How Anqearo, Thono, and Daerona survived the terribly trapped tomb.
Photo credit: Brenda Clarke
This continues from A Grave Warning. If you haven’t read that yet, start there. It’s short. We’ll wait.
Anqearo knelt before the tomb door, cursing her creaking joints. Thank the gods her contract with Daerona was almost fulfilled. She’d coughed her way through enough dusty ruins for a lifetime. Assuming that slime honored his end of the deal, that is. Which seemed increasingly unlikely.
Whispering the incantation, her fingers hovered as near to the seal as she dared. She concentrated, drowning out every sound, ignoring the sweat dripping down her temples.
Leaning back on her heels, Anqearo frowned. The trap was so advanced she couldn’t even identify it. Out of good options, then.
What she considered doing was against the law in every civilized land, and most uncivilized ones too. But Daerona’s plan would get them all killed.
“Well?” His bark grated from behind her.
“I can’t tell whether it’s intact,” she lied. Turning, she tried dissuading him with a scowl. “You’re still intent on going through?”
Daerona snarled. “Are you trying to countermand my orders? You wouldn’t dare.” His thick-cheeked smile was even nastier than his snarl.
That narrowed it down. “I need time to prepare the right spells.” She couldn’t trust him wandering around the rest of the temple, not with Thono testing every danger for him. “I’ll be in the antechamber. Keep quiet. And if you want to live, do not touch that seal.”
* * *
Anqearo stood before the tomb entrance, Thono and Daerona behind her. She motioned them forward. “If I can see you, it’s easier for me to protect you.”
Big Thono moved up on her left, slumping as though not yet used to this adult body. Round Daerona appeared to her right, his garishly striped tunic and turban the only colors this side of the Black Oasis market.
“Close your eyes for this first spell. The flash could blind you.”
She raised her silver-wrapped arms and chanted. When she opened her hands, bright lights sparked from her palms.
* * *
Anqearo lay still, feigning unconsciousness, until she heard Daerona moving. She listened to him shuffling toward her, forcing herself to stay limp. Predictably, he kicked her leg.
“Wake up. What went wrong?”
Anqearo stirred, shook her head in mock confusion, filled her voice with rage. “What? You almost got us killed, that’s what went wrong! I saved your imbecilic ass and this is the appreciation you give me?”
She pointed at the tomb door. “You’re lucky she wasn’t there anymore, and that some of the traps hadn’t reset. That could have been much worse.”
Daerona looked around the stone chamber, everything in shambles, then down at his ripped tunic. “But…”
Anqearo’s concern was real. “You don’t remember anything? The empty tomb? The attacking spirits?”
He stared at the door a while and nodded. “Uh… I remember some of it, yes. Open tomb. Spirits. Right. It’s blurry.” He held his head, squinting in pain. “But the door, it’s still sealed.”
On her feet now, Anqearo slapped his arm. “It’s magic, you idiot!”
She moved to Thono, gently rocked him. “Thono, how are you feeling?”
His first expression upon waking was fear, as always. Seeing her, he smiled and blinked. “Hello. I was sleeping. Did I miss something?”
Anqearo patted his arm, brushed the hair off his forehead. “No, don’t worry about it.”
Looking up, it was her turn to panic. “Daerona, stop! Don’t touch that seal!”
He growled. “I’m not touching. I’m looking. Now that we know what’s in there, you can prepare better for next time.”
“Next time? Daerona, you saw what was in there—nothing. Unless you want to risk your life to retrieve the bodies of those who failed before us, to give them an honorable burial?”
Daerona sneered at the suggestion.
Anqearo returned the expression. “I didn’t think so. We’re too late for whatever treasure was once buried here, and we’re lucky to be so.” She stomped around the room, retrieving items swept into messy piles in the corners. “I did my part. I went in, I saved us all. Now I’m leaving.”
She had her bag almost full before Daerona stopped grumbling and began picking up his own things.
Thono was still seated, staring at the tomb door.
Anqearo touched his shoulder. “Thono, get your bag.”
“But I’m confused. I was just sleeping.”
She had considered planting memories in him too, but his poor mind was already so jumbled. “I know, honey. It’s fine. Come on, we have to go.” She held her hand out to help him stand. He took it.