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    paren01
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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 - 7. Chapter 7


**
The following day, the boys met up with the German youth Fußball club to kick the ball around. After the scrimmage, as the boys lounged around in the club's usual hangout, several were curious about their time in Leipzig. Winston and James mentioned they had observed the summer solstice at the Goseck Circle. Most of the boys found that interesting. One boy, Theo, belonged to a youth explorer club. His local group had camped at the circle the year before. Although it wasn't at the solstice, he and his companions found the experience both fun and moving.

"Have you ever camped above the Danube near the Neckar River, Theo?" asked Winston.

"Oh yes, several times. The Schwäbische Alb is one of our favorite places to camp and hike."

Referencing the text on the Augsburg Disk, James asked. "Have you ever heard of a trail called something like swoitasentos?"

"There's the Schwabian trail. It is a long hiking trail, over a hundred kilometers. It runs through several mountain valleys and is one of the easier hikes in the mountains."

"That sounds interesting. Maybe we should give it a try, James," said Winston.

"Yeah, maybe we should."
**

The foursome convinced their parents to let them visit Blaubeuren to meet with the tour guide at the museum.

Winston called ahead, and Max happily agreed to meet them the next day at noon in the library/conference room in the museum's basement.

James began, "It is nice of you to spend time with us and answer some of our questions."

"I don't know how much I can help you, but I'll answer your questions the best I can. I remember your first visit a couple of weeks ago and thinking, 'Those two look good together.'

"You thought we were a couple? We didn't know we were a couple then." Said Winston.

"It was obvious to me. You two were practically slobbering over each other." Joked Max. "I told my boyfriend I met an adorable couple when I got home that night."

Winston and James were embarrassed by the compliments.

"We can't leave you two alone for a minute!" quipped Amelia.

Benjamin added. "I know what you mean about the slobbering, Max. I had to share a room with them last week. It wasn't a pretty picture."

Benjamin, Amelia, and Max laughed. James and Winston joined the laughter uncomfortably while still blushing.

"What can I help you with?" Asked Max.
"We're on a kind of 'scavenger hunt.'" Said James. "We've got some clues, but we've hit some roadblocks. Some of the final clues are associated with the Bronze Age. We were hoping you could help us figure it out."

"Sounds strange and fascinating at the same time. What kind of a scavenger hunt is this?"

This is where things could get a little tricky. The four adventurers had no reason to distrust Max, but as they already learned, the world of archeology was small, particularly in Germany. Boris likely had some association with either the Blaubeuren Museum or the university Max attended.

"Do you know Dr. Boris Wagner?" asked Winston.

"Yes, I've met him. He offered a series of lectures at the university on Roman funeral rights and the identification and interpretation of funeral pyres during fieldwork. It was interesting, but to be honest, Dr. Wagner's presentation was a little dry. Why do you ask?"

"No particular reason," said Winston, "it's just that he and my mom work together, and I don't think she wants us on the scavenger hunt."

"It's fine with me. I doubt I'll run into the doctor any time soon. If I do, your secret is safe with me."

"Thanks, Max. We know that the goal of the scavenger hunt is to find something north of the Danube and east of the Neckar rivers. We suspect it's somewhere in the Schwäbische Alb, perhaps along the Schwabian trail. Can you tell us about any Bronze Age sites in that area?" Asked James.

"I don't know of much Bronze Age activity in that region, although I'm sure there is some." James, Winston, Amelia, and Benjamin were disappointed by this news. "There has been human activity in that area for tens of thousands of years, though."

"Really? What kind of human activity?" Benjamin excitedly asked.

"Many of the Paleolithic exhibits in this museum are from caves along that trail." Replied Max. "There's also hominid remains from several million years ago. The climate has fluctuated dramatically in this area, as in much of Europe. Also, the Schwäbische Alb were subject to violent volcanic eruptions around fifteen million years ago. That explains some of the irregular rock formations around many of the caves."

"How many caves are there?" Asked James.

"I don't know if anyone knows the total number of caves and caverns. I suspect there are many yet to be discovered. There are six caves in Swabian Jura designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Ice Age humans used these caves for shelter about 33,000 to 43,000 years ago. The caves are distributed across two valleys in the Swabian Jura: the Lone (river) Valley and the Ach Valley. The Lone River Valley includes the caves Hohlenstein-Stadel, Vogelherd, and Bocksteinhöhle, while the Ach River Valley includes Geissenklösterle, Hohle Fels, and Sirgenstein Cave."

James was surprised when Amelia jabbed him suddenly in the thigh under the table and out of Max's sight.

"What?!" he croaked.
"I'll tell you later." Whispered Amelia.

These caves are particularly famous for their high density of artifacts from the Aurignacian tradition, ranging from roughly 43,000 to 26,000 years ago. The Aurignacian tradition is characterized by the advent of symbolic communication in the form of beads and pendants, specialized flint blades, and figurative art, all of which were found in high numbers within these six caves.

Among the impressive discoveries are figurines, musical instruments, and Venus statues.

And don't forget the Phallus von Schelklingen found in the Hohler Fels Cave. I noticed you giving that artifact a good deal of attention the last time you were here, Winston," Max said with a wink. Everyone but a blushing Winston cracked up.

"As you know, many of these items are on display in this museum."

The caves of the Swabian Jura are seen as one of the first centers of human art and are among the first settlements of modern humans in Europe."

"That's really interesting. We're thinking of hiking the trails near the caves and seeing if we can find more scavenger hunt clues. Does the word 'swoitasentos' mean anything to you, Max?" Asked James.

"Where did you come up with that word?"

"I read it somewhere." James evasively replied.

It sounds like Swabian German. I grew up speaking Swabian German as a second language. It's known as Schwäbisch in German. My grandparents spoke only Schwäbisch. It belongs to the High German dialect, and Schwäbisch is mainly spoken in Swabia. Like the Celtic languages, it almost died out in the 19th and 20th centuries but experienced a revival and is now taught in some of the schools.

Swabian German can be difficult to understand for speakers of Standard German due to its unique pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary."

"Swoitasentos is an archaic Swabian German contraction of two words meaning 'hunt trail' or 'hunting path.'"

"Are there any hunting paths along the Schwabian trail?" Asked James.

"Yeah, there's lots of hunting in the Schwäbische Alb. Hunter-gatherers hunted all kinds of game in the Lone and Arch valleys, including mammoths. Many of the Paleolithic artifacts are carved from mammoth bones and tusks."

"Thanks, Max. We better leave before they fire you for hanging out with us." Said Winston.

"They wouldn't fire me! They don't pay me enough. I hope I was helpful."

"You've given us a lot of clues. I think it's time to do some hiking." Said James.

"Let's exchange numbers. My boyfriend and I would enjoy getting together after you finish 'the hunt' to learn what you found."

On the train ride back to Augsburg, James asked Amelia. "Why did you hit me in the leg while talking to Max? I'm probably going to get a bruise," he feigned severe pain while grasping his leg.

"Didn't you hear what Max said about the valleys near the caves?"

"I was listening to him, but ... What did I miss?" Asked James.

"He said some caves were in the Lone River Valley." Said Amelia.

James considered what Amelia's said. "I don't get it."

"A couple of days ago, when we met in my room at the hotel, you told us the disk referenced an ancient hunting trail that intersects with something that translates to the quiet stream."

"So?"

An exasperated Amelia explained. "Quiet stream … Loan River. I know it's not an exact translation, but they may be the same. If so, we can shrink our search area significantly."

James shrugged. "It's worth a try. We have to start somewhere."

The teens faced an additional challenge: how would they convince their parents to let them hike in the mountains on their own? The Lone Valley wasn't that long, but it would take at least a day to get to the trail, hike it, and return to Augsburg. As they were pondering this problem, James' phone rang.

"It's Max," said James.

"We're all here. Can I put you on speaker?"

"There's something that just happened I thought I should tell you about."

"What's that Max?"

"Dr. Wagner just left the museum. He came in a few minutes after you left. He knows you were here. He must be following you."

"How did he know where we are?" asked Winston.

"I don't know, but he cornered me in one of the galleries and forcefully interrogated me. I didn't tell him anything, but I'd be careful. He seems unhinged."

"Thanks, Max. I'm sorry we got you mixed up in this mess." Said James.

"No problem. Just watch out for yourselves."

They ended the call.

"How do you think Boris found out where we were going?" Asked James.

"I can't imagine him sitting in his car in front of the hotel waiting for us to go somewhere. He may be a loser, but even he's not that pathetic." Said Benjamin.

"Maybe someone's telling him where we're going?" Said Amelia.

"I bet it's our mom." Said Winston. You know how chatty she gets sometimes."

"I think you're right," replied Amelia. "She and Dr. Wagner are colleagues, after all."

"That changes our strategy. We can't let our parents know where we are going." Said James.

"How long do you think it will take us to hike the Lone River Valley?" Asked Benjamin.

Amelia looked it up on Google Maps and, after several calculations, determined the one-way hike would take about two hours.

"That's doable. Allowing for some extra exploring time, I think we can do it in a day." Said James.

"How are we going to get there?" asked Winston. "Do you think Friedrich can drive us to the head of the trail?"

"Friedrich! Not him again!" Voiced Benjamin. Then, after a pause. "Friedrich’s, okay. If not me, then him. Does Friedrich have a sister?"

Friedrich offered to drop them off at the head of the trail and pick them up at the trail end. James thought, 'He'd do anything for Amelia. Straight boys can't help themselves. But then again, he'd do anything for Winston.'

The teens told their parents they planned on doing some mountain biking in one of the nature parks just outside of Augsburg. The Mithraeum and Bronze Age excavations announcements were scheduled for the following week, and Barbara, Vincent, and Paul were frantic with last-minute preparations. Hopefully, Dr. Wagner was equally busy. Worldwide interest was through the roof. James and Benjamin's mom was busy creating a marketing plan for a new client. In truth, their parents were happy the teens had a healthy outdoor activity to occupy them.

Friedrich Dropped them off east of the Vogelherd Cave. They planned to hike westward to a mile or two beyond the Bockstein Cave. They had water and snacks and fully charged phones. They allowed themselves three hours to complete the hike.

James, Winston, Amelia, and Benjamin set off to hike the Lone River Valley. Besides the rich archaeology, the valley was resplendent in natural beauty. Rain and wind often swept through the mountains, particularly in summer. It was overcast, and they feared a storm might hit them before they completed the hike. As a result, there were few other hikers on the trail.

They followed the river, enjoying the scenery of meadows, fields, and forests. They saw some cows grazing on the slopes and some birds flying overhead. They noticed some signs that indicated the presence of caves in the area. After about an hour of walking, they reached the first cave saved on their phones. It was called Vogelherd Cave, and it was discovered in 1931. It was the source of some of the flutes displayed at the Blaubeuren Museum that dated back to 35,000 years ago. The teens already knew the cave wasn't open to the general public, but they approached the site as close as possible to get a sense of the area.

After a couple of minutes, James said, "I'm not feeling anything. There's nothing here for us."

The next cave on the trail was Hohlenstein-Stadel. This cave was located in the Hohlenstein cliff at the southern rim of the Lonetal. The cliffs are made of limestone, which was hollowed out by natural causes to create the caves.

Winston couldn't believe it. Archaeologists found the lion-man statue in this cave in 1939. More than the other teens, he was amazed that ancient humans created such a masterpiece in this dark and cold cave. The Stadel was the most beautiful and largest of all the Lone Valley caves.

As they entered the Hohlenstein-Stadel, they knew they were stepping into a place of significant paleontological and archaeological importance. The teens felt the cool dampness of the cave, saw the rugged limestone walls, and imagined the people who once inhabited this space thousands of years ago, and they were all struck by the solemn importance of the cavern.
The cave's interior was a testament to the passage of time, with layers from the Neolithic, Mesolithic, and Upper Paleolithic, notably the Magdalenian and the Aurignacian periods, and finally, the Middle Paleolithic. The cave's history and artifacts offered a glimpse into the lives of their ancient ancestors.

After exiting the cave, Winston, Amelia, and Benjamin turned to James.

"Anything?" asked Winston. James sadly shook his head.

There was only one cave remaining in the Lone Valley. The wind had picked up, and it was beginning to rain. Benjamin and Amelia wanted to stay in the sheltered entrance to the Stadel Cave until the storm passed. James was eager to continue their journey. After some discussion, Winston said. "Why don't you two stay here for a while? James and I will go ahead. We'll be back in a half hour or forty-five minutes."

The two boys snugged their Jackets the best they could and slogged down the path. After a mile or two, James stopped dead in his tracks.

"There it is!"

"What, James?" asked Winston.

"It's the Pleiades Star Cluster!"

Winston looked to where James was pointing. The volcanically formed limestone cliffs above them mimicked the 'Pleiades Star Cluster 'depiction on the Nebra and Augsburg discs and the river map on the boulder at the Goseck Circle precisely. This had to be it!

The boys made their way up a steep path toward the rock formation. Halfway up the cliff, James turned to Winston and, in his now eerily familiar toneless voice, said.

"Winston, they're here and they want to meet you too."

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

2 hours ago, akascrubber said:

Success--James and Winston finally found the right cave and saw the distinctive markings.  James told Winston--they want to meet him too--The ancients have a presence and are talking through James. This could be a very significent discovery!

 

Hopefully, Dr Wagner is not following them. He is unhinged. He could hurt them and want to get the find recognition only for himself. Whatever is discovered might be worthy of revealing at the upcoming major event hosted by their parents.

They’re getting close to their goal. Thanks for the comment.

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2 hours ago, Dan South said:

I will repeat myself and says the teens need to tell the parents about Boris!

Nice they’ll all have shelter in caves while the readers hang from the cliff outside.

You are probably right about Boris. The kids may think their parents would force them to stop the search if they found out about the doctor. Plus young teens often feel they won’t be believed by adult. At least that’s the way I felt at that age.

Thanks for the comment.

8 minutes ago, Leo622 said:

Boris has lost his grip with reality because James is the chosen one. And since they broke up into two teams they’ve made themselves more vulnerable to Boris and whoever else may be observing them.

You may be on to something. Thanks for the comment.

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26 minutes ago, J J said:

I can't wait for the next episode but I'll have to with the rest of us!

I haven't had this much excitement about history probably since 5th grade. We had an excellent teacher that expressed the subject matter in a way we really wanted to know about it all.

"They're Here"

Thanks for the comment. I’m very happy you are enjoying the story. My best teacher ever was a world history teacher when I was a junior in high school.

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Another excellent chapter, Dr Wagner needs to be dealt with, hopefully by whoever is around the corner...speaking of which, this isn't cliffhanger of sorts, more like a who's around the corner hanger???

Here's a suggestion your fans may appreciate...

Working Kermit The Frog GIF

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15 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

Another excellent chapter, Dr Wagner needs to be dealt with, hopefully by whoever is around the corner...speaking of which, this isn't cliffhanger of sorts, more like a who's around the corner hanger???

Here's a suggestion your fans may appreciate...

Working Kermit The Frog GIF

Thanks for the comment. I enjoy learning that people enjoy the read. I wish I could type like that! Lots of revelations in the next chapter (hopefully interesting ones).

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Amelia's suggestion has brought them to the place they have been searching for.  I hope Boris is nowhere near either group.  The next chapter will be very interesting when Winston and James meet the spirits(?) waiting for them in the cave.  I don't know why the boys are surprised that everyone knows they are a couple.  Nice cliffhanger, Paren!

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