Pitter-patter. Slide. Shift. Pitter-patter. The cacophony woke me.
He fell into the cave. Cold light tumbled in from outside, splattering all over dark stones and a dark, dark pool. He landed on his face with a startled yell, his cloak fluttering about him. A husky breath, two, and he jumped up, flinging his cloak behind him. His blade sang as he drew it with a smile. His eyes darted, searching the dark cave. Seeing no one, he relaxed and tried to get the dirt from between his teeth.
“We’ll skip that part in the epic, all right?” he muttered with a voice low and nasal.
“The part where you fell on your face? Yeah, I think it would sell better without that,” returned a commanding voice from a crystal that hung around his neck. “Listen, Kerthis, I think you need to concentrate on finding the treasure. We can edit later.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the hero answered as he glanced around the cavern. His eyes fell on the pool.
“It’s underwater, isn’t it?” he groaned.
“Well, the scrying crystal doesn’t have much of a range for sight, but if you can’t see it anywhere else, that’d be my guess,” answered the voice.
Crunch crunch went his boots over the smooth, dark stones. Huff huff went his breath as he slipped off his boots. Flutter flutter went his cloak as he unclasped it. Huff whoosh went his breath at the edge of my pool.
Splash splash went the water as he surfaced again. Scrunch scrunch went the stones. Gasp heave went his lungs.
“What? I couldn’t see anything. What happened?” the crystal on his neck cried out.
“Skeletons. Lots and lots of skeletons.” Wretch wretch went his stomach, though nothing escaped his mouth. He didn’t vomit. That’s good. I hate the taste of that in my pool.
“Yeah. That’s what happens in these kind of caves. Lots of dead heroes.”
“You never told me!”
“You’ve never actually listened to an epic before, have you?”
“They’re all so long!”
“So why’d you hire me to be your bard again?”
Ripple ripple went the water. Shiny shiny went the waves. Flow flow went my surface as it formed a human face.
Screech screech went the hero.
“Ah. A water elemental. Shoulda guessed,” said the crystal around his neck.
Bubble bubble went the hero’s breath as I laid atop him.
“Kerthis, you gotta fight back. Stabby? You know?”
The man didn’t go stabby stabby. He flailed.
The crystal muttered, “I really hate when I have to bail him out.” It cleared its throat and shrieked out, “Hey! Hey! Water woman! I got a deal for you!”
Gasp gasp went the hero.
“Listen, my guess is you got all these heroes trying to take your stuff, right? That’s cause there’s all these stories that say this cave is full of treasure! Of course everyone’s looking around! That’s why Kerthis came – he thought it would sound good in his epic. Look, we can make sure no one ever bothers you again. Just let my paycheck escape, alright? He’s rich and just wants to make a name for himself. Saving damsels, all that stuff.”
Drip drip went my pool as I waited.
“I’ll write it into a new epic. Kerthis here checked out this cave, but there’s no treasure. The stories were all a lie to trap heroes. Let’s see here. Orc chieftain? Nah, they’d never be smart enough for something like that. Maybe some sort of half-giant. Yeah, that’ll sell. So, no treasure. He slew the giant, found no treasure, so everyone thinks there’s no treasure, and you’re never bothered again. That sound fair?”
Beat beat went his heart as I set him down on the stones. Tap tap went the crystal as I touched it.
“Yeah. Trust me, it’ll get me some coin in the local taverns. I’ll do it.”
Quiet quiet went my pool. Scramble scramble scuff he went up the cave to the outside.
Still still I returned to my slumber.