Clara held a lantern in one hand and her pistol in the other. She stepped forward, crossed the threshold and stopped once she had a clear view of a chamber along with a set of stairs leading down.
Clara took a few steps forward before Father Allen came through the threshold. At first there was a gasp followed by a grunt when Professor Jones ran into the Father.
“It looks like there is a missing segment,” Jonesy managed to say.
Right by the entrance there was a section carved out to accommodate a large slab. Had the slab been in place, their expedition would have ended there.
“Early cuneiform,” Jonesy added.
“I agree,” Father Allen said. “It would take weeks to analyse even a small segment of this tunnel,” he added.
“Clara can you take some pictures,” Jonesy asked.
While she snapped a few shots Clara said, “What god or gods were worshipped at this site?”
“Nanna who was also known as Sin,” Father Allen replied.
“Represented by a crescent moon,” Clara asked.
“Yes. Why do you ask,” Jonesy asked.
Clara moved closer to the stairwell where a large relief of a crescent moon was prominently displayed. Given their aversion to sunlight it seemed perfectly reasonable for them to worship a nocturnal god.
“Oh no reason,” she said. “Shall we head down,” Clara asked.
The men nodded in unison so Clara took point. There was no sense in putting the brains of this outfit at risk.
* * * *
The place was cold, humid, and had the faint odour of mould hanging on her every breath; in the distance Clara heard running water. Given the construction, she assumed this place had originally served as a well. There were pitch covered torches found at regular intervals, which were lit as they progressed. At first the walls were reinforced with brick, followed by stone slabs and eventually gave way to natural rock.
Father Allen and Professor Jones were busy discussing how this discovery would change their understanding of the world. Clara had expected some form of resistance, unless this was meant to be an escape route. After all, that slab by the door would have taken ten men to move out of the way, or one motivated vampire.
After five minutes of descent they came across a large chamber. This place was so large that the light was swallowed up before it reached the opposing side. The walls were smooth, carved by years of erosion. Had it not been for the cobbled floor, Clara would have assumed they were exploring a natural cave system.
“Wait here,” Clara said and after ten minutes the large chamber was dimly lit by torchlight.
There was another tunnel opposing them, blocked by rock and rubble. She guessed that the other entrance once led directly to the gate. The direction seemed about right, but Clara had to admit that spiralling down like they had, made it difficult to be certain.
There was a natural beauty to the place, but everyone could feel the chill touch of the grave. Clara knew that no one else had been here in a very long time.
“So what now,” Clara asked.
Jonesy and Father Allen both shrugged. For now, this appeared to be a dead end which effectively ended this expedition.
“Why have Georgian construct to protect an empty room,” Clara asked.
“They might have cleared the contents when they abandoned the site,” Jonesy said.
“There are no drag or scuff marks to indicate that anything has been moved,” Father Allen said.
Father Allen moved towards the centre to sketch. Once he was within ten feet of the centre, they heard a loud click that echoed throughout the room. Everyone paused and held their breath.
“What did you do,” Jonesy and Clara asked.
“Nothing,” Father Allen said. “Just stepped on this area of the floor,” he added.
Clara moved towards the centre but kept her eyes peeled. From this vantage point she saw a well defined circular seam in the floor.
Once she stood opposing Father Allen, Clara pressed down hard with one foot. That was enough for the platform to give way and sent Father Allen on his ass.
While Clara kept a straight face, Professor Jones began to laugh maniacally. Hopefully that would not sour their team cohesion; the last thing she needed was to mollycoddle these two.
“Our first trap,” Jonesy said. “How did you know,” he asked.
“I assumed most people would be travelling through the centre directly to the exit behind us,” Clara said.
“So I forced the platform back onto its seat,” Father Allen asked.
“Precisely,” Clara said. “Now would you please wedge something under the platform Father,” she asked.
Clara waited patiently as Father Allen ripped his pack apart. Item after item came out of that bag, but nothing seemed suitable. Eventually he thought of using his walking stick, which he used to keep the platform from falling into place.
The sound of water was more pronounced now, on Clara’s side the supporting rock had been carved away so the slab would give way. This trap had been clearly designed to catch people travelling in a certain direction.
Clara hammered a climbing piton into the floor. She then used a length of rope to grapple and force the platform at its apex.
With the platform out of the way, the walking stick fell through the opening and made a racket below. Clara illuminated the area using her lantern and saw a slew of rusty spikes. The area was littered with bones, skulls and dried blood. Even after all these years, the stone was still stained red.
Clara grabbed the remaining rope and draped it over the edge. Using the light of her lantern Clara had no trouble manoeuvring around the obstacles. She then lit the torches and within minutes Clara was able to shed some light on the macabre scene.
“I’m going to explore,” Clara said.
Without waiting for an answer she ventured through an archway. Visible were two entrances, one that led up presumably towards the chamber above, while the other led down to the source of that running water sound.
Clara pulled out her sidearm and moved closer to the stairs going up. She called out in that direction and eventually heard the men come down.
“Another Georgian illusion then,” Clara said.
“Precisely,” Jonesy said. “It even provided some resistance to prevent accidental discovery,” he added.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!