Raiders of the Forbidden Valley
Chapter 5: Chinese Whispers
Indy looked around the smoky bar. His eyes shadowed under the brim of his trusty fedora, he held his webley in front of him. His gloved fist curled around the smoking weapons grip. Everyone in the bar was looking at him. It was most unusual for a Caucasian face to show itself in this place, even more unusual when they come in and start shooting holes in the bottles of cheap booze hanging on the bar's gantry!
"Now, I'm gonna ask again and this time I'd appreciate it if you'd show some courtesy and answer my question without insulting my ancestors!" Indy growled in Cantonese. "I'm looking for a white woman . . ." "You've come to the wrong place cowboy!" someone fool heartedly guffawed in broken English to Indy's left. The bar erupted into defiant laughter. There was no way that a white man was going to come into the heart of Glasgow's Chinese community and start throwing his weight about. Indy smiled as if amused with the joke.
It was time to do some convincing!
In one fluid and deft motion Indy had unclipped his bullwhip and lashed out. It wrapped itself none too gently around the laughing Chinese man's neck. As his eyes bulged Indy casually dragged his hand down and forward. The Chinese man's face smashed off of the bar table. Spilling beer and teeth in almost equal proportions.
The laughter stopped abruptly.
Indy released the tension on the whip and smiled grimly. Since he'd been pulled out of the fire, he'd been forced to spend a couple of hours at the hospital. The diagnosis was that he had some minor damage from smoke inhalation, cracked ribs and that he was lucky that his jaw hadn't been broken. However, he'd had worse in his life and he'd definitely live. Much to the doctor's displeasure Indy had discharged himself as soon as he could and started trying to find out what had happened to Susan. Logically the possibility stood that she'd been murdered by their assailants (but according to his sources with the Glasgow police - there had been three male bodies found; Hugh and the two goons who had attacked them). So, the only other option was that she'd been kidnapped. This, coupled with Douga'ls dying request asking him to look after her, had convinced Indy that the abduction was in some way connected with the runes.
There wasn't that much of a Chinese population in the city, and the majority were hard working and honest people. However, as always, there were more than enough rats willing to take advantage of these ordinary people. And this, according to his sources, was where they hung out - "The Jade Monkey", a sleazy bar down on the city's underdeveloped and quite frankly dangerous riverfront area.
"This woman was abducted by some of your countrymen. She was under my protection and I am honorbound to the memory of her brother to keep her safe. I need to know who took her?" Indy gazed steadily around the room. The bar was half full and the clientele was not happy at this unwanted intrusion. A powerfully-built man stood up. His face was badly marked with scars. He looked at Indy with resentful eyes.
"Why should we help you American?" he growled in perfect English.
"Because I've asked nicely and if I don't start getting some cooperation then I'm gonna have to start getting insistent!" Indy replied and to emphasize the point he cocked his pistol.
"If you shoot this bar up, or start shooting us do you think that will intimidate us into helping you? We're from China, and we know all about intimidation and to be honest your churlish efforts are less than impressive. The Japanese arrived in my village in Manchuria fifteen years ago, and let me tell you something Yankee. The soldiers of Nippon know all about intimidation and terror. Before that it was the warlords and now it's the followers of Mao Zedung! Now, leave here while you still can!" The man turned and sat down. As if taking this as a cue, the patrons of the Jade Monkey all started rising threateningly from their chairs, some of them producing wicked looking knives or small but evil-looking meat cleavers. Indy's mind started racing. He had three bullets left in his gun and was about to be confronted by about fifteen very angry men.
"Listen, this is gonna start gettin' real ugly. Sure, I'm probably gonna end up bein' chopped into fishbait but I promise I'm gonna take as many of you as I can with me!" The man, who had addressed him, looked over his shoulder and shrugged. Indy swallowed, beginning to regret his heavy-handed approach. He wasn't going to do Susan any good by getting himself killed.
"All I want is some information about men who carry small handheld cannons!" He looked around, not noticing that the spokesman seemed to pay particular attention to this statement. The crowd of men was closing in on him. Indy raised his gun and readied to start firing.
"Yankee!" the spokesman's voice cut through the crowd. The hostile crowd stopped and waited "describe these cannons for me?"
"They were small, about two feet long . . ." Indy began.
"Did they look like dragons?" the man asked.
"Yeah." Indy affirmed.
"Damn." He spat angrily "These men you speak of, were they wearing jade green sashes around their waists?"
"Then they were warriors of the Dragon Clan! I had thought or should I say hoped that he was dead, Yankee." the badly scarred man looked genuinely concerned, and perhaps even afraid.
"Qwam Sung Ho, Yankee, Qwam Sung Ho!"
Indy looked at the man and lowered his gun.
The throne room was enormous. It had once been part of a shipyard, but that had been before the war. A bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe had destroyed the main part of the yard, burying what was left under rubble. The damage had been deemed too extensive and this particular yard had been forgotten about, the war effort had to go on.
The two years after the war a lawyer in London put a bid on the land and within a few short weeks the deal had been done.
No one moved into the site. Or so everyone thought.
Mae Ling knelt on the floor, gazing up at her father's throne. He was frail and old-looking, his hair had turned white and wispy within a few short months (or so it had seemed to Mae Ling). However, his eyes were still full of vitality and fierce intelligence. Two hooded guards stood to attention on either side of him. Intricate tattoos of fierce and angry-looking dragons adorning their chests and shoulders.
"Tell me daughter . . . where is the captive?" Qwam Sung Ho asked. His thin voice cracked with age.
"Father, she is our guest within the chamber of tears. I had her placed there fourteen hours ago . . ." Mae Ling began.
"The chamber of tears? Tell me child, why did you make such a decision?" Sung Ho asked mildly, but his eyes had taken on a hard and dangerous edge. His daughter had begun to show a willful streak over the past few years and it was something that he didn't like.
Ah well, that was children for you.
"I thought that it would please you father." Mae Ling looked demurely up at her father with sly eyes.
"Please me? Please me in what way daughter? Pleased that the woman may come from the chamber a gibbering and mewling fool? Please me that she may not be able to provide the answers to my questions because of the ordeal? I worry that perhaps you are not as eager to aid me in my quest as you should be daughter!" his voice took on a hard tone.
"Father, I . . ."
"ENOUGH! Now, bring the woman to me and pray that she is still of some use!"
A moment of pure tension passed. Mae Ling lowered her head in submission.
"As you wish . . .father," she whispered.
Susan languished helplessly in her bonds. She'd been strapped to this table for . . . well, it seemed like days but she knew that it couldn't be that long. The slow dripping of water onto her head had been in turns a nuisance, a nightmare, a comfort, a thing to be dreaded and a thing to be embraced. Susan had been in turns terrified, strong, defiant, and compliant and had at times retreated into a comforting series of memories. She had attempted many things to keep herself alert. At first she tried to measure her time in captivity by counting the droplets that spattered onto her head. She soon realised that this was making her reliant on the water and she had to push it far from her mind.
It was getting more difficult to ignore the torture. With each droplet she felt her situation becoming even more hopeless. She was bound and gagged in a darkened room and nobody knew where she was!
The door opened and light streamed into the room. Susan, the sudden influx of light was dazzling her after hours of captivity in these gloomy surroundings.
Two men in black moved over and started to unbuckle the straps that held her to the table. Susan suddenly felt that perhaps things had just got worse.
"He is a devil to my people, Yankee. A name to be whispered in the still of the night to frighten children. For as long as I can remember Qwam Sung Ho has been a shadow over China. My father told me stories of how he was a name to be feared even when he was a child." The scarred man looked across the bar table at Indy. The candle light making his scars seem like deep gashes.
"That's hardly likely." Indy looked at the man.
"Do you doubt me, Yankee?" the man almost flew into a rage at this suggestion that he was wrong.
"My name's Indiana Jones, so you can stop calling me Yankee now." Indy glared at the man. "I faced off against Qwam Sung Ho a few years ago. He was only about fifty then."
"You occidentals are so linear about things. Qwam Sung Ho has hung like a cloud of evil over generations of Chinese people."
"And you Orientals are always so damned enigmatic about things! Think about it, how could one man pose a threat to generations of people. He'd have to be hundreds of years old." Indy looked at the man, who merely shrugged and sat back in his chair. Obviously this was not too much of a stretch of the imagination for this man. Indy paused.
"I need to find where he is. You obviously hate him so will you help me?"
The man stared into Indy's eyes for a long moment.
"I will help you find him Indiana Jones. But, that is all!" he looked into the candle's flame - obviously lost in thought.
"That's good enough." Indy smiled grimly.
Susan was pushed into the throne room. Her hands were bound behind her back and she almost stumbled. The thugs made a move to steady her.
"Get your hands off of me!" she hissed and shook them away from her. Susan looked at the Oriental woman who had gloated over her captivity and then at the imperious, tall man sitting on the elaborate throne.
"Greetings Miss Kirkmuir. I must apologise for my daughter's unforgivable treatment of you. You are here as my guest, not as my prisoner. My daughter sometimes acts rashly . . . but she means well."
Sung Ho smiled thinly. To Susan it was almost as though her captor's face would tear with the movement.
"If I'm your guest then why are my hands still tied?" she asked defiantly. Sung Ho nodded and clapped his hands once. Within a few moments her bonds had been cut.
"Why have you brought me here?" Susan asked, wincing at the triteness of her question. The ancient Chinese man smiled and arched his bony, gnarled fingers.
"I was so sorry to hear of your brothers unfortunate demise. You must be very saddened by your loss. I believe that he was a bright and shining light in the world of archaeology."
"You obviously know all about my brother and the fact that your goons attacked and killed my friends really puts a damper on your civility. Now, the sooner we get to the source of my captivity the better. And the only way that's going to happen is if you stop treating me like some flighty imbecile. We're nearly in the 1950's so let's all act like grown ups, shall we?" Susan glared at her captors. She'd been a schoolteacher for three years and had developed skills that could be utilized at the strangest of moments . . . like now, for instance.
Silence filled the throne room. Susan looked around - her fists clenching into tight balls.
The spell was broken as Qwam Sung Ho began to laugh.
Indy trudged through the dank tunnel. His newfound ally, Xiang Chow, was behind him. The man's mind had changed constantly. At first he was merely going to help Indy find Sung Ho's lair - but the closer they got the more involved Xiang got. He had left Indy for about half an hour in the bar, a situation that he hadn't been too comfortable about. Everyone had glared with undisguised hostility towards him. When Xiang had returned he had information concerning Qwam Sung Ho's hideout, before he rejoined Indy he had stopped and had a hushed conversation with the bartender. A conversation that had become both urgent and agitated. Eventually the bartender had reluctantly nodded and gave Xiang a long object wrapped up in a burlap sack. Both men shook hands and as Xiang approached Indy, the bartender glanced up at the clock on the wall.
"I have found out where Sung Ho resides in this city." Xiang had smiled grimly "It is most fitting considering the foul creature he is." They had arrived at an old sewage outlet on the banks of the river.
"Thanks for your help Xiang. I'll take it from here." Indy had said before climbing into the pipe. His ally had followed him.
"I think that you may need some help Indiana Jones. I'll come with you . . . just in case." Xiang followed Indy, with the burlap sack slung over his shoulder.
The pipe had been about thirteen meters long and at the end of it they had found themselves in a large tunnel. They had started moving eastwards - away from the river. This had led to a dead end.
"Damn! He must be under the river." Indy had muttered and both men turned back and headed west.
Which was how they got to be here. Trudging through a dank and crumbling tunnel. Indy held his flashlight up and shone the beam ahead. The walls and floor seemed to be covered with a viscous slime. Wherever the light hit was reflected off a black and shiny surface. Indy winced. He'd been in some horrible places before. Tunnels and catacombs full of the worst and ugliest examples of nature. Snakes, rats, bugs, spiders everything. This was just as bad. They moved slowly forward. The sludge was above his ankles and he squelched forward.
In the gloom the slime seemed to be everywhere. He could here his companion groan with disgust. Indy had an awful lot of experience of this kind of thing, but he doubted that Xiang had.
"It's only slime Xiang. It's nothing to worry about, it won't kill you." Indy looked at Xiang, who returned the look with disgust. Indy shook his head and continued walking forward. The black sludge was a constant companion through this tunnel. His foot came down and slipped into a small pothole, causing Indy to lose his balance. He fell against the wall and his feet slipped away from him, causing him to end up sitting in the filth.
"Don't worry Indiana Jones. It won't kill you!" Xiang laughed. Indy wrinkled his nose and started to stand up. He could see his flashlight sticking out - it's beam facing the roof. As he picked it up, he noticed something that the gloom had hidden from him.
The sludge was moving. Not flowing, but it seemed to be writhing. Indy stayed in a crouch and shone his torch directly into the muck. A look of disgust crossed his face.
The slime consisted of millions of slugs. Writhing in a mass of slime which carpeted the whole tunnel. He shone the torch behind him and then in front of him.
The pseudopodia seemed to go on forever. Indy scrambled to his feet - the creatures were squelching under his feet. He looked above him - shining the torch on the roof of the ceiling. There were slugs everywhere. Clinging to the mouldering brickwork.
And some people think that this job is glamorous.
He trudged forward - attempting to ignore the origin of the squelching beneath his feet.
"My empire stretches farther than you could ever imagine Miss Kirkmuir. The whole of China once trembled under my iron grip. The warlords bowed down to me and paid homage. I have seen and done things that you would not believe. However, I grow old. Older than you would think possible and my empire is crumbling under the weight of the foolish doctrines of that baby-faced buffoon Mao Zedong and his so-called war of resistance. The warlords are soon to be obsolete and I am too old and feeble to present much of a threat. I will not go quietly to join my ancestors Miss Kirkmuir. I have much still to do and need youth and vitality to succeed in my tasks." Sung Ho took a sip of tea and looked at Susan. She sat before him, a cup of tea on the table in front of her. She wasn't interested in his "hospitality", but had no choices in the matter.
"This is all very interesting, but I cannot see what it has to do with me . . . or my brother." She looked at him.
"I have financed a number of archaeological expeditions throughout the world. Each one of them examining the many myths and legends involving longevity and immortality. You will have heard of the fountain of youth no doubt?"
"And that's what you're looking for?" she asked derisively.
Sung Ho began to laugh. "Not quite my dear! But you are almost correct!"
Indy and Xiang had reached the end of the tunnel. They had found an old blocked doorway, but both men had managed to break through the rubble with relative effort. Beyond this obstruction was another tunnel. However, this one was lit and mercifully free from slugs and slime. Indy drew his gun and started walking forward. He stopped when he realised that his companion was kneeling on the floor.
"Hey Xiang, what are you doing?" Indy hissed, but the Chinese man shot him a hard glance. He slowly unwrapped the sacking from around the object - inside was a beautiful Japanese katana. Indy watched as Xiang prepared the sword in an almost ritualistic manner. Giving the man some time and space to do this. Xiang finished and sheathed the weapon.
"What's with the Japanese sword, Xiang?" Indy asked.
"The Japanese were not gracious guests when they arrived in Manchuria. The commander of the garrison at my village raped and killed my wife, after doing this to my face. I was forced to watch. I killed him with his own sword three months later. Gutted him like a pig!" he looked at Indy "Let's go and find this woman of yours."
"Hey Xiang" the Chinese man turned and looked at Indy "are you any good with that thing?"
"After I killed the commander, I had to kill dozens of his soldiers in my escape. I used this sword to do so." Xiang turned and moved forward.
"Good enough." muttered Indy and followed him.
"One of my archaeology teams found the long forgotten remnants of a Norse settlement near Tashakta, which is virtually on the Russian and Mongolian border . . ." Sung Ho began.
"A Viking village in Russia? I doubt it?" Susan snorted.
"The Norse people were great explorers Miss Kirkmuir. Do you imagine that they would purely confine this exploration to the seas to their west? The Vikings, or should I say their Swedish counterparts the Varangians are known to have reached Constantinople in their travels. These people were explorers, warriors and diplomats of the highest caliber. They settled a long-standing feud with the Slavic chieftains, which led to them establishing the first Russian State. Its capitol was Kiev. No, make no mistake; history has never been fair with these Norsemen. They were more than the savage barbarians so often depicted in the books." Sung Ho smiled a gentle smile and took a sip of tea. "However, I digress . . ."
Indy and Xiang had almost reached the end of the tunnel.
In front of them was a large circular opening and beyond that was a corridor. To Indy it looked frighteningly familiar. It was almost an exact copy of Qwam Sung Ho's fortress. The one that had been trashed by the Japanese eleven years earlier. It proved one thing; the Chinese warlord was opulent but boring.
There were two guards standing at either side of the entrance. Both of whom were armed with machine guns.
"Okay Xiang, I'll take the one on the left, you . . ." but Indy's companion was gone.
Xiang ran towards the guards. The echoing footsteps of his approach alerted both men and they turned in unison. The flashing metal blade was the last thing either of them ever saw.
"Alternatively, you can just go and kill both of them." Indy muttered.
"Let me tell you a story Miss Kirkmuir." Sung Ho looked at his captive and folded his bony, gnarled hands in front of him. "In Taoism there are three types of beings who have managed to achieve immortality. The first are the Tian Hsien, the celestial immortals that inhabit heaven and the celestial palaces on top of high mountains. The second, the Shi Chieh Hsien, are the dead who have sloughed off there physical vessels and exist as incorporeal immortals. They are like living ghosts. The third type is of great interest to me. The Ti Hsien are terrestrial immortals. Men and women who have discovered the secrets of prolonged longevity."
Susan shook her head patronizingly; Sung Ho raised a hand.
"You may mock Miss Kirkmuir, but I was born in 1828. I am one hundred and sixty years old. However, please allow me to continue. According to Chinese legend the first immortal to achieve immortality was Huang Di, the legendary first emperor of China. He created a state of peace and prosperity for the country and when he abdicated he was given this precious gift. In 221 BC, Zheng the first historical emperor was obsessed with the quest for an elixir of lfe eternal. He prayed to Shouxing the god of longevity, he sent ambassadors to the highest of mountains to commune with the immortals, and he hired magicians and alchemists to create an elixir."
Indy and Xiang crept through the corridors. Their entrance to Sung Ho's stronghold had, so far, proven to be remarkably easy. They had only encountered the two guards at the tunnel exit.
Indy had drawn his gun and Xiang was still holding his sword at the ready.
"This is too easy." Indy whispered.
As if uttering this had broken spell, ten Chinese men in black pajamas and jade sashes approached them from around a corner. Behind them another seven guards rushed towards them.
"Me and my big mouth!" Indy fired his gun and one of the guards fell. With his free hand he unfastened his whip. Xiang started spinning towards the ten men in front of them. His blade cutting arcs of silver as it swung round.
Indy heard the sound of blade hitting meat and a wet gurgle. He fired again and another guard went down.
In Qwam Sung Ho's chamber the drama was unfolding unnoticed.
"The experiments and potions that were created to find an elixir were unsuccessful. Ironically many believe that the great achievements that the Chinese people made in science were as a result of failed attempts at alchemy." Sung Ho looked at his captive. "This was an empty task. Until, hundreds of years later, the Norsemen came."
Indy's gun was empty. He snaked his whip forward and it tangled around one of the guard's ankles. He tugged and pulled backwards and the unfortunate guard fell.
Xiang was like a typhoon of vengeance. His sword was a weapon of pure destruction. Six of the guards had fallen before any of them had a chance to fire their weapons. The first bullet fired had hit Xiang in the shoulder. The man who shot him had lost his arm at the shoulder for his trouble. Disabling him for approximately two seconds before Xiang's blade had removed his head.
Indy launched himself at the remaining three guards. He assumed that they were under strict orders not to kill him. They were armed, but hadn't attempted to fire at him.
He grabbed the first guards jacket and punched him on the nose. Bone crunched and cartilage shattered under his gloved fist. A second guard approached him and Indy swung his hand in a backward swipe. The guard ducked and grabbed Indy's arm - locking it straight.
Indy raised his foot and brought the heel of his boot down the man's shin. His opponent yelled in pain and let Indy's arm go. Using this to his advantage he brought his elbow hard into the man's mouth.
Xiang brought his sword down towards the head of the last of his foes. The man had a moment to scream before being plunged into darkness forever.
"They brought with them leaves from a mighty ash tree that they thought of as the world tree. This was incorporated into the potions and at last an elixir of life was created." Sung Ho had become almost reverential.
Indy and Xiang moved along the corridor. The guards had been dealt with efficiently by both men, but mostly by Xiang. They came to a room and slowly entered it. Behind them the door slammed shut. Indy turned and started moving forward.
The door before them slammed shut too. They were boxed in.
Indy rolled his eyes.
What now? Spikes, gushing water, gas . . .?
A faint hissing noise filled the room and clouds of noxious yellow started spraying from ornamental dragons' head fitted to the walls.
Indy grabbed Xiang and pulled him to the floor. He crawled along looking for a gap. Some means of escape.
There was none.
The gas was fast and started affecting him quickly.
As he drifted off into dark oblivion he heard his companion coughing.
Indy lost consciousness!
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: Hannibal King
Created: May 31, 1999
Last modified: October 4, 1999