Centurion Chronicles #4: The Tomb of Death
And the Story Continues…
Jack Scaper, Lady Laura Bancroft, Mokgosi Ramotswe, and Jeeves Cutler continue on to the dig site at The Tombs of Aratakumba with the survivors of Beni Suef (Dr. Adelaide Swann, Kafele Neferet, and Sabah Neferet) in their search for Dr. Edward Radcliff and the Heart of Hakkar. They see more signs of British Soldiers having been overrun by zombies, evidenced by abandoned military equipment and a growing number of mound similar to those around Beni Suef. Dr. Adelaide hopes that they can get to her research at the dig site and get the information they need to stop Dr. Radcliff and the Heart of Hakkar.
With their drive to the Tombs uneventful they arrive to the excavation site unmolested. The British Checkpoint was abandoned outside the gate and the road to the dig campsite destroyed by debris. The Centurions and the survivors continue on foot. Mokgosi and Lady Laura sense a potential for an ambush, Jack, suspecting that they are British Soldiers, strides forward, himself disguised as the intrepid Lt. Sallow, requesting the soldiers reveal themselves. He is soon greeted by the surviving infantrymen of 1st Platoon (Sgt Royston “Grumpy” Munt, Corporal Nigel “Doc” Hawtrey, Private Fitz “Sneezy” Luckenbill, Private Giles “Sleepy” Pike, and Private Graham “Happy” Honeybun). Sgt. Munt indicates to Jack that he is under orders from First Lieutenant Montgomery Swift, acting Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, to Battalion HQ. Jack states that he has been escorting some civilians to safety and will gladly follow, introducing the rest of the Centurions and the survivors to the soldiers.
On their way to the dig campsite and Battalion HQ evidence is seen of heavy combat and artillery fire. Sgt. Munt describes how most of the Battalion is now dead at the hands of the walking dead and they have been forced to retreat to the most defensible position. The Dig Site has become a small fortress, with large trucks turned on their side to serve as barricades at gates. Inside the camp, evidence of mounting casualties can be seen by all as the situation for the dig staff and British Soldiers appear desperate. Sgt. Munt takes Jack to meet with Lt. Swift, while the rest of the group goes to the Aid Station to get cleaned up and treated.
Jack meets with a harried Lt. Swift, still under the guise of Lt. Sallow. It quickly becomes apparent that the First Lt. is overwhelmed with the duties of Commanding 2nd Battalion with the entire command structure and 2/3rds of the Battalion laying dead in the Tombs before. Lt. Swift reveals that Dr. Radcliff has been missing for several days and then the walking dead started to appear. Their numbers have been growing as it is not only the recent dead that they have to deal with, but also the ancient dead laid to rest at the tomb. Not only have the zombies been an issue for 2nd Battalion, Lt. Swift also complains about ninjas, who resemble the assassins that The Brotherhood of Set uses, had infiltrated the camp and ransacked the research team’s tent. Jack reveals that he had rescued some civilians from Beni Suef and that he has Dr. Swann with him now. Lt. Swift sends a runner for the Centurions and Dr. Swann.
Jack’s and Lt. Swift’s conversation is soon interrupted by an appearance of a bright blue ball of energy. It then explodes leaving two huddling and shivering figures, covered in blue ectoplasm, behind. The British Soldiers react with violence and surprise drawing guns on two, but are interrupted by both Jack and Sgt. Munt as they recognize Dr. Wyrd and both know that he is a specialist in the occult and might be of great assistance here. (Jack and Dr. Wyrd have crossed paths before; while Sgt. Munt spent time with Dr. Wyrd during WWI.) Dr. Wyrd quickly introduces his companion, Dr. Joseph Kenrick. The rest of the Centurions and Dr. Swann return to the tent; where a reunion of sorts takes place. Drs. Wyrd and Kenrick remember very little about their disappearance and really only remember being taken by a cold black energy from that bar in Cairo. After a brief discussion about current events, the Centurions decide to accompany Dr. Swann to the ransacked research tent to learn more about the Heart, Dr. Radcliff, and the Tears of Anubai.
At the research tent, Dr. Swann notices that the remaining Tears of Anubai, six in total, have been stolen. She then attempt to recollect her research, but strangely finds herself unable to remember details about it and starts to grow confused. Dr. Wyrd elects to use his skills as a mesmerist to help her remember, while Dr. Kenrick begins to page through the research himself. Dr. Wyrd takes Dr. Swann to a quiet location and begins to hypnotize her in an effort to recover her lost memories. He finds that a dark power, quite like The Unnamable, has been blocking her memories and Dr. Wyrd pits his will against its. This causes Dr. Swann to be possessed again and start chanting in dark tongues. Lady Laura, overhearing the dark chanting, runs to where the two Doctors are. She witness dark smoke poor from Dr. Swann’s mouth, which Dr. Wyrd narrowly avoids, but before she can close in she finds herself moving slowly. Dr. Wyrd determines that this presence is affecting space time and refocuses his will, and along with the presence of one of the Tears, he is able to banish the presence. This act causes the Tear to crack slightly implying that their use is fragile. Dr. Swann remembers that Dr. Radcliff murdered the team and is using the Heart to create the zombies that are infesting the area, she also shares that four Tears are needed in a right to block the Heart of Hakkar from its power. She then promptly passes out from the strain.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kenrick is able to piece together the dig team’s research. Using his photographic memory he reads quickly through the research, memorizing the map of the location. He is also able to piece together the ritual to block the Heart; the Tears must be placed about the alter on pedestals, where the Heart was activated, with the summoner. He also learned that the place where this ritual has to happen and the place where the Heart is active is one and the same. Dr. Kenrick then hears the commotion from Dr. Swann and leaves the tent with the other Centurions to see what the ruckus is. They arrive at the same time as Lt. Swift and some of his soldiers who are there for the same reasons.
The Centurions ask Lt. Swift if he knows where the Brotherhood of Set is hiding out in the ruins and he reveals their location. He has been unable to remove their presence because of his limited resources and continued zombie attacks. The Centurions propose to attempt to de-activate the Heart of Hakkar to stop the dead from continuing to rise and that they are going to raid the Brotherhood’s hideout to retrieve the lost Tears of Anubai. Kafele, Sabah, and Dr. Swann decide to remain behind under the protection of the British Soldiers, Lt. Swift does provide some aid and offers the remaining members of 1st Platoon to accompany the Centurions. At Jack’s request he also provides some of the uniforms they took from the Brotherhood that they have killed.
The Centurions decide to dress up as assassins and escorting the troop of 1st Battalion as prisoners to the hideout the Brotherhood is using in the ruins. Laura declines as that is beneath her to sneak in such a manner. She, Jeeves, Sneezy and Happy follow along behind the rest of the group, hiding in the shadows. Upon their arrival, the Centurions see a Priest of the Brotherhood sacrifice a soldier and destroy a Tear to create a sphere of dark energy. Jack is easily able to talk his way past the Brotherhood Assassins convincing them that they have brought new sacrifices for their rituals. The darkness prevented the disguised Centurions from determining the number of assassins waiting in the wings.
Laura is heard by the assassins when Sneezy lives up to his namesake and the Tear of Annubai that Laura is carrying begins to glow. The Priest orders the assassins to seize the Tear and to kill the interlopers. Laura, Jeeves, Sneezy, and Happy open fire wounding several of the assassins as they close in upon them with swords drawn. The other Centurions realize that the remaining Tears are being held by the Priest, utilizing their disguise they begin to distract and beguile the remaining assassins that are guarding him to make their attempt at stealing the stone easier.
When suddenly, a large group of zombies lurch down the catacomb ruins, drawn by the Tears of Anubai, and enclose on the Centurions and assassin’s alike. The disguised Centurions are forced to act. Dr. Wyrd and Jack distract the Priest and his guards, while Dr. Kenrick is able to note a weak point in the structure above them; this allows Mokgosi to open fire with his machine gun. He empties the clip into the assassins and the structure raining bullets and stone upon the Priest and his minions, killing them all. There revelation attracts the attentions of the other assassins and they cowardly assault the Centurions from behind. Laura uses this moment to gather her allies and assault the group of zombies coming down the passageway, dropping several in rapid succession with the power of the Tear in every shot.
Mokgosi, Jack, Dr. Kenrick, Grumpy, Doc, and Sleepy engage the assassins with gun and blade. Dr. Wyrd is able to mesmerize some of them and turns them onto the zombie hordes. Laura’s pistols glow red from throwing led, bringing the living dead back to peace once more. As the smoke clears. Laura’s Tear crumbles to dust from a use of its energies. Dr. Kenrick recognizes the box that the remaining Tears are stored in can block and store their power. Dr. Wyrd closes the box; he and Mokgosi then begin to question the remaining enthralled assassin. He gladly begins to speak of the Brotherhood’s plans and rituals until a shot from a high power rifle rings out turning his head into a bloody pulp. Centurions and soldiers dive for cover as they realize they are now in the sights of The Whirlwind. The Centurions quickly realize that The Whirlwind has set-up a sniper position in a remote part of the ruins and that reaching him would be a challenge. Dr. Kenrick remembers that in the map of the ruins that there is an entrance into the Tombs of Aratakumba nearby and he leads the rest of the party down into its depths.
The Centurions and their accompanying soldiers begin to traverse the depths of the Tombs and realize that they are in a passageway that has not been used in centuries. The passageways are covered in ornate hieroglyphics that Doctors Wyrd and Kenrick note keep the dead from tunneling into the tombs or out of them. They continue down the passage way until they encounter a room filled with tiled letters with ancient Egyptian words upon them. Mokgosi senses that this is a trap and because he is able to track the trail of a dry wind across a smooth rock trail; he is able to see where the ancient builders stepped. This gets him only halfway where the failing light prevents him from seeing more of the trail. Dr. Kenrick attempts to follow Mokgosi’s path in an attempt to read the hieroglyphics, but miss steps and nearly gets skewered by spears shooting out from the walls and ceiling. He is able to quickly grab on to one of the ceiling spears and dangles above the trapped floor. Jack drops a rock on one of the pressure plates causing the spears to shoot out, but lock in place. He has Happy begin to smash one down, successfully, but the progress slow and tiresome. Dr. Wyrd grows frustrated and vents that energy causing the mechanism to be hexed, jamming the gears that run room, allowing the rest of the party to cross safely.
The Centurions and accompanying soldiers continue down the passageway of the tomb, following the sounds of frantic, crazed chanting. They find themselves in the center of the Tombs of Aratakumba at the alter of summoning. They find Dr. Radcliff with the Heart of Hakkar buried in his chest at the alter, chanting frantically, commanding a dark power. Arrayed around him are ancient zombie guardians armed with spears and sharp claws. Fortunately Dr. Radcliff and the heart are at the appropriate spot for the ritual to put the Heart to rest. Unfortunately, the four pedestals are located high above the alter room and even higher the roof is closed, preventing natural light from entering the room.
Laura takes the Tears and volunteers to scale pedestals and position them appropriately. Mokgosi, Dr. Kenrick, Dr. Wyrd, Jeeves, Grumpy, Happy, Doc, and Sneezy decide they will attack the zombie guardians and Dr. Radcliff to distract him. Jack and Sleepy vanish from the cave suddenly and without trace. Laura charges into the room and quickly scampers the first pedestal. Mokgosi, Dr. Kenrick, Jeeves and the soldiers open fire on the skeleton guardians cutting their numbers down in half. Dr. Wyrd attempts to match wills with Dr. Radcliff and he is nearly overwhelmed by Dr. Radcliff’s insanity and command of dark magic.
Before Laura can affix the first stone, a dark energy courses from the Heart and about the room, bringing the dead zombies back to unlife. Fortunately the attack split the guardians attention, sparing only a small handful to use their claws and clamber their way up after Laura. The zombies hurl their spears Dr. Kenrick’s way grazing him and forcing him back down the hallway. The Centurions and soldiers continue their battle with the skeletons trade gunshots for spears. Jack and Sleepy appear, now disguised as zombie guardians themselves, by the alter next to the device. He scans the room and realizes that the mechanism would take too long to open, but he and Sleepy might be able to make the climb up the chamber walls.
Laura jumps from one pillar to the next, being chased by skeleton guardians and affixing tears. Jack and Sleepy scamper up the wall, finding secreted handholds in the stone. Dr. Radcliff grows furious and turns the power of the Heart upon Jack, drawing some of his life energy with Dark Magic. With his attention diverted, Dr. Wyrd is able to influence a small flame of doubt in Dr. Radcliff, Dr. Kenrick knocks a pot of oil atop the alter making it slick, Mogkosi and the soldiers use these distractions to attack Dr. Radcliff fatally wounding him. He drops to his knees in a pool of his own blood.
Suddenly the Heart of Hakkar turns bright red and sends a dark energy out devouring Grumpy and Happy’s life force and deeply wounding Mokgosi. That energy transfers to Dr. Radcliff, healing his mortal wounds. Dr. Wyrd realizes that the power of the Heart is eating away and Dr. Radcliff’s pscyhe causing him to lose his grip on sanity. Dr. Kenrick takes that opportunity and confounds Dr. Radcliff’s mind causing him more stress. Jack uses this moment to leap across the room and grab the chain closing ceiling off. He and Sleepy begin to tug on it, hanging in the air. Laura grapples with zombies atop the pedestals about the room, nearly securing the last of the Tears.
Dr. Radcliff turns on Dr. Kenrick and the Heart flairs out with more dark energy, burning Doc to a pile of ash and knocking Dr. Kenrick unconcious. Mokgosi, at the death of his companions, charges forward and slugs Dr. Radcliff knocking him off balance. Dr. Wyrd bends his will upon Dr. Radcliff and drives his mind to the dark places, making lose his grip with reality even more. Jack and Sleepy with the last of their strength pull down on the chain, breaking it, and opening the ceiling. Jack is able to push off from the wall and lands atop Dr. Radcliff knocking him off balance. The zombies swarm the Centurions and the remaining soldier, only to have Laura place the last tear in the pedestal. A white light surrounds the room and the guardian zombies fall into a heap of bones. Dr. Radcliff screams in pain and insanity and a dark, inky liquid surrounds him; then dissolves him, leaving behind a now inert Heart of Hakkar.