Desert (part 1 of ?)

So it’s Blaugust once again – there’s even a goddamn facebook group now – and I’m in it to win it this time. Not super happy with how this one came out, but them’s the breaks.

The gate was not spectacular to look upon – nothing but a metal door set into a low, broad arch of stone in the hillside. Dust covered every surface – there was even some wiry grass growing in the dirt piled in front of it. If Tam had not been forewarned, she might even have thought it a ruin and passed it by. She reminded herself to thank the villagers who’d given her the map once she’d crossed this one off the list and returned to what passed for civilisation around here.

The hike had not been pleasant. High summer had left much of the land scorched and barren, and there had been few wayfarers along the roads to ask for stories or directions. Worse had been the constant weaving and backtracking through the scrub to make sure she didn’t miss her mark. Her water was still holding out, but she knew from the itching on her face that she’d spent enough time outdoors to expect a vicious sunburn.

Still, she was here now, and if nothing else she’d at least be able to leave with a new story to tell and one more candidate crossed off her list. The gate had all of the icons she’d expected; made from stone, clay, wood, even iron, they all warned of danger within. Lions and burning suns adorned the front, and a mighty crescent swept the length of the structure, daubed in ochre across the raw stone. An unfamiliar detail caught her eye: an eight-pointed star, right above the doorway. Tam blinked and realised that the star was actually carved into the stone of the structure. Suddenly, this place seemed a lot less ordinary.

She dropped her pack in a hollow and dug through it for her tools. Mallet, prybar, sketchbook – if she couldn’t force her way inside, she could at least get a record of the place’s appearance and draw a more accurate map than the one she’d been given. Some cursory knocks on the door didn’t persuade it to budge; her attempts to get the narrow end of the prybar wedged into the doorjamb were no more successful. For the first time since she’d set out, she found herself seriously contemplating breaking open her hidden jar of thermite.

In the end, she relented. The stuff was under embargo, and breaking regulations to get inside what might just end up being another tomb would not earn her much regard when she returned. Figuring that she could use a rest before proceeding further, she unpacked her chair and sat down to update her map.

She was so absorbed in the detail that she just nodded and muttered when the door spoke to her.

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