Champion of the light, p.16
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       Champion of the Light, p.16

           David Castleton
 
Chapter Fifteen

  Andrew and Greybeard woke a few hours later. They forged ahead through the spooky mines, with the dwarf leading the way through the massive labyrinth, always favoring the upper levels.

  They walked for miles in the dark, lifeless passageways. Andrew felt the gloom creep up on him, trying to draw him down to despair. But Greybeard didn't seem affected.

  "Aren't the dark, drab stone passageways depressing?" Andrew asked.

  "Miner's gloom. It should be affecting you. Only affects Men though. It is in the genes of us dwarves to live under the mountains. They are our natural habitat. Even though I myself am not a mountain dwarf, nor is my family, we still have within us the innate resistance to the gloom of the mines that every dwarf has."

  They continued on, with Andrew wishing that they were out already.

 

  At length Greybeard halted. "We are nearly there. Here, we must go through this room. It will lead us to the exit and the path of Nenwé."

  The entrance to the room had a large plaque made of pure gold affixed to its elaborately carved double doors.

  Greybeard swung the doors open. The dazzling sight that greeted Andrew's eyes nearly blinded him. Piled in two great mounds that reached nearly to the high ceiling were heaps and heaps of treasure. There were gold coins by the mountain full, and heaps of silver cups inlaid with diamonds and rubies. Platinum swords gleaming with emeralds, and golden coats of mail. And more, much more. It was a King's ransom, if there ever was one.

  Andrew looked up. There were mirrors on the ceiling that reflected back the glittering treasure, making it seem like even more than it was. "W-what's all this treasure? What's it doing here?"

  "I'm not sure. Let me read the plaque..."

  Andrew looked at Greybeard cautiously. "Perhaps we can take some with us." He was unsure if Greybeard would consider this to be stealing from his deceased dwarf brothers.

  Greybeard gave Andrew a look. He gulped. His eye caught the hilt of Greybeard's broadsword. This was not the time and place to pick a fight with an experienced warrior.

  "Of course if you don't think we should—"

  "It's not that. It's the plaque," Greybeard said.

  "What does it say?"

  "It reads, 'nardle gulnvar sanqul zungé nal allé'. Which means; 'greedy beware, cursed treasure lies here'."

  "Oh, I see."

  Andrew took another look into the room. He could make out the bones of numerous skeletons strewn throughout the piles. Victims of the cursed treasure.

  "Don't touch a thing, or we're doomed," said Greybeard. "The treasure will kill us."

  "Is there any way around this room?"

  "Yes, but it will takes us many miles out of our way, and probably lead to the ulthars' lair as well. This is the shortest and safest route, provided we don't disturb the treasure. Let's go."

  A narrow path carved its way through the two mounds to the door on the other side.

  They started out into the room, being careful not to disturb the treasure items piled on either side of them, not to awaken the slumbering beast. They were forced to walk sideways much of the time, for the way was quite narrow.

  Andrew was sorely tempted to reach out and grab something. Just one diamond studded crown would make him fabulously wealthy. But he forced himself to hold back. To touch the cursed treasure would mean sure death.

  They were about two thirds of the way towards the exit, when it happened. Andrew's elbow brushed a gold coin, ever so softly.

  He watched, entranced and in horror, as the coin tumbled to the floor, turning end over end. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from it. It struck the floor, and bounced upward....

  "Run!!" roared Greybeard.

  Andrew tore his eyes away from the coin. They made a dash for the exit. The mountains on either side of them were shifting. Andrew ran like his life depended on it. Which it did.

  The cursed treasure came alive, as if roused from the dead. A rope of silver coins and sapphire rings lashed out to trip Andrew. He took a running jump, and cleared it.

  He drew his sword. It looked as if they might need to fight their way out.

  Another rope lashed out at Andrew to ensnare him. He slashed without breaking stride. The rope shattered into hundreds of shiny pieces.

  They ran deeper into the room.

  Then a huge hand took form from within the main pile. Its arm and hand were made of platinum armor, its fingers of golden goblets.

  The monstrous hand grabbed Greybeard's coat from behind. "Aaargh!"

  It dragged him back, pulling him into the pile. The treasure would suffocate him!

  "Andrew, do something!"

  Andrew hacked desperately at the arm with his katana. But it was just too thick. He wasn't getting anywhere. And Greybeard was only being dragged deeper and deeper into the mountains of treasure. Would this be the final parting of two friends?

  He looked around in desperation for anything that might help. There, what was that? He spied a spear, with a long, curved golden blade at its end, half buried in the piles of gold.

  Andrew struggled to lift it. It was immensely heavy, due to the copious amount of gold on its tip.

  "Andrew, hurry." came Greybeard's muffled voice. He was mostly buried by now.

  He strained his muscles. With considerable effort, he slowly managed to raise the spear high above his head. He brought the blade down hard onto the monstrous arm. Andrew's strength, combined with the inertia of the heavy gold spear, managed to cut through half of the platinum arm. He strained once more, and sliced, and the monstrous arm was cut in two.

  The part that was now chopped off of the main pile shattered, pieces cascading to the floor. Its life force was drawn from within the pile. Disconnected, it was lifeless once more.

  The cursed treasure let out a roar of pain.

  "Thanks," said Greybeard.

  Andrew helped him up. "Quick, there is no time! We can still make it, if we run faster!"

  Greybeard got up, and they resumed their desperate sprint for safety.

  Ahead of them a warrior made of emerald bracelets and diamond tiaras was taking shape.

  "Look out!"

  Greybeard drew his broad sword and stabbed it through the chest. It collapsed into a lifeless heap.

  But it wasn't the worst of their worries. "The mounds are becoming unstable! We'll be crushed, and buried alive!" yelled Greybeard. The collapse of the piles was imminent.

  'We might die here, but at least our tomb will be nicer than King Tut's' Andrew thought wryly.

  They sprinted the last few yards to the door, just as the mounds fell. They reached the exit, right when the treasure came cascading down all around them, with a tremendous crashing sound that shook the mountain, and reverberated throughout the mines.

  The adventurers shot out of the door and quickly slammed it behind them, locking the cursed gold within.

  Andrew was panting. "That was too close. Usually we want gold for our collection. Here though, it was the gold that wanted us, to add to its skeleton collection."

  Greybeard wiped his brow. He was as energetic as always. "Good point, Andrew. We have no time to rest. The ulthars will be onto us. They will surely have heard that tremendous crash. So much for sneaking through the mines undetected. We need to make a run for the exit. It shouldn't be far now. Keep your sword unsheathed, and follow me."

 
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