THE WEDDING RING was made of glass and glazed in blue, and it was still very beautiful. Inside the band were inscribed the names Aye and Ankhesenpaaten.
Ironically, it was Percy Newberry, now sixty-two and a veteran of forty years in Egypt, who turned it over in his hand. He was in Cairo, at the legendary souvenir shop of Englishman Robert Blanchard.
Rather than garish knockoffs of Egyptian tomb relics, Blanchard sold the real thing—purchased from tomb robbers of course.
European tourists were the favored clientele, but Egyptologists sometimes stopped by to see if some new curio had made its way onto the market—a sure sign that tombs were being raided somewhere. Percy already had an extensive collection of amulets and was pecking through the display racks in hopes of adding a new treasure.
He had accidentally stumbled upon the ring, but he immediately understood its significance.
He reread the elaborate inscription to make sure he had the names right before allowing himself a satisfied smile. The ring he held in the palm of his hand solved a mystery that had bothered Howard Carter since Tut’s tomb had been opened. Namely, what had happened to Tut’s beautiful young queen?
There had been no mention of Ankhesenpaaten or any other wife on the walls of Tut’s tomb. And Aye’s tomb, which had originally been intended for Tut, had a painting of his first wife but lacked any indication that he’d taken another.
“Where did you find this one?” asked Percy, trying not to sound excited, lest Blanchard jack up the price to a more exorbitant sum.
“Eastern delta,” Blanchard replied with a disinterested shrug.
Percy was careful not to show his surprise.
How had the ring made the journey all the way from Thebes, down past Cairo, to the mouth of the Nile? That was odd. Then again, it had been three thousand years. Anything could happen in that time, couldn’t it?
Percy went to pay for the ring but discovered that he had forgotten his wallet. He pulled out his pocket notebook and carefully copied the inscription.
Then he placed the ring in the display case and raced to his hotel, intending to hurry back to complete his purchase.
First, he dashed off a quick note to his old friend, who was now back in England.
“My Dear Carter,” the letter began, “I have just seen a finger ring at Blanchard’s which bears the cartouche of Ankhesenpaaten alongside the prenomen of King Aye. This can only mean that King Aye had married Ankhesenpaaten, the widow of Tutankhamen.”
Percy mailed the letter, then hurried back to Blanchard’s to buy the ring.
He was too late.
It had just been sold.