The Guardians of the Cataombs


I thought I had a solution and demonstrated by lowering myself carefully by my arms and resting my elbows on the edge of the sitting place.  This way I could reach down further with my legs and feet.

It seemed to work nicely and I was able to smartly tap one of the stones with the flat of both soles. To the elation of my companion, or companions, the stone instantly slid away into the darkness, taking another smooth, wide slab with it.

I was personally quite pleased at this early success, but less than overjoyed to see that the hole left by the stones was particularly dank, dark and uninviting.  I was evidently supposed to go down first – that much was blatantly clear – and the others had, indeed, silently fallen back, leaving an atmosphere of expectation in their wake. I headed forth without delay, without even reason as my guide.

I had half expected it to be a treacherous descent but when I jumped (for jumping was the only way down) I landed lightly, but wetly, on the floor of the catacombs, not very far beneath the hidden entrance that was embedded in the ceiling of the tunnel.  It was dark and muddy down there and – whilst I was thankful for my protective foot-covering – I was more than aware that the golden boots, apart from literally giving me the ability to make an entrance, were more than likely to attract attention which may have been unwanted.

So thought it best to disguise my beautiful boots by giving them a generous coating of mud and slime. Gifts such as this had a tendency to invite tremendous envy, which it was not my wont to stimulate.

Although it may have been a shame to forgo the degree of admiration the boots would have been sure to attract, I forgot about footwear and purposefully headed out into the tunnel. I was aware that at least one other person had come down with me – this being the brown-haired girl, who was quiet as could be – and I was almost 100% satisfied that I hadn’t been tricked into entering some deadly trap.There may also have been a third present, I was never sure.

The tunnel was wide and seemed to lead in an obvious direction (seemingly west) which was the direction I went in. The walls were not entirely plain and bore quite striking geometrical patterns in places, but the overall look of the catacombs was somewhat ominous. I tried not to think about it too much.

As I passed without heed to any hidden panic, I looked to my left and saw that the guardian beasts were lurking together in a swampier cavernous area.  We were apparently walking on a fairly narrow path by the side of a river or pool of indeterminate depth. The guardian beasts were at that moment on the opposite bank.

The Golden Boots

Jo Hayes Ward

I peered dubiously at the layer of flat, damp stones:  “Why do I have to go first?” They didn’t answer immediately, which made me even more dubious.

I wasn’t exactly afraid, but this hadn’t been my idea; anything could have been down there and it may have been something sinister.  One thing was for sure, we weren’t supposed to be there.

Maybe I was supposed to go first because rule-breaking was my specialty, I pondered, or maybe it was because I owned the magic blue vehicle.

The young woman standing by my right shoulder leaned over to explain. “Its because you’re wearing the golden boots” she intonated phlegmatically, with perfect-seeming reason. “You’re the only one who can cross through safely.”

I caught sight of her out of the corner of my eye but could not see her face properly.  She was smaller than I was and about the same age, with mid-length brown hair. I implicitly trusted her judgement– she seemed to have some innate sense of logic – although I wasn’t sure if we were actually friends, or merely acquaintances for this mission.

None of them were wearing shoes.  I looked down at my own feet, which were dangling over the ledge where I was sitting.  I had to admit they were looking quite fine. Two perfectly smooth and symmetrical round-toed boots that were clearly made of solid gold glimmered at me. They were very shiny.

I admired the boots for a second more and then made a decision to act.  Stretching my legs down as far as I was able, I managed to graze the nearest stone with my toes, but it seemed slightly out of reach to touch properly.

I continued to reach down, my arms and legs all straining, while behind me I heard them suggesting that the best way might be to just jump down onto the platform.

Easy for them to say! I had doubts about their suggestion;  as we had no idea of how far down we would have to go, or whether the stones would suddenly collapse leaving a gaping hole, it seemed foolish to make a leap that might lead to sudden death or discovery.

I decided to do it anyway.