Well, it’s been almost a week without me actually posting some writing so here’s some more D&D action I did in between big projects.
Sources close to me have said this piece is particularly good for reading in airports.
“By the hells!”
The resounding crash broke the dampening silence. Anxious breaths drew as the others watched helplessly while their friend tumbled forward. Fingers splayed out and arms waving madly, Jeremiah grasped frantically for some handhold to halt his descent. The floor beneath his feet crumbled like dry autumn mud shaken loosely from a farmer’s boot. His body slammed against the tile before him and his dark fingertips dug tightly into its ridge. With feet dangling helplessly beneath, Jeremiah breathed a sigh of relief as he noticed he was now hugging a large embossed tile with a symbol that vaguely resembled a stylish Fe rune.
“Are you alright?” Aliessa called after everyone realized that Jeremiah was not, despite initial appearances, plummeting to his death.“FINE!” Jeremiah hissed between gritted teeth. His face was red from the exertion as he tried to pull his large frame from the small hole. The chain links of his shirt bit into his flesh as he pressed as much of his weight on the portion of himself not suspended in air.“Hold still, I’m coming,” Amber called.“No, don’t!”“Now is not the time for heroic machismo,” Amber sighed.Jeremiah jerked his body to the side, swinging one knee above the old clay tile. With better leverage he was able to roll uncomfortably on his back. There he lay, taking in slow, sweet breaths while waiting for his hammering heart to calm.“You know, you could have just waited. I would have helped you.”“I… didn’t…want to …can I have a moment, please?”
“So because of your stubbornness we should all wait on you?’“I just about died!”“Oh, and now that’s our fault?”“Please, people! I don’t think that this is really the time,” Keirn called.And he didn’t think he had to quantify that statement. The sorcerer stood by the peculiar cog-work door they’d passed through, holding tightly to a thick cord that kept a large, smoothed stone aloft. They had realized, just moments before it was too late, that the strange mechanism was connected to its twin on the far side of the room and set to trigger if they didn’t keep it suspended. So while the young man was tasked with keeping it open on his end, the rest of the group was trying desperately to get across the curious floor to stabilize the other.At this moment, only Amber was close to getting across and she had now retraced her steps to continue her argument. Kait was a third of the way, a few strides from Jeremiah’s near misstep. However, she refused to move any further without assurance that there was an actual safe path. In the interim, she had hunkered down for a long wait, somehow managing to sort through her packs to produce two needles and a ball of yarn despite being restricted to a three by three square of floor. Now she looked like a little princess on her throne of travel bags.Derrek had climbed one of the cracked pillars bordering the room. Perched upon its broken centre, he surveyed the rows of etched runes like a master strategist overlooking his army. Beneath his guidance, the group had managed to so far strand three of their number across the incomprehensible runes. The tiles were arranged in nine columns that covered most of the room making it impossible to skirt the puzzle. And the numerous holes along the edges of the room suggested others had tried.“Fine, let’s just get across this damn thing and get out of here,” Amber said. She turned, her red hair snapping like a vicious fire in her wake. Without a second glance back, she stomped across an Ur, Tyr and Eh rune before stopping and looking back at Derrek. “Where now minstrel?”Derrek leaned as far as he could over the broken marble lip. ‘I believe if Jeremiah takes the closest Rad then you should be able to proceed.’Jeremiah looked over the tiles around him and sighed once he spotted the elusive letter.
“I hate when you have to jump for them.”
Jeremiah wasn’t entirely sure how this puzzle worked. Derrek had gone on a long explanation that involved a fair knowledge of pressure plates, distribution of weight, leaded balances and an advanced grasp of machinery that no normal person would be expected to understand.
Needless to say, the rest of the group were putting their lives in Derrek’s hands. Jeremiah didn’t understand how the seemingly bottomless pit played in but his current grasp of the situation required the spelling of some bizarre ancient phrase so that they weren’t riddled with arrows from the walls, crushed by boulders in the ceiling or possibly both simultaneously.
“Stop complaining and just do it. You don’t see anyone else whining about their part.”
“Anyone else? So far I’ve been doing most of the work!” Jeremiah cried.
“Oh, is that why I’m further along then?”
“Derrek’s been giving you the easier path!”
“Everyone, QUIET!” Keirn shouted. The room drifted slowly back to its initial silence. It was easy to forget that this place served as a tomb, not only for the original worshippers but also the countless treasure hunters that had high hopes of obtaining golden statuettes, rubies the size of hams or whatever else drove the crazy fools into these dark caverns.
“What is it?” Kait anxiously called.
Keirn silenced his sister with an impatient wave of his hand. His biceps were bulging but he was more focused on peering out the doorway, eyes trying to pierce the encroaching darkness just beyond.
“Did you hear something?” Amber shouted.“Odd, I haven’t detected anything,” Aliessa said, gliding up to the other side of the door. A brown and orange tabby pranced just behind her. Its ears pricked as both pet and master rested at the edge of the door, the wizard holding her torch high overhead.‘What part of the word QUIET, do you people seem to struggle with?’ Keirn hissed. He leaned over, snatching the torch from Aliessa’s hands and pitched it quickly down the dusty hall. A few rats scattered, squealing indignantly as they scurried from the flaming stick’s tumbling cinders. The torch clattered against the floor, rolling a few extra feet before resting in a pool of inky nothingness.“I’m not getting that,” Aliessa whispered.Keirn ignored her as he shifted his weight to relax his tiring muscles. The aged pulleys groaned with the shift in direction. Everyone waited for a few minutes, each expecting a telltale scratch, clank, hiss, thump or thud to herald impending danger. They began to grow restless when nothing continued to happen.“Can we get on with this?” Amber commanded.Derrek looked over to Keirn, but when he didn’t receive any angry glares, he resumed his directing. Kait’s needle returned to their gentle click, click, clicking and Jeremiah and Amber continued their disgruntled silence.“Amber, if you can step to that Fe and Jeremiah if you could step to that Sigel…no wait!”Jeremiah shouted in surprise, falling backwards as the tile crumbled beneath his foot.‘Are you trying to kill me?!’
“Sorry. Does anyone remember the name of the ancient god who rides a boar?”
“Well it doesn’t have a Sigel!” Jeremiah shouted.
“We can see that,” Amber sighed.
“I thought this was supposed to be in some dead language anyway,” Kait said.
“Freyar,” Keirn called.
“How do you remember that?”
“Am I the only one that’s been paying attention to the murals in this temple?!”
“Once you’ve seen one naked man drawing, you’ve seen them all,” Aliessa shrugged.
“Ah, of course. Jeremiah, if you could go to the Eh to your right then.”
“Derrek, dear, do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Aliessa asked returning from her vigil and standing at the base of Derrek’s pillar.“Well, not really, but we’re doing pretty well so far,” Derrek casually replied. “Amber if you could take that second Fe.”Jeremiah frowned. It would be just like the bard to bumble them into even worse trouble. Jeremiah dropped to his knees, pressing on the adjoining tile with his hand.“Oh don’t be so ridiculous!” Amber shouted. “Just jump to the next letter!”“I’m so far the only one that’s almost died. Twice! What if he’s wrong? I won’t have anywhere to go from there.”“Oh, you make it sound as if it would be a big loss.”“It kind of would be!”“Well, I suppose if we’re talking about pure mass, then yes you would be a big loss.”“Look, I’ve put up with just about enough of your…”“My what?!” Amber shouted. “You think that this has been easy for me?”
“Well, it hasn’t. It’s always been about you and I can’t stand it anymore.”
“About me? I gave you everything you’ve ever wanted. Whenever you needed me, I was always there for you!” Jeremiah yelled.
“Precisely! You were smothering me!”
“Exactly. You wouldn’t ever give me my own space. Sometimes I just wanted to spend some time alone. Was that too much to ask?”
“What about all that time you spent at the temple? Or with your friends?”
“I wasn’t alone then; I was with other people!”
“I can’t believe you are blaming this on me!”
“Well it is your fault!”
“I have a feeling we aren’t talking about the spelling anymore,” Kait muttered. Her needles kept their rhythmic clatter as she watched with anxious interest at the pair’s bickering. “Is this how Keirn and I sound?”“My fault! You refuse to take any responsibility! You’re too busy playing the poor victim!” Jeremiah screamed. He took a few steps towards her, despite the frantic calling from Derrek and Aliessa.“My fault, that’s rich. You never tended to my needs! You were so clingy and insecure that you never listened to what I wanted!”“What you waaaa…!” Jeremiah hollered as he stepped through another false tile.“Serves you right!” Amber shouted as Jeremiah scrambled to catch onto solid ground.“Hells! Can someone give me a hand?”“Oh, so now you want my help? Why don’t you do it on your own!”“Why don’t you cross this damned board on your own then if you’re so bloody independent!” Jeremiah grunted, scratching his fingers deep into the aged clay.“If I knew what I had to spell, I would. But here, why don’t I spell your path for you!” Amber shouted back. She stabbed at the tiles around her, “A S S H O L and over there is the Eh!”The thunder of the crumbling tiles beneath the jabs of her staff filled the air and drowned out the frantic calls from those gathered at the edge of the puzzling field. The shattered pieces tumbled wildly into the empty pit beneath.
“Well, let me show you yours! B I T … does anyone see a C?!”
“You broke it earlier,” Kait whispered.
“Oh, that’s just clever. You think you’re so damned smart don’t you!” Amber called. She threw her bag to her feet, scrounging around in it until she triumphantly pulled a long thin golden rod from within. She held it over the crevice she had just broken. “Why don’t you just admit that you never loved me – that you care more for this damned thing then you ever did for me.”
“This is why we discourage dating within the company,” Keirn growled. He pulled heavily on his chord, grunting as he dragged himself over to where Derrek had discarded his crossbow. Shouldering the heft of the stone’s weight over his shoulder, Keirn snatched up the weapon and began to leverage it towards the middle of the room.
“What are you doing?” Aliessa called.
“You can’t shoot her! She has the relic!”
“My aim isn’t that bad,” Keirn replied.
“No, Keirn, wait!” Derrek called as he began scrambling down the pillar. However, the loose marble gave out beneath his feet, and he tumbled the last ten feet before landing heavily upon his back. Aliessa gasped, rushing to her beloved’s side.
Keirn ignored his friend’s plight, steadying his aim as best he could while sweat beaded from the extra exertion of holding the stone at this new height. However, as the crossbow’s latch clicked, there was a more distinct echo that rang through the open door. Both Keirn and Jeremiah turned to the dark hallway and Jeremiah realized immediately the torch had gutted out.“By the gods!” Keirn shouted. The darkness seemed to quiver as the shadows gave birth to indistinct shapes. Keirn released his chord, the pulleys screeching as the rope ripped from his hands and the counterweight stone crashed loudly to the ground.There was a loud grinding as the stones shifted against each other and the entrance slab dropped from its raised alcove above. Before it smashed to the ground and locked into place, the sorcerer snatched another stone, lifting it as best he could and halting the door a mere foot from trapping them within.
Overhead, the complicated machinery ground and clanked as the exit shifted to match its twin’s position.“Admit it, Jeremiah, you never really cared for me!”“What are you, crazy?” Jeremiah called back.“ADMIT IT!”“Kait… don’t let… her drop it!” Keirn shouted.However, Kait sat paralyzed as the chaos ensued around her. Her fingers still held the yarn in mid stitch. She turned to her brother, who madly motioned towards the fallen crossbow with his reddening face. However, a ferocious pounding erupted from the other side of the door and the massive slab shook as some terrible force attempted to bash its way through.“Wha…what do you want me to do?” she asked.“Anything!” Keirn gritted. “Shoot her if you must!”“Oh… Oh! Oh no. No no no no no… I couldn’t.”“Aliessa!”
“Derrek … Derrek, honey, wake up!”
The wizard ignored his calls and looked Derrek over for serious injury. Her feline paced up and down the length of his body, dainty nose sniffing gently at the delicate man sprawled awkwardly upon the ground. From the long sleeves of her short jacket emerged a brilliant snake that seemed to wrap lightly about the man’s wrist while flicking its tongue softly over his vein.
“KAAAIIITTTTT!”“Oh… Oh no. Oh no. Oh no,” she stammered, the yarn quivering within her hands.
“I can’t believe that I ever loved someone so … selfish… so vain!” Jeremiah shouted. “It’s clear to me now that you never cared for me like I did for you!”
“You are impossible!” Amber screamed, raising her voice to be heard over the banging upon the door. She still held the rod threateningly over the precipice. “Do you want me to drop this? Don’t think I won’t!”
“Then drop it! You have no power over me anymore!”“By the gods,” Keirn sighed. “We’re all going to die.”The rope to the counter weight began to snap from the strain.
Continue to It’s a Trap Part 2 >
Return to the Short Story hub