Raider and the Lost Lamp Ch. 01bymythtrav16©
For the first time in over a thousand years, light crept around the corner and down the ancient staircase. Panning her torch slowly around the wide hallway, eminent archaeologist and Tomb Raiding person, Clara Roft cautiously advanced. After briefly eyeballing the steps, she began descending them, heading towards a cobweb-covered wall at their base. As she came to the wall, she continued to direct her torchlight on it, while gently brushing the cobwebs away with her free hand, her parched but still-luscious lips slightly parted in an expression of the awe for what she beheld.
"Magnificent!" she whispered to herself, as she admired the ornate carvings of elephants and camels, hauling stone blocks and carrying wooden logs. It appeared to be a depiction of the complex's construction. Clara shone her torch down the hallway. The passage appeared to continue for another hundred feet, before making a forty-five degree turn. Similarly engraved designs appeared to decorate both walls up to that point. Clara took two steps back, and took a photo of the wall with her heavy-duty digital camera. Being born into a wealthy British family ensured that Clara was never in want of the best equipment on her expeditions. As she removed her torch from the storage pocket on her belt and replaced it with her camera, Clara turned to face down the hall again. "Can't stand here all day admiring the work of the 9th century Persian engraver," she thought to herself.
Her real prize lay in wait further ahead, assuming her research was accurate. After cautiously making her way to the turn she discovered that this next section of the passage proceeded perhaps fifteen feet before opening up into a huge circular chamber. As Clara advanced, she was surprised to discover that the chamber was quite well lit, due to a small opening in one wall that allowed the light to pour in. Basking in the sunlight, in the very center of the chamber, was an ordinary-looking stone pedestal, perhaps four feet in height. Clara let out a gasp of utter disbelief. On top of the pedestal was...
Clara's attention was immediately drawn away by the sensation of the tile under her left foot sinking slightly under her weight. "Oh Blast!" she cursed as she quickly went into a forward roll, looking back just in time to see two massive wooden battering rams, suspended from the ceiling, collide at the point where she had been standing a split second ago. The ground shook and dust fell from the ceiling as the sound of the rams pounding together reverberated around the chamber. Clara looked on at the motionless boobytrap for a second, half catching her breath, half chastising herself for being so careless, before she began to hear the sounds of machinery going to work within the walls. A second later and the rams began to slowly swing back up towards the roof. "Resetting themselves for their next victim," Clara thought. "Or me, if I don't watch my step on the way out."
Clara stood back up, and turned back towards the pedestal. Being extra careful where she stepped, she approached the pedestal, and the treasure on top of it. She could scarcely believe what she was looking at. It was no more than three months ago that an archaeological team that she was with had stumbled upon the tomb of an ancient Persian noble and his princess bride. To the amazement of all present, writings in the tomb identified it as belonging to an Hal'hadin, or Alladin. Clara's colleagues scoffed at her when the discovery prompted her to suggest that perhaps there might be some truth to the ancient myth about a poor boy who was able to win a beloved princess, with the help of a genie. She began to do more research on the subject, which ultimately lead her here. Although, even Clara thought that it was unlikely that the myth held much truth.
But now... could it really have been true? Could she really be looking at the fabled Alladin's lamp? As Clara reached the pedestal, she carefully scrutinised it. Her expertise told her that the pedestal was too mundane to contain any elaborate boobytraps. It should be safe to pick up the lamp. Treating it with every care that an artefact of its age deserved, Clara lifted the brass lamp from its resting place. The lamp looked just like any other oil lamp of the time, rather like an elongated tea-pot, with a removable lid, a handle, and a spout opposite. She noticed that on one side the lamp was indented with a shape that looked somewhat like an isosceles triangle, pointing down, with circles on it's two identical sides.
Clara could not resist the temptation. She very gently began to rub the side of the lamp. Clara thought she must've been seeing things when the lamp's color seemed to lighten. She moved out of the sunlight, back into the shadows, and sure enough, the lamp was glowing dimly. Clara also became aware of a faint high-pitched whistle that seemed to be coming from the lamp, getting louder and louder. All of a sudden there was a blinding flash. Clara couldn't see a thing! She was certain she must've dropped the lamp, although strangely, she never heard it hit the ground. It was a few seconds before Clara's vision returned to her. Even then it was quite blurred, but it was clear enough for her to realise that she was no longer in the lamp chamber. Not being able to see the ground well enough to ascertain its safety, she stood perfectly still until her eyesight was back to normal. When her vision did recover completely, what she saw utterly mystified her.
She was still in a chamber, equally as big as the one she was just in, but nowhere near as empty. The room was once again circular, with a domed roof. In the center of the chamber was a large wooden table, ancient Mesopotamian by design, but it looked brand new. On the opposite side, there was a matching chair, and in front of it a single place set for dinner. Off towards the wall in one direction was a beautiful circular bed, with transparent pink veils flowing down from the canopy above the very soft looking mattress, upon which rested several silky-looking cushions. Beside it on either side were two small wooden tables, and off to one side, a full-length mirror. Built into the wall, at equal distances were four ornate fountains. Three wooden bookshelves, two stocking papyrus scrolls, one half-stocked with books, all of which showed no signs of age, stood against the wall, almost directly opposite the bed. Beside them stood another table and chair, with an open book and ancient writing brushes and ink jars. Several more scrolls were scattered haphazardly on the floor around it.
Incredibly, Clara noticed, the room was completely well lit, despite there being no discernible source of light. Even more incredibly, though, was that she could not seem to find the way she got in, or for that matter, how she was going to get out. "Best not to panic," she thought. "I've been in much tighter scrapes than this."
Clara looked up, and noticed that the majority of the domed ceiling was taken up with an exquisite mural, of what looked like a slave girl bowing before a throned queen. "Quite lovely, but no way out there," Clara thought. As she ran her focus along the floor she noticed it consisted entirely of a pattern made up of large ebony squares, separated by what looked to be strips of cedar, lacquered to a glossy finish, throughout. It was then that she noticed that her possessions, her torch, her wristwatch, her camera, her backpack and her two pistols were all lying on the ground around her... Her Feet! Those sure as hell weren't her climbing boots on her feet! They looked more like slippers. And her tatty shorts had been replaced with... were those pink silk pants? Frantically Clara ran towards the mirror. "You must be joking," Clara said aloud, with an obvious lack of amusement.
She was dressed, head-to-toe in a traditional harem costume. A long transparent pink veil trailed over her hair, which was now bound in a waterfall-ponytail with a solid gold clasp on top of her head. A similar veil flowed behind her back and over her smooth creamy shoulders. Each of her wrists now had 3 gold bangles on them. A silky pink top covered her upper torso. Supported from inch-wide straps, it was tight enough to properly accentuate Clara's already attractive bust, without being uncomfortable. It was low-cut enough to display just the right amount of cleavage. Below her bare midriff were the silken pants, which Clara had hoped were just a hallucination, hanging loosely around her legs.
Clara stood dumbfounded in front of the mirror for a few seconds, a look of utter dread upon her face. When the shock had subsided enough for something resembling rational thought to form within her mind, Clara decided that she needed to get out of this place, now! Before anything even more bizarre happened to her. She returned to the spot where her possessions were scattered. Throwing everything loose into her backpack, she got up and began circling the room. The walls were entirely made of shiny orange quartz, except for a dull grey sandstone section over on the other side of the room, that looked like it had writing on it. "It must be the exit... Or at least a clue to exiting," thought Clara, as she ran towards it.
The script was a dialect of ancient Mesopotamian from millennia before the birth of Christ. Historically and geographically miles away from the time and place of the 'Alladin' myth. "It doesn't matter," Clara thought to herself. "It's still a language I'm fluent in, and that's good enough for me."
"Beauty and birthright you may have been given, but this door opens for neither," Clara read aloud. "I shall not bow to you before you bow to me. For common blood you would serve times three, but for me your service shall be unending."
Clara noticed that in the middle of the wall section a shape was carved that was identical to the indentation in the lamp. "This door..." she repeated, "This door..." This had to be the way out. Clara pushed two fingers into the engraved shape, no luck. She tried pushing against the entire sandstone section, with two hands at first, then with her entire body, putting her full weight into it. Desperation was starting to overtake logic as the dominant force in her mind, and she walked away from the wall, only to turn around and shoulder barge it. She dislocated her shoulder and banged her head against the wall on impact, which, of course, did not budge an inch. Clara slowly slid down against the wall, until she was sitting on the ground with a sore shoulder and a massive headache. "Clara, you stupid git, DO NOT try that again!" she said to herself aloud. It was only a few seconds before the pain in her head miraculously faded into obscurity. The pain in her shoulder also subsided, giving way to a strange tingling sensation. Then something really miraculous happened. Without any effort on her part, her upper arm moved and popped itself back in her shoulder socket. The tingling disappeared, and Clara waved her arm around, as if to make sure that she still had control over it.
Clara now realised that despite the disturbing nature of the situation, she was going to need to be patient and think this one through. As her gaze wandered aimlessly around the chamber, she noticed, once again, the books and scrolls on the shelves. Perhaps the key to getting out lay in one of them.
Clara learned, all too late, the terrible inaccuracies in the legend of Alladin. Contrary to the story, the genie of the lamp did not help Alladin win the heart of a princess with whom he'd fallen in love. The genie was the princess with whom he'd fallen in love. The lamp itself was no mere storage vessel for the enchanted being, it was an ingenious trap designed to ensnare a victim, and then force them into magical servitude for anyone who subsequently rubbed the lamp.
Hour after hour, Clara read through the ancient documents, first the scrolls, and then on to the books. Shifting between the 'writing desk', the main table and the bed, and occasionally back to the shelves when she'd finished another volume, Clara remained engrossed in what she was reading. Altogether, the volumes made up a journal of the lamp's last inhabitant, Zhiasa, written in her native dialect. Zhiasa was born crown princess of a wealthy kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia. Princess Zhiasa was much loved by her father, but apparently not so by her younger sister, princess Tukanni. It seemed that Tukanni was quite jealous of the attention that their father paid Zhiasa, as well as her inevitable ascension to the throne. It also seemed that Tukanni had secretly managed to become quite adept at the black arts. On the morning of her 22nd birthday, Zhiasa awoke to find a brand new oil lamp at the foot of her bed. It didn't look very expensive, so it probably wasn't a gift from any member of the royal family.
"Perhaps a gift from an anonymous servant," Zhiasa thought at the time. As she examined the lamp, she found a single greasy spot tarnishing its otherwise shiny surface. Naturally she rubbed it off.
"Three guesses at where this is going..." Clara said to herself sarcastically as she continued to translate the ancient Mesopotamian script.
Moments later Zhiasa found herself in the very chamber that Clara was now trapped in. Although Zhiasa's initial account described the room as being completely bare, save for the section of wall with the taunting message. After several confusing and frightening hours alone in the large room, Zhiasa found herself dissolving (as best Clara could translate it) into Tukanni's presence in her sister's private bedchamber. Frantically Zhiasa tried to explain the situation to her sister, and beg for her help, but it wasn't long before Tukanni's amused smirk revealed to Zhiasa that her sister was somehow involved in her dilemma.
What ensued was a bitter exchange, in which Tukanni revealed that she had enchanted the lamp, and used it to set the trap that Zhiasa had fallen into.
"Why would you do such a thing?" an exasperated Zhiasa asked.
"All my life I have watched you receive however much of father's attention you wish, while I have had to scrounge whatever scraps were left, like a common hungry peasant. Well from now on, dear sister, I shall feast on my father's love!" was Tukanni's embittered, yet boastful reply.
"Father? You did this because of Father? He shall not let you continue this twisted game! He shall make you release me!" Zhiasa responded.
Tukanni chuckled, "My dear sister, how do you expect he will force me to do anything if he does not know that I have imprisoned you?"
Tukanni removed an amulet from around her neck that she always wore and placed it within the indentation on the lamp, where it fit snugly. Both items shimmered briefly as they came into contact. Obviously, Tukanni's amulet was part of the enchantment too, Zhiasa thought. Then Tukanni spoke in a commanding tone, "It is my order that you shall never allow yourself to be seen by father. Furthermore, I order you to never allow yourself to be seen by any of the palace servants or guards." Zhiasa cringed as an internal voice told her that she must not disobey her master's commands. After several more minutes of taunting, Tukanni dismissed Zhiasa back into the lamp until she was resummoned.
The scrolls then went on to describe Tukanni's amulet in more detail. A gift from their deceased mother, it was a jewel-encrusted charm in the shape of a lotus with two buds. "The symbol of royalty among ancient Mesopotamian cultures..." Clara thought. Zhiasa continued on, discussing how doubly upsetting it was that her sister had used a gift from their mother in this horrid plan to divide their family. She then wrote about how she'd learned, from various remarks her sister made during the first few years of her enslavement, what part the amulet played in this whole ordeal. It seemed that the spell Tukanni used to enchant the lamp only required its captive to obey three commands per master. When the amulet was placed against the lamp, however, the lamp didn't keep count of how many wishes the owner had made, thereby granting the owner infinite wishes, in theory. Zhiasa then went on to speculate that the amulet might also fit within the shape carved in the sandstone section of the wall of her lamp chamber, and might therefore be the key to her freedom.
During these early years of her imprisonment, Zhiasa also learned about the magical powers that the lamp had bestowed upon her, mainly by granting the incredible wishes her sister made. But she also discovered that she had ceased aging, and she assumed, therefore, that she had become immortal. In addition, she realised that she could use her vast powers to her own ends, so long as she didn't disobey any of Tukanni's orders. Zhiasa conjured furnishings in her prison to make herself more comfortable, and to overcome her boredom, she conjured writing implements and began keeping a journal.
Clara realised the implications of this, and decided to see if she had received similar powers. As she sat up in the bed, Clara concentrated on making a hi-fi appear against the wall nearby, waving her fingers theatrically in that direction. In a poof of smoke, an expensive looking hi-fi set-up, complete with speakers, appeared in the location Clara designated and immediately began playing some well orchestrated Bach. "Splendid," Clara smiled, pleased with the success of her first attempt at magic. She leaned over, trying to get a look at the rear of the appliance. "Ah, I see I got the model with no power cord... that ought to pay for itself when the electric bills arrive," she said as she returned to the scroll she'd been reading, this time with some pleasant background music.
The next section of Zhiasa's journal went on to describe Tukanni's cruelty, and Zhiasa's growing hatred for her captor. Zhiasa began to wish her sister dead, but could not act on her desires, as Tukanni had added a safeguard to the entrapment spell that forbade Zhiasa from ever killing or even harming another person. On one occasion Zhiasa tried to rip the enchanted amulet from around her sister's neck before Tukanni could react. Upon touching the amulet, Zhiasa was flung across the room, by a burst of magical energy. Dazed, Zhiasa heard her sister howling with laughter.
"You fool, Zhiasa!" she taunted. "A genie can not steal from its master!"
Six years after she fell into Tukanni's trap, Zhiasa became instrumental in Tukanni's marriage to a handsome prince from another kingdom. Tukanni had to compete against many other princesses who wished to marry the prince. Against her will, Zhiasa cast spells of lust on all of Tukanni's rivals. Within months, all of the other princesses fell pregnant with children fathered by common palace servants, making them unacceptable fiances for the prince, and severely embarrassing several royal families. The next few scrolls continued describing the immoral deeds that Zhiasa was forced to do over the following years.
Then Zhiasa wrote about the worst day of her enslavement. As their father lay on his deathbed, Tukanni sat by her father's side holding his hand. Zhiasa sat on his opposite side, but because of Tukanni's first order, she was invisible to him. She tried to hold his hand, but hers passed through his as if she was made of thin air. With his dying breath, the old emperor said tearfully, "Oh my dear daughter Zhiasa! How I wish I knew what became of you! If only I could've seen your face one final time..." As the emperor passed on, Tukanni stared at her sister, her eyes burning with rage. Even after all these years, she had still not been able to topple her sister's position as their father's favourite. Showing no sympathy for Zhiasa's heartbreak, Tukanni ordered her to return to the lamp and sit in a vat of boiling oil until she was next summoned. It was ten months before Tukanni needed Zhiasa's services.