Hidden Magic - Chapter 3

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Phillip inched around the wall taking care not to make a sound. His reason for lurking was a pointless quest given by his master to find something only mentioned in whispered and vague rumors. It was no surprise to him that the apprentice was the one sent on this fool's errand.

To make matters worse, leads he had followed had led him to believe that the rumored thing did in fact exist and was located here. Here, in the same location as a group of orcs and gods only knew what else. If he came back empty handed, or at least without bearing word of its whereabouts, his master would not be at all pleased- and that would be an understatement. The old wizard had never been particularly kind, but over the past year or two he'd become downright... well, evil, in his apprentice's opinion, although "unhinged," "paranoid" and "shady" would be other words said apprentice would throw into the mix, although most definitely not while in his trigger-happy master's presence. He liked his feet where they were, thank you very much.

As inane as this task was, perhaps if Phillip retrieved the magic amulet it would allow his master to lose some of that horrible paranoia and return to normal... or at least to the level of eccentricity that he had started out. If nothing else, maybe it would please the old man enough that he'd finally advance his apprentice to master Illusionist, meaning Phillip could get as far away from Bluecoast as possible and never have to deal with that madman again. 

So maybe this search wasn't so pointless after all.

Phillip had heard no sound coming from within the wall as he looped his way around and was caught by surprised when a ruckus of clangs and thumps came from a section of the wall he'd already checked once. When he stepped away from the wall to look around the curve of the stone, he spotted something that surprised him even further: a male centaur slamming an iron gate with what Phillip could only think of as a tree. As he watched, the stallion- if that was the term for someone with the top half of a human- tossed the large log aside. He let out a growl of frustration and began tugging at the gate with his bare hands, accomplishing nothing more than rattling the iron.

Phillip's sense of self-preservation told him to quickly head the other way, as far from this angry beast as possible, but curiosity led him forward. He crept forward in his soft, silent boots and stopped a few yards away just as the horse-man gave another shout. As Phillip watched, the centaur seemed to give up. He bowed his head low and brought his much-abused hands up to his head to pull at his already disheveled hair. Phillip wasn't sure if that was how centaurs normally wore their hair, but was willing to bet it was from an extended time of frustration.

At a loss about what to do about a distraught centaur, Phillip nervously cleared his throat. 

When the centaur spotted him, he didn't reach for the discarded tree as Phillip had feared. Instead the centaur gestured at the gate. "Please! Your aid I need. My sister in there be!"

And here was another surprise: the pleading centaur spoke his language. While heavily accented, he was perfectly understandable.

"Woah. Hold on." Phillip held his arms out in front of him to deter the pleading in the centaur's voice and bleary brown eyes. "There are orcs in there. I can't just wander in and ask them to hand someone over."

The centaur shook his head hastily, causing the braids mixed into his hair to fling over his shoulders. "No! Gone most of them should be. Her kin cleared them out and left, but never did she leave."

That didn't sound too promising for the missing sister. "But how do you know she's-"

The centaur glared at him with enough vehemence to cause Phillip to take a few steps back.

"Their injured they removed and with them she was not. Inside she must then still be. Get her, I would, but," he now directed his stare at the gate and Phillip was almost surprised not to see this one melt like the gate to the west, "enter I cannot."

The centaur again turned to look at the human. "Gone the orcs all should be. For now. Get her out before more come, I would like. For her please look."

Phillip sighed. This was not how he wanted to spend his day and any other time he'd have hurried away from such a request. He did have to get inside, though, especially if it were true and the orcs were all dead, so this would be a chance to appear to do something heroic without that being his actual goal. "I could try, I suppose... but how would I get in?"

The centaur turned and pointed to a rope dangling from the wall to the west which Phillip hadn't noticed. It blended so well into the grey of the stone that unless you knew it was there, it couldn't be seen. "To get in that did she use." There was such intense entreaty in his eyes that Phillip had to look away. "So look for her you will?"

Phillip gave a slight nod. The centaur let out a whoop and swished his tail, then said, "Wait for you here I shall."

Phillip walked over to the rope and yanked to be sure of its strength. It seemed okay, so he quickly tied back his long hair and tucked his robe into his belt. It wasn't until he had reached the top of the wall, stored the rope on his pack, and located a set of stairs leading down into the ruin of the town that the thought occurred to him, Wait, how did a centaur get over the wall using a rope?


Meren opened her groggy eyes and blinked dazedly at the dim light. Her thoughts were sluggish and she rubbed the back of her head as she sat up. Where am I? I feel like a building fell on me... As she looked up at the small hole in the ceiling that let in the waning sunlight, she recalled that it technically had.

She groped around for her backpack until she found it near her feet. This she began digging through but quickly threw down with a frustrated curse. She'd left her grappling hook and rope behind on the wall, hadn't she? She'd been in such a hurry to explore that not only was it now no use for her, anything could use it to get in... No, that was a ridiculous thought. No one would want to break into a village of orcs.

Right, orcs, that was why she was here! She climbed unsteadily to her feet and listened for any sound. Nothing. She could call out, but would alerting a potential enemy to her location be wise? Probably not. But as the daylight faded, she cursed the lack of something useful in her bag. She needed a torch, a candle, anything that lit. She had never needed this before when her people's sight adjusted well to moonlight, so it had never occurred to her to carry a source of light.

She dropped to the ground and extended her arms to see if there was anything here she could use. Her hands found shapeless and unidentifiable debris, but nothing that had potential for fire. Further groping in the dark located her bow, thankfully still in one piece. As it was little use at the moment and she didn't want to lose it again, she unstrung it and tucked into her quiver. When she returned to her exploration, something sharp brushed her finger. She snatched her hand back and wrapped it quickly in the fold of her tunic. Fumbling around blindly in the dark was pointless, unless the point was to jab herself with shards of broken glass. She half stood so she could feel along with her boot and toppled back over when she tripped on something that rolled. She instantly regretted reaching down to see what she'd kicked. Smooth and cool, it could only be bone. She grimaced and forced herself to reach forward. Yes, that was a skeleton. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. As she was about to climb back to her feet to get as far away from this as possible, her hand knocked something that skittered across the dirt floor. Torn between disgust, the rising panic of being underground, and curiosity, curiosity won out. 

On the lookout for more glass and bones, she inched across the floor on hands and knees until she found what she'd flung away. It was some kind of cold stone on a chain. Unsure of why she did so as it was absolutely no help in the dark, she dropped the chain over her head, then retreated back over to the wall. Within a moment her hands found the cold stone. Hadn't the hole seemed larger, vaster, infinite just a moment ago?

Was it a moment ago? How much time had passed since she fell down here? Meren shut her eyes tightly and grasped at the stone lying against her chest. Morning would come soon enough. Perhaps in the light she'd be able to to see a ladder out of here. Right, she thought, and 'Ro will lead a centaur rescue party that's magically able to climb walls. May as well wish for the unattainable.

After a fitful night of little rest, Meren was awoken by light glinting off the broken glass and into her eyes. She stood and stretched out kinks from sleeping in a corner. Her view was no better by the filtered slight light of morning. No magical ladder or grappling hook- or centaur rescue party- greeted her. What she did learn, however, was that the skeleton had been staring at her all that time. She stepped back until her shoulders bumped the wall. Judging from the shape of its skull and teeth, it had been some sort of goblinoid. This didn't bother her too much; at least it was long-dead instead of recent. Sharing this hole with a freshly dead monster would have been unbearable.

As the day wore on and the little light filtering through the crack in the ceiling began to fade again, something did become distressing: the lack of sky, trees, fresh air. She couldn't go another night trapped here in the dark. No elf could. She began to shout, no longer caring if the attention it brought was something that meant her harm. She cried out her brother's name, general pleading alternating with cursing, anything to catch the attention of something. Anything.

It was to no avail. She shouted until she was hoarse and exhausted, then grasped for her waterskin to drain it of the last few drops. She needed to do something to let Kryro know that she was here- he had to still be out there!- but nothing was down here except some trash and a goblin skeleton. A skeleton that grinned at her from somewhere in the darkness. Darkness underground in a space that seemed to be getting smaller by the minute... What had she gotten herself into?

Exhausted and starting to hyperventilate, she sunk to the ground directly under the gap in the ceiling to try to get as far away from those walls as possible. Again she clutched at the necklace resting against her leather armor. In the dim light of day she'd been able to make out that it was something vaguely green and gold, but also entirely useless as anything except an ornament. When it began to grow warm, she figured she was growing delusional from being caught in the one place a wood elf would never voluntarily go or possibly delirious from lack of water and that knot on the back of her head. Telling herself that she'd only shout one more time, she called in a cracking voice, "Kryro, get help! I'm here!"

Something made her point up at the bit of moonlight and she gasped when a bright flickering of flame shot out of her hand. That got her to stop stressing about being underground. She stared at her hand in utter disbelief and wondered if she was truly going mad. Elves didn't spawn fire and she was pretty sure that halflings didn't, either. She'd been in here for too long. Far too long.

She could almost hear that ex-goblin laughing at her terror. She covered her pointed ears with her hands and shut her eyes. Silently she willed her brother to get her out, Somehow, please! He always called himself her protector although she'd never felt as though she had need of one. Now, though, she took back every time she'd glared at him for saying that. She would gladly accept protection if it meant getting out of here and returning to her trees and the open air.

With her eyes so tightly closed, she failed to notice a small glow of light in the old cellar. The amulet she wore around her neck had turned a shining, gleaming green.



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