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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Earliest Shrine - 4. Chapter 4

Vincent asked, "What period do you estimate for this door?"

Barbara answered, "It'll take some study and testing, but if I had to guess, I'd say early Urnfield Culture, that's usually considered around 1300–1150 BC.

"Up to 3300 years old, that's amazing!"

While they were marveling at this remarkable artifact, James said in his now familiar tone-less voice. "They're ready for us to enter."

Shivers traveled up Winston's spine. He stuttered, "Wh…wh… who's waiting for us James?"

"They are."

Winston shouted, "James, stop it, you're doing it again, and this time you're scaring the shit out of me."

"Winston!" His mom said. "Watch your language. Although, James, you're scaring me too, and with the number of digs I've participated in, that's saying something. Why don't you and Winston head back to the hotel? Dr. Wagner and I need to come up with a plan to remove this door."

"Don't go in without me," said James. "It's not safe for you to go in alone."

The members of both families were becoming concerned about James. So far, his "predictions" had been harmless. Admittedly, his premonition about additional archeology behind the back wall of the Mithraeum was prescience, but Dr. Wagner had a similar hunch. The adults decided to keep a closer eye on him. After all, hormones were pulsing unpredictably through his body at his age, and he might have periods of irrationality. In other words, he was acting like a typical teenager.

While Barbara and Dr. Wagner worked on extracting the Urnfied barrier, the rest of the families decided to play tourist. It would probably do them all some good to distance themselves from the excavation for a few days.

The Kunsters and the Crawfords decided on a day trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairy-tale castle of King Ludwig II.

Everyone piled into the van and drove to the village of Hohenschwangau, where they took a horse-drawn carriage to the castle entrance. The views were magnificent.

While enjoying the carriage ride, James turned to Winston, Benjamin, and Amelia and said, "This castle is crazy, like something out of an old Disney cartoon."

They laughed in agreement.

The interior was overly lavish for their tastes. Although impressive, they all agreed they "wouldn't want to live here."

A day later, they decided to go hiking on the Eibsee Loop in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. It was a long drive, but from everything they'd read, worth it. They were excited to explore the beautiful lake and the surrounding mountains.

They stopped by a shop, purchased a picnic lunch, and headed to the trailhead.

After a few hours of hiking, they reached the top of the mountain and found a perfect spot to have a picnic. They spread out their blankets and had some delicious sausages, pretzels, and drinks. The view from the top was breathtaking, and they enjoyed their meal while admiring the beauty of nature.

After finishing their picnic, they continued their hike around the lake. They saw many other hikers and locals enjoying the scenic beauty of Eibsee. They took some pictures with Benjamin mugging in every shot to capture the memories of their trip.

That night, back in Augsburg, they met up with Barbara in a restaurant close to the hotel. She had news.

"This morning, we completed the removal of the bronze door. Dr. Wagner was the first to reconnoiter the passageway for safety."

"What did he find?" Benjamin excitedly exclaimed.

"Nothing. As soon as Boris stepped through the portal, he experienced heart palpitations."

"Is he alright?" Asked a concerned Amelia.

"He appears to be. They're keeping him in the hospital overnight, to be certain."

They all turned and looked at James.

"I … I … I don't know what happened. I remember saying, "Don't go in without me," and "It's not safe for you to go in alone," but I don't know why I said it."

Barbara said, "I know you didn't have anything to do with Boris's heart palpitations, but you've predicted several things about this excavation that have come true. Is there anything else you can tell us?"

"I'm sorry, Winston. I know this is going to creep you out, but whatever is in there wants me to be the first to visit."

"Are you in one of your trances?" asked Winston.

"No. It's hard to explain, but things come to me a few hours after I have an episode. It's like it settles in."

"What's inside, James," asked his mom with a worried voice.

"I don't know mom. I do know it doesn't want to hurt any of us. It just wants me to enter first."

After dinner, the four parents met to discuss these latest revelations. After much discussion, they decided to leave the decision to enter or not up to James. After all, he wasn't a boy anymore.

They assembled in the Mithraeum the next day with Dr. Boris Wagner and the other archeologists.

Boris reported that his heart stopped palpating as soon as he returned through the portal yesterday morning. He felt no ill effects, and the hospital confirmed that he showed no signs of trauma. He theorized it might have been the excitement.

Barbara and Boris met earlier and agreed they would accompany James to the portal and follow him.

Upon learning of this plan, Winston forcefully exclaimed. "James isn't going in there without me!"

After a short discussion, they decided James, Barbara, Dr. Wagner, and Winston would enter together.

They lined up with James in the lead, followed closely by Winston, his mom, and Dr. Wagner. They solemnly made their way to the portal where the Urnfield door was recently hung. They paused. James realized he wasn't nervous. He knew he belonged here, and he had nothing to fear. It wasn't the same for the others. Winston could feel his heart beating out of his chest.

Barbara addressed James and Winston. "I know I don't have to say this, but don't touch anything. It's both dangerous and liable to taint any archaeological discoveries."

James stepped through the portal. He turned and, smiling, said, "I feel fine."

Barbara, Winston, and Boris cautiously followed. They were also unaffected. Barbara wondered if Boris's heart palpitations the day before had nothing to do with James' warning.

Within a few steps, their torches illuminated a chamber. Barbara and Boris immediately recognized the space as the inner chamber of a tumulus, a burial chamber. It was the size of the standard American bedroom but with a peaked roof. Little could be discerned about the contents of the space because several inches of debris covered the floor. They saw a rib bone sticking up out of the dust in the center of the room.

"This isn't an Urnfield burial, Barbara," said Dr. Wagner.

"I think you're right. This was an inhumation," replied Barbara.

"What does that mean, mom?" asked Winston.

The Urnfield culture usually cremated the remains and entombed the ashes in an urn. This is …

Barbara's eyes suddenly widened. "JAMES, STOP!"

James had walked into the raised area of the tomb next to the projecting rib bone, reached down into the loose soil, extracted a bronze knife, and dropped it to his side. He then reached into the soil with both hands and removed a disk-shaped object with some effort.

"James, what are you doing? Don't touch anything!"

"Holding the disc out in front of him, James said calmly. "This is why I am here. I'm meant to find this."

James compliantly left the platform and joined the rest of the group. He securely held the disk to his chest.

Boris took some photos while Barbara made some preliminary measurements of the space. They then returned to the Mithraeum and the anxiously waiting family and archaeologists.

Barbara gave them an update. "It's an amazing find. It appears to be an intact, high-status early Bronze Age tumulus. We've got a lot of work to do, but it's likely a once-in-a-lifetime archaeological discovery."

Dr. Wagner added, "Barbara and I will put together a plan, and we'll start the excavation tomorrow."

James had wrapped the disk in his hoodie. Barbara kept a close eye on him. Although upset that he had adulterated the site, she sensed it was beyond anyone's control. At this point, she had an overwhelming desire to examine the artifact James had found.

They returned to the hotel.

As they walked, James addressed Winston and Barbara. "I'll need your help cleaning the disk."

Barbara numbly nodded.

They set up a work area in James and Winston's room. Under normal circumstances, Barbara would have insisted on a university or museum lab doing the work. Still, she was beginning to feel this wasn't a typical excavation or artifact.

James placed the disk, wrapped in his hoodie, on the table. Barbara and Winston stared at it, both frozen in place.

"It's OK, there's no danger. You can handle the disk."

Barbara carefully unwrapped the artifact. It was covered with millennium of grime.

She placed the object into a shallow basin filled with a mild cleaning solution specifically designed for this purpose. She set a timer on her phone. The disk was soaked for six hours, after which it was inspected and soaked for another six hours. At the end of each soaking, Barbara would gently agitate the object. She repeated this process over the next four days.

After the last cycle, she placed the object in a second basin filled with a neutralizing solution.

As it soaked, Barbara, Winston, and James stared in amazement at the recently revealed surface of the disk. It was beautiful. It reminded Barbara of the Nebra Sky Disk, a Bronze Age disk thought by some to be the first depiction of the astronomical heavens and perhaps used to predict the seasons. Instead of the sun, the moon, and stars, this disk portrayed what appeared to be mountains, rivers, and graphical elements, including swirls and zigzags.

The disk was bronze with a deep blue/purple front surface. The raised elements were gold.

"I don't know what to say," said Barbara. "This is undoubtedly the most significant European archaeological discovery this century."

"It's pretty cool, Mom," said Winston, "what do you think it means?"

"I wish I knew Winston. I suspect scholars will study this for decades."

James stood quietly studying the disk. After several minutes, Winston asked, "Are you OK, James? What's the matter?"

"It's a map."

"A map?" Asked Barbara, "How do you know that James?"

"It says so."

She stood dumbstruck, looking at James.

"But James early and middle Bronze Age Central Europeans had no written language."

James looked up with a quizzical expression on his face. "Of course they did, Barbara, although this is a copy of a much earlier map."

Barbara would visit the Bronze Age Tumulus excavation every day. The boys knew to stay clear because it was a busy work site. Barbara and Dr. Wagner promised to let them see the fully excavated site when it was finished. Boris was taking the lead, and the archaeologists were attempting, when possible, to reveal the artifacts while still leaving the grave goods in situ.

James and Winston enjoyed their life in Europe like any other carefree fourteen-year-olds on vacation.

One day, they discovered a teen fußball (soccer) club playing at a local field. Club members invited them to join in the scrimmage. Some German boys were really good, but at least Winston and James didn't embarrass themselves. It was a lot of fun. They joined the boys at a nearby hangout for snacks afterward. Luckily for James and Winston, the German boys' English was much better than their Deutsch. They played two more times that week.

On the tenth day, Winston's mom told them they were welcome to come by the dig site the next day for a tour. James and Winston didn't have to be asked twice.

The following day at breakfast, Barbara told the boys, "There have been some spectacular finds. Maybe nothing as earth-shattering as the disk, but still exceptional. We haven't told anyone about the tomb to avoid publicity. Our funders will want to be present for the announcement. So, you guys need to promise not to tell a soul."

"We promise," they both said in unison, then looked at each other and laughed.

Barbara, Winston, and James went to the Mithraeum, where they met Dr. Wagner. The four of them followed the passage to the entrance to the tomb.

The first thing James and Winston noticed were the skeletons. There were two skeletons, one prone, lying on his back, with the other, lying across his lap.

Dr. Wagner said, "We were wrong about dating the Bronze Age culture of this tumulus. It is seven hundred years older than we first thought. This is the grave of a powerful chieftain from the Unetice culture. Carbon dating gives us a date of 2000 BC.

The next thing James and Winston noticed was something shimmering bright gold. "What's that?" Asked Winston while pointing at the object.

"Uhm, that's a bit of an enigma," said Dr. Wagner. "It's a gold hat. A few have been found, some very elaborate, but they've all been from the late Tumulus or Urnfield cultures. This hat is hundreds of years older than the next oldest hat. It's also shaped differently than the others."

"It's a Phrygian cap!" Exclaimed Winston. "Just like Mithras."

"Yes," said Dr. Wagner. "It may be a coincidence, or it may be somehow related to the Mithraeum. We know that no one, including the Romans, entered the tomb. The second bronze door was never opened, and with one recent exception," Dr. Wagner gave James a pointed look. "The tumulus was undisturbed."

Barbara continued, "Other grave goods include three bronze axes, a bronze sword with gold hilt, two bronze daggers, one you extracted on our first visit, James, and bronze armor. The bodies are adorned with gold spiral arm rings, gold belt plates, gold finger rings, and amber necklaces."

"There are three ceramic pots. Two were probably filled with foodstuffs. We are waiting for the results from the lab to verify the contents. The third pot is a bit of a mystery."

"It's filled with the pieces of an older pot," said James.

"That's right, James. How did you know that?"

"The older pot has the same map as the disk."

Dr. Wagner had been quietly listening to the conversation. "Map? What map?"

Barbara replied, "James thinks the bronze disk is a map."

"Yes, it's an ancient map. It's been copied countless times. The chards in the pot are a previous version of the map."

Dr. Wagner joined Barbara, James, and Winston for lunch that afternoon. They had some important things to talk about.

Dr. Wagner began. "James, Barbara, and I have studied the disk. We've found little evidence that it is anything other than a high-status ornament. The mountains and river depicted could well represent the lands under the entombed chieftains' control, and the swirls and zigzags are typical decorative elements of the period. What makes you think it's a map?"

"As I told Barbara, the disk says it is a map."

"Is the disk talking to you, James?" Asked Dr. Wagner.

James smiled, "No, not this time. The decorative elements are writing. I don't know about all these different cultures you talk about, but it's a very old form of writing."

"Can you read it, James?" Asked Dr. Wagner.

"Yes, I don't know how I can read it, but I can. It's very different from our languages. It doesn't have defined words or sentence structure, and still, it's pleasant to read."

"What does it say, James?" Asked Dr. Wagner.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not supposed to tell you."

"Why not?" Asked Barbara.

"It's not meant for you. Even if I told you what it says, there's little you could do with the information."

Barbara and Dr. Wagner decided James' story was the product of an overactive imagination. Fortunately, the excavation was finished, and James and Winston could concentrate on being young teens again.

That night, in their room and after a make-out session with just a little “accidental” grinding, James asked.

"Winston, will you go with me?"

"Where are you going, James?"

"Wherever the map leads me."

"Of course, I'll go with you."

Copyright © 2023 paren01; All Rights Reserved.
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Thanks for reading. Comments are appreciated.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

56 minutes ago, akascrubber said:

James has powerful insights about the tomb and its artifacts. The adults barely listen to him. He can see that the disk shows a map with writing on it. He feels lost and not believed. He asked Winston to follow him where he thinks the map will lead. Winston agrees to help him. The adults will be surprised.

Thanks for the comment.

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‘Inhumation’ sent me to the dictionary! Maybe following the map will be a great adventure or… Looking forward to finding out.

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7 minutes ago, Dan South said:

‘Inhumation’ sent me to the dictionary! Maybe following the map will be a great adventure or… Looking forward to finding out.

It’s a great adventure until it’s not. Thanks for the comment.

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Looking forward to where the map and the rest of the story lead!!!  You are doing a fantastic job!!!!!

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35 minutes ago, GuyMark said:

Looking forward to where the map and the rest of the story lead!!!  You are doing a fantastic job!!!!!

Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the encouragement.

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