08 Reaching the City


"Make sure you have enough parrots, I'd like one of those talking Amazon ones." Putting in his bid to Regan. "Aye, it is best to be totally aware in unfamiliar  surroundings, especially a jungle." Word of advice that came from enough experience. He too added a chuckle with the face she had made. This certainly was testing her but she wanted to come. Then to Morgan. "A giant snake, an overgrown ape, who knows what else lurks in a jungle as dense as this one. There are probably tribes that have never seen civilization. Of course I use that word loosely." Then back to his sister, "Regan, while we hack our way through, be on the lookout for the markers." That would keep her from being in the thick of it. He saw a few snakes already. One he just hacked the head off before it could strike.

"All right." She would make sure there were extra ones for her family if they wanted them. "I wonder if they run around naked. Are you two going to blindfold me?" She teased even though she knew it could be true! "I'll just stay back here out of the way so you can swing without worrying about me." She wasn't sure what the markers would look like but more than likely they'd be carved stone.

"I suppose we'll find out." He flashed a grin at Regan. "Or you'll be covering ours." He watched Faelan kill the snake then looked at Regan. She was busy looking at the map again. With a lift of his brow toward his brother and a grin, he started to hack away at the foliage. Occasionally there would be a curse or two when the men ran into a snake or spider, or extra thick vines, and a couple sang to keep rhythm but it was mostly all that was heard was the sound of insects, birds and occasionally a screech or yowl that likely came from the monkeys watching them.

"I think you're old enough to see the anatomy of an ape, you might have to get real close to see anything.." so he would tease his sister good. Devil's grin and all. Snake was understandable but the spiders were as big as one's hand so deserved a curse. He set to hacking in a rhythm so that it flowed better and not as much strain on muscles. Sleeping conditions were going to be uncomfortable as it were so why add excessively aching muscles to it? If anyone heard stomping every so often, he was leaving splats of black behind. Spiders were fast and one time it looked like he was doing a jitterbug with a jump so high but the coming down was hard for a reason.

She made a pffffht sound, snickering. "You think I'm going to run? Can't be that scary." She gave a toss of her head, then settled to keep the horses calm while the path was hacked out. She hadn't seen a marker yet.

It took hours but before sunset, they had made a path through the jungle and found an ancient road that had not been completely covered by the jungle. Ahead was one of the huge stone heads, with the lake off in the distance. They reached the deserted cabin in time to camp, using the wood from it for a fire. Watches were taken on shifts. Dawn the next day had Jedidiah pointing out a ridge where a gap could be seen. He informed them the city was there. The jungle had fallen strangely silent. It felt as if a hundred eyes were watching.

Dawn also found one of the men dead, bitten by something that had him swollen up like a bloat fish. Eyes all but popped out. They dragged him off into the brush being there was nothing more they could do for him. Bad mojo to even attempt burying him. The jungle had claimed him. Faelan shook his head as his buddies took anything of valuable on him, he'd not be needing it anymore. A hand rubbed at the back of his neck as he sidled up near Morgan. "Best we get moving as quickly as we can. Got a bad feel about this place, something to do with that cabin and ones that were here long ago."

Regan had slept in one of the wagons but she had heard the talk and watched as they dragged the body off. She climbed into the driver's seat of one of the wagons, placing one of the flintlock rifles beside her. She gave a little shiver and looked toward the cabin. After a moment's thought, she slipped back off, laid one of the ribbons from her hair at the door of the cabin and resumed her seat on the wagon.

"I think so. Maybe we should eat as we move on." He didn't want to stay any longer than necessary either. Grabbing hold of the reins of the horse, he led it forward while Regan guided. "You feel like we're being followed?" He murmured the words to Faelan, not wanting to scare Regan. "Maybe the natives who were mentioned?"

"Jungle is too quiet for a jungle, that means more than one someone is around that have the birds and animals scared off. We should have the men prepared to fight. We can't even be sure that man died of an allergic reaction to a bug bite. Could have been a poisoned dart." Better to let the men think it was some bug rather than the other or they might be long gone and they could not be certain. "Best we get there as soon as we can. If we need to take a few breaks, just make them shorter."

Regan couldn't help but know something was up. She kept glancing around, studying the jungle. She was certain she had seen something moving in the shadows but said nothing. As long as it remained among the trees, it didn't seem so dangerous. She swatted at a bug and cursed softly, then she pointed. "Look. The sun is reflecting on something."

Whatever was following seemed to fade away once they reached the dried up bed of a small stream. As the wagons crossed, the jungle came to life again. One of the native pointed out a nest that they could raid on their way back. As the sun caused a reflection from something metallic, Morgan grinned. "Maybe gold on a roof?" He was only partly teasing. Even the horses seemed to pick up the pace as they went by two stone heads, and then a fallen column.

He was leading the horses of the wagon by holding onto the bit of one the machete in his other hand to hack away at any overgrown flora or creature if need be. He too saw the glint. "Well, its not a part of the jungle, that much we know although I would caution against just running in to see what it is. We should have a runner or two go ahead of us and see if they can spot it or anything, anyone, else around."

Gold? She perked and stood on the seat, trying to see, but it was still too far. "I think we can reach it by late afternoon!" She decided with a grin. "We're making good time."

Jedidiah heard and sent two of the natives ahead. They were the best scouts of the group, even better than himself. A large butterfly flitted past once but there was little else of note until they reached the gap. As they stood at one end, they could see they were going to head down into a valley. The runners were returning by then, talking excitedly. "It is ahead." Jedidiah told them. "A great city, partly covered by the jungle. There are no signs of warning that they could see but one. And that has the symbol for beware." They couldn't read but the symbol was known to them. "Beware of what?" Morgan demanded and was answered with a shrug. Morgan looked at Faelan and started forward. The road was rough and broken but still could be traveled downward. They could see the buildings stretching before them. "How will we know which to search?" The symbol was pointed out to them, a winged serpent.

Faelan was right at Morgan's side when Jedidiah came back with the news. Any questions he had were voiced by his brother so he listened to the answers. The last had him filling in for the shrug. "..of the two headed dragon." For that seemed to be the appropriate answer in such a situation. A hand came to his brother's shoulder in a clasp, "I'll take one head and you take the other," although joking as he tended to do, it made a statement they would face whatever it was to be beware of. He was surprised Jed and his men weren't fleeing but they were promised a portion of the bounty. They deserved that much for risking their lives too.

"Should go for the wings first." Regan put in her two coppers though she was staring at the city below. "There." She pointed a pyramid shaped building in the middle of the ruins. It seemed to be one of the few that wasn't vine covered yet. It also matched the drawing on the map. "That's what's on the map. We should start there first." She looked at the map again, wondering if the writing they couldn't read mentioned the two headed dragon.

A couple of the men had deserted the morning of the death, slipping away at the end of the line, leaving whatever they had carried unless they had a flintlock. Those they kept. He grinned at both his siblings and nodded. "Aye, we can do that easily enough." Jedidiah was talking to the men who remained, his hands moving quickly. He knew the reward would be great but a few of the men were about ready to run. Without a word, Morgan started down the road. Though the horses balked some, they moved forward after a little coaxing. It wasn't from anything scented in the air but from the road itself.

"Had you try running that map under the heat of a flame in case the writing was done in a way to show only if you did that?" Maybe only parts were done that way leaving the rest legible so no one would try? He eyed the pyramid then the area around it to see what he could see from this distance. He readied two flintlocks before tucking them into his belt, saber and a long knife ready also. He paced himself with his brother, he'd have his back as the two took turns with that manner of fighting when needed.

"Aye, I did. " She gave an indignant huff. "It didn't make it any clearer and scorched the paper." She pulled the map out however, giving a squeak of surprised. As they neared the city, the words became clearer. "Oh! It says to not disturb the statue of ..... " She gave a shake of her head. "Doesn't say which statue so it might be wise not to disturb any." That would be hard if any were made of gold.

The pyramid was at the end of a long road and surrounded what might have been a park or garden at one time. The road was lined with the remains of buildings that could have been the homes of the rich or maybe businesses. It would be hard to tell either way, of course. One of the natives could handle no more and he ran off screaming. Morg cursed because he'd been startled. Morg had a rifle as well as his other weapons. He'd only be able to take one out but he'd make it count. The heat was growing more oppressive, even with the leafy canopy above. By the time they reached the bottom of the pyramid, they'd all be sweating.

"Look for the one that looks important. Like one with a big belly." Wink given Regan. He too stopped and stared at the one running off then shook his head. Hopefully he didn't know something they didn't. Anything else he kept quiet on as they started into what was once a city heading for the pyramid one but he was sure to take glances over the ones they passed. Who knew if anyone was still around even if it looked deserted. He wasn't going to become oblivious to everything else but what looked like the main draw. A swipe of the back of his hand drew sweat from his brow before he was wrapping a strip of cotton around it to soak up any more. Words were kept low as if in a scared place, which might well be where they were. "I would imagine any door would be towards the middle or top, except for maybe some trap doors." He eyed the few natives left but they seemed to be ready to face whatever was before them.

Faelan had made her laugh but once they were in the ruins, she fell quiet, nervously eyeing the ruins around them. Some of the buildings were little more than shells while others had been left untouched. A few had webs across the doors though the spinners were hidden at the moment. Though she had pulled her hair back at the crown of her neck, she was still very hot. She imitated Fael in order to keep the sweat from her eyes.

"Aye, the top." Morgan followed the rise of the steps with his gaze, squinting slightly. "I think we can reach the top before dark? Shall we, or shall we camp at the foot. Jed had a very determined look on his face. He wanted to free his family and this was the only means. He was not going to leave.

"The steps are deep enough we can camp as far as we get towards the top. It might offer us more protection than on the ground." Which anything could roam in from the jungle but he doubted any animals were prone to climbing the pyramid. "Just don't roll, toss or turn when sleeping, buffer the one side with your pack." He could just see one of them rolling down the steps as they were more like. There was no time like the present so he started the climb, taking his time.

Regan shouldered her pack after patting the horses and speaking softly to them. Two of the remaining men would stay with them while the others climbed up. She looked up at the steps, groaning. "I need me land legs." But she started up quickly enough.

"Might even reach one of the levels by then." There were two, one a third of the way, the second two thirds. The temple at the top was what had glinted in the sunlight, the roof covered with what seemed to be gold flake. Morg was more than a little worried about leaving the horses and wagons, but the men watching were from their own crew. They wouldn't be running. He wiped at his brow before he was starting up the steps. The rest of their company followed. Jed was keeping them moving.

Plus they could sleep in the wagon taking turns with the watch. His legs were starting to feel it good but he was half way past the first third and determined to make it to the second so by morning there would be little left to climb in case they also ended up fighting mystical beings or such too. The steps were getting smaller and easier to take.

Regan had been moving quickly but by the time they went passed the first level, her legs were burning. She looked at her brothers and decided to not say a word. They'd tease her for days over it if she did. She did pause briefly to turn and look over the jungle. They were up high already.

He looked over his shoulder and grinned when he saw Regan making a face. Yeah, they were all in pain but they'd manage. With a wink toward her, he continued upward. Above, something bounced down the steps. By the time it came to a stop, it turned out to be a skull. A very old one. Odd it decided to fall now.

"Nice view from here and wind." Picked up more of a breeze this higher up even if still warm. Far better than down on the ground. The sky became a cast of colors with a lot of reds and purples to the clouds. Rain. He hadn't thought on that but even a soaking would be welcome, easy shower after the long haul, not like there were any conveniences for Regan especially up here. He noted the skull but kept his thoughts to himself for now, instead he arranged his things before sitting down, back to the stone of the next step as he pulled out his flask of whiskey. Most were of water but this one was saved for such a moment as this. "Beautiful. Too bad I don't have a woman to share the scene with." Grin shot towards his siblings before he was slouching back getting comfortable while taking a drink. He'd have his meal too of what was packed.

"Aye, much cooler." She grinned as tipped her head back. Rain would likely be warm and hopefully they'd dry fast. She wrinkled her nose at Faelan, laughing. "Hey you can share it with me, though I won't be cuddling with you." She slid back against the higher wall on the right side of the steps, legs bent, feet flat on the stone. "It is beautiful." She would enjoy this night, even if it did rain!

"We're over there, aren't we?" He checked the sky then nodded. They couldn't see the masts of the ship from where they were. He watched as the others settled in, then sat beside Faelan. "Hopefully we'll be heading back with enough treasure to get us out of trouble." James and Adam would likely be having fits. He leaned his head back as he ate so he could watch the sky.



09 Into the Pyramid

As the sky turned from black to gray, the sounds of night faded, giving way to the sounds of day. Birds began their calls first, some taking flight before the sun fully rose. A jaguar growled out what almost seemed to be a protest before settling in for the day, avoiding the heat that would be rising quickly. A curious macaw, resplendent in reds and yellows, perched on the step above the sleeping group, tipping his head in curiosity before letting out an ear splitting awake call. He took flight with an indignant squawk when Morgan threw his boot in its direction. "Time to get up, ye lazy git." He grumbled as he stood and retrieved his boot. "Quick meal, and then we start moving." He was getting anxious to get the treasure and be away from this godforsaken heat.

One eye opened before the other followed. Dazed still from sleep he luckily didn't move because one hand dangled over the duffel bag wedged to the edge so he didn't roll off. A leg hung too over the edge as he slowly became aware. He cleared his throat and imitated a little kid, like long ago. "Aw Ma, do we have to? Can't we sleep another fifteen minutes?" They always asked for the lesser time for then there was the chance she would let them. "All right Da!" Grinning devilish as he carefully got up without falling to the step below. He was up in a stretch, hands sliding behind his neck as he arched his back before straightening. Hands went down, and down further as he grabbed up the duffel bag to attach to his back.

She yawned then giggled when she watched the boot go sailing and then heard Faelan. Stretching her arms over her head, she let out a little eep when she realized the edge of the step was right there. Sitting up she glared at the native who was staring at her until he turned away, then stood. After rummaging in her pack, she munched on a bit of hardtack while she adjusted the pack on her back and looked up the steps. 'Bluidy hell, that's far."

"It'll be easier to climb today since the heat isn't full blast yet." He grinned at Regan, not having seen the native watching her. Starting up the steps, he made a slight face. He was sore from the climb yesterday but by the time they reached the second level, the climb was much easier. The rain came then, fast and heavy though it was warm. The day would be steaming when the storm passed. He pointed toward a skeleton that had the natives mumbling. "There is the poor bugger that lost the skull." Glancing at the natives, he made the sign of the Cross over the remains and that seemed to calm them.

Except Faelan had seen the end of the staring, enough to know what was going on. Once they were all on their way again, he made certain to come up aside the one with a few words of warning given. "Think any untoward thoughts, stare at my sister again or anything else along those lines and I'll feed your guts to the snakes." The man didn't say anything but gave a slight incline of his head, Faelan meant the words and would see it through if he bothered his sister again. "I'll be watching," the last of his warning as he pressed onward to catch up with his brother and once able, let him know what had gone on. Next minute he was being soaked as the rain came and it felt good. He stopped a moment as Morgan did the skull ritual and tipped his head back drinking the rain. It was fresh and sweet.

She caught Faelan speaking to the native and smiled to herself while pretending to look elsewhere. By the time the rain began to fall, she was needing a bit of cooling and imitated Faelan. Glad for the vest she was wearing, she waited for Morgan to finish. Another biscuit, even though it would be soaked was eaten as they started up again. When they got close to the top, she ran the last few steps and waited there for the rest.

He glanced back to note which one it was but Faelan had dealt with it well enough. His lunch was jerky and rain water, both of which were appreciated. Shaking his head, he chuckled as Regan ran up the steps. "Yae bae daft, lass."  He teased as he continued those last steps. There was a temple like structure at the top with a wooden door covered with gold flake. There was one place damaged as if an ax had been used to open it once. At the moment, it was closed. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had began and he chuckled. "I think we'll take that as a good omen."

He ate as he went, sweet bread and jerky, all washed down by the mouthfuls of rain. They all might smell a little better after this too. He laughed as Regan ran ahead but it didn't encourage him to follow, instead his pace matched Morgan's for they had continued to talk in light conversation. Once to the top and the rain ending, he gave up a suggestion. "Let's not rush in but dry off some and check out the whole area first." It was like a small courtyard around the temple like structure. The breeze picked up too which was warm, they would air dry quickly. He was making his way around the one side and the sight was breathtaking. One could see the distant mountains but the area between was a lush green jungle broken up by various mountain ranges and hundreds of waterfalls. Birds soared through the valley seen from this side of the pyramid.

Though Faelan's suggestion was a good one, Regan made a face at having to wait. She followed Faelan and inhaled at the sight. "I think if I were a priestess, I would be up here most of the time just for the view." She said softly. There were likely butterflies and orchids below as well.

He nodded at the suggestion though he did go to the door to examine it briefly. Around the other side he could see the wagons and the others waiting. There was smoke in the distance likely coming from the Jesuit settlement. After a moment, he joined his siblings. "I wonder how long it's been since that map was made. We're likely the first to see this in years." Their quiet interlude didn't last as there was a horrendous scream from behind them. One of the men had become impatient and pulled open the door. He was impaled against the stone wall with a wicked looking spear. A trap that he had tripped. Morgan frowned as he studied the spear. There was nothing to be done for the man. He looked at Faelan. "Wouldn't you think the first party would have set that off?"

A smile turned on his sister as there was something else cast to his eyes far more serious than he let onto, keeping a lighthearted facade. There was far more to him and that glint was there. "It is probably why they built it right here." Turning back for one last glance before she got to see too much of what he considered the vulnerable side. He started around to the far side, or backside from the door side but ended up back pedaling fast, the stench was like a wall it was so bad. "Something took a dump big as the wagon and it's attracting all kinds of bugs and flies." He had a hold of Regan's arm to keep her from exploring that far, who knew, the fumes might be poisonous! At that moment he heard the scream as he let go of her arm and ran back around to see what had happened. Morgan's words registered and wouldn't you know it was the very same native that had been bothering Regan. "Seems he had a few things on his mind." He shook his head with the last. "I doubt anyone has been here since that spear was set, look how it is made, the intricately worked craftsmanship. It wasn't made by any local tribe." Certainly one of a higher technology far beyond their time. "I'm sure that is just the first trap."

Watching her brother had her stopping and not wanting to go any farther so there was no protest on her part when Faelan stopped her. She was hot on his heels when the scream sounded and looked away. It wasn't the first time she had seen death of course, but the thought that it could have been one of them had her shudder. Saying a soft prayer for the man, she looked at both brothers. "Something must have kept them from going further in then. Probably whatever made the pile back there. How are we going to trip any more traps without losing anyone?"

They found something? He looked at Regan then Faelan. They could explain in a moment. "I've heard tales that the original tribes were pretty far advanced. It's a mystery what happened." He gave Regan a slight smile. "We'll send Fael in first. He's agile enough to avoid any traps." He was kidding of course. "We'll go slowly, testing and hope any treasure isn't deep down."

Which had his brows draw up. "Oh, so that is how you really feel, you just want the Fianna all to yourself." He too was teasing but he was agile and the others were not willing to go further after this. "One key is not to go too fast. Stoop down when opening up a door or off to the side." He was drawing out his sword as he continued, "use something to sweep ahead in case there is twine so small you will not see it in the dim light. Like one walking on unknown ice." He eased the door open wide from off to the side as he motioned to the others to move away in case there was another spear to follow and wouldn't you know it, there was. WHOOSH, but it ended up sliding harmlessly against stone. Went right off the edge too. "Oh, Morgan, something took a dump on the other side that had to be huge in what made it. Seemed to have made that area a privy of sorts to attract all kinds of bugs and flies. Maybe it feeds on them." He was crouching down and moving more along the area of door and wall as he entered the top room.

There was no one who could compete with her brothers in her mind at this moment. Regan grinned but quickly became serious. She drew her own sword, letting out a yelp when the spear flew out and covered her mouth with a grin. She made a face then followed Faelan in, staying low.

"Lovely." He growled as he turned and pulled the spear free from the dead man. It took a few moments and then he too was following. The natives stayed outside except for Jedidiah. Two of the men from the ship also followed. The small group made it around the room to the next entrance, one that revealed a passage that led downward, the floor smooth. It seemed to be a spiral design. There were markings along the walls, ones that the young native didn't know though he did point out one. The winged serpent. "You know, that was on the door." Morgan used the spear to point ahead. There was a grinding noise and a single blade fell from overhead, knocking the spear from his hand. Though it was dented, it didn't break. "Well, well, well. A warning sign for those who catch on." They'd still be cautious but now they might, just might, have some warning.



10 Inside the Pryamid

He was keeping a watch above them but that might be the trick too to take their focus off what seemed a smooth flooring. Being he was first he swished his sword before him as he made slow progress, he didn't wish to end up like the speared native. About to take another step and it seemed his sword triggered something as a section of the floor gave way to nothingness, well, nothing they could see. It wasn't a place he wanted to find out. Probably knives protruding on the way down to dice and slice and whatever was left landing on spear heads. "Careful," not too loud or cause some reaction above too. He jumped over the hole in the floor and kept towards the wall, giving the others room to avoid the hole too.

She let out a squeak of surprise with both traps then covered her mouth to keep in the nervous giggle. A slight lean had her peeking down the hole before she was following Faelan closely. She touched his arm, eyes wide. "Is this how all your adventures are?" She was scared but at the same time having the adventure of her life!

"Bluidy hell." He grumbled as another trap was tripped then followed his siblings. One of those accompanying them nearly fell backward, saved only by Morgan grabbing his vest and pulling him forward. A piece of the rock floor fell into the hole. There was no sound as if the bottom were so far down it was nearly impossible to hear. "Do you want me to go ahead for this section?" Maybe they should switch off and on?

"Some are worse," giving her a wink as he kept up that light hearted demeanor. Then seriously, "they are all different, all depends on what you consider dangerous or worse danger." He was helping any of the others across as Morgan lent a hand. He picked right up on the offer, "be my guest!" An offer he wasn't going to refuse. It played on his nerves being the first under such circumstances so to get a break was wholly welcome. He would keep an eye on the others and anything they had not tripped that might spring up.

She gave a slight nod, peering down the hallway. Squinting slightly, her brow furrowed. "Shouldn't it be dark in here?" For the first time she realized the passageway was lighted though she wasn't sure how. Running her fingers over the wall, she found a glowing material stuck to them. With a brush against her britches, she wiped them clean then waited for Morgan to take over.

He flashed his brother a grin then stepped past the two. The spear was used to poke, prod and generally check each section. There were no other traps in the passage as they went downward in circles. Another door appeared ahead with little room for anyone to stand to the side. "You all go partly back up the passage." He ordered and waited until they were out of sight. One person could push against the wall but for some reason, he laid flat on the floor before pushing the door open. The feeling that caused him to do so saved his life. Pointed metal rods were ejected from both sides of the passage, narrowly missing him. With the door fully opened, they slid back in. He uttered a soft thank you to whomever was watching over them, then stood. "I think it's safe now."  If his voice sounded a little shaky, he didn't notice.

Well, he was following suit and getting down on his belly to crawl through, they could jet out again if one went through standing and he wasn't going to take that chance, he valued his life! Once through he waited for the others helping to drag any that went down on their bellies, seemed they all wanted to and not take the chance especially after seeing the first one speared through. "Can you see anything Morgan?" About the quality of a whisper.

Crawling was not comfortable on the stone floor even if it was the safest route. She grumbled as she joined Faelan then stayed down on one knee while she watched the others join them. Faelan's question had her peering into the room, not that she could see anything. "It smells funny. Musky." She whispered too!

He waited until Faelan was to him before moving forward some. "Another passage. This one is shorter though and doesn't go down." He answered and started forward. "There's a raised block here. Don't step on it." Called over his shoulder before he disappeared through the other doorway. "All clear." They could test the trap after they were all through. "Best come through one at a time though."

He wasn't going to trigger anything knowingly! Let sleeping dogs lie and it fitted for traps too. For all he knew it could bring the whole tunnel down on them and they might need a way out. Hopefully there would be a ground exit so they didn't have to do the climb from inside. Pyramids were a network of passageways with most ending nowhere but death. All clear sounded good to him but he was still skeptical as he eased into the section with his brother, he thought he felt a vibration in the stone under foot and around them but it was brief. He helped any that needed assistance through before closing the door, seemed to be the thing to do.

She felt the vibration but didn't say anything, certain both brothers had felt it too. Staying close to Faelan, she studied the passageway ahead. "Mor... " He was through before she could say anything. She started after, then paused to wait for Faelan.

There was a sliding sound and a thump then a cloud of dust. Morgan was coughing but apparently unharmed. When the others came around a turn, there would be a large stone nearly blocking the passage. It could be climbed up and over. Morgan looked as if he had been dusted in flour but he was grinning. Ahead the corridor opened into a large room and it was filled with treasure. More than they could carry but they'd be very rich with what they could. "We found it." Something didn't feel quite right though. "Too easy, Faelan. Too easy."

He helped Regan up to get over the large stone then followed her. Of course he would tease his brother, "this is no time to be testing out your baking skills." He rubbed some of the stuff between forefinger and thumb, smelled it, which had him sneezing and decided not to take a taste as it was bad smelling. "Not sure what this is but you best get it off of you." Wrapping up his hand in a piece of cloth as he did his best to wipe the stuff off Morgan. One never knew what kind of chemicals they use to use. They had all kinds of ceremonies where hallucinate drugs were consumed.

"You look like you did when you spilled cook's flour and had her chasing you all over the keep." She laughed then was over to help as well, wrinkling her nose as she did. The cloth she had pulled from her pack was discarded once they had done all they could. She peered at the treasure finally and gasped. "That could ransom a dozen kings and queens."

"Tastes bad too." He wiped at his face and cursed after sneezing three times. Then he was moving slowly forward into the treasure room. "This is ... incredible." He gave a slight shake of his head. "Where did they go and why leave all this unless they thought they'd be back?" He picked up a mask and held it up to his face. "Do I look scary?" As his words faded there was a slithering sound from the far end of the room. Something large and scaly rose over the pile of gold, eyes of red glowing as it watched the small party.

So busy with the concern over his brother that he had not even noticed what the room contained yet. He was done too as the piece of cloth was discarded. "Holy.." eyes went wide as he took in gold and all kinds of jewels done up in jewelry, masks, pectorals, statues, chests, coins, you name it. He was about to laugh until he caught sight of the slithering monster, red eyes and all. "Here kitty.. slithering slimy," under his breath as his hand gripped the sword in a death's hold. He wasn't moving at the moment until the thing showed any more movement.



11 To Slay a Winged Serpent

Her laughter echoed as she bent down and picked up a handful of coins, letting them rain through her fingers. When she heard Faelan. she frowned and looked his way, not completely understanding what he had said. Slowly she followed his gaze, then just as slowly stood, her hand falling to the hilt of her sword. "Now we know why the warning ... " She glanced at the others as her sword was pulled from its sheath.

"Regan, fall back." Morgan ordered, praying she'd listen for once. As he watched the winged serpent, it seemed to shimmer into a thousand colors. He blinked and shook his head, looking at it again. The colors were gone but it had the head of a woman and spoke in beguiling tones, calling his name. He took one step forward, drawing his sword. "It's changing shape." The gold seemed to melt into puddles, shadows becoming deeper. Jedidiah picked up the spear that had been dropped, giving Morgan an odd look. The two sailors moved in front of Regan though they too were frowning. "He bae bewitched." One whispered. Still they'd hold their ground and not desert their crew mates. The serpent hissed, weaving back and forth as its tongue flickered. This was his horde to guard for the pyramid builders. He wasn't about to let the pale two-leggers take it.

He moved in front of Regan also so she had no choice as the two crewmen flanked her. The others spread out moving slowly but well keeping the serpent as their main focus. A hand reached out to grab Morgan's arm to keep him from moving forward. "It's a slithering snake like serpent with wings and hasn't changed shape." He noticed the beast seemed concentrated on his brother than really worried about any of the others. His voice was low by his brother's ear. "We have two choices, kill it and take the gold or get the hell out of here." Considering all the traps and a mad rush, seems killing the beast was a better option.

She let out a soft indignant huff but listened then stepped back further when Faelan stepped in front of her. Still, she held her sword ready. She never took her eyes from the monster even as she tried to hear what her brother was saying. She did glance backward to make sure the way was clear if they had to escape.

"Kill it." He answered quietly. The face might have been a woman's, the body was not. "We have a better chance than going back and maybe tripping traps we didn't the first time through." He swallowed hard. "I think that dust was more than dust." He could keep the serpent in sight if he concentrated but everything else was a blur of color. The serpent seemed to grow larger until he realized it was moving forward. "Seems it's made up our minds for us." He braced himself, not willing to trust the treasure moving and shifting beneath his feet. It seemed focused on Morgan until it grew close, and then it went for one of the sailors guarding Regan, grabbing his sword arm and biting down. While the man screamed in pain, the creature reared again, leaving the man without sword and arm. Then it was moving for another of the men.

He couldn't agree more as in the next moment they all watched on in horror, except it didn't keep him stunned for long. As the winged serpent was tearing off the man's arm and going for the next one, Faelan charged forward and lodged his sword deep under it's armpit in the hope of having it go through an unprotected area unlike most of the body covered in scales. Blood was drawn briefly, squirting over his face, as the creature's tail swirled around coiling over his body. In the next moment he was sailing through the air like from a sling shot and landing in the pile of treasure. The thrust so hard he was sent buried into the pile of gold in all forms and shapes.

Regan backpedaled as the serpent came closer then let out a yell as the creature grabbed first the sailor and then her brother. She darted forward before any of them could stop her and drove the knife under a scale. She was back again, dragging the wounded man out of the way and trying to stop the bleeding. "Faelan!" She called out, not caring if she caught the monster's attention. She needed to know her brother was alive!

"Regan!" Morgan hissed as she darted forward, then watched his brother disappear into one of the molten gold puddles. With a curse, he charged forward while the man the monster had been going for dove out of the way. He wasn't sure he was aiming for the right area with the way the shadows shifted around the beast but when he struck something hard and the creature roared, he knew he had struck deep. The tail was lashing about wildly and knocked him into a pile of the treasure. Without thinking, he picked up the mask he had held to his face and threw it, distracting the creature again. It turned to attack him and this time Jedidiah attacked, driving the spear into its side. His eyes went wide when he realized the spear had penetrated a scale. Now the winged serpent was furious and going after the native. He dove behind a chest, covering his head as it sent coins flying. The others were attacking now, shouting in order to confuse and distract. Blood showered down over men and gold as it roared again in pure anger and pain.

Faelan manage his way up through the mounds, statues and trinkets alike skidding down the pile, he had blood splattered all over him besides being dazed and confused. A cut along his forehead had blood of his own trickling down, blending in with that of the serpent's. A gold throwing disk ended up in his hand as he was three quarters out. He squinted one eye as the other was shut closed for the blood. The golden throwing disc was smeared with the combo as the serpent's head came focused in after the ear shattering roar, it was coming towards him. In his position there was not much he could do with still being wedged in, easy pickings, except he use to skip rocks and with the same motion of hand whipped that disk right into one of those glowing red eyes. The vibration from the roar that followed had statues toppling as well the room to shake. The creature lunged forward in what would have been Faelan's death if not for the blow he dealt it already. A tooth sunk into his shoulder breaking off before the winged serpent was down, flopping around like a fish out of water, blood spurting from the eye over anyone near. Faelan managed to dislodge himself the rest of the way only to end up toppling down the side of the mounds of gold ending up sprawled on the floor with various golden jeweled items attached to arms, legs, head and even clothing.

Regan let out a squeal as a statue fell near her and the now unconscious man. She saw Faelan go down, the serpent flopping dangerously near. She charged forward and plunged her sword into the second eye, sending more blood flying as the creature went into its final death throes, dead before her attack though she didn't realize it. It bumped into her, sending her sliding over the top of the treasure. When she sat up, she had a netlike headpiece of gold and jewels draped haphazardly over her head. She watched the monster to make sure it didn't attack again.

With the throw, Morgan lost his balance and fell. He saw the monster fall but more, his brother. With a wail of despair, he crawled over the treasure and the body of the serpent to reach Faelan. "Yae cannae bae dead. We're rich now. Yae hav' tae com' back an' share in t'e glory." He was in tears as he knelt beside Faelan. Jedidiah walked over to the winged serpent, his mouth open in disbelief. The creature was out of their legends, the ones the Jesuits had told them were false. The others were standing slowly, shaking their heads, dusting themselves off and staring at Morgan and Faelan.

He'd been knocked out and with so much blood on him, it was easy to think he was dead as well his breathing there for a while was near nonexistent. The revival back came fast as he almost thunk heads with Morgan as he sat up fast, ready to fight. Luckily he didn't hit his brother with the knife that he managed to slide from his belt just before he fell. Cuts, bruises, blood flowing and smeared, he was a sight covered in gold. Seeing the creature dead and his wits regained by this time. "You always said Morg, that if I ended up in the worse situation with me luck I'd come out of it covered in gold." A hand grasping his brother's shoulder as tears stung his eyes for the release of adrenaline in emotions and the state his brother was in. "Are you seeing straight yet?" He was beginning to think Morgan was seeing under the influence.

It was with a great deal of relief she saw Faelan stand and covered her mouth with one hand. Eyes were wet with tears though they didn't fall. She giggled from pure relief before just flopping backward onto the pile of gold and jewels. Rich! Beyond their wildest dreams! Maybe they could buy an army to take back their home!

He let out a yell that could have rivaled the serpent's when Faelan sat up and crab-crawled backward until he thunked into the body of the beastie. He stared a full minute before he started to laugh. "Aye, I'm seeing straight now that you scared ten years off me life." He put his hand over his brother's. "How much o' that blood is yours?" He was sure he was bleeding from a dozen cuts. "We did it, Faelan. We did it." It seemed their luck had turned for the better. "Now don't be letting Regan know this, but I think she brought us good luck."

He still felt wobbly as he stood, his shoulder aching bringing a frown. Fingers gingerly felt around the protrusion until a grip was managed and he pulled it out. "I bae t'inking a bit more." For it certainly was followed by the flow of blood. "Regan, me dar'lin sister, dae yea have bandaging handy?" Pressing his hand over the wound to stop the bleeding at least. "Then I think we should collect what we can carry and bae on our way. If this creature made the deposits above and drew flies, I don't want to be around when whatever it draws being dead comes." Probably hundreds of vultures.  He tucked the serpent's tooth into his pocket as a memento.

"Aye, I do." She always kept things on hand for emergencies after all. Standing, she caught her pack as one of the men tossed it her way, then hurried over to tend to Faelan. The shoulder wound would have to be tended better once they got on the ship but she wanted to be sure it didn't become infected. She used water from a skin to clean it. "Should have brought some whiskey with us." The gold headpiece was still in place and like her brothers she was covered with blood and had gold sticking to her. "I'll tend to you in a minute, Morg."

"Aye, if I have any cuts. I'm not feeling pain yet." Well, a few aches but he'd feel it worse come morning. "Scully, see if you can find another way out but be careful. Don't be bringing the roof down on us. The rest of you men, start gathering things up." Morgan went to the other side of the room, disappearing behind another statue. "Here. I think I found the way out. " There was an alcove with a lever. He used a gold covered scepter to push the lever down and let out a whoop when the clearing with the horses and wagons appeared. After being certain that door wasn't trapped, he set the men to loading the wagons. "We should go under one of those waterfalls and clean off this blood so nothing comes after us."



12 Away from the Pyramid

Once the wagon was loaded, Morgan ordered the door closed and then covered so it wouldn't be easily discovered. There was always a chance they could come back another time and collect the rest. He grinned at his siblings as he took hold of the bridle of one of the horses. "The trip back should be a piece of cake." They had the path cut. It was just a matter of avoiding any spiders or headhunters. "We ready?" The natives had calmed some, probably due to the fact that they had pouches of gold.

While bags were filled and chests made use of within the pile, Faelan had disappeared for a short time, then was back. He too carried his share of wealth even if still wobbly. His shoulder was still bleeding and had an odd scent to it. The lower door was secured and blended it with the rest of the thousands of stones. It could only be opened from the inside he realized. As they started off he made the comment low to his brother. "I reset some of the traps in case anyone gets the notion to come back on their own or anyone new. I also put on that door a voodoo head that will scare any of the natives anyway along with the dead body," which had been left up there. What was left of it, the vultures had already gotten to it and were picking it clean.

Regan was busy setting things to rights in the wagon before settling in the seat of the other. She was watching both her brothers, worried on Faelan for the injuries and Morgan because of the drug. She wasn't sure what it was but he still seemed to be acting a little too happy. The horses seemed more than happy to be moving away from the ruins. Once again, everything was normal until they crossed the small stream, then the jungle became silent again. She glanced around nervously, catching sight of movement deeper in the trees.

Morgan nodded, flashing his brother a grin. "Good idea. I don't think too many will be as stubborn as we are." Or as cautious. He looked over his shoulder at Regan before frowning slightly and turning back to Faelan. "This part of the jungle gives me the creeps." The words were no sooner out of his mouth when a spear thunked into the side of the wagon. Jedidiah grabbed up one of the flintlock rifles and fired it into the trees. "Grab the mask and show it! They'll stop."Jedidiah pulled Regan down off the wagon as another spear flew by. Morgan grabbed a flintlock and fired into the trees as well, not sure what he was aiming at.

"Way I figure it, they should at least face the dangers we had, not just waltz in scot free." Sweat was starting to bead over his forehead. The words were starting to slur and white foaming at the corners of his lips. Eyes were getting hazed as Morgan's words only confused him, "get the gold!" Yelling as he jumped down, a spear just missing him as he started flailing his arms, wild look in his eyes. "I know you're out there," then a blood curdling scream escaped his lungs as he arched his head back. Next he was running this way and that, pulling at leaves and foliage, anything in his way as the laughing reached hysterical. Whitish foam coated the bottom half of his face and flung, this way and that with his quick turning rushes.

Regan let out a yelp of surprise as she was pulled down. She grabbed another of the rifles and began firing as well until Faelan started his mad charge into the jungle. The natives that were attacking suddenly were gone, not another spear or arrow flying. They had disappeared with the charge of one who was insane from the pyramid, fearing contamination. "Morgan! Stop him!" Without thinking, she was after Faelan, trying to stop him.

He was frowning again as he noticed how Faelan was starting to slur his words and then he dived on the wagon as another spear flew by. As Faelan went screaming into the jungle, he saw the natives that had been attacking taking off in a fearful flight. Regan had him jumping into action, going after Faelan and tackling him to the ground. It was then he noticed the smell coming from the wound. "I think the bite was poisoned." He shook his head, trying to clear it. The colors had never quite faded and this close to someone, they nearly hurt his eyes. "Faelan! Settle down!" If necessary, he'd knock his brother out. The others were arriving to help.

He had a lot of scratches to add insult to injury, clothing shredded, blood trickling everywhere and still he was laughing much like a hyena at this point. It didn't take much for Morgan to tackle him down once he was reached. Words were no longer recognized. He had begun imitating jungle noises of anything he heard or even thought he heard as he became crazed. That was until he hit the ground and was out like a light. The fever was setting in and being unconscious at this point was a godsend or go completely mad.

"We have to get him back to the ship now." Regan looked at Jedidiah. "Put him into the wagon with me. You can guide it." She didn't like how Morgan looked either. "Hurry, Morgan." Now she was scared. After all that, she would not lose either brother if she had anything to say about it.

Jedidiah hurried to help get Faelan up and into the wagon, barely enough room with all the gold it held. It was then he handed over a good size pouch of crushed up leaves. "You press into wound, around neck and forehead." His English broken but what words he strung together were understandable. "Add with mud," which he left for a few minutes to make some up, using rich humus found under certain flora and mixed with enough water. He was quick about it, as if something he had done many times, and back onto the wagon to lead the mules.

Morgan was pale but still had enough of a hold on reality to act as he should. He watched Regan and Jed then mounted the other wagon. The jungle had come back to life as soon as the head hunters left and while they were moving toward the ship, the natives with them collected several kinds of young parrots as well as orchids which were placed into special baskets. At the ship, the crew was quick to unload while Faelan was carried into the ship. He'd leave Jed and Regan to take care of him while he supervised.

Once Faelan was in his cabin, Regan gave the order to draw a bath up for Morgan. Jed had a solution for that as well and went off to gather up some fruits. He was back before the gold was unloaded. The natives had departed with their share after loading the parrots and orchids. The leaves and mud worked fairly fast, allowing Faelan to wake enough to take a drink and sleep again. Jed made juice from the fruits while Regan tended to Faelan.

After the gold was loaded and stowed away properly, Morgan gave the order to cast off. He had sent a basket of gold to the Jesuits but didn't want them asking any questions. The jungle would cover the path they made quickly and leave little to no trace of their passing. He checked on Faelan, didn't argue when Regan insisted he bathe and even drank the horrible tasting juice. Their first mate would be in charge for at least twelve hours while Morgan also got some badly needed rest. He was grinning as he finally settled in to sleep. They had made it and were very rich men.



13 Out to Sea - The Dream

The odd infection was halted and the poultice was now gradually reversing it. The worse was over as far as being crucial. Except the dreams. When Faelan had slipped into unconsciousness there was nothing but blackness, an unawareness. As the poultice started to work there was a splash of color, near blinding as the rich colors of the jungle emerged and started to take from. The very green of lush leaves that seemed to move while he was moving forward as if walking but he didn't feel like he was walking, more floating. The clouds in the so-very-blue sky whisked away by rolling over another as if in some race. When  they ceased the ocean was in sight at a distance, waves cresting one after another. The weather perfect, not hot like it looked nor cold. Completely comfortable. Sounds were heard next as parrots of all colors and sizes flew up and around calling out. Once they disappeared, he noticed a village where beautiful women emerged, topless no less, and were heading right for him. He was surprised they could see him for in a way he felt displaced. Invisible. They were talking in some other language but the looks and the hands that started smoothing all over his body was a universal language. Wreaths of bright flora were put around his neck as lips were touched to his one after another. He realized his shirt was gone at this point too and now his belt as they were leading him to this main hut. His body responding involuntarily.

It was then he was awaken in a haze and instead of food and whatnot he got some cold water. The water was good as it barely registered but certainly a disappointment in comparison. He mumbled something nonsensical as he fell straight back into the deep slumber. The native women were back but instead of the hut he was brought onto a black ship. The beautiful faces twisted and turned into black skeletons with hideous laughter spewing from mouths along with maggots. He started fighting them but their hold was ten fold like shackles keeping him in place as he watched this large black hooded form come forth, another of like to his side with a black parrot on his shoulder. One that was leaving white splotches of droppings down the man's shoulder. Two more ships of black lingered behind the one he was on. Meanwhile in his cabin, he was starting to sweat profusely. The sheet becoming wrapped around him as he struggled against the unseen if anyone was around to see. It was then the hooded man came forth and forced his chin up with long strong fingers in a grip. That's when he saw Morgan hanging from the mast. What was left of him. Half his face was burned with an eyeball hanging out. Blood was everywhere as a forearm was missing on one side and half his leg on the other. In places they had peeled his skin away. The black hooded man then jerked his head to the side to watch as they dragged Regan to a post, screaming. They gagged her to the point he thought it would break her jaw. The faceless man in the hood roared with laughter as he gestured with a quick cupping of his crotch before starting over towards his sister. By this time he was yelling at the top of his lungs as in the dream he struggled against the vice clamping hands, distorted laughter rising in volume until his stomach revolted as he leaned over the bed half dazed.

Regan knew the fever had broken but she refused to leave Faelan except to check on Morgan. Then she'd allow another to take over until she came back. When she returned during his dream, the lad that had been there was chuckling. Regan chased him out, then gave Faelan a drink of water, trying not to giggle herself. She settled down into watching again until he began thrashing about. "Faelan!" Trying to calm him, she kept his hair back as he lost whatever he had in his stomach. "It's all right, Faelan. We're back on the ship, we're safe." She kept speaking softly though she did call out for the lad in the corridor to bring water. Once Faelan was calm again, she opened the portholes and then set to cleaning up.

Morgan's sleep was deep with no fever, no dreams beyond the norm. He woke feeling groggy and hungry. Hearing Faelan had him near jumping out of bed but he was tangled in the sheets and ended up falling. Cursing roundly, he kicked off the sheets, found his pants and pulled them on. By the time he made it into Faelan's cabin, Regan was cleaning up. "What happened?" He went straight over to Faelan's bed, motioning for the cabin boy to help Regan.

He wasn't aware at first he had wretched but the cold water on his face brought him around. At least drinking some took the other awful taste from his mouth and when he coughed a small puff of black smoke escaped. Eyes focused in when he saw Regan first and hugged her as fierce as he could, tears welling up. "You're all right," then Morgan on her heels as he struggled up, reaching out to grab his arm as he staggered in against him with another hug. "You're not dead," probably sounding a bit incoherent to them both and don't mind his breath.

The black smoke had her blinking but before she could react, Faelan was hugging her tight enough to nearly take her breath away. "Aye, I'm fine, Faelan." She leaned back some as he grabbed Morgan. "And so are you. You were dreaming, I think. Nothing more." She tried to soothe him, as much worried now as she had been before.

"No, I'm very much alive." He grinned as he answered. "You're not going to be getting rid of me that easy, little brother." He looked at him a long moment. Something felt ... different. "Tell us of your dream, Faelan. What had you screaming like a banshee was on your heels?"

As his head cleared so did his thinking. "It was a dream but it was unlike any other dream I ever had before. First there was this tropical island with beautiful women," which had him pausing a moment as he slid a glance Regan's way. A few thoughts sped as he wondered if she'd been in the room for he knew how they had affected him. He cleared his throat deciding he didn't want to know as focus turned back on his brother. "Then it all changed, three black ships, two black hooded men. One with a black parrot on his shoulder that was relieving himself." Why he knew they were all males didn't even have him questioning it. "They had tortured and killed you Morgan, they were about to do unthinkable things to Regan as they had me restrained to watch. It was about that time water hit me throat and then my stomach turned as I could not stand the sights I was seeing." He'd been through a lot with his brother especially on their adventures but he'd not seen anything like what the dream was showing him before. "Wait," blinking with another thought that popped into his head. "Where are we headed?" realizing they were on their ship and on their way.

Regan set herself to fussing over the clean up and sending the lad back out rather than let her brothers see her turn red. She sat back down beside Faelan unable to suppress the shudder moving through her. She looked at Morgan then back to Faelan. "We were going to stop at one of the islands we passed to resupply, let the men blow off some steam."

"Aye, thought they deserved some time off and then try to get more fresh water, just as a precaution. Why?" He was quite serious now, his eyes intent on his brother's face. "You blew smoke out when you first saw us. Black smoke. " Whether or not it had anything to do with the dream didn't matter. It was another bit of oddness to add.

"Head home, something is wrong. I think the dream was trying to tell me something," and he visibly shuddered as he felt all energy drain out of him, having to sit down at this point. "I feel if we head there which is a tropical island, it will turn into a disaster. The feeling is strong. I think we have enough to head home or one of those places on the way there that are not tropical paradises." Sure the men deserved it after what they had been through but not if it meant all of their deaths. "Some legitimate excuse and a promise we will take them after we stop back." They could easily use their brothers at home as some emergency. The crew all knew what the two older brothers could do if they were angered. "Something very dark and twisted lingers out there in paradise."

"We could tell them it's me. I'm terribly homesick." She looked from one to the other. "They're protective of me." She was their good luck mascot. "Do you think that would work?"

He reached out to touch Regan's cheek. They couldn't place her in more danger than they had and Faelan's dream ... He felt a chill move through him. "It'll work. We need to turn toward Heathfield, Regan. We need you to plot us a course. I'll speak to the men." He looked at Faelan then. "We go on full alert, use the gold as an excuse. Two extra men on each watch." The Fianna was fast. He was hopeful they could outrun any demons in black that might be after them.

"If you think it will, I think so too. Aye, if they thought we could lose the gold they'd high tail it to Heathfield on their own. They know they would be safe there and we came by it honestly. I'll go help you talk to the men." Feeling a lot better now even if he thought on it all, how strange it was to be so upset by a dream that he would take real precautions, all precautions to avoid it.


Whole of this SL in Vendettas



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