Welcome to a new adventure! The last one ended quite well for you. Let’s hope things go as well this time=)
Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy.
The fog’s dense white mass obscures everything but a five-foot circle around you. It makes finding the cave difficult but finally 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. It was a place you’d been to before.
As you step into the dark cave, you try not to imagine the drakes tracking you into the confined space. The idea of being caught in the rocky tunnels with gouts of flame chasing you 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.
Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti
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.
The stairs lead 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…
Chalice Option A: Up
Without anything more to guide you, you shrug and decide to head up the stairs. As you climb, the roar of the waterfall grows until it throbs in your ears.
Because of the overwhelming thrum of sound, you don’t immediately hear the other noise. Some sixth sense stands your hair on end, making you look over your shoulder.
The stairs are empty except for the steady blue glow but as you stand there perfectly still, you catch a scraping like metal on stone. You hold your breath, hoping it’s your imagination, but just as you’re about to turn around, the sound comes again. A barely perceptible scraaaatttccchh below the roar of water.
Your teeth feel like you ran your nails against a stick of chalk. You back up until your shoulders hit the outside wall. Then you slowly sidestep up the stairs, swinging your eyes up and down to keep everything in sight.
Out of the corner of your eye, you catch a shadow. With the ever-steady, blue glow, the shadow’s faint, just a shade darker blue on the wall below you. When you look directly at it, you can’t make it out but when you turn your head and glance out of the corner of your eye, it’s there, like a flicker of light on a window.
You continue sidestepping upward and keep your head tilted so you can see that faint but darker shade of blue. It follows you up the stairs, growing bigger by infinitesimal amounts.
The stairs end and you find yourself on a broad balcony with a river cutting through the middle of it to run over the edge and
Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.
plummet into the cavern below. The river flows from the cavern wall to your left. At the other end of the balcony is a solid wall. No more stairs, no more rooms. It’s just the balcony and the river.
You’ve nowhere to go but you’re sure whatever’s following you will catch up soon. With an effort of will you keep the image of a sharp-toothed drake out of your head.
A shimmer in the water catches your eye. You have to squint to make it out under the waves but right at the edge of the waterfall you see the wavery outline of a cup.
Approaching the edge of the balcony, you keep from looking over the edge into the chasm below only by keeping your eyes firmly on the cup in the water. It isn’t laying on its side like you expected but standing up in the water, creating a small eddy around its bowl.
You lay on your stomach at the edge of the river and reach into the rush of water. The current pulls hard and you tilt your body to keep it from pulling you toward the chasm.
As your fingers close over the cool crystal of the Chalice, a grunting roar comes from behind you. You glance back.
Sharp toothed barely touches the surface of this monster’s description. Its teeth hang over its lips almost to its chin. The scales along the legs and back come to points like the spines of a plant. Golden eyes glitter at you with horrible malice.
The drake breaths in a heavy gust of air and then huffs out a small bit through its nostrils. Gouts of blue flame sprout from it and you’re pretty sure the drake smiles as its chest expands on an even bigger intake of air.
You’ve nowhere to go except into the water. Do you…
Aa. Dive over the Waterfall?
Ab. Swim Upstream?
Chalice Option Aa: Dive Over the Waterfall
Photo Courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.
With no time to spare, you clutch the chalice tight in one fist and shove yourself into the river, flipping over immediately so your feet are headed over the falls first.
Above you, the world turns bright with flame. Even below the water, the heat of it warms your skin.
Your stomach hits your throat and the world drops out from under you. You’re in freefall but your can’t see what’s around you or under you as water’s in your hair and mouth and eyes.
Still you fall and your stomach doesn’t leave your throat. Then, like hitting the ground instead of leaves when you jumped from the barn roof, you hit the water and all air leaves your chest and your body screams from the impact. But still you’re being pushed downward and your chest burns from lack of air.
In panic, you realize the chalice is no longer in your hand. You can’t even feel your arms. The edges of your vision spark and your sight narrows like the closing of black curtains.
Something grabs you. Your mind screams it’s the drake but you can’t fight. You can’t feel it grasping your body. All you can really tell is you’re moving against the push of water and fast.
Your head breaks into the open air. A gasp burns down your throat and convulsions of coughing double you in half.
Only when you hit rock and are dragged out of the water do you look over to see who saved you.
Perhaps because you’re still coughing weakly, you don’t scream. Huge blue eye observe you over a snout that shimmers like water.
The eyes blink and they click with hard scales. The head sporting those eyes is as big as you are.
This is no drake, this is a full-grown dragon and she’s so close all she’d have to do to eat you is flinch.
Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.
Her lips pull back in a toothy grin.
“You’re either very stupid or very brave,” she says. It’s then you notice the chalice in one of her clawed fists. The crystal reflects the blue of her scales. “But either way, you managed to bring the chalice to me.” Her grin grows wider. “So I’ll grant you one boon. What do you ask for, human?”
She doesn’t seem hungry and her voice isn’t mean. Other than her size and teeth and claws, she hasn’t given you any reason to fear her, yet.
But you’ve never heard of a friendly dragon. Do you dare ask to use the Chalice for your sister?
Or do you ask for your life?
Chalice Option Aa1: Chalice
Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.
You hesitate, eyeing the chalice in her clawed fist, but then you think of your sister and decide you’ve come this far and can’t leave without asking.
“May I take the chalice to my sister?” You phrase the question so hopefully the dragon notices you’re not asking for yourself.
“Very brave or very stupid,” she says again. “I really can’t decide.” She lowers her head a bit so you’re looking directly into one jewel like blue eye. When she blinks, you hear the click of her scales but you hold perfectly still, waiting.
“For your sister?” The dragon asks.
You simply nod.
“You’re aware the chalice isn’t a cure all?”
“Per…perfect skin,” you stutter as she shifts her head and you feel the warm puff of her breath in your hair.
“Yes,” she says, “it’ll give her that. But it won’t replace you if the drakes kill you on your way out and it won’t fix her family if her problem is genetic. It will pass on to her children.”
The thought of dying and leaving your sister alone lodges a lump in your throat but you got in, so you’ve got to believe you can get out without the drakes catching you.
Seeing your resolve, the dragon nods. “Fair enough. Be aware, the chalice will return to me immediately after being drank from.” She lifts her head and rumbles deep in her throat. Then she spits into the chalice and hands it to you.
You can’t help but frown into the crystal bowl, eyeing the dragon spit dubiously.
An earth-rumbling chuckle comes from the dragon. “No regular water will do the trick,” she laughs. “Now run, before the spit dries.”
The thought horrifies you. To go to all this trouble only to have the spit dry.
The dragon points toward a door behind her.
You race to it, cradling the chalice in one hand, and then realize you’ve got to set the chalice down to open the dead bolt on the heavy, iron door.
Once it’s open, you scoop the chalice up and shout a quite “thanks” over your shoulder as you scamper into the hall beyond.
Immediately the walls brighten with the warning of fire. You feel the heat a second later and realize there must be a drake in front of you.
At the door, the dragon huffs, pulls in a big breath, and breathes out a gust of cool air that shoves you forward. It also seems to meet the fire and push it back.
“I’m a sucker for humans,” the dragon mocks herself, “Run!” and she sucks in another breath.
You time your dash with her second gust of air. It lasts long enough for you to race up the stairs, dart past the startled drake at the top and duck out into the dark fog beyond.
You don’t stop running even though you can’t see more than five feet in front of you. A gout of flame lights up the fog from behind and you stumble, hitting your knees.
Instead of pushing back to your feet, you roll into the bush beside you and hold still.
Moments later, a dark, hulking shape runs by, emitting another gout of flame as it passes.
You roll out of the bush and keep moving.
Unfortunately, you’re horribly lost until the sun marks east for you. Then you make your way back to the village with the chalice.
When you enter your sister’s room, she looks up in surprise from where she’s reading a book in her chair. From the looks of it, she hasn’t slept all night, waiting for you to return.
“You’re home!” she jumps up and races to you.
At the last moment, you hold out the chalice and stop her headlong rush.
“Drink,” you encourage.
She glances at it and you do the same, relieved to see the spit hasn’t dried even though it took you all night to get home.
With a shrug, she drinks and then waits. Like a shower drenching her from head to toe, you notice the difference in her skin on her forehead, then her ears and chin, moments later it hits her hands and then reaches her bare feet. You grin and look up to meet her eyes.
Your grin wavers. Her eyes are still bright red.
She spins to look in the mirror and one hand reaches up to cover her eyes. Like she’s playing peek-a-boo, she covers them and then drops her hand, hoping for a change.
It doesn’t come.
“I’m sorry,” you whisper.
In the mirror, her grin returns even though it’s a bit watery. “It there’s a chalice that fixes skin,” she says, “there’s bound to be a book or a stone to fix my eyes.”
She spins back to you and gives you a hug. It’s only then you notice the chalice is gone, vanished into thin air.
Blessings and have a wonderful week,