Legends of Amacia: Path of the Ancients

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The Storm and the Pyramid

As they moved through the forest, Hannibal began to notice something odd. The few puffy cumulus clouds he’d seen a few hours earlier had suddenly blossomed into ominous cumulonimbus thunderheads that seemed drawn to the valley in a strange squall line. Cracko made his way forward to Hannibal and Nathanael as they blazed the trail. The clouds grew heavier and darker, blotting out the sun as an eerie silence fell over the forest. The forest seemed to swallow all sound. They heard nothing from the forest. Not a squirrel, chipmunk, bird, or insect made a single sound. Even the wind stayed silent, not being heard or felt by anyone. The world became deathly quiet. Hannibal began looking around with some concern as a feeling of dread suddenly entered his heart.

“What’s going on?” Cracko asked. “What’s with this eerie calm?”

“I don’t know,” Hannibal replied with growing concern in his voice. “Do you have any thoughts because this eerie calm seems strangely familiar?”

A bizarre darkness fell over the valley as the clouds lowered. The clouds began to flash slightly with lightning as they moved in. The natives suddenly began to jabber with great fear in their voices. “No, sir,” Cracko answered Hannibal. “I don’t.”

“What’re they saying?” Thomas asked, referring to the natives as they moved on into the growing storm.

Cracko listened for a minute to their words, and then answered, “They’re praying to their gods to forgive them for trespassing on their sacred path.”

“Well no gods or superstition is going to stop us,” Ned blurted out as the clouds continued to lower and grow angrier. Lightning began to flash through the clouds prominently.

“On occasion, superstition must be paid attention to,” Hannibal stated distantly as he led on through the forest. A snap of lightning arced from cloud to cloud, casting shadows.

“Looks like we’re in for one hell of a storm,” Sam observed.

“Yeah,” Jonathan agreed. “We need to find some cover and quick.”

At that moment, Hannibal stopped in his tracks as the heavens lit up with a tremendous discharge of lightning. The wind abruptly began to rise and he shouted over the rising wind “The Lord provides…look there!” Everyone looked right to where Hannibal pointed.

“What is it?” Harry asked as everyone looked. The lightning flashed again, illuminating the whole area, outlining something enormous in the distance.

“There’s some sort of structure over there!” Hannibal replied. Thunder crashed as lightning jumped from cloud to cloud.

“How far away is it?” Thomas asked as they moved toward the structure.

“About a hundred yards,” Hannibal answered as he retrieved a machete from his pack and started to cut through the underbrush with haste, heading for the structure. The wind became cold as it blew with more strength. As Hannibal approached the structure, his machete struck something hard underneath a bush. Vines covered the curiosity. He cut the bush back as everyone gathered around. He proceeded to cut the vines off it. When he pulled the vines off it, a statue of a grotesque demoniac gargoyle stared back at him grimacing, catching him by surprise. He yelped with fear, jumping back as the statue startled everyone else too. In the resulting confusion, the natives slipped away, running back the way they came as fast as they could.

As Hannibal got over the initial shock of the statue, Ned cursed. “Shit! The natives are gone!” he exclaimed.

“Don’t worry about them,” Hannibal said as he approached the statue. “We shouldn’t be seeing them again.” The wind blew harder and thunder crashed with an earsplitting rumble.

“We need to get under cover and quick,” Nathanael warned. “This storm is fixing to break on our heads.”

“Just a moment,” Hannibal said as he quickly examined the hideous gargoyle statue standing nearly five feet in height.

“What is it?” Harry asked over the growing storm.

“It’s a marker of some kind. The structure is definitely here close by,” Hannibal informed.

“It’s kind of grotesque, isn’t it?” Arabella commented as she looked upon the hideous stone obscenity. “You can let me go now. I can walk now.” Selina and Morrison slowly let her stand on her own.

“What kind of structure is it?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know,” Hannibal replied.

“Is that all that it means?” Jonathan asked as Hannibal found some writing on it.

“Well, I’ll be. This is the Stone Language,” Hannibal said. “No, it’s more than just a marker. It’s a warning. This writing says that no one is to pass beyond this marker. The land beyond is forbidden for man to set foot on. It belongs to the gods. Those who dare to cross over will be smitten with by the curse of the Vehndo. Hmmm…I’ve seen that curse before.”

Cracko’s countenance fell and he repeated with great fear in his voice “The curse of the Vehndo; is that what it says?”

Hannibal looked at Cracko and noticed his fear. “Yes, it does,” Hannibal answered after a peal of thunder rumbled.

“You know something about it?” Morrison asked Cracko.

Cracko’s face was pale with fear as he replied “Yes, I’m afraid I do. It is the most feared curse in all of South America.”

“So what about it?” Thomas asked.

“We can talk about this later,” Hannibal ordered, noticing the storm about to break upon their heads. “Don’t be afraid, Cracko. I’ve encountered the curse before and it hasn’t hurt me. We need to find the building now. Spread out. It’s here.” He looked around as the lightning flashed. It lit up the sky and outlined a huge step pyramid looming to the north, just off the road. “This way!” Hannibal shouted over the growing storm. They spread out and followed him toward the pyramid. As they reached the pyramid, it started to sprinkle.

“Where’s the entrance to this stupid thing?” Harry growled.

“Quick! Everyone spread out and start searching for a switch or something. The entrance is here. We just need to find it,” Hannibal ordered and everyone spread out and began to press on the walls, making their way around the pyramid.

The sprinkling became a light rain, and then small pellets of hail began to fall. Two minutes later, Arabella found the point that opened the pyramid. “I’ve found it. It’s over here!” she shouted to the rest of the group. Everyone came running as the rain became a torrential downpour with ever-growing hail mixed in it. “This stone moved and a door opened there!” Arabella said to Hannibal as the rain began to soak them.

“Quickly; everyone inside!” Hannibal ordered urgently, going in first with the rest of the team quickly following. They went in a few steps and turned around as the rain turned into tempest. The wind howled outside, lashing the rain into stinging sheet as the hail continued to grow in size.

“Looks like we just made it,” Harry said as they watched the storm rage. Lightning struck thirty feet away, breaking a tree in two, and causing everyone to back up a couple more steps into the pyramid. Then hail the size of grapefruits rained from the sky, causing considerable damage to the surrounding forest.

“Oh, my God!” Jonathan breathed in amazement as they watched the tremendous hail rip the forest outside to shreds.

“The Lord has spared us yet again,” Hannibal said. “He sure is good to us.”

“Amen to that,” Harry agreed as they watched the tempest. Arabella latched on to Morrison, who put an arm around her as they all watched the storm from hell.

“It’s almost as if something is trying to stop us from reaching the mountain,” Thomas suggested. “I’m not one to believe in superstition, but this storm seems almost supernatural.”

“Don’t be silly,” Morrison rebuffed. “It’s just a bad storm. That’s all.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Hannibal replied soberly. “As a wizard, I used to employ magic mixed with technology to created storms. This storm reeks of the Dark Powers. I can smell it. But the Lord mercifully provided us an escape from harm’s way. That hail would have killed us all had we not found our way into this pyramid. No way would our tents have given us sufficient cover.”

“No shit,” Ned agreed.

Hannibal removed his pack, laying it next to the wall. He sat down with his back to the passage wall and Selina joined him, putting her arm around him. “Take a load off,” he told everyone. “We’re not going anywhere until this storm passes anyway.” As he spoke, the hail ceased to fall but the torrential, wind-driven rains continued with the lightning flashing and thunder crashing in the heavens like a great celestial battle between the storm gods.

Everyone removed their packs and relaxed. Hannibal pulled some beef jerky from his pack and began to chew on it. Within minutes, everyone followed his example, having a little snack. As the terror of the storm began to subside, Sam began looking down the passageway, asking, “What do you think is in here?”

“Don’t know,” Hannibal answered. “Most likely there’s bloody gruesome death down that corridor. The pyramids I’ve encountered were always booby-trapped. This one’s probably no exception.”

“But there was always something important inside them, wasn’t it?” Thomas asked.

“Not always,” Hannibal replied stoically. “What we consider valuable or important and what the ancient peoples who built those places thought were valuable often are two very different things.”

“So what’s your thought on it, Hannibal?” Ned asked. “You’re the resident expert on this sort of thing.”

Hannibal ripped a piece of jerky off and chewed on it, looking at Selina. She patted his knee and Hannibal shook his head. “It’s not what I think that counts. It’s what the people who built this place think. If this place is as old as the road we’re following, it could very well be something important somewhere in here,” Hannibal stated. “But the chances are very good that this place has traps out of the wazoo armed to protect that secret. Cracko, has anyone dared to come into this valley other than the Zinzera?”

“No, sir,” Cracko answered. “Because of the cannibal myth and the fact the Zinzera are very xenophobic towards outsiders, no civilized people like us ever come into this valley. The only ones who dared to come here besides us are soldiers sent by Gulez to subdue the Zinzera and none of them ever returned. Up until now, I would’ve said those soldiers had become a meal for the Zinzera, but now I’m not so sure of that. If what those two natives told me is true, then those soldiers were probably cooked as an offering to their gods. I truly think the reason they didn’t do us the same way is because of Nathanael and Selina. I seem to remember the Zinzera worshipped gods who were giant bipedal cats from the underworld that hungered for human flesh and thirsted for human blood.”

“Now there’s an important piece of intelligence,” Hannibal chimed. “That explains a lot about how they shadowed us for so long instead of just attacking us outright.”

“Indeed,” Nathanael agreed. “But if this place was constructed at the time of Amacia, then shouldn’t we at least take a look at what’s in there? The whole reason for this expedition is to uncover the truth about Amacia’s existence. Maybe there’s a piece of the puzzle hidden somewhere in this pyramid?”

Hannibal sat there for a moment, pondering Nathanael’s words. “You’re right, Nathanael,” he conceded. “Proof is what we’re here for and there may be some of that hidden behind the traps I know infests this pyramid. So, how many of you want to see where this passage leads?”

Everyone except Nathanael and Selina spoke in favor of exploring the passage. “Very well; let’s see what secrets this tomb holds while we wait for the storm to subside,” Hannibal answered as he rose. “Nathanael, Cracko, will you keep watch here?”

Nathanael nodded and Cracko said, “Yes, sir.”

“You don’t need to be so formal, Cracko,” Hannibal answered in a pleasant tone. “We’re all colleagues here. Will you come with me, Selina?” She smiled and rose, ready to follow. “All right, people…break out your flashlights,” Hannibal ordered as he retrieved his flashlight and sat his hat on his pack. He then checked the whip hanging from his belt and found it secure. Four of them retrieved their flashlights and they stood ready to go.

“I think I’ll stay here with Nathanael and Cracko,” Harry announced, having a sudden change of heart.

“Sure, Harry. Be alert. If you hear something out of the ordinary, vacate immediately,” Hannibal ordered. Nathanael, Cracko, and Harry nodded as Hannibal turned to the dark passageway leading into the bowels of the pyramid.

“Watch out for pressure points, trip wires, and unusual or somewhat odd things. Traps in places like this are usually cleverly hidden and designed to inflict the maximum damage to intruders. Bring a rope, Ned,” Hannibal instructed. Ned retrieved a rope as Hannibal started following the passage into the pyramid. Hannibal led them for almost seventy feet when he suddenly stopped them, holding his hands out to either side.

“What’s wrong?” Arabella asked.

Hannibal gazed at the passage before him. “Look at your feet,” he ordered. Numerous bones and human skulls littered the floor, some of the skulls split in pieces.

“Oh, my word,” Arabella exclaimed as she saw the bones.

Hannibal squatted down and looked at the area of the floor where the bones lay. Selina hunkered down next to him. “What is it?” she asked.

Hannibal looked at the walls and the floor and saw cleverly disguised slots in them. “Mmmm hmmm,” he murmured with a wry smile. “This looks familiar. I’ve seen this kind of device before.”

“Where?” Jonathan asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Hannibal answered coolly, picking up a leg bone. “Stand back.” He took the bone and tossed it two feet in front of him. When the bone landed, two giant circular blades shot out of the wall from each side and one rose from the floor, cycling in the matter of three seconds.

“Holy Christ!” Morrison exclaimed. “How do we get by that?”

“Trial and Error,” Hannibal answered as he gathered a few more bones and skulls. “Watch and learn. These ancient traps have hair triggers that are as quick as the day they were created.” Hannibal then carefully proceeded to toss the bones around the first one he had thrown. Repeatedly, the blades showed themselves until Hannibal had revealed a small trigger only two feet across that spanned the corridor. He proceeded forward and carefully stepped across the pressure point. Once beyond the reach of the blades, he said severely, “Remember that spot if you don’t want to be sliced to pieces. Who wants to go farther?” Selina stepped across the trigger and Sam, Ned and Thomas followed.

“I think I’ll go back to the others,” Arabella said. “I’ve seen enough. I’m not going to tempt fate.”

“Me too,” Jonathan agreed. “I’m with Arabella. We’ll wait for you at the entrance with Nathanael, Cracko, and Harry.”

Hannibal nodded and said, “Okay. We won’t be long.” As Arabella and Jonathan turned going back to the entrance, Hannibal warned everyone again “Remember this spot, otherwise the blades will get you and it’ll be no way to rescue you from their grasp. I don’t intend to lose anyone to this trap if I can help it.” They all acknowledged the pressure point’s location before following Hannibal and Selina farther into the bowels of the pyramid. Curiosity filled Ned, Thomas, Morrison, and Sam as they moved down the passage. The walls suddenly became covered with hieroglyphics of the Stone Language.

“What’re these?” Ned asked as he briefly stopped to look at the glyphs. “I’ve never seen writing like this before.”

Hannibal stopped the group to examine the ancient writing. He immediately noticed the writing repeated itself throughout the passage. “Strange…the same writing over and over again,” he said.

“What does it say?” Thomas asked.

“It’s the Stone Language and says, ‘We are watching you’,” Hannibal declared, becoming uncomfortable with the discovery. He looked around at the passage and ordered, “Keep your guard up. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.” Turning, Hannibal took point and led them on down the passage. As they moved on, thick cobwebs started covering the passageway. The passage made a turn to the right and the floor suddenly gave way underneath him as Hannibal made the turn.

“Hannibal!” Thomas cried out as Selina’s arm shot out, snatching Hannibal from the jaws of death in a pit filled with five-foot spikes. He clung to her arm as she pulled him up.

“Thanks,” Hannibal said gratefully as the pit completely revealed itself.

“Don’t mention it,” Selina replied as he looked into the pit. It spanned about seven feet across and traversed the entire passage. The floor was rigged as a trap door designed to give way when anything human-sized stepped on it. Everyone looked down into the thirty-foot deep pit, seeing spikes lining the walls and bottom with numerous skeletons hanging on them.

As Hannibal looked into the pit that nearly claimed him, the trap door slowly closed. “Spring-loaded…God, I hate trap doors,” Hannibal hissed as he turned to the rest of the group, who were relieved that Hannibal was safe. “I think the rest of you should stay here. Selina and I will go on. The risk of someone getting hurt is too great.” A rumble of disapproval arose from the group, but it was half-hearted. “You saw what just happened,” Hannibal scolded. “You’ll get your cut of whatever we find if I come back, so just wait here.” As he spoke, Selina took a running leap and effortlessly jumped the trap door.

“Come on, Hannibal. You can make it,” Selina assured him. Hannibal got a running start and managed to leap the trap door as well. He turned and looked at the rest of the group and said, “Sam, you come. The rest of you stay here. If you decide to go back to the entrance, remember the trigger at the blades.”

“Yes!” Sam cried enthusiastically and easily jumped the trap door, leaving Ned, Thomas, and Morrison behind. Hannibal led Selina and Sam down the passage for another sixty feet. The cobwebs grew heavier on the walls and hanging in the way so that Hannibal began to have to push through them. At length the cobwebs stopped and the passage turned left, leading into the heart of the pyramid.

As they made the turn, Hannibal stopped in his tracks as, being confronted by a shaft of light shining down on the floor at an angle. He gazed intensely at the area around the shaft of light. Split and crushed bones lay everywhere. He then saw a number of grooves in the walls and proceeded to duck under the shaft of light. “Stay out of the light,” he ordered Selina and Sam. Once past it, he motioned for them to follow his lead, which they did. Once everyone safely passed the shaft of light, he picked up a rib. “Stand back,” he warned and tossed it into the light. The moment the bone penetrated the light, three massive blades dropped from the ceiling like a guillotine. The blades were as wide as the passage and a mere four inches apart, crashing to the floor in a second with a ringing clang.

“Ouch!” Sam exclaimed.

“It’ll hurt allot more if you get caught in it,” Hannibal said severely as the blades reset themselves. “Like I keep telling you, the ancients were very adept in setting bladed traps.” He headed down the passage toward the heart of the pyramid. Selina and Sam fell in behind him as he pushed on. Within forty feet, the passage opened into a large chamber: the very heart of the pyramid. The trio stopped and gazed at the chamber. It spanned eighty feet across and rose fifty feet in height. A giant crystal protruded into the room from high above the center of the chamber. A beam of light shined down from the crystal onto a raised platform with a four-foot tall pedestal. A strange artifact made of crystal and gold sat on the pedestal. Gargoyle statues that seemed to be carved from the solid rock walls lined the central chamber along with numerous gargoyle heads with open mouths lining the wall between them. Dirt patches covered the floor between the entrance and the pedestal, becoming increasingly more numerous as one approached the platform and pedestal. Hannibal looked around at the chamber with dismay. “This is the part I hate the most,” he hissed, squatting down at the nearest dirt patch. He pulled his knife and carefully used it to brush away the dirt, finding the edge of a trigger. “Mmmm hmmm,” Hannibal murmured, “Stand back.” Selina and Sam retreated into the passage as Hannibal purposely tripping the trigger with his knife by pushing on it. Everyone heard the grating of a stone trigger. Half a second later, a line of gargoyle heads carved into the wall stacked one on top of the other shot a volley of darts at Hannibal. He jumped back as the darts missed him by inches, sticking in the wall of the passage beside him.

“Should’ve known,” Hannibal growled as he stood. “That’s going to make this interesting.” He walked over to the darts stuck in the wall and smelled them carefully. “Just as I thought,” he stated, “The darts are tipped with cyanide like the Zinzera used to kill that boar. This went from interesting to right down dangerous. You guys stay here.

“If you insist,” Sam replied, instantly understanding the peril of the darts. He and Selina stayed put as Hannibal carefully made his way across the floor without touching the dirt patches. Selina watched with concern as Hannibal briefly lost his balance as he made his way up onto the platform. He swayed and staggered for a moment before catching himself. Making his way to the pedestal, he gazed at the artifact intensely. The football-sized artifact sat on an obvious stone trigger; something Hannibal immediately noticed. He rubbed the side of his face as he considered it. The artifact was a perfect golden sphere about eight inches across with an octahedral crystal three inches across rising like a spire from the sphere about twelve inches. The sphere sat in a strange crystal holder that sat on the trigger. It had eight small indentations spaced evenly around it along with the same strange writing the Relic had etched all over it. He looked at the pedestal and carefully moved around it, examining it from top to bottom.

“What’s he doing?” Sam asked impatiently.

“He’s looking for the trigger lock to keep the traps from going off when he retrieves the artifact,” Selina said. Be careful, my prince, she thought. Hannibal’s face suddenly lit up and he touched a stone near the base of the pedestal. It sunk into the pedestal with a grating noise. Rising to face the artifact, he got in very close to the pedestal with his hands ready to take the artifact. The light from the giant crystal shined all around him in an eerie way. Carefully, he touched the artifact and looked around. Nothing happened. Slowly, he grasped the Artifact with both hands and gently lifted it from its cradle as Sam watched in wonder. Hannibal immediate noticed the Artifact was much lighter than he had anticipated. Carefully turning away from the pedestal, he held it up with one hand. “Piece of cake,” Hannibal crowed, tucking the artifact under his arm.

“All right!” Sam blurted out as Hannibal began to make his way back to Selina and Sam.

Just as he started down off the platform, the whole pyramid began to shake and rumble in a very familiar manner. His eyes rolled in dismay as he quickly glanced at the pedestal, seeing the holder sinking. “Oh, shit…Get out of here, now!” he shouted. Dust and dirt started falling as he darted from the platform. Selina grabbed Sam and pushed him down the passage as the shaking of the pyramid increased. The gargoyle heads began shooting darts as Hannibal ran toward the exit, forcing him to dodge them like a football player trying to avoid being tackled. Halfway across the floor, the darts stopped flying as the gargoyle statues carved in the walls suddenly came to life, twisting off the walls and surrounding him, blocking his escape. Hannibal moved back toward the platform as the growling stone gargoyles approached menacingly. Pieces of the roof started to collapse as he back up the platform. Suddenly remembering he had several grenades in his coat pocket, Hannibal retrieved a grenade as the gargoyles pressed forward.

After pulling the pin with his teeth, Hannibal lobbed the grenade off the platform as the stone gargoyles started up the platform. He ducked behind the pedestal as the grenade went off, clearing a path through the gargoyles. Hannibal sprinted through the opening, dodging the large stone boulders falling from the roof that crushed some of the pursuing stone gargoyles. Dodging both the remaining gargoyles and the crumbling ceiling, he fled into the passageway with twenty of the stone gargoyles hot on his heels. Running at top speed, he ducked under the shaft of light and barely touched it as he passed by. The blades fell right after he cleared them, crushing six of his pursuers and barring the way of the rest for a few crucial moments, giving him the added time to escape with the Artifact.

Hannibal turned the corner and ran full speed toward the trap door. Selina stood waiting on the other side. “Hurry!” she urged as he jumped the pit at a full gallop. Hannibal landed without breaking his stride and kept moving with Selina right behind him. He turned the other corner and saw a stone slab slowly descending, sealing the passage. Selina sprinted ahead and dove under the door as it closed to three feet.

Hannibal suddenly put the brakes on and slid like a ball player feet first under the door as it closed to two feet. He lost his whip as he slid under the door. He tossed the Artifact to Selina and shouted, “Get out of here!”

Selina bolted for the exit as he looked under the door and saw his whip just on the other side. With only six inches to go before the door sealed the passage entirely, he snatched the whip from the other side of the door with a snap, and then sprinted down the passage, coiling the whip as he ran. As Hannibal approached the first trap with the blades, the blades suddenly came out and cycled repeatedly with only a few seconds between the cycles. He saw and timed them as he approached. With an almost perfectly timed flying leap, he dove between the blades, rolling through. As he emerged from the trap, the blade from the right side of the passage sliced his arm, cutting through his coat and leaving a gash in his arm. He rolled away, grasping his arm in pain as he rose to his feet, blood spurting from the wound.

Looking toward the entrance and seeing another slab sealing the passage near the entrance already nearly half way down, he exploded into a run and slid face first under the door just before it sealed the pyramid, rolling out of the pyramid where everyone was waiting for him. The storm had passed and the shredded forest was like a sauna. Selina immediately came to his assistance and looked at his arm. “Get the first-aid kit. He’s wounded,” she ordered.

Arabella retrieved the first aid supplies from her pack and she and Selina proceeded to clean and dress the wound after he removed his trench coat. “You’re lucky,” Arabella said as she cleaned the wound. “Your coat took the brunt of the cut.”

“Tell me about it,” Hannibal said. “I didn’t think I was going to get out of there. That’s one of the reasons I was hesitant to go in.”

“The Lord was definitely watching out for you,” Harry said as he extended his hand to help Hannibal up after Selina and Arabella finished dressing the wound.

“You have no idea,” Hannibal agreed as Harry pulled him to his feet. “Something happened in there which I’m still having a problem believing actually happened.”

“What happened?” Harry asked as they pushed through the crowd that stood gathered around Nathanael, who was examining the Artifact.

Hannibal looked back at the pyramid with a shaken look. “The chamber where we found the Artifact had stone gargoyles carved into the wall all around the chamber,” he reported. “When I took the artifact, the gargoyles came to life and tried to kill me. In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“You’re kidding,” Harry said, completely amazed at what Hannibal told him.

“No, I’m not. I wish I were. The gargoyles literally pulled off the wall and came after me,” Hannibal said in a shaky tone. “They acted like robot sentries made of stone. It’s obviously a technology I’ve never encountered before…or they may have even been magical doppelgangers. I just don’t know.”

Selina came, put her arm around him from behind, and laid her head on his shoulder, purring for him. “Calm down. It’s over. The Lord watched over you again,” she purred. Hannibal put his hand on hers and smiled a smile of relief.

Everyone heard what Hannibal said and Thomas asked, “The statues came after you?”

Hannibal nodded. “If I didn’t have the grenades I did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he added. “I had to grenade them in order to escape. And fast, man they were fast. I didn’t think something made of stone could move so quickly. They moved like they were flesh and blood.”

“That some tale,” Nathanael commented as he examined the artifact. “But I know better than to question it. I’ve seen things just as strange at the Temple, which brings me to this thing. I’ve never seen anything like it. It reminds me of the Relic we found in the Temple.”

Everyone gathered around Nathanael as Hannibal said, “Let me see it.” Nathanael handed it over to Hannibal who examined it closely. The crystal glistened in the sunlight. “It’s indeed a strange Artifact,” Hannibal commented as he looked at it. “But we haven’t time right now to study and speculate about what it is. We need to get going and try to get out of the valley before dark. I don’t know how long the Zinzera will fear us or how far behind the General is. I would feel better if we were on the high ground beyond the river before dark.”

“Good point,” Morrison agreed as Hannibal found his pack and shifted his load to make room for the Artifact and his whip. “We should get moving.”

As he spoke, Jonathan happened to look up toward the top of the pyramid. He saw a tremendous crystal capstone on the pyramid that gleamed in the sunlight now that the forest had been shredded by the storm. “Holy shit…would you look at that!” he exclaimed, pointing to the top of the pyramid. Everyone turned to see what he was pointing at and saw the capstone gleaming almost as brilliantly as the sun.

“Whoa! Now that’s impressive!” Ned exclaimed and everyone agreed with him.

“That must be part of the crystal I saw inside the central chamber. It would explain why the central chamber was lit too,” Hannibal said as he donned his trench coat, followed by his pack and weapons. Everyone followed his lead and strapped their packs on, and readied their weapons. “Has anyone seen my hat?’ Hannibal asked.

Arabella came forward with his hat and handed it to him. “We almost forgot it when we vacated just before you came out,” she said.

“Thank you,” Hannibal replied, accepting the hat and putting it on. “Let’s get moving.” He took up the lead, heading back out to the road. Selina fell in beside him followed closely by Nathanael. Harry fell into line behind Nathanael followed closely by Arabella and Morrison. Cracko was next with Thomas, Jonathan, and Sam close behind and Ned brought up the rear.

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