This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

I fumbled with the towel and dropped it on the table, right on top of a razor blade. When I scooped the towel up again, I grabbed a blade, carefully wiped my tears and crammed them both into my pocket.

When we finished, Andrew led me away. I figured we would we’d go to prisoner barracks or straight to interrogation. I was ready for those things.

I wasn’t ready for the Stone Forest.

We walked through the empty camp, past the perimeter and into the jungle along a makeshift path. For a moment, we were alone and I considered attacking him, but the path spilled suddenly into a much larger clearing.

Ruins: towering and alive.

These savages were carving an ancient city out of the jungle. The path we were standing on turned into the main road through the site. Two pyramids, one twice the size of the other, dominated the scene. The largest one was at the end of the road. The smaller was halfway down on the left. Dozens of other structures rose, half-reclaimed from the forest: small homes, theatre platforms, even some sort of arena. Hundreds of men were hard at work prying buildings, stone paths, covered sinkholes and the smaller pyramid into view. Elaborate carvings covered almost every stone surface. Pictures of forgotten priests on vision quests, warriors returning from battle, and people appeasing feathered serpent gods were everywhere.

Intricate writing snaked between the scenes. I recognized the lettering from school: the ancient Teth language that had been used to create the Treatus Runes, now outlawed anywhere Ilsa had influence.

I asked Andrew, “Is this from the First Teth Empire?”

“Older,” he answered. “This ruin is from before the Emperor united the tribes in the Second City. This is all from the age of the First Lords.”

“Of course,” I scoffed. “A traitor gone native would believe boogey-man fairy tales.”

Still, my skin twitched. The stones were worn and colorless, but I couldn’t help picturing them vibrantly painted. Whispers of those who walked these paths four-thousand years ago followed me. We trudged down the road toward the larger pyramid. Painted down the sides of the pyramids were scenes of sacrifice, bloodletting and death.  High now, the sun blazed through the cleared canopy and jungle sounds were distant.

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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