(1 of 1. Originally posted on September 22, 2023 for the prompt “Unmarked Grave.”)
“You sure this is the one?” Jared’s voice tore through the shroud of silence over the hillside. “It looks just like ever other boulder on this god-forsaken hill. No inscriptions. No marks. Do these barbarians even know how to write?”
“This should be the one. They don’t mark their graves because nobody ever visits them. But they keep detailed records.” Steve pulled a hydraulic jack out of his bag and wedged it under the enormous stone. He kicked it couple times to set it in place, then slipped the handle onto it and began pumping.
“Didn’t this guy have kids? I can’t believe they’d bury their inheritance.” Jared positioned a steel wedge under the low side of the jack, and hammered it in with a mallet to keep it from slipping.
“Get ready to jump out of the way if this overbalances.” The rock shifted with a sound like giant bones breaking. Steve slowed down on the jack, checking its stability between pumps. “These people don’t care about gems. Or rather, they care about them the same way they care about flowers. Pretty things for decoration.”
“Why do we have to sneak in to take them, then?”
“Because the graves are sacred. Trust me, you don’t want to get caught here. No worries, though. The villagers are too scared to set foot outside at night. Especially near the hill. Even if they hear things, or see lights, they’ll just whisper a prayer and look the other way. Too many ghost stories. Their superstitions make our job easy.”
They worked in silence for a while, collecting smaller stones and piling them under the boulder as supports until the gap grew large enough to crawl through.
Jared swept his gaze across the barren moonlit ground between the hill and the village. Nothing moved. “We’re clear. Let’s grab some loot and get out of here.”
Steve crawled through first, with Jared on his heels. As they emerged into the cavern, a million spots of multi-colored light danced along the walls, cast by lantern-light refracted through hundreds of gems. Diamonds, rubies, and sapphires lay scattered like pebbles in a space big enough to house a team of six horses, and tall enough for both men to stand straight.
The two whooped in excitement, scooping up glittering treasure and stuffing it into their sacks as fast as they could. They worked their way around the cave, ignoring the corpse in the middle of the floor, laughing and exclaiming over the size and quality of the jewels.
A vibration caught Jared’s attention. “Steve! Be quiet for a moment!”
When the echoes of their celebration died down, a steady grinding sound filled the space.
Jared looked back toward the narrow gap that led outside, breaking into a cold sweat. “We used plenty of supports. They’re solid. It can’t—”
A crack echoed through the cave, a sound like giant bones breaking, as the boulder settled back into place over the entrance. The two would-be thieves dropped their collections of gems on the ground like pebbles, ran to the mouth of the cave, and beat their hands bloody against the unyielding stone. A shroud of silence fell over the hillside.