Legends of Amacia: The Gathering Shadow

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Chapter 33: The Archive of Kaal Bek

Chapter 33

The Archive of Kaal Bek

Minutes later, Hannibal rushed down the corridors heading for the throne room. Nicodemus and Selina were in the dining hall getting a snack when she sensed Hannibal’s thoughts. She looked at Nicodemus and said urgently, “Hannibal wants us to meet him in the throne room right away.”

“What does he want?” Nicodemus asked.

“He’s talked to Argus and has a plan,” Selina stated.

“All right, let’s go see what he has in mind,” Nicodemus said, leading Selina back to the throne room. When they entered the throne room, they saw Hannibal examining the throne closely. Walking up to Hannibal, Nicodemus asked, “What is it?”

Hannibal held up his finger in a wait posture. He rose and started to turn to answer Nicodemus when the tapestry behind the throne caught his attention. He began to walk back to get a good look at it, saying, “I’m looking for the entrance.”

“The entrance to what?” Nicodemus asked innocently.

“The Archive,” Hannibal replied. “The Archive entrance has something to do with this room.”

“The Archive?” Nicodemus asked, greatly intrigued with Hannibal’s answer.

Hannibal never looked at him but answered, “Yes, the Archives. Argus says it’s here. I just have to find it.” Selina was now standing with him, looking carefully at the tapestry.

“Do you know what you are looking for?” Nicodemus queried.

“Not a clue,” Hannibal answered. “But Argus said I’d know it when I see it. He was being very cryptic with what he told me.”

“That’s Argus all right,” Nicodemus chimed, standing a few paces away. “He tends to be that way at time, especially when it comes to things like the Archive.”

“I gathered that,” Hannibal admitted as he and Selina gazed up at the tapestry.

“People have tried to find the Archive before and have always failed with terrible results,” Nicodemus stated. “The Archive is fabled to exist somewhere within these walls but no one has been able to discover or open the way to it.”

“That’s what Argus implied,” Hannibal said as he turned to Nicodemus. “He said that only the Prophesied One would be able to locate and access it. I guess we’ll find out whether I’m the one or not now.”

“I have faith in you, Hannibal,” Nicodemus said confidently. “You’re the Promised One of the prophecies. You’ll find it where others have failed.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Hannibal returned. “Could you do something for me?”

Nicodemus nodded and replied, “Anything. What do you want?”

“Go find Nathanael, Harry, Amelia, Xavier, and Aragon. Bring them here. I may need their assistance,” Hannibal stated. “Then once you do that, gather the rest of my team as well as Joshua, Jacob, Rebecca, Crystal, Milo and Sharon and wait here in the throne room.” Nicodemus nodded and immediately left on a mission to gather the people Hannibal had requested.

As Nicodemus left the throne room, Selina spoke up. “Take a look at this, Hannibal,” she said urgently. “There’s something strange about this tapestry.”

Hannibal turned and asked, “What is it?”

“Look closely at the tapestry,” Selina ordered. “What do you see?”

Hannibal looked at the tapestry intensely and said, “I see the crest of Arionath: a draken with two great swords in his hands. I also see beneath him a representation of the throne and....” He trailed off as his mind went into overdrive. “Wait a minute,” he blurted out as excitement began to build in him. “Wait just one minute!” He looked back and forth between the tapestry and the throne room several times. “The throne room is shown here,” he said, trying to contain his excitement.

“Yes, it is,” Selina returned. “It’s odd that the throne room would be depicted on a great seal. I have never seen a symbol of a nation include a depiction of its throne room. There’s more here than just a seal.” They both moved in and examined the great tapestry in fine detail. The throne room on the tapestry was an exact replica of the throne room they were standing with the exception of the king sitting on the Jade throne pointing to his left in the tapestry. Beside the throne was a riddle written on one of the great torches.

“Hey, take a look at this, Selina,” Hannibal said pointing to the riddle, which was written on the torch. The writing was so small and fine that it was hard to make out. “There is something written here,” he reported.

Selina looked at it closely and replied, “Sure is. But I can’t make it out. It is faded almost completely away.”

Hannibal stood there squinting at the riddle when a thought hit him and he acted upon it. “Wait a minute,” he said. “If this is an exact representation of the throne room, then the torches shown on the tapestry should be here.” He turned around and immediately saw them. He went to the right hand one and started looking. “Look at the other one. Maybe there’s writing on one of them like in the picture. Argus said that we must solve the riddle of the Jade Throne in order to get to the Archives.”

Selina went to the left torch and started examining it very closely as Hannibal did the same with the right one. They wiped the centuries of dust from the torches and within a minute, Selina said, “I’ve found something.” Hannibal immediately went to her and she pointed out an engraving on the torch, so tiny in size that it could barely be seen.

“Sure is,” Hannibal said as he tried to make it out. “Man, it’s small too. I can hardly read it. Can you make it out?”

Selina looked at it closely, wiping it several more times and blowing on the writing, cleaning it off and said, “Just barely. It’s a riddle. It says ‘He who wishes to be wise will look to the king for wisdom and guidance.’”

Hannibal rubbed his chin and walked back to the throne, saying, “‘He who wishes to be wise will look to the king for wisdom and guidance.’ That’s as cryptic as what Argus told me just a little while ago.” He plopped down on the throne and sat there for a few moments considering the riddle as he looked around the throne room. “Look to the king,” he mumbled as Selina walked up and leaned on the arm of the throne, looking at the tapestry again. She gazed at it with more than casual interest, looking at the king who was pointing to the left and the depiction of the area to his left. In the depiction, off to the left of the throne stood a stone guardian etched into the wall in bias relief. Selina looked from the tapestry to Hannibal, and then to the left.

“I think I’ve figured it out,” Selina declared. “Look at the tapestry again and remember the riddle. Look to the king it says.”

Hannibal rose and looked at the tapestry. He saw the king pointing to the left toward the wall where the guardian was. His face lit up as understanding came. “Of course, the king!” Hannibal cried excitedly. He wheeled around to the left, looking for the stone guardian he’d seen in the tapestry. “Come on,” he said, sprinting off the dais toward the left wall with Selina in close pursuit. As they came off the dais, Nathanael, Harry, Xavier, Amelia, and Aragon came in the throne room and immediately saw Hannibal running to the left wall.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked as they all sprinted to Hannibal’s position.

“A possible solution to our problem about how to help Corso,” Hannibal replied with great enthusiasm. Hannibal and Selina began to search the walls to the left of the throne as they watched.

“What’re you looking for?” Nathanael asked.

“We’re looking for a relief carved into the wall. A picture of it is on the tapestry in the lower left hand corner.” Hannibal replied and Nathanael, Harry, Xavier, Amelia, and Aragon went to examine the tapestry. Within moments, they found the depiction on the tapestry and helped look for the carving. Amelia, on the other hand, stood before the tapestry almost in a trance, oblivious to everything that was going on around her. Selina and Hannibal sensed it and they went to her on the dais.

“What is it, sister?” Selina asked as they approached and stood either side of her.

Amelia suddenly snapped out of her trance and warned, “Be very careful. Look here.” She pointed to the area where the relief was depicted. The stone guardian relief was six armed with swords in each hand and around the depiction was more of the faded writing. “Beware of this guardian. It’s not just for show,” she warned.

Just then, Harry called out, “Hey Hannibal; we’ve found something. You’d better get over here.” Selina, Amelia, and Hannibal raced over to where everyone was standing. They were encircled about something on the floor near the wall. Hannibal, Selina, and Amelia got to the circle and Hannibal stepped into it. On the floor was the great seal of Arionath and on the wall adjacent to it was the carved relief of the guardian eight feet tall, complete with the six arms and swords. Hannibal approached the relief and his belly soured when he saw it for it reminded him of the pyramid where he retrieved the Artifact. Selina sensed his apprehension and stood next to him, looking at the relief. He looked closely at the carving, which was a six-armed gargoyle that resembled a draken with rubies for eyes. Everyone looked on as he continued to examine it. The relief was carved out of the solid rock wall and protruded slightly. The swords appeared to be real, embedded in the stone.

“I’ve seen this kind of thing before,” Hannibal announced. Before anyone could ask where he’d seen it, he declared, “I saw things like this in the pyramid in the valley of the Zinzera. It was gargoyles such as this that tried to kill me when I retrieved the Artifact.”

Nathanael, Harry, and Selina knew where he was speaking of, but Xavier, Amelia, and Aragon didn’t. “Where is this place you are talking about?” Aragon asked.

“The pyramid is the other side of Skull Pass on the surface,” Hannibal replied. “The Artifact is in my room sitting on the dresser.” He suddenly noticed that there was writing around the perimeter of the carving. “There’s writing here,” he announced.

Xavier looked down at the floor and saw writing around the great seal, saying, “There’s writing here too.”

Hannibal turned and looked at the seal again. Upon seeing the writing, he said, “Sure is.” He dropped to his knees and began to sweep the dirt away from the seal so he could read it. For a few moments, he read the inscriptions on the seal, then rose and examined the writing around the relief. “Hmmm.” he mumbled with curiosity. “This truly is a puzzle.”

“What does it say?” Harry asked.

“It says,” Hannibal replied, “‘Wisdom and knowledge can be found in the eyes of the king.’”

“That’s very cryptic,” Xavier stated. Hannibal turned to the throne and sprinted back to it.

“What is it?” Aragon asked.

“I’m not sure.” Hannibal answered as he went up to the throne and looked again at the tapestry, paying very close attention to the throne and the king. As he looked, everyone approached. Then he noticed something he hadn’t before: the king was pointing to the left with his left hand, but his eyes were looking to the right. Also, in his right hand was a sword with the point of its blade sitting on the floor next to the throne. Hannibal looked to the right of the depiction and saw an alcove with a statue of the king with a long scepter in its hand that resembled a strange spear. He immediately looked to the right, searching for the alcove and statue. He saw nothing but a blank wall. “Come on,” he ordered everyone and they followed him to the right side of the throne room. “There must be a secret panel here somewhere,” he ordered. “Spread out and see if we can find it.” They all fanned out along the wall, searching for the elusive secret chamber. Within seconds, déjà vu struck Hannibal like lightning, stopping him for a moment.

Selina felt it and asked, “What is it?”

“I’m not sure, but I have the strangest feeling that I’ve done this before,” Hannibal replied softly. Without warning, Hannibal moved five paces to the right from his position and pressed a spot on the wall. A trigger grated as an ancient seal broke on a sealed compartment with a bang; the stone door sliding in slightly before rising into the wall above it. It shook Hannibal to his core that he went right to it. “Okay, now I’m officially freaked out,” he stated, looking into the alcove.

“How did you know?” Amelia asked.

Hannibal shook his head and said humbly, “I have no idea.”

Everyone gathered around the opening and looked into the ten-foot cubical alcove. A nine-foot statue of Shadizar Kahn sculpted out entirely out of electronium sat on a pedestal stood in the alcove. The statue clenched a six-foot scepter/spear made of the same strange metal the weapons of Bolthor Sai Keleb were made of. A tapered crystal spear-head ten inches long by four inches wide at the base sat on the top of the metallic spear shaft, which was engraved with strange glyphs unknown to anyone, even Hannibal. The lower end of the scepter was flared and weighted with a pummel that wasn’t much bigger than the shaft of the scepter. A strange octagonal pyramid half the size of the Relic sat in the statue’s other hand. Unlike the Relic, it was made of electronium and etched in the Stone Language. When Hannibal’s eye fell on the octagonal pyramid, he knew he’d found something of great importance. Everyone looked on in amazement as Hannibal carefully stepped into the alcove. The incredibly strong déjà vu made him giddy. Trembling, he circled the statue searching for anything that could cause a problem.

The statue and the relics so captivated Hannibal he failed to notice the numerous skeletons laying in the rear of the alcove. As everyone peered into the alcove, Harry noticed the skeletons in the back. “Be careful, bud,” Harry warned. “There have been others here before us. Look at your feet.”

Hannibal shook his head as if to clear it and looked around at the rest of the alcove, seeing more than a dozen skeletons lying on the floor or propped against the walls. “Whoa,” he yelped. “Thanks for the warning, bud.” He looked around more cautiously, moving to the front of the statue.

While he was moving, Aragon noticed writing on the statue’s pedestal and said, “Hannibal. There’s some writing on the pedestal.”

Hannibal looked down and saw the engraving on the front of the pedestal. He squatted down and read it aloud, saying, “Shadizar Kahn, King of Arionath, Friend of Atlantis and Hyperborea, Protector of Mankind, Keeper of the secrets of Thoth Caverias, the last King of Amacia.”

Just then, Nicodemus returned with the rest of the people Hannibal wanted him to bring. They came over as Hannibal read the inscription. Amelia’s face lit up in astonishment. “Thoth Caverias! Do you know who he was?” she asked everyone as Nicodemus walked up, hearing the question.

“According to legend, he was the last legitimate king of Amacia. He was the one the first Emperor, Bolthor Sai Keleb deposed in the coup. It was said, according to legend, that he somehow managed to escape the Emperor, but no one knew where he went,” Nicodemus replied. “Why do you speak of him?”

“See for yourself, my friend,” Hannibal said, pointing to the statue. He reread the inscription for everyone, particularly Nicodemus.

Nicodemus gazed upon the statue with awe. “By the Ancient of Days…it’s Shadizar Kahn, the last king of Arionath,” he breathed with awe. Hannibal then noticed some writing below the inscription that was concealed by millennia of dust. He carefully wiped it off with his hand and read it as well. “Those who wish to know my secrets must...” he said, as the writing became unreadable, “There is nothing else. It’s eroded beyond recognition; all right.” Hannibal stood and looked up into the face of the statue that portrayed a very handsome and imposing figure. Yet Hannibal sensed something odd about the statue and said, “I don’t like this. It’s too easy.”

“Be careful,” Selina warned, which aroused an agreement from everyone present.

“I will,” Hannibal replied as he turned his attention to the scepter. The hand of the statue appeared to be wrapped around the staff tightly, with no way to remove it. How do I remove it? he thought. He looked at the scepter, and then the pyramid, and then back out at the crowd, which remained dead silent. “Well, here goes nothing,” Hannibal said, reaching out and carefully grasped the scepter just above the statue’s hand. “Excuse me, your highness. I need to borrow this,” he said to the statue. As he touched the scepter and spoke, to the amazement of everyone there, including Hannibal, a light beam sprang from the statue’s eyes, shining a spotlight on Hannibal as he looked up into its eyes. He froze as the light shined in his eyes. A surge of fear rose in him until he remembered the Caverias Statue machine at the Circle of Hammunaptra.

Sensing his initial fear, Selina called out, “What’s wrong, Hannibal?”

“I…can’t…move,” Hannibal replied slowly. “The statue’s…a…machine…like the ones…at the…Circle of Hammunaptra. It’s…completely paralyze me from the neck down.”

“What do you want us to do?” Amelia asked insistently.

“Nothing,” Hannibal stated. “There’s nothing you can do. It’s a…security device. Don’t interfere with it…or it may hurt you.” Just then, the light vanished from the statue’s eyes and Hannibal’s paralysis lifted. The statue rumbled, opening its fist and released the scepter into Hannibal’s grasp.

“Did you see that!” Ned cried out. “The hand moved!”

Morrison rubbed his eyes and looked again. “It sure did,” he said with utter astonishment. “He’s right. It’s just like those statues we saw in the Circle of Hammunaptra. It must be some kind of machine like they were.”

With his mouth hanging open in shock, Hannibal quickly staggered back from the statue, moving out of the alcove completely. Dropping to one knee and using the scepter as a crutch to steady himself, Hannibal looked up at the statue in fear and amazement. He blinked when he thought he saw the statue smile at him. Without thinking, Hannibal said, “Thank you, your majesty.”

Selina rushed to his side and helped him up. “Are you all right?” she asked.

“I think so,” Hannibal replied as his strength returned. “That statue is definitely a security device of some kind. The scanning beam paralyzed me and drained my strength, but now my strength is returning.” He held the scepter in both hands, examining it closely. “This is a fascinating piece of work,” he commented.

Selina continued to watch him closely as he handled the scepter. It seemed to take hold of him. He stood there for a moment, completely absorbed in the ancient staff, and then he shook himself to awareness as Amelia touched him on the shoulder. “Are you sure you’re all right?” Amelia asked. “You’re acting rather strange.”

Selina, also noticing and feeling what was going on inside of him asked, “What is it? You feel like you’re lost in a dream.”

Hannibal turned to Selina and Amelia, saying, “I do feel like I’ve become lost in a dream. Something really weird is going on here and I’m not sure that I completely understand it. This staff feels so familiar.” He abruptly looked Amelia in the eye and said, “Hold this for a moment, Amelia. Don’t let anyone else touch it. It’s dangerous.” He handed the scepter to Amelia and turned to the pyramid in the statue’s other hand. Looking into the statue’s face as if he were speaking to someone, he asked, “Am I supposed to take this too?” The statue stood there like a statue, without any response at all. Slowly reaching out, he carefully touched the pyramid, and then grasped it, looking directly into the face of the great king as he slowly lifted it off his hand. When nothing happened, he said, “Thank you again, your majesty. These items will be used responsibly to save as many lives as possible from the Emperor’s tyranny.”

Just then, the slab sealing the alcove began to close slowly. “Get out of there!” Harry shouted, stepping in and pulling Hannibal out of the alcove just before it sealed up.

Hannibal sighed and said, “Thank you, Harry. This thing has somehow gotten under my skin. Selina, could you hold this for a moment?” Selina nodded and took the little pyramid. The moment she took it, she cringed as she got a glimpse of the item’s history. Hannibal immediately noticed and felt it. Snatching the pyramid out of her hands, and then grabbing her arm to keep her from falling, he asked, “What’s wrong?”

Selina shook her head to gather her wits, saying, “That thing has a history we can’t imagine. I got a glimpse of it. It goes back to well before the fall of Amacia.”

Hannibal looked her in the face and asked seriously, “Are you all right?”

Selina nodded. “Yes,” she replied. “I’ll be all right. It was just a shock. I didn’t expect it to do that to me.”

Hannibal sighed and asked, “Can someone get a bag to put this in? I don’t want to risk anything else happening because of touching this thing.”

Selina reached out and touched his arm, saying, “I can hold it now.”

“Are you sure?” Hannibal asked.

“Yes, I’ll be all right,” Selina replied confidently so he handed the pyramid back to her and carefully watched her reaction to it. When she exhibited no reaction to the strange item, it satisfied him. Turning to Amelia, he said, “I’ll take that staff now.”

Amelia handed the staff back to him and commented, “You’re right about this staff being dangerous. I could feel its power physically when you handed it to me. Guard it carefully.”

“I plan to,” Hannibal said, going back to the other side of the room where the gargoyle and seal were. Everyone followed him to the seal and made a circle as he stood before the seal and the gargoyle. He looked down at the seal, and then at the gargoyle guardian. “Stand back,” he ordered, stepping forward onto the seal as everyone back up a few paces.

“Be careful, Hannibal,” Selina said with concern on her voice as she sensed the scepter’s influence on his mind. He looked at the scepter, and then the seal and guardian, instinctively saying, “Zara cu ila corack.” As he spoke, Hannibal struck the seal with scepter’s pummel end three times. Upon the first strike, the scepter began to glow. By the third strike, the scepter’s crystal head shined like a floodlight with such brilliance that everyone had to shield their eyes. The engravings on the scepter’s staff glowed and the pummel end caused the whole throne room to reverberate, making the crowd back away farther. At the third strike, the guardian’s ruby eyes glowed and the carving moved. The sculpture pulled away from the wall with its weapons in hand ready to dispatch anyone it could reach, shaking the floor when it stepped forward. The seal on the floor glowed scarlet as the guardian moved forward toward Hannibal. By this time, fear was rampant in nearly everyone present except for Hannibal, who had a very intense look on his face. They were quickly backing away.

“Watch out, Hannibal!” Harry called out with fear and concern, ready to move in if something unpleasant were to happen.

Selina stood behind Hannibal just off the seal and cried out, “Be careful!”

Hannibal raised his hand to them with a wait gesture as the guardian lumbered forth, stopping in front of him on the seal, towering nearly three feet over his head, swords poised to strike. Hannibal looked up at the stone monstrosity and called out forcefully and instinctively, “Eli sek dehoy sais!” The scepter shined with a supernatural brilliance and the guardian lowered his weapons, kneeling to Hannibal.

“Son of a bitch!” Sam cursed in amazement. “Have you ever seen anything like that?”

Thomas shook his head and said, “No, not in my wildest dreams have I ever seen anything like this.”

The guardian looked toward the crowd and rose, weapons ready to dispatch everyone. Hannibal saw its move and said, “Gera si ciersa kek.” The guardian looked back to Hannibal, locking eyes with him for a few moments, and then lowered its weapons. “Leiha bei Thoth Caverias orac,” he ordered the guardian.

The guardian then reared up and with a roar, turned to the wall, and clanged its blades together, making them reverberate in resonance. The ringing caused everyone except Hannibal to hold his or her ears because it was so loud. After ten seconds of the ringing, the stone slab next to where the guardian originated from rumbled. A hissing was heard and a cloud of dust arose from the rush of air pouring out of an opening passage behind the slab. When the slab had swung open enough for someone to get through the entrance, the guardian returned to its place next to the open slab. Everyone watched in astonishment as it went back into place, looking like it had never stepped off the wall. The scepter reduced its brilliance to a soft glow and the seal ceased to glow at all.

Hannibal turned to them, holding the scepter in one hand with its pummel end resting on the floor. They remained back nearly thirty feet, fearful to approach Hannibal. The only one who didn’t stay back was Selina. She immediately moved forward and stopped in front of him, grasping his arm as he looked at everyone with a strange look. The scepter was still influencing his mind with increasing power. Sensing it, she asked him, “Are you all right? The scepter is doing something to you. I can sense it.”

Hannibal looked Selina in the eye and said, trembling in his voice, “I honestly don’t know. I’m really freaked out here now. How in the world did I do that?”

Selina shook her head and said, “I don’t know but I can sense that this staff is influencing you somehow. I can’t explain it. It’s like you’re in contact with something not of this world.”

Hannibal sighed and said, “I’m really scared by what just happened. I acted out of pure instinct in such a way that says I’ve been here and done this before. The déjà vu is completely off the scale. But I can’t let my fear control me. The people here are depending on me.”

The next one to step forward was Nicodemus, followed closely by Harry, Nathanael, Xavier, and Amelia. They gathered around Hannibal and Nicodemus said with utter awe and humility, “Truly you are the One. No one has ever found the entrance to the Archives in my lifetime. There’s no longer any doubt.”

The rest of the people slowly approached and Ned said with awe and great respect, “I didn’t believe you about the gargoyles in the pyramid. Please forgive me. After what I just saw, which I’m still having problem comprehending, I believe you.”

“It’s all right, Ned,” Hannibal replied, smiling soberly. “I wouldn’t have believed it myself had I not been witness to it myself.” Suddenly, Hannibal’s expression steeled and he said with great authority, “Nicodemus; keep everyone out of here. I only want Selina, Amelia, Xavier, Nathanael, Harry, and Aragon to come with me. There are forces at work here that are beyond all of us. Stay here and stay well away from the entrance. The guardian will kill anyone who comes near it that isn’t chosen by me. Do not let anyone else in the throne room either. Wait for us. Come.” He waved to those whom he named to accompany him.

Selina restrained him for a moment, looking deep into his eyes and sensing a great power flowing through him that was being brought on by the scepter. I’m going to be all right, he told her telepathically. Still, be my anchor and balance. Selina nodded and smiled slightly as he led them into the passageway behind the guardian. The moment the last of his handpicked team for exploring the Archive entered the passage, the slab grated and sealed them in.

“No! They’ll be sealed in!” Arabella cried out, rushing forward.

Morrison and Nicodemus restrained her, with Nicodemus saying forcefully, “Don’t approach it! Hannibal opened it from out here. He can open it from inside as well. Have faith in him.”

Arabella struggled to reach them until she saw the eyes of the guardian glowing, at which time she stopped and backed away. “No one go near it.” Nicodemus warned insistently. “We don’t want to bring that thing out again. Without Hannibal here to control it, it’ll kill us all.”

Inside the passageway when the slab sealed, Harry and Nathanael, who were in the rear, futilely tried to stop it from closing. “It’s sealing us in!” Harry shouted as he and Nathanael pushed pointlessly against the door as it sealed them in.

Hannibal turned to them and said with confidence, “We’re not trapped. I can open it. Come now. Let’s find what need to be found.” He led them down the narrow passageway for several minutes. The scepter glowed with enough radiance to provide sufficient light to walk by. Selina stayed right behind him as they made several turns, and then entered a room nearly twenty feet across and twelve feet in height with no other apparent exit. The moment they were all in the room, a stone slab sealed the entrance and the room rumbled, moving in a downward direction.

“This feels so familiar, doesn’t it?” Nathanael asked Hannibal and Harry.

“Yes, it does,” Harry returned with some irritation in his voice. “I hate it when it does this.”

“What is going on?” Xavier asked with some concern.

“Do not fear,” Hannibal stated. “I’m very familiar with this type of situation. I’ve encountered it many times before in the Temple. We’re in an ancient elevator. When it reaches bottom, a way out will be revealed.”

“An elevator? What’s that?” Aragon asked with a tint of fear in his tone.

“An elevator is a device that allows vertical movement without having to climb,” Harry explained. “On the surface, we have cities with great buildings that have machines that allow people swift vertical movement in the buildings without having to climb stairs.”

“This, however, is different from the elevators on the surface that Harry is talking about,” Selina explained. “At the Temple, we have many elevators such as this. But we’re still no closer in knowing how they work. The ancient technologies are still a mystery to us.” Her answer seemed to satisfy their curiosity.

For nearly five minutes, the elevator descended before it stopped and a stone slab slid open on the opposite side of the room from where they entered. “Come on,” Hannibal ordered. “Stay behind me. If something happens, I want it to happen to me first.” He slowly and cautiously proceeded into the passage with the spear point of the scepter forward.

“He’s done this kind of thing before, hasn’t he?” Aragon asked.

“Yes, he has…many times,” Nathanael replied as they moved down the passage.

The stone walls of the passage were completely smooth, covered with a thick layer of cobwebs. The passage twisted and turned for nearly three hundred yards before terminating with a massive door bearing the seal of Arionath. The seal was much more ornate with sapphire eyes nearly four inches across embedded in the draken carving. The swords in the draken’s claws were exactly like the swords in the guardian’s hands. Either side of the door sat sculptures of drakens carved right into the walls. The draken sculptures had emerald eyes the size of baseballs. Hannibal stopped just short of the sculptures and said, “Hold it.” He looked around intensely at the surroundings and noticed the dust was particularly thick between the sculptures. He glanced at the scepter and noticed it was glowing a bit more brilliantly.

“What is it?” Xavier asked.

“The door is booby-trapped. I’m sure of it,” Hannibal stated.

“Well, how do we find out?” Aragon asked.

“We throw something in there,” Harry returned in answer.

As he spoke, Nathanael pulled one of his daggers and handed it to Hannibal, saying, “Here; use this.”

Hannibal took the dagger and tossed it between the sculptures. The moment the knife passed between the sculptures, the emerald eyes glowed and the dagger disintegrated in a flash of green light.

Xavier’s mouth fell open and Amelia’s countenance became very disturbed. “This isn’t good,” she commented.

Before anyone could say anything, Hannibal moved right up to the edge of the sculptures without getting between them and struck the floor twice with the scepter, calling out instinctively, “Oria qiep gera forace.” The scepter began to glow brightly again and the sapphire eyes on the seal as well as the emerald eyes of the sculptures glowed brightly. The scepter then began to resonate softly with a low hum and the carving on the door began to move. The swords in the draken’s claws moved a couple of inches laterally in the plane of the door. The door clanged and there was a hiss of escaping air and dust as the door split down the middle and slid open. He looked around at everyone, especially Selina with a strange, concerned look. “What is going on here?” he asked distantly. “How is it that I know how to get in here? Why is it that I know exactly how to use this staff?” Suddenly, he lurched forward between the sculptures, heading for the open door.

“Wait!” Nathanael called out with great concern, which subsided when Hannibal wasn’t disintegrated like the dagger.

Hannibal stopped just outside the doorway and said, “Come on. The trap is disarmed.”

Harry pulled out his dagger and probed between the sculptures. When nothing happened, everyone followed. Selina quickly moved to Hannibal’s side, sensing a conflict in his mind, as if something buried was trying to surface. “You’re very uptight. Try to calm yourself. Trust the Lord. He will not let you down,” Selina purred, grasping onto his forearm.

Hannibal shook his head as if trying to snap out of a trance, saying, “Something’s going on here that’s much bigger than me. I feel that there’s something trying to surface in my mind that was buried. This staff is causing it somehow, encouraging it.” Suddenly, the pain of the conflict steeled his countenance again and he began to look like a great king with the scepter in his hand. “Come on. Follow me,” he declared, strangely confident. Everyone looked anxiously at Hannibal. There was a distinct change in his demeanor as if a separate personality was trying to come forth.

Selina looked at Nathanael with a deeply disturbed expression on her face. Amelia stepped up to Selina, instructing, “Stay close to him, sister. Keep him anchored. I know you’re linked to him. Use your skills to keep him stable. He’s under the influence of something we don’t yet understand. Try to keep him with us.”

Selina nodded and moved in close to him as he started into the doorway. Hannibal trod down the passage boldly, without any fear, with Selina right at his elbow, doing what she could telepathically to help him deal with the power that was influencing him. The rest of the group followed close behind. For nearly fifteen minutes, they followed Hannibal through the passages as it became a labyrinth. He seemed to know exactly where he was going. As they moved through the passages, Selina managed to strengthen him and stabilize his mind somewhat. She also began to get a feel for the power that was leading him and sensed that it wasn’t dangerous or evil in nature, but extremely ancient and powerful. They turned a corner, entering a great cavern nearly quarter of a mile in diameter and six hundred feet in height. It held an exact replica of the innermost chamber of the library in the Temple of Tiamat, right down to the teaching machine in the center with its giant crystal structure rising some four hundred feet in height and hundreds of crystal sarcophagi. The chamber was lit with a soft phosphorescent light that seemed to emanate from the center.

They stopped and Hannibal declared, “Behold, the great Archive of Shadizar Kahn.”

Aragon and Xavier looked on in stupefaction, their mouths hanging open. Amelia looked on the chamber and breathed, “I’d forgotten how magnificent the Archives were. It’s been three hundred and thirty cycles since I’ve seen one.”

“Looks just like the special collections back home,” Harry commented.

“Yes, it does, don’t it,” Hannibal replied as he immediately moved forward, heading directly for the teaching machine, followed closely by Selina and everyone else. Hannibal knew exactly where to go to access the machine. There was a small port with a chair and a strange display, just like the one in the Temple. The only difference was there was an octagonal indentation on the control panel and on the floor next to the crystal chair was a small hole. As they reached the control station for the machine, Hannibal briefly stopped and said, “Selina will come with me. The rest of you wait here.”

“If you insist,” Xavier said in an awed tone.

“Be careful,” Amelia warned.

Hannibal turned to her and with a sparkle in his eye, said, “I’ve tangled with these machines before. I’ll be more than careful.” He and Selina went up to the control station and he instinctively took the scepter and placed it in a hole next to the chair with a clunk. The scepter then began to shine brilliantly again and the great crystalline machine began to resonate and hum softly, glowing and pulsing slightly in response to the scepter. He looked at the control panel and saw the octagonal indentation, and then looked at Selina. “I think we know why we brought that other thing. Let me see it,” he ordered.

Selina handed it over and said, “Be careful, my prince. The last time we tangled with one of these, it nearly killed us.”

Hannibal looked her in the eye and she could sense and see the intelligence that was leading him in his face. It was starting to take up the characteristics of it. She grabbed on to his hands and urged, “Don’t let the intelligence take you completely. Learn from it, but don’t let it take you over.”

Hannibal’s face fell and contorted as he closed his eyes and shook his head violently. He doubled over and hissed, “I hear you, Selina. Help me fight it!” He dropped the pyramid and grabbed on to her. “Help me,” he pleaded. “It’s trying to rise up and take me.” She wrapped her arms around him and held him tight. At this point, everyone had gathered around. Amelia could sense the battle and laid hands on him, as did Nathanael and Harry, who prayed. Within two minutes, with the combined assistance of Amelia’s, Nathanael’s, and Selina’s telepathic abilities, as well as the prayers of Nathanael and Harry, the crisis passed and Hannibal’s mind became clear, having subdued and balanced the power that was threatening to overwhelm him. Once the power had been tamed and balanced so he could get use of its information, he looked into Selina’s eyes and said, “Thank you. I’m all right now.” Harry and Nathanael backed off.

Amelia took him by the hand, asking, “Are you sure?”

Hannibal nodded and said gratefully, “Yes, I am now. I know why asked all of you to come now. The Lord somehow knew this was going to happen and had me bring you along to help me deal with it. Now, let’s deal with this. You all might want to back up. Selina, you stay here with me.” He stooped over and picked up the pyramid as everyone else backed away. “Well, here goes nothing,” he said as he carefully placed the pyramid in the indentation on the control panel. The moment the pyramid made contact with the control panel, the whole room rumbled and the machine flashed, shining like the sun for a few moments before dimming to a tolerable level. The sarcophagi glowed brilliantly too, and then dimmed to the same level as the machine. The entire chamber hummed and resonated deeply. They all watched with wonder as Hannibal then sat on the chair carefully, which was big enough for someone twice his size. He slid over and motioned for Selina to sit next to him. She sat down cautiously as the control panel flashed and a beam of light shined in both of their faces emanating from the pyramid’s crystal apex. For a few moments, they sat there with a blank look on both of their faces.

Then Hannibal smiled and said, “It really helps to know how to use it, doesn’t it, honey?”

Selina put her arm around him and said, “Yes, it is. You never told me what a rush it was.” Hannibal grinned as the light began to pulse and between him and Selina, they took conscious control of the machine. In a second, a light sprang from the top of the machine, generating a hologram that encompassed the whole chamber, startling everyone, especially Xavier and Aragon.

“What magic is this?” Xavier asked in complete and utter awe.

“It’s not magic, Xavier. It’s a holographic representation of what we’re seeing here. All of you keep your eyes open and watch. Maybe we’ll find something in here that will allow us to help Corso,” Hannibal stated as he and Selina searched through the Archives, displaying for the rest of the group what they were seeing as they searched. Nathanael watched with great interest, as did Amelia. It wasn’t long before they encountered the Cataclysm and the events that led to it. Hannibal and Selina suddenly stopped on the great battle that they dreamed of. They all watched with a mixture of fascination and horror as the battle took place. “That’s what we dreamed the other day,” Hannibal announced as they pushed on back into the history. They soon discovered what they were looking for just before reaching an image that literally stunned everyone present. It was a schematic layout of the machinery of the whole area of Arionath. Then they saw the image that caused them to stop. The image stood there like a picture. It was of a man twelve feet in height with snow-white hair and beard with an uncanny resemblance to Hannibal: the king Thoth Caverias. He stood there with his sword in hand, clad in armor with a great golden crown on his brow.

“My god! It’s you, Hannibal!” Harry breathed with utter astonishment.

Hannibal looked like he’d seen a ghost. It so rattled him that he lost his concentration causing Selina to waver, losing her concentration as well, and shutting the machine down. It hummed and glowed softly as the hologram slowly faded away. Selina looked at him and hugged him. “The past is often strange and frightening when it has been lost for so long,” she cooed in his ear, trying to calm him. Hannibal rose from the seat with a strange, faraway look on his face. Selina immediately rose and latched on to his arm, following him down to the main floor as he looked at everyone with a pale, shocked expression. “It’s all right,” Selina purred again in his ear. “There’s a reason for this coincidence.”

Hannibal looked at the floor, still trying to fathom what he’s just seen. Selina wrapped her arm around him and purred softly, trying to calm him. “How can this be?” Hannibal finally asked in utter stupefaction. “He looks exactly like me. This is a mystery that must be unraveled.”

“Hannibal, remember what happened in the Circle of Hammunaptra,” Nathanael stated. “The machines there identified you as the Caverias with the Caverias gene sequence. Moreover, the statue they called the Caverias is the same image that we just saw. There may be a lot more to this than we thought.”

Amelia stepped forward and took his hand, looking him deep in the eyes. “Hannibal. I think I understand what possessed you to come here now,” she said softly. “Do not let it shake you. I suspect so much. This apparition of the great king may be a distant ancestor of yours. The spirit of this great warrior king has been calling to you all your life and just now, nearly overwhelmed you.”

“You mean that he may be a descendant of this guy?” Harry asked with great amazement.

“It is a high likelihood. Much can happen in blood lines over thousands of cycles,” Amelia replied. “You have said that finding Amacia has been your one purpose for life since you turned from the Darkness to the Light.”

Hannibal sighed and said, “Yes, but now that I think about it in light of these new revelations, the desire has been there longer than that. Since I was a little boy, I would have dreams about fantastic technologies buried in lost lands that no one knew. I had mercifully forgotten about those dreams until now. This land and everything here has called to me in my dreams all my life. Even you, my dear princess,” he said softly and humbly, turning to Selina. “I remember your face in my dreams when I was three years old. How in the world I can now remember these dreams is beyond my comprehension. I can barely remember my family and parents, much less a dream I had when I was a stump. But your face has haunted my dreams all my life.”

Selina looked down in humility and gently embraced him. “So has yours,” she said humbly. “When I was little, I remember dreaming of alien beings unlike we’d ever seen or encountered in all of our explorations. Your face was there too. I remember a dream where I played with you when you were a child.”

Hannibal wrapped his arms around her and said, “We were matched from before the foundations of the world, my sweet princess. This just proves it even more.” Suddenly, his face steeled and he said quickly, “Come. Let’s explore this mystery further.” He held on to her wrist and pulled her back to the machine where they sat down in the seat. In seconds, the light was shining on them again and the machine was active again, along with the accompanying hologram for everyone else. Hannibal and Selina pulled up the image of Thoth Caverias and began to explore his history, which they found very quickly was incomplete and fragmented with the archival knowledge present. Everyone watched bits and pieces of the coup by the first Emperor, Bolthor Sai Keleb.

“By the gods,” Amelia breathed. “The first Emperor was the King’s most trusted advisor. He betrayed the King.”

Hannibal and Selina pushed back into the accounts a little further and the Archive became spotty and very difficult to read. They could only access one image, which stunned everyone as much as it did seeing the image of Thoth Caverias. It was one of the Queen of Amacia. She was a stunningly beautiful Lynxian that was an exact copy of Selina with the exception of her height, which was a solid nine feet, her hair, which was a fiery red and her eyes, which were a deep green. She also had a strange bluish tattoo on her face.

“Now this is getting truly weird,” Harry breathed with his mouth hanging open. They all looked at the image of the two: the king and queen and then looked at Hannibal and Selina with absolute wonder. Hannibal and Selina searched the Archives and when they couldn’t find anything else earlier in there, they returned to the images of the King and Queen of Amacia.

“What’s her name?” Nathanael asked, greatly interested in the puzzle of how a Lynxian could be of the royal house of Amacia on Earth. They quickly found her name and Selina said, “Her name is...”

Amelia cut her off, saying, “Is it possible? Queen Ariel?”

“That’s right,” Selina said humbly and with great amazement. “Her name is Ariel Caverias, queen of Amacia. How did you know?”

Amelia shook her head solemnly and replied, “I remember her from the old writings. She and Thoth Caverias have been mythological beings for thousands of cycles before I was born. As a princess, I had to keep up with the old ways. But I had no idea she was feline, like you. This is truly astonishing.”

The hologram faded as Hannibal concentrating intensely for a few moments. He finally sighed and relaxed, saying, “There. That should do it.” The machine reduced its glare and hum to a soft level as Hannibal looked down at the arm of the chair. He immediately noticed a port with a small crystal protruding slightly from the side of the arm. He gently grabbed onto the crystal and pulled on it. The crystal slid out and he looked at it curiously.

“What’s that?” Harry asked.

Hannibal got up, followed closely by Selina and he replied, “It’s a storage device of some kind…kind of like a USB flash drive for our computers. I was able to copy some of the more critical information onto this thing. If what I was seeing is correct, the little pyramid there is the reader for it in addition to being the key to the teaching machine here. It is just like our hologram projectors, only much, much older.” Carefully pocketing the crystal, he announced, “I think we’ve found everything we’re going to here. Come on. Let’s get out of here and see what we can do for Corso and his people.” He carefully picked up the pyramid and the machine quieted further. Handing the pyramid to Selina, he turned and looked at the scepter with some apprehension. “I’m almost scared to touch it now after what happened a few minutes ago.”

“Don’t fear it,” Selina said. “We mastered whatever power that was on the staff.”

Hannibal nodded, knowing the truth of her statement, saying, “You’re right. We did master it. Now I have to master my fear of it. Besides, we need it to get out of here.” His countenance hardened and he abruptly reached out, taking the scepter. The moment he removed it, the machine and the Archive grew quite as a tomb. The scepter continued to glow and he could feel the power surging through his hand, causing it to tingle just a little. Selina felt his uneasiness about handling the staff and strengthened him telepathically as he led them out of the Archive.

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