They question Bartolo in his tent, as he drinks.
He tells them of his researches using the Revelations of Glaaki, coming here to dig based on hints in the text, and finding the outer walls of a temple, right where it said they would be. An ancient orgiastic cult temple. Later, Ayers joined him bringing knowledge and money from Echavarria. He talks about finding the inner temple, and the trouble with supplies and local bandits. Then the volcano erupted in 1926, just as they were beginning to explore the inner temple.
Ayers disappeared in the desert in ’26, and he’s not seen him since. He digs out of old bags a sketch of the inner temple showing a realistic sketch of a giant mouth in the wall. Finally he draws on a napkin a rough map to Dallol, where Ayers was last seen. “The tribe around here are your best chance.”
The Italian army seems in no hurry to head off to Axum to the Obelisk, but the group feel they want to. Their guide, Nyanzi, is nervous, and the team get supplies and procure guns for the 5 day journey across the desert to Axum. They are warned about bandits, and that the war has just ended.
However they arrive in Axum without incident. It’s less than they expected, a sprawling collection of ruins around a small central town. On the north of the city is the field of stele, many tens if not hundreds. There are a couple of Italian army tents in the field, and a large civilian tent over the base of a fallen, broken stele, the Obelisk of Axum.
A pencil moustached man comes out of the tent, and brushes them off, but eventually promises to show them round tomorrow. He seems untrustworthy to Kent, and when Martin mentions Ayers there’s a flicker of recognition in his eyes.
The team make camp a little way away, and check the other stele in the field. All have windows and doors engraved on them, and seem to be built over tombs. Nyanzi casually mentions the Cathedral in the town has the Ark of the Covenant in it.
That night, after lights have gone out, Martin sneaks across the field and around the civilian tent. There are millions of stars overhead. He peeks in and can see three sleeping figures, plus a hole in the ground and a desk. Sneaking around to the other entrance he creeps in and steals whatever papers were on their portable desk.
Meanwhile Kent and Fox here soft footsteps approaching their tent in the darkness. They sneak out and over the field behind, and see a handful of men approaching the tent carrying pipes as weapons. One man is Western, the rest local. They spread out and circle the tent and Fox fires his rifle into the air.
The Westerner turns quickly and returns fire, but his pistol shot wizzes through the air between Kent and Fox. They fire at him, but he’s agile and slippery. The thugs start heading towards them as lights and shouts come from the other tents and the city. The Westerner ducks into their tent, cutting a hole, as Kent and Fox shoot dead two of the locals coming towards them.
Martin is halfway across the gap between the tents, and sees the Westerner run out the front of their tent. He runs after him, sprinting across rocky ground. He has to go at full speed to keep up with the man who runs into the town and over fences and through goat pens. He tries a shot, and clips the man in the shoulder, who stumbles, but regains and keeps on running, away into the darkness.
The four Italian soldiers and a sergeant take control, but quickly assume the dead guys were bandits. After being questioned by the troops, they go back to their tent. Martin shows the others the paperwork he grabbed, a telegram from Siam to a Luc Fauche, a report from a Husain Soliman to ‘SS’, and a sketch of the obelisk before it was pushed over. The telegram refers to the Severn Valley, and Solimans report indicates they are looking for locations of the Liar but only finding the Fisher. They seem to be a team working for SS.