All The Colours: Part Six
"Are you a spirit, then?" Elenna asked, searching for
the origin of the voice. "Only, we need to know how to get to the weapon, and
if you created it…"
YOU COULD SAY THAT. Despite everything, he sounded
rather bored. IF YOU WANT TO GET TO THE SPEAR OF THE ANKH, YOU HAVE TO FIND
YOUR WAY THROUGH THE MAZE. I'M SORRY, I CAN'T REMEMBER HOW, SO I COULDN'T REALLY
HELP YOU EVEN IF I WAS ABLE TO.
Immacolata examined the maze. "Hmm. Single route,
I would guess. All right then, Pharaoh Mutankhanune, I shall find my way through
the maze. How do I get in?"
LIKE THIS, he replied, and Immacolata disappeared.
"W-what? Immacolata? Mother of all Wombats,
what did you do with my Aisha, fiend?" I yelled. Mutankhanune tried to be soothing.
DON'T WORRY. SHE'S IN THE MAZE NOW; ALL SHE HAS
TO DO IS FIND HER WAY THROUGH. OR, NO, WAIT; I DID MENTION THE MUMMIES, DIDN'T
I? AND THE TRAPS? AND THE DEADLY SPHINX, AND THE THREE-HEADED-FOURTEEN-EYED-MONSTER
OF EE? DIDN'T I?
"Err, no," I replied, in a small voice. There
was a long silence. Finally, the pharaoh spoke again.
* * * * *
"All right, we've mastered levitation and basic manipulation of
forces." Anuina crumbled the icepack between her fingers, trying to get a bit
more coldness out of it. "Now, transmutation. Water into wine. Later on, we
can get you doing more fun things like blood into barley sugar, or people into
toads, or the other fun ways of killing things. But for now, change the water."
"What water?" Waterlily replied, innocently.
The Faerie grabbed the cup, staring at the bottom.
"This isn't going to work if you keep drinking
the water," she snapped. "We can either get along, or not get along. If we get
along, this is going to be much easier. If we don't get along, I'll start punishing
you more severely. Now, turn the water into-"
"Cherry Neocola," the Ixi supplanted, ignoring
"No, Cherry Neocola." Waterlily poured herself
a second glassful of a liquid that was dark, sweet, fizzy and definitely not
water OR wine. The Faerie stared at it for a moment, and then strangled the
"Yes, fine, Cherry Neocola. But next time, do
what I told you to do."
* * * * *
Immacolata carefully slung her notebook over her shoulder, cracked
her fingers, put one paw on the left hand wall and started walking, the other
paw holding a torch high. After about fifteen feet, it turned left, then right.
All this time, she kept her paw on the left hand wall. If you didn't know already,
this is a pretty good trick for finding your way through fairly simple mazes.
The only problem is, most fairly simple mazes don't have devious traps in them.
Intelligent though she was, Immacolata was definitely
not prepared for a large pit opening under her feet the moment she stepped on
a loose tile. Never the most coordinated of beasts, there wasn't much the Aisha
could do to avoid plummeting to the bottom with a yelp. To top it all, her torch
After a few seconds in pure darkness and silence
except for a slight hissing noise, Immacolata picked herself up, rubbed her
bruised elbows and dug a chemical light stick out of her satchel. With a cracking
sound, pale white light filled the hole. The pit was roughly four feet deep
and rather narrow, no small challenge for an Aisha just short of two feet in
height. And then there was that infuriating noise. If she had been with Elenna,
they would have just flown out. Or Chrissy could have given her a boost. But
she was on her own now, stuck in a tiny little hole with a deceptively cold,
A floor that was, in fact, very much like sand.
That extended several inches up her ankles.
Immacolata turned, swinging the light stick to
illuminate a small, carved head that she hadn't noticed before. It looked something
like a gargoyle, but instead of water, out from it's mouth issued a thin stream
of sand. There were four, one on each wall. Slowly, but with increasing speed,
the pit was filling with desert sands.
Think. Think… there had to be a way to get out
of it! Climbing the walls wasn't an option; she didn't have a grappling hook…
could she swim in the sand? Hauling one foot up, Immacolata tried to stand on
the dust. It was too loose; her foot just sank like a stone in water. Desert
sands did that… but sand at the beach didn't. Why? Because it was wet, of course!
That was it! The canteen! Digging in her
satchel a second time, the Aisha produced a metal canteen of water. About half
a cupful was sprinkled liberally over the surface of the sand, turning it the
colour of biscuit crumbs and making it settle into a thick crust just able to
hold her weight without sinking too rapidly. All too quickly, it was covered
with another layer of fine, dry sand. It was a waiting game; you had to hold
on until it was several inches deep, sprinkle a little water over it, then wait
some more and hope the canteen didn't run out. Breathing heavily, the air thick
with sun coloured dust, Immacolata reached for the edge of the pit a third time.
Just short. Another few inches. Why had she volunteered for this? She was a
mastermind, a planner, a plotter, a schemer, not an adventurer. Jumping traps
and getting covered in sand was definitely not her style. Even the incident
involving one of her smuggling ships, the Maraquan whirlpool and six thousand
crates of counterfeit scratch cards washing up on the shores of Mystery Island
hadn't been this traumatic, although it had certainly cost her a lot in cleanup
operations. Just as long as the water didn't run out…
With a muffled, tinny gurgle, the last few drops
of liquid splattered onto the sand. Uh oh. She was in trouble now.
Abandoning all dignity, she took a running jump
at the wall, dug her claws into any available crack and scrambled up the sandstone
surface, paws scrabbling at the wall. The carved stone head provided a suitable
hand hold, although it got her a face full of sand, and finally Immacolata lay
flat on her back, on the safe side of the trap that had almost killed her. Not
bad, really, as escapes went.
Brushing sand off her coat, the Aisha straitened
up and started walking again, paw on the left hand wall as always. "I wonder
what's next?" she mused, mostly to herself.
* * * * *
An hour later, she wished she hadn't asked.
After a slight problem with a dart trap, that
had caused her to crawl on her stomach for sixteen feet strait into the remains
of an adventurer that hadn't been quite so lucky and resulted in one impromptu
ear-piercing, a split second discovery that glue spray and a lighter made a
surprisingly useful replacement for a flame-thrower that was effective against
all kinds of flammable undead, a few instances when sharp Aisha eyes came in
very handy for leading rabid Anubi into various traps that she had already bypassed
and brief astonishment that trying to saunter nonchalantly past the three-headed-fourteen-eyed-monster
of Ee worked for an astonishingly long time, and that abandoning all pretences
and running and screaming worked just as well, if not better, Immacolata felt
she was starting to get the hang of this adventuring lark. By her calculations,
she should be getting close.
That was when she rounded a corner, and came
face to face with a very, very large pair of paws.
She looked up.
And looked up some more.
"NONE SHALL PASS!" snarled the Sphinx, looking
suitably annoyed that a small, grubby Aisha had walked in on her hair care session.
True, most mythical monsters would have trouble holding their ground with curlers
and a ptolymelon facemask, but the half-lion pulled it off.
"Firstly, that is appalling grammar. Secondly,
it lacks originality. Thirdly, I am afraid you will simply have to change your
motto, for I AM going to pass you."
For a moment, the beast was stumped. She opened
her mouth, probably to repeat 'none shall pass', thought better of it, then
flicked a loose strand of hair with an oversized talon painted sugar pink.
"Well, like, what do you want me to say? I'm
not allowed to let anyone past unless they can guess this stupid riddle."
"You could start by telling me the riddle."
"Well, ya, like, okay then, but what happens
if you guess wrong?"
"Then, traditionally, you eat me."
"What, and ruin my talons trying to catch you?
Don't think so, sister!"
"Well…" Immacolata scratched her head, causing
a small shower of sand to dislodge itself. "Tell me the riddle, and if I guess
wrong, which I doubt, we'll work something out."
"Well, like, okay, but don't blame me for this
stupid riddle. I didn't make it up. What sits around, has four feet, is served
food, but never eats?"
Immacolata thought about it for a moment. "Easy.
A table. That's an old chestnut."
"Well, I don't know about you, but I have more
important things to do with my life than sit around talking to people who actually
KNOW the answer to my riddle. Just don't tell anyone, okay? Oh, and darling,
do you want to borrow a comb or something because you are seriously looking
like a complete fashion NIGHTMARE…"
"No thanks." Immacolata trotted past, light
stick held high. "I've got a spear to steal."
"A spear? Oh, sister, puh-leese, learn to accessorize!
I mean, a spear? A nice delicate dagger, maybe, but a spear…"
The Sphinx's protests faded into the background
as Immacolata left her behind. She didn't even need her light stick anymore,
as a golden glow was filling the narrow passage. Abruptly, the corridor opened
onto a huge, circular room, the centre of the maze. It was, quite predictably,
full of gold. Lots of gold.
Tempting as it all was, the Aisha only had eyes
for one thing. On a great, stepped plinth, at the exact centre of the great
labyrinth, the Spear of the Ankh hovered. About half it's length, maybe three
feet, was ancient wood the like of which Immacolata had never seen, or even
heard of. The remainder was from a hardened desert tree, tipped with a leaf
shaped head, razor sharp edges reflecting the golden light. This was it. She'd
done it. She'd actually found her way through the maze, beaten the guardians
and traps, and she'd done all on her own. The Aisha who had never so much as
left her keyboard for more than a day before. Stepping up to the platform, a
sudden thought struck her.
"I thought you were there. Are there any traps
guarding the spear itself? What happens to you after I take it? And, just to
get all my questions asked in one go, why are you guarding it?"
GOOD QUESTIONS. NO, THE SPEAR ISN'T GUARDED,
AT LEAST NOT IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE. AND AS FOR ME… I'LL BE FREE, FINALLY.
I'LL PASS OVER INTO THE NEXT LIFE.
"I suppose, after three thousand years, that
will be somewhat of a relief."
YOU HAVE NO IDEA. AND I'M GUARDING IT BECAUSE
THE SPIRIT OF THE SPEAR REQUESTED THAT I DO SO. I AGREED, WHICH I REGRET SOMEWHAT…
BUT THE SPIRIT WAS QUITE WORRIED THAT IT SHOULD FALL INTO THE WRONG HANDS. I
DON'T CONSIDER YOU TO BE THE WRONG HANDS, AS YOUR QUEST IS A WORTHWHILE ONE,
AND I BELIEVE EVEN THE SPIRIT IS RATHER BORED BY NOW.
"Oh well. Here goes nothing." Not fully understanding,
Immacolata's paw closed on the spear haft. There was the sudden, brief feeling
that her entire mind was laid open, a disturbingly uncomfortable one for a mastermind
used to that one place of utter privacy. Then the being, the spirit, the SOMETHING
smiled and retreated. She caught the briefest of images, of four pets, indistinct,
one a kindly genius, one a born fighter, one as carefree as the wind itself,
one stealthy as the greatest spy. The intelligent one, wreathed in flames, smiled.
She couldn't see the smile, but she felt it, in her heart. And then she was
merely Immacolata Magdalene again, staring at the spear in her paws.
* * * * *
I jumped to my feet. "What? What happened?"
It had been a nerve-wrecking hour for us, after
the spirit of Mutankhanune had admitted that you couldn't have more than one
person in the maze at once. The previously gloomy voice had suddenly become
SHE DID IT! SHE HAD THE SPEAR! I AM FREE! HERE,
I'LL TAKE YOU THERE, IT'S THE LEAST I CAN DO.
"Actually, the least you could do is transport
us and her out of here," yelled Elenna.
"Dude! Can you do both?"
* * * * *
Immacolata was tired, dusty and low on tricks, but triumphant. She
held out the spear in sandy, scraped paws, blood streaming from a hole in one
long ear and a long slash across one shoulder, a huge grin I had never seen
before on her face. Elenna hugged her, and Hina thumped her uninjured shoulder.
I swept her up for a cuddle.
"Immacolata, I wish you'd ASKED me before you
jumped into a maze full of mythical monsters, but you did it. I knew you would.
If she were here, Waterlily would be proud of you. I'm proud of you."
The Aisha shrugged; slight embarrassed but pleased
all the same. Hina and Elenna had spotted the wealth of gold just lying around,
and were quickly trying to stuff as much as they could into their pockets. I
examined the spear.
"This is it?"
"Part of it." Immacolata took it back briefly,
twisting the haft. The old wood and the new wood separated, and she presented
me with the ancient half. "The first part of an ALMOST unstoppable super weapon."
"Well… ah… thanks. How did you…? Oh, never mind,
it's not important. Hina, Elenna, leave that stuff alone, it'll only weigh us
down." I had already stuffed a handful of gold coins into my pocket. I didn't
need any more than that. "Mutankhanune, can you transport us out?"
CERTAINLY. GIVE ME A MINUTE.
Immacolata was looking at the other, non-epic
part of the spear. Gripping it in both paws, she made a few practice swipes.
Dipping one paw into the piles of gold, the Aisha selected a small, gold ring,
and slotted it into the hole in her ear with a slight smile. Just as the treasure
chamber began to dissolve into the Valley of the Kings, she whispered to me.
"Forget Ghost… a Lost Desert paintbrush is more
suitable, don't you think?"
To be continued...