Indiana Jones and the Sword of St. George by Susanna Chapter 1

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Chapter 12

A few hours later, Lauren was fast asleep in her seat, and Indy was yawning and struggling to stay awake as he kept the plane on its proper course. The sun was already beginning to rise - he could even start to see the landscape below him. He checked the plane's instruments…yes, they were very close now. Almost as close as he'd be willing to get, as he knew that landing in the city itself wouldn't just be courageous - it would be outright stupid. Indy started taking the plane down slowly, waking Lauren.
"Where are we?" she inquired, brushing her disheveled hair back and yawning.
"As close to Lalibela as I'm gonna get," Indy responded.
"Lalibela? In Ethiopia? Hey, you never told me what this was all about, did you?" Lauren asked eagerly, realizing she still didn't know anything about the artifact they where going after.
"You got it. I guess you are entitled to an explanation, so here goes…in twelfth century Ethiopia, the emperors constructed 11 Christian churches out of solid rock in the ancient capital city of Lalibela. One of them, by far the nicest, was named the Church of St. George. Now, legend has it that St. George himself visited this church when it was being constructed, and that his horse even left a mark somewhere on it. He also, it has been rumored, left his sword hidden in some secret chamber in the church. Many people have attempted to find this sword, which is fabled to endow its possessor and his army with extraordinary powers, but nobody has succeeded…so far."
"What do you mean…you mean they haven't been able to find it? Or have people gone in there and never come out?" Lauren asked, shuddering at the thought.
"Some of both."
"Great," Lauren said, "just great."
"Hey, I didn't ask ya to come, did I?"
"You're right. I've got no right to complain. Sorry. Go on."
"Anyhow, Mussolini and his men are determined to find this sword, which is why they attempted to coerce me into giving them some information on the legend. Now, without my help, my best estimate would be that by trial and error they're attempting break into the church and find the thing. Probably, they've got some huge excavation going already. By allowing them to continue with this inane stupidity, we are not only running the risk that they will actually find the sword, which is unlikely, but we are also allowing them to destroy many priceless artifacts in the process. So here we are. Anything else?" Lauren's eyes widened as she understood what their quest was.
"So we're gonna go find the sword for the museum, and save as many other artifacts as we can along the way?" she confirmed.
"But what about the Italians? Won't they be there too? I don't think they'll want us interfering," Lauren commented. She was beyond attempting to deter him from anything, but she was rather nervous about the prospect of facing whole groups of angry Italians.
"I don't think so either. Too bad for them," Indy said, his mouth curling up into his trademark sarcastic smile, "that we'll have to go and spoil their little party." Lauren remained silent and watched anxiously out the window as the plane got closer and closer to the ground. "Now which one of these takes the wheels out," Indy mumbled to himself. "This one? Hmm…let's give it a shot." He hit a button and the guns protruding from the aircraft began firing rapidly. "Whoops. I didn't mean that literally!"
Minutes later Lauren sighed with relief as the plane's wheels hit the desert ground, stirring up the sand below into a huge cloud. Indy let go of the controls and slouched over in his seat, rubbing his hands on his unshaved face. I really could use a hot shower and oh…three or four days of sleep, Indy thought wistfully. But that could come later. He hopped out of the plane, as did Lauren, who stood for a minute contemplating the barren, sweltering desert before them. It sure was lonely out there. Indy, however, spent no time gazing into the horizon. He grabbed his whip, stuck it in his belt, and strode out into the burning desert towards Lalibela. Lauren soon followed dutifully behind him.
He sure did set a fast pace, she realized after walking over what felt like the same patch of desert for an hour. How did he know where he was going? It all looked exactly the same to her.
"Are we almost there?" she couldn't stop herself from inquiring at last.
"Almost," Indy responded, wiping sweat from his face. If only it wasn't so damn hot! His shirt was soaked through with perspiration, and his mouth was dry and filled with desert dust. He reached for his water container and took a big sip before turning to Lauren. "Thirsty?"
"Yes," Lauren smiled appreciatively when Indy handed her his worn water container. She drank eagerly before handing him back the practically empty container. The water felt wonderful - clear and cool against her dry mouth. She was still wearing the oversize Italian uniform, which made the heat all that much worse. Strange that a few days ago she was complaining about the cold, Lauren noted ironically.
Suddenly, Indy stopped short in his tracks. Lauren looked ahead to see what had caused his abrupt halt, but saw nothing that could possibly be a problem. She turned to Indy and was shocked to see his face was white and he was stepping back fearfully. Oh no! Regardless of the dangers they had faced, she had still failed to come across one that had fazed him. One anguished thought flew through her mind - what now?
"What's the matter?" she asked hurriedly. Indy pointed ahead of him, where she saw a giant, but harmless, colorful snake. Lauren looked at Indy quizzically. "It's only a snake…and it's not even poisonous at that, which is rare around here," she continued, incredulous. She knew quite a bit about snakes, as they had been one of her hobbies while growing up. Could it be? Could it be that the great Indiana Jones, who was afraid of nothing, was afraid of a harmless little snake? Lauren glanced at Indy again in astonishment. Then, she bent over and confidently picked up the serpent, wrapping it around her like a scarf. This species of snake, she happened to know, was nothing but a charlatan at heart. Though brightly colored, it was only an imitation of its more deadly competitors.
"Put that thing DOWN! I hate snakes!" Indy exclaimed.
"Are you sure you don't want to pet him? He's harmless."
"I told you. I hate snakes! I hate 'em! Now get that thing AWAY from me!" Indy commanded, wide-eyed. Lauren carefully removed the snake, laughing, and strode after Indy.
"I miss him already, Indy," she couldn't help teasing.
"Aww want me to go get him back and stuff him down your throat," Indy growled.
"Sorry…but don't take it so personally…gee whiz! I know you love him too."
"Oh yeah. It's like leaving behind my very own child." Lauren giggled at his sarcastic response. Still - a little snake? Who would have guessed? Once the distraction disappeared, however, Lauren glumly went back to thinking about how very, very tired and hot she was. Her muscles were sore, her borrowed Italian uniform was damp and sweaty, and she felt as though she couldn't stand one more minute of the desert sun and dust!
"Over there, look," Indy exclaimed at long last, pointing to stone homes in the distance. "There's Lalibela!"
"Phew!" Lauren replied, wiping the sweat off her face. She strained her eyes to see the houses in the distance…sure enough, there they were. Finally! She picked up the pace, leaving Indy behind.
"Hey! Slow down…I didn't say to start running, did I?" Lauren slowed down, remembering the hazards they would be facing.
"I guess we should try to enter as inconspicuously as possible, right?" she queried.
"It won't matter. Lalibela's too big and busy a city for anyone to notice. I'm just too damn tired, that's all. I'll point out that you got to sleep last night," Indy replied wearily.
Or at least that's what it had been the last time he'd been there. Because as Indy and Lauren approached the city, they began to get more and more apprehensive at the deadly silence that seemed to envelop the area. It was quiet. Too quiet. There were no throngs of colorfully outfitted people…there were none of the usual cries and shouts emerging from the local market…they could not even hear any dogs barking. What was going on? Where was everybody?
"What the heck?" Indy muttered as they walked down the street into the center square. "WHAT THE HECK? WHERE IS EVERYBODY?" His voice cascaded down the rows of empty white houses and echoed back to them, breaking through the eerie silence. Not a single person was there. Indy began running recklessly through the streets, searching frantically for signs of life. But instead of being met by crowds pushing down the alleys, they found only a deathly stillness. Empty tin cans rattled in the streets. An old newspaper fluttered down through the air. Doors where open, pots on kitchen stoves and dinner tables set, but nobody was there! Lauren felt terrified though there was no tangible danger in sight. What could have possibly induced a whole city to just LEAVE? Why? Why had they gone?


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