The Fate of the Lost City of Geraptiku: Part Three
The sun was now high in the sky, but the clouds obscured its warm vision. Nevertheless, the snow was blindingly white in the broad daylight.
A red Kougra was running through the jungle, with a magical aura vaporizing the snow around him, leaving a green trail through the now whitened landscape. Princess Nevada’s orders were clear in his mind, banning any other thought.
Get all the citizens to the Tomb.
When he arrived in the village, Duncan found chaos. The snow was starting to fall harder and harder, trapping unaware families in their homes, and immobilizing the ones outside by the cold. He reached Marian and Boris's house first, and started digging away the snow, the charm melting it as he dug.
"Hey, is anyone in there?" he shouted. The door finally opened, and out came a Techo and a Draik, with a baby Hissi in her arms, wrapped in a blanket.
"Boris, Marian, thank goodness you’re okay. Quick, you need to get to the Tomb!" Duncan said to them, and helped them over the small wall of snow under the door. "It's the only place we can stay warm. Get everyone on their way!"
Duncan noticed the Ancestral Charm around Eric's neck.
"Hmm... Wait a minute. Here, let me try something," he said. "Give me Eric for a moment."
Marian cautiously handed Eric to Duncan. He noticed that Eric's Ancestral Charm also glowed with warmth. He held his own Charm to Eric's, and tried to mimic the same deep tone Nevada’s flute made. Both charms started vibrating again and within seconds, the glow around Eric's Charm was large enough to encase him and his parents.
"Beautiful. Apparently, this magic is contagious," Duncan said, and hanged Eric's Charm back on his neck. "Go now, gather everyone at the front of Karin's house."
Duncan went round the houses, digging snow away and empowering Ancestral Charms while doing so. Those who had a Charm were ordered to get everyone together at the front of Karin’s house. There were a few citizens weakened by the cold, but the warmth of the Charms revitalized them enough to go on, and all the citizens were able to gather. The children carried plushies, and the adults carried trinkets of all sorts. Everyone was clutching to something, just to have the memory of home if they left.
Duncan started speaking.
"We are in danger. The King believes we have somehow angered the spirits above..." Counter-jinxes followed. "...And this weather is their doing. No one can remain here in this cold, so we will all have to reside in the Tomb for the time."
The Charm-carriers repeated the message to all who didn’t hear it. There was a lot of agitation in the crowd. Many were still very nervous to the lookout of living in a closed stone tomb.
"Don't worry; we will be safe in there. Remember, our ancestors built the Tomb as the only place that the spirits could not affect. This is the proof of that."
Duncan held up his Ancestral Charm high, and so did everyone else carrying one. The faces lightened up - literally and figuratively - and a lot of the fear was replaced by hope. When all the Charm-carriers were placed around the group for maximum protection, everyone went on their way to the Tomb. In the distance, torches could be seen lit close to the King's house.
A figure stood above the jungle, contrasting the snowy landscape with her black skin. She stood on a balcony with several layers of improvised winter clothing. It was moaning under the weight of the snow, but held. Nevada looked over the jungle. There was a trail of green through the white trees that filled the view. It was following the path from Karin's house to the Tomb.
It's the citizens. The Charm's enchantment worked!
When she got down again, some the Scorchio servants were clearing a path to the entrance of the Tomb. The snow was still advancing, but the fire kept it at bay, enough for the stairwell to be climbed. A few citizens, among them two Shoyrus, a Nimmo, and Pterii and Scorchios were already making their way up.
The first people were emerging from the path out of the jungle, led by Duncan. Nevada approached them.
"Good, you got everyone here on time," she said. “How are they all doing?”
“Everyone is cold and tired, but doing well. The Ancestral Charm’s energy kept us all going until here,” Duncan reported. “What’s next?”
“We need to get everyone into the Tomb. My father is already up there, looking for a place we can stay. Tell everyone to follow me,” Nevada commanded.
Duncan walked up to the group of people. They all shivered; by the cold, for one, but even more by the impressive sight of the Tomb. All were clutching their trinkets to their chest.
“Everyone, listen! Princess Nevada is going to lead us through the Tomb. We will stay shielded from the cold there until it is safe to come out again,” Duncan said, and the message was carried further.
All the citizens began moving to the Tomb’s stairwell, slowly, but steadily, where Nevada was waiting. She didn’t say a word, but instead, took out her flute and turned around. The Scorchios stopped clearing the stairwell and stepped aside, joining the crowd behind her. She started playing again, and the flute lit up, along with the white markings on her skin.
It was a different tune than the last time she played, but it was by no means less beautiful. The glow of warmth the Ancestral Charms emanated grew more powerful, and soon encased everyone. Nevada started walking forward, and the snow in front of her disappeared. When the citizens got over their amazement of the music, they started following her. They soon saw no more traces of the snow than the flakes far above them. They were like a sun on the ground.
Nevada’s pace sped up, and so did her music, and everyone behind her. Within a few minutes, everyone had climbed the stairs to the Tomb’s entrance. Some hesitated, but in the end everyone got inside, reassured by Nevada’s magical music.
The Tomb was lit by torches from the inside. It was not much warmer inside than outside, but the aura of the Ancestral Charms was amplified by the Tomb; they shared the same power source. It became warmer quickly, up to the regular tropical temperature, where everyone was comfortable with. Only the thick stone door still felt chilly to the touch, by having to keep out the horrible cold outside.
When everyone was inside, King Roald made the door close with a tap of his staff. Then, Nevada collapsed against the wall, and was quickly attended to by Duncan and others.
“Princess, what is the matter?” Duncan asked.
“Never mind... I’m just tired. The magic takes a lot out of me. Let me rest for a moment, then we can proceed,” she answered.
All the others sat down in the large entrance hall too. The weak were attended to by the strong, and the young were comforted by the adults. When everyone was ready, King Roald led the way to the room they would stay in.
It was a long chamber, decorated with jungle patterns on the walls and clouds on the ceiling. Bamboo beds, chair and tables were being placed inside by the Royal Guard, taken from the King’s house.
“King Roald!” A guard was calling out.
“Yes, what is it, Cesar?”
“We’ve almost finished with the interior of the living quarters. There is a food supply for a week, so I think we can hold out-“
The white Hissi stopped abruptly when the whole tomb was shook by what seemed like an earthquake.
“What was that?” King Roald asked.
“I don’t know, but it can’t be good,” Cesar said.
“Cesar, I don’t know what’s happening, but all of us will have to rely on you, as the head of guard, to keep out any unwelcome visitors. Go check the halls and the entrance. If we are not safe here, I don’t think we will be safe anywhere...”
“Yes sir. I’ll be on my way,” Cesar said, and was about to leave.
“One more thing,” King Roald said, and Cesar stopped. “If you feel the need to open the door, tap your Ancestral Charm to it twice. But only do so if you are absolutely sure it’s safe.”
Cesar nodded, and left the room.
As he made his way back to the entrance, he saw a lot of confused-looking people wander around. He directed them to the living quarters where he came from. He was backtracking his previous route, but just after he gave directions to two Zafaras, he found himself at a dead end.
That’s strange. I’m sure this wall wasn’t there before; it’s completely clean, he thought.
The wall was indeed clear of any markings or vines, but it was looking very worn-out. Cesar blamed it on the nerves, and let his feeling of direction guide him further. A few minutes, and only two points of recognition later he reached the door.
Everything seems to be normal.
He turned, and looked back into the torch-lit hallway. A Lizark was popping out of a corner. It wore a shining necklace; Cesar knew that people gave gifts to their petpets as a sign of good will.
Probably a companion of someone here. I’m surprised he survived the cold.
Upon seeing Cesar, the Lizark ran towards him, and stood up against his body, wagging its tail.
“Hey, shoo! I’m not your master, go away!”
The Lizark continued to jump against him, and he backed away. He came with his back against the door when the whole tomb was shook again by another quake. Cesar heard a crack and a thumping sound further in the hallway. This startled the Lizark, and quickly vanished into a different hole.
Cesar turned around, and put his wing to the door. When it last closed behind him just after he got inside, the stone was cold as ice, but now it felt as hot as inside the tomb, if not hotter.
That means the cold must have stopped! I must tell the others.
Cesar was about to return to the living quarters when he remembered the King’s instructions.
Tap the charm against the door twice.
He took the small bone from his headdress, and tapped it against the door once. Nothing happened. He tapped another time. Still nothing.
I suppose it’s safe then, he thought, and rapidly tapped the Charm to the door twice.
Cesar thought he heard an explosion when he attempted to open the door, and shortly after there was a third shock, more powerful than the two before. The tomb seemed to sink into the earth, there were cracks running through the ceiling, and debris was falling to the ground. During this, the tomb’s door opened gnashing, and Cesar fell to the ground.
Bright sunlight was shining through the small opening. Cesar was blinded by the dust in his eyes, but he could feel the sun on his skin. He could fit his arms through the small opening, but his body was too large. His attempt of pushing the door up proved futile; he couldn’t move the solid rock at all. But he could hear the edges holding up the massive weight crumbling, and knew it was soon going to fall shut. He dropped to the ground again, trying to make out something outside, but he caught nothing more than a brief glimpse, when the tomb door fell down again, sending a deep rumble into the tomb that said one thing: Trapped. And it was dark once more.
Cesar was just able to pull himself up against the wall. He was still holding the Charm. Noticing this, he tapped it frantically against the door, trying to get it to open just an inch, but it did not react. Despaired, he sat down against the slab of rock, no longer an exit. Then something caught his eye.
Cesar quickly got up again, and crawled to the pile of rubble down the hallway. He pulled away some rocks, and there was a torch, its embers still faintly glowing. Cesar took some of the decorative leaves on his headdress, held them by the torch and blew. It was able to ignite again, and sent its light through the hall. Just then, Cesar was hit by the memory of the sight outside.
The snow was gone!
And indeed, the sun had shone for the first time since that freezing night. More images came to him as he stared into the light of the torch. He had seen birds flying from the trees, and water dripping from the leaves. Smoke in the distance. But the dust obscured everything else, and it was dark shortly thereafter.
Coming back to the moment, he looked into the hallway, and saw that it was ending with a crumbled stone pillar.
I’ll have to find another way through.
The tremors had cracked a wall to the left, and the opening was just large enough to fit his sleek body through. On the other side was a marking that directed to one of the Tomb’s treasuries.
I might be able to get to the living quarters through there.
Cesar crawled through the crack, and could barely get the torch through without burning himself. When he got through, the room seemed different. He was sure he’d been here before, but it was like the corridors rearranged themselves altogether. He blamed it on the stress, and set out to find the other citizens.
Am I lost?
The thought surprised him. He had been following the treasury directions, but it seemed to get him nowhere fast, even though he knew the whole construction of the Tomb by heart. Or so he thought. He decided that the markings must be off, and tried another route.
What’s that? Sounds... Voices!
Cesar pushed his head to a nearby wall, and was delighted to hear voices coming from somewhere in that direction. With renewed energy, he sped up to find the entrance.
He went through every corridor twice, searched every wall for openings at least five times, but the room he was looking for was nowhere to be found. To make it worse, the noise was tantalizingly close, as if the people speaking were just around the next corner. Eventually, he heard sounds coming from a different direction. He quickly turned around, shot to the opposite opening, and found that this sound was indeed around the corner. But it was only of this Lizark he also encountered previously. It scampered away when it saw Cesar, holding a half-eaten apple. Cesar ran after it, but it quickly disappeared out of sight.
He sat down once more at the nearest pillar. Only now he realized how hungry he was. He was so very, very tired, and couldn’t even bother to look back, to see the Lizark curiously eyeing him. The torch lay in front of him, its fire slowly dying away, just like what was left of Cesar’s energy.
He closed his eyes, and the torch extinguished with a fizz.
“Is anyone hurt?” Nevada shouted as the dust was clearing.
Many people had fallen by the tremors, but aside from some bruises, no one was injured very badly. The furniture that was brought in was very light, and not much was damaged.
“Everyone is fine, Princess,” Duncan replied.
“Okay,” someone called out. “Can someone please tell us what in the world is happening here? You told everyone it was safe, and now it sounds like this place falling apart!”
All eyes were directed to the brown Techo, except for Marian, who was rocking a crying Eric in her arms. Boris was looking at Princess Nevada and King Roald expectantly.
Although Nevada was annoyed by Boris, who didn’t seem to realize they would all have frozen outside if it weren’t for their actions, she remained calm.
“Yes, you have the right to an explanation. The head of guard is currently back at the entrance, and we’re expecting his return shortly. Until then, there’s not much to say, but I can assure you it’s safer here than it is outside. We have warmth, shelter and food here, remember that. I also know that this room is fortified; it takes a lot more than a small quake to take this down,” Nevada said. She had confidence in her tone and certainty in her attitude, but King Roald wasn’t so assured. Boris was not done yet either.
“But we’re taking shelter in a tomb, built for the dead! That’s not exactly reassuring, you know,” he continued. Several cries of acknowledgement sounded.
A deep rumble sounded through the tomb. Everyone heard, and felt it. It was not the strength that made it terrifying, but it sent a shiver through everyone’s spine.
Then, as struck by lightning, King Roald lifted up his head, and stared out into the hallway.
“We do have to explain it to them, my daughter,” he said for everyone to hear.
“Father, let’s not cause unnecessary panic,” Nevada said quietly, but King Roald held up his hand. He cleared his throat. All eyes were now on him, and it was completely silent.
“I believe that we are being hunted. Hunted by the supernatural, by reasons unknown to me. But the spirits above do not want us here anymore.”
No one said anything, not even the usual counter-jinxes. They were too focused on the Nimmo’s words.
“That is why we are here. Anywhere better than outside, where we are at their mercy. I do not know what other terrible forces they are unleashing upon this place, but they will never take us here. We will stay here until their fury dies down, so that we can escape, and maybe rebuild our great city elsewhere.”
His words had a great impact. The horror of the situation as King Roald brought it replaced much of their anger by fear. Boris sat down too, staring at the floor.
Nevada did not think that the situation was anything like this. She did not know what caused their fate either, but she did know that they did not deserve to be wiped out. But Roald was her father, and the King, so she could not argue with his wishes. She remained quiet.
King Roald walked to the entrance, and took his staff in both hands. Nevada knew what he was about to do.
“Father, you can’t do this! Cesar is still out there!” she hissed.
“Didn’t you hear that? Whatever is out there could have broken through by now! Face it, Cesar is lost!” her father replied, much louder.
“He will be if you lock him outside. Please, just wait for him to come back!”
“Girl, you could get us all doomed. We need to seal this room, right now!”
Nevada knew that there was still hope for Cesar, but she could do nothing about it. In thought, she apologized, and said goodbye to her friend, and watched her father magically conjure the debris outside into a wall at the place the entrance was. No one could get in or out anymore.
“I’m ever so sorry it has to be this way, but it is for our survival,” he said, but he found that he said it to the Krawkess’ back. Nevada walked away from him.
“If we are truly to stay here in the Tomb, we cannot live through with but this stash of food. I know a way of surviving, but it’s not without risk,” Nevada said to the crowd before her.
If they’re being afraid of invisible forces, I might as well tell them the whole truth of what’s about to happen.
“We’ll need to put everyone into a deep sleep; a stasis. It’s the only way we can survive long enough with a chance of getting out of the Tomb again. We have to rely on someone else to wake us when that time has come. Who is willing?”
Like the first time, volunteers were scarce. No one was looking forward to defending a sleeping tomb from who-knows-what out there.
Nevada looked at the people’s faces. Fear and despair could be read from them all.
My father’s speech didn’t do the morale any good.
“Then I will be the guardian myself. Rest assured, my people; tonight, you will sleep.”
Evening fell. No one was entirely sure when it fell, but it did, as there was nothing to stop it. The people of Geraptiku were making their beds, putting the few things they still owned close to it.
If I’m going to sleep for what could be years, I’d better be comfortable.
Duncan was shaking the dust out of his sheets. He soon stopped, because where small bits of gravel was flying off of his sheets, it landed on another’s, which was not appreciated.
When he was finished with his bed, he walked to the end of the room. He saw Nevada making the bed for her father, not bothering to look at anyone. He didn’t see King Roald anywhere.
When she was done, she sat down on the bed with her head hanging. Duncan kneeled in front of her.
“How are you doing, Princess?”
Only then he saw the tears in her eyes. They were dripping down on the pillow she was holding. Duncan sat down next to her.
“It’s just... Cesar,” she sniffed. “It... didn’t... have to be like this!” She dug her nails into the pillow.
“Please, you have to understand, Princess. It was dangerous, King Roald had to lock out whatever was coming,” Duncan said, in an attempt to comfort her. “We’re all sorry for Cesar, but-”
“Nothing is coming.” Nevada interrupted him. “You don’t... don’t understand, it’s...”
She let out a trembling sigh, but pulled herself together, and stood up.
“But it’s too late,” she continued calmly. “Excuse me now; I have a spell to prepare.”
Nevada walked away, leaving Duncan puzzled. He didn’t know what to think, what to believe anymore. He had unconditional trust in King Roald, but if Princess Nevada was so frustrated and grieved by the situation, it could be that the King was wrong.
She’s right, it’s too late now. It doesn’t matter who is right, we all share the same fate now.
He saw King Roald approaching, who had been among the citizens to reassure them, and for last goodbyes. Duncan now wondered whether they needed reassurance or not. Then he remembered his own brothers and sisters, and went to see them too.
Keng walked through the room after she woke up. The night had been very exhausting, and when they arrived in the living rooms she fell down on the first bed she saw and fell in a sleep, dreaming of campfires and hot Vinberry juice. When she woke up, she saw a lot of people walking around worriedly. Some were crying softly on someone else’s shoulder.
“Grandma, is there something wrong?” Keng asked. “You look worried too. What’s going on?”
Karin asked herself whether to tell Keng the truth about what was happening, or to keep her in blissful ignorance.
No one really knows what’s happening. It could be better than everyone thinks, but also worse...
“The King told us what was going on,” Karin answered.
“What’s happening, then? Should we be afraid?”
“King Roald believes there are things outside the Tomb, wanting to harm us. He thought we were in danger, so he sealed the door for our protection,” Karin continued. “But I’ve seen what’s out there, and it’s nothing to be afraid about.”
“But... are we now stuck here?” Keng asked. She was beginning to feel why everyone was so worried, even though her grandmother said it was nothing.
“We can’t leave, at least not for now. Don’t worry; everyone is safe inside this chamber. The Princess is going to put everyone in a deep sleep, so that we can come out when it’s safe again,” Karin explained.
“When will that be?”
“It won’t be very long, trust me,” she said, and gave Keng a hug. “I hope you will dream as nicely as you did just then.”
And I also hope that I don’t have to lie to you any more, Karin thought.
Nevada sat on a high stool in the middle of the room, playing a soothing tune on her flute, this time without magic flowing from her. Everyone was saying their last goodbyes to friends and family, and all took place on their beds. The room was starting to feel colder as night came and sapped the Tomb’s warmth. Nevada stopped playing. Everyone lay down, and held each other’s hands. No one said a word. Nothing needed to be said.
Nevada walked over to the first bed, shuffling. It only sounded like shuffling, because sand was flowing from under her feet with every step, assembling in a small heap in front of the first bed.
“This is going to feel a bit cold,” she said to the short, purple Aisha lying on the bed. “Don’t try to keep your eyes open. You’re going to fall asleep like you normally would.”
The sand raised itself as Nevada lifted the flute up to her mouth. She played yet again the magical music, conjuring the sand up in the air, and then liquefying it into a semi-transparent, shining substance. More sand collected from every corner of the room, until a large, cloud-like bubble was assembled. Nevada changed her music, and the bubble started to swirl around the purple Aisha, encasing her whole body. Nevada slowly started pacing sideways, and so moved the cloud of liquid too, encasing body after body, until all were asleep in elliptical spheres of magical glass.
There are plenty of other tribes and villages on Mystery Island. I’m sure that eventually, someone will come looking for us, Nevada thought, but she wasn’t entirely convinced of her own words.
Now it’s up to a kind soul who may release us from this place.
She used the last of her energy to conjure the last bit of liquid glass above her own bed. She lay down, placing her flute on her chest, and sank into a trance as the liquid surrounded her too.
The citizens of Geraptiku were now at rest.
To be continued...