Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 5: The King's Secret
It was a dream that began in Australia.
Indy stood on top of a vast mesa, silver serpent rod gripped tightly in his left hand. Before him, the descending sun colored the sky a pastel wash of pinks and purples, as beautiful as any natural sky he had ever seen.
As he stood motionless, listening to the sounds of the earth and sky, the beating of the serpent's heart became evident against his fingertips. An odd thought came to him. Within the serpent is knowledge. Fear not the serpent. The pulse grew stronger and enveloped his hand, then his wrist, moving up along his arm to the shoulder. He gazed at the rod in alarm as the throbbing turned uncomfortable. He cursed and tried to let go, but could not. The body of the snake became supple, the scaly hide hot. It curled back upon him, wrapping itself tightly about his arm. As its head neared his face, maw gaping, Indy screamed.
"Wake up," the serpent said gently.
Indy's eyes snapped open, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He lay flat on his back, the cast encasing his arm held so close to his face that he could smell the plaster. Above him stood Angelina, a frown etched across her face. As he directed his gaze towards her, she knelt quickly, her frown replaced with a look of concern.
"Indiana, mi Dios, are you sick?" She placed her hand gently against his forehead and neck. "You are burning with fever!"
"Not fever," Indy croaked. "Poison." He turned on his side and wretched loudly.
"I will get help," Angelina said, running from the chamber.
Indy curled into a ball and groaned, just before passing out once again.
He awoke on a couch in Vagario's old office. His mouth tasted of copper, as if he had recently tasted blood. At his side stood three people: Angelina, an older gentleman holding a gray medical bag, and a second man, hard looking but dressed in a well made suit. Indy's arm and head were pounding mercilessly.
"Indy, are you okay?" Angelina asked quietly.
The archaeologist pinched his eyes shut and forced himself to take slow, deep breaths. The pounding lessened a bit. "I'm fine," he said, rubbing the sore spot on his right hand.
<"He is a lucky man,"> the doctor said to Angelina and the other Spaniard. <"Had the concoction on that needle not been so old, we'd be digging him a hole.">
Indy opened his eyes again and smiled at the older man. <"Thank you,"> he said simply.
The doctor nodded in response. <"Now, you must rest. The poison will keep you weak for the rest of the day. I recommend you sleep and try to eat a light meal in the morning."> He turned to Angelina. <"If he shows any other reactions, particularly violent shaking or clenching of the fists, have him taken to the hospital. He should be fine, though. He is a strong boy.">
Boy? Indy thought. Sounds like my father. The doctor signaled his departure with a little bow and then exited the room.
Indy turned his attention to the man in the suit. He was tall - about 6'3". His dark hair appeared to be slicked back with pomade, his eyes level and penetrating. Below the angle of his left shoulder, a fat bulge gave his jacket an unnatural pucker at the lapel.
Gun, Indy noted silently.
Angelina pulled up a chair and sat at Indy's side. "Indy," she said, "this is Esteban Merida. He's a friend of the Museum."
Indy pushed himself into a sitting position and shook Merida's hand. <"Hello,"> he said.
Merida smiled. "I speak English, Dr. Jones, but thank you for your courtesy."
"You're with the police, aren't you." Indy didn't pose it as a question.
Merida smiled. "I've been working with the Museum for years, trying to assist them with security issues, solving minor crimes, thefts and what have you. I've been on-call ever since...." He motioned sadly to the belongings scattered about the room. "Carlos was a good friend."
Indy nodded thoughtfully and forced himself to stand. "Indy," Angelina chided, "what are you doing? The doctor said to rest."
"Time for that later," he said brusquely. "I want to know what in that statue is worth poisoning a man for. It may have something to do with why Vagario had to die."
Jones cut her off. "Help me downstairs, or get out of my way." He glanced at Merida expecting to be challenged, but the investigator simply stepped back and grabbed an umbrella off of Vagario's hat rack.
"You may find this useful," he said, handing the makeshift cane to Jones. Indy took it, nodded his thanks and walked slowly out of the office toward the lobby stairs. Angelina gave Merida a dirty look and he shrugged. <"There are some men you don't refuse, Gelina,"> He then turned to follow Indy.
Back in the security chamber, Indy resumed his examination of the statue. Using one of the Museum's flashlights, he peered inside the hole between the king's shoulder blades and noted that the poisoned needle still jutted out from its hidden recess. Indy rubbed off the black gel with a dirty rag. At the back of the tiny chamber, a slim metal dowel projected downward, ending in a hook. Indy reached in carefully, grabbed the hook and pulled. A soft noise, like a key turning in a lock, came from somewhere near the head of the statue. Indy looked up but couldn't immediately detect that anything had changed.
"Hand me that ladder," he said, pointing to an old wooden contraption leaning against the wall between a break in the shelves. Merida brought it over and positioned it beside the king. Indy took a deep breath and weakly climbed up to the statue's head.
"There's a panel similar to the one in his back," Indy offered. "It's part of the hat." He spent a few moments studying the flat metal plate beneath the panel. Embossed upon it were several lengthy blocks of archaic Spanish text. Indy grinned down at Angelina. "Bring me some rubbing paper and a piece of chalk!"
An hour later, Indy laid out his translation of the rubbing on the coffee table in Vagario's office. Angelina hovered over his shoulder while Merida brewed a pot of fresh coffee. "See if you agree with me on this translation," Indy said to the woman. Slowly, she went over the words, mouthing them to herself. As she neared the end of the text, her eyes widened.
"Surely this is a joke, Indiana."
Merida looked up from where he sat. "Something interesting?" he said.
Indy nodded. "Very interesting. How much do you know about Charles V?"
Merida shrugged. "Some. But school was a long time ago."
Angelina spoke up. "I know a little. Sometime in the late 1400's, Ferdinand II succeeded to the crown of Aragon. He married Isabella of Castile and together they ruled their united empires. They were know as the Reyes Catolicos, 'the Catholic Kings.' It's all very romantic."
Indy smiled and she continued. "When Ferdinand died sometime around 1515, I think, the crowns of the Spanish kingdoms went to his 16 year old grandson, Charles I, ruler of the Netherlands and heir to the Austrian Habsburg dynasty." "And on June 28th, 1519," Indy finished, "Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor and renamed Charles V."
Merida poured himself some coffee and moved to sit opposite Indy. "I remember some of that," he said. "But what I remember most was all of the fighting." "That's right," Indy agreed. "Charles' reign was characterized by - some might say plagued by - almost constant warfare. The king was very adamant about defending Christendom against its enemies. To that end, he found it necessary to repel the Turks from southern Italy, which, in turn, brought his empire into collision with the Ottoman Empire, transforming the entire central Mediterranean region into the center of a vast power struggle. In addition, he had other conflicts left to finish in Algiers and Istanbul."
"So, what does the text from the statue have to do with all of this?" Merida said.
"Scattered throughout the breadth of his reign, Spain came in conflict with the French. They fought four wars, to be exact - all within a relatively short period of time. One of these came about because of rival claims to Naples, and it was almost the straw that broke Charles' back. Fending off multiple enemies, while at the same time trying to expand one's empire takes more resources than most nations can afford. Spain was no exception to this generalization.
Luckily for Charles, Mexico had proven to be overflowing in natural wealth; specifically, silver. By 1536, most of the Pacific coast regions had been conquered by Nuno de Guzman. In order to complete the subjugation of the Indians, however, the Spaniards pushed into Zacatecas, where they discovered immensely valuable silver mines. They made similar discoveries in other regions to the north. There was so much silver, in fact, that the fleet used to transport this wealth back to Spain became known as 'The Silver Fleet.'
"According to this inscription, however, the French discovered their own silver mine, larger than any other. They planned on using it to fund their part in the war."
"Where was it?" Merida asked.
"Southern Mexico. Although the Spanish had conquered most of the area, they continually met with effective Indian resistance throughout the Yucatan. At the time, the area was heavily populated by an abundance of capable Maya tribesmen. Francisco de Montejo undertook the conquest of the region in 1526, but it took nearly 20 years before the Spaniards gained control of the northern end of the peninsula - right where the mine was rumored to have been located."
"So, how did the French find the mine?"
Indy shook his head. "Doesn't say. But word of the discovery got back to Spain via the king's spies. And although no one would characterize Charles as a brilliant leader, he knew enough to take the words of his advisors seriously. If the French successfully tapped into such deposits, it could fortify their dwindling power, making them a serious challenge for Spain in any future conflicts. Given the habitual nature of their warfare, Charles saw this as a distinct and very obvious threat.
"He decided to send a ship to the Yucatan's northern coast, where a select group of soldiers set out to intercept and destroy the French exploration party. According to the rubbing, they succeeded and found the mine themselves. Soon after, unfortunately, they were attacked and destroyed by the vengeful Maya. A single soldier made his way back to the coast, but he was delirious with fever. He managed to signal his company's ship anchored nearby, and, before he died, passed on the location of the mine to the ship's captain. The captain, being the only literate man on board, wrote the information down and, upon returning to Spain, made sure the information found its way into the King's hands." Indy stopped and closed his eyes, fatigue taking hold.
"Is that all?" Merida asked.
"No." Indy opened his eyes and smiled. "The last line tells us where the mine can be found. . . ."
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: June 3, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999