I felt fine in the last days I spent in Egypt. I caught several excellent crocs at the ponds to take back to the market in Desert Shores. I also ran into my old friend Sun Young Kim at the base camp. She was not with her sisters this time. It was unfortunate that I was meeting her just before I was leaving Egypt to go back home. Still, we did spend a pleasant afternoon eating and talking over lunch. I told her about the mummy I saw in the Great Pyramid and I explained about the potential for being cursed.
“You don’t look cursed,” Sun assessed me. “You look fine.”
“I don’t feel cursed. I think it must be a hoax or the mummy didn’t get me. I feel fine.”
“Well, it was good to see you Charlie. I hope we cross paths again.”
It was good to be home again. I brought Anabeth a stuffed bear mummy from Al Simhara. Emma said it was a creepy toy, but I just laughed and said real mummies were creepier. She didn’t understand why I thought it was funny. I hadn’t told anyone about the mummy or his curse.
I returned to the routine of my life, jogging around town and fishing in the ocean. I didn’t feel any effects that the doctor told me I would if I was cursed. After a few weeks, I decided that I must be fine.
The first sign that I might have been wrong about the curse happened when I was fishing at the science facility. Therese, my favorite paparazzi, had followed me and insisted on taking tons of pictures scaring away most of the fish in the process. I finally called it quits, claiming I was feeling tired. I thought I was lying, but I realized as I left that I really was feeling tired…and it was only about 8pm.
A few days later I suffered a dizzy spell when I was sitting down at the office computer to send a few emails to my friends in Egypt.
I finally admitted that I must really have the mummy’s curse when I nearly slept through Anabeth’s birthday party. It was Kindra who noticed me dozing on the couch.
“Hey, Charlie,” she shook me a little. “Charlie, we’re about ready to blow out the candles.”
“Wha..what?” It actually took me a few seconds to realize what was going on.
“Are you feeling alright, Charlie?” Kindra put her hand on my forehead, checking for a fever. “Are you coming down with something?”
“I’m fine. Just tired.”
“Well, come on. You don’t want to miss Anabeth’s first birthday.”
Uncle Eddie serenaded Anabeth with the birthday song. I think he and aunt Sam really liked living in Desert Shores. They loved owning the new restaurant and they both seemed to be having more fun.
No one seemed to mind that Therese came to the party. I actually didn’t notice her until she approached me after Emma helped Anabeth blow out the candles.
“Therese. How are you?”
“I’m ok. I just wanted to see how you were. You were looking a little sick the other night.”
As soon as she mentioned it, I realized that I must really be sicker than I thought. I could tell that Therese was still concerned by her expression.
“It’s nothing,” I lied. “I think I may be coming down with something…a flu maybe.”
“You still don’t look like you feel good.”
“I’m just tired,” I said.
“Well, get some rest Charlie. Thanks for having me at the party as a guest.”
I was surprised. I didn’t know that Emma had invited her. I thought she was there for the tabloids.
“It was nice seeing you again,” I said. I may not like paparazzi, but I didn’t mind Therese. She didn’t seem to be so eager to get whatever story on us those papers wanted. It also didn’t hurt that she was pretty.
I said goodbye to Therese and went back into the house just in time to kiss Anabeth good night. I was so happy that she took after my aunt Sam and didn’t seem to look anything like either me or Jack Osborne.
After the party, I couldn’t deny that I was cursed. I immediately went back to Egypt. Both Emma and Shelby protested, saying I shouldn’t travel when I wasn’t feeling well, but I said I was fine and just left. I didn’t stay long in Egypt this though. I went straight to the Sphinx and tried to gain entry.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when I had to beg for entrance. Nor should I have been surprised when it wasn’t automatically granted. Instead, I was given a riddle. Like when the mummy spoke to me, the Sphinx’s voice could be heard inside my head and all around me. It said, “To find entrance here, you must find inner peace. Only when you have found your own center can you journey to the center of the Sphinx.”
“O-kay,” I mumbled to myself when I realized that I had wasted my time. “What the heck does that mean?”
I spent the next few days alternating between fishing and asking the locals about the Sphinx’s riddle. Finally, in the relic shop Mohamed Taymar suggested that I try visiting China and learning how to meditate. Through meditation, I might find inner peace.
And so I went to China. I wasn’t sure where to go first to learn the art of meditation, so I went to the Market to ask. I was shocked when I heard my name being called out.
“Charlie! Charlie!” I turned around and there she was, my friend Sun Young Kim, the young explorer I met while in Al Simhara.
“Sunny!” I shouted, using the nick name she’d allowed me to give her. “I was hoping I’d see you while I was here. I had planned to call you and let you know I was in town.”
Sun Young was shocked at my appearance. I guess I was showing signs of the mummy’s curse. “Charlie, are you sick?” she asked me. I told her about what had happened with the mummy in Egypt. She knew the story, but I hadn’t told her about the curse part. I also let her know about the Sphinx’s riddle.
“So, where do I find inner peace?”
“The academy,” she answered much to my surprise. “Meet me there in the morning. I will introduce you to my teacher and you can get started.”
My teachers turned out to be Lin Pao and Gei Pei. Gei was the head instructor at the Academy. Lin was actually her student, but he was going to be my instructor. They demonstrated how to train using the practice dummy. At first I felt awkward doing it, but I was in decent shape despite being cursed. I caught on quickly. I even earned Gei Pei’s praise. “You on way to inner peace now, eh?” she patted me on my sweaty shoulder after my first practice. “Tomorrow you spar with Lin.”
When I advanced to yellow belt, my sparing partner changed. Instead of Lin, I began sparing with Sunny. Soon I advanced to orange. I had a lot of motivation to advance quickly. I could feel myself getting weaker every day even though I was probably in better physical condition than I had ever been. Sunny knew that I had very little time, so she didn’t let me give up even when I wanted to.
After one bout, just before I advanced to green belt, Sunny got in a particularly good kick that I just couldn’t block. I collapsed in a heap at her feet. It wasn’t a graceful, controlled fall either. I was out cold.
“Charlie! Oh no!” Sunny was tapping my face when I came to. “Charlie, are you alright? Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you,” I groaned and tried to get to my feet. I felt like an idiot on the floor. Sunny gave me some help and when I was standing again, she threw herself into my arms. “Charlie, I’m so sorry. You are getting so good, I forget that you are cursed.”
“Isn’t that the point?” I hugged her closer. “Don’t worry, Sunny. I take all of these bruises and hits because I know I need them to get where I need to be. Don’t go easy on me.”
“But you could get really hurt? You only need one more rank to be able to meditate in the Scholar’s garden.”
“I’ll get there,” I promised. I leaned back and touched Sunny’s cheek. “Come on. See if you can kick me again. I’m ready for it now.”
Eventually I did make green and was able to meditate in the gardens. But I found that meditation was harder than I thought it would be. I figured I would know when I had achieved the inner peace that the Sphinx had riddled. And I was right. When I had advanced to blue, I finally reached such a heightened state of Zen meditation, that I knew I had done what the Sphinx had asked for.
And that’s when I heard it’s voice in my head again. “You have found your Center. Now you must find strength. Only one who can crush the largest boulder will have the strength to face the Sphinx.”
I didn’t know how I was going to crush a boulder. Although I was able to meditate and spar most mid-ranked opponents, I was getting weaker. I knew it. I probably couldn’t lift a small rock let alone crush a boulder. So I approached my teacher, Gei Pei, to ask for her advice.
“Ah, you must find Pangu’s Axe,” she said. “Very difficult. It was lost over a thousand years ago.”
“What does it do?”
“Gives warrior strength of thousand men. Able to reduce mountains, so the stories go.”
“I guess that’s what I need, then.”
Since Gei Pei didn’t know where to find the axe, I went to the library, but it was of little help. Finally, I went to the relic merchant. I figured if someone would know where to look, he would. And I was right. He said he’d read a book that said that the Axe was kept by the monks in the Retreat of the Resolute Fist. He imagined it was still there, but cautioned that the monks likely hid it very deep in their monastery and surrounded it by traps and puzzles.
“Only worthy warrior meant to carry Pangu’s Axe. The monks would have made the challenges very difficult.”
“I’m sort of desperate.”
“Good luck. Desperate will only get you so far.”
At first I thought that the merchant was probably exaggerating about the monks. I found that the Retreat posed very little challenge compared to the Great Pyramid. But then, as I went deeper into the lower levels of the monastery, the challenges got more and more dangerous. I had to use my brains as well as my muscle to survive the traps.
The merchant had sold me a small map of most of the monastery, but he warned me that the map was incomplete. Eventually, I would have to rely on my own memory as the underground catacombs became a twisting maze riddled with floor and wall traps and stair cases that went up then down and then up again as the maze spanned several floors.
I honestly didn’t think I would survive this tomb. I was exhausted, hungry, and hopelessly lost when I finally ascended a stair case that led me to the middle of the maze.
When I first saw the axe, I was slightly disappointed. It looked like a simple weapon. Even though it was surrounded by reverent candles and beautiful gilded walls, it looked like an ordinary axe. “I guess this is it,” I thought. I reached out to pull it off the wall and that’s when it’s powers manifested. The axe started to glow and I felt myself fill with the strength of a thousand warriors. I no longer felt the weakness of the mummy’s curse. I felt like I really could smash boulders or destroy mountains.
And that’s when I heard the voice of the Sphinx again. “You have found your center and now have strength of body. But do you know your heart? Only when you do will you find the heart of the Sphinx.”
I knew that the last riddle would be the hardest to solve. My heart would not be discovered by learning a new skill or by finding a lost artifact. To know my own heart, I needed to figure out what was most important to me. To do that, I needed to return home.
Unfortunately, time was running out. I would need to figure out what the Sphinx wanted before I succumbed to the mummy’s curse. I would need all the help I could get.
**Author’s Note** Clearly I took some creative license with the quests that WA has for the Mummy’s curse as well as Pangu’s axe. I also skipped a few other quest lines that I didn’t think were as interesting or just didn’t fit with the story. In addition, I’ve combined several trips to China and Egypt into one giant trip because that fit better with the flow I had going. I hope no one is too broken up about that. The hardest part of doing that for me was that in one of the trips Charlie traveled with Shelby Tragedy, but the adventures he had with her just didn’t fit when it came to writing about what happened. I hope that Orangeplumbob forgives me for not including her. I’m thinking of putting up an ‘extras’ page for the things I had to cut. Another thing that didn’t make it into the update but that might at a later date was…well…actually I think it will make it into the next update, so I won’t tell. Stay tuned to find out!