“The Iron Hut” by Maurice Broaddus
A mythical story set on an archaeological dig, where a Professor Leopold Watson is attempting to prove the exact location of an ancient city known as Kilwa Kivinjc, which disappeared into antiquity. A crystal shard is discovered, containing strange markings which appear to be some kind of ancient wording, seemingly proving the Professors assertions. We are then transported to the story of Dinga, an ancient nomad warrior, who crosses the mountainside encountering violent clashes with Barbarians, and eventually staying, along with his Masai friend Naiteru, in the palisaded city of Kilwa Kivinjc. After various clashes with bat-like beasts, and taking poison from the Chugga people of the city, Dinga agrees to go on a quest to convince the Brotherhood of the iron hut to stop infecting the Chugga’s land by their magic.
About the Author
Maurice Broaddus is the author of the Knights of Breton Court urban fantasy trilogy: King Maker, King’s Justice, and King’s War (Angry Robot Books). His fiction has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed Magazine, Cemetery Dance, Apex Magazine, and Weird Tales Magazine. Some of his stories are being collected in the upcoming Voices of the Martyrs (Rosarium Publishing). He co-edited Streets of Shadows (Alliteration Ink) and the Dark Faith anthology series (Apex Books). You can keep up with him at his web site, www.MauriceBroaddus.com.
A mysterious crystal shard is unearthed on an archaeological camp. Professor Leopold Watson examines it. He is searching for evidence of a city known as Kilwa Kivinje, which disappeared into antiquity. He’s convinced the forgotten city was on this spot. The shard provides the first evidence. He wears a broad-rimmed hat, small-framed glasses, grey tufts of hair, thin face, weary creases. He dislikes Stanley McKreager, a rotund, sweating man who is a representative of the body funding the expedition. Mysterious peaks loom above them, casting shadows, the ice caps melting. The shard contains markings, wording of some kind, the Professor believes this will pre-date the written word. McKreager thinks could be Atlantean but Professor disagrees. He is afraid of mentioning it is possibly the work of African Negro artisans because the funding may be pulled. He falls asleep dreaming of warriors. Meanwhile, a nomad warrior named Dinga is climbing treacherous mountainside. He wears heavy fur and has thick muscly legs, wearing a loin cloth. After he crosses the mountainside, The Berbers, wandering Barbarians, set upon him. He meets a tall, lean Masai man named Naiteru. The pair fight The Berbers, killing several. Alone again, Dinga becomes lost. He finds a familiar pattern inscribed on stones which match his own tattoo, the meaning of which he doesn’t know. He discovers a nude corpse, mummified. Reunited with Naiteru, he returns with him to Kilwa Kivinje, a palisaded city. They are told by the Chagga people there that a river of sickness is infecting the land. They spend the night. When he awakes, he has to fight some strange bat-like beasts. Dinga sleeps again. When he awakes this time, he is tied to a wooden rack by ropes. He is forced to drink a poisoned drink by the Chagga people of the city. He lives and they trust him. He takes their quest to go and ask the Brotherhood of the iron hut to stop their magic, which is killing their land and people, and now Naiteru. At the iron hut, Dinga encounters a group of castrated men with their lips sewn together with red leather cord. A not-quite-human white-skinned woman tends to them. “Down-turned slits passed for eyes on a face with sagging jowls and endless folds. She squatted before them, rearing back on her haunches, her body like a rotted pear”. He kills the men straight away as mercy killings. Like living scrolls, the men have old words carved into their flesh. He realises the ‘woman’ is a priestess and the hut it’s temple. She chants and a large tentacle lashes out and strikes her and she turns to crystal. Dinga escapes just before a large explosion. Dinga returns to the village to find burning bodies and shards of crystal littering the area. Naiteru greets him and says the woman/creature he met was the witch-mother. Dinga senses Naiteru has changed and they part. Dinga leaves with Naiteru’s spear. Leopold awakens. He thinks his dream is a memory or a prophecy. He returns to the dig. He thinks their discovery may have awoken something. He decides to leave, but encounters McKreager, still holding the crystal shard, his hand white and blue. “Whatever damnable fervour in which he took to the shard still possessed him”. He collapses and as his skull splinters, Leopold stands and laughs.