[Fiction] Relic Hunter

So here I hang, dangling by a thin rope over a sea of lava, while a horde of screaming monkeys chatters on the edge of the cliff from which I dangle, with a few of them trying to apply the heat of a flickering candle to the rope that holds me bound. Sitting at one end of the cliff, is Edgar the Barbarian, who continues to turn the skull he holds in his hand, seemingly still trying to make sense of life, the universe and everything in it, as he was hours before, staring emptily at the skull. I’m trying to make known to him my personal views about life and how short it can be as you’re cooking over lava, but I’m severely hampered by the ropes that tie my hands, and the gag in my mouth.

Wait. Let me back up.

My name is… not important. I’m an adventurer for hire – meaning you hire me, and I take on the adventure that you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s as simple as delivering a message, which can become a full adventure in the right circumstances. Such as a message that you don’t want to see someone ever again, even though you owe them a few hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or a message that the girl whom you slept with last week actually wasn’t really… a girl.

But I digress.

If you need my services, you know where to find me. If you’re really rich and powerful and need my services, you not just know where to find me, you bundle me into a car in the middle of a traffic junction as I’m crossing the road, with black suited guys in sunglasses glaring at everyone to keep them quiet and cowed, while a couple of burly guys who smell of cologne, finesse and barely restrained violence, keep me seated simply by looking at me in a way I don’t want to be looked at for long. Amazingly, they manage this through their sunglasses. I’ve got to learn that skill somehow, so I can deal with unruly children with that death glare when their parents aren’t looking. Imagine. Zap – and complete silence while the kid crawls quickly away into whichever dark hole he was spawned from.

So they drive me in this car with dark tinted windows, and when we reach our destination, I am very gently escorted into a dark house, with lights pouring on to one single chair in the middle of a dim room. Or at least gently by human ape standards. Being half lifted by your collar and your arm is never entirely a good experience.The lights are blinding, and I can’t see who is in front of me, but someone who is in front of me speaks.

I don’t want to bore you with the subject matter. Basically, someone wants a particular relic, and they know where it is, but they don’t want to dirty their boots or hands or gloves or henchmen because it involves entering a jungle to get it. They only know that it is in the hands of a hermit who lives in said jungle, and they are willing to deliver me to anywhere at the edge of the jungle. I go in, get the relic however I can, I send them a signal for pickup, they pay me, and we’re square.

I don’t ask them why they want the relic. In my line, there are no questions asked, except for the ones related to what do you want to get done, and by when. This way, everyone is happy, and I get paid more, which makes me happier. So they hand me the contract, I tweak the numbers a bit and pass it back to the glowering suit next to me, who thwacks my head with the clipboard a little until the voice in the dark agrees to my adjusted number.

Henchmen nowadays. No respect for their betters.


Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

I get dropped off from a chopper with enough supplies for a week, with vague directions as to where the hermit could be. Only 30% of the payment has been made, as agreed upon. Studying the map, I’ve got rough ideas where to find my hermit. I don’t know how to get him to hand over the relic, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way. We humans generally have weak spots.

I reach my first site by the end of the day, which is a clearing I noted on the map. No sign of civlization is obvious, so I make camp, and prepare to rest for the night, setting up a small fire and my tent. And that’s when it hits me.

I find out later that it was a monkey armed with a rock. Don’t underestimate the strength in those spindly arms, I tell you. It was enough to knock me out well and good. I wake to find myself tied onto some sort of trestle and being dragged by some monkeys, to be brought in front of their leader. Who turns out to be a barbaric looking man wearing some sort of grass leaf loincloth that looks like it covers more than it actually does.

Edgar happens to speak English, though he speaks it with some weird accent. He says that he used to live outside the jungle, in the town nearby. He used to be a gym trainer, teaching rich and bored women how to keep their already fit bodies even fitter, while trying to escape their blandishments and innuendos. Which according to his glum discourse, sometimes didn’t even have double meanings. So one day, in frustration at what life held for him, he decided to come into the jungle alone to figure out what to do with his life. In his wanderings, he found a cave well lit and kept warm by a pool of lava, which was not detectable from the air, and in wanting to live in the cave, he disturbed the horde of monkeys which already stayed in there. One of them even had a special stick that changed length at will, and had a banner calling himself a Heavenly Sage, but after Edgar had dumped him into the lava, the rest of the monkeys had seen sense, and started to serve him.

This much I gathered from just listening. I’m not a good listener in general, unless the speaker uses the words money, reward, or payment in some sentence somewhere. But in this case, I was forced to listen, as the monkeys had expertly trussed up my hands and legs, and had fashioned some sort of gag around my mouth, which made speech impossible. As it was, I tried my best to bring across my point that I didn’t know about this, and I would gladly leave Edgar alone, if he would just do the same for me. The message didn’t really get across though.

Finally, Edgar made his point, which was a good one. He was willing to let anyone go who his monkeys captured, if they would help him to understand life better, and point him to a new direction in life. This retreat business was tiring him out, and the monkeys could get a little bit loud, as evinced by the monkey which had taken up residence next to my head to see if my hair had anything good to eat. I tried to let Edgar know that I was willing to help, if I could have a little more freedom to express myself, but he failed to see what I was trying to say. After about an hour – it could have been longer or shorter, but I mean, you don’t keep time very well when you’re trying to argue without much success – Edgar evidently gave up and signaled to his monkeys.

Thus now, I dangle above the lava pool, wondering what could help me out from this mess, when I realise two very important things. The first, is that the intense heat below me is crisping the leaves tying my hands and feet together, unlike the ropes that have been used to lower me into this awkward position. As they get crispier, I quietly and quickly jerk my hands a couple of times to try to free myself, which in most cases, should have worked. In this case, I think I got lucky. Some monkey must have made a mistake somewhere, as the jerking of my hands actually unties the leaves, and they flutter down into the lava below. Quickly, I double up my body, and untie my feet, and climb the rope upwards to freedom.

What do you mean, how did I manage to do that? I am a real adventurer after all!

The monkeys scatter in rage except for one that waves the candle in my face, screeching in rage. I scream back and give it a thump on its skull. I’d like to hope it’s the same monkey that hit me on the back of my head earlier, but I won’t know since all of them look the same. The monkey screams and then scurries away. I quickly pick up a sharp rock lying on the cliff edge, and as I start to chase the horde, I bump into a wall that I hadn’t noticed earlier.

Turns out Edgar feels like a wall when you bump into him.

Before his ham fist lands though, I manage to finally speak to him, pointing out that I couldn’t speak earlier. As he sees the sense in this, he lowers his fist, and a look of understanding dawns on his face, as he realises the reason why people are so reluctant to speak to him when they are brought before him. The look of understanding turns into a look of puzzlement, as he shakes his head. I have to swing the rock a couple of times more before his look of puzzlement changes into a look of bliss, and he collapses backwards onto the ground. I swear the ground shakes a little as he does so.

I guess I found his weak spot after all.

Image by Milos Duskic from Pixabay

I clench tighter on the rock which I’d picked up on the way to chase after the monkeys, now a little bloodied by Edgar’s blood, and pick up the skull that rolled out of his hand. The monkeys stay out of my way, screaming and roaring defiance, but seeing the rock, they don’t dare to approach. I walk over to my ransacked backpack which they’ve kindly dragged along with me, and from an inner pocket which the blasted monkeys hadn’t been able to access, I pull out a GPS transceiver. I search the debris around, until I find one of my knives, and a pistol the simians had discarded, and then I walk out of that cave, tired to the bone.

By the time I reach the edge of the forest again, night has fallen, but as promised, the chopper arrives in less than an hour after I thumb the appropriate button on the transceiver. They don’t expect to see me so soon, or expect any sort of success, but even the grim looks on the henchmen’s faces soften when I hold up the skull.

So.

If you need an adventurer, consider hiring me.

I don’t monkey around.

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