By night and by goat trail
Their Kurdish guide, Esrin Goran, was originally from a village just north of Tikrit in Iraqi Kurdistan, the birthplace of the legendary Saladin. In other circumstances, David would have avoided him at all costs. Fanatical men like Esrin were dangerous in the extreme. Had Katya been by his side, maybe he would have felt slightly more at ease. After all, like Ithis, she would protect her man with her life if need be.
Esrin’s religious intolerance of all who were not true believers had been curtailed at least for now. Outwardly he shared an unshakeable belief in Nick’s quest, hiding any loathing he felt for all unbelievers, since Ithis had entered his mind several days before their arrival in Rize. To say that he was completely terrified by the whole experience was a major understatement. Up until that point in his life he had never known fear. He survived the relentless attacks against his people in Iraq by the country’s dictator and his murderous followers, which eventually led to the first Gulf War at the end of the twentieth century. Moving his family to relative safety over the border into Turkish Kurdistan, he later fought alongside his Kurdish brothers against the constant attacks mounted by the Turkish military in their bid to drive all Kurds from their ancient homeland in an attempt to gain land for its own growing population.
He convinced himself that the incursion into his soul by Ithis was a test of his religious faith. Somehow the devil had entered uninvited to drive him mad. His wife, surrounded by their terrified crying children, uttered loud prayers for him as he fought against Ithis’ relentless control of his mind, convinced that her husband had transgressed in some way against the strict teachings of the holy Koran. Once he had finally capitulated, Ithis made it abundantly clear to him that should Nick’s quest fail, the alternative would make all petty political and religious squabbles between the many countries across the world, especially here in the Middle East, plus the countless wars created by an ingrained xenophobic intolerance of other races, pale in comparison. Esrin reluctantly agreed that his vision of the rest of the world beyond that of holy Islam, had to be placed on hold for now. The only thing that really mattered was the continued survival of mankind, the world and the solar system. No longer could men like him, or indeed the rest of mankind come to that, blindly continue along the same chequered path it had taken until now, ignoring the welfare of the planet they all shared. Should what Ithis had said actually come to pass, the world as we know it would simply cease to be. That last fact was what finally made him grudgingly cooperate, at least for now.
“Your friend Hakan Ozan has been in contact Doctor Nick. He says he believes he has found that which you seek at Göbekli Tepe. He also has some other news for you, which he will tell you himself, once we arrive there,” Esrin announced while contemptuously throwing the written message across the table.
“How are we to get there?” Kolya asked.
“We cannot travel via any road. The Turkish army patrols are many. We must travel at night by mountain pass and goat trails, Allah curse them!” Esrin spat on the floor in contempt as if any reference to the Turkish authorities somehow soiled his mouth, but deep within the recesses of his still rebellious mind, also in contempt for the party of unbelievers presently infecting his home with their western ways.
That night their long overland journey began. They soon found themselves in the hills above Rize, following their bellicose Kurdish guide, heading southeast under a cloud filled moonless night sky. Many hazards still stood in their way, both natural and manmade. For now they had no choice but to trust Esrin to do his job as their guide, taking them to Göbekli Tepe. Once there, Nick knew Hakan would get them safely to their next destination wherever it may be. The path they took across country each night, eventually led them to the ancient Anatolian region of Cappadocia, an area in times long past where early Christians had lived. This was where the team could now safely hide in plain sight, while Esrin went ahead to spy out their route before returning to collect them. Their slow journey, carefully avoiding the many herds of goats grazing under the watchful eyes of their attendant goatherds, any one of whom could raise the alarm at a moment’s notice about the infidels crossing the many mountain ranges, entered its second week.
At long last in the distance they could see the eerily strange sight of conical stone towers, known colloquially as Fairy Chimneys, illuminated by the moon below them. It was beneath one of these chimneys in a large cavern divided up into many smaller sleeping spaces surrounding a communal room, where they now ate and relaxed. At last they found themselves able to rest and get their strength back from the tiring forced march they had endured each night for the last two weeks, before they began the second stage of this long trek to Göbekli Tepe and the welcome face of Hakan.
After Esrin had insisted that he needed to go off on his own to reconnoitre the path ahead, to eliminate a chance encounter with any further goatherds or a government patrol, they quickly organised their temporary camp. Victor and Kolya set about the task of guarding the entrance to their hiding place while Nick, David and Ithis sat in silence, each recalling in their minds the events that had lead up to this moment. Though it was barely a few months ago since Nick’s first discovery of the capacitor array hidden on the Isla Del Sol back in 2011, it seemed much, much longer. Both men were now completely overcome, mentally exhausted by the monumentally difficult task that they had so far endured, and which still lay ahead of them. Living on your wits, fed by adrenalin will eventually wear anyone down. How many more of the ancient sites Nick had to bring back to life at that point in time, neither man knew for certain.
Even Ithis with her extensive knowledge of the Solar Defence System could not give them a definitive answer. All she really knew at this particular moment in time was that when the penultimate site was finally reactivated, she would sense that they had done enough to revitalise the system’s power supply. And once he had reset the key, wherever it may be, she would at last be free to embrace the man she loved. For the first time in her long solitary life, she would finally experience the joy of physical love, happy in the knowledge that her DNA mixed with his, would no longer present a problem to the Solar Defence System’s failsafe device. She blinked her large expressive eyes in the gloom of the cavernous room, taking in every detail of her surroundings. Her mesmerizing, mood enhanced, pupils turned dark emerald green as they focussed tenderly on Nick, while he slept fitfully beside her. Her purring, brought on by her aching physical desire for him, echoed softly throughout the cave system. While the man she loved more than life itself slept, she sat patiently, ready to defend him from anything or anyone who may try to harm him.
A few hours later as dawn broke she hissed loudly. Her pupils turned an intense shade of yellow, indicating her rising anger. Unnoticed, she vanished from sight moments before Victor woke everyone, loudly announcing the return of Esrin. He was not alone! Now wide awake, Nick joined him, Kolya and David at the entrance to the cave. In the distance they could see a party of heavily armed men led by Esrin, stealthily approaching their hideout. They watched wide eyed as the members of Esrin’s band of would-be murderers began screaming in terror. Staccato echoes from their AK47’s combined gunfire bounced around between the Fairy Chimneys in the still early morning air. Esrin and his band fired their automatic weapons in all directions desperate to kill their unseen attacker as she angrily tore their minds apart until all that was left were lobotomized, but still breathing, husks that had formerly been sentient beings.
Esrin’s fate was wholly different. Ithis physically appeared before him for the first and last time, the pupils of her eyes shining like deathly yellow beacons as she slowly destroyed him forever. The terrified Kurd fell to his knees, frantically screaming his prayers to his god while pleading for his life. His brain began to swell inside the confines of his skull under her ruthlessly delivered powerful attack, until finally it exploded turning to a grey bloody soup that flowed freely from his ears, nose and mouth, as he toppled lifeless to the floor of the valley. Never again would he hold his children. Never again would he know the pleasure of the warmth of his wife in their matrimonial bed. Ithis still seethed with anger. No one but no one mattered in the scheme of things now except her precious surface-dweller, her Nick! After she had returned to her normally benign self, she once more took on the role of guide for the remainder of the journey to Göbekli Tepe. Until now, all of her human companions, especially Nick, had never ever seen just how ruthless she could become when provoked.
The rest of the long journey to Göbekli Tepe largely went without a hitch, and without much conversation. Kolya and Victor nervously brought up the rear of the small column of travellers behind an equally shaken David, who followed Nick and Ithis at a considerable distance. It would be a long time before any of them felt confident enough to once again talk to the Crypto-terrestrial.