The vertical drop gradually sloped into shallow angle that allowed the main body of water to pass and leave Suzie on a cold, wet floor. She rolled to a stop except for a firm and steady flow of rain water that gently pushed her along a few more inches. Suzie simple lay there for a long moment gasping until her breathing was able to return to a more normal rate. Once she had convinced herself that she really was alive, she rolled over and examined her surroundings.
She was in a dark, stone tunnel. Although the stones had been worn smooth by similar torrents of water, vines and roots had broken through in several places; a testament to the power of the forest above that it could penetrate the rocks this far below the surface. Her fingers ran over the mason work, admiring the craftsmanship of the drain when she suddenly realized where she was.
She bolted up and took a further look down the hall. The tunnel was dark where it sloped back up to the pool where she had come. But light crept up the gradual incline in the other direction. Suzie pulled herself to her feet and shuffled in that direction; her bare feet slipping occasionally on the slippery stone.
After a short walk, she emerged in a gigantic chamber. The floor of her tunnel extended a couple of feet where it spit the continuing flow of rain water to the bottom of the room 70’ below. Similar tunnels around the walls supplied their own flow of rain water to feed the pool.
And in the middle of the water, a small island stood with a huge statue, or collection of statues, that depicted an enormous horde of beasts, monsters and demons in various stones and metals; an amazing collection of subjects and materials. And atop the attacking beasts stood a life-sized statue of a naked, six armed woman bearing a variety of shields and swords as she fought the army of attackers. It was the warrior goddess Alethian. The statue stood on top of a royal burial chamber to show the goddesses ability to keep the slumbering king safe from the attacking demons that might disturb his eternal slumber.
Alethian was covered in a dazzling array of gems and precious metals, a donation from the deceased monarch to guarantee his protection. And on one of the arms the statue wore the codex bracelet she had been looking for. This was the chamber that her map had led to; the map that Captain Knowe had stolen. His crew was obviously on their way here, but she had beaten them. There was still hope.
In addition to the monsters piled within the statue, flying creatures were depicted in statues coming out of the walls; as if circling Alethian looking for an opening in her defenses. Suzie estimated that she should be able to climb out one of the protruding statues close enough to hop over to the main character and the codex bracelet.
Taking a few steps back, Suzie took a couple of slippery steps before leaping into the open and grabbing a pair of metallic talons that hung below a statue of a large bird of prey. The bird bounced twice as it settling into her weight. However, the creaking groan of machinery immediately began to emit from the walls all around the chamber. The statue seemed to come to live. All of the surrounding statues were starting to move around the center statue in precise orbits; swooping, diving and narrowly missing each other with a giant clockwork precision.
The bird carrying Suzie swung toward a giant metallic claw. She just barely pulled herself up to the belly of the bird to avoid being scraped off. But before she had any chance to recover, Suzie had to swing her legs out to avid the jagged teeth of a predatory amphibian. Next a metallic tail seemed to sweep toward her. With no where else to go, she let go of the talons just before being battered away. Luckily she only dropped a few feet before landing between the wings of a gargoyle traveling the opposite direction.
Obviously the statue movements were designed to prevent thieves from climbing to the Alethian statue to steal the jewels covering the deity. And it was certainly doing everything it could to drop Suzie to the pool far below.
The mechanisms controlling the gargoyle flipped it up and around in a graceful loop. Hanging upside down, Suzie tried desperately to get a grip of the slippery wings. Just as she hit the end of the wing, she was able to grab hold with just one hand, dangling over an 80’ drop. However, as the statue started to right itself, the stone tip of the wing that Suzie clung to broke off, throwing Suzie onto the neck of a snapping serpent. Suzie slid down the snakes back and huddled in its coils. She was safe for the moment, but she couldn’t stay trapped here. From the narrow view point she had, she carefully watched as much of the pattern of the spinning statues as she could see for several minutes as she tried to formulate a plan.
Once she thought she had the timing down, she braced her bare feet against the statues scales as best she could and sprinted up the back of the snake. Leaping off its head, she leapt just in time to catch the stinger of a giant insect. The insect rose to the highest arc of any of the other orbiting statues, but its path ended with a 90’ drop to the chamber floor that would impale Suzie on the stinger if she didn’t find another exit soon.
Fortunately she was on a level with the Alethian statue. It would only take a short hop to get to her, but the array of weapons that the goddess held protectively around her made any direct approach very dangerous at Suzie’s current speed. She held on as long as she could, looking for an opening that wouldn’t impale her; then just as she felt her ride click for its final decent, Suzie saw her opening and leapt for the warrior goddess. Slipping between the swords, she hit the stone face to face, flung her arms over her shoulders and her legs over her hips.
Suzie took a breath as she clung to the statue as the other statues continued their spinning dance around her. Finally she looked over to see the arm wearing the codex bracelet just to her right. Carefully hanging on, she took the bracelet off and placed it on her own wrist. She turned back to the stone eyes that her face was pressed against. The cold emotionless goddess didn’t seem to object.
“Do you two need some time alone?” The voice echoed up from below. Suzie swung around to see Darien entering the walkway around the pool on the bottom level with a couple of hundred pirates. Darien had been the spy Captain Klawe used to use and betray Suzie. And now he had her surrounded and out numbered again.
Suddenly aware of her situation, scantily clad, soaking wet and clinging to a naked statue; Suzie kept one arm around the goddess and swung out to face the scum below.
“I have to say that she makes a better boyfriend than the last one I had.” She sneered. This drew several chuckles from some of the pirates. Darien snarled at them before turning his attention back to Suzie.
“At least I’m happy to see that you’ve recovered the Codex Bracelet for me.” He said with an icy smile. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to bring it down here to me?”
“I think you should come up here and get me?” Suzie reached over to one of the goddesses hands and slipped a large scimitar out of her grip. She tested the weight of the sword and took a firm, defensive stance in front of the warrior statue.
“I’ve already had you.” Darien smiled, “It’s only fair to give my men a chance.” And at a hand signal, hundreds of pirates crossed short bridge to the center island and began climbing the statue.
To be continued…