Artwork by Benjamin Witunsky – “Hidden Hallway”
On the other side of the illusion was a dark hallway. Lisbeth, Crysx and Tiberius almost bumped into Corbin on the other side, he was simply standing their with his staff slightly raised, illuminating the room. On the far wall, which was still only slightly lit due to the distance, was some sort of shelf built into the wall. There were two objects on it. Corbin cautiously stepped forward, scanning the small confines of the hall with every step. His heart was pounding in his ears, not sure if this hall was hidden to hide a prize or to serve as a decoy for grave robbers. Without someone who did this professionally, the situation could very likely reach a grim end.
As he drew near to the shelf, it became apparent that the object sitting on the shelf was an urn of some sort, next to it a book, treated savagely by time. Corbin’s forehead started to tingle, then his nose, as he stepped closer. Magic, he thought, his heart pounding with excitement and eyes the size of dinner plates. His companions had followed behind him but said nothing in sheer wonder with what they have discovered. With the hand of a librarian, Corbin gingerly picked up the book after leaning his staff on the wall. It was leather bound, and in surprisingly good shape for the unknown age. The cover was caked in dust that Corbin blew off, the particles dancing in his light as they were forced into the air. There was no title.
Slowly opening the book, the binding on the spine made a crackling sound, but the book did not break apart. Corbin’s hands felt like they were on fire, excitement and adrenaline coursing through his body like a plague. The ink on the pages was severely faded, but still legible with relative ease. That’s when his hear sank to his toes. “I can’t read it,” he said after a moment.
Lisbeth came close behind him to peek over his shoulder only to be met with symbols she was vaguely familiar with the shape of, but not the meaning. “The language is that of the Serpent Folk. It only makes sense, considering where we are. Even with all my learning, I can’t read it either. Maybe somewhere down the road we’ll find someone who can. I’m sure there are some old colleagues of mine that keep their secrets regarding the language, it’s told to be inherently magical. The legend goes that the Serpent Folk were the first creatures to use magic,” Lisbeth told him. The last bit was enough to satiate Corbin, he moved on to the urn.
The urn was of small size, at least comparatively to others of similar make, only about a foot in height and half of that in width. It was round and smooth, made of clay presumably, and had a number of symbols carved around the lid. It was the language of the Serpent Folk. Corbin felt like he was going to sneeze or that something was going to burst out of his forehead, this was the magical item that he was sensing. Cautiously cracking the lid, a gale force wind came out of it, the lid flying from Corbin’s hand. The hall turned into a wind tunnel for a moment before a hearty laugh echoed along the walls.
Before them stood a tall man with a tornado in place of legs. He had a sword on his hip that had a curvature to it, the handle very ornately gilded. He stood there with his arms crossed and a smile on his face. He said something in some sort of archaic language but no one understood. The man frowned.
“I am Corbin, these are my colleagues Lisbeth, Crysx and Tiberius. How long have you been trapped in this urn, djinn?” Corbin asked with a stern tone. The fact that he was a hermit reared its ugly head during social interactions such as this.
The djinn looked surprised, “I am Vaarek,” he said with a deep bow, “Are you my new masters? I am not sure exactly how much time has passed. Seeing elves in the halls of the Serpent King definitely tell me it has not been short.” The djinn let out a haughty laugh.
After a brief conversation with him, Vaarek revealed that he was the Serpent King’s personal djinn, a slave to his will. Having the roles reverse was degrading to the djinn at first, but soon became familiar and monotonous. The symbols on the lid of the urn bound him to it and he bargained three wishes for his freedom with the adventurers. The group readily agreed, but not without knowledge of the extreme care that was needed in making every wish. All this talk of wishes reminded Corbin that the orange wish gem had been crushed in the fist of the gargoyle statue. Corbin thanked Vaarek before placing him back in his urn. Putting the lid of it near the top sucked the djinn back into it, though he was clearly unhappy about it. The entire party heard Vaarek’s voice in their heads before he the lid was placed back on the urn:
Be careful what you think, because I am listening for your wishes.
Corbin hastily made a sling out of a bit of rope he had in his satchel, affixing a loop around the neck of the urn and the rest of the rope across his chest. It sat comfortably against his satchel, it serving as a sort of pad between the urn and his leg. Hastily, he turned around, pushed through his companions and returned to the gargoyle room. Pulling a small jar out of his satchel, he scooped up the orange dust left behind by the crushing of the gem and placed it in the jar.
“What’re you doing?” Crysx asked, still a bit confused by what had just happened with the djinn.
“Giving me a fourth wish,” Corbin mumbled to himself under his breath.
He tore three pages from the book that he found next to the urn and placed them in the jar with the gem dust.
“That’s important information that we need to translate!” Lisbeth cried out in protest.
Corbin ignored her. He used a spark cantrip to set the pages alight and began performing a magical ritual. Flames swirled around the inside of the jar, the dust of the gem turning to liquid. Then the jar started melting as well, and eventually, it took the shape of the orange gem that it had been before. Corbin picked it up and shut his eyes, searching for the feeling that it was still magical. It was. With a look of satisfaction he placed the gem in his satchel.
“Let’s get back to New Port,” he said. The party stared at him for a moment, silence hanging in the air like a dense fog. Tiberius, with a nervous cough and a scratch of the head, turned on his heel and began walking back to the tunnel. The rest followed, their thoughts interrupted.
“Look, we’re going to word it very carefully, but we’re going to use this djinn to get back home. It’s not looking hopeful without it and I don’t want to starve to death on this island,” Lisbeth demanded. It was blatant that this little mission of theirs was starting to wear on her nerves. Alas, the party agreed. “And you,” she said, pointing at Tiberius, “This never happened. Corbin, you’re going to fake a teleportation circle to make it seem like you’re capable of doing that.”
“With the right preparation and materials, I AM capable of doing that,” Corbin said frustratedly, “But I’ll take part in your little ruse.”
When they returned to the wreck of the Northern Star, the Manticore and Order of the Sword paladins were looking at them expectantly. They showed them the book, saying that it was the only artifact they turned up. When asked about the urn slung around Corbin’s side, he simply answered that he could find a use for a container with such symbols inscribed on them, that it cut down on some of his workload. The story seemed to stick, as nobody questioned them further.
The false teleportation circle was met, Corbin shot Lisbeth and Crysx a look to indicate that he would be making the wish. They nodded silently. Having read a great deal about djinns, Corbin knew what kind of wit he was up against. He chose his words carefully and tactfully. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, they were on the streets of New Port, right in front of The Falling Hammer.
Stay Metal \m/
Find more Benjamin Witunsky art on his Instagram account as well!