|London sphinx guarding Thutmose III obelisk|
The find occurred in the context of an archaeological mission known as the "Thutmosis III temple project", which began in 2008. Referred to as the Temple of Millions of Years of Thutmosis III, the monument is dedicated to one of the most famous pharaohs of Egyptian history, who came to be known as the "Egyptian Napoleon", due to his many conquests.The temple, located not far from the city of Luxor, had been explored in the early 20th century but not entirely. It was subsequently abandoned by archaeologists in 1938, and was covered by sand and forgotten for seventy years.
"There she is," Gliffy said proudly."Cleopatra's Needle. Made by old T3 - Pharaoh Thutmose III."Before them stood the seventy foot tall obelisk, mounted on a granite pad thrust out from the side of the Thames Embankment, into the river itself.Stairs ran from the top of the pad down to the river below.Two seven-ton bronze guardian sphinxes, nineteen feet long, flanked the obelisk; each had a sphinx head on top of a muscular lion's body.“This beauty stood for about a thousand years in the desert before it was toppled by the Persians in 500 BC,” Gliffy explained.“And then it was buried for about five hundred years, before the Romans dug it up and moved it to Alexandria, where they raised it on the seashore. There it stood for 1300 years, before falling in an earthquake in 1300 AD. It was buried in the sand for another five hundred years, before being dug up once more and sent to London.”“Buried twice, for a thousand years,” Nick whispered, awed.“And now we want to ferret out its secret: does it also send out signals?” Kate said softly.Gliffy was scanning the street."I think the best bet for our scanners is in the trees. The angle between the two scanners would be a bit wide, but it should work?"Lorenzo glanced down the sidewalk and at the obelisk, mentally calculating angles, and nodded."It is enough.""Good, that's what we will do, then," Gliffy decided.He turned to Kate."The lesson continueth," he said with relish, hooking an arm through Kate’s and Nick’s and starting a march to the obelisk."This beauty is called Cleopatra's Needle, but I think they got the wrong guy. It's got nothing to do with Cleopatra, really," he said. "Cleopatra came along a long time later. There is perhaps a connection between Cleopatra and this obelisk, right up to our times, though."He rapped a knuckle on the stone step of the base."The real person this obelisk should have been named after is Thutmose III, who had it made. When the obelisk was moved to London somebody called it Cleopatra's Needle and the name stuck to it."He explained how Cleopatra became pharaoh of Egypt in 47 BC. Julius Caesar spent a few months in Egypt, and after he and Cleopatra became lovers a son was born - their dream was of a new empire, being the combination of Rome and Egypt."Talk about a grand entrance! She had to smuggle herself into his presence, so Cleopatra had herself served up to Caesar wrapped inside a carpet," Gliffy explained.He smiled at Kate.“If you want to hook a man, Kate, remember old Cleopatra: wrap yourself in a carpet!"“Gliffy, sometimes you are just an ass,” she shot back, grinning to take the sting out of her words, “but sometimes you simply are an imbecile.”“It worked, Kate. You can’t argue with success,” Nick said.“I’m surrounded by twins,” she said, pointing at the sphinxes and then at Nick and Gliffy.“Two sphinxes and two asses.”Lorenzo started forward to greet several workmen who spilled out of a truck parked further down the road."You mentioned a connection between Cleopatra and this obelisk?" Nick asked. "What kind of a connection?"Gliffy rubbed the paw of one of the sphinxes."The guy who moved it from Egypt named the steel container he put the obelisk in Cleopatra, but that's not the connection I meant. Some say that a curse fell upon this obelisk when Cleopatra committed suicide. Soon after she was told of the death of her lover, Mark Antony, Cleopatra believed that the emperor Octavian would take her in chains to Rome and parade her through the streets."She was found dead on a bed of gold, dressed in all her royal ornaments, with a small but deadly snake called an asp in her hand."And that was the end of the Pharaohs."Even today, there are more suicides near this obelisk than at any other point on the Thames River."He flung his arms wide, hands pointing down the river's bank."There have been claims that strange, mocking laughter is heard near this obelisk but nobody can be seen making it."He pointed to the base of the obelisk."Some people claim they have seen a naked man rush up to the obelisk, leap upon this base, and then into the water, without any splash being heard."Kate shivered."It's such a beautiful thing," she protested.Gliffy nodded in agreement."Sometimes beauty hides evil," he said.Lorenzo and the workers reached the base of the obelisk."One last question before you start, Gliffy," Nick said. "How did this obelisk get here?""It was a gift," Gliffy explained. "From a rather remarkable ruler of Egypt, a fighting Albanian who fought Napoleon."He was delighted by the astonishment on Nick's face."I know! Nothing about obelisks is simple, my friend. You will learn this. Muhammad Ali was the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt from 1805 to 1849. He was of Albanian extraction, and fought in battles against Napoleon's army when it invaded Egypt. He was appointed viceroy in 1805, and fought successfully against the British in 1807, and then in 1811 he fought off the Mamluks who tried to take over Egypt."Lorenzo pointed at the obelisk and then at the scanners and finally at the trees, and the group moved twenty yards down the sidewalk and gazed up into a large tree.Kate wandered over to one of the benches further along the embankment and sat on it, running her hand over the head of the buxom plump-cheeked iron sphinx which served as the end of the bench and one of its legs.We have three separate hunts going on, she thought, caressing the head – the iron was cold to the touch.All four were hunting for the solution to the obelisk and its signals.She was hunting for a solution to the Bug.Nick was hunting for a way to mobilize ordinary people to fight global warming.She enjoyed the company of the Sin Trader, she thought, conscious of a faint warmth spreading across her face.Might as well admit it: he was a very interesting man, totally at ease with himself and with everyone he met.And then a flutter of panic stirred in her when she thought of those who were hunting Nick and others at the WorldHeat show.The caucus had ended, with the workers going back to their truck and the others coming back to her."They'll install the scanners tomorrow," Lorenzo said. "Our job here is done; now we can go back to Nick's little jet and return to the civilized world of Venice to pick up some more scanners. I have prepared the spare bedrooms for you.""Oops, almost forgot," Gliffy exclaimed, pulling a tabloid newspaper out of his laptop carrier. "Your Hangman has hit the press."He handed the newspaper to Nick, folded open at a short item which told of threats being sent to Nick's show, with some signed with the figure of a hangman."I wonder if Interpol leaked that," Nick said thoughtfully. "Not much detail in it, is there?"