THE ETERNAL GROVE

A tale of reincarnation and lost love. Please comment nicely!

Chapter One: Hide and Seek

Polly had been told any number of times to stay out of the Egyptian room. Her Uncle Edward was a wealthy collector who took great pride in his priceless artifacts. He warned her about tampering with the large, gold-plated sarcophagus that held the mummified body of the Egyptian warrior prince. It was Uncle Edward who had discovered the long-lost tomb, and brought the remains of Prince Hotesin back to England.

But late one night in 1929, Polly's smart young friends got bored with playing charades and dancing to jazz records on the gramophone. Someone suggested a game of Hide and Seek. Polly was the only person who knew about the remote and shadowy Egyptian room. The curvy little blonde ran to hide herself, giggling over what her strict old uncle would say. But dear old Uncle Edward was away for the night!

Of course Polly didn't plan on climbing inside the golden sarcophagus. It was just that Clayton Hubbard was hot on her heels. Clayton was her uncle's best student. He was rich, good-looking, and he positively worshiped Polly – but he was a dull boy who wanted to settle down. She just had to lose him, so she jumped right into the open sarcophagus!

Polly instantly realized she had made a colossal mistake. Inside the coffin she was practically trapped in the mummy's embrace! Touching his dried bandages made her skin crawl. The stench of ancient decay turned her stomach. Horror and blind panic nearly overpowered her in the dark.

But there were other aromas, spicy and fragrant. Polly breathed in deeply, the horror fading as a spell took hold. Her long lashes fluttered, her baby-blue eyes clanged shut, and all of a sudden she fell into a strange dream.

Outside the eternal grove, a wind was blowing. Hot sand billowed up all around her. It scoured her slim, scantily-clad body as she ran, her ankles sinking deeper with every step. Needles of sand stung her face.

Polly knew she had to keep running. Something terrible, something evil was right behind her. Yet even in her desperation she was no match for the fury of the sandstorm. At last she sank into the smothering sands, too tired to run any further. Strong arms seize her in a crushing embrace, and she heard a low, deep voice murmur soft, chilling words.

Death is not the end, Yellow Flower. We shall meet again!

The next morning, Polly got called to her uncle's study right after breakfast. She expected a nasty scene. The Egyptian room was a mess. Yet her uncle was all smiles as he introduced her to an important collector from Cairo.

"Polly my dear, allow me to present Hoteyam Bey, a distinguished gentleman of ancient Egyptian lineage. Hoteyam Bey has just purchased a number of artifacts, including the mummy of his ancestor, Prince Hotesin!"

"Right, about the mummy." Polly's cheeks were burning, and it didn't exactly help matters that Hoteyam Bey was the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. He was tall, dark, and incredibly exotic-looking, with intense black eyes that made her heart turn flips.

"What about the mummy?" Uncle Edward asked indignantly. "Polly, you know I've told you time and again . . ."

"I took the liberty of having the mummy removed in a plain container early this morning," the Egyptian said smoothly. His deep voice was rich and soothing, like hot chocolate. "Your pardon, Sir Edward, but the moment our business meeting was concluded last night I instructed my agents in the village to collect my new property at once. I hope the noise and clatter did not disturb your lovely niece."

"Why, Uncle Edward, I thought you never let anyone view your private collection!" Polly giggled, relieved to find that she wasn't in trouble after all. She couldn't quite remember what had happened in the Egyptian room anyway.

"Humph! Well, Hoteyam Bey is not just anyone." Uncle Edward tried to scowl, but Polly could see he was really very pleased. "In addition to an enormous payment in gold, as a distinguished scholar Hoteyam Bey has promised to document all my achievements in the Egyptology quarterly. There will even be a special plaque at the Cairo Museum!"

"But I don't understand. There are so many mummies in Egypt . . . why is this one so special? And how did Hoteyam Bey find out about it, and appear out of nowhere to get it?" Polly frowned. She liked the elegant Egyptian, but she was still so fuzzy about last night. Why was she in such a fog? Even stern, sensible old Uncle Edward was acting funny!

"Nothing could give me more pleasure than to share with you the story of the curse of Prince Hotesin. Might I have the honor of telling you the entire tragic saga over dinner?"

Hoteyam Bey took her to a stuffy, old-fashioned restaurant called Claridge's. There was no band and no dance floor. But the food was divine. Polly was just getting started on the chocolate mousse when the mysterious older man began telling her the story of Yellow Flower and Prince Hotesin.

"Love between a slave girl and a royal prince was strictly forbidden," the Bey explained, his sad dark eyes lingering on Polly's face while she eagerly spooned up her dessert. "Of course, the scrolls tell us that the slaves from the far north – those fair-haired and blue-eyed barbarians who would later found Europe's great kingdoms – often fiercely resisted their Egyptian masters. Perhaps Yellow Flower was afraid of the punishment for marrying a royal prince, and that was why she ran away. Or perhaps she simply wanted to be free."

"But couldn't the prince have broken the rules and married her anyway?" Polly demanded, her sticky chin high in the air. "No wonder she ran off. I thought princes could do anything!"

"You talk and think like a little barbarian." The older man's smile was full of heart-stopping tenderness. He dabbed a smear of chocolate from Polly's chin. "Hotesin loved his forbidden bride. And she loved him. The two of them were married in secret, in a secluded grove dedicated to Isis on the lower Nile. But when the cruel high priest learned of the marriage, he ordered that Yellow Flower be locked up forever in the temple of Amon Ra. Her yellow hair made her sacred to the golden sun, so she could not be killed."

"That's horrible!" By this time Polly was fully into the story. "So Yellow Flower ran away? Did she escape? Did the prince ever stand up to the high priest?"

"Of course he did." Dark rage flashed in the eyes of Hoteyam Bey. "But the high priest overcame him through treachery. A great sandstorm blew up and poor Yellow Flower was lost. The priests never found her body. She was never properly mummified, and so she could never join him in the after life. Hotesin died soon after. Of course the priests made sure his body was perfectly preserved. His eternal life was to be an eternal punishment for loving a barbarian slave."

"Those rotten priests!" Polly tried to smile. But her blue eyes were suddenly spilling tears. She was meant to be with Hoteyam Bey. Somehow she just knew it. It felt like the two of them were back together again after a very long time.

"Precious flower," the Egyptian collector said. He took her chin in his hand again, just like he had when she had chocolate mousse on her face. Only this time he kissed her.