SECOND PROLOGUE: THE PRESENT
Small whirlwinds of snow circled Castillo as he jumped the few feet separating the helicopter from the barren plain of ice and snow below. He landed awkwardly and stumbled before regaining his feet. A dozen yards a away, a small group of men stood near a small, open pit. A large mining drill, now dangling icicles, and a few tents completed the scene. In the middle of winter, Greenland was cold. And here, far away from the few cities and military bases that spotted the land, it seemed like they were at the very tip of the world.
Castillo shouted to make himself heard over the waiting helicopter. “Where is it?”
“Right over here, sir,” one of the men said. His voice was muffled--everyone but Castillo was bundled up in thick winter clothing: snowsuits, boots, ski masks, and more. They stood at attention, but their eyes darted constantly toward the helicopter, their only escape from the freezing cold. “We didn’t touch it,” the man continued, “just like you said.”
Castillo walked over to the pit, limping slightly, and peered down into the darkness. He couldn’t see anything. “How far down?” he shouted. He did not shiver, nor did the air condense around him as he spoke.
“About twenty feet. We have ropes ready for you, sir.”
The men fitted Castillo securely into a harness and carefully lowered him down into the pit. When he reached the bottom of it, Castillo removed the harness and turned on a strong flashlight. He shone it around the pit, and the light came to rest on a small wooden chest, still partially buried in the snow and ice. Castillo brushed his fingers along the top of it and felt the ancient runes and symbols which had been carved into it.
Could this really be it? It seems so . . . simple . . . pathetic. But it must be. Everything is where Solasheyk said it would be.
He pulled the harness back on and cradled the chest carefully as he was being lifted up. The chest was light—it could have been empty, for all anyone knew. But Castillo knew differently. He smiled as he contemplated the chest’s contents. What was inside that chest would make up for the past four years of torment and torture.
It’s a pity, really, that she has suffered so much already, without my involvement. What I will do to her would be so much more painful if she were as happy as when I last saw her. But I’ve been awaiting this.
Preparing, observing. Soon it will all be over. And then I will finally return to where I was before I even heard the name Buffy Summers.