Unforeseen Adventures: The Tomb - Part Four
Dan tried not to panic as torrents of water continued to pour into the room. It was difficult, but he forced himself to stay calm and his mind to clear. Inanna was already panicking enough for the both of them.
“What are we going to do?!” she wailed, turning to Dan with wild eyes.
“We’re going to stay calm, that’s what!” he told her, though his own resolve was weakening with each passing second.
Thunder and Kura had rushed back to join them. Dan listened to the others shout while he tried to force his own mind to stay clear enough to think of a way out of this mess. The water was above his knees now. There had to be a solution! Wait a minute...
“The stone!” Dan shouted.
The others turned to him with puzzled and, in Anna’s case, somewhat hysterical expressions.
“That stone switch!” Dan tried to explain. “It might open the doors or turn the water off, or both!”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” shouted Thunder above the roar of the water. “The button is what caused this whole mess! Why would it be the way out of here, too?”
Dan shook his head. “The button wasn’t what caused this! Stepping off the path to the door ahead of us was a mistake. It must have triggered some kind of trap to close the doors and flood the room. Why else would the switch be there?” It took an enormous amount of effort for him not to add, “I told you so.” That would not help now anyway.
“If you’re right,” said Kura, “then that stone would most likely be pretty heavy to push, especially with all the water flooding the room! The water will make it even more difficult to put weight on it—”
Dan’s heart sank. He now knew why there were no objects in the rooms; there would be nothing to hold down the stone for them. Dan’s heart hammered as he thought of what this meant: someone had to stay behind to hold the switch down. Judging by the looks on the others’ faces, they had reached the same conclusion.
“I’ll do it,” Thunder volunteered. His voice was grim, but full of determination. “I’m the heaviest. I’ll go.”
Dan felt a sense of desperation attempt to smother him. The others were quiet as Thunder’s words sank in.
“Thunder—” Inanna began, her eyes glistening.
“I’ll do it, Anna. The longer we talk about it, the harder it will be to push the button! Just promise me one thing. Don’t stay if the water doesn’t stop... go through that door with Kura and Dan. And once the door is shut, keep going. Find that treasure for me. And... tell Meg I’m sorry.”
“No, Thunder, don’t say—”
“Promise me!” Thunder growled.
“Thanks, Ann.” His expression softened. “See you!” And with that, he dove into the water and started swimming for the stone switch.
Inanna’s eyes were filled with tears. Dan felt as though he could not breathe. Kura seemed to be in shock.
The water was up to Dan’s chest now, and he found it harder to stay in one spot; he struggled to stay by his sisters. The water seemed to yank at his paws, trying to topple him over.
“Dan, climb on my back,” Kura offered, her carefully controlled voice shaking a little. “The water will be over your head soon.”
Not wanting to argue, he nodded and proceeded to climb on her back. The seconds that passed while waiting for Thunder seemed more like hours to Dan. His racing pulse would not slow.
Suddenly, the door ahead of them opened and the flow of water swept them into the room ahead. It was impossible to resist—the current was too strong. Taking advantage of his surprise, the water forced its way into Dan’s mouth and nose, choking him.
Then the water was still. A split second after they had been swept inside, the stone door of the room had banged shut behind them once more.
Dan stood up, coughing and slightly dazed. Several inches of water covered the floor of this room from when the door had opened. Dan could only stare at the door they had just come through. He had not seen whether the water flowing into the other room—the room in which Thunder was now trapped—had stopped. He looked uncertainly at Kura, the question burning in his eyes. She knew what he meant, and she shook her head, turning away.
Dan felt as though there was something heavy on his chest, cutting off his air; his lungs burned from the water he had breathed in. A splashing to his right made him turn.
Inanna was circling frantically around the room. Dan realized she was searching for something, though he couldn’t imagine what. His brain seemed fuzzy and he couldn’t think straight. That was fine though, even welcome. He did not want to think, to feel.
The seconds ticked by. Or was it minutes? Dan seemed to lose sense of time. It wasn’t until Anna shrieked that Dan could finally think clearly. Her scream scared him half to death and seemed to clear his mind.
“Dan! Kura! Over here! I found another switch!”
Dan didn’t bother to caution her, for he was just as desperate as she sounded. He raced to her side with Kura right behind him.
Inanna was already putting all her weight on the stone button when they joined her, Dan hardly daring to hope.
At last, Dan could feel the switch sinking with their combined weight. His heart leapt as he saw the door to the flooding room open. More water rushed in, and Dan thought he saw something black in the torrent streaming into the room. But before he could think, the torrent of water hit him and he felt himself being swept off the stone and smashed headfirst into a stone wall. Little stars burst inside his head and blackness threatened to obscure his vision. Something in the back of his mind told him to fight the darkness, to shy away from it, but he did not see the point. The blackness seemed to be beckoning him, welcoming him....
“Dan? Can you hear me, Dan?”
That voice was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“HEY! WAKE UP, SLEEPY HEAD!”
This voice was harsher, more rough, and different, but it was so wonderful that Dan was able to fight the darkness. He opened his eyes and Thunder’s soaked face came into view.
“Thunder?” he croaked.
“Well, hi there. Sheesh, Dan. Why do you always run into walls and get arrows shot at you? I swear, you’re like a danger magnet. There’s no action left for me when you’re around.”
“THUNDER!” Dan jumped up to hug him, despite the horrible head ache that seemed to be trying to crack his head in half.
“Don’t strangle him, Dan.” He recognized Kura’s reproachful voice. “He’s already really cold and he swallowed a lot of water while he was playing the hero—”
Dan let go, blushing. “Sorry, Thunder.”
Thunder rolled his eyes.
“Don’t listen to Kura; she’s overreacting.” But he couldn’t hide the convulsive shivers from the cold water. His teeth chattered through his grin.
“No,” said Dan, “I’m sorry I pointed out that stupid switch. If I hadn’t, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened.” It was only then that he realized the tiles in this last room were all the same color. Dan shuddered, trying not to think about what would have happened if they were just like the last room.
“It’s not your fault. Don’t worry about it. Besides, we’re all here now, and we can go find that treasure!”
Inanna spoke for the first time. “Treasure. Right. This treasure has already cost us more than it’s worth.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it, Ann.” Thunder’s grin grew wider.
“There might be more traps, you know,” she continued seriously. “Whoever built this tomb really wanted to keep people away from the treasure. There were four empty rooms back there that were meant to trap us, you know.”
“Even so,” said Kura, “we can’t go back.” She looked around the room. Most of the water had flowed out the open door ahead, but they were still standing in a few inches of it.
“Four empty rooms designed to trap us, huh?” Thunder murmured. “You’d think it would be three.”
Dan laughed, but Inanna rolled her eyes. “Your thinking is so cliché, Thunder.”
Thunder smirked at her before prancing out of the room in search of the treasure. Dan followed his siblings through the door and down a narrow hall lit with the flickering light of torches, lost in thought.
If he had decided to stay home with Meg, Thunder would have never gotten an arrow stuck in his tail. If he had only taken the time to look as he had scampered through the heavy door with the runes, he would have seen the gigantic Hissi and warned the others to try a different way. If he hadn’t pointed out that stupid switch, the room probably would not have flooded. Why had he decided to come along? He obviously wasn’t cut out for adventure. Not this kind of adventure, anyway. These kinds of things always sounded better in books. With a book, you could close it any time and the only life you would have to fear about was a fictional character’s. Now, though, he was stuck in an adventure he had not foreseen, with no apparent purpose except to endanger the lives of others. Others he knew and loved. Dan sighed. Adventures were highly overrated.
They reached the end of the corridor within a few short minutes, leaving them standing before a solitary, plain wooden door. Thunder reached for the handle, but Kura slapped his paw.
“Wait! What if it’s a trap?”
“We don’t exactly have much choice.” It seemed Thunder was trying to refrain from scowling at Kura, but Dan could tell his brother’s small supply of patience was wavering.
Kura opened her mouth to retort, but closed it again in apparent defeat. She grudgingly nodded for Thunder to open the door. Thunder grasped the handle, hesitated for a fraction of a second, then turned the knob and pushed the door inward.
Dan’s mouth fell open as they entered. Mounds and mounds of sparkling, glittering dubloons and neopoints covered every square inch of the floor in an enormous room. Other items caught Dan’s eye as well: Jewels of every shape, size, and color; rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry; crowns and scepters fit for kings; and codestones of every kind were less common, but still countless. In addition, less recognizable things that seemed to have belonged to the ancient people of Geraptiku were strewn here and there among the treasure. Dan even thought he spotted a throne made from what looked like bones.
“This is amazing,” whispered Kura, a look of awe on her face.
Thunder gave a whoop and dove onto the nearest pile of treasure, laughing. “Yes! We did it! We found the treasure!”
He threw a pile of coins in the air as you would confetti, still laughing. Dan couldn’t help but join in as Thunder stuffed a gold crown adorned with rubies on Dan’s head, pinning one of his long Gelert ears to the side of his face. Dan righted the ear, grinning. Thunder winked at him, skipped off to the top of another particularly large mound of treasure, and proceeded to roll down the side of it. After landing on his stomach, he rolled over and picked up a gold bracelet, whirling it around with his paw. Then he dropped it and sighed contentedly.
“I love treasure.”
Anna shook her head and rolled her eyes, but she was grinning. She padded over to Thunder and joined him in making “treasure angels” in the coins scattered across the floor.
Kura turned to Dan, her face astonished. He smiled at her. She was a practical thinker, relying on logic and reason. Dan had had a nagging suspicion all along that Kura had never really expected to find more than a few valuable items (if any) in a single treasure chest—nothing more. It seemed that he had been right, for she looked absolutely dumbfounded. A giggle escaped Dan’s lips at her expression; her eyes narrowed. Dan sucked in a lungful of air and held his breath for a few seconds (something he had learned from Anna) before releasing the air and collapsing in a fit of giggles on the coin sprinkled ground.
“What in the name of Fyora is so funny?” Kura snapped.
Dan controlled his laughing enough to gasp, “I—don’t—know!”
She stared at him for minute before shaking her head, probably thinking he was mentally unbalanced.
Thunder and Inanna rejoined them.
“How much do you think we can bring with us?” Inanna asked, hefting a small golden bust of what looked like some long-dead Geraptiku chief in her paw.
“As much as we can carry,” said Thunder. He began stuffing as many coins and dubloons as possible into the small leather pouch in which he kept his matches. “We should have thought to bring a backpack.”
“Well,” said Kura, “everyone just grab a few things. We should leave as soon as possible... I have no idea what time it is....”
Dan quickly grabbed a Main Codestone and a few pieces of jewelry for Meg. He had almost forgotten the golden crown on his head until Inanna removed it, saying as she did so that it was “a bit much”.
Everyone but Thunder had grabbed a few things to take within a few short minutes. Dan waited impatiently for Thunder to make up his mind. He was anxious to be home, to get out of this creepy place. Finally, his brother chose the huge, fist-sized diamond over the solid gold staff, Kura having informed him that he would not be able to lift the staff, much less carry it back home.
“So,” said Dan, turning to Kura, “how do we get out of here?”
“We go through that door at the end of the chamber,” she said, pointing to the doorway at the back of the room slightly hidden behind a mound of treasure. “Follow me.”
And follow her they did, slightly encumbered by the treasure they were now carrying, but in good spirits nonetheless. Through the doorway they went and started up a narrow flight of spiral stairs. On and on they climbed until the stairs ended and a torch illuminated a stretch of blank wall at the top of the steps, indicating a dead end. A wooden ladder was propped up against the wall. It took Dan a few seconds to realize that it lead up to a trap door in the ceiling.
“Right,” said Thunder, examining the trap door. “Up we go.”
He started for the ladder, but Inanna pulled him back.
“That wood doesn’t look very sturdy... do you think it will hold our weight?” Overly cautious, but she had a point nonetheless.
“Course it will.” Thunder seemed confident enough, but recognizing danger was not one of his strong points.
Inanna glanced at Kura who shrugged in a “just-go-with-it” sort of way. Inanna did not look altogether reassured, but she seemed to realize that this old wooden ladder was their only hope of getting out of the tomb, for she made no further arguments.
Thunder started up the ladder slowly, testing his weight on each step to make sure that it would hold. So, Dan concluded, he wasn’t altogether unconcerned about safety.
Thunder ended up reaching the top of the ladder without incident. He twisted the handle on the trap door and, with a mighty heave, pushed it open. It landed with a muffled thump on the thick grass above.
Dan was disappointed to see that no sunlight flooded in through the opening. Outside it looked like twilight, but he remembered Geraptiku looking just as dark in the middle of the afternoon. There was no way to tell what time it was. Still, Meg had to be worried sick.
Dan watched as Thunder scurried up through the trap door. Inanna went after him, followed by Kura who ended up breaking through the rotting wood of the third step on the ladder; finally, it was Dan’s turn. He climbed up the ladder with cautious steps, careful not to move too fast. As he reached the top, he grabbed Thunder’s outstretched paw and scrambled out of the tomb and into tall jungle grass.
“Oh great, this is just perfect,” complained Kura. Dan could tell she was back to her usual, moody self once again. He couldn’t help thinking that the danger of the tomb might not be so bad after all.
“We’re in the jungle?” Dan was surprised. He had expected the trap door to lead them into the village of Geraptiku.
“Yes,” she answered. She frowned at the surrounding plants. “But I don’t think we’re in the Mystery Island jungle... I’m pretty sure we’re still in the Geraptiku area. There is a large patch of forest north and west of the village, which is probably where we are. I think we were mostly headed north in the tomb, so to get to Geraptiku we will have to go south.” She paused before adding uncertainly, “I’m not sure how far in we are, though. It could be minutes or hours until we’re out of here.”
“Well, I’m hoping for the minutes category,” Thunder grunted. He gave the trap door a big push and it swung shut once more. He picked up the items he had dropped and turned to Kura.
“Let’s go. My tail is sore and I’m starving.” As if on cue, his stomach gave a loud rumble. He grinned.
Inanna shivered in the chilly air. “Yeah, let’s get moving, I’m freezing.”
“You don’t think there are any wild Werelupes in here, do you?” Dan whispered.
“Of course not,” said Kura. “Wild Werelupes only live in the Haunted Woods.”
A lone howl pierced the night silence like a knife. Dan jumped, his eyes wide.
“Well—” Kura gulped.
“Way to go, Princess, you jinxed it!” Thunder exclaimed.
“Don’t call me that, Thunder!” Kura snapped. Her eyes flashed.
By now a chorus of howls had joined the first; some seemed to Dan as if they were coming from the bushes mere feet away.
“Um... guys?” Anna sounded frightened. “Why don’t we get moving? I really don’t want to become a midnight snack for a pack of hungry, wild Werelupes.
“Good idea, Ann.” said Thunder. “So,” he turned to Kura. “You’re the smart one. Have any suggestions?”
“Yeah,” Kura replied, “just run!”
To be continued...