The Seven Jewels

by Rev. Joe Kelly
read from the beginning

part eight.

In a chamber behind the idol, he pointed out the solid ceiling to Alruf. “That portal leads to something behind this wall. I’m sure of it.” The wall in question, and the floor as well, were cut into a large checkerboard pattern: perfect for hiding a door in.

Alruf shook his head. “Maybe. But we could search all day–hell, we could search for a year and not figure out to open some secret door.”

Luo was already walking slowly from one end of the room to the other. He mumbled, “You give up too easily.”

Alruf growled irritably, and began looking aimlessly about the room.

When Luo came to the center of the back wall, he felt it. It was very slight; he might have missed it, had he not put his foot on just the right place, a corner where the trigger mechanism had weakened over the centuries. But there it was: a floor plate, in the middle of the room, right by the back wall. And as he looked closely, there was a seam in the checkerboard.

He pushed at the center of the floor tile. Nothing. The neighboring tiles did not give either. He got down on hand and knees and examined the tiny seam in the floor. It took up four tiles, two by two.

“Come here and stand in front of me.”

Alruf glowered at him. “No. You stand in front of me.”

Luo hissed an exasperated rasp. “Fine. Stand here–on these two tiles.”

Nothing happened.

Alruf watched Luo with a grimly amused smirk as the increasingly agitated thief fooled about with the tiles. Luo muttered to himself: “There must be something… what would priests do–” He snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it! Move.”

As Alruf watched curiously, Luo knelt down on the back two tiles, and bowed down, placing his palms down on the front two. Nothing happened, at first–but he could feel a gentle rocking. He released the pressure on his palms, and after a moment, the plates slowly rocked forward of their own accord.

With a low rasp of stone sliding on stone, the two columns of tiles before him opened inward.

Luo leaped up with a triumphant grin. “I told you!”

Alruf grunted, “Don’t get excited. If you figured that out so fast, someone probably found it already.”

“Aaaah.” Luo waved him off and, sword in hand, he plunged into the darkness beyond.

The chamber beyond turned pitch black only a few steps past the door, though they had some impression of great size from a glimmer further down the dark corridor. Both men halted to light a brittle old torch they found nearby. The whole place stank, of mildew, dust, and the faint, acrid scent of lingering death.

Alruf muttered, “Fine…  so we’ve found the catacombs. But I doubt there’s any–treasure…”

As the torch flared to life, the Wose fell dumb. And Luo grinned ferociously.

Gold. Wealth beyond dreaming. Huge piles of the stuff lay scattered all about the chamber. Amidst the heaps of gold coin were caskets of finely worked jewelry, gems and precious stones of all sorts.

The two men stumbled through this thieves’ paradise, lost for a moment in reverie. Then Luo howled in triumph and threw himself upon a pile of gold. “A waste of time! Hah!”

Alruf fumbled a little with a large saddlebag. “Don’t forget, only one of us leaves this place alive. Don’t take too much.”

Luo scoffed. “But he leaves with both men’s horses, yes? Go on, load up–what’s the worry?!” As he glanced up to grin at Alruf, something caught his eye.

At the back of the chamber, there stood two rows of mummies, flanking an altar that lay before a shrine. The image of the same grotesque toad-demon was repeated in a bas-relief the height of a man. One of his clawed hands reached up to hold the bottom of a gigantic glass mirror, backed by brass, or perhaps red gold, that was set into the back wall.

The other was held out–and in the palm were set seven enormous jewels. Diamond, amethyst, ruby, sapphire, emerald, pearl and opal: the seven cardinal jewels.

Luo stood slowly as Alruf began shoveling coin into his saddlebag. The Wose grunted after him, “Where are you going?”

Luo muttered, “You grab all the coin you wish… this requires more delicate fingers than a mercenary’s.” With a steady, gentle hand, he set the point of a dagger into the golden fittings and pried them gingerly back, careful not to scratch the gems. He popped the eyeball-sized black pearl out first, and took a moment to examine it with eyes lit by wonder.

Behind him, Alruf chuckled. “There’s piles of jewels all over the place.”

“Yes…” Luo was positively entranced by the huge stones before him. “But not this big. I suspect these will fetch a king’s price… or perhaps more.” He was sure of it now: the thrill in his veins was more than mere excitement. There was power here: very subtle, but there was no mistaking it, and it came from the back of the room, where the jewels sat.

Alruf approached Luo with the torch in hand as he pried the last of the gems out. Luo held up the ruby to examine it, admiring its glitter, its masterful polish, its purity. He frowned momentarily–was there a flaw in the very center? No, it had been a trick of the light. The gems were absolutely perfect. “A fine prize, eh, barbarian?”


“Huh?” Luo dropped the last of the jewels in his pouch and turned. Alruf was staring up at the mirror. Luo frowned, and started to turn–

And stopped.

A thrill of terror ran down his back. Alruf’s face grew dull-eyed and blank even as he watched.

Luo hissed, “Alruf!”

There was no response from the Wose.

Dread crept down Luo’s veins. The thrill of power turned icy with a warning. The Wose was mesmerized. Hypnotized, by magic.

Luo broke into a sprint, raced for the back of the chamber. Too late: the doors swung shut with a deafening boom. Luo whipped his sword out and whirled about in panic. Too late, he realized his mistake.

The giant brass mirror drew him in like a fish into a whirlpool, drew him as surely as a moth to a flame. He fought back with all his might, fought back with all the mesmeric skills he had learned from his shamans. Too little, too late. The spell had ensnared him too thoroughly. He found himself fighting nonsensical thoughts, fought them with more nonsensical thoughts, with more nonsensical thoughts…

All around him, it seemed that the mummies were moving, coming to life. And oblivion overcame him.

On to part nine.

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