Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus: Chapter Five

Gah! Once again I got so busy with Theo Four that I had to be reminded. Here is the next chapter of Theo Three, THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS.

For those of you just tuning in, I am posting a chapter a month of Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus to help tide you over until the book comes out in April. I also need to post my standard spoiler alert:

WARNING, This chapter of Book Three, Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus, MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR BOOK TWO, Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. So if you haven’t read that yet, STOP RIGHT NOW. The rest of the chapter is up under the cut in order to protect those who haven’t read Book Two yet.

C H A P T E R  F I V E

HE N RY  MA K E S   A N   U N E X PE C T E D  D I S C OV E RY

STILTON HAD THE DRIVER DROP ME at the corner of the square then take him around to the back of the building so we wouldn’t be seen together and raise any suspicions.

I opened the front door of the museum and peered cautiously inside. The foyer was a jumbled mess, partially assembled display cases were scattered throughout and half-unpacked crates littered the floor. At first glance, it appeared empty. Then I spied Clive Fagenbush coming down the stairs, carrying an enormous crate.

Like a hound on a scent, he quickly found me.

“Where have you been? Your parents and grandmother have been looking all over for you.” He seemed oddly pleased, as if he hoped I’d be getting in trouble for it.

“I was out for a walk,” I told him. It felt as if I’d been gone for days, but it hadn’t been more than two hours.

His look of disbelief told me what he thought of that excuse. Fagenbush managed to be more aware of my clandestine activities than anyone else, so he had good reason to be suspicious. He set the crate down and came over to where I stood. He confirmed we were alone, then lowered his voice. “Do you have a message for me to give to Wigmere?”

“Nope. Not a thing.” I stepped around the crate to make my way to the family withdrawing room, but he moved to cut me off.

“You’ re supposed to report to Wigmere every day. Through me,” he pointed out, his long nose quivering in frustration. “Have you come across anything else of note down in long-term storage? Anything else that Augustus Munk might have had hidden there?”

“Nothing more,” I said. “You can tell Wigmere I’ m still looking.”

“Since you’re not having any luck, perhaps someone with more experience ought to have a look. You might be missing something.”

I arched an eyebrow, like I’ d seen Mum do. “Wigmere seems to trust me with the task.”

His lip curled in disdain. “Not everyone is as easily fooled by you as he is. Besides, if you’re so very trustworthy, why did you sneak out today?”

Keeping tabs on me now, was he? “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

“Wigmere has made you my business. And in spite of what I think of you, I have no intention of failing in my duties.”

Fagenbush sharpened his gaze, and I resisted a shudder. “I will have your reports for Wigmere. I will not let an eleven-year-old girl derail my career with the Brotherhood. Do you understand me? You can make this easy on us both, or you can make it quite difficult.”

“We’ll have to see about that,” I muttered.

He recoiled in surprise. “What did you say?”

“I said, Have you seen my cat? I can’t seem to find her this morning.”

Before he could say anything further, an imperious voice came from the nearby hallway.

“But where is the gel?”

Grandmother! While I was rarely glad of her visits, I had to admit that today she’d timed it perfectly. Fagenbush shot me a dark look, then scuttled back up the stairs to retrieve another crate.

Grandmother’s voice continued. “She’s usually always underfoot, and now when I have need of her, she can’ t be found. How very contrary of her.”

A horrible thought occurred to me. What if she had another one of those beastly governesses in tow? Just as I was considering hiding, she barreled into the room with Father trailing behind her. He looked quite put out.

“I don’t know where she is, Mother, but perhaps next time if you’d let us know ahead that you planned to visit, we could be sure she was here to greet you.”

Grandmother paused and surveyed the mess around her. “Really, Alistair. Is this any way to run a museum? It’s a pigsty. It’s bad enough you chose to work; the least you could do is keep your museum tidy.”

“We’re preparing a new exhibit, Mother. And we’re closed for preparations, so no one will have to see the mess. Except for those who drop by unannounced,” he said pointedly.

“Theodosia! There you are,” Grandmother said, sailing toward me. “Where have you been, child? We’ve nearly turned this place upside down looking for you. It was most inconsiderate of you to disappear.”

I opened my eyes wide and tried to look innocent. “I’ve been in the basement all day, cataloging the items down there.”

“Really?” Father frowned. “That was the first place I looked.”

“Well,” I demurred. “I did have to come upstairs to use the facilities. Perhaps you just missed me?”

Grandmother thumped her cane. “Do not be vulgar.”

“What would you prefer I call it, Grandmother? The water closet?”

“I would prefer you didn’t call it anything at all. It’s not spoken of in polite company. Now, Sopcoate seemed rather fond of you. I thought perhaps you’d have some ideas.”

Oh no! I did not want to discuss Admiral Sopcoate with Grandmother Throckmorton! She’ d been rather sweet on him, which, as disgusting as it was, wasn’t nearly so bad as him turning out to be an agent of Chaos. She thought he’d died a hero’s death when really he’ d simply escaped with his fellow Serpents of Chaos. “Ideas for what?” I asked cautiously.

Father clapped his hands together. “Well, now that you’ve found her, I think I’ll be off to the workroom.”

Honestly. He was such a coward sometimes!

Grandmother waved him away. “Very well. I’ll see myself out once Theodosia and I have finished. Come, gel. I don’t want to stand in this mess. Let’s go to the withdrawing room. I only have a few minutes before I must leave for the admiralty.”

Thank heavens for small favors I thought as I meekly followed her into the room our family used as a refuge from museum business.

“Sit down,” she said, taking a seat on the small red-velvet settee.

I perched myself on the edge of a chair. It doesn’t do to get too comfortable around Grandmother.

“So.” She glanced at me briefly, then turned to study the clock on the mantel. “There’s been no more word on Admiral Sopcoate.”

“I’m very sorry, Grandmother,” I murmured.

“Yes, well. It can’t be helped. However, I’ve decided that something must be done to commemorate his courage and patriotism.” She speared me with a gaze. “It’s the least we can do, don’t you think?”

“Er, yes, Grandmother.”

She gave a small satisfied nod, pleased that, for once, she and I were in accord. If only she knew! But I’d been forbidden to tell her. Not to mention, I wasn’t certain how she’d take the news. She was a devout Conservative and it might do her in if she realized she’d been consorting with an enemy, however unknowingly. “What did you have in mind?”

She stood up and went over to the fireplace. “Something grand, I should think. With lots of pomp and ceremony. A big brass band and dress uniforms. Maybe even a forty-one-gun salute. It seems appropriate for a hero such as Sopcoate.”

“But Grandmother . . .” I had to step carefully here. “There are many heroes who don’t receive a forty-one-gun salute, aren’t there? Otherwise, we’d hear the guns going off constantly. I imagine there must be regulations for who gets that sort of fanfare, don’t you think?”

She scowled at me. “You sound just like the admiralty.”

“I beg your pardon?”

She sighed and turned back to the fireplace. “The admiralty has finally agreed to allow me to hold a memorial service for Sopcoate. However, they stopped short of letting me use Westminster Abbey or have his coffin paraded through London on a gun carriage. They were strangely reluctant to honor him in the proper manner, which made me just that much more determined. I will not have him snubbed or forgotten.”

How Grandmother had managed to convince the admiralty to allow a memorial service, I’ d never know. I could only assume it was approved by someone who wasn’t cleared to know the true reason for Sopcoate’s disappearance. Since I had vowed to be tactful, all I said was “Perhaps it had less to do with his status as a hero and more to do with the fact that there isn’t a body?”

“Either way, it is unforgivable. Now, I have selected a mahogany coffin, lined with a tufted mattress made of silk. I decided Sopcoate would not want ruffles. I’ve ordered an inscribed brass plate and brass handles, and, for the pall, I’ve chosen silk, not velvet, since it is nearly spring. Don’t you agree?”

It seemed pointless to mention —yet again —that there was no body to put in this fancy coffin, so I merely nodded my head.

“I’ ve also hired a carriage with six horses. They tried to talk me into only four, but I think Sopcoate deserves at least six. I’ve also arranged for black crepe scarves, black gloves, and black hatbands to be distributed to all those attending the service. Oh, and black ostrich plumes as well. I do think they add so much dignity to a funeral, don’t you?”

“Actually, Grandmother, I’ve never been to a funeral,” I pointed out.

She turned around to face me. “But of course! You weren’t even born yet when my dear husband passed on.” She paused for a moment, dreamy-eyed. “Now t h at was a funeral.” Grandmother clucked her tongue. “If you’ve never attended a funeral before, you’ll need to be fitted for proper mourning clothes.”

“Mourning clothes?”

“Of course. You cannot attend in anything but unrelieved black.” She thumped her cane. “I’ll be back in a day or two with a seamstress so we can get you fitted.” Before she could elaborate, the sound of the front door crashing against the wall made us both jump.

“What on earth—” Grandmother began.

“Is anybody in this moldy old place?”

I leaped to my feet. “Henry?” Horrified, I ran to the front door. There my brother stood, hands on his hips, glaring into the foyer.

“I say, what’s all that racket?” Father appeared on the top step.

“It’s Henry, Father,” I told him. “He’s home for Easter holidays.”

“I would have been here loads sooner,” Henry said, fixing his glare on me, “if someone hadn’t neglected to come fetch me. Which reminds me. I need cab fare to pay for the hansom.”

Father came down the stairs in a hurry. “Why didn’t you tell us, Theodosia? We would have gone to pick him up ourselves.”

I squelched a bubble of irritation. While it was true that I was usually the one to remember such things, it didn’t seem fair that I should get in trouble when I forgot.

The cabby stuck his head in the door. “Where’s me blunt, mate? You said someone ’ere would pay me. You’d best not be messin’ wif ol’ Bert here.”

“I’m not,” Henry said, then turned to me. “I need cab fare,” he repeated.

“Well, I certainly don’t have it,” I told him. “Father? We need to pay for Henry’s cab.”

“A young child taking a cab, all by himself?” Grandmother sounded scandalized. She had followed me into the foyer and now stood in the doorway looking down her long nose at us.

Father stepped outside to pay the cabby. As Grandmother made a path through the crates and artifacts in our direction, Henry sidled up to me. “I had thought things were different between us, but I can see that I was wrong. You’ re still up to your old ways.”

“No, Henry. Honestly. I just simply forgot —”

“You? Miss Know-it-all? Forget? Ha. You’ve always threatened to forget to remind Mum and Dad, but why this time?”

“No, really. I did. You see —” How was I to explain it to him? Where to even begin?

“See? It’s like I said. You forgot.”

I hate it when Henry is right. I especially hate it when he is right and I am wrong. The truth is, I would n o t have remembered even if Grandmother hadn’t been waiting. Or even if the wretched scorpions hadn’t ambushed me.

Before we could continue our conversation, Grandmother reached us and began fussing over Henry, who lapped it up like Isis with a bowl of cream. At least now I could make my escape.

I edged toward one of the pillars, hoping to slip out of sight unnoticed. I wanted to head for the reading room and research the oracle ritual Awi Bubu and Trawley had used. Maybe there were clues that might explain how both Ratsy and I had managed to have the same prediction.

I had nearly made it to the hall when I had to hop out of the way as Vicary Weems strode by. He held his nose so high in the air he didn’t even realize he’d nearly bowled me over. Beast. I waited to see what he was up to.

Father had returned, and Weems pranced toward him, throwing a glance at Henry as if he were something nasty my cat had dragged in. Weems cleared his throat. “Excuse me, sir?”

Father, who had just managed to get Grandmother out the door, looked annoyed. “What is it, Weems?”

He cleared his throat again and tried to look as if what he was about to say pained him. However, the relish in his eyes belied that. “We’ve had a note from Lord Chudleigh, sir. He reminds us that the board of directors is still waiting for the museum’s inventory, which was due Friday.”

After the recent fiasco with all of London’s mummies ending up on our doorstep and suspicion landing, however briefly, on Father, the museum directors had decided they wanted a detailed inventory of all our artifacts, something that hadn’t been done in years —if ever. Presumably, the board members wanted a head count in case one of our artifacts decided to wander off. They completely missed the point that all the other artifacts had migrated here.

Father sighed and stabbed his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Yes, Weems. But as you can see, I’ m a little busy at the moment trying to get this new exhibit ready for the opening.”

“Yes, sir. I understand. But the opening is two weeks away, while the inventory was due three days ago. I find that it is all a question of managing one’s time proper —”

“Thank you, Weems,” Father interrupted, not sounding the least bit thankful. “I’ll have it to him directly.”

Weems quivered in righteous indignation as he gave a crisp “Very well, sir,” then high-stepped it out of there.

Honestly, how does he not trip over his own feet like that?

“Theodosia?”

Oops. “Yes, Father?”

“Have you finished inventorying the basement yet?”

“Almost done, Father. Just one more shelf, really.”

“Well then, get to it. I need it by the end of business today so I can get it to Chudleigh first thing in the morning.”

“Yes, Father.” Assigning me to inventory the basement had been a combination treat/punishment. (Yes, only my father would try to combine those two!) It was also an attempt to keep me occupied, since Grandmother had been unsuccessful in finding a governess who’d stick.

My research on the oracle rituals would have to wait. I changed direction and hurried to my small closet to fetch my ledger.

A miasma of cursed magic had hung over the basement for some time, but I hadn’t been able to pinpoint it to a particular artifact. Since I was running out of time, I decided to just grab every last bit of wax I owned and conduct a mass Second Level Test on everything at once.

I reached my closet and fetched the ledger from the washstand, where I’ d carelessly set it. Next I went to the large satchel where I kept all my curse-removing supplies and rummaged around until I had a handful of wax bits —candle stubs, mostly. Thus equipped, I headed for the catacombs.

On my way, I called softly for Isis, wondering where she’d gotten to. She normally came to greet visitors, so I was surprised she hadn’t turned up in the foyer when Henry had. Unfortunately, she didn’t turn up on my way to the basement either. Which was too bad, as I always preferred a bit of company down there.

The problem with the catacombs was that so many forgotten relics had been stacked on top of one another, it was nearly impossible to tell which ones were responsible for the vile magic and dark curses that swirled about. What made matters even worse was that the Staff of Osiris hadn’t even felt cursed, and I had no idea how to distinguish a power-laden artifact from an uncursed one.

I opened the door, turned up the gaslights, and then paused as the force of the dark magic hit me. I shuddered once, and gripped the three amulets I wore around my neck. Just as I lifted my foot to head down, a voice behind me said, “Can I come too?”

My pulse slowed a bit at this reprieve. “Henry!” Heartened considerably by the idea of a companion—even if it was only Henry —I said, “Why, of course you can come down. If you want to. But I didn’t think this sort of thing interested you all that much.”

Henry shrugged. “It’s not like there’s anything else to do in this stuffy old place.”

“Very well, then. Come along. But you need to wear this.” I lifted one of the amulets from my neck and held it out to him.

He recoiled as if I had offered him a plate of boiled suet.

“I’m not wearing one of your stupid necklaces.”

“It’s not a necklace, Henry. It’s protection. Remember? I gave one to Stokes when he was injured in St. Paul’s churchyard.”

He shook his head at me. “Quit pretending to be all magical and mystical,” he said.

“You’re not fooling anyone, and you just look stupid.” Then, before I could stop him, he

shoved past me and raced down the stairs. His words stung, and I had half a mind to leave him to the mercies of whatever magic he might find. Then we would see who was pretending. However, just the thought of that had me hurrying down the stairs after him. At the bottom step, instead of stopping, I kept right on going until I bumped smack into him.

“Watch it!” he said, pushing me away.

“Sorry,” I murmured as I slipped the amulet into his coat pocket under the guise of steadying myself. Once that important business had been taken care of, I turned my attention to the catacombs.

The gaslights barely penetrated the shadowed corners of the room, mostly because they weren’t run-of-the-mill shadows. I suppressed a shudder at the thought of an unprotected Henry. In front of me, Henry sniffed. “It smells like wet dog.”

My eyes flew to the Anubis statue sitting atop the Canopic shrine. He was sleek black stone, not a twitch of a whisker or tail, thank goodness. He hadn’t come to life again, not since I’ d returned the Orb of Ra to his shrine. But I’d been alone every other time I’ d come down here. I wasn’t sure if a second person’s k a would have an effect on him.

Some curses remained dormant for centuries until they were exposed to a person’s life force, which activated the magic in much the same way that the sun caused a flower to bloom.

“What’s your cat doing down here?” Henry pointed to where Isis lay, curled up between the statue’s front paws.

“What on earth are you doing here, Isis?”

She raised her head and blinked her golden eyes at me, then gave a meow of greeting.

Henry whistled, pulling my attention from the cat. His eyes were big and round as he stared at the mummies against the wall. “All right,” he finally said. “Now I see why you call it the catacombs. This place is creepy.”

I found it heartening that he finally felt a niggle of discomfort. He’d never admitted to that. “You should have seen it before I straightened it up some,” I told him as I headed for the shelves in the far corner, the very place I’ d found the Staff of Osiris. Ever since I’d learned that the staff had come to us as part of an entire warehouse of artifacts of unknown provenance, I’d been trying to identify the rest of the batch.

That was why I’d been dragging my feet on this inventory. If there were other powerful artifacts that wielded the power of the gods, I wasn’t sure I wanted to record them for all the world to see. Best to let them hide until I could get them to the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers and let them take it from there.

I glanced over my shoulder at Henry, who was still examining the row of mummies, paying particular attention to the mummy formerly known as Tetley. “I say, this fellow is rather odd-looking compared to the others.”

“You’ re correct, Henry. He is from a much more recent time period than the others are.” Would Henry recognize him? He had seen him once before, when Tetley was alive and we had been following him. As Henry continued to stare at the mummy, my worries grew.

“Here.” I took a blank page out of my ledger and handed it to him. “Could you go write down the names of all those weapons over in the corner? I haven’t had a chance to do it yet.” Actually, I had, but I knew that Henry had a keen interest in weaponry and it seemed like a good place to sit him.

“Weapons?” Henry’s whole face brightened. He took the sheet I held out and went over to the corner.

When he was safely occupied with that task, I proceeded toward the last shelf. As I’ d inventoried the basement, I’d also done a bit of organizing, and this shelf was where all the stone tablets had ended up, along with a few nearly unidentifiable odds and ends.

Hoping for a hint of latent power, I picked up the first stone tablet and held it tight. The stele featured a pharaoh offering wine to the god Amen-Ra and looked to be from the New Kingdom. However, there was no hint of power or magical energy. Of course, there hadn’ t been a trickle of power when I’ d first held the staff either. However, there had been a distinct flicker when I had accidentally activated it by setting the Orb of Ra into the jackal’s jaws. I stared at the stele in my hands. How on earth would one activate a stele? I wondered. I shook it slightly, but nothing happened.

I turned it over and over in my hands, looking for a small aperture such as a key might fit in, but there was nothing. If there was a way to activate this particular stele, it was a mystery to me.

After a quick glance at Henry to be sure he was well occupied (he was feinting and jabbing with a late Bronze Age ceremonial knife), I went on to the next stele. This one showed a pharaoh wearing the crown of Upper Egypt. The ibis-headed god of wisdom, Thoth, stood on one side while the falcon-headed god Horus stood on the other and appeared to be almost embracing him. Again, there was no visible means of activating it . . . but of course! It could be a much more subtle means of activation than a mechanical method. It might respond to b a or ka or something ethereal of that nature.

Once, I had accidentally breathed too close to a bronze vessel, and my breath had activated the curse hidden in inscribed hieroglyphs, causing the vessel to fill with a revolting substance reminiscent of frog slime. Leaning in close now, I breathed on the stele, then waited.

But that wasn’t the key this time. Not quite willing to give up, I carried the artifact closer to one of the gas lamps. Perhaps the flame would mimic the energy of the sun and bring any dormant curses or power to life.

“En garde!” Henry’s voice erupted in the silence, startling me. I turned toward him in time to see the point of a lance coming at my head. Without thinking, I held up the stele to ward off the blow. The lance connected with the stone tablet and sent it crashing to the floor.

8 Responses to “Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus: Chapter Five”

  1. Kara Says:

    AWESOMENESS!!!!!!
    but it’s a cliffhanger : (

  2. Hailey Says:

    Best book EVER!!!!!

  3. Bibliophile Says:

    That was great, but it really was a cliff-hanger! I wish March would hurry up and come; I can’t wait! At least it’s almost March.

  4. Bibliophile Says:

    Oh. Well, this is kind of embarrassing. It IS March, and I didn’t even know it! Oops!

  5. Kara Says:

    um,yeah. its march!!! here’s another reminder!!!

  6. Kara Says:

    Still march here, i hate when you think a book is coming out but it didn’t.I love another series and i was really sad because the book came out in the UK but not where i live!!!!! sad!!!

  7. R.L. Says:

    LOL, Kara! I know I’m behind, but I’m busy typing my fingers to the BONE trying to finish up Theodosia Four. :-) I’ll get the next chapter up in a day or two.

    What book were you looking forward to that came out in the UK? I’m always looking for reading recommendations.

  8. Kara Says:

    The vampirates series, there really good.