The moon was new and the vault of heaven was ablaze in white, the constellations of early summer shown clear and bright in the black dome of space. It was too cold to sleep out under the sky yet, so Jeb and Ydar sat by the fire of near their cave mouth; the herd had been rounded up and penned inside the corral for the evening. Ydar was more at ease now with dinner done. After a dinner of broiled trout, forest leeks, and bannock bread they sat contentedly by the fire. Jeb threw some dry pine on the coals and it flamed brightly, sending snaps of embers up into the sky. Ydar told Jeb about the find, but not about the bodies. He was afraid that Jeb might make him close the cave up, mark it with a glyph of dread, and they would have to leave this valley and the whole tribe would have to move. So he told him about the stairs and the doors and the glyphs he had found on its face but not about the bodies. Ydar knew the stories about the plague, but figured that since he was not dead already, it had gone. Jeb would overreact and he did not want that to happen. He traced the glyphs he remembered from the first door in the sand by the fire.
“Are you sure that this one is traced right? Jeb asked, tracing the glyphs again with his stick. “It looks like “horse bags” or something like that.”
“It can’t mean that,” Ydar said, almost laughing, “Who would keep a room full of horse bags?”
“Well maybe this is a whole room full of horse bags, remember the papers the seeress had. You know that sometimes these caves are full of crazy stuff.”
“OK maybe that is what is behind the door, but, what about these other glyphs?” Ydar drew the other signs he remembered from the door.
“I do not think you should go back into that cave alone, maybe we should go and get a group and explore it properly.” Jeb said, “Knut has experience in caving and salvage. Remember all those axles and steel he found last year. We built four more wagons out of them, and those tires peeled nicely to wrap around the rims,” he said poking the stick into the fire to stir it up some.
“Are you kidding? Knut picks at every hill and hummock in the plains, and never leaves the plains. And if he helps then we have to split up whatever we find with everyone who comes with us. It is enough that we have to give over a share to the tribe.” Ydar said frustrated, that Jeb always took a more “tribal” position on matters where personal profit could be found.
“Hey! You know that we are the tribe and the tribe is us. So when the tribe gets its share we get ours too. Don’t start thinking like a pirate or outlaw. Remember, ‘It is madness to live like a wolf in the woods.’ Jeb said trying to keep his voice down and not act like an older brother.
“Jeb, you sit too much at the seeress’ fire. I don’t want to live like a wolf, or a pirate in the barrens. But I don’t want old Knut trailing behind us when we find a horde and then have to listen all winter to his songs about how we asked him for his wisdom and caving skill to walk down a staircase to a room full of treasure.” Ydar said.
“Or horse bags” Jeb said comically in an attempt to break the tension. They both laughed at the thought of a room full of horse bags.
Jeb turned serious, “Well we need to find out what these other glyphs mean. It could be really bad for everyone if we ran into the plague, or worse,” Jeb was taking the tone of the older brother now. “We should head back with what you have seen and talk to the elders.”
“Great; we come back early with the herd, and then try to keep something like this quiet? You know the saying,” Three people can keep a secret if two are dead” Ydar felt good at throwing an old saying at Jeb for a change.
“You can’t go back in there until we know more about what these glyphs mean. We should head back to camp tomorrow,” Jeb said sternly.
Ydar was worried now because if Jeb continued along this line of thought there would be no way to change his mind.
“Wait,” he said,”how about you go back and consult the seeress alone, and I will stay here and watch the herd till you get back. What’s three more days for a find like this anyway? If the seeress thinks that it is safe enough, then we can explore it together, and if she thinks that it is dangerous you can bring the whole warrior levy down here with you and we can seal the cave. Either way we can keep the whole thing quiet until she can see the runes.”
Jeb thought about this, “And you won’t explore the cave along while I am gone?”
“I want to, but I can wait. Just hurry back OK, I want to get back down there and see what we have. Maybe it is full of gold.”
“OK Let me get some skins and you can draw the glyphs on it that you remember from the door.” Jeb said as he went to their packs. Ydar noticed that Jeb seemed happier now. He had told him about the door but not the fact that the stairs continued on down past it to who knows what. He got to work redrawing the glyphs he remembered from the door onto the thin parchment skin.