Something about the inscription had never seemed right. The hieroglyphs told the story of a queen who’d died young, her subject’s distress, the many members of the court who’d been sent alongside her to the afterlife.

But there were characters we couldn’t interpret scattered among the familiar shapes of birds and bundled corn and hills: the pictures that made the story. We’d initially regarded the additional marks as just decorative embellishment. But I’d become convinced there was more to it.

An email arrived from a colleague in Cairo working on objects from the tomb. She’d unlocked the clues to the code, designed to hide a story, to take its secret into eternity.

Doctor Travers called me over. Her eyes were bright with the sort of discovery we all hoped we’d make—that’s what drew us to live so much in ancient worlds. ‘My God, Arthur, do you know what it is. It’s a love letter. To the queen. The man who did the inscription was her lover. Listen…’

She began reading. I put my hand on her back to look over her shoulder. She turned her head away from her workbook just long enough to kiss me. All these years we hadn’t known what we’d been looking for. Suddenly, in the story of these ancient scratchings, everything made sense.

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