Issue 1: The Giant’s Crypt

Felfet held her wide brimmed green hat down on her head, after six days of travel through Vanoree’s perpetual humidity she preferred for her brown curls to stay out of sight.  She also did not want to lose her hat over the edge of the cliff face.  The bald scrap of stone broke from the usual forested blanket of the Redfens Mountains, facing to the east.  From her vantage point she could see the little town of Trefen tucked away in the valley to the southwest, and to the east just visible between two peaks the bronze capped buildings of Melythis sparkled through the fog.  Somehow, from here, it did not seem as far away as the ache in her legs insisted.

            Sunrise in Vanoree was one of Felfet’s favorite things, she had grown up listening to her father talk about watching them—from this very spot on Garrison Mount—and the rosy hues on the fog and the towering clouds surrounding the Golden Summer were certainly beautiful.  For Felfet, though, twelve years of study at the Colloquium had given the sight new meaning.  Right now, beneath the Colloquium’s bronze dome, a courtier and their patron were coaxing the sun through the sky.  With meticulous art, and flawless timing, the courtiers kept the cycles of the world in order.  There was no uncertainty in Vanoree’s Golden Summer, the courtiers made sure of it—and she would be one of them.  Soon.

            “Fel!” Lisle called out to her from the camp, Felfet had heard her companions wake up and smelled breakfast being cooked on the rekindled fire.  Salt and oil in the copper pan, the last of the eggs they had picked up in Trefen two days ago.  She was too anxious to eat though.

            “Coming.” Felfet stood up from her perch on the overlook, brushing off the loose dirt and gravel embedded in her palms against her brown muslin dress.  Their camp was in the corner of a brick ruin, an old fortress from the days before the Bronze King saved the world that gave Garrison Mount its name.  There was nothing left of it now except the foundations and a few of the sturdier corner pillars.  The pine beams between the masonry had long since rotted away, weakening the walls to the point of uselessness.  They were still solid enough to keep the wind off a campfire, though.  Lisle was busy packing the camp up while Mif, the final member of their three-person band, was deeply focused on juggling a pair of plums.

            “We should get moving,” Lisle was saying, and stuffed the woven sleeping matts into her calico bag, “it’s nice and cool now, but I’d like to get underground before the day gets sticky.”

            “S’not’so bad as down on the river,” Mif spoke up, but did not bother to put the plums down, Felfet bit her cheek to stop herself from making a snide remark, “didn’t realize there was anywhere in Vanoree where the air weren’t drinkable all the time.”

            “The air is not drinkable,” Felfet attempted to make her eye roll as audible as possible, since their young thief still had not made eye contact with the people he was speaking to, “the humidity is a necessary part of the Golden Summer, we would run out of water without it.”

            “Run out of water?” Mif let the plums fall and caught them one at a time, he looked over to Lisle with an expression on his face like he was trying to figure out a joke everyone else was in on, “Can’t run out’a water.  That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.  It falls from the sky, greenhat.”

            “It…” Felfet took a breath, “Yes.  Correct.  How foolish of me.”

            “Thought greenhats were s’posed to be smart.” Mif grinned and tossed Felfet a plum.

            “I am smart.” She muttered and took an aggressive bite of the fruit, despite the knots in her stomach.  Her teeth scraped against the pit.

            “Children, please.” Lisle shook her head, and tossed the packed gear into the crook of the brick foundation, “Are we ready?”

            Felfet held the plum with her teeth, grabbed a leather bag and slung it over her shoulder with the sing-song clink of glass jars.  She honestly could not tell if Mif was or was not ready, even after spending six days on the road with him.  Lisle, though, seemed as excited as she was.  A series of leather straps held Lisle’s dress closer to her than Felfet’s, a sword and small collection of knives hanging from loops in the leatherwork.  Lisle had polished them every night of the journey in anticipation, and now their bronze blades were gleaming.  Her close-toed shoes, broad shoulders, and thick black braided hair—all consequences of working on the river docks—lent her the appearance of an ancient hero.  She had been ready for this long before Felfet had asked her to come.  It was the reason Felfet had asked her old friend to come along.

            “We are.” Felfet smiled, “The entrance is just up the next ridge, beyond the ruins.”

            Garrison Mount, like so many places on the fringes of Vanoree, had not fared well under the Golden Summer.  The woods here, in contrast to orderly pines and orchards of the midlands, were a tangle of old growth trees, protruding roots over precipitous boulders, and sporadic patches of king’s thorn—an aberrant species of fast growing briar that could choke the life out of miles of forest.  There was such a patch between them and their destination.  The curling vines and reaching tendrils scaled the trees to their peaks and wove them together like a monstrous spiderweb.  Lisle took the lead of the group, hacking away at the offending plant with her long broad blade.

            “This’s really boring.” Mif groaned, deftly avoid the two-inch-long thorns.  His hands were shoved into the front pockets of his mint-green vest, giving him a folded in look that exaggerated his already slight frame and made his face seem far too round.

            “Just keep moving,” Felfet said, “not much further.”

            Her father had told her—had not realized that he told her, but had—of a secret on Garrison Mount.  A cave where it was always cold, filled with what he had called graffiti.  It was a giant’s crypt, it had to be.  The courtiers had missed it, because Garrison Mount was useless in this era of peace and prosperity—and king’s thorn was a stubborn plant that was obnoxiously resistant to magic.  Giants were always buried with treasures, even the special formulas required to perform corporeal magic, Felfet’s specialty.  If she could bring a new formula back to the Colloquium that no one had ever seen before that would be enough to finally earn the attention of a patron.  It had to be.

            “You’d better be right about the loot, greenhat.”

            “Trust me,” Lisle answered over her shoulder before Felfet could say anything, “Fel spent more than a decade at the Colloquium, she knows what she’s talking about.”

            “A’ight, if you say so.”

            “Hey, Fel, look—” Lisle pointed her bronze blade ahead to a gap in the king’s thorn, a rocky opening in the ridge that was otherwise completely swallowed by the plant.

            “We made it.” The knot in Felfet’s stomach loosened.  The cave was real, at least, not just a story.  If her theory was correct, she would be a courtier within the month.

            It was far colder in the cave than she had anticipated.  Colder than she thought it could be, even.  Her skin prickled, and she hugged herself reflexively.  White mist poured from her mouth when she exhaled, as though she were smoking a pipe.  It startled her, and she could tell that Mif was uneasy as his hands lingered near his daggers and he was clearly alert and paying attention.  The stone of the cavern was slick with moisture.  Something about the cold was pulling the water out of the air—it made sense to Felfet, the humidity was highest when the day was warm.  If water rose with the heat, sinking with the cold was sensible.

            “It’s too d…dark to move on.” Lisle was shivering, “Strong m…magic, eh?”

            Felfet just nodded and retrieved a glass vessel from her bag.  She motioned for Mif and Lisle to step back, Lisle obeyed and dragged Mif back with her as he had gotten lost staring at something on the wall.  Felfet threw the vial at the ground in front of them and it burst into pale green flame.

            “Candlemaker’s D…dust.” She stammered, annoyed that she could not control her jaw from shaking.  It was a very useful formula, derived from bone and urine, it burned on its own when exposed to air.

            “Look.” Mif pointed at the wall, in the flickering light Felfet could make out what he was so interest in.  There were little patterns in the chalky stone, spirals like snail shells but bigger.  Some kind of runic system, probably, but not one that she could read.  This was probably the graffiti her father had mentioned.  She nodded and squeezed Mif’s shoulder.

            “Let’s g…go.”

            Lisle had already left them behind, and rounded a sharp, unnatural, corner in the cave beyond the quickly fading light of the Candlemaker’s Dust.  They found her, just as the light died, staring ahead.  Felfet fetched another vial of Candlemaker’s Dust from her bag and threw it against the stone.  The glass shattered, the pale green flame sprung forth, and revealed to her what Lisle had seen.

            There, in the flickering dark, was a wall of chalky white stone forty feet high.  The same spiral shapes, which Felfet had assumed were etched into its surface, were joined by skeletons—clearly fish, but monstrous twisted things bigger than boats.  From these protruding bones hung strange transparent conical crystals, and at the center of it all was smooth grey door that they could not have reached the top of standing on each other’s shoulders.  Upon the door was the effigy of a wild-haired elderly woman with a smoking pipe spewing lightning bolts in one hand and a painter’s stylus in the other.  Issuing forth from her was a torrent of clouds and waves interwoven with serpents and rocs and stranger things that Felfet was not sure how to describe.

            “H…how c…can there be…be f…fish in the m…mountain?” Mif said as the cold seized him.  Lisle looked to Felfet with hopeful expectation.  Felfet wracked her brain for answers.  Anything.  Any shred of information from all her years at the Colloquium that could shed light on the clear crystal spikes, or the monstrous fish bones, or the terrifying mural on the door.  The mural was, at least perhaps, of some religious significance to the giants that had built this place, but as for the rest she had nothing.

            “I d…don’t know.”  Her fingers and toes burned, and her thoughts seemed to start and stop without warning.  The cold was impossible.  The bones were impossible.  She had hoped to find a place untouched by the courtiers, and she had succeeded.

            “We n…need t…to leave.” Mif backed away from the door.

            “Sc…scared?” shivered Lisle.

            “C…cold.”  Mif replied, and Felfet had to agree with hist sentiment.  She couldn’t feel her fingers or toes.

            “L…let’s regr…group.” She said, “Outs…side.”

            Outside the cavern it was getting on into the afternoon, the sun beat down through the tangle of king’s thorn in the pine trees.  Lack of feeling was replaced with pain as the purple-blue faded from Felfet’s fingers and toes.  She watched as they returned to their normal coloration—just a shade more brown than dried pine needles.  She looked to her companions, Lisle was stretching and making slow deliberate fists, Mif was hugging himself.

            “Is everyone okay?” she asked, Lisle grinned.

            “It wouldn’t be an adventure without some danger, would it?” Felfet returned her friends smile with somewhat diminished vigor, “Come on, Fel, we’re off the map.  Somewhere the Bronze King has never been and the courtiers don’t know about!  We just need you to figure us a way past the door.”

            “Right.” Felfet thought back to the mural, the wild haired woman with the lightning bolt and stylus, “I wonder if that painting was meant to be Lyravatan…”

            “Lyravatan was a dragon, the mother of monsters,” Lisle made an effective counterpoint, it was a story everyone in Vanoree knew, “the Bronze King slew her with a starlight spear and used her body to build the clouds around the golden summer.”

            “Just because that’s our story doesn’t mean the giants saw her the same way.” Felfet said, and noticed that Lisle seemed uneasy at the thought, “The mural showed the lost sea, and the storm clouds, monsters and lightning.  It fits Lyravatan’s motif—even if the figure doesn’t match our stories.  The giants might have thought of her as a goddess.”

            “I guess.” Lisle sat down in the dirt near enough the cavern that there was no king’s thorn, “If it is, does that help us?”

            “Maybe…” Felfet glanced back at the cave, and Mif kicking at a pinecone, “Let’s head back to the camp, for now.”

            Traveling back through the king’s thorn to the ruin of Garrison Mount held none of the anticipation as the journey to the cave had held a few short hours before.  The knot in Felfet’s stomach had been replaced by grinding tension.  She had not spent twelve years at the Colloquium and traveled halfway across Vanoree to be turned back by fishbones, paintings and cold.

Corporeal magic is not in the substance, it is in how you put it together.  Her thoughts repeated the litany of her college.  Lesson one had been baking bread.  The entire first year of study without any magic at all, just to drive in the lesson that things could be greater than the sum of their parts.  Felfet went over what she had in her canvas bag: three more vials of Candlemaker’s Powder, a flask of Yokeman’s Tonic, an old gold dagger attuned to the spirit of a soldier.  Ethereal magic would be useless, tonight was a new moon, so the dagger was just a dagger.  Lisle had two bronze long knives and her sword, and Mif had two bronze daggers.  They also had a copper cooking pan and a pot.

“This stuff is really gross.” At the sound of Mif’s voice, Felfet turned to see him a dozen steps behind her and Lisle, staring at one of the severed king’s thorn vines which was dripping deep purple sap.

“It is a nuisance.” Felfet agreed, “Come on, keep up.”

“I’m comin’,” he did come, but at a leisurely enough pace that it made Felfet impatient, “don’t rightly know wha’the rush is at this point.  It’s a long way back to Melythis empty handed.”

“We are not going back empty handed.”

“Fel…”

“We. Are. Not.” the magician pushed passed her friend, stalking ahead of her companions as she went over the tools at her disposal again.  The red brick of the Garrison Mount ruin slowly emerged from the jumble of briars and forest.  A piece of brick here and there, and then the outline of the foundations, and finally the stunted hollow towers.

There are two main problems, Felfet tried to rally her thoughts together.  The cold was the first issue, they wouldn’t be able to do anything in the cavern if they couldn’t stay in it.  The second issue was the door, and how to open it.  Maybe they could

“Don’t understand why she didn’t just magic the cold away.”

“I don’t think it works like that, Mif.”

“Well what good’s it then?  You didn’t tell me your greenhat was defective.”

“Excuse me, I am right here.” Felfet turned on the two of them, her body rigid, joints locked, “What do you even know about me, thief?  You were not invited to begin with.”

“Fel…”

“No.” she snapped at Lisle, “I want to hear what he has to say.  Six days you have been standing in for him.  Talk.  Now.”

“I don’t like your tone, greenhat.” Mif said, and Felfet realized it was the first time he had spoken to her and not been looking at the ground or off into the distance.  His eyes reminded her of a cat, mossy green and seeking, they jumped out from his tanned complexion earned from a lifetime in the sun without a home, no doubt.

“I do not care.” She replied, holding her ground.  More terrifying things than a street rat with a blade had threatened her, and more directly, “Why are you here?”

“For the loot, are you stupid?” he shook his head, and his stance softened slightly, “Lis said she was goin’ on an adventure to a tomb, and there’s always treasure in places like that.  Well’n I might’a nicked a thing or two before we left Melythis, and it was a good idea to be out’a town.”

“Lisle.” Felfet started, but her friend interrupted.

“We’re on the top of a mountain, Felfet.” Lisle’s arms folded together across her chest were thicker than Felfet’s leg, “Just drop it, figure out what we need to do.”

“I don’t know…” she went over the list of tools again, “I can’t use Ephemeral magic without a patron, that is the whole reason for this.  Ethereal magic is no good today, not with a new moon scheduled, Menoree will be inaccessible, and the dead are not really my specialty anyway.” She placed the canvas bag down and flipped it open, “I have three more vials of Candlemaker’s Powder, so we have light and fire.  Yokeman’s Tonic, which is for heat stroke…that’s it.”

“Corporeal magic is kind’a useless, huh?”

“The next time that you go to cut an old man’s purse, use a tin blade and then tell me that Corporeal magic is useless.”

“What’s tin got to do with it?” Mif pulled out one of his daggers and spun it around the flat of his palm in a showy flourish.

“Your daggers are bronze.”

“Yeah, greenhat, didn’t notice before?” He grinned.

“No, it…bronze is…never mind.” Felfet sat down on the brick rubble, pressed the heels of her palms into the sun warmed clay.  Lisle sat down beside her.

“You’ll figure it out.”

“The situation would not be so difficult if I had more equipment,” she kicked at the tuft of ferns at the base of the ruin, “but there was no way to bring an entire workshop across half of Vanoree and up the side of a mountain.”

“Well, let’s go back down to Trefen, or back to Melythis.  Get what you need, and try again.”

“That would take too long.  Around a month is what I had to work with, I have a job offer from Master Alin at the Colloquium.  If I turn it down, what can do?  Go and patch up farming equipment on the peninsula?  Spend my time boiling willow bark to cure headaches and bruises?  I did not spend twelve years of my life to be a hedge witch, Lisle.”  Felfet drew up her knees and planted her heels on the brickwork, “My story will not end that way.”

“So, we can go back.” Lisle shrugged, “You found the crypt.  Report it to the Colloquium, and go to work for Alin.  You don’t have to be a courtier.”

“I just want to be able to make a real difference.  I want my time to have been worth something.”

“You’re a magician.” Mif flicked one of his daggers into the ground beneath where Felfet was sitting, it stuck into the fern with an earthy thud, “You’ve got’a bag full’a bottles that make fire.  I’d say your time was worth somethin’.”

“I thought Corporeal magic was useless.” She muttered.

“Eh.” Mif picked his dagger out of the ground, “What do I know?  You gotta take the loss then do it, my folks are from the peninsula that place can rot.  But listen, I’d really prefer if we didn’t go back empty handed though.”

“Me too.” Felfet said, “We need to figure out a way to stay warm, first.  There is no way for me to study the door if we the cold runs us out of the cavern.”

“S’a shame you can’t just light us on fire.”

“Light us on fire?” Felfet let her feet slip off the brick, what if…

“Not helping, Mif.”

“No.” Felfet hopped up, “No, that might work.  Lisle, rekindle the fire, bring some water to a boil.  Mif, go and get as many chunks of king’s thorn as you can manage.”

“What’re you goin’to do?”

“Magic.” Felfet grinned, pulled the gold knife from her bag, and stabbed it through the canvas fold.

It took several hours to cut their bags and sleeping rolls down into strips of fabric, boiled one at a time in a mixture of water and king’s thorn sap.  Calico, canvas, and muslin were all stained to purple-black from the concoction.  They laid them out on the brickwork of the ruins to dry out as much as possible.

“What’s the play here?” Mif looked on with interest as Felfet moved a few of the strips off on their own and produced one of her three remaining vessels of Candlemaker’s Powder.

“King’s thorn is resistant to magic, all kinds.  It grows, but it does not burn or decay, at least not easily.  It should dramatically slow the time it takes for the fabric to be consumed by the flame produced from the Candlemaker’s Dust.”

“And then we wrap the fire around our skin and…burn?”

“Scared, Lis?”

“No, just not looking to get burned to death before we get into the crypt.”

“You said you were from the peninsula, Mif?” Felfet said, “You know what Yokeman’s Tonic does then.”

“Yeah,” the young man nodded, “the bosses give it to the field workers.  Stops ‘em from gettin’ sunburned, and faintin’ and they can work a whole shift without havin’ta stop for water.”

“Dehydration, heat stroke, blistering,” Felfet nodded as she shattered the vessel of Candlemaker’s Powder of the treated cloth, “it protects against fire.”

The silver-white powder sparked into the pale green flame as soon as it contacted the air, but the fabrics simply lay smoldering on the bricks.  Aflame, but unconsumed by the fire.

“It worked!”

“Step one worked, Lisle,” Felfet said in a measured tone, she had worked with enough off-book formulas to know not to be excited until it was completely finished, “now we test step two.” The magician removed the cork from her copper flask and took a shallow sip of the Yokeman’s Tonic.  She had never heard of someone using the tonic as protection from direct contact with fire, but then she couldn’t think of a reason anyone would need to walk into a fire.  She stared at the dim green flame, slowly burning through the king’s thorn dye.  Grab the flame.  She thought, but her hands were hesitant to obey.  Instinct was a compelling force.  “I will not let this stop me.”

Felfet grabbed the burning fabric.  She nearly threw it back down as the heat poured across the palm of her hand, but it wasn’t a sharp caustic heat.  There was no pain.  It was more like her hand was submerged in a thermal bath.  The physical sensation was so disconnected from what her eyes were seeing that she could almost imagine there was pain, but when she looked away there was only warmth.

“It does work.” Felfet permitted herself a smile.  This was good work on its own, never mind whatever they found inside the crypt, “We need to prepare our clothing in the same manner, so that it does not burn when we put the wrappings on.  Then we should take the rest with us and do the final steps outside the cave so that we have as long as possible.  The king’s thorn won’t prevent the fire from consuming the fabric indefinitely.”

“You did it.” Lisle said, scooping up the remaining strips of cloth in her arms, “I knew you could.”

The walk back to the cave was an exercise in patience.  Without her bag, Felfet had to rely on Mif to carry the last two vessels of Candlemaker’s Dust and the Yokeman’s Tonic flask.  Felfet carried the now smoldering cloth wrappings.  The sun was past noon, and the added heat from her new creation made the experience entirely unpleasant, even with the tonic reducing the effects.  Mif followed behind her and Lisle, as meandering as he had been earlier if not more so.

“Mif, come on.”

“I’m comin’, you want me to drop your bottles?”

“Just focus on the path and quit stopping to stare at every little thing.”

“Walkin’ the same route three times in’a day does not make for compelling travel.” He groaned, “And it’s hot.”

“It’s going to be cold in a minute.” Lisle said from up ahead, “We’re back.”

The cave loomed ahead, as dark and devoid of plant life as it had been earlier.  Felfet realized that she had, on some level, expected it to be gone.  The impossibilities of it nagged at her.  She had dreamed up this plan after listening to her father’s stories, and being rejected by the Summer Court.  The reality of the situation rested on her like stone as she watched Lisle lay the cloth strips out.  She took the Candlemaker’s Dust from Mif, and carefully set each strip ablaze, then handed the flask to Lisle.

“To adventure,” Lisle grinned and took a drink of the tonic, “and the chance to do something amazing.”

“Thank you for coming, Lisle.” Felfet said as she wrapped the smoldering strips around her hands and feet, “I could not have made it this far without you.”

“Couldn’t let you have all the fun in this life.”

“This’s weird.” Mif stared at his hands, wrapped in the burning remains of Lisle’s calico bag, “Is warm though.”

“Alright.” Felfet retrieved the gold knife from the band of her hat, “Let us try this again.”

Somehow the cave seemed much smaller with the biting cold held off by the smoldering wrappings.  The dim light from the garments was all that they had for light now, rounding the cut corner to face the door.  Its smooth stone and blue-grey mural in contrast to the chalk-white wall of the cave with its menagerie of aquatic skeletons.  The otherness of it was far more apparent to Felfet now that her mind wasn’t addled by the temperature.  She wondered if the bones were truly bones, or a sculpted stone relief.  Vanoree had been cut off from the sea for ages, but the crypt was obviously ancient.  How fish and sea monsters had come to be in a mountain would be a question for the historians in the Colloquium.

Mif approached the wall, and reaching out, he grasped one of the transparent crystal spikes.  To Felfet’s surprise—and Mif’s—it broke off in his hand.  Having made contact with the burning cloth wrapped around Mif’s hand the clear stone transformed into water.  Mif looked up from the puddle around his feet at Felfet.

“I think it might be like metal.” She said, thinking through it, “Copper and tin become a liquid when you heat them, and when the liquid cools it becomes bronze.  Maybe the cold can turn water into crystal.”

“Magic’s a mad thing…” the thief muttered.

“Let me look at the door.” Felfet moved across the cavern, Lisle followed, drawing her blade and keeping her eyes focused on the skeletons in the wall.

“I’ll keep you covered, just in case…”

“In case?”

“Something comes out.  You know…a guardian, or a beast.”

“I see.” Felfet grinned beneath her face covering.  She had asked for Lisle’s company on the journey under the pretense of needing the help of a warrior in the crypt.  Truthfully, Felfet did not expect to find anything in need of being fought inside, but she had been concerned about brigands on the road from Melythis to Trefen.

Up close the door was an incredible piece of art.  The greys and blues of the mural had faded with time and were discolored by the green glow of the Candlemaker’s flame.  Felfet run her cloth wrapped fingers across the surface of the stone, the image wasn’t just painted it was etched into the stone, delicately.  Each cresting wave, each scale on the sea monsters, a tiny piece of stone chipped away.

“This’s been forced open.” Mif’s muffled voice drew her concentration away from the craftsmanship.

“Excuse me?”

“There’s scrapes.” He was pointing at the left edge of the door.  There were long pale parallel gashes in the stone, “No one’d make art like this’n then set the door’ta ruin it.  It was forced.”

“They go on for the width of a person…” Felfet noted, “but they are only on the left side.”

“Then it opens from this side.” Lisle walked to the right side of the door, “It’s cracked!”

“Doesn’t do much good.” Mif said to Felfet, “This door must weigh as much as a building.”

The sharp sound of bronze on stone caused Felfet to shiver slightly, in spite of her burning cloak.  Lisle had jammed her sword into the crevice.

“Careful!” Felfet tried to yell, but it still came out muffled.

“I think…” she heard Lisle saying, and then saw her friend lean into the wall.  There was a sound that reminded Felfet of her mother’s mortar and pestle, but with the volume of thunder, and the door moved.  The magician ran to the right side of the door, in disbelief.

“How…” she watched as Lisle continued to push on the door, three times her height, slipping her fingers and then hands and then her whole body.  While the door did not appear to be moving with ease, that it moved at all was staggering.  Felfet knelt in the gap that Lisle had created.  There was a track in the floor, filled with the water-crystal.  Carefully, she placed a stray bit of gravel on the track and gave it a gentle nudge.  It slid across the surface of the crystal as if untethered from the earth, “Fascinating.”

“I…got…it…for you.” Lisle struggled to catch her breath through the face wrapping and slumped down against the door.  There was just enough space to squeeze through between the end of it and the wall.

“Good work.” Felfet put a hand on Lisle’s knee.

“We goin’ in?” Mif wandered up and peered through the newly opened path, offering Lisle a hand up.  She took it and hoisted herself to her feet, taking a moment to redraw her sword.  Then, together, the three of them pushed their way into the crypt.

It was a large space, but not as large as Felfet had imagined.  A series of towering columns lined the sides of a single expansive room crafted from dark reflective stone.  A pale miasma hung in the chamber, rolling off cascading water features which flowed from the mouths of great monoliths and into gutters carved into the floor.  In the center of the chamber there was a large stone sarcophagus with a shallow pool carved into the lid.  A torrent of water fell from a monolith to fill the pool before roiling over and spilling down a gutter at the base of the sarcophagus.  Even through their enchanted garments, the chamber was frigid.  Despite all of this, Felfet was focused on one final oddity which had captured Lisle’s attention.

Strewn upon the floor of the chamber were the bones of some great beast, and the polished black stone showed signs of battle.  To Felfet it appeared serpentine in style, its skull pierced by a bronze spear.  Lisle walked toward the creature as though in a trance and reached out to touch the haft of the spear.  Her fingers faltered just shy of it.

“He was here.” Her voice was a mix of awe and fear and fury, “Why is this still here if the Bronze King was already here?”

“I do not know.” Felfet wandered forward toward the sarcophagas.  The symbol of Vanoree’s hero-king was undeniable proof that the crypt had been discovered by the courtiers, “There were no records of this place in the Colloquium.”  As she approached the flowing water, the temperature continued to drop.  There is something in the pool.  Through the white miasma, beneath the bubbling liquid, Felfet could see the glint of metal.

            “Anything good, greenhat?” Mif joined her, “Somethin’ shiny, eh?  Whatever this is, I’d wager you don’t wan’na touch it.”

            “Probably not.” Felfet had to agree.  Any liquid that was passively generating miasma was undergoing a corporeal process.

            “We came here so that you could bring back something worthwhile, right?” Lisle stalked up to the sarcophagas.  The skin around her eyes was raw, and Felfet was not sure if she had been crying or if it was simply from the cold.  Before she could answer, or do anything, Lisle had plunged her hand into the basin.

            “Lis!”

            Lisle withdrew her hand as fast as Felfet had ever seen anyone move, and flung a sword across the room before tearing the wrappings off of her hand.  The cotton fabric fell to the black stone floor and shattered like glass.

            “What were you thinking?” Felfet grabbed Lisle’s exposed hand and examined it, the wrappings seemed to have absorbed whatever effect the liquid had.  Lisle jerked her hand away.

            “I’m fine…”

            “This worth it?” Mif kicked the sword with the heel of his boot.

            “I…” Felfet glanced at Lisle, but her friend looked away, “let me see.”

            It was a sword, too cold to touch still, but crafted from a material that Felfet had never seen.  Grey-bright, and reflective, with an edge that looked as clean as if it had just been crafted.  Along its surface were giant’s runes, ones that Felfet was familiar with from her studies, detailing a corporeal formula.  She smiled.

            “Yes,” she said, “I believe it will be.”

The journey so far.

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