The rest of the evening, for the next five hours, Nisa worked in her tent on the newly discovered stone tablet. Oliver and the security team guarded the entrance to make sure Callahan didn’t try anything. She didn’t put it past him, so just to take extra precautions, Nisa and Susie worked together to gently wrap the stone tablet as they had brought it out. It was only after Nisa had brought it to her desk and sat it down that she finally uncovered it. After that, it was hours of work with her tools to carefully brush off all the sand, dust, and cobwebs that coated it in thick layers. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad; after all, she’d been able to read most of the Arabic and see the symbols written in the other languages perfectly fine, but she still wanted to make sure it was as clean as they could get it.
The next step was to take pictures of it and scan them into her computer, which she changed all the passwords of just to be safe. Whatever she did, she had to make sure Callahan didn’t steal any of her discoveries, especially since they were so monumental, especially with the unknown language. Having languages to compare it to would not only help fully translate it and allow other artifacts written in it to finally be translated as well, but would be a huge stepping stone in the overall mystery that had been plaguing archaeologists and historians for decades.
Oliver slipped through the tent’s entrance and other than the rustle the flaps made and the howling of the wind outside, Nisa wouldn’t have noticed his arrival.
“Bea sent one of her workers to tell you that they’ve brought the lower half of the statue up for close examination. The worker told me since you weren’t to be disturbed,” Oliver said. He walked over to look over her shoulder and if it was anyone else doing it, Nisa would have felt more than extremely uncomfortable. But having Ollie near her made her feel comforted and in this case, it only added to her excitement.
“What’s Susie’s progress on the mummy we found?” Nisa murmured softly.
Oliver sat down in a chair next to her, glanced at the stone tablet, and then folded his arms on the desk. “She’s working with her team to bring it up to the surface. The stand storm has gotten really bad. There’s talk that it could close up the entrance to this place.”
Nisa’s eyes snapped up, immediately drawn to attention. “Wait… no. We’re only just now getting this… To have to dig it all up again… that would set us back by weeks—maybe even months!”
Oliver nodded. “I know. We have a few options…”
Nisa pursed her lips and waited for him to continue.
Oliver cleared his throat. “You could leave the security team up with all the artifacts and send everyone down to keep working—to find as much as we can while we can. Then we can evacuate everyone as it gets worse. If we did that, there’s still a risk of getting trapped in there, so it wouldn’t be recommended. If anyone found out, you could be highly reprimanded. Even if you took volunteers. “
Nisa cursed, standing from her desk as she paced the room. How could she put people’s lives in danger just to make more discoveries? But could she really leave the sand storm up to God and whether He covered the tomb back up? All her life, she had believed everything happened for God’s purpose. That was true, but what if His purpose was to slow down their work? Should she just accept that?
The Christian in her said yes, but the archaeologist in her, the curious one that longed for answers, to honor her father’s life’s work… wasn’t entirely sure.
“What do you think I should do, Ollie?” Nisa asked, turning around to glance at him.
Oliver leaned back in his seat with a sigh. Sand coated his blonde hair, making it look darker that it normally would have. “We’ve been in enough sand storms to know when they take a turn for the worst. If you work all night, I think it should be safe for everyone to leave the pyramid in the morning. It’ll worsen and we’ll just have to access the damage and see how bad it is.”
Nisa nodded and chewed on her lower lip. “What if I just took my personal team?” She’d feel much better if it was just Bea, Chris, Susie, and herself on the job, rather than hundreds of workers at risk of getting buried alive down there.
Oliver stood up from his seat and walked over to tower in front of her. “I’m going down there with you, Ni.”
Nisa laughed. “What? No offense, but you wouldn’t be any help down there. It’s not like I need your protection from undead mummies. Besides, I need you up here. I don’t want anyone else other than you keeping your eyes on this stone and I don’t want it out of your sight. Not for a minute.”
Oliver sighed. “Are you serious?”
Nisa nodded and gently rubbed his arms. “Ollie, this could be it. This will help me translate the entire language. I’d love to keep working on it, but you’re right. We should find and bring up what we can, just in case the storm gets worse. But you said it yourself, we should be fine down there until morning.”
Oliver gritted his teeth. “I know I said that but…” His voice trailed off.
Nisa cocked her head. “But what?”
He shook his head and gestured to the table. “Nothing. You better go get Bea, Susie, and Chris and get down there. The sooner you get to work, the sooner you can get back up here where it’s safe.”
Nisa snatched her bag and glanced over her shoulder at him. “Ollie, are you worried about me?”
Oliver shot her a handsome smile. “Always.”
The sky had darkened overhead when she got outside but the sand had only been stirred up by the ferocious wind. Nisa used her scarf to cover as much of her face as possible as she struggled to walk against the heavy wind. Fortunately, Bea’s tent was close, so she slipped inside to see Bea towering over the statue, taking photos of it.
“We need to get in the pyramid and get whatever else we can out before this storm closes it up,” Nisa said.
Bea frowned. “I really don’t want to leave this, but… You’re right.” She grabbed her tool bag, her camera, and glanced at the security man to the right of the entrance to her tent. “No one comes in here but me and Nisa, got it?”
The security man nodded.
Nisa figured she probably should have remembered his name, but it slipped from her mind. Then again, most anyone who wasn’t immediately important was easily forgotten.
Nisa and Bea slipped outside and they gripped arms as they struggled against the wind together. Chris and Susie’s tents were right next door, so a few steps and they were at their entrance. Bea slipped inside, but before Nisa could follow, a hand gripped her shoulder.
She whirled around to see Callahan standing there.
“Your head of security said you were out here!” he shouted over the noise of the wind.
Nisa nodded and gestured to another tent across from them; it was one of the tents where workers slept, which meant it had no artifacts he could even catch a glimpse of. “We’ll talk in there. Meet you in a few!” she shouted back.
She poked her head in to Chris and Susie’s tent. “Go on in the pyramid! I’ll meet you down there!” Without waiting for a reply, she rushed outside and darted to the tent where Callahan was waiting for her.
Now that they were inside, Nisa pulled the scarf away from her mouth. “What do you want, Callahan? My team and I are busy excavating this pyramid before the storm completely buries it again.”
Callahan sighed. “Look, the way I see it, you and I need each other. I need to see the pottery you found and you need my papers. Together, we can translate the language and have the greatest discovery mankind has ever seen!”
Nisa laughed mirthlessly. “As if you would ever share the spotlight. I said no deal, Callahan. You’re not seeing my pottery. Ever. I’ll figure this out on my own.”
Callahan’s face reddened. “You need me.”
Nisa shook her head. “I haven’t needed you for a long time.” With that, she stormed out of the tent, and sprinted—or as much as the sand storm would allow her to, anyway—through the entrance to the pyramid and down the staircase. It had been discovered deep underground, which was highly unusual. Pyramids were built on the ground but were usually still visible because of how large they were. This was still just as large, but the tip of it barely peaked up over the ground. It was likely the area where it had been was some sort of valley at some point, before sand had formed a desert around it and buried it in the dunes.
She took the stairs two at a time so by the time she reached the bottom, Bea, Susie, and Chris’ voices reached her ears. She found them at the end of the hall, discussing where to go next.
Chris pointed to the far right. “That hallway leads to a dead end. Well, not dead. Technically a staircase leads down, but we haven’t been able to unearth it yet.”
Susie pointed back in the direction of the tomb. “I’m heading back to the tomb chamber where we found the mummy. I’ll take pictures of the hieroglyphs for us to study.”
Nisa nodded. “That would be best.” She cast her gaze to Bea. “I’m assuming you’re going back to where the statue was?”
Bea gripped her bag with a quick nod. “Yeah. There might be artifacts buried at its feet. Egyptians did that a lot.”
Chris pointed down another hallway directly across from them. “One of the other chambers wasn’t as preserved and the writing had mostly faded. I brought some stuff down. Gonna see if I can clear it off.”
Nisa gestured for him to go ahead. “I’ll stay with you and see if there’s anything I might be able to read. If I remember right, there was a smaller room leading away from that one that I never got to finish.”
In all honesty, her heart was back in her tent, translating the languages on the stone tablet, but they hadn’t had a chance to fully clear out the artifacts of this place, so it was up to them to find and bring out what they could. Way down here, the roaring of the sand storm wasn’t audible, but Nisa set a timer on her phone for six in the morning. By then, if the storm was going to worsen, it would, so they would have to be out before that.
While Chris set to work doing what he could to clear off the walls and make them more readable, Nisa walked over to the small hole in the wall by the corner. It looked like it led to another chamber, one that wasn’t accessible from any other place they’d discovered in the pyramid, but when she was originally here, it also looked as if it had been made by accident. They had been unwilling to break through the wall to get there and, at the time, so many other chambers had been discovered that she’d ordered her workers to start on those first.
Now, of course, this was one of the things left to do. Swallowing deeply, Nisa lay on the ground, holding the flashlight in her mouth, and crawled inside.
Cobwebs covered every inch of it, which would have bothered most people, but not Nisa. Her body was just scrawny enough to fit, although some areas of the tunnel were a little too close for comfort and she scraped the skin on her shoulders against the stone.
At the end, it finally opened up. Nisa stood, not bothering to dust off her clothes and she used the flashlight to take a look around.
Shelves had been built with wood along the walls. A few hieroglyphics were etched but the other walls were all completely covered with the same, mysterious language.
Nisa gasped. “Chris!” she shouted.
“Tell me you didn’t go in the hole, Nisa!” His voice was muffled through the walls.
“I did! You’re never gonna believe what I found!” The shelves were filled with bottles oddly shaped and completely out of place. None of them were the mummification jars she would have expected to see in an Ancient Egyptian tomb.
Using her flashlight, she took pictures of every inch of the walls with her phone, which took a while. By that time, they only had an hour left. She had to figure out how to safely take as many artifacts with her and still fit through the tunnel. While she placed each artifact in plastic Ziplock bags and then put them in her tool bag, Chris kept constantly asking her if she was okay.
By the time she had them all loaded in her bag and finished crawling through the tunnel, it was five minutes until six. “We have to get out of here! I’ll tell you about what was back there along the way!” Nisa said.
Together, she and Chris met up with Susie and Bea and made their way to the surface, trying to beat the worst of the sandstorm. On the way, she told them everything she’d found.