Enclosed in total darkness, and almost delirious with pain, Larra faded in and out of consciousness. There was no way of keeping track of time and she was in such agony that she preferred to sleep as much as possible, only awakening when thirst drove her to sip from the water Marchand had provided. At first she had struggled to break free of the ropes that prevented her from removing the wine bottle Marchand had shoved into her, but she found it fruitless and soon exhausted herself.
Slowly she felt herself weaken. Hunger gnawed at her stomach adding to her torment whenever she phased into consciousness. She dreamed; constantly flicking back and forth from reality to fantasy until between the pain, isolation, and hunger, she was no longer aware of what was real and what was not. At times she was assailed by hideous monsters, at other times she was with friends and family. And in one dream the stone above her was dragged aside, revealing the face of a woman of such stunning beauty she knew she could not be real. Jia Li, she gasped, moaning the name of her long time Chinese companion and then that face faded, replaced by another. Katie Then that image also faded followed by a parade of her female companions and occasionally one of her lovers. And then Marchand and Prinz were there, gloating and sneering at her helplessness and pain.
Her delirious visions finally culminated in a feeling that her body was being consumed. Every part of it itched unmercifully as if a million maggots were boring into her skin. And then suddenly she felt nothing at all. Instead a light opened before her that was blinding in its intensity and strange, ethereal voices called to her.
She floated up out of the tomb and hovered a few feet above it. Strangely, she could still see her body directly below her even though it should have been blocked by the solid stone of the sarcophagus lid. She floated higher, moving above the vast burial chamber and its forest of columns. From above she noticed that the columns formed a pattern she would never have noticed from the ground floor and suddenly she knew what both she and Marchand had missed. And then just as suddenly as she had left her body, she felt herself being pulled back to it. She fought against the return, knowing that it would bring pain and suffering, but the pull was inexorable. No matter how strongly she fought against it, she was dragged back into her body and toward the sound of the voice
Larra , Larra , Larra.
The voices echoed through her mind, drawing her toward them. She floated down a long blindingly bright tunnel; the voices drawing her on, and then suddenly she experienced a strange euphoria so intense it was almost sexual.
She moaned. Someone was touching her, holding her, and then suddenly she was staring into the face of someone she knew well. Katie, she murmured.
Well, its about time, sleeping beauty, Katie smiled. Behind her several other faces came into focus, revealing themselves as the rest of her female companions and her four children. They pressed forward, almost overwhelming her and Katie turned, shooing them back. Give her space to breathe, you lot. Shes only been awake for a few minutes.
No, Larra responded. Its alright. She felt an intense desire to hold all of them in her arms, but when she tried to move she could barely raise her head.
Easy, Katie warned. Youve been asleep for two weeks. We were beginning to wonder if you were ever going to wake up and then just yesterday you began to talk in your sleep.
Two weeks, Larra gasped. The tomb
You were probably in the tomb for a week as far as we could determine. It was pretty much abandoned when we got there. The main entrance had been resealed to keep out looters and there were a couple of members of the Turkish military posted as guards. If it hadnt been for a man called Korkud we might never have guessed that you were inside.
Korkud, Larra thought. Her faithful foreman. She thought he had betrayed her when Marchand had taken her prisoner, but he must have run away and stayed near the archeological site waiting for someone like her companions to show up. She would learn more later. For now she was happy to lie back and just look at her family and friends.
It took her a day or so before she could get out of
bed. Her muscles had atrophied
badly during her three weeks of inactivity and if it had not been for the
healing water she had brought
from the mystical spring in the forests of