Anyway, I was pretty sure Sadie was jealous of Jaz and liked Walt, though she’d never admit it because she’d spent the last few months moping about another guy—actually a god—she had a crush on.
[Yeah, fine, Sadie. I’ll drop it for now. But I notice you’re not denying it.]
When we interrupted their conversation, Walt let go of Jaz’s hands real quick and stepped away. Sadie’s eyes moved back and forth between them, trying to figure out what was going on.
Walt cleared his throat. “Window’s ready.”
“Brilliant.” Sadie looked at Jaz. “What did you mean, ‘We’ll figure it out’?”
Jaz flapped her mouth like a fish trying to breathe.
Walt answered for her: “You know. The Book of Ra. We’ll figure it out.”
“Yes!” Jaz said. “The Book of Ra.”
I could tell they were lying, but I figured it was none of my business if they liked each other. We didn’t have time for drama.
“Okay,” I said before Sadie could demand a better explanation. “Let’s start the fun.”
The window swung open easily. No magic explosions. No alarms. I breathed a sigh of relief and stepped into the Egyptian wing, wondering if maybe we had a shot at pulling this off, after all.
The Egyptian artifacts brought back all kinds of memories. Until last year, I’d spent most of my life traveling around the world with my dad as he went from museum to museum, lecturing on Ancient Egypt. That was before I knew he was a magician—before he unleashed a bunch of gods, and our lives got complicated.
Now I couldn’t look at Egyptian artwork without feeling a personal connection. I shuddered when we passed a statue of Horus—the falcon-headed god who’d inhabited my body last Christmas. We walked by a sarcophagus, and I remembered how the evil god Set had imprisoned our father in a golden coffin at the British Museum. Everywhere there were pictures of Osiris, the blue-skinned god of the dead, and I thought about how Dad had sacrificed himself to become Osiris’s new host. Right now, somewhere in the magic realm of the Duat, our dad was the king of the underworld. I can’t even describe how weird it felt seeing a five-thousand-year-old painting of some blue Egyptian god and thinking, “Yep, that’s my dad.”
All the artifacts seemed like family mementos: a wand just like Sadie’s; a picture of the serpent leopards that had once attacked us; a page from the Book of the Dead showing demons we’d met in person. Then there were the shabti, magical figurines that were supposed to come to life when summoned. A few months ago, I’d fallen for a girl named Zia Rashid, who’d turned out to be a shabti.
Falling in love for the first time had been hard enough. But when the girl you like turns out to be ceramic and cracks to pieces before your eyes—well, it gives “breaking your heart” a new meaning.
We made our way through the first room, passing under a big Egyptian-style zodiac mural on the ceiling. I could hear the celebration going on in the grand ballroom down the hallway to our right. Music and laughter echoed through the building.
In the second Egyptian room, we stopped in front of a stone frieze the size of a garage door. Chiseled into the rock was a picture of a monster trampling some humans.
“Is that a griffin?” Jaz asked.
I nodded. “The Egyptian version, yeah.”
The animal had a lion’s body and the head of a falcon, but its wings weren’t like most griffin pictures you see. Instead of bird wings, the monster’s wings ran across the top of its back—long, horizontal, and bristly like a pair of upside-down steel brushes. If the monster could’ve flown with those things at all, I figured they must’ve moved like a butterfly’s wings. The frieze had once been painted. I could make out flecks of red and gold on the creature’s hide; but even without color, the griffin looked eerily lifelike. Its beady eyes seemed to follow me.
“Griffins were protectors,” I said, remembering something my dad had once told me. “They guarded treasures and stuff.”
“Fab,” Sadie said. “So you mean they attacked…oh, thieves, for instance, breaking into museums and stealing artifacts?”
“It’s just a frieze,” I said. But I doubt that made anyone feel better. Egyptian magic was all about turning words and pictures into reality.
“There.” Walt pointed across the room. “That’s it, right?”
We made a wide arc around the griffin and walked over to a statue in the center of the room.
The god stood about eight feet tall. He was carved from black stone and dressed in typical Egyptian style: bare-chested, with a kilt and sandals. He had the face of a ram and horns that had partially broken off over the centuries. On his head was a Frisbee-shaped crown—a sun disk, braided with serpents. In front of him stood a much smaller human figure. The god was holding his hands over the little dude’s head, as though giving him a blessing.
Sadie squinted at the hieroglyphic inscription. Ever since she’d hosted the spirit of Isis, goddess of magic, Sadie had had an uncanny ability to read hieroglyphs.
“KNM,” she read. “That’d be pronounced Khnum, I suppose. Rhymes with ka-boom?”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “This is the statue we need. Horus told me it holds the secret to finding the Book of Ra.”
Unfortunately, Horus hadn’t been very specific. Now that we’d found the statue, I had absolutely no idea how it was supposed to help us. I scanned the hieroglyphs, hoping for a clue.
“Who’s the little guy in front?” Walt asked. “A child?”
Jaz snapped her fingers. “No, I remember this! Khnum made humans on a potter’s wheel. That’s what he’s doing here, I bet—forming a human out of clay.”
She looked at me for confirmation. The truth was, I’d forgotten that story myself. Sadie and I were supposed to be the teachers, but Jaz often remembered more details than I did.
“Yeah, good,” I said. “Man out of clay. Exactly.”
Sadie frowned up at Khnum’s ram head. “Looks a bit like that old cartoon…Bullwinkle, is it? Could be the moose god.”
“He’s not the moose god,” I said.
“But if we’re looking for the Book of Ra,” she said, “and Ra’s the sun god, then why are we searching a moose?”
Sadie can be annoying. Did I mention that?
“Khnum was one aspect of the sun god,” I said. “Ra had three different personalities. He was Khepri the scarab god in the morning; Ra during the day; and Khnum, the ram-headed god, at sunset, when he went into the underworld.”
“That’s confusing,” Jaz said.
“Not really,” Sadie said. “Carter has different personalities. He goes from zombie in the morning to slug in the afternoon to—”
“Sadie,” I said, “shut up.”
Walt scratched his chin. “I think Sadie’s right. It’s a moose.”
“Thank you,” Sadie said.
Walt gave her a grudging smile, but he still looked preoccupied, like something was bothering him. I caught Jaz studying him with a worried expression, and I wondered what they’d been talking about earlier.
“Enough with the moose,” I said. “We’ve got to get this statue back to Brooklyn House. It holds some sort of clue—”
“But how do we find it?” Walt asked. “And you still haven’t told us why we need this Book of Ra so badly.”
I hesitated. There were a lot of things we hadn’t told our trainees yet, not even Walt and Jaz—like how the world might end in five days. That kind of thing can distract you from your training.
“I’ll explain when we get back,” I promised. “Right now, let’s figure out how to move the statue.”
Jaz knitted her eyebrows. “I don’t think it’s going to fit in my bag.”
“Oh, such worrying,” Sadie said. “Look, we cast a levitation spell on the statue. We create some big diversion to clear the ballroom—”
“Hold up.” Walt leaned forward and examined the smaller human figure. The little dude was smiling, like being fashioned out of clay was awesome fun. “He’s wearing an amulet. A scarab.”
“It’s a common symbol,” I said.
“Yeah…” Walt fingered his own collection of amulets. “But the scarab is a symbol of Ra’s rebirth, right? And this statue shows Khnum creating a new life. Maybe we don’t need the entire statue. Maybe the clue is—”
“Ah!” Sadie pulled out her wand. “Brilliant.”
I was about to say, “Sadie, no!” but of course that would’ve been pointless. Sadie never listens to me.
She tapped the little dude’s amulet. Khnum’s hands glowed. The smaller statue’s head peeled open in four sections like the top of a missile silo, and sticking out of its neck was a yellowed papyrus scroll.
“Voilà,” Sadie said proudly.
She slipped her wand into her bag and grabbed the scroll just as I shouted, “It might be trapped!”
Like I said, she never listens.
As soon as she plucked the scroll from the statue, the entire room rumbled. Cracks appeared in the glass display cases.
Sadie yelped as the scroll in her hand burst into flames. They didn’t seem to consume the papyrus or hurt Sadie; but when she tried to shake out the fire, ghostly white flames leaped to the nearest display case and raced around the room as if following a trail of gasoline. The fire touched the windows and white hieroglyphs ignited on the glass, probably triggering a ton of protective wards and curses. Then the ghost fire rippled across the big frieze at the entrance of the room. The stone slab shook violently. I couldn’t see the carvings on the other side, but I heard a raspy scream—like a really large, really angry parrot.
Walt slipped his staff off his back. Sadie waved the flaming scroll as if it were stuck to her hand. “Get this thing off me! This is so not my fault!”
“Um…” Jaz pulled her wand. “What was that sound?”
My heart sank.
“I think,” I said, “Sadie just found her big diversion.”
2. We Tame a Seven-Thousand-Pound Hummingbird
A FEW MONTHS AGO, things would’ve been different. Sadie could’ve spoken a single word and caused a military-grade explosion. I could’ve encased myself in a magical combat avatar, and almost nothing would’ve been able to defeat me.
But that was when we were fully merged with the gods—Horus for me, Isis for Sadie. We’d given up that power because it was simply too dangerous. Until we had better control of our own abilities, embodying Egyptian gods could make us go crazy or literally burn us up.
Now all we had was our own limited magic. That made it harder to do important stuff—like survive when a monster came to life and wanted to kill us.
The griffin stepped into full view. It was twice the size of a regular lion, its reddish-gold fur coated with limestone dust. Its tail was studded with spiky feathers that looked as hard and sharp as daggers. With a single flick, it pulverized the stone slab it had come from. Its bristly wings were now straight up on its back. When the griffin moved, they fluttered so fast, they blurred and buzzed like the wings of the world’s largest, most vicious hummingbird.