1928 - The Giza Plateau
In all the chaos surrounding the dig site, it was a simple matter for two men clad in the garb of the desert tribes to slip in amongst the workers. Dr. Langford's team had hired many of their kind, and if these were more tattooed than most, no one realized the significance.
Or-- perhaps it would be more accurate to say that none of the Americans noticed their presence. As the black clad pair approached the edge of the pit that housed the current center of activity, they were given a wide berth by the other Egyptian natives. A water bearer who would have crossed their path veered to one side, circling around and behind them; an older man pushing a wheelbarrow heaped with debris paused as they passed, casting furtive glances at them from dark, down-turned eyes.
"They know what the American has found here," the older of the pair murmured grimly to his companion. "They know it should not have been disturbed."
The younger, spine straight and stride long with an unconscious arrogance born of heritage and experience, frowned at the anger in his second's words. "It would not have lain undiscovered forever, my friend. You know this to be true. Giza is much more exposed than Hamunaptra, and these Americans are endlessly curious. We might drive them off today, only to find them here in a years' time with more men and more shovels."
His companion grunted. "If we learned nothing else from O'Connell, that is a lesson I would not forget."
The two came to a halt at the lip of the excavation, lips pursed as they gazed down at the excitement below. A large, circular object had been exposed-- a cover stone, sprinkled with heiroglyphics and other, less familiar markings. Dr. Langford and his young daughter had been summoned for this discovery, overseeing the workers as they began the slow, careful process of shifting it aside.
"The Doorway to Heaven," the younger man said reverently. "Given into the Pharoahs' care before the Medjai rode the sands of Egypt. Pathway of the old Gods, before they were vanquished by Allah."
"Or so the legends say," his companion frowned. "Ardeth-- I will not challenge you on this matter, but are you certain it is safe to let the Americans have it? Your father would never--"
Ardeth cut him off, in the terse manner of one who has heard the same argument many times before. "And my father would never have let O'Connell escape into the desert five years ago. When the Americans came for the Book of the Dead the Creature would have been raised regardless, with much less chance for his defeat. If Allah guided me in that matter, who is to say this is not what Allah wills, as well?"
A strained silence stretched between them as the activity continued below. A flash of gold caught the sun from the girl's hand-- she had found some small trinket that had been buried with the main artefact. And the artefact itself-- a ring of strange metal, adorned with stranger markings, exposed to the light of day for the first time in many thousands of years. Rarely did the watchers ever see that which they were meant to protect; this was a moment to remember forever with wonder, entirely apart from the danger that had also been unearthed.
"At least they do not have the Key," the older Medjai said, many minutes later. "They will never open the Doorway without it."
"Insh'Allah", Ardeth replied automatically. "I would not put anything beyond these Americans, but that is an obstacle it will be difficult for them to overcome."
"And if they ever should, we will know of it," his companion affirmed.
"The arrangements have been finalized?" Ardeth lifted his gaze from the Doorway for a moment, scanning the small crowd gathered around Dr. Langford and the men uncovering the Doorway. Somewhere among them was a man he'd met before, a colleague of the former curator of the British Museum in Cairo; one of the very few Medjai not born of the tribe.
"Yes. Dr. Jackson has agreed to follow Dr. Langford back to his country and continue to assist him. He will instruct his son in the matter when the boy is of age, and his son's sons, if it should prove necessary. If the Doorway should ever be opened--"
"We will know of it. Very well." Ardeth took a last, long look at the activity below, then turned his back on the Doorway and strode away from the site. This was only one of the Medjai's many secrets, after all; there were many other sites left for him and his people to guard. It was time this one was left to another man's destiny.