Hidden in the slopes of the Carrauntoohil in Ireland, is a quaint little village – unknown. Its people are quainter. They hold feasts almost every day and then none at all. Their rituals begin at sunset and go till the dawn. The other tribes know not of their existence apart from some wild retelling of encounters of lasses and lads who stumbled upon the fringes of the settlement and were thrown back like a shield bouncing off anything that hits upon it. Their hair is light coloured, their eyes blue-green. The other features varied subjectively, making it impossible to trace their origin to a specific gene pool.

This was the village in which Mai had landed. It was a simple itinerary. Meet the Sullivan family, get the required permissions, carefully climb down the Devil”s Ladder and proceed to Hag”s Glen for her research. But no, there had to be a windstorm shaking the already worn out unstable path. She saw an opening above, like a cave or shelter and jumped in. Mai was late. Things with the Sullivans had gone well but there was something weird about those people. The Sullivan lad spoke of the same strange things that were in her deceased brother’s journal. “This entire trip is cursed,” Mai mused internally. But then so was her entire life as a researcher. “Why can”t it be Maine? Maine is such a nice place in August…” Mai kicked the rocks in the cave around her. It had begun to hail.

Across the East face of the Carrauntoohil, starting from the very cave that Mai sat in, began the Heavenly Gates. A narrow natural gap leading down a deep gully to who knew where. No one knew its depth. Many had lost their lives trying to navigate this path, their bodies either lost or found mangled in the Eagles Nest which lay at the bottom slopes. The cove looked pretty clean for a place that was not used. Mai jotted down the day’s events in her book. She did not have anything in her bag other than stationery, drawing sheets, a camera, her brother’s diary, and her journal. None of these were going to help her as it grew cold and dark. This was not the plan. Hunger and fear started creeping into her. No service on the cellphone. She wished Jeremy were there.

Mai switched on her flashlight as she scooted farther into the cave to escape the hail. Had things gone according to the plan, she would have been recording sunset from Hag”s Glen right now. She surveyed the area with her flashlight, going further in. The space became narrower, as if the cave was closing down on her. She tripped on something and fell flat on her face. She jerked herself up in annoyance, muttering a few curses under her breath. A necklace! A freaking thin, gold, necklace! Way to go. She tripped over gold, literally. Mai kicked it aside in frustration, rubbing her aching nose. She flashed her torch around. Dead end. She turned around and tripped again, landing painfully on her butt this time. “Why you…” she screamed in pain and annoyance. She ripped the necklace from in between the stones and was about to throw it out when something caught her eye. Engraved in the surface were three letters J.H.R – her brother”s initials.

The necklace dropped from her hand, the initials disappeared. She sat down and held it again, they appeared. “Holy-” Mai sat shocked. She picked up the necklace slowly, staring at the blank wall in front of her. The initials appeared again. She took a step back, and another, and another towards the entrance of the cave. She turned around and almost screamed. There, all over the cave walls were etched diagrams and calculations. No they were not calculations exactly, more like timestamps and degrees. In a corner lay charred wood and ashes, a makeshift blanket of leaves and sheets of paper. She picked up the sheets. Jeremy”s handwriting. Symbols similar to those in his diary. Mai sat down away from all of this in a bare corner, afraid of touching anything in case it was cursed, and compared it to her brother”s journal. It seemed to be telling something, like a pattern, but she could not understand. “I wish I knew what all this means.” Mai groaned, burying her head in her journal.

A column of bright white light shot from the back of the cave, startling her up. “Who’s there?” Mai asked, fear laced in her voice. She heard a series of cracks followed by noises. The cave vibrated. The light dimmed. Mai kept staring, waiting for something to attack her. When nothing did, she stepped closer and closer. And then she made a mistake. She looked down. Fear overtook her and she got sucked into a chasm. She tried to hold on to the ledges of the surrounding but she was falling too fast. She saw her life flash before her eyes. She shut her eyes bracing for the impact of a certain death. Somebody saved her. She saw sea-green eyes, many of them, and light coloured hair, before she lost consciousness.

Mai woke up in the guestroom of the Sullivan family. The sun was rising. Must have been a bad dream. Mai pranced in the room with new found joy getting ready for the day. The colour drained from her face as she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Across her neck, tightly clasped, lay the necklace. It wasn”t a dream. Questions swarmed her mind. How did she get here? Did the Sullivan”s know? They weren”t very fond of her brother. Were they responsible for her brother going missing? Mai never believed her brother to be dead. She always thought he was lost. The gears in her mind turned. A knock on the door broke the spell of thought. The Sullivan lad was calling her out for breakfast. “Coming!” she yelled and quickly dressed herself. She hid the necklace under a polo neck and a sweater.

Mai calmed herself down and went down to the kitchen. She heard incomprehensible whispers coming from the opposite end of the corridor. Her curiosity piqued. She followed the sound till the end of the corridor. The Sullivan study. “Wait, what? How could I hear that far?” Mai internally exclaimed. The necklace hummed warmly at her chest. Mai crouched into one of the niches, carefully behind the marble statues, hoping she would not be discovered. She tuned into the hushed voices. The Sullivan lad talking to Mr. Sullivan.

“But, father-”

‘Speak no more of it. We”ve checked all her belongings. Let her remain unaware. It will be easier for us.’
“Trust me father. I am sure she has the Solaris around her neck. She”ll try to hide it just like Jeremy did.”
‘It hailed yesterday son.’
“How was she perfectly normal at the Eagle”s Nest, save a fever? Just like Jeremy –”

‘Enough! Let her go to Hag”s Glen. When the time comes, we will strike. Johnathan will report if he senses the sun star.’

Thoughts zipped across in Mai’s mind. Fear gripped her. She trembled. The study door creaked as the two Sullivans quietly walked down. She waited for a while, before she followed into the kitchen.

“Oh dear!” exclaimed Mrs. Sullivan.

“What happened?” Mrs. Sullivan looked at a pale Mai.

‘It’s cold. Very cold.’ She stuttered, as the remaining Sullivans entered the room. She put up the sickest face she could muster. ‘Doctor, please call the doctor. Cold, my head is spinning,’ she slumped on the chair. The males looked at each other. “She could have a head concussion. Call the doctor!” Mrs. Sullivan screamed at the two men in the kitchen.

A white van arrived soon taking Mai to the local hospital. However, it veered sharply to the left on a rusty road towards a warehouse. Johnathan stepped out. “Quite a stunt lady. You almost fooled me,” Johnathan teased. Mai grunted.
“Let’s make this easy,” Johnathan remarked. “I know the Solaris is with you. Hand it over and go away in peace, or join your brother in there,” he pointed at the warehouse.
‘Over my dead body,’ replied Mai. She prepared herself to fight.
Johnathan whistled and two of his gardening lads appeared. “Escort her in. Lock her up. No food, no water. Make sure she doesn”t run away..”
‘Wait, what!? Fight me you coward!’
Johnathan walked away. The lads dragged her to the warehouse. Mai looked around her surroundings. She slowly reached out to the spade strapped on the waist of the shorter guy on the right. As the other lad went to open the warehouse, she bid for the right time. She simultaneously pulled the spade and kicked the guy on the right, the spade hitting the neck of the lad pulling the shutters of the warehouse.

She expertly rolled in inside as the shutter dropped. She ran in, taking left and right turns blindly as her feet guided her. The two lads, very soon, began to search for her. She heard whimpers coming from the right. Jeremy. A faint light crept from the left. She ran to the left to reach a library. She heard voices. “We can’t let her reach Jeremy. We have to stop her!” She heaved a sigh and ran her hand across her hair. Her elbow hit a hidden lever. ‘Shit!’ she cried. A wall shifted revealing a smaller room. She duck inside quickly, trying to push the door to close. Bad news – She was trapped in a room with no ventilation. Good news – she was trapped in a cosy room littered with quaint little artefacts. Mai scavenged through the drawers for a pistol or something. All that she found was files. Each having hundreds of biodatas. She saw her name on one of those. And then of Jeremy. She quickly skimmed through the others. People like her from the 1900s going back to the 1200s. Even older, but she could not understand that language. She rummaged through the book shelves. Books on psychedelics, drugs, mysticism, mythology, magic. She kicked it in frustration.

A small book, the size of her palm, dropped at her feet. Solaris. Mai picked it up, carefully opening it. An empty cast lay inside. She removed her necklace and put it inside. The book softly glowed. Words appeared and disappeared.
…Solaris, the necklace commissioned by the unnamed wife of King Nero. An enigmatic woman, of unparalleled beauty, surrounded by rumours of dark magic and witchcraft. Humans and their fear, their egos, always pulling them away from the divine. At the heart of Solaris, is the Sun Crystal, similar to the crystal that stood at the pinnacle of the Divine Pyramid of Lemuria. Charged by the light of the Sun Star Sirius as it aligned with the Sun and Earth right above the Pyramid of Giza, containing the most divine and powerful energies. Solaris would protect the wearer, make them immortal, and is their never ending wish fulfilling charm. Solaris chooses its wearer. It can be willingly passed down by the wearer to whoever they wish or will go to the one who does not desire it after the death of the original owner for safeguarding till a worthy soul finally appears. In the wrong hands, or used for wrong intentions, Solaris would bring doom to the possessor…

Footsteps. Mai scanned the room. She had missed the second door to the room. She quickly pulled out the necklace. She wrenched the crystal out and slipped it into her pockets. She replaced the empty space with a clear citrine quartz that looked roughly the same. She heard the lock turn. Mai rushed across to the other end of the room bracing for the door to open. Mr. Sullivan stepped in. “What have we here?.” Mai tried to push open the door. “It opens only from the outside,” remarked Mr. Sullivan surveying the damage of files on the floor.
‘Where is my brother?’ Mai demanded.
“Bad girl,” Mr Sullivan said, “poking her nose in the business of adults”
They circled each other in the room. Tensions were high. Mai flung artefact after artefact at his face and ran out from the backdoor, Mr. Sullivan following her.

She ran out on the stony path. The sun star gave her an added boost of energy. She jerked herself to a stop as Johnathan came leisurely from the opposite side. She was in the open surrounded by two men with weapons. An idea popped in her head. She ran headfirst into Johnathan surprising him. ‘Mr. Sullivan has it,’ she panted. ‘Solaris. He is wearing it.’
“What?” Johnathan screamed. “No. Why should I believe you?”
‘Fine then, die,’ Mai screamed as she ran ahead.
Mr. Sullivan fired his gun at Mai. But the shots ricocheted off her.
Johnathan looked confused, dodging the bullets Mr. Sullivan rained crazily. “He has lost his mind.” The tales were true then. Johnathan ran after Mai waving his hands. They hid behind the bushes at the fork in the road. It was time to play her cards right. Mai unfolded a torn sheet of paper pretending to struggle to read it. Johnathan eyed her cautiously. “What is that?”
‘I don’t know. Found it on Sullivan’s desk in the secret room in the warehouse,’ Mai replied.
Johnathan masked his surprise. He snatched the paper of her hands. Mai sensed rising anger.
“Elixir of Life, that cheat!” Johnathan muttered profanities under his breath.
Interesting. Mai thought to herself. She decided to use the rift to her advantage for her escape.

Mr. Sullivan drove on their trail. “Oh Johnathan! I see you’ve caught the girl,” exclaimed Mr Sullivan from the van. He got down, opened the back. Throw her in quick. We’ve got to get the necklace.”
Mai deftly flung the necklace at Sullivan’s feet.
‘Oh really? You cheat! You already have the necklace and you wish to kill me just like the rest of them,’ Johnathan glared.
“What? No!” Sullivan screamed. “How dare you accuse me like that?”
Johnathan pointed at Sullivan”s feet. He pounced on Sullivan raining punches. Sullivan saw the sheet in his fist, the top popping out. Both men began to fight over their intentions and innocence.

Mai quietly slipped away, jumped into the van, and drove to the nearest army base using her GPS. She had a brother to save and a murderer to expose.

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