Unearthing the Unearthly

slovenia city map

Photo © Vittorio Ambrosio via Google Maps

I was there when the spellers showed Ne-Hudra the ancient city map. Painted onto a now-crumbling wall, the magical concealment gave it away.

Ne-Hudra grinned, a fearsome sight. “Finally, the clue I’ve sought. Why else would they shift the river?”

I offered alternate explanations, but he accepted only his own: this was where they’d buried Sa-Migre. Here Ne-Hudra would find the legendary power that dominated his dreams.

Divers located something solid. Ne-Hudra rerouted the river again, heedless of those displaced, and ordered the underground temple excavated.

I was there when the first seal was breached. Malevolence seeped from every crack, a putrid green miasma. Workers began dying, horribly and slowly.

Ne-Hudra ignored my warnings. Questioned my loyalty.

Now I am here, at the last portal. Ne-Hudra punished me with the honor of opening it. Dank fumes pulse from the carved runes, enveloping my shaking hand.

May the gods forgive me.

Word count: 150.  Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw prompt. Big thanks to Karen and Josh for hosting this fun writing challenge. This week Pegman takes us to explore Ljubljana, Slovenia. I had fun looking around numerous historical and modern areas, but felt especially lucky to run across this map in an inner courtyard of the old City Hall. Click on the link to see what images the other participants found that inspired them, and feel free to join in and write your own contribution. Everyone is welcome!

I know I said last week that I’d write something happier soon, but apparently I’m already in the Halloween mood and thinking about unnameable horrors and dire consequences of messing with the unknown.


25 thoughts on “Unearthing the Unearthly

  1. Wow. Reminds me of a story I once heard, but I don’t remember the details, only that a river was diverted to allow something or someone to be entombed beneath it, then the river returned to its course. Your story has the same kind of motif. Sort of.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, what a weird (dare I say, in the spirit of the season, spooky) coincidence! I swear I’ve never heard a story like that, and it took several turns before this story ended up there. I was wracking my brain to imagine something that could be divined from the old map before I hit upon the idea that the course of the river might have been changed. And why? I went through several reasons — including the idea that it had originally been rerouted into order to *reveal* something that had been underwater, rather than the reverse. But if some great power is currently buried underneath the river, what could it be…. It wasn’t until about the third draft that it became a tomb. Just goes to show: truth is *at least* as strange as fiction!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Two other versions of this idea:
      a) The Spanish supposedly diverted the San Saba River to hide the location of the treasure they buried there. (a legend related by J. Frank Dobie in “Coronado’s Children.”
      b) Alien ruins hidden under a river are gradually uncovered as a waterfall runs upstream, and are then excavated, releasing a horror, in Iain M. Banks’s “Matter.”

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the great comment, Karen — I’m glad the creepiness came across! I’m not sure exactly what dark magical powers Sa-Migre has (especially now, in death), but it’s a bad sign that whoever survived him buried him this deeply, rerouted a river to cover him up, and then tried to erase all evidence to keep the grave from being unearthed. Ne-Hudra is a mortal human leader, but he’s terrifying like any megalomaniac with almost unlimited power and insane ideas on how to get more. I think he might find he’s overreached himself this time, though.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lish! Yes, I think the narrator has already gotten himself in too deep in Ne-Hudra’s employ to escape at this point. Maybe the best thing is that the power behind the door will destroy Ne-Hudra — but then, what will stop it from destroying everything else? Still, that’s probably better that than if Ne-Hudra somehow gained that power for himself.


  2. It always seems like the older the ancient terror, the more malevolent people imagine them to be. At some point, the primordial looses their human-like qualities to become well metaphysical and barely ahead of shear chaos. Where does the sweet spot lay?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that’s interesting. I wonder if it’s a survival effect: that is, only the legends of really terrible things survive that long into their future. Or maybe it’s just that the farther back in the past we imagine, the more unfamiliar it is, and the more magical and dangerous we can picture it being.

      Liked by 1 person

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