CAVERN OF DEATH

Chapter 3

Mari wasn't sure if she was still alive. She could see nothing, hear nothing. An all-enveloping darkness surrounded her. Was this death? Was this all there was at the end? She took a deep breath and forced her senses to the surface. Mari knew she was standing upright. That was a good sign. And she could hear something, after all. It was the sound of her own breathing. Not dead, then. That was also good news. But, where was she? What had just happened?

"Professor?" Mari thought her voice sounded muffled, as if she were now in a tightly enclosed space. "Professor, are you still there?"

Unfortunately for her, no one answered. All was silence. It was like being stuck inside your own grave, still alive. No! Mari mentally shook herself like a dog shedding water. She would not let her mind go there. It was this smothering blindness that was so unnerving. If it wasn't for the fact that she was standing on her own two feet, she'd have no other way of telling whether she was up or down. Thenórather sheepishly, Mari remembered her headlamp. She reached up and switched it back on.

"What the...? How the hell did I end up here?" It appeared that she was now in some sort of long, low, roughly chiseled-out tunnel, like a mine shaft. "Professor!" Mari shouted, "If this is your idea of some sort of joke..." There was still no answer. "Look, " Mari huffed, more than a little put out by this seeming prank, "if you want this so-called 'discovery' of yours to be taken seriously, this is not the best way to go about it. So have your little laugh at my expense and get me out of here. Or I'm going home. Today! And I want my camera back, if you don't mind."

When there was still no answer or any sign of the professor, Mari heaved a martyred sigh. The tunnel ran straight in both directions, as far as she could tell. There wasn't enough light from the lamp to gauge if there were any bends in the shaft. There were no signs and no way of telling which end was the way out or would lead deeper into the mine or whatever it was. Pulling a pound coin out of her jeans pocket she flipped it.

"Heads I go right. Tails I go left."

Using the coin as her only guide, Mari strode off to the right. The tentative light of her headlamp barely lit her way. Only able to see a couple of meters ahead, she unwittingly walked deeper into the mountain tunnel.

"He's not been here for long, by the looks of it." The Doctor said, kneeling beside the body.

"Well Doctor, at least we won't need an autopsy to see what killed him." Clara said, pointing at the arrow sticking out of Professor Haliday's back. "Mind you, it's not everyday I'm standing in an ancient underground temple looking at some bloke who's been arrowed to death. Another item I can tick off my 'new experiences' list."

Pulling out his sonic the Doctor ran it over the corpse with a faint buzz. Checking the readings, he nodded to himself. Standing up from the marble floor and making a sour face, he rubbed the small of his back.

"Backache? Really? Argh! Now I know I'm getting old. I was right though. Dead less than an hour, I'd say."

"So whoever did this might still be nearby, yeah? Don't suppose you have any arrow-proof vests on board the TARDIS?" Clara asked hopefully.

"Not as such, no. Sorry. But I do remember having a tomahawk-proof vest somewhere on board. It has some very lovely bead work. Bought it off an Onondaga war chief for two lacrosse sticks, a Sevateem canoe, a bushel of corn and a really comfy pair of boxer shorts."

"That's nice." Clara shrugged. "In other words, if the arrow guys show up again, we do what we always do."

At that moment, she jerked her head back as something whizzed by her face. With a thunk, the arrow harmlessly bounced off a nearby column. It came from a darkened corner, somewhere behind the TARDIS.

"We run!" The Doctor shouted, grabbing her hand with a delighted grin on his face and sprinting towards the alcove with the stone altar.

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