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The Search for the Jade Monkey - by Tiexie

Part Three

Tiexie lay on her back, staring up at the brooding sky. The violent waves crashing against the shore drowned out the loud revelry of the crew staggering about drunkenly in the darkness behind her. Her mood not at all matching that of her crew mates, she had chosen to spend the time to herself.

Glaring angrily at the crumbling stone castle off in the distance, she blinked back the tears that had suddenly formed. Another dead end. Literally. Upon arriving at the glorious Stornaway castle, they realized that not one living soul resided on the lonely island. The entire estate seemed to be overridden with massive creatures with ill tempers. The sound of their howling rage could be heard off in the distance.

After investigating the first floor of the castle, most of the crew refused to go any further, swearing they had seen floating bodies resembling soldiers on the stairwells. Exion had sworn he heard a woman screaming, and the ill tempered man had skulked back to the ship alone. Later that same night he had came missing. No one looked for him. Tiexie didn't really blame the men for not caring what happened to the cowardly young man, but a part of her worried.

The sudden shriek of a terrified female jerked her to her feet and Tiexie strained in the darkness to see Waterkrest.stumbling up the sandy dunes of the beach, she followed the sound of the young womans screams and stopped dead in her tracks.

Waterkrest was resting on her knees, her face as white as the apparition that floated above her brandishing a sabre. Tiexie calmly rested a hand on the young womans shoulder, and with a firmness in her voice that she did not feel issued a single command - "Hush!"

The young woman's shrieking stilled as suddenly as that, but still she did not move, simply stared at the specter who glared at the group of people now gathering around her.

Tiexie cleared her throat. "Greetings..."

The ghostly soldier cut her off before she could speak another word. " You are hereby ordered by the mighty hand of Qasar to leave this place at once, or join the ranks of the undead. You have until the sun rises or forever be damned."

Sheathing the transparent and yet deadly-looking sabre, the apparition turned to glare at Tiexie. "You! You carry the mark of the beast. For this, your ship has been spared, for now. Leave now, for there will be no other reprieve."

As suddenly as the creature had appeared, it was gone, leaving the drunken men staring at Tiexie. Waiting for an explanation she had no intention of giving to them or anyone else.

Striding past Grundle with rage, she headed towards the ship, ignoring the shouting captain behind her as he barked orders at the befuddled crewman.

Tiexie slammed the door of her cabin so hard the hinges rattled. Shoving the sleeve of her heavy dragon skin robe, she dug her nails into her own flesh, as if trying to rip the branding from her arm. Tears of rage flooded her eyes, as she beheld the grotesque mark of a serpent with ruby eyes burnt into her forearm.

How the undead beast had known she carried this mark upon her body she did not know, nor did she care. Her shame and rage consumed her. The hatred in her heart ate at her, like fat blood-filled leeches sucking the life out of her.

She ignored the pounding on her cabin door, and the loud concerned shouts of her friend ordering her to open the door. Enclosing her hand into a fist, she stared at the ball of bluish flames that appeared. Wanting nothing more than to sear the mark from her body, she hurled the fireball out the port hole and went limp.

She neither heard nor cared when Rab broke down the cabin door, to find her huddled in the corner whispering to herself. Her thoughts were a million miles away, her heart filled with murder for the enthralling cleric who no doubt sat in his house sipping tea and awaiting her triumphant return.

Tiexie awoke in her bunk, her mouth dry and her head throbbing. The loud shriek of sea gulls made her glance towards the port hole, much to her regret. Glaring sunlight greeted her, and she groaned. Realizing she heard no sounds from the ship's crew, she cocked her head and listened intently for a moment, before swinging her legs over the side of her bunk. Another groan followed as a wave of nausea hit her. She forced herself to her feet and strode towards the door with weak yet purposeful strides.

Her brow furrowed in confusion as she stood on the deck of the Stormrider, gazing at the city of Trellor off in the distance. How long had she been asleep and where in the world was the crew?

She saw several young deck hands busily loading crates onto the aft deck, but no other sign of her crew mates.

With a heavy heart, she headed for the long boats, and departed for Trellor.

She found Rab and Grundle with the stormwatch commander just north of the town fountain, they appeared to be in heated discussion over one of the crew and the butchers daughter. Tiexie smirked at Grundle in wry amusement as she joined them.

"Aye Boss," she greeted Grundle and glanced in Rab's direction as he continued to argue with the officer.

"How ye fare little one?"

She felt his big hand on her back as Grundle raised an eyebrow at her. "Better when we get this show on the road." She sighed heavily and waved a slender hand before heading off down the street, in search of food.

She was sitting in Lunch's restaurant enjoying a bowl of hot gryphon stew, when she glanced up and saw the nervous young man hovering near her table. She took a big swig from the mug of beer in her hand, and raised her eyebrow at him. He was dressed in the flowing white robes she had seen the priests and priestess wear that wandered about the city. She surmised he was probably an apprentice of sorts, judging from his nervous demeanor.

"Pard.." The young man cleared his throat.. "Pardon me.. m'aam.." Tiexie waited for him to continue as she took another bite of stew. "I, uh, that is to say, it is about town, er I mean.." He paused and Tiexie groaned inwardly. She plastered a warm smile on her face and spoke quietly.

"You heard...?"

The young man smiled at her and seemed to settle down a bit, he pulled out the chair next to her and sat down with a loud thud which amused her as he was a skinny little fellow. He leaned in close over the table, and lowered his voice. "I know where the Jade Monkey is!"

Tiexie's face showed no emotion but inwardly she flinched. Surely he was jesting. This skinny little apprentice priest knew where the monkey was? She did not think so, but she humored him nonetheless. She waited for him to speak again, and made a small motion with her pinkie finger as she took another bite of stew.

The young man took this as a sign that she was listening and continued with his tale. "The priesthood sent me on an expedition with some soldiers last year," He paused and lowered his tone as a waitress walked by and glanced oddly at him. "I was to take avid notes and record the journey and report back everything to my superiors." He blushed as he continued speaking. " I .. I am a poet, so I spent many hours in the jungle writing nonsense prose about the animals and wildlife there."

A poet. Tiexie decided this explained a lot as she half heartily listened to the young man prattle on about elephants and tigers. She was suddenly sat up straight as she heard him say something about a treasure. "Wait, what?"

He glanced at her strangely and repeated himself. "The soldiers, they found a cavern full of treasure! It was being guarded by these strange ape-like beasts wearing a Jade crest. Half the soldiers were slain in a bloody battle for the cavern, before the Captain pulled out. We returned here a few months later and I was ordered by the Captain of the regiment to never speak of this again, and to burn all documents of my findings." The young man sat back in his chair as he finished speaking, and waiting for her response.

Rabilieus leaned against the wall of the captain’s cabin with his arms crossed, mutely watching her with a wary expression as she told all that she had discovered. Grundle's low chuckle from the corner caused her to pause and glance at him.

"It's *real* Boss!" She cursed her voice as it rose in a shriek in her excitement.

Grundle simply nodded at her and stood. "Aye lass it may be real, but if these monkey people slew an entire regiment of Trellor's
finest, do you really think we have a chance in Hades of actually getting anything out of them?"

Tiexie sighed and glanced at Rab, who had yet to speak. He was simply watching her with that steel gaze so many feared. "Rab?" she prodded.

He nodded at her. "You really wanna do this?"

"I do. I really want to do this." She glared at Grundle as if daring him to call her crazy. The young prince simply laughed and sat back down in his chair.

After months of hellish weather and numerous attacks to the ship from mighty serpents, the crew disembarked the Stormrider and trekked across the jungle in search of a mighty Pyramid. The young poet had informed them that the structure jutted hundreds of feet into in the air and could be seen for miles. They had lost several crew mates to the large snakes that lived in the jungle. Tiexie's stomach clenched as she recalled seeing the monster that had coiled itself around a young sailor’s body and sucked him whole into its mouth. The crew were all understandably afraid of the dark primeval forest, but they trekked on following Rabilieus.

They were setting up camp for the night when the sudden stillness in night made Tiexie look around. The wind itself had suddenly stilled, as if in fear of the thing that approached. She glanced up to see the tall warder Gaid standing beside her, his sword drawn. All hell broke loose in the darkness as the silence was shattered by shrieking animals, coming from the trees. Suddenly surrounded by dozens of ape-like creatures brandishing weaponry of an astonishing array, the crew jumped to their feet in confusion.

A low snarl came from behind the ranks of ape-men as Gaid took a step forward. The creatures parted to reveal who Tiexie surmised was the leader of the armed individuals. He issued a guttural command at the soldiers and they lowered their weapons. With no apparent fear of any of the crew, he walked with his slow moving gait towards Tiexie, using a gnarled walking stick to her surprise. She was also surprised when he opened his mouth and spoke with a low gravely tone, in her own language.

"If you seek riches and glory, turn back now little human for there is none to be had here. If you seek truth, follow the path to the road to enlightenment."

The old ape waved his hand and suddenly the ranks parted, revealing a road in the jungle that had not been there before. And off in the distance the towering structure of a mighty pyramid was visible.

Tiexie stood dumfounded as she beheld the glittering jewels around her. Row upon row of caskets filled with diamonds, rubies, gold coins and every other imaginable bauble. The object of her stare however was not the fortune in treasure that filled the massive cavern below the pyramid. She neither heard nor saw the crew around her, as they stuffed their pockets with shiny trinkets. Upon a simple throne of wood, in the center of the room on a raised dais, a little human girl sat. She watched Tiexie with undisguised interest as she played with the little toy in her hands. A wooden carving of a monkey.

A jade monkey.

Tiexie caught her breathe. She had found it, but suddenly she did not care.She unsheathed her sword and shoved it at the crewmen behind her, not caring whose hands the expensive weapon wound up in, only that she not scare the child. She approached the little girl with slow deliberate steps, and stopped at the bottom of the dais.

"Hello.. my name is .." She was interrupted by a soft angelic voice made of pure spun gold.

"Tiexie, of the house of Krandor. Yes, I know. I have been waiting. They told me that you would not come, but I knew."

Tiexie glanced up in confusion at the walls the child motioned to, and was horrified to see literally dozens of skeletons chained to the walls. Her audible gasp made the girl smile. "They, were like them..." The child motioned towards her crew mates who were still greedily filling their pockets. "They do not see me amidst this you know, I have no shine or glitter." The girl sighed a bit and glanced down at Gaid, Rab and Grundle who were standing a few feet from Tiexie watching in confusion. She smiled suddenly. "They see me!"

The young creature jumped from her seat in a flurry of activity and swirled around in a circle, the simple dress of dragon hide she wore suddenly turning into a golden gown covered in diamonds. She grinned in impish delight as the treasure-crazed crew members suddenly noticed the alluring creature wearing the fortune in jewels.

Tiexie's breathe caught in her throat. "Rab! Stop them! All of it, you must put it all back, *now*!" Her voice raised in a fever pitch as she envisioned the slaughter that was about to take place. She barely heard Rabilieus barking orders at his crew members as she raced down the steps to stand in front of the child.

"Please, they don't understand. You do not have to do this!" she pleaded with the frail little creature, her eyes going wide as she watched the girls gaze turn from impish to dark.

"No, they do not understand, but they will!"

Tiexie watched in terror as the crew members begin to wail in pain. She watched helplessly as one by one the hoarding crew mates were chained to the walls with invisible hands. The screaming filled her head and drowned out her own thoughts.

The child quietly resumed her place on the wooden throne, holding her little jade monkey. Tiexie fell to her knees in silent defeat as the three men behind her moved to join her at the foot of the dais. The screaming of the men suddenly stopped as the little girl raised her fingers to her lips and uttered a small "shh".

"I will set them all free and put them back on their little wooden vessel if you answer a simple riddle for me. But..." An impish grin curled the childs lips. "You must get the answer right!"

Tiexie swallowed and eyed the little girl warily, wishing she had not come to this god forsaken place. "Ask your riddle."

The imp child giggled and stood on the throne spreading her arms wide as she spoke in a loud melodic sing-song tone.

"I drive men mad
For love of me,
Easily beaten,
Never free.
What am I?"

Tiexie silently thanked her grandfather for the thousands of hours he had forced her to recite riddles. She remembered with ill contempt the little leprechaun who had popped her knuckles with the metal ruler at each wrong answer. She made a promise to herself to kiss the little green fiend when she returned home."Well?" The imp-child twirled about in her chair and sat down, petting the little monkey in her hands.

Tiexie looked the creature in the eye and cleared her throat. "Gold. The answer is gold. Now let them go."

The little girl sighed heavily. 'Yes yes, let them go I will."

With a flick of her tiny wrist the chains clattered to the floor in a loud crash. Tiexie saw no sign of the crew. She glanced behind her to see the three men who had weathered this journey with her stood still, waiting.

"They have been returned to their ship." The child paused, "And, I believe this is what you came for..." She held out the Jade Monkey, waiting for Tiexie to take it.

Tiexie stared at her a moment in confusion, before reaching for the damnable thing.

The little girl continued speaking. "Yes, you understand do you not? Only those who would not use its powers may possess the jade stone. You may return to your Medievia with it, and you may give it to your Lord. He will be driven mad with the obsession." The little girl grinned in impish delight as she pictured the agitation and rage of the cleric awaiting the artifact.

Tiexie's heart was suddenly filled with sorrow for the man whom she had spent so many years in service. Could she really give him this dreadful little toy and walk away knowing he would never know how to harness its powers, and yet the hatred in the carving would consume him and slowly eat away his sanity. Or, would she tell him that it was all a hoax and the Jade Monkey never existed. With heavy heart Tiexie turned from the malicious creature with the angelic countenance and begin her final journey. Home.

January 21, 2006

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