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Chapter 2

After taking both Adam’s blaster and knife, Ianto retrieved both halves of the map and carefully tucked them away and then, with Grey carrying their light source, they moved from the main entrance into one of the many passages. They were both thankful for the steady illumination of the LED light as the temple’s interior was wet and dark, its ceiling heavily hung with plant life and stalactites. Once in a while their echoing footsteps would intermittently overpower the ever-present sounds of loudly dripping water, whistling air drafts and frantically scampering claws.

Following the map in his mind, Ianto led the way down a twisting hallway, with Grey's lamp barely lighting his way from behind. Having lost his way after all the twists and turns they’d taken, Grey stayed rooted in his spot as Ianto disappeared into the shadows and when he reappeared a moment later, Grey found that he couldn't speak as he noticed the huge black tarantula crawling up the back of his jacket.

Ianto didn't seem to notice and quickly disappeared into another shadowy alcove, this time when he emerged there were two more tarantulas on his back. This time Grey managed to make a frightened grunting sound and aim a shaking finger at Ianto. Blinking with curiosity, Ianto looked at him and then his gaze followed to where Grey was pointing; completely unfazed by what he saw, he casually brushed all three spiders off with his rolled whip as if they were nothing but pesky flies.

Suddenly sure that he was simply crawling with the hairy creatures Grey began dancing in place. "Check me, please?" he begged frantically as he turned to give Ianto his back. Terrified of spiders ever since he was a child, he didn't want any of the eight-legged demons crawling on him

Working hard to keep a straight face, Ianto easily brushed the one very small spider off of Grey's back. “Nothing there, mate, just a few cobwebs,” he offered comfortingly. The last thing he needed was a panic-stricken Grey running off into the darkness, taking with him their only source of light.

As they cautiously made their way through the temple, Ianto began picking up little pocket-sized artifacts from the niches and ledges along the corridors. Ianto's collecting method was quickly and expertly done; years of practice enabled him to evaluate the pieces in an instant, discarding some, stuffing others into his clothes and through it all he never stopped his forward progress.

They finally reached what was inscribed on the map as the Chamber of Light. It started out as a small chamber just ahead of them which interrupted the hall and was brightly lit by a shaft of sunlight from high above. Ianto stopped and looked it over carefully.

"What's wrong? Are you lost?" Grey asked in a disbelieving tone.

Instead of answering him Ianto picked up a nearby stick, tossed it through the shaft of light, and watched it clatter to the ground eight yards away. Immediately giant spiked claws sprang up from the sides of the chamber and came together in the center of the light making a ferocious clang. To their horror, they saw the remains of an African woman impaled on the spikes, her corpse a mangled mess of half-decayed flesh and half-exposed skeleton. Ianto reached out and took a hold of the woman and gently removed her body from the spikes just as they started to retract.

"Lisa," Ianto said sadly. As he thought back to the last time he’d seen her alive, he didn’t notice that Grey had turned away and was vomiting into the dust.

“Oh, Lisa, what happened to you? I thought you were smarter than this.”

Turning back to the gruesome sight, Grey swiped a hand across his mouth and gulped deeply. "We can go no further."

With a quick roll of his eyes, Ianto shook his head. "Now, Grey, we don't want to be discouraged by every little thing, do we?" and with that Ianto stepped sideways into the chamber. Pressing his back tightly against the very points of the retracted spikes, he carefully moved along the edge of the light beam, being very, very careful not to let any part of him break the circle, until finally he stepped clear on the other side.

Grimacing Grey followed after Ianto, sweating his way through every step; when he came out safely he didn’t think before throwing his arms around Ianto in a moment of life-affirming madness.

Encouraged by surviving such a deadly trap, Ianto and Grey walked cautiously yet optimistically down a long flight of stone stairs to a tight landing. Framing the entry was a carefully strung network of dead vines, each somehow hooked into the wall, narrowing the opening even more. "Let me see that." Ianto took the light from Grey's hand.

Ianto lowered the light to the floor of the landing, which was carpeted with dozens of human skeletons, one on top of another, all squashed flat as cardboard. Grey gasped in fear as Ianto looked up at the ceiling speculatively, then he carefully stepped onto the skeletons which made a grotesque crunching, cracking noise under his feet.

Gray turned away and dry-heaved as cold sweat rolled down his back.

"Try not to touch the vines," Ianto called out helpfully over his shoulder.

They followed the path that led them to a high-ceilinged, straight hallway that was about fifty feet long; at the end stood a massive wooden door glowing in a flood of sunlight.

"I think we’re very close!" Pure glee could be heard in Grey's voice, but when Ianto stood still just looking at the wall he pushed him somewhat impatiently and growled, "Let’s hurry, there’s nothing to fear here."

"That's what scares me," Ianto admitted with a small, nervous smile before taking his first step with Grey quickly following after him.

The pathway widened enough that they were able to walk down the hall side by side for a little while until Grey let his eagerness get the better of him. Tired of Ianto’s careful tread and slow pace, he pushed ahead but just as he placed his foot down the floor crumbled beneath him. As he began to pitch forward, Ianto was able to react swiftly enough to grab him by his belt and pull him back from certain death at the bottom of the abyss. Together they both looked down at the 'floor'.

Pulling out his whip Ianto swung it across the floor with a reverberating crack, its ten foot length cutting open the surface beneath the impact of the lash, the dirt falling away to reveal a black pit as wide as the hall. The floor was nothing more than an illusion made of dust-covered cobwebs. Wanting to know exactly what they were dealing with Grey picked up a stone and tossed it down into the pit. They listened intently but when they heard no sound the two men exchanged a worried look.

Ignoring Grey, who had suck to the ground with a frightened whimper, Ianto found his gaze drifting up towards the high roof of the hall. 'It's crazy but it just might work,' the Welshman thought to himself as he swung his whip up and around a support beam. With a firm tug to test the beam’s strength, Ianto took a deep breath, offered a quick prayer to the universe, and then he gripped the handle and swung over the pit. When he landed safely on the other side he let out a whoop of joy before nodding to Grey and swinging the whip back to him. It took two tries, but once Grey managed to catch it, he tossed the light over to Ianto, knowing that he couldn’t carry it and hold onto the whip with both hands. He wasn’t worried about dropping the light, no, he didn’t want to lose his grip on the whip and fall to his death.

Once they were both standing on solid ground again, there was a moment of quiet in which they heard, from far, far below them, a splash; it would seem their stone had finally reached the bottom of the pit. As much as Ianto wanted to take his whip with him, he instead wedged the handle into the wall and left it strung to the beam, one never knew when they might have to make a quick retreat. Several paces later, they were standing directly in front of their next obstacle, the doors.

It took the combined strength of Ianto and Grey to push the huge wood doors open and even then it was still difficult, but their efforts were well worth it. Before them was a large, domed room illuminated by ten evenly-spaced skylights that sent their shafts of sunlight down to an uniquely tiled floor of white and black tiles laid out in a lovely, intricate pattern. Ianto and Grey stood in the doorway just taking in the sight until their gaze fell upon the altar at the head of the wide room. There, in the supreme hallowed spot atop a simple marble plinth, was the treasure they sought, a tiny jewelled figurine.

Ianto was amazed to see two torches, centuries old, in holders by the door, and knowing that they must serve some kind of purpose Ianto carefully took one and examined it. Nodding resolutely, he reached into an inner jacket pocket and pulled out the ancient lighter he’d found on his very first and which he considered his good luck charm, never going on an expedition without it. With a quick flick of his wrist, he lit it and set it to the head of the torch and was rewarded by the torch blazing to life. He handed the LED light they had been using back to Grey.

Grey took the proffered light, tucked it away and then looked around them with a frown. “There is plenty of light,” he pointed out.

Ianto paid no attention to Grey as he knelt down and surveyed the pattern of the tiled floor before reaching out and using the solid metal end of the torch to tap a white tile. Satisfied that it was solid, he then tapped a black tile and immediately there was an angry whizzing sound and a tiny dart was suddenly stuck in to the torch.

“There,” Grey cried out and pointing to a nearby wall he showed Ianto that there was a small recessed hole hidden in the intricate carving. “It came from that hole!”

Ianto nodded and as he stood his eyes darted about the walls of the sanctuary, quickly realising that the entire room was honey-combed with the same kind of hole all cleverly disguised by the carved patterns. Grey followed Ianto’s gaze and he also noticed the many dart holes; he couldn’t help but be a little impressed with the designers of this trap. ‘I wish Adam could have seen this,’ he reflected sadly. ‘I wish you hadn’t been so stupid, my love. We could have easily fed him to one of the traps or better yet, pushed him into that last pit! I wonder how long it would take for a body to hit the bottom.’

Sensing an odd change in his companion’s demeanour, Ianto turn his head and cast a calculating glance at Grey. “You wait here,” he instructed. Not only would it have been too difficult for two men to successfully navigate the tricky path across the floor, but he suddenly didn’t trust Grey to not ‘accidentally’ knock him into the path of the undoubtedly poison-tipped darts.

So relieved that he went weak in the knees, Grey didn’t see a problem with that. “If you insist,” shrugged casually, as if he couldn’t care one whit what he did.

With the brightly burning torch in hand, Ianto slowly began his careful walk across the sanctuary, making very sure to step only on the white tiles; to Grey he almost appeared to be doing the graceful moves of an ancient martial arts kata. Before each well-thought out move Ianto made sure to stretch his arm out in front of him and then wave the torch from head to toe, his eyes glued to the flame looking for any flutter in its brilliance. Halfway to the altar, Ianto noticed something on the floor and when he reached it two steps later, he knelt down to look at it. There in the center of a white tile was a dead bird; its small body was riddled with little deadly darts. “I’m sorry, you poor thing, you deserved better,” Ianto whispered softly and then he offered up a prayer to the universe for the bird’s soul. He felt badly that a beautiful creature of nature had blundered into such an ugly example of mankind, but it also stood to warn Ianto that he must proceed with even more caution than ever before.

Lifting his hand he again waved the torch ahead of him and this time, right at waist height, an air current whipped at the flame. With a grim smile, Ianto ducked, making sure he passed under the stream; he was so low to the ground that the torch left an ugly burn mark on the pristine white tile beneath it.

Back at his safe landing Grey watched with wide eyes, mystified by Ianto’s bizarre action.

Grateful beyond measure that he’d survived the treacherous crossing, Ianto heaved a sigh of relief when he reached the altar and he was rewarded for his tenacity with his first look at the tiny idol that looked both fierce and beautiful. It rested on a pedestal of polished stone, and Ianto made sure to look the whole set-up over very carefully his eyes and brain making multiple calculations and drawing numerous conclusions. Finally, he reached into his jacket, into yet another seemingly bottomless pocket, and removed a small, canvas drawstring bag.

After stabbing the base of the torch into the ground to hold it upright, he began filling the pouch with dirt from around the base of the altar, being careful not to jostle the pedestal, just in case. When he had created a weight that he thought was approximately that of the idol, he closed his eyes and slowly bounced it a couple of times in his palm, concentrating on the heft of it in his hand. With a frown, Ianto opened the bag and pulled out three pinches of sand and then checked the weight again before nodding with satisfaction.  

There were only two things on Ianto’s mind at the moment; first of all, he was only going to get one chance at the swap, and secondly, he knew he had to make the exchange as smoothly as possible. Taking a step forward he reached out but his hands hovered for a moment as he quieted his mind and then, taking a deep breath, Ianto slowly let it escape in a steady stream from between his lips and made his shoulders muscles relax. Putting the pouch of sand as close to the figurine as he could without knocking into it, Ianto very carefully lifted up the golden statue in one hand while quickly replacing it with a the weighted bag of sand.

Amazed that his scheme had worked, Ianto didn’t dare to breathe as he looked back and forth between the idol in his hand and the bag on the pedestal. He was thrilled beyond belief that his ploy had worked and for a moment he stared at the bag just sitting there and a smile started creeping across his lips. Then, to Ianto’s horror, the polished stone beneath the bag abruptly dropped five inches, setting off a chain reaction of underground movement and reverberating sound that steadily increased in volume as a huge mysterious mechanism rumbled into action deep within the temple.

Pretty sure he knew what was going to happen next, Ianto didn’t dare wait another second as he spun around and started his delicate kata back across the sanctuary at four times the speed he first crossed.

Just as Ianto reached the safety of the wooden doors, a rock shook loose from the wall and rolled onto the tiled floor; it bounced on one white tile, then another and a third and then, as Ianto held his breath, the rock landed on a black square. The result was immediate and deadly as a noisy torrent of poison darts filled the room like a veritable cloud of angry killer bees.

Running from the room Ianto could see Grey just ahead of him already using the whip to swing across the chasm and to Ianto’s deep dismay the whip came undone from the beam just as Grey landed safely, although he did stumble to his knees. The whip curls in the dust at Grey’s feet, leaving Ianto stranded with no options for escape available to him.

Grey, who was extremely nervous, regarded the whip and then Ianto who was waiting anxiously on the far side of the pit. Grey’s eyes narrowed and a cruel smile twisted his lips; looking expectantly at Ianto he said, “No time to argue, throw me the idol and I’ll throw you the whip.”

Ianto knew the odds were not in his favour and that the chances of Grey actually keeping his word were slim to none but still he hesitated and eyed the crumbling walls around him.

Grey held out his hand. “You have no choice!” he called out mockingly, knowing full-well that he had Ianto against the wall. “Hurry!”  

Sighing Ianto rolled his eyes, knowing he had no choice but to cooperate and tossed the idol across the pit to Grey, who caught it easily. He watched as the other man took the time to look the statue over and then kiss its golden face before stuffing it into the front pocket of his jacket. Giving Ianto a look of absolute triumph dropped the whip to the floor; “Ooops!” He shrugged; “well, at least I tried, yeah?” and as he ran off he tossed back over his shoulder, “Sorry, mate!”

Ianto grimaced and cursed himself for being such a fool; he’d had a feeling that this might happen; he began looking around for another way out. ‘This is just great, how do I always get myself into these kinds of mess?’

******

Moving swiftly, Grey had managed to reach the vine landing, using his skills he flew though the obstacle like a ballet dancer and took the steps five at a time. ‘Sorry, Mr Jones, but it’s every man for himself.’


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