The Serpent’s Map Part IX

Posted: April 24, 2017 in Fiction, The Serpent's Map
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wait, are you still reading this? After a three month hiatus? You are some kind of masochist aren’t you? Anyway, continues on from here.

(Oh, hey, almost coming up on a year of having started it).

The trio head down another corridor, the floor sloping down under their feet. There are no torches on the walls. Instead, luminescent moss casts a pale green light down the corridor, resulting in odd shadows on the uneven walls. The air in the tunnel is musty and thick, every breath a struggle the further down they go. In the distance, they can still hear the sound of the bronze doors being battered, but the tunnel twists and turns back on itself enough that it is soon a dim reverberation.

“Why didn’t we take the boat when we had the chance?” Graciano grumbles.

“Gold. Treasures. Riches,” Ramiro says.

“And what do we find? Giant serpents,” Graciano retorts. “We didn’t think this through very well, did we?”

Viktoria stifles a laugh. “Only realizing that now are you?”

Ramiro shrugs. “What’s life without a little adventure?”

The floor evened out as the tunnel split into two separate tunnels. “Thoughts?” Viktoria asks.

“Head right. If it comes to it, we can always backtrack to this path,” Ramiro offers. Graciano nods in agreement.

Before long they come to a simple wooden door. Ramiro presses his ear against the rough grain and motions for silence. He frowns, not hearing anything louder than his own heart beat and the labored breathing of his companions. Pushing the door open, he squeezes his eyes shut at the sudden illumination. Light blazes, huge braziers blazing, casting light off gold and gems, treasures and tributes gained from countless shores. Serpent iconography dominates, coiled silver snakes lying in repose on top of coins from several countries, some long since collapsed and faded into history.

“All right, this is what we were after.” Ramiro grins, rubbing his hands together, a feral light gleaming in his eyes.

“Not yet,” Graciano says, turning back to the tunnel they had emerged from. The sound of sandaled feet pounding down the corridor echoed through the halls.

“What?” Ramiro asks, then drops his hand to his knives, pulling them free. The steel gleamed yellow in the light reflected off the gold.

“We should have figured they would have gotten the door open before long,” Viktoria remarks, her saber already in her hand. She shakes her arm out and drops into a guard position, prepared to defend the doorway.

Ramiro looks around, but no other exit presents itself. “Bar the door?”

Graciano shakes his head. “They can starve us out. See how the tunnel narrows? We can hold it here. There’s not enough of a straight line down the tunnel for firearms, so it will have to be close combat.”

Graciano’s blade glints in the light, his eyes hard and narrow. “Step aside, Viktoria. I’ll take the first wave.”

Ramiro wrinkles his nose and makes a disgusted noise in the back of his throat. “This isn’t how I thought I’d die, trapped like a rat in a hole.”

“Figured you’d be dancing a jig in the air instead?” Graciano asks, his eyes fixed on the tunnel. The shadows of their pursuers slide down the walls, and they can hear the hissing snake talk echo off the stone.

“Probably,” Ramiro replies. He moves to the walls, fingers playing across the stone. “It doesn’t make sense that this would be a dead end, however.

Graciano opens his mouth to answer, snaps it shut as the first of the pursuers round the corner. He catches him high in the neck with a lunge, recovering quickly, his blade knocking aside a thrust to his chest. His riposte is true, sliding between the boneless torso of his opponent. He tears the blade free, steps back as a snake-head snaps where his arm was a moment before. He punches with his free hand, and the head slams into the stone wall, recoils back, shaken from the blow. The head snaps forward again, and Graciano drops to one knee, the point of his blade entering under the jaw and driving up into the brain. He yanks his blade free, returns to a guard position.

“That’s two,” he calls out. “How many more do you have?”

“Don’t goad them,” Viktoria hisses, but another snake-man comes around the corner, a heavy-bladed cutlass clutched in its hand. Graciano leans back out of the way of a vicious descending cut, feels the air of its passing against his face. He lunges forward, but his opponent flows around the thrust, counters with a cut to Graciano’s gut. Graciano steps in, his blade locking with the cutlass. The snake-man opens its mouth, fangs dripping venom. The head snaps forward, but Graciano draws a dagger from behind his back, drives the short blade into the abomination’s neck. The snake-man thrashes, tearing the dagger free in the middle of its death throes.

“One side,” Viktoria says.

Graciano steps back, his arm already beginning to burn and he wipes the sweat from his brow. He watches Viktoria as she spins her blade, opening long cuts on her opponent, scales splitting before the cold steel edge of her saber.

“Any luck, Ramiro?” he calls out, not daring to turn around lest Viktoria fall and he find the room flooding with snake-men.

“Al…most. There!”

Graciano hears a click, and then a sound of stone grinding on stone. “Time to go!”

Viktoria backs into the room, saber dancing about her body, the sound of steel on steel echoing throughout the chamber. Graciano attacks from the flank, his blade taking the snake-man high on the side. The snake-man twists its head, hissing at him in preparation to strike, and then its head is bouncing along the floor, coming to a rest in a pile of coins. Viktoria offers a grim smile, then turns and runs through the opening created by Ramiro, Graciano hot on her heels.

Ramiro fumbles with a lever, and the stone wall closed shut behind them, leaving their pursuers hammering on the stone. The tree find thselves in a cramped hallway, the walls glowing with the same luminescent moss from before.

“Won’t they figure out how to get in?” Graciano asks.

Ramiro points to the dagger he wedged into the mechanism. “I figure that will buy us some time.”

Viktoria steps deeper into the tunnel. “Looks like it goes further down, though. And it’s a shame we had to leave all that coin behind.”

Ramiro grins, an evil lopsided affair. He reaches into his shirt, pulling five heavy gold chains out, each set with myriad gem stones. “Coin is overrated,” he says, sliding the chains back under his shirt. “And I know a fence who will give us a good rate if we ever get out of here alive.”

Graciano frowns slightly, then pushes past Viktoria. “Well, going back isn’t an option, so forward it is.”

Viktoria resists the urge to roll her eyes, but can’t help but let a sigh escape. “Can we hope that we’ll find a passage back to the surface?”

Ramiro nodded. “Sure, we can hope. Doesn’t mean that it will happen but hope is always good.”

Viktoria marks it as a sign of her great restraint that she didn’t kill the smuggler then and there. Besides, she might still need the two men before they managed to escape.

  1. […] piece is here.  But a short recap is that Graciano, a soldier, returned from a campaign to find his brother […]

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