Merry Christmas! Figured today would be a good day to give you a chapter with treasure in it. There is new stuff here for vets and new readers alike so I'll let ya rip right into it and see what ya find.

Chapter 18

Discovery of Unknown Value.

Jake and the others had emerged from the well and searched the courtyard, each of them leery of the door to the stairs. They all knew that was where they had to go, but fear kept them away. Finally Liesa got mad at herself. Do I love him or not? What am I doing wasting time while Josh could be dying?

"Let's go." She told the others as they met in the middle of the courtyard. "We can't let him die because we are scared."

"Your ryght." Jake said ashamed. "We have wasted enough time."

"Besides its raining and I'm getting soaked." Pepper added. "I vote we go inside."

The three headed for the door and looked down into its dark abyss. There was where they must go. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled as they stood for a moment longer in the rain. They looked at each other confirming the decision with a nod and then slowly they made their way down the steps. As each foot dropped a step lower their hearts beat faster. What is down here?

"I bet it's a torture chamber." Pepper commented making Liesa pale.

"It could just be a dungeon." Liesa said trying to comfort herself.

"Or it could be a treasure room." Jake said in admiration, trying to convince himself and the others.

"Maybe it's a mad scientist's lab where the tortured souls of his experiments live." Pepper persisted reversing whatever good effect Jake's comment had.

When they reached the bottom of the steps their hearts sunk when they saw the five hallways.

"The blood stopped dripping in the well." Jake told them. "There is no way to tell which one it took."

"Does that mean we have to split up?" Pepper asked fearing the answer.

"Yep." Jake said. "But we can use the swords from these suits of armor."

"But we only have one light." Liesa said.

"Here," Jake answered pulling the torches from his back. "We can each take two. We will lyght one here, and then we can lyght another if we need to."

"I still don't feel safe splitting up." Pepper whined.

"It's the fastest way mate. Time is important."

"Let's do it then." Liesa agreed, taking one of the swords from the suits.

They lit their torches and then Jake and pepper got their swords before splitting up down separate paths. Liesa took the entrance left of center while Jake took the farthest right, and Pepper the middle. Liesa trembled as she walked hesitantly, but her heart drove her on. Please be safe Josh.

Josh found himself in another room fool of doors with six on each side and two against the far wall. He would come back later, but first he wanted to finish exploring the other halls. Going back down the hall to the last intersection he went down the other path that led him to what looked to be an empty room, but Josh knew better and began studying the walls for any clue of a passage. Finally he found what he was looking for, disturbed dirt. Josh shoved, pressed, kicked, and stomped all over the room but nothing happened so he sat and thought while catching his breath. This fort seems to have an intelligent builder who likes riddles. What am I missing?

Then he remembered the well and looked up at the roof to see a block in the middle of the ceiling that stuck out. Now the problem is how to press it seeing as the roof is twelve feet high. Josh thought thinking as he started studying the walls again. I can not climb them, and even if I could how would I reach the center of the roof. Then something caught his eye. In the corners of the room were polls inset in the corners, but one of them had a notch in it and did not reach all the way to the roof. He stood to his feet walking to the notched corner and stuck his finger in the notch lifting the poll out of the floor.

Josh could hardly contain his excitement as he marched to the middle of the room and pushed the rod against the block. As he expected the far wall rotated allowing two ways of passage. Thrilled he rushed towards one of the gaps, but then stopped as he saw it led to a huge pit. Sweat ran down his face as he sidestepped and flashed his light into the other passage. Seeing that the way was clear he walked on through leery of more traps. Inside was a small room with a black suit of armor riddled with battle scars stood on a block of gold engraved with a massage. Josh's eyes got wider as he read the inscription.

"Here rests the most noble and valiant of all men to wield the sword. Ye Black Knight, Champion of the tournaments, slayer of dragons, and thief of the maiden's hearts. This due in memory of the only man to hold the mighty blade of Excalibur. Only he who solves the riddle of his design shall be worthy of its cold edge."

Josh raised his head to the sword that was held by the black suit of armor. The suit itself was of finer quality yet then the others standing with legs spread, and the hands grasping the handle with the blade whose tip went into the block of gold. Josh nearly exploded inside as he gently pushed the fingers aside and pulled the massive weapon from the Gold block to find that it stuck six more inches in the block giving it a length of four and a half feet.

Josh found it incredibly light for its size, feeling no heavier than a three foot sword, and it was also very well balanced allowing it to be handled with ease despite its massive size. Then he sheathed the blade, after taking the scabbard off the suit of armor, before strapping it to his back. Josh went back out the door and pushed the rod against the block on the roof ceiling the passage again before returning the pole to its place.

Now to show my friends this discovery. He thought to himself. They are not going to believe this. I will have to bring them here in the morning. I cannot believe how awesome this is. It will change everything. Little did he know how much it would change things.

Liesa found herself in the room with six doors that Josh had left to find the tomb of the Black Knight. She stood for a moment thinking. Which door should I take? Picking the second door to the right she opened it and luckily she stood off to one side as arrows flew past her face with a whistling hiss. Liesa screamed as her face went pale and she slammed the door as two more arrows thudded against it.

Quickly she ran to the door across the room trying to escape. Stepping inside she screamed again as she felt herself falling forward when nothing was under her foot. In a flash she let go of her sword and torch spinning in mid air to catch the edge of the floor with her fingers. Liesa clinched her teeth and then gasped in pain as her body swung down slamming her healing ribs into the wall. With her torch gone Liesa was instantly engulfed in darkness that blotted out everything. She wanted to cry for help, but if the archer heard her it would do no good so she just waited hanging for a few moments trying to hear movements.

When she felt safe, Liesa pulled herself back out of the hole, but now had to find her way back out without being able to see as she started feeling her way across the wall. How will I get out? I can't even remember how I got in, and now I have to get out in this pitch black darkness. Tears filled her eyes. Will I die here? Will the archer find me? Or will a ware wolf eat me alive? Will I ever see Josh again? Is he already dead? Liesa's heart sank, but she kept going.

Josh had started running as soon as he heard Liesa scream. What is she doing down here? She must have woken up and come looking for me. What made her scream? Is she ok? His pace quickened as possibilities ran through his mind. I Have to find her! Josh had not noticed how dim his light had gotten in his excitement, and then it flickered out as the batteries went dead making him freeze. Now what? I will have to count the turns carefully and feel my way through. He started to scoot across the wall, but he had gone only twenty feet before tripping and falling to the floor with a grunt.

Jake had also started running when he heard Liesa's cry, but could not find his way back out. Not watching where he was going he turned a corner and came face to face with Pepper who shrieked and nearly fainted at the surprise after being terrified by Liesa's scream. Then their blades clashed before they noticed who it was they fought against.

"It's me mate." Jake said.

"You trying to kill me!?" Pepper shouted panting.

"Sorry mate, but you swung first."

"Did not." Pepper protested.

"Do you know the way out?" Jake replied, ignoring his denial.

"You mean you're lost too?" Pepper asked concerned.

"This is bad Pepper."

"Tell me something new. We have to get to Liesa."

"I hope that little Sheila is alright."

Liesa felt her way back down the hall, but did not know where to go from there. I have to remain calm. Too late for that. Now I have to calm myself down. Eventually I will find my way out, or Pepper and Jake will find me. What if they are dead? It doesn't help much but it is possible. Please nobody die. At this point she thought it best to act as if she was alone. I will just keep feeling around until I find the way out. What else can I do?

Then she heard footsteps running towards her. I am rescued! Wait, what if it is the archer. Liesa felt her emotions being overloaded as more tears came when suddenly she heard a grunt and hope filled her heart before it came crashing down. It sounded like Josh, but was a grunt of pain. What if the archer got him? She stood still listening for more sound but then heard a sound she did not want to hear that sounded like someone was being dragged across the floor. Tears filled her eyes as her heart seemed to be torn out. Josh is dead, and something is dragging him. All hope was lost.

Then fear struck her as she realized the dragging sound was headed her way. Why not? What is left to live for? Josh is dead, I have no family, and the war is not over. I do not want to get back out only to live in more pain. Liesa nearly gave up as she stood face to the wall staining it with silent tears. I do not want to die. She thought as the sound got closer and closer. With every scooting drag that brought the sound closer she shook more violently as the thought of death filled her mind until finally the sound was about to pass right behind her. Will I get away? Even if I do I won't last long in this war without Josh. If I'm going to die I will make the archer pay some for killing Josh. Liesa waited until the sound was directly behind her.

Josh heard something move on the other side of the hall and turned around just in time to catch a small fist in his stomach. He grunted and grabbed the wrist of his attacker as it drew back, then another fist slammed his chest and he heard Liesa whimper as she struggled to get free.

"Liesa?" He asked into the dark.

Liesa's eyes went wide and then she wrapped her arms around him.

"Josh!" She cried. "Josh I...I..." She started but could not finish as she broke down in tears.

Josh put his hands on her shoulders and was about to push her away again when he was suddenly aware of her violent quaking tremble. Her face buried in his chest stained his shirt with tears as he let his arms drop down over her and pull her close while she cried. Liesa felt the warmth of his body suddenly feeling secure but still shaken.

"Josh I...I...I thought..."

"Shhh." Josh said soothingly, still trying to understand. "Everything is ok. You can explain later."

Liesa squeezed him tighter as she tried to stop shaking. What scared her so bad? Josh wondered. Why did she come down here? Are the others down here too? If they are, then where are they?

"Can you walk?" Josh asked, pulling away just enough to look down at her

Liesa nodded her head still unable to speak.

"You will have to let go." Josh told her.

Liesa blushed and slowly released her grasp keeping an arm around his waist to hold herself up until her legs did not feel like rubber anymore, and Josh kept an arm around her shoulders as he felt their way down the hall.

Liesa could hardly believe what was happening. Not only was Josh alive, but he had willingly held her, and now he kept an arm around her. Even if he was only doing it to hold her up she could still enjoy it, and then she felt stupid for thinking of such things in times like this. Suddenly Josh stopped and slapped his forehead.

"What did you do that for?" Liesa asked confused.

"I can be so absent minded sometimes it scares me." He answered.

"What do you mean?"

"Just wait a second." Josh told her. "Sit down."

Liesa sat down next to him listening into the darkness. It sounded like he was searching his pockets as she heard nuts, bolts, and other objects clinking together. Suddenly a light filled the hall as Josh raised a glowing crystal in the air.

"What did you do?" Liesa asked.

"Let's keep moving and I will tell you."

Liesa stood, but then started to fall.

"Come on." Josh said catching her with his arm around her waist, and then started out as she hung onto his shoulders. "I took the laser crystal from my pulse laser gun and charged it with electricity using two wires and a battery. As long as I hold the wires to the battery and the crystal it will produce light as the electricity passes through the crystal completing the circuit because the crystal captures and refracts the electricity like light"

"Oh yeah. You must be absent minded to miss that one." Liesa said with a smile, barely comprehending the concept.

"Think you can walk now?" Josh asked.

"I think so." Liesa answered, reluctantly letting go. "We have to find Pepper and Jake before the archer does."

"Archer?" Josh asked suddenly alarmed.

"He almost hit me, but then I ran and almost fell down a pit. That's why I have no light. We used torches from the well but I had to let go to grab onto the side of the pit"

"I find it strange that a man would still be here, but none the less. If what you say is true then they could be in serious trouble." Josh told her as they ran side by side through the halls.

"Do you know where you're going?" Liesa asked.

"Unless I have been wrong for the last hour that I roamed freely through here, yes. All you have to do is count your turns as ether left or right, and then simply do them in reverse."

Liesa was still recovering from her scare and had to stop for a while. Her body was a wreck with emotions, and right now she was trying to deal with the joy of being with Josh. She was normally happy to be with him, but after giving up hope for him and herself she felt extraordinarily happy. After a moment's rest they got up and ran for about twenty more yards before Liesa suddenly felt a sharp pain in her side. She collapsed under the stabbing pain and fell to the floor making it hurt even worse.

"What is wrong?" Josh asked, skidding to a stop.

"I think it's my rib."

"If you can make it, it is only a little farther to the main room. You can stay there while I find Jake and Pepper."

"But what if the archer finds me?" Liesa said with fear in her voice.

"We will put you somewhere safe, and you will be in the dark. He should not be able to see you. You cannot stay with me in your condition anyway."

"Ok." Liesa said taking a deep breath. "I trust you."

Josh put an arm around her waist again, placing one of her arms over his shoulders as they hobbled along for the next twenty yards before reaching the main room. Josh helped her over to a corner where it would be darkest, and then let her down.

"Stay here and be quiet." He told her.

"Josh, be careful."

"Sure." Josh answered catching something in her tone.

As he ran he thought of what she had asked him, or rather how she had done it. It had been genuine, with a warmth in her voice. His mind flashed back to the night aboard the Whale King when they had been alone for that last time. She had actually said she loved me. I had sort of brushed it off at the time, but is she still holding on. He could not help but feel that Liesa had enjoyed being helped through the halls. It is just a silly feeling, but do I have it too? I do not think I do, but still the thought of it does make me a little happy. Then he brushed it off again, focusing on the task at hand. It won't work anyway so it does not matter. There are more important things to think about. If there is an archer I will have to be ready for him. Josh pulled the massive Sword from its sheathe on his back and kept running, holding his make shift light in his left hand and counting his turns under his breath.

"Left, right, right, left, right, left, lef..."

He did not finish the sentence as two swords swung down from around the corner. He raised Excalibur and blocked the attack to see Jake and Pepper wide eyed in front of him.

"Josh!" They both shouted.

"Let's get out of here." Josh told them as all blades lowered

"Where's Liesa?" Jake asked.

"She is hurt a little, but fine. I left here in the main room. Now let's get going. Liesa said there is an archer here."

Jake and Pepper looked at each other exchanging fearful thoughts and then followed Josh back down the hall. In a few minutes they had reached the room where Liesa leaned into the corner unconscious and Josh went over checking her pulse.

"She is still alive." He said. "I think it was her rib. She could have punctured something internal. There is no way to tell from the outside and none of us is a doctor so we will have to wait and see what happens. For now let's just get her out."

"How?" Pepper asked. "We can't carry her out."

"We have to." Josh said.

"You can't mate." Jake said sternly. "If she is not hurt yet we could still kill her by shifting her position. I know a little about ribs cause I had a few broken myself. I might be able to set it, or at least see where it is, but she can't be moved tonight."

Jake bent down and ran two fingers across her lower left rib cage starting from the back and moving around to the front. As he expected, Jake found the crack at her side as the bone stuck out a little. Gently he pressed inward until the bump was gone.

"There. As far as I can tell it's set again, but moving her is out of the question."

"All right." Josh answered. "You two get out of here and I will stay here with her."

"No way mate. We are in this together."

"We need someone on watch in case Gundoms show up. They would total our Zoids and we would be stranded. Our best bet is to keep the Zoids in good condition so we can get her to a doctor as soon as possible."

"Good luck then." Pepper said as he started to head back for the stairs. "You coming Jake?" He asked.

"I will stay here too." He said.

"No." Josh told him firmly. "There has to be two of you up there. One to fend them off and one to come and tell me and Liesa."

"All ryght mate. Be careful. That sword is big, but it won't protect you from an arrow."

"I know. Now get going. The less sound there is the better chance I have he won't find us."

"See you later, mate." Jake said tipping his hat.

"Count on it." Josh replied with a smile.

Josh watched him disappear up the stairs and then settled down next to Liesa. Suddenly he was aware of how tired he was. He fought it off as long as he could, but finally could not keep his eyes open any longer as his long night of exploring finally caught up to him. As he drifted off his mind screamed to stay awake in case the archer came, but his body was too tired to continue and his crystal light went out as his hand fell to the floor in sweet slumber.

A discovery has been made, but what exactly is it? What secrets are to be descovered? What of the archer? Will Josh and his friends live long enough to discover those secrets? What other dangers await them in this mysterious place. Come to find out witrh the next posting coming soon.

Well, there you have it, my Chritsmas gift tou you for all. See you all soon and have a very merry Christmas.