When a legendary mystical sword called the Crocea Mors said to have the ability to make its user near to invincible is disturbed by Dr Warren Richardson, a spell cast by the last guardian is activa...
Dr Warren Richardson ran harder than he had ever run in his life, heart pounding in his throat, the sounds of the beats seeming to echo off the walls of the dark, murky cave he had just entered.
Screams, wild and devilish, came from a small mob of natives. They held spears raised in the air and waved them recklessly in anger.
"Get them!" sprang from the lips of the group’s chief in his native language.
Richardson's feet slammed on the floor. His legs were getting too tired to carry on, but his head knew he couldn't give up; if he stopped then it could mean the end. His savage, uncut hair kept falling in front of his dark green eyes. Spinning round a corner, his breath left him. The rocky ground had come to an end. All he could see was a twenty-foot-wide hole filled with nothing but darkness. It had no bottom, or at least none that he could see.
Screams penetrated the air once again, penetrating straight through Richardson's body and into his bones. There wasn't much time left. The mob was getting closer by the second. Taking several steps back, he took a deep breath and started to run towards the gap. Reaching the edge he jumped, using every piece of might he had left inside his body.
He fought not to shut his eyes, though his eyes wanted to. He knew if he did he'd surely miss the edge and fall to his death. Somehow he made it to the other side. Maybe God was smiling down at him. His hands clutched at the rocks on the opposite side to stop him from falling, his legs hanging over the edge.
His heart was beating so much that it seemed as if it was trying to escape from his body. Gradually, his feet made their way onto the ground. He collapsed behind some rocks, his energy depleted. There was no way he could have moved even if he’d wanted too.
Suddenly the silence was broken with the tribes’ shouts as they came round the corner. Richardson couldn't see them from where he was, but he knew that they were there from their voices.
It had been nearly six months since Dr Warren Richardson had been accepted into the local tribe. He’d told them that he was there to research the village and its people, their everyday activities and responsibilities, but this had been a lie. He’d had to flee when the villagers had discovered his true reason for being there, which was to find and steal the legendary lost Crocea Mors. The Crocea Mors was said to be a mystical sword, empowered by three magical gems, which would make its user so powerful that he'd be close to invincible. When they’d discovered his lie Richardson had tried to explain that he didn't want it for the power, but just to put it in a museum, where he’d said it belonged. He didn't even believe it had any powers.
In his sixth months of living in the village he had discovered more about the Crocea Mors from the villagers’ old stories. They’d said that the Crocea's gems all come from different worlds, all three bestowing different powers for its holder. They were named after the planets from which they came. The gem of Loricatus wielded the powers of molecularisation and armour. The gem of Praelium held the power of speed and force-fields. The gem of Vis Vires brought the powers of strength and transformation. Together, these powers would make the Crocea’s bearer strong enough not only to rule the world, but to rule the galaxy. This, however, was all the people seemed to know about the legendary sword. They’d said they had no idea where it was, or even if it still existed. Still, they had vowed to protect it from intruders and thieves.
"Must have fallen," said one of the tribesmen to the chief, looking over the edge and seeing only blackness staring back.
The chief, however, didn't seem so sure. He had seen many mysterious and powerful things happen from this man they had just been chasing. With that in mind, he scouted the opposite side of the path for Richardson, or anything that could indicate that he had made the jump and lived.
The rocks seemed to provide Richardson the perfect cover. He lay as still as a rock himself. He didn't dare to move at all. Ten minutes passed before they all left; the chief had decided to agree that he had fallen to his demise. It was another five minutes before Richardson dared to raise his head and see if they were gone. A sigh of relief came from him as he saw only the rocky walls of the cave on the opposite side.
It felt as though all of it had taken hours and not minutes. He remained where he lay until his heartbeat returned to normal and some energy had returned to his body. Standing slowly, he knew that he couldn't stay there for long. The tribe might have just left to find another way around. Wanting to carry on running, he didn't seem to be able to get his legs to do it. He kept a steady walking pace instead.
After a few hours walking, he managed to get out of the cave and found himself wandering through the small island’s forest. He didn’t know if the warriors had returned to the cave, but he definitely knew that he wasn’t being followed anymore. Still, he looked over his shoulder every few steps just to check. The only way to get off the island was to get back to the boat on which he had arrived. It was tied up somewhere along the river.
He heard a huge cracking sound echo through the forest, and quickly spun his head around to see who or what had made it. Nobody was about. He thought it could have been an animal, but could see no sign of any living thing.
The ground shook furiously underneath his feet. Before he could react, the ground was swept out from under him, like somebody doing the old party trick with a tablecloth. It appeared to be all over before it started. He smashed to the ground with such force that all the wind blew out of his lungs. Gasping for breath as he got to his feet, he checked to see if anything was broken. His right leg had a fresh cut from the top of the thigh to just above his knee. The pain soared through his body, but he was still able to walk on.
Looking around, he saw that his surroundings had become a mud tunnel, its walls too high for him to climb. The earth seemed to have collapsed above the tunnel for as far as he could see. The tunnel appeared to go on and on, as though it would take hours to get to the end of it. A tiny white dot stood in the middle of his view. Richardson didn’t have a clue what it was, but could only hope that it was light from the way out. Starting his journey down the passageway, he slowly limped forward.
The sun began to set, infusing everything he could see with a beautiful golden-red colour. The air was getting colder by the second. Richardson tugged at his jacket in an attempt to fight the chill of the evening breeze. The bloodstain on his trousers was still damp, and along with the breeze it sent chills straight through his leg and into his bone.
He passed a massive tree root that seemed to have come down the tunnel’s side from the top. He was torn between climbing out of the hole and making his way home and continuing on the path ahead of him. He plodded on. After another half an hour he reached a dead end. Something inside him cried out. He wished he had climbed the root and gone back to London.
A wall of solid rock faced him, but at the bottom of it was a gap just about big enough to allow somebody to crawl through it. He had to figure out what to do. The sun had long since disappeared, leaving moonlight as the only source of light, and even that would be gone if he crawled into the opening. His head was telling him to go back, but his heart was saying carry on. For the first time since he had been chased out of the village, he decided to push the thoughts out of his head and listen to his heart. Getting onto his hands and knees, he took a deep breath, as though it could be his last, and began to crawl.
After but a short way in he already regretted his choice. The gap kept getting smaller, and he realised that he couldn’t turn around or crawl backwards even if he wanted to. As the space got smaller, the rocky ceiling was starting to cut at his shirt and graze the skin. The further on he went into the space, the air became thinner, making it harder to breathe. Pushing his hands out in front of him to help himself move forward, his heart sank as they collided with a cold stone wall blocking his path. His heart now started to beat furiously as his body started to panic. He was trapped. Why did I listen to my heart? he thought silently.
Images of his life were popping into his head. He saw himself as a small boy with his parents beside him. The next image was of the boy again, but in a fight with three older kids kicking him as he lay there. He saw his graduation day as he finally got his PhD. The next image seemed to stay longer than the rest of them. A woman appeared; she had beautiful, long, auburn hair surrounding a heart-shaped face with full cheeks, grey-blue eyes beneath arched brows, and several freckles bordered her evenly spaced features.
With this picture in his mind Richardson seemed to go mad. He started thrashing his hands about, hitting the walls in front and beside him. Smashing the rocks in front a couple of times started to loosen them, though he didn’t realise it until they had fallen out and onto the ground below. A breeze of fresh air came rushing through the small space that had just appeared. He filled his lungs with as much of it as they could take. It felt as if he had just been reborn.
Climbing out of the hole, he fell to the ground like a dead weight. His eyes automatically closed tightly shut as his body tried to calm itself down. His heart was beating so fast he was surprised that he hadn’t gone into cardiac arrest.
A long time passed before he calmed down enough to open his eyes. When he did the light stung them; it was brighter than before he had gone in. As the focus came back to him, he noticed the light wasn’t coming from the moon. He couldn’t even see the moon, as there was a roof over his head. Strangely, though, the light came from a big silver door. It was over seven feet tall, with engravings of planets and warriors plastered all over it. It had no handle or anything that could be used to open it.
He staggered to his feet. Using the wall for balance, he stretched out a hand and placed it upon a warrior’s sword, a sword with three gems on its hilt. The warrior holding it was completely covered in armour; not even a little piece of his skin showed. It was if Richardson’s touch had activated some kind of motor behind the door, as all three gems in the engraving started to shine. Quickly they sank into the picture. If Richardson had blinked he would have missed it all. A large crack appeared down the middle of the door, as if it was broken. The two sides clunked and started to move in separate directions.
Richardson’s mouth dropped at the sight he was witnessing. The roof of the room was black, like the night sky, but the usual stars didn’t shine there. A galaxy filled the space, lighting up the room. He didn’t recognise it as the Milky Way. A rock path led the way into this place. Looking down, he noticed that if he took the wrong step he would fall straight to his death. The path led to a stand made out of stone. The lights from the galaxy shone down on this the brightest. Upon the stand was an item that many would have killed to see, let alone hold or touch. Mesmerised by the object he was seeing, he didn’t even notice that he had already started walking towards it.
Under the light sparkled three colours, reflecting red, green, and purple onto the glistening silver of the sword, each colour cast by a different gem. It looked as if had never been used. No scratches had been inflicted upon the blade. Reaching the stand, he felt as if his whole life had been leading up to that point.
“The Crocea Mors,” he said, thinking he was shouting, but it came out as barely a whisper. Softly taking the sword off of the stand, he didn’t even have time to admire the craftsmanship before the gems started glowing like the ones on the door, glowing brighter than the galaxy above him.
The ceiling started to transform from the unknown galaxy into the Milky Way, zooming through the solar system, it finally stopped on a planet, our planet. Richardson’s attention had been on the roof as soon as it had started to react, wondering why it had changed into a revolving earth.
The gems were still becoming brighter, drawing his awareness back towards them. They flew out of the hilt. Hovering around the room, they stopped for a few seconds in front of his face before zooming off to the spinning planet. The red gem was the first to act. It flew off straight towards England. Richardson’s smiled faded as one by one the gems all disappeared into the image of Earth. The purple gem flew off next and went to Australia. The last gem didn’t seem to know where to go; it spun around the planet until finally vanishing into America.
Suddenly the ceiling turned back into the galaxy it had been before. Out of nowhere a scroll came zooming down through the air and landed beside Richardson’s feet. He bent down, picked it up, and unrolled it. The language was none that he could recognise. The ground started to shake just a furiously as before. Hoping that the same thing wasn’t about to happen, he gripped the sword in one hand and the scroll in the other and broke into a run, even though his leg was trying to prevent him from doing so. The ground started to crumble away behind him. Reaching the door, he had to jump and just hope that the ground there didn’t fall apart as well. Luckily, he was safe, but he knew that he needed to get back to his home in London and translate the scroll to find out what happened to the Crocea Mors’s gems.