2023. November 07.
It’s been almost 5 weeks since we set out from town, following the route the previous expedition team took. A short distance’s trek northwest from here sits our final frontier - the volcanic mountain. On its western face, we can make out the facade of a man-made structure. That must be the temple the previous team set out to explore… and never returned from.
We finished setting up camp just before the sun dipped beyond the horizon, and now I am sitting in front of the fire, glad for its warmth. There is a slight breeze that brings a chill to the air and I think I can smell a faint hint of sulfur. Maybe it’s only because it is now night, but this place feels more… menacing. Charred, jagged terrain, rivers of molten lava and the specter of a volcano jutting violently into the sky, billowing out a shroud of what I assume are toxic fumes. The only saving grace is that at least we are waiting until daylight to begin our intrepid explorations.
Bazz and Phoenix have turned in for the night. To be honest they deserve it; they did most of the setting up! Sarah, of course, is busy taking inventory of our gear. I can see her torchlight jumping back and forth next to the tents. Our resident dino whisperer Bud is busy tending to the dino pack. Sometimes I think he likes them more than people! He does seem to understand them better than most of us. As we were drawing nearer to the volcano area, the Raptors had grown increasingly fretful. Bud managed to weave his magic, and now I can hear the telltale soft chittering of contented Raptors. The Shieldheads have been much calmer, maybe because of the glowberries Bud has been sneaking them, thinking no one noticed!
Now that we are here, the volcano looming close by, I keep thinking about what could have happened to the previous team and it takes me back. Sometimes, I still dream about it… Bud, Bazz, Natascha, Mike, Ted, and I are in a cave filled with purple crystals. Bats are swooping down on us… someone throws an explosive… shattered crystals are flying everywhere, and for a moment time slows down and I see… us…through what looks like a portal, entering the same cave, with the same purple crystals…
I often wonder if this place will eventually drive me mad!
“Finished playing dino mum?” I jokingly ask as I hear Bud approaching. I close my journal and put it aside.
Bud gives me a playful push as he sits down next to me, facing his open palms to the fire. “I don’t think I’ve seen the Raptors so agitated before,” he says worriedly, before turning his gaze to the volcano, the intimation clear.
“Do you think we’ll find them? Or anything more than another artifact?” he finally asks after a few moments.
The breeze suddenly picking up, I grab a stick and stoke the fire, trying to coax more warmth. Watching the flames spring to life, I think back to the first temple we explored - the Shieldhead temple. The carvings and drawings that decorated the place pointed to a prehistoric culture, however, as we moved deeper into the interior, the rooms, hallways, intricate obstacles pointed to a civilization that must have used very sophisticated machinery and knowledge. And just like the temple, the artifact we found hidden in the innermost chamber was equally a contradiction.
Carved out of wood and stone, a gem with a mysterious glyph in its center, it was easy to mistake it for a key. However, as we made our way back to town, the artifact in my rucksack, we stumbled upon a pair of Shieldheads. Normally reclusive, this pair did not move away as we approached but rather seemed to take an interest in us. Anticipating an attack, we split, taking defensive positions, waiting for them to charge. But, the Shieldheads kept calmly approaching. An image of dino riders flashing into my mind, I dropped my guard and started towards them… until I am stroking their bowed heads. It was then that we discovered that this strange, alien object held the power to tame dinosaurs.
In time, we searched for and found other temples, each one associated with different species of dinosaurs. Retrieving the artifacts hidden inside, we soon had to build stables and corrals in town to house our domestic dino population.
“Maybe we should head to our tents,” Bud says as an intense wind suddenly hits us, the flames of the fire flickering almost horizontally. As we get up, a deafening roll of thunder claps above our heads, followed by a sharp crack of lightning that momentarily turns night to day. “What the hell was that?” Phoenix asks as she and Bazz simultaneously exit their tents, joined by Sarah. We all turn and look at the volcano. A swell of fumes or clouds is swirling around its peak, spreading across the sky at a ferocious speed. For a moment, we all stand frozen, the same thought in our minds - “Oh, no… this can’t be happening!”
Perseverance Episodes 3&4 are going live in just 24 hours - we are super excited to have you join us for the finale! It’s going to be quite the ride! 😉