Palace Secret

This is a sequel to the book "Valley of the Queen".

For thousands of years the earth has held a secret that promised prosperity and power to whom it is revealed. Civilizations have come and gone and mankind has contrived ever more intelligent ways to prey on each other. Yet the secret remained until recently. A professor of archeological studies discovered a link to that secret and it led him to Siem Kulea where Jack and Mai, have settled. The bond of love between Jack and Mai is never tested but the peace of their valley is as evil adversaries seek the means to open the magnificent and mysterious door hidden below the White Palace. It becomes a surprising and thrilling contest that takes them around the world to see who finds the answer first in this all-or-nothing contest.

Following is a selection from within the book...

Chapter 17

2001  Egypt Near the Djoser Pyramid

        The small group of archeology students from John Hopkins University listened carefully to their professor Marty Wenabe as he explained the importance of the hieroglyphics and symbols they were studying on the walls of the Gisr el-Mudir complex from the second dynasty near Cairo, Egypt. This area of the complex was below ground and got light from a few breaks in the stone ceiling. The group of graduate students were cramped uncomfortably within a small corridor but the two young men and four women seemed not to mind and listened with real interest to every word their professor told them. They all had flashlights and some had headlamps attached to their hats.
        Professor Wenabe had a passion for his work and these summer trips to Egypt with his students was a favorite part of his year.  They were making tracings of some of the writings on the walls of this ancient temple as he explained, “I think some of these are much older than the time they are generally attributed to. Come with me. I want to show you something very interesting just up the corridor here.”
        As they got up to follow him around a corner in the complex a man came up behind them and introduced himself. He was dressed in loose khaki pants and cotton shirt and carried a large camera bag hung over his shoulder that he necessarily guided through the narrow corridor so as not to bump the ancient walls.
        “Professor Wenabe?” he asked.
        The professor turned back surprised and looked at the man around the heads of his students in the very narrow corridor. “Yes, I am Professor Wenabe,” he said.
        “I am Jack Largent. I am taking photographs of the archeological site over at the Djoser pyramid area working with a group from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo. I heard you were asking about me. I wondered if you might be wanting a photographer.”
        “Oh, Jack Largent. Yes, well, I am glad to meet you. I have heard of you, Mr. Largent. You have gained a good reputation from my colleagues. Call me Marty and these are my young student archeologists from my graduate class at John Hopkins University,” Marty said motioning to his six eager students, dressed in shorts, light shirts and an assortment of floppy hats.
        “Hey, since you are here perhaps you would like to do some photography for me right away. I have something interesting I was just about to show my students. Care to follow?” Marty asked.
        “Yes, of course! Lead the way,” said Jack.
        They made their way to the end of a narrow corridor and a turn to the right led them through a portico into a much larger chamber. Within was an open area with a raised structure of stone toward one end. Large stone columns that went up twelve feet to a mostly closed stone ceiling bordered the chamber. There were broken areas here and there in the ceiling that allowed some light into the chamber.
Professor Wenabe led them to the stone edifice that rose about four feet from the floor at the far end of the open chamber. It was covered with hieroglyphics and showed a broken patch near the bottom revealing its hollow interior. There were symbols beside the broken area and below the open hole in the structure was more writing but in a different language.
        “This is what I wanted to show you.  Note if you will the hole in the stone and the symbols on the side and the inscription below the hole. I think they carry some significance,” he said as his students drew closer to study it.
        “It looks to have lost some of its luster and we are missing some of the message I fear,” continued Wenabe. “Mr. Largent could you possibly get a photograph of it for me? I have had little time to examine this particular inscription and if I could have a photograph to study that might be just the thing.”
        One of the female students remarked, “They look like circles, professor.”
        “Yes, exactly. But what makes these particular circles all the more interesting are the rough hieroglyphics just below them and then there is the writing below that in still another language. They appear to tell a story but I have not been able to study them at length and some of them are too worn to be legible anymore,” said Marty.
        “I might be able to help with that,” said Jack. “I have a small remote flash that works with my camera and if we can have one of your students hold it just down there a ways we can use it as an accent light and I think it will show the edges of these glyphs. We tried it next door at the Netjerykhet pyramid and got pretty good results,” Jack said.
He handed the small portable flash to one of the students and directed them to hold it about six feet away pointed toward the edifice. His plan was to synch that flash with the one on his camera. Then he stepped back and took a couple of readings with a small flash meter before beginning to take shots of the circles and the hieroglyphics. For the next few minutes Jack photographed the edifice covering all sides but focusing on the area of most interest to the professor. After taking a dozen photos from different angles he nodded to Marty and asked, “I think I got it. Is there anything else here you need?”
        “Did you get this set of letters along the bottom of the column?  You will note they do not match the others.” Marty asked.
        “Yes, indeed. Fascinating. Timing is everything isn’t it, Mr. Largent,” he commented.         “How soon can you get me copies of those photos?” he asked eagerly.
        “Oh, well I know a place in Cairo that will process and proof this roll in an hour and it is about two hours from here by car. I have been using it on the other site,” he said.
        ldquo;Skip the proofs, Mr. Largent.  Can you just make me eight by ten inch blowups of each photo and make sure I can see things clearly in them?” he asked. “I would love to see them later today if you can do that,” he said.
        “Well, I guess…sure. But what’s the rush? This ruin has been here for five thousand years at least,” queried Jack.
        Marty stepped back and gestured around the ancient room they were in. “This was a sacred temple built right below the main temple above, Mr. Largent. Only the priests were allowed in here in ancient times.”
        He motioned to the large hole in the in the bottom of the edifice. “I think something was taken from here and I am hoping that inscription can tell me what. Of course it could just be an example of ancient vandalism but I am working on a theory right now, Mr. Largent, and this may be central to it. I will explain tonight when you bring me the photos…say seven p.m.? I am staying at the Luxor and they have a fabulous chef at the restaurant there. Perhaps you will join us for dinner?” Marty proposed.
        “Oh please, Mr. Largent. We would all love to see the photos,” one of the young girls pleaded.
        “Well, I guess I can’t say no,” said Jack. “Seven p.m. at the Luxor it is.”
        “Fine, fine…I will make reservations. See you then,” said Marty.

        Jack was a little late when he entered the elegant dining room of the old Luxor Hotel. The maître d gave Jack the once over, saw his casual khakis and started to send him away from the ultra formal-dress elegant restaurant but then Jack told him he was with the Marty Wenabe party. The maître d grumbled a bit but then relented and led Jack into the dimly lit interior of the dining room. Jack noticed those dining were dressed formally and felt immediately out of place. When they arrived at the table Marty stood and put out his hand gesturing to the seat next to his around the eight place table. The maître d gave Jack a menu, an expression of disapproval and then departed quickly.
        “I don’t think he likes me,” said Jack as he looked around at the six students and Marty. Jack noted the students looked like they were going to a school prom.
        “Rubbish. A little variety will trim his nose nicely,” said Marty. “May I offer you some wine? Since you are here I can finally bring out the good stuff,” he said as he signaled the sommelier over.
        After telling the sommelier what he wanted Marty turned back to Jack and asked, “What do you have for us? I have to say I am as excited as my group and beside myself with anticipation. In truth, Mr. Largent, we all arrived here early for cocktails and are going through wine like we owned a vineyard. We are all getting a bit giddy waiting for you. I can’t wait to see the photos.”
         “Okay, but all of you call me Jack please. You make me feel as ancient as the pyramids calling me Mr. Largent,” he said.
        “Of course, Jack. I am Marty and this is, Sue, Matt, Harley, Bridge…short for Bridget…Meredith and David,” said Marty as he watched Jack open up the large manila envelope.
        “I took the initiative to print a couple of them up to twenty by twenty-four inches and I think you will see why,” said Jack. Even I was surprised at the detail that showed up using that extra kicker light.”
        Marty moved away dishes and glasses and laid out the large print in front of him. It was magnificently detailed showing every groove of the ancient inscription on the stone edifice. Much of the old paint was worn off but the carved grooves in the stone still marked the message well. Marty gave a gasp and the other students got up from their seats and gathered around him. They began to talk rapidly to each other as each seemed to see one important ancient hieroglyph and then another that had a meaning to them. They were getting quite boisterous oblivious to their surroundings when the maître d once again showed up and asked them to please respect the atmosphere of the restaurant.
        They ignored his pleadings giving him only a sideways glance as they continued to argue the meanings of the hieroglyphs in earnest.  The maître d did not like to be ignored and left sharply to consult the manager.
        Jack who had retreated to a chair opposite the group surrounding Marty watched the body language of the maître d while he was talking to the manager and it did not bode well for them. He got up and went over to talk to both of them before things got troublesome for his new friends. He deftly passed the manager and the maître d a hundred dollar bill each and said, “I sincerely apologize for my friends. They have made an amazing discovery out by the Djoser pyramid today and that is why they are so excited. This is a large hotel. Do you think that perhaps we can be served in a private dining room? I think we are going to be quite loud and we don’t want to make any disturbance or cause you any trouble. I really would appreciate it and I think it will resolve both of our concerns.”
         The manager snapped his fingers and a bellboy materialized instantly.
        Ten minutes later they were in a very elegant private dining room that overlooked the Nile River and they were continuing their boisterous conversation that seemed at times to be more of a debate. The six very enthusiastic scholars were taking notes and writing eagerly as Professor Wenabe guided their debate to areas of investigation and explored their ideas and theories. Marty had asked for some presentation materials with more money passing hands and a bellboy soon arrived with a large marker board, tape and paper that quickly filled with hieroglyphs and meanings.
        Jack sat back and watched with great fascination. Their eagerness and passion was invigorating. They worked until past midnight fitting their gourmet dinner in as an afterthought amongst the animated conversation and finally Marty told all of them to leave and that they should meet at breakfast in the dining room at seven.
        When they were gone the room seemed eerily quiet. Marty poured himself a glass of wine and joined Jack who was sitting with his own glass on the balcony watching the Feluccas make their quiet way down the Nile under the full moon.
        He sat down and said, “I can’t thank you enough, Jack. It was fortuitous that we ran into you today. Honestly your photographs made this whole trip worthwhile.”
        “You seemed very excited in there but I only got a little of it,” said Jack. “I am happy to be of help.”
        “What do you think you heard, Jack?” asked Marty.
        “Well, there was a lot about the weather, floods, the sun and the Assyrian army I think. But it all kind of ran together for me,” he explained.
        “Jack, have you seen those concentric circles before?” asked Marty.
         “Well I have, but it’s not important. Nothing to do with here I am sure,” said Jack.
        “But it could be, Jack. It could be very important. It just might all be connected. Those concentric circles can be found all over the world in almost every culture in some form. I have seen them in China, Central America, Iraq, India and now here. Where did you see them before, if you don’t mind me asking?”
        “Marty I come from a small valley in Northern Cambodia that dates back thousands of years. I suspect someone with your background would find a lot to work with there. I have to admit I am hesitant to tell you where I saw those circles,” said Jack
        “Siem Kulea,” said Marty.
        “You knew?” asked Jack surprised.
        “I have not been completely honest with you, Jack,” confessed Marty. “Word got around quickly in my profession that the photographer who had done the magnificent photographs of the treasure from Thap Cham was branching out and was available to photograph other archeological sites,” Marty continued. “By-the-way those were excellent photographs and probably the best ever taken of any treasure collection. I suspect by that effort alone you have received many offers to join archeological sites from my colleagues.”
        “I am proud to say I have had many offers, more than I can possibly accept. That part was entirely unexpected. I have to admit I really like doing this kind of photography after being an advertising photographer for many years. But please, continue. I want to know just how you know about Siem Kulea,” said Jack.
        “When word went out about your career change I was already informed and interested in that find at Thap Cham and the woman who found the treasure after so many centuries. Indeed, I have read the books and found out as much as I could about Maisong Sambath Largent, the Champa Queen. I admit I am fascinated on both a professional and personal level with the whole story. I have studied the Champa legend and I know these circles are significant. What I don’t know is why…but you helped clarify a couple of points today. Our meeting today was not entirely coincidental. I knew you were working on the Djoser pyramid site and arranged our outing this summer to be nearby so that I could find an opportunity for a get together with you since we are usually on opposite sides of the world. I admit as our time here was coming to an end I arranged for you to get word that I was looking for a photographer.”
         “I don’t understand why you didn’t just call us and ask to come to Siem Kulea and meet with us,” said Jack.
        “Sometimes I am too clever for my own good. The last time I was in Southeast Asia I met a very resourceful man who explained to me that Siem Kulea was much like a fortress for the protection of Queen Maisong and that no outsider could go there. I have spent many years thinking of ways to get you or Queen Maisong to invite me to your paradise valley.”
        “The valley is well protected and frankly Mai would probably have said no to your inquiry. She frankly shuns publicity. Where are you going with all of this?” asked Jack.
        “Jack, these circles are connected with an ancient race and I think they were alien. I know…sounds crazy and I admit I thought so at first myself. But there is one person on this planet that refutes that. You know who I am speaking of, don’t you?” he argued.
        “Mai,” said Jack softly. “You think Mai is connected.
         But then Jack shook his head firmly in denial. “Look, Marty, Mai is just Mai,” continued Jack. “She is brilliant in many ways but a real bumblefuck in others. She is no alien or descended from aliens. In any case I will not talk about her, sorry. My private life is off limits. I will have to insist.”
        “I suspected that would be your answer, Jack,” Marty said affably. I am hoping you will carry my request to her and let Queen Maisong decide if she will talk to me. I would love to meet her and talk with her. I don’t expect you to say yes and I am not in any kind of hurry. Get to know me first and you will know that I am not a threat of any kind. This is a professional yet personal curiosity and I do not intend to publish anything.
        “But, Jack, you should know that there is someone else investigating this and they are moving faster than I am. If I am right Queen Maisong needs to be warned and protected,” Marty said.
        “What did the hieroglyphs say?” asked Jack quietly getting more anxious.
“I did not tell my students but in their entirety they seemed to indicate that the ancients might have been able to control the weather and the means to do that was somehow contained inside that edifice. It is just a theory so far albeit a hopeful one. I really don’t know for sure where this is going.
         “So you think this ancient race that might be aliens had some means of controlling the weather. Do you mean here in Egypt or everywhere?” asked Jack.
        “I think they were able to control the weather around the world, Jack. I believe the means to do that is still around and we can find it. We just need to look for these circles and find what was taken from that structure in the chamber. I have some ideas about that already based on what we found here. But you didn’t answer my question, Jack. Where have you seen these circles?”
        “Trust me, Marty, it can’t be connected,” answered Jack.
        “How can I know that unless you tell me,” Marty argued smiling.
        Jack got up and poured himself another glass of wine and handed the bottle to Marty. “I saw them on the door to my wife’s chambers in Siem Kulea, Marty, along with a seven-headed snake. I am afraid when I saw it the first time I overreacted and embarrassed Mai and myself. It was not one of my better moments.”
        “Seven-headed snake…you say. That’s the Naga, Jack. I never made that connection with the circles before. But of course, the Naga is endemic to Southeast Asia. Fascinating,” said Marty turning toward the Nile while pondering this new revelation.
        “Marty, who are these people that you say are investigating this thing? Are you just guessing or do you have hard evidence there is someone else looking into this theory of yours?” asked Jack.
        He turned back to answer Jack’s question with some background. “You don’t need evidence. They are not trying to hide the fact they are getting involved at least not from me. Early in the spring several years ago I returned late from one of my classes and found my home office had been ransacked. I was devastated because they took my computer…took the whole tower. I couldn’t figure it out until I realized all of my files and papers on Queen Mai, the circles and the Champas were missing. The only saving grace was that I am meticulous about backing up my files and they did not find that hard drive that I kept in another location. But, Jack, I had extensive files and information about Queen Maisong, the Champa heritage and legend. I feel that I know Queen Maisong as well as anyone and now I am sure they do too.”
        “Who are these people, Marty?  Who is doing this?” asked Jack.
        Marty looked at him and waved off his question as he continued his narrative. “They left me a card right on my desk. Written on the back was a note that said, “Don’t call the police. We will return all of your files soon and you will be greatly rewarded for your silence.” One month later they returned everything. I had even put in a superior alarm system by that time and it didn’t faze them at all. I returned home as before and found everything on my desk. There was an envelope with twenty thousand dollars cash in it and a note saying it was for consultation fees. There was another card with a telephone number on it promising another twenty thousand dollars if I would meet with them. I called and ended up talking to a woman who said her associate wanted to meet me in person. I had a seminar in New York the next weekend that she already knew about and she asked if I would be willing to meet her associate for dinner while I was there. Purely out of curiosity I obliged her as I was determined to give her associate a piece of my mind, to find out what was going on and to collect another handsome consulting fee. However, I told her that I would not meet unless she told me right then who her mysterious associate was. She said his name was Hinsu Yameda and that he was the CEO of Asian World Investments.”
        Jack startled by this information almost dropped his glass and looked over sharply at Marty. He got up and began pacing as Marty continued to relate his story. “He turned out to be a very cordial and charming man and we had a delightful meeting. I daresay we found a mutual interest in the ancients. We talked all through drinks and dinner and when he left I was embarrassed to discover I did not know much more about him than when I started. He had masterfully guided our conversation to my own efforts and ideas on the topic. I have to say I fell right into his agenda for the evening. Of that I am certain. I am afraid I always fall prey to flattery and compliments about my work, not the best investigator I am afraid. But that is the very reason I wanted to meet with you. The more I know about Queen Maisong the more I want to protect her and I am confident this Yameda character is up to no good,” said Marty.
        “You can bet on that, Marty. But he must have told you something or given you some clue about what he knew or where he was going next with this. Anything come to mind?” asked Jack.
        “I am afraid I mentioned to him that China had discovered a very interesting ancient site in the mountains when they were searching for rare minerals. I had heard about it through our professional grapevine. They are telling the world it is an ancient Chinese site. When I heard about it I immediately asked to visit the site and they turned me down. I don’t think Yameda with his connections would have much of a problem going there. As I said that was several years back and I have no doubt he has already investigated that lead. It might be an important find if my calculations are correct,” said Marty.
        “And Yameda has your calculations, correct?” asked Jack.
        “Well not exactly. I didn’t have everything written down in my papers. Come here a minute…let me show you,” he said.
        They got up and went back to the table in the dining room and Marty began drawing a rough map of Europe and Asia.
        “This is how I see it,” he said as he marked x’s in certain spots from Egypt in an Easterly direction. “We are here in Egypt. I suspect there is a site up in Europe...maybe France or England. But if we include a site in Iraq that I know about, one in India and the one in China and connect them like this,” he said as he drew a line between each site forming a zigzag pattern up to China.
        “Can you see where the next site might be located, Jack, following the same pattern?” Marty asked.
“Yeah, Siem Kulea,” Jack answered. “So you think there are these sites all around the world and that ancients used them to control the weather "and since you think Mai is descended from these ancients, you think there must be something at Siem Kulea, and she might know about it.”
        Marty drew a final line from the China site down to Siem Kulea making a nice zigzag line from Egypt. Putting his pencil down he said, “I don’t think that is a coincidence. But I am pretty impressed, Jack. You are quick study.”
        “I get that from hanging around Mai I think,” Jack answered.  “But if you are correct they will want to get into Siem Kulea. Do you think Yameda has figured this out?” he asked.
        “No clue, Jack. But that is precisely what I wanted to talk to you about. What do you think?” asked Marty.
        “I have a bad feeling, Marty, a real bad feeling. I think it is time you met my wife. I frankly can’t and won’t talk about her with you and I am sure she will want to pick your brain about what you know. When will your work be done here?” Jack asked.
        “I will finish up tomorrow, Jack. As I said this morning, timing is everything. I will send the kids home on a separate plane and we can head to Siem Kulea. That is if you are inviting me to visit?” asked Marty.