This post is part of an ongoing story set in the pulp-era world of Hollow Earth Expedition. If you are new to this series, I suggest starting at the beginning.
Professor Limefellow held his spectacles half way between himself and the carvings. The ancient creators of this lost city—the Atlanteans—had crafted masterful bas reliefs and inscriptions. In the few hours he had been inspecting the city, Limefellow had already developed ideas for a half-dozen scholarly articles, beginning with the explanation that their ancient script shared roots with the Proto-Indo-European language as well as elements of Mayan script and Ancient Chinese pictographs.
“Excuse me, Professor,” Thelonius asked, his ape-man lips forming the English words with well-practiced grace. “I don’t think we’re entirely safe up here. Shouldn’t we be moving on?”
“Oh, we’ll be fine,” Limefellow said without looking up from the inscriptions. They were perched on the highest ledge of the central pylon, almost directly above the Nazi command tent. “They aren’t looking up on the rooftops.”
“And what about that?” The ape-man pointed up at the zeppelin hovering menacingly over their heads. “Do you suppose your friends are being kept up there?”
“There’s no need to worry about them yet,” Limefellow said. “I’m sure the Nazis will respect the Geneva Conventions and what not.”
Limefellow waved his hand dismissively because he was on the verge of a breakthrough. He whipped out his sketch book and furiously scribbled down a transcription of the text on the pylon, skipping three lines between each string of text and filling the space between with more familiar linguistic characters. The Atlantean symbols worked on his mind, burning their way into his memory as if he had been studying them for years. As his pencil flew across the page, it felt less like delving into murky areas of pre-historic linguistics and more like assembling a puzzle with half the pieces already in place and the other half interwoven into the beautiful stone vista before him.
“Eureka,” he whispered. Given time, he felt sure, he could fully decipher this language. Already he was able to read enough to learn that the builders of this ancient city had split into three factions and each had departed—suddenly and with no reason evident—to various locations Professor Limefellow translated as “celestial realms.”
Strange to abandon a city of such splendor, Limefellow thought. But there is no accounting for the superstitious motivations of primitive man.
Most of the carvings on the pylon suggested that this structure was a gate through which the Atlanteans departed on their one way trip. Limefellow assumed that it represented some kind of symbolic ritual to prepare the people for their migration. The instructions were clear enough; he could easily translate the rest and conduct the ritual himself. According to the writing, all he needed to complete the ritual would be an Atlantean oror—he squinted at the next character—some kind of blackened skull. No doubt an artifact of religious significance.
“I say, Thelonious,” he said. “What would you say to a little historical re-creation in the name of anthropology?”
Thelonius did not answer.
Limefellow looked around him, but his ape-man friend was nowhere to be found.