Chapter 10



Shoahn’fal crested a low rise to find himself looking down at nothing more than a boxy structure jutting up from the ground. Moonlight glinted off its smooth surface, giving it a cold sterile sheen. At first glance, it resembled one of the prefab buildings the humans had brought with them, but this was different. He pulled the Revealer from the bag slung over his shoulder and held it in his palm. He pointed it at the building and a green glow pulsated on the face of the device. He turned to point the device away and the glow dimmed. His antennae fluttered and a grin crept onto his mouth just beneath his snout. His body surged with a shiver of glee and he looked into the sky above him to let out a long sigh of satisfaction.

He trundled down the hill until he was close enough to touch the structure. He stared at it for a moment and then carefully placed his hand against the wall. It felt cold and sucked the warmth from his hand. He stepped around the corner to find a slab of the same material lying on the ground. There was an opening in the wall where the slab had once been a door. He peered carefully through the opening and saw nothing but black. His snout jutted out in front of him and he sniffed the air as he poked his walking stick through the opening. Holding the stick out in front of him, he stepped into the building and padded his way across the floor until the tip clicked on the far wall.

Wind swept past the building and wisps of sand swirled in through the door, but he could only hear the silence of the room. He tapped the wall with his walking stick and walked forward until he bumped into a shelf jutting from the wall. He brushed its surface with his hand and jumped back when it came to life with a dull glow. As the shelf brightened, symbols began to emerge. He recognized some of them as names for villages he knew. Others he had never seen before. Circles of varying sizes were drawn next to the names. Some were a simple black circle while the rest were colored in red. Lines snaked in between many of them while the whole picture was overlaid with a series of lines crossing each other over the entire screen.

The glow from the display washed the room with just enough light to reveal a smooth surface embedded in the wall above the shelf. He leaned forward and tapped the surface with a claw. Nothing happened. He pressed his palm against the surface. Now, a blue glow shimmered on the surface and traced a thin haze around the outline of his hand and fingers. He drew a breath and held it, closing his eyes. A part of him still cowered at the warning against the ancient words. They were words that would unravel the world and plunge it into the darkness of an ancient past. The words hadn’t changed, but their meaning probably had. Words to be spoken by his ancestors from countless generations before had become a shrine to the Forbidden. Why would such words be remembered?  Knowledge of such things was never without purpose. He opened his eyes. His mouth was dry and his voice quavered as he spoke words that had not been heard by Shoahn’ ears for more time than anyone knew.

A metallic click filled the room, followed by a faint hum as the surface unlatched and slid up into the wall to reveal a shallow alcove. The case sitting inside stared back at him. Small enough for a man to carry with one hand, its brushed metallic surface was embossed with a  blue triangle. He tugged at the handle fastened to the top and it tipped forward. Heavier than he expected, it fell on the shelf with a thud. Startled, Shoahn’fal took a step back and his snout quivered. He eyed the case for a moment, waiting to see if it would do something. His breath came in short pants as he approched the shelf and groped around the edges of the case, tugging at the seam. His hands brushed across an indentation. He dug into the indentation and tugged at the latch holding the case closed. He gasped when it snapped open. He tugged at the case some more, but it still wouldn’t open. He found another indentation and opened the second latch, which allowed him to pull the top of the case back on its hinges and stare down at its contents.

The case was lined with a synthetic black material that he was able to push in with his finger. A video tablet was nestled into the lining, next to a thin black box with metallic tabs protruding from each edge. Again, it all seemed similar to what the humans had brought to his world, but was still different somehow. The markings next to the thin buttons on the bezel of the tablet were in the ancient form of the Shoahn’ language that only priests were taught. The tablet itself was bulky and less elegant than what the humans used. His people didn’t make things like this. The Shoahn’ were people who made carts from cord wood and lit the night with torches and candles. And yet, here he was, staring at something so far beyond all of that, but clearly from his world. Nobody had brought this to Shoahn’Tu. It had been here for generations beyond counting. A tingle of excitement welled up inside him. It had been waiting for somebody who dared step beyond the gates of the Forbidden to rekindle its power. It had been waiting for him.

He pressed one of the buttons on the tablet and the screen came to life. The words were written cryptically and he had to concentrate to read the ancient dialect. As he read, he began to understand why only priests were allowed to learn the ancient tongue. His heart started to hammer as he realized that he was reading the source of all the mythology he had been taught about the Time Before and why he and every Shoahn’ had been warned to never set foot in the Fallen.

He had found the Old Scrolls.

He licked his leathery lips and a low rumbling purr poured out from his chest and through his snout as he continued to read. It all flowed through him and came together in a single vision that he now knew was his destiny.

He was going to set the world on fire.


©2016 Michael J Lawrence