Indy once again reached towards the door handle, this time with great trepidation. I definitely don't feel like going through all that again. Still, there's a good chance she - or whatever it was - was the only guardian. Again, there's only one way to find out. I just hope I don't find out why there is that cliché about curiosity killing the cat instead, he thought wryly. Finally, in a rapid movement, Indy grabbed the handle and jerked the door open. Phew!
Indy proceeded into the church, Lauren following close behind him, looking around nervously with every step. There was nothing in the church that could possibly imply imminent danger of any sort, but she still couldn't help but feel tense. The whole place had an almost tangibly eerie atmosphere. All the candles were extinguished, and it looked as though a strong gust of wind had blown through the area, as all the prayer books were scattered on the floor, their pages flipping in the breeze. Besides the flapping of the pages and Indy's footsteps as he strode around, gazing at the walls, it was silent. Lauren glanced around again, her eyes settling on the elaborate, breathtaking wall paintings, which, she assumed, depicted the life of St. George. Relax, she instructed herself to no avail. There's nothing here. Nevertheless, her overwhelming feeling was that they should get the sword as quickly as possible and leave. But where could it possibly be?
Indy, who had walked out into the courtyard, was thinking along very similar lines. He was sure the Italians had stumbled upon something…what else could explain the treatment he'd been subjected to by the creature outside? They must have disturbed something here besides the prayer books. Now where is that hoof print? Indy scanned the wall carefully, his attention finally attracted by a glint of gold. What was that? I certainly wouldn't mind walking out of here with some extra pieces for the museum. Carefully, Indy reached towards the gold chain that emerged from one of the carefully maintained gardens. If this is what I think it is, he realized, we're in good shape.
"Lauren," Indy called out moments later, the golden horseshoe lying in the palm of his hand, "come here." Lauren walked over and sat beside him. The courtyard, at least, was pleasanter than the inside. She felt far safer out in the open sunshine that inside the eerie, dimly lit church. Everything was going to be all right. "Look at this," Indy continued, gesturing towards the horseshoe.
"Is this-" Lauren began. "I guess it is," she concluded, raising her eyebrows in astonishment. She then turned to the wall against which they were leaning and ran her hand against the perfectly matched indent in the stone, her heart hammering in her chest. She tapped her fingers against the ground, brimming with nervous energy. Why didn't he just do the obvious? Indy was simply running his fingers over the golden horseshoe and staring absently into space. There had to be more to it. The minute he had spotted the imprint, he had rushed to put the two together, but then stopped abruptly. It just hadn't felt right. The last thing he wanted to do was impulsively repeat the same mistake the fascists had apparently made. The logical thing would be that some markings on the horseshoe would indicate…but there weren't any…or were there?
Indy suddenly pulled out his cigarette lighter and ran it against the horseshoe. Back and forth the small flame went. Lauren watched his activities quizzically. Suddenly, however, to her utmost amazement, faint print began appearing on the horseshoe. Indy continued running the lighter along it until the print became quite pronounced, and then began scrutinizing the carefully imprinted writing.
"I knew there had to be something there," he muttered to himself, attempting to understand the writing. It was written in Ge'ez, the language of the Kingdom of Axum, which had built the churches. Indy squinted, slowly interpreting the slanting text. He repeated the poem over and over to himself, trying to make sense of its cryptic message.
Do not disturb this, seeker
It is you that I trust
And those that stumble here leave weaker
But if turn here you must
Take fire's tooth out of the water well
Then wear it round your neck
Or unleash for a time the powers of hell
"Hmm…I guess the Italians missed this slight detail in their eagerness to continue. No wonder the whole city left. It's not a very welcoming message, is it?" Indy mumbled after repeating it aloud for Lauren.
"That's for sure," she whispered, somehow afraid that speaking loudly would unleash the powers described in the inscription. What did it mean? Lauren looked around, spotting the well sunk into the ground. Clearly there was some talisman buried inside it - but "fire's tooth"? What could that possibly mean? Lauren racked her memory for some recollection of the life of St. George…perhaps that held the clue. He died a martyr…many myths existed about his heroic actions…he had…what had he done…Lauren was sure she knew a story about him. Suddenly she turned around and realized Indy was no longer sitting next to her and was instead standing by the well, taking off his leather jacket in preparation for diving in.
"What are you looking for?" she inquired, nervous and confused. What if that was the wrong thing to do?
"Well, according to the myth, St. George killed a dragon. The phrase 'fire's tooth' most likely refers to that," Indy began. Oh! That's what it had been! "At least, we'll see…if I don't come up in a few minutes then it must have been something else," he continued jokingly, removing his hat and shoes, but Lauren didn't laugh. Indy gazed into the well and then took a deep breath before diving in. The water was freezing! How the hell am I going to see this thing, he thought as he dove down deeper, if it's totally dark? Finally reaching the bottom, Indy nervously felt his way around the floor. He couldn't hold his breath much longer…where was it? Suddenly, Indy felt a long, fang-like object and, at the very same instant, heard a deep rumbling down below. He grabbed the fang and pushed off the bottom just as a strange force reached out for him and started pulling him downwards.
Indy furiously fought his way up, swimming as best he could with the fang clenched tightly in his left hand. He couldn't stand it any longer! Finally, he found himself a few feet from the surface, but unable to quite reach it. Something was pulling him down. He began choking, the water filling up his lungs. The glimmer of sunlight he saw coming in from above went black, but just as an unconscious Indy was about to succumb to the force pulling him downwards, Lauren leaned over and pulled him up with all her strength, gripping a branch in her other arm for support.
"Geez, Indy, lose some weight," she gasped as she pulled him onto the surface, but then stopped in horror. He wasn't moving. She flipped him over…if only she had decided to take the class on medical skills instead of her advanced course on European history, she thought with anguish. After doing her utmost to revive him, Lauren stared up at the sky in desperation. Please, please, please, she prayed frantically, although she hadn't been to church since her grandparents had stopped forcing her at the tender age of ten. It seemed to work, though, because Indy shuddered back to life and started gasping and coughing up water.
Lauren pulled him upright, suddenly realizing she too had been holding her breath during the ordeal. Thank goodness. Lauren watched as Indy gradually forced himself to breathe deeply. His head ached horribly, and his coughing was not doing much for his ribs. Indy slumped back over on the ground. He thought back to his warm home, which Marcus had forced him to leave several days ago - though it felt like he'd been gone for centuries. Marcus, this is all your fault. I'll never forgive you for this one.
"What happened?" Lauren queried as soon as he stopped coughing violently, her anguished curiosity overriding her concern for him as soon as she saw he would be all right. "What happened? You practically drowned!"
Indy gasped, his head spinning as he coughed up more water. He looked up at Lauren briefly. Thank you, Lauren, he thought gratefully. Indy tried to begin speaking but was racked by coughing. Lauren regretted asking. It didn't matter anyhow. He was alive.
"Never mind. Don't talk." She placed his leather jacket over him, and he lay still for some minutes, recovering. Meanwhile, Lauren spotted his still tightly clenched hand and opened it, removing the curved, ivory tooth from his hand. Indy blinked and sat up abruptly.
"Don't touch!" he exclaimed hoarsely, taking it back from her and placing it in his pocket. Boy, today has been quite a day, he noted detachedly. And it's only gonna get better…but time to get on with this, Indy thought, getting shakily back on his feet, putting his jacket on over his dripping wet clothing, and trying to regain a measure of his composure. At least I won't be so goddamn hot anymore.
"Indy, you have to wear it, remember?" Lauren reminded him timidly as he picked up the golden horseshoe in his other hand.
"Yeah, I know," he began with irritation before controlling himself. Lauren was the last person in the world he had a right to snap at. She was the only reason he hadn't been sucked down into permanent oblivion. "Sorry," he continued apologetically. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. You're the last person I should be shouting at. I really owe you one." He handed her the tooth, opened his bag, pulled out a small piece of leftover rope, and handed it to her as well. "Would you mind tying that for me?" His near drowning had had more of an effect on him than he was trying to let on, Lauren realized, as his hands were still shaking.
"Sure," she responded, holding the fang carefully and scrutinizing it. Was this really a dragon's tooth? It was sleekly curved and almost shone pure white. Lauren stopped gazing at the tooth and cautiously tied it with the rope and pulled it tightly before handing it back to Indy, who had by then totally recovered his unflappable composure. Geez, Lauren thought, I've just seen him practically get killed twice in a row and he still is ready for more. But am I? What if they just turned around? Who knew what was going to happen once they opened the secret chamber…Indy's voice interrupted her apprehensive thoughts.
"Tie it around my neck, will you?" Indy asked her, handing her the rope with the fang again. "Not too tightly, though." I've had enough of holding my breath for one day, he thought wearily. Lauren complied. But this time her hands were shaking slightly as she contemplated what lay before them. What if he was wrong? But it was the only thing that made sense. It had to be. She finished her task and Indy turned around to face her, the dragon's tooth shining against his soaking clothing. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," Lauren replied automatically, trying to stop her voice from betraying her trepidation. If he wasn't scared, why should she be? Indy gazed at Lauren, looking her straight in the eye. She was courageous, he thought, I've gotta give her credit.
"Now," he began, "I said before there was no turning back. But we have a choice. Actually, you have a choice, which I'm going to make for you. I want you to go back to the plane and wait for me," he concluded firmly. Lauren stood silently for a few seconds, not even sure what she felt. For a second, his proposal had seemed appealing - but then…she would never know. As much as she feared it, she had to see what lay beyond the sturdy church walls. Besides, she didn't much like the idea of walking back all alone. At least if I'm here, I won't be alone. Her hesitation vanished, changing to fiery determination. If anything, Indy's statement had ended up steadying her resolve to go on rather than destroying it.
"Are we going to have to have this argument again?" she replied with a confidence that surprised even her. Indy took a deep breath and looked in her eye, which shone with the very drive she had recognized in his. For the second and last time Indy conceded. Oh well.
"All right. But don't say I didn't warn you."
"Don't worry," Lauren answered, grinning and shaking her hair back proudly. "I won't complain." Her smile faded into a look of serious determination. No, she wouldn't complain. She was sick of being his junior partner. She would prove herself his equal, whatever it took. As Indy raised the golden horseshoe and leveled it to the imprint in the wall Lauren took a deep breath. Here we go…