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!