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Authors: J. R. Rain,Aiden James

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thriller & Suspense, #Romance, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Thriller

Pyramid of the Gods (7 page)

BOOK: Pyramid of the Gods
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Chapter Twelve

 

 

Over the years, I’ve dealt with my share of insane people. Motumbo Kalabi takes the cake.

His entire band of thugs left him. Even so, he dragged me to the immense hole in the desert floor. Marie and Ishi insisted on coming along—which was just as insane, ignoring my orders to stay clear of all danger until I returned. They at least had the good sense to follow far enough back to give us space, or more accurately, to keep Motumbo from carrying out his threats to slit my throat and let the sand soak up my blood as it had Akiiki’s. A strong enough visual for me to play along, too.


Now what?” I asked, once we reached the pit’s edge.

We almost took one step too many, as the haze didn’t thin to where we could make out our surroundings until we reached the hole’s outer rim. What once was a fifteen foot depth was now at least one hundred. Motumbo muttered similar calculations in meters. Either way, a fall from this distance could prove fatal, even if we managed to roll down the sides of the hole that bowed toward the center.

Enough sand had cleared to where we could officially ascertain what kind of pyramid this was. The square apex and roughly a dozen steps lay exposed. As expected, it resembled step pyramids located in the western side of the globe; as in, Mesoamerica. Even so, it bore unique qualities similar to the Egypt’s famed step pyramids, as well. I had never seen one this well preserved. It was almost as if the sand that buried the pyramid poured over the structure like the legendary flood of Gilgamesh poured water over much of the known world, as opposed to gradual sand erosion and burial from the winds of time.


We go down and find my treasure!” exclaimed Motumbo, sounding like the madman that he was. He started to pull me over.


The hell you say!” I jerked away, and almost fell head first into the chasm. He caught me, leering into my face. I said, “Either untie me, or let me die here. Then you can deal with whatever’s inside there on your own.”

For a moment, he looked as if he considered letting me fall to my death. But he pulled me back onto the ledge. Marie and Ishi had caught up to us, staring slack-jawed at the sight before them. The golden haze had retreated to draw attention to a much brighter golden glow emanating from the pyramid’s entrance.

Motumbo took the glow as an invitation, where in truth it could’ve just as easily been a warning to potential intruders to stay out. Still, a part of him must have sensed the potential danger. He sliced away my bonds and threw his knife across the chasm.


I’ll make you a deal, Nick. You and I will split the gold we carry out of there, fifty-fifty. You can split yours with Marie and Ishi, and I can pay my employers their share. What do you say?”

Like I would ever trust him. The guy was a crook—and a violent one at that. Motumbo might’ve already killed me, raped my beloved, and eaten my best friend if fortune hadn’t worked out to our favor in that regard. And, I owed the guy a sucker punch—one where my college ring left a laceration matching mine.

But as I thought about it, I didn’t want to leave this place empty handed. Marie and Ishi wouldn’t want that fate either. Not to mention I still owed my buddy Mario a better effort to collect our treasure than I had put forth so far. I looked to Marie and Ishi, and once they nodded approvingly I told Motumbo yes.


Good.” His smile widened to where it looked almost warm and friendly. “The four of us shall descend together. Follow me.”


Why do they need to come along?” I nodded to my cohorts while massaging my arms, They felt worse than they did while bound. “The two of us should handle this alone.”


The more hands available, the more gold we carry,” he replied, and began climbing down the hillside. “It means more for you and me this way, no?”


You might as well let us come along, Nick,” said Marie, moving up to me. She smiled and her eyes were aglow...she had something to tell me. It would have to wait. “Otherwise, we’ll follow anyway.”

Ishi echoed the same message.

“Okay, I guess,” I said, shaking my head. I looked at the other two. “Stay close.”

Motumbo had scaled half the hillside before we scurried after him. He waited for us at the bottom, seemingly mesmerized by the surreal perspective of a youthful pyramid and it’s godlike essence pouring forth from the entrance ahead. Marie and Ishi kept watchful eyes on the sand that hadn’t settled yet. Any missteps could take us under, and without a rope attached to our waists there would be no way to rescue someone. I tried not to think about it, and released a low sigh when we made it to the steps. Motumbo shot me an amused look before running up to the entrance.

“Look, Boss!”

Ishi pointed beyond Motumbo. I looked up in time to see a shadowed figure disappear into the sunlike brightness. Sunlike, and yet easy on the eyes...a logical outlook became increasingly difficult to hang on to.

“I saw it, too!” said Marie.

Motumbo grunted at us, upon reaching the entrance, as if he now regretted his decision to bring us along. My own attention was drawn to the pristine pictograms on either side of the entrance. Despite their clarity when first discovered, something had changed since the other day. They appeared sharper in detail, and as I moved closer to study them, I was amazed to find the crazing—that is, small fissures—had been mended. It was as if the images had recently been painted, instead of four millennia ago.

As soon as Motumbo stepped through the entrance, the light dimmed and quickly receded into the pyramid, shrinking back through passages like a helium birthday balloon relieved of air. He gave chase and we kept up with him.


This looks a lot bigger than before,” said Ishi, as we jogged behind Motumbo.


You mean longer,” I said, just as surprised to find the tunnel clearly longer than I remembered it being. What the devil was going on?


Must you always correct everybody?” chided Marie.


Of course,” I grinned, despite the insane circumstances we’d found ourselves in. Just another day in the life of Nick Caine, adventurer, looter...lover.

My chuckle was short-lived. The tunnel forked—a feature that wasn’t there before. The light drifted toward the right fork, but not before we glimpsed piles of gold to the left.

“Oh my God, there it is!” Marie whispered in awe.

Motumbo was the only one with a flashlight, and he turned it on when the golden glow we followed disappeared, throwing us into impenetrable darkness for a moment.

“So, it
is
true,” he said, stepping inside the immense room filled with familiar gold artifacts from when we first ventured inside the pyramid. “Is this where you hid the gold from us?” He eyed me suspiciously.


Yeah, I filled up a few wheelbarrows when I heard you were coming, and managed to move a hundred tons of this stuff before you got here.” Hey, what could he do to me now that he was unarmed? At least I assumed he was unarmed, suddenly remembering the gun I still carried. He could have a concealed weapon, too. “Be logical, man. There’s no way—”

Someone called my name. It wasn’t in this room or the tunnel attached to it. The voice sounded like it originated where the light had withdrawn to, down the other fork. Almost hollow sounding, the voice was female.

“There’s no way, what?” he asked, his eyes squinted as he studied me. I believe Motumbo said something else, too. But the other voice called me again, saying great danger was coming, and to be protected, I needed to come to where the voice called from.


I need to check on something,” I said, feeling like an idiot for pursuing a phantom. If this turned out to be a terrible decision, I’d never forgive myself. “I just want to make sure this is the right room before getting too involved here. Marie and Ishi can help me ascertain this is the right room.”


The right room? Do you not see all this gold around us?” Motumbo pointed the flashlight in every direction. Brimming with gold items, it was most definitely the right room. “You would leave me to remove all this gold by myself? Humpf! Go on then! If I bring out the gold myself, then I keep it myself. No split of fifty-fifty! Do you understand?”


Yes,” I said, prepared for similar disdain from Marie and Ishi. Surprisingly, they both said they were ready to leave with me, empty handed. “We’ll be back.”

He shrugged and turned away, cradling gold items in his shirt.

The voice called again, and I led the way into the darkened tunnel with Motumbo laughing behind us. Marie held onto the back of my shirt, and my guess was Ishi held onto the back of hers. As if knowing we were on the way, the voice began singing in a lovely voice...although in a language that was unfamiliar. But at least the song gave me something to follow. We shuffled along while I worried about falling into a deep shaft nearly all pyramids are known for. Incredibly, no sooner than I entertained the thought, the golden glow reappeared, roughly thirty feet ahead of us. We ran to catch up to it.


What in the hell is this all about?” Marie whispered to me, when we caught up to the mysterious light. “First I hear a woman singing, and then—”


You heard it, too?”


We all did,” said Ishi.

I prayed we didn’t suddenly lose the help by discussing it out loud. “I heard my name called, back where Motumbo is gathering his loot.”

The tunnel’s incline had been steadily descending for the past minute, but leveled out again. As it did, the light grew brighter and veered to our left. It, and the unseen songstress, stopped, as if waiting for us to catch up and take over the lead. We stepped into darkness, and the light stayed with us, its glow drifting over our heads until it expanded to completely illuminate another enormous room. Like the last room, it was filled with riches. Unlike the last one, the gold, gems, and what looked like an odd assortment of other minerals, were in raw form. Stored in large orderly piles forming the perimeter of an immense circle, a walkway ran from its center to a tall staircase. Everything glistened spectacularly beneath a fiery sphere that came to life the instant the other light came in contact with it.

The piles were huge, reminding me of the neat piles of landscaping rocks and gravel at a plant near my home in California. Only, in this case, the sheer wealth of gold, diamonds, sapphires, and other objects resembling split meteorites would be staggering—perhaps more valuable than the Hittite gold artifacts in the other room, given the variety.

“Well, what do we do about this?” asked Marie. “You have the site rights, and the Egyptian government is entitled to the lionshare of everything here—including what that asshole is stealing from the other room. But, there’s enough here to make us all wealthy. I’m thinking...”

Her voice trailed off as the flaming sphere flickered, along with the other light that had steadily dimmed to a soft, ethereal glow. It was almost like whatever had spoken to us and brought us here, wanted us to consider that maybe
nothing
here belonged to
any
of us.


Maybe we can’t take any of it,” said Ishi, while Marie and I looked warily around us.

The flickering stopped, and a new sound emerged. But it wasn’t the hollow voice luring us like a Siren. No, it was the sound of men, excited and shouting angrily in Sudanese.

It took a moment to register, but Motumbo’s men hadn’t deserted him after all. They were back, and from the growing din of their footfalls echoing against the tunnel walls, they were headed our way.

We scanned the walls for another exit. But none were visible. There wasn’t time to search for a hidden one, either, or seek refuge above the stairs. The fiery sphere, along with the powerful glow that brought us here, faded until they seemingly ceased to exist. All was deathly quiet and dark when the first hostile flashlight beams invaded the room.

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

“Come out, Nick Caine! I know you’re in here...Come out now, or watch me turn your woman and monkey inside out!”

Motumbo. Sounding enraged. What a surprise.

Other hushed voices—all male—followed his own, and from the flashlight beams and footsteps moving about the room, his entire army of miscreants had returned. Oh, joy.

We hid behind a pile of what looked like lithium. My hope was the thieves would mistake it for a lesser grade of silver, or at least something less glamorous than the piles of gold and jewels in raw form. Surely after seeing the Hittite gold in the other chamber, the gold here would hold less fascination.

I prayed it worked in drawing attention from our pile, and it was a toss-up between the lithium or the meteorite pieces. The deciding factor was the lithium pile sat a few feet further away in the circle’s circumference. Hoping the assholes became enamored with the gems and forgot all about us, it would be the best outcome. It was too much to expect our mysterious hostess to do much more for us than she already had.

Motumbo’s menacing threats continued...getting closer.

“Nick, I smell you...I smell your woman, too. It won’t take a moment to get her ready once I’ve torn your heart out of your chest!”

He sniffed the air and laughed. Light boot shuffles told me he stood on the other side of the lithium pile. It was like he had some sort of radar tuned into my body heat, or body odor. Marie trembled next to me, and when the first bandits started to come around from our left, she gasped. It was slight, and Ishi beat me to covering her mouth so nothing more frightened escaped her.

More footsteps on that side, interrupted by celebratory catcalls near the bounty of diamonds across the way from us. If the rest of the bastards could drift in that direction, we might be able to move from our present location. It was just a matter of time before Motumbo discovered...


Hello Nick!”

Like an idiot, I had been so focused on what was happening to my left, that I missed our biggest threat sneaking in from the right. Blinded by several flashlight beams, Motumbo appeared more monstrous than ever as he loomed above the three of us huddled against the pile. Marie and Ishi were snatched up and dragged away while two bandits grabbed my arms. They held me fast as I desperately fought to free myself.

Motumbo casually reached for my neck. The gleam of his scarab warned me what would come next. Hard to say if my head would separate from my shoulders with the first blow, but certainly this was the fiend’s intent. The maniacal look in his eyes told me mercy was no longer an option.

They say one’s life passes before one’s eyes when sudden, violent death is at hand. Having been in similar precarious positions before, I can honestly state such notions are pure bullshit. I thought of my parents cut in half, the day I met Ishi, and realizing I loved Marie an hour earlier. More of a summarized collage of events from thousands that began with my first breath as Nicholas Albert Caine. There wasn’t time for much more.

I flinched but kept my eyes open. Good thing, since otherwise I would’ve missed the fireball hovering above the room springing to life. That’s when the craziest series of events I’ve ever experienced commenced.

A booming voice startled everyone, emanating from somewhere above the stairs. Hard to tell if it came from the same female or not, but it definitely sounded enraged...and on the verge of violence. It alone elicited wary looks on the Sudanese faces around me. Meanwhile, Ishi and Marie clung to each other protectively. Their assailants hovered close, as if waiting for a sign from Motumbo to launch into the assault promised the past few days.

Like everyone else, Motumbo lifted his eyes to the top of the stairs. The owner of the angry voice spat out a stream of unrecognizable words...an ancient incantation? Dying to get a glimpse, I pulled away from my distracted captors and slowly stood. My gaze followed everyone’s. Then my mouth fell open.

Standing atop the stairs on a gold platform was perhaps the most anatomically perfect woman I’d ever seen. Attired in a sheer gown leaving very little to the imagination, it would be an arduous task for any male’s probing eyes to make it up to her face. Would’ve, I should say, if her head was human.

The change to a lioness began at her shoulders, and the marriage between human and feline was smooth, if not seamless. It sure as hell was difficult to fully comprehend we stood before Sekhmet—an unearthly goddess in the flesh, no less. But her anger seemed real enough, especially when she tossed a golden crown laden with jewels behind her. She unleashed a menacing roar, and her eyes ignited into emerald slits of fire, gleaming with nothing short of rage.

She began her descent to the lower level. Meanwhile, Motumbo and his men were not impressed—even when this magnificent creature pointed a long golden staff that looked like an elongated crook. It crackled with lightning-like energy circling the curved tip. She covered the stairs quickly.

“Kill the witch!” shouted Motumbo.

A dozen of his men moved forward and kneeled, aiming their rifles up at her.

“Fire at will!”

A barrage of bullets bounced off the stairs and platform. Yet none injured her. Sekhmet’s form shimmered and shifted as each shot passed through her body. As if she were a hologram. Hell, maybe she was.

Motumbo laughed boisterously, while his men reloaded their weapons. “You don’t scare me, you goddamned witch!”

But now it was her turn.

In her other hand, Sekhmet carried the ankh. She thrust it toward the sphere above and it began to spin again. It gained speed and suddenly ignited, this time sending a stream of plasma energy to the ankh. Before any of her assailants could launch a second assault, they were struck by fireballs launched in rapid succession from within the ankh’s oblong center. Motumbo’s small army was cut in half, with the front line reduced to human torches, screaming in agony. I would’ve expected quick deaths for them, but the flames were slow to consume. More like being dipped in searing oil and allowed to cook. I liked her style.

Not exactly what Osiris had in mind, I’m sure. I wondered what would happen if she carried the whip depicted in the pictograms. But not for long...Motumbo and the rest of his men decided to stick around like lambs before slaughter. He grabbed one of his fallen comrades’ weapons and took aim at the goddess stealthily approaching from the bottom of the stairs.

But before he pulled the trigger, the half human/half lioness morphed into a swarm of fiery embers that raced toward him. His maniacal look dissolved to one of terror as the embers tore at his skin. He dropped the weapon and fled, screaming to the deepest corners of the chamber, beyond the illumination’s reach. The swarm pursued him in earnest. When his screams were aborted by a loud guttural growl, I couldn’t suppress a smile at the cat and mouse imagery in my head.

Time to find a way out. I assumed the surviving assholes would’ve had sense to leave ahead of us. But the three men hovering near Marie and Ishi seemed to draw confidence the swarm was too busy chomping down the carcass of their boss to care about the ill designs they had for my gal and little buddy.

The perfect moment to pull my Beretta from it’s hiding place, until I caught a glimpse of the other two bandits on their way. I scooped up the rifle dropped by Motumbo and pointed it menacingly at the trio getting ready to make good on three days of violent threats.


Back the hell away!”

Not sure if the words or me wagging the gun bought a brief reprieve, but they stepped back far enough to allow Marie and Ishi to stand up. The three of us headed for the exit...until the other two bandits appeared, rifles trained on my head. A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed the other three were on their way.

It was all instinct from then on. “Stick with me!” I shouted, pushing Ishi and Marie toward the spot where Motumbo likely met his demise.


They’re gaining on us, Nick!” Marie pointed anxiously at the five assholes in a dead run. When they started firing, I urged her and Ishi to keep going while I stood my ground.


There’s no where to go, Boss!” lamented Ishi, pointing a flashlight taken from one of the fallen bandits. No sign of Motumbo’s remains or Sekhmet, for that matter. Just a doorless wall.

I needed time to figure things out, and fired awkwardly at our pursuers. One of them was hit in the leg. My aim isn’t always the best, but at least five became four. The rest picked up their pace in anger.

I dropped to the ground, intending to take them all down, rapid fire. I knew the gun was likely close to empty, and hoped there was enough ammo to do the trick. Regrettably, all that came out was two more shots, and then nothing. Worse, I didn’t hit a damned thing.

Listening to Marie and Ishi’s rising panic behind me, I worried this could be it. Time to use the weapon I’d been saving as a last resort. I reached inside my pants and loosened the gun from its holster and...it felt light.

Shit!


Marie...after we, umm...did our thing the other night. Do you happen to remember if I put the clip back in the Beretta?”

The men bore down on us, but slowed when they saw the gun in my hand. Two chuckled, and one removed a handgun from his gunbelt, checking the clip. Looked like a Glock.

“How the hell am I supposed to remember something like that?”


That’s what I thought.”

I smiled and stood up, shaking my head and thinking I’d die in the next minute. Facing a duel with the confident prick stepping toward me, he knew his gun was loaded, as did I. I prayed he wasn’t privy to English, and clueless about the conversation I just had with Marie. I might be able to talk myself out of this if he wasn’t the wiser. Otherwise...

The dude pointed his gun at my chest, grinning knowingly. There would be no talking out of this one. I was out of second chances, and would perish beneath Egyptian sand like Mario long ago.

Bright light suddenly bathed us from nearby. A male figure stood in a doorway to my right, where only seconds earlier he and the doorway didn’t exist. Or, maybe it just seemed that way. The man addressed our adversaries in Sudanese, though I couldn’t discern any of it. My knowledge of the language had long since faded after my parents’ murder, and I was raised by my Aunt Claire in Modesto, California.

The figure stepped closer, and the four bandits looked at him as if they had seen a ghost. Ironically, this was something they did understand to fear and backed away until they felt secure enough to turn and run like hell.


Oh my God—It’s Akiiki!” shouted Ishi. He ran to the man, throwing his arms around him. Sure as shit, the guy dressed in a white tunic favored our guide. There was something different about him, though.

Marie must not have shared my apprehension, as she joined Ishi in hugging this guy who looked and talked like Akiiki. They shared a giddy group hug. Tempted to sing
Kumbaya
, I decided against it.


Come, Nick—all of you must leave with me,” said the man, whom I reluctantly accepted as our missing friend. He motioned to follow him into a tunnel where the brightness emanated from. “I will lead you back to safety, but we must do it quickly!”


Is it really you, Akiiki?” I asked, when no one else would broach the question.

Rather than tell me, he pulled aside his tunic to reveal his abdomen. Taut muscles that might’ve been present before, and no sign of an injury. Not even a slight scar.

“She healed me, as I knew she would,” he said, smiling triumphantly. “Now we prepare to go home.”


What in the hell are you talking about?”

He pointed above, like he had done just days ago around the campfire. Like then, it didn’t do shit for me.

“Sekhmet is finally taking us home,” he said. “After more than four thousand years, she is ready to return home to the stars.”

 

 

BOOK: Pyramid of the Gods
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