The thing about marching into the rising sun, is that it’s really difficult to see because the sun is in your eyes. Maybe that’s part of the point. We were slipping around the cliff, trying to stay on dry land and mostly succeeding when Magda stopped us with a whistle. Liz motioned for us to hunker down to reduce our profile (see I’m learning cool things) and everyone prepped weapons.
I have to make sure you understand this because I don’t just walk around all the time holding my mace, waiting to smash something. I usually have it slung at my side so I can use my hands for other things like balance and not falling down. Also, catching other people who might fall down. It’s swampy here, muck and slime are quite prevalent. You know what else is prevalent? Leeches.
I HATE LEECHES.
Okay, just wanted to get that out of my system.
We squatted there in the shrubbery long enough that my thighs started to burn. I was debating on just sitting down and stretching my legs out, but we were on a narrow lip of dry land right up against the cliff and barely a single stride further out the ground was sopping. Then the word came down the line for Bob to go forward. He and Rufus were in the back, heads together, poring over a bit of parchment Bob had pulled from his pack. One of his maps, no doubt. At the word from Sparkle, Bob began to make his way forward, forcing us all up and back against the side of the cliff and still I ended up stepping into muck up over my ankle. Good thing I had solid boots. When I pulled back something long, dark and wiggly was latched onto the heel and I had to scrape it off against the side of the cliff. It made a wet popping sound as I ground it off my heel.
I can cast a protection from evil. Why can’t I cast a protection from leeches? I’d have to put some thought into that. Not all of my experiments come off exactly as I’d planned, however.
Once Bob was past, we squatted down again and waited.
I put my back to the wall and rested my head against the stone, eyes closed, trying to center my thoughts. Thinking about the anti-leech spell helped as the time dragged on and on. Eventually Rufus smacked me on the nose and I jerked awake. He had been attempting to climb over me, but as I was twice his mass, it had proven a difficult task. I lifted him over me and set him on the opposite side and he glared at me for a moment, straightened his weasel suit and turned in a huff. He did not like anything that reminded him just how small he was.
Yep, I had fallen asleep sitting up, in the swamp, in full armor, squatted down. The body is an amazing thing. Bÿglar had taken the rear post in our marching order this round and he also leaned against the wall. While no one asked me to come forward, I leveraged myself up and stood there for a minute while my calves protested the position I had fallen asleep in. Once I could move again, I went to Bÿglar and poked him awake. Is this a warrior trick, catching snatches of sleep anytime you stop moving and have nothing else to do? Not sure how much it nourished the body, but I wasn’t arguing, and neither, apparently, was Bÿglar.
I granted him the courtesy of waiting until his blood was flowing through all his limbs again and we followed where the others had gone around a bend. Ahead there was a wider ledge where Rufus, Sparkle and Bob were examining a half buried stone. Magda and Liz were on watch, sweeping their gaze over the swamp around us. As I approached, Bob turned to me and nodded.
“Runes here,” he said, pointing to the wall. “Very ancient. Rufus seems to have an idea of them, as they are similar to the ones he studied in Wind Spire.”
“Wind Spire?” I asked, slightly confused. Bob shook his head and Rufus waved a hand at me in dismissal. I had just woken up, I could not be expected to always be right on top of things. Wind Spire had been the ruined city where the dragon had laired.
Bob talked stone cutting and the carving of runes while Rufus talked ancient languages and magical encryption. Sparkle examined the area for traps or wards and I sat down again, waiting. At least here the dry land was wider and I could let my legs stretch out in front of me without risking leeches.
Bÿglar plopped down beside me and was almost immediately asleep. I closed my eyes thinking to join him when Rufus began to swear softly and chuckled.
I cracked one eye, turned my head and he and Bob were clapping each other on the back. I wanted to roll my eyes, but they were so gleeful, I restrained myself. Sparkle stood, hands on her hips and shook her head. Before the dwarf and gnome were finished congratulating themselves, Sparkle pushed them aside and pulled a leather roll from her pouch, unrolled it on her thigh and pulled out a set of lock picks. Bob came over to me and sat down, leaning his head to the side and touching his helm to my own.
Rufus squatted down next to Sparkle, watching her work, until she pushed him aside with complaints he was blocking the light.
“This entire area has risen in the last seventy centuries,” Bob said to me in a quiet whisper. “That is the top of a door that has not been opened in quite some time.”
I leaned forward and craned my neck around him. Less than six spans of door were exposed. The remainder was underground.
“How do you propose we get that opened if more than half is buried?”
Bob patted me on the arm and closed his eyes. “Let the girl work.”
So while Bob took a power nap, Sparkle worked the door. The runes made a pattern that she carefully uncovered by pulling aside moss and vines and eventually thick, loamy earth. She worked with the care of a surgeon, which surprised me, but there was a quiet beauty to her movements. Her concentration was razor sharp. Once she traced a line of runes and they began to glow a soft yellow light. When she traced a second one, she fell back with a yelp as a spark flashed out and the runes turned a burgundy color.
Swearing, she kicked the door once, then traced the runes following a different pattern, and the door lit up with a golden glow. That seemed to satisfy her and she went to work with her picks.
After that it was only a matter of seconds really until the ancient magical lock clicked open and the door swung inward, revealing a tunnel that ran into the side of the cliff.
Okay, go back to go forward. I was liking this change in our circumstance.