The Legend Of Rattlesnake City - Word Prompt: Shadows

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"I can't believe we are finally going to explore the Rockies!"

"Believe it, Joe! And with a little luck, we will also find Rattlesnake City."

"That's just a legend, Roger." Joe laughed at the idea.

"I don't think it is. And if it's real, so is the gold."

"Yeah, guarded by a whole city full of rattlers. No thanks!"

"Grandpa told me a different version of the legend. I don't want to say anything here in the dorm though. Wait until after we get out there. It's better told over a campfire than on a campus anyway."

"Okay, but there's nothing you can say to get me anywhere near even one of those dudes. Forget about trying to drag me anywhere near a place named after them."

The two friends had been planning this trip for over six months. It was a graduation celebration, as well as one last break before they launched their business.

Warped Minds Entertainment was a good business plan. But it would take all of their considerable time and energy to make it a success. In particular it would be an uphill battle for two young college graduates to bring in investors.

"We're finally here, Roger! I can't decide what I want to do first. It's unreal, like a different planet."

"First we want to set up camp." laughed Roger, who had spent a good deal of time in the outdoors.

By the time everything was set up, it was time for supper. Afterwards Roger told his tale.

"Now we can discuss what Grandpa told me. The gorge in his story is the same one we are camped above. And I have a surprise. He recorded it, so you can hear his adventure first-hand." He then pulled out a small cassette player.

I was just a youngster, not as old as you. Fifteen years young! And I needed gold to buy my ranch. There was this old Navajo who sat by the front of the cafe, selling his art. Turquoise, carvings, and what have you.

I asked him about his traditions and stories every time I had a chance while I was growing up. His tales put your modern day movies to shame.

One of my favorites was about an ancient city carved into the wall of a deep gorge. According to David Bearclaw, when the hunting moon was three days from being full, its light would shine at just the right angle to show you the entrance.

You would know that you were in the right spot if the moon cast a shadow in the shape of a rattler coiled to strike. Dig into the soil at the snake's head. When you hit rock, you will find a crescent moon made of stone. Pull it. It's connected to a type of metal rope.

Once pulled, a small stone cave will reveal itself. Inside you will find a corner with a sort of ledge. And this part is important, Roger. There's a small flute without holes, or some type of whistle. It's made of bone, and is shaped like a rattlesnake ready to strike.

There's also writing carved on the wall in back of it, a huge mural. It's in many languages. English, various Native languages, what I now know to be Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, and Hebrew. And others I have not seen despite looking.

I don't know how it got there. This was made a very long time ago, before many of the races represented would have set foot on this continent.

But the words were most helpful. Vital if you expect to survive the adventure. Read them well before you proceed.

"There is treasure ahead, but danger is everywhere. Music can soothe your venemous brother.

Take what you can carry away, no more. Be grateful for all that you have. Never come back once you exit the city's door. Or Rattlesnake City will be your grave.

Tell no one else about what you have seen, unless you know they are worthy, with intentions that are pure. You are responsible for their actions. Their fate will be tied to yours, so be sure.

Do no harm, and beware of greed. Only take what you think you will need. Leave riches for others, and what you take will make great blessings.

When you go, leave the music where you found it. Pull the crescent moon. Otherwise you could be bit."

Roger, I know that's a weird thing to see on an ancient engraving. But it's real. I don't know who or what wrote it. But I do know that you need to follow the rules.

I was in there. I emptied my pack of everything except a length of rope, which it turned out I didn't need. I put everything outside of the cave.

I took the whistle, and began playing immediately as I opened the entrance beside the ledge. Moonlight was streaming into the stone city, revealing millions of rattlesnakes. I think light was redirected using mirrors, but I'm not sure. It was almost as bright as day, but there were still plenty of shadows.

Not wanting to step on a sleeping rattler, I watched my step. Making my way towards the biggest building, I saw many things. Gold bars lining walkways to homes. Ornaments encrusted with jewels.

There was even a forge with a magnificent sword sitting next to it. The hilt was adorned with jewels. The centerpiece was a ruby bigger than my fist. The sheath was also a masterpiece. Oh, how I wanted to possess that work of art! Curled on top of the blade was a baby rattlesnake, fast asleep.

On the other side of the forge was a dagger. It looked like it had been freshly sharpened, and had a fine point. The hilt was plainer than the sword. But still a work of art. It was pure gold, and in the shape of a rattler's head, already striking, fangs outstretched. The eyes were small rubies.

I picked it up. I could easily kill the sleeping snake. Or just try to take the sword. But the words on the tablet were fresh in my mind. I tucked the dagger into my belt and went on regretfully.

Further on, I reached my intended destination. It turned out to be a palace. Except for the snakes, the entire city was deserted. Not even a skeleton, human or snake.

I entered the throne room, and beheld a crown which could have bought every ranch in Colorado. I could have worn it, and still stuffed my pack. Unfortunately it had a snake coiled among the points, sleeping peacefully thanks to the music from the whistle.

I took the diamonds which were scattered at the foot of the throne. I also selected the finest rings from the intricately carved oak chest beside it.

Deciding that despite being heavy, gold would be easier to spend without being questioned too thoroughly. I took a mixture of both jewels and gold.

By the time I got back to the little door leading to the cave, my back was hurting. I was ready to leave, having explored to my satisfaction, and gathering more than I had ever dreamed of.

I followed the instructions to the letter. And here I am today, with one of the biggest Quarterhorse ranches in the state. And good health, despite being one hundred come December. How many old-timers like me can still get on a horse, let alone ride all day?

"You can't really believe that, Roger? He's just trying to give you a good adventure before you have to settle down."

"Oh, I don't know... Then where did this come from?" Roger asked, pulling out a very sharp dagger. It had a very lifelike gold rattlesnake head, teeth bared. Its eyes were red rubies.

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Cover image is from Canva, using their gallery

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