As the dust and smoke from the explosion were blown away by the wind, the obelisk swayed and tilted in the direction of the group. They had to run as fast as they could to escape its fall. It was a life or death moment as they struggled to dodge the tangle of battling statues, and jump over the scattered debris.
The obelisk hit the ground only metres behind them, and exploded into thousands of pieces. The earth shook beneath the impact, which sent out a dense cloud of dust. Two seconds slower and they would’ve been crushed. The city’s long-standing symbol of peace had been destroyed in the blink of an eye, by a force that needed to be stopped.
Ahead of them, the door of the temple loomed. It was finally within their reach. They used all of their remaining energy to race up the stone steps and into its belly. The enormous wooden doors closed behind them with a crash and then there was silence.
They heaved for breath.
Their hearts were pounding.
No one could speak.
Beyond the entrance hall, a long passage of steps descended into the distance. They beckoned the group to follow them down below the temple. Muffled yelling and heavy banging swelled from the wooden doors behind them. It was only a matter of time until the door was breached, and the beasts would spill into the temple.
JJ knew that there was only one chance to get this right, and that failure would be disastrous. The group reached the bottom of the steps, and surged into the cavern beneath the temple. They stopped and gazed around in absolute wonder. The enormous cavern had been carved from the solid rock beneath the city.
Easily the size of two football fields, it had walls as high as a forty-storey building. The cavern was bordered with a narrow floor that was only as wide as a subway carriage. Beside it was a downward plunge that was so deep, it was only filled with darkness. Flaming torches rested in brackets on the surrounding walls. The size of it was breathtaking, but it wasn’t the most amazing sight. That honour was held by what lay in the centre.
Beyond the void of darkness, there was another section of narrow floor. Clear of that was a giant stepped pyramid, which rose up towards the ceiling of the cavern. Each step was a metre high, and the whole structure was three quarters of the cavern’s height. More torches flickered high up on the four corners of the pyramid, just below the peak.
This was a final challenge to test JJ to his limits. Time had almost run out and he couldn’t afford to fail.
How the group had found themselves in such a dangerous place and under such pressure was still hard for JJ to grasp. Their lives had already been changed forever. If he failed, the consequences for everyone would be disastrous.