July 1988. On An Island North of the Arctic Circle.
Bill Lodge panted hard. Then he helped lift his younger brother Don up to top of the cliff edge beside him. Both Lodge brothers had exhausted themselves climbing up the cliff. Don and Bill paused. They sat there for a moment, admiring the amount of effort it had taken them to get this far.
Even in summer the arctic cold was harsh even for both of them. They were clad in thick orange parkas and furs. That had made the climb surprisingly difficult. Don pulled out a flask, took a swing and handed it over to Bill. Bill nodded and took his own swig of the celebratory whiskey. They'd made it.
"Jeez, this island is taller than what the survey said." Bill began to scan the ground they'd ascended. He looked for any sign of the sites they'd come here looking for.
"It matches all we known about the other Old Ones' sites. Built in an extreme environment, off the beaten path." Don replied. The younger Lodge brother had a thick black beard, his glasses thick and somewhat squarish. The skinny brother, Don stood a bit taller than Bill. He scratched his black beard. "The Old Ones really wanted these places to be hard to get to. We don't even know how they managed to survive the trip here using Paleolithic technology."
"I still wish we could have a better name for them." Bill finished pulling up their packs. Bill was shorter and stockier than his younger brother. His chin had rough blond stubble on it. Bill also was far more athletic than his younger brother- a trait that help the two of them work well as a archaeological team. "Sounds like something out of Lovecraft, not a genuine Archaeological mystery."
"I don't know." Don had pulled out a surveyor's notebook. Thick with notes about the area, it was part of the only survey made of the island. "The Old Ones is kind of the best name for them at this point. Hopefully we can manage to find something to help us figure out how their language works. Or if they even had a language."
Both Lodge Brothers were academics. They were eager archaeologists. Don had become certain of his own hypothesis about the Old Ones. Bill, just as ambitious as his brother, helped him make it so far. They had no real support.
No one wanted to fund them. To most, the Old Ones weren't a real mystery. Just a series of coincidences. Subjective interpretation. The Lodges were on their own. But both were convinced that Don had uncovered a pattern. The chance to be the first to unravel the mystery of the Old Ones.
"We both think this trip was suicide, you know that." Bill lit up a cigarette. "No evidence beside your hypothesis, Kiddo. No one has been out here since the Canadian Government twenty years ago."
Don pulled out the map. He'd already marked the old topographic map. Purple lines crisscrossed over the map's original elevation and terrain lines. In the center of the island, where the height increased the most, the purple lines crossed one another. At the center of the lines Don had put a red 'X.'
"We get to the site, confirm it, and then we're published." Don gestured at the map, pulling out a compass. "Its just north of here."
Bill nodded, but part of him still fretted a bit. "All the other sites were notoriously hard to reach and even confirm. The only other Old Ones site to be confirmed is the one near the Isle of Man."
"Avalon." Don confirmed. "But that place has little to nothing. Just structures that clearly have iron-worked stones and tools, but carbon dated to the early Stone Age."
What Don said was sort of true, Bill knew. He also knew that most scholars disregarded that site because of such a contradiction- too many other parts of the site had been infected with artifacts from other eras. Interference by the UK government and tourists who trashed the site repeatedly made almost all scholars consider the Old Ones hypothesis to be either subjective or the subject of some global conspiracy.
"Your leyline research says its north of here. As long as that holds true, well..." Bill shrugged.
The Lodge Brothers began their hike across and up the rocky arctic permafrost of the island. It looked bleak, and despite the bright sunshine, the arctic winter still felt pretty cold to the two of them. Bill kept an eye out, looking for polar bears and other possible dangers. Don, on the other hand, kept smiling like he was on holiday.
"Oh, New Agers are going to freak out when we get published, Bill. Imagine all their ideas on ley lines being necessary to figure this out? Cross-referencing the paths of known lines from across the Earth's surface, and each line meets up here. To this exact place. They'll think someone confirmed their crazy theories, you know?"
Bill puffed out some cigarette smoke. "As opposed to our own, you mean?"
Don just flashed him a smile.
"Don, we can keep going, but we gotta keep aware of things up here. This time of year, the sun doesn't set. We'll check out the possibility of the site, but then we got to get camp set up. We don't want the midnight sun to drive us apeshit, ok?"
"I think things are going to work just fine, Bill. Look at those over there." Don pointed at tall spires in the distance, poking out of the permafrost ahead of them. "We might have something over there."
Hours later the Lodges were able to make it close to the tallest of the spires. Twenty feet tall, it was covered in permafrost and ice. It sat atop the ridge, at the highest point on the island.
"Right where you marked the site." Bill shook his head. "I don't believe it. Exactly where you marked it."
Don nodded in agreement.
"I wasn't expecting my guesswork to be perfect, either. But are these it? Just rocks and things?" Don looked a bit worried. He rubbed a hand on the spire. He turned back to Bill. "Just rocks? Nothing that looks man-made-"
Bill swung a rock hammer at the spire. Permafrost and ice shattered as the statue buried underneath rang out like a bell. Debris fell in tatters from the statue, which stood as tall as the spire had.
Both Lodges exchanged looks.
The statue depicted a humanoid figure in robes. It wore a totemic mask. The shape of the figure kept the identity of the statue's gender vague. It held a short sword in its hands, sheathed. The mask it wore depicted that of a wolf. The iconography of the wolf was primitive and flat, almost expressionistic in style. On the wolf mask's brow was a crescent moon. On the crescent moon's shadowed edge opposite its crescent was a four-pointed star that overlapped the crescent moon.
Both eyes under the mask looked mournful. Twenty feet tall, the statue was composed of one solid chunk of granite. Light green dots seemed to littered the surface of the statue.
Don rubbed his hand along the surface of the statue. "Bill. Its covered in them. God damn, we lucked out. Feel them."
Bill looked at where Don had been looking. His eyes widened. "The entire statue is covered in their language. Wow. Each little dot is a copper... letter? Rune?"
Each symbol looked arcane. Neither brother could see a pattern in their layout. But each symbol was different. It etched into the granite and filled with copper.
Bill then glanced at the base of the statue. He looked back at his younger brother. "This isn't all of it, I think Kiddo."
"What do you mean?" Don had taken out their camera, snapping shots out as fast as he could.
"The base of this extends down further into the permafrost. Shit Don, I don't think most of this is rock or cliff or even ice. We're standing on the top of a ziggurat. An island-wide Ziggurat."