The entrance to the ancient tomb didn't look like anything special. Monty took off his aviator shades, stowing them in the pocket of his Hawaiian shirt. He sighed, disappointed. Even though the map had been right, he'd expected a large Chinese palace, or some grand temple. An at best archaic rock entryway in the middle of the jungle in Guizhou was not interesting in the least. He turned to his assistant and asked, "You're sure this is the place Nene? There's a lot less gold than I imagined."
The assistant was clad in bandages head to toe, concealing her body which should have been in extreme stages of decay. She moved with very living grace though as she brought out the old parchment chart. "I can not read Chinese, my king. If you say this is where the map leads, then I am inclined to believe you. Once more, I would also ask that you address me as 'Nenet.'"
"And I told you not to call me king. I'm not even a College Professor. At best I'm a cheeky rapscallion."
"You are a thief of treasures."
"I prefer the term 'Collector,' please. Speaking of, why is there no gold on what should be a fancy entrance to an ancient burial place?"
"Generally the valuables are placed inside the tomb, so the dead may enjoy them in the afterlife."
Monty nodded along with her excellent reasoning. After all, he'd found her in a tomb thirty miles from the banks of the Nile. It didn't mean he was going to let her show him up.
"In Egypt, the pyramids are topped with gold. Your own tomb was clad in precious metals." He retorted.
The bandages on her face loosened, drawing more attention to her warm coppery eyes. "Egypt is as rich in death as it is in life. Here is only rich in life, it would seem."
"Well then, let's follow the traditions of Egypt, and be rich!" Monty quipped back, and started marching into the ancient burial house. Nenet accompanied him down the long stairway into the crypt, her eyes beginning to glow softly as the passageway down grew darker and darker. Feeling along the wall, Monty's hand ran into a small empty space in the wall. Feeling around, his hand enclosed around a wax candle. After a little fumbling in his pocket, he picked out a small matchbook, and lit one of the matches. It gave just enough light for him to illuminate the candle sitting in the wall socket.
With a grin, he blew out the match and turned to Nenet, holding out his hand expectantly. Without a words, as if she'd been expecting it, she placed in his palm a small bundle of bandages, which seemed to extend out of her wrappings with a life of their own. He deftly wrapped them around the candle so he wouldn't burn his hand on the wax as it dripped, and picked up the candle to carry along with them as a makeshift torch.
When they reached the bottom of the long stairway, the air thinned out and became more stale. Even without the candlelight, Monty could easily tell that they had entered a much larger room. He walked forward, sweeping the candle slowly back and forth, careful not to let it blow out as he did. "Found it!" he exclaimed, running off to a corner of the room.
"I do not think that is the main tomb," Nenet said as she followed him to whatever he'd seen.
"Not the main tomb, but this pottery..." Monty said, the excitement thick in his voice. "This pottery is late ninth, maybe early tenth century. This has gotta be worth a good penny."
"I think it would not be worth as much as the riches of a ninth century tang noble, would it?" Nenet responded, pushing Monty back towards their original goals. Monty jumped up, easily convinced.
"When we get there, you can make those bandages into a backpack, or something to carry treasure, right? We can only bring out what we can carry, you know," Monty said, making small talk.
"That is a shame for you then, my king. My body is frail. I could not hold a cup of gold."
Monty walked backwards a few steps to look her in the eyes as she followed him, and he was met with a clever smirk. "Do you mean a golden drinking cup, or sixteen tablespoons of pure gold?" Monty quipped, while at the same time attempting to figure the value of a cup of gold.
"Whichever is lighter, my king." She returned.
"Alright then, you make the sack, and I'll carry-" Monty trailed off, realizing that his candle had extinguished. By the lack of smoke, his candle had actually gone out more than a minute ago, and yet they'd still been walking in candlelight. No, even brighter than candlelight. Something was fishy. Tombs more than a millennia old did not tend to be well lit.
Monty carefully observed the room they were in, tipping his stetson out of the way so he could take in more. At the back of the room was the first actually ornate door they'd seen, presumably the entrance to the actual burial chamber. As he listened, a light trickle of water indicated that an underground well flowed into the room they were standing in, likely obscured by one of the six wide pillars that held up the chamber's ceiling.
Suddenly behind him Nenet shrieked, one of the most blood curdling noises that had ever struck his ears. Before he could piss himself a length of flaming cloth whipped out from behind him. He twisted around to find that Nenet was simply trying to move the fire as far away from her body as possible. Without thinking, he tore the length of bandage away from the rest of her wrappings, and it fell to the floor limply, rapidly burning to ashes. Nenet stared at the burning cloth, her chest heaving with heavy breath.
Such a fright was the most lively he had ever seen her. In her haste, she didn't have time to grow the bandage like she always seemed to, and so had simply cast away a significant portion of what had been covering her curves. She wasn't calming down at all. "My King, we must leave here. I do not know where from that fire came, and I do not wish to find more."
Before he could respond, Monty heard a light tap behind him, and Nenet's copper eyes grew wide with fright. By reflex monty whipped out his revolver and fired a shot into the room behind him. The scuff of feet landing on the floor further back told him it had worked. He whipped back to find himself face to face with a short girl in a bright red Qipao. He hadn't hit, but his shot had forced her to avoid it rather than attack him. She stood ready in a combat stance with her burning fists raised.
Not only were her fists burning, but her eyes were a brilliant gold, and from her tail snaked a mouse's tail, which ended in a candle's flame. She seemed to study him, keeping her fists raised and shifting her feet in the standoff while he kept her at bay with his revolver pointed squarely at her chest. Nenet hung rather distractingly pressed against his back.
"It seems we're at an impasse!" Monty taunted, "I want to take the gold in this tomb, and you don't want me to take the gold in this tomb. So I'll cut you a deal, torch. You step aside, and I'll take the gold in this tomb without shooting you!"
"My family has guarded this tomb for-" The little mousey girl started.
"Thirty five or so generations? Sorry you have to let down the family business." Monty said, cutting her off.
"I'm supposed to guard-"
"Yadda yadda thousand generations of bad luck, et cetera." Monty sarcastically input once more. "Now let me in or I'll shoot."
The mouse girl puffed out her cheeks in a childish pout. Monty was certain that it was probably something about him being disrespectful, but he figured he got a pass since he didn't grow up in ancient china.
"For intruders, it is just death." She corrected, punching into the air in front of her. To Monty's surprise, and Nenet's horror, a small burst of flame shot from the fist straight towards them. A terrified Nenet jerked the pair of them out of the way, the sudden movement causing Monty to lose his grip on his revolver. To his relief, he managed to keep a hold on his stetson.
Monty eyed his gun, feeling significantly less confident without it. About to reach for it, he was pulled away from another fireball by Nenet. The flame burst on the pillar behind them, causing the room to shake slightly, and dust to fall from the ceiling.
Monty couldn't keep his balance that time, and they ended up sprawled on the floor. As his mind played through possible ways to get the burning mouse girl into that fountain he'd heard, he spotted something else in the room that had been hidden by the pillars. Along the walls were arrayed dozens of primitive fireworks. All shapes and sizes of ancient explosives lined up on the walls or otherwise placed in various large vases.
Feeling a heat on the back of his neck, he rolled over to see the mouse girl standing over him, ready to deliver the finishing blow. Without any further thought, he grabbed her leg and pulled it out from under her. As she fell she punched again, and what was intended for him shot for the wall of the room. It burst on a vase full of explosives on sticks.
"Hawwaaaah!?" Exclaimed the mouse girl as she fell, watching the fireworks light. Taking her distraction as his opportunity, Monty picked up Nenet and started pushing her. She was all to happy to start running out of the room on her own though. They ran back through the tomb hearing the sharp whiz of one of the fireworks shoot off echoing through the tomb.
It wasn't long before they were back in the room leading to the staircase. As they started up the stairs, Nenet threw away any shame she might have had, and using the rest of the wrappings covering her body, she launched ropes of cloth to the light at the top of the stairway.
Monty held on to her tight as she reeled in the strips of bandage, shooting them up the stairway like a slingshot. The fire behind them, rather than blasting out through the tomb, burst up, blasting the ground up in a tremendous bubble of earth. As it did, streams of colored fire shot up into the darkening dusk, bursting into incredible scenes of color and light in the sky.
As they stared at its beauty, a naked Nenet questioned, "Why do they keep fireworks in a tomb?" Without looking away from the enchantingly exploding sky, Monty answered "Scares off evil..." There was a short pause, and an exchanged glance, followed by them both breaking out in laughter.
"You truly are evil, My King." Nenet said between giggling breaths. Shortly after the fireworks died down, so did their laughter. As they prepared to leave the scene of the tomb, a very angry and very soot covered mousey girl crawled up from the staircase.
"You have destroyed the tomb my family has-" She started to accuse Monty.
"Yep. Looks like you're out of a job. So, since the family business didn't work out, I'm Monty North, treasure hunter extraordinaire. Some of these crypts get awfully dark! Whaddya say, torch?"
The mousey girl stared, slack jawed at him for quite some time. "Are you offering me to rob graves?"
"I'll rob graves. You light them and chastise me." Monty returned.
"I'll have to think about it..."