The Idol Tongue

The Idol Tongue


            The fire from the torches cross-lit the first chamber of the temple. From that entry chamber the pair could see all the way through two more chambers into the inner sanctum, where glimmered the indistinct shape of a large golden idol.

            “You look lovely,” whispered Virgilio to the distant idol. “I can dance you straight out of this deserted city.” He crept forward. “I’ll show you what real worship is like.”

Esme’s arm across his chest barred his further advance.

“What?” he asked.

            “Something isn’t right,” she said.

            “Of course something isn’t right,” he said. “The city is empty and must be run by spirits. Who keeps these torches burning? I don’t know and I don’t care to find out. Let’s do what we came here to do and get out.”

            “The wind that pulls the torches this way and that…the warm humidity in the air…it’s…it’s bothering me.”

            “Which is why we snatch the idol and get out of this cursed place.” He tried moving forward but she insisted on holding him back, as if she were listening for something.

            “Suddenly you’re scared of spirits and curses? This is why they hire gypsies like us. You’ve been wearing that ink and those medallions since birth. Besides, the curse on our line is much too jealous to let another curse catch us. Come on.”

            “You think so? Why didn’t Rochelle come in here with his big team and rob this temple himself?”

            “I just told you why Rochelle hired us! We’re gypsies!”

            “He knew the layout of the city and could describe the temple to us. He’s been here before.”

            “So what!”

            “Why didn’t he snatch it himself?”

            “He’s fat and crippled!”

            “His team then?”

            “Because they’re scared!”

            “Even the slaves looked comfortable in Rochelle’s camp,” she said, referring to the small village of tents erected outside the entry tunnel to this underground city.

            “He’s rich.”

            “They look like they’ve been living there for a while.”

            “Must have taken some time to send for us.”

            “See, he sent for us!”

            “I’m going to bag the idol.” He shoved her arm out of the way. “You can stay where you are.”

            “Wait, Virgilio,” she hissed.

            “What use would you be anyways?” he hissed back.

            “Virgilio, I know I’m right. Come back!”

            He ignored her and strode into the temple. She retreated to the doorway and clung to it with labored breath.

            He unsheathed the blade with which he was to cut loose the idol from its base, as instructed by Aubrey, Rochelle’s head slave. Drawing abreast the idol, Virgilio tilted his head.

            “What is it?” Esme called.

            “It’s a wrathful deity wearing an ugly expression,” Virgilio called back. Then, as if struck by a notion, he spun and sprinted back toward Esme.

            He made it all the way through the chamber closest to the idol before the floor of the temple lurched so violently he was thrown off his feet. With a deafening groan the entire building tilted and kept tilting until the floors became vertical planes. Esme hung from the doorway, her legs dangling, screaming as she watched Virgilio slide down the floor despite his desperate attempts to cling to it. The golden idol uncoiled into a long lashing tongue-like tentacle that caught hold of Virgilio’s leg. Virgilio hung thrashing upside down above a gaping black pit that pulsed and contracted like a massive throat just behind the plinth that had housed the idol.

            “Esme run!” shouted Virgilio.

            She threw one leg up over the doorway and hauled herself onto the temple face, as much to avoid seeing Virgilio dropped into that throat as for any other reason. On hands and knees she scurried over the temple face and skittered down the temple ornamentation back to level ground where, screaming and crying, she flew through lanes and past buildings that she now understood as building-shaped scales aback a city-sized beast until a concussive force threw her off her feet and onto her side. She tasted blood. The arrow had pierced her chest quite near her heart. The pain was too sharp to allow her a full breath.

            She saw the approaching feet only moments before someone rolled her onto her back. Aubrey, Rochelle’s head slave, looked into her face. “Can’t be you tell the whole world now, love.” The last words she heard were, “Master wants that golden tongue cut and brought to light of day. We was hoping it were you two tricky thieves get it done. Just sorry it weren’t.”


James Moran


James Moran is a professional astrologer who regularly publishes articles, fiction, and poetry.

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