Prologue

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Hunter Price believed that the Kings of Shambhala built the Pyramids of Egypt. The drive to find the link between the hidden city of the Himalayas and the monuments of the ancient Egyptians fueled the passion that he brought to his work.

The cover of Archaeology Today featured his grinning face three times in the last two years. Current magazine interviewed him extensively before naming Jafar Adam Abd al-Qadir the 2025 Innovator of the Year. Al-Qadir had been instrumental in uniting the Arab nations under the populist, revolutionary, democratic banner of the newly formed Arab Union.

Archaeologists around the world seethed with envy as Hunter’s fame grew even outside of academic circles. Hunter’s youth, his energy, and his deep-pocketed financial backers propelled him to notoriety. Hunter’s accomplishments became features of mainstream media coverage.

• • •

After hitting an impasse in his work, Hunter decided to pay a personal visit to the laboratory that had been handling all of his radiocarbon dating. He booked a last-minute flight to Germany. Hunter spent the drive to the laboratory thinking about how to connect the Indus Valley glyphs with the Neolithic masonry from the latest digsite. He hoped that the testing dates would support the theory behind his latest article in the World Archaeology Journal.

One of his former graduate students had been texting him nonstop. They had gone out twice. Hunter felt at home with his work and awkward everywhere else, especially with her. She should have been great. He did not have time to think about it; he had to concentrate. Hunter shut his phone off as he pulled into the parking lot of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences.

“That’s fantastic!” Hunter exclaimed with a wide-eyed grin on his face.

The woman behind the microscope was brilliant. She had all of the right answers to Hunter’s furious fusillade of questions. She answered each question quickly and articulately. Her answers were precise and on-point. She never paused. She anticipated his questions before he asked them. Also, she gave him almost exactly the dates that he had hoped for. Hunter’s cheer became contagious. The woman paused in mid-sentence and smiled.

“You know, most people don’t come here in person to get their results.” She said, chuckling.

Hunter laughed out loud. “I’m not most people. Tell me again about how you calibrate the machine.”

The demand stunned Tiyana. Most people did not care how the spectrometer worked, they just wanted the answer.

“I’d like to show you something.” She said with a sly smile.

She led him into the back where shelves full of labeled boxes lay stacked around a large, complicated-looking machine. Inside the machine, Hunter saw a tree trunk.

“This is a bristlecone pine. When it died, it was one of the world’s oldest known living organisms.” She ran her fingers slowly across the rings in the center of the trunk.

“Right, you count the rings to find out the age, then you compare it to the steady rate of carbon decay. How old was this one?” Hunter asked. As he asked, he stared at the old trunk and ran his fingers along the rings.

Tiyana looked at Hunter and almost whispered, “Old, Hunter Price. Very old. Over four thousand years.”

As Hunter’s fingers dragged across the rings, they met Tiyana’s. He should have pulled away, but he did not. After a few milliseconds of eye contact that felt like hours, Hunter’s head tilted forward. They kissed quickly once, and then a second time. Then, there was an awkward silence.

“Let’s talk about this more.” Hunter said.

“I’d like that.” Tiyana responded.

• • •

Six months later, after a whirlwind romance, Hunter and Tiyana were married. On their honeymoon, they were paddling a canoe full of supplies and equipment down a moss-filled stream, in a hot, humid jungle.

“This is so exciting.” Hunter said.

“You really know how to woo a girl.” Tiyana replied, wiping sweat from her eyebrows.

Her arms burned from the rowing. Still, she could not wait to get to the secluded lagoon. She expected to find fascinating freshwater sediment there that would be instrumental to her research.

“You are not just any girl.” Hunter said, beaming.

“Let’s take a break.” Tiyana said. “My arms are burning.”

After a few minutes of taking in the sounds, sights, and smells of the tropical jungle, Tiyana spoke somberly, “Hunter, how are we going to make this work?”

“What do you mean?” He replied.

“I mean, you’re always going somewhere. We’re always doing things. How are we going to keep it all together?”

After a pause, Hunter replied, “Wherever I go, whatever I find; I will always love you.”

“That did not answer my question.” Tiyana thought to herself. But she felt warm, and she did not say anything.

As their lives progressed, Hunter and Tiyana became a formidable team. They finished each other's sentences as they thought in tandem. Then one day, their scientific curiosity led them to unfathomable secrets. They would come to wish that they could bury those secrets back in the dark sepulchers from which they came.

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Please vote if you think you'll like the story! This is a true prologue, which means that it is 100% optional reading that is provided solely for background. If it seems rushed or brief, then please bear in mind that this particular prologue merely introduces the main characters. The core story begins with the next chapter - Inception, which is where the Epoch really Dawns. Thanks for reading!

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