I started two new adventures for this week, got about 200 words into the opening of each story, and then just stared at the page with a blank mind. This doesn’t happen very often but I figured, instead of giving you an adventure that meandered because I had no direction for it, we could explore an old adventure and see what new ending it brings.
So here we are, looking for a Chalice in a cave with drakes. =)
If the fog’s dense white mass didn’t obscure everything but the five-foot circle around you, you might have found the cave sooner. As it is, though, you find it only because you hear the soft roar of the water falls inside, echoing out of the cave’s mouth like a deep exhale of breath.
You approach the shhh-haaa of water falling on soft feet. Sound carries all too easily in the valley and you’re not the only thing out and about. You breathe heavy air and wish for the kiss of wind. There is none. Drops of water bead on your cheeks like the fog’s shedding on you, cold and clammy, but you ignore the discomfort.
A dark shape looms ahead in the otherwise unbroken gray. A few more steps and you see it’s the cave. Inside hides the Chalice, a cup of solid crystal that, according to legend, lends the drinker perfect skin. In normal circumstances, its very uniqueness would make it valued by treasure hunters.
However, your purposes are far more personal than money. Back in the village waits your little sister. She hides in her room, nursing her bruises from a few days earlier when she tried to venture a trip to the store and was beaten for looking like a monster.
Even being her sibling doesn’t keep you from shuddering sometimes when she’s not looking. She lacks color, completely. Which makes her eyes, slightly tinted red, all the more disturbing. But she never complains, never yells at you for looking normal, never stops making your breakfast or folding your clothes simply because she can and she knows you’re out working to support her because no one will hire her.
If anyone deserves better, it’s her. When the traveling tinker mentioned the chalice when he saw her, you listened. This isn’t the first time you’ve gone on a wild chase in hopes of helping your sister, but this might be the most dangerous.
The Chalice is protected, the tinker warned, by creatures known as drakes. They hide in the fog and you never hear them coming, or so the tales told. What truly caught your attention about the tinker’s story, though, was that you recognized the valley it described.
As you step into the dark cave, you try not to imagine the drakes tracking you into the confined space. Being caught in the rocky tunnels when one breathes gouts of flame isn’t exactly your ideal way to go.
You trail your fingers along the rough wall. The air smells stale and musty and the ground squishes like moss beneath your feet. You don’t light a torch even though you brought one. With the fog and the otherwise solid dark, a torch would stand out like a beacon to anything around.
Your fingertips hit empty space. The wall falls away, not naturally, but as though someone cut it with a knife. Upon further exploration, you find the wall turns a sharp corner and becomes perfectly smooth beneath your touch.
You continue on and the ground goes from soft and squishy to hard and flat. A burnt smell singes the back of your nostrils. It feels similar to if you inhaled the heavy smoke from a campfire. You swallow and keep a cough from escaping your throat.
The smooth wall ends and, just ahead, you feel a wooden door. You find the handle but hesitate before opening it. Faintly, just under the door, there glows a bluish light.
Finally, with a steadying breath, you turn the knob and push the door inward.
The blue light makes you squint but you’ve no idea where it’s coming from. It simply lights up the stairs beyond the door.
Stairs leading upward on the right and downward on the left. The upward direction has the word Falls above it. The downward direction has the word Water.
According to the tinker’s story, the Chalice collects the water from the cave’s river, but the story’s not specific as to how this works.
Do you go…
Without anything more to guide you, you shrug and decide to head down the stairs.
The farther you go, the quieter the roar of the waterfall becomes. You figure you’re getting farther away from it until you come to the bottom of the stairs and find yourself facing one of the most intimidating metal doors you’ve ever seen.
Heavy bands of iron cross the door and a lock bigger than your fist holds it closed.
You step closer and kneel down to peer through the lock, hoping to get an idea of what’s on the other side.
You come eye to eye with a large blue iris. It blinks and you hear the heavy click of the scaled lid moving.
“Stay away!” Comes a shout from the other side of the door. Oddly enough, the tone doesn’t sound threatening. It sounds more pleading with a high squeak at the end like the words are half question.
“Why?” you ask.
“What?” comes the startled reply. This time you can tell it’s female.
“Why ‘stay away’? You sound scared.”
A huff rattles the door and you take a shocked step backwards.
“Stupid. Stupid. Stu…” The voice fades like the person’s walking away, then it comes back, making you jump with its sudden, “Stay away!” A moment later, in complete contradiction to the shout, the lock on the door moves with a deep grating.
You hold perfectly still as the door swings inward a smidge and you see in the crack that blue eye looking out. You can also see a large, scaled snout.
She’s too big to be a drake. Could this be an actual dragon?
“Why aren’t you running?” she asks. “I said stay away.”
You shrug, for some reason not feeling your flight instinct kicking in. “Stupidity?” you say.
There’s a long, drawn out pause, as she eyes you more closely. Then, “well, if you’re going to be stupid, get in here,” she swings the door open.
Still, your flight instinct isn’t reacting. Has she beguiled you somehow? You don’t feel beguiled but then, what does being beguiled feel like? You shrug again and step through the door.
Her tail swings it closed behind you and you find yourself in a cavern beneath a gigantic waterfall. Below the waterfall to your right sits a lake. It glows with the same blue as the walls of the stairwell.
But what really holds your attention is the dragon. She’s also blue, shimmering like the waters of the lake.
“You’re here for the chalice,” she says. It’s not a question but you nod anyway.
“For my sister,” you explain.
“Than you chose the wrong direction,” she says, “the chalice sits on the edge of the falls.” She nods upward toward the top of the waterfall. “Or you chose the right one,” she continues on, musing, “cause the drakes kill anyone who heads up the stairs.”
“What about you?” you ask, confused by her.
“Me? I’m their treasure. I’m the one who makes the chalice work, a water dragon. I lend the water in the chalice healing abilities. But the drakes keep me away from the chalice, so really, there isn’t a right direction.”
“You’ve got to touch the water in the Chalice? Or can it be any cup?” you ask, trying to understand.
“It’s got to be crystal. But the drakes will kill you anyway, when you try to leave.”
“Why do you let them?”
She laughs. It shakes the walls of the cavern. “I keep them out of here only by the door. But they won’t let me leave the cave. There are just too many of them for me to fight.”
This sparks an idea for you. It’s foolish but then, you’re already in a bad situation. “What if I can help you? Can you help me with the Chalice?”
“How?” For the first time you feel a little scared of her as her eyes narrow and she lowers her head to your height. Her teeth are as long as your forearms.
“You help me get the chalice and I’ll draw the drakes away so you can reclaim the cave.”
She thinks about this while clicking her claws on the floor. Each tap grates at your nerves.
“We can climb the falls or try the stairs,” she finally says. “Which way, stupid human, would you like to try?”
You glance between the falls and the door, considering the two options the dragon proposed.
Then you consider her blue, iridescent scales. She’s a water dragon. One of those rare creatures that is able to manipulate one element to her wishes.
“Falls,” you decide.
“Ah,” the dragon sighs in a long exhale that sounds like relief. “Maybe not so stupid after all. Climb on.” And she lowers herself beside you. Even with her laying flat on the stone floor, her sides rise like the rough cliffs around your home.
“Um,” you say.
She chuckles and extends one clawed paw for you to use as a step.
“Thank you,” you give a slight bow. Being allowed to climb onto a dragon is a high honor and you’d prefer not to offend her.
Once you’re firmly settled between two spikes at the back of her head, she stands.
“Hold tight, human,” she instructs, and then she dives into the water at the base of the falls.
You’ve just enough time to wrap your arms around the spike in front of you before the force of the water hits you across the face. It throws your weight backwards and your spine hits the spike at your back. Thankfully, the spike’s taller than your are, so you miss the sharp point.
Then the dragon enters the falls. She doesn’t touch the stone wall behind the cascade but simply swims upward much like a dolphin would move. Water pours over you in a relentless deluge but you’re making headway. You tuck your face against your arm and take shallow breaths. You still inhale water but it’s like you’re standing in a heavy rain where water mixes with air.
The dragon stops moving. There’s so much water that you can’t tell why. Long claws surround you and you’re lifted upward. Your head breaks the surface and you realize several things all at once. One, the dragon’s treading water just below the break of the falls. Two, she’s holding you up, over the edge of the falls and directly in front of you in the water sits a crystal cup. And lastly, there are several sets of bright red, drake eyes focused on you, startled by your sudden appearance.
You grab the cup and tap her claws, trying to tell her you’ve got it.
The drakes shriek and one huffs spouts of flame like he’s warming up to a bigger exhale. Just before he lets loose a jet of flame that singes your hair, the dragon pulls you down, cradles you to her chest and pivots into a dive.
Your stomach does summersaults that still haven’t settled by the time she exits the water onto the shore of her cave.
Above you both the drakes peer over the waterfalls, shrieking and pacing as they watch you.
“The chalice, please,” the dragon holds out her paw.
You pass the cup and realize, once it’s in her grasp, that you just had the chalice in your hands.
The dragon rumbles low in her throat in what you fear is a laugh but then, instead of laughing, she spits into the tiny bowl of the chalice.
“There,” she says, “You must get this to your sister for her to drink. The chalice will disappear as soon as she does, so be sure she’s the one to use it. But,” she holds the cup high, away from your grasp, “before I hand it over, what do you propose to do about the drakes?”
Perhaps you can draw the drakes away from the cave by yelling at them and having them chase you. That could give the dragon enough time to leave her chamber and take over the entire cave system.
Or you could set up some sort of trap for the drakes. Something that might give the dragon better control over them.
Yell and Run?
Set a Trap?
You’re a fast runner but in your brief glimpse of the drakes at the top of the falls, you saw a lot of angry creatures and you’re not sure you’ve the stamina to run from them all.
“If we trap the drakes somehow, that would give you better control of your home,” you comment.
The dragon nods and lowers her head while you pace in front of her.
“I’ve an idea,” you say, “but it requires you to be bait.”
“Let’s hear it,” the dragon says and so you explain your idea.
You take a deep breath and set the stack of firewood ablaze. For the last hour you and the dragon have worked to set everything
up for a bonfire, now your work pays off as the flames lick high into the air and light the ceiling of the chamber in a dance of shadows.
Long snouted faces start to appear over the edge of the waterfall above. Red eyes blink in surprise and malice as they take in you mocking the dragon, who you’ve got trussed up on the floor beside the fire.
“Stupid dragon,” you say, “thought you could steal the chalice from me!”
She struggles against the ropes and growls but you’ve wrapped the rope around her snout several times and she can’t voice her protests.
On the far side of her the heavy door into the chamber stands ajar. You turn your back to the dragon, and that door, and keep mocking her over your shoulder as you face the fire.
There are several hisses from above but when you glance at the falls, you notice all those watching eyes are gone.
“Maybe I’ll take a tooth as a trophy,” you keep talking.
One drake slides through the door and follows the outside wall to skirt around you. Ugly, jagged teeth drip with saliva as the drake drools over his new prey.
Another follows behind him and heads the other way against the far wall.
“Or maybe a claw. A claw would be a fine trophy,” you say and glance back at the dragon.
The third and fourth drakes freeze at your glance but then you look back to the fire and keep up your tirade at the dragon.
Sweat builds on your palms as you refuse to glance back again. You don’t want to hint the drakes in to the fact that you’re purposefully not seeing them.
So you wait for the dragon’s signal that all of them are through the door.
But you can feel their eyes watching and tension builds in your neck and shoulders.
Movement catches at the corners of your eyes as you ramble on and wait for the dragon. She guessed there was enough room for the drakes to squeeze into the cavern but it was a guess and now you’re wondering if her estimate was wrong. Will the drakes be able to completely surround you?
Then you hear a solid thump against the floor. Only a fraction of a second later, large claws surround your middle and you’re lifted into the air.
The dragon bolts for the open door.
Two drakes are close to it and they scramble to close the heavy metal before she can escape. She spits at them.
The blue globs strike the drakes squarely on their torsos and immediately their skin begins to boil like it’s acid. They shriek and drop just as the dragon, with you in tow, flees through the door.
She drops you none too gently, spins and pulls the door closed seconds before there’s a boom from the far side as several drakes throw themselves at the closing door.
But now she’s got it closed and she spits into the lock. It melts before your eyes into a glob of misshapen metal.
The dragon laughs and the sound rattles the walls.
“Thank you, stupid human,” she says and spits into the chalice. Then she hands it over almost negligently.
You glance at her spit in the bottom.
“It won’t melt my sister?” you ask, eyeing the lock on the door.
“Oh no,” she answers, “it will help her skin. It works differently on humans than on metal and drakes. But it won’t work on anything else that might be wrong.” This last bit seems to trouble the dragon.
You picture your sister with her almost translucent skin. She’ll cry for joy if this helps her. With that thought, you picture her red eyes. The chalice won’t help that.
“She’s got red eyes,” you mutter, saddened to realize you’ve only half succeeded.
“There’s a stone,” the dragon says, “in a valley to the east. If it’s placed on her eyes, it will heal them.”
You ask more details and she fills you in on the trolls guarding the stone. The details are daunting but, considering where you stand, you figure it’s a challenge for the next day.
“Thank you,” you tell the dragon and head out to heal your sister. Maybe with her skin healed, she can work with you to find the stone.
Yay! Well done on this adventure everyone! I was sure for a while you’d find a death ending, but you’re apparently good at avoiding them anymore. Perhaps I need to get more crafty in my writing. (Mu-ha-ha-ha) Ok, evil laugh done.
Hope to see you at the next adventure starting on the 18th.
Until then, blessings and have an amazing weekend,