Main Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians!
Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians!Northfield Gary
EGYPTI AN S ! E LED G N A NT WITH THE GARY NORTHFIELD CONTENTS INTRODUCTION VI SHIP OF FOOLS XIII BEACHED WAILS XXVI THE CHOSEN ONE XXXVII HERO WORSHIP LI SOMETHING FISHY LXI A WARM WELCOME LXX THE ORACLE LXXXII ROMANS OUT! XCVI BATH TIME! CIV BURNING QUESTIONS CXIII FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES CXXXV DRESSED TO THRILL CLVI CORONATION CHEAT CLXV TOMB RAIDER CLXXVIII CHAMBER OF HORRORS CLXXXVIII DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE CCII HORSING AROUND CCXVI THE GAME’S UP! CCXXXVII WHEEL OF FORTUNE CCXLIV I WANT MY MUMMY! CCLI MEET THE BEETLES CCLXVII CURSE OF THE MUMMY CCLXXVIII CROCODILES ROCK CCXCIV TIME TO GO HOME CCCII EPILOGUE CCCVI ROMAN NUMERALS CCCX WRITE YOUR NAME IN HIEROGLYPHICS CCCXII THE ART OF MUMMIFICATION CCCXIV GARY’S GLOSSARY CCCXVI Why yes I do! So you think you know about JULIUS ZEBRA? Our ha n dsome he r o! WOOHOO! Well, you’re probably WRONG! HOW VERY DARE YOU! WHAT YOU THIN K YOU KNOW ABOUT Easy JULIUS ZEBRA! peasy! Kno w le dge g nu a ble m p io n He’s a cha o r! gladiat Thank you, fans! d the He b o otes o ut Roma n nia! of B rita n Finally reu nited w ith his b rothe r! And don’t come back! Woohoo! Wedgie! How I’ve missed you, Brutus! Actually I hate you. I knew all of this. But I bet y o u do n’t kno w what Julius has bee n u p to since we This last sa w him?! I gotta see. e Roma n Vo wed to sto p tha ny mo re Em p ire training iato rs! a nimal glad No more Yay! shall we be SLAVES! Travelled acr oss als a nim Eu ro p e freeing atres! fr om am p hithe Oi! Hooray! Run! Be free! Nearly captured his old boss, Septimus, the Roman training the animals! Curse you! See ya losers! Well, you learn something new every day! Julius wasn’t like other zebras and he was determined to prove it! We’ll catch that scoundrel Septimus, won’t we, gang? YEAH! Exciting, right? Whatever! You can’t catch me! Se ptimu s C HAPT ER ONE SHIP OF FOOLS Are you sure this is how you sail a ship, Cornelius? XIII “YES!” cried Cornelius, as he desperately stood on his tiptoes grasping the wet tiller. “JUST HOLD THE BIG STICK STEADY!” Julius wiped the blinding rain from his eyes. “BUT I’M SURE WE’RE GOING ROUND IN CIRCLES!” he shouted. “DOUBLE-CHECK THOSE INSTRUCTIONS AGAIN!” With a huff, Cornelius reached into the pouch tied round his waist and pulled out a crumpled scrap of parchment. The soggy note flapped furiously in the wind as he struggled to read it. “WE’RE DOING EXACTLY WHAT IT SAYS!” Cornelius called out. “‘HOLD THE TILLER STEADY IN A HEAVY STORM’!” See? XI V But, just as Cornelius held his note proudly aloft, a great gust of wind snatched it from his hoof and tossed it into the sea. Oi! “Oh, that’s just brilliant,” groaned Julius. HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO CATCH SEPTIMUS NOW? XV “FORGET SEPTIMUS! WE SHOULD TURN AROUND!” Cornelius squealed. “OR ELSE THIS STORM WILL SWALLOW US WHOLE!” But Julius was having none of it. “Wait here!” he growled through gritted teeth, pulling himself along the deck. “HOLD HER STEADY, CORNELIUS! I’M FETCHING HELP!” I REFUSE TO LET SEPTIMUS GET AWAY AFTER ALL OUR HARD WORK! A huge wave crashed against the side and Julius stumbled as he headed towards the captain’s cabin. He reached the open hatch and, grabbing hold of the slippery ladder, he climbed down gingerly into the dank, dark underbelly of the ship. XVI In the gloom, Julius pushed past Milus the lion, who was lying in a tatty hammock. On his belly gently slept Pliny the mouse, their tiny combat trainer. Displeased at being woken, Milus growled at Julius. Are we there yet, donkey? “No, we’re not!” snapped Julius. “And the way things are looking, we’ll never get there.” Julius clambered over a pile of soggy crates and sacks, where he finally found the rest of his companions huddled in a circle. X V II Woohoo! Finding this board game is the best thing EVER! B rutu s – Ju liu s’s big- headed idiotic br othe r Tap! Felix – Dim -w itted antelo pe an d av id ro ck collecto r Ooh! He’s got you there! Hmm... Rufus – enthu siastic gladiator an d Lu cia’s wingman Get out of that one! Lucia – Vegetarian cha riot- racing crocodile, always ready with a cunning plan OI! YOU LAZY BONEHEADS! STOP PLAYING YOUR STUPID GAME AND COME UP AND HELP US! Everyone jumped out of their skins, apart from his brother, Brutus, who refused to look up. “You’ll have to wait, Julius!” he growled. “This is a very tense match!” He waved his hoof to shoo his brother away. WILL YOU LISTEN! WE’RE SAILING INTO A STORM AND WE NEED ALL HANDS ON DECK!! XX Rufus, Lucia and Felix all leapt up in horror. “WHAT?!” they screamed. “I thought the ship was swaying a bit,” gasped Felix. “It’s been hard work trying to watch the game!” Can we NOT just finish the game first? Do you have to spoil EVERYTHING? Before Julius could reply, there was a great BANG as the ship buckled and twisted under the force of an enormous wave. It tipped over sideways, hurling everyone and all the cargo into the air. X XI Hmm ... let me think... The ship quickly righted itself, but Julius knew another big wave could hit at any moment and rip the old ship apart. He hurried up the wet ladder. “COME ON! WE NEED TO GET THIS SHIP THROUGH THE STORM!” Suddenly Lucia started screaming. “WE’RE LETTING IN WATER! WE’RE LETTING IN WATER!” She pointed frantically at a big leak spurting water. “YOU, RUFUS AND MILUS BLOCK THAT HOLE!” ordered Julius. “THE REST OF YOU, FOLLOW ME!” X XII That game totally counted as a win though, right? Not now, Rufus! Climbing out of the hatch, Julius raced over to poor Cornelius, who was still wrestling with the big tiller. HELP ME!! QUICK!! Lucia and Julius leapt onto the big stick and held it as steadily as possible. “GRAB THE OTHER ONE AND HOLD IT!” yelled Julius to Felix and Brutus, who quickly ran to the other side of the boat and grasped the second flailing tiller. X XIII As the rain lashed down from pitch-black clouds, the sea looked like a crazy mountain range thrusting high into the sky, before crashing back down into swirling chasms. The wind screamed as it ripped through the sail, dragging the ship from one frightening lunge to another. We need to get that sail down before it pulls us under! “BUT HOW?!” cried Julius. Suddenly the great gale whipped through the ship, sweeping the stricken vessel high up on a mountainous wave. There was a loud CRACKING noise as the sail was buffeted out as if fit to burst. “LOOK OUT!” screamed Brutus, as the heavy ropes that held the sail to the ship pinged off like they were mere washing lines. X XI V With another frightening CRACK the mast and sail were torn off into the raging turmoil of storm clouds. Well, that’s sorted THAT problem out! Then, at that moment, Cornelius looked past Julius, the blood draining from his little face. “I – I think it might just be the BEGINNING of our problems!” he squeaked, pointing upwards. Julius turned to see a monstrous wall of water rising and blocking out the sky. “C-can you swim, Julius?” stuttered Cornelius. “We’ll soon find out!” he gulped. And he held his breath, squeezed his eyes shut and clung on to the tiller for dear life. XXV C HAPT ER T WO BEACHED WAILS Julius was woken by a voice calling his name. He blinked open his eyes to find a familiar face staring at him. Look, it’s Julius! I’ve found him! Julius, wake up! Julius groaned. His ribs were bruised and he had a very sore head. Cold water sloshed around his legs. Then he heard more voices calling his name and the splish-sploshing of paddling hooves. XXVI Squinting from the dazzling sun, Julius opened his eyes a little wider. Julius, you’re alive! Julius slowly pulled himself up, wincing at his aches and pains. “Where ... where are we?” he murmured. He looked around the beach, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hoof. Strewn across the golden, sandy shore were broken crates, smashed jugs, twisted rope and hundreds of pieces of wood of all shapes and sizes. In the sea even more fragments were floating idly on the tide. The familiar figures of Brutus, Pliny and Milus were picking through the debris. X X V II Woohoo! I found it! I found the board game! YES! “We’re alive!” gasped Julius. “Somehow we’re alive!” “That was quite the storm!” said Cornelius chirpily. “And it seems the gods were on our side, as we were fortunate enough to be near land as it hit!” Julius finally stood up, stretched his back and again looked around the beach. He took in a deep breath, the hot air burning his nostrils. “Cor!” he blurted out. “Now there’s a smell I haven’t smelt in a VERY long time!” Kneeling, he sniffed a big rock and let out a big jolly gasp of air. X X V III Then he grabbed a big hoof-ful of shrubs and gave them a big sniff too. This place smells like home. “Can it be true: are we home?” “That’s a very good question!” replied Cornelius. “In fact, we’ve been having quite a debate about it. I’m pretty sure we’re in Africa!” He scampered off ahead round some big sand dunes. “Follow me!” “Where are you going?” asked Julius, his achy legs barely able to carry him. “Lucia’s got something to show you!” announced the warthog. X XI X Crocodiles! Hundreds of them! “JULIUS!” cried Lucia. She dashed over to her old friend and gave him a big hug. “We thought we’d lost you!” Isn’t it wonderful to be back in AFRICA! “We can go HOME!” she sang gleefully. “How can you be so sure?” exclaimed Julius. “Well, where ELSE do you find so many crocodiles?” Milus strode up to Julius and patted him on the shoulder. “So, donkey, even though it’s been wonderful hanging out with the likes of a zebra and an antelope, it’s time I left,” he growled. “But you can’t leave us now, Milus!” pleaded Julius. X X XII “We still need to find Septimus and stop him training any more animals!” “If you think Septimus survived that storm,” said Milus, walking off, “then you’re a bigger fool than you look!” But WE survived it! “Which means we can get our lives back again,” said Milus. “Goodbye.” Julius called over to Pliny the mouse, who was hopping through the flotsam of the shipwreck. “PLINY! CAN’T YOU HAVE A WORD?” Pliny threw his paws up in despair. “Don’t ya think I tried?” he squeaked. “Ain’t nothing going to change his mind!” X X XIII “You know,” Julius sighed, “even though he kept calling me a donkey, I think I’m going to miss the old grump.” Come on, Julius! This’ll cheer you up! Come and wear a seaweed wig!! “Very nice, Brutus! But that doesn’t help with finding Septimus.” Lucia patted Julius’s shoulder. “Forget Septimus,” she said kindly. “Milus is right: he’s either lost at sea, or shipwrecked who knows where.” She gave Julius a big smile. “We’re finally FREE to do whatever we want!” X X XI V “Come on, Debra!” Pliny squeaked. “We can chillax, check out the local landmarks!” He started darting about in the sand, throwing shapes and cartwheeling. I’m hoping to pick up some new fighting moves. Peeyow! Peeyow! Felix ran across the beach. “Don’t worry, Julius!” he shouted. “I’m not going anywhere, not when there are lots of amazing rocks to collect!” “Yeah, you’re right,” laughed Julius. “In fact, thinking about it, I’m glad to see the back of Milus. If I never see him again, it will be too soon!” XXXV Then I’m sorry to disappoint you. MILUS! C HAPT ER T HR EE THE CHOSEN ONE “EVERYONE, DOWN ON YOUR KNEES!” ordered one of the soldiers. He pushed Milus into the sand with the butt of his spear. OOF! The soldier, who was obviously in command, stepped forward to examine the strange animals, his red and white striped headpiece flapping in the wind. He prodded Julius with his spear. X X X V II “Who are you that enters our land UNINVITED?” he barked. One of the other soldiers called out from behind, “And what a mess you’ve made of our beach!” All the other soldiers nodded and grumbled in agreement. The commander leant in towards Julius, “Yes,” he rasped, “and what a horrible mess you have made of our beautiful beach.” What have you to say for yourself, INTRUDER? “Look, we’re sorry about your beach,” said Julius, “but we arrived here by accident. We were SHIPWRECKED!” “PAH!” the commander scoffed, forcing Julius to the ground. “A likely story! You are SPIES, and in Egypt we KILL all spies!” X X X V III Cornelius slapped his forehead. “EGYPT! Of course! I knew it!” “No, you didn’t!” retorted Julius crossly. “You said Africa!” “Egypt is IN Africa!” corrected Cornelius. “So I think you’ll find I WAS right!” “I’m with Julius,” interjected Felix. “You can’t take credit just by saying a whole CONTINENT; that’s cheating!” This isn’t a competition, you know. I said Africa and we’re in Africa, so I think you’ll find I’m RIGHT! “I think you’ll find it WAS a competition!” Felix said indignantly. “I personally said we were in Greece and Rufus said we were in Carthage. We ALL had a go!” “Well, if it was a competition,” agreed Cornelius, “what was the prize, hmm?” X X XI X Felix looked blank for a moment. “Er ... a starfish?” “You’ve just MADE that UP!” protested Cornelius. WILL YOU ALL BE QUIET! “I don’t know where you spies are from,” thundered the commander, “but it must be a land full of IDIOTS!!!” “Actually, Mr Soldier, sir,” said Julius, “we’re not idiots from Idiotland; we are GLADIATORS, FUGITIVES from ROME!” The soldiers nearly choked. “Yeah, and you’d better not mess with this one,” added Cornelius, pointing at Julius. “He’s their worldfamous CHAMPION!” XL CH–CHAMPION?! The commander wiped a tear from his eye. “That is possibly the funniest joke I have ever heard, beast. I am going to be VERY sorry when we have to kill you.” Julius quickly grabbed two big sticks and adopted an attacking stance. XLI YOU’D BE WISE TO STAND BACK, SOLDIER, FOR I AM JULIUS ZEBRA, CHAMPION OF ROME, SAVIOUR OF BRITANNIA AND LIBERATOR OF ENSLAVED BEASTS! The commander stepped back, shocked and wide-eyed. “Good work!” whispered Cornelius. “You’ve caught them off guard!” XLII Look how he holds the sticks! Can it be...? The commander shook his head in disbelief. “No, no! Don’t be RIDICULOUS! He couldn’t possibly be...” He didn’t complete his sentence; instead he narrowed his eyes and thrust his spear at the zebra. “For a horse, you are either very brave, or very, very stupid,” he spat. “Oh, don’t YOU start! I’m not a horse; I’m a—” But, before Julius could finish, he became aware of the ground shuddering underfoot. Startled, he quickly spun round. XLIII Julius waved them away. “No, it’s OK, thank you,” he said gratefully. “This isn’t anything I can’t handle!” The crocodiles bowed dutifully and stood back as requested. See how he commands the crocodilus! Are these boys giving you trouble? Cra ck! The frightened soldiers were flabbergasted. “Who are you that enters our lands, bears the symbols of our long-dead pharaohs and commands the crocodiles?” cried one of them. “Look,” Julius said, raising his arms. “I just want everything to be cool!” And he gave them a big friendly smile. Suddenly, as if on cue, dark storm clouds gathered overhead, there was a crack of thunder and the skies opened with a huge downpour of rain. XLV YOU THE BRIN RA IN G ! “Oh, he’s good at that!” laughed Felix. “You should have seen him in Britannia. It rained everywhere he went!” The soldiers threw themselves down at Julius’s hooves. “Then it is as we suspected! You are the bringer of good fortune; you are THE CHOSEN ONE returned!” Wait ... are you praying TO ME? “Now I’ve seen EVERYTHING!” Milus scoffed, laughing uncontrollably. “But I don’t understand,” said Cornelius. “Why do you think HE is the Chosen One?” XLV III “Because he brings the RAIN!” said one of the soldiers. “But surely you must have had lots of rain during last night’s storm?” Cornelius was very confused. The soldier shook his head. “The storm at sea never reached our shores. Our crops are failing, but HETER has renewed our HOPE! He has answered our prayers!” Julius was feeling even more perplexed. “HETER? Who’s HETER?” YOU are HETER, the HORSE GOD, bearer of good fortune! Your return has been FORETOLD! XLI X “Did ... did he just call me a horse?” Julius protested. “I’m nothing like a horse!” The commander turned to one of his soldiers. “Make haste to Alexandria. Tell them to begin preparations!” Tell them the Chosen One has arrived! C HAPT ER FOUR HERO WORSHIP “Come!” beckoned the commander. “We must hurry to our great city of Alexandria, where, as you are a returning god, our priests will surely proclaim you PHARAOH!” Julius turned to Cornelius in disbelief. “But aren’t pharaohs KINGS?” Cornelius was just as bemused as Julius. “Well, they were last time I looked,” he said. “You know, the LI Egyptians do worship their animals and many ARE gods to them, as are the pharaohs!” Little Pliny the mouse came running over. “What’s all the big kerfuffle?” he asked. They think I’m a GOD! “Not only THAT,” interrupted Cornelius, “they want to make him PHARAOH!” Pliny nearly fainted with shock. “I knew all that ‘champion’ gubbins would go to your head!” he squeaked. “You know what?” Julius declared. “Maybe this is the BEST thing that could have happened to us!” Cornelius looked sceptical. “What do you mean?!” LII “Well, think about it,” reasoned Julius. “For one thing, they don’t want to kill us. Secondly, after all the nonsense we’ve been through, we deserve a bit of fun, a taste of luxury!” Julius tapped the Egyptian commander on the shoulder. “Excuse me, will there be palaces and gold and stuff?” “Of course!” replied the commander. “You will be ruler of Egypt; you can have whatever you want!” Julius turned round to his chums. “See? We’ll be living in palaces and EVERYTHING!” We’re finally going on our HOLIBOBS! ? LIII WE’RE GOING ON OUR HOLIBOBS! WE’RE GOING ON OUR HOLIBOBS! Give me the strength. Milus suddenly grabbed hold of Julius. “If you think ruling a country is going to be FUN, then you are in for a shock, donkey!” Julius pushed the lion away. “You’ve always got to spoil things, you big grump.” “They also think you’re a HORSE!” growled Milus. When are you going to tell them you’re a ZEBRA? Before Julius had a chance to reply, the Egyptian commander gestured to them. “Come! We must be on our way,” he ordered. “Word of your arrival has spread and the people of the Nile are overjoyed that you are here to save them and their crops!” LV I The commander was right. Along the road, farmers and fishermen had already gathered to witness the arrival of their new horse god. Is it really him? What a remarkablelooking horse! Can he cure baldness? Julius walked towards the eager crowd and began waving regally to them. “Stop worrying, Milus. Come on, let’s have some fun for once!” There was a sudden shrill cry of “OI!” from the beach. Everyone looked back to see what the fuss was. LV II Where are you lot off to, then? “Everyone thinks Julius is a magic horse and they’re going to make him king of Egypt!” replied Felix gleefully. “They do?!” Brutus was very excited. “Cor! What a laugh!” He ran up to Julius and the soldiers. “Hey! I’m a magic horse too! Can I be a king? I’ve got a seaweed wig and everything!” Julius and one of the soldiers turned round to face Brutus. “Well?” asked Brutus indignantly, flicking his seaweed wig away from his eyes. LV III The soldier pulled the seaweed off Brutus’s head and held it up disdainfully. When our country is in need of a king of buffoons … we will know where to come. “Sorry!” said Julius apologetically, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s out of my hooves. I’m sure you can still have fun with us in my palace, though!” The soldier tossed the wig onto the ground and escorted Julius back to the road. Brutus frantically scrambled after the seaweed, picked it up and dusted off all the sand. He looked up to see his brother disappearing into the distance. “Hey, wait!” he cried, plopping his wig back on. LI X DON’T FORGET ME!! C HAPT ER FIVE SOMETHING FISHY The crowds of people lining the road to Alexandria grew bigger and bigger as word of Julius’s magical deeds spread. As Julius and his friends were led through a small fishing village, many well-wishers spilled out from the strange, square buildings. Julius could see young children, all sorts of traders and women carrying heavy pots on their heads. All of them seemed to be worshipping him! L XI Julius was really starting to enjoy the attention! Ooh! Not the face! But Cornelius was becoming concerned. “Julius!” he whispered. “Maybe Milus is right. What will you do if they figure out you’re not ACTUALLY a horse? They might kill you, or WORSE!” Stop panicking, Cornelius! Pr o p e p a nicki r ng “We’ll have a bit of fun, fill our bellies with lovely food; then, when we’ve had enough, we’ll run off one night when no one is looking.” L XII As they made their way along the road, a small commotion erupted ahead, and the people began chanting “Heter!”. There was a sudden great cheer, and cries of “Yippee!” and “Yahoo!”. “Wait a minute, what’s happened?” cried Julius. In the crowd, a little old man was hopping about with bountiful glee. “Look! Someone seems very happy!” chuckled Felix. I haven’t worn this old loincloth since last summer. Yet when I put it on just now, I found a gold coin in the pocket! The old man pointed at Julius. “And it’s all because of HETER!” Another great cheer went up and everybody started chanting Heter’s name once again. L XIII Felix and Rufus started clapping their hooves. “Oh, good work, Heter!” they said, deeply impressed. “I’m really starting to believe in you!” laughed Felix, nudging Julius in the ribs. “You have AMAZING magical powers!” Then he leant closer and whispered in his ear. In fact, I bet with your powers, you could easily find me a lovely Egyptian rock for my collection! Julius pointed at a big stone right in front of them. “What are you talking about, you weirdo?” he scoffed. “There are rocks lying on the ground all OVER Egypt!” OMIGOSH! THAT IS AMAZING! L XI V Felix held up the drab, dusty brown rock as if it were a lost treasure. “BEHOLD! HETER HAS FOUND ME A BEAUTIFUL ROCK FOR MY COLLECTION!” Everyone gasped at this miracle and once more began reciting the name of Heter. Lucia started skipping along to the chanting crowd. “You’re right, Julius, this really IS going to be fun!” I can’t remember the last time I felt this happy and free! “Yeah, Julius,” agreed Rufus. “Although I still haven’t figured out how you made it rain; that was PRETTY weird!” “My brother has ALWAYS been weird!” sniggered Brutus, joining in the skipping. LXV “Obviously I have hitherto unknown amazing powers!” chuckled Julius. “Who am I to question my godly abilities?” He wafted a hoof at Brutus. “Can you do something about that lump of seaweed on your head? It STINKS!” You keep your mitts off my lovely wig! Milus turned and snarled at Julius. “If you want to be a god, then carry on. Just let me go home!” Pliny hopped onto Milus’s shoulders and started giving them a good massage. “Come on, Mr Grumpy, if anyone needs this holiday, it’s YOU!” LXVI Aargh! Gerroff! Ooh, so tense! ! Kneadd! Knea Julius put his arm round Milus. “Yeah, come on, grouchy. You can go home ANY TIME! Come and have a few days of fun with us!” Milus gazed at all their smiling, encouraging faces and let out a big sigh. “Okaay...” Pliny leapt off Milus’s shoulders. “Wahey! I knew we’d twist your noggin!” But if you ever put your arm round me again … I’ll bite it off! ? L X V II The commander beckoned the procession to continue. “We must march quickly if we are to reach Alexandria before sunset!” he urged impatiently. “Let us be on our way.” Julius clapped his hooves to attract everyone’s attention. “Listen, everybody!” he yelled. “Today is probably the GREATEST day of my life!” Let’s have a SINGSONG! Julius cleared his throat and began to belt out an old favourite of his zebra herd. “SHE’LL BE ... COMING ROUND THE MOUNTAIN WHEN SHE COMES!” He waved his hooves, signalling everyone to join in. L X V III SHE’LL BE COMING ROUND THE MOUNTAIN WHEN SHE COMES! “EXCELLENT!” cried Julius, and the procession trooped off towards Alexandria, merrily singing away. Singing aye aye yippie yippie aye! Kill me now. C HAPT ER SIX A WARM WELCOME Alexandria! Wow, thought Julius, this is a city to rival Rome itself! As they trekked past the tidy patchwork fields and smart temples and villas that lined the route to Alexandria, more and more people gathered to greet their new idol. And as the great wooden doors to the city opened, Julius’s eyes nearly popped out of his head at the sight of thousands cheering and crying out the name HETER! HET ER HETER! HETER! They REALLY must be keen on having a new pharaoh! L X XII ! The crowds parted to reveal a grand boulevard, hundreds of metres wide. Julius had never seen a road like it! Wow! This makes a Roman road look like a garden path! Julius boggled at the huge, gleaming temples and great statues lining the road as far as the eye could see. Giant columns painted with colourful figures were dotted everywhere. What funny little people! “Those are hieroglyphics!” said Cornelius helpfully. “The Egyptians use little pictures to tell stories instead of writing.” “Wow!” he marvelled, looking intently at the little carvings. “Hypergluesticks!” Suddenly Julius spotted a MASSIVE tower in the harbour, just beyond the pillars and temples. Cor! What’s THAT thing? It’s HUGE! “That ‘thing’,” replied the commander proudly, “is our great lighthouse, Pharos. It is one of the Wonders of the World!” Cornelius, not wanting to be left out from sharing interesting facts, butted in. “Yes,” he agreed, “it uses a mirror to reflect the sun’s rays during the day and a fire is lit on top during the night.” L X XI V How is it a little warthog knows so much about our great lighthouse? “Well, you know,” said Cornelius modestly, “I’ve read the odd parchment.” The commander laughed. “The odd parchment, you say? Then, my little friend, you are going to LOVE our library!” YOU STILL HAVE THE LIBRARY? I THOUGHT IT HAD BURNT DOWN?! “It is true,” said the commander. “Julius Caesar himself tried to destroy it many years ago.” He halted the procession and threw his arm out to the left. LXXV BUT, AS YOU CAN SEE – HE FAILED! Julius was feeling a bit lost. “What are you guys even talking about? First a lighthouse, now a libra-HAIRY!” Cornelius was hopping about with glee. “A library, Julius, a LIBRARY! The greatest library the world has ever KNOWN!” He laughed. “Centuries of knowledge and wisdom from all over the world, stored here for everybody to read on scrolls and parchments.” Whatever you want to know, ANYTHING, you will find it in HERE! Julius looked intrigued. “What, even about zebras and grass and stuff?” Cornelius grinned from ear to ear. “Yes! Even about zebras and grass!” L X X V III Felix sauntered over and put his hooves on his hips. “So, are you telling me,” mused the intrigued antelope, “that in there somewhere, there’s a scroll about all the rocks that have ever existed on earth?” Cornelius laughed again. “EVERY ROCK, ON HUNDREDS OF SCROLLS!” GASP! I’ve got him!! “But first we must meet with the priests,” said the commander. “Then, when your friend is crowned pharaoh, you can visit the library whenever you please!” L X XI X The procession turned off the great avenue and continued along a road, much more narrow, though no less grand. Mighty statues of fantastic-looking beasts lined the street, alongside excited well-wishers all hoping to catch a glimpse of their new god. Those animals look CRAZY! The commander laughed. “Those are your fellow gods. It would be unwise, perhaps, to mock them!” He suddenly thrust up his hand and the procession came to an abrupt halt. “Hey, why have we stopped?” asked Julius. “Because we are here!” exclaimed the commander. “Where’s ‘here’?” LXXX The temple of our ever-watchful god Serapis. “Let’s hope he’s not watching TOO carefully,” growled Milus under his breath. C HAPT ER SEVEN THE ORACLE Julius could just make out the figure of a small bald man wearing a plaited white skirt standing at the top of the steps to the temple. The sun glinted off the man’s head as he beckoned the zebra towards him. Go on, he’s calling for you! “Wait, aren’t you all coming with me?” asked Julius nervously. The commander shook his head. “Only priests and gods can enter the temple.” L X X XII “Oh, right,” gulped Julius as he anxiously began to climb the steps. “Just me, then...” Cornelius scampered after his friend. “Hold up, I’m not letting you go on your own!” he cried. Is this really necessary? Come on, Milus! Wait for us!! “WAIT!” shouted the commander. “ONLY GODS ALLOWED!” Felix turned and shouted back, “BUT WE’RE ANIMALS! YOU EGYPTIANS WORSHIP US, RIGHT?” And with that, they all dashed up the steps after Cornelius and Julius, leaving the commander behind. L X X XIII Come on! Race you to the top! Hey! “Watch him, Julius!” warned Cornelius. “He’ll try to pretend HE is the horse god!” “We can’t have that idiot ruling Egypt! Quick!” And Julius sprinted after his brother. COME BACK HERE, YOU!! L X X XI V Brutus raced off far ahead. “You can’t catch me!” he laughed, skipping nimbly up the last few steps. Julius took a deep breath, snorted through his nostrils and, with an extra burst of energy, flew up the rest of the marble stairs. Coo! He’s a blur! “You stop right there, you rascal!” bellowed Julius, leaping into the air and tackling Brutus. “Oi! WATCH IT!” screamed Brutus as he slammed to the floor. “I was only messing about!” LXXXV What is the meaning of this OUTRAGE? Julius immediately leapt to his hooves and saluted the priest. “Heter, god of instant rain and magic coins, at your service!” The priest was not impressed. Brutus pulled himself up too and adjusted his very smelly seaweed wig, then grabbed the priest’s hand and shook it vigorously. “And I’m Brutus, brother of Julius, I mean HETER!” By the way, seeing as I’m his more handsome brother, can I be a god too? “Get your filthy hoof OFF me, you stinking BEAST!” Brutus glanced at Julius, confused. “’Ere, I thought you said they liked animals?” Cornelius and the others finally caught up with Julius and Brutus at the top of the steps. “Going well, then, is it?” puffed an out-of-breath Cornelius. “Oh, brilliantly,” replied Julius with a sigh. There has obviously been a mistake. You buffoons do not fit the description of any gods that I know of! Cornelius nudged Julius hard in the ribs. “Quick! Give him that speech you gave those soldiers on the beach this morning!” L X X X V II Julius stood puzzled for a moment, then suddenly realized what Cornelius was on about. “Oh, yeah!” he said. “That proper did the trick, didn’t it!” He stood in dramatic fashion. “Now, what was it I said? I’m not sure I remember.” He gave a little cough to clear his throat. I AM JULIUS ZEBRA, ENSLAVER OF THE CHAMPIONS, DESERTER OF ROME AND, ER, ... SAVIOUR OF THE BISCUITS! Julius rubbed his chin, thinking hard. “No, wait,” he said, waving his hoof at the priest. “That doesn’t sound right. Well, it was something like that, anyway!” He chuckled. L X X X V III Now, where’s my crown? “There will be NO crown for you, cretin!” cried the priest. “Nor do we look kindly upon those who seek fame and fortune by grasping the crown FALSELY for themselves!” “Didn’t I tell you?” muttered Milus. All of a sudden a voice called out from the courtyard behind them. “Stand aside, Imhotep,” the voice wheezed. “Let the creature through!” The priest was caught off guard. “But, Your Holiness, there is no way this fool—” L X X XI X Let him through! I wish to see him for myself. The priest reluctantly stepped aside and waved Julius on. “Please,” he hissed, “the Oracle in his infinite wisdom wishes to speak to you.” Julius turned to his friends and shrugged. As he made his way through the pillars, Cornelius and the others began to follow him, but the priest thrust his staff in front of them. “Not you lot,” he said firmly. Julius entered a large courtyard alone. To the left stood an imposing temple, very similar to all the Roman ones he’d seen on his travels, with its triangular roof and multiple columns. XC Step this way, young creature. As Julius drew closer to the temple, the butterflies in his stomach whirled around. He didn’t much like the sound of the icy, creepy voice that came from inside and had to stop himself from running away. “Do not be afraid, young zebra,” said the voice. Julius was shocked. “But how do you know I’m a ZEBRA?” Through the gloom, Julius could see a small figure in the shadows. “When word reached me of a brash horse claiming to be the ‘Champion of Rome’ and ‘Liberator of XCI Enslaved Beasts’, well,” the voice chuckled, “there could only be one creature in the entire Roman Empire fitting THAT description!” At least you didn’t think I was a HORSE! We’re NOTHING like horses! “Come closer, young gladiator.” The shadowy figure beckoned to Julius to step inside the temple. “I am an Oracle. I see things that no other man or beast sees.” Julius stepped gingerly into the darkness. “Do you have magic eyes, or something?” he asked. The figure laughed. “Yes, something like that.” He shuffled over to Julius and gazed up at him. “I come from a long line of Oracles. We see into the future and we see into the past.” XCII “How about round corners?” The shadowy figure ignored him. “My greatgreat-great-great-grandfather once met a soldier called Alexander in the desert many miles from here, many, many years ago. He saw in him a GREAT man, a man who could unite the warring tribes and empires. This was the very same man who went on to conquer Egypt and numerous other countries, and whose children and grandchildren ruled our lands for hundreds of years.” I too have met many great heroes in my time. And now I have finally met you. XCIII The man pulled out a piece of parchment from his cloak and held it up to Julius. This is it! thought Julius. The Oracle has foreseen my coming and I’m to be PHARAOH OF EGYPT! The Oracle coughed nervously. “Young zebra, would you make an old man happy and let me have your autograph?” “If it’s not too much trouble.” He strolled over to a pile of papers on a desk behind him. “I have quite a collection, you know.” He held up an old parchment. “Look, here’s Cleopatra’s signature! Isn’t it beautiful?” He shuffled through some more papers. “This is Theseus, the Greek who defeated the Minotaur. Such a nice chap.” XCI V “But I thought you were going to see whether I was worthy of being a god and a pharaoh? Not ask for autographs!” The figure ambled back over to Julius. “Oh, goodness, yes, by all means, be our pharaoh. You can’t do much worse than the rotters who run the place at the moment!” He held out his parchment again. If you could just stick your hoofprint here, right next to the pawprint of Julius Caesar’s favourite cat, Spot. C HAPT ER EIGHT ROMANS OUT! Julius emerged from the temple to a great roar from the crowd. The priest stopped him and looked him up and down. “Well, what did the Oracle say?” Julius pushed him to one side and addressed the crowd. The Oracle has spoken: I AM YOUR NEW PHARAOH! As the onlookers once again roared their approval, Cornelius went up to Julius. “Gosh! Well done, Julius! XC V I That’s AMAZING! You must have really impressed him. Oracles are very wise old men.” “Nice work, Julius!” exclaimed Felix. “But where’s your crown?” “Good point!” Julius turned to the priest. “Have you got my crown then, please?” The priest, still unimpressed with Julius’s earlier shenanigans, could barely bring himself to look at the zebra. “Patience, Your Highness,” he growled. “There will I may as well look the part while I’m here! be a coronation for you in three days’ time. Arrangements will be made for the ceremony at the old city of Memphis, in the shadow of the great pyramids.” XC V II Cornelius could barely contain his excitement. “Did you say THE PYRAMIDS?! WOW! This trip just gets better and better!” Julius was none the wiser. “What’s so exciting about a pair of mitts? Chilly Romans wear them all the time in Gaul!” The pyramids, Julius! The Great Pyramid is one of the Wonders of the World! “Cor, they do like their wonders out here,” said Julius. “But these are the wonders of ALL wonders!” cried Cornelius. “Huge mountainous triangular tombs that practically touch the sky, so they say.” He folded his arms smugly. “To this day, scholars still don’t know how they built them. Each stone block weighs a ton!” “Ooh, I must get one for my rock collection!” enthused Felix. “Imagine one of those on my mantelpiece!” XC V III Suddenly a short fat man in a smart toga came puffing and panting up the steps. “I suggest you take care,” warned the priest. “Here comes Titus Flavius, the prefect. He is the man in charge from Rome!” Julius was baffled. “Rome? What have they got to do with the price of eggs?” “Egypt is a Roman province, Julius!” replied Cornelius. “They OWN Egypt!” What’s all this nonsense? Why are the people rioting? What’s going on? “They’re not rioting!” protested Julius. “They’re cheering for me! I’m the Chosen One. The new PHARAOH!” XCI X Flavius nearly exploded with rage. “PHARAOH?!” he squealed, his face red like a big tomato. “Have you lost your SENSES? Our Great Imperator, HADRIAN, is ruler of these lands. No other!” “Try telling it to THAT lot!” said Julius, pointing to the crowd. The Roman prefect recoiled in shock. “But this ... this is MADNESS!” He stared at Julius. “Who are you that DARES come here to claim the throne?” “I am HETER, the horse god, bringer of magic rain and coins,” declared Julius proudly. “Although you might also know me as Julius Zebra, Champion of the Colosseum!” C Flavius gasped in surprise and leant forward, squinting at Julius. “It cannot be...?” Rotten fruit splattered against the prefect’s lovely clean toga. “HEATHENS!” he yelled, waving angrily at the crowd, which roared angrily back. Fearing their wrath, Flavius scurried off towards the temple. Once safely on the threshold, Flavius turned and risked a final shout at the onlookers below. HADRIAN WILL HEAR ABOUT THIS! JUST YOU WAIT! And with that, he was gone. “He’s not going to get very far in that temple,” observed Julius. “Isn’t that the only entrance?” “No,” replied the priest. “There are many CI secret tunnels and corridors throughout this city. Flavius will easily find his way out.” Julius clapped his hooves. “Does this mean I’m free to rule Egypt, then?” “I would say so,” replied the priest. “But we should be prepared for a visit from Hadrian and his army. Now that word is out about your arrival, he won’t be a stranger to our shores.” “Oh, don’t worry about him,” laughed Julius. “I easily kicked his butt back in Britannia!” He turned to the priest, who was standing nearby, arms crossed, staring grumpily at the zebra. “And you and me, we’re all square, right?” Perhaps, beast, perhaps not. CII We shall see. The priest sloped off back to the temple. “What did THAT mean?” worried Julius. “I warned you, Julius,” said Milus. “There will be those in Egypt who won’t be happy that you’ve just strolled up and taken the crown.” The lion started walking back down the steps. “Have your fun for a few days, then let’s leave this crazy place, before it’s too late.” Julius just tutted and shook his head. “Some people are no fun AT ALL!” Right then, who’s ready to PARTY?! C HAPT ER NINE BATH TIME! Julius lazily splashed the milk in his bath as he took another swig of grape juice. Ah! This is the life! From the other side of the room, Felix let out a satisfied groan. A big Egyptian, built like an CI V elephant, was massaging the antelope’s shoulders as he lay flat on a marble slab. Omigosh, this feels amaaaazing! Julius laughed. “Soon you’ll feel like a new antelope!” He dunked his head under the milk, then rose out of his bath. The waiting handservant quickly threw a towel around the dripping zebra. “And how about you, Milus?” he called out. “Are you still in a rush to head back home?” Don’t push your luck, donkey. CV Cornelius trotted into the room looking quite sprightly. He chuckled at the lion. “Don’t be so dismissive of donkeys, Milus!” “Why?” Milus said, narrowing his eyes. “What’s it to you?” “Well!” the little warthog said, grinning, “that milk you’re sitting in is DONKEY’S milk!” Cornelius tottered over to Julius, who was sniffing his wet arms. “You know,” he said, “I was told Cleopatra swore by this stuff. Makes your skin look young and beautiful, apparently!” CVI Julius rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I wonder if I can get zebra milk imported?” “Most likely,” replied Cornelius. “You, Lord Heter, can have whatever your heart desires, from what I can gather.” Julius turned to a little Egyptian sitting patiently next to the bath. “SCRIBE!” The little man jumped to attention. Yes, Your Highness! “Make a note that I would like to import zebra milk,” demanded Julius regally. “Yes, my gracious lord,” said the scribe, hurriedly scratching away on his parchment. C V II And let’s have a look at getting hold of the milk of gnus too. We may as well try all the different milks! Yes, Your Highness! With that, the little man left the room. Cornelius sidled closer to Julius and glanced around to see if anybody was listening. “Julius, I’ve been thinking about what Milus has been saying and I’m worried about some of those things the priest said yesterday.” He looked around again. “If they find out you’re not who they think you are, you might be in grave danger,” he whispered. Before we set off for your coronation at Memphis tomorrow, I want to pay a visit to the library. “Bah! You worry too much, Cornelius!” scoffed Julius. “Why do you need to go to the library?” “I want to read more about this prophecy of the Chosen One!” replied an anxious Cornelius. “What are you two whispering about?” asked Felix. “Cornelius wants to go to the library to doublecheck the prophecy!” Julius told him quite loudly. Ooh! How exciting! THE LIBRARY! SHH! Lucia swanned in, flanked by Rufus, Brutus and Pliny. “Ooh! Did someone say something about libraries?” she asked. “GOOD GRIEF!!!” exclaimed Julius, his eyes nearly popping out. “What on EARTH are you lot WEARING?!” CI X What do you think? I thought we may as well dress the part while we’re here! Pretty bling, right? “I want me some of these crazy clothes,” declared Julius. “I am the new pharaoh after all!” “Me too!” exclaimed Felix. “Where did you find them?” “In the Royal Wardrobe,” said Lucia. “I’m sure we can rustle up a lovely skirt and headdress for you, Felix!” Cornelius was at the end of his tether. “Chaps, seriously!” he huffed. “We need to visit the library now, before it closes at sunset!” “All right!” tutted Julius. “Don’t get your tusks in a twist.” Can we find a lovely skirt for Milus too? Oh, of course! C HAPT ER T EN BURNING QUESTIONS o n! Comee o n! Com “Wait for me!” cried Julius as he tottered up the marble steps uneasily. “It’s flippin’ hard getting around in this tight skirt!” CXIII As well as his ill-fitting clothes, Julius also had to deal with the eager crowds desperate to touch their new pharaoh. So much for secrecy! Brutus decided to jump in and help his poor brother. He roughly pushed the onlookers to one side. “Keep back!” he ordered. “I, Brutus, brother of the Chosen One, command you to keep back!” A young Egyptian boy was impressed. “Ooh, are you Heter’s brother?” “That’s right,” replied Brutus, trying to look regal. “We’re completely related to each other.” CXI V “Then you TOO must be a god!” Brutus nodded in agreement. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Try telling that to the PRIEST though!” Julius grabbed Brutus and dragged him away. “Oi! Stop all that!” muttered Julius. “Why don’t you just let it drop. It’s becoming ever so slightly annoying now!” Well, it’s not fair! How come you get to be a god? I’m just as brilliant as you! “Perhaps when you make it rain out of nowhere, or summon coins from the sky,” said Julius, “then we might have a second look at your magical credentials.” Brutus stood at the bottom of the stairs, fuming, as Julius and the others carried on towards the library’s entrance. CX V “WELL, MAYBE I CAN!” he cried out. “WATCH THIS!” Julius turned round to see Brutus with his arms in the air, his face scrunched up in desperate concentration. “What IS he doing?” wondered Felix. Julius shrugged. “Trying to make it rain, I think.” Brutus’s face was starting to go scarlet as he willed with all his might for it to rain. “I can feel it coming!” he gasped. “I DEFINITELY have magic powers too!” The Egyptians burst into laughter at poor Brutus. “Why’s everyone laughing?” he cried. Squawk! “At least I got one raindrop!” “Keep it up!” sniggered Julius. “You might get a downpour if you’re lucky!” CX V I With that, Julius hitched up his skirt and they all scooted up the remaining steps into the gleaming white marble courtyard. At last they reached the entrance to the library, which was guarded by grim-looking statues of lions wearing stripy Egyptian headpieces. Look at those grumpy lions! They must be relatives of yours, Milus! “Come on!” urged Julius as he sprinted into the library. “Cornelius ran on ahead. He must already be inside!” Grrr. Milus plopped himself under a lion statue. “You lot carry on. I’m staying right here.” CX V II Oh, wow! “That warthog could be anywhere!” cried Julius. “Come on, let’s ask the chap at the desk.” Julius sauntered up to the desk and gave a polite little cough to attract the attention of the busy librarian. Yes, what is it? “Well, first point,” said Julius, slightly put out at not being recognized. “I’m your new pharaoh, so you’ll address me as ‘Your Majesty’.” The librarian sighed indignantly and rolled his eyes. “Yes, what is it ... Your Majesty?” He inclined his head. “THAT’S BETTER!” laughed Julius and held up his hoof for a high five. CX X Julius’s hoof hung awkwardly for a few seconds, before he realized the gesture wasn’t going to be reciprocated. He lowered his hoof and gave a second, more nervous, cough. “Um,” he stammered, “you, er ... didn’t happen to see a little warthog come in, did you?” The librarian’s left eyebrow arched upwards. “If you are referring to Phacochoerus africanus, then yes, he proceeded through the doorway to the west.” He pointed to the door behind Julius. ? Facochy-whooo? Lucia grabbed Julius by the arm and dragged him away. “It’s the posh name for warthog!” she hissed. CX XI “It IS?” blurted Julius. “How do you know?” “Let’s just say Cornelius has referred to himself by that name on more than one occasion,” she replied. “Well, our Cornelius does like posh words,” nodded Julius. They walked through the tall doorway to find a room filled from floor to ceiling with scrolls. Each wall was crammed with neatly stacked V-shaped shelves that were marked by subject matter. At the far end, among a group of browsing scholars, was Cornelius, surrounded by many scrolls scattered on the floor. Shh! Yes! I found it! CX XII “What does it say?” asked Julius excitedly. “Am I in there?” Cornelius turned round and scrunched the scroll up very quickly. “SHH!” he said, putting his little hoof to his lips. “No, Julius, you are not in here. Well, not exactly.” Give it here; let me have a look! JULIUS! Julius read the scroll carefully, making murmuring noises as he did. “Interesting, verrry interesting,” he muttered, tapping his chin thoughtfully. CX XIII Cornelius snatched the scroll back. “You’re reading it upside down, you idiot!” “Yeah, I know!” protested Julius. “We pharaohs can read in ALL sorts of directions!” “CAN you now?” huffed Cornelius. “Oh, stop being a grump! Just tell us what it says.” What are all these ones? They look very old! “All these scrolls are about the history of the Egyptian people and, in particular, prophecies,” explained Cornelius. CX XI V He unrolled the scroll Julius had pretended to read and pointed to a small passage. “See here, it talks about the return of a Chosen One to save the Egyptian people from hardship and to restore the country to its former glory.” SEE! I’ve been FORETOLD! Cornelius nodded. “Yes, you have. Well, Heter has, to be precise.” Woohoo! I am TOTALLY the Chosen One! CX X V Cornelius grabbed Julius’s arm and dragged him back down. “Hush, you two! Try not to make a scene.” The other scholars were tutting and shaking their heads. The little warthog continued. “That is only part of it—” But before Cornelius could finish, Felix dashed over clutching an armful of scrolls. “Check it out!” he cried, and threw the scrolls at his friends. WATCH IT! FELIX! “I must protest!” spluttered Cornelius. “These scrolls are IMPORTANT artefacts and must be treated with GREAT CARE!” CX X V I “That’s EXACTLY what the librarian said,” reflected Felix. “You should get a job here, Cornelius!” The antelope unravelled one of the scrolls. “This place is amazing, look!” Every rock EVER discovered. EVER! My mind is BLOWN! Suddenly Brutus, Pliny and Rufus appeared clutching their own scrolls. “Wotcha, lads!” said Pliny. “How’s all yer learning going?” The little mouse brandished his scroll. “These drawings show fighting techniques from around the empire. I’m proper learning these!” CX X V II “I’ve already got one of the moves worked out!” squeaked Pliny. “Watch THIS!” He grabbed Felix by the ankles and tossed him through the air like a caber. That’s an Hispanic Ankle Throw, apparently! Very useful. CX X X Rufus also showed off his scroll excitedly. “I found one which has all the rules for my board game! Did you know it’s called Ludus? We might actually know what we’re doing now!” “And you, Brutus?” asked Julius, raising his eyebrows and expecting the worst. I am going to learn GASTROMANCY! “Come again?” blurted Julius. “Gastromancy,” announced Brutus, reading aloud the words on his parchment, “is the ancient Greek art of conversing with the voices who speak to us via our stomachs.” “He’s lost the plot!” said Lucia. CX X XI “No, hear me out,” protested Brutus. “You know all that bleeping and blooping that goes on in your stomach? It’s ACTUALLY your belly trying to talk to you!” He tapped his scroll. “According to this, the voices can even predict the future.” He sounds quite grumpy, your stomach! “Never mind all THAT!” shouted Julius, before realizing all the scholars were frowning at him. He motioned for everyone to huddle closer. “Cornelius was about to tell me something important,” he whispered. “Weren’t you, Cornelius?” CX X XII Cornelius unravelled his scroll again solemnly. “Yes, I was, Julius. But I’m afraid it’s not good news.” Any man or beast found seeking the crown of Egypt based on falsities, deception or treachery will immediately be put to death. Julius gave a big gulp and sat down heavily. Felix patted Julius on the shoulder. “Oh, hard luck, Julius. It’s been nice knowing you.” Cornelius held up his hoof. “But that’s not all.” THAT’S NOT ALL?! IT DOESN’T GET MORE FINAL THAN DEATH!! CX X XIII Cornelius hushed Julius then carried on reading from the scroll. “Any collaborators, conspirators or parties found colluding with the accused shall also be put to death.” “WHAT?!” screamed Felix. “But isn’t that US?!” “I’m afraid so,” replied Cornelius, rolling up the scroll firmly. We have to leave. And we have to leave NOW. C HAPT ER ELEVEN FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES As they hurried back to the palace, they were greeted by Imhotep the priest. “Your Majesty,” said the priest impatiently, before bowing dramatically to Julius. “We were just about to send a search party. Your presence is urgently needed!” The flustered zebra tried to squeeze past Imhotep. “Can it not wait?” he blustered nervously. “I, er ... have my own urgent business!” We are to leave immediately for Memphis! CX X X V “But I thought the coronation was tomorrow?” said Julius. “It IS,” replied Imhotep. “But we must set off now to begin preparations.” Julius gulped in despair and dashed up the stairs to his room. “We’ll be back down in a minute!” he called out. What are we going to do?! That priest will have us if he finds me out! Stop biting your hooves! “Fear not!” said Cornelius confidently. “We’ll escape through those hidden tunnels and catacombs the priest was talking about. The palace must be rife with them!” CX X X V I The animals ran into the pharaoh’s main chamber and Julius set them all to work immediately. “Right, this is the plan!” he announced. “I want everyone to check each nook and cranny for a SECRET TUNNEL!” Oh, I DO love a puzzle! “This isn’t fun and games,” snapped Julius. “This is LIFE OR DEATH!” He clapped his hooves. “Quickly, before baldy-locks gets back!” CX X X V II How about down this pot? I’d give this way a miss. I’m back here again. This way, surely? Don’t ANY of the tunnels lead out of the palace? This is RIDICULOUS! The sound of hard sandals galloping up the marble stairs caught everyone’s attention and Julius swivelled just in time to see Imhotep burst into the room. “Rats!” muttered Julius. “We’re too late!” “Your Majesty,” sneered the priest. “We can wait NO LONGER. We must leave immediately, before the sun sets.” The Royal Barge awaits! CXL As they were herded down the stairs, Julius whispered in Cornelius’s ear, “We’ll just have to go along with it and hope for the best!” Cornelius nodded. “It doesn’t look like we have much choice.” Outside, they were met by an impressive entourage. “This way to the jetty, Your Majesty.” The priest beckoned to the steps leading down to the harbour. Cor! It’s SO golden! CXLI As Julius stood on the jetty, he was overwhelmed by a sweet fragrance. He stuck his nose in the air and took a deep breath. “Whew! What an AMAZING smell of flowers! Check it out, everyone!” It makes a change from you stinky lot! Wow! I’ve never whiffed anything so heavenly before! Waiting to greet them on the barge was a very smart and very smiley Egyptian. He clapped approvingly at everyone’s royal garments. CXLII So lovely to see you’ve already dressed for the occasion! Cla p! Cla p! The Egyptian held out his hand to clasp Julius’s hoof and bowed. “It is a great honour to meet you, Lord Heter,” he said. “My name is Apepi and I am the captain of today’s flotilla.” “Very nice to meet you, Apoopi,” said Julius graciously. “Apepi, Your Majesty.” “Of course,” replied Julius. “That’s what I said. And may I say what a lovely-smelling boat you have.” Apepi bowed again. “My pleasure, Your Majesty. My family and I are eternally grateful for the rain that you brought to save our harvest.” CXLIII Apepi showed Julius to his seat. “Your Royal Majesty may sit here under this silk canopy, if it pleases you.” “Ooh, very snug!” said Julius, plumping himself among the big cushions. “And your friends,” continued the captain, “can sit under the poop.” I ain’t sitting under no POOP! I’m the pharaoh’s brother, dontcha know? Cornelius pulled Brutus under the small golden canopy at the back. “It’s not THAT sort of poop, you fool!” he chided. “It’s just another word for the roof of a cabin!” CXLI V All the other animals made their way to the small cabin and tried their best to find a place to sit. “Shove up!” said Pliny. “There’s room for all of us!” Brutus still had the grumps. “How come we have to squash in, while old pharaoh-face gets to sit on those big cushions up front?” COS HE’S THE FLIPPING PHARAOH! SO SHUT UP MOANING FOR FIVE MINUTES SO WE CAN ALL ENJOY THIS LOVELY BOAT TRIP! AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT STINKY WIG! “Yeah, please don’t wind up Pliny,” warned Felix, “or he’s liable to chuck one of us into some bookshelves.” CXLV Rufus nudged up to Brutus and pulled out his old board game and a pouch of stones. “Come on, let’s have a game of Ludus to take your mind off it all.” Brutus reluctantly joined in a game, but he still wasn’t happy. “I’ve been talking to my stomach and it totally agrees that I should be pharaoh too.” You’ll be swimming with the crocodiles and talking to their stomachs if you don’t shut your beak. The barges finally set off from the jetty and Apepi called over to Julius. “Would Your Majesty like some music for the journey?” Julius clapped his hooves together excitedly. “Ooh, YES PLEASE!” he squealed. He leant over to his friends at the stern. “Right, you lot, stop squabbling. I want to hear this!” CXLV I From one of the barges at the front, a small group of musicians began playing a soft melodic tune. “Oh, I like this!” Julius grinned. Forgetting all his troubles, Julius sank back into his soft cushions and soaked up the view as they left the harbour of Alexandria. Ta-ta Alexandria! CXLV II After a short distance the flotilla turned into the mouth of the Nile. Julius waved at all the crocodiles floating idly in the river. “Cooee!” he called out. You’ve seen one royal barge, you’ve seen them all. Julius waved regally at the various people and animals on the riverbank they passed. You know, I could get used to this pharaoh malarkey, he thought. But, as the day wore on, Julius began to feel rather hot under the blazing sun. CXLV III Coo, I forgot how boiling it gets in Africa! “Take your headdress off!” suggested Cornelius. “No point in overheating.” “Yeah,” agreed Julius. “Good plan, Cornelius. My head is getting proper sticky.” He reached up and removed his headpiece. A small but welcome breeze blew across his forehead. Aaah! That’s better! CXLI X N ice breeze. But no sooner had he exposed his head, than a voice called out from a small crowd on the riverbank. “Cooee! Julius! Hello! It’s me!” Julius sat up with a shot. “Did someone just call out my NAME?!” he gasped, diving for cover behind his silk cushions. Julius! I’d know that face anywhere! “I can’t believe it!” cried Julius. “Who knows me out HERE?!” He slowly peeked through the crack of two cushions. “Omigosh,” he exclaimed, closing the gap shut. “Isn’t that Annie the gnu from the lake back home?” CL “What, that weird one who’s always yapping to Mum?” asked Brutus, straining to see who it was. “Yeah, that’s the one!” said Julius. “I’d recognize that beard anywhere. What’s she doing all the way up here in EGYPT?!” If she gives the game away about your true identity ... we’ve HAD IT! Everyone lay flat on the deck until the barge was well and truly far away from the gnu. How strange. I could’ve sworn that was young Julius. When they thought they were far enough away, Julius finally flopped back onto his cushions. I don’t think my heart can take all this pretending! “Let’s just hope old Imhotep didn’t see or hear her!” replied Cornelius ominously. The barge sailed down the Nile for a few, less eventful, hours. Julius carefully waved to all the happy well-wishers in their boats lined up along the riverbank, careful to keep a beady eye out for any more familiar faces. But, thankfully, he didn’t see anyone else he knew. Julius was in fact quite struck by just how pleased everyone was to see him. What will they do when they find out who I really am? he thought. CLII As the sun started to set and a cool breeze floated across the river, Apepi came over and bowed to Julius. “Good news, Lord Heter!” Julius sat up and rubbed his tired eyes. The captain pointed to the horizon, where three triangular silhouettes seemed to rise up from the Nile. We have arrived! Julius sprang to his feet. “CORNELIUS, LOOK!” he yelled. “You were right!” Cornelius woke from a slumber. “Wait ... I was? What about?” CLIII They really are a wonder! The captain ushered them all to their feet as the flotilla arrived at the riverside Royal Apartments in Memphis. “And now you must rest, for tomorrow will be the greatest day of your life!” C HAPT ER T WELVE DRESSED TO THRILL Julius was woken by a banging on his door. He cuddled up to his pillow even tighter, reluctant to leave the cosiness of his slumber. “When I go home,” he sighed to himself, “the first thing I’m doing is buying myself a big comfy bed. This is PURE heaven.” The banging came again, accompanied by an urgent voice. “Lord Heter, it is time to get up! Your kingdom awaits!” Just another five minutes! CLV I Suddenly the door burst open and Imhotep stormed in. “I’m SORRY, Lord Heter,” he hissed, “but I must insist that you arise from your bed. Tributes must be paid to the gods before the coronation.” Two women followed Imhotep, carrying decorative gold clothes and jewellery. “Your ceremonial garments have been prepared, so hop to it.” He clapped his hands twice and the women immediately dropped a huge gold garment over Julius’s sleepy head. Yawn! What’s going on? CLV II Then they strapped to his chin a length of tightly plaited hair, that had been interwoven with gold. “’Ere!” he protested, grabbing the weird sausagelike lump of hair. “What’s this?” “That is your beard, Your Highness,” replied Imhotep wearily. “It represents your divinity.” Scratch! ! Scratch Does it have to be so itchy? The priest was unimpressed. “That is the very beard that CLEOPATRA wore on her coronation, so I would caution you to be RESPECTFUL!” At that moment, Cornelius and Felix rushed into the room. Julius was very pleased to see them. “Hey, Cornelius, did you know that Cleopatra had a BEARD?” CLV III “Of course I did!” replied Cornelius, slightly hurt that Julius was questioning his boundless knowledge. “THIS IS IT!” cried Julius, pointing excitedly to his ceremonial beard. “This is ACTUALLY Cleopatra’s beard!” Wow! That’s pretty impressive! With a loud gasp, Imhotep slapped Felix’s hoof away. “Do NOT touch the Royal Beard!” Imhotep clapped twice again and the royal dressers scurried obediently out of the room. The priest grabbed Julius’s arm and yanked him off the bed. “This way, Your Highness. Your carriage awaits.” Cornelius scuttled alongside, trying to catch Julius’s attention. CLI X “Did Imhotep say anything about your friend the gnu?” “No, I think we got away with it!” replied Julius. As Julius was taken out of the palace, he was greeted by a large golden throne which sat upon a great litter held aloft by eight men. Imhotep escorted Julius up to his seat. CHECK ME OUT ON MY MAD THRONE! A blast of horns filled the air and the grand procession rumbled into life as a stream of soldiers and dignitaries slowly marched along the boulevard, with Julius’s throne at the vanguard. CL X The procession arrived at a very grand-looking temple. Following Imhotep’s instructions, Julius dutifully enacted the ancient rituals of paying tribute to the old gods. The priest led him to three temples in all, representing Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt and finally the Two Lands, where Julius laid presents out for the gods and past pharaohs. Don’t eat it all in one go! Once the formal presentation ceremonies were over, Julius couldn’t wait to get back on his mobile throne and head off for the next part. He turned to CL XII Imhotep and clapped his hooves. “What’s next? I hope it’s more fun than shuffling around boring old temples!” Imhotep sniffed scornfully, careful to bite his tongue. “Next, Your Highness, we present you to the people of Egypt for your coronation, then we celebrate with a feast.” “Hooray!” cheered Julius. “A feast! Let’s make sure we don’t miss that!” “The feast lasts a whole year,” replied Imhotep, “so there’s little chance of missing it.” Ooh, how exciting! Did you hear that? We can eat like kings for a whole year! CL XIII If we’re not careful, we’ll be lucky to last a WEEK! C H APT ER T HIRT EEN CORONATION CHEAT Julius’s mobile throne bumped and weaved slowly through the crowds alongside the Nile. Once again he was struck with awe by the pyramids, which loomed large in the background. “Those things really DO touch the sky!” he marvelled. After a while, the pyramids receded from view and a small rocky valley appeared. Julius was amazed to see colossal ancient statues carved into the mountains themselves, solemnly watching over their procession. Cor! You can see right up his nostril! CL X V Then, as they made their way around the rocky outcrop, Julius was greeted by the sight of thousands of people and an oddly familiar-looking colossus! I present to you … HETER! Wow! I can’t believe it! It really IS me! Julius nearly choked; he’d NEVER seen so many people before, not even in the stadia of Rome. Up till now it had all been a bit of jolly fun, but seeing the statue and the sea of faces all staring at him suddenly made it VERY real indeed! The Egyptians really DID believe he was a god and were expecting him to RULE the country. The WHOLE country! I’ve never run a shop, let alone a country, Julius thought. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! Guys, I can’t go through with it! What am I going to do?! CL X V III “It’s a bit late to be having second thoughts!” scoffed Milus. I told you this was all a big mistake DAYS ago! But Julius was in a panic. “Seriously, Milus, now isn’t the time for ‘I told you so!’” he gasped, shaking like a leaf. “You HAVE to get me out of here!” Julius felt a tug on his arm. It was Imhotep. “This way, Your Highness. Your subjects await!” The priest frogmarched Julius through a great parting in the crowd, who all cheered and chanted “HETER!”. Then Julius, prodded by Imhotep, climbed up the steps of the giant podium, the deafening roar of the masses in his ears. CL XI X Can we just get this over with? From the other side of the podium a troop of priests wearing animal masks appeared, chanting and waving their arms in the air. “I want to go home now!” sobbed Julius. The animal priests began splashing water onto the petrified Julius. Oi! Watch it! Some of that went in my eye! Imhotep started waving a metal ball on a chain through the air which billowed pungent smoke into Julius’s face. “Blargh! Help! Ack!” he coughed. “They’re trying to KILL me!” The priests stood in front of Julius’s throne and bowed down to him, each of them mumbling strange words over and over behind their animal masks. CL X XII “GOOD WORK, JULIUS!” encouraged Cornelius from the base of the podium. “Stick at it; you’re doing brilliantly!” “But I can’t see anything!” wailed Julius. “These idiots threw soapy water in my eyes!” PEOPLE OF EGYPT, LORD HETER HAS BEEN PURIFIED! This is ridiculous! HETER! HETER! CL X XIII Julius wiped the water from his eyes, just in time to see a priest wearing a bird’s head approach him carrying a weird object. What are you supposed to be, then? A pigeon? Ignoring him, the bird priest placed the object on Julius’s head. “What is THAT?” Julius asked. “Some kind of urn?” Imhotep turned to Julius in disgust. “URN? URN?! Rarely have I heard such IMPUDENCE!” he seethed. “It is your CROWN, you cretin! You bear the symbols of the two ancient Egyptian kingdoms coming together as one!” Shaking with rage, he pointed his finger at Julius. “In all my years I have NEVER heard CL X XI V this sacred artefact referred to as an URN!” Julius nodded his head approvingly. “Well, you learn something new every day.” Finally the animal priests pushed a stick into each of Julius’s front hooves – one a stripy stick with a hook on the end, the other with three sticks swinging from the top. “And what are THESE?” asked Julius, swinging the sticks about. “They are the symbols of your authority!” declared Imhotep. “The crook is the symbol of your KINGSHIP, and the flail—” What, this one? CL X X V “Yes,” replied the priest, dodging out of the way. “THAT represents the fruitfulness of the land.” Suddenly, at the bottom of the podium, Cornelius leapt up in the air. “THAT’S IT!” he called. “Julius, that’s why those soldiers thought you were a god in the first place!” “Eh? What do you mean?” “Don’t you remember back at the beach? You were holding those two sticks!” What, like this? CL X X V I “YES!” cried Cornelius. “Those sticks looked EXACTLY like your crook and flail!” Julius slapped his forehead with his hoof. “THAT’S why they thought I was a god!” he laughed. Perplexed, Imhotep put his hands on his hips. “What are you blathering on about?” “Oh, er ... nothing...” blustered Julius, hiding the sticks behind his back. “Let’s just carry on and get this over with, shall we?” Imhotep took Julius by the hoof and presented him to the crowd. “SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF EGYPT, I GIVE TO YOU YOUR NEW KING, HETER!” HETER! HETER! HETER! C H APT ER FOURT EEN TOMB RAIDER Now that I have been officially crowned the horse god, we can EAT LIKE KINGS! “Right!” said Julius proudly. “I think that went pretty well, all told!” He put his arm round his brother, who was deep in a game of Ludus with Rufus. “Did you see me up there?” he said. “Didn’t I look brilliant!” “Up where?” asked Brutus, not glancing up from his game. “ON THE PODIUM!” Julius blurted. I’m now officially PHARAOH! “Oh, that’s nice,” replied Brutus, pretending to be disinterested. CL X X X “Pff!” complained Julius, plopping down on his seat grumpily. “Well done, Julius,” said Lucia, patting him on the arm. “I thought you were very brave up there!” Pliny walked over chomping on a big lobster claw. “Good work, Debra,” he slurped. “You smell proper fragrant too.” Just so you know, the lobster here is AMAZING! “You played it well, donkey,” admitted Milus, nibbling on a honey-covered mouse. “You’ve been lucky so far, but we should leave before our cover is blown.” CL X X XI “Milus is right,” Cornelius agreed. “The longer we stay, the deeper the trouble we’re in.” Suddenly Julius did a double take and sprang up from his chair. “Hey! Wait a minute, where’s Felix? I haven’t seen him since the coronation!” That idiot! I told him to stay put in case we have to go! “THAT STUPID ANTELOPE!” Milus roared, pulling at his mane in frustration. Julius quickly put his hoof over the lion’s mouth. “SHH!” he hissed. “Let’s not draw attention to ourselves!” CL X X XII Batting away the zebra’s hoof, Milus glared at Julius. “Just try sticking your hoof over my mouth again and see what happens!” A familiar voice interrupted them. “Cor blimey! I leave you for five minutes and you’re already trying to kill one another!” Everyone spun round to see Felix standing in front of them, bold as brass. “And where have you been?” scolded Julius. Check out this CRAZY rock. Isn’t it a beauty? Cornelius took a closer look at the big blue gem, his eyes nearly popping out. “Felix! WHERE did you find this?!” CL X X XIII “It was in a cave back there,” he said, pointing behind him. He lowered his voice to a whisper and beckoned everyone closer. “The place was FULL of treasure!” A cave?! If it’s treasure, it probably came from a TOMB! “Ooh, a tomb...” repeated Felix blankly, not really knowing what that meant. “Yes, a tomb!” replied Cornelius. “Ancient pharaohs would keep all their prized possessions in there along with their sarcophagus.” Felix’s mouth dropped open. “A COFFIN, before you ask,” said Cornelius. “Yeah, I know!” huffed Felix. “I was just yawning.” And he opened his mouth even wider, stretched his arms and made a big yawny sound like a cow falling down a hole. CL X X XI V So! Not only am I a brilliant rock collector, but I’m also a master tomb raider! “Yeah, I’m not sure that’s something you wanna go shouting about!” snarled Pliny, spitting out an expensive prawn tail. Felix popped the jewel back into his knapsack and patted it shut. “Righto! What are we all doing then? Lots of eating and drinking?” “No!” cried Cornelius, wrestling the knapsack away from Felix. “You can’t just steal stuff from pharaohs’ tombs!” What about THE CURSE! CL X X X V Pliny shook his head in despair. “What curse?” he scoffed. “The hairy piglet’s gone bonkers!” “No, it’s true!” said Cornelius. “Pharaohs protect their tombs with terrible curses to deter thieves. If you don’t put it back, we’ll all die really horribly!” Blimey, WHATEVER we do here seems to mean certain death! Julius patted Felix on his shoulder. “Come on, Cornelius is right; we’d better put it back. I’m quite keen to live a long jolly life, thank you very much!” Poor Felix looked forlorn. “Don’t worry, Felix, there are plenty of rocks lying around that will be JUST as great, trust me!” “Not like this one,” sighed the antelope. CL X X X V I Julius turned to his friends. “The rest of you wait here for five minutes, while Cornelius and I make sure Felix puts this back.” And if anyone asks where I am ... tell them I went to the toilet or something. Classy. C HAPT ER FIFT EEN CHAMBER OF HORRORS Julius, Cornelius and Felix sneaked out through a flap at the back of the tent and scurried over to the feet of the giant statue of Heter. “OK,” said Cornelius. “Which way now?” Felix scoured the landscape to get his bearings. “This way!” he announced confidently and scooted off towards the far end of the rocky outcrop. Here it is, by this tiled floor! Julius was impressed. “Cor, you’re very brave!” “How do you mean?” asked Felix. “Well,” said Julius, peering into the hole, “it’s very dark in there. I wouldn’t have gone in on my own!” If I’m honest ... I tripped over that big rock and fell down the steps. Cornelius gave Felix a little nudge. “Go on then, show us the way!” Felix stepped to one side. “I’m not going down there NOW!” he protested. “Not after all your talk of curses and stuff!” Cornelius gave the antelope a big shove. “There WON’T be a curse if you put it back!” With a big “TUT!” Felix had a rummage in his knapsack and pulled out a tiny oil lamp. CL X X XI X He quickly bashed his little metal fire striker against his pocket flint and lit the wick with the sparks. “Impressive!” said Julius. No true rock collector leaves home without his lamp! Julius and Cornelius followed Felix as he gingerly tiptoed down the steps. When they finally reached the bottom, they found a door covered in strange oval markings. Cornelius’s eyes nearly popped out. “Cartouches!” he cried. “Bless you!” replied Julius. “No!” said Cornelius. “Cartouches are the Egyptian symbol to denote a pharaoh. You really did find an ancient royal tomb!” CXC Julius pushed his shoulder against the door. “And we really ought to be putting back what we shouldn’t take!” he huffed. As the door creaked open, a gust of air whistled past them, blowing out Felix’s lamp. They squeezed through the tight Well, that’s a bit annoying! gap between the door and the wall into a cold, musty, pitch-black room. “Hurry up, Felix!” urged Julius. “Get that lamp lit. This place is starting to give me the creeps!” Felix bashed hard at his flint. “Come on, come on!” he huffed impatiently under his breath. Finally, with one big chip at his flint, the tiny sparks lit the small wick. “Got it!” he declared. But Julius and Cornelius weren’t listening. “By the gods,” whispered Cornelius, his jaw hitting the floor, “what IS this place?” CXCI Cornelius dragged Felix and his lamp over to one of the walls. “Look at these images; the colours are as fresh as the day they were painted!” Julius held up a statuette. “All this stuff – golden chairs, chariot wheels, pots – what’s it all for?” “Whoever’s chamber this is,” replied Cornelius, scrutinizing a small pot carefully, “this is the stuff they were taking with them into the afterlife!” Felix let out a little squeal. “’Ere! There’s loads of cats in here! LOOK!” DEAD ONES!!! CXCI V “Mummies,” whispered Cornelius. “I don’t care WHOSE they are,” cried Felix. “I don’t like ’em!” Julius was examining two big statues. “Hey, Felix, bring your lamp over here. Look at these giants next to this door!” They look like guards! Cornelius rushed up and placed his little hooves on the door. “They ARE guards!” he declared. “And they’re probably guarding another chamber!” CXC V Julius gave the door a big shove with his shoulder. “What are you doing?!” exclaimed Cornelius. “Opening the door! What does it look like?” Cornelius dived in front of the door protectively. “But you CAN’T!” shouted the little warthog. “That’s probably where the TOMB is!” “And?” demanded Julius indignantly. “Don’t you want to know who’s in there?” “You can’t DISTURB the tomb!” cried Cornelius in horror, and he spread his arms wide. Think of the CURSE! CXC V I “Let’s just put the stone back and leg it!” he said. Felix came up and leant on the door. “I promise to put the stone back if you let us look behind this door.” Promise? Pinky swear! And with that, they all HEAVED on the heavy door. As it creaked open, the light from Felix’s lamp glinted off something very big and VERY golden inside. CXC V II Wow! So beautiful! “Look, it even has a face painted on it!” cried Julius. And it’s a SHE! “Who’s this chap, then?” asked Felix. “What do you mean?” replied Cornelius, distractedly. Felix held up his light. “In this other sarcophagus!” CXC V III He doesn’t look Egyptian AT ALL! Julius examined the second casket, which was also covered in delicate patterns and hieroglyphics. Then something caught his eye. “Wait! Look at these markings. Aren’t they ROMAN NUMERALS?” Cornelius leapt to Julius’s side to take a look and, sure enough, carved in blue against the gold were the very familiar markings of Roman numerals. “Well spotted, Julius!” he praised. Cornelius studied the face on the sarcophagus and let out a little gasp. “And you’re right too, Felix! The chap in here is definitely NOT Egyptian. He’s a ROMAN!” CXCI X Cornelius stood back from the coffin in awe. “Which can mean only one thing...” he whispered. This is the LOST tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Antony! “Oh, goody!” Felix clapped. “They’ll be pleased we found it again!” “No, they WON’T!” scolded Cornelius. “They’ll be FURIOUS!” “But who are Cleo Claptrap and Mark Anchovy?” asked Julius. “Cleopatra,” replied Cornelius, “was the last pharaoh of Egypt. Mark Antony was her Roman lover. They were defeated by Julius Caesar more than a hundred and fifty years ago, bringing to an end the age of the pharaohs.” CC “Well, until I came along!” said Julius proudly. Cornelius grabbed Felix’s knapsack. “Look, these tombs are SACRED and we really shouldn’t be here!” he cried. “Put the stone back, Felix, and let’s leave now!” Felix wrenched his bag out of Cornelius’s hooves. “NO, CORNELIUS, YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR STUPID CURSES!!” he bawled. “I’M KEEPING MY SHINY STONE, SO THERE!!” With that, Felix blew out his lamp and vanished into the dark. C HAPT ER SIX T EEN DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE Julius and Cornelius scrambled out of the pitch-black tomb and into the blinding glare of daylight. “That idiotic antelope!” fumed Cornelius, shielding his eyes. “He’ll be the death of us!” Julius patted him on the back. “Don’t be so hard on him. He’s just passionate about his rocks, that’s all!” But it’s not HIS rock! CCII “If my head drops off because that fool’s put a curse on us, I’ll be FURIOUS!” raged Cornelius. They soon reached the big tent where the party was in full swing and sneaked back in through their secret flap. “He can’t have got far!” reasoned Julius. Who can’t have got far? “Felix!” Julius answered, wafting the stench of the seaweed away from his nostrils. “He’s run off with his stupid gem.” “Never mind all that!” spluttered Brutus, putting his arm round his brother. “You and me need to TALK!” CCIII Brutus gently ruffled Julius’s mane. “When are you going to make me a god too? Eh?” Julius shrugged Brutus’s arm off. “What do you mean?” “Oh, come on, Julius,” pleaded Brutus, throwing his arms in the air. “WE’RE BROTHERS!” If YOU’RE a god, then I should be a god TOO! Julius shoved his hoof in front of Brutus’s mouth. “Hush!” he hissed. “Look, they don’t dish out their godhoods willy-nilly. You have to EARN it!” CCI V “EARN IT?!” jeered Brutus, pushing Julius away. “What have YOU done to EARN IT?” Julius tried desperately to quieten his brother. “Brutus, please!” But Brutus was getting redder with anger, swaggering about and waving his arms. “This whole thing is RIDICULOUS!” he sneered loudly. Some of the dignitaries were now looking round, irritated by the disturbance. “They all think you’re a HORSE god!” he shouted. But you’re not even a horse, you’re a ZEBRA! CC V Julius clamped a hoof over Brutus’s mouth. “Please be QUIET!” he insisted. “You’ve eaten too many lobsters and it’s gone to your head!” Julius became aware that someone was standing right behind him. He spun round to find the frowning face of Imhotep the priest. “Is there a problem?” he hissed menacingly. Julius let go of Brutus, dropping him to the floor, then put his arms behind his back, looking the picture of innocence. Nope! Nothing to see here! Ha ha ha! Oi! “Good,” said Imhotep. “We’ve been looking for you. Your presence is needed once more.” He gazed CC V I for a few seconds at Brutus, who was sitting on the floor rubbing his head, then eyed Julius suspiciously before letting out a big “Humph!” He turned on his sandals and walked briskly away. “Follow me, ‘horse’!” Julius glared at Brutus angrily. “Now you’ve done it!” he snapped. “Imhotep probably heard you!” “Oh, who cares?” huffed Brutus grumpily. Before he could say any more, Julius was whisked away out of the tent and back to the great podium where his coronation had taken place. Imhotep impatiently waved Julius towards the rear stairs that led to the summit. Your people await! It is time for your first PROCLAMATIONS! CC V II As Imhotep shoved him up the steps, Julius began to panic. “But I’m not ready!” he protested. “I need my special adviser, Cornelius!” The priest glared at the whimpering zebra. “Your friend is not with you this time, horse,” he snarled. “Besides, you are a god; you do not need the advice of mere mortals!” I suppose not...! Julius poked his head over the summit. A great cheer went up as the crowd spotted his crown and familiar face. With a big gulp, Julius stepped fully into view on the podium, waving his hooves at his adoring fans. CC V III Julius tried to address the cheering masses, but he could barely hear himself shout above the roar! As he waved, he suddenly realized that his fans had stopped chanting “Heter”. What on earth are they shouting now? he thought. He leant towards them and put his hoof to his ear. “YOU WHAT?!!” he yelled. MAKE IT MAK RA IN! E IT RA IN ! CCI X Julius realized with horror what they were saying and held up his hooves. The crowd fell silent. “I’M AFRAID I CAN’T MAKE IT RAIN TODAY!” The crowd became restless and started to boo. Julius panicked. He spotted Imhotep at the foot of the steps looking up at him, arms folded and foot tapping impatiently. “OK, OK!” he said, turning back to the crowd. I SHALL MAKE IT RAIN! It happened on cue before, he reasoned to himself, so why shouldn’t it happen again? He raised both his arms high in the air and closed his eyes. CCX There was a long silence as everyone looked to the heavens, waiting expectantly for any sign of rain. Nothing. Julius slowly opened his eyes to see clear blue skies. If anything, it was sunnier than before he’d started this charade. The crowd began chanting again. A IN! IT R MAKE MAKE IT RA IN! MAKE IT RAIN! Julius held up his hooves apologetically. “I’M SORRY!” he shouted. “BUT I DON’T THINK IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TODAY!” CCXI This was NOT what they wanted to hear! The sound of boos rippled through the crowd again. Pieces of food were thrown at Julius. Some god YOU are! You’re the worst horse god I’ve ever seen! Julius grew frightened as his adoring fans turned into an angry mob, and he started to edge backwards. Suddenly he noticed a solitary figure break through the crowd and climb up one of the steps at the front. “HE’S NOT A HORSE!” called out the mysterious figure. CCXII Julius leant over to try to get a better glimpse of the speaker. It looks like a GNU, he thought. The gnu called up to Julius. “IT IS YOU!” she cried. “JULIUS ZEBRA!” COOOEEE! I’D KNOW THAT FACE ANYWHERE! Julius dived to the floor. It’s that gnu again! What am I going to do? he thought. I need to get out of here! He became aware of a pair of sandalled feet directly in front of his nose. CCXIII “AS I SUSPECTED!” Julius timidly peeked up to see the twisted, angry face of Imhotep the priest. You’re not even a HORSE, let alone a GOD. You’ve made a MOCKERY out of me and the people of EGYPT! Julius scrambled to his hooves. “Listen, it’s not what you think!” he pleaded. “I’m not listening to YOU!” spat the priest. He beckoned to some nearby guards to grab the zebra. “You are a CHARLATAN!” He leant in close to Julius as the guards prepared to drag him away. “And Egypt does NOT look favourably upon CHARLATANS!” CCXI V As Imhotep gestured to the guards to take him away, a familiar-looking crocodile leapt into their path. “LUCIA!” cried Julius. He IS a horse and he can PROVE IT! C H APT ER SEVENT EEN HORSING AROUND ’ERE! NO ONE SAID I WAS GOING TO BE TIED TO THIS IDIOT! humph! Lucia skipped over gleefully to the chariot and tugged at the reins to make sure they were tightly fastened. “Lucia, this time you’ve gone TOO FAR!” railed Julius. “You’ve finally gone CRACKERS!” Lucia patted Julius on the head. “Quiet now, Julius,” she soothed. “What better way to prove once CCX V I and for all that you’re a horse, than by winning a CHARIOT RACE?” Julius let out a big huff. “One, don’t pat the Royal Head, thank you; and two, I’d rather be strapped to ANYONE other than this stinky imbecile!” Brutus ignored him and brushed his beloved mop of seaweed, disturbing a dozen flies as he did so. Lucia skipped up onto the carriage, where her charioteer partner, Rufus, waited patiently. “Have faith in your brother!” she urged with a laugh. With your zebra speed and my superior chariotracing skills, this race will be a no-brainer! CCX V II Brutus grinned smugly at Julius. “See, bruv? People think we’re GREAT together!” The rest of the gang arrived to wish them luck. Cornelius patted Julius on the head. “Good luck, chaps; there’s only one winner in this race!” Will people PLEASE stop patting me on my HEAD! Julius now turned his anger on Felix who was meekly hiding behind Cornelius. “This is all your fault, Felix!” he fumed. “You’ve put a curse on me ever since you pinched that stupid stone!” Felix hid a little bit further behind the warthog. Also looking on were Milus and Pliny, sitting disgruntled on a rock. CCX V III One could argue that since I met YOU, donkey, my life has been cursed! Pliny jumped up and stood in front of the two zebras. “Ignore that grump!” he said. “But listen to Lucia. Old teeth-face is RIGHT!” The little mouse hopped about as if he were a horse zipping around a race track. “You zebras have hooves of FIRE!” Julius looked at his front left hoof. “We do?” “YES!” replied Pliny. He pointed to the horses next to them. “Forget those mollycoddled nags; when’s the last time they were chased by a hungry lion?” CCXI X Julius watched as their rivals were harnessed to their chariot. Two great muscular horses, they looked powerful enough to take on the whole Roman army! Maybe never, but I still wouldn’t mess with ’em! “Have you seen who their charioteer is?” added Cornelius. IMHOTEP!! CCX X “Word is,” said Cornelius, “that before he became a priest, he was a champion chariot racer in his youth!” “Well, that’s THAT then!” sighed Julius despondently. “We’re DEFINITELY doomed.” Pliny leapt onto Julius’s head and eyeballed him. “Now, that ain’t the talk of a ROMAN CHAMPION!” He backflipped off Julius’s head and deftly landed on his little feet. He gave Julius’s hoof a big kick. “You might have feet of fire...” But you also need some FIRE in your belly! CCX XI A big smile spread across Brutus’s face. “That’s where I come in!” He grinned. “I had some very spicy food at that party and it’s proper set MY belly on fire!” Julius creased up his nose. “I don’t want to know!” Lucia tugged on the reins for a final test of the buckles. “That’s it!” she announced. “We’re ready to go!” They trotted over to the starting line as Pliny and the others scurried to the sidelines and found themselves a good spot to watch the race from. NOW GO KICK SOME EGYPTIAN BUTT! The two chariots stood side by side, ready for the final signal. Julius looked over at Imhotep, who bared his teeth and growled. CCX XII “We’re all going to die!” whimpered Julius. “Don’t worry, chaps,” Lucia said confidently. “I’ve watched hundreds of these races. I know EXACTLY what I’m doing.” “I flippin’ hope so!” Julius burbled. “We’re all for the chop if we lose!” Don’t worry, bruv, I’m feeling extra super speedy! We’ll win this by a country mile! “Just don’t do anything STUPID!” Julius begged. But, before Brutus had a chance to reply, the gong rang out and the chariots were OFF! CCX XIII Whee! Their lives at stake, Julius and Brutus galloped at top speed. In the chariot, Lucia nimbly held the reins, carefully steering them around the tight bends. But Imhotep was fast too! The powerful Egyptian horses ferociously pounded their hooves into the hot sand, easily whisking the priest past the two zebras. QUICK! THEY’RE ZIPPING AHEAD! Julius and Brutus put their heads down, picked up the pace and pushed every sinew and muscle to the limit. Lucia clung on tightly, tugging the reins sharply as they approached the next turn. They screeched round in a great cloud of dust and sand, almost clipping the Great Pyramid itself. CCX X V I They had taken the corner too fast! The chariot careened onto one wheel, nearly tipping Lucia and Rufus out. But Rufus grabbed hold of the chariot with one hoof and Lucia with the other, and they managed to keep Julius and Brutus on track! Phew! That was a close call! “He’s getting away!” yelled Julius. “Come on, Brutus. RUN FASTER!” With an extra burst they caught up with Imhotep. CCX X V II The priest didn’t like this one bit; taking out his spear, he tried to ram it into Lucia’s wheel! CHARLATANS! LOOK OUT! “YOU DIRTY CHEAT!” roared Rufus, waving his hoof angrily. “If baldy had stuck his spear into our spokes, we’d have HAD it!” Lucia kept her focus on the track ahead. “Get ready if he comes again!” she ordered. “We NEED to pull ahead!” “HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO GO ROUND?” Brutus puffed. “THREE TIMES!” she replied. CCX X V III “AND HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE BEEN ROUND ALREADY?” Brutus shouted. “NEARLY ONCE!” cried Lucia. NEARLY ONCE?! YOU’RE HAVING A LAUGH! But Julius was easily keeping up the pace. “Stick with it, brother!” he gasped. “If being a gladiator has given me one thing, it’s stamina!” Thanks to Julius’s pace and Lucia’s steady steering, they were soon gaining on Imhotep’s chariot once more. “NOW LET’S TRY TO GET PAST WITHOUT GIVING THEM A CHANCE TO TAKE US OUT!” cried Julius. CCX XI X “Don’t worry,” replied Brutus with a cheeky grin. “I’ve got a better idea!” And with that he PULLED the chariot right into the path of the Egyptians! The Egyptian chariot bounced dangerously into the air as it was shoved off course, but the experienced Imhotep somehow kept it all in one piece on the track. CCX X XI “WOOHOOHOOO!” laughed Brutus. “THAT SHOWED ’EM!” “You FLIPPIN’ IDIOT!” screamed Julius. “You nearly took us ALL out!” Brutus took no notice of his brother. “Oh, stop being such a wimp! Chariot racing is SUPPOSED to be dangerous!” Julius risked a sideways glance at Brutus. “Well, more fool you! You’re the one who lost his stupid wig in the melee!” “WE HAVE TO GO BACK FOR IT!” howled Brutus, desperately looking behind. “We’ll get it on the next circuit!” said Julius. CCX X XII “Then we’d better HURRY!” And Brutus burst forward with renewed energy, pulling the chariot faster than ever before. The spectators went wild as Julius’s chariot zipped past Imhotep and round the next bend. The chariot hurtled down the next straight and round the final corner. In the distance Brutus spied his beloved green locks. “THERE IT IS!” he exclaimed. Cor! You really love that wig, don’t you! But as Brutus twisted the racing chariot towards the clump of seaweed, he clattered his hooves into Julius. “CAREFUL!” yelped Julius, as he felt his legs crumple underneath him. He tried to steady himself, but it was too late. CCX X XIII LO O KO UT! As the dust settled, Julius wondered if he was still alive. Then a pungent, fishy stench wafted up his nostrils. Yes, he was very much alive. Got it! Julius was just about to berate his imbecilic brother, when the rush and thunder of Imhotep’s chariot speeding on past took his breath away. In the distance the chariot crossed the finishing line to great cheers and applause. “Brilliant,” said Julius, and he flopped back to the ground, exhausted. C H APT ER EIG HT EEN THE GAME’S UP! Lucia jumped out from the overturned chariot and rushed over to Julius. “Are you all right?” she cried. “I ... I think so,” he mumbled, rubbing his elbow. “Just a couple of grazes.” Julius’s friends came running over, fearful of their plight. What happened? You took a turn for the worse! CCX X X V II “It was THIS bonehead!” growled Julius, thumbing his hoof towards his brother. “He pulled us all over trying to get his WIG!” Well, I got it, didn’t I? “I’ll give him more than a wig if someone doesn’t stop me!” vowed Julius, lunging at his brother. But before he could make good his threat, a cry of “ARREST THEM!” rang out across the makeshift arena. Flanked by a small group of soldiers, Imhotep stormed over, tossing his helmet into the sand. “Uh-oh,” warned Cornelius. “Now we’re for it!” CCX X X V III and now you’re MINE! You LOST, “horse”... Julius gingerly pulled himself up and attempted to reason with the furious priest. “Look! This proves nothing!” he argued, waving his hooves wildly. “Let me race on my own, unhindered by my useless brother. I’ll PROVE to you that I’m a god!” But, as Julius waved his arms around, Imhotep let out a great, theatrical gasp and took a step back. CCX X XI X This horse is no god! He bleeds like a mortal! GASP! Julius was confused. “Wait ... what?” He looked over his body to see where he’d been injured. Cornelius grabbed him by the arm. “It’s your elbow. You’ve cut your elbow!” “Yeah, so?” Julius didn’t understand why it was such a big problem to have a graze. “Gods DON’T bleed, Julius,” Cornelius told him. “It said so in those old scrolls I read. The game is truly up.” The restless crowd began to surge towards Julius and his friends. “We’ve all had it!” panicked Julius. “Not necessarily!” cried out Lucia. Help us lift this thing up! It’s still in one piece! They all rushed over to help lift the chariot, which tipped back onto its wheels with a huge CRASH! Julius gazed at the unbroken chariot with relief. “Maybe our luck has changed after all!” Oh, finally! My rock is not to blame for everything going wrong! Milus grabbed the antelope and shoved him on the chariot. “If you don’t button it, I’ll make you wish you’d never set eyes on that rotten rock!” C H APT ER NINET EEN WHEEL OF FORTUNE Julius and Brutus quickly grabbed hold of the reins just as Imhotep and his guards approached. “STOP THEM!” bellowed the priest as he realized what they were doing. “THEY’RE GETTING AWAY!” With everyone on board, the two zebras dashed off, bashing their way through the crowds. Sorry! The chariot quickly zoomed away from the pyramids and the angry mob, heading off along the riverbank. Slow down! It’s too bumpy! Lucia quickly steered them onto a smoother road that led towards a range of hills. “Hold on tight!” she said. “Once we get past those hills, we’ll be well on our way out of this place!” She turned to Rufus to give him a high five, when there was a sudden great CLUNK underneath the chariot. CCXLV LOOK OUT! THE WHEEL!!! The chariot and all its passengers tumbled down the riverbank in a crunching, screaming cloud of dust. Did we make it? As everybody hauled themselves up and dusted themselves down, Julius spotted Felix rummaging CCXLV I through the wreckage. The antelope pulled out his prized gem and polished it with his hoof. “Phew!” he gasped. “I thought I’d lost it!” THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT WITH YOUR STUPID CURSED GEM! Felix tried to grab it back. “IT’S NOT CURSED!” he wailed. “IT’S NOT MY FAULT YOU’RE STUPID AND UNLUCKY!” Milus grabbed the gem out of Julius’s hoof. “The goat is right, for once,” he growled. “You’ve always been a clumsy nincompoop, gem or no gem.” Told ya so! But Cornelius wasn’t having any of it and snatched the gem from Milus’s paw. “No no no NO! You don’t UNDERSTAND!” he said. “Pharaohs’ curses aren’t just fanciful fairy tales. THEY’RE REAL!” “YEAH! EVERYTHING has gone wrong since you turned up with this jinxed gem!” Julius agreed. I had the world at my hooves before that thing turned up! “Now, anything that COULD go wrong, DOES go wrong!” Julius said, sitting down in a huff. Lucia suddenly leapt to her feet. “Seriously!” she cried. “That stone IS cursed!” She pointed down the river, fear in her eyes. CCXLV III Wait, are those ROMAN ships?! “And if I’m not very much mistaken, that is the crest of HADRIAN himself!” observed Cornelius in alarm. “HADRIAN?!” blurted Pliny. “What’s that loser doing in EGYPT?” “WHO CARES!” spluttered Julius. WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE, AND FAST! Abandoning the wreckage of the chariot, the animals headed towards the hills as fast as their legs could carry them. As they ran, Julius turned to Felix. “I don’t care what you say, Felix!” he panted. “We’re putting that gem back, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!” C HAPT ER T WENT Y I WANT MY MUMMY! Milus raised his paw. “Could someone please remind me why we’re dressing up in old bandages?” Poor Lucia was becoming quite exasperated at having to explain everything again. It’s a DISGUISE, MILUS! CCLI “Egyptians wrap their dead bodies in bandages so they’ll be nicely preserved for their journey to the underworld!” Felix put up his hoof. “Does that mean we’ll be going to the underworld, now we’re dressed as mummies?” You’ll definitely be going to the underworld if you don’t button it! Gulp! “But won’t people be freaked out by seeing mummies wandering around?” asked Julius as he wrapped the last bit of bandage around his face. “No, no. Mummies are quite common,” replied Lucia breezily. “It’s perfectly normal!” CCLII Yeah, I’m not sure about that... Shh! It’s the only plan we’ve got! Lucia clapped her claws to get everyone’s attention. “So, do we all understand the plan? We sneak into Cleopatra’s tomb, return Felix’s cursed stone, then head back home before anyone notices. Simple!” Don’t forget, if anyone sees us, stick your arms out in front and groan like you’ve risen from the dead! CCLIII I can’t see where I’m going! Look out! Oof! Whose stupid idea was this? As they fumbled their way through the rocky outcrops, Julius grabbed Felix and jostled him to the front. “You’ll have to show us the way. I’ve only been there once!” But all these rocks look the same! Cornelius trotted up to join them. “Wasn’t there a tiled floor that led to the tomb?” “Oh, yes!” laughed Felix in relief. “Well remembered, Cornelius. It was also only a short walk from the big statue of Heter. So we need to make sure that’s nearby!” CCLV I Julius lifted up the bandage from his face to have a peek. “We’re not too far away. Look, there’s the statue!” He pointed to the enormous familiar figure of Heter ahead. “Excellent!” said Felix, groping the walls. “Then it must be right round here somewhere...” Suddenly, there was a sharp whistle. Look out, someone’s coming! Act like mummies! Everyone immediately stuck their arms out in front of them and made weird groaning and gurgling noises. CCLV II Kill me now. Eurgh... Ooooh! Grooo... Julius peeked out from under his bandage again. “Did it work? Did we manage to sneak past them?” Milus yanked his bandage off his face and threw it on the ground. MUMMY! “Well, if you call running away and screaming a success, then yes, our disguises completely worked.” CCLV III Urrrr! Gragh! Greurgh! eep! “Let’s just hope he doesn’t tell anyone,” worried Cornelius. “In my opinion, a bunch of idiots running around dressed as mummies is bound to raise suspicion.” As they carried on walking along the rocky valley, Felix stopped and started tapping his hoof on the ground. “’Ere, Cornelius, check this out.” I think we’ve found our tiling! “Good work, Felix!” praised Cornelius. He turned to the rest of the group. “This is it! Quickly, down these steps!” LOOK OUT! I ca n see! ’t A IE E! HELP! A rr g h! CCL X Everyone tumbled through the heavy doors into the pitch-black chamber. “Felix!” shouted Julius. “Turn your lamp on!” For a few, very long seconds, everyone sat quietly in the dark. There was a faint scratching noise and the tiniest of sparks flew into the air then disappeared. Finally, Felix’s face lit up as the flame from his lamp burned brightly. Here we are... Uh-oh! “‘Uh-oh’ what?” asked Julius, concerned. “Well,” replied Felix, “either someone’s cleaned this place out and scrubbed all the walls, or we’re in the wrong tomb.” “WRONG TOMB?!” gasped Julius. CCL XI “You absolute BONEHEAD!” shouted Julius. Everyone got to their feet and dusted themselves down. “Can’t we just leave the stone here?” suggested Brutus hopefully. “No one’s going to notice, right?” “No, Brutus!” replied Cornelius. “We need to return this to its rightful place, or we’ll NEVER break the curse.” As they all made their way back to the doorway, Felix skipped to the front. “I bet it’s just next door!” he laughed. “We’ll be off home before you know it!” But as Felix went to squeeze between the stone doors, he found a mysterious figure blocking his way. IMHOTEP! CCL XI V The irate priest stood motionless in the doorway. “Yes, it is I!” he declared. “Word reached me of a group of animals dressed as mummies and I knew it had to be you.” Your discarded bandages led me directly to this tomb. He tossed them into Julius’s face. “YOU, foul vermin,” cried Imhotep, pointing at the zebra. “YOU have defrauded an ENTIRE NATION!” Brutus pushed himself in front of Julius. “Don’t you