‘There it is,’ I breathed as the last of the sun dipped its dappled light onto the forest canopy. ‘The gates of Cheltenham.’
‘Wow,’ Giles gasped, coming up behind me. They truly were incredible – large stone constructions, dwarfed only by the largest of the mighty trees standing alongside it. The engraving work done on the stone was extraordinary in its intricacy, especially for the scale. It must have taken a decade to complete, if not longer.
‘Gorgeous,’ Giles repeated, then promptly collapsed.
‘Giles!’ I cried out, dropping my pack and rushing to where he lay. ‘Giles, what’s wrong with you?’
‘Just a little tired is all,’ he mumbled, covered in sweat and barely able to keep his eyes open. ‘Nothing a short nap won’t fix.’
I slapped him across the face as hard as I could, and his eyes popped back open.
‘Professor!’ he cried out indignantly. Indignant was good. Indignant meant he still had fight left in him.
‘Where does it hurt?’ I asked him, the oldest of the doctors questions. He gestured to his foot with a sigh and I slipped his boot off.
‘Dammit, Giles,’ I groaned. ‘When was the last time you took these off?’
‘I don’t know,’ he grimaced. ‘Probably a few days ago or so.’
‘Well you’ve gone and given yourself a fungal infection. In Cheltenham, of all places,’ I rolled my eyes. ‘Hardly a treatment-rich environment.’
‘Can you do anything about it?’ he asked, nervously.
‘I’m an archaeologist, not a podiatrist!’ I protested.
‘Please, professor,’ he looked up at me with those grad-student eyes. ‘Is there anything you can do?’
And that was how my first voyage into the mystical lost city of my dreams was spent – looking for foot care treatments. Cheltenham was gorgeous, I noticed, as I searched for ingredients to make a salve, but the experience was soured somewhat for me.
Grumbling, I returned to Giles where he lay – applying an ointment to his infected toes.
‘I found this in my pack, Professor,’ he looked up at me with tears in his eyes. ‘My father – he loves me after all!’