Something I recognised crouched by the Treasure. The powerful reptilian legs and clawed arms. The thick black spidery hairs sprouting from farthing-sized pores. The dead gaze from full-moon eyes.
Willie fell dead on the cold stone floor. MacGregor fell to his knees and began to babble fearfully. Elias just stared at the profane creature, mouth gaping, feet glued to the floor.
The Treasure was a gate between worlds, I realised suddenly. The creature had travelled through it and was dazed by the journey. But it was going to wake up, and it probably wouldn’t be friendly.
On the night the Laird read to us from The Clavicle of Moses, hose many years ageo, the book I held tightly to my chest, he had given one passage particular emphasis. “If ever you go too far,” he’d said, and we’d laughed heartily at the idea. “I know what intelligent, curious young men are like,” he insisted. “If ever you summon, by accident, that which you cannot put down, then remember this.” He held up his right hand: the index finger extended up, the middle finger pointed forward, and the thumb was out to the left, making three right angles. His comically portentous seriousness burned the image onto my impressionable mind. “The sign of the N’beros. If you remember only one thing, then remember this. If it doesn’t work, nothing will.”