Crawley knew he was close. He checked the notebook again. According to the crudely drawn map, he should have been standing right on top of the stones. He smiled in spite of the exhaustion that was threatening to overtake him. He had finally done it. Years of research and fruitless expeditions had finally led to this.
His knees threatened to give out from under him, so Crawley appeased them by sitting down on a wide flat-topped boulder. He would rest for a few moments, and then he would find the stones and achieve his ultimate triumph.
Devon Crawley had been obsessed with the mysterious stones of Jankara the very first time he heard about them as a young man. The last relic of a long-forgotten North Indian tribe, the stones were said to have an inscription in their ancient language, and there were always the stories of mystical powers that accompanied these artifacts. Crawley didn’t care for any of that, however. He just wanted the thrill of being the first to find them, to have his own name etched into the fabric of history.
During his college years, he had accompanied his former mentor, along with some fellow grad students and a few avid treasure hunters, on an expedition to find the stones. They all had a general idea of where to look, an area near the border of Nepal, but nothing exact. The trip had ended in failure, but that wasn’t the worst of it. Many of Crawley’s companions, including his mentor, had died. Some had fallen ill, some had been the victims of brutal accidents, and some simply disappeared. It didn’t take long for rumor to spread: the stones were cursed, preserving their own secrets by warding off outsiders. But Crawley wasn’t deterred. No curse would keep him from what he deserved.
As he grew older, Crawley developed a reputation as a brilliant but ornery historian, eventually taking a teaching position at a local university. With access to even greater resources, he pursued his old dream anew.
After 25 years of extensive research and a lot of bargaining with some well-connected friends, he was able to fund an expedition of his own. He had recently acquired a logbook from a marine vessel that had sailed in search of the stones in 1760; it had a map that pinpointed the exact location of the stones. Someone had inscribed a skull-like shape into the book’s cover, perhaps as a warning. Crawley though it best not to share that information with anyone, keeping the book’s presence a secret.
The expedition, like all previous ones Crawley had been on, went poorly. A few of the graduate students that had accompanied him fell ill; their ailments proved to be deadly. When they were climbing a steep hill, their guide met with a gruesome fate. Each time, Crawley forced everyone to press on. There was no turning back anymore. Against all protest, the expedition continued. Eventually, Crawley was the only one left. It didn’t matter. The stones were his prize. He alone deserved to claim them.
Sitting in the middle of the clearing, Crawley couldn’t help but laugh. Everyone was too busy worrying about curses and mysticism to see what was right in front of them. Crawley was ambitious, more ambitious than anyone could have guessed. He had carefully planned out the deaths of his crew members, to propagate the story of the curse. Forgotten relics were all well and good, but cursed forgotten relics would really make it into the history books. And if Crawley were the sole survivor of a doomed mission? His story would live on forever. The last time he had tried that, he went home empty-handed. But now, he would finally get what he was owed.
After a little digging, Crawley unearthed the stones. There were three of them, no two shaped alike. Various symbols had been roughly carved into the stones; the last living words of a dead tongue. Crawley smiled. He had done it. His smile vanished at once when he saw the symbols started glowing. A sickly green light emanated from the stones, almost blinding in its intensity. Crawley dropped the stones and backed away. It was too late.
With mounting horror, Crawley noticed that his hands had taken on the same sickly green tint. It was spreading over his body. At the same time, he launched into a violent coughing fit. Blood was pooling up in his lungs. His vision was starting to blur. Crawley slid to the ground, which was spinning all around him.
News of Crawley’s doomed expedition spread soon enough, arousing much curiosity. Everyone wanted to know about the mysterious stones of Jankara. The stones came to be recognized as significant historical artifacts, and Professor Devon Crawley became famous as the obsessed historian who had been chasing the relics, and had succumbed to their horrific curse.