This didn’t seem so fun anymore to Ruby Lawks.

The young Lady-in-Waiting was not, exactly, part of the Season Leaves. She was actually doing her duty. Her Lady had demanded that she experience what the Circle had to offer. Speak with anyone and everyone, and see what could be seen. It wasn’t even a demand, but rather an order. The Lady had ordered her to grow.

The Season Leaves were about as different from her normal life as could be expected. And it was easy enough to ingratiate herself into their good graces. They seemed to welcome new company, and this was exactly how she had been told to approach the Circle. Make new friends, and learn from them. Make them learn to respect you, and they will show you new ways to learn.

So when Goldmight had said there was an artifact to be found, she thought of that silly little ogre who was willing to run through a brick wall. They’d go to the Glass Cliffs, do a little excavation, and perhaps even get some shopping done before they returned home by the weekend.

Maybe she should have expected the dank. Or the dust that clung to cobwebs, threatening to ruin what was left of her tattered clothes.

But she could not have been meant to see the bodies. To see death, brought on indirectly by her own actions. That shook her. It made her question what she was doing for her Lady.

She wanted to go home. She wanted a bath and then to spend a few hours brushing her fur, and her ears. Anything to get away from this…horror.

She did not say any of this, of course. That would be rude, and her Lady was most explicit on that.

They came to a large room that buzzed with energy. It was lit up with a vibrant blue light, but such strange light it was. Blue lines coursed throughout the edges of the room. It criss-crossed through the floor, making a checkerboard pattern on the surface.

At the far edge of the room was a single door. It was a dark velvet blue, flanked by two golems. Each plated with iron. The fairies and the gnomes each took a sharp intake of breath.

“Right, dwarf mage.” Goldmight shook his head. “Suffrn had no problems working with iron.”

He looked warily at the area, and frowned. “This doesn’t make sense. The Archiwrecks are here, but we didn’t run into them on our way in.”

“Maybe they left for dinner?” Ruby asked hopefully.

“Without a single guard?” Nutrose responded. “That doesn’t seem likely.

“Not a single guard,” a voice called out. A body dropped to the floor, and then a second. Two more limp forms collapsed behind the group, and Pidella cried out. A fifth tumbled unceremoniously from the ceiling.

Lady Hilt strode out of the shadows, her hand on the hilt of her blade. Book floated down from the ceiling, carrying Yuva and Zibnizik.

“Five,” Hilt muttered. “Five guards to alert them to any apprentices stupid enough to try and steal a mage’s treasure trove.”

She pointed straight at Bin, eyes narrowed.


copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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