Story

The investigators receive the following letter in the mail:
---------------------------------------
Miskatonic University
Arkham, Mass.
Office of the Dean

Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that I am allowed by our Board of Regents to invite you to participate in our Pharaoh’s Scholar program. You were selected from a vast list of candidates because of your qualifications and skills in areas which have a specific bearing on the university’s new program.

The Pharaoh’s Scholar program was developed so that people like yourself would have the opportunity to participate in Egyptian archeological and anthropological studies. As a participant in the program you would spend time working on an actual dig in central Egypt. The university would of course cover all expenses as well as make all preparations. All that we ask for in return is that you keep a complete journal from the time you leave until the time you return to the States. The journal is to be turned over to the university as soon as you return from your adventure.

If you choose to become a member of the expedition, you and your Pharaoh’s Scholar comrades will embark on possibly the most exciting journey of your life. You will travel to a British government outpost outside of Qasr Farafra. Once there, they can arrange for a guide to take you to the dig, where you will actively work with other scientists in uncovering the long since hidden past of ancient Egypt.

Enclosed is additional specific information on the itinerary, as well as equipment which we suggest you bring. To confirm your participation in the Pharaoh’s Scholars program, or if you have any additional questions, please feel free to call me.

I hope that you will seriously consider our proposition, for we are confident that you represent all that we wish the program could ever be. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
(signed) Robert T. Hayes
University Dean
-------------------------------

The following itinerary was enclosed with the letter:

May 15, 1926 Celtic Liner leaves from New York bound for Alexandria, Egypt
May 23 Ship arrives in Alexandria in late morning
Hire a car and drive to Qasr Farafra
May 24 Hire a guide and hike to the dig
Work at the dig
June 22 Leave the dig headed for Qasr Farafra
June 23 Drive back to Alexandria
Celtic Liner leaves for New York at 3:00 p.m.
July 1 Ship arrives in New York in late afternoon

Naturally all the Investigators are quite honored to have been chosen, and they confirm their acceptance immediately. Shortly before their scheduled departure, they receive this subsequent letter:
----------------------------------
Miskatonic University
Arkham, Mass.

Pharaoh’s Scholar Information

If you should encounter any difficulties of a political nature, or problems regarding your passport, the United States Consulate in Cairo is located on the north side of the Ezbekia Gardens on the Mihdan Tahrir. Many European style hotels are located on the west side of the lovely gardens.

After your ship arrives in Alexandria, you will then disembark and go through customs. You should then hire a taxi to take you to the train station. First class tickets will be on reserve for you, and you will board a train for Cairo. In Cairo, you will then pick up rental cars waiting for you at Gavigan’s Motor Coach Rentals at 23 Sharia al Hasun. From there, drive your autos to the 3rd pier at Kasar El Dubara and board the ferry "Nile Serpent" with your vehicles and luggage. The ferry will then take you up river to Aswan, where you will then take the west road and drive approximately 150 miles into the Sahara. The oasis at Qasr Farafra is on the west road from Aswan.

From our earlier mailing, you should have been taking malaria pills and had shots for yellow fever, typhoid, and schizosomiasis. There will be a medic at the site to help you deal with minor medical problems. Also, if you have been following the exercise program we mailed you, we are certain that you will have no problems exercising in the desert heat.

Have fun and enjoy your exotic travels. Myself and the rest of the Board of Regents are greatly looking forward to reading your journals and speaking with you about your exciting adventures in the land of the Pharaohs. Good luck.
Sincerely,
(signed) Robert T. Hayes
------------------------------
Of course none of the Investigators had received the previous mailings mentioned in this letter, and so had not taken the appropriate medications or been following a desert exercise program. This should have been taken as a sign of what was to come....

Investigators leave as scheduled anyway and spend a week sailing the Atlantic, meeting each other and talking along the way in Flo Denison’s stateroom aboard the Celtic Liner.

Upon arrival in Egypt, everything goes great until the investigators arrive at customs. There they encounter a somewhat befuddled British customs agent named Rock. He is deaf to the pleas even of Digby Dolmen, a British subject whose papers are in order. Eventually, the Investigators resort to bribery to get through the line.

Needless to say, none of the elaborate travel arrangements detailed in the last letter from Dean Hayes go as they’re supposed to. The tickets which were supposed to be waiting are not there, although the group’s return tickets are reserved, and unchangeable. After much travail, the Investigators are finally met by Richard Henshaw, a friendly American student also belonging to the Pharaoh’s Scholar program. He has come up from the dig site at the Farafra Oasis to help get them situated. He helps them load their gear into a Land Cruiser and, using an alternate route, they make the long drive out into the desert, arriving at long last at Qasr Farafra.

There, they find that something has gone horribly wrong. The camp seems to be deserted. There is an atmosphere of terror about the place. Richard is deeply disturbed, and asks the investigators to help him find Sir Wallis Budge, who is leading the expedition. There is a small white boat drifting on the surface of the water adjacent to the camp, and the Investigators manage to pull it ashore. Inside is none other than Sir Wallis. He is wounded and terrified, and nearly demented from exposure to the relentless sun. He has apparently been floating in the boat for many hours, though he can’t tell a coherent story. He merely points to the edge of the lake where the dig was most recently being conducted and makes horrible choking whispery sounds.

After taking Sir Wallis to safety inside the camp’s main building, the investigators search the dig area to which he was pointing. There, in the water just off shore, they find the skulls and other remains of three members of the dig, along with Egyptian relics, including some potsherds. Everyone is horrified. Richard is panic stricken and wades further out into the water looking for the remains of more of his comrades. While the Investigators urge him to return to shore, he suddenly screams out "Yeeeeeg!" and is pulled under the surface of the water by some unseen force or creature. He never resurfaces. The other investigators get out of the water as quickly as possible.

Cut off, miles from civilization, and absolutely horrified, the Investigators return to the camp headquarters. Sir Wallis, somewhat recovered, whispers that they disturbed a site sacred to the god Set, and that they have been cursed. He panics and tries to flee, and dies of an apparent seizure or heart attack. The Investigators are now completely alone, and with no way to get home. The keys to the Land Cruiser were in Richard’s pocket when he vanished into the lake.

After jittery hours spent examining the rest of the camp and the headquarters for useful objects and information, the weary Investigators eat and try to get some rest. Johnson and Kravat take one room of the hut. The ladies Morgan and Denison take Sir Wallis’ bedroom. Dolmen and Buchannan roll out their sleeping bags in the central room; Dolmen puts his revolver underneath his pillow, and a flashlight by his side. Deeply fatigued, they all drift off to sleep. At about two in the morning Sam Buchannan begins screaming loudly enough to raise the dead. Dolmen, wrenched from sleep just a few feet away, is so terrified that he cannot reach for his gun or his flashlight. The other Investigators soon stagger into the room, some with guns drawn, and turn up a lamp. There they see Buchannan is writhing in his sleeping bag, suffering from some terrible nightmare. They slap him awake, and he describes a dream in which he is being eaten by some kind of monstrous serpent. No one sleeps again that night.

The next day the Investigators carefully read over Sir Wallis’ diary and archeological notes. They translate hieroglyphics found on the potsherds from the lake dig site, and come to the conclusion that the god Set has indeed been disturbed, and that they must travel to the site of the temple of Het Khaat, deep in the Sahara Desert, and perform a ritual that will set things right. They learn that one member of the expedition is most likely still alive: a student named Nick Paulakas, who is an old friend of Digby Dolmen’s. Notes found at the camp headquarters imply that he has already left the camp headed for the Het Khaat site. He carries with him the text of the ritual that must be performed. The Investigators must attempt to follow him and find him. Following notes from Sir Wallis’ papers, they decide to seek out a local guide, a man named Ansep Ma Sa, who is to be found at the Uracca Cemetery, not too far away.

Going to the cemetery, they find Ansep Ma Sa and, after much cajoling, persuade him to lead them into the desert to find their friend Nick. Ansep Ma Sa warns them of the dangers, of desert creatures called the Hasi and the Seti, and of the strange howling sounds — is it the wind? is it crickets? — that one hears on the desert. He also compels them to carry his very heavy luggage. They load up their gear, and strike out into the dunes.

The day is long and grueling. The heat is intense. Hiking across the endless dunes is deeply tiring: for every three steps forward they sink two steps back. There is serious soul-searching among some Investigators as they face this incredible physical challenge. The Investigators pass Ansep Ma Sa’s heavy bag back and forth between them. Their guide is careful not to let them see inside, but every once in a while he removes some dry crackers baked by his wife and shares them with the group. He leads forcefully, with two swords in scabbards across his back, and his white robes whipping in the wind. Attempting to find Nick’s footprints in the sand is completely impossible. However, coming over the top of a dune, the Investigators think they spy a prostrate figure on the sand a few hundred yards away. Not sure if it is Nick or some more dangerous desert creature, they hide behind the ridge of the dune and watch it through a telescope for quite some time, before realizing it is just a tuft of grass. They continue to hike, deeply frustrated and very very tired. Just when they think they can’t stand any more, Ansep Ma Sa lets them open his heavy bag and they find it is filled with citrus fruit: plans for mutiny are immediately forgotten as the investigators gorge themselves.

After hours of searching, the party finally finds Nick: he is dead, lying stretched out on the desert sand. Ansep Ma Sa warns that he has been killed by the Seti, and that the danger is still near. Going through Nick’s gear, the Investigators find some pages from the Dzyan Text, which outlines the spell which can be used to set things right. The Investigators persuade Ansep Ma Sa to lead them on to the site of the Het Khaat temple.

There, as darkness falls, under the watchful eye of their guide and the evil forces that fill the desert at night, they prepare a massive elder sign and perform the magical chants that summon Nodens...

YESH SHIR UMUA YALKI

KAKHT AKTAMEN IA SELAH

UTUK ZUL TA ARDATA

Each investigator feels the entity touch his forehead as it moves by. The ceremony is successful, and Set is placated once again.

Although the metaphysical situation is resolved, the team's physical situation presents a predicament. They are in a sea of sand dunes, tens of miles from any living thing. Not prepared for an extended outing, the group has no tents, a few blankets and a lone sleeping bag. It is approximately one in the morning and the temperature has fallen to twenty-seven degrees farenheit. Uncomfortable in every sense of the word, the group choses to have their guide lead them out of the dunes under the light of the cold moon. The harrowing night night finally ends as they see the light of sunrise coming over the final dune. Then begins the long journey home.

A quote from the journal of Digby Dolmen, as submitted to Miskatonic Dean Robert T. Hayes:
-------------------------------------
"Sir Wallis and all his party have died horribly at Qasr Farafra. Nick was missing. We pursued him into the desert near the Het Khaat site under the direction of Sir Wallis’ original Arab guide, Ansep Ma Sa. We found him, dead. He had some pages from the Dzyan text which led Sir Wallis to this accursed country in the first place. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do, since the spell outlined in the text required at least five people to perform. Luckily, we were seven, including the guide. It worked. We barely got out alive."