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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Cook Robin

«Sphinx», Robin Cook

Иллюстрация к книге

Concerning Egypt itself I shall extend my remarks to a great length, because there is no country that possesses so many wonders, nor any that has such a number of works that defy descriptions.

– Herodotus






Emeni thrust his copper chisel through the closely packed limestone chips directly ahead of him and felt it hit against solid masonry. He did it again, just to be sure. Without doubt he had reached the inner door. Beyond lay treasure the likes of which he could hardly fathom; beyond was the house of eternity of the young pharaoh, Tutankhamen, buried fifty-one years previously.

With renewed enthusiasm he dug into the densely packed rubble. The dust made breathing difficult. Sweat dripped from his angular face in a steady stream. He was on his stomach in a pitch-black tunnel barely wide enough even for his thin, sinewy body. Cupping his hand, he raked the loosened limestone under him until he could get it past his foot. Then like a burrowing insect he pushed the chips behind him, where they were gathered into a reed basket by the water carrier Kemese. Emeni did not feel any pain as his abraded hand groped in the blackness for the plastered wall ahead. His fingertips traced the seal of Tutankhamen on the blocked door, undisturbed since the young pharaoh had been interred.

Resting his head on his left arm, Emeni let his whole body go limp. Pain spread through his shoulders, and behind him he could hear Kemese’s labored breathing as he dropped the gravel into the basket.

“We have reached the inner door,” Emeni said with a mixture of fear and excitement. More than anything else, Emeni wanted this night to be over. He was not a thief. But there he was, tunneling into the eternal sanctuary of the hapless Tutankhamen. “Have Iramen fetch my mallet.” Emeni noticed that his voice had a strange warbling quality within the narrow confines of the tunnel. Kemese squealed delight at the news and scrambled backward out of the tunnel, dragging his reed basket.

Then there was silence. Emeni felt the walls of the tunnel press in upon him. He struggled against his claustrophobic fear, remembering how his grandfather Amenemheb had supervised the digging of this small tomb. Emeni wondered if Amenemheb had touched the surface directly above him. Rolling over, he put his palms against the solid rock, and it reassured him. The plans of Tutankhamen’s tomb that Amenemheb had given to his son Per Nefer, Emeni’s father, who had, in turn, given them to Emeni, were accurate. Emeni had tunneled exactly twelve cubits from the outer door and had hit the inner door. Beyond lay the antechamber. It had taken two nights of backbreaking labor, but by morning it would be over. Emeni planned to remove only four golden statues, whose location was also pinpointed in the plans. One statue for himself and one for each of his co-conspirators. Then he would reseal the tomb. Emeni hoped the gods would understand. He would not steal for himself. The single golden statue was needed to pay for the complete embalming and funerary preparation of his parents.

Kemese reentered the tunnel, pushing ahead of him his reed basket containing the mallet and an oil lamp. It also contained a bronze dagger with an ox-bone handle. Kemese was a real thief, with no scruples to limit his appetite for gold.

With the mallet and the copper chisel, Emeni’s experienced hands made quick work of the mortar holding the stone blocks in front of him. He marveled at the insignificance of Tutankhamen’s tomb when compared with the cavernous tomb of Pharaoh Seti I, on which he was currently employed. But the insignificance of Tutankhamen’s was a blessing in disguise, for otherwise Emeni would never have been in a position to enter the tomb. Pharaoh Horemheb’s formal edict to erase the memory of Tutankhamen had removed the Ka-priests of Amen from standing watch, and Emeni had only to bribe the night watchman of the workers’ huts with two measures of grain and beer. Even that was probably unnecessary, since Emeni had planned to enter Tutankhamen’s house of eternity during the great feast of Ope. The entire staff of the necropolis, including most of the population of Emeni’s own village, the Place of Truth, were all rejoicing in Thebes proper on the east side of the great Nile. Yet, despite the precautions, Emeni was still more anxious than he’d ever been in his entire life, and this anxiety drove him on to frenzied exertion with the mallet and chisel. The block in front of him grated forward, then thudded onto the floor of the chamber beyond.

Emeni’s heart stopped as he half-expected to be set upon by demons of the underworld. Instead, his nostrils picked out the aromatic smell of cedar and incense and his ears recorded the solitude of eternity. With a sense of awe he worked his way forward and entered the tomb headfirst. The silence was deafening, the blackness impenetrable. Looking back into the tunnel, he glimpsed faint, attenuated moonlight as Kemese worked his way forward. Groping like a blind man, he sought to give Emeni the oil lamp.

“Can I enter?” asked Kemese to the darkness after handing over the lamp and the tinder.

“Not yet,” answered Emeni, busy with the light. “Go back and tell Iramen and Amasis that it’ll be about a half-hour before we start refilling the tunnel.”

Kemese grumbled and, like a crab, worked his way backward through the tunnel.

A lone spark leaped from the wheel and caught the tinder. Deftly Emeni applied it to the wick of the oil lamp. Light sprang up and pierced the darkness like sudden warmth entering a cold room.

Emeni froze, his legs almost buckling. In the flickering half-light he could make out the face of a god, Amnut, devourer of the dead. The oil lamp shook in his trembling hands, and he stumbled back against the wall. But the god did not advance. Then, as the light played over its golden head, revealing its ivory teeth and its slender, stylized body, Emeni realized he was looking at a funerary bed. There were two others, one with the head of a cow, the other a lion. To the right, against the wall, were two life-size statues of the boy king Tutankhamen, guarding the entrance to the burial chamber. Emeni had already seen similar gilded statues of Seti I being carved in the house of the sculptors.

Emeni carefully avoided a garland of dried flowers dropped on the threshold. He moved quickly, isolating two gilded shrines. With reverence he unlatched the doors and lifted the golden statues from their pedestals. One was an exquisite statue of Nekhbet, a vulture goddess of upper Egypt; the other, Isis. Neither had the name of Tutankhamen. That was important.

Taking the mallet and chisel, Emeni moved under the Amnut funerary bed and quickly made an opening into the side chamber. According to the plans of Amenemheb, the other two statues Emeni wanted were in a coffer in this smaller room. Ignoring a strong sense of foreboding, Emeni entered the room, holding the oil lamp in front of him. To his relief, there were no terrifying objects. The walls were rough-hewn rock. Emeni recognized the chest he wanted from the beautiful image on the top. There, carved in relief, was a young queen offering the pharaoh Tutankhamen bouquets of lotus, papyrus, and poppies. But there was a problem. The lid was locked in some clever way and would not open. Emeni carefully set down the oil lamp on a reddish-brown cedar cabinet and examined the coffer more closely. He was unaware of the activity in the tunnel behind him.

Kemese had already reached its lip, with Iramen right behind him. Amasis, an enormous Nubian, having great difficulty pushing his bulk through the narrow passage, was farther back, but the other two could already see Emeni’s shadow dancing grotesquely on the floor and wall of the antechamber. Kemese gripped the bronze dagger in his rotting teeth and oozed headfirst from the tunnel onto the floor of the tomb. Silently he helped Iramen to a standing position beside him. The two waited, scarcely daring to breathe until, with a minor clatter of loose gravel, Amasis finally entered the chamber. Fear quickly metamorphosed to wild-eyed greed as the three peasants eyed the unbelievable treasure spread around them. Never in their lives had they ever seen such marvelous objects, and it was all there for the taking. Like a pack of starved Russian wolves the three launched themselves into the carefully arranged objects. Densely packed coffers were ripped open and dumped. Gold attached to furniture and chariots was ripped off.

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