A Ruthless Frontier 7.1 Gift of the Magi

“Nothing is free in the Outer Wilds.  Also,  freedom is nothing.”

                                                                  Bearclaw, Lighted Commander

 

Gerrell knew that the only way to enter the vault  would be to pay for it in blood.  He had seen such ways before. It was the way of the three.  The way of the fates. He told the others that unless they wished to die here, or chance a crossing of the Sands with a mutinous, dehydrated rabble of pirates and spineless merchants, they would have to make a sacrifice worthy of an entrance to the vault.

“One of us must make a donation of lust, of greed, initially,” he told them.

“Oh, I guess that rules you out, Theros,” grumbled Ares.  But his cursed sword, Pal, scolded him in his mind. Dave, stay on mission, please.

Theros saw he was agitated.  “That’s not a problem, I’ve got greed galore.” And then, he did something he never imagined an Inquisitioner doing. He placed the Hammer of Ket in front of the first traitor’s statue. Instantly the cauldron caught fire, and the book burned. He looked into the flames. For a second, he considered reaching in and grabbing it back, but the moment passed.  He felt a sense of relief wash over him.  He would no longer wear the Crimson Robes.  His life of judgment ended here.

“Well, I guess that will do it for greed,” said Gerrell impressed. He could never imagine giving up his own magical texts.

“Think you better go wrath,” said Theros smiling to Ares. “Maybe just place yourself in there. The gift will be so good, that we won’t need a third.”

Ares was not amused.  He took a long time and much convincing, but eventually he placed a few tokens in the brazier at the second statue. These the others hadn’t seen before, but they appeared to be white washed bones.  And Ares did not seem interested in parting with them. They too caught fire and erupted in a magical flame.

Finally, they all looked up into the eyes of the third statue, Envy.  At her base crowded the countless carved beasts fighting one another for a higher place beneath her feet. Gerrell seemed lost in thought, and sickly. “If we do not enter the vault, we have no chance of completing our journey.  We will die here in the desert.”

Ares and Theros nodded.

“I am envious of both of you,” continued the little dark skinned gnome. I long to return to my world, and I envy you here, in yours.”  This made them both a bit uncomfortable. What did Gerrell mean by this?

He placed his hands in the third brazier.  And spoke a few words of magic.  Instantly, blue flames erupted and curled their way along his arms and around his face and head. Gerrell screamed out, unharmed physically, but in agony in some magical way they couldn’t understand.

There was suddenly then a  large crack behind the statues, and an entryway appeared in the stone. A dark passageway.

Theros looked down at the little gnome.  He appeared sullen and tired, and none too happy. “What did you give?” he asked.

“A memory,” replied the gnome.

“A memory of what?” asked the ranger.

“A memory of the way home.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Like a gaping mouth, the tunnel beckoned them inside.  Carefully, they crept, and crouched along a long tunnel. It was some kind of passageway but where to they could only guess. All they knew was that whomever had made the challenge to enter this tomb had also laid deadly traps that had killed several people already.  They did not want to be the next casualties.

Ares held the torch aloft.  There was a dusty and ancient smell that they couldn’t quite put their finger on. Just ahead of them, while they checked for dangers along the stone, things were sticking out from the walls.  Ares dropped the torch and tossed it out before them.  The light made sense of the objects sticking out from the walls. They were busts of what looked like the spiky heads of dragons.

The dragonborn moved to the first. “Tiresias, the Gold,” he said in his raspy voice. “The most ancient of the metallics.” He then looked to the opposite wall and pointed to the bust directly across from it, “Gulgol, the black, the dragon that the King himself slew.”

Theros knew the tale well.  All knew it in the realm. Something though felt wrong knowing that the bust of that ancient beast was here, in this ancient tomb, when the dragon depicted in the stone was killed only a single generation of men ago. “Something lies ahead in the tunnel.  There!  It looks like, it looks like a glass jar.”

 

 

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