I will never understand the appeal of prolonged travel by horse. They are a pain to climb upon, and though they are faster, the trip is certainly less comfortable than travel by foot. I don’t mind horses, but more than a few days is difficult to bear.
We were ten days or so into our journey. We should have arrived at the Valley of Scorn around then, but Vahen had trouble with her horse, not to mention Dirt’s dislike for the creatures. We were passing through a vaguely wooded area, not completely devoid of life but for the most part abandoned. Take away the group around me, and the horse, and I could have been scouting out the area of my next job. These empty roads were fantastic places to corner a target, as there would be no one around to intervene, and no where for the mark to go.
I was tired of the horse, and jumped to the ground to stretch. There was little else to do, and I wandered away from the others a little, leaving the wisp of a trail that we had been following, but keeping the others within earshot. I could easily catch up when I was ready.
The ground had not been disturbed for a long time. The grass was tall, swaying slightly in a light breeze. There were few signs of animals, a few small rodents perhaps but nothing really to spend any effort trying to catch. The way seemed clear.
Even in all of my years setting traps, I have never seen a pit so old. The grass fell beneath my feet and I plummeted about six feet down. I hit the bottom and immediately jumped to my feet. The wooden stakes around me, the ones that could have killed me, were rotted and unsubstantial. The ground was springy and covered in debree, and I wondered for a moment just how deep this pit had originally been, and what it had been designed to capture. Not elves, I was sure, though it certainly was effective. The soil that formed the walls of the pit were too soft to climb, the dirt crumbling beneath my fingers.
“Do you ever fall into your own traps, or just someone else’s?” The quiet voice of Valere broke my focus, and I couldn’t help but clench my fist before I looked up to see him leaning slightly over the edge and looking down. That man really knows how to get on my nerves, but I’m not even sure he realizes that he’s doing it.
“It is old and abandoned. Anyone could have fallen through.” I snapped back, before returning to looking around. Well, climbing the walls was out. And I could not turn to the old stakes to climb upon, they would probably crumble at my touch. The remains of a few were strewn about, half buried by debris. I could see the bones of animals, and I could see the bones of others. A few humans had met their fate here. However, none of them seemed to have anything of use to me, or if they had, it had long ago decayed and was gone. I took a step away from the wall, and my foot unexpectedly went farther down than I expected, causing me to stumble. I looked down and my foot was caught in what seemed to be a ribcage. The bones, covered by soil, I had failed to notice, but they had cracked under the pressure of my foot. When I leant to free myself, however, I found a most curious object. The victim, it seemed, had been holding something close to her heart. A wide leather band was clenched between bone fingers, the material remarkably preserved. I pulled it from her grip for closer inspection. It tied, to be worn around the wrist. Seared onto the material were various symbol, a mystery to me. In the middle of the band, however, was attached a small vial. A single leather strap across the middle held it to the band, though it seemed to fit into a slightly recessed pocket and was secure. The vial glistened a firey orange, though the light shined partially through it, and I could see the movement of some kind of liquid. Not much, perhaps a few drops, but somehow I knew… this was important.
“Would you like some help out?” Valere’s voice reached me again, and I looked up at him shaking my head.
“I can manage just fine on my own, thank you very much.” I huffed. I tied the band around my wrist and unclipped a set of tiger claws from my belt, clawed gloves for climbing. Despite the instability of the soil, I jumped against the wall of the pit and forced it to support me, moving quickly as the dirt crumbled beneath me, rising purely due to stubbornness. I pulled myself to my feet at the top and brushed myself off, not even looking at Valere. Dirt, the ugly creature, was laughing madly, as usual, though it was probably at me this time, rather than at nothing.
“She found something precious… Precious indeed.” I approached Vahen, untying the band as I went, and holding it out for her inspection.
“Can you tell what this is, Vahen Ffian?” I asked. I had no knowledge of such things, but it seemed old and, as Dirt had said, precious, and I thought perhaps she had studied something similar in the past. She took it in her hands and examined it, before looking to me with knowledge in her eyes.
“This vial contains quite a treasure. The tears of a pheonix are said to heal any wound.” She handed the band back, and I tied it back around my wrist, examining the orange vial. An all purpose medicine? Well, that’s just dandy.