There they were, suspended over maybe a thousand feet or more of wide open space, swaying gently back and forth while everything, including the Ark, fell into the pit below them with a thunderous roar. The sharp, cruel jerk of their towline caused Sydney to release the most horrible wail Nigel had ever heard, and swinging like a pendulum he clutched onto her for dear life, almost afraid to open his eyes for fear of what he might see. He hated heights, and this was over doing it, just a little...
"Sydney... are, are you alright?" His jittery English accent bounced off the frozen walls of ice mirrors and rock echoing from every direction.
She didnít answer him at first, trying to assess the damage for herself. Having been tangled in the rope between Nigelís body and her own, it was pinching her around her waist and arm and both legs, but everything seemed to be okay. "I think so..." She peeked out from the security of Nigelís chest and almost threw up. "Weíre stuck."
He pressed his lips together making a smacking noise, his usual nervous response to situations like these. "Ah...yep." Nodding he looked up. "That we are..."
"God Nigel, what the hell happened to Aaron and the others?" Thoughts of the quaking had her believing that they could all very well be dead. She knew the rope had to be tied to something on the surface, but was unable to recall to what.
"Do you think we should try climbing out?" He asked, surveying the distance. "It canít be more than fifty feet at the most Syd."
She looked up. It was a hell of a climb, and tangled as she was in the ropes, shook her head. "I canít! One of the ropes has my legs pinned together. Unless we can get some slack, Iím not going to be able to move Nige..."
Before she could finish the both of them suddenly started to bob and jerk towards the top of the cavern. Exchanging overjoyed looks, they unanimously realised that they were saved and waited, gradually inching towards freedom. "Aaron!"
It took damn near an eternity before Nigel and Sydney finally reached the top. First Nigel, grappling the rocks and ice to pull himself over with two of Aaronís guides grabbing hold and lugging him the rest of the way, then Sydney appeared, shaken, but none the worse for wear.
"I thought we lost you..." Aaron started to say, and got down to help Sydney with her rigging. His less than enthusiastic demeanour went unnoticed by Nigel, but not Sydney, and puzzled, she caught Aaronís worried eye. Nigel was flat on his back, exhausted and oblivious, trying to catch what little breath he had left. "We couldnít come anywhere near the hole until we were sure the shaking had stopped." He went on to explain, and bent over, hugging her. "Weíve got company..."
"How very nice to see you again, Professor Fox! So, am I to understand that you found the Holy Ark?"
Omarís thick Arab accent sliced through Sydney like a dull knife, and she glanced over Aaronís shoulder to find not only the old man, but several of his soldiers with their guns trained on the relic hunters and their entourage.
Nigel became instantly alert, and true to form panicked, remembering the artifact he still had tucked just under his belt. He quickly pushed it further down with his fingers, an uncomfortable but necessary evil, cleverly hiding it beneath the front of his trousers, hoping to hell no one had seen it.
"So, tell me," Omar pushed Aaron out of the way and got down on his knee to speak to Sydney, "what did you see, and what did you bring back for me?"
Sydney had no way of knowing Nigel brought anything back, so when she shook her head denying the request, it was the truth. "The mountain started to fall apart, we had to run for our lives. Everythingís gone."
"Oh, I see...Well then, your lives will just have to do now, wonít they?" He said, and rose to his feet. "Take them back to their camp and await further orders."
Go to Part Twenty Eight.