The Curse of the Silver Pharaoh

Something ancient and evil is awakening under the sands of Egypt


6. Chapter 5

Leaving Donna in the care of Ahmed, the Doctor instructed him to fill her in with whatever details he could, about the story of Pharaoh's amulet. He was then to bring her round to the archaeological site in the morning. Meanwhile, the Doctor strode off into the night, seeking transport back out to the dig. Eventually after numerous inquiries, the Doctor finally found someone who would lend him a camel.

Thankfully, at the finish of haggling with the camel's owner, he didn't have to part with his sonic screwdriver or psychic paper. But, the Doctor ended up virtually emptying his pockets.

Frowning deeply, he sighed with resignation. One by one, the Doctor begrudgingly handed over two sticking plasters, a virtual post card from Majorca Minor, his lucky yo-yo, a ball of twine, his stethoscope, a can of Tizer, a deflated whoopee cushion, his honourary marshall's badge from Dodge City, a Biro, his Venusian toothbrush, a Spiderman comic, a cat nun's flea collar, a harmonica borrowed from Bob Dylan he'd forgot to return, several paper clips, a cocktail umbrella, his Best of the Beatles 8-track tape, a Haddronian chess piece, a battered pamphlet promoting deep sea gardening and a half-melted Kit-Kat bar.

With a big gap-toothed grin on his lined, careworn face, the old man in the dusty robes handed over the camel's lead rope. After getting the camel to kneel, the Doctor mounted the saddle in less than graceful fashion. As he swung his leg over, The Doctor felt a few stitches suddenly give way in his trouser bottom. He winced, as his mind suddenly conjured up the image of having to confront a monster in his underpants. Thank goodness he stopped going commando five regenerations back.

"I really should remember to wear a sturdy pair of jeans when out camel riding." He muttered crossly, shaking his head.

Swaying with the sea-like motion as the animal lurched to its feet, they set off. The camel groaned in protest at being forced to go out so late. Deciding to call him 'Arthur,' the Doctor gave the beast a friendly pat and some cheerful encouragement.

"Off we go, Arthur. My faithful ship of the desert. Allons'y!"

With a defiant snort, Arthur jerked up his head, pulled back his lips and spat into the air. The Doctor scowled down at the animal.

"OK, are you gonna' pout now?" The camel gave a mournful groan in reply. "Oh, very well." The Doctor rolled his eyes, disappointed at Arthur's decided lack of enthusiasm. "Suit yourself. Only, please don't start asking me if we're there yet. I really hate that."

Time Lord and camel journeyed alone into the desert. As he rode, the Doctor gazed upwards, his alien eyes swiftly adjusting to the darkness. A thick carpet of flickering stars covered the obsidian sky. He used them as a celestial signpost. As the sands whispered their night music across the dunes, the Doctor stared at one particular star formation. It pointed the way towards whatever fate awaited him, at the site of Pharaoh's tomb.

Ahmed nervously lead the way through the town's back streets. Ducking into shadows and dashing past doorways, the young man finally slowed as they neared a small single story mud brick home.

"Why all the cloak and dagger routine?" Donna whispered, as Ahmed hovered near the home's doorway, as if unsure what to do. "Do you think Havensworth will come after you?"

"You must forgive me, Donna. I am a single man. To be alone with a lady—especially at this hour of the night, would not go down well with the men of my village. That is why, when we get inside, I must wake my mother. While we are here, she must accompany you at all times. It would be very bad for both of us, otherwise."

Donna waited while Ahmed woke his mother. A while later, the three of them were seated on cushions on the floor, drinking tea. His mother, a large woman swathed in a dark robe, smiled shyly at Donna when they were introduced. Ahmed had to explain to his mother that Donna's man, the Doctor, had asked him to look after her, while he was away from town. His mum smiled shyly at Donna, and bid her welcome to their home.

At first, with Ahmed serving as translator, they only spoke of polite things; his mum's favourite recipes, gardening and the upcoming wedding of one of the neighbours. But, Donna soon grew anxious about following the Doctor's instructions. Though it had occurred to her that he'd probably only wanted her out of the way, so he could go off and explore on his own.

But, when she began speaking to Ahmed about the amulet of Re, things changed. It was his mother's violent reaction to the subject, which lead Donna to believe that perhaps there was more to this than even the Doctor had guessed. As Ahmed started to explain the history behind Re's gift to Pharaoh, his mother let out an frightened cry and began fiercely scolding him.

"What's the matter with her?" Donna asked Ahmed, raising her eyebrows. "You're not like, getting a time out in the naughty chair or something, are you?"

"It's the ancient curse of Pharaoh. All the people here live in terror of it."

"A curse? Seriously? You lot don't actually believe all that nonsense! Dead mummies walking around, killing everyone? I mean, how fast can a tightly wrapped dead body chase you, anyway? You'd probably outrun it with a brisk walk." Donna said tactlessly.

"The legend says that the land will be laid to ashes, so that nothing shall live there ever again, should anyone attempt to remove the amulet of Re from the tomb. The people of my village have both believed in, and feared this curse, for thousands of years, Donna."

"But, we've not even developed the atomic bomb yet!"

The what?"

"Er-yeah." Donna said, realizing she'd just made a time traveler's faux paux. "Pretend you didn't hear that. And promise me, Ahmed. Whatever you do, don't ask the Doctor about it. Still, this is the twentieth century. How could anyone believe that some amulet is a weapon of mass destruction?"

His mother suddenly tugged at Ahmed's arm. She began speaking to him rapidly, shaking her head and pointing at Donna.

"Donna, maybe you should go." Ahmed said apologetically rising from the floor, as his mum grew more and more agitated. "I am very sorry. This must seem most inhospitable to you. You see, the house belongs to my mother. I have no choice but to obey her. She says it is too dangerous to have you here. That you must leave. Now. You can spend the night in the tool shed. It's right behind the house, so I won't be far away. It's past midnight, and dawn comes swiftly here. I will take you back to Havensworth's dig at first light. I promise."

Giving Donna his hand, he helped her up. Showing her the door, he lent Donna a kerosene lantern to light her way, and told her he'd see her later. After his mother had gone to bed, Ahmed went out to the shed. He brought with him a warm camel hair blanket. The building was empty. Suddenly afraid, he dropped the blanket and ran out of the shed calling Donna's name. But, there was no sign of her, and no answer. Donna was gone.

Holding up the lantern so he could examine the ground, he looked for her footprints. There they were heading into the shed—but so was someone else's. A man's shoe. It wasn't a sandal, more like a boot print. Ahmed gasped. Havensworth! It had to be. No one else in the town wore boots like that.

The two sets of footprints came out of the shed and Ahmed followed them. They lead off into the desert, where the shifting sands made it hard to make out any clear impressions in the dark. The young man clenched his hand to his head and groaned in despair. He'd lost her! Donna was now in the hands of a madman.

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