The Mine of the Marble Skull, (Part I): And So it Begins, Down the Rabbit Hole.
And So it Begins
The miner's cart clunked along, echoing down the tunnel in nearly complete darkness.
The three total carts were about halfway to the destination; when the fellowship noticed, the torches had a noticeable layer of dust and spiderwebs coated on the outside of the mantles.
The mine felt closed in and cramped, which aggravated Lily's claustrophobia. "This is awful," she exclaimed to Darius, "We should consider turning back."
Her eyes were unseeing, and her heart was pounding, but Darius knew. He held her hands in his, blew into the middle, and rubbed them together for warmth. He gazed into those deep dark blue eyes, and they came back into focus, she looked back into his noticing the slight concern allowed to show in his otherwise confident eyes.
"We'll be fine, according to Matt, we're almost to the ancient secret cavern." This reassured Lily, and she proceeded to focus on her study of the texts about the mine.
Darius looked towards the first cart where Matt was steering, the flames of the torches glinted off his strawberry-blonde hair. Matt took out a map, an older stained piece of parchment with glyphs and texts unknown to modern man. Lucky for him, Lily had translated the language and gave him a legend to follow.
It was only by a ridiculous stroke of luck they found the entrance to the mine. It was Lily's insights on historical cultures, anthropological instincts, and an uncanny ability to decipher various cultural texts and symbols, that allowed her to gather the necessary knowledge, which led to the last attempt to find this buried temple/mine. It was through the text of the Inuit and ancient Mongolians that she pieced the location of the entrance together.
"Dad?" Called out Toby, Matt's 7-year-old son.
With his mother lost to ebola, Matt never let the boy leave his sight, but then a sudden burst of comprehension brought his mind back to the present. The tension in his son's voice forced him to look up quickly to notice that Toby was pointing urgently at something further down the mine shaft.
A large opening was ahead, the torchlight had tripled down this passage, and the rails seized to clunk.
"Smells dank and moist down here," Billy called out from his post in the back cart, "mold covers the walls, the rails are slick, and I hear a faint sound of rushing water ahead."
Matt and Darius both were listening; the two of them relied heavily on Billy and trusted his hunter's instinct and intimate knowledge of the workings of nature.
Before any questions could be uttered, the small cramped shaft gave way to a vast cavern. A waterfall crashed at the far end of the ample space; the water rushed over to a human-made structure across from the adventurers.
Toby, out of boundless curiosity, got up on his tippy toes and gazed over the side of the cart and noticed the sculptures carved into the rocks. "Hey..." but before Toby could get his father's attention, Matt pulled the e-brakes. The track had run out, the bridge connection between the two sides had been severed, and the end of the rails lead to the left and a dead end. The purpose of the tracks ran parallel to a plummet of more than a few hundred feet.
Toby was then lifted off his feet and began to drift towards a deadly fall; Matt reached out to catch his son.
The cart veered left and came screeching to a stop, sparks flew from the metal on a metal exchange, causing the cavern to light up temporarily. Toby was in shock as he felt vertigo, but from that brief moment of light, he noticed something, in a timeless moment his mind raced to take in the human statue carvings at the bottom of the clear pool below and the awe he felt at the bright lights that glinted off the smooth stone.
Time rushed back in when Matt grabbed the cuff of his son's shirt and pulled him back into the mine cart, but the image was burned into his mind. Similar to an image imprint when the lights are turned out, the young boy's mind captured the image of the skull. "Dad, Dad," He called out excitedly, "Did you see that!?"
"See what??" he asked impulsively. For he was recovering from the possible death of his only son and pulling himself together. Shaking from adrenaline, he focused on the task at hand. How do we cross? Do we fix the bridge? And where's that confounded shire pipe?
"The..." once again Toby was cut off, this time by an emotional Darius. "What was that!?" His face was stone sober, sweat rolled down his night dark skin, and a fire burned in his blue eyes. The stress in his facial expression left and was replaced by a reflective manner dotted with contained excitement, "How do we get across?"
Down the Rabbit Hole
Matt sat there with his cherry oak shire man's pipe. It hung loosely from his mouth, he had moved past puffs, and the smoke drew out in tune with strands of thought. How do we cross? He contemplated, the same task had his mind trapped. His eyes moved over the area, taking in the fellow explorers and coming to rest on his son, Toby. Who continued to stare into the dark pools of water below. He claims there are ghosts at the bottom of the lakes; the adults agree that it is nothing more than a child's new imagination.
Billy started a cooking fire and somehow caught himself a pair of cave rabbits. He credits a meadow opening in the cave ceiling. "The ceiling fell in, the soil above slid down and settled in an underground grassland. Sunlight beams in, and so," Billy continued with his story. "I left a snare and baited the second." Matt and Billy both agreed that this might be an invaluable place to consider building shelters, One day at a time, though Matt.
The fire revealed the stone walls, in which the company was sitting near, something had been carved into the side of the canyon walls. Billy searched found it held three rooms along with a passage tied to the ledge pathway.
Toby continued to examine the intricate carvings, the details in the small and the awe of the grand scale of the sculptures; it was almost overwhelming to the visual senses.
Matt took a final puff and cleaned his pipe out over the edge of the rock. The sparks gave light to the canyon walls, which consisted of slimy stones overgrown with thick cave vine. It gave the walls an all-natural dreads look. Darius strode through the camp, over to Matt, "What would we do without Bill?" He asked, instead. While walking over, he noticed the thought chiseling to his friend's forehead. The obvious could be saved for later.
"Have you seen the cave-meadow, he speaks of?" Matt continued the conversation, "I think it would be good to see it, maybe settle for the meantime."
"Everyone has, 'cept you," Darius stated, a concerned wrinkle creased his brow. For the past day, since the fellowship was halted at this impasse. The bridge supports were left intact. And even more stressing to the mind, a blue-white light pulsed on the opposite side of the canyon. It seemed to radiate from an unknown source from the depths the mine, bright enough to cast a reflective light on the dark lake sized pool below.
"It's more of a strange underground shrine or temple," Darius beckoned, changing the subject, "How could it be classified as a mine?"
Matt looked out over the gorge, " I cannot help but ponder the reason for burying it. So much work went into carving not only the temple originally, but the many times over cultures have rebuilt the bridge." Both men gazed out, both fixed on the pulsing light.
Billy instinctively nodded to Lily; she turned to the general area of the others and called out, "Dinner's ready." The sudden sound of her voice broke Darius and Matt out of the thought induced trance.
Toby arrived first and was given a bowl of coney stew. Billy had used a cave vine to lower the kettle and fill it with water. Also, he carried with him at all times a year's worth of cooking spices.
"Good food can cure the soul," He always said. No complaints from the other travelers, for at least a good meal was available to look forward to.
Toby finished his bowl and proceeded to reenter the line in the back, of course. All before the adults were finished being served their first. Billy, without missing a beat, poured the boy a second before helping himself. Smiling, Toby had a slight bounce in his step as he sat next to his father. Matt reached down and ruffled the boy's hair. He took the time to steal a glance at Billy; his face conveyed gratitude to which Billy smiled and laughed a deep, hearty laugh. Lily opened up her compilation book. In it was a collection of the many cultures depictions of the tomb/mine/temple/cave. Each culture built and left something for the others, mainly messages to stay out. The stories were fascinating, good night time entertainment. Toby was especially fond of the nightly readings Lily did out loud.