Chapter 26:

A Box

A Tour of the World Between Worlds

I made my way across the grey tavern with only the dimly lit orange torches providing a way for me to see. As I got near, I could tell the pedestal was just slightly above my waist, and the wooden box’s latch sat near my stomach. It was ornate, a reddish brown, and gave off an aromatic scent that was pleasant but unfamiliar. It was carved into two parts with a gold trim that ran around where the box snapped shut. The clasp and hinges were also fashioned from gold, and it didn’t look like it was locked.

“What is it?” I asked as I stood an arm's length away. I did not loosen the grips on my daggers.

“It is a box of knowledge; I was regarded as a provider of such in my day, simply open it, and you will find your way out.” The beast explained.

“Will I know how to get out?” I asked.

“I suspect you will simply find yourself at the exit.” The dragon answered. It wasn’t a helpful answer, but I suppose it was all I was getting. After speaking, the beast moved its head a little farther back. It watched closely and waited.

I took a deep breath and stepped closer to the box. My left hand loosened from the dagger at my side but kept the right firmly in my grip. I could not be sure something would jump out as soon as I opened it.

Gently, the box lid was moved up. The hinges in the back made a creak that suggested it needed oil. Almost immediately, a black smoke seemed to pour out. I tried to back up but found myself enveloped in the substance. My daggers were pulled out as dark shadows in the smoke seemed to fly around me. I couldn’t determine what they were, but I felt they weren’t friendly.

I swiped in front of me, the golden blade seemed to cut an opening through the smoke, but it only felt like cutting through the air. The gash soon closed. One of the black forms flew at my face, I tried to defend myself, but it was too quick. The thing wrapped around my neck and face. My vision was utterly cut off. In a panic, I ran forward.

My blades were slid back into their sheaths as I reached for whatever was wrapped around my neck and face. Suddenly, I found myself moving through what felt like honey. The sensation lasted only a moment before I fell down into grass. I reached for my head, but there was nothing there. After taking a few deep breaths, I realized my eyes had closed. As I opened them, I saw a world lake in the familiar grey world.

Behind me was the stone structure, or perhaps a similar one, that I had seen when Enas and I walked around. Two stones stood parallel with a third rest on top to make some sort of gate. Unlike before, a glowing multicolored substance seemed to flow inside the stones like waves.

I didn’t stare at it too long before Orrin suddenly came bursting through the stuff. He was in the middle of a sprint, and his green eyes grew wide as he looked at the new scene. Without slowing, he grabbed me by my arm; I think he meant to grab my hand, but in his haste grasped around my wrist and pulled me up and to the side.

Seconds later, a plume of fire shot out from the gate. It flew a great distance over the world lake and seemed to shake up the faux water below.

Eventually, the flames died down, and Orrin leaned his head in front of the gate.

“Nice try, but it’s going to take more than that!”

He ducked back to avoid another burst of flame. After a moment, the substance in the gate began to dissolve, and the fire was cut short as the apparent doorway closed. It was back to being a structure of stacked stones once again.

“Dragons, what are you going to do with them,” Orrin said with a laugh as he brushed off his arm.

“You met a dragon?” I asked. I do recall the blue one I met mentioning it had siblings.

“Yep, and an unfriendly one at that. Started to attack as soon as it saw me.”

“Hmm,” I replied. The one I met was undoubtedly different.

“Well, we need to get back to the base right away; this gate thing working could be trouble!” he pointed to the stones as he spoke.

“It didn’t work before?” I asked.

“Not at all; I worry something must have happened to open it.”

My mind quickly turned to the box. It certainly got me out of the cavern, but was another caveat to opening the doorway? Without certainty, I wasn’t going to share what I knew. I needed more information before possibly incriminating myself before the others.

We turned to head back to the camp when a shaking started. The normally still trees rustled their leaves as the grey world shuddered. In the distance, a loud blast echoed across the world; from what I could only figure was the source of the sound, five streams of blue shot into the air and across the grey sky.

One, in particular, flew over our heads before dipping down into the world lake close to us. It made an enormous splash as waves shook across the faux water. Before going in, I could swear I saw a human form within the stream of water.

We didn’t have much time to contemplate what happened since a flash of light also flew into the sky from the source. Someone had signaled us.

“Things sure have been busy lately,” Orrin commented before running into the woods toward the light.

I chased after. A few moments later, I realized my daggers had already returned to be firmly in my grip.