Sorry for the long absence, I moved to a different state, had a baby, and did some other fun stuff! But I haven’t stopped writing, and my novel is nearing completion! Here’s a little bit from the most recent parts.
The Regilo’s tail left a distinct trail through the fine dust coating the temple floor. Seb followed it through the labyrinth of hallways, lit in sickly green by lanternfire, casting twisted shadows upon the walls. Each new hall he passed was covered in mosaics and intricate reliefs, telling the history of a distant and tremendous past. There was enough insight into Iram’s society for a team of scholars to spend a lifetime here, but Sebastian’s attention was elsewhere.
The trail led him to a square room some twenty feet across. It seemed relatively drab compared to the halls he had been wandering, but the trail ended here and it looked as though the Regilo had disappeared into thin air.
“Secret chamber?” Sebastian muttered to himself. He at least hoped that it wasn’t more magic, otherwise he would be there for a very long time.
The rogue scanned the room looking for pressure plates, odd looking fixtures, anything out of the ordinary that might trigger a trapdoor or hatch to open. (Once he had burgled a gangster’s house to find that one of the candelabras would tip to reveal a hidden stash within a liquor cabinet.) The floors seemed clear of anything suspicious, so Seb turned his attention to the walls. Two of the three were bare stone, but the third had upon it a scene in a mix of high and low relief that appeared to depict the story of how Hannibal had destroyed his brothers’ kingdoms and his creation of Iram.
Sebastian examined the carving top to bottom; one scene showed Hannibal in the desert, conversing with the Marid, one showed him razing the towers of his elder brothers to the ground as their armies watched in terror, and the next showed the king interceding between the two rival kings as they kneeled, collapsed and struggling to grip their swords while their attendants looked on. More scenes showed Hannibal weaving sorceries in the desert, and the creation of the first water, but there was nothing that seemed strange to Sebastian’s unschooled eyes.
Then Sebastian paused, returning to the scene of Hannibal and his brothers. It didn’t seem out of place, but for some reason it nagged him. He squinted, examining it closer.
Hannibal held a rod, a symbol of his might, pointed straight outwards between his two brothers, whose eyes remained locked. The attendants all had their focus on the Magi King. Above them all were the moon and the stars. No—not just stars, Sebastian realized: constellations.
Sebastian was no expert, but he could recognize The Trident, with its forks always pointed to the south. Meaning south was behind Hannibal. Then it struck him, why would Hannibal intercede when his brothers had already been brought to submission? He would try reason first wouldn’t he? Sebastian reached his hand out and grasped the figure of the king and found it to be slightly worn in the center.
He twisted it, fearing that the hand-high figure would snap at any moment, but instead it gave with a small pop and began to turn. Sebastian kept twisting and the sculpture continued turning until the Magi King now faced the opposite direction, his staff pointed to the desert. Hannibal wasn’t intervening between his brothers, he was leading their people to his new kingdom.
Sebastian smiled with self-satisfaction as the statue clicked into place and a low rumbling accompanied one of the massive floor-stones receding into the wall behind it. Seb craned his neck and looked inside the secret passage to find a dimly lit ramp descending into an unknown level. Before he could examine the passage in depth, the massive stone floor began to close; Sebastian rolled down the ramp into the unmapped maze. He just hoped there weren’t any other secret passages he had missed.