An Unlikely Encounter
T’lee-nava, Skye and Amethystiel had just regrouped after a morning of errands. This was likely to be their last time seeing a village for a few months, so anything they needed after today would have to be gathered or crafted during their journey. Skye’s primary task was to talk to everyone she could about sightings of rare and curious creatures, especially those of the magical or mythical variety. She made careful notes of each and every story. As a young drakiri, she’d spent lots of time reading and studying, and could already guess what some of the creatures may be by their descriptions.
The three deliberated over Skye’s notes. The forest to the west was known to be ancients, and there had been several sightings there; tree spirits, far, anhanga, treants. It seemed like a good prospect. Skye continued reading off some of the more isolated ones, an ogre, a wish granting cat, a winged rabbit.
Amethystiel, “Hey, you skipped one!” he was leaning over her shoulder, pointing a claw at the entry, “Burnt village, flamingo skull.”
“Flamingo?” T’lee asked.
“Flaming! Flaming skull, a flame skull, probably. I read a story about one once, and it’s probably just that, you know, a story!”
“What’s this arrow? It just says, ‘treasure?’ Why is the arrow curling back here to the flame skull?” Amethystiel was dragging his claw around on the paper and getting excited.
Skye sighed, “I also heard there is a treasure chest in the village. It was left behind when the village was evacuated. Supposedly it can not be lifted or opened, no magic or amount of strength can budge it.”
T’lee and Amethystiel exchanged a knowing glance.
“We are not going there!” Skye said, exasperated.
“It won’t be scary Skye. Like you said - it’s probably not real!” T’lee smiled.
“And, if it is real, it will be amazing for the field guide!” Amethystiel added gleefully.
Their curiosity led them to a nearby burned village that had been abandoned for many years. The village had been destroyed in a fire of mysterious origins, leaving only ruins and charred remains behind. Despite the grim history of the village, rumors had recently spread of a floating, flaming skull haunting the area at night.
Intrigued by the possibility of a supernatural encounter, and the boon of a mysterious treasure, T’lee-nava, Amethystiel and Skye (albeit, reluctantly) set out to investigate. They arrived at the village late in the afternoon and began to explore the ruins. As they made their way through the crumbling remains of the old buildings, a sense of unease began to creep over them.
Amethystiel noticed Skye shivering, so he leaned down, “Climb up on my back, Skye. You’ll be warm and safe, okay?” Skye nodded and nestled into his fluffy mane as he floated over the ashy remains of the village.
The village was in shambles, with burned and crumbled buildings lining the streets. The trio searched the area, combing through the rubble and ruins, but found no sign of the flaming skull or treasure.
As the sun began to set, they decided to set up camp for the night in what they assumed to be the village square. They built a small fire and settled in, eagerly waiting for the flaming skull to appear. There was no use searching for the treasure chest in the darkness, and the flaming skull should be easy to see almost anywhere. The night was calm, and they sat quietly.
Suddenly, a splintering crack interrupting the steady smouldering of their small fire. Skye jumped up, still on Amethystiel’s back, her ears twirling in every direction.
T’lee-nava and Amethystiel looked carefully into the darkness.
Skye screeched, falling off Amethystiel’s back, scrambling up and pointing into the darkness, “It’s here! IT'S THE SKULL!” She fell to the ground whimpering, her hooves covering her eyes.
T’lee and Amethystiel stood to face the skull. Their hearts raced as they watched the floating skull approach them, surrounded by a sea of darkness. a the skull drew closer, they realized something wasn't quite right. The skull wasn't flaming and it wasn’t an apparition at all, but rather a drakiri with skull-like markings walking gently towards in the darkness.
“Phew, you sure scared us!” Amethystiel sighed in relief.
The shadowy figure bowed slightly, “I’m so sorry to have frightened you,” he turned to Skye, who was wiping away tears, “Especially you, little friend.”
Skye nodded and climbed back up onto Amethystiel’s back as he laid back down.
“Would you like to join us by the fire? We have snacks!” T’lee nodded toward the packs as he laid back down by the fire as well.
The figure approached their campsite, sitting by the fire, and introduced themselves as a fellow adventurer.
“My name is Keyhole.”
T’lee tilted his head, “That’s very unique.”
“I think it has something to do with my horn. As for the flaming skull, I actually started that rumour. I wanted to ward off people from returning to this village.”
“But why would you make up such a rumour?” Skye piped up, shakily.
Amethystiel asked, “Are you perhaps looking for the treasure, too?”
Keyhole nodded, “I’m not sure why, but I’ve dreamed about this village. I was just a baby when it burned down, so I don’t think I’ve seen it. I let my dreams guide me here.”
At first, T’lee-nava and Amethystiel were a little disappointed. They had been hoping for a supernatural encounter and had been excited by the idea of discovering a real ghost. But as they talked with the artist more, they realized that their encounter was just as special, if not more so. Even Skye was becoming intrigued, her tears had dried and she was listening excitedly to his story.
“Let us help you look,” T’lee-nava offered, “We really don’t need treasure. We just want to explore and discover new things.” The others nodded.
“Sure, let’s get some sleep. I promised there are no ghosts here, I’ve been in the area for weeks.”
In the morning, Keyhole showed them around the village, explaining what he’d seen in his dreams, where different shops and homes had been, and even some of the people that lived there. The three friends were captivated by the ruins and Keyhole’s descriptions. It really seemed like he had an intimate knowledge of the area.
As the day wore on, Skye, T’lee-nava and Amethystiel shared their own stories with Keyhole, discussing their own adventures and experiences. They realized that their search for the floating, flaming skull had brought them together with a like-minded individual, offering them a unique and unforgettable experience.
As the sun crept towards noontime, a thick, impenetrable fog suddenly rolled over the village. Unable to see more than a few feet, they made the decision to wait out the fog somewhere. Keyhole directed them to a small, one room structure that was mostly intact on the outskirts of the village, where they had some lunch and continued talking.
Upon finishing lunch, they started to hear strange noises outside. The small, rickety shut trembled as scratching and other violence seemed to rain upon the cabin from the outside. Suddenly, a bright light flooded the cabin. The four drakiri shielded their eyes, blinded by the sudden brightness. When their eyes adjusted, they saw a ghostly figure floating before them, its most prominent feature being it’s skull-like facial marking and key-shaped horn.
Keyhole stood up and approached the figure. The apparition leaned toward him, whispering something into his ear. Keyhole nodded and smiled, and the brightness faded from the room as the spirit did.
“I think we found the treasure,” Skye whispered in awe.
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