Forgotten Realm

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Forgotten Realm

Postby Miki Yamuri » Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:43 am

Title: Forgotten Realm

Characters:

Dr. Nash Hamilton - anthropologist and archaeologist from Villanova University

Tomas Blake: 35yo Archaeologist from Stanford University

Scene: A Crypt in Xinjiang China
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Tomas Blake had jumped at the chance to go with the renowned Dr. Hamilton to a recently uncovered Crypt in a remote part of China. Many strange and wonderful artifacts had been dug from the desert in Xinjiang over many years. It was a most fortuitous thing China had even approved the current dig, based on the ages of the artifacts found. Many of the vases and sculptures had predated recorded history by many thousands of years. The advancedness of the processes used to create them amazed the scientific community.

Tomas and Nash were in a antechamber, standing before a wall that was inscribed with many wondrous pictographs of a far gone age.

"So they already deciphered this wall?" Nash asked. "OK, I wanted to look at the digging technique."
He turned his flashlight and magnifier toward the far corner of the crypt. "Might tell us something about the tools they used ... which could tell us about their other technology too."

Tomas took his small brush and whisked it across the wall to remove the many years of collected grime.

Tomas says, "They claimed to have read this wall, but the translations made no sense at all. It was like the person chiseling it out was hallucinating or something." The 2 men laugh quietly.

"As I recall, they thought it said something like, 'Hope is the valley of the lake of weeping cows.' Makes total sense ... to somebody who lived here in 2000 BCE," said Nash, taking a digital photo of some digging marks.

Tomas laughs as he comments, "I suppose the cows are weeping, because they can't come home?"

The men laugh again. When Tomas turns his head back towards the wall, Nash had just taken a picture ... the flash's bright light illuminated the wall in a way none of the previous Scientists had done before.

Tomas takes Nash by his shoulder and says in a conspiratorial voice, "Hey, man ... that flash just revealed something no one has ever documented before."

Nash turns and looks at Tomas as he begins to use a micropick along a section of the wall. After a few minutes of scraping slowly, so not to damage the wall, a very well defined circle began to appear, made into the wall of stone.

"What ... why would there be circles carved into the wall?" Nash puzzled.

Tomas says, "Take a picture of this section now that the circle is defined. I want to look at it in more detail."

"Now that you mention it," said Nash, taking the picture, "I do too." The flash briefly illuminated the room again. "Does it look like there's another circle over here?" He pointed to the left of the first circle. "And how exact is this circle?"

Nash held up a ruler in front of the circle to measure it, then took a piece of paper and quickly used a compass and scissors to make a perfectly circular cutout of the same size. He held it up in front of the circle on the wall.

Nash comments in amazement, "That circle's perfect."

Tomas takes his micropick and begins to clean another place in the wall. It quickly became obvious, there were several circular places within the pictographs. As Tomas cleans one of the smaller circles, his pick became hung in one of the grooves. He tugs on it with some force to attempt to free it ... the small circle rotates 90 degrees with very audible stone on stone griding sounds.

Tomas gasps, "Nash! Look at this!" He points to the newly arranged pictographs, "This ... this translates entirely different at this point."

Nash shines his light on the small circle. The meaning of the Pictographs ... now had far different meanings than when they first had entered the crypt.

"It's ... rotated? Then what are these symbols, even? ... Wait a minute," said Nash, "they thought this was early Chinese? No wonder the cows were weeping. This only looks like early Chinese if you ignore about a third of the markings." He looked at the right-hand side. "Look here, they didn't translate this first symbol at all. And it's not even inside a circle, so it can't even be rotated. But ..." he paused. "Make that a little more sophisticated and it could be a Tocharian character for 'we' or 'us'."

Tomas opens his thick note book and makes a quick sketch of the newly arranged wall.

He says, "It seems to be making some kind of ... reference to a map ... to another location higher up ..." He points to one of the newly arranged pictographs, "Does this translate to the roof of the world? or the roof of heaven?"

The 2 men shine both their lights on the area and look closely. They could see the dim outlines of many circular places in the wall. By rotating them in different ways, the pictographs gave fairly explicit directions to another location ... that would tell of a city.

"Well, I think we've got something here," said Nash, holding up his notes. "If this is some kind of early Tocharian language, this might say something like, 'We hoped to have the valley of tears in the cattle of the four weary lakes.' But, with these four circles rotating and changing the word order, it might be 'We could not forget the wondrous city at the gateway to the valley of many lakes.' And if we turn this one like so," he went on, slightly rotating one circle, "and this one like so, that's exactly what it will say. This is evidence for the theory that these people are from the Afanasevo --"

Just then, there was a thunking sound that seemed to come from behind the wall.

Nash looked at Tomas, "That sounded like we opened something."

There was sound ... like small particles of sand falling and the unmistakable sound of stone griding on stone. They cold feel a deep rumbling beneath their feet. Slowly and ponderously, the wall behind them slid open, revealing a large area that had been made into a Dioramic Map. It depicted a wonderfully broad valley in the middle of a very large and tall mountain range, topped with a delicate white powder of unknown origin that resembled snow. The rivers were made of quicksilver, there were many hills and valleys. They could see each detail of the map had been painstakingly reproduced for accuracy.

Tomas says, "Now, that's ... amazing." He points to the tall depiction of a mountain range, "No one would have ever guessed this was here ... for all the times people have come and examined and tried to make sense of the pictographs."

"What's this?" said Nash, reaching carefully into the compartment that had opened in the wall. He brought out what looked to be an hourglass. The sand was in the top half, not flowing into the bottom half. "A broken hourglass?" He turned it over to look at the bottom, which was encrusted with jewels of all colors. "Wait ..." he said, noticing that the sand was flowing upward from the bottom half to the empty top half, now that he'd turned it over. "That has got to be an optical illusion."

Tomas examined the strange hourglass closely. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out how the sand was running from bottom to top. He did notice, however, a large, well polished gemstone the likes of which he had never seen before, glowing a soft blue white in the middle of the crown on top of the hourglass.

Tomas says with wonder in his voice, "Have you ever seen anything like this before?" He reaches over to touch it. Before he can make contact, He feels a strong electrical tingle run all through his body. All his hair begins to stand on end. Tomas jerks his hand back suddenly with a gasp, "Th .. that thing just .. just bit me."

"It's building up an electrostatic charge, on top of everything else?" Nash wondered.

His hair was also starting to stand up, he noticed, but he hadn't felt a shock -- he assumed it was because he had been holding the hourglass as it had gradually built up its charge.

"Tomas, what have we found here?"

"Is everything all right in here, gentlemen?" asked the Chinese bureaucrat who had accompanied them to the site, partly because of the nation's legendary arcane government regulations and partly because the Chinese government wanted to prevent looting of the nation's cultural heritage. Nash and Tomas stared at the man, then at the hourglass in Nash's hand, then back at the man.

"We seem to have found ... a broken hourglass," said Nash, turning it back over.

The small amount of sand that had fallen into the upper half now flowed back up. Very soon it would again look like the sand was entirely in the upper chamber and was too solidified to fall.

The government agent laughed. "Very funny, gentlemen," he said. "I must admit, I do not always understand the Western sense of humor. Please let me know if you do find anything. I would be most interested." He turned and left the room.

Nash looked at Tomas. "Did he even see the hourglass ... or the open panel in the wall?"

As the last few grains of sand rose into the upper chamber of the Hourglass, Nash felt a really hard surge run all through him. His last sight, was of a large ark of blue energy jumping all around the chamber, engulfing Tomas in the process. Both men heard the Fear in the Chinese officials fading voice as he had returned to the chamber just in time, to be knocked backwards out of the room by the tremendous flash of blue light when the displacement portal opened. The official sat up and blinked in fear as he looked into the now empty chamber. He saw the stone panel as it was slowly closing, and got a glimpse of the diorama map laid out within.

Tomas sits up, his body still tingling. He sees Nash lying on his side, the hourglass still clutched in his hand.

Tomas crawls over to Nash and shakes him gently, "Are you all right, Nash? What the Hell happened?"

Tomas looks around at the large valley, the many trees, lakes, and streams. It looked very much like the diorama map within the small chamber ... Very much, that is, except for the addition of paved roads and a small city down in the center of the valley, probably about half an hour's walk away. Nash let go of the hourglass and held his head with both hands as he sat up.

"Ohhhh, my head. Where are we?" Nash looked around in a daze for a few seconds before he continued,. "I guess this could be the Minusinsk Valley."

Tomas stands up and looks around. He sees a slow moving truck as it gasps, wheezes, rattles, and bangs its smoky way slowly towards them. Tomas could see the small old man at the wheel as he approached.

Tomas says, "Maybe we should, try and hitch a ride? I can't see any familiar sites as far as I'm concerned."

Nash stands, still holding his pounding head. As he releases the hourglass, the softly glowing jewel on top, fell free. Both men felt a strange ... sensation throbbing through them with each pulse of the jewel.
As Tomas bends to pick up the jewel, the old man in the truck had stopped near them. He seemed to be beckoning them to him.

Nash staggered unsteadily over to the old man. He tried speaking in the moderate amount of Russian he knew. "Umm ... good day," he said. "Are we near Minusinsk?"

"Ah," said the old man, "Minusinsk. That is Minusinsk there." He pointed to the city below, in the center of the valley.

Smoke from chimneys and factories rose into the air, casting a gray haze over the entire depression.

"Oh good," said Nash, "then we aren't lost." He looked back at Tomas, who was looking at something in his hand.

"I am going near Minusinsk," the old man said. "Would you like a ride?"

"Let me ask my friend," Nash said. He went over to Tomas and asked, "Should we go into town? We left most of our supplies in China. Maybe we could get money sent to us and buy more supplies."

Tomas stands with the softly pulsating jewel in his palm. Tomas knew ... that this gemstone was somehow the answer to all the things the both of them had been searching for ... he just didn't know how it all fit. The fact they were transported here .. was proof. Tomas picked up the now inert hourglass and turns to Nash.

He says. "That sounds like as good a plan as any, under these circumstances. The only problem I can see ... is the questions we're going to have to answer when we make the call ... don't you think? Seeing as how we don't have travel papers or the visa stamps to be ... here."

Both men walk to the back of the truck, and climb into the bed. It begins its rattling, clanking, smoking journey towards the smoggy city they see off in the brownish gray haze in the distance. As they traveled, they were vague about what they told the old man -- not only weren't they fluent in Russian, they also didn't want him to know too many details. They told him they were travelers and had gotten lost, which wasn't a lie at all. They learned that his name was Giorgy and he was a retired farmer. They also learned that there was no American consulate within a thousand miles ... or any other type of help for wayward Americans for that matter.

Tomas watches the jewel in his hand. The longer they were in the sunlight, the more intensely blue it had become.

Tomas leans over and whispers to Nash, "Look at this thing. It has become a dark blue ... and it seems to be getting warmer ... almost uncomfortably so."

Nash reaches for the stone, Tomas hands it over. Nash's eyes widen as the warmth of the gemstone surprised him.

Tomas says softly, "We have another major problem. It seems that we are in a place we have no business ... and no one to help us out of it."

Nash nods and sighs. About that time, the men realize the old man driving the truck had noticed the gemstone in his mirror. It was more than obvious he was interested ... more so than the 2 of them thought he should have been. His diving skills were very poor at best, now were totally horrid as he stared at the stone in Nash's hand.

"You're going off the road!" Nash attempted to say in Russian, then noticed the driver's eyes on the gemstone. To Tomas he said in English, "He saw the stone and almost went off the road. I think he's got his eye on it. But there are two of us and one of him."

"No, no," said the old man in broken English, managing to keep the old truck from going into a gully, "you do not understand. I am not a thief. But I have seen a stone like that once before, when I was a boy."

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Back in the tomb in China, A certain Chinese official was being severely interrogated. The 2 men he was specifically in charge of ... had totally vanished. The story he told his superiors ... seemed to be absolutely insane. He did manage to convince them to allow him to attempt to open the wall he had seen sliding shut when Nash and Tomas had mysteriously vanished. The photographer had just finished archiving the wall and it's many newly arranged pictographs, when a demolition expert placed several ounces of focused explosives on the wall.

The shaped charge was designed to do maximum damage to the wall panel, while minimal damage to the surrounding wall. The expert cleared the chamber. He removed a small devise from his vest about the size of a pack of cigarettes, flipped a cover on the side of the small box ... a green light came on. He lifts the guard and flipped the switch ... there is a muffled explosion in the other room ... accompanied by a huge cloud of dust and debris.

"What?" said the expert as the smoke began to clear. "This can't be."

The wall panel was covered with a fine layer of soot and dust, but hadn't budged. He had thought it had been made of wood -- that's what it looked like -- but any wood should have been pulverized by the explosion. The others came back in and stared. The stone around the wall panel had cracked from the force, so some of them started chipping at that, but it was unclear whether they would be able to open the chamber.

The expert dialed his phone. "We're going to need Liao Xia," he said.

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The old man stopped the truck. He turns and faces Nash and Tomas as he says in his old cracked voice, "I have waited my whole life ... to see the 2 come."

The old man's eyes sparkled brightly as he watched the gem in Nash's hand.

Tomas asks, "The 2 ... the 2 .. who?"

The old man looks into Tomas' eyes ... Tomas seems to feel the gaze penetrate his soul.

The old man says quietly, "I must show you something ... something that is a matter of life and death now."

Nash starts to say something ... the old man puts his finger to his lips then continues, "You come from a far land ... no one can know you're here ... it would be .... very bad ... especially for little girls."

Tomas says incredulously, "Little girls ... who ... and where are they?"

The old man smiles as he turns back in the seat and puts the old truck in gear with a grinding sound. It lurches forward,

"I will take you to the next piece of your puzzle. I know .. who you are, and why you have come. I have awaited your arrival ... for many years."

Nash and Tomas looked around at where they had stopped in a state of total fearful confusion.

"He's been taking us away from the city," said Nash. "Minusinsk is the other way. I figured he had business out here before going back. But now I'm not so sure."

Tomas asks, “Just what does he mean with all that garbage? He says he knows us ... he seems to be taking us to a specific place ... and what's this puzzle he mentioned?”

Nash shakes his head, “I don't know ... but this I do know ... we will very soon find out.”

They traveled for a long while until they came to the foot of a large cliff. The old man stopped the truck and killed the engine.

"Please come with me," said the old man in his broken English as he got out of the truck. "In the hills, when I was a boy, I saw a man come up here. He had a stone that looked exactly like yours. I will show you where he went. But I must tell you ... he never came out again. He also told me a story ... of the 2 who will come ... you."

Nash and Tomas followed the old man as he slowly made his way among the boulders and loose stones, climbing up into the foothills of the mountains surrounding the valley.

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It took time, but Liao Xia, one of China's leading Archaeologists had finally arrived. He had hurried everyone from the room and made them watch from the door as he examined the scorch blackened wall. His eyes intently perused the circles and how they had been rotated ... and the new words they had formed on the opposite wall. Finally ... those old stories from his family history began to make sense.

He ran his fingers delicately across several of the now visible circles on the opposite wall. He rotated 1 of them counter clockwise back to its original position, then back to the new position. There is a loud clunking noise, then the stone upon stone grinding noise from the scorched wall behind him. As Liao Xia turned quickly, he saw the panel as it slowly slid open one more time. The smile on his face was a feature no one had seen ... in many years.

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"This is not as easy as it was when I was young," the old man said as Nash and Tomas followed him upward among the rocks.

"I imagine not," Nash replied in Russian, "but you said you followed a man? Who was he? And you said he never came out again? Out of where?"

"I think he was Chinese," the old man said. "But he was alone. He never spoke, except to tell me the story of your arrival.. Others came to town later. I think they were looking for him. But I do not think they found him. As for where he went, be patient. I will show you."

"You remember this after all these years?" asked Nash.

"It is already a strange story," said Giorgy, "and I have not told you everything yet."

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Liao Xia walks quickly to the open wall and looks in. There before him ... in perfection ... was the diorama map his grandfather had told him of so many times. The Land of the Guardians ... the place of the Little Girls! As quickly as he could, he took several pictures of the diorama ... before destroying it totally with a flash grenade. At long last ... ultimate power ... was to be his.

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Giorgy led the way with Nash and Tomas following curiously behind. The ground grew steeper as the way grew more tortuous. Having picked up a fallen branch from a gnarled tree to use as a walking stick, the old man led them through narrow alleys between boulders and up steep rock faces.

Finally he said, "Almost there," with a breathless wheeze.

"Are you all right, my friend?" asked Nash.

"Getting down is a lot easier," Giorgy said. "I am not as young as I was. But to be a part of the fulfillment of Prophecy ... is a life ambition I will not fail."

Tomas and Nash climbed up the last stone to stand beside Giorgy and saw ... two more boulders, enormous this time, with a narrow crevice between them. There was light beyond and intricate scroll works above..

"There," said Giorgy. "That's where he went. He did not come back. Beware. I believe the path drops suddenly ... and drops far. But before it does, look at the walls. Look, and you will see. It tells you the next piece of your puzzle."

Tomas and Nash carefully walk between the 2 boulders, careful not to take a misstep. When they had reached the far side, a huge valley filled with thick jungle stretched as far as their eyes could see. They walked to the edge of what appeared to be a curve in the road ... only to discover it to be a precipice that fell off many hundreds of feet into the dense foliage far below.

Tomas backs up to the cliff wall behind him with a sudden gasp. He looks at Nash and says with a lilt of fear in his voice, "If ... we hadn't stopped to look first ... we would have fallen!"

Nash looks down the edge. He was amazed at how well camouflaged this edge of the precipice was. He turns to Tomas ... and his mouth drops open. Behind him was another very finely carved wall .. similar to the one in the crypt in China.

The same pictographs and circular areas were delicately chiseled into the face. The area framing the place, was carved to look like an entrance or some kind of Scroll Work Arch.

Nash points and says softly, "Thomas, I think we found ... another riddle."

Tomas turns and looks at the place he had backed into. The pictographs were carved exactly the same.
Tomas runs his hand over the inscription ... and pushes on one of the circles that had the inscription, ' The sea runs deep and wide, so long as the butterfly swim.'

"Does it rotate, like the ones in Tarim?" asked Nash.

Tomas nodded and tried to turn the first circular stone with his hands. Nash helped, and slowly it turned.

"I think it says ... 'The strangers from a distant land' ... then the thing about the butterflies," said Nash. "Maybe that one turns too?"

Tomas pushes on the next circle. With the grinding of stone on stone it too rotates around. The men turn all the circles 90 degrees.

Tomas says, "I think it reads, The strangers from a distant land shall come. To bring little girl charms and the power of the Guardians wield, through time and times bent, shall the Holy Land defend from the demon's harm."

Tomas looks at Nash with askance, Nash shrugs. Tomas sees a small indentation underneath the inscription amid a very flowery scroll.

The inscription on it merely said, "Light the candle."

"Little girl charms? Guardians? Times bent? Demons?" wondered Nash. "Are we sure we have it upright now? And now there's a candle ... only there isn't. Or ... wait." Nash looked more closely at the decorative scroll work.

"This ornamentation and the indentation below it ... do they rotate too?" Nash asked, thinking aloud. "Because if it does ..."

He pushed on the stone with both hands, and Tomas helped ... the piece of stone containing both the scroll work and the indentation rotated. They continued pushing until the indentation was above the scroll work.

"I think that looks a lot like a candle, don't you?" said Nash. "And I think I know where the flame is." He looked at Tomas. Tomas could feel the heat of the Sun stone in his pocket. He looked down, he could see the glow of it through the cloth of his pants. He removed it from his pocket and held it up.

Tomas says, "This ... is the flame of the candle."

Nash nods. Tomas places the sun stone into the indentation. There is a ... sound ... more felt than heard. The 2 men feel a very intense electrical wave run through their bodies. When their sight clears, They are standing on a road leading into a huge city.

The like of this city have only been in the imaginations of writers until they stood there. They could see the massive domes, the spiderweb of tubes running every where connecting them. As far as they could see, was a technological marvel.

Nash looked around him. Where were they? They had been somehow ... transported. The city was ... impossible. That meant ...

"Amazing! This civilization that we call the Afanasevo ... they were advanced beyond the dreams of modern science. Look at the buildings ... they look as if they're made of crystal or some other stone, many-faceted and cut into domes, towers, buttresses ... and then there are those interconnecting strands -- are they transportation pathways? It's almost like the neurons in the human brain. And where are we? I think we're underground, but where is the light coming from?"

Nash looked up and saw a warm yellow-white light that seemingly came from the entire sky at once.
As they watched, some of the distant connecting strands were slowly disappearing, dividing in the middle and retracting into the surfaces of the buildings, and new connections formed in other places, so slowly and smoothly that it was difficult to notice it happening.

Nash noticed with a fearful start, "Wait! We're surrounded!"

While they had been looking at the glittering panorama beyond, they hadn't noticed that all around them, crystalline columns had been rising from the ground -- forming smoothly and gradually, as well as silently, until they now stood as columns, dozens of them, eight feet high and arranged in a circle around the two archaeologists, forming a prison of sorts.

Tomas grabs Nash by the arm. There was no where to run. One of the columns suddenly develops something that looks very much like a crystalline face. It smiles at them and says something in a language totally unknown.

Tomas says with an edge of fear, "D .. do you understand what it just said?" Nash shakes his head slowly.

The voice says once again in its tinkly musical tone, "Weeellllcome to ..." What ever it said after was unintelligible.

Tomas asks, "Where ... are we? Can you ... take us to your ... leader?"

Nash lets out a muffled laugh. Tomas looks at him and shrugs.

The face replies, Leader ... you leader. Make the command, we give the Guardian's their ... " and the words become unintelligible again.

Nash only knew a little of the ancient Tocharian-family language they'd found in the inscriptions, and no one on Earth had more than vague theories about how it would have been pronounced, so even if that was what the crystalline statue was speaking, there was no way for him to understand it. But he had a thought.

"We should speak to it more," said Nash. "It knows some English words -- maybe from what we've been saying nearby. If we talk to it and to each other, maybe it will learn more English words."

So they talked. Nash and Tomas talked about anything they could think of. They talked about the journey they'd been on, about their families at home, about the discoveries they'd hoped to make in the Tarim tomb, and about how what they'd found was nothing like what they'd expected. And they talked about how hungry they were.

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Liao Xia quickly drew a sketch of the diorama map he had seen behind the panel. There were many unanswered questions in his mind, but now the stories his Grandfather had told him as a child before he vanished ... began to make a bit of sense. He quickly made arrangements to go to Russia. His Government began to ask many questions. Some of them ... too pertinent. It was a pity, Liao Xia thought to himself, those were good men. Retirement for them was the only option ... nothing can stand in his way.

He sat on the plane as it sped toward the China-Russia border. It would of course be detected, but the pilot believed that arrangements had already been made. Liao Xia had lied to him, of course. He had also sabotaged the radio so there would be no inconvenient warning communications that might cause him to turn around. He was taking a gamble, but if it paid off ... the rewards would all be worth it. This would be a one-way trip.

Liao Xia saw the Minusinsk Depression below them. It would not be long now. Nestled in the ring of mountains surrounding Minusinsk was a small and inexplicable jungle valley. The Russians did not know why it didn't show up on their satellite imagery. The Americans thought the Russians had amazing jamming technology, and the Russians let the Americans believe whatever they wanted to.

The Chinese, however, knew the Russians had no secret military base there nor any superior satellite jamming device. But they didn't know anything more about the valley either. Liao Xia got up from his seat and began strapping on his parachute and survival gear.

"What --?" said the pilot as Liao Xia threw open the right center hatch.

Liao Xia didn't even look back at the pilot as he watched the plane's position relative to the ground, waited until the moment he had calculated, and jumped. He was not even watching the sky when the Russian fighter jets shot the plane down, and he didn't know or care whether the pilot had also jumped or not to save his life.

Liao Xia was focused on the ground. His parachute tangled in a tree, as expected, and he cut himself free and climbed to the ground. Using a hand held navigation device he quickly made his way toward the last known position of the previous expedition, stopping when he saw what he had expected to find -- a skeleton broken and shattered from a long fall , lying on the jungle floor, overgrown with vines, still dressed in the tattered remains of explorer's gear.

"Hello, Grandfather," he said, as he went through the remains of a backpack, finding a large, sparkling, blue gemstone. Liao Xia smiles once again ... he knows his goal is very near.

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The crystal spires all took on faces. Nash and Tomas found themselves being escorted by some kind of beings made of crystals.

The original one says to them in it's crystalline voice, "You are to meet with the Guardians. We have food for you first ... and drink. It's perhaps not what you might expect, but will be nourishing.

Nash looks at Tomas and says with slight tremors of fear in his voice, "I ... hope they don't have bad intentions for us." Tomas looks at Nash for a few seconds, then asks the crystalline being, "Do you have ... names?"

The original one replies, "There are 7 of us with you now, I am number 1 because I grew first in place."

Nash raises his eyebrows as he quickly asks, "Grew? What do you mean grew?"

Number 1 replies, "I was the first to begin the reorganization of the crystalline matrices ..."

Nash interrupts, "You don't have to go into that kind of detail. I ... think I get the picture. You, were the first to activate."

The entity replies, "Correct.”

The 7 Entities escort Nash and Tomas through a large and very ornately carved archway. On the other side, they entered into something that looked like a very large hollow crystalline bullet. The 7 sat all around the 2 men, as a seat seemed to grow from the floor. As soon as they sat on the chairs, the men saw the view from outside become too blurry to recognize any features. They felt absolutely no movement from within.

When the Crystal entities finally stood once again and the exit in the side of the crystal appeared, the scene had changed totally. The men exited the bullet crystal onto a platform, completely surrounded by a crystalline technology completely undreamed of by the 2 men ... or anyone else on the planet earth.

Number 1 suddenly sprouts an appendage and begins to tap on the many small button sized light emitting crystals on what might have been a control panel. A large section of the room on the other side changes form. What would have been described as an alter grew and took shape in the center of the transformation. A small panel slides aside on the top of alter, and 4 objects rise from within.

Number 1 points with its appendage and says, "The Guardians." Slightly to the left of the 2 men, what appears to be a table grows from the floor. On top of it ... what seems like many kinds of crystal looking food grows. Goblets of some kind of liquid appear close by.

Nash looked at the food first. "I hope you'll forgive me," he said to his hosts, "but I'm very hungry." He stepped toward the table.

Tomas shot him a cautioning look, but he said, "On the one hand, if they wanted to kill us, they could have done it already, so it's probably not deliberately poisoned ..." He turned to his hosts again. "You're sure this is healthy?"

Number 1's strange, tonally-pure voice answered, "We have been analyzing your biochemical structures since you entered this place. You have nearly identical nutritional needs to the people who built this city and lived here. This is the sort of food and drink that they enjoyed every day."

"Well, in that case," said Nash, "I hope this isn't why they're not here anymore." He took a bite of what looked like a sparkling blue fruit. "Hmm," he said as he chewed. "Tastes kinda like a big gumdrop. But also kinda like a persimmon. And it doesn't stick to my teeth." He sipped the liquid. "This is like ... water flavored with citrus."

"Both food and drink has been imbued with nutrients calculated for optimal health," said Number 1.

Nash picks up an elongated sparkly white object and sniffs it. His eyebrows go up as he recognizes the oder of fried Turkey. He takes a small bite. To his total amazement, that's exactly what it tastes like, fried turkey ... down to the crunch.

Nash hands the remainder to Tomas and says simply, "It's Turkey." Tomas takes it gingerly from Nash's hand and gives it a cautious sniff. His eyes get big as he realizes .. it really does smell just like turkey. He takes a small bite, then eats it in its entirety.

Tomas picks up the other goblet and takes a drink. To his astonishment, it tastes exactly like apple juice. The 2 men were starved. They began to sample everything on the table. To their surprise, all they had to do is think of a particular item they might like to try ... and the varying crystal looking objects took on that characteristic. The technology was fantastic.

Tomas says to Nash, "This could end world hunger. To transform a crystalline matrix into .. what ever we wanted."

Nash was more interested in the 4 jet black armbands on the far alter. They looked for the world like wrist sized computers of some sort.

-----------------------------------------

Liao Xia came to a very high cliff face. According to the sketch of the Diorama he had made, he had to climb up. He removed the climbing rope from his pack. As he tied it to the climbing cannon's projectile, he could see in the distance the rising column of smoke from the destroyed aircraft that had brought him. He smiles,.One of those features no one would recognize on his face. It was a good thing ... there would be no one to tell tails.

He pushes the projectile hook into the cannon and locks the grapple arms back. He points it to the very high ledge he sees far above and fires. It took long minutes, then a small shower of gravel fell around him. He tugs on the rope hard ... it held fast. His destiny was close at hand as he began to make the long climb to meet it.

-------------------------------------------------

"If you are refreshed," said Number 1, "are you prepared to meet the Guardians?"

"Yes, well, about these Guardians," said Nash. "You said something about ... protecting this place. What does it need protecting from?"

"All will become clear in a moment," said Number 1.

"These are the Guardians," said another of the crystalline figures, gesturing at the altar-like structure and the four objects that rested upon it with a sprouted appendage.

These objects were unlike the rest of the city and its inhabitants -- they were dark, almost black, in color, in contrast to the translucent and transparent sparkling crystals that everything else seemed to be made of. They were each adorned with a single crystal, however, which appeared to be completely clear and colorless. They were in the shapes of slightly curved and tapering cylinders, standing upright, the gemstones all facing in one direction -- toward Nash and Tomas.

"The Guardians look like armbands ... or wrist braces." said Nash.

"Indeed," said Number 1. "The ones who made us, this city's former inhabitants, all wore armbands of one type or another. They were more than just clothing. They were devices with various functions and abilities. But these ... are the most powerful ever created. And they were created because they predicted that this day would come."

"Wait," said Nash. "They predicted this day would come? The Guardians?" He pointed at the armbands on the altar.

"Yes."

"They predicted this before they were made?" Nash asked, looking confused.

"No," said Number 1. "They predicted it as they were made."

Scratching his head, Nash said, "That doesn't make sense ..."

Without preamble or warning, the entity named 1 takes hold of Tomas with appendages it suddenly sprouted.

Tomas gasps in fear, "What are you doing?"

Nash finds himself restrained by the entity named 2. Several of the others pick up 2 of the armbands and approach Tomas. He screams and struggles madly, trying futilly to escape. Number 1 sprouts more appendages. Tomas finds his shirt and jacket removed and the bands fastened around his forearms and thumb. He feels more than hears the click as they lock in place.

Suddenly, Tomas' eyes get big as he gurgles in pain. It feels like a million hot needles are piercing his arms where the Guardians are. He can feel ... something crawling up the insides of his arms. The pain was horrid as it inched through his shoulders. He feels it as it crawls painfully up the back of his neck .. and into his head.

Suddenly, all pain stops ... a small nondescript voice says softly, "This is Guardian weapons admin AI protocol. I will integrate myself into your bio/neural net."

Tomas suddenly is ... aware of things ... many things ... he can feel it as an awesome power suddenly becomes his ... and something else ... His clothes begin to become too big for his body.

As 2 of the other entities bring the other 2 Guardians to Nash, Number 1 says apologetically, "We ... apologies for the suddenness of this .. and the pain. It cannot be helped .. for the demons are at the gate."

"The demons are -- what? Demons? Wh -- Aaaaaagh!"

Nash's questions were cut off as the crystalline beings held him in place and snapped the other two armbands around his wrists nd thumbs. As the feeling of uncountable tiny pins piercing his skin caused him excruciating pain, he vaguely saw the gems on each armband glowing a deep red, but it didn't really register. The pins were moving, moving up his arms, scorching their way through the nerves in his shoulders to his neck. His body was numb; he felt no other sensation because all else was overshadowed by the searing prickling that ate its way up into his head ... and then he felt nothing.

All was dark, but Nash was still conscious. Was time passing? He felt as if he wasn't alone.

An androgynous voice said, emotionlessly, "Guardian AI online. Neural interface 90% complete. 95% complete. Neural interface complete." At the final "complete" he suddenly regained his senses.

He saw the room he had been in. He saw the table with the food and the altar the armbands had been on. They were above his eye level. Had he collapsed to the floor? He saw the humanoid, crystalline entities standing around him. They seemed taller too. "W-what ..." he began, but his voice seemed not his own and sounded strange.

--------------------------------------------

Liao Xia struggles up the rotten stone of the cliff. He looks down to the bottom far below. This gives him more impetus to climb harder. He finally reaches the top edge and scrambles tiredly over. Liao Xia lies on his stomach for a bit and pants, recovering from the mighty exertion required to climb the cliff's edge.

He finally sits up and looks around ... he spies the intricately carved wall. His eyes fall upon the the Simple inscription, 'Light the Candle' Liao Xia 's eyes glitter with an awful madness as he literally crawls to the wall. He takes the brightly glowing sun stone he had taken from his dead grandfather's backpack. He also removes from his fanny pack ... another object that his grandfather had given to him many years before he left on this journey from which he never returned..

He looks at it as he remembers what his grandfather had told him. That when you stand before the candle's flame to wear the band of the Gods. He fastens the damaged, black armband around his wrist. As it clicks closed, the feeling of many burning needles begins its crawl up his arm.

-----------------------------------------------------

"Intrusion detected," said Number 1.

"The sabotaged device," Number 2 added. "It has been activated."

"What happened?" said Nash. His body felt strange. He was cold, realizing that he was only wrapped in a blanket. No, it wasn't a blanket, it was .... He looked around. It was as if his clothes had grown too big for him and had fallen off him as he had fallen to the ground. He was sitting in a pile of huge versions of his own clothes. He saw Tomas next to him, in a similar situation.

"Tomas, are you all right?" asked Nash in a very cute little girl's voice.

Tomas sits up and shakes his head. He feels numb ... and tingly all at the same time. He says in a cute little girl's voice, "I ... I'm ... fine?" He grabs this throat with both hands as he looks at Nash. Tomas squeaks, "We ... we're different. I ... I think we're ..."

Number 1 picks up Tomas, clothes bundle and all, and completes his statement, "You ... are the chosen little girls. The ones who will defend this Holy Land."

Number 2 picks up Nash. Together, both of the crystalline beings carry the 2 back to the crystal bullet that had been waiting patiently since their arrival.

When the beings had entered and the opening had sealed, Number 2 said softly, "We will take you now and get you dressed. Apparently, the Demon has already arrived."

Nash says in his adorable little girl voice, "Demon? How ... and why ... are we girls. How is it we were ... chosen? How did these," Nash holds up his wrists, "Make predictions ... at the exact time they were constructed?"

Without warning, Nash had a waking dream ... that was more than real. He observed the answers to his very questions ... in real time ... then as quickly his mind returned to normal.

"W-wait," said Nash, "so ... there was a rebellion, and the rebel group was exiled from the city ..." He continued to speak in his new tiny, squeaky voice as something supplied the information to his mind, "but the rebels took a pair of the arm devices with them ... and modified them so they could destroy the city?"

Number 1 nodded solemnly. "And when they attacked, the defenders fought back, but almost everyone was killed in the battle, and one of the devices was destroyed, but the other one was lost."

"They called themselves the Moon Tribe, as you now know," said Number 1. "They killed almost everyone. Over the centuries afterward, the rest of the people of the city died out. Only we remain. But the rebels intermarried with the people of the outside world and grew strong again. They didn't return."

"But ... the prophecy said their descendants would, someday, bringing the one remaining device," Nash said. "It's not really a prophecy, is it? It's more like ... a prediction based on the probabilistic projection of all known elements in the equation."

"In other words, a prophecy." Number 1 said.

-----------------------------------------

Liao Xia finally regains his thoughts. The pain had stopped at last. He had heard a voice that told him the band had been interfaced with his nervous system ... although it had been damaged and many functions were reduced in power as a result. As Liao Xia placed the brightly glowing sun stone in the indentation above the scroll work that looked like a candle, many images of a great war danced through his head. He saw one of his ancestors, that had almost been lost in the dark mists of time, manage to escape from the city with 2 of the arm bands ... both of them badly damaged. With the parts of one, he managed to repair the other, so that he now possessed great power ... a power of Telekinesis.

There is a bright flash as the stone was inserted. Liao Xia feels a huge electrical surge run through his body. A small voice said, to place the stone within the glass ampule on the underside of his band. His vision clears ... the crystalline city he saw before him, boggled his imagination. In his wildest dreams he had not envisioned something as technically advanced as this.

-----------------------------------------

"So ... somebody has followed us here with the remaining arm device?" said Nash. There was a voice -- more of a feeling really -- in his head that told him it was so. "But this city is a work of art -- a lost wonder of the ancient world. We can't let it be destroyed."

"And that is why the two of you are here," said Number 1.

"To prevent its destruction?" Nash asked.

The crystal bullet train came to an almost imperceptible halt as Number 1 answered, "No, to get dressed. The problem, as you have certainly noticed, is that the Guardians were made for people much smaller than you originally were. The humans of today seem to be much larger than those of long ago. What is more ... they were designed by the last inhabitants of this city, twin young girls who were geniuses but had a genetic disease that they knew would take them before their time."

Tomas asks in his new voice, "Genetic ... disease? you mean ... we havea ... genetic defect?"

Number 1 replies, "You absolutely do sweet heart. It's ... the reason your species only lives 60 or 70 years ... instead of the many centuries they are supposed to. With the bands ... this issue is resolved, and it also enables you to use them properly. In the whole of this earth, there were only 2 who could ... those 2 happen to be you."

Tomas asks, "Why comes we ... are so small?"

Number 2 replies, "You are normal size now. When you arrived, you were actually giants."

Tomas and Nash look at each other with big eyes.

"But ... but ... we're little girls," Nash said, still trying to understand what had happened, "and it hurt so much, and there was darkness, and there was a voice, and now we're so tiny but we have to save the city from demons ..."

Nash was feeling overwhelmed, and his eyes filled with tears. Before he realized it, he was sobbing.

"Oh, please do not worry, dear one," said Number 1. "I know there is a lot to absorb, but it will be all right."

Number 1 had laid some type of thick, soft blanket like tablecloth over a crystal table that magically grew from the floor, picked up the sobbing Nash, setting him down on the soft surface. "Let's get you dressed, OK? Then at least you won't be so cold."

While Number 2 did the same for Tomas on another table, Number 1 reached into either a drawer containing such things or a device that created them on the spot, producing a thick, hourglass-shaped piece of cloth, and, lifting Nash up to slide it under him, set him back down upon it and fastened it on either side with its built-in fasteners, which required only a touch to attach themselves and pull the garment snugly together on each side. It then lifted up his arms and slid them through each shoulder of a shimmering white dress-like garment with what seemed like several layers of skirt.

Nash sniffled and finally saw what he was being dressed in. "What? What are you putting on me ...?"

Number 1 was finishing the job with an opalescent dress whose color seemed to be continuously changing but which had short and puffy sleeves, a high neckline, and a hemline that barely covered the crinoline he had on below it, all decorated with lace that was unearthly in its delicacy. It was also, however, decorated with tiny filaments of some sort of thread that extended from the sleeves and skirt and seemed to float weightless in the air. The shoes it put on his feet looked like some sort of crystalline Cinderella slippers, but had flat soles and felt like high-performance running shoes.

"Why, a dress fit for a Guardian, dear." cooed Number 1

Nash saw his reflection in a nearby crystal surface and couldn't recognize it as himself. He saw a tiny music-box baby princess in iridescent splendor. Even the armbands had somehow changed to match, also shifting in color with the light, the gemstones on each one shining with white light.

Nash turned and look at Tomas, he too was dressed much the same.

Tomas giggles, "Why Nash, you are so cute. You think tha boys in class would wanna date?"

He giggles more as Nash turns Tomas towards the shiny crystal surface next to them. Tomas eyes get huge as his mouth falls open at the adorable reflections of the 2 little girls looking back.

There is a far off huge noise that causes the floor beneath them to tremble.

Number 1 says with detectable urgency in his tome, "I think we had better be hurrying on girls ... the Demon's at the gate ... and he's rather upset I would think."

---------------------------------------------------

Liao Xia realizes that some kind of crystalline pillars had sprung up all around him blocking further progress into the city. A rage filled his heart. He has come so far ... he refuses to be stopped now. Without understanding how, Liao Xia raises his hand, a huge ball of yellow / red energy springs from it and impacts on the spires in front of him. There is a tremendous explosion intermingled with the tinkling shattering sound of breaking glass. The whole area trembles with the explosion. Liao Xia feels pain in his head and through his arm. The damaged Armband takes a toll. He wobbles on his feet for a few minutes before he recovers. He steps through the shattered, smoldering wreckage of the Crystalline beings he had mercilessly destroyed.

-----------------------------------------

"But ... but we're little girls," Nash asked Number 1, who was wincing in apparent pain after the distant explosions. "How are we going to stand up to a ... demon? Are demons real? Won't it laugh at us?"

"Oh dear, oh dear ..." Number 1 replied. "Just ask within your mind what it is that you face, and you will know. And you can appear to him as anything or anyone you wish. Just ask within your mind, and you will know how."

Nash thought about the question he had, about who was attacking the city, and he saw images ... a man, his face twisted with rage, but also with pain, lashing out at the crystal columns surrounding him with ... another armband, this one a deep red color and with a sparkling blue gemstone. Wait -- didn't he recognize that face? "It's Liao Xia!" said Nash's tiny, high voice. "I swear it's him. What's Liao Xia doing here?"
\
Tomas saw in his mind's eye the same images as did Nash. He saw the sun stone embedded within the armband on Liao Xia's wrist. Without really thinking about it, Tomas holds out his hand, the brightly glowing sun stone is within. He blinks as he sees it divide in 2. Number 1 takes the other stone and hands it to Nash.

Tomas says in his cute voice, "Nash, place it here like this." Nash watches as Tomas places his stone on the back of his band within the glowing crystal tube. The arm band began to glow brightly with all the colors of the rainbow. Tomas continues, "Liao Xia's arm band is incomplete and damaged. It's also not balanced. There is half the circuit missing."

Nash looks at Tomas questioningly as he continues, "When the original war took place, The other arm band was damaged. They are not exactly the same. One," he holds up his right hand, "Complements the other," he holds up his other hand, "whoever repaired Liao Xia's band, combined the 2 of them to make 1. It ... hurts him and drains his life force for a time for him to use it."

Nash placed the stone into the slot in his right armband, which seemed to be made for it, and that band also lit up like Tomas' had. He then touched the two together, and some sort of energy transferred from one to the other, because the left one also began to glow.

"What does this do?" he wondered, and then the Guardians' presence in his mind told him. "They're ... complete? What does that mean?" Again, he paused. "They can do ... all that?"

Tomas nodded.

"We'd better stop Liao Xia before he does more damage," Nash concluded. He looked at Number 1 and began to ask, "What's the fastest way to get to ... Oh." He already knew.

"No words can express our thanks," said Number 1. "Please forgive us for forcing this upon you. We had no choice."

As they walked to the crystal bullet vehicle, Nash said, "I understand. But we'll be back, and we can talk then."

Liao Xia walked carefully onward in his quest for the ultimate power that he knew this city was hiding from him. He stopped to look around every corner, as if some kind of guard dog might leap out at him at any moment. Then he heard something behind him. "Liao Xia," said a voice.

He turned to see Tomas and Nash, dressed in their travel fatigues, as they must have been sent straight here from Tarim.

"Ah, you two," he said. "As you see, I followed you, and as you see, I came prepared." To emphasize his point, he held up his armband, the blue stone sparkling within.

Tomas smiles as he holds up both of his arms, "You mean ... these? A Balanced and fully charged Guardian pair?"

Liao Xia's eyes grew large with surprise. The very thing he was searching for ... he had to have them at any cost. Liao Xia points his finger at a large stone behind Tomas and Nash in hopes they didn't yet realize what they had.

Nash hears the falling of sand and small gravel. He turns and sees the rapidly approaching bolder. He pushes Tomas in one direction and dives in the other. A large very bright blue spark leaps from Tomas and Nash's hands at the same time. A loud crackling zap, the smell of ozone was strong, The stone shattered into sand and rained down over the 3 of them in a heavy sheet. Tomas and Nash stand up as they brush the sand from their fatigues.

Tomas says with a sneer in his voice, "Feel better Liao Xia? Or do you feel ... drained .. slightly in pain?"

Tomas points his finger at Liao Xia's midsection ... a huge bolt of blue fire leaps forward, only to be deflected into a nearby crystal wall, shattering its glossy beauty in a shower of shards. Nash raises his arm and a large bolt flashes from his fingers as Nash and Tomas dive for better cover. Another tremendous explosion with the shattering sound of glass intermingled. When Tomas looked around from his hiding place, he was astounded to see Liao Xia appeared to have aged many years in a few minutes. As he stared, Liao Xia recovered to his normal self.

"Feeling a bit tired yet?" asked Nash.

"I feel fine," Liao Xia said. "It is all worth it. Once I possess the ultimate power this city contains, nothing will stand in my way." He looked around for some kind of advantage, some kind of leverage he could use.

"We can't let you do that," Nash said. "We've seen the ancient Tibetan and Uyghur sites you've plundered, the precious contextual knowledge lost to history forever as a result of your greed. All that matters to you is that you get there first."

"Of course that is all that matters," said Liao Xia, stalling to catch his breath. "It is all that has ever mattered -- to me, to my father, to my grandfather, and to his father before him, down through the generations."

"Wait -- the Moon Tribe," said Nash. "In Chinese, that translates to Yue Zhi. You can trace you ancestry back to the Yuezhi?"

"The story of this city and how we were cast out has been passed down in my family from ancient times," Liao Xia screamed. "We were cast out, but now I return. To rule it!"

As Liao Xia ranted, he raised his fist in the air. It just happened to be the one with the armband on it. Nash and Tomas see his eyes get big as his mouth falls open. His attention is totally lost in some other direction, Tomas and Nash totally forgotten.

They heard him gasp out, "It's .. real ... the Sun Source is real!" The 2 see Liao Xia take a step, then vanish in a ball of red / yellow lightning.

Tomas jumps out from behind the wall he was crouched behind and shouts, "No!" His only reply is the strong oder of ozone. Tomas turns to Nash as he reverts to his true form, "What did he mean ... the Sun Source?"

His query to the Guardian provided nothing, it too did not understand the reference, except a small, very ancient foot note that there was an ultimate power source created ... although any other references were lost to the mists of time.

"Find him ... can you find him?" His mind searched the contact that he had with the Guardian's presence. "Where did he go? Can you sense his presence?" Finally, there came some information ... a direction and a distance. "What's there?"

There wasn't much information, but there was a map. It was a chamber in a tunnel, one of a warren of tunnels that had been carved into the mountains over the millennia by many people, both before and after the city had been built.

"Wait," Nash said. "What if the exiles, the Moon Tribe, built something there? Without the knowledge of anyone from the city? The Guardians wouldn't have that information if nobody from the city ever knew about it."

Tomas looks at his Guardian for a few seconds as he attempts to find all the information he could on the maze of tunnels they would have to traverse to find the central chamber.

Tomas asks Nash, "What if this ... Sun Source ... is an ultimate weapon of some kind. Like ... like the Hydrogen bomb or something?"

Liao Xia appears in a very dark place. The strong oder of ozone permeates everything. Ebony blackness surrounds him. He points his finger in front of him, a large ball of energy leaps from his hand to the near wall. There is a tremendous impact ... everything trembles. The sound of small falling objects is heard. The place of impact begins to glow with tremendous heat from the energy. Liao Xia Leans over and pants.

The exertion to produce this light, and to transport himself here, and to fight off those 2 meddlesome idiots, had drained him for a few minutes. If he had a mirror to look at himself, he would have seen it had temporarily aged him many, many years. The more energy he used, the longer it was taking him to recover as his life energy was expended. He needed to rest .. to sleep, so his life force could recoup to normal levels.

He couldn't rest now -- not when the opportunity of a lifetime was here in front of him. Or he presumed it was. The dust was still clearing ... to reveal a hidden chamber.

"Quick," said Nash, "we need to get to him!" As he spoke the illusion wavered and fell, leaving only the little girl that Nash now was. His voice, or perhaps one should say her voice, changed as she spoke back in the tiny, high-pitch that his new vocal cords produced. "How close can we get to him safely by ... teleporting, or whatever you call it?"

Tomas shook 'her' head slowly, "I'm not sure ... I've never teleported before ... or even had the wildest idea it was possible."

The 2 girls looked at each other for a few seconds before Tomas took Nash by her hand, "I guess the only way to find out ... is to do it."

Before Nash could say anything, she felt a very powerful wave of static like energy roll across her body. For just an instant, her vision became fuzzy .... then she saw absolutely nothing but Stygian darkness.

Tomas whimpers softly, "Can ... can you see ... anything at all?"

Nash shakes her head ... not even thinking that Tomas couldn't see her. Tomas holds her arm out and thinks real hard about light. The Sun Stone encased in the Guardian began to glow brightly, illuminating a large cavern with many maze like tunnels interconnecting at many places. The walls were adorned with many pictographs and very intricate scroll works.

Nash wondered how old all of this was, and immediately the Guardian began to fill his mind with thoughts about what it knew. In what the rest of the world considered the year 2000 BC, the city now called Altaia was thousands of years old, and that was when the most recent of these tunnels was known to have been carved out of the mountains' living rock. The oldest ones went back so far that not even the inhabitants of Altaia knew who had made them.

"These carvings," Nash said, "I've never seen this language before. They're ..." and she paused as the Guardian filled in the blanks, "an ancient writing system that eventually developed into what was later used to write the Tocharian languages. The knowledge that's here in this area ... it would revolutionize everything. So much that's been lost! But ... how far are we?"

A glow appeared in the air. As they watched, a three-dimension map appeared, made of shimmering light, showing their position and the known tunnels between them and where Liao Xia's life signature was detected.

"That's ... not too far away, but we'd better get moving." Thomas said matter of factly.

Tomas saw all the intricate pictograph wirings on the wall. He was fascinated. It told a history of the earth, and the history of another world as well. It told of a massive explosion the cause the planet to change orbit. It told of massive volcanism and the loss of the electromagnetic shielding protecting it from its sun.

Tomas points as she says in a gasp, "Nash ... this tells ... that these people ... came from another world many centuries ago."

Nash grabs Tomas by his arm and says insistently, "We have to go ... before Liao Xia discovers how to use that ... thing he found."

He hurries out of the chamber with Tomas in tow

"We can examine the writings later," said Nash.

They hurried through human-made tunnels connecting natural caverns until suddenly -- "Stop!" Nash whispered, putting an arm in front of Tomas' chest.

Then there was a flash of light from up ahead, which was blinding to their dark-adapted eyes. As the image of the passages ahead of them hung in the air before them, gradually fading from their vision, they heard the echoes of distant laughter.

Liao Xia's voice screamed, "I've done it!" in exultant Chinese. And as their vision returned to normal, Nash and Tomas could now see a glow from up ahead, an eerie, pale, shimmering light.

"I think ... I think I just wet myself," said Nash.

Tomas and Nash slowly creep closer to the glowing end of the tunnel. Nash squirmed in her wet panties uncomfortably. As they round the sharp bend, they see off at a right angle, another opening that the bright glow is emanating from.

Tomas whispers to Nash, "I ... I think I wet myself too." Both girls look at each other for a second, before they get the nerve to creep up to the edge of the opening. Tomas was pulling between her legs uncomfortably at the new sensation of wetness.

When they peer in, they see Liao Xia dancing around in an insane twirling manner, screaming almost unintelligibly. What they saw was a total technological marvel. Sitting on 4 glowing crystal pedestal legs, was a round spheroid. A Torus made of some kind of fibrous hollow strands wrapped around the middle. The girls could see some kind of many colored fluids rapidly flowing around the spheroid through the strands. Wrapped catty corner around the spheroid in opposite directions, were 2 more toruses, made of some kind of unknown materials. They glowed brightly as the whole devise hummed with a deep base sound. Within the very center of the spheroid, the girls could see a massive plasma energy of unknown type, boiling hotly within.

The Sun stones embedded in all the Guardians began to glow extremely bright, lighting up the whole area brighter than day. Liao Xia was so lost in whatever fantasy he was in ... he failed to notice the surprised faces of 2 little girls peering around the opening to this cavern. The girls could feel each base throb of power the devise emanated. The hairs on their heads stood out with the static discharge of the powerful emissions.

Nash felt the two Guardian armbands prickle uncomfortably, a shadow of the pain they had caused when they had first been attached. He noticed that they had turned black again, and the jewels on them were again colorless and dark. He wondered why, and couldn't sense the Guardian's presence in his mind.

"Something -- probably that thing -- is interfering with the Guardians," he whispered in Tomas' ear.

The two of them retreated back around the corner, and the Guardians seemed to activate again.

"The rock seems to block it," Nash whispered.

"Now ultimate power will be mine!" Liao Xia shouted from the next room. "The Sun Source! It's real! It works! Ancestors, this is the completion of your work! The city of Altaia will fall!"

When the girls see Liao Xia come from the room. The person they see is almost unrecognizable. His hair is long raggy white, his beard is the same. This was a very old man, compared to the young man they remembered from a few minutes ago.

Tomas says softly to Nash, "His arm band is ... not complete. The more energy he uses, the more life force it saps from him. He hasn't given himself time to rest. If we push him, it'll probably kill him from old age.”

The 2 girls look at each other as Liao Xia continues to scream, "Hear me oh ye of the lost city. Know ... Liao Xia has come to claim his rightful place on the Crystal Throne."

He thrust the arm with the Band on it into the air. A huge spark of energy leaps from his hand. The cavern shook and trembled. The girls could feel a wave of heat coming from Liao Xia's direction ... growing in intensity.

Suddenly, reality seemed to bend. Things became distorted and ephemeral. Time seemed to twist back upon itself, just as the inscription they read had mentioned. The girls began to see many ghostly figures of peoples moving to and from along the corridors.

"What are you doing?" Nash shouted, his voice high and tiny. "Are you trying to bend time back on itself? To go back to the past?"

The Guardian presence in her mind told her that this was in fact what he was trying to do, and that whatever this "Sun Source" was, this would tax it to the utmost.

"We have to get out of here!" Taking Tomas's hand, Nash tried to run from the room.

"No!" screamed Liao Xia, reaching for the girls. "You of the city! You must stay and watch! Watch as I take your city from you!"

Lightning surged from the band around his outstretched arm, and a stone wall appeared to cut off their retreat. But the light coming from behind him, already flickering, began to shudder, and sounds like those of a short-circuiting power substation came from the room behind him, the room of the Sun Source.

Nash and Tomas touched the stone wall where once there had been an opening. It was as solid as any stone. They had no choice but to stay. They turned and saw Liao Xia, grinning maniacally, surrounded by translucent figures, figures of people walking to and fro, not appearing to notice any of this. They saw into the past, but the past did not see them.

Tomas watched as Liao Xia viably aged before his eyes. He seemed to be loosing his mind at the same pace as he laughed maniacally.

Tomas whispers to Nash above the cacophony of shorting sounds, "We ... have to find some place to hide ... the Sun Source is ... malfunctioning badly."

The girls watched as many sparks and plasma fires began to leap from the room behind Liao Xia. The ghostly figures appeared to become more solid as rapidly as the machine shorted out. The girls felt a terrible pressure in their ears and all over their bodies suddenly. Things were very quiet. Liao Xia and the machine ... and much of the before visible tunnels had totally vanished. The over powering smell of ozone was everywhere.

Tomas asks softly, "What ... just happened?"

Nash looked around. "Are we in the same place we were?" she asked. "It's hard to tell. In the dark, all the caverns looked the same. But just now I was too worried to look around us."

The Guardian presence in her mind -- somehow she was thinking of herself as a girl more and more now -- told her that they had in fact moved. Tomas' desire to find a place to hide had caused the Guardians to take them to a safe distance. Just as Nash mentally thanked the Guardians, they both felt a shock wave blow through the cavern they were in. The ground shook, and stone fell from the ceiling, accompanied by falling debris, small stones, and dust ... in a moment things were quiet again. They both sat in thought for a time, wondering what had happened and whether it was safe to move.

In a few moments, Nash said, "The Guardian says we can go back to where we were. It says it won't have any trouble taking us there this time. I wonder what that means."

The girl's vision faded for an instant, to come back to full view. The Sun Stones in their Guardians provided plenty of light. The cavern had changed dramatically. The room that had originally housed the Sun Source was no longer carved from the living rock. Much of the room they stood in, had the rock vitrified by some form of tremendous heat.

They had the original map still within the data base of the Guardians ... a new scan showed many of the old tunnels just plain weren't there any longer. Tomas noticed much of the pictographs and scroll work on the walls had vanished ... where much of it had changed completely.

Tomas poked Nash on the arm and said softly as she points to the other side of the cavern, “Look at that ... everything is different .. and that is totally new.”

Nash turns and sees what Tomas pointed at. On the other side of the cavern, was a very intricately and ornately carved indentation in the wall. There was a crystal panel covering the opening, effectively sealing it. In a very old and flowery scrips above it ... in the oldest of languages ... it said 'Here Lies the Demon Liao Xia.' The girls look at each other wide eyed for a few minutes until the shock wore off.

"He ... sent himself back in time?" Nash wondered in her tiny voice. "And he changed the past ... because this wasn't here before." The Guardian presence in her mind told her that things had indeed changed.

"I see ... the rebels were on the verge of perfecting their energy source when a madman appeared from nowhere with a broken armband," Nash relayed. "The Sun Source's energy was unleashed prematurely ... originally they were going to use it as a weapon against Altaia, but it wasn't complete yet."

Tomas says softly, “My Guardian says we were shielded from the changed time flux because we were in transport at the time the paradox happened. We ... and our Guardians, are the only ones who know ... time is now different." Tomas holds her head for a second as the massive data became known to her tiny mind.

She shakes her head and continues, "Apparently, Liao Xia appeared at a critical juncture. He had massive powers and had totally lost his mind. He took over this cavern and destroyed many in the process. He attempted to attack the city and had over stressed the then malfunctioning Sun Source machine he had used to travel back in time. The insuring explosion melted the rock faces we see here ... and destroyed the rebels that were building the Sun Source in this time creating what is known as a Grandfather Paradox."

Nash walks to the place the door to the other room should have been and runs his hand over the massively melted rock face.

Tomas continues, "Because the rebels that built this place ... and constructed the Sun Source were totally eradicated, the tunnels never got dug ... and the Sun Source never constructed. The only thing left after the explosion ... was the charred remains of Liao Xia, his damaged armband ... and ... those."

Tomas points to a very beautiful crystalline cylinder attached to the middle of Liao Xia's crypt.

"What's this?" Nash said, looking at the cylinder. "It looks like it opens."

Climbing up onto the stone structure, Nash lifted the heavy lid of the crystal cylinder and looked inside. Inside was a bundle of long, perfectly straight multicolored crystal rods. She lifted one up carefully, and suddenly the gemstones in her Guardians began scanning them with beams of red and green light.

"What? They're ... plans ... schematics ... stored on these crystal rods. Plans for ... the completed Sun Source ..."

She picked up another rod, and her armbands scanned it with light as well. "Plans for a pair of armbands such as Liao Xia had, only balanced, and complete ..." Nash simply put into words what the Guardian presence was telling her in her mind. "And records of how this all happened."

"We should take these back to the city, so --" Nash began, then stopped. "Oh. The Guardians scanned the records already. They've already been sent. We can leave them here."

The girls replaced the crystal rods back into the cylinder and sealed the top once again.

"Also," Nash said, "we should go back to the city. They say something about meeting our new family ... and --" Nash blushed at this -- "changing into dry panties."

The girl's held hands. Once again, their sight dimmed for an instant ... then they reappeared in ... a whole new and more majestic city than the one they had left. The girl's blinked in surprise as they turned slowly around. The city in all is bejeweled splendor rose around them in all its technological wonders.

They hear footfalls coming from behind them. When they turned, there was a crowd of people, all approaching them rapidly. The girls huddled together ... unsure of whether they should be afraid ... or not.

One of the men stopped a few paces from them and said in a sing song voice that the girls understood through the Guardians, "Welcome Angels of Grace. We have awaited your return ... low these many centuries. I am ... your great ... great ... great ..." He then stops and looks at the very pretty woman next to him. She shrugs. He looks at he girls again and continues, "Lets us say ... I am as close to being your father ... as can be at this time."

"But ... but we came from the outside world," said Nash. "We're archaeologists."

"Yes, you are -- or were," said the man. “And because of the Guardians, we know that all of time has changed. Both for our world ... and for yours.”

The girls noticed he was very handsome, tall, at least compared to the two small girls, and he wore a long blue robe decorated with gems. On his arms were a pair of matching blue armbands with sparkling gemstones on them. "But now you have a choice to make. You see, you have been a part of events that changed history. Without you, Liao Xia would never have found this place, and would never have changed the past. But you also helped to defeat him, so you have a place of honor here. In your time line, this city is a dead place, and only our crystal servants survive. But here, it still flourishes."

"We can ... choose?" asked Nash.

"Yes," said the man. The Guardian presence in Nash's mind told her that his name was Trhuno Almaan. "We can send you back to your old lives in your previous time line, but there, this city is dying. Or you are welcome to stay here, in this time line, among us, honored as heroines of the land. But I'm afraid that either way, you will still be very small girls. In your time line, you will be cared for by the crystalline servants for as long as they continue to function. Here, we will all take care of you. But it is up to you."

Tomas figits and squirms slightly. She says in a very small and shy voice, "Ummm ... I would like to stay here ... but I needs ta ...get a fresh pair of ... pannies??"

Tomas blushes very pink and is very embarrassed.

The pretty woman standing next to the man puts her hand to her mouth and gasps softly, "Why, you two must need attention really badly after all that. Aww poor sweet hearts."

She rushes over and checks Toma's panties , then checks Nash's. She takes the 2 girls by their hands and says, "Come with mommy, I'll get you both in a nice soft diaper straight away."

As she escorts the girls towards a crystalline bullet train, they notice she too has a pair of wrist bands on her arms as well. The girl's are informed by the Guardians, only the highest ruling class ... wore those bands ... the City's protectors .. to which they now belonged.

-----------------------------------------

~~ The End ~~

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Miki Yamuri
 
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