Tag Archives: treasure

"A Heart of Pure Gold" Week 50 #blogbattle

Genre: Action

Word prompt: Pure

997 words

From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Hero of Harrowing Deeds, Delver of Dangerous Depths, and Charmer of Cold-Hearted Dames…

Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

 

Teagan swept thick layers of spider-silk aside with a machete and slipped between the narrow walls of the tunnel onto a small shelf overlooking deep darkness. Pebbles jostled and fell, clattering on stone and splashing in water far below. “There’s a ledge here, Grant. Watch your step.”

Her partner stood frozen, his sharp and fetching jawline offset by a grimace, his wide eyes inspecting every inch of web. “Set it on fire, Teag,” he whispered.

“The webs are ages old,” Teagan replied. “There aren’t any—“

“Burn it!”

Teagan gave him a playful smirk and waved the torch around the opening. The webs recoiled from the flame as if alive. “Better now, muffin?”

Grant exhaled loudly and took a deep breath, then crept forward.

“If Master Roquefort could see you now,” Teagan said with a laugh.

“Not one word, Teag,” Grant growled.

“He’d think less of your next round of tall tales, I don’t doubt!” She shot him a sour look, wasted in the dim light. “You have that poor sot fooled—a feat I admit might be a trifle too easy.”

“He’s a good chap with a heart of pure gold,” Grant said. “Keeps us paid, doesn’t he? And agreeing to lure out the Pops Kimble twins for the Feds took some guts.”

Grant held his torch aloft. The outlines of an underground structure appeared in the shadows below. “The Fortress of Castanzo Vallarte,” Grant declared. “Hamwich will thrill to hear of this discovery.”

Teagan tied a firm knot around a rocky outcropping and tugged on the rope. “Only if we find the treasures of the Corazon de Oro. Vallarte’s ship bore wealth from the Ixthacan Empire when it ran aground.”

“True, Hamwich may care more about that,” Grant said. “If he ever hears about it.” He took the rope and descended into the shadows before Teagan could press him for an explanation.

She wrapped the rope around her leg and caught the length between her feet for a measure of control. Even so, her heavy leather gloves grew warm from friction on the descent.

At the edges of the circular plaza surrounded by an underground lake, proud likenesses of the conquistador sneered at Teagan as she stalked across the dusty stone. “What do you mean ‘if he hears,’ Grant?”

Grant had already moved to the front of the rough-hewn fortress. He stood at a pair of iron doors, looking for a means of entry. He didn’t even turn at her voice. “I promised the treasures to Bonhomme in Paris,” Grant said. “He offered twice as much as Hamwich.”

A mechanism clicked out of Teagan’s view, and Grant gave a triumphant laugh as the doors swung open. “Don’t worry. I have a reliable fence with a reputation for discretion. Hamwich need only hear tell that someone beat us to it.”

He crept down the wide hall toward the central chamber, pointing out an obvious trap with a long pole.

Teagan followed, fingering the Saint Nicholas medallion in her pocket. “And if, God forbid, he discovers the truth? He funded the expedition, after all.”

“Not to fret,” Grant said. “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” He flashed her his devilish smile, the one that shook her steel will and resolve. Then he noticed her hand in her pocket. “I assure you, Saint Nick won’t jot your name on his naughty list, Teag. It’s just business.”

“It’s not Santa Claus, you dolt,” Teagan hissed. “After so many voyages and successful expeditions, even a lout like you has cause to thank Saint Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of sailors.” She swallowed a wave of guilt for ill-gotten bounty. And repentant thieves.

Grant brushed Teagan off. “Me an’ God? That bridge burnt long ago.” He stepped into the main chamber and began a methodical search for Vallarte’s wealth. “God’s of the mindset money’s the root of all evil, and I—like Vallarte—am rather fond of it.”

“Love of money,” Teagan corrected while checking their supplies.

Grant laughed. “Yeah, but who has money and doesn’t love it? We have about four hours before we need to head back. Let’s get to work.”

But after three hours of grueling search, Grant and Teagan sat on the steps outside the Fortress, defeated. “What are we missing, Teag?”

Teagan reviewed research notes she’d meticulously copied. “Castanzo Vallarte dedicated the spoils to the Throne, of course. But historians claim he was infatuated with Princess Anna of Austria, before she married King Phillip.”

She glanced at Grant. “How would you try to win the heart of a queen?”

Grant nodded. “Gold more pure and plentiful than she’d ever seen before…”

Teagan surveyed the plaza’s silent sentinels. “Could Vallarte have hidden his treasure in plain sight?”

Grant grabbed a pickaxe and dashed to the nearest statue. Then he plunged the point into the stone man’s chest. Pieces of rock fell away, and Teagan held up her torch.

Gold glittered in the flickering light.

Grant laughed and broke more of the stone. A flow of coins, cups, and dinnerware poured from the cavity. But Grant’s eyes stared into the statue’s remains. “Teag,” he whispered, breathless, “shine the light here.”

She did so, and beheld a massive golden heart on a stone support. “A literal corazon de oro,” she said with a gasp, “meant for his love.”

Grant pried it free and turned toward Teagan, that charming grin splitting his face—then shrieked at the furry spider crawling across the heart.

Before Teagan could react, she caught the massive heart in the chest with a sickening squish of spider guts. The impact knocked her back, and she splashed into the chilly water.

Weighed down by the massive gold heart, she plummeted into the gloomy depths…

To be continued in “A Trace of Terror”

A Clash with Death

Genre: Adventure? Action? I’ll see what options fit best but I think it’s obvious what I’m going for.

Flash fiction with the prompt: Chasm

God, I had more fun with this than I meant to. I wanted to go a little further with the “chasm” concept, but my original idea wouldn’t fit in the word count.

And really I just wanted to get myself back in the blog battle even if the piece isn’t my most competitive effort. I think you’ll see more of Grant and Teagan in the future.

—–

The Exploits of Grant McSwain, Fearless Adventurer, Man of Mystery, Acquirer of Fabled Fortunes, and Doer of Daring Feats 

(accompanied as always by his hapless asssistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway)

This week’s episode: A Clash with Death, and the Chasm of Despair…

The sun beat down on the thick jungle foliage Grant McSwain brushed aside with the flat of his machete. “Told you,” he said with a grin as he offered his assistant a view of the ziggurat ahead. “The Temple of Ixthapocl, right where I said it would be.”

Teagan clambered the rest of the way up the slope, then took a knee and brushed red bangs away from her dripping face. “The fifth time’s the charm, I guess. As usual.”

Grant ignored the jab. “Now the true challenge begins!”

“Finding the way in?”

“No, that’s easy. I’m talking about sneaking artifacts past customs when we get back to America.” He trudged down the hill toward the vine-covered ruin.

“Always ten steps ahead,” Teagan said. “Sometimes you forget to plan for the obstacles that still block our way.”

Grant shrugged and strolled across the open ground toward the base of the temple. “Who needs a plan when you have style?” His machete made short work of the intertwining vines blocking the entrance. “Already we know that no one else has been in here in years.”

“Through this entrance,” Teagan muttered. The Ixthacas always built secret passages for their own use. Many a conquistador had been ambushed, thinking they found unattended wealth.

A heavy metal door blocked their way, a ring engraved with animals and men in different poses at its center. Grant unfolded a parchment and double-checked the sequence, then turned the ring to the appropriate symbols. “Dance like the serpent,” Grant read aloud, “fight like the bear.”

The lock clicked and dust shook loose as the door swung open.

Grant stepped inside, and Teagan saw the stone sink beneath his foot. She dove into him, bowling him over as three darts cut through the air where he’d been standing.

“And duck,” she said, “like someone who wants to survive.”

Grant dusted himself off and rose, face red as her hair. “Thanks,” he said finally. “Get the flashlight, wouldya?”

The light revealed walls of carved stone, with rows of faces at eye level. Every other mouth hung open, potentially hiding more traps. They took a slower pace, testing any stone in the floor that seemed odd.

The halls inside the ziggurat led to several empty chambers—living quarters, based on the provisions and furnishings. Stairs wound up to the higher levels.

Grant checked each room for anything of interest, a process that took a full hour on the first floor. “I’ve only got one set of spare batteries,” Teagan said. “The rest are back at camp. Ceremonies would be held beneath the moon and stars in the top chamber. Maybe that’s where the good stuff was kept?” 

“Or that’s what they’d want you to think,” Grant replied.

Teagan rolled her eyes and dutifully followed.  

By the time they reached the highest level, the flashlight dimmed and the full moon shining through the open ceiling did as good a job. Stone pillars rose into the night sky at each corner and on each side of the ziggurat’s rooftop. Every pillar bore a plate of silver and obsidian displaying a phase of the moon.  

On a low platform before the altar in the center of the top floor, silver spheres the size of golf balls glimmered in the moonlight, arranged like the brighter stars in the sky. Grant pulled out a knife and immediately pried one from its setting. “Yep, they’re loose, we can grab these.” He drew out a thick leather pouch and began filling it. 

Then he spotted the shining gold plate set above the altar. Engraved lines radiated from the golden sun. “Hey Teag, grab that, will ya?” 

Teagan smiled at the thick gold and approached. But something felt off. She checked the floor, and it looked solid. She inspected the plate from every angle, but saw nothing indicating a trap or trigger mechanism. She tapped the ground in front of the plate with her toes, then put full weight on it. The stones supported her. 

Grant had begun plucking the lunar phases off the pillars, sliding them into his backpack with newspaper padding between each plate. “You gonna get that thing?” he asked. “I don’t want to be out here all night.” 

Teagan couldn’t spot anything amiss. So she jammed a flat steel file between the golden plate and its setting in the stone, then pried the treasure out.  

The Ixthaca worshiped the moon. Why would they put up a valuable image of the sun? 

The plate slapped into her hands, and the stone at the top of its indented setting dropped with a sharp clack against the bottom. 

Teagan groaned. To identify enemies and intruders, of course. 

The floor fell away and she plummeted into darkness with a stifled yelp.  

With her weight suddenly removed, the spring-loaded doors snapped back into place. 

Grant collected the last plate, hefted the sack onto his back, then turned about in confusion. “Did she seriously just take the treasure and run?” 

[To be continued next week, in “The Lolly-pops of Peril”]

Playing Favorites

Happy Labor Day in America. It’s time for a

Monday Morning Snack

There was reclining on  Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples,  whom Jesus loved. – John 13:23 NASB

OM NOM NOM
Goes best with a cup of steaming coffee.
Coffee not included in price of purchase.

If you ever want to learn how to make things fair in life, have more than one child.

It seems no matter how hard we try, one of our four children is always wondering why he or she has it worse than everybody else, and why some sibling gets it so easy.

“My chores are the worst!”

“She got to play the XBox for a long time!”

“He got to go to his friend’s house, why can’t I?”

“IT’S NOT FAIR!”

I don’t feel too bad. If Jesus’ own disciples bickered and accused Him of playing favorites, then I figure this is a normal fact of life.

In the Gospel of John, the writer (John… shocking, I know) uses the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” five times to refer to himself.

Maybe it was humility; he didn’t want to write his name in the account, like “me me me, look at me.” But it kind of comes across to my ears as a proud statement. “I’m the favorite. I’m the one He loves. Neenur neenur neenur, you’re just plain ol’ Peter.

But maybe this phrase is neither humble nor proud.

Maybe it’s a statement of a wonderful and incredible fact.

John understood. He really got it. John’s the one who later writes all about love in the church (read 1st John). He’s the one who emphasizes over and over again that Christ’s followers are “beloved of God” – and he even uses “beloved” as the collective title for his readers.

Beloved means dear to the heart, favored, favorite one. To call myself beloved of God speaks of confidence about His love, security and certainty that “He likes me… He really, really likes me.”

That’s not arrogant, either.

It is arrogant when we add “more than you” either consciously or unconsciously. It is arrogant if we presume to add “but not you” when we think of some group we don’t like. It’s foolish for us to think God should limit His love to suit our desires.

But we can confidently say that we are beloved of God, dear to His heart, favored and special to Him.

Why?

Because He said so.

You’re His “prized possession” and “special treasure.” You are recipients of “great love lavished on us” by God, an unconquerable and inseparable love.

It pains my heart when my wife apologizes or worries needlessly whenever I seem frustrated or upset by anything. It hurts when my children say they are afraid to admit a bad decision for fear that “Daddy might get upset.” That tells me that I have not fully communicated to them the unchanging and unconditional love in my heart. They don’t understand that each of them is my absolute favorite. Each of them holds captive the full measure of my love. So, in my imperfection, I must work to communicate that more clearly.

God, on the other hand, has communicated His love. He has told you that you are His beloved, you are His treasure, you are the one He loves. When He plays favorites, we all win.

Say to yourself, “I am the one He loves.”

Chew on that for a bit.