Home of Sword and Soul
Zeke, Famara and Annette went deeper into the tunnel. The daylight soon failed them, the way ahead not completely dark but difficult to see clearly. Famara took off his pack then sat it on the damp stone. He rustled about inside then extracted a foot long brass tube and at small crank. He attached the crank to the end of the tube then turned it rapidly. As he turned light appeared at the other end of the tube. After a few more minutes the light was intense enough to illuminate the tunnel.
"I'l be damned...I mean Lord have mercy," Zeke said.
Annette touched the tube, her face curious.
"Fascinating," she said.
"The turning of the crank generate electricity which activates the light," Famara explained. "Come, we must hurry."
Famara and Annette proceeded down the tunnel. Zeke took off his pack, holstered his shotgun then leaned against the wall. He took his cross out of his shirt and rubbed it with his hand. The other two were barely visible when they realized Zeke wasn't following. When they returned Famara was not happy.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm thinking," Zeke replied.
"This is not the best time for you to become contemplative."
"I've been chasing your book halfway across the world," Zeke said. "First for Pierre, now for you."
"You're being paid well," Famara snapped.
Annette stepped between them."Gentlemen, once again you choose an inopportune time for discussion. I suggest..."
Zeke's cold glare cut Annette off. Her hands tightened about her rifle.
"Excuse me ma'am, but my friend and I are talking," Zeke said. "I have a question, and the answer to that question will determine whether I take another step down this tunnel or turn around and catch the next airship home."
"What is it, Zeke?" Famara asked impatiently.
"I got a feeling that once we get inside that castle a whole lot folks are going to end up dead. Maybe even us. So before I go blasting more folks to Glory, I need to know what I'm doing it for. I need to know what's in that book of yours that makes it so important."
The look on Annette's face reflected his decision. Famara sighed, took off his pack then sat.
"There is a city in my homeland that is ancient, older than anything, even the Great Pyramids. It's been known by many names over the centuries; Dierra, Agada, Gana and Silla. It has risen to great heights and fallen just as deep. But with every resurrection it looms greater than it's previous incarnation. That city is Wadadu. The Elders are the stewards of Wagadu, and I am but one of it's guardians."
Zeke pushed back his hat. "That's all well and good, but what does that have do to with the book?
"Be quiet and listen," Annette scolded. "You have no sense of history."
She nodded to Famara. "Please continue, mon frere."
"Wagadu contain the secrets of time, wonders we have yet to rediscover. When it was known as Gana its greatest king decreed that the secrets be recorded in books to preserved the knowledge of the ancestors. The jeles, oral history keepers, protested but the king would not be denied. When Gana fell to the Almoravids, the books were entrusted to the kingdom of Mali. From Mali they were passed to Songhai where they finally found a sacred home in Timbuktu. It was there where our scholars discovered the secret of the books."
Famara fell silent.
"Well?" Zeke urged.
"The scholars discovered that while some of the books contained script, others were filled with patterns and shapes that made no sense. One of the elders who studied under George Washington Carver saw something familiar in the patterns. He took the wires of a telegraph then attached them to the patterns with the telegraph on the opposite end. The electricity flowed through the patterns to the telegraph faster than any wire could conduct it."
"So what are you telling us?" Zeke asked.
"If the pages were duplicated then miniaturized, the patterns could disperse energy at an amazing speed, making electric powered machines much more efficient. But there is one problem. We cannot identify the material from which the patterns were drawn."
"So what does this have to do with the Prussians?" Annette asked.
Famara's face became hard.
"It seems that money can loosen the most dedicated tongues. Not long after our discovery Timbuktu was raided by Tuaregs. They obtained the books then fled into the desert. I was sent after them. It took me two years as a Tuareg slave to discover where they were hidden. The Tuaregs shared what they knew about the books freely with anyone interested in buying them. The Prussians were the only people to respond. Them, and an American antique collector."
Zeke nodded. "'So that's how Pierre got the book."
"Not exactly. The man who sold the book to Pierre stole it from the antique dealer. I was able to thwart the Prussians in Mali. Once I returned the other books I was sent for this one."
Zeke still wasn't satisfied. "So what do the Prussians want with the books?"
"They'll use the pages to operate their weapons," Annette answered.
"Exactly," Famara said. "The knowledge of the books were meant for much more than that."
Famara stood. "That is all I'll reveal to you. Either come with us or leave."
Zeke tucked his cross back into his shirt then took out his shotgun.
"Lead the way."
The followed the tunnel until it narrowed to a opening the size of a normal door. The hinges were on their side but there was no handle. The sound of machinery buzzed on the opposite side. Zeke stepped forward, extracting his knife. He prodded about until he found a soft spot. He pushed the knife in.
"Here we go," he whispered.
Famara shut off the light as Zeke eased open the portal, revealing a dimly lit room filled with a cluster of machines. There seemed to be no one about despite the activity.
"We need to get a closer look," Famara said. "Annette, stay here and cover us."
Famara reached into his bag and extracted a pair or green tinted goggles.
"Put these on."
Annette donned the glasses.
"Amazing! I can see like it's daylight!"
"So why didn't we use those in the tunnel?" Zeke asked.
"It's my only pair," Famara answered. "I didn't plan on companions."
Famara turned to Annette. "Zeke and I will take a look to see what this has been built to do. I suspect Dolph is overseeing the manufacture of weapons that will utilize the pages of the book. If he is, we'll get the book then blow this place up."
Zeke looked confused. "Blow it up with what?"
Famara went into his pack again. He took out a uniquely curved knife with a long handle. He unscrewed the handle, stuck two fingers inside and extracted a stick of dynamite.
"I have more than enough," Famara said with a smile.
"Lord have mercy," Zeke said.
"Are you with me?" Famara asked.
Zeke cocked his shotgun.
"Let's do this," he said.