On to Kamyana Mohyla
Nick and David’s safety was placed under the expert leadership of Nicolai’s trusted lieutenant Kolya Detrenko, a man who’s wiry build and hard lined inscrutable face left no doubt as to his toughness and his cold, no nonsense doggedness, to carry out his boss’s orders to the letter.
Kolya’s manner gave the impression that like his boss, he was not a man to be trifled with within Nicolai’s organization. He had been charged with guarding both Nick and David with his life, and if need be, that was exactly what he would do. He deputized the giant named Victor, who had delivered them to Nicolai’s armed apartment, to act as personal bodyguard to his boss’s future nephew-in-law, to reassure the tearful Katya who wanted her lover kept safe until he could be returned to her loving arms. She took Victor to one side and made it abundantly clear to him by grabbing his manhood in a vicelike grip, to never let David out of his sight for a moment, or he would face far worse consequences from her, than anything her uncle or Kolya would do to him should he fail. Over the following three days, Kolya worked tirelessly with both Nick and David, organizing transport, tents, food and provisions for the long trip southeast to the town of Melitopol, close to the Sea of Azov, where they would set up their headquarters for the operation.
By the end of the month, Nick and David were being driven across the unpaved roads of southern Ukraine for the short journey northeast from Melitopol to the mosquito infested Molochna River valley, and the ancient megalithic site of Kamyana Mohyla. The four wheel drive ex-army truck they were riding in, bounced and lurched its way slowly across the rough scrub covered terrain of the river’s silted up course, threatening to break its overworked suspension system at any second.
“Have you managed to figure out where the entrance is yet David? The place is riddled with underground caves – dozens of them,” Nick wondered. David ignored Nick’s enquiry for the moment as he poured over a copy of the original map of the subterranean cave complex, which had been drawn in the nineteen-thirties by the leader of a Soviet era archaeological expedition to the site. The young archaeologist in charge back then had first claimed there were thirty caves. But later after the Second World War was over when he was released from military service, he had revised his count by adding a further five.
Fearing Katya’s threat to his masculinity, simple minded Victor never once allowed anything to distract him from his important task of guarding David’s back. He sat in the rear of the truck among the tools that Nick insisted had to be taken along, should they need to dig their way into the complex, with his eyes glued firmly on his charge. He might be a giant of a man, but his fear of failure in both Kolya and Nicolai’s eyes worried him greatly. And now, what Katya had said she would do to him if anything happened to David, worried him even more. Nicolai had taken on the simple giant soon after he appeared from the east, when most of the population of Cernigov had simply dismissed him as a retarded fool. Victor’s allegiance to both Nicolai and Kolya came out of deep gratitude and loyalty to them. He would follow them to hell and back if asked.
Much to the relief of all concerned, the old truck finally lurched to a stop twenty meters from the mixed pile of standing and collapsed stones that marked the site. David, closely shadowed by Victor, immediately began pacing out the whole area, trying to pinpoint the entrance to the cave system according the original survey map of the area, while Kolya’s men set up an armed perimeter to guard the site, and his charges. Nick and Kolya sat on top of one of the large fallen stones and casually surveyed the jumbled pile, looking for clues. “What you do doctor Nick is good, yes?” Kolya inquired.
“Very good; it’s important for the entire world Kolya. If we can’t locate the artefacts and restart the system then the world that you and I know will rapidly decay and disappear,” Nick replied.
Kolya thought for a long time before asking his next question. “Why is time so bad?” he asked, with a clearly puzzled expression on his face. Nick explained what had happened twenty-five thousands years ago when the countdown was begun, and the reason why it had been triggered by Ithis’ people before they left forever.
“So time is not natural, yes?” Kolya asked as his hard face took on a look of concern.
“No. Time as you and I know it is definitely not natural. It was created as a consequence of the countdown Kolya. In the universe beyond our solar system, time means an entirely different thing. Out there it means growth and rebirth, not death like here and now. It is better to think of it as deliberate controlled decay.”
Kolya’s brow furrowed even more as he sat deep in thought once again. “Then we must find all the artefacts you seek. We must put things right again,” he said triumphantly as the clear concept of time which Nick had just explained finally made sense to him.
“Yes my friend we must,” Nick replied.
Kolya nodded and smiled. “Good. We do that,” he said, slapping Nick’s back.
“Nick, over here quick! Victor and I have found an entrance to the cave system. It’s silted up, but we can dig it out,” David shouted from somewhere on the other side of the vast pile of fallen stones. By the time Nick and Kolya arrived, Victor was already stripped to the waist and digging tirelessly like a one man steam shovel into the compacted river silt that had filled the entrance, with David beside him, equally hard at work. By nightfall, work had stopped for the day and the group of men that were not on guard was gathered around the blazing fire of their makeshift camp, singing old Ukrainian songs of courage in battle and drinking copious amounts of the inevitable Vodka. Nick was seated a little way off with his back to one of the truck’s front wheels, going over the cave complex map, and the original archaeologist’s notes which Kolya had done his best to translate into English. Victor sat beside David with one large muscular arm round his charge’s neck; smiling and singing loudly in his drunken Vodka lubricated bass baritone voice with a tear in his eye from the sad words of the songs. If David thought he was going anywhere, Victor’s one armed bear hug drove the thought right out of his mind.
The following morning Victor suddenly awoke in a blind panic. David had vanished! He ran to Kolya and Nick, humbly apologizing for his mistake. Kolya angrily roused the rest of the sleeping camp. None of them would be safe from Nicolai’s wrath if his future nephew-in-law had escaped. Nick went to the half dug out cave entrance while Kolya’s men scoured the surrounding scrubland. He saw that a tiny crawlspace had recently been opened up, revealing a way into the cave complex. “Kolya over here, I think David has gone inside,” Nick shouted. Victor quickly opened up the entrance until it was large enough for him to enter with Kolya and Nick following close behind. When he found David he would make him very sorry for the shame he felt at losing him.
Nick’s torch revealed the remnants of petroglyph inscriptions, placed there thousands of years in the past, during the time when the megalithic complex was a place of refuge and worship. As the three men made their way further into the complex they passed through dozens of caves of all sizes, following a well-trodden ancient path into the darkness beyond their torch’s limits. Victor constantly called out for David. The only response was his powerful voice’s echo bouncing back and forth. Kolya suddenly stopped in his tracks. To one side of the main path he saw the unmistakable fresh footprints that David had left behind minutes earlier. With Victor and Nick following closely behind, he carefully led the way through the maze of caves until their path was cut short by a recent rock fall. Victor roughly pushed his way past and frantically began shifting the fallen rocks. Soon he saw the soles of David’s boots. Kolya and Nick joined the giant in extracting David’s unconscious body from the rock pile. They walked back to the cave entrance with Victor tearfully following on behind, cradling him like a baby. One of Kolya’s men immediately drove the truck containing Victor and David back to Melitopol and its hospital, where the medical staff took charge. Victor remained seated beside David in his hospital bed stubbornly refusing to move, while the other man drove back to the camp with the welcome news that David would be alright, much to Nick and Ithis’ relief. Kolya quietly got drunk. If Nicolai had got wind of what had just happened, his life would have been over.
Over the next several days, Nick carefully surveyed the whole cave complex with Kolya acting as his willing assistant as well as his personal bodyguard. They systematically re-established the location, size and shape of each cave, careful to note anything that may give a clue to the artefact’s possible location. From the notes that David had made from his conversation with Ithis, she said that it sat at the centre of a cave completely out of character to the rest, in that it was crystal lined. The entrance was guarded by a giant underground Dolmen construction. According to what Ithis had said, the outward facing sides of the Dolmen’s three massive stones was covered in petroglyphic writing that she felt sure Nick would recognize. Tired and hungry, the two men returned to the outside world for a good meal, and to get some rest. Their underground survey would continue in the morning.
By midday the following day, Nick and Kolya had almost completed their re-survey of the vast underground complex. According to the original map and notes, there were only three more caves to measure and plot. Nick was busy redrawing the shape of the particular cave he was in when Kolya gave an excited shout from somewhere just ahead.
“Doctor Nick, over here, found big stones!” Nick hurried towards where he could see Kolya’s torch beam, revealing the three massive stones of the Dolmen. He sat carefully looking at the ancient petroglyphs that adorned its outer surface while Kolya hurried back to get some more light to illuminate the whole area. Ithis was correct. There was definitely something very familiar about them. It was almost as if they were an even earlier form of the Sumerian cuneiform script that he had studied minutely back in England. The Russian archaeologist, who had first explored these caves back in the nineteen thirties, thought he saw similarities between the glyphs and the earliest Sumerian cuneiform writing, but couldn’t get his academic colleagues to agree. With the whole area now bathed in bright light from the bank of powerful carbon arc lights Kolya’s men had set up, Nick began to slowly unravel the message before him, heavily incised into the surface of the three massive stones. Whoever it was that carved it into the artefact’s entrance, had left a dire warning and some instructions in the form of a riddle, to prevent unauthorized entry to the cave hidden somewhere behind the Dolmen gateway. Should he get it wrong, the crystal lined cave will be sealed forever! Nick began carefully transposing the entire text onto the back of the map he and Kolya had produced, and then sat down to decipher its meaning while Kolya studied the original for himself.
Their concentration was broken by the unmistakeable sounds of gunfire, somewhere outside. A fire fight had broken out beyond the complex’s entrance. Kolya quickly ran back to the cave entrance and joined his men as they savagely defended the camp from their unseen adversaries. Giving strict instructions to his two most trusted henchmen to guard the cave entrance with their lives, Kolya took charge of the defence of the camp.
Meanwhile inside the cave where the Dolmen gate stood guard, Nick concentrated his efforts into deciphering the riddle. He translated it as best he could into English.
Woe to he whose blood is impure. Let Asima alone block thy path, for none but the pure one may enter. Rebuild the holy anointed. He who holds true will shine within the firmament. Great darkness shall be thy reward should you fail to enter the hallowed sanctuary.
Nick shook his head. Only the last part made any kind of sense to him. Riddles were never his strongpoint… The battle outside was growing in intensity as he briefly closed his eyes, trying to think what the riddle actually meant. Ithis took advantage of the brief moment and rearranged the words of the riddle on the paper while his eyes were closed. When he reopened them, moments later, he knew that she had solved it. “Thanks Ithis,” he said with a relieved grin on his face as he got up and walked towards the peculiar incised language. Tentatively, the fingers of his left hand spread across the symbol for Asima the ancient Sumerian deity. Then with his whole body trembling in anticipation and excitement, he stretched out his right hand to cover the symbol for sanctuary. Steadying himself, he lent his weight against the wall in front of him. Ithis watched nervously as Nick appeared to melt into the solid rock wall between the two massive upright stones of the Dolmen gateway. Her description of the cave was exactly right. The whole thing was a vast naturally formed geode, lined with large, perfectly formed crystals of pure translucent quartz. Nick carefully picked his way past the giant crystal’s points to the space at the geode’s centre, where one large and clearly different crystal stood. Unlike the rest of the geode, this crystal was formed from a different type of crystalline source and was inky black in colour. At its tip it was divided into two separate thin crystalline structures. Nick sat and looked at its construction carefully for a long time. The thin tower on the left differed in its construction and colour to that of the large black crystal it grew out of, as well as its companion tower. It was as if they were two crystalline antennae. “What do I do now?” Nick said to himself, uncertain of his next move.
“Place your hand around the one on your right Nick. And with your left hand, remove the other. Then touch it to the one on the right, before replacing it. Do not let go of either of them until the process is complete,” Ithis’ voice said inside his mind. Nodding his head in thanks, he followed her instructions to the letter before quickly replacing the left hand one back into its socket. Instantaneously the whole geode seemed to come to life, reconnecting itself through unseen pathways to other sub power stations elsewhere beneath the Earth’s surface. “Now quickly leave the way you came before the power level grows to its full capacity and cuts off your retreat, sealing you in there forever!” Ithis’ voice commanded him. Once again he found himself outside the Dolmen gateway in the relative safety of the cave.
He could hear footsteps coming from the direction of the cave complex entrance. Quickly he killed the lights and waited for the intruder to appear, ready to do battle.
“Doctor Nick you are alright?” It was Kolya. As they approached the roaring fire at the centre of their makeshift camp, Kolya waived forward one of his men who held a prisoner, caught during the battle for the camp. He turned his prisoner round and bared the man’s forearm. It bore the unmistakable tattoo of the Order. Nick went back to the fire in troubled silence. He sat eating the plate of food offered to him by one of Kolya’s fighting men. A shot rang out as the Order’s goon met his inevitable fate. Ithis was still troubled. Had someone as yet unknown to her, in the pay of the Order, somehow found out the location?