Charlize, Filbert and I walk upstream in silence, boots crunching in the soft, dry grass of the riverbank. Filbert’s said he’s fine; he’s not mad, but I don’t know. I hit him pretty hard. He’ll have a nasty bruise tomorrow for sure. Charlize just raised an eyebrow when we told her what happened; lips pressed into that half-smile somewhere between exasperation and amusement.
Ducking under a pair of squat, ugly trees thrust out over the water, I spot Nim and Namia sitting together. They’re soaking wet and their skin is flushed and plastered with grass, but they look in much better spirits than the three of us. Namia is wearing a very flattering dress I’ve never seen before, and Nim is wearing a grin that has nothing to do with the pile of scavenged goods and coinpurses on the ground.
Namia, smiling faintly, interrupts me before I get a chance to ask what happened. “Nim discovered several nature spirits in the river, presumably tasked with guarding the people’s Sacrifices from thieves like us. They weren’t too much trouble.”
“Nope!” Nim confirms, pulling out the Nocturne and idly strumming a few chords. “I found a chest with Elven writing all over it, so I bet that’s important--is it the right thing Filbert? Oh! And I found a whole bunch of other stuff! There are some really nice-looking swords, some money--mostly bags and bags of coppers, though--oh, and Namia’s dress!”
Filbert circles around them slightly toward the pilfered goods, pulls his blindfold on for a moment, and responds, “yes, there’s an artifact of yours in there, Nim. I’m surprised you haven’t opened it yet!”
“Well, it’s locked,” Nim replies as Namia stretches and rises to join Filbert, “and trapped, so I decided to wait ‘til you guys got back.”
Charlize smirks. “Yes, I’m sure you came to that decision entirely on your own.” She follows Filbert and Namia toward the pile of recovered Sacrifices, leaning over to read the inscriptions across the large chest’s lid. She’s back in her own body, wearing the dress she bought an hour ago, green and black and silver, and somehow it fits her perfectly despite being tailored for a “different” person.
“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Nim asks from right beside me. I whirl and glare at him; he grins harder, and I glance back to the trio standing around the loot pile. At least no one seems to have heard him. I can feel my face heating up as I stomp over to the others, Nim laughing as he follows behind me.
“So,” I say idly as I join the others in their inspection of the chest--it’s in unreasonably good condition for being at the bottom of a river for seventy years--”This sure looks the right kind of suspicious. Everyone ready to see what’s inside?”
Nim saunters over, still chuckling. “Yeah, let’s do it. I can pick the lock, but like I said, it’s trapped as well. See these?” He indicates a line of decorative-looking marks about halfway up. “A whole bunch of fire’s gonna shoot out those tiny holes as soon as I start working. It’ll only take me a second to disable it, but you should stay clear while I do.”
With that, he climbs up on top of the lid, and the rest of us back away instinctively. “Namia, Charlize, get ready to put out anything that catches fire. Filbert, you and I get him out of there if anything goes wrong.” We spread out; I look around to everyone in turn, ensuring nobody is too close, except Nim, of course. Namia’s eyes are locked on him; she bites her lip as he crouches down and sticks a couple needles into the lock.
Instantly, shafts of flame burst from all sides of the chest, extending a constant three arm’s lengths or so in all directions. I squint against the light and heat, but, to his credit, Nim doesn’t even flinch, and a couple seconds later the flames disappear as quickly as they’d come. Namia frowns as a few patches of grass near her continue to burn, and she summons what looks like a tiny living wave, which sloshes itself around, putting out the small fires as it finds them while she continues to watch Nim.
No one approaches as Nim continues to work in silence, but then he suddenly jumps down and declares, “got it!” I step forward, slowly relaxing muscles in my neck that I hadn’t realized were tight, and Nim reaches down to pull open the lid.
The chest seems to fly open of its own accord, nothing visible inside at all, and Nim pitches forward, feet leaving the ground entirely. I dive at him, grabbing ahold of one arm, and instantly I feel an immense pressure from all sides, like I’m at the bottom of the sea and sinking fast, and I glimpse Filbert’s face, twisted into an uncharacteristic grimace as he grips Nim’s other arm, and the pressure builds, and I close my eyes because otherwise they’ll pop, and the world disappears.
The three of them had done nothing but argue about whose fault it was for not having tents, not being able to start a fire in the rain, and not preparing any spells to create food with.
...the blade was sequestered away somewhere inside Lysaga Hill. Still, Clarice had to question the motives of these three strangers. Fluffy, Shane, and Ed did not seem like the sort of people to help others without some kind of reward.
I don't think "away" is necessary here; it's redundant and breaks up the flow. The rest of this paragraph, though, is great, maybe largely because I'm rooting for Clarice so her thinking intelligently about the PCs is good to see.
"Like you can stop me. I'm two tiers higher than you!"
I would love
to see Clarice's reaction to this. As a reader my reaction is "lol", but seeing her confusion at this comment would make it that much better.
Describe this more! I realize that it's supposed to be shocking that it so casually deals with Ed, but a more complete description to help me to envision it better would make this moment more effective. Also, all the video game references are great--this time I'm okay with Clarice not reacting to it, since there are bigger problems.
"Of course, now we need to hire another cohort," Fluffy complained.
Nooooooooooo. At least this time they're bothering to save her though! (at least until they forget or get sidetracked or stop caring, anyway).
patches of her skin were missing, revealing thick green scales beneath.
Great description here. Also, eww.
"At least I can still have my fun."
This was a great chapter. Poor Clarice (and poor Ed!).