The sword rested majestically on the worn-out pedestal, its long straight obsidian blade drawing all the light of the surrounding cave. Eleanor was the first to notice it, dark almond-shaped eyes swimming with tears. The corners of her mouth turned up as she cried out to her companion, long-date boyfriend and soon husband-to-be, Harold.
“It’s real! Oh my God, it’s real!”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” He laid down his backpack on the jagged floor and gave her a condescending look even though he had been the first to doubt the success of their self-funded expedition, long before leaving English shores. “I told you my grandfather wasn’t a nut job!”
“But if the blade is real, then that means...” she squealed, enthusiastically. “... everything else must be, too! Honey, do you realize what this means?”
“Of course, I do.” He hugged her so tightly he could almost hear her delicate shoulder bones cracking underneath. “We’re going to be filthy rich and everyone that ever doubted us will have to lick your shoes and apologize!”
“I like the sound of that...” she beamed. “... but can I just shove the sword down their throats?”
“No, honey, because that would be murder...” He grinned in return.
Still holding on to one another, they surveyed the room. It was an irregular rock chamber, not very different from the dozens they had left behind, rare archaeological finding aside. The Mongolian subterranean network stretched at least then miles east of the foot of Mount Chandmani and it was amazing how no one had stumbled upon it in hundreds of years despite the large tourist hotspot. The gods of old were undoubtedly on their side.
“I want a picture, okay?” She escaped his embrace to inspect the blade. The item before her was but one of the fabled swords of Careth, described in legends as “having the power to pierce the veils of reality.” Before his untimely battle with lung cancer, Harold’s grandfather often told her fantastic stories of how a long-forgotten tribe of humans had fought dark multiverse entities hellbent on crossing over. His descriptions were always vivid, tales of blood and heroic sacrifice against almost invincible foes whose actual nature defied the confines of flesh.
“Don’t you think we should map out the rest of the network first?” Harold mumbled. “There may be yet other treasures to uncover.”
“Picture. Now!” She repeated, holding the golden hilt in her right hand. “Do I look badass or what?”
“You certainly do...” He admitted as he reached for the compact digital camera. Though the lighting inside the chamber was poor, it didn’t stop him from getting two or three big takes as she pretended to slay an invisible foe.
“All done. Come look.”
“Eleanor sauntered to him, raven locks dripping over her long eyelashes. The sword was warm in her hands and far lighter than she expected. As she peered into the camera’s screen, she let out a sudden shriek.
“What the hell is this?”
Harold’s brows snapped together, prompted by bewilderment and fear. A shadow monstrosity of indiscernible shape swirled around the edge of the weapon, two glowing pools of infernal radiance calling out to them.
“Honey?” Eleanor muttered, the hairs on her arms and legs reaching for the unattainable sky. His expression dulled as hers hardened, features clouded by an evil spark.
It was really true—all of it! Unable to stop shaking, the late thirties wannabe explorer peed his pants when the ghastly figure in the picture enveloped his darling’s once pristine smile in a web of festering decadence. Her neck spasmed, the brown tint in her irises slowly fading into whiteness.
“At last, a new host...” the thing History had tried its best to forget, hissed at him. The color drained out of his face as he let out a mortifying scream.