It has come to my attention that some pivotal details may be missing from this story. However, I do not feel like editing it, so have at.
All that is Gold Does Not Glitter
a short story on greed
The rowing boat lay listing in the windy caverns. The wind swelled, but she lay still and silent. The noon sun was reflected in the smooth orange sandstone walls surrounding her. They seemed to sparkle in the sun. Grace alighted from the boat and signaled Fred, her navigator, to follow. The boat, now empty, bounced for a few seconds in the current; then, as if struck by some new revelation, followed the current of the deep river. It bobbed over the swimming pool waves of aqua blue water and was gone.
Grace paused now, map in hand, in the enormous chamber with a high roof. The flash flooding had mined out passages in the rock: they were low doorways in this fantastic amphitheater of stone. Grace glanced back through the high arching tunnel by which she had come over the water. A washed-out blue patch of desert sky appeared over the water. She turned back to Fred.
“The map leads this way.”
Native gold! An underground trove in the mine, all here. From this she could fix her ship, go to her home in Callais, or to Ireland. Stay forever with her sister, best friend and teacher, if she lived through this…
“Coming, Grace?” Fred asked
“Eh, yes! This way.”
A sea of coins, a chart. It was all she would need.
……As they entered the extending labyrinth of passages, Fred paused,
“What was that?”
“An echo,” Grace replied carelessly.
A three pronged dart stole through the arm and found Fred’s arm below the elbow.
She turned to find Fred held by his red-dusted safari shirt and the loose skin of his arm. She yanked Fred and the dart from the wall, cutting away the dart heads with her multi tool Glancing around as Fred wrapped up his arm, Grace narrowed her eyes.
Who had seen?
“Missie Grace!” Fred flew through the air and pinned Grace under himself. A line of bullets noiselessly embedded themselves in the wall.
“Err, Fred,” Grace said with a pale face. “I don’t seem to like the looks of this place.” They were in another amphitheater, essentially identical to the other, but without the subterranean river. “Get the boat, shall we?” Grace continued, turning back.
She walked back to the river.
“You let the boat take itself, Miss.”
“That isn’t the way I want to go.” Grace said.
“I only said the the gold was in that direction: I never said that it was the only way. It’s this way too, but it’s much longer and the map is much trickier to follow. It’s a back door.” She explained, leading the way through their original chamber. But there’s no way out, but the boat unless we swim.”
“Unless we hike through miles of caves to the Entrance.”
“Well, but naturally we won’t.”
“I have my trolley” Fred said, rearranging his bag on his shoulder. “And I brought your pack in case you need it.”
“I wouldn’t want to worry the hotel.”
“We’ll be back long before the search party gets sent out, with every handicap,” he laughed, “’Fraid to be stuck walking instead of sailing with your navigator?”
“Oh, you won’t find it…” Grace’s voice merged and and faded in echo which reached back along the sandstone corridors
……As they approached the heart of the caverns, Grace stopped. There was a must in the air as in a still place which has had recent movement through it. In all the other cave, the air had been quite fresh. After a pause, she stepped through the door several paces ahead of Fred.
“Hey! This–” There was the sound of a loud echoing cough through the silence.
Fred pulled his double-weighted/layered shirt over his nose and stepped inside. A low, almost invisible mist lay over the floor. Grace lay under it. Fred advanced and pulled her back by her armpits. Half lifting her, he managed to find a roofless room off the passage to place her. He tightened a handkerchief around his own face and stalked back to the room.
Past it would be the treasure room, if he remembered correctly. What was the source of the gas? Around a passage off gaseous room, he stopped with a shotgun in his face. A man in dusty tan with a large black sombrero and a face mask held it.
“Stay still or you won’t live to to see another day.”
“Lincoln!” Fred exclaimed. “Why follow us? You could have found the gold yourself!”
“Revenge?” the masked one said speculatively, “Perhaps.” As he spoke, he walked around Fred and pushed him further into the caves with his gun extended. They were now in a straight corridor, the sound of rushing water dancing toward them.
“Or perhaps,” the masked one said, pushing Frank into a dead end. “I have no map and need to know the way out in case you two should drown.
“You won’t get a map,” Fred said stuffing his hand inside his shirt, “because I’ll drop it before you can shoot me.”
The shotgun went off.
Fred let go of the map and darted around Lincoln and down the hall. Lincoln, however, laughed.
“Fool; the map is laminated.”
He stopped, looking where the bullet had struck. There was a hole. Lincoln took a flying leap and kicked through the wall. He ducked through the hole he had made.
Gold! Ha! So the treasure was here after all! Ha ha!
There was a rumbling. The hole he had made in the wall vanished. The sound of the river did not. He snapped on a pen light. Here the water danced through a dim doorway, and down a long corridor, day-light shimmered. A rowboat danced in the water, prevented by a wall from going any farther. Lincoln chucked.
Fools! I have the gold, a boat, and I can swim and get the map. You are a pretty cageful of nitwits.
He glanced again at his gold, then at his boat. The river had eaten itself into a deep channel here and the banks were eight feet above the water. Lincoln glanced back at his gold.
But would he be able to get back out?
The decision tore him. At last he dived into the water and found the map. Next, he gripped the boat’s side and rolled into it. He turned the boat against the bank, but he could not get up. Now he had the map and the boat, but nothing of what he had come for. He gnashed his teeth and gripped the oars.
Minutes away, Grace was waking.
“We must go,” Fred said, “Lincoln is here.”
“Oh, I–” Grace pushed herself up off the floor. She looked at her palm.
A bit of sparkle glittered against her skin.
“Eer, Fred,” she said, glancing at the walls against the sky, “These weren’t gold mines were they?”