I waved my fan at my face, trying to cool myself down in the oppressive heat. I again wondered why I bothered coming to this foolish event in the first place. The answer, of course, was money. Mummy unwrappings were all the rage these days, and madam Pickins wanted someone there who might be able to decipher the talismans placed in the wrapping.
Any ninny should be able to read hieroglyphs, and why of all times would you bring a dead body into your home in the middle of July. The body smelled of rot and decay, filling the room with its putrid stench, which would only become worse when they unwrapped the thing.
The person who invented modern dress had no inkling of how to keep people cool. My crimson dress made of velvet was clinging from sweat. If not for the sensibilities of my client I would strip down to my underclothes to be cool. Even the fine dress now stuck to me was the least beautiful in the room, not that I cared.
The Ornby elite were all gathered, pretending not to notice the heat. The men wore tailored suits with stiff collars that looked decidedly uncomfortable. The women wore tight corsets and bustles in various colors. One woman, a merchant’s daughter whose name I did not care to know had passed out, prompting discussing weakness of the fairer sex. That set me on edge, and the temptation to wipe out the room by summoning one of my demonic allies was high.
Finally, everyone was called together and I was brought to the front of the group. Those who did not know me assumed I was a teacher of some sort, while those who did looked at me with anger, disgust or awe. Father Hannigan looked with pure hate, he was convinced I was a demon worshipper who needed killing. It was true, of course, but the elite weren’t about to give up their only defense against the dark arts.
“It is now time to begin the unwrapping. I have brought Mistress Bitten here because she has been taught to read the hieroglyphs by her late husband. Now let us begin.” Madam Pickins smiled in excitement. I prepared for the stench to magnify tenfold.
As I expected the charms that fell out were the usual fare. At the start of the unwrapping an ancient scroll fell out that crumbled to the touch. I explained it was runes and a map to the underworld and the afterlife. Next, we found a tet amulet, which I explained in bored tones was a protection charm. Next came an Udjat eye. I began to explain this was a symbol for the eye of Horus when I noticed some unusual writing around the eye.
“May I see that? This charm seems unusual to me” I asked politely. Inside me was a roaring cascade of fear. I really hoped I was misreading it.
“Of course, my dear, you, after all, are our guide through this.” There was polite laughter throughout the room. My hand trembled slightly as she handed it over. There was no mistake, we were in serious trouble.
As a whole, mummies very rarely have curses, despite popular belief. Most mummy unwrappings were macabre fun. A little titillation usually ending with everyone fleeing the godawful stench the dead bodies give off. In this case, the body must have been someone vindictive who expected someone to disturb his grave. I had to get everyone out of there before –
I was too late to stop it. A leathery arm, with protruding bones shot out and grabbed madam Pickins by the throat. Pandemonium ensued. At least 3 people pulled out pistols and shot the creature as it slowly sat, then stood, choking the life out of the pitiful woman. One bullet passed through it hitting master Barringer in the shoulder. The creature stood holding her in the air. If I was quick I might be able to save her using my pendant to summon the demon Malacai to interfere with the magics of the creature while I found a more permanent solution. As I reached towards for the pendant a heavy shove knocked me to the ground.
A figure in black stood over me chanting the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. I had almost forgotten that damn priest. His escapades would get the poor woman killed. The creature turned toward the priest even as the lady went limp. The creature tossed her aside and approached as I rose to my feet, a bit unsteady. I would never get paid now.
The issue at hand was survival, and the priest would get us both killed. A plan formed in my mind. I began making arcane gestures and chanted under my breath. Silent as the grave the creature reached out and as it touched him, I pressed my hand into his back. He stiffened, unable to move. With him out of the way, this situation could finally be resolved.
I did take a moment to enjoy the view of the mummified hand closing around father Hannigan’s throat. I briefly considered letting the creature finish him off, but whoever replaced him might be smarter. He was nothing but an oaf.
Reluctantly I pulled a pin from my pocket and stabbed a finger on my right hand. I drew a careful circle with geometric shapes and runes on my palm. This was difficult as the sigil had to be drawn backward.
I slammed my hand on the mummy’s side and chanted infernal words. The bloody handprint began to glow and red streams of light surrounded the creature. It let go of the dullard priest and grabbed its head. It let a dusty gasp and began to chant silently. As this went on I was unsure if the creature I summoned was strong enough. Plan B time, I suppose.
With a sigh, I slid a knife from my boot and held it ready. The struggle shook the creature violently and it dropped to the ground in spasms. For long moments the glow faded and flared, as I anxiously held my knife over my palm. I had issues last time I used my explosion spell I ended up being forced to threaten the homeowner with dire consequences.
Finally, the red washed over the entire body and it rose. The body crossed its arms and turned towards me.
“So you thought it a good idea to summon me into a possessed body? I should kill you now for the impertinence of it.” the voice was deep and menacing
“I apologize, I had no other recourse. Please forgive me. What payment do you require?”
The tattered head looked upwards and pressed a finger thoughtfully on what remained of the body’s lips.
“I require a young woman in my circle within the next 33 hours. If you cannot find a suitable subject then I expect you there – and ready.”
Shuddering I responded “Very well. I can find someone I’m sure.” I considered my maid but she wasn’t quite ready for such treatment. A common whore wouldn’t satisfy the beast. I’m sure I could find someone suitable, even on such short notice. I walked out if the house to address the concerned crowd, as the mummy crumbled.
As I got outside it occurred to me I had not released father Hannigan. Ah well, these things happen. It also occurred to me that madam Pickins had a girl the age of 17. If I wasn’t to get paid monetarily, there were other methods of payment I could accept.