Egypt 1324 BC. Tutankhamun was dead. Nineteen, barely come of age. His hastily constructed tomb in the Valley of the Kings was about to be sealed.
Tutankhamun’s former Vizier looked down upon the ornate funerary mask placed over the dead Pharaoh’s head. It was stunningly beautiful. Gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, quartz, obsidian, turquoise and crystal forged into a tantalisingly magnificent work of art. The eyes of the vulture and cobra at the brow of the mask glinted in the light of the flaming torches, the snake’s head frozen in strike position. The former advisor studied the bejewelled reptile’s head, poised to defend the king from attack.
‘Too late’, he thought sardonically.
Standing in quiet contemplation, Ay appraised every detail of the mask. It seemed a pity such wonderful workmanship would never be seen; destined to be buried and forgotten, lost in the annals of time just like its wearer.
Something caught Ay’s eye. He stepped forward and spied an object nestled next to the mummy’s right arm. He reached into the coffin to retrieve it. Dark, thickly lacquered and tied papyrus covered the contents of a small bundle. Ay secreted it into a hidden pocket in his robes. A thin smile played upon his lips as he turned his gaze to the surrounding chamber.
The slave-driver and his slaves all had their heads bowed; eyes averted. They cowered near the walls, careful to avoid contact with the freshly painted frescos depicting scenes from Amduat, the ‘Book of the Dead’. They awaited the signal in fearful silence.
A satisfied sigh emanated from the former Vizier as he scanned the brightly coloured frieze and his eyes came to rest on the life-size depiction of himself. On his head was the tall, blue headdress worn by all Pharaohs. His smile widened and his eyes spoke the words of satisfaction his lips did not voice, ‘my time has come at last’.