The author of the bestselling Kaalkoot, S Venkatesh is back with another fast-paced thriller Agnibaan (TreeShade Books) that deals with the specter of electronic warfare, including drone swarms and EMPs (Electromagnetic Pulses), both of which are ‘weapons of the future and are likely to be increasingly talked about in the years to come.
Keeping with his style of writing, Venkatesh through Agnibaan brings an ancient mystical connection between India and Egypt together with a modern conspiracy that encompasses electronic warfare and climate change. Here’s an excerpt from the book
Prologue: The Oracle of Tanis
Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
The band of twenty hooded men sneaked out stealthily from the most iconic structure ever built by humankind. Icy winds blew across the vast emptiness of the desert as the light from an eerily bright comet outlined a caravan parked near the Great Pyramid of Giza. The light also fell on the dark cloaks worn by the hooded men, highlighting the image emblazoned on the cloaks. The image depicted a gnarling serpent with fiery eyes, a pictorial representation of Apep, the Egyptian Spirit of Evil and Destruction.
The men in dark cloaks were shivering, and it was not just due to the cold wind. They had committed the ultimate sacrilege. They had entered the Great Pyramid of Khufu, and each of its chambers and shafts. Those who committed this grave trespass were believed to be doomed to eternal damnation.
But there was a more immediate reason for their trepidation. They had searched the length and breadth of the Pyramid, but had not found what they were looking for. And they needed to convey this to the tall, imposing man who was at the head of the caravan.
This tall, imposing man was Durjatep, the Chief of the secret society known as the Kunh Kunbet, the Dark Order of Apep. The mere mention of the Dark Order was sufficient to give listeners the chills, but Durjatep represented an altogether different degree of menace. The glint of stony coldness in his eyes conveyed that he was capable of inflicting horrors which would put eternal damnation to shame.
‘It’s gone,’ one of the men said to Durjatep in the local dialect. ‘We were able to find the Fire Chamber in the Great Pyramid, but the…’ The man paused. A mere mortal like him was not used to taking the name of the object that had, until recently, rested in the Fire Chamber. He was quick to continue after an impatient glance from Durjatep. ‘…the sacred object, Chief, is not there anymore. The Lightning Warrior probably took it before we reached.’
‘His name is Aphotep,’ Durjatep snarled. ‘Not Lightning Warrior.’ Durjatep let out an angry rush of breath. He had a few guesses on where Aphotep was likely to head next. Hopefully, it would not take him more than a day to narrow down the location and find Aphotep. And take possession of the object.
Even Durjatep could not bring himself to say its name. It was, after all, an object which had eluded even the mightiest of conquerors over many centuries. It was the prize for which thousands of gallons of blood had been shed, kingdoms had been pillaged, and tens of thousands had been massacred.
Durjatep looked up at the sky. Over the last two nights, a bright comet had occupied the night sky, casting its ominous light over the landscape, even as the moon was covered in a misty haze. Durjatep knew that a comet was an ancient omen of an impending catastrophe.
That was befitting in a way, considering what was going to happen. The Dark Order of Apep would finally fulfill its primordial destiny.
(Book extract is carried with due permission from the Publisher TreeShade)