Times Past, 1948
Danger in Ancient Egypt
Part 5 of The Nebula-Man
Stripesy, given great strength from his battle with the Nebula-Man, finds himself in ancient Egypt under the rule of the Pharaoh Akhenaten. But will his loyalty to a new friend cause his enslavement?
The figure dressed in a red-and-white-striped costume struggled to rise to his feet after falling through a hole in the sky. A wave of sickness overcame him as his vision blurred and wavered. A blast of hot sand whipped across his face before he fell into unconsciousness and down to the sand.
A man found the weirdly dressed stranger lying in the sand and easily picked up the heavy load. “It is as the stranger has foretold,” the man said to himself as he bore his burden to his modest dwelling.
The man placed the stranger in his own bedding before gathering several herbs that he ground up with a stone. The mixture was placed in cloth and then put on the stranger’s face.
Pat Dugan, the man known as Stripesy, tossed and turned, sometimes whispering and other times shouting names and places as his fever dreams tormented him. The man listened with curiosity to the words of Stripesy, only comprehending a fraction of what he said.
Two weeks later, Stripesy awoke to the sight of a stranger leaning over him. The stranger smiled slightly, making sure not to appear threatening.
“Praise be to Isis, for your fever has broken, and you awake to greet Ra at last.” The man went and came back with the top part of Stripesy’s garment.
Stripesy tried to get up but still felt a trifle dizzy. “Where are my friends, and who are you?”
The man offered his arm to help Stripesy to his feet. “There was only you, wizard.”
“I’m no wizard. I’m just an ordinary guy.” Stripesy grabbed his shirt and pulled it on.
“Your strange garments and the things you describe in your fever dreams make me think you are a wizard, but you are flesh and blood like myself.” The man pulled out a chair, which he offered to Stripesy.
Stripesy chose instead to lean against one of the walls, feeling suspicious of the stranger. “What’s with the robes?”
“I am called Dengar,” the man said, looking at his robes and wondering just what the wizard meant. Dengar then noticed that what he heard and what the stranger said were not in tune with each other.
“I remember fighting the Nebula-Man with my pals, but the rest of it is a blur,” Stripesy said, but only pieces of the message were understood by Dengar.
Dengar went to a back room and brought back a stone box filled with sand. Stripesy watched with curiosity as Dengar drew symbols in the sand and then gestured for Stripesy to look at them. Stripesy looked and then scratched his head in puzzlement.
Then Dengar began to absently play with a band around his left arm as he tried to think of another way to explain it to his guest. Stripesy rubbed the sand back down smooth and then drew his name in symbols. “This is me,” Stripesy said tapping his chest.
Dengar was the one who looked puzzled now, as the strange symbols matched nothing he knew.
Stripesy tossed up his hands in frustration before stepping outside. In the distance he saw a half-completed pyramid that caused his eyes to open very wide. He stepped back into the home, feeling shocked. “I gotta be in Egypt, and ancient Egypt, at that. But that’s gotta mean you are speaking ancient Egyptian that somehow sounds like English to me.”
Dengar nodded his head when Stripesy said Egypt, but the translation did not extend to the word English. “Your home is this word I do not understand.” Dengar mimicked the movements of Stripesy lips, sounding out the word English.
“Sir Justin is English. I’m a red-blooded member of the good old USA,” Stripesy said with pride before realizing that his country had not even been discovered yet.
“Your sickness is almost gone, and there is danger staying here. I have an enemy who plots against me,” Dengar spoke slowly, trying to make certain that his words came out right.
Stripesy nodded his head as the words translated. “You helped me out with that medicine of yours, and I’m not going to run out on you. Besides, I want to stay close to where I arrived so my friends can find me easier.”
Dengar smiled at his new friend. “Your bravery rivals that of Horus. But I hope you do not regret this.”
The enemy Dengar spoke of was busy plotting when an overseer arrived.
“My Lord Vizier.” The overseer bowed, showing his respect and fear of the powerful advisor to the Son of the Sun.
Cold, black eyes gazed over a broken hooked nose examining the overseer as if they could see every secret hidden within his spirit. “Speak.”
“Another three slaves have been injured working on his greatness’ pyramid. It will delay work for a period of time.” The overseer waited for the Vizier’s reply.
The silence was ominous before the Vizier smiled.
“The Son of the Sun has chosen to answer my prayers at last.” The Vizier motioned for the overseer to rise to his feet.
“My Lord, I do not understand.” The overseer, remembering the fate of his predecessor, wondered if this night he would die.
“The one called Dengar, who should have died with his treasonous sire but instead was spared by the mercy of the Queen, has long troubled me.” The Vizier’s eyes glittered with long-held rage and jealousy as he remembered the night the Queen spared the traitor’s life.
“Yes, my Lord. You often speak of him and the way he clings to the old beliefs, but the Son of the Sun has declared his life immune to prosecution.” The overseer still did not know what this had to do with the news of injured slaves.
“I do not expect you to understand the cunning my mind has, for you are only fit to guard slaves.” The Vizier looked with hungry eyes to see if his words sparked anger in his overseer.
“As you say, my Lord. Pray enlighten me so I can carry out your orders without fail.” The overseer knew anger as he bowed yet again to the Lord Vizier.
“Go to Dengar and say that the Queen has asked him to care for the fate of the slaves with his healing arts so the monument to the Son of the Sun can be finished.” The Lord Vizier’s face writhed with delight as the perfect plan fell into place.
“What if he refuses, my Lord?” the overseer asked, hesitantly fearful to question the Lord Vizier’s plans.
“If he refuses, then word of the refusal will soon reach the ears of the Son of the Sun, and his anger will be terrible to behold. If he accepts, then you will make it your personal responsibility to guard his safety. After all, tragic accidents happen all the time while working on our own great one’s monument.” The Lord Vizier dismissed the overseer, returning to his plans to cement his position in the Son of the Sun’s court.
Guards soon arrived at the dwelling of Dengar, led by the overseer. Stripesy looked ready to jump into action, but Dengar gestured for him to wait. The overseer bowed slightly, his face a combination of haughty anger and hidden fear.
“My Lord Vizier has sent me to ask you to use your healing arts on the slaves building the Son of the Sun’s monument.” The overseer waited for Dengar’s reply.
“A moment for me to see to my patient before I give you answer.” Dengar gestured for the overseer to wait as he and Stripesy spoke in private.
“My friend, I cannot refuse, but you can stay here until your friends come. I will see to it that food and drink is brought to this place,” Dengar told Stripesy, speaking slowly.
Stripesy scratched his head. “Why don’t you tell this guy to jump in a lake instead of going along?”
“You do not understand how clever my foe is. If I refuse, word will reach the Son of the Sun, and even the Queen’s great mercy will be not enough to save my life.” Dengar sounded regretful as he contemplated the future.
“But if you go, it sounds like one of those guards will make sure you have some sort of accident.” Stripesy’s fists clenched in anger.
“That is likely, my friend, but it does not concern you. You stay and wait for your people. You need to return to your wizardly realm.” Dengar began to gather his herbs and other ingredients, putting them in rough sacks.
“I’m not the kind of guy who runs out on people who helped me out when I was down and out. I’m going with you to watch your back, and it’s no good arguing with me.” Stripesy sounded determined as he stepped over to the overseer.
“I’m going with him,” Stripesy told the overseer.
“I have no orders about you — only him.” The overseer dismissed the strangely garbed foreigner as being mad.
Dengar smiled, seeing a chance to rattle the overseer. “My friend is a great wizard from a foreign land, and he will be coming with me.”
“A wizard? I do not believe you.” The overseer examined Stripesy, looking slightly afraid.
“I’m no wizard. I’m just an average guy,” Stripesy said with assumed modesty.
Dengar and Stripesy were escorted to the area where the slaves were kept. Stripesy was disgusted by the conditions the slaves had to live in, and only Dengar’s presence restrained his anger.
Two weeks later, Stripesy and Dengar had managed to survive thirteen separate so-called accidents. Stripesy, appalled, had joined in moving the heavy stone blocks up the wooden ramp, allowing several slaves a chance to rest. Dengar alternated between concern for his friends’ increasing weariness and amazement at his awesome strength. Even the overseer wanted to know the secret to Stripesy’s strength. The overseer ordered the dangerous wizard to be bound in chains at night, to Dengar’s disgust. All Stripesy knew, however, was that, ever since the battle with the Nebula-Man, his already formidable strength had steadily increased to its current superhuman level; but he was not about to attempt to explain that to anyone in this era.
Very soon now, Dengar would be the first to spot the arrival of the strangely garbed men from the future, and he would secretly watch the battle that ends with Stripesy’s comrades being hauled away.
“Even you are not immune to defying the Son of the Sun’s authority, wizard,” the overseer would say, ordering that Stripesy be hung on a wooden ramp to bake in the sun all that day and remain there overnight as an example to the slaves.
Dengar would watch with concern for hours, knowing that if he attempted to rescue his friend, the overseer would use that as a chance to slay him. But when Stripesy’s future allies would escape and seek his rescue that night, that would give him his chance, allowing him to begin to draw ancient symbols into the sand, drawing on his skills passed down through his family lineage. “Thoth, guide me to wisdom to save my friend,” he would say. “Hu, give my words power. Bes, grant him the strength to fight. Tefnut, protect him from Aten’s wrath.”
The symbols would start to shift as the magic flowed from the ancients gods directed by Dengar’s will. Stripesy would start to stir and soon break free, shattering the large wooden stakes and allowing him to join in the battle against his captors.
Upon the end of that battle, Stripesy would bid his new friend a farewell, pausing only to ask about his safety.
“My friend, you return to your wizardly realm,” Dengar would say as the strangely garbed men from the future overhear. “The Lord Vizier will find some way to blame me for this, so it is time for me to travel elsewhere. I feel we will never meet again, but it has been good to know you. May your gods protect in your travels.” Dengar would shake Stripesy’s hands and watch him depart with the other wizards through a mystical circle.
But that was still in the near future. For now, Dengar and Stripesy were slaves awaiting their freedom.
Author’s afterword: The Son of the Sun is a reference to Amenhotep IV who, early in his reign as Pharaoh, changed his name to Akhenaten or Akhenaton. He tried to shift the Egyptian worship of the multitude of gods to one known as Aten or Aton. After his death, the priests and people returned to the old ways. The reference to Dengar being spared his father’s fate is quite unusual, as a serious crime done by one member of the family affected the whole fate of the family. Only the intervention of a powerful figure could have spared someone by the Egyptian system of law, or Ma’at as it was known, and in this case that figure was Queen Neferiti.
To Be Continued in The Vigilante: Times Past, 1948: Sanders’ Last Stand