The Greatest Treasure in the World

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 8 (v.1) - The Dungeon of Spite

Submitted: June 12, 2019

Reads: 5

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Submitted: June 12, 2019

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VIII. The Dungeon of Spite

 

Sebastion now had to focus on what was at hand and the reason he was here: to explore a dangerous, ruined dungeon in hopes of finding the greatest treasure in the world. Soon, he was a few miles out of the city, approaching his next stop: ‘The Dungeon of Spite’.

Finding the so-called ‘Dungeon of Spite’ was easy because it was right where Thorgrim said it would be. In the mid-morning, about three miles northwest of Calibut, Sebastion encountered the crumbling remains of a tall, stone wall, littering the area along the main road. Following it, he eventually found the two heavily damaged column like structures that flanked the entrance to the prison compound.

Fifteen heavy, rust corroded chains blocked the opening that once held a set of steel banded, oak doors. There could be no doubt as to who installed these heavy chains. The ominous, ‘Keep Out! By Order of the Calibut Sheriff’ sign, made the answer clear enough and was another clue that Sebastion had found the right location.

The crumbling walls were over thirty feet high in some places so the only way in was through the main entrance. The chains were stretched tight across the entrance, each weighing over five hundred pounds. All of them were over twenty feet long with iron links as thick as a man’s arm. Large bolts held them in place on the frames of the stone columns.

Despite the warning from Thorgrim that it was illegal to enter the ruins under penalty of arrest, Sebastion was not about to let that stop him now. “I will deal with the Sheriff if need be,” he mumbled, glancing around.

Dismounting the unicorn, Sebastion was able to dismantle the chain obstacle using his tools and engineering skills in just over an hour. With his great strength, Sebastion moved the heavy chains out of the way, clearing a path for Rosie.

After a deep drink of refreshing water, Sebastion led Rosie through the entrance, then into the main compound grounds. Before him was the corpse of the former Calibut Prison, which was now called the Dungeon of Spite. A broken ruin, the prison certainly appeared to have been through an earthquake. Calibut Prison was a thick stone building with two stories above ground and one level below. This place once housed all types of undesirables including monsters, killers, thieves, rapists et cetera. However, that was long ago.

Unknown to Sebastion, though he anticipated it, the place was now full of everything that he detested, such as green toothed rats, snakes, barrier worms, spiders and various other creepy crawlers. Sebastion especially hated spiders, shuddering at the thought of them.

His mind warned him. Do I really want to go in there?

Once he entered the ruins, Sebastion would have to use care because any part of the elderly, damaged structure could fall with little warning and crush him. Thorgrim had also warned him that spooks were in here. Could this place really be haunted? Sebastion had dealt with the undead on several occasions but he had never encountered ghosts before.

Sebastion led Rosie into the compound, stopping in front of a large open doorway of the prison’s main building. There, he loosely tied the unicorn to a nearby tree. Sebastion then gave Rosie a fresh apple and kissed him on the cheek. The unicorn, sensing danger, whinnied while swinging his horn, trying to warn his master to be careful. Leaving his sword behind but armed with his dagger, two torches, water, food, rope and his tool set, Sebastion started walking towards the doorway of the wreck.

Sebastion knew the possible dangers that lay ahead, though he did not care. He simply wanted to find the treasure chest that Karrinna desperately desired; thus proving that he would do anything for her. Nevertheless, he hoped the treasure was here and that he was not risking his life for nothing . . . or in the least, not wasting his time.

If the treasure is in the dungeon beneath these broken walls, where exactly would it be? Perhaps it was destroyed by falling stones, or maybe the very ground opened up during the quake and swallowed the treasure chest whole. Am I risking my life for nothing? Karrinna told me not to risk my life but to use wisdom instead. She also told me to look within myself, whatever that means.

To Sebastion, the treasure of his quest was certainly a strange mystery but then there were many strange mysteries in the history of the realm. The study of unusual, unexplained and strange phenomena was a hobby of sorts for Sebastion. As he entered the battered doorway, his mind rambled on about a few of the mysteries that he had investigated during his long career.

How did ‘Prominence’, the long lost magical sword of the first King of Avalon, appear next to the King’s throne on Elric’s coronation day? No one knew.

Who built the oldest known structure in the land? The three thousand year old ‘Star Realm Observatory’ with its still functioning, one hundred foot long telescope. No one knows.

No one has ever solved the mystery of the ‘Mystic Wood’: A small forest of some of the tallest trees in the world. The trees appear normal enough, except that they sing to each other during a full moon. They are also impossible to cut down or burn.

What is the truth behind the ‘all-knowing, most-wise Oracle’? A supernatural entity of good, the Oracle will provide answers in exchange for a sacrifice. No one knows for sure.

Yes, there are many mysteries to solve, but to Sebastion, there were none more important than the treasure of his quest.

Of all places, why was the treasure here? After lighting a torch, Sebastion began to explore the ruined building. Unable to find a clear path to a descending stairway, he probed the damaged floor for an opening into the lower, dungeon level. As he worked, his mind ran through some possibilities.

Who was this thief? Is it possible that he is the one who stole the treasure chest from Karrinna’s father? Why would he hide the chest in here? Was the law closing in on the thief and he thought he could hide it here in these ruins to come back for it later? Thorgrim’s Tome didn’t mention the small, delicate, magical golden object. What if the object of gold is not here? Karrinna warned that the object could not be separated from the chest or both would be destroyed. Is it possible someone, using a special magic, was able to remove the golden object from the chest without destroying them in the process? Sebastion pondered these and other questions, fully knowing that if there really is a treasure in here, it might not be the right one. Nevertheless, he had to try to find it anyway. Fortunately, his engineering expertise would come in handy while he tried to figure out a safe pathway to the dungeon level.

While exploring, Sebastion noticed a large, cracked area on the floor near a wall. Hoping this area might grant him access to the lower level, he used his tools and after some work, he was able to create a large opening, which allowed him to see what was below. Lowering his torch into the hole, Sebastion gazed down and could see the remains of a prison cell. After squeezing down through the enlarged opening in the floor, he looked around and saw several rows of barred cells, spiked cages and other torture devices. Excited, it was obvious that he had found the dungeon level.

After more exploration, Sebastion found that he had access to only about half the level because some of it had collapsed and was now blocked by rubble. Hoping that the treasure was not buried deep in the crushing debris and out of reach, he searched the dungeon level for about an hour but found no sign of any treasure. He wanted to press on, but after a few narrow escapes from a large glowing spider and a couple green-toothed rats, he decided it was probably hopeless. The vampire mosquitoes were thick and unbearable too.

Tired of being bitten by the bugs, sick of smelling the acrid smoke from the torch and unable to find anything, Sebastion, disappointed, decided to ascend to the surface. However, as he started back towards the hole he had created, he sensed movement off to his right.

Looking, he noticed that a red cardinal had lit upon a block of stone. The block was loose and partially protruding from a wall, revealing a small opening that Sebastion had missed near the floor. The cardinal sang a few notes and then flew away into the darkness. What the hell, another cardinal? How could it get all the way down here? Sebastion was amazed. This was the third one he had seen in a week. They had become so rare, anyone would be lucky if they saw a red cardinal once in ten years.

Sebastion approached the protruding block and examined the opening. Realizing there might be a room on the other side, he used his pry bar and was able to move the block away from the wall. He peered into the opening, but it was too dark to see anything, so Sebastion decided to slide a lit torch into the gap in an attempt to light up what might be in there.

Peering inside, Sebastion discovered a new room; he also thought he saw something twinkling in the torchlight. Squinting, he noticed that on the far side of the room near the floor, there were two dust covered, silver objects sitting upright in several inches of debris. Extremely excited, Sebastion pulled back, and after working hard to pry away a couple more blocks, he was able to enter the room.

Reclaiming his torch, Sebastion examined the newly discovered room. The room was large, perhaps thirty by thirty feet and had the expected dank smell about it, but he noticed another, much more disagreeable odor like that of bad vinegar. Though this place was likely a storage area, it was impossible to know its original purpose because chunks of stone block, broken away from the walls, as well as pieces of timber from the overhead ceiling, lay scattered in the heavy blanket of dust on the floor. There were a couple of open doorways, minus the doors, which led to other areas of this level, but these outer areas had completely caved in and were impossible to explore.

Briefly, he thought he felt a slight vibration and at the same time, he heard a strange, low-pitched, rumbling sound coming from somewhere nearby. As he started to look around to locate its source, the vibration and sound suddenly slowed to a stop. Was that a tremor I just felt? Sebastion waited for a moment but felt or heard nothing else. He looked down at the objects in the debris and quickly forgot that he may have just experienced an earthquake tremor.

Sebastion slowly approached the silver objects; his heart pounding like it did before a big battle. They were silver urns, each perhaps twice as large as a drinking mug. He carefully picked one up and then opened the lid. Inside was a dark, golden ring that lay on a pile of the whitest pearls he had ever seen. The ring was a simple band with a half-inch round, quarter inch thick, flat surface on top. In his excitement, he fumbled the urn, spilling a few pearls and the ring onto the dust filled floor.

Cursing his clumsiness, Sebastion gathered up the pearls and while picking up the ring, he thought he would put it to the test, but which ring was it? Was it the Ring of Holding or the Ring of Transformation?

Sebastion removed a glove and slid the ring onto the third finger of his left hand. It was a perfect fit. Following the instructions provided by Thorgrim’s Tome, he stared at the band of gold while visualizing Karrinna’s face. As he did, the ring became warm. It seemed to vibrate, then amazingly before his eyes, Karrinna’s beautiful image formed on the face of the ring! Wondrous orange colored gemstones adorned her hair and the visage seemed to smile at him.

Being able to see her face anytime on the ring would be pleasing. The story Thorgrim’s Tome related was indeed true. “Unbelievable,” he said, as he stared at the ring in awe for a few moments. He then put on his glove.

Again, Sebastion heard the rumbling sound and felt a slight vibration. It lasted for a few seconds, stopped, then stuttered for a few more seconds then stopped again. He glanced around, looking for the source. “What the hell is that?” If that was a tremor, why isn’t the dust being disturbed?

Placing the first urn back down on the floor, he replaced the lid and pulled the other one of the debris. Opening it, just as the Tome said, it also contained a golden colored ring that sat on top of a bed of white pearls. In his excitement, he said loudly, “This must be the Ring of Holding!” However, though likely very valuable, he knew the ring was useless without the magic phrase but perhaps one day, he might discover it.

Sebastion studied the pearls and remembered that the Tome said they were edible and had healing properties but also could be addictive. Should I dare eat one of these things? Who knows what it might do to me. Though tempted to eat one, Sebastion had a better idea. Removing his glove again, he easily crushed one to a fine powder with his fingers, then placed the particles of the pearl on a small, open wound he had on his left wrist. Almost instantly, as it started to heal, the sting from the wound disappeared, and the redness from the infection slowly faded away. I can’t believe it . . . it really worked!

The excitement Sebastion felt was unlike anything he had ever experienced before, and he trembled at the thought of what he had just found.

The desire to eat one of the pearls nagged at him, but he was alone down here. What if eating a pearl somehow makes me sick or worse?

After replacing his glove again, Sebastion studied the two urns. Are these urns part the treasure of the greatest treasure in the world? If it is, where is the chest and the magical golden object?

Using his torch, Sebastion carefully inspected the room, looking for the magical object made of pure gold and the chest. He noticed that several pieces of an unusually colored wood were scattered around where the urns were found. Could these pieces of wood be the remains of the chest? I hope not because, according to Karrinna, it means that the treasure is destroyed. Maybe the quake destroyed the chest and these pieces are all that is left of it.

Then Sebastion saw something protruding from the rubble. It was about the size of his fist and golden in color. His pulse raced as he carefully dug around it. After a few moments, he saw that it was an apple made of gold! Knowing that it was supposed to be delicate, he gently pulled it from the debris. It was light, probably hollow. Examining the gold apple, he did not notice any etched runes or sense that it had any magical properties but Karrinna would probably be able to show him. He was so excited now that he thought he could hear his own heartbeat.

His heart sank. He remembered that she had told him that if the object was removed from the chest, both would be destroyed . . . yet here was a golden apple, still intact. Nothing made sense.

Concerned that this treasure might not be the right one, he tried to justify in his mind that it could be. Perhaps, someone or maybe God used a powerful magic to protect the contents in the event of the chest’s destruction? After spending a little time searching in case he missed anything else, he gathered up a couple small pieces of the wood that could have been part of the chest. He then wrapped up the wood, the two silver urns and the golden apple and then carefully placed them in his bag. It was now time to head to the surface to begin the long journey back to Midmeadow so he can show Karrinna what he had found.

As he started towards the opening in the room, the strange rumbling sound returned briefly. He became worried that the sound could be coming from weakening ceiling timbers that could collapse on him at any moment. Frightened, he wanted to get out quickly.

About to exit the room, he noticed the strange sound and vibration again, only this time it was persistent. It was rolling, rumbling and louder than before, above him and to his right. Curious, he stopped to listen. ‘Lubba, lubb . . . lubba, lubba, lubba, lubba, lubb . . . lubba, lubba, lubba, lubba, lubba, lubba lubb.’ The odd sound seemed to be coming from the darkened, far corner of the room, but he could not see a thing over there.

He dropped his bag and with only his burning torch, carefully crept over to the opposite corner of the room. Noticing that the acidic odor of bad vinegar seemed stronger here, he raised the torch high and looked up. ‘Lubba, lubba, lubba, lubba, lubba, lubba lubb.’

What he saw made him mad with fear. Above him and in the corner, was the source of the stale vinegar odor: A massive nest that belonged to a colony of giant Northern Wasps. The whole nest was larger than a full stack of hay, but Sebastion could only see the very bottom of it hanging down into the room through the broken ceiling timber. The nest was a huge, pulsating, flat black colored, house of horrors.

Although rare and usually passive, Northern Wasps can be deadly. They will not hesitate to attack anything that threatens their nest. As big as a man’s thumb and unlike all other species of wasps where only the female has a stinger, both male and female Northern Wasps are armed with a poisonous stinger an inch long. The snake-like venom is extremely toxic and capable of killing a large animal such as a horse within seconds. His mind screamed, Holy shit, I have to get the hell out of here now!

Just as Sebastion started to race towards the entrance to the room and flee the wasps, the ground shook briefly causing several blocks to shift and fall, driving clouds of dust into the air. “Sonofabitch!” he yelled, glancing back towards the nest. The roar of many collapsing blocks thundered around him! It was a quake and although unharmed, Sebastion was imprisoned in a room full of deadly, giant wasps.

The strong tremor had angered the entire colony. Thinking they were under attack, the wasps responded with a roaring, buzzing sound, twice as loud as before. With only the heavy dust in the air keeping the wasps at bay and fearing that they would exit the nest and attack him at any moment, Sebastion panicked. Must get out, now!

Coughing and with the incessant rumble of the angry wasps behind him, Sebastion managed to quickly dig his way out of the treasure room. Dragging his torch and belongings with him, he leapt to his feet and then tried to stack some broken blocks into the opening in an effort to stop the wasps from following him. He managed to close it off except for a gap about the size of his head.

Terrified, he watched as one, two, then three of the orange and black striped, flying devils, slip through the gap and into the darkness behind him. Instinctively, he shoved the head of his burning torch into the hole, just as more tried to get through. Another one made it, but the flame from the torch kept the others, angry as hell, trapped on the other side.

Now, in almost complete darkness, Sebastion grabbed the last torch from his sling, lighting it as fast as he could. This is not good. Gotta get to the surface. He knew several giant wasps had made it through and were now somewhere in this room and hallway system.

He glanced at the torch that was holding back the rest of them, concerned that it may only have another hour of fuel. He could hear their loud, angry buzzing through the thick blocks of the wall. They wanted in. He wanted out.

Looking towards the area where he first descended, Sebastion was horrified to discover that the entire area had collapsed. In desperation, he spent a half-hour searching the area for an exit but with no success . . . he would have to find another way out. The torch in the gap seemed a bit dimmer now and he knew that if the flame died, those things would get in and there would be no way to stop them. He kept searching though he was tired, frightened and struggling to breathe because the air was very poor.

There must be a way out of here, somewhere. Sebastion realized that he might have to dig out and that it would be a herculean task. The air quality had been very bad, but fortunately, the dampness had caused the dust to settle quickly making it a bit easier to breathe. He needed his torch to see, but the two torches were burning the remaining valuable air.

Panicking, his mind badgered him with valid questions. What if those torches die before I can get out of here? What if another quake would hit before I can escape? What if those wasps . . . he shuddered at the thought, knowing that a few were already in here with him. Watching him and waiting to sting him to death.

Sebastion continued to examine the hallway’s ceiling for another way out. He became relieved when he thought he could feel a slight breeze from somewhere above him. Air is getting down here somehow, thank God.

He was relieved until he heard a wasp. Sebastion heard its wings buzzing as it swiftly approached. He waved his torch and ducked. Its stinger barely missing, the wasp angrily flew by him to disappear into the darkness. Goddamn, I hate those things.

Sebastion looked over towards his first torch again. Though it still burned, it was becoming weaker with each passing minute. He could still hear the huge, angry mass of them, filling the area with the ceaseless, eerie rumble of hundreds of giant wasp wings. They, with their long, deadly stingers, impatiently waiting, teasing Sebastion and taunting him, just on the other side of the damaged wall.

He worked for another half hour but could find no way to reach the main level above him. Nearing exhaustion, Sebastion was becoming more concerned that he might be trapped forever in this ruin or killed by an army of wasps. Though he was a knight, the desperate situation was sapping his morale. The torch still burned in the gap, though it was very close to going out. Time was short.

Thirsty, Sebastion took a deep draw from a water flask, then sat down, dejected. Drowsy, he tried to think of some way to get out of this mess. He considered the many battlefields he had fought on, managing time and time again to escape death. He thought of the terrible plight of the two little children back in Calibut. Those children have probably survived worse than this. What am I worried about?

On his hand, the golden Ring of Transformation glinted in the torchlight. He looked at it and studied the image of Karrinna’s smiling face on the ring. Thoughts of her began to race through his mind. The sound of the nearby wasps swiftly brought him back to his senses. He could not give up now.

Pushing himself, Sebastion rose and started to chip away again at the ceiling above him. Another wasp flew by him, trying to sting him as it passed but with a quick swipe from a gloved hand, he swatted it in mid-air. It dropped to the floor in front of him, stunned. As it twitched, he crushed the insect with a hard stomp of his boot. He twisted the boot more times than he probably needed to, mashing the monster wasp to a flat pulp.

Another glance towards the torch in the wall, Sebastion could see that it was now just a smoking hot ember. There was little time left. Then another wasp flew by him. No, it was the cardinal! Sebastion watched as it flew down the end of one of the long hallways into the dark. He could hear it singing . . . calling to him. Am I hallucinating?

Sebastion grabbed his still burning second torch and ran in the direction of the singing. When the torch light reached the end of the hallway, he noticed that the bird was perched on a damaged support column. He approached the bird carefully, trying not to frighten it. “Do you know the way out, my little friend?” he said softly.

He watched as the cardinal continued to sing, but Sebastion was startled when it flew right past his head and as he turned, in the light of the torch, he witnessed an incredible event. The cardinal had intercepted one of the wasps just as it was about to strike Sebastion from behind.

The bird had snagged the wasp only inches from Sebastion’s exposed neck and carried it to the ground where they battled violently. There, the cardinal tore at the insect repeatedly with its beak while holding it firmly with its feet. The giant wasp, nearly one-third the size of the bird, thrashed and twisted and while uttering a weird chittering sound, stabbed repeatedly with its huge stinger, just out of range of the bird’s exposed body. Another attack by the bird’s sharp beak decapitated the insect, leaving the wasp quivering and dead.

Then, the cardinal flew past Sebastion again, back towards the column, but this time, it went up towards the ceiling and disappeared. Sebastion looked down at the still twitching, headless wasp. A stomp from his heavy boot ended any further movement by the insect. Thankful for the cardinal, Sebastion wished that a knighthood could be bestowed upon the red bird that had likely, just saved his life.

Sebastion, curious and desperate, walked over to the column. Looking up, he noticed a large hole, big enough for him to fit through, partially hidden by a ceiling beam. The salvation of fresh air and light greeted him. He paused to take a few deep breaths but another slight tremor interrupted him, reminding him that he must get out as soon as possible. The vibration raised the dust again, but worse, right behind, he heard the sounds of the army of wasps as they came for him in a stinging frenzy.

Both elated and panicking, Sebastion quickly pushed his torch up and through the hole. With the bags strapped over his side, he climbed aboard the remains of the column. Reaching up with all of his remaining strength, though he barely fit, Sebastion pulled himself through to the main floor of the old prison. There, with the wasps only a few seconds behind him and praying it would keep them at bay, he grabbed the burning torch, laying the flaming head across the two-foot gap in the floor.

Within a matter of seconds, hundreds of the evil devils arrived. Swarming the opening, they were unable to get through because of the burning torch. A few of the angrier insects tried, but their efforts ended in a flaming death.

Several feet away, Sebastion saw several large stone block pieces lying on the floor. Running over to them, though they were very heavy, he slid one over, while the giant wasps were just below, still trying to get past the flaming torch. He was able to partially cover the hole with a block, while the fire from the torch did the rest. Using another block, Sebastion was able to plug the opening, trapping the wasps (hopefully) forever underground. Of course, there was no way to know if they had another way out from below. Sebastion, though exhausted, did not want to wait around long to find out.

The late afternoon sun shone through the open entrance area, revealing a visibly upset unicorn as he waited, still roped to a tree. Sebastion saw Rosie and stumbled out of the prison, coughing, tired and dirty but very grateful for the little red cardinal who was now perched atop Rosie’s horn. “Sir Cardinal, I salute you!” Sebastion said respectfully.


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The Greatest Treasure in the World

For her hand, the maiden demanded a treasure . . . the greatest in the world. For her heart, the knight would risk everything searching the world to find it.

© Copyright 2019 Scott Curtiss Tucker. All rights reserved.

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