[Story] The Excavation

Liara Sungazer took care as she wrapped the linens around her head and shoulders, if done properly, it would keep most of the sand out. There would always be some, it was an inevitability here, and a constant battle to keep it out of the tents. It would also help keep some of the sun’s merciless heat at bay, at least for a little while. Outside, the morning was already sweltering, the heat distorting the horizon into ripples of blue and sand. They wouldn’t be able to work this dig very much longer, so there was an urgency to their work these past few weeks.

Professor Dawnshard was out and working already, of course. In all of the years she had worked with him, Liara had never seen his enthusiasm wane. It was one of the reasons she so enjoyed it, and no doubt the reason that his expeditions never wanted for volunteers. It didn’t hurt that he was handsome, either. She’d noticed, of course, but never acted on it. There were more important things to worry about, like finishing this excavation before the full summer heat was upon them.

“Come look at this, Liara!” he exclaimed, the moment she had stepped out from the relative coolness of her tent. The heat felt like a heavy hand, pressing down on her. The Professor always called her by her first name, which she felt a little improper, but it didn’t bother her enough to say anything. Besides, it was the only name she used that was actually hers. “It’s amazing! Incredible!”

The Professor was crouched halfway in the excavation, surrounded by assistants busily brushing sand away from what appeared to be a sarcophagus. Liara’s brows raised with interest, and she came closer. A sarcophagus! A fitting reward for all of their hard work, indeed. “Is it empty?” she asked. Though it appeared to be sealed, that didn’t mean much. Many of the digs had been plundered in the past, their treasures long carried off. But Liara saw the glint of gold in the surrounding sand, the tops of undiscovered treasures waiting to be unearthed. Whoever had been buried here still had all of their treasures, meaning the former owner’s bones were most likely inside.

“Tamas,” called the Professor, addressing the cat-person who lingered nearby. He had initially been their guide for the expedition, but had stayed on to help because he found it interesting. That had been the experience of Liara herself, as well. She had taught history and general education classes in Dalaran for many years. While there were no shortage of magic classes and tutors, there had been a need for classes for the other subjects — and for those who were less magically inclined. It had been in the library that she’d met the Professor and agreed to join him on one of his expeditions. That one had been in a desert as well, the red parched lands south of the Dwarven settlements. Tamas was a dark metal grey in color, his fur banded with stripes on his legs and tail. He too wore the cloth covering his head and shoulders, though the rest of him was bare. Liara couldn’t imagine how hot it must be to have fur in this climate. If it bothered him, he never said so, however. He helped the Professor to hoist the sarcophagus up onto their wagon. The wood groaned and creaked under the weight. “Look at this!” he said, gesturing toward the coffin’s sides. It was carved with figures and designs along all four sides. There appeared to be some writing as well, and Liara was eager to learn what the inscription might say. “The condition is pristine,” the Professor continued. “A museum piece for certain.”

She looked back to the excavation, to the other treasures that he had momentarily forgotten. “Let me record these,” Liara volunteered. “I’m sure they’ll want them as well.”

He flashed her a brief smile. “Good thinking,” he said, securing the sarcophagus with rope. “Tamas and I are going to take this back to the city. Can you manage to wrap things up without me?”

Liara nodded. Of course she could. She had been at this for years, knew how to record finds and how to manage the assistants. She could even unfold and put up the tents, which often looked like a jumble of canvas. “Be careful.” She was not really worried, though the desert was dangerous she knew the Professor knew it well. Animals were not really a threat if one carried a weapon, though the small sand people could be if one travelled alone. Scorpions could be deadly if one didn’t watch their step, but the most deadly thing in the desert was the desert itself. She knew it would not take he and Tamas long to reach the city, and find a mage to take them and their treasure back to Silvermoon.

She took out her notebook and began to draw a map of the excavation; marking a grid layout to record exactly where every item was found, and what depth. It would likely take the better part of the day, then she could begin a more detailed log from the safety of her tent that night. Liara smiled at the thought. She still enjoyed the work, it was one thing to read about history in a book, but something entirely different to hold it in your hands. She crouched in the sand, brushing off something that caught her eye. It was a statue, mounted on a rectangular base, like many others they had discovered here before. But she had never seen one that depicted a creature like this. It stood on two legs, but it had four arms, each of which held a straight sword. It had a long tail, and spines that ran down its back. Two tiny gemstones were set into its head as eyes, and they gave it an eerily lifelike appearance. It looked like nothing so much as a demon, but they had never found any depiction of a demon in Uldum excavations before. Was it a prank? Unlikely, as they were the first people to touch these objects in centuries. The only people in the area were the sand people, and they had little interest in history. The cat people surely would have taken the treasures if they had found them. Liara began to sketch the object in her notebook. She couldn’t wait to show it to the Professor.

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