This is what happened in the prelude to the theft of the Amber Crystal.
Anton and his men, along with Storm Blazer and Phineas, had followed Storm Blazer’s directions to get to the Crystal Well. They took turns and dived into the pool until they found themselves located in a bright cave. It was so bright that it was almost blinding despite the lack of light. What made the place bright were the billions of crystals that decorated the walls, ceiling and ground of the cave. They came in all shapes, sizes and colours. Most were white but there were shades of cream and ivory too. There were even yellow ones and blue ones. It was a sight unlike anything they had ever seen before. One by one, they climbed out of the water and tried to avoid treading on the crystals on the ground. It was quite difficult to do so the men unfolded their leather canvas bags and spread them on the ground. The crystals were sharp and they did not want to risk slashing their shoes and injuring their feet as they walked. But instead of walking, they found themselves settling down on the ground and looking around them in awe. Storm Blazer had seen all this before and was getting quite impatient with the men. He twirled in agitation, trying to distract them from the beauty of the crystals.
“We better be moving,” he said impertinently.
Anton looked up at him and a smile flickered in the corner of his mouth for a moment before melting away. He did not respond and just went about tying his shoe laces and drying off the water from his clothes. A few minutes passed as Storm Blazer watched him closely.
Phineas, on the other hand, was captivated by the crystals around him. If it were not for the restraints around his wrists he would have been down on his knees looking at them closely or clambering the walls to get samples or even jotting down notes frantically in his diary. But all he could do was to try and soak in as much as he could from the scene before him and commit it to memory. He kept mumbling to himself as if he was trying to memorise some sonnet, over and over, with his neck twitching as his head looked all around him at the crystals.
Anton slowly got up and walked towards Storm Blazer until he was a short distance away from him. He smiled sarcastically, placed his hands on his hips and said, “So here we are. This is the Crystal Well, I presume.”
Storm Blazer stopped twirling and tried to calm down his frantic water droplets and said, “Come! I will show you where the Amber Crystal lies.”
Storm Blazer turned around and Anton followed him slowly. They walked through a long tunnel that had crystal lanterns dangling from the ceilings. It felt more like a corridor in an old castle rather than a tunnel in a cave. Anton was mesmerised by how intricate the crystal designs were. They had not needed to use their torches. There was enough light here to light up five stadiums in a dark night. They walked for half an hour until they found themselves emerging in wide open space. It did not feel like they were in a cave anymore. There was a sky above their heads. There were trees too but all around them the crystals were much more magnificent than those they had seen before. Anton looked closely and saw that the trees were made out of green and dark crystals. There was grass on the ground but it was also made of crystal flakes that crunched as he stepped on them. It was amazing. He stood for a moment to take it all in while Storm Blazer wandered off.
“Come on,” said Storm Blazer unkindly, without turning his back around to face Anton.
They walked across the grass and among the trees until they reached the bottom of a reddish mountain. It, too, was covered in crystals of all shapes and colours. Storm Blazer stopped and turned to face Anton as he stood waiting for him to reach the spot. Anton slowed his pace and looked up at the mountain before allowing his gaze to fall on Storm Blazer.
“Why have we stopped?” asked Anton.
“Because we’ve reached our destination.”
Anton looked around him and above him trying to find any trace of the Amber Crystal, not that he would have recognised it if he saw it.
“Where are we? Where’s the Amber Crystal?” shrugged Anton.
Storm Blazer laughed, “Where we are is deep inside the Crystal Well. We are a hundred miles in. Deep in the ground.”
Anton could not believe his ears. His eyebrows were raised. How could they have gone underground when all they did was swim through a pool of water and emerge on to land on the other side. They had walked level through the tunnel. There was absolutely no indication that they had gone deep down under.
“The Amber Crystal,” continued Storm Blazer, “is up there.” He pointed towards the top of the mountain where they stood.
Anton looked up but could hardly see its peak. The surface of the mountain was rugged and rough and he knew it would be safe to climb it without any ropes. But he thought it best to bring the other men for help and support. He also wanted to make sure that Phineas under his close and watchful eye. He could not afford the doctor going missing again. Besides, Phineas might have some new tricks up his sleeve that would make their task easier.
Anton looked back down and turned around as he addressed Storm Blazer, “Right! I think it’s time we went back to bring the others to this spot.”
Storm Blazer started to show signs of fury building within his water droplets. He twisted and whirled on the spot while Anton continued to walk back the way they had come.
“Stop! You!” shouted Storm Blazer. His voice sounded like a roll of thunder.
Anton was shocked by the sound he heard and turned around instantly, “What is it?”
“You. Don’t. Need the others for this task. You can do it yourself. All you need to do is get to the top, remove the Amber Crystal, come back down and give it to me.”
Anton’s eyebrows were raised in surprise. He slowly walked over to him placing his hands behind his back until he stopped an inch away from Storm Blazer.
Anton placed his hands on his hips, scowled in Storm Blazer’s face and said, “If you have no patience to wait, then you can go and get it yourself. I say we bring the others here and that is what we’re going to do.”
Anton stood there challengingly waiting for Storm Blazer’s reaction who continued to squirm with fury.
“I. Can. Not. Get. The. Crystal. My. Self,” spat out Storm Blazer in stucco style.
“And why not?” mocked Anton.
Storm Blazer bit his tongue and held his breath. He did not want to reveal the secret just yet and wanted to get the man up there to discover it for himself. He would not be able to retreat once he was up there. Storm Blazer said nothing for a while.
Anton laughed and turned away as he continued back the way he came. Storm Blazer was left alone trying to swallow his own injured pride and escalating in rage.
It was another hour before Anton and his men did finally appear. Phineas was still tied at the wrists but he continued to be distracted by the beauty of the crystals around him. When they reached the foot of the mountain where Storm Blazer stood, Phineas tensed up. He found one of the men untying his wrists and Phineas tried rubbing the pain out of them. He adjusted his spectacles and flicked suspicious glances at Storm Blazer and Anton.
“Ah! Finally! What took you so long!” said Storm Blazer sarcastically.
Anton laughed, “Let’s just say we were enjoying the journey.”
Storm Blazer glared at them. Anton was getting ready to climb the mountain when he got an idea.
“Lead on, doctor. You two come with us making sure he doesn’t escape,” said Anton cunningly to two of his men.
Anton turned to address Storm Blazer, “And I think it would be a good idea if you come too.”
“I prefer to stay here to stay on guard in case any intruders show up!” said Storm Blazer in a huff.
Phineas had no choice but to do as Anton had said. He partly wanted to see what was up there and his curiosity got the better of him. They started climbing the mountain making sure to be gentle on the crystals. The sharp edges proved to be a good source of support for their feet and they used their hands to hoist themselves up. The crystals were of different sizes and some of them jutted out far into the air. The men rested whenever they reached a level plateau. Phineas was busy studying the crystal surface. It felt rough under his fingers and some of it crumbled away in his hands. They looked like stars in the palm of his hands. Phineas noticed that the crystals got deeper in colour as they went further up. There were red crystals all around him now.
It was a long climb and it took them hours to reach the top. Anton looked down and felt dizzy which was quite unlike him. He could no longer see the ground below nor any sign of Storm Blazer. They rested for a while until they could catch their breath and regained a bit of their strength. Then they were off again.
Anton, Phineas and the two men inspected their surroundings. It was eerily quiet and still. They did not have to walk far to see it. The Amber Crystal sat on a specially made platform that seemed to be floating in midair. The men approached it cautiously. It looked liked the platform rested on clouds. Tiny water droplets supported it and held it in place. Phineas’ jaw dropped in amazement as he wondered how the platform stayed in place and did not fall through. He leant over to look down but could not see much; just thick cumulus fluffy white clouds.
“Well I’ll be…” said Anton in surprise, “How on earth could this be?”
Phineas turned to look at him, “What do you mean?”
“That Storm thing told me when we were down there at the foot of the mountain that we had reached the depths of the ground. And now here we are staring at clouds. We even seem to be above the clouds! How can that be!” exclaimed Anton.
Phineas looked at the platform again and scratched his head.
“More importantly, how are we meant to get to the Amber Crystal!” said Anton thoughtfully.
Phineas turned back towards Anton and walked towards him decisively. He was determined to stop Anton from stealing the Amber Crystal.
“Anton, you must stop this craziness. You don’t realise what will happen if we remove the Crystal from its dais,” said Phineas.
“Well there’s no use talking like this now. We first need to figure out how to get to it before you start all your measly excuses for not getting it,” mocked Anton.
Phineas pursed his lips and folded his arms across his chest.