We walked for most of a day before stumbling upon an ancient Mayan city populated by the dead. They watched us in silence as we trod upon a stone road, passing fields of strange fruits, vegetables, and grains before entering the city proper. Each man, woman, and child wore colorful clothing and a hideously styled mask of beaten copper, through which we could see naught but blankly staring eyes.
Soldiers lined the roadside as we entered, their collective gaze intent upon our every move. We walked warily along the meandering stone walkway, catching glimpses of various buildings, pyramids, and courtyards, all made of stone with elaborately carved figures upon them.
I wish I could say that we made it through this city of the dead without any conflict, but that is not so. Near the edge of the neighboring forest, we were suddenly surrounded by soldiers who roughly grabbed one of our party and hauled him off. We could do naught against their multitude of bristling spears. Luisa, Carlos, and I could only listen on in horror to his screams as he was carried away. We know not of his fate, for we were forceably ejected from the city and into the wildlands once again.
Now at half of our original number, we trudged onward into the surrounding hills. A meandering path led us to a great pyramid. We followed a winding stone staircase from the base to the topmost terrace of this great structure. There we found a doorway, seemingly leading to nowhere. But, as she had done at the entrance to the Underworld, Luisa chanted in the ancient Mayan tongue and led is into the doorway.
At first it appeared that we would walk directly through the doorway and onto the other side of that great terrace, but we somehow made a slight twist to the right and found ourselves in a completely darkened space which carried the echoes of our footsteps back to us.
We had finally left that cursed Underworld and ventured into a cavern of gigantic proportions. With our flashlights, we made our way across, into an intricately created replica of an empty, ancient Mayan city, complete with a pyramid-temple at its center. It was there that we found the remains of the great Xbalanque. I will admit that I wept at the sight of his bones. We had gambled much to make it this far and lost 3 brave men in the process. I know I will never be the same again.
Despite our exhaustion, we did not rest until we had put the city-tomb of Xbalanque far behind us. I had expected us to take the same route home that had led us here, though the prospect of facing those horrors a second time gave me pause. This was not to be, however, for Carlos, using Luisa as translator, explained that we could return through the Hall of Hauntings. Apparently this Hall exists in many dimensions but allows travel in only limited directions. He tried to explain how this was so but I found myself unable to follow. At the end, I merely shrugged and gestured for him to lead onward.
I braced myself before entering the Hall of Hauntings. From the name, I expected to be set upon by ghosts or any number of unnameable horrors. Fortunately for me, I do not speak Latin, so the attempts by the ghosts there to make me repeat the litany of word conjugations had no lasting effect upon my already fragile mind. Luisa did not fare as well; at one point she degenerated into babbling about Past Imperfect Passive vs Past Imperfect Active. I am told she will recover, given enough time.
We made it out of there in short order, emerging near a small town in Guatemala. I was greatly surprised to find that I had been gone for less than a day. Carlos made arrangements for one of Franz's helicopters to pick us up and bring us to an airport, whence I was able to return home mostly safe and somewhat sound. The administrations of my wife were of great assistance in my recovery, though the details are not fit to relate here.