The bird had dug its claws deep into Indy’s skin. He could feel it burn and tear with every flap of the giant owl’s wings. But if there was one thing he actually was good at, it was the ability to bite his lip and move passed the pain. After a short flight, the bird swooped lower, circled and then released its hold. He let out another scream as he plummeted, but the fall itself only lasted a few seconds before he walloped the ground and got a mouthful of dirt.
Then he laid there, groaning and mentally kicking himself for not being better prepared for this particular kind of guardian. Of course, it was an owl. And it was his guess that the thing probably talked, and had its own unique little riddles it would try to spit at him. Instead, the bird landed on a perch not far from him. The darkness was thick like a blanket and nearly impenetrable. He’d managed to keep his grip on the coin and still clutched it in his hand as he pushed himself up. It let off a steady glow, but it only gave him a few feet of vision on every side. The bird’s eyes peered at him through the darkness.
“I know you probably don’t understand me,” he said as he coughed up dirt and pulled up one of his pant legs to see how deep the beast’s claws had sunk into his skin. He was bleeding, but he didn’t think it was life threatening. “And honestly, I feel like an ass just talking to a bird in the first place. But it’s not every day you meet a bird with a wingspan bigger than your house.”
The bird blinked back, looking like it neither understood nor cared what he had to say. He sighed heavily and looked through his packs to see what was damaged and what he could still use if the thing tried to attack him.
“You know, I thought I was good with the whole language thing,” he said. “But apparently I wasn’t paying much attention. I can ask you where the bathroom is, but I don’t think I’ll need that just yet.” He looked back at the bird and sighed heavily. “I’m just going to keep talking in the hopes that something makes sense, and you can point me in the right direction, or we can work up a deal or something. My name is Indy. I’m here for Athena. There’s some weird…”
“Athena,” the bird said. His voice halted. He really wasn’t prepared for this because the sound of birds speaking made him want to run in the other direction.
“Right,” he confirmed. “Athena. Your master. Or whatever. There’s some weird shit going on in the outside world. Monsters. Things are waking up. People are going missing. The CORE, we don’t know how else to stop it. Your guys? Your people? They gave us these coins so we could locate them if we ever needed help.” He tossed the coin into the dirt at his feet. The bird blinked at it. It’s head clearly cocked to the side in curiosity.
“Waking,” the bird said. “Monsters. Help.” He nodded.
“Right. We need help. We know the gods did all this.” He gestured to the darkness around them. The air was cold and still, but he could almost feel how far the chasm stretched. “We know they did this to protect us. Humans? Like me? But if we don’t find out whose waking these monsters and put a stop to it, the whole world will come apart. That’s their job, right? To protect the world?”
“Waking. The. Gods?”
“Are you asking me a question? It’s really hard to understand you. I’ve never spoken to an animal before. I mean, I think I met a harpy once, but I was never quite sure and I don’t think that counts.” The bird just blinked back. He sighed again and rubbed his hands over his face, spreading more dirt over his skin. “We’re getting nowhere with this language barrier thing.”
“Athena,” the bird said. Then it hopped down from its perched and slammed it’s beak into the ground several times. But instead of meeting with dirt, he heard the unmistakable sound of metal. The strikes made a hollow metallic sound that echoed through the cavern for a long time before going silent. The bird stepped back, cocked its head to the side, and blinked. “Waking,” it said.
“Good bird,” Indy said as he jumped to his feet. He limped to where the bird had slammed its beak, using the coin for light. Dirt and debris had taken over the metal platform, but he could just make out the ridges of an inscription. He moved his fingers over the soil in an attempt to wipe it away. The rims made out those strange words that no human had ever understood. The language of the gods. And then he came across a low nook where something small and round could easily slide into place.
“The coin,” he said, running his thumb over the glowing metal in his hand. “The coin is what opens it. Am I right?” He looked up at the bird, who was watching him with curiosity.
“Right. Waking,” the bird said. He couldn’t help but smile.
“You’re not so bad,” he decided.
Then he stuck the coin into the slot and moved back. It did nothing at first. But then it shifted. Metal clicked into place as the coin slipped down into the groove. The glow grew brighter until it filled all the ridges on the platform. It moved out from the center like a life force. Then all the strange letters were illuminated. The bird was more visible now. And even though it was ten times the size of a typical owl, it didn’t look as frightening in the light.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Indy said as he stood onto his feet and put his hands on his hips. “You know for a second there, I actually thought I didn’t have a handle on this situation.”
He couldn’t continue that thought. The platform below him clicked and shifted once before releasing. The next thing he knew he was falling down into the darkness. He barely had enough time to scream before he heard the bird speak again from above.
"Bad. Handle," it said. Then it, and the light, faded away.
I think I'm going to update this on Saturdays. If I can manage to keep to my update schedule. I literally just wrote this like 20 minutes ago. So I apologize if it's weird. I'm going to devote (hardy har) Saturdays to just this story. So hopefully, I'll have more time to work out kinks and weird patterns before posting them. Might edit or rewrite these first few chapters before the next update.