Timothy had not taken the recommendation to wear sunscreen and sunglasses seriously enough. He had thought, “I won’t be in the sun long enough for it to matter. I am just walking from the airport to the car picking me up, and from the car to a hotel.”
If he had a Class that granted him increased Endurance or Vitality, that might have been true. However, a [Student] who recently evolved his Class into a [Archaeologist] had very little of either to spare. [Archaeologists] certainly get some of those Stats, but he hadn’t had the chance to level it yet.
And now, he worried that he might never get that chance, because Timothy learned the hard way that he was one of the ‘lucky’ few who suffered from Devil’s Itch sunburn. He had come to Huet’Ke’Pah to meet with Dr. Karen Smith and to study the ancient ruins of Ra’Sharon that existed throughout the desert, but now Timothy could do nothing but writhe on the floor of his hotel and suffer! How could he meet with Dr. Smith tomorrow morning like this!?
It was difficult for Timothy to even describe how horrible the feeling was. His worst burns were located in a small area of his neck and shoulders, but it was impossible to ignore. His shoulders itched and they itched deep. It felt like the itching feeling was under his skin and he desperately wanted to scratch it despite all the advice that said to not to do so. It wasn’t due to his self control or that advice that stopped Timothy from scratching though. No, what stopped him was that the first time he tried it had hurt terribly.
The itching was so bad he half-wanted to stab the location to relieve it, but at the same time he avoided touching the place at all cost because doing so hurt worse than what he imagined being stabbed would normally feel like!
It was in desperation that he ended up ordering a potion to be delivered to his hotel room, despite the exorbitant cost of doing so. He had to spend another half an hour in abject misery, but after the potion was delivered and he drank it, Timothy felt a wave of relief that could only be described as pure bliss.
“Surely,” Timothy thought to himself as he finally was able to get into bed without torturing himself. “This is what paradise would be like.”
He was exhausted the next morning, but Timothy felt it was nothing that a liberal application of coffee couldn’t cure. He had taken to drinking the stuff by the pot during his time at the University; the competition for this spot on Dr. Smith’s team had been brutal and he had many sleepless nights under his belt. He also made sure to liberally apply sunscreen as well, because last night had been pure hell and he didn’t want to pay for a health potion again.
He took a taxi to the local museum where Dr. Smith was based, nervously checking his outfit in a haze of caffeine induced anxiety. To the Taxi driver, Timothy might have looked like he was worrying over his appearance for a date rather than for his first meeting with his boss and mentor, but Timothy felt his anxiety was justified.
This was the Dr. Karen Smith after all! Dr. Smith was a world famous [Archaeologist] and [Historian]; a household name that could be heard on the news or read in any textbook on history or magic! Her work had rediscovered lost Dungeons, unearthed buried Artifacts and hidden Relics, and contributed massively to the modern understanding of both the Imperial Confederation and the Pre-Confederation Era!
She was an idol for everyone with a specialised research Class, especially ones related to history or archaeology! Dr. Smith had taken a Class that was often looked down on as useless and impractical - yet was tolerated because the vast majority of people did realise that history was important - and showed that it could not only produce useful results, but tangible ones too!
When they reached the museum, Timothy paid the taxi driver and stepped out, looking at the grand architecture of the building in front of him. The [Architect] had modeled it after ancient Ra’Sharon temples, and the large statuary that stood in the front of the museum gave off an air of imposing majesty. Taking a deep breath and squaring his shoulders, Timothy walked under the reconstructed gaze of [Pharaohs] and gods immortalized in stone into the building proper. There he introduced himself to the [Receptionist] and was told to wait for a few minutes while Dr. Smith sent someone to bring him back into the labs.
He watched the crowds while he waited, recalling fond memories when he saw a [Teacher] escorting a group of [Students] on a field trip. One of the Doctor’s [Assistants] found him a minute later and guided him back into depths of the building, where the public would never see.
As much as that conjured images of hidden wonder, Timothy ended up meeting Dr. Karen Smith in an ordinary conference room. The Doctor, rather than wearing the stereotypical lab coat of a [Researcher] or the carefully tailored suits that she wore when she appeared on television, was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She was a short woman with ruddy, tanned skin and whose only sign of age was the few streaks of grey in her long black hair that she wore in a loose ponytail.
She stood up with a smile and walked over to shake Timothy’s hand, greeting him warmly.
“Timothy! Welcome!” Karen Smith’s voice was full of energy, far more than one would expect from a research-type Class whose age was in the eighties. “It is wonderful to meet you, your research papers were absolutely inspired.”
Timothy tried to return her greeting but ended up tongue tied and stuttering, his face turning red when she laughed merrily at the sight.
“I would love to talk more, but there is one thing that we have to do first.” The Doctor brought out a set of papers - no, the paper was slightly glowing, it was a magical contract! “Please read this carefully and make certain you can accept it before you sign.”
Timothy accepted the contract and began to read it. At first, he was somewhat flippant about the contract, he certainly wasn’t going to get on a plane and leave now that he was already here! Soon though, he noticed that the level of secrecy that the contract bound him to was especially high and the penalties…
“Death!?” Timothy blanched, “not even a warning? A slip of the tongue could kill me!”
“Some of the secrets we have dug up over the years aren’t the kind of things that can be shared with the public,” Dr. Smith said seriously, her tone brooking no argument. “And we take our secrecy very seriously.”
There had always been rumors that Doctor Smith had discovered more Artifacts and Relics than were publicly acknowledged, and that either the Doctor or some government had taken some of them because of their power. Timothy had dismissed most of those rumors as conspiracy theories. It was certainly true that there occasionally were Artifacts or Relics that were more powerful than what modern society could create, but on the whole magical theory had advanced far beyond the ancient civilizations poor understanding. The few items that were superior to their modern equivalents often were things that required cruel and evil methods to produce or use, like human sacrifice.
It was incredibly and insanely rare to find something that was both more effective than modern magic and that also was ethically made. Timothy could count all of the Artifacts and Relics that fit that category with both hands, and could count the ones that were not the result of some unique Skill or Class on a single hand. As a result, he had never taken the whispers of [Conspiracy Theorists] seriously, but…
In the end, Timothy steeled himself and signed the contract, which burst into motes of light that signified it was a true magical contract.
“Wonderful,” the Doctor said as she smiled. “Now we can talk about why you had to sign that contract and why you were chosen to come here.”
“I have to admit that I am curious…” Timothy said timidly, “although I was under the impression that I was chosen due to my research paper?”
“Oh you most certainly were chosen because of your paper,” the Doctor laughed. “Here, follow me back to our workspace and it might be easier for me to explain and for you to understand.”
The Doctor led Timothy through the halls and into a room filled floor to ceiling with shelves that held plastic bins that contained various artifacts and items that had been bagged and tagged for reference. Navigating through the messy space, Timothy followed Dr. Smith to the back where he could see a stone stela. The stela, it turned out, was their destination and the Doctor merely gestured for Timothy to look at it.
Timothy took a step closer and curiously looked at it, only for his brows to furrow immediately. What he saw, and what his Skill was telling him, was impossible!
“I… I have a Skill called [Age Range],” Timothy said, nearly struck dumb by what he was looking at. The Doctor just nodded, she knew he had the Skill because he had said as much on his application. “It isn’t perfect, but it is telling me that this stela is nearly four thousand years old, so how..? Is this somehow a fake or is someone tricking my Skill somehow?”
“How indeed?” The Doctor mused, looking over the stela again herself, “No, your Skill is correct. This stela is somewhere around three thousand six hundred years old and four thousand years old. I found it myself in a previously unopened tomb that hadn’t seen a visitor for just as long.”
The implications stunned Timothy, because what he saw on the stela…
Images of airplanes, with a diagram of how a wing functioned; a crude description and diagram on how buoyancy worked; an explanation of germ theory and the benefit of sanitation; a very rough description of a motor and electricity; a drawing of what was obviously a modern city and another description of the combustion engine along with warnings about the danger of pollution.
“Your paper discussing the sudden emergence of new concepts in the Hin’Tye empire was impressive in many ways,” the Doctor began to speak as Timothy stood in front of the stela in shock. “It was definitely in the top five of the papers we received, but it was not the best written of the bunch. Still, your meticulous documentation of publicly available evidence to lend credence to the idea that there was interference from some outside source was excellent. Your analysis of possible sources that the interference could have come from was likewise excellent. With the data available to you, your conclusion that there is a yet undiscovered Skill that granted the bearer intuition on possible advances was absolutely perfect, but now that you have seen this stela, what do you think now Timothy?”
“An [Oracle] or [Seer] of some kind…? No, their limitations are well known. Precognition could explain the images of the planes and city, but not the information on germ theory or how planes worked…” Timothy’s mind began to whirl, and despite his groaning about his low Endurance and Vitality last night, he was now incredibly happy with his two hundred plus Acuity Stat. “Godly interference? But their limitations were even more strict until the Descent… It can’t be a unique Skill either, there is too much and too little information for that, so a visitor of some kind?
“But from where? Another Plane? The Fae don’t use technology, Elementals can’t comprehend technology, and Celestials are restricted from giving information that isn’t known by at least one living person. Not another Plane then, but it certainly isn’t alien life either, any creature that could reach the planet across the void of space has a grasp of magic or technology that far outstrips the information on this Stela…”
The more he thought about it, the more impossible this seemed. It would make far more sense if Timothy had passed out in the hotel and was dreaming all of this.
“Your thinking and reasoning is quite sound,” Doctor Smith assured him. “Which shows that I was right to choose you. Regardless, whatever you decide is as valid as anyone else’s opinion here, because I cannot tell you how the information on this stela found its way onto the stone all those millenia ago. I have my own theories, but I have yet to find any evidence one way or another.”
“Where was this found?” Timothy asked, stumbling back into a chair as the shock caught up with him.
“Inside the tomb of Princess Hemetra,” Doctor Karen Smith answered with a smile.
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Hello! I am Vladerag the author of several stories here on Royal Road! I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, and I hope you check out some of my stories!
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