that all four teams trapped down at that end were either dead or badly injured.
"We managed to get one Auror to the Portkey site," he told Oliver, "but he was hit by a curse just as he disappeared. I don't know if he'll arrive back at base safely - I hope to god he does, but even if he can get to the headquarters buildings it's going to take some time before they can get enough Aurors to reinforce our position. I think we're on our own for a while yet Oliver."
He stood up from behind the rock and shouted to the rest of his men, "Get ready - they'll be around that bend any time now. Good luck to you all."
Harry led the other three slowly through the gate, looking into the gloom that lay before them.
"What's that noise?" asked Ginny.
"I think it's water Ginny," Harry answered. "It sounds like waves breaking on the shore."
The gate closed behind them with a loud clang, and the four found themselves standing on a wooden jetty that stretched out over the choppy waters of a very large lake. On both sides, as far as the eye could see in the gloom, stretched a narrow, rocky shoreline. Dark clouds scurried beneath an overcast sky and they could hear the sounds of thunder rolling in from the distant shore. The gentle breeze of the last hour had been replaced by a stiff and gusty wind that tugged intermittently at their robes, causing them to shiver involuntarily, both from the cold and their thoughts of what lay ahead.
"How the devil are we going to get across that!" said Ron.
"Lets walk out onto the jetty," said Harry. "Perhaps there's a boat moored at the end."
They walked slowly towards the end of the little wooden pier and looked down into the dark, choppy waters of the lake, but there wasn't a boat there.
"Great!" exclaimed Ron disdainfully, pointing into the dark water. "Well I'm not bloody well swimming through that! Goodness knows what's lurking in there!"
"You won't have to Ron," said Ginny, clutching his arm and pointing with her other hand to the left side of the jetty. "Here comes our transport unless I'm very much mistaken."
They all looked in the direction Ginny was pointing and saw a low wooden boat slowly coming towards the end of the jetty. The prow and stern were raised at both ends, with a small square wooden cabin in the centre, much in the style depicted on the walls of the Egyptian temples they'd visited. Rising from the wooden cabin was a thin mast, atop which was a light. But the most unnatural thing about the craft was the way in which it was being propelled.
Standing in the stern, pushing on a pole that stretched into the water was a tall, dark-cloaked figure, his head covered by a long pointed hood. As the boat came closer, the four peered at the figure trying to see the face, but it was completely hidden by the large hood. They all felt a bit jumpy, wondering whom it could be. The boat pulled alongside the end of the jetty and stopped.
The figure stood up straight and looked at the four youngsters, his face still cloaked by the hood, and raised his arm, pointing a bony finger towards the centre of the boat.
"I think he wants us to get in," said Hermione nervously.
"Well it's better that than swimming," said Ron stepping into the boat, which rocked dangerously in the choppy waves. He stood and held out his arms to help the two girls get in, and then steadied Harry as he jumped in beside him.
As soon as Harry landed, the figure again bent down and pushed the pole into the water, sending the boat into the lake. The craft soon turned and headed out towards the distant shore at the far end of the strange place.
"I don't think this lake can be very deep," whispered Ron. "Watch him - he's not pushing the pole very far into the water."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that Ron," said Hermione looking up at the top of the mast. "That's no ordinary light - it's a sun disc. I think this must be the Barque of Ra!"
"The what of Ra?" asked Ron.
"The Barque of Ra," she replied. "It was in the Amduat - it's the barge that the sun god, Ra, used to traverse the second hour of the Duat, and it looks like we're going to do the same. It must be a magical craft of some sort - that water looks pretty deep to me - the Amduat says it's a bottomless watery abyss."
They all shivered as they looked back at the enigmatic ferryman, but then jumped as they heard a frightening sound. At first, it started as a low moaning, but quickly became louder, the moans and plaintive cries tugging at their minds. They put their hands over their ears to keep out the dreadful sounds, but they could still hear them. They clung together nervously, not because the noise was particularly loud, but it was the desperate emotion it conveyed - minds in torment.
"What the hell is it?" asked Ginny, her eyes wide.
"It must be the cries of the souls lost in the Duat," said Hermione. "The ones that Osiris and Isis told us about."
They looked across the water, trying to see what was causing the agonised cries, but there was nothing there.
Then Ginny shouted, pointing to the left, "Over there - look."
Just at the edge of their vision, they saw movement in the gloom - dark shapes drifting over the surface of the water. Some of them must have seen the boat because they drifted closer, their cries becoming louder. Then three of them came closer still, almost to the side of the boat.
"Shades!" exclaimed Hermione, her face screwed up in horror.
The three shades reached towards the four youngsters, their shadowy arms held forward in a pleading pose, begging for help. The ferryman suddenly stood up and pointed at the shades, who pulled back from the boat as if they'd been burned. Then they drifted back to join the others. The boat continued on towards the far shore.
"I don't think I like this place very much," wailed Ginny, unable to pull her eyes away from the gyrating forms floating over the water, keeping pace, but also their distance, from the boat.
Harry and Hermione reached out and held her hands, sending soothing thoughts into their friend's mind.
The three looked up when Ron suddenly shouted, "Look up ahead - there's something happening."
The dark water was being whipped up into a frenzy not more than fifty yards in front of them. Ron climbed up onto the cabin to get a better view and shouted down in horror, "It's a whirlpool, and a big one. If we keep on this course we'll be dragged into it!"
They all looked back at the ferryman, who seemed to be putting more effort into poling the boat. Slowly, too slowly for the watching teens, the boat started to veer to one side of the maelstrom. They were now only about twenty yards away.
"There's no way we're going to miss it!" yelled Ron. He jumped back down onto the deck and stood close to the other three. They looked over to the following shades when they detected a change in their pleading cries. Now, the pleading changed to an excited anticipation of what was about to happen.
"They want us to get dragged into it," shouted Harry. "They want us to become lost in this place - like they are!"
"That's why they failed to make it through the Duat," Hermione shouted back, shaking her head. "They don't want to see anyone do what they couldn't. They'd rather we became part of their agony than get to the other side of the lake. If only they could feel compassion for others, they'd have a chance of escaping this hell-hole."
"We're going in!" yelled Ginny.
The ferryman suddenly doubled his efforts, really putting his back into poling the boat through the water and at the last moment he steered it away from the black hole at the centre of the whirlpool and over to the right side, into the madly circulating flow around the edge of it. The barge tipped precariously over to the left and the four held onto each other, leaning to the right to prevent falling into the cabin. The boat put on a burst of speed and then steadied.
They looked back at the deadly vortex and breathed a sigh of relief as the boat was catapulted forward and out of its clutches. The emotive cries coming from the shades again changed, this time to cries of disappointment, and they turned and moved away from the boat, back to join their fellow drifters on the far reaches of the lake. Soon, the shore grew larger in their vision as the barge approached the far side of the lake. The ferryman steered towards a wooden jetty, identical to the one at the other end of the lake, and slowed the boat as he pulled alongside.
He pulled the pole out of the water and stood up straight. He said nothing; he just stood waiting for the four friends to climb up onto the jetty. Ginny was the last one out of the boat, pulled up by Ron and Harry, and stood by their side as the boat pulled away, turned around, and moved back in the direction they'd come.
"We'd better find the third gate," said Harry as he looked over to the end of the jetty. He led the way to the shore and looked along the base of the cliff.
"There it is," he said, pointing to a spot about ten yards to the left.
They walked over and saw that the gate was identical to the other two. Harry pulled the Eye from his robes and placed it into the depression at the centre of the gate and stepped back, gesturing for Hermione to join him.
Hermione pulled the parchment of spells from her robes and pointed to the one to be used on the third gate. Then they held hands and pointed their other hands at the centre of the Eye, saying the strange spell in the ancient Egyptian language. As before, the Eye floated back to Harry and the bronze gate slowly swung open.
Harry led the way through the gate, and they all nervously looked around the bright landscape. They found themselves in a barren, rocky desert that stretched out before them in all directions - there was no path and no other indication where they had to go.
"Which way?" asked Ron.
They all shook their heads. "When in doubt, take the obvious way," said Harry. "Straight ahead."
The four set off over the rock-strewn ground, glancing to both sides for any sign of movement. "This is weird," breathed Hermione. "There's no breeze, no sun, no desert heat, and there's not the slightest movement anywhere. There wasn't anything about this place in the Amduat."
They walked quietly side by side for the next ten minutes, hardly daring to voice their relief that nothing nasty appeared to be in this hour of the Duat. But if they had, they'd have been wrong!
Harry suddenly stopped and held out his arms to halt the others. "What's that?" he said, squinting into the distance ahead of them.
There was movement - several shapes were coming in their direction, but their movements were strangely disjointed. They all gasped as the figures got closer and they could make out their features.
"Get your wands out," shouted Ron. "I think we're in for a fight!"
Six very tall things, each about seven feet, shuffled slowly towards them. They were the strangest creatures they'd ever laid eyes on; their thin spindly legs supported disproportionately thick bodies, which were hunched over as if deformed. Their heads were straight out of a nightmare, with long pointed chins, wide grinning mouths, long pointy noses, small beady eyes and ridged foreheads that swept up to bald, pointed crowns. They were completely naked, with thick fur surrounding their stomachs and thighs, and they all carried very large and deadly-looking knives, which they brandished above their heads menacingly.
They were about twenty yards away when Ron sent the first stunning spell at the creature in the lead. "Bloody hell!" he exclaimed when the thing just shrugged off the spell, not even faltering in its progress towards them.
Harry raised his wand and sent a powerful Flipendus at the same creature. Again, the spell had no effect.
"Quick Harry," shouted Hermione, holding out her left hand.
Harry grasped Hermione's hand and they lifted their other hands, palms upwards, above their heads and shouted the spell they'd used during the attack on the school the previous year.
A beam of silvery-blue light shot from their upraised hands and met about two feet above their heads. Where the beams met, an emerald green shimmering light appeared. It then spread outwards in all directions for about ten feet, and then cascaded down until it met the ground. All four of them were covered by the emerald green light, just as the first creature raised his knife and brought it down powerfully in the direction of Hermione's head.
She closed her eyes instinctively, but the protective shell of light deflected the knife away from her. The creature grunted in surprise and then bellowed in anger. He again raised the knife and struck, but it couldn't penetrate their shield. The other five things had arrived by now and they surrounded the four, lashing out at them with their knives, but they couldn't break through.
Eventually, after five minutes of trying, the creatures just stood, looking confused and panting from the effort of repeatedly striking the green shield. They roared in frustration, turned around and shuffled back the way they'd come.
Harry and Hermione lifted the spell and they all breathed a sigh of relief. "What the bloody hell were those things?" asked Ron.
"I haven't got the faintest idea Ron," said Hermione, "but I hope that's the last we see of them."
"Why do you think our spells didn't work on them?" asked Ginny.
"Either they're very tough or normal magic doesn't work in the Duat," said Hermione.
"But your spell worked!" exclaimed Ron.
"But that's not normal magic Ron," said Harry. "It's ancient Egyptian, so maybe that's why it worked here."
"Well I hope you've got plenty of those spells up your sleeves," he replied. "I think we're going to need them!"
They walked on through the desert, keeping a wary eye out in case the creatures decided to come back for another go at them, when they again heard the agonised cries of shades. They stopped and looked to their left where they could see the shadowy forms floating towards them.
"What can we do?" shouted Ginny.
One of the shades moved quickly and stood in front of Ginny, undulating, and sending out pleas for help both vocally and telepathically. Ginny instinctively held out an arm, wanting to dispel the shade's agony, when the shadowy form reached out and grasped her, trying to pull her towards the other shades hovering no more than ten yards away.
"No!" shouted Harry, grasping Ginny around the waist. "Help me, all of you."
Ron and Hermione grabbed hold of Ginny and held her firmly, preventing the shade from dragging her away. The shade cried out in an agony of disappointment and two more of them floated over to help pull Ginny into their midst.
"Don't listen to them," shouted Hermione. "They're just like the other ones in the watery realm - they just want to see us fail and drag us down to their level. Keep your minds fixed on something good, like getting through the Duat."
All four concentrated on the thought of achieving their goal, and successfully reaching the end of their quest. The shades howled in protest and then drifted back over the desert, away from the positive thoughts of the four friends.
The four walked on and before long saw the far side of the desert. They hurried towards the rearing cliffs that marked its boundary and soon stood before the fourth gate.
"I need a drink after all that," said Ginny, rummaging in the rucksack on Ron's back for a bottle of water.
"And I need something to eat!" exclaimed Ron, sliding the sack from his back.
The yellow glow coming from around the bend in the canyon grew brighter. Dave Henson tensed visibly as he stared unblinking towards the place where the Death Eaters would soon emerge.
"Get ready," he shouted to his Aurors crouching behind the many rocks that lined the canyon walls. Oliver glanced around to make sure that all his team were prepared for the coming fight, and he nodded in satisfaction at the determined look they all wore. He watched Katie out of the corner of his eye and felt the first tendrils of fear invade his mind at the possibility of her being hurt in the affray - or worse. Katie, however, looked as focussed and determined as any of them. They all stiffened at the sound of hundreds of feet pounding on the rocky ground, and held their wands ready.
The first of the Death Eaters, about twenty of them, rushed around the canyon bend and flung themselves to the ground, sending curses in every direction, looking for places to take cover. The two teams closest to them laid down a volley of spells, and stunned or killed about half of them where they lay. The rest managed to find refuge among the rocks at the opposite side of the canyon, from where they directed the main force of the black-cloaked army that rushed into sight to the protective cover of the rocks.
The sky lit up with the yellow glow of some of the Death Eaters and the hundreds of beams of light that were flung across the canyon. Several of the Death Eaters dropped, hit by the deadly torrent of spells, but so did some of the Aurors. Dave could see that the two teams closest to the Dark army were coming under increasing fire, and their position became increasingly precarious. There were simple too many for them to handle.
"Fall back closer to us!" shouted Dave. "We'll cover you."
Oliver's team increased their fire, as did the teams in the cave further up the canyon, and most of the fleeing Aurors reached the cover of the rocks beside Oliver's team. Some of the Death Eaters tried to run across the canyon to the opposite side, intending to take up the positions vacated by the two teams and form a second line of attack, but they were cut down by the defending Aurors before they'd managed to get half way across. There followed a lull in the fighting as both sides took stock, and Dave moved stealthily among his forces, giving encouragement and taking stock of their losses.
He moved back beside Oliver, Katie and John, but before he could give his assessment of their position, jerked his head to the right. At the far end of the canyon they could all hear and see the effects of a number of Whammos exploding. Dave sighed, fearing the worse. He knew that his people would soon be caught between two points of attack. All they could do now was wait for the inevitable.
Lord Voldemort stood at the front of the hundred or so Death Eaters at the far end of the canyon, looking along their ranks. "Victory is close," he hissed. "You will be the ones who will tip the balance in our favour, but be careful not to attack the Aurors in the cave unless you get a good target to hit. I don't want the cave damaged in any way that might prevent me getting at the spells. Now go - for victory and glory!"
A loud belch reverberated around the rocky third hour of the Duat. "Sorry," whispered Ron as the other three looked at him with feigned disgust. "Well, I enjoyed those pasties!"
"We'd better get the fourth gate open," Hermione said, looking at Harry. They went through the same procedure as before, and the bronze gate slowly swung open.
"What's going to be here I wonder," said Ginny nervously.
"We'll soon find out," replied Ron as he led the way into the fourth hour of the Duat.
"Sand!" exclaimed Ron as the other walked up alongside him. "All I can see is sand!"
The bright landscape was covered with sand dunes for as far as they could see, the long, deep ripples etched into their steep sides indicating that this realm was no stranger to high winds. Straight ahead, they could see the semblance of a path winding its way between the dunes. "We'd better get started," said Harry pointing towards the path.
The path was quite firm to start with, but they soon had to struggle through the deep sand that had blown from the tops of the dunes. In parts, they had to trudge through sand that came up to their thighs, and they were all soon perspiring and puffing with the effort.
"I hope it's going to get easier than this!" exclaimed Hermione, taking a swig from her water bottle. "This is murder!"
Ron, who was in the lead, walked into the next high sand drift and slowed as it quickly reached the level of his waist. Suddenly he shouted and fell back onto the top of the sand, thrashing about with his arms and trying to pull his legs free. The others stared in horror as a long, sinewy snake reared up in front of Ron, its body wrapped around his right leg. The snake had four short stubby legs and just behind its head sprouted a pair of bat-like wings. It reared higher into the air, poised to strike at the helpless Ron with two very large fangs, which dripped a milky-white liquid.
"Geroff! Geroff!" shouted Ron as he shook his leg in a futile attempt to dislodge the snake.
Harry raised his wand and pointed it at the snake's body, midway between Ron's leg and the snake's head. "STUPEFY".
The powerful beam hit the snake and it immediately flopped backwards onto the sand, unconscious. Harry struggled through the sand and helped Ron to unwind the snake from his leg, then pulled him backwards to the safety of the shallower sand.
"Well at least we know that ordinary spells work in this realm," said Hermione after she'd checked that Ron hadn't been bitten. "Those creatures we met earlier must have been immune or something."
They all looked uneasily at the path ahead, not knowing how many of the snake creatures lay in wait beneath the sand. "I don't think I can go through there," said Ginny, shivering despite the perspiration running down her face. She looked pleadingly at Harry, hoping that he could come up with something.
Harry thought, rubbing his chin with his hand. "Well I could transform and fly you across, but I won't be able to carry you all at the same time, two's the most I can carry. And whichever way you look at it, one of you'll be left alone. I don't want to do that - you remember what happened the last time we split up, and those things have got legs and wings, so they don't have to rely on hiding under the sand."
"I don't know about you," said Ron, "but I'd rather see what's coming at me!"
They all nodded glumly, then Harry exclaimed, "Ron! Did you bring any of that rope with you like you did in the labyrinth?"
"Yes, I did Harry," said Ron looking puzzled. "What've you got in mind?"
"I was thinking," he replied. "I can transform and carry two of you on my back. And if we tie one end of the rope to the rucksack and loop the other end around my neck, I should be able to drag one of you over the top of the sand - if you sit on the rucksack."
"I don't know Harry," said Ron doubtfully. "You'll still have to cart three of us at the same time. Even you aren't that strong."
"I know the going will be a bit slow," Harry persisted, "but if we do it in short hops, say from one safe part of the path to the next, I'll be able to take a breather in between. What do you say?"
"I say let's give it a go," said Hermione. "As long as you don't fly too high, Harry. If you find it too much, we'll just have to stop and think of something else. Who's going to ride on the rucksack?"
"You two girls are the lightest," said Ron, "so you'd better ride on Harry's back. I'll take the rucksack."
It must have been a comical sight if anyone had been around to see them. But it was certainly effective, with Harry flying about ten yards above and just in front of Ron riding on the rucksack holding his wand ready in case any snakeheads popped up out of the sand. After about half a mile, Harry landed on a bare part of the path and transformed. Ron walked up to the out-of-breath Harry, who leaned against him, gasping, "This is hard. I think it was worse dragging you along than carrying the girls. Can you and Ginny manage to sit on the rucksack while Ron rides on my back?" he asked Hermione.
Hermione looked at the rucksack. "It's quite big Harry, but I don't think it's big enough for both of us to sit on it. Look, I'm a lot lighter than Ron. What if I ride the rucksack and Ron and Ginny go on your back?"
"Ok," he replied, still a bit out of breath. "I'll give it a go, but hang on for a few minutes for me to get my breath back."
They all sat on the path, using the break to drink more water. After about five minutes, Harry got back on his feet and looked down at the other three. "Come on then, we'd better… What!"
Harry turned and looked up into the sky in the direction that Ron was staring with his mouth wide open. "I think we've got some more company," Ron blurted.
In the distance, Harry could see a number of the snakes, about fifteen of them, flying towards their position. They flew with an odd undulating sort of movement, but they didn't appear to be flying very fast.
"Oh lord," breathed Hermione looking around for some sort of cover, but not seeing any. "We'll have to fight them off here. Arhhhh!" Hermione pointed to her left, towards the top of a large dune about fifty yards away.
The others followed her wide-eyed gaze and saw another ten or so of the snakes slithering down from the top of the dune, heading in their direction. "We'll never be able to fight them all off," shouted Ron. "We can't keep our eyes peeled on the ground and above our heads at the same time!"
"You three take care of the ones on the ground, and I'll have a go at those others up there," said Harry, just before he transformed. He pushed off from the ground and rapidly gained height, trying to get above the fifteen flying snakes. He heard the sounds of stunning spells from below, but didn't have time to check how his friends were doing. Five of the snakes turned in his direction, but the other ten started to angle down to the ground towards Ron, Hermione and Ginny. Harry knew that his friends would soon be overcome by the attack from above, and pulled his wings back into his body, streaking down towards them.
Harry zoomed through the five snakes, scattering them in all directions, and blazed down towards the other ten. The snakes didn't know what hit them. They were still about thirty yards above the three fighting on the ground, their eyes locked on their exposed necks, when Harry stormed into them, his deadly talons stretching to their full extent. By the time Harry had flown through their ranks, five of them had dropped to the sand, their heads hanging lifelessly from their shattered bodies. Harry turned quickly and winged towards the remaining five, screeching loudly when he saw that one of them was very close to Ron's exposed head.
Ron glanced up and ducked, just as the snake struck down at his neck and missed. That was the last thing the snake did - Harry grabbed it in his talons, flew back up to the other four, and flung it directly at them, making them veer away from his friends. Then he again attacked, using his talons and sharp beak to rip at the snakes. They stood no chance and soon all five lay lifeless on the sand.
Meanwhile, the other three stood looking at Harry's aerial fight. Their own fight was over, all twelve snakes lay stunned, the nearest more than ten yards away.
"Harry watch out!" shouted Ron as the five snakes that Harry had scattered earlier closed in to attack him from above.
Harry deftly dodged their attack, and hovered to one side as the stunning spells from his friends below put paid to any further aggressive tendencies from the five snakes, all of them falling to the ground stunned.
Harry landed by the side of his friends and transformed. Hermione rushed up to him and flung her arms around his neck, holding him tightly. As they connected, no words were necessary, each feeling the other's sense of relief that they were still alive and well.
"I hate to break this up," said Ginny, grinning, "but I really would like to get out of this place before any more of them come after us."
Harry kissed Hermione tenderly before stepping back and transforming into his eagle form once more. Ron and Ginny climbed onto his back and Hermione passed the end of the rope up for Ginny to loop it around Harry's neck. Then they set off across the sandy realm, Hermione feeling a little easier now that she was on terra firma once more.
Harry found the new weight distribution a lot easier to handle, and managed to fly for almost a mile at a time before having to land and rest. They all kept a wary eye on both the ground and the sky in case of more attacks, but none came.
"Over there!" shouted Ginny, pointing ahead and slightly to the left. "I think I can see the gate in that big sand dune!"
Harry angled to the left, landed just at the base of the dune and transformed. The four grinned as they looked at the bronze gate, the entrance into the fifth hour of the Duat, happy that they'd managed to survive.
"Well the next place can't be much worse than this one," said Ron, taking a swig from his water bottle. "Hermione?"
Ron's face fell as he saw the look of dread on Hermione's beautiful face. "If the Amduat's right, the next hour is the realm of Sokar," she said quietly.
"Who's he when he's at home?" asked Ginny, feeling slightly nervous.
"He's the demon god of the dead," whispered Hermione. "He's the main demon god of the Duat; he tries to fling the souls passing through his realm into the fiery depths of hell."
"Charming!" exclaimed Ron.
"Come on Hermione," said Harry gently. "We'd better open the gate."
Harry was the first to walk slowly and tentatively through the open gate, and quickly stepped back when he caught a glimpse of what was there. He looked at the others and exhaled loudly. "It doesn't look a very nice place in there!"
"Come on Harry," said Hermione entwining her hand in his. "We haven't got much choice. Let's go in."
Author's Notes -Please take a few moments to leave a review - I really do need to know what you think of this chapter. Many thanks to those who've reviewed so far - it's much appreciated.
There's a few images relating to this chapter on my picture board :
- The Giza Plateau - the Great Pyramid is the one furthest away.
- The Great Pyramid
- Western Mastaba Field - where they started to look for Djedi's tomb.
- Carving of Thoth in Djedi's tomb - pointing the way to the Duat
- The Barque of Ra
- The Weighing of the Souls Ceremony - with 'Doggy'.
- The Canyon at Qumran where the fighting takes place.
Coming soon - Chapter 13 - A Prediction Realised.