Chapter 5

"The Chain"

Led by Glora, the group descended a long flight of stone steps, the bottom of which opened upon a great hall, where a row of marble pillars on either side held up the lofty ceiling, which was set with a thousand iridescent gems that gave off a strange glow, providing illumination. No one could remember, least of all young Glora, whether or not this had once been a cave, excavated further by her ancestors, or even some other race forgotten to time. But it was forged into a subterranean castle, with granite floors and brick walls.

Along the centre were huge pine tables and benches, some overturned. The floor was littered with shards of broken vases, bowls, plates and other pottery. Weapons lay strewn about: swords, shields, spears, daggers, battle-axes, clubs.

What happened here?” demanded Mundy.

This was the scene of our battle with the blue giants,” said Glora, jumping up on a table. “We were enjoying our spring festival here in the hall, with music, dance, and a feast. That's when the giants stormed in. We didn't know where they came from, but I know they rowed here in boats. They must have spied on us, and waited for the moon at night to open the portal.

We outnumbered them five to one, and ran them through with spear and sword, but they were hard to kill. The women and children were hurried out of the room, but I stood up here on these tables and shot the monsters full of arrows, and still they fought tooth and nail. It was like a nightmare. They killed a good number of our bravest fighters, but finally we triumphed. We made a pyre outside and burned the dead giants, and then interred our own in the catacombs.

But something awful happened next. The giants conquered us, after all. They left a disease that wiped us out. Over the next few weeks my people dropped one by one, smitten with a fever for which we had no remedy. An old man, Strom, moved the bodies to the catacombs. We were the only ones not afflicted by the malady, but he died from a bad heart and I've been alone now for weeks.”

Captain, you will take Glora with us on the ship, won't you?” pleaded May, tugging at his arm sleeve.

I've shot men for less than that,” said Mundy, removing her hand. “I may be a lot of things, but I won't leave a girl stranded on an island with monsters lurking about.”

Crane spoke: “Captain, I don't like all this talk of monsters and death! This girl could be a demon, for all we know. Let us go back to the ship, and forget this haunted treasure.”

Stay here, then,” growled Mundy. “But any man not brave enough to follow won't get a bit of the treasure, not even a farthing.” Then he pulled a pistol from his sash, cocked the hammer, and turned to Ulysses: “And now, minstrel, sing me a merry air!”

Ulysses wasted no time in strumming the strings of his lute and singing the song he'd heard in his travels:

Garm wore chains as like a shawl

But chain at last from hound did fall

Who purged his soul of molten metal

Which on the howling mob did settle

And hardened a magnetic pall

And flung the dead to iron wall

No one said a word, but stared in bewilderment. Digger's tongue was lolling and he blinked.

That's it?” uttered Captain Mundy at last. “That's your secret map to the treasure – a cryptic verse?”

Shoot 'im and be done with it, captain!” suggested one of the buccaneers.

We're looking for a dog laden with chains,” said the minstrel. “Perhaps a vicious hound guarding the treasure.”

The only dog here is Digger,” Glora broke in. “I know of no other.”

Mundy, who towered over everyone, sank to one knee and with head bent pondered a moment. Then he looked up at Glora with his one good eye: “Are there places within these walls that were forbidden to you?”

Yes,” said Glora. “The lowest part. It's sort of like a cave down there. Witches and wizards were always the caretakers of that place. I hope you don't mean to go down there, Mr. Mundy.”

I've half a mind to flee,” said Mundy. “However, we've come this far. I'll see it through to the end. Lead the way, girl!”

The gang of pirates followed Glora through an archway leading to corridors and cobwebbed chambers with dusty beds, and other flights of stairs that brought them deeper underground, all lit by gems. It looked like any other ancient castle, and though it was familiar to Glora, to the pirates it was a maze, and they imagined monsters lurking in the shadows, waiting for them.

Finally they came to an oaken door, beyond which a staircase went spiraling downward, cut into the rock itself.

I've never gone down here before,” said Glora. “This is where the witches and wizards live!”

Mundy stared into the blackness of that dank, foreboding staircase, then turned to the group and said: “Fairy tales to keep kids away. The treasure could very well be down there, and I've no intention of leaving this island empty-handed!”

May took down one of the torches from the wall and lit it. “Finders, keepers!” she said, and bounded down the steps, with Digger already ahead of her wagging his tail. Mundy likewise grabbed a torch and went next, then Glora, sticking close to his side. The rest of the crew, more afraid of staying back without Mundy than following him into what seemed certain doom, lit torches and trailed along.

Down, down went May, silent as a panther and ready to strike left or right with her sword. At last she reached bottom, and there was another heavy door, this one locked tight as much by the mass of cobwebs as by the large iron bolt in place; and upon the door there was a sign which read, “WARE HUND”. She waited for the others.

Mundy and Glora arrived, and then the rest were soon crowding the twisting steps behind them, gawking at the door, wondering what might be awaiting them on the other side.

'Ware hund'? What's that mean?” Mundy asked Glora.

I don't know, sir. That's not our language.”

It's kind of like old Hyperborean,” offered May. “I think it means 'Beware of dog'.”

That's it then,” said Ulysses. “The dog that guards the treasure.”

The door was bolted, so Mundy shot the lock off with his pistol, then readied another gun and ordered the door to be opened. Reluctantly, one of the men pulled it wide, but no beast or thing of evil jumped out of the pitch darkness.

One by one they crept inside, and with each new torch the flickering light grew, revealing a rather macabre room. The chamber was round, and in the middle stood a circular platform of brick, upon which stood the statue of a dog carved from onyx, larger even than a Great Dane and ugly as a gargoyle. It was covered in thick chains, each of which was looped through the eight rings set into the platform.

But the wall, which was made of metal, was even more disturbing. All around, high and low, metal figures with faces frozen in agony were cluttering the wall, clinging to its surface in various positions, some overlapping, along with weapons of every sort. And when some of the pirates came too close to the wall their own weapons flew up against the statues.

They're magnets!” exclaimed May. “All of these statues are magnets.”

Powerful magnets!” said a buccaneer, struggling with his weapon. “I can't get my sword free.”

Stay away from the walls,” said Mundy. Then he turned his attention to the platform: “There's a small door beneath the hound's feet. I'll assume the treasure's inside. We'll have to remove the statue to open the door.”

Wait!” cried Ulysses. He recited a line from the song: “But chain at last from hound did fall. If we remove the chains – ”

What of it?” demanded Mundy.

Perhaps that thing will come to life,” said the minstrel. “And purge his soul of molten metal...whatever that means.”

Then we make sure to keep at least one chain on,” suggested Mundy.

Using both hands, May swung her sword with all her might and brought it down on one of the chains laying loosely on the platform, breaking a link in a shower of sparks.

Good girl!” roared Mundy. And he invited the burliest of his men to help her: “Tupper, give the lass a hand!”

May and this man Tupper chopped away at the chains, until all but one was intact. Or so it seemed.

Uh, captain,” said Crane. “I hate to say it, sir, but it seems to me that there aren't eight chains. I think it's all one chain looped through those rings.”

There was a silence as everyone looked around at each other. Just then the statue's baleful eyes started to glow like fire, and there came a low growl from its throat.

Garm!” choked the minstrel. “He's coming to life!”

Suddenly the statue spewed a bucketful of red-hot liquid on one of the men, who cried out only for an instant before he froze in position. It took mere seconds for the stuff covering him to harden, and then he flew up against the wall. The men stood still a moment, shocked.

Molten magnet!” May gasped.

Then the thing called Garm went on a rampage: from his vantage on the platform he spewed his molten magnet on one pirate after another. Each victim solidified into a shiny lodestone and flew up against the iron wall, while the living tripped over each other in their mad panic to avoid the wrath of the demon.

A few shot at Garm with their pistols or hacked away with swords, to no avail, since he was made of stone. The onyx beast turned his attackers into magnets, and they joined the other dead warriors on the metal wall.

May and Glora and Digger were the most nimble of the bunch, and managed to keep evading Garm's deadly liquid. Mundy and Ulysses were smart enough to duck down at the base of the dais, below the monster's line of sight, while Crane and a few others managed to escape out the door and scramble up the stairs.

Seven men were killed before May was able to subdue Garm: she grabbed a length of chain from the platform and at the first chance swung it so that it looped round and round the demon dog's snout, chaining its jaws shut. Garm's eyes were aglow and steam blew from its flaring nostrils, but the monster seemed paralyzed by the chain muzzle.

The surviving pirates stood up, pale as ghosts. The danger seemed past, so Mundy uttered a comment: “You never cease to amaze me, lass.”

I think we can move him now,” said Ulysses.

The men put their muscles to work, lifting Garm off the platform and setting him aside, being careful that the chain didn't come loose from around its snout. They cautiously opened the door in the spot where Garm had been standing and looked inside. It was a treasure trove, and all for the taking!

Hearts pounding with excitement, they poured handfuls of the loot into sacks: emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and opals; gold coins and silver coins; diamonds and pearls; bracelets, necklaces, brooches and rings; silverware, chalices, scepters, and crowns; daggers and swords with jewelled hilts; and a chest filled with more coins and gems.

They grabbed the entire hoard and dashed back up the stairs, with the door once again bolted behind them. Glora knew the way, and led the group through the maze of passages until they once again arrived at the great hall. They sat on the tables and benches, as they had to wait for the next moon to cast a beam through the dome and open the portal.

There was a rumbling outside, which boded ill, according to Glora.

What is it?” whispered May.

Thunder,” said Glora. “That's no good. If there's a storm brewing...if the sky is cloudy and grey...then no moonlight will get through. The door won't open.”

The captain was resting his chin on his fist, brooding. “If we don't get back to the ship by morning, we'll never return the book by the due date. The Librarian and his horde of skeletons will be looking for us.”

And, sure enough, it rained all night and all the next day.


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