Friday, 12 June 2015

Wall of War Excerpt by Allan Hudson

Wall of War.

You've been following Father Suetonius Graft - an amateur rock climber - when in 1953 he discovers an unusual cave with an unbelievable monument inside the dark gloomy cavern. It's made of pure gold and has ancient warriors carved in the face. The opening section of this thrilling novel has been revealed on this blog. The beginning can be found here

Part 2 is available here 

Part 3 of Father Graft's adventure follows. What is the proof he has found and what will he do with it?

From another pocket he pulls out a wide elastic band that is twined around a hard leather roll. He uncurls the band to expose a leather loop the same size as his flashlight. He had molded wet leather to it before cutting and installing snaps. It is attached to the heavy stretchy loop. Snapping the flashlight into the leather holder he pulls the whole apparatus over his short hair. He positions the light as firmly as possible before reaching up behind the upper lip of the rock that separates the two rooms. The outcrop above him disallows him the height for a running jump. As he surveys the opening he visualises himself thrusting his body out from the knees to leap from a squatted position.  He lowers himself once again even with the lip of the crack, hunkering down as low as possible to study the roof under the rock above his head. It looks to taper upward opening into the room. The gargantuan sliver of rock that obstructs the passage is quite thick. There looks to be enough headroom. He waddles like a duck until his toes are just over the crevice. As he allows himself to fall forward into the hollow, he will use the edge pushing with his powerful thighs.  He crosses himself and leaps.

There is plenty of empty space on the other side of the rock and he lands a foot past the lip going into a roll to protect his bones. He is on his back when he comes to rest. His motion roils the dust that has lain undisturbed for hundreds of years; motes swirl about like ancient feathers. He rises while wiping the granules from his body. He tips his head to shine the light in the corner where he spied the tiny gleam. He searches the floor until he sees an odd shape roughly where he thought the object might lay. When he bends to pick it up, he can see why the light has been reflected. The item is at rest with the widest part raised off the floor as it balances on a piece of broken wood. The underside of what looks like some type of tool has no dust or patina on it so the glossy metal still shines. Scooping the implement from the ground he uses his handkerchief to wipe it off. Like the wall, the object is made of gold.

He turns it in his hand. It is about twelve inches long. One end is a half circle about three inches wide, the circumference still sharp.  The other end is modeled, depicting a squat and ugly figure, guessing it might be a likeness of one of the Incan gods he read about. The two ends are joined by a narrower flat shaft. He recognizes the utensil from his studies of the Incas. It is a Tumi, a ceremonial dagger. He realizes that this site has been visited by someone of great importance. He will never know the hows and whys of it being here but it is all the proof he needs to verify his
discovery. He pulls a short leather cord from another pocket tying the knife to his belt. He tugs at it as it hangs from his back testing the knots he made. Satisfied that it will stay the climb he turns to leave. When he comes back to the gap in the floor he sees how impetuous his earlier movements have been. He won’t be able to jump back, the overhang is too low.

The wall to the right is raw stone. He turns around to tread lightly towards the stairway to inspect it closer for a possible way out. Stepping cautiously on the edge of the first split in the stairway, he shines his light into the ascending opening to discover that at the bend rock and dirt have filled the cavity. A huge boulder is choked against the wall and pinned behind it is another skeleton, naked of the flesh that identified it in life. The skull and one shoulder is all that is visible, the balance of the body entombed in the dirt. Out of habit, Father Graft mumbles a short prayer of petition for the man’s soul, and for the souls of others whom have perished in this hole. For the next nine days he plans on saying a novena.

He crosses himself once more returning to his task. The barrels are useless. He scours the chamber with the ray of his light until it meets the wall with the bent spears resting against another crude work bench cluttered with articles he doesn’t recognize but hint of aggression, wooden handles with weighted ends, stone and metal, fibred ropes with stone weights tied to their ends. The clubs he recognizes. Everything has a thick layer of dust weighted by time’s passage, centuries.

On the floor is a bundle of long spears of dull metal, probably bronze he guesses.  One end has a heavy hasp; the other extends to a point just above where it is shaped like a small axe. He reaches down to pull one free from the pile. It breaks away with a cloud of smut, the particles causing him to cough. A satisfied grin crosses his face when he estimates it to be long enough to bridge the gap. He loosens a dozen more that don’t seem bent too bad to toss them on the floor near the gap. The action raises a cloud of dust but he doesn’t stop. Grabbing the three leaning against the bench he hastily clears the rubble from an area across from the opening.  He straightens the spears in a row, sixteen wide, the farthest about one step apart from its opposite. Glancing at the hole with his light by moving his head, he estimates it to be about 36 to 40 inches wide. He’s not sure how to keep them together.

He walks back to the pile of relics searching for an answer. When his light follows the side of the ledge where he grabbed the spears, he spies shorter cylindrical pieces of what must be broken spears. An idea hits him. Digging the rods from the dust, he finds there are five pieces all about thirty to forty inches long, one still has a nicked tip on it. Dropping them by the longer ones he picks up the one he figures to be closest to thirty inches.  He uses the flexibility in each shaft to weave the shorter piece along the ends of the spears, one over and one under, one over and one under, then a second one as close as possible but in opposite rhythm, one over, one under until he has a firm edge. The opposite ends are all out control and will need the longest piece to weave with. Using two rods on each end and one in the middle he fashions himself a crude but secure plank. It isn’t much but it is all he can find.

He manages to get the temporary span across the opening. Closing his eyes he mutters a prayer. He trusts that God has not brought him this far to let him down. With confidence he crawls over the emptiness. In the center the shafts are springy but strong and he is soon across. He stands straight in the hallway and leaves.

Watch for Part 4 next month and the end of Father Graft's involvement in the Wall of War.

Next week on the Scribbler, we are welcoming back Susmita Bhattacharya as Guest Author and you can read an excerpt from her tantalizing new novel, The Normal State of Mind. Susmita was featured on the 4Q Interview last month and you can catch the interview here


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