The Shadow

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We landed on the lakes nearest to the formation that we assumed to be Paititi. Or hoped to be, anyway. The amphibious helicopter was a good idea on my part, looking at the lakes now I wasn’t sure if Vince would have been able to land a plane on them… he would have given it his best shot though.

“Where to from here?” Syrus asked as I pulled out the GPS.

“The formation is roughly four to five hundred meters from this lake, east. We’ll follow the GPS to the coordinates, Fawcett put them on the letter for a reason…” I trailed off, unbuckling myself and jumping to stand. I looked out the windows, checking for any movement in the forest surrounding the lake we had landed on, but there wasn’t any. “We might just be here first,” I whispered, but something in my gut was telling me otherwise.

“Don’t get your hopes up, kid,” Vince told me, I looked to him and sighed.

“Trust me, they aren’t,” I replied, reaching into my backpack and handing everyone a handgun. There was no way we were going into this without weapons, and without everyone having a gun of their own.

“We have to follow where Fawcett went, he found the place not too long ago, he knew what he was doing, so it’s best to follow his footsteps,” I stated, pulling my hair into a ponytail and handing the GPS to Nylah. She could lead us, I would focus on our surroundings to make sure that the Temple wasn’t hiding in the trees.

I jumped out of the helicopter first, landing in the water which came up to my waist. I held still, surveying the tree line for any kind of movement. Nothing. But something wasn’t right… my hand was shaking. I never shake.

“It’s safe,” I said loud enough for the other three to hear, they followed me out of the helicopter and into the lake. We waded through the water until we reached the edge of the lake, my hand was still shaking so I quickly hid it in my pocket. They would notice, but if they thought something was wrong with me, they would call this entire hunt off.

I couldn’t leave it now.

I let the other three walk in front of me, and I kept to the tail of our group, handgun close so I could grab it quickly if needed but not too close to seem paranoid. If the Temple were here, they would have eyes on us, should have eyes on us, but I felt nothing. Yes, there was worry sitting in my gut, but I didn’t have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. At that moment we weren’t being watched, but something terrible was still coming our way.

“Hey, what’s that?” Nylah asked, the entire trek so far had been silent, or I just hadn’t heard any conversation. Or maybe I was too distracted for that… that was probably it.

“What does the GPS say?” I asked before Nylah even went any further into the foliage after whatever she had seen.

“Pretty much dead on the coordinates.” She answered. I nodded as she moved dirt away from a rock… which had a partially metallic surface. Whatever we were looking for, there was a good chance that this was it.

“What is that?” Vincent asked as we all looked at the object on the rock.

“A clue?” Syrus asked, I walked towards the metal and looked closer at it.

“Confirmation.” I corrected him as I stared at the engravings. “How did you spot this?” I asked Nylah, who shrugged her shoulders.

“Saw the reflection of light, surprising with how dirty it is,” she replied, and I nodded slowly.

“PF and the cross… this was Fawcett. We’re on the right track.” I said, touching the metal gently without thinking. My fingers were shaking as I felt it, so I quickly hid my hands back in my pockets. Not one of them could see. Not until I figured out what was wrong, at least.

“That’s great and all, but where do we go next?” Syrus asked, I sighed and rolled my eyes.

“You could do some work here just so you know,” I told him with a smirk on my face, he seemed slightly taken aback. Slightly.

“There’s another one over there,” Nylah stated, pointing to another metal plate attached to a stone. She led us from emblem to emblem, eventually leading us to a small entrance into the side of the square formation. It was a small cave entrance, but if Fawcett led us to it…

“People thought the city would be at the top of this formation, I never thought it might be inside…” I stated, scanning the cliff face of the formation in both directions before looking back to the entrance. I grabbed my torch and turned it on, shining it into the dark entry… and another metal plate reflected back at me. We definitely had to enter through here.

“Brains before beauty.” Syrus gestured at the entrance while looking at me, I couldn’t help myself from rolling my eyes again.

“If only you had either,” I said simply, walking towards the entrance.

“Hey, I have a pretty face.”

“Sure you do, sweetheart.” I smiled at him as I walked into the formation, and before he could say anything else. “I would tell you guys to look out for traps, but since everyone is behind me, I guess that’s my job.” I quipped as we continued through the tunnel, I was becoming more and more thankful that Vincent had pushed for us to bring torches.

“Who would you rather be in front?” Nylah asked. The question was half genuine and half rhetorical. All three of them knew I hated not being in control… I mean, Syrus and I had an exceptional argument about it just yesterday.

“Well, all three of you are disposable…” I joked, but no one laughed. “Come on, guys, that was funny.” I stopped walking to look back at them. “Really?” I said with a disappointing tone, and when no one said anything, I turned back around and continued walking with an annoyed expression on my face. They would all learn to appreciate my horrible sense of humour...

Especially since they were staying.

I smiled at the thought, of the Dawsons choosing to stay with Vince and me.

“There’s a light up ahead,” I stated, turning my torch off and picking up my speed as we walked through the tunnel. I needed to know where the light was coming from, what it would lead to. After a few seconds, we found ourselves in a small cavern… or was it an entry room?

I wasn’t too sure, but I couldn’t focus. My entire body felt like it was buzzing but in a strangely, good way. I didn’t want to say anything because the only thing that made sense was that I was feeling some kind of energy that was connected to this place, and none of the others seemed to feel it. Maybe I just needed some food.

“What is this place?” Syrus whispered although the stone walls rebounded the sound of his voice. I spun around slowly, turning to take in the whole room slowly and with as much focus as I could muster.

“It’s an entry room,” Vince answered as I noticed a few details.

“There are wear marks on the floor either side of the entry, which implies there were guards there, and the paths through the room imply heavy foot traffic. This side of the formation is closest to the lakes, so this was the main entrance or was used by the people who collected water for the city.” I said, bullshitting just enough for them to think everything was normal. The room was bare, so I was going to run with the idea of it being the entrance for water collectors.

“Let’s keep moving, we have gold to find while we still have a head start,” Vince stated, I nodded in reply before I looked up. I had to know how the light was pouring into the room… a skylight. I looked up the hole and saw the reflection of sunlight… mirrors? I took a mental note of it before we continued forwards. Mirrors. How did they have mirrors? The hole itself had been centuries old, but until the installation of mirrors, it wouldn’t have brought anywhere near as much light in.

“Guess I’ll take the lead again, shall I?” I asked as I walked into the next tunnel that led away from the outside world, my fingertips lightly brushing the stone as I walked. I couldn’t explain it in a way that made sense. The buzzing I could feel was like adrenaline pouring through my veins, but it kept getting stronger with each step I took, deeper into the formation, closer to the probable city of gold. What the hell did it mean?

I got my torch out once more, the tunnels were rather dark, which was when I noticed that my hands were shaking even more than before.

“You okay?” Syrus asked. He must have noticed my shaking hands… or maybe he had noticed that I had stopped walking to stare at my own traitorous hands. It was probably the latter.

“I don’t know…” I replied, turning to look at him, and he held one of my hands in his. Not romantically, but to inspect it.

“You normally have surgeon steady hands.” He stated simply. That was when I saw the other two were watching our exchange, and Syrus had concern in his eyes.

“I told you I don’t know.” I snapped, ripping my hand away from his. Why did I let him touch me for that long? Why did I get so angry so suddenly? His touch had been gentle, even… caring.

“Caeli, let’s keep moving,” Vince told me as he saw my anger and confusion, the former expression only because of the latter. I hated not knowing, not understanding or being aware, and I hated it even more whenever it had a direct effect on me. I said nothing, I just turned back around and kept walking forwards with my torchlight shaking with my hand.

“Should you even be handling a gun?” Syrus asked me next. I stopped walking and turned to look at him, the movement a lot faster than I had planned for.

“Shut the fuck up!” I shouted, and when I did all four of the torches flickered out for a second. We all noticed as the tunnel completely faded to black before the torches slowly grew brighter again. My eyebrows furrowed, for that second of darkness, something had felt different. I felt… connected. I wasn’t sure if that excited or terrified me.

No one said anything, so I turned back around and kept walking. I didn’t apologise for my outburst, I was far too confused about what had just happened to bother with one. My breath shook as we made it deeper and deeper beneath the surface, my shaking only becoming worse by the minute. What the hell was happening to me?

Why was it only me?

“Oh my God…” I trailed off as we reached a new cavern, firelight allowed us to see, we were too far below the surface for a skylight. Although the number of fire torches was impressive, along with the pits of fire that gave us light, it wasn’t what I focused on.

“Jesus Christ,” Vince stated simply as they all filed in through the opening behind me, they moved to stand next to me, and all four of us took in the sight that I never thought we would see.

The firelight reflected off of golden buildings, golden statues and golden walls of the gigantic cavern. Houses were built into the walls, all covered in gold, paths lead around the square centre which could have held markets for the habitants… a temple the height of the entire cavern at the opposite end. It was spectacular, an entire city below the surface, built in the caves… did it go down further? Could it?

But movement out the corner of my eye took me away from my curiosity, a flash of dark grey amongst the shimmering gold made me pull down the person nearest to me, and the other two followed suit. We had hoped that we had a head start, but my breath shuddered. We should have known better.

The Temple was already here.

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