THE SHRINE OF SOULS
After the visit in the hideout of Syrana’s clan Fieras, Devon and the princess of Meru are leaving the place to continue their search for the powerful artifact. Equipped with maps, lanterns, torches and some food, they move on. Both left their horses at the waterfall, since Syrana convinced Devon that their mission goal cannot be far from here any more. Furthermore, they need to be more careful and silent from now on; so the two Reptilians get on moving by foot. Devon and Syrana are going deeper into the unknown and dangerous realm. With no weapons and only a few, difficult to interpret maps, they are finally reaching a road made of cubic stones. This is proof for an ancient culture long past.
Far behind the trees, the red sun begins to rise and Devon and Syrana are ready to face a new day on their mysterious adventure…
Devon: (yawns.) Well, I do understand the need to continue our search for this… temple in the early morning. But why must it always be before sunrise? (quickly, before Syrana can answer.) Alright, yes. It is this “making less appearance” thing. Just… (sighs.) garrrrw, I’m tired anyway. Hmmmm… (holds his small lantern above the map, which Syrana gave him.) If I am correct, we are not far away from this... (reading.) “Shrine of Souls”. What a queer name for a temple… I hope, our artifact will be there.
Syrana: Why I didn't leave you home for sake of all gods... (gives him a look.)
Devon: Well... (gives her a wide smile and places his hands against his hips.) Maybe, because you need a strong, handsome, strapping fellow like me to push heavy rocks away, or to use as a living shield?! After all, we are together in this and... (scratches softly over her cheeks.) I am just teasing you.
Syrana: (sighs and rests head slightly on his hand before heading up and leading the way.) With your teasing we may risk to be discovered.
Devon: (nods and looks at the map again.) Okay, don’t exaggerate… I will be careful, not to wake anyone by my whimpers. Hmmmm… according to this, we have to follow this stone road for a few hundred meters… look there! (points to a hardly visible building, which rises darkly into the sky. It’s black front gives a good contrast to the red sky.) This must be it. Let’s go!
Syrana: Not only your wild noises can be a problem... (allows him to go ahead and watches as a part of the road rumbles down into hole and he swings on the edge.) Traps, too...
Devon: (jumps back, grabs her and tosses her aside.) Wohooo… take care! You are right, this place is quite dangerous. (fetches the map and looks forward.) I am sure, that we might be able to evade these small holes here… just step on the stones, not on the grass! (After a few minutes, they reach the main door of the building, which appears to be a temple indeed. The stone walls are decomposed and rotten plants are growing all over it. It must be thousands of years old.) I guess, this door will not easily to… (pushes the door and it breaks apart.) Awww… oh! That was easy, huh? (lights a torch, gives it to Syrana and lights another one for himself.) Our lantern will not be sufficient here. Come on, let’s act like “tomb raiders”, shall we? (smiles.)
Syrana: Don't think you are the only one here who broke into any mausoleum or tomb. (walks observing everything with sharpen senses.)
Devon: So, you are someone indeed... this is getting better and better! (grins and watches the structure of the inside walls. It seems to be very ancient, but capable of carrying the weight of tons of stone.) Hmmm... so, then tell me how many skulls to you have collected and put on your shelf in the past years? (laughs.)
Syrana: Depends about what skulls you are speaking of... (stops and steps over a stone which was pulled higher than others.)
Devon: Hehehehe… point taken. (pushes her softly aside again.) Let me walk first, okay? If something happens, I want that it happens to me first! Who knows, if here are some ancient booby traps installed, as well… (they slowly move deeper into the dark corridors.)
Syrana: You are be of no use if dead... (walks next to him and observes everything.)
Devon: Hehehehe, hey I am not easily defeated nor am I very good in dying... (he steps on a small button made of stone, which was laid inside a stone plate on the ground. Suddenly, a sparkling blade leaves the ceiling in front of Devon and dashes out. The blades hisses like a snake and cuts through air. Just by reflex, Devon lowers his head and the blade misses him by millimeters; his torch has been decapitated though!) Ooooh... that was... too close. This might be the proof, that I shall shout my mouth... (he swallows.)
Syrana: (in reflex, she crouched then smirks.) Now you understand ancient sense of humor... do not loose your head anymore. (pats his arm and goes on front keeping herself low and prepared.)
Devon: (since he is so tall, he almost crouches behind her - not to be in high reach of any trap anymore.) Well, I am sure there are lower traps here as well... (watches his legs and his tail.) My, what magnificent art, anyway! Look at this... (points on the ground plates and at the walls. There are many inscriptions and icons of animals of all kind.) What... is this? Did you ever saw a language or signs like these?
Syrana: Keep your fingers away from them for any case... (stops and lights the wall with torch.) No, I don't think so... probably something like usual in type: curses and eternal doom to who enters this temple! But we are not here to dig in literature.
Devon: Awww... I don't wanna sound intimidated now, but... you think we just should "overlook" all these curses, which might be clearly meant to keep us AWAY from this place? (breathes hard.) Alright, this is not the first tomb which I would desecrate!
Syrana: Ten it is two of us and you can wait for me outside if you feel uncomfortable about the curses...
Devon: (pumps air into his chest and becomes taller then before.) Ha, who do you think I am? A cowardly frog? No, way... of course, I will go with ya! I don't believe in curses, anyway. (walks on, but still watches his steps for any round buttons.) Hmmm... (gets very close to Syrana, since she has the only torch left. The light is barley sufficient to see anything, which is not a few meters ahead. Finally, the corridors become more light. But it is no natural light source. And there are no holes in the wall or ceiling, which could let some light inside.) What is this... (Devon moves closer to the walls and cannot hold his breath.) Gems! Gold and jewels of all kind... it is reflecting our torch light!!
Syrana: (turns to his face and his eyes and whispers with hissing voice.) I suppose, tombs which you visited were very loud, but here you better lower your voice down before you cause avalanche on our heads!
Devon: (whispers.) Okay. Oh, gods... they are all over the walls... it must be thousands of gems! (wants to touch one, but gets his hand back like if he was bitten by a snake.) No... I shall not try this after the booby traps. You know what? If I'd be the creator of this place, I'd say all these gems are to tempt the unwanted visitors. Either, they will be punished with another trap, or they shall leave this place with the treasures here for good... see? Some gems are missing here. (points at the wall.)
Syrana: Unwanted guests are not missing for that matter. (pokes a Reptilian skull with her toe claw; the owner of the skull apparently lost not only his head, but also part of a scalp which looks like it was bitten of.)
Devon: Yuck... (stares at the skull with half closed eyes.) I don't want to see my head next to this one. (watches at the wall and Syrana again.) Yes... (soft and quit voice.) At least I know, we are right here! All those traps and those treasures are to scare others away from the really important treasure... lets move on! I feel, I am getting excited here... (smiles. Fast heart beat.)
Syrana: He looks more like being attacked by something… where is the rest of the body?
Devon: (turns and laughs.) Hehe, you want to scare me again, aren't you? His body is most definitely... (watches and stops.) Where is it?? Aw... I cannot... find anything. (looks up to the ceiling.) Well, at least there is his ribcage... somehow attached to the plates. How uncomfortable... but the rest, I have no clue. (sighs.) If this was supposed to make me feel unsafe, it really works... but we have to go on! Our goal cannot be far away...
Syrana: I really don't like this… I prefer booby traps than monsters... (looks at the ribcage and takes a deep breath to calm herself.)
Devon: (pats her.) Don't worry! No monster could be match for you... (laughs softly and holds his finger on her mouth, as she wants to respond.) That was meant as compliment... you are no monster! But you know how to cope with dangerous situations. And after all: Where this guy failed, we shall prevail!
Syrana: (smirks.) I am not afraid of monsters but I just don't like them...
Devon: Okay…hey, share some light for me... (watches his map again.) Thank you. Alright... there must be a door of some sort just behind the next corner. (they walk carefully and reach the portal.) Oh, yes... this is indeed more a portal, then a door! (watches the huge block of stone and gold. Devon tries to open it, but it won't move a bit.) Darn... there must be a riddle to solve, in order to open it. See? On this map, there are some patterns in geometric shape... and here on the portal, we find the same symbols as well. But in wrong order...
Syrana: (puts map up side down.)
Devon: Oh, yes... (grins and if he could turn red, he would.) That is it! The symbols make sense now... lemme see. (he searched along the door and finds some buttons and levers below the symbols. Almost not visible, due some thick dust and spider webs.) The symbols on the map are beginning with a tall size and getting smaller then... I think, this might be the proper row, hm? What do we have to lose, anyway... (he turns the levers and pushes the buttons in the correct order. Suddenly, a cracking sound can be hear and the door trembles.) You think, this is it?
Syrana: I wouldn't stand in front of the door...(moves on side.)
Devon: (quickly jumps to the opposite side, as the door stops to tremble. A few mechanical sounds can be heard, and finally the portal opens a small gap.) I guess, this is it... (carefully looks at the portal. Suddenly, large spikes are showing out of the surface of the door and stick into the air. After one second, the spikes are vanishing again from where they came from.) Peeeew... once again, your feeling was correct... this was meant to stab the visitors... but we are brighter this time! I guess, it is safe now.
Syrana: (falls on the ground and tips his legs and he crashes on the ground and large spikes fly over them and stab into the wall on sides of the door.) You spoken something? (tail twitch.)
Devon: (pats his thigh and butt.) Alright… awwwrrgh! (coughs.) Who would think about two traps in a row? The creators must’ve been VERY unkind to visitors… or this treasure here is really, really precious! I am asking myself, if it is really wise to go on… but this won’t stop us! (blinks to her.) Thank you, by the way…
Syrana: Don't mention it... you really have a talent to praise the day before sundown. (gets up still tail waging.) Ancients really had imagination so it is better to expect anything...
Devon: I agree… (they walk insecure and carefully into the hall behind the portal.) Hmmm… this room might be quite huge… you hear the echoes of my voice? Our torch won’t suffice here… so, let’s add some more light to this, shall we? (he searches for something in a bag around his belt. Soon, Devon discovers a small, round gem. It is a Cyronite crystal known for their magic capabilities and for their incredible worth. Devon polishes the rare stone and lifts it to the air.) Syrana, please hold the torch right behind the crystal… yes, like this. Good! Now… stay back! (Devon closes his eyes and words of a magic spell are leaving his mind and mouth.) Anruhjli-chohotra-hintheir-shandhro-ihlumii! (a sharp hissing sound rises up to the air, as the crystal starts to glow and shine with bright light. The magic spell and the light of the torch are being enhanced and illuminate the grand hall like a second sun.)
Syrana: It's unbelievable! I never saw so much magic... (looks around.)
Devon: (smiles proud.) Well, I don't want to show off, but this is nothing... (holds the crystal high and enlightens the room.) To be honest, I am just using the natural light of the fire and enhance it with the Cyronite... but one thing is for sure: You need some years to learn the spells needed. Especially the horrible spelling... (grins and gazes around.) Marvelous...
Syrana: (looks at the great hall.) Well, definitely this is not a safe place... looks too safe to be one.
Devon: Hmmm… we’ve come to far, so why stopping now! (walks self-confident and tall along a passage made of stone plates. Then, he stops.) But I am sure, your feeling is right once again… it IS too safe! See this? There are round and cubic stone plates on the floor… if I think correct, we shall avoid the round ones just like in the corridors! It is just a feeling… what do you think? Wait a second… (turns, gets a small rock and returns. Devon lifts the stone and throws it a few meters in the front right on a round floor plate. A snapping noise cracks and in a moment, dozens of wooden spears with sharp edges are leaving the left wall and right wall and hit the opposite sides. After only three seconds, the room is quiet again. Devon breathes slow.) Uhmmm… they really had a passion for this spear-thing! (he throws another stone on the cubic shaped plates, and nothing happens.) Yes, we avoid the round ones and step only on these here… take care!
Syrana: Excuuuse me... (runs forward in jumps quickly from plate to plate and nothing happens. At the end she stops at one of the blocks and turns around at him raising eye brow.)
Devon: You are really sleeping with danger, I see… (jumps and almost gallantly dances over the cubic floor plates. Finally, they both reach a platform of solid stone.) Well, this was not so bad was it? I guess… (his voice dies, as he turns and watches some kind of altar. In the middle of the platform, guarded by some light, which comes out of a hole from the ceiling. The ray of light, visible from dust, rests softly on an item. It is a book. Devon’s hands twitch and tremble.) I… guess, we… have found our treasure… wow! (with an brave attempt, he touches the book. There is no danger. Devon’s fingers are gliding over the cover.) It seems to have a cover of black metal… feels quite… good. Feels like… power! (pants hard and slow.) Let’s not waste more time. We will take a closer look later. Give me the leather bag, please…
Syrana: (grabs his wrist.) Are you insane? We won't be safe until we get out from here, and this looks way too easy to grab...
Devon: (lifts the book with no hesitation.) See? Nothing happened! If I've learned something from you in the past minutes, it is not to be a soft "play it safe" guy...
(As they carry the book, a horrible loud quake echoes through the temple. The walls shatter, the floor trembles, dust and stones raining down from the ceiling. The whole rooms seems to move and quiver in anger and the will to destroy the invaders. Devon cries out and screams at Syrana to leave this place as quickly as possible. Now, they can show how good they run and watch the traps under pressure. Syrana is the first again, who leaves the hall and runs through the corridors, but Devon follows her quickly. They evade falling stones and cubes and rush like bats through the corridors. Devon carries the book, like it’d be his string of life. The Cyronite lights the way, before it finally loses the power and goes out. But the light is not needed anymore… the entrance of the tomb is ahead. With last strength, both raiders run as fast as possible and jump out of the temple. Outside, the fall over their own feet and watch dust and dirt coming out of the entrance, which they just passed. The quake causes the door to fall apart and a huge stone block closes the entrance for all eternity. Safe and hard breathing, Devon and Syrana are sitting outside the temple and watching the building, as the noise returns to normal again. Everything is quiet now.)
Devon: Hehehehe… (pants hard and laughs.) You know what? You where right… it was really wrong to grab it so easily…
Syrana: (slaps the back of his head.) Next time you are staying home!
Devon: (he hasn’t moved for the last hour just stares on the book cover. Finally, he speaks two words.) Power… danger…
Syrana: (turns head on him.) It really must be dangerous if it sucked rest of what was in your head... you are loosing dictionary. (she is still kind of sulky on him.)
Devon: Well... (shakes his head and opens his eyes. He looks, like someone who just woke up from a nightmare.) this book... it's nothing I've ever seen before. You know, I try to understand and use ways of magic myself... but now... I can feel incredible power and... unspeakable danger below my finger tips. As I move with my hands over the black cover, a shiver runs along my back all the time...
Syrana: This must be nice if you are doing this from longer time now...
Devon: (watches her with a serious, quite intimidating look on his face. For the first time, he does not smile or give a "cool" appearance.) No, this isn't nice. Not at all! (puts the book down and leans back.) I... cannot make anything of this... I am absolutely empty and hollow. Usually, I feel the need to grab and possess anything value or magical... but this time, I feel like hiding from this book.
Syrana: (she does not seem to be frightened and scoops the book.) Maybe, it isn't something which should be possessed by anyone... (traces the lock carving with finger tips and Devon almost feels jealous of that piece of metal.) Or maybe it is not meant for you, that's why you don't feel urge to have it...
Devon: Maybe. If you ask me, we should really hurry, give this darn book - which already cost our lives more then one time - to Sneferu and forget this whole thing. He might know, how to use this unholy thing...
Syrana: (gives him a look.) I really don't think so... he is old and sometimes his mind is blurry... we better hide it somewhere.
Devon: What? (makes big eyes.) This is our mission...you really want to disobey him? (sighs out.) And you were always making me so sacred with this "he will cut your head for this"... what will he do with us, when we return with empty hands? Or if he ever finds out, that we fooled him. Okay, he is old... but he got troops and warriors! We cannot fight all...
Syrana: (now she looks like a devil.) What eyes don't see, heart does not cry after it... and what do I care about his will right now, he is not here... and Meru and it's warriors shall be mine soon anyways...
Devon: (suddenly, he feels a bit uncomfortable. He thought, that he’d know Syrana completely inside out by now; now he is insecure and a bit scared but tries not to show this.) Hmmm… I didn’t expect this kind of cunning plan from you. (smiles at her; broken smile.) Well, you know that I’ll follow you everywhere…
Syrana: (smirks and holds book in her lap and covers it with deflected knees, looking kinda cute.) I know. (sighs loudly.) And after that, humans will fall...
Devon: (slowly gets the book again, which Syrana apparently pulled towards herself and is not willing to let it go. Devon really has to grab hard and tight and pulls it to himself. When he got the book back, Syrana looks a little bit confused. Devon does not recognize this right now.) You are right about one thing… first, I was afraid of this but… if it is really THAT powerful, why giving it to an old guy, who will not live the day to use it? It could be far more use to US!
Syrana: I like that you see it my way. (walks to him at all fours and nuzzles to his chest and looks at the book and thinks for a moment.) Somewhere, I saw that symbol... (strokes the lock on the book.)
Devon: (mumbles and thinks.) I can imagine, you saw this somewhere at Sneferu’s place… he might have studied this artifact, before sending us to this mission. (lifts his finger.) But before we plan anything about using this book, we need to explore it’s secrets… and in order to do so, we need to gain more knowledge about it. I might have been very careless in the temple, but when it comes to magic artifacts, I am used to spend years in my lair to study them - before using! We have no idea, what powers this contains and what could happen to us, if we don’t take care… I suppose, we shall search Sneferu’s bibliotheca to find information about this book. There, we might also find more about this symbol… and what Sneferu knows, we need to know as well!
Syrana: Leave that to me I know how to pull information out of him.
Devon: Maybe… (scratches his chin and grins.) yes, we should ask himself! How about this… we just pretend to give him the book, but we keep this for ourselves… and use his information and knowledge to help us explore this powerful item.
Syrana: Hush... he wouldn't tell anyone if he knew, even to me... but it is a fact that for know I know all his deepest plans thanks to some herbal magic... (winks.)
Devon: How cunning and evil… I know, why I love you so much! (licks over her snout and kisses her deeply, while softening her neck and shoulder with his hands.) Awww… this feels too great to be true. I mean, I was really serious and honest, when I swore loyalty to Sneferu. But my loyalty bounds me only to you, anyway. I serve you, and nobody else! (smiles wide.) Yes… I did not pretend to be honest, when I talked to Sneferu… but I have no problems, in hitting him in the back, either! He is a funny old guy, but I see, he won’t lead Meru for long… that is for sure.
Syrana: Pretty dangerous to say such things to royal princess. (pokes his muffle.)
Devon: Well, I am of noble blood myself… not only a war general, you know? (beats on his chest.) I used to be a lord… even king once! I was ruler over my homelands… before the time of contracts with the humans and the time of talking. This is all nonsense… but with this book, I feel like rising from the ashes again! (gets the book and wants to open it. He did not figure out, that there is a lock.) Uhhhmm… we cannot simply open it, I see.
Syrana: Just now you saw it?
Devon: (feels a bit ashamed.) Well, to be honest I didn't gave a damn until now. Anyway, we shouldn't try to open this, even if we had the sufficient key right now... (searches and looks closer to the cover.) Peeeew, I cannot make anything of this. Sorry. It apparently needs a key to be opened... or something similar. Guess, Sneferu might know more. So, we can just watch the cover and be happy... (laughs.) Darn, I fell like a child which wants to get cookies from a box, but cannot open and just watch it with desire...
Syrana: Sorry, I forgot you don't turn much attention to details, it is what we were learned... to survive.
Devon: (raises one eyebrow.) I see, you are talking about the incidents in the temple again... hell, okay. I admit it... closer looks on details might have saved me from some trouble there! But okay, that is why I got you... and why we work together so well!! (smiles warmly. Then he yawns.) Ooohmmmm... I think, it is time for sleeping. The fire is dying, anyway...
Syrana: Remember that not always I will be standing behind your back to tell you what to do... you are a big boy after all.
Devon: Awww, when did you figure that out? (blinks with one eye.)
Syrana: Ha, ha. (slaps his chest with open hand.) And what? You need diaper change or what?
Devon: Hehehehe… guess not. (cuddles himself inside his blanket and close to Syrana.) No matter if boy or man, or lord or king… everyone needs a queen at his side. I can’t say this often enough… (sighs in pleasure.)
Syrana: You are obsessed... (nuzzles.)
Devon: Yes, by you! But I love it. Hmmm… this has been an amazing day and I feel, our adventure is just about to begin. Good night, my queen and lets dream about our glorious future. Soon, we shall make every dream reality! (kisses her again, hides the black book under another leather bag and rests his head on a pillow made of grass. He slowly closes his eyes.) Fortune seems to shine on us… we will rule over everyone again… (snorts.)
Syrana: (pats his head and sits next to him on guard of the camp.)