Chapter 5 : The Desert Sands
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As the group pressed on through the mass of humanity, Evans suddenly found himself face to face with the person he least wanted to see at that moment. Standing in front of him, with his usual haughty expression was the Constable of Wankershire himself, Captain Reginald Whittington.
“Evans, what on earth are you and your men doing in Cairo? If you’re here without authorization I’m going to put you on report, and I will take great pleasure in doing so,” said Whittington, with a condescending tone of aristocratic smugness dripping from every word.
Evans hesitated; there was no way he could tell Whittington about the mission, not that he would want to anyway, but he was still Evans’ superior and he would have to give him some sort of answer. “Colonel Collingwood authorized us to be here,” he said, wishing he could just punch the pompous git in the face and be done with it.
“So you’re jumping the chain of command now are we?” Whittington turned towards Dumbledore, “And just who the hell are you? I don’t believe that beard is within regulations, and you definitely need a haircut, honestly Evans the standards you set for your men are disgraceful.”
Before Evans had the chance to say anything that might get him into trouble, Dumbledore covertly reached for his wand and muttered, “Confundo.”
Whittington took a step back, momentarily stunned, and then slapped Evans on the back, his stern expression now a jovial one. “Evans it’s so great to see you, I don’t know why but I feel so happy right now!”
Whittington then ran to the nearest street vendor, purchased a hot cup of coffee, and poured it over his head, staining his impeccably clean uniform. “I love this place, I feel so alive!” he said, as he ran off and disappeared into the crowd.
Evans breathed a sigh of relief as Bromhead looked on in amusement and MacDonald and Reynolds looked at each other and nodded. Dumbledore had officially won their approval.
They continued walking down a little used back alley and were finally away from the crowds. Dumbledore double checked his map, “This should be it.”
He waved his wand over a nondescript brick wall and the outline of a door suddenly appeared. Dumbledore moved his hands around the edges of the door before figuring out how to push it open and walking through it. Evans walked through after him, motioning for the others to follow, and keeping one hand on the grip of his revolver, just in case.
One by one, they walked into a large room with an ancient décor that somewhat resembled a gallery at the British Museum. A very eccentric looking old woman was hovering in the middle of the room, sitting cross legged on a small magic carpet. She was dressed like an ancient Egyptian princess, and her unkempt hair was pointing in every possible direction.
“Albus Dumbledore and friends, I have foreseen your coming,” she greeted them.
“The legendary Isis Shaharazad, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you; Elphias sends his regards,” said Dumbledore.
“Please, make yourselves comfortable,” said Isis. She gradually lowered herself to the ground as her five guests took seats on cushions around a very low table.
“Evil times are upon us, the dark shadow is spreading, Grindelwald grows stronger by the day, and now, Albus Dumbledore comes here, seeking my advice,” she added.
“Grindelwald has not won yet,” Dumbledore reminded her, as he spread out a large map on the table. “Now let’s discuss our business, so if one was looking to construct an army of the dead in Egypt how would one go about doing so?”
Isis’ paused before asking with a grave expression, “Are you familiar with the Pharaoh Thutmose III?”
“I took an Egyptian history course in university,” Evans chimed in, “He was a great conqueror, expanded the Egyptian kingdom to its greatest size.”
“And his army was never defeated in battle,” added Isis, “When he died, fifty thousand of his warriors were buried with him in the crypt. They were left there as a challenge to future rulers, that whoever could wield Thutmose’s scepter and sit on his throne could reawaken the ancient army, and go on to even greater conquests.”
“Sounds easy enough,” said MacDonald offhandedly.
“Muggle archeologists have searched for Thutmose’s crypt in the traditional Valley of Kings and they believe they have found it there,” Isis continued, “However my research has indicated that the crypt is actually at another site further to the west.” She indicated an area on Dumbledore’s map.
“That’s well behind German lines, we did a reconnaissance mission not too far from there” recalled Evans.
“Very interesting, and what of the scepter?” asked Dumbledore as he adjusted his half moon glasses.
“Thutmose’s scepter is believed to be in a nearby crypt, probably around here,” she said, indicating a spot no more than half a mile away from the other crypt. “Grindelwald’s forces began excavating the site several days ago,” she added.
“So we just sneak in and grab this scepter, and don’t get shot, that seems pretty straightforward,” said Bromhead, who wasn’t the least bit intimidated.
Isis’ expression turned even graver as the room seemed to darken. “Dark, ancient magic protects these objects; many have perished in their pursuit.”
Dumbledore could sense the growing discomfort among his new friends and was anxious to depart. He thanked Isis for her help and folded up his map as the men got up and walked slowly towards the door.
“I must warn you, “Isis called out after them, “Grave danger awaits you should you attempt this task I have foreseen...”
“Good day Isis,” Dumbledore said curtly, making sure he cut her off before she made any grisly predictions of their deaths.
The men filed out the door and back out into the alley, where they regrouped to discuss the new developments.
“Well she was really cheerful,” said MacDonald sarcastically.
“Crazy old bat doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” muttered Bromhead.
“Isis Shaharazad is a very intelligent woman, but like many people in these times she seems to have given up hope, and it is hope that will be our strongest weapon against the likes of Grindelwald and Hitler,” stated Dumbledore in his best professorial tone.
Impressed by Dumbledore’s wisdom and determination, the men resumed their trek on the busy street, stopping when they reached an Army supply depot. The supply officer on duty was a bit difficult to work with at first, but when Evans presented their authorization orders bearing General Brooke’s signature, they had no trouble at all checking out a new truck, as well as all the provisions they would need.
After loading the truck with food, water, and fuel, Bromhead assumed his normal position in the driver’s seat with Evans sitting next to him. Dumbledore took a seat next to MacDonald in the back row, and Reynolds manned to rear facing machine gun in the very back of the truck. As the truck’s engine roared to life, they slowly pulled away from the busy city, and back into the vast empty desert.
Manfred Meisterberger swiftly made his way through the camp with Colonel Gruber following close behind. Gruber’s regiment of Nazi SS troops was hard at work excavating the archaeological site. A constant cloud of thick dust filled the air from the constant digging. Everything was well ahead of schedule so far, but Meisterberger remained apprehensive; Grindelwald was a demanding master who did not tolerate failure.
The German army was already experienced in Egyptian archeology. They had been there before the war in search of the Ark of the Covenant, and many top Egyptologists were in their employ. Using their combined knowledge, it had not taken them long to determine the real site of Thutmose’s crypt.
Their excavations so far had revealed a massive tomb with fifty thousand sarcophaguses in neatly arranged rows, with Thutmose’s throne at its head. Now all that remained was to uncover the enchanted scepter, and the ancient indestructible army could be raised.
An eager young Lieutenant approached them and snapped a crisp one armed salute. “Sir, we’ve uncovered another crypt, we believe it may be where the scepter is hidden.”
“Well what are you waiting for, it must be retrieved,” snapped Gruber.
The lieutenant paused, “Sir, five men have been killed already trying to access the crypt, something ancient and powerful does not want us to be there.”
“Would you like to explain to Berlin why you were unable to succeed?” said Gruber sternly.
“No sir, we will redouble our efforts and we will not fail,” replied the lieutenant.
“I hope so, for your sake,” growled Meisterberger, lightly tapping his wand.
Evans consulted his map as the truck drove deeper into the desert. The sun beating down on them caused an oppressive inescapable heat, which was only made worse by their close quarters and the heat of the engine.
“There’s a supply station 50 km south of here, we can stop there to refuel,” said Evans, looking at his compass.
“That won’t be necessary, there are spells that can take care of that,” Dumbledore informed him.
Dumbledore went on to explain how the aguamento spell could keep their water refilled, and a simple reparo charm should take care of any maintenance issues that arise, as the men were deciding that they liked Dumbledore more and more.
After hours of uneventful driving, they pulled behind a large sand dune to find a place to camp out for the night. As the sun disappeared over the horizon, the temperature rapidly dropped. The intense heat of the desert sun gave way to the cold chill of the night. Dumbledore reached into his enchanted bag and began to set up his tent as the others organized their equipment. He stopped the others when they began to set up their own tents, “I believe my tent will be sufficient for us all.”
They scoffed at the appearance of his seemingly normal sized tent, but he opened it up to reveal a much larger tent on the inside, with five separate sleeping compartments, and a fully furnished common area in the middle. They took seats in the common area as Bromhead distributed their supper rations of canned pork and vegetables.
“Canned pork again, what a surprise,” groaned MacDonald. “Wait, Dumbledore, is it possible for you to magic us some better food?”
Dumbledore laughed, “I’m afraid there are certain limits to magic, Gramp’s Third Law of Transfiguration to be precise, and I happen to find canned pork delicious.”
“Well at least we’ll have a good dessert; I managed to nick some chocolate cake from the supply depot,” said Reynolds, grinning widely.
“That’s why we keep the Aussie around, the nation of convicts trains them well,” explained MacDonald.
“It’s certainly useful, all they teach you in Scotland is how to wear a skirt,” Reynolds shot back.
“It’s not a skirt, it’s a kilt, and they also teach us to play bagpipes you numsie,” responded MacDonald.
“See what I have to deal with every day?” the slightly exasperated Evans said to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore chuckled, trying to decide which former students the soldiers most reminded him of.
“You mentioned you were a professor, what subject do you teach?” asked Evans.
“Transfiguration, it can be a very complicated subject, but I believe I can best explain it through a demonstration.” Dumbledore pointed his wand at a discarded can on the ground and muttered an incantation. Suddenly, the can was transformed into a monkey that ran several circles around the tent before turning back into a can.
“I definitely went to the wrong school,” said Reynolds, shaking his head.
“How do you deal with the unruly students?” asked Bromhead, with a mischievous gleam in his eye.
“There is a wide range of detention options,” explained Dumbledore, “cleaning the kitchens, clearing plants in the Forbidden Forest, exile to the dungeons…”
“Don’t give that man any ideas,” implored MacDonald as Bromhead appeared to be making mental notes of Dumbledore’s suggestions.
The four soldiers and Dumbledore talked for hours, comparing and contrasting their respective worlds, until finally the conversation turned to the war.
“How did your lot get mixed up in this war anyway?” asked Bromhead.
“Grindelwald, just like Hitler believes that certain people are less valuable than others and should be oppressed. The evil they stand for is the same, and it affects us all, wizard and non-wizard alike,” answered Dumbledore.
He continued, “Though we come from different places and have different abilities, the most important thing we can do in these times is stand together. While the task may seem daunting, together we can achieve great things.”
On that serious note, they collectively decided it was time for bed and retreated to their sleeping compartments. They all retrieved their army issued grey blankets, except for MacDonald, who had insisted on bringing his tartan MacDonald clan blanket from home. Alone in their corner of the desert, they slept peacefully, awaiting the dangers that the next day would bring.
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