Excerpt from The Crumbled Pyramid (available later this year) sequel to The Shattered Swan by Krystiana Stacy Kelly:
Piero Gomez uttered a sharp cry. Lifting his finger and squinting against the bright sunlight, he examined his wound. It was not unusual for him to get injured – he never wore gloves. Distracted, he sucked on his finger as his eyes roamed around the site, searching for something. Getting up, he walked over to a small, square shaped hole that had been a fire pit in ancient times. He bent over, peered into one of the darker corners facing away from the sun and immediately found what he was looking for. He took his finger, still bleeding, out of his mouth, reached down and wound it around the spider web that was tucked into the bottom corner of the hole. The bleeding stopped.
He looked out in the direction of the village, ignoring the pain that still throbbed in his finger. He could almost hear the stream burbling through its rocky path past the occasional guarango tree a kilometer and a half to the north. The same stream, and its many irrigation runoffs, ran through thevillageofCaral, Piero’s home. Then he turned and looked at Caral and again felt a wave of infinite gratitude to Reyna for giving him this job – occupation really – that he had grown to love.
Piero was studying to be an archaeologist excavating one ofPeru’s most contemporary and exciting sites: Caral. Just five years ago he had been destined to simply farm his family’s meager plot and eke out a living, barely squeaking by – just as his family and the rest of the village had been doing for generations. But then Reyna, Doctor Salazar, had come searching for answers in the dry, sandy mounds of theSupeValley. Immediately upon finding the pyramids under some sand dunes here at the foothills of theAndes, it had been her intention to include the nearby residents in excavating and protecting the remarkable discovery. Those who were interested were also academically trained in archaeology. In addition, since the site was not heavily visited yet, they served as tour guides to visitors who managed to find the area.
He decided to take his lunch break. Maybe his finger would feel better after he ate his meal of Oyuquito con Charqui – beef jerky with potato. He had a daily habit of taking a walk around the excavation site always choosing a different place to eat hismiddaymeal. As such, it was always possible that he might find somewhere else that needed attention for cleaning, or even further excavation.
On the way from the Central Pyramid where he had been dusting out a residential unit, he decided he would pass through his favorite spot at Caral, the circular altar. A set of about ten stairs on the western side of one of the sprawling pyramids led to a low circular wall, the inside of which formed a circle about 15 feet in diameter with a doorway space built for only one person to enter at a time. Enclosed, but at the same time open, it was his favorite area to stand and contemplate how people lived in this area nearly 5,000 years ago. They had spent their time growing crops, making nets for fishing and peacefully trading with other groups in the region. There was no evidence of weaponry in Caral.
As he neared his destination, dark shadows on the ground made him look up sharply. Vultures circled above. He made his way more quickly to the altar, got to the low walled entrance and stopped short. A moment later, on his knees – his face pale and his body racked with shaking, he stumbled over to dry heave down the stairs of the pyramid. Then, still trembling violently, he forced himself to go find Roger or Juan Luis. The other men would probably still be somewhere near the entrance, which was to the east, all the way on the other side of the site.
What he had left behind in the Pyramid of the Circular Altar was the body of Hugo – another villager and fellow student archeologist – his face still recognizable although its features were twisted in an expression of horror. Blood covered the entire interior of the Circular Altar. The rest of Hugo had been skinned.