I never really know what to say on these opening pages besides welcome back and I hope you enjoy this chapter! Oh and… thanks for reading!
Nellie was only slightly surprised that what she had seen in her vision was exactly what was in the room behind the secret door as she moved forward and entered the room.
In her clumsiness, she had tripped and fallen into the diving pool, but climbed immediately out to collect the three piles of ancient coins. Then she dove in again and began to explore its depths
She emerged out breath and gasping for air, but was happy to see that the switch she had found below the surface had been the trigger to open another secret door.
Looking quickly around as she cautiously entered the room. After making her way down another staircase, she noticed some large boulders blocking her path to the right.
To her left lay a long corridor which held who knew what? She would find out soon enough, but first she decided to get the tougher of the two tasks done first and turned toward the boulders while bringing out The Axe of Pangu.
Nellie felt the power surging through the axe as she held it high over her head in preparation to obliterate the boulder.
And obliterate the boulders it did with ease! Then she carefully inspected the three holes which the boulders had covered, opening up several more passages in various places in the tomb.
She plundered more treasure boxes.
She found more holes to inspect.
And she collected more shimmering ancient coins from the floor.
Finally she came to another diving pool and went to explore it. When she emerged, she had in her hand a crescent keystone. Her heart throbbed with excitement as she realized exactly where to put it to use.
Finally, Nellie was able to unlock the room she hoped would hold the answer to all the questions in her mind. As she inserted the keystone into place, the chains fell away from the door, and Nellie hurriedly went inside the room.
She gasped in surprise to see the very odd statues in the large room. There were many treasure boxes along the walls which held various relics inside.
Quickly, she went around picking up everything she could carry and stuffing it into her bag. In her excitement, she almost missed the rarest thing of all . . . A magic gnome of ancient Chinese origin. She laughed and moved toward it.
Oh my, aren't you just adorable?"
Nellie whispered breathlessly as she bent to gently retrieve the precious figure. "
I know just the perfect spot for you!"
Shortly, Nellie's trip was over and she found herself back home, tending to normal, everyday things.
She broke up the monotony by breaking boards with her bare hands. Nellie was able to break oak boards now without it resulting injury. Maybe the fact that on occasion she had pictured Ho Sung's face looking up at her from the board had aided in her progress. The hurt she felt and her anger toward him still burned brightly inside her heart.
It also helped relieved her anxiety over not having heard back from Liang Lu about her next step in her explorations. No sooner had she change clothes and gone out back to do some gardening, than her boss showed up unexpectedly.
He had come to inform her of her new promotion in person. Ellie was now a Carnivorous Plant Tender, which meant she really needed to practice her gardening skills in order to avoid becoming plant food! The conversation between Nellie and her boss was not the only one occurring at the time.
Manchu, the Chinese magic gnome: "
Hey, this looks like really nice place you have here. The lady is a real looker too!"
Sultan Sam, the Egyptian magic gnome: "
You think so? Well, you haven't had her kick you yet!"
She kicks? Well, she shall never catch me!"
Nellie never called repairmen and enjoyed fixing all the stuff around the house on her own. It was a good way to build her handiness skills, which were needed in order to disarm those pesky traps in tombs. Between that and doing all her other household tasks and working every day, there were other things happening that she failed to notice.
One of those was the fact that Manchu never seemed to stay in one place for very long. Shortly after his conversation with Sultan Sam, he made a beeline for the garden, but never stayed in the same spot or position.
Although Nellie had a shiny new promotion, she was not crazy about the new uniform she was required to wear. Blue just didn't seem to be her color! Besides that, even though she had been home not quite a week, she was already growing restless. She would much rather be out exploring again.
As she tended her garden that evening, Nellie thought about how the next time she traveled to China, she would love to visit the garden and bring home some more exotic specimens to plant. Sighing heavily, she rose and went inside to shower. The doorbell rang just as she had finished dressing and she opened the door to another unexpected visitor.
It seemed to her that Jack Bunch was always snooping around and showing up in places where she happened to be unexpectedly. She had a feeling he was searching for something more than mere friendship, but she was afraid to ask, uninterested, and reluctant to hurt his feelings if that happened to be the case. She graciously invited him to dinner and then ushered out him as quickly and politely as possible afterward.
The next afternoon, Nellie came home with yet another promotion. Now she was an Aquatic Ecosystem Tweaker. Ellie knew it was now time to sharpen her fishing skills. Although she was an angler, she had not had much time for hanging around at lakes and ponds. The phone had begun to ring before she had opened the door and she hurried toward it. Her pulse quickened at the sound of Jiang Lu's voice on the other end of the line. "
I have the statue ready for, Nellie. Before it is active, you must first take what the Monks of the Order of the Resolute Fist refer to as the Pilgrim's Walk. You must carry the statue to several sites within Shang Simla. Go to the Scholar's Garden first."
Nellie hung up the phone and wasted no time packing her bags to head back to China.
Upon returning to China, Nellie headed straight for the Scholar's Garden as instructed. Confused as to what to do next, she decided to do a bit of meditation. She never seemed to do as much of it as she should in order to increase her inner peace to become better at her Martial Arts skills. As her mind drifted toward thoughts of Ho Sung and what she should do to make things right between them, a vision suddenly flashed in her mind and she knew what to do next.
As soon as she arrived at The Temple of Heaven, another vision struck her and she was able to continue her journey.
When yet another vision struck her at the Dragon Cave, she was stunned into motion and hurried to find Jiang Lu, although the hour was getting late and she knew he would likely be at his home by the time she arrived.
Darkness had fallen by the time she discovered that Jiang had gone home for the day, but she was desperate to see him even at the risk of upsetting him for interrupting his family time.
She stood outside and called out urgently to him until he came out and invited her inside.
He listened intently as Nellie described her vision to him, even though she had disturbed his dinner.
The meditation statue has created this vision for you"
he said evenly. "
I am convinced you are the one referenced in the prophecy. It is you who must restore the Dragon Cave. Unfortunately, I am at a loss as to how we can enter the tomb. Perhaps someone else knows how to help you?"
Nellie was crestfallen. What was that supposed to mean? Not knowing where to turn next, she headed back to base camp to get a good night's rest. She could figure out her next step tomorrow with a fresh mind.
The next morning, however, Nellie was awakened to a phone call with Jiang Lu's excited voice on the other end of the line. "
Nellie, I think I know who can help gain entrance to the Dragon Cave! A local by the name of Biyu Shen claims to know the secret. Speak to her as soon as possible so that we can proceed!"
Ah yes, the Dragon Cave"
Biyu Shen replied when Nellie caught up with her. "
I remember parts of the story. A great adventurer named James Vaughan fixed the Dragon Cave almost a century ago, but apparently failed to do so entirely. I seem to have forgotten the rest. Jiang Lu sells a Potion of Remembrance, but I cannot afford it. Deliver two pieces of Platinum to him in exchange for the potion."
Gathering the Platinum was easy enough. Nellie took it to Jiang Lu immediately and asked to trade it for the potion. Jiang laughed heartily, "
Ha! That silly Biyu Shen couldn't remember the name of Al Simhara if you asked. Here is the potion. It should jump start the memories in Biyu Shen's head."
Nellie had to stifle a giggle at the way Biyu scrunched up her face as she drank the potion. "
she choked. "
I hate the taste of this foul potion. If I could only remember things I would not need to drink it so often . . . Ah, my head! I remember now! James Vaughan had an assistant named Sin Pah who kept a journal of Vaughan's adventures. Sin Pah died mysteriously at a young age, but his descendant, Ze Lei Phua, still has the journal. You will need to convince him to let you have it."
Convincing Ze Lei Phua to hand over his journal was not an easy task. He was reluctant to give it up to a stranger. But after a few hours of chatting, he had a change of heart.
There is one thing you must do. Take the journal and pay a visit to Bo Dong. I believe he holds a clue to a missing piece of the puzzle."
He then pointed the way and once again, Nellie was off.
It is most fortunate that there are fellow treasure seekers in Shang Simla"
he said with a friendly smile. "
Let me introduce myself - I am Bo Dong. Shall we find the treasure? Centuries ago, the evil warlord Dong Huo stole a priceless heirloom from my ancestors. I believe this note says where the relic is, but I cannot fully decipher it. Perhaps you could convince Jiang Lu to do so?"
Nellie found Jiang Lu at the market and quickly handed him the note. After glancing at it briefly, he chuckled, "
Hmmm, yes, I can see why you failed to decipher this note. It is written in the ancient code of Dong Huo's army. It is only known by his lieutenants . . . and, of course, myself. I have deciphered the note explaining the location of Dong Huo's treasure! You will need to first find the key, which is at a location I will detail for you on your map. That key should unlock the chambers holding the treasure. Good luck finding the key!"
Map in hand, Nellie was off to look for the elusive key. She stopped to read the plaque hanging on a locked door which had been placed there by the evil warlord long ago. The message sent chills shooting through her spine, but she pressed on.
Downstairs, Nellie once again found herself in a room with more than one choice of direction. She picked one and made her way through, checking in several different rooms along the way.
Soon, she was standing in front of the treasure box she was sure contained the key. She was delighted when she opened it and discovered her hunch had been correct.
Instead of rushing right back to Jiang Lu with the key, she decided to explore a few more areas before leaving the underground fortress. She felt a girl could never have too many money bags!
She found a strange place on the wall, inspected it and discovered it was a hidden door to another room.
The room contained many treasures, including a couple of beautifully-cut precious stones. She could not help but to strike a pose of victory before entering.
She gazed around in awe for a moment, collected her treasure, and then reported back to Jiang Lu with the key. Nellie was excited and anxious to continue her journey and find the treasure, so she was slightly disappointed by his next words. "
Jiang Lu exclaimed happily. "
The treasure cannot be too far behind if this clue is any indication. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the trove is in Shang Simla! However, it is on a property owned by a local merchant. If you can convince Sima Zhi to work with us, we can finally find the treasure."
At first, as usual, Sima Zhi was reluctant to open up to Nellie. She was, however, a jovial sort, so it didn't take long before the two women were chatting like old friends. Ellie was overjoyed when Sima gave her permission for Nellie to explore her property.
The deal was sealed with a warm, friendly hug and Nellie wasted no time contacting Jiang Lu with the news. "
he responded. "
Well, are you ready, Nellie? It is time for you to return the treasure stolen from my ancestors by the cursed Dong Huo. Take this key, enter the treasure trove, and return the Relic to me. You will be well compensated for all you have done for me and my family."
Excitement coursed through Nellie's entire system as she prepared to insert the keystone into place. She felt as if she had been waiting for this moment forever. The stone slid into place easily and Nellie heard the familiar sound of a door sliding open nearby.
Upon entering the previously-sealed room, Nellie saw a staircase leading down yet another level. Gathering up her courage, she cautiously made her way down. What treasures would be revealed on this leg of her journey? What horrors? As soon as Nellie reached the level below, she read the words on a plaque left by the evil warlord that sent another rush of chills down her spine and struck up a chord of fear deep inside her heart. This fortress, she feared, would not be as easy to maneuver as some of the others.