The Fate of the Lost City of Geraptiku: Part One
Secrets. They've been around longer than anyone can remember. We all have our secrets. Some secrets are meant to be kept. Some secrets are meant to be uncovered. The most secret secrets have been taken into graves, and some have been taken beyond. These secrets, whether meant to be uncovered or not, are the most attractive for seekers of secrets. The most common are treasure hunters. One treasure hunter, an ambitious Island Lutari, found a huge secret, but not quite the one he bargained for. His name is November.
Again, he made his way to Geraptiku for a visit to the Deserted Tomb.
Maybe I’ll get lucky today...
Having been there so many times, he had shaken off all of his fear. However, he was well aware of the risk he was taking, and by no means foolish. But his wish for finding the treasure of the Lost City did blur his vision of the situation a bit every time he stood in front of the large stone door. That never changed.
He took the torch that he lit at the nearby campfire. His dark eyes gazed up to the huge stone door that was inching up grinding, and came to a halt halfway up. He ducked and crawled through the opening, thinking that the door could collapse any moment, but it never did.
Making his way through the dark entrance hall, he tried to make out a familiar point in the dark tunnel, but found nothing. The Tomb seemed to change every time he was there. Sometimes, when he would make his way home after a fruitless attempt at finding the Tomb’s riches, he would think he heard a faint rumbling noise in the distance.
Maybe that was the reason the stone door doesn’t open at night. Everyone unlucky or foolhardy enough to stay in the tomb until after sunset was never seen again.
Those thoughts brought his attention back to the corridor. The light from his torch was slowly forcing the shadows backwards. His grip on the torch tightened, leaving marks of his claws on the wooden stick. The reasonable part of his mind was telling him to get out, run away as fast as his legs could carry him. But he did not. Without a will as strong as his, he wouldn’t be here now. Quiet hissing could be heard in the corridor to his right, and a red glow emanated from the darkness.
The shine of treasure? Yeah, right.
He knew better than that. He quietly paced backwards, and proceeded in a different direction.
He was walking in circles. Just like the day before. He couldn’t remember a day when he was not walking in circles at some point. He knew he passed that same carving at least ten times.
Oh look, there it is again.
He stopped dead in his tracks. ‘Dead’ wasn’t the most fortunate word to be used at a moment like this, but there wasn’t a more accurate expression. He suddenly remembered the carving from somewhere, unclear what precisely. It had something to do with the Tomb.
Of course it had, that’s where I saw the carving. No, something else. The treasure? No, I never found a massive treasure chamber overflowing with riches. But I did find something else...
It was the third time he went inside the tomb. He remembered a small petpet wearing a mask, scurrying away into a small dent in one of the tomb’s walls. It left something behind...
His hand went to his chest. The small bone - he heard it called a Lucky Bone Necklace - was hanging on a leather cord. He remembered that after picking it up from the floor, there was a roar behind him, and he turned around to see a monstrous ghost Hissi running towards him.
Running? It didn’t have legs, so it was probably flying, he thought now.
He started running too, of course, and the Hissi gave chase. He tried to lose it in a room full of crumbling pillars, but the rocks went right through the ghastly monster. When glancing backwards, he did notice the monster carefully avoided rays of sunlight that shone through the roof. Somehow, he knew exactly which way to turn for the exit. He finally got out, rolled underneath the door, almost crashed down the giant stairwell and eventually collapsed in the mud at the bottom. It took him hours to get his fur cleaned to the original shade of beige.
It does seem to be bringing me good luck, as I’m still alive and breathing, he thought as he looked at it. He could not see the necklace well, nor anything special that might have been to it. He did remember that one time when he spilled ice water on his clothes, the necklace grew very warm, while his clothes got cold and wet. He examined it, and found a small glowing symbol on it. And it was the same as on the carving, he realized now.
There was a rumble coming from deep inside the tomb. Judging by the colour of the shard of sky he could see through the ceiling, he concluded the sun was setting. Then the rumble grew louder, and a small tremor shook the tomb, almost knocking him off his feet, but he found support on a nearby wall. The necklace started glowing slightly.
Typical for this time of day. I should get out before the door of the tomb closes again.
But the tremor seemed to have stirred the ghost Hissi, and it glided out of the corridor, only a few meters from where he stood.
It is flying, he thought, in the moment before he actually realized what was happening. The monster turned around and saw the unwelcome guest.
The Hissi roared, and panic overcame him. As he stumbled and fell, startled by the roar, he did not notice the necklace was growing warmer again. The Hissi flew towards him, and he tried to use the wall for support to get up. But it was all in vain.
Not so lucky after all, was his last thought.
The wall suddenly vanished in thin air, and he fell through the opening, just as the monster shot past him.
November got up quickly, glancing around. He could not see anything. No rays of sunlight, and no glowing red eyes either, only dusty darkness.
No gravel, and no bones. That’s surprising, he thought while his hands went over the floor.
He got up, brushing the dust from himself, and tried to navigate the room with arms outstretched. His hands touched a wall, which felt solid and maintained. This room was apparently fully intact. He wondered why the ghost Hissi didn’t just go through the wall he fell through, which was now back in it’s place, and remained solid as rock.
Then he remembered the Lucky Bone Necklace: it was still around his neck. Unsure what to do next, he grabbed it. When he touched it, it sent off rays of light in all the directions of the room. Everywhere the light went torches were magically igniting, bathing the whole room in a yellow glow. When his eyes adjusted, he could see he was standing in a large, beautifully decorated chamber. There were jungle plants painted on the walls, and the sky was painted on the ceiling. However realistic, it did not give the impression of outside, as the cold, muff air much like in the rest of the tomb remained.
The room was filled with large, elliptic pods, looking very old and worn. Every one of them lay on a pile of broken bamboo sticks. He carefully approached one, thinking that something could jump out of it at any moment, but nothing happened. As he put his head to the glass-like material, he could make out dark silhouettes inside the pods, but didn’t dare to speculate about what they were.
He made his way along the capsules, and thought he heard whispers. Whispers he couldn’t understand, but which were very uncomforting, nevertheless. When he reached the end of the chamber, he noticed a black spot on the wall at the end, which stood out because everything else in the room was illuminated by the light from the torches. For some reason, he could not take his eyes off it. He continued towards the wall, fixated on the piece of darkness. As he approached, the spot was growing larger. As much as he wanted to avert his eyes, his body was not responding. The darkness started to encase him. He covered his face with his hands in an attempt to keep the darkness out, but it continued eating away his sight, until the void swallowed him completely.
He tried to open his eyes, but it made no difference. It was still completely dark all around him. He wasn’t bothered, as he was used to darkness by now. But what did scare him was that he could not feel anything, anywhere, except for a floating sensation.
A female voice called: "Hello?"
"Hello? Who is this? Where am I?" he responded, with a trace of panic in his voice.
"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" the voice asked, unimpressed by his state.
"I'm November. I... I got lost in here. What’s happening?"
“I took you into the Tomb of Geraptiku. Or rather, something that’s inside the Tomb.” Her voice seeming to circle him. "Now, how did you find this chamber?"
November realized that his treasure hunt had taken him to an inhabitant of this tomb. He thought it was best not to tell her about his plan to take anything of value that he found.
"I was... I fell through some wall when I got attacked by a monster. It was an accident," he said uncomfortably.
"Alright then. Hold on..."
November felt something tingle – unsure where exactly – but moment after that the figure of a Krawk lady took shape before his eyes. Or at least, what he assumed his eyes were. White, crescent-like markings covered the black skin on her arms, shoulders and legs, and she wore a small, green headdress over her crested hair.
"Yes, that’s it. I took the liberty to open your mind’s eye," she said. November felt that her attitude towards him was changed. While walking towards him, she extended her hand. "I'm Nevada. Sorry about the suspicion. I didn't know who you were, but you seem trustworthy to me."
It seemed Nevada was comfortable with him now. Still a little dazzled, he shook her hand, and was surprised to feel it although he could not see his own hand. But slowly, his hand appeared where Nevada’s was too, and shortly thereafter the rest of his body as he knew it also appeared.
"But what is this place? Is it even real?" he asked.
"Oh, ‘real’ is always a tricky issue. But this place can be whatever you want it to be. Just picture it and it appears; it could be your home, the forest, a beach, it can be Faerieland if you want it to."
And so he thought of home. He thought of his cottage near the beach, near Jhuidah’s Cooking Pot. He thought of the palm trees swinging in the cool wind, the rushing waves, and the soft sand beneath his feet. And it all appeared.
When everything was formed, November sat down on his bamboo chair. He wanted to get his thoughts away from the situation, just to live in the illusion of this home for a moment. But it quickly faded, as there was one thing that was off: There was no one there. No one heading to the Island Mystic for their daily fortune. No one visiting Jhuidah to cook some things up. And no one making their way to the Training School for the master to toughen them up. No one at all.
"Judging by the look of the island, you have a pretty good memory."
Nevada was sitting next to him. He had not noticed her.
"You mean this really comes from my memory? It seems so real," November said, looking around in awe.
"Well, I'll try to explain some things to you. This place is primarily steered by telepathy. How long have you been living on Mystery Island?"
"For all my life; I was born here! There isn't a corner of the island I haven't seen," November said.
"Yes, that explains it. You've been able to experience all the things here on the island, that's why it's so detailed," Nevada explained.
"But then how can you see what I think?" November asked. He was slightly unnerved by the fact Nevada could see in his mind, with the possibility of seeing things that might make her lose her trust.
"Oh, it’s just that I'm experienced here,” Nevada said. "Now, I'd like to see some of the island. Come on, let’s take a walk."
November wanted to stop her, ask questions about whatever place he was in, but Nevada had already started walking. November mumbled something in agreement, as he walked after her, away from the cottage.
"By the look of this place, much time has passed," Nevada said while looking around her.
"So you've been around Mystery Island before?"
"Yes. I don't know exactly how long it's been, but... let’s just walk," Nevada said.
November noticed that she was evading most of his questions. It was probably a good idea to wait for her to bring up what happened in the chamber. He also liked it to get away from the situation and pretend it was just an everyday stroll around the island.
"Oh my, that's Techo Mountain!"
Nevada quickened her pace towards the volcano. "Hey, wait for me!" November shouted after her.
Arriving at the foot, Nevada said: "Well, that hasn't changed one bit."
"You know Techo Mountain too, then?" November asked.
"If I know it? My grandfather made it!" Nevada said. "He carved this mountain for a loved one, my grandmother."
"Funny story. Everyone here assumed that the carver was a Techo, who made the mountain to his own likeness. Although, it doesn't look very much like a woman, now, does it?" November asked, while looking up to the enormous Techo head.
"You're right about that, but then again, he had to carve out stone using magic. He was the head shaman of Geraptiku, and not exactly a renowned sculptor," Nevada went on.
"How romantic. They'll never believe that when I tell this at... home."
November was suddenly feeling homesick, although he almost couldn't distinguish the place he was in from his home. It was the absence of family and friends that made it feel so empty. Nevada noticed this, and said: "Hey, why don't we climb up the mountain?"
November shook it off, and agreed in climbing to the top.
The two made it a race to reach the top first. November noticed that Nevada was very agile, and he had to try hard to stay ahead of her. In the end, it was November's climbing experience that got him up first, and he gave Nevada a hand to pull her up.
"Good job, you're quite the strong climber," Nevada said, and she took a few steps away from the edge. "But I remember the mountain to be much hi- Whoa!"
Nevada was hit in the face with a blast of hot air that knocked her backwards, almost making her fall to the ground.
"Hey, you almost went over the edge of the crater there! Are you all right?" November asked, and he helped her on her feet.
Nevada stammered: "Crater... it's... it's a... volcano?!"
"Yeah, obviously," November said. "You didn't know?"
"I had no clue... When my grandfather carved out the image of my grandmother in the mountain down in the valley, it was just a mountain, and it was much taller," Nevada said, looking down in the crater in awe.
"A mountain? The top must have exploded at some time then, don’t you think so? In the period between...”
November turned around. He saw that Nevada had walked away from him, and was now sitting on a rock, looking out on all of Mystery Island. He walked up to her, and sat down.
"So...what did happen to Geraptiku and its citizens? The place is deserted now, with the only signs of life being petpets," November asked cautiously.
Nevada sighed. November felt the sorrow that was in it.
"All right, I will tell you what happened. But it's not about roses. It's... the tragic history of the people of Geraptiku. Do you really want to hear it?”
November nodded solemnly, and while he did, the surroundings changed. He saw the seas pulling back, making room for dense jungle. The volcano beneath him flattened to the ground, and small houses rose around him. He himself was slowly fading away, as the scene changed to look how the city of Geraptiku looked ages ago.
To be continued...