He Who Is Set Upon His Mountain

May 17th

Dearest Mary,

I do apologise for my lateness in writing to you, but the days here in the east are intolerably long, and the workload we have been doing seems to be getting larger and larger as the days grind on. I don’t know how anyone could stick these excavations for as long as they do.

Curse that intolerable fool Carter! It has been three wretched weeks since I arrived in this bloody country, and we have yet to unearth so much as a pebble beneath these sands. When I get my hands on that egotistical sod, I’ll wring his arrogant neck – he virtually promised that I would make back thrice what I had spent to get here on the sale of the pictures to newspapers, let alone the prices museums would pay for any relics we turned up. However, I’m up to my eyes in debt, borrowing as I have from countless friends and banks to fund this worthless dig. To Hell with his useless hide!

I must apologise again, as I should not have launched into such a barrage, but I am awfully wearied by this whole ordeal, so much so I can barely rouse myself each morning. Despite this, I must write to you, for my heart aches without your presence. How has the intervening time been treating you? I trust you have been well, and I do hope you haven’t worried yourself over my absence. You shall always have Jeffrey to tend to you, so do not fear. I just hope I shall have the money with which to keep his services – I may have to fake a few mummies to keep the museums interested. I joke, do not think I have turned into a new man. However, I do think I shall be a different person when I return home. All that remains is to see whether it is a richer man or a poorer one.

Yours faithfully, always and forever

May 21st

Dearest Mary,

I pray that Lord Jesus shall preserve me, for I have seen things which should have long since passed from human memories, things at once both unspeakably horrifying yet wondrously magnificent. I must start this tale from the beginning, lest it seem like the babbling and inchoate raving of a madman. Although this may seem to be an impossible phantasmagoria dreamt of in some exotic fever, I urge you not to fear for my state of mind or body, for I am perfectly well.

Not long after sending my last letter, I resolved to return to the spot I had been excavating, in the vain hope that I, like the insufferable Carter, may stumble by a stroke of fortune upon some luxurious and majestic sepulchre of a forgotten king. However, at this point I was at the uttermost fringes of desperation, and even some poor layman’s meagre grave would have sufficed my interests. I cannot be sure how long I was pawing and groping alone in the earth by the cliffs of the Valley, for the mechanism of my watch had been congested with sand that morning, but after what may have been two hours I disinterred a curious little stone trinket, carven of some precious gemstone I was not familiar with. It resembled, for all extents and purposes, an archaically fashioned key, but was barely an inch long, and far too thin and brittle-looking to be put to any practical use. Engraved upon its length were hieroglyphs which, although differing slightly from standard Egyptian lettering, were easily decipherable, their deviation being almost negligible. It was, it seemed, a charm used to ward off the servitors of some deity, for it was embossed on two sides of its span with ancient runes reading ‘safe passage’. From the antiquity of these particular hieroglyphs, and the manner in which they were depicted, I could trace the key as coming from the time of the great King Menes, who founded what was to become Egypt as we know it – making this jewel incredibly ancient indeed, far more so than anything else uncovered in the region. Some of the words, however, seemed to make no sense to my mind, except as names long ago outmoded. These were carven into its head, where it would be expected to enter a lock, and appropriated roughly into English as ‘Ken Tam-En Tyu’.

I pocketed the little charm – though I could scarcely feel its weight in my breast pocket – excited with what it meant for the expedition – for even if we found nothing else, the unusual nature of it, plus the fact that it could be dated as coming from arguably the very earliest of the Egyptian dynasties, meant that our mission had not been in vain. Spurred on by this thought, I frantically returned to my clawing and scrabbling in the sandy grit at the base of the immense crags before me, churning up a great mound of displaced earth behind me. At length, I struck a hard surface, and from its shade and texture, I initially thought it to be the iron pan typical of such barren soils as exist so far from the Nile’s life-giving flood plain. However, with the rays of the newly rising sun behind me, I began to make out embossed detail in the dull crimson rock. Ousting the dust from as much of it as I could expose, it soon proved to be a large bas-relief, hidden under these shifting sands for epochs. Surely, I thought, its purpose could not be simply ornamentation of what would have been, in Menes’ days, a simple gorge, I immediately realised that it must mark the entrance to some hidden tomb or chamber. Stepping back, I stood admiring the intricate detail, marvelling at how such a thing had managed to withstand the ravages of the desert storms and the ruinous power of the sands for so long, and yet still be as finely detailed as it was.

Measuring approximately at twelve feet in width, and three in height, it lay flat and immobile amidst the sand, and from its sturdiness I gathered that there were yet plaster seals behind it to be broken before whatever lay beneath could be unearthed. As for the carvings displayed upon its surface, they were the key to the wonder and the horror upon which I was soon to lay my eyes. Figures shown in the traditional manner of the Egyptians – that is, shoulders and torso facing forward, but the head and legs in profile – were to be seen worshipping and venerating a series of beings, and building a vast temple to them, hewing the subterranean shrine into the rock at the base of a cliff. What seemed awry was not the unusual appearance of these revered beings, for fancies and imaginations have changed much through millennia, and what was once ineffably incalculable may now be commonplace folklore, and vice-versa, as was the case before me. No, the octopus-headed beasts, and their vast, bloated and winged lord did not arouse much interest in me, for I remembered the stories I had heard of the Polynesian tribes living near New Zealand and Australia, and their great thunderous war god, the cephalopodan Fe’e; and of the crazed tales of Norwegian sailors, telling of the old Norse legends of the insidious, island-sized krâker that can drag ships to the ocean’s floor with the maelström of its re-submergence; and felt that these must have a common root in to be found in the annals of cryptozoology. It was instead the aspect of the worshippers which caused no slight alarm to me – for they did not appear to be ordinary Egyptian men, but their zoomorphic gods. The prostrate figures were many, and varied, but of them I could discern the jackal-headed Anubis, and the avian features of Horus, Thoth and Ra. That I had come across an unutterably antediluvian plaque as this was unsettling enough, but I was so disturbed by its contents – that of gods worshipping beings yet more powerful – that I resolved to discover what lay beneath immediately, and as such I did not waste time in rousing anyone from the camp, though they would surely have already been up at this time, for the hour had fallen past nine o’clock in the morning. Instead, I scraped and dug around the edges of the plaque with my fingers, desperate to reach the plaster seal beneath; that I may know for that it was indeed an underground chamber which this carving marked. I scratched and scrabbled through sand, grit and dirt until the tips of my fingers were flayed and numb, and the first few beads of sanguine gore stained the ground through which I sifted. Some kind of madness has overtaken me, conceivably from the excitement of what I believed I was about to disinter, or perhaps from the ferocity of the rising sun pounding down upon me; and I began laughing and howling as though possessed by some daemon of the pit. It truly is a wonder that I did not attract any attention from those in the camps nearby, for surely the sounds of my hoots and cackles, which still ring in my ears to this minute, would travel the scant few hundred yards to where the men lay. Suffice to say that no one among them arrived upon the scene, or I may have been dissuaded from continuing, and my sanity saved. Alas, it was not so.

After some considerable span of time, for the plate was carven from a thicker piece if masonry than I had imagined, I perceived that I had at last reached the bottom of the great slab, for a long, uniform groove in the Cyclopean stonework told of its termination – yet rather than an alabaster seal behind it, there was only more stone. However, I was determined to get into this chamber, and with all the might I could muster, I thrust and heaved the sandstone block until I has shunted it aside by five or six feet, fully clearing it from its original position. Panting like an aging cur, I beheld the scene before me once more, and saw that there indeed was a hole enclosed with plaster which had been hidden below the stone panel. Uniquely ingenious for its time, the aperture was rimmed with stone slabs for further support and durability, which explained why I had thought it to be a continued work of masonry. The plaster was of the traditional rough mix, but had been engraved with a message, much like the seals guarding a Pharaoh’s tomb might be. Looking at the hieroglyphs before me, I was quite astonished, as I recognised the lines as being roughly similar to those I had seen in the copy of the dread Necronomicon that one of the fellows back at the camp seemed to eager about. Many have spoken of the mysterious couplet in the work of Alhazred, but few remember the couplets either side of it, forming something of a chant to primeval gods –

‘Great Old Ones slumber while the stars align
Bidden forth by men with the ancient Sign

That is not dead which can forever lie
And in strange aeons, even Anubis dies

Before the Ancients, gods of men prostrate
Aware of those that influence their fate’

Dimly aware that the mad Arab’s version of this stanza was related to various olden cults and the voodoo rites of numerous countries, I was more than a little surprised to see it here in antediluvian glyphs, again of the sort that date back to the days when King Menes united both halves of Egypt some time around 3200 BC – meaning that these cryptic inscriptions predated Alhazred’s Necronomicon by a colossal four millennia. Now, although I was startled by the great similarity present between this text and that accursed tome of the mad Arab, I was more disturbed by the mention of Anubis in the midst of it. As anyone who has glimpsed that damned volume will testify, Alhazred’s couplet reads:

‘That is not dead which can eternal lie
And in strange aeons, even death may die’

Now, Mary, I know that even you, who has only a passing interest in the history of Egypt’s Pharaohs and gods, will know that Anubis was the ruler of the kingdom of the dead, and would probably be easily substituted for the idea of death and dying – but something in the back of my mind did not think all was so, especially in light of the huge guardian slab and its depiction of gods kneeling before cuttlefish-headed demons, and the slight detail concerning the literal translation of the figures usually used to denote Anubis’ name – usually, it renders literally as Anpu, not Anubis. Given that this was centuries before legends regarding the jackal-faced Guardian of the Veil became widely known, I begun to think. However, I could not keep my mind away from thoughts of what might lie beneath the surface of this shifting desert land for long, and soon rejoined my efforts to enter the chamber below. Carefully scoring around the words with the small chisel and hammer I had with me, I eventually managed to remove the centre of the plastering intact, and set it atop the vast carven tableau at the edge of the opening. Expanding this new hole, I soon had a breach roughly three feet in diameter, and, as I could see the floor below by the few rays of sunlight that could pass through, I thought it safe to enter. Dropping myself through, I landed quite softly in what seemed to be a natural cave, expanded on two sides so as to make a room of about eight feet in height, and possibly ten feet squared about the floor. Unable to see much by the light filtering through the opening above me, I produced the small electric torch which you bought for me before I left, and scanned the room about me with its rays. On three of the walls, I beheld wondrous, painted scenes similar to those portrayed in the carving of the gate plaque, and around them were rows of hieroglyphs explaining how the subterranean temple had come to be – and at once, when I began to decipher them, I wished I had never set eyes upon the blasted Necronomicon shown to me by that idiot Ashton, for once again, details contained therein were presented before me on a wall four thousand years older than either Alhazred or his wretched work.

Many millennia ago; according to the writings, so I shall assume that this may be nine or even ten thousand years in the past; the Great Old Ones came down from the realm of Ra, between the stars. They settled all over the newborn world, and founded many great cities, the youngest of which preceding even illustrious Sarnath, or gold-paved Ophir, or brooding Tyre. In these cities, they in turn worshipped their own gods, who gave them prodigious powers to shape the bedrock of this world into the twisting spires and Cyclopean blocks of their geometrically impossible cities – spiralling towers burrowing back in upon themselves, flying buttresses extending into nothingness, and a myriad other infeasibilities. They sent emissaries to the fledgling races of the earth – man, beast, and other things better left undiscovered and extinct – and traded their carven idols and their incredibly rare inferior spawn for gold and jewels and minerals which they could extract in their homeland. Soon, many of them had retreated from this world, gone back to Ra’s kingdom; but some were left stranded here, under leagues of ocean or within impassable cages of rock and ice. In the years following the decline of the Old Ones, the cast off runts of their race, traded as slaves for jewellery and ivory, were held in higher regard by those who owned them, and over many years they continued their rise, much like the valiant Spartacus, from the positions of serfs to godhood among these mortal men.

Here in Egypt, five thousand years ago, one of these new-found gods; abandoned by the Old Ones because, despite his phenomenal arcane magicks and sorcery, his face did not bear the aspect of the squid or octopus, but of the earthly wild dog, or jackal; had, as a result of his great powers of necromancy, risen to the rank of their chief god of the dead. The legend then told of how he devolved into a murderous tyrant, and was overthrown by the divine Osiris, who then became the just ruler of the lands to the West – where the Egyptian believed the realm of death lay. By slow degrees, my exhausted mind soon put these pieces into place, and realised that this text spoke of the figure we have always thought of as the god Anubis – the Lord of the West with the aspect of the jackal. He was not, as we had thought, a noble and admirable god, stepping down as ruler of the land of the dead in honour to Osiris, but an alien dictator who demanded he be treated as divine.

It was at this moment that I heard behind me a low groan, more of a guttural whimper, as though that of a hound pining for its missing master. I turned around, and faced the fourth wall, which I had hitherto not examined. Not capable of identifying the source of the noise, I turned on the torch again, and swept its ray across the far wall. What I saw when I did so was something I hope none shall ever have to behold again, for it fully affirmed the horror of the story laid out upon the wall which I now faced away from. The instant my eyes rested upon the scene before me, I knew I must flee, and cover up all knowledge of this ghastly yawning pit and the odd, carven slab that marked it.
I leapt, with all the force in my legs, and grabbed the edge of the hole in the plaster as tightly as I could grip it. Though I could feel the epochs old clay crumbling within my grasp, I held on, and with all the strength of lunacy, pulled myself up through the fissure. In an act of unusual lucidity, I took hold of one end of the large plaque, and flipped it with all my capacity over the entrance to that pit of horrors, but not before throwing the chunk of plaster I had taken from the centre, with its hideously prophetic writings back into the Hell which it marked. With this done, and the chamber of horror closed again, I fell to my knees with revulsion and fatigue, before collapsing backwards to the mercy of unconscious oblivion.

When I came to, I saw that there must have been a tremendous desert storm, for the dunes and sand-covered landscape before me were not remotely akin to how they looked when I last beheld them. Despite the obvious force of the sandstorm which alone could wreak such changes in the land, I had taken to injuries, not had I even been so much as partially buried in the shifting sand. I gave a quick prayer of thanks to God at this point, for I knew that the terror I had seen in the vault below had been hidden once more to prying mortal minds. I sit now back in the base camp, and have told the men that I could find nothing – for ignorance is the only bastion left to humanity if what I have seen is really true – and have not shown them the odd little key I remembered that I kept in my shirt pocket, for they would only wonder as to its source, and perhaps unearth that dark secret which I had seen in their quest to discover its origin. I am beginning the return journey home tomorrow, and shall be with you soon – I do not want to spend any more time in this ancient land of secrets.

You are probably still wondering what I saw in that damp, cold, underground cellar, and I am still unsure that you would believe it if I did tell you. For what I saw, fettered and manacled to the far wall of the hidden chamber, was the living, animate form of a jackal-headed man…

Yours faithfully

One Response to “He Who Is Set Upon His Mountain”

  1. Bfwnov Wrote:

    great story! just wondering if the devine osiris was also a cast-out of the old ones or was he an indigenous god of the earth.

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