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

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Chapter 7

"Ethiopia?" Lauren repeated questioningly, realizing she had no idea what the actual problem was all about. "Why Ethiopia? What are we gonna do?" she asked again as they strode out of the cave into the still damp forest.
"It's a long story, which I'll explain completely later," Indy replied, too tired to go into specific details. "But basically Mussolini, by his insistence on bringing me here and asking me the same stupid questions over and over again, has made it quite clear he is very interested in a particular artifact in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Naturally, I'd rather have that artifact for the museum." Lauren nodded, carefully stepping around the puddles in the damp forest ground.
"But where are we going now?" she inquired.
"To a nearby village, from which we are gonna go meet an old acquaintance of mine."
"All right," Lauren responded, realizing she was not going to get a very elaborate response from Indy, who seemed to have his mind on other things. In fact, he did. As they walked towards the village, Indy thought of the steaming cup of coffee he was planning to get when he got there. Sure, there were faster routes…but if there was one thing he couldn't resist, besides beautiful women, of course, it was Italian coffee.
Finally they emerged from the forest into a lively Italian small town. The streets were full of colorful market stands, and the stores on both sides of the narrow cobbled streets were buzzing with activity.
"Are we going to be walking all the way to your friend's place?" Lauren asked as they pushed through the crowded streets.
"Walking, mostly, yes. When we see anyone in an Italian uniform we'll be running though. I just overheard someone say they were hunting for 'a dangerous American criminal.' Not to be overly boastful, but that would be me. Before we go any further, though, let's stop at this café," Indy said abruptly, spotting a small coffee shop.
"Isn't this dangerous, if they are looking for you?" Lauren queried, suddenly aware of the strange glances they were getting.
"Maybe a bit, but the coffee here is sure worth it," Indy responded, smiling at the smell of the roasting coffee beans. "Want one?"
"No thanks. I think we'd better go. Besides, we don't have any-"
"Don't go getting all nervous," he interrupted, picking up his coffee. The young woman at the counter, who was looking at Indy admiringly, smiled coyly at him and held out her hand, asking for money. To Lauren's utmost shock, her archeology professor leaned over the counter, whispered something in the woman's ear and then gave her a kiss before dashing out of the café, pulling Lauren by the hand. He waved to the woman once more from outside the café, and then they both proceeded along the busy street.
"In-Dr. Jones!" Lauren gasped. "You just stole that!"
"I wouldn't call it stealing. I'd call it a gift from my old friend."
"You knew her?"
"You could say that I knew her quite well once," he responded, chuckling. Lauren stammered, but she closed her gaping mouth and continued walking along with him. She couldn't help looking around all over the place as they walked quickly out of the village. What if they were spotted? They could be killed!
"Relax, Lauren," Indy instructed her, sipping his hot coffee. Ahh. He felt better already. All he need was, say, ten more cups of it. Some food would be nice too. "If we run into trouble, we'll know it. There's no sense looking for it. Just walk as quickly as you can. Besides, I doubt they'd come through this route." They had already passed the village, and were walking along a fading dirt road into what seemed like a small forest, but Lauren could not detect anything that the Italians would particularly want to avoid in their surroundings.
"Why not?" Lauren inquired nervously. She didn't like his tone of voice when he said that.
"Well…I don't want to scare you or anything," Indy paused, "but I hope you don't have anything against spiders."
"I don't particularly like them, actually. Why?" Lauren paled slightly.
"Then don't look down." Naturally, Lauren did, and she saw a cluster of huge, black, disgusting tarantulas. She opened her mouth to scream, but Indy covered it and she controlled herself. Instead, she simply stood and gaped at the tarantulas, opening and closing her mouth like a fish out of the water. She had never felt so revolted in her entire life. Although she didn't consider herself squeamish, the nest of the black, furry creatures was altogether too much for her. Indy put his arm around her shoulder.
"Sorry, but I'd rather face these critters than the guns the Italians have." Seeing that Lauren was transfixed staring at the tarantulas and couldn't move, he bent over and told her to ride on his back. It was the first piggyback ride Lauren had received since her grandfather had told her sternly she was too old for him to carry at age seven. Lauren's mother had died shortly after her birth, and her father had been a fighter pilot in the Great War. After his death flying a dangerous mission, she had been taken care of by her grandparents. They had been careful raising her, but had never been especially affectionate, almost as if she was a delicate parcel they had been entrusted with. They would do all that was required of them, and then pass it along, always careful not to have very much to do with it.
With Lauren on his back, Indy strode on confidently, occasionally flicking a stray tarantula off his pants. This was exactly what he had suspected would happen. Lauren just wasn't cut out to be an adventurer, he decided. She was clever enough in the classroom, but her behavior would never do outside of it. But he was stuck with her, he realized, and he didn't have any choice but to help her as much as he could.
"Are you all right there, Lauren?" he inquired, panting at the exertion of proceeding rapidly over the uneven terrain with the tall girl on his back.
"I guess so, yes," Lauren replied shakily. "Sorry, Indy-I mean, Dr. Jones." Although she had called him Indy the previous night, she belatedly realized he might find it disrespectful. He was, after all, her professor.
"Indiana. Call me Indiana. We're going together, not as teacher and student." Lauren smiled, relieved that he hadn't minded. "Don't worry, we're almost out of this part of the forest," Indy continued, "Just one more hill. Then all we have to do is cross a river, and we'll be right by my acquaintance's little establishment. How's that sound?"
"Fine. There's only one thing. Would you mind telling me more about the artifact we're going to find?" Lauren asked boldly, hoping he would explain the situation to her. She was practically dying of curiosity. Why would Mussolini's men have such an overwhelmingly strong interest in an artifact in Ethiopia? She knew that the Italians had begun invading Ethiopia and were winning against the natives and their emperor, Haile Selassie, from reading the newspaper every morning, but she hadn't heard anything about Mussolini searching for an artifact in Ethiopia as well.
"Actually, I would mind telling you about it now," Indy said, breathing heavily as he raced up a hill, trying to not trip with Lauren on his back, "But once we are in the water, I'll explain the whole deal to you." They continued up the final hill uneventfully for a time, until Indy suddenly stumbled, and lost his balance. Certain he was going to fall, Lauren grabbed tightly around his neck, practically choking him. It all happened in a second, but just as he was going to fall flat into a nest of tarantulas, Indy caught a sturdy branch with his whip and pulled himself back upright.
"Phew," he gasped, "That was a close one. Sorry about that. Anyhow, here we are," he continued as they reached a clearing. Lauren got down off his back, observing her surroundings. They were in an open valley, and, after the damp forest, the sun felt comforting as it shone down on her back. To Lauren's dismay, however, Indy spent no time basking in the sunlight, and they immediately set off through the tall grass, which tickled Lauren as she walked through it. Suddenly, she wasn't frightened anymore. This was just like a walk in the park, she thought, forgetting about tarantulas, Italians, and the other hazards they had faced. Confidence streaming through her, she skipped through the tall grass and marveled at her good fortune. Indy watched her as he proceeded onwards, searching for the small stream he had remembered from his last trip in the area. Once they were out of Italy it would be fine, he told himself. Mussolini wouldn't know how to get at the sword, so they had some time. But how long would it be until, using brute force instead of archeological skill, Mussolini would destroy priceless treasures dating back to the thirteenth century? Treasures that belonged in a museum!
Around noon, they finally reached the river Indy was looking for. Lauren was tired, but relieved. Still, there was one slight problem.
"I swear it was this big before," Indy sighed as he gazed at the wide expanse of water before him. "It was just a small stream."
"Maybe it's still shallow," Lauren offered hopefully.
"Well, there's only one way to find out," he responded, taking off his leather jacket and tying it around his shoulders before proceeding straight into the frigid water. "Not bad so far," Indy commented as they stepped cautiously across the stream. As soon as he said that, however, they found there was no riverbed beneath their feet. The river had sloped down abruptly.
"I spoke too soon," Indy gasped when they came back up. Lauren tried to swim against the current towards the shore, but it was too strong and took them along. The water was icy and Lauren shivered as she attempted to keep her head out of it. "But this is the right direction anyway, so we might as well." Finding a log in the water, Lauren grabbed on to it, as did Indy, and they both were dragged down the river.
Five minutes later Indy heard a crashing sound up ahead, and knew they had to get out of the river quickly. He again grabbed a branch with his whip, and struggled to pull Lauren out of the water along with him.
"This is our stop," he explained, "unless you want to go down a waterfall." Lauren pulled with all her might, and they finally flopped onto the muddy riverside. Indy removed his ever-present hat and shook his head like a wet dog. He pulled Lauren to her feet and they walked along the riverside, their shoes squelching and squeaking. Shivering, Lauren looked around for the hut Indy had mentioned his friend would be in. Spotting a wooden cottage, she pointed to it, asking Indy if that was the place. He nodded in response and they headed briskly towards it.


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