Chapter 32: Argus' Riddle
In the fortress of Kaal Bek, the quake was felt with no damage, though it rattled nerves. Hannibal stood on the southwestern tower, still shaken and a bit ill at ease because of the quake. He sat on the battlement looking over the devastation of the city as he waited for Argus, grieving for the loss which he knew was just beginning. “Argus!” he called out. For nearly ten minutes, Argus was nowhere to be seen. “Where are you my friend,” he asked softly to no one.
Just then, Argus penetrated his thoughts and said, I’m here.
Hannibal looked around wildly, thinking that Argus was right behind him. Upon seeing an empty tower, he asked, Where?
Look to the southeast, Argus answered telepathically. Hannibal wheeled around and looked to the southeast, seeing a tiny dot on the horizon with several other dots nearby. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes, Argus said telepathically. Hannibal waited patiently and within five minutes, Argus had landed, noticing Hannibal’s downcast appearance. “What’s wrong, brother?” Argus asked.
“I have a problem and I’m not sure how I should deal with it,” Hannibal said glumly.
“Tell me, what troubles you?” Argus asked.
“The leaders of Cushar, Kadishar, and Zin arrived a little over an hour ago: three men: Corso, Joel, and Liu,” Hannibal reported. “From these men we now know that Zin has been overrun by the 7th Division of the Emperor’s army. We also know that the survivors of Zin took refuge in Cushar. Furthermore, we know that the 7th Division is now moving against Cushar. They came here in desperate need of assistance without knowing our own predicament. Apparently, the couriers Nicodemus sent never reached them. There are possibly three thousand plus people in Cushar who will be decimated if something isn’t done. I told him that we were planning on going to Acheron and suggested that if it were at all possible, he needed to get his people there too. That’s where the catch is. Between them and Acheron is the whole of Kasa Bek, complete with the Zarukar and the new creatures Corso called Xenians, not to mention the 1st and 2nd Divisions, which are presently linking up with them in the plains of Kasa Bek. There’s also the 5th Division, which is now in Frygia closing in on Draken Pass. And let’s not forget the 8th Division in Khitia closing in on Khmer Shek. They’re completely boxed in. I want to help them but I have no idea how,” he said matter-of-factly, grief evident on his voice that he couldn’t help them. “It was suggested that you may have some ideas on how to get them out. Please tell me you have something because I have nothing.”
Argus looked Hannibal square in the eye and saw the torment and grief his inability to do anything was causing. He sighed with a rumble and said, “A great burden has been placed upon your shoulders; a burden you never wanted to begin with.”
Hannibal shook his head in agreement, saying, “Yes, that’s so true.”
“But it’s a burden that you alone must bear,” Argus continued. Hannibal nodded, knowing he was telling him the truth. “You seek my council and experience, which shows your wisdom,” Argus said calmly. “Go deep into the fortress and you shall find your answers. Visit the Archives and find the machines. You were able to access and use the machines in the Temple of Tiamat. Find them and solve the riddle of the machines in this place.”
Hannibal looked at him in a questioning way, saying, “You’re being very cryptic, Argus. Is there any reason for this?”
Argus grinned slightly, saying, “Let’s just say that I’m not the One, you are.” He then turned serious, adding, “The Almighty Ancient of Days has restrained me from giving you any more information. Trust Him and trust yourself. Soon, you’ll realize your potential. Go, my friend.”
Hannibal let his words sink in before asking, “Where are the Archives? Does Nicodemus know?”
Argus shook his head and answered, “No, he doesn’t. He wasn’t supposed to find it. You are. Go now to the throne room and solve the puzzle of the Jade throne.”
Hannibal was beginning to get a slight bit annoyed by the cryptic words from Argus, but said, “All right. I’ll try. What am I looking for?”
“You’ll know when you see it,” Argus said with a slight smile. “I know my words are annoying, but you must understand. I’m forbidden to show anyone the access to the Archives. In this case, I have given you all the help I can. It’s an order from Heaven itself. I have given many others the same information and they have all failed to get to the Archives or the machines. Only the Prophesied One would be able to get to the Archives and access them. Good luck, my friend.”
At that moment, Hannibal knew what was going on. He was being challenged and tested for some greater purpose. Looked Argus in the eye, Hannibal said, “Thank you for the clues. I’m finally being allowed to do what I came here to do: to be an archaeologist and explorer.”
“Go,” Argus ordered, pleased at Hannibal’s response. “And remember where you came from. Trust your instincts and the Almighty. He’ll show you the way in. And be wary. Everyone who has attempted to gain access to the Archives never returned. Beware of the Guardian. It can be treacherous.”
“Thank you for the warning. I shall be extra careful then,” Hannibal said gratefully, smiling as he heading for the throne room.
“Good luck, my brother,” Argus murmured, watching Hannibal leave. “You shall open the Archives and access machines not seen since the Kragonar.” Argus took flight and was gone.