Drinking was the last thing on my mind. The merrymaking in the room sank me further into my depression. I had to do something, anything to help them. But what could I do now?
‘Hey handsome, want some company?’ The voice of a young woman cut through the rowdy atmosphere. It tugged at my mind and brought my attention to her. The tanned beauty smiled from within her hood as she pushed a drink towards me. ‘I might be able to help you with your little problem.’
I did not know why, I did not care how, but the weight from my shoulders felt lifted. She smiled and presented the palm of her hand to me. ‘Now, this is what you need to do.’
Thinking back to that night I could only curse my decision. The thumb sized gemstone still pointed to the inhospitable wasteland ahead. A dessert was not a nice place to die. After a week of travel we lost our first companion to quicksand. The night after a scorpion like monster ambushed us. She managed to sting another of our group and drag him under the sand with her.
Out of ten people I was the only one left. So I continued trudging over the dunes. All that remained was my pack, the rations within would not last. ‘Why did I agree to do this?’ I chuckled and checked the stone again. ‘What? What do you mean ahead and down?’
The blue gemstone had been our guide for the entire journey. Until this point it had glowed along its edges. But now, part of its base was glowing. ‘So it’s buried?’
I collapsed to my knees and began to sob and laugh. ‘After all of this and I can’t get to it.’ I sighed then fell back onto the sand. ‘Ah! What?!’ I rolled to the side and rubbed my head. Then felt the spot where I landed, revealing the edge of something.
Before I realised, I was laughing while digging into the sand. ‘Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes!’ The gem began pulsing when I passed it over the revealed stone. ‘I guess I made it in the end.’ I sighed and sat back. Thinking over the journey only made me realise it was a lost cause. ‘But maybe this power will help me, what do you think?’
The gem continued to pulse in my palm and I chuckled. ‘Look at me, talking to a stone.’ After a few moments the gem flashed then stopped glowing. ‘Huh? What now? Have I finally lost it...?’ The ground beneath me dropped by a hands width. I froze and looked around. Sand started rolling down the slopes and gathering around me. ‘I need to get out of… Here!’
My world plunged into darkness and was filled with the sound of flowing sand.
I jolted awake and coughed half the desert from my throat. ‘what? Where… where is it!’ More sand fell from above and covered me. When I broke through the surface I noticed a light in the darkness. ‘oh, phew… I thought I had lost it.’
The gem had landed two arms lengths from me. It peaked my curiosity as to how it remained unburried. But a second downpour of sand warned me to act sooner than later. So I jumped forwards and grabbed the gem.
It was the worst decision I could make. Second to going on this journey.
The darkened hole I fell into was larger than I realised. I began tumbling down the side of the sand bank I had fallen into.
‘Ah! Shit!’ I rubbed my head after coming to a stop. ‘what… this isn’t a natural sink hole?’ I had ended up head first against the wall of the chamber. The gem had begun glowing along its edge again. It appeared to be pointing deeper into the darkness within the room.
As I looked around I noticed the hole was at least ten persons high from the floor. ‘Well I won’t be leaving that way anytime soon. I guess I am stuck going forwards… Why am I talking to a stone again?’ I shook my head then dusted myself down. Sand was not the most comfortable thing to have in your underwear.
‘If only I had a torch…’ As I continued walking my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I appeared to be in a large chamber with a single door at one end and a large amount of sand piled at the other. ‘I guess that was the entrance at one time…’
The place made me think of the ante-chamber to a cathedral. I had seen pictures when I was younger but had never experienced such a large structure. It was not like I had the money or influence for such things.
‘I hope everyone is okay… I can’t fail them now. Even if it seems bleak.’
Large braziers ran down the length of the room. As I walked past a few I could see pictures drawn across them. It appeared to show people wearing robes of some kind. As well as strange creatures with sharp teeth and insects I had never seen before. And at the end of the room I stopped at the large stone door. So I placed the gem in my pocket and pushed against it.
‘Damn… they don’t want anyone getting in here…’ After a few minutes of pushing I wiped my brow and sat against the door. ‘Now what?’ When I looked down I noticed my pocket was glowing. And the moment I pulled out the gemstone it filled my vision with a blinding flash.
I covered my eyes then jumped forwards when the room began to shake. ‘Now what! Is this place going to collapse?’ But my fears subsided when the giant stone door began dropping. ‘Ah…’ I chuckled and rubbed my head. ‘So you are a key? Why am I talking to you again? Has the heat gotten to me that much?’
My head hurt, so before passing the precipice I took a drink from my water skin and pocketed the gem. After the flash of light it seemed to die again. Beyond the door was a hallway leading to a number of rooms. All of them were dark, but odd crystals seemed to light the hall. Each of them flashing in turn as though they were guiding me further inside.
‘Well, I think they know something more than I do…’ So I followed the pulsing light. Time was something I used the sun to tell. But now I had no idea how long I had been travelling. It felt as though hours had passed as I walked along corridors and down stairways.
To check if the lights were guiding me I decided to walk off course. But the luminous crystals on the walls of the darkened rooms or corridors would begin pulsing in the direction I came from.
‘So you are guiding me somewhere… but where?’ The answer soon came when a large stone doorway blocked my path. I looked around but the crystals continued to pulse towards this doorway. ‘So beyond here is the answer to my problem?’
The silence replied. But what did I expect when I was half dehydrated and suffering from sun stroke?
I looked down and noticed that my pocket had begun to glow again. And the moment I retrieved the gem it flashed and the door began to lower. The grinding of stone made me grit my teeth. But I was not prepared for following the scene.
‘G-gold! How… but? What?’
The room beyond was as large as the entranceway. But instead of being filled with sand, Gold stretched as far as I could see. Figurines, coins, gems, statues. A variety of items were arranged within the chamber.
I jumped when the braziers burst into life. And soon realised the darkened space was far longer than I expected. The scene left me feeling humbled as i began walking. ‘With all of this… I could… I could own a small country. They wouldn’t need to worry again!’ The chamber echoed with my laugher.
Coins rustled bellow as I continued down the middle of the chamber. ‘Now what? This isn’t what she meant?’ The gem in my hand had started glowing along its edge again. And it seemed to be pointing to the far end of the chamber. ‘So down there?’
My chest tightened as I approached the darkness. The air felt thicker, almost syrupy. And a strange smell lingered in the air, it was not unpleasant. But it was not what I would expect when walking into a place like this.
‘Lily’s? Why would it smell like flowers?’
I soon realised why the end of the chamber was darkened when I neared. Part of the ceiling had collapsed, knocking the braziers over. And up a short stairway, a large stone box greeted me. But i doubted i could open it when inspecting the debris it was under.
The moment I stepped foot on the stairs the gem began to flash. ‘So this is it? A stone box? Maybe it’s behind it? What if it is inside? How do I get into it?’ I stood there feeling puzzled.
I paced in front of the half buried container. Whatever was inside I doubt I had the strength to obtain it. The sand covering it nearly reached the ceiling and the stone lid was as thick as my arm.
At the head of the stone container there appeared to be a large crack down one edge. ‘Maybe if I can get something into it, I could pry it open.’ So I ran back down the stairs and began rummaging.
‘Why did I bother?’ After multiple failed attempts I sat on the unburied portion of the steps with my head in my hands. Strewn around my feet were the broken remains of multiple items. Most of them were made of gold. The odd piece of iron appeared amongst it but the bar had shattered after trying to use it.
‘Damn it!’ In a fit of anger I grabbed the nearest item to me and started pounding it against the corner. ‘Why! Won’t! you! Open!’ I laughed and dropped whatever I was holding. ‘Not even a chip? Typical, I was always a failure…’
The plinth the stone box was laid upon made a good back rest. ‘Well I guess this is the end then?’ Just as I was pulling my rations out of my pack the room filled with the screams of a little girl.
I looked around and laughed. The sudden thud had startled me, but I doubt it deserved that reaction from a young man. ‘Damn… I really am losing my mind. Is the smell getting stronger?’ The perfume of lilies appeared to blow away the odour of stale air. And when I glanced towards the source of the thud I could not contain myself.
‘Thank you! Thank you lord mother!’ The head of the stone box had fallen away, revealing the dark confines of its interior. The smell appeared to be coming from within. And when I reached inside I could feel something soft. ‘What is this?’ I grabbed the item and pulled it out. A blue flower sat in the palm of my hand, giving off a gentle blue glow. ‘A lily? How… but… I don’t get this. How is it still alive?’
When I looked again, the interior of the container had lit up. I could see multiple lilies laid over a human looking shape. ‘Oh… this is a grave. Am I going to violate the sanctity of this place to save them… and myself?’
The gem in my hand was pointing inside the box. Each time I moved it to the side, the glow pointed towards the depths of the container. ‘So it’s in here?’ My arm reached into the box and I felt around. Fabric seemed to cover the long dried body. It reminded me of preserved meat.
‘This isn’t going to work, I can’t feel anything past the legs.’ I sighed then drew the holy cross on my chest. ‘Lord Mother forgive me.’ With a firm tug I pulled the remains out of the container. It would not have been so bad if I had not slipped on the sand and fell down the stairs. Another girlish scream filled the chamber when I came face to face with the corpse.
‘Phew… well that was easier than I expected…’ I placed the body at the top of the stairs then knelt beside it. They had been well preserved from what I could tell. The wrappings appeared to cover it with little remaining exposed.
‘So was this where you came from? Why am I speaking to a gem again, you are not a person.’ I shook my head then looked at the ornate necklace the remains was wearing. It appeared to be made of small chain links with three thumb sized gems along its front. While a single large ruby dangled beneath the others. But the central gem was missing.
‘Should I put it back? Why am I talking to my self like this?’ My body was tired and ached. I just wanted to sleep but I knew it could mean a quick death. So to feed my moment of curiosity I placed the gem into its slot. With a quiet click it locked into place and started to glow.
‘Not bad, now to…’ The other two gems began to glow with the first. ‘What… what now?’ A flash of light blinded me for a moment and I was sure I could hear my heart beating. But when I opened my eyes the ruby had begun to pulse. ‘That’s… that’s not my heart.’ The room itself had begun to shake. Sand started to trickle from the ceiling and the smell of lilies was growing stronger.
Yet as quick as it started the room returned to silence and the gems lost their glow. ‘Phew… I guess it was just a…’ the screams of a little girl filled the room again. And the smell of urine filled my nose.
The body had grabbed my arm and started moving. I managed to wrest my hand free and fall backwards down the steps. But by the time I managed to stand, the corpse was looking down at me from the top of the steps.
‘Im sorry! I didn’t mean to violate the sanctity of your grave!’ I stepped back, the remains stepped forwards.
A few bandages fell from the bodies face as its head moved. The deafening roar it let out sent me running. ‘What the hell is happening?!’ I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I continued on my way. And I screamed when I got to the door at the end of the room. A hoard of strange insects was moving along the corridor towards me.
‘How the hell do I get out now?!’ I looked around and noticed a doorway I had not seen before in the side of the chamber. Standing around was not an option so I raced towards it. The crystals that lit the hallways glowed with a consistent light. I knew I would be getting no help to escape now.
A second roar and glance behind myself sent my body into overdrive. ‘I’m sorry!’ The remains was standing in the doorway behind me. And the horde of beetles were passing it while blanketing the floor and ceiling.
‘I just want to go home… why the hell did I do this?!’
I ran and ran. There was no chance of escape if I stopped. This tomb for use of a better word was a maze. But each time I felt that I neared an exit the beetles appeared and I had to take a different route.
I sat in a side chamber with my back to the wall. The chittering of the beetles passed the doorway again as I held my breath. This was the first chance I had to rest. The old pots within the room were large, and upon inspection made a good hiding spot. Lucky for me their contents had long reduced to dust. So i slipped inside one and closed the lid.
‘How do I get out of this?’
A sudden clatter caused me to freeze. I was sure the patting of feet against stone was coming from the room. It stopped after a few minutes and I sighed. ‘That was close.’ But my luck failed when something smashed into the pot and dragged me to my feet. The remains had found me.
‘Ah! Let go?! How are you so strong?!’ The wind was knocked from me when it slammed me against the wall. The rasping noises it was making sent a chill down my spine. Whomever they had been in life, they were shorter than me. The remains head came up to my nose. Its head tilted up towards mine and I could see its teeth between the bandages. ‘Please let me go… I didn’t mean any harm.’
With a quick tug I was pulled forwards. My eyes opened wide and I started to choke when something dried and dusty entered my mouth. It felt as though I had licked the ground after a dry summer. Although the smell of lilies continued to tickle my nose.
What I could only assume was the corpses tongue tried to play with mine. But its dryness and stiff motions made me want to vomit. After a few moments the corpse yanked me to the side and pushed me away. I scuttled into the corridor and found the beetles filling one side of it. So I jumped and ran.
‘What the hell was that about?!’ I spat and rinsed my mouth out with water. Just thinking about the situation made me want to vomit. The taste of dust and sand was bad enough but something else lingered on my taste buds.
‘Oh come on! Now is not the time!’ That was the moment I knew I was going insane. Out of all situations to get hard in, it had to be when a dried up husk was snogging me. ‘Like seriously?! I know I have it hard with women but do you have to get happy over that?!’
The beetles continued to block my path and I soon found myself at a dead end. ‘No! not now! Why did I have to leave the gem behind? What kind of impulse would tell me “oh, what a wondrous idea it would be to leave my only key behind.” Damn it!’
I hammered against the stone door and watched as the mass of beetles continued thier approach. My fears only grew when the perverted remains appeared at the end of the hallway.
‘Come on! Open, open, open!’ The door began to slide down and I could not contain my laughter. The room on the other side had a single exit at its end. But between me and the door was a glowing blue pool that was covered in lilies. So I did the only thing I could, I dived into the waters and swam to the other side.
But once I surfaced and began to climb out of the pool, the door in front of me closed. ‘No!’ I ran towards it then hammered against it while crying. I had seen the glow of daylight. I was sure I had seen it. All I could do was slide to the stone floor and weep.
The skittering of insects brought my attention behind me. When I looked they had begun to fill the floor and walls of the room. And walking amongst them towards the pool was the fabric wrapped corpse. A rasping cough seemed to come from it as it approached the water’s edge.
‘Just do it! Gloat all you want! All you have done is kill an already broken man! So do it already!’
The remains’ head tilted, it then began to walk down hidden steps into the water. I watched as it disappeared beneath the surface. Chirping filled the air and the pool began to glow brighter. My sore eyes hurt from the luminance of the pool. The chorus from the beetles soon subsided with the glow.
‘Now what?’ I turned my head when I heard splashing and felt my breath drawn away.
The head of a tan skinned woman with long dark hair was peering out of the water. Her brilliant green eyes were curled into a smile along with her thin lips. I watched as she ascended from the pool, revealing her generous bust and her shapely hips and thighs.
My mouth moved but I could not find the words to say. The necklace was glowing while resting on her ample bosom. Her body was still wrapped in bandages but a scandalous amount of skin was now on show.
She stopped in front of me then kneeled. ‘Thank you.’ I jolted and closed my eyes when she reached towards me. Her chuckle and the delicate caress of her lips on my cheek sent my heart fluttering.
When I opened my eyes I saw her standing in front of me with a curious look on her face. After a moment she smiled then held her hand towards me. ‘I heard the wish in your heart. Now let us go and save them.’
I felt confused, but I took her hand and stood. ‘You… don’t want to kill me?’ She giggled and shook her head. ‘Then what about in the room?’ She smiled and snickered while moving my hair from my face.
‘What? Can’t a girl steal a kiss?’ The sparkling in her eyes hinted at her mischief, but my body almost gave out from the sudden relief.
I looked at her again and grinned. The beetles behind her had piled up and She sat back. They caught her with ease and formed what appeared to be a throne. ‘So my husband. Shall we start?’
My mouth dried as I inspected the delicate curves of her features. The tattoos beneath her eyes gave her a fearsome appearance. But the sudden lack of space in my drawers betrayed my feeling of awe.
‘Start with what?’
The curl of her lips sent my heart racing again. ‘You know.’ She chuckled ‘helping your village. We will rebuild my kingdom and they can live here as our subjects.’
After a few minutes something snapped in my head. ‘You… you were the woman at the bar!’
I felt more embarrassed when she gestured to herself. But the sparkle never left her eyes. I sighed then laughed. The door behind me started to open and I was greeted with a familiar face.
‘But… what… how?’ I looked between the two of them, the girls looked identical. The only major difference being the tattoos.
The woman from the bar lowered her hood and bowed. ‘My Pharaoh. I see this gentleman was also to your taste?’
I felt speechless, two black dogs ears stood on end above the woman’s head. The pair of them looked at me and smiled with a knowing look in their eyes.
‘Wait… did you say husband?’