The mirage of the priestess
Henrietta picked up a magnifying glass and tried to decipher the cuneiform script that she had copied from the sarcophagus of a found tomb about a week ago. For about two years, she and her husband Ludwig von Amnitz had been involved in excavations in the ancient Sumerian city of Ur and were part of a small research group from the German Oriental Society under Julius Jordan. In recent weeks they had excavated the grave of a Sumerian woman near the ancient temple complex. Initial transcriptions suggest that she was a highly respected priestess of the goddess Inanna or her father An, who lived here in the mid-2nd century. BC was laid to rest.When returned and she told him about her discovery, he helped her. It took the entire evening to decipher the individual syllables. In order to translate them into German in a meaningful way, they needed another night. "Victorious is the shield of fate that withstands every storm." They weren't much smarter after the decryption. What was this cryptic sentence supposed to mean? But they didn't have the time to look for a solution. After two nights, both of them needed some sleep to get through the next tiring days. The next morning, shortly after the sun had greeted the day, Ludwig and Henrietta left their tent and walked to the excavation site. The first helpers and the excavation manager were already on site. Julius Jordan briefly instructed the team on their tasks and then entered the crypt with Ludwig and Henrietta. A few torches had been set up to better examine the interior of the tomb. Its light flickered, revealing Sumerian wall reliefs that depicted the journey of the dead to the underworld. There were clay pots and other grave goods everywhere, which the helpers carefully packed for transport to the examination camp. The three researchers stopped in front of a ramp that led into a chamber below the entrance and descended into the room that was used as a final resting place. In the middle there was an elevation decorated with mosaics of lapis lazuli and cuneiform characters. Henrietta had copied these out a few days ago for further study and, after translating them, the signs revealed the excavation director's first suspicions. The epitath said:On the ornate elevation stood a bier on which lay the priestess's mummified husk. Her dried up body was dressed in festive priesthood regalia and jewelry. The researchers slowly lifted the mummy from its resting place, placed it on a stretcher and covered it with a linen cloth that they carefully wrapped around its body. Ludwig was supposed to supervise the transport while Henrietta and Julius remained in the crypt. The longer Henrietta stayed in the crypt, the more she felt like she was being watched. Small shivers ran down her spine every now and then and she felt more and more uncomfortable. Julius noticed her pale Skin and asked her to leave the grave to get some air. When Henrietta came outside, the sun was already far in the west. Henrietta could no longer continue working. She ran to her tent, lay down and immediately fell asleep. When Ludwig lay next to her late in the evening, he noticed her restlessness. She must have been dreaming. He snuggled up to her and listened to her breathing until he, too, finally fell asleep. Deep in the night, Henrietta suddenly woke up; a terrible dream had woken her up. She shook Ludwig's shoulder, who had rolled onto his side and was snoring softly. "Ludwig!" she shouted and shook him again. Ludwig slowly woke up. "What's wrong?" he wanted to know. "Something has been watching me since we took the priestess out of her grave. I think it's here in the tent too," Henrietta answered. Ludwig stood up and lit a candle. "See, there's nothing here! You had a bad dream. Please, go back to sleep."When they came to the grave there was an spooky silence. Otherwise you could at least hear the wind blowing across the landscape. Ludwig lit a torch and they entered the burial chamber. As they approached, they saw a slight glimmer of light on the ornate rise. “Look Ludwig!” whispered Henrietta and pointed to it. "What in God's name is that?" Ludwig cursed irritably and examined the spot. He pressed on various pieces of the mosaic and suddenly triggered a switch. A light figure appeared above the bier, whose facial expression revealed that she was not particularly happy about it she had been woken up. She was wearing the same clothes as the lifeless body that lay buried here. It had to be the incorporeal incarnation of the high priestess who suddenly began to speak. Sumerian! Not even in their wildest dreams could Ludwig and Henrietta have imagined, to ever truly hear this dead language. She kept mumbling the same rhymes that neither of them could understand. A few characters on the elevation lit up at different intervals and suddenly the top panel opened. Henrietta and Ludwig stared into the dark void, which was inside. Then the apparition of the priestess darted in and disappeared. Ludwig shone the torch behind him and could see a step. He and Henrietta climbed inside and stood on the stone. As Ludwig shone downwards, his shift in weight triggered a mechanism. The step turned askew and both of them slithered into the depths. Ludwig had dropped the torch in his fright, and now it flew ahead of them, allowing a fleeting glimpse of a cavity. Both of them screamed, but they couldn't see much and neither could see the water, that was underneath them. Two claps, water splashed and then dead silence. Henrietta kicked her feet and arms under the water. She was a poor swimmer and felt the water slowly blocking her airways and threatening to drown her. Her husband, who fell into the water next to her, had fewer problems. After coming back to the surface to catch his breath, he dove for his wife. Her movements became less as she gradually lost her strength. Ludwig knew she had to be right under or next to him. He searched everywhere until he finally felt the collar of her vest and clutched it convulsively in his hand. Ludwig swam to the surface while Henrietta lay lifeless in his arms and was no longer breathing. The torch had gone out, but the appearance of the priestess' incarnation was visible, so Ludwig was able to search the room and swim to shore. He began blowing air into his wife's lungs. She coughed and spit out the water she had inhaled. After both had recovered a little from the shock, they looked around. The incarnation was still there and slowly coming towards them. She hovered eerily in front of them and now began the Sumerian rhyme again, which she had already sung in the burial chamber. It took a while, but then writing and fine grooves in the stone flickered on the wall behind them. There were more and more of them and suddenly the torches that stood all around the cave lit up one by one, illuminating the entire room. Then the priestess' mirage faded and left the two behind helpless. This would soon be followed by despair and hopeless silence.
Ludwig was sitting on the other side of the table and cataloging the individual finds when suddenly one of the helpers entered the tent and placed something on the table that was wrapped with a rag of cotton fabric. “What is that?” Henrietta wanted to know. The helper shrugged his shoulders and replied with a Persian accent and in broken German: "I no idea! I found outside. Give it to you for keys." Ludwig unwrapped it and a round clay disk with various notches and three blue balls appeared. Henrietta and her husband looked at each other questioningly. When is the helper supposed to have found the strange thing and, above all, where? Ludwig asked, but the helper didn't want to give them any further answers and immediately left the tent. Ludwig ran after him, but when he stepped outside into the blazing evening sun, the helper had already disappeared. Henrietta had now turned the thing over and was looking at the back. Clear cuneiform characters could be seen. However, they were arranged round and in a spiral, something Henrietta had never seen before. She suspected that she had something important in her hands and immediately set about deciphering it.
"I swear to you, something is different since yesterday. Can we go to the grave?"
"Now? It's the middle of the night. We won't see anything and might endanger the excavation."
"Please Ludwig, I can't tell you why, but I have to go to the grave now! And, I'm sure we should take the artifact with us. It was found here somewhere, so maybe it'll be of use somewhere here too!"