The Lost Curse

How far into the past would you look to save the life of a friend?

That is the question Jonathon must answer when his summer camping trip turns deadly.

Excerpt

“Crawl through!” Severino shouted.

The darkness ahead of them condensed into a smaller shaft and Jonathon dove inside, arm crawling through almost twelve feet of narrow passage. Right behind him, Tallie crawled.

The tunnel emerged into the ventilation shaft on the other side. Free of confinement, Jonathon helped pull Tallie to her feet. Then he spun and looked for the escape rope.

Sunlight filtered down the shaft, illuminating the bottom of the pit and the two snakes Severino killed. On the walls, angles of light glistened against the steep dirt sides, but nothing revealed a rope.

“The rope!” Jonathon cried out. “It’s not here!”

Tallie turned around in the bottom of the shaft, searching every side, looking upward. “Where’s the rope?”

From up above, several large stones tumbled over the edge and Jonathon lunged backward. “Rock!”
Tallie heard the crashing sounds tumbling down. Without time to look up, she ducked, covering her head and neck as the stones rained around her. Above, she heard the sound of laughter. Halden had beaten them to the shaft.

In angered protest, Tallie cried out, straightening in the shaft. “Halden!”

A form peered over the edge. “Yes, my dear?”

“You stole the rope!”

“I didn’t steal it. It’s my rope.”

From behind, Jonathon heard a soft sound and turned. Through the narrow hole, Severino emerged and winced in pain. Emotion twisted his face, and he gripped his forearm tightly. Once he got his feet under him, Severino turned in a half circle, the sign of pain. Legs bending, he sank to the ground and leaned back against the shaft wall. There his chest rose and fell with strain. Instant concern filled Jonathon, and he moved toward his friend.

Still standing in the center of the shaft, Tallie glared upward. “How did you know we were going to be here?”

“Figured it out. I’m not stupid. When Tate whistled me away from the mine, I saw him double back and go inside, so I knew something was up. I got back just in time to watch him trigger the trap. I heard him tell you guys to get out of there, and I knew there was only one way out of that mine. While you guys had to run through dust and darkness, I just hoofed it over here in the bright sunlight.”

As the memory returned, Tallie gasped and covered her mouth. “Tate—where is he?”

“Still in the mine I guess. I don’t know how anyone could have survived that cave-in. Half the mountain face came down on top of him.”

Tallie cried out and stumbled backward. Jonathon caught her. “Tallie,” he whispered.

“Did you hear? Tate didn’t make it out.”

“Tallie, I’m sorry, but Severino’s hurt.”

“What?” The news jarred her with the force of a slap, and she questioned Jonathon with her eyes.

“It’s bad.”

She turned and saw Severino leaning against the shaft wall, his face tight, his hand covering his forearm. Moving toward him, she knelt in the dirt. “¿Severino, que tienes? What happened?”
With his head supported by the shaft wall, he shifted his gaze to her and shook his head, his teeth clenched against the pain. Carefully, she reached for his hand to uncover the wound, but his grip tightened.

Uncertain now, she looked at Jonathon for help. “What happened to him?”

Jonathon swallowed, trying to find the words. “He was bit by a rattlesnake.”

* * * * *

Artifact theft, Death Lights and a brutal Skinwalker come together in a fast-paced story about friendship and trust. Jonathon and his friends, Severino and Tallie, must escape a group of artifact thieves in the mountains of central Utah. And they must do it before someone dies.

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