AN: sorry to take so long to update. Our treasure hunting couple continue their exciting adventure.
Burn baby burn.
"Ok, so can you please tell me why we are sitting on the top of this mountain?" I asked. Looking around, the views were certainly spectacular, but he still wasn't giving me many hints as to what the hell we were doing, so high up in the Andes Mountains.
"Look around you, can you see any bodies of water, pools or ponds around here?" he asked me.
It was a seemingly innocuous question, because we both already knew the answer.
I scanned my eyes for the full 360 degrees around us. We were at the highest spot for hundreds of miles. It was high and dry...bone dry. The air was very low in humidity. It probably never got to rain here very much. A long way down in the flat lands below, sand and salt lakes spread as far as the eye could see. It was a cold, high, empty desert.
"No water anywhere Captain. Why is that important?"
"I want to make absolutely sure that the Merrows won't come and give us any problems when we finally undo this lock and see what's inside."
"So you think that they were really upset about us getting hold of this small chest? Not just a little miffed, that you made a big mess of some old shipwreck on their patch?" I asked curiously, it seemed odd that my mate could be so fearful of some strange, electrically charged, water creatures. It was always best to be on the safe side though. They had followed us a long, long way, after we had boarded the boat, straight after recovering the chest.
We set off sailing south, passing Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica; then to Panama. They kept up with us easily. It was more than a bit spooky actually, and I didn't even feel like getting back into the water. Even though I knew they couldn't hurt me through my shield, I was still quite...uneasy as to exactly how far they would go to follow us and what else they might do to us, if we went diving or swimming while they were there.
Who knows what other 'powers' they had in their arsenal, or who else they would get help from...were there other mythical creatures who were allies of the Mermaids or Merrows? Maybe they could call up an army of all their mer-friends and zap the boat so badly, it burns while still sitting in the water? Who knows what could happen?
Garrett must have felt the same way, but he never spoke of just how unnerved he was feeling...I guess that's why he was avoiding all bodies of water, no matter how big or small. I could feel his adrenalin racing, as he spent his quiet time pondering which route to take, and finally made the decision to find somewhere that was dry...very high and very dry. Just for a little respite from our annoying, watery followers.
We passed through the Panama Canal, which was quite a remarkable engineering feat. I looked at all the amazing construction that required it to be built. Then we kept sailing down south, further and further down the west coast of South America. We passed Columbia, Equator, Peru and finally docked into a strange town on the border of Peru and Chile, called Azap.
It was here that we stopped and found a good dry dock facility, for our boat. Run by a crusty, old acquaintance of the Captain's, with a big pack of nasty looking, ferocious mutts. On our journey down there, we had stopped ashore quickly, so that we could feed. We were able to pick up some warmer clothes too, so that we didn't stand out wearing only thin, cotton shorts and tee shirts.
The older population of locals were definitely wary of us, they seemed to know we weren't human. I didn't blame them. I'd be wary of me too, if I was still human! We focused on dining on a few drug-addled tourists who were causing problems in a bar with some of the local girls or the drug dealers, of which there were always so many to choose from. In fact we could have easily spent our time, enjoying ourselves and seeing the amazing sights, but the damn Merrows were just not giving up their quest to pursue us. I guess they really wanted their treasure back.
I stopped my thoughts and blinked, as my mate finally decided to try and give me an answer. He pulled me in close.
"Oh no...believe me, there's so much more to this! This is about much more than me making a mess of some old shipwreck. I've been going to go after this particular legendary item for a while now...but I wasn't strong enough to go back there and finish what I started. Over one hundred years ago, I tried and failed. The Merrows nearly did me in. It wasn't until I found you, my beautiful protector; that I was finally able to get this! Without you and me together acting as a team, we wouldn't have gotten hold of this chest at all!"
I looked at him and waited for him to continue. I wonder if they really had tried to kill my mate a century ago, for trying to take what they considered to be theirs?
Garrett looked strangely wistful. I couldn't even imagine what he was going to say to me next. I sent him some curiosity, to get him to hurry up and tell me. I had tried to be patient, but this closed-mouth, stoic attitude of his was driving me more than a little nutty.
"When I was growing up in Skye, off the wild, north coast of Scotland, we understood that the old stories and everyday life were the very same thing...Merrows and the stories surrounding these water creatures were all very real for us. Just like fairies, ghosts, spirits, elves and witches. It was normal for us to accept mythical reality as real and true, just the same as the people we grew up with and saw everyday in the village."
"Ok...so the mythical world was real for you. Growing up in that place and time, you easily accepted the wider, mythical world not cutting yourself off from it like, modern humans do today."
"Yes, exactly...so you can imagine that my interest was peaked during the time I was a pirate, when I saw and heard a lot of interesting things in the Caribbean about the mythical world. One of which, was the strange story about this very chest and who it originally belonged to... and how it came to be sitting in a shipwreck, right off the southern coast of Cuba."
"Mmm?" I nodded, trying to get him to hurry up.
"Aye, patience now, while I give you some background Blossom, so that you may fully appreciate why we've come all this way up to a high Bolivian peak; sitting in a very dry place, away from any nasty, water creatures... who may or may not be annoyed with us, for stealing something that they see as valuable to them...and not just any old treasure."
I rolled my eyes and huffed. I had carried the damn backpack containing the chest, for the whole of this last week, in order to shield it from any possible attack from the Merrows and other watery creatures.
I was dying of curiosity. I just wanted to open the damn thing up! He always stopped me. He didn't even trust that we were far enough from any rivers or lakes. Apparently even a small puddle of water could hold all manner of mythical beasts! Was my mate getting overly cautious, perhaps even paranoid?
"So, I heard of this treasure which was supposedly 'lost'. It was from way before my time as a pirate and had to do with Zafarina and her origins. All the way from ancient Greece, way before she became a vampire."
I leaned in, my attention on full alert...ancient Greece? Ancient Greece...something from so long ago in this part of the world?
"She is old, very old and very beautiful...she's been a real-life woman for whom legends were written and myths were made, even before she was transformed into a vampire." he sighed shaking his head.
I sighed too, of course! She was so beautiful as a mortal, they would write stuff about her and sing her praises...
"Blossom, do you know anything about the ancient Greek myths regarding Helen of Troy and the Trojan wars?"
"A little, wasn't she supposed to be one of the most beautiful women on earth, who many men lusted after and fought over? Wasn't there something to do with a big, wooden horse and a guy called Paris who kidnapped her, even though she was married to some other dude?" I wasn't sure if they were they connected, the small patches of Greek myths I could recall were all mixed up in my head.
"Yeah, that's the one! She was supposed to be descended from two gods, Zeus and Leda too, but they wrote that part way afterward she left...well Zafarina is the woman once known as Helen of Troy. Helen of Troy was a distant descendant of another well known woman, the beautiful, mysterious, much-maligned Queen Nefertiti of ancient Egypt."
"I've heard a little about her too, didn't her husband the pharaoh Akhenaton and Nefertiti, set up their own new religion, worshiping only one god...which was represented by the sun?"
I shook my head in amazement. It was strange all of the odd things I remembered, from watching documentaries, or doing school projects when I was a kid.
"Yeah, something like that. Queen Nefertiti disappeared with many of her treasures. No mummy or burial tomb for her was ever found. She disappeared from the records too. Because in fact she fled into Greece after her husband died. The priests of the old religion wanted her dead too, for trying to change the whole nation's religion and doing without the old ways and their lucrative power base." Garrett said .
"Ok, that makes sense. I know what it's like having to flee." I thought to those years when I had to look over my shoulder.
"Apparently Nefertiti took a number of valuables with her and her spiritual beliefs. The treasure was kept a well guarded secret for many generations. It was passed down from mother to daughter, over many hundreds of years. Until her ancestor Helen of Troy, also had to flee from her strange, captive life... she was the object of so many men's desires, and the ultimate war-prize. It nearly broke her in the end, in fact looking at what she became, you could say she was truly broken by the trauma of the whole experience."
"Hiding on a trading vessel, bound for the farthest reaches of the then known world...she managed to sail right through the Mediterranean, down passed Morocco and then further down the east African coast."
"She was able to survive for most of the journey, by providing her special brand of sexual services to the Captain." He huffed, perhaps remembering his own time spent with her.
"This is when things went bad for her. She believed that the God Poseidon was offended and sent up a massive storm as a punishment, for her escaping from Greece. The trading vessel she was on, got caught in wild and furious storm, which took them a long way out from the African coast and right into the Atlantic Ocean. The storm dropped their badly wrecked boat, way off the coast of Cuba. Helen survived, only by clinging to a piece of wood and coming ashore onto a small island. Nefertiti's treasure then lay in the bottom of the ocean undisturbed from that time, until now."
I was quiet for a while...could all of this be true? Helen of Try, Poseidon, Trojan Wars? Even Nefertiti?
"So this chest, what makes you sure that it has anything to do with these two famous women? I mean it doesn't have any obvious design features or script etched into its surface. There are no clues as to its age or origins, are there?" I asked, still trying to make sense of it all.
I took it out and looked at it from every angle. The surface was plain, nothing showed of its age, manufacture or what it contained. It didn't rattle and seemed heavy and solid.
"Blossom, if someone like Helen or her female ancestors wanted to hide something secret and precious, would they be putting it in a fancy gold casket, or a plain, boring one... made from an everyday, commonly available metal like lead?"
"I'd probably put it in something ordinary looking. So as to avoid sneaky, nosy people. Like they did in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice'. The winner of the princess's hand lies in the lead casket, not in the gold or silver ones." I said.
"Yes, a boring looking chest doesn't garner as much notice or excitement as a fancy one, does it? Have you got any idea how to open this chest without a key? I'd rather not break the lock if we really don't have to." he smiled at me.
He touched the heavy brass padlock, it was an old design, nothing like modern padlocks, but built with a similar purpose in mind. He must have known how to pick locks...maybe he was just messin' with me?! Seeing if I could come up to his pirate bad-assed skills...I'd show him how to pick a damned padlock!
"Well, let's see if I can help you Captain." I smirked at him. Pulling a bobby pin out of my hair and looking curiously at the place where the key would normally go. It was worth giving it a try and if it didn't work, he or I could easily get hold of a proper set of lock-picking tools.
"Ahh the faithful, old hairpin! I used to watch some of my old friends and foes get out of trouble or break into places, using just such an item. They borrowed hair-pins from friendly maidens or their lady-loves..." Garrett reminisced.
"Lady-loves?" I snorted and then loudly chortled at his strange, old words. I was amazed they even had such things as bobby pins in his day. I suppose it was something no-one ever took out a patent on, the inventor of the bobby pin would probably forever remain a mystery.
I got to work on the lock, trying to use the bobby pin's original shape first, before modifying it. Sticking it into the key slot, I gave it a jiggle and twist and the lock sprung open without any problems. I was amazed we didn't have to spend hours of trial and error with different shapes of bobby pin, or even using any WD-40 to loosen the ancient mechanism.
"Excellent! I haven't lost my touch after all! I used to have to use a bobby pin to break into derelict and abandoned places. So we could crash and sleep when I was hanging out with my crazy, old, fire-twirling friends." I chuckled.
We both looked at each other and then down at the chest.
"Do you know what's supposed to be in this thing?" I murmured, suddenly unsure of myself.
"No not at all. Only that it's valuable and old, very old. Older than Helen of Troy... perhaps even as old as Nefertiti. It may have been irreparably damaged maybe even disintegrated all together. It might not even be the right chest at all." Garrett hedged his bets, in a hurried whisper back to me.
I nodded, I was best not to hope for anything too amazing. It may be empty for all we knew. We could have all been a fool's errand after all.
"What if it's something Zafarina wants back?" I said quietly.
"No she's not one to want to delve into her past. She only ever wanted to leave all the mad things behind her, changing her name and taking control of her destiny. She's been avoiding everything to do with her roots and starting anew in Haiti. Mind you, she's a crazy, mean, old voodoo woman now, who we are definitely better off avoiding, almost as much as those creepy Merrows!" he shivered.
"Let's see what's here, before we start worrying about who we will show it to and who will want it." He kissed me, his eyes sparkling with excitement.
"Ladies first Blossom."
"Go on, it will be fine. There's no one here but us, and we can keep it all to ourselves. It's the same, whether there's nothing in there, or it's the treasure of a lifetime."
I huffed and wondered what on earth I was getting so worried about. It was just a plain, lead chest...wasn't it?
"Come on Blossom, just do it!" Now who was getting impatient?
I kissed him back and took a breath. I slid off the padlock and handed it to him. It was an overly, large brass lock, for such a small chest.
I steeled myself for disappointment. Being buried in a shipwreck, deep underwater for thousands of years... would be more than enough to damage or destroy most objects. Whether they were valuable or not.
I gently applied enough pressure on the lid to slowly get it to lift. I spied something smooth and creamy-white inside...it looked like alabaster or soapstone. I opened the lid all the way and looked at a smooth surface with a simple, carved pattern. It looked to be both ancient, angular Greek and a form of hieroglyphics. I only knew that much, nothing else. I wish I could decipher these scripts.
"Know any Greek or ancient Egyptian? Looks like this thing might be exactly what you've been looking for Captain?"
"Guess so, we can find out more about the writing later. Is this all there is? Just a simple creamy piece of stone with some old writing on it? Let's see if this stone has got any hidden secrets?" he said calmly.
His fingertips gently touched the alabaster surface. The stone seemed to fit snugly inside the outer, lead case. He tipped the lead box upside down and slowly slipped the alabaster out of the lead. He handed me the now hollow, lead box. I placed it carefully near the brass lock, which sat on top of my jacket to keep it clean and safe. These were old objects, worth looking after.
"Right...mm, looks like a container of some sort." he mumbled.
I saw that the alabaster was carefully divided all along the sides. This was another deceptively simple, crafted object. I was very interested in how this was made so long ago, with such perfect precision!
"Ok, are you ready Blossom?" He smiled.
I watched as the alabaster top lifted off the bottom section, to reveal another type of container or box. This reminded me of those Russian nesting dolls, where each opened into one another. The stone lid was carefully placed on my jacket.
Tightly placed in the base of the cream stone, was another square-shaped object, made from finely, woven linen.
I placed my hands out to catch the wrapped square, as he turned the box upside down and gently shook it, to get the linen square to dislodge from its tight, long-held nest.
I held this small, heavy square in my hands. I felt like I was holding a precious mystery.
The linen had been treated with some sort of thick yellow resin. The millenniums which had passed while sitting in salt water, had little impact on the cloth. Which was lucky.
"What next, Garrett? Shall we look at what's in this square, or go somewhere else to unwrap it?" I didn't want to act suddenly or make the wrong decision.
I was worried. I didn't want to damage something so old.
It was odd just how freaked out I felt.
"Now's as good a place as any. Let's see what we have here. I'm getting a wonderful feeling about this. Can you unwrap it, without causing too much damage my sweet Blossom?"
I tried to peel back the first section of linen. It reminded me of the wrappings used on mummies, which I could thank for seeing on those tv documentaries. Slowly it came undone. I sighed, as more and more resin soaked linen, came off. It seemed that this was indeed one long narrow strip of linen. Which was wrapped in a particular way, to completely cover this object many times over.
The sun was directly overhead by now. The sky was cloudless and there was a small breeze blowing. I saw some gold glinting underneath the fabric layers.
Garrett's eyebrows raised in a happy surprise.
The simple wrapping finally came to an end. I beheld a beautiful square of solid gold, which had been finely covered in a spectacular combination of hieroglyphics and inlaid gems.
We sat there like a couple of stunned mullets, in awe of what we had in our possession.
I carefully flipped it over and the back was covered in more decorations and writing. I kept staring, wondering what the script meant.
"Blossom, look!" He pointed to the etched pattern along one side of the gold tablet. Two miniature Mermaids were etched into the metal, holding a circular sun disk. On the other side figures with feathery wings, something like angels, were also holding a sun disk.
Mermaids and angelic beings? I wondered what this could actually mean? I suppose this object could have definitely have something to do with the Merrows who tried to stop us taking it, and who continued to follow our boat.
"Wow! This really needs to be in the hands of a specialist. What on earth are we going to do with something as special as this? If we keep this on the boat, it might get stolen." I carefully handed it to him to examine more closely.
He sighed and nodded. "We could sell it to a museum or collector whose got a real big thirst, for this specific area of Egyptology." He offered.
"I suppose...but I'd love to find out as much as I can about this object and the meanings of the writing. Shall we put this back carefully the way we found it? I have a feeling that everything, including the linen wrapping will have some vital importance to anyone who wants to research it." I said. I wanted to be the one who found out what it all meant, not pass it off, to some old fart in a museum or rich collector, who would just keep it in a dusty cabinet.
"I know. You're right Blossom, like always. It would be wonderful to learn more about it, but my old pirating self likes my old ways. Always making a quick turnover for the treasures I discover. I have an ingrained habit of getting rid of items to the nearest, highest bidder as quickly as possible."
"Yeah, I see how that's somewhat of an entrenched habit for you, Captain. I guess no one wants to get left holding the goods, right?" I giggled.
He nodded, looking slightly embarrassed.
"Captain, I love you. You know that don't you? Will you hold the end of the linen for me, while we re-wrap this please?" I smiled at his sheepish mood.
We chuckled as he helped me repackage the mysterious, golden tablet.
"Let's get back to civilization. I'm not going to let those Merrows stop us from finding more about this...whatever this gold tablet is. I think I might have someone who we could talk to, who might give us some good information and who is excellent at keeping his mouth shut."
"Are we going back to the boat in Azep and do some more sailing?"
"No, I'd like to keep it in dry dock for a while longer. Maybe we could take a road trip. Feel like going back and seeing Galveston once again?"
"Yeah! We could take my beautiful Wolf! I'd love to see if it still rides ok. I might need to give it a little maintenance too and a tune it up while we are there. I hope Mavis will be ok, I look a little different from when she saw us last."
"She's pretty blind and deaf actually, but she's still got a mind as sharp as a tack. She'll love to catch up with us. I'm sure she'll never notice any difference, you are still you, after all!" he kissed me and started to lick my throat and purr. I giggled and relaxed.
At least we knew what kind of treasure we had in our possession. It was such a relief to finally open it! I kissed him some more and we ended up making some wonderful, sky-high lovin', on top of that rocky outcrop. I love my man so much, and at least their were no Merrows around to freak us out by zapping the boat.
We boxed and re-boxed the treasure and put it in the backpack, got dressed and headed down the mountainside.
"It'll be great to catch up with Marie, Jim and Jack and Dana. As well as the Whitlocks." Now that I thought about them, I kinda missed them. "I wonder how Steve is doing, now that Edward's been sent to Voltura? I hope hes not too heartbroken. And what if Jim has turned Marie yet, or is just biding his time, like you did with me?"
"He's bet anything that he's biding his time. She's happy with having found a guy who treats her like a queen. He's as happy as a clam now that he's found his mate."
"That's wonderful. So who's this person you know who can help us work out what to to with this treasure?"
"Have you ever heard of the old story about Vlad the Impaler?"
I rolled my eyes, what the hell was going on today? Was every old story and myth coming true, or was it just me?
"Wasn't he some sort of crazy old ruler in Transylvania who liked drinking blood?" I asked.
"Yeah, he's one of those famous old vamps who loved all the fame and fortune, that comes with being a true celebrity. His stories are of course legendary, just like Helen of Troy. But it doesn't make him any less real." Garrett said as he leapt off of a cliff, onto another ledge.
"So are we going to visit him in a creepy, old castle, somewhere in eastern Europe?" I asked. Just because I was a vamp, didn't mean I like that sort of thing. I liked modern, light and airy spaces, rather than the traditional, cold and gloomy places associated with vamps.
"Ha! No thank god! These days he spends most of his time in Hollywood producing strange, movies for those mad buggers who just adore hardcore thrillers and horror." Garrett laughed.
"Really? Vlad the Impaler is a movie producer? How bizarre?!"
"Sure, what better way for a vampire to earn a living? His flicks have a lot of blood in them, as well as horrible second-rate actors with no acting ability, poor plots, crappy scripts and sloppy camera work. It doesn't seem to bother his audiences though, especially as most of his films go straight to DVD now, rather than onto the big screen."
"So why would he be interested in such a treasure as this one?"
"He won't be interested in it at all. But he definitely has a lot of contacts. He knows who's looking for rare and special items. Even though he likes putting his gruesome fantasies onto film, he's still a great contact who loves to keep a secret, especially from Aro and all the Volturi mob."
"What's his name, maybe I've heard of him?"
"These days he's going by the name of Sam Ramble, but he was earlier known as Mario and before that Todd. He's probably ready to stage his latest disappearance and start a new persona sometime soon."