He held the war god of Babylon, even though everyone had said it was just a myth. They claimed he insulted the field of archeology with his, “self-appointed quest.”
Ninurta was a gorgeous solid gold creature within his hands. Jonathan brushed the ancient sand delicately from the priceless relic. The ruby eyes were masterfully set in the angry face.
The craftsmanship of the Nebo people had been legendary until around fifteen hundred years earlier, so much legend his peers assumed it was fiction. After all, no genuine artifacts had ever been located. According to his associates, there wasn’t even a full-sized settlement in existence. A partially exposed roof had been the only evidence that life had existed there. Their assumptions, like most in science and history, were made because they never took the time to look beneath the sand. His destiny and purpose alone had been to excavate Nebo.
He gazed deep within the recesses of the red jewels. Jonathan could feel his own emerald eyes gleam with insatiable lust for the power within. He knew it had power. All artifacts contain some degree of power. The statue’s eyes appeared to go on forever. He couldn’t stop himself from looking deeper into the gems. It was magnificent. He peered into the soul of an ancient civilization long forgotten. All his labor had paid off.
The excavation was more than he could bear at times. Constant scalding winds and vicious sandstorms frequently set in for hours. He could only pray he found something substantial to make the effort worthwhile. He had already lost creditability with several institutions. They saw his ambition as frivolous and his drive was, “wasteful.” He would show them all what morons they were.
The metal bunker provided some protection from the elements. The buildings were relics themselves, from World War II. He’d purchased and moved them to Nebo. Initially, his peers even had the locals laughing at him.
They were safe from the winds and the driving sand, but even the shelter couldn’t stop the dry heat. He rubbed his eyes with his free hand. He had the amazing piece in his palm. His goal in life had been fulfilled. Now he could show those smug bastards who knew their history.
Egypt was the most popular excavation country. The cities and surrounding areas of Giza and Alexandria were usually bustling with all forms of searching. The Valley of the Kings had attracted archeologists and anthropologists since its discovery. Nebo was deemed a, “poor city.” Its residents were mostly farmers and merchants. There were no palaces or elaborate tombs, at least no known palaces or tombs. He would find them.
Nebo sat near Tell-el-Obeid, and remained virtually unheard of. The most extravagant construction its ancient citizens created was the Temple of Ninurta. The legendary structure was where they stored the sacred fruits of their artful and intricate workmanship.
The columns had fallen and the partially exposed roof was swallowed by the dunes. For a millennium, it was ignored and neglected until he followed his instincts. The protective sand had blanketed the artifacts for thousands of years and preserved the most delicate of detail.
The excavation had produced a cornucopia of relics. Flint sickles for harvesting along with basalt mortars and pestles for grinding. All of them carried traces of their original substances. Acacia stools were uncovered, alabaster vessels for storing perfume, even some petrified leather bags. Several wine casks had been uncovered the previous day.
Examination and analysis of the exposed soil around the city revealed the main crops were wheat and cumin. They were a simple people with contented lives. The early signs of a trash pit were discovered on the left side of the city. There were several stone foundations of what might’ve been homes for the more elite citizens near the temple.
He had found his primary treasure. His mission for so many years had finally proved fruitful. The temple was gorgeous although it still lay half-buried, it was magnificent. He assumed it was destroyed during the raid; however, it was merely toppled and buried during a major sandstorm.
The Unknown War had destroyed the city of Nebo. The enemy was believed to be legions from the Roman Empire. There was suspicion that Egyptians had desired the land, however Nebo was constructed long after Egypt had developed into a thriving city. Would they have waited so long before claiming the land?
Two hundred years after the city’s destruction, documentation emerged stating the priests had hid the valuable items in the temple. They placed their precious crafts far from the oncoming marauders’ greedy eyes.
Before all was known about the city’s sacrosanct treasures, the priests were slain. The action forever silenced any formal or documented mention of the Statue of Ninurta. Rome seemed to be the starting point for all lore regarding Nebo.
He polished the beautiful piece with a soft rag and lovingly spoke to it, “Well, my friend. I’ve been searching for you for a long, long time. Even when your existence was doubted by science, I knew you were real.”
His chest swelled with pride. His lust for the worshipped piece of had taken him through 4 countries and 30 years. He had endured most of the Middle East. He tolerated the hostile forces and elements to find the object of his obsession.
According to myth, whosoever possessed the relic could rule the world. What better way to achieve power? He laughed at the thought. Of course, it was purely folklore, much like the “curse” surrounding the tombs of Egypt. Howard Carter’s team did die rapidly and painfully, however the “curse” was merely a lethal mold that had lived on the walls and corridors in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Of course, there was also the possibility the mold was planted by Egyptian priests.
He hadn’t pursued the statue for a myth. He was a man of logic. The piece itself was worth more than a lifetime as an archeologist. The Museum of London had already stated they would provide him with a few million pounds for any artifacts of the Nebo civilization. Their estimates came from the lack of facts and relics from the area. That number would quadruple with the statue. He found the city, the temple, and the proverbial “golden calf.” The fine detail was unbelievable.
The items hidden by the priests were not inventoried. That meant there were untold riches waiting for any person who located them. They were not as rich as Egypt, but they did boast minor treasures. Those “trinkets,” and, “minor works,” would be priceless in today’s world. The Statue of Ninurta was the most sought-after, it was the only known item hidden.
Grave robbers and thieves over the centuries hadn’t raided Nebo. Everyone believed it was some poor settlement that couldn’t possibly have treasures of any merit. Only a few scholars, and people within the field, knew any of the legends behind the town. Burglars chose to visit The Valley of The Kings or the other Egyptian sites. They were only fifty or sixty miles away, a day or two on foot.
“Jonathan, you must see this.” Mizpah rushed into the room. His dark face had paled and terror radiated from his eyes.
“Oh, what is it?” Jonathan didn’t try to hide his aggravation. He had to shift his attention from the new find.
“It is danger, you must return the statue, and we must leave.” His voice quaked to tell his employer such news.
Jonathan laughed. Locals help was necessary, however many were uneducated. Superstitions abound in their primitive minds. Even so, Mizpah had never trembled at the threats from a dead civilization, nor had his men. They were different from their usual countrymen.
“Now really, Mizpah,” Jonathan assured. “You must have translated something wrong.”
His anger lingered, however the assistant’s terror was strange. Mizpah rarely left his station. He was always a faithful worker. He grew up in the area and knew it like no other. His locality didn’t normally affect his work. He was never susceptible to lore. He was a stern believer in logic, and equally appreciative of the money at stake in every dig. At least, he had been before.
Outside the sky had become dark and the wind arose. The usually white and fluffy clouds appeared bruised and injured as black pillars pilled on top of one another. The workers nervously whispered, some pointed to the sky. A sandstorm had never produced such a dramatic change in the sky.
He looked over the provoked crowd. They had never before worked themselves up to such a state of alarm. The day’s excavation at the Temple halted. Several workers lay down; others slapped their faces, or wiped them with damp rags. He passed and heard them mumble about fainting. A line of men now circled the gigantic excavation entrance. He descended the sturdy ladder. Hopefully, the secret would be revealed soon, he had many plans to make with his new find.
Abram and Miloch stood at the bottom of the pit with him. They stared at the entrance’s inscription. Jonathan pulled his glasses from their perch atop of his head, down to his eyes. He squinted, could barely decipher the writing.
He placed both hands against the stone door and had a flash of sight that rendered him motionless. He saw a village in the middle of the desert. Priests wore white robes. They carried urns and gold items towards an inner room within the Temple. He heard the noise of an approaching army as they buried the treasures deep within the structure and pushed the stone wall back into place.
The priests returned outside, where a Roman legion rushed towards them. There were screams and yells of agony, the clanking of metal, and eventually silence. Dead silence.
He shook his head as the vision faded. The workers cautiously watched him. He turned his attention back to the wall. After a moment, he discovered the meaning. He read aloud:
“He who touches this temple and disturbs the resting place will find death in his footsteps.”
A ripple of apprehension passed through the men and Jonathan raised his hand, “Gentlemen, please. It means nothing. It is over thousand years old. I know you are tired. We will take the day off tomorrow. Now please, we must do what we can. Let’s just keep working and forget about this message.”
He started back towards the ladder when a shrieking howl broke the silence. He turned to see Mizpah fall and clutch his neck. His face became blood red, crimson, then ghastly shades of lavender and gray. Sand coated the side of his face where he fell and saliva gathered at the corners of his mouth. He momentarily looked at Jonathan and then to something unseen. He screamed, “Don’t let it touch me! Don’t let it touch m—” His choked upon his last sentence, with a gargle, he expelled his final breath.
A rush of fear surged the atmosphere. Jonathan looked around, not completely sure of what happened. What was going on? What happened to Mizpah?
Suddenly, Jonathan felt a rush of energy, something came alive inside him and he could feel its power grow. Two workers had gathered beside Mizpah. They began attempting crude forms of CPR, but nothing revived the fastidious worker.
He considered his actions for a moment and took another step. He carefully observed all that happened while he moved.
“Silence,” Jonathan whispered to the whimpering workers. Another yell erupted and Miloch fell. He struggled just as Mizpah had. Jonathan knew what the power was. He knew what he was destined to do.
He pondered further action for a moment. He was going to be responsible for many great things. The crowd watched him ignore the dying man. He heard another gasp, the same as Mizpah. Such power and promise, he could do so many things.
He turned away from the presence of death and kept on walking. It was the perfect murder, no motive, no traceable evidence at all. He had colleagues to visit and institutions to consult. Someone of his stature needed to exercise his power and make the world a better place.