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Off course
<td>[Image: Declan_zps21f9023c.jpg]</td>
<td>"Baron" Declan Darius Ashlan Cooper Gregory



Dusk. London.

Dying sunlight streamed through old window panes and diffused on the dusty air of Declan's office. Winter cast its white blanket on the grounds outside, and as reminder, cold air seeped beneath his wool sweater. He frowned at the crackling fire without getting up to stir the logs. Instead, he swiveled in his chair and yanked the curtains over the window. Immediately, the stream of icy air ceased. Perhaps finally the fire would do its duty.

With the book beneath his left hand, he scrolled through pictures of a jagged mountain wasteland with his right. Black slate rocks cut through weaves of snow and scrubby brush. His colleagues, a team sent to explore ruins and holy sites of the northern Indian Continent, sent him beautiful, but unremarkable pictures. Remarkable except that they were not where the team was sent to explore.

"This scene is familiar to me,"
Declan spoke to the voice on the other end of the connection. "And all the more so because you are 15 kilometers away from where you said you were going."
Declan's eyes flickered to a map of Noah's location. The entire area was filled with interesting finds denied to the British empire a century ago. The permits for their return was granted five years ago. Noah had been on his way to Hemkund, a remote site in the Himalayan mountains, 275 kilometers from the nearest town.

A howling wind almost drowned Noah's reply. "The British Museum hasn't returned to Roopkund in 70 years. Our instruments have a chance to explore--"

Declan cut him off after having studied a weather forecast for the region. "Noah, return to Hemkund where there is shelter and safety. You are in the wilderness. It is not safe. Two-hundred and fifty skeletons were discovered at Roopkund a 100 years ago, preserved so perfectly that DNA was extracted from hair and nail. Their party was killed in a freak hail storm in the 9th century AD. There is nothing else to find."

"But the lake-"
Noah replied. Declan felt his impatience grow.
"The lake is no more than 3 meters deep and 30 meters across. It's frozen for most of the year."

Noah waited until Declan was concluded, knowing the difficulties of convincing him to swerve from the path planned.

"Yes, sir. The lake is completely frozen right now. And yes, I can see the remains lying still beneath the clearest ice I've ever seen. But sir, there's something in the lake. More precisely. There's something under the lake."
Noah grew quiet, like he was afraid the wind would steal his whispers away.

Declan looked more closely at the pictures sent by Noah. "What do you mean, something, 'in' the lake? Like what?"

"I have an idea-- wait."
Noah's voice was drowned by a shriek of wind.

"What is it, Noah?"

The wind howled suddenly sharp, like the screams of a furious hell. Declan plugged his pained ear, jerking away from the speakers. Noah yelled. Then all fell quiet as snowfall.

Heart pounding, Declan scrambled for the volume control on his speakers, but they were normally set. "What in the world, Noah?"

But Noah didn't respond. Declan licked his lips, and with shaking hands, raised the screen with Noah's video feed. An arm draped across a rocky slope.

Declan stared at it in disbelief. Then, eyes stinging, he looked at the map of his friend's location.

"Skeleton Lake,"
he whispered. The pit in his stomach feared the worst.

Edited by Dane Gregory, Jan 9 2015, 11:17 PM.

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