Chapter Five

“The veils are dangerously thin and a portal has been left open. I suspect it’s how they got through, child. We must be on our guard.”

Aishe’s words echoed into the depths of the cave, ricocheting off the uneven limestone walls, firing round after round of…be on our guard, be on our guard...

The portal was my mistake, and everyone was paying the price.
We were at the entrance to Bagtor mines, an old network of tunnels and caves. No-one came here anymore, unless to tip their rubbish or sneak some intimacy from prying eyes. Burgess and I stood quietly as we waited for Aishe’s guidance, and I crossed my fingers, hoping that the cover of the mines would buy us some time.

“Burgess, do you still have those matches and candle from earlier?”

I watched with sympathy as Burgess fumbled with the knot holding his bundle tight. He’d been right when he’d said he was out of his depth, his bag was not the only thing knotted.  Yet here he was, dutiful as ever as he reached up, handing me a squashed cardboard box with his shaking hand.

“Here you go, it’s a bit wet.”

I took the matches from him and smiled as I checked they were still usable.

“It doesn’t matter. Thanks. And the candle?”

“Yep, it’s here somewhere.”

Our hands brushed at the exchange and we stared at each other as I struck the match.  It felt odd to be acting so normal considering what was out there, searching for our blood.

“What next, Aishe?” I waited, while Burgess did his best to conceal the entrance to the cave with old wood and fallen stones.

“Give me a minute, child.” Her tone was snappy; I think she was as worried as I was.

“It’s been some time since I was last here, I need to get my bearings… getting lost now, would not be wise!”

I wanted to tell her we didn’t have time for bearings – but I knew that what she said was right. I saw Burgess too as he shifted from foot to foot, raising his eyes. Both of us wanted to get out of sight, before those things caught up. But I felt bad when I saw that her cloak was torn on one side, and her arm was dripping with loose skin and blood

“Aishe? You’re hurt! Are you okay?”

She gathered her cloak to hide her wound.

“It’s a scratch dear, nothing for you to worry about. Now, give me that candle and follow me closely. We need the wind at our backs and our wits a stride in front.”

Our footsteps barely made a sound as we crept forward, even our breath was sympathetic.

Aishe moved quickly, taking the only light with her. We would need to keep up. 

“Hold my hand, Jay?” He smiled.

“Sure, will be easier to stay together.”

I didn’t want to lose him; the blackness was quickly turning to blindness and I instantly felt a little safer when he’d squeezed my hand. We walked like that, for some time.

“Thank you Jay.”

“No problem.” He kissed the back of my hand as we walked.

The deeper the tunnel led us, the colder and damper it became. I had no idea how the wind managed to whistle in such long, low moans between the winding walls, we were miles away from the entrance, now. Then Aishe’s frantic voice interrupted my thoughts and my heart nearly stopped as she screamed out.

“It’s changed, it’s ALL changed!”

I shouted through the dark tunnels.

”What Aishe? What’s changed?”

“Everything! The whole lot’s changed; nothing’s the same as it was before!”

When I found her, she was on her knees, scratching around the floor with her long nails, counting up the walls, estimating inches and slapping the stone as if it owed her something.

“Child, your eyes are better than mine, come here and search for the eye will you? It’s only gone and moved!”

I joined her on the floor and took the candle from her, putting the flame close enough to the wall to see what she was looking for.

“What eye?”

Udjat child! No time to explain!”

“Have you been here before?”

I repeated it several times, but Aishe continued to bash upon the wall, totally unaware of me or my questions.

“The tunnel, it’s different to last time. And the lock – it’s gone!”

I’d never seen her like this before. Angry yes, sarcastic and bitter, definitely, but manic… never. It made me really scared to see her like this, her of all people.


She stopped. One eye on me, the other rolling around inside its closed lid, and then I saw it… and lowered my tone.

“Aishe, the amulet? Will the amulet help us find the key, to find Udjat?”

Her hand reached inside her collar, grasping at her chest and pulling out the object roughly. She clung to it tightly, only bearing the chain which had caught the candle light.

“Yes, yes! Good girl, that’s it! How could I have been so stupid as to have forgotten?”

Although she seemed a bit more together, she remained on the floor, almost parallel to it and ran her grubby hands along the base of the wall to her left.

“There it is! The marker! We have to move, we’re not even in the right place.”

At the bottom of the wall was a craggy lip about two inches from the floor. Aishe was already packing her scattered things by the time I’d reached down and felt for the marker myself. 

“A sun? It’s a sun. Is that right, Aishe?”

But she’d already left. Then I remembered Burgess. I’d totally forgotten that he was with me while Aishe had freaked out.

“Put your hand here, Jay, it’s a carving, I’m not sure what it means but it must be important if Aishe’s run off again.”

“This place is weird, Indie, I don’t like it. I think we should just keep moving.”

“You’re right, but I have a strange feeling I’ve been here before.”

“More than likely, knowing your childhood! Come on, let’s go, it’s getting really spooky down here and I don’t think we should get separated. Aishe may be mental, but I feel much safer when she’s around.”

”True, we’d better catch up; I can hear banging above ground which doesn’t sound too reassuring.”

It wasn’t long before we found her. The odd noises she made gave her whereabouts away and the wound on her arm was beginning to slow her down. I saw that she had another gash on her leg too. Crafty old sod, it was just like her to pretend all was well.
We must have startled her because she jumped when she finally noticed us.

“I’ve found the other one, you two! First it was Ra, and now Thoth - the Sun and the Moon. Which means if we backtrack just a metre or so and take the tunnel in the middle… yes, yes, we are very nearly there!”

I watched Burgess open his mouth but I coughed loudly enough to grab his attention and placed a finger over my lips before he had the chance to utter a word.

The air had gotten sticky, and hot, and it felt like we were going downhill again. This time, Burgess was a step in front of me, but he kept checking behind to make sure I was still there. I’m not sure whether I preferred his sarcasm or his silence. Either way, he seemed as though he’d resigned himself to what lay ahead. That was when I realised how much I cared about him. Burgess - the firmest of all non-believers. Loyally following me all this way, with Aishe stabbing him in the chest and treating him like a dog. That took some guts.

The crazed woman nearly sent me flying as she appeared out of nowhere and pushed past me, having spotted something to my side and going straight into another room I hadn’t noticed.

“The lock! And the chamber! I’ve found them. About bloody time too, the air is cleaner here as well, and it’s definitely the right place. 
Come and have a sniff, you two, see for yourself.”

As Burgess and I turned the corner, we entered a small chamber. It was circular, with a ceiling just high enough to stand beneath. Once again, Aishe was on the floor and holding the candle against the walls.

“I’m looking for a sign. Cracks or a hinge will do. The door of Wodanaz is close, I know it!”

Burgess lowered his voice.

“Has she gone completely insane?”

“Fraid not, Jay, this is Aishe at her best. Wodanaz, I think, was the god of magicians in Norse legend; don’t quote me on that, though.”

“Norse, Egyptian? Didn’t your lot stick to just one set of stories?”

“Too long to explain right now, Jay.” I moved around the room, letting him witter away.

I was surprised at how much was coming back to me as I looked around the chamber, trying to remember if I had been here before or not. The walls in this room were different to the others. Strange pictures had been carved into them, some of them I recognised as symbols from the tradition, various gods and depictions of the forest. What struck me most were the figure heads of various animals, placed methodically around the curves of each wall, all with a large hole which gaped at the mouth.

“Aishe, the animals, they’re not just for decoration are they?”

She stopped what she was doing and raised an eyebrow.

“Very observant. Not just a pretty face after all, eh?” She chuckled to herself.

“Quite right you are! We all need a little protection from time to time. Too many folk round here like to go poking their noses in others business. And if it’s their noses they want to go a pokin’ then let them, if they fancy bein’ deep fried, that is!” She erupted into shrill laughter again.

“You mean hot oil? Aishe! But that’s medieval… surely not?”

“Child, I don’t have time for this now. Maybe I should’ve told you more when I had the chance, but that time’s passed and now we have to find a way in. Here, take this and point it at the walls while I chant. If we’re lucky, it’ll wake the gods and they’ll show us where the door is, you’ll know what to do. Boy, you come and sit with me. Two voices are better than one!”

She handed me the amulet as she tore it from her neck and grabbed Burgess by his cuff, sitting him on the floor as she drew a circle round them both.

He didn’t look too impressed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me! Indie?”

I had to admit, I did cringe for him a bit, but Aishe was right, resonance is key in magic. Two voices really are better than one.

“Sorry Jay, just do what she says. I promise I won’t look.”

He muttered something I couldn’t hear and removed the bundle from his back, slinging it at my feet. Then Aishe began.

As above, so below
So the saying goes.
As within, so without
Unlock, Udjat
As above, so below
So the saying goes.
As within, so without
Unlock, Udjat

Aishe chanted alone, but not for long.

“Come now lad, it’s only words, what harm can it do?” She cackled to herself.

Burgess puffed out his cheeks which were now a rosy shade, and he silently steamed. But when a large noise rang out from above our heads, he soon gave in and chanted with Aishe.

“That’s it Burgess young lad! You got the hang of it … no point chancin’ fate now, is there!”

The amulet began to respond to the sounds of their chanting, heating the palm of my hand and buzzing. Aishe called out.

“Indigo, keep a watchful eye on these walls. The door will reveal itself when the time is good, but it won’t stay for long, and remember, we don’t get any second chances! Those things are here!”

“And then what do I do?”

Too late, she was gone, deep in a trance, her hands locked with Burgess’s. What was I supposed to do with the amulet once the door showed itself? Damn it.

“Where are you, door?” I ran my hands across every surface I could find, even the floor, but there was nothing.

I touched the walls again, feeling for a hinge or a sudden gust of air.  The carvings ran through my fingers like Braille, but none of it made any sense to me, what did she mean – When the door reveals itself? What I really wanted to do was to shake Burgess awake and hide somewhere with him. Yet another bang came from above, and I jumped. They were close and I was close to panic.

“Think Indie, think… you know this stuff… it’s who you are!”

I guess I expected to answer my own question, and as I tried to piece together all the clues we’d come across, it hit me like a train!
I thought hard, but the banging above me made it difficult to concentrate as it got nearer, so I closed my eyes, just like Aishe used to. The old woman had hidden so many secrets of our old ways in stories when I was a child that I’d almost suppressed their importance. It was only in more recent years had that I’d begun to piece them all together and understand her messages. This one I spoke out loud, to make better sense of it.

‘The tale of Ra and Thoth, the Sun and Moon… and Udjat the Wise, who hid in the ocean, no longer willing to share his wisdom, until the warring pair had learned to work in harmony.  Both Ra and Thoth had their hands bound by bandits while journeying by sea in search of him, jumping into the ocean to escape and hoping to find Udjat who may save them. With luck, upon the sea bed, Udjat shone out for both men to glance, and they swam against each other in a bid to get to him first. But with no hands to scoop him up, the men soon realised that now it was  time to end their feuding, and so they buried their heads beneath the layer of sand Udjat rested on, pressing their faces together and thus freeing their friend.’

The amulet was painfully hot in my hand now and I knew at once where it must go. I listened to the chanting behind me, spurred by the banging above… and pressed the hot metal to my forehead, listening to my skin sizzle as the two became one.

As above, so below
So the saying goes.
As within, so without
Unlock, Udjat
As above, so below
So the saying goes.
As within, so without
Unlock, Udjat

The pain was unbearable, and the chanting made it worse.  I dropped to my knees, hunched like a stretching cat, and slowly dropped my burning head to the floor.

“Get on your feet, Indigo. One chance, she said, don’t blow it!”

My legs buckled beneath me, my head swam and burned all at once, but then the gleaming, yellow outline of a doorway caught my eye. I saw hinges and a handle and the welcoming symbol of my mother’s clan. It was the tree of life, the very same that Burgess now bore on his skin.

He and Aishe were still locked in their trance and the spell became deafening. And the creatures from the forest… they were coming down the corridor. I felt their heat blowing into the chamber.
I took a few awkward steps to where the light came through the walls and placed my hands on either side of it. Before I knew it, my head had fallen forward and bound itself to the coolness of the stone, and as suddenly as the pain had come - it was gone. The amulet had now embedded itself in the wall and shone back at me, and I instinctively felt my forehead to check what damage it had done. There wasn’t even a mark.

As soon as I stood back, light filled the chamber, it literally poured out, filling everywhere. And it pulsated till the whole of Bagtor shook. I was thrown back against the far side of the chamber and landed flat on my face. The chanting came to a stop and Aishe and Burgess sat lifeless within the circle, heads lolled and eyes shut. Then a long creak groaned out from the walls, an eerie sound against the silence. Too much time had been spent, I heard the howls of the demons behind me and I desperately needed to wake the others up.

“Aishe… they’re here! Aishe, it’s done, come on!”

I shook her and watched her eyes flicker before they finally locked with mine.

“Child! The door, is it open?”

“Yes Aunty, but quick, those things are coming!”

She gasped and jumped to her feet.

“Take the boy inside; go now while I gather our things. We’ve run out of time, child, the creatures are upon us. Go now, I’ll see to this. 
And Indie?”


“Whatever you do, child, don’t come back for me!”   


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