Three figures raced down a stone corridor; ahead of them a portcullis slowly descended, behind them a tide of goblins raged, crude weapons brandished in anger.
The tallest man, bald and a head taller than the other figures, puffed out, “We’re not going to make it.”
The smaller man, dressed in black pants and vest and carrying a wood chest with both arms, panted back, “What are you talking about, the portcullis is barely moving. Duck your head.”
“That’s the problem. Captain.” The woman, dressed in a red long-coat, was keeping pace, but clearly not exerting herself. “They’re gaining.”
“No way, our legs are longer, we’re…” The Captain was silenced as a spear flew overhead. “Uhh, ideas?
“Broche, drop the gate.”
The tall man widened his stride, slowly overtaking their captain, and the woman dropped back. The Captain continued his run, but half-turned to see the woman facing the hoard, a sword in each hand. “Okay. Glad I thought of that.”
As the Captain passed the portcullis, Broche was already wrestling with the gears and levers. Broche strained, both hands on the primary winch, “It’s…stuck.”
“Well, then, shall we resort to Plan B?”
The Captain dropped the chest; simultaneously both men drew their firearms—Broche a stout blunderbuss, the Captain two multi-shot pistols. Ahead of them the woman swung broadly but fluidly, hands slashing back and over each other, a blade always protecting her center. She withdrew as she swung, deflecting the hoard’s blows, but only slightly slowing their progress.
“V, get over here!”
The woman looked back to them quickly, a harried look that showed more concern about the guns pointed in her direction than the dozen monsters in the corridor. She made a wide, arcing swing with both arms, knocking a few of the creatures back, turning to run just as the first lead balls whizzed past her. The noise of the gunpowder and the newly felled creatures caused distraction and hampered movement, but a fraction of the hoard pressed on.
V was in a full sprint now, the confusion buying her a few steps on their pursuers. She dove and rolled under the half-drawn portcullis, coming up with her own blunderbuss. Immediately she dropped to her knee and began loading it.
The Captain fired off a shot from each pistol, “You came in with that thing unloaded?”
“Captain, I don’t tell you how to fight.”
“Yes you do, every day!”
Undeterred, the goblins continued to race forward. From their midst an aged sword flew forward; unaware, V rose with her now loaded blunderbuss, directly into is path.
Broche thrusted his foot in her gut, knocking her out of the sword’s path and dislodging her firearm from her hands. He caught it mid-air, spun, and fired it at the portcullis’s winch mechanism. There was a flash as metal struck metal; the winch groaned and collapsed and the chain on the portcullis broke, dropping its gate instantly. A dirty sea of green slammed into the gate, bodies rising like wave toward the top arch. Now trapped in the corridor, the goblins pressed themselves against the portcullis, slender arms reaching wildly for the three on the other side.
“Well done, Broche. See that, V, we had the situation under control.”
“Actually, Sir, that was desperation. I’m surprised that worked.”
V stood, dusting herself off, wearing a look of extreme annoyance. She approached both men, then snatched her firearm from Broche. “We should go, they’ll eventually find a way around.”
Moments later they were in a heavily wooded area, the Captain struggling with the terrain and navigating the chest between trees.
“This thing is heavy. Broche, why don’t you take a turn?”
“With all respect, Sir, I don’t want anything to do with that. If you want it, you carry it.”
“This thing is the answer to all our problems…”
“All your problems,” V chimed in. “You know, we don’t actually need the chest.”
The captain paused, thought, and dropped the chest. “Excellent idea, V.” He scanned the ground, then scooped a large stone; with a few swings he had broken the lock. Broche stepped back as the Captain opened the chest.
Inside was a silver choker resting on a bed of purple silk. The Captain reached in and took it.
“Sir, I’m not sure you should put that on.”
“This is exactly what we’re looking for, see.” He lifted the choker—beautifully crafted, a single, flawless ring. The captain ran his hands along the polished metal, the inlaid stones; there was a click as the opening mechanism hidden beneath the stones released. “There we go.”
“Broche is right, we’re looking for a necklace, not a choker.”
The Captain dropped his arms in frustration, “We just went through all of that, and you two are questioning this now? Isn’t this the island on the map?”
“Well, the map is a little old…”
“And didn’t we find it in a cave, like the map said?”
“Sir, I’d say it was more of a ruin than a cave…”
“Choker, necklace. Cave, ruin. It’s all the same!” The Captain raised the choker to his neck; Broche and V reached out to stop him, but were too late. The clasp on the choker closed itself. Broche and V watched in silence.
“How do you feel, Sir?”
“I don’t feel anything. Perhaps the magic has faded?” Disappointed, he turned toward the coast. “Let’s get back to…Aaaugh!” As soon as he stepped his leg seemed to kick upward, tossing him back. He lie there staring at the canopy above, legs at a right angle with his body, wavering.
“I told you. It’s a choker, not a necklace.”
The Captain rolled to his side, fighting to get his legs beneath him. With great effort he managed to raise himself while leaning against a tree, but his legs wobbled, and soon he was on the ground again, face down, knees bent, toes reaching skyward.
“Crew, I will need help getting back to the ship. My legs don’t appear to be working.”
Broche and V both sighed; each took one of the Captain’s arms, dragging him behind them.