meh =/ No one reads this any way
The rain intensified as the train sped along, bound for London, thick sheets of water bombarding the windows and turning the countryside, already blurred by the speeding locomotive, into a single steely grey panorama of nothingness.
Jonas was slumped alone in a compartment, a number of notebooks and textbooks lay on the seat next to him, but he had found himself unable to concentrate on any of them. His mind still replaying the conversation, argument rather, with Thomas in the car, and the possibility that this could all be real… either that or he was insane…
Neither thought comforted him much, the place he had dreamt of, so often now, was not a place he wished to be real, for all it seemed to bear was horror. but then, on the other hand, being labelled as insane wasn’t going to do his career much good. He just had to pray that Morius and Thomas were right, that it was all just stress related, and coincidence, and that a good rest in London would set him right.
Thoughts of seeing his fiancé Mary, of all the things that awaited him in London succeeded in driving thoughts of the dreams, of the dig, of everything else out of his head, and he sunk back into the seat, drifting off as the train sped onwards.
He awoke just as the train pulled in at waterloo, steam billowing from its chimney as it ground to a halt at the crowded station, he hastily crammed his text books into his trunk, pulling down from the overhead compartment and put his notebook away in his satchel.
Stepping out onto the platform, his trunk behind him, Jonas meandered absentmindedly through the bustling station, lost in his own thoughts once again. More than one angry look was thrown his way as the other commuters had to dodge out the way, or else had Jonas bump into them or catch their toes under the wheels of his trunk.
A trail of angry people in his wake, he emerged onto the busy York road, a sea of jostling umbrellas that flowed up and down either side of the packed road. He pushed through the oncoming crowds and flagged down a taxi. *****************
Jonas dragged his case out of the taxi and up the mossy steps to the house of Mary’s father. Reginald Lockwood.
It stood out from the other houses in the crescent. Over all it was a little worse for wear; the plaster was fading and cracked in places, the paint around the windows was chipped and the railings were rusty – their black paint almost totally missing, and ivy snaked its way up the walls.
Jonas seized the heavy brass door knocker in his free hand and wrapped three times on the door, after a short pause the sound of the latch scraping open could be heard followed momentarily by the door swinging wide open to reveal Reginald, blinking in the light.
He was dressed in what Jonas considered to be a satisfyingly eccentric manner that befitted a reclusive historian. A pair of pinstripe trousers, a green woollen jumper and a beige dressing gown, from the pockets of which protruded a rolled up newspaper and ornamental porcelain duck. A pair of thin wire-framed glasses were perched atop his balding head; the strands of thin grey hair he combed over gently twitching in the breeze.
“Jonas old boy! Is that you? Eh, you’re awfully fuzzy. Where in tarnation are my glasses,” he said squinting down at his future son in-law.
Reginald wandered into the hall, seemingly forgetting Jonas, who followed, dragging his case over the threshold.
“You glasses are on your head Reg,” he said, patting the older man on the shoulder after closing the door.
“Ah! Indeed they are. Blighted things! Cant live with ‘em, cant live without ‘em! Like camels…” with this enigmatic remark he pottered off up the narrow set of stairs, the porcelain duck bouncing along in his pocket.
Jonas was left alone in the narrow, dimly lit hallways. The curtains on the small window were drawn, a slender crack of light breaking through, illuminating a pillar of dust that swirled gracefully through the tranquil air.
The tranquillity was shattered within moments however with a small squeal of excitement from the door Jonas knew led onto the kitchen. Before he could react in the slightest his fiancé Mary hurled herself down the hallway at him, flinging her arms around him, drawing Jonas into a warm –if slightly too tight- hug.
“Hello my love,” he said happily, a genuine smile tugging spreading across his worn features for the first time in weeks.
He broke free of her embrace and gazed at her.
She was exquisite; her eyes glittered in the soft light filtering through the hall window. Captivating sapphires in the soft features of her face, her skin, pale and flawless, the slightest brush of rouge gracing her cheeks making the sumptuous scarlet of her lips even more striking. The soft curls of her rich brown hair cascaded down over he shoulders, framing her perfect face.
Her clothes were simple, a knee length brown skirt and neatly pressed white blouse, she wore heels, but she still stood several inches below Jonas. The demure nature of her garments failed to hide the slender elegance of her figure, in fact the subdued outfit accentuated the underlying beauty.
She was brighter than the sun in Jonas’ world, a shining star that was always present even in the darkest times, always there. He could never love any one like her; and as she gazed back at him, her face illuminated with a tender smile, he felt all the troubles of recent times melt away like ice in a fire.
The reverie was broken as she broke into a stream of questions, a wide smile still spread across her face.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, “ I missed you! How are you? How’s the dig? What about the weather? Have you found anything? Have you been eating? You look so skinny, Tom said you’ve been ill, is everything-”
She reeled these off so rapidly Jonas couldn’t help but laugh as he put a finger to her lips to silence her.
“Not all at once! And not all in the hallway dear.”
“Oh yes, um, how silly of me. Tea?” and with that she darted back off into the kitchen.
Jonas followed her, seating himself at the cluttered table, piles of books, pots of pens, mountains of old newspapers and nearly ordered stacks of bills covered the tiny table, leaving barely enough space for the cups and saucers Mary laid down as she bustled about preparing the tea.
“I had made a pot of tea earlier, but I think father went off with that… and the duck from the lounge. Well, he’s nothing if not odd,” she placed the kettle on the hob and sat down opposite Jonas.
“So,” she said after a moment, “what’s this about you being ill or what have you?”
“Huh? Oh, er, nothing,” lied Jonas.
“Are you sure, Tomas did say in his telegraph,” she gestured blindly at one of the numerous stacks of paper that also covered the worktop.
“Ah, its just him overreacting, I’m fine, honest.”
Jonas couldn’t help but feel bad about lying to her, but if Tom hadn’t told her everything then he saw no reason to. After all, he reasoned, it would only make her unduly worried.
“Ah well, if you’re sure. So how long are you staying for? Do you know?” her face lit up in anticipation somewhat as she said the last part, and expression which Jonas totally missed, instead looking passed her to the hob where the kettle had started to whistle.
“Oh, a few days, not sure really,” he replied, still staring past her at the now screeching kettle.
“Oh… oh ok,” she said, her face falling as she rose to her feet. She turned away, her eyes watering slightly and emptied the kettle’s contents into the teapot, returning to the table, blinking profusely.
“Are you ok,” asked Jonas, noticing her strange behaviour.
“Um, yes, fine…”
“That’s ok then,” he said, shooting her a smile.
He poured first Mary’s then his own tea, pulling his cup across the table towards him. They sat in silence, only the rhythmic ticking of the clock and the plaintive mewing of their black and white cat, who rubbed around Jonas’s legs before prowling off for lack of attention, could be heard.
“Father has some books he thinks you might like to look through, says they might be of some help with your mystery culture,” said Mary after a while, “have you found anything lately? Any new clues?”
“Not a thing, just broken pots and arrow heads. And we’re running out of funding. Its so damn frustrating!” said Jonas, slamming his fist down on the table, “we’re on the edge of something so big! I can feel it, if we just had the time…”
“Oh darling, that’s terrible, so there’s no one else who will fund you? Surely some one must be able to help. If its such a valuable find,” said Mary, reaching out and taking Jonas’s hand in hers across the table.
“Not really. Not with the war, no one can afford the cost, though I doubt there’s any one who would even if they could. Not now. We’ve not actually found anything, anything useful, anything conclusive, its all just possibility.
He sighed and sipped at his tea as the clock in the hall struck two, the chimes echoing throughout the house.
“Just try and relax hmm? Take it easy for a bit,” said Mary, squeezing his hand, “I know its hard, but try and switch off. Enjoy your time away.”
“But there isn’t time to switch off. I don’t have time to sit about, I need to research, I need to try and find something, anything to make this dig worthwhile. Make the most of my time here with all your father’s books.”
“And what about your time with me!” cried Mary, snatching her hand away from Jonas, “its only ever about your bloody work! Work this, work that, I don’t think you even remember me at times!”
And with that she stormed out of the kitchen before Jonas could say another word, not that he could think of anything so say. He sat there, mulling over whether or not he should pursue, finally making up his mind to go and find her when Reginald wandered in.
The duck was no longer in his pocket, but he was now brandishing a teapot, and a vaguely lost expression. The latter two were nothing new to Jonas, who had known the man for years and was well accustomed to his odd nature.
Reginald, seemingly oblivious to Jonas’s presence, placed the pot he was carrying down on top of a pile of newspapers and picked up the fresh one, which was sat on the table.
“Oh, Jonas lad. There you are, where’s Mary?” he said, finally noticing the sombre figure slumped in the chair, but before Jonas could answer he continued, “did she tell you? I found some quite interesting books you might be interested in.”
Thoughts of Mary suddenly slipped from Jonas’s head at these words.
“She mentioned them yes. Id very much like to take a look, are they in your study?”
“Indeed they are my boy, shall we go up?”
Reginald led the way out of the kitchen and up the flight of stairs onto the first floor. Mary’s door was shut but as Jonas passed he could swear he could hear her sobbing softly. For a moment her hesitated, before his curiosity to see the books overwhelmed him and he followed Reginald up the next flight of stairs.
Reginald’s study comprised of the majority of the loft space. Here, on every available surface were pile upon pile of books, boxes, files; mounds of photographs and sketchbooks. In fact, in the whole room there was barely an inch of visible table space. The same went for the walls where there were dozens on charts, newspaper articles and hastily scribbled notes pinned or otherwise attached to the surface.
Against one wall stood a writing bureau, a spluttering oil lamp set on the desk, casting its warming glow over a number or open books and a veritable china shop’s worth of teacups. Reginald cleared these cups into an open draw and started to mutter to himself as he riffled through the pages of one of the open books.
“Ah, here, cast your eye over this one. Rather a nice book this, Italian, late renaissance,” he said, tapping the open page.
“Reg,” said Jonas leaning down over the book, “this is ineligible.”
“Yes, yes, its in code, but look closely,” said Reginald vaguely, rummaging around in a chest of draws.
Jonas leant in and started to examine the pages closely, squinting in the dim light at the scratchy faded ink.
“Look, I cant see anything are you sure this is the right boo-.” Started Jonas, but he paused and tilted his head slightly, “oh.”
“Found them then,” laughed Reginald without turning, still searching the draws.
Jonas stared, his head still tilted, at a scrawled set of runes on the edge of the page. His mind had gone blank, unable to make connections. After all this time, there, on the edge of an ancient book were the runes.
“Impressive isn’t it,” said Reginald, leaning over Jonas’s shoulder.
“What, I mean, how, what-“ he responded incoherently, “The runes are Latin or something? A code? How did you find this?”
“No, no, no, not Latin at any rate. Code… cant say, but not Latin. This chap, Mauricio Primari, was a scholar and philosopher and member of a rich family in northern Italy, near the Austrian border. Any way, from what I can gather he found this tablet in the grounds of his estate. A tablet covered in runes. Those runes…”
“This is amazing Reg,” said Jonas excitedly, “did he translate them? Did he find out where they’re from?”
“Alas, no, his code is quite hard to break, heaven knows why he insisted in writing in the damn thing, but even so, from what I can tell he never deciphered the runes. Wasn’t much interested in history I don’t think.”
Jonas’s face fell; he flicked through the next few pages of the book. There were a few more scrawled runes but not much.
“I guess its something,” he said, “might get us funding. Shows it’s not an isolated culture though.”
“Indeed… that’s what I thought. But this one… this one you might like a little bit more,” said Reginald, he handed Jonas a tatty journal that was nearly falling to pieces. The writing across its cover was in Russian. Jonas gingerly opened it and began to flick through.
It wasn’t just the cover that was in Russian, the scratchy, ink blotted, water stained handwriting within was likewise unreadable. However, there were drawings, drawings of objects that looked terribly familiar to Jonas. Pots, bowls, arrow tips, the same ones he’d been digging out of the Dorset soil for months.
“Check in the back, in the pocket,” said Reginald.
Jonas opened the book at the back and slid his hand into the pocket in the back, pulling out a wad of faded photos. They were hard to see in the dim light, the images were in faded sepia tones, the details blending in to each other. But as Jonas flicked through it readily became clearer and clearer what he was looking at.
The chamber. Solid and impenetrable, it stood there in the middle of this unknown field with the same enigmatic arrogance that had greeted him every morning.
“Reginald…” he said slowly, “this is a fake right? You’re… your doing this to wind me up? Pulling me leg, right? Reginald?”
“Certainly not my lad, that as far as all accounts go, is the genuine article. An amateur goes by the name of Matvei Fedoseev, found this while out for a walk a long time ago now, that’s about all I know. I tried finding out more, but, with how Russia is at the moment, its…”
“Like trying to get inside the chamber?” offered Jonas, chortling at his own joke.
“With a spoon, yes,” replied Reginald.
“I need to get this translated,” said Jonas, flicking through the photos, “this could change everything.”
Jonas spent the rest of the afternoon pouring over the books excitedly comparing his own reference drawings to those of Matvei, or else deep in conversation with Reginald. In fact it wasn’t until almost nine that evening they finally emerged, their hunger gaining the upper hand over their curiosity.
While Jonas set about preparing the dinner, a task he was far from happy about, Reginald disappeared into the parlour. He had offered to attempt to set up a meeting between him and an old colleague, and Russian immigrant. His name was Aleksandr Ivanov, a philosopher and owner of a small bookstore, who would hopefully be able to extrude a few snippets of information from within the journal.
Jonas had managed to pull together a fairly passable soup by the time Reginald returned, which was surprising considering the meagre rations and even more lacking skills on the part of the chef. Jonas wasn’t entirely sure what flavour it was, and by the time he served it most of the ingredients had slipped his mind.
Dinner was a low-key affair, a sullen Mary reluctantly joined them, her mood had barely improved and the copious talk of the latest finds and facts of the archaeological world did little to alleviate her morose composition. She disappeared soon after finishing, with a mumbled ‘goodnight’.
After she left Jonas brought up the subject of the meeting.
As it transpired Reginald had managed to secure a meeting, after some persuading, between Aleksandr and Jonas for the following day.
“He’ll meet you in his book shop, little one in brick lane,” said Reginald,
He fished around in his pockets and drew out a scrunched up ball of paper, handing it to Jonas
“That’s either the address or my shopping list. Night lad.” Said Reginald, before he to left for bed.
With a jolt Jonas realised it was almost midnight. He hurriedly packed away the dinner things, throwing the majority into the already full sink before creeping quietly upstairs. He gently opened the door to Mary’s room and peered in. it was hard to make much out in the gloom, he could just about see her curled up form. It was difficult to tell if she was sleeping or not, but his soft entreat received no response.
Jonas hesitated momentarily before pulling the door gently shut. He heaved a sigh and slumped against the closed door. This was hardly shaping up to be the relaxing break he’d imagined.
There was an old spare room on the second floor, it was hard ever in use and the door had become stiff. It required a sharp shove before it swung inwards with a mournful creak. The contents of the room were veiled under a selection of moth eaten dustsheets and it took several tries to find the rickety single bed.
Jonas brushed a spider off the bed and made it up with a set of old sheets he found in a wardrobe. They smelt musty and were coarse to the touch but were the best he had.
There was a total absence of light in the room; the heavy blackout curtains obscured ambient blue-black of the night sky that he was so used to. He lay back on the bed, a cloud of dust rising up from the sheets as he sank down into them.
He felt a sharp pain in his right thigh, reaching into the pocket of his trousers he pulled out an arrowhead he had intended to show Reginald. He twirled the rusty blade in his fingers absentmindedly as the feint scratching of a mouse and the rhythmic ticking of his watch blended together in the gloom and drifted around Jonas like a sonic miasma, drawing his already heavy eyes inexorably down into the embrace of sleep.
Jonas blinked, desperate to ward of the fatigue, he couldn’t give up, not now. He groped around in the darkness, his hand desperately scouring the inky-black space. His fingers –numb with cold- closed around the small metal tube and he pulled it towards him. Fumbling with the catch he flipped the lid open and whispered softly.
The crystal fastened inside began to glow, casting a pallid light around the dark interior of the room. A pall of smoke hung limply in the air, blurring the details but he could still make out the rest of his belongings.
His kit bag had torn, its’ contents spread across the debris strewn floor. His sword lay someway to his left; the thin blade had broken in half in the fall. It was miraculous he hadn’t been killed, though a broken rib was a given judging by the piercing pain that accompanied his every move. Glancing up above he could just pick out the broken beams of the floor above.
Pushing himself gingerly to his feet he held the light up in the air, trying to locate a way out. The sallow blue light of the crystal twinkled back from the burnished surface of a brass door handle. The door opened onto a narrow flight of stairs that in turn emerged onto a dimly lit street. Smoke billowed from the burnt out shells of many of the roads buildings, drifting lazily in thick clouds across the cobbled surface.
Broken sword in hand he hobbled cautiously down the pavement, careful not to trip on any of the smoke obscured rubble that lay all around.
It was not only the cloying smoke that blew on the wind, screams and wails and the echoing booms of great explosions echoed around the deserted houses, mingled with the voices of distant people. He could hear his name being called, with a ghostly detachment to the rest of the scene.
He stumbled onwards, but halted as a shadowy figure melted out of the smoke ahead; it froze, just out of reach of his focus, remaining a wraith in the swirling haze, a construct of shadow and soot. More came to join it, likewise indistinct shadowy forms,
The waling voices still called out his name as the figures ahead raised their bows. He barely registered a thing as the dozen arrows progressed through the air, their graceful arc belying their lethality. He hit the ground, his mind swaying, and his head burning, only partly aware of the long wooden shaft protruding from his shoulder.
The world slid in and out of focus, one moment his assailants stood on the horizon, next all around him – still indiscernible -, the voices too were in a state of fluctuation, it was impossible to tell where they were coming from, close, far, behind him, ahead.
“Jonas… Jonas…” they sung.
“Jonas!” The voices changed, “Wake up!”
He felt a tugging at his arm, pulling him violently out of the miasma of the dream world and back into the cold physicality of the bedroom. He was suddenly very aware of everything, as if he’d never really been awake before, and yet not, detached, the world of his sleep calling him back.
A dark figure loomed above him, still tugging at his arm; its pale face swirled drunkenly in his vision. He slid his hand around in the gloom, searching for the thin wire framed glasses that a soft hand placed gently in his. He pushed them on, blinking as his eyes struggled to focus in the dark room.
Mary’s face slid into focus, her pretty features a picture of fear.
“Come on!” she said, pulling at his arm, “Jonas! Come on!”
Jonas’s mind was still a maelstrom of conflicting images and sounds, the wailing of his nightmare still echoed in the air, as did the shaking explosions.
Half lucid, his mind still reeling his complied with Mary’s behest, allowing himself to be dragged down the stairs. As they entered the kitchen Reginald joined then, tatty slippers flopping loudly on the stone floor as he scurried after them.
The ceaseless whine of engines droned overhead, the whistle of falling munitions -each accompanied by loud bangs that made the windows shake- and the wail of air raid sirens assaulted Jonas’s already oversaturated senses as they hurried down into the basement.
Jonas slumped down on the floor against the wall, cupping his head in his hands. Another blast shook the building, closer this time. He was unaware Mary had sat down with him till he felt her arms close around him.
Cradled in her warm embrace he slowly slipped back into sleep, ghostly echoes of his nightmare still resonating in his mind as he slid back into slumber, voices whispering in the dark… always whispering…
He awoke in the early hours, a shaft of soft light shining through a crack in the blackout blinds. Mary and Reginald were still asleep, the former breathing softly in her sleep, her warm breath gliding across Jonas’s cheek.
He gently extracted himself from her embrace and clambered to his feet. He knew there was no chance of returning to sleep, and there was little point in remaining down in the cellar so he crept up the stairs being careful not to wake the others as he entered the kitchen above.
A glance at the clock informed him it was quarter to seven in the morning. However Jonas had long harboured a deep distrust of the kitchen clock and resorted to checking both the lounge and hallway clocks before being forced to accept that it was, in fact, quarter to seven. He shot the clock a cursory nod of acknowledgement and he set off upstairs for a shower.
He returned nearly half an hour later, dressed in fresh clothes, to find that Mary and Reginald had yet to emerge from the cellar, so he set about preparing breakfast while inwardly debating whether or not he should wake them. After consuming both his and their breakfasts – an odd occurrence as he rarely found himself that hungry, let alone at this time- he decided to leave them be. As he was clearing away he remembered the meeting with Aleksandr, the address still where Reginald had left it. He hesitated a moment, gazing at the scrawled address intently before abandoning the clearing up and dashing upstairs to get the books.
Within half an hour he was standing outside the door of Aleksandr’s bookshop, the rain spattered windows dark, the sign on the door very clearly reading closed. Jonas checked his watch and sighed; in his sudden excitement he’d overlooked the fact that it was quarter past nine.
He tapped gently on the glass and waited in the bluster rain. After a moment he pressed his face to the cold glass and peered in, it was dark inside, he wondered if Aleksandr was even awake. He tapped again, slightly louder and waited once more.
An elderly man stopped on his way past and leant in, saying “you wont get ‘is attention like that.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jonas.
“Oh, well you got to really bang on that door! Like this,” the old man thumped the door with surprising strength and shuffled off, chortling to himself.
A light flared up at the back of the shop and the silhouette of a man stormed across the still dimly lit space and the door was pulled open.
“You think its funny to bang so hard, yes? Well its not. This is glass, not steel, you break it, you pay for it. What do you want?”
Aleksandr was a tall man, at least six foot five, with mane of wild white hair. A pair of tatty glasses, much like Jonas’s, was perched upon the end of his large –slightly red- nose. He stared through these at Jonas, awaiting a reply.
“Oh, um, Reginald. Reginald, Lockwood said he’d arranged a meeting between us. I’m Jonas,” he stuck out his hand but Aleksandr ignored it, simply nodding and moving out the way so Jonas could enter the shop.
He closed the door behind them and silently ushered Jonas through the shop. They passed mounds of books, every surface including a large amount of the floor was covered in piles of books of all ages, and the air itself was tainted by the smell of aging paper. It made Jonas happy.
They entered the small back room come kitchen where, or so it seemed, Aleksandr was in the middle of breakfast. He pulled out a chair for Jonas and then sat himself back at his own place, beginning to eat again.
“So you bring book?” he said between mouthfuls, “Reg said about a book, you bring?”
“Oh, yes, its in here somewhere,” said Jonas, rummaging in his satchel, he pulled out Matvei’s journal and handed it to Aleksandr, “can you translate it?”
“Well, yes, of course I can. It’ll take time though.”
“How much time…” said Jonas, though he had a sinking feeling that he knew the answer already.
“A few days at least, there are at least fifty, sixty pages here, reading is no problem, but writing it all out again, takes time, and I have shop to run,” said Aleksandr, flicking through the book.
Jonas let out a sigh and sank into his chair, the warm happy feeling that had been building inside slipping out of him like air from a balloon.
“Could you maybe, find the bits with the dig notes in, I mean, the actual references to the dig? Or just… anything useful?” pleaded Jonas, “by the afternoon…” he added tentatively.
Aleksandr fixed him with a glare that would have terrified most men. Most men included Jonas in this instance, who recoiled slightly and looked apologetic.
“If… if you have the time I mean.”
“Reginald is a good friend and a better customer,” said Aleksandr, he patted his pocket as he said this, grinning slightly, “and he speaks highly of you, so yes, I shall do my best. But do not expect miracles. I say I do my best, but if my best was the best, then you think id live above little bookshop?”
The happy feeling returned a little, at least enough for Jonas to smile at what Aleksandr had said, he sat back up in his chair and reached across the table to shake hands, a gesture the Old Russian returned this time.
“Hopefully I can be some assistance,” said Aleksandr, “come back later today. I’ll see what I can do by then.”
Having thanked Aleksandr, Jonas whiled away the morning, returning to the bookshop after lunch. He found it surprisingly busy now, a clamour of customers at the till meant he was forced to wait in the back room for another twenty odd minuets before Aleksandr could see him.
“I’m sorry about that,” sighed the Russian, sitting himself down, “I value my customers, but they are always with the making awkward requests. Books I have never heard of, stupid things like chairs. Chairs! So they can sit and read, I am not a library I tell them, I am bookshop! And if that were not bad enough, they ask for me to have hot beverages, oy vey, I kid you not. God forbid bookshop become café.”
Jonas nodded politely, wondering if he were expected to contribute to the topic, but his fears were allayed when Aleksandr pulled the journal and a small stack of paper towards him.
“So your book. Was interesting, man has bad handwriting but I found some things you might like. Seems dig was taken over by government, he wasn’t allowed back, but he took many photos before he went. You’ve seen these I assume, so I continue.”
Aleksandr searched through the papers and pushed one in front of Jonas.
“That is details of the site, things about some tribe or other that lived there, early Russian people, I’ve put the page number there,” he said tapping the top of the page, “so you can find his drawings. He has drawing of site. I hope this is of use? Its hard to tell what is useful, I am no man of history, I’m a man of philosophy, like my father, and his father, and his fathers father-”
“Yes, I understand,” smiled Jonas, “and I appreciate how much effort you’ve gone to. You’ve found some good information, is there any more?”
“Yes, yes, of course there is more, like this, a little poem.”
“Well, I’m sure he was a fine poet, but it’s not that relevant,” said Jonas politely.
“No, not his poem, ruin’s poem. Found on the wall.”
“Found on the wall, you know, wall!” said Aleksandr, pointing at the walls around him; he laughed as he said, “I think your English not so good Jonas. You need practice more than me.”
Jonas rolled his eyes, “I mean, on the wall? What wall? The wall of the dig?”
“See for your self,” replied Aleksandr, handing Jonas a sheaf of paper.
Jonas squinted at the Russians spidery writing, he couldn’t help but think it somewhat rich that Aleksandr had commented on Matvei’s handwriting when his own was so bad, but he held his tongue and read on.
I found this today, scrawled on the east wall, near the base. I’m not sure who put it there, but its as old as the rest of this place, it must be.
It was hard to make out, the scratches weren’t deep and it has been worn by the ages, but this is what I managed to get:
Son of Moon and Sun, United by child
And light will reign
Above the world
They shall come
Champion of tribes
They shall come
Gods Amongst men
It is Destiny
They shall come.
Jonas read it over and over, trying again and again to decipher it’s meaning or how Matvei had read it.
“Aleksandr, was there anything on the page this was on, or anywhere else, about reading the runes? Anything at all? Or even about how he translated these?
“Runes? No, not really, he rants about them a bit, but that’s it.”
Jonas slammed his fist on the table, “damn! Then how did he read these…” he said, more to himself than Aleksandr, “there must be something! Can you read the page again? Please, its… thirty, page thirty.”
“There was nothing there…”
“Please, it could be something insignificant to you, but it could make a huge difference.”
Aleksandr looked mildly annoyed but conceded and opened up the journal, flicking through to page thirty and pushing it closer to Jonas so he could see.
“Right, this is the bit I wrote down,” he said pointing to a small patch of scribbled writing, “and this is the poem… thing.”
“And this?” said Jonas, pointing to the bottom of the page.
“That is… note to see appendices.”
“Appendices? What does it say, read, please,” said Jonas.
“Says, see Appendix three in volume two, that is all, as I said. What does it mean by volume two? You have a second book?”
“N- no, no, only this one,” said Jonas hollowly, “it’s typical. We never have any luck, ever!”
He was close to tears, biting his bottom lip to stop himself from breaking down. He had been so sure that the journal would yield a result, but just like everything else it seemed to be another dead end, another knife in the back.
“Are you… are you sure there is nothing else about it? On any page?” asked Jonas, he pulled the book across the table and started to flick through himself.
Aleksandr waited till Jonas had reached the end before speaking again, “as I said, he just rants about the runes, says they are bizarre and nothing like anything he could find. Oh, he says the same about the others who lives there, the second culture at the site.”
“Yes, I did say earlier… I think. There was a second culture there, early native Russian people.”
The gears in Jonas’s mind started to whir. “How do you know, how did he know they were early Russians?”
“He said somewhere, let me look,” said Aleksandr, he browsed through the book for a few minuets, finally setting it down and pointing to the page, “there, he says all about them, says historian friend estimated up to one hundred B.C, maybe even one fifty, says the culture is odd though, influenced by the others there.”
“Roman era… we never had a date, there was nothing in the Dorset site to suggest one, but this is…good! Brilliant even!” said Jonas, “any more?”
He waited while Aleksandr skimmed over the next few pages, back and forth, muttering to himself as he did so, he then flipped the book over and opened it at the back, pulling out the wad of photos and started to go through them, chucking them down on the table as he went.
“Erm, they are the wrong way round you know…” said Jonas.
“Looking for the number,” said Aleksandr without looking up.
He continued to toss away the photos, placing at first one, then another, and finally a third to the side of the main pile. When he was seemingly done he brushed the larger pile aside contemptuously and picked up the three that were left. He laid them carefully out in front of Jonas. He then picked up the journal by its cover and shook it, a single sheaf of very old paper falling out and landing lazily atop the table
“Aha, this is page of old book, he says in journal historian friend gave it to him, its about old languages. Here, look,” he taped the page, “here is circled the language of the old tribes… and here,” he pointed to one of the photos, “is, I think, the settlement from the dig, yes, writing on pot. See?”
“And this ones the chamber legend…” said Jonas slowly, squinting at a faded photograph.
“Indeed, it would seem so,” agreed Aleksandr, peering over Jonas’s shoulder, “do excuse me, I have customers to deal with.”
“Yes, yes of course,” said Jonas, still staring at the photos. He was only just beginning to realise what he was holding. It was the second time in as many days that he’d been left speechless by the implications of fresh information. He could do so much with it.
“Er, Aleksandr, can I use your phone?”
“Yes, of course, but keep it quick,” replied Aleksandr from the shop.
Jonas got up and made his way across the cluttered kitchen to the phone.
“Hello, operator? Yes, put me through to Professor Richard James at the British museum please.
There was a pause before a tinny voice rang out from the receiver.
“Hello, Professor James speaking, how may I help you?”
“Professor, its Jonas, I don’t suppose your free this afternoon? We need to talk…”
“What do you mean you’re leaving tonight!” screamed Mary through the bedroom door.
Telling her that he was returning to the dig already had gone down even worse than Jonas had expected. His meeting with professor James had resulted in the promise of funding for the dig, but only so far as they were to focus their efforts on cracking the secret of the language. Jonas had agreed to return post-haste to arrange it all dig end, a deal Mary was far from happy about.
“I haven’t seen you for months, and now your pissing off again? I can’t believe you sometimes, I really cant!” she screamed at him, all composure gone.
“But Mary, love…”
“Don’t you give me that! Don’t you dare give me that! You don’t love me, you love your work. It’s always about the damn work! And I hate it!”
Jonas tried the door handle, but she had locked it from the other side.
“Please Mary, just open the door and we can talk about it. Please,” said Jonas calmly, the last remark had stung, but he was determined not to leave on such a bad note, “Come on…”
“We won’t talk about it though will we, nothing will change your mind. It never does! Go away Jonas, go on, get out of this house and don’t bother coming back!”
“I said get, OUT!” she screamed this and broke down into tears.
Jonas lingered outside, staring at the door, fighting back tears, he rolled over all of the things he could say, all of the things he should say, but none of them seemed right, and he knew she wouldn’t listen. Not now.
He fetched his case and morosely traipsed downstairs where he found Reginald waiting for him. Neither of them said anything as Jonas pulled on his jacket and opened the front door. Reginald helped Jonas down the front steps with his trunk and headed back inside, turning before closing the door.
“She’ll come round lad, you’ll see,” he said, and closed the door.
The sound of the bolt sliding across rang out, it sounded so final to Jonas. He stood and stared at the house, avoiding looking at Mary’s window, as he turned to leave he heard it open, but before he could turn back he felt a sharp pain on the back of his head and heard the chime of metal on the pavement.
The bedroom window slammed shut as almost in slow motion he bent down and picked up the golden engagement ring…
Jonas pushed himself to clear the last few foot of hill and came to a halt. He had been forced to hitchhike from the train station, having failed to inform any one of his imminent return to the dig. Unfortunately the farmer he’d received a ride off hadn’t gone as far as the village and Jonas had been left with little alternative but to walk the remaining way, his suitcase in tow.
A veil of wispy rain drifted from the heavens yet again, to Jonas’s immense chagrin, leaving him cold and bedraggled as he entered camp – not to mention out of breath.
The camp was deserted, yet it was little effort to find out where every one was located. The clamour of the dining tent could be heard halfway down the hill and now that Jonas was in the camp he could see the warm orange light spilling forth from its open flaps.
He left his case at the entrance and pushed his way inside; if every one else was here then it was likely Tom would be as well. The camp seemed unusually jovial, for a moment he thought they had gotten wind of his news, but he dismissed this as soon as he thought it and pushed through the crowed in search of Tom.
It wasn’t much effort to find him; Tom was sat with several of the senior archaeologists in the corner -his usual table- deep in conversation with his colleagues. As Jonas approached one of them looked up.
“Ah Jonas! We weren’t expecting you back for a few more days. Please, do join us!” he said merrily, indicating a vacant chair.
“Oh, yes, I returned early. Um, actually I was rather hoping to be able to speak with you, Tom,” replied Jonas.
“Well, do sit down then old chap,” said Tom, also indicating the vacant chair.
This was greeted with a chorus of similar invitations from the others around the table, but Jonas shook his head.
“I’m sorry, perhaps later, I wanted to talk in private…”
“Oh, if you insist. Do excuse us gentlemen,” said Tom, nodding respectfully as he got up.
Jonas likewise threw the assembled group a courteous nod and they departed, heading for their own tent. Neither of them spoke till they were inside and Jonas had lit the oil lamp at the table.
“So what’s this all about Jonas? I thought you’d be gone a few days at least.”
Jonas wrenched open his case and rummaged around, pulling out Matvei’s journal and sliding it across the table to Tom, who opened it sceptically and flicked through, one eyebrow raised as he did so.
“I don’t speak Russian, Jonas, what good is this meant to be?”
“You know, I had a dream once, a good one,” said Jonas.
“Oh really, what was it about?”
“About this man called Tom who’d be quiet long enough for me to actually explain things,” replied Jonas pithily; he tossed the notes Aleksandr had written onto the table and sat down.
“Some one got out of the wrong side of bed this morning…” said Tom, glancing at the notes, “so what’s all this then?”
“Actually I got off the wrong side of the basement floor,” said Jonas, he pulled the notes out of Tom’s hand and browsed through them, putting them in order before handing them back, “now… where to start?”
Jonas shot Tom a ferocious look.
“What’s got your goat?”
Jonas pointedly ignored him and started to explain about how Reginald had found the books. He had almost totally forgotten about the Latin one up until that point. He rummaged around in his suitcase once more, pulling out the ancient book and handing it to Tom who started to read.
“Fascinating… after all this time we find something… but what does this all equate to?”
“Less of the ‘we’ thank you, who did all the hard work?”
“Reginald and several Russians…” replied Tom.
Jonas glowered at his friend and leant back in his chair.
“Yes, well, in any case,” he said, “this all adds up to one thing my dear friend…”
“Which is?” asked Tom, leaning in, looking eager.
“How does three months of funding sound to you?”
Their discussions lasted long into the night, continuing as the weather outside took a decided turn for the worse. Great storm cloud swept in, smothering the hazy shroud that had lain there previously.
Before long the heavens opened, a torrential downpour and ferocious winds battered the camp from every angle; covers were torn off crates and trenches flooded. The roof of the dining tent was pulled from its moorings and sent flapping wildling into the night as the storm intensified. Lighting tore glowing rents through the tumultuous sky and the resultant thunder boomed out.
Jonas’s mind had become as clouded as the sky outside. He lat in his bunk, staring at the mildewed canvas of the tent wall his hearing intently focused on the sounds of the raging storm outside, anything to stop the voices that had slipped into his mind as the evening had drawn in.
“The Ship is coming. You have to leave. You know what you must do…”
Again and again, the same line would drift through his head in a ghostly voice that sounded eerily reminiscent of his grandfather.
He blinked several times, trying to bat away the sleep that threatened to pull him in. He couldn’t face what sleep would bring; he dreaded the engulfing detachment that were his nightmares.
Even in the fraction of a second his eyes closed when he blinked, an image of an elderly man would appear, speaking the line that taunted him.
The ship is coming… you have to leave… the ship… leave…you must…
It wasn’t only Jonas that was troubled that night. High above the camp, roaring over the English countryside a stray German bomber, separated from its raid group, was struggling in the storm.
Fighting against the terrible winds and hammering rain the plane rocked and shook as it swooped through the night sky, far from its intended course.
A jagged bolt of lighting struck the plane, the cockpit controls bursting in a flash of smoke and flames as the electricity surged through the system. The cockpit canopy shattered, shards of glass flying inwards, the whistling wind and guttural chokes of the dying engines drowning out the screams of the pilot who slumped sideways in his chair, dead.
With no engines and no one at the helm the plane careened wildly through the sky, at the mercy of the fierce elements.
It wasn’t just the crew that fate chose to deal a poor hand to this night; with dreadful inevitability the plane headed down. Without lights, or the whine of its engines, no one could hear it coming as thirty odd foot of bomber smashed into the hillside, tearing a great muddy scar through the sodden grass as it smashed through the camp…
Jonas had long harboured a talent to sleep through next to anything and thus it was that he emerged from his tent –after Tom had resorted to kicking him hard- to scenes of chaos and frenzied activity.
He stumbled blindly side ways from the tent entrance for a moment as he tried to take in what had happened. The camp, a sight so familiar now that he could navigate it with his eyes closed, lay in ruin. A muddy ditch bore witness to the path of destruction, lined either side by collapsed tents, overturned tabled and clods of mud and grass. An engine lay embedded in the ground, still smoking, and shortly later, half a wing.
Jonas slowly walked through what was left of the camp, partly looking for Tom, but mostly because it seemed like the best thing to do. He came the edge of the ditch left in the plane’s wake and gazed along its course to where the remainder of the bomber lay. His mouth dropped slowly open and his stomach plummeted further. He grasped blindly around him for something to hold onto and when his probing hand found nothing he sat heavily down on the sodden grass.
The plane, in some kind of hateful final act had ended its journey in the ruins. Jonas cursed and swore heavily, his fingers digging into the grass, sinking into the soft mud. He pulled a sizeable fistful of earth out and hurled it in the direction of the wreckage, a tiny vent for his immense anger.
He clambered to his feet and strode towards it, blind to the ambulances, and the paramedics. Ignorant to the grief of those around him who mourned over fallen colleagues, it barely even occurred to him that any one or anything had been affected apart from the ruins, his ruins.
Why? Why after everything had this happened?
There were a dozen or so ‘Army green’ jeeps near to the ruins and further to the side a large covered truck of the same colouring. A number of infantrymen stood about, scratching heads, but it seemed that the majority of those present – a good dozen at least- were from the Royal Air Force, their distinctive navy blue outfits standing out from the mud and grass.
Jonas didn’t notice Tom until he threw an arm across his chest to stop his single-minded advance. He pulled his colleague to one side as a couple of military police walked past and turned him to face him.
They stared at each other for some time, neither able to think of the right words, It was Jonas who broke the silence.
“What are we going to do…”
“I don’t know,” finished Tom, running his fingers through his hair. By his usual standards he looked positively dishevelled, no tie, no jacket, his hair a mess and mud covering his hands and face. “Look on the bright side,” he said, attempting to give his voice a positive tone, but his expression and demeanour made it futile, “we can get in the chamber now…”
Jonas’s gaze snapped to the Chamber and sure enough what once must have been the cockpit of the plan had smashed the chamber open. He stared intensely at it, the inky black of the opening holding his gaze like a vice, it wasn’t until Tom snapped his fingers in front of his eyes and spoke that Jonas was able to tear himself away.
“We have company, said Tom, and sure enough two air force officers were striding towards them.
They threw a salute to Tom and Jonas and removed their caps, before shaking the hand of each in turn.
“Captain George Mallard,” said the shorter of the two, he had a haughty presence about him, both the way he stood and surveyed the two Archaeologists before him gave off a visceral aura of superiority and authority.
His colleague on the other hand was far more at ease, as he shook their hands he gave them each a friendly nod and a carefree smile.
“Arthur Hawkins,” he said, his accent so posh Jonas nearly laughed despite the situation, “lieutenant Arthur Hawkins. Dreadful shame all this.”
“Quite,” said George succinctly, “however this is neither the time nor place for idle chit chat.”
“No, not at all sir, sorry,” said Arthur, looking apologetic from behind his superior officer’s back.
“The complex inside there,” said George jerking his head towards the chamber, “do you have any record of how big it is? A chart, a map even?”
“What? Um, no, nothing, wasn’t open till this morning,” said Tom, “why?”
“I see, then we shall have to go in blind,” said George replacing his cap and turning to Arthur, “assemble a team Lieutenant, we’ll go in five, lets hope they didn’t get very far.”
“Well they were bleeding heavily,” said Arthur, oblivious to how little sense this made to Tom and Jonas.
“Go in? What do you mean go in?” asked Jonas, “You cant just go in.”
“And who’s bleeding?” added Tom.
George surveyed Jonas with evident disdain, “why the bloody hell not? I appear to be an Officer and you appear not to be, ergo it would be safe to assume I can do what I like.”
Tom kicked Jonas’s foot to stop him from saying anything brash.
“Look, its not that you can’t, of course you can, what my colleague meant is more that…” said Tom, thinking on the fly, “you shouldn’t go in alone.”
George didn’t say anything, merely cocking an eyebrow inquisitively.
“We have no idea how big it is, how deep it goes, what’s in there. And, after all, it is an archaeological site of huge importance. It just seems prudent that you are accompanied by specialists in the field… us, for example,” Said Tom, gesturing to himself and Jonas.
“As you wish, but you better not get in the way, get anything you need and hurry up about it” said George before he walked off towards the chamber.
Jonas shot Tom a sceptical look.
“Look, this way, they can’t break anything, and you get to see inside,” reasoned
Tom, “um, you might want to go and get that book… and our bags.”
Jonas nodded and dashed off back to their tent, he hastily grabbed his satchel, cramming the journal, his sketchbook and Aleksandr’s notes into it – and as a last moment thought his old torch -, before dashing out again, grabbing Toms bag as he went.
As he walked back he wound his pocket watch, he had neglected it the day before and now had to set the time by Toms. Paying no attention to where he was going he walked straight into Morius, nearly knocking the elderly Frenchman over.
“Sorry!” he said, grabbing the Doctor’s arm to steady him, “are you ok?”
“Oui, oui, just feeling… a little, useless? Ze paramedics, they have no use for me it seems.”
Jonas realised that they were standing meters from a line of covered bodies. He suddenly felt very sick and averted his gaze, trying to avoid thinking about which of the colleagues he had grown to consider friends could be lying there, cold and lifeless.
“Come on,” he said to Morius, “some one is injured in the ruins, were going into the chamber, you should come.”
The Doctor nodded silently and broke his gaze from the bodies, following Jonas back to the chamber. As they arrived they saw George, Arthur and five other airmen disappearing into the jagged opening. Tom was still outside, and as they approached he waved them over urgently.
“Hurry up!” he said, “Morius? What are you-”
But Jonas just pushed Tom in before he could finish, helping Morius to climb down before following himself.
The second he stepped inside the atmosphere changed, no longer was there the tangible air of panic and chaos, nor the sense of despair. These had were elements of the world outside, a world that already seemed so detached, so far.
There was a slight drop from the opening to the flight of stairs that led down from the sealed door. Not so much a mysterious tomb, thought Jonas, as a posh porch.
The stairwell submerged in total blackness, though flickers of lights could be seen at the bottom, coming from the torches of those already down there. Jonas slowly climbed down, emerging in a dimply lit, damp smelling room.
In the centre of the room was a large circular pit, at least 4 meters across and edged with a set of decorative stone tiles that Tom was examining by torchlight. Every one else with the exception of Dr. Morius was leaning cautiously over the edge, directing their torches into the pit.
“Looks deep,” said one airman.
Jonas joined them in leaning over and felt his stomach sink. The pit was deep indeed; the light of their torched didn’t even reach the bottom. Around the edge an impossibly fragile looking spiral stair wound its way into the gloom, many of the spindly wooden planks were missing and the remained looked like they too would soon fall away.
“Down we go then!” declared George with dreadful predictability.
They slowly began to descend down into the pit, George leading the way and Jonas reluctantly bringing up the rear.
The climb was arduous, the beams were as fragile as the looked; rot and woodworm having rendered many as soft as sponge. The only way to proceed was to tread carefully as close to the wall as possible where their weight exerted the least leverage on the fragile steps.
They further they went the staler the air got, becoming deathly still and laden with the sour tang of stagnant water. The slightest noise was amplified tenfold, echoing back cold and ghostly. No one spoke, there was only the drip drop of falling water and the ominous creak of beams.
It was a miracle, thought Jonas as they finally reached the bottom some thirty minuets later, that no one had fallen, though he dreaded the climb back up. His reservations were swiftly forgotten however as he began to look around.
The bottom of the pit was no wider than the stair well, but had four narrow doors leading off it. The floor comprised of a rusty metal grate, just below which sat and inky black pool of water that gave off the most unpleasant odour. Between each door, set into the wall, was a large stone tablet, covered in runes and pictographs.
Jonas traced the runes on the wall with his fingers, marvelling at their craftsmanship. He pulled his sketchbook out with the intention of drawing before suddenly realising he was being left behind.
It was hard to tell which corridor they had gone down, such was the way the sound echoed in the pit, but after fifty meters or so down his first choice, he ran into them, silently rejoining the end of the party.
The corridor was high and very narrow, barely wide enough for one man to walk down, forcing them into shuffling single file. Rusty lanterns hung from iron hooks on the walls, Jonas unhooked one and examined it as he walked. The bottom was corroded out, and the thing felt like it might break apart in his hands so he hurriedly replaced it on a vacant hook and proceeded down the passage.
After another fifty meters the corridor opened into a sizeable chamber. Jonas shone his flashlight around; the ceiling was high and vaulted, supported by 6 carved stone columns. Iron lamps, larger and more ornate than the wall versions hung from chains on the ceiling, several had fallen, their shattered remains rusting on the damp floor. Around the edge of the room the remnants of wooden balconies could be made out, their doors leading into unknown blackness, and along one wall the postholes and splintered remains of another staircase.
What was this place? Mused Jonas. He’d never seen or heard of anything like it, but there wasn’t the time to dwell, George alone seemed totally oblivious to the wonder and mystery of his surroundings and forged on, leading them through the door on the right side of the room.
They entered another corridor, identical to the last except this one had numerous doors leading off of it. In some cases the doors themselves were still hanging on, their rusty hinges just about bearing their weight, but to those that lay open Jonas probed eagerly with his flashlight as they passed, catching glimpses of statues, tables, and even beds. He couldn’t be sure if they were figures lying in them or his imagination playing tricks…
They continued through the maze of passages for a while, following the scattered and elusive trail of blood. Occasionally they would make a wrong turning, arriving at a dead end, a locked door, or a flooded portion – the turgid water un-crossable and ominous. But onwards they pressed, retracing their steps and following the correct course.
Now and then they would stop to search for the trail when it crossed the larger rooms, and both Jonas and Tom took these opportunities to look around, examining the contents of the rooms and discussing their finds in hushed tones. During one such stop a large door caught Jonas’s attention.
Heavier and bigger than the others they had passed thus far, it was set into the wall, surrounded by a carved archway, adorned with runes. His curiosity piqued he sidled over and attempted to push it open. With a piercing creak it swung open a meagre few inches on its rust encrusted hinges.
Tom walked over, his attention caught by the noise, after a brief exchange of meaningful glances and nods to the door he too lent against it and together they pushed the heavy wooden portal slowly open.
This time the noise caught everyone’s attention, reverberating as it did around the chamber. George strode briskly over to the newly opened door.
“Come on!” he said, “ we don’t have tine for dillydallying about.”
“No, please, just a minuet,” begged Jonas, peering around the new room, “just a quick look around.”
It was huge; the lights from their torches didn’t even reach the far end. Row after row of pillar supported the high roof and the floor was scattered with what looked like bits of parchment. Jonas picked one up but it fell to pieces at his touch. Examining others by torchlight he could make out incredibly faded writing. But what really caught his eye, what drew him further into the room, were the books. Hundreds of them, stacked high upon row after row of shelves, lying on the floor and on the numerous rickety tables. Leather bound and heavy, these two were too fragile to touch, and many had rotten away completely, sludge lying between their leather covers.
Jonas wandered deeper yet, the light still not reaching the end. It wasn’t just books that lined the shelves, glass jars, vials and little bottles were wedged here and there along side boxes; both wooden and rusting metal.
In places the shelves had collapsed under the weight of their books, finally succumbing to age and wear, leaving heaps of decaying parchment in their stead.
It was from one of these piles that Jonas saw the slightest glint of silver. Curiosity once more getting the better of him he headed over and gingerly brushed aside a stack of faded lever covers to the reveal the hilt of a sword.
He grasped it by the handle and pulled. It came free surprisingly easily, sliding out with a metallic ‘schiiing’. Jonas examined it under the torchlight; it was in surprisingly good condition compared to everything else they had seen so far. The handle was about a foot long, bound in worn black leather. The brass crosspiece was a curved down towards the handle, with six square pegs attached, making it look like half a gear, the pummel carried on this motif, though a full circle with 7 of the gear like pegs, a thin leather cord hung from this, scratched beads. This said, the blade was snapped, about a foot from the hilt – the other half nowhere to be found.
Jonas felt oddly at ease holding the sword, it felt natural in his hand, though he was meant to have it.
“Look, you’re welcome to stay behind, but ill be dammed if we’re going to find you when you get lost!” came George’s angry voice.
Jonas pulled his satchel open, secreting the sword inside the best he could. The handle still stuck out conspicuously, though it was better than nothing. This done, he hurried back out of the room, glancing longingly over his shoulder at the bountiful mysteries the library-like room offered once more before they departed.
The journey from then on was uneventful. Though the air became increasingly hard to breath, stale, still, lifeless as the grave; each breath giving a fraction of the relief it should have. The temperature to had plummeted; it was freezing, but not in the way a winter day is. Jonas felt cold inside, like he had drunk too much icy water.
And it wasn’t just him, the others to seemed to feel the bizarre change in atmosphere as well, they seemed edgy, glancing around them nervously. More than one hand strayed to the handle of a revolver. Without even thinking Jonas absentmindedly closed his fingers around the hilt of the sword. Instantly he felt warmer inside, able to beat back the numbing chill.
They came to a set of stairs, deep and narrow, cut into the stone. It felt almost as if a breeze blew up, gentle and sinister, sapping the warmth even the blade gave to Jonas. They stood there; collectively reluctant to go further, the stairs seemed to exude a near palpable air of foreboding, a physical barrier between them and continuing.
“We, we should go down,” said George, sounding unsure for the first time that day.
No one spoke; they just glanced furtively at each other, avoiding looking down the stairs.
“Come on, we have out duty to do!” said George, a forced tone of bravado barely covering up the quaver in his voice.
With immense reluctance they descended. It was almost as arduous as the spiral stairs in the pit, though this was a different kind of effort, mental rather than physical. The stairs seemed to go on for ages. How long they actually were Jonas had no idea, all he knew is the further he went the tighter he gripped the sword.
As they approached the bottom they saw light… blue, cold and watery.
“Maybe it’s a door,” suggested one airman.
“Down here?” said Tom sceptically, “we must be at least thirty, maybe forty meters down now. That light cant be natural…”
They came at last to the bottom of the stairs. Before them stood double doors, not wood but stone, inlaid with the finest gold. One half was ajar, wide enough to slip through. It was through this gap that blue light came, pulsing oddly now; a shimmering glow.
Once again the others halted; hesitant to go further. Jonas pushes passed and slipped through the gap. The sword made him feel somehow bolder, able to fight resist the feeling of dread that emanated from within.
Seven round mirrors stood atop roughly carved stone obelisks around the outside of the large circular chamber. In the centre there was a razed dais, six meters high; a ring of cut stone steps around it.
The blue light seemed to originate from these mirrors. There was no other source of light, yet they shone brightly; twinkling innocently in the gloom. They cast their light upon the dais, blue beams shining through the dusty air, creating and island of light.
The others had come in now, they glances around uneasily, staring up at the mirrors.
This room felt different to the others; the smell of damp, the staleness of the air, the draining cold. All gone, replaced with a dusty stillness, only the sense of dread remained.
George was the first to move, pushing through the others and striding briskly around the room, revolver drawn, before arriving back at the door looking thoroughly peeved.
“They’re not here!” he proclaimed, “We must have taken a wrong turn.”
“We can’t have,” said Arthur, “the trail led right in here…”
“Over here,” said Jonas, from the dais steps, he pointed his torch downward, illuminating a patch of dried blood.
They climbed up the steps, to the top of the dais, George and Arthur creeping up first, pistols at the ready, but soon stood up as they reached the top, shaking their heads.
There was nothing atop the dais apart from a faded mural of a stylised sun and a plinth at its centre, a marble orb balanced atop it, glowing in the light from the mirrors. Or was it? It seemed almost to glow from within…
The heated conversation about the German Pilots that had broken out around Jonas faded away as he started into the milky surface of the orb. Touch it, the voice in the back of his head seemed to say, go on… Touch it the sword he still gripped agreed.
He touched it. He probably shouldn’t have.
A number of things happened at once, none of which they were aware of. The room shook; the steps around the dais revolved and fell away one by one with resounding clunks, the mirrors glowed brighter and the orb likewise. The world spun like a maelstrom, the forms of the others blurred and melted into a swirling, boiling mass and were swiftly replaced by darkness.
Everything went black, then white, then black again. Screams, wails, the ticking of a clock in the darkness then nothing…
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