Making Friends, Part 13

The great underground lake was a gaping maw, inviting everyone further in. sink into the depths, wash all troubles away. Responsibilities, duties, families…life, all gone beneath the surface.

Greta was not tempted. But then again, she was on the other side, away from the traps. She was running the nursery rhyme through her head, trying to discover some sort of clue as to the next trap.

“Jump six times, turn around three. What could that possibly mean? The gods might kill or invite to tea?”

“Terrible writing,” Rafe agreed. “Whoever came up with the idea should be drawn and quartered by his own pen.”

Greta frowned. “He…or she…was most likely a member of the Order.”

“I stand by my statement.”

Greta could not find a proper response to that. She was too busy analyzing what might come next. There was the remnant of a spell, though something was missing. The spell was asking for something in particular, something that could not be known.

“Have you ever tried to ask a question you weren’t sure of yourself?” She asked. “You knew it was important, but you couldn’t actually properly define what it was?”

“Not really.”

“Of course not. You’re simple enough to always be sure.” Greta looked into the open space before them. It led up towards a great structure, but it was this space in between that Greta was scared of. It needed something, and someone, to start it off. If there was none, then the magic would find other ways of being brought to life. Probably in a most violent fashion.

Greta took out her insignia. A single snowflake, one stem broken off, another faded into nothingness. She held it aloft, letting the air take it in.

“We are with the Order of the Flawed Snowflake!” she called out. “We seek the Scourge. Not to harm her, or to help. We are just checking on her. We have no designs, no machinations, and no schemes beyond sight, sound, and peace of mind.”

The ground rumbled. A piece of rock cracked, and fell to the ground.

Greta turned to Rafe. “Tell what you’re doing here!” She hissed.

“Same.” Rafe said.

The rumbling grew louder, angrier.

“And I want to show the Order I’m not an idiot!” Rafe shouted. “That I can actually be a soldier!”

“And I want to prove I’m a good spy even if I say it too often!” Greta added.

The rumbling subsided, sated.

Greta put the symbol away. “There, a little truth was all we needed. That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“I would like to hurt you.” Rafe muttered.

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

Making Friends, Part 12

“Why are there traps?” Greta asked. The gnome danced forward, slipping past a burst of fire. “We are in a tomb that no one is supposed to know exist.”

“And if no one can tell of its existence, then it remains a myth.” Rafe said.

Greta spun on one heel, and ducked under a saw blade. “But the expense, Rafe! The spells, and the maintenance of such securities, that are supposed to last a century or more.

“And further, it is not like any of these traps could impede a freed goddess like the Scourge. She could wipe all of this away without even a glance. It is inefficient, ineffective, and somehow still infeasible.”

The gnome stamped her foot. “And why are you not dealing with these traps, soldier boy?”

Rafe shrugged. “Simple answer.”

“Why?”

“You were dumb enough to go first.” Rafe stepped down into the system. Greta was balanced on one foot, careful to not disturb one more mite of dust. Rafe knelt down in front of the traps, and hummed in tune with the whistle of spells and blades.

They continued for a minute, expending their power. Rafe was confused, and his face showed it. These traps looked fresh, extremely so. The nursery rhymes and myths on the caves seemed to have worked, preventing anyone from coming even close to the entrance, let alone down here.

So why was Greta’s amulet showing inconclusive results?

“Any ideas as to who could have released the Scourge?” Rafe asked.

Greta stumbled, and landed flat on her bum. She was up in a flash, arms at the ready to take on any trap. When none came, she relaxed.

“None. I looked over some of the supposed curses and defensive measures the Order established when they entombed the Scourge. This was built to withstand armies, or great liches. This entire cave system would collapse upon itself before these defenses would fold.”

“So we should just go home,” Rafe said. “If the traps haven’t been set off…except by us…then the Scourge must not have been released.”

Greta managed to pull the amulet out and hold it aloft. “No white, no good, archer boy. We keep going.”

And so they did. With a little pushing, and the promise to fill out the paperwork, Greta managed to convince Rafe to join her in navigating through the traps. With Rafe’s archer eyes and Greta’s knowledge of the files, they were able to push through without incident. Until they reached the pool of water.

Greta looked into the water, and dropped a pebble into it. It quickly sank, before turning red a few feet down and disappearing into the depths. “Any clue about this? The records did not mention a water hazard.”

Rafe thought about it. There was something about jumping six times in the children’s incessant rhyming, but that must have just been some of their own rhetoric. The lake that extended before them must have almost been a quarter mile across. Not exactly six jumps.

It was time to do something that Rafe hated.

He set his bow down, and started to draw runes in the earth beneath him. He muttered elven words under his breath, keeping his spell in concert with his rune work. Before Greta even thought to look down, he had drawn a bronze knife from behind his back, and cut the both of their hands. He slapped their blood upon the last rune, causing it to burst into white light.

Greta yelped, and almost jumped backwards. Rafe grabbed her wrist, before she jumped backwards into the lake.

The gnome looked on in wonder, now on the other side of the trap. “How. How?”

Rafe stuck the knife behind his back. “Lot of studies, too much experimenting, and not enough friends to play with.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder