Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Horror  ➡  Fantasy  ➡  Occult  ➡  Dark

A Gathering of Twine [2 chapter sampler]

p<{color:#000;}.

A GATHERING

OF TWINE

A TALE FROM THE SPIRALS OF DANU

MARTIN ADIL-SMITH

Published 2013 by The Accipiter Corporation

10 Abbey Park Place, Dunfermline, Fife, UK, KY12 7NZ

 

Copyright © 2013 Martin Adil-Smith

 

www.spiralsofdanu.com

 

All rights reserved.

 

The right of Martin Adil-Smith to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and international law.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (including but not limited to electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

 

Join “The Spirals of Danu” at the following social networks

https://www.facebook.com/SpiralsOfDanu

https://twitter.com/SpiralsOfDanu

 

Dedicated to my wife, Jennifer.

 

… until our stars shine no more…

Also by Martin Adil-Smith

 

 

The Demons of Emily Eldritch

 

A Gathering of Twine

 

The Call of The Black River

 

The Beggar of Beliefs

 

The Shackles of A Name

CHAPTER 1

 

 

John 8:32

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

 

Thursday 15th September, 2033

A chain of events has been set in motion, Freeman reminded himself. This is inevitable. The sun rising that morning. The translated inscriptions. The body in his flat. All inevitable.

He glanced around the crowded carriage of the London Underground train. He did not like it. He could barely move and too many people were looking at him. When he met their gaze they turned away, but he would watch their reflections in the window and They would turn back to him when They thought he was not looking.

They. Them. The secret nightmare that crawled across the face of this world like an army of lepers, polluting and twisting wherever they went.

They had found him. Finally caught up with him… because he knew. He felt his skin begin to crawl, knowing what They would probably do to him. Of course, They never came alone. Always in threes – all the accounts told him They would come for him in threes. That meant there were two still out there. At least two. He was so close. Just a few more stops. He could feel his heart pounding as if it was about throw a rod, and greasy sweat clung to his back like so many fat leeches. He shivered again.

The carriage lurched and, for a moment, the lights seemed to sputter, as if whatever arcane technology was dying like a candle-flame in a draft. In that split-second, he swore that he saw Them. Their true selves revealed in the flickering half-shadows. Leering at him with those long faces, waxen and grinning, like a laughing Deaths-Head. All looking exactly like the body back at his flat. He felt his stomach clench as one of the passenger-creatures began to move towards him and… the lights flickered back on.

A platform came into view, rushing by in a blur. The train stopped abruptly, forcing everyone forward under their own inertia. Several of those who he knew had been watching him fought their way off the train, and more passengers poured on.

Freeman thumbed the small pendant in his pocket. He could kill again. It was not murder. Not really. Killing changes you. It makes you realise that you can do it. It was like when his daughter had been arrested for taking drugs. That had changed their relationship. It had changed him. Sometimes it changes you for the better, and other times… the change brings a certain shadow with it. A watchful darkness.

Again Freeman looked over the passengers and wondered how many of them even had an inkling about the true reason for their existence. The lie at the heart of the world. They were all a part of it, whether they knew it or not. Each one of them, like the cogs of an infernal engine. Slaves to the snarling insatiable machine. Each playing their part in a secret show. Unknowing yet not unwilling. On they danced.

Oh yes. They were all part of it.

A chain of events has been set in motion.

Freeman stepped off the train onto the platform, which heaved with bodies like the unified pulse of maggots. He stood close to the wall for a moment, clutching his satchel and rucksack tightly. At seventy-six years old, he was no longer young enough to jostle his way in this throng. Best to let it ease off a bit. Again, he thumbed the pendant absently. It gave him a sense of comfort. If They came for him, he would be ready.

Freeman exited Mansion House Underground Station and began walking east along Cheapside, towards Gutter Lane. The sky was a light autumnal grey, reflecting his mood, and a heavy drizzle was in the air. The last vestiges of the stygian night were still fading and he was feeling his age. This weather was not helping his arthritis. Looking south, he saw the cloud darkening as a new front brought heavier rain to the polluted streets. It would not wash the stains away.

His heart was still pounding from the scare he had given himself. Foolish old man! Of course, They had found him. The resources They had… it was only a matter of time. It did not matter how careful he had been. He had tried to cover his tracks. Used go-betweens and patsies. Dead drops and…

They always come in threes…

He hurried on. He knew this place. He knew he should stop. Pay his respects as he always did whenever he went by… It had been what… three years? It didn’t matter how many times he passed this spot, he could never get used to the absence of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was like the loss of a most constant friend. Even after the initial period of mourning, you still look for them in familiar places. Freeman supposed that this was how New Yorkers must still feel, and that was what? Just over thirty years ago. He could still remember watching the television that September day. The numbness. The pillars of smoke and ash. How unreal it all felt. But not today. No time for remembrance. Head down. Walk on. Quickly. They were coming for him…

The sound of heavy building works startled him, reminding him of the sound of his flat door exploding inwards only a few hours earlier and the Thing that came towards him… He hurried on to his publisher’s offices. Moira’s Merit was one of the first tower blocks to rise out of the wreckage of London’s worst terrorist atrocities. At nearly three-hundred storeys high, for a whole three months, it had been the world’s tallest building. But the rebuilding works in Washington, Moscow, and Berlin soon eclipsed it. There was even talk that the rebuilding of Edinburgh City could see a skyscraper to rival all other capitals. Few people believed it, but at least hope was still alive in these desperate times.

Freeman marvelled at the sheer scale of this shard of darkened glass, remembered the film of Scott some fifty years before, and smiled at how life mimics art. Of course, that movie was now passé by modern standards, but the old man still held the old-style flicks in sentimental affection.

Such pretty lights.

The ground floor of Moira’s Merit had the usual retail offerings: bitter coffee made with over-chlorinated water; sandwiches that tasted of nothing but wet cardboard. And of course the obligatory Net Station. Freeman paused to catch his breath and looked around him. No-one was following him.

He still did not see the attraction of the Net Stations. It was a young person’s fad. For hours they sat in front of screens – rows upon rows of them – furiously clicking away at whatever the latest game was. Of course, they had not ‘clicked’ for years. Whole body sensors and Full Immersion Technology had seen the human form become the controller. Freeman marvelled at it and then shook his head.

Layers upon layers, always insulating us. Pretty lights blinding us.

Even at this time of the morning, the Station was full of slack-jawed youths, and there was a small but notable queue of punters outside, all itching to get their next fix. He could not blame them. It was not that things had become really bad, although they had.

It was that no-one could see how to make things better.

So why not? Plug in, log on and drop out of this world into some fictional realm where you could at least pretend to make a difference. And when you were paying by the minute to use a terminal… well, it was a convenient way to keep the kids off the streets, locked away in their own private domains, where they could not see what was going on around them. More accurately, they did not want to see what was going on around them.

He caught sight of a distorted reflection in the glass and his heart kicked up a gear. He turned sharply, seeing the figure on the other side of the square. The Second. The Second had found him. Despite the throng of commuters, It was coming straight towards him. It had followed him.

A chain of events has been set in motion.

He took a breath and plunged through the large revolving glass doors of the ground floor reception.

This was always inevitable.

Exiting the lift at the two-hundred-and-twenty-first floor, Freeman worked his jaw a little. The speed of those damn things always made his ears pop. He shivered – the air conditioning, as usual, had been set far too low, but Freeman was sure that his doctor would remind him it was just his poor circulation. Of course, it was years since he had been able to afford a checkup, but he could still hear the quack’s voice.

Freeman’s publisher, Danielle Kamal, was waiting for him in reception. He had never asked her age, but he guessed she was in her late twenties and still retained much of the youthful pertness of her earlier years. Freeman wondered if she had surgery or any of the myriad of cosmetic procedures that were now available – she seemed to barely age.

“Freeman! Great to see you,” Danielle said offering her hand and the toothiest of plastic smiles. “I got your message. Come through to my office.”

Freeman took the woman’s hand with his own cold one and muttered a greeting, feeling her long fingers wrap around the back of his own. He shivered and pulled away a little too quickly. He knew that Danielle – it was never Danni – was a necessary evil in the world of publishing, but in his not inconsiderable experience he found that the level of diabolical intent was directly proportional to the toothiness of the grin. And Danielle Kamal was one of the toothiest people Freeman had ever met. But today was one of trading a certain evil against another.

“Here, let me have your coat. Please, take a seat.”

Freeman sat down in Danielle’s office. His heart-rate was returning to a more normal speed, and he tucked his flapping creased shirt into his grubby jeans. They would not try to get in here. There was security everywhere. It would be too high-profile.

As much as he disliked his publisher, he always enjoyed the views from her office. He had been at a book launch here many years ago, when it had belonged to another editor, and remembered how close he had felt to the stars as if he could reach up and pick them out of the sky.

The heavy clouds were descending on the city, like a lover’s embrace, giving an effect of spires lost in some kind of magical smog, twisting and fading away, losing solidity, until they were just dreamlike forms without definite edges. As he took in the panorama, his eyes were drawn to a shimmer in the corner of the office. A water cooler?

Danielle followed the old writer’s line of sight as she sat down behind her desk, and unbuttoned her black jacket. “Beautiful, isn’t it? They installed it when I was made partner last month.”

Freeman looked back at his publisher, almost disbelievingly. “Congratulations,” he muttered.

“Would you like a glass?”

Freeman blanched. “Seriously?”

“Of course. Come on, you’re one of our most valued contributors.” Freeman knew that was a lie, but went with it. Hell, there was a glass of water on offer, and the stars alone knew how thirsty he was. “Now I will say, it’s not fresh,” continued Danielle, “but it is guaranteed to be not more than third recyke. Here,” she finished, handing Freeman a glass.

“When do you make fresh?” Freeman asked laconically but knew it would be wasted on the young upstart. How many editors had this publishing house provided him? Fifteen? Twenty? They always moved on after a couple of years. Sometimes less.

“When I make Equity,” she replied and then changed the subject. “I was surprised that you wanted to have a meeting. You’ve missed a few deadlines. Is your manuscript ready?”

“That’s what I’m here about,” muttered the old man.

Danielle leaned across the desk a little, hands clasped, with another award-winning plastic smile. “You’ve finished? We’re all very excited. So have you got it?”

Freeman choked on his water. He did not remember when he had tasted water this pure. The supply at the flat was off the mains. That was ninth or tenth recyke at best. And that was when the supply was running.

“Ahhh… not quite. It’s nearly there, but…”

Danielle’s countenance darkened a degree. Imperceptible unless you were looking for it. Freeman was looking for it.

“I… I just need to finish the last few chapters… but I need to do it here.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Here?”

“Yes. I can’t do it at the flat.”

“Why not?”

Freeman thought about telling her the truth. I’ve killed… something and its body is in my flat, and now I’m being hunted. I need sanctuary!

“The electricity… so unreliable.” That sounded more plausible.

“Freeman, Freeman, Freeman,” sighed Danielle, sitting back in her chair. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Just let me stay here. A few days. A week at most.” Freeman said weakly. “I’ve got all the rough notes. I just need to put them…”

Danielle sat back and crossed her arms. “You’re already three months over your last deadline. Now you want to live in our offices? Use our water to shower?” She sniffed, obviously able to tell that he had not washed that morning. Or probably yesterday either.

“Please. I wouldn’t be asking if…”

“Look, I like your work.” Freeman doubted Danielle read anything other than her monthly makeup invoice. “Your readers love your work. But it’s been more than ten years since your last book. Sure those documentaries count for something, but we need to keep the momentum up. We need pace. If you want to stay here to finish your latest work, we’ll have to come to some kind of… commercial arrangement. You understand?”

Freeman nodded. “We’re on sixty-forty at the moment. I’ll give you eighty percent. I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign… right now. I just need to finish this.”

Danielle agreed. “Ok. Let me put it to The Board.” She pressed her Plex-Pad and sent the request. “In the meantime, why don’t you give me what you’ve got so far? Help take off some of the heat the guys upstairs are giving me.” Freeman knew well enough this was not a request. This was not the first deadline he had missed, and he knew how to play this game.

Making the customary faces of “Well… it really is a just a draft,” and the obligatory huffings and puffings of “Only if you insist,” Freeman produced a collection of papers from his battered satchel, and put them on Danielle’s desk.

“Wow. Freeman. That’s a lot of paper. You remember that you’re only contracted for a hundred-thousand words, right?” She did not have to say more. Her expression was one of disbelief that the old man did not trust the Digital Information Service to safely deliver his manuscript. He was a creature of habit and he had always done it this way. No voice-interface-conversion for him. He prided himself on being old-school and insisted on typing his own work. On a screen.

Freeman shrugged. “That’s about two-hundred thousand words there. There is probably another fifty, maybe sixty-thousand to come. But I’ve got the research and the outlines with me.”

“Freeman, this is great. This is serialisation. This could be a three or four part-er.” Danielle was getting excited.

“No,” said Freeman firmly. “It is one book,” and looking Danielle in the eye, “just one,” he repeated. He needed to get the message out there. He had promised. He had to flush the truth out, wherever it was hiding.

“Ok. We can talk about that later. So what have we got? Proof of your theory? Proof of an advanced ancient civilisation? Alien technology? Tell me.”

Freeman took a breath. “No. This book is part confession. I don’t think that there ever was an advanced civilisation. At least not the way I thought.”

Danielle’s jaw hung slack. She closed her mouth. Opened it again. And then closed it once more. The effect was one of a stunned fish. “Freeman,” she said. “You have a readership in the tens of millions. You can’t just change your mind. You’ve built a whole career – what, fifty years? – on your theories. You can’t just scrap them. I mean, look at what happened to Alford when he tried that. No-one read another book he wrote.”

“I know,” Freeman said calmly and with near icy resolve, “that’s why this is my last book.”

After this, it won’t matter.

Danielle’s mouth did not hang open this time and Freeman was disappointed. His publisher sat back into her chair with a sigh. “Ok. Ok.” And then again. “Ok. I just need a minute to digest this.” She paused again, and Freeman did not feel the need to break the silence.

“So this book is not about ancient technology or lost civilisations?” she said eventually.

“Not as such, no. There is evidence of a civilisation before ours, but…”

“So what it is about?”

It was Freeman’s turn to pause. Ah what the hell. She’ll find out soon enough anyway.

“Proof of a Creator.”

Danielle blinked. And then she blinked again. “Proof of a Creator?”

“Yes. Incontrovertible proof,” He took a breath, “and The Divine Plan.” The translation of the last stele had told him all he needed to know. Confirmed what he already suspected.

George Tate had been right…

Freeman could see Danielle’s cogs whirring. Either she was trying to come up with a marketing angle, or she was trying to find a way to completely disassociate herself from Freeman. None of the mainstream publishers did religion anymore.

Danielle cocked her head to one side. “Have you met our Creator? Is that where you were a few weeks ago when I couldn’t get hold of you?”

“No,” sighed Freeman. “I haven’t met our Creator. If I had I very much doubt I would be here now. The reason you couldn’t get hold of me is because I was screening you.”

Danielle mocked an expression of hurt. “You’ve got me on the hook,” she continued, “Proof of a Creator, and the revelation of The Divine Plan. Give me your pitch Freeman.”

Freeman took a breath and looked his publisher in the eye. “Everything about you is a lie. Everything. Your life. Your home. Your family. Friends. Everything.”

Danielle stared at him, genuinely offended. He had called the woman’s character into question. That was probably a mistake, especially in these times.

He tried again. “Do you ever feel that there is something wrong with the universe? Like something is broken? Like there is a hole in the world? That this,” he gestured to the office and the view of urban gigantism outside, “just wasn’t meant to be?”

Danielle looked at him blankly, expecting the question to be rhetorical. She realised it was not. “You’re talking about disaffection, right? The ever-growing divide between rich and poor? Social and political elites? Conspiracy theories about who gets what contracts?”

“No,” Freeman said bluntly. “What I mean is that there is a Plan, but it doesn’t involve you, me, or the rest of Mankind because it is bigger than that. It’s not that we’ve been abandoned or forgotten. It’s that we were never intended to be part of the Design. We are not even bit players. We wonder if we’re being heard, but the truth is that the heavens don’t care to listen.”

His words hung in the air, like sandcastles on a shore, before the waves of more conversation would wash them away. And then Danielle did something unexpected. She laughed. Shrill and piercing.

“That’s a great synopsis. I can see the jacket cover now. Civilisation forging its own path without the encumbrance of religious dogma. Admittedly, it’s a little late in the day to be bringing that thinking in, but I’m sure we can put a new spin on it.”

“I’m not joking. I know what The Plan is.”

“I know you’re not. I can see that. But come on. Your evidence is always called into question. You’re a controversial writer. That’s why your fans love you. Have you got any real proof this time?”

Freeman took a second. “Yes.”

Danielle smiled. “Seriously?”

“Yes. From people who have seen the Creator… and survived. I don’t mean the fairytale our books describe, but the real one.”

Danielle smiled, indulging the old man. “Ok. Let’s see it.”

“Eye-witness accounts. Documented events. Proof of suppressed evidence. Forgotten religious writings. It’s all in my manuscript. If you just see here in Chapter One…”

“Whoa whoa whoa,” Danielle held her hand up to stop the old man. “Freeman. I am not going to sit here and go through a quarter-of-a-million words with you on a Thursday morning. Give me the whistle-stop tour. Start at the beginning.”

“A whistle-stop tour?”

“Yeah. Compact it down for me.”

Freeman could feel the anger rising up inside him. “The most powerful message Mankind will ever receive and you want the edited highlights?”

Danielle shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a simple gal. Short-attention-span. Give me something to believe in.”

“Something to believe in. Ok. Ok, I can do that. You’re a Muslim, right?” Freeman knew how to press a button.

Danielle raised a finger. “Hey. Hey now. You be careful.”

“You know what this is?” Freeman said, ignoring Danielle’s rising tone of protest, and threw a medallion onto the desk.

Danielle picked up it up and turned it over. Three concentric circles of pale blue enamel around a black pupil-like dot. “This? Of course. My mother keeps these. It’s a Nazar. It wards off the Evil Eye. But this is very common. Maybe two or three dollars at Old Spitalfields. Please don’t tell me you’ve bought this as an antique?”

“You haven’t answered my question. You’ve told me its name, and what it does. But what is it?” There was an edge to Freeman’s voice, and Danielle knew better than to say more and fall into the old man’s trap.

Danielle shrugged again. “You got me.”

“This, Danielle, is the All Seeing Eye. The eye that never sleeps. It wards off evil because it is the most evil, most formidable power there is. Imagine that you had nuclear weapons, and at any time you could fire them. Even though you know those same weapons could poison and kill you, your enemies know that it could do the same to them. That’s what this eye is. And you know what else? It’s not unique to Islam. The Christians call it The Eye of Providence. The ancient Greeks called it The Apotropaic – that which turns all else away. The Assyrians used it. So did the early tribes of Central America. This is a symbol of ultimate evil and power, and your mother hangs it in her house. Now, what about this?”

Freeman passed the pendant from his pocket to Danielle – he had to make sure. This one was made of black metal. Two concentric circles linked by nine zigzag lines.

“Another eye?” Danielle offered, picking it up and turning it over in her hand.

“Yes. That one is genuinely old, so please be careful. It’s similar to the ones the Aztecs used and is known as the Black Sun. I think it represents both the womb and the tomb. Similar designs were worn by followers of the Goddess Itzpapalotl, the ‘Obsidian Butterfly’, the primal deity who devoured people to herald her coming.”

“Eats her own people?” Danielle thought for a moment. “You’re telling me that our Creator is evil, aren’t you?”

“Good and evil are always subjective concepts. But from the perspective of Humanity, yes. The Creator is evil.”

Danielle paused and looked at Freeman. “That’s an interesting interpretation you have of the Koran and other world religions, but…” she said, handing the pendant back.

“Oh, the Koran. Yes, let’s talk about the Koran,” interrupted Freeman. “Do you speak Arabic?”

“Not as such, I…” Danielle could feel the argument beginning to slip from her. She had not even meant to get into a debate. She had already cancelled several meetings this morning to accommodate Freeman’s sudden request to see her and as used to the old man’s fringe thinking as she was, it was clear he had gone off the minaret.

“So you recite in English?” Freeman persisted.

Danielle gave up. “Sure.”

“And like a good Muslim woman, five times a day?” The memory of this morning’s chase was already fading. He was here – he had won.

Danielle did not bother answering and shrugged.

“Which Sura do you open with? The hundred-and-thirteenth or the hundred-and-fourteenth?”

Danielle struggled to remember. “Hundred-and-thirteenth.” It sounded like an answer, but she knew it was really a question.

“Ah, one of my favourites. The Rising Dawn. Of course, some sects refer to it as Day Break. Literally, The Breaking of Day. As in to be broken. Never to be put back together. Please, can you recite?”

Danielle knew this was coming. She had learned this at school, practicing at every assembly. “Ah. Ok. I seek refuge with the Lord of the Daybreak.

From the evil of everything He has created,

And from the evil of the dark night when it penetrates,

And from the evil of the women who blow on the knots,

And from the evil of an envier when he envies.”

Freeman clapped slowly and then leaned forward. “Beautiful. Danielle, have you ever thought about those words. I mean really thought about them and what they mean? Or even where they came from?”

Danielle shook her head. She knew she had lost. She might as well enjoy the ride.

“You know that Islam recognises its roots in Christianity and Judaism, right?”

“Sure.”

“Did you also know that the Arabic language has its origins not only in Hebrew and Amharic but also in Akkadian, a language that can be traced back over five-thousand years?”

“I might have heard something like that once.” Danielle wanted to be interested, but she had a lunch appointment at noon, and she could see that Freeman was on a roll.

“The Akkadians were some of the earliest traders. They had a whole network spread throughout what was Mesopotamia and Sumeria. Have you heard of the Valley of the Kings?”

“In Egypt? Sure. Where all the pharaohs are buried?”

“Yes. You know that even after more than a century and a half of excavation, they’re still finding previously unknown tombs. Old tombs and I mean really old. Tombs that haven’t been opened for thousands of years. Sometimes they find tombs still full of artefacts. Unlooted. About fifteen years ago, KV-One-Twenty-Two was opened. Current thinking is that is not pharaonic, but rather that of some unknown high priest. Here, take a look at this photo.”

Freeman slid his Plex-Pad over. One of his few concessions to modern living was this A4-sized piece of plastic that could seemingly look up anything anywhere. Although Freeman knew that he did not use all of its features – most of which were a mystery to him – and that by present-day standards his model was almost an antique, the ability to research and reference had become invaluable.

“This was taken an hour or so after the tomb had been opened. See those hieroglyphs on the wall?” he continued.

“The eye?”

“Yes. That is The Eye of Horus. The ancient Egyptians invoked it as a sign of action. Not just protection, but also of wrath. Looks a lot like your Nazar, doesn’t it? And like my Black Sun too.”

“I think I’ve seen that before…”

“Yes. It gets used a lot. But it was originally ancient Egyptian. Now, there were also a large number of papyrus scrolls discovered in KV-One-Twenty-Two. Prayer scrolls. Written in ancient Akkadian. They were old. At least four-thousand years – maybe older. This is a translation of the one the mummified corpse was holding.”

Freeman tapped one of the glowing icons on the Plex-Pad screen, and the image changed. “Please, read it out.”

Danielle picked the pad up and scanned the first line, looked at Freeman, and then began. “Protect me from the Breaker of Days,

From the evil of everything She has created,

And from the evil of the dark night with which She penetrates,

And from the evil of She who unbinds the stars,

And from the evil of Her as she envies.”

“Similar enough to your Sura, no? You see Danielle, Arabic is a beautiful language. But the written is wholly separate from, and a good deal more conservative than, the spoken dialects. Compound a few millennia, the odd political slant, and working its way from the Akkadian to the Egyptian to the Greek to the Roman, to…”

Danielle snapped. “I get the picture,” she said, putting the Plex-Pad down. Then, more gently, “Freeman, if a Shia Enforcer ever heard what either of us has just said, he would declare us guilty of blasphemy, probably treason against the State too, and have us dragged down to Speakers Corner to be executed. I cannot print this,” and with that Danielle pushed the Plex on her desk pointedly back to Freeman.

Freeman had been prepared for this. “It’s not just Islam. Christianity and Judaism – just look at the Old Testament; an angry and vengeful god who smites Mankind whenever they obtain knowledge, and then commits global genocide, only to come back later and blow up a few more towns who have once again broken from Him.

“The Hindus have Shiva – the principal Goddess within their Trinity. Her role is to destroy and inspire terror. In Greek mythology, the Creator so hates his children he imprisons them forever in hell. The Ohlone tell of a world before ours being destroyed to create this one, but that Mankind was so scared of the Creator that they ran into the sea and drowned themselves. Mandaeists believe that the Devil created the material world and those that do not worship Him will receive no food, shelter or sustenance.

“In just about every faith and religion, the creator is also the destroyer. Just stop and think about it; does that sound right to you? Does that sound like something that should be worshipped?”

Danielle was exasperated. “It doesn’t matter what I think. No amount of religious interpretation will let this company publish that manuscript.”

“It’s not just religious interpretation. I’ve got evidence as well…”

Danielle sighed and rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Look, Freeman. Unless your evidence is a signed confession by the Creator himself, none of that matters. You’re saying that you know The Divine Plan. This means that you are saying that you know God’s Mind. His Will. You. A dissenter and self-declared atheist – and that cost us more than a few readers, thank you very much – now knows God: something not even our holiest clerics would dare to say. It doesn’t matter how good your evidence is. What matters is the reception you get. It matters what reception the book gets.” She could not believe that she had cancelled her morning meetings for this.

Silence fell between them like a hungry guillotine.

“If you are worried about the reception, you should print it,” Freeman said eventually.

“What? No, I shouldn’t. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. Can you imagine the public outrage? Not just in this country. Most of America. The whole of Africa. Asia. You’re basically telling the world they are wrong. You’d be banned and have a fatwa on you before your first signing was…” her voice trailed off, and Freeman saw a light come on behind her eyes and smiled to himself.

“It would be one of the biggest scandals this century,” he said to his publisher. “Heresy. Blasphemy. Challenging not only canon and rubric but also the basis of law. Could you imagine the column inches? The chat-shows deriding this so-called scientist. The burning of effigies. The condemnation by governments. The public marches and protests, all covered by twenty-four-hour news networks. An author in hiding. The search for the Dissenter. The investigative journalists. The exposés of a corrupt and wretched life. The story could run for years.”

“… Bigger than Rushdie.” Danielle said dreamily. She snapped back from her daydream. “But no. I can’t.”

“Why?

“Because they would kill me too. I don’t know about you Freeman, but I am very much attached to my head. No matter how wrong I think the world is.”

“You could if you showed good faith,” Freeman nearly whispered. He knew he had her.

Her eyebrow arched. “Good faith?”

“If you could show that you published in good faith, plus the usual publishers’ disclaimer. And then later, just a little mea culpa and a token gesture of pulping however many copies are left unsold after, say… ten years?”

“I’d be an Equity Partner within twelve months,” said Danielle wistfully.

“Your own Fresh Water.”

“I’ve never had Fresh Water.”

“Or had an Equity’s salary.”

“The money… wait. No. This good faith,” she paused for a moment, thinking. “You need to convince me. I mean really convince me.”

“That is a collection of eye-witness accounts,” said Freeman said indicating towards the manuscript. “Some going back more than a hundred years. And let me tell you Danielle; there is some knock-out stuff in there. And I’m not talking crack-pots or stoners. I’m talking nuclear physicists; Justice Officers; Museum curators; Doctors: Respected, intelligent, rational people. And linking them all – and I mean every single one of them – are these… inscriptions. Most of them were found in the late seventies, in Dorset of all places. But the world these texts describe… these witnesses have actually seen it.

“If you really are that worried, and there is a public outcry at the first printing, you can say that the Justice has been through my early notes, and I had unscrupulously left out key statements. I had edited in a partisan way to promote my own agenda, and you’re as shocked and saddened as everyone, and here is a second edition with all of the omitted passages.”

It won’t matter – the truth will be out there…

“Double money.” Danielle was almost drooling.

“Maybe more if you phase the ‘discovery’ of the edited statements. Eight or nine editions good for you?”

Danielle could feel herself giving in. “These accounts. What are they?”

“On their own, each is little more than a tale of an unexplained encounter or event. Something that neither science nor The Clerics could explain. But each has a unifying aspect. The inscriptions I told you about and the man who discovered them – George Tate. He’s been tracking this thing since I don’t know when. At least since World War Two. But I also think that It has been tracking him. And maybe his family too. It’s as if they’re woven together – like strands. He believes that some people… some families are marked, and he calls them ‘The Twine.’ And wherever he goes and whatever he does, he leaves… I guess you could call it a wake. People get caught in it, and then they get… well, they either get themselves dead, disappeared… or recruited.

“His son and grandson have both vanished. Separately – and about ten years apart I might add – and they had got tangled up in whatever it is that Grandpa Tate is involved in. Stranger still, George Tate is still alive. He’s a hundred-and-eight years old. Doctors can’t explain it. He should have died thirty years ago.

“The first account is an investigation into George Tate by what was then The British Museum. Tate had been excavating a site in Dorset – Maiden Castle – in the seventies. He uncovered a vast basement and, on the lowest floor, he found huge stone reliefs – steles – on which were carved an ancient legend. What was discovered is not in dispute. It was George’s interpretation of them that was to forever change his life and that of his family.”

[Maiden Castle Stele 1-9]

[Text destroyed]

 

[Maiden Castle Stele 10-12]

It was the time before time when the hours were deep in violet, and there were none but the Oils of Namlu. By Her order The Goddess Danu parted [translation contested; fought free of] the Oils and rose, heavy and ripe with the weight of the cosmos.

By the Words of Power, Danu – The Great Outer Dreamer – parted her legs, and All That Ever Will Be came forth and hung as a bat above Namlu. As Her egg hatched, so Danu bathed in the tide of its river [translation contested; Danu bathed in the dust of life].

Danu saw that her creation was as She intended, and with her mighty arms Danu drew down the breath of Namlu that all would know her word.

Plucking out her golden eye Danu created the sun.

From the dust of her shell, Danu formed the worlds.

Removing a lung, Danu created the sky and the clouds.

With her blood, Danu formed the oceans, rivers, and lakes.

With her nails, Danu created the land and the mountains.

There in the eternal strata of the tide, Danu fashioned the first womb [translation contested; cave], blessed it with the Land of Sumer, and kept all safe from the Ire of the Canopies.

CHAPTER 2

 

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.

All things were made by him,

In him was life, and the life was the Light of Men.

And the Light shineth in the Darkness;

And the Darkness comprehended the Light not.

 

My name is Sarah Slack. For most of my working life, I was a secretary and administrator at The British Museum, London. I had not long joined the BM when I was instructed to take the minutes at the disciplinary hearing of Professor Tate.

 

Tuesday 3rd April 1979

Walsh looked at Lawton and raised his silvery eyebrows as if to say What are we supposed to do?

Lawton ran a hand through his grey hair, looked back at the Chairman and shrugged in response. Damned if I know.

Both men turned to Thorne. “Don’t look at me,” he said adjusting his dark blazer. “I’ve got no idea.”

It had been years since there had been a need to investigate a sitting professor in this manner. It had never been known for an employee not to show at their own hearing.

“Uh, Ms Sindent?” Walsh said to the young Head of Human Resources. “I think the panel could use some guidance.”

Sindent looked like they felt – awkward. They all were. George Tate knew each and every one of them. They all knew him. Some of them had been his friends for at least twenty years if not more. And now this?

Sindent began. “Uh, Jerry… sorry, Mr Chairman. I believe that, from a procedural perspective, the hearing should go ahead, and we will treat Professor Tate as being in absentia.”

Walsh shifted uncomfortably. “I’m not sure that would be entirely… fair,” he said, looking to Lawton and Thorne who both nodded. Walsh turned back to Sindent. “Has anyone tried to telephone him?”

Sindent’s response was curt. “Mr Chairman, Professor Tate does not have a telephone at his house yet…”

“Don’t blame him either,” muttered Thorne. “Damned infernal devices always intruding on our privacy.”

Sindent continued, “… and it is Museum policy to continue a hearing in absentia.”

Walsh turned to his colleagues. “Lance? Piers?” The two men shrugged. “Very well then. Uh, Ms Slack, could you please record that Professor Tate has not arrived and that the hearing will be held without him. Ah. Ok. Yes. So to read out the allegation?”

Sindent nodded.

“Very well. The allegation is that between March Nineteen-Seventy-Three and December Nineteen-Seventy-Eight, Professor Tate, whilst in the employ of The British Museum, did knowingly falsify his results from the excavation of Maiden Castle, Dorset. Further, Professor Tate plagiarised the work of a deceased naval colleague in order to obfuscate his deception.”

Walsh looked at Sindent, who nodded again.

“Right. So George isn’t here. Um… we enter Not Guilty on his behalf?”

Sindent continued nodding.

“Ms Slack if you could enter that into the minutes. Right. Yes. So, Ms Sindent. Over to you, I believe.”

Lawton leaned in and whispered. “Jerry, are we really going to do this?”

Walsh looked back at him blankly. “What else can we do? There’s been an allegation. You know the drill. It’s not like it was before.”

Lawton’s voice came as a hiss. “But it’s George.”

Thorne leaned over. “His reputation or ours? The Museum’s?”

Lawton sat back in silence.

They all knew what he meant. For too long the highest standards of research had been slipping. Each case on its own had been nothing. A misquote here. A slanted view there. But it had all been small steps over thirty-odd years, culminating in the Cowell case. Dr Cowell claimed that the nomadic tribes of Siberia had been using advanced metals for nearly a century. Under scrutiny, the metals were modern and made with present-day techniques. The Museum dealt with these matters in the way they always had. Cowell had the decency to quietly resign – and not force a charade like this one – and in return, he had got to keep his pension. The problem was that in Cowell’s case, his ‘misunderstanding’ had not come to light until after a number of papers had been submitted to leading journals. By industry standards, the furore had been intense, although it had not made it through to the mainstream media. After that, The Museum instigated a zero-tolerance policy to any questionable research, be it unintended or otherwise.

“Sorry Ms Sindent. You may continue,” said Walsh. And please let this be quick and painless, he thought.

“Thank you, Mr Chairman. I would like to bring Dr Lincoln in.” Walsh nodded his approval. Sindent crossed the room and opened the door. “Mike? Come in please.”

Mike Lincoln entered. Despite his relative youth, compared to that of the panel, his gaunt stature accentuated the fine lines around his eyes and his hair was beginning to lighten at the temples. In his nervousness, he seemed older than his years. He rubbed his fingers together, caught himself, and made a conscious effort to stop fidgeting.

“Dr Lincoln, when did you first meet Professor…?”

Lawton’s sense of frustration rose again. “Oh for heaven’s sake! There is no need to go into the tiniest of details! We all know the man! We know his track record!”

Walsh turned and looked at his colleague coldly.

Lawton met his gaze. “What? Jerry come on, this is just drawing out the inevitable. None of us wants to be here. None of us want to have to do this. Just ask Mike about that damned book and let’s get this over and done with!”

Walsh agreed with him. But the procedure was the procedure. He looked to Sindent, who stared back impassively. Fine! He thought.

“Mike. Do you mind if we do this quickly and informally?”

“No Jerry… uh, Mr Chairman… uh…”

Walsh held up a hand in a bid to relax the man. He never stood on ceremony and did not see why anyone else should. “Mike. Whose idea was it to dig at Maiden Castle?”

“George’s… Professor Tate. He had been looking at some unusual archaeological finds in the area for quite a few years and thought that the castle might have been a focal point or a hub. Like a regional capital.”

“What unusual finds?” Walsh continued, making notes. Sindent sat down, clearly feeling redundant. Walsh did not care. He could not stand the blasted woman anyway. No one could. She was all sweetness with her pale complexion and shoulder length black hair, but her attitude… she could be poisonous whilst saying the nicest things. And the way she clicked her fingers…. urgh! Walsh just wanted this done and to be away from that wretched creature as quickly as possible.

Lincoln was still answering. “…and pottery mostly. A bit of jewellery too. It was the mix of styles and designs, though. There was very little consistency. It didn’t match what we thought we knew.”

Walsh looked up from his pad. “The dig began in seventy-three?”

Lincoln nodded and swallowed nervously. He could feel sweat prickling and beading on his back.

Walsh continued. “Finished last year?”

“Uh no. Well yes. The… the funding cycle was over, but there was more to excavate. George… Professor Tate was trying to secure more money when…”

“When he was suspended?” Walsh finished, and Lincoln nodded again. “The funding was a mix of the Museum and a grant from…” Walsh rifled through some papers. “Ah. Accipiter?” Turning to Lawton and then Thorne again, he said, “Rings a bell. One of ours?”

Thorne shrugged. “Never heard of it. Could be a side order. There are so many of them these days.”

“Sounds like it,” Lawton agreed. “What’s the address… ah, Great Queen Street. Yup. Definitely one of ours.”

“Mr Chairman?” Sindent had risen from her chair with an enquiring look.

Damn! Thought Walsh. He really didn’t want to have to drag The Craft into this as well. “Yes, Ms Sindent?”

“Accipiter?”

“Yes. Uh… it’s a charity. Run by former members of staff. Helps out with funding and whatnot if… if the paperwork gets jammed up and the boys need to crack on.” Strictly speaking, it was not a lie. Probably. Most of the faculty were Masons.

Sindent sat back down.

Walsh looked to Lincoln. “Right. So you finished up last year. What had you found?”

Lincoln rubbed his sweating palms on his thighs. “Uh. Well, there were quite a few burial tombs. Some of them had a few interesting artifacts. Religious relics and some weaponry. Amulets and the like. But the biggest thing was the fogou…”

“The basement?”

“Yes. It was the biggest ever found. Not just in size but in ratio to the rest of the site. And it had levels. Three in total. Every other fogou… err, basement, we have seen has only one.”

Walsh jotted the reply down. “And it was on the lowest level that the steles were discovered?”

Lincoln fidgeted again. “Yes. Most of them were well preserved. There was a little damage here and there. Water and damp mostly. Particularly on the first and last and…”

Walsh was not interested in the finer points of detail. “What was your opinion of them, Mike?”

Lincoln could not believe his view was being sought. “My opinion?”

“Yes. What did you make of them?”

“Well… They were incredible. Extraordinary. I don’t think anyone has ever…”

Walsh began to make notes again. “Why?” he said without looking up.

“Why? I don’t under…”

“Mike. Why were they extraordinary?”

“Well, they were so well preserved. And the script…. I’m not an expert on linguistics – I was focussing on the burial mounds outside – but from what George… Professor Tate showed me… the steles were inscribed in an archaic language that seemed to be some mix of ancient Germanic, forgotten Cornish, and an obscure Neolithic Irish dialect.”

All three panel members stopped writing and looked at Lincoln.

Walsh knew a great deal about ancient scripts, but a blend like Lincoln had described was next to unheard of. Rosetta maybe. But nothing in England. “Mike?”

Lincoln smiled weakly. “I… I’m not an expert. But that’s what it looked like. But…you know, you should ask some of the other guys. They are really hot on this stuff.”

Lawton turned to Walsh and kept his voice low. “Have we got any preliminary reports on this?”

Walsh took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. “All in here,” he said patting a bulging file. “It’ll be in yours too.”

Lawton’s voice was nearly a whisper. “Have you read it?”

“Have you?” There was an awkward silence.

“So none of us has,” Thorne interjected.

Walsh snapped. “Lance! This is George’s work for chrissakes!”

Thorne held his hands up, sat back, and said nothing more. They had all trusted George implicitly. He just had that air about him.

“We know,” said Lawton, putting one hand on Walsh’s arm. “But this is important. We’ve long thought that there was more trade going on in the South West. This site could prove it.”

Walsh exhaled. “Ok. Sorry,” he said turning to Thorne, who nodded an acceptance. “Mike,” he continued, “what do you know about the translation of the steles?”

“Uh… not much. George didn’t discuss it with me that often. He hardly discussed it with anyone, to be honest. I was outside most of the time – on the burial site. Mr Tuther was leading the basement dig. And George shared a lot with Sam… Dr Cotrahens. He thought there was some cuneiform aspect to the inscriptions.”

Walsh thought about what Lincoln had said – about not having read the file – and began flicking through some papers. “Uh, Mike? I’ve got Sam Cotrahens’ details here. But who is this Tuther?”

Lincoln felt his stomach knot tighter. “I… I… Mr Tuther worked on the dig.” The panel’s faces remained blank. “He and George were already a team when I joined the Museum.”

Walsh looked at his colleagues. “Do you know this fellow?”

Lawton shook his head. “Never heard of him.”

“Nor me. I can’t see his name in any of the reports,” said Thorne who was similarly flicking through the overflowing file.

Walsh turned to the Head of HR. “Ms Sindent? If you please. Who is Mr Tuther?”

Sindent stood. “Mr Chairman, we have no record of Mr Tuther ever having been an employee of The Museum.”

Walsh felt his irritation rising again. “Well, have you checked?”

Sindent reddened. “Yes, Mr Chairman. I checked when I received Mike’s witness statement. No record at all,” she said, trying to keep an even voice.

“Have you checked the contractors register?”

“Yes, Mr Chairman.”

Walsh looked for help from his two colleagues. They just looked back at him and shook their heads. This case was becoming murkier.

Walsh turned back to Lincoln. “Mike? You’re sure it was Tuther. Not anything else?”

“S… s… sure as I can be.” Lincoln thought he was going to wet himself and wished he had gone to the toilet before he was called in.

Walsh looked through some of the papers on the desk in front of him. “Mike, when did you join us?”

“Err… fifty-eight.”

“And George and this Tuther were already a team?”

Lincoln rubbed his sweating hands on his trousers. “Yes.”

How does a complete stranger work for us for more than twenty years, and no-one asks any questions? Thought Walsh. He knew the answer of course. George had this… knack. You just trusted everything he said.

Walsh sighed. This was not looking good. “Right. Let’s park the issue of this Tuther for the time being. Mike, did you have anything to do with the translation of these steles?”

“N… n… no. I just read over George’s notes.”

“And did he ever mention this other book. ‘The Nine Trials of Greine’?”

“No.”

“What about its author… oh what’s his name. Latter. There we go. James Latter.”

“Yes… once or twice.”

The panel members all stopped writing again and looked at Lincoln.

Lincoln felt he should continue. “I think he served with him.”

The panel continued staring at him.

“In the war… George was with him when he died… On the ship… When George caught a blighty one.”

“Mike,” said Walsh in a low voice, “I want you to think very carefully. What did George say about James Latter?”

“Uh… not much. We all swapped stories…you know… at night. George’s boat got hit by the Germans. Torpedoed in the North Atlantic. Four or five died, I think. The rest got rescued, and the ship went down. George had shrapnel in his legs and he got brought home. They operated on him but he had to sit out the rest of the war. Latter was one of the dead. I think George knew him for maybe a few months…”

“When was this?”

“I… I don’t know. Forty-two? Maybe forty-three?”

“And this was the same Latter who wrote this ‘The Nine Trials of Greine’?”

“I… I… I don’t know. It could be. Might be another James Latter. I… I really don’t know.”

“Right,” Walsh sighed. “That’s all from me. Lance? Piers?” The two men shook their head. “Ms Sindent?”

“Nothing from me Mr Chairman.”

“Thanks for your help Mike.” Walsh checked the clock. “Half-ten. Shall we break for tea? Mike, can you hang around in case we need to talk some more? We’ve got Sam next.”

***

[Maiden Castle Stele 13-15]

Danu heard the lamentation of the land, which was lonely without a shepherd. Danu went to a cedar forest and there found a young strong tree. Calling the eagle from the sky, Danu bound the bird to the cedar by the mutual blessings [translation contested; imprecations] of Samūm. Next, she called the doe and likewise bound it to the tree. Finally, Danu called the salmon from the river and this too was bound to the tree.

As the sun began to set, the Mists of The Hand rose from the ground. When morning came the cedar tree was no longer there. The eagle was no longer there. Nor too the doe or the salmon. As the Mists of The Hand slipped back into the ground, Danu beheld the perfect form of a woman, and thus her daughter Riah, The First [translation contested; The Transcended], came into being.

“I was of my Mother and Namlu. Yet here I am,” said Riah. “Woe that I now feel [translation contested; remember] these stones beneath me.”

“Stand fast Faithful One,” replied Danu, “For in the struggle against the depths of the [text incomplete], you will be by my side, when you behold a simple reminder.” And Danu revealed that Riah beheld and knew and was willing.

So Riah was a shepherd to the land, nursing, and tending. And in the Seasons Of The Mother, she performed the Rite Of [text incomplete] by the gathering of the leaves and laying them out according to the ways of the two-hundred-and sixteen as directed by [text incomplete] nourished on high and on low.

***

“Dr Cotrahens? Please come in.” Cotrahens followed Sindent in and sat down.

“Thanks for coming Sam,” said Walsh. “We know you’re busy. How is the Middle East treating you?”

“Ugarit is fantastic. Amazing finds.” The short man was taking his blazer off and putting it on the back of the chair.

“Glad to hear it. Do you mind if we crack on?”

“By all means.” Cotrahens sat and adjusted his tie.

“How long have you known George Tate?”

“George and I were at university together. He was a mature student and a couple of years above me. It was probably forty-nine or fifty. We renewed our friendship when I joined the Museum in fifty-five.”

Walsh made a note. “And when did he make you aware of the Maiden Castle steles?”

“Probably seventy-four or seventy-five.”

“What’s your view?”

“They were extraordinary. The inscriptions weren’t a single script. Some of it looked Roman, others looked Arabic. Sections looked as if they were some blend of Pictish pictograms and Sumerian cuneiform. Other parts looked Cornish. But it was all very basic. Almost as if the authors had travelled the world and surveyed the earliest civilisations.”

Walsh frowned. “Authors?”

Cotrahens became animated. “Oh yes. There is little doubt that the texts were inscribed by numerous hands. There is even the possibility they were copies of earlier writings. But the texts themselves had been inscribed over several hundred years at least.”

“What was your view of translating the steles?”

Cotrahens paused. “Difficult. Very difficult. There is no lexicon for it.”

“Can it be translated?”

“Possibly… some of it. A few symbols and tracts of texts are similar to pieces that we do understand. As such we can make a best guess. But there are also portions that are so much older and are so far removed from anything that we could compare them to that to offer any translation as definitive would be nonsense. One of the many curiosities is that the older and newer sections are not sequential. They are jumbled. It is almost as if the older portions were written first and spaces deliberately left to be filled in later.”

Walsh made a note. “Did you offer to translate the steles for George?”

“Yes. He shared copies of the inscriptions with me. To be honest he had already completed most of the newer parts. My service was more of a tweaking. Grammatical corrections mainly. We did it by correspondence mostly.”

“What about the older sections?” Lawton asked.

“When George sent them to me, they had completely stumped him. I looked at them and thought there was something of the ancient Irish or Norse about them, but that was pure speculation. Neither of us really had any idea.”

Walsh quickly looked through the file on the desk. “Did he tell you later that he had finished translating them?”

Cotrahens shook his head. “No.”

“What about James Latter? Did George ever mention him?” Walsh asked.

“No.”

“Not even sharing war stories?”

Cotrahens folded his arms, feeling defensive. “I was too young to serve. Just. Don’t think I have any right to intrude if I can’t relate to it.”

Walsh sensed the point was a sore one with Cotrahens and moved on. “What about this ‘The Nine Trials of Greine’?”

Cotrahens shook his head again. “Never heard of it. George certainly didn’t mention it.”

“What about Mr Tuther?”

“Yes. I met him a couple of times. When I was home. In between digs.”

The panel collectively raised their eyebrows.

“Sorry Sam. You’ve met this Tuther fellow?” Walsh asked.

“Yes. Twice I think. Maybe three times. But I often heard about him from various members of George’s team. Why?”

Walsh looked to Sindent.

“Dr Cotrahens,” said Sindent, “the Museum has no record of Mr Tuther. He’s not mentioned in any of the field reports. He’s not an employee of the Museum, and,” she looked at Walsh pointedly, “he’s not on the contractors list.”

“That’s impossible,” snorted Cotrahens. “I’ve seen Celus here at the Museum. In the offices. He’s been George’s right-hand man since… well since I joined. A brooding Welshman. His name probably begins with a silent Y or L or something.”

The panel looked at one another. They each had an uncomfortable feeling rising up inside of them.

Walsh continued. “Sam, what did this Tuther do for George?”

“Well, I understood that he led the basement dig, and he helped with the translation of the steles.”

“What was he like?”

“Like I said, Welsh. Strong silent type. Not immensely popular with the boys. Kept to himself.”

Walsh sensed there was more to Cotrahens’ answer. “Not popular? Was there a problem?”

“You mean like a fight? No. Not that I ever heard of. Just a difficult Taff. Sullen. Withdrawn.”

“When did you last see Tuther?”

“Oooo… it would have been last year. Maybe around December time. He and George had just come back from a holiday somewhere. Guinea? Guyana? Something like that.”

Walsh frowned “He went without Irene?”

Cotrahens nodded “Oh yes. Boys’ trip away. Irene stayed at home with the girl. The two of them often took jollies together.”

“Do you know where Tuther is now?”

“He and George used to share a flat in Northolt. When George married Irene they moved over towards Slough. Might be that Tuther is still in the flat.”

Walsh looked at Sindent. “Look into that please.” Sindent nodded and made a note. Turning to his colleagues Walsh asked, “Gentlemen, anything further?”

Lawton shook his head but Thorne leaned forward. “Sam, you helped with some of the translation?”

“Yes.”

“What was it that George found down there?”

“The inscriptions? It is difficult to be specific, but from what I could tell it was a sort of creation story. A bit Abrahamic, you know. The favouring of man. The loss of a paradise. Moral lessons stuff.”

“Thanks, Sam. Do you mind hanging about in case we need you again?” Walsh said.

“No problem. I’ll be in my office if that’s alright?”

***

[Maiden Castle Stele 16]

Riah was lonely for she had no companion to share the land with and Danu saw her daughter pining for a mate. One morning Danu took a lock of her daughter’s hair as she slept, and fastened one end to the sun, and the other to earth. As the sun rose, its rays were directed to the soil and out sprung a hot-blooded man, ripe and engorged.

“What new magic is this?” Riah asked her mother.

“This is Adammeh, for he is from the earth [translation contested; of the clay]. He is your companion and will give you many children,” replied Danu.

“But Mother, all this companion does is give me children that I cannot tend the land or perform the Rite. How shall you be honoured? How shall we eat?”

With this, Danu took three more locks of Riah’s hair and again fastened them to the sun and the soil. Out sprung three more men.

“These men shall provide. The first is Kuara, the fisherman. He will reap the waters for you. The second is Tibira, the farmer. He will tend the land for you. The third is Kiva, the mason. He will build you a home and fashion tools for you.”

“And how shall I tend them, Mother?”

“You shall lay with them as you see fit daughter.”

“But Mother, if these men provide children and food, and Adammeh only provides children, then he is of no use [translation contested; broken].”

Danu saw the wisdom of Her daughter’s reason and so gathered around Adammeh, returning him to the earth saying, “What is shall be as once was, and so all must return from whence they came.”

So it came to be that with the Men of the Earth, and Her daughter of the tree, that the clan of Tuatha was founded and spread across the Land of Sumer as mist [translation contested; smoke].

***

It was after lunch when the panel returned.

Walsh sat down and turned to the Head of HR. “Ms Sindent. What do you have for us?”

Sindent stood. “Mr Chairman, I have been back through our records and found Professor Tate’s previous address. The telephone number is not listed, but we gave a salary reference to the landlord. I’ve spoken to him, and he was not aware that there had been a change in tenant. He said that Professor Tate was still paying the rent.”

Walsh frowned. “When did he buy his place with Irene?”

“Our records have a change of address in sixty-nine.”

Thorne leaned into his colleagues and spoke in a low voice. “Rent and a mortgage for ten years?”

“And a kid,” said Lawton. “He had a daughter a few years back. She’ll be a heartbreaker. You met her too – at that barbeque. What is her name…? Fiona, I think. I heard that Irene is expecting their second in a few months.”

“Ms Sindent,” said Walsh, “what salary banding is George on?”

Sindent rifled through her papers. “C-two.”

The panel did not even bother to look at each other. There was no way a C-two could run a family, a mortgage and rent a flat.

“Uh, Ms Sindent, did George have any other declared interests? Consultancy perhaps?” It was a desperate attempt and Walsh knew it.

“No. Nothing declared in the register.”

“Ok. Let’s continue. Ms Sindent?”

“Yes, Mr Chairman. I would like to present the panel with a copy of Professor Tate’s latest book. An initial run had been produced by the Museum Press.”

“How many copies?”

“A little over twenty thousand.”

The panel looked at her. Three thousand was generally considered to be a good first run.

Walsh was staggered. “Twenty thousand, Ms Sindent?”

“Yes.”

“Two-zero?”

“Yes, Mr Chairman. Professor Tate’s last book sold nearly forty-six-thousand. It may go to a third edition.”

Lawton turned to his colleagues. “That’s how he afforded the rent and mortgage. I’ll wager that this Tuther fellow was retained directly by George too.”

“What was his last book?” Thorne asked.

Lawton replied. “Can’t remember. The man is a machine. He produces at least half a dozen papers a year. The National Geographic always picks at least one up.”

Thorne thought for a moment. “Was it the Falkland Caves?”

“No, that was in the sixties,” said Walsh. “Was it the one about the ancient Pictish cemetery at the new Edinburgh Airport? Ms Sindent?”

“‘Neolithic Habitation In Ancient Carlisle’, Mr Chairman.”

“That’s right. He found those worm fossils. Monstrous things. When was that published?”

Sindent was tiring of the panel and she was trying hard to keep a note of exasperation from creeping into her voice. “Seventy-three. Mr Chairman.”

Walsh returned to his pad. “Any suggestion of plagiarism there?”

“No Mr Chairman.”

“Any of his other works?”

“No. Mr Chairman,” Sindent repeated.

Walsh looked about himself. His colleagues were both making similar notes. “Right. So we’ve got his new book. All pressed. And what? We have to pulp the lot?”

“Very likely Mr Chairman.”

“How much will that cost the Museum Ms Sindent?”

“Nearly sixty-nine-thousand pounds. Mr Chairman.”

The panel physically winced in unison.

“Ah. Ms Sindent? Is David aware of this?” Walsh said.

“Yes, Mr Chairman. I have informed The Director.”

“Right. Of course.” Walsh wished that Tate was here. There was bound to be some plausible explanation for all of this. He started to flick through the book in front of him, trying not to imagine how the conversation with The Head of The Museum would go.

“Ms Sindent, what are these passages highlighted in red?”

“They are the passages that are alleged to be copied from ‘The Nine Trials of Greine’ Mr Chairman.”

“And do you have a copy for us Ms Sindent?”

Sindent approached the panel and put a book on their bench. Lawton picked it up and turned it over, inspecting the cover, before opening it and reading the copyright page.

In a rare moment of hope, Lawton thought he had found a flaw in the argument against Tate. “Uh. Ms Sindent? I understood from Mike that James Latter died in the war. This book is first printed in forty-six.”

“Yes. There is a credit a few pages in. It is understood that Mr Latter wrote the book in the thirties, but was conscripted before it could be printed. His wife had it published after the war. We have been unable to contact her.”

Lawton felt crushed. “Right. And this publishing house? Golden Cockerel Press. Have we had any statement from them?”

“No. They went out of business in sixty-one.”

Walsh could see where Lawton was going. “Has anyone taken up their catalogue?”

“I don’t believe so, no,” Sindent replied.

Walsh frowned, looked to his two colleagues and then back to Sindent. “So no contact with the family and the publishing house is bust. Ms Sindent, who was it that made the allegation against George?”

“It was an anonymous letter, Mr Chairman.” Seeing the expressions on the panel’s faces, she quickly added, “But the Museum is obliged to take every accusation seriously, and we must investigate.”

Walsh felt his stomach knot. He had the sensation of things moving out of sight, as though some hidden conductor was directing an orchestra, and he was just moving in time to the music. No, he did not like this at all.

“Err… Jerry?” Lawton interjected. “Have you seen this?” He had opened Latter’s book and placed it side by side with Tate’s.

Walsh looked at the two texts, and then back at Lawton, who remained stony-faced.

Thorne leaned over to read the two books. “Good Lord!” he exclaimed.

Walsh looked back to Thorne but said nothing.

“Jerry,” Lawton continued, “it’s not just one paragraph.” He was flicking through both books at speed, marrying the passages that Sindent had highlighted. “It’s near as dammit the whole bloody book! Word for word.”

Walsh sat back, pressed his fingers together and arched his palms. The evidence was clear. He sighed and glanced at the clock. Half-three. “Well, then I believe that we are obliged to deliberate. Perhaps some tea?”

Sindent moved to say something, but Walsh shot her a look. They were going to consider their judgement and that was that.

***

[Maiden Castle Stele 17]

Riah founded Danu’s temple of [text incomplete], and there often sought her mother’s counsel. One day Riah asked her mother “Do you watch over your people by day?”

“I do,” replied Danu “For the sun is my eye [translation contested; I see through all the stars], that I may keep you on the path I have prepared for you.”

“Do you watch over us by night mother?”

Danu saw that Her daughter had indeed grown in reason, and so plucked out Her silver eye and created the moon, that She might watch Her children by night as well as by day.

And with Her third eye, Danu beheld all that She had made and saw that it was as She intended.

With Her [text incomplete] took Riah to [text incomplete] and Danu told her daughter of [text incomplete] and knew [text incomplete] never return without [text incomplete]. So Riah was taught the pleasures [text incomplete] forever turned [text incomplete] power over [text incomplete] that the Goddess Danu might [text incomplete] in time be born from [text incomplete] and return for [text incomplete].

***

Walsh sipped his tea and eyed his two colleagues.

“Jerry,” Lawton said dunking a digestive biscuit, “we’ve known each other a long time, but you can look at me like that all you want and I still won’t know what you’re thinking.”

Thorne looked up from his cup. “He’s wondering if we can get George off on a technicality.”

Lawton looked back at Walsh and shrugged. “You’re the Chair.”

Walsh had a feeling of inevitability. All the evidence pointed in one direction. When he spoke, his voice had an edge to it. “It is a panel decision, Piers. Don’t put this all on me.”

“Very well then. Panel decision Jerry. This is what we’ve got. Does anyone doubt that George copied that infernal book?”

Neither man replied.

“No? Ok. Does anyone doubt that George at the very least wrote the majority of that supposed translation if not all of it?”

Thorne looked up again. “What about this Tuther chap?”

“What about him?” asked Lawton. “He’s not a Museum employee, and it looks like he was retained by George. That makes him George’s responsibility. And with George not showing up we have to draw our own conclusions.”

Thorne shrugged. “I don’t think we have any choice, Jerry.”

Walsh looked to Lawton, who nodded. “We are all agreed then. Unanimous decision. Let’s go back in.”

***

[Maiden Castle Stele 18-20]

So the Land of Sumer turned, and Riah bore both daughters and sons. The First brought forth Fulla, Honos, Freia, Niord, and Ullar.

Freia brought forth Vana, Yam, and Gilfagin.

Yam and Gilfagin brought forth Asa-Oku, Tyr, and Briar.

Briar learned from Isden and was a mighty teacher. He brought forth Dallheim, Vidra, and Nanna.

Nanna and Vidra brought forth Lopt, Syng, and Farne.

Lopt and Nanna brought forth Order, Sorrow, and Horn.

Horn and Nanna brought forth Silfine, Rav, and Magda. And Nanna journeyed to her sister who dwelt within Shole

Silfine brought forth the warrior brothers Sera and Storn.

Sera and Partholan brought forth Agnoman of the Arimaspi, great grandfather of Fiacha, and a prince and ruler of Scythia

And all made offerings of thanks at the temple of Danu for their days were without number.

One day, Magda returned from the borders of Nod and said unto Riah, “O Matriarch, why must I lay with my brother?”

Riah replied “That he may give you children if he is worthy”

“Matriarch,” continued Magda, “What if I lay with my sister?”

“You may do so if she is worthy, but you will have no children.”

“And what if my brother lay with his brother?”

“He may do so if he finds one worthy, but he will have no children.”

That night, Magda stole away and found the resting place of Adammeh. Cutting off his phallus, she pushed it into herself, and out poured all the broken beings of the world [translation contested; Light of The Oils] that whispered falsehoods into the hearts of men in the darkest hours where not even Danu could see. So the Adversary was made flesh and entered the world to gather the weak from the dark with the promise of light.

“What have you done, daughter of mine?” said Danu who had been watching from the moon.

“Lament!” cried Magda. “I craved the phallus and not the child. My sisters could not enter me, and my brothers would bring infants forth!”

“Who told you of Adammeh and where he rested?” asked Danu.

“I was there on the border of Nod, where I met the Ghazal who spoke in the voice of the cloud serpent, and they told me of such pleasures of the phallus that does not bring children.”

“Foolish child,” intoned Danu, “Now see what destruction your progeny has wrought. The forest and fields burn like lies. The lakes and rivers run with blood and tar, like untruths. Your people divide and the land is split from the sky. As horizons end, so the time of Sumer is over.”

The Goddess called the Raven Men who, having banished the Sky Lords from the Holy Isle, carried the Tuatha up into the veil of the strata, and there across the jewelled waters that they might begin again. Danu bade three stars to turn that Sumer was spun from sight.

So the Land of Sumer was bound by the Goddess Danu that none should witness the Sundown Empire, and a mighty seal of Her sign was placed across it.

There on the Holy Isle, Danu gave instruction to the Tuatha that a Seeplin might be built to once again marry land and sky.

***

Walsh sat down and addressed the Head of HR. “Ms Sindent. The panel has reached a…”

A knock at the door cut Walsh off. Sindent looked to Walsh who nodded. Crossing the room, she opened the door, muttered a “thank you” and approached the panel.

“It’s a letter. Addressed to the panel,” she said and deposited an envelope in front of Walsh before returning to her seat.

Walsh looked to his two colleagues who sat in silence. “Ms Sindent? Are we allowed to open this? We were about to deliver our verdict.”

“Yes, Mr Chairman. A verdict has not been entered, so you can consider any evidence or statement.”

“Right. Good.” Walsh started to open the letter. Why can’t this just be over? Walsh read the single page, looked to his colleagues and showed them the letter. Both nodded and grunted.

Walsh looked to the Head of HR. “Ms Sindent. This is a letter from George. He has resigned. I believe that this hearing is now redundant.”

Lawton and Thorne rose with Walsh and began packing their papers away.

***

Walsh and Sindent saw the two other panel members out of the room, and then turned to each other.

“It is probably better this way,” muttered Walsh, arms crossed.

“Maybe. He’ll get to keep his pension, although he’ll probably have to pay our publishing costs. The pulping too I imagine,” she said.

Walsh wanted to smile. Sindent was obviously frustrated, and that gave him immense satisfaction. “Judging by his previous sales, I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Sindent sighed. “No. It probably won’t be.” As Walsh turned to leave, she continued, “You know you never heard all of my evidence Jerry. There was more. The skeletons. The pendants. George’s fixation with all those obscure religious texts. You know as well as I do what we found in his personal notes – he was obsessed with what he called ‘The Gathering of Twine.’ It was all in the file. You never let me present that.”

Walsh stopped, turned, and looked Sindent in the eye. “No,” he said quietly. “I didn’t, did I?”

***

Danielle was silent for a moment. “What? That’s it?” she said. “You can’t leave it like that!”

Freeman smiled. “That was Mrs Slack’s account. That’s where her story ends.”

“But did George really copy that book? What do those inscriptions really say? What about Celus? And the skeletons, and the pendants?”

“I said that was the end of her story, not the end of ours.”

“Ok. So who was Celus Tuther?”

“Honestly? Even to this day, I’m still not sure. But I do know how George and Celus met.”

 

Get the whole story now

 


A Gathering of Twine [2 chapter sampler]

"EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU IS A LIE.” In this first novel in his epic fantasy-horror series, The Spirals of Danu, Martin Adil-Smith introduces the reader to a cast of unlikely heroes; Professor George Tate, one of the mythical Twine, and his seemingly ageless assistant, Celus. Freeman Sullivan submits his final book to his incredulous editor and tells the occult tale of George and Celus as they discover that every great global institution has been infiltrated by shadowy forces beyond mortal understanding. Stalked at every turn by the sinister Raven Men, the friends must take their first steps towards the Citadel of The Last, and the divine evil that dwells within. Yet their cause is not without cost and their journey that will leave a trail of conspiracy and mayhem. From the ashes of shattered lives will rise those who will help and hinder, as the mystery of Sumerland threatens to throw all creation into chaos. George, Celus, and even Freeman must choose their battles with care, for today's casualty may be tomorrow's enemy. Because Freeman has realized George’s truth - that the walls between worlds are thinning and the shadows are lengthening, as Humanity braces for an evil beyond our comprehension.

  • Author: Martin Adil-Smith
  • Published: 2016-09-12 09:20:10
  • Words: 13154
A Gathering of Twine [2 chapter sampler] A Gathering of Twine [2 chapter sampler]