The Adventurers The Haunted House - Ayaan Chettiar -

The Adventurers : The Haunted House

It was a pleasant Sunday morning in New York City, when the Adventurers: a daring duo of explorers consisting of Ayaan and Aayra, were taking a morning stroll through the crowded blocks.

After an hour of walking and chit-chat, they felt inclined to pay a visit to Sweet Treats Bakery, run by their good friend Cookie.

“Two chocolate donuts, please.” said Adventurous Ayaan, as the bells of the bakery jingled.

“Ah…” said Cookie. “My two favorite customers. How’s it shaking, Adventurers?”

The duo smiled. They always enjoyed talking with Cookie. On top of that, his customers provided the foundation to many adventures, having heard various rumors and mysteries.

“It’s shaking well.” said Adventurous Aayra. “Heard any interesting news, Cookie?”

After serving them their donuts, with extra sprinkles as usual, Cookie began to narrate the tale of several customers over the previous week.

“You know ‘Mighty Manor’, don’t you?” questioned Cookie, as the Adventurers nodded their heads in unison. “Well then, buckle your seatbelts, for have I got a mystery.”

 Mighty Manor was an ancient, dilapidated house that overlooked the city. It had been the centerpiece for various rumors of ghosts and ghouls lurking in the untouched corners, skeletal figures hiding in the shadows, and monstrous beasts in the dark cellar.

“Have the old “haunted” tales starting up again?” asked Ayaan. Oftentimes, every few months or so, some or the other random story featuring the manor popped up, most of them concerned about it being cursed.

“Like wildfire.” said Cookie, with a smile curving upon his lips. “My customers have all begun to narrate incidents regarding the manor, which obviously I’ve learnt to not believe, until I heard the last part…”

He took a pause to build up the suspense. The duo sat silently, bursting with curiosity.

“They mentioned treasure.” said Cookie, his eyes lit up with excitement. “Treasure, they said, was hidden in the shadows of the manor. On the exterior, I supported their claims, but inside, I considered it foolish chatter. Until the mayor himself came a few days ago.”

“I suppose you told him about all the rumors, Cookie?” questioned Aayra, and Cookie nodded.

“He’d said, ‘Of course I’ve heard such tales but of treasure I have not. And it’s an awful coincidence that all these talks are happening at once.’”

“Once he’d left, I embraced the amazement within me. I had not truly believed that the mayor would ever buy such tittle-tattle. But yesterday, he called me. He’d researched on Mighty Manor, and found the name of its resident, dated more than 2 decades ago.”

“Who was it?” asked Ayaan, pushing the untouched donut plate away, and gazing at Cookie with the utmost eagerness. “Quickly, Cookie, I can’t bear all this suspense.”

“Very well.” said Cookie. “It was James ‘Jim’ Birdy, the one and only.”

For a few seconds, the duo’s hearts stopped beating. James Birdy was acclaimed universally as the greatest explorer of all time. His title was matched only by the fame of the Adventurers, but inwardly even Ayaan and Aayra believed him to be a much greater one. Fearless, spontaneous, and absolutely incredible, Birdy remained the most famous adventurer on the planet until his retirement seven years prior.

“So, Birdy might have hidden treasure within the manor?” asked Aayra. “It all adds up, including all that haunted stuff. James Birdy wouldn’t want people poking their nose in his business. It’s genius…”

Indeed, it was. After thanking Cookie and paying for the donuts, Ayaan and Aayra hurried back home to pack supplies for the venture into the manor. Such a mystery had to be tackled at once.

Towards the end, the phone began to ring. Ayaan picked it up, as a voice greeted him. He immediately recognized it to be his good pal and fellow explorer Daring Dante, who was also in town.

“I met with Cookie the baker this afternoon.” began Ayaan. “And to cut to the chase, me and Aayra have good reason to believe that James Birdy hid treasure within Mighty Manor. And we’re on our way to find us. Care to join us?”

“Did you just say ‘James Birdy’?” asked Dante, thoroughly astonished. “This I wouldn’t miss for anything, but I’m caught up and can’t make it. Be sure to tell me if you find treasure.”

After putting down the receiver, Ayaan and Aayra slung their slim backpacks over their shoulder, and began to hike towards Mighty Manor, which was only few minutes away. The sunset had commenced, and dusk was falling. But the Adventurers were non-believers in superstition, especially now that they knew it was all a ruse.

Mighty Manor stood in its usual intimidating form, as Ayaan opened the gate. It creaked ever so slightly, as they made their way in. Brown leaves were scatter in the grass. Ayaan rattled the doorknob, but it didn’t budge.

While he tried to pick the lock, Aayra scouted for another entrance, and found herself in front of a dense hedge. Removing a dagger, she began to chop through the hedge, revealing a narrow entrance.

“On this side, Ayaan!” shouted Aayra. “I think I just found our way in.”

Ayaan nodded, and ran across the grass towards the entrance. He smiled at the cleverly concealed door behind the hedge, as they walked inside.

Mighty Manor had all the makings of a haunted house. It was huge, the floorboards creaked with every step, and the eerie silence made it all so weirder. Aayra flashed on the torch for a better view.

“Birdy was way too smart to conceal the treasure in plain sight. He had to construct a failsafe for anyone who wandered in.” said Ayaan.

“Not likely.” said Aayra. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people usually steer well clear of Mighty Manor.”

Aayra was right. Because of it supposedly being haunted, passers-by tended to ignore the house, and hurried their pace to get away. The chances of someone poking through the house and locating the door behind the hedge were relatively slim.

“If I had to take a guess, I’d say the treasure would be somewhere underground. That way, if anyone wandered in, they’d rather stay away from the cellar, and thereby the treasure.”

Aayra nodded, as they walked towards another section of the manor. Immediately, a few bats flew down. Ayaan and Aayra ducked as the bats flew off, and observed the cobwebs away.

“Really sells the illusion, doesn’t it?” questioned Aayra, with a chuckle. “Birdy certainly knew what he was doing.”

Before long, they stumbled upon the cellar door. Ayaan found it to be shut as well, but it rattled precariously, and would likely come down if pushed hard enough. An eerie ghostly moan filled the otherwise tranquil air.

“It’s probably just a sound recorder.” said Ayaan, continuing his attempt at busting the door. But even he sounded slightly unsure. Something about the manor, although they knew it wasn’t haunted, gave him the creeps. “Give me a hand here, Aayra.”

They both pushed against the door a few times, and as Ayaan had thought, it came unscrewed and fell down. They were greeted by the very unwelcoming sight of the cellar.

Aayra flashed her torch towards the cellar, as they began their descent. The stairs seemed to continue till eternity, but after what seemed like hours, the duo found themselves on the rough floor of the cellar.

Ayaan observed his surroundings in wary fashion. Somewhere deep inside this cellar was the treasure of James Birdy himself.

Aayra crashed into something, and shrieked. Ayaan immediately rushed, as Aayra rubbed her head. She had slammed straight into a mound of skeleton outfits. She shone her torch towards the front and they continued.

Old bookshelves lined with cobwebs covered the ceiling, and the ground was unusually damp. There was a door, but it was sealed shut with a lock.

“There has to be a key somewhere around here.” said Ayaan, going into full clue-solving mode. “But where could it be?”

An old frame hung above the locked door, with ancient Egyptian script upon it. Aayra, having mastered linguistics, immediately understood it.

“The key’s in a book, Ayaan.” said Aayra, as they rushed over the bookcase. They opened it, as a dozen or two books greeted them.

Somehow, Ayaan felt as if searching through the many novels for the one with the key would not be the correct approach. Birdy was known for sophisticated clues, and this seemed far too obvious.

He stopped Aayra from touching the first book, and instead questioned her as to which were in Egyptian handwriting. Aayra pointed to the third book from the left.

Ayaan reached for the book, as a creaking noise came into view. He stopped abruptly, and stole a glance at Aayra. She gestured towards the second book from the right of the bottom shelf.

Ayaan pulled that book too, as they heard the click of the lock detaching. Turning about, they saw that the sealed door had opened, and pushed it. Their eyes fell upon a treasure box.

They moved towards it. To their surprise, the box was unlocked. But Ayaan and Aayra, bursting with the adrenaline of having located the treasure pulled it open.

The cage came down in an instant, as Ayaan and Aayra realized they’d been tricked. They tried to break through the bamboo bars of the cage, but it didn’t even budge,

“This makes no sense.” said Ayaan. “Even if the adventurer didn’t locate the treasure. Birdy wouldn’t have trapped them.”

But Aayra lifted up the inhabitant of the treasure box. It was an old, dusty novel, not one of historical significance, but simply a classic Charles Dickens’. Nothing made any sense.

Suddenly, the serene air was filled by an evil cackle the duo had come to recognize at once. Because at that moment, Mack and Vik came out from within the shadows.

Mack and Vik were ‘The Evil Explorers’, the arch-enemies of the Adventurers, simply because they were mean, arrogant, and downright sly. Mack was the lesser evil of the two, but Vik was a monster.

“You fell straight into the trick, Adventurers.” she sneered. “There was never any treasure of Birdy. Mack and I forged all of it. And now you’ll be trapped in Mighty Manor forever. Because nobody even knows you’re here. And even if they did, they’d never find you in this cellar, ever! The two of us have the last laugh this time!”

She let out another of her cackles, as Ayaan pushed against the bars once more, but to no avail. They had to escape from this prison, but there was no obvious way as to how.

But the noise that followed sent chills up the spines of all four. If Mack and Vik had forged everything, then what was that ghostly sound?

Immediately, a mighty skeleton emerged and snarled. Mack and Vik screamed at the top of their voices and bolted, followed closely by the skeleton, who scratched towards them, snarling viciously. They raced up the stairs of the cellar, and out of Mighty Manor with their hands over their heads, shrieking.

The skeleton returned to the prison. Both Ayaan and Aayra had been scared stiff as well, for they had just witnessed superstition coming to life. Then, the skeleton removed its head, and…

“Dante!” shouted Ayaan, with a sigh of relief. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

Daring Dante smiled, and immediately grabbed his dagger and began to cut at the rocks. Ayaan and Aayra had dropped the dagger and the supplies towards the wall before opening the box; thus, they had no way of breaking free alone.

Once they were safe and sound, Dante told them the story.

“Even though the house isn’t haunted and all…” began Dante. “I figured even the Adventurers would be a bit spooked, and I decided to give you the shock of your lifetime. But then I saw Mack and Vik, and you two trapped in the cellar, and I recalled that incident in the Pyramid where Mack dressed like a mummy, and something clicked…”

“Well, we owe you one, Dante.” said Aayra, smiling. “Big time.”

“Still, it’s a disappointment there was no treasure of James Birdy in Mighty Manor.” said Ayaan, in a slightly dejected voice.

“Don’t you be so sure of that just yet!” said Dante, with a smile. “I found this in another part of the cellar.”

He pulled up a miniature case and a key. Slowly, the key went into the lock, and turned. The case opened up, revealing gold coins within it. The Adventurers smiled.

“Birdy really was brilliant, wasn’t he?” said Ayaan, amazed. “And the mystery of Mighty Manor has been solved once and for all.”

And so it had. And didn’t the Adventurers have a tale to say to Cookie when they met him Monday afternoon for bagels. One thing’s for sure: Cookie was thoroughly stunned by the end of it…

Ayaan Chettiar

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