The tomb's entrance was nothing more than a chiseled-out hole where a natural crack occurred in the rock face. I hated the tight fit as I sucked in and pulled myself sideways through the opening, my belt buckle scraped against the rock.
"Almost there," I huffed as I reached the other side and stumbled forward, landing hard on my knees.
"Are you all right, Kristi?"
I turned back to the sliver of daylight, partially blocked by a wrinkled face.
"I'm fine," I said and gave my boss, Hans, a thumbs up.
The air smelled of mold, making it hard to take a deep breath. I clicked on my helmet's headlamp and found myself in a hollowed-out area not much bigger than a small closet. If I extended my arms, I would touch each wall. In front of me was another opening, this one double in size as the initial opening and twice as tall. On either side of the entrance, carved into the rock, were two stylized birds, their wings spread and beaks opened wide.
"Anything?" Called Hans.
"Yeah, I see another opening with the Vulture Queen's insignia on either side of the opening," I called back and smiled when I heard several whoops of joy from outside.
"Excellent, my dear!" Shouted Hans, his Swedish accent thicker with his excitement.
I slipped my flashlight from a zippered pocket and clicked it on. The narrow beam of light, in addition with my headlamp, did little as I shined it down the narrow passageway. Cobwebs hung down and clung to one another, creating a thick blanket that made it impossible to see how far the tunnel went on.
"I'm heading in," I called out and tried not to think how many spiders it took to make webs that big. I needed to stay focused. If my research was right, at the end of this tunnel was an ancient woman known only as the Cursed Vulture Queen.
As I moved further down the tunnel, sounds from the outside faded away until all I could hear was the scrape of my boots against the rock and the swish of my jacket as I swiped at the cobwebs. I touched the earpiece Hans insist I wear and clicked it on. The faint sound of white noise assured me that someone would be at the other end and remind me that I wasn't alone if I talked into it.
My earpiece crackled to life. "Kristi? It's me, Rehema. Can you hear me?"
"Loud and clear," I replied.
"Okay," replied Rehema. "I've got you on GPS, but there's a chance we might lose contact the further you descend into the tunnel. We'll give you fifteen minutes to make contact."
I sucked in my lower lip and turned to see the last of the daylight was gone. In retrospect, I should have waited for the rest of my exploration team to arrive, especially now that we'd discovered the possible resting place of the Queen. But That didn't matter; I was too far in to stop now.
Ten minutes later, I started to think that the tunnel would never end. My glove was so coated in cobwebs it looked like dirty cotton candy. The heavy scent of mold intensified, and my eyes watered from the dust kicked up by my cobweb destruction.
The tunnel shortened and narrowed with every step until there were only a few inches of rock between the rock ceiling and my five foot and few inches.
I stared into the gloom. I'd go another fifty feet, and if I saw nothing, I'd turn back and wait for the rest of the expedition team. Shuffling forward, I noticed a slight movement in the cobwebs that I didn't cause. A cool breeze, not much stronger than a breath, hit my face. I took a deep breath and stepped forward down a short incline and saw, barely visible under a thick layer of dust, a form half buried in the dirt...
Book 2 is underway as this is the second rewrite. I'm shooting for a publish date of December 2021
Bronze Age Crete, the myth of Harpies, and sky burials have been the main focus of my research for The Vulture Queen. I can't wait to share more of what I've learned, plus the addition of a short story series from the point of view of a Bronze Age priestess.
Inspiration is abound...
Spring is finally here in the Northeast and my front yard is alive with color! Nothing makes me more happy than going out in the morning and seeing nature waking up.