Chapter 29 - Unnamed
Rowan woke with a start, and instinct made her jerk upright in confusion. The last place she remembered being was the library, but she awakened in her room and realized that for the first time in her life she had slept undisturbed. Her senses took in her environment, and then she noticed it. His scent clung to her, and it wasn’t hard to determine Marcus carried her to her room and put her to bed.
Alena also woke with a start and a feeling of shame. Marcus had a talent for wrong-footing her, and it was always her own fault. She allowed her defenses to lower, and he stepped into the breach. Sometimes he made her feel as inadequate as her father thought her. She got out of bed and dressed in a hurry. Alena found Rowan in the corridor and judging from her expression; she too woke in her room with no memory of how she got there.
Marcus wasn’t in the library, or the practice room, or the kitchen. Which led them to believe he had an audience with the High Priestess. With no alternative, they both set to searching the archives until Alena put down the book she read with a rather decisive thud.
Rowan cast a meaningful glanced from Alena to the book but said nothing. She understood what ailed her sister. They were searching for a needle in a vast haystack in the form of a thousand or more years of recorded history.
“Come,” Alena bade Rowan, and although she didn’t say it, Rowan suspected that Alena thought they were wasting their time.
They were right in the middle of a fight when something occurred to Rowan, and she realized too late that she had inadvertently allowed Alena to punch past her defenses. It was a blow she should have had no trouble anticipating or dodging, and Alena didn’t pull punches.
Instinct made Rowan block. The sheer force of the contact sent Rowan in the opposite direction and sprawled her face down on the carpet. Alena sat some distance away, stunned by the power of the collision.
Rowan cradled her arm. It was unbroken but dislocated at the shoulder. Alena made her way to Rowan, forced her to relinquish her grip and before Rowan could react, she reset the shoulder. Rowan shivered with reaction, and couldn’t rise on her own. Alena had to help her up, but she also needed support walking to the library.
Alena frowned, that blow hurt her too, and such an amount of force should have shattered Rowan’s arm. It was as if something surfaced in the Damphir and left Rowan weak in its wake. Alena seated her and gave her some water.
“I’m fine,” Rowan insisted, but they both knew it was a lie. Alena gave her a minute to gather herself. They were just glad Marcus hadn’t been around to see what happened; he might have gotten the wrong idea.
“We’re looking in the wrong place,” Rowan said out of context as she sat with her head cradled against the table.
“I figured out that much,” Alena agreed, and she wondered if this thought caused Rowan’s lapse in attention.
“What would have existed here a thousand years ago?” Rowan asked, and already her strength had returned sufficiently for her to raise her head.
“Not much; a scattering of people,” Alena answered, intrigued by where this would lead.
“Then he wouldn’t have lived here,” Rowan stated, and Alena had to agree.
“Back then the great cities were villages or not yet inhabited,” Rowan concluded, and Alena guessed what direction this would take.
“He would choose a well-populated area where he could cause the most damage, and remain anonymous,” Rowan continued.
“Rome, Greece, Egypt, China or Syria,” Alena guessed, and Rowan nodded.
“According to the manuscripts we found so far, he had his start before the Romans, and the Greeks,” Rowan speculated, and Alena agreed.
“Egypt,” Alena guessed on a hunch, and Rowan frowned.
“They would have worshipped him,” Rowan added, and Alena shuddered. She realized they were right in their assumption, and it was almost as if something guided them to the answer.
“The first record of him would be there,” Rowan agreed with the same odd sense of prescience.
“He would have had many names and many faces before now, but we need to find where he originated,” Rowan suggested, and Alena walked over to a door that led to another section of the library, housed in a vault. They pored over the translations of the documents but found a single glyph by accident.
Marcus entered the vault, and Alena noticed him first. She sensed his bond to her, before detecting his physical presence.
“You know it’s forbidden to access the vault without an elder,” Marcus reminded, but Alena didn’t apologize.
“What’s this?” She asked with her finger beneath the text. He looked at it, fetched a magnifying glass and then sat back.
“How did you find this?” He asked, and Alena glanced at Rowan.
“Rowan figured we were looking in the wrong places. There weren’t enough people around back then to draw him here,” Alena revealed, and they could see the way his mind worked at it.
“I wish it were bigger; I can barely make it out,” Alena sighed. Rowan collected the magnifying glass, a piece of parchment and charcoal. Within a matter of minutes, she copied the image, but twenty times larger. She had an incredible talent for drawing.
It featured the upper body of a black-haired man with the lower body of a snake, and curved fangs. Marcus read the transcription that went with it.
“The unnamed one,” he stated, and cold, invisible fingers touched their souls. They shuddered, their eyes met, and their unease showed.
“We need someone who knows about these things, but we have no time,” Marcus murmured.
They all stared at the picture before continuing their search, and even though they found several more references, none of it gave them more than a glimpse of the past.
They were about to give up when Rowan cocked her head to one side as if she heard something they could not. She pulled out an ancient manuscript as if it drew her, and inside rested an inscribed seal. Alena and Marcus glanced briefly at one another with perplexed worry.
It featured the same image with more detail, but as large as Rowan’s hand, accompanied by a legend in the edges of the surrounding circles, and contained in a Roman document almost fragile with age.
“Roman scribes copied this glyph in the unmarked tomb of an Egyptian king, along with a lot of treasure. They translated the legend into Latin,” Marcus explained as Alena read over his shoulder.
“In the arms of death we live,” Alena translated, and her voice faltered.
“They found the warning carved into two posts that guarded a sealed entrance which led deeper into the tomb; below ground. They broke the seal, and the scribes disappeared. A search party found these documents two months later when their supply train arrived. Everything was just as they left it, even the treasure,” Marcus summarised from the annotation at the bottom of the scroll.