Scorched plains, number nines
Gary took out his iphone and showed Harry the image from his time in the chamber of the chalice. Together they peered at the segment of the map and were puzzled to see another ghostly image behind the map, something floating just beyond the horizon; indistinguishable and opaque. Harry placed her finger firmly on the image and held it there for a second – a voice recording immediately began to play. It was Barry in a place where she was surrounded by ice. She was, playing ‘knuckle-bones’ (Jacks) and singing her songs and talking to herself. Most of it was unclear, but a few words came through clearly!
Reggae Potato …..
“One potato, two potato, three potato, four
Five potato, six potato, eight potato, more
Follow me to gain the score
You won’t catch me at the Foxdel door!”
“What on earth does that mean?” said Gary.
“I think she is giving us a clue as to where she has gone to, and I think we should go back to the cave and choose the other entrance, right next to the one we chose.” said Harry with great confidence and conviction.
Harry lead the way back to the cave entrance and sat on the carpet, right up the front, peering back into the cave. “Come on Gary. There is no time to lose.” Gary stepped onto the carpet and promptly placed himself in starter mode, just as if he was waiting for the starters pistol to start a race. The carpet rose effortlessly from the ground and expelled them back down the tunnel at great speed. In an instant they were back at the circle of runes and considering the meaning of Barry’s words.
“Its all about the numbers” said Gary.
… six potato, seven potato, eight potato more …
“What comes after 8? Why 9 of course! Which one of the runes is number 9?” he asked Harry.
“Isa. This rune represents the ninth letter of the Alphabet. It also means Ice. So that seems like the right number given Barry’s location and her rhymes.” said Harry.
Holding his iphone torchlight high above him, Gary searched for a number 9 on the walls above the tunnels. He started on the left side of the one they had just emerged from and scanned around in a complete circle, only to finally come back to find the 9 on the wall above the tunnel immediately to the right of the one leading to the Foxdel Forest.
Switching back to his map image, he then whispered to Harry! “Lets go this way. This will lead us to Barry!”
“Okay, I am with you on that! I wonder what the significance of potatoes, scores and doors have to do with anything.” said Harry.
Darkness enveloped them as they moved into the tunnel and the smell of scorched shirts reached their nostrils. Sniffing the air cautiously they set off at a brisk pace, running towards the smell. After a few minutes they emerged into a wasteland of scorched plains and the smell of burnt fabric was even stronger.
They were perched on the side of a mountain of debris spilling down and around the edge of a desert; it was like being in a giant rubbish tip. As they looked down they could see a set of steps spiraling downward to the desert floor. They set off down the steps leaping down two at a time in a hurry to get to the bottom. Just before they stepped off the last step, a siren boomed and they saw several small creatures emerging, scurrying back from the desert sands towards them. The smell of scorched shirts was strong as they hurried past them on the steps. Harry and Gary could see that each of the miniature humanoid creatures was wearing a shirt with a singed tail hanging loose from their pantaloons.
Each creature had a number patched onto their shirts with ragged stitches and it was the number 9 on all of them. Harry reached out to catch one of the 9’s but they were too fast. The siren continued to wail for several seconds; then it stopped; and the creatures were gone. “What just happened?” said Gary. “I have no idea!” said Harry.
Stepping off the stone steps onto the sands, both Harry and Gary felt a trembling of the earth beneath them and could now hear the wind as it whipped up around them. “Something wicked this way comes!” No sooner were the words out of their mouths when the hot wind snatched them away and they were left speechless. In front of them, high in the brilliant blue sky they saw three gigantic dragons circling the mountain behind them and swooping down over the rubbish piles, scorching great swathes of debris in their path. The travelers stood rigid with fear and stared into the burning eyes of the dreaded red-wings.
“We gotta get outta here”, they both whispered simultaneously, looking at each other with eyes wide open and fixed. Their skin was beginning to burn in the hot air and they needed shelter – a safe haven away from the dragons.
They peered ahead through the beginnings of a sand storm and saw rows of lights strung across a stretch of rocks in the distance. Both started running towards the lights, bending into the wind and holding onto each others hands. As they got closer they saw that the lights were no more than about half a metre off the sand, each one held up as high as possible by the number nines standing in two rows pointing in an arrow shape towards a temple behind them. Each number nine waved furiously at the running pair – guiding them into one of the stone entrances to a temple of gigantic proportions. Harry and Gary felt like dwarfs alongside the endlessly tall columns and peered in wonder at their majesty.
The number nines began to chant and sing – a curious tinkling sound of silver bells rather than real voices. The tune was familiar to Harry! “Where do I know that tune from? It reminds me of something from the school yard.”
Three, six, nine, the goose drank wine,
The monkey chewed tobacco on the street car line.
The lion choked, the monkey croaked,
And they all went to heaven in a little row boat,
When the number nines got to the last line they all started clapping – the door to the temple was opening.
Harry and Gary ran forward and skidded into the temple at high speed, kicking up clouds of sand as they went. They were glad to be away from the fearsome dragons and the burning desert sands. All the number nines scurried in after them and stood in the gloom blinking up at the travelers. The doors clanged shut!