They entered the temple and were amazed. It was like stepping back in history three thousand years or more. The brazen altar, the giant bronze seas containing oil to be lit to summon Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi. Here Tamara could feel her magic strength returning, which explained a lot. If someone had found a way to enter the Oracle from the top, they would have been able to keep their magic and possibly influence Pythia to do their bidding.
Tamara lit the brazen sea’s, and Pythia appeared. She was not what Tamara had expected to see. She thought she would see an old woman, or perhaps someone of middle-age, but Pythia was barely a woman, appearing not to be much more than a teenager at best. Pythia looked at Tamara, and a smile crossed her face, and a shadow fell in her eyes. Pythia spoke, and James was required to interpret, she only spoke ancient Greek and James was the only one who understood her.
“Welcome, Tamara Jenkins, I have been waiting for your arrival. Please come in and sit, we have much to discuss you and me, and unless you can accept what I am about to tell you, and act upon it, I fear all will.”
Tamara bowed her head before Pythia, and the others all sat before the Oracle. Pythia looked at Tamara and offered her a seat on the dais beside her, Tamara ascended the three steps to the top and sat down. Noting that each level had an inscription which said, “To all who seek answers, life is only a riddle, come ask your questions, and pray for the revelation of knowledge that you seek.”
As Tamara sat beside Pythia, she looked directly into her eyes and spoke. “Clyde Barnwell, the Black Magus, your mortal enemy came seeking that which was hidden by Apollo and Poseidon in Atlantis. I chose to reveal it’s location to bring this battle to a head, you have been fighting against the forces of the Black Magus for over five years now, and have fought them to a stalemate, you must overcome him, if you do not, all will be lost.”
“Why would you give him the very thing he needed to release the Witch King’s powers and allow him to assume his mantle?”
“Have you not heard the stories related to humanity through the myths and legends of old? From every civilization that has ever flourished, they all speak of the same prophecy, that the Queen of Light must fight the King of Darkness and overcome him to stop the release of Chaos and return the world to Darkness. Your Destiny, the very reason for your existence. It is why you found Caladan, met James McKenzie and Sebastian and is the reason you are here now. You must enter this battle, and you must prevail. But I must tell you, it isn’t going to be easy, nor will it end directly, as long as the Magus has his power, you will always be in this struggle.”
What she wanted to hear; she wanted this fight to be over and to live a life of peace, to teach archeology, and to spend her life with her husband and have a family, she wanted children. This prophecy made her feel that she would never have what she wanted most and as she began to sink into a depression, Pythia spoke.
“Tamara, do not feel that you cannot have all the things that you desire, in fact quite the opposite is true. If you take the fight to Barnwell, you can overcome him, not destroy him. He must remain, but you must prevent him from attaining the power he seeks from the Witch King. You are all that stands between him and world dominion.”
This revelation made Tamara catch her breath, and the realization set in that this fight would never end, not until the time came to an end, Good and Evil were always going to struggle against each other and would continue to do so until the Universe ceased to exist.
Tamara was about to excuse herself and the others and take leave of Pythia when she turned to Tamara and said, “Do not leave the temple this place absorbs your magic and it takes several days for them to return, to full strength. If you leave, then your power will be permanently diminished. I let the Magus go immediately; you need to regain your strength. You have several weeks before Barnwell reaches Tartarus, and I will give you passage there directly from here.” With that statement, Pythia rose and invited them to dine with her.
They were amazed at the fare set upon her benches, fresh fruits, figs, cheeses, grapes, all manner of bread, wine, and cakes, and at the end of the table were several different kinds of meats. There was a variety of fowl, lamb, venison, pork, and veal. They dined in the splendor that night, enjoying all the comforts that Pythia offered and replenishing their spirits as well as their powers.
On the morning after, they rose feeling refreshed, and as Tamara was preparing to bathe, Ihk Bin appeared and spoke. “Tamara, today and tomorrow you will stay here and rest, on the third day Pythia will open the way for you to go to Tartarus, but I come with a warning, be very careful once you enter the domain of Hades, he is crafty, and his subtlety is well known. If he genuinely is the designer of this, he is going to make it difficult for you and the others to complete the task given.
Tamara considered his words, then turned to ask him what could Hades possibly gain by releasing the Witch King. To her surprise, Ihk Bin answered with a single word; it was a name that brought fear even to her. Ihk Bin said, “Kronos.” Tamara understood what that meant. The power needed to release Kronos was beyond most and was imprisoned in Tartarus for five thousand years, if he were released, then Chaos would be free.
Kronos had been the chief Guardian in ancient times; he was also the father of the Olympians. He had tried to keep them from rising to power and had chosen to eat them. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades had escaped and defeated him and had imprisoned him in Tartarus to prevent him from destroying creation in revenge. He was the ally that Barnwell needed, but he also would betray Barnwell as soon as he was released.
The reality of the situation finally hit Tamara in full. She had stopped Ragnarok, had reunited the Norse Guardians, and they were doing what they were made to do, but this was different, this was Kronos, destroyer of worlds, King of Chaos and his powers were almost limitless. If he got free, they would never be able to stop him. She and her comrades were all that stood between Kronos escaping and the world stay safe.
She thought it strange, two Tuatha De carrying the Swords of Legend, a Sarmatian carrying the Sword of Batraz that could arguably be Excalibur itself, and an Assyrian carrying Ysbrid and wearing the amulets that powered it. Quite a sordid lot and all descended from the same people. Here they stood, in the middle of the Caucuses, where they all had their beginning. Returning to the land, their ancestors called home and prepared to enter the underworld going to Tartarus to prevent The Black Magus from releasing the Scythian Witch King who would in turn release Kronos.
Tamara talked with Pythia at length, learning all she could about the Witch King, Kronos, and how Blackwell had gotten past the trials unscathed and without killing any of them. She was quite surprised when Pythia told her that the inhabitants had allowed the Magus to pass because he posed no threat to them. He was purely evil, and therefore destroying the world as Tamara knew it would cause them no harm.
As she considered this, Pythia touched her arm and spoke in a more hushed tone. You must prevail, Tamara, you have the power to restore the balance. If the Witch King is released the scales will tip in favor of Evil, that cannot happen, no matter what else transpires, the Witch King must stay entombed. What was so crucial about the Witch King, who was he? She must find out.
The clues to the Witch King’s identity were obscure at best. Tamara talked with James about what he knew of him. James could only tell her that he was referred to as the Witch King in the records that he had access to but thought that either Caladan or Sebastian might know more. Tamara questioned each of them individually and was surprised that of the two, Sebastian knew more. He told her that to discover the identity, they were going to need to visit the Great Archive and search in the tombs.
Somewhere there were clues to the person and name of the Witch King. Sebastian said he thought that he was Scythian, but that it was only speculation. Once they got into the tombs, they would search out the history of the Scythians, Cimmerians, Sarmatians, and all references once in the vaults.
One more day until they could leave, she felt entirely empowered but heeded the warning of Pythia, not to go for one more day. The party of Sorcerers spent one more day recuperating and in the morning, packed to depart. Pythia called them to her primary audience chamber once more, and as they prepared to leave, Pythia held up her hand and gave them some much-needed assistance. Behind the dais, was the Greek letter Omega, and it began to glow. Pythia told them to use the portal, and it would take them wherever they chose to go.
The group entered the single portal file and were surprised when they stepped out of the portal and were standing inside the Great Library of the Watchers, the most extensive library since the Library of Alexandria. Many of the tomes and volumes located here were copies of the original manuscripts from Alexandria.
Sebastian went to see the council and get approval to go into the Tombs and search for the identity of the Witch King, it was going to take some time to go through all the records, and the Sorcerers would be the guests of the Watchers. They began to research the materials, and as they pored over the documents, it occurred to Tamara that this could take weeks. She talked it over with the others, and the decision was made to have Sebastian stay and search for the identity while the rest went to Tartarus to prevent the Magus from gaining access to the prison.
They were making preparations to leave when Sebastian ran across something interesting. There was a reference to Akkadia, Uruk, and the Hidden Door. He asked Tamara to delay going for one day; he wanted to look into this before they started for Tartarus. Sebastian poured over the records and just as he was about to give up, he found the answer that they came here to discover. The Witch King was none other than Nimrod, entombed in the underworld, and the Hidden Door referred to was the entrance to Hades domain.
Nimrod was known as the mighty hunter, and there were several references to him being the son of Ishtar. He was entirely evil and had reigned over his people in terror. Gilgamesh had fought him and with the aid of Semiramis, the Sarmatians, Tuatha De, and several other people’s had defeated him and imprisoned him in Tartarus. If the Magus released Nimrod and gave him Odysseus’ Bow, Nimrod would release Kronos, and together they would bring a new reign of terror upon the world.
Tamara called for Ihk Bin, Amlidu and Amylgaf; this would take more than her power and the powers the others possessed. They would need divine help to overcome the trio, and it could require all the Guardians involvement as well. It was not going to be a simple task if the Magus succeeded in releasing Nimrod the Witch King of Shinar.
Ihk Bin and the others arrived almost immediately, once Tamara explained what they were facing, Ihk Bin called for the Guardian leaders to have a council. Initially, Kronos, trapped by Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, but now with Hades turned against the Guardians it would require another to help them keep Kronos imprisoned. Gilgamesh, Semiramis, Batraz, and Dagda had overcome Nimrod and detained him. The four that would be necessary to prevent Nimrods release were Caladan, Sebastian, Tamara, and a descendant of Gilgamesh, but so far, no one was able to determine a direct line descendant that had the powers of Gilgamesh. The only Guardian with the ability to take the place of Hades would be Mimir, and Ihk Bin called him to duty.
The Sorcerers would have to fight the Magus while the Guardians kept Kronos locked away, and it would fall to James McKenzie to find a descendant of Gilgamesh and bring him to Tartarus. Where James would look no one knew, the records were vague and the lineage was quite obscure.