It was almost nine when Clara left the mansion to go on her morning run. This time, she deliberately slowed her pace. Clara loathed doing anything half-hearted, but it was only by sheer luck that nobody had noticed her running at super-human speeds last time. She couldn't risk anyone discovering her secret, and besides, she had a lot to think about.
Surprisingly, the location of the amulet played very little on her mind during her run, despite the recent revelations as to where it could be. It was events of the previous night and earlier that morning that dominated her thoughts. She was not replaying memories or reliving the ecstasy. Rather, she was repeatedly asking herself how it all could have happened. Clara was not a promiscuous woman. She had only given her body on three previous occasions, to men that she'd known for years at the time. Clara had always attributed those encounters to a mix of bad judgement, confusion and in one instance, ego, after being accused of "Being afraid to..."
She had scarcely known Jeff a week and they'd had sex twice! Granted, it had been a very intense and emotional week, but something was just not right about it. Clara was still at a loss to explain why she had first kissed Jeff the night before. She had never done anything like it before.
Then she began to think about the twist Jeff had added to their early morning fornication. The entrapment spell of the lamp had allowed Jeff to place her in a trance, making her incredibly suggestible. So suggestible, in fact, that he could remove any memory of her ever being entranced. Granted, he had arranged things so that the memory loss was only temporary, but what if he had entranced her another time, and erased the experience from her mind permanently? She would never know. Jeff had shown a seamless ability to pretend like he had done nothing to her. Her heart sunk at these thoughts.
Unable to stop herself, Clara began to consider the implications of this. Could Jeff have discovered that he could entrance her before last night? It was certainly plausible. Clara had already found him to be quite handsome, and he certainly appeared to be very nice and generous. If he could get her into a suggestive state, he could've turned her admiration of his merits into full-blown lust, and then made her forget that he'd ever done it.
She remembered reading in Zhiasa's journal that the one thing she couldn't be simply commanded to do was give away her body. If a master truly wished to have sex with her against her will, he needed to use a wish to do it. It was how Zhiasa managed to maintain her virginity until she met Hal'hadin. Sex held a great deal of magical and spiritual significance to ancient cultures, and apparently not even Tukanni's magics were powerful enough to turn Zhiasa into a full-blown sex slave.
But none of Zhiasa's masters appeared to be as smart as Jeff. Suppose he had inadvertently found a loophole that allowed him to have his way with her. Suppose he had never ordered her to sleep with him against her will, but ordered her to enter a suggestive state, then made her think that she did want to have sex with him.
Amid all these awful possibilities circling her mind, Clara reminded herself that she could not recall a single instance of Jeff being anything but kind and decent. But the fact of the matter was that he certainly had the ability to secretly coerce her into sleeping with him, and that meant that she could no longer trust him.
A determined scowl washed over her face as she powered over the large hill in front of her. To hell with risk of being seen! If she had to deal with pain, it might as well come from the track. By the time she had reached the bottom of the hill, Clara had calmed down somewhat and common sense took the reins once again. She reduced her speed to a more "human" one and continued on. She spent the remainder of her jog mulling over what the phrase "peak where the two suns meet" could be referring to, but did not find a solution.
As she reached the home stretch, she saw Warwick standing on the manor's back terrace, apparently waiting for her. She picked up the pace, sprinting the last few hundred feet and then up the steps to the top of the terrace.
"Is everything all right, Lady Roft?" the butler asked with an air of concern as she approached him.
"Yes, of course it is, Warwick, why?" Clara panted.
"Well your run has taken half an hour longer today than it normally does." Warwick stated. Clara smirked, amused at her own inability to get it right.
"I haven't been doing much running in the last two years. I thought it'd be better for me to pace myself..." Clara said, technically not lying to her old friend.
"Very wise, Lady Roft." Warwick replied with a nod, " His Lordship asks that you join him in his study at your earliest convenience."
"Very good, Warwick. Tell him I'll be along as soon as I've tidied myself up." Clara replied.
"Yes, milady." Warwick said, with his trademark head bow, before turning and re-entering the mansion. Clara walked over to the nearby patio table where she'd left a bottle of water before taking off on her run. Twisting the cap off in a single motion, she took several big gulps before looking over the estate's vast grounds once more and then entering the mansion to go have a shower.
Clara stepped lively into her father's study, hesitating briefly when she discovered that Jeff was already in there. He and Lord Roft were leaning over a large document on the main desk, deeply engrossed in discussion.
"...but I think that we can safely rule out these territories over here, and here." His Lordship said as he pointed to the chart, leading Clara to realise that it was a map. Having apparently seen her out of the corner of his eye, Lord Roft turned his attention to the doorway. "Ah, Clara! I'm glad you're here!" he smiled.
"Hi!" Jeff said in an extra-friendly tone as he walked towards her.
"Hello." Clara responded coldly as she walked right past him, wiping the smile right off Jeff's face. Her demeanour had warmed right up again, though, by the time she'd gotten to her father, smiling as they embraced. "Warwick implied that you'd discovered something?" She said when the hug ended.
"Indeed. I was just telling young master... Oh! Sorry!" The lord quickly apologised for his gaffe, upon remembering that his daughter was now a genie.
"It's okay, father." Clara said, warmly.
"I was just telling Jeff here that I believe we can deduce the region where Princess Zhiasa's kingdom was located. If you look here..." Lord Roft directed his daughter to the large map on the table. It was a detailed map of the area ancient mesopotamia once occupied, complete with all the current cities and national borders. "Now, as you know, our knowledge of the culture so far back is quite limited.", the lord continued. "But the dialect the princess used, as you've described it, was one used in the north, so I think we can assume that she was from somewhere in this area...", Lord Roft explained, tracing a large, rough circle around the top of the map with his finger. "Now, if we take the journal as a reliable historical account, then we know that the kingdom we're looking for became a major military power once Princess Tukanni assumed the throne, and bought a great many other kingdoms in the region under her dominion..." the old archaeologist said with a gleam in his eye.
"That's right..." Jeff commented.
"A campaign on that scale would have surely left a great deal of evidence behind." Clara stated.
"...And it most certainly did!" Lord Roft said with a hint of excitement, "You see back then, what was to become ancient mesopotamia was just a collection of independent cities and kingdoms, most of which had unstable relationships with their neighbors, if they had relationships with them at all. Wars were a regular occurrence. In most cases, the defeated kingdom usually went back to living as they had before, perhaps with a new ruler. Victorious kings didn't much care for holding on to conquered territories, having to permanently station a portion of their army in the foreign land made occupation seem like more trouble than it was worth. Essentially, wars back then were just one king's way of telling another 'I told you so...'" Clara and Jeff both smiled as the old archaeologist continued.
"I've been in touch with some of my old colleagues who are experts in pre-ubaid period mesopotamia, and they've sent me some very interesting information" his Lordship said, as he flipped a transparent overlay onto the map. The overlay was riddled with many little red spots and one large one. "In all of these locations" he said, indicating the spots on the map, "various artefacts; helmets, coins, statues, etcetera, have been found that are foreign to the areas in which they were discovered, but are congruent to each other. They indicate that about nine thousand years ago one kingdom invaded all the other kingdoms in this area, imposing a massive culture change on all conquered territories. Whoever controlled this army intended to keep the lands they conquered. Now, over here..." Lord Roft tapped his finger on the large red dot, which sat in south-eastern Turkey, "a small cluster of ruins have been unearthed. The artefacts discovered there indicate that this is the place where that culture evolved naturally."
"Zhiasa's home..." Clara said with a broad smile, "Father, you found it!". Jeff's enthusiasm was less apparent.
"We're looking for the 'peak where the two suns meet', are there any mountains in that area?" he asked the lord.
"Hundreds, unfortunately." Lord Roft replied.
"Okay... Any that have a strong cultural link to the sun?" Jeff inquired.
"Not that I am aware of, but once again, I have colleagues with a more thorough knowledge of ancient mesopotamia than myself. I should ask them." His Lordship answered, already walking towards the phone on the other desk.
"At the very least, we've narrowed down the search area considerably" Clara said with optimism as her father began to dial the phone.
Lord Roft made three phone calls in the presence of Clara and Jeff. The results of which, he didn't need to explain to them, his disappointed face said it all.
Jeff, however, was more concerned by what seemed to be a deliberate effort by Clara not to look at him. That, as well as her icy greeting earlier. It almost seemed like she had become a different person since breakfast. He reminded himself that before breakfast they had agreed to keep the development of their relationship just between themselves for the time being, but he didn't expect her to treat him like this!
The trio spent the day together working in Lord Roft's study, examining more and more detailed maps of the area once occupied by Tukanni's kingdom, and all the records and photos of archaeological discoveries made in the area. The situation became more and more frustrating for Jeff as the day went on. He wanted to talk to Clara in private but had little opportunity to do so. He invited Clara to join him on a couple of occasions when he went to the library to fetch books and charts they required, but Clara turned him down both times. He didn't dare order her to accompany him in Lord Roft's presence. Anything else they required, including lunch, was brought to them by Warwick. Oddly enough, Clara even timed her bathroom breaks to coincide with her father's. Jeff quietly reminded her that as a genie, she had no need to use the toilet, but she flatly told him she thought it best that the staff see her entering the facilities a few times. By dinnertime, they had not been left alone once, largely by Clara's engineering and Jeff was becoming quite concerned.
After the Roft family and Jeff had finished dining together, Clara seemed to disappear. Jeff searched all the places he knew her to frequent, twice in fact. Eventually he found her sitting cross-legged on the hard wooden floor in a quiet hidden corner of the mansion's library, reading some document containing pictures of mountains on her laptop.
"You're not fooling anyone with that educational-looking webpage, Clara Roft, I'm sure that two seconds before you heard me coming you had minesweeper on that screen" He said in a playful tone.
"Is there something you want?" She asked, unemotionally, turning her head slightly, but once again not looking at him.
"Well, actually... I was wondering... Your mother mentioned to me that she has a nice case of Cesanese di Affile in the cellar. Doesn't mean anything to me, although it sounds quite nice. She told me to help myself to a bottle if I was interested. And I was thinking... It has been a long day for both of us, and I thought perhaps you might like to... I dunno, take a break and join me for a drink?" Jeff comically rambled, mimicking the awkwardness of a teenager asking someone on a date for the first time.
"Not particularly, but you go ahead." She replied in that same empty tone, as she scrolled down the page she was viewing.
"Oh come on, don't tell me my amazing charm has worn off already?" he said in a once again playful voice. Clara finally looked at him, her unreadable expression masterfully hiding the incredible rage that had just flared up inside her. Was he actually flaunting his mind control over her right to her face?
"There's a great deal of information on that region that could help in locating the tomb. I'd like to get through as much of it as I can." She said, still exhibiting no more emotion with her voice than she was with her face.
"You've been working non-stop all day. C'mon, Clara, you deserve to take a break, whatever angle you're working will still be there tomorrow." Jeff argued. His tone was still friendly, but inside he becoming quite concerned, not to mention confused at Clara's distant attitude.
"If it's all the same to you, Jeff..." Clara replied, a hint of frustration creeping into her voice, "I'd rather continue my research."
"Clara, what's wr..."
"I'm fine!" Clara loudly asserted, cutting Jeff off before he could ask her any questions that she'd be compelled to truthfully answer. She sat there silently for a second, considering the situation and looking for a way to avoid any other close calls. She was coming off too hostile. If Jeff realised that she'd figured out his little mind control game, then all he would have to do is order her into another trance, and she would be his little puppet once again. Her mind would be open and vulnerable and he would be free to remove all the realisations she'd had about him. She had to avoid that situation at all costs. "...I just... I really want to keep working on this." She continued in a much calmer tone.
"Well, if you're sure that's what you want..." Jeff conceded in a dejected voice after an awkward silence, "I'll be in my room if you want... uh...". He did not finish his sentence. Clara had already turned her attention back to her computer. Jeff turned around and quietly walked away. He had only moved maybe fifteen feet closer to the library's exit when he stopped and turned back to face Clara. "We will find that amulet, Clara. You know that, right?" He said in a re-assuring tone.
"Goodnight." Clara responded unemotionally, turning her gaze slightly away from the laptop. She listened as his footsteps became more and more distant. When she was sure that he was out of earshot, she let out a frustrated huff. Regardless of whether she was right about Jeff, or made some terrible mistake, Jeff's proclivity for kind words was perhaps the worst part of this whole situation.
With a determined shake of her head, Clara cast any further thoughts of Jeff from her mind and resumed her research.
Jeff stretched his arms as he awoke and lazily blinked a few times to clear the sleep from his eyes. He looked the large mattress over and let out a disappointed sigh. Twenty-four hours ago, he would never have guessed that he'd be waking up alone this morning. After lying there under the thick doona for a few minutes, Jeff finally summoned the willpower to get out of bed. He staggered over to the bathroom, made the mandatory stop at the toilet, and then stepped into the shower. Jeff did not rush his shower. To some extent, he dreaded having to sit down to breakfast with Clara and her family if she was going to be as cold to him as she was yesterday, but he was also cautiously optimistic that her mood would improve with the new day.
Jeff towelled himself down and slipped into a bathrobe that had been hanging on a nearby hook. He walked over to the counter and grabbed the can of shaving cream, proceeding to rub a lather over his face. He grabbed the razor from the holder and had almost bought it to his cheek, just like he did every morning, when he abruptly stopped. His brow furrowed and a thoughtful look grew on his face as he moved the razor back into his field of view. He looked at it intently for a moment, and then looked beyond the razor, to it's reflection in the mirror. Two razors. He could see two razors, one real, one a reflection.
By the time the razor had hit the sink, Jeff was already out the door. He dashed through the bedroom, into the hallway and down to the door of Clara's bedroom.
"Clara! Clara!" he called loudly, as he rapped on the door. Too excited to wait for an invitation, Jeff opened the door and ran in to the familiar bedroom after only a couple of seconds of knocking. Jeff was initially surprised to find the room empty and the bed unslept in. "Idiot!" he quietly chastised himself, already turning to leave the room, "Of course she's not here!", he said, remembering that Clara had no need of sleep as a genie. "...Unless someone really tires her out" He thought to himself with a smirk.
Jeff tore through the chambers and halls of the manor, still in his bathrobe, his face covered in shaving cream, getting some odd looks from a couple of maids whom he crossed paths with, but not really noticing. He soon reached his destination, finding Clara precisely where he expected her to be; sitting at a table in the library, surrounded by documents, charts and open books, only a few feet from where he'd left her the night before.
"Clara!" he called out, grabbing her full attention, "I've figured it out!" he proudly declared. A look of horror washed over Clara's face, but Jeff was too preoccupied to notice. "The name doesn't make any sense does it? '...peak where two suns meet' How can two suns meet? There aren't two suns! There's only one sun!" Jeff excitedly rambled, as he paced back and forth, like he was unsure where to go. "Unless you're talking about the real sun and it's reflection! So... so... so... You'd need a reflective surface, right?" he continued to babble, apparently still developing his theory as he explained it. "Water. The sea! You watch the sun setting into a water horizon on a calm day, it'd look an awful lot like there were two suns meeting. THAT'S where we need to be looking! The seaside! We're looking for a mountain on the western coastline!" Jeff declared with a proud grin.
"No..." Clara replied quietly with a blank look, as her mind quickly processed this new theory. "The Mediterranean, the Black, the Caspian... they're all too far from the area we've determined the kingdom was located... But Lake Van... It's still quite far... but if we were somewhat mistaken about where the kingdom's northern border was, and if the mountain had particular significance... They might well have travelled that far to bury her!" Clara explained, pointing the lake out on a nearby map, as a level of enthusiasm to rival Jeff's visibly built within her.
"A lake? Are you sure? The analogy doesn't work as well without a water horizon..." Jeff argued.
"Lake Van is huge! It does form it's own horizon at certain points." Clara assured him, "What's more, there are dozens of mountains along it's shoreline!"
"So it's yet another haystack, then?" Jeff said with smile and lighthearted sense of exasperation.
"I think we might have the right one this time." Clara said with a hopeful smile. The humour of the situation did not escape Clara as she sat staring up at Jeff, who was blissfully unaware that he was dripping shaving cream all over the floor of the historic mansion's library. And for a second, she could almost feel that same unspoken connection she made with him a couple of nights earlier, when they'd deduced the location of Caesar's tomb. But it didn't take Clara long to remind herself to remain wary of him.
Jeff, Clara and His Lordship spent the next two days gathering all the information they could about the mountains around Lake Van. They calculated which mountains had a view of a sunset over water, then they used geological data to rule several mountains out, based on the assumption that certain types of rock would've been too hard for a culture that ancient to burrow in to. Once they had done this, four mountains remained as possible sites for the tomb. Unfortunately, none of the information they had gathered made any of these mountains stand out as the tomb's probable location.
It soon became apparent that they had narrowed down the tomb's location as much as possible from England. All they could do now was go to Turkey and explore each of the mountains in person, searching for some sign of the tomb's entrance.
By the time they had decided upon this course of action it was already mid afternoon. At Lake Van, two timezones ahead of them, there were only been a few more hours of daylight left. Jeff suggested that if Clara transported them onto one of the mountains instantaneously, they could get at least some exploring done. But Clara argued that instantaneously raising a person's elevation by over two kilometers had never been attempted before. While she, as a genie, would be safe, the dramatic drop in air pressure could quite likely give any human companion the bends. The lake shore, although still several hundred meters above them, offered a much safer destination for Clara to transport them to.
However, it was far too late in the day to make the trip and then climb a mountain. It was decided that Clara and Jeff would make the trip early the next morning, just as day was breaking in eastern Turkey. Lord Roft implored his daughter to take him as well and allow him to assist her further in her search, but Clara firmly denied his persistent requests. She was not about to have him risking his tenuous health by trudging up and down steep mountain trails. Clara was more than capable of navigating rough terrain and she was no stranger to the subtleties of searching for hidden tombs.
The Roft family and Jeff all sat down to dinner together at the usual time. Despite the amazing progress that they had made in the past couple of days, the mood at the table was somewhat sombre. Jeff surmised that Lord and Lady Roft, to a large extent, had still not gotten over what happened the last time they farewelled their daughter as she took off on one of her adventures. The fact that he and Clara would be departing the next morning to explore the mountains of Turkey was strangely not discussed in the dinner conversation that night.
After dinner, Clara asked Jeff to try and get an early night's rest, so that they could be ready to leave by three-thirty AM. Jeff agreed, once again inviting Clara to share a bottle of wine with him in his room before bedtime. Clara flatly refused, telling him that she would much rather spend her last few hours at Roft Manor double-checking their research. Jeff did not pursue the matter any further. With much chagrin Jeff climbed into bed, alone (again), just after nine o'clock. It took him over an hour to get off to sleep. The next thing Jeff knew, the lights had been turned back on and Clara was standing over him calling his name.
"It's time." She told him, when his drowsy eyes eventually opened.
"I thought I was supposed to be the one who gives the orders..." he grumbled as he slowly lifted the covers and sat up. Clara wandered over to the far side of the room, acting as if she didn't even hear the remark. Jeff looked her over and noticed that she was fully dressed in outdoors gear, complete with climbing boots and a small backpack. With a grunt he lifted himself off the mattress and began lumbering over towards the bathroom.
"Where are you going?" an obviously anxious Clara snapped at him after he'd taken no more than two steps. Jeff stared at her with a perplexed expression, as if she'd just asked the dumbest question he'd ever heard. "Oh, very well!" she responded, a little embarrassed by her own ignorance as she turned her back on him. "The sooner we find that amulet, the better." Clara thought to herself, "I'm starting to forget about bodily functions, for god's sake!"
Clara turned around again when she heard the toilet flushing in the bathroom. A few seconds later, Jeff wandered out of the bathroom. Without a word of warning, Clara summoned a cloud of smoke to surround his feet and make it's way up his body, clothing him in an adventuring ensemble as it went, complete with the same akubra hat he was wearing when they first met. Jeff was clearly a little disoriented by this bizarre new method of getting dressed, but he quickly adjusted. Clara waved her hand in his direction and his backpack, still containing the lamp, teleported onto his back, from under his bed.
"Are you ready?" Clara asked him in the same unreadable tone she'd that been giving him for the past couple of days.
"I guess so..." Jeff shrugged. Clara lead him out into the hallway, and down to her own bedroom. Lord and Lady Roft were waiting inside, still in their dressing gowns. Lady Roft seemed very apprehensive.
"Well... we're ready." Clara announced, as she and Jeff approached her parents.
"Very well, dear. Good luck!" Lady Roft said as she tightly embraced her daughter, trying very hard to conceal her worry. She held Clara for many seconds, before forcing herself to let go.
"You needn't worry, Mother." Clara said with a confidant smile, "We're going properly equipped this time. I have my sat-phone in my pack, and I'll be sure to call at least once every day."
"Good-bye, Nugget." Lord Roft said quietly as he hugged Clara goodbye. Jeff had never heard His Lordship use this pet name for her before, and had to struggle to keep a straight face. "If there's anything you need, any further research you need done..." Lord Roft continued.
"I know, Father. I won't hesitate to call. And thank you!" Clara interrupted. Lord Roft let his daughter go and stepped towards Jeff, extending his hand, which Jeff proceeded to shake.
"It's been... interesting, Master Rourke. I wish you luck..." His Lordship said.
"As do I." Lady Roft interjected.
"...I'm sure I don't need to tell you how important it is to my wife and I to see you both return safe and sound, preferably with Clara restored to her human form." The lord continued.
"Don't worry, Your Lordship, I'll take good care of her." Jeff smiled. Clara shot him a suspicious glance, but nobody seemed to notice.
"We'd better be off." Clara declared after a brief silence, "Good bye, Mother, Father."
"Good-bye." Lord Roft replied solemnly
"Godspeed." said his wife. Then in a poof of dark smoke Jeff and Clara had disappeared. Lady Roft closed her eyes tightly, and took a deep breath, mustering all her resolve to hold back her tears. Within seconds her willpower had won the struggle. Without a word she lead her husband back to the main bedchamber of the mansion to get what sleep they could and though her proud noble face clearly displayed unease, it was unmarred by tears.