Evelyn Chartres Author
Raiders and Tombs

Raiders and Tombs – Parts VI and VII

They walked along the slippery path for about two hundred feet before they came across an opening. This entry had been carved into the rock and as judged by the tool marks, the excavation had been done recently.

When Clara wandered on through, she saw the many layers that made up this formidable fortress. Beyond the natural rock and sediment there was pitch, brick, and an inch of rotted iron plating followed by more pitch and brick. This section had been built to keep something out. Or was it to keep something in?

Once they entered the chamber, they saw how the walls had once been covered in ornate symbols. Alas, water had rushed in after the excavation, rendering the writings illegible.

The room was in shambles. Broken pottery littered the ground and boxes that had been lined with gold were shattered. In the centre there was a large gold coffin that reminded Clara of a sarcophagus. The lid had been broken into three pieces and was empty.

When she looked above, Clara noticed two large slabs of rock that had been used to seal in whatever was inside. Whoever had been interred here was never meant to come out.

“Where do you think we are, Clara,” Father Allen asked.

His use of her given name surprised Clara. She thought over the convoluted route they had taken and despite the uncertainty, she knew where this was going.

“Roughly underneath the step pyramid, Father,” Clara said.

“I would wager that this room is precisely under the centre of the pyramid,” Father Allen said. “This chamber had been used to hide a vampire of unimaginable power.”

Clara vaguely remembered Professor Stephens giving lectures on such structures. Some of their kind were so powerful that they could control others even while in a state of deep sleep. They could run entire empires from the safety of these tombs. These were the eternal puppet masters who pulled society’s strings and never got their hands dirty. Peons rarely realised that they were being controlled, save for a trusted few.

“I recommend we be quick about it then,” Clara said and proceeded to take some snapshots.

* * * *

Everyone left the chamber feeling soiled. There was something to be said about being in the same room that housed evil for so long. Clara found it hard describe, but it reminded her of an abandoned sanatorium. A place where souls were still lurking about, tortured and eternally detached from reality.

Despite leaving the crypt, wherever they were approaching sent a shiver down Clara’s spine. Was this a real world example of jumping out of the frying pan and landing in the fire?

In response Clara asked, “Can anyone feel that?”

Father Allen turned to ask, “Feel what, child?”

“You mean that feeling of walking on a mass grave,” Jonesy asked.

“Yeah,” Clara said.

Father Allen shrugged and carried on. The man had spent the majority of his life in the Tower. He never had to rely on his instincts to survive nor did he know what to do when a shiver ran down his spine.

“Any idea what we are going to encounter,” Clara asked.

“Not sure,” Jonesy said. “Not sure I want to.”

Clara could relate. The same emotions were swirling around in her mind. Hunters were trained to keep their emotions in check, but she found it hard to ignore that sense of dread growing within.

Within a couple of minutes, they came across a new chamber. This one had a large staircase carved into the rock itself. The path beyond the chamber was flooded; it seemed that the river’s alternate path met up just beyond the chamber. Clara was impressed. It was impossible to reach this particular point from any other route.

Despite their growing sense of unease, the group scaled the steps. Clara kept an eye out for any trouble but saw no obvious threats. Atop, there was a cobblestone floor with an ornate altar that dominated the chamber. Immediately after the altar, she noticed a large pit or well.

Father Allen and Professor Jones lit the torches while Clara ventured closer to the well. It was built in a perfect circle and had no visible bottom. Nonetheless, the glow from her lantern was enough to make a startling discovery. The walls were stained with blood.

“Deep,” Jonesy said.

“Really,” Clara remarked sarcastically. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Father Allen chuckled nervously, a sign that he too was beginning to feel that something was dreadfully wrong here.

“The altar is stained with blood,” Father Allen said grimly.

Clara tied a rope to the end of her lantern and lowered it down the shaft. The red stained rocks glowed like hellfire as it descended. No matter how far it travelled, the bottom would not show.

“So either it’s infinitely deep or—,” Jonesy said.

The lantern’s light went out without explanation. In response, Clara tried to bring it up so she could light it, but something was fighting her every pull.

“Must have gone—,” Clara said.

Just like that, the light appeared, just as bright as before. The men looked at her, then down the pit, just in time to witness the light being enveloped another time.

“Here,” Clara said as she handed the rope to Jonesy. “And make it fast,” she added with a hint of urgency.

While Professor Jones pulled up the lantern, they noticed that the darkness was trying to overtake the lantern. Whatever was down there was interested in the flame.

Clara dropped her pack to the ground, then rummaged through until she found a potato shaped Bakelite contraption fitted with a metal spoon and pin. She had no interest in talking things over with whatever was down there.

Clara pulled the pin and watched the spoon fly off as it was dropped. The grenade began its descent, just as the lantern was recovered.

“Get back,” Clara exclaimed.

The floor shook, but the expected flash of light did not materialise. Instead, she heard a shrill shriek. Clara was done with her experiment; she backed away with her pistol drawn.

“Gentleman,” Clara said.

Her voice roused them out of their stupor and they followed her lead. Just then, a series of shadowy tendrils emerged from the well, probing the area in search of something. Clara had no desire to find out what.

“Holy water, Father,” Clara asked.

“Left it behind in favour of the whiskey,” Father Allen replied.

“That will be worth a laugh if we ever ma—,” Jonesy said.

Clara raised her hand to silence the group while the tendrils continued to probe. So far there was no sign that it could hear, but she had no desire to taunt fate.

Slowly, they backed away while keeping an eye on the creature and for a moment, it appeared as if they were free and clear. Alas, the end of tendrils changed into spearheads and shot out in every direction.

The attack may have been blind, but nonetheless proved to be effective. Clara saw that Father Allen had been struck in the shoulder by a tendril.

The tip blunted immediately after penetration, making it impossible to extract. Clearly, he was in shock, since she could see there was no one home in Father Allen’s eyes.

She fired several rounds into the tendrils with no effect. Without warning, Father Allen was whisked away into the well, leaving only his bag behind.

“Run,” Clara exclaimed sharply while grabbing the extra pack.

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!

Raiders and Tombs – Part III and IV

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!

Raiders and Tombs – Part II

The group spent the next two days scouring the temple complex. Clara kept a close eyes on the tribesmen, it appeared they did not like lingering here and the last thing she needed was for them to get any ideas.

On both sides of the pyramid there were channels which led all the way to the top of the structure. Clara noticed how these shafts had been heavily reinforced.

“What were these for,” Clara asked.

“Not sure,” Jonesy said.

“Used to bring up stores,” Father Allen asked.

“Garbage shoot,” Jonesy guessed.

“Drainage,” Father Allen mused.

“Good cover,” Clara said. “No one can see what is going on from either side,” she added.

Clara walked into the channel and disappeared from sight. Only those who faced her directly were able to see what she was up to, which proved her point.

She pulled out her canteen and took a quick sip. The water was refreshing and cool as it ran down her throat. Alas she had something else in mind for what remained.

“Oops,” Clara said after she dropped the canteen.

The water was initially absorbed by the ground but soon began to pool. It seemed that the theory that these were drains had been wrong, at least for this side.

Without a word, she picked up the canteen and handed it over to one of the locals to refill. Meanwhile she pictured the ziggurat in her mind and realised that this particular channel received the least amount of daylight.

“No obvious markings or pressure points to trigger a mechanism,” Jonesy said.

“No,” Clara said. “Just the way they would want it,” she guessed.

Before Father Allen could speak, Clara cut into the palm of her hand with her crucifix. She then smeared an area just inside the nook with blood.

For a moment nothing seemed to happen, but the blood was slowly absorbed by a portion of the bricks. The break in the streak clearly outlined the concealed doorway.

Jonesy barked out orders and within moments three lanterns were brought forward. Since they were about to descend, the locals had also been instructed to make camp.

Clara had never seen so many people go pale with dread. With a good six hours of daylight left, Clara made a note to ensure they were back before then. She had an odd feeling their camp would not be ready as instructed.

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!

Raiders and Tombs – Part I

For weeks Clara had been trudging through sand and dust. This arid and sun bleached land was a new experience and in her opinion this place was the perfect stand-in for one of the seven levels of hell.

Like Europe, war was no stranger to these lands. Occasionally she came across abandoned battlefields, some buried by the sands of time, while others bore fresh scars of modern warfare. Had they gained anything by unleashing such carnage?

Clara had been assigned to an expedition, exploring the ruins of a city abandoned for over six-hundred years. Specifically their interests were centred on an abandoned portal site.

Why had a portal been built here? Some gates existed for obvious reasons, there were always portals leading to Paris or London. These were major cities of colonial powers that provided access to vast populations.

While this city had been the centre of a revived Sumerian culture, that was true for a comparatively short time. Curious that this gate appeared to have been used well after the city had been lost in the desert.

Clara kept an eye out for anything out of the ordinary; ghouls, djinn, and angels of death were all creatures of myth that originated from this part of the world. The fact that vampires and Georgians were also interested in this region only heightened her suspicions.

On this particular day they were searching the ruins of a structure that must have had a great religious significance; Clara supposed that it functioned in much the same way that cathedrals did today.

“A ziggurat,” Professor Jones said.

Clara had never dealt with Professor Jones before this mission. Under his tan clothing and pith helmet, there was a man with a chiselled jaw and a day’s old beard. His roguish good looks would have been a diversion to blossoming girls. That alone might explain why he instructed male students exclusively.

“Quite right,” Father Allen replied.

Father Allen was the team archivist and a fixture at the Tower’s numerous libraries and archives. His thick glasses, pale skin and balding head made him seem inoffensive. Clara guessed that many underestimated him based on his appearance.

Clara looked at the pile of rocks while Father Allen sketched out the site. Today was an especially warm day, the world shimmered in the distance. If only she could find some shade instead of being cooked alive.

“Shade,” Clara said.

“Something to share Miss Grey,” Jonesy asked.

While her statement had been nothing more than the slip of the tongue, it was time to speak up. She was tired of this infernal heat and perhaps she could move things along.

“Yes shade,” Clara said. “We are exploring the surface of a city that was important to them. So travelling overland in broad daylight would have been impractical,” she added.

For days their search had yielded no immediate signs of underground structures. There should have been ventilation shafts or even a few sinkholes. Clara knew this, but it was time to think outside the box.

“If the Tower had to be abandoned,” Clara said. “Sensitive areas would be collapsed, filled in or concealed to deter future expeditions,” Clara said.

“How does that help us Miss Grey,” Jonesy asked.

“This step pyramid is directly in line with the gate room,” Clara said. “The chamber is located by the city’s secondary harbour and would have provided ample escape routes,” she added.

“How—,” Jonesy said.

Clara could have told them how the ruins were mapped out in her mind, but that would be a bitter pill for academics to swallow. She could have used a compass to prove her point, but there was a simpler way of pointing out what should have been obvious.

“At this time of day the sun’s shadows point directly towards the chamber which is four hundred yards in that direction,” Clara said.

Father Allen’s jaw dropped to the floor while Professor Jones eyes bulged. Clara brought the camera forward, held it at waist height, looked down and took a shot. Events like these were meant to be cherished.

“So why don’t we look for the entrance,” Clara asked.

“But this structure is supposedly solid Child,” Father Allen said.

“True. This structure has an imposing facade, even after centuries of degradation,” Clara said.

“So what if it does,” Jonesy asked.

“Would their kind risk travelling through crowds or use the front door,” she asked.

“Well no—,” Jonesy said.

“So let’s concentrate on the sides and back,” Clara said.

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!