Chapter One: Many Plans Are Made
Elizabeth Eugenia Etheridge sat back from her desk, groaning and rubbing her eyes. She had been squinting at the papers for nearly two full hours, doing her best to think as the day turned to evening and the light faded to nothing more than the paraffin lamp. Her back ached from leaning over, her eyes ached from straining, her head ached from concentration, her arse ached from sitting for so long.
She stood up, regretting it immediately as her body protested the change from being cramped over to suddenly straightened out. With a weary grunt she stretched out her arms, then bent down to touch her toes and get some circulation back into her legs. The day she complained about getting out of a chair like Victor sometimes did was the day she would officially hang up her maps and satchel. After a few seconds feeling returned to her limbs and she was able to walk away from the desk feeling at least partially invigorated.
Her study smelled, she suddenly realised. She sniffed, nose crinkling against the odour, trying to locate its source. Following it down she lifted her arm and sniffed tentatively at herself, recoiling a little as she took it in. Glancing at the clock she suddenly realised what time it was, and after a moment of mental maths realised it had been a good forty hours since she had last bathed. Or changed her clothes, come to that. The hunt had a tendency to push all other considerations from her mind. Her desk, she now realised, had a small pile of plates with various crumbs or half discarded food items of varying provenance. She could almost chart the progression from real food, the sandwiches she had eaten the evening two days before, through plain biscuits with butter, right up to the collections of pear drops and sherbet lemons which marked her latest meal. Her stomach growled in protest at that one.
Bath. Food. Not necessarily in that order, but to be followed with clean clothes and a good long sleep. After that she would be in much better shape to face the challenges that were to come.
As she prepared actual food, salted beef in bread with the few fresh vegetables she still had from a trip to the market, she let her mind wander over everything she had learned. The location of the Ivory Pyramid was within her grasp, of that much she was certain, and with it proof that the Epic of Trysten had not been only a concoction of fanciful writers in antiquity, but actually based upon a real man, at least to some extent. Potentially of course she could find even more than that, if those legends truly were based on something factual. The Ivory Pyramid had been said to have been a treasure repository like no other in the world, housing not only the gold and silver of an empire but also their greatest artefacts and items of power. The sorts of things that the average Genlandian, living in the modern day, would scoff at, but that Liz had more than enough experience with to give full respect to. More than once she had encountered some trinket that had produced some sort of real effect beyond her explanation.
Munching absently on her sandwich she moved to the bathroom, turning the taps and watching as the tub filled with water. The expedition would not be easy. Even without an exact location as yet, she knew that it would be in the far north of Genland. Not as difficult as an expedition to Iputha or Suren to be sure, and carrying none of the dangers of trying to get into Afthonia, but there were more than enough domestic dangers in the mountains to the north. Something else she had more than enough uncomfortable experience of.
With the tub filled she set the sandwich on a small dresser and undressed quickly, sinking into the tub and letting the heat wash over her. It was only a little too hot, but that passed quickly and she was able to sink properly in, picking up her sandwich again and continuing to eat. She wasn't surprised that sitting in the bath immediately brought back memories of the actual story. It had been one of the stories her mother had regaled her with at bathtimes, though somewhat sanitised for a young child of course. When she was then appropriately bundled in towels her father would continue the story until she fell asleep. Not the only legend they had brought her up on, but certainly the one she could remember the most.
Trysten had been a legendary king of the early people in Genland, living in the area that would eventually become Rookervale. His life had been filled, so told the legends, with the sorts of events that these kings lives were always filled with. Fighting off dragons to defend his people, then repelling giants the next day while holding back a thousand angry barbarians with his other hand. Standing twelve feet tall and wielding a sword that spat fire and venom at his enemies, naturally. But beyond these stories was a kernel of truth. Almost every ancient register, poll, listing or census acknowledged the existence of a King Trysten in the northern edges of the country, and a tomb had even been discovered, years earlier, bearing his name on the marker.
And that was where the Ivory Pyramid came in. According to the oldest versions of the poem, an army of various nasty creatures and men had come down from the mountains, where it was believed that no men lived. They were led by an evil sorceress, who wielded an item called the Eye of Thoshi, an elder god of some description from a long forgotten religion. Trysten and his people had fought with all their might and would have been overwhelmed were it not for Trysten being able to seize the Eye of Thoshi, which was said to give one command over the hearts of men and beasts alike. He turned back the army, and while his people rebuilt, ventured deep into the frozen tundras, intent on destroying the sorceress and her lair once and for all. When he returned he told tales of a grand pyramid made entirely of glistening white ivory, at the apex of which sat the throne room, where the Eye of Thoshi had been returned to sit for eternity.
All fairly standard stuff as legends went, and nothing to suggest there was more to it than wild folkloric speculation or a simple tale of two armies fighting which grew to mythic proportion over the years.
But then, the age of steam powered travel. Of expeditions into the great uncharted regions of the world that went further and deeper than any had before. Suddenly the edges of the map began to be coloured in, and the regions north, further even than Stommland. None had yet returned with news of an ivory pyramid, but it was very clear that there had been civilisations that far north in the distant past of Genland. Who had lived there, and why they had been abandoned, still remained a secret, but it certainly seemed as though Trysten could well have fought people who lived further north than he.
And at last, the final piece of the puzzle that had convinced her she needed to delve deeper into the myth. A man reported stumbling out of the tundra, collapsing in a frontier town. He had barely lived two days after his ordeal, which had left him frostbitten almost to the torso and near mad, but he had raved all that time about finding a great pyramid of ivory out in the wastes. The man had been Benjamin Morgan, one of the foremost experts in ancient civilisations. What had driven him to make his trip was unknown to anyone, especially as to why he had apparently set out so ill prepared. But set out he had, and Liz was convinced he had found it. With proper preparation, she was sure it was at last within her grasp.
Feeling much better for being clean she got ready for bed, dressing in her softest cotton night-things to practically guarantee a deep slumber, she finally collapsed into bed, resolving that she had to call Victor the next morning, and make sure that he would be amenable to joining her for a little trip. And with that she passed into sleep, and dreamed of a glistening golden eye gleaming at the top of a snow-white pyramid.