Dr. Doran is back in his third Serialized story. If you’re new to Andrew Doran, he’s an Adventurer who fights the minions and monsters of the Cthulhu Mythos. The first two novels came out as serials before being published as novels. There are a few ways that you can catch up. You can get the first story, The Statement of Andrew Doran, for free by reading it on Wattpad. Or you can purchase it on Amazon for only $0.99. Book 2 is called Andrew Doran at the Mountains of Madness, and you can find it on Amazon as well. Both are also on Audible and iTunes as audio books.
This time around, Dr. Doran is forced to face the return of an enemy force he thought long gone as they race to get their hands on the dreaded Book of Eibon.
If it wasn’t for the oppressive heat, my black eye, my hands being bound, and being stuck in the back of a jeep with the smelliest Nazis I’ve ever met, it would have been a pleasant drive through the Egyptian desert.
Unfortunately, it was difficult for me to overlook the discomfort of the journey. We had been driving for a little over an hour. With my hands bound and pistol jammed into my ribs, I wasn’t about to check my pocket watch. The time had been spent sweating and plotting my escape. We weren’t on any major roads, so the sand was kicking up pretty bad. I was squinting or riding with my eyes closed most of the time, but that didn’t matter. I had a general idea of where I was being taken.
My prediction was met with confirmation when the peak of a pyramid crested the horizon. All of my predictions became realized when, as we grew closer, the forms of more jeeps, trucks, and men also became visible on the horizon. Since the man with the gun in my side didn’t seem to tense upon the the realization that we were about to bump into more people, I was fairly certain that they were more Nazis.
The jeep pulled up and parked between two of the large canvased trucks. Presumably to keep the sand out of the open top jeep as much as possible. We were still about a mile or more from the Pyramid. I wasn’t sure why we had chosen to camp out so far away from what should have been their target.
I didn’t get much time to think about it as the soldiers grabbed me a dragged me from the jeep. They were moving too fast to let me get my feet completely under me and I stumbled most of the way until, with a shove, they dropped me roughly to my knees in the sand.
“Free his hands,” the order was barked from behind me. It was in German and from an incredibly deep voice. Given my history with the Nazi Military, I filed this away in my mind as “potentially inhuman.”
A proud member of the Aryan race stepped in front of me and drew a blade. With a quick motion my hands were free. I rubbed my wrists where they had been wearing away at me for the trip.
Suddenly, boots were in front of me. It was easy to see that they didn’t belong to any of the soldiers, so I ventured a look up.
Standing before me was a woman. She had dirty blonde hair pulled back in a bun and thick glasses. She was wearing formal desert wear in the form of a beige button up shirt with slightly darker pants, and a leather jacket. She also had a scarf around her neck, presumably for protecting her from the harsh wind and sands.
“I’m so very glad that you could join us, Dr. Doran.”
With my hands free, I couldn’t help but touch the empty holster at my side as I stood and answered, “It’s not like you gave me many options.”
The blonde drew a tight smile. “I thought that you would be appreciative of our efforts. A man of your reputation shouldn’t be underestimated.”
“Oh?” I pressed. “And what about your reputation?”
Her smile turned from tight and forced to actually amused. “You know of me, then?”
I shrugged, “Not entirely.” I nodded at the soldiers standing to each side of me but still a few feet away. “But I know that you’re not so much one of them, as you are…more like myself.” I allowed that to sink in before continuing. “Your accent is English and your bearing is not militant. Even knowing my reputation, your friends would rather keep their distance from me than be in any sort of useful range to protect you.” I winked at the Nazi standing almost ten feet behind her and smiled as he tensed up. “Even if I couldn’t sense the power rippling off of you, I’d have to assume that you’re what’s left of the Traum Kult.”
Her eyes widened with a mixture of feelings when I mentioned her group’s name. The Traum Kult was an organization bent on using the magical forces of evil to overthrow the world and usher in a new age of chaos, magic, and death. Of course, the plan was that they would control it all. I stepped in and lopped of their leadership’s head. People died, things exploded, I’m pretty sure tears were involved. It was all sorts of messy. It was rumored that the scattered factions were frantic with trying to gain power and build the Traum Kult back to what it had been.
This desert practitioner might just be their new leader, but I wasn’t going to let her have the gratitude of hearing me say it.
“Yes,” she nodded. “The lust for power crosses all borders, and is not inherently German.”
With that, she thrust out her hand, implying that we should shake to complete some sort of formal introduction.
“My name is Sara Davies.”
I ignored her hand and nodded past her, toward the person who had me the most concerned. About six feet behind her, and still standing closer to me than the German soldiers were, was a man of about the same build and shape as her, but that was where the similarities ended. He had dark black hair and a long beak of a nose. He was at least six inches shorter than Sarah Davies was and looked so timid that the wind could break him in half.
Sarah Davies didn’t even look over her shoulder. “That’s my brother, Ian.” Ian raised his hand a few inches to wave at the mention of his name, but otherwise barely moved. Unlike with Sarah’s handshake, I didn’t ignore Ian’s wave. It was so pitiful, I felt that I had to return it.
Things were making a little bit more sense now. “He’s your twin?”
Sarah nodded, “I’m sure you know of the strength found in the bond between twins?”
It was my turn to nod, but I didn’t. What I did or didn’t know was going to cost her. Until then, I’d take all the answers that Sarah Davies was willing to give me.
The power found in our world is a magic that comes from reaching past the veil of our world and into the reality of another. Some people, such as myself can harness it, but never without a price. I’ve paid my price and it was steep. I’ve tried to use the powers less and less, but as the flames boiling our world climb, so does the need to push them back.
Of those people who can touch that power, twins have the most unique of strengths. Each one is part of a whole, able to tap into the strength of the other to pull on more powers than any one person can. It’s their bond. That price that I mentioned also is effected. Instead of only one person taking the full brunt of the veil’s damage, it becomes mitigated between two people. Some of the most powerful wizards throughout our history were twins who locked their sibling away to draw on their power instead of working with them.
At the very least, it was good to see that Sarah Davies hadn’t gone that route, although Ian didn’t seem like the kind who would have put up much of a fight.
“So,” I forge ahead, “what do you want from me?”
Sarah nodded, “Your help.” She turned and nodded to her brother, who stepped aside and removed a large sand colored tarp. It wasn’t just the same color as sand, it was covered in sand as well and for that reason, I hadn’t noticed it until now. As the tarp was pulled away, a large square stone was revealed. It was flat on the ground and covered with glypshs.
“We know that you have been looking for the original Book of Eibon, and not that ancient copy that certain circles like to claim is the original.” She waved her hand at the slab of stone. “This slab of stone is the entrance to the crypt,” she pointed at the Pyramid a mile or so away, “in that Pyramid where the book is believed to be hidden.”
“Why not just go in through the Pyramid instead of the servant’s entrance?” I ask.
“Are you aware of that Pyramid and it’s legacy?” Sarah Davies pressed.
I hesitated before nodding. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was beginning to sense that I wasn’t going to get any more information without giving a little as well.
“It’s the Lost Pyramid of Eibon,” I answer. “Impossible to find without the proper incantation, it’s believed to exist just barely out of phase with our reality.”
Sarah nodded at me and her brother cracked a smile, seemingly happy that I know as much as his sister.
“Exactly,” she answered. “So, don’t ask such ridiculously stupid questions, please.”
It wasn’t a stupid question, I was pressing my luck and hoping that I could encourage the entire Nazi regime to go walking into the horrors that the Lost Pyramid of Eibon promised. Of the very few texts that mention it, it is said that they Pyramid it riddled with traps that could push a normal person beyond the safety of the veil and fully into the void.
You can’t blame a guy for trying.
“That slab,” Sarah continued, “is the safe entrance to the tomb. The entrance leads to a deep underground portion of the Lost Pyramid of Eibon that no one has been previously aware existed.”
“Except you?” I ask incredulously. “Did you see a magic vision or something?”
Ian nodded excitedly. “Very much so. When you decimated the Traum Kult power base, the knowledge went to many new homes. Some of it came into my possession.”
He was overly excited to answer, but his sister only smiled.
“What’s in the secret tomb?” I already knew the answer.
“Old things,” Sarah answered. “And, of course, the Book of Eibon.” She let out a heavy sigh. “But none of that matters, because we need you to open it.”
I shrugged. “What’s the problem? I see trucks and lots of men.” I snickered and looked directly at Ian. “Didn’t your inherited knowledge show you how to open it?”
Ian Davies shrunk away while his sister answered me. “The only place that explains how to open it is on the door, but we do not recognize the language.” She sighed, “We have it on good authority that you do.”
I glanced at the door from where I was and even from that distance I could sense something familiar about it.
I didn’t let my potential recognition show on my face.
“Who’s your ‘good authority’?” I pressed.
“An old friend, and that’s all you’ll get from me for now,” Sarah answered. It was an a leading answer and meant to make me think. I couldn’t deny that it was working.
To Sarah and Ian Davies, I snorted, “I doubt that.”
“Dr. Doran, our conversation is done.” All of the soldiers, and there were a lot of them, raised their guns at me. “You will open the door now.”
“You’re not going to shoot me. That won’t get your door open.” I laughed. “Your move.”
My feet left the sand as a sudden invisible force lifted me. I began to drift toward Sarah Davies and stopped only inches from her. I tried to move my arms but they were held tightly to my sides.
“You’re right, Dr. Doran. We won’t shoot you, but we will have your cooperation.”
“The answer is still no,” I say just loud enough for Ms. Davies to hear.
“Very well,” is all that she says.
Suddenly, my arms at released from her grip, but before I can do anything with my newfound, yet still floating, freedom, slices in my flesh begin to crisscross those same arms.
After I’m zigzagged in the most painful of ways, the flesh starts pulling away from my body.
Sarah’s magic gets through skinning both of my arms with my screams filling the desert before she starts in on my face.
Normally, I’m a tough specimen, but I couldn’t lie to myself. I wanted to get to the Book of Eibon as much as the Nazis did, and I didn’t want to get there without any skin.
“Alright!” I scream it. “I’ll open your damn door!”
I fell to the ground and rolled into a ball on instinct. When I opened my eyes, the flesh was as if it had never been peeled from my body. My arms were normal and they probably had been the whole time. When the pain subsided, I climbed back to my feet.
“I knew we could count on you, Dr. Doran,” Sarah Davies said. “Your reputation remains intact.”
Still struggling with the trauma of being filleted alive, I stuttered as I asked, “S-so, you’ve it s-sounds like you’ve d-done your homework.”
“We were thorough,” Sarah’s patience was running out. “Open the door, Doran.”
I brushed the sand off of my body and walked past the Davies and to the stone slab in the sand. It looked to be a perfect square, and if the nature of the Book of Eibon was at all behind this slab of stone, it was likely that it was. It looked to measure around six feet by six feet and was made of a dark stone that I hadn’t seen before. The geologists hate to admit it, but part of being an archaeologist was knowing a little bit about geology. If I couldn’t recognize this stone with my educational or my more otherworldly background, than it was something new. New can be dangerous. I don’t like new.
I crouched over it, making sure not to touch it, and began examining the glyphs inscribed on it. I was about a minute or two into working my way through the script when Ian Davies spoke up from just behind me. I had been so absorbed in the stone that I hadn’t heard him or his sister walk up behind me.
I started as Ian asked, “Well, Doctor? Can you read it?”
Before I answered, I tilted my head to the side, only a little bit and shushed them.
They were quiet long enough for me to recognize what I was listening for.
Sarah was far from patient, and demanded, “Well?”
I stood up quickly, and enjoyed the movements of Ian and the Nazi soldiers as they all started in surprise. “I think there were holes in your research,” I said.
Sarah’s eyes took on a manic look as they glanced at the temple, at the stone, and back to the temple. “That’s impossible. This is the correct location. This is the entrance to the tomb. I have no doubts.”
Ian must have been the smart one growing up, because he was staring at me while his sister’s eyes danced around looking for answers. “I don’t think…” he hesitated, “that he is referring to the pyramid…”
I smiled and looked past the twins and the soldiers toward the desert that we had, only minutes ago, just finished traversing. In the distance and closing fast, was a sandstorm of miniature proportions. Something was moving toward us.
“When you were researching Dr. Andrew Doran,” I start, “did you read anything about me working alone?”
Sarah looked to her brother, and he shook his head emphatically. “The Frenchman died in Antarctica. Doran has no assistants.”
I nodded, “Leo is…gone.” For reasons that I didn’t want to divulge to them, I wasn’t going to use the word dead.
“Then what is that?” Sarah demanded, pointing at the dust cloud as it began to take on the shape of another jeep. Gunfire suddenly erupted from it, hitting the sand, trucks, and some soldiers.
While everyone was diving out of the way, I punched Ian Davies in the mouth and grabbed the pistol he had holstered on his side.
I spun and shot three Nazi soldiers before they knew what was happening.
Before I could shoot a fourth, that same invisible force that had grabbed me earlier clutched me again. It lifted me and arced me through the air before slamming me into the foreign stone of the slab.
As soon as I touched it, my mind exploded with fear. You can’t push the slab, it was the first thing that the slab said.
“No,” I shouted. “Get me off the slab! “Demons rise with a push!” I’m screaming in absolute terror, knowing full well that we’re rightly screwed as Sarah’s invisible hand pushed me harder into the slab of stone.
“I knew it,” she hissed. “You can read the slab.”
“If you keep pushing,” I grunted through the pressure, “we will lose everything.”
She released me almost immediately, but it was too late for some of her Nazi friends. Two of them fell to the sand, but not from any gunfire. Dark energy crawled from the sand and slithered up and around their bodies until the reached their mouths and slid into them. Instantly, their limbs began elongating to an unnatural length. They screamed as their jaws elongated to accommodate larger teeth.
I didn’t need these beasts to touch me to know that they had gained in strength and power or that I wanted nothing to do with them.
Without Sarah’s power crushing me against the slab, I brought up my re-appropriated pistol and shot at her. The bullet took her in the hand and she fell to clutch it.
Seeing his sister get shot gave Ian some sort of spine. From his place still lying in the sand, Ian Davies raised his hand to call upon his own power. I ran over and kicked him in the head before he could call upon the energy of the veil.
It only took me a minute to locate the jeep driving in circles and firing wildly into the soldiers. I took off toward it. I was only about fifteen feet from the jeep when a bullet grazed my temple and spun me around. I hit the sand hard and stars filled my vision. I grabbed at my skull and felt the sting where the bullet had only barely kissed me.
I was still aware of the Nazis, demons, and jeep all coming at me. I forced myself to my feet just in time to hop into the back of the jeep as it came by me.
I landed in the back of the jeep as Nancy Dyer, my gun-toting assistant, sped the jeep up and took us away from the soldiers.
“Here,” she tossed the machine gun she had been using over her shoulder. “Clips are up here.” She waved her hand at the passenger seat. There was an ammo box there.
Trying to ignore the pain in my head, I grabbed the ammo box and slammed another magazine into the gun.
Nancy Dyer was a woman in her early twenties with chin-length blonde hair. I met her when she was looking for her father William Dyer. Together we found him just in time for her to lose him. She took the job as my assistant and intern when my friend Leo Dubois was physically killed. I only refer to it as ‘physically killed’ because his body died, but I was able to help him move his soul into the Dream Lands.
She glanced over her shoulder at me and winced. Waving her hand at her temple, Nancy said, “Sorry about that.”
I stopped prepping the gun and looked at her incredulously. “That was you?” I swung the gun up and started taking precise shots at the Nazis as half of them began to give chase. The other half was still trying to deal with their demon problem.
“I said I was sorry,” Nancy said. “I did just save you.”
“You shot me!”
“You’re being ridiculous,” she countered.
I stopped shooting to lean toward her and say, “I was surrounded by an army of German soldiers and you shot me.”
Nancy sighed, “Get over it and keep shooting before we both get shot today.”
The division of the soldiers to deal with the demons was very helpful to us. They were scattered and couldn’t decide if they should get to their trucks or keep shooting at us. Finally, some of them managed to get to their trucks and begin pursuit.
Unfortunately, we weren’t going to keep our lead for long with a Nazi pursuit directly behind us.
“Can’t you magic them or something?” Nancy suggested.
I shook my head even though she couldn’t see it. “It wouldn’t be enough. They’re Traum Kult.”
“They’re who?” Nancy asked, and I realized that I hadn’t yet filled my new assistant in on my history with evil groups of magicians. I found myself missing Leo and immediately feeling a twinge of regret. It wasn’t Nancy’s fault that I hadn’t briefed her on things that she needed to know.
“Magic,” I offered as way of a truncated explanation. “They have magic.”
“So?” Nancy asked.
“So,” I supplied, “I think they might be more powerful than I am.” That was an understatement. Individually, the twins would be weaker than I am, but together their powers were multiplied.
Nancy took a moment to look back at me, and saw that I was contemplating something. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking…” I paused, “On my command, I need you to stop.” I smiled and answered Nancy’s question with, “I don’t need to be stronger, just smarter.”
Nancy knew better than to question me further and gripped the wheel tighter.
“Stop!” I shouted.
Nancy slammed on the breaks and we skidded to a halt in the sand. I jerked forward, but managed to keep upright. The dust cloud that we were creating caught up with us. I dropped the gun to the seat and raised my hands to the air.
“Cthagn Thlan Ftagn,” I pulled power from the veil and allowed the words to shape that power into magic.
As the dust cloud caught up to us, it picked up speed and turned away from where we stopped. The dust continued to kick up as if it were directly behind an invisible jeep, but going in a direction completely different from ours.
I held some of the sand up around us just enough to hide our presence and watched as the Nazi jeeps and trucks turned to follow the new sand trail.
Once we were in the clear, I hopped into the passenger seat and told Nancy to take off. I explained what the Nazis had kidnapped me for and that we needed to get back to Miskatonic University as quickly as we could.
“Why?” Nancy pressed.
“Because,” I answered, “I didn’t just read the transcription,” I let out a heavy sigh. “I was the one who wrote it.”