Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Eight
Also by schefflera
Jeran, Kass, Sally, and the Yellow Knight stood in
Edna's tower, in front of the witch who they hoped would give them the cure
they had been seeking.
"I can make you the cure... if you'll give
me what I need," Edna said.
"And what's that?" Jeran asked.
Edna looked at them all, one by one, and smiled
slowly. "The Sunblade," she said, "Naralus, and the Sword of Skardsen."
Kass looked at Edna incredulously. "You want
me to give you my sword? That just isn't going to happen! I'm sorry, Jeran,"
he said, turning to the Lupe knight, "but this is far too much to ask. And how
do we know that we can actually trust her?"
"We don't," Jeran said, "but that doesn't mean
we shouldn't try. Though, it might be best if we sought out this 'Sword of Skardsen'
before we do anything else. For all we know, it could be another trap."
"Do we even know where to find the Sword of Skardsen?"
the Yellow Knight asked. "Or will the witch be kind enough to tell us?"
"You'll have to find it on your own," Edna said,
smirking. "And be quick about it. You only have thirty minutes, and then you're
out of luck." She vanished back into the green glare and fumes.
"Just great," Kass grumbled. "We have fifteen
minutes to find some legendary weapon, and give in our own, just to get some
cure that obviously won't involve any of them. I might not be an alchemist,
but I've never heard of a sword being used in a potion before..."
"I think I know where the Sword of Skardsen could
be," Sally said in a near whisper. "My daddy used to tell me stories about an
Usul named Gilly who was trapped in the Castle of Eliv Thade... the Sword of
Skardsen was one of the magical artifacts that she had to find in order to escape!"
"So, the sword might still be in the castle?"
"The stories never said that it was moved...."
"Well, then, that seems to be the best lead we
have," said Jeran. "Let's go."
As the group left, the last thing they heard
was Edna's voice- "You only have twenty-eight minutes and forty-nine seconds
left!" she warned.
They left Edna cackling over her cauldron and
her countdowns and headed off. The Castle of Eliv Thade was, at least, not too
difficult to find; it seemed that, much like Meridell, it had become something
of a tourist attraction -- though thankfully not a terribly crowded one. They
found a signpost before they had gone thirty steps from Edna's tower, and not
much farther along, they began to see gray walls and dark turquoise roof-slates
looming from among the trees.
Twenty minutes, Jeran thought, torn. He wanted
to cure Lisha, but Kass -- little as he liked to admit it -- might be right:
swords did not generally go into potions. Edna might have been naming her price
for defying Hubrid Nox, but on the other hand... who knew?
The castle itself seemed a little warped, as
if it had gotten wet and dried poorly, even though it was stone. But it was
otherwise in fairly good repair; it even had a lawn, fresh green grass on the
forest floor, and the bronze ornaments shone untarnished. Surprisingly warm,
inviting golden light poured from the windows. Above the door hung a gigantic
head; it appeared to be a rather poor representation of a Plushie Kacheek, in
the wrong colors. Or maybe a zombie. That part wasn't in quite such good shape;
it looked a little moldy.
They walked up a short cobblestone path to the
door, and Jeran, sighing inwardly, knocked on his third Haunted Woods door of
"They said Gilly got out eventually and banished
the spectre," Sally half-whispered, "but I don't know if maybe they made up
a happy end--"
She broke off, swallowing her "-ing," as the
door burst open to reveal a Kacheek with a broad, slightly crazed grin on a
face that proved the giant head wasn't such a poor likeness after all.
"Welcome!" the Kacheek said in an incongruously
deep and booming voice, flinging his arms wide. "Visitors! I love visitors.
I am Eliv Thade. Have you come to play my game?"
Jeran took a half-step backward to avoid being
smacked in the nose by the welcoming gesture. "Game?"
"Why, yes, my anagram game! Don't worry, I'll
act properly spooky during it." Eliv Thade cleared his throat and let loose
a booming maniacal laugh. "Foolish mortals! You'll never get out alive!" Seeing
them all staring at him, he added in a less haughty tone, "The acoustics are
better indoors. Excellent reverberation. Er, is that not why you're here?"
"Actually," said Jeran, "we're on a quest and
came to inquire about the Sword of Skardsen...."
"HAH!" Eliv Thade did a little jig on the spot.
"Unless you just want a replica, I can't help you, and I'm afraid I'm not the
least bit sorry. It isn't here," he said with relish. "It isn't here, and the
Shield of Pion Troect isn't here. My family Grimoire isn't here, and I never
want to see it again, and the Amulet of Thilg isn't here. None of those accursed
objects are here, nor will be again, and the trap they were used to pin is broken.
No longer," he proclaimed, nearly shouting, with his head thrown back in bliss,
"am I bound to roam my own house in madness and in misery! No longer must I
rack my brain endlessly over a puzzle meant to have no answer! No more do my
guests tread in fear, with their lives forfeit for three mistakes!" He paused
at this and lowered his chin for a moment in thought, then added helpfully,
"...Although it's still a good idea to watch your step. The floor's a mite rickety."
"Er," said Jeran, "I'm glad you're free and...
ah... sane, in that case. But can you perchance tell us where we might seek
the sword instead? My sister is under a curse herself...."
Eliv Thade gave him what might have been a sympathetic
look. "You'll want Gilly the Sorceress, then. She's the one who broke the spell
-- took them all with her when she left, and good riddance. I don't know that
she'll give you the original, but she's closer than Fyora's Hidden Tower. And
she's good with curses, at that. Are you sure you wouldn't care for a game,
"We're a little pressed for time," Jeran said
as politely as he could. "Edna only gave us half an hour."
"Edna! What would she want with a sword?" Eliv
Thade shook his head. "Can't see it. Talk to Gilly, though. Nicest dark sorceress
you'll ever meet." An unearthly howl echoed through the house, and he glanced
back in. "I must leave you. Best wishes and all."
He shut the door. Jeran turned to look at the
other three. "...Maybe Balthazar wasn't talking about the Shadow Usul."
They hadn't taken ten steps from the Castle of
Eliv Thade when the Yellow Knight asked, "Hold on a second, do we even know
where to find Gilly the Usul Sorceress?"
And so, annoyed with his oversight, and with
time slowly but surely running out, Jeran turned back around and knocked once
again on the door of the castle.
"Welcome!" Eliv Thade said, just as he had greeted
them with the first time. Upon noticing that his visitors were those who had
just left, his tone changed from welcoming to a bit annoyed. "What brings you
back here so soon? I thought you didn't have time for games?"
"We don't," said Jeran. "And we don't have time
to be searching the Haunted Woods for a sorceress, either. Could you tell us
where we might find Gilly?"
"Oh, I quite forgot. She lives in a tree house,
not too far to the south of here. You'll know it when you see it -- it's in
a part of the Haunted Woods that doesn't seem quite so haunted. But you should
be going now. I'm in the middle of a game with my other visitors. They're racking
their brains right now, but if I'm gone too long, it might spoil the atmosphere.
So, best of luck, again!"
Eliv Thade's directions, while not quite as descriptive
as Jeran would have liked, proved adequate to lead the group to Gilly's tree
house. As the Kacheek had said, the woods were not quite so haunted around the
tree house -- in fact, they seemed to be more like those found in Meridell than
the rest of the Haunted Woods. This was little comfort to anyone, however --
if anything, it made them feel even more anxious about the meeting with the
sorceress. Not every villain chose to look ominous; lulling a foe could be as
effective or more so than fear.
They knew they'd found the right place when a
perfectly healthy-looking acorn dropped at their feet, and looking up, they
saw a cottage in the branches.
The door to the tree house was, as could be expected,
up high in the tree. While Jeran didn't quite like the idea of waiting in the
tree itself for Gilly, he was willing to put his fears aside for Lisha's sake.
So, twenty feet up a tree, the Lupe knight knocked on the door of the Usul sorceress.
He caught himself thinking it was a good thing
they had a flyer along, realized he meant Kass -- and didn't have time for further
reflections on that subject, as the door opened and he went on full alert.
To be continued...