tagNovels and NovellasThe 12 Sacred Jewels Ch. 05

The 12 Sacred Jewels Ch. 05

byIllyHymen©

Eskay led them down a dark narrow stairway by the light of her torch.

"You always have the perfect tool," said Maeve as they descended deeper down the stairs.

"Maeve, I love you like a sister, but this is like basic supplies hunters carry. Black fungus, white willow bark, food and water, rope. You're amazed by the simplest things."

"Well you're an amazing person and I don't want you to ever forget it," said Maeve. That compliment brought a hand to Eskay's mouth who was surely hiding a blush in the dark. Finally at the bottom of the stairs, they entered a large room full of darkness. To their left was a stone brazier and Eskay set her torch in it. A line of blue flame circled the room, lighting sconces as it went, bathing the area in haunting blue light.

"This is the coolest thing I've ever seen," said Eskay, stepping back to hold Maeve's hand. Aside from a stone knee wall that circled the room, the only notable features were two statues and a podium on the other side. In the dim light, it looked as if the two statues were life sized versions of the statue outside, except these ones held stone swords in their fists. And on the podium between them, something twinkled in the firelight.

"Es..." whispered Maeve as if afraid to wake the statues, "I think that might be the earrings over there. You wait here, I'm gonna run over there and snatch them."

Maeve took off at a sprint, her feet splashing through the inch of water on the floor as she ran. She already had her arm out, ready to grab the earrings, when a stone sword came down on her hand and smacked it away just inches from the prize.

"Yow! Fuck!" howled Maeve, sticking her fingers in her mouth. The grate of stone on stone echoed through the room, and the two statues stepped forward.

"What the fuck is happening!!" shouted Maeve as she ran away, her practice sword already in her hand without having to think about it.

"Run, Maeve!" Eskay shouted from the exit. Before Maeve could even clear half the room, a slab of stone crashed down in the doorway, blocking their only escape.

"This is a trap! It's a fucking trap," Maeve cried, running to Eskay and grabbing her arms.

"We have to fight them. It might be our only way out," said Eskay, pulling her arms away and nocking an arrow in her bow. A set of loud crashes rang out in the chamber as the stone statues marched towards them.

"How is this happening!" shouted Maeve, slapping her palm to her forehead on the verge of full blown panic. Eskay was a cool zucchini as she lined up her shot and unleashed an arrow at the left statue's throat. The arrow flew true but bounced off the warrior statue with an unceremonious click before flinging into the water. Still the statues approached, each footstep like boulders crashing.

"Should have known that would happen," said Eskay, pulling her bow around her torso. "Maeve, you have to use your sword. It's our only chance."

Hearing the fear in Eskay's voice set Maeve's nerves to hardened steel. She postured up and slowly drew the practice sword in front of her, pointed between the two foes. Every nasty thing Kensha had ever screamed at her in the backyard echoed through her mind. Never take your eyes off your foe. Never stand off balance. Never use your full power. The fight is never over.

Maeve found her perfect balance in the inch deep water and slowly approached her foes. They weren't fast, but she had to guess they were powerful. She met them at the center of the room. She would do whatever it took, including dying, if it meant protecting Eskay.

The statues stopped two strides from her and drew their swords and shields in front of them. Without waiting for a cue, Maeve launched forward and rained down the hells upon them. Each strike found its mark, and the ironwood sword held up beautifully. The statues were two slow to counterattack as she delivered blow after blow to their shoulders, throat, face, inside knee, and kidneys. Nothing seemed to have an effect until Maeve delivered a slide kick into a backwards somersault, laying low the left statue with a satisfying crash. Eskay cheered her on from the entrance, and her support filled Maeve's heart with hot fire. She delivered a combination of strikes to the remaining statue but lost her sword as it suddenly deflected her attack with a swing of its stone shield. Her practice sword went tumbling across the chamber. Before she could even react to the surprise defense, the statue brought down its sword on her. Maeve closed her eyes and braced herself, prepared to have her head caved in...but nothing happened. She opened her eyes to see that she was standing in sunlight from an opening in the ceiling far above. The statue had frozen in place, its sword less than an inch from her skull.

"You have known defeat in this chamber. May the blessing of Alexandria guide you," said a haunting androgynous voice that could belong to no hume. The statue tumbled backwards and shattered into large chunks. Eskay ran out into the room and threw her arms around Maeve, crying.

"I thought you were dead!" Eskay sobbed into her shoulder. Maeve clung to her for dear life, feeling her warmth against her body.

"I thought I was dead too. I don't know what happened," said Maeve as tears slid down her cheeks.

"I think you were supposed to lose on purpose," said Eskay.

"Why?" said Maeve sniffling on Eskay's shoulder.

"We should probably leave before something happens," said Eskay, grabbing Maeve's hand and jogging for the exit that had reopened.

"Wait!" said Maeve as she slipped her hand out and ran across the room. On the podium that the statues had been guarding was a pair of simple earrings. Each one was made of a small set of beads, green and gold, with drops of amber hanging from the bottom and identical hooks sticking out the top. Maeve swiped them off the podium and sprinted back to the exit, grabbing Eskay's hand just as she bent down to retrieve the Maeve-be-good stick. Hand in hand they sprinted up the dark staircase and out of the chamber. They stumbled up the staircase in the dark and finally found their way outside in the afternoon sun where the small statue and Kensha's sword awaited them. Maeve tumbled to the ground as they escaped, breaking into nervous giggles. Eskay tumbled beside her laughing.

"That was amazing," gasped Maeve as she caught her breath.

"And terrifying," said Eskay as she sat upright to look at the exit.

"We did it though," said Maeve, smiling at her friend.

"That was all you, Big M," said Eskay, smiling back.

"I guess we start heading to Paqry now," said Maeve. She held out the earrings in her hand to examine them. They were simple yet elegant and seemed to glow with their own light.

"They're really pretty," said Eskay handing Maeve's sword back to her before examining the earrings herself.

"I'd give them to you, but we really should sell them for supplies. Bet they're worth a lot."

"I hope so."

Maeve got to her feet and helped her friend up and then removed her sword from the statue with little resistance. She led the way up the short path to the summit before deciding they were probably better off if Eskay led. Maeve stopped at the summit to take in the whole wide world, only a portion of which she had ever explored.

"Can't believe how big the world is," said Maeve as she slowly spun to take in the grand vista.

"It's a lot bigger than this. See that dark line on the horizon there? Those are the Blasted Mountains. My dad says the demon Ka Tuk was cast down to Ur and his impact created them. He says they go for thousands of miles."

"That's really cool," said Maeve, squinting at the northern horizon to see if she could see Ka Tuk.

"We probably want to get to the grasslands before the sun sets," said Eskay, looking to the south.

"Lead the way, little sister," said Maeve. Eskay led them down the slopes at a brisk pace but always surefooted. As they wrapped their way around the eastern side of the butte, they could see the three strangers several feet below, standing and waiting on the opposing butte where they had last encountered them.

"What do you think they want?" said Eskay as she came to a stop.

"Probably the earrings. But there's no way I'm handing them over after what we went through."

"We'll have to pass by them to get down the butte."

"Yeah, but it's not like they're going to jump over here after us," said Maeve, moving her hand to her sword pommel.

"That's a really risky jump. Almost ten feet. Not impossible. But if you miss you die."

"Well...let's go deal with them," said Maeve, taking the lead once again. The path down the butte was much more straightforward then trying to pick the paths that led all the way up. In minutes they were at the same wide ledge that faced the opposing butte.

"Here they come," whispered someone's voice as Maeve and Eskay came around the corner. The two girls tried to act surprise as the three strangers came into view.

"Hey you guys!" shouted Maeve as she waved to them. The blonde girl greeted them and waved back. Lindlith grabbed her hand and slowly lowered it.

"Find any ROCK PHEASANTS?" said the red headed leader, bending forward with her hands on her hips.

"Uhh just one," said Eskay, showing them the one she had shot earlier.

"We know you girls are looking for the treasure too. And if you found it, you need to hand it over," said the leader.

"Lady, we have NO idea what you're talking," Maeve called over to her.

"Well, I gave you a chance. Lindlith, go get them," said the leader, flipping her hair back and pointing a finger at the two girls.

"I'm not jumping that," said Lindlith, glancing down before looking back up at the girls.

"Damn you, you big brown archon!" the leader snapped, stomping her feet.

"Watch it," said Lindlith, gently pushing her away.

"I got this Ruby," said the blonde girl, turning her head as she walked backwards for more running room.

"That's enough!" shouted Eskay, drawing her bow and aiming an arrow at the three women.

"Holy shit, Es," said Maeve, staring in disbelief as her friend drew down on them.

"We just want to leave without any trouble. If you try to come after us, I'll put an arrow in your knee," said Eskay, both arms completely still. Maeve had never seen her this serious before, and it was fucking awesome but scary.

"Seems like a reasonable request," said Lindlith, folding her powerful arms across her chest.

"Grrrr, you idiot! We need those earrings to find the other jewels!" Ruby snarled.

"There's other jewels?" said Maeve.

"We're going now," said Eskay, still not lowering her bow. The blonde girl continued to back up as if every inch of distance brought her closer to safety. Eskay adjusted her aim to her incase she ran and tried to jump. The girl backed into a strange rock formation that looked like a minitaure mountain; even the peak was white, resembling snow. And then the rock formation moved, and it roared. Lindlith and Ruby flinched from the monstrous roar as two, large yellows eyes blinked open under the rock. What everyone had assumed was just a boulder turned out to be a massive mountainback, eight feet tall at its shell peak, and looking thoroughly pissed off. The mountainback roared again and snapped at the girl's leg who moved just in time.

"Lin, help me!" wailed the girl, stumbling behind Lindlith who already had her massive sword drawn and ready. Her sword more closely resembled a sheet of thick metal and took both her rippling arms to wield. Ruby and the blonde girl backed away as Lindlith brought the fight. She took two steps forward and brought her claymore down in a diagonal arc. Her sword clanged off the lizard's gigantic shell, but inflicted no damage.

"Uhh..." said Lindlith, unsure of what to do.

"Kill it!" ordered Ruby, pointing a finger at the mountainback. Lindlith brought her sword down on the creature's head, but once against the unsatisfying clang of metal on stone rang out in the canyon, and the blow was deflected.

"Fuck this," said the blonde girl, turning and sprinting for the cliff edge, "please don't shoot me." she said, leaping across the gap. The gap was easily conquered and the girl flung herself in Maeve's arms who went to the ground with her.

"You have to get it behind the neck!" shouted Eskay, unleashing her arrow at the beast. The mountainback shifted its weight at the last moment and the arrow bounced off the lip of its shell. Lindlith brought her sword down on the thing's neck, but once against her blade bounced off.

"We have to run," said Ruby, running up to the edge and stopping, hesitating at the last moment.

"You can do it, Rube," the blonde girl called across the chasm.

"I told you to stop calling me that!" she shouted back. Eskay nocked another arrow and let it fly, this one bouncing off one of the horns on the creature's brow. Lindlith tried one more strike across the side of its face, but couldn't stop the mountainback from creeping closer.

"Time to retreat," said Lindlith, backing away and grabbing Ruby by the jacket. Lindlith took two steps back, ran for the other butte, and leapt across the chasm with Ruby in her grip. After landing safely, she let her leader plop on the ground and turned back to see her undefeated foe.

"What in the hells was that thing?" said Lindlith, returning her sword to her sheath.

"A mountainback. You have to get it right where it's neck meets its shell. That's the only soft spot," said Eskay, considering one more shot at it but lowering her arrow instead.

"Hand over the earrings, little brat," said Ruby, making a line for Eskay. Maeve brought down her swore between the two of them.

"You touch Eskay, the only things your fingers will be good for is throwing bones," said Maeve.

"That was so badass," said Eskay, smiling at her friend.

"You don't make the rules!" said Ruby, casting the sword aside with a stiletto in her hand. Eskay drew down on her before anyone else could react.

"You touch Maeve, and you'll be hanging on my living room wall," said Eskay.

"That was even better," said Maeve, taking a step back and bringing her sword up.

"Who are you brats!" Ruby demanded to know, refusing to put her stiletto away.

"Just a couple of farm girls," said Maeve, taking a step back.

"Let it go Ruby, there are other ways to find the jewels," said Lindlith, not even bothering to draw her claymore. The blonde girl stared on, fascinated by the standoff.

"We need all twelve of them or it won't WORK," shouted Ruby. Across the chasm, the mountainback roared and two explosions rang out through the canyon. Everyone turned to see that at the tip of its shell, molten rock oozed out. Before anyone could put forth an appropriate question, two rocks crashed among their group and exploded. Everyone dropped to the ground, the two swordswomen took a knee as dust and debris kicked up. Sheets of the cliff fractured and the ledge they were on began to fall away. Maeve somersaulted to Eskay and grabbed her wrist before they ran down one of the paths. Lindlith coughed and struggled to see in the dust and debris, but found Ruby and put her under her arm like a bushel of wheat.

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