Greek Tomb or Treasury 2011 by Mylissa @ Captive Eye, on Flickr
This week, Chuck Wendig gave us the title and nothing else.
Grace inhaled sharply as her booted foot caught on a loose rock on the floor of the cavern. The four of them had been keeping relatively quiet as they made their way through the darkness. The only one who seemed to notice was her professor, Dr. Murphy, who looked over his shoulder at her. The light of their torches reflected in his monocle.
“Grace, are you all right?”
“Perfectly. Just need to watch my step.”
The other man, a dour gent Grace knew only as Mister Stephens, brushed rock dust from his coal-black hair and sideburns as he walked.
“I’m still not certain bringing the ladies was the best of ideas, Professor.”
“Nonsense, old chap! Grace is one of the finest students I’ve ever had the pleasure of training, and Violet is an invaluable research assistant. I couldn’t imagine embarking upon this expedition without them!”
Grace glanced at Violet and fought down a surge of anger. Violet was picking her way carefully through obstacles in shoes completely unsuited for such an endeavor. She also had one hand occupied with keeping her skirts lifted as the other held her torch. The bag she carried, full of books, scrolls, and writing implements, kept slipping down her arm as she picked her way through the rocks.
You would have thought she was going to a lecture at university, not plumbing ancient Greek tombs.
What they were after, Grace knew, was not in fact a tomb. It was an ancient temple, one written about by Ptolemy in one of his lesser-known works. It was said to mark the place Prometheus descended from Mount Olympus with the fire of the gods. Their guide, Christos, was far behind them, having stayed at the entrance to the cavern. The fear in the man’s eyes as they’d lit their torches stayed with Grace as they closed in on their destination.
“Still, I’m concerned for their safety.”
“You weren’t so concerned when we were looking for the secret vault of Suleiman, Mister Stephens.”
“That’s true, Grace, but we were under Constantinople at the time. A touch more civilized than a cave in the middle of nowhere.”
“The legends say this temple was so remote so it would discourage – ow – all but the most determined of pilgrims.” Violet was still struggling to keep up.
“Nonsense. It was remote to keep the common man away from the finest treasures.”
“Why, Mister Stephens! Surely you don’t believe there’s no power in myth whatsoever?”
“It’s 1926, Professor. The twentieth century has no place for invisible men doling out judgement from some remote location.”
Grace shook her head. “But you can’t deny that those who do believe will do things like build a temple far from their city-state.”
“It’s superstitious nonsense to placate the idiot masses.”
“She does have a point, Mister Stephens.”
“Professor, you are a man of letters and learning. You shouldn’t let a woman’s opinion sway you from the facts.”
Grace wanted nothing more than to set Stephens’ coattails on fire. But she bit her lip and kept pace with the men. When they had, in fact, found Suleiman’s hidden vault, she’d been the one to disarm his traps to allow them entry. Many mementos of his wives and children, little of real value, had been discovered, but they were now on display at the British Museum, minus a few pieces Stephens kept for himself as partial recompense for funding their discoveries.
There was something about Stephens that had always bothered her. He claimed to be in the newspaper business, which explained his overall worldliness. But there was a distance in his eyes, dark green flecked with gold, she’d never been able to categorize. At least her Professor and Violet were easy to figure out; Grace still wished the Professor had left his “research assistant” in their rooms at the hotel in Corinth.
At last, the cavern opened around them. Their torches reflected off of the faces of the gods carved into the rock. The wall before them was unnaturally flat and smooth. The stone door was flanked by Corinthian columns, each topped with a representation of a large eagle, and various inscriptions. They unnerved Grace even as Doctor Murphy surged forward.
“This is astounding! I never thought the entryway to a back door would be so finely detailed!”
“Are we sure this is a back door? It could be the entire temple was underground to begin with.”
“None of my research suggests that.” Violet walked up to stand next to Murphy. “It did speak of a locking mechanism, though. Something advanced.”
“Ah, yes! There’s a globe, here, in the middle of the door. Now…”
Grace raised her torch, looking across the ancient letters. They began to form words, and as she translated them, the words became a warning.
“‘A Titan stole fire from the gods, and an eagle eats his liver every day. If a mortal…'”
“Read to yourself, please.” Stephens was watching the pair at the door. “The Professor is working.”
Grace almost didn’t hear him. Her blue eyes went wide as she took in the words.
“Get away from the door!”
The Professor and Violet glanced back at her. Both were touching the globe in the middle of the door. Their hands slipped and the cavern echoed with an unearthly mechanical sound. The globe slid open, revealing a glowing amber crystal.
“It’s beautiful…” Violet reached to to touch it.
Grace dove behind a stalagmite. The next moment, a flash of blinding light and incredible heat filled the cavern. As she sat squeezing her eyes shut, she felt a presence, a towering being close by that looked down at her. It spoke, and her head translated the words.
“LEAVE THIS PLACE.”
The light and heat were gone. She took a moment to catch her breath before standing and raising her torch.
Two burnt human skeletons lay before the door, still smoking. The globe in the center of the door was still open, but the crystal was gone.
And so was Stephens.