Chapter 5: Treasure of the Worst Kind

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Ailbhe was thoroughly sick of the cave system. Each one led to another. They seemed to endlessly circle in on themselves and every room looked the same.

“Damn it! I looked at that map!” the paladin yelled. “How can we still be lost?”

Seamus awkwardly patted berserker that was snuggled up to him yet again. “Wasn’t he supposed to be getting better by now? It’s been days and he’s still-”

“Only two days, and he’ll be fine,” Ailbhe said. “He can put two words together now. That’s a definite improvement. What’s not an improvement is this next cave. Geeze, this thing couldn’t look any more generic if it tried.”

“I think we were supposed to turn left three caves back,” Seamus said. He turned sideways so that both he and Iain could fit through he narrow opening to the next chamber without the ‘serk having to let go of him.

The paladin face palmed. “Why didn’t you tell me then?”

“I didn’t realize it until just now. I’ve been little busy trying to take care of Iain,” the bard said. “Do you know how many times he’s almost walked into a demon trap, or tried to sniff at something dangerous?”

Ailbhe made a face. “Demon traps? What demon traps?”

“You’ve kind of been walking right through them,” the bard said. “I know it’s safe to walk behind you because you destroy everything you touch.” He paused. “That came out wrong.”

“Just shut up, Seamus,” Ailbhe said. She looked around the cavern they’d just entered. “Damn, dead end. Alright, let’s go back to that left you saw. Hopefully that’ll take us out.”

“What about the treasure?” the bard asked.

“What treasure?”

“The demons had to be guarding something, didn’t they? Why else would they all be here?” he asked.

“Maybe they like it here,” the paladin said rolling her eyes. “Maybe the dank dark is good for their healthy. Heck maybe they have a timeshare. There’s no reason there has to be a treasure.”

“What’s in that chest there, then?” Seamus asked.

“What chest?”

“The one by the door.”

Ailbhe glared at him. “You really need to learn to a speak up sooner about these things.”

Closer inspection of the chest revealed a large, ornately decorated lock. The wood around it was covered in swirls and arcane symbols.

“These are the makings of a curse,” the bard said as he knelt beside the chest. “Only someone, uh I think this rune means qualified. Either that or it means pure of heart-”

“What? Those two meanings aren’t even remotely similar,” Ailbhe said.

“Only they can open this chest,” he continued, ignoring her. “Which means I should try to pick the lock.”

She raised an eyebrow. “What makes you say that?”

“Well if it means qualified, I’ve had a course on lock picking. And if not, well,” he glanced up at the paladin. “I’m just going to try and see.” He pulled two small, narrow pieces of metal from his belt pouch and inserted them into the lock.

After he’d fiddled with it for about a minute Ailbhe leaned in close. “Are you in yet?”

“Well no,” the bard said, “It’s got a lot of tumblers and it’s probably going to take me a little while.”

“Then we’re doing this my way,” she said.

“What?” he looked up just in time to see her sword coming down at him. With a yelp he dove to the side, but her sword hit its target. The chest burst into flames. “What’d you do that for?” he cried.

“Seemed like a good way to open the box to me,” she said, watching the flames crackle merrily.

“You just ruined any paper that might have been in there! Deeds, band notes, stocks, bonds-”

She stopped him with a look. “Holy fire burns cold.”

“But how can it be holy when,” he hesitated. “When you…”

“Do you really want to know?” she asked.

Something about her tone made him cringe. “No,” he said. “On second thought not really.”

“Good,” she said.

The chest was almost burned out and Ailbhe reached over to brush the soot off their prize. “A bag?” she murmured, picking it up. She turned it over in her hands and blew on it.

The resulting cloud made Seamus gag. Iain nuzzled him and whined in a worried way.

“Something written on here,” she said as she rubbed at the fabric ignoring them both. “The Coffee of Ma-, uh what’s that? Mako? No, more like Macho. The Coffee of Macho. Hey Seamus, have you ever heard of The Coffee of-” She glanced up and saw him petting the berserker. “Macho. Never mind.” She stashed the bag on her belt. “Let’s go you two.”

The three adventurers made their way back to where Seamus thought they should have turned left. Sure enough there was a tiny crevice in the rock and they were able to squeeze through. It was soon apparent they were headed in the right direction as the air became less fetid and more breathable. As a cool breeze whispered across their skin, they heard a familiar cry from behind them.

“Hey, wait up!”

The paladin turned. “There you are, Ciardhe,” she said. “I was starting to think the demons had-oh my god, what the hell is that?”

The healer glared at her. “What do you mean ‘what is that’? It’s a little girl.”

“You mean you spawned?” Seamus asked, goggling at what Ciardhe was holding hands with.

Ciardhe turned her glare at the bard. “Not unless I’ve been hiding her in my pocket for the last nine years.”

“Well you never know with demons,” Ailbhe said. “It could have crawled out of you after you and the demon king, you know.”

“How can you that about such a sweet little girl? She has such beautiful brown hair and the cutest clothes,” the healer gushed.

Ailbhe raised an eyebrow. “That,” she said. “Is not at all what I see. What you’ve got there is hell spawn.”

They all looked at the creature. It grinned back at them and giggled.


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