Chapter Nineteen – Libraries and Madness
Shu’s revelation as the mother of all, and the planet’s role as the birthplace from which all the races spread across the cosmos, came as a shock to the community the night the team returned. Hoetep reverently put on display the pyramid shaped receptacle that held ‘his beloved’. Since Khan and the team had been away, Misakk, Delal, and Levene surveyed the planet from the Hapi. From the maps they produced, it was clear that the search for the libraries would not be easy. Most of the topography had changed dramatically from the world Shu spoke of before the cataclysmic event had struck. With autumn upon them, any further expeditions far from New Cydon would have to wait until the spring.
The news that Iset and Seti were now the proud parents of a healthy baby boy brought, not only joy, but also surprise to the fledgling community. The old Seti was gone; in his place stood a proud caring father and husband. The birth of Ached was celebrated in style. He was the first to be born on Kallorn since the time of Shu. The tiny being was also the first of a new nation. Others would follow in the course of time. Nefer and Akhen were blessed with a daughter named Anuket a month later. Sekhmet was now a young woman in her own right, and was wooed by Nusaan, the young Selian, barely into his eighteenth year.
Levene put together a team for the coming expedition to the continent closest to New Cydon, five thousand kilometres to the west. Benton, originally from the Mars colony, would be pilot. Delal’s expertise in mineralogy would be invaluable. Hoetep, through Shu’s guidance, would hopefully lead them to one of the libraries. Llokk would look after the crawler and equipment while Sekhmet acted as medic and helped Delal. Khan thought it would give the poor girl a break from the amorous attentions of Nusaan. When Khan and Akhen promised her they would keep Nusaan busy with the harvest until she returned, she hugged them both and kissed them on the cheek the day the expedition left. Sekhmet loved her two ‘fathers’ with all her heart.
Benton piloted his way through violent lightning storms and high winds that engulfed the prairie-covered continent. Evading the worst of the weather, under his control, the ship climbed over a pass in the northern range of mountains, one of only two across the vast landmass. Flying along the range Delal spotted an arid plateau hidden by a fork in the mountains. Against his better judgment, Benton deferred to the pressure from the rest of the team and agreed to land there. The winds whipped up blinding sand storms that blasted the ship’s hull. The next morning they were greeted with an eerie silence.
Sekhmet stepped out into a cold land devoid of all life: more empty than a desert. She shivered in the sun’s rays as she looked across the plateau. In the stillness of this alien place, she became aware of her heart beating in her breast. Her warm breath turned to clouds of vapour in the cold air. Llokk drove the crawler out from the warm interior of the ship and began checking the equipment Delal had insisted was loaded for the exploration of the plateau. Delal and Sekhmet spent the next five days exploring the featureless plain that made up the greater part of the plateau. The day they returned Levene had already made up his mind to move on. However, his plans were put on hold on hearing their report.
On the morning before they decided to return to their base, Sekhmet and Delal were walking along a dried up riverbed cut through the underlying rock of the plateau, when she spotted an opening in a rock formation. Having found nothing of consequence in the previous three days, Delal nevertheless had given in to her youthful enthusiasm at finding something different. Besides, Sekhmet’s young face had that look which every female uses to get their way, and for the sake of peace, Delal agreed. Collecting lights and rope, they squeezed their way through the opening and began following a natural path that lay before them. After an hour, the path opened out into a corridor of stone slabs. Whether it was feminine intuition (as Sekhmet claimed later), or pure luck, the fact was they had found another ruin, buried under the plateau.
The Bentu landed as close as possible to the rock formation and the expedition team followed Sekhmet to the opening. Inside the corridor Hoetep’s field-pack began to vibrate. Levene carefully took out the pyramid contained within it, and handed it to Hoetep. He held it out at arm’s length then released it. The pyramid spun slowly as it guided them through a maze of interconnected corridors and small chambers. Eventually it stopped at a solid wall constructed from irregular, close-fitting stone slabs weighing many tonnes. Stepping out from the green glow of the pyramid, Shu appeared and walked through the wall. Seconds later one of the massive slabs slid out towards the explorers, revealing a doorway into a room beyond. Shu stood at its centre. Turning slowly, her arms extended as the torches on the walls lit up when her hands passed them. “Here is one of our libraries. Study it with care for the information contained here may do you harm!” she warned, before vanishing from sight.
Using the languages on the sides of the pyramid as a Rosetta Stone, Hoetep began slowly translating one of the thousands of scrolls contained in the library shelves. It was an account of the last days of Shu’s people. It made the endless wars between the Drana and the Alliance pale in comparison. Shu’s peaceful people had somehow been transformed when the apocalyptic event occurred, changing them forever into murdering power-crazed tribes bent on destruction and domination of all. The last collective decision taken by the many tribes was to leave and never return. Kallorn would remain a beautiful but deadly reminder of their peaceful past and violent beginnings, and in time became the mythical abode for the souls of all mortal life everywhere.
“The knowledge in the library will take forever to translate, let alone assimilate,” Delal said later that night.
“We must stay and study the scrolls!” Hoetep mumbled, as he stuffed a large piece of the pie that Sekhmet had baked into his mouth.
“This is only one of many libraries. The weather is changing rapidly and I don’t intend staying here over the winter. You’ve got four weeks to complete your translations then we go home,” Levene declared.
The Bentu picked its way through the increasingly bad weather across the continent east toward New Cydon minus one crew member – Hoetep.
Next time – Chapter Twenty