After closing the door behind him, Indy helped Vranea up the ramp in the control room. He set her on one of the benches before the railing and she slumped over, a blissful smile still stretched upon her face. After launching the Tardis into the time vortex, the Doctor slipped down below and left Indy to tend the still befuddled Vranea. He emerged in short order with a metallic kit in his hand. He set the kit down on the bench beside her and opened it, pulling out a vial of clear liquid.
“Indy, could you sit her up, please,” the Doctor said and Indy complied. “I’m sorry to pull you out of bliss, my dear,” the Doctor said, uncapping the vial. “But the call has been sounded and I need everyone at full faculty.”
Even in bliss Vranea recognized the vial immediately.
“No,” she protested, clumsily swatting at the vial. “No more magic!”
“Not magic, my dear. Medicine. Now, open wide…”
She swatted at the vial again, managing to spill a few precious drops of it.
“Indy, if you please,” the Doctor said, gesturing to Vranea. Indy restrained her as the Doctor had ordered. The Doctor attempted to get as much of the medicine in her as possible but wound up wasting nearly half the vial. He managed to get a small amount in her mouth but not for long. She never swallowed but spat it angrily back at him.
“This is not going nearly as well as I had hoped,” the Doctor said, wiping the medicine from his face.
“Here, let’s trade places,” Indy offered. “Let me have a shot.”
And so they did. They swapped positions and the Doctor subdued Vranea while Indy administered the medicine. His approach was somewhat less… tactful than the Doctor’s. While the Doctor restrained her hands and head, Indy forced her mouth open with his left hand. With his right he dumped the remaining contents of the vial into her mouth. Then he quickly closed her mouth and held it shut while he placed his right hand over it. She tried to spit, of course, but she only succeeded in wasting a small amount which dribbled from between Indy’s fingers. Much in spite of herself, she was forced to swallow the rest of it. When she did her eyes fluttered and she went limp in the Doctor’s arms.
“Well, that was painful,” Indy said as the Doctor laid Vranea down on the bench. “Like giving cough medicine to a three year old.”
“It wasn’t her fault,” the Doctor said, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “She was hardly thinking clearly. An effect of the caffeine, I’m afraid.”
“Will she be okay?”
“Oh, yes. Quite fine. We simply gave her a sobering agent. She’ll be up and about in a minute or two. I wish we could have let her alone and let her enjoy herself, actually. But if we’re about to square off against the Nazi’s I need everyone ready and on alert. And thank you for your help, by the way. You have no idea how hard it is to get that sobering agent in her all by myself. Even completely obliterated she can put up quite a fight.”
“Yeah, no problem. So, Doctor, I have a question that’s been itching in the back of my mind ever since we left Cambodia.”
“Why does your ship look like a police box? That seems a little strange.”
“This ship is outfitted with something called a chameleon circuit. It camouflages the ship according to its surroundings. If it lands in a forest it makes the ship look like a tree. If it lands in a bedroom it may look like a wardrobe or a cupboard. In ancient Greece or Rome it might look like a statue or a pillar. As it happens I landed in 1960’s era London one fine day and it camouflaged itself as a police box. Then the circuit froze and it hasn’t changed back since.”
“Can’t you fix it?”
“Sure I could. It’s an easy fix, actually. But I kind of like it, truth be told.”
“But aren’t you worried about drawing attention?”
The Doctor stopped and reflected for a moment, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“Doctor Jones, what do you think would happen if this ship were to appear overnight on any random street corner in America? Let’s say Time Square, for example.”
“I don’t know,” Indy said as he leaned against the railing. “I imagine it would cause a fair bit of turmoil. Some panic as people wonder how it got there.”
“Really? Are you sure about that?”
“You’re saying it wouldn’t?”
“Indy, do you know what would really happen if this box appeared one night and was just there to greet the people one morning? Do you know what would really happen? Absolutely nothing! Most people would just walk by as if it had always been there. Some of the more astute may give it a sidelong glance as they passed but even they would hurry about their business.”
“And why is that?”
“Because most people simply aren’t looking for it. They aren’t looking for anything out of the ordinary and so they never find it!”
“Like your perception filter?”
“Yes, precisely! Most of these people aren’t looking for a shape shifting time machine so they never see it. And most people don’t even believe time travel is possible. So, even with the marvelous truth before their very eyes, they don’t see. They won’t see. More than that, they don’t even want to see.”
Another moment passed as they watched over Vranea who still snoozed silently before them.
“Indy, may I ask you a question?”
“Sure. Turn around is fair play.”
“How did you see through Vranea’s perception filter?”
“Then how did you know she was there?”
“Well, I suppose it was because I wanted to see. I’m an archaeologist. I’ve spent my entire life delving deeply into things that most people tread upon. And of the things most people tread upon few even care of that upon which they tread. That curiosity drives everything I do.
“ So how could I see her? It’s because I was looking for her. Not her specifically, but anything out of the ordinary that could lead me to deeper truth. And so when I found something, that strange something that I didn’t want to look at for some reason, it stood out to me. It piqued my interest.”
“I see,” the Doctor said, a new respect growing in his eyes.
As they finished their conversation, Vranea began to stir. Her lids fluttered open and she sat up, a new lucidity in her eyes. She looked confused for a moment, the last 20 minutes or so being a complete blur to her. Then she saw the Doctor and the medkit and a scowl deepened on her face.
“Doctor, I was having a good time,” she rebuked him. “Damn you and your magic!”
“It’s not magic,” he scolded as he cleaned up the kit. “It’s science!”
“Same thing, Doctor.”
She took another moment to revel in the look of ire he bore her before turning her attention to Indy. When she did her eyes widened and her face flushed with embarrassment as her memories of the last 20 minutes trickled back into her head. Sensing what was to come she buried her reddening face in her palms before speaking to Indy, who looked down on her with a certain cheeky gleam in his eye.
“Indy, tell me I didn’t puke on the Presidents carpet.”
“You absolutely puked on the Presidents carpet.”
“Oh no!” she cried into her palms.
“Recalling the aftermath of your ‘good time,’ are we,” the Doctor said as he returned to the console.
“You could have stopped me before I went too far, you know!”
“Am I your father? You’re a big girl, act like one.”
The Doctor ignored her glare and fished his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. He plugged it into a port in the console and it clicked into place. Immediately a menu of a type Indy couldn’t recognize appeared on a screen before the Doctor. It was a strange, circular language with an array of characters held in circular bubbles. Each bubble was connected by a lattice of lines forming a mind map of some type. The Doctor touched a few of the bubbles on screen and a new, more familiar series of images filled the screens before him. Indy recognized them immediately. They were the 13 tablets he had studied in the Presidents office plus several of the other documents and maps he hadn’t had a chance to study.
“Doctor, how did you get those documents on your view screens,” Indy asked.
“Magic,” Vranea said playfully, once again reveling in the Doctors ire.
“Not magic. Science! I did it with this,” the Doctor said tapping his screwdriver. “It captured the images and then uploaded them to the computer.”
“So it’s a camera,” Indy said. “Why didn’t you just say it was a camera?”
“You know what a camera is?”
“Of course I know what a camera is! It’s the 1930’s, not the dark ages.”
“Right, sorry. It’s hard to keep track of what era I’m in, sometimes. So, let’s get to work, shall we? What are your impressions of the tablets Dr. Jones?”
“Well, it’s clearly written in a form of proto-Vedic Sanskrit. I never read as much as you, Doctor, but I would say it’s origins are from India, circa 2000 B.C. Perhaps earlier.”
“So, we’re off to India, then,” Vranea said.
“It would appear so, My Dear. The only issue is where? Doctor Jones, I believe this is your area of expertise.”
“The tablets should give us clues. Doctor, do they say where it’s buried?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“I thought as much. It’s seldom that easy. Do the tablets give us any clues at all, Doctor?”
“Scant clues, at best. The tablets suggest that the ancients knew the dangers the Crypt possessed and hid it in a far away land, though they say not where. Hints to its location were reportedly given to three priests of the old order. These priests were charged with guarding the information until one worthy could claim it. Apparently they created a lineage, passing the information from one generation to the next, so that it may not be lost.”
“How did they pass the information along?”
“Each priest branded the clue to his chest. Only all three clues together would unlock the Crypts final location.”
“Branding,” Vranea said with disgust. “A little extreme, don’t you think?”
“It’s better than engraving it on a medallion and then losing it,” Indy said. “Well, that’s something. It’s not much, but it’s something.”
“That seems like a lot to me,” Vranea added. “We’re in a time machine. Why not just go back, find the priests and ask them?”
“It’s not quite that simple,” Indy replied. “Where should we start? It doesn’t give us the priests names or even in what temples they served. Should we go back to ancient India and interview every monk and priest we find? And that’s assuming that they were even Indian priests to begin with. This story could have been imported from Tibet or China, for all we know. This account could well have originated anywhere in the Asiatic realm. Yet even this is based on the assumption that the account didn’t exist orally for hundreds of years before hand. No, we need more to go on.
“But this information does get us closer. Over the last 4000 years, but over the last 2000 years especially, Indian culture experienced a renaissance of sorts. Many universities were built over the last few millennia. When they did they gathered and collated teachings and writings from schools and monasteries locally and from around the world. It’s entirely possible that the clues we need may have been gathered in one of these universities. Doctor, does any of that information say where the tablets were discovered?”
The Doctor took a moment to flip through the founding archaeologists notes before responding.
“Yes, Indeed it does. Apparently they were discovered in a Buddhist monastery outside a little village called Bargaon.”
“Bargaon,” Indy said, biting his lip and furrowing his brow. “Bargaon… Isn’t that in Bihar province?”
“Yes,” the Doctor said, once again consulting the archaeologists notes. “That’s correct. Bihar province.”
“As I recall,” Indy said thoughtfully, “there is an old university at Nalanda, in Bihar. In its day it was said to house students from all over the world and boasted one of the largest libraries of its time. As with most libraries of its time it would have acquired literary works and artifacts from around the world. And, being the center of religious and philosophical thought of the day, it would have gathered these things in one place for the students to study. If the clues were ever in India then they may have been gathered there, at Nalanda.”
“Excellent! To Nalanda,” the Doctor exclaimed excitedly.
“I’m afraid it’s not that easy, Doctor. In about 1197 A.D. a Turkish general named Bakhtiyar Khilji sacked Nalanda, burned thousands of the monks alive and beheaded thousands more in an attempt to stamp out Buddhism in the area. He set fire to the library and it’s rumored to have burned for 3 months after the attack, it was so large. As of now the ruins comprise about 150 000 square meters, but it’s estimated that 90% of the ruins are still undiscovered.”
“So it will be like finding a needle in a haystack.”
“Worse than that, I’m afraid. It will be like finding a needle in a haystack that was burned to the ground and looted nearly a thousand years ago.”
“So it’s hopeless,” Vranea said, disappointment evident in her voice.
“Not completely,” Indy replied. “In order to maintain such a large library they had a primitive card catalogue system.”
“Primitive, Doctor Jones,” Vranea teased. Indy smiled at her gall.
“Fair enough. But compared to our modern standards it truly was primitive. Even so, it should suit our needs, all the same. But even this is a long shot. It’s highly likely the catalogue was destroyed. Any pieces that remain are highly unlikely to have any relevant information.”
“No need to fret,” the Doctor said as he began working the controls. “You said the library was destroyed in 1197? Then we’ll go back to 1195, find the librarian, access the catalogue, get our clues and beat the Nazi’s all before tea. Easy peasy!”
A familiar mechanical wheezing filled the control room and a familiar thud shortly thereafter.
“There we are,” the Doctor crowed triumphantly. “Nalanda, 2:37 PM, September 6, 1195. I thought I’d give us an aerial view before we land. After all, seeing a dead city at the height of its power is a dream come true for an archaeologist, am I right? Come along, Indy!”
The Doctor gave Indy a hearty slap to the shoulder before proudly throwing the door ajar to reveal the vista beyond. Though not the vista he had intended. The smoke of a thousand inflamed Buddhist monks darkened the mid afternoon sky. Below them blood ran freely as thousands more had their heads removed under order of General Khilji. In the distance, beyond the smoke, students could be seen fleeing into the temples to escape the Turkish hordes who pursued them. But it was to no avail for, as they locked the doors behind themselves, the Turks also barricaded them in from the outside. Then they tossed oil and lit torches through any open window, setting student and faculty alight. It was good that Vranea had vomited before hand, because if she hadn’t then she surely would have now.
“Easy peasy, Doctor?” Indy quipped.
“I think your dating methods need re-calibrated,” the Doctor said.
“Alright, change of plan,” the Doctor said closing the door behind them. He rushed to the console and started working again. Once more the control room filled with that familiar mechanical wheezing followed by a reverberating thud. The Doctor broke from his controls and joined Indy and Vranea by the door. “Ladies and gentlemen, for your approval I give you the new, improved and definitely not burning University of Nalanda!”
The Doctor threw open the door, with as much grandeur as before, to reveal another vista. And this one was surely more spectacular than the last. What lay spread before them was a mammoth complex, too vast to be seen with the naked eye. Stretching many kilometers and covering eight separate compounds stood the University of Nalanda. Glassy lakes sat nestled within an expansive system of parks and all were contained and protected with in a lofty wall which encircled them roundabout. Temples surrounded by azure pools rose from the midst of the parks while the red brick campuses stood as sentinels above them all.
And in their midst, in the center of the complex, stood the library. Nearly 9 stories tall, the centermost of its towers glistened as the sun danced upon the gems set in its surface. All roads lead to it and all roads lead away as it stood, a tribute to the enlightenment of an entire age.
“Thank you for this, Doctor,” Indy said, nearly breathless. “You were right. Any archaeologist in the world would die for this opportunity.”
“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” the Doctor replied with a smile.
Below them a group of students had gathered from one of the local meditation shrines. Together they pointed and twittered excitedly among themselves.
“Vimana! Vimana!” they cried aloud.
“Doctor, I think you just invented the modern UFO sighting,” Vranea said, looking down.
“What… oh,” the Doctor uttered as he followed her gaze. “Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. Alright, let’s go.”
The Doctor shut the door and returned to the controls. He fired up the core and that familiar wheezing filled the control room.
“Doctor, what are you doing,” Indy asked.
“I’m setting the ship down somewhere a little more remote.”
“But why? I thought you said people wouldn’t notice it.”
“And they won’t… as long as it doesn’t materialize before them. As long as it’s there when they arrive they will think nothing of it as they walk happily past. But even a puppy can startle if it appears suddenly.”
When the ship had landed the trio disembarked. He had landed them in a patch of forest some 20 meters from the nearest road. He locked the door behind them and they set off toward the gate of Nalanda. But they had only walked a few meters before Vranea remembered something they had forgotten.
“Oh, Doctor,” she said, holding out her cupped palm.
“Yes, quite right,” the Doctor said as he realized what she was after. He fished into his pocket and removed the perception filter he had retrieved from Indy. He gave it back to her and she draped it around her neck and tucked it into her tunic. As she did Indy became instantly befuddled, as she apparently vanished from sight.
“Doctor,” he exclaimed in shock. “Where did Vr… V… where did… uh…”
Try as he may Indy couldn’t place the name. He couldn’t even place the face. He only knew that he should know that someone was there.
“Here, allow me,” the Doctor said as he fished another bauble from his pocket. This one was a ring. It was some manner of mechanical widget of the same type as the pendant. Without a further word he took Indy’s hand and attempted to slide it on.
“Whoa, Doc,” Indy protested. “I think you need to buy me a few drinks first.”
Vranea giggled beside him, though he would never know it.
“Doc,” the Doctor repeated. “I like it. Doc. Doc! It’s curt and manly, just like Indy. Now shut up and stop fussing.”
Without another word the Doctor thrust the ring on Indy’s finger. He was startled yet again as Vranea appeared before him.
“You could think of it as a perception filter filter,” the Doctor said. “Without it you might become frustrated and lash out at her again. Alright, children, follow me.”
They kept a brisk yet relaxed pace as they made for the main gate of Nalanda. If not for their mission, and bizarre circumstances, Indy might have considered it an enjoyable afternoon stroll. It took about half an hour, but eventually they reached the gate. It was heavily fortified and an extremely well muscled guard approached as they came near. He was flanked on either side by two underlings who were no less muscled.
“Halt, what business have you in Nalanda?”
“We are here to visit the library,” the Doctor said confidently.
“The library is for students and faculty, honored guests and the priesthood,” the guard said, studying their peculiar dress closely. “You appear to be neither. State your business here!”
“Sir, we have traveled from the heart of Europa,” Indy said. “We have heard of the wealth of wisdom contained here and we only seek enlightenment.”
The guard said nothing but stood before them, clearly unfazed.
“Allow me,” the Doctor said, stepping forward. He said nothing to the guard but pulled something like a billfold wallet from his jacket pocket. He showed it to the guard who bore an astonished, and even fearful, look upon his face.
“Oh, my,” he said, his face growing pale. “By the invitation of Shakyashribhadra himself! Of course you may pass, honored guests,” he said as he bowed deeply in penance. “Please, forgive me. Open the gate!”
The gate spread wide before them and the trio passed through into the legendary university.
“Doctor, what was that,” Indy asked as the gate closed behind them.
The Doctor said nothing, but removed the billfold from his pocket. He passed it to Indy who opened it. Inside was nothing but a piece of plain, white paper.
“It’s called psychic paper,” the Doctor said. “It gets in your head and shows you whatever I need you to see.”
“But I didn’t see anything.”
Indy complied, but couldn’t quite make sense of what he was reading.
“Federal bikini inspector?”
The Doctor smirked like a schoolboy while Vranea rolled her eyes beside him.
“But isn’t the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands? What do they have to do with anything? And why would you want to inspect there?”
“Yeah, well… nevermind!” the doctor said, snatching the paper back from Indy. “So, our next step should be to ask for directions to the library.”
“No need. It’s that big shiny one off in the distance. The one that’s covered in jewels.”
“How do you know,” Vranea asked.
“That’s what the legends say. They call it the ‘Ocean of Gems’.”
Indy’s predictions regarding the size of the complex were spot on, and then some. It took them nearly three quarters of an hour and they passed two campuses before they finally reached the library. Unlike the main gate the doors were splayed wide open, welcoming staff and faculty alike. The trio stepped through, drawing bizarre sidelong glances from the students as they did.
“Doctor, shouldn’t we be wearing costumes, or something,” Indy asked into the Doctor’s ear.
“Well, they’re sure to know we don’t belong, aren’t they? Because of our dress?”
“Rubbish,” the Doctor decried. “If you saw an Arab walking through your university would you presume he was nefariously up to no good just because he was wearing an eastern tunic and a head dress? We’ll draw a few curious glances, of course. But nothing more.”
They approached a man whom they assumed to be the librarian. He had the universal demeanor of almost all librarians. Both Indy and the Doctor could agree on that. He had several new scrolls and parchments at his left and he was cataloguing them in a scroll to his right. He raised his head as they approached and bore a shocked glance as they drew near.
“Welcome to the Dharmaganja,” he said, eyeing them suspiciously. “May I help you,”
“I think you’re on, Dr. Jones,” the Doctor said, elbowing Indy in the ribs. “This is your department, I believe.”
“And what should I say?”
“I have found the truth works remarkably well.”
“If you say so,” Indy said as he stepped before the librarian. “Hello, sir, I’m Professor Indiana Jones and I was wondering if I could have a look at your catalogue?”
“A professor,” the librarian said, setting his scroll aside. “Are you new? I don’t recognize you.”
“I’m not from this university. I am from Marshall College.”
“Marshall College? I’m unfamiliar with it.”
“It’s in… Europa. We’ve traveled a great distance to study at your library. We are here by invitation of Shakyashribhadra.”
“Are you? Do you have the invitation?”
The Doctor stepped forward and flashed the psychic paper. The librarians eyes widened when he saw it.
“Honored guests indeed,” he said. “Very well. You can find the catalogue down the hall to your right.”
“Thank you,” Indy said as they left him to his work. The librarian never responded but only went back to cataloguing his new acquisitions.
“Out of curiosity,” the librarian said as they walked away. “What wisdom do you seek?”
“We seek knowledge of the Eternal Crypt,” Indy replied.
The students and most faculty in the room carried on about their business, not understanding what he was talking about. But the librarian raised his head and looked at them strangely from the corner of his eye.
“You seek the Crypt,” he said.
“You know of it?”
The librarian nodded.
“I know the legend. Why do you seek it?”
“Others pursue its power. They would use it to dominate life. We seek to stop them.”
“I see. But be warned, Dr. Jones, death follows the Crypt. It is cursed, as is its occupant. See that you do not share this curse.”
“Can you help me? I would take any wisdom you care to share.”
“I can offer you nothing more than I already have,” the librarian said as he returned to his work. “If you are worthy then you will find it.”
“And if I’m not?”
“Then you will share the curse. Good luck, Dr. Jones.”
With that last cryptic warning still echoing in his ears, the party set off to find the catalogue. They found it without much trouble, though it wasn’t what Indy was used to. Rather than a neatly indexed card catalogue the Nalanda catalogue was the size of an entire room. And not a small one. It took Indy some time to acclimatize himself to their system of categorization, but he learned its basics all the same.
It was not a short search. The three of them poured over scrolls for many an hour while student and faculty came and went around them. They certainly got a good show as they did for Vranea was still wearing her perception filter. And so the passers by bore the strangers one peculiar sidelong glance after another as they listened to only two thirds of the trio’s conversation.
“Alright, so I’ll start under ‘Mysteries of the Ancients,’” the Doctor said. “And… I don’t know where to find a toilet.”
“Okay, I’ll start in ‘Indus Antiquities’,” Indy said. “Then we should focus on… indoor plumbing? Not for another few centuries years. Sorry.”
“This scroll is proving fruitless so… What? Well, be a big girl and hold it… Oh, just like a cat!”
“Why do you keep saying that, Doctor?”
The others in the room were startled as Indy burst into rolling laughter for no apparent reason.
“Not magic,” the Doctor spat angrily. “Science!”
The search was long and hard. Dusk had well set upon them before Vranea finally found their answers by the flickering candle light. And well in time, too, for the librarian had only given them another hour before he would be forced to close up and lock them out. But find it she did, her eyes seeing better in the dark. Indy and the Doctor now gathered around her to review her findings.
“According to this,” she said, pointing at one line on the scroll, “the clues are kept in 3 separate vaults on campus. The vaults are in the basement of 3 buildings; the Ratnasagara, the Ratnadadhi and the Ratnaranjaka. Do you know where those are, Indy?”
“Yes. We’re actually in the first one, the Ratnasgara, the Ocean of Gems. It’s where they kept their most sacred writings like the Samajguhya and the Prajnaparamita Sutra.”
“Ah yes, the Prajnaparamita Sutra,” the Doctor said, elbowing Indy in the ribs. “Loads of spicy reading in that one, eh?”
“You’ve got the wrong ‘Sutra’, Doctor,” Indy replied plainly. “It means the ‘Perfection of Wisdom’. The other two buildings are actually the other two towers in the library. It makes sense that they would keep such valuable artifacts safely in the library.”
“So where’s the vaults?” Vranea asked.
“I have no idea,” he said gravely.
“What do you mean you have no idea,” the Doctor asked. “Aren’t ancient ruins your forte?”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but these aren’t ancient ruins. In my day only about ten percent of this site had been excavated and the library wasn’t among them. And local legends made no mention of the library having a basement, let alone vaults, so there’s no way I could have known. But this is definitely progress. Good work, Vranea.”
“So what now,” Vranea said with a hearty smile, soaking in the complement.
“Now we find the librarian,” the Doctor said as he made for the door. “He’s going to tell us where the vault is.”
“Oh, really,” Indy said, halting the Doctor in his place. “And what makes you so sure he is going to just let us into the vault where they keep their most sacred treasures?”
Once again the Doctor whipped out his psychic paper and flashed it for all to see.
“Have you forgotten, my friend,” he said triumphantly. “We are here under direct invitation of the Shakyashribhadra himself! How could he refuse?”
They made their way back to reception where the librarian was waiting. He was studying a stack of manuscripts by candle light. He raised his head and greeted them as they approached.
“I trust you’ve found what you needed,” he said, meeting their gaze.
“Yes, thank you,” Indy replied. “But now I’m afraid I must ask for access to your vaults.”
“Our vaults? I’m sorry, but access to the vaults is restricted to university faculty only.”
The Doctor said nothing but only whipped out his psychic paper. The librarian grew noticeably irritated as he regarded the document.
“Very well,” he said, an irritated sigh escaping his nostrils. “But I will be bringing this up to Shakyashribhadra in the morning. I take exception to being put upon by surprise guests at a moments notice.”
“Of course,” Indy said with a smile. “Please feel free. Everything will be clear in the morning.”
“Indeed. Follow me.”
The librarian lead them through a door to his rear. They passed a series of offices, with monks transcribing scrolls by candle light, before arriving in a large, open gallery. There were shelves and racks lining the walls and in rows through the room. The shelves were stuffed to overflowing with scrolls, manuscripts and other documents carefully packed into sacks and tucked into the shelves. In the middle of the room was a large, plain desk. Its surface was piled high with scrolls and manuscripts in a type of organized chaos. A water goblet could be seen half buried in the chaos.
At the far end of the room a seven foot statue of the god Vishnu could be seen overlooking the entire gallery. Behind him were the librarians sleeping quarters, which were walled off with an ornate curtain. Before Vishnu was a large circle of blue agate tiles which was contained by a rim of ornate gold edging. It very much resembled the azure pools surrounding the temples outside.
Deeply reverent and with hands clasped before him, the librarian entered the circle and stood before Vishnu. The others would have joined him but he forbade it, bidding they stay with his hands. Before the idol were four trays of offering which were set into the floor. Beside it, to the left and right, was a series of shelves holding a wide array of treasures. First the librarian went to the shelves and pulled a large cluster of jeweled grapes from among the treasures there.
“For the blessing of your bounty,” he said as he placed the grapes in one of the offering bowls.
Next he removed a large, gold shield from among the treasures. It was clearly heavy and he had great difficulty carrying it. He placed it in one of the offering bowls before taking a step back and bowing to the idol.
“For the blessing of your continued protection,” he said, slightly winded.
He then removed a large, ornate and bejeweled scroll from the trove placed it on another offering bowl.
“For the blessing of your wisdom,” he said.
Lastly, he removed a oblong figure from the shelf. Made of crystal, it was long, curved and resembled that of a birds body. Then, moving about the shelves, he removed several more similar pieces of crystal and began connecting them to the first. Before long he had crafted a rather large, crystalline dove.
“For your continued peace and mercy,” he said as he fit the last piece in place.
The offering bowls before them sank slowly into the floor, being burdened by the weight of their offerings. When they had fully sank a loud clanking and the turning of cogs echoed throughout the room. With head reverently bowed the librarian backed quickly out of the circle, away from Vishnu. Mere seconds later the azure pool before them rose several inches, until it had cleared the floor, and split before them. The two halves of the circle continued parting to reveal a torch lit staircase descending deep into the heart of the Earth.
“Wow, I never saw that coming,” Vranea said as she stared down the stair well.
“I’m not the least surprised,” Indy said with a smile.
“Excuse me,” the librarian said, turning to face them. “Are you talking to me?”
“What? Oh, no. No. I’m just talking to no one.”
“I’m not no one,” Vranea said, kicking him in the shin.
“Ow! Yes, I know you’re not ‘no one’, but… uh, I’m sorry. I was just… muttering.”
The Doctor, meanwhile, said nothing. He only allowed a small smile to crack his lips as the scene played out before him.
“I see,” the librarian said, eyeing him suspiciously. “I will not accompany you. But the eyes of Vishnu are upon you. Do not remove anything from the vault. You may look, you may touch and you may take notes but you may not take anything with you. I don’t care whose authority you are under. Are we clear?”
“Yes, absolutely! And thank you.”
Still eyeing them suspiciously, the librarian turned and left them to their business. When he had left the room Indy looked first at Vranea, then to the Doctor.
“Doctor, I think I’m beginning to understand you,” he said as he started down the torch lit stairwell.
It was no mere vault into which they descended but rather a labyrinth. Apart from the pristine nature of the site, Dr. Jones felt quite at home. Vranea remembered in which vault the clue was stored and, after a brief moment to orient herself, she lead them through the twists and turns of the labyrinth. They had borrowed a torch from the wall and used it to light their path.
“I still can’t believe that such primitive people built this,” Vranea said as she led them along.
“Believe it,” Indy said. “And there’s evidence that they built even more amazing things. The Veda’s talk about flying vehicles, called vimana’s, and advanced methods of energy production that we still don’t understand. They even talk of wars where they used explosives large enough to devastate entire cities. I can’t imagine anyone having that much power.”
“I cant imagine anyone wanting that much power,” Vranea added.
“Well, you had better start imagining,” the Doctor said. “Because it’s coming. The Second World War will be won because of this power. In part, at any rate.”
“The Second World War,” Indy said, an expression of horror set upon his face. “You mean we didn’t learn from the first one?”
“No, unfortunately not. Don’t get me wrong, Humans are brilliant! But remarkably slow learners, from time to time. But don’t worry. It will be difficult but you lot will persevere.”
“And this super bomb will help? Well, that’s good, I guess.”
“No, it really isn’t,” the Doctor added gravely. “There comes a time when one is too much. And when it comes to atomic bombs that sentiment certainly applies. Oh, quick tip,” the Doctor said, halting Indy with a hand on his shoulder. “If you ever find yourself trapped in a nuclear blast, just find the nearest fridge.”
“Yes, a refrigerator. Any refrigerator. The casing will shield you from most of the radiation and shelter you as you’re thrown clear of the blast.”
A moment of silence passed as Indy considered his ‘quick tip’, a look of extreme incredulity strewn about his face.
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said as he continued following Vranea around a corner.
“Yes, it is,” the Doctor agreed. “But it works like a charm.”
They continued following Vranea and soon found themselves face to face with something they did not expect. At the end of the hallway and just before their vault a lone guardian stood watch. He stood motionless before the door as the torch light danced upon his face.
“Uh Doctor, I think we have a problem,” Vranea said.
“Not to worry, my dear,” the Doctor said as he reached again for his psychic paper. “I’ve got this.”
The trio continued toward the guard but if he noticed them he never showed it. He remained stoic as they came near.
“Good evening, sir,” the Doctor said as they approached. “We need access to this vault. As you can see,” he said, presenting the paper, “we are invited guests of Shakyashribhadra.”
The monk took the paper without a word and studied it carefully.
“I see,” he said at last. “And what of your female friend? Is she under invitation as well?”
Vranea gasped, once again feeling quite naked, realizing that she could be seen.
“And what of you, Doctor,” the monk said, reading from the paper. “That is how you style yourself, is it not? The Doctor? From Galiphrey? Last of the Time Lords? Do not worry, Doctor. I won’t reveal your true name. And no real harm has been done so I won’t alert the guards. But I must ask you to leave and not attempt this again. Monks of my sect are well trained to resist psychic incursion. You will get the same result from the other two vaults. But next time they will know you are coming. And next time you will be arrested.”
The monk handed the paper back and the Doctor received it far more sheepishly than normal. He placed it back in his pocket and lead the way as they retreated back through the labyrinth.
“How did he know so much about you, Doctor?” Vranea asked.
“The psychic paper told him,” the Doctor said, a scowl deepening on his face. “It laid my entire life at his feet like an open book. I have never been more humiliated.”
“So what do we do now?”
“I have no idea,” he said. He desperately worked to keep his mounting frustrations under control, so he did not snap at her.
The trio walked in silence and darkness for some time after that. But as they were nearing the exit of the vault Indy’s eyes lit up and he halted the Doctor with his own and on the shoulder.
“I have it, Doctor,” Indy said, meeting the Doctors gaze. A scowl was still set upon his face, but it softened as Indy presented his plan. “Your ship can hover, yes?”
“That’s right,” the Doctor said.
“Can you take pictures while hovering?”
“Yes. Like aerial photographs?”
His scowl disappeared and his eyes lit up as he caught on to Indy’s plan.
“Yes! Oh, absolutely yes!”
“What is it,” Vranea asked, noticing his excitement. “How does this help.”
“We take pictures of the city as it is and make a map of it,” Indy said. “Then we go back to the ‘30’s and compare it to the ruins. We use the excavated ruins as a reference point and use the map to find where the library is located. We already know where the vaults are, at least in this building, so we just walk in and take the artifacts; without the monk guardian. Just like walking into Modo. Right, Doctor?”
“Well… it’s Mordor actually,” the Doctor corrected him. “I should show you that movie before this is done. But yes. That’s essentially correct.”
“I don’t mean to pee on your parade,” Vranea said. “But that won’t work. Didn’t the Turks loot and burn everything? What makes you think there will be anything left?”
“They didn’t loot everything,” Indy said. “They only looted what they could see!”
“That’s right,” the Doctor added. “These vaults are well hidden under a false floor. They surely will have looted the agate floor tiles, but the floor itself should be intact. Chances are the invaders simply won’t be looking for advanced, super secret hidden doors so they won’t find them. If we can open it we will have unrestricted access to the vaults.”
“That’s if we can open it at all after a thousand years,” Vranea said.
“One crisis at a time, my dear,” the Doctor said as he made for the exit with renewed vigor.
They thanked the librarian for his help on their way out and retreated with all haste to the Tardis. The sun had long set after them and the librarian had graciously held the door for them longer than he had intended. A full moon had risen overhead and cast its pale, blue light on the campus grounds. A late night chill had set upon them, making the air crisp and clean. The walk wasn’t unpleasant, though they were in far too much of a rush to enjoy it. They passed through the gate and arrived back at the Tardis about an hour after leaving the library.
The Tardis never put up a fight as the Doctor inserted his key, likely sensing his rising excitement and possibly sharing it. He opened the door effortlessly and rushed to the console, not even stopping to remove his jacket. Indy had barely shut the door behind him before the Doctor sent the Tardis into the time vortex. They emerged only seconds later and the Doctor called up an image on his view screen.
“Where are we, Doctor,” Indy said as he rushed beside him.
“The same place,” the Doctor responded. “About a thousand feet up. It’s also noon of the next day. I thought more light would make for a clearer image.”
The Doctors hands worked on the controls under the view screens gentle glow.
“Got it! The image is saved. Next stop, 900 years in the future.”
Indy and Vranea watched the screen as the Doctor prepared to send the Tardis again into the time vortex. Below them students went to class, faculty held debates in the great halls and temples and wisdom seekers from all over the known world studied in the great Ocean of Gems. And, somewhere down there, a librarian probably got into a great deal of trouble for allowing unknown strangers into the libraries vault.
“Doctor, isn’t there anything we can do for them,” Vranea asked as she watched the people going about their business on the screen. “In a few years all these people will be dead. Is there no way we can warn them?”
“I’m afraid not, my dear,” the Doctor replied solemnly. “Some events in time and space are fixed. This is one of them. We could erase this event from history, but then how would Humanity learn from it? How would they grow? But it would still happen, all the same. In a different time, a different place and to different people but it would still happen. Most likely worse than it happened here. Sometime the best thing to do, sometimes the only thing to do is to let the storm hit and brace for it when it does.”
The Tardis entered the time vortex and Indy and Vranea watched as the imaged faded from the view screen. Seconds later the ship emerged from the vortex and a new image filled the screen. It was of the same area, but far more desolate. Almost nothing of the original campus remained. Most of the area lay in ruins but for a few reddish brown buildings in the center of the screen.
The Doctor hit a few more controls and the image of the campus as it was overlaid the map. He looked to the ruins and found their corresponding buildings on their pre destruction map. The Doctor lined them up and they fit perfectly. He adjusted the map so it was centered on the screen and stood back to admire his handiwork.
“Right here,” Indy said pointing to a trinary complex of buildings in the center of the map. “That’s the library. You see the largest one? That’s the Ocean of Gems. Doctor, do you have a way to save these locations?”
“Not to worry,” the Doctor said as he plugged his sonic screwdriver into the receptacle. “I have an app for that.”
“How is your screwdriver going to get us into the vault?”
“It’s not just a screwdriver. It’s downloading the coordinates of the ruins. It will lead us straight there.”
“So it’s a map, too?”
“It’s a map, screwdriver, camera, hacking tool, anything I need.”
“Then why call it a screwdriver? Why not call it your sonic multi tool?”
“What’s that thing on your head?”
“What? It’s my hat.”
“Why do you call it a hat? Why not fedora? Or chapeau? Or boushi? Or sombrero? Or a kitten?”
“Because it’s my hat.”
“Because it just is, that’s why.”
“Well, there you go. It just is. Alright, kids,” the Doctor said after he had retrieved his screwdriver and landed the ship. “Let’s go exploring.”
The trio disembarked from the ship and immediately followed the Doctor and his screwdriver through the ruins. It was hard to believe that this place had been a thriving hub of learning and enlightenment only a thousand years prior. If they hadn’t been there to see it first hand then Indy and Vranea might not believe it themselves. Where temples once rose from azure pools now only trees grew in their stead. Once students and teachers sat sheltered from the harsh noonday sun, debating philosophy under shaded pagodas. Now deer and local cattle trod and grazed upon once sacred ground. And the walls, those great walls which kept the students from harm, were no where in sight.
Eventually the Doctor stopped, scanning the ground with his screwdriver. He held it aloft to examine it closely before clicking it off. The forest had swallowed much of the rest of the ruins but the patch of ground upon which they stood was remarkably free of large trees but for the occasional shrub.
“Here we are, the Ocean of Gems,” the Doctor said, kicking the dust with his feet. “Place has changed a little, hasn’t it?”
“Where is everything,” Vranea asked.
“Gone,” Indy replied. “Destroyed by the Turks, carted off by looters or scavenged by local farmers. Often there’s nothing left at dig sites like these because looters pick them clean before hand. Speaking of the site, Doctor, where exactly are we?”
“According the screwdriver we should be standing directly before the secret opening to the Ratnasagara vault.”
“Well then we’ve got some work ahead of us,” Indy said, crossing his arms before him. “We should head to the nearest town and round up some help from the villagers. With a few dozen strong backs we can probably have this site cleared in a couple weeks…”
“No need, no need. I have an app for that, too. Quickly, both of you get behind me and cover your ears.”
The pair complied and retreated behind the Doctor as he clicked a few buttons on the screwdriver and brought it to bear on the dusty patch of ground before them. When they were safely behind him, the Doctor activated the screwdriver and it emitted something like a high pitched whine directly before him. The noise grew in pitch and intensity until it created a wave before it. The wave scoured the sandy earth before them and brushed it away as sand blowing off of a beach. Before long the entire circular gate was cleared but for the odd bit of brush which toppled over with nothing to support it at the root.
“Nicely done, Doctor,” Indy said as he stepped near. “I wish I had you at all of my digs. Now, how to get it open. The idol and its mechanisms are long gone.”
“Not a problem,” the Doctor said as he pointed the screwdriver at the door. He clicked a few buttons and it chimed at his command. From within they heard the muffled groaning of the gears grinding against each other and the gate began to open. It was much slower than before, millennia of neglect taking its toll. Eventually the doors stalled as the mechanisms driving them seized up, leaving only about a foot and a half of space to crawl through.
“That’s all you’ll get, I’m afraid,” the Doctor said, lowering his screwdriver. “Time and neglect don’t play well with gears and cogs.”
“That’s alright, Doctor. We should be able to manage. But it’s rather dark down there. I don’t suppose you have any flashlights back on the Tardis?”
“I’ve got one better,” the Doctor said as he raised his screwdriver to the sky. “Ahem… Lumos Maxima!”
At his command the end of his screwdriver glowed brightly with a vibrant whitish green light. He smiled at his creation and looked to Indy proudly for a response, but all he got a void, blank stare strewn across Indy’s face.
“Ugh, whatever,” the Doctor sighed. “But I’ll have you know that your great grandchildren would have died laughing!”
“They really would have,” Vranea agreed.
Without another word the Doctor bent and picked up a dead branch at his feet. He held it to the screwdriver and set it alight. It was a strange flame. Greenish blue, as the screwdriver itself, but with no smoke. As Indy accepted it from the Doctor he brought his hand near and felt no heat.
“I wouldn’t do that,” the Doctor warned as Indy tried to pass his hand through the flame.
“Why not? Is it dangerous?”
“Not at all. Acne.”
“Yes, wicked hand acne. And you don’t know frustration until you’ve tried to eradicate a breakout of finger pimples, let me tell you. So, you get the clue from this vault and I’ll get the one in the Ratnadadhi vault. Vranea, you go with Indy.”
“What? No,” she protested. “Give me a torch and I’ll go get the other clue from the other vault.”
“That’s not sensible, my dear. We only have one screwdriver. I can only open one vault at a time. The amount of time we might save, by the time I opened your vault and walked back to mine, would be negligible. And besides, you aren’t used to diving into old ruins.”
“And you are?”
“Yes, I am. I’ve been around a while and I’ve done this before. You haven’t. So yes, you will stick next to Dr. Jones and use your keener senses to guide him. And once I have retrieved my artifact and you yours we will meet up and retrieve the one from the Ratnaranjaka vault.”
“Fine,” she said as she grabbed the torch from Indy’s hand. “But I’m holding the torch!”
“Whatever makes you happy. I’ll meet you back here.”
The Doctor turned and made for his own vault as Indy and Vranea squeezed down into their own. Their journey was surreal, to say the least, as they traversed the labyrinthine corridors of the vault. They walked these halls only a little better than an hour ago. The smell of the torches on the walls was still fresh in their minds, though it was bereft of this dead place. Roots from the trees and shrubs above had seeped in and hung like clawing fingers reaching down toward them. Their feet left impressions that they did not before as they tracked through a heavy layer of dust which had seeped through the cracks in the brickwork just above their heads. After a time of walking down this strangely familiar, yet distant, path they came upon their vault. Before it a lone guardian still stood vigil, though he had long been reduced to bones and bits of tattered cloth on the floor. Vranea looked at him with jaw agape as he flickered in the greenish torch light.
“Yeah, that’s him,” Indy said as he bent down for a closer look.
“Why didn’t he run?”
“Where would he go? There was one way in and one way out. And I don’t know if you noticed, but I only saw one way to open that door. So when the Turks attacked he was saved from them. But that must have been small comfort. Soon after the torches would have gone out. This poor devil died alone and in the dark.”
“He just let himself die?”
“What else was he going to do? Besides, this was his life’s calling. These monks were incredibly disciplined and loyal. He probably considered it an honor to be here, right up until the end. He probably stood guard until he collapsed from exhaustion. Hold the light a little closer.”
Vranea complied and Indy fished inside the tatters of the old mans robes. Soon he brought forward a delicate looking chain with a key ring on the end. He brushed off the dust and stood before the door. He fit one of the keys into the lock but it wouldn’t turn. He gradually cycled through the keys until he found one that would fit. It took some effort but the lock turned and the door swung ajar before him.
“Alright, Vranea, stay behind me. Keep that light well over my head. I need to see everything. Always remember, you step where I step. You do what I do. And you never ever touch anything.”
“Is it going to be dangerous?”
“That’s hard to say. Intellectual societies like this usually don’t booby trap their treasures. That’s usually reserved for the more superstitious ones. But even so, it’s better safe than sorry. Just remember, the two most important rules are you do what I do and you step where I step. Remember those, if nothing else.”
Vranea nodded and they pushed their way into the room. Astonishingly, the room was rather empty. The small, narrow space had but one occupant. At the far end of the room, the green torch light dancing upon it, a lone chest sat waiting. They approached cautiously and Vranea kept a close eye on Indy for any queue to run. When they had reached it Indy knelt before the chest and again began fitting keys into the lock. He eventually found one that fit and the lock turned remarkably effortlessly. Inside was a single scroll.
“It’s parchment,” he said as he removed his jacket and set it on the ground. As gingerly as he was able he removed the scroll and set it on his jacket. Then he rolled it loosely and cradled it as one might a newborn baby.
“What are you doing?”
“Parchment that’s been locked away for centuries can be extremely sensitive. Especially to sunlight. Any exposure can disintegrate it almost instantly. Countless artifacts have been lost because careless archaeologists tried to unroll a scroll in broad daylight without acclimatizing it first. The scroll usually disintegrates in his hands, its secrets lost forever.”
And so, cradling his newly found parchment, Indy followed Vranea and her light back through the labyrinth. They waited at the mouth of the stairwell for a few long minutes before the Doctor finally caught up with them. But when he came he was empty handed. There was no parchment on him.
“Doctor, where is the artifact,” Indy asked impatiently.
“No worries, Indy, no worries,” he said as he flashed his screwdriver. “It’s all here. I trust you were also successful then?”
“That’s right,” Indy said as he showed the Doctor his bundled jacket.
“Excellent! Let’s have a look.”
Without a thought, and before Indy could stop him, the Doctor flipped open the jacket and began scanning the scroll. The reaction was as Indy predicted and it immediately began disintegrating in the sunlight.
Indy recoiled in horror and flipped the folds of his jacket back around the scroll. After he had backed away a few paces, the Doctor confused and befuddled before him, he peeked inside to check the scroll. When he did he breathed a deep sigh of defeat before shooting the Doctor a look of the most dreadful ire.
“What,” the Doctor asked, perplexed at Indy’s sudden demeanor.
In response Indy opened the folds of his jacket, allowing the contents to fall to the ground. There wasn’t much. Only dust and tatters which drifted away in the wind.
“Oh? Oh?! You just destroyed one of our clues and all you can say is oh!”
“I didn’t destroy it,” the Doctor replied, holding up his screwdriver. “It’s right here. I quantum scanned it. Like what I did with the documents in the Presidents office. It’s better this way. We can just upload the files to my computer and reconstruct it from there. Okay?”
Indy said nothing at first. He merely glowered as he shook the dust from his jacket.
“Next time warn a guy,” he said as he put his jacket back on.
“Will do! Now, let’s get that last clue.”
They made their way to the third and final vault and the Doctor opened it much as before. It opened wider this time, wide enough that they didn’t need to squeeze through, at any rate. But before they entered the Doctor took Indy’s torch and cast it to the ground. It flickered out shortly thereafter.
“We won’t be needing that,” the Doctor said as he again set the tip of the screwdriver alight. “Just follow me. I know the way.”
They took a different path through the labyrinth than they did with the Ratnaranjaka vault. But no matter how the path twisted or turned the Doctor still lead them expertly through it.
“Doctor, how exactly do you know where we’re going,” Indy asked.
“I’ve programmed the screwdriver to lock in on any human remains. If it’s like the other vault the only remains in here should be the ones of the keeper.”
The Doctor was right. Soon they found this keepers remains in rags and tatters just as the other. Indy again fished through his robes and emerged with a key ring. He fit the key in the lock and it turned fitfully as the other had. The lock on the chest was the only thing that gave them some modicum of trouble. But the Doctor took care of that easily enough with the screwdriver. Then, with the chest open, he reached in and scanned it with the screwdriver.
“Okay, good job everyone,” he said as he held the screwdriver and its light aloft. “Let’s go.”
“Wait, so that’s it,” Vranea said, being clearly disappointed. “Just grab what we need and go? What about the adventure?”
“That’s it,” Indy said with a smile. “Nine times out of ten this is what archaeology is. The only time we have any ‘adventure’ is when something goes horribly wrong.”
“But what about the artifact? We aren’t just going to leave it here, are we?”
“Actually, given how the Doctor destroyed the last artifact, I think it’s safer here.”
“Right, so artifact obtained and mischief evaded,” the Doctor said. “Let’s go decode our clues before I break any other priceless relics of Human history, shall we?”
The Doctor led them out as uneventfully as he led them in. Within a mere five minutes they had re-entered the Tardis and the Doctor had uploaded the images to his computer. The three gathered around his view screen as he unrolled his virtual copy of the first scroll. As he did letters began emerging, though they were not printed on the parchment but appeared to be branded into it.
“Why are the letters branded into the paper,” Vranea asked. “Wouldn’t that damage the paper?”
“It’s not paper,” Indy corrected her. “It’s parchment. It’s made from leather; skin, basically. This parchment was probably made from the skin of the last priest to bear the clue.”
“Ugh, that’s disgusting! Doctor, why are you so enamored with these people?”
“Humans aren’t all flesh scrolls and holocausts, my dear,” the Doctor said as he continued unrolling the virtual scroll. “There’s great beauty for every act of great horror. One day I’ll show you that.”
“I’ll take your word for it. So, what does it say?”
“The first clue says;
‘The Crypt, the scourge of ages, lies chained in the Vault of Eternity. It’s place of judgment known only to the Knower of Secrets.’
“Does that mean anything to you, Dr. Jones?”
“No, not yet,” Indy replied. “Hopefully the other clues will give us some context. What does the next say?”
The Doctor unrolled the next scroll and read it aloud.
“The mountains of the gods cast shadows on the fertile dragon as it slithers past.”
“I think we’re getting closer,” Indy said. “At least now we have a frame of reference. But ‘the mountains of the gods’ could literally be anywhere. I could name half a dozen mountain ranges called ‘mountains of the gods’ by local populations in Asia alone. What does the next one say?”
The Doctor unrolled the next scroll and read it aloud.
“The cherub stands guard, safely beneath the hunters girdle, and Atons shadow is long over it.”
Indy’s eyes grew wide at the last clue and a smile cracked the corners of his mouth.
“Indy, what is it,” Vranea said, noting his expression. “Do you have something?”
“I think I do,” he replied. “Not the full location, but at least a starting point. Look here,” he said pointing to one section of text. “Where it says ‘Atons shadow’. ‘Aton’ is an ancient Egyptian sun god. And the pharaoh’s were considered living gods by the people who constructed elaborate, pyramid tombs for them. The ‘mountains of the gods’ are obviously the pyramids. And this word, the ‘fertile dragon’. That word can be literally translated as dragon, but we’re missing the context. The contextual translation should be serpent. It should read it casts its shadows on the ‘fertile serpent as it slithers past.’ This obviously represents the Nile.”
“But the Nile does not run by the pyramids,” the Doctor protested.
“It did between four and five thousands years ago. Rivers tend to wander, Doctor. Four thousand years ago the shadows of the ‘mountains of the gods’ literally fell on the ‘fertile serpent’ as it flowed past.”
“Excellent work, Dr. Jones. What about the next clue?”
“Well, ‘the cherub stands guard’ could refer to the sphinx. Cherubs are known for having the bodies of lions and the faces of men. So that fits. As for the hunters girdle, I must admit I’m at a loss.”
“Perhaps this will help,” the Doctor said. He closed the image before him and called up a star chart with the constellation of Orion at its center. He focused on Orion’s belt while he pulled a satellite picture of the Giza plateau up on the screen.
“Now, watch this, Dr. Jones.”
Slowly the Doctor laid the images one on top of the other. He maneuvered them so that the stars of Orion’s belt were over the locations of the pyramids. After some slight adjusting for scale they fit perfectly.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Indy said, his smile widening on his face. “The great pyramids are in the shape of Orions’s belt. The ‘hunters girdle.’ So now we know the Crypts relative location. It’s somewhere in or near the Giza plateau.”
“What about the next clue,” Vranea prodded. “That must give us the location, right?”
“Presumably yes,” Indy said as the smile disappeared from his face. “But I can’t make heads or tails of it. I have no idea what this ‘Vault of Eternity’ is. And as for the ‘Knower of Secrets’, I have no clue.”
“So, are we back to square one?”
“Not at all. We know more than we did five minutes ago. We may not know its final location, but we’re damn close. Besides,” Indy said, once again allowing a knowing smile to creep across his face. “I have a certain friend in Egypt who may just be able to help.”
* * *
The private cleaned the blood off his knuckles as he regarded the bound prisoner before him with the disdain one might reserve for a sickly dog. The prisoner slumped lifelessly in his chair. His hair was greasy, matted by neglect and caked with blood. His mouth hung open and he drooled a mix of blood and saliva into the curly hair of his beard. Much in spite of himself, the prisoner’s drool landed on his interrogators jackboot. He was rewarded with a vicious backhand that would have knocked him unconscious if he wasn’t nearly there already. Instead he allowed a barely audible groan to escape his throat.
“Arab swine,” the private growled as he cleaned the fresh blood from his hand.
“Soldat Schneider, is that anyway to treat our guest?”
From the door behind another officer entered the room. This man was extremely well kept, in comparison to the grungy private before him. The beard of his face was trimmed with exacting precision as were the hairs of his head. His uniform was pressed, starched and without a speck of dust, even in this arid desert. Even his boots gleamed vibrantly and without a trace of filth. On his shoulders he bore a green epaulet, the mark of a general in the German army.
“Hehr Oberst,” the private said in greeting. Ignoring the remaining blood on his knuckles, he raised his hand high, clicked his boots and gave a hearty salute. “Seig heil!”
The general never said anything in return but gave a lazy salute of his own.
“Have you learned anything from our guest,” the general asked as he came near.
“Negative, Hehr Oberst,” the private replied.
“Please, these bizarre German titles are loathe to me,” he said with a dismissive wave. “Call me Raemsteht.”
The private seemed stunned at the generals slack attitude toward discipline.
“Or Hehr Raemsteht, if you feel the need to be proper. But what are we going to do with you,” he said as he knelt before the prisoner. “I hear you’re being rather stubborn. We can’t have that.”
The prisoner never said anything in response. He only raised his head, shakily and slowly, to look the general in the eye. Though with only one eye, for the other had swollen shut. Oberst Raemsteht merely smiled, a deep malevolence hiding behind a pair of otherwise friendly eyes.
“Leave us,” he ordered his subordinate.
“Mein hehr, are you…”
“Do you think this beaten and bound man is going to get the drop on me,” the general interrupted. “Leave us.”
When the private had left the general removed a handkerchief from his pocket.
“Now, this is how it is going to work,” he said as he began sopping up the rivulets of blood flowing freely down the mans face. “I’m going to ask you some questions and I expect honest and prompt answers. If I don’t get them I’ll call Soldat Schneider back. Do you understand?”
The man never responded, but the general saw a flash of understanding in his eye all the same.
“Excellent,” the general said with a smile. “Now, Sallah, let’s start from the top.”