[When we last left our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventurer, he had just found the tenth seal OMEN. But now the search for the eleventh seal proves daunting, and he finds himself about to cross paths with a living legend.]
I’d almost lost track of how long I’d been traipsing through the Peruvian jungle. I didn’t even know what day it was. I truly wasn’t even sure what month it was. The one thing I did know was that many days back the people who had employed me became aware that I was not coming back in as I had indicated. The incident at Angel Falls had proven that they somehow had an indication of my whereabouts, especially when the cigarette man commented “we have our ways” when I questioned how he’d known I was there. With that little piece of information I stripped down to just the bare essentials for this trip, which included leaving everything they’d supplied me, especially the cell phone, back at a cheap, one room apartment in Merida, Mexico.
If my suspicions were correct someone, most likely a goon with a huge jaw, had broken down the door of that apartment, only to find a pile of my former belongings on a table in the center of the room. Well, not everything on the table had been mine. I couldn’t resist leaving the cell phone that I was positive they’d chipped in some way, sitting on top of a carton of Morley’s. After all, I was sure that chain smoking bastard was going to be chewing a lot of those while he tried to explain to his “superiors” how he had let me just walk out of that jeep.
But I couldn’t gloat over that now. I’d been lucky so far, most of the previous seal’s hiding places had been discovered and were well known, but this place apparently wasn’t. The clue had indicated a temple dedicated to Cum Hau, a very different god then the one whose temple I’d just left in the Yucatan. Cum Hau was an underworld God or as one of my old archeology teachers, who had a annoying over fondness for the Latin language would have said, “MORTIS“, meaning “of death”. But most of the temples dedicated to Cum Hau had been found deep within a certain region of the Amazon jungle. All had been highly excavated. And none had been found to contain a bottle of magical liquid. No, this particular temple was probably yet undiscovered. And it was proving to be my arduous task to find it.
But after a long search of the surrounding jungle, and talking to numerous local tribes, I’d finally found an over grown cave opening that lead into a tunnel that had obviously been carved out of the surrounding hillside. I was certain that I’d finally found the right cave when not far past the opening, I found two stone mosaics of Chaac, one on each wall, just like in Kabah. But a little further down the tunnel I found something that I hadn’t expected.
The floor disappeared, for a distance of about nine feet, for the entire width of the tunnel. I couldn’t see the bottom of this “pit”, even with my flashlight, but that’s not what had captured my curiosity. No, what held that was the object that hung from one of the beams that transversed the ceiling of the tunnel over the top of the pit. It took me a bit to convince myself, that yes, it was a bullwhip. Obviously I was not alone.
Garnering the nerve to swing across the gap in the floor using the whip took great effort, but I did it. When I’d gathered myself I continued on down the tunnel that I was sure would open up into a larger room that I hoped would contain what I was looking for. A room that I was positive I wouldn’t be alone in.
When I turned into the main chamber, the one thing I’d feared greeted me. Standing on a raised section of the floor in front of what was apparently some kind of altar was a man in a leather jacket and a fedora, both of which looked a little worse for wear. I quietly made my way around the edge of the wall a few feet until I could see that he was poised in front of the alter facing a familiar looking box, with what looked like a bag in one hand, and the empty fingers of his other hand waving in the air in anticipation.
I watched for a minute as he brought his hands closer to the box, his gaze intense as he glanced back and forth between it and the bag in his hand. Realizing what he was about to do, I figured my best chance of walking out of the temple with the box was to not let this guy get his hands on it first. So, throwing caution to the wind I yelled out. But I was too late. The “Wait” barely got from my throat when the man quickly grabbed the box from the altar and placed the bag where it had been.
The man, as if oblivious of me, stared at the altar for a brief time as if waiting for something to happen, and apparently satisfied that nothing was going to, finally turned to me with a smug grin on his face. “Don’t worry, Sonny. I know what I’m doing.”
Sonny? Who the hell was this guy? I raise my finger in a confrontational gesture to ask that very question when suddenly an odd sound emanated from the altar. The sound put me in the mind of machinery moving, but the tone was more like stone moving against stone than metal against metal.
Apparently this was not a good thing, as the man’s grin evaporated and was replaced with a look of concern. He turned slowly back at the altar, and it was at that moment that I noticed the whole alter was slowly lowering to the floor. That might have been the most ominous thing in the room if not for the fact that several seconds later, chunks of rock and dirt from the ceiling began to rain down all around us.
The man yelled “run!”, but he didn’t need to. I was already out the cavern door and a good 20 steps in front of him. It didn’t take me long to reach the pit in the floor, but in that brief time it was obvious that the noise from behind me was getting louder. What do people say? If I didn’t know better I’d swear the whole temple was about to collapse down on top of us. Well I knew.
In one scared act of desperation I leaped across the darkness on the floor in front of me, grabbing the hanging whip as I did. I didn’t so much swing across the gap in the floor as hurled across it, my body being yanked hard as I reached as far as the whip would allow me, my ribs screaming in pain as I crashed violently to the floor on the other side.
I wanted to lay there for a while. To rest. To let my ribs stop aching. But the noise in my ear was growing louder, and with everything I could muster I sprang to my feet. It was then that I noticed what had happened. The beam that the whip had been attached to had broken under my weight. It was then that I noticed something else. I was still holding the whip in my hand.
I had very little time to assess the situation when the other man came skidding to a stop on the other side of the pit. Looking the situation over quickly, he put his hand out in front of him, “Throw me the whip!”
I had to think fast. Obviously leaving this guy to be crushed wasn’t the kind of karma I wanted to walk away with, but I had to get that box from him as soon as possible. And now seemed like the appropriate time. “Throw me the box, and I’ll throw you the whip.”
The man gave me a look of incredulousness at what I thought was a pretty straightforward, fair offer. “No way Sonny! I’ve heard that one before!”
Who was this guy? And why in the hell does he keep calling me Sonny? “Look,” I said very aware that we didn’t have time for a prolonged argument. “We don’t have time for this. But I can’t leave here without that box and what’s inside of it. I’m sorry, but I can’t. So you’ll have to trust me. Throw me the box and I’ll throw you the whip.”
The man surveyed his surroundings as if looking for an alternative to my proposal. What? Was he really considering not doing it? Then suddenly with a look of determination, his other arm swung forward and the box flew end over end towards me. I caught it in front of me with a sigh of relief just as a loud crash drew our attention towards the direction of the altar cavern. As dust began to billow down the tunnel he turned his head back to me, spreading his arms in pleading manner.
Placing the box next to me on the dirt floor, I coiled the whip up as tightly as I could and with what I hoped was my best aim (I’d never actually thrown a whip before) tossed it over to him. The man caught it and in one fluid motion flicked it behind him letting the leather cord extend to its full length. I saw the blur of his arm and heard the crack, but I was unable to follow what had actually happen with my eyes. Before I knew it he was swinging across the pit, having obviously been able to wrap the end of the whip around another beam.
His motion, unlike mine had been, was graceful and effortless – that is until he came up obviously short of the other side. He was able to get one foot on the ground, but the beam the whip was attached to was closer to the far side, so in order to keep hold of the whip, he’d left himself precariously stretched out over the lip of the hole in the floor, his center of gravity getting very close to the point of no return.
I quickly stepped up and grabbed the man by his jacket and tried to keep him from falling. He looked at me with an expression of surprise as if he couldn’t believe I was actually helping him. “Let go and I’ll pull you back.”
“My favorite whip,” he said through his teeth as he continued his attempts to release it from the beam.
With a couple more tries, and the leather of his jacket starting to slip through my fingers, the whip finally came loose from the beam and as soon as it did, I pulled back with everything my ribs would allow, their reward for their effort being another hard crash to the cavern floor. “Thanks,” I heard a voice say from along side of me. “But you really need to be less demanding.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, trying to get my lungs to breath properly again. “And you really need to be more trusting.”
Unfortunately our little bonding session was cut short by a thunderous crash that caused me to snap my head in the direction we’d just come from. Through the dust I saw a huge boulder roll out of a tunnel from over top of the alter chamber and come crashing down into the tunnel we were in. Unfortunately, its drop didn’t slow down its forward progress any, and it was quickly obvious that we didn’t have much time.
Again the stranger sensed the need to tell me to run, and again I was way ahead of him as I had already grabbed the box and was scrambling to my feet. I didn’t look back. Hell I didn’t even look to see if he was nearby, I just ran down the tunnel as fast as I could until I was greeted by the possible life saving sight of sunlight gleaming into the cave opening.
I hit the opening and jumped, landing on the embankment in front of the cave and, clutching the box as hard as I could, rolled down to the bottom. When I finally came to a stop, I quickly looked up at the cave just in time to see the huge boulder slam into the smaller opening , sending dirt, stone and vegetation spraying down over me and the embankment.
I lay there for a minute eying the now sealed cave, and marveling at my narrow escape when a voice came from behind me. “One of these days I’m going to get the hang of those counterweight traps,” the man said, punctuating the sentence with an embarrassed laugh.
I turned my head to see the stranger sitting several feet away from me, likewise covered with debris. “Who the hell ARE you?”
“Jones,” he said brushing the dust of his fedora and placed it back on his head with a slight tip, “Henry Jones,” he paused as if the next word was significantly more important than the previous ones, “Junior.”
That rang a bell with me. Something I had heard recently. What was it? I closed my eyes and let my mind drift backwards through the previous several months of memories. Suddenly I snapped open my eyes. The amateur! The one that had found the sixth seal! He was following notes from a journal of a Doctor Jones. I hadn’t thought about it much at time, but now everything started to fit together. Including somethings I’d read and heard from my early days at school. “Doctor Jones?” I asked, not believing that this could actually be the same guy. “India…”
“Oh no,” he held up a hand and cut me off. “I haven’t gone by that in a very long time. It’s Henry now. Junior to my friends.”
“But that’s impossible,” I said as I did the math in my head. “I remember hearing stories about you and the Nazis when I was just starting out in archeology. You’d have to be…”
“Older than I appear,” he said in a assuring voice. “It’s a bit of a long story.”
“Yeah?” I questioned as I opened the box that had landed next to me and pulled out the cold, quartz-like bottle that was inside it. Only recently I’d have balked at sharing the liquid with someone else, considering that I’d been specifically instructed not to, but at this point I wasn’t really concerned about my former employer’s disapproval. “Care to share stories over a drink.” I pulled out a couple of glasses from my backpack and set them down in front of me and when I was ready, opened the seal.
“No!” Jones yelled letting the word trail off into a face of disappointment. “That should have been in a museum. Unopened.”
“Believe me. This was never heading to a museum. To be honest,” I poured the liquid from the bottle into each of the glasses, “I don’t know where it was heading.” Once the two glasses were full, I picked one up and handed it over to Jones. ” A story?”
He looked at me uncertain for a bit and then one corner of his mouth turned up in a grin as he reached out for the glass. “Why not.”
He began his story as I took my first whiff of this new liquid. It was light, with a touch of fruit and a certain Belgian beer like quality. I marveled for a moment at the carbonation. The liquid was cloudy, but I could still see the fountain of rushing bubbles that were emanating from the bottom of my glass.
The tale he was spinning was fantastic to say the least, but it certainly wasn’t any more outlandish than the ones Lara had told me when she’d had one to many glasses of wine. Rat filled caverns under the city of Venice. A traitorous Austrian blonde temptress (and a fellow archeologist to boot). Chases and escapes from the Nazis involving motorbikes, Zeppelins and bi-planes. Getting Adolph Hitler’s autograph. I listened intently as I drank the liquid in my glass, enjoying the light nuances of grapefruit, tropical fruits, and maybe even a touch of honey, that comprised the flavor.
I listened quietly to his story as I tried to figure out if there was a touch of spice in the mix as well. It wasn’t until a 700 year old knight and the cup of Christ popped into his story that I interrupted him, “Wait, you want me to believe that you actually found THEE Holy Grail.”
“Sure did, ” he beamed and then, as if he couldn’t resist the urge to show off he leaned towards me a bit. “The Ark of the Covenant too. But that’s a story for another time.” And he continued where he’d left off as if my interruption hadn’t even happened. At this point my glass was almost empty, and I was starting to feel the familiar warmth of the liquid course through my body. Some of my minor aches were already starting to dissolve away, although as usual there didn’t seem enough potency to quell the pain in my ribs.
At this point I was starting to really enjoy the finish of this liquid. It was really clean, with a little malty after taste and a touch of bite from the carbonation, but not as much as I’d expected. There was also a mild sourness about the liquid that was some what thirst quenching, which was quite welcome in the hot, steamy jungle.
Soon he was finishing his story and his glass, ” The knight told us that the Grail’s gift of immortality wouldn’t go past the seal at the entrance of the temple. And while that was obviously the case, I believe there was enough power within it to slow things down a bit if you will. At least that’s what I believe.” He shrugged almost apologetically. “After all, I’m still here.”
“And your father?”
“Passed away. Some time ago.”
“But you said he’d drank from the Grail as well.”
“True. But most of its healing power was probably used up on his wound. There wasn’t much left in him. If that makes any sense.”
I nodded, although he probably didn’t think I truly understood, thanks to my recent adventures I too knew a thing or two about liquids with unusual healing properties.
“Your turn,” Doctor Jones said as he passed me his empty glass.
“Well, I’m afraid mine’s not as interesting and sadly,” I tilted the bottle up-side-down, “we’re empty. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to tell my story while we walk. To be honest I don’t know how long I’ve been in this jungle and I’m pretty tired of staring at vegetation all day. I wouldn’t mind a city bar with Arrogant Bastard on draft right about now.”
“Fair enough,” Doctor Jones said as he got to his feet. Once there he bounced a bit on the balls of his feet and crossed his arms back and forth across his chest. “Hmmmm, this old body feels surprisingly good considering what it’s just been through.”
“Ah, well let’s just say that you have my story to thank for that,” I shot him a wink as I placed the box in my backpack and tossed it over my shoulder. “I’ll explain as we walk. Lead on.”
As we walked away from the cave I thought back to how this whole journey had begun and everything that had happened to me along the way. And here I was walking in the jungles of Peru with a legend, and only one step away from finding the final seal and completing the journey I started many months before. I had to admit, although it wouldn’t rival finding the Holy Grail, it was an interesting story that deserved to be told.
“Well Doctor Jones, my name is Doctor Micheal Hunter, and it all started when I was approached…,” but I never finished the sentence. A hand rested on my shoulder so carefully that its presence didn’t even cause me to break my gate.
“I thought I told you, Micheal. My friends call me Junior.”
[Coming up next – Our Adventure’s tale comes to an end as he comes face-to-face with the mastermind behind his quest.]