The night was warm and damp, the moon nothing more than a crescent in the sky. Although spring was just starting the heat was beginning to rise in the Trenches. Teela flashed her crystal-light into the darkness, searching for an end to the chasm. Nestled behind an old launderettes, Teela and the half-goblin Grondell were hidden from view by the drying clothes hung across a dozen lines. She could hear the crowds moving up and down the steps, the swishing of water from inside the building, and  she hoped that no one would would take an interest in their little alley.

“You see Miss Teela? Dark as forever and just as deep.” Grondell the half-goblin said as he shifted nervously from one bare foot to the next. The squat, green half-breed constantly looked over his shoulder, occasionally peeking out from behind the damp blankets to make sure they were not discovered. It was forbidden to tamper with the stone column which the wealthy city of Spira rested upon and doing so could bring the culprit a death sentence. The golden city overhead allowed the poor to build their homes and businesses on the steps that lead down to the Bay of Raygar, but they could not carve, cut, or alter in any way the stone support that the city rested upon. The geomancers who guarded the stone had the authority of the King and were not afraid to use it. The cliff-side city had stood for fifty thousand summers and was the center of commerce for all of North Borealis. The rich and powerful were afraid that the poor would tunnel it out from underneath their feet and so it was forbidden to alter the stone in any way.

Teela turned off the light and slipped it into her belt. She fished her fingers into a small pouch on her hip and pulled out a small bronze coin which Grondell caught, nodding his head and bowing fervently as he bit it with his gnarled teeth. He had no idea why he bit the metal coin. It was just something he had seem humans do in the market. Satisfied with it he placed it into a dirty pouch that hung from the rope tied around his waist.

“Thank you very much, thank you!” He said. Half-goblins were one of the most reviled half-breed species in North Borealis and they tended to be overly polite and subservient to compensate for the hatred they faced.

Teela had found Grondell while searching the pillar. He had been washing one of his offspring in a pool of water that had gathered behind the tent he lived in, down near the bottom of the steps. She had not believed him when he’d told her of the crack, but there it was.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” Grondell asked.

Teela unclipped her breastplate and let it drop to the ground softly.

“You can have my armour if you wish; it will only be a burden.” Teela said.

She handed Grondell her ankle guards and he snatched them up, a wide grin spreading across his long face.

“Oh what a blessed day!” Grondell hiss quietly. His eyes glistened with greed and his long nose twitched like a rat. He snatched up the breastplate and used it to collect the other pieces as Teela took them off, piling them in his arms.

Teela Wayland was six foot tall with muscles as hard as steel. She was slim, but defined, and was even stronger than she appeared. Spira was where she had been born, but her skill and strength came from years of hard combat. Teela was a mercenary, a sword for hire and a good one. Until the rise of King Augustus De Pelentas there had been no shortage of work for the sellsword. Her blade had drank its fill of blood and although she had only seen twenty-one summers, she was ready to retire from the merchanary life.

The crevice was six feet high and no more than a foot wide and the crack in the stone was exactly what she had been hoping to find.

Teela stood in the alley in her leather boots and britches, with a white cotton top that clung to her sweaty skin. The night was humid and damp but the stone of Spira felt cold to her touch.

Grondell was barely visible under the pile of battered old armour in his arms.

“My children will grow fat thanks to your divine kindness, Miss Teela. Thank you! Thank you!” Grondell leaned forward to bow and almost lost the armful of metal. Teela held her finger to her lips to silence him.

“It is not a gift. It is a payment, in exchange for your silence. Tell no one else of this spot.”

“Why of course! Grondell has none to tell.” He said softly.

High atop the stone column, miles above their heads, sat the glistening city of Spira, capital of the three kingdoms. Elves from the East had built the castle overlooking the water long ago in antiquity. To transport material from the Bay far below, the Elves had employed giants. Over time the giants had built a staircase almost as big as the castle itself, which curved down on either side. The stone beneath the castle proper- the pillar upon which the castle rested- was where the ancient tales said the Elven treasure was buried.

There were geomancers, employed by the Council of Magic, whose sole purpose was to keep the pillar beneath Spira intact. Were they to discover the crack, they would quickly seal it. If Teela was inside, she would likely never make it out again or worse, she would be crushed to death when the fissure closed. She did not fear death but she would prefer to die with steel in her hand. However, she was experienced enough to know no wealth came without an equal measure of risk. Growing up in the Trenches, Teela had heard all the stories of Spira’s hidden secrets. The stories varied from the ludicrous (a giant slept within the stone), to the mundane (nothing more than rats and spiders). Yet every single myth shared one common element; every story spoke of riches beyond counting. Teela was not one to put much stock in tales told by drunken men, but on the road north back to Spira, she had met an Elf who had his own stories to tell. He was old, the oldest person Teela had ever met, older than many of the towns and villages of North Borealis.

“The stories are true.” He had said. “The Elven people never left Spira.”

It was believed that the human race, led by King Speoni, had driven the Elves out of the castle, back into the sea, back to the eastern realm known as the Wildlands. The old Elf was desperate to return to the Wildlands so that he could be laid to rest in the land where he was born.

“Oh it is true that many Elves escaped thanks to the superior speed and craftsmanship of our ships. But not all. Many remained, forced into hiding in the caverns below Spira.”

She shined the light into the crevice again, just to be certain nothing was hiding inside. Vagrants often slept in the cracks and she did not want be surprised in such a close space by a desperate, homeless creature.  Teela had been exploring cracks and caves along the sea cliff since the day she learned to walk, but this one was different. This one went deeper than anything she had discovered before.  Teela knew that something was hidden beneath Spira, she could feel it in her bones. The legends of lost riches were true and if she could find even a portion of that mythical wealth, she could leave the mercenary life behind her. Perhaps she might even bear children, she thought half-heartedly.

She took a deep breath through her nose, let it out slowly, than stepped her left foot into the crack.

“Good luck! I hope you make it back!” Grondell whispered.

“If I do, you’ll be richly rewarded.” Teela said as she slipped into the crevice.

“Then I wish you double the luck I wished you before!”

Grondell watched until the human woman disappear into the darkness. Then he slipped out between the hanging sheets, arms full of armour, down toward his home in the slums built along the Bay of Raygar. He hoped that Teela would return, but he doubted it. Grondell would never understand why humans were so willing to crawl into their own graves. He squeezed the armour tight with his scrawny arms, on constant alert for danger. In the city built on the stairs of giants, one had be on constant alert for thieves and murderers.

 

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