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Authors: Elizabeth Rose

Curse of the Condor

 

Curse of the Condor

 

By

 

Elizabeth Rose

 

Copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarities to actual organizations or persons living or deceased is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever without the author’s written permission.

 

Cover by Elizabeth Rose Krejcik

Cove
r images provided by Shutterstock and Dreamstime.

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(Short stories)

 

The Caretaker of Showman’s Hill
(vampire)

Curse of the Condor
(jungle)

Familiar
(warlock/shapeshifting)

Dangerous Men Boxed Set

 

Elizabeth’s author page

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Author’s Note:

 

This story was inspired by a trip I took with my husband years ago to Peru. Visiting the jungles of Iquitos, and meeting and trading with the Yagua tribe is something I will never forget. I hope you enjoy the journey you are about to take.

 

Elizabeth Rose

 

Prologue

 

 

Ten year old Conrado Nievez surveyed the hidden cave in the midst of the Peruvian jungles. His parents warned him to stay back as they ripped away the vines that concealed the entrance - a small opening in the rocks, an etching of a condor on the flat slab that marked its resting space.

“This is the
Cave of the Condor
,” his mother announced, running her hand over the etching and strange symbols on the rocks around it. “These are the markings, I’m sure of it. It’s said to hold artifacts from a civilization so ancient, no one even knows who they were. The treasures inside are worth millions, the prized piece supposedly an ancient crystal condor. Archeologists and explorers have searched for this hidden place for nearly a century. It was all said to be a myth, but now I know it is true.”

The excitement in her voice was something Conrado hadn’t heard since he was a small child and she’d found clay pots and artifacts on one of their trips to the Yucatan. Treasures that were said to belong to the Mayans. But the excitement in her voice now surpassed even that.

“Catherine, sweetheart,” came his father’s deep voice from beside him. “These natives say this cave is cursed. No one has ever entered and lived to tell about it afterward.”

A half dozen native men of the village put down the boxes of supplies they carried and shouted out warnings in Spanish. Two missionaries dressed in white robes with huge wooden crosses around their necks made up the rest of their little entourage.

“The prophecy,” shouted one of the natives.

“What prophecy?” questioned Conrado’s father, Tobias.

“A boy sent by the condor will come to save the jungle people. The Jivaro.”

“The Jivaro? Really?” commented Conrado’s father. “Well, I’ll have to ask them about this so-called prophecy once we reach their camp.”

“We will not go into Jivaro territory,” shouted out another. “This is as far as we go. The Jivaro are head hunters. They will kill us all!”

“No,” said Tobias. “They will not kill us. Once the Jivaro see we’re bringing them medicine to cure their deadly sickness, they will welcome us with open arms. I can speak their language. I am a missionary. They will listen to me.”

“Father,” said Conrado. “Maybe we should turn around and go home.”

“Tobias,” interrupted his mother. “I have to look inside the cave. This is such a find.”

“But they say the cave is cursed,” he reminded her.

“That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe in curses. I want to hold the crystal condor in my hands and bring it back to the museums. This means so much to me. Please.”

Conrado’s mother had once been an archeologist from the States. She’d given up her profession when she married Conrado’s Peruvian father, Tobias. But just like their little vacation in the Yucatan, his mother always seemed to somehow find another treasure.

She’d called Conrado her little treasure when he was born, but he knew she still longed for the adventures she’d once known.

Tobias had convinced her to give up her dream and join him in his mission work bringing religion, medical supplies, and hope to the suffering tribes of the jungle. Tobias’s life goal had been to start up a colonization program with the vicious tribe called the Jivaro who lived a secluded life deep in the heart of the jungle. He thought by bringing medicine to help them, this would be the first step to bridge that gap.

Conrado thought this no safer than his mother’s chosen career. All he ever wanted was a normal family whose idea of family outings were a trip to the ocean for the day.

“Mother,” said Conrado, feeling a dark shadow hanging over them ever since they’d set out on this mission. “Let’s go home.”

His mother stopped her exploration and returned to her son. Taking him in her arms, she kissed him gently on the head. Conrado had the feeling she was saying goodbye forever.

“This is something I have to do, sweetheart. I’ve searched for this my entire life. Now that I’ve accidentally stumbled upon such a find, I can’t ignore it.”

He knew how important this was to his mother. He also knew how important it was to his father and two missionaries, Prospero and Lucio, that they continue on their way to try to find the Jivaro.

He was only a child, still, deep in his gut he knew both their missions were trouble. He wanted to go back home. He wanted nothing to do with treasures, and definitely nothing to do with the Jivaro. But his father was determined to help cure the tribe from a deadly disease that had been spreading throughout the jungle. He had helped other tribes, but word amongst them was that the Jivaro needed help the most.

Prospero, the eldest of the missionaries, walked up behind him and rested his hands on Conrado’s shoulders. Conrado felt a weight put upon him that day that was to stay with him for years to come.

“You go ahead, Prospero said to Conrado’s father. You go with your wife to protect her in the cave. I will look after your son.”

There were rocks blocking the entrance, and Conrado’s father ordered the native men of the village to help move them. They did as told, but not a one of them would venture inside. He heard them tell his father in Spanish that they would not stay and watch them die. They believed the cave to be cursed, and Conrado had no doubt in his mind it was true.

“I’m going inside,” announced his mother, lowering to her knees.

“But Mother, what about the curse?” asked Conrado.

“I don’t believe in curses, son.”

“But the natives do.”

“The natives are superstitious. I am not.”

She crawled into the small opening and disappeared. 

Just then, a huge condor landed atop the rock that marked the entrance, and the native men screamed and ran in horror. They quickly dumped the boxes of supplies and medicines, disappearing into the dense jungle.

“No. Mother, come back!” Conrado shouted, but the missionary named Prospero only held him tighter.

“I don’t think we should do this,” said the young Peruvian missionary named Lucio. He clutched his wooden cross in his hand and prayed fervently.

“I don’t like this either,” replied Conrado’s father, eyeing the condor. “This is a bad omen. I’m going to go get her.”

“Father, no!” screamed Conrado, but it was too late. His father, too, disappeared from sight. The condor sat atop the rock, bending his long neck and hunching over, looking like the bird of death Conrado knew it to be. A shiver ran up his spine.

When his parents didn’t emerge after a few minutes, Conrado felt that stinging sensation in his gut again. Something was wrong. Very wrong indeed.

Lucio prayed louder, and Prospero ordered the man to go in after their missionary brother.

“B-but it’s not safe,” Lucio stammered. “We should go for help.”

“We’re too far into the jungle to ever find our way back without our guides,” said Prospero. “We could be lost forever if we don’t have Tobias to guide us out of here.”

“Then you go for Catherine and Tobias,” Lucio suggested, but Prospero just shook his dark head.

“I promised the boy’s father I’d look after him. As a man of the cloth, I will not break my word.”

“Of course. I understand.” Lucio blessed himself and disappeared into the cave just like the ones before him.

Just then, the earth rumbled. The sky above darkened to that almost of night. The cold drops of rain hit Conrado on the face and slid inside his shirt. Lightning flashed through the trees above them, but still the condor sitting atop the cave did not move.

Lucio appeared then from the mouth of the cave, holding something high above his head.

“They found it! They’ve found the ancient treasure,” he cried. “It is truly amazing.”

He held up a ruby the size of his hand, and Prospero ran forward to meet him. He reached up for the stone, but as he did, the condor squawked out a warning and a bolt of lightning hit the gem, shattering it to pieces. Prospero pulled his hand away, but not before being burned badly.

Lucio dropped to the ground in a slump, his eyes bugging out, his body stiff. Prospero fell to his knees, his arm twisting in agony, his body shaking from the voltage. Still, the man did nothing to see to his friend. Instead, he used his good hand to grab a piece of the shattered ruby, slipping it into the pocket of his long robe.

“This cave is truly cursed,” screamed Prospero, pushing from the ground and running through the rain forest, holding his wounded hand. The rain sliced down, beating against Conrado’s chest like a thousand spears. He walked slowly over to Lucio, reaching out a hand to touch his neck to check for a pulse, the way his father had taught him. No life ran through his veins. The man was dead. Conrado was alone.

A feeling of being watched caused him to slowly raise his head. His eyes met those of the Andean condor guarding over the cave. Its beady, dark eyes bore into him, its bald white head a stark contrast against the huge black body.

Fear coursed through his body, and he found himself unable to move. Then he heard the scream of his mother from inside the cave, and his heart beat against his ribs. He had to save his parents from this terrible curse. He had to help them escape before it was too late.

Without thinking of his own safety, he ran to the cave and crawled through the small opening. Darkness surrounded him as well as an eerie feeling of despair. Then his eyes focused, and he saw from up ahead the slight light of the kerosene lantern used by his parents. He heard his mother sobbing, and headed quickly toward her cries.

In the firelight, he could see the riches in piles all around him. Gold pots and urns, as well as diamonds and rubies the size of grapefruits. Life-size statues lined the walls, and shining jewelry lay in open vessels atop rock ledges. He stood in awe for a moment, until he realized his mother’s tears were not of joy.

That’s when he saw him. His father lay prone on the ground, his mother swishing the lantern back and forth, trying to scare off the snake that slithered over his lifeless body. Conrado rushed forward, but his mother stopped him.

“Conrado, no!” she cried. “Do not go near him until the snake is gone. I believe it’s poisonous. Your father isn’t moving.”

“It’s the curse, Mother,” Conrado told her, seeing the look of horror upon his father’s face, his eyes opened wide. “The curse of the condor. Lucio is dead and now so is father. We will be next, won’t we?”

The snake slithered off the man’s neck and out of sight. Both Conrado and his mother rushed over to Tobias. Conrado could see by the look in his mother’s eyes that her assumption was true. His father had died needlessly. If only they had never entered.

“It’s all my fault,” sobbed his mother. “I never should have come after the treasure.”

The earth rumbled above them, and the cave shook with the storm outside. His mother got to her feet and grabbed Conrado’s hand before he even had a chance to react.

“We need to get out of here fast,” she cried. She took a step forward, but then the lantern illuminated the crystal condor sitting upon a rock altar. It was a beautiful sight. The flicker of the lantern lit up the piece, making it glow. Conrado could feel a force he hadn’t before. Almost as if the crystal condor called them toward it.

He heard his mother gasp, and then her mumble, “It’s true. I’ve found it. It really does exist.”

She let go of Conrado’s hand and wrapped his fingers around the handle of the lantern. With her eyes transfixed on the statue, she pulled the backpack from her shoulders, opening it as she walked toward the glowing piece.

“No, Mother. Don’t touch it. Let’s just get out of here, please.”

Why would she do it? Conrado asked himself. He didn’t understand a passion so strong that a person would not only put their life at stake, but not even take the time to mourn the death of a loved one.

He watched her reach out for the crystal condor. At the same time a flash of lightning from the entrance illuminated a vision of the condor before his eyes. The earth rumbled once again, and this time rocks fell from the ceiling of the cave, crashing down around them.

“Run!” shouted his mother, but she did nothing to save herself. Conrado tried to move toward her, but the ground shook, knocking him to the floor. The lantern slipped from his hand and broke. He looked up to see his mother laying on the ground, her head bleeding from the large rock that fell atop her. The crystal condor still clutched in her hands, her eyes stared open and empty just like the eyes of both Lucio and his father.

Conrado felt the urge to retch, and probably would have if he hadn’t laid eyes on the crystal condor. He had a sudden desire to touch the piece, and before he could help himself, he’d picked up the artifact. The crystal vibrated in his hands, and a surge ran through him. Scenes of his life flashed before his eyes, and then the vision of the condor sitting atop the cave. He heard a voice in his head, and swore it was the condor talking to him. It told him to put the piece back on the altar.

He did as instructed. A gust of wind from the entrance swept in, spreading the fire over some spilled kerosene. The place went up in flames, and Conrado coughed from the amount of smoke he’d suddenly inhaled. Then he heard the voice in his head again, telling him to drop to his knees. He did just that, finding a bit of air that still existed inside the cave. In the midst of the fire, he watched in horror as his parents’ clothing caught aflame and burned. He hurried over the hard earth, wanting nothing more than to be away from here, and somehow he miraculously found the exit. The rain pelted down in torrents around him as he left the cave, coughing, choking on smoke, trying to clear his lungs. He wept uncontrollably at what he’d just witnessed.

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