By Antea Copyright February 2001
It was a very quiet morning at the treehouse- too quiet. Roxton had woken up at the crack of dawn, and for some reason, he could not fall back asleep.
*What's going on?* he asked himself, *Something's not right. I can feel it.*
He raised himself out of bed, yawning and stretching. The burly hunter got dressed, and went out into the living room where he found Marguerite sitting at the table, reading a book.
"Up a little early today, aren't you John?" she said with a smirk.
"I could say the same for you Miss Krux" he replied tartly. "Something just isn't right. I can feel it in my bones. I'm going to go out and have a look around. Maybe that will settle my nerves." He said , changing expressions.
"I'll go with you. It's perfectly boring in this God forsaken treehouse. Just let me get my rifle, and I'll join you, Roxton."
They were in the elevator and outside before everyone else woke up. The two made their way through the familiar paths of the jungle, glancing around every now and then, making sure they didn't overlook a bug or stone. Marguerite started to feel uneasy as well.
"John, maybe we should turn back. I don't feel so confident about this anymore."
"Marguerite, not confident?! Well, that's ironic, now isn't it?" he replied.
"John, I'm serious. No one knows we're out here. What if something happens? They'll never find us!"
"My love, what's so bad about them not finding us?" Roxton teased, dipping Marguerite, who glared at him under her dark lashes.
"Let me go, you clod!" she yelped.
"Ok, Ok, my princess. We'll turn back soon enough. Just let me look a little farther."
No sooner had Roxton uttered those words did they stumble across what seemed to be a black hole, right there on the jungle floor.
"Roxton! What the hell is that?"
"It's what made us feel so uneasy my sweet. Watch out!"
Suddenly, a huge T-Rex came hurtling towards them at full speed. They ducked just in time, only to see the huge beast being pulled into the hole.
"Roxton! We have to go back and warn the others about this- thing! If we don't, that hole will suck us all up!"
"We can't Marguerite! By the time we get back to the treehouse, this hole might be big enough to eat up the whole plateau!"
"Well, what are we supposed to do?" Marguerite was starting to get panicky and nervous.
"Just calm down Marguerite. I'll figure something out."
"You know what? That hole seems to be sucking up everything else but us." Marguerite said, watching a raptor being pulled in, while it clawed at the ground, trying to grab on for dear life.
"The wind's really picking up." Roxton yelled, over the sound of the strong breeze.
"Roxton! HELP!" Marguerite was starting to be pulled into the vivacious pit of blackness.
"MARGUERITE! NO!" But there was nothing Roxton could do. The two explorers were pulled into the hole, holding onto each other as to not lose the other one.
They were in nothingness. The darkness was engulfing them, but they couldn't hear a sound. They landed softly on their feet as if they had only fallen a meter into the hole.
They walked, holding hands, in the pitch black. They didn't know what they were looking for. A door? A light? Anything? For minutes they just strolled through the blackness. Finally, one of the two explorers spoke.
"Roxton, what the hell are we trying to find?" Inquired Marguerite whose usual fiery self was sullen and depressing.
"I have no clue Marguerite. I've never been trapped inside a black hole before. I'm sure you have though."
"Haha John. This is not a time for jokes. What's that?!" Suddenly, a burst of light seemed to fill the dank air. Out of the shadows came a tall, dark, handsome man. Marguerite gasped. He was gorgeous, like a Greek God.
"Welcome," said the stranger, "to hell."
"Umm...Excuse me?" asked the bewildered Roxton. "Marguerite, is this a friend of yours?"
"Oh, shut up Roxton. Clearly this is some mistake. I demand to talk to your leader."
"That is not a wise choice miss." Muttered the strong being. "He does not talk to anyone."
"What do you mean he does not talk to anyone?! He'll talk to me! Just bring me to him."
"Uhh...Marguerite..." Roxton's voice trailed off as they approached what seemed to be a shallow cave. Marguerite stepped inside, while still clutching onto Roxton, who did not move.
"Really, Roxton, don't be such a spoil sport." Marguerite said, half jokingly.
"Who goes there?!" demanded a deep and booming voice.
"Good day sir. I am Miss Marguerite Krux and this is.."
"Silence! What are you doing here? No one lays eyes upon Lucifer!"
"Yeah. Listen, Mr. Beelzebub. We don't want to cause any trouble- you know, upset your balance of hell and all, but if you could just direct us to the door, we'll just go on home..." Marguerite said without so much as a bat of an eye. She didn't believe this guy's story for a moment. She had dealt with people like this before in the jungle. Where had they gone? Alcatraz?
Up to this point, Roxton had not said much. He didn't know what to say. He didn't know if he should go along with this guy's story, or follow Marguerite's lead.
"Umm...Marguerite, maybe we should just try and find our own way out...hehe...we don't want to cause a nuisance." Roxton tried to maintain his cool, even though he started to feel nervous.
"No, John, this guy's black hole sucked us in, he should let us back out." Marguerite told her handsome companion, who she was starting to become annoyed with. How could he just stand there and let this bozo push them around?
While Marguerite and Roxton continued to bicker, "Satan" was discussing their rather unfortunate fate with one of his men.
He interrupted their quarreling with a yell. "Enough! Silence! You were sucked into hell for a reason, only the hole knows. If you didn't have a purpose, you would not be down here."
"Well, what can we do? Dig a few graves? Bury a few bones? I'll find the shovel. The sooner, the better." Marguerite facetiously stated.
"Ah, but it is not so easy. You or your companion will be put through three tasks. If you make it out alive, you may go."
"Very original, isn't he?" Marguerite whispered to Roxton, pushing back a strand of hair from her face.
"Choose. Who will be the lucky contender?"
"Well, since you did all the talking Miss Krux, I suspect you'll want to be the one who gets us out of here."
"On the contrary, John- I did the talking you do the walking." Replied Marguerite teasingly, as she slapped Roxton's behind.
"Well, I never..." he answered, smirking, as he was escorted out of the cave by two large men.
"Where are they taking him?" Marguerite questioned, uneasily.
"To prepare for the tasks. He will be fed and properly attired for the first test."
Marguerite waited for what seemed like an eternity. It reminded her of the time when Roxton had to fight for his life in the gladiators ring. It wasn't her fault...she did all she could to save him. Why hadn't he believed her? She tried to convince herself that he'd be all right. He survived the last time.
Another burly man entered the room Marguerite was staying in. He brought her to the ring where Roxton would perform his first task.
There he was. Stripped to the waist and only bearing a sword, Roxton looked pale and nervous. He knew what to expect the first time, but now, he was clueless.
Suddenly, the floor opened up and out jumped Cerberus, the three-headed dog of the Underworld. Marguerite gasped in horror and closed her eyes.
"Well, well, well...I thought you were long gone." Roxton told the beast.
The dog had the first swipe. Roxton jumped back and missed the creature's claw by an inch. Roxton was finally able to strike out at Cerberus, but it jumped over him and pounced. He was trapped. Roxton's sword was knocked out from his hand and he was gasping for breath. Thinking quickly, he pulled the animals rough fur. (hey, it was the best idea he could come up with) The beast jerked his paw off of the wheezing Lord who managed to roll over to his sword, and before the animal knew what was coming, Roxton slashed the beast's stomach open. Out poured dozens of men, still alive and healthy, who had not been as lucky as Roxton.
The animal howled in pain and vanished. Marguerite, who had been keeping her eyes glued shut for most of the latter, finally opened them, overjoyed to see Roxton's beaming face in front of her.
"Oh, don't look so full of yourself Lord Roxton. You still have two more tasks to complete." Marguerite announced, though she was very relieved and proud that he had conquered the first test.
Back at the treehouse, the gang began to get worried. The two explorers had been gone all day and part of the night, and the only thing missing (besides them) were their rifles.
"George," anxious Summerlee began, "maybe we should try looking for them. They could be in a bit of danger and I'm beginning to get worried."
"Don't fret Summerlee. Roxton knows his way around the jungle, and Marguerite has enough attitude to protect the both of them." Veronica said, comfortingly.
"Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt just to have a look around. Not too far from the treehouse, of course." Ned began. He was beginning to feel uneasy, but he didn't feel like going out into the jungle at night.
"Well, we can wait till the morning old boy, can't we?" inquired Challenger. He had found some unusual plant samples, and, like Ned, he didn't feel like going out right then.
"I guess we can wait till morning." Summerlee replied with a nod of his head and a sigh.
Roxton had hoped that there would be a lengthy amount of time between the two first tasks, but unfortunately, he was wrong. All he had time for was a reassuring look from Marguerite, and he was called back into the ring.
"Very good Lord Roxton." boomed Lucifer. "You have defeated my Cerberus. Not many men come out alive, as you can see. Next time, I don't think you'll be as lucky. You will be armed with only a sword and shield. This time, you will have to defeat me."
"Oh, brother. What a day. First, I'm sucked into the pit of hell, and now I have to beat the devil." The brave warrior murmured.
Marguerite felt really guilty by this point. What had she done? He could never beat the devil. She had to help him somehow. Talk him out of it...something.
"Ahem. Excuse me, Mr. Lucifer?" Marguerite purred.
"What is it?! Can't you see I'm busy? You may talk to me after I defeat your friend."
"Yeah. That's what I wanted to talk to you about. You see, we..."
"No, Marguerite! There is nothing you can say. I am fighting Lord Roxton, and that is final." The devil said.
"I guess you can't talk your way out of this one Miss Krux." Roxton said smugly.
The fight was on. Roxton took the first swing at his opponent, who backed away quickly and ducked. He came at Roxton at full speed, with his sword up, but Roxton blocked it with his shield. The Devil tried to swing at his rival's leg, but he jumped and was able to push Lucifer back. He maintained his balance though, and swung again at Roxton. He was just inches from the blade, but managed to duck in time and kick out Lucifer's leg. He fell, with Roxton standing above, his sword to his neck.
"Well, John Roxton, you seem to have me at a disadvantage." Lucifer said. "But you cannot kill me, so I grant you the second task."
Marguerite squealed with joy, for she was very nervous once she found out her wily ways would not be enough to persuade the Devil to call it quits.
The group had followed Marguerite and Roxton's trail until they came to the spot where the hole had been. (After it had engulfed the two explorers, it vanished).
"That's it. The trail ends here." Veronica announced to the already perplexed group.
"How can that be it?" questioned Malone "Why would they hide the rest of their tracks?"
"Maybe they were being followed," Summerlee suspected "and they had no choice but to hide their prints."
"But I don't see anyone else's footprints." observed Veronica. "They couldn't have just disappeared."
Roxton was allowed a little rest after his previous task. Lucifer acknowledged his bravery and strength, and decided to let him take it easy until he figured out the last test.
"You know," Marguerite began "You weren't that bad fighting the Devil."
"Well thanks Marguerite, that means a lot." Roxton replied with a smirk. "I just don't know what the last task will be. I fought the three headed dog, I fought the devil, I think he should call it a day and let us go."
Marguerite smiled to herself. She wasn't one for swooning over a man's courage, but beating the devil was something she'd never seen anyone do. (Despite what Roxton would always tell her jokingly). She felt a new respect for her companion growing inside her heart. Before she could speak again, one of Lucifer's servants entered.
"Satan has come up with his third task. You are to report to the center ring immediatly."
Marguerite and Roxton walked side by side to the arena to wait for the devil's announcement.
"Lord John Roxton, you have completed two tasks, including defeating me. You are free to go." Satan told the two weary explorers.
"Whew!" Roxton breathed, as he smiled at Marguerite, whose face turned from white, to her normal complexion.
"But," Satan began "Marguerite will stay."
"WHAT?!" Roxton screamed as Marguerite's face turned white again "You can't do that. I completed the tasks, and you said we could go."
"On the contrary Lord Roxton, I said you could go. Marguerite did not complete any tasks, you beat me, and therefore, I choose Marguerite to stay with me in the Underworld."
"Please, I can't stay with you. I have a life out there. I can't stay in hell. Besides, what would the humidity do to my hair?!"
"There is nothing you can do Marguerite. I have made up my mind." Satan stated.
"Then I'm staying here too." Roxton said.
"Oh, Roxton, you can't do that! Think of the others! How will they get back to London? You've saved them so many times, you have to go back up and finish what you came on this expedition for."
"Marguerite, you're part of the expedition, and I vowed never to lose any of you as long as I'm around, and dammit! I'm not going to lose you now, so I'm staying!" Roxton began to get annoyed. His head swam with confusion as he thought of his choices. He could go back up without Marguerite, continue to hunt his wild game and live his life- without her, or, he could stay down in hell with his untold love. He made his decision.
"Ok. I have decided what I'm going to do." Roxton began as he looked up towards his old life. "I can't leave you here Marguerite. I'm staying too."
"But," Marguerite began to protest, even though she was trying to keep herself from smiling. This was the most generous and caring thing anyone had ever done for her. She was taken by surprise and was overjoyed that Roxton cared that much for her well being.
"No, Marguerite. I could go back up, but that would mean I'd lose you. I can't take that kind of heartbreak. I'd rather stay down in this dark and hot hell hole than up there without you by my side."
"Roxton," she began, but before she could get out another word, he had taken her in his arms and given her the most real and love filled kiss she had ever received.
"Well done Roxton." Satan whispered, as he watched the two embrace "You have completed the third task."
Their dark, depressing surroundings had vanished, and Roxton and Marguerite found themselves standing on the jungle floor. The rest of the gang had camped out at the site, for it had become dark before they could make their way back to the treehouse.
"Why, Marguerite, Roxton!" Challenger exclaimed "Where did you two come from?!"
"We went through some hell down there." Roxton replied with a smirk. Marguerite just smiled and looked up at her new found love.