Waking The Ancients, by Gail Wanman Holstein, A Novel of the Mogollon Rim
Thundercloud Books presents Waking The Ancients
By Gail Wanman Holstein

Waking The Ancients, by Gail Wanman Holstein
A Thriller for Intelligent Adventurers

The only sane person in a cultish group has to be careful. She’s always being watched. Any change of activity will be noticed.

In this excerpt, Leah, now a straw boss over the women in the group, is looking for a way out of the wilderness. She slips away to a cave where she previously found an ancient bowl:

Leah sent the others out into a windy morning, armed with sacks and a few kernels of corn. They were to gather any snared game, then re-bait and reset the traps.

“No arguing. Let Alissa lead. Stop at the spring on the way back.”

The moment they left, she headed for her cave.

She’d estimated the upright slabs at about four feet long; the hole must extend two feet deeper than the level where she’d found her bowl. She scooped sand until she could haul up a slab and lay it on the ground.

Her fingertips felt something soft. Up came a piece of half-rotted fabric, on which the bowl had been sitting. It was spread over a network of twigs whose ends were planted around the sides of the hole, like an elephant trap.

Whatever was down there had lain undisturbed since the ancients left. Leah wasn’t sure how to proceed, or whether she should. But it could be her magic. She pulled the sticks out, lining them up in the sand, and sat back to listen. She heard no rumble of earth, no howls. The wind at her ears seemed to carry faint voices; but she’d grown used to that.

As she dug, sand and pebbles fell a long way, returning a deep echo. She stretched out in the sand and hung over the blackness. The sound of her breathing came back to her.

She ran to her tent for her flashlight, thankful that she’d been hoarding her batteries all these weeks. The powerful light swept an arc around the cavern. The upper walls were steep, lined with rubble. A wooden ladder, crosspieces tied with sinew, leaned against the side. She made out the floor of the cave, at least fifteen feet below.

She saw pots. Dozens of them: bowls and seed jars and ollas lined the walls and covered the floor. Layered under centuries of dust, each one was filled with corn or beans — food for hundreds of lean days. The ancients had never cracked their nest egg.

She leaned farther into the hole, picking out its perimeters with her light. She saw an ax, propped against the wall of the cave, its stone head lashed to a wooden handle.

Then she saw the skeleton.

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Waking The Ancients, by Gail Wanman Holstein