Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 16: Rumble in the Jungle
The tunnel was damp and slick, worn smooth on all sides by an underground river millennia ago. Indy swung the wide beam of his flash back and forth, wary of poor footing and irregularities in the cavern floor. The nearly constant drip of condensation from the ceiling sprinkled his hat like rain. Every so often he paused to shake the excess water from his brim.
"It's cool," Angelina noted behind him.
"Yeah. Typical for a cavern like this."
"Have you any idea how far it goes? What happens next?"
Indy shrugged. "I'm not sure, to be honest. According to Charles' description, this tunnel bridges the gorge with an immense valley just beyond the eastern ridgeline. That valley is where we're due to find the mine - and where we'll have to start avoiding the Maya."
"Can't we just tell them what's happening? Warn them?"
"Depends. If we find some that speak Spanish, sure. However, before we left Spain, I checked - there are no contemporary settlements beyond the ridge. We'll be going into country that the Spanish never fully conquered. That being the case, we'll have to pick our point of contact carefully. I don't speak Mayan."
Indy stopped and leaned up against the cavern wall to rest. "Remember," he continued after a moment, "the history of these people is one of conquest and ethnic devastation by Europeans. There's no telling if these Maya have existed independent of contact with 20th century civilization or not. But if they have, they may not be in a frame of mind to work through any of our linguistic differences. The Yucatan's dangerous enough without informing the wrong set of locals that they're about to be invaded - yet again."
Angelina nodded. "I see. But it's been hundreds of years. Wouldn't they have put the past behind them by now?"
Indy grimaced. "Unlikely, but we'll see, won't we?" he said, pushing off the wall and continuing on down the tunnel.
"I suppose...but what else can we do?" Angelina quickly caught up and matched his pace. "We have to warn them. And I doubt we'll have easy access to the mine. After all, it must be guarded. You mentioned having a plan for keeping it hidden from Carlos and his men?"
"Mmm, my plan..." he started. "It was going to be pretty simple. One way or another I was going to bury the mine entrance - preferably with Vargario in it. Collapse the whole damn thing so it could never be found again. I had some explosives in my pack, hoping to take advantage of whatever opportunities might present themselves. Now, however, my pack is with Vargario. So, we'll need to hide the entrance. Either cover it with some foliage, if possible, or try something more radical like flooding it."
"Flooding it?" Angelina laughed. "How can we possibly flood it?
Indy smiled. "That'll depend entirely upon how many friends we make."
An hour and twenty minutes later, Indy spotted an oval of light ahead. He snapped off his flash and stopped. Less than 100 yards away lay the tunnel's exit. Even from this distance, Indy could see across the breadth of the valley beyond. They walked quickly, their anticipation of seeing the sun again making them grin like children. At the opening they hesitated, checking the ledge beyond for sentries. Satisfied that they were alone, Indy and Angelina advanced and gazed about.
Spread before them, a deep valley meandered to the east as far as the eye could see. The walls and floor of the canyon were carpeted with a thick coat of bright green trees. In the distance far to the north, a massive waterfall of crystalline water tumbled from the valley wall, striping it as if with a stroke of white paint. Above, the pale blue sky opened itself wide, cloudless but for the thousands of butterflies, birds and insects that flurried overhead. It was an aerial circus of color and sound. Indy whistled in amazement. He shrugged out of his pack and nodded for Angelina to do the same. "This looks like as good a place as we'll find if we're going to take a break," he said.
They sat for a time then, hanging their feet over the ledge. Indy dug into his pack and cobbled together a breakfast of dried fruit, nuts and some very tough rye bread. They ate in silence, hunger apparent, and washed it all down with warm water from their botas.
Indy took a moment to look past the far ends of the ledge. To either side, there appeared to be a wide trail carved into the valley wall. It cut back upon itself, presumably until it reached the canyon floor.
Angelina finished eating, rose and stretched, arching up towards the sun, her arms extended. Indy bundled the remains of his breakfast and leaned back onto his elbows. "Still tired?" Angelina asked, kneeling to rub the archaeologist's shoulders.
"Some," he answered, nodding. "But it's not that. I'm just savoring this...peace. It's like a seventh inning stretch."
Angelina wrinkled her nose, unfamiliar with the phrase. She took a guess. "Baseball?"
"Right," he confirmed, smiling. "And you can bet these last few innings are gonna be the toughest."
"Well, let us hope not. Besides, I have faith in you Indy. You will score the final and most important goal."
Indy laughed at that. "Let's hope so sweetheart. Let's hope so."
They stood, swung on their backpacks and began to work down the series of cutbacks leading to the valley floor. Just before they descended into the thick morass of trees, Indy pulled a leather journal from his satchel and flipped it open to a page folded over on one corner. He read for a moment and then looked up to get his bearings.
"Okay," he said. "Straight ahead is east and that's what we want. Charles' manuscript describes the mine entrance as simply a ragged cave mouth punched into the side of a low hill."
"Back in Spain you said the mine would be grown over, so how do you expect to find it?" Angelina asked.
"I said that jungle growth would have buried any outward signs of the mine, which is probably true. But I was hedging. We know that the mine was at one time located near an existing Maya encampment. It had even been given a name by the Mayan people - the Mine of Itzama."
"We also know that this country east of the ridgeline was never conquered by Spain, which means the Maya might still flourish here."
"Ooookay." Angelina raised her eyebrows in doubt.
"Based on the body we found back by the river, I'd say it's a good assumption that our thinking is at least partially correct. We know there are Maya nearby, and we know that Itzama still means something to them."
"Because of the charm you saw on the Indian's bracelet," Angelina said.
"So, we're not even looking for the mine. You hope to find evidence of the Mayan city that once stood near its entrance."
"You've got it. My guess is that the Maya still inhabit it, so it ought to be relatively easy to stumble across it as long as we stick to Charles' directions. Even if I'm wrong and it is grown over, finding an abandoned city above ground should be a lot easier than a lone cave entrance."
With that, Indy pulled his machete from the sheath on his thigh and began hacking his way into the jungle. "This won't be so hard," he said, looking back over his shoulder. "That series of cutbacks led right up to a trail head."
"It's a little...overgrown," Angelina mused, squinting in an attempt to make out what it was exactly that Indy defined as a 'trail.'
"I know, I know, it's a little thick," he replied, "but I know what I'm doing. Trust me."
"Ha," Angelina said. Then she looked up and screamed. Indy's head snapped forward, eyes front, just as the dull curve of an obsidian war club came hammering down towards it. Reflexively, he dove to the side, landing in a thick tangle of vines. The bludgeon 'whooshed' past his shoulder and buried itself in the soft ground underfoot.
Indy scrambled to his feet as - not one, but four Indians dropped from their resting-places in the trees above. By the weapons they carried and the looks on their faces, Indy made them out to be warriors, probably guardsmen or militia. Each wore very little, essentially no more than a loincloth and jewelry, although Indy noticed that one wore a pair of beige canvas pants, ripped short at the knees. As well as obsidian clubs, each man carried a stone dagger and a spear, the latter strapped across their backs like quivers.
<"We mean you no harm!"> Indy shouted in Spanish. He held out his left arm, cast up in a defensive posture. The guardsmen advanced quickly and Indy repeated his plea. They ignored it and one broke from the group to chase Angelina. "Oh, hell," Indy sighed. "Run!"
The three remaining warriors came at him as one, crashing through the tangle of vines and undergrowth like animals. Indy could've sworn they were howling. He backed up and raised his machete, waiting for them to make the first move. The broad-shouldered Indian on his left swung first, actually pushing his brethren out of the way to do so. The confines of the jungle interior seemed to be working to the archaeologist's advantage as the warriors could only get to him with great effort and generally one at a time. Still, as the club head screamed through the space where he once stood, Indy barely succeeded in slipping behind the bole of a nearby tree. The weapon impacted against the trunk and with a horrendous crack, split the wood like kindling. Holy crap, Indy thought. I'm a dead man.
Then things got worse. Indy noticed that the two Indians behind the first had taken to the trees, gripping the limbs and boles with both hands and feet, like monkeys. They vaulted from tree to tree, over the head of their companion and behind the archaeologist's back. Indy grimaced at this new complication. Meanwhile, his immediate opponent whipped the stone cudgel downward for another brain-pulping blow. Indy bent into a crouch and launched himself forward beneath the arc of the Indian's weapon. Like a lineman, he drove his shoulder into the man's gut and plowed ahead. Suddenly, the Indian slammed up against the base of another tree. The dead stop forced Indy's shoulder further into the warrior's belly, compressing it almost to the spine. The Indian gasped and fell like a stone, wheezing.
Behind him, Indy heard a crash. He spun around and brought up the machete to ward off his remaining attackers. Only one, however, came bounding towards him - the other was nowhere to be seen. Indy chanced a quick glance left and right but saw nothing. As he moved forward to meet the Indian's charge, a woman's cry cut through the thick of the jungle. Angelina!
Reflexively, Indy turned his head toward the sound. It was a mistake he couldn't afford. From a tree branch directly above him, the third Maya warrior drove a chopping blow into the side of Indy's head, dropping him to the ground where he lay still as death....
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: Sept. 9, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999