Chapter Twelve: Starting To Remember



by

Josie Beaudoin







The stairs descended into blackness, and into blackness the party went, while night covered their tracks. Down and down they went, the stairs broad, the ceiling high, the passageway long and straight. The steps were somewhat bowed from generations of feet wearing them away, but other than that the passage could have been carved yestreday. The smooth walls held no paintings, no mark or message for the newcomer to explain its purpose or destination. There was only the silence, broken by their shuffling footsteps on the marble and the fluttering of their torches.

Morgan moved confidently. The bowed steps implied the building was designed for use, and unlikely to be set with traps. Being underground bothered him not at all, and he was quite prepared for the thought that it might all be an illusion to be proved true by his own passage down these steps, so similar to the donjon of the Golden Palace. He was, for the moment, engaged in the world but not invested in it.

The others, more closely concerned with reality, proceeded with greater caution, but were given courage by Morgan’s confidence as he strode ahead of them fearlessly into the darkness. Had they known, as Galen did, that it came from a lack of caring they might have been more nervous.

“Aah, here we are,” Morgan said after the long silence of the stairs. The floor leveled out and they found themselves standing before a huge double door. It was closed, opened outwards, and had no handles or latches or visible locks.

“How do we open those?” Emmy asked.

“Maybe there’s a magic word,” Geleth offered.

“Don’t be silly,” Morgan said. “There’s no such thing as a magic word.”

“But Magister, what about–”

“Laric talks too much,” Morgan said. “His words are unnecessary. Magic doesn’t need words.”

“But we use words when we–”

“A habit I’ve been meaning to break you of. No magic word is going to open this door. Now hush and let me think.”

Galen and Aswedd set Jasper down, sitting him on the bottom step. He would sit on his own now, and it seemed several times as though he had tried to speak, but with his eyes half-lidded and his face slack, he did not seem to be trying very hard. As the old embalmer had said, he seemed to have lost his will.

At last Morgan seemed to have made up his mind. He summoned Galen over to him for a quiet conference in a corner.

“I wish Ruby were here, I know the Ria have spells for this, but you and I are going to have to figure it out on our own. I think what we need is a wind or force on the other side of the door to push it open from there. I’m just not sure how to go about it, though. You wouldn’t happen to have any feathers in there, would you?”

“I don’t think so, Sir,” Galen said.

He opened his omnipresent satchel of herbs and other spellcasting ingredients and rummaged about inside. A single white feather drifted to the floor. Galen and Morgan stared at the feather, then looked at each other.

“Prophecy, Sir?”

“Prophecy.”

“Right. Well, there it is. What am I to do with it?”

“Will it fit under the door? It would be ideal if we could push from inside. If not, we may have to pull from this side. I don’t know how well or even if that would work.”

“Prophecy, Sir.”

“Yes, quite so. Nevertheless, these things aren’t given out for free. We still have to earn it.”

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


Mjarni opened her eyes and looked up from the ground where she lay wrapped in hides. The sky was cloudless and so pale it was nearly white. He must have found a cure for my eyes! she thought. The wind raced along the ground, whistling between rocks and boulders. It was bitterly cold, but she could tell it was getting warmer. She was beginning to thaw. With difficulty she turned her head and saw her husband huddled near the campfire he had made for himself, and she knew he would not put her near it. It was risky enough to have come south at all.

“You're awake.”

“It's getting warmer.”

“I know. Hang on, you're going to be alright. I've found it, my love, I truly have.”

“You've said that before, Baqeas.”

“I slowed it, didn't I?”

“By freezing me solid, of course you have. I was stable, not getting worse. So why are we going south now? Why did you wake me?”

“Because the ice was never meant to be a permanent solution, only to hold you until I found the cure. Which I have! Mjarni, it's amazing, you wouldn't believe what I've been doing, the advances I've made, the... what is it?”

“How long was I frozen?”

“Well it's taken me -”

“How long?”

“A long time.” His voice was soft, nearly taken by the wind.

“Ten years? Twenty? How long, Baqeas?”

“What does it matter? Neither of us is going to die any time soon.”

“It matters because I want to know.”

Her husband sighed, his look of excitement turning to resignation. “Two hundred and thirty-seven years,” he said at last.

“Two hu...” Mjarni's mind reeled. Was it possible?

“But the things I've been learning, beloved! I can do things no man has ever done, things no man ever dreamed of before! Once this damage has been reversed, we will be able to do anything and everything. Together! The world is so vast, you wouldn't believe the things I've found, I have so much to show you!”

“You really think you can do it? Undo all of this?”

“I know I can. I told you it would take time, and it has, for me. Mjarni, there have been times while you slept that I despaired, convinced I would never find the answer, that I would never see you whole again, that it was hopeless. I would spend years on an experiment only to discover it was useless, and start another. And another. Over and over until my soul was numb from it. I envied you your sleep.

“I tried to give up, tried to stop caring, tried to kill myself a dozen times over, but you know that never works. And you know I can no more stop caring and trying than I can stop living.”

“You are an aeternal optimist, you always have been. I don't know where you find the strength.”

“In you, of course. You know you're my strength, you always... but Mjarni, I found it. No mortal ever could, it took this long to learn from enough mistakes to find the answer, but by the gods, I found it! I'm going to make everything alright, you'll see. I can do this now, I have strength and knowledge you wouldn't believe!

“So set aside your fear, beloved. I'm taking you south, yes, and you're going to thaw, and you're going to heal. There are so many things I want to show you.”

“I'm tired, Baqeas. Tired just listening to you. You're always so full of energy. I'll share it with you if this works, but until then please let me rest.”

“When it works, beloved.”

But Mjarni was already asleep.

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


“Now what, Magister?”

“Now if everything’s in position, just ignite it.”

Galen nodded. He concentrated a moment.

“Vash!” he whispered. Morgan glared at him in disgust.

“You had to do that, didn’t you?” he asked. “You don’t need to say it aloud, how many times have I told you that?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, it’s just habit,” Galen answered as the doors swung open on a hot breeze that ruffled everyone’s hair and clothes and made the torches sputter.

“Told you there’d be a magic word,” Geleth said to Emmy.

“So it would seem,” she nodded.

“Let’s get inside,” Morgan said, quickly changing the subject. “Jasper’s cure should be nearby. Let’s go find it.”

“And what if it’s not down here at all?” Kemen said. “What if it’s up at the top of the pyramid?”

“Then we carry him up there,” was Morgan’s reply. “Complaining and bellyaching every step of the way. But we won’t have to, because it’s right... here.”

They turned a corner and there was no mistaking it. A shallow pool of clean, bright water lay in the center of a large round room circled with pillars. Looking up, they saw there was no ceiling in the room, only a shaft that went all the way to the open sky. Moonlight was slowly making its way down the inside of the shaft.

“This must come out at the top of the temple, “ Morgan said. “The moonlight’s going to pass directly overhead soon. Get him in the pool.”

He did not have to tell the Ria twice. While Aswedd described the room and the pool to his brother, Jasper was stripped of his clothing and lowered into the cool water. He sat bewildered, splashing his hands in the water like a child while the sound of it echoed around the chamber. Everyone waited as the moon crept higher into the sky, farther down the pyramid shaft, closer to the pool and its patient.

One moment it was near; the next it was there. Bright light flooded the room as the moonlight hit the water dead on, bathing Jasper in white light. He stood, somewhat shakily, and moved to the center of the pool as a crack like lightning filled the room, knocking everyone to the walls except Jasper who stood in the center of it, his body aglow and his hair standing up. The sound reverberated, refusing to die, a lightning storm swirling around the whole chamber. Jasper began to rise into the air.

“It’s killing him!” Emmy shouted.

“No, let it work,” Morgan yelled back. “This is what we came for.”

There was nothing they could have done anyway. No one could move from the walls, the blast of wind and electricity kept them all rooted in place.

After a few minutes the moon moved on, climbing up the wall opposite where it had come down, and Jasper sank back to the pool. He sat and threw himself backwards, immersing in the shallow water, rolling in it and laughing uproariously.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you-hoo-hooooo!” he howled up the shaft as the wind died and the storm ebbed.

“Captain?”

Jasper’s head swivelled around at the sound of Emmy’s voice. Seeing her face he jumped up out of the water and strode over to her, catching her up in a huge hug.

“I know you,” he said. “The green stone, emera - Emmy! That’s it! I remember you! You’re Emmy, my first mate. First mate. I have a ship. Is that right? Do I have a ship?”

He was reassured by all the Ria that he was indeed right.

“I have a ship. You’re my crew!” He hugged Nyda and Geleth in quick succession. Nobody seemed to mind that his clothes still lay in a pile on the floor.

“Do you remember me?” Morgan asked.

“As if I could ever forget a promise,” Jasper said with a grin. “Lost without a school, you are, brother. And lost without you I’d be. Wait, is that right?”

“Captain, what happened to you?”

“I don’t remember it very well,” he admitted. “In fact, I don’t remember much at all. The important things, obviously - my ship and my crew and my family - but beyond that... say, where are we, anyway?”

“Well you’re certainly full of energy again,” Galen remarked. “It feels like apart from some memory loss you’re as healthy as it’s possible to be. I believe the memory will return, given some time and perhaps a bit of nudging.”

“Well I feel great! Feel free to nudge away. Tell me where we are again?”

“Inland,” Emmy said. “Zamburrha, in a pyramid deep in a jungle. Trying to find a cure for you, which seems to have worked.”

“Of course it worked,” Morgan said. “There was a prophecy, remember? No one would even know this place existed if it weren’t for the prophecy. Aswedd, are you planning to share this place, or keep it a secret from your people?”

“How can you even ask that?” the warrior was smiling. “This temple belongs to everyone. It must be shared equally. Why, it will bring an end to the war.”

“Well don’t count on it,” Morgan cautioned. “Once people get used to a way of living and worshiping, they’re usually reluctant to give it up. You may just open a third front in the war. Give it some thought before just announcing you’ve found the answer.”

“Your words are wise,” Emiksin said before his brother could object. “I shall ponder them.”

Nyda, after embracing Jasper and receiving a kiss for her efforts, moved towards the still pool. She unwrapped her bandaged arm and dipped it into the water. Though not as spectacular as Jasper’s transformation, the wound did nonetheless slowly close, the water glowing a silvery blue around her arm.

“Hey, try this, everyone,” she said. “It feels wonderful. Who knows what it might restore?”

Emiksin followed her voice to the water’s edge.

“Have you a wound that it healed?” he asked.

“Yes, my arm.”

“Good lady, would you help me to wash my eyes with this water?”

Nyda, watched closely by the others, guided Emiksin’s hands towards the pool. He touched the water and a smile spread over his face. Cupping the water in his hands he raised it to his face and washed it. Then he bent and submerged his face in the pool itself. When he came back up for air, there was disappointment writ on his face.

“I still cannot see,” he said. “This pool, it seems does not cure everything.”

“Were you blind from birth?” Morgan asked softly, coming up beside him.

“Yes,” was the answer.

“Then it was not a wound, and there is nothing to be healed. I am sorry.” Nonetheless, he could not resist dipping his left hand into the water himself. Nothing happened, no return of the powers he had lost six years ago. That, it seemed, was also not a wound.

The others washed their cuts and bruises from the battle a few days previous, and were healed at once. The pool retained its power, but could not help the two men who desired it most.

“There is no point lingering here,” Aswedd said. “We should continue to explore the temple. I am most anxious to read the paintings and their inscriptions. Perhaps I can discover why this place was abandoned and how it came to be lost.”

“I think you’re right,” Morgan said. Suddenly, he did not wish to remain near the pool which did him no good. He found he was resenting the curative water’s lack of ability to restore him, especially considering Jasper’s dramatic recovery. He strode out of the room, picking up one of the torches they had left by the door. The others followed him, Jasper forgetting his clothes and Galen retrieving them.

“It looks like that chamber is directly under the center of the pyramid,” he said, turning to the others. “I don’t see any other side passages down here, so let’s return above. I’ll take a party upstairs while Aswedd reads his paintings.”

They returned to the stairs, and as they did the heavy stone doors swung silently back into place, locking them out once more.

“I’m guessing the priests here were magicians,” Morgan said. “Using magic to work ‘miracles’ and so forth. Some of our priests at h- in the FreeLands are magicians.”

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


“Baqeas, I can't drink, you know that. There are too many holes.”

They were in the workshop he had built, a huge, airy place with windows everywhere. The heat was oppressive, the humidity beyond her believing. Mjarni's body had thawed weeks ago, and decay was beginning again. She brushed at the green mold growing on her skin, but moving hurt, and she stopped.

“You won't have to, love,” her husband said. “I've had my workers busy since I left making as much of it as possible. We'll simply bathe you in it. Come and see.”

Mjarni shuffled along beside him, painfully aware of the horrified gazes following her and the stifled whispers behind her back. Of course she had no idea what they were saying about her in their strange tongue, but she could guess well enough. Baqeas had workers, alright, but they were like no one she had ever seen. Human, certainly, but so different in appearance with their dark skin and slanted eyes. Exactly the same in reaction to her as anyone she had ever met, though. No one but Baqeas could look at her without flinching. She did not blame them.

Everything was strange here, the plants, the animals, even the people. Mjarni had never been so far south before, had no idea it would be so different from home. It was hot, and everything was green – including herself, now. There was water everywhere. They had traveled down a river on their way to this city, and it had rained frequently. She had never seen rain before, and it had taken Baqeas a bit of time to calm her down the first time it happened. She had also never been in a boat. Rivers were for following at home, they were too shallow for boats.

Baqeas stopped in front of a large tub full of a liquid that looked milky and a little oily.

“For me?” Mjarni asked.

“All for you, my love,” he answered.

“What is it?”

“It's like nothing you've ever seen before.”

“Well I can see that! Baqeas, what is it?”

“Mjarni, it would take months to explain to your satisfaction, possibly years. It is a compound of several different plants and a few other things, magically enhanced, which heals wounds and illnesses. Most people drink it, but we'll immerse you in it. We should begin to see the results quickly – a few days at most.”

“Most people. So you've tested it already.”

“Beloved, of course I have. I wouldn't have wakened you to test a theory.”

“And it works?”

“Mjarni, please. Of course it does. What's the matter?”

“I don't trust it. It just seems too easy. I sit in a tub and all is well? Too easy.”

“Easy? I've spent over two hundred years working on this, it wasn't easy. I've tested it on every creature I could find from insects to humans and everywhere in between, and when it failed, I started over and tested it again. And again. Don't you understand how much time has passed? By the gods, woman, I've spent lifetimes on this, these servants' families have been working for me for generations. It looks easy to you because it's been only a few weeks, but I assure you, it was not easy. I've worked on nothing else, and all this time you slept. Two hundred years, Mjarni! Do you understand how long that is?” Baqeas was shaking.

“All right, help me in. You're so touchy.”

“This is going to sting, a little,” Baqeas said as he lifted his wife gently in his arms and eased her into the bath clothes and all, “but nothing a woman of your strength cannot bear.”

“First you scold me, then you flatter me,” Mjarni scoffed, then she hissed as the fluid slipped past what remained of her skin.

“I tested it on myself, you know. Not just others, but myself as well. Sliced myself up, burned myself, this healed it all.”

“Of course it healed you, you're immortal, idiot,” Mjarni said through clenched teeth.

“Yes, but faster than I would on my own,” her husband said. “And I wanted you to know that I do understand how it hurts. That you're not alone.”

“Oh, that again. Right, I'm not alone. Not in the least. So how long do I stay in here?”

“I'd say until the flesh closes. A day, perhaps more. I know I said this works fast, but you're very badly decomposing.”

“And if it doesn't close?”

“No, that won't happen.”

“Have you tested this on the dead before?”

“Of course I have, do you think I wouldn't have thought of that? It works, I'm telling you everything will be alright again and you'll be healthy and sound. Soon.”

Mjarni sighed.

“Baqeas, what ever am I going to do with you?”

“Besides love me and adore me, you mean?”

“Yes, because that won't take very long.”

“I love you too,” Baqeas said with a gentle smile, “and I've missed your insults. I've missed you. By Balik, I've missed speaking my own language. I had to practice on my way north to find you. It's been such a very long time.”

“So you keep saying. Would you do something for me, since you love me so much?”

“You even need to ask? Tell me.”

“Send the gawkers away.”

Baqeas turned to see the workers standing huddled at a distance, staring and gaping. He spoke a few words in the strange tongue she did not know, and they all bowed their heads and left the room without a word. The door closed, and the two were alone.

“Anything else you desire?”

“Yes. Sleep.”

“The pain -”

“Is less now. Please let me sleep.”

“I'd have thought you'd have had enough sleep after all these y-”

“Baqeas!”

“Yes, alright. You sleep, but I'll be nearby. You only have to call out.”

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


“Come on, let’s run!” Jasper shouted. “I haven’t felt this good since - well since I don’t know when. Never, maybe. I can’t really remember, but have this feeling that everything’s better than it was. Don’t you feel it?”

Jasper was running circles around everyone, slapping them on the shoulders and hugging them without restraint. His grin never faltered, even when looking at Morgan’s grim face. He kept up a nonstop patter of excited words that matched his boundless energy. As they reached the top of the stairs he turned to Morgan again.

“Oh, I feel so much better!” he said as he squeezed his brother. Morgan simply walked on, ignoring his brother’s enthusiasm.

“Where are we going?” Jasper asked.

“Back to camp,” was the answer. “I want to see if any of our gear is left, and if it is, I’m starving. I’m sure you must be hungry too, you’ve hardly eaten in over a week.”

“Food? Oh, now I’m hungry!” Jasper said. “You’re right, I am. Why haven’t I eaten, anway?”

“Because you were dead.”

“I was? You mean like... like ‘dead?’

“Partially dead. You were very ill. You were getting better slowly, but the pool finished the job, giving you a complete recovery, it would seem.”

“Except my patchy memory, which is alright because it’s coming back in bits and pieces, and when can we get back to the ship? I can’t wait to see the others. Why isn’t Ruby here if I was so sick?”

“Because Galen is better suited for hiking through the jungles,” Morgan said.

“Oh, right. Well that makes sense. Oh look, food!”

They had left the temple behind and returned to find their food supplies were being broken into by local nocturnal animals. When these had been frightened away with torches and shouts, the group stoked up their campfire, salvaged what they could and made a meal for themselves. Jasper ate ravenously.

“Do not worry about food,” Aswedd told them. “We will hunt tomorrow. These forests are brimming with life.”

Galen nodded agreement. Everyone could hear the animal life all around them, and the vegetation was thick enough to need swords to get through. Surely much of it was edible, if only they knew which was safe and which was not. With Aswedd, they had someone who knew.

After their meal, Nyda agreed to sit with their belongings while the others went back to the temple. Aswedd and Emiksin in particular were eager to explore the vast building. Jasper was too excited to sit still, and Morgan, Galen and Emmy would not leave his side. Kemen decided to get some sleep. Someone had to be awake in the daylight.

“Tell me what these words mean,” Morgan asked Aswedd. Geleth dutifully translated. Morgan studied the panel for a few long minutes, then moved to the next one.

“And this one?” he asked. “Show me each word, then each sentence.”

“Forgive me, sailor,” Aswedd said, “but what use are our words to you? You do not even speak our tongue, why should you wish to read our writing?”

“I’m looking for something. Please, continue to show me. What does this panel say?”

They continued on through the night, and by dawn Morgan was picking out words and phrases on his own. As the sun cleared the jungle horizon, the temple faded away, just as it had appeared the night before. There was a collective cry of dismay from everyone but Morgan, who still saw it clearly, and Jasper who was delighted by the effect. As he and Emmy were on the third floor when the temple disappeared, Morgan went up and brought them to safety, much to Jasper's amusement. He walked back to the camp with the others, relit a few torches, and headed back to the pyramid.

“What are you doing?” Galen said. “Master, aren’t you tired? You’ve been up all day and night.”

“There are writings we took from Barkarnas that match this script,” Morgan said, “and I can’t read a word of it. I can’t translate what I can’t read. I’m going to learn this before we leave.”

“But surely you can’t pick up enough of it to be useful,” Galen countered.

Morgan arched an eyebrow, and spoke directly to Aswedd.

“Will you come with me?” he asked in perfect Zamburrhan. To his apprentice he said in Old Erlayan “I don’t see why you’re so shocked. We’ve been here over a week now. Seeing it written down really helped solidify it in my mind. Now I want to see what I can find out about this place: who built it, why, when... there are so many questions whose answers are on those walls.”

“I-I didn’t know you spoke Erlayan,” Galen said.

“One of the first languages my Magister taught me as a child,” Morgan replied. “Understanding the way someone talks, the way they construct their language, can tell you a lot about their mentality. People are defined by the way they speak, even if they don’t know it. If you wish to understand the enemy, it helps to speak his language. Not that Old Erlayan was his first tongue, by any means, but it was one of the latest. I’ve also mastered seven Djanaran tongues and four Fremerian ones as well as all the ancient languages of the Free Lands. I even know a touch of Old Rian, though the Ria try to keep it to themselves as much as they can. I’ve never encountered Zamburrhan before, though. I want to learn as much as I can before we have to leave. Now if you’ll excuse me, time is wasting. I don’t know if the pyramid will be visible to the rest of you tonight, and Jasper is getting anxious to return to the ship. I have a lot of work to do before then.”

Morgan turned to Aswedd again.

“Will you come with me?” he repeated. “I know you cannot see the drawings, but I can perhaps draw them on the forest floor and you can help me learn them.”

“You are a scholar of some means,” Aswedd said. “It would be my honour to help you learn our writing. You seem already to understand our speech.”

“If you and your brother represent accurate examples of your peoples’ speech then I think I’ve got it. It’s just your writing that I need to understand better. I wish this didn’t all have to be done by torchlight, though. It makes it more difficult to read.”

Morgan and Aswedd left camp, returning to the invisible temple carrying torches. They had no paper but Morgan’s memory.

“Well, who’s for hunting?” Jasper said. “I could eat an elephant! I don’t suppose there are any elephants around here?”

“Wrong continent, Captain,” Geleth said. “Elephants live in Fremere, remember?”

“I knew that. Where are we, again?”

“Zamburrha, Sir.”

“Oh. Right. So who’s up for hunting? I could eat a camel!”

“Have you bows and arrows?” Emiksin asked.

Emmy nodded, then remembering herself, said “Yes, we have.”

“You would do best to try to shoot a monkey, I think,” the Zamburrhan said. “You can hear that they are plentiful around here, and the meat is good.”

“I can hear them,” Geleth said, “but I can’t see them. The foliage is so dense, they’re well-hidden. Maybe if I climb a tree myself...”

“You will have to forgive me,” Emiksin said. “I know little of hunting.”

The hunters set out, Kemen in the lead and Galen bringing up the rear. Before they had gotten very far, Nyda noticed something familiar to every Rian.

“Look, bananas!” she said. She climbed up and cut down a bundle of them.

“Are you sure?” Emmy asked. “There might be poisonous varieties we don’t know about.”

“Let me see,” Galen said. He took one of the fruits and smelled it. Then with his knife he opened the rind and smelled it again. He took a tiny taste from the soft fruit inside.

“It’s sweet,” he said, spitting out the morsel, “and I taste nothing bitter that would indicate a toxin. We had best bring it back to Emiksin, though. I’d hate to get all of us killed by being wrong. Still, if it’s safe to eat, there are dozens of these plants around. We’ll feast, monkeys or not. Let’s move on. These aren’t going anywhere.”

Kemen scaled a large, vine-entangled tree in an attempt to see if he could locate any prey. As the dense foliage opened out, he found himself looking at the same scenery he had seen with Morgan only two nights earlier: an unbroken landscape of treetops in every direction. He quickly returned to the ground.

“Who is the best shot amongst us?” he asked.

The Ria, to Galen’s surprise, both pointed to Jasper.

“Are you sure?” he asked, eyeing the scar that traced across Jasper’s face. “Forgive me, Jasper, but you never seemed to have much luck back in Erlaya.”

“The captain?” Emmy said. “You must be mistaken. He can knock the eye out of a shark at six knots.”

Geleth nodded agreement.

“Can we have shark steak when we get back to the ship?” Jasper asked.

“Captain, can you please stay focused? We need to kill something here.”

“I know. I just like shark meat, that’s all.”

“Well we won’t find any in these treetops, but there are monkeys up there,” Kemen said. “Now I can take down a deer as needed, but these branches are swaying in the wind and under my weight, not to mention under these monkeys’ weight. I don’t think I could make the shot. They’re very strange-looking creatures, by the way, if what I saw were ‘monkeys.’”

“You’ve never seen a monkey before?” Emmy asked.

“We’ve nothing like them in Erlaya, or I would have seen it,” Kemen said.

“Well let me go look,” Jasper said. “I can tell you quickly enough what they are, and if it’s edible, I’ll drop it like a dead branch. Or a dead monkey. Anyway, we’ll eat it.”

With that he took the quiver and bow Emmy offered and scampered up the tree with his newfound energy.

“I hope he doesn’t scare them off,” Kemen said.

They waited while the sound of Jasper scrambling up through the branches gradually faded, then there was silence. It lasted longer than Galen was comfortable with.

“Do you think someone should-” he began to say, when he was cut off by the loud sound of branches breaking as something fell to the jungle floor. A moment later Jasper scurried to the ground himself and bounded off in the direction of the noises. They followed after him, and after a few minutes found themselves confronted with a most unusual beast, Jasper’s arrow protruding out the back of its head.

The beast had four limbs, but unlike any creature Galen or Kemen had ever seen, each limb ended in a primitive hand. It was covered with a coarse, black fur except for its hands and its face, which was flat and eerily human-looking. It had a long, curving tail which was still twitching slightly as they approached.

“Yep, that’s a monkey,” Geleth said. “And a good-sized one, too. Good job, Captain!”

“That’s an amazing shot,” Galen said admiringly.

“The swaying branches are just like the rolling of a ship,” Jasper answered with a shrug and a grin. “Let’s get this thing back to camp, I’m starving.”

“Now we have two of them,” Emmy said.

“I’ve barely eaten in over a week,” Jasper said, “and Morgan went even longer. We’re making up for lost meals.”

Morgan and Aswedd were still gone when the hunting party returned to camp with the monkey and a sample of the bananas to show Emiksin.

“No,” he said, “these are not poisonous. In fact, the monkeys sometimes eat them. What colour are they? I am told the ones that are better are red.”

“These are yellow,” Kemen told him.

“They are still safe to eat,” the Zamburrhan said. “But the red ones are better.”

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


It was not until early evening that Aswedd and Morgan returned from the invisible temple. They both eagerly partook of the hunting party’s catch and discovery. Morgan lay down as soon as he had eaten.

“Wake me when the moon rises,” he said. “I want to go over the paintings some more when we can both see them.”

“Master, that’s only a few hours,” Galen said. “Surely you need more rest than that.”

Morgan glared at him.

“When the moon rises,” he insisted. Then he rolled himself into a blanket and fell fast asleep.

As ordered, Galen woke Morgan as the moon touched the tip of the pyramid. Together the group watched as the light slid down the sides of the massive building and Morgan once more saw the others gasp as the building came into full view once more. Jasper, who had not seen the effect the night before, was particularly entranced.

“How does it do that?” he asked. “How does it turn invisible in the day?”

His eager questions were greeted with mystified shrugs.

“Galen, is it a spell?” he asked.

“I don’t sense anything,” Galen answered, “but that doesn’t rule out the possibility.”

“It’s the only logical explanation,” Morgan said. “I’ve never heard of a natural stone that’s visible only by moonlight. I think that sort of thing would become rather famous if it existed.”

“Like singing turtles?” Jasper said.

“Uh, yes, precisely,” Morgan answered. He eyed the other Ria warily, but they seemed to shrug off his bizarre statement as a bit of mania mixed in with his hyper state. “There must obviously be a spell on the pyramid, probably to keep everyone in the world from using the healing spring.”

“Can we go back down there tonight?” Jasper asked.

“You may, if you wish,” his brother answered, “but I’m not going down. There are no paintings down there, and I wish to read the walls. Upstairs is the place for you and me, Aswedd, if you’ll join me.” Morgan did not mention his distaste for the healing waters that did not heal his worst wound.

Wide-mouthed, the temple awaited their return. Jasper and Emmy went below, while Morgan and Aswedd ascended the stairs to examine further up. Each pair carried torches, and as one pair disappeared above and the other below, the entryway was once again left in darkness.

For Aswedd, the night was beyond magical. The very fact of the temple, the things it was telling them, and the brilliance of his companion all combined to overwhelm his senses, as he let Morgan read the painted scrolls to him, only needing to correct a word or a pronunciation occasionally.

They were climbing the stairs from the second level to the third when Aswedd made a declaration.

“I shall build a road,” he said. “I will be the guardian, the priest. They will all come.” There was wonder in his voice, but Morgan was not at all surprised.

“There will be resistance,” Morgan told him. “Both sides will wish for life to continue as it has. I told you this before.”

“But once they see the temple, they cannot help but be convinced,” Aswedd said.

“How will you make them come down the road once it is built? For that matter, how will you find this place again once you have returned home?”

“I will begin immediately,” was the answer. “I will hack a road through this jungle with my own hands, and bring in workers before it can grow back. I will not let this temple be lost as it was once.”

“Did it occur to you,” Morgan asked as they topped the stairs, “that perhaps the temple was lost for a reason, and should stay lost? Aah, here we are, more paintings. What do you make of this one?”

Aswedd fell silent. Morgan had raised doubt in his mind, and doubt was not something the warrior was comfortable with. From battle against the enemy for religious righteousness to a new religious zeal was an easy step. To restrain himself was unfamiliar territory.

“Well, let’s see if the pyramid itself has anything to say on the subject,” Morgan said in a conciliatory tone














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