Chapter Four

 

Dowload

candle

 

 

In the stillness of now, pain can tear your heart,

And illusion may betray reality,

But looking within, one can truly start

To find peace and higher clarity.

 

 


As the early hours of the morning crept closer towards dawn, Vianne sleepily opened her eyes as light threatened to invade the study and her privacy.   She sighed as the exhaustion of the past few days engulfed her and a cold shiver ran through her bones.Rising from the deep leather sofa, she shuffled wearily off to the cloakroom by the front door to collect her father’s old, long, waxed mackintosh. It smelt of him, with just a trace of his aftershave lingering on the green cord colour.  She held it to her as flashing images raced randomly through her mind.  Smiling faces, happy moments, she missed him so much.  Returning to the comfort of the sofa, she splayed the coat out and dropped down on to the cushions so the weight of the coat lay reassuringly heavy over her.  She picked up the papers she had been concentrating on earlier, along with the cup of now cold coffee and took a sip.  She winced as it filled her mouth and assailed her taste buds. It was cold like the day and equally as uninviting. She wondered if the pain of loss would last forever, though within the spaces between these dominant emotions, in the same thought, she realised she didn’t want them to pass either. The pain was exquisite in its intensity.  Yet not a tear had fallen.  She wondered when it would.  How she envied her mother who had been able to cry. Why couldn’t she?
Here in the study, Vianne felt at home in the book lined room. It’s slightly dusty smell of old books and papers seemed to seep out and comfort her in it’s familiarity. Arranged haphazardly there was a chaos here which she felt comfortable with.  “Life” her father had said “could never be perfect, it was far too wild, like the ocean, a wonderful world of discovery, so don’t fight the tide, go with it and enjoy the journey, there was far too much to see, to learn, to be drowned by domesticity”.  She looked over to the book shelves lined with a lifetimes collection of books, beckoning her. They whispered enticingly, she revelled in their great stories and wealth of human experience. As one of the world’s most eminent Egyptologists her father had been gifted in his intuition, a maverick in his approach, and criticized heavily at times for his rather  dangerous enthusiasm. Nevertheless his brilliance was legendary.He like so many others had long ago been bitten by the fascinating and intriguing accomplishments of people long dead.  The incredible efforts it took using methods still remaining lost in the sands of time to build pyramids which spoke as much about their scientific knowledge as they did of their understanding of the human psyche and the effect the design had on the human consciousness.  The harmonics of the pyramids themselves had beguiled him. In each country he had visited, he had unearthed links between continents and their significance to humanity.  Intelligence of the highest form, at its most conscious form.  Many of his hypotheses had rocked the establishment. Some of his colleagues had mocked him, whilst others sat nervously on the side lines just wondering what he would unearth next.  He was not a favourite of the ‘Establishment’ for this reason.  Archaeology they argued is a science not a guessing ground for wild hypotheses and his maverick disregard for protocol had attracted some rather colourful characters.    But, his logic and sharp mind had fought with the best. The plethora of hot debates often became personal though he never flinched from diving in.  From resting places and transportation of the pharaoh to his celestial afterlife, to his views on the pyramids as forms of batteries collecting atmospheric energy, believing it potent energy, would have facilitated a transition to higher consciousness for those trained and prepared. The debates were always heated and passionate. However he never published what he imagined or truly thought and now Vianne found herself searching!With her thoughts racing, Vianne went over to the leather-topped writing desk by the old French doors. Evidence of years of reading and writing silently and invisibly infused the surface. She stared out into the garden. Lightly, she tapped a pewter paper knife, moulded to the shape of Seth, ancient murderous brother of Osiris, against an ink-well. She dug Seth’s up-pricked ears into the softness of her left forefinger and then clasped the ornament so his twisted snout formed purple marks in her palm. The truth behind the death of Osiris’ and his dismembered body was buried in myth.  Was his head really to be found somewhere close to Abydos, just north of the site of the Aswan dam, as legend would have it?She wasn’t going to find that artefact, at least, not this time out... not on this trip. She was headed not for Egypt but for Yemen.  The hairs on the back of her neck bristled and goose pimples rose on her arms as she thought about the problems there.  One of her most trusted and truest friends, Leilu often sent news of the latest unrest.  Born into a very good family, she was the daughter of one of her father’s oldest friends Omar, Director of the General organisation of Antiquities, Museums and manuscripts, (GOAMM), in the capital of Sena’a. Their stories were now becoming more cautiously told since all communications were being being vetted by the authorities.  Constantly wary of who might be reading them, she sent news in code.  As children they had loved the idea of hieroglyphics and made up their own little code.  It had proven to be very useful.  Vianne had become ever more worried about her good friend as the situation in Yemen deteriorated so when she saw her emailed invitation from Professor Day to go there, it was with some trepidation that she thought about it’s response.  Since the American disaster of September 11, 2001 and subsequent connections with the terrorists of al-Quaeda and now the political unrest of the ruling families she was worried for Leilu’s safety.  She was right in the middle of all this.  Of all places… why Yemen?  The dig site had potential and it could even be the making of a professional young archaeologist out to make a name for herself. But this place held dark feelings, it was the place that her father had died, barely two weeks ago. But there was something else…a feeling of foreboding, a sense of something not quite right and it troubled her. She had never believed in coincidences, why Yemen?  ‘Tea darling?’ - her mother broke the spell as she popped her head around the corner of the heavy oak door.  Vianne was brought out of her reverie by the look on her mother’s face, the red rimmed eyes and the drawn expression.  Vianne doubted she had slept at all.  Someone in the family dying of natural causes was bad enough, but having a relative being killed, well, that opened a can of worms. There were always self-searching questions, doubts and issues that no family ever wanted to address.“Mum?” she started,  “ Umm, yes please, but Mum come and sit down I’ll do it”Her mother, elegant and composed answered her daughter rather too quickly.   “No, let me, I need something to do.” Before she let her mother disappear she called after her.  “Mum, we do need to talk....” Vianne had agonised over telling her mother about her forthcoming trip, but she felt it would have been cruel to wait longer.“Mum, I’ve had a call from, Marcus Day, he wants me to go back Yemen....to Marib”A dark shadow swept across her mother’s face and immediately Vianne took in her next deep breath and forced herself on.“I know how you feel Mum…”, but before she could finish what she so desperately wanted to say her mother responded sharply, a little too sharply.“How could you ever know how I feel!”  Their relationship hadn’t been close for many years, often Vianne had noted a growing sense of detachment over the years as she grew up.  She and her father had always been more companions than father and daughter and this in itself had caused inevitable tension.  Her mother had always wanted the perfect ‘doll’ daughter to dress and show off, Vianne was far from this and her shared passion for archaeology with her father often left Sophia more side-lined.  Not deliberately of course, but then that had only made it worse.  The natural nature of their friendship was palpable to all around and his ability to become buried in his subject had often left Sophia at home and alone and with no other children to occupy her she had become desperately lonely. Ignoring her mother’s jibe Vianne tried to explain why she was leaving so soon after the funeral.  But her mother didn’t want to know.  Vianne could see the pain in her eyes, she had never wanted to hurt her mother and had often seen the loneliness on her mother’s face over the dinner table as the conversation had ranged over the more intricate delicacies and details of this dig or that. Things her mother knew little about.   The look on her mother’s face was icy.    “Will we never get that damn country out from under our skins?”Her ‘cuss’ had been uttered with such venom. Vianne looked up at her mother’s anguished face, as she added:“You know I have to go.”  Silence filled the room.  Vianne wanted to hug her distraught mother. She wanted to hold her tight and tell her it would be alright and that she loved her very much.  But this was so difficult after years of perfunctory correctness.  They did not have that bond, though Vianne craved it so much.  She missed her mother.Vianne just looked away, unable to answer, the pain inside weighed heavy and drained her of what energy she had left and she felt exhausted.  Deep down her concerns were churning around chasing for resolution.  She and her father had always played down the fact that in many places around the world the political situation was unstable and at times they had worked and travelled in areas under the close protection of armed guards. She was hardly going to say more now, even though she knew her mother needed, even craved the same as she, compassion, even forgiveness, but more…… touch. Why did this elude them when for so many it was as natural as breathing.
Vianne was honest about her disappointment at not being included in the expedition to Abydos in Egypt. She had had good feelings about the dig and was sure that major discoveries were waiting to be opened up. Little did she know, at that moment, that the discoveries she would make in Yemen would be bigger than she could imagine.... or that they would rock the world.The clouds outside rumbled as it readied to release it’s heavy charge. Vianne, remained buried in her dark thoughts, struggling with the negativity in the atmosphere left by her mother.  Her eyes roamed the room.  She felt a sense of something missing, there was an incongruity.  The books were familiar, almost like good friends. She knew the positions of many of them. Unmoving, her azure blue eyes, she scanned the packed rows of literary work. She was looking for something, but she did not know what, or even why.She felt a warm glow across her cheek. Was it the sun through the garden window? And then a soft gust dislodged a tuft of hair at the side of her brow. She turned quickly to the window to see if it was open, but it wasn’t ....a draft from the corridor outside the study perhaps?Looking back to the shelves she glanced down to the one just above floor level where some of the heavier tomes stood erect. They were all about the same thickness, covering a wide range of subjects, references and information about all kinds of peoples, places, and of course, in particular, beliefs.But wait! Her scan halted, captured by an anomaly… a small, thin, red book among the heavies, almost invisible, except for its tiny stitched back.Her foot slipped off the leather in-laid desk, and the spring in the Captain’s chair launched her forward and on to her feet.The little red journal was close to the corner of the room beside the desk and opposite the door. Before moving it she slipped to the floor, cross-legged. With her elbows on her knees and her chin resting on her knuckles, she sat there.“I haven’t seen you before,” she whispered, “What are you doing in amongst the big boys?”“Take it.”“What?” Her head whipped round to where she thought the voice had come from, by the window. The room was still and there was no-one there.“Take it.” The voice came again, only this time it didn’t come from a direction and it was barely discernable. It wasn’t audible at all... it was in her head.She looked back around at the book, her left hand outstretched to take it, but she hesitated. She looked around the room again, and back again at that little red journal.Her index finger rested on the top of the binding, only just squeezing into the gap between the two mighty volumes either side, gradually, she eased it out.Hard-backed it was actually a notebook, and even without opening it she knew this was one of her father’s – he had built up a vast number of them over the years. Without exception they were all kept in the attic. The only time they ever appeared in the library was when he was carrying out special work. But he would always return them to the attic when he had completed his day’s task, preferring them locked away.This one had been out in the open, but could not have been better hidden.Vianne opened the hard cover. Etched in capitals on the inside sleeve, in his own hand, were four words:“Guardians and the Senses”…Only ten pages in the notebook were used, written in a jumble of letters and symbols. The first three seemed to be general text, and the following three were different. Each of the seven seemed to have far less content, but a main phrase dominated each. Underneath, on some of them, there appeared to be substantive clauses. Some of the symbols seemed familiar, but clearly all of it was in code .... that was just like him!She mulled it over.... As for every code there had to be a key, and in order to crack this one, she knew she had to find that key.She was now completely absorbed and, having read for hours, she was still deep in thought as the sun rose, though not high.  It was a winter’s day, the bleak kind that pervades all with miserable, damp, cold that even the glimmer of sun cannot disperse.Vianne knew she had been adopted, the circumstances had been strange though and her father had made up a beautiful little story for her which she always remembered.  It was their story and in it, he painted a picture of her mother, the mother she missed, a good person, kind and charming. This was the woman seen through the eyes of a young man deeply in love.Her father, Roger, a young archaeologist at the time had been working away from home, when he had just returned from a season in the Valley of the Kings. Vianne had heard the story told so many times. This had become her bed time story and as the gulf between her and her mother had grown she often revisited it, as a testament to her, that really deep down, she was a wanted and loved child. It had been early evening and his her father’s first port of call was the small but cosy fifth floor South Kensington flat he and Sophia rented.Roger had bounded up the five flights of stairs, to the small landing to the attic flat and nearly stumbled over a large bundle of clothes and jumble close to their door. With his suitcase in his hand and rucksack over his shoulder, he turned to the door handle, stepped over it and walked in.Just as he had pictured it, Sophia was there, he would recount, looking incredible. Vianne loved this bit.  She loved seeing her mother through the love of her father and he loved her so much. It was sad that this love was the same emotion that had turned to contempt as their marriage had travelled the years.Vianne always smiled when he would get to the next part of the story.“Have you been clearing out some old clothes and stuff...?” he asked her mother, knowing that her mother often supported fund raising at the local community hall, “Is there a jumble sale on this weekend...?“Not that I know of... what do you mean?” she had asked.“The bundle of stuff by the door” he said, “ I nearly fell over it when I came in.... Didn’t you put it there?”“No, I don’t know what you are talking about....” and Sophia put down the chopping knife she was using and had gone to the door and opened it. Sure enough the bundle was there. Sophia frowned and bent down to inspect it.At first there appeared nothing strange, but as Sophia moved some of the material about she realised there was something there. Inside the basket was a baby. In fact that is what the note inside said: ‘This is Vianne, best of souls – she is for you!’.Of course the police were notified and Vianne was taken by social services. Protracted investigations ensued but there was no trace of Vianne’s mother or where she had come from... either Roger or Sophia had checked every day.They had talked about little else and it seemed to have extra relevance since they had been told by doctors a couple of years earlier that they could not have children. Strange really, but they both had ‘complications’ that made it impossible.Finally they came to a decision, which they never understood seemed to displease police and social services and the adoption agencies involved... but they were very persistent. Against the odds, eventually, they were allowed to adopt Vianne, and to both of them it felt like the most wonderful thing.Certainly, as Roger’s status grew, and Sophia’s eminence as a prominent psycho-analyst soared, Vianne wanted for nothing.
And so now, with the loss of Sir Roger, Vianne felt adrift in her grief, which overwhelmed her in unrelenting, gut wrenching pain.  She would have screamed but she couldn’t breath, her stomach was in knots and more than anything she craved a moment’s relief.  She even felt a pang of guilt run hotly through her veins when she thought about the times she had been counselling friends when she had no idea fully what this pain was like.  She had said all the right things, listened attentively as they tried to express their anguish.  But what was this compared to their agony, why hadn’t she been able to relieve them of this?  When she could do so many things, she had never mastered the art of healing, but felt it’s drive was strong in side her, if only she could harness it.  Would she ever be able to focus the power she held within?  “Please God, give me strength,” she said under her breath as she looked around at all her father’s things, the only physical reminder of him left to her.Vianne hadn’t changed from the night before, her hair tied loosely in a pony tail and her old blue jeans and baggy jumper crumpled, having fallen asleep amidst the sea of books. The heavy wax mac slipped to the floor as Vianne turned to meet her mother’s gaze as she carried in a tray of tea and biscuits. Sophia picked up the mac – she knew that Vianne had used it as a blanket – it was not the first time.“I’ve been going through Dad’s stuff, looking for anything regarding his thoughts about the dig in Yemen.   Mum, there’s so much of it, and I hadn’t realised just how far he had progressed with his work there.”  “It’s odd though, really, such contradiction. Some of the work, the sketches and rough notes have been catalogued, almost fastidiously, as usual, but there are loads of other notes and papers just lying around and some I don’t understand at all.  “Have you seen this before?”Sophia, who had been looking towards the opened drawers of the large study desk turned pale as Vianne held out a leather-bound journal she had found the previous day. She stretched and handed it to her mother.   There was a flash of recognition, or was it surprise on her mother’s face? But just as quickly as it came, it was gone, only to be replaced by a puzzled look, perhaps of denial? Just as she was about to respond, there was a knock at the door and handing the book back to Vianne, Sophia went to answer it without response.  However momentary, the expression that had flashed across Sophia’s face, left Vianne wondering, and she resolved to get her mother to reveal that thought. Vianne started to gather the papers, stacking, then tapping them back into order.Forced to hold her tongue by the intrusion, two burly deliverymen in dark blue overalls, weighed down by heavy packing boxes - yet more of Sir Roger’s belongings from the University, struggled through the hall towards the study. Sophia gave them instructions to mind the paintwork and put them down just inside the door and showed them out.  Vianne turned her attention to the boxes and paraphernalia scattered around her and started to open the first that had been delivered. There was no tell-tale evidence but she had the feeling that the contents had been disturbed... rummaged through. She threw off the thought. She knew some of the material, such as the teaching and lecture notes, student papers and dissertations she could ignore. However, amongst these papers were also hand-written notes about the dig in Yemen and her father’s theories on potential locations, including aerial shots.  All this could hold valuable information and she didn’t want to miss a thing.Perhaps prompted by her mother’s reaction earlier, or maybe a nagging premonition, similar to one she had felt when she was first asked to go out to Yemen, Vianne’s thoughts raced flitting from one thread to another, and on top of that there was something tugging at the back of her mind, a sense of foreboding.Why her father had encoded the journal she found in his study earlier, puzzled her. The pages held none of the usual jottings, ideas or even rough explanations of where the clues were leading him. This, she told herself was mystifying - there was obviously a reasonable explanation and perhaps she could ask Omar about it later?  She thought that because he had worked so closely with her father, he may be able to shed some light on why he should suddenly start working differently.  He might be able to shed some light on it, but she wasn’t sure about him and there were nagging doubts in the back of her mind. And another nagging thought, how had the journal, which was obviously one of the latest he had been working on, got to his study instead of being amongst his affects in these boxes. She vowed to ask her mother....“God”, she thought to herself, “ I’m having nagging thoughts and doubts about everthing... what’s going on...?” Losing a father under such difficult and tragic circumstances was tough for anyone, she reasoned to herself, but non of this fitted, she had the most unnerving , unsettling doubts in her mind, and questioned why she felt this way when the reports of what had happened seemed complete and on the surface satisfactory.  But still something didn’t feel right. Roger had also been a mentor to Vianne, and she had grown up immersed in his enthusiasm for archaeology and his passion to reveal the truth.  Unlike so many of her peers, first at school and later at university, Vianne enjoyed and was confident in the knowledge that she was walking a path to her future.  Now she had lost her guide and she felt abandoned. The search through his papers held far more significance than merely bringing herself up to date on the Yemeni dig - it was a search to find herself. So Omar’s information was increasingly significant and she had so much to ask him.  She wanted to be prepared for her meeting with him that afternoon.  Sophia had helped initially, opening up the boxes, as intrigued as Vianne was to see the contents. But apart from a few mementos from various countries, most of it was papers. Vianne ploughed on despite a growing feeling of unease, and a dark swirling malaise. In this dark mood she stretched out on the old Persian rug. She concentrated on trying to cross-reference her father’s journal, or at least what there was of it, with other references, to see if she could shed more light to the scribbles.  Looking closely at the hieroglyphs, Vianne noted that there were other symbols and jottings around the rubbings and an assortment of carefully sketched diagrams.  The ancient forms were completely different from anything she had seen before.  They seemed to be a unique, complete language. Strangely they combined ancient Yemeni style, thin upright writing, with an adaptation of the more familiar Egyptian-style pictorially representative writings seen in texts from the Great Pyramid and the Rosetta stone. This kind of combination was unfamiliar, and she was unsure of the relativity between the two forms. Was this something her father had copied from real texts or was it something he had made up for himself?By making notes of her own in a pad she worked through and began slowly to recognise patterns in the scribbling. Having played word games and done puzzles with her father from being young, she had an advantage over someone else perhaps trying to decipher his work, and she recognised one or two of his little tricks. Despite her efforts, she was not confident she was making the right interpretation because her father had neither an English translation nor a transcript anywhere. She understood many of the outlines, but there was no explanation of the various combinations of outlines, which as archaeologists know all too well, could change the intention considerably – sometimes to mean the exact opposite of what it appeared.  The new dig in Yemen and the evidence they were hoping to uncover stemmed from the story of the Kebra Negast, the Ethiopian story of Solomon and Sheba and their son Manelik. The controversy over Sheba’s identity, whether the Queen of Sheba was many women or The Queen of Sheba was a euphemism of the country itself.  Vianne knew these to be common points of discussion for generations and certainly not secret. So what, she wondered, was the reason for secrecy with this journal? Why the code and no explanations at all, not even labels on the diagrams?  Turning to the first page there was also a list of words printed, these really intrigued Vianne, and she returned to them time and time again.  She stared at them endlessly. From the cream-coloured paper, the blue ink and unusual print, stared back defiantly, calling to her in her father’s voice and she felt frustrated in her ignorance. Could Omar really help her translate her father’s most private thoughts and speculations?  Somehow it seemed unlikely.Intuition, her father would say, was ‘the translator between the illusion and reality of the past and the illusion and reality of the present.’  Vianne craved a dose of his intuition right now as she stared at the facts in front of her, vainly trying to paint a complete picture.It suddenly occurred to Vianne that her father had diverted his attention way from the primary objective of the dig, which was proving the existence of The Queen of Sheba. He had broadened his parameters. Vianne hoped that Omar might possibly confirm her growing belief that her father was onto something, perhaps far more significant.  She would wait to see if she might glean some answers from him, at least a starting point. Omar was not her favourite person in the world -  he seemed to have a secret, dark side, a strange malevolence, but she did respect his knowledge and his level of expertise in the field.Hearing the heavy clank of the brass doorknocker resounding through the large empty hallway, Vianne was brought swiftly back to the present. So engrossed had she been, that she had quite forgotten the time and on hearing her mother answering the door she left the study and rushed upstairs to get changed, taking the two steps at a time. Omar smiled, took a step inside the door and gave Sophia a peck on the cheek..  “Good morning Sophia, how are you feeling today?”   “Come in. Thank you Omar, here, let me take your coat.”Omar smiled as he took off the heavy cashmere and handed it to her.“Omar I hope you don’t mind, but I thought it would be nice if we talked in the conservatory.  I know it’s cold outside, but the conservatory is still more pleasant, I like the light in there even on a day like today” He continued the small talk “That sounds like a good idea to me.”Together they walked through to the conservatory at the rear of the house, Omar taking the opportunity to look around for Vianne as he passed the study doorway.  He had not been looking forward to this meeting and longed to get it out of the way, for many reasons.  However, the driving force to be here burned brighter that ever, he craved to see Vianne again.  Omar knew he had to be here, his belief in Ma’at, the logical, universal and cyclical law, would contrive the union. Omar understood this law very well, the universe gives you what you ask… Wanting something was not enough, the universe would continue to give him the experience, and he want Vianne. No, Cezanne put it so well: ‘What we vividly imagine, ardently desire and act upon with enthusiasm, must inevitable come to pass....’The secret, his Hushimite inheritance, had led him in this direction. Since Sir Roger started his work in Yemen, Omar figured how he was in involved... even if he didn’t know it himself. Omar was following more than a hunch.... and so many of his ancestors had also done, in a bid to bring about justice and restore The Word.
Minutes later, Vianne entered.  Omar looked on, quietly taking in the scent of her.  He knew more about her than even she knew herself, her destiny was foretold and Omar recognised the effect she had as she walked into the room. His senses were alert to the electric pulse around him and his skin warmed to her glow.  Having changed and now wearing a fresh pair of jeans and crisp white blouse, her hair was just towelled dry and tussled down on to her shoulders. She was smiling and running her fingers through her hair to help dry it as she walked into the conservatory to meet them. She apologised for keeping them waiting, and for one split second he thought how perfect she was.  He rose and kissed her on both cheeks, breathing in her warm, delicate fragrance.Despite the bitter cold outside, the conservatory was comfortably warm, the air endowed with a moist and musky aroma.  Sitting on the old wicker chairs, surrounded by large green leafed exotic plants of all sizes, the three of them settled down to eat their simple lunch, of vegetable soup and warm French bread, followed by fresh Italian coffee. The conversation was stilted, though gradually as the meal progressed each, in turn, started to relax. Sophia, like so many women of her age, was well practised in the social graces and gradually coaxed the conversation gently on towards the question on all their minds.Finishing her meal, Sophia sat hands crossed in her lap, perfectly poised to hear Omar’s story of her husband’s death. Sophia addressed the subject directly. 
“Omar, I have read the police reports, but I still don’t understand how Roger came to be out in the desert without any guards, and so far from the dig site?  I know he knew better than to wander off like that, the desert is such a dangerous place.”Omar had been expecting this question and his answer was now well formed in his head.  “I’m very sorry to say it, but I’m afraid Roger was becoming ever more obsessed with his work, almost driven you might say. To be honest it was taking him on a tangent to the rest of the dig.  Perhaps because of this he was not always acting according to normal protocol.“I was becoming quite concerned about him.  You know he could be head-strong and I tried to reason with him. In fact, we had many arguments about the increasing number of times he would go out into the desert on his own?”“Yes he could be very obstinate,” she responded, “but never before had he behaved so recklessly and he never mentioned any arguments. I do know what you mean, once he had an idea in his head, he was determined, but I don’t think he had ever acted quite so strangely before, it just wasn’t his style.  Why didn’t he take one of the guards with him?”  Sophia was remaining as calm as she could and focused only on trying to picture in her mind the day’s events leading up to Roger’s death.  It was often a question of what people don’t say that was important.  What, she thought, was Omar not saying?Omar had decided to give Sophia and Vianne as much information as he could.  So focusing on the work Roger was concentrating on, rather than his death, Omar continued.“Please indulge me a little and let me tell you of our shared beliefs. This will explain why it was so important to him.” ‘To all of us’, Omar thought to himself. “As you know, legend had it that Manelik, the son of Sheba and Solomon, at the age of twenty-two had been in Jerusalem completing his education, and that at the same time the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from the temple.  Sir Roger was doubtful of this. He believed, such a theft would have fundamentally rocked Judea, distrust leading inevitably to war and in any case there were biblical references, albeit only a few, to the workings of the Ark several hundreds of years later.”Vianne interjected at this point.“Omar, I don’t really understand why that would put Dad at odds with the work of the dig, I should think most of his colleagues would have come to such conclusions, and in any case, our whole work is based on this kind of supposition, it would have been natural for him to look into it, that is what he was there for, surely?Omar looked directly into Vianne’s pale eyes as he answered her.  He was enjoying her attention and he could see in her eyes, that same ambitious hunger of her father.  Her sense of excitement was powerful and Omar could almost feel warmed by its glow.  He had always known she was different.  Unlike any woman he had experienced before, she was alive with an energy and passion which excited him. “Yes you are correct, Vianne, but at the same time there was ‘evidence’ that something of even greater value was taken from the Temple. You know about the story of the ‘replica’ of the temple in Jerusalem, built on Elephantine island in the Nile near Aswan? Roger had started asking more seriously, why they would build that?  Why would the Ethiopians, even today, claim to have the Ark of the Covenant in Axum?  This is a question archaeologists have been asking themselves for years.”
“Roger had the seed of an idea in his mind and it grew. He found himself attracted like a magnet to almost any inscriptions, from any site in the Yemen, and I was able to help him in this. There are many inscriptions and older finds that have been just stored away for years. “He saw many of these – they were all parts of the puzzle, but especially important if they could be dated well enough to the era around 950BC.“Mahram Bilqis is such a place. Everything there fitted and so every find from there was studied by him, in minute detail.
“We discussed at length many of the local stories and folklore from the tribes. There was one he remembered from years back, a tale I told him once about the ‘Word of God’ coming to the Yemen. At the time he had imagined that this was some kind of reference to the spread of Judaeism generated by the many Jewish communities that had grown up in Southern Arabia and Ethiopia. But now it seemed to have a different relevance.”Sophia and Vianne sat captivated, never taking their eyes from Omar for one second.“It was fairly early on that he found something. He told me bits about it but only scant information, but he seemed unclear about the detail. I think he was trying to establish more of a case, so that he could justify the expense of extending the dig. “Roger seemed to be checking out the terrain and to be fair was obviously looking for something in his typically structured way, leaving little to chance.It was about this time that he was joined by a potential financier for the dig who arrived in Marib quite unexpectedly.  He might have mentioned him?  Vianne and Sophia looked at each other then shrugged. From what I could ascertain, he was asking questions and putting the pressure on for Roger to come up with some evidence.”Sophia suddenly sat up in her chair, her interest sparked.  Neither Omar nor Vianne noticed the intensity of her gaze as she casually asked. “What was he like, this sponsor?  Who was he? I haven’t heard about him before, from anyone.”Quickly gathering his wit’s Omar answered with a false air of nonchalance.  “I don’t know, we were never formally introduced, and I believe he was usually fronted by the Corporation.  That’s one of the reasons Roger was so surprised to see him!”  One might say, archaeology nowadays likes to take a far more scientific stance than its predecessors when uncovering and understanding the people and places of the past, in detail if possible. It is less obsessed with unearthing treasure and more to finding answers.” “Nevertheless, it is revealing fabulous treasure and the intrigue of the life-style that went with it, which captures the imaginations of the world…  the attention of sponsors and deep down our most ambitious archaeologists too, don’t you agree Vianne!”Vianne ignored the veiled jibe, and let Omar continue his story; more convinced than ever that her gut reaction towards Omar was justified.‘By this time, Roger’s driver and guard were becoming rather anxious about the places Roger was asking them to take him - as you know they are a very superstitious people and they refused to go out any further into this area in the north-east and into the uncharted desert.  There was something in the sand shapes and the many rocky outcrops that fascinated Roger, and frightened them, though he never fully explained what. 
“As I said, I believe the sponsor’s main objective was more than general interest, I believe Roger was under pressure to produce some evidence and this along with his own desire to solve the mystery made him a little less cautious, so when I saw him and the sponsor getting into Roger’s Jeep I had a good idea where they were going. “It wasn’t until I heard on the radio that a sand storm was expected that I became concerned and tried to contact him on his radio in the Jeep.  When there was no response, I became concerned.  Vianne broke in, “Omar I appreciate what you are saying but I don’t understand my father’s urgency to make that trip?”Omar responded: “I know he believed there to be a lost stele, obelisk, something hugely significant somewhere out in the desert and he was certain he would find it. I think he thought it would be the find he needed to attract new money for the work.Vianne doubted that this was the real reason for such unusual behaviour, it would have been more to one of his famous hunches.“Sir Roger told me that he had mused for years, in fact even much of the time he had been working in Egypt, on the incredible influence, amazing wealth enjoyed by Yemen from about 1,000BC to about 5AD – it’s geographic position had guaranteed over 1,000 glorious years of splendour… and what is there now? Even if the wealth had been dissipated throughout the Middle East and further, at least there must be great buildings, fabulous knowledge there, under the surface?‘This I believe myself, and you know I shared in Roger’s enthusiasm to prove this beyond all doubt, once and for all….”Vianne felt sickened.  She wasn’t fooled by Omar’s feigned concern.  She knew that there was something important missing from his story. Having no idea though what it was, made challenging him at this stage, impossible. She knew it was important to maintain his co-operation for the moment and she listened quietly as he went on.

 
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