Sandra was a graduate student in her university's archaeology program, focusing on ancient middle eastern societies. Studying under a world renowned archaeologist, when she got the chance to go with him on a unique, unusual dig at a site in Egypt, she jumped at the chance. She was one of only three students going for a solid month into the middle of the desert, but it was a chance of a lifetime - helping this man probe into what looked like a mysterious temple complex would be one heck of a start to her career.
Her friends suggested what he wanted to uncover and probe into was her. She just smirked - she wouldn't mind that, either. She looked up to him, he was well off - she could do worse there, too. Besides, desert nights can get cold.
When they got to the site, they saw that the dunes had shifted and done some of the tedious work for them already. It proved to be a very rich and well preserved site, and when they uncovered the doorway in the first week, everyone celebrated. Sandra started her affair with the professor that night over a bottle of wine, looking forward to a long and rewarding career.
What she didn't know was that he was keeping in mind a way to make the dig profitable, as well - and that his would be partners had heard of what he'd found already and decided to cut out the middleman.
The attack came a few days later as the sun was setting. Sandra was in a tent cataloging several of the finds, including an odd headdress and statuary, when she heard the trucks - and the gunshots. Charles, her fellow student (and her next pick if the professor hadn't been interested) told her to stay put and ran out to see what was happening. She had no problem with doing that, taking a nearby knife and ducking behind a crate. All she heard were more gunshots and screams.
A few minutes later, the professor and one of the locals they'd hired as a digger came into the tent to hide. Both were badly wounded. When he saw Sandra, the Professor grew grim and warned her not to let them find her. As he did, the bandits - grave robbers - entered. They yelled something at the professor in Arabic - Sandra caught something about a deal - and executed the digger. When they didn't like his answer, they shot the professor as well.
Sandra felt sick. She felt afraid, and angry, but didn't think she'd do much with the old knife she had. She suspected what her fate at these bandits hands would be. And felt a twinge of sadness that all that they'd found would go unreported, lost to history and fated to end up hidden in some collector's vault never to be seen again. All this, with her disbelief that the professor could be dead and *right there,* - well, it was the first freshly-killed body she'd seen - washed over her.
As did a pull. She felt ... something. An urge to put on that odd headdress. A feeling it would let her do... something.
The bandit turned at the sound of the artifact being pulled off the table. She saw the ugly look he had and heard what he thought - but didn't care, as a power washed through her. Behind the bandit, the professor and the digger... got up.
The bandit didn't stand a chance.
Neither did his friends, as their victims took their revenge.
Sandra grabbed the camera, the notes, and one or two other items and fled into the desert. She'd remember this night differently for years, the leftover thoughts of betrayal from the entity controlled by the headdress merging with her own.
A few camps and villages would have tales of attacks over that month, attacks from monsters, ghuls and demons - these sites also happening to be related to the raiders who had attacked the camp. Sandra finally emerged, having been thought dead, the site buried again by desert sands.
Sandra - going by Narcissa, now - had made agreements with the spirit bound to the artefacts. She wouldn't need them, but would find herself fighting for control with him at times. He'd been used in the past, and wanted to learn of this world and find certain items of power. She ... didn't disagree. She hated feeling helpless, and power - and money, as there would be items of worth she'd find in her searching - sounded good.
And the professor's notebooks - once she'd figured out his coding - were the first step. She worked through recent entries - and sketches of her, and some sweet comments about her once she'd started breaking his cipher - and started looking deeper. Sites, contacts, sales. It took a little while for her to get accepted - some time, and a death or three of those who tried to double cross her - but word got around about her. She used her training not just to *find* artifacts but to find the *good* ones, the ones that would truly be rare and bring in money.
And, soon, she got more attention by those who wanted the items that would bring power. The little statues, the little pieces and scrolls that might not be worth much, that weren't in gold, but held knowledge. And if she kept some of that for herself, well...
She became wealthy. She became known in several of the "right" circles. Better - and more risky, but more profitable - scores started coming her way.
And then she met Fazid.
Fazed was there at just the right time. Sandra had been considering getting out of the game - she had the money to do what she wanted, and more just seemed pointless. The challenges... eh, even those had gotten a bit stale. Besides, who could she brag to? The Midnighters were starting to bring heat on her. She couldn't really work with the archaeological community - what would she say? "Hey, look at the markings on this vase I looted?" It really doesn't play well at society dinners.
She met him through a mutual contact. Someone was looking for a big score, though it would be big enough it couldn't be kept out of the papers. It would *make* the name of whoever uncovered it, both in the black and white antiquities worlds. She met with him, and was immediately drawn to both the score and to him. Handsome, clever - and he said he had a way of getting her back into the clear, if that's what she really wanted. He'd been chasing rumors of a series of old, old temples, four that looked - to him - like they'd unlock something greater. Fill in missing pieces of history, both mundane and mystic. She'd need a team - he'd already lost one mundane team trying to look on his own, so he knew he needed someone with power.
She not only had power, but had friends, as well. With the temples looking like they'd be tied to funerary rites, she knew it wouldn't take much to convince her... well, teammate would be a strong term. Keres Mot was an interesting character who seemed very focused on gaining power over death. They'd clashed a bit, given Sandra's "helpers," including the spirit of the ancient priest she accessed - even without the artefacts, now - but this would be something even she couldn't pass up. Sandra would just have to expect a betrayal at some point. Dreamon came along, as well, inviting herself at the last minute - out of boredom, she said.
A month of planning, deciphering clues and interpreting maps and they were ready.
As it turned out, the temples were not a myth. They were very real. Very old - and very guarded. They'd passed out of most human memory, but the people who had sealed these had left behind guardians - eight to ten feet tall on average, magically resistant and relentless. For the little group of villains, it was all the proof they needed that they were on to something *very* worth the effort. The temples proved to be linked, the four unlocking a fifth deep in the desert.
When the betrayal came, it wasn't Keres that did it.
Fazed had known where they were, of course - he'd supplied diggers and was their erstwhile partner, after all. And Sandra had been deciphering the old writings and paintings on the walls, trying to interpret the changes in the language from what she'd learned. She'd picked up bits of an overthrow, of a dark god and sacrifices. She figured this was some ancient Seth cult - itself enough to get Egyptologists excited enough to forgive her past. Seeing the birth of this portion of Egyptian belief? That opportunity just wasn't common at all.
She'd gone to sleep in the middle of the camp, at the mouth of the temple.
She and Keres woke up to the feel of stone at their backs and gold vines pricking thorns into their skin. And a complete lack of both clothing and powers. Any time either of them reached for their abilities, the golden vines shifted and dug in further. She did have the ability to move her head, though - enough to see something oozing up her legs. And to see Fazed in what could only be called a throne, his followers - the diggers - around them. He joked that he was just making his promise to Sandra come through. This was the opportunity of a lifetime - to participate in an ancient ritual to bring his god back to this world. Sadly, of course, she wouldn't be there to see what happened afterward - sacrifices had to be made.
Dreamon was nowhere in sight, which seemed to annoy him, but when she couldn't be drugged, he'd banished her from the area. Which proved to be a mistake, as she was a gambler - and gambled on the heroes they'd been avoiding being able to stop this ritual, and Fazed.
The last thing Sandra saw before the oil covered her eyes was the look of shock as the heroes burst into the temple. Her last thought was that she'd never been so happy to see them.
Sandra drifted for days in nothingness. The oil no longer was connected to its mystic power, so she was able to fight off its simple attempt to leech her away, but aside from that, she was ... disconnected.
And in that state, she, the old priest M'hed and some of the minions finally got to have an actual talk. They'd been bound to the artifacts as part of a rebellion, bound to help those who found them. Long ago, they were used to aid the loyalists in preparing the rites of the dead. Later, they were stolen, and for thousands of years were either twisted and used for ill or just forgotten in the dark. The lesser minions had nothing really left of themselves. The priest... remembered, though, and wanted to make a deal.
If Sandra lived, they'd do what hey could to make things right. It's why he was bound in the first place, after all - and her life could use some cleaning up, too.
Her memories of the ambush had been distorted by some of what had been done to the artifacts, as well. Her memories of the professor and students, over time, had been twisted so that she felt she'd had to fight them to prove herself. Now that she got to look at them again, clear of influence by whatever was going on with her body in the physical world, she wept. And they came to an agreement on their next steps. Sandra told them she might just end up in prison for a while, so they may not be able to do much, but if they were given the slightest chance, they could all start making this right.
And she started now, with the priest's help, by releasing the lesser spirits. They would no longer have to serve her without choice, without will. With the priest's help, she reworked the binding so that she could call for aid, but the aid would come of the multitudes free will.
She woke shortly afterward, finding herself in a tank of ... something, shaved bald and watched by heroines. She watched as a drop of oil escaped her eye, to be caught in a container by her guard. She thought she caught runes of some sort on it. Keres was in another tank on the other side of the room in the same state. She was informed that she was under arrest, of course, but that they wanted to talk to her. She was told the HBSS, the hero team, had been fighting to keep them alive for days, purging the oil from their system. It had gotten into their eyes, their ears, lungs, even their blood, thanks to the vines, and that the less she struggled the faster it would be over.
They gestured to Keres, who'd also woken - again - and struggled, again, until sedated. More of the oil was obviously under her skin.
When asked if she had anything to say, she gestured, asking if she could sit up, get her head out of the tank. The heroine helped her - gathering the oil in what Sandra coughed up when clearing her lungs.
"I've done something very stupid," she said. "I want to make it right. I want to make all of it right."
And thus the first step on her road to redemption was taken.
With the help of the heroes that had rescued her, Sandra started her rehabilitation. She worked with Interpol, with government agencies, even with the - admittedly not very trusting of her - midnighters. She provided sites, lists and names. She recovered artifacts she'd taken, turning the mundane over to museums, the mystically dangerous to the proper authorities.
Given her training had stayed with her, Sandra actually had detailed records of some forgotten or "undiscovered" sites. The archaeological community - while wary at first - soon found the information she was providing to be just what she'd wanted on that last job. Enough to gain her... well, not acclaim, but at least some grudging acceptance. She even found herself being asked to come (under guard) to some minor talks, and being given the chance (thanks to sponsorship from the hero group who vouched for her new outlook and attitude) the chance to finish her degree.
She's currently, publicly "Professor Sandra Thompson," going on digs, writing her third mass-market book (and what feels like her hundredth paper,) and finally somewhere she's mostly happy with herself.
She does also help the heroic community with the knowledge she has, occasionally going out to help contain (or stop or recover) some ancient threats - or just interpret what's found in specific sites. Her link to the ancient priest M'hed has also aided in deciphering ruins and texts.
Many of the Midnight Squad still don't trust her, though. For now, she just lives with it. They *still* come to her sometimes - and usually not very happily - for assistance when their own resources come up empty.
Sandra, publicly, is happy where she is. If she wasn't teaching and researching, she'd want to be in a museum somewhere - though that might be pushing things for a while yet. The fact she was a tomb raider for so long hasn't been forgotten.
Privately, she'd like to just have a life. Find a guy who shares her interests to share it with - preferably without wanting to sacrifice her to some ancient deity. Once was enough.
She's learned that, if nothing gets in the way, she's going to have a longer life than usual. Not millennia, but seeing 200 isn't out of the question. She's still processing that and isn't quite sure how she feels.
Sandra's also taking time to track down everything she'd stolen and either retrieve it herself or turn the information over - to the police, to heroes, to the Midnighters, whoever would do the best. "It belongs in a museum," after all. She also keeps a discrete ear on the art and antiquities underworld when she can - usually through intermediaries, as that's another place she's not very popular now - to give a heads up on possible finds or heists, and gives talks on how to preserve and protect sites.
Finally, she's on the lookout for *just* the right hat. No bullwhips, though.
Allies, Enemies and others
She's made a few friends here and there. The group that rescued her has turned her care over to others, the members having gone their own ways.
Some of her old villain contacts also changed their ways. She keeps in touch with them - and keeps an eye on those who haven't.
Keres Mot still wants to kill her for her "betrayal," but it's been years.
She's taken an interest in the Guardians of Tomorrow, young heroes, thanks to the background of one of their members tying in with Egypt - really, the priest wouldn't let her get away without stopping by.
Keres Mot : "She left me there to get hauled away to prison. She's on the list. Is she *ever* on the list...."
Emily Post Mortem : "We've had some interesting conversations, to say the least. Both with her and her - assistants, I suppose. Minions is hardly appropriate with their current understanding. She's had a hard road, but really seems to want to make things better."