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A mysterious illness is afflicting members of an archaeological expedition recently returned from the Andes, where they had unearthed the tomb of the Inca, Rascar Capac. One by one, the expedition members fall into a mysterious coma. The only clue is shards of crystal found near each victim, which are fragments of shattered crystal balls. Concerned, Tintin, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus go to stay with Calculus's old friend, and expedition member, the ebullient Professor Tarragon, who is keeping Rascar Capac's mummy in his house. But the mummy soon disappears when a lightning storm sends a ball of fire down the chimney, and, after each being visited in their nightmares by the mummy, the three wake to find Tarragon comatose, with the telltale shards of crystal by his bed. How did this happen?