It ought to have been oblivion. If there was a god who presided over earth, who culled lambs from goats, who lorded over what must and must not be, she had not met him as she traversed this portal. Perhaps…she ought to have been torn through the light and into the darkness as was her due. Instead, Amelia squinted, alive, but her vision not fully returned to her. But there was a warm hand stroking her face, sized as a child’s would be, tenderly, rhythmically, along her jaw, over her nose, heedless of her features. A young girl, surely attached to that hand held Amelia’s head in her lap as she made this compassionate gesture, singing. The voice was childlike, as well, though, not lilting and pleasant. It was as if a player piano ticked off the prongs of the song from her voice box, an automaton’s nonsense song. Every now and then she heard a word of her mother tongue, un hippotome, un phantome, tu vas mourir.
At this, Amelia found her strength and will and gingerly pulled herself up. The pins that had held her hair in place drooped to the side, her shoes were gone, but she was otherwise unaccosted. She looked around at what was a cave lit by fire and the light that flooded in through its open mouth. Dusty, but not unlike the first images she had seen of the excavations of the Egyptian pyramids, a sloping bar carved into cave wall that must serve as some sort of seating. There was nothing else to speak of save another exit that lead through darkness deeper into the cave.
“Did you save me?” She looked at the creature, small, with a wild shock of reddish, much brighter than her own. What looked back seemed a rather moonstruck child, adorned in a necklace of abalone and a rather dirty white shift. Much as her song had seemed as though Amelia had ought to be able to understand it, she stared as she was spoken to as if reading Amelia’s lips might help her to know her language.
The girl held her face up to hers, scanning it with both curiosity and fear. She could be little more than seven or eight, too pale to had spent long in the sun. A series of repeated words, of gesturing, left them no closer to communicating.
Amelia crawled forward, away from the girl who blinked slowly at her, as if she were witnessing a doll of hers come to life. She kept moving, scraping the front of her dress along the dirt floor, until she could peer over the edge.
Here, just as the Professor had described, a massive valley was laid out before her and in the center, structures that would not be out of place in some ancient rite of sacrifice. She could see the dais, already blooded, and some figure being drawn against its will up the steps. Behind that, on some marble throne, towering above, was seated what could hardly be a man and yet…it could not be otherwise. A giant, a titan, a beast with a man’s face, a maw scarlet even at such a distance. Amelia’s eyes grew wide as her body grew cold. It had to be a lie even as she understood Ammon to have been telling the truth. It beggared belief.
Amelia knew she had not been saved.