-Melody Carlson, author of the Diary of a Teenage Girl and True Colors series
Waterfall (River of Time Series #1)by Lisa T. Bergren
Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one.
Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved … and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know—and love itself.
-Melody Carlson, author of the Diary of a Teenage Girl and True Colors series
Read an Excerpt
The River of Time Series
By Lisa T. Bergren
David C. CookCopyright © 2011 Lisa T. Bergren
All rights reserved.
Okay, fast forward. Over the next few weeks, my mom settled in, finding us a lame apartment—probably built in the 1970s, judging by the burnt-orange and avocado decor. It was outside Radda in Chianti, which, trust me, was not a happenin' town, and still a thirty-minute drive down stomach-bending roads and a hike into the archeological site. Did I mention she made me and Lia get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to come with her? The only good thing about that was that we gladly hit the pillow early each night, and I was able to dream of better places for a teen to spend her summer.
Things progressed on the tumuli "campus," as my mom called it, as expected, with two of the old tombs already largely free of the five feet of soil that once surrounded them, and all trees and brush cut down and pulled away from the remaining tombs. The rest would be unearthed by volunteers trucked in from Roma and Firenze, as well as American university campuses, in the coming weeks. But my mother had been all excited about getting inside these first two—the one the farmer had broken into—"Tomb Two"—and the other, the one she referred to as "the mother ship."
She wouldn't let us near them. Sure, as usual, she was happy enough to hand us a shovel and pail and tell us to get within six inches of the structure. But inside? No. She and my dad had always been like that at a dig. Worried we'd "compromise" a site. You practically needed a doctoral degree to enter, until everything was documented from top to bottom, sketched, photographed, videotaped, logged on paper. Then, a couple weeks later, they'd let "the kids" in.
Basically, I was sick of it. I was seventeen. I felt ignored. Used. Just how much damage could Lia and I do to the place? And I was curious. Had this site really been worth my dad's life?
So I was a little bit grumpy when we drove up that morning and tiredly blinked in the pink, early-morning light. The new dirt road was blocked by two uniformed guards and a jeep with the words Archeologica Societa Archaeologico dell' Italia emblazoned on the side. Whenever these guys showed up, it inevitably meant delays and trouble for my parents.
A man stepped out of the back of the jeep, wearing khaki slacks and a starched white shirt that was rolled at the sleeves, as well as expensive leather shoes. He looked like the slick, rival archeologist in the first Indiana Jones movie—yeah, my parents loved those old flicks—and my mom reacted the same way Indy had, muttering the man's name like a curse word.
I knew if she could she'd bang her head against the steering wheel. I glanced over at Lia, in the back seat, and raised my brows. We hadn't run across Dr. Manero for more than a year, but the last time ... well, it wasn't pretty. Dad almost decked him, he was so mad.
Could Manero shut her down for good this time? The upshot would be we'd have to go home to Boulder—or at least to Roma or Firenze for a time—but Mom would be seriously bummed.
"Doctor Betarrini," Dr. Manero said in a thick Italian accent, as my mom rolled down the window.
"Doctor," Mom returned with a nod, her voice even, polite.
"I've reviewed your documentation in the Commune"—by Commune, he meant Siena—"and discovered you haven't filed forms 201B or D for this dig," he said, crossing his arms.
"Imagine you, digging around in our paperwork," Mom muttered. She still had a habit of referring to projects as ours, the result of two decades of working alongside my dad. I wondered how long that would last. I'd kinda miss it when she stopped.
"What was that you said?" Manero asked, leaning down toward her window opening.
"I can't imagine we didn't file the right paperwork," Mom amended. "We filed over fifty documents."
"It seems a common problem for you," he said with a thin-lipped smile. "Always one or two missing, it seems."
"And you appear to have appointed yourself as our personal guard dog," my mom said, losing patience.
"This isn't about you," Manero said, standing erect again. He gestured behind himself. "I guard Italia's treasures.
That is my only goal."
My mom looked up at the ceiling of the car as if she wanted to scream.
"Please," Manero said. "I've set up a tent beside your own. Let us discuss what must happen for you to continue your work here."
"You mean, in order for you to horn in on the glory," Mom said.
"Please," Manero repeated. "Let us sit down and discuss this as fellow scholars. I have espresso in a thermos...." He smiled, clearly trying to kiss up.
"Espresso?" my mom said, her tone softening.
"Si." Dr. Manero's slight smile moved across his handsome face. He reached for the door handle and opened it. "Sounds inviting on this chilly morning, does it not?"
Mom ignored his outstretched hand and climbed out on her own, slamming the door. She brushed by him. Dr. Manero hurried to catch up with her.
"C'mon, Lia, let's go see it," I said.
"See what?" she said, frowning as if in a fog.
"The tomb," I said, eyes wide. "We won't get another chance for, what—another month or two? While they debate it, let's go see what the fuss is all about."
Lia paused on the other side of the car, door still open, and frowned at me. "I dunno...."
"C'mon," I said, irritated by her hesitation. What was the risk? If we were going to spend our summer here, we might as well know what the sacrifice was for. I, for one, was going to see it, with her or not.
I trudged past the new guards that had arrived with Manero, pretending like I was following my mom, and after a bit, glanced back to see that Lia was coming after me. I smiled smugly to myself. I could always get her to do anything—especially if she felt like she was getting left behind.
My mind whirled with memories of my parents' hushed, excited conversations, shared in an intimate tone. It had always been an affair of the mind between them, as well as the heart. They'd been connected like no other couple I had ever known.
I'd loved it. And hated it.
Sure. I was glad that my parents loved each other, but we always felt left out. It was like Mom and Dad were always in the same orbit, Lia and me in some constellation around them, never quite intersecting. I wanted to know what it was like, to share the same airspace, even for a moment. And since Dad died ... well, it was like Mom wasn't even in our galaxy at all.
So I trudged forward, ignoring the questioning glances of a couple of students heading in the opposite direction. The sun was gaining now, cresting the trees in the east, casting long, dusty streams of light across the field, illuminating the tops of wild lavender, spiraling upward, and the domes of the tumuli.
I ignored my suddenly speeding heartbeat and went directly to the nearest tomb, as if my mother had sent me there on a mission. Lia was right behind. Pausing for a moment at the entrance of the tunnel, I took a deep breath, bent down, and crawled through, glad I had my jeans on. I hoped Mom had left an electric lantern ahead, as she often did on site. In a moment, I bumped into it, and eagerly fumbled for the switch.
I was inside Tomb Two. I swung my legs around as the halogen bulb caught and flickered on, casting blue light all around.
I gaped at the artwork inside. Mom had gone on and on about it, but her voice had become like a buzzing bee, and I'd tuned her out. The colors were magnificent, some of the best we'd seen. Bright. And so many of them.... Men and women, black stick figures depicted feasts, hunts, battles.
I lifted the lantern and cruised along one wall and then another, mouth agape, as my sister came through the tunnel.
"Gabi, we really shouldn't be here," she said, standing there as if she hadn't already made the decision to join me.
"We're here. Aren't you the least bit curious?"
"Yes, but you know how Mom is." She brushed her hands against her jeans. "They—she likes to choose when to invite us in."
"So we'll act surprised," I said. "Check it out. If this is Tomb Two, what is Tomb One like?" I raised the lantern so that we could both better see a family dining at a table, a large, roasted bird on a platter before them. "It looks like it's Thanksgiving."
"In China. That's a goose."
"Nah, not big enough. Probably a pheasant. Or a quail."
"If that's a quail, they grew them big, back in Etruscan times."
I smiled. "Okay, a pheasant."
I moved on down the wall as Lia studied images I'd already taken in.
A sound at the tunnel entrance made us both draw in our breath for a moment, but whatever it was moved on, and so did we.
I stared at the portrait of a fierce warrior with sword in hand. Dad and I had sparred from time to time. He'd been trained in the art of fencing and made me learn too. I didn't mind much—it'd been one way we could spend time together. And now that he was gone, I kinda missed it. But this guy on the wall hefted a much heavier, broader sword than I'd ever picked up.
To the right of the warrior, there was a moon, a sun, and two handprints. "Lia, check this out," I said.
She moved over to me and stared. "Ever seen anything like it?"
I glanced at her, and she shook her head. "Have you?"
"No." I handed her the lantern and then lifted my hand to the print. It seemed familiar, somehow. Like I'd seen it before, even though I knew I hadn't. I heard my sister's sudden intake of breath—Mom would kill me if she found out I was touching anything in here—but it was like I couldn't stop. I was drawn to it.
"Mom will ground you for weeks for touching that," Lia hissed as I put my hand on the fresco again. The oils from our skin and ancient paintings were never to meet; it was a cardinal rule in the Betarrini workplace. I knew this. Lia knew this. But still, I couldn't resist.
"It's a perfect match! Look!" I said, nodding toward the handprint. "And what's weirder ... it's warm, Lia. Warm."
Her angry blue eyes moved from me to the wall in confusion. Stone wasn't warm. It was never warm.
"Maybe there's a hot spring on the other side."
"Thought of that. But I don't smell any sulfur, do you?" We both took a big whiff of the air. No, just your standard Etruscan tomb—with odors of water evaporated on old stone. "And it's just the handprint that's warm. This handprint that fits mine." I stepped back and looked again to the pair of prints on the wall. The left fit my hand, but the right was smaller—and was the normal-temperature cool stone I'd come to expect in places like this. "Lia, here. Come here." I wrapped my right arm around her so she could edge in closer, directly beside me. "The left print fits my hand, but the right is too small." I glanced from the print to my sister. "You try it."
Lia glanced at me and then toward the tomb entrance, down a long corridor to my right. We were both thinking about our mother arguing with Manero in Italian. I doubted the espresso was helping.
"They're not coming anytime soon. Go on, try it. It's so weird, touching a handprint from someone who's been dead for a couple of thousand years."
I knew before Lia's fingers were settled within the lines that it would fit as surely as the other print had fit mine.
"I thought you said this one was cold," Lia said.
"It's—it's warm," she said in wonder.
"Yours too?" I frowned. "Really?" I leaned in and put my hand on the left again. "When I touched it—"
My voice broke off because something odd was happening. The room was spinning, slowly, the paintings on the wall stretching as if I was looking at them through fun-house glasses. And the wall was getting warmer. I tried to pull my hand away, but couldn't.
"Gabi!" Lia cried. I tried to focus on her, the only thing in the room that seemed static. Her wide blue eyes flashed terror. "It's hot!"
I looked up, to the tomb raiders' hole. Up top, I could see trees, which comforted me for a moment, but then I blinked and looked again. Hundred-year-old oaks were shrinking, rising, shrinking, rising like one of those time-lapse cameras ... set to record a thousand years.
There was no sound. I couldn't even hear Lia any longer.
My mind raced. Handprints that fit our own. Heat where there should be cold. A room spinning, faster and faster about us. A tomb built three or four hundred years before Christ came to earth. Were we ...
I screamed, but it came out as a mere breath, come and gone as if it had never happened. I glanced up again. The trees outside were rising, shrinking, rising, faster than ever before. We had to stop it. Had to pull our hands from the wall. It was so hot my skin felt fused to it, as if it might tear the flesh from my palm if I dared to move. But we had to. Had to!
I looked again into my sister's eyes, silently telling her to get ready, since we couldn't speak. I had to put my foot on the wall and yank, so surely was my hand now one with the print. As I wrenched it away—so hard it was like breaking a powerful magnetic connection—I wrapped both arms around my sister and fell to the ground behind us, like a football player sacking the quarterback. Except backward. But as my shoulder met the travertine floor, I knew I didn't have her, after all. My arms were empty.
It was dark.
I groaned, taking stock, wondering if I'd hit my head. But it felt okay. Even my hand had immediately ceased burning. I blinked in confusion, hoping my vision would clear. "Lia?" I ventured.
As soon as I said it, I knew I was alone. My voice echoed around the chamber with nothing but inanimate objects to absorb the sound. Mom's lantern was long gone. Up top, there was no daylight. Had I passed out? Was it now night?
Mom's gonna be so mad ...
But I detected other sounds, odd, muffled sounds, the sounds of men crying out, and alarming sounds like horses, metal clanging, men screaming. Had Manero brought in reinforcements?
"Mom?" I cried. "Lia!"
I had to have hit my head, forgotten. I looked up—willing my eyes to see stars, moonlight, anything—but was met with only darkness.
"Hey!" I yelled upward. "Hey, I'm in here!" All I could think was that the Archeologica Societa guys had ordered the tomb resealed, replacing the stone and covering the hole. My mom had lost her temporary jurisdiction over the site and somehow had not noticed that my sister and I were inside—or at least I was—before it was resealed. As for the warm handprint, my sister's disappearance, the time-lapse forest ... I had no idea what that was all about.
I had to have fainted or something. Or picked up some weird bug and was running a fever. Maybe, in opening up these tombs, we'd awakened some odd virus. That'd be uncool. I reached up to feel my forehead, fully expecting a raging fever. But it didn't feel like it.
"Don't panic," I said to myself, feeling my heart race. "Gabriella, get a grip." I'd spent far too many years in and out of Etruscan tombs to be creeped out. And I knew where the entrance was. I knew the way out.
I got to my feet and felt my way toward the corridor. "Sorry, Mom," I muttered, knowing that I was now spreading oil from my skin all along the wall. I used my right hand; my shoulder ached from my fall to the ground. I brushed up against a smooth shape and winced as I felt it give way, then crash to the floor. I'd seen the urns on the way in—seventh-century Magna Graecia, Mom said. Four matched urns, now three, miraculously surviving three centuries before they were put in this tomb. Somehow, the tomb raiders had left them behind. The urns had thrown my mom into an excited frenzy, because she couldn't connect the style of the frescoes with the dating on the urns.
"Oh, she's really gonna kill me," I said, heartsick, thinking of the coming wrath of my mom when she discovered what I'd done. Never before had I so damaged a site or artifact, even as a little kid.
But I'd gladly face her fury rather than be stuck in here.
The urn at least helped me know where I was, for sure. At the end of the passageway was the curved stone that marked the entrance. I could see the outline of daylight around it as I neared. Only problem: It was plugged with the entrance stone again. And the entrance stones were heavy, maybe three, four hundred pounds. I knelt and ran my fingers around the edge, considering options for removing it, remembering how my dad would pry them away with a crowbar. But always from the outside.
I leaned my shoulder against it and pushed. My height—and fencing—made me stronger than most girls. But the stone barely moved.
I paused. There were odd sounds coming from the other side. Men shouting, grunting. The clang of metal again as if ... I shoved the thought aside. Impossible. And the main thing I had to focus on right now was escape. "Hey! Help! I'm in here! Help!" I shouted, so loudly it made my throat hurt.
I could hear the pause in whatever metalwork was happening. "Mom? Lia! Help! Help me!" I screamed again. But then the sounds resumed.
"Oh, brother," I muttered. I maneuvered in the tunnel until my back and shoulders were against one side, and at an angle, I could press my feet against the stone. I pushed, pushed so hard that my butt lifted from the ground. I grunted, willing that stupid rock to move, to move, move ... and then it did, scraping, groaning, then falling away to the dirt outside with a big thump.
My eyes narrowed, and I cautiously peered outward.
There appeared to be some sort of Renaissance faire battle-scene reenactment going on. How'd all these men get here? And why here? Perhaps some protest by the local Sienese, bent on reclaiming this land? Manero's doing? It figured ... now that they knew it held the treasures it did.
But then I saw a man block another man's sword strike with his own, then plunge a dagger into him with his other hand. I gasped, too surprised to scream. The injured man fell to his knees, clutching the hilt of the knife, his mouth agape. Blood spread across his white shirt in a slowly seeping circle. No Renaissance faire I'd seen had had special effects like that. With growing horror, I glanced to my right, where another man was writhing on the ground, groaning. My hand came to my mouth. His belly had been split open, and some of his intestines were bulging out. Blood spread across the ground in a wide pool.
It was real.
Excerpted from WATERFALL by Lisa T. Bergren. Copyright © 2011 Lisa T. Bergren. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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