Moist. The walls were clammy or perhaps it was just their hands. The cave had properly opened up now to reveal its next challenge. Lore’s breathing had only just returned to normal when out of one of the numerous dark corners erupted a flurry of winged insects. Although they knew the insects were likely harmless, Lore wasn’t taking any chances. They were now crawling across the cave floor, head down and desperately trying to ignore the buzzing above. Char had joined them.
“I bloody hate anything that flies.” Lore turned to Char. “Anything that flies near my face. You’re alright.”
“Thanks.” Char didn’t need the reassurance but it was nice to hear.
The pair continued until they reached a problem.
“That is a sizable hole.” Lore scrambled for a stone. “I’ve always wanted to do this.” They placed their finger on their lips before releasing the pebble into the cave’s gaping maw. It fell. And fell. When it eventually made its way to the bottom, Lore judged incorrectly that the hole was only about twenty metres deep. Thankfully, they didn’t want to test this and decided to consult the necklace as to their next move. Forwards they travelled, skipping over the hole to nowhere.
Char kept an eye on the time. Barely an hour had passed since their entry to the cave but it felt like she had been crawling for an eternity. Lore was now a few metres ahead of her and hadn’t realised Char’s diminished pace. Then, for Char, the cave ended.
“Lore?” She started at a reasonable volume which increased with every repetition.
“Yeah? Where are you?” Lore replied, oblivious of almost everything.
“Behind a rock I think. The tunnel just ended.”
“Hang on a mo. I’ll scout ahead and see about getting back to you.” And with that, Lore left the reach of Char’s voice.
Lore pressed on. There wasn’t much to see but it didn’t bother them. They knew Char was in a similar boat.
Outside the cave’s entrance, Magpie was beginning to attract attention. Within the hour that they had been gone, Magpie had had three vendors try to sell to him, a con man try to sell him and two pickpockets come up and chat but this coming threat was one not expected. She was like a repellent to the Middlethem, even the beggars refused to look her in the eyes. The scorn towards her was almost enough to melt the polymer off of her shoulders.
“What’s going on here then?” She approached Magpie, opening her holster.
“Just loitering. No laws here saying I can’t do that.” His response shocked the officer.
“Papers please.” She removed a tablet. “Any time.”
“Ah…” Magpie pretended to search for his papers, tapping his robes up and down. “Must have left them in my cave.”
“What have you got under that robe?” Magpie’s calm demeanour was getting a run for it’s money.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” He was jovial yet knew the officers response.
“Yes, I would.” Magpie mimed along with the officer, “Only military personnel and police are allowed polymer armour so remove the robe.”
“There you go.” Magpie tossed the robe over the officers head and ran.
The final room was the largest and the only one that didn’t look like a natural formation. The walls were inscribed with a strange language unknown to Lore. Thankfully, there were pictures to accompany the text which allowed Lore to deduce that they were in the right place. At the centre of the room, on the floor was a circular indent. Lore put two and two together and reached four. The necklace fit perfectly and upon contact the room began to glow as the necklace slowly levitated off of the ground. A door fell open. Behind it a room with another familiar piece of armour.
“There you are.” Lore had forgotten they were alone and quickly scoured the room for a button or switch. “Nope. Nothing.” They moved towards the chest piece. Slowly at first but gradually building confidence they made their way. It was nothing like they expected. For an armour piece called the reapers wings it was disappointingly bland. After seeing the display case from which they were stolen, Lore expected wings but what stood before them was a plain metal chest piece with missing arm guards. Lore was close enough to inspect the wings and found hidden under one of the plates a scrap of paper. A single word spread across its surface. PING. Lore had to scrape themselves from the ceiling. The noise combined with reading its onomatopoeic form had for some reason caused more fright. The tablet had updated. The objective telling them to find the armour had been replaced with a simple command: Run.
Lore grabbed the armour and slipped it over their head. It was no-where near as heavy as they expected and fit much better than they thought. With it quickly secured, they ran. Almost immediately they reached the end of the tunnel. But it wasn’t. Lore hit their stick against the wall ahead. It knocked back. Char was on the other side. Lore’s mind kept returning to the instruction. Their pulse began to race and their senses were quickly increasing in sensitivity. The necklace was beginning to glow. Its light calmed Lore but also gave them a strength they had never felt before. Before it could fade, Lore exploited the feeling and lifted the boulder that separated them. They were annoyed at themselves and Char when they realised the obstruction to their path was merely a faux boulder.
“Seriously?” Char buried her head in her hands before noticing Lore’s new armour. “Nice.”
“Thanks but I think we’ve got to run.” Lore gestured to their shoulder bag where they kept their tablet.
“Right ho.” And that was that. Together they ran and together they sidled as they reached the caves mouth. What had once been an hours trip quickly demonstrated the procrastination between the pair. In spectacular fashion, the pair erupted from the slit in the wall. The marketplace was empty yet the day was still young. Even Magpie was missing. In his place a note.
Had to dash. Police and all doing a papers check. Gone to meet up with the gang. See you in a bit - Mags
Lore handed the paper to Char, a stony expression crossed their face as they wondered what had happened in the couple of hours since their departure. Indexing.