The Treasure of Priamos Island

January 30, 2015 - Short Story

The Treasure of Priamos Island – A Short Fantasy Story By Kelly D. Tolman
Anneke pulled the boat as far up onto the beach as she could before she grabbed the small bag of food and continued on. The sun was moving steadily towards noon overhead. A cool sea breeze blew the smell of salt all around, and the sand felt warm beneath her toes. The beach ended abruptly in a high wall of jagged cliffs about fifty meters from the waterline. A few meters away, Anneke spotted another boat, also beached. Anneke went to the boat, hoping to find some sign of her betrothed. The boat was empty, except for rigging, but footprints were still plain in the sand leading towards the cliffs.
Clutching her small bag of provisions, Anneke followed the trail of footprints towards the cliffs. The base of the cliffs was jagged, and steep. The cold stone felt sharp and menacing, and she followed the footprints for nearly an hour before a suitable pathway was found through the rocks. An ancient gate was broken at the opening of the path. Its iron bars had been rusted completely by the briny air. The path itself had once been paved with polished stones, and set about with flowers. Now the flowers had turned to tangled weeds, and everywhere the stones were broken and tumbled. The way narrowed where vines had encroached from tall trees that now grew on either side of the path. Birds and monkeys chattered back and forth in the morning, but Anneke paid them little mind.
Two days ago Siamul had crossed to the island in anger at her father. “You have no worth to take my daughter to wife,” her father had said in anger. Siamul replied that he would provide greater treasure than any in the village, and had disappeared. Only by questioning Siamul’s closest friends had Anneke been able to learn where he went, and what his intentions were. Priamos Island contained the treasures of the ancient kings. Heroes once lived here, who strove with the gods, and won for themselves power and wealth beyond any man. But the same legends warned that the sons of the kings fell into displeasure with the gods, and tried to cheat them. Fierce beasts were unleashed on the island, and the treasures were cursed to any that sought to wrest them from their hiding places.
“Siamul,” called Anneke, as she neared the top of the cliffs. “Siamul, where are you?”
The only reply was the chattering of the monkeys in the jungle.
The path ended abruptly at the top of the cliffs. Another broken, rusty gate lay near the end of the path, and a wide stone courtyard opened before a once beautiful palace. Through a break in the trees, Anneke was able to look out over the edge of the cliffs, down on the beach and sea below. In the distance, she could barely perceive the dim line of her home shore. Quickly she turned away from the sea and headed across the courtyard.
The courtyard was dotted with life-like stone statues, each in a different pose. Most wore a surprised expression, some seemed afraid, while others seemed casually walking from place to place. Many of the statues were overgrown with vines now, so that the sculptor’s art could hardly be discerned. Some had fallen and broken. Anneke stopped at the palace stairs, and sat down for a moment. At her feet was a statue of a palace guard. He had tumbled over, and his head lay shattered on the stairs. His sword was rusted completely through, but his spear remained unbroken at her feet. From her bag she ate a quick lunch, and quenched her thirst from a water skin at her side.
“Siamul,” she called without hope. Her voice echoed across the courtyard, and rang mute on the palace. The jungle paused a moment, as if to listen, and then the chatter of birds and insects resumed. A small monkey approached and picked up the crumbs she had dropped, but Anneke did not like the look of the animal. Its fur was falling out, and its hide showed through, flaky and scabbed. With a start, she picked up the spear, and chased the creature away.
“Siamul,” she called again, and then to herself, “if I find you, you’ll wish I hadn’t.”
Angrily she mounted the palace steps, and passed through the rotted entrance. Inside, the palace looked much the way it had from outside. Vines and ferns covered everything from floor to ceiling, or at least what remained of the ceiling. Shattered stones and rotted woodwork were scattered across the floor, and the sun shined steadily through the roof. Many birds had formed habitations indoors, and they raised a warning cry as Anneke entered. “Siamul,” she called. Her voice echoed in the decaying chamber, and clattered through the palace halls. She waited, but no response came. In the distance, she thought she heard the sound of something falling, like a dish, but it was faint. She clutched the spear a little tighter for reassurance, and looked for another exit.
Across from the main entrance lay an arched doorway leading into a dim hall. Rotted doors hung at either end of the chamber, but they looked as if they had not been disturbed in ages. If Siamul had come here, then he would have taken the archway. Anneke used her spear to brush the vines aside, and went through the arch. Here, as in other places, the ceiling was mostly gone. The stones were cracked, and vines grew down the walls, but the sounds of the jungle were quieter in the hall than they had been outside. She could see no trail, or signs that anyone else had come this way, but she hurried along anyway. The passage went only a short distance before it branched. An opening appeared at her right where a tall door had once stood. Anneke looked through the door, but found only a small wrecked room. A group of birds chattered noisily inside. She continued down the hall. More doorways opened to either side, but none of them appealed to her. At three spots, branches appeared in the passage, but Anneke did not like the look of them, and continued on until she reached the throne room.
Past a pair of wide, rotted doors opened a large room, nearly as large as the courtyard. On the far side waited a high throne. Three steps led up to the throne, and two tall pillars reached up to the ceiling on either side. Bits of rotted furniture lay scattered about, and the tile beneath her feet was cracked in many places. Anneke went to the throne. The dirt had recently been scraped from the seat, and some of the vines were torn away, but otherwise there were no signs of Siamul. Suddenly, she heard a scraping sound behind her. Anneke turned and raised the spear defensively, but saw only the scabby monkey. The animal had followed her through the palace, looking for crumbs. Anneke chased the monkey out into the passage, and then stopped to consider her own course.
All of the legends told of vast treasuries built deep under the palace. The kings had delved and created wondrous forges where gold and silver were molded into intricate shapes. Anneke decided to look for a stairway down. In the distance she thought she heard a scream, as if someone had fallen. “Siamul,” she cried, “is that you?” Her voice echoed a little in the stone hallways, but was not answered.
To her left the passage branched, and faded into darkness. She followed the branch, looking for stairs, or signs that someone had been there recently. Eventually the passage ended in a dark stairway, going down below the palace. Anneke had no real light, but she followed the stairs down, and let her eyes adjust to the darkness. Holes appeared at intervals through the ceiling, and there was enough light to find her way. “Siamul,” she called, “where are you?” The echoes faded and she moved on.
Below the palace, the passage twisted into a maze of corridors. Anneke wandered without direction for some time in the darkness. Rooms opened before here without doors, and closed again behind her. Each one appeared empty, but in the dark she could not tell what lay at her feet. Sometimes she stumbled over rubble in the dark, and heard the scrape of something on the ground. In the distance, she heard an echo of something else moving, but she could not tell what it was. “Siamul,” she called. Her voice echoed, but no one replied. Something crashed to the ground ahead, and shattered. Anneke jumped back, but then grasped the spear, and stepped in the direction of the noise. Her pace quickened, and her heart pounded inside her chest.
Something else scraped the ground. Anneke turned another corner and called, “Siamul, is that you?”
When she heard no reply, Anneke continued forward. She kept moving in the darkness for several more minutes, but she moved carefully now. The sound of another creature in the darkness did not comfort her, and her fear over Siamul was growing with each step. Her throat was a little sore from shouting, and the thick, dusty air. Anneke paused to take a drink of water from the skin at her side. Suddenly a loud rumbling shook the passage, and Anneke backed into the wall, and pressed against the stone. A rush of air blew past her, and the passage filled with a cloud of dust. Anneke began to cough and choke on the dust, and tried to find a way out. She moved as quickly as she could through the passage.
She had not gone far when the rays of the sun began to shine through the cloud of dust. She heard the sound of someone gasping for breath ahead. “Siamul,” she called, “is that you?”
“I am here,” came the hoarse reply.
Anneke ran forward, and found Siamul nursing a gash in his arm.
“I am alright,” he said when he saw her. “The passage collapsed. I think there was some sort of mechanism that I tripped.”
Anneke poured water into the cut, and bound it with strips of her food bag. “Let’s go back,” she said.
Siamul stood up, and replied, “I don’t think there is any treasure here anymore, and if there were, we will never find it like this.”
The cave-in had blocked the passage ahead, and the hole in the ceiling was too high for them to reach. Siamul turned and led Anneke back down the passage. The dust was settling now, and they could breathe easier in the darkness. In the half-light, they could not recall all of the turns of the ancient maze, and quickly lost track of the stairs out. Finally they stopped to rest and catch their breath. In the darkness, they heard distant scraping sounds, and a crash of something falling.
“We are not alone,” said Anneke.
“Probably just the monkeys playing,” replied Siamul, but he remained unconvinced. “I think the stairs are further to our left. If we take the next left turn, and follow a straight line, we should come there quickly.” Anneke nodded her agreement, but both remained doubtful.
After another minute of rest, they pushed on. They passed several more chambers, but no passages opened to their left. The air became noticeably warmer after a short time, and the holes in the ceiling disappeared. The darkness became more complete as they moved on. Anneke took Siamul’s hand, and they moved through another doorway. Ahead, they could see a vague red glow, and the heat intensified. Siamul clutched the spear, and they moved towards the light.
After a time, they came to a wide chamber. In the center of the chamber an enormous beast slept quietly amid shallow pools of bubbling mud. The beast looked like an enormous cat, and slept curled like a kitten, its tail lashing about calmly. The tail splashed sometimes in the mud, and sometimes batted a stone across the chamber. When the creature stretched, its enormous claws scraped the walls of the chamber. The giant cat rolled over, and as it did, a tunnel was visible on the other side. Cool air swept into the room, and both Siamul and Anneke sensed that it lead to the outside.
“Now we know what destroyed the kings,” whispered Siamul. “If there are anymore of those things living here, then the palace would have been emptied in minutes. Let’s try to cross and get out of the tunnel.”
Flat stones appeared in the mud in places, and together they picked a path. Siamul went first. The must was not deep, although it steamed and bubbled. They were very careful not to slip into the puddles. As the beast turned in its sleep, Anneke noticed that it was not entirely covered in fur. Patches of hair had fallen out in many places, and a scaly hide was visible underneath. The creature’s claws were as long as her hand, and the ground shook when it moved. Finally, they neared the tunnel and the exit.
The tunnel was not long, and a fresh breeze blew softly over them. Moonlight glimmered over the treetops just meters away. Siamul reached the tunnel entrance, and turned to help Anneke through. Anneke stepped across, and took a few steps towards the exit. Siamul did not follow. She turned around, and found Siamul kneeling at the edge of the mud pots.
“What are you doing,” she whispered. Siamul did not answer, so she turned and crept quietly back to him. Siamul was looking at a glint of gold that was just visible at the edge of the mud.
“There is the treasure,” he breathed. He glanced quickly up at the beast and then back down at the gold. Slowly he put his finger to the surface of the mud, and groped for the gold. Quickly he jerked back the finger, and stifled a gasp. “It’s hot,” he said lamely.
“Let’s go,” whispered Anneke, and she stood up.
The creature stretched and clawed in its sleep, but did not wake. Siamul had not moved. Anneke was about to grab him when he took a deep breath, and plunged his hand into the mud. His face twisted in pain, but he triumphantly brought up a golden platter. His hand was red and swollen, but he managed to stifle his cry. Anneke pulled him to his feet, and they moved towards the exit.
The tunnel opened into the side of the cliff. A narrow path streamed down the edge to the beach. In the bright moonlight, they could see their boats not far away. As they stepped onto the path, they heard a loud scraping above them, and a noise of the beast waking. Anneke flew down the path, ignoring the danger of falling. Siamul kept close behind her. The path stopped abruptly two meters above the beach, and Anneke balked. Above them, the beast emerged from the tunnel. It let out a terrifying roar, and began climbing down the face of the cliff. The jagged stones had no effect on its thick hide. Anneke screamed, and jumped to the beach. She hit the ground and rolled, but got up again and ran towards the boats. After a few steps, she realized that Siamul had not followed. Above her, still on the path, Siamul turned to face the creature. The beast clung from its claws to the rocks, and approached her betrothed.
“Jump Siamul,” she called, but he did not respond.
Siamul raised the golden platter in defiance, and cried, “its mine.” His voice had taken a hysterical tone that was totally foreign to his nature. The beast fixed its eyes on him, and Siamul still waved the platter. Abruptly the beast’s eyes glowed a fiery red, and Siamul was covered in an eerie light. His flesh turned gray, and his body froze where it had been. Siamul became another statue, like the broken soldier in the courtyard. The beast deftly flicked the platter from his hands with a claw, and caught it on its tongue. Anneke did not wait for it to pursue. She turned and fled back to the boats, and rowed with all her strength towards the village. High above her on the cliff, the beast slipped with its treasure back into its lair.

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