A profession kept alive through generations.
No sane god would help someone on this quest, though it’s a fear of theirs I have never understood. Grand Artifacts are nearly too powerful for mortals to wield. Few can bear to even be near more than two of them, let alone use them all productively. Even while sitting idly, the burden of the Artifact I brought slows my step. Only a small struggle in the entire journey.
A faint hint of light through distant vines. It takes all my will to keep my step steady, to keep my head clear. In case of a phantasm, I should not lose track. Yet, my heart rate rises, my saliva gains that familiar, metallic taste. As I keep moving, a clearing in the jungle reveals itself.
The tiniest updraft escapes the gaping hole in front of me. Cold air flows past my face and I nearly succumb to the pleasure of it. Not many moments later, the sun’s rays have evaporated all fluids on the surface of my body, and are starting to threaten the ones in and under my skin.
I gaze down the tunnel. It seems endlessly deep. Its walls are largely featureless. No protrusions, specs of rare moss, no hints to go by. The blazing star above me pushes me towards haste. I reach into my pack, shoving aside the bare essentials to find the single most important item. My fingertips find the rough texture of the talisman, and I grab hold. Pull it out of the pack, clutch it to my chest. A surge of bravery overcomes me, and I jump into the pit.
The absurdity of falling towards uncertain fate while feeling perfectly confident about it escapes me as waves of adrenaline and euphoria hit me in quick succession. The past couple of years flash into my recollection. Endless research, planning and preparation for back-to-back quests. I had them all set up for success, just like this one. Bringing the Grand Artifact of Faith was the right call, as predicted. The Warden’s challenges would have been more easily cleared with the Artifact of Power, the hints more easily recovered with Sight, the jungle more easily traversed with Flight. But those weren’t my biggest weaknesses. I needed to ensure I trusted those before me, to adhere to the tradition, to not set up lethal impossibilities.
Cold air fills my lungs as I resurface, gasping for it. The sound of a waterfall crashing is close by. Had this been a still lake, it might have broken my more vulnerable bones. I crawl onto what feels like muddy ground. My eyes are taking their time to adjust to the dark, but it doesn’t matter. I can feel another Artifact close by.
The talisman, still clutched in my left hand, begins to warm. The effects of both it and the adrenaline are starting to lessen. My close proximity to two artifacts induces anxiety and the idea of just leaving it briefly comes to mind. A part of me that has retained its composure reaches out into the dark. I grab hold of a smooth, spherical object.
It lights up. I light up. The Grand Artifact of Flame.
I considered doing an ending paragraph describing a letter left by a predecessor/ancestor, congratulating and asking for it to be re-hidden well. Seems a tad cheeky though, and I may have hinted enough at that already.