The next morning, Lord Sennet was gone from camp. Nobody questioned could recall seeing him go. When Inza Nelson told Kent Nelson and Carter Hall what had happened, they were furious and wanted to find him, to make him answer for what he had done. But at Inza’s insistence, they let it go.
After much careful planning and preparation, the chamber was opened. Carter, Kent, Inza, and Joanna Andre entered it cautiously. The men led the way, checking for traps which were common in treasure houses. None were found, however, and the party made it safely into the inner chamber.
“Joanna, take a look at this,” Inza said, shining her flashlight on something. Joanna came to look. There was a magnificent painting on the wall of the chamber, depicting a woman wearing the double crown and holding the crook and flail, which were symbols of the pharaonic office. Obviously it was a female pharaoh, most likely Hatshepsut. A man in the garb of the royal court prostrated himself before her.
“It’s magnificent,” Joanna whispered, breathtaken.
“Can you make out the inscription?” Inza asked, shining the light on the hieroglyphs beneath the painting.
Joanna stared intently at them. “I think so. It says, ‘O my queen, with this amulet, you and your…’ I can’t make out that next word… ‘are endowed with the powers of the goddess Isis. You will command the animals and elements. You will soar as the falcon soars, run with the speed of gazelles’…” Joanna shook her head. “Fantastic! Apparently this was some kind of court magician promising Hatshepsut some kind of mystical powers! I’ll bet he was beheaded when his gift failed to produce the expected results. Maybe this is his burial chamber.”
“Why so sure his gift didn’t do what he said it would?” Carter asked, coming up behind the women.
“Well — come on, Dr. Hall!” Joanna scoffed. “Flying like a falcon? Commanding the elements? Does that sound logical to you?”
“Ever heard of Hawkman, Joanna, or Doctor Fate?” Carter asked, briefly glancing at Inza; although he had given up his secret identity a couple of years ago, there were still people in the world who didn’t realize that Carter Hall was Hawkman. (*) Well, he wasn’t about to bring it up if he didn’t have to.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Press Conference,” Infinity Inc. #12 (March, 1985).]
“Oh, well, certainly, but that’s today! This was ancient Egypt! If there were superhumans around then, don’t you think we’d of heard of it by now?”
“Maybe not,” Kent said thoughtfully. “It was only recently that we learned to translate Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. Perhaps we’ve just never come across the references before.”
“That’s right, Joanna,” Inza said. “This could turn out to be a major find! The first evidence of super-powered humans in ancient Egypt!”
“Superman would be a bit put off if he finds out he wasn’t the first,” Carter chuckled.
Joanna giggled at that. “You sound like you know him!”
“Er… we met once,” Carter said with a wink.
The exploration of the chamber went on. The inscription on the panel seemed to speak of an amulet, but none could be found anywhere. Carter suggested tomb robbers, yet the rest of the chamber seemed intact. Giving up on the amulet for now, the four archaeologists continued their search.
In one anteroom, Kent found a small statue of the god Set. The leering god of discord seemed to stand guard over something, but just what was unclear.
“Amazing likeness,” Inza said, running her hand over the fanged jaw of the god. “Highly polished mahogany wood, if I’m not mistaken.”
As Inza’s hand ran over the lower jaw, it bent down under the slight pressure of her fingers, the mouth opening. As it did so, a panel in the floor at the statue’s feet slid open, making Joanna yelp in surprise.
“Inza!” Kent cried. “What’d you do?”
“I think I’ve found something,” Inza said, pointing to the hole in the floor. “Look there!”
The panel had slid away from a square-shaped hole about three feet deep. Inside was a wooden chest, inlaid with gold and studded with precious gems. Hieroglyphs covered the chest’s lid. Carter hauled the chest out and held it up for all to see.
Unbidden, Joanna began translating the picture writing. “It’s some kind of warning,” she said. “I think it says, ‘Woe be to he who frees the mad god Set from his prison. May the deeds of the disturber never again be set loose upon the Black Land.'”
“Sounds like Set himself is in this box,” Kent said. And at that, a frisson of nervousness ran through the party of four.
The archaeologists decided to take the chest back to their camp to open it. It sat on a table around which the four of them stood silently; tension crackled in the air like electricity.
“Well?” Inza asked. “Who’s going to open it?”
No answer for a moment. Finally, Carter broke the silence.
“Here goes,” he said, reaching out to the chest. With a putty knife, he gingerly broke the wax seals and opened the chest.
“Oh, my word!” Joanna gasped, peering inside. The others bent their heads for a closer look.
It was a mask, a full head mask apparently carved of ebony wood. The mask depicted the wolfish face of Set himself, snarling in evil rage.
“Such workmanship!” Carter said in admiration, lifting the mask from the chest. “I’ve never seen its like!”
“It certainly is a beautiful piece,” Kent said, a trifle uneasily. There was something about it that made him cautious.
Later that night, as the camp slept, the mask rested in its chest, guarded by one of the two soldiers who accompanied the expedition at the insistence of the Egyptian government. It was late, and the soldier was bored. He leaned on his rifle, staring up at the stars and humming to himself. He did not notice a shadow stealing across the moonlit sands, creeping toward the tent.
Inza had been unable to sleep that night; something kept nagging at the back of her mind, keeping her awake. Kent was sleeping peacefully, so she left their tent for a stroll in the cool moonlight of the desert night. She was walking past the tent where the mask of Set was kept when she noticed a light burning inside. That shouldn’t be. She looked around for the guard and quickly found him, lying in the sand, a pool of blood by the base of his head. Inza repressed a gasp and bolted into the tent.
“You!” she shrieked as she threw open the tent flap. Lord Sennet, momentarily startled by her appearance, turned a wicked smile on her, as well as a small, snub-nosed revolver. “Ah, Mrs. Nelson,” he said in an oily, smooth voice. “How delightful to see you again.” Without any further preamble, Sennet pulled the trigger. The gun roared and spat flame, and Inza inhaled sharply as a needle of fire ripped into her upper arm. Her left hand flew to the wounded spot, and her teeth gritted in pain and rage.
“You’re a fool, Sennet,” she hissed through the pain. “That shot… will bring the camp… running.”
“Ah, but by then it will be too late,” Sennet said calmly. He lifted the mask of Set out of its chest. “I have never been far from camp, you see. I’ve been watching… spying, you would probably say. Waiting for you to find this. And now you have. My thanks, Mrs. Nelson, my deepest thanks.”
Inza watched in morbid fascination as Sennet pulled a cut-crystal flask from his pocket and unstoppered it. “My own concoction,” he explained as he began pouring the liquid into the eyes of the mask. Inza’s own eyes widened as the mask began to glow, to pulse with a sickly green light.
“Ah, the god is awakened,” Sennet breathed lustily. “And now, the power of Set shall belong to the only one worthy to possess it… to the thirteenth Lord Sennet!”
“Inza!” Kent’s voice barked, as he burst into the tent.
Kent and Inza stared in mute horror as Lord Sennet placed the glowing mask over his head. Instantly, his entire body was engulfed in a nimbus of glowing green light; two blazing orbs of red pulsed from the mask’s eyes.
“At last!” the transformed Lord Sennet roared in an unearthly voice. “At last, the power of Set is mine!” As he spoke, green energy rippled from his body like waves. With a gesture of his hand, he blew the roof of the tent into atoms. He lifted into the air, a bright green star burning over the desert night.
“I shall remake this world in my image!” Sennet declared, his voice rolling like thunder. “I shall take my rightful place in the ruling class! Once more, the lower classes will know their true place in the world, and give me and mine the fealty we deserve by right of birth!”
“Not if we can help it, you lunatic,” Inza hissed through clenched teeth.
“Darling, you’ve been shot!” Kent gasped. “Did he–?”
“He did,” Inza grimaced. “I think I need a doctor. What say?”
Kent smiled grimly and extended his hand to his wife’s.
The transformed Lord Sennet floated over the camp, watching everyone scurry out of their tents like ants and gape up at him in awe.
“That’s right, you loathsome insects!” His voice boomed. “The Disturber has returned! I mean — I have gained the power of the gods! Kneel down before your rightful ruler, or die in the flames I command!”
In illustration, Sennet’s left hand pointed at the largest tent, and it burst into brilliant green flames.
“Hold, villain!” another voice challenged. If Sennet’s voice was a thunderclap, this one was the roar of a tidal wave. Sennet’s face, enshrouded in green flames, turned to see Doctor Fate flying toward him.
“Doctor Fate!” he exclaimed. “So, we meet again, Nabu!” Sennet shook his head, as if brushing off a fly. “You dare to challenge me, Fate? Then die as you deserve to!”
Twin bolts of crimson light lanced from Sennet’s eyes. Doctor Fate barely had enough time to erect a golden shield to counter the beams.
Carter Hall watched this for just a moment before darting back into his tent, and the special gear he had foresight enough to pack.
Doctor Fate returned Sennet’s fire with some of his own. A blast of pure golden light issued forth from his gauntlet. Sennet caught the bolt on his wrist, turning it aside and laughing.
“Foolish one,” he chortled, “your puny order magic is nothing compared to my chaos might! Prepare yourself for the judgment hall of the dead!”
“Not today, green-gills,” a new voice taunted. Sennet turned his glowing head to see Hawkman soaring toward him through the night sky, brandishing a mace.
“What is this?” Sennet demanded. “A soldier of Horus, come to challenge the Disturber? Be you gone!” Sennet waved his hand, and a gale-force wind whipped out of nowhere, buffeting Hawkman as he flew. The winged wonder strained his muscles to the breaking point, but at last the wind won out, sending him tumbling head over heels backward.
Joanna Andre watched the scene with growing horror. Finally, her fear won out, and she ran blindly across the camp, not knowing where she was going, only that she wanted to escape.