The Thirteenth Chapter

huluppu_tree

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Chapter Thirteen

Trouble in Siberia

Kolya and Nick went to visit David in hospital. Victor’s face was beaming, happy that his little friend was gradually recovering. The doctor informed them that David would be able to leave in a few days. Nick asked Kolya to guard the door to David’s hospital room while he told him all that had happened in the cave. Over the next few days, Ithis spoke to David on several occasions about a tomb hidden beneath a megalith that troubled her deeply, in far off south central Siberia, in the mountainous Republic of Khakassia. By the time she had given him all the information she had concerning the megalithic tomb, he was out of bed and walking in the hospital grounds assisted by his giant minder Victor, who fussed over him like a doting big brother. David had spent his time recovering from the accident by teaching Victor some more words in English, much to the simple giant’s great delight.

~~~

Three weeks later they were all on their way once again, this time flying across the vast southern mountain ranges of the Russian Federation, aboard Nicolai’s personal Mil Mi-24 gunship, bound for the Khakassian settlement of Safronov on the eastern edge of the Stanovoy Range of mountains, the location that Ithis had emphasized was extremely dangerous. But why it should be so, for the moment she was unsure. All she really knew was that the very real danger she sensed was buried somewhere beneath the megalithic tomb that stood close to the settlement on the vast parched silt plains that acted as a natural soak away for the many small rivers of the high mountains to the west.

The weather pattern they were flying through suddenly changed for the worse. It threatened to cover the whole area in thick cloud cover and violent thunderstorms. Their tough ex-military helicopter was almost at its altitude limit, being buffeted by strong headwinds and driving rain. Climbing much higher to clear the danger that the thick brooding clouds presented, was out of the question. Equally, to drop below cloud level, they ran the very real risk of collision with the saw toothed peaks of the range, which stuck up like jagged fingers into the lower reaches of the boiling cloud mass. Nicolai’s seasoned pilot now flew the gunship by the seat of his pants, abandoning instruments in favour of long experience. His co-pilot’s eyes were firmly glued to the small radar screen in front of him, barely able to distinguish between the peaks and steep sided valleys that fell away from the mountainous spine of the Stanovoy Range. He struggled to make sense of the clutter of radar echo’s bouncing back from barely five hundred meters below the gunship’s landing gear. Everyone aboard was on edge as lightning bolts crashed through the thick, rain filled cloud cover, before violently grounding themselves on the iron loaded mountain peaks below, threatening at any moment to strike the gunship. Kolya’s best shots nervously manned the deadly 30 calibre chain guns in the open side doors of the gunship, while Kolya sat at the controls of the missile and rocket pod launching system, waiting to strike. To everyone’s immense relief they finally flew into a brief break in the cloud cover, large enough for the helicopter’s flight crew to quickly get their bearings and begin a slow controlled descent to the settlement below and the megalithic tomb.

The small settlement’s inhabitants rapidly disappeared inside their homes when they heard the familiar sound of a Russian helicopter gunship overhead. The army was always paying surprise visits to the area in search of arms smugglers and local animal trappers who barely made a living from the harsh Siberian lands. They were forced to supplement their meagre income by illegally selling the pelts of endangered species like the elusive Siberian Tiger, and the many bears they shot, along with their bones, for sale in the traditional medicine black markets across the border in China, hundreds of kilometres to the south. The gunship finally landed half a kilometre away, beside the megalithic site. Ithis was close by, increasingly sensing extreme danger for Nick, still unable to discover exactly what it was.

Kolya immediately organized a defence perimeter around the gunship and the tomb, while Victor, helped by his friend David, erected a tent to act as accommodation and temporary headquarters for the duration. Nick walked around the tomb carefully studying it in great detail, checking each stone in turn, looking for anything that may indicate where the hidden chamber containing the artefact was. Ithis shook with fear; she was now seriously troubled. She was beginning to sense the presence of another far more powerful being than herself, stirring somewhere in the world below. If what she believed was true, her age old nemesis Asima was slowly awakening from his long slumber. He wanted her close to finish what he had started, waiting patiently down the millennia for this very moment.

~~~

“Doctor Nick, we have visitors!” Kolya pointed to the small delegation coming towards them from the settlement. His men cocked their weapons in nervous anticipation as a party of equally nervous locals drew near, stopping barely a hundred meters from the defensive perimeter of the camp. An old man dressed in the traditional garb of the Kyrgyz people, leaning heavily on the shoulder of a young teenage boy, came forward. Assisted by the youth, he sat down cross-legged between the two groups before waiving the boy away. For a few moments he got his breath back, before he began speaking in the local Khakas tongue.

“Does anyone know what the old boy is saying?” Nick asked. Kolya shook his head and was about to fire a shot over the old man’s head in warning when Victor stepped forward, bowed to Nick and Kolya, and began speaking with the old village headman. Everyone, including Kolya, was completely dumbfounded. The giant and the old man sat on the parched grass between the two groups for a long time, deep in conversation. Victor finally shook the old man’s hand bowed and returned to where Kolya stood. He related that according to Kyrgyz legend, the monument had been erected over the burial chamber of a very powerful demon thousands of years in the past. The demon had once ruled the world and was worshipped by all mankind. A great battle had taken place between the demon, his human army and the green eyed devils, a reference to Ithis’ people that Nick and David immediately recognized, who were driven underground at the demon’s command. Because he had succeeded in convincing his simple minded, primitive human subjects that they were evil, he turned all mankind against them forever. Once he had achieved his aim by driving away his most powerful enemies, he was free to rule over humanity unhindered. Believing he had no further need for vigilance, he relaxed, only to be captured by Ithis’ kind and placed in a sealed, crystal-lined chamber beneath the monument forever, putting an end to his brutal reign for all time.

Kolya had just one question for Victor when he finished his explanation. “Why are you able to converse with the old man in his own language?” Victor smiled his simple smile. He explained that he is of Kyrgyz stock himself, and apart from being born in a similar village not too far away in the next valley, the people here were cousins of his on his mother’s side. When he was growing up, because of his huge size and strength coupled with his simple childlike ways, his family had been forced by their fellow villager’s superstitious belief that somehow he presented great danger, to drive him out, never to return. So eventually after three years travelling west, mostly on foot, he finally arrived in the northern Ukraine where Nicolai found him and took him in.

Ithis hissed to herself, seething in anger at her own stupidity. By arriving here to watch over her beloved Nick, her very presence and his had now been detected by her arch nemesis Asima. Thanks to what the old man had related, she now knew that Nick and his group were directly over the long forgotten, hermetically sealed, crystal-lined tomb where her people had placed the arch enemy of all Crypto-terrestrials so very long ago. The last surface-dwellers to worship and blindly follow his every decree were the forebears of the Sumerians. Should he be set free by her presence, or through Nick inadvertently releasing him, the havoc he would create would make everything the Order was trying to achieve simply pale in comparison. She had to warn Nick directly. She didn’t yet know if Asima was fully awake, or still in a state of suspended animation, nor what he may be capable of from within his tomb. For Nick’s safety and that of their mission, she had to get him away and remove herself far enough from here until she had worked out the best way to deal with the situation. Then, the mood driven pupils of her eyes rapidly turned white in sheer panicked terror as Asima’s powerful mind entered hers uninvited.

“So Ithis, you still exist. I sense the task you have set your mortal pawn. He shall not succeed my dear. Long before the countdown ceases, I shall be released from this prison you hold my body in by my faithful followers. Then I shall take my rightful place once more at the head of my army, thanks to my willing servants who are now opposing your every move.”

“You shall not stop us Asima; nor shall your minions in the Order.”

“So you know of the Order. No matter. The path they now take was laid down by me millennia ago. The Order’s many members over the centuries have patiently awaited the birth of your human pawn, passing on all my instructions from father to son down the generations, until you finally created it in its mother’s worthless womb. That was when the Order’s members began to reorganize and build themselves into the hunters they have become today. They will soon arrive here to release me. Then my dear Ithis, you and I have a score to settle for what your people did to me so very long ago.” Asima cruelly played with her soul, like a cat torturing its prey before death. His words and laughter, echoed violently inside her mind as she fled to the mountains beyond the settlement.

She stopped her head long rush for safety to briefly appear in front of David, silently pointing to the valley in the distance, indicating that he should meet her there after nightfall. With Victor in tow, David arrived at the entrance to the wooded valley as the stars began to appear above. Victor sat like a spellbound child, entranced by Ithis’ unusual otherworldly beauty while she spoke quietly to David in her soft melodic ethereal voice, telling him of the great danger they were all in, warning of Asima and his creation of the Order. Whatever happened, Nick must never be allowed to enter below the megalith for fear that Asima may destroy him. Somehow the whole complex had to be sealed up completely this time, preventing Asima from escaping from his tomb forever and making it impossible for any of the Order to set him free. She also explained that she feared her presence had triggered Asima’s reawakening process somehow, after the countless millennia since her people had sealed him into his crystal-lined tomb, regrettably unable to kill him due to his immortality. Instead, they had placed him in a state of suspended animation. Then she quickly vanished from sight.

~~~

David and Victor hurriedly returned to the camp where they found Nick and Kolya deep in conversation. David quickly apprised them of the dangerous situation they were now all facing. Kolya immediately ordered the pilot to take both Nick and David to the helicopter with instructions to head back to Melitopol, while he and some of his men would remain behind to seal the tomb, and stand ready to eliminate the Order’s fanatical foot soldiers when they arrived. Although how he was going to seal the tomb, for the moment completely escaped him. As the sound of the departing gunship slowly disappeared, Kolya and his men lay in wait for the arrival of the Order’s goons. Within five minutes of the gunship leaving their temporary camp, Kolya’s forward scouts reported armed men were rapidly closing in from the south. Hoping to make his force appear much greater in number, Kolya had them spread out in groups of two and three within hand grenade range of each other. While the first rays of predawn light transformed the darkness of night into a faint blue glow, signalling a new clear day, Kolya’s men silently made ready.

The Order’s goons charged like crazed demons from three sides, firing wildly as they ran towards the well protected position, amid a hail of grenades and sporadic, but deadly accurate gunfire by Kolya and his men, from the protection of the large stones of the monolith. They quickly overran the temporary camp site beyond the megalithic tomb and began to assault the monolith itself, to begin searching for the entrance to their master’s tomb. Kolya and his men momentarily held their fire until Asima’s hoard of fanatical followers were almost at the base of the monolith before opening fire at close range. The sound of gunfire and grenade’s exploding brought the villagers out of their houses. They ran to the rescue, armed with old shotguns and hunting rifles, with Victor at their head, to aid Kolya’s men by attacking the Order’s army from the rear, cutting off their retreat. Just as the last of the Order’s goons was finally executed by the victorious combined defence force, all heads looked up to where Nicolai’s gunship suddenly reappeared over the horizon. Moments after it landed, Kolya ran towards it, angrily demanding to know why his specific instructions had seemingly been ignored. David explained. As they were minutes into the long flight back to Melitopol, they saw below them a large abandoned town from the time of the old communist regime. At gunpoint, he ordered the pilot to land near a large industrial plant that had once stood as a proud example of Stalin’s Soviet Empire. Together with the helicopter crew, he and Nick searched the place looking for anything that could be used to seal Asima in forever. Eventually they found several stacks of old cement bags and a rusting pile of reinforcing rods. Underneath the solid outer layers of cement bags, the ones at the centre of each stack were still usable. So, aided by the pilot and co-pilot, they loaded the helicopter’s cavernous interior, leaving Nick behind temporarily as they rushed back.

~~~

Over the following two weeks the gunship shuttled back and forth with as many bags of cement and steel reinforcing rods as it could carry, while Kolya’s men ably assisted by the villagers, dug down below the monument exposing the chamber where Asima seethed with anger, still trapped inside his living tomb. Under Victor’s command, the villagers built a sluice system out of old pipes and rough sawn planks, to direct a flow of water from one of the countless small streams that cascaded their way down the slopes of the mountains. It was collected in a makeshift pool just beyond the megalith, constructed out of old tarpaulins and sheets of corrugated iron. Kolya’s men and the villagers worked tirelessly round the clock, mixing hundreds of tons of cement which they poured into the chamber, forever sealing Asima’s prison with a mix of strong reinforced concrete and the bodies of his dead fanatical followers. Ithis heard Asima’s tortured and insane cries for vengeance from where she sat high in the mountains above the plain. Soon it would be time for her beloved Nick to head further east to the next artefact in the chain. Asima may be silenced for now, but his Order still existed.

~~~

More later

😉

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