Permit not thou to come nigh unto me him that would attack me in the House of Darkness.-Book of Dead
Nephren Ka. The name of an old horror from a forgotten time. Little is known of the being known as the Black Pharaoh. Scattered references in ancient writings were all that remained to mark the existence of a creature intentionally obscured from history.
Obscured, that is, until the year 1919, when occultist Edward Bellingham and his Esoteric Order of Thoth-Ra discovered the long-hidden tomb of the Black Pharaoh and brought him back to London. During a ghastly unwrapping ceremony, the monster was freed from his ancient prison. Luckily, the Royal Occultist was on hand to return the savage mummy to the sleep of ages.
Or so he thought.
Nephren Ka returned again and again to bedevil St. Cyprian and Gallowglass. Each time,the mummy returned, stronger and more cunning than before. The creature even found allies in the ancient cults that served the same dark gods as Nephren Ka had in life. But each time, St. Cyprian and Gallowglass managed – if barely – to seemingly destroy the creature through fire and sorcery. Only time will tell if his most recent return was also, finally, his last.
I love mummy movies – like The Mummy’s Hand, or The Mummy’s Curse – and mummy stories – like Conan Doyle’s “Lot No. 249”, Charles L. Grant’s The Long Night of the Grave, Lin Carter’s “Curse of the Black Pharaoh”, or Steve Duffy’s “The Night Comes On” – so it’s probably no surprise that I’d try to wedge one (or several) into the Royal Occultist series.
There’s something about a mummy that just fits the 1920’s horror aesthetic. Interest in Egyptology and occultism were growing in the West, and the idea of an ancient terror wandering the foggy streets of London is a potent one. I’ve gone to that particular well numerous times – probably too many – but it’s hard to resist.
Appropriately, Nephren Ka has proved to be one of my most enduring villains. Like the Hound, he’s an homage to the old monster movies I enjoyed as a kid. And like them, he returns again and again, each time worse than before. But while he’s not the only mummy to appear in the Royal Occultist stories (did I mention that I like mummies?), he is the most dangerous.
I’d love to make Nephren Ka a reoccurring foe for future Royal Occultists, having him pop up in the Fifties, the Seventies and so on, being brought back to un-life by cults, mad scientists and the like. For some reason, I’ve got this image of a crumbling mummy tearing apart Piccadilly Circus stuck in my head.