“I dunno Rhys,” Sir Fendall commented as he stroked his pale goatee. The stark white hair contrasted against his dark skin. “It seems so primitive.” He turned around, the golden flames from the brazier reflecting off of his silver heavy plated armor. His long silver hair reached down to the middle of his back.
Rhys flashed him a vexed glance, his violet eyes burning with annoyance . “Contrary to the façade of my life,” he began, raising a neatly kept dark eyebrow. “I believe simple is better in some situations.”
I sighed and shook my head. “The day you two stop arguing about how things should work will be the day peace settles throughout all the lands and the rivers run with chocolate.”
My comment was met by two sets of rolling eyes but at least their bickering had ceased for a moment. I reveled in the silence and continued inspecting the contraption, lifting the panels of my blood red skirt slightly as I stepped over a metal framing beam on the ground. The two halves of the giant Deldrimor iron trap rose up on either side of me like an open set of teeth waiting to snap shut with their prey inside. I stepped carefully while inside, always keeping an eye on the tall iron walls. What was not visible, was a line that Rhys very carefully hid along where the rough wall met the rough floor. The line connected the metal trap to an iron gate that fell and closed off the entrance to the cave once the trap had been triggered preventing anyone outside the trap from getting out.
Inside the trap sat an ornate chest made of ancient Orrian wood with golden hinges, its lid closed. Should the hidden pressure plate under it sense any bit of movement, the two halves of the strong metal trap locked together and were sealed by an enchantment, carved into the metal itself and made of Rhys’ design. It was an assurance that even if someone found a way through the strong, iron bars, the enchantment would hold whomever had entered from getting out. It would cover the trap as well as the gate at the entrance with a balanced web of energies from two polar opposite sources. When woven together correctly, they made a barrier stronger than most known tangible materials. It seemed simple, as Sir Fendall had pointed out, but there was an elegance to the simplicity. Unless someone had intimate knowledge of the mechanisms driving the trap or the enchantment, they were not leaving.
“I actually like it,” I finally said, noting the space in the ground where the trap came up through when triggered. “Have you tested it?”
Rhys nodded with a proud smile. “On some very unhappy Skritt. It was successful though, each time.”
I nodded and looked aside to Sir Fendall as he ran his fingers though his long white hair. Slowly he circled around the contraption, inspecting it a third time. “I suppose it’ll do.”
“Oh you suppose?” Rhys scoffed. “Just because I didn’t employ members of the Asuran College of Dynamics does not make my set up any less successful.”
I listened to the two men bicker as I stepped out of the center of the trap. The piece had been secured within the chest and with a simple turn of a hidden lever, the trap would drop below, hidden from view and then a few added extras I had heavily suggested would activate. A sense of great pride grew in me at seeing this project come to life. I only hoped it would never have to be used.
“Are you two finished?” I asked during a lull in their arguing. They looked at each other and then to me before offering conceding nods. “Good. I think we are done here then.”
After we snuffed out the braziers, we began making our way out of the cavern with torches in our hands to light the way. As the pathway narrowed, we went single file with Rhys leading the way and Sir Fendall bringing up the rear. Trailing his long fingers along the rough wall, Rhys searched for the lever and stopped abruptly when he found it.
“Here we go,” he said, a hint of nerves and anticipation to his tone. He turned the roughly carved blade-shaped pressure switch, listening to the series of clicks coming from the wall before pushing on the shape to sink it into the wall. There was a final loud click and then all was silent.
“Shall we then?” Rhys said, flashing us a smile. With an exaggerated sweep of his hand, he motioned toward the cave’s entrance.
“What did you both think of the Sylvari?” Sir Fendall asked.
“He seems pleasant, well trained, has a sense of humor,” I pointed out. “But do not worry Fendall. No one can truly replace you.” I flashed him a smirk over my shoulder but turned back to hide the disappointment creeping in. I would miss his presence around the hall.
“I certainly hope not!” The warrior let out a hearty laugh. He gave me a friendly pat on the back that made me lurch forward slightly.
“I may have found another,” Rhys announced melodically as we approached the entrance. “A Norn. She’s strong but surprisingly not overbearing and works well with others. A rare find amongst that kind if you ask me.”
“Bring her in then,” I replied. “I would like to get to know her.”
I stood, swimming in a sea of distress within myself as I stared at the demolished cage laying before me like a ribcage that had been pried open by something large and very powerful. Someone must have either known or figured out how to escape. As I approached the wreckage, the cool air of the cavern grew colder until bumps on my arm formed, or so it felt. In reality, the cavern had not grown quite as cold as I had felt it had. A shiver climbed my spine and made itself at home at the base of my neck. Death dwelled in this place.
Carefully stepped around the pile of twisted metal, a deep metallic scent filled my nostrils. I circled the trap, inspecting the bodies laying lifeless amidst the twisted metal. I counted three Asura and two Human. The Asura’s attire had Inquest markings sewn into them and the Humans bore traveling attire lacking anything fancy. The man in the fancy coat was not one of them. They had all suffered deep cuts and each body was covered with burns that charred their clothing and blistered their skin. Stepping over a section of twisted metal, I reached for the chest. It too had been charred by something with intense heat or power.
“Gods,” I uttered as I lifted the chest’s lid. It lifted easily and almost fell completely off its damaged hinges. “Gods take it all!” I spat, slamming the damaged lid down hard enough it caused the empty container to fall on its side.
What Rhys, Sir Fendall, and I had feared would happen had come to fruition. Someone had found the first location and managed to escape. I kicked the chest hard with the heel of my boot and spat a curse to Grenth. The empty chest collided loudly with a piece of the wreckage, the sound echoing throughout the cavern. I had to convince myself that gambling with my travel mates’ lives had not been for nothing, despite what I found before me. There had to be more information hidden amongst the corpses and wreckage to make leaving them behind with that monster all worth it.
In the dim light, I set to searching the bodies. None of them had anything of importance on them so I began searching the area around them. As I stepped over an Asura body, something cracked under my boot. I reached down and picked up a broken piece of rounded glass. The light from the brazier stands glinted off its sharp edge. Bending down, I pushed back my fur lined skirt and found more similar pieces. I picked them up and pieced them together haphazardly in my hands. Together, they formed a hollow glass orb. What had it contained?
Anxiety surged throughout my being and I had to fight back the strong urge to grab everything and run. It had worked for me in the past but everything was different now. I was too invested and too rooted to just leave. It would arouse too many suspicions and raise too many eyebrows. However, the question remained: what to do now?
I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, calming my nerves and pushing back anything that did not matter at the immediate moment. I called upon training from years back to help me organize my thoughts, letting the analytical part of my brain take over. Whomever had broken through the trap had to have known what it contained. Why else would they break in? With this piece gone, surely they would be looking for or already heading straight to the next location. If we moved quickly, we could catch them there or if we were lucky we could beat them to it. Either way, we needed to get moving.
Kicking over the braziers, I watched the oil carry the flames towards the corpses. They were consumed in a matter of seconds. I kicked over the other braziers, watching the whole mess go up in flames. I let it all burn as I made my way back through the dark corridor, my torch in hand to light the way. I ran my hand along the rough wall, looking for the hidden switch out of habit. I chuckled to myself, realizing it did not matter anymore, and then removed my hand and continued my exit as I considered my options for my next tale to spin.