“Certainly a lot of flash and fanfare just to send us to a granite tomb, wouldn’t you say? That muse must have been hitting the old pipe pretty hard before her moon bath. I mean, she is totally off her rocker.”
“What gives you that idea, Darien? It’s not like she wasn’t…I dunno…fighting off a legion of undead things and a spooky sorceress or anything.”
“Well, yeah, but did you see how she resisted my charms? Like, who does that? You’d have to be one large bowl of coo-coo puffs to not want a piece of this.” Punctuating his point, Darien held his arms outstretched, like one of the wrestlers you see on television, inviting you to admire his body with his hands.
Belen placed his hand over his face and shook his head. “Galena, will you please smack him so he will shut his cocky mouth up already?”
“Oh, let him brood. He’s just mad she spoiled his perfect game.’
Aileen simply stared at the witchlight shimmering in her outstretched hand. Silhouettes of the five adventurers danced on the stone walls like a bad shadow puppet show at the local library. Either she was contemplating the dire situation we found ourselves in or she was simply bored of our back and forth banter. Who could blame her?
However, Alastair was not one to stand around idly twiddling his thumbs. He grunted under his breath and strode to the nearby wall. Placing his ear on the cool, moist stone, he began rapping with his fist in a way that must have been systematic to him. He repeated this procedure in various places around our rock prison. Unsatisfied, he thrust his hands upon his hips and studied the ceiling.
While he wasn’t much of a conversationalist, Alastair was always cool and efficient. Secretly, I admired his demeanor and his knowledge of all things rock. Where I possessed a mastery of the obscure botanical sciences, his geological prowess was a perfect complement to my own skills. I was confident that if anyone could figure a way out of here, it would be him.
The boys continued to try and one up each other, occasionally one would shove the other, only to be rewarded with a playful punch to the arm. I lost interest in their antics and instead watched Alastair tap his bearded chin thoughtfully with two fingers. You could almost see the complex calculations being performed through the windows of his large, Nordic blue eyes. With another grunt, this one a little more on the self-satisfied side, Alastair walked back to the center of the room and dropped down to his hands and knees.
Placing his ear to the ground, he repeated his rapping ritual again. This time the smallest of a twitch in the corner of his lips indicated what passed for a smile. Following this display of sheer jubilation, he turned his head to lick the floor in a long, steady stroke.
With a look of disgusted shock, Darien stopped defending his manhood briefly enough to watch Alastair’s survey. “For the love of vanilla wafers…has everyone gone mad around here?”
“More food references…you must be pretty hungry.”
“Yeah, I’m famished. You saw that rabbit salad Galena tried to make us eat since you got yourself all gimped up. Besides, I didn’t even get to finish it, because of Miss Fruity Loops back there.”
“Oh, will you just stop for once? Besides, it was good for you and you know it.”
“Fine. What is the dwarf doing now anyway?”
“You know, for someone who prides himself SO very much on his charms, you aren’t doing a very good job lately.”
“Psssh…please, Galena. You know when you look at me, you hear the sounds of violins serenading you and the fragrance of spring blooms filling the emptiness in your life.”
“Laying it on thick doesn’t make it any better, song boy. Next thing you know, you will be singing me bad ‘90s boy band lyrics.” Darien began to open his mouth, but I quickly scowled and wagged a scolding finger at him. Luckily, the sound of shattering rock interrupted any further attempts at wit.
Unperturbed by his surroundings, Alastair stood raising his pickaxe above his head. Visually marking an X on the floor, he brought the sharp side down, leaving a small, circular hole in the smooth rock floor. With precision and rhythm, the dwarf brought the pickaxe down and down again. He even began whistling while small pebbles and rock dust flew to the sides.
In short order, a small crater began opening in the floor. A pebble ricocheted harmlessly off the chocolate brown leather of the elf-cut ankle boots Aileen wore. Making a mental note to ask where she got them from, I returned my attention to Alastair’s labors. The small ping seemed to break Aileen from her intense trance, and she carried the witchlight closer for the dwarf to work, not that he needed it—he had excellent vision even in the dark.
“Did you find something? Are we getting out of here,” Aileen questioned hopefully.
“Aye,” said the dwarf almost cheerfully. “The walls are solid granite with veins of obsidian. Solid as my father’s honor, but beneath us flows a subterranean stream with an air pocket above its flowing waters.”
Underground streams formed when groundwater seeped through cracks in the mountain face and carved seams through the earth. Most emerged as a tiny stream running down the mountain slope. Its mineral rich deposits made for fertile ground. Many plants and herbs that grow only at altitude could be found at the mouth of the stream, and I would often spend a Saturday hiking up to harvest this bounty. Although it was possible this stream didn’t emerge on a gentle slope, but instead as a waterfall plummeting from a steep and craggy cliff.
“Do you think it’s safe? I mean…I trust you…but…I’m not in the mood to practice my high diving skills today.”
“There is only one way to find out, Galena,” the dwarf said almost curtly.
Before anyone could question further, the all too familiar swirling blue light began to appear. First as a pinpoint of light, but with each pulse, it grew larger and larger enveloping Alastair in his labors. The light was now bright enough I could see the dirt smudged on his cheeks and grit clinging to his long flowing beard.
As though he saw something that we didn’t, he turned his head and smiled a full toothy grin. This may be the first time I saw him smile—a real smile. In that moment, the light reflected from his eyes and gleamed gently on the perspiration that had begun to form on his forehead.
Maybe it was a lack of oxygen or the stress from our current predicament. Least, these are the things I wanted to tell myself. However, I couldn’t help but muse briefly about how handsome he looked at that moment.
After a full second, he returned to his labors and furiously worked the ground in front of him. The debris flew wildly in all directions and we had to shield ourselves as best as we could.
Perhaps, he was confused by the opening of the portal. Maybe, he had seen something inside the portal. Or did this clever man have a plan? Before I could finish the confused and rushing thoughts in my brain, the portal expanded enough to envelope the five of us.
As the light began to consume me, I briefly saw what he had seen. I stifled a panicked shriek with the palm of my hand. Despite the day’s events and knowing it was now possible, my mind struggled to process the headlights of a sleek, red sports car heading right towards us and I thought I might faint.
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