I was wandering through my theme for the A2Z Challenge, when I remembered the tales of the avaricious explorers I used to do. I enjoy these. I must do some more. I just wonder why a guy called Carruthers turns up in them so often! It’s a name that reeks of upper-class twits in the UK, although he was also a lovely racehorse, as is his brilliant brother, Coneygree. My Carruthers is definitely of the upper-class no-holds-barred deepest-unexplored jungle variety of twit.
For this month’s Flashback, here is his first outing, done as a random title (Amethyst from one list, God from the other) challenge from Chuck Wendig in 2014.
The Amethyst God
There was, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel.
After two days of walking, climbing, crawling and wriggling through this tunnel, there was a light, and it was not daylight, at the end of the tunnel. It was too blue, too violet.
“What d’ye think, Hawkins?” Carruthers muttered to his companion, currently stopped on all fours behind him, with his face uncomfortably close to Carruthers’ rear end.
“Of what, old chap?”
“That light up ahead.”
Hawkins shouldered his way alongside Carruthers.
“Watch out man, you’ll squash me!”
“But I can’t see unless I come alongside, old chap.”
“Bah,” said Carruthers, but he acknowledged the truth of the matter by leaning towards the tunnel wall.
“O-oh,” said Hawkins on three notes. “That looks promising, doesn’t it now? Those local chappies will be regretting their stupidity now.”
The “local chappies”, their native guides, had fled a day ago after an unfortunate encounter with an ancient mummy, sprung from a concealed room into their path. To them it was proof the way was haunted; death would be the reward for anyone on the road of the gods. Carruthers and Hawkins had continued without them, reasoning that they could find their way back to the camp, replenish their stores and backtrack out of the jungle the way the locals had brought them.
“Right then, shall we continue?” Carruthers made to go forward.
“I think we should take extra care over booby-traps, don’t you?”
Carruthers settled back on his haunches.
“Hmm. We’ve already seen the dummy set off by pressure…” he recalled.
“… and the false floor leading to the unfathomable pit…” Hawkins contributed.
“… and the insecure steps which required our feet to be placed in the correct pattern…”
“… and the crawling along the ground to avoid the head-high poisoned darts…”
“We’re still to be faced with a leap of faith, then.”
“And we might set off a huge rolling boulder,” Hawkins remembered, as they tallied through all the classic traps familiar to any antiquity-hunter.
“Well, we’re in a decent place for a rolling boulder – watch for any places to shelter if necessary.”
“The leap of faith probably is not until we reach the end of the tunnel,” Carruthers called as they continued.
Hawkins grunted. His back and knees were aching. They had travelled miles on all fours. He didn’t relish the return trip.
Their caution was unnecessary; they reached the end of the tunnel without incident. The tunnel opened out into a large cavern. There was a smooth transition from their earthen floor to the sandy base of the cave, lit from the centre by a violet light, emanating from cracks in a large boulder.
Hawkins, still mindful of the “leap of faith”, grabbed some loose earth from the tunnel and threw it out onto the sandy floor. It lay where it fell, inert.
“Hmmph.” Carruthers conceded the non-existence of the leap of faith in a monosyllable.
“After you, then?”
Carruthers stayed still. “How do you think we are going to get into that rock?”
“What was the riddle? Something about propitious offerings?”
“Yes,” said Carruthers slowly. “I inferred we had to make an offering. I have brought a number of suitable substances; I hope one will work.”
Hawkins gave him a sidelong glance. He hadn’t noticed Carruthers carrying anything unusual. “Do you want to go first, then? Shall I watch and wait?”
“I tell you what,” said Carruthers, feeling round his waistband, “let’s have a little snifter before we go any further.” He brought out a small flat flask cased in fine leather, and unscrewed the top. “Your health!” he said, and took a swig. He passed it to Hawkins, motioning to him to do the same.
“Cheerio!” said Hawkins, taking a gulp of the liquid inside, coughing and spluttering as the fire hit the back of his throat. “What is that?” he croaked, holding the flask at arm’s length.
“Recipe from the monastery we passed on the way up. I thought it might be useful. I have some better stuff, but I thought we’d start with the local brew.”
Hawkins shrugged his shoulders, and got to his feet. He staggered as the power of the local hooch hit him. “Wow!”
Carruthers joined him, equally unsteadily. “Wow!” he agreed.
They started forward, but lurched like men at sea. Colliding, they held on to each other and made their zigzag way across to the central rock. They stepped out confidently, failing to notice the ground sinking silently behind them as they swayed onwards. They gained the black rock at the centre, and fell about it, rolling like partygoers who have been drinking all night.
“Wha’s in tha’stuff?” Hawkins slurred, slapping the rock and Carruthers indiscriminately as he congratulated him on safe arrival at their destination.
“Dunno, an’ don’ care. Memsah’b can make it f’r’all I care.” Carruthers rolled off the rock and slumped at its foot. “Hey, the floor’s gone!” and he started giggling.
Hawkins looked around, his eyes swimming in and out of focus. “Yeah…. maybe it has. Wha’we here for, an’way?”
“Wha’? Oh, yeah… rock…” Carruthers pulled out the hipflask again and undid the top. “Here,” he said as he poured the amber liquid over the rock.
“Hey!” Hawkins started and tried to stop him. “Thass’good stuff, don’ wast’it.”
The violet light expanded, blinding them, as the rock lifted, drawn by some unseen mechanism. The light reduced to normal brightness and the men gazed on the figurine at the centre of it.
“The amethyst god!” said Carruthers, standing still and alert.
“But… how did you know?”
“Amethyst was reputed to be a cure for drunkenness,” replied Carruthers. “I thought something strong might be useful.” He reached towards the figurine and lifted it up.
“Now to get out with it.”
“Ah,” said Hawkins, as they turned to observe the sheer walls surrounding them, stretching upwards and downwards as far as they could see, while they stood in the centre on a pinnacle of rock, holding an amethyst god.
(c) J M Pett 2014