So I brought forth the ancient holy relic and laid it on my knee while Rufus shined one of the lanterns on it. The cord was definitely leather, but the clasp and setting were of a metal I had never seen. Bob had seen it, of course, as his people delved into the darkest places from time to time. He called it Demonfire, but Rufus disputed him and called it Gods’ Light. We discussed the dichotomy there and Bob explained that Demonfire was the church’s name for Bitrain, a metal that was frequently used in jewelry making. Bitrain had been banned long before Bob’s great, great, great grand dame’s time.
I suggested that it was likely seventy millennia in the offing and the other scoffed at me. While the others laughed, both Bÿglar and Bob gave me knowing looks which warned of further private conversations to come. Even Magda had heard of the strictures and laws enforced in the more populated regions and that to blaspheme was to invite harsh punishment. I am baffled at the isolation our monastery has endured, Father. Were you aware of this monotheistic control beyond our environs? Was that why so many shunned us? Were we an anathema to the civilized realms?
I picked up the symbol and examined it more closely. The symbol was round, not unlike the symbols for Kithri and Semaunzilla (may she forgive the constant comparison to one as soft as Kithri), but spherical unlike most holy symbols I had seen. The main body of the symbol had been carved from yellow tourmaline into a sphere with a wedge cut from it to expose a dozen small inset seeds made from black tourmaline. The relic held the likeness of a pomegranate — a fruit from the southlands which I have only seen in painted images. I recall it is a fruit, tart and fresh in taste, with a strong association to fertility.
The black tourmaline, Bob insisted has an affinity to elektron or lightning as we were likely more familiar with that concept since we had all seen Rufus wield it recently. It connects the body to the earth and helps channel healing light. It was once favored by priests but had been banned as representative of evil. The yellow tourmaline symbolized the correct use of power and the swift action required to maintain power in a world of chaos and strife.
In other words, this was a holy symbol of a benevolent god who had been eradicated in favor of a different, more powerful god. The implications disturbed me. I mentioned the portion of the temple descent where I saw a zealot enter the temple and the rage and fire that had permeated the scene.
I did not know this Bountiful One, but it was clear to me that he had been cast down from the pantheon by a society that held the dais could hold one and only one throne.
I passed the symbol around and each of them handled it, marveled at the intricate carving and passed it to the next. The interesting thing is every one of them, even Bob wiped their hands on a cloak or other clothing after handling the symbol. I took it back and slung the cord around my neck to the gasps of the others.
Liz gave me a puzzled look but said nothing else. The others protested saying I was risking the wrath of the… what? Bogey man? One True God? Frankly I had healed each of them, displaying the divine will of my gods and I had never heard of this monotheist nonsense until just now.
When it became clear I was not removing the necklace, the others gave up and set about resting while they could. Bob and Sparkle went back up the tunnel and within a very short amount of time, discerned the triggering mechanism and the load bearing joists that could be so easily dislocated to bring down the hall. After that, we moved out and went deeper into the heart of the fortress.
The passage remained dry, which did not surprise Bob — evidence of the craftsman’s skill, he assured us. Quality work by skilled experts who had the time and budget for a job well done. Then he trailed off mumbling about running over budget and Rufus grunted along with him in support. I guess those would be stories for another day. Or not. One never knows with those two.
We walked the hall for hours upon hours. We took three rest periods along the way and my internal clock tried to assure me that we had been walking down this corridor for more than a day. Once or twice Sparkle looked back at me with a look of concern, but the others had returned to their typical behavior. It had grown boring before we finally came to a change in the scenery.
A door. A normal, wooden door with a iron bar on this side to keep it locked from anyone entering from the other side. Again, this confused the lot of us. Obviously the door had been designed to keep those in the fortress from entering these tunnels. That combined with the tunnel collapsing trap had begun to paint a picture of a prison more than a fortress.
Could that be the case? I know that temples dotted the fortress. I’d bet my eye teeth on it. The Bountiful One was not the only deity to have a temple in this place. Bob pointed out that this hall ran lower than the tunnels and sewers we had traversed previously. Perhaps these were older, or built for a purpose that did not exist when the temples were installed.
None of which would surprise me. After all, the journey back in time had clearly indicated major historical shifts here. Now to puzzle them all together. Bob and Sparkle examined the door and found no traps, so the iron bar was leveraged up and set onto a shelf to the left of the door that appeared to have been crafted specifically to hold the bar. Therefore someone had fled through these tunnels and barred the door from this side. Their flight was also not desperate enough to trigger the trap, indicating that whomever had fled here, had been aware of the trap in order to avoid triggering it.
So when we pulled the heavy ring that swung the door inward, we were not utterly surprised to find the next hall filled with skeletons.