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Hunter Museum of Natural History

North End, Freedom City, New Jersey

Thursday, October 18, 2018; 7:25 PM

 

The Hunter Museum of Natural History had recently achieved something of a major coup among American antiquities museums, managing to obtain a showing of an impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts only unearthed a few years earlier on loan from the Cairo Museum.  The Hunter Museum was aided in this endeavor in no small part by its connections with Danger International, which had been one of the main organizations funding the dig.

 

In fact, members of the Danger family had been instrumental in planning the location of the dig and had been present for the major discovery.  As such, the museum had worked with Danger International to have Veronica Danger speak at the opening event for the exhibition to discuss her and her parents’ work.

 

Two of Veronica's fellow Claremonters, Elizabeth Grey and Kam Kingdom, had expressed some interest in the exhibit when they had heard her discussing it with Janus over lunch a week ago.  So Veronica had made sure Prudence arranged tickets to the opening night event for the two.

 

Now the two teenagers were seated in the crowd of well-dressed men and women that were gathered for the presentation that was the start of the opening night of the exhibit.  Seats had been arranged in one of the larger rooms off the main lobby, a small podium set up toward one end of the room where the chairs were facing, and a large projection screen having been set up to one side of the podium.  The room was filled with the sounds of various conversations as those gathered awaited the start of the opening presentation.

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Veronica

 

Veronica was standing in one of the rooms just off the room where Kam and Elizabeth were seated among a couple hundred other guests.  Prudence was standing with the teenage Danger, dressed in her normal business attire and checking her seemingly omni-present tablet.  The young woman looked up at Veronica and frowned ever so slightly.  "I still believe you should have worn something more formal for tonight's event."

 

Veronica gave a small shrug and a grin.  The teenager was dressed in her typical attire, a olive long sleeve shirt, brown cargo pants and a pair of well worn-in hiking boots.  "Well, this is what I typically wear in the field, so figured those here tonight would appreciate that."  She paused a moment then asked, "everything ready for the presentation?"

 

"Of course.  I have everything ready to start once you are introduced and out on stage."  Prudence replied.

 

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Elizabeth Grey was excited, which she was very expertly hiding by frequently smoothing down her dress. It was nice, for all that she'd had to use magic to fake it - a sleeveless white midi-dress that was fit to her waist before flaring slightly as it fell down in a looser blue - it moved nicely when she walked and she liked to think it resembled a flower. She was almost sure she'd gotten it right; the real one had been in a window the other day and she'd loved it the moment she saw it. She'd own the real one, probably, eventually, when she could afford it.

 

She wouldn't own any new museum artifacts. She very much wanted to be here, she wanted to see everything, and she never regretted her own for an instant...but one was enough. She was happy to sit in the audience, watch her schoolmate have her day, and experience a bare minimum of curses, magic, and ancient clingy art pieces. Not that she was too worried - she could feel hers even now, hidden away in the purse at her heel, and she didn't think it wanted to share.

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Kam sat next to Elizabeth with a comfort that his backstory as a minor functionaries son in Dakana did little to explain.  His own dark linen pants and fitted silk stand collar formal dashiki also seemed a bit outside the range of the average citizen of even that fabled land with it's gold embroidered accents though as traditional wear perhaps it held some cultural significance.  Certainly the teenage prince wasn't that out of touch with the average formal wardrobe of boys his age.  Leaning politely in towards his classmate he calmly intoned, "You look very nice."  trying to comfort her nerves, "You have attended such events before?"  he asked as if it seemed likely from her ease at the situation or perhaps to put her more at ease.  

 

He looked up toward the dias curiously, "I sometimes forget such things are so common to the lives of some of our classmates."  he laughed lightly as he settled back in his seat to await Veronicas presentation, "I do hope we hear some of how the discovery was made."  he added more conversationally.

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"Thank you! I really like your shirt, too, the pattern's great. But, no, I, um. I really haven't," Elizabeth admitted, turning her head only partway over to talk. She didn't want to miss the big moments on stage...but then, she didn't want to miss anything ever. It was hard to tell where any one thing rated. "A couple fancy parties, but never for very long, and I never really got to dress up. I do like museums, though, and the chance to see an exhibit open was too good!"

 

She flashed a smile, shrugging helplessly. "Besides," she added, "I really want to hear how this was done, too. It always sounds so exciting after, all digs and tombs and ancient secrets. I don't know if it lives up to the hype, but that's a hard story to beat!"

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GM

 

A older gentleman in a dark grey suit stepped up to the podium at the front of the room, causing those gathered to begin to fall silent as attention focused on the man.  Once the conversations had ceased, the man spoke into the microphone located at the podium.  "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I am Harold Wright, the antiquities curator here at the museum, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the opening night of the Treasures of Sanakht, a special exhibition the Hunter Museum has the great fortune to host for the next month, working in connection with the Museum of Cairo and Imhotep Museum."

 

"The artifacts in this exhibition come from the recently excavated burial chamber of Sanakht, one of the pharaohs of the Third Dynasty.  Not only are the artifacts that you will see tonight ones that have expanded our knowledge of a little known period of the Third Dynasty and settled much of the debate over whether there had even ever been a pharaoh named Sanakht, but many are artifacts so rare that their like has not been uncovered in any other Egyptian excavation in the last eighty years."

 

Wright paused a moment as there were a few shocked murmurs in the crowd.  "Freedom City's own Danger International is not only a primary sponsor of this exhibition, but also provided significant funding to the excavation as well.  In addition, tonight we will be hearing from one of the members of the Danger family who was not only present during portions of the initial excavation of the site, but also was involved in determining the location of the site as well.  May I introduce Veronica Danger, the oldest child of Rex Danger II and his wife, renowned French archeologist Jaqueline Giroux Danger."

 

The curator stepped away from the podium and turned to the entry way from one of the side rooms as the applause erupted from the audience. 

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Veronica

 

As the curator introduced her, Veronica made her way out of the side room and out to the front of the room in front of the applauding crowd.  She gave a small smile as she moved over to the podium that Wright had vacated for her, coming to a halt behind it and scanning over the crowd, managing to pick out Elizabeth and Kam.

 

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, thank you."  Veronica began.  "As Mr. Wright indicated, my family was involved in the initial excavation that led to the discovery of Sanakht’s buried pyramid just off the main section of the Saqqara necropolis." 

 

As Veronica spoke, an image came up on the screen that had been set up to the side, a picture of her a couple years younger, with a man and a woman that appeared to be her parents (a fact Kam knew to be the case having met them) and a younger boy that appeared to be her brother.  The four were out in a desert, where a section of sand had begun to be dug out behind them.

 

"While I certainly want to talk about when we first reached the pyramid and found a way down to the burial chamber, first I want to talk briefly about the earlier discoveries that led us to the location."  The first picture was replaced by another that showed an even younger Veronica standing near a massive column that was one of many in a long row of similar columns.  "During a trip to Karnak two years earlier, my mother helped in the excavation of a new section of one of the older temples near the main sites.  While doing so, she came across several fragments of a wall covered with hieroglyphics."

 

Another photo replaced the last, this one showing a number of large flat pieces of rock that were laid out on a tarp, each covered in numerous hieroglyphics.  "Each of the pieces were photographed, and over the next year and a half during travels to other parts of the world, my mother and I worked on translating the fragments.  While doing so, we came across the cartouche of Sanakht within one section of the wall.  As we continued our work, it became clear that not only was this a later recitation of the Third Dynasty pharaohs, but there was information regarding the burial locations of several, including Sanakht."

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"You are too kind."  Kam demurred politely at her returned complement and nodded agreement as he too looked to the stage awaiting their friends arrival.  "I have heard the excitement of such discoveries tends to be more academic than the more cinematic recreations might have one believe."  he mused with a wry laugh, "Though when the Dangers are involved things tend to be more exhilarating."  he acknowledged easily falling silent as the curator began to speak and Veronica was introduced.  

 

As their classmate arrived and stepped to the podium he joined the crowd in applause falling silent as she began the tale of the tombs discovery and the research leading to it.  He settled back in his seat to listen glancing occasionally to Elizabeth to gauge her reactions to the explanation, perhaps to better cue his own reactions to those of one less familiar with ancient discoveries and treasures of lost ages.

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With something to focus on Elizabeth had relaxed somewhat; the podium had her full attention, and she was sitting with her legs crossed beneath her skirt, hands folded in her lap as Veronica talked.

 

It was a less exciting recounting than she'd hoped; she knew, realistically, that archaeology couldn't all be fights against buried gods and races against sinister thousand-year traps, but she'd, you know, hoped. Still, riddles and secret writings, nearly lost to the ages...that had a certain appeal.

 

She smiled, cocking her head. "I like how she's so casual about her travels," she whispered, just inside Kam's earshot. "Like it's just a normal thing. 'Oh, sure, while I was solving all kinds of other mysteries I guess I got to this one eventually...'"

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Veronica

 

While the story had something of a slow, academic start, once Veronica got past a brief description of the initial planning for the expedition to try to locate and excavate the lost pharaoh's tomb things picked up slightly in terms of excitement.  She described how after two initial excavations they managed to locate the top of the buried pyramid and had the good fortune of locating one of the upper “air shafts’ not long afterward.

 

This had allowed Veronica and her father to rappel down to the interior of the still mostly buried pyramid and start exploring the inner chambers.  There she described some of the ancient traps they had encountered, namely a couple of pitfalls and a fake wall of stone blocks designed to collapse down onto those that walked across the stone slabs near it, triggering the mechanism to cause the collapse.  Several photos came up through Veronica’s descriptions of the interior of the pyramid.

 

"Eventually we located one of the burial chambers, finding the false burial chamber outside the queen's actually burial chamber.  Unfortunately, tomb robbers in antiquity had managed to get inside and break through the false wall to the queen's burial chamber, removing much of what once was located inside.  All that remained were the stone slabs on which the queen's possessions would have been laid out for use in the afterlife and the stone sarcophagus in which there would have been a more elaborate sarcophagus, likely gilded with precious metals."  Veronica described as photos came on the screen showing the sparse interior of the chamber.  "There were at least several colorful murals which are still being studied."

 

The teenager then gave a small smile as she paused for a brief moment.  "However, while the queen’s burial chamber had been looted, it was when we managed to reach the pharaoh’s burial chamber that we happened upon the most significant discoveries in the excavation.  For some reason the tomb robbers had been unable to locate the pharaoh's chamber, and it was undisturbed.  Inside we found not only the collection of valuables placed there for the pharaoh’s use in the afterlife, but Sanakht's mummy inside his gold and silver gilded sarcophagus."  The screen to one side had gone dark and Veronica smiled again.  "While I could show you some pictures of the pharaoh's chamber, I do not want to spoil the opportunity for your first look at many of those artifacts to be made in person.  But there are images we took of the chamber located toward the end of the exhibit, so you will still have an opportunity to see them in their original place."

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GM

 

As Veronica finished, there was a round of applause from the gathered crowd, as Wright moved back over toward the podium, clapping as well.  "Thank you Ms. Danger for the wonderful recounting of you and your family’s role in making this astounding discovery possible.  It is a very special treat to hear of such a discovery first hand from one who was there to experience it."

 

The curator then turned back toward the crowd as he continued.  "And now ladies and gentlemen, you will all have the opportunity to see many of the wonderful artifacts uncovered with Sanakht's pyramid."  With that he gestured towards the doors behind him and Veronica which had been closed during the presentation.  A pair of docents were present to open the doors, reveling the first of several exhibition spaces in which the exhibit was being housed.  "Please enjoy this very special exhibit, and Ms. Danger will be remaining for the rest of the evening to answer questions as well."

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"That was great!" Elizabeth had bee-lined for Veronica, not the exhibits, after providing her share of applause and finding a path through the other attendees; her dress had swooshed nicely as she weaved, and she made a mental note to wear it to the upcoming dance. She bet that if she put a nice sash or cloth belt on it she could hang her mask....

 

Considerations for later. "I'm not going to lie, I kind of want to be an archaeologist now," she admitted, grinning; it took a concerted effort to not pull a white pith helmet out of thin air. "Maybe not bad enough to crawl around getting bit by scarabs or whatnot, but I can only imagine how great finding that secret chamber must have been."

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Kam nodded agreement as the presentation drew to a close, "Her travels are certainly inspiring."  he agreed readily as he followed a polite distance to the receiving line to offer congratulations of his own.  "And a most visceral telling of hte find as well."  he complemented with a smile, "A great achievement for your family and yourself."   

 

He looked at the crowd passing by with some interest, perhaps keeping a wary eye for the rare dilettante that might recognize him on sight.  "So I expect you have duties to attend with your adoring public."  he nodded to the audience milling about.  "But might two friends beg a tour of these wonders you uncovered?"

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Veronica

 

Veronica had just been speaking with an older couple who then moved away when Elizabeth and Kam managed to reach her.  When her friends offered their complements to her speech, the teenage Danger gave a beeming smile.  "Thanks, I was a bit nervous at first, but then just settled into things."

 

As Elizabeth commented on the excitement of finding the King's burial chamber and Kam mentioned the significance of the find, Veronica gave a small nod.  "Finding the burial chamber with so many artifacts was exhilarating.  I thought my mom was going to hyperventilate and faint.  It certainly was a discovery for the family archives."

 

The teenage Danger then gave another smile as Kam asked about her providing he and Elizabeth with a personalized tour of the artifacts.  "Well, I really only have to be around so people can ask questions, but they certainly can do that as we go through the exhibit.  In total honesty, I have not actually seen any of the artifacts since they were boxed up for shipment to the Cairo and Imhotep museums shortly after we found them.  But I have looked at photos of some since, and things should come back to me on the others no problem."  With that she gestured towards the now open doors to the exhibit halls for her and her friends to start the tour.

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"Oooh, yes. Tour!" Elizabeth was grinning, keeping pace as they made their way into the exhibit halls. "If they have questions about things they'll probably be nearby anyway, right? Plus," she added, casually pointing at their friend with one encouraging finger, "I bet that even at your worst you're better than the little museum cards and plaques. You were actually there!"

 

She did have to pull up at list a little short, her grin receding a half-inch as her better nature caught up with her. Impulse control, right. "We won't try to steal too much of your time, though - I won't, at least," she ammended, glancing Kam's way and not wanting to speak for him. "It's your day, after all."

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Kam moved to follow after Veronica as she graciously acquiesced to the requested tour.  "I'm certain you'll have insight that goes beyond the standard tour."  he agreed with Elizabeth's assertion.  "The description of the discovery itself was most interesting." he added with a smile as they made their way toward the main exhibit hall.  "That personal touch has more value I think than you give it credit."  he laughed lightly and followed along.

 

The Dakanan moved with an ease and comfort through the Hall following along, "Of course we'd not delay you from your filial duty here."  he was quick to agree as well as they came to a stop at the first display and peered at what might be revealed as he awaited what insight Victoria might offer.

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Veronica

 

Veronica smiled at Elizabeth's enthusiasm for a guided tour and gave a nod at both her and Kam's comments that they were confident that she would be able to provide much more information than the standard tour.  "Thanks, I will try to add as much as I can as we go."  She replied as they came into the first room.

 

There waiting for them right near the entrance was a glass case in the middle of the entryway, in which sat a wooden pedestal just about four feet long and slightly over a foot wide.  While the pedestal and the engravings on the side were surely interesting, it was the stature that rested on top that drew immediate attention.  The statute was that of a black jackal, positioned in in a recumbent stance, its belly lying on the pedestal, its front legs stretched out in front of it, while its hind legs were positioned on either side of its body.  The interior of the tall ears of the jackel, as well as its eyes and other parts were golden in color. 

 

"Well, of course they would have this at the start."  Veronica replied with a slight grin.  "We found this statute of Anubis right as we entered the antechamber to the King’s burial chamber."  She stated, walking up near the glass case and looking inside.  "I will say it gave us a bit of a start to suddenly see this in the dark shadowy light created by our chem lights after making our way through several empty chambers and traps.  But once we saw it, we knew we had found something special."

 

"The statue, like the pedestal it is on, is actually carved wood, only it has been covered with a black resin.  The ears, collar and scarf are gilded gold, as are the eyebrow and cosmetic line, while the eyes themselves are calcite and obsidian."  She explained to her friends, as well as a few others that happened to be nearby looking at the case as well. 

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Nodding as if she had any kind of insight into ancient Egyptian culture and burial techniques, Elizabeth bent over slightly to inspect the case. "I guess the scare might be part of the point?" she ventured, tilting her head Veronica's way for...feedback? Correction? "A really fancy guard dog for a really fancy person."

 

She turned back, looking the statue in its eyes as if trying to appraise its character. She bet that if it was wood, it was lighter than it looked; it'd make a great prop for a magic show. "....good dog."

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