Chapter Eleven: The Lost Temple of the Moon



by

Josie Beaudoin







The old priest excused himself almost at once, but left them in the hands of a seasoned warrior who, because of their victory, was in a cheerful and generous state of mind.

“Ilop has smiled upon our efforts and rewards our faith with victory,” he said.

“Forgive my ignorance,” Morgan said, with Geleth translating, “but what is the cause you are fighting over? Do your enemy not worship Ilop as well?”

“They worship Him wrong,” the warrior answered. “Their temples are abominations, their pyramids unholy in His sight.”

“Theirs are smooth,” Morgan said. “Is that what is wrong about them?”

“Of course. How can His servants approach Him if they cannot climb up to where He is?”

“Why do they do it, then?”

“They call it humility, but we know that it is laziness and cowardice that keeps them on the ground away from His holy presence. They crouch in their little temples and let the smoke of the dead carry souls to him rather than approach him themselves.”

“Whereas you...?” Morgan asked.

“Save the bodies, which summon the souls to stay with holy Ilop. It is unfortunate that your friend is still alive, and so will miss his chance to be united with Ilop, but we will not kill him now, nor the rest of you. We have more than enough bodies right now. Even as it is, I fear some will have to be thrown out.”

“And what do your other gods think of this war?”

“Ilop’s brothers cannot bear to see the heretics worshiping him with their cowardice. Our war is just, and we shall not cease until the wrongdoers are destroyed.”

“Do they ever attack you?”

“They raid us, to take prisoners to be killed on their altars,” was the reply. “They have no courage for noble or righteous war. They are an altogether worthless breed, and must be destroyed. It is Ilop’s will that the heretics should be stamped out.

“But,” the warrior continued, “now that you have found your companion and he is indeed alive, you must be eager to return to your ship. Where is it?”

“Our ship is anchored in Ligma, but we have not yet finished our search,” Emmy said. “We still have business here on the land.”

“What are you searching for?”

“The Temple of the Moon,” Emmy told him.

“‘The Moon!’” he said, laughing. “‘The Moon’ is another name for Ilop. Over there across the way are a dozen temples of ‘The Moon.’ Which one do you seek?”

“A lost one, an invisible one.”

The warrior laughed again.

“That is only a myth, nothing more than a story for children. It does not exist.”

“We have reason to believe it did, and does,” Emmy said. “We have a prophecy.”

The laughter stopped. The warrior looked at them from under serious brows.

“A prophecy, you say? And what is that?”

“It says that the lost temple, which can only be found by a blind man, can restore our friend to health. That is all we seek, to find his cure. Then we will gladly return to our ship and sail away.”

“And do you have a blind man?”

“No, but – ”

“My brother is blind. We will join you on this quest. My name is Aswedd, and my brother is Emiksin. He will find your ‘lost’ temple.”

“Well that’s very generous of you,” Emmy said, “but – ”

“We’d be honoured to have you along,” Morgan cut in. “Emmy, accept his offer. We need help.”

“Morgan, I don’t need help from a superstitious Lander.”

Morgan raised an eyebrow.

“Does that include me?” he asked. “Are my gods less distasteful to you than his?”

“Archard, you’re different.”

“No, I’m not. Emmy, you just called me by a title that makes the high priests of Vatha report directly to me and obey my orders, just as the high priests of Byj answer to my father. Since you don’t believe in either of those gods, surely I must seem superstitious in your eyes.”

“You do, but you are also a good man, Morgan,” she said.

“Proving that not all Landers are evil. Ask Galen if Aswedd is a good man. I hope he is, because once again I remind you: we need help. Put your pride aside and think of Jasper.”

“Tell me again why we can’t just walk into the jungle?”

“Because I’m hungry.”

“You’re always hungry, Morgan.”

“It’s part of my charm,” he answered without smiling. “The point is, we need supplies, and this man has them. Who knows how long we’ll be out there?”

“That’s not the only part,” Emmy muttered under her breath. “All right, if we’re gonna go let’s get going. Captain’s not getting any better just lying here.”

“Actually I think he is,” Galen said, “But traveling shouldn’t slow it down.”

“Do your friends not speak a civilized tongue?” Aswedd asked. “I thought all Floaters did.”

“Not all,” Emmy said. “But those who don’t seldom visit here.”

They waited while Aswedd called his servants together and gathered food and other supplies for their trek. While they were waiting, Aswedd fed them and had their clothing cleaned. Galen found something similar to a plant in Avyn that was used for sunburns, and upon examination found it was similar enough to have the same effect, and so he did what he could for Jasper’s sunburn. While slathering on the juice from the spiny plant, Galen heard a low moan. Jasper had regained his voice.

Soon they were ready to leave.

“Where were you searching?” Aswedd asked. His brother stood next to him, holding onto his elbow.

“We started at Ligma and went due south,” Emmy said. “We hit a road and were taken while crossing it. Now we’re quite a ways west of that position. Do you think,” she asked Kemen, “that we should return there before continuing our search, or just go south from here, or east? What should we do?”

“I’d ask the magicians if I were you,” he said. “I’m just the scout.”

“Let’s compromise and go south-east,” Morgan said. “That seems reasonable to me. If the line between the two armies is here, we should travel along that line. If either side holds the temple, they don’t know about it. Let’s search along the border between their two territories is my feeling.”

“Reasonable, yes,” Aswedd said when this had been translated for him. “I can take you there. But it is through the jungle, with no roads. We shall have to make our own way.”

“We always do,” Nyda said.

“Indeed,” Aswedd laughed good-naturedly. “We all do, don’t we? Very well then, let’s get to bed. We can start first thing in the morning.”

Aswedd was as good as his word. In the morning they broke their fast quickly and set out toward the jungle which surrounded the temple complex. The light dimmed as they stepped out of the clearing and into the tall trees. Within a few yards, they could see no temples and no clearing, only trees and vines and thick undergrowth in every direction. Once again swords were drawn, hacking their way through the thick brush for Emiksin and the sling bearers carrying Jasper.

After about a day, they crossed a second road, and by midafternoon, a third.

“Are there no roads going north to south in this land?” Geleth grumbled.

“No,” Aswedd told him, “There is nothing to the south, only wilderness, so there is no need for roads. No one wishes to go this way but us.”

They continued to walk in silence awhile. At length Aswedd spoke again.

“This lost temple,” he said. “If we find it, there will be a road built. I will build it.”

“When we find it,” Morgan corrected him.

“Yes,” Aswedd said. “Your prophecy. Tell it to me again.”

They traveled for several more days without a sign. Galen continued to question the land, while Kemen kept them going in a southerly direction. Jasper’s sunburn began to blister and peel, sheets of skin coming off at a time. The new skin underneath was tender. He was beginning to eat, taking drinks and broths, and though he had not yet spoken, he would respond to simple questions with grunts and nods. He was not yet walking, and they continued to carry him. If he was impatient with this, he gave no sign.

“I”m going to climb up there,” Morgan said. They were camped beneath an enormous vine-covered tree. “I want to see the sky for a moment.”

“Do you think that’s safe, Magister?” Galen asked.

“I climbed the Tree at home since before Paige was born,” Morgan said. “I know how to climb. Do you sense any dangerous animals up there?”

“No, Sir, I only worry that you might fall.”

“Well don’t.”

Morgan climbed the tree with confidence, but his strength was not great. The thick trunk was nearly vertical with few side branches, but the vines were so thick it was nearly like climbing a ladder. Several times he thought he might lose his grip on a vine, but never did he turn back. It was just not in him to admit that Galen might be right. At last he reached the thinner, upper branches and saw the round, full moon dimming the stars high above his head. There was a slight breeze which felt good on his sweaty face. Hearing branches rustling below him, he looked down and saw Kemen climbing up behind him.

“I thought it would give me a chance to see around,” he said.

From the treetops, there was nothing to see but more treetops in every direction. The jungle stretched out every way they looked, rolling hills, but no obvious mountains or valleys. Nowhere was there any sign of –

“There it is!” Morgan yelped. “I can see it!”

“Where?”

“Right there, over there, don’t you see it?”

“See what, sir?”

“The temple! Well a temple, anyway. It’s beautiful.”

“I must be missing it, sir, all I see is forest.”

“Right there,” Morgan pointed to the gleaming white temple rising above the jungle. It was impossible to miss.

“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t see it.”

“Are you blind? It’s right there.”

“Blind...?” Kemen thought for a moment. “‘Only a blind man can see it,’ isn’t that what the prophecy said, sir?”

“What are you talking about, I’m not bl- oh. That kind of blind? They’re calling me blind? Well, I suppose that’s fair. But Kemen, I’m telling you the temple is right there. It’s practically glowing, I can’t believe you can’t see it.”

“Sir, I’m going to go down and send Galen up. Perhaps he can sense it where I cannot.”

“Hey, send Emiksin up here instead. I want to see if he can - no, I suppose he can’t climb up here, can he? Alright send Galen up. But I think this is crazy. The temple’s just right there.”

After a few minutes Galen came climbing into view.

“Kemen said you found it?”

“I see it as clearly as I see you, apprentice. Can’t you see it?”

“Which direction is it, Sir?”

“Right there, it’s right there.” Again Morgan pointed to the temple gleaming white in the moonlight. Again, only he saw it.

“Kemen sent me up here with this,” Galen said. He handed Morgan a length of twine. “He said to tie it to a branch on the side of the tree where the temple is, so we can mark the direction on the ground. Tomorrow we’ll go that way and see if we can find it.”

“You tell them I’m not crazy - it really is there.”

“You see something Kemen and I cannot, nor can I feel it in the land. You can, in a way, be called ‘blind.’ These things are enough for me. I believe you have found it. Now whether the rest of us can find it is another matter. We’ll do our best, Sir. Why don’t you tie off this line for Kemen and come down now? We’ll search for your temple in the morning.”

“‘My’ temple. You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Sir, I do believe you, you know I can see you’re telling the truth, but we should get back down to the ground now.”

With Galen’s help Morgan got the line tied off and the two men descended from the green canopy to the jungle floor.

Emiksin, who stayed mostly to himself, was quietly disappointed.

“I had hoped to discover the temple,” he said, “but it seems I am the wrong blind man.”

“You’ll still be here when it’s found,” Geleth said. “After we’ve left, only you and your brother will be able to say that. You will be one of the first men to ‘see’ the temple in hundreds of years if what Aswedd tells us is true.”

“This is true. I shall content myself with that.”

The next morning they set off in the direction indicated by Kemen’s twine marker. By midafternoon Morgan called a halt.

“What did I tell you?” he said. “There it is.”

“Morgan, what are you talking about? There’s nothing there but jungle. We’re in the middle of nowhere,” Emmy said, exasperated.

“You can’t see it? You’re serious? What about you, Emiksin? You’re a blind man too, do you not see the temple there?”

“Alas, I see nothing, just as I always have.”

“Unbelievable. It’s as clear as day.”

“Describe it,” Emmy said.

“It’s white marble, and completely untouched by vines or overgrowth. As though an army of groundsmen had just finished trimming the clearing and polishing the temple.”

“There is no clearing here, it’s thick jungle in every direction.”

“You’re blind, you’re all blind,” Morgan said. “I am not blind and I am not crazy. There’s a temple here, right in front of your eyes.

“Here, come with me, I’ll show you.”

Reaching out, Morgan took Emmy by the hand and led her straight towards a huge tree. She pulled back, but he coaxed her forward.

“There’s nothing there,” he said.

Slowly she inched forward, one hand in front of her face to not bump her nose against the trunk. She walked straight through the tree, much to everyone else’s shock. Lowering her hand, Emmy turned back to look at her friends, but could not see them on the other side of the very real-looking tree. Cautiously she allowed Morgan to lead her forward through the dense jungle that was not a jungle.

“Now lay your hand out flat,” he said, stopping suddenly.

Emmy did as he said, and he guided her fingers forward until they stopped at something solid. With her eyes closed, she could feel the cool, flat surface of polished stone. Opening her eyes showed her touching... nothing, only air.

The others had followed, carefully making their way around the trees, until they stood just behind the pair. Morgan looked at Emmy.

“Can you see it?” he asked.

Emmy shook her head, no.

“But you’re touching it. You know it’s there.”

Nod.

“It has to be our ‘lost’ temple. If you could see the size of this thing... well it’s enormous.”

“Where is it?” Kemen asked.

Morgan took each of them by the hand and led them to the building’s smooth edge.

“Now,”he told Emiksin, “you are seeing as much as anyone here but myself.”

“It’s a pyramid,” the blind man said. “The side slopes.”

“It does?” Aswedd asked.

Morgan chuckled.

“Your brother ‘sees’ better with his hands than you do. He’s right, it is a pyramid, but not like any I’ve seen before. Not like yours, not like your enemy’s.”

“Are there stairs?”

“There are some. Other places are smooth. It’s not uniform. I have no idea how one would get to the top, if that’s what you’re asking. The bottom layer is smooth. I’m not sure how to describe it. I still can’t believe you can’t see it, it’s clear as anything and beautiful.”

“What I don’t understand,” Aswedd said, “is how you can see it and we cannot. My brother is the blind one here, should he not be describing it to us?”

“I am blind, after a fashion,” said Morgan. “I was a magician, like your priests, but the power was taken from me. I have lost the ability to see things I used to see that others did not. Now I am an ordinary man.”

Emmy snorted.

“You know what I mean, Emmy,” he said.

“I do,” she answered, “but you are anything but an ordinary man, magics or no. For example, you’re one of the very few people in the world who could see this. And here you are. What are the chances of that happening?”

“It was prophesied,” Morgan shrugged. “What did you expect?”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“North? Why north?”

“Ice, beloved. You won’t thaw, you won’t decompose. You’ll be safe in the North, just like winter all year.”

“But I hate winter.”

“And you like this?” Baqeas eyed his wife. True, with this many years gone she should have been nothing but a skeleton by now. Something about her return from the land of the dead had slowed the process, leaving her now, more than fifty years after her death, full of holes and covered in a soft mold, but little worse. She wore a girdle around her belly to keep her innards where they belonged, but it would not have mattered. She still lived whether they were present or not.

Her husband, on the other hand, had not aged a single day. His life had frozen in place, leaving him perpetually in his late twenties. His sons were elders in the tribe, but Baqeas remained as young as he had been when they were children, as young as he had been the night of Mjarni’s funeral and the revivification spell he had worked on her. His beard had been shaved in mourning, and had never grown back. His skin, pale from the long winter, had never tanned again.

“I know you hate winter, but you hate spring more,” he continued. “This way you won’t get any worse, and I can work on finding your cure without all these little side experiments to slow the process. You can sleep through it, you’ll never know time is passing. I can wake you when I’ve found a restorative that works, and in the meantime you can stay as you are instead of getting worse. The ice is a perfect preservative.”

Mjarni wanted to cry. Baqeas could feel the grief in her, though her tear ducts, like her eyes, had finally rotted out three summers ago. He was still working on a spell to restore them for her. It was these lesser spells, complicated experiments all, which kept him from the real work of restoring her completely and permanently. Those eyes, for instance, had kept him busy for nearly three years, and though he thought he was getting close, the rest of her had continued to deteriorate in the meantime. He just couldn’t keep up.

If she were frozen, though, he stood a chance of not only keeping up but of actually making progress on the main problem. It was with this hope as an enticement that he eventually persuaded her to make the long trek to the frozen north.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Well we found it,” Emmy said as they finished setting up camp. “The question is, since none of us can see it but Morgan, how does it help the captain? Any ideas?”

“I don’t know,” Morgan admitted. “We’ve been so worried about finding the temple, we didn’t stop to think what we’d do when we got here. I suppose I’ll have to go explore it on my own and hope I find an answer. Then I can lead you, carrying him, to the right spot.”

“I don’t like you going in there alone, Archard, and I’m sure Jasper wouldn’t allow it if he could speak.” Jasper sat on the ground, leaning against their pile of supplies.

“Take me along,” Galen offered. “As long as I stay directly behind you, there’s little chance I’ll run into anything else.”

“Alright, well there’s no need to get too excited until I find the way in. The first tier is smooth, and it’s quite a bit higher than I can reach.”

“Which leaves the rest of us out,” Aswedd observed. “You are by far the tallest man I’ve ever met.”

“I get that a lot,” Morgan agreed. “Let me explore the perimeter and see if I can find an entrance. Then we’ll talk about who goes inside and who doesn’t.”

Morgan took some cheese and dried meat, and wandered off in a straight line, apparently examining the sides of the invisible pyramid. He disappeared quickly into the visible but non-existent trees. It was only a few minutes later he came back, munching on the last of his cheese.

“It’s right there, sure enough,” he reported. “Not stairs, but a large opening. It seemed to go straight as far as I could see, but I didn’t go inside. Let’s go look after lunch.”

“What was that you just ate?” Nyda asked.

“An appetizer. Now I’m ready for some food.”

“I don’t know how you stay so thin with the amount of food you put away,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief.

“He’s putting weight on, believe me,” Galen said. “You should have seen him when we first met, he was nothing but skin and bone.”

Nyda looked at him skeptically, but Morgan nodded agreement.

“It’s true,” he said, and tucked into a loaf of bread Emmy handed him. “And food is one of the few pleasures in this world that I actually trust.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Are you sure we’re going north?”

“Of course I’m sure, why?”

“Because it’s been two weeks now and it’s not colder yet. How far is it to the ice?”

“It’s spring, beloved. The sun is moving north faster than we are, but there is a limit to its progress. We’ll pass its boundary soon enough. Why are you so impatient to get there, anyway? I thought you hated this whole idea.”

“I do,” his wife answered. “That’s why I want to get on with it and get to sleep. You may not be getting any older, but I am.”

“Well we’re going as fast as I can walk,” Baqeas said a little testily. “At least you don’t have to walk all the way there.”

“I can’t walk, idiot,” she said. “I’m tied to a travois behind a pony, nothing but baggage, just like your food and extra clothing. Which you’re not wearing, by the way, because it’s not cold. What if there is no ice? Have you thought of that?”

“There is always ice, Mjarni. Somewhere to the north is ice that never melts. Every account agrees on that. All we have to do is find it.”

“Well are you sure we’re going north?”

Baqeas ignored her.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


After lunch Galen checked Jasper once again, and, pronouncing him as stable as ever, followed Morgan to the temple’s entrance. They had both brought torches though it was broad daylight. Morgan insisted they would be needed, and Galen was in no position to question his master. He followed Morgan’s footsteps, assured that the temple was on his left side, but not sure quite how far. An arm’s length? A few yards? Galen supposed it did not matter as long as he stayed in line with Morgan.

At last they reached what Morgan announced as the entrance. It looked just like any other stretch of jungle to Galen, but he stood behind his master, put a hand on Morgan’s shoulder and together they advanced due south in the dim forest. Monkeys chattered overhead from nonexistent trees, and birds called in the distance. The temple was just as invisible from the inside.

“Amazing!” Morgan said. “Galen, bring your torch closer. Look at this.”

Galen tilted his torch over Morgan’s shoulder and peered at the ordinary foliage. He reached out and his hand touched a cool, smooth wall, but nothing was there for his eye to behold.

“The spell that’s keeping this place hidden has preserved it perfectly. These paintings should have rotted away in the heat and humidity, but they’re fresh and vibrant. They’re almost dancing in the torchlight, look at tha - oh, right. That’s so eerie, I keep forgetting you can’t see it. I suppose you wouldn’t want to go upstairs, would you?”

“I thought you said there were no stairs.”

“Not on the outside. The stairs are right over there.”

“I’m not so sure about walking up invisible stairs, Sir,” Galen admitted.

“No, I don’t think I would be either. That’s alright, you stay here with the invisible paintings and I’ll go up.”

“Are you sure that’s safe, Sir?”

“Do you sense any danger, apprentice? Anything alive up there waiting, or any traps?”

“Master, in this place not sensing anything means nothing. I can’t even sense the building. There could be anything up there, or nothing.”

“Then I’m going up. Somehow I don’t think just bringing Jasper here will be sufficient to restore him. Something needs to be done beyond that, some ceremony, or maybe he needs to be taken to the top, or something. I don’t know what, but I won’t find out down here.

“Is it still light for you?”

Galen nodded, yes.

“Hand me your torch then, would you? You can wait here, I won’t be long.”

“I don’t have much choice, do I? I can’t find my way out, or if I do I won’t be able to find my way back in. I’ll be right here.”

“Good. Hand me your torch.”

Morgan took the torch, shining dimly in the daylight, and headed further south. A few of his enormous strides later, and he stepped into open air and began walking up nothing. When he was more than double his own height in the air, he stopped and turned, walking on a flat surface high above Galen’s head. He moved back north.

“There’s a door here, it goes outside!” Morgan called. He continued on north until he was directly above Galen.

“I’m outside again,” he shouted. “There’s a walkway here, and - look, there are the stairs going up the outside of the building. They lead up to another door like the one you and I came in through. It’s like a combination of the two styles, the smooth and the stepped. Both sides of this war are correct in their construction, and both are wrong.”

Do you see anything up there that looks like it would help the captain, Sir?”

“No, not yet. Just stairs.”

Back and forth Morgan went, moving gradually south as he progressed up. Somewhere along the way he abandoned the torches, and they burned dully in the light.

“Ow!”

Galen looked over and saw Emmy moving through the trees in his direction.

“Where’s Morgan?” she asked as she finally navigated the corner and came up to him.

Galen pointed up to the small figure moving above their heads.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Emmy said.

Galen shook his head.

“No, he found stairs and he’s climbing the temple.”

“Aren’t you afraid he’s going to fall?”

“More or less terrified, but there’s really nothing I can do. I can’t follow him. I’d fall for sure. At least he can see what he’s doing. At any rate, he’s looking for some clues as to how to help Jasper, he thinks they might be up near the top. That is why we came here, so I suppose it’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Eventually Morgan began descending again. After about half an hour, he stood at what Galen guessed must be the top of the first flight of stairs.

“You really should come up here,” he said.

“I’m not altogether sure that would be safe,” Galen said, eyeing the nothingness below his master’s feet.

“Did you find anything?” Emmy asked.

“Well each level has passages going deeper into the pyramid,” Morgan said. “I didn’t explore those, I just went up the stairs. I’d rather not go in alone. By the gods, I wish you could see this!”

“Are there passageways here on the ground level?” Galen asked.

“Yes,” Morgan answered, “but I think we should search further up.”

“Still,” Galen said, “I’d feel a lot more comfortable exploring something that I at least don’t feel I’m going to fall off of. Those stairs make me uncomfortable.”

Morgan descended the last flight of stairs and peered at his apprentice thoughtfully.

“Very well,” he said. “Let us explore the first level.”

He handed Galen’s torch back to him and led him to a wall.

“Keep your hand against the wall, and the torch slightly in front of you. If the torch knocks into something, you know not to go there. I’ll be right here with you. I just really don’t feel like going in here alone. Are you coming, Emmy?”

“Perhaps Kemen, as a scout, would be better suited for this,” Emmy suggested.

“No,” Morgan answered, thinking back to Barkarnas Island and the panicky flight from the statue. “Kemen doesn’t do well underground. Trust me. Wait a moment, what’s this?”

A patch of forest like any other, Galen thought, but he said nothing.

“There are more stairs,” Morgan said. “They’re going down.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Well it’s colder now,” Baqeas said. “No ice yet, but at least the ground is still frozen. We’re making progress, my love, really we are.”

“It’s taken you long enough.”

“I said it was a long way away.”

Mjarni sighed. The effect was somewhat marred by the air sucking into and out of her chest.

“Yes, you did,” she admitted. “Anyway, I think it’s starting to work. Nothing seems to be getting worse, at least. Some days it’s hard to tell.”

“I think it’s halting, love,” Baqeas said. “Or at least slowing down. There was frost on the ground this morning.”

“You didn’t mention that.”

“We get frost on the ground at home.”

“In winter. You are so stupid sometimes, husband.”

“You aren’t impressed by my encouraging remarks, why should I keep making them? Waste of my time if you ask me.”

“No one did.”

They plodded along in silence, Baqeas and their small, hardy pony. A week later, they found the first permanent ice. Three days after that and there was no grass, no ground, only snow and ice in every direction.

They had arrived.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Magister, please think about this before you go down there. Let’s return to camp and talk about it,” Galen said. He did not like the idea of going under an invisible temple any more than he liked the idea of climbing up one.

“Galen, it’s no different from Sefti’s house.”

“That’s what the trees are like, perhaps, but this is entirely different.”

“But I can see it, and now that I think about it, the answer’s more likely to be down here than up at the top.”

“Let’s just go back and talk it over with the others, please?”

“Archard, Galen is right. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go down underground when one can’t even see the steps or even the hole. It looks like solid ground to me. I just don’t know.”

“Well someone’s got to come with me, I don’t want to go down there alone. It’s perfectly safe, you can feel the walls yourself. If you stay behind me, there’s no danger of bumping into anything, and then I won’t be alone.”

“If it’s perfectly safe, why not try to go alone?”

“Because I don’t want to. And because I suspect you wouldn’t let me if I tried,” Morgan said.

Emmy nodded.

“You’re right, I wouldn’t. So let’s go back and talk about it. Get ropes, torches, maybe a plan would be nice. I just don’t want to wander around blindly.”

Galen turned, his hand on the invisible wall, and headed for the exit. He was followed by Jasper’s first mate, who quickly caught up his torch hand at the wrist and let him guide her out. Morgan stood in the temple alone for a moment, staring down into the blackness of the stairwell, then with reluctance turned and walked out into the bright sunlit lawn.

They were still discussing plans for exploring the palace when night fell. As the moon rose over the horizon, something gleamed in the darkness above them.

“What is that?” Nyda asked.

“It’s a star,” Geleth said.

“No, it’s too big. Look, it’s getting bigger!” Emmy said. “Is it falling?”

“NO!” Morgan shouted with joy. “It’s the moon! The moon is hitting the top of the pyramid! By Vatha, you can see it, can’t you? You see the pyramid by moonlight.”

The dropped jaws of his companions was all the answer he needed. The moon rose higher, illuminating more and more of the temple, and the adventurers watched it growing bigger and bigger, reaching toward the ground inch by inch.

“Let’s get in there tonight,” Morgan said. “Before the moon sets, while you can still see it. I will bet you anything you can see the inside now too.”

Aswedd gave a yelp. The moon was touching about half the pyramid’s length when suddenly the whole thing appeared right down to the ground.

“You see it?”

Aswedd could only nod. Emiksin shook his head sadly.

“I still see nothing,” he said.

“I’m sorry, Emiksin,” Morgan said. “Prophecies aren’t always clear, I’m afraid.”

“Not always, but I had hoped.”

“Let’s get in there,” Emmy said. “I want to see the inside of this thing now. You don’t get half a prophecy, so somewhere in there is Jasper’s cure, and I’m gonna find it. We’ve wasted enough time on land when we could be on the Lady. Let’s move.”

They pulled the rest of the torches out of their supplies and lit them before heading to the pyramid, shining in perfect white marble before them. Morgan led them to the entrance, Galen and Aswedd carried Jasper, and they all went inside.

“Let’s stay together,” he suggested. “This place has corridors on every level, and I’d rather not have someone wander off, get lost, and find themselves stuck in midair come dawn. Those stairs are treacherous enough if you can see them, never mind if you can’t.”

“But we can cover more ground if we split up,” Kemen said.

“We listen to the Archard,” Emmy insisted, “and we do as he says. Lead on, Morgan.”

“Right. Well I think it’s most likely the answer we’re looking for is either at the top, or belowground. Let’s check downstairs first, since it’s unlikely to be very far if it’s there. And everyone keep your eyes open. We don’t know exactly what we’re looking for.”

“These paintings,” Aswedd said. “This man is holding a scroll. Can you read the scroll? Half of these figures are holding scrolls. Look at this one: ‘All living things are food for the moon.’ and over here: ‘The moon is a living being.’ ‘Ilop feeds off of all that lives and grows.’”

“Does it say anything about healing people?”

“Not here, but there are dozens of people in these paintings,” Aswedd said. “Morgan, my tall friend, did you see paintings on the other levels this afternoon?”

“I didn’t stop to examine them, but yes, I recall seeing a lot of colour. Mostly I was interested in finding the top.”

“And did you?”

“No, the wind was strong up there, and I was afraid of losing my footing. I never reached it.”

“Are we going below, or are we going to look at paintings?” Emmy asked.

“Downstairs,” said Morgan.














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