Premiered August 22, 2003
Elephantine is at Aswan, and Alex and Dawn quickly made the flight back to the modern city. From there they made their way to the diggings at Elephantine, where they began to wander about, trying to pick up clues as to what to do next. They were looking for the local head archaeologist when they ran into Sisi! The younger woman ran up to them with total abandon, yelling "Alex! Dawn!" Then she asked, "Where you guys been?"
"What the hell!?" Alex exclaimed, totally shocked to see her. "How did you get here?"
Sisi was at first taken back by Alex's less than cordial welcome. Then, shrugging it off, she said, "It occurred to me from what you told me about The Mother, that the Sheba and Axum clues were about the Ark of the Covenant. I then figured Giza was about Thoth, and that the best place to look for him would be here. Why? Where have you been?"
Alex was astonished by Sisi's capabilities, apparently having arrived at the same conclusion but more swiftly than either Alex or Dawn. Dawn, meanwhile, explained to Sisi, "We were sleeping in the Great Pyramid." Then as Sisi registered her own surprise, Dawn reached over to embrace the other woman. As they stepped back, Alex remembered himself and hugged Sisi as well.
With the greetings over, Sisi eagerly asked, "So how was it: your night in the pyramid?"
After a momentary awkward moment, Alex replied, "I'll tell you about it later. What about now? Have you any clues as to where Thoth might be?"
Sisi smiled. "I've spent a little time with one of the archaeologists who are digging around here." Both Alex and Dawn brightened, knowing any archaeologist would have little hope against the likes of Sisi -- the man undoubtedly providing her with everything for which she might have asked. "They told me about some old dude hereabouts, and gave me some approximate directions. I was on my way there when you guys showed up." She smiled broadly. "Want to join me?"
"Sure," Alex replied, admittedly out of his element. "Show us the way."
The three of them struck off in a direction somewhat resembling the one given her by the enamored archaeologist (the one who hadn't seen a lot of women in several months and who had never seen a woman like Sisi). As the three walked along the dusty, sandy streets, Sisi said, "So, tell me really. How was the night in the pyramid?" For a moment, she waited. "Pretty fantastic?"
Alex and Dawn just looked at each other and shook their heads.
Sisi looked at each one in turn, and then said, "Oh, I get it! You're both being shy." Then to make it all right, she added, primarily as an observation, "That's cute."
Finding Sisi's "Dude" was relatively easy. Once they were on the right street, they came across a small estate, set within a white, stucco, roughly 12 foot high, walled enclosure. The immediate impression was a building with a structure well designed and maintained, but one where external cleanliness was not of primary importance. It had clearly once been a substantial residence, and while the stucco showed not a single brick nor a crack along any exterior wall, the walls were dirty with occasional graffiti. It was a place capable of being used as a fortress, and one in which aesthetics seemed secondary. It was simply an enclave, but one which did not advertise the fact -- an isolated estate with not a single wall from adjacent buildings encroaching upon it. The latter aspect tended to give it a singularity, as the rule of the village seemed to be all buildings being set adjacent to one another, with common walls, and occasionally a street to break up the monotony. This small estate, however, was set apart by narrow streets and alleyways on all four sides.
Three of the sides faced something resembling a street, but there was nothing to suggest an entry or opening. When the threesome completed their circumscribing of the structure and began walking down the last alley, they found the heavy wooden gate -- which, amazingly enough, was slightly ajar. Next to it was a small bell, set some nine or ten feet off the ground, with a short remnant of a cord attached. The bottom of the truncated cord was perhaps eight feet off the ground -- as if intended to discourage short people from ringing the bell. Alex was considering jumping in order to grab the cord, when Sisi shoved the heavy wooden gate further open and brazenly stepped inside. Dawn followed her, and then Alex -- shrugging his shoulders in disbelief.
Inside, they found a small garden patio with fig trees and what looked like an incredibly small, grape vineyard. Herbs and other small plants grew in small plots, carefully separated by stone and mortar walls -- the plots all at different levels, shapes, and configurations. Adjacent and just beyond the patio was a columned porch with the suggestion of openings in the shaded gloom.
The three intruders stood by the gate for several moments, until from behind one of the trees they saw a large Egyptian woman lean to one side in order to better see the new arrivals. Her expression was a combination of surprise and outrage at the intrusion.
"Hello," Sisi addressed her. "Can you help us? We're looking for someone."
The woman said nothing, but moved more into view keeping her eyes on the threesome. Her substantial bulk -- much of which was probably muscle -- became more apparent as she did so. Alex and Dawn made a mental note not to cross this woman, while Sisi assumed the problem was one of language. She then repeated herself in barely passable French. But the woman only cocked her head to one side, to see them more out of her peripheral vision, as if trying to find a different viewpoint.
Suddenly, another voice spoke -- low, deep and indefinable as to its intentions. "If you only speak English or bad French, she probably can't help you." Everyone, including the woman turned to see a tall male figure at one end of the shaded porch. He wore a white Egyptian tunic, but was otherwise hidden by the shadows. But even being only partially visible, there was an air about the figure that was faintly ominous. As if he carried an elephant gun in a relaxed position.
Sisi managed to say, "We're looking for someone," just before she became intimidated and her mental processes took a temporary backseat. Suffice it to say, Sisi becoming speechless was an exceedingly rare event. But then again the figure in the shadows could easily have stopped a bull Rhinoceros in mid charge. Alex was shaken as well by the man's appearance, and was not about to speak.
Dawn’s response was more reactive, her mind resorting to activating her best line of defense: her intuition. Individuals with extrasensory powers almost always developed them initially as a defensive measure -- typically in childhood and as a defense against physical or emotional abuse. Dawn had been no different, and now probed the man's mind with all the power at her command. Almost instantly, she saw a depth she had never before encountered; a depth both in time and in the sheer immensity of the man's knowledge, wisdom and experience. Then almost as quickly, she felt her access abruptly shut down. For several long moments she could only sense surprise and intrigue, and vague interest in at least one of the intruders into his house.
The momentary silence was broken by the dark figure. "Who are you looking for?" he asked, his tone still disguising any untoward interest he might have had in the answer.
Dawn spontaneously blurted out, "Ningishzida."
The tenseness of the situation was abruptly broken as the man seemed to find the answer quite entertaining. He almost laughed aloud, but just the sharp intake of breath and his head thrown back was enough to ease his intimidating stance. With an almost casual gesture, he stepped forward to place one hand on the nearest column, stepping further into the light. Only his face remained in the shadow. But a smile could still be discerned. "And who," he replied, "asks for Ningishzida?"
Dawn noticed the man's pronunciation of 'Ningishzida' was slightly different from her own, but managed to introduce herself and her two companions. She could feel a recognition from the man as she spoke each of the names, but it was fleeting and very subtle. She couldn't be sure. She therefore added, "The Mother sent us here."
The man remained silent, evaluating them. Then he seemed to make a decision. He began walking along the porch, his head still in the shadows. As he approached one of the darkened openings, he gestured for them to approach. "Come in out of the heat," he invited them. Then, using an old saying from India, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen run about in the midday sun."
Dawn led the other two into the shadows and followed the man inside the building. At first, they could barely see anything, their eyes still adjusting to the relative darkness. The interior was dimly lit as well, with only the dulled reflections of the bright sun off the dirty walls giving any light. Slowly, however, they began to see with more clarity. Dawn realized they were in a room whose ceiling was easily ten feet high. Then her attention was drawn to their guide as he finished the process of somehow unlocking a set of double doors, and began opening them.
The doors, some eight feet high, opened to reveal another even darker room, but with two intricately carved spherical bronze lamps giving off enough light through their carved openings to dimly bathe the room with a mosaic of light. The internal light source was apparently either candles or some other form of flames, as the lights flickered with some degree of randomness. Dawn could barely see the decor of the room itself, catching only glimpses of what might have been a throne or altar directly facing the doors they had just come through, along with wall paintings resembling the interior of Egyptian tombs.
As the three entered the room, quietly and reverently, Dawn realized the man had stepped aside for them, and was now closing the doors behind them. Then he returned to his leadership position. All four moved closer to the throne/altar, until the man gestured for them to stand still. Then he walked over and took up a position slightly to the side, facing the space between the three supplicants and the empty throne/altar. Dawn was immediately struck by the resemblance of the positioning of everyone from the time of Alex and her audience with The Mother at Machu Picchu.
A voice then began to speak, sounding to Dawn like a deeper resonance of the man who had brought them into the holy of holies, but coming, apparently, from the direction of the throne. Only marginally addressed to them, it began to recite in a detached voice, as if reading from a scripture.
"Saith Osiris Ani, triumphant: O grant to me thy two hands that I may pass the time in the Island of flame. Give judgment upon me being in Sekhem. I stretched out my two arms to Osiris, I passed on to judgement. I have come to say: Grant that I may pass that I may report my message. I enter being judged, coming out distinguished at door of Nebertcher. I am pure at place of passage that great, I have my defects, I have made an end of my wickedness, I have annihilated the faults which belong to me, I myself am pure, I am mighty. O doorkeepers, I have made the way. I am like unto you, I have come forth by day, I have walked upon my two legs, I have obtained power over the step of the shining ones. I know, even I, the ways secret of the doors of the Sekhet Aaru. May I rise up there, may it be granted to me I may come and that I may overthrow my enemies upon earth, though my body buried it is." 
Abruptly, the voice paused. Their guide then asked in a low voice, "Are you thus prepared?"
Dawn, without thinking, without benefit of logic, rational thought, or extended analysis, answered a simple, definitive, "Yes." Both Alex and Sisi each, in turn, echoed her resolve. With their words virtually echoing in the chamber, there followed a long silence, as if they were being evaluated, the weights of their hearts being compared to that of a feather.
Then in a lower, less insistent voice, the throne began to speak again. "I have made an end of my failings, I have removed my defects. What then is it? The cutting off the corruptible matter it is of Osiris the scribe Ani, triumphant before gods all. Driven away are the defects all which belong to him. What then is it? The purification it is on the day of his birth. I am purified in my double nest. What then is it?"
Each time the question was asked, the voice became slightly more insistent, emphasizing the words in a subtle but increasing stride, as if genuinely seeking the answer. "The road it is which travelleth his father Tmu over it when he goeth to Sekhet Aaru, which produceth the food of the gods behind the shrine. I shall come into existence among you. What then is it? The drops of blood it is which come forth from the phallus of Ra. What then is it? The day it is of the fighting of Horus in it with Seth, throwing excrement in the face of Horus, and carried off Horus the testicles of Seth, for Thoth did this with his fingers himself.
"I raise up the hair at the time of storms in the sky. What then is it? This is the water of heaven. What then is it? Thoth, thwarting the business of the enemies of Nebertcher, deliver thou from those watchers who bring slaughtering knives, and are provided with fingers cruel, and slay those who are in the following of Osiris, not may they prevail over me, not may I fall under their knives. What then is it? I fly as a hawk, I cackle as a goose, I kill always like Nehebkau. What then is it? The giver of foods, the annihilator of sins, Osiris guideth along the road of eternity. What then is it?" 
Suddenly the voice grew louder still. "What then is it?" Suddenly insistent, the question hung in the air.
Dawn could feel their guide looking at them for the answer. But before she could speak, Alex, in a confident but low voice, answered, "Manna."
The answer was suddenly obvious to Dawn as well. "The Orme," she answered simply.
Sisi was apparently on the same wavelength. "The Star Fire," she said in a calm voice.
A slight pause ensued, followed by a less-strident, but still forceful voice. "I know Khu, is his breath in my body. Not shall I be repulsed by the bull of terror, I shall come daily into the house of the Double Lion-god, I shall come forth from it into the house of Isis, I shall see the holy things hidden, I shall pass through the holy rites hidden, I shall see what is there, shall my words complete in the majesty of Shu, they shall repulse the moment.
"I am Horus, the dweller in his splendors. I have gained possession of his tiara, I have gained possession of his rays of light, I have traveled over the uttermost parts of heaven. I rise up, I gain the power over and I repulse the evil which is against me. They open to me the ways holy, they see my form, they hear my words spoken to their faces."
The voice paused for a few seconds. Then it continued, beginning quietly and slowly increasing in power. "I have made the way, I have traveled, I have arrived at those who live in their caverns guarding the house of Osiris. I speak to them of his power, I make them to know the fearful power of him provided with horns against Seth. They know who hath carried off the divine food which had brought the power of Tmu! " 
The voice then began what sounded like a benediction. "I bind up, I gather together your powers, I order the powers of the ways of those who guard the horizon of the hematet of heaven. I have prepared their doors for Osiris, I have ordered the ways for him, I have done the commands."
Suddenly, as if enraptured, "O, I have made them to know the plan of the gods wrought by Horus at the instance of his father Osiris. Hail lord, Soul mighty of terror! Let me, even me, come, let me lift myself up, I have passed through the tuat, I have opened the ways of the guardians of heaven, of the guardians of earth, I have not been repulsed there. I have lifted up thy face, O lord of eternity!" 
The reverberation of the voice hung in the air, unwilling to dissipate by natural means. The three supplicants, wholly out of their element, simply stood there, marveling and bewildered. Their guide moved to stand between them and the throne, and there address it. Dawn could not see any actions other than a slight nod of the head. Then he turned back to them, indicating their audience was over. They turned, as he slipped between the line they had formed, and using both hands opened the two doors of the sanctuary. Then stepping to one side, he allowed them through. In the outer room, they stared at the bright sun's reflection of the outer opening, their thoughts totally enmeshed with what they had just heard. The man then said, quietly and gently, "Follow me."
He then led them out onto the porch, where the sun momentarily blinded them, and then down the length of the porch to a small outdoor area. There four chairs were situated around a small table in which three containers awaited the guests. Surrounding the space on three sides were vine-covered walls, flowers growing in proliferation in every possible cranny, and multi-colored stones used for paving and decoration. The man gestured to the table where they were to sit down.
As they did so, he said, "Drink. Refresh yourself. It is necessary."
No one argued with the suggestion; all sitting and taking the liquid in large quantities -- without the slightest hesitation or question of what it might be. Only afterwards did they wonder about the contents. They decided then it was simply water, or perhaps a homeopathic liquid, pure water laced with memories and vibrations of a dozen or so herbs and medicinal solutions. The main ingredient, however, was total, immense refreshment -- a filling of a very old void in their souls, the feeding of their ka.
After the initial refreshment, Dawn studied the strange guide before her. Clearly independent of most of the world's tribulations, he had a unique active quality about him, as if his skills and talents were sufficient to create anything he might need. He was truly free. For a split-second, she recalled the tarot deck given to her by Koco, and the image of The Magician. This man before her, with the light streams flowing down from his eyes could easily have been one and the same.
As they paused in their drinking, Alex and Sisi both setting their glasses on the table and only Dawn holding hers with both hands, the man said quietly, "You may have questions."
All three smiled at the obvious, but were hesitant to break the profound mood still lingering from the darkened throne room. Finally, Sisi found the courage to ask, "Are you Ningishzida?"
The man smiled. "I go by many names. Right now, I prefer 'Hal'. I took the name from a Hollywood movie about a computer and a journey to Jupiter. I rather like the name."
Sisi laughed slightly at his answer. Then she asked, "Didn't Hal go mad?"
"Yes," Hal replied. "I believe he did." For several long seconds, Hal smiled mischievously.
It seemed unlikely Hal was going to go further in identifying his origins or ancestry, and Alex instead began asking about the manna (which Webster's definition literally translates as "What then is it?) and the Orme elements. He described their efforts at working with the mono-atomic elements, and even included their having identified the Orme within vegetarian diets, grape juice, and the tea they had developed, Vitalitea. The latter, Hal found particularly amusing. Then he began to answer.
He talked about many things, from fasting to figures such as Sai Baba, the moderately famous and apparently very enlightened leader in India. He then told them of other mysteries. Other mysteries which cannot be repeated here. His words were not those that are written down. Ever. For every would-be alchemist -- every enlightenment-seeking devotee -- must find their own path. And thus no more can be said of the conversation with the man now called Hal.
Their future paths were nevertheless clear to them, and they left after several hours. Quietly, with virtually no conversation between them, they returned to Aswan proper and found a hotel for the night. Taking separate rooms, they immediately retired to them, and there spent the following ten or so hours, thinking, meditating, sleeping, and for the most part, being one unto themselves.
The next morning they began their most significant trek together.
 The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Papyrus of Ani, translated by E. A. Wallis Budge, Dover Publications, New York, 1967. Quotes from Plate XXV, and portions of Plates VIII, IX, X, and XXVI.
Chapter Nineteen -- The Wheel of Fortune
Chapter Twenty One -- The World
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