The Rock of the Ancients (part 2)

The crooked stone stood in the clearing, towering high above his head. His two captors pushed him through the last few yards of bushy undergrowth, and out into open space. They dared not go themselves into the circle surrounding their most holy monument, for fear of invoking the wrath of the Ancients. Ma’il contemplated this for a moment – he had always thought that one’s god, if you had one, should be an open, approachable god. Obviously that didn’t work for the Ancients. These mythical beings ruled by fear alone. Fear in their wrath, and fear in the wrath of the priests.
A sudden noise broke through the stillness of his mind. The guards had fled, crashing through the dense undergrowth like a flightless umy. This, he supposed would be the time where he was expected to run. He decided not to, as the chances were that the forest that he was in would be surrounded on all sides by the priests’ high guards. He looked around. Around him was ample forestry, containing all the fruits and nuts that he might ever want to eat. He didn’t move towards them, and he remained highly wary.
Ma’il did not believe in the Ancients. He believed firmly in the Priests of the Ancients, but they were human. He should know. He’d killed enough of them. He supposed that, in the overall sense of things, there probably was some form of omnipotent, omniscient being, but he wasn’t much of a philosopher.
He still stood in the clearing, about a yard away from the edge, warily facing the rock. Ma’il’s belief in the Ancients may have been minimal, but he had no doubts about the existence of their acolytes. He was ready for every trick.
Slowly, he turned and walked off in a large circle around the gigantic stone. Always cautious, he tried every step before he took it, watching for trip wires, hot slaves, or anything else that might be designed to hurt him.
There didn’t seem to be a thing. A confused expression crossed his face. Surely no-one was expecting him to be stupid enough to walk towards the rock. He started out around the rock again, this time edging further inwards with every rotation. Eventually, he found himself less than an arms’ length away from the rock. He reached out cautiously and tapped the rock gently. Nothing gave. He tapped it again. It felt and sounded just like a large rock.
Suddenly it came to him – being brought to the rock was a punishment for people who did not believe in the power of the Ancients. Which would mean that the trap would be designed to affect people escaping from the inside of the ring where they were deposeted, to the outside where they were free. He crept away from the stone. There, around the outside, was a trip wire. He laughed at the stupidity of it. Surely it wouldn’t be that simple. Still, he had to find out. He walked backwards, slowly. From a distance, he prodded the trip wire with a long stick. A sudden burst of ticking started up. Ma’il looked around to see where it was coming from. It seemed to be the enormous rock. He backed away, slowly, cautiously, as the ticking noise increased, becoming louder and quicker until it was just a single sound. Then suddenly it stopped, and quiet settled in the clearing again. Ma’il stared at the rock for several long moments, making sure that nothing else was broken. Then he turned away. The machinery must be faulty, he thought.
He had just reached the edge of the clearing when the rock exploded.

(Rock of the Ancients – part 1)


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