The Tomb
Port Newcastle
Two weeks after the events of Of Kings and Monsters

“I’m glad you dropped by, Joe. I had some of my PhD students take a look at those tablets we got. You know, to get a fresh pair of eyes on them.” There were a total of seven professors at the Department of Ancient Kaltach Studies, and thus far, none of them could entirely decode the stone tablets from the tomb that Professor Joseph Claus-Webber’s expedition had uncovered in the frozen north. The tablets, along with other artifacts, arrived in Freigrad a week ago on the Onyx Line, and were later flown up north to Port Newcastle, where they were today. Joseph had turned it over to Professor Stephen Kuhlberg of the Linguistics department, in hopes that he would make a breakthrough.

“And what did the kids think?” Joseph stirred some milk into his tea. He had come by to Kuhlberg’s office to drop off another set of artifacts that he had just received. Categorizing and shipping the artifacts from Freigrad was taking longer than expected, and the items were arriving steadily in batches, with each batch revealing something new.

“They were able to translate a bigger portion of the first tablet than I could have alone. You were right, it’s not Proto-Trefjalli. We’ve never seen more than fragments of this language, so nobody agrees on the precise name for it. Most of us here call it Old Trefjalli, but names like High Trefjalli and Kaltach-Trefjalli aren’t unheard of either.” He slid a manila folder over his desk. “You guys made a good start, considering the conditions.” Joseph leafed through the pages.

“So it was some kind of schematic. For a… ‘device of the gods’.” Joseph put on his reading glasses from his blazer pocket.

“That part made us do a double take too. I had to go back and check that we were consulting the right sources, but yes, that is what it seems to be saying.” Kuhlberg reached into his desk and drew out two more folders.  “I tried translating the next two tablets by myself, but I only got so far. Do you want to take these with you as well?”  

“That would be great. Thanks, Steve. I’ll get these back to AKS.” Joseph tapped them on the table and tucked them under his arm, as he stood up to shake Kuhlberg’s hand. His reading glasses went back into his pocket.

“No problem. We’ll let you know if we make any more progress.”

“Looking forward to it. Take care, Steve. Schüss.”

Schüss.” Kuhlberg echoed as Joseph took his coat off the rack and closed the door behind him. Now that the Fall Festival was past and people were returning to the city from visiting family out in the countryside, Port Newcastle was returning to life, though it was still the dead of winter in this part of the country. December and January were the quietest and coldest months in the Port, or PN, as its locals would call it. But to Joseph, this was nothing compared to the Thüleberg winters that he had grown up with. Winter was upon them as early as late September, and the snow would not thaw until mid-April of the next year. Though the big city lacked the peacefulness and sense of community of the northern towns, the weather was certainly an improvement. 

The walk between the linguistics and ancient Kaltach studies departments took Joseph through the central square of the University of Port Newcastle, named Grove Square after the ancient maple grove that grew in the middle of it, with a small clearing in the midst of the grove for prayer and quiet reflection. Four buildings lined the square, the four original buildings of the university. One for the humanities, one for the sciences, one for languages, and one for mathematics. Since then, however, UPN has grown to become the largest and most well-respected university in Candanadium, perhaps even the whole world, and has grown past its founding boundaries and mission. Its student body and faculty hailed from all parts of the globe, and everything from ancient Kaltach cave art to modern Meltorian was taught here. Of course, that meant the campus was also full of interesting characters and various demonstrations, events, and other congregations usually involving students being displeased about something. Joseph thought little of it and never got involved. After all, there was nothing political about what he did, at least to him, but he knew that some kid with dyed hair and facial piercings was bound to tell him off about how he was perpetuating Kaltach supremacy or being misogynist by looking at crumbling scrolls and stone tablets. It was all the same to him, and more often than not he found that the best solution was just to nod and walk away. Fortunately, it seemed that today, at least, the central square was quiet. Perhaps the cold was keeping the students in their dorms, or perhaps some of them weren't back from the Fall Festival break. The rotunda of the Kaltach studies department was also devoid of students with picket signs and megaphones, and this, Joseph welcomed.

"Guetendag, Herr Doktor Professor." One of the security guards nodded to him as he passed.

"Guetendag, Michael. Anything in for me?" 

"Oh, yes. Another crate came in from Freigrad. I had it delivered to the lab since it was marked as fragile."

"Thanks, Mike. How was your Fall?" 

"Oh, not too bad. I was at my sister's, down in Luddishaven. Real nice this time of year, much warmer too." The guard made a shivering motion.

"Good to hear. Page me if anything else comes in."

"Of course, sir."

"Keep warm." Joseph said over his shoulder as he continued past the rotunda and up the stairs to the upper level, where his office was, tucked away in a corner with a commanding view of the university's gardens. His steps echoed off the marble walls and pillars, and as he walked,  he found his thoughts going back to the tomb in the north where the stone tablets had been found. There was a certain mystical quality to it, one that words could not encapsulate, but every time Joseph thought of it the memories became clearer, sharper, almost as if he could reach out and touch the objects in his mind. The memory was tangible, it was living. He didn't say anything about it to anyone else who was on that expedition, for obvious reasons, but it was a sensation he could no longer ignore.

Perhaps we're on to something here. Device of the gods. He thought. Then again, it was probably his age catching up to him.


It was funny to Joseph how time flew by when he was absorbed in his work. Hours had passed from when he had walked into the Kaltach studies building. The glow of dusk had given way to pitch-black night, and the lights of the city blinked outside his window. Cups of tea were made, emptied, and filled again, and notes were scribbled over his whiteboards. Joseph was on fire, he was electrified, and most of all, he was enlightened. Though Kühlberg's analysis of the translation was academic and procedural, the information that it revealed was unlike anything he had ever seen before.

"A device of the gods. Of course. A device of the gods!" Joseph laughed to himself, looking over his cloud of scribbled notes while rubbing his chin. The diagrams, the runes, they spoke to him at last. "If the gods should one day decide to cast ragnarok upon us, then this is the device that is to be used in their employ." He read out loud. "Of course!" Somehow, all of this made perfect sense. "Beware, for others will come. False prophets, empty idols, and words of lies, but the work of the gods must continue. It will come from the heavens, from the faraway lands across the seas, and it will forever enlighten all children of Great Kaltachia." The words seemed as if they were crafted for his tongue.

"Herr Doktor Professor?" A knock at the door.

"Mike? What is it?" The security guard's rural Oseanian accent brought Joseph back to reality. He opened the door.

"I was doing the rounds before I handed off to the night shift and I thought I heard shouting. Is everything okay?" The security guard looked almost scared, and the way Joseph looked could not possibly have helped matters. His shirt was untucked, his tie loosened, and his hair was a mess.

"Oh. I finally figured something out. Nothing to worry about."

"Are you sure, sir?" The guard's voice indicated that he wasn't.

"I'm fine, Mike. I'll show myself out, just need to, uh, clean up here." Joseph gestured to his desk and the scribblings on the whiteboard.

"If you say so. Guete Nacht, sir." Michael said apprehensively.

"Good night." Joseph sat back down at his desk.

"Now the work can begin."

[Image: pTaBLJC.png?1]
Kingdom of Candanadium
Königreich Kandanadium


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