Chapter 7

Locke stared open-mouthed as he watched Ghaleon tear through the room. If he’d been doing that, it would have seemed careless. But the way Ghaleon moved through the stacks of scrolls and along the carved walls wasn’t haphazard - it was just damn fast. Like he knew exactly what he was looking for.

“What’s up?” Locke asked.

Ghaleon didn’t answer, never even slowed down.

“Hey, what’re you looking for?”

Still no answer.

“Maybe I can help.”

“I somehow doubt that, Mr. Cole,” Ghaleon snapped. “Unless perhaps you are fluent in the language and script on the walls.”

Jerk, Locke thought to himself. Maybe he wasn’t some fancy scholar, but he could spot something interesting at fifty paces. And Celes had said this guy was a musician, right? Not a scholar.

So how come he knew how to read this junk?

“Oh, and I suppose you are fluid in it, huh?”

“The word you are looking for, Mr. Cole, is ‘fluent’, and indeed I am. Am I then to take it that you are not?” Although Ghaleon never looked up from the scroll he had unrolled on the big stone desk, Locke could see him smirking.

He’d be damned if he was gonna answer that. “Where d’ya learn it?”

Ghaleon slowly raised his eyes and glared. “You are incapable of rendering aid, and your incessant questions serve only to distract me. Perhaps you would be better served to watch the entrance to this chamber, lest that thing we fought return.”

“Wasn’t much of a fight,” Locke muttered. But as much as it killed him to admit it, that wasn’t a bad idea. Besides, there didn’t seem to be any real treasure here - he’d be better off looking around outside.

When he reached the top of the stairs, Locke grasped the hilt of his short sword. It had been magical once, but that didn’t count for anything anymore. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t all that sharp, either. He probably should have replaced it, but he just hadn’t gotten around to it.

Locke coughed and squinted. It was hard to see through the trails of smoke still curling through the big room. And it was oily smoke, too - he couldn’t tell if that was because of the stuff Ghaleon had used or the monster’s slime.

No matter. Locke gripped the sword more tightly. He was no slouch in a fight. Even if he hadn’t had much practice lately.

He had to admit that Ghaleon didn’t seem to be as much of a wimp as he looked, either - that stuff he’d thrown had caused a damn fine blaze, at least as powerful as a fire spell.

Locke straightened his shoulders. When it came down to it, there wasn’t much more danger down in this castle or the caverns around it than on a well traveled road above ground.

Somehow that wasn’t all that comforting. And it didn’t change the fact that he’d nearly gotten himself killed.

“Gettin’ careless,” Locke muttered. He still didn’t trust this Ghaleon guy, even if maybe that fire flask had saved them both. No, he didn’t trust him half as far as he could throw him.

Especially around Celes.

Locke sighed and took a step forward.

Something flickered at the edge of his vision. He whirled around and drew his sword in one easy motion.

A sand-colored lizard, no longer than his finger, crawled from its hiding place in the wall and scuttled past him.

Locke let out his breath and sheathed his sword. False alarm.

Might as well have a look around. They’d gotten out of here so fast he hadn’t had a chance to really check it out. He took another step.

There was one of those jars like the one he’d shown Celes lying on the floor by the lizard’s hole, but this one was in a whole lot better condition.

He reached down, but for some reason he just didn’t feel like picking it up.

A grinding sound from below made him straighten up fast.

Locke spun around. Had that thing that’d grabbed him before found another way in? Gee, what a shame about poor Ghaleon...

“Ah, hell,” Locke muttered. He’d said it himself. Celes, or maybe Edgar, would have his hide if he let anything happen to that arrogant SOB.

He ran back down the stairs.

Ghaleon was nowhere to be seen.

“Hey!” Locke called out.

The response was oddly muffled. “You can be of some use now, Mr. Cole.”

Hmph. Damn straight he could be of some use. He was the one who’d got them down there in the first place. “Where are you, anyway?”

“Perhaps if you would pay more attention, you would see something that, as the saying goes, is right in front of your nose.”

“Huh?” Locke looked around. He didn’t see any door. Not in the wall...

He barely missed falling right into the wide open trap door directly in front of his feet. Now he could see the dim light from Ghaleon’s oil lamp.

He vaulted into the opening.

Not only was landing hard on the legs, it also managed to kick up a cloud of dust and sand. Locke coughed again.

“There was a ladder,” Ghaleon said.

Locke ignored him and brushed the sand off his clothes. “So, what have you found?”

“A door.” Ghaleon pointed at the wall. “which, unfortunately, resists my best attempts to open it.”

The door was made of the same stone as the surrounding wall, but its outline was clearly visible - probably because Ghaleon had managed to push it in a little. Now it was apparently stuck.

Locke stood his ground. He’d be damned if he was gonna do all the work. It was about time Ghaleon found out that he couldn’t push Locke Cole around. Hell, the wimp couldn’t even push this crummy door open.

Yeah. Better to just let him stew for a while. Served him right. Unless...

“You gonna tell me what you think’s on the other side?” Locke asked.

“Open the door, Mr. Cole.”

“Not until you tell me what you think we’re gonna find.”

“I have already found much, and what lies beyond this obstacle will, I believe, confirm my suspicions.” Ghaleon raised his lamp to the door, revealing a series of intricate carvings.

“That doesn’t answer my question.” Locke leaned against the door. “Now if there’s nothin’ wrong with what you’re doing, you’ll just tell me.”

“If what I suspect is true,” Ghaleon said, twisting his mouth into the slightest of smiles, “this information will make us very wealthy indeed.”

“Still not an answer.” Wealthy indeed, huh? Ghaleon seemed pretty well off already, so when he said that he must mean it. “I am looking for a book,” Ghaleon said after a long pause. He brushed the dirt off of one of the inscriptions. “Or perhaps many books. Books describing the ancient civilizations of our world. Books that would include the locations of cities, of famed treasures, of citadels of military strength, of bastions of learning - everything one such as myself, or yourself, could want.”

Locke started to bark out a snide comment, then reconsidered. It did sound pretty damn enticing. “Maps, directions, everything?”

“All that and more, Mr. Cole. Combinations to locks, descriptions of the booby traps placed in such locations by the ancients... and, of course, such information as might prove helpful if one is interested in selling what one finds.”

“That’s why you came to Figaro, isn’t it?” Locke folded his arms across his chest. “The musician bit’s just a cover.”

“Indeed. I’m sure you of all people can understand why I would keep the knowledge of such treasure to myself. The ancient peoples of our world had many things of value. Things that would be of rather greater value to, say, a monarch.” Ghaleon smiled.

Locke found himself grinning as well. He hated this puffed-up jerk, but he sure as hell liked his way of thinking when it came to treasure. Come to think of it, this just might be the thing to prove to Celes that he wasn’t completely useless.

Oh, yeah. He could see it now. He’d be able to make a real difference with all this stuff - and what a scene it’d be, the world famous treasure hunter turning over all his wealth to the service of humanity. That’d pay back any debt either he or Celes owed, and more. He wouldn’t be a fifth wheel anymore, and she’d cut out the workaholic act, and...

And it wasn’t like he was gonna keep it - Edgar’d be able to dole it out how it was needed... just not right away. No problem with that.

Locke Cole, philanthropist. He liked the sound of that, even if it was a little long-winded.

Even if he had to work with Ghaleon to make it happen. “OK, so why tell me?”

“Because it has become far more difficult to hide the truth from you than the benefit I would receive from doing so warrants. And frankly, Mr. Cole, I have no worries that anyone other than myself could possibly retrieve the treasure. You see, I may be the last man alive who can read this script.” Ghaleon ran his hand along the carved door. “I have spent years of laborious study familiarizing myself with it.”

“So how’re you gonna use what you find out?” Locke nodded at the door.

“In truth, once I had ascertained its locations, I had intended to hire someone else to recover further treasure for me. But perhaps...” Ghaleon’s red eyes bored into Locke’s own.

Locke shifted uncomfortably. “What?”

“Yes, yes indeed. I think perhaps this might work out quite nicely.” Ghaleon’s mouth turned up in what, Locke supposed, passed for a smile. “Mr. Cole, I propose that you and I enter into a partnership that will benefit us both.”

“Partners?” Locke shook his head. “No way in hell, pal. You’re lucky I brought you down here at all.”

“Very well. There will always be those whose ambition or greed will surpass their caution. Less than ideal allies, to be sure, but useful nonetheless.” Ghaleon looked back to the stuck door. “I suppose then that your personal dislike of me is such that you will not aid me in opening this portal?”

“Well...” Locke didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of giving in, but, what the hell...

This was just the sort of thing he needed, really. A real treasure hunt, not just poking around in the nearest convenient ruins, bringing back half-busted pottery and kitchen knives.

With the kind of stuff Ghaleon was talking about, maybe he really could make some kind of a difference.

Ghaleon began to walk back toward the ladder. “I shall have to find another way.”

“Hey, wait up! I’m still not too keen on the partners thing, but I’ll get this baby open.” Locke leaned against the door and shoved, hard. The thick sandstone began to grind against the walls. Locke strained against it, and it fell, with him on top of it.

Ghaleon stepped over him and into the room.

And what a room it was. It was made of the same sandstone material as the rest of the structure, covered with the same weird writing - and so full of stuff that Locke thought he was probably dreaming.

There were scrolls and books everywhere, whole shelves of them like in Figaro Castle’s library. There were sculptures of marble, sandstone and bronze, ranging from tiny figurines Locke could have held in one hand to a single large bronze than stood half again as tall as he did. Most of all, there were lots of big grey boxes made out of some material Locke sure as hell hadn’t ever seen before, that seemed to be pretty much everywhere there wasn’t something else.

And there was gold.

Lots of it. There were gold statues, gold bookends, gold coins, gold stuff Locke couldn’t even classify.

Ghaleon, of course, went straight to the books.

“You are certain you would not like to reconsider, Mr. Cole?” he asked. He took one of the books down, a big thick one, and opened it on a nearby table.

“Uh...”

“Of course, I understand. You must see this sort of thing all the time.” Ghaleon flipped about halfway through the book and scanned a page.

“Uh...” Locke swallowed hard and blinked.

Ghaleon closed the book and nodded. He had a satisfied expression on his face that was almost a good old fashioned grin - though not quite. “Then again, perhaps you would be interested in more finds such as this?”

“Uh,” Locke said. And he meant it.