Keatoph’s eyes open slowly and then suddenly. The night sky watches back. Between them, is a valley of ore. Our young warrior lies at the bottom of a large crevice. His back aches. His eyes are blurred. His skin is scratched and torn. He endured quite the fall.
He sits up. Twenty feet away is a snake nearly as wide as he is tall. It lies still. Keatoph’s blade stands pinched between its upper and lower jaw. He rises to retrieve it.
To his surprise, his bag is still on his back, though one of its straps is broken. He takes the remaining handle, and moves it so it sits diagonally across his torso.
The young warrior gimps over to his blade, feeling all of the aches and sprains he has earned himself. He kneels down and then grips its handle. He pulls it to him, falling back, avoiding the collapse of the serpent’s mouth. Dirt and dust kick up at him. He looks at the gash on his leg.
“That’s going to need a cleaning,” he remarks.
Keatoph sits there for a moment as his eyes and head begin to clear. His first coherent thought is of Ophni. He looks into the sky again, hoping to spot his travel companion. She is not there.
“Ophni!” He calls. It echoes up the chamber. He waits a minute. No voice cries back.
Our hero lets out a sigh, looks to see how beat up his hands are, and prepares to ascend the wall that will let him travel south at its top. He is interrupted by a soft cry.
Keatoph turns to look at the snake. It is limp and unmoving. The cry comes again. Keatoph paces over to the monster, each leg having its own stride length. His eyes scan the darkness.
“Keatoph,” a voice lets out meekly. It is Ophni.
“Where are you?”
“The other side,” she answers. “I’m stuck.”
Our protagonist shuffles through the sliver of space between the creature and a rock wall. He walks around its long tail and loops back to its head. Ophni is there. Her legs are hidden beneath the beast. She too is covered in dirt and blood. Tears roll down her cheek.
“Hey, hey” Keatoph blurts. “I’m here. It’s okay. I’m here.” He crouches next to her. Her hand reaches out to him and he grabs it. “Let’s get this off of you.” She nods her head. Her forehead wrinkles in sadness, fear, and pain.
The young warrior rises. He sets his bruised palms against the scales lining the basilisk’s head and pushes. The wounds on his body pinch and sting at the movement of his muscles. He does not relent. The creature, however, does not move. Keatoph adjusts, placing his shoulder on the head. He thrusts up and out with his legs. This time, the corpse gives way.
Ophni is now fully visible. Her right leg looks swollen and twisted.
“Good news or bad news first?” Keatoph asks her.
“mmmGood news,” She gasps, biting her lips.
“The good news is, you’re going to be okay. I see no fatal injuries.”
“And the bad?” She smiles and another tear falls from her eyes.
“The bad news is that I only had two veils of Fisgiliad,” he reaches into his bag. “And I saw one, shattered on the ground over there.” He nods his head back to where he had fallen.
His hand pulls out a translucent bottle, immaculately shaped. There is a red liquid, sparkling inside.
“We’re still in business,” Keatoph cheers. “Have you had fisgiliad healing nip before?”
“Elves do not need potions when we are together. But yes, once.”
Keatoph hands her the bottle and helps her sit up. She drinks, pausing to grimace and wince in pain. Her wounds begin to heal. By the time she has finished the bottle, only her leg retains a heavy sprain.
“The fatigue is setting in,” she tells Keatoph.
“You did drink quite a bit. I’m going to bind your hands so that I can piggy back you while you sleep. Is that okay?”
“Thank you,” She whispers. Her eyes are heavy, she is already only half awake.
Keatoph slides his bag so that it rests on the front of him. He places the she elf on his back. The load is heavy on his wounds, but he does not let it stop him. Instead, he gimps down the hall of rock and stone, taking every southern corridor that opens up to him, and hoping to find its exit.
The maze gives way as morning breaks. Keatoph is exhausted. His back sends twitches rippling up his neck. Ophni is yet sound asleep. Our heroes exit the valley, as it falls to their level. Before them is the village of Dardek.