"Once long ago, the empire of Baqet was still a great power and the old gods still ruled through the pharaohs. A mighty necropolis was built then, a mighty city of the dead. The city was home to a thousand wonders. Great statues of the sphinx, a temple built to Anubis, a mightier temple to Osiris, and countless shrines to the Ka. Most wonderful though were the pyramids, towering thousands of feet beyond the grandest palaces in the world. The pharaohs spent death in more luxury than they had enjoyed during their lives. And the pyramids housed more than just the pharaohs! They housed their hundreds of wives, their entire courts, the countless slaves that had worked since birth to build each structure. Even the pharaoh’s pets were interred within. Mountains of gold and gems as large as a man’s head were stored there. A hundred priests blessed each pyramid and the strongest curses against daemons and trespassers were laid about them. The Abydos that was, was marvelous indeed.
It was not to last however. You know well, of course, the war of the gods. You must also know of the impenetrable sandstorm that rages even now about lower Baqet and began just as the last city of upper Baqet fell. What you may not know however is that at the same instant that lower Baqet was consumed by the storm the sands of the deep desert rose up and flowed forth consuming the necropolis of Abydos.
Now some say the necropolis is lost for all time, thus it is referred to as The Abydos That Was. However, many rumors persist that Abydos was not lost forever, that it may be found when the time is right. These rumors speak of a single night each year when the sands of the deep desert part and the Necropolis is reborn in the moonlight, perfectly preserved.
Of course, these are just rumors and you would do well not to heed them. But there are many fools in this world. In time the new Abydos was built. A small town crowded with scum hoping and waiting for the night when the necropolis will again rise from the sand, so that they may somehow plunder its riches. It is said to be a criminal town, filled with liars and thieves who prey upon those lured there by the legends. You would do well to be satisfied by these wild tails and to never venture there yourselves."
- Story overheard being told to a group of young boys in Tanis
The story of Abydos and Abydos That Was begins not long after the war of the gods, with refugee priests of the god Osiris. They had been the caretakers of the necropolis and, with their magics, had foreseen the imminent destruction of Abydos That Was. They fled the city before it was swallowed by the sands, but were left without a purpose in a nation that was now hostile to their ideologies. They built a small temple near the edge of what was now the deep desert and settled in with a vain hope to await the return of the old gods. Out of sight of Baquet's conquerors and isolated in a barely hospitable land, the temple became an oasis for scholars who wished to study the environments and peoples of the deep desert. While visitors at any time were few in number, their coming and going was almost constant.
Seventeen days after the new year, as the moon lit the sands, Abydos That Was rose forth from the desert. The priests pleaded secrecy, but scholars who had witnessed the event brought rumors to the cities of Upper Baqet. The first trickle of tomb robbers and treasure hunters began to filter into the temple. With these opportunistic low-lifes came Djadao Ptubastis, a conspiring merchant who brought fake maps of the necropolis and cheap supplies. Djadao made a good profit from the adventurers and saw in the necropolis a valuable investment opportunity. Against the protests of the priests, he built a combination inn and general store and began paying those who got tired of waiting for Abydos That Was's return to spread rumors of the fabulous treasures they had found.
Again seventeen days after the new year, Abydos That Was revealed itself once more, but this time a small troupe of desecrators were armed and waiting. Thirty-eight ventured into the necropolis and seven returned. Some died to the deadly traps the pharaohs had ordered built in their tombs, others met far worse fates from protective curses laid by the priests, and a few simply stayed too long and were buried in the necropolis when the sun rose. Those who died would rise with the necropolis next year as cursed undead to mindlessly prey on new adventurers. Those who survived had either had knowledge of what they were facing or had gotten lucky at small less well-guarded shrines. With them they brought golden idols, small jewels, and old coins. Djadao was amazed by this wealth and immediately set to work making a profit. He hired on many of the original raiders as body guards; set up a regularly scheduled supply caravan with goods, food, and water; began writing out a system of licenses for tomb robbing; and even expanded his advertising campaign to include disinformation about the exact date that the necropolis appeared. The priests, where aghast at the events taking place, but they were not equipped to fight Djadao's gang of thugs.
Over the following years a small community of prospective robbers developed, as people came to wait for the necropolis's return. Djadao was well established as the ruler of this community. He had gained control of all goods moving into and out of the settlement, but he allowed room for new merchants to take root as long as they paid him a percentage of their profits. These new merchants included both artifact buyers who had contacts in other cities, and also entertainment business that catered to those who got lucky in the necropolis. With the aid of his guards Djadao made sure that everyone who ventured into the necropolis was required to have a license. If they returned from the necropolis without the proper papers their treasures would be forcefully taken from them. These licenses also expired every week and due to the competitive nature of the treasure hunters, and Djadao's efforts at disinformation there was constant confusion about just when the necropolis would return.
Today Abydos is a squalid and corrupt town. It is built of mud brick buildings surrounded by an acacia studded wall that protects both against the harsh winds that roll off the deep desert and also raiding desert nomads. Over half the population is made of prospectors who will arrive, stay fruitlessly for a month or two, and leave with barely the clothes on their back. Murders and drug addiction are rampant. Currently Dajdao's great-great-grandson, Khufu Ptubastis manages Abydos.
The priests still live in their temple, but are constantly in an uneasy stalemate with the Ptubastis family. With the annual return of the necropolis the priests have taken up their role as caretakers again, venturing forth with the robbers into the tomb city. In modern times however, they do more than just light sacred fires, make appropriate offerings, and dust lintels. Now they place new curses and renew old ones, they rearm traps, and where they encounter the blaspheming intruders they attempt to slay them. Within the necropolis the Priests are blessed by Osiris. They cast powerful spells, command the undead creatures that stalk the city, and if they are slain they will rise within the hour to tend the necropolis eternally. The priests also have secret knowledge of the necropolis. They know how to avoid traps, find secret passages that allow them to travel speedily and undetected through the tomb city, and of course the layout and contents of every shrine, temple, mastaba, and pyramid. This critical knowledge is sometimes sought by treasure hunters, but the Ptubastis family, readily acknowledges the vital role the priests play by limiting the amount of treasure that actually leaves the necropolis every year, maintaining Abydos's life blood. The priests would drive out the Ptubastis family if they had sufficient power, but they are instead ironically preserved by their most bitter enemies.
The vicious cycle continues endlessly. The necropolis rises every year giving hope and fleeting happiness to a few, but drawing many others to their fate. The wealth and stories that flow out of the tombs bring more fools to Abydos, where they are entangled in poverty and crime. The priests play out their eternal roles even as the modern world casts a mockery of their ideologies. There is no peace to be found in Abydos, not even for the dead.