Also by Demiurgec
"What do you think it means?" asked Neferen. The desert
Peophin reached out to dust the great stone tablet a bit more with her hoof,
peering uncertainly at the inscription.
Phezor, a desert Kacheek, frowned. "I don't know much
of the Ancient Language, but some of the signs look familiar." He reached out
to help uncover the mysterious stone block's face from beneath layers of desert
sand. "Now, tell me again how you found this?"
"I go to Coltzan's Shrine every day to pray for luck
and bounty," Neferen told her friend. "One day when I went a great wind stirred
up after my prayer, and I thought that nothing had happened. Disappointed, I
prepared to go back, when something caught my eye. It was a flash of some sort.
I followed it, and saw the end of the tablet protruding."
Phezor laughed. "Good thing you know me, right?"
"A great thing," agreed Neferen. Phezor was a member
of one of the oldest families in the desert, and his ancestors had resided there
for as long as anyone could remember. Since he also knew more of the Ancient
Language than anyone else Neferen knew, it was fortunate indeed that they were
The majority of the stone tablet lay revealed, sparkling
in the hot desert sun as if ingrained with a million tiny diamonds. "Mica,"
Phezor explained, seeing Neferen tracing the shimmers with a hoof. "Now, let
me see if I can make this out." After studying the intricate loops and swirls
of the inscription, the Kacheek began to read.
"For those of you who have reached my summit," he
began, and a puzzled look crossed his face. "Summit?" he muttered again skeptically.
"Yes, this definitely says summit..."
Neferen was more intrigued than before at discovering
only the first line of the ancient tablet. "Read on!" she urged.
Phezor chuckled and bent over the tablet again.
"For those of you who have reached my summit, gaze
upon the heavens for you are nearer to them than you would believe. Those of
my blood, those of the ancient Lost Desert lineage, heed my words. Place your
paw into the groove below and your way shall be revealed. But be wary--" Phezor
abruptly ended his translation.
"What does it say? ‘Be wary’ about what?" Neferen
demanded, her excitement overwhelming her generally calm demeanor.
"The inscription is worn away and I cannot translate
any more," Phezor mused. "We should find this paw shaped groove; I may be able
to gain us entry into whatever it means by ‘your way.’ What a fabulous discovery
this might prove to be!"
They locked eyes for only a moment and began to hurriedly
brush away at the sand. As the hot grains fell away, they began to see the traces
of the paw-shaped groove the tablet had mentioned.
Neferen touched the shape lightly with a hoof while
Phezor finished clearing the sand from inside. The shape was inlaid with what
seemed to be solid gold, flashing brightly in the desert sun, and the sprinkling
of tiny grains that remained sparkled like tiny stars in a sky of gold. 'It's
beautiful," whispered Neferen, and her hoof reached down toward the groove.
"No!" cried Phezor, knocking the hoof aside. He glanced
up apologetically as he saw Neferen's startled expression. "The inscription
commanded that only one of the Ancient Blood should touch it," he reminded her
gently. "I don't know what would happen to you if you did."
Steeling himself, the desert Kacheek placed his paw
in the opening. The gold around it blazed to life, and his eyes got wide, though
he did not cry out. Then the gold swirled and melded in a molten whirl around
his hand, shrinking to surround his fingers in a perfect cast. The sun flashed
upon it in one bright beam and the gold cooled, hissing in a cloud of white
smoke. Glancing uncertainly at Neferen, Phezor removed his paw.
All was silent for a moment. "Do you think anything
happened?" asked the Peophin.
Before Phezor could answer, though, the winds picked
up in a distant moan. Neferen looked around, puzzled at the sudden gale force
winds that seemed to assail her from all sides. Phezor stared incredulously
at the ground around them, for he had noticed that the winds were not disturbing
the sand anywhere but directly at his feet.
"How odd!" he shouted to Neferen, who was also noticing
that the strange winds were doing nothing to the loose sand around her. "Something
truly incredible is happening! I can feel it at the essence of my very being,
His voice was cut short and turned into a desperate
yelp as the swirling winds lifted him clear off the ground, sending him spiraling
upwards towards the heavens.
Neferen gasped, making a quick move towards her friend,
but the winds pushed her back, not allowing her to enter the miniature twister.
They swirled in an expanding force below her, pulling the piles of sand away
from the tablet, smoothing them away from a tremendous form which had lain hidden
beneath. It was a pyramid, she saw, as the wind cleared it from its imprisoning
sand. That’s what the tablet had meant by “summit.”
Helpless, Neferen stood, watching as the twister jostled
and spun Phezor about the newly exposed pyramid. There was little she could
do to help her friend, and suddenly her mind snapped back to what Phezor had
said only a few minutes earlier: The inscription commanded that only one
of the Ancient Blood should touch it, I don't know what would happen to you
if you did.
She cried out to her friend, cursing herself for finding
the tablet and bringing him out translate it. Perhaps Phezor's bloodline did
not trace back as far as this pyramid. The thought sent a chilling shiver down
the Peophin's spine.
Her eyes had been turned upwards for some time now
and thus she had not noticed that the winds were clearing away strange entranceway
right at the base of tablet, at the pyramid’s top. She was suspended above the
ground, near the pointed end of the pyramid, by only a tiny platform jutting
from the tablet’s bottom.
And then, as suddenly as it had begun, the winds vanished
and Phezor fell to the sandy platform with a thud. As Neferen's eyes followed
her friend’s descent, she caught site of the angular portal that the winds had
She did not know where the voice had come from, but
turning her gaze to Phezor she knew that the Kacheek had heard the word as well.
Then, suddenly, the massive slab of stone that had sealed the pyramid for centuries,
began to slowly slide away, leaving a gaping hole into ancient darkness.
Momentarily abandoning the discovery, Neferen rushed
back to where Phezor lay, and knelt down beside him. "Are you okay?"
The Kacheek nodded. He seemed shaken, but unhurt.
"I'll be fine. But what's that?" He pointed to the opening as he lifted himself
to his feet. "Should we go inside?"
"If you are sure you are all right..." Phezor glanced
inquiringly at his friend as he heard the hesitancy in her voice, and Neferen
shrugged in reply. "I don't know if I should go on," she finally admitted. "Maybe
we should try to get down. What if I am not of ancient blood, like you?"
"It didn't say anything about that on the tablet,"
replied Phezor thoughtfully. "Only that one of ancient blood must open
the doorway." As he spoke, he neared the opening, and Neferen followed nervously
in his wake. Billowing from the hole was a stale, musty smell with a sharp underscent
of spices and incense. "I'm going in," he announced softly. "It's... calling
Neferen watched uneasily as her friend stepped into
the hole, vanishing into darkness. "Phezor!" she cried. "Wait!"
There was no reply.
If she wanted any hope of catching up to her friend,
she had to act quickly. Without further thought, she pitched herself into the
opening, and as soon as she was inside a terrible rumbling sounded, shaking
the earth like thunder. Shards of dust and debris fell about her, blowing up
into her eyes and lungs. Coughing and sputtering, she tried to backstep out,
but her back hit solid rock.
The opening had closed behind her.
In the absolute darkness, Neferen remembered her earlier
What if I am not of ancient blood, like you?
It didn't say anything about that on the tablet.
Phezor, she thought in despair, You couldn't
read the whole tablet...
Her mind wheeled as she thought of her mistake. He
hadn't been able to read the whole tablet. The last two words on the
tablet had been “be wary!”
"Be wary of what?" she muttered aloud to herself.
She sucked in a deep breath, gagging on the dust that clogged the air in the
Finally, resigned to her fate, Neferen steadied herself
against the slab of stone which blocked her escape and tried desperately to
make out any minute details in the darkness. There was nothing nearby to give
away even the faintest notion of her surroundings and she found herself wishing
she had taken a look around before blindly rushing in.
Then she noticed something as she squinted far down
the tunnel -- at least it appeared far down the tunnel, she couldn't really
tell in the complete darkness -- in the distance was a faintly glowing luminance.
With no other choice before her and no sign or sound
to let her know that Phezor was alright, Neferen steeled herself and began to
slowly make her way towards the distant light. The light was calling
to her, just as it had to Phezor moments before.
Thinking only of moving toward the light, Neferen
pushed through the winding turns of the tunnel, not realizing that she was soon
hopelessly lost. The flicker of brightness was always just ahead, like a friend
waiting for her to catch up, and she followed blindly with a small half-smile
on her face, as if recalling shadows of pleasant memories long forgotten.
Then the moving light stopped abruptly on a curve
before her. With her heart racing, the Peophin almost stumbled in her rush to
see its end. As she turned the corner, her jaw slackened with mixed wonder and
awe as she took in the scene which lay in the pyramid's heart.
It was a huge room, walled with tiles of finely etched
ivory, its ancient letters and designs painstakingly colored with bright dyes
and lined with gold filigree. The floor was strewn with gold coins and white
rose petals and rubies. Torches, mysteriously lit, hung incrementally throughout,
and yet the room was lit too brightly for it to have been a result of their
Her eyes scanned over the scene in an instant, and
rested at what was in its center. Standing on a raised platform, surrounded
by the bursting water of shining fountains, was Phezor.
The Kacheek was robed in rich swatches of white silk
embroidered with gold, and around his head was a ruby-encrusted circlet. His
paws glittered with golden rings, and even the sandals on his feet were of delicately
Neferen scarcely noticed his new garb, though; her
gaze was riveted in his eyes. They stared at her with the wisdom of countless
ages, and his voice was strangely regal as he spoke. "My friend," he said, raising
a paw in greeting, "Come..."
She didn't delay even a moment to consider the implications
of all that was happening around her. Instead, she mindlessly walked towards
her beckoning friend, a strange smile creeping at the corners of her mouth.
"Sit," Phezor said, and once again, had Neferen been
of sound mind, she would have known that she had no choice in the matter. She
moved closer, taking a seat on an ornately carved chair. Its wood was the finest
mahogany she had ever felt and for a moment Neferen found her hands gently gliding
up and down the arm rests, the feel of the wood was hypnotically soothing to
the touch. The whole chair was inlaid with the finest gold that sparkled brilliantly
in the light which illuminated the chamber.
After admiring the room for many long moments, Neferen
snapped her eyes back up to meet Phezor's unbreakable stare. The Kacheek looked
marvelously regal in his flowing robes, and the circlet which adorned his head.
She found everything so marvelous, so perfect.
As she stared at him, her eyes were drawn into his
own like a whirlpool, taking her deeper and deeper into their silvery essence.
The thought hit the Peophin like an avalanche, momentarily
breaking her free of the mysterious enchantments that had robbed her of her
free will. She couldn’t realize the significance at first, but for some reason
the thought was overwhelming.
Then she understood. Phezor's eyes were brown.
"But they are better this way," the desert Kacheek
said smoothly, as if reading her mind. "Don't you agree?"
She nodded mindlessly, gazing into them. Bright eyes
of silver... flawless, liquid points of light...
A voice came from her throat, though she was not sure
it was her own. "Master, what are we to do?"
Master Phezor lifted his hands, gesturing to his surroundings.
"It's beautiful, all of it," he said. "But it could be more. Are we to stay
forever -- you and I, my servant -- within this pyramid, treasuring our handful
of jewels? It is not enough for me."
"Nor me, my master," said her voice. The rest of her
longed to merge with the voice of submission, to yield her thought and consciousness
to this king before her. He was so wise, so noble... and it was so difficult
to think and worry... should she not consent, and let him have the control?
It would not be hard...
"Never feel pain, or stress," he said, his unblinking
silver eyes boring into her. "We could leave this place, my servant. How could
you ever feel truly happy, when your mind is always filled with petty concerns?
I will lift them from you... I will take the world's cares... and then you will
"Free," she murmured, and her sight was swallowed
up by those huge, silver eyes. "Free..." She could feel her mind slipping away,
giving into the promise of unburdened life...
Then she heard something else -- a voice belonging
to neither her, nor Phezor. It started out in a distant corner of her mind;
its force in her thoughts was weak, but slowly it overwhelmed the influences
of Phezor and the pyramid. Slowly it pulled her free from her reverie.
"Be free," it commanded her over and over again, each
time more intrusive than the last. Her mind swam with the force of this new
presence. She was torn between the words of wise, powerful Phezor, this new
voice, and her own, very distant thoughts.
"Be free," the voice demanded, "and flee this accursed
The word hit her like a sandstorm, overpowering all
other thoughts in her mind. She looked at Phezor, who was staring at her now,
a puzzled look etched in those terrible silver eyes.
"Stay," he purred. "Stay here with me, my servant!"
Her thoughts reeled, and once again she heard the
"You serve no one!"
She felt as if she might collapse; it seemed as if
the spirits of the Lost Desert were battling for control of her body. Neferen
no longer knew who to trust, or what to do...
In a final act of desperation, she lunged from her
seat, straight towards a very surprised Phezor.
The Kacheek mastered his emotions quickly and brought
up a paw before him, aiming toward her. The strange silver eyes slanted with
a horrible malice, and his fingers twisted together. As they moved, a terrible
ripping sensation wrenched within her chest, as if his claws turned inside her.
She gasped wordlessly, struggling to breathe, then whipped her shoulders away,
blocking the line of attack. The grip released abruptly, and Neferen sat on
the stone floor amid the scattered rose petals, breathing in ragged heaves.
"Fool! Slave!" cried the Kacheek, his eyes burning
with white-hot rage. His jeweled paw lifted again, pointing toward the crumpled
form of the Peophin. "I do not know how I lost my power over you before, but
there is one way to make sure it does not happen again..."
Despairingly, Neferen gazed upward, meeting his cold, metallic gaze. There
was nothing she could do; her life was lost. The strange pyramid had claimed
the Kacheek who had once been such a close friend. "Phezor," she whispered,
her voice clogged with tears. "What happened to you?"
She expected the final blow to fall at any moment,
but she was too drained of hope to care. When it did not, she glanced up in
confusion. The Kacheek was facing her, rigid, shining in his splendid garments,
but the barest flicker of uncertainty was in his eyes. He blinked, and a flash
of brown appeared, but the silvery color hurried to reengulf them.
A desperate, soaring hope rose within her, and she
jumped to her feet. "Phezor!" she cried, pouring her heart into her voice. "Phezor,
do you hear me?..."
Phezor’s expression faltered. He could hear a familiar
voice -- one he knew was that of a friend. But he could not determine the source.
His spirit was struggling to break free of the powers of the pyramid, and with
it the voice that had come to Neferen assailed his thoughts.
"Be free!" it cried, blasting away any other thoughts
in his mind. “BE FREE!"
Neferen was staring up at her friend, watching his
internal struggle, when suddenly, he collapsed to the ground.
She rushed to him, putting a hoofed hand on the shoulder
of her dear friend. She watched as he slowly open his eyes. All her worries
faded as she gazed into their depths. His eyes – they were brown!
"Ne-Neferen?" He mumbled shakily trying to prop himself
up on his elbows. "Neferen, I heard your voice, and another, though, at first,
I was not sure who it was, I believe now that it could be none other than King
Coltzan... it warms my heart to know that even after his death that his spirit
remains as a guardian of the Lost Desert."
Neferen was speechless, had it truly been Coltzan
who had freed Phezor? And if that were true, had Coltzan also freed her from
the pyramid's mind trap?
She didn't have time to ponder over the answers, though.
She knew that the powers of the pyramid had only been temporarily subdued --
"Come on," she said, smiling with tight lips. "We
have to get out of this place and bury it again, tablet and all!"
Phezor nodded in agreement, accepting the hoof that
she extended to him. Once he was on his feet, he took one last look around the
pyramid's main chamber. The piles of treasure rose nearly to the ceiling and
the flower petals that littered the floor were of a magnificent and undying
brilliance. But this was not his place: this was a place of evil. Shedding his
silk robe and ornately decorated crown, he turned to Neferen, and with the help
of his friend, made his way back through the winding tunnels.
At long last the setting sun greeted them as they
emerged from the temple. The portal, which had been blocked by a massive slab
of stone, was now sitting wide open, welcoming them back into the brilliant
As soon as they had left the ancient temple’s entrance,
the stone slab snapped back over the doorway, sealing all of the evil deep within
"Be wary," Phezor muttered, turning his attention
again to the inscription carved upon the stone. He pulled a small chisel and
hammer from his pouch and went to work finishing the warning. He didn't even
notice how easily the ancient language poured out of him as he worked. The influence
of the pyramid had left an indelible mark on his mind.
When at least he had carved several more words into
the hard stone, he turned to Neferen, and read the final warning in its completed
"Be wary, for evil spirits dwell within this accursed
place," he said solemnly.
"I suppose some things are better left undiscovered,"
Neferen mused. "But perhaps it was Coltzan who revealed this place to me," she
continued thoughtfully. "Perhaps it was his intention that we would venture
in, discover its evil, and you would complete the inscription..."
"Perhaps," Phezor replied mysteriously, then glanced
down at the ground, far below them. “Now, how do we get down?”
As if in reply, a sudden jolt shook the platform that
held them suspended at the pyramid’s top. Abruptly it detached, and Neferen
grabbed Phezor’s arm to steady herself. Slowly, gently, it floated down the
length of the pyramid, and thudded to the ground well clear of it.
“What’s going on?” asked Neferen.
Phezor smiled. “Something tells me we shall see soon
The winds rose in another scream, whirling the sands
to their call. The friends watched in awe as the desert seemed to speed through
the ages before them, covering over the tremendous pyramid in a gigantic mountain
of sand. As it died down, the sun was setting behind an enormous sand dune.
“Much better,” said Phezor.
Neferen smiled as they turned for home. “I’ve only
one favor to ask you,” she told her friend.
The Kacheek lifted an eyebrow in inquiry. “What is
“Next time we read an ancient message, we read the
whole thing, okay?”
Phezor’s laugh rang out across the desert. “It’s a