Anne Rice, bestselling author of The Vampire Chronicles, now delves into the mysterious legend of the mummy in this original and poetic tale of romance and horror.
It begins in the early 1900s when archaeologist Lawrence Stratford discovers a perfectly preserved mummy in a tomb in... read more
During the Edwardian period in 1914, a wealthy shipping-magnate-turned-archaeologist, Lawrence Stratford, discovers an unusual tomb. The mummy inside, in its left-behind notes, claims to be the famed pharaoh Ramses II, despite the tomb's dating only to the first century B.C. (the historical... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
During the Edwardian period in 1914, a wealthy shipping-magnate-turned-archaeologist, Lawrence Stratford, discovers an unusual tomb. The mummy inside, in its left-behind notes, claims to be the famed pharaoh Ramses II, despite the tomb's dating only to the first century B.C. (the historical Ramses II died in 1224 B.C.). Before he can fully investigate this claim, Lawrence unexpectedly falls dead, and those around him fear he was the victim of a curse placed on the tomb. Nonetheless, the mummy and other belongings are shipped off to London, and placed on temporary display in Lawrence's house before they are taken by the British Museum.
Lawrence's daughter Julie Stratford is the designated heir to her father's shipping company, as well as the dysfunctional family that surrounds it. Her cousin Henry is an alcoholic and gambling addict who has been draining the family fortune with the aid of her uncle. Julie is engaged to marry Alex Savarell, a viscount and son of Elliott, the current Earl of Rutherford. Although the marriage is a standard alliance between the wealthy Stratfords and an impoverished family of nobles, Alex truly loves Julie, though she is unable to return these feelings.
Into this unstable situation comes the mummy Ramses, who awakes shortly after his sarcophagus is placed in Julie's house.
Henry murders his uncle Lawrence with a poison found in the mummy's tomb. When Henry tries to poison Julie in the same manner, Ramses comes to life in attempt to kill Henry, but succeeds only in scaring him away. After his awakening, Julie and Ramses are instantly attracted to each other. Ramses quickly adopts a pseudonym, "Reginald Ramsey," and claims to be an Egyptologist to throw off the accusation made by the frightened Henry that a "bloody mummy" rose from the crypt to harm him. With superhuman intelligence and the ability to learn quickly, Ramses quickly learns the English language and, with the help of an eager Julie, is given a tour of modern London and new technology that had arisen during the past two thousand years. While Henry's accusations are passed off as the rantings of a drunkard, the elderly and ailing Elliott Savarell suspects that it may be the truth. He trails Ramses and comes to believe that he is who Henry claims him to be.
During Ramses's reign as pharaoh, he had learned from a Hittite priestess the formula for an elixir that grants eternal life. The potion not only made him immortal, but also allows his body to regenerate from damage that would kill a normal human, such as multiple bullet wounds. He requires neither food nor drink nor sleep, and only the sun's rays to maintain his life. However, he still craves food and certain other physical pleasures, like sex, smoking, and alcohol.
Ramses nurses a deep secret. Prior to the Roman conquest of Egypt, he had served as an immortal advisor to its kings and queens, and the last person to awake him for consultation had been Cleopatra, the last ruler of Egypt. Although he served as Cleopatra's counsel (and encouraged her to romance Julius Caesar in a bid to keep the country independent), he had also fallen in love with her, and had revealed to her the secrets of the elixir. Having fallen in love with Mark Antony in defiance of Ramses's advice, Cleopatra refuses the elixir and chooses suicide upon Antony's death. In his depression, Ramses had given himself the name "Ramses the Damned", and had Egyptian priests seal him away underground.
With Julie's encouragement, Ramses begins to recover. While Henry is convinced that Ramses is an evil monster ready to kill the entire family, Elliott reads Lawrence's notes and chases after Ramses to learn the secret of the elixir of immortality. Eventually, Ramses and Julie decide to visit Egypt one last time so that Ramses can say good-bye to his past. Although Ramses appears to be coming to terms with his past, upon visiting the Cairo Museum, he unexpectedly recognizes an unidentified mummy as being that of Cleopatra. Breaking into the museum later at night simply to see her, he impulsively pours some of the elixir onto the dead body. Cleopatra is revived, but by Ramses not pouring the entire vial of elixir on her, the restoration is incomplete; she is a half-formed monstrosity, awake and conscious yet with parts of her face, hands, and torso still gone. Her incomplete brain restoration leaves her not totally coherent; though Ramses later repairs her body with more of the potion, she appears to be insane and kills a number of people, including Henry. Cleopatra unexpectedly falls in love with Elliot's son Alex though realizes a life with him cannot last because of his mortality and his innocence. Because Ramses would not give her long-ago love Mark Antony the elixir to save his life, Cleopatra holds a passionate hatred for him and seeks to even the score by killing his current love: Julie Stratford.
Cleopatra ultimately falters before killing Julie, realizing that the girl should not be punished for Ramses's actions. She also comes to regret the other murders she has committed. In an attempt to escape Ramses, Cleopatra "dies" when her car is hit by a train and is consumed by a fiery explosion so hot that it "could kill even an immortal." Ramses later gives the elixir to Julie after she attempts suicide in her grief for her loss of him, and he promises to stay with her for eternity. To thank him for his help in covering up all the unusual events, Ramses also gives the elixir to a dying Elliott, who drinks it after serious consideration of the consequences: dying miserably, or living eternally even when wishing for nothing but oblivion. Cleopatra has secretly survived the crash, and awakens under the care of a British doctor in Sudan. She vows to find Ramses again someday for revenge.
“"Perhaps in death, I'll find what I seek rather than what I deserve... now and then... I picture heaven as a vast library, with unlimited volumes to read. And paintings and statues to examine galore. I picture it as a doorway to learning. Do you think the hearafter could be like that? Rather than one great dull answer to all our questions?"”Elliot Savarell
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