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The Edge of Nightfall:

Part 1:


The Night of the Darkness

by Tony Stewart

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The Current Serial:

Edited version:  part: 1


What are heroes, if not human folk, who display courage under duress?

ts 2002







The witches’ chants grew louder and louder; the coven leader followed the words to the letter … the words that had been given to them by the stranger who had told them he understood their desires and ambitions. 

   The words, he had told them, would bring them their lord and master, and they had been more than willing to believe him.

They had stolen the sacrificial knife, as instructed, but they couldn’t find the statue. ‘It mattered not,’ they had thought, ‘our master will still come.’

   And they were right - the hideous creature did come.  Its evil, repulsively deformed face emerging, albeit, enshrouded in fire and smoke, from a dimension that existed someplace well behind the bricks and mortar that was the farmhouse wall.

   The witches of Trenthamville were elated at the realization of the creature's emerging appearance: the witches chanting began to reach fever pitch as they mentally wished Rangor, the Punjanti, into the room.  To their way of thinking their lord and master could not arrive fast enough.  But when the creature realized the statue was not in the room the response was quick ... almost merciful: perhaps even a benevolent gesture, considering its mood … but never the less, the witches were made to pay for their mistake.   Paid for ... with their lives.











   As the dawn broke on the first day of the twentieth century - a scorpion scurried across the hot sand, doing its best to try to remain hidden in the dark shadows that were quickly shifting with the rising sun: the brilliant glean of the carnivorous red and black creature shimmered in the rising heat as it moved sideways, its head down, it’s tail and claws up - as if in some hideous succumbing welcome to the approaching cavalcade of men and camels.  

    A cobra, in the process of burrowing in the sand to escape the oncoming heat of the day, froze in its movements: black, beady eyes stared menacingly at the strangely shaped animals.  The approaching camels momentarily shied, their fear nearly dislodging the riders before they settled their beasts and coaxed them to move forward.   From somewhere in the distance behind them, another roar of thunder flowed jarringly through the still morning air.

   In the minds of these weary travellers, the events that had just now taken place were simply further ominous warnings of the possible futility of their dangerous journey. 

   Hostile, unforgiving conditions had made their progress slow … and lethal.  Already three camels, and two men, were dead: the men buried in some quickly forgotten sand dune a day and a half's ride away ... the camels, their precious cargo destroyed as they fell, were left to rot.

   Now, as the travellers reached the border that connected the hot, desolate sands that covered the vast, wind blown nothingness of the desert to the rugged, stony terrain of the mountain base they knew normal men would have long ago heeded the signs of inevitable defeat and returned home to a safer environment.  But these were no ordinary men … and their reason for their journey was beyond reproach.  They were on a quest for the safety and survival of their tribe: their sect … The Punjani … and, most importantly, the survival of their way of life.  

   For too long they had been forced to live in fear of discovery of who they were and what they represented in this, their own country.  But too many of their fellow countrymen were both suspicious, and jealous, of their continuous good fortune while others around them suffered through the miseries of bad land ... and bad times. 

   The time had now come for them to move to a country more hospitable to their ways and needs.  To move somewhere where they would be both welcomed, and accepted, with their eternal wealth - and no questions asked.   

   But once they had left the country of their birth they knew the possibility of recovering the one thing needed to ensure their survival: their wealth: their future … the one thing they and their families needed more than life itself …the statue of Rangor, the Punjanti,  the god that provided them with their way of life would most likely not exist.  Because once they had moved to a new country, any return to their homeland would arouse suspicion.  They knew, to search for the statue and then return to their new home with it would never be allowed to happen.

   Ten of the sect’s most reliable and resourceful members had been chosen for this gruelling, last chance journey, informally led by Nardoon Kashmi, an outsider who had claimed to have seen the location of the statue that their forefathers had sought for eons, in a vision but ten days earlier.

   How Nardoon had found the Punjani had never been satisfactorily explained, but nevertheless, regardless of the unknown truth, the sect's elders had found his description of the statue believable, and his story viable, and had financed the search.   

   For three days the small group had travelled deep into the unwelcoming desert, fought bravely against the invisible hostilities that had threatened to destroy them, had somehow managed to survive against the odds, and now they were possibly but minutes from their destiny.  Mere minutes of their lives to be used and in return they would be rewarded with enough wealth and power to last for them and their families for a thousand lifetimes.  

   But now, as the hours rolled on, the dust began to roll in.  A strong breeze had sprung up: the strength of the wind picked up and while they could still see their destiny with some degree of safety, the floating dust itself was making their task that much more uncomfortable … and again it forced them to wonder about outside forces controlling their destiny.  

   Their search would take place, not high up in the towering mountain they now faced, but somewhere nearer its base Nardoon had told them, saying he would know the instant that he saw the cave that housed the treasure they sought.  But when the men got closer to the mountain, they had wondered how this would be possible ... for caves littered the mountain base, their presence as thick as the swarm of flies the men and camels constantly flicked aside from their sweat beaded bodies.

   Never-the-less, individual hearts beat wildly in excitement as the riders cautiously steered the camels between the huge rocks that bordered the soft, brownish sand of the desert and the dark, stone littered soil that lay at the bottom of the blackish, brooding mountains until it very quickly became too awkward to ride the camels; the men dismounted and began to unload the varied equipment they had brought with them.  

   Amongst the diversity of items spread upon the ground was a length of heavy duty canvas, some strong rope and some timber which they assembled into a stretcher they hoped would be strong enough to carry their statue across the mountain’s rough terrain and then through the desert on their return journey. 

    The stretcher assembled, the remaining eight men assumed a position along its length and began the strenuous task of carrying it as they made their way on foot, under the directions of their guide.

   Initially they moved with vigour, certain that their quarry was so near that they could smell it … in their minds they could almost reach out and touch it … but they were to be disappointed.  For three laborious hours they walked.  Their ill prepared footwear slipping on the loose stones; making little headway as the increasing winds blew huge chunks of abrasive sand at them, half blinding them, and creating numerous cuts and abrasions on their exposed skin … and the hot, baking sun was now almost completely overhead. 

   Every step, in every direction, of their long, arduous, trek to this inhospitable site had been fraught with danger.  By now, they were certain that their task was being monitored and disrupted by forces that they had not reckoned with.  Forces, that were hell bent on preventing them from reaching their goal and fulfilling their destiny. 

   Now, as close to their final destination as they could get, they still felt there were ominous signs warning them not to go on.  The dust storm that was slowing them down could soon be followed by the violent desert storm which had been threatening them since the rising of the morning sun … and judging by the odd rumbles that could clearly be heard … it was not far away.   

   Heavy rain, in this area, would cause flash flooding, and that would almost destroy their chances of achieving success. There would be no way possible to transfer their treasure through water … it would be way too heavy.  As it was, they were uncertain that they would be able to move it on dry land without causing damage to it … and to add to their problems, another camel had died as they had been unloading the canvas.    

   When it fell, it had broken the arm of one of the men, who had still been forced to take his place carrying the stretcher despite the agony of every step he took, and, worse still, the weight of the falling creature had destroyed almost half of their remaining water and food… and they still had a three-day return journey to undertake once they had located their prize.

   But for the moment their problems were put behind them as their guide excitedly announced they had reached the cavern where his dream had prophesised they would successfully find the object of their quest.  “Here! This is the one,” Nardoon cried out jubilantly.  

   The men put down the stretcher, and, with great trepidation, followed him into the cave.  At first there appeared nothing but blackness within, but as their eyes adjusted, the light from outside gave them enough brightness to look around the apparently bare cavern.  

   “It is empty.  There is nothing here!” the leader fumed.  “You have wasted our time and money. Where is our god?  Where is our statue?”

   “Do not fret so,” Nardoon replied; half a dozen crooked teeth glistening from the saliva dripping down his mouth as he attempted a calming smile, “it is here.  You just have to dig for it.”

   “Dig?  Dig where?”

   “I will show you, Master.”  Nardoon walked forward about ten paces, careful not to trip in the shadows, then he stopped and pointed to a spot on the ground. “Here, Master.”

   The leader stepped forward, going down on his knees, and began to dig with his knife.  “It had better be here - or you are a dead man.”

   “It will be, Master.”  Nardoon replied, bowing as he slowly moved back from the site.

   The leader started to dig harder.  “Come here, you fools,” he rasped at the others, “somebody light a lamp … it is as dark as night in this foul smelling tomb.” 

     Six of the men stepped forward and they too began to dig with their knives while several lanterns were quickly located from their meagre stores by the man with the broken arm and shortly the cavern was illuminated adequately for their needs.

    “Look!” one of the men suddenly cried out. “I have found something.”

   The others stopped and looked to where the man was still digging, his fingers moving furiously around something buried just below the surface.  A lamp was brought closer, its flickering light casting an eerie glow across the semi-lit cave.

   “It is a head!  It is a gravesite!” somebody cried in fright, as some of the others also jumped back in fear.

   “No,” the leader exclaimed, excitedly. “It is the statue … it is the head of the Punjanti.  It is Rangor.  See!  There are rubies and diamonds.  This is it … we have found our god!”

   As if in approval of their discovery, a clap of thunder roared through the cave, shaking loose some of the dirt from its walls.  

   “Faster,” the leader called out, “we must hurry and remove it before the rain starts.”

   As if there were no tomorrow, the crew dug feverishly, while outside the build up to the storm intensified: lightning cast unnatural green-tinged flashes of light through the cave: thunder rocked the foundations – dirt and stones continued to drift down from the walls, gently cloaking the men with streaky layers of greyish soot, their steadily darkening features adding to the strange eeriness that hovered throughout the cave

   Quickly, they dug down to the neck; to the shoulders; to the torso and the unique mixture of sunlight and lightning flashes created a kaleidoscope of colours that bounced off the exposed rubies and diamonds and around the walls of the cave.  So engrossed in their work they failed to notice their guide had disappeared ... and had they realized his disappearance fear may have entered their hearts… for he, and he alone knew the fullness of his dream … and how it ended.    

   Suddenly everything around them lit up, making it as bright as it would have been had the roof of the mountain been lifted and the cave exposed to the fullness of the midday sun.     

   The men raised their hands to their eyes to protect them from the harshness of light, as a voice boomed from out of the heavens.

   “This is not the time,” the voice commanded, “the future awaits the fulfilment of dreams: the end of night-mares: the future has already been written.   This is not your destiny, men of the Punjani.  Do not attempt to change it.  Go now – go, while you still can.”

   For a moment there was nothing but silence; the men looked at each other, but said nothing. Then out of the bowels of the earth came a sound so horrendous, so intimidating, that they dared not move.  

   “This is my destiny,” the new voice demanded, “Keep digging and release the statue so that I can enter and take my rightful place.”

   “Your destiny awaits you in one hundred plus years,” the first voice roared back.

   “My destiny is now,” the statue screamed back defiantly, “loosen me now, and prepare the sacrifice!” it bellowed.  “I am now!”

   The men realized that the more dominant voice belonged to their god, Rangor and immediately resumed their digging, as fast as their bleeding hands would allow them.

   “You leave us no choice,” the voice in the roof of the cave had become softer, resigned, “you have assumed your own destiny - so be it.”

   The storm outside the cave intensified: clouds crashed together in a continuous barrage of noise that filled the cave until it became deafening.      

   But the men were desperate to appease Rangor: they dug even faster - their fingers were torn and bleeding: the skin on their hands almost bare to the bone.  

   Then the rain came; softly at first, then louder and louder it became, until it reached a crescendo and remained at that level for hours.   Yet inside the cave it was ignored.  The men continued to dig, hearing nothing but the ranting and cursing coming from within the statue.  They heard not the water that rushed down the mountain slopes and along the time-worn channels that littered the base of the mountain. They saw not the barrage of a thousand lightning strikes that threatened to blast away the mountain.  They heeded not the warning that of caution that ran amok through their brain.

   Outside the cave, hours from where the men of the Punjani remained preoccupied with their feverish activities, the space the camels had once stood was occupied by nothing but the body of the one that had died - and rising water.  Inside the cave the diggers had almost uncovered the entire statue when the leader ordered them to stop and listen.   

   At first it was hard to make it out, then slowly, but surely, they recognized the sound of fast flowing water.  

   They turned and looked towards the entrance as a torrent of water entered, quickly flooding the floor of the cave.  Within the time it took them to react, the brown mass had reached their knees.  They jumped to their feet, and tried to run out, but the swirling water flooded in too fast.  The men stumbled, crashed into each other, screaming curses and obscenities as they pushed and shoved each other out of the way in their frantic efforts for survival.  Slipping, falling into the muddy quagmire in their panic, but there was nowhere to run, nowhere to go.   Nowhere …

   The rain ceased within a second of the last man drowning.  The rainwater that had flooded into the cave moments earlier immediately began receding back through the opening.  As the water rushed out of the cave it dragged the dug up dirt and several bodies through the pit where the exposed statue stood.  A minute later the cave, albeit a lot wetter, appeared in exactly the same condition as it had that morning … with the exception of the corpses that littered the room.


Three days later the guide arrived home, his mind on the verge of madness.  But before he succumbed to it, he told, and then made his son swear to tell no one what he had witnessed … save his own son, when the time came.  His son's son, in turn, was to be told the same thing, and swear to the same secret, until the time came to take advantage of the prediction.   The guide had believed in the after-life.  He knew that he would come back.  A new body, a new name, but he would come back.

   But, not before the time was right, and that would be one hundred plus years from now … then he would return.   A hundred plus years was not a long time to wait for what he had been promised in his dreams.  Power and wealth beyond his wildest dreams … and supplied by the most powerful force the world would ever see … Rangor the Punjanti






Chapter one




   Fifteen years after the turn of the twenty first century, the curator of a small specialist museum located close to London reflected on the story that his father had told him years ago; in his dreams the curator also travelled across a desert in search of his destiny; in his waking hours, Professor Augusta Robinson knew that he was the reincarnation of Nardoon Kashmi… and he knew that the time of his destiny was now at hand.





And now the story begins


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