Cast of Characters
|Todd||“Skinny Larry” Simons||Inventor and jazz musician|
|Eric||Gerald “Gentleman Jerry” O’Shea||Former bare-knuckles boxer|
|Scott||Ritter Gunter von Stiglitz||former German POW|
|Tom||Oxford “Ox” Sykes||Chemist and well-to-do ne’er-do-well|
Aaron and Jerry, Jesse/Jackson and Larry, slid carefully down the hardscrabble and climbed over a six foot tall ruined wall, then scaled the stepped pyramid. Larkin and Oxford stayed on top of the mountain with the guides and burros. After pouring three flasks of lantern oil into the three-inch wide crack, Aaron dropped a lit flare. The oily black smoke and overwhelming odor were hideous, though mitigated by moist face coverings. The earth shuddered, and Jerry fell hard upon the stony roof.
The group attempted to discern the most likely location for a door or other entrance. Stiglitz thought the entrance to the tunnel to uncountable gold was either the big hole to the south, or, a partially debris-covered shaft to the north-east.
The vertical shaft seemed reasonable, a diagonal shaft cut off several feet into its depths. Oxford lowered the block and tackle and the strong beam, down to the group before coming down to join the others, reaching the bottom without issue.
“Gentleman” Jerry joined him. They drove a spike at the base of the shaft, affixed a rope, and tossed the loose end down the diagonal path. Ox descended and discovered stone tunnels. The last man down, “Skinny” Larry, tied off the rope to ensure the explorers could haul themselves back up, out of the shaft. The flies and stench continued to be pervasive.
From the bottom of the slope, tunnels split into nearly every direction, only four feet high but ten feet side. The group of six headed to the west on hands and knees, Jerry in the lead. They chalked a line and turned west. The tunnel had a thin golden band along the left wall, with glyphs that looked the same as the small sample the party had received to kick off the expedition.
Coming upon a pile of rags, sticks and detritus, they spotted a skull with something white and glistening moving in an eye socket. Jerry crushed it with an axe blow. The thing in the eye was a grub the size of a guinea pig, and it died instantly. The human body was ancient and had a few pocketable gold trinkets.
Continuing west about another 30 feet, they found a sloping shaft going up. It was posited that it may open to the east of the pyramid. Jerry and Larry tried unsuccessfully to climb, and tumbled back to the hard stony ground. Continuing west then south, they noticed Oxford was missing from the group. They backtracked to find him taking a crowbar to the gold vein that they had been following.
A crack opened up in the wall, from which seeped greasy white fat and a few of the white larval worms. Ox wouldn’t stop trying to pull the gold vein, so Aaron smacked him and tied him up. The larvae were stomped and squished. Larry pressed the gold back into the groove, and another tremor shook the tunnel.
The group found another shaft, angled away from the gilded path. Aaron clambered up, finding himself at the base of a plugged-up vertical shaft. Further down, they spotted a section of missing gold matching the piece in their possession, but they also spotted a wriggling mass of gooey fat that seemed to be moving of its own volition.
Aaron shot it. Or, shot at it.
As part of this effect, the explorers found a four-foot-deep pool of glistening white fat, so Jerry slid in, with Larry on his back. A little grub tried to work its way towards Jerry’s “back door”, so he exited the fat to deal with it. After killing it and cinching rope around his thighs and tightening his belt, they tried again.
Larry neatly re-affixed the missing section of metal, after which they dealt with the second slug that tried to get into Jerry’s nether regions. The crack sealed itself up, “healing” the wall. Ox passed out, unconscious.
The team pressed on. Ox soon awakened, confused as to where he was. The group exited the tunnels beneath the pyramid. De Mendosa was waiting for them at the top of the shaft, thirty yards away, but he flaked apart into tiny pieces in the wind. Larkin was unconscious up on the ridge. The smell of rotting meat seems to have dispersed. Larkin looked to have regained some degree of health, his veins returning to a degree back to normal. Once roused, he inquired as to the haul of gold he assumed the explorers had discovered. They had in fact only found about $40 worth of trinkets.
A second foray into the tunnel system beneath the pyramid ruins resulted in quite a haul. They found a subterranean campsite and some mounds of dust in the shape of bodies, along with a great deal of coins of both recent and ancient mint. Giving Jesse/Jackson his fair split, and a measure for the guides who had been exemplary in their support, each walked with a cool $5000.00!
Back in Puno, they posed for a black and white photograph to commemorate their success. They knew that their future paths would certainly intersect with Jesse/Jackson, who promised to send them a signed copy of his next book.