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Hannah and the Lantern's Glow


by medit92

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Stories had been circulating for weeks. Each story, of course, was relatively the same, that a large accumulation of treasure sat waiting to be plucked by whoever could find it, and that somewhere in the mass of gold and jewels supposedly sat a treasure of a magical nature. The only trouble was that no one knew what it looked like.

     Many had looked for the treasure, some had even found it, and many had searched through it piece by piece for what could have been the magical piece that was supposed to be there. But to no avail. Thus, those who found the treasure itself took what they could carry and left the rest behind. Even then, there was quite a bit left. Perhaps the intent of those who originally found it was to return to take more at a later date, but for whatever reason, that never happened, and there was still a veritable horde of treasure left to sift through.

     Hannah was never one to give up easily. Once she got onto the scent of a treasure, no matter how big or small, she never gave up until it was in her hands. She was Neopia’s greatest treasure hunter, after all. So it wasn’t long that she got wind of the treasure horde being found once again, that she was on her way.

     She packed light, as always. A few rations, some rope, medicine, bandages, a compass, and anything she may need while traversing the caves that were supposed to surround this horde. Oh, also flint and stone. She never went anywhere without flint and stone, just like her grandfather always told her. The pack on her back weighed only a few pounds, easy to move around in, should the need to run arise.

     And it might. Just before she left, she heard rumours from Rosetta that some other pirates had found the treasure too. So there would undoubtedly be competition already waiting there for her. She could only hope and pray to whatever patron Faerie was listening that they hadn’t found whatever magical treasure was amongst the other jewels and baubles first. There was some hope, though, since she could only assume that they didn’t know what they were looking for either. She had no idea how many of them there were, and even if it were just a few, they would still outnumber her. So at the very least, she would have to be faster and smarter.

     Getting to the cave itself was no problem. The tunnels were unguarded, and there were remnants of traps being set off all throughout. Some signs were old, but others quite new, so Hannah made sure to tread carefully. Thankfully, her predecessors that had arrived shortly before her didn’t seem to think of covering their tracks through the thick layers of dust and cobwebs that lined the floor. And it stood to reason that if they had made it through without setting off all the traps, then she could too. She made sure to follow their footsteps carefully, taking note of each turn and corner, as well as each new corridor that looked as though it had been “well travelled” as it were, should she need a quick escape. That, of course, would mean any pursuers she had would be able to follow her easily, but she always had more than a few tricks up her sleeves to take care of that.

     When she finally reached her destination, it felt for a moment that she had stepped out of the caverns entirely and returned to the world outside. The glow of the various torches and lanterns that were scattered around to light the area gave off a strange illusion as though one were witnessing the last rays of the setting sun through a dense fog on a chill winter evening; largely thanks to the remaining treasure that lay scattered around the vast cavern. Hannah was honestly surprised that there was this much left. When she’d heard the stories about some of it being taken, she thought most of it would be gone, and only a few big, hard to carry pieces would be left. However, there were chests that were filled to their brims with loose gold and silver coins, even piles of it scattered here and there. As for the larger pieces, there were still some left; ornate golden candelabras, large saucers and trays of silver, gold statues, vases, urns, jewel encrusted weaponry and other such treasures.

     It was clear from the way everything had been arranged and separated, that someone at some point had attempted some form of organization, or at the very least attempted to catalogue the treasures by type in hopes of stumbling across the magic artefact. That would normally make things easier, if it hadn’t been for the obvious threat the pirates sifting through it all posed.

     Hannah knew she was going to have to move carefully and quietly. She could easily avoid being seen, if she was truly careful about where she searched and kept low; especially with how focused on their work the pirates seemed. The real problem here was knowing where to start! The relic could be any of these baubles that remained, if it hadn’t been found already…

     Still, there was no point in her sitting around and doing no searching at all. Hannah crouched low as she moved, choosing to keep her distance and observe the pirates searching through the treasure for now. There were at least fifteen of them, and while they were busy searching, she could see how tired and bored they looked. They looked as though they were about ready to give up and, at the very least, take a rest. Good, that would be her time to start searching, if that truly was the case.

     “Anythin’?”

     Hannah turned her attention to the sound of the voice; a large Tuskaninny pirate with a large, grizzled looking beard that was so dense she could just barely see his tusks poking through it.

     “Nothin’!” one of his crew hollered back, tossing aside an empty, silver chalice.

     “This’d be a lot bloody easier if we knew what we were lookin’ for!” called another.

     “Well keep lookin’! If it’s here, it’s bound to turn up!”

     “How do we even know it is here?” the first pirate asked. “We’re not th’ first to have found this place!”

     “Because if it was gone, we’d’ve heard about that!”

     Hannah shook her head as the pirates continued to bicker. Part of her was hoping they’d start a mutiny against their captain and leave, giving her leave to search every part of this treasure herself. She still had no surefire way of knowing what the relic looked like, but she had been treasure hunting long enough that experience gave her a sort of “feel” for how magical artefacts felt. That might give her an advantage, though she still hoped to have plenty of time to examine each piece carefully.

     She kept low until she reached a large pile of chests off in one corner of the cave; one that looked like it had been either overlooked for the time being or had satisfied the other pirates enough that they didn’t see fit to search it any longer. This would be a good place to start.

     She lifted the lid of the first chest carefully and began to carefully sift through the objects inside. They varied in size, weight and type, and she had just enough light to examine each of them carefully. Yet nothing she looked over seemed like it was anything more than ordinary pirate loot. She turned her attention to the next chest and began to sift through it as well, and she frowned when she also turned up empty there.

     “This is beginning to look like a wild goose chase,” she muttered to herself, moving on to the third chest which sat nearby to her.

     Her impatience growing, she neglected to open this one as carefully, since the rust lining the hinges made it difficult to open. This resulted in a loud, unexpected creaking sound as she finally managed to get it open enough to even see what was inside. She froze, biting her lip and sucking in a short breath through her teeth, hoping it had gone unheard…

     “What was that?!”

     Nope. Time to hide.

     Hannah tried to close the lid quietly, only for it to creak loudly again, drawing further attention to her, and now a loud shot rang through the air; the sound of the impact glancing off a rock nearby making her ears ring.

     Forget hiding, it was time to run!

     Hannah sprang up off her knees, bunched up her skirt in one hand and took off running, more shouting and shots ringing in the air behind her as she made a beeline for the nearest tunnel entrance. There was no time to go back the way she came, she’d have to risk it! But it was dark ahead, so as she ran, she reached her hand out and snatched up a worn, brass lantern that sat on a barrel as she bolted past it. She didn’t stop to light it just yet, deciding it was best to duck into the tunnel first to see if the pirates would follow her; which to her chagrin, a few of them did. They were a lot who had been stuck in a dank cave, possibly for weeks with no excitement other than sifting through treasures. This was probably thrilling to them, so unfortunately for her, they wouldn’t be likely to give up the chase easily!

     She kept a hand outward along the wall as she ran, feeling her way as best she could until she felt she had taken enough turns to lose them, at least long enough to light the lantern she picked up and plan her next move. Still, she may not have time to stop, which would be risky, given how she had seen the traps in the other tunnels on her way down here. Stumbling around blindly in the dark, even if her night vision was good, was never a good idea in a place like this. She would have to risk stopping at least somewhere to try and create some light for herself, but for now, all she could do was keep running, especially with her pursuers on her heels.

     She felt a small gap and paused just long enough to reach her arm down it, to see if it was another corner or just a dip in the wall. To her relief, it was a continuing corridor, one that was much narrower than the one she was currently in. There was a chance her pursuers might just miss it in their haste, so she ducked down it quickly, hoping that it continued on for quite some distance, and didn’t just end up as a dead end.

     She continued on, ears swivelling left and right as she went, feeling slight relief washing over her when she heard the voices of her pursuers getting fainter. Not faint enough to consider herself completely safe, though enough to risk stopping to at least catch her breath. She pressed her back to the wall, feeling around in her bag for her flint and stone, while her other hand lifted the lantern up from her hip to light it. It would be much too dangerous to continue on without light from here on out, even if she was being chased, with all the remaining traps…

     Hannah found herself going still with bewilderment as she looked down at the lantern she had snatched in her haste.

     There was a faint glow coming from it. But she didn’t light it herself, not with how she had been running, had she? Had it already been lit when she picked it up? No, it didn’t seem like it. So then, how?

     Hannah lifted the lantern up to eye level slowly, looking it over in astonishment. It seemed like such a plain lantern; brass, slightly discoloured though still practically like new, and clear, unpatterned glass that showed no signs of being scratched or cracked. In fact, despite its age, it didn’t appear as though it had been used at all. Even the candle inside showed no signs of guttering, despite the flame glowing softly inside.

     It was when she studied the flame more closely, she noticed that it wasn’t a flame at all. The glow was… just that; a glow. A glow that did not flicker or quiver like a flame, but more like a star in a twilight sky, or the glow of a bright, golden moon on a clear, calm night over the sea. It was unnatural, at least in a magical sense of the word.

     Hannah’s eyes went wide for a moment as realisation began to wash over her. Could it really be that this simple lantern was the treasure everyone was looking for?

     As though to answer her question, the lantern seemed to glow brighter, illuminating the area around her so that she could see perfectly, yet still seemed soft enough to not draw attention to her position. Also, despite its brightness, it did not hurt or strain her eyes at all, even as she continued to stare directly into it. She took a moment to look around, holding the lantern up higher, to see if that would change anything, but nothing seemed to happen at first; the glow was consistent and showed no signs of dimming even as she moved.

     Hannah let out a small chuckle of amazement. Such a simple, yet oh so wonderful treasure! No wonder it had been overlooked for so long! No one would think, just by looking at it, that a mere lantern like this would be a relic! And since it seemed so in place amongst that horde of treasure, or even in any cave, it made sense why no one would think such a thing! And she had found it completely by mistake! She wasn’t sure if that was luck, or if the Faeries themselves were smiling upon her today!

     Hannah lowered her arm and kept the lantern tucked by her side as she began to make her way through the cave tunnels, deciding to find a way out rather than stick around and be found by those pirates. She wasn’t about to risk losing this treasure now that she’d found it. They could keep the baubles and loot that were left, for all she cared. But she doubted they would simply let her get away easily, knowing the greed of pirates. She kept moving, glancing over her shoulder frequently and keeping her large ears on a swivel.

     It was when she glanced forward again after glancing back, that she noticed something else the lantern was doing that further surprised her.

     As its glow stretched out ahead of her, the colour seemed to change upon reaching the rocky walls ahead. It was something of a bright periwinkle colour, though once again not so bright as to hurt or strain her eyes, and it began to form a shape; like lines of ink through water on paper. And it didn’t take long before she could easily identify the mechanisms of a trap, hidden in the wall. Upon pausing to examine further, just beyond the changed glow of the lantern, Hannah could also see the tripwire laid across the path ahead of her. She carefully stepped over it, and once she was past, the periwinkle glow faded, instead illuminating another space just ahead. So lighting the dark on its own wasn’t the only little talent that this lantern possessed! It left Hannah wondering just what other surprises it may be hiding. For now, though, she slipped past the traps carefully, making sure to use her own senses and wit rather than relying on the lantern itself, just to be safe.

     She continued on a ways further, stopping at the mouth of a large fork in the paths, trying to get her bearings and decide which direction would take her back to the surface fastest. Were the lantern a typical one, she would let the flicker of the flame in a breeze decide for her, so instead, she stuck a finger in her mouth, then held it into the open air to feel for one instead.

     Before she could determine just which way to go, the lantern suddenly began to dim steadily.

     “What…?” she asked, looking at the lantern curiously as it started to darken completely.

     “This way!”

     Her eyes went wide, and she froze, crouching down and tucking herself back the way she came, hugging the wall around the corner carefully as heavy footfalls started to come closer. She covered her nose and mouth with her hand to silence her breathing as the pirates came upon the spot where she had been standing a few moments ago, their torches just barely lighting the tunnel.

     “I’m positive I saw some light!”

     “Ya dingbat it was probably just the light from our own torches!”

     “But I coulda sworn–”

     “Ah, forget this! Let’s go back.”

     “The captain will have our guts for garters if we let that wench get away!”

     “Look, better we go back and guard the entrances to the treasure rather than risk letting her double back and slip past us, aye?”

     “Aye, you’ve a point… fine then, let’s go back!”

     Hannah waited quietly and patiently, ears swivelling as their voices trailed away into the darkness and the glow of their torches finally faded away. Normally it was her custom to wait a few extra moments, just to be completely sure that they really had gone, as experience had taught her, however this time, the lantern decided that for her.

     It began to glow again, once again illuminating the tunnel, yet at the same time seeming to sense her caution and keeping itself a little dimmer than before. She couldn’t help but smile fondly at it as she stepped back out of hiding, and lifted her hand to detect any airflow again before making her way through the tunnels once again; this time at her own pace.

     It took her maybe a day to navigate her way into the caves, and another day to find her way out again. Even with the magic lantern’s light and guidance, she still chose to air on the side of caution and take paths that were less likely to be known to and guarded by the pirates who she had accidentally alerted back in the caves. And she didn’t mind taking the extra time despite the risks, as she was steadily learning more and more about her new little treasure here.

     When she finally made it out of the caves and tunnels, it was dark out, and even with the lantern, there was no point in journeying all the way home in the dark. So she found a safe spot to set up camp for the night, deciding to set out the following morning.

     Hannah smiled, head resting on her arm as she stared somewhat fondly at the lantern as it continued to glow throughout the night. Something like this was perfect for her, and for her adventures, and she couldn’t wait to take it with her on her next one. And what a story she’d have to tell when she got back home! She could only imagine what they may think, her latest adventure being such a short one… perhaps she’d slip off on another adventure before going home first, as a way of testing to see just how well she could handle the lantern, and how helpful it would be to her.

     For now though, she let her eyes fall shut, the lantern seeming to dim as it seemed to sense her drifting into slumber. She could dream of future adventures anytime, but for now, she was content to rest contentedly and safely in the lantern’s glow.

      The End

     

 
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